The Project Gutenberg eBook of My Memoirs, Vol. II, 1822 to 1825

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Title: My Memoirs, Vol. II, 1822 to 1825

Author: Alexandre Dumas

Translator: E. M. Waller

Release date: October 2, 2015 [eBook #50113]
Most recently updated: April 2, 2024

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Laura Natal Rodriguez & Marc D'Hooghe (Images generously made available by the Internet Archive.)










1822 TO 1825





An unpublished chapter from the Diable boiteux—History of Samud and the beautiful Doña Lorenza 1


The good my flouting at the hands of the two Parisians had done me—The young girls of Villers-Cotterets—My three friends—First love affairs 13


Adolphe de Leuven—His family—Unpublished details concerning the death of Gustavus III.—The Count de Ribbing—The shoemakers of the château de Villers-Hellon 24


Adolphe's quatrain—The water-hen and King William—Lunch in the wood—The irritant powder, the frogs and the cock—The doctor's spectre—De Leuven, Hippolyte Leroy and I are exiled from the drawing-room—Unfortunate result of a geographical error—M. Paroisse 34


Amédée de la Ponce—He teaches me what work is—M. Arnault and his two sons—A journey by diligence—A gentleman fights me with cough lozenges and I fight him with my fists—I learn the danger from which I escaped 48


First dramatic impressions—The Hamlet of DucisThe Bourbons en 1815—Quotations from it 57


The events of 1814 again—Marmont, Duc de Raguse, Maubreuil and Roux-Laborie at M. de Talleyrand's—The Journal des Débats and the Journal de Paris—Lyrics of the Bonapartists and enthusiasm of the Bourbons—End of the Maubreuil affair—Plot against the life of the Emperor—The Queen of Westphalia is robbed of her money and jewels 63


Account of the proceedings relative to the abstraction of the jewels of the Queen of Westphalia by the Sieur de Maubreuil—Chamber of the Court of Appeal—The sitting of 17 April, 1817 88



The last shot of Waterloo—Temper of the provinces in 1817, 1818 and 1819—The Messéniennes—The Vêpres siciliennes—Louis IX.—Appreciation of these two tragedies—A phrase of Terence—My claim to a similar sentiment—Three o'clock in the morning—The course of love-making—Valeat res ludrica 96


Return of Adolphe de Leuven—He shows me a corner of the artistic and literary world—The death of Holbein and the death of Orcagna—Entrance into the green-rooms—Bürger's Lénore—First thoughts of my vocation 103


The Cerberus of the rue de Largny—I tame it—The ambush—Madame Lebègue—A confession 109


De Leuven makes me his collaborator—The Major de Strasbourg—My first couplet-Chauvin—The Dîner d'amis—The Abencérages 117


Unrecorded stories concerning the assassination of the Duc de Berry. 123


Carbonarism 132


My hopes—Disappointment—M. Deviolaine is appointed forest-ranger to the Duc d'Orléans—His coldness towards me—Half promises—First cloud on my love-affairs—I go to spend three months with my brother-in-law at Dreux—The news waiting for me on my return—Muphti—Walls and hedges—The summer-house—Tennis—Why I gave up playing it—The wedding party in the wood 147


I leave Villers-Cotterets to be second or third clerk at Crespy—M. Lefèvre—His character—My journeys to Villers-Cotterets—The Pélerinage d'Ermenonville—Athénaïs—New matter sent to Adolphe—An uncontrollable desire to pay a visit to Paris—How this desire was accomplished—The journey—Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins—Adolphe—Sylla—Talma 155


The theatre ticket—The Café du Roi—Auguste Lafarge—Théaulon—Rochefort—Ferdinand Langlé—People who dine and people who don't—Canaris—First sight of Talma—Appreciation of Mars and Rachel—Why Talma has no successor—Sylla and the Censorship—Talma's box—A cab-drive after midnight—The return to Crespy—M. Lefèvre explains that a machine, in order to work well, needs all its wheels—I hand in my resignation as his third clerk 166



I return to my mother's—The excuse I give concerning my return—The calfs lights—Pyramus and Cartouche—The intelligence of the fox more developed than that of the dog—Death of Cartouche—Pyramus's various gluttonous habits 184


Hope in Laffitte—A false hope—New projects—M. Lecomier—How and on what conditions I clothe myself anew—Bamps, tailor, 12 rue du Helder—Bamps at Villers-Cotterets—I visit our estate along with him—Pyramus follows a butcher lad—An Englishman who loved gluttonous dogs—I sell Pyramus—My first hundred francs—The use to which they are put—Bamps departs for Paris—Open credit 191


My mother is obliged to sell her land and her house—The residu—The Piranèses—An architect at twelve hundred francs salary—I discount my first bill—Gondon—How I was nearly killed at his house—The fifty francs—Cartier—The game of billiards—How six hundred small glasses of absinthe equalled twelve journeys to Paris 204


How I obtain a recommendation to General Foy—M. Danré of Vouty advises my mother to let me go to Paris—My good-byes—Laffitte and Perregaux—The three things which Maître Mennesson asks me not to forget—The Abbé Grégoire's advice and the discussion with him—I leave Villers-Cotterets 213


I find Adolphe again—The pastoral drama—First steps—The Duc de Bellune—General Sébastiani—His secretaries and his snuff-boxes—The fourth floor, small door to the left—The general who painted battles 223


Régulus—Talma and the play—General Foy—The letter of recommendation and the interview—The Duc de Bellune's reply—I obtain a place as temporary clerk with M. le Duc d'Orléans—Journey to Villers-Cotterets to tell my mother the good news—No. 9—I gain a prize in a lottery 234


I find lodgings—Hiraux's son—Journals and journalists in 1823—By being saved the expense of a dinner I am enabled to go to the play at the Porte-Saint-Martin—My entry into the pit—Sensation caused by my hair—I am turned out—How I am obliged to pay for three places in order to have one—A polite gentleman who reads Elzevirs 251


My neighbour—His portrait—The Pastissier françois—A course in bibliomania—Madame Méchin and the governor of Soissons—Cannons and Elzevirs 263


Prologue of the Vampire—The style offends my neighbour's ear—First act—Idealogy—The rotifer—What the animal is—Its conformation, its life, its death and its resurrection 272


Second act of the Vampire—Analysis—My neighbour again objects—He has seen a vampire—Where and how—A statement which records the existence of vampires—Nero—Why he established the race of hired applauders—My neighbour leaves the orchestra 284


A parenthesis—Hariadan Barberousse at Villers-Cotterets—I play the rôle of Don Ramire as an amateur—My costume—The third act of the Vampire—My friend the bibliomaniac whistles at the most critical moment—He is expelled from the theatre—Madame Allan-Dorval—Her family and her childhood—Philippe—His death and his funeral 295



My beginning at the office—Ernest Basset—Lassagne—M. Oudard—I see M. Deviolaine—M. le Chevalier de Broval—His portrait—Folded letters and oblong letters—How I acquire a splendid reputation for sealing letters—I learn who was my neighbour the bibliomaniac and whistler 307


Illustrious contemporaries—The sentence written on my foundation stone—My reply—I settle down in the place des Italiens—M. de Leuven's table—M. Louis-Bonaparte's witty saying—Lassagne gives me my first lesson in literature and history 323


Adolphe reads a play at the Gymnase—M. Dormeuil—Kenilworth Castle—M. Warez and Soulié—Mademoiselle Lévesque—The Arnault family—The Feuille—Marius à Minturnes—Danton's epigram—The reversed passport—Three fables—Germanicus —Inscriptions and epigrams—Ramponneau—The young man and the tilbury—Extra ecclesiam nulla est salus—Madame Arnault 334


Frédéric Soulié, his character, his talent—Choruses of the various plays, sung as prologues and epilogues—Transformation of the vaudeville—The Gymnase and M. Scribe—The Folie de Waterloo 349


The Duc d'Orléans—My first interview with him—Maria-Stella-Chiappini—Her attempts to gain rank—Her history—The statement of the Duc d'Orléans—Judgment of the Ecclesiastical Court of Faenza—Rectification of Maria-Stella's certificate of birth 360


The "year of trials"—The case of Potier and the director of the theatre of the Porte-Saint-Martin—Trial and condemnation of Magallon—The anonymous journalist—Beaumarchais sent to Saint-Lazare—A few words on censorships in general—Trial of Benjamin Constant—Trial of M. de Jouy—A few words concerning the author of Sylla—Three letters extracted from the Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin—Louis XVIII. as author 375


The house in the rue Chaillot—Four poets and a doctor—Corneille and the Censorship—Things M. Faucher does not know—Things the President of the Republic ought to know 389



Chronology of the drama—Mademoiselle Georges Weymer—Mademoiselle Raucourt—Legouvé and his works—Marie-Joseph Chénier—His letter to the company of the Comédie-Française—Young boys perfectionnés—Ducis—His work 398


Bonaparte's attempts at discovering poets—Luce de Lancival—Baour-Lormian—Lebrun-Pindare—Lucien Bonaparte, the author—Début of Mademoiselle Georges—The Abbé Geoffroy's critique—Prince Zappia—Hermione at Saint-Cloud 407


Imperial literature—The Jeunesse de Henri IV—Mercier and Alexandre Duval—The Templiers and their author—César Delrieu—Perpignan—Mademoiselle Georges' rupture with the Théâtre-Français—Her flight to Russia—The galaxy of kings—The tragédienne acts as ambassador 420


The Comédie-Française at Dresden—Georges returns to the Théâtre-Français—The Deux Gendres—Mahomet II.Tippo-Saëb—1814—Fontainebleau—The allied armies enter Paris—Lilies—Return from the isle of Elba—Violets—Asparagus stalks—Georges returns to Paris 430


The drawbacks to theatres which have the monopoly of a great actor—Lafond takes the rôle of Pierre de Portugal upon Talma declining it—Lafond—His school—His sayings—Mademoiselle Duchesnois—Her failings and her abilities-Pierre de Portugal succeeds 438


General Riégo—His attempted insurrection—His escape and flight—He is betrayed by the brothers Lara—His trial—His execution 445


The inn of the Tête-Noire—Auguste Ballet—Castaing—His trial—His attitude towards the audience and his words to the jury—His execution 452


Casimir Delavigne—An appreciation of the man and of the poet—The origin of the hatred of the old school of literature for the new—Some reflections upon Marino Faliero and the Enfants d'Édouard—Why Casimir Delavigne was more a comedy writer than a tragic poet—Where he found the ideas for his chief plays 465


Talma in the École des Vieillards—One of his letters—Origin of his name and of his family—Tamerlan at the pension Verdier—Talma's début—Dugazon's advice—More advice from Shakespeare—Opinions of the critics of the day upon the débutant—Talma's passion for his art 480



[Pg 1]


An unpublished chapter from the Diable boiteux—History of Samud and the beautiful Doña Lorenza

About a fortnight after that wonderful night, during which I had experienced such new and unknown emotions, I was busy in Maître Mennesson's office,—as Niguet was absent seeing after a marriage settlement at Pisseleu, and Ronsin had gone to collect debts at Haramont,—sadly engrossing a copy of a deed of sale, when M. Lebègue, a colleague of my patron, entered the office and, after gazing at me with an amused expression on his face, went into the next room, which was the private office, and took a seat by the side of Maître Mennesson. The cause of my sadness shall be discovered presently.

Maître Mennesson's door, which separated the two offices, I was generally left open, so that he could answer our questions, save when a client closed it to discuss private matters with him; and when this door was left open, we could hear in our office everything that was said in M. Mennesson's room, as he could hear in his office all that went on in ours.

This M. Lebègue, some months before, had married one of M. Deviolaine's daughters by his first marriage: her name was Éléonore. The eldest daughter, Léontine, had been married to[Pg 2] a tax collector named Cornu some time before her sister's wedding. The singularity of the name had not prevented the marriage from coming off. The sharp-tongued young girl feared to be jeered at in her turn, and the wittier she became, the more she dreaded even the appearance of being ridiculous. But Cornu was such a good-natured, honest-hearted fellow, everybody was so used to the name, which had been borne by several families in Villers-Cotterets, he was so used to it himself, he responded so naïvely and triumphantly to the remarks of his fiancée, that the matter was settled.

When she was married to him she made up her mind to raise the unfortunate name which fate had given her above even the suspicion of any banter naturally connected with it: she was the most chaste of wives, the tenderest of mothers I have ever known, and her husband, a happy man himself, made her happy too.

But it was not so with her sister, Madame Lebègue, who was three or four years younger, prettier, and far more of a flirt than she was. Her flirtations were innocent enough, I have no doubt, but they were as a rule looked upon maliciously by the gossips of the little town—a matter to which Madame Lebègue in her innocence paid little heed; concerning which, in her indifference to such calumnies, she simply teased her husband. He was a stout, rotund fellow, pockmarked, rather ugly, with a somewhat common-looking face, but a good fellow at heart—although I have been told since that he ruined himself, not from having lent at too low interest, but from an entirely opposite reason. I am wholly ignorant as to the truth of this accusation: I take it to be a calumny similar to the more pleasing and certainly more human accusation levelled against the wife.

It was this man who had just come in, who sat down by M. Mennesson and who was at that moment holding a whispered conversation with him, interspersed with guffaws of laughter. Thanks to the extremely delicate hearing with which I was gifted by nature, and which I had cultivated during hunting, I thought I could distinguish my own name; but[Pg 3] I supposed I had not heard correctly, not flattering myself that two such grave personages could be doing me the honour of talking about me. Unluckily for my pride,—and I have indicated to what a pitch this feeling was developed in me, a height that would have been absurd if it had not been painful,—unluckily for my pride, then, I was not kept long in doubt that the discussion was about me.

I have said that M. Mennesson was very fond of a joke and very witty; wherever he could find a joke he would fasten upon it, no matter whether it happened to concern a woman's virtue or a man's reputation. When the frenzy of joking seized him he gave himself up to it unreservedly, heart and soul. Finding nothing, probably, on this day, better to chew, he set upon me; the pasture was poor, but it was far better to crack my sorry bones than to chew at nothing or gulp only the air. After several of those whispered remarks, then, and bursts of stifled laughter, which had disturbed my equanimity, M. Mennesson raised his voice.

"My dear friend," he said, "it is a chapter out of the Diable boiteux re-discovered and still unpublished, which I mean to have printed the next time I go to Paris, to complete Lesage's work."

"Ah! tell it me," Lebègue replied; "I will tell it to my wife, who will pass it on to her sisters, who will tell it to everybody; then our publication will be disposed of in advance."

M. Mennesson began:—

"There was once upon a time at Salamanca a scholar who was descended from a race of Arabs and who was called Samud.[1] He was still so young that if anyone had pulled his nose, milk would most certainly have come out: this did not prevent him from being absurd enough to fancy himself a man; perhaps also—for, to be fair, we must say all there is to say—this ridiculous fancy would not have entered his head had not that happened which we are about to relate."

It may be imagined that I was listening attentively. I had recognised from the very first words that I was undoubtedly the[Pg 4] person in question, and I wondered uneasily where the story was going to lead after this beginning—a beginning which, so far as I was concerned, I found more impertinent than graphic.

M. Mennesson went on, and I listened with my ears open, my pen idle in my hand.

"On the day of the feast of Whitsuntide in the year ... I cannot say the exact date of the year, but, any way, it was on the day of the feast of Whitsuntide, which is also the town's feast-time, two beautiful senoras arrived from Madrid and put up at the house of a worthy canon who was the uncle of one of these ladies. It chanced that this canon was the same with whom Samud had learnt the bit of Latin he knew, and as the two lovely Madrid ladies wanted a cavalier who would not put their virtue to the blush, the canon cast his eyes on his pupil, and requested him to place both his arms at the disposal of the new arrivals, to show them the park of Salamanca, which is very wide, very beautiful, and belongs to the Duke of Rodelnas.[2] I will not dwell on the adventures of the first day, beyond just briefly touching upon two events: the first was the meeting between our scholar and an elegant senor from Madrid, who was noticed at once by the Sefiora Lorenza, with whom our scholar was walking arm in arm, dressed, as people of the provinces often are, about a decade behind the fashions of the capital. This young gallant was called Audim. The second was a most serious accident, which happened to the scholar's breeches, just when, in order to give the fair Lorenza a proof of his agility, he had leaped across a ditch fourteen feet wide."

It can be imagined what I suffered as I listened to this secondhand recital of my lovelorn tribulations, which, according to his method of procedure, would not stop short at the two misadventures of the first day. M. Mennesson continued:—

"The beautiful Lorenza was specially impressed by the young gallant's get-up. In complete contrast to the scholar, who was[Pg 5] muffled up in a Gothic costume borrowed from the wardrobe of his ancestors, Señor Audim was dressed in the latest fashion, in tight-fitting breeches, ending in charming little heart-shaped shoes, and a dark-coloured doublet turned out by one of the best tailors in Madrid. The scholar had not been unconscious of the particular notice his companion had paid to the handsome Audim's attire, and as it began to dawn on him what influence a coat of a certain cut or trousers of a special shade of colour might have upon a woman, he decided during the night following the fête to please Lorenza no matter at what price, and to have a suit made exactly like the one worn by the young man who seemed destined by fate to become his rival. The most vital part of the costume, and moreover the most expensive, was in the matter of the boots. So he turned his attention to them first of all. On the opposite side of the square where Samud's mother lived, a square called the place de la Fontaine, was the best boot-maker in the town: he had always shod the scholar, but hitherto he had only made shoes for him, the lad's tender years not having put the idea into anyone's head, not even into his own, that he could wear any other covering for his feet than shoes or sandals without risking a too close resemblance to Perrault's venerable Puss in Boots. Great therefore was M. Landereau's[3] surprise when his customer came and boldly asked the price of a pair of boots. He stared at Samud.

'A pair of boots?' he asked. 'For whom?'

'Why, for myself,' the scholar proudly replied.

'Has your mother given you leave to order boots?' 'Yes.'

"The bootmaker shook his head dubiously: he knew Samud's mother was not well off and that it would be foolish of her to allow such extravagance in her son.

'Boots are dear,' he said.

'That does not matter. How much are they?'

'They would cost you exactly four dollars.'

'Good.... Take my measure.'

[Pg 6]

'I have told you I can do nothing without leave from your mother.'

'I will see you have it.'

"Returning home, the scholar ventured to ask for a pair of boots. The request struck Samud's mother as so extraordinary that she made him repeat his inquiry twice. It was all the more strange as it was the first time the scholar had troubled about his dress. When he was ten they had the greatest difficulty in the world to get him to give up a long pinafore of figured cotton, which he considered far more comfortable than all the breeches and all the doublets on earth; then, from the age of ten to the age of fifteen, he had worn with indifference any garments his mother had thought good to put him in, always preferring dirty and old ones to clean and new, because in them he was allowed to go out in all weathers and to roll about in all kinds of places. So the demand for a pair of boots seemed to his poor mother altogether most unprecedented, and she was alarmed for her son's reason.

'A pair of boots!' she repeated. 'What will you wear them with?'

'A pair of tight-fitting breeches, mother.'

'A pair of tight-fitting breeches! But you must know your legs are as spindle-shaped as a cock's.'

"'Excuse me, mother,' the schoolboy replied, with some show of logic; 'if I have good enough calves to wear short breeches, they are good enough to wear tight-fitting breeches.'

"The mother admired her son's wit, and, half conquered by the repartee, she said,'We might perhaps manage to find the tight-fitting trousers in the clothes-press; but the boots ... where will you find the boots?'

'Why, at Landereau's!'

'But boots would be expensive, my child,' said the poor lady, sighing,'and you know we are not rich.'

'Bah! mamma, Landereau will allow you credit.'

'It is all very fine taking credit, my boy; you know one has to pay some day, and that the longer one puts off paying the more it costs.'

[Pg 7]

'Oh, mother, please do let me!'

'How much will the boots cost?'

'Four dollars, mother.'

'That is six months' school-money at the rate good Canon Gregorio charges me.'

'You can pay for it in four months' time, mother,' the schoolboy pleaded.

'Still ... tell me what advantage you think this pair of boots and the tight-fitting trousers will bring you?'

'I shall be able to please Doña Lorenza, the canon's niece.' 'How is that?'

'She raves over boots and tight-fitting trousers ... it seems they are the very latest thing in Madrid.'

'But what does it matter to you what the niece of Don Gregorio raves or does not rave over, I want to know?'

'It matters a great deal to me, mother.'


"The schoolboy looked supremely foolish.

'Because I am paying her attentions,' he said."

This dialogue was word for word what had passed between my mother and myself after I returned from Landereau's shop, so I grew hot with anger.

"At the words Because I am paying her attentions," continued the narrator, "Samud's mother was overcome with intense astonishment: her son, whom she still pictured as running about the streets in his long print pinafore, or renewing his baptismal vows taper in hand; her son paying attentions to the beautiful Doña Lorenza!—why, it was one of those absurd things she had never even imagined. And her son, seeing she was unconvinced, drew his hand out of his breast pocket and showed her a bracelet of hair with a mosaic clasp. But he took care to keep it to himself that he had taken this bracelet from Doña Lorenza; she had not given it him, and she was very much distressed at not knowing what had become of it."

[Pg 8]

Although this account was not very creditable to my honesty, it was dreadfully accurate. I had had that bracelet in my possession for three days; during those three days I had, if not exactly shown it, at least let it be seen by several people, and, among others, by my mother and my cousins the Deviolaines, before whom I posed as a gallant youth; but at length I had been moved by Laure's distress, as she had thought it lost. I gave it back to her, humbly confessing my fault; she forgave me, in consideration, no doubt, of her delight in recovering her trinket, but she would not have let me off so easily had she known my indiscretions.

So the perspiration which had beaded my brow at the beginning of the story, ran down over my face in big drops; yet wishing to learn how far M. Mennesson had been coached in the matter of my sentimental escapades, I had the courage to stay where I was—or rather, I had not the strength to fly. M. Mennesson went on:—

"At this juncture Samud's mother raised her hands and eyes to heaven, and as the poor woman never could refuse her son, she said to him, with a sigh—

'Very well, be it so; if a pair of boots will make you happy, go and order the boots.'

"The schoolboy leapt at one bound from his house to the bootmaker's; he arranged the price at three and a half dollars, to be paid for in four months' time. Next they paid a visit to the clothes-press: they extracted a pair of bright blue trousers striped with gold; they sold the gold lace to a goldsmith for a dollar and a half, which dollar and a half were given to the scholar for pocket-money, his mother guessing that his budding love affairs would naturally bring extra expenses in their train. They decided that the suit he had worn at his first communion should be altered to a more up-to-date cut, on fashionable lines.

"While all these preparations for courtship were going on, the schoolboy continued, in the phrase he had used to his mother, to pay attentions to the beautiful Doña Lorenza; but although he was brave in words and very clever in theory behind[Pg 9] her back, he was extremely timid in practice and very awkward when actually before her face. While apparently filled with impatience to be near her, he dreaded nothing so much as being left alone with her; at such times he would lose his wits completely, become dumb instead of talkative, and be still when he should have been active: the most favourable opportunities were given him, and he let them escape. In vain did the impatient lady from Madrid give him to understand that he was wasting time, and that time wasted is never regained; he agreed with her from the very depths of his soul; he was furious with himself every night when he returned home, and in going over the opportunities of the day he vowed not to let these opportunities slip by on the morrow if they occurred again. Then he would read a chapter of Faublas to warm his blood: he would sleep on it, and dream dreams in which he would be astonishingly bold. When day broke, he would vow to himself to carry out his dreams of the previous night. Then, while he was waiting for the boots and the tight-fitting suit, which were being fashioned with a truly provincial slowness, he returned to his short breeches, his bombazin vest, his bottle-blue coat, and resumed his fruitless walk in the forest. He looked with a melancholy eye on the mossy carpet under their feet, not even venturing to suggest to his companion that they should sit down upon it; he gazed sadly on the beautiful green heights above them, under which she delighted to hide herself with him. He would get as far as trembling and sighing, even to pressing her hand, but these were the extreme limits of his boldness. Once only did he kiss the hand of Doña Lorenza,—on the night before he was to introduce himself to her in his suit of conquest,—but it cost him such a tremendous effort to perform this bold act that he felt quite ill after its accomplishment.

"It was on this day that the lovely Doña Lorenza arrived at the conclusion that she must give up all hope of seeing the boy develop into a man, and without saying a word to her clumsy admirer, she took a decisive step. They parted as usual after having spent the evening playing at those innocent games[Pg 10] which Madame de Longueville detested so greatly. The next day, as we have said, was to be the vital one. The tailor and the bootmaker kept their word. The young people usually met between noon and one o'clock, and then went for a walk: Senora Vittoria with a young bachelor, from whom I have gathered most of my information; and the schoolboy with Senora Lorenza. Unluckily, the tight-fitting trousers were so tight that they had to have a piece put in at the calf of the leg: this addition took time, and Samud was not quite ready before one o'clock. He knew he was late; he flew hurriedly along to Canon Gregorio's house, where the daily rendezvous took place. His new toilette produced an excellent effect as he passed through the streets: people ran to their doors; they leant out of their windows, and he bowed to them, saying to himself—

'Yes, it is all right, it is I! What is there wonderful in this, pray? Did you think no one else could have boots, tight-fitting trousers and a fashionably collared coat like M. Audim? You are much deceived if you thought anything of the kind!'

"And he went on his way, holding his head higher and higher, persuaded he was nearing a sensational triumph. But, as we have said, the unlucky alteration at the calves had made him nearly an hour late, and when the scholar reached the canon's house both the senoras had gone out! This was but a slight misfortune: the schoolboy had been brought up in the forest of Salamanca, as Osmin in the seraglio of Bajazet, and he knew its every turn and twist. He was therefore just going to rush out in pursuit of the lady of his thoughts, when the canon's sister handed him a letter which Doña Lorenza had left for him when she went out. Samud never doubted that this letter would enjoin upon him to hurry on with all diligence. And it was the first he had received: he felt the honour most keenly; he kissed the letter tenderly, broke the seal, and with panting breath and bounding heart he read the following:—

'MY DEAR BOY,—I have been blaming myself during the past fortnight for imposing upon your good-nature by letting[Pg 11] you fulfil the obligation you had most injudiciously promised my uncle in undertaking to be my cavalier. In spite of your efforts to hide the boredom that an occupation beyond your years caused you, I have seen that I have much interfered with your usual habits, and I blame myself for it. Go back to your young playmates, who are waiting for you to play at prisoners' base and quoits. Let your mind be quite at ease on my account; for I have accepted M. Audim's services for the short time longer I remain with my uncle. Please accept my best thanks, my dear child, for your kindness, and believe me, yours very gratefully, LORENZA.'

"If a thunderbolt had fallen at our schoolboy's feet he could not have been more crushed than he was on receiving this letter. On the first reading he realised nothing beyond the shock; he re-read it two or three times, and felt the smart. Then it dawned on him that, since he had taken no pains to prove to the lovely Lorenza that he was not a child, it now remained to him to prove that he was a man, by provoking Audim to fight a Dud with him; and forthwith, upon my word, our outraged schoolboy sent this letter to his rival:—

"'SIR,—I need not tell you upon what provocation I wish to meet you in any of the forest avenues, accompanied by two seconds: you know as well as I do. As you may pretend that you have not insulted me and that it is I who have provoked you, I leave the choice of weapons to you.—I have the honour to remain,' etc.

"'P.S.—-As you will probably not return home till late to-night, I will not demand my answer this evening, but I wish to receive it as early as possible to-morrow morning.'

"Next morning, on waking, he received a birch rod with Don Audim's card. That was the weapon selected by his rival."

The reader can judge the effect the conclusion of this story had upon me. Alas! it was an exact account of all that had happened to me. Thus had terminated my first love affair, and so had ended my first duel! I uttered a shriek of rage, and[Pg 12] dashing out of the office, I ran home to my mother, who cried out aloud when she saw the state I was in.

Ten minutes later I was lying in a well-warmed bed and Doctor Lécosse had been sent for: he pronounced that I was in for brain fever, but as it was taken in time it would not have any serious consequences. I purposely prolonged my convalescence, be it known, so as not to go out until the two Parisians had left Villers-Cotterets. I have never seen either of them since.

[1] hardly need point out that "Samud" is the anagram of "Dumas."

[2] "Rodelnas" is the anagram of "d'Orléans," as "Samud" is the anagram of "Dumas," and as "Audim," to be used shortly, is that of "Miaud."

[3] The narrator did not trouble to give an anagram for the name this time.

[Pg 13]


The good my flouting at the hands of the two Parisians had done me—The young girls of Villers-Cotterets—My three friends—First love affairs

Still, like François I. after the battle of Pavia, I had not lost everything by my defeat. First there remained to me my boots and my tight-fitting trousers, those two dearly coveted articles, which became the envy and admiration of those young companions upon whom the lovely Laure had so cruelly thrown me. Besides, in the fortnight spent in the company of those two smart girls, I had learnt the first lesson that only the society of women can give. This lesson had taught me to realise the need for that care of my personal appearance which had hitherto never presented itself to my mind as a thing to be daily attended to. Beneath the ridiculous if vanity in changing my mode of dress, underneath the unlucky attempt that I, a poor country lad, had made to attain to the elegant style of a Parisian, there appeared the first dawnings of true elegance—that is to say, of neatness.

I had rather good hands, my nails were well shaped, my teeth were large but white, and my feet were singularly small considering my size. I had been ignorant of all these possessions until they had been pointed out to me by the two Parisian girls, who gave me advice as to how I could enhance the value of my natural gifts. And I continued to follow their advice for my own personal satisfaction, after at first following it to please them, to such purpose that by the time they left I had really stepped across the boundary which separated childhood from youth. The crossing had certainly been a rough one,[Pg 14] and I had accomplished it with tears in my eyes, coquetry holding one of my hands and chagrin the other. Then—as jaded travellers, when they enter a fresh country, suck bitter fruits, which, however much they set the teeth on edge, leave behind them an irresistible desire to suck other fruits,—when my lips had touched the apple of Eve that men call love, I yearned to make another attempt, even though it should be more painful than the first, and so far as its young girls were concerned, few towns could boast themselves as well favoured as Villers-Cotterets. Never was there such a large park as ours, not even at Versailles; no lawns were greener, not even those at Brighton; nor were any studded with more exquisite flowers than the park of Villers-Cotterets, with its lawns and flower-beds. Three very distinct classes disputed among themselves for the crown of beauty—the aristocracy, the middle classes, and a third class for which I cannot find a name, a pleasant intermediary between the middle class and the people, which belongs to neither, and to which class the dressmakers, seamstresses, and women-shopkeepers of a town belong.

The first class was represented by the Collard family, to whom I have already alluded in connection with my childhood. Of the three madcap young girls who roamed the forest of Villers-Cotterets as free as the butterflies and swallows, two had become wives: one, Caroline, had married the Baron Capelle; the other, Hermine, had married the Baron de Martens; Louise, the third, who was but fifteen, was the most captivating little maiden imaginable. Their mother—whose birth and history as the daughter of Madame de Genlis and the Duc d'Orléans I have related—and her three children were the aristocratic centre round which the young men and maidens of the neighbouring castles revolved; and among the former of these were some of the best blood in the country—the Montbretons, the Courvals, and the Mornays. None of these families lived in Villers-Cotterets itself: they lived in the castles around. Only on great occasions did the hives swarm and then we saw these golden-winged bees flying about the streets of the town and down the avenues of the park.

[Pg 15]

The second class was represented by the Deviolaine family. Two out of the five daughters of M. Deviolaine were married, as I have said—namely, Léontine and Éléonore; three remained, Cécile, Augustine and Louise. Cécile was twenty years of age, Augustine sixteen; Louise was still a mere child. Cécile had preserved her whimsical and capricious spirits, the same mocking and animated features; her actions were more masculine than feminine; her complexion was tanned by the sun, as she never took the trouble to protect herself from its rays. Augustine, on the contrary, had a skin as white as milk, large tranquil blue eyes, dark chestnut hair, forming an admirable framework round her face, sloping shoulders charmingly moulded, and a figure that was not too slender; unlike her sister Cécile, she was gracefully feminine in all her ways. Raphael would have been puzzled to choose between her and Louise Collard for a model for his Madonna, and like the Greek sculptor, he would have selected beautiful points from them both to reach that perfect standard to which Art everywhere attains when it surpasses Nature.

The other young girls of the middle class grouped themselves round the Deviolaine family. The two Troisvallet girls, Henriette and Clementine: Clementine, dark with beautiful black hair, strangely attractive eyes, a Roman complexion, of the type of Velletri or Subiaco, and a head like one of Augustine Carrachi's. Henriette was tall, fair, rosy, slender, gracious, and as pliant in her gentle youthfulness as a rose, as a blade of corn, as a willow tree: she had that type of face which is half sad, half merry; the transition between angel and woman, showing all the common needs of earth, yet full of heavenly aspirations too. Then the two charming girls Sophie and Pélagie Perrot; Louise Moreau, a sweet young girl, who has since become the admirable mother of a family; Éléonore Picot, of whom I have spoken—an excellent woman, saddened by the death of her brother Stanislas, and the shameful charge that had weighed for a short time upon her brother Auguste. Then there were others, too, whose names I have forgotten, but whose fresh faces still appear in my mind's eye like the phantoms of a dream or[Pg 16] like the apparitions which glide out of German streams or are reflected in the lochs of Scotland as they pursue their nocturnal rounds.

Lastly, after the middle classes, came, as I have said, the group of young girls which I cannot class in the social hierarchy, but which held the same place in that small world of ours shut in by the green girdle of its beautiful forest, that lilies of the valley, Easter daisies, cornflowers, hyacinths and pompon roses hold among flowers. Oh! but it was a pretty sight to see them on Sunday, in their summer dresses, with pink and blue sashes, their tiny bonnets trimmed by their own hands and put on in a hundred varieties of coquettish ways—for in those days not one of them dare wear a hat; it was a delight to see them free of all constraint, ignorant of any etiquette, playing, racing, lacing and interlacing their charming round bare arms in long chains. What exquisite creatures they were! What delightful young things! It is of little interest to my readers, I am well aware, to know their names; but I knew them, I loved them, I spent my earliest years among them, those gentle opening days in the morning of life; I wish to tell their names, I wish to paint their portraits, I wish to describe their different charms, and then I hope they will pardon my indiscretions for my very indiscretions' sake.

I must mention first and foremost two charmingly romantic and coquettish damsels—Joséphine and Manette Thierry: Joséphine dark, rosy, with an ample figure and regular features, a perfect creature, whose beautiful teeth completed a ravishing whole. Manette, a dessert apple, a girl who was always singing to make herself heard, always laughing to show off her teeth, ever running to let her feet, her ankles, even the calves of her legs, be seen; Virgil's Galatea, whose very name she was ignorant of, flying to be pursued, hiding so as to be seen before she hid.

What has become of them? I have seen them since, looking very miserable: one was at Versailles, the other in Paris—the fallen, faded fruits of that rosary on which I spelled out the first phrases of love. They were the daughters of an old tailor, and lived close to the church, which was only separated from[Pg 17] them by the town hall. Louise Brézette lived nearly opposite them; I have already mentioned her. She was the niece of my dancing-master; a sturdy flower of fifteen, whom I had in my mind while I wrote my fictitious history of that Tulipe noire, the masterpiece of horticulture vainly sought after, vainly pursued, vainly expected by Dutch amateur gardeners. The hair of beautiful Madame Ronconi, which inspired one of Théophile Gautier's most wonderful articles, and which made coal look grey and the wings of a crow pale, when placed side by side with it, was not more black, more blue, more shiny than Louise Brézette's hair when it reflected the sun's rays from its dark and sombre depths as from the heart of polished metal. Oh! what a lovely blooming brunette she was, with her flesh as firm and bright as a nectarine's; her pearly teeth lighting up her face from under the faint ebony down on her coral lips! One could feel life and love bubbling up beneath, needing only the first passion to make everything burst forth into flame! This luxuriant young girl was religious, and, as such an organisation as hers must love something, she loved God.

If you took a few steps towards the square, a little farther up the rue de Soissons, bearing to the left, there was a door and a window, comprising the whole frontage of a tiny house. In the window hung hats, collars, bonnets, lace, gloves, mittens, ribbons—the whole arsenal, in short, of womanly vanity; behind the door floated certain curtains, intended to prevent inquisitive glances from looking into the shop, but which, whether by some strange mischance, or from the obstinacy of the rod upon which they slid, or from the caprices of the wind, always left on one side or the other some impertinent aperture through which the passer-by could see into the shop and at the same time allowed those inside the shop to see out into the street. Above this door and this window the following inscription was painted in large letters:—

Mesdemoiselles Rigolot, Milliners

Truly those who stopped in front of the opening which I have indicated, and who managed to cast a glance inside the[Pg 18] shop, did not lose their time nor regret their pains. What we mean by this has no sort of connection with the two proprietors of the establishment, who were both old maids, having long since passed their fortieth year, and, I presume, having lost all pretension to inspire any other sentiment than respect.

No, what we have in view concerns two of the most adorable faces you can imagine, placed side by side as though to set one another off: one was a blonde, and the other a brunette. The brunette was Albine Hardi; the blonde was Adèle Dalvin. The brown head,—do you know the lovely Marie Duplessis, that charming courtesan full of queenly grace, upon whom my son wrote his romance la Dame aux camélias?—well, she was Albine. If you do not know her, I will describe Albine to you. She was a young girl of seventeen, with a dead brown complexion, large brown velvety eyes, and eyebrows so black that they seemed as though they had been drawn with a pencil, the curve was so firm and so regular. She was a duchess, she was a queen; better still than either, if you will, she was after the fashion of a nymph of Diana's train: slight, slender, straight and finely built, a huntress whom it would have been a splendid sight to see with a plumed helmet on her head, an Amazon flying before the wind, leading a troop of clamorous pikemen, guiding a baying hound. Upon the stage her appearance would have been magnificent, almost supernatural. In ordinary life, people were tempted to think her too beautiful, and for some time nobody dared to make love to her, it seemed so likely that their love would be wasted and that she would not make any response to it. The other, Adèle, was fair and pink-complexioned. I have never seen prettier golden hair, sweeter eyes, a more winning smile; she was more inclined to be gay than melancholy, short rather than tall, plump rather than thin: she was something like one of Murillo's cherubs who kiss the feet of his Virgins—half veiled in clouds; she was neither a Watteau shepherdess, nor one of Greuze's peasant girls, but something between the two. One felt it would be a sweet and easy thing to love her, although it might not be so easy to be[Pg 19] loved by her. Her father and her mother were worthy old farmer folk, thoroughly honest but vulgar, and it was all the more surprising that so fresh and sweet-scented a flower should have sprung from such a stock. But this is always the case when folks are young: it is youth that lends distinction, as it is spring which lends freshness to the rose.

Round these young people whom I have just described, smiled and pouted a bevy of young girls, the smallest being mere infants, whom I have since seen succeed the youthful generation in which I lived. I have sought in vain to find in these later children the virtues I found in those who preceded them.

Until the arrival of the two strangers in Villers-Cotterets I had not even noticed the springtide crown of stars and flowers to which all ranks of society contribute. When the two strangers had left, the bandage that had sealed my eyes fell off, and I could say not merely "I see" but "I live." I found myself placed by my years exactly between the children who still played at prisoners' base and at quoits—as the abba's niece had aptly put it—and youths beginning to turn into men. Instead of returning to the former, as my beautiful Parisian had advised me, I attached myself to the latter, and drew myself up to my full height to prove my sixteen years. And when anyone asked my age, I told them I was seventeen.

The three youths with whom I was most intimate were, first, Fourcade, director of the school of self-improvement, sent from Paris to Villers-Cotterets; he was my vis-à-vis in my début as a dancing man. He was a thoroughly well-bred, well-educated young fellow, son of a man very honourably known in foreign affairs; his father had lived in the East for many years and had been Consul at Salonica. His affections were fixed upon Joséphine Thierry, and he spent with her all the time he could spare from his teaching. My second companion was Saunier; he had been a fellow-pupil with me under the Abbé Grégoire; he was second clerk of M. Perrot the lawyer; his father and grandfather were blacksmiths, and in the idle period of my early youth I spent a large portion of my time in their forge,[Pg 20] notching their files and making fireworks out of iron filings. Saunier divided his leisure-time between two passions—one, which I verily believe came before the other, was for the clarionette; the other was for Manette Thierry. The third of my intimate friends was called Chollet; he served as a link, in the matter of age, between Fourcade and Saunier. He lived with one of my cousins, called Roussy, the father of the child of whom I had been godfather, when nine months old, along with Augustine Deviolaine. He was studying the cultivation of forest-land. I know nothing about his relations; they were probably wealthy, for whenever I called on him there were five-franc pieces scattered about on the mantelpiece and two or three gold pieces always shone out ostentatiously from the midst of them, dazzling my eyes and impressing me profoundly with his riches. But my admiration was entirely devoid of envy—I have never envied either a man's money or his possessions. I know not whether this arose from pride or from simpleness of mind. I might have taken for my motto Video nec invideo. Chollet had had no education at all, but he was not wanting in a certain natural quick-wittedness, and he was a fine-looking young fellow, his magnificent eyes and splendid teeth redeeming an otherwise common-looking face, pitted with smallpox. He did his best to make Louise Brézette change her love for the Creator into love for the creature.

These were my three most intimate friends. The upshot was, that when it became necessary for me in my turn to make a choice, although I had been brought up half with M. Deviolaine's family and half with M. Collard's, it was neither in aristocratic society nor in middle-class circles, which would have made fun of me, that I sought my initiation in the delightful mystery of life we call falling in love, but in that society to which my three friends almost exclusively addressed themselves. And I had no difficulty in understanding their preference. I do not hesitate to state fully and freely that they were very wise in their choice. There was but one step to take to follow in their path. I needed only someone upon whom to fasten my affections: the wish to love was not wanting.[Pg 21] Every one of the young girls I have mentioned had some love affair on hand of a more or less serious character. They all enjoyed most delightful liberty, the result no doubt of the confidence their parents placed in their good sense; but for some reason or other we had quite an English custom in Villers-Cotterets—a free and easy association between young people of both sexes, which I have never seen in any other French town; a liberty all the more surprising, since all the parents of these maidens were perfectly respectable people and had a profound conviction in the depths of their hearts that all the barques launched upon the flood of the Tender Passion were decked with white sails and crowned with orange blossoms. And what was more singular still, it was true in the case of the majority of the ten or twelve couples of lovers which formed our circle.

I waited patiently for one of these knots to be untied or severed. While I waited, I went to every party and took part in all the walks and all the dances; it was an excellent apprenticeship, which familiarised me beforehand with that monster whom Psyche touched without seeing and whom I, on the contrary, had seen but not touched. Chance favoured me, after six weeks or two months of playing second fiddle. One of these engagements was hardly made before it was broken: a farmer's son, named Richou, wished to marry his neighbour, Adèle Dalvin. The parents of the young man, who were better off than those of the young girl, opposed these budding loves, and the fair one was released.

I had learnt much during those six weeks by watching others; besides, this time, I was not entangled with a sarcastic and exacting Parisian girl, who knew the world so much better than I did. No, my love affair was with a young girl more shy than myself, who mistook my pretended courage for genuine, and who, like the frog in the fable that jumped in the pond when a frightened hare passed by it, was good enough to fear me and to prove to me that it was possible to come across someone even more timid than myself. It can be seen how such a change in the position of things gave me assurance. The[Pg 22] rôles were now completely reversed. This time I was the attacking party and someone else was on the defensive, and this someone was making such an obstinate resistance that I soon realised my attack was useless and that I should only succeed in breaking down the serious resistance offered me after, maybe, a long and patient wooing: the citadel was not to be stormed. Then began for me those first days, the reflection of which has lasted throughout the whole of my life: that delicious struggle of love, which asks unceasingly and is not discouraged by an eternity of refusal; the obtaining of favour after favour, each of which, when gained, fills the soul with ecstasy; the early fleeting dawn of life which hovers above the earth, shaking down handfuls of flowers upon the heads of mortals, and then, under the influence of the rising sun, adds consciousness to its joy and is soon enveloped in the ardent heat of passion.

Indeed, it was a happy time for me. In the morning, when I awoke, my mother's smile greeted me and her lingering kisses hung on my lips; from nine to four o'clock came my work—work, it is true, which would have been tiresome if I had been obliged to understand what I wrote, but which was easy and welcome, for while my hands and eyes were copying, my mind was free to commune with my own happy thoughts; then, from four till eight o'clock, I was with my mother; and after eight, joy, love, life, hope, happiness!

At eight in summer evenings, at six in winter, our young friends, also free when I was, came to join us at some convenient meeting-place; held out their faces or their cheeks to be kissed, pressed our hands, without taking pains, out of mistaken coquetry or hypocritical make-belief, to conceal their delight at meeting us once more; then, if it were summertime, and fine weather, the park invited us with its mossy sward, its dusky avenues, the breeze trembling among the leaves, and on moonlight nights there were wide spaces of alternate light and darkness; at these times a solitary passer-by could have seen five or six couples walking, at duly specified distances, to ensure isolation without loneliness, heads inclined towards one another, hands clasped in hands, talking in low[Pg 23] tones, modulating their words to sweet intonations, or preserving a dangerous silence; for during such silences the eyes often spoke what the lips did not dare to utter. If it were winter or bad weather, we all met at Louise Brézette's: her mother and her aunt nearly always withdrew to the back room, giving up to us the two front ones, which we seized upon for ourselves; then, lit by a single lamp in the third room, near which Louise's mother would sew while her aunt read the Imitation of Christ or The Perfect Christian we chatted, squeezed against one another, generally two on one chair, repeating the same story we had said the night before, but finding what we had to say ever new.

At ten o'clock our soirées broke up. Each boy took his particular girl home. When they reached the house door, she granted her cavalier another half-hour, sometimes an hour, as sweet to her as to him, as they sat together on the bench outside the door, or stood in the garden path which led to the maternal parlour, from the interior of which from time to time a grumbling voice might be heard calling—a voice that was answered ten times before being obeyed, "I am coming, mamma." On Sundays we met at three o'clock, after vespers; and we walked, danced, waltzed, not going home until midnight.

Then there were fêtes in the neighbouring villages, less grand, less aristocratic, less fashionable, certainly, than those of Villers-Cotterets, to which we went in happy bands, and from which we returned in silent separate pairs.

It was at one of these fêtes that I met a young man a year younger than myself. I must ask permission to speak of him fully, for he had an immense influence over my life.

[Pg 24]


Adolphe de Leuven—His family—Unpublished details concerning the death of Gustavus III.—The Count de Ribbing—The shoemakers of the château de Villers-Hellon

I first met Leuven at a fête in the beautiful village of Corey, a league's distance from Villers-Cotterets—a village buried in the centre of great woods, like a nest among high branches. I had left my companions for an instant in the course of the dance, and I had gone to some distance to pay a visit to an old friend of my father, a farmer, whose farm was nearly a quarter of a league from the village. I took a pretty path at the foot of a hill to get there, hedged on both sides by hawthorn in full blossom, and studded with daisies, their golden centres fringed by pink-tipped petals.

Suddenly, at a bend in the path, I saw three people coming towards me, in a ray of sunlight which bathed them in light; two were well known to me, but the third was a complete stranger. The two I knew were Caroline Collard, who, as previously related, had become Baroness Capelle. The other was her daughter, Marie Capelle, then only three years old, who to her misfortune was to become Madame Lafarge. The third person, the stranger, looked at first sight like a German student; he was a youth of between sixteen and seventeen, and was dressed in a grey jacket, an oilskin cap, a waistcoat of chamois leather and bright blue trousers, almost as tight-fitting as mine, but with this difference, that while my topboots covered up my breeches, his, on the contrary, were covered up by his trousers. This young man was tall, dark and gaunt, his black hair cut as short as bristles; he had good eyes and a strikingly defined[Pg 25] nose; his teeth were as white as pearls, and he had a carelessly aristocratic bearing; he was the Viscount Adolphe Ribbing de Leuven, future author of Vert-Vert and of Postilion de Long-jumeau son of Count Adolphe-Louis Ribbing de Leuven, one of the three Swedish noblemen who were inculpated in the murder of Gustavus III., King of Sweden.

These Counts Ribbing de Leuven were of an old and noble family, used to carrying on royal intrigues and to treat on equal terms with the powerful ones of earth. It was a Ribbing who rose in 1520 against the tyrant Christiern who had caused his two children to be murdered. There was a sad and melancholy legend in the family, connected with the beheading of these two children, the one aged twelve and the other only three. The executioner had cut off the head of the eldest and had seized hold of the second to execute him too, when the poor mite said in childish accents, "Oh, please do not soil my collar as you have soiled my brother Axel's, for mamma would scold me." The executioner had two children of his own just the same ages as these. Moved by the words, he flung down his sword and ran off, overwhelmed with remorse. Christiern sent soldiers after him and he was killed.

Adolphe's father, with whom I have since become very friendly and who loves me like a father, was then a man of fifty; extremely distinguished in appearance, with a charming nature, although perhaps a little too sarcastic, and of indomitable courage. He had been educated at the Military School in Berlin, and had come to France when quite young as a captain in one of Louis XVI.'s foreign mercenary regiments—those regiments which did him far more harm than any good their loyal services rendered him. He had been presented to Marie-Antoinette by the Count de Fersen and, under the patronage of that illustrious favourite, the queen gave him a most favourable reception. He remembered poor. Marie-Antoinette with most respectful veneration, and thirty years after her death I often heard him speak of her with a voice full of tears. He was recalled to Sweden towards the close of the year 1791. He was betrothed to one of his cousins, whom[Pg 26] he worshipped, and, intending to marry her on his return, he learnt on his arrival at Stockholm that, by the order of King Gustave III., her hand had been disposed of and she was the wife of the Count d'Essen. In his first transport of despair, Count Ribbing provoked a quarrel with her husband. A duel ensued, and the Count d'Essen fell with a sword-wound through his chest which kept him chained for six months to his bed.

Sweden was greatly disturbed at this period: the king insisted upon enforcing his Diet to accept the deed of union and of security, and at Geft the coup d'état took place which invested the king with sole power in the making of peace and war. A tremendous strife had been waged for a long period between the regal power and the nobility. Though the king was married in 1766 to Sophie-Madeleine of Denmark, he had no heir to his crown even in 1776. And the Swedish nobility attributed the queen's sterility to the same cause as that of Louise de Vaudemont, Henri III.'s wife. As in the case of the last of the house of Valois, Gustavus had his favourites, and their familiarity with him led to their making the most extraordinary suggestions to their prince. After a time, the courtiers made up their minds to remonstrate with the king about the queen's barrenness and to tell him he ought to try to remedy this deficiency by every means in his power. Gustavus promised to see what could be done in the matter. Then, so folks said, a curious thing happened. The evening of the day on which he had pledged his word to the Swedish lords, he took his equerry Monck to the queen's chamber and, in the presence of the confused and blushing queen, he explained to the equerry the service he required of him; then he withdrew and shut the door of the royal chamber upon the pair. Some time later the queen's pregnancy was proclaimed, and she gave birth to a prince, who after his father's death reigned under the title of Gustavus IV., until the Swedish Parliament proclaimed his deposition in 1809. I knew his son very well in Italy, where he travelled under the name of the Count de Wasa.

[Pg 27]

In 1770, Gustavus III., then twenty-four years of age, came to France as the Count de Haga. He had an interview with a kind of sorceress who predicted future events in her hypnotic trances; she had scarcely touched his hand before she told him to beware of the year 1792, as he would incur danger of death from firearms during the course of it. Gustavus was a brave man; he had often exposed himself to danger. He several times repeated the prediction laughingly, but it never troubled him.

Inconsequence of the Diet of 1792, by which the nobles had lost the rest of their privileges, there arose a conspiracy. The principal ringleaders were Ankarström, Count de Ribbing, Count de Horn, Baron d'Erenswaerd and Colonel Lilienhorn. Ankarström and Ribbing had private reasons for hatred against the king, besides the general grievances which embittered the aristocracy against the sovereign. Through the king's intervention Ankarström had lost a lawsuit which had deprived him of half his fortune. Count de Ribbing, as we have seen, owed a grudge against the king for a far more grievous loss than that of a lawsuit, namely, the loss of his lady-love. In the case of the other nobles the projected murder of Gustavus was simply an incident in the life of a clan. They decided to perpetrate the murder at a masked ball, which was to take place in the Opera House, on the night of 15 and 16 March 1792. On the night before, the king received an anonymous letter, warning him of the plot and telling him that he was to be assassinated on the following night.

"Ah yes," said Gustavus, "the very same thing was predicted twenty-two years ago to the Count de Haga; but he put no more faith in the prophecy than the King of Sweden does to-day;" and, shrugging his shoulders, he crumpled the note between his hands and threw it into the fireplace. Nevertheless, people averred that Gustavus went disguised on the night of the 14-15 to consult the famous sibyl Arfredson, who confirmed the French somnambulist's prediction and the warning contained in the anonymous letter, telling him he would be murdered before three days had gone by. Whether[Pg 28] from actual courage or from incredulity, Gustavus would not change any of his previously arranged plans nor take any precaution: at eleven o'clock that night he went to the masked ball. Lots had been drawn the night before to settle which of the conspirators should kill the king, and Gustavus was so greatly detested by his nobles that each one was eager to have the dangerous honour of firing the fatal shot. The lot was drawn by Ankarström.

It is said that one of the conspirators offered to give him all the wealth he then possessed, as well as all that which he was to inherit at a future date, if he would change places with him; but Ankarström refused. When the time came, Ankarström suddenly bethought him that he might mistake one of the nobles for the king, as several of them were dressed in similar costumes. But the Count de Horn reassured him. "Fire boldly," said he, "at the one to whom I shall say, 'Good-day, handsome masquerader.' He will be the king."

At two in the morning Gustavus was strolling about, leaning on the arm of the Count d'Essen, whom he had married to de Ribbing's fiancée, when the Count de Horn approached him and said, "Good-day, handsome masquerader."

The next moment a dull report was heard, and Gustavus tottered, crying out—

"I am killed!"

Except those who were round about the king no one had perceived what had happened. The pistol was concealed in a muff; the report had been drowned amidst the buzz of conversation and the strains of the orchestra, and the smoke remained buried in the muff. But at the king's exclamation, and on seeing him fall back fainting in the arms of d'Essen, everyone ran up; in the commotion that followed it was quite easy for Ankarström to put himself at a distance from the king and even to leave the hall; but in his flight he dropped one of his pistols. The pistol was picked up, hot and still smoking. Next day every gun-seller in Stockholm was questioned, and one of them recognised the pistol as one he had sold to Ankarström. An hour later, Ankarström was arrested at[Pg 29] his own house, and a special commission was appointed to try him. He confessed to, but gloried in, his crime. As to his accomplices, he declined under any conditions whatever to reveal their names. The trial dragged on slowly; it was hoped against hope that Ankarström would give away the conspirators; finally, on 29 April 1792, forty-four days after the murder, he was condemned. The sentence was that he was to be beaten with rods for three days, then beheaded. In spite of the length and the ignominy of the punishment, Ankarström remained firm to the very end. While being taken in the cart to his execution, he looked with perfect equanimity upon the thousands of spectators who thronged round the scaffold. When he mounted the scaffold he asked for a few minutes in which to make his peace with God. It was granted him. He knelt down, prayed and then gave himself up to the executioners. He was not quite thirty-three years of age.

Ribbing, who had been arrested at the same time as Ankarström, was but twenty-one: it was intended to condemn him to death like Ankarström, and the Duke of Sudermania, regent over the kingdom during the minority of Gustavus IV., was urging forward the trial, when a mystic, a disciple of Swedenborg, sought him out and told him that the master had appeared to him, and had declared that not only was Ribbing innocent, but that every hair which fell from his head would cost a day of the life of the Duke of Sudermania. The duke, a Swedenborgian himself, was terrified at this warning, and Ribbing, instead of sharing Ankarström's fate, was condemned to perpetual exile. And as less could not be done for the Count de Horn and for Lilienhorn than was done in the case of Ribbing, they both obtained the same favour. The confiscation of their property followed upon the sentence of exile. Fortunately, in the case of the Count de Ribbing, the confiscation of property could not be put into execution until after the death of his mother: she enjoyed the property in her own right, during her lifetime, and she was still quite young.

[Pg 30]

The count left for France, where the Revolution was then at its height, and he arrived in time to witness the events of 2 and 3 September and 21 January. His adoration for the queen made him loud in his denunciation of the events of those dreadful days. He was arrested and, although already a regicide, was on the point of being delivered up to the revolutionary tribunal as too sympathetic with royal misfortunes, when Chaumette set him free, gave him a passport and helped him to escape from Paris. The count then went to Switzerland; he was so young and so good-looking that he went by the name of "the beautiful regicide." He was introduced to Madame de Staël, who took him much into her confidence. The letters (some two or three hundred) which the Count de Ribbing received from Madame de Staël during the lifetime of the illustrious authoress of Corinne, proved that this friendship was not of a temporary nature. Madame de Staël was surrounded by a circle of friends, several of whom already knew the Count de Ribbing. This little court was half political and half literary; its chief purpose at that time was to rescue, hide and protect emigrants against the persecutions of the magistrates in the Swiss cantons whose hands were continually being forced by the demands of the Revolutionary Government of Paris.

After 9 thermidor, the Count de Ribbing could return to France, where he bought three or four châteaux and two or three abbeys at a very low price. Among these châteaux were Villers-Hellon, Brunoy and Quincy. The count had acquired all these properties simply on the recommendations either of friends or of his solicitor. Villers-Hellon was, among others, quite unknown to him. One day he made up his mind to pay a visit to the lovely estate people had praised so much. Unluckily, the time was ill-chosen for seeing all its charms: the communal authorities of Villers-Hellon had handed over the château to an association of shoemakers who made shoes for the army, consequently the worthy disciples of St. Crépin had taken possession of the domain, had set up their workrooms in the salons and in the bedrooms and, the better[Pg 31] to communicate with one another, they had made openings through the ceilings. When they had any oral communication to make, they made it by means of these peep-holes without having to leave their seats; if they had to come up or downstairs to see one another, they put ladders through these holes and so saved the turns and twists of the proper staircase. One can imagine how greatly such tenants would detract from the appearance of the château the count had just bought. The sights, and above all the smells, about the place so disgusted him that he fled precipitately back to Paris. Some days later he recounted his misadventure in his own witty way to M. Collard, then connected with the commissariat department of the army. M. Collard was more accustomed to the value of material goods than the noble exile, and he then and there offered to take over his purchase. M. de Ribbing consented, and Villers-Hellon became from that moment the property of M. Collard. Happily, the Count de Ribbing had still two or three other châteaux where he could reside instead of in the one he had just sold. He chose Brunoy, which later he gave up to his friend Talma, as he had Villers-Hellon to his friend Collard, and then he established himself in the château of Quincy.

During the whole of Napoleon's reign the Count de Ribbing lived very quietly, spending his winters in Paris and his summers in the country, devoting himself to agriculture and to fishing in his ponds, in which, once, he caught such an enormous pike that when it was put in the scales with Adolphe at the other end, the pike was actually the heavier. Napoleon offered M. de Ribbing military positions more than once—offers which he I declined, on account of the Conqueror's love of invasion, fearing he might one day be compelled to carry arms against Sweden.

On the second return of the Bourbons to power, their revenge for past political events pursued M. de Ribbing to his private retreat. He was obliged to exile himself again, crossed the frontier, and under an assumed name went to live in Brussels with his wife and son. But the incognito of the Count de Ribbing was soon to betray him under circumstances that will give some idea of his character. In Brussels, the count found[Pg 32] himself at the same table with some foreign officers who, inflated with pride at the victory of Waterloo, abused France and Frenchmen right and left. One colonel, who was covered with decorations, especially distinguished himself by his exaggerated attacks. The conversation was carried on in German, but as the Count de Ribbing had been brought up in Berlin, German was almost like his mother tongue; he did not therefore lose a single word of the conversation, although he pretended he was not taking any notice. Suddenly he rose, and, advancing with his usual coolness to the colonel, he slapped him right and left across the face, accompanying the blows with a statement of his name and titles, and then he quietly returned to his seat. Cauchois-Lemaire, then only a young man, was at the same table, so was the poet Arnault, who was already an old man; both, at great risk to themselves, offered their services to the Count de Ribbing as seconds. Happily these services were not required: the colonel would not fight.

The roll of the Thirty Eight enriched Brussels at the expense of France,—Arnault, Excelmans, Regnault de Saint-Jean d'Angély, Cambacérès, Harel, Cauchois-Lemaire were all exiled. M. de Ribbing attached himself to them, and, with them, founded le Nain Jaune—a journal that soon earned itself a European reputation.

Following upon an article published by the count in this journal, the Prussian Government demanded that the author of it should be handed over to them. This meant nothing less than imprisonment for life in a castle—Prussia is still, as one knows, the land of castles, and it has long been the land of imprisonments. However, King William left the Count de Ribbing the choice of being delivered over to Prussia or to France—somewhat after the fashion of the cook who gives a fowl its choice between being boiled or roasted. M. de Ribbing chose France. He was taken prisoner, flung into a post-chaise with his son, and driven to the borders of Condé. There he looked about him, to discover from which of his old friends he could ask hospitality. The nearest happened to be M. Collard, so he took his way towards Villers-Hellon.

[Pg 33]

It need hardly be said that he was received with open arms. He had been living but three days in that lovely place—changed so greatly since the days of the bootmakers that it was almost beyond recognition—when I met his son, Adolphe de Leuven, with Madame Capelle on his arm, and holding little Marie by the hand.

[Pg 34]


Adolphe's quatrain—The water-hen and King William—Lunch in the wood—The irritant powder, the frogs and the cock—The doctor's spectre—De Leuven, Hippolyte Leroy and I are exiled from the drawing-room—Unfortunate result of a geographical error—M. Paroisse

I had not come across any members of the Collard family for a long time. Madame Capelle I adored, as she took pity on my youthfulness when people made fun of my peculiarities—peculiarities which I will not hide from myself I possessed to a certain extent. She introduced me to de Leuven as a young friend of hers and asked me to lunch with them next day in the forest to improve our acquaintance; it was also arranged that, following upon the lunch, I should spend two or three days at the château of Villers-Hellon. Of course I accepted the invitation. The fête of Corey was on the way, with its delightful entertainments of dancing and merriment. I can think of nothing more delightful than returning home, at ten or eleven o'clock at night, under the dense moving vault of the tall trees: in the solemn stillness of the night it seemed like some ancient Elysium, with mute shades walking under in the darkness; for the shades that pace our terrestrial Elysiums speak so low, so very low, that we swear they are dumb. I had been obliged to return to Villers-Cotterets to take back Adèle, and to make her understand, without hurting her feelings, how important it was that I should maintain friendly intercourse with the Collard family. She was such an excellent, good-hearted, straightforward girl, that she soon understood, and although feeling a little jealous at lending me to that group of aristocratic and beautiful young girls, who were fine enough to inspire[Pg 35] jealousy in the heart of a princess, she gave me up for three days.

I set off at nine next morning to reach the arranged meeting-place by ten o'clock. Everybody had spent the night at Corey, at M. Leroy's house, and I also should have done the same had I not been urgently recalled to Villers-Cotterets by the necessity above stated. But what was a distance like that? I had strong legs and boots which could defy those of Tom Thumb's giant himself. In less than three-quarters of an hour, I caught sight of the first houses in the village, and the pond as it lay quiet and shining like a mirror at the foot of the valley. Adolphe de Leuven was walking on its banks. I did not expect that anyone would be up at the farm so early, and I joined Adolphe. He had a pencil and tablets in his hand, and he who was usually so phlegmatic was gesticulating in such a fashion that I should have trembled for his reason, had I not imagined he was practising a fencing exercise. When he saw me he stopped and blushed slightly.

"What are you doing there?" I asked.

"Why, I am composing poetry," he said, with some confusion. I looked him in the face as though I could hardly believe my ears.

"Poetry!... do you really write poetry?"

"Why, yes, sometimes," he answered, laughing.

"To whom are you writing verses?"

"To Louise."

"What! Louise Collard?"


"Well, I never!"

The notion of composing poetry to Louise Collard, charming though she was, had never come into my head. Louise seemed to me still the same pretty child in short frocks with lace-trimmed drawers—nothing more.

"Ah! so you are making verses to Louise, are you: what for?" I went on.

"You know she is going to be married."

"Louise? No, I did not know that. To whom?"

[Pg 36]

"To a Russian. Therefore the marriage must be prevented." "Prevented?"

"Yes; such a delightful girl must not be allowed to leave France."

"True, true; I shall be very sorry if she leaves France. I am very fond of her; aren't you?"

"I? I have only known her three days."

"It would be a good thing to hinder her from leaving France; but how shall we do it?"

"I have written my verses; you write some too."


"Yes, you. You have been brought up with her, and it will please her."

"But I do not know how to write poetry. I have never done anything but crambo with the Abbé Grégoire and he always told me I did badly."

"Oh, nonsense! when you are in love it comes of itself."

"But I am in love and it hasn't come; so let me see your verses."

"Oh, it is just a quatrain."

"Well, let me see it."

Adolphe drew his tablets forth and read me these four lines:—

"Pourquoi dans la froide Ibérie,
Louise, ensevelir de si charmants attraits?
Les Russes, en quittant notre belle patrie,
Nous juraient cependant une éternelle paix!"

I stood astounded. This was real poetry—poetry after the style of Demoustier. So a poet stood before me: I felt as though I ought to bow down before him.

"How do you like my quatrain?" asked de Leuven.

"Heavens! it is beautiful."


"And you are going to give it to Louise?"

"Oh no; I dare not do that. I shall write it in her album without saying anything to her, and when she turns over the leaves she will come across my lines."

[Pg 37]


"Now what shall you do?"

"What about?"

"About this marriage."

"Oh, well, as I am quite unable to make a quatrain as good as yours, I shall say to her, 'Are you really going to marry a Russian, my poor Louise? I tell you, you are making a great mistake.'"

"I do not fancy that will have so much effect as my quatrain," said Adolphe.

"Neither do I; but what else can I do? One can only use one's own weapons. Now, if the Russian would meet me in a pistol Dud, I am quite sure he would never marry Louise!"

"You are a sportsman, then?"

"Rather. How could you imagine one would not be, surrounded by such a forest? Oh, stop! there is a water-hen!"

I pointed it out to him with my finger, flushing it with my stick as it swam among the reeds of the pond.


"Is that a water-hen?"

"Of course it is. Where do you come from not to know a water-hen?"

"I come from Brussels."

"I thought you were a Parisian."

"I was indeed born in Paris; but in 1815 we left Paris, and we lived in Brussels until three years ago, when my father and I were compelled to leave."

"Who compelled you to go?"

"Why, William!"

"Who is William?"

"William? He is King of the Netherlands. Didn't you know that the King of the Netherlands was called William?"

"Not I."

"Well, then, it oughtn't to seem so odd to you now that I do not know a water-hen."

[Pg 38]

Indeed, as it appeared, we were both ignorant on some points; and my ignorance was more culpable than de Leuven's.

He grew another cubit taller in my estimation. Not only was he a poet, but he was of sufficient importance in the world for this King William to be uneasy about him and his father, to the extent of banishing them both from his realms.

"And now you are living at Villers-Hellon?" said I.

"Yes. M. Collard is an old friend of my father."

"How long shall you live here?"

"As long as the Bourbons will allow us to remain in France."

"Ah! then you have fallen out with the Bourbons too?"

"We have quarrelled with most kings," said Adolphe, with a laugh.

This phrase, uttered with magnificent indifference, quite finished me off. Luckily, at that moment, our fair companions appeared on the threshold of the farm, a bevy of pink and white damsels. Two or three chars-à-bancs were in readiness to take them to the appointed place. The gentlemen were to go on foot. The rendezvous was barely a quarter of a league's distance from the village. A long table of thirty covers was laid under a leafy canopy, ten paces off a limpid, clear purling spring called the Fontaine-aux-Princes. All these young folks, maidens, mothers, children, seemed like so many woodland flowers opening to the sweet-breathed breeze: some pale, that sought for shade and solitude; others of brilliant hues, seeking light and stir and the sunshine of admiration.

Oh! those glorious woods, those shady depths, the haunts of my cherished moods of solitude, I have revisited you since; but no shade glides now beneath your green vaults and in your dark alleys.... What have you done with all that delightful world which vanished with my youth? Why have not other generations come in their turn, pale or rosy, lively or careless, noisy or silent like ours? Has that ephemeral efflorescence disappeared for ever? Is it really wanting, or is it that my eyes have lost the power of seeing?

We returned that night to Villers-Hellon. Everything was so beautifully arranged in that luxurious little château that[Pg 39] each of us had a separate room and bed, and sometimes there were as many as thirty or forty of us there.

I have related what nocturnal persecutions poor Hiraux was made a victim of when he came to see us at les Fossés. It was now our turn to undergo the like. Our rooms were prepared beforehand for the pantomime that followed. The family doctor, Manceau, was the stage manager. He had replaced an old doctor from Soissons named M. Paroisse. I will explain presently why this change took place. The assistant stage managers were Louise, Cécile and Augustine. The appointed victims were Hippolyte Leroy, de Leuven and myself. Hippolyte Leroy was at this period a young man of between twenty-five and twenty-six. He was a cousin of M. Leroy de Corey. He had been one of the body-guard, and was now Secretary to the Inspection at Villers-Cotterets. Later, he became my cousin, by his marriage with Augustine Deviolaine. Our three rooms communicated with one another. We retired to our rooms about half-past twelve. De Leuven was the first to get into bed. He had scarcely lain down before he began to complain of a most intolerable tickling: his bed was sprinkled with the stuff charlatans sell which they call scratching powder. Those unacquainted with this powder should recall the famous scene in Robert Macaire, where the two heroes of the book find a trunk, and in that trunk a quantity of tiny packets, containing some unknown substance, whose property was revealed when they touched it. In about five minutes' time Adolphe de Leuven began to scratch himself like both Robert Macaire and Bertrand put together. We offered de Leuven our sincere sympathy. We advised him to rub it off as best he could, to wrap himself in his bed-curtain and to sleep on a couch. Then we went to our own beds, quite convinced that we should find them like Adolphe's. But we searched them in vain: they seemed perfectly free from any preparation of the like nature. We lay down. In five minutes' time Hippolyte Leroy uttered a sharp cry. In stretching himself, he felt a piece of string at the foot of the bed; he pulled this thread, and in doing so, he untied a bag[Pg 40] full of frogs. The frogs, gaining their liberty, hastened to disport themselves about the bed, and it was the contact of his human flesh with their animal hide which produced Hippolyte's yell above mentioned. He flung off the bed-clothes and leapt out of bed. The frogs leaped out after him. He had been given good measure; there were quite two dozen of them.

I was beginning to think I was the only one spared, when I thought I heard a great stirring inside a cupboard against which the head of my bed had been put. I looked at the lock. It was keyless. However, I felt no doubt that some sort of animal was shut up in that cupboard. Only, what sort of an animal was it? I was not kept long in suspense: as one o'clock struck a cock crowed at the head of my bed, and renewed his crowing every hour till day came. I did not deny Christ, like St. Peter, but I confess I took His name in vain. We fell asleep by seven o'clock,—de Leuven in spite of his itching powder, Hippolyte Leroy in spite of his frogs, and I in spite of my cock,—when Manceau entered our rooms and woke us by telling us that as he had heard in roundabout ways we had spent a bad night, he had come to offer us his professional services: Manceau denounced his own handiwork!

We had slept so badly, through that horrible night, that, with terrible imprecations, we had consigned our persecutor, whoever he might be, to the infernal regions. Manceau, as I have said, denounced himself: expiation must follow the crime; our sworn oath must be fulfilled. At a sign, de Leuven shut the door: I fell upon Manceau, Hippolyte gagged him; we stripped him naked, we wrapped him in a sheet off Adolphe's bed, we tied him up like a sausage, we took him down a disused staircase and we deposited him in the most unfrequented part of the park, in the very middle of the little river, at a place where he could stand, but where, entangled as he was, he ran great risk of losing his foothold at the first step he took. We then quietly returned to our beds, and resumed our interrupted sleep.

We went down to the morning meal at ten o'clock. Our arrival was eagerly expected. Everybody burst out laughing when we came within view. The young ladies each played a[Pg 41] part: some pretended to scratch, others imitated in a low voice the croaking of frogs, and others simulated the crowing of a cock. We were quite imperturbable: we merely asked carelessly where Manceau was. Nobody had seen him. We sat down to table. The fowl was tough, Cécile remarked; one would have said it was an old cock which had crowed all the night. Augustine asked where the frogs were that she had seen, she said, in the kitchen the night before. Had they been moved?... Were the frogs lost?... The frogs must be found again. Louise asked Adolphe if he was not attacked by a contagious affection; for since he had offered her his arm to lead her into the dining-room, her skin had felt fearfully irritable.

"If Manceau were here," I said to Louise, "you could ask him for a prescription to allay it."

"But, joking apart, where is Manceau?" asked Madame Collard.

Silence again, as at the first inquiry. Matters were becoming serious, and folks began to be uneasy about the dear doctor: it was not his custom to absent himself at meal-times. They sent to ask the porter if Manceau had gone out to attend some sick person in the village. The porter had not seen Manceau.

"I believe he is drowned!" I said.... "Poor fellow!"

"Why should he be?" asked Madame Collard.

"Because yesterday evening he proposed a bathing party to us; but we slept so well we missed meeting him in his room as arranged. As we did not turn up, he must have gone alone to bathe."

"Oh, good gracious!" exclaimed Madame Collard, "the poor doctor! he cannot swim."

A chorus of lamentations went up from the ladies at these words, by the side of which the wailing of the Israelites in exile was a trifle. It was settled that Manceau should be searched for immediately after the meal was over.

"Good!" said de Leuven in a whisper to me,—"I will take the opportunity while everybody is out to write my verses in Louise's album."

[Pg 42]

"And I," I replied, "I will stand sentinel at the door to prevent your being disturbed."

Everything happened as had been arranged. The whole beehive of the castle swarmed into the garden. The older men—M. de Leuven the father, M. Collard, M. Méchin—stayed in the drawing-room to read the newspapers. Hippolyte played billiards with Maurice. De Leuven and I went upstairs to Louise's room, which was next to M. Collard's, and whilst I watched on the landing, he wrote his four lines in the album.

He had scarcely finished the last, when we heard loud shouts, and upon going to look out of the window, we saw Louise and Augustine running towards the castle. Cécile, who was braver, had remained stoutly where she was, and had looked towards the river with more curiosity than alarm.

"Bravo!" said I to Adolphe, "Manceau has made his appearance."

We quickly went down.

"A ghost! a ghost!" cried Louise and Augustine; "there is a ghost in the river!"

"Oh! my God," said de Leuven—"can it be that the spirit of poor Manceau is already borne down below?"

It was not his spirit, but his body. By dint of struggling with his cords, Manceau had freed one arm, then both; his two arms freed, he had taken the handkerchief off his mouth: when ungagged, he had called out for help; unfortunately, the gardener was at the opposite end of the garden. He had tried hard to untie the cords which bound his legs, as he had done those binding his hands; but, to do so, he would have to put his head under the water; and, as Madame Capelle had said, the unlucky doctor did not know how to swim, and was restrained from any such attempt by the fear of being suffocated. At last his cries attracted the attention of the young girls; but at sight of the figure wrapped in a sheet and making despairing gesticulations, fear had taken possession of them, and not having the least notion that Manceau would be discovered in the middle of the river, shrouded in such a garment, they had shrieked at the apparition and had flown away. They sent to[Pg 43] the unhappy Manceau the gardener for whom he had called so loudly. He clamoured vehemently for his clothes. He had been in the river from seven in the morning until noon, and although it was towards the end of July, the bath was infinitely too protracted, and had made him somewhat chilly. He was put to bed with a hot bottle. From that moment Manceau was the object of general pity, and we of universal execration. For, God be merciful to him a sinner, Manceau had been cowardly enough to denounce us. It was in vain for de Leuven to show his hands as red as crabs and to offer to show the rest of his body, which was as red as his hands; in vain did Hippolyte collect the frogs scattered about his room and bring them into the drawing-room; in vain did I fetch the cock, with which I had held discourse all the night, from the barnyard: nothing moved our judges; we were banished from society, for deliberate attempted homicide in the matter of Doctor Manceau. So we promised ourselves to drown him out and out the first chance we got.

Banished from the society of the ladies, I took refuge in the billiard-room, where Maurice gave me my first lesson in billiards. We shall see that this lesson stood me in good stead, and that, four years later, at a solemn occasion in my life, I practised the art of cannoning, wherein I had made some progress. Our punishment lasted throughout that evening, which the young ladies spent in Louise's room, as it was raining. De Leuven made several attempts to get into that chamber, but was repulsed each time. A great change had come over him since four o'clock in the afternoon, after a conversation he had had with his father, in which the elder man had seemed to me to sneer at him strangely.

Adolphe grew very restless, almost gloomy, and although he was determinedly kept out of Louise's room—where she was holding a gathering of her girl-friends, as I have mentioned—he went back persistently again and again. "Ah! I see," I said to myself, after a moment's reflection, "he wants to obtain news of his quatrain and to know how it has succeeded." And, satisfied with my reasoning, I did not look any farther for the[Pg 44] cause of de Leuven's insistence. But I regretted I had not the means with which partial nature had endowed Adolphe, to cause my shortcomings to be forgiven. I was pursued by this regret when in Hippolyte's room, where we withdrew, questioning each other what had become of de Leuven, who had not been seen for an hour, when suddenly we heard a great noise in the midst of which we could make out the words, "Stop thief!" echoing through the castle. As we were still dressed, we dashed out of our room and quickly descended the staircase. At the foot of the staircase was M. Collard in his nightshirt, holding Adolphe by his coat collar. It was an extraordinary sight. M. Collard looked furious and Adolphe exceedingly penitent. In the meantime, M. de Leuven, who had not yet gone to bed, arrived on the scene, as imperturbable as ever, his hands in his trousers pockets, chewing a toothpick, after his usual fashion. This toothpick was an indispensable item in M. de Leuven's life.

"Well, well! What is the matter now, Collard? What have you against my boy?"

"What have I? what have I?" shrieked M. Collard, growing more and more exasperated. "I have something that cannot be overlooked."

"Ah! what has he done, then?"

"What has he done?... I'll tell you what he has done!—--"

"Forgive me, father," said Adolphe, trying to get in a word or two of justification,—"forgive me, father, but M. Collard is mistaken.... He believes——"

"Hold your tongue, you scoundrel!" yelled M. Collard, kicking him.

Then, turning to the Count de Ribbing, he said—

"Listen, my dear de Leuven, and I will tell you where I have found this son of yours."

"But I must protest, dear M. Collard, it was solely and simply to——"

"Be quiet!" interrupted M. Collard. "Come with us: you shall clear yourself if you can."

"Oh," said Adolphe, "that will not be difficult."

[Pg 45]

"We shall see!"

Pushing the youth before him, he signed to the count to go inside his room, and, following himself, shut the door and double-locked it.

We withdrew in silence, Hippolyte, myself and the other spectators of that curious scene. Adolphe returned at the end of a quarter of an hour. He looked so crestfallen that we dared not question him for details. We went to bed in ignorance of the cause of all the disturbance.

But after Hippolyte had fallen asleep de Leuven came to me and told me the whole story. This was what had happened.

As I have said above, Adolphe had written the wonderful quatrain in Louise's album that morning. When it was finished he left the young lady's room as fast as possible. Towards four o'clock, Adolphe, who had not been able to contain the news, drew his father aside and repeated his quatrain to him.

M. de Ribbing listened gravely until the last syllable of the fourth line, and then he said—

"Say it over again, please."

Adolphe repeated it obediently:—

"Pourquoi dans la froide Ibérie,
Louise, ensevelir de si charmants attraits?
Les Russes, en quittant notre belle patrie,
Nous juraient cependant une éternelle paix!"

"There is but one slip," then said M. de Ribbing.

"What?" asked Adolphe.

"Oh, nothing much ... you have mistaken the South for the North—Spain for Russia."

"Oh!" cried Adolphe, aghast, "upon my word, so I have! ... I have put Ibérie for Sibérie."

"I understand," said the count, "it makes a better rhyme, but is less accurate." And, shrugging his shoulders, he went off humming a little air and chewing his toothpick.

Adolphe stood dumbfounded. He had signed his unlucky quatrain with his full name. If the album were opened and[Pg 46] the quatrain were read he would be disgraced! This sword of Damocles, hung over the unlucky poet's head, had distracted him all the evening. It was to get hold of Louise's album that he had made the obstinate efforts to enter her room I have detailed. But, as we have seen, his attempts had been fruitless.

When night came, Adolphe took a desperate resolve: he would go into Louise's room when she was asleep, seize her album and destroy the tell-tale page.

This resolution he put into execution about eleven o'clock. The door opened without creaking too much, and Adolphe, who squeezed himself through as softly as possible on tiptoe, with but the one end, one hope and one desire of reaching the album, had thus invaded his young friend's maiden chamber. All went well as far as the album. It was on the table and Adolphe took it, put it in his vest, determined to regain possession by hook or by crook of the four lines which had made their author so unhappy, when suddenly he ran against a little table, which fell and in falling awakened Louise. Louise, startled, cried out, "Thief, thief!" At the cry of "Thief, thief!" M. Collard, whose room adjoined his daughter's, rushed out of bed in his nightshirt, flung himself on de Leuven on the landing, collared him, and, as we have seen, suspecting poor innocent Adolphe of quite another crime, dragged him into his chamber. His father followed them and closed the door behind him. There, everything was explained, thanks to the album, which Adolphe had been careful not to let go. M. Collard was convinced de visu of the geographical error Adolphe had committed; he thoroughly understood the importance of that error, and, reassured in the matter of motive, he was soon satisfied about the deed. So neither Louise's reputation nor Adolphe's suffered any blemish from this occurrence.

As they continued to punish Hippolyte and me next day, for Manceau's little adventure, we left Villers-Hellon without saying a word to anyone, and took the road to Villers-Cotterets. Strange to say, I have never re-entered Villers-Hellon since. The young girls' ostracism lasted thirty years. Only once have[Pg 47] I since seen Hermine, and that was at the rehearsal of Caligula, when she was Madame la Baronne de Martens. Only once have I since seen Louise, and that was at a dinner given at the Bank, when she was Madame Garat. Only once have I since seen Marie Capelle, a month before she became Madame Lafarge. I never saw either Madame Collard or Madame Capelle again. Both are now dead. But when I close my eyes, in spite of those thirty years of absence, I can still see them all, the dead and the living.

I promised to tell the story of the old doctor who was Manceau's predecessor, and it would be unfair to my readers to break my word. M. Paroisse lived at Soissons. A thinly scattered practice allowed him to dine once a week at Villers-Hellon, where he was always made heartily welcome. This lasted for ten years. One day M. Collard received a large manuscript signed by the worthy doctor. It was the bill for his visits. He had charged twenty francs for each visit, and the sum total was something alarming. M. Collard paid him, but told M. Paroisse from henceforth not to come to Villers-Hellon unless he were specially sent for. It was in consequence of this incident that Manceau was installed in the castle as the regular medical attendant to the family. I forget what became of Manceau ... I fancy the poor devil is dead. Happily, this was not in consequence of the enforced bath we gave him.

[Pg 48]


Amédée de la Ponce—He teaches me what work is—M. Arnault and his two sons—A journey by diligence—A gentleman fights me with cough lozenges and I fight him with my fists—I learn the danger from which I escaped

After the unjust sentence that was passed upon us in Villers-Hellon, I returned to Villers-Cotterets, and, disgusted with my sojourn in the aristocratic regions whence I had just been cast forth, I returned with delight to the world I preferred to theirs, wherein I could find complete satisfaction for all my heart-longings and all my proud cravings. Adèle at first received me back very coldly, and I had to endure a fit of the sulks for some hours. At the end of that time, little by little her pretty face cleared, and she ended by smiling upon me with the freshness and sweetness of an opening flower. One might have said of this lovely child that her smile itself was like a rose. While these youthful love affairs were in progress—all of them, alas! of the ephemeral character of love at sixteen—there were friendships taking root in my heart that were to last the whole of my life.

I have already spoken of Adolphe de Leuven, who suddenly took a prominent place in my life, apart from my childish friendships. Here let me also be allowed to say a word about another friend, who was to finish in certain other directions the work of opening out future vistas before me that had been begun by the son of Count de Ribbing. One day we saw a young man of twenty-six or twenty-seven go along the streets of Villers-Cotterets, wearing the uniform of an officer of Hussars with an unusually stately grace. No one could possibly have[Pg 49] been handsomer or more distinguished in appearance than this young man. His face perhaps might have been criticised as a trifle too feminine-looking, if it had not been for a fine sword-cut which, without spoiling in any way the regularity of his features, began at the left side of his forehead and ended at the right corner of his upper lip, adding a touch of manliness and courage to his gentle features. His name was Amédée de la Ponce. I do not know what chance or whim or necessity led him to Villers-Cotterets. Had he come as an idle tourist, to spend his income of five or six thousand livres in our town? I do not know.... It is probable. He liked the country, he stayed among us and, at the end of a year of residence, he became the husband of a charmingly pretty young girl, Louise Moreau, a friend of my sister. They had a beautiful fair-haired child, whom I should much like to see to-day: we nicknamed it Mouton, on account of its gentleness, the whiteness of its skin and its flaxen hair.

I lost sight of you such a long while ago, my dear de la Ponce! Whatever part of the world you may be in, if you read these pages, you will find therein a testimony of my ever living, sincere and lasting friendship for you. For, my friend, you did a great deal for me. You said to me: "Believe me, my dear boy, there are other things in life besides pleasure and love, hunting and dancing, and the silly ambitions of youth! There is work. Learn to work ... that is the true way to be happy." And you were right, dear friend. Apart from the death of my father, the death of my mother and the death of the Duc d'Orléans, how is it I have never experienced a sorrow that I have not crushed beneath my feet or a disappointment that I have not overcome? It is because you introduced me to the only friend who can give comfort by day and by night, who is ever near, who hastens to console at the first sigh, who lends healing balm at the first tear: you made me acquainted with work. O dear and most excellent Work,—thou who bearest in thy strong arms that heavy burden of humanity which we call sorrow! Thou divinity, with hand ever stretched open and with face ever smiling!... Oh! dear[Pg 50] and most excellent Work, thou hast never cast the shadow of deception on me ... my blessings upon thee, O Work!

De la Ponce spoke Italian and German as fluently as his own language; he offered to teach them to me in my leisure moments—and God knows I had plenty of spare moments at that time.

We started with Italian. It was the easiest language—the honey of which Horace speaks, the gilding that clothes the outside of the cup of bitter drink given to a sick child. One of the books out of which I learnt Italian was Ugo Foscolo's fine novel, which I have since translated under the title of the Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis. That book gave me an idea of, an insight into and a feeling for romantic literature of which previously I had been totally ignorant. In two months' time I could talk Italian fairly correctly, and I began to translate poetry. I much preferred this to my sales and my marriage contracts and the drawing up of bonds and transfers at Maître Mennesson's. Furthermore, a change took place in the office greatly to the advantage of my literary education, but not to my legal education. Niguet, that precious head clerk who had told tales to M. Mennesson of my love-disappointments, had bought in a neighbouring village a lawyer's practice, which I believe Lafarge had been obliged to sell as he had not been able to find the wherewithal to take it up; and Paillet, a friend of mine, who was six or eight years my senior, had succeeded Niguet as head clerk over me. Paillet was well-to-do; he had a delightful property two leagues from Villers-Cotterets; his tastes were luxurious; consequently, he let me off more readily than Niguet (who was an old Basochian[1] without any fun in him and entirely wrapped up in his business) to pursue the simple luxuries I could indulge in, namely, shooting, flirting and dancing.

So it came about that instead of encouraging me in treading the narrow and difficult path of a provincial solicitor, Paillet allowed me to cast my eyes abroad, instinctively understanding, doubtless, that the work they had put me to was not what I[Pg 51] was cut out for. It can easily be seen that Paillet exercised material influence over my future destiny, apart from the moral influence exercised by de la Ponce and de Leuven. I was then perfectly happy in the love of my mother, and in a younger and sweeter love growing up side by side with hers without injuring it, and in the friendship of de la Ponce and of de Paillet, when de Leuven came to complete my happiness: I lacked nothing save that golden mean of which Horace speaks; had I had that too, I should have had scarcely aught to wish for.

Suddenly we heard that M. Deviolaine was going to retire with his family to his estate of Saint-Remy, and let his house at Villers-Cotterets to the Count de Ribbing. So the house wherein I had been brought up, the house peopled for me with a host of memories, was to pass from the hands of a relative into the hands of a friend The beautiful garden had taken M. de Leuven's special fancy; he hoped to give vent in it to his hobby for gardening interrupted by the successive sales of Brunoy and Quincy. Furthermore, the count had not met with any more persecution, and whether it was because Louis XVIII. did not know of his being in France, or whether the king closed his eyes to the fact, he was left in undisturbed peacefulness.

De Leuven and his father settled, then, in Villers-Cotterets, where Madame de Leuven joined them in a fortnight's time. As for de la Ponce, he rented a house at the end of the rue de Largny, the first house on the left as you come from Paris: it had a large garden and a fine courtyard. My time was soon divided into three portions—one was devoted to my friendships, another to love-makings, and the third to my legal work. The reader may suggest that my mother was perhaps a little neglected in all this. Is a mother ever forgotten? Is she not always there, whether present or absent? Did I not go in and out of my home ten or twenty times a day? Did I not kiss my mother each time I went in? Every day de Leuven, de la Ponce and I managed to meet. Generally it was at de la Ponce's house: we transformed the courtyard which I have mentioned into a shooting range, and every day we used up twenty or thirty balls. De Leuven had excellent German pistols (Kukenreiter).[Pg 52] These pistols were marvellously true, and we soon were able to shoot with such precision, all three of us, that when anyone doubted our powers, we would take it in turn to hold the piece of cardboard which served as a target, whilst the others fired. And we never any of us received a single graze! I remember one day after heavy rain we found I do not know how many frogs in that gloomy, damp courtyard. Here was novel game for us to pot at, and we exterminated every frog with our pistols. Every little while de Leuven read us a fable or an elegy of his own composition; but he was cured of making geographical errors by the nocturnal misadventure at Villers-Hellon and no longer mistook the South for the North, or Spain for Siberia. One morning great news spread through the town. Three strangers had just come to stay with M. de Leuven: M. Arnault and his two sons, Telleville and Louis Arnault. M. Arnault, the author of Germanicus and of Marius à Minturnes, was at that time a splendid-looking old man of sixty, still full of life in spite of his curling white locks, which were as fine as silk. He had a most superabundant flow of spirits and excelled at repartee; he could strike as rapidly at his object as the most accomplished fencing-master could parry a blow or deal a right-handed stroke. The only fault one could find with this wit was its keen, biting edge; but, like bites made by healthy teeth, the poet's bites never left poison behind them. M. Arnault had made the acquaintance of the Count de Ribbing at that famous table d'hôte where the latter had struck the foreign colonel in the face. Since that day, M. de Leuven, Frenchman at heart, and M. Arnault, Frenchman in mind, had struck up a friendship which though broken by death was continued between their children. Telleville Arnault was a handsome young officer of a charming disposition and of tested valour. He had fought a Dud over Germanicus with Martainville which had made a great sensation in the literary world. Louis was still a young lad of about my own age.

I prudently kept from visiting Adolphe all the time M. Arnault and his sons were staying with his father; but M. Deviolaine having invited them to a rabbit shooting in the[Pg 53] Tillet woods, I was present, and the acquaintance which began by chance during the walks in the park was sealed gun in hand. Telleville had a little gun made by Prélat, with which he did wonders. This gun had a barrel not fourteen inches long, which filled me with wonder, for I still believed in length of barrel and hunted with siege-guns.

When M. Arnault left Villers-Cotterets, he took de Leuven with him. It was heart-breaking to me to see Adolphe depart. I had two memories of visits to Paris, one in 1806, the other in 1814. These two recollections sufficed to make me passionately envious of the lot of every favoured being who was going to Paris. I remained behind with de la Ponce, and I redoubled my devotion to the study of Italian. I was soon sufficiently far advanced in the language of Dante and of Ariosto to be able to pass on to that of Schiller and of Goethe; but this was quite a different matter. After three or four months' work, de la Ponce put one of Auguste Lafontaine's novels in my way: the task was too difficult, I soon had enough of it. German was dropped, and I have never had the courage to take it up again. My first serious dramatic impression dates from this period. Some nabob who had done business through M. Mennesson, out of unheard-of generosity, left a hundred and fifty francs to be divided among the lads in the office. M. Mennesson distributed it in the following way: thirty-seven francs fifty cents each to Ronsin and myself, seventy-five francs to Paillet. It was the first time I had found myself possessed of so much money. I wondered what I should do with it.

One of the four great fêtes of the year was approaching, when we should have Sunday and Monday as holidays. Paillet proposed we should both club our thirty-seven francs fifty cents to his seventy-five francs, and that we should go and sink this fabulous sum of fifty crowns in the delights that Soissons, the seat of the sous-prefecture, could offer us. The suggestion was hailed with joy. Paillet was deputed cashier, and we boldly took seats on the diligence for Paris, which passes through Villers-Cotterets at half-past three in the morning, and arrives[Pg 54] at Soissons at six o'clock. Paillet and Ronsin each took a place in the coupé, where one was already taken, and I went inside, where there were four other passengers, three of whom got out at la Vertefeuille, a post three leagues away from Villers-Cotterets, the fourth continuing his journey to Soissons. From la Vertefeuille to Soissons, therefore, I was left alone with this person, who was a man of forty years or thereabouts, very thin of body, pale of face, with auburn hair and well groomed. He had laid great stress on my sitting near him, and, in order to leave me as much room as possible, squeezed himself as closely into a corner of the coach as he could. I was much touched by this attention, and felt sensibly drawn to the gentleman, who had condescended to treat me with so much consideration.

I slept well and anywhere in those days. So, as soon as we got out of the town I fell asleep, only to wake when the horses were changed, and I should most certainly not have waked up then if the three passengers who left us had not trodden on my toes as they got out, with the habitual heavy-footed tread travellers indulge in at the expense of those who remain behind. When the passenger saw I was awake, he began to talk to me, and asked me, in a kindly, interested way, my age, my name and my occupation. I made haste to supply him with full particulars, and he seemed much interested therein. I told him the object of our journey to Soissons; and, as I coughed while I related my tale, he good-naturedly offered me two different sorts of cough lozenges. I accepted both, and in order to get the full benefit of them I put them both in my mouth together; then, although I found the gentleman's conversation agreeable and his manners fascinating, there was something even more seductive and pleasing than that conversation and those manners, namely sleep, so I wished him a good-night, and, with plenty of room to dispose myself in, I settled down in the corner parallel with his, with my back upon one seat and my feet on the other. I do not know how long I had slept when I felt myself awakened in the oddest fashion in the world. My sleeping fellow-traveller had apparently passed from mere interest to a more lively expression of his[Pg 55] sentiments, and was embracing me. I imagined he had a nightmare, and I tried to awake him; but as I saw that the more soundly he slept, the worse his gesticulations became, I began to strike him hard, and as my blows had no effect, I cried aloud with all my might. Unluckily, they were descending the hill of Vaubuin and they could not stop the coach; the struggle therefore lasted ten minutes or more, and without in the least knowing what danger I was combating, I was just about to succeed in getting the better of my enemy, by turning him over under my knee, when the door opened and the conductor came to my rescue. Paillet and Ronsin were sleeping as I should have slept if my travelling-companion had not waked me up by his overpowering friendliness. I told the conductor what had happened and blamed him for having put me along with a somnambulist or a madman, begging him to put me in any other corner of the coach convenient to him, when, to my intense astonishment, whilst the traveller was readjusting his toilet, which had been considerably damaged by my struggle with him, without uttering any sort of complaint against me, the conductor began apostrophising him in the severest terms, made him get down out of the coach, and told him that, as there only remained three-quarters of a league from where we were to the hôtel des Trois-Pucelles, where the coach stopped, he must have the goodness to do it on foot, unless he would consent to mount up on the roof, where he could not disturb anybody else. The gentleman of the auburn locks hoisted himself on the roof, without opening his lips, and the diligence started off again. Although I was now alone once more and consequently more at my ease inside the coach, I was too much excited by the struggle I had just gone through, to think of going to sleep again. I could hear the conductor, in the cabriolet, relate my story to my two fellow travelling-companions, and apparently he presented it to them under a gayer light than that in which I had looked at it myself, for they roared with laughter. I did not know what there could be to laugh at in an interchange of fisticuffs with a somnambulist or a maniac. A quarter of an hour after the gentleman had been installed on[Pg 56] the imperial, and I reinstated in the carriage, I heard by the heavy sound of the coach wheels that we were crossing under the drawbridge. We had reached our destination.

Five minutes after we had left the coach, Paillet and Ronsin told me why they had laughed, and it sounded so ridiculous that I rushed off in search of my gentleman of the cough lozenges almost before they had finished; but I searched the imperial in vain in every corner and cranny:—he had disappeared.

This nocturnal struggle upset me so greatly that I felt dazed the whole of the day.

[1] Translator's note.—Member of the Society of Law Clerks.

[Pg 57]


First dramatic impressions—The Hamlet of Ducis—The Bourbons en 1815—Quotations from it

Among the pleasures we had promised ourselves in the second capital of the department of Aisne we had put the theatre in the first rank. A company of pupils from the Conservatoire, who were touring in the provinces, were that night to give a special performance of Ducis's Hamlet. I had absolutely no idea who Hamlet was; I will go farther and admit that I was completely ignorant who was Ducis. No one could have been more ignorant than I was. My poor mother had tried to induce me to read Corneille's and Racine's tragedies; but, I confess it to my shame, the reading of them had bored me inexpressibly. I had no notion at that time what was meant by style or form or structure; I was a child of nature in the fullest acceptance of the term: what amused me I thought good, what wearied me—bad. So I read the word tragedy on the placard with some misgivings.

But, after all, as this tragedy was the best that Soissons had to offer us to pass away the evening, we put ourselves in the queue waiting outside; in good time, and in spite of the great crowd, we succeeded in getting into the pit.

Something like thirty-two years have rolled by since that night, but such an impression did it make upon my mind that I can still remember every little detail connected with it. The young fellow who took the part of Hamlet was a tall, pale, sallow youth called Cudot; he had fine eyes, and a strong voice, and he imitated Talma so closely, that when I saw Talma act the same part, I almost thought he imitated Cudot.

[Pg 58]

As I have said, the subject of literature was completely unknown to me. I did not even know that there had ever existed an author named Shakespeare, and when, on my return, I was instructed by Paillet that Hamlet was only an imitation, I pronounced, before my sister, who knew English, the name of the author of Romeo and of Macbeth as I had seen it written, and it cost me one of those prolonged jokings my sister never' spared me when occasion offered. Of course on this occasion I delighted her. Now, as the Hamlet of Ducis could not lose in my estimation by comparison, since I had never heard Shakespeare's spoken of, the play seemed to me, with Hamlet's grotesque entrance, the ghost, visible only to himself, his struggle against his mother, his urn, his monologue, the gloomy questionings concerning the fear of death, to be a masterpiece, and produced an immense effect upon me. So, when I returned to Villers-Cotterets, the first thing I did was to collect together the few francs left over from the trip to Soissons and to write to Fourcade (who had given up his place to Camusat, of whom I spoke in connection with old Hiraux, and who had returned to Paris) to send me the tragedy of Hamlet.

For some reason or other Fourcade delayed sending it to me for five or six days: so great was my impatience that I wrote him a second letter, filled with the keenest reproaches at his negligence and want of friendliness. Fourcade, who would never have believed anyone could accuse a man of being a poor friend because he did not hurry over sending Hamlet, sent me a charming letter the gist of which I did not appreciate until I had studied more deeply the question of what was good and what was bad, and was able to place Ducis's work in its due rank. In the meantime I became demented. I asked everybody, "Do you know Hamlet? do you know Ducis?" The tragedy arrived from Paris. At the end of three days I knew the part of Hamlet by heart and, worse still, I have such an excellent memory that I have never been able to forget it. So it came to pass that Hamlet was the first dramatic work which produced an impression upon me—a profound impression, composed of inexplicable sensations, aimless longings,[Pg 59] mysterious rays of light which only made my darkness more visible. Later, in Paris, I again saw poor Cudot, who had played Hamlet. Alas! the grand talent that had carried me away had not obtained him the smallest foothold, and I believe he has long since given up hope—that daughter of pride so hard to kill in the artist's soul—the hope of making a position on the stage.

Now—as if the spirit of poetry, when wakened in me, had sworn never to go to sleep again and used every means to that end, by even succeeding in making Maître Mennesson himself his accomplice—scarcely had I returned from Soissons, when, instead of giving me a deed of sale to copy out or a bond to engross, or sending me out on business, Maître Mennesson gave me a piece of poetry of which he wanted three copies made. This piece of poetry was entitled Les Bourbons en 1815.

M. Mennesson, as I have said, was a Republican; I found him a Republican in 1830, and when I saw him again in 1848 he was still a Republican. And to do him justice, he had the courage of his opinions through all times and under all regimes; so freely did he express his opinions that his friends were frightened by them and made their observations thereon with bated breath. He only shrugged his shoulders.

"What the devil will they do to me?" he would exclaim. "My office is paid for, my clientèle flourishing; I defy them to find a flaw in any of my contracts; and that being the case, one can afford to mock at kings and parsons."

Maître Mennesson was right, too; for, in spite of all these demonstrations, all these accusations of imprudence made by timid souls, his practice was the best in Villers-Cotterets and improved daily. At this very moment he was in the seventh heaven of delight. He had got hold of a piece of poetry, in manuscript, against the Bourbons—I do not know how. He had read it to everybody in the town, and then after reading it to everybody, when I came back from Soissons, he, as I have said, ordered me to make two or three copies of it, for those of his friends who, like himself, were anxious to possess this poetical pamphlet. I have never seen it in print, I have never read it since the day[Pg 60] I copied it out three times, but such is my memory that I can repeat it from beginning to end. But lest I alarm my readers, I will content myself with quoting a few lines of it.

This was how it began:—

"Où suis-je? qu'ai je vu? Les voilà donc ces princes
Qu'un sénat insensé rendit à nos provinces;
Qui devaient, abjurant les prejugés des rois,
Citoyens couronnés, régner au nom des lois;
Qui venaient, disaient-ils, désarmant la victoire,
Consoler les Français de vingt-cinq ans de gloire!
Ils entrent! avec eux, la vengeance de l'orgueil.
Ont du Louvre indigné franchi l'antique seuil!
Ce n'est plus le sénat, c'est Dieu, c'est leur naissance,
C'est le glaive étranger qui leur soumet la France;
Ils nous osent d'un roi reprocher l'échafaud:
Ah! si ce roi, sortant de la nuit du tombeau,
Armé d'un fer vengeur venait punir le crime,
Nous les verrions pâlir aux yeux de leur victime!"

Then the author exclaims—in those days authors all exclaimed—abandoning general considerations for the detailed drawing of individuals, and passing the royal family in review:—

"C'est d'Artois, des galants imbécile doyen,
Incapable de mal, incapable de bien;
Au pied des saints autels abjurant ses faiblesses,
Et par des favoris remplaçant ses maîtresses;
D'Artois, dont rien n'a pu réveiller la vertu,
Qui fuit a Quiberon sans avoir combattu,
Et qui, s'il était roi, monterait à la France
Des enfants de Clovis la stupide indolence!
C'est Berry, que l'armée appelait à grands cris,
Et qui lui prodigua l'insulte et le mépris;
Qui, des ces jeunes ans, puisa dans les tavernes
Ces mœurs, ce ton grossier, qu'ignorent nos casernes.
C'est son frère, avec art sous un masque imposteur,
Cachant de ses projets l'ambitieuse horreur!
Qui, nourri par son oncle aux discordes civiles,
En rallume les feux en parcourant nos villes;
Ce Thersite royal, qui ne sut, à propos,
[Pg 61]Ni combattre ni fuir, et se croit un héros!
C'est, plus perfide encor, son épouse hautaine,
Cette femme qui vit de vengeance et de haine,
Qui pleure, non des siens le funeste trépas,
Mais le sang qu'à grands flots elle ne verse pas!
Ce sont ces courtisans, ces nobles et ces prêtres,
Qui, tour à tour flatteurs et tyrans de leur maîtres,
Voudraient nous ramener au temps où nos aieux
Ne voyaient, ne pensaient, n'agissaient que par eux!"

Then the author ends off his discourse with a peroration worthy of the subject and exclaims once more in his liberal enthusiasm:—

"Ne balonçons done plus, levons-nous! et semblables
Au fleuve impétueux qui rejette les sables,
La fange et le limon qui fatiguaient sous cours,
De notre sol sacré rejetons pour toujours
Ces tyrans sans vertu, ces courtisans perfides,
Ces chevaliers sans gloire et ces prêtres avides,
Qui, jusqu'à nos exploits ne pouvant se hausser,
Jusques à leur néant voudraient nous abaisser!"

Twelve years later the Bourbons were hounded out of France. It is not only revolutionary bullets which overturn thrones; it is not only the guillotine that kills kings: bullets and the guillotine are but passive instruments in the hands of principles. It is the deadly hatred, it is the undercurrent of rebellion, which, so long as it is but the expression of the desires of the few, miscarries and spends its fury; but which, the moment it becomes the expression of general requirements, swallows up thrones and nations, kings and royal families.

It is easy to understand how the Messéniennes of Casimir Delavigne, which appeared in print the same time as these manuscript pamphlets, seemed pale and colourless. Casimir Delavigne was one of those men who celebrate in song revolutions that were accomplished facts, but who do not help revolutions in the making. The Maubreuil trial was the outcome of the piece of poetry from which I have just quoted these brief extracts—a most mysterious and ill-omened business, in which names, if not the most illustrious in Europe, yet at[Pg 62] least the best known at that time, were mixed up with acts of thievery and premeditated assassination.

Probably I am the only person in France who now thinks of the "affaire Maubreuil." Perhaps also I am the only person who has kept a shorthand account of the sittings of that terrible trial, during which the horrors of the dungeon and secret torture were employed in the endeavour to drive a man mad whom they dare not kill outright, to whom they could not succeed in giving the lie. I made a copy at the time from a manuscript in a strange and unknown hand, which gave an account of the sittings. Later, I read the account the illustrious Princess of Wurtemberg took down in her own writing, first for her husband, Marshal Jérôme Bonaparte, and then intended to be included in her Memoirs, which are in the hands of her family, and are still unpublished.

[Pg 63]


The events of 1814 again—Marmont, Duc de Raguse, Maubreuil and Roux-Laborie at M. de Talleyrand's—The Journal des Débats and the Journal de Paris—Lyrics of the Bonapartists and enthusiasm of the Bourbons—End of the Maubreuil affair—Plot against the life of the Emperor—The Queen of Westphalia is robbed of her money and jewels

Let us now try to clear away the litter left by the events of the year 1814. When the Almighty prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, He said to Ezekiel, "I will make thee eat thy bread prepared with cow-dung" (Ezek. iv. 15). Oh! my God, my God! Thou hast served us more hardly than Thou didst the prophet, and hast made us eat far worse than that at times!

Napoleon was at Fontainebleau, the empress at Blois; a Provisional Government, occult and unknown, carried on its operations on the ground floor of a house in the rue Saint-Florentin. Is it necessary that I should add that the house in the rue Saint-Florentin belonged to M. de Talleyrand? On 16 March Napoleon had written from Rheims:—

"DEAR BROTHER,—In accordance with the verbal instructions I gave you, and the wishes expressed in all my letters, you must on no account allow the Empress and the King of Rome to fall into the hands of the enemy. You will not have any news from me for several days. If the enemy advances upon Paris in such force that you decide any resistance to be useless, send away my son and the regent, the grand dignitaries, ministers, officers of the Senate, presidents of the State Council, chief officers of the Crown, Baron de la Bouillerie and the treasure, towards the Loire. Do not desert my son, and[Pg 64] remember that I would rather know that he was in the Seine than that he had fallen into the hands of the enemies of France. The fate of Astyanax, prisoner of the Greeks, has always seemed to me the unhappiest in history.


This letter was addressed to Joseph. The treasure referred to by Napoleon was, be it understood, his own private possessions. On 28 March the departure of the empress was discussed. MM. de Talleyrand, Boulay (de la Meurthe), the Duc de Cadore and M. de Fermon were of opinion that the empress should remain. Joseph, with the emperor's letter in his hand, insisted upon her departure. It was decided that she should leave on the following day, at nine o'clock in the morning. Afterwards M. de Talleyrand was blamed for having urged that Marie-Louise should stay in Paris. A pale and cold smile flitted over the vast chasm which served the diplomatist for a mouth.

"I knew that the empress would defy me," he said, "and that, if I advised her going, she would stay. I urged that she should stay to further her departure."

O monseigneur, Bishop of Autun! you put into the mouth of Harel, in le Nain Jaune, the famous epigram, "Speech was given to man to conceal his thoughts." And, monseigneur, you were eminently capable of exemplifying the truth of the saying yourself.

On the morning of 29 March, through the uncurtained windows of the Tuileries, the empress's women could have been seen in the dubious light of the growing dawn, by the still more dubious light of lamps and dying candles, running about, pale with fatigue and fear, after a whole night spent in preparing for the journey. The departure, as we have said, was fixed for nine o'clock. At ten o'clock the empress had not yet left her apartments. She was hoping to the last that a counter order would arrive either from the emperor or from Joseph. At half-past ten the King of Rome clung to the curtains of the palais des Tuileries in tears; for he too, poor child, did not want to go.

[Pg 65]

Alas! at a distance of seventeen years between, three children, all suffering through the mistakes of their fathers, clung in vain to those same curtains: for sixty years the Tuileries was little more than a royal hostelry wherein the fleeting dynasties put up in turn. By a quarter to eleven, the empress, clad like an amazon in brown, stepped into a carriage with the King of Rome, surrounded by a strong detachment of the Imperial Guard. On the same day and at the same hour, the emperor set off from Troyes for Paris with his flying squadrons. It is well known that the emperor was arrested at Fromenteau, but what follows is not known, or but imperfectly known.

When time and occasion serve—apropos of the July Revolution, probably—we shall revert to one of the men whom fate, for some unknown reason, branded with a fatal seal. We refer to Marmont. We will show what he was, rather than what he did: he was superb, during that retreat, in which he left neither gun nor prisoner in the hands of the enemy; superb when—like a lion at bay against the walls of the customhouse at Paris, surrounded by Russians and Prussians, in the main street of Belleville, his right arm still in a sling, after the battle of Arapiles, holding his sword in his left hand, mutilated at Leipzig, his clothes riddled with bullets, wedged in between the dead and the wounded who fell all round him, with only forty grenadiers behind him—he forced his way to the barrier where he abandoned, pierced with wounds, the fifth horse that had been killed under him since the beginning of the campaign! Alas! why did he not cross Paris from the barrier of Belleville to the barrier of Fontainebleau? Why did he stop at his house in the rue Paradis-Poissonnière? Why did he not go to Napoleon, with his coat in shreds and his face blackened with powder? How determinedly fate seemed to oppose him! How different would have been the verdict of the future! But we, who are now a part of that future, and well-nigh disinterested spectators of all those great events, we who by nature are without private hatreds, and by position have nothing to do with political animosities, it is for us to enlighten posterity, for we are poised between the worlds[Pg 66] aristocratic and democratic, the one in its decadence and the other in its adolescence: it is ours to seek for truth wherever it may be buried, and to exalt it wherever it may be found.

And now, having defined our position, let us return to Napoleon and Marie-Louise. Let us pass over several days and say naught of great betrayals and shameful dishonour; even so we are not, unhappily, at the end of these things. From 29 March to 7 April the following events happened:—

On 30 March, Paris capitulated. On the 31st, the Allied armies entered the capital. On I April, the Senate appointed a Provisional Government. On the 2nd, the Senate declared Napoleon to have forfeited the throne. On the 3rd, the Legislative Body confirmed the forfeiture. On the 4th, Napoleon abdicated in favour of his son. On the 5th, Marmont treated with the enemy. On the 6th, the Senate drew up a scheme for a constitution. On the 7 th, the troops of the Duc de Raguse rose in insurrection and refused to obey his orders. Also, Napoleon made his plans for withdrawing across the Loire.

It will be seen that the Government of the rue Saint-Florentin had been quick about its work. The empress remained at Blois, where she learnt in rapid succession the declaration of dethronement by the Senate, the emperor's first abdication and the defection of the Duc de Raguse. On the 7th, she learned in the morning of the recall of the Bourbons.

Until that moment, as a cloud hid the future from sight, the self-seekers watching and waiting had not yet ventured to show their hands in her presence. But at the news of the return of the Bourbons everyone sought to make his peace with the new power. The same thing that happened to Napoleon happened to Marie-Louise. It was a race as to who could most openly and with the greatest speed desert her; it was a race of ingratitude, it was a steeplechase of treason.

She had left Paris a week before, the daughter of an emperor, the wife of an emperor, the mother of a king! Orléans had saluted her, as she passed through, with the pealing[Pg 67] of its bells and the firing of its artillery. She had a court around her, a treasure in her arms; two peoples, those of France and Italy, some forty millions of souls, were her subjects. In a week she lost rank, power, inheritance, kingdom; in an hour she found herself left alone with a poor deserted child, and treasure that was speedily taken away from her. God forbid that I should pity the lot of this woman! But those who betrayed her, those who deserted her, those who immediately robbed her could not plead the excuse of an unknown future still hid from them.

On the 7th, as we have said, the whole court fled. On the morning of the 8th, the two kings, Jérôme and Joseph, also left. On the evening of the 8th, General Schouwaloff arrived with orders from the sovereigns to take her from Blois to Orléans and from Orléans to Rambouillet. Finally, on the morning of the 9th, this announcement appeared in the Moniteur:—

"The Provisional Government having been informed that by order of the sovereign whose dethronement was solemnly pronounced on 3 April, considerable funds were taken away from Paris, during the days which preceded the occupation of that city by the allied troops:

It is decreed—

"That these funds be seized wherever they may be found, in whose-soever hands they may be found, and that they be deposited immediately in the nearest bank."

This order was elastic: it did not make any distinction between the public treasure of the nation and the emperor's private property. Moreover, they confided the execution of this order to a man whose hatred for the fallen house would naturally incline him to the most violent measures. They chose M. Dudon. I am happily too young to be able to say who this M. Dudon was; I have therefore asked the Duc de Rovigo, whose accuracy is well known. Here is his reply to my questions:—

"M. Dudon was imprisoned at Vincennes, for having deserted his post, for having left the army of Spain and, full of[Pg 68] cowardly fears himself, for having communicated them to whomsoever he met."

Nevertheless, M. Dudon hesitated; he looked about for an intermediary; he did not dare to put his hand directly upon this wealth, which was so much needed to pay for past treacheries and defections to come.

Again, what has M. le Duc de Rovigo to say? Let him be unto us the bronze mouthpiece of truth: I write under his dictation.

"An officer of the special police corps, M. Janin de Chambéry, who is now a general officer, was made use of. He had been charged to escort the money. This young man, seeing the way to make his fortune, gave himself up to M. Dudon. He collected his regiment, carried off, with a very high hand, the coffers which contained the Emperor Napoleon's treasure (for they had not yet been unloaded) and set off for Paris, which he reached without striking a blow."

But even all this did not satisfy them: they had robbed the empress, they would now kill the emperor. "Only the dead do not return," said the man who was felicitously styled the "Anacreon of the guillotine."

So many sayings have been attributed to M. de Talleyrand that we may well borrow one from Barère for a change. Moreover, it must be acknowledged that the question what to do with Napoleon, on 31 March, was a very awkward one. We must not be too angry with the people who wished to rid themselves of him. Who were these people? Maubreuil himself shall name them. A conference was being held in the house in the rue Saint-Florentin.

"Yes," said the president to someone who had not yet opened his lips,—"yes, you are right; we must rid ourselves of this man."

"We must!" cried the other members in concert.

"Well, then, that is decided: we will get rid of him."

"Only one other thing is lacking," said one of the members of the conventicle.

"What is that?"

[Pg 69]

"The principal thing: the man who will deal the blow."

"I know the man," said a voice.

"A trustworthy man?"

"A ruined man, an ambitious man—one who has fallen from a high position and would do anything for money and a position."

"What is his name?"


This took place on the evening of 31 March. That same day, Marie-Armand de Guerry, Count de Maubreuil, Marquis d'Orvault, had fastened the cross of the Legion of Honour, which he had won bravely in Spain, to his horse's tail, and showed himself thus in the boulevards and on the place Louis XV. He even did better than this in the place Vendôme. He tied a rope round the neck of the emperor's statue, and, with a dozen other worthy men of his kidney, pulled with might and main; then, seeing that his forces were not strong enough, he attached the rope to his horse. Even that was not enough. They then asked for a relay of horses from the Grand-duke Constantin, who refused, saying, "It is no business of mine."

Now, who went to seek this relay? Who made himself Maubreuil's emissary? A very great lord, upon my word, a most excellent name, renowned in history! True, this most puissant seigneur, the bearer of this honourable name, had to forget a slight obstacle—namely, that he owed everything to the emperor. You ask his name. Ah! indeed, search for it as I have done. Maubreuil had indeed fallen from a high rank, as his patron Roux-Laborie had said. There! I see I have named his patron, though I did not mean to name anyone. Never mind! let us continue.

Maubreuil, who was of an excellent family, had fallen indeed. His father, who had married, for his second wife, a sister of M. de la Roche-jaquelein, was killed in the Vendéean Wars, together with thirty other members of his family. M. Roux-Laborie, then Secretary to the Provisional Government, answered for Maubreuil. He did more: he said to M. de Talleyrand, "Come, come! here I am tearing off[Pg 70] another mask without thinking what I am doing; upon my word, so much the worse! Since that pale face is unmasked, let it remain!" He did much more: he said to M. de Talleyrand, "I will bring him to you." But M. de Talleyrand, who was always cautious, exclaimed, "What are you thinking of, my dear sir? Bring M. de Maubreuil to me! Why so? He must be conducted to Anglès, he must go to Anglès! You know quite well it is Anglès who is attending to all this." "Very well, be it so; I will take him there," replied the Secretary to the Provisional Government. "When?" "This very evening." "My dear fellow, you are beyond price." "Take back that word, monseigneur." And Roux-Laborie bowed, went out and ran to Maubreuil's house. Maubreuil was not at home.

When Maubreuil was not at home, everyone knew where he was. He was gaming. What game was it? There are so many gambling hells in Paris!

Roux-Laborie ran about all night without finding him, returned to Maubreuil's house and, as Maubreuil had still not returned, he left word with his servant that he would expect Maubreuil at his house the next day, 1 April. He waited for him the whole day. Evening came and still no Maubreuil.

It is distracting to a man of honour to fail in his word. What would M. de Talleyrand think of a man who had promised so much and performed so little? Twice during the day he wrote to Maubreuil: his second note was as pressing as time was. This is what he said—

"Why have you not come? I have expected you all day. You are driving me to desperation!"

Maubreuil returned to change his dress at six o'clock that evening. He found the note: he ran off to Roux-Laborie.

"What is it?"

"You can make your fortune."

"I am your man, then!"

"Come with me."

They entered a carriage and went to M. Anglès'. M. Anglès was at the house in the rue Saint-Florentin. They rushed to[Pg 71] the house in the rue Saint-Florentin; M. Anglès had just gone out. They asked to see the prince.

"Impossible! the prince is very busy: he is in the act of betraying. True, he is betraying in good company,—he is betraying along with the Senate." The Senate was next day going to declare that the emperor had forfeited his throne.

Be it remembered that it was this same Senate—Sénat conservateur—which, on the return from the disastrous Russian campaign, fifteen months earlier, had said to the emperor—

"Sire, the Senate is established for the purpose of preserving the fourth dynasty; France and posterity will find it faithful to this sacred duty, and every one of its members will be ever ready to perish in defence of this palladium of the national prosperity."

We must admit that it was drawn up in very bad French. It is also true that it was drawn up by very poor specimens of Frenchmen.

The next day, Maubreuil and Roux-Laborie returned. The prince was no more visible than on the previous evening; the prince was at the Luxembourg. But it did not matter: they could be introduced into his cabinet presently, which was occupied at the moment. Besides, perhaps he might return. "We will wait," said Roux-Laborie.

And they waited a short while in the green salon,—that green salon which became so famous, you will remember, in history,—they waited, reading the papers. The newspapers were very amusing. The Journal des Débats and the Journal de Paris above all vied with each other in being facetious and witty.

"To-day," said the old Journal de l'Empire, which since the previous evening had donned a new cassock and now called itself the Journal des Débats,—"to-day His Majesty passed in front of the colonne Vendôme ..."

Forgive me if I pause a moment: I am anxious that there should not be any confusion. His Majesty! You would imagine that this meant the Emperor Napoleon, to whom a week before[Pg 72] the Journal de l'Empire had published these beautiful lines:—


"'Ciel ennemi, ciel, rends-nous la lumière!
Disait AJAX, et combats contre nous!'
Seul contre tous, malgré le ciel jaloux,
De notre Ajax void la voix guerrière:
Que les cités s'unissent aux soldats;
Rallions-nous pour les derniers combats!
Français, la Paix est aux champs de la gloire,
La douce Paix, fille de la Victoire.'


Il a parlé, le monarque, le père;
Qui serait sourd à sa puissante voix?
Patrie, honneur! c'est pour vos saintes lois,
Nous marchons tous sous la même bannière.
Rallions-nous, citoyens et soldats,
Rallions-nous pour les derniers combats!
Français, la Paix est au champ de la gloire,
La douce Paix, fille de Victoire.


Napoleon, roi d'un peuple fidèle,
Tu veux borner la course de ton char;
Tu nous montras Alexandre et César;
Oui, nous verrons Trajan et Marc-Aurèle!
Nous sommes tous tes enfants, tes soldats,
Nous volons tous à ces derniers combats,
Elle est conquise aux nobles champs de gloire,
La douce Paix, fille de la Victoire."

For, indeed, it is very easy to call a man His Majesty five days before his abdication and a monarch and a father whom one has just addresssed as Ajax, Alexander, Cæsar, Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. Undeceive yourselves! To-day, His Majesty is the Emperor Alexander; as for that other emperor, the Emperor Napoleon, we shall see, or rather we have already seen, what has become of him since his return from the isle of Elba. After having been a monarch, a father, Ajax, Alexander,[Pg 73] Cæsar, Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, he has become TEUTATÈS. Ah! what a villainous fall was there!

Let us proceed, or we shall never finish: we have had more trouble in getting over this word Majesty than Cæsar had in crossing the Rubicon.

"To-day His Majesty passed in front of the colonne de la place Vendôme, and looking at the statue, he said to the noblemen who surrounded him, 'Were I placed so high, I should be afraid of being giddy.' So philosophic a remark is worthy of a Marcus Aurelius."

Pardon me, Monsieur Bertin, to which Marcus Aurelius do you refer? Is it the one to whom you recently compared Napoleon, or some other Marcus Aurelius with whom we are unacquainted? Ah! Monsieur Bertin, you are like Titus: you have not wasted your day, or rather your night! We will relate what happened during the night in which Monsieur Bertin worked so energetically, and in the course of which the serpent changed his tricoloured skin for a white skin and the Journal de l'Empire became the Journal des Débats. It has to be admitted, however, that during the night of 20-21 March 1815 you resumed your old tricoloured skin which you had sold Monsieur Bertin, but which you had not delivered up.

Now let us pass on to the Journal de Paris. "It is a good thing to know," quoth the Journal de Paris, "that Bonaparte's name is not Napoleon, but Nicolas."

Really, Mr. Editor, what an excessively sublime apotheosis you make of yesterday's poor emperor! Instead of showing base ingratitude, like your contemporary, you flatter outrageously. Bonaparte did no more than presume to call himself Napoléon,—that is, the lion of the desert,—and here you make him Nicolas, which means Conqueror of the peoples. Ah! my dear Mr. Editor, if your Journal de Paris had been a literary paper, like the Journal des Débats, you would have known Greek like your confrère—that is to say, like an inhabitant, and you would not have made such blunders. But you did not know Greek. Let us see if you are better acquainted with French. We will complete the quotation.

"It is a good thing to know that Bonaparte's name is not[Pg 74] Napoléon, but Nicolas; not Bonaparte, but Buonaparte; he cut out the U in order to connect himself with a distinguished family of that name."

"You know that the Balzacs of Entraigues make out that you do not belong to their family," said someone once to M. Honoré de Balzac, the author of Père Goriot and of les Parents pauvres.

"If I do not belong to their family," retorted M. Honoré de Balzac, "so much the worse for them!"

We will return to the Journal de Paris, and let it have its say:—

"Many people have amused themselves by making different anagrams from the name of Buonaparte by taking away the U. The following seems to us to depict that personage the best: NABOT PARÉ."[1]

What a misfortune, Mr. Editor, that in order to arrive at such a delightful conclusion you have been obliged to sacrifice your U, like the tyrant himself!

Now, as a sequel to the verses in the Journal des Débats, we must quote some lines from the Journal de Paris; they only amount to a single strophe, but it alone, in the eyes of all lovers of poetry, is fully equal to three. Besides, these lines are of great importance: M. de Maubreuil actually waxes prophetic in the last line.


"Je lègue aux enfers mon génie,
Mes exploits aux aventuriers,
A mes partisans l'infamie,
Le grand-livre à mes créanciers,
Aux Français l'horreur de mes crimes,
Mon exemple à tous les tyrans,
La France à ses rois légitimes,
Et l'hôpital à mes parents."

Finally, to conclude our series of quotations, we promised to return once more to the Journal des Débats. There shall be no cause for complaint: we will return to it twice. We will place[Pg 75] a double-columned account, with its Doit and its Avoir, before our readers' eyes. There was only an interval of fourteen days between the two articles, as can be seen from the dates.

"JOURNAL DES DÉBATS                              "JOURNAL DE L'EMPIRE
PARIS, 7 mars 1815                               PARIS, 21 mars 1815
(PEAU BLANCHE)                                   (PEAU TRICOLORE)

DOIT                                             AVOIR

Buonaparte s'est evade de l'île                  La famille des Bourbons est partie
d'Elbe, où l'imprudente magnanimité              cette nuit; on ignore encore en
des souverains alliés lui avait                  route qu'elle a prise. Paris offre
donne une souveraineté, pour prix                l'aspect de la sécurité et de la joie;
de la désolation qu'il avait portée              les boulevards sont couverts d'une
dans leurs États.                                foule immense, impatiente de voir
                                                 l'armée et LE HÉROS qui lui est
Cet homme, qui, en abdiquant le                  rendu. Le petit nombre de troupes
pouvoir, n'a jamais abdiqué son                  qu'on avait eu l'espoir insensé de
ambition et ses fureurs, cet homme,              lui opposer s'est rallié aux aigles, et
tout couvert du sang des générations,            toute la milice française, devenue
vient, au bout d'un an, essayer de               nationale, marche sous les drapeaux
disputer, au nom de l'usurpation, la             de la gloire et de la patrie. SA
légitime autorité du roi de France;              MAJESTÉ L'EMPEREUR a traversé
à la tête de quelques centaines                  deux cents lieues de pays avec la
d'ltaliens et de Polonais, il ose                rapidité de l'éclair, au milieu d'une
mettre le pied sur une terre qui le              population saisie d'admiration et de
repoussa pour jamais.                            respect, pleine du bonheur présent
                                                 et de la certitude du bonheur à
Quelques pratiques ténébreuses,                  venir.
quelques manœuvres dans l'ltalie,
excitée par son aveugle beau-frère,              Ici, des propriétaires se félicitant
ont enflé l'orgueil du LACHE GUERRIER            de la garantie réelle que leur assure
de Fontainebleau. Il s'expose                    ce retour miraculeux;  là, des
à mourir de la mort des héros: Dieu              hommes bénissant l'evènement inespéré
permettra qu'il meure de la mort                 qui fixe irrévocablement la
des traîtres. La terre de France                 liberté des cultes; plus loin, de
l'a rejeté. Il y revient, la terre de            braves militaires pleurant de joie de
France le dévorera.                              revoir leur ancien général; des
                                                 plébéiens, convaincus que l'honneur
Ah! toutes les classes le repoussent,            et les vertus seront redevenus le
tous les Français le repoussent                  premier titre de la noblesse, et
avec horreur, et se réfugient dans le            qu'on acquerra, dans toutes les
sein d'un roi qui nous a apporté la              carrières, la splendeur et la gloire
miséricorde, l'amour et l'oubli du               pour les services rendus à la patrie.
                                                 Tel est le tableau qu'offrait cette
Cet insensé ne pouvait donc                      marche ou plutôt cette course triomphale,
trouver en France de partisans que               dans laquelle L'EMPEREUR
parmi les artisans éternels de troubles          n'a trouvé d'autre ennemi que le
et de révolutions.                               misérables libelles qu'on s'est vainement
                                                 plu à répandre sur son passage,
Mais nous ne voulons ni de troubles              contraste bien étrange avec[Pg 76]
ni de révolutions. Ils désigneront               les sentiments d'enthousiasme qui
vainement des victimes pour leur                 éclataient à son approche. Ces sentiments,
TEUTATÈS; un seul cri sera le cri                justifiés par la lassitude des
de toute la France:                              onze mois qui viennent de s'écouler,
                                                 ne le sont pas moins par les garanties
MORT AU TYRAN! VIVE LE ROI!                      que donnent à tous les rangs les
                                                 proclamations de SA MAJESTÉ, et
Cet homme, qui débarqua à Fréjus                 qui sont lues avec une extrême
contre tout espoir, nous semblait                avidité. Elles respirent la modération
alors appelé de Dieu pour rétablir               qui accompagne aujourd'hui la
en France la monarchie légitime;                 force, et qui est toujours inséparable
cet homme, entrant par sa noire                  de la véritable grandeur.
destinée, et comme pour mettre le
dernier sceau à la Restauration,                 P.S.—Huit heures du soir
revient aujourd'hui pour peser
comme un rebelle sur cette même                  L'empereur est arrive ce soir au
terre où il fut reçu, il y a quinze              palais des Tuileries, au milieu des
ans, par un peuple abusé, et détrompé            plus vives acclamations. Au moment
depuis par douze ans de                          où nous écrivons, les rues, les
tyrannie."                                       places, les boulevards, les quais,
                                                 sont couverts d'une foule immense,
                                                 et les cris de VIVE L'EMPEREUR!
                                                 retentissent de toutes parts, depuis
                                                 Fontainebleau jusqu'à Paris. Toute
                                                 la population des campagnes, ivre
                                                 de joie, s'est portée sur la route de
                                                 Sa Majesté, que cet empressement
                                                 a forcée d'aller au pas."

M. de Maubreuil and Roux-Laborie had no need to feel bored with such entertainment as the above before their eyes! Therefore, although they were in the green salon nearly an hour, they thought they had hardly been in it ten minutes when the door of the cabinet of the Prince de Talleyrand opened. They entered.

Now do not fancy we are writing a romance: it is history, the record, not of fair and pleasant events, but of sad and[Pg 77] ugly ones. If you doubt it, consult the report drawn up by MM. Thouret and Brière de Valigny, deputies of the procureur impérial, in the month of June 1815, about this affair, and laid before one of the Chambers of the Court of First Instance of the Seine. If Napoleon had returned but to restore unto us this official paper, it would have been almost sufficient to justify his return.

M. de Maubreuil was taken inside M. de Talleyrand's study. Roux-Laborie made him sit down in the prince's own armchair, and said to him—

"You are anxious to recover your position, to retrieve your broken fortunes; it depends upon yourself whether you obtain far more than even that which you desire."

"What must I do?" asked Maubreuil.

"You have courage, resolution: rid us of the emperor. If he were dead, France, the army, everything would be ours, and you would receive an income of 200,000 livres; you would be made a duke, lieutenant-general and governor of a province."[2]

"I do not quite see how I could accomplish it."

"Nothing easier."

"Tell me how."


"I am listening."

"It is not unlikely that there may be a great battle fought near here in a couple of days. Take a hundred determined men, whom you can clothe in the uniform of the Guards, mingle with the troops at Fontainebleau, and it will be quite easy, either before or during or after the battle, to render us the service I am commissioned to ask of you."

Maubreuil shook his head.

"Do you refuse?" asked Roux-Laborie quickly.

"Not so. I am only thinking that a hundred men would be difficult to find: luckily one would not need a hundred; a dozen would be sufficient. I shall perhaps be able to find[Pg 78] them in the army, but I must have power to advance them two or three ranks, and to give them pecuniary recompense, in proportion to the service they will have to undertake."

"You shall have whatever you want. What do ten or a dozen colonels, more or less, matter to us?"

"That's all right."

"You therefore accept?"

"Probably ... but I ask until to-morrow to think it over."

And Maubreuil went out, followed by Roux-Laborie, who was very uneasy because of the delay requested. However, Maubreuil reassured him, promising to give him a definite answer next day. We can understand Maubreuil's hesitation: he had been introduced into the prince's study, he had sat in the prince's chair, but, after all, he had not seen the prince. Now, when one stakes one's head at another's bidding, one prefers to see the person who holds the cards.

Next day they returned to the house. Maubreuil accepted. Roux-Laborie breathed again.

"But," added Maubreuil, "on one condition."

"What is that?"

"I do not look upon your word alone as sufficient authority. I want solid security for your promises. I wish to see M. de Talleyrand himself and to receive my commission from him."

"But, my dear Maubreuil, can't you see how difficult that would be?..."

"I can quite see that; but it must be thus or not at all."

"Then you wish to see M. de Talleyrand?"

"I wish to see M. de Talleyrand and to receive my orders direct from him."

"Oh! oh!" said the lawyer, striking his friend on the chest, "one might think you were afraid!"

"I am not afraid, but I wish to see M. de Talleyrand."

"Very well, so be it," said Roux-Laborie: "you shall see him, and since you demand his guarantee, you shall be satisfied. Wait a few minutes in this salon."

[Pg 79]

And he went in to M. de Talleyrand. A moment later, he came out.

"M. de Talleyrand is going out; M. de Talleyrand will make you a sign with his hand; M. de Talleyrand will smile upon you. Will that satisfy you?"

"Hum!" returned Maubreuil; "never mind! we will see."

M. de Talleyrand passed out, made the prearranged gesture, and smiled graciously upon Maubreuil.

It is Maubreuil, be it understood, who relates all this.

The gesture seduced Maubreuil, the smile carried him away; but Maubreuil wanted something else—he wanted 200,000 francs. They hesitated, they chaffered, they had not the money—there were so many betrayals to pay for! But, thanks to the decree of the 9th, they made a haul of 13 millions—the private moneys of Napoleon. They did it conscientiously, not leaving anything to Marie-Louise, either money or jewellery: she was reduced to the point of being obliged to borrow a little china and silver from the bishop, with whom she stayed. So they had 13 millions—without reckoning the 10 millions in bullion deposited in the cellars of the Tuileries, on which they had already laid violent hands. This made 23 millions they had already borrowed of Napoleon. What the deuce did it matter? They were quite justified in taking two hundred thousand francs from this sum in order to assassinate him! So they took two hundred thousand francs, and they gave them to Maubreuil.

Maubreuil rushed off to a gambling-house and lost a hundred thousand francs that night. Was he going to assassinate Napoleon for a hundred thousand francs? Not he, indeed!... It was not enough. He had recourse to M. A——. M. A—— was a man of imagination. An idea came into his head.

"The Queen of Westphalia is following in Napoleon's wake ...?"


"We may suppose that the Queen of Westphalia carries the crown jewels with her?"

[Pg 80]


"Well, then, seize what she has and you will have a good catch."

"Yes, but I want authority to do that."

"Authority? What do you mean?"

"A written order."

"Signed by whom?"

"Signed by you."

"Oh, if that is all, here goes!"

And M. A—— took a pen and signed the following order.

"Pardon me, you say, who is M. A——?"

Good gracious! you have but to read, the signature is at the foot of the order:—


"It is ordered that all officials under orders of the police générale of France, prefects, superintendents and officers, of whatsoever grade, shall obey the commands that M. de Maubreuil shall give them; they shall carry out his orders and fulfil his wishes without a moments delay, M. de Maubreuil being charged with a secret mission of the highest importance.


This was not enough. Maubreuil wanted another order, a similar one, signed by the Minister of War: he had settled with the civil power, it remained to put himself right with the military. He went to look up the Minister of War. He obtained a similar order to the one we have just given. The Minister of War was General Dupont. There are some very ill-fated signatures! On 22 July 1808 this signature was at the foot of the capitulation treaty of Baylen. On 16 April 1814 it was at the foot of Maubreuil's commission! The one handed over to the enemy, without striking a blow, the liberty of fourteen thousand men; the other gave up the life and the gold of a queen to a thief and an assassin!

In the face of such errors one is proud to be able to boast[Pg 81] that one has never put one's name save in the forefront of a play, be it good or bad, save at the end of a book, be it bad or good!

Besides these two orders, Maubreuil possessed himself of three others in the same terms: one from Bourrienne, Provisional Director of the Posting Arrangements ... de Bourrienne, do you understand?—But this was not the Bourrienne who was the emperor's secretary?... Excuse me, even the same ... where would have been the infamy of the thing, had it not been so? He placed the posts at the disposition of M. de Maubreuil: one from General Sacken, Governor of Paris; one from General Brokenhausen. Thanks to these two last orders, Maubreuil, who had the police already at his disposal through Anglès' order, the army through Dupont's, the posts through Bourrienne's, got possession also of the allied troops under command of the Russian and Prussian generals.

True, on 3 April, the day following that on which the Journal des Débats and the Journal de Paris issued those clever articles with which the reader is already acquainted, two charming verses, which we propose to bring before your notice, were sung at the Opera, by Laïs, to the tune of Vive Henri IV., national air though it was:—

Vive Alexandre!
Vive ce roi des rois!
Sans rien prétendre,
Sans nous dicter des lois,
Ce prince auguste
A le triple renom,
De héros, de juste,
De nous rendre un Bourbon.

Vive Guillaume!
Et ses guerriers vaillants!
De ce royaume,
Il sauva les enfants;
Par sa victoire,
Il nous donne la paix,
Et compte sa gloire
Par ses nombreux bienfaits.

[Pg 82]

Really, it gives one a certain amount of pleasure to see that these lines are almost as poor as the prose of the Journal des Débats and of the Journal de Paris!

So Maubreuil had his five orders all correct, in his pocket. Armed with these, he could act, not against Napoleon direct,—that was too risky a business,—but against the Queen of Westphalia. And, on the whole, was it not a good stroke of business to have made them pay the price of assassinating Napoleon, and then not to assassinate him?

This is what Maubreuil proposed to do. First of all, he allied himself with a person called d'Asies, who, in virtue of his plenary powers, he appointed Commissioner Royal. Next, he put himself on the watch at the corner of the rue du Mont-Blanc and the rue Saint-Lazare. The Queen of Westphalia was lodging at Cardinal Fesch's house. Her departure was fixed for the 18th. The orders were signed on the 16th and 17th. Maubreuil was well informed of the Princess Catherine de Wurtemberg's movements. On the 18th, at three o'clock in the morning, the ex-Queen of Westphalia entered her coach and started off en route for Orléans. Princess Catherine was cousin of the Emperor of Russia, and travelled with a passport signed by him and by the Emperor of Austria. Two great names, were they not? Alexander and Francis! Maubreuil had gone on in advance. He learnt from the post-master at Pithiviers (now you see how useful was M. de Bourrienne's authorisation) that the princess would take the road which ran by the Bourgogne. Then he hid himself at Fossard, the posting-house a half-league from Montereau. There was not the slightest danger that Maubreuil would make any mistake, he knew the princess too well for that—he had been her equerry. On the 21 st, at seven o'clock in the morning, the princess's carriage came into sight on the road. Maubreuil rushed out, at the head of a dozen cavaliers, stopped the carriage, obliged the ex-queen to enter a kind of stable, into which all her luggage was removed, piecemeal. There were eleven boxes, and cases: Maubreuil demanded the keys of them. The princess had no means of resistance: she gave him them[Pg 83] without appearing to recognise him in any way, without deigning to address a word to him. Maubreuil saw this, but took no notice: he sat down quietly to his breakfast, with d'Asies, in a room on the ground floor of the inn, waiting for a detachment of troops which, taking advantage of his powers, he had requisitioned from Fontainebleau.

Let us, however, be just to Maubreuil. As the weather was bad, as it rained, as it was very cold, he invited his past sovereign to come into the inn; but as she would have been compelled to share the same room with him, she preferred to remain in the courtyard. A woman who had compassion on her fellow-woman brought her a chair, and she sat down. Maubreuil finished his breakfast, and a lieutenant arrived from Montereau, with a dozen men, Mamelukes and infantry. Some sort of explanation had to be given to this officer and to these soldiers; callous though Maubreuil was, it was not to be supposed that he would say, "You see me for what I am—a robber."

No, it was Princess Catherine who was a thief. Princess Catherine had been stopped by Maubreuil because she was carrying off the crown jewels. Four sentries were posted to prevent any travellers coming near—unless such travellers came in a carriage; in which case, willy nilly, the carriage must be requisitioned. Some merchants came from Sens leading a stage-waggon. The stage-waggon and the two horses harnessed thereto were confiscated by Maubreuil. They loaded this stage-waggon with the princess's trunks. Only then did she deign to address a word to Maubreuil, who had been apologising to her for his mission.

"For shame, monsieur!" she said; "when a man has shared bread with another, he should not undertake such a mission to their detriment.... You are doing an abominable act!"

"Madame," replied Maubreuil, "I am but the commander of the armed force. Speak to the commissioner: I will do whatever he orders."

The commissioner, as we know, was d'Asies. It was a case[Pg 84] of Robert Macaire and Bertrand. But the poor princess did not know this, and took d'Asies for a real commissioner.

"Monsieur," she said, "you are robbing me of all I possess. The king has never given any such orders.... I swear to you, on my honour and by my faith as a queen, I have nothing that belongs to the Crown of France."

D'Asies drew himself up.

"Do you take us for thieves, madame?" he said. "Let me tell you that we are acting as ordered. All those boxes must be taken."

As he said that, d'Asies caught sight of a small square box tied round with tape. He put his hand under it. The little case was very heavy.

"So ho!" he said.

"That little chest, monsieur," said the princess, "contains my gold."

D'Asies and Maubreuil exchanged glances which said as well as words could say, "Your gold, princess; that is exactly what we are looking for."

They withdrew and made a pretence of deliberating. Then, after this cogitation, they came up, and gave orders to the commander of the Mamelukes to take this box away with the others. The princess still disbelieved her eyes and ears.

"But," she cried, "you cannot possibly be taking my private jewels and money! You will leave me and my suite stranded on the highway!"

Then her courage failed this noble creature, the daughter of a king, the wife of a king, the cousin of an emperor. Tears came into her eyes: she asked to be allowed to speak to Maubreuil. Maubreuil came to her.

"What is to become of me, monsieur?" she said. "At least give me back this money: I need it to continue my journey."

"Madame," replied Maubreuil, "I do but carry out the orders of the Government: I must give up your luggage in Paris intact. I can only give you the hundred napoleons in my own purse."

[Pg 85]

Acting upon the Count de Furstenstein's advice, the princess accepted this offer, thinking it a last token of devotion from a man who had been in her service. Besides, she thought he would give her leave to return to Paris, where she would regain possession of her money. But this was not to be: they made her re-enter her carriage, and the princess continued her journey to Villeneuve-la-Guyare, under the escort of two soldiers, while her boxes, her gold, her jewels, piled on the post-waggon, were sent back to Paris. Had the princess resisted, the two infantry men were ordered to use violence in compelling her to continue her journey. She then asked at least to be allowed to send one of her own servants along with her boxes, as escort. But as the demand was considered outrageous, it was refused.

So the princess's carriage went forward to Villeneuve-la-Guyare. Maubreuil's and d'Asies' consciences were quite easy:—had not the princess a hundred napoleons wherewith to provide her needs? At the next post-house Maubreuil's purse was opened to pay. They found it contained only forty-four napoleons. They left the purse and the forty-four napoleons there and then in the hands of the justice of the peace at Pont-sur-Yonne. When Maubreuil left Fossard, he forbade the post-master to supply horses to anyone before three o'clock.

So far so good. Now they could give their attention to the second part of their mission—the least important to Maubreuil—that of killing the emperor.

It was the 21st of April. On the 19th, the emperor, deserted by everyone, was alone save for a single valet. It was an opportune moment: unluckily, they let it slip. They were lying in wait for the princess in the rue Saint-Lazare; they could not be everywhere at the same time. On the 20th, the day after, the emperor bade farewell to his Guards. It was not in the midst of that pack of brigands that he could be attacked. On the 21 st, as we have seen, they were busily engaged. And it was just at that moment that the emperor left for Fontainebleau, with the commissioners of the four Powers.

Bah! even if they had not killed the emperor, what mattered it? Since they had robbed the Queen of Westphalia, and[Pg 86] taken her gold and her jewels, it was just as good. The emperor was not killed.

They returned to Paris, where they spent the night in gambling, losing part of the princess's eighty-four thousand francs. The little chest had contained eighty-four thousand francs in gold. Next day, Maubreuil presented himself at M. Anglès'. He was in despair—first at having lost part of his gold, then for having missed Napoleon. M. Anglès was not in despair: he was furious—furious because the Emperor Alexander knew everything, and the Emperor Alexander was furious. The Emperor Alexander swore that he would avenge his cousin.

The Journal de Paris did not know that Nicolas means Conqueror of peoples; but M. Anglès, Minister of the Police, knew well enough that Alexander spells he who grinds men down. M. Anglès had no wish to be ground down. He therefore advised Maubreuil to fly.

"Fly!" said Maubreuil. "What of the police?"

"Bah! Am I not responsible for them?"

This assurance did not in the least set Maubreuil's mind at ease. He rushed off to the house of M. de Talleyrand: M. de Talleyrand slammed the door in his face. Is it likely that M. de Talleyrand would recognise a highway robber? Nonsense!

Maubreuil fled. He had not got three leagues before he was apprehended (empoigné, as they called it under the Restoration), and thrown into a dungeon, from which he was released on the emperor's return and to which he returned on the accession of Louis XVIII. After two fresh releases and two fresh arrests, Maubreuil, who never believed they would dare to try him, appeared at length before the Royal Court of Douai, the Chamber of the Court of Appeal. The affair created a tremendous scandal, as can very well be imagined. M. de Talleyrand denied, M. Anglès denied, Roux-Laborie denied; everybody denied, except Maubreuil. Maubreuil not only confessed the whole thing, but, from being the accused, he turned accuser. Of course the papers were expressly forbidden to report the proceedings. But Maître Mennesson had a friend who was present at the trial. This friend, no doubt a[Pg 87] shorthand writer, took down, transcribed, verified and forwarded him his report. I made two or three copies of this account and distributed them by order of our zealous, faithful and loyal Republican notary. And I kept a copy of the proceedings myself. I do not know that this report has appeared in any history. It is a curiosity, and I give it here.

[1] A dressed-up dwarf.

[2] When one writes of such matters as these, two authorities are better than one. Besides the report of MM. Thouret and Brière de Valigny, see Vaulabelle's Histoire des deux Restaurations, vol. ii. p. 15.

[Pg 88]


Account of the proceedings relative to the abstraction of the jewels of the Queen of Westphalia by the Sieur de Maubreuil—Chamber of the Court of Appeal—The sitting of 17 April, 1817

Enter the Sieur de Maubreuil. Placed at the prisoner's bar, he looked fixedly at M. de Vatimesnil, the king's counsel, and spoke to him as follows:—

"M. le procureur du roi," he said, "you have called me an appropriator of treasure, it is false. I have never been an appropriator of treasure. The journalists have made use of your last speech to spread an odious interpretation on my trial; but I am above their reproaches."

They endeavoured to silence the Sieur de Maubreuil, but he went on with renewed pertinacity:—

"I appeal to all Frenchmen here present, I place my honour in your safe keeping. To-morrow I may be poisoned or assassinated."

The warders laid hands on M. de Maubreuil; but he shook himself free of them, and went on:—

"Yes, I quite expect it. They may shoot me in my cell; the police may carry me off and make away with me, as happened to my cousin, M. de Brosse, who, in the month of February, presented a petition to the Chamber in my favour; but I place my honour in the custody of the Frenchmen who are here present. Hear what I have to say to you."

Here the prisoner raised his voice.

"I accepted the commission to murder the emperor, but I accepted it only in order to save him and his family. Yes, my countrymen, I am not a miserable thief, as they are trying[Pg 89] to make out. Frenchmen! I call you all to my aid. No, I am not a thief! No, lam not an assassin! On the contrary, I accepted a commission to save Napoleon and his family. It is true that, during the first outburst of my royalist enthusiasm, I did, along with several other people, attach a rope to the neck of Napoleon's statue, on the 31st of March, to pull it down from its pedestal in the place Vendôme; but I here acknowledge publicly that I served a thankless cause. Though I did insult Napoleon's statue, I have done good to him in the flesh. No, I am not an assassin! Frenchmen, my honour is in your hands. You will not be deaf to my entreaties."

Again they tried to stop M. de Maubreuil's mouth, but the harder they tried to silence him the louder he spoke.

"I accepted," he continued, "a commission to save Napoleon, his son and his family; I admit that, bribed, deluded and entangled by the Provisional Government to do it, I was foolish enough to tie the cross of the Legion of Honour to my horse's tail; I bitterly repent of doing so. I have donned that cross of heroes again now: see, here it is on my breast; I won it in Spain in fair fight."

Here the Sieur de Maubreuil succumbed to the efforts they made to drown his voice. The whole time he had been speaking, the president and the judges had been fruitlessly endeavouring to enforce silence. In vain did the president shout, "Warders, take him away, take him away! Do your duty, warders!" Maubreuil writhed, clutching hold of the bar, and, nearly strangled by the warders, he still went on:—

"M. le président, my respect for you is unbounded, but your acts and words are useless: they wished to assassinate the emperor, and I only accepted the commission which has brought me here in order to save him."

There was a tremendous noise, an uproar and shouts among the audience. Many Vendéens were present, relatives and friends of the prisoner, who was related to the family of la Roche-jaquelein. Before the prisoner was brought in, these had tried to influence public opinion in his favour, by talking of the mystery which enshrouded his mission, and by pointing[Pg 90] out his unblemished devotion to the royal cause. Picture to yourself, then, their dismay when they saw the line of defence he adopted; their confusion when they heard their client speak so diametrically opposite to their expectations; their astonishment when they heard the name of Napoleon pronounced with respect by the prisoner, at a time when the conqueror of the Pyramids and of Marengo was only spoken of as Buonaparte; at the title of Emperor given to a man whom King Louis XVIII., dating the beginning of his reign from 1795, declared never to have reigned!

Me. Couture, M. de Maubreuil's counsel, was then allowed to speak. We will not report his speech, which was very long. He pleaded more on a legal technicality than on the matter of the charge. He spoke in the first instance of the injustice of Maubreuil being the only one arraigned, while d'Asies, Cotteville, and others who had acted in concert with him, were in full enjoyment of their liberty. He added that the trunks having been deposited without verification at M. de Vanteaux's, it could not be established who had abstracted the eighty-four thousand francs in gold. He referred to the marvellous manner in which some of the jewels that had been thrown by an unknown hand into the Seine had been recovered by a man named Huet, an ex-employé of the police, who, when fishing, had drawn up two diamond combs caught in his hooked line. Me. Couture went on to assert that the prisoner, to whom a mission of the gravest importance had been entrusted, ought not to be tried by an ordinary Court, and to prove his point, Me. Couture read the five different orders which had authorised M. de Maubreuil to call into requisition all the officials of the kingdom. The tenor of these orders was as follows:—

The first, signed by General Dupont, War Minister, authorised M. de Maubreuil to make use of the army, which was to obey all his demands, and commanded the authorities to furnish him with all the troops he might require, as he was charged with a mission of the highest importance. The second, signed by Anglès, Minister of Police, ordered all the police force[Pg 91] throughout the kingdom of France to lend assistance to M. de Maubreuil to the same end. The third, signed by Bourrienne, Director-General of the Posts, ordered all post-masters to supply him with whatever horses he should require, and to consider themselves personally responsible for the least delay they might occasion him. The fourth, signed by General Sacken, Governor of Paris, enjoined the Allied troops to assist M. de Maubreuil. Finally, the fifth, which was in Russian, was addressed to those officers who did not understand French and who could not therefore have obeyed the preceding orders. From these documents Me. Couture argued that the king's council alone must have had cognisance of M. de Maubreuil's mission, and alone ought to decide the case.

After having replied to Me. Couture's pleading, the king's procurator set forth his reasons for regarding the tribunal correctionnel as incompetent in the present case, since the charges brought against the Sieur de Maubreuil constituted a crime, and were not those of a simple misdemeanour; that it was a question of a robbery under arms committed on the highway, and not merely a case of breach of confidence. For it was vain, he said, to try to allege the unlimited power with which the prisoner was vested; no power could authorise a citizen to run counter to existing laws; for if such a contention could be maintained it could be pursued to its logical conclusion and, in that case, it might be excusable to commit a murder or burn down a village. "As a matter of fact," continued M. de Vatimesnil, "we are advised that Maubreuil, acting as a Government agent, was endowed on that very count with a far graver responsibility, and the law ought to be set in force against him with the greater severity. No mission could excuse a man for having ill-treated a person travelling on the highways with a passport, and his crime assumed still graver proportions when that person happened to be an august princess, sprung from an illustrious house, allied to all the crowned heads of Europe, and travelling under the protection of a passport from her illustrious cousin, the Emperor of Russia, a princess who was entitled to double respect, both from her[Pg 92] rank and because of the reverses of fortune she had recently experienced." "And," exclaimed the king's counsel, "with what indignation ought we to be seized, when we hear the accused uttering such libellous fables to avoid the course of justice! Who are those Frenchmen he addresses, whom he invokes to his aid? What faith could be put in such an unlikely story, as that he had received a mission against a person travelling under the safeguard of the most solemn treaties, signed by all the allied sovereigns? and if he did accept such a mission, was it not doubly mean to have accepted money for carrying it out, and then to have deceived those whom he pretended had given it him? Should he not be regarded henceforth as one of those hateful creatures known of all men, who, under pressure of an accusation, hatches conspiracies, and denounces unknown fellow-citizens, to the sole end of arresting or diverting justice?"

The Sieur de Maubreuil had listened to all this tirade with fiery impatience, and his solicitor had only been able to pacify him by allowing him the pen and paper which he demanded. When M. de Vatimesnil's speech was over, Maubreuil passed what he had just written to the president, then rose and said:—"M. le président, as a man who expects to be assassinated at any moment, I place this political deposition in your hands. Frenchmen, it is my honour I am bequeathing to all you who are here present. As a man on the brink of appearing before God, I swear that it was M. de Talleyrand who, by means of M. Laborie, sent me; that the prince forced me to sit down in his own arm-chair; that he offered me two hundred thousand livres income and the title of duke, if I accomplished my mission satisfactorily;[1] furthermore, the Emperor Alexander offered me his own horses; but, I repeat, if I accepted the mission I am blamed for, it was to save the emperor and his family."

[Pg 93]

Here they again compelled Maubreuil to stop speaking, and the warders, taking hold of him by his shoulders, forced him down into his seat.

Then his lawyer, Me. Couture, rose, addressed the king's counsel once more, and begged for pity's sake that no notice should be taken of his client's mad words.

"Alas!" he cried, "the man whom you see before you, monsieur, is no longer M. de Maubreuil, but only the remains, the shade of M. de Maubreuil. A detention of three years, three hundred and ninety days of which has been spent in solitary confinement without communication with a soul, without even seeing his own counsel, has deranged his reason. He is now nothing but the ruins of a man. For the love of humanity, do not take account of a speech which can only tell against him!" The judges, greatly embarrassed by what they had just heard, although their business was but to decide on the simple question of the competence or incompetence of their tribunal, deferred sentence until the following Tuesday, 22 April.

Probably the delay was arranged, so those in court thought, in order to receive instructions from the château, and to act in accordance with those instructions.


Maubreuil was led in. He had scarcely entered the prisoner's dock before he violently pushed away the guard and cried out, "You have no right to maltreat me like this, warders; you have made me suffer quite enough the three years I have been in prison. It is a dastardly wicked thing! We are here before justice and not before the police! Let me rather be shot immediately than delivered over longer to the tortures of which I have been the victim for three years! No, never was greater cruelty exercised in the Prussian fortresses, in the dungeons of the Inquisition under the foundations of Venice! I am cut off from the world; my complaints are hushed up; my lawyer is forbidden to print and distribute my defence. I here express before all, my gratitude for his zeal and his devotion;[Pg 94] but I am in despair that he has not based his defence on the information I have given him: he has not dared to do so."

Here silence was again imposed on the prisoner. The president then read the sentence, pronouncing that the tribunal de police correctionnelle declared its incompetence, and sent the prisoner to the assizes, on the ground that if the facts which had been laid bare were proved, they constituted a crime, and not a simple misdemeanour.

When the prisoner heard the sentence of incompetence to deal with the case pronounced he sighed deeply, and his face, changed by a long captivity, expressed dejection and despair. But he rallied his strength and cried—

"The blood of twenty-nine of my relations was shed for the Bourbons in Vendée and at Quiberon! I too am to be sacrificed to them in my turn! They wish to destroy me, my groans are to be stifled. I am to be made out a madman! It is a diabolical plot! No, I am not mad; no, I was not mad when my services were required by them! Frenchmen, I repeat to you what I told you at the last sitting: they asked me to take the life of Napoleon! Write to Vienna, to Munich, to St. Petersburg. Yes, yes,"—pushing away the warders, who sought to impose silence upon him,—"yes, they demanded of me the blood of Napoleon.... M. le président, they have handled me with violence! M. le président, they will maltreat me! M. le président, they will put my feet in irons! But, come what may, to the last moment I will proclaim it: they asked me to take Napoleon's life! the Bourbons are assassins!..."

These last words were pronounced by the accused as he struggled with the police, while they led him away by force.

Here the shorthand report concludes: I have not altered a word of the statement, a certified copy of which is under my eyes.

On the 18th of the following December, Maubreuil was arraigned to appear before the Court of Assizes at Douai, and succeeded in escaping before the trial. On 6 May 1818, judgment was issued, condemning him to five years' imprisonment[Pg 95] by default and to pay five hundred francs fine, for being a dishonest trustee.

Maubreuil, having taken refuge in England, returned on purpose to deal M. de Talleyrand the terrible blow which struck him down, on the steps of the church of Saint-Denis, during the funeral procession of Louis XVIII.

"Oh! what a cuff!" exclaimed the prince, as he picked himself up.

How can people deny M. de Talleyrand's presence of mind after that! M. Dupin could not have done better.

This obscure, strange, mysterious Maubreuil affair did the Bourbons of the Restoration the greatest possible harm. To the Count d'Artois and M. de Talleyrand it was what the affair of the necklace was to Marie-Antoinette and the Cardinal de Rohan—that is to say, one of those hidden springs from which revolutions derive power for the future; one of those weapons the more dangerous and terrible and deadly for being dipped so long in the poison of calumny.

[1] We see by this that, according to Maubreuil, it was M. de Talleyrand himself with whom he had had to deal. We have not wished to endorse the accusation blindly and, in our account, we have accepted the intermediate agency of Roux-Laborie.

[Pg 96]



The last shot of Waterloo—Temper of the provinces in 1817, 1818 and 1819—The Messéniennes—The Vêpres siciliennes,—Louis IX.—Appreciation of these two tragedies—A phrase of Terence—My claim to a similar sentiment—Three o'clock in the morning—The course of love-making—Valeat res ludrica

I am not sure who said—perhaps I said it myself—that the Revolution of 1830 was the last shot of Waterloo. It is very true. Setting aside those whose family interest, position or fortune attached them to the Bourbon dynasty, it is impossible to conceive any idea of the ever growing feeling of opposition which spread throughout the provinces; it got to such a pitch that, without knowing why, in spite of every reason that my mother and I had to curse Napoleon, we hated the Bourbons far more, though they had never done anything to us, or had even done us good rather than harm.

Everything tended to the unpopularity of the reigning house: the invasion of French territory by the enemy; the disgraceful treaties of 1815; the three years' occupation which had followed the second restoration of the Bourbons; the reactionary movements in the South; the assassination of Ramel at Toulouse, and the Brune assassination at Avignon; Murat, who was always popular, in spite of his stupidity and his treachery, shot at Pizzo: the proscriptions of 1816; defections, disgraceful deeds, shameful bargains, came to light daily; the verses of Émile Debraux, the songs of Béranger, the Messéniennes of Casimir Delavigne and the tabatières à la charte, the Voltaire-Touquets[Pg 97] and Rousseaus of all kinds, unpublished rhymes of the type I have quoted; anecdotes, true or false, attributed to the Duc de Berry, in which the ancient glories of the Empire were always sacrificed to some youthful aristocratic ambition; all, down to the king with his black gaiters, his blue coat with gilt buttons, his general's epaulettes and the little tail of his wig,—all tended, I say, to depreciate the ruling power—or rather, worse still, to make it absurd.

Vêpres siciliennes was played at the Odéon on 23 November 1819 with overwhelming success. It would be difficult to explain why, to anyone who has read the piece dispassionately. Why did a crowd wait outside the doors of the Odéon from three o'clock? Why was that splendid building crowded to suffocation, instead of there being, as usual, plenty of room for everyone? Just to hear four lines thought to contain an allusion to the political encroachments in which the king's favourite minister was said to indulge. These are the four lines. They seemed innocent enough on the face of them:—

"De quel droit un ministre, avec impunity,
Ose-t-il attenter à notre liberté?
Se reposant sur vous des droits du diadème,
Le roi vous a-t-il fait plus roi qu'il n'est lui-même?"

All the same, these four lines roused thunders of applause and rounds of cheering. And then one heard on every side the concert of admiration which all the Liberal papers sounded in praise of the patriotic young poet. The whole party petted him, praised him, exalted him.

Some time after the Vêpres siciliennes had been played at the Odéon, the Théâtre-Français, on 5 November 1819, put Louis IX. on the stage. This was the Royalist reply which the leading theatre gave to the Nationalist tragedy at the Odéon.

At that period Ancelot and Casimir Delavigne were about equally celebrated and, in the eyes of impartial critics, Louis IX. was as good as Vêpres siciliennes. But all the popularity, all the applause, all the triumph went to the[Pg 98] Liberal poet. It was as though the nation were breathing again, after its suspension of animation from '93 onward, as though it were urging the public spirit to take the path of liberty.

I recollect that because of the noise these two controversial plays made throughout the whole of the literary world, I, who was just beginning to feel the first breath of poetry stir within me, was anxious to read them. I wrote to de Leuven, who sent me both the Liberal and the Royalist work. The Liberal work was the most praised, and, with that in my hand, I ran to announce to our young friends, Adèle, Albine and Louise, the good fortune which had befallen us from Paris. It was decided that the same evening we should read the masterpiece aloud, and, as I was the owner of the work, I was naturally promoted to the office of reader.

Alas! we were but simple children, without knowledge of either side of the case, artless young folk, who wanted to amuse ourselves by clapping our hands and to be stirred to the heart by admiration. We were greatly surprised at the end of the first act, more surprised still by the end of the second, that so much fuss and noise should have been aroused by, and so much praise bestowed upon, a work, estimable, no doubt, in its way, but one which did not cause a single thrill of sentiment or passion, or rouse an echoing memory. We did not yet understand that a political passion is the most prejudiced of all passions, and that it vibrates to the innermost feeling of a disturbed country. Our reading was interrupted at the second act, and the tragedy of Vêpres siciliennes was never finished, at any rate as a joint reading. Our audience had naïvely confessed that Montfort, Lorédan and Procida bored them to death, and that they much preferred Tom Thumb, Puss in Boots and other fairy tales of like nature. But this attempt did not satisfy me. When I went home to my mother, I read not only the whole of Vêpres siciliennes but also Louis IX.

Well, it is with feelings of great satisfaction that I date from that time the impartial appreciation for contemporary works[Pg 99] which I possess—an appreciation borrowed far more from my feelings than from my judgment; an appreciation which neither political opinion nor literary hatred has ever been able to influence: my critical faculty, when considering the work of my confrères, asks not whether it be the work of a friend or of an enemy, whether of one intimately known to me or of a stranger. However, I need hardly say that neither Vêpres siciliennes nor Louis IX. belong to that order of literature which I was to be called upon later to feel and to understand, whose beauties I endeavoured to reproduce. I remained perfectly unmoved by these two tragedies, although I slightly preferred Louis IX. I have never read them again since, and probably I shall never re-read them; but I feel convinced that if I were to re-read them, my opinion upon them would be just the same to-day that' it was then. What a difference there was between the tame and monotonous feeling I then experienced and the glowing emotion Hamlet roused in me, though it was the curtailed, bloodless, nerveless Hamlet of Ducis! I had an innate instinct for truth and hatred of conventional standards; Terence's line has always seemed to me one of the finest lines ever written: "I am a man, and nothing that is human is alien unto me." And I was fast laying claim to my share in that line. I was growing more manly every day; my mother was the only person who continued to look upon me as though I were still a child. She was therefore greatly astonished when one evening I did not return at my usual time of coming home—and when at last I did come in, towards three in the morning, my heart leaping joyfully, I slipped into my room, which for the last three months I had obtained leave to have to myself, apart from my mother, foreseeing what was going to take place. I found my mother in tears, seated by my window, where she had been watching for my return, ready to give me the lecture such a late, or rather, early, return deserved!

After more than a year of attentions, signs, loving-making, little favours granted, refused, snatched by force, the inexorable door which shut me out at eleven o'clock would be softly reopened at half-past eleven, and behind that door I found two[Pg 100] trembling lips, two caressing arms, a heart beating against my heart, burning sighs and lingering tears. Adèle too had managed to get a room to herself, apart from her mother, just as I had. This room was better than an ordinary room: it was a tiny summer-house which projected into a long garden enclosed only by hedges. A passage between the room occupied by her brother and the room occupied by her mother led to the garden, and consequently to the summer-house, which was only separated from the passage by a staircase leading to the first storey. It was the door of this passage, opening on one side into the street, and on the other, as I have said, into the garden, which was reopened to me at half-past eleven at night and was not closed behind me until three in the morning, on that night when my mother stood anxiously waiting, all in tears, at the window of my room, just ready to go and seek for me in the six hundred houses of the town. But what plagued my mother still more was—as I quickly discovered—that though she had not the least doubt as to the reason for my misconduct, she could not guess who was the young lady at the bottom of it. She had not seen me come back the way she had expected. The reason for that was simple enough. The little girl who had given her heart to me, after more than a year's struggle, was so pure, so innocent, so modest, that although my love and pride were ready to reveal everything, my conscience told me that honour and every fine feeling I had demanded that the secret be kept with the utmost care. Therefore, so that no one should see me at such an hour, either in the neighbourhood of her house, or in the street leading to it, when at three in the morning I came out of the blest passage that had served me in good stead, I made my exit by a little by-street, and gained the fields. From the fields I entered the park, leaping a ditch like the one over which I had given proofs of my agility to Mademoiselle Laurence, under such different circumstances, at Whitsuntide. Finally, from the park I reached what was called with us the "manège," and I re-entered the town by the rue du Château. It so happened, therefore, that my mother, who was watching in an entirely[Pg 101] opposite direction, did not see me return, and, not guessing the ruse I had made use of to foil the cruel and ready slander little towns are so prone to set going, should matters so turn out, she puzzled her wits in despair to know where I had come from. My mother's ignorance and the suspicions that grew up in her mind later in connection with another girl had a sufficiently serious influence upon my future life for me to dwell on the subject for a moment: these details are not so trivial as they may appear at first sight. Is it not the case that some minds regard everything as trivial, whilst others (and I am much inclined to think that these latter, without wishing to speak evil of the former class of people, are the true thinkers and the true philosophers), who try to follow the thread Providence holds in His hands, with which He guides men from birth to death, from the unknown to the unknown, look upon every detail as of importance, because the slightest has its part in the great mass of details which we call life? Well, I was well scolded by my mother, who did not scold me long,

I however, for I kissed her the whole time she scolded me; besides, her uneasiness was somewhat allayed, and with the eye of a mother and perhaps even more with the insight of a woman, which sees to the very heart of things, she saw I was profoundly happy. Joy is as much a mystery as sorrow; excessive joy approaches so nearly the border of pain, that, like suffering, it too has its measure of tears. My mother left me to go to bed, not because she was tired out, poor mother! but because she felt I wanted to be alone with myself, with my recent memories, which I clasped as closely to my throbbing heart as one holds to one's breast a young nestling which is trying to fly away.

Oh! but Maître Mennesson's office was deserted that day! How beautiful the park looked to me! The tall trees with their whispering leaves, the birds singing above my head, and the frightened roebuck on the skyline—all seemed to make a frame which could scarce contain my smiling thoughts, my thoughts which danced like a joyous nymph! Love—first love[Pg 102] —the welling-up of the sap, opens out life to us! It flows through the most secret recesses of our being; it gives life to the most remote of our senses; it is a vast realm wherein every man imprisoned in this world imprisons in turn the whole world in himself.

[Pg 103]


Return of Adolphe de Leuven—He shows me a corner of the artistic and literary world—The death of Holbein and the death of Orcagna—Entrance into the green-rooms—Bürger's Lénore—First thoughts of my vocation

In the meantime, de Leuven returned to Villers-Cotterets, after five or six months' absence. His return was to open out new fields for my ambitions—ambitions, however, which I believed were capable of being fulfilled. If you throw a stone into a lake, however large the lake may be, the first circle it will make round it, after its fall, will go on growing and multiplying itself, even as do our days and our desires, until the last one touches the bank—that is to say, eternity.

Adolphe returned and brought Lafarge back with him. Poor Lafarge! Do you remember the brilliant head clerk, who returned to his native place in an elegant carriage, drawn by a mettlesome steed? Well, he had bought a practice, but there the progress of his rising fortune had stopped. By some inconceivable fatality, although he was young, good-looking, clever, perhaps even because he possessed all these gifts, which are perfectly useless to a lawyer, he had not found a wife to pay for the practice, so he had been obliged to sell it again, and, disgusted with the law, he had taken to literature. De Leuven, who had taken notice of him in Villers-Cotterets, found him out in Paris and returned with him. Some of his ancient splendour still stuck to the poor fellow, but you might seek in vain for any real stability at the base of his fresh plans for the future; those fleeting clouds hardly got beyond the stage of hopes. During his stay in Paris a great change had[Pg 104] come over Adolphe's character—a change which was to react on me.

At M. Arnault's house, in which he had been a guest, Adolphe had had a closer view of the literary world than he had previously caught glimpses of in the house of Talma. He had there made the acquaintance of Scribe, who was already at the zenith of his fame. He met Mademoiselle Duchesnois there, who at that time was Telleville's mistress, and who recited Marie Stuart. There he became acquainted with M. de Jouy, who had finished his Sylla; Lucien Arnault, who had begun his Régulus; Pichat, who, while composing his Brennus and thinking out his Léonidas and William Tell, was facing a future in which, his first wreath on his head and his first palm in his hand, Death lurked, waiting for him. He had then dropped from these lofty heights in the regions of art to inferior places, where he became acquainted with Soulié, who was publishing poems in the Mercure; with Rousseau, that Pylades of Romieu whom Orestes had left one day at the turning of the road which led to his sub-prefecture; with Ferdinand Langlé, the fickle lover of poor little Fleuriet, upon whom, it is said, a notorious poisoner tried the deadly powder with which he was later to kill his friend; with Théaulon, that delightful person and indefatigable worker, who worked only in the hope that some day he would be able to be idle, but who never had time to be idle, who was cradled for a brief time in the arms of Love, but who was never really to rest until he lay on the bosom of Death. This poor Epicurean, who by dint of imagination saw his life in rosy garb, although for him it was clothed in black, wrote these four lines on the door of his study: they express at once his easy carelessness and his gentle philosophy—

Loin du sot, du fat et du traître,
Ici ma constance attendra:
Et l'amour qui viendra peut-être,
Et la mort qui du moins viendra!

Death came, poor Théaulon! Came all too soon, for thee as for Pichat, for Soulié, for Balzac; for there are two Deaths[Pg 105] charged by Providence with the task of hurling men into eternity: the one inexorable, icy, impassive, obeying the sad laws of destruction; the Death of Holbein, the Death in the cemetery of Bâle, the Death which is ever intermingled with life, hiding its skeleton face under the most capricious of masks, veiling its bony body beneath the king's mantle, in the gilded dress of the courtesan, under the filthy rags of the beggar, walking side by side with us; an invisible but ever present spectre; a lugubrious guest, a sepulchral comrade, the supreme friend who receives us in its arms when we fall over the edge of life, and who gently lays us to rest for ever under the cold damp stones of the tomb;—the other, sister of the above, daughter too of Erebus and of Night, unexpected, spiteful, lies in ambush at a turning-point of happiness or prosperity, ready like a vulture or a panther to pounce or spring out upon its prey; this is the Death of Orcagna, the Death of the Campo-Santo in Pisa; Death in life, envious, with cadaverous hue, hair flying wildly in the wind, eyes flashing like those of a lynx, the Death which took Petrarch in the midst of his triumph, Raphael in the midst of his love affairs; before whom all joy and glory and riches pale; that power which, passing rapidly, heedlessly and inexorably over the unfortunate victims who appeal to it, strikes down in the midst of their flowers, their wine and their perfumes, the handsome youth crowned with myrtle, the lovely maiden rose-crowned, the laurel-wreathed poet, and drags them brutally to the grave, their eyes open, their hearts yet beating, their arms stretched out towards the light, the day and the sunshine! Orcagna! Orcagna, great sculptor, great painter and, above all, great poet! how many times have I trembled as I touched the hand of a beloved child, or kissed the face of a mistress who had made me happy! for I had an inward vision of that Death of the Campo-Santo at Pisa, passing in the distance, dark, threatening like a sailing cloud; then, the next day, I heard the words, "He is dead!" or "She is dead!" and it was almost always a young genius whose light had gone out, a young soul that had gone to its Maker.

This then, was the world de Leuven had seen during his stay[Pg 106] in Paris, and he brought a reflection of its unknown brilliance to me, the poor provincial lad, buried in the depths of a little town. De Leuven had done more than look into it: he had entered the tabernacle, he had touched the ark! He had been permitted the honour of having some of his work read before M. Poirson, the high priest of the Gymnase, and before his sacristan, M. Dormeuil. Of course the work was declined after it had been read; but—like the pebble which lies near the rose and shares the scent of the queen of flowers—there remained to de Leuven, from his declined work, an entry into the green-rooms. Oh! that entree to the green-rooms, what a weariness it is to those who have attained it, whilst by those who have not attained it, it is regarded as the most coveted thing on earth! Adolphe, however, had been in it for such a short time that ennui had not yet had time to spring up, and so the dazzling glow of the honour still remained with him. It was the spirit of this enchantment which he transferred to me. At that time, Perlet was at his best, Fleuriet in the heyday of her beauty, Léontine Fay at the height of her popularity. The latter, poor child, at the age of eight or nine, had been forced to learn a craft in which a grown-up woman might have succumbed; but what did that matter? They had consoled themselves in advance for everything, even for her death; for they had already made so much money out of her, that, in the event of her death, they could afford to go to her burial in fine style.

Adolphe's return, then, was a great event to me; like Don Cléophas, I hung on the cloak of my fine diable boiteux, and he, telling me what he had seen in the theatres, made me see also. What long walks we took together! How many times did I stop him, as he passed from one artiste to another, saying, after he had exhausted all the celebrities of the Gymnase, "And Talma? And Mademoiselle Mars and Mademoiselle Duchesnois?" And he good-naturedly held forth upon the genius and talent and good-fellowship of those eminent artistes, playing upon the unknown notes of the keyboard of my imagination, causing ambitious and sonorous chords to vibrate[Pg 107] within me that had hitherto lain dormant, the possession of which astonished me greatly when I began to realise their existence. Then poor Adolphe little by little conceived a singular idea, which was to make me share, on my own behalf, the hopes he had indulged in for himself; to rouse in me the ambition to become, if not a Scribe, an Alexandre Duval, an Ancelot, a Jouy, an Arnault or a Casimir Delavigne, at least a Fulgence, a Mazère or a Vulpian. And it must be admitted the notion was ambitious indeed; for, I repeat, I had never received any proper education, I knew nothing, and it was not until very much later, in 1833 or 1834, on the publication of the first edition of my Impressions de Voyage, that people began to perceive I had genius. In 1820 I must confess I had not a shadow of it.

A week before Adolphe's return had brought to me the first vivifying gleam of light from the outside world 3 the hemmed-in and restricted life of a provincial town had seemed to me the limit of my ambition, a salary of say fifteen or eighteen hundred francs 3 for I never dreamt of becoming a solicitor: first because I had no vocation for it; for although I had spent three years in copying deeds of sale, bonds and marriage contracts, at Maître Mennesson's, I was no more learned in the law than I was in music, after three years of solfeggio with old Hiraux. It was evident, therefore, that the law was no more my vocation than music, and that I should never expound the Code any better than I played on the violin. This distressed my mother dreadfully, and all her kind friends said to her—

"My dear, just listen to what I say: your son is a born idler, who will never do anything."

And my mother would heave a sigh, and say, as she kissed me, "Is it true, my dear boy, what they tell me?"

And I would answer naïvely, "I don't know, mother!"

What else could I reply? I could see nothing beyond the last houses in my natal town, and even though I might find something that responded to my heart inside the city boundary, I searched in vain therein for anything that could satisfy my mind and imagination.

De Leuven made a gap in the wall which closed me in, and[Pg 108] through that gap I began to perceive something to aim at as yet undefined on the infinite horizon beyond.

De la Ponce also influenced me at this period. As before related, I had translated with him the beautiful Italian romance—or rather diatribe—of Ugo Foscolo, that imitation of Goethe's Werther which the author of the poem called Sépulcres contrived, by dint of patriotic feeling and talent, to develop into a national epic. Moreover, de la Ponce, who wished to make me regret that I had abandoned the study of the German language, translated for my benefit Bürger's beautiful ballad Lénore. The reading of this work, which belonged to a type of literature of which I was completely ignorant, produced a deep impression on my mind; it was like one of those landscapes one sees in dreams, in which one dares not enter, so different is it from everyday surroundings. The terrible refrain which the sinister horseman repeats over and over again to the trembling betrothed whom he carries off on his spectre-steed,

"Hourra!—fantôme, les morts vont vite!"

bears so little resemblance to the conceits of Demoustier, to Parny's amorous rhymes or to the elegies of the Chevalier Bertin, that the reading of the tragic German ballad made a complete revolution in my soul. That very night, I tried to put it into verse; but, as may well be understood, the task was beyond my powers. I broke the wings of my poor fledgeling Muse, and I began my literary career as I had begun my first love-making, by a defeat none the less terrible because it was a secret one, but quite as incontestable in my own estimation.

What mattered it? These were indubitably my first steps towards the future God had destined, untried totterings like the steps of a child just learning to walk, who stumbles and falls as soon as he tears himself away from his nurse's leading-strings, but who picks himself up again and, aching after every fall, continues to advance, urged forward by hope, which whispers in his ear, "Walk, child, walk! it is by means of suffering that you become a man, by perseverance that you become great!"

[Pg 109]


The Cerberus of the rue de Largny—I tame it—The ambush—Madame Lebègue—A confession

Six months passed by between my first love-makings and my first attempts at work. Besides our meetings at Louise Brézette's every night, Adèle and I used to see each other two or three times a week, in the summer-house, which, to our great delight, her mother had allowed her to have as her new chamber. It was necessary for Adèle to open the door of the passage-way for me, and for me to pass in front of her mother's bedroom door: these two courses were fraught with so many dangers that I had for a long time been contemplating some other means of access to my lady-love. After much pondering, I settled upon a way. I carefully examined the topography of the surrounding district and discovered, three doors off Adèle's house, a door, which led through a kind of passage into a small garden. One wall and two hedges separated this garden from Adèle's. I carefully studied the position all round, from Adèle's garden, to which I had free entree during the daytime, and I saw that all difficulties would be overcome if I could open the street door, cross the passage, enter the garden, scale the wall and stride over the two hedges. Then I had only to knock on the outside shutter, Adèle would open to me, and the thing would be done. But, as I had noticed, the door had to be opened and the passage crossed.

The door was locked, and the passage was guarded at night by a dog who was less a match from his size and from the fight he might make, than from the noise he could set up. It took me a week to make my investigations. One night I ascertained,[Pg 110] Muphti (that was the dog's name) barking loudly all the time, that the lock only turned once, and that I could open the door with my knife-blade; the remaining seven nights I cultivated Muphti's acquaintance, seducing him little by little, by poking bits of bread and chicken bones under the door. The last two or three nights, Muphti, grown used to the windfalls I brought him, impatient for my arrival, expecting me long before I appeared, heard me come when I was twenty paces off, and, at my approach, scratched with both paws at the door and whined gently at the obstacle that separated us. On the eighth day, or rather the eighth night, feeling sure that Muphti was now no longer an enemy but an ally, I opened the door, and, according to my expectations, Muphti leapt upon me in the greatest friendliness, delighted to find himself in direct communication with a man who brought him such dainty scraps: I had only one fault to find with his greeting, namely, that it was expressed in rather too noisy a fashion. However, as all enthusiasm calms down in time, Muphti's enthusiasm died down, and, passing into expressions of a gentler affection, allowed me to venture farther. I chose, for my first attempt at housebreaking, a dark, moonless autumn night: I stepped very lightly, with my ears on the alert; I advanced without making a single grain of sand crunch beneath my feet. I thought I heard a door open behind me; I hastened my steps; I reached a large patch of beans growing up on sticks, into which I flung myself as did Gulliver in his wheat-field, with Muphti hidden between my legs, his neck held between both my hands, ready to be able to intercept the slightest sound he might wish to make—and there I waited. It was indeed one of the inhabitants to whom the passage belonged: he had heard the noise. In order to find out what caused it, he took a turn in the garden, passed within a couple of steps of me, without seeing me, coughed as though he were beginning with a cold, and went indoors again. I let Muphti go; I made for the palings; I leapt to the other side of the wall; I straddled over the two hedges, and I ran to the shutters. But I did not need to knock. Before I reached them, I heard someone breathing, I saw a[Pg 111] shadow, I felt two trembling arms stretch out to enfold me and drag me inside the summer-house, and the door shut behind us.

Oh! had I only been a poet in those days, what ravishing lines I could have made in honour of those first flowers which flourished in the garden of our love! But, alas! I was not a poet then, and I had to be satisfied with repeating to Adèle Parny's and Bertin's elegies, which I believe only bored her. I have already remarked, apropos of Vêpres siciliennes what good taste this little girl possessed.

I left her, as usual, towards two or three in the morning. As usual, also, I returned by the park, and reached home by a roundabout way. I have explained the way I took, and how I had to leap a wide ditch so as to reach the park from the open country. In order to avoid making the same jump three or four times a week, which was a very perilous feat on dark nights, I made a very big heap of stones in one corner of the ditch, so that I had only to make for this particular corner and then make my jump in two leaps.

On this particular night, as I leapt into the ditch, I noticed a shadow four paces off me, that looked slightly less caressing than that which had awaited me in the garden, and drawn me inside the summer-house. This shadow held an actual, stout stick—not the shade of one—in all its knotty reality. Directly I attained to manhood's estate, and whenever danger faced me, whether by night or by day, I may proudly record that I always marched straight on towards that danger. I walked right up to the man with the stick. The stick rose, and I clutched it in my hand. Then followed, in that dark ditch, one of the severest tussles I have ever had in my life. I was indeed the person he was lying in wait for, the person he wished to meet. The man who was waiting for me had blackened his face; consequently I could not recognise him; but without recognising him I guessed who he was. He was a young man of twenty-four or twenty-five; I was scarcely eighteen, but I was well broken in to all physical exercises, especially to wrestling. I succeeded in taking hold of him[Pg 112] round the body and twisting him under me. His head struck on a stone with a heavy sound. No word passed on either side; but he must have been hurt. I felt him fumbling in his pocket, and I knew he was hunting for his knife. I seized his hand above the wrist, and managed to twist him so that his fingers opened, and the knife dropped. Then, by a quick move, I got hold of the knife. For one second a terrible temptation assailed me, to do what was indeed my right, namely, to open the knife and to plunge it into my antagonist's breast. That moment a man's life hung by a thread: had my anger broken that thread, the man would have been killed! I had sufficient control over myself to get up. I still held the knife in one hand, I took the stick by the other, and, fortified by these two weapons, I allowed my adversary to rise too. He took a step backwards, and stooped to pick up the stone against which he had hurt his head; but just as he was lifting himself up, I hit him with the end of the stick on the chest and he fell back ten paces. This time he seemed to lose consciousness completely, for he did not get up again. I climbed the embankment from the ditch and got away from the place as fast as I could: this unexpected attack had revealed such a spirit of hatred that I feared treachery might follow. No one else put in an appearance, and I reached home very much upset, I must confess, by this incident. I had certainly escaped from one of the most serious dangers I had ever incurred in my life.

This event brought very serious consequences to a person who had had nothing to do with the affair, and led me to commit the only evil action I have to reproach myself with during the course of my life. The blame attaching to this evil deed is all the greater as it was committed against a woman. I can only say that it was committed without any premeditation. I reached home, as I have said, very glad to have escaped with nothing worse than a few bruises, and very proud at the end of the fray to have overthrown my enemy.

Next morning I went to de la Ponce. As such an attack might be renewed under more disadvantageous circumstances[Pg 113] than those from which I had just escaped, I wanted to borrow from him the pocket-pistols I had seen in his rooms. It was difficult to borrow them from him without telling him why I wanted them. I told him. But as it would have revealed, or almost revealed, the house I came away from, if I had told him the true locality of the struggle, I indicated another place altogether. I selected, hap-hazard, a spot near the manège, in a little narrow street, where three houses had their entrances. The first of these three houses was inhabited by Hippolyte Leroy, the ex-body-guardsman of whom I have already spoken in connection with our misadventures at M. Collard's, and who was soon to become my cousin by marrying Augustine; the second by the de Leuven family; and the third by the lawyer to whom Maître Mennesson had related the misadventures of my early love-making and who, as I have already mentioned, had married Éléonore, the second daughter of M. Deviolaine by his first marriage. I have related also, when speaking of M. Lebègue, how the charming nature and sociable spirit of his wife had roused suspicion and dislike in a little town, where superiority of any kind is a reason for jealousy. Now I had told others besides de la Ponce of the nocturnal attack of which I had very nearly been a victim; and to others also, as well as to de la Ponce, in order to divert suspicions, I had mentioned the same locality by the manège of which I have just spoken. Where could I have been coming from, at two in the morning, when I was attacked near the manage! It could not have been from Hippolyte Leroy's; it could not have been from Adolphe de Leuven's. It must then have been from M. Lebègue's—or rather, from Madame Lebègue's. This wicked suggestion, entirely incorrect as it was, could only be supported by some semblance of a foundation.

I was a very easy prey to being teased, perhaps because I laid myself open to it by my defenceless condition, and neither Madame Lebègue nor her sisters spared me. Madame Lebègue was pretty, witty and a flirt: she waved the most charming and gracious gestures imaginable to her friends at a distance;[Pg 114] whilst at closer quarters she allowed them to look at, admire and even kiss her hand, with that aristocratic indifference assumed by women who are the possessors of pretty hands. It was her only sin, poor woman. The crime was great, but the hand was pretty. I was exceedingly fond of Madame Lebègue; I liked her, I can confess to-day, with a feeling that might even have got beyond the bounds of friendly affection, if she had consented to more; but she had never given me the least encouragement, and whenever I was near her, her superior wit, her woman-of-the-world manners, her fine-lady airs, would send me into the deepest depths of that shyness of which I had given such glaring proofs during my earliest love-makings.

One day, without knowing whence this rumour had sprung, without suspecting the cause that had given rise to it, I heard it whispered that I was Madame Lebègue's lover. I ought at once to have quenched this rumour with indignant denials; I ought to have treated the calumny with the justice it deserved. I was wicked enough to refute it half-heartedly, and in such a fashion that my vain denial bore every appearance of a confession. And of course the ill-natured rumour served my own purposes to perfection. Poor silly fool that I was! I had a momentary delight, an hour's pride, in this rumour, which ought to have made me blush with shame, for I had allowed an untrue statement to be believed. I soon suffered for my mean action. First of all, the rumour set me at variance with the person herself whom it concerned: Madame Lebègue thought me more guilty than I was; she accused me of having started the scandal. She was mistaken there: I had allowed it to live, allowed it to grow, that was all. True, that was bad enough. She forbade me her house, the house my mother and I both loved, and it became hostile to us both ever after. Madame Lebègue never forgave me. On two or three occasions during my life I have felt the prick of the needle of the vengeance she vowed against me. I never attempted to return the injuries received; I felt, in my heart of hearts, I had deserved them. Whenever since I have met Madame Lebègue, I have[Pg 115] turned away my head and lowered my eyes before her glance. The guilty one tacitly confessed his crime. To-day he openly avows it. But now the confession has been made, I can boldly face the rest of the world of men or women and say, "You may look me in the face and try to make me blush, if you can!"

The day after my struggle I had the curiosity to visit the scene of battle. I had not been mistaken: the stone on which my enemy's head had crashed was stained with blood at its sharpest end, and the colour of a few hairs, stuck to the bloody stone, confirmed my suspicions—which now became a definite certainty when furnished with this last proof. That night I saw Adèle: she was still ignorant of what had happened to me. I told her everything; I told her whom I suspected: she refused to believe it.

Just at that moment, a surgeon, named Raynal, went past; I had seen him that morning come from the direction which led to the house of my wounded enemy. I went up to him.

"What is the matter?" I asked him. "Why have you been sent for this morning?"

"What is the matter, boy?" he replied in his Provençal accent.


"Why, he cannot have seen plainly last night, and, hurrying home, he gave himself a knock in the chest against a carriage pole. It was such a violent blow that he fell on his back and split his head open in falling."

"When shall you pay him a second visit?"

"To-morrow, at the same time as to-day."

"Very well, doctor; tell him from me that, last night, passing by the same place where he fell, after him, I found his knife, and I send it back to him. Tell him, doctor, that it is a good weapon, but that, nevertheless, a man who has no other arms but this with him is unwise to attack a man who possesses two such pistols as these...."

I fancy the doctor understood.

[Pg 116]

"Oh yes; very good," he said. "I'll tell him, never fear."

I presume that the man who owned the knife also understood, for I never heard the matter spoken of again, although, fifteen days later, I danced vis-à-vis with him at the park ball.

[Pg 117]


De Leuven makes me his collaborator—The Major de Strasbourg—My first couplet-Chauvin—The Dîner d'amis—The Abencérages

I had naïvely told de Leuven of my failure to translate Bürger's beautiful ballad; but as he had made up his mind to make me a dramatic author, he consoled me by telling me it was his father's opinion that some German works were absolutely untranslatable, and that the ballad of Lénore was first among these. Seeing that de Leuven did not lose hope, I gradually regained mine. I may even venture to say that, a few days after this, I achieved a success.

Lafarge had laughed hugely at de Leuven's idea of making me his collaborator. For, indeed, what notice would the Parisian stage take of an uneducated child; a poor provincial lad, buried away in a small town in the Ile-de-France; ignorant both of French and foreign literatures; hardly acquainted with the names of the great; feeling only a tepid sympathy with their most highly praised masterpieces, his lack of artistic education having veiled their style from him; setting to work without knowing the theory of constructing a plot, an action, a catastrophe, a dénoûment; having never read to the end of Gil Blas, or Don Quixote, or le Diable boiteux—books which are held by all teachers to be worthy of universal admiration, and in which, I confess to my shame, the man who has succeeded to the child does not even to-day feel a very lively interest; reading, instead, all that is bad in Voltaire, who was then regarded as the very antithesis of politics and religion; having never opened a volume of Walter Scott or of Cooper, those two great romance-writers, one of whom understood men[Pg 118] thoroughly, the other of whom divined God's workings marvellously; whilst, on the contrary, he had devoured all the naughty books of Pigault-Lebrun, raving over them, le Citateur in particular; ignorant of the name of Goethe, or Schiller, or Uhland, or André Chénier; having heard Shakespeare mentioned, but only as a barbarian from whose dunghill Ducis had collected those pearls called Othello, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, but knowing by heart his Bertin, his Parny, his Legouvé, his Demoustier.

Lafarge was unquestionably in the right, and Adolphe must have had plenty of time to waste to undertake such a task, the hopelessness of which alone could take away from its ridiculousness. But Adolphe, with that Anglo-German stolidness of his, manfully persevered in the work undertaken, and we sketched out a scheme of a comedy in one act, entitled the Major de Strasbourg: it was neither good nor bad. Why the Major of Strasbourg, any more than the Major of Rochelle or of Perpignan? I am sure I cannot tell. And I have also completely forgotten the plot or development of that embryonic dramatic work.

But there was one incident I have not forgotten, for it procured me the first gratification my amour-propre received. It was the epoch of patriotic pieces; a great internal reaction had set in against our reverses of 1814 and our defeat of 1815. The national couplet and Chauvinism were all the rage: provided you made Français rhyme with succès at the end of a couplet, and lauriers with guerriers, you were sure of applause. So, of course, de Leuven and I were quite content not to strike out any fresh line, but to follow and worship in the footsteps of MM. Francis and Dumersan. Therefore our Major de Strasbourg was of the family of those worthy retreating officers whose patriotism continued to fight the enemy in couplets consecrated to the supreme glory of France, and to the avenging of Leipzig and Waterloo on the battlefields of the Gymnase and the Varies. Now, our major, having become a common labourer, was discovered by a father and son, who arrived on the scene, I know not why, at the moment when, instead of digging his[Pg 119] furrows, he was deserting his plough, in order to devote himself to the reading of a book which gradually absorbed him to such an extent that he did not see the entrance of this father and son—a most fortunate circumstance, since the brave officer's preoccupation procured the public the following couplet:—

JULIEN (apercevant le major)

N'approchez pas, demeurez où vous etes:
Il lit ...


Sans doute un récit de combats,
Ce livre?

JULIEN (regardant par-dessus l'épaule du major, et revenant à son père)

C'est Victoires et Conquêtes.


Tu vois, enfant, je ne me trompais pas:
Son cœur revole aux champs de l'Allemagne!
Il croit encor voir les Français vainqueurs....


Mon père, il lit la dernière campagne,
Car de ses yeux je vois couler des pleurs.

When my part of the work was done, I handed it over to de Leuven, who, I ought to mention, was very indulgent to me; but this time, when he came to the couplet I am about to quote, his indulgence ascended into enthusiasm: he sang the couplet out loud—

"Dis-moi, soldat, dis-moi, t'en souviens-tu?"

He sang it over twice, four times, ten times, interrupting himself to say—

"Oh! oh! that couplet will be done to death if the Censorship lets it pass."

For, from that time, the honourable institution called the Censorship was in full vigour, and it has gone on increasing and prospering ever since.

[Pg 120]

I confess I was very proud of myself; I did not think such a masterpiece was in me. Adolphe ran off to sing the couplet to his father, who, as he chewed his toothpick, asked—

"Did you make it?"

"No, father; Dumas did."

"Hum! So you are writing a comic opera with Dumas?"


"Why not make room in it for your froide Ibérie? It would be just the place for it."

Adolphe turned on his heels and went off to sing my couplet to Lafarge.

Lafarge listened to it, winking his eyes.

"Ah! ah! ah!" he cried, "did Dumas compose that?"

"Yes, he made it."

"Are you sure he did not crib it from somewhere?"

Then, with touching confidence, Adolphe replied—

"I am quite certain of it: I know every patriotic couplet that has been sung in every theatre in Paris, and I tell you this one has never yet been sung."

"Then it is a fluke, and he will soon be undeceived."

De la Ponce read the couplet too; it tickled his soldierly taste, remainding him of 1814, and he took an early opportunity to compliment me on it.

Alas! poor couplet, but indifferently good though thou wert, accept nevertheless thy due meed of praise, at any rate from me. Whether gold or copper, thou wert, at all events, the first piece of literary coin I threw into the dramatic world! Thou wert the lucky coin one puts in a bag to breed more treasure therein! To-day the sack is full to overflowing: I wonder if the treasure that came and covered thee up was much better than thyself? The future alone will decide—that future which to poets assumes the superb form of a goddess and the proud name of Posterity!

The reader knows what an amount of vanity I possessed. My pride did not need to be encouraged to come out of the vase in which it was enclosed and swell like the giant in the[Pg 121] Arabian Nights: I began to believe I had written a masterpiece. From that day I thought of nothing else but dramatic literature, and, as Adolphe was some day to return to Paris, we set ourselves to work, so that he could carry away with him a regular cargo of works of the style of the Major de Strasbourg. We never doubted that such distinguished works would meet with the success they deserved, from the enlightened public of Paris, and open out to me in the capital of European genius a path strewn with crowns and pieces of gold. What would the well-disposed people say then, who had declared to my mother that I was an idle lad and that I should never do anything? Go spin, you future Schiller! Spin, you future Walter Scott! spin!... From this time a great force awoke in my heart, which held its place against all comers: determination—a great virtue, which although certainly not genius, is a good substitute for it—and perseverance.

Unluckily, Adolphe was not a very sure guide; he, like myself, was groping blindly. Our choice of subjects revealed that truth. Our second opera was borrowed from the venerable M. Bouilly's Contes à ma fille. It was entitled le Dîner d'amis. Our first drama was borrowed from Florian's Gonzalve de Cordoue: it was entitled les Abencérages.

O dear Abencérages! O treacherous Zégris! with what crimes of like nature you have to reproach yourselves! O Gonzalve de Cordoue! what young poets you have led astray into the path upon which we entered so full of hope, from which we returned shattered and broken.

Poor lisa Mercœur! I saw her die hugging to her heart that Oriental chimera; only she stuck fast to it, like a drowning man to a floating plank; while we, feeling how little it was to be relied on, had the courage to abandon it and to let it float where it would on that dark ocean where she encountered it and stuck to it.

But then we did not know what might be the future of these children, wandering on the highways, whom we sought to seduce from their lawful parents, and whom we saw die of inanition, one after the other, in our arms.

[Pg 122]

These labours took up a whole year, from 1820 to 1821. During that year two great events came about, which passed unnoticed by us, so bent on our work were we, and so preoccupied by it: the assassination of the Duc de Berry, 13 February 1820; the death of Napoleon, 5 May 1821.

[Pg 123]


Unrecorded stories concerning the assassination of the Duc de Berry

The assassination of the Duc de Berry hastened the down-fall of M. Decazes. A singular anecdote was circulated at the time. I took it down in writing at the house of my lawyer, who was a collector of historical documents. As well as I can remember, it was as follows. Three days before the Duc de Berry's assassination, King Louis XVIII. received a letter couched in these words:—

"SIRE,—Will your Majesty condescend to receive a person at eight o'clock to-morrow night, who has important revelations to make specially affecting your Majesty's family?

"If your Majesty deigns to receive this person, let a messenger be sent at once to find a chip of Oriental alabaster, which rests on the tomb of Cardinal Caprara, at Ste. Geneviève.

"In addition to this, your Majesty must obtain, by means of some other agent, a loose sheet of paper, out of a volume of the works of St. Augustine [here the exact designation was given], the use of which will be indicated later by the writer of this letter.

"Under penalty of not obtaining any result from the promised revelations, you must not begin by sending to the Library, nor by sending at the same time to the Library and to Ste. Geneviève. The safety of the person who desires to offer good advice to His Majesty depends upon the execution of the two prescribed acts in their given order."

The letter was unsigned. The mysterious bearing of this letter attracted the attention of Louis XVIII., and he sent for M. Decazes at seven o'clock on the following morning.[Pg 124] Please be careful to note that I am not relating a historical fact, but an anecdote from memory, which I copied something like thirty years ago. Only later and in quite different circumstances of my life, it recurred to my mind as does effaced writing under the application of a chemical preparation.

So, as indicated above, Louis XVIII. sent next morning for M. Decazes.

"Monsieur," he said, as soon as he saw him, "you must go to the church of Ste. Geneviève; you must descend to the crypt, where you will find the tomb of Cardinal Caprara, and you must bring away the thing, no matter what it is, that you will find on the tomb."

M. Decazes went, and when he reached Ste. Geneviève, he went down to the crypt. There, to his great surprise, he found nothing on the tomb of Cardinal Caprara but a fragment of Oriental alabaster. However, his orders were precise: we might rather say they were positive. After a moment's hesitation, he picked up the bit of alabaster and took it back to the Tuileries. He expected the king to jeer at the servile obedience that brought him only an object so worthless, but quite the reverse was the case, for at the sight of the bit of alabaster the king trembled. Then, taking it in his hand and examining it minutely, he placed it on his desk.

"Now," said Louis XVIII., "send a trusted messenger to the Royal Library; he must ask for the works of St. Augustine, the 1669 edition, and in volume 7, between pages 404 and 405, he will find a sheet of paper."

"But, sire," asked M. Decazes, "why should not I myself go rather than entrust this commission to another?"

"Out of the question, mon enfant!" "Mon enfant" was the pet name by which the king called his favourite minister.

A trusted messenger was sent to the Royal Library: he opened St. Augustine at the given pages and found the paper described. It was a simple matter to take it away. The paper was a very thin, blank folio sheet oddly snipped here and there. While Louis XVIII. was searching for the mysterious[Pg 125] revelations hidden in the jagged paper the secretary brought him a missive containing a leaf of the same size as that from the St. Augustine, but inscribed with apparently unintelligible letters. At the corner of the envelope in which this leaf came were written the two words: "Most urgent." The king understood that there was a connection between the two events and a likeness between the two leaves. He placed the cut sheet of paper over the written sheet and saw that the letters shown up through the holes in the upper leaf made sense. He dismissed the secretary and intimated to M. Decazes to leave him alone, and when both had gone, he made out the following lines:—

"King, thou art betrayed! Betrayed by thy minister and by the P.P. of thy S——.

"King, I alone can save thee. MARIANI."

The reader will understand that I do not hold myself responsible for this note any more than for the rest of the anecdote. The king did not mention this note to anyone; but, that evening, the Minister of the Police,[1] who was dismissed next day, issued orders to find a man named Mariani.

The following day, which was Sunday the 13th of February, the king on opening his prayer-book at mass found this note inside:—

"They have found out what I wrote; they are hunting for me. Do your utmost to see me, if you would avoid great misfortunes for your house. I shall know if you will receive me, by means of three wafers which you should stick inside the panes of your bedroom windows."

Although the king was greatly interested by this last letter of advice, he did not think it sufficiently urgent to attend to it as directed. He waited and hesitated, and then left matters till the morrow. That evening there was a special performance at[Pg 126] the Opera, when Le Rossignol, les Noces de Gamache, and le Carnaval de Venise were played. The Duc and Duchesse de Berry were present. About eleven o'clock, at the close of the second act of the ballet, the duchess, feeling tired, told her husband that she wished to leave. The prince would not allow her to go alone, but himself conducted her out of the Opera House. When he reached their carriage, which stood in the rue Rameau, just as he was helping the princess up the step, and saying to her, "Wait for me, I will rejoin you in a moment," a man darted forward rapidly, passed like a flash of lightning between the sentinel on guard at the door of exit and M. de Clermont-Lodève, the gentleman-in-waiting, seized the prince by the left shoulder, leant heavily against his breast and plunged a thin, sharp small-sword, with a boxwood hilt, in his right breast. The man left the weapon in the wound, knocked three or four curious bystanders spinning and disappeared immediately round the corner of the rue de Richelieu and under the Colbert Arcade. For the moment nobody noticed that the prince was wounded; he himself had hardly felt any pain beyond the blow of a fist.

"Take care where you are going, you clumsy fellow!" M. de Choiseul, the prince's aide-de-camp, had exclaimed, pushing the assassin to one side, thinking he was simply an unduly inquisitive bystander. Suddenly the prince lost his breath, grew pale and tottered, crying out, as he put his hand to his breast—

"I have been assassinated!"

"Impossible!" exclaimed those about him.

"See," replied the prince, "here is the dagger." And giving effect to his words, he drew out and held up the bloodstained sword from his breast. The carriage door had not yet been shut. The duchess sprang out, trying to catch her husband in her arms; but the prince was already past standing, even with this support. He fell gently back into the arms of those surrounding him, and was carried into the drawing-room belonging to the king's box. There he received immediate attention.

[Pg 127]

By the mere appearance of the wound, the shape of the dagger and the length of its blade, the doctors recognised the serious nature of the case, and declared that the prince must not be taken to the Tuileries. They therefore carried him to the suite of rooms occupied by M. de Grandsire, the Secretary to the Opera Company, who lived at the theatre. By a singular coincidence, the bed on which the dying prince was laid was the same on which he had slept the first night of his joyful re-entry into France. M. de Grandsire was at that time at Cherbourg and he had lent this very bed to put in the Duc de Berry's room. Here the prince learnt the arrest of his murderer. He asked his name. They told him it was Louis-Pierre Louvel. He seemed to search his memory and then, as if speaking to himself, he said, "I cannot recollect ever having injured this man."

No, prince, no, you did nothing to him; but you bear on your forehead the fatal seal which carries the Bourbons to the grave or into exile. No, prince, you have not injured the man, but you are heir to the throne and that is sufficient in this country for the hand of God to be laid heavily upon you. Look back, prince, on what has happened to those who, for the last sixty years, have handled the fatal crown to which they aspired. Louis XVI. died on the scaffold. Napoleon died at St. Helena. The Duc de Reichstadt died at Schoenbrünn. Charles X. died at Frohsdorf. Louis-Philippe died at Claremont. And who knows, prince, where your son, the Count de Chambord, will die? Where your cousin the Count de Paris? I ask the question of you who are about to know the secret of that eternal life which hides away from us all the mysteries of life and of death. And we would further point out to you, prince, that not one of your race will die in the Tuileries, or will rest as kings in the tombs of their fathers.

But it was a good and noble heart that was about to cease to beat amidst all the distracting events of that period. And when Louis XVIII., who had been informed of the assassination, came at six in the morning, to receive his nephew's last wishes, the first words of the wounded prince were—

[Pg 128]

"Sire, pardon the man!"

Louis XVIII. neither promised nor refused to pardon.

"My dear nephew, you will survive this cruel act, I trust," he replied, "and we will then discuss the matter again. It is of grave import, moreover," he added, "and it must be looked into most carefully at some future time."

These words had scarcely been uttered by the king when the prince began to fight for his breath; he stretched out his arms and asked to be turned on his left side.

"I am dying!" he said, as they hastened to carry out his last wish.

And, indeed, they had hardly moved him when, at the stroke of half-past six, he died.

The grief of the duchess was inexpressible. She seized scissors from the mantelpiece, let down her beautiful fair hair, cut it off to the roots and threw the locks on the dead body of her husband.

The sorrow of King Louis was twofold: not knowing that the Duchesse de Berry was pregnant, he deplored even more than the death of a murdered nephew the extinction of a race.

When he withdrew to the Tuileries, he remembered the events of the two preceding days—the letter received on the very morning of the assassination, the warning of some great calamity threatening the royal family. Then, although there was nothing more to be expected from the mysterious stranger, the legend that we have given goes on to say that Louis XVIII. dragged his aching limbs to the window and stuck the three wafers on its panes as a signal of welcome to the unknown writer of the letters. Two hours later, the king received a letter wrapped in three coverings:—

"It is too late! Let a confidential person come and meet me on the pont des Arts, where I will be at eleven o'clock to-night.

"I rely on the honour of the king."

At a quarter-past eleven the mysterious stranger was introduced into the Tuileries and conducted to the king's private chamber. He remained with Louis till one o'clock in[Pg 129] the morning. No one ever knew what passed in that interview. The next day, M. Clausel de Coussergues proposed, in the Upper House, to impeach M. Decazes as an accomplice in the assassination of the Duc de Berry.

Thus, at the same time that the Napoleonic and Liberal party were disseminating the skits against the Bourbons which we have quoted, and distributing copies of the proceedings of the Maubreuil trial, the Extreme Right was attacking by similar means the Duc d'Orléans and M. Decazes; each in turn undermining and destroying one another, to the advantage of a fourth party, which was soon to make its appearance under the cloak of Carbonarism—we mean that Republican element which Napoleon, when he was dying in the island of St. Helena, prophesied would dominate the future.

But before tackling this question, one word more about Louvel. God forbid that we should glorify the assassin, no matter to what party he belonged! We would only indicate, from the historical point of view, the difference that may exist between one murderer and another. We have related how Louvel disappeared, first round the corner of the rue de Richelieu and then under the Colbert Arcade. He was just on the point of escaping when a carriage barred his course and compelled him to slacken his pace. During this moment of hesitation, the sentinel, who had thrown down his gun to pursue him and who had lost sight of him, had a glimpse of him again and redoubled his speed, caught up with him and seized him round the waist, a waiter from a neighbouring café; at the same time seizing hold of him by his collar. When he was captured, the assassin did not attempt any fresh effort. One would have thought that from motives of self-preservation he would have struggled to escape, but his one attempt at flight seemed to satisfy him, and had they let go their hold, he would not have taken his chance to regain liberty. Louvel was taken to the guard-house below the vestibule of the Opera.

"Wretch!" exclaimed M. de Clermont-Lodève, "what can have induced you to commit such a crime?"

[Pg 130]

"The desire to deliver France from one of its cruellest enemies."

"Who paid you to carry out the deed?"

"Paid me!" cried Louvel, tossing his head,—"paid me!" Then with a scornful smile he added, "Do you think one would do such a thing for money?"

Louvel's trial was carried to the Upper Chamber. On 5 June he appeared before the High Court. On the following day he was condemned to death. Four months had been spent in trying to find his accomplices, but not one had been discovered. He was taken back to the Conciergerie, an hour after his sentence had been pronounced, and one of his warders came to him.

"You would like," said the man to the prisoner, who throughout his trial had preserved the utmost calm and even the greatest decorum,—"you would like to send for a priest?" "What for?" asked Louvel.

"Why, to ease your conscience."

"Oh, my conscience is at ease: it tells me I did my duty."

"Your conscience deceives you. Listen to what I say and make your peace with God: that is my advice."

"And if I confess, do you suppose that will send me to Paradise?"

"May be: the mercy of God is infinite."

"Do you think the Prince de Condé, who has just died, will be in Paradise?"

"He should be, he was an upright prince."

"In that case, I would like to join him there; it would amuse me vastly to plague the old émigré."

The conversation was here interrupted by M. de Sémonville, who came to try and extract information from the prisoner. Finding he could not get anything from him, he said to Louvel—

"Is there anything you want?"

"Monsieur le comte," replied the condemned man, "I have had to sleep between such coarse sheets in prison, I would like some finer ones for my last night."

The request was granted. Louvel had his fine sheets and[Pg 131] slept soundly between them from nine at night till six o'clock the next morning. On 6 June, at six in the evening, he was taken from the Conciergerie: it was the time of the famous troubles of which we shall speak presently. The streets were blocked, and there were spectators even on the roofs. He wore a round red cap and grey trousers, and a blue coat was fastened round his shoulders. The papers next day announced that his features were changed and his gait enfeebled.

Nothing of the kind: Louvel belonged to the family of assassins to which Ravaillac and Alibaud were akin—that is to say, he was a man of stout courage. He mounted the scaffold without bombast and also without any trace of weakness, and he died as men do who have sacrificed their lives to an idea.

His cell was the last in the Conciergerie, to the right, at the bottom of the corridor; it was the same in which Alibaud, Fieschi and Meunier had been kept.

[1] M. Decazes, Ministre de l'Intérieur, had charge of the police.

[Pg 132]



I will now (1821) give some details of the Carbonari movement—a subject on which Dermoncourt and I had held long conversations. Dermoncourt was an old aide-decamp of my father, whose name I have often mentioned in the earlier chapters of these Memoirs—he was one of the principal leaders in the conspiracy of Béfort.

You will recollect the troubles of June; the death of young Lallemand, who was killed whilst trying to escape and was accused after his death of having disarmed a soldier of the Royal Guard. It was thought that the dead could be accused with impunity. But his father defended him. The Censorship—sometimes a most infamous thing—prevented the poor father's letter from appearing in the papers. M. Lafitte had to take his letter to the Chambers and to read it there before he could make its contents known to the public. I give it in the form in which Lallemand sent it to the newspapers, when they refused to publish it:—

"SIR,—Yesterday my son was beaten to death by a soldier of the Royal Guard; to-day he is defamed by the Drapeau blanc, the Quotidienne and the Journal des Débats. I owe it to his memory to deny the fact cited by those papers. The statement is false! My son did not attempt to disarm one of the Royal Guard; he was walking past unarmed when he received from behind the blow that killed him. LALLEMAND"

The military conspiracy of 19 August was the outcome of the troubles of June. The chief members of the lodge Des[Pg 133] Amis de la Verité were involved in that conspiracy. They afterwards separated. Two of the affiliated members, MM. Joubert and Dugier, set out for Italy. They reached Naples in the midst of the Revolution of 1821—a Revolution during which patriots were shamefully betrayed by their leader, François. The two named above threw themselves into the Revolution and were affiliated to the Italian Carbonari, while Dugier returned to Paris, a member of a higher grade in the Society. This institution, as yet unknown in France, had greatly appealed to Dugier, and he hoped to be able to establish it in France. He set forth the principles and aims of the Society to the executive council of the lodge des Amis de la Vérité on whom they produced a profound impression. Dugier had brought back with him the rules of the Italian Society and he was authorised to translate them. This task he accomplished; but the type of religious mysticism which formed the basis of these rules was not in the least congenial to French minds. They adopted the institution, minus the details which, at that epoch, would have made it unpopular; and M. Buchez—the same who on 15 May had tried to make Boissy-Anglas forgotten—and MM. Bazard and Flottard were deputed to establish the French Carbonari upon a basis better suited to French conditions of mind and thought. On 1 May 1821, three young men, then unknown, none of them thirty years old, met for the first time in the depths of one of the poorest quarters of the capital, in a room which was very far removed from representing, even to its owner, the golden mean spoken of by Horace. They sat at a round table, and with grave and even gloomy faces—for they were not ignorant of the terrible work to which they were going to devote their lives—they defined the first tenets of that Society of Carbonari which changed the France of 1821 and 1822 into one vast volcanic disturbance whose flames' burst out at the most opposite and unexpected quarters, at Effort, la Rochelle, Nantes and Grenoble. What was still more remarkable, the work which these three revolutionary chemists were preparing had only one object in view, namely, to[Pg 134] draw up a code for future conspirators, leaving everyone perfectly free to agitate against anything he individually chose, provided he conformed to the main rules of the association. The following is a résumé of these rules: "Since might is not right, and the Bourbons have been brought back by foreigners, the Carbonari band together to secure for the French nation free exercise of their rights—namely, the right to choose what form of government may be most suited to the country's needs."

It will be seen that nothing was clearly defined; but in reality a Republican form of government was being shadowed forth. This, however, was not to be proclaimed until thirty-seven years later, and only then to be struck dead from its birth, by the very hand to which it owed its being. It need hardly be said that the hand was the hand of Napoleon: it is a family tradition of the Napoleons to strangle liberty as soon as it has produced a first consul or a president; even as in the case of those beautiful aloes which only flower once in fifty years and perish when they have brought forth their brilliant but ill-fated blossoms, which are but barren and deadly flowers.

The division of the Carbonari into higher, central and private lodges is well known. None of these lodges was allowed to contain more than twenty members—thus avoiding the penal law directed against societies which comprised over twenty members. The Higher Lodge was composed of the seven founders of the Carbonari. These seven founders were Bazard, Dugier, Flottard, Buchez, Carriol, Joubert and Limperani. Each Carbonaro was expected to keep a pistol and fifty cartridges in his house, and he had to hold himself in readiness to obey orders sent him by his commanders from the Higher Lodge, whether by day or night.

While the Society of Carbonari was being organised with its upper lodge of seven members above named, something of the same kind of thing was being established in the Chamber—only less active, vital and determined in character. It was called the Comité directeur, and its title sufficiently indicates its purpose. This Comité directeur was composed of General la[Pg 135] Fayette, his son Georges de la Fayette, of Manuel, Dupont (de l'Eure), de Corcelles senior, Voyer-d'Argenson, Jacques Koechlin, General Thiars and of MM. Mérilhou and Chevalier. For military questions the committee added Generals Corbineau and Tarayre. The Comité directeur and the Higher Lodge were in close communication with one another. At first their meetings were only intended for general discussions; for the young Carbonari treated the old Liberals with contempt, and the latter reciprocated the feeling. The Carbonari charged the Liberals with feebleness and vacillation; the Liberals, in their turn, accused the Carbonari of impertinence and frivolity. They might as well have accused one another of youth and age. Furthermore, the Carbonari had organised the whole plot of Béfort without saying a single word to the Comité directeur.

However, Bazard was in league with la Fayette, and well aware of the general's burning desire after popularity. Now, popular feeling in 1821 was on the side of the party in opposition. The farther they advanced, the more popular they became. Bazard wrote to the general asking him to authorise the use of his name as of one in co-operation with them, and the request was granted. La Fayette possessed this admirable characteristic: he yielded at the first pressure, without having taken the initiative personally, and he went farther and more to the point than most people. The secrets of the Upper Lodge were revealed to him and he was asked to join it. He accepted the invitation, was received into their number and became one of the most active conspirators of Béfort. In this he risked his head, just as much as did the humblest of the confederates. The boldest members of the Chamber followed him and enlisted with him in the same cause. These were Voyer-d'Argenson, Dupont (de l'Eure), Manuel, Jacques Koechlin and de Corcelles senior. They did not have long to wait for a recognition of their self-sacrificing devotion. When the Revolution was set afoot they adopted the groundwork of the constitution of the year III. Five directors were appointed, and these five were la Fayette, Jacques Koechlin, de Corcelles senior, Voyer-d'Argenson and Dupont (de l'Eure).

[Pg 136]

Carbonarism had its military side; indeed it was more military than civil in character. They relied strongly and with good reason upon the army in all their movements. The army was abandoned by the king, abused by the princes, sacrificed to privileged parties and three parts given over to the Opposition. Lodges were established in most regiments, and everything was so well arranged that even the very movements of the regiments served as a means of propaganda. In leaving the town where the president of the military lodge had been quartered for three months, six months or a year, as the case might be, he received half a piece of money, the other half being sent on in advance to the town where his regiment was going—either to a member of the Higher or Central Lodge. The two halves of the coin were fitted together, and the conspirators were thus put into communication. By this means soldiers became commercial travellers, as it were, charged with the spread of revolution throughout France. Thus we shall find that all insurrections which broke out were as much military as civil.

Towards the middle of 1821 all plans were laid for a rising in Bordeaux as well as at Béfort, at Neuf-Brisach as well as at Rochelle, at Nantes and Grenoble, at Colmar and at Toulouse. France was covered with an immense network of affiliated societies, so that the revolutionary influence had expanded, unnoticed but active, into the very heart of social life, from east to west, from north to south. From Paris—that is, from the Higher Lodge—all orders were issued for the animation and support of the propaganda; as the pulsations of the heart send the life-giving blood to all parts of the human body. Everything was in readiness. Information had been received that, thanks to the influence of four young men who had been previously compromised in the rebellion of 19 August, the 29th infantry, a regiment consisting of three battalions, severally stationed at Béfort, Neuf-Brisach and at Huningue, had been won over to the Carbonari. These four young men were a guardsman called Lacombe, Lieutenant Desbordes and Second-Lieutenants Bruc and Pegulu, to whom were joined a[Pg 137] lawyer named Petit Jean and a half-pay officer called Roussillon. Furthermore, there was Dermoncourt, who had been placed on half-pay and who lived in the market town of Widensollen, a mile away from Neuf-Brisach; he was engaged in the coming insurrection to lead the light cavalry which was stationed in barracks at Colmar. So much for the military operations.

The civil side of the conspiracy was also in motion and conducted by MM. Voyer-d'Argenson and Jacques Koechlin, who possessed factories, near Mulhouse and Béfort, and who exercised great influence over their workpeople, almost all of whom were discontented with the Government that had given back to the nobles their ancient privileges, and to the priests their old influence. These malcontents were eager to take part in any rising into which a leader might be ready to urge them. So, towards the close of 1821, the Higher Lodge in Paris received the following news:—

At Huningue, Neuf-Brisach and at Béfort the 29th infantry was stationed, commanded by Lieutenants Carrel, de Gromely and Levasseur; at Colmar was the light cavalry headed by Dermoncourt; at Strasbourg they had a stand-by in the two regiments of artillery and in the battalion of pontoniers at Metz in a regiment of engineers, and better still the military school: finally, at Spinal they had a regiment of cuirassiers, MM. Koechlin and Voyer-d'Argenson could be relied upon not only for a rising at Mulhouse, but also all along the course of the Rhine where private lodges were stationed; making a total of more than 10,000 associates amongst the retired officers, citizens, customs officers and foresters: all were men of determined character and ready to sacrifice their lives.

About this time, my poor mother, on reckoning up her income, found we were so poor that she bethought her of our friend Dermoncourt, in hopes that he might perhaps have still some relations with the Government. So she decided to write and beg him to make inquiries with respect to that unpaid pension of 28,500 francs owing to my father for the years VII and VIII of the Republic. The letter reached Dermoncourt about 20 or 22 December—eight days[Pg 138] before the outbreak of insurrection. He replied by return of post, and on 28 December we received the following letter:—

"MY GOOD MADAME DUMAS,—What the devil possesses you to imagine that I could have maintained relations with that rabble of scoundrels who manage our affairs at the present moment? Nay, thank heaven, I have retired, I have nothing at all to do either by means of pen or sword with what is going on. Therefore, my dear lady, do not count on a poor devil like me for anything beyond my own miserable pittance of 1000 francs per annum; but look to God, who, if He does watch what goes on here below, should be very angry at the way things are done. There are two alternatives: either there is no good God, or things would not go on as they are; but I know you believe in the good God—so put your trust in Him. One of these days things will be altered. Ask your son, who must be a tall lad by now, and he will tell you that there is a saying by a Latin author called Horace to the effect that after rain comes fine weather. Keep your umbrella open, then, a little longer and, if fine weather comes, put it down and count on me.

"Be hopeful; without hope, which lingers at the bottom of every man's heart, there would be nothing left to decent folk but to blow out their brains.


This letter said very little and yet it said a good deal: my mother gathered that something lay behind it and that Dermoncourt was in the secret.

On the day following the receipt of our letter this is what was happening at Béfort: carrying out the plan of the conspirators, the signal was sent to Neuf-Brisach and Béfort at the same moment; and at the identical hour and day, or rather the same night, these two places took up arms and raised the tricolour standard. The insurrection took place on the night of 29-30 December. A Provisional Government was proclaimed at Béfort and then at Colmar. This Government, as we have already mentioned, consisted of Jacques Koechlin, General la Fayette and Voyer-d'Argenson. Twenty-five or thirty[Pg 139] Carbonari had received orders to set out to Béfort. They started without a moment's delay, and arrived on the 28th in the daytime. On the 28th, just as Joubert, who had preceded them to Béfort, was preparing to leave the town in order to lead them in, he met M. Jacques Koechlin. M. Koechlin was looking for him to tell him a singular piece of news. M. Voyer-d'Argenson, who with himself and General la Fayette formed the revolutionary triumvirate, had indeed come, but had shut himself up in his factories in the valleys behind Massevaux, stating that he did not wish to receive anyone there, but that the instructions brought were to be kept for him.

"All very well, but what are we to do?" asked Joubert.

"Listen," said M. Koechlin: "I will go myself to Massevaux; I will look after d'Argenson and draw him out, willy nilly, whilst you must try by what means you can to hurry up the arrival of la Fayette."

Whereupon the two conspirators left, the one, M. Koechlin, post haste, as he said, to Massevaux, a little village off the main road, perhaps seven miles from Béfort and equidistant from Colmar; the other, Joubert, posted off to Lure, a small town on the road to Paris, twenty leagues from Béfort. There a carriage stopped, and he recognised two friendly faces inside, those of two brothers, great painters and true patriots, Henri and Ary Scheffer; with them was M. de Corcelles junior. Joubert very soon made them acquainted with what was happening. Ary Scheffer, the intimate friend of General la Fayette, retraced his steps to go and look for him at his castle of La Grange. The others returned with Joubert to Béfort to announce that the movement was delayed. Thus the 29th and 30th passed in useless waiting. On the night between those two days General Dermoncourt, becoming impatient, sent to Mulhouse an under-foreman called Rusconi, belonging to M. Koechlin. This man had been once an officer in the Italian army and had followed Napoleon to Elba. He was sent to inquire whether anything had been learnt by M. Koechlin. Rusconi set off at ten o'clock a.m., covered nine[Pg 140] stiff leagues of country in driving rain, and reached M. Koechlin's house at ten o'clock that night: he found him entertaining ten of his friends, and he took him aside to inquire whether he had news of the conspiracy. M. d'Argenson would not budge; there was no news yet from la Fayette; it was supposed he was being detained by Manuel. In the meantime General Dermoncourt was to be patient, and he should be informed when it was time to act.

"But," demanded the messenger, "for whom is he to act?"

"Ah! there lies the difficulty," replied M. Koechlin: "the generals want Napoleon II.; the others, with Manuel at their head, want Louis—Philippe; General la Fayette wants a Republic ... but let us first overthrow the Bourbons and then all will come clear."

Rusconi left, hired a carriage, journeyed all that night, reached Colmar at ten o'clock next day, and from Colmar he went on foot to Widensollen, where he found the general ready for action. Nothing had been done during his absence. This is what had happened. Ary Scheffer had found la Fayette at La Grange. The general, who belonged to the Chamber and whose absence would have been remarked if he stayed away longer, did not wish to reach Béfort until the decisive moment. He promised to set out that night on one condition—that M. Ary Scheffer should make all speed to Paris to persuade Manuel and Dupont (de l'Eure), the last two members of the Provisional Government, to come and take part in the rebellion; he must also bring back Colonel Fabvier, a man of judgment and courage, to take command of the insurgent battalions. Ary Scheffer started for Paris, met Manuel, Dupont and Fabvier, and got Manuel and Dupont to promise to set out that same night. He took Colonel Fabvier in his carriage and again set out after la Fayette, followed by Manuel and Dupont.

Whilst this string of carriages was bearing the revolution at full speed along the road from Paris, whilst M. Jacques Koechlin, preceded by Joubert and Carrel, was nearing Béfort, and whilst Colonel Pailhès, unaware of the arrival of Fabvier,[Pg 141] was preparing to take command of the troops, and Dermoncourt, with horse ready saddled, awaited the signal, Second-Lieutenant Manoury, one of the chief associates, was changing guard with one of his comrades and installing himself at the main gate of the town, at the same time that the other initiated members were warning their friends that the moment had come and that in all probability the rising would take place during the night of 1 January 1822. Now the evening of 1 January had come. Only a few hours more and all would burst forth. In the meanwhile night approached. At eight o'clock the roll was called. After roll-call the non-commissioned adjutant, Tellier, went the round of all the sergeant-majors, ordering them to their rooms, where each company put flints to the muskets, packed knapsacks and prepared to march. The sergeant-majors returned to supper with Manoury. Twenty paces from the place where Manoury and his sergeant-majors supped, Colonel Pailhès went to the Hôtel de la Poste to dine with a score of the insurgents, and as the host of a posting-inn is generally one of the principal ringleaders, no one was anxious, and the dining-room was decorated with tricoloured flags and cockades and eagles. And, indeed, what had they to fear? No officer occupied the barracks, and at midnight the insurrection broke out.

Alas! none knew what an accumulation of unlooked-for misfortunes was to escape out of the Pandora's box which men call fate!...

A sergeant whose six months' furlough had expired that evening and who in consequence of his long absence knew nothing of what was going forward, reached Béfort on the evening of 1 January just in time to answer to the roll-call and to assist in the preparations. When these preparations were accomplished, he wished to show proof of his promptness and zeal to his captain by going to tell him the regiment was ready.

"Ready for what?" asked the captain.

"To march."

"To march where?"

"To the place which has been appointed."

[Pg 142]

The captain gazed at the sergeant.

"What is it you say?" he asked again.

"I say that the knapsacks are packed, captain, and the flints are in the muskets."

"You are either drunk or mad," cried the captain; "take yourself off to bed."

The sergeant was just about to withdraw, in fact, when another officer stopped him and questioned him more minutely, gathering by the accuracy of his replies that it was really the truth.

"How could such an order be given unless the two captains had known of it?"

"Who gave the order?... Doubtless it must have been the lieutenant-colonel?"

"No doubt," the sergeant replied mechanically.

Both the captains rose and went to find the lieutenant-colonel. He was equally astonished and as much in the dark as they were.

The order must have come from M. Toustain, deputy-governor and commander-at-arms of the fortress of Béfort. They all three went to M. Toustain. He had not heard anything of the rumour they brought him; but suddenly an idea struck him. It was a plot. The two captains at once rushed back to the barracks to order the knapsacks to be unstrapped, the flints to be taken out of the muskets and the soldiers to be confined to the barracks.

In the meantime the deputy-governor visited the posts. The two officers rushed to the barracks and M. Toustain began his inspection. One of the first posts he came to was that guarded by Manoury. As he came nearer he saw by the light of his lantern a group of four people. This group struck him as looking suspicious and he accosted them. They were four young men dressed like citizens. The king's lieutenant interrogated them.

"Who are you, gentlemen?" he asked.

"We are citizens of this neighbourhood, commandant."

"What are your names?"

Whether from carelessness or from surprise, or whether they did not want to lie, these four youths gave their names—

[Pg 143]

"Desbordes, Bruc, Pegulu and Lacombe."

The reader will recollect that they had all four been in the insurrection of 19 August, and their names had been blazoned in the papers, so they were perfectly familiar to the deputy-governor; he called to the head of the guard, Manoury, and ordered him to arrest the four young men, to put them under a guard, and then to give him five men to go out and clear the entrance to the suburbs. Scarcely had the deputy-governor gone a hundred steps, when he perceived what looked to be twenty-five or thirty persons taking flight: some of them were in uniform; amongst them he recognised an officer of the 29th. M. Toustain sprang on him and stretched out his hand to seize him by the collar; but the officer freed himself, and presenting a pistol at close quarters, fired full at M. Toustain's chest, the bullet hitting the cross of St. Louis, which it broke and flattened. The shock was quite enough, however, to knock down the commandant. But he soon got to his feet, and as he saw that his five men were no match against thirty, he returned to the town and stopped at the guard-house to take up Bruc, Lacombe, Desbordes and Pegulu. All four had disappeared: Manoury, one of the officers, had set them free and had disappeared with them. The deputy-governor marched straight to the barracks and put himself at the head of the battalion. This he led to the market-place, sending his company of grenadiers to guard the gate of France and to arrest whoever should attempt to go out. But he was already too late—for all the insurgents were outside the town. After leaving his two chiefs, the non-commissioned officer who had let out everything met Adjutant Tellier, he who had given the order to pack up knapsacks and put flints to the guns. He told him what had happened and the measures that had been taken. Tellier realised that all was lost: he ran to the Hôtel de la Poste, and opening the door, shouted out in the midst of the supper party the terrible words—

"All is discovered!"

Two officers, Peugnet and Bonnillon, still misbelieved and offered to go to the barracks; indeed, they went. Ten minutes[Pg 144] later they ran back: the news was but too true, and there was only just time for flight. And they fled.

That was how the deputy-governor encountered Peugnet and his friends outside the gate of France, for it was Peugnet whom he tried to arrest and who fired the pistol-shot which flattened the cross of St. Louis.

Pailhès and his supper companions had scarcely left the hotel when Carrel and Joubert arrived upon the scene. They had come to announce, in their turn, the discovery of the conspiracy. They only found in the dining-room Guinard and Henri Scheffer, who were just leaving it themselves. But not being natives of that country, they did not know where to fly! Guinard, Henri Scheffer and Joubert mounted a carriage and took the road to Mulhouse. M. de Corcelles junior and Bazard set out to meet la Fayette in order to turn him back. When near Mulhouse, Carrel quitted his three companions, took to horse and returned to Neuf-Brisach, where his battalion was stationed. At the gate of Colmar he met Rusconi on the road, the same fellow who, the evening before, had been at Mulhouse.

General Dermoncourt still waited, placing Rusconi as sentinel to bring news to him. Rusconi knew Carrel and learnt from him that all had been discovered and that the conspirators were fleeing.

"But where will you go?" asked Rusconi.

"Ma foi, I shall go to Neuf-Brisach to resume my duties."

"That does not seem to me a prudent course."

"I shall keep a look-out and at the first alarm I shall decamp.... Have you any money?"

"I have a hundred louis belonging to the conspiracy, take fifty of them."

"Give them to me, and then take my horse and go and warn the general."

The exchange was made, and Carrel continued his journey on foot, while Rusconi reached the general's country house at a gallop. The general was just rising. Rusconi acquainted him with the failure of the enterprise at Béfort, but Dermoncourt refused up to the last to believe it.

[Pg 145]

"Ah, well," he said, "the failure of Béfort must mean success at Neuf-Brisach."

"But, general," said Rusconi, "perhaps the news has already got abroad and measures have been taken to frustrate everything?"

"Then go to Colmar to make inquiries, and I will go to Neuf-Brisach: return here in two hours' time."

Each went his way. When Rusconi reached Colmar he entered the Café Blondeau for news. All was known.

Whilst making his inquiries, a magistrate who was a friend of General Dermoncourt found means to warn him that two orders of arrest had been issued, one against himself and the other against the general. Rusconi did not wait to learn more, but set off immediately for Widensollen. He arrived at midnight, and found the general was sleeping peacefully: he had been to Neuf-Brisach and had satisfied himself that all attempts at rising were now impossible after what had occurred at Béfort. At Rusconi's fresh news and at his wife's urgent entreaty, General Dermoncourt decided to leave Widensollen for Heiteren. There he sought refuge with a cousin, an old army-teacher. Two hours after their departure the soldiers and a magistrate appeared at Widensollen.

Baroness Dermoncourt sent the general word of this by their gardener, urging him to fly without a moment's loss of time. They discussed the possibility of crossing the Rhine, and decided that on the following day they would pretend to go on a hunting excursion among the islands which lay opposite Geiswasser. Geiswasser is a small hamlet situated on this side of the Rhine, inhabited by fishers and customs officers.

The pretext was all the more plausible as the islands were teeming with game and General Dermoncourt had, together with M. Koechlin of Mulhouse, rented several of them for shooting. At dawn they set out with dogs and guns. They had hired the boatmen overnight and found them ready. About nine o'clock, in a mist which prevented seeing ten paces ahead, they embarked and told the boatmen to make for mid-stream.[Pg 146] They landed at one of the islands. Rusconi and Dermoncourt alone remained in the boat, whilst those who had nothing to be afraid of pretended to go and shoot.

"Now, my men, I have business on the other side the Rhine," the general said to the boatmen. "You must have the goodness to take me across."

The boatmen looked at each other and smiled.

"Willingly, general," they replied. A quarter of an hour later Rusconi and Dermoncourt were in Breisgau.

When he had put foot on the Grand Duke of Baden's territory, he drew a handful of sovereigns from his pocket and gave them to the boatmen.

"Thanks, general," they replied; "but there was really no need for that. We are true Frenchmen and we would not like to see a brave man like yourself shot."

These boatmen knew about Béfort and were perfectly aware that they were conducting fugitives and not a hunting party.

The general retreated to Freiburg and from there he went to Bâle. On 5 and 6 January we read the full details of the conspiracy in the papers.

The name of Dermoncourt took such a prominent part in the proceedings that we were quite sure if he were arrested his arrears of half-pay would never be settled.

These particulars explained his letter, and we were able to understand what sort of fine weather to expect after the rain. Instead of the barometer rising to "Set fair," it had dropped to "Stormy."

My poor mother was obliged to keep her umbrella open, as Dermoncourt had advised. Only the umbrella was such a dilapidated one that it no longer served to ward off showers.

In other words—to abandon our metaphor—we had come to the end of our resources.

But hope was still left me.

You ask from what quarter?

I will tell you.

[Pg 147]


My hopes—Disappointment—M. Deviolaine is appointed forest-ranger to the Duc d'Orléans—His coldness towards me—Half promises—First cloud on my love-affairs—I go to spend three months with my brother-in-law at Dreux—The news waiting for me on my return—Muphti—Walls and hedges—The summer-house—Tennis—Why I gave up playing it—The wedding party in the wood

I hoped that de Leuven would be able to get our comedies and melodramas put upon the stage.

M. de Leuven, his father, finding that no stir was made about his presence in France, made up his mind to risk returning to Paris. Adolphe naturally followed his father. His departure, which under any other circumstances would have filled me with despair, now overwhelmed me with delight, our ideas being what they were. De Leuven took away our chefs-d'œuvre: we never doubted that the directors of the various theatres for which they were destined would receive them with enthusiasm!

Thanks to our two vaudevilles and our drama, we would turn aside a tributary of that Pactolus which, since 1822, had watered M. Scribe's dominions. I would set sail on that tributary, with my mother, and rejoin de Leuven in Paris. There a career would open before me, strewn with roses and bank-notes. It can be imagined how anxiously I waited Adolphe's first letters. These first letters were slow in coming. I began to feel uneasy. At last one morning the postman (or rather post-woman, an old dame, whom we called "Mother Colombe") turned her steps in the direction of our house. She held a letter in her hand; this letter was in Adolphe's handwriting and bore the Paris postmark.

The directors—for reasons Adolphe could not fathom—did[Pg 148] not put themselves out to make that fuss over our chefs-d'œuvre he thought he had the right to expect of them. However, Adolphe did not despair of getting them a hearing. If he could not succeed in this, he would have to submit the manuscripts to the critics, which would be most humiliating! In spite of the gleams of hope which still shone through the epistle, the general tone of the letter was doleful. In conclusion, Adolphe promised to keep me well posted concerning his doings.

I awaited a second letter. The second letter was more than a month in coming. And then, alas! practically all hope had fled. The Dîner d'amis, borrowed from M. Bouilly, had not sufficient plot; the Major de Strasbourg was too much like the Soldat Laboureur, which had just been played at the Variétés with such great success.

And as for the Abencérages, every boulevard theatre had received a play on that subject for the last ten, fifteen, or twenty years.

Even supposing, therefore, that ours were received, it did not carry us far.

Still, we had not yet lost all hope in the matter of the Dîner d'amis and the Major de Strasbourg.

After vain attempts to gain access at the Gymnase and the Varietés, we tried the Porte-Saint-Martin, the Ambigue-Comique and the Gaieté.

As for the unlucky Abencérages, its fate was sealed.

I shed as bitter a tear over it as Boabdil shed over Grenada, and I awaited Adolphe's third letter with very gloomy forebodings.

Our cup of humiliation was full to the brim: we were refused everywhere. But Adolphe had several plays on the way with Théaulon, with Soulié and with Rousseau. He was going to try to get them played, and when played, he would use the influence gained by his success to demand the acceptance of one of our efforts. This was but poor comfort and uncertain expectancy. I was greatly cast down.

In the meantime an event had taken place which would have filled me with high spirits under any other circumstances.[Pg 149] M. Deviolaine was appointed keeper of the forests of the Duc d'Orléans; he left Villers-Cotterets and went to Paris to take over the management of the forestry department. Two ways of helping me lay open to him: he could take me into his office, or he could give me open air work. Unluckily, since my affair with Madame Lebègue, the family had given me the cold shoulder. This did not discourage my mother, who saw an opening for me in one or other of these two careers, from approaching M. Deviolaine.

It will be remembered that M. Deviolaine, although he was not an old soldier, could never disguise the truth. He replied to my mother—

"Why, certainly, if your rascal of an Alexandre were not an idle lad, I could find a berth for him; but I confess I have no confidence in him. Besides, after the goings on there have been, not necessarily his, but in which at all events he has not denied a share, everybody here would make a dead set against me."

Still my mother urged her case. She saw her last hope fading.

"Very well, then," said M. Deviolaine; "give me some time to think over things, and later we will see what can be done."

I awaited my mother's return with the same impatience with which I had awaited Adolphe's letters. The result was not more satisfactory.

Two days before, we had received a letter from my brother-in-law, who was a receiver at Dreux: he invited me to spend a month or two with him. We had become so poor, alas! that the economy my absence would produce would go a long way towards compensating my mother for her loss at my departure. It was, moreover, my first absence: my mother and I had never been parted except during that wonderful visit to Béthisy, when the Abbé Fortier had given me my first lessons in hunting. There was also another person in the town from whom it was a cruel wrench to tear myself. It can be guessed to whom I refer.

Although our liaison had lasted more than three years, counting more than a year of preliminary attentions, I still loved[Pg 150] Adèle very dearly, and the azure of our sky had hardly had so much as a light cloud upon it during that period—an almost unique experience in the annals of a courtship. Yet the poor girl had been feeling sad for some time. While I was but nineteen, she was already twenty years old; and our love-making, though delightful child's play, not only promised nothing for her future, but rather compromised it. As no one thought ill of our relations with each other, Adèle had received two or three offers of marriage, all of which she declined, either because they did not quite meet her views or because she would not sacrifice our love to them. Was she not in danger of suffering from the same disappointment which a certain hero of our acquaintance, almost a fellow-countryman, experienced? After having despised perch, carp and eel, would she not be compelled to sup with frogs? The prospect was not alluring, hence her melancholy. Poor Adèle! I perceived that my departure was as necessary for her welfare as for my own. We wept abundantly, she more than I, and it was quite natural she should shed the most tears, seeing she was to be consoled the soonest.

My going away was settled. We had now reached the month of July 1822. Only another week—eight days and eight nights!—a last week of happiness, remained to me; for some presentiment warned me that this week would be the last. The moment of parting came. We vowed fervently never to forget one another for one single hour; we promised to write to each other at least twice a week. Alas! we were not rich enough to afford the luxury of a letter a day. At last we said our final farewell. It was a cruel farewell—a separation of hearts even more than a corporeal separation.

I cannot explain how I got from Villers-Cotterets to Dreux—although I can recollect the most trivial details of my youth, almost of my babyhood. It is evident I must have gone through Paris, since that is the direct route; but how could I forget having passed through Paris? I cannot tell whether I stopped there or not. I have not the faintest recollection whether I saw Adolphe or not. I know I left Villers-Cotterets, and I found myself at Dreux! If anything could have distracted my attention,[Pg 151] it would have been that stay with my sister and my brother-in-law. Victor, as I have already mentioned, was a delightful fellow, full of wit, of repartee, of resource. But, alas! there were too empty places in my heart which were difficult to fill.

I stayed two months at Dreux. I was there at the beginning of the shooting season. They told me a story of a three-legged hare, a sort of enchanted creature seen by all sportsmen, known by all sportsmen, shot at by all sportsmen; but after each shot the queer beast shook its ears and only ran the faster. This hare was all the better known, I might say all the more popular, because it was nearly the only one in the countryside. We had not gone a quarter of a league from the house, on the 1st of September, before a hare rose up near me. I gave chase, I fired and it rolled over. My dog brought it to me: it was the three-pawed hare! The sportsmen of Dreux united in giving me a grand dinner. The death of this strange hare, and certain shots that brought down two partridges at the same time, gave me a reputation in the department of Eure-et-Loir which has lasted until to-day. But none of these honours showered upon me, however exalted they were, could make me stay beyond the 15th of September.

Adèle's letters had become less and less frequent. Finally they ceased altogether.

I left on the 15th of September. I do not remember any more than about my going, whether I went back through Paris or not. I found myself back at Villers-Cotterets, and the news that met me on my arrival was—

"Do you know that Adèle Dalvin is going to be married?"

"No, I had not heard it, but it is quite likely," I replied.

Oh! what were the elegies of Parny on Éléonore's faithlessness, or Bertin's lamentations on the infidelity of Eucharis; oh, my God, how bloodless they seemed, when I tried to re-read them, with my own heart wounded!

Alas! poor Adèle! she was not making a love match: she was going to marry a man double her own age; he had lived for years in Spain, and he had brought home a small fortune. Adèle was making a prudent marriage.

[Pg 152]

I determined to see her the very night I returned. You remember how I paid my visits to Adèle. I entered the usual way, by slipping back the bolt of the lock, I opened the door, I met Muphti again, and he gave me such a greeting that he almost betrayed me by his demonstrations; then, with my heart thumping as it had never yet beaten, I scaled the wall and leapt over the two hedges. I felt quite ill when I was once more in the garden; I leant against a tree to get my breath. Then I went to the pavilion; but the nearer I drew, and the better I could see things in the darkness, the more I felt my heart tighten. The shutters were quite wide open, instead of being closed; the window, instead of being shut, was half open. I leant on the window-sill: everything was dark inside. I pushed the two flaps, I knelt on the sill. The room was empty: I felt the bedside with my hands; the bed was unoccupied. It was evident that Adèle had guessed I would come, that she had deserted the room, leaving it easy for me to gain an entrance therein, in order to show me her intentions. Ah yes! I guessed ... I understood everything. What good could it do to meet, since all was over between us? I sat down on the bed and I gave thanks to God for the gift of tears, since He had willed us to endure sorrow.

The marriage was fixed for fifteen days hence. During those fifteen days I kept almost entirely to the house. I went to the park on Sunday, but only to play tennis. I was very fond of that game, as of all games of skill; I was rather good at it; for I had very strong muscles and I could hold out through the longest game and sometimes even longer; this strength of mine was a terror to other players. On this particular day, when I wanted to overcome my mental feelings by great physical fatigue, I gave myself up to the game with a kind of frenzy. One ball, which I sent as high as a man, hit one of the players and knocked him down; he was the son of a brigadier de gendarmerie, called Savard. We ran up to him, and found that the ball had luckily hit him on the top of his shoulder, a little above the biceps, just where the shirt-sleeve gatherings come. Had it gone six inches higher I should have killed him on the spot, for it would have[Pg 153] reached his temple. I threw down my racquet and I gave up the game: I have never played it since. I went home, and I tried to find distraction in working. But I could not set myself to my task: one works with heart and mind combined. Adolphe had possession of my thoughts; Adèle was in the act of breaking my heart.

The wedding-day drew near; I could not stay in Villers-Cotterets on that day. I arranged a bird-snaring party with an old comrade of mine, a playmate of my younger days, who had been somewhat neglected since de la Ponce and Adolphe had not only taken hold of my affections but were influencing my life. He was a harness-maker called Arpin.

In the evening we went to prepare our tree: it was in a lovely copse, a quarter of a league or so from the pretty village of Haramont, which I have since attempted to make famous in Ange Pitou and Conscience l'innocent. At the foot of this tree, all whose branches we cut off, to make way for our lime twigs, we built a hut of branches and covered it with fern fronds, Next day, we were at our post before daybreak; when the sun rose and shone on our stiff tree, we found the sport had begun. It was a strange thing that, although when younger I had taken such pleasure in this sport that I often lay sleepless the night before, this present snaring had no power to distract my heart from the anguish weighing upon it.

O Sorrow, thou sublime mystery by which a man's spirit is raised and his soul expanded! Sorrow, without which there would be no poetry, for poetry is nearly always made up of joy and hope in equal parts, with an equivalent amount of sorrow!

Sorrow, which leaves its trace for life; a furrow moistened by tears, whence Prayer springs, the mother of those three heavenly, noble daughters, whose names are Faith, Hope and Charity! The benediction of a poet is ever thine, O Sorrow!

We had taken bread and wine with us; we had breakfasted and had dinner; the catch was plentiful, and would have been entirely satisfactory at any other time. We had reached the day's end, the hour when the blackbird whistles or the robin sings, when the first shadows creep silently to the heart of the[Pg 154] wood;—suddenly I was startled from my reverie (if one can so call a formless chaos of thoughts through which no light had shone) by the sharp sound of a violin and by happy shouts of laughter. Violin and laughter came nearer, and I soon began to see through the trees that a player and a wedding party were coming from Haramont and going towards Villers-Cotterets; they were taking a narrow side-path, and would pass within twenty paces of me—young girls in white dresses, youths in blue or black clothes, with large bouquets and streaming ribbons.

I put my head out of our hut and uttered a cry. This wedding party was Adèle's! The young girl with the white veil and the bouquet of orange blossom who walked in front, and gave her arm to her husband, was Adèle! Her aunt lived at Haramont. After mass they had been to the wedding breakfast with the aunt; they had gone by the high road in the morning; they were returning at night by the shorter way. This short cut, as I have said, ran within twenty paces of our hut. What I had fled from had come to find me! Adèle did not see me; she did not know that she was passing near me: she was leaning against the shoulder of the man to whom she now belonged in the eyes of man and of God, while he had his arm round her waist and held her closely to him.

I gazed for a long time on that file of white dresses which, in the growing darkness, looked like a procession of ghosts. I heaved a sigh when it had disappeared. My first dream had just vanished, my first illusion been shattered!

[Pg 155]


I leave Villers-Cotterets to be second or third clerk at Crespy—M. Lefèvre—His character—My journeys to Villers-Cotterets—The Pélerinage à Ermenonville—Athénaïs—New matter sent to Adolphe—An uncontrollable desire to pay a visit to Paris—How this desire was accomplished—The journey—Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins—Adolphe-Sylla—Talma

During my absence a place had been offered me as second or third clerk, I do not know exactly which, with M. Lefèvre, a lawyer at Crespy. It was a very desirable place, because the clerks were lodged and boarded. My keep had become such a burden on my poor mother, that she consented for the second time to part with me in order to save my food. She made up my little bit of packing—not much bigger than a Savoyard's on leaving his mountains—and off I set. It was three and a half leagues from Villers-Cotterets to Crespy: I did the journey on foot one fine evening, and I duly arrived at M. Lefèvre's.

M. Lefèvre was, at that period, a fairly good-looking man of thirty-four or thirty-five, with dark brown hair, a very pale complexion, and a well-worn appearance physically. You could recognise he was a man who had lived a long while in Paris, who had taken many permissible pleasures, and still more forbidden ones. Although M. Lefèvre was confined to a little provincial town, he might be styled a lawyer of the old school: he had ceremonious ways with his clients, ceremonious manners with us, lofty domineering airs with the world at large. M. Lefèvre seemed to say to all those who had business with him, "Pray appreciate the honour I am bestowing upon you and your town, in condescending to be[Pg 156] a lawyer in the capital of a canton when I might have been in practice in Paris."

There was one thing that specially called forth from me feelings of admiration for M. Lefèvre, and it was this: he went to the capital, as they call it in Crespy, some eight or ten times a year, and he never lowered himself to take the diligence: when he wanted a conveyance he would call the gardener. "Pierre," he would say, "I am going to-morrow, or this evening, to Paris; see that the post-horses are ready in the chaise at such and such an hour."

Pierre would go: at the appointed hour the horses would arrive, rousing the whole district with their bells; the postillion, who still wore a powdered wig and a blue jacket with red lapels and silver buttons, would fling himself clumsily, heavily-booted, into the saddle, M. Lefèvre would stretch himself nonchalantly in the carriage, wrapped in a big cloak, take a pinch of snuff from a gold box, and say with an air of careless indifference, "Go on!" and at the word the whip cracked, the bells jingled and the carriage disappeared round the corner of the street for three or four days. M. Lefèvre never told us the day or hour of his return: he would return unawares, for he delighted in taking his world by surprise.

But M. Lefèvre was not a bad sort of man. Although cold and exacting, he was just; he rarely refused holidays when they were asked for, but, as we shall see, he never pardoned holidays taken without leave.

My brother-in-law's mother lived at Crespy, so I had a ready entree into the society of that little town. Alas! alas! what a different world it was from our three-tiered society of Villers-Cotterets of which I have spoken, and above all from our own charming little circle of friends! All the good family of Millet, with whom we had taken shelter during the first invasion, had disappeared: the mother, the two brothers, the two sisters, had all left Crespy and lived in Paris. I have since come across the mother and the eldest sister: they were both in want. I was dreadfully bored in the heart of that[Pg 157] ancient capital of Valois! so sick of it that I very often returned home to sleep at my mother's at Villers-Cotterets, when Saturday evening came, taking my gun for a shoot on the way; then I would shoulder my gun at six on Monday morning, and, shooting all the time, I returned to Maître Lefèvre's before the office opened.

Thus things went on for three months. I had a pretty room looking into a garden full of flowers; the evening sun shone into the room; I had paper, ink and pens in abundance on my table; the food was good, I looked well enough, and yet I felt I could not possibly continue to live thus.

During one of my Sunday excursions I turned in the direction of Ermenonville. Ermenonville is about six leagues from Crespy, but what were six leagues to such legs as mine! I visited the historic places of M. de Girardin, the desert, the poplar island, the tomb of the Unknown. The poetic side to this pilgrimage revived my poor drooping Muse a little, like a wan, sickly butterfly coming out of its chrysalis in January instead of May. I set to work. I wrote partly in prose, partly in verse, and under the inspiration of a charming young society damsel named Athénaïs—who knew nothing about it-a bad imitation of the Lettres d'Émilie by Demoustier, and of the Voyages du chevalier Berlin. I sent the work to Adolphe when it was finished. Since I could not achieve success by the stage, I might perhaps attain it by publishing. I gave it the essentially novel title of Pélerinage à Ermenonville. Adolphe, naturally enough, could not do anything with it; he lost it, never found it again, and so much the better. I cannot recollect a single word of it.

As a matter of fact, Adolphe was not succeeding any better than I was. All his hopes fell to the ground, one after another, and he wrote me that we should never do anything unless we were together. But, to be together, it would be necessary to leave Crespy for Paris, and how was this to be done, in the state of my purse, which even on those happy days when my mother sent me some money never contained more than eight or ten francs.

[Pg 158]

So it was a material impossibility. But infinite are the mysteries of Providence. One Saturday in the month of November, M. Lefèvre announced to us in his usual fashion—by ordering Pierre to have the horses ready by seven next morning—that he was going to pay one of his monthly visits to Paris. Almost simultaneously with his giving this order, at the conclusion of dinner (another of his habits), the cook came and told me a friend wanted to see me. I went out. It was Paillet, my old head clerk; like myself, he had left Maître Mennesson. He was living temporarily on his farm at Vez, where he lodged in the top of a tower, compared with which the tower of Madame Marlborough, however vaunted it may be, is a mere trifle. The tower of Vez was really wonderful, the only remains left standing of a stout castle of the twelfth century—the ancient nest of vultures now peopled by rooks. Paillet had come over on horseback, to learn the price of corn, I believe. He was from time to time head clerk in the provinces or second clerk in Paris; but his real business, his actual life, was that of a property-owner. We took a turn round the ramparts. I was in full tide of pouring out my grievances to this good friend, who loved me so devotedly, and who sympathised with me to the utmost, when, all of a sudden, I struck my forehead and burst out with—

"Oh, my dear fellow, I have an idea ...!"

"What is it?"

"Let us go and spend three days in Paris."

"And what about the office?"

"M. Lefèvre goes to Paris himself to-morrow; he usually stays away two or three days; we shall have returned in two or three days' time."

Paillet felt in his pockets and drew out twenty-eight francs.

"There, that is all I possess," he said. "And you?"

"I? I have seven francs."

"Twenty-eight and seven make thirty-five! How the deuce do you think we can go to Paris on that? We need thirty francs, to begin with, simply for a carriage to get there and back."

[Pg 159]

"Wait a bit: I know a way...."


"You have your horse?"


"We will put our things into a portmanteau, we will go in our hunting-clothes, with our guns, and we will shoot along the route; we can live on the game, and so it will cost us nothing."

"How do you make that out?"

"It is simple enough: from here to Dammartin, surely we can kill a hare, two partridges and a quail?"

"I hope we can kill more than that."

"So do I, hard enough, but I am putting it at the lowest. When we reach Dammartin we can roast the hinder portion of our hare, we can jug the front half, and we can drink and eat."

"And then?"

"Then?... We will pay for our wine, our bread and our seasoning with the two partridges, and we will give the quail to the waiter as a tip.... There will only remain your horse to trouble about! Come, come, for three francs a day we shall see wonders."

"But what the dickens will people take us for?"

"What does that matter?—for scholars on a holiday."

"But we only have one gun."

"That will be all we shall need: one of us will shoot, the other will follow on horseback; in this way, as it is only sixteen leagues from here to Paris, it will only mean eight for each of us."

"And the keepers?"

"Ah! that is our worst difficulty. Whichever of us is on horseback must keep watch; he will warn the one who is poaching. The cavalier must dismount from his horse, the sportsman will get up, spur with both heels and clear out of the place at a gallop. The keeper will then come up to the cavalier, and finding him walking along with his hands in his pockets, will say, 'What are you doing here, sir?' 'I?...[Pg 160] You can see quite well for yourself.' 'Never mind, tell me.' 'I am walking.' 'Just a minute ago, you were on horseback.' 'Yes.' 'And now you are on foot?' 'Yes.... Is it against the law for a man first to ride and then to walk?' 'No, but you were not alone.' 'Quite possible.' 'Your companion was shooting.' 'Do you think so?' 'Good heavens! why, there he is on horseback carrying his gun.' 'My dear sir, if he is there with his gun on horseback, run after him and try to stop him.' 'But I can't run after him and stop him, because he is on horseback and I am on foot.' 'In that case you will be wise, my friend, to go to the nearest village and drink a bottle of wine to our health.' And at this, one of us will hold out a twenty-sous piece to the honest fellow, which we will reckon in among our profit and loss; the gamekeeper will bow to us, go and drink our health, and we shall pursue our journey."

"Well, I never! that is not badly conceived," cried Paillet. "... They tell me you are writing things."

I heaved a sigh. "It is exactly for the purpose of going to ask de Leuven for news of the plays I have written that I want to go to Paris.... And then, once in Paris——"

"Oh!" interrupted Paillet, "once in Paris, I know a little hotel, rue des Vieux-Augustins, where I usually put up, and where I am known; once in Paris, I shall not be anxious."

"Then it is settled?"

"Why, yes!... it will be a joke."

"We will start for Paris?"

"We will."

"Very well, then, better still, let us start to-night, instead of to-morrow! We can sleep at Ermenonville, and to-morrow evening, leaving Ermenonville early, we shall be in Paris."

"Let us leave to-night."

We went our way, Paillet to his inn, to have his horse saddled; I to Maître Lefèvre's, to get my gun and to put on my shooting-clothes. A shirt, a coat, a pair of trousers and a pair of boots were sent off by the third clerk to Paillet, who stuffed them into a portmanteau; these things accomplished,[Pg 161] I shouldered my gun and awaited Paillet outside the town. Paillet soon appeared. It was too late for shooting: our only thoughts were to gain the country. I jumped up behind. Two hours later, we were at Ermenonville.

It was the second or third time I had visited the Hôtel de la Croix: so far as I can remember, I was not a profitable customer; but my antecedents were by no means bad, rather the reverse. We were well received. An omelette, a bottle of wine and as much bread as we wanted, constituted our supper. Next day, our account, including the horse's stabling, came to six francs—leaving twenty-nine. Paillet and I looked at one another, as much as to say, "Dear me! how money does fly!" And after two or three sage noddings of the head, we continued our journey, going across country to Dammartin, where we meant to lunch. Lunch did not trouble us: it lay in the barrel of our gun, and we set forth to find it. The country round Ermenonville is full of game and well guarded; so we had hardly gone a quarter of a league before I had killed two hares and three partridges with six shots of my gun. I ought to confess with due humility that these two hares and three partridges belonged to M. de Girardin-Brégy.

Now, when my dog was retrieving the third partridge, Paillet gave the prearranged signal. The figure of a gamekeeper appeared on the skyline, boldly defined against the white fleecy sky, like one of those shepherds or country rustics in huge leggings that Decamps or Jadin put in their landscapes, as a contrast to a lonely and twisted elm-tree.

The manœuvre had already been discussed. In an instant I was on horseback, spurring the horse with both heels, and carrying off with me the incriminating plunder. The dialogue between Paillet and the gamekeeper was lengthy and animated; but it ended as I had predicted. Paillet majestically drew a twenty-sous piece from the common purse, and our total expenditure had reached the sum of seven francs. That was our loss; but on the profit side of our account we had two hares and three partridges. Paillet joined me again; I remained on horseback and he took his turn at hunting. So we alternated.[Pg 162] By ten o'clock in the morning we were at Dammartin, with three hares and eight partridges. Of the two gamekeepers we ran across since our last, one had loftily refused the twenty sous, the other had basely accepted. Our funds were now reduced to twenty-seven francs. But we were more than half-way there; and we had three hares and eight partridges to the good! As I had foreseen, we paid our way, and generously, with a hare and three partridges. We could have paid our way in larks.

By eleven o'clock, we were off again, and we made straight tracks for Paris, which we reached at half-past ten that night, I on foot and Paillet on horseback, with four hares, a dozen partridges and two quails. We had a marketable value of thirty francs of game with us.

When we reached the Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins, Paillet made himself known and imposed his conditions. He told our host we had made a big bet with some Englishmen. We had wagered that we could go to Paris and back without spending a halfpenny, so we wished to gain the bet by selling our game to him. He engaged to board and put us up, horse and dog included, for two days and two nights, in exchange for our twelve partridges, four hares and two quails. Besides this, when we left he put us up a pasty and bottle of wine. On these conditions, our host declared he would make a good thing out of us, and offered us a certificate to certify that, at least while with him, we had not spent a son. We thanked him and told him our Englishmen would take our word for it.

Paillet and I took our bearings and went to get a bath. With all economy possible, we had had to deduct the sum of three francs fifty from our remaining balance; we were thus left with twenty-three francs fifty. We had spent rather less than a third of our wealth; but we had arrived, and bed and board were assured us for forty-eight hours.

In spite of the fatigue of the journey, I slept but ill: I was in Paris! I envied my dog, who, laid down at the foot of my bed, free from imagination, tired out in body, and indifferent[Pg 163] to his resting-place, was taking a nap. Next day I woke up at seven o'clock. In a twinkling I was dressed.

De Leuven lived in the rue Pigale, No. 14. It was nearly a league from the rue des Vieux-Augustins, but, good gracious! what did that matter? I had covered ten or a dozen leagues the day before, without reckoning the ins and outs, and I could surely manage one to-day. I set out. Paillet had business of his own to attend to; I had mine. We should probably meet at dinner-time, or perhaps not until night. I left the rue des' Vieux-Augustins by the rue Croix-des-Petits-Champs and walked straight ahead. I saw a passage where a crowd of people were going in and coming out. I went down seven or eight steps until I thought I was lost. I wanted to ascend again, but I felt ashamed. I continued on my way and alighted on the rue Valois. I had made acquaintance, first go off, with the ugliest passage in Paris, the passage of the rue Neuve-des-Bons-Enfants. I went down another passage which opened out before me, and I found myself in the Palais-Royal. I went all round it: half the shops weren't opened. I stopped in front of the Théâtre-Français and I saw on the poster—

"To-morrow, Monday, Sylla, a Tragedy in verse, in five
acts, by M. de Jouy."

I vowed fervently that somehow or other I would get access to the common purse and I would see Sylla. All the more because I read in large letters on the same poster—

"M. TALMA will take the part of Sylla"

However, since it would be much better to go with the help' of Adolphe, I immediately inquired my way to the rue Pigale, and started off for it. After many turnings and twistings, I reached my destination at about nine in the morning. Adolphe was not yet up; but his father was walking in the garden. I went up to him. He stopped, let me approach, held out his hand to me, and said—

"So you have come to Paris, then?"

"Yes, Monsieur de Leuven."

[Pg 164]

"For some stay?"

"For two days."

"What have you come for?"

"I have come to see two people—Adolphe and Talma."

"Ah! is that so? You have become a millionaire, then, or you would not commit such extravagances."

I told M. de Leuven how Paillet and I had accomplished the journey. He looked at me for a minute, then he said—

"You will get on, you have will-power. Go and wake Adolphe; he will take you to see Talma, who will give you tickets; then come back and lunch together here."

That was the very thing I wanted. I took stock of the interior topography of the house, and rushed off. I only opened two wrong doors before I found Adolphe's: one was Gabriel Arnault's door; the other, Louis Arnault's. I lost my way on the first landing: Louis put me right. I reached Adolphe's room at last. Adolphe slept like the Seven Sleepers. But had I had to deal with Epimenides I would have wakened him. Adolphe rubbed his eyes, and could not recognise me.

"Come, come," I said, "it is really I; wake up and get dressed. I want to go to Talma."

"To Talma! What for? You don't mean to say you have a tragedy to read to him?"

"No, but I want to ask him for some tickets."

"What is he playing in now?"

I fell from my state of exaltation. Adolphe, living in Paris, did not know what Talma was acting! What was the idiot thinking of? No wonder he had not yet got my Pélerinage d'Ermenonville placed, or any of our plays acted. Adolphe got out of bed and dressed himself. At eleven o'clock we were ringing the bell of a house in the rue de la Tour-des-Dames. Mademoiselle Mars, Mademoiselle Duchesnois and Talma all lived side by side. Talma was dressing, but Adolphe was an habitué of the house: they let him in. I followed Adolphe, as Hernani followed Charles-Quint; I, naturally, behind Adolphe.

Talma was extremely short-sighted: I do not know whether[Pg 165] he saw me or not. He was washing his chest: his head was almost shaved—this astonished me greatly, for I had heard it said, many times, that in Hamlet, when the father's ghost appears, Talma's hairs could be seen standing on end. I must confess that Talma's appearance, under the above conditions, was far from being artistic. But when he turned round, with his neck bare, the lower part of his body wrapped in a large sort of white linen wrapper, and he took one of the corners of this mantle and drew it over his shoulder, half veiling his breast, there was something so regal in the action that it made me tremble.

De Leuven laid bare our request. Talma took up a kind of antique stiletto, at the end of which was a pen, and signed an order for two seats for us. It was a member's order. Besides the actors' order which were received on days when they were acting, members had the right to give two free tickets every day.

Then Adolphe explained who I was. In those days I was just the son of General Alexandre Dumas: but that was something. Besides, Talma remembered having met my father at Saint-Georges's. He held out his hand to me, and I longed to kiss it. Full of theatrical ambitions as I was, Talma was like a god to me—an unknown god, it is true, as unknown as Jupiter was to Semele; but a god who appeared to me in the morning, and who would reveal himself to me at night. Our hands clasped. Oh, Talma! if only you had been twenty years younger or I twenty years older! But at that time the whole honour was mine.

Talma! I knew the past: you could not guess the future. If anyone had told you, Talma, that the hand you had just held was to write sixty to eighty dramas, in each of which you—who were looking out for rôles all your life—would have found one which you would have acted to perfection, you would not have allowed the poor youth to go away thus, blushing at having seen you, proud at having shaken hands with you! But how could you see anything in me, Talma, since I had not discovered it myself?

[Pg 166]


The theatre ticket—The Café du Roi—Auguste Lafarge—Théaulon—Rochefort—Ferdinand Langlé—People who dine and people who don't—Canaris—First sight of Talma—Appreciation of Mars and Rachel—Why Talma has no successor—Sylla and the Censorship—Talma's box—A cab-drive after midnight—The return to Crespy—M. Lefèvre explains that a machine, in order to work well, needs all its wheels—I hand in my resignation as his third clerk

I went back to de Leuven's house hugging the order in my pocket. With the possibility of procuring another by the means of it, I would not have parted with it for five hundred francs! I was filled with pride at the thought of going to the Théâtre-Français, with an order signed "Talma." We lunched.

De Leuven raised great difficulties about going to the play: he had an engagement with Scribe, a meeting with Théaulon, an appointment with I don't know how many other celebrities besides, that night. His father shrugged his shoulders, and de Leuven raised no more objections. It was arranged that we were to go to the Français together; but, as I wanted to see the Musée, the Jardin des Plantes and the Luxembourg, he arranged to meet me at the Café du Roi at seven o'clock. The Café du Roi formed the corner of the rue de Richelieu and the rue Saint-Honoré. We shall have more to say about it later.

After luncheon, I set out by myself and went to the Musée. At six o'clock, I had tramped the tourists' round—that is to say, having entered the Tuileries by the gate of the rue de la Paix, I had passed under the Arch, visited the Musée, gone along the Quays, examined Nôtre-Dame inside and out, made Martin climb up his tree and, under cover of being a stranger—[Pg 167]a title which only a blind man or an evilly disposed person could dispute—I had forced my way through the gates of the Luxembourg.

I returned at six o'clock to the hotel, where I found Paillet. Upon my word, we dined well! Our host was a conscientious man, and he gave us soup, a filet with olives, roast beef and potatoes à la maître d'hôtel, the worth of two hares and four partridges, which we absorbed under other guises. I urged Paillet in vain to come to the Français with us: Paillet was formerly a second clerk in Paris; he had friends, or perhaps it would be more truthful to say girl-friends, of other days, to see again; he refused the offer, pressing though it was, and I set off for the Café du Roi, not comprehending how there could be anything more vitally important than to see Talma, or, if one had already seen him, than to see him again. I reached our rendezvous some minutes before Adolphe. Paillet had foreseen that I should probably have some indispensable expenses: he had generously drawn three francs from the common purse and given them to me. After this, a total of twenty francs fifty centimes remained to us.

I went into the Café du Roi and sat down at a table; I calculated what would cost me the least; I concluded that a small glass of brandy would give me the right to wait, and at least to look as though I was a habitué of the establishment; so I ordered one. Now, I had never managed to swallow one drop of that abominable liquor; however, although obliged to order it, I was not obliged to drink it. I had scarcely taken my seat when I saw one of the regular customers (I judged he was a regular attender, because I saw that he had nothing at all on the table before him) get up and come towards me. I uttered a cry of surprise and joy: it was Lafarge. Lafarge had gone a step lower towards poverty: he wore a coat shiny at the elbows, trousers shiny at the knees.

"Why, surely I am not mistaken, it is really you?" he said.

"It is really I. Sit down here."

"With pleasure. Ask for another glass."

"For you?"

[Pg 168]


"Take mine, my dear fellow. I never touch brandy."

"Then why did you ask for it?"

"Because I did not like to wait till Adolphe came in without asking for something."

"Is Adolphe coming here?"

"Yes. We are going to see Sylla together."

"What! you are going to see that filth?"

"Filth, Sylla? Why, it is an enormous success!"

"Yes, the success of a wig."

"The success of a wig?" I echoed, not understanding. "Certainly! Take away from Sylla his Napoleonic locks, and the piece would never be played through."

"But surely M. de Jouy is a great poet?"

"In the provinces he may be thought great, my dear boy; but here we are in Paris, and we see things differently."

"If he is not a great poet, he is at least a man of infinite resource." "Well, perhaps he might have been thought clever under the Empire; but you see, my boy, the wit of 1809 is not the wit of 1822."

"Still, I thought that l'Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin was written under the Restoration."

"Why, certainly; but do you think l'Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin was by M. de Jouy?"

"Most certainly, since it appears under his name."

"Oh, what sweet simplicity!"

"Then who wrote it?"

"Why, Merle."

"Who is Merle?"

"Hush! he is that gentleman you see over there in a big coat and a wide-brimmed hat. He has ten times more wit than M. de Jouy."

"But if he has ten times M. de Jouy's wit, how is it he has not a quarter of his reputation?"

"Oh, because, you see, my boy, reputations, as you will find later, are not made either by wit or talents, but by coteries....[Pg 169] Just ask for the sugar; brandy makes me ill if I drink it neat. Waiter! some sugar."

"But if brandy upsets you, why drink it?"

"What else can one do?" said Lafarge; "if one passes one's life in cafés, one must drink something."

"So you spend all your time in cafés?"

"Nearly all: I can work best so."

"In the midst of all the noise and talking?"

"I am used to that: Théaulon works thus, Francis works thus, Rochefort works thus, we all work thus. Don't we, Théaulon?"

A man of thirty to thirty-five, who had been writing rapidly, on quarto paper, something that looked like dialogue, at this interpellation lifted up his pale face—red about the cheek bones—and looked at us kindly.

"Yes," he said; "what is it? Ah! it is you, Lafarge? Good-evening." And he resumed his work.

"Is that Théaulon?" I asked.

"Yes; there's a man of ready wit for you! only he squanders and abuses his ready wit. Do you know what he is doing now?" "No."

"He is writing a comedy, in five acts, in verse."

"What! he can write poetry here, in a café?"

"In the first place, dear boy, this is not a café: it is a kind of literary club; everybody you see here is either an author or a journalist."

"Well," I said to Lafarge, "I have never seen a café where they consumed so little and wrote so much."

"The deuce, you are framing already. You almost made a witticism just then, do you know?"

"Well, then, in return for the witticism I have almost perpetrated, tell me who some of these gentlemen are."

"My dear fellow, it would be useless: you need to be a Parisian to be acquainted with reputations which are wholly Parisian."

"But I assure you, my dear Auguste, I am not so provincial in such matters as you think I am."

[Pg 170]

"Have you heard of Rochefort?"

"Yes. Has he not composed some very pretty songs and two or three successful vaudevilles?"

"Exactly so. Very well! he is that tall thin man, who is playing dominoes."

"Both players are of equal thinness."

"Ah! quite true!... He is the one whose face always plays and never wins." A way Rochefort had, gave rise to this joke on the part of his friend Lafarge. I say gave rise to, and not excused.

"And who is his partner?"

"That is Ferdinand Langlé."

"Ah! little Fleuriet's lover?"

"Little Fleuriet's lover!... Hang it, you talk like a Parisian.... Who has primed you so well?"

"Hang it all! Adolphe ... he does not appear to hurry himself."

"You are in a hurry, then?"

"Of course I am, and naturally enough: I have never seen Talma."

"Ah, well, dear boy, hurry up and see him."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because he is wearing out horribly."

"What do you mean by wearing out?"

"I mean he is getting old and growing rusty."

"I see! But the papers say he has never been fresher in talent or more beautiful in facial expression."

"Do you believe what the papers say?"


"You may be a journalist yourself one day, my boy."

"Well, if I am?"

"Why, then, when you are, you will see how things come about."

"And ...?"

"And you will not believe what the papers say—that is all!" At this moment the door opened, and Adolphe poked his head in.

[Pg 171]

"Be quick," he said; "if we do not hurry, we shall find the curtain raised."

"Oh! it is you at last!"

I darted towards Adolphe.

"You have forgotten to pay," said Lafarge.

"Oh! so I have.... Waiter, how much?"

"One small glass, four sous; six sous of sugar, ten."

I drew ten sous from my pocket and flung them on the table, and then, the lighter by fifty centimes, I rushed out of the café.

"You were with Lafarge?" said Adolphe.

"Yes.... What is wrong with him?"

"What do you mean by what is wrong with him?"

"He told me that M. de Jouy was an idiot, and Talma a Cassandra."

"Poor Lafarge!" said Adolphe; "perhaps he had not dined."

"Not dined! Is he reduced so low as that?"

"Pretty nearly."

"Ah!" I said, "that explains many things!... MM. de Jouy and Talma dine every day, and poor Lafarge cannot forgive them for it."

Alas! I have since seen critics, besides Lafarge, who could not forgive those who dined.

I had dined so well that I had quite as much of the spirit of indulgence in my stomach as curiosity in my mind.

We went into the theatre. The hall was crowded, although it was about the eighth performance of the play. We had terrible difficulty in obtaining seats: our places were unreserved. Adolphe generously gave forty sous to the woman who showed people to their seats, and she wriggled a way in so well for us that she found us a corner in the centre of the orchestra, into which we slipped like a couple of wedges, which we must have resembled in shape and appearance. We were only just in time, as Adolphe had said. Scarcely were we seated before the curtain went up.

[Pg 172]

It is odd, is it not, that I should be talking of Sylla to the public of 1851? "What was Sylla?" a whole generation will exclaim. O Hugo! how true are your lines upon Canaris! They come back to me now, and, in spite of my will, flow from my pen:—

"Canaris! Canaris! nous t'avons oublie!
Lorsque sur un héros le temps c'est replie,
Quand ce sublime acteur a fait pleurer ou lire,
Et qu'il a dit le mot que Dieu lui donne à dire;
Quand, venus au hasard des revolutions,
Les grands hommes out fait leurs grandes actions,
Qu'ils ont jeté leur lustre étincelant ou sombre,
Et qu'ils sont, pas à pas, redescendus dans l'ombre;
Leur nom s'éteint aussi! Tout est vain, tout est vain!
Et jusqu'à ce qu'un jour le poëte divin,
Qui peut créer un monde avec une parole,
Les prenne et leur rallume au front une auréole,
Nul ne se souvient d'eux, et la foule aux cent voix,
Qui, rien qu'en les voyant, hurlait d'aise autrefois,
Hélas! si par hasard devant elle on les nomme,
Interroge et s'étonne, et dit:'Quel est cet homme?'"

No! it is true M. de Jouy was not a hero, although he had fought bravely in India, nor a great man, although he had composed l'Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin and Sylla; but M. de Jouy was a man of parts, or rather he possessed talent.

This was my conviction then. Thirty years have rolled by since the evening on which I first saw Talma appear on the stage. I have just re-read Sylla and it is my opinion to-day. No doubt M. de Jouy had cleverly turned to account both the historical and the physical likeness. The abdication of Sylla called to mind the emperor's abdication; Talma's head the cast of Napoleon's. No doubt this was the reason why the work met with such an enthusiastic reception, and ran for a hundred times. But there was something else besides the actor's looks and the allusions in the tragedy; there were fine lines, good situations, a dénoûment daring in its simplicity. I am well aware that very often the fine lines of one period[Pg 173] are not the fine lines of another,—at least so people hold,—but the four lines which the poet puts into the mouth of Roscius are fine lines for all time: Roscius, the Talma of those last days of Rome, who had witnessed the fall of the Roman Republic, as Talma had witnessed the fall of the French Republic:—

"Ah! puisse la nature épargner aux Romains
Ces sublimes esprits au-dessus des humains!
Trop de maux, trop de pleurs attestent le passage
De ces astres brûlants nés du sein de l'orage!"

Then, again, very fine are the lines that the proscriber, who arrests with his powerful hand the proscription, which was going to include Cæsar, addresses to Ophelia when Ophelia says to him:—

"Oserais-je, à mon tour, demander à Sylla
Quel pouvoir inconnu, quelle ombre protectrice,
Peut dérober César à sa lente justice?

Sylla. J'ai pesé comme vous ses vices, ses vertus,
Et mon œil dans César voit plus d'un Marius!
Je sais de quel espoir son jeune orgueil s'énivre;
Mais Pompée est vivant, César aussi doit vivre.
Parmi tous ces Romains à mon pouvoir soumis,
Je n'ai plus de rivaux, j'ai besoin d'ennemis,
D'ennemis fibres, fiers, dont la seule presence
Atteste mon génie ainsi que ma puissance;
L'histoire à Marius pourrait m'associer,
César aura vécu pour me justifier!"

When I saw Talma come on to the stage I uttered a cry of astonishment. Oh yes I it was indeed the impassive mask of the man I had seen pass in his carriage, his head bent low on his breast, eight days before Ligny, whom I saw return the day following Waterloo. Many have tried since, with the aid of the green uniform, the grey overcoat and the little hat, to reproduce that antique medallion, that bronze, half Greek, half Roman; but not one of them, O Talma I possessed your[Pg 174] lightning glance, with the calm and imperturbable countenance upon which neither the loss of a throne nor the death of thirty thousand men could imprint one single line of regret or trace of remorse. Those who have never seen Talma cannot imagine what he was: in him was the combination of three supreme qualities which I have never found elsewhere combined in one man—simplicity, power and poetry; it was impossible to be more magnificent, with the perfect grace of an actor; I mean that magnificence which has in it nothing personal attaching to the man, but which changes according to the characters of the heroes he is called upon to represent. It is impossible, I say, to find any actor so endowed with this type of magnificence as was Talma. Melancholy in Orestes, terrible in Néro, hideous in Gloucester, he could adapt his voice, his looks, his gestures to each character. Mademoiselle Mars was but the perfection of the graceful; Mademoiselle Rachel was but the imperfection of the beautiful; Talma was the ideally great. Actors lament that nothing of theirs survives themselves. O Talma! I was a child when on that solemn evening I saw you for the first time, as you came upon the stage and your gestures began, before that row of senators, your clients; well, of that first scene, not one of your actions is effaced from my memory, not one of your intonations is lost.... O Talma! I can see you still, when these four lines are uttered by Catiline:—

"Sur d'obscurs criminels qu'pargne ta clémence,
Je me tais; mais mon zèle eclaire ma prudence;
Le nom de Clodius sur la liste est omis,
C'est le plus dangereux de tous tes ennemis!"

I can see you still, Talma!—may your great spirit hear me and thrill with pleasure at not being forgotten!—I can see you still as with scornful smile upon your lips you slowly diminish the distance that separates you from your accuser; I can see and hear you still as you place your hand upon his shoulder, and, draped like one of the finest statues in Herculaneum or Pompeii, you utter these words to him, in the vibrating[Pg 175] voice which could penetrate to the very depths of one's being:—

"Je n'examine pas si ta haine enhardie
Poursuit dans Clodius l'époux de Valérie;
Et si Catiline, par cet avis fatal,
Pretend servir ma cause ou punir un rival."

O Talma! your incisive and sonorous intonation took root in the hearts of all who heard you. It was indeed a fearfully ungrateful and barren soil which at that unpoetical period of the Empire was left you to cultivate, for, had you been disheartened by its sterility, there would have been nothing great, or fine, or wide-spreading, during all those thirty years in which you wore the Roman sandal or the Greek. Is it that the spirit of genius, with all its absorbing power, is mortal like that of the upas tree or the manchineel?

I should like to continue speaking of Sylla to the end of the play in order to render tribute to the prodigious talent Talma possessed, and to follow him in the twofold development of his creation of the rôle of Sylla and the details of that rôle. But what would be the good? Who is interested in these things nowadays? Who amuses himself by recalling thirty years after its extinction the intonation of an actor as he declaimed line or hemistich or word? What does it matter to M. Guizard, to M. Léon Faucher, to the President of the Republic, in what manner Talma replied to Lænas, when he was sent by the Roman populace to learn from Sylla the number of the condemned, and asked him—

"Combien en proscris-tu, Sylla?"

What matters it to those gentlemen to know how Talma uttered his

"Je ne sais pas!"

At the most, they can only remember the cadence of voice with which General Cavaignac pronounced those four words when he was asked how many people he had transported[Pg 176] untried out of France. And let us remember that it is now but two years since the Dictator of 1848 uttered these four words, which richly deserve to hold a place in the annals of history beside those of Sylla. But though Talma was by turns simple, great, magnificent, it was in the abdication scene that he rose to actual sublimity. It is true that the abdication of Sylla recalled that at Fontainebleau, and, we repeat, we have no doubt that the resemblance between the modern and the ancient Dictator produced an immense impression upon the vulgar public. This opinion was held by the Censorship of 1821, which cut out these lines because they were supposed to refer in turn to Bonaparte, first consul, and Napoleon, the emperor.

These to Bonaparte:—

... C'était trop pour moi des lauriers de la guerre;
Je voulais une gloire et plus rare et plus chère.
Rome, en proie aux fureurs des partis triomphants,
Mourante sous les coups de ses propres enfants,
Invoquait à la fois mon bras et mon génie:
Je me fis dictateur, je sauvai la patrie!"

These to Napoleon:—

"J'ai gouverné le monde à mes ordres soumis,
Et j'impose silence à tous mes ennemis!
Leur haine ne saurait atteindre ma mémoire,
J'ai mis entre eux et moi l'abîme de ma gloire."

When one re-reads at the end of ten, twenty, or thirty years either the lines which the Censorship forbade, or the plays it suppressed, one is completely amazed at the stupidity of Governments. As soon as a revolution has cut off the seven heads of a literary hydra, governments make all speed to collect them again and to stick them back on the trunk that feigned death whilst taking care not to lose its hold on life. As though the Censorship had ever annihilated any of the works that have been forbidden to be played! As though the Censorship had strangled Tartuffe, Mahomet, le Mariage de[Pg 177] Figaro, Charles IX., Pinto, Marion Delorme and Antony! No, when one of these virile pieces is hounded from the theatre where it has made its mark, it waits, calm and erect, until those who have proscribed it fall or pass away, and, when they are fallen or dead, when its persecutors are hurled from their thrones, or entering their tombs, the calm and immortal daughter of Genius, omnipotent and great, enters the enclosure that the mannikins have closed against her, from whence they have disappeared, and their forgotten crowns being too small for her brow become the sport of her feet.

The curtain fell in the midst of immense applause. I was stunned, dazzled, fascinated. Adolphe proposed we should go to Talma's dressing-room to thank him. I followed him through that inextricable labyrinth of corridors which wind about the back regions of the Théâtre-Français, and which to-day unfortunately are no longer unknown regions to me. No client who ever knocked at the door of the original Sylla felt his heart beat so fast and so furiously as did mine at the door of the actor who had just personated him. De Leuven pushed open the door. The great actor's dressing-room lay before us: it was full of men whom I did not know, who were all famous or about to become famous. There was Casimir Delavigne, who had just written the last scenes of l'École des Vieillards; there was Lucien Arnault, who had just had his Régulus performed; there was Soumet, still very proud of his twofold success of Saül and of Clytemnestre; there was Népomucène Lemercier, that paralysed sulky brute, whose talents were as crooked as his body, who in his healthy moments had composed Agamemnon, Pinto, and Fridegonde, and in his unhealthy hours Christophe Colomb, la Panhypocrisiade, and Cahin-Caha; there was Delrieu, who had been at work upon the revised version of his Artaxerch, since 1809; there was Viennet, whose tragedies made a sensation for fifteen or twenty years on paper, to live and agonise and die within a week, like him whose reign lasted two hours and whose torture three days; there was, finally, the hero of the hour, M. de Jouy, with his tall figure, his fine white head, his intellectual and[Pg 178] kindly eyes, and in the centre of them all—Talma in his simple white robe, just despoiled of its purple, his head from which he had just removed the crown and his two graceful white hands with which he had just broken the Dictator's palm. I stayed at the door, blushing vividly, and very humble.

"Talma," said Adolphe, "we have come to thank you." Talma looked round out of his eye-corners. He perceived me at the door.

"Ah! ah!" he said; "come in."

I took two steps towards him.

"Well, Mr. Poet," said he, "were you satisfied?"

"I am more than that, monsieur ... I am wonder-struck." "Very well, you must come and see me again, and ask for more seats."

"Alas! Monsieur Talma, I leave Paris to-morrow or the day after at latest."

"That is a pity! you might have seen me in Régulus. ... You know I have put Régulus on the bill for the day after to-morrow, Lucien?"

"Yes," Lucien replied.

"And cannot you stop till the evening of the day after to-morrow?"

"Impossible: I have to return to the provinces."

"What do you do in the provinces?"

"I dare not tell you: lama lawyer's clerk ..."

And I heaved a deep sigh.

"Bah!" said Talma, "you must not give way to despair on that account! Corneille was clerk to a procurator!... Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to a future Corneille."

I blushed to the eyes.

"Lay your hand on my forehead: it will bring me good luck," I said to Talma.

Talma laid his hand on my head.

"There—so be it," he said. "Alexandre Dumas, I baptize thee poet in the name of Shakespeare, of Corneille and of Schiller!... Go back to the provinces, go back to your[Pg 179] office, and if you really have a vocation, the angel of Poetry will know how to find you all right wherever you be, will carry you off by the hair of your head like the prophet Habakkuk and will take you where fate determines."

I took Talma's hand and tried to kiss it.

"Why, see!" he said, "the lad has enthusiasm and will make something of himself;" and he shook me cordially by the hand.

I had nothing more to wait for there. A longer stay in that dressing-room crowded with celebrities would have been both embarrassing and ridiculous: I made a sign to Adolphe, and we took our leave. I wanted to fling my arms round Adolphe's neck in the corridor.

"Yes, indeed," I said to him, "be sure I shall return to Paris. You may depend upon that!"

We went down by the little twisting staircase, which has since been condemned; we left by the black corridor; we went along the gallery then called the galerie de Nemours, and called to-day I know not what, and we came out on the place du Palais-Royal.

"There, you know your way," said Adolphe,—"the rue Croix-des-Petits Champs, the rue Coquillière, the rue des Vieux-Augustins. Good-night; I must leave you: it is late, and it is a long way from here to the rue Pigale.... By the way, remember we lunch at ten and we dine at five."

And Adolphe turned round the corner of the rue Richelieu and disappeared. It was indeed late; all lights were out, and only a few belated people were passing across the place du Palais-Royal. Although Adolphe had told it me, I did not in the least know my way, and I was extremely scared when I found myself alone. It must be confessed I felt very uneasy at being out in the streets of Paris at such a late hour; for I had heard heaps of stories of night attacks, robberies and assassinations, and, with my fifty sous in my pocket, I trembled at the thought of being plundered. A struggle went on in my mind between courage and fear. Fear won the day. I hailed a cab. The cab came up to me and I opened the door.

[Pg 180]

"Monsieur knows it is past midnight?" said the driver.

"Of course I know it," I replied; and I added to myself, "That is the very reason I am taking a cab."

"Where is the country squire going?"

"Rue des Vieux-Augustins, Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins."

"What?" said the driver.

I repeated it.

"Is monsieur quite sure he wants to go there?"

"The deuce I do!"

"In that case, off we go!"

And lashing his horses, at the same time clicking with his tongue as do all drivers, he urged them into a canter.

Twenty seconds later, he pulled up, got down from his seat, and opened the door.

"Well ...?" I asked.

"Well, my country lad, we are at your destination, rue des Vieux-Augustins, Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins"

I raised my head, and there, beyond doubt, was the house. I then understood the driver's astonishment at seeing a great bumpkin of twenty, who seemed in no way unsound of limb, wanting to take a cab from the place du Palais-Royal to go to the rue des Vieux-Augustins. But as it would have been too absurd to avow that I did not know the distance between the two places, I said in a stout voice—

"All right—what is the fare?"

"Oh, you know the fare well enough, young fellow."

"If I knew it, I should not ask you."

"It is fifty sous, then."

"Fifty sous?" I exclaimed, horrified at having incurred such useless expense.

"Certainly, young chap, that is the tariff."

"Fifty sous to come from the Palais-Royal here!"

"I warned monsieur it was past midnight."

"There you are," I said; "take your fifty sous."

"Aren't you going to give me a pourboire, young fellow?"

I made a movement to strangle the wretch; but he was[Pg 181] strong and vigorous. I reflected that perhaps he would strangle me, so I stayed my hand. I rang the bell, the door was opened, and I went inside. I felt dreadfully stricken with remorse for having squandered my money, especially when I considered that even had Paillet spent nothing on his side, we only had twenty francs fifty centimes left. Paillet had been to the Opera, and had spent eight francs ten sous. Only a dozen francs were left us.

We looked at each other with some anxiety.

"Listen," he said: "you have seen Talma, I have heard la Lampe mervilleuse; this was all you wanted to see, all I wanted to hear: if you agree, let us leave to-morrow, instead of the next day."

"That is exactly what I was going to suggest to you."

"All right; do not let us lose any time. It is now one o'clock; let us get to bed as quickly as possible and sleep until six; then let us start at seven, and sleep, if we can manage it, at Manteuil."



A quarter of an hour later, we were rivalling one another who could go to sleep the soundest.

Next day, or rather the same day, at eight o'clock, we had passed Villette; at three o'clock, we were dining at Dammartin, under the same conditions as we had lunched there; at seven, we were having our supper at Manteuil; and on Wednesday at one o'clock, loaded with two hares and six partridges,—the result of the economy we had exercised by our hunting of the previous night and day,—we entered Crespy, giving our last twenty sous to a poor beggar. Paillet and I parted at the entry to the large square. I went to Maître Lefèvre's by the little passage, and up to my room to change my things. I called Pierre, through the window, and asked him for news of M. Lefèvre. M. Lefèvre had returned in the night. I gave my game to the cook, went into the office and slipped into my place. My three office companions were all in their places. Nobody asked me a question. They thought I had just[Pg 182] returned from one of my usual excursions, only one that had lasted rather longer than usual. I enquired if M. Lefèvre had asked any questions about me. M. Lefèvre had wanted to know where I was; they had replied that they did not know, and the matter had ended there. I drew my papers from my desk and set to work. A few minutes later, M. Lefèvre appeared. He went to the head clerk, gave him some instructions, and then returned to his room, without even having seemed to notice my presence, which led me to think he had taken particular notice of my absence. Dinner-time arrived. We sat down; all went on as usual; save that, after dinner, when I was rising to go, M. Lefèvre said to me—

"Monsieur Dumas, I want a few words with you."

I knew the storm was about to burst, and I resolved to keep myself well in hand.

"Certainly, monsieur," I replied.

The head clerk and the office boy, who shared the master's table with me, discreetly withdrew. M. Lefèvre pointed to a chair opposite his own, on the other side of the fireplace. I sat down. Then M. Lefèvre lifted his head as a horse does under the martingale, a gesture which was customary with him, crossed his right leg over his left leg, held up one leg till the slipper fell, took his gold snuff-box, inhaled a pinch of snuff, drew a dignified breath, and then, in a voice all the more threatening because of its dulcet tones, he said, scratching his right foot with his left hand, his most cherished habit—

"Monsieur Dumas, have you any knowledge of mechanics?"

"Not in theory, monsieur, only in practice."

"Well, then, you will know enough to understand my illustration."

"I am listening, monsieur."

"Monsieur Dumas, in order that a machine may work properly, none of its wheels must stop."

"Of course not, monsieur."

"Very well, Monsieur Dumas; I need not say more. I am the engineer, you are one of the wheels in the machine; for two days you have stopped, and consequently for two days the[Pg 183] general action of the machine has lacked the co-operation of your individual movement."

I rose to my feet.

"Quite so, monsieur," I said.

"You will understand," added M. Lefèvre in a less dogmatic tone, "that this warning is merely provisional?"

"You are very good, monsieur, but I take it as definitive."

"Oh, then, that is better still," said M. Lefèvre. "It is now seven in the evening, night is coming on, and the weather is bad; but you may leave when you like, my dear Dumas. From the moment you cease to be third clerk here you can remain as a friend, and in that capacity the longer you stay the better I shall be pleased."

I bowed a graceful acknowledgment to M. Lefèvre and withdrew to my room. I had taken a great step, and an important career was now closed to me; henceforth my future was in Paris, and I made up my mind to move heaven and earth to leave the provinces. I spent half the night in thinking, and before I fell asleep all my plans were made.

[Pg 184]



I return to my mother's—The excuse I give concerning my return—The calf's lights—Pyramus and Cartouche—The intelligence of the fox more developed than that of the dog—Death of Cartouche—Pyramus's various gluttonous habits

I packed up my things next day and went. I was not without uneasiness with regard to the way my mother might receive me—my poor mother! her first expression at seeing me was always one of delight, but my leaving Maître Lefèvre's would trouble her. So the nearer I drew to Villers-Cotterets, the slower did my steps become. It generally took me two hours to walk the three and a half leagues between Crespy and Villers-Cotterets, for I used to run the last league; but now the reverse was the case, for the last league took me the longest of all to cover. I returned in shooting costume after my usual fashion. And my dog was hardly three hundred yards away before he smelt home, stopped an instant, lifted up his nose, and set off like an arrow. Five seconds after he had disappeared down the road, I saw my mother appear on the threshold. My courier had preceded me and announced my return. She met me with her usual smile; the whole tenderness of her heart welled up at my approach and shone in her face. I flung myself in her arms.

Oh! what a love is a mother's!—a love always good, always devoted, always faithful; a true diamond lost amongst all the false stones with which youth decks its happiness; a pure and limpid carbuncle, which shines in joy as in sorrow, by night as[Pg 185] by day! My mother's first thoughts were nought but joyful ones at seeing me again; then, at last, she asked me how it was I had returned home on Thursday instead of on Saturday, to spend Sunday with her, going back on Monday as usual.

I dared not tell her of the misfortune that had befallen me. I told her that, as business was slack at the office, I had obtained a holiday for several days, which I meant to spend with her.

"But," my mother observed, "I see you are wearing your hunting-coat and breeches."

"Yes, why not?"

"How is it you have nothing in your game-bag?"

It was not indeed customary for me to return with the game-bag empty.

"I was so anxious to see you, dear mother, that instead of shooting, I came the shortest way, by the high road."

I lied. Had I spoken the truth, I should have said, "Alas! dear mother, I was so much taken up with thinking what effect my news would have upon you that I never thought of shooting, though at other times I have forgotten everything for that passion." But had I told her that, I should have had to tell her the news, and I wanted to delay it as long as possible.

An incident freed me from embarrassment and diverted my mother's thoughts for the moment. I heard my dog howl.

I ran to the door. The next house to ours was that of a butcher, called Mauprivez. In the front of the butcher's slab there was a long cross-bar of painted wood, in which at different intervals iron hooks were fixed to hold various specimens of meat. In jumping up at a calfs lights, Pyramus had got hooked like a carp on a fish-hook, and hung suspended. That was why he howled, and, as will readily be imagined, not without cause. I seized hold of him by the body, unhooked him, and he rushed into the stable, his jaws bleeding. If I ever write the history of the dogs that have belonged to me, Pyramus shall have a prominent place by the side of Milord. I may therefore be allowed to leave in suspense the interest my return naturally created, to talk a bit about Pyramus, who, in spite of his name, which indicated that all sorts of love misfortunes were before[Pg 186] him, had never had, to my knowledge, any misadventures except gastronomic ones. Pyramus was a large chestnut-coloured dog, of very good French pedigree, who had been given me when quite a puppy, with a fox-cub of the same age, which the keeper who gave him me (it was poor Choron of la Maison-Neuve) had had suckled by the same mother. I often amused myself by watching the different instincts of these two animals develop, as they were placed opposite one another in the yard in two parallel recesses. For the first three or four months an almost brotherly intimacy reigned between Cartouche and Pyramus. I need not mention that Cartouche was the fox and Pyramus the dog. Nor need I mention that the name of Cartouche was given to the fox in allusion to his instincts of stealing and depredation. It was Cartouche who began to declare war on Pyramus, although he was the weaker looking; this declaration of war took place over some bones which were within Cartouche's boundary, but which Pyramus had surreptitiously tried to annex. The first time Pyramus attempted this piracy, Cartouche snarled; the second time, he showed his teeth; the third time, he bit. Cartouche was the more to be excused because he was always on the chain, while Pyramus had his hours of liberty. Cartouche, restrained to a very circumscribed walk, could not therefore, at full length of his chain, do unto Pyramus the evil deeds which Pyramus, abusing his liberty, was guilty of on his side. On account of this captivity, I was able to notice the superior intelligence of the fox over that of the dog. Both were gourmands in the highest degree, with this difference, that Pyramus was more of a glutton and Cartouche more of an epicure. When they both stretched to the full length of their chains, they could reach a distance of nearly four feet, from the opening of their recesses. Add ten inches for the length of Pyramus's head, four inches for Cartouche's pointed nose, and you will arrive at this result, that whilst Pyramus, at the length of his chain, could reach a bone at four feet ten inches from his recess, Cartouche could only perpetrate the same deed four feet four inches from his. Very well, if I placed a bone six feet off,—that is to say, out of the reach of both,—Pyramus had to content[Pg 187] himself with stretching his chain with the whole strength of his sturdy shoulders, but not being able to break it, he would stand with fixed bloodshot eyes, his jaws slobbering and open, attempting from time to time, with plaintive whines, to exorcise the distance, or, by desperate efforts, to break his chain. If the bone were not either taken away or given him, he would have gone mad; but he had never succeeded, by any ingenious contrivance, to snatch the prey beyond his reach. It was another matter with Cartouche. His preliminary tactics were the same as those of Pyramus, and consequently equally fruitless. But soon he began to reflect, rubbing a paw on his nose; then, all at once, as though a sudden illumination had come into his mind, he turned himself round, adding the length of his body to the length of his chain, dragged the bone into the circle of his kingdom, by the help of one of his hind paws, turned round again, seized hold of the bone, and entered into his kennel, from which it was not rejected until it was as clean and polished as ivory. Pyramus saw Cartouche perform this trick ten times; he would howl with jealousy as he listened to his comrade's teeth grinding on the bone which he was gnawing; but, I repeat, he never had the intelligence to do the same thing himself, and to use his hind paw as a hook to draw the tit-bit within his reach. Cartouche was of superior intelligence to Pyramus in a thousand other instances such as this, although his tractability was always inferior. But it is common knowledge that with animals as with human beings, the capacity for being trained is not always, nay is scarcely ever, combined with intelligence.

The reader may ask why the injustice was perpetrated of keeping Cartouche always fastened, while Pyramus was allowed his liberty at times. This is why: Pyramus was only a glutton by need, while Cartouche was destructive by instinct. One day he broke his chain, and went from our yard into the farmyard belonging to our neighbour Mauprivez. In less than ten minutes he had strangled seventeen fowls and two cocks. Nineteen cases of homicide: it was impossible to plead extenuating circumstances: he was condemned to death and executed. So Pyramus reigned sole master of the place, which,[Pg 188] to his shame be it said, he appreciated greatly. His appetite seemed to increase when he was left alone. This appetite was a defect at home; but, out shooting, it was a vice. Nearly always, the first game I killed under his nose, were it small game, such as partridge, young pheasant or quail, would be lost to me. His big jaws would open, and, with a rapid gulp, the piece of game disappeared down his throat. Very rarely did I arrive in time to perceive, by opening his jaws, the last feathers of the bird's tail disappearing in the depths of his gullet. Then a lash with my horse-whip, vigorously applied on the loins of the guilty sinner, would cure him for the remainder of the chase, and it was seldom he repeated the same fault; but, between one shoot and another, he generally had time to forget the previous punishment, and more expenditure of whipcord was needed. On two other occasions, however, the gluttony of Pyramus turned out badly for him.

One day de Leuven and I were shooting over the marshes of Pondron. It was a place where two harvests were gathered during the year. The first harvest was that of a small thicket of alderwood. The owner of the land, after having cut his branches, stripped the twigs off, sawed it and tied it in bundles. Then he became busy over his second harvest, which was that of hay. They were just reaping this crop. But, as it was luncheon-time, the reapers had rested their scythes, here and there, and were feeding by a small river wherein they could moisten their hard bread. One of them had placed his scythe against one of the heaps of cut wood, about two feet and a half high, placed in cubic metres or half-mètres. I put up a snipe; I fired and killed it, and it fell behind this pile of wood against which the scythe was propped. It was the first thing I had killed that day, consequently it happened to be the perquisite Pyramus was in the habit of appropriating. So, putting two and two together, he had scarcely seen the snipe, stopped in its flight, fall vertically behind the wood pile, before he darted over the stack so as to fall on the spot as soon as it did, without loss of time. As I knew beforehand that it was a head of game lost, I did not hurry myself to see the tail feathers of my snipe[Pg 189] in the depths of Pyramus's throat, but, to my great surprise, I saw no more of Pyramus than if he had tumbled down an invisible chasm, hewn out behind the pile of wood. When I had re-loaded my gun, I decided to fathom this mystery. Pyramus had fallen on the far side of the heap of wood, his neck on the point of the scythe; this point had penetrated to the right of the pharynx, behind the neck, and stuck out four inches in front. Poor Pyramus could not stir, and was bleeding' to death: the snipe, intact, was within six inches of his nose. Adolphe and I raised him up, so as to cause him the least possible hurt; we carried him to the river, and we bathed him in deep water; then I made him a compress with my handkerchief, folded in sixteen, which we bound round his neck with Adolphe's silk one. Then, seeing a peasant from Haramont passing, with a donkey carrying two baskets, we put Pyramus in one of the paniers and we had him carried to Haramont, whence next day I took him away in a small conveyance. Pyramus was a week between life and death. For a month he carried his head on one side, like Prince Tuffiakin. Finally, at the end of six weeks, he had regained his elasticity of movement, and appeared to have completely forgotten the terrible catastrophe. But whenever he saw a scythe, he made an immense detour to avoid coming in contact with it. Another day, he returned home, his body as full of holes as a sieve. He had been wandering about the forest alone, watching his opportunity, and he had leapt at the throat of a hare; the hare screamed out: a keeper, who was about a couple of hundred steps away, ran up; but before the keeper could clear the two hundred paces, the hare was half devoured. Now Pyramus, on seeing the approach of the keeper and on hearing his execrations, understood that something alarming would occur between himself and the man in blue clothes. He took to his heels and set off full tear. But, as Friday, of Robinson Crusoe memory remarked, "Small shot ran after me faster than you did!" the keeper's small shot travelled faster than Pyramus, and Pyramus returned home riddled in eight places.

[Pg 190]

I have already related what happened to him ten minutes after my return. A week later, he came in with a calf's lights in his mouth. A knife was quivering in his side. Behind him came one of the Mauprivez' sons.

"Ah!" he said, "isn't it enough that your beastly Pyramus carries away the contents of our shop, joint by joint, but he must needs carry away my knife too?"

Seeing Pyramus carry off the calfs lights, Mauprivez' boy had hurled at him the knife butchers generally wear at their girdles; but, as the knife went three or four inches into Pyramus's hide, Pyramus had carried off both meat and knife. Mauprivez recovered his implement; but the calfs lights were already devoured. Just when Pyramus's various misdeeds had incurred not merely our individual reprobation, but public reprobation still more, an advantageous occasion offered to get rid of him. But as that occasion was invested in my eyes with all the semblance of a miracle, I must be permitted to relate that miracle in its proper time and place, and not to anticipate it here.

Let us, for the moment, occupy ourselves over the unexpected return of the prodigal son to the maternal roof—a return from which Pyramus and Cartouche have incidentally diverted our attention.

[Pg 191]


Hope in Laffitte—A false hope—New projects—M. Lecornier—How and on what conditions I clothe myself anew—Bamps, tailor, 12 rue du Helder—Bamps at Villers-Cotterets—I visit our estate along with him—Pyramus follows a butcher lad—An Englishman who loved gluttonous dogs—I sell Pyramus—My first hundred francs—The use to which they are put—Bamps departs for Paris—Open credit

Although I had told my mother that my return was only a provisional one, to use M. Lefèvre's expression, she had very little doubt at heart that it was really final. Her doubt turned to certainty when she saw Sunday, Monday, Tuesday pass by without my speaking of returning to Crespy; but, poor mother! she never said a word to me concerning this catastrophe: it had cost her so much to part with me, that, since God had sent me back to her, she opened her maternal heart, arms and door to me. I had some hope left me: Adolphe had promised to make overtures to M. Laffitte, the banker, on my behalf; if M. Laffitte made me an opening in his office, where they worked from ten to four, there would be the whole of the evening and early morning to oneself for other work. Besides, it was time I should earn something. The most important thing was to get to Paris, to light our poor candles at that universal, vast and dazzling fireside, which was a light to the whole world. A fortnight after my return from Crespy, I received a letter from Adolphe. His request had come to nothing, for M. Laffitte's offices were over full of clerks as it was: they were talking of clearing some out. So I decided to put in action at the first opportunity a plan I had settled upon during the last sleepless night I had spent at[Pg 192] M. Lefèvre's. This project was perfectly simple and, by its very simplicity, seemed likely to succeed.

I would select, from my father's desk, a dozen letters from Marshal Jourdan, Marshal Victor, Marshal Sébastiani, from all the marshals still living, in fact, with whom my father had had dealings. I would collect a small sum of money and I would start for Paris. I would approach these old friends of my father; they would do what they could, and it would be a strange thing if four or five marshals of France, one of whom was Minister for War, could not by their combined influence find a situation at 1200 francs for the son of their old comrade-in-arms. But although this plan looked as simple and artless, at the first glance, as a pastoral by Florian, it was very difficult to put in execution. Small though the sum was, it was not an easy thing to raise it; moreover, an expenditure I had foolishly made at Crespy complicated matters.

I had become connected at Crespy with a young man who had lived in Paris: his name was Lecornier. He was brother of that gracious person to whom I gave a name in one of my preceding chapters—you will recollect it, although it was only mentioned once—the charming name of Athénaïs, or, in other words, Athena, Minerva, Pallas, although the bearer of it was quite unaware of this fact. Well, ashamed of moving in the aristocratic world of Crespy in my old-fashioned clothes of Villers-Cotterets, I had asked Lecornier, as my build was exactly his, to write to his tailor to make me a coat, a waistcoat and a pair of trousers. Lecornier wrote: I sent my twenty francs as a remittance on account, and, fifteen days later, the tailor forwarded me the goods, enclosing a bill for a hundred and fifty-five francs, from which he had deducted the twenty francs I had sent him on account. It was arranged that the rest of the bill should be liquidated at the rate of twenty francs a month. The tailor's name was Bamps, and he lived in the rue du Helder, No. 12. It will be seen, from his charges, that although Bamps lived in a fashionable quarter, he was neither a Chevreuil nor a Staub; no, he was a journeyman who charged fancy prices, who had drifted from the Latin quarter,[Pg 193] where he should always have remained. But for the very reason that his business was small, Bamps had all the more need of the profits it produced.

Although I exercised the greatest economy possible, I had not been able to put aside the promised twenty francs when the next month's payment became due. Not having them, of course I could not send them. This first infraction of our treaty made Bamps very uneasy. Nevertheless, Bamps knew that Lecornier belonged to a family well to do, although not wealthy; Lecornier kept his engagements with him with scrupulous punctuality; so he decided to wait, before giving signs of his anxiety. The second month came. With it came the same impossibility on my part, and, consequently, redoubled uneasiness on the part of Bamps. Meanwhile, I had left Crespy—under the circumstances related—and I had returned to Villers-Cotterets. Five or six days after my departure, Bamps, becoming more and more uncomfortable, had written to Lecornier. Lecornier had replied, giving him my fresh address. It therefore came about that one day—about the beginning of the third month after receiving the clothes—as I was lounging on our threshold, the town clock struck one, the diligence from Paris drew up in the square, and a traveller got down from it who asked the conductor two or three questions, took his bearings and came straight to me. I guessed half the truth. Bamps was walking with his knees out like Duguesclin, and nobody but a soldier or a tailor could walk thus. I was not mistaken: the stranger came straight to me and introduced himself; it was Bamps. It was necessary to play something like the scene between Don Juan and M. Dimanche; this was all the more difficult as I had never read Don Juan. However, instinct made up for ignorance. I gave Bamps a most cordial reception; I introduced him to my mother, to whom, fortunately, I had said a few words about this my first debt; I offered him refreshment, and I asked him to sit down, or, if he preferred so to do, to visit our estate. Under the circumstances, Bamps' choice was a foregone conclusion: he preferred to visit our estate.

[Pg 194]

Now, what was this property of which the reader has already heard me speak, but which he will assuredly have forgotten? Our estate was the house of M. Harlay on which my mother had been paying a life-annuity for something like forty years; M. Harlay had died during my stay with Maître Lefèvre; but, just as though he had made a wager, he died on the anniversary of his birth, triumphantly terminating his ninetieth year!... Unfortunately, his death had not been much advantage to us. My mother had borrowed, on house and garden, almost as much as house and garden were worth; so that we were neither richer nor poorer by this inheritance; though, as there were certain duties to pay, I may venture to state we were poorer rather than richer. But Bamps knew none of these details. I therefore offered, as I have said, to take him over our estate. He accepted. I unchained Pryamus, and we set off. After going fifty yards, Pyramus left us to follow a butcher boy who went by with a piece of mutton on his shoulder. I give this detail, although, at first glance, it may appear very trivial; for it was not without influence upon my future. For what would have happened to me and to Bamps if this butcher boy, whose name was Valtat, had not passed by, and if Pyramus had not followed him? We went on our way, without thinking of Pyramus. Man jostles up against great events, every moment of his life, without seeing them and without being conscious of them.

We soon arrived. M. Harlay's house, now our own, was situated in the place de la Fontaine, perhaps a couple of hundred steps from the house we lived in. I had taken the keys: I opened the doors, and we began by looking over the interior of the house. It was not so clean as to inspire great confidence: everything had grown old along with the worthy man who had just died in it, and who had taken great care not to undertake a single repair in it; "for," said he, "it will last as long as I shall." It had lasted as long as he had, true; but, all the same, it was time he died. If he had lingered on merely another year or two with the same intention in his head, he would have out-lasted the house. The inside of our poor[Pg 195] property, then, afforded the most melancholy sight of complete neglect and dilapidation. The floors were broken through, the wall-papers torn off, the bricks broken. Bamps shook his head, and said, in his half Alsacian and half French dialect, "Ach! My vord! my vord! it is in a fery pad stade."

Most surely would I have offered Bamps the house, in exchange for his bill, if he would have taken it. When the house had been surveyed, I said to Bamps—

"Now let us go and see the garden."

"Is de garten in zo pad a stade as de house?" he asked. "Well ... it has been rather neglected, but now it belongs to us...."

"It vill take much money to restore dis old tumbledown place," Bamps discreetly observed.

"Bah! we shall find it," I replied: "if it is not in our own pockets, it will be in someone else's."

"Goot! if you can vind it, zo much de better."

We crossed the yard and entered the garden. It was at the beginning of April; we had had two or three lovely days—days one knows so well, on which the year, like a faithful servant, seems to fold up Winter's white garment, and unfold the green robe of Spring.

Now, although the garden was as neglected as the house, it was pursuing its work of life, in opposition to the work of death going on in the house. The house grew older year by year; year by year the garden renewed its youth. It looked as though the trees had powdered themselves for a forest ball: apples and pears in white, and peaches and almonds in pink. You could not imagine anything younger, fresher or more full of life, than was this garden of death. Everything was waking up with Nature, as she herself woke up: the birds had begun to sing, and three or four butterflies, deceived by the flowers and by the first rays of sunshine, were flying about still somewhat benumbed; poor ephemera, born in the morning, but to die by night!

"Well," I asked Bamps, "what do you say to the garden?" "Oh! dat is fery bretty: it is a bity it is not in de rue de Rifoli."

[Pg 196]

"There will be more than a hundred crowns' worth of fruit in this garden, you take my word for it."

"Yess, if no pad frosts come."

O Bamps! you Jew, my friend, you tailor, my creditor, you have probably not read those fine lines of Hugo, which, by the way, were not then written:—

"Il faut que l'eau s'épuise à courir les valines;
Il faut que l'éclair brille, et brille peu d'instants;
Il faut qu'avril jaloux brûle de ses gelées
Le beau pommier trop fier de ses fleurs etoilées,
Neige odorante du printemps."

We walked round the garden; then, when I fancied satisfaction carried the day against dissatisfaction, I took Bamps back home. Dinner was waiting for us. I believe the dinner caused Bamps to go from satisfaction back to dissatisfaction.

"Ah, veil," he said to me, when he had taken his cup of coffee and his cognac, "we must now have a liddle talk about business."

"Why not, my dear Bamps? Willingly."

My mother heaved a sigh.

"Veil, then," continued Bamps, "the bill is for a huntred and vifty-vive francs."

"Towards which I have given you twenty."

"Towards vhich you haf gifen me tventy: so dere is a palance of a huntred and thirdy-vive. Towards dese huntred and thirdy-vive, you said you would gif me tventy per month. Two months haf gone py: so dat makes forty you owe me."

"Exactly forty, my dear sir—you reckon like Barême."

"Veil, I can reckon all right."

The situation was growing embarrassing. Had we opened my poor mother's banking account and scratched together every farthing, we should certainly not have been able to find the forty francs demanded. Just at that moment the door opened.

"Is M. Dumas in?" asked a hoarse, raucous voice.

[Pg 197]

"Yes, M. Dumas is here," I replied in a bad temper. "What do you want with him?"

"I don't want him."

"Who does, then?"

"An Englishman at M. Cartier's."

"An Englishman?" I repeated.

"Yes, an Englishman, who is very anxious to see you."

That was my own state of mind too! The Englishman could not be more anxious to see me than I was to get away from Bamps.

"My dear Bamps," I said to him, "wait for me; I will come back. We will settle up our account on my return."

"Be qvick back; I must depard dis efening."

"Set your mind at rest about that: I shall be back in an instant."

I took up my cap and followed the stable lad, who had told my mother, to her great surprise, that he had orders not to go back without me.

Cartier, at whose house was the Englishman who demanded to see me, was an old friend of our family, the proprietor of the Boule d'or, a hotel situated at the extreme east of the town, on the road to Soissons. The diligences stopped at his house. There was therefore nothing surprising that the Englishman who was asking for me should be staying there: what did astonish me was that this Englishman should want me. When I appeared in the kitchen, old Cartier, who was warming himself, according to his usual habit, in the chimney corner, came up to me.

"Look sharp," he said: "I believe I am going to pull off a good thing for you."

"Come now, that would be very welcome," I replied; "I was never in greater need of a lucky windfall."

"Well, follow me."

And Cartier, walking in front of me, led me to a little parlour where travellers dined. Just as we opened the door, we heard a voice saying, with a strong English accent—

[Pg 198]

"Take care, mine host: the dog does not know me, and will run out."

"Never fear, milord," replied Cartier: "I am bringing his master."

Every innkeeper considers an Englishman has the right to the title of milord; so they use the title unsparingly: true, it usually pays them to do so.

"Ah! come in, sir," said the Englishman, trying to rise, by leaning both his elbows on the arms of his chair. He could not succeed. Seeing this, I hastened to say to him—

"Pray do not disturb yourself, monsieur."

"Oh, I will not disturb myself," said the Englishman, falling back in his arm-chair with a sigh. The time he took in getting up and falling back in his chair, with the rising and falling movement suggestive of an omelette soufflée which has fallen flat, was occupied by me in quickly glancing at him and his surroundings. He was a man of between forty and forty-five years of age, of sandy complexion, with his hair clipped short and his whiskers cut en collier; he wore a blue coat with metal buttons, a chamois leather waistcoat, breeches of grey woollen material with gaiters to match, after the fashion of grooms. He was seated before the table where he had just dined. The table bore the debris of a meal sufficient for six people. He must have weighed from three hundred to three hundred and fifty pounds. Pyramus was seated on the parquetry floor, looking very melancholy; round Pyramus were placed ten or twelve shiny plates, licked clean with that thoroughness I knew he was capable of in the matter of dirty plates. On the last plate, however, were some scraps still unconsumed. These unconsumed scraps were the cause of Pyramus's depressed spirits.

"Please come and speak to me, monsieur," said the Englishman.

I drew near him. Pyramus recognised me, yawned to notify the fact, stretched himself full length on his stomach so as to get as near to me as possible, his paws stretched out on the floor, his nose laid on his paws.

[Pg 199]

"Yes, monsieur," I said to the Englishman.

"Now!" said he. Then, after a pause, he added—

"That dog of yours has taken my fancy."

"He is greatly honoured, monsieur."

"And they have told me you might perhaps agree to sell him to me, if I were to pay you a good price for him."

"I shall not need very much persuasion, monsieur; I have been trying to get rid of him, and since he pleases you ..."

"Oh yes, he pleases me."

"Well, then, take him."

"Oh, I do not want to take the dog without paying for him." Cartier nudged my elbow.

"Monsieur," I said, "I am not a dealer in dogs: he was given to me, I will give him to you."

"Well, but he has cost you his keep."

"Oh, the keep of a dog does not come to much."

"Never mind; if is but fair I should pay for his food.... How long have you had him?"

"Nearly two years."

"Then I owe you for his food for two years."

Cartier continued to nudge my elbow. And it occurred to me that the dog's keep would help admirably to pay for the master's clothes.

"Very well," said I, "we will settle it so: you shall pay me for his keep."

"Reckon it up."

"What do you think of fifty francs per year?"

"Oh! oh!"

"Is it too much?" I asked.

"On the contrary, I do not think it is enough: the dog eats a lot."

"Yes, true, monsieur; I was intending to warn you of that." "Oh, I have witnessed it; but I like animals and people who eat a lot: it shows they have a good digestion, and a good digestion tends to good humour."

"Very well, then, you shall fix your own charge."

"You said, I think, that it was to be ten napoleons?"

[Pg 200]

"No, monsieur; I said five napoleons."

Cartier nudged my elbow harder and harder.

"Ah! five napoleons?... You will not take ten?"

"No, monsieur, and only that because I happen at this moment to be in great need of five napoleons."

"Won't you take fifteen napoleons? I am sure the dog is worth fifteen napoleons."

"No, no, no, no; give me five napoleons, and he is yours."

"What do you call him?"


"Pyramus!" exclaimed the Englishman.

Pyramus did not budge.

"Oh," continued the Englishman, "what did you say you called him?"

"I said Pyramus."

"He did not stir when I called him."

"That is because he is not yet accustomed to your pronunciation."

"Oh, he will soon get used to it."

"There is no doubt of it."

"You think so?"

"I am sure of it."

"Good! I thank you, monsieur: here are the five napoleons."

I hesitated to take them; but in the English accent with which he pronounced the last words there was an intonation which so cruelly reminded me of the German accent of Bamps that I decided.

"I am much obliged to you, monsieur," I said.

"On the contrary, it is I who ought to thank you," the Englishman replied, trying to raise himself afresh—an attempt which was as abortive as the first.

I made him a sign with my hand, as I bowed; he sank back into his arm-chair, and I went out.

"Well, now, how did it come about that Pyramus fell into the hands of such a master?" I asked old Cartier.

[Pg 201]

"That scamp of a dog was born with a lucky spoon in his mouth!"

"It was the simplest thing in the world. Valtat brought me a piece of lamb; Pyramus scented the fresh meat; he followed Valtat. Valtat came here; Pyramus came here. The Englishman got out of the carriage; he saw your dog. He had been recommended to take shooting exercise: he asked me if the dog was a good one; I told him it was. He asked me who owned the dog; I told him it belonged to you. He asked me if you would consent to sell it; I told him I would send and fetch you, and then he could ask you himself. I sent for you ... you came ... there's the whole story.... Pyramus is sold and you are not ill pleased?"

"Why, certainly not! The rascal is such a thief that I should have been obliged to give him away or to break his neck.... He was ruining us!"

Cartier shrugged his shoulders, as much as to say, "That would not be a difficult task!" Then, passing to another train of ideas, he said—

"So you have returned home?"

"That is so."

"You were sick of Crespy?"

"I am sick of every place."

"What do you want to do now?"

"Why, I want to go to Paris."

"And when do you start?"

"May be sooner than you think."

"Do not go without giving me an opportunity to pay you out."

"Never fear!"

Before I went to Crespy, I had thoroughly beaten Cartier at billiards.

"Besides," I went on, "if I go, as I shall not leave in any carriage but one of yours, you can stop me on the step."

"Done!... But this time it must be a struggle to death." "To death!"

"Your five napoleons must be staked."

[Pg 202]

"You know I never play for money, and as for my five napoleons, they already have their vocation."

"Well, well, well, adieu."

"Au revoir."

And I left Cartier, with this engagement booked. We shall see where it led me.

When I re-entered the house, I found Bamps, who was beginning to grow impatient. The first coach for Paris passed through Villers-Cotterets at eight o'clock in the evening: it was now seven.

"Ah! goot!" he said, "there you are!... I did not regon I should zee you again."

"What!" I said, imitating his jargon, "you did not regon you should zee me again?"

Wondrous power of money! I was mocking Bamps, who, an hour before, had made me tremble with fear. Bamps knit his eyebrows.

"We zay, den?" he said.

"We say that I owe you twenty francs per month—that two months have gone by without payment—and that, consequently, I owe you forty francs."

"You owe me vorty vrancs."

"All right, my dear Bamps—here you are!"

And I threw two napoleons on the table, taking care to let the three others in the palm of my hand be visible. My poor mother looked at me with the most profound amazement. I reassured her with a sign. The sign allayed her fears, but not her surprise. Bamps examined the two napoleons, rubbed them to make sure they were not false, and rolled them, one after the other, into his pocket.

"You do not vant any more dings?" he asked.

"No, thank you, my dear Monsieur. Besides, I am expecting to leave here for Paris in a short time."

"You will bear in mind that I have the first claim on your custom?"

"All right, my dear Bamps, for good and all! But if [Pg 203]you mean to start at eight o'clock ...?"

"If I mean to stard—! I should just tink so!"

"Well, then, there is no time to lose."

"The Tevil!"

"You know where the coach stops?"


"Very well, bon voyage."

"Atieu! Monsir Toumas! Atieu, Matame Toumas!... Atieu! atieu!"

And Bamps, delighted, not only at having secured forty francs, but still further at being somewhat reassured about the rest of his account, set off, wafting us his parting benedictions, with all the speed his little legs could make.

My mother just waited till she had closed both doors, then she said—

"But where did you get that money, you young rogue?"

"I sold Pyramus, mother."

"For how much?"

"A hundred francs."

"So that there are sixty francs left?"

"At your service, dear mother."

"I am afraid I must take them. I have two hundred francs to pay to-morrow to the warehouseman, and I only have a hundred and fifty towards it."

"Here they are ... but on one condition."

"What is it?"

"That you let me have them back again as soon as I set off for Paris."

"With whom are you going?"

"That must be my business."

"Well, so be it.... I really begin to feel as though God were with you."

At this, we both went to bed, with that settled faith that has never deserted me. And I doubt even whether my mother's faith, at any rate at that moment, was as strong as mine.

[Pg 204]


My mother is obliged to sell her land and her house—The residue—The Piranèses—An architect at twelve hundred francs salary—I discount my first bill—Gondon—How I was nearly killed at his house—The fifty francs—Cartier—The game of billiards—How six hundred small glasses of absinthe equalled twelve journeys to Paris

The time had now come when my poor mother was obliged to take a definite step. She had borrowed so much and so often upon our thirty or forty acres let to M. Gilbert of Soucy, and upon the house which M. Harlay had at last left for us, that the value of both acres and house was nearly absorbed by mortgages. So it was decided to sell everything. The land was sold by auction, and fetched thirty-three thousand francs. The house was sold, by private contract, for twelve thousand francs to the M. Picot who had given me my first lessons in fencing. We realised forty-five thousand francs. When our debts were settled and all expenses paid, my mother had two hundred and fifty-three francs left. Lest some optimistic readers should think that this was our annual income, I hasten to say that it was capital. Need anyone ask if my poor mother was distressed at such a result? We had never really been so close to destitution. My mother fell into the depths of discouragement. Since my father's death we had been unceasingly drawing nearer and nearer to the end of all our resources. It had been a long struggle—from 1806 to 1823! It had lasted for seventeen years; but we were beaten at last. Nevertheless, I never felt gayer or more confident. I do not know why I deserve it, whether for deeds done in this world, or in other worlds[Pg 205] where I may have had previous existences, but God seems to have me under His special care, and however grave my situation He comes openly to my succour. So, my God! I proudly and yet very humbly confess Thy name before believers and before infidels, and not even from the merit of faith do I say this, but simply because it is the truth. For, hadst Thou appeared to me when I invoked Thee, O my God! and hadst Thou asked me, "Child, say boldly what it is you want," I should never have dared to ask for half the favours Thou hast granted me out of Thy infinite bounty.

Well, my mother told me that, when all our debts were paid, we only had two hundred and fifty-three francs left.

"Very well," I said to my mother; "you must give me the fifty-three francs: I will set out for Paris, and, this time, I promise to return only with good news."

"Are you aware, my dear boy," said my mother, "that you are asking me for a fifth of our capital?"

"You remember that you owe me sixty francs?"

"Yes, but recollect that when I said,'For what purpose shall I return you the sixty francs?' you replied, 'That is my business.'"

"Very well, so indeed it is my business.... Will you give me the Piranèses which are upstairs in the big portfolio?"

"What do you call the Piranèses?"

"Those large black engravings that my father brought back from Italy."

"What will you do with them?"

"I will find a home for them."

My mother shrugged her shoulders dubiously.

"Do as you like about them," she said.

There was an architect, named Oudet, amongst the staff at the workhouse, who very much wanted our Piranèses. I had always refused him them, telling him that one day I would bring him them myself. The day had come. But it was an unlucky day: Oudet had no money. This was quite conceivable. Oudet, as architect to the Castle, received only a hundred francs per month. True, I was not very exorbitant[Pg 206] in the matter of my Piranèses, which were well worth five or six hundred francs; I only asked fifty francs. Oudet offered to pay me these fifty francs in three months' time.

In three months!... How could I wait for three months?

I left Oudet in despair. I ought to say, in justice to Oudet, that he was probably in even lower straits than I was. In leaving Oudet, I ran up against another of my friends, whose name was Gondon. He was a shooting comrade. He had a property three leagues from Villers-Cotterets,—at Cœuvre, the country of the beautiful Gabrielle,—and we had very often spent whole weeks together there, shooting by day and poaching by night. It was at his place that I nearly lost my life one evening, in the most ridiculous fashion imaginable. It was the evening before the opening of the shooting season. Five or six of us shooters had come from Villers-Cotterets, and we were putting up at Gondon's, in order to be up early for a start at daybreak. Now, as we had neither rooms nor beds enough for everybody, the sitting-room had been transformed into a dormitory, in the four corners of which four beds were set up—that is to say, four mattresses were laid down. When the candles were extinguished, my three companions took it into their heads to start a bolster fight. As, for some reason or another, I did not feel inclined for the sport, I announced my intention of remaining neutral. The result of this compact was that after a quarter of an hour's fight between Austrians, Russians and Prussians, the Austrians, Russians and Prussians became allies and united to fall upon me, who represented France. So they hurled themselves on my bed, and began to belabour me with the afore-mentioned bolsters, as threshers beat out corn with their flails in a barn. I drew up my sheet over my head, and waited patiently till the storm should have passed over, which could not be long first, at the rate they were beating. And as I anticipated, the storm calmed down. One thrasher retired, then another. But the third, who was my cousin, Félix Deviolaine, upheld no doubt by the tie of kinship, continued striking in spite of the retreat of the others. Suddenly he stopped, and I heard him get silently into his[Pg 207] bed. One might have thought some accident had overtaken him, which he was anxious to conceal from his comrades. In fact, the opposite end of the bolster to that which he had held in his hands, had burst by the violence of the blows, and all the feathers had escaped. This down made a mountain, just where the sheet which protected my head joined the bolster. I was totally unaware of the fact. As I did not feel any more blows, and having heard my last enemy retire to his bed, I gently put out my head and, as for the past ten minutes I had become more or less stifled, according as I tightened or loosened the sheet, I drew a full breath. I swallowed a big armful of feathers. Suffocation was instantaneous, almost complete. I uttered an inarticulate cry, and feeling myself literally being strangled, I began to roll about the room. My companions at first thought I had now taken it into my head to pirouette like a ballet dancer, just as they had fancied a fight; but they realised at last that the strangled sounds I gave forth expressed acute agony. Gondon was the first to realise that something very serious had happened to me, from some unknown cause, and that I was in extremis. Félix, who alone could have explained my gyrations and my wheezings, lay still, and pretended to be asleep. Gondon rushed into the kitchen, returned with a candle, and threw light on the scene. I must have been a very funny spectacle, and I confess, there was a general burst of laughter. But though I had been pretty gluttonous, I had not swallowed all the feathers and all the down: some stuck to my curly head, giving me a false air of resemblance to Polichinelle. This false air soon began to look like reality from the flush of redness that strangulation had sent into my face. They thought water was the best thing to give me. One of my companions, named Labarre, ran in his shirt to the pump and filled a pot with water, which he laughingly brought me. Such hilarity, when my torture had reached its height, drove me wild. I seized the pot by the handle, and chucked the contents down Labarre's back. The water was icy cold. Its temperature was little in harmony with the natural warmth of his blood, and it produced such[Pg 208] gambols and such contortions on the part of the anointed, that, in spite of my various woes, the desire to laugh was now on my side. I made a different effort from any I had tried hitherto, and I expectorated some of the feathers and down which had blocked my throat. From that moment I was safe. Nevertheless, I continued to spit feathers for a week, and I coughed for a month.

I beg my reader's pardon for this digression; but, as I had neglected to put down this important episode in my life in its chronological order, it will not be deemed extraordinary if I seize the first opportunity that presents itself to repair this omission.

Well, I met Gondon coming out of Oudet's house. He had a hundred francs in his hand.

"Oh, my dear fellow," I said, "if you are so wealthy, you can surely lend Oudet fifty francs."

"What to do?"

"To buy my Piranèses from me."

"Your Piranèses?"

"Yes, I want to go to Paris. Oudet offered to buy my Piranèses for fifty francs, and now...."

"And now he does not wish to have them?"

"On the contrary, he is dying to possess them; but he hasn't a son, and cannot pay me for three months."

"And you want fifty francs?"

"Indeed I do."

"You would like to have them?"


"Wait: perhaps we can arrange matters."

"Oh, do try, my good fellow."

"There is a very simple way: I cannot give you the fifty francs, because I have promised my tailor a hundred francs to-day; but Oudet can make a cheque out to me for fifty francs at three months, I will endorse the cheque, and I will give it to the tailor as ready money."

We went to Oudet's. Oudet made out the cheque, and I carried off the money, thanking Gondon, and above all God,[Pg 209] who out of His infinite loving kindness had provided me the means to advance a step farther on my way. I accompanied Gondon as far as his tailor's. At the tailor's door I ran up against old Cartier.

"Well, my boy," he said, "isn't there a bit left of your dog's money to pay for a small glass of wine for your old friend?"

"Certainly, if he wins it of me at billiards;" and I jingled my fifty francs.

I turned to Gondon.

"Come and see what happens," I said to him.

"You go on; I will rejoin you.... At Camberlin's, is it not?"

"At Camberlin's."

Camberlin was the traditional coffee-house; since the discovery of coffee and the invention of billiards, the Camberlins had sold coffee and kept a billiard-table, from father to son.

It was to Camberlin's my grandfather used to go every evening to take a hand at dominoes or piquet, until his little bitch Charmante came scratching at the door, with two lanterns held in her jaws. It was at Camberlin's my father and M. Deviolaine came to challenge each other's skill at play, as, on another green carpet, they challenged each other's skill at the chase. It was at Camberlin's, finally, that, thanks to my antecedents, I had been able, almost gratis, when I lost, to begin my education as an elder Philibert under three different masters, who had ended by seeing me a better player than they were. These three masters were—Cartier, against whom I was going to wipe out an old score; Camusat, Hiraux's nephew, who reclothed his uncle at la Râpée, when they turned him out of Villers-Cotterets in drawers and shirt; and a delightful youth, called Gaillard, who was a first-class player in all sorts of games, and who had, to my great satisfaction, replaced M. Miaud, my old rival, at the work-house. So I had become a much better player than Cartier; but, as he would never admit it, he invariably declined the six points I as invariably offered him before we began the match. Just as we were trying our cues on the billiard-table, Gondon entered.

[Pg 210]

"What will you take, Gondon?" Cartier asked. "Dumas is paying."

"I will take absinthe; I want to enjoy my dinner well to-day."

"Well, so will I," said Cartier. "And you?"

"I? You know I have made a vow never to take either liqueur or coffee."

To what saint and on what occasion I made this vow I cannot at all say; but I know I kept it religiously.

"Then we will say two small absinthes?" replied Cartier, continuing to joke. "That will be six sous, waiter, in exchange for your receipt." In the provinces, at any rate at Villers-Cotterets, a small glass of absinthe costs three sous.

"My dear Gondon," I said, "I cannot offer you a better prayer than my uncle's, the curé at Béthisy: 'My God, side neither with one nor with the other, and you will see a rascal receive a jolly good whacking!' Will you have your six points, father Cartier?"

"Go along with you!" Cartier exclaimed disdainfully, putting my ball on the yellow.

We played Russian fashion, a game with five balls, and thirty-six points. I made the yellow six times—three times into the right pocket and three times into the left.

"Six times six; thirty-six; first round. Your two small glasses are not worth more than their three sous, father Cartier." "Four sous, you mean to say."

"Not unless I let you win the second round."

"Come on, then!"

"Will you have the six points?"

"I will give them to you, if you like."

"Done! Mark my six points, Gondon; I have my designs on father Cartier. I mean him to contribute to my visit to Paris: the diligences start from his hotel."

At the second round, Cartier got up to twelve.

At thirty points, I had a run and made sixteen more; that made forty-six points, instead of thirty-six. Deducting the six points restored to Cartier, there still remained four I could[Pg 211] offer him in return. He refused them with his usual dignity. But Cartier was beside himself when he had lost the first game, and the wilder he was the more obstinate he became: once set going, he would have played away his land, his hotel, his saucepans, to the very chickens that were turning on his spit.

Worthy old Cartier! He is alive yet; although he is eighty-six or eighty-seven, he is still remarkably hale, and lives with his two children. I never go to Villers-Cotterets without calling on him. Last time I saw him, about a year ago, I paid him a compliment on his health.

"My goodness, my dear Cartier," I said to him, "you are like our oak trees, which, if they do not grow very tall, go deep into the soil and gain in roots what they miss in the way of leaves. You will live to the Last Judgment."

"Oh, my boy," he said, "I have been very ill,—did you not know it?"


"Three and a half years ago."

"What was the matter with you?"

"I had toothache."

"That was your own fault. What business have you with' teeth at your age?"

Well, on that day, poor old Cartier! (I am referring to the day of our game),—on that day, to use a gaming term, I took a fine tooth out of his head. We played for five hours on end, always doubling; I won six hundred small glasses of absinthe from him. We should have played longer, and you may judge what an ocean of absinthe Cartier would have owed me, if Auguste had not come to look for him.

Auguste was one of Cartier's sons: his father stood in great awe of him; he put his finger to his lips to ask me to keep mum. I was as generous as was Alexander in the matter of the family of Porus.

I let Cartier go, without demanding my winnings from him. And Gondon and I reckoned up the account. Reduced to money, the six hundred small glasses of absinthe would have produced a total of eighteen hundred sous—that is to say,[Pg 212] ninety francs. I could have paid the journey to Paris a dozen times over. My mother had good cause to say, "My boy, God is on your side."

My mother was very uneasy when I returned home; she knew what folly I was capable of, when I had got an idea into my head, and it was therefore with some anxiety that she asked me where I had been. Generally, when I had been to Camberlin's, I took a roundabout way in telling her of it. My poor mother, foreseeing what passions would one day surge in me, was afraid that gaming might be one of them. In several of her surmises she was correct; but at any rate she was completely mistaken in this one. So I told her what had just happened. How the Piranèses had brought us in fifty francs, and how M. Cartier was going to pay my fare to Paris. But these blessings from heaven brought sadness with them, for they meant our separation. I did my best to comfort her by telling her that the separation would be only for a little while, and that as soon as I had obtained a berth at fifteen hundred francs, she should leave Villers-Cotterets also and come and join me; but my mother knew that a berth at fifteen hundred francs was an Eldorado, difficult to discover.

[Pg 213]


How I obtain a recommendation to General Foy—M. Danré of Vouty advises my mother to let me go to Paris—My good-byes—Laffitte and Perregaux—The three things which Maître Mennesson asks me not to forget—The Abbé Grégoire's advice and the discussion with him—I leave Villers-Cotterets

One morning, I said to my mother—

"Have you anything to say to M. Danré? I am going to Vouty."

"What do you want of M. Danré?"

"To ask him for a letter to General Foy."

My mother raised her eyes to heaven; she questioned whence came all these ideas to me, that converged all to one end.

M. Danré was my father's old friend, who, having had his left hand mutilated when out shooting, had been brought into our house. There, the reader will remember, Doctor Lécosse had skilfully amputated his thumb, and as my mother had nursed him with the greatest care through the whole of the illness the accident brought on, he had a warm feeling in his heart towards my mother, my sister and myself. It always, therefore, gave him great pleasure to see me, whether I arrived with a message from Me. Mennesson, his lawyer, when I was with Me. Mennesson, or whether on my own account. This time it was on my own affairs. I told him the object of my visit.

When General Foy was put on the lists for election, the electors would not appoint him; but M. Danré had supported his candidature, and, thanks to M. Danré's influence in the department, General Foy had been elected. We know what a foremost place the illustrious patriot took in the Chamber.[Pg 214] General Foy was not an eloquent orator; he was far better than that: he possessed a warm heart, ready to act at the inspiration of every noble passion. Not a single great question came under his notice during all the time he was in the Chamber, that was not supported by him if it was a worthy object, or that was not opposed by him if it was unworthy; his words fell from the tribune, terrible as the return thrusts in a duel—piercing thrusts, nearly always deadly to his adversaries. But, like all men of feeling, he wore himself out in the struggle, the most constant and most maddening struggle of all: it killed him while rendering his name immortal.

In 1823, General Foy was at the height of his popularity, and from the pinnacle to which he had attained, he reminded M. Danré from time to time of his existence, which proved to the humble farmer, who, like Philoctètes, had made sovereigns, but had no desire to be one, that he was still his affectionate and grateful friend. Therefore M. Danré did not feel in any way averse to give me the letter I asked of him, and it was couched in the most favourable terms. Then, when M. Danré had written, signed and sealed the letter, he asked me about my pecuniary resources. I told him everything, even to the ingenious methods by the aid of which I had obtained what I had.

"Upon my word," he exclaimed, "I had half a mind to offer you my purse; but, really, it would smirch your record. People do not do that sort of thing to end in failure: you should succeed with that fifty francs of yours, and I do not wish to take away the credit of owing it entirely to yourself. Take courage, then, and go in peace! If you are absolutely in need of my services, write to me from Paris."

"So you feel hopeful?" I said to M. Danré.


"Are you coming to Villers-Cotterets on Thursday?"

Thursday was market day.

"Yes; why do you ask?"

"Because if you are, I would beg you to call and tell my mother you are hopeful: she has great confidence in you, and[Pg 215] as everybody seems bent on telling her I shall never do anything...."

"The fact is you have not done very much up to now!"

"Because they were determined to push me into a vocation I was not fitted for, dear Monsieur Danré; but you will see, directly they leave me alone to do what I am cut out for, I shall become a hard worker."

"Mind you do! I will reassure your mother, relying on your word."

"You may, and I will fulfil it."

The day but one after my visit, M. Danré came to Villers-Cotterets, as he had promised, and saw my mother. I was watching for his coming; I let him start the conversation and then I came in. My mother was crying, but seemed to have made up her mind. When she saw me, she held out her hand.

"You are bent on leaving me, then?" she said.

"I must, mother. But do not be uneasy; if we separate, this time it will not be for long."

"Yes, because you will fail, and return to Villers-Cotterets once more."

"No, no, mother; on the contrary, because I shall succeed, and bring you to Paris."

"And when do you mean to go?"

"Listen, mother dear: when a great resolution is taken, the sooner it is put into execution the better.... Ask M. Danré."

"Yes, ask Lazarille. I do not know what you did to M. Danré, but the fact is...."

"M. Danré is fair-minded, mother; he knows that everything must move in its own appointed surroundings if it is to become of any worth. I should make a bad lawyer, a bad solicitor, a bad sheriffs officer; I should make a shocking bad teacher I You know quite well that it took three schoolmasters to get me through the multiplication table and it was not a brilliant success. Very well! I believe I can do something better."

"What, you scamp?"

"Mother, I swear I know nothing about what I shall do,[Pg 216] but you remember what the fortune-teller whom you questioned on my behalf predicted?"

My mother sighed.

"What did she predict?" asked M. Danré.

"She said," I replied, "'I cannot tell you what your son will become, madame; I can only see him, through clouds and flashes of lightning, like a traveller who is crossing high mountains, reaching a height to which few men attain. I do not say he will command people, but I foresee he will speak to them; although I cannot indicate the precise lines of his destiny, your son belongs to that class of men whom we style RULERS.' 'My son is to become a king, then?' my mother laughingly retorted. 'No, no, but something similar, something perhaps more desirable: every king has not a crown on his head and a sceptre in his hand.' 'So much the better,' said my mother; 'I never envied the lot of Madame Bonaparte.' I was five years old, Monsieur Danré, I was present when my horoscope was made; well—I will prove the gipsy to be in the right. You know that prophecies are not always fulfilled because they must be fulfilled, but because they put a fixed idea into the minds of those about whom they are made which influences events, which modifies circumstances, which finally brings them to the end aimed at; because this end was revealed to them in advance, whilst, had it not been for the revelation, they would have passed by the end without noticing it."

"I should like to know where he got all these notions from!" my mother exclaimed.

"Oh, why, from his own thoughts," said M. Danré.

"Then is it your judgment, too, that he ought to go?"

"I advise it."

"But you know the poor lad's resources!"

"Fifty francs and his carriage fare paid."


"That will be enough, if he is to succeed, or if his destiny urges him on as he says. If he had a million, he would not obtain what he wishes to obtain so long as he had no vocation for it."

[Pg 217]

"Well, well, he had better go, if he is so set on it."

"When shall I go, mother?"

"When you like. Only, you must let us have a day together first."

"Listen, mother mine. I will stay all to-day, to-morrow and Saturday with you. On Saturday night I will leave by the ten o'clock coach: I shall reach Paris by five.... I shall have time to get to Adolphe's house before he goes out."

"Ah!" said my mother, as she heaved a sigh, "he is the one who has led you astray!"

I did not much heed the sigh, because I felt sure the engagement made would be fulfilled. I began to make my round of farewells.

I had not seen Adèle since her marriage. I would not write to her: the letter might be opened by her husband, and compromise her. I applied to Louise Brézette, our friend in common. Alas! I found the poor child in tears. Chollet, whose education in forestry was finished, had been obliged to return to his parents, and he had carried off with him all the young girl's first dreams of love: she was forlorn and inconsolable; she mourned the whole of her life for her lover, and bore the marks of her love-sickness. I quoted the example of Ariadne to her, advising her to follow it, and I believe ... I believe she followed it, and that I contributed, in some measure, towards inducing her to follow it....

Poor beloved children! true and affectionate friends of my youth! my life is now so much taken up, the hours that belong to me are so few, I am common property to such an extent, that when, by chance, I go home, or you come here, I cannot give you all the time that the claims of love and of memory demand. But when I shall have won a few of those hours of repose in search of which Théaulon spent his life, and which he never found, oh! I promise you those hours shall be given to you unquestionably, unshared by others. You have ample claims to demand the leisure of my old age, and you will make my latter days to flourish as in my springtime. For there are closed tombs there which draw me as much,[Pg 218] more even, than open houses; dead friends who talk to me more clearly than do the living.

When I left Louise, I went to Maître Mennesson; I had always kept on pretty good terms with him. But, since our separation, he had married. I think his marriage made him more sceptical than ever.

"Ah!" he said, when he caught sight of me, "so there you are!"

"Yes; I have come to bid you good-bye."

"You have decided to go, then?"

"On Saturday night."

"And how much do you take with you?"

"Fifty francs."

"My dear lad, there are people who started on less than that—M. Laffitte, for example."

"Yes, exactly so. I mean to pay him a call, and to ask him for a post in his office."

"Well, then, if you find a pin on his carpet, do not fail to pick it up and to put it on his mantelpiece."


"Because when M. Laffitte arrived in Paris, much poorer even than you, he went to see M. Perregaux, just as you are going to call on M. Laffitte; he went to ask for a place in his office, as you are going to ask for one in his. M. Perregaux had no vacancy; he dismissed M. Laffitte, who was going away, his eyes looking down sadly on the floor as father Aubry's were inclined towards the grave, when he perceived a pin, not on the earth but on the carpet. M. Laffitte was a tidy man: he picked up the pin and put it on the mantelpiece, saying, 'Pardon me, monsieur.' But M. Perregaux, be it known, was a person who noticed every little thing: he reflected that a young man who would pick up a pin from the ground must be an orderly person, and, as M. Laffitte was going away, he said to him, 'I have been thinking, monsieur, stay.' 'But you told me you had no opening in your office.' 'If there is not one, we will make one for you.' M. Perregaux did as a matter of fact make room for him—as his partner."

[Pg 219]

"That is a very delightful story, dear Monsieur Mennesson, and I thank you for your great kindness in relating it to me; but I am afraid it is no good to me; for, unluckily, I am no picker up of pins."

"Ah! that is precisely your great fault."

"Or my strongest point ... we shall see. Therefore, if you have any good advice to give me...?"

"Beware of priests, hate the Bourbons, and remember that the only state worthy of a great nation is a Republic."

"My dear Monsieur Mennesson, reversing the order of your advice, I would say: Yes, I am of your opinion as to the government which is most suited to a great nation, and on the supposition that if I am anything I am a Republican like yourself. As for the Bourbons, I neither love them nor hate them. I have heard it said that their race produced a holy king, a good one and a great one: Saint Louis, Henri IV. and Louis XIV. Only, the last reigning sovereign returned to France riding behind a Cossack; that, I believe, damaged the Bourbon cause in the eyes of France; so it comes about that if some day my voice is needed to hasten their going away, and my gun to assist their departure, those who are driving them out will find one voice and one gun the more. As to distrusting priests, I have only known but one, the Abbé Grégoire, and as he seemed to me the model of all Christian virtues, until I encounter a bad one, let me believe that all are good."

"Well, well, you will change all that."

"It is possible. Meanwhile, give me your hand: I am going to ask for his blessing."

"Go, then, and much good may it do you!"

"I believe it will."

I went to the abbé.

"Well, well," he said, "so you are going to leave us?"

It will be seen that the rumour of my departure had already spread all over the place.

"Yes, M. l'abbé, and I have come to ask you to remember me in your prayers."

[Pg 220]

"Oh! my prayers? I thought that was the thing you cared least about."

"M. l'abbé, do you remember the day I made my first communion?"

"Yes, I know, it produced a profound impression on you, but you let it stay at that, and you have never been seen at church since."

"Do you suppose the sacrament would have the same effect on me at the tenth time as on the first?"

"Ah! my God, no, certainly not. Unhappily, one gets accustomed to everything in this world."

"Very well, M. l'abbé, my other impressions would have effaced that. One must not get too used to sacred things, M. l'abbé; frequent use of them not only takes away their grandeur, but still more their efficacy. Who told you once that I should only need the consolation of the Church in great trouble, as one only requires bleeding in serious illness?" "You have a curious way of putting things...."

"Well, M. l'abbé, you said it yourself, more than once: we must treat men less according to their maladies than according to their temperaments. I am impressionability personified. I have an impulsive character, you yourself told me so. I shall commit all kinds of mistakes, all kinds of follies—never a wicked or disgraceful action. Not, indeed, because I am better than anyone else; but because bad and dishonourable actions are the result of reflection and of calculation, and when I act, it is on the spur of the moment; and this impulse is so quick, that the action springing from it is done before I have had time to consider the consequences or to calculate the results."—

"There is some truth in what you say: but come, what is the use of giving any advice to a character of your calibre?"

"Well, I did not come to ask for your advice, dear abbé; I came to beg your prayers."

"Prayers?.... You do not believe in them."

"Ah! pardon, that is another matter.... No, true, I have not always had faith in them; but do not be troubled: on the day[Pg 221] when I shall have need to believe in them, I shall believe in them. Listen: when I took my communion, had I not read in Voltaire that it was a curious sort of God that needed to be digested? and, in Pigault-Lebrun, that the Host was nothing more than a wafer double the thickness of an ordinary wafer? Well, did that prevent me feeling a trembling that shook my whole body, when the Host touched my lips? Did it prevent the tears springing into my eyes, tears of humility, tears of thankfulness, above all, tears of love towards God? Do you not believe that God prefers a generous heart which abandons itself utterly to Him when it is too full, to a niggardly heart which only yields itself drop by drop? Should not prayer come from the depths of the soul, rather than consist of the words of one's lips? Do you believe God will be angry if I forget Him during ordinary daily life, as one forgets the beating of one's heart, so long as I return to Him at every time of trouble or of joy? No M. l'abbé, no; on the contrary, I believe God loves me, and that is why I forget Him, just as one forgets a good father whom one is always sure of."

"Well," replied the abbé, "it matters little to me if you forget God; but I do not want you to doubt His existence."

"Oh! be at rest on that point: it is not the hunter who ever doubts the existence of God—no man does who has spent whole nights in the moonlit woods, who has studied Nature, from the elephant down to the mite, who has watched the setting and the rising of the sun, who has heard the songs of the birds, their evening laments and their morning hymns of praise!"

"Then all will be well.... Now, you know, there is a text in the Gospels which is short and easy to remember; make it the foundation of your actions and you need not fear failure; this text, which ought to be engraved in letters of gold over the entry to every town, over the entry to every house, over the entry to every heart, is:'Do not do unto others that ye would not have them do to you.' And when philosophers, cavillers, libertines, say to you, 'Confucius has a maxim better than that, as follows: Do unto others what you would have them do to you,' reply, 'No, it is not better!—for it is false in[Pg 222] its application; one cannot always do what one would like others to do to oneself, whilst one can always abstain from doing what one would not like them to do to oneself.' Come, kiss me and let us leave matters here.... We could not say anything better than that."

And, with these words, we embraced warmly, and I left him.

The next day but one, after having made my last visit to the cemetery,—a pious pilgrimage which my mother made almost every day, and in which, this time, I accompanied her,—we wended our way towards the Hôtel de la Boule d'or where the passing coach was to pick me up and take me away to Paris. At half-past nine we heard the sound of the wheels; my mother and I had still another half-hour together. We retired into a room where we were alone, and we wept together; but our tears were from different causes. My mother wept in doubt, I wept in hope. We could neither of us see the hand of God; but very certainly God was present and His grace was with us.

[Pg 223]


I find Adolphe again—The pastoral drama—First steps—The Duc de Bellune—General Sébastiani—His secretaries and his snuff-boxes—The fourth floor, small door to the left—The general who painted battles

I got down at No. 9 rue du Bouloy, at five in the morning. This time, I did not make the same mistake that I did when I left the Théâtre Français. I took my bearings, and, by certain landmarks, I thought I recognised the vicinity of the rue des Vieux-Augustins. I questioned the conductor, who confirmed my convictions, and handed me my small luggage. I disputed over it victoriously with several porters, and I reached the Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins towards half-past five. There I felt at home. The waiter recognised me as the traveller with the hares and the partridges, and, in the absence of the landlord, who was still asleep, he took me to the room I had occupied on my last visit. My first desire was for sleep. Owing to the emotions of parting, and owing to wakeful dreams I had had in the diligence, I arrived tired out. I told the boy to wake me at nine, if I had not given any signs of life before. I knew Adolphe's habits by now, and I knew I need not hurry over going to his house. But when the landlord himself came into my room at nine o'clock, he found me up: sleep would have none of me. It was Sunday morning. Under the Bourbons Paris was very dreary on Sundays. Strict orders forbade the opening of shops, and it was considered not only a breach of religious order, but still worse, a crime of lèse majesty to disobey these ordinances. I risked being arrested in Paris at nine in the morning nearly as much as I had risked it by being in the streets after midnight. I did not feel uneasy. Thanks to[Pg 224] my sportsman's instincts, I found the rue du Mont-Blanc; then the rue Pigale; then, finally, No. 14 in the rue Pigale.

M. de Leuven was, as usual, walking in his garden. It was early in May: he was amusing himself by giving a bit of sugar to a rose. He turned round and said—

"Ah! it is you. Why have you been so long without coming to see us?"

"Why, because I returned to Villers-Cotterets."

"And you have now come back?"

"As you see. I have come to try my fortune for the last time.... This time, I must stop in Paris, whatever happens."

"Well, as to that, you will always be welcome here, my dear boy. We have a kind of Platonic republic here, save in the matter of the community of women and the presence of poets: one mouth more or less makes no difference to our republic. There is even an empty attic to spare upstairs; you can dispute possession of it with the rats; but I believe you are capable of defending yourself. Go and arrange it all with Adolphe."

M. de Leuven wrote on foreign politics at that time, for the Courrier français. Brought up on the knees of the kings and queens of the North, speaking all the Northern languages, knowing everything it is permitted man to know, the politics of foreign courts were almost his mother tongue. He rose at five o'clock every morning, received the papers by six, and by seven or eight his work for the Courrier français was finished.

Generally, by the time his father finished his day's work, Adolphe had not begun his. He was still in bed—which I forgave him after he had assured me that he had worked at a little drama in two acts, called the Pauvre Fille, until two in the morning.

The reader will recollect Soumet's charming elegy:—

"J'ai fui le pénible sommeil,
Qu'aucun songe heureux n'accompagne;
J'ai devancé sur la montagne
Les premiers rayons du soleil.
[Pg 225]S'éveillant avec la nature,
Le jeune oiseau chantait sur l'aubépine en fleurs;
Sa mère lui portait la douce nourriture;
Mes yeux se sont mouillés de pleurs.
Oh! pourquoi n'ai-je plus de mère?
Pourquoi ne suis-je pas semblable au jeune oiseau
Dont le nid se balance aux branches de l'ormeau,
Moi, malheureux enfant trouve sur une pierre,
Devant l'église du hameau?"

Short lines were much in vogue at that period. M. Guiraud had just made with his Petits Savoyards a reputation almost equal to that M. Dennery has since made with his Grâce de Dieu, the only difference being that M. Guiraud's Savoyard only asked for a son, while M. Dennery's Savoyard asked for five. True, M. Dennery is a Jew. The first of Hugo's Odes had made their appearance; Lamartine's Méditations were out; but these were too strong and too substantial meat for the stomachs of 1823, which had been nourished on the refuse of Parny, of Bertin and of Millevoye.

Adolphe was writing his Pauvre Fille in collaboration with Ferdinand Langlé, and it was to be ready for a reading in a week's time.

"Ah me! when shall I have reached that stage?" I thought to myself. While I waited, I questioned Adolphe as to the composition of the Ministry. You ask why I wanted to know about the composition of the Ministry, and what I had to do with ministers? Why, I wanted to know what the Duc de Bellune was. As ministers are but mortals, and quickly forgotten when they are dead, it gives me pleasure to draw this minister from his grave, and to acquaint the reader with the constitution of the Ministry of 1823 at the date of my arrival in Paris.

Keeper of the Seals, Comte de Peyronnet. Foreign Minister, Vicomte de Montmorency. Minister for the Interior, Comte de Cubières. Minister for War, le Maréchal Duc de Bellune. Minister for the Navy, Marquis de Clermont-Tonnerre. Minister for Finance, Comte de Villèle. King's Chamberlain, M. de Lauriston.

[Pg 226]

The Duc de Bellune was still War Minister. That was all I wanted to know.

I have mentioned that I was interested in the Duc de Bellune, no matter what office he held. I had a letter of his in my possession, wherein he had thanked my father for a service he had rendered in Italy; he placed himself at my father's disposition, in case he should ever be able to do anything for him. The occasion offered on behalf of the son instead of the father. But as, at that period, the law of inheritance had not yet been abolished, as there was not even talk of abolishing it, I did not doubt that as I had succeeded in the direct line to Napoleon's hatred, I should succeed in direct line also to the gratitude of the Duc de Bellune. I begged a pen and ink from de Leuven; I trimmed the quill with the care the case demanded, and, in my very best handwriting, I drew up a petition asking for an interview with the Minister of War. I particularised all my claims to his favour; I emphasised them in the name of my father, which the marshal could not have forgotten; I recalled the old friendship which had united them, while leaving unmentioned the service my father had rendered him, of which the marshal's letter (he was then a major or a colonel) gave proof. Then, easy about my future, I returned to literature.

Adolphe sensibly pointed out to me that, sure though I felt of the protection of Marshal Victor, it might still be as well to throw out my line in other directions, in the unlikely, but still possible, case of my being deceived.

I told Adolphe that, if Marshal Victor failed me, there still remained Marshal Jourdan and Marshal Sébastiani.

It was quite out of the question that these would not move heaven and earth for me. I had three or four letters from Jourdan to my father, which gave token of a friendship equal to that of Damon and Pythias. I had only one letter from Marshal Sébastiani; but this letter proved that when at loggerheads with Bonaparte during the Egyptian campaign, it was through the intercession of my father, who was then on excellent terms with the general-in-chief, that he had obtained a commission in the expedition. Surely such services as these would[Pg 227] never be forgotten! At that time, as can be seen, I was very simple, very provincial, very confiding. I am wrong in saying "at that time"; alas! I am just the same now, perhaps more so. Nevertheless, Adolphe's suspicions disturbed me. I decided not to wait for the Duc de Bellune's answer before seeing my other patrons, and I told Adolphe I meant to buy the Almanach des 25,000 adresses in order to find out where they lived.

"Do not put yourself to that expense," said Adolphe. "I believe my father has it: I will lend it you."

The tone in which Adolphe said "Do not put yourself to that expense" annoyed me. It was as clear as day that he believed I should be making a useless expenditure in buying the Directory in question. I was angry with Adolphe for having such a low opinion of men.

To give him the lie, I went next morning to Marshal Jourdan. I announced myself as Alexandre Dumas. My success was surprising. The marshal no doubt imagined that the news he had received fifteen years ago was not true, and that my father was still alive. But when he saw me, his face changed completely: he remembered perfectly that a General Alexandre Dumas had existed in times gone by, with whom he had come in contact, but he had never heard of the existence of a son. In spite of all I could urge to establish my identity, he dismissed me, after ten minutes' interview, still a disbeliever in my existence. This good marshal was stronger than St. Thomas: he saw and did not believe.

It was a sad beginning. I recalled the way in which, advising me not to buy an Almanach des 25,000 adresses, Adolphe had said to me, "Do not put yourself to that expense." Was it possible, perchance, that Adolphe's scepticism might prove correct? These depressing cogitations passed through my mind while I was walking from the faubourg Saint-Germain to the faubourg Saint-Honoré—that is to say, from Marshal Jourdan's to Marshal Sébastiani's. I announced myself, as I had at Marshal Jourdan's; at my name the door opened. I thought, for a moment, that I had inherited Ali Baba's famous[Pg 228] "Open, sesame!" The general was in his study. I italicise general, as I was in error previously in calling the famous minister of foreign affairs to Louis-Philippe marshal:—Comte Sébastiani was only a general when I paid my visit to him. So the general was in his study: in the four comers of this study, as at the four corners of a map are the four cardinal points or four winds, were four secretaries. These four secretaries were writing at his dictation. They were three less in number than Cæsar's, but two more than Napoleon's. Each of these secretaries had on his desk, besides his pen, his paper and his penknife, a gold snuff-box which he opened and offered to the general, every time the latter had occasion, when walking round the room, to stop in front of the desk. The general would daintily insert the first finger and thumb of a hand whose whiteness and delicacy had been the envy of his grand-cousin Napoleon, take a voluptuous sniff of the Spanish powder and, like le Malade imaginaire, proceed to measure the length and the breadth of the room..

My visit was short. Whatever consideration I might have for the general, I did not feel inclined to become his snuff-box boy. I returned to my hotel in the rue des Vieux-Augustins, somewhat cast down. The first two men I had turned to had blown upon my golden dreams, and tarnished them. Besides, although a whole day had gone by, although I had given my address as accurately as possible, I had not yet received any answer from the Duc de Bellune.

I picked up my Almanack des 25,000 adresses, and began to congratulate myself on not having wasted five francs in its acquisition. I was quickly disillusioned, as will be seen; my cheerful confidence had gone; I felt that sinking of heart which ever increases in proportion as golden dreams give place to reality. I then turned over the leaves of the book purely and simply at hap-hazard, looking at it mechanically, reading without taking it in, when, all at once, I saw a name that I had often heard my mother pronounce, and, each time, in such eulogistic terms that all my spirits revived. That name was General Verdier's, who had served in Egypt, under my father.

[Pg 229]

"Come, come," I said; "the number three is a favourite with the gods; perhaps my third unknown and providential protector will do more for me than the other two—which would be no great tax, seeing the others have not done anything at all."

General Verdier lived in the faubourg Montmartre, No. 6. Ten minutes later, I was holding the following terse dialogue with the concierge of his house:—

"Does General Verdier live here, please?"

"Fourth floor, small door on the left."

I made the concierge repeat it: I believed I must have misunderstood him.

Marshal Jourdan and General Sébastiani lived in sumptuous mansions, in the faubourg Saint-Germain and the faubourg Saint-Honoré; entrance was gained to these mansions by gates like those of Gaza. Why, then, should General Verdier live in the rue du faubourg Montmartre, on the fourth floor, and why did one gain access to him through a small doorway?

The concierge repeated his words: I had not misunderstood.

"Good gracious!" I said, as I climbed the staircase; "this does not look like Marshal Jourdan's lackeys, nor Marshal Sébastiani's Swiss guards. General Verdier, fourth floor, small door on the left, surely this is a man likely to remember my father!"

I reached the fourth floor; I discovered the small door; at this door hung a humble, modest, green string. I rang with an uncontrollable fluttering at my heart. This third trial was to decide my opinion of men. Steps approached, the door was opened. A man of about sixty opened the door; he wore a cap edged with astrakan, and was clothed in a green braided jacket and trousers of white calf-skin. He held in his hand a palette full of paints, and under his thumb, which held his palette, was a paint-brush. I looked at the other doors.

"I beg your pardon, monsieur," I said; "I am afraid I have made some mistake...."

"What is your pleasure, monsieur?" asked the man with the palette.

[Pg 230]

"To present my compliments to General Verdier."

"In that case, step in: here you are."

I went in, and, when we had crossed a tiny square hall which served as an ante-chamber, I found myself in a studio.

"You will allow me to go on with my work, monsieur?" said the painter, placing himself in front of a battlepiece in the construction of which I had interrupted him.

"Certainly: but will you have the goodness, monsieur, to inform me where I shall find the general?"

The painter turned round.

"The general? What general?"

"General Verdier."

"Why, I am he."


I stared with such rude surprise at him that he began to laugh.

"It astonishes you to see me handle the brush so badly," said he, "after having heard, maybe, that I handled a sword passably? What would you have me do? I have an active hand and I must keep it always occupied somehow.... But come, as evidently, after the question you put to me just now, you have nothing to say to the painter, what do you want with the general?"

"I am the son of your old comrade-at-arms in Egypt, General Dumas."

He turned round quickly towards me, and looked at me earnestly; then, after a moment's silence, he said—

"By the powers, so you are! You are the very image of him." Tears immediately came into his eyes, and, throwing down his brush, he held out his hand to me, which I longed to kiss rather than to shake.

"Ah! You remember him, then?"

"Remember him! I should think I do: the handsomest and the bravest man in the army! You are the very spit of him, my lad: what a model he would have made any painter!"

"Yes, you are right; I remember him perfectly."

"And what brings you to Paris, my dear boy? for, if my[Pg 231] memory serves me, you lived with your mother, in some village or other."

"True, General; but my mother is getting on in years, and we are poor."

"We are both in the same boat," he said.

"So," I went on, "I have come to Paris, in the hope of obtaining a small situation, now that it is my turn to provide for her as hitherto she has provided for me."

"That is well thought of! But, my poor lad, a place is not so easy to get in these times, no matter how small, especially for the son of a Republican general. Ah! if you were the son of an émigré or of a Chouan,—if only your poor father had served in the Russian or Austrian army,—I daresay you might have had a chance."

"The deuce, General, you frighten me! And I had been counting on your protection."

"What?" he exclaimed.

I repeated my sentence word for word, but with a little less assurance.

"My protection!" He shook his head and smiled sadly.

"My poor boy," he said, "if you wish to take lessons in painting, my protection may be sufficient to provide you with them, and, even so, you will never be a great artist if you do not surpass your master. My protection! Well, well! I am grateful to you for that expression,'pon my word! for you are, most likely, the only person in the world who would ask me for such a thing to-day. You flatterer!"

"Excuse me, General, I do not rightly understand."

"Why, those rascals pensioned me off for some imaginary conspiracy with Dermoncourt! So, you see, here I am, painting pictures; and if you want to do the same, here are a palette, some brushes and a thirty-six canvas."

"Thanks, General; I have never got beyond the first stages; so you see my apprenticeship would be too long, and neither my mother nor I could wait——'

"Ah! what can I say, my lad? You know the proverb: 'The prettiest girl in the world....' Ah I pardon, pardon;[Pg 232] I find I am mistaken. I have still half my purse; I had forgotten that: it is true it is hardly worth troubling about." He opened the drawer of a small chest in which, I remember, there were two gold coins and forty francs in silver.

"There," he said, "this is the remainder of my quarter's pay."

"Thank you, General; but I am nearly as wealthy as you." It was my turn to have tears in my eyes. "Thank you, but perhaps you can advise me what further steps I can take."

"You have already taken some steps, then?"

"Yes, I set about them this morning."

"Ah! ah! And who have you seen?"

"I saw Marshal Jourdan and General Sébastiani."

"Pooh!... Well?"

"Well, General, pooh!..."

"And after that...."

"And after that, I wrote yesterday to the Minister of War."

"To Bellune?"


"And has he answered you?"

"Not yet, but I hope he will reply to me."

The general, while he filled in the face of a Cossack, made a grimace which might be summed up in the words: "If you are counting only on that...."

"I have still," I added, in response to his thought, "a letter of introduction to General Foy, deputy of my own department."

"Very well, my dear boy, as I believe that even if you have time to lose, you have no money to spare, I advise you not to wait for the minister's answer. To-morrow is Tuesday; there is a sitting of the Chamber: but present yourself early at General Foy's,—you will find him at work, for he is a hard worker, like myself; only, he does better work. Don't worry; he will receive you kindly."

"You think so?"

"I am sure of it."

"I hope so, for I have a letter."

[Pg 233]

"Yes, he will give you a kindly reception, I have no doubt, because of your letter; but above all he will receive you well for your father's sake, although he did not know him personally. Now, will you dine with me? We will talk of Egypt. It was hot there!"

"Willingly, General. At what hour do you dine?"

"At six o'clock.... Now go and take a turn on the boulevards, whilst I finish my Cossack, and return at six."

I took leave of General Verdier, and descended from the fourth floor, I must confess, with a lighter heart than I had ascended to it.

[Pg 234]


Régulus—Talma and the play—General Foy—The letter of recommendation and the interview—The Duc de Bellune's reply—I obtain a place as temporary clerk with M. le Duc d'Orléans—Journey to Villers-Cotterets to tell my mother the good news—No. 9—I gain a prize in a lottery

Men and things began to appear to me in their true light, and the world, which until now had been hidden from me in the mists of illusion, began to show itself as it really is, as God and the Devil have made it, interspersed with good and evil, spotted with dirt. I related to Adolphe everything that had occurred.

"Go on," he said; "if your story finishes as it has begun, you will accomplish much more than the writing of a comic opera: you will write a comedy."

But Adolphe's thoughts were in reality busy on my behalf. Régulus was to be played at the Théâtre-Français that night: he had asked for two orchestra stalls from Lucien Arnault, and had kept them for me; only, on that evening, he would be too busy to come with me: the Pauvre Fille claimed every minute of his time.

I was almost glad of this inability: I could thus take General Verdier to the play in return for his dinner. I found him waiting for me at his house at six o'clock; I showed him my two tickets, and laid my proposal before him.

"Well, well, well!" he said, "I cannot refuse this: I do not often allow myself the luxury of going to the play, and especially as it is Talma...."

"You know some dramatists, then?"

[Pg 235]

"Yes, I know M. Arnault."

"Very good!... And now I must confess, General, that I want to stay in Paris really to go in for literature."

"Ah! not really?"

"Really, General."

"Listen: you came to ask my advice ...?"

"Certainly I did."

"Very well, don't count too much on literature for a living; you look as though you had a good appetite; now, literature will necessitate your going hungry many a time.... However, on those days, you must look me up: the painter always shares his crusts with the poet. Ut pictura poesis! I do not need to interpret that, for I presume you know Latin."

"A little, General."

"That is much more than I do. Come, let us go and dine."

"Do we not dine at your rooms?"

"Do you imagine I am rich enough, on my half-pay, to keep up a kitchen and a household? No, no, no, indeed! I dine at the Palais-Royal for forty sous; to-day we will have an extra, and I can get it for six francs. You see you are not going to cost me much, so need not be anxious."

We betook ourselves to the Palais-Royal, where indeed we dined excellently for our six francs, or rather for General Verdier's six francs. Then we went to take our places for Régulus. My mind was still full of Sylla; I saw the gloomy Dictator enter with his flattened locks, his crowned head, his forehead furrowed with anxieties: his speech was deliberate, almost solemn; his glance—that of a lynx and a hyena—shot from under his drooping eyelids like that of a nocturnal animal which sees in the darkness.

Thus I awaited Talma.

He entered, at a rapid pace, with haughty head and terse speech, as befitted the general of a free people and a conquering nation; he entered, in short, as Régulus would have entered. No longer, the toga, no longer the purple, no longer[Pg 236] the crown: a simple tunic, bound by an iron girdle, without any other cloak than that of the soldier. Here was where Talma was admirable in his personality—always that of the hero he was called upon to represent—he reconstructed a world, he refashioned an epoch.

Yes, in Sylla he was the man of the falling republic; he was the man who, in putting aside the purple, and in restoring to Rome that temporary independence which she was soon no longer to know, said, to those who assisted at this great act of his public life:—

"J'achève un grand destin; j'achève un grand ouvrage;
Sur ce monde étonné, j'ai marqué mon passage.
Ne m'accusez jamais dans la postérité,
Romains, de vous avoir rendu la liberté!"

It was Sylla who, in Marius and with Marius, witnessed the expiration of the last breath of republican virility; it was he who saw the rise of Cæsar—that Cæsar who later spoke thus to Brutus:—

"O le pauvre insensé! qui vient, du couchant sombre,
Demander la lumière, et qui marche vers l'ombre!
Et qui se croit, rêvant les antiques vertus,
Au siècle des Camille et des Cincinnatus!
Oui, leur siècle était grand, peut-être regrettable;
Oui, la simplicity des habits, de la table;
Cette orge qui bouillait sur le plat des Toscans;
Ce peu qu'on avait d'or, qui reluisant aux camps;
Annibal, sous nos murs plantant sa javeline;
Et nos guerriers debout sur la porte Colline;
Voilà qui défendait au vice d'approcher!...
Mais le Nil dans le Tibre est venu s'épancher,
Et l'or asiatique, aux mains sacerdotales,
A remplacé l'argile étrusque des vestales;
Et le luxe, fondant sur nous comme un vautour,
Venge les nations et nous dompte à son tour.
La Rome des consuls et de la république
A brisé dès longtemps sa ceinture italique.
Rome a conquis la Grèce, et Carthage, et le Pont;
[Pg 237]Rome a conquis l'Espagne et la Gaule.—Répond,
Toi, qui ne veux pas voir, comme une mer de lave,
Monter incessamment vers nous le monde esclave:
Cette ville aux sept monts, qu'un dieu même créa,
Est-ce toujours la fille et l'Albe et de Rhéa,
La matrone sévère ou bien la courtisane?...
Ville de Mithridate et d'Ariobarzane,
Ville de Ptolémée, et ville de Juba.
Rome est un compost de tout ce qui tomba!
Rome, c'est l'univers! et sa débauche accuse
Marseille, Alexandrie, Athènes, Syracuse,
Et Rhode et Sybaris, fécondes en douleurs,
Et Tarente lascive, au front chargé de fleurs!..."

Well, it was in this first epoch, spoken of by Cæsar, when "l'orge bouillait sur le plat des Toscans," that Regulus flourished. Therefore, from his very entry, Talma appeared as the stern republican, the man vowed to great causes. Yes, yes, Talma, you were indeed, this time, the Punic warrior, the colleague of Duillius—that conqueror to whom his contemporaries, still in ignorance of the titles and the honours with which defenders of their country should be rewarded, were giving a flute player to follow him wherever he went, and a rostral column to set up in front of his house; yes, you were indeed the consul who, when he landed on African shores, had to beat down monsters before he could beat down men, and who tested the implements of war, which were destined to break down the walls of Carthage, by crushing a boa-constrictor a hundred cubits in length. You were indeed that man whose two victories spelt two hundred towns, and who refused Carthage peace: Carthage, the Queen of the Mediterranean, the Sovereign of the Ocean, who had coasted down Africa as far as the Equator, who had spread North as far as the Cassiterides, and who possessed armed ships. O Carthaginians, merchants, lawyers and senators! you were lost at last. The race of traders had to give way to the race of warriors, speculators to soldiers, Hannons to Barcas; you would have consented to all the demands of Regulus, if there had not been found in Carthage a Lacedemonian, a mercenary, a Xantippe, who declared that Carthage still possessed the means for resisting, and demanded[Pg 238] the chief command of the armies. The command was given him. He was a Greek. He lured the Romans into the plain, charged into them with his cavalry and crushed them beneath his elephants. It was at this stage of affairs, O Regulus—Talma that you made your entry into Carthage, but conquered, and a prisoner!

Lucien Arnault had certainly not extracted all the dramatic force out of this splendid republican subject that it was capable of showing: he had certainly not shown us Rome, patient and indefatigable as the ploughing oxen; he had certainly not depicted commercial Carthage, with its armies of condottieri recruited from the sturdy Ligurians, that Strabo shows us, in the mountains of Genes, breaking down the rocks and carrying enormous burdens; from those clever slingers who came from the Balearic Isles, who could stop a stag in its flight, an eagle on the wing, with their stone-throwing; from the sturdy and strong Iberians, who seemed insensible to hunger and to fatigue, when they were marching to battle with their red cloaks and their two-edged-swords; finally, from the Numidians whom we fight even to-day at Constantine and at Djidjelli, terrible cavaliers, centaurs thin and fiery like their chargers. No,—although the epoch was not remote,—the piece lacked poetry; you, my dear Lucien, simply extracted from this mass of material the devotion of a single man, and did not choose to depict a people.

Talma was superb when he was urging the Roman Senate to refuse peace, thereby condemning himself to death; Talma was magnificent in that last cry which hung for two centuries after, like a menace, over the city of Dido: "To Carthage! to Carthage!"

I returned to my quarters, this second time even more filled with admiration than on the first occasion; only, as I knew my way, I dispensed with the expense of a cab. Besides, my way was nearly the same as General Verdier's to the faubourg Montmartre; he left me at the corner of the rue Coquillière, shaking my hand and wishing me good luck.

Next day, at ten, I presented myself at General Foy's. He[Pg 239] lived at No. 64 rue du Mont-Blanc. I was shown into his study, and found him engaged upon his Histoire de la Péninsule. As I entered he was writing, standing against a table which could be lowered or raised as required. Round him, on chairs, on arm-chairs, on the floor, were scattered, in apparent confusion, speeches, proofs, maps and open books. When the general heard the door of his sanctum open he turned round. General Foy was, at that time, a man of about forty-eight or fifty years of age, thin, short rather than tall, with scanty grey hair, a projecting forehead, an aquiline nose and a bilious complexion. He carried his head high, his manner was short and his gestures commanding. I was announced.

"M. Alexandre Dumas!" he repeated after the servant; "let him come in."

I appeared before him, trembling all over.

"Are you M. Alexandre Dumas?" he asked.

"Yes, General."

"Are you the son of General Dumas who commanded the Army of the Alps?"

"Yes, General."

"I have been told that Bonaparte treated him very unjustly and that this injustice was extended to his widow."

"He left us in poverty."

"Can I do anything for you?"

"I confess, General, that you are nearly my sole hope."

"How is that?"

"Will you first make yourself acquainted with this letter from M. Danré."

"Ah! worthy Danré!... You know him?"

"He was an intimate friend of my father."

"Yes, he lived a league from Villers-Cotterets, where General Dumas died.... And what is the good fellow doing?"

"He is happy and proud to have been of some use to you in your election, General."

"Of some use? Say rather he did everything!" said he, breaking open the letter. "Do you know," he continued, as he held the letter open without reading it,—"do you know that he made[Pg 240] himself answerable on my account to the electors—body and soul, body and soul?... They did not want to appoint me! I hope his rash zeal did not cost him too much. Let me see what he says."

He began to read.

"Oh! oh! he commends you to me most pressingly; he is very fond of you, then?"

"Almost as fond as he is of his own son, General."

"I must first find out what you are fit for."

"Oh! not good for much."

"Bah! you surely know some mathematics?"

"No, General."

"You have at least some notion of algebra, of geometry, of physics?"

He stopped between each word, and at each word I blushed afresh, and the perspiration ran down my forehead in faster and faster drops. It was the first time I had been thus actually confronted with my ignorance.

"No, General," I replied, stammering; "I do not know anything of those things."

"You have perhaps studied law?"

"No, General."

"You know Latin, Greek?"

"A little Latin, no Greek."

"Can you speak any modern language?"


"You understand book-keeping?"

"Not the least in the world."

I was in agony, and he himself was visibly sorry for me.

"Oh, General!" I burst out in tones that seemed to impress him greatly, "my education is utterly defective and I am ashamed to say that I never realised it until this moment.... Oh! but I will mend matters, I give you my word; and soon, very soon, I shall be able to reply 'Yes' to all the questions to which I have just now said 'No.'"

"But have you anything to live upon in the meantime, my young friend?"

[Pg 241]

"Nothing, absolutely nothing, General!" I replied, crushed by the feeling of my powerlessness.

The general looked at me in profound pity.

"Nevertheless," he said, "I do not want to abandon you ..."

"No, General, for you will not be abandoning me only! True, I am ignorant and good for nothing; but my mother counts upon me; I have promised her I will find a place, and she ought not to be punished for my ignorance and my laziness."

"Give me your address," said the general. "I will consider what can be done for you.... Write, there, at that desk."

He held the pen out to me which he had just been using. I took it; I looked at it, still wet; then, shaking my head, I gave it back to him.

"What is the matter?"

"No, General," I said; "I cannot write with your pen: it would be a profanation."

He smiled. "What a child you are!" he said. "Look, here is a new one."

"Thanks." I wrote. The general looked on.

I had scarcely written my name before he clapped his hands together.

"We are saved!" he said.

"How is that?"

"You write a beautiful hand."

My head fell on my breast; my shame was insupportable. The only thing I possessed was a good handwriting. This diploma of incapacity well became me! A beautiful handwriting! So some day I might become a copying-clerk. That was my future! I would rather cut off my right arm. General Foy went on without paying much heed to what was passing through my mind.

"Listen," he said: "I am dining to-day at the Palais-Royal; I will mention you to the Duc d'Orléans; I will tell him he ought to take the son of a Republican general into his offices. Sit down there...."

He pointed to an empty desk.

[Pg 242]

"Draw up a petition, and write your very best."

I obeyed. When I had finished, General Foy took my petition, read it and traced a few lines in the margin. His handwriting compared unfavourably with mine and humiliated me most cruelly. Then he folded up the petition, put it in his pocket and, holding out his hand to bid me good-bye, he invited me to return and lunch with him next day. I returned to my hotel in the rue des Vieux-Augustins, and there I found a letter franked by the Minister of War. Good and evil fortune had, up to this time, treated me pretty impartially. The letter that I was about to break open should turn the scale definitely. The minister replied that, as he had no time for a personal interview, he invited me to lay before him anything I had to say in writing. Decidedly, the balance of the scale was towards ill-fortune. I replied that the audience I asked of him was but to hand him the original of a letter of thanks he had once written to my father, his general-in-chief; but that, as I might not have the honour of seeing him, I would content myself with sending him a copy of it. Poor marshal! I have seen him since: he was then as affectionate to me as he had been indifferent under the circumstances I have just related; and, nowadays, his son and his grandson are my good friends.

I went early, next morning, as I had been advised, to General Foy's, who was now my only hope. The general was at his work, as on the previous day. He received me with a smiling face, which looked very promising.

"Well," he said, "our business is settled."

I looked at him, astounded.

"How is that?" I asked.

"Yes, you are to enter the secretarial staff of the Duc d'Orléans as supernumerary, at twelve hundred francs. It is nothing very great; but mow is your chance to work."

"It is a fortune!... And when am I to begin?"

"Next Monday, if you like."

"Next Monday?"

"Yes, it is arranged with the chief clerk in the office."

"What is his name?"

[Pg 243]

"M. Oudard.... You will introduce yourself to him in my name."

"Oh, General, I can hardly believe my good fortune."

The general looked at me with an indescribably kindly expression. This reminded me that I had not even thanked him. I threw my arms round his neck and kissed him. He began to laugh.

"There is good stuff in you," he said; "but remember what you have promised me: study!"

"Oh yes, General; I am now going to live by my handwriting: but I promise you that one day I shall live by my pen."

"We shall see; take your pen and write to your mother."

"No, General, no; I wish to tell her this good news with my own lips. To-day is Tuesday; I will start to-night: I will spend Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday with her; I will come back here on the night of Sunday—and on Monday I will go to my office."

"But you will ruin yourself in carriages!"

"No; I have a free pass from the diligence proprietor."

And I related to him how old Cartier owed me a dozen fares. "Now," I asked of the general, "what message shall I take from you to M. Danré?"

"Well, tell him we had lunch together and that I am very well."

A small round table ready laid was carried in at this juncture.

"A second cover," ordered the general.

"Really, General, you make me ashamed...."

"Have you lunched?"

"No, but——"

"To table, to table!... I have to be at the Chamber by noon."

We lunched tête-à-tête. The general talked to me of my future plans; I confided all my literary plans to him. He looked at me; he listened to me with the benevolent smile of a large-hearted man; he seemed to say, "Golden dreams![Pg 244] foolish hopes! purple but fugitive clouds, which sail over the heaven of youth, may they not vanish into the azure firmament too quickly for my poor protégé!" Beloved and kindly general! loyal soul! noble heart! you are now, alas! dead, before those dreams were realised; you died without knowing they were to be realised one day,—you are dead, and gratitude and grief have inspired me, on the borders of that tomb into which you descended before your time, to write I will not say the first good lines I made,—that would perhaps be too ambitious,—but the first of my lines which are worth the trouble of being quoted. Here are those I recall; the rest I have completely forgotten:—

"Ainsi de notre vieille gloire
Chaque jour emporte un débris!
Chaque jour enrichit l'histoire
Des grands noms qui nous sont repris!
Et, chaque jour, pleurant sur la nouvelle tombe
D'un héros généreux dans sa course arrêté,
Chacun de nous se dit épouvante:
'Encore une pierre qui tombe
Du temple de la Liberté!' ..."

With one bound I covered the distance between the rue du Mont-Blanc and the rue Pigale. I longed to tell Adolphe the realisation of all my hopes. I was now, at last, sure of remaining in Paris. A most ambitious career opened out before me, limitless and vast. God, on His side, had done all that was necessary: He had left me with Aladdin's lamp in the enchanted garden. The rest depended on myself. No man had ever, I believe, seen his wishes more completely satisfied, his hopes more entirely crowned. Napoleon could not have been prouder and happier than I on the day when, having espoused Marie-Louise, he repeated three times before nightfall, "My poor uncle Louis XVI.!" Adolphe entered very heartily into my delight. M. de Leuven, to be still characteristic, quietly ridiculed my raptures. Madame de Leuven, the most perfect of women, rejoiced in advance over the joy my mother would shortly experience. All three[Pg 245] wanted to keep me to dinner with them; but I remembered that a diligence left at half-past four o'clock, and that by it I should be able to reach home by one in the morning. It was odd I should be as eager to return to Villers-Cotterets as I had been to come to Paris. True, I was not returning for long. I reached Villers-Cotterets at one o'clock. One thing marred my joy: everybody was asleep; no one was in the dark streets; I could not cry out from the door of the diligence, "Here I am! but only for three days; I am going back to Paris for good." Oh! what an incontestable reality had the fable of King Midas become to me! When I reached Cartier's house, I leapt from the coach to the ground without thinking of making use of the step. When on mother-earth I rushed off, shouting to Auguste—

"It is I, it is I, Auguste! Put my fare down to your father's account."

In five minutes I was at home. I had a special way of my own of opening the door, after my nocturnal escapades; I turned it to account, and I entered my mother's room, who had hardly been an hour in bed, crying—

"Victory, dear mother, victory!"

My poor mother sat up in bed in great agitation: such an early return and one so completely successful had never entered her head. She was obliged to believe my word when, after kissing her, she saw me dance round the room still shouting "Victory!" I told her the whole story: Jourdan and his lackeys, Sébastiani and his secretaries, Verdier and his pictures, the Duc de Bellune refusing to receive me and General Foy receiving me twice. And my mother made me repeat it over and over again; unable to believe that I, her poor child, had in three days, without support, without acquaintances, without influence, by my persistence and determination, myself changed the course of my destiny for ever.

At last I got to the end of my tale and sleep had a hearing. I went to the bed that was scarcely cold since I had last used it, and, when I woke up, I wondered if I could really have[Pg 246] been absent from Villers-Cotterets during those three days, and if it had not all been a dream. I leapt out of my bed, I dressed myself, I kissed my mother and I ran off along the road to Vouty. M. Danré ought to be the first to hear of my good fortune. This was but fair, since he had brought it about.

M. Danré learnt the news with feelings of personal pride. There is something very comforting to poor human nature when a man counts on a friend for a good action, and this friend accomplishes the deed, without ostentation, in fulfilment of his promise.

M. Danré would have liked me to have stayed there all day; but I was as slippery as an eel. I was not merely in haste that everybody should know of my happiness, but I wanted to increase this happiness twofold, by telling it myself. Dear M. Danré understood this, like the good soul he was. We lunched, and then he set me free. Without, I am thankful to say, representing the same mythological idea as Mercury, my heels, like his, were endowed with wings: in twenty or twenty-five minutes, I was back in Villers-Cotterets; but the news had spread in my absence, in spite of my celerity. Everybody already knew, on my return, that I was a supernumerary in the secretariat of the Duc d'Orléans, and everybody was waiting for me at their doors to congratulate me on my good fortune. They followed me in procession to the door of Abbé Grégoire's house. What recollections of my own have I not put in the story of my poor fellow-countrywoman Ange Pitou! I found our house full of gossips when I returned. Besides our friend Madame Darcourt, our neighbours Mesdames Lafarge, Dupré, Dupuis were holding a confabulation. I was welcomed with open arms, fêted by everybody. They had never doubted my powers; they had always said that I should become somebody; they were delighted to have prophesied an event to my poor mother which was now realised. These ladies, with the exception of Madame Darcourt, let it be noted, were those who had predicted to my mother that her darling son would always be a good-for-nothing. But Fate is the most powerful, the most inexorable of kings; it is not, then, to be wondered at that it has its[Pg 247] courtiers. We were never left alone together the whole of the day. I took advantage of the numbers in the house to go and pay a special farewell visit to my good Louise, who would fain have comforted me after Adèle's marriage, if I had been consolable, and whom I would assuredly have comforted after Chollet had gone, had not I myself left.

In the evening my mother and I at last found ourselves alone together for a little while. We took the opportunity to talk over our private affairs. I wanted my mother to sell everything that we did not need and come as soon as possible to settle with me in Paris. Twenty years of misfortunes had sown distrust in my mother's heart. In her opinion, it was far too hasty to act like this. Then, the twelve hundred francs that I looked upon as a fortune was a very small amount to live upon in Paris. Besides, I had not got the salary yet. A supernumerary is but a probationer: if at the end of one month, or two months, they thought that I was not suitable for the post, and if M. Oudard, the head of my office, should make me take a seat as Augustus had made Cinna, as M. Lefèvre had made me, and ask me, as M. Lefèvre had asked me, "Monsieur, do you understand mechanics?" we were lost; for my mother would not even have her tobacco-shop to fall back upon, which she would have left and which she could not sell merely temporarily. My mother, therefore, decided on a common-sense course, which was as follows—

I was to return to Paris, where my bed, my bedding, my sheets, my table linen, four chairs, a table, a chest of drawers and two sets of plate would be forwarded; I would hire a small room, the cheapest possible; I would stay there until my position was established; and when my place was secure, I would write to my mother. Then my mother would hesitate no longer: she would sell everything and come to join me.

The next day was a Thursday. I utilised my being at Villers-Cotterets to draw for the conscription; my years would have called me to the service of my country, had I not been the son of a widow. I took No. 9, which was no inconvenience to myself, and did not deprive another of a good[Pg 248] number I might have taken. I met Boudoux, my old friend of the marette and the pipée.

"Ah! Monsieur Dumas," he said, "as you have obtained such an excellent situation, you can surely give me a four-pound loaf."

I took him off to the baker; and instead of a four-pound loaf I paid for one of eight pounds for him.

I held my conscription ticket in my hand.

"What is that?" asked Boudoux.

"That? It is my number."

"You have taken No. 9?"

"As you see."

"Well, now, I have an idea: in return for your eight-pound loaf, Monsieur Dumas, if I were you, I would go to my aunt Chapuis, and I would put a thirty-sous piece on No. 9. Thirty sous wont ruin you, and if No. 9 turns up, it will bring you in seventy-three francs."

"Here are thirty sous, Boudoux; go and put them on in my name, and bring me back the ticket."

Boudoux went off, breaking off, with his right hand, huge chunks of the bread which he carried under his left arm. His aunt Chapuis kept both the post-office and the lottery-office.

Ten minutes later, Boudoux returned with the ticket. There was only a fragment of crust left of the eight-pound loaf, and that he finished before my eyes. It was the final day of the lottery. I should know, therefore, by Saturday morning whether I had won my seventy-three francs or lost my thirty sous.

Friday was taken up with making preparations for my Parisian housekeeping. My mother would have liked me to carry off everything in the house; but I realised that, with my twelve hundred francs per annum, the smaller the room the more economical it would be, and I stuck to the bed, the four chairs, and the chest of drawers.

One slight inconvenience remained to me. General Foy had told me that I was a supernumerary at twelve hundred francs; but these hundred francs per month which the munificence of Monseigneur the Duc d'Orléans conceded me would not be paid me until the end of the month. I had not Boudoux's[Pg 249] appetite, but I could certainly eat and eat very heartily: General Verdier had not been out in his surmise.

I had thirty-five francs left out of my fifty. My mother decided to part with another hundred francs: it was half of what she had left. It went to my heart very bitterly to take my poor mother's hundred francs, and I was just thinking of having recourse to the purse of M. Danré, when, in the midst of our discussion, which took place on Saturday morning, I heard Boudoux's voice shouting out—

"Ah! M. Dumas, now this is well worth a second eight-pound loaf."

"What is worth an eight-pound loaf?"

"No. 9 came up! If you go to aunt Chapuis's office, she will count you out your seventy-three francs."

My mother and I looked at each other. Then we looked at Boudoux.

"Are you telling me the truth, Boudoux?"

"Before God, I am, M. Dumas; that rascally No. 9 turned up: you can go and see for yourself on the list; it is the third."

There was nothing astonishing about this: had we not struck a vein of good fortune?

My mother and I went to Madame Chapuis. We were even better off than we supposed. Boudoux had calculated upon the number coming out along with others; I had put my thirty sous on the single item: the result of this difference was that my thirty sous brought me in a hundred and fifty francs, instead of seventy-three.

I have never rightly understood the reason why Madame Chapuis doubled the amount, which was paid me, I remember, in crowns of six livres, plus the necessary smaller change; but when I saw the crowns, when I was allowed to carry them off, I did not ask for further explanation. I was the possessor of the sum of a hundred and eighty-five francs! I had never had so much money in my pocket. Therefore, as all these six-livre crowns made a great chinking and took up a lot of room, my mother changed them for me into gold.

Oh! what a fine thing gold is, however much decried, when[Pg 250] it is the realisation of the dearest hopes in life! Those nine gold coins were little enough; but nevertheless, at that moment, they were of more value in my eyes than the thousands of similar pieces which have passed through my hands since; and which, after the fashion of Jupiter, I have showered upon that most costly of all mistresses men call Fancy. So I cost my mother nothing, not even for the carriage of my furniture, for which I paid the carrier in advance, bargaining with him for the sum of twenty francs to bring them to Paris, to the door of the hôtel des Vieux-Augustins, to be removed from there when I should have chosen my lodgings. They were to be delivered on the Monday night.

At last the hour of parting came. The whole town assisted at my departure. It was for all the world as though one of the navigators of the Middle Ages were leaving to discover an unknown land, and the wishes and the cheering of his compatriots were giving him a send-off across the seas.

In truth, those dear good friends realised, with their simple and kindly instinct, that I was embarking on an ocean quite as stormy and uncertain as that which, according to the blind soothsayer, surrounded the shield of Achilles.

[Pg 251]


I find lodgings—Hiraux's son—Journals and journalists in 1823—By being saved the expense of a dinner I am enabled to go to the play at the Porte-Saint-Martin—My entry into the pit—Sensation caused by my hair—I am turned out—How I am obliged to pay for three places in order to have one—A polite gentleman who reads Elzevirs

The reader will have observed that my balance increased each journey I made to Paris. It was but four months since the firm of Paillet and Company had entered the city with thirty-five francs apiece; only a week ago I had reached the barrier with fifty francs in my pocket; now, finally, I alighted at the door of the Hôtel des Vieux Augustins with one hundred and eighty-five francs.

I began to search for lodgings the same day. When I had climbed and descended a good many staircases, I stopped at a little room on a fourth floor. This room, which contained the luxury of an alcove, belonged to that immense mass of houses called the Italian quarter, and formed part of No. 1. It was papered with a yellow paper at twelve sous the piece, and looked out on the yard. It was let to me for the sum of a hundred and twenty francs per annum. It suited me in every respect, so I did not haggle. I told the porter I would take it, and I advised him that my furniture would come in on the following night. The porter asked me for the denier à Dieu. I was a complete stranger to Parisian habits and I did not know what the denier à Dieu meant. I thought it must be a commission on letting the room: I majestically took a napoleon out of my pocket, and I dropped it into the hand of the porter, who bowed down to the ground.

In his eyes I evidently passed for a prince travelling incognito.[Pg 252] To give twenty francs as denier à Dieu for a room at a hundred and twenty!... Such a thing had never been heard of. Twenty francs! it was a sixth of the rent!... So his wife instantly asked for the honour of looking after me. I granted her this favour for five francs per month—always with the same regal air.

From there, I ran to General Verdier's to get up my appetite, and I told him the good news. I had left Paris at such short notice, on the previous Monday, that I had not had time to ascend his four flights of stairs. I mounted them, this time, fruitlessly: the general had taken advantage of its being Sunday and had gone out. I followed his example: I strolled about the boulevards,—the only place where I ran no risk of being lost,—and I reached the Café de la Porte-Saint-Honoré at the end of my strolling. Suddenly, through the windows, I saw someone I knew: it was Hiraux, the son of good old Hiraux, who had so unsuccessfully endeavoured to make a musician of me. I entered the café. Hiraux had recently bought it: he was the proprietor of it.... I was in his house!... Although he was slightly older than myself, we had been very good chums in our childhood. He kept me to dinner. While waiting for dinner, he put all the journals of the establishment before me. Some of those papers have since disappeared. The chief of them at that time were: the Journal des Débats, always under the direction of the brothers Bertin, and a supporter of the Government. It reflected the views of Louis XVIII. and of M. de Villèle—namely, a moderate and conciliatory Royalism, a policy of optimism and vacillation; the system, in fact, by which, in the midst of the plots of the Carbonari and the intrigues of the Extreme Party, Louis XVIII. managed to die almost in tranquillity: if not on the throne, at any rate close by it.

The old Constitutionnel—of Saint-Albin, Jay, Tissot and Évariste Dumoulin—was suppressed one day for an article which the Censorship placed on the Index, an article which somehow had managed to get inserted without any trace of the claws and teeth of the censors. Then, with a rapidity of decision[Pg 253] which indicated the extreme devotion the Constitutionnel of every epoch has always exhibited in its own cause, it bought for a mere song the Journal du Commerce, which had four hundred subscribers; and, under the title of the Journal du Commerce appeared next morning: it need hardly be said that the good old rogue was recognised under this transparent disguise, and just about the time when I arrived in Paris, it had resumed, or was about to resume, its old title, so dear to the citizens of Paris. The Constitutionnel was very timid: it represented the Liberal opinion, and never really breathed out thunder and lightning except against the Jesuits, towards whom it had vowed the same cruel and magnificent hatred that nowadays it fulminates against demagogues.

The Drapeau blanc was edited by Martainville, a man of infinite resource, but one who could hate and was hated in return. Charged with the defence of the bridge of Pecq, as commandant of the National Guard of Saint-Germain, he was reproached with having, in 1814, delivered up this bridge to the Prussians; and he replied to the reproach, not merely by an avowal, but with bravado: not being able to deny it, he boasted about it. But as all treachery torments the heart of the man who has committed it, irrespective of what he said, so it preyed on his vital forces. M. Arnault had infuriated him by deriving his name from Martin on his father's, and Vil (vile) on his mother's side. He was courageous enough, and, ever ready to tackle an adversary, he did battle with Telleville Arnault over his Germanicus. The bullet of the poet's son merely grazed the thigh of the critic, leaving nothing worse than a slight bruise behind it. "Bah!" said Arnault's father, "he has not even felt it: a blow from a stick would have produced the same effect."

The Foudre was the admitted journal of the Marsan Party, the outspoken expression of the ultra-Royalists, who, through all the reactions that followed, leant for support on the Comte d'Artois, and who waited impatiently for that decomposition of the elements, which, at the rate things were going, could not fail to be accomplished under Louis XVIII.

The editors of the Foudre were Bérard, the two brothers[Pg 254] Dartois (who were also comic-opera writers), Théaulon and Ferdinand Langlé, Brisset and de Rancé.

At the opposite pole of Liberal opinion to the Foudre was the Miroir, a newspaper hussar, a delightful skirmisher, overflowing with wit and humour; it was controlled by all the men who were noted for their spirit of opposition to the times, and who, we hasten to say, were really opposed to it. These men were MM. de Jouy, Arnault, Jal, Coste, Castel, Moreau, etc. So the unfortunate Miroir was the object of relentless persecution at the hands of the Government, in whose eyes it was for ever flashing a broken ray of sunlight from the days of the Empire. Suppressed as the Miroir, it reappeared as the Pandore; suppressed as Pandore, it became the Opinion; suppressed finally as Opinion, it rose again under the title of the Reunion; but this was the last of its metamorphoses: Proteus was run to earth, and died in chains.

Do not let us forget the Courrier français, the sentinel of advanced opinion, almost Republican, at a time when no one dared even to pronounce the word republic. It was for the Courrier français, edited by Châtelain, one of the most honest and most enlightened patriots of that period, that, as I have already mentioned, M. de Leuven worked.

But I had really nothing to do with any of these political journals: I only read the literary news. As I had found a dinner which cost me nothing, I decided to spend the price of my dinner on a theatre ticket, a ticket for a play: I hunted through the theatre advertisements in all the newspapers, and, guided by Hiraux in the choice of the literature on which I proposed to spend my evening, I decided to go to the Porte-Saint-Martin.

The play was the Vampire. It was only the third or fourth representation of the revival of this piece. Hiraux advised me to make haste; the piece had caught on and was drawing crowds. It was played by the two actors who were popular at the Porte-Saint-Martin: Philippe and Madame Dorval. I followed Hiraux's advice; but, in spite of all the haste I made, it is a long way from the Café de la Porte-Saint-Honoré to the[Pg 255] theatre of the Porte-Saint-Martin: I found the approaches to it blocked.

I was quite fresh to Paris. I did not know all the various theatre customs. I went along by the side of an enormous queue enclosed in barriers, not daring even to ask where the entrance-money was taken. One of the habitués in the queue no doubt perceived my confusion, for he called out to me—

"Monsieur! monsieur!"

I turned round, wondering if he were addressing me.

"Yes ... you, monsieur," continued the habitué, "you with the frizzy locks ... do you want a place?"

"Do I want a place?" I repeated.

"Yes. If you put yourself at the bottom of this queue, you will never get in to-night. Five hundred people will be turned away."

This was Hebrew to me. Of his language I only gathered that five hundred folk would be turned away and that I should be one of the number.

"Come, would you really like my place?" continued the habitué.

"Have you got a place, then?"

"Can't you see for yourself?"

I could see nothing at all.

"Taken in advance, then?" I asked.

"Taken since noon."

"And a good one ...?"

"What do you mean by good?"

Now it was the habitué who did not understand.

"Well," I went on, "shall I have a good place?"

"You can sit where you like."

"What! I can sit where I like?"

"Of course."

"How much did your place cost?"

"Twenty sous."

I reflected within myself that twenty sous to sit where I liked was not dear. I drew twenty sous from my pocket and gave them to the habitué, who immediately, with an agility that[Pg 256] proved he was well accustomed to this exercise, climbed up the rails of the barrier, got over it and alighted by my side.

"Well," I said, "now where is your place?"

"Take it, ... but look sharp; for, if they push up, you will lose it."

At the same moment light broke in on my mind: "Those people, inside that barrier, have no doubt taken and paid for their places in advance, and it is in order to keep them they are penned in like that."

"Ah! good, I see!" I replied; and I strode over the barrier in my turn, the reverse way; so that, contrary to the action of my place-seller, who had come without from within, I went from the outside within. I did not understand matters at all. After a second, there was a movement forward. They were just opening the offices. I was carried forward with the crowd, and ten minutes later, I found myself in front of the grating.

"Well, monsieur, aren't you going to take your ticket?" asked my neighbour.

"My ticket? What do you mean?"

"Of course, your ticket!" answered someone just behind me. "If you aren't going to take your ticket, at least allow us to take ours."

And a light thrust showed the desire of those behind me to have their turn.

"But," I said, "surely I have bought my place ...?"

"Your place ...?"

"Yes, I gave twenty sous for it, as you saw.... Why, I gave twenty sous to that man who sold me his place!"

"Oh, his place in the queue!" exclaimed my neighbours; "but his place in the queue is not his place inside the theatre."

"He told me that, with his place, I could go where I liked."

"Of course you can go where you like; take a stage-box. You can do what you like, and you can go where you like. But tickets for the stage-boxes are at the other office."

"Forward! forward! hurry up!" exclaimed those near me.

"Gentlemen, clear the gangway, if you please," cried a voice.

[Pg 257]

"It is this gentleman, who will not take his ticket, and who prevents us from getting ours!" cried a chorus of my neighbours.

"Come, come, make up your mind."

The murmurs grew, and with them ringing in my ears, by degrees it dawned upon me what had been pretty clearly dinned into me—namely, that I had bought my place in the queue, and not my place in the theatre.

So, as people were beginning to hustle me in a threatening fashion, I drew a six-francs piece from my pocket and asked for a pit ticket. They gave me four francs six sous, and a ticket which had been white. It was time! I was immediately carried away by a wave of the crowd. I presented my once white ticket to the check-taker: they gave me in exchange a ticket that had been red. I went down a corridor to the left; I found a door on my left with the word PARTERRE written over it, and I entered. And now I understood the truth of what the habitué who had sold me his place for twenty sous had said. Although I had scarcely fifteen or twenty people in front of me in the queue, the pit was nearly full. A most compact nucleus had formed beneath the lights, and I realised then that those must be the best places.

I immediately resolved to mix with this group, which did not look to me to be too closely packed, for a good place therein. I climbed over the benches, as I had seen several other people do, and balancing myself, on the tops of their curved backs, I hastened to reach the centre.

I was becoming, or rather, it must be admitted, I was, a very ridiculous object. I wore my hair very long, and, as it was frizzy, it formed a grotesque aureole round my head. Moreover, at a period when people wore short frock-coats, hardly reaching to the knee, I wore a coat which came down to my ankles. A revolution had taken place in Paris, which had not yet had time to reach as far as Villers-Cotterets. I was in 1 the latest fashion of Villers-Cotterets, but I was in the last but one Parisian mode. Now, as nothing generally is more opposed to the latest fashion than the last mode but one, I looked excessively absurd, as I have already had the modesty to admit.[Pg 258] Of course, I appeared so in the eyes of those towards whom I advanced; for they greeted me with shouts of laughter, which I thought in very bad taste.

I have always been exceedingly polite; but at this period, coupled with the politeness I had acquired from my maternal education, there woke in me a restless, suspicious hastiness of temper which I probably inherited from my father. This hastiness made my nerves an easy prey to irritation. I took my hat in my hand—an action which revealed the utter oddity of my way of wearing my hair—and the general hilarity among the group in the rows to which I desired to gain access redoubled. "Pardon me, gentlemen," I said in the politest of tones, "but I should like to know the cause of your laughter, so that I may be able to laugh with you. They say the piece we have come to see is extremely sad, and I should not be sorry to make merry before I have to weep."

My speech was listened to in the most religious silence; then, from the depths of this silence, a voice suddenly exclaimed—

"Oh! that 'ead of 'is!"

The apostrophe seemed to be exceedingly funny, for it had hardly been uttered before the bursts of laughter were redoubled; but the hilarity had scarcely begun afresh before it was accompanied by the sound of a stinging smack in the face which I gave to the wag. "Monsieur," I said, as I slapped him, "my name is Alexandre Dumas. Until after to-morrow, you will find me at the Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins, in the road of the same name, and after to-morrow at No. 1 place des Italiens."

It would seem that I spoke a language quite unknown to these gentlemen; for, instead of replying to me, twenty fists were flourished threateningly, and everybody shouted—

"Put him out! put him out!"

"What!" I cried, "put me to the door? That would be a nice thing, upon my word, seeing that I have already paid for my place twice over—once in the queue, and then again at the box-office."

[Pg 259]

"Put him out! put him out!" cried the voices afresh, with redoubled fury.

"Gentlemen, I have had the honour to give you my address."

"Put him out! put him out!" cried the people, in strident, raucous tones.

All the people present had risen from their seats, were leaning over the gallery, and were almost half out of the boxes. I seemed to be at the end of an immense funnel with everybody gazing at me from all sides.

"Put him out! put him out!" cried those who did not even know what the commotion was about, but who calculated that one person less would mean room for one more.

I was debating what course to take, from the depths of my funnel, when a well-dressed man broke through the crowd, which deferentially opened a way for him, and he asked me to go out.

"Why am I to go out?" I asked in great surprise.

"Because you are disturbing the performance."

"What! I am disturbing the play?... The play has not begun yet."

"Well, you are disturbing the audience."

"Really, monsieur!"

"Follow me."

I remembered the affair that my father, at about my age, had had with a musketeer at la Montansier, and although I knew that the constabulary was dissolved, I expected I was in for something of the same sort. So I followed without making any resistance, in the midst of the cheers of the audience, who testified their satisfaction at the justice that was being dealt out to me. My guide led me into the corridor, from the corridor to the office, and from the office into the street. When in the street he said, "There! don't do it again." And he returned to the theatre.

I saw that I had got off very cheaply, since my father had kept his warder attached to him for a whole week, whilst I had only been in custody for five minutes. I stood for a moment on[Pg 260] the pavement, whilst I made this judicious reflection, and seeing that my guide had re-entered, I too decided to do the same.

"Your ticket?" said the ticket collector.

"My ticket? You took it from me just now, and, as a proof, it was a white one, for which you gave me in exchange a red ticket."

"Then what have you done with your red ticket?"

"I gave it to a woman who asked me for it."

"So that you have neither ticket nor check?"

"Why, no, I have neither ticket nor check."

"Then you cannot go in."

"Do you mean to say I cannot enter, after having paid for my ticket twice over?"


"Yes, twice."

"How did you do that?"

"Once in the queue, and again at the box-office."

"You humbug!" said the ticket collector.

"What did you say?"

"I said you cannot go in, that is what I said."

"But I mean to get in, nevertheless."

"Then take a ticket at the office."

"That will be the second."

"Well, what does that matter to me?"

"What does it matter to you?"

"If you have sold your ticket at the door, it is no affair of mine."

"Ah! so you take me for a dealer in checks?"

"I take you for a brawler who has just been turned out for disturbing the peace, and if you go on doing it, you'll not be led out into the road the next time, but into the police station."

There could be no mistaking the threat. I began to understand that, without intending it, I had infringed the law—or rather custom, which is far more jealous of contravention than the law.

"Ah, is this so?" I said.

[Pg 261]

"That is about it," said the collector.

"Well, well, you are the stronger of the two," I said.

And I went out.

When outside the door, I considered how stupid it was to have come to see a play, to have paid for two places to see it-a place in the queue and a place at the office—to have seen only a curtain representing hangings of green velvet, and to come away without seeing anything else. I went on to reflect that, since I had already paid for two tickets, I might as well incur the expense of a third, and as people were still going in and a double queue circled the theatre so that the door formed as it were the clasp to the girdle, I placed myself at the end of the queue which looked to me to be the shortest. It was the opposite queue to the one I had gone in by before; it was not so dense, as it led to the orchestra, the front galleries, the stage-boxes and the first and second rows of stalls. This was what I was informed by the clerk at the box-office when I asked for a ticket for the pit. I looked up, and, as he had indicated, I saw upon the white plan the designation of the places to be obtained at that particular office. The cheapest places were those in the orchestra and second row of stalls. Seats in the orchestra and in the second row of stalls cost two francs fifty; centimes. I took two francs fifty centimes from my pocket, and asked for an orchestra seat. The orchestra ticket was handed to me, and my play-going cost me five francs all told.

No matter: it was no good crying over spilt milk! My dinner had not cost me anything, and to-morrow I was to enter the Duc d'Orléans' secretarial offices; I could well afford to allow myself this trivial orgy. I reappeared triumphant before the check barrier, holding my orchestra ticket in my hand. The collector smiled graciously upon me, and said, "On the right, monsieur." I noticed this was quite a different direction from the first time. The first time I had tacked myself on to the right-hand queue and gone in at the left; the second time, I followed the left queue and they told me to enter on the right. I augured from this that since I had this time reversed the order of my proceedings, the manner of my reception would also[Pg 262] be reversed, and, consequently, that I should be welcomed instead of rejected.

I was not mistaken. I found quite a different stamp of people in the orchestra from those I had found in the pit, and, as the girl who showed me to my seat pointed out to me a vacant place towards the centre of a row, I set to work to reach it. Everyone rose politely to allow me to pass. I gained my seat, and sat down by the side of a gentleman, wearing grey trousers, a buff waistcoat and black tie. He was a man of about forty or forty-two. His hat was placed on the seat I came to fill. He was interrupted in the perusal of a charming little book,—which I learnt later was an Elzevir,—apologised as he took up his hat, bowed to me and went on reading. "Upon my word!" I said to myself, "here is a gentleman who seems to me better brought up than those I have just encountered." And, promising to enter into friendly relations with my neighbour I sat down in the empty stall.

[Pg 263]


My neighbour—His portrait—The Pastissier françois—A course in bibliomania—Madame Méchin and the governor of Soissons—Cannons and Elzevirs

At this period of my life, being made up entirely of ignorance, optimism and faith, I did not know in the least what an Elzevir, or rather Elzevier, was. I learnt that evening, as we shall see; but I did not understand thoroughly until much later, after I had made the acquaintance of my learned friend, la bibliophile Jacob. So it is a little previous to say that the polite gentleman was reading an Elzevir; I ought to say simply that he was reading a book. I have related how I had taken the seat next his, and how, having been distracted from his reading by having to lift his hat off my seat, he had immediately plunged back again into his reading, more absorbedly than ever. I have ever admired men who are capable of doing anything whole-heartedly (passionnément);—please do not confound passionnément with passionnellement; this latter adverb was not invented in 1823, or, if it were, Fourier had not yet exploited it.

It was not surprising that, interested as I was in literature, I should endeavour to find out what the book was which could inspire such a powerful influence over my neighbour, who was so deeply absorbed in his reading that, metaphorically speaking, he gave himself up, bound hand and foot, into my power. I had more than a quarter of an hour in which to make this investigation before the curtain rose, therefore I conducted it at my leisure. First of all, I tried to see the title of the book; but the binding was carefully hidden by a paper cover, so it was impossible to read the title on the back of[Pg 264] the book. I rose; in that position I could look down on the reader. Then, thanks to the excellent sight I have the good fortune to possess, I was able to read the following curious title on the opposite side to the engraved frontispiece:—

Où est enseignée la manière de faire toute sorte
de pastisserie
Très-utile à toutes sortes de personnes;
Ensemble le moyen d'apprester toutes sortes;
d'œufs pour les jours maigres et autres
En plus de soixante façons.




"Ah! ah!" I said to myself, "now I have it! This well-mannered gentleman is surely a gourmand of the first order,—M. Grimod de la Reyniere perhaps, whom I have so often heard described as a rival of Cambacérès and of d'Aigrefeuille;—but stay, this gentleman has hands and M. Grimod de la Reyniere has only stumps." At that moment, the polite gentleman let his hand and the book he held fall on his knees; then, casting his eyes upward, he appeared to be lost in profound reflection. He was, as I have said, a man of forty or forty-two years of age, with an essentially gentle face, kindly and sympathetic; he had black hair, blue-grey eyes, a nose slightly bent to the left through an excrescence, a finely cut, clever-looking, witty mouth—the mouth of a born story-teller.

I was yearning to get up a conversation with him—I, a hobbledehoy of a country bumpkin, ignorant of everything, but anxious to learn as they put it in M. Lhomond's elementary lessons. His benevolent countenance encouraged me. I took advantage of the moment when he stopped reading to address a word or two to him.

"Monsieur," said I, "pray forgive me if my question seems impertinent, but are you extremely fond of eggs?"

My neighbour shook his head, came gradually out of his[Pg 265] reverie, and, looking at me with a distraught expression, he said, in a very pronounced Eastern French accent—

"Pardon me, monsieur, but I believe you did me the honour of addressing me ...?"

I repeated my sentence.

"Why do you suppose that?" he said.

"The little book you are reading so attentively, monsieur,—excuse my rudeness, but my eyes fell involuntarily on the title,—contains recipes, does it not? for cooking eggs in more than sixty different ways?"

"Oh yes, true...." he said.

"Monsieur, that book would have been of great use to an uncle of mine, a curé, who was, or rather still is, a great eater, and a fine sportsman: one day he made a bet with one of his confrères that he would eat a hundred eggs at his dinner; he was only able to discover eighteen or twenty ways of serving them ... yes, twenty ways, for he ate them by fives at a time. You see, if he had known sixty ways of cooking them, instead of a hundred, he could have eaten two hundred."

My neighbour looked at me with a certain attention which seemed to imply that he was asking himself, "Am I by any chance seated next to a young lunatic?"

"Well?" he said.

"Well, if I could procure such a book for my dear uncle, I am sure he would be most grateful to me."

"Monsieur," said my neighbour, "I doubt if, in spite of the sentiments which do a nephew's heart the greatest credit, you could procure this book."

"Why not?"

"Because it is exceedingly rare."

"That little old book exceedingly rare?"

"Do you not know that it is an Elzevir, monsieur?"


"Do you not know what an Elzevir is?" exclaimed my neighbour, overwhelmed with astonishment.

"No, monsieur, no; but do not be alarmed at such a trifle: since I came to Paris not quite a week ago, I have discovered[Pg 266] that I am ignorant of nearly everything. Tell me what it is, please: I am not well enough off to afford myself masters, I am too old to go back to college and I have made up my mind to take the whole world as my teacher—a teacher whom report says is even more learned than Voltaire."

"Ah! ah! quite right, monsieur," said my neighbour, looking at me with some interest; "and if you profit by the lessons that teacher will give you, you will become a great philosopher, as well as a great savant. Well, what is an Elzevir?... First of all, and in particular, this little volume that you see is one; or, in general, every book that came from the establishment of Louis Elzevir and of his successors, booksellers of Amsterdam. But do you know what a bibliomaniac is?"

"I do not know Greek, monsieur."

"You know your ignorance and that is something. The bibliomaniac—root, βιβλιο, book; μανια, madness—is a variety of the species man—species bipes et genus homo."

"I understand."

"This animal has two legs and is featherless, wanders usually up and down the quays and the boulevards, stopping at all the old bookstalls, turning over every book on them; he is habitually clad in a coat that is too long for him and trousers that are too short; he always wears on his feet shoes that are down at the heel, a dirty hat on his head, and, under his coat, and over his trousers, a waistcoat fastened together with string. One of the signs by which he can be recognised is that he never washes his hands."

"But you are describing a perfectly disgusting animal. I hope the race does not consist entirely of specimens like that, and that there are exceptions."

"Yes, but these exceptions are rare. Well, what this creature is in particular quest after, among the old shopkeepers and on the old bookstalls,—for you know that all animals hunt for something or other,—is for Elzevirs."

"Are they hard to find?"

"Yes, more and more difficult every day."

"And how can Elzevirs be recognised?... Pray remember,[Pg 267] monsieur, that you are not risking anything by instructing me; I do not ever expect to become a bibliomaniac, and my questions are solely out of curiosity."

"How can they be recognised? I will tell you. In the first place, monsieur, the first volume in which one finds the name of Elzevir or Elzevier is one entitled Eutropii histories romanæ, lib. X. Lugduni Batavorum, apud Ludovicum Elzevierum, 1592, in 8°, 2 leaves, 169 pages. The design on the frontispiece,—remember this carefully, it is the key to the whole mystery,—the design on the frontispiece is that of an angel holding a book in one hand and a scythe in the other."

"Yes, I understand: 1592, in 8°, 2 leaves, 169 pages, an angel holding a book in one hand and a scythe in the other."

"Bravo!... Isaac Elzevir—whom some declare to be the son and others the nephew of Louis Elzevir: I maintain that he is the son; Bérard maintains that he is the nephew, and, although he has Techener on his side, I still think I am right—Isaac Elzevir substituted for this design an elm tree, encircled by a vine laden with grapes, with this device: Non solus. Do you follow me?"

"The Latin, yes."

"Well, then, Daniel Elzevir, in his turn, adopted Minerva and the olive tree as his mark, with the device: Ne extra oleas. You still follow me?"

"Perfectly: Isaac, a vine laden with grapes; Daniel, Minerva and the olive tree."

"Better and better. But, besides these recognised editions, there are anonymous and pseudonymous editions, and there is where the inexperienced bibliomaniacs get confused. Ah!"

"Will you be my Ariadne?"

"Well, these editions are usually designated by a sphere."

"Then that is a guide."

"Yes, but you will see! These brothers, cousins or nephews Elzevir were a very capricious lot of fellows. Thus, for example, one finds, since 1629, a buffalo head forming part of the headpieces in their books, at the beginning of prefaces, dedicatory epistles and text."

[Pg 268]

"Well, thanks to the buffalo's head, it seems...."

"Wait a bit ... this lasted for five years. Since the Sallust of 1634 and even perhaps earlier, they adopted another sign which resembled a siren. Also in this edition...."

"The Sallust of 1634?"

"Exactly! They adopted also, for the first time, on page 216, a tail-piece of a head of Medusa."

"So, when once this principle is fixed and one knows that on page 216 of the Sallust of 1634 there is a figure representing ...."

"Yes, yes, upon my word, that would be delightful, if it could be laid down as a positive rule; but, bah! Daniel did not remain constant to his designs. For example, in the 1661 Terence, he substitutes a garland of hollyhocks for the buffalo head and the siren, and this garland is to be found in a great many of his editions. But, in the Persius of 1664 he does not even put that."

"Oh, gracious! and what does he adopt in the Persius of 1664?"

"He adopts a large ornament, in the centre of which are two swords crossed over a crown."

"As though to indicate that the Elzevirs are the kings of the book-selling world."

"You have hit it exactly, monsieur: a sovereignty no one disputes with them."

"And the one you have there, monsieur,—which treats of French confectionery and the sixty ways of cooking eggs,—is it the angel with the book and the scythe? Is it the vine cluster? Is it the Minerva and the olive tree? Is it the buffalo head? Is it the siren? Is it the head of Medusa? Is it the garland of hollyhocks? Or is it the crown and two swords?"

"This one, monsieur, is the rarest of all. I found it, this evening, as I was coming here. Just think how I have argued with that idiot of a Bérard over this Elzevir, for three years; he thinks himself a great savant, and is not even half instructed."

[Pg 269]

"And, without seeming too inquisitive, monsieur, may I ask what was the object of the discussion?"

"He would have it that le Pastissier françois was printed in 1654, and contained only four preliminary leaves; whilst I maintained, and with reason, as you see, that it was printed in 1655 and that it had five preliminary leaves and a frontispiece. Now here is the very date, 1655; here are the five preliminary leaves; here is the very frontispiece."

"Upon my word, so it is."

"Ah! ah! how sheepish, how utterly foolish my friend Bérard will look now!"

"But, monsieur," I suggested timidly, "did you not tell me that you had argued over this little volume for the past three years?"

"Yes, indeed, for more than three years."

"Well, it seems to me that if the discussion no longer amused you, you had a very simple remedy at hand to stop it."


"Does not one of the ancient philosophers prove the incontestability of movement to another philosopher who denies movement, by walking before him?"


"Well, then, you must prove to M. Bérard the superiority of your knowledge over his, by showing him the Elzevir you have there, and unless he is more incredulous than St. Thomas...."

"But, to show it, monsieur, it was necessary to possess it, and I had it not."

"This little volume is, then, very rare?"

"It is the rarest of the lot! There are probably only ten examples of it left in Europe."

"And why is this particular volume rarer than the others? Were there fewer copies printed?"

"On the contrary, Techener declares that there were five thousand five hundred copies issued, and I maintain that there were more than ten thousand printed."

"The deuce! was the edition burnt, then, with the library of Alexandria?"

[Pg 270]

"No; but it was lost, spoilt, torn up in kitchens. You can quite understand that chefs and cookmaids are indifferent bibliomaniacs: they served the Pastissier françois as they served Carême or the Cuisinier royal; hence the rarity of the book."

"So rare that, as you say, you have not found one before to-night?"

"Oh, I knew of it six weeks ago. I told Frank to keep it for me, as I was not well enough off to buy it."

"What! You were not rich enough to buy it, not rich enough to buy that little old book?"

The bibliomaniac smiled disdainfully.

"Do you know, monsieur," he said to me, "what a copy of the Pastissier françois is worth?"

"Why, I should judge it worth about a crown."

"A copy of the Pastissier françois, monsieur, is worth from two hundred to four hundred francs."

"From two to four hundred francs ...?"

"Yes, indeed.... Only a week ago, old Brunet, the author of Manuel des libraires, an enthusiastic Elzeviriomaniac, inserted a notice in the papers that he was willing to pay three hundred francs for a copy such as this. Luckily, Frank did not see the notice."

"Pardon me, monsieur! but I warned you what an ignoramus lam ... you said a book like that was worth from two hundred to four hundred francs."

"Yes, from two hundred to four hundred francs."

"Why is there such a difference in the price?"

"Because of the margins."

"Ah! the margins?"

"All the value of an Elzevir consists in the width of its margins; the wider they are, the dearer the Elzevir. An Elzevir without a margin is worth next to nothing; they measure the margins with compasses, and, according as they have twelve, fifteen or eighteen lines, the Elzevir is worth two hundred, three hundred, four hundred and even six hundred francs."

[Pg 271]

"Six hundred francs!... I am of Madame Méchin's way of thinking."

"And what was Madame Méchin's way of thinking?"

"Madame Méchin is a very witty woman."

"Yes, I am aware of that."

"Her husband was prefect of the department of Aisne."

"I know that too."

"Well, one day when she was visiting Soissons with her husband, the governor of the place, to do her honour, showed her the guns upon the ramparts, one after the other. When she had seen all the kinds, of every date and every shape, and had exhausted her repertory of Ohs! and Reallys! and Is it possibles! Madame Méchin, who did not know what to say next to the governor, asked him, 'How much does a pair of cannon cost, M. le gouverneur?' 'A twelve, twenty-four or thirty-six pounder, madame la comtesse?' 'Oh, let us say thirty-six?' 'A pair of thirty-six cannon, madame,' replied the governor,—'a pair of thirty-six cannon might cost from eight to ten thousand francs. 'Well, then,' replied Madame Méchin, 'I am not going to put my money on them.'"

My neighbour looked at me, doubtful whether I had told the story innocently or jokingly. He was possibly going to question me on that head, when we heard the call bell; the overture began, and there were cries for silence. Upon this, I prepared myself to listen, whilst my neighbour plunged more deeply than ever into the reading of his precious Elzevir.

The curtain rose.

[Pg 272]


Prologue of the Vampire—The style offends my neighbour's ear—First act—Idealogy—The rotifer—What the animal is—Its conformation, its life, its death and its resurrection

The overture was intended to represent a storm. The scene opened in the cave of Staffa. Malvina slept on a tomb. Oscar sat on another. A third enclosed Lord Ruthven, who was to come out of it at a given moment. The part of Malvina was taken by Madame Dorval; Oscar, or the angel of marriage, by Moessard; Lord Ruthven, or the Vampire, by Philippe.

Alas! who could have known at that moment, when I was looking eagerly beyond the curtain, taking in the whole scene, decorations and characters combined, that I should be present at Philippe's funeral, watch by Madame Dorval's death-bed, and see Moessard crowned?

In the prologue, there was another angel, called Ithuriel, the angel of the moon, talking with the angel of marriage. This was Mademoiselle Denotte. I do not know whether she is now living or dead.... The narrative was carried on between the angel of marriage and the angel of the moon, two angels who, as they wore the same armour, might have been taken to belong to the same family.

Malvina had lost herself in hunting; the storm terrifying her, she had taken shelter in the cave of Staffa. There, unable to keep awake, she had fallen asleep on a tomb. The angel of marriage was watching over her. The angel of the moon, who had slid down on a ray of the pale goddess, through the cracks of the basaltic roof, asked why the angel of marriage sat there, and,[Pg 273] above all, how it came about that there was a young girl in the grotto of Staffa.

The angel of marriage replied that, as Malvina, sister of Lord Aubrey, was to espouse Lord Marsden next day, he had been summoned by the importance of the occasion, and that his looks, when Ithuriel interrupted him in the act of silently gazing upon the beautiful betrothed girl, and the sadness depicted upon his face, sprang from knowledge of the misfortunes in store for the young maiden, who was about to fall from the arms of Love into those of Death. Then Ithuriel began to understand.

"Explain thyself," said Ithuriel, "is it true that horrible phantoms come (viennent) sometimes ...?"

My neighbour trembled, as though an asp had bitten him in his sleep.

"Vinssent!" he cried,—"vinssent!3"

Cries of "Silence!" burst forth all over the theatre, and I too clamoured loudly for silence, for I was enthralled by this opening.

The angel of the moon, interrupted in the middle of her sentence, threw an angry look across the orchestra, and went on:

"Is it true that horrible phantoms come (viennent) under the cloak of the rights of marriage, to suck blood from the throat of a timid maiden?"

"Vinssent! vinssent! vinssent!" murmured my neighbour.

Fresh cries of "Hush!" drowned his exclamation, which it must be confessed was less bold and less startling this time than the first.

Oscar replied: "Yes! and these monsters are called vampires. A Power whose inscrutable decrees we are not permitted to call in question, has permitted certain miserable beings, who are tormented by the punishments which their crimes have drawn down upon them on this earth, to enjoy a frightful power, which they exercise by preference over the nuptial couch and over the cradle; sometimes their formidable shapes appear clothed in the hideous guise death has bestowed upon them; others, more highly favoured, because[Pg 274] their career is more brief and their future more fearful, obtain permission to reclothe themselves with the fleshy vesture lost in the tomb, and reappear before the living in the bodily shapes they formerly possessed."

"And when do these monsters appear?" asked Ithuriel.

"The first hour of the morning wakes them in their sepulchre," replied Oscar. "When the sound of its sonorous stroke has died away among the echoes of the mountains, they fall back motionless in their everlasting tombs. But there is one among them over whom my power is more limited ... what am I saying?... Fate herself can never go back on her decisions! ... After having carried desolation into twenty different countries, always conquered, ever continuing, the blood which sustains its horrible existence ever renewing its vitality ... in thirty-six hours, at one o'clock in the morning, it has at length to submit to annihilation, the lawful punishment of an infinite succession of crimes, if it cannot, at that time, add yet another crime, and count one more victim."

"My God! think of writing a play like that!" murmured my neighbour.

It seemed to me that he was too critical; for I thought this dialogue was couched in the finest style imaginable. The prologue continued. Several persons who had heard my neighbour gave vent to various whispered comments on the presumption of this indefatigable interrupter; but, as he buried himself in his Pastissier françois, the murmurs ceased.

It is unnecessary to point out that the young betrothed asleep on the tomb was the innocent heroine who was destined to be the bride of the Vampire, and had the public been in any doubt, all their doubts would have been dispersed after the last scene of the prologue.

"What do I hear?" said Ithuriel; "thy conversation has kept me long while in these caves."

As the angel of the moon asks this question, the silvery chime of a distant clock is heard striking one, and the reverberation is repeated in echoes again and again.

[Pg 275]

Oscar. "Stay and see."

All the tombs open as the hour sounds; pale shades rise half out of their graves and then fall back under their monumental stones as the sound of the echoes dies away.

A SPECTRE, clad in a shroud, escapes from the most conspicuous of these tombs: his face is exposed; he glides to the place where Miss Aubrey sleeps, exclaiming—


Oscar. "Withdraw."

Spectre. "She belongs to me!"

Oscar puts his arms round the sleeping girl. "She belongs to God, and thou wilt soon belong to the regions of nothingness."

The Spectre retires, but repeats threateningly, "To nothingness."

Ithuriel crosses the stage in a cloud.

The scene changes and represents an apartment in the house of Sir Aubrey.

"Absurd! absurd!" exclaimed my neighbour. And he resumed his reading of le Pastissier françois.

I did not at all agree with him: I thought the staging magnificent; I had nothing to say about Malvina, for she had not spoken; but Philippe seemed to me exceedingly fine, notwithstanding his paleness, and Moessard very good. Moreover, crude as it was, it was an attempt at Romanticism—a movement almost entirely unknown at that time. This intervention of immaterial and superior beings in human destiny had a fanciful side to it which pleased my imagination, and maybe that evening was responsible for the germ in me from which sprang the Don Juan de Marana of eleven years later. The play began.

Sir Aubrey (the reader will see presently why I underline the word Sir)—Sir Aubrey met Lord Ruthven, a rich English traveller, at Athens, and they became friends. During their wanderings about the Parthenon and their day-dreams by the seashore, they planned means for tying the bonds of their friendship more firmly, and, subject to Malvina's consent, they decided upon[Pg 276] a union between the young girl, who was at home in the castle of Staffa, and the noble traveller, who had become her brother's closest friend. Unfortunately, during an excursion which Aubrey and Ruthven made to the suburbs of Athens, to attend the wedding of a young maiden endowed privately by Lord Ruthven, the two companions were attacked by brigands: a sharp defence put the assassins to flight; but Lord Ruthven was struck down mortally wounded. His last words were a request that his friend would place him on a hillock bathed by the moon's rays. Aubrey carried out this last request, and laid the dying man on the place indicated; then, as his friend's eyes closed and his breathing ceased, Aubrey began to search for his scattered servitors; but when he returned with them, an hour later, the body had disappeared. Aubrey fancied that the assassins must have taken the body away to remove all traces of their crime.

When he returned to Scotland, he broke the news of Lord Ruthven's death to his brother, Lord Marsden, and told him of the close relationship that had united them during their travels. Then Marsden claimed succession to his brother's rights, and proposed to marry Malvina, if Malvina would consent to this substitution. Malvina, who did not know either the one or the other, made no objection to Lord Marsden's claim or to her brother's wishes.

Lord Marsden is announced. Malvina feels that slight embarrassment which, like an early morning mist, always comes over the hearts of young maidens at the approach of their betrothed. Aubrey, overjoyed, rushes to greet him; but when he sees him he utters a cry of surprise. It is not Lord Marsden—that is to say, a person hitherto unknown—who stands before him; it is his friend Lord Ruthven!

Aubrey's astonishment is intense; but all is explained. Ruthven did not die; he only fainted: the coolness of the night air brought him back to consciousness. Aubrey's departure and his return to Scotland had been too prompt for Ruthven to send him word; but when he was well he returned to Ireland, to find his brother dead; he inherited[Pg 277] his name and his fortune, and, under that name, with twice the fortune he had before, he offered to espouse Malvina, and rejoiced in anticipation at the joy he would cause his beloved Aubrey, by his reappearance before him. Ruthven is charming: his friend has not overrated him. He and Malvina were both so favourably impressed with one another that, under the pretext of very urgent business, he asked to be allowed to marry her within twenty-four hours. Malvina makes a proper show of resistance before yielding. They return to Marsden's castle. The curtain falls.

Now I had been watching my neighbour almost as much as the play, and, to my great satisfaction, I had seen him close his Elzevir and listen to the final scenes. When the curtain fell, he uttered an exclamation of disdain accompanied by a deep-drawn sigh.

"Pooh!" he said.

I took advantage of this moment to renew our conversation.

"Excuse me, monsieur," I said, "but at the conclusion of the prologue you said,'How absurd!'"

"Yes," said my neighbour, "I suppose I did say so; or, if I did not say it, I certainly thought it."

"Do you then condemn the use of supernatural beings in the drama?"

"Not at all; on the contrary, I admire it extremely. All the great masters have made potent use of it: Shakespeare in Hamlet, in Macbeth and in Julius Cæsar; Molière in le Festin de pierre, which he ought rather to have called le Convive de pierre, for his title to be really significant; Voltaire in Sémiramis; Goethe in Faust. No, on the contrary, I highly approve of the use of the supernatural, because I believe in it."

"What! you have faith in the supernatural?"

"Most certainly."

"In everyday life?"

"Certainly. We elbow every moment against beings who are unknown to us because they are invisible to us: the air, fire, the earth, are all inhabited. Sylphs, gnomes, water-sprites,[Pg 278] hobgoblins, bogies, angels, demons, fly, float, crawl and leap around us. What are those shooting stars of the night, meteors which astronomers in vain try to explain to us, and of which they can discover neither cause nor end, if they are not angels carrying God's orders from one world to another? Some day we shall see it all."

"Did you say, we shall see?"

"Yes, by heaven! we shall see. Do you not think that we see these miracles?"

"You said 'we'; do you think we personally shall see them?"

"Well, I did not exactly say that ... not I, for I am already old; perhaps you, who are still young; but certainly our descendants."

"And why, for heaven's sake, will our descendants see anything that we cannot see?"

"In the same way that we see things which our ancestors never did."

"What things do we see which they did not?"

"Why, steam, piston guns, air-balloons, electricity, printing, gunpowder! Do you suppose the world progresses only to stop half-way? Do you imagine that after having conquered successively the earth, water and fire, man, for instance, will not make himself master of the air? It would be ridiculous to hold that belief. If perchance you doubt it, young man, so much the worse for you."

"I confess one thing, monsieur, and that is, I neither doubt nor believe. My mind has never dwelt on such theories. I have been wrong, I see, since they can be interesting, and I should take to them if I had the pleasure of talking for long with you. So you believe, monsieur, that we shall gradually attain to a knowledge of all Nature's secrets?"

"I am convinced of it."

"But we should then be as powerful as the Almighty."

"Not quite.... As knowing, perhaps; as powerful, no."

"Do you think, then, that there is such a great distinction between knowledge and power?"

[Pg 279]

"There is an abyss between those two words! God has given you authority to make use of all created things. None of these things is useless or idle: all at the right moment are capable of contributing to the well-being of man, to the happiness of humanity; but, in order to be able to apply these things to the good of the race and to the welfare of the individual, man must know precisely the cause and the end of everything. He will utilise all, and when he has utilised the earth, water, fire and air, neither space nor distance will any longer exist for him: he will see the world as it is, not merely in its visible forms, but also in its invisible forms; he will penetrate into the bowels of the earth, as do gnomes; he will inhabit water, like nymphs and tritons; he will play in fire, as do hobgoblins and salamanders; he will fly through the air, like angels and sylphs; he will ascend, almost to God, by the chain of being and by the ladder of perfection; he will see the supreme Ruler of all things, as I see you; and if, instead of learning humility through knowledge, he should gain pride; if, instead of worshipping, he be puffed up; if because of his knowledge of creation, he thinks himself equal to the Creator, God will say to him, 'Make Me a star or a rotifer!'"

I thought I had not heard him correctly, and I repeated—

"A star or a...?"

"Or a rotifer:—it is an animal I have discovered. Columbus discovered a world and I an ephemera. Do you imagine that Columbus weighed heavier, for all that, before the eyes of God, than I?"

I remained in thought for a moment. Was this man out of his mind? Whether or no, his madness was a fine frenzy.

"Well," he went on, "one day people will discover water-sprites, gnomes, sylphs, nymphs, angels, just as I discovered my animalcule. All that is needed is to find a microscope capable of perceiving the infinitely transparent, just as we have discovered one for the infinitely little. Before the invention of the solar microscope, creation, to man's eyes, stopped short at the acarus, the seison; he little thought there were snakes[Pg 280] in his water, crocodiles in his vinegar, blue dolphins ... in other things. The solar microscope was invented and he saw them all."

I sat dumbfounded. I had never heard anyone speak of such extraordinary things. "Good gracious! monsieur," I said to him, "you open out to me a whole world of whose existence I knew nothing. What! are there serpents in water?"


"Crocodiles in our vinegar?"


"And blue dolphins in ...? But it is impossible!"

"Ah! that is the usual formula—'It is impossible!' ... You said just now,'It is impossible!' in reference to things we do not see. And now you say 'It is impossible' of things that everybody else but yourself has seen. All 'impossibility' is relative: what is impossible to the oyster is not impossible to the fish; what is impossible to the fish is not impossible to the serpent; what is impossible to the serpent is not impossible to the quadruped; what is impossible to the quadruped is not impossible to man; what is impossible to man is not impossible with God. When Fulton offered to demonstrate the existence of steam to Napoleon, Napoleon said, as you, 'It is impossible!' and had he lived two or three years longer he would have seen pass by, from the top of his rocky island, their funnels smoking, the machines that might still have kept him emperor, had he not scorned them as the creatures of a dream, utopian and impossible! Even Job prophesied steamships...."

"Job prophesied steamships?"

"Yes, most certainly.... What else do you think his description of leviathan meant, whom he calls the king of the seas?—'I will not forget the leviathan, his strength and the marvellous structure of his body. By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals: his heart is as firm as a stone, yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone. He maketh the deep to boil as a pot; he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.[Pg 281] He maketh a path to shine after him: one would think the deep to be hoary. Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.' Leviathan is, of course, the modern steamship!"

"Indeed, monsieur," I said to my neighbour, "you make my head reel. You know so much and you talk so well, I feel carried away by all you tell me, like a leaf by a whirlwind. You spoke of a tiny animal that you discovered—an ephemera: do you call that a rotifer?"


"Did you discover it in water, in wine or in vinegar?"

"In wet sand."

"How did it come about?"

"Oh! why, in a very simple way. I had begun making microscopic experiments upon infinitely small things, long before Raspail. One day, when I had examined under the microscope water, wine, vinegar, cheese, bread, all the ingredients in fact that experiments are usually made upon, I took a little wet sand out of my rain gutter,—I then lodged on a sixth floor,—I put it on the slide of my microscope and applied my eye to the lens. Then I saw a strange animal move about, in shape like a velocipede, furnished with two wheels, which it moved very rapidly. If it had a river to cross, these wheels served the same purpose as those of a steamboat; had it dry land to go over, the wheels acted the same as those of a tilbury. I watched it, I studied its every detail, I drew it. Then I suddenly remembered that my rotifer,—I had christened it by that name, although I have since called it a tarentatello>—I suddenly remembered that my rotifer had made me forget an engagement. I was in a great hurry; I had an appointment with one of the animalculæ which do not like being kept waiting—an ephemera whom mortals call a woman.... I left my microscope, my rotifer and the pinch of sand which was his world. I had other work to do where I went, protracted and engaging work, which kept me all the night. I did not get back until the next morning: I went straight to my microscope. Alas! the sand had dried up during the night, and my poor rotifer, which needed moisture, no doubt, to live,[Pg 282] had died. Its almost imperceptible body was stretched on its left side, its wheels were motionless, the steamboat puffed no longer, the velocipede had stopped."

"Ah! poor rotifer!" I exclaimed.

"Wait, wait!"

"Ah! was it like Lord Ruthven, then? He was not dead? Was he, like Lord Ruthven, a vampire?"

"You will see! Quite dead though he was, the animal was still a curious variety of ephemera, and his body was as worth preserving as that of a mammoth or a mastodon. Only, you understand, quite other precautions have to be taken to handle an animal a hundred times smaller than a seison, than to change the situation of an animal ten times greater than an elephant! I selected a little cardboard box, from among all my boxes; I destined it to be my rotifer's tomb, and by the help of the feather end of a pen I transported my pinch of sand from the slide of my microscope to my box. I meant to show this corpse to Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire or to Cuvier; but I did not get the opportunity. I never met these gentlemen, or, if I did meet them, they declined to mount my six flights of stairs; so for three or maybe six months or a year I forgot the body of the poor rotifer. One day, by chance, the box fell into my hand; and I desired to see what change a year had wrought on the body of an ephemera. The weather was cloudy, there had been a great fall of stormy rain. In order to see better, I placed my microscope close to the window, and I emptied the contents of the little box on to the slide. The body of the poor rotifer still lay motionless on the sand; but the weather, which remembers the colossal so ruthlessly, seemed to have forgotten the tiny atom. I was looking at my ephemera with an easily understood feeling of curiosity, when suddenly the wind drove a drop of rain on to the microscope slide and wet my pinch of sand."

"Well?" I asked.

"Well, then the miracle took place. My rotifer seemed to revive at the touch of that refreshing coolness: it began to move one antenna, then another; then one of its wheels began[Pg 283] to turn round, then both its wheels: it regained its centre of gravity, its movements became regular; in short, it lived!"


"Monsieur, the miracle of the resurrection, in which perhaps you believe, although Voltaire had no faith in it, was accomplished, not at the end of three days ... three days, a fine miracle!... but at the end of a year.... I renewed the same test ten times: ten times the sand dried, ten times the rotifer died! ten times the sand was wetted, and ten times the rotifer came to life again! I had discovered an immortal, not a rotifer, monsieur! My rotifer had probably lived before the Deluge and would survive to the Judgment Day."

"And you still possess this marvellous animal?"

"Ah, monsieur," my neighbour replied, with a deep sigh, "I have not that happiness. One day when, for the twentieth time, perhaps, I was preparing to repeat my experiment, a puff of wind carried away the dry sand, and, with the dry sand, my deathless phenomenon. Alas! I have taken many a pinch of wet sand from my gutters since, and even from elsewhere, but always in vain; I have never found again the equivalent of what I lost. My rotifer was not only immortal but even unique.... Will you allow me to pass, monsieur? The second act is about to begin, and I think this melodrama so poor that I much prefer to go away."

"Oh, monsieur," I said, "I beg of you not to go; I have many more things to ask of you, and you seem to me to be very learned!... You need not listen if you don't want to; you can read le Pastissier françois, and in the intervals we can talk of Elzevirs and rotifers.... I will listen to the play, which, I assure you, interests me greatly."

"You are very good," said my neighbour; and he bowed.

Then came the three raps and, with the charming suavity I had already noticed in him, he resumed his reading.

The curtain rose, revealing the entrance to a farm, a chain of snowy mountains, and a window. The farm represented on the stage was that belonging to Marsden Castle.

[Pg 284]


Second act of the Vampire—Analysis—My neighbour again objects—He has seen a vampire—Where and how—A statement which records the existence of vampires—Nero—Why he established the race of hired applauders—My neighbour leaves the orchestra

While Ruthven's preparations for marrying Malvina were in progress, Edgard, one of his vassals, married Lovette. Lovette made the prettiest, the sweetest and the most graceful betrothed imaginable: she was Jenny Vertpré, at twenty.

Lord Ruthven, who really loved Malvina, would much rather have sucked the blood of another man's wife than that of his own; so, at the request of Edgard, his servant, he willingly acceded to be present at his nuptials. The marriage takes place. Lord Ruthven is seen sitting down: the ballet is just about to begin, when an ancient bard comes forward with his harp; he was a guest at every castle, the poet invited to every marriage. He recognised Ruthven, who did not recognise him, being otherwise employed in ogling poor Lovette.

The bard tunes his harp and sings:—

"O jeune vierge de Staffa
Brûlant de la première flamme,
Dont le cœur palpite déjà
Aux doux noms d'amante et de femme!
Au moment d'unir votre sort
A l'amant de votre pensée,
Gardez-vous, jeune fiancée,
De l'amour qui donne la mort!"

This first couplet rouses Lord Ruthven's anger, who sees in[Pg 285] it a warning addressed to Lovette, and who consequently fears to see his victim snatched away from him. So he turns his bewitching glance from the young girl to glare furiously on the bard, who continues unconcernedly:—

"Quand le soleil de ces déserts
Des monts ne dore plus la cime,
Alors, les anges des enfers
Viennent caresser leurs victimes....
Si leur douce voix vous endort,
Reculez, leur main est glacée!
Gardez-vous, jeune fiancée,
De l'amour qui donne la mort!"

A third stanza and Lovette will escape from the Vampire. The bard, who is the angel of marriage in disguise, must not therefore be allowed to sing his third stanza. Lord Ruthven complains that the song brings back unhappy memories, and sends the old man away.

Then, as night draws on, as there is no time to lose, since, unless he can suck the blood of a maiden before one o'clock in the morning, he must die, he seeks an interview with Lovette. Lovette would fain decline; but Edgard is afraid of displeasing his lord and master, who, left alone with Lovette, endeavours to seduce her, swears to her that he loves her, and places a purse full of gold in her hand. Just at that moment the bard's harp is heard and the refrain of the song:—

"Gardez-vous, jeune fiancée,
De l'amour qui donne la mort!"

Then everybody comes on, and the ballet begins. Towards the middle of the ballet, Lovette withdraws, tired; Ruthven, who has not let her go out of sight, follows her. Edgard soon perceives that neither Lovette nor his lord are present. He goes out in his turn. Cries are heard from the wing; Lovette runs on, terrified; a pistol-shot is heard: Lord Ruthven falls mortally wounded on the stage.

[Pg 286]

"He tried to dishonour my betrothed!" cries Edgard, who appears, his pistol still smoking in his hand.

Aubrey dashes towards the wounded man. Lord Ruthven still breathes; he asks to be left alone with his friend. Everybody goes off.

"One last promise, Aubrey," says Lord Ruthven.

"Oh, ask it, take my life!... it will be unbearable to me without thee," replies Aubrey.

"My friend, I only ask thee for profound secrecy for twelve hours."

"For twelve hours?"

"Promise me that Malvina shall not know anything of what has happened—that you will not do anything to avenge my death before the hour of one in the morning has struck.... Swear secrecy by my dying breath!..."

"I swear it!" says Aubrey, stretching forth his hands. The moon comes out from behind clouds and shines brilliantly during Ruthven's last words.

"Aubrey," says Ruthven, "the queen of night casts light upon me for the last time.... Let me see her and pay my final vows to heaven!"

Ruthven's head falls back at these words. Then Aubrey, helped by Lovette's father, carries the dead man to the rocks in the distance, kisses his hand for the last time, and retires, led away by the old man. At that moment the moonlight completely floods Ruthven's body with its rays and lights up the frozen mountains....

The curtain falls, and the whole house applauds enthusiastically, save my neighbour, who still growls under his breath. Such inveterate animosity against a play which appeared to me to be full of interest astonished me, coming from a person who seemed so well disposed as he. He had not merely contented himself with noisy exclamations, as I have indicated, but, still worse, during the whole of the last scene he had played in a disturbing fashion with a key which he several times put to his lips.

"Really, monsieur," I said, "I think you are very hard on this piece."

[Pg 287]

My neighbour shrugged his shoulders.

"Yes, monsieur, I know it, and the more so because the author considers himself a man of genius, a man of talent, the possessor of a good style; but he deceives himself. I saw the piece when it was played three years ago, and now I have seen it again. Well, what I said then, I repeat: the piece is dull, unimaginative, improbable. Yes, see how he makes vampires act! And then Sir Aubrey! People don't talk of Sir Aubrey. Aubrey is a family name, and the title of Sir is only used before the baptismal name. Ah! the author was wise to preserve his anonymity; he showed his sense in doing that."

I took advantage of a moment when my neighbour stopped to take breath, and I said—

"Monsieur, you said just now, 'Yes, see how he makes vampires act!' Did you not say so? I was not mistaken, was I?"


"Well, by employing such language you gave me the impression that you believe they really exist?"

"Of course they exist."

"Have you ever seen any, by chance?"

"Certainly I have seen them."

"Through a solar microscope?" I laughingly suggested. "No, with my own eyes, as Orgon and Tartuffe."


"In Illyria."

"In Illyria? Ah! Have you been in Illyria?"

"Three years."

"And you saw vampires there?"

"Illyria, you must know, is the historic ground of vampires like Hungary, Servia and Poland."

"No, I did not know.... I do not know anything. Where were the vampires you saw?"

"At Spalatro. I was lodging with a good man of sixty-two. He died. Three days after his burial, he appeared to his son, in the night, and asked for something to eat: the son gave him all he wanted; he ate it, and then vanished. The next[Pg 288] day the son told me what had happened, telling me he felt certain his father would not return once only, and asking me to place myself, the following night, at a window to see him enter and go out. I was very anxious to see a vampire. I stood at the window, but that night he did not come. The son then told me, fearing lest I should be discouraged, that he would probably come on the following night. On the following night I placed myself again at my window, and sure enough, towards midnight, the old man appeared, and I recognised him perfectly. He came from the direction of the cemetery; he walked at a brisk pace, but his steps made no sound. When he reached the door, he knocked; I counted three raps: the knocks sounded hard on the oak, as though it were struck with a bone and not with a finger. The son opened the door and the old man entered...."

I listened to this story with the greatest attention, and I began to prefer the intervals to the melodrama.

"My curiosity was too highly excited for me to leave my window," continued my neighbour; "there I stayed. Half an hour later, the old man came out; he returned whence he had come—that is to say, in the direction of the cemetery. He disappeared round the corner of a wall. At the same moment, almost, my door opened. I turned round quickly and saw the son. He was very pale. 'Well,' I said,'so your father came?' 'Yes ... did you see him enter?' 'Enter and come out.... What did he do to-day?' 'He asked me for food and drink, as he did the other day.' 'And did he eat and drink?' 'He ate and drank.... But that is not all ... this is what troubles me. He said to me ...' 'Ah!' he said something else than a mere request for food and drink?' 'Yes, he said to me, "This is the second time I have come and eaten with thee. It is now thy turn to come and eat with me."' 'The devil!...' 'I am to expect him the same hour the day after to-morrow.' 'The deuce you are!' 'Yes, yes, that is just what worries me.' The day but one after, he was found dead in his bed! The same day two or three other people in the same village who had also seen the old man, and to whom he[Pg 289] had spoken, fell ill and died too. It was then recognised that the old man was a vampire. I was questioned; I told all I had seen and heard. Justice demanded an examination of the graveyard. They opened the tombs of all those who had died during the previous six weeks: every corpse was in a state of decomposition. But when they came to Kisilowa's tomb—that was the old man's name—they found him with his eyes open, his lips red, his lungs breathing properly, although he was as rigid as if in death. They drove a stake through his heart; he uttered a loud cry and blood gushed out from his mouth: then they laid him on a stack of wood, reduced him to ashes and scattered the ashes to the four winds.... I left the country soon after. I never heard if his son turned into a vampire too."

"Why should he have become a vampire too?" I asked.

"Ah! because it is the custom of those who die from a vampire's bite to become vampires."

"Really, you say this as though it were a known fact."

"But indeed it is a known, registered and well established fact! Do you doubt it?... Read Don Calmet's Traité des apparitions, vol ii. pp. 41 et sqq.; you will find a record signed by the hadnagi Barriavar and the ancient heïduques; further by Battiw, first lieutenant of the regiment of Alexander of Wurtemberg; by Clercktinger, surgeon-major of the Fürstenberg regiment; by three other surgeons of the company and by Goltchitz, captain at Slottats, stating that in the year 1730, a month after the death of a certain heïduque, who lived in Medreiga, named Arnold-Paul, who had been crushed by the fall of a hay waggon, four people died suddenly, and, from the nature of their death, according to the traditions of the country, it was evident that they had been the victims of vampirism; they then called to mind that, during his life, this Arnold-Paul had often related how, in the neighbourhood of Cossova, on the Turko-Servian frontier, he had been worried by a Turkish vampire,—for they too hold the belief that those who have been passive vampires during their lives become active vampires after their death,—but that he had found a cure in the eating of earth from the vampire's grave, and in rubbing himself with its blood—[Pg 290] precautions which did not prevent him from becoming a vampire after his death; for, four persons having died, they thought the deed was due to him, and they exhumed his body forty days after his burial: he was quite recognisable, and his body bore the colour of life; his hair, his nails and his beard had grown; his veins were filled with a bloody fluid, which exuded from all parts of his body upon the shroud in which he was wrapped round: the hadnagi, or bailiff of the place, in the presence of those who performed the act of exhumation, and who was a man experienced in cases of vampirism, caused a very sharp stake to be driven through the heart of the said Arnold-Paul, after the usual custom, piercing his body through and through, a frightful cry escaping from his lips, as though he were alive; this act accomplished, they cut off his head, burned him to ashes, and did the same with the corpses of the four or five other victims of vampirism, lest they, in their turn, should cause the deaths of others; but none of these precautions prevented the same wonders from being renewed, five years later, about the year 1735, when seventeen people, belonging to the same village, died from vampirism, some without any previous illness, others after having languished two or three days; among others a young person, named Stranoska, daughter of the heïduque Jeronitzo, went to bed in perfect health, waked up in the middle of the night, trembling all over, uttering fearful shrieks, and saying that the son of the heïduque Millo, who had died nine weeks before, had tried to strangle her during her sleep; she languished from that instant, and died in three days' time: since what she had said of the son of Millo led them to suspect him of being a vampire, they exhumed him, and found him in a state which left no doubt of the fact of vampirism; they discovered, in short, after prolonged investigation, that the defunct Arnold-Paul had not only killed the four persons already referred to, but also many animals, of which fresh vampires, and particularly Millo's son, had eaten; on this evidence, they decided to disinter all who had died since a certain date, and among about forty corpses they discovered seventeen which bore evident signs of vampirism; so they pierced their hearts, cut[Pg 291] off their heads, then burnt them and threw their bodies into the river."

"Does the book which contains this evidence cost as much as an Elzevir, monsieur?"

"Oh dear no! You will pick it up anywhere, two volumes, in 18mo, of 480 pages each. Techener, Guillemot or Frank will have a copy. It will cost you from forty sous to three francs."

"Thanks, I shall give myself the pleasure of buying a copy."

"Now will you allow me to depart?... Three years ago I thought the third act pretty bad; it will seem worse to me to-day."

"If you really must, monsieur ..."

"Yes, really you must let me go."

"But first may I ask your advice?"

"With the greatest pleasure.... Speak."

"Before I came into the orchestra, I entered the pit, and there I had a slight breeze."

"Ah! It was you, was it?"

"It was I."

"You ...?"


"Smacked ...?"


"What occasioned you to allow yourself that diversion?"

I told him my adventure, and asked him if I ought to forewarn my witnesses overnight, or if it would be time enough next morning.

He shook his head.

"Oh, neither to-night nor to-morrow morning," he said.

"What! neither to-night nor to-morrow?"

"No; it would be useless trouble."

"Why so?"

"Because you fell into a nest of hired applauders."

"A nest of hired applauders!... What are they?" I asked.

[Pg 292]

"Oh! young man," exclaimed my neighbour in paternal accents, "do your utmost to preserve your holy innocence!"

"But suppose I beg you to put an end to it ...?"

"Have you ever heard that in former times there were emperors of Rome?"


"Do you remember the name of the fifth of those emperors?" "I think it was Nero."

"Right.... Well, Nero, who poisoned his cousin Britannicus, disembowelled his mother Agrippina, strangled his wife Octavia, killed his wife Poppæa with a kick in the stomach, had a tenor voice, after the style of Ponchard; only his style was less cultivated, and occasionally he sang false! That did not matter whilst Nero sang before his roystering companions or before his courtesans at the Palatine or Maison-Dorée; neither was it of much consequence when Nero sang as he watched Rome burn: the Romans were too much occupied with the fire to pay any attention to a semi-tone too high or a flat too low. But when he took it into his head to sing in a public theatre, it was a different matter: every time the illustrious tenor deviated in the slightest degree from musical correctness, some spectator allowed himself—what I shall permit myself to do immediately, if you insist on my remaining to the end of this silly melodrama—to whistle. Of course the spectator was arrested and promptly flung to the lions; but as he passed before Nero, instead of saying simply, according to custom, 'Augustus, he who is about to die salutes thee!' he said,'Augustus, I am to die because you sang false; but when I am dead, you will not sing the more correctly.' This final salutation, taken up and added to by other culprits, annoyed Nero: he had the whistlers strangled in the corridors, and no one whistled any more. But it was not enough for Nero,—that hankerer after the impossible, as Tacitus called him,—it was not enough that no one whistled any more, he wanted everybody to applaud him. Now, he could indeed strangle those who whistled, but he could not exactly strangle those who did not applaud; he[Pg 293] would have had to strangle the whole audience, and that would have been no light job: Roman theatres held twenty, thirty, forty thousand spectators!... As they were so strong in numbers, they could easily have prevented themselves from being strangled. Nero went one better: he instituted a body composed of Roman nobles—a kind of confraternity consisting of some three thousand members. These three thousand chevaliers were not the emperor's pretorians, they were the artist's body-guard; wherever he went, they followed him; whenever he sang, they applauded him. Did a surly spectator raise a murmur, a sensitive ear allow its owner to utter a slight whistle, that murmur or whistle was immediately drowned by applause. Nero ruled triumphant in the theatre. Had not Sylla, Cæsar and Pompey exhausted all other kinds of triumph? Well, my dear sir, that race of chevaliers has been perpetuated under the name of claqueurs. The Opéra has them, the Théâtre-Français has them, the Odéon has them—and is fortunate in having them!—finally, the Porte-Saint-Martin has them; nowadays their mission is not only to support poor actors—it consists even more, as you have just seen, in preventing bad plays from collapsing. They are called romains, from their origin; but our romains are not recruited from among the nobility. No, managers are not so hard to please in their choice, and it is not necessary to show a gold ring on the first finger; provided they can show a couple of big hands, and bring these large hands rapidly and noisily together, that is the only quartering of nobility required of them. So, you see, I am quite right to warn you not to upset two of your friends for one of those rapscallions.... Now that I have enlightened you, will you allow me to leave?"

I knew it would be impertinent to retain my neighbour any longer. Though his conversation, which had covered a wide range of subjects in a short time, was agreeable and highly edifying to myself, it was evident he could not say the same of mine. I could not teach him anything, save that I was ignorant of everything he knew. So I effaced myself with a sigh, not daring to ask him who he was, and allowing him to pass by with[Pg 294] his Pastissier françois hugged with both hands to his breast, fearing, no doubt, lest one of the chevaliers of whom he had just spoken, curious in the matter of rare books, should relieve him of it.

I watched him withdraw with regret: a vague presentiment told me that, after having done me so much service, this man would become one of my closest friends. In the meanwhile, he had made the intervals far more interesting than the play.

Happily the bell was ringing for the third act, and so the intervals were at an end.

[Pg 295]


A parenthesis—Hariadan Barberousse at Villers-Cotterets—I play the rôle of Don Ramire as an amateur—My costume—The third act of the Vampire—My friend the bibliomaniac whistles at the most critical moment—He is expelled from the theatre—Madame Allan-Dorval—Her family and her childhood—Philippe—His death and his funeral

The only definite feeling I was conscious of, when my neighbour had gone, was one of utter loneliness in that vast building. So I gave my whole attention to the play. Could I judge clearly? No, certainly not as yet: the Vampire was one of the first melodramas I had come across. The first was Hariadan Barberousse. I have forgotten to tell at the proper time and place how I became acquainted with the work of MM. Saint-Victor and Corse.

A troop of poverty-stricken actors came to Villers-Cotterets (you will understand they must have been poor indeed to come to Villers-Cotterets), and there they pretty nearly died of starvation. They consisted of but one family named Robba. These poor devils were possessed with the idea of giving a benefit for themselves, and they thought of begging two or three young ladies and young gentlemen of the town to play with them and for them. Naturally I was applied to. Nature had already implanted in my heart that fountain of goodwill through which everything that I had, that I have, that I shall have, passed, passes, and always will pass. I agreed to undertake the rôle of Don Ramire. All the other mothers refused to allow their boys and girls to act. Were their children going to mount the boards and play with ordinary actors? No indeed! My mother alone kept her promised word, and I was the only artiste on this[Pg 296] special occasion whose name, printed in big letters on the bills, was utilised in the philanthropic mission of obtaining a good audience for them.

I had to concoct a costume. It was a lengthy business to bring such an operation to a conclusion. Happily, no one was very exacting at that period, above all at Villers-Cotterets. Even Talma, who was a great renovator, played Hamlet in white satin breeches, bottes à cœur and a polonaise. But of this wardrobe I only had the bottes à cœur: I could not play Don Ramire with the aid only of the boots. We made a tunic,—everybody played in tunics at that epoch,—and a splendid tunic it was, indeed, for it was made out of two red cashmere shawls, ornamented with a great gold-flowered pattern; my father had brought the shawls from Egypt, and I believe I have already referred to them. We contented ourselves with sewing them together, leaving an opening on each side for my arms, a sword-belt at the waist serving as a girdle; out of each arm-hole appeared a satin sleeve, and Don Ramire was, if not exactly sufficiently, at least sumptuously and modestly, clad from the shoulders to half-way down his thighs. A turned-down collar and a satin toque to match the tunic in colour completed the upper part of the costume. But the question of the lower half was more serious. Tights were rare in Villers-Cotterets; I might even say that they were unknown; so it was of no use wishing to procure tights: it would have been time wasted, a vision, a dream. The longest pair of silk stockings that could be found, sewed into a pair of drawers, did the business. Then came the laced boots. Ah! these laced boots, they were an invention of my own. A second pair of silk stockings were dyed red; soles were sewed to them; they were put over the first pair, then turned back, rolled up to within three inches of the ankle; the roll was tied fast to make a pad; we imitated the lacing of a laced boot with green ribbon; and then this footgear formed the base of a presentable-looking Don Ramire, who, atop, indulged in the luxury of a satin toque with an ostrich plume. Finally came the sword. My father's sword, the sword of a Republican, with its cap of[Pg 297] Liberty, looked somewhat odd when compared with the rest of Don Ramire's attire. The mayor, M. Mussart, lent me a silver-mounted Louis XV. sword: the chain which had fastened it was detached; but, though the guard had disappeared, the hilt and the sheath were left, and this was sufficient to satisfy the most exacting.

The announcement of this important entertainment made a great sensation: people came from all the towns and all the villages round, even from Soissons. I looked perfectly absurd, having never seen any play but Paul et Virginie at the age of three, and the Jeunesse de Henri V. when I was eleven. But the Robbas took eight hundred francs at the doors—a fortune to them; and a mother, a father, children and grandchildren had wherewithal to keep themselves in food for two-thirds of a year.

Poor Robbas! I recollect that the whole of their répertoire only consisted of Adolphe et Clara and the Déserteur. God alone knows what became of the poor things! That was how I came to know Hariadan Barberousse, which, with the Vampire, whose last act I was about to see, completed the sum total of my melodramatic equipment.

The third act was but a repetition of what had passed in the first. Ruthven, whom his friend Aubrey believed dead at

Marsden's farm, comes to life again, a sepulchral Endymion, under the kisses of the moon. He returns to the castle before Malvina's brother and urges forward his marriage; then Aubrey comes back and finds the bride adorned and the chapel prepared. He approaches his sister to tell her the terrible news of the death of her betrothed, and, seeing him pale and distressed, Malvina exclaims—

"Dear brother, you are in trouble!... For heaven's sake, tell me all!"

"Rally your courage, then," says Aubrey.

"You terrify me!" exclaims Malvina.

Then, turning towards the door—

"Milord is long a-coming," she says.

"Since I must rend your heart, know that all my plans are[Pg 298] broken. A fearful, an unlooked-for event has deprived us, me of a friend, you of a husband!... The unfortunate Ruthven."

At this juncture Ruthven comes forward, seizes Aubrey by the arm and says to him in a grim voice—

"Think of thy oath!"

At these words, and just as the whole audience burst into applause, a loud whistle sounded from one of the boxes. I turned round, and everybody in the orchestra and the pit did likewise. The hired applauders rose in a body and, climbing on the forms, shouted, "Put him out!" This formidable mountain could be seen rising up in the centre of the theatre, like the enormous counterfeit Parnassus of M. Titon-Dutillet at the Bibliothèque. But the whistler continued to whistle, hidden in his box, sheltered behind the railing as behind an impregnable rampart. I do not know why, but I came to the conclusion that it was my neighbour who was at last gratifying to his heart's content his desire to deride the piece which had disgusted him throughout the night. The play was totally stopped: Philippe, Madame Dorval and Thérigny stood on the stage without being able to utter a syllable; shouts of "Put him out!" increased and a police officer was sent for. By dint of gazing hard into the box I could see through the bars, and there I discerned, in the dusky interior, the untoward whistler. It was indeed my neighbour the bibliomaniac. The police officer arrived. In spite of all his protestations, the whistler was expelled from the theatre, and the piece went on in the midst of stampings and bravoes.

The play was drawing to its close. Aubrey, seized by Lord Ruthven's attendants, is carried away from Malvina's side, and she remains unprotected. Ruthven bears her off; a door opens—it is that of the chapel, illuminated for the nocturnal marriage. Malvina hesitates to contract the marriage without the presence of her brother; but Ruthven becomes more and more urgent; for unless the blood of a young damsel gives him renewed life within a very few minutes, he will be annihilated, as the angel of marriage had predicted! Suddenly,[Pg 299] Aubrey, who has escaped from his guardians, appears in the chapel; he stops his sister; he implores her not to go on any farther with the proceedings. Ruthven again recalls Aubrey to his oath.

"Yes," says Aubrey, "but the hour is just about to strike when I may reveal everything."

"Wretch!" cries Ruthven, drawing a dagger, "if you utter one word...."

"You shall only take her bathed in my blood!" cries Aubrey, redoubling his resistance.

"Well, then, you shall both perish!" says Ruthven.

He is about to strike Aubrey. One o'clock sounds; Malvina falls fainting in the arms of Bridget; thunder rumbles.

"Annihilation! annihilation!" shrieks Ruthven.

He lets his dagger fall and tries to flee. Shades come up out of the ground and carry him off; the destroying angel appears in a cloud; lightning flashes, and Ruthven is engulfed amidst the shades.


It will be gathered that we are copying from the manuscript itself.

Philippe was recalled. But Madame Dorval's part was so execrable that no one dreamt of recalling her; she was only engaged at the Porte-Saint-Martin to play the worst parts; the favourite artiste, Mademoiselle Lévesque, took the good ones.

Allow me a few words concerning that poor dear creature, whom I then saw for the first time, and who died in my arms twenty-six years later.[1]

A large portion of these Memoirs will be devoted to remarks concerning the influence of eminent artistes, great comedians or famous poets; for my pages are intended to deal with the development of art in France during one half of the nineteenth century.

Political events will also no doubt have their share of attention, but only their due share. It is time things were relegated to[Pg 300] their proper positions, and, as our century is first and foremost one of appreciation, it is desirable that men and things should be appreciated at their proper value.

Mademoiselle Mars and Talma, those two great artistic glories of the Empire and the Restoration, will still survive in the thoughts of the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, when the very names of those political actors whom men call ministers will long have been forgotten, the men who disdainfully flung to these glorious mendicants the grant annually allowed by the Chamber as though it were an alms.

Who was minister in England the year Shakespeare wrote Othello? Who was gonfalonier in Florence when Dante wrote his Inferno? Who was minister to King Hiero when the author of Prometheus came to beg protection from him? Who was archon of Athens when the divine Homer died on one of the Sporades, towards the middle of the tenth century B.C.?

To answer such queries one must needs be my neighbour,—my neighbour who knew so many things, who could recognise Elzevirs, who knew where vampires were to be found, who knew the origin of hired applauders and who had been put out of the theatre for whistling at the prose of MM.... for no name was ever printed on the Vampire pamphlet, published by Barba, who ostentatiously put below his name: Publisher of the Works of Pigault-Lebrun.

Let us return to Madame Allan-Dorval, as she was called at that period. As I advance with these Memoirs there are many men and women, literary or political comedians whom we shall meet with, who made a name for themselves in their day, and I shall do for these personages what I am just about to do for poor Marie Dorval. When she died I undertook to raise a monument over her grave—a literary monument in my writings, a sepulchral monument in stone. The stones were to be paid for by my literary labours, and it pleased me to think of being the architect of both monuments.

Unluckily, I began the erection of my literary monument in the Constitutionnel. At the second article, I referred to Antony and the old Constitutionnel. M. Véron's susceptibility took[Pg 301] fright: the literary monument was arrested at its first attempt. And as the sepulchral monument depended on the literary monument, the sepulchral monument was never begun.

Some day we will take up this matter again, among many others we have been compelled to drop, and with God's help, and in spite of the ill-will of men, we will finish them.

The age of artistes is ever a problem that is never solved until after their death. I never learned Dorval's age until she died. She was born on Twelfth Night in the year 1798; so in 1823, when I was twenty, she was twenty-five. She did not call herself Marie Dorval then: those two names, so easy to pronounce that they seem always to have belonged to her, were not then linked to each other by the golden chain of genius. Her real name was Thomase-Amélie Delaunay: she was born close to the théâtre de Lorient and her earliest steps were patters across its boards. Her mother was an actress who took the part of leading singer. Camille ou le Souterrain was then the comic opera in vogue. The little maiden was rocked on the stage to these lines, which her mother could hardly sing save with tears in her eyes:—

"Oh! non, non, il n'est pas possible
D'avoir un plus aimable enfant!"

Directly she could talk, her lips stammered out the prose of Panard and Collé, Sedaine and Favart; at seven, she passed into what was called the emploi des Betsy. Her most popular air was in Sylvani

"Je ne sais pas si mon cœur aime."

An artist at Lorient painted her portrait at that time—that is to say, in 1808. In 1839, Madame Dorval returned to Lorient, her native town. The day following a striking success, an old white-haired man came to call upon her to pay her his tribute. His offering was this painting of her as a child: a third of a century had passed by and the woman could not be recognised in it. To-day both painter and Madame Dorval are dead, but the portrait still continues to smile. It hung in Madame[Pg 302] Dorval's bedroom. I saw it, for the first time, when I helped to close her eyes. It was a melancholy contrast, I need hardly say, to see the face of the rosy child in the picture confronting the livid face on the death-bed opposite. How many joys, hopes, disappointments and sorrows had passed between that childish smile and the death-agony! At twelve years of age little Delaunay left Lorient with the whole company. That was in 1810, when diligences did not traverse France in every direction: in those days railways had not yet carved their way through the valleys or tunnelled the mountains; if you wanted to go to Strassbourg—that is to say, to cross France from west to east—you had to club together and buy a large wicker carriage, and it took six weeks to go from the Ocean, to the Rhine.

The comedy company passed through Paris and stopped four days in the capital. It was the zenith of Talma's reputation: how could anyone pass through Paris without seeing Talma? For three days, the mother and daughter economised in their breakfasts and in their dinners, and on the fourth day they took two tickets for the second gallery. Talma was playing Hamlet.

Those of you who knew Madame Dorval will understand what it meant to a nature such as hers to see the famous actor play; what it meant to that heart which was so loyally filial in its early days and so motherly in later years, to listen to the gloomy ravings of the Danish prince, as he speaks of his father in a voice full of tears, in the way Talma represented him. And at these three lines—

"On remplace un ami, son épouse, une amante;
Mais un vertueux père est un bien précieux
Qu'on ne tient qu'une fois de la bonté des cieux!"—

the young actress, who, with the intuition of genius in her, comprehended the greatness of art displayed, as well as realised, the depth of the pathos, leant backwards, sobbed and fainted away. They carried her into an adjoining room; but the play continued in vain, so far as she was concerned: she would not see any more of it. She did not see Talma again until ten years later.

[Pg 303]

The company continued its journey and reached Strassbourg. And then Mademoiselle Delaunay gradually became famous. She changed her line of character and played les Dugazon. She made a fascinating young girl, overflowing with mischievousness and good humour, declaiming M. Étienne's prose excellently, but singing M. Nicholo's music out of tune. Now it is a great defect for a Dugazon to sing falsely, while speaking correctly. Happily, Perrier, who was acting at Strassbourg, advised Madame Delaunay to let her daughter give up comic opera, and turn her attention to comedy. In deference to this advice, la Dugazon became a young lover. Panard was given up for Molière and the actress and the public profited by the change.

From that time dated Madame Dorval's first successes. Alas! from that time dated also her first sorrows. Her mother fell ill of a long and painful disease. The engagements which Madame Delaunay found as first singer became fewer as her voice grew weaker. Then the young girl redoubled her labours; she knew that talent was not only a question of art, but still more one of necessity. Thanks to her efforts, her engagements brought in eighty francs to a hundred francs; and those of her' mother diminished, at the same time, from three hundred francs to one hundred and fifty francs, and from one hundred and fifty francs they fell to nothing. From that time began the young girl's life of devotion which continued on into womanhood.

For a year Amélie Delaunay did everything for her mother: she was servant, nurse, comforter; then, at the end of a year, the mother died, and all those nights of watching and weeping, all her careful tendings, were lost, except in the sight of God.

When her mother died the young girl was left alone in the world. She could never afterwards remember what she did during the two years after her mother's death: memory was drowned in grief! The company moved on from Lorient to Strassbourg, from Strassbourg to Bayonne, always travelling in the same wicker carriage with the same horses, which belonged to the company. However, one great event came about:

Amélie Delaunay married a poor boy of fifteen, out of loneliness.[Pg 304] She had no love for him: he was one of her fellow-actors, who played the rôle of les Martins; his name was Allan-Dorval. He died at St. Petersburg. Where he lived nobody ever knew. This marriage had no other influence on the actress's life beyond giving her the name by which she became known; her other name, that of Marie, was given her by us. Antony was her godfather and Adèle d'Hervey her godmother.

Their journeyings were continued and, as they were en route for Bayonne, they came close to Paris. I do not know in what village, upon what road, at what inn, Potier, the great actor whom Talma admired, met Madame Allan-Dorval, in what theatre he saw her play or what part she was taking, when she uttered one of those heartfelt phrases, one of those outbursts of fraternal affection by which great artistes recognise each other's talents. I know nothing of all this, for poor Marie forgot it herself; but, in a trice he described to her Paris—that is to say, splendour, fame, suffering!

The young wife came to Paris with a letter of introduction from Potier to M. de Saint-Romain, manager of the Porte-Saint-Martin. M. de Saint-Romain engaged Madame Allan-Dorval on this recommendation, and from that day her name became part of the recollections of Parisians, her life became interwoven with the literary life of Paris. This was in 1818.

What had this poor talented young woman played ere Potier's encouragement had made a path for her genius? She had acted in the Cabane du Montagnard, the Catacombes, the Pandoursy and, finally, in the Vampire, at which my neighbour had hooted so shamelessly. Poor Marie! only she herself could relate the sufferings of those early days. There was, I remember, one special costume on which she had to sew some lace trimming every evening before the performance, and it had to be unsewn every evening after the play.—O Frétillon! Frétillon! thy cotillion never saw half what that dress did!

She whom I now saw for the first time was the Eve from whose womb a new dramatic world was to spring. As for Philippe, who eclipsed her at that time, with the dignity and majesty of his steps and gestures, his was the acting of the pure[Pg 305] old-fashioned melodrama of Pixérécourt and Caignez. No one could wear yellow top boots, a buff tunic embroidered in black, a plumed toque and a cross-handled sword like Philippe. This attire, at that period, went by the name of the costume of a cavalier. Lafont carried it off perfectly in Tancrède and in Adélaïde Duguesclin.

Philippe died the first. His death made almost as much stir as his life. As I shall not have occasion to speak of him again, and as, had he lived, he would not have had anything to do with contemporary art, we will finish his story here. Philippe died on 16 October 1824—that is to say, one month, to the day, after the death of Louis XVIII. On the 18th, they brought his body to the church of Saint-Laurent, his own parish church; but the clergy refused to take it in. The same thing happened with regard to Mademoiselle Raucourt. But Philippe's comrades and all his public admirers decided to go forward with stout hearts, to proceed without uproar, or violent acts, or rebellious deeds. They drew the shell from the hearse: six actors from the different Paris theatres bore it on their shoulders, and, followed by over three thousand people, they took it to the Tuileries. They meant to deposit the coffin in the Castle courtyard, to demand justice, and not to withdraw until they had received it. The resolution was all the more impressive as it was accomplished with composure and solemnity. The cortège was moving along the boulevards, and had reached the top of the rue Montmartre, when a squadron of police rushed out at full gallop, swords in hand, and barred the entire width of the boulevard. Then a council of deliberation was held over the bier, and, still with the same calmness and the same composure, a deputation of five was elected to go to the Tuileries and to ask for the prayers of the Church and a Christian burial for the body of poor Philippe. These five deputies were: MM. Étienne, Jourdan, Colombeau, Ménessier and Crosnier. Charles X. refused to receive them, and sent them back to M. de Corbières, the Minister for the Interior. M. de Corbières, very brutal by nature, replied roughly that the clergy had their laws, that it was not his business to transgress them,[Pg 306] although he was in charge of the police of the realm. The five deputies brought back this reply to the three thousand Parisians camped in the boulevard, round the coffin that was craving burial. The bearers then took the body up again on their shoulders and pursued their course with it along the road to Père-Lachaise. Victory remained on the side of authority, as the saying is; only, it is by such kinds of victories that authority cuts its own throat. "Another victory like that," said Pyrrhus, after the battle of Heracles, "and we shall be lost!"

From that moment the generous promises made by Charles x. on his accession to the throne were valued at their true worth: and who shall say that one of the clouds that caused the storm of 27 July 1830, was not whirled into being on 18 October 1824?

[1] See les Morts vont vite, vol. ii. pp. 241 ff.

[Pg 307]



My beginning at the office—Ernest Basset—Lassagne—M. Oudard—I see M. Deviolaine—M. le Chevalier de Broval—His portrait—Folded letters and oblong letters—How I acquire a splendid reputation for sealing letters—I learn who was my neighbour the bibliomaniac and whistler

The next day I waited from eight o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock; but, as my neighbour in the orchestra had predicted, nobody came to demand satisfaction for the blow I had dealt on the previous evening. However, I had now arrived at two convictions—namely, that there must be something extravagant about my appearance and about some portion of my clothing. For fear of falling out egregiously with everybody I met abroad, I ought to cut my locks and to shorten the length of my coat. My hair was fully two inches too long; my coat certainly a foot beyond regulation length. I called in a barber and a tailor. The barber asked me for ten minutes; the tailor for a day. I gave up my coat to the tailor and my head to the barber. I intended to go to the office in a morning coat: it should be understood that my first visit to the office was almost in the nature of a call upon my chiefs. A morning coat would not be out of place.

My face was completely changed by the cropping of my hair: when it was too long, I looked like one of the sellers of "Lion Pomade," who make their own heads their principal prospectuses; when my hair was too short, I looked like a seal. Of course the barber cut my hair too short; unfortunately, there was then[Pg 308] no remedy left me but to wait until it grew again. When I had breakfasted fairly well at my hotel, and given notice that I should settle my account and leave the establishment that evening, I made my way towards the office.

As a quarter-past ten struck, I made inquiries of the porter in the hall and he told me which staircase led to M. Oudard's offices, otherwise the Secretariat. They were situated at the right angle of the second court of the Palais-Royal, looking upon the square from the side of the garden. I went towards this staircase and I furnished myself with fresh instructions from a second porter: the offices were on the third floor, so I climbed up. My heart was beating violently: I was entering upon another life—one which I had desired and chosen for myself this time. This staircase was leading me to my future office. Where would my future office lead me?... No one had arrived. I waited with the office-boys. The first employé who appeared was a fine big fair youth; he came singing up the stairs, and took down the office door key from a nail. I rose.

"Monsieur Ernest," said one of the office-boys, the eldest of them, a lad called Raulot, "this young man wants to speak to M. Oudard."

The person addressed as Ernest looked at me for a moment with his keen, clear blue eyes.

"Monsieur," I said to him, "I am one of the supernumeraries, of whom you may perhaps have heard."

"Ah yes! M. Alexandre Dumas," he exclaimed; "the son of General Alexandre Dumas, recommended by General Foy?"

I saw he knew all about me.

"I am the same," I said.

"Come in," he said, going in before me and opening the door of a small room, with one window in it and three desks. "See," he continued, "you are expected; here is your seat. Everything is ready—paper, pens, ink; you have but to sit down and to draw up your chair to your desk."

"Have I the pleasure of talking to one of those with whom I am destined to spend my days?" I asked.

[Pg 309]

"Yes.... I have just been promoted as ordinary clerk at eighteen hundred francs; I am giving up my place as copying-clerk, and that place will be yours, after a longer or shorter probationary period."

"And who is our third companion?"

"He is our deputy head clerk, Lassagne."

The door opened.

"Hullo! who is talking about Lassagne?" asked a young man of twenty-eight to thirty, as he came in.

Ernest turned round.

"Ah! it is you," he replied. "I was just saying to M. Dumas,"—he pointed to me, I bowed,—"I was just telling M. Dumas that this was your place, that his, and the other mine."

"Are you our new colleague?" Lassagne asked me.

"Yes, monsieur."

"You are welcome." And he held out his hand to me.

I took it. It was one of those warm and trembling hands that it is a pleasure to shake from the first touch—a loyal hand, revealing the nature of him to whom it belonged.

"Good!" I said to myself: "this man will be friendly to me, I am sure."

"Listen," he said: "a word of advice. It is rumoured that you have come here with the idea of entering upon a literary career: do not talk too loudly of such a project; it will only do you harm.... Hush! that is Oudard entering his room."

And I heard in the neighbouring room the self-possessed, measured tread of a man accustomed to rule an office. A moment later, the door of our office opened and Raulot appeared.

"M. Oudard wants M. Alexandre Dumas," he said.

I rose and cast a glance at Lassagne: he understood what I felt like.

"Go along," he said; "he is a capital fellow, but you have to become acquainted with him: however, you will soon do that."

This was not altogether reassuring; so it was with my heart beating very rapidly that I proceeded along the corridor and entered M. Oudard's office.

I found him standing before the fireplace. He was a man[Pg 310] of five feet six inches high, with a brown complexion, black hair and an impassive face, gentle although firm. His black eyes had that direct look to be found in men who have risen from a lower class to a high position; its expression was almost stonily hard when it was fixed on you; you would have said he had ridden rough-shod over everything and everybody that had come in his way, as so many obstacles on the road towards that goal, known only to himself, which he had made up his mind to reach. He had fine teeth; but, contrary to the habit of those who possess this advantage, he rarely smiled: one could see that nothing—not even the most insignificant event—was indifferent to him; a pebble under the foot of an ambitious man will raise him higher by the size of that pebble. Oudard was very ambitious; but as he was also essentially honest, I doubt whether his ambition had ever, I will not say inspired him with an evil thought—what man is master of his thoughts?—but caused him to commit a mean action. Later, it will be seen that he was hard on me, almost pitiless. He was, I am sure, well intentioned in being so; he did not think of the future I wanted to carve for myself, and he feared I should only lose the position I had made—the position which he had helped me to make. Oudard, unlike other upstarts (and let us admit, he was really more a man who had achieved success than a mere parvenu), talked a great deal of the village where he was born, of the home in which he had been brought up, of his old mother, who came to see him, dressed in her peasant's costume, with whom he would walk out in the Palais-Royal or whom he would take to the play, just as she was: perhaps all this talk was only another form of pride, but it is a pride I like. He was devoted to his mother—a sentiment sufficiently rare in ambitious men to be noted here as out of the common. Oudard must have been thirty-two at that period; he was head of the Secretarial Department, and private secretary to the Duchesse d'Orléans. These two posts combined must have been worth about twelve thousand francs a year to him, perquisites included. He was clad in black trousers, a white piqué waistcoat and a black coat and cravat. He wore[Pg 311] very fine cotton stockings and slippers. Such was the get-up of a man who was not merely chief clerk of an office, but one who might be called into the presence of a prince or princess at any moment.

"Come in, Monsieur Dumas," he said.

I went up to him and bowed.

"You have been very especially commended to me by two persons, one of whom I greatly respect and the other of whom I love dearly."

"Is not General Foy one of these, monsieur?"

"Yes, he is the man I respect. But how is it you do not guess the name of the other?"

"I confess, monsieur, I should be puzzled to name anyone else in whom I can have inspired sufficient interest to cause him to take the trouble to recommend me to you."

"It was M. Deviolaine."

"M. Deviolaine?" I repeated, in considerable surprise.

"Yes, M. Deviolaine.... Is he not related to you?"

"Certainly, monsieur; but when my mother begged M. Deviolaine to have the goodness to recommend me to Monseigneur le Duc d'Orléans, M. Deviolaine met the request so coldly...."

"Oh, you know, brusqueness is almost the leading trait in the character of our worthy Conservator.... You must not pay any heed to that."

"I fear, monsieur, that if my good cousin spoke much of me to you, in recommending me to you, he has not flattered me."

"That would not be bad for you, since it would but give you a chance to surprise me agreeably."

"He has probably told you I was idle?"

"He told me you had never done much work; but you are young, and you can make up for lost time."

"He told you I cared for nothing but shooting?"

"He confessed you were something of a poacher."

"He told you I was wayward and changeable in my ideas and fancies?"

"He said you had been under all the solicitors in Villers-Cotterets[Pg 312] and Crespy and had not been able to stop with any of them."

"He exaggerated somewhat.... But if I did not remain with either of the two solicitors under whom I worked, it was on account of my unalterable, intense desire to come to Paris."

"Very well, here you are, and your desire is fulfilled."

"Was that all M. Deviolaine told you about me?"

"Well, no; ... he said, too, that you were a good son, and that, although you constantly made your mother miserable, you adored her; that you had never really wished to learn anything, but more from over-quickness, than from want of intelligence; he told me, besides, that you had certainly a poor head, but that he also believed you were good-hearted.... Go and thank him, go and thank him."

"Where shall I find him?"

"One of the office-boys will take you to him."

He rang.

"Take M. Dumas to M. Deviolaine's rooms," he said.

Then, addressing me—

"You have already met Lassagne?" he said.

"Yes, I have just had five minutes' talk with him."

"He is a very good fellow with but one failing: he will be too weak with you; luckily I shall be at hand. Lassagne and Ernest Basset will tell you what your work will be."

"And M. de Broval?" I asked.

M. de Broval was the general manager.

"M. de Broval will be told you have come, and will probably ask for you. You know that your whole future depends on him?"

"And on you, monsieur, yes."

"I hope, so far as I am concerned, that that will not cause you much uneasiness.... But go and thank M. Deviolaine; go! You have already delayed too long."

I bowed to M. Oudard and I went out. Five minutes afterwards, I was at M. Deviolaine's. He worked in a large room by himself, and at a desk which stood alone in the middle of[Pg 313] the room. As I was preceded by an office-boy, and as it was presumed that I had been sent by M. Oudard, they let me enter unannounced. M. Deviolaine heard the door open and he waited an instant for someone to speak; then, as I also was waiting, he looked up and asked—

"Who is there?"

"It is I, M. Deviolaine."

"Who, you? (toi)"

"I see you recognise me, by the way you speak."

"Yes, I recognise you.... So there you are! Well, you are a fine lad!"

"Why, if you please?"

"Well! you have been to Paris three times without paying me a single call."

"I did not know you would care to see me."

"It was not for you to question whether it would please me or not; it was your duty to come."

"Well, here I am; better late than never."

"What have you come for now?"

"I have come to thank you."

"What for?"

"For what you said about me to M. Oudard."

"You are not difficult to please, then."


"Do you know what I did say?"

"Certainly: you told him I was an idle lad; that I was no good except for copying deeds; that I had tired out the patience of every solicitor in Villers-Cotterets and in Crespy."

"Well, is there much thanks due to me for all that?"

"No, it was not for that I came to thank you; it was for what you added."

"I did not add anything."

"But you did!... you went on to say...."

"I tell you I added nothing; but I will add something now you are here: that is, that if you are so ill-advised as to write filthy plays and trashy verses here, as you did in Villers-Cotterets, I will report you, I will carry you off with me, I will[Pg 314] confine you in one of my offices and I will lead you a dog's life ... see if I don't!"

"Let me say, cousin...."


"While I am here...."


"Even if you do not let me go back."


"Because that,—A cause que, a grammatical error, I know quite well; but Corneille and Bossuet made use of it,—because that I have only come to Paris to write filthy plays and trashy verses, whether I am in the Secretarial Department or here, I must still continue to write them."

"Ah, is that so? Do you seriously imagine you can become a Corneille, a Racine or a Voltaire after an education of three francs a month?"

"If I were to become such a man as any one of those three, I should be only what another man has been, and that would not be worth while."

"You mean, then, that you would do better than they?"

"I would do something different."

"Come a little nearer me, so that I can give you a good kick, you conceited lad."

I went nearer to him.

"Here I am!"

"I believe the impudent boy has actually come closer!"

"Yes.... My mother told me to give you her love."

"Is your poor mother quite well?"

"I hope she is."

"She is a good creature! How the devil did you happen to come into the world by such a mother? Come, shake hands and be off with you!"

"Good-bye, cousin."

He kept hold of my hand.

"Do you want any money, you rogue?"

"Thanks.... I have some."

"Where did you get it?"

[Pg 315]

"I will tell you that some other time; it would take too long now."

"You are right; I have no time to lose. Be off with you!"

"Good-bye, cousin."

"Come and dine with me when you like."

"Oh! thanks, yes, for your people to look down on me." "To look down on you! I would like to see them do that. My wife dined often enough with your grandfather and your grandmother to justify you in coming to dine with me as often as you like.... But now be off, cub! you are making me waste all my time."

M. Deviolaine's office-boy came in. His name was Féresse. We shall see more of him later.

"M. Deviolaine," he said, "M. de Broval wishes to know if the report on the management of the forest of Villers-Cotterets is finished?"

"No, not yet ... in a quarter of an hour."

Then, turning to me—

"You see?... you see?"

"I will make myself scarce, M. Deviolaine."

And off I went, while M. Deviolaine buried his nose in the report, growling as usual.

I returned to our common office, and I sat down at my desk. My desk was next to Lassagne's, so we were only separated from one another by the width of our tables and by the little black set of pigeon-holes in which the current work was usually put. Ernest had gone out, I know not why. I asked Lassagne to tell me what to do. Lassagne got up, leant over my desk and told me. I always took a great interest in studying people around me, and especially the man whose position in the office was that of my immediate superior; for, although Ernest was now a full-fledged clerk and I only destined to be a simple copying-clerk, he was more my comrade than my superior.

Lassagne, as I think I have already said, was at that time a man of twenty-eight or thirty, with an attractive face, enshrined in beautiful black hair, animated by black eyes full of intelligence[Pg 316] and cleverness, and lighted up (if the phrase may be permitted) by teeth so white and so regular that the vainest of women might have envied them. The only defect in his face was his aquiline nose, which was a little more inclined to one side than the other; but this very irregularity gave an original touch to his face that it would not have had without it. Add to these things a sympathetic voice which seemed gently to vibrate in one's ear, and at the sound of which it was impossible not to turn round and smile. In short, a delightful person whose like I have rarely met; well informed; a brilliant song-writer; the intimate friend of Désaugiers, Théaulon, Armand Gouffé, Brazier, Rougemont and all the opera-writers of the time; so that he refreshed himself after his official work, which he loathed, by entering into the literary world, which he adored, and his daily labour alternated with desultory work, consisting partly of articles for the Drapeau blanc and the Foudre and partly of contributions to some of the most delightful plays of the operatic theatres. It will be admitted that here was the very superior I needed, and I could not have asked Providence for anything that would have seemed to me better for me.

Well, during the five years that we spent in the same office there was never a cloud, or a quarrel, or a feeling of cross purposes between Lassagne and me. He made me like the hour at which I began my daily work, because I knew he would come in immediately after me; he made me love the time I spent at my desk, because he was always ready there to help me with an explanation, to teach me something fresh about life, which had as yet, for me, scarcely opened, about the world of which I was totally ignorant, and finally about foreign or national literature, of which in 1823 I knew practically nothing, either of the one or of the other.

Lassagne arranged my daily work; it was entirely mechanical, and consisted in copying out, in the finest handwriting possible, the largest possible number of letters: these, according to their importance, had to be signed by M. Oudard, M. de Broval, or even by the Duc d'Orléans. In the midst[Pg 317] of this correspondence, which concerned the whole range of administration and which often, when addressed to princes or foreign kings, passed from matters of administration to politics, there occurred reports connected with the contentious affairs of M. le Duc d'Orléans; for the Duc d'Orléans himself prepared his litigious business for his counsel, doing himself the work that solicitors do for barristers—that is to say, preparing the briefs. These were nearly always entirely in the handwriting of the Duc d'Orléans, or at all events corrected and annotated in his large thick writing, in which every letter was fastened to its neighbouring letter by a solid stroke, after the fashion of the arguments of a logical dialectician, bound together, entwined, succeeding each other.

I was attacking my first letter, and, by the advice of Lassagne, who had laid great stress on this point, I was despatching it in my very best handwriting, when I heard the door of communication between Oudard's office and ours open. I pretended, with the hypocrisy of an old hand, to be so deeply absorbed in my work that no noise could distract my attention, when I heard the creak of steps advancing towards my desk and then they stopped by me.

"Dumas!" called out Lassagne to me.

I raised my head and I saw, standing close to me on my left, a person who was totally unknown to me.

"M. le Chevalier de Broval," added Lassagne, adding information to his exclamation.

I rose from my seat.

"Do not disturb yourself," he said. And he took the letter I was copying, which was nearly finished, and read it.

I took advantage of this respite to examine him.

M. le Chevalier de Broval, as everyone knows, had been one of the faithful followers of M. le Duc d'Orléans. He had never left him during the last portion of his exile, serving him sometimes as secretary, at other times as diplomatist; in this latter capacity he had been mixed up in all the lengthy discussions over the marriage of the Duc d'Orléans with Princess Marie-Amélie, daughter of Ferdinand and Caroline, King and[Pg 318] Queen of Naples; and in connection with this marriage he had gained the Order of Saint-Janvier, which he wore on a braided coat on high festivals, next to the cross of the Legion of Honour. He was a little old man of about sixty years of age, with short stubbly hair; he was slightly lame, walked crookedly on his left side, had a big red nose, which told its own tale, and small grey eyes, that expressed nothing; he looked a typical courtier, polite, obsequious, fawning to his master, kind by fits and starts, but generally capricious with his subordinates; he thought a great deal of trifles, attaching supreme importance to the manner in which a letter was folded or a seal was fastened; he really imbibed these notions from the Duc d'Orléans himself, who was even more particular over little details than perhaps was M. de Broval.

M. de Broval read the letter, took my pen, added an apostrophe or a comma here and there; then, replacing it in front of me: "Finish it," he said.

I finished it.

He waited behind me, literally pressing on my shoulders.

Every fresh face I saw in turn had its effect on me. I finished with a very shaky hand.

"There it is, M. le chevalier," I said.

"Good!" he exclaimed.

He took a pen, signed, threw sand over my writing and over his; then, giving me back the epistle, which was for a simple inspector,—as, at first, they did not risk confiding more than that to my inexperienced hand,—he said—

"Do you know how to fold a letter?"

I looked at him with astonishment.

"I ask you if you know how to fold a letter. Answer me!"

"Yes, yes ... at least, I believe so," I replied, astonished at the fixed stare his little grey eyes had assumed.

"You believe? Is that all? You are not sure?"

"Monsieur, I am not yet sure about anything, as you see, not even about the folding of a letter."

"And there you are right, for there are ten ways of folding a[Pg 319] letter, according to the rank of the person to whom it is addressed. Fold this one."

I began to fold the letter in four.

"Oh! what are you about?" he said.

I stopped short. "Pardon, monsieur," I said, "but you ordered me to fold the letter, and I am folding it."

M. de Broval bit his lip. I had laid emphasis on the word "ordered" in the spoken phrase as I have just underlined it in the written phrase.

"Yes," he said; "but you are folding it square—that is all right for high functionaries. If you give square-folded letters to inspectors and sub-inspectors, what will you do for ministers, princes and kings?"

"Quite so, M. le chevalier," I replied; "will you tell me what is the correct way for inspectors and sub-inspectors?"

"Oblong, monsieur, oblong."

"You will pardon my ignorance, monsieur; I know what an oblong is in theory, but I do not yet know what it is in practice."


And M. de Broval condescended willingly to give me the lesson in things oblong I had asked of him.

"There!" he said, when the letter was folded.

"Thank you, monsieur," I replied.

"Now, monsieur, the envelope?" he said.

I had never made envelopes, except for the rare petitions I had written for my mother, and once on my own account in General Foy's office, so I was still more ignorant about the making of envelopes than about the folding. I took a half-sheet of paper in my left hand, a pair of scissors in my right hand, and I began to cut the sheet.

M. le Chevalier de Broval uttered a mingled cry of surprise and terror.

"Oh! good Lord!" he said, "what are you going to do?"

"Why, M. le chevalier, I am going to make the envelope you asked me to make."

"With scissors?"

[Pg 320]


"First learn this, monsieur: paper should not be cut, it should be torn."

I listened with all attention.

"Oh!" I exclaimed.

"It should be torn," repeated M. de Broval; "and then in this case there is no need even to tear the paper, which perhaps you do not realise either?"

"No, monsieur, I do not."

"You will learn.... It only wants an English envelope."

"Ah! an English envelope?"

"You do not know how to make an English envelope?"

"I do not even know what it is, M. le chevalier."

"I will show you. As a general rule, monsieur, square letters and square envelopes are for ministers, for princes and for kings."

"Right, M. le chevalier; I will remember."

"You are sure?"


"Good.... And for heads of departments, chief assistants, inspectors and sub-inspectors, oblong letters and English envelopes."

I repeated, "Oblong letters and English envelopes."

"Yes, yes, of course.... There, that is what we call an English envelope."

"Thank you, monsieur."

"Now the seal.... Ernest, will you light me a taper?" Ernest hastened to bring us the lighted taper; and now, I confess to my shame, my confusion increased: I had never hitherto sealed my letters except with wafers—that is to say, when I had sealed them.

I took the wax in so awkward a fashion, I heated it in such a queer way, I blew it out so quickly, for fear of burning the paper, that this time I excited pity rather than impatience in the breast of M. de Broval.

"Oh! my friend," he said, "have you really never even sealed a letter?"

[Pg 321]

"Never, monsieur," I replied. "Who was there for me to write to, buried away as I have been in a little country town?"

This humble confession touched M. de Broval.

"See," he said, heating the wax, "this is how one seals a letter."

And, believe me, he sealed the letter at arm's length, with as steady a hand as though he had been twenty-five years of age. Then, taking a large silver seal, he pressed it on the lake of burning wax, and did not withdraw it until the impress was clearly defined and I could see the escutcheon with the three heraldic fleurs-de-lis of Orléans, surmounted by the ducal coronet.

I was disheartened, I must confess.

"Write the address," M. le Chevalier de Broval said imperiously.

I wrote the address with a trembling hand.

"Good, good!" said M. le Chevalier de Broval; "don't be discouraged, my boy.... It is all right; now countersign it."

I stopped, completely ignorant of what a countersign was.

M. de Broval began to realise, as General Foy had done, how ignorant I was. He pointed with a finger to the corner of the letter.

"There," he said, "write there Duc d'Orléans. That is to frank the letter. You hear?"

I heard well enough; but I was so profoundly upset that I hardly understood what was said.

"There!" said M. de Broval, taking up the letter and looking at it with a satisfied air, "that is all right; but you must learn all these things.... Ernest,"—Ernest was M. de Broval's favourite, and in his genial moments the old courtier called him by his Christian name,—"Ernest, teach M. Dumas to fold letters, to make envelopes and to seal packets." And at these words he took himself off.

The door had scarcely shut before I was begging my comrade Ernest to begin his lessons, and he gave himself up to the task at once with hearty goodwill. Ernest was a first-rate hand at folding, making envelopes and sealing; but I put my whole[Pg 322] will into it, and it was not long before I equalled and surpassed my master's skill.

When I gave in my resignation, in 1831, to the Duc d'Orléans, who had become Louis-Philippe I., I had attained to such perfection in the third accomplishment, especially, that the only regret he expressed was this—

"The devil! that is a pity! You are the best sealer of letters I have ever seen."

While I was taking my lesson in folding and sealing under Ernest, Lassagne was reading the papers.

"Oh!" he suddenly exclaimed, "I well recollect that!"

"What is it?" I asked.

Instead of answering me, Lassagne read aloud:—"A scene which recalls that of la Fontaine at the first representation of Florentin took place, yesterday evening, at the third performance of the revival of the Vampire. Our learned bibliophile, Charles Nodier, was expelled from Porte-Saint-Martin theatre for disturbing the play by whistling. Charles Nodier is one of the anonymous authors of the Vampire."

"So!" I cried, "my neighbour of the orchestra was Charles Nodier!"

"Did you have any talk with him?" asked Lassagne.

"I did nothing else during the intervals."

"You were fortunate," continued Lassagne: "had I been in your place, I should have greatly preferred the intervals to the play."

I knew Charles Nodier by name, but I was in complete ignorance as to what he had done.

As I left the office, I entered a bookshop and asked for a novel by Nodier. They gave me Jean Sbogar.

The reading of that book began to shake my faith in Pigault-Lebrun.

[Pg 323]


Illustrious contemporaries—The sentence written on my foundation stone—My reply—I settle down in the place des Italiens—M. de Leuven's table—M. Louis-Bonaparte's witty saying—Lassagne gives me my first lesson in literature and history

When I came up to Paris, the men who held illustrious rank in literature, among whom I sought a place, were—MM. de Chateaubriand, Jouy, Lemercier, Arnault, Étienne, Baour-Lormian, de Béranger, Ch. Nodier, Viennet, Scribe, Théaulon, Soumet, Casimir Delavigne, Lucien Arnault, Ancelot, Lamartine, Victor Hugo, Désaugiers and Alfred de Vigny. It will, of course, be understood that I do not rank them in the order I have written down their names. Then follow men whose interests were half literary half political, such as—MM. Cousin, Salvandy, Villemain, Thiers, Augustin Thierry, Michelet, Mignet, Vitet, Cavé, Mérimée and Guizot. Then, finally, those who were not yet famous, but were gradually coming forward, such as Balzac, Soulié, de Musset, Sainte-Beuve, Auguste Barbier, Alphonse Karr, Théophile Gautier.

The three women of the day were all poets—Mesdames Desbordes-Valmore, Amable Tastu, Delphine Gay. Madame Sand was still unknown, and did not reveal her powers until the production of Indiana, in 1828 or 1829, I believe.

I knew the whole of this pléiade, who entertained the world with their wit and poetry for over half a century—some as friends and supporters, others as enemies and adversaries. Neither the benefits I have received from the former, nor the harm the latter sought to do me, shall influence in the slightest degree the judgments I shall pass on them. The first, in supporting me, have not caused me to climb higher by one step; the second,[Pg 324] in trying to hinder me, have not kept me back one step. Through all the friendships, hatreds, jealousies of a life that has been harassed in its minor details, but ever calm and serene in its progress, I reached the position God had assigned me; I attained it without the aid of intrigues or cliques, and advanced only by my own endeavours. I have reached the summit which every man mounts half-way through life, and I ask for nothing, I desire nothing, I covet nothing. I have many friendships, I have not a single enmity. If, at the starting-point of my life, God had said to me, "Young man, what do you desire?" I should not have dared to demand from His infinite greatness that which He has condescended to grant me out of His fatherly goodness. So I will say all I have to say of the men I have named, according as they have appeared to me on my path through life: if I conceal anything, it will be the evil I know about them. Why should I be unjust to them? Not one among them possessed a single honour or good fortune in exchange for which I ever had any desire to barter my reputation or my purse.

Yesterday I read the following words, written by an unknown hand on the foundation stone of a house which I had caused to be built for me, and which, until I or someone else can inhabit it, as yet shelters only sparrows and swallows:—

"O Dumas! tu n'as pas su jouir, et pourtant tu regretteras! E. L."

I wrote underneath:—

"Niais!... si tu es un homme. Menteuse!... si tu es une femme. A. D."

But I took good care to obliterate the sentence.

Let us return to my contemporaries, and add to the list of famous names that led me to these reflections.

Among musical composers, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Auber, Donizetti, Bellini, Liszt, Thalberg. Among dramatic artists, Talma, Lafont, Mars, Duchesnois, Georges, Leverd, Frédérick (Lemaître), Dorval, Potier, Monrose père, Déjazet, Smithson,[Pg 325] Lablache, Macready, Karatikin, Miss Faucit, Schroeder-Devrient, la Malibran, la Hungher.

I have had the honour to know several kings and princes,—they will have their place,—but my kings in the realms of art come before all, my princes in imagination have first place. To each sovereign his due honour.

When I came out of my office, or rather from the bookshop where I had bought Jean Sbogar, I made haste to the place des Italiens. My waggon load of furniture was waiting at the door; it took but an hour to settle my household arrangements, and at the end of that time all was finished.

Of a poet's usual equipment I now had the attic; of the possessions of the happy man, I now had a loft under the tiles. Better than all these things, I was only twenty! I cleared the distance between the place des Italiens and the rue Pigale in no time. I was longing to tell Adolphe that I was installed at the Duc d'Orléans'; that I possessed a desk, paper, pens, ink, sealing-wax, in the Palais-Royal; four chairs, a table, a bed and a room papered yellow in the place des Italiens.

Adolphe very sincerely shared my delight. M. de Leuven, chewing his tooth-pick, gently ridiculed my enthusiasm. Madame de Leuven, the most perfect of women, rejoiced in the joy my mother would feel.

I was invited to fix a regular day on which I should dine at M. de Leuven's. On that day my place should always be laid: it should be an institution in perpetuity. In perpetuity! What a great word!—one so often uttered in life, but one which really exists only in death!

"You are condemned to perpetual imprisonment, monseigneur," said my dear and good friend Nogent Saint-Laurent to Prince Louis-Bonaparte.

"How long does perpetuity last in France, Monsieur Saint-Laurent?" asked the prince.

His perpetuity, as a matter of fact, lasted at Ham for five years—two years less than the perpetuity of M. de Peyronnet and M. de Polignac.

My perpetuity at M. de Leuven's table lasted exactly as long[Pg 326] as that of Prince Louis at Ham. I will tell how it came to cease, and I might as well admit at once that the fault was not M. de Leuven's, nor Madame de Leuven's, nor Adolphe's. It was arranged that I should dine there on the following day to make the acquaintance of the Arnault family: this was to be an extra dinner.

It can be realised how preoccupied I was, throughout the twenty-two hours that had to elapse before we sat down to the table, with the thought of dining with the author of Marius à Minturnes, the man who had written Régulus.

I announced the great news to Ernest and to Lassagne. Ernest seemed quite unmoved by it, and Lassagne was only indifferently interested. I badgered Lassagne to know why he was so cold in matters concerning such celebrities.

He answered simply, "I am not of the same political views as those gentlemen, and I do not think much of their literary value either."

I stood astounded.

"But," I asked, "have you not read Germanicus?"

"Yes; but it is very bad!"

"Have you not read Régulus?"

"Yes; but it is very poor!"

I lowered my head, more astonished than ever.

Then, finally, I struggled to rise from under the weight of the anathema.

"But why are these plays so successful?"

"Talma acts in them ..."

"The reputation of these men ..."

"They bring that about themselves through their newspapers!... When M. de Jouy, M. Arnault or M. Lemercier produces a play in which Talma takes no part, you will see it will only run ten nights."

Again I hung down my head.

"Listen, my dear boy," Lassagne went on, with that wonderful sweetness of his in eyes and voice, and above all with that almost fatherly kindliness that I still noticed in him, when I met him by chance twenty-five years later and had the happiness to greet him,—"listen: you want to become a literary man?"

[Pg 327]

"Oh yes!" I exclaimed.

"Not so loud!" he said, laughing; "you know I told you not to talk so loud about that ... here, at any rate. Well, when you do write, do not take the literature of the Empire as your model: that is my advice."

"But what shall I take?"

"Well, upon my word, I should be much puzzled to tell you. Our young dramatic authors, Soumet, Guiraud, Casimir Delavigne, Ancelot, certainly possess talent; Lamartine and Hugo are poets—I therefore leave them out of the question; they have not done theatrical work, and I do not know if they are likely to, though if they ever do, I doubt whether they would succeed...."

"Why not?"

"Because the one is too much of a visionary, and the other too much of a thinker. Neither the one nor the other lives in the actual world, and the theatre, you see, my lad, is humanity. I say, then, that our young dramatic authors—Soumet, Guiraud, Casimir Delavigne, Ancelot—have talent; but take particular notice of what I am telling you: they belong purely and solely to a period of transition; they are links which connect the chain of the past to the chain of the future, bridges which lead from what has been to what shall be."

"And what is that which shall be ...?"

"Ah! there, my young friend, you ask me more than I can tell you. The public has not made up its mind; it knows already what it does not want any longer, but it does not yet know what it wants."

"In poetry, in drama or in fiction?"

"In drama and in fiction ... there, nothing is settled; in poetry we need not look farther than to Lamartine and Hugo, who represent the spirit of the age quite sufficiently."

"But Casimir Delavigne ...?"

"Ah! he is different. Casimir Delavigne is the poet of the people: we must leave him his circle; he does not enter into competition."

"Well, in comedy, tragedy, drama, whom ought one to follow?"

[Pg 328]

"In the first place, you should never imitate anybody; you should study: the man who follows a guide is obliged to walk behind. Will you be content to walk behind?"


"Then you must study. Do not attempt to produce either comedy, or tragedy, or drama; take passions, events, characters, smelt them all down in the furnace of your imagination, and raise statues of Corinthian bronze."

"What is Corinthian bronze?"

"Don't you know?"

"I know nothing."

"What a happy state to be in!"


"Because then you can find things out for yourself: you need only measure things by the standard of your own intelligence: you need no other rule than that of your own capacity. Corinthian bronze?... have you heard that once upon a time Mummius burnt Corinth?"

"Yes; I think I translated that once somewhere, in the De Viris."

"Then you will remember that the heat of the fire melted the gold, silver and brass, which ran down the streets in streams. Now, the mingling of these three, the most valuable of all metals, made one single metal; and they gave to this metal the name of Corinthian bronze. Well, then, the man who will be endowed with the genius to do for comedy, tragedy and the drama that which Mummius, in his ignorance, in his vandalism, in his barbarity, did for gold, silver and brass, who will smelt by aid of the fire of inspiration, and who will melt into one single mould Æschylus, Shakespeare and Molière, he, my dear friend, will have discovered a bronze as precious as the bronze of Corinth."

I pondered for a moment over what Lassagne had said to me. "What you say sounds very beautiful, monsieur," I replied; "and, because it is beautiful, it ought to be true."

"Are you acquainted with Æschylus?"


[Pg 329]

"Do you know Shakespeare?"


"Have you read Molière?"

"Hardly at all."

"Well, read all that those three men have written. When you have read them, re-read them; when you have re-read them, learn them by heart."

"And next?"

"Oh! next?... You will pass from them to those who preceded them—from Æschylus to Sophocles, from Sophocles to Euripides, from Euripides to Seneca, from Seneca to Racine, from Racine to Voltaire, and from Voltaire to Chénier, in the realms of tragedy. Thus you will understand the transformation that altered a race of eagles into a race of parroquets."

"And from Shakespeare to whom shall I turn?"

"From Shakespeare to Schiller."

"And from Schiller?"

"To no one."

"But Ducis?"

"Oh, don't confound Schiller with Ducis. Schiller is inspired, Ducis imitates; Schiller remains original, Ducis became a copyist, and a poor copyist."

"And what about Molière?"

"As to Molière, if you want to study something that is worth taking trouble over, you must ascend, not descend."

"From Molière to whom?"

"From Molière to Terence, from Terence to Plautus, from Plautus to Aristophanes."

"But it seems to me you are forgetting Corneille?"

"I am not forgetting him: I have put him on one side." "Why?"

"Because he is neither an ancient Greek nor an old Roman."

"What is Corneille, then?"

"He is a Cordouan, like Lucan; you will see, when you compare them, that his verse has striking resemblance to the metre of the Pharsalia."

[Pg 330]

"May I write down all you have told me?"

"What for?"

"To act as a guide to my studies."

"You need not trouble, seeing you have me at hand."

"But perhaps I shall not always have you."

"If you have not me, you will have someone else."

"But he might not perhaps know what you do?"

Lassagne shrugged his shoulders.

"My dear lad," he said, "I only know what all the world knows; I only tell you what the first person you met might tell you."

"Then I must be ignorant indeed!" I murmured, letting my head fall into my hands.

"The fact is, you have much to learn; but you are young, you will learn."

"Tell me what needs to be done in fiction?"

"Everything, just as in the drama."

"But I thought we had some excellent novels."

"What have you read in the way of novels?"

"Those of Lesage, Madame Cottin and Pigault-Lebrun."

"What effect did they have on you?"

"Lesage's novels amused me; Madame Cottin's made me cry; Pigault-Lebrun's made me laugh."

"Then you have not read either Goethe, or Walter Scott, or Cooper?"

"I have not read either Goethe, or Walter Scott, or Cooper."

"Well, read them."

"And when I have read them, what shall I do?"

"Make Corinthian bronze all the time; only, try to put in a slight ingredient they all lack."

"What is that?"

"Passion.... Goethe gives us poetry; Walter Scott character studies; Cooper the mysterious grandeur of prairies, forests and oceans; but you will look in vain for passion among them."

[Pg 331]

"So, a man who could be a poet like Goethe, an observer like Walter Scott, clever at description like Cooper, with the addition of a touch of passion ...?"

"Ah! such a man would be almost perfect."

"Which are the first three works I ought to read of those three masters?"

"Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, Walter Scott's Ivanhoe and Cooper's Spy."

"I read Jean Sbogar through last night."

"Oh, that is another story altogether."

"What kind is it?"

"It belongs to the genre style of novel. But France is not waiting for that."

"What is she waiting for?"

"She is waiting for the historical novel."

"But the history of France is so dull!"

Lassagne raised his head and looked at me.

"What!" he exclaimed.

"The history of France is so dull!" I repeated.

"How do you know that?"

I blushed.

"People have told me it is."

"Poor boy! People have told you!... Read for yourself and then you will have an opinion."

"What must I read?"

"Why, there is a whole world of it: Joinville, Froissart, Monstrelet, Châtelain, Juvénal des Ursins, Montluc, Saulx-Tavannes, l'Estoile, Cardinal de Retz, Saint-Simon, Villars, Madame de la Fayette, Richelieu ... and so I could go on."

"How many volumes do those make?"

"Probably between two and three hundred."

"And you have read them?"


"And I must read them?"

"If you wish to write novels, you must not only read them, you must get them off by heart."

[Pg 332]

"Why, you frighten me! I should not be able to write a word for two or three years!"

"Oh! longer than that, or you will write ignorantly."

"Oh, my God! what a lot of time I have lost!"

"You must retrieve it."

"You will aid me, will you not?"

"What about the office?"

"Oh! I will read and study at night; I will work at the office, and we can have a chat from time to time...."

"Yes, like to-day's; but we have talked too much."

"One word more. You have told me what I ought to study in the drama?"


"In romance?"


"In history?"


"Well, now, in poetry, what ought I to study?"

"First, what have you read?"

"Voltaire, Parny, Bertin, Demoustier, Legouvé, Colardeau."

"Good! forget the lot."


"Read Homer as representative of antiquity; Virgil among the Latin poets; Dante in the Middle Ages. I am giving you giants' marrow to feed on."

"And among the moderns?"

"Ronsard, Mathurin, Régnier, Milton, Goethe, Uhland, Byron, Lamartine, Victor Hugo, and especially a little volume which has just been published by Latouche."

"What is the name of it?"

"André Chénier."

"I have read it...."

"You have read Marie-Joseph.... Do not confuse Marie-Joseph with André."

"But how am I to read foreign authors when I do not know either Greek or English or German?"

[Pg 333]

"The deuce! Why, that is simple enough: you must learn those languages."


"I do not know; but remember this: one can always learn what one wants to learn. And now I think it is time we gave our attention to business. One more piece of advice."

"What is it?"

"If you mean to follow the instructions I give you...."

"Indeed I do!"

"You must not say a word to M. Arnault of this little scheme of study."


"Because you would not be a friend of his for long."

"You think not?"

"I am certain of it."

"Thanks.... I will keep my mouth shut."

"You will do well. Now, a second word of advice."

"I am listening."

"You must not repeat a word of our conversation either to Oudard or to M. de Broval."


"Because they would not leave us long in the same office."

"The devil! I want to stay in it dreadfully."

"Then it depends on yourself."

"Oh, if it depends on me, we shall be together for many years."

"So be it."

At this point M. Oudard entered, and I set to my task with an avidity that won me many compliments from him at the end of the day.

I made a splendid discovery—which was that I could copy without thinking of what I was copying, and consequently I was able to think of other things whilst copying.

By the second day I had advanced as far as others who had been at work for four or five years.

As will be seen, I was making rapid progress.

[Pg 334]


Adolphe reads a play at the Gymnase—M. Dormeuil—Kenilworth Castle—M. Warez and Soulié—Mademoiselle Lévesque—The Arnault family—The Feuille—Marius à Minturnes—Danton's epigram—The reversed passport—Three fables—Germanicus—Inscriptions and epigrams—Ramponneau—The young man and the tilbury-Extra ecclesiam nulla est salus—Madame Arnault

It was well I could copy without taking in what I was doing; for Lassagne's conversation, as may be imagined, gave me much to think about. Every day showed me my deplorable ignorance more and more, and, like a traveller lost in a marshy, unstable bog, I did not know whereon to place my feet in order to find that solid ground which would lead me to the end I was trying to reach.

How was it Adolphe had never spoken to me of all these matters? So far reaching were the vistas that opened before me every moment, that I was bewildered. Did Adolphe think all this of little use in connection with the art and practice of literature? Or was it that the kind of literature he wanted me to produce could dispense with all such knowledge? I had often noticed his father shrug his shoulders at our theatrical schemes; was it not perchance that his father, who knew so many things, laughed in his sleeve at me for being so ignorant? And M. Deviolaine, who instinctively (for, except as a valuer and in questions of forestry, he hardly knew more than I did) called my attempts filth and my efforts at poetry mere rubbish, could he by chance be right?

Of course, one could read, work and study, but how was it possible to keep all the things I had heard about since the previous evening in my mind without revealing[Pg 335] them? I resolved to have an open talk about it all with Adolphe.

At half-past five I reached M. de Leuven's house, but Adolphe had not yet returned: he was reading at the Gymnase a play he had written in collaboration with Frédéric Soulié. He put in an appearance at a quarter to six, looking more melancholy and more thoughtful than Hippolytus on the road to Mycenæ.

"Well, my poor friend," said I, "refused again?"

"No," he replied; "but only accepted subject to correction."

"Then all hope is not lost?"

"True. Dormeuil made us go into his office, after the reading, and as he thought there were tedious passages in the piece, he said to us,'My dear fellows, my dear fellows, it must be cut down to the quick.' At these words Soulié snatched the play out of his hands, crying, 'Monsieur Dormeuil, not a hand must be laid on it.' So, you will understand, Dormeuil is furious."

"Who is Dormeuil?"

"One of the managers of the Gymnase."

"And that means...."

"And that means that Soulié has vowed the piece shall be played as it is or not at all."

"The deuce! Then Soulié doesn't mind if his things get played or not?"

"You do not know that fellow's obstinacy; there is no way of turning him. Did you hear what he said to Warez?"

"Who is Warez?"

"Warez is manager to Madame Oudinot, proprietor of the Ambigu."

"Well, what did he say to Warez?"

"We took him a melodrama to read, called Kenilworth Castle; Warez read it. He was not very much struck with the work. When we went, yesterday, for his answer, 'Gentlemen,' he said to us, 'will you allow me to read your play to M. Picard?' 'Ah!' replies Soulié, 'in order that he can steal the idea from us. 'What! Monsieur Soulié,' exclaims Warez, 'steal your play[Pg 336] from you—an Academician!' 'Well,' says Soulié, 'three-fourths of the Academicians certainly steal their places, why should they stick at stealing other people's work?' I need not tell you, my dear friend, that that meant another closed door! I had some sort of an idea of going to Mademoiselle Lévesque, who is all powerful at the theatre, to offer her the part of Marie Stuart, which is magnificent...."


"You know what happened to Casimir Delavigne, at the reading of the Vêpres siciliennes, at the Théâtre-Français?"

"Yes, the piece was refused."

"Not merely was the piece refused, but, as every voter is obliged to give a reason for his refusal, one of the ladies refused 'because the work was badly written.'"

"And Mademoiselle Lévesque refused yours for the same reason?"

"No; but she said that, at the present moment, she had so many new parts, she could not possibly undertake ours."

"The devil take it! It would seem that actresses do not need to study so hard as authors.... Ah! my dear friend, why did you not tell me of my ignorance and that I have everything to learn?"

"Don't put yourself out about that, dear fellow; you will soon learn all you need.... Stay, my mother is beckoning to us to come. Let us go in to dinner."

We went in, and I was introduced to Madame Arnault,—I was already acquainted with Lucien, Telleville and Louis.

I had seen M. Arnault at the famous shooting expedition in Tillet Wood, but I had not had the honour of speaking to him. He had asked to be given a good position in the wood; and he had been put where, as M. Deviolaine had said, the deer could not fail to pass by. M. Arnault, who could not see two gun-lengths off, had wiped the glasses of his spectacles, sat down, produced a memorandum-book and a pencil, and began to write a fable that had been running in his head since the previous day. In a quarter of an hour, he heard a noise in the underwood: he laid down his pocket-book and pencil, took[Pg 337] up his gun and pointed it ready for action as soon as the animal should pass by.

"Oh, monsieur," a woman cried out, "don't shoot! You will kill my cow!"

"Are you quite sure it is your cow, and not a roebuck?" M. Arnault then asked her.

"Oh, monsieur, you will see...."

And the woman, running up to the cow, hung on the animal's tail, which she pulled so hard that the poor beast began to moo.

"You are right," said M. Arnault; "I think I am mistaken." And he sat down again, laid his gun on the ground, took up his pencil and note-book and resumed his fable, which he composedly finished.

M. Arnault's family consisted of Lucien and Telleville, his two sons by a first marriage; of Louis and Gabrielle, his two children by a second marriage. M. Arnault's second wife was a young lady from Bonneuil. Let me say a few words about this excellent family. We will begin, like the Gospels, with the meek and mild members.

Gabrielle was a pretty child of fourteen or fifteen, with a dazzlingly white complexion; she was of no more account in the household as yet than a bud in a bouquet. Louis was about my own age, namely, twenty or twenty-one. He was a good-looking lad, fair, fresh-coloured, rosy-cheeked, a trifle spruce, ever laughing, on the most friendly terms with his sister, full of respect for his mother and admiration for his father. Telleville was a handsome captain; very brave, very loyal, very daring, a Bonapartist like the rest of the family, thrown into the midst of the artistic world, without ever having written a verse of poetry, but possessing a delightful wit, and being full of spirit and originality. Lucien, the author of Régulus, and, later, of Pierre de Portugal and of Tibère, had too cold and calculating a mind to be really poetical; yet there was a certain boldness of style in his lines and a certain melancholy about his ideas, that appealed both to the imagination and to the heart. There is one of the truest and most charming lines I know, in Pierre[Pg 338] de Portugal, a line such as Racine wrote in his best days, universally known because it belongs to that school:—

"Les chagrins du départ sont pour celui qui reste."

The year before my arrival in Paris, Régulus had achieved enormous popularity. I will quote a few lines of it, to give some idea of the author, who appears to have given up literary work.

Regulus is about to leave Rome, to which he was devotedly attached, and he says to Licinius:—

"Je meurs pour la sauver, c'est mourir digne d'elle!
Mais, toi, Licinius, parjure à l'amitié,
Disciple de ma gloire, as-tu donc oublié
Ces jours où j'opposais, dans les champs du carnage,
Ma vieille expérience à ton jeune courage?
Aimant un vrai soldat dans un vrai citoyen,
Ne le souvient-il plus que, par un doux lien,
Ma tendresse voulait vous unir l'un à l'autre?
Le hasard a trahi mon espoir et le vôtre;
Mais, des bords du tombeau, je puis enfin bénir
Les nœuds qui pour jamais doivent vous réunir.
Si tu l'aimes, viens, jure au dieu de la victoire
De servir, aujourd'hui, la patrie et la gloire;
D'éclairer les Romains par toi seul égarés;
De rétablir la paix dans ces remparts sacrés;
Jure! dis-je. A l'instant, je te donne ma fille,
Je te lègue mon nom, mon honneur, ma famille;
Et les dieux ne m'auront opprimé qu'à demi,
Si, dans un vrai Romain, je retrouve un ami!"

Lucien was about thirty or thirty-two at this period. Until the downfall of Napoleon his career had been administrative: he had been made auditor to the State Council and a prefect at twenty-five. In spite of much physical suffering which saddened his life, he was indeed one of the best-hearted and most benevolent persons I ever knew. For five years I saw Lucien two or three times a week; I do not think that, during the long period of intimacy, I ever heard him jibe at his confrères, or complain or whine; he was one of those gentle, melancholy and tranquil spirits one sees in dreams. I do not know what[Pg 339] became of him; after 1829 I lost sight of him completely. Twenty-two years of absence and of separation will certainly have driven me from his remembrance; those twenty-two years have engraved him the more deeply on mine.

M. Arnault was quite different. I never knew a more subtle, mordant, satirical nature than this brilliant person owned. In military parlance he would have been described as a damned good shot. Neither Bertrand nor Lozes ever returned a straight thrust more rapidly and more surely than did M. Arnault, on every occasion, by a word or an epigram or a flash of wit. He was but an indifferent dramatic author, but he excelled in fables and satire. Once, in a fit of despondency, he let fall what was probably the only tear he shed, like that of Aramis upon the death of Porthos: he dipped his pen in the salt drops, and wrote the following lines—a gem that André Chénier, or Millevoye, Lamartine or Victor Hugo might have wished to write:—


"De ta tige détachée,
Pauvre feuille desséchée,
Où vas-tu?—Je n'en sais rien.
L'orage a brisé le chêne
Qui seul était mon soutien;
De son inconstante haleine
Le zéphir ou l'aquilon,
Depuis ce jour me promène
De la forêt à la plaine,
De la montagne au vallon.
Je vais où le vent me mène
Sans me plaindre ou m'effrayer;
Je vais où va toute chose,
Où vont la feuille de rose
Et la feuille de laurier!"

I do not know what the famous poets of my day would have given to have written those fifteen lines; I know I would have given any of my plays the fates might have chosen. M. Arnault's great ambition was, unluckily, to write for the stage. He had[Pg 340] begun by Marius à Minturnes, at the time when he was with Monsieur. The tragedy was produced in 1790, and in spite of the prediction of the Comte de Provence, who had asserted that a tragedy without a woman must be a failure, it was a great success. Saint-Phal played young Marius, Vanhove Marius, and Saint-Prix le Cimbre. That was the happy period when men of the talent of Saint-Prix accepted parts in which they came on only in one scene, and in that single scene uttered a few lines, e.g.:—

"Quelle voix, quel regard, et quel aspect terrible!
Quel bras oppose au mien un obstacle invincible?...
L'effroi s'est emparè de mes sens éperdus ...
Je ne pourrais jamais égorger Marius!"

The play was dedicated to Monsieur. I have heard M. Arnault relate, in his extremely fascinating way, that success made him very vain, very peremptory and very scornful. One day, in 1792, he was in the balcony of the Théâtre-Français, talking loudly, in his customary fashion, making a great noise with his cane and hindering people from hearing; this went on from the raising of the curtain till the end of the first act, when a gentleman, who was behind M. Arnault and only separated from him by one row, bent forward, and touching his shoulder with the tips of his gloved hand, said, "Monsieur Arnault, pray allow us to listen, even though they are playing Marius à Minturnes."

This polite and, I might even add, witty gentleman was Danton. A month later, this same polite and witty gentleman had instituted the September massacres. M. Arnault was so alarmed by these massacres that he fled on foot. On reaching the barricade, he found it guarded by a sans-culotte in name and in reality; this sans-culotte was engaged in preventing a poor woman from passing, under the pretext that her passport for Bercy had not been vised at the section des Enfants-Trouvés. Now, while he noted the persistence of this honourable sentinel, an idea occurred to M. Arnault—that this terrible Cerberus could not read. Joking is a bad disease, of which[Pg 341] one is rarely cured. M. Arnault, who suffered much from this malady, boldly walked up to the sans-culotte and presented his passport upside down to the man, saying—

"Viséd at the Enfants-Trouvés: there is the stamp."

M. Arnault guessed rightly.

"Pass," said the sans-culotte.

And M. Arnault passed.

In the interval that had elapsed between Marius and the 3rd of September, the date at which we have arrived, M. Arnault had produced his tragedy of Lucrèce. The play falling flat, the author laid its want of success at Mademoiselle Raucourt's door.... It is known that this famous actress's aversion to men was not entirely imputed to virtuous causes. However that may be, later, we shall have to speak of Mademoiselle Raucourt in connection with her pupil, Mademoiselle Georges.

M. Arnault had followed Bonaparte to Egypt. He has related in a very amusing manner, in his memoirs entitled Souvenirs d'un sexagénaire, the part he took in that expedition. On his return, he wrote an Ossianic tragedy, called Oscar, which was very successful, and which he dedicated to Bonaparte; then les Vénitiens, the catastrophe of which was regarded as so outrageously bold that scrupulous people would not support it, and the author was obliged to please these good people by changing the action, thanks to which, after the style of Ducis's Othello, his piece now finished off by a death or a marriage, according to the choice of the spectators. Les Vénitiens was a tremendous success.

While M. Arnault was a chief clerk in the University during the Empire, under M. de Fontanes, who was the principal, he took Béranger into his offices as copying-clerk at twelve hundred francs a year. And it was there that Béranger wrote his first chanson, the Roi d'Yvetot. Upon the second return of the Bourbons, M. Arnault was proscribed, and retired to Brussels. We have already told how he became acquainted with M. de Leuven, in exile, over a slap in the face the latter gave a foreign officer. It was during his exile that M. Arnault composed nearly all his fables, a charming collection but[Pg 342] little known, as very few people read fables nowadays. For this very reason I am going to make my readers acquainted with three of them. Be reassured! these three fables are really by M. Arnault, and not by M. Viennet. Besides, I am answerable for them, and my word can be depended upon in the case of all three. Let us further hasten to add that the fables we are about to read are fables only in title: they are really epigrams.


"Sans amis comme sans famille,
Ici-bas, vivre en étranger;
Se retirer dans sa coquille,
Au signal du moindre danger;
S'aimer d'une amitié sans bornes,
De soi seul emplir sa maison;
En sortir, selon la saison,
Pour faire à son prochain les cornes
Signaler ses pas destructeurs
Par les traces les plus impures;
Outrager les plus belles fleurs
Par ses baisers ou ses morsures;
Enfin, chez soi, comme en prison,
Vieillir, de jour en jour plus triste;
C'est l'histoire de l'égoiste
Ou celle du colimaçon."


"Un jour, le roi des animaux
Défendit, par une ordonnance,
A ses sujets, à ses vassaux,
De courir sans une licence
Sur quelque bête que ce soit;
Promettant, il est vrai, de conserver le droit
A quiconque en usait pour motif honnête.
Tigres, loups et renards, de présenter requête
A Sa Majesté: loups, pour courir le mouton,
Renards, pour courir le chapon,
Tigres, pour courir toute bête.
Parmi les députés, qui criaient à tue-tête,
Un chien s'égosillait à force d'aboyer.
[Pg 343]'Plaise à Sa Majesté, disait-il, m'octroyer
Droit de donner la chasse, en toute circonstance,
A tous les animaux vivant de ma substance.
—Gentilshommes, à vous permis de giboyer,
Dit, s'adressant au tigre, au loup, au renard même
Des forêts le maître suprême
Aux chasseurs tels que vous permis de déployer,
Même chez leurs voisins, leurs efforts, leurs astuces;
Mais néant au placet du chien!'
Que réclamait, pourtant, ce roturier-ta?—Rien,
Que le droit de tuer ses puces."


"L'an passé—c'était l'an quarante,—
L'an passé, le Grand Turc disait au grand vizir:
'Quand, pour régner sous moi, je daignai te choisir,
Roustan, je te croyais d'humeur bien différente.
Roustan met son plus grand plaisir.
A me contrarier; quelque ordre que je donne,
Au lieu d'obéir, il raisonne;
Toujours des si, toujours des mais;
Il défend ce que je permets:
Ce que je défends, il l'ordonne.
A rien ne tient qu'ici je ne te fasse voir
A quel point je suis las de ces façons de faire!
Va-t'en! Qu'on fasse entrer mon grand eunuque noir
C'est celui-là qui connaît son affaire,
C'est lui qui, toujours complaisant,
Sans jamais m'étourdir de droit ni de justice,
N'ayant de loi que mon caprice,
Sait me servir en m'amusant.
Jamais ce ton grondeur, jamais cet air sinistre!
Ainsi que tout désir, m'épargnant tout travail,
Il conduirait l'empire aussi bien qu'un sérail.
J'en veux faire un premier ministre.
—En fait de politique et de gouvernement,
Sultan, dit le vizir, chacun a son système:
Te plaire est le meilleur; le mien, conséquemment,
Est mauvais.... Toutefois, ne pourrais-je humblement,
Te soumettre un petit problème?
—Parle.—Ce n'est pas d'aujourd'hui.
Que péniblement je me traîne,
Vieux et cassé, sultan, dans ma marche incertaine,
Ma faiblesse a besoin d'appui.
[Pg 344]Or, j'ai deux roseaux de la Chine:
Plus ferme qu'un bâton, l'un ne sait pas plier,
L'autre, élégant, léger, droit comme un peuplier,
Est plus souple qu'une badine.
Lequel choisir?—Lequel?... Roustan, je ne crois pas
Qu'un flexible bambou puisse assurer nos pas.
—Tu le crois! lorsque tu m'arraches
Ton sceptre affermi par mes mains,
Pour le livrer à des faquins
Sans caractere et sans moustaches.'

Rois, vos ministres sont, pour vous,
Ce qu'est, pour nous, le jonc dont l'appui nous assiste,
Je le dis des vizirs ainsi que des bambous,
On ne peut s'appuyer que sur ce qui résiste."

If you read, one after the other, M. Arnault's one hundred and fifty fables, you will find throughout, the same ease, the same touch, the same carping spirit. When you have read them, you will certainly not say of the author, "He is a delightful person," but you will assuredly say, "He is an honest man."

In 1815 M. Arnault was exiled. Why? For so slight a reason that no one bothered even to think of it; his name was on the list, and that was all! But who signed that list? Louis XVIII., formerly Monsieur—that is to say, the very same Comte de Provence under whose protection the poet had begun his career, and to whom he had dedicated his Marius.

Now, although there was no reason for M. Arnault's exile, party spirit invented one and said that he was proscribed as a regicide. There were, however, two sufficient reasons why this could not be: first, because M. Arnault did not belong to the Convention; secondly, because in 1792 and 1793 he was abroad. Nevertheless, the rumour was tacitly accepted, and soon nobody doubted that M. Arnault was exiled on that ground.

M. Arnault sent Germanicus from Brussels: it was played on the 22nd of March 1817, and forbidden the following day. During the representation the tragedy shifted from the stage to the pit, where a terrible fight took place, in which several people were hurt and one even killed. The battle was waged[Pg 345] between the Life Guards and the partisans of the late Government. The weapon that was generally made use of in this skirmish was that kind of bamboo upon which Roustan, the Grand Turk's first vizir, whose grievances we have just heard, was wont to lean. One can understand that the thicker and less pliable they were, the better they served for defence and for attack. From the date of that fray these canes were dubbed "Germanicus" Angry feelings waxed strong at this period. The day but one after the representation, Martainville published a scurrilous article attacking M. Arnault's private honour. This article, which was the result of a blow given the critic by Telleville, led to a duel in which, as we said above, the journalist had his thigh bruised by a bullet.

Germanicus was revived later. We were present at the revival; but, divorced from the passions of the moment, the play was not a success. His unlooked-for and outrageously unjust proscription added a bitterness to M. Arnault's nature—a bitterness which cropped out on the least excuse, and which was not expelled from his blood by the legacy Napoleon bequeathed him in his will of a hundred thousand francs. The legacy was useful in aiding him to build a beautiful house in the rue de la Bruyère: as is usually the case, however, the builder sank twice the amount he had intended to spend thereon, so M. Arnault found himself a hundred thousand francs poorer after his legacy than before he had inherited that sum.

M. Arnault loved poetry for its own sake: he made lines on every occasion. He wrote them on his portrait, on his garden door, on the Abbé Geoffroy, on his dog's tricks, on a poet in uniform whose portrait had been exhibited in the last Salon.

Here are the lines above referred to, which show not only the author's wit, but also his very nature:—


"Sur plus d'un ton je sais régler ma voix;
Ami des champs, des arts, des combats et des fêtes,
En vers dignes d'eux, quelquefois,
[Pg 346]J'ai fait parler les dieux, les héros et les bêtes."


"Bons amis dont ce siècle abonde,
Je suis votre humble serviteur;
Mais passez: ma porte et mon cœur
Ne s'ouvrent plus à tout le monde."


"Il est altéré de vin;
Il est altéré de gloire;
Il ne prend jamais en vain
Sa pinte ou son écritoire.
Des flots qu'il en fait couler,
Abreuvant plus d'un délire.
Il écrit pour se soûler,
Il se soûle pour écrire."


"Je n'attaque jamais en traître,
Je caresse sans intérêt,
Je mords parfois, mais à regret:
Bon chien se forme sur son maître."


"Au Parnasse ou sur le terrain,
En triompher est peu possible:
L'épée en main il est terrible,
Terrible il est la plume en main;
Et pour se battre et pour écrire,
Nul ne saurait lui ressembler;
Car, s'il ne se bat pas pour rire,
Il écrit à faire trembler."

No matter what were his troubles, M. Arnault had always worshipped dogs. Out of fifty of his fables, more than twenty have these interesting quadrupeds for their heroes. When I was honoured by an introduction into the private life of his family, the gate was guarded by a horrible beast, half pug, half poodle, called Ramponneau. M. Arnault never stirred without this dog:[Pg 347] he had him in his study while he worked, in his garden when he took his walks there. Only the king's highway was denied him by M. Arnault, for fear of poisoned meat. M. Arnault himself superintended his dog's education, and on one point he was inexorable. Ramponneau would persist in committing ill manners in his study. Directly the sight and the odour revealed the crime committed, Ramponneau was seized by his flanks and the skin of his neck, conducted to the spot where the indiscretion had been committed and soundly thrashed. After this, Ramponneau's nose was rubbed in the subject-matter of his crime, according to an old custom, the origin of which is lost in the deeps of time—an operation to which he submitted with visible repugnance. These daily faults and the ensuing chastenings went on for nearly two months, and M. Arnault began to fear that Ramponneau was uneducatible on this point, although he learnt a crowd of pleasing tricks, such as feigning death, standing to attention, smoking a pipe, leaping to honour the Emperor. I ask pardon for the word "uneducatible." I could not find the word I wanted, so I made one up. M. Arnault, I repeat, began to fear that Ramponneau was uneducatible on this one point, when, one day, Ramponneau, who had just committed his usual crime, seeing his master was far too much absorbed in his tragedy of Guillaume de Nassau to perceive what had just happened, went and pulled at the hem of his dressing-gown. M. Arnault turned round: Ramponneau jumped up two or three times to attract his attention; then, when he was quite sure he had arrested it, he went straight to the spot which we have termed the subject-matter of his crime, and rubbed his nose in, purely of his own accord, without any compulsion, certainly with evident repugnance, but with touching resignation. The poor beast was deceived. He had thought that the whippings and punishment which followed the crime had had no other end than to teach him to rub his nose in the object in question of his own accord. Ramponneau's education was completely at fault, and he kept this defect all his life, the muzzle he was provided with making very little difference to his habit.

I have already referred to M. Arnault's remarkable gift of[Pg 348] swift and witty repartee. I will give two instances of it now, and others in their due place and season later, as we come across them.

One day I was walking down the rue de la Tour-des-Dames with him. A young swell who was driving a tilbury, and who had lost control of his horse going down that steep decline, just missed running over M. Arnault, who was not a patient man.

"You blackguard!" he said; "can't you look where you are going?"

"What did you say,—blackguard?" exclaimed the young man.

"Yes, blackguard!" repeated M. Arnault.

"Monsieur, you shall render an account for that insult!... Here is my address!"

"Your address?" replied M. Arnault. "Keep it to drive your horse to."

Another day, on the Champs-Élysées, he passed by a priest without saluting him. We have said that M. Arnault was very short-sighted; besides, he was not very fond of black men, as they were called at that time. The priest, whom he had almost jostled against, turned round.

"There goes a Jacobin," he said, "he jostles against me and does not salute me."[2]

"Monsieur," replied M. Arnault, "do not be more exacting than the Gospel: Extra ecclesiam nulla est salus."[3]

I see I have forgotten among all these matters to speak of Madame Arnault. She was about forty when I was first introduced to her and she was still a charming little woman at that age, dark, pretty, plump, full of airs and graces. Madame Arnault was cordially good to me for five years, then things changed. Perhaps it was my own fault: the reader shall judge when the time comes.

[1] The Abbé Geoffrey.

[2] Et qui ne me salue pas.

[3] Hors de l'Église, pas de salut!

[Pg 349]


Frédéric Soulié, his character, his talent—Choruses of the various plays, sung as prologues and epilogues—Transformation of the vaudeville—The Gymnase and M. Scribe—The Folle de Waterloo

Adolphe took me to Frédéric Soulié's house that evening. Frédéric Soulié had a gathering of friends to celebrate his refusal at the Gymnase; for he looked upon the acceptance on condition of alteration as a refusal.

I shall often return to, and speak much of Soulié: he was one of the most powerful literary influences of the day, and his personality was one of the most marked I have known. He died young. He died, not only in the full tide of his talent, but even before he had produced the perfect and finished work he would certainly have created, some day or other, had not death hastened its footsteps. Soulié's brain was a little confused and obscure; his thoughts were only lighted up on one side, after the fashion of this planet; the reverse side to the one illuminated by the sun was pitifully dark. Soulié did not know how to begin either a novel or a drama. The opening explanation of his work was done hap-hazard: sometimes in the first act, sometimes in the last, if it were a play; if it were a novel, sometimes in the first, sometimes in the last volume. His introduction, timidly begun, nearly always was laboriously unravelled. It seemed as though, like those night birds which need the darkness to develop all their faculties, Soulié was not at ease save in twilight.

I was for ever quarrelling with him on this point. As he was gifted with unrivalled imagination and power, when he was on the warpath, I used to beseech him continually to let in[Pg 350] the utmost possible daylight at the beginning of his action. "Be clear to the verge of transparency," I continually said to him. "God's greatness consists in His making of light; without light, we should not have known how to appreciate the sublime grandeur of creation."

Soulié was twenty-six when I first knew him. He was a lusty young man, of medium height, but capitally proportioned; he had a prominent forehead; dark hair, eyebrows and beard; a well-shaped nose and full eyes; thick lips and white teeth. He laughed readily, although it was never a fresh young laugh. It sounded ironical and strident, which gave it the quality of age. Being naturally of a bantering disposition, irony was a weapon he could wield admirably.

He had tried his hand at most things, and he retained some slight knowledge of everything he had done. After having received an excellent education in the provinces, I believe he studied law at Rheims, to which we owe the admirable description of student's life in his book entitled Confession générale. He passed his legal examinations and was called to the Bar; but he did not take kindly to the profession. Rather than follow that very liberal avocation, he preferred a mercantile calling. This aversion led to his developing the notion of a big steam sawmill in 1824 or 1825.

In the meantime, Soulié (who then signed himself Soulié de Lavelanet) lived upon a small allowance his father made him a hundred louis, as far as I am able to remember. He lived in the rue de Provence, on the first floor, in a bewitching room that seemed a palace to us. There was, above all else, a most unwonted luxury in this room, a piano on which Soulié could play two or three tunes. He was both very radical and very aristocratic, two qualities which often went together at that period: see, for example, Carrel, whom we have already seen in the Béfort affair, and who will reappear on the scene presently, after the amnesty to be accorded by Charles X. on his accession to the throne.

Soulié was brave, without being quarrelsome; but he had the sensitiveness both of the student and of the Southerner. He was passably skilful as a swordsman and a first-rate shot.

[Pg 351]

Soulié at first thought me a worthless lad, of no importance; and it was quite natural he should. He was astonished and almost overwhelmed by my early successes. By that time I knew Soulié as he was; jealous almost to envy, but, by reason of the strong kindliness of his good and upright heart, able to keep all the evil tendencies of his character under control. A constant struggle was waged within him between good and bad principles, and yet not once perhaps did the evil principle get the better of him. He very often tried to hate me, but never managed to succeed: very often, when he set out to run me down in conversation, he would end by praising me. And, as a matter of fact, I was the man who hampered his career more than any other: in the theatre, in the newspapers, in the matter of books, I was everywhere in his path, doing him involuntary but actual damage everywhere; and, in spite of this, I was so certain of Soulié, and so sure of his supreme justice and goodness of heart, that, if I had needed any act of service, I should have gone to Soulié to ask it of him, rather than of any other—and he would have rendered me this service, more readily than any other person would.

At first Soulié turned his attention towards poetry. It was in the domain of poetry, I believe, that he looked to make his conquests. His first stage-play was an imitation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. I never experienced greater emotion than that which I felt at the first representation of this play.

We were often months or a year without seeing each other; but when fate turned us face to face, no matter how far off we might be, we each walked straight to the other's heart and open arms. Perhaps, before catching sight of me, Soulié had not particularly cared to meet me; perhaps, had someone told him, "Dumas is over there," he would have made a detour; but, directly he caught sight of me, the electric current dominated his will and he was mine, body and soul, as though never a single jealous thought had crossed his mind. It was different with regard to Hugo or Lamartine: he did not like them, and he rarely spoke impartially of their talent. I feel convinced that it was Hugo's Odes et Ballades and[Pg 352] Lamartine's Méditations which led Frédéric Soulié to write in prose. Rest in peace, friend of my youth, companion of my first serious efforts, I will depict thee as thou wert; I will design a statue of thee, not a bust; I will isolate thee; I will place thee on the pedestal of thy works, so that all those who never knew thee may take the measure of thy impressive figure; for thou art one of those who can be studied from all aspects, and who, living or dead, have no need to be afraid of being placed in a full light.

At the time of which I am writing, Soulié was linked in literary friendship with Jules Lefèvre and Latouche,—Latouche, with whom he quarrelled so fiercely later over Christine. In private life, his chief friend was a tall, stout fellow called David, who was at that time, and may still be, a stockbroker. I do not know whether Soulié was his only friend; but I believe that on the Exchange he made not a few enemies.

When we went to see Soulié, he was entertaining a dozen of his friends to tea, cake and sandwiches. Such luxuries quite dazzled me. Soulié was conscious of his own powers, and this rendered him extremely scornful towards second-rate literature. In his efforts to poach upon other writers' preserves, until the time came when he could do better than they, he treated certain contemporary celebrities, whose positions I envied greatly, with lofty off-handedness. He proposed, he said, to publish an Almanac for the coming year, 1824, entitled the Parfait Vaudevilliste, which should consist of ready-made verses from old soldiers and young colonels. Among these verses from old soldiers were some of the first order, and the following may be taken as a model: it is one which Gontier sang in Michel et Christine, and for which he was enthusiastically applauded nightly:—

"Sans murmurer,
Votre douleur amère,
Frapp'rait mes yeux, plutôt tout endurer!
Moi, j'y suis fait, c'est mon sort ordinaire;
Un vieux soldat sait souffrir et se taire,
Sans murmurer!"

[Pg 353]

There were also, at that time, in the plays in course of representation, a certain number of choruses applicable to current events, and these found a fitting place in the Parfait Vaudevilliste. Unfortunately, I did not copy any of them at Soulié's at that period. Three or four months before his death, I begged him to send me his collection: he had lost it. Instead, he sent me five or six of the choruses he remembered; only he could not tell me exactly to what period they belonged; he could only affirm that they were not bastard waifs and strays, as might readily be believed, but acknowledged and legitimate offspring; and, by way of proof, he sent along with them the names of their begetters.

These choruses were, of course, the author's exclusive property. He placed them in identical situations: some of them had already done duty ten, twenty, thirty times, and only waited the opportunity to be used a thirty-first time. We will begin with a chorus from the Barbier châtelain, by Théaulon: to every man his due.

"Bonne nuit!
Bonne nuit!
Ça soulage,
En voyage.
Bonne nuit!
Bonne nuit!
Retirons-nous sans bruit."

This became proverbial: directly the scene began, everyone commenced to hum in advance the chorus which came at the end of it. Another chorus, of Brazier and Courcy, in the Parisien à Londres, was also not devoid of merit. Unluckily, the scene it belonged to was so peculiar that it was only used once. Nevertheless, it remained in the memories of a fair number of connoisseurs. It was about a Frenchman who was surprised during a criminal amour and who, when led before his judges, excited a lively curiosity among the audience.

[Pg 354]

So the audience sang:—

"Nous allons voir juger
Cet étranger,
Qui fut bien léger!...
A l'audience,
On défend l'innocence,
Et l'on sait la venger."

The stranger was condemned to marriage, and the audience, satisfied, left, singing the same chorus, with this slight variation:—

"Nous avons vu juger
Cet étranger,
Qui fut bien léger!...
A l'audience,
On défend l'innocence,
Et l'on sait la venger."

But as breakfasts, dinners and suppers are more frequent at theatres than foreigners condemned to espouse Englishwomen, there was a chorus of Dumanoir which, always sung when people were sitting down to the table, gave the public some notion of the drunkenness of the partakers.

They sang this:—

"Quel repas
Plein d'appas,
Où, gai convive,
L'Amour arrive!...
Quel repas
Plein d'appas!
On n'en fait pas
De pareils ici-bas!"

In spite of the holy laws of propriety, more respected, one knows, among dramatic authors than in any other class of society, Adolphe one day allowed himself the liberty of using this couplet and had the audacity to put it in one of his plays, without troubling to change it one single iota. There is quite a long story about this: Adolphe, threatened with a lawsuit by Dumanoir, was only able to settle matters by[Pg 355] offering a chorus for dancers in exchange for the drinking chorus.

This is de Leuven's chorus: it will be seen that if Dumanoir did not gain much through this, he did not lose much by it:—

"A la danse,
A la danse,
Allons, amis, que l'on séance!
Entendez-vous du bal
Les gais accords, le doux signal?..."

Dumanoir faithfully adhered to the agreement, but only used the chorus once; then he returned it to Adolphe, who, on regaining possession, continued to use his chorus, to the great satisfaction of the audience.

All these choruses, however, pale before that of Jean de Calais. This was by Émile Vanderburch, one of the authors of the Gamin de Paris, and it concluded the play. It runs thus:—

"Chantons les hauts faits
De Jean de Calais!
On dira, dans l'histoire,
Qu'il a mérité
Sa gloire
Et sa félicité!..."

Indeed, a great revolution was taking place at this time in comic opera; and this revolution was brought about by a man who has since proscribed others as revolutionists. We refer to Scribe, who, in the literary revolution of 1820 to 1828, played pretty nearly the rôle the Girondists played in the political revolution of 1792 and 1793.

Before Scribe, comic operas (with the exception of the delightful sketches of Désaugiers) were hardly more than bare skeletons, left for the actors to clothe as they liked. Nowadays the great thing is to create rôles for M. Arnal, M. Bouffé, or Mademoiselle Rose Chéri, but at that time no one thought of creating a rôle for M. Potier, M. Brunet or M. Perrin. M. Perrin, M. Brunet or M. Potier found their rôles outlined for them at the first rehearsal, and made them what they were at the first representation.

[Pg 356]

Scribe was the first author to make plays instead of outline sketches. Plots developed in his clever hands, and so, in three or four years, the Théâtre du Gymnase attained its full growth. It was not modelled on any other company, but created what might well be called M. Scribe's company: it was composed almost exclusively of colonels, young widows, old soldiers and faithful servants. Never had such widows been seen, never such colonels; never had old soldiers spoken thus; never had such devoted servants been met with. But the company of the Gymnase, as M. Scribe created it, became the fashion, and the direct patronage of Madame la Duchesse de Berry contributed not a little towards the fortune made by the manager, and to the author's reputation. The form of verse itself was changed. The old airs of our fathers, who had been satisfied with the gay repetition of lon, lon, la, larira dondaine, and the gai, gai, larira dondé, were abandoned for the more artificially mannered comic opera, pointed epigrams and long-drawn-out, elegantly turned verses. When the situation became touching, eight or ten lines would express the feelings of the character, borrowing charm from the music, and sighing declarations of love, for which prose had ceased to suffice. In short, a charming little bastard sprang into being, of which, to use a village expression, M. Scribe was both father and godfather, and which was neither the old vaudeville, nor comic opera, nor comedy.

The models of the new style were the Somnambule, Michel et Christine, the Héritière, the Mariage de raison, Philippe and Marraine. Later, some vaudevilles went a degree farther; for example, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, un Duel sous Richelieu, the Vie de bohème. These bordered on comedy, and could at a pinch be played without lines. Other changes will be pointed out, so far as they affected the arts. Let us briefly state here that we had entered into the age of transition. In 1818, Scribe began by the vaudeville; from 1818 to 1820 Hugo and Lamartine appeared in the literary world, the former with his Odes et Ballades, the latter with his Méditations, the first attempts of the new poetry; from 1820 to 1824 Nodier published novels of a kind which introduced a fresh type—[Pg 357]namely, the picturesque; from 1824 to 1828 it was the turn of painting to attempt fresh styles; finally, from 1828 to 1835, the revolution spread to the dramatic world, and followed almost immediately on the footsteps of the historical and imaginative novel. Thus the nineteenth century, freed from parental restraint, assumed its true colour and originality. Of course it will be understood that, as I was so closely associated with all the great artists and all the great sculptors of the time, each of them will come into these Memoirs in turn; they will constitute a gigantic gallery wherein every illustrious name shall have its living monument.

Let us return to Soulié. We had reached the date when his first piece of poetry had the honour of print: it was called the Folk de Waterloo, and had been written at the request of Vatout, for the work he produced on the Gallery of the Palais-Royal. I need hardly say that Soulié read it to us. Here it is: we give it in order to indicate the point of departure of all our great poets. When we take note of the end to which they have attained, we can measure the distance traversed. Probably some contemporary grumblers will tell us it matters very little where they started or where they ended: to such we would reply that we are not merely writing for the year 1851 or the year 1852, but for the sacred future which seizes chisel, brush, and pen as they drop from the hands of the illustrious dead.


"Un jour, livrant mon âme à la mélancolie,
J'avais porté mes pas errants
Dans ces prisons où la folie
Est offerte en spectacle aux yeux indifférents.
C'était à l'heure qui dégage
Quelques infortunés des fers et des verrous;
Et mon cœur s'étonnait d'écouter leur langage,
Où se mêlaient les pleurs, le rire et le courroux.

Tandis que leur gardien les menace ou les raille,
Une femme paraît pâle et le front penché;
[Pg 358]Sa main tient l'ornement qui, les jours de bataille.
Brille au cou des guerriers sur l'épaule attaché,
Et de ses blonds cheveux s'échappe un brin de paille
A sa couche arrache

En voyant sa jeunesse et le morne délire,
Qui doit, par la prison, la conduire au tombeau,
Je me sends pleurer.... Elle se prit à rire,
Et cria lentement:'Waterloo! Waterloo!'

'Quel malheur t'a donc fait ce malheur de la France?'
Lui dis-je.... Et son regard craintif
Ou, sans voir la raison, je revis l'espérance,
S'unit pour m'appeler à son geste furtif.

'Français, parle plus has, dit-elle. Oh! tu m'alarmes!
Peut-être ces Anglais vont étouffer ta voix;
Car c'est à Waterloo que, la première fois,
Adolphe m'écouta sans répondre à mes larmes.

'Lorsque, dans ton pays, la guerre s'allumait,
Il me quitta pour elle, en disant qu'il m'aimait;
C'est là le seul adieu dont mon cœur se souvienne ...
La gloire l'appelait, il a suivi sa loi;
Et, comme son amour n'était pas tout pour moi,
Il servit sa patrie, et j'oubliai la mienne!

'Et, quand je voulus le chercher,
Pour le voir, dans le sang il me fallut marcher;
J'entendais de longs cris de douleur et d'alarmes;
La lune se leva sur ce morne tableau;
J'aperçus sur le sol des guerriers et des armes,
Et des Anglais criaient: "Waterloo! Waterloo!"

'Et moi, fille de l'Angleterre,
Indifférente aux miens qui dormaient sur la terre,
J'appelais un Français, et pleurais sans remords ...
Tout à coup, une voix mourante et solitaire
S'éleva de ce champ des morts:

"Adolphe?" me dit-on. "Des héros de la garde
Il était le plus brave et marchait avec nous;
Nous combattions ici.... Va, baisse-toi, regarde,
[Pg 359]Tu l'y retrouveras, car nous y sommes tous!"

'Je tremblais de le voir et je le vis lui-même....
Dis-moi quel est ce mal qu'on ne peut exprimer?
Ses yeux, sous mes baisers, n'ont pu se ranimer....
Oh! comme j'ai souffert à cette heure suprême;
Car il semblait ne plus m'aimer!

Et puis ... je ne sais plus!... Connaît-il ma demeure?
Jadis, quand il venait, il venait tous les jours!
Et sa mère, en pleurant, accusait nos amours....
Hélas! il ne vient plus, et pourtant elle pleure!

La folle vers la porte adresse alors ses pas,
Attache à ses verrous un regard immobile,
M'appelle à ses côtés, et, d'une voix débile:
'Pauvre Adolphe, dit-elle, en soupirant tout bas;
Comme il souffre!... il m'attend, puisqu'il ne revient pas!'

Elle dit, dans les airs la cloche balancée
Apprit à la douleur que l'heure était passée
D'espérer que ses maux, un jour, pourraient finir.
La folle se cachait; mais, dans le sombre asile
Où, jeune, elle portait un si long avenir,
A la voix des gardiens d'où la pitié s'exile,
Seule, il lui fallut revenir.

'Adieu! je ne crains pas qu'un Français me refuse,
Dit-elle, en me tendant la main;
Si tu le vois, là-bas, qui vient sur le chemin;
D'un aussi long retard si son amour s'accuse,
Dis-lui que je le plains, dis-lui que je l'excuse,
Dis-lui que je l'attends demain!'"

[Pg 360]


The Duc d'Orléans—My first interview with him—Maria-Stella-Chiappini—Her attempts to gain rank—Her history—The statement of the Duc d'Orléans—Judgment of the Ecclesiastical Court of Faenza—Rectification of Maria-Stella's certificate of birth

I had been installed nearly a month at the office, to the great satisfaction of Oudard and of M. de Broval (who, thanks to my beautiful handwriting, thought that M. Deviolaine had been too hard on me), when the former sent word by Raulot that he wanted me in his office. I hastened to respond to the invitation. Oudard looked very solemn. "My dear Dumas," he said, "M. le Duc d'Orléans has just asked me for someone to copy quickly and neatly a piece of work he has prepared for his counsel. Although there is nothing secret about it, you must understand that it will not do to have the papers left about in the office while being copied. I thought of you, because you write rapidly and correctly: it will be the means of bringing you before the duke. I am going to take you into his room."

I must confess I felt greatly excited on learning that I was about to find myself face to face with a man whose influence might be of much importance in the shaping of my destiny.

Oudard noticed the effect this news produced on me, and tried to reassure me by telling me of the perfect kindness of the duke. This did not at all prevent me from feeling very nervous as I approached His Royal Highness's room. I had a moment's respite, for His Royal Highness was at breakfast; but I soon heard a step that I guessed was his, and fear seized me once more. The door opened, and the Duc d'Orléans appeared. I[Pg 361] had seen him already, once or twice, at Villers-Cotterets, when he came to the sale of the woods. I believe I said that he stayed then with M. Collard, from whom he was the recipient of the most lavish hospitality imaginable, although, so far as he himself was concerned, the Duc d'Orléans always tried to restrain hospitality offered him within the limits of a simple family visit.

M. le Duc d'Orléans had, as a matter of fact, the good feeling to recognise almost publicly his illegitimate relations: he had his two natural uncles—the two abbés Saint-Phar and Saint-Albin—living with him at the Palais-Royal, and he did not make any distinction between them and the other members of his family.

The prince would be fifty years old the following October: he was still a very good-looking man, though his figure was marred by his stoutness, which had increased during the past ten years; his face was frank, his eyes bright and intelligent, without depth or steadfastness; he was fluently affable, but nevertheless his words never lost their aristocratic savour unless his sole interest were to conciliate a vain citizen; he had a pleasant voice, which in his good-humoured moments was usually kind in tone; and, when he was in the mood, he could be heard, even a long way off, singing the mass in a voice almost as out of tune as that of Louis XV. I have since heard him sing the Marseillaise as falsely as he sang the mass. To make a long story short, I was presented to him: not much ceremony was observed in my case.

"Monseigneur, this is M. Dumas, of whom I have spoken to you, the protégé of General Foy."

"Oh, good!" replied the duke. "I was delighted to do something to please General Foy, who recommended you very warmly to me, monsieur. You are the son of a brave man, whom Bonaparte is said to have left almost to die of starvation."

I bowed in token of affirmation.

"You write a very good hand, you make and seal envelopes excellently; work, and M. Oudard will look after you."

"In the meantime," Oudard interposed, "Monseigneur wishes to entrust you with an important piece of work: His Highness desires it to be done promptly and correctly."

[Pg 362]

"I will not leave it until it is finished," I replied, "and I will do my utmost to be as accurate as His Highness requires."

The duke made a sign to Oudard, as much as to say, "Not bad for a country lad."

Then, going before me, he said—

"Come into this room and sit down at that table."

And with these words he pointed out a desk to me.

"Here you will be undisturbed."

He then opened a bundle in which about fifty pages were arranged in order, covered on both sides with his big handwriting and numbered at the front of each page.

"See," he said, "copy from here to there: if you finish before I come back, you must wait for me; I have several corrections to make in certain passages, and I will make them as I dictate them to you."

I sat down and set to work at my task. The work with which I was entrusted was concerned with an event which had recently made a great stir, and which could not fail to take up the attention of Paris. This was the claim made by Maria-Stella-Petronilla Chiappini, Baroness of Sternberg, to the rank and fortune of the Duc d'Orléans, which she contended belonged to her.

Here is the fable upon which her pretension was founded. We give it from Maria-Stella's point of view, without, be it well understood, believing for a single instant in the justice of her claim.

Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans, who was married in 1768, had, to the beginning of January 1772, only presented her husband, Louis-Philippe-Joseph d'Orléans, with a still-born daughter. The absence of male issue troubled the Duc d'Orléans greatly, as his fortune, derived chiefly from portions granted him as a younger son, would, in default of male issue, revert to the Crown. It was with this in his mind and in the hope that travel might perhaps lead to the Duchesse d'Orléans being again pregnant, that Louis-Philippe and his wife set out for Italy, in the early part of the year 1772, under the name of the Comte and Comtesse de Joinville.

[Pg 363]

I repeat for the last time, that throughout this narrative it is not I who am speaking, but the claimant, Maria-Stella-Petronilla.

Well, the august travellers had scarcely reached the top of the Apennines before symptoms of a fresh pregnancy declared themselves, which caused the Duchesse d'Orléans to stay at Modigliana.

In the village of Modigliana there was a prison, and a gaoler to watch over the prison. The gaoler was called Chiappini. M. le Duc d'Orléans, faithful to his traditions of familiarity with the people, became on still more easy terms with the gaoler as the intimacy took place under cover of his incognito. There was, besides, a reason for the intimacy. Chiappini's wife was expecting her confinement just at the same time as Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans. A treaty was accordingly entered into between the illustrious travellers and the humble gaoler, to the effect that should Madame la Comtesse de Joinville by chance give birth to a girl, and the wife of Chiappini to a boy, the two mothers should exchange their two children.

Fate ordained matters as the parents had foreseen: the gaoler's wife gave birth to a boy, the prince's wife gave birth to a girl; and the agreed exchange was made, the prince handing over a considerable sum to the gaoler as well.

The child destined to play the part of prince was then transported to Paris, and although he was born as far back as 17 April 1773, the fact was kept secret till 6 October, on which date it was declared, and the child was baptized by the almoner of the Palais-Royal, in the presence of the parish priest and of two valets. In the meantime, the duchess's daughter, left in Italy, was brought up there under the name of Maria-Stella-Petronilla. The rest of the story can be guessed. Nevertheless, we will give it in detail. Maria-Stella did not know the story of her birth until after the death of the gaoler Chiappini. She had a melancholy childhood. The gaoler's wife, who regretted her son and who was for ever reproaching her husband for the agreement made, rendered the child's life very miserable. The young girl was, it seems, extremely beautiful, and at the age of seventeen she made such a deep[Pg 364] impression upon Lord Newborough, one of the wealthiest noblemen of England, who was passing through Modigliana, that he married her almost in spite of herself, and took her away to London. She was left a widow very young, with several children,—one of whom is now a peer of England,—but she soon married the Baron de Sternberg, who took her away to St. Petersburg, where she presented him with a son.

One day, the Baroness de Sternberg, who was almost separated from her husband, received a letter with an Italian postmark; she opened it and read the following lines, written by the hand of the man whom she believed to be her father:—

"MILADY,—I have at last reached the close of my life, without having revealed to anyone a secret which closely concerns you and me. This secret is as follows:—

"The day on which you were born, of a lady whose name I cannot divulge, and who has already departed this life, I also had a child born to me, a boy. I was asked to make an exchange, and taking into consideration the impoverished state of my fortune at that time, I consented to the urgent and advantageous proposals made to me. It was then I adopted you as my daughter, and at the same time the other person adopted my son. I perceive that Heaven has made up for my wrongdoing, since you are placed in a higher station in life than your father—though he was in almost the same rank—and it is this reflection which allows me to die with some degree of tranquillity. Keep this before your mind, so that you may not hold me wholly responsible. Although I ask your forgiveness for my error, I earnestly beseech you to keep the fact secret, in order that the world may not be able to talk about a matter now past remedy. This letter will not even be sent you until after my death. LAURENT CHIAPPINI"

Upon receipt of this letter, Maria-Stella at once prepared to travel to Italy. She did not agree with the gaoler Chiappini in thinking the matter irremediable: she wished to know who was her true father. She gathered information wherever she could find it, and at length she learned that in 1772—in other[Pg 365] words, a year before her birth—two French travellers arrived at Modigliana, and remained there until the month of April 1773. These two travellers called themselves the Comte and Comtesse de Joinville. Upon this slight clue, the Baroness de Sternberg set off to France, and began by visiting the little town of Joinville, whose name her father bore. Here she learnt that Joinville had once been an inheritance belonging to the Orléans family, and that Duc Louis-Philippe-Joseph, who had been travelling in Italy in 1772, had died upon the scaffold in 1793.

Only his son, the Duc d'Orléans, was left (the two younger brothers having died, the Duc de Montpensier in England and the Duc de Beaujolais at Malta), the inheritor of the whole of his father's wealth. He lived in Paris, and he was the only prince of the blood of the house of Orléans.

Maria-Stella left immediately for Paris, made useless efforts to gain access to the duke himself, gave herself into the hands of intriguing persons who exploited her cause, to business men who cheated her, and ended by writing to the papers, stating that the Baroness de Sternberg, who was the bearer of a communication of the greatest importance to the heirs of the Comte de Joinville, had arrived in Paris, and desired to acquaint them with this communication at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Duc d'Orléans did not wish to receive this communication direct; neither did he desire to have recourse to the agency of a business man: he commissioned his uncle, the old Abbé of Saint-Phar, to call on the baroness.[1] Then everything was laid bare, and the duke discovered the whole plot that was being weaved about him. Learning that, whether from honest belief or from cupidity, Maria-Stella seriously meant to pursue her cause, and that she was going to return to Italy to furnish herself with documents wherewith to establish her identity, he hastened to take the precaution of preparing a memoir, intended for his counsel, to refute the fabrication by the aid of which[Pg 366] Maria-Stella intended to take away his rank and his fortune, or at all events to make him pay for the right to keep them. In the meantime, she was appealing to the Duchesse d'Angoulême as the likeliest person to harbour the liveliest feelings of resentment against the Orléans family.

It was this memoir that I was called upon to copy. I must own that I did not transcribe it without reading it, although my total ignorance of history left many points obscure to me in the prince's refutation. Not only was this paper based upon fact, but it was written with that customary power of reasoning which the Duc d'Orléans was noted for exercising, even in minor matters of diplomacy. He employed counsel for form's sake only, for he himself drew up not merely notes on the case he wished to prove, but lengthy statements, which roused the admiration of the celebrated barrister Me. Dupin, to whom they were always sent.

I came to the end of the portion the duke had told me to write, after a couple of hours' work; so I put down my work and waited. When the duke returned, he came to the table at which I was writing, picked up my copy, made a gesture indicative of his approval of my handwriting, but almost immediately afterwards said—

"Oh! oh! you have a punctuation of your own, I see;" and taking a pen, he sat down at a corner of the table and began to punctuate my copy according to the rules of grammar.

The duke flattered me highly by saying I had a punctuation of my own. I knew no more about punctuation than about anything else: I punctuated according to my fancy, or rather, I did not punctuate at all. To this day, I only punctuate on my proofs: I believe you could take up any of my manuscripts hap-hazard and run through a whole volume without finding a single exclamation mark, or an acute accent or a grave accent. After the duke had read the statement and corrected my punctuation, he got up and, walking up and down, dictated to me the part he wanted to correct. I wrote almost as quickly as he dictated, which seemed to please him extremely. I reached this sentence: "And if there were nothing else but the striking[Pg 367] resemblance which exists between the Duc d'Orléans and his illustrious grandfather Louis XIV., would not that likeness alone be sufficient to demonstrate the falseness of this adventuress's pretensions?"

Although, as I have previously stated, I was not very well read in history, yet in this matter I knew quite enough (as they say in duelling of a man who has had three months' training in a fencing school) to make a fool of myself—that is to say, I knew that M. le Duc d'Orléans was descended from Monsieur, that Monsieur was the son of Louis XIII. and brother of Louis XIV., and that, consequently, Louis XIV., being Monsieur's brother, could not be the grandfather of the Duc d'Orléans, who was honouring me by dictating to me a memorandum against Maria-Stella's claim. So, when he came to these words, "And if there were nothing else but the striking resemblance which exists between the Duc d'Orléans and his illustrious grandfather Louis XIV." I looked up. It was most impertinent of me! A prince is never mistaken, and in this instance the prince did not allow himself to be taken in.

So, the Duc d'Orléans stopped in front of me and said to me, "Dumas, you should know this: when a person is descended from Louis XIV. even if only through bastards, it is a sufficiently great honour to boast about!... Proceed."

And he resumed: "Would not that likeness alone be sufficient to demonstrate the falseness of this adventuress's pretensions?..."

I wrote this time without raising an eye, and I never looked up again throughout the remainder of the sitting.

At four o'clock the Duc d'Orléans set me free, asking me if I could come to work in the evening.

I replied that I was at His Highness's disposition. I picked up my hat, I bowed, I went out, I took the stairs four at a time and I ran to find Lassagne. He chanced to be still at his desk.

"How can Louis XIV. be the grandfather of the Duc d'Orléans?" I asked as soon as I got in, without any preliminary explanation.

[Pg 368]

"Good gracious!" he said, "it is plain enough: because the regent married Mademoiselle de Blois, who was Louis XIV.'s natural daughter by Madame de Montespan—a marriage that procured him a sound smack in the face when it was announced by him to the Princess Palatine, Monsieur's second wife, who thus expressed her feelings at the mésalliance. ... You will find all this in the memoirs of the Princess Palatine and in Saint-Simon."

I felt extinguished by the ready and accurate answer given me.

"Oh!" I said, with downcast head, "I shall never be as learned as that!"

I finished the copy of the statement by eleven o'clock that same evening. It was sent next day to M. Dupin, who should have it still, written in my handwriting.

We will now finish the story of Maria-Stella.

When she had threatened the Duc d'Orléans, she returned to Italy, to hunt up evidence that would establish the authenticity of her birth, and the substitution of the daughter of the Comtesse de Joinville for the son of the gaoler Chiappini.

She did, in fact, obtain the following decree from the Ecclesiastical Court of Faenza, on 29 May 1824: we will give it for what it is worth, or rather for what it was worth. This decree is followed by the official rectification of the birth certificate:—


"Having invoked the very sacred name of God, we, sitting in our tribunal, and looking only to God and His justice, pronouncing judgment in the suit pleaded or to be pleaded before us, before the inferior or any other more competent court: between Her Excellency Maria Newborough, Baroness of Sternberg, domiciled at Ravenna, petitioner, of the one part; and M. le Comte Charles Bandini, as trustee judicially delegated by M. le Comte Louis and Madame la Comtesse N. de Joinville or any other person not present having or claiming an interest in the case, defendants arraigned before the law, as also the[Pg 369] most excellent Dr. Thomas Chiappini, domiciled at Florence, defendant also cited, but not arraigned before the law;—whereas the petitioner, appearing before this episcopal curé, as a competent tribunal, by reason of the ecclesiastical acta hereinafter set forth subject to its jurisdiction, has demanded that an order be made to have her certificate of baptism, etc., corrected by the insertion therein of suitable annotations; and whereas the trustee of the defendants cited has demanded that the claim of the petitioner be set aside, with costs; and whereas the other defendant cited, Dr. Chiappini, has not appeared before us, although twice summoned so to do by an archiepiscopal usher of Florence acting on our behalf, according to the custom of this curé, and whereas the effect of this contumacy has been duly considered in its bearing on the case;

"In virtue of the acta, etc.;—having heard the respective defendants, etc.;—Considering that Laurent Chiappini, being near the term of his mortal life, did, by a letter which was handed to the petitioner after the decease of the said Chiappini, reveal to the said petitioner the secret of her birth, showing clearly to her that she was not his daughter, but the daughter of a person whose name he stated he was bound to withhold; that it has been clearly proved by experts that this letter is in the handwriting of Laurent Chiappini; that the word of a dying man is proof positive, since it is not in his interest any longer to lie, and since he is, presumably, thinking only of his eternal salvation; that such a confession must be regarded, in the light of a solemn oath, and as a deposition made for the benefit of his soul and for righteousness' sake; that the trustee would essay in vain to impair the validity of the evidence of the said letter on the plea that no mention is made therein as to who were the real father and mother of the petitioner, seeing that—though such mention is in effect wanting—recourse has nevertheless been had, on behalf of the same petitioner, to testimonial proof, to presumption and to conjecture; that, when there is written proof, as in the present case, testimonial proof or any other argument may be adduced, even when it is a question of personal identity; that if, in a case of identity, following on the principle of written proof, proof by witness is also admissible, so much the more should it hold good in this case, where the demand is confined to a document to be used hereafter, in the question of identity;[Pg 370]—considering that it clearly results from the sworn and legal depositions of the witnesses, Marie and Dominique-Marie, the sisters Bandini, that there was an agreement between M. le Comte and Signior Chiappini to exchange their respective children in case the countess gave birth to a daughter and Chiappini's wife to a son; that such an exchange in effect took place, and, the event foreseen having come to pass, that the daughter was baptized in the church of the priory of Modigliana, in the name of Maria-Stella, her parents being falsely declared to be the couple Chiappini; that they are in entire agreement as to the date of the exchange, which coincides with that of the birth of the petitioner, and that they allege reasons in support of their cognisance, etc.;—considering that it is in vain for the trustee to attack the likelihood of this evidence, since not only is there nothing impossible in their statements, but they are, on the contrary, supported and corroborated by a very large number of other presumptions and conjectures; that one very strong conjecture is based on public rumour and on gossip that was rife at the time in connection with the exchange, such public rumour, when allied to past events, having the value of truth and of full cognisance; that this public rumour is proved, not only by the depositions of the aforesaid sisters Bandini, but also by the attestation of Monsieur Dominique de la Valle and by those of the other witnesses of Bringhella and of witnesses from Ravenna, all of which were legally and judicially examined in their places of origin and before their respective tribunals; that the vicissitudes experienced by M. le comte are convincing testimony to the reality of the exchange; that there is documentary evidence to prove that, in consequence of the rumour current at Modigliana on the subject of the said exchange, the Comte de Joinville was compelled to take flight and to seek refuge in the convent of St. Bernard of Brisighella, and that while out walking he was arrested, and then, after having been detained some time in the public hall at Brisighella, he was taken by the Swiss Guards of Ravenna before His Eminence, M. le Cardinal Legate, who set him at liberty, etc.; that M. le Comte Biancoli Borghi attests, in his judicial examination, that, while sorting some old papers of the Borghi family, he came upon a letter written from Turin to M. le Comte Pompée Borghi, the date of which he does not recollect, signed 'Louis, Comte de Joinville,' which stated that the changeling had died, and that any scruple on its[Pg 371] account was now removed;—considering that the said Comte Biancoli Borghi alleges cognisance in his depositions; that the fact of the exchange is further proved by the subsequently improved fortunes of Chiappini, etc.; that the latter spoke of the exchange to a certain Don Bandini de Variozo, etc.; that the petitioner received an education suitable to her distinguished rank, and not such as would have been given to the daughter of a gaoler, etc.; that it results clearly from all the counts so far pleaded, and from several others contained in the pleadings, that Maria-Stella was falsely declared, in the act of birth, to be the daughter of Chiappini and his wife, and that she owes her birth to M. le Comte and Madame la Comtesse de Joinville; that it is, in consequence, a matter of simple justice to permit the correction of the certificate of birth as now demanded by the said Maria-Stella; lastly, that Dr. Thomas Chiappini, instead of opposing her demand, has committed contumacy;

"Having repeated the very Holy Name of God, we declare, hold, and definitely pronounce judgment as follows:—that the objections raised by the trustee, the aforesaid defendant, be and they are hereby set aside; and therefore we also declare, hold, and definitely adjudicate that the certificate of birth of 17 April 1773, inscribed in the baptismal register of the priory church of St. Stephen, Pope and Martyr, at Modigliana, in the diocese of Faenza, in which it is declared that Maria-Stella is the daughter of Laurent Chiappini and of Vincenzia Diligenti, be rectified and amended, and that in lieu thereof she be declared to be the daughter of M. le Comte Louis and Madame la Comtesse N. de Joinville, of French nationality, to which effect we also order that the rectification in question be forthwith executed by the clerk of our court, with faculty also, by authority of the Prior of the church of St. Stephen, Pope and Martyr, at Modigliana, in the diocese of Faenza, to furnish a copy of the certificate so amended and rectified to all who may demand it, etc.;

"Preambles pronounced by me:—domestic canon

"(Signed) VALERIO BORCHI, Pro-Vicar General

"The present judgment has been pronounced, given, and by these writings, promulgated by the very illustrious and very reverend Monsignor the Pro-Vicar General, sitting in public audience, and it has been read and published by me, the[Pg 372] undersigned prothonotary, in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 1824,'indiction XII; on this day, 29 May, in the reign of our lord, Leo XII., Pope P.O.M., in the first year of his pontificate, there being present, amongst several others; Monsieur Jean Ricci, notary, Dr. Thomas Beneditti, both attorneys of Faenza, witnesses.


"Episcopal Prothonotary General

"Correction of the Certificate of Birth:—

"This day, 24 June 1824, under the protection of the holiness of our pope Leo XII., lord sovereign pontiff, happily reigning, in the 1st year of his pontificate, indiction XII, at Faenza;—the delay of ten days, the time used for lodging an appeal, having expired since the day of the notification of the decision pronounced by the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Faenza, on 29 May last,—in the case of Her Excellency Maria Newborough, Baroness de Sternberg, against M. le Comte Charles Bandini of that town, as trustee legally appointed to M. le Comte Louis and Madame la Comtesse N. de Joinville and to all others absent who did not put in an appearance, who may have, or might lay claim to have an interest in the case, as well as to Dr. Thomas Chiappini, living at Florence, in the States of Tuscany, without anyone having entered an appeal; I, the undersigned, in virtue of the powers given me by the above announced judgment, have proceeded to put the same judgment into execution—namely, the rectification of the certification of birth produced in the pleadings of the trial, as follows:—

"In the name of God, Amen, I the undersigned canon chaplain, curé of the priory and collegiate church of Saint-Étienne, Pope and Martyr, in the territory of Modigliana, in the Tuscan States, and in the diocese of Faenza, do certify having found, in the fourth book of the birth register, the following notice: 'Maria-Stella-Petronilla, born yesterday of the married couple Lorenzo, son of Ferdinand Chiappini, public sheriff officer to this district, and Vincenzia Diligenti, daughter of the deceased N. of this parish, was baptized, on 17 April 1773, by me, Canon François Signari, one of the chaplains; the godfather and godmother being François Bandelloni, tipstaff, and Stella[Pg 373] Ciabatti.—Witnessed at Modigliana, 16 April 1824; (signed) Gaëtan Violani, canon, etc.' I have, I say, proceeded to put the above-mentioned decision into execution, by means of the below-mentioned correction, which shall definitely take effect in the form and terms following: 'Maria-Stella-Petronilla, born yesterday of the married pair, M. le Comte Louis and Madame la Comtesse N. de Joinville, natives of France,—then dwelling in the district of Modigliana,—was baptized on April 17, 1773, by me, Canon François Signari, one of the chaplains; the godfather and godmother being: François Bandelloni, tipstaff, and Stella Ciabatti.'


"Episcopal Prothonotary of the Tribunal of Faenza"[2]

Furnished with these documents, the Baroness de Sternberg returned to Paris towards the close of the year 1824; but, it seems, neither these documents nor the personages who had set her going inspired great confidence; for, neither from Louis XVIII.,—who was not very fond of his cousin, since, under no pretext, would he ever allow him to be styled Royal Highness, while he reigned, saying that he would be always quite close enough to the throne,—nor from Charles X., could she obtain any support in aid of the restitution of her name and of her estates.

When Charles X. fell and the Duc d'Orléans became king, matters were even worse for her. There was no means of appealing from Philip asleep to Philip awake. Intimidation had no effect; the most determined enemies of the new king did not wish to soil their hands with this claim, which they regarded in the light of a conspiracy, and Maria-Stella remained in Paris, without so much as the notoriety of the persecution she expected to receive. She lived at the top of the rue de Rivoli, near the rue Saint-Florentin, on the fifth floor; and in the absence of two-footed, featherless courtiers, she held a court of two-clawed feathered creatures which waked the whole rue de Rivoli at five o'clock in the morning with their chatter. Those of my readers who live in Paris may perhaps recollect to have seen[Pg 374] flocks of impudent sparrows swooping down, whirling by thousands about the balconied windows: these three windows were those of Maria-Stella-Petronilla Newborough, Baroness of Sternberg, who, in order not to give the lie to herself, to the end of her life signed herself "Née Joinville."

She died in 1845, the day after the opening of the Chambers. Her last words were—

"Hand me the paper, that I may read the speech of that villain!"

She had not been outside her door for five years, for fear, she said, of being arrested by the king. The poor creature had become almost mad....

About three weeks after I had made the copy of the memorandum concerning her, M. Oudard called me into his office and informed me that I had been placed on the regular staff. In other words, I was given a berth at a salary of twelve hundred francs, in reward for my good handwriting and my cleverness in the matter of making envelopes and sealing. I had no reason to complain: Béranger had exactly the same on his entry into the University.

I sent my mother this good news the same day, begging her to get ready to come to me as soon as I had received the first payment of my increased salary.

[1] I do not know whether the Abbé de Saint-Phar saw or did not see Maria-Stella. I merely transcribe the memoirs of that lady.

[2] The translator is obliged to a legal friend for the version of the above documents.

[Pg 375]


The "year of trials"—The case of Potier and the director of the theatre of the Porte-Saint-Martin—Trial and condemnation of Magallon—The anonymous journalist—Beaumarchais sent to Saint-Lazare—A few words on censorships in general—Trial of Benjamin Constant—Trial of M. de Jouy—A few words concerning the author of Sylla—Three letters extracted from the Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin—Louis XVIII. as author

My anxiety to bring my readers along, without interruption, to the moment when my lot and that of my mother was settled, by my being placed on the staff as a copying-clerk at twelve hundred francs, has caused me to pass over a host of events of far greater interest, no doubt, to strangers, than those I have related, but which—if egotism may be permitted me—in my own eyes, and to my mind, should take a secondary place.

The year 1823, which we might style the "year of trials," opened by the trial of Potier on 7 January. Those who never saw Potier can form no conception of the influence this great comedian, who was much admired by Talma, had on the public; yet the damages and compensation that M. Serres, the manager of the Porte-Sainte-Martin, demanded from him, may give some idea of the value that was put upon him. One morning Potier, faithful, as M. Étienne would have said, to his first loves, took it into his head to return to the Variétés, a project which he carried out, it appears, forgetting to ask M. Serres to cancel his engagement before he left. Now Potier had been acting the part of old Sournois in Petites Dandaïdes, with such success both in the way of applause and in packed houses, that M. Serres not only refused to sanction this desertion, but reckoning up the losses which he considered Potier had[Pg 376] caused him by his departure, and would cause him in the future, because of this same departure, decided, after sending through the sheriffs officer his account to the famous comedian, to send a duplicate copy of it to the first Chamber of the Royal Court. The odd thing about the account was that the manager of the theatre of Porte-Sainte-Martin claimed absolutely nothing but what was due to him under the terms of his contract. These are the particulars of his claim:—

1. For each day's delay, reckoning at the
highest receipts taken in the theatre,
from 1 March 1822 to 1 April in
the same year, being at a rate
of three thousand six hundred and
eleven francs ...                                    144,408 fr.
2. Restitution of money..                             30,000  "
3. Amount paid in advance, forfeited.                 20,000  "
4. Damage and compensation..                          60,000  "
5. For one hundred and twenty-two days
   which have expired since the first claim....      440,542  "
6. For the seven years and ten months
   which remain to run before the end of the
   engagement..                                   10,322,840  "
7. Finally, as damages and compensation
   in respect of this period of seven years....      200,000  "
                                          Total.  11,217,790  "

If the manager of the Porte-Sainte-Martin had had the misfortune to win his case, he would have been obliged to pay Potier, in order to notify the sentence, a registration fee of three to four hundred thousand francs.

The Court condemned Potier to resume his engagement within a week's time: as to damages and compensation, it condemned him, par corps, to pay them according to the estimated scale.[Pg 377] Three days later, it was known that the matter had been settled, less a discount of eleven million two hundred and seven thousand seven hundred and ninety francs made by the manager.

On 8 February it was the turn of Magallon, the chief editor of the Album. Magallon appeared before the seventh Chamber of the Police Correctional Court, accused of having hidden political articles under the cloak of literature, with intent to incite hatred and contempt towards the Government. The Court condemned Magallon to thirteen months' imprisonment and to pay a fine of two thousand francs.

It was a monstrous sentence, and it created great uproar; but a far greater scandal still, or rather, what converted a matter of scandal into an outrage, was that for this slight literary offence, and on the pretext that the sentence exceeded one year, Magallon was taken to the central prison of Poissy, on foot, with his hands bound, tied to a filthy criminal condemned afresh to penal servitude, who, dead-drunk, kept yelling unceasingly the whole way, "Long live galley slaves! honour to, all galley slaves!"

When they reached Poissy, Magallon was put into prison clothes. From that evening he had to live on skilly and learn to pick oakum.... We content ourselves with relating the bare facts; although we cannot resist adding that they happened under the reign of a prince who pretended to be a man of letters, since he had ordered a quatrain from Lemierre and a comedy from Merville....

We have already related that M. Arnault, whose Marius à Minturnes had succeeded, in spite of Monsieur's prediction, paid, in all probability, for this want of respect for the opinion of His Royal Highness by four years of exile, on the return of the Bourbons.

And this was not Louis XVIII.'s first attempt on his confrères, the men of letters. Without mentioning M. de Chateaubriand, whom he hounded out of the ministry as though he were a lackey,—an act which caused that worthy gentleman to remark, on receiving his dismissal, "It is strange, for I have not stolen the king's watch!"—without counting Magallon, whom he sent[Pg 378] to Poissy chained to a scurvy convict; without counting M. Arnault, whom he banished from the country; there was, besides, a little story of the same kind in connection with Beaumarchais.

More than once has M. Arnault related in my hearing the curious and too little known history of Beaumarchais' imprisonment. These are the facts.

There is always a public Censorship, except during the first two or three months following the accession of princes to the throne, and the two or three months after they are deposed; but when these three months have elapsed, the Censorship reappears on the waters after its plunge, and proceeds to discover some minister, preferably of Liberal or even Republican tendencies, and to lay a snare for him.

When the Mariage de Figaro was running its course, M. Suard was censor, and he was also a journalist. He was one of those who had most bitterly opposed the representation of Beaumarchais' work, and he was largely responsible for the fifty-nine journeys—du marais à la police—that the illustrious author made without being able to obtain leave for his play to be performed.

At length, thanks to the intervention of the queen and the Comte d'Artois, the Folle Journée, recovered intact out of the claws of these gentlemen, was played on 27 April 1784. M. Suard was vindictive both in his capacity as censor and as a journalist; so that if he could not exercise the Censorship by the use of scissors, he had recourse to his pen. M. Suard was on very familiar terms with the Comte de Provence, and he served the Comte de Provence as a screen when His Royal Highness wished to give vent, incognito, to some petty literary spite. M. le Comte de Provence detested Beaumarchais almost as much as did M. Suard himself; the result was that the Comte de Provence hastened to unburden himself, by means of M. Suard, in the Journal de Paris, against the unfortunate Mariage de Figaro, which continued its successful run, in spite of M. Suard's signed articles or the anonymous articles of His Royal Highness. In the meantime, Beaumarchais[Pg 379] handed over the sum of about thirty or forty thousand francs which he received as author's rights in the Mariage de Figaro to the association for helping poor foster-mothers.

Monsieur, who had not got a child (a less polite chronicler than myself would say who was incapable of begetting one), and who consequently, owing to his failing in this respect, had not much sympathy with foster-mothers, indulged himself, always under the cloak of anonymity, in attacking the man, after having attacked the play, and wrote a letter against him in the Journal de Paris, overflowing with venomous spleen. Beaumarchais, who thought he recognised this onslaught as from the hand of M. Suard, proceeded to lash the pedant soundly. As ill-luck would have it, it was His Royal Highness who received the tanning intended for the censor's hide. Monsieur, smarting under the stripes, went with the story of his grievances to Louis XVI., giving him to understand that Beaumarchais was perfectly well aware that he was not replying to the royal censor, but to the brother of the king. Louis XVI.; offended on behalf of Monsieur, commanded the citizen who dared to take the liberty of chastising a royal personage, regardless of his rank, to be arrested and taken to a house of correction—not to the Bastille, that prison being considered too good for such a worthless scamp; and as His Majesty was playing loo when he made this decision, it was on the back of a seven of spades that the order was written for Beaumarchais' arrest and his committal to Saint-Lazare.

Thus we see that, when Louis XVIII. had Magallon taken to Poissy, he remained faithful to Monsieur's traditions.

... Apropos of the Censorship, a good story of the present censor is going the rounds this 6th of June, 1851. We will inquire into it and, if it be true, we will relate it in the next chapter.

This excellent institution furnishes so many other instances of a like nature that its facts and achievements have to be registered regardless of chronological order, where and when one can, lest one run the risk of forgetting them, and that I would indeed be a sad pity!...

[Pg 380]

Revenons à nos moutons! our poor moutons shorn to the quick, like Sterne's lamb.

I have remarked that the year 1823 was the "year of trials"; let us see how it earned that name.

During the week that elapsed between the Magallon affair and the sentence passed on him, Benjamin Constant appeared before the Royal Court, on account of two letters: one addressed to M. Mangin, procurator-general at the Court of Poitiers, and the other to M. Carrère, sub-prefect of Saumur. As it was a foregone conclusion that Benjamin Constant was to be condemned, the Court sentenced him to pay a fine of a thousand francs and costs.

On 29 January—a week before this happened—the Correctional Police sentenced M. de Jouy to a month's imprisonment, a fine of a hundred and fifty francs and the costs of the trial, for an article in the Biographie des contemporains which had been recognised as his. This article was the biography of the brothers Faucher. The sentence created a tremendous sensation. M. de Jouy was then at the height of his fame: the Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin had made him popular, the hundred representations of Sylla had made him famous.

I knew M. de Jouy well: he was a remarkably loyal man, with a delightful mind and an easy pen. I believe he had been a sailor, serving in India, where he knew Tippo-Sahib, upon whom he founded a tragedy, commissioned, or very nearly so, by Napoleon, which was acted on 27 January 1813. The work was indifferent and did not meet with much success.

On the return of the Bourbons, the Court was half-heartedly willing to encourage men of letters, M. de Jouy in particular, who held one of the highest positions among them. It was the more easily managed since M. de Jouy was an old Royalist, and I believe a soldier of Condi's army; it was not a case of making a convert but retaining an old partisan. His articles in the Gazette, signed "l'Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin," had an enormous success. I heard it said at the time that M. de Jouy was called up before M. de Vitrolles and asked to mention what it was he wanted. What he wanted was the due recognition[Pg 381] of his services, namely, the Cross of Saint-Louis,—for, as a rule, straightforward men only desire things they are entitled to;—desiring the Cross, and having deserved it, he asked for it. But they wished to force conditions upon him: they desired that he should not merely be satisfied with refraining from pointing fun at the absurdities of the Restoration; they wanted him to emphasise the glories of the Empire. They wanted him to do a base action before he, a loyal soldier, a clean-handed man, a poet of considerable repute among his confrères, could obtain the Cross. What happened? The noted poet, the loyal soldier, the honest man, said that the Cross should go to Hades first, and he showed the person who came to propose these conditions to the door. It was the right way to treat the minister, but it was unlucky for the Cross, which would not have honoured M. de Jouy, but which M. de Jouy would have honoured! And behold M. de Jouy in the Opposition, behold M. de Jouy writing articles in the Biographie which cost him a month's imprisonment, and which increased his popularity twofold. What fools Governments are to refuse a man the Cross he asks, and to grant him the persecution he does not desire, the persecution which will be far more benefit to him, in honour and in worldly goods, than the bit of ribbon which nobody would have noticed! Moreover, M. de Jouy did not write anything so very reprehensible. No; on the contrary, M. de Jouy was distinguished for the suavity of his criticism, the urbanity of his opposition, the courtesy of his anger. The manner adopted by this good Ermite has long since been forgotten; and the generation which followed ours has not even read his works. Heigho! if the said generation reads me, it will read him; for I am about to open his works and to quote some pages from them at hap-hazard. They go back to the first months of the second return of the Bourbons, to the period when all the world lived out in the squares, to the time when everybody seemed eager after I know not what: after a Revolution, one has need to hate men; but after a Restoration, one can do nothing but despise them!

M. B. de L—— is overwhelmed with requests for positions[Pg 382] and writes to the Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin to beg him to insert the following letters in his paper:—

"MONSIEUR,—We have neither of us time to spare, so I will explain to you the object of my letter in a very few words. I formerly had the honour to be attached to one of the princes of the house of Bourbon; I may even have been so fortunate as to show some proofs of my devotion to that august family at a time when, if not meritorious, it was at least dangerous to allow one's zeal to leak out; but I endeavour not to forget that the Mornays, the Sullys, the Crillons would modestly style this the fulfilment of one's duty. I am unaware upon what grounds people in my province credit me with what I do not enjoy, and to which I am indebted for the hosts of solicitations I receive, without being able to be of service to those who apply to me. I have only discovered one method of escaping from this novel form of persecution—that is, to publish a letter of one of my relatives and the answer I thought fit to make to it. The first is in some measure a résumé of three or four hundred letters that I have received on the same topic. I am the less reluctant to make it public since I reserve to myself the right of holding back the writer's name, and besides, this letter reflects as much credit on the heart of the writer as it displays the good sense of the mind that dictated it.

"B. DE L——"

This is the relative's letter:—

"How glad I am, my friend, that events have brought back our illustrious princes to the throne! What good fortune it is! You have no notion what reputation these events and your stay in Paris give me here. The prefect is afraid of me, and his wife, who never used to bow to me, has invited me twice to dinner. But there is no time to be lost, and we rely on you. Would you believe that my husband has not yet taken any steps whatever to regain his position, pretending that it exists no longer, and that the commission was made up to him in assignats? There isn't a more apathetic man in the whole of France.

"My brother-in-law has laid claim to the Cross of Saint-Louis: he had been waiting for it for nine years when the Revolution broke out. It would be unjust of them not to compensate him[Pg 383] for the twenty years of his services, the troubles and the misfortunes he has undergone on his estates; he is counting on you to hasten the prompt despatch of his patent.

"I append a memorandum to my letter, from my oldest son, the marquis; he had the right to his uncle's reversion, and it will be easy for you to obtain it for him. I am anxious that his brother, the chevalier, shall be placed in the navy, but in a rank worthy of his name and the past services of his family. And as my grandson, Auguste de G——, is quite old enough I to become a page, you have only to speak a word on his behalf.

"We are coming to Paris early next month. I shall bring my daughter with me, as I wish to present her at Court. They will not refuse you this favour if you solicit it with sufficient perseverance and willingness.

"Think of poor F——. He failed us, it is true, at the time of the Revolution; but he has made ample amends during the past month: you know he is penniless, and is ready to sacrifice everything for our rulers. His devotion goes even so far as to be willing to take a post as prefect, and he is well fitted for it. Do you not remember the pretty song he made about me?

"M. de B——, son of the late intendant of the province, is coming to see you; try and be useful to him; he is a friend of the family. If they are not going to re-establish intendancies, he will be satisfied with a post as receiver-general; it is the least they can do for a man devoted to his sovereign, one who was imprisoned for six months during the Terror.

"I must not forget to recommend M—— to your notice. He has been blamed for having served all parties, because he has been employed in every Government in France for the last twenty years; but he is a good fellow—you can take my word for it: he was the first to don the white cockade; besides, all he asks is to be allowed to keep his place as superintendent of the posting service. Be sure and write to me under cover of his frank.

"I append my father-in-law's papers: a sum of forty-five thousand francs is still owing to him from the estates of Languedoc; I hope they will not keep you waiting for its reimbursement, and that you will not hesitate to make use of the money if you are under any temporary embarrassment, though this is very unlikely in your present situation.[Pg 384] Adieu, my dear cousin. With greetings in which the whole family unite, and expecting the pleasure of seeing you soon in Paris.

"J. DE P——"


"PARIS, 15 June 1814

"MY DEAR COUSIN,—You can hardly conceive with what interest I have read the letter you have done me the honour to send me, or with what zeal I have tried to further the just and reasonable demands of all the persons you recommend to my notice. You will, not be more astonished than I have been myself at the obstacles placed in my way, which you would deem insurmountable if you knew as well as I the people with whom we have to deal.

"When I spoke of your son, who has long been desirous of service, and asked for a berth as major in his father's old regiment, they urged, as a not unreasonable objection, that peace was concluded, and that before thinking of a position for the Marquis de V——, they must consider the lot of 25,000 officers, some of whom (would you believe it?) press for the recognition of their campaigns, their wounds, and even go so far as to urge the number of battles in which they were engaged; whilst others more directly associated with the misfortunes of the royal family had returned to France without any fortune beyond the goodwill and complaisance of the king. I then asked, with a touch of sarcasm, what they meant to do for your son and for the multitude of brave Royalists who have suffered so much through the misfortunes of the realm, and whose secret prayers for the recall of the royal family to the throne of its ancestors had been unceasing. They replied that they rejoiced to see the end of all our afflictions and the fulfilment of our prayers.

"Your husband is a very extraordinary man. I can well understand, my dear cousin, all you must be suffering on account of his incredible apathy. To be reduced at the age of sixty-five, or sixty-six at the outside, to a fortune of 40,000 livres income, to bury himself in the depth of a château, and to renounce all chance of an ambitious career, as though a father had no duty towards his children, as though a gentleman ought not to die fighting!

[Pg 385]

"I am sorry your brother-in-law should have laid claim to the Cross of Saint-Louis before it had been granted to him; for it may happen that the king will not readily part with the right to confer this decoration himself, and that he will not approve of the honour certain persons are anxious to have conferred upon them. You will realise that it would be less awkward not to have had the Cross of Saint-Louis than to find oneself obliged to give it up.

"I did not forget to put forward the claims of your son, the chevalier, and I do not despair of getting him entered for the examination of officers for the Royal Marines. We will then do our utmost to get him passed into the staff of one hundred officers, who are far too conscious of their worth, of the names they bear and of the devotion they profess to have shown at Quiberon.

"Your grandson Auguste is entered for a page; I cannot tell you exactly when he will be taken into the palace, my dear cousin, as your request followed upon three thousand seven hundred and seventy-five other requests, made on behalf of the sons of noblemen or officers slain on the field of battle, though they cannot show the slightest claim on account of services rendered to the State or to the princes.

"You are well advised in wishing to place your daughter at Court, and it will not be difficult when you have found a husband for her whose rank and fortune will entitle her to a position there. If this is not arranged, I do not quite see what she would do there, or what suitable post she could occupy there, however able she may be: maids of honour are not yet reinstated.

"I have presented a petition in favour of F, to which I annexed the pretty song he composed for you; but they have become so exacting that such claims no longer suffice to obtain a post as prefect. I will even go so far as to tell you that they do not think much of your protégé's conversion and of the sacrifices he is prepared to make; his enemies persist in saying that he is not a man who can be relied upon.

"I witnessed his powers of work in former times, and I am convinced that if he would serve the good cause nowadays with half the zeal he formerly exerted on behalf of the bad cause, they would be able very usefully to employ him. But will this ever be put to the test?

"I have not learnt whether intendances are to be re-established, but they seem to think that public receiverships will be[Pg 386] diminished, if only in the number of those which exist in departments beyond our bounds. This makes me fear that M. de B—— will have to be satisfied with the enormous fortune his father made in the old revenue days, which he found means to hide during the Revolutionary storms: he must learn to be philosophical.

"Do not be in the least uneasy over the lot of M——. I know him: he has considerable elasticity of character and of principle—for twenty years he has slipped in and out among all parties, without having offended any. He is a marvellously clever fellow, who will serve himself better than anyone else ever will be served: he is no longer superintendent of the posting bureau, having just obtained a more lucrative post in another department of the Government. Do you always take such great interest in his affairs?

"I return you your father-in-law's papers, dear cousin, relative to the debt on the Languedoc estates. From what I can gather, the liquidation does not seem likely to take place yet a while, in spite of the justice of your claim. They have decided that arrears of pay due to troops, the public debt, military pensions and a crowd of other objects of this nature shall be taken into consideration—this measure is evidently the fruit of some intrigue. You should tell F—— to draw up a pamphlet upon the most urgent needs of the State and to endeavour to refer to this debt in the first line of his pamphlet. You have no idea how much the Government is influenced by the multitude of little pamphlets which are produced every day by ill-feeling, anger and hunger with such commendable zeal.

"You will see, my dear cousin, that, at the rate things are going, you must possess your soul in patience. I would even add that the journey you propose to take to Paris will not advance your affairs. According to the police reckoning, there are at this present moment a hundred and twenty-three thousand people from the provinces, of all ranks, of all sexes, of all ages, who are here to make claims, furnished with almost as good credentials as yours, and who will have the advantage over you in obtaining a refusal of being first in the field to put forward their cases. Finally, as I know you are acquainted with philosophy and the best things in literature, I beg you to read over again a chapter in the English Spectator, on the just claims of these who ask for posts: it is in the thirty-second section of the seventh volume in the duodecimo edition: history repeats itself.

[Pg 387]

"Accept, my dear cousin, an expression of my most affectionate greetings, coupled with my sincere regrets.

"B. DE L——"

In 1830, after the Revolution of July, Auguste Barbier produced a poem on the same subject, entitled the Curée. When one re-reads those terrible verses and compares them with work by M. de Jouy, the writings of the latter seem a model of that Attic wit which was characteristic of the old school, and Barbier an example of the brutal, fiery, unpremeditated writing I so typical of his Muse.

Meanwhile, at about the period we have reached, whilst Louis XVIII. was hunting down men of letters with that ruthlessness of which we have just cited a few examples, he was laying claim to a place in their midst. Through the foolish advice of his sycophants, the regal author published a little work entitled Voyage de Paris à Bruxelles. I do not know whether it would be possible to-day to procure a single copy of the royal brochure, wherein were to be found not only such errors in French grammar as "J'étais déjà un peu gros, à cette époque, pour monter et descendre de cabriolet," but, worse still, revelations of ingratitude and heartlessness.

A poor widow risks her head to take in fugitives, and sacrifices her last louis to give them a dinner; Monsieur relates this act of devotion as though it were no more than the fugitives' due, and ends the chapter by saying, "The dinner was execrable!"

It was written in kitchen French, as Colonel Morisel observed to M. Arnault.

"That is easily explained," replied the author of Germanicus, "since the work was by a restaurateur".

The Miroir, ordered to review the Voyage de Paris à Bruxelles, contented itself by saying, "If the work is by the august personage to whom it is attributed, it is above the region of criticism; if it is not by him, it is beneath criticism."

Let us revert to Colonel Morisel, one of the most interesting characters of the time. They could not get up the same kind of[Pg 388] trial against the author of the Messéniennes, of the Vêpres siciliennes, of the Comédiens and of Paria, as they did against M. de Jouy and Magallon; they could not imprison him in Sainte-Pélagie or send him to Poissy, bound hand to hand and side by side with a filthy convict; but they could reduce him to poverty, and that is what they did.

On 15 April we read in the Liberal papers: "We hear that M. Ancelot, author of Louis IX. and of Maire du Palais, has just received letters patent of nobility, and that M. Casimir Delavigne, author of Vêpres siciliennes, of Paria and of the Messéniennes, has just lost his post in the Library of the Minister of Justice." It was quite true: M. Ancelot had been made a baron, and M. Casimir Delavigne was turned out into the street! It was at this juncture that, on the recommendation of Vatout, who had just published the Histoire de la Fille d'un Roi, the Duc d'Orléans appointed Casimir Delavigne to the post of assistant librarian at the Palais-Royal, where, six years later, I became his colleague.

Vatout was an excellent fellow, a trifle conceited; but even his vanity was useful as a spur which, put in motion by the example of others, goaded him to do the work he would otherwise not have attempted. One of his conceits was to pretend he was a natural son of a prince of the House of Orléans—a very innocent conceit, as it did not harm anyone, and nobody considered it a crime; for he used the influence he acquired by his post at the Palais-Royal in rendering help to his friends, and sometimes even to his enemies.... Just at this moment the information I have been seeking concerning the last act of the Censorship has been brought me.

Ah! my dear Victor Hugo, you who are busy trying to wrest from the jury, before whom you are defending your son, the entire abolition of the death penalty; make an exception in favour of the censor, and stipulate that he shall be executed twice over at the next Revolution, since once is not nearly enough.

I wish here to swear on my honour that what I am about to state is actual truth.

[Pg 389]


The house in the rue Chaillot—Four poets and a doctor—Corneille and the Censorship—Things M. Faucher does not know—Things the President of the Republic ought to know

In the year III of the Second French Republic, on the evening of 2 June, M. Louis Bonaparte being president, M. Léon Faucher minister, M. Guizard director of the Fine Arts, the following incident occurred, in a salon decorated with Persian draperies, on the ground floor of a house in the rue de Chaillot.

Five or six persons were discussing art—a surprising fact at a time when the sole topics of conversation were dissolution, revision and prorogation. True, of these five persons four were poets, and one a doctor who was almost a poet and entirely a man of culture. These four poets were: first, Madame Émile de Girardin, mistress of the house in the rue de Chaillot where the gathering took place; second, Victor Hugo; third, Théophile Gautier; fourth, Arsène Houssaye. The doctor's name was Cabarus.

The gentleman indicated under number four held several offices: perhaps he was rather less of a poet than were the other three, but he was far more of a business man, thus equalizing the balance; he was manager of the Théâtre-Français, the resignation of which post he had already sent in three times, and each time it had been refused.

You may perhaps ask why M. Arsène Houssaye was so ready to send in his resignation.

There is a very simple answer: the members of the Théâtre-Français company made his life so unendurable that the poet[Pg 390] was ever ready to send to the right about his demi-gods, his heroes, his kings, his princes, his dukes, his marquises, his counts and his barons of the rue de Richelieu, in order to re-engage his barons, his counts, his marquises, his dukes, his princes, his kings, his heroes and his demi-gods of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whom he knew and whose strings he could pull as though he were the Comte de Saint-Germain, who was their familiar friend.

Now why should the members of the Théâtre-Français company make their manager's life so hard? Because he made money, and nothing irritates a member of the Théâtre-Français company so much as to see his theatre make money. This may seem inexplicable to sensible folk: it is indeed a mystery; but I have not set myself to explain the fact; I state it, that is all.

Now, in his capacity as manager of the Théâtre-Français, M. Arsène Houssaye thought of something which had not occurred to anyone else. This was that as the day in question was 2 June 1851, in four days' time—that is to say, on 6 June—it would be the two hundred and forty-fourth anniversary of the birth of Corneille.

He translated his thought into words, and turning to Théophile Gautier, he said, "Come now! my dear Théo, you must write for me some sixty lines, for the occasion, upon the Father of Tragedy: it will be much better than what is usually given us on such anniversaries, and the public will not grumble."

Théophile Gautier pretended not to hear.

Arsène Houssaye repeated his request.

"Good gracious! no," said Gautier.

"Why not?"

"Because I do not know anything more tiresome to write than an official panegyric, were it on the greatest poet in the world. Besides, the greater the poet, the more difficult is it to praise him."

"You are mistaken, Théophile," said Hugo; "and if I were in a position at this moment to do what Arsène asks, I would undertake it."

[Pg 391]

"Would you think of passing in review Corneille's twenty or thirty plays? Would you have the courage to speak of Mélite, of Clitandre, of the Galerie du Palais, of Pertharite, of Œdipe, of Attila, of Agésilas?"

"No, I should not mention any one of them."

"Then you would not be extolling Corneille: when a poet is praised, you must praise his bad work loudest of all; when one does not praise, it savours of criticism."

"No," said Hugo, "I do not mean anything like that: I would not undertake a vulgar eulogy. I would describe the agèd Corneille, wandering through the streets of old Paris, on foot, with a shabby cloak on his shoulders, neglected by Louis XIV., who was less generous towards him than his persecutor Richelieu; getting his leaky shoes mended at a poor cobbler's, whilst Louis XIV., reigning at Versailles, was promenading with Madame de Montespan, Mademoiselle de la Vallière and Madame Henriette, in the galleries of Le Brun or in the gardens of Le Nôtre; then I would pay compensation to the poet's shade by showing how posterity puts each one in his proper place and, as days are added unto days, months to months and years to years, increases the poet's fame and decreases the power of the king...."

"What are you looking for, Théophile?" asked Madame de Girardin of Gautier, who had got up hastily.

"I am looking for my hat," said Gautier.

"Girardin is asleep on it," replied Cabarus drily.

"Oh, don't wake him," said Madame de Girardin. "It will make an article!"

"Nevertheless, I cannot go without my hat," said Gautier.

"Where are you off to?" asked Arsène Houssaye.

"I am going to write you your lines, of course; you shall have them to-morrow."

They pulled Théophile's hat from under Girardin's shoulders. It had suffered by reason of its position; but what cared Théophile for the condition of his hat?

He returned home and set to work. The next day, as he had promised, Arsène Houssaye had the verses.

[Pg 392]

But both poet and manager had reckoned without the Censorship.

These are Théophile Gautier's lines on the great Corneille,—they were forbidden by the dramatic censor, as I have said, in the year III of the Second Republic, M. Louis Bonaparte being president, M. Léon Faucher minister and M. Guizard director of the Fine Arts:—

"Par une rue étroite, au cœur du vieux Paris,
Au milieu des passants, du tumulte et des cris,
La tête dans le ciel et le pied dans la fange,
Cheminait à pas lents une figure étrange.
C'était un grand vieillard sévèrement drapé,
Noble et sainte misère, en son manteau râpé!
Son œil d'aigle, son front, argenté vers les tempes
Rappelaient les fiertés des plus mâles estampes;
Et l'on eut dit, à voir ce masque souverain,
Une médaille antique à frapper en airain.
Chaque pli de sa joue, austèrement creusée,
Semblait continuer un sillon de pensée,
Et, dans son regard noir, qu'éteint un sombre ennui,
On sentait que l'éclair autrefois avait lui.
Le vieillard s'arrêta dans une pauvre échoppe.

Le roi-soleil, alors, illuminait l'Europe,
Et les peuples baissaient leurs regards éblouis
Devant cet Apollon qui s'appelait Louis.
A le chanter, Boileau passait ses doctes veilles;
Pour le loger, Mansard entassait ses merveilles;
Cependant, en un bouge, auprès d'un savetier,
Pied nu, le grand Corneille attendait son soulier!
Sur la poussière d'or de sa terre bénie,
Homère, sans chaussure, aux chemins d'Ionie,
Pouvait marcher jadis avec l'antiquité,
Beau comme un marbre grec par Phidias sculpté;
Mais Homère, à Paris, sans crainte du scandale,
Un jour de pluie, eut fait recoudre sa sandale.
Ainsi faisait l'auteur d'Horace et de Cinna,
Celui que de ses mains la muse couronna,
Le fier dessinateur, Michel-Ange du drame,
Qui peignit les Romains si grands, d'après son âme.
O pauvreté sublime! ô sacré dénûment!
[Pg 393]Par ce cœur héroique accepté simplement!

Louis, ce vil détail que le bon goût dédaigne,
Ce soulier recousu me gâte tout ton règne.
A ton siècle en perruque et de luxe amoureux,
Je ne pardonne pas Corneille malheureux.
Ton dais fleurdelisé cache mal cette échoppe;
De la pourpre où ton faste à grands plis s'enveloppe,
Je voudrais prendre un pan pour Corneille vieilli,
S'éteignant, pauvre et seul, dans l'ombre et dans l'oubli.
Sur le rayonnement de toute ton histoire,
Sur l'or de ton soleil c'est une tache noire,
O roi! d'avoir laissé, toi qu'ils ont peint si beau,
Corneille sans souliers, Molière sans tombeau!
Mais pourquoi s'indigner! Que viennent les années,
L'équilibre se fait entre les destinées;
A sa place chacun est remis par la mort:
Le roi rentre dans l'ombre, et le poëte en sort!
Pour courtisans, Versaille a gardé ses statues;
Les adulations et les eaux se sont tues;
Versaille est la Palmyre où dort la royauté.
Qui des deux survivra, génie ou majesté?
L'aube monte pour l'un, le soir descend sur l'autre;
Le spectre de Louis, au jardin de Le Notre,
Erre seul, et Corneille, éternel comme un Dieu,
Toujours sur son autel voit reluire le feu,
Que font briller plus vif en ses fêtes natales
Les générations, immortelles vestales.
Quand en poudre est tombé le diadème d'or,
Son vivace laurier pousse et verdit encor;
Dans la postérité, perspective inconnue,
Le poëte grandit et le roi diminue!"

Now let us have a few words on this matter, Monsieur Guizard, for you did not reckon things would end here; you did not hope to escape at the cost of a few words written with a double meaning, inserted in a newspaper printed yesterday, published to-day and forgotten on the morrow.

No, when such outrages are perpetrated upon art, it is meet that the culprit should be deprived of his natural judges and taken to a higher court, as your models carried Trélat and Cavaignac to the House of Peers, as your friends carried Raspail, Hubert and Sobrier to the Court of Bourges. And I call upon you to appear, Monsieur Guizard, you who took the place of[Pg 394] my friend Cavé, as superintendent of the department of Fine Arts.

Look you, now that things are being cut down all round, has not a letter been economised in the description of your office? and instead of being responsible for the department, are you not really responsible for the departure of the Fine Arts? Moreover, I have something to relate that passed between us, three months ago. Do you remember I had the honour of paying you a visit, three months ago? I came to give you notice, on behalf of the manager of the Cirque, that while we were waiting for the Barrière de Clichy we were going to put the Chevalier de Maison-Rouge in rehearsal.

"The Chevalier de Maison-Rouge!" you exclaimed.


"But is not the Chevalier de Maison-Rouge a drama written by yourself?"


"Is it not in the Chevalier de Maison-Rouge that the famous chorus occurs—

'Mourir pour la patrie'?"


"Well, then, we will not allow the Chevalier de Maison-Rouge to be played."

"You will not allow the Chevalier de Maison-Rouge to be played?"

"No, no, no, no, no!"

"But why not?"

Then you looked me in the face and you said to me—

"Do you mean to tell me you do not know that the Chevalier de Maison-Rouge contributed to the establishment of the Republic?"

You said that to me, Monsieur Guizard! You made that extraordinary avowal to me, in the year III of the Republic! M. Léon Faucher being minister of the Republic! you, Monsieur Guizard, being director of the Fine Arts of the Republic!

[Pg 395]

I was so astounded at the reply that I could find nothing else to say than "How the devil does it come about that I, who lost nearly 200,000 francs by the coming of the Republic, am a Republican, whilst you, who gained thereby a post bringing you in 12,000, are a Reactionary?"

True, you did not condescend to explain this anomaly: I left your office without discovering a reason, and now, as I write these lines, I am still at a loss for one!

Now, in the hope that someone more clever than I at guessing riddles might be found, I decided to print what happened to me, three months ago, side by side with what happened to Gautier to-day!

What can one expect? Every man makes use of the tool or of the instrument he has in his hand: some have scissors, and they cut; others have an engraver's tool, and they etch.

What I write, I warn you, M. Guizard, is translated into eight or nine different languages. So we shall have the assistance of learned men in many lands to help us in our researches, and the archæologists of three generations; for, suppose my works live no longer than the time it will take for rats to devour them, it will take those creatures quite a hundred years to eat my thousand volumes. You may tell me that the order to stop M. Théophile Gautier's verses came from a higher source, from the minister. To that I have nothing to say: if the order came from the minister, you were obliged to obey that order. And I must in that case wend my way to M. Léon Faucher. So be it!

O Faucher! is it really credible that you, who are so halfhearted a Republican, you who were so ill-advised, according to my opinion, as to pay a subsidy to the Théâtre-Français to have the dead exhumed and, the living buried,—is it really credible, I repeat, that so indifferent a Republican as yourself, did not wish it said, on the stage that Corneille created, that genius is higher than royalty, and that Corneille was greater as a poet than Louis XIV. was as a monarch?

But, M. Faucher, you know quite as well as I that Louis XIV. was only a great king because he possessed great ministers and great poets.

[Pg 396]

Perhaps you will tell me that great ministers and poets are created by great kings?

No, M. Faucher, you will not say that; for I shall retort, "Napoleon, who was a great emperor, had no Corneille, and Louis XIII., who was a pitiable king, could boast a Richelieu."

No, M. le ministre, Louis XIV., believe me, was only great as a king because (and Michelet, one of the greatest historians who ever lived, will tell you exactly the same) Richelieu was his precursor, whilst Corneille's precursor was ... who? Jodelle.

Corneille did not need either Condé, or Turenne, or Villars, or de Catinat, or Vauban, or Mazarin, or Colbert, or Louvois, or Boileau, or Racine, or Benserade, or Le Brun, or Le Nôtre, or even M. de Saint-Aignan to help him to become a great poet.

No; Corneille took up a pen, ink and paper; he only had to lean his head upon his hand and his poetry came.

Had you but read Théophile Gautier's lines, M. le ministre,—but I am sure you have not read them,—you must have seen that these verses are not merely the finest Théophile Gautier ever penned, but the finest ever written since verses came to be written. You must have seen that their composition was excellent and their ideas above reproach. A certain emperor I knew—one whom apparently you did not know—would have sent the officer's Cross of the Legion of Honour and a pension to a man who had written those verses.

You, M. le ministre, sent orders that Théophile Gautier's lines were not to be read on the stage of the Théâtre-Français!

But perhaps this order came from higher authority still? Perhaps it came from the President of the Republic?

If it came from the President of the Republic, it is another matter ... and it is with the President of the Republic that I must settle my grievance.

I shall not take long in dealing with the President of the Republic.

"Ah! M. le président de la République," I shall say to him, "you who have forgotten so many things in the overwhelming rush of state affairs, have you, by any chance, forgotten what Monsieur your uncle said of the author of the Cid, 'If[Pg 397] Corneille had lived in my time, I would have made him a prince.'"

Now that I have said to the President of the Republic, to M. le Ministre de l'Intérieur, and to M. le Chef de Division Chargé du Département des Beaux-Arts, what I had it in my mind to say, let us return to the year 1823, which also possessed its Censorship, but one that was much less severe than that of 1851.

[Pg 398]



Chronology of the drama—Mademoiselle Georges Weymer—Mademoiselle Raucourt—Legouvé and his works—Marie-Joseph Chénier—His letter to the company of the Comédie-Française—Young boys perfectionnés —Ducis—His work

Now the Royalist reaction of which we were speaking—before we interrupted ourselves to address the high public functionaries who had the honour of appearing before our readers in the last chapter—did not only strike at literary men, but it hit out cruelly, bitterly and mortally at public men. It began by the expulsion of Manuel from the Chamber; it closed with the execution of Riégo. But I must confess I was not so much occupied at that time with the quarrels of the Chamber, or the Spanish War, or the fête that Madame de Cayla (who was very kind to me later) gave to Saint-Ouen to celebrate the return of Louis XVIII., or the death of Pope Pius VII.; there were two events which were quite as important to my thinking: the first production of Lucien Arnault's Pierre de Portugal, and that of the École des Vieillards, by Casimir Delavigne. Although the dramatic statistics for the year 1823 showed a total production of 209 new plays and of 161 authors acted, the best theatres, especially during the first nine months of the year, presented but a sorry show, and were very far removed from reaching the level of the preceding year.

Thus, on 26 April, 1822, the Odéon had produced Attila by M. Hippolyte Bis. On 5 June the Théâtre-Français played Lucien Arnault's Régulus. On 14 June the Odéon played the[Pg 399] Macchabées by M. Guiraud: Frédérick Lemaître, who belonged to the Cirque, played one of the brothers Macchabées. On 7 November the Théâtre-Français produced M. Soumet's Clytemnestre, in which Talma gave a realistic representation of the tragic and unhappy fate of Orestes. On 9 November the Odéon put on its boards the same author's Saül, in which Joanny first began to make his reputation. Finally, on 21 December, the Théâtre-Français produced Valérie, by MM. Scribe and Mélesville. As against all these new plays, the year 1823 only offered us the comedy of l'Éducation ou les Deux Cousines by M. Casimir Bonjour, and Comte Julien by M. Guiraud.

L'Éducation ou les Deux Cousines is M. Casimir Bonjour's best comedy; but M. Casimir Bonjour's best comedy had the option of being a feeble production, and it exercised that option.

While Comte Julien was honest, careful work, as were all the author's plays, its principal attraction was that the company acting it contained Mademoiselle Georges, who made her reappearance in Paris after an absence of four or five years. Mademoiselle Georges was extremely beautiful at that period, and still had all her diamonds. Those who knew Harel and the fantastic posters he invented know the part which Mademoiselle Georges' diamonds played in the rôles Mademoiselle Georges acted.

I have told my readers that as celebrated characters appear in these Memoirs I will describe them all as clearly as I can, in the light of contemporary knowledge; some of them only shone for a very short time and their light is now extinguished for ever. But what I have to say about them will be all the more interesting on that account, for what follows describes my first impressions of them, when they were in the zenith of their popularity.

We have remarked that the age of any living actress is not to be known; but reckoning from the year when Mademoiselle Georges made her début—that is to say, from 29 November 1802—she must have been thirty-eight in 1823. Just a word to explain how Mademoiselle Georges gained access to the theatre[Pg 400] and how she managed to remain on the boards. Loved by Bonaparte, and retained in his favour when he became Napoleon, Mademoiselle Georges, who begged to be allowed to accompany Napoleon to Saint-Helena, is almost a historical personage.

Towards the close of the year 1800 and the beginning of 1801 Mademoiselle Raucourt, who was leading lady in tragedy at the Théâtre-Français, went on tour in the provinces. This was at a time when although Government had plenty to do, it was not ashamed to concern itself with the arts in its spare moments. Mademoiselle Raucourt had therefore received orders from the Government to look out for any pupil during her tour whom she might think worth instruction, and to bring her back to Paris. This young lady was to be considered the pupil of the Government, and would receive a grant of 1200 francs.

Mademoiselle Raucourt stopped at Amiens. There she discovered a beautiful young girl of fifteen years of age who looked to be eighteen; you might have thought that the Venus of Milo had descended from her pedestal. Mademoiselle Raucourt, who was almost as classic in her tastes as the Lesbian Sappho, admired statuesque beauty immensely. When she saw the way this young girl walked—her gait that of the goddess, to use Virgil's phrase—the actress made inquiries and found that her name was Georges Weymer; that she was the daughter of a German musician named Georges Weymer, manager of the theatre, and of Mademoiselle Verteuil the actress who played the chambermaid parts.

This young lady was destined for tragedy. Mademoiselle Raucourt made her play Élise, with her, in Didon, and Aricie in Phèdre. The experiment succeeded, and the very night of the performance of Phèdre, Mademoiselle Raucourt asked the young tragédienne's parents' leave to take her.

The prospect of being a Government pupil, and, better still, the pupil of Mademoiselle Raucourt, was, with the exception of some slight drawbacks in the way of regulations to which the young girl had perforce to agree, too tempting an offer in the eyes of her parents to be refused. The request was granted, and Mademoiselle Georges departed, followed by her mother.[Pg 401] The lessons lasted eighteen months. During these eighteen months the young pupil lived in a poor hotel in the rue Croix-des-Petits-Champs, which, probably ironically, was named the hôtel du Pérou.

Mademoiselle Raucourt lived at the end of the allée des Veuves, in a magnificent house which had belonged to Madame Tallien and which, no doubt also ironically, was called The Cottage (la Chaumière). We have called Mademoiselle Georges' residence "a magnificent house": we should also have said "a small house," for it was a perfect specimen of a bijou villa in the style of Louis XV.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century—that strange epoch when people called things by their right names—Sapho-Raucourt enjoyed a reputation the originality of which she took not the least pains to hide.

Mademoiselle Raucourt's attitude towards men was more than indifference, it was hatred. The writer of these lines has in his possession a memorandum signed by this famous actress which is a regular war-cry against the masculine sex, and in which the modern Queen of the Amazons calls upon every lovely warrior enrolled under her orders to open rupture with men.

Nothing could be more odd than the form and, above all, the subject-matter of this manifesto. And yet, strange to relate, in spite of this contempt towards us, Mademoiselle Raucourt, whenever the costume of her sex was not indispensable to her, adopted that of our sex. Thus, very often, in the morning, Mademoiselle Raucourt gave lessons to her beautiful pupil in trousers, with a dressing-gown over them,—just as M. Molé or M. Fleury would have done,—a pretty woman by her side who addressed her as "dear fellow," and a charming child who called her "papa."

We did not know Mademoiselle Raucourt,—she died in 1814, and her funeral created a great sensation,—but we knew her mother, who died in 1832 or 1833; and we still know the childy who is to-day a man of fifty-five.

We were acquainted with an actor whose whole career[Pg 402] was blighted by Mademoiselle Raucourt on account of some jealousy he had the misfortune to arouse in the terrible Lesbian. Mademoiselle Raucourt appealed to the Committee of the Théâtre-Français, reminded them of her rights of possession and of priority in respect of the girl whom the impertinent comedian wished to seduce from her, and, the priority and the possession being recognised, the impudent comedian, who is still living and is one of the most straightforward men imaginable, was hounded out of the theatre, the members of the company believing that, as in the case of Achilles, Mademoiselle Raucourt, because of this modern Briseis, would retire in sulks.

Let us return to the young girl, whose mother never left her a single instant during the visits she paid to her teacher: three times a week had she to traverse the long distance between the rue Croix-des-Petits-Champs and the allée des Veuves in order to take her lessons. Her first appearances were fixed to take place at the end of November. They were to be in Clytemnestre, in Émilie, in Aménaïde, in Idamé, in Didon and in Sémiramis.

A début at the Théâtre-Français in 1802 was a great affair both for the artiste and for the public; it was a still greater matter to be received into the company; for if one joined the troupe, it meant, in the case of a man, becoming a colleague of Monvel, of Saint-Prix, of Baptiste senior, of Talma, of Lafond, of Saint-Phal, of Molé, of Fleury, of Armand, of Michot, of Grandménil, of Dugazon, of Dazincourt, of Baptiste junior, of la Rochelle; in the case of a woman, one became the companion of Mademoiselle Raucourt, of Mlle. Contat, of Mlle. Devienne, Mlle. Talma, of Mlle. Fleury, of Mlle. Duchesnois, of Mlle. Mézeray, of Mlle. Mars.

The authors of this period were: Legouvé, Lemercier, Arnault, Alexandre Duval, Picard, Chénier and Ducis. Of these seven men I knew four: Arnault, whose portrait I have attempted to draw; Lemercier and Alexandre Duval, whose splenetic likenesses I shall try to describe in due season; then came Picard, who was called the friend of youth, but who[Pg 403] detested young people. Legouvé, Chénier and Ducis were dead when I came to Paris.

Legouvé was very influential at the Théâtre-Français. He it was who, when Mademoiselle Georges made her first appearance, was directing the débuts of Mademoiselle Duchesnois with an almost fatherly affection; he had produced the Mort d'Abel in 1793, a patriarchal tragedy which owed its success, first to the talent of the author, secondly and more especially, to its opposition to current events. It was played between the execution of Louis XVI. and that of Marie-Antoinette, between the September Massacres and the execution of the Girondists; it distracted people's minds for the moment from the sight of the blood which flowed down the gutters. When they had witnessed all day long bodies hanging from the lamp-posts and heads carried on the ends of pikes, they were not sorry to spend their evening with shepherds and shepherdesses. Nero crowned himself with roses and sang Ionic verses after watching Rome burn.

In 1794 Legouvé had produced Épicharis. The last act contained a very fine monologue, which he certainly had not created himself, but which he had borrowed from a page of Mercier. This final act made the success of the play. I heard Talma declaim the monologue in his pompous style.

Finally, in 1799, Legouvé had produced Étéocle. Étéocle was a failure, or nearly so; and, seeing this, instead of providing a fresh tragedy for the Théâtre-Français, Legouvé introduced a new tragic actress. Mademoiselle Duchesnois had just completed her exceedingly successful début when Mademoiselle Georges made her first appearance.

As I have promised to speak in due course of Lemercier, Alexandre Duval and Picard, I will now finish what I have to say about Chénier and Ducis, of whom I shall probably not have occasion to speak again.

Marie-Joseph Chénier possessed singular conceit. I have a dozen of his letters before me, written about Charles IX.; I will pick out one which is a model of naïvete: it will show from what standpoint men whom certain critics have the[Pg 404] audacity to call masters, and who probably are masters in their eyes, look upon historic tragedy.

The letter was addressed to French comedians: it was intended to make them again take up Charles IX., which those gentlemen refused absolutely to play. Why did not French comedians want to play Charles IX., since Charles IX. made money? Ah! I must whisper the reason in your ear, or rather, say it out loud: it was because Talma's part in it was such an enormous success. Here is the letter:—

"Pressed on all sides, gentlemen, by the friends of liberty, several of whom are of the number of confederated deputies, to give at once a few representations of Charles IX., I ask you to announce the thirty-fourth appearance of this tragedy on your play-bills, for one day next week, independently of another work that I have composed to celebrate the anniversary of the Federation.

You may like to know that I intend to add several lines applicable to this interesting event, in the part of the Chancellor of the Hospital, for I am always anxious to pay my tribute as a citizen; and you, gentlemen, could not show your patriotism on this occasion in a better way than by playing the only truly national tragedy which still exists in France, a tragedy philosophical in subject, and worthy of the stage, even in the opinion of M. de Voltaire, who, you will admit, knew what he was talking about. In this tragedy I have made a point of sounding the praises of the citizen king who governs us to-day.—Accept my sincere regards," etc.

Can you imagine the Chancellor of the Hospital lauding the Fete of the Federation, and Charles IX. singing the praises of Louis XVI.?

Ah well!...

Chénier had made his début in Charles IX., which he wanted to have reproduced, and its reproduction caused Danton and Camille Desmoulins to be taken before the police magistrate, accused of having got up conspiracies in the pit. Henri VIII. followed Charles IX. with similar success. Two years after Henri VIII., Calas was produced. Finally, on 9 January[Pg 405] 1793, at the height of Louis XVI.'s trial, and some days before that poor king's death, Chénier produced Fénélon,, a rose-water tragedy, of the same type as the Mort d'Abel, which had that kind of success one's friends term a triumph, and one's enemies a failure.

Chénier counted on reviving his success by Timoléon. But Robespierre, who had heard the work talked of, read it and stopped it. Listen, you wielders of the Censorship! Robespierre trod in your footsteps; he stopped Timoléon as your confrères, before him, had stopped Tartufe to no purpose; Mahomet, to no purpose; Mariage de Figaro, to no purpose; and so we come at last to you, who have stopped Pinto to no purpose, Marion Delorme to no purpose, and Antony to no purpose.

Robespierre, we repeat, stopped Timoléon, declaring that, as long as he was alive, the piece should never be played. Yes, but Robespierre proved himself ignorant of the temper of the age in which he and his contemporaries lived; he counted without 9 Thermidor.... Robespierre followed Danton to the scaffold, and Timoléon was played.

Unfortunately, two days before Robespierre, death claimed the sweet-voiced swan whom men called André Chénier, a poet even as his brother, though of a different make, and no writer of tragedies.

How was it that Marie-Joseph Chénier found time to look after the rehearsals of his tragedy, so soon after Thermidor, and immediately upon the death of his brother?

Ah! André was only his brother, and Timoléon was his child.

But many-headed Nemesis was watching over the forgotten poet and preparing a terrible vengeance. Timoléon killed his brother, and Chénier was accused of not having saved his.

Cries were raised for the name of the author.

"No need!" cried a voice from the pit. "The author's name is Cain!"

From that day Chénier renounced the theatre, although there were rumours of two plays lying waiting to come forth some day from his portfolio, called Tibère and Philippe II.

Ducis succeeded Chénier.

[Pg 406]

After the death of Beaumarchais—who had written two charming comedies of intrigue and three poor dramas—Ducis became the patriarch of literature.

There was in Rome, under all the popes down to the days of Gregory XVI., who had them removed, a sign over certain surgeon's doors with the inscription—

"Ici on perfectionne les petits garçons."

The reader will understand what that means: parents who desired that their boys should remain beardless, and possess pretty voices, took their children to these establishments, and by a twist of the hand they were ... perfectionnés.

Ducis did to Sophocles and to Shakespeare pretty much what Roman surgeons did to small boys. Those who like smooth chins and sweet voices may prefer the Œdipe-roi, Œdipe à Colone, Hamlet, Macbeth, Roméo and Juliet and Othello of Ducis, to the Œdipus of Sophocles and the Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Othello of Shakespeare; but we must confess that we like Nature in all her virility, that we think the stronger a man is, the more beautiful he is and that we prefer entire dramas to castrated ones: this being so, whether in the case of small boys or of tragedies, we hold all perfectionnement to be sacrilege. But let us give Ducis his due. He led the way to Sophocles by a poor road, to Shakespeare by a narrow path; but, at all events, he left those guide-posts by the way, which Voltaire had taken such pains to remove. When Voltaire made a veil for Zaire out of Desdemona's handkerchief, he was very careful to obliterate the mark on the linen he stole. This was more than imitation—it was theft.

In the period that elapsed between 1769 and 1795, Ducis produced Hamlet, Œdipe chez Admète, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello and Abufar. This was the condition of the Théâtre-Français, this was the state of French literature, in the year of grace 1802, when Napoleon Bonaparte was First Consul, and Cambacérès and Lebrun were assistant consuls.

[Pg 407]


Bonaparte's attempts at discovering poets—Luce de Lancival —Baour-Lormian—Lebrun-Pindare—Lucien Bonaparte, the author—Début of Mademoiselle Georges—The Abbé Geoffroy's critique—Prince Zappia—Hermione at Saint-Cloud

Let us here insert a word or two about Bonaparte's little Court. We are writing memoirs now, and not novels; we must therefore replace fiction by truth, plot by digressions and intrigue by desultory pages.

Oh! if only some man had left us information about the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such as I have attempted to leave about the nineteenth, how I should have blessed him, and what hard work he would have spared me!

A few words, therefore, as I have hinted, about Bonaparte and his little Court.

The début of Mademoiselle Georges had made a great sensation at Paris and at la Malmaison. Formerly, one would have said at Paris and at Versailles,—but Versailles was no more in 1802.

The First Consul and his family were greatly interested in literature at that time. Bonaparte's favourite poets were at the two extremes of art, Corneille and Ossian: Corneille as representative of the powers of the intellect, Ossian in the realms of imagination. So Corneille and Ossian took the most prominent place among the poets who figured in the catalogue of his Egyptian library. This partiality for the Scottish bard was so well known that Bourrienne, when he organised the library, guessed who was meant, though Bonaparte had written the word "Océan."

[Pg 408]

It was not Bonaparte's fault if poets failed him, although he had proscribed three of the greatest of his time: Chateaubriand, Madame de Staël and Lemercier. Bonaparte demanded poets from the Chancellor of the University, just as he demanded soldiers from his Minister for War. Unhappily, it was easier for M. le Duc de Feltre to find 300,000 conscripts than for M. de Fontanes to find a dozen poets. So Napoleon was obliged to hang on to all he could find, to Lebrun, to Luce de Lancival, to Baour-Lormian: they all had posts and incomes as though they were true poets—in addition to compliments.

"You have written a fine tragedy," Napoleon once said to Luce de Lancival, about his Hector: "I will have it played in one of my camps." And on the night of the representation he authorised a pension of six thousand francs to be granted Luce de Lancival, with the message, "seeing that poets are always in need of money," he should be paid a year in advance. Read Hector and you will see that it was not worth the first payment of six thousand francs. Napoleon also placed Luce de Lancival's nephew, Harel, under Cambacérès, and made him a sub-prefect in 1815.

Baour-Lormian also received a pension of six thousand livres; but according to the witty complaint he laid before the Bourbons concerning the persecutions of the usurper, despotism had been pushed "to the extreme of punishing him with a pension of two thousand crowns," which, he adds, admitting his weakness, he had not dared to decline.

One day—during the rumours of war that were spread abroad in the year 1809—an ode fell into Napoleon's hands which began with this strophe:—

"Suspends ici ton vol.... D'où viens-tu, Renommée?
Qu'annoncent tes cent voix à l'Europe alarmée?...
—Guerre!—Et quels, ennemis veulent être vaincus?
—Russe, Allemand, Suédois déjà lèvent la lance;
Ils menacent la France!
—Reprends ton vol, déesse, et dis qu'ils ne sont plus!"

This beginning struck him, and he asked—

[Pg 409]

"Whose verses are these?"

"M. Lebrun's, sire."

"Has he a pension already?"

"Yes, sire."

"Add a second pension of one hundred louis to that which he already has."

And they added one hundred louis to the pension already drawn by Lebrun, who went by the name of Lebrun-Pindare, because he turned out ten thousand lines of this kind of thing:—

"La colline qui vers le pôle
Domine d'antiques marais,[1]
Occupe les enfants d'Éole[2]
A broyer les dons de Cérès;[3]
Vanvres, qu'habite Galatée,[4]
Du nectar d'Io, d'Amalthée,
Epaissit les flots écumeux;
Et Sèvres, de sa pure argile,
Nous pétrit l'albâtre fragile
Où Moka nous verse ses feux."[5]

But something happened that no one had foreseen: there lived another poet called Pierre Lebrun—not Lebrun-Pindare. The ode was written by Pierre Lebrun, not by Lebrun-Pindare. So it came to pass that Lebrun-Pindare enjoyed for a long time the pension earned by Pierre Lebrun. Thus we see that Napoleon did his utmost to discover poets, and that it was not his fault if they were not found.

When Casimir Delavigne published his first work in 1811, a dithyrambic to the King of Rome, it began with this line:—

"Destin, qui m'as promis l'empire de la terre!"

Napoleon scented a poet, and, although the lines smacked of the schoolboy, he bestowed the academic prize and a post in the excise on the author.

[Pg 410]

Talma was poetry personified. So, since 1792, Napoleon had allied himself with Talma. Where did he spend his evenings? In the wings of the Théâtre-Français; and more than once, pointing out the man who, twenty years later, was to send from Moscow his famous decree concerning comedians, the porter asked Talma—

"Who is that young officer?"

"Napoleon Bonaparte."

"His name is not down on the free list."

"Never mind; he is one of my friends: he comes with me." "Oh, if he is with you, that is another matter."

Later, Talma had, in his turn, the run of the Tuileries, and more than one ambassador, more than one prince, more than one king asked the emperor—

"Sire, who is that man?"

And Napoleon would reply—

"He is Talma, one of my friends."

Once, when noticing the ease with which Talma draped himself in his toga, Napoleon said, "That man will be able to teach me one day how to wear the imperial mantle."

It was not all joy to have a First Consul who liked Corneille and Ossian; this First Consul had brothers who tried to become poets. They did not succeed; but, at all events, they made the attempt. We must give credit to good intentions. Lucien wrote poetry. The fierce Republican—who refused kingships, and who ended by allowing himself to be made a Roman prince: a prince of what? I ask you! Prince de Petit-Chien (Canino),—wrote poetry. A poem of his, entitled Charlemagne, remains to remind us of him, or rather, it does not remain, for it is dead enough. Louis took up another line: he wrote blank verse, finding it easier than to compose rhymed verse. He travestied Molière's l'Avare in this fashion. Joséphine, the creole coquette, with her nonchalant grace and her adaptable mind, welcomed everyone, letting the world spin as it liked around her, like Hamlet and, like Hamlet, praising everybody.

[Pg 411]

Talma was a privileged guest in the little bourgeois Court. He talked of the débutante, Mademoiselle Georges; he spoke of her beauty and promising talent. Lucien became excited over her, and for all the world like John the Baptist in the rôle of a precursor, he managed to have a peep at the subject of the talk of the day, through a keyhole somewhere, or mayhap through a wide open door, and he returned to Malmaison, with a rather suspicious enthusiasm, to report that the débutante's physical beauty was certainly below the praises sung concerning it.

The great day arrived—Monday, 8th Frimaire, year XI (29 November 1802). There had been a crowd waiting outside the Théâtre de la République since eleven o'clock in the morning.

Here, with the reader's permission, we will introduce Geoffroy's account. Geoffroy was a worthless, shallow, unconscientious critic, who had won his reputation at the time of the Terror, and who handed on his pen to a wretch of his own kidney, to whom justice had several times been dealt by the police courts;-a way of dealing with things which seems to me to be a great improvement on the times of our forefathers. We cannot possibly have degenerated in everything!

Geoffroy did not spoil débutants, male or female, especially if they were not wealthy. Hear what this sometime prince of critics had to say about Mademoiselle Georges.

There has always been a man called the prince of critics in France. It is not the rank that is called in question, but the dignity of the particular holder of it.

Iphigénie en Aulide
Pour le début de Mademoiselle Georges Weymer
élève de Mademoiselle Raucourt

"Sufficient measures were not taken to control the extraordinary crowd which so famous a début attracted. All the police were busily engaged at the box offices during the sale of tickets, while the entrance doors were almost unprotected and[Pg 412] sustained a terrific siege. Assaults were attempted of which I could render a tragic account, for I was both a spectator and an involuntary actor therein. Chance threw me into the melee before I was acquainted with the danger.

... Quæque ipse miserrima vidi,
Et quorum pars magna fui!'

"The assailants were inspired with the desire to see the new actress, and filled with the enthusiasm which a celebrated beauty always rouses. In such cases curiosity is nothing short of an insane and savage passion. Such scenes are orgies of ferocity and barbarism. Women, suffocating, uttered piercing shrieks, while men forgot all manners and gallantry in a savage silence, intent only on opening a passage at the expense of all who surrounded them. Nothing can be more indecorous than such struggles, taking place in an enlightened and philosophical nation; nothing can be more shameful among a free and an unselfish people. We may perhaps have better plays and better actors than the Athenians,—that is not yet sufficiently established,—but it is certain that the Athenians displayed greater dignity and nobility at their public entertainments. I view the rapid progress of the passion for theatre-going, the blind furore for frivolous amusement, with ever increasing pain, since history teaches me that it is an infallible sign of intellectual decadence and a decline in manners. It is also a calamity for true connoisseurs, for it lends countenance to the theory that the plays most run after must necessarily be the best...."

Would my readers have suspected that the famous Geoffroy could write in such a style?—No?—Well, neither would I.

Let us proceed. As we advance, its dulness ceases: it becomes almost fanciful.

"When King Priam's councillors saw Helen pass by, they exclaimed, 'Such a beautiful princess is indeed worth fighting for; but, however marvellous her beauty, peace is more to be desired.'

"And when I saw Mademoiselle Georges I said, 'Is it to be wondered at that people submit to be suffocated in order to see such superb womanly beauty? But were it possible for[Pg 413] her to be more beautiful than she is, it would still be better not to be stifled, even in her own interest; for spectators will be more severely critical in their estimate of a débutante if it cost them so much to gain a sight of her.

"Mademoiselle Georges Weymer's beauty was greatly extolled before her appearance on the stage, and it does not fall below expectation. Her features combine the regularity and dignity of Greek form with French grace; her figure is that of the sister of Apollo, when she walks on the shores of Eurotas, surrounded by her nymphs, her head uplifted above theirs; she would make a perfect model for Guérin's chisel...."

Ah, Geoffroy, I do not know whether the critics of the time of Pericles were better than those of the age of Bonaparte, first of that name; but I do know that at least one or two of ours can write in a better style....

You think not?

Well, then, here is a portrait of the same person, written by a critic in 1835. Notice the progress in style made in the thirty-three years between Geoffroy's time and that of Théophile Gautier.

"If I mistake not, Mademoiselle Georges is like a medallion from Syracuse or an Isis from an Æginæan bas-relief. The arch of her eyebrows, traced with incomparable fineness and purity, extends over dark eyes which are full of fire and flashes of tragic lightning. Her nose is thin and straight, with obliquely cut nostrils which dilate when she is passionately moved; her whole profile is grand in its simple uniformity of line. The mouth is strong, superbly haughty and sharp at its corners, like the lips of an avenging Nemesis, who awaits the hour to let loose her iron-clawed lion; yet over her lips flickers a charming smile, full of regal grace; and it would be impossible to believe, when she chooses to express the tender passions, that she has hurled forth, but a short while before, a classic imprecation or a modern anathema. Her chin is full of character and of determination; it is firmly set, and its majestic curves relieve a profile that belongs rather to a goddess than to a mortal. Mademoiselle Georges possesses, in common with all the beautiful women of pagan ages, a broad forehead, full at the[Pg 414] temples, but not high, very like that of the Venus de Milo, a wilful, voluptuous, powerful forehead. There is a remarkable peculiarity about her neck: instead of rounding off inwardly from the nape, it forms a full and unbroken curve and unites the shoulders to the base of her head without the slightest flaw. The set of her arms is somewhat formidable by reason of the strength of the muscles and the firmness of contour; one of her shoulder-straps would make a girdle for the waist of a medium-sized woman; but they are very white, very clear, and they end in a wrist of childlike fragility and tiny dimpled hands—hands which are truly regal, fashioned to hold the sceptre and to clasp the dagger's hilt in the plays of Æschylus and Euripides."

Thank you, my dear Théophile, for allowing me to quote that splendid passage, and pardon me for placing you in such bad company. Faugh!

I now return to Geoffroy. He continues:—

"Talent responded to beauty. The theatre was packed throughout and thoroughly excited; the First Consul and all his family were in the box to the right of the proscenium; he clapped his hands several times, but this did not prevent some signs of opposition breaking out at the line—

'Vous savez, et Calchas mille fois vous l'a dit.' ..."

Excuse me! I must again interrupt myself, or rather, I must interrupt Geoffroy.

The reader knows that it was the custom for the audience to look forward to the way in which debutantes delivered this line.

Why so? the reader may inquire.

Ah! truly, one does not know these things unless one is compelled to know them.

I will explain.

Because that line is too simple, and unworthy of tragedy.

You may not, perhaps, have been aware of that, monsieur? Perhaps it is news to madame, who does me the honour to[Pg 415] listen to me? But your servant Geoffroy, who is obliged to read everything, knew it.

Now, listen carefully; for we have not reached the end. This line being, from its simplicity, unworthy of tragedy, the audience wanted to see how the actress, correcting the poet, would treat it.

Mademoiselle Georges did not pretend to possess greater genius than Racine: she delivered the line simply, and with the most natural intonation imaginable, since it was written with the simplicity of passion. The audience dissented; she repeated it with the same accent; again they demurred.

Fortunately, Raucourt was present, in spite of an accident she had met with; she had had herself carried to the theatre, and encouraged her pupil from a little box, concealed behind a harlequin's cloak.

"Be bold, Georgine! Stick to it!" she cried.

And Georgine—it will appear odd to you, I imagine, that Mademoiselle Georges should ever have been called Georgine repeated the line for the third time in the same simple and natural accent. The audience applauded. From that moment her success was assured, as they say in theatrical parlance.

"The only thing that marred the play (said Geoffroy) was Talma's lack of intelligence, proportion and nobility in the part of Achilles."

I begin to think we must have been deceived in the matter of worthy M. Geoffroy's impartiality and that he had received before the play a very significant message from one of the members of the Bonaparte family who was in the box of the First Consul.

Mademoiselle Georges played the part of Clytemnestra three times running. It was an immense success. Then she went on to the part of Aménaïde,—that maiden attacked with hysterical vapours, as Geoffroy said later,—and her popularity went on increasing. Then, after the rôle of Aménaïde, she took the part of Idamé in l'Orphelin de la Chine.

If men wondered how debutantes in the part of Clytemnestra[Pg 416] would deliver the famous line so unworthy of Racine—

"Vous savez, et Calchas mille fois vous l'a dit...."

women waited just as impatiently for the appearance of debutantes in the part of Idamé to see how they would dress their hair.

Mademoiselle Georges' hair was arranged very simply à la chinoise—that is to say, with her locks arranged on the top of her head and tied with a golden ribbon. This arrangement suited her admirably, so I was told, not by Lucien but by his brother King Jérôme, a keen appreciator of beauty in all its forms, who, like Raucourt, kept the habit of calling Georges, Georgine.

The night that the Orphelin de la Chine was to be played, whilst Georgine, about whom, at that hour, the whole of Paris was talking, was partaking of a lentil supper at the hôtel du Pérou,—not because, like Esau, she was fond of this fare, but because there was nothing else in the house,—Prince Zappia was announced. Who might Prince Zappia be? Was he, too, a prince among critics? Not so: he was a real prince, one of those art-loving princes whose line died out with the Prince de Ligne, a Prince Hénin, one of those princes who frequented the lounge of the Comédie-Française, as Prince Pignatelli did the lounge of the Opéra. The lounge of the Comédie-Française was, apparently, a wonderful place in those days—I only saw the remains of it.

After each great representation—and every time such actors as Talma, Raucourt, Contat, Monvel or Molé played was a great occasion—all the noted people in the artistic, diplomatic or aristocratic circles went to have a few minutes' chat in the box of the hero or of the heroine of the evening; then they returned to the lounge and joined the general company there.

Bonaparte's budding Court, which made such efforts to establish itself as a Court, was rarely as brilliant as the lounge of the Théâtre-Français.

We were privileged to witness the fading light of those brilliant days when it shone on the box of Mademoiselle Mars.

[Pg 417]

All came to these assemblies in full dress. There were scarcely any who had not their own footstools, chairs and lounges. These were very formal occasions and, indeed, to be called a "dame de la Comédie-Française" meant a great deal; people still remember the occasion of the first attack upon this crusted etiquette.

It was Mademoiselle Bourgoin who broke through it, by asking for some cakes and a glass of Alicante. The old members of the company raised their hands to Heaven in that day and cried out at such an abomination of desolation. And their dismay was quite logical: a breach, if not repaired, is ever apt to grow larger, especially in a theatre. And that very infraction is responsible for the beer and fried eggs of to-day.

Well, as Georgine was eating her lentils, Prince Zappia was announced to her. What did Prince Zappia want at such an hour? He came to offer the key of a suite of rooms in the rue des Colonnes, which he had furnished since the previous evening at a cost of over fifty thousand francs. He assured the fair Georgine, as he handed her this key, that it was the one and only key that existed.

An oath was needed to induce the débutante to leave the hôtel du Pérou. This oath Prince Zappia took. On what did he swear? We don't know. We inquired of Mademoiselle Georges herself; but she replied to us, with the magnificent naïvete of a Lucrezia Borgia—

"Why do you wish to know that, my dear fellow? Many people have sworn oaths to me which they have not kept."

Lucien was not at all pleased at this change of residence. Lucien was not a prince at that time; Lucien was not wealthy; Lucien made love to her as a scholar; Lucien laid claim to the position of lover, which is always a rather difficult matter when one's apartments are dingy and cupboards bare: he was present one evening, I repeat, when Hermione's chambermaid came into her apartment, thoroughly scared, and told her that the First Consul's valet de chambre had come.

The First Consul's valet de chambre? he who had dressed him on the morning of 18 Brumaire? No! quite[Pg 418] another person than Prince Zappia! They showed the First Consul's valet de chambre in with as much deference as they would have shown in 1750 to M. Lebel when he visited Madame Dumesnil.

The First Consul awaited Hermione at Saint-Cloud. Hermione was to come as she was: she could change her clothes there. The invitation was curt, but quite characteristic of the First Consul's manners.

Antony, it will be remembered, bade Cleopatra join him in Cilicia. Bonaparte might well beg Hermione to join him at Saint-Cloud. The Grecian princess was not prouder than the Queen of Egypt; Hermione was not less beautiful than Cleopatra, and ought to have been taken down the Seine in a gilded galley, just as the Queen of Egypt ascended the Cydnus. But that would have taken too long: the First Consul was impatient to pay his addresses and, admitting the weakness artistes have for flattery, the débutante was probably in no less hurry to receive them.

Hermione reached Saint-Cloud half an hour after midnight, and left it at six in the morning. She came out victorious as Cleopatra: like Cleopatra, she had had the conqueror of the world at her feet. But the conqueror of the world, who thought it astonishing that a débutante, whom his brother had told him lived in the hôtel du Pérou, drank water and lived on lentils, should possess an English veil worth a hundred louis and a cashmere shawl worth a thousand crowns, tore in pieces, in a fit of jealousy, both the cashmere shawl and the English veil.

I have often argued with Georges that this was not done out of jealousy, but simply for the fun of the thing. She always persisted it was done out of jealousy, and I had not the desire to contradict her.

Some days after Georgine's little nocturnal journey, the rumour of her triumph leaked out; she was playing the part of Émilie, and when she declaimed, in accents of true Roman pride, the line—

"Si j'ai séduit Cinna, j'en séduirai bien d'autres...."[Pg 419] the whole audience turned towards the First Consul's box and burst into applause.

From that night there sprang up two dramatic, and almost political, factions in the Théâtre-Français: the partisans of Mademoiselle Georges, and the partisans of Mademoiselle Duchesnois—the Georgians, and the Carcassians. The word Carcassians was doubtless substituted for Circassians as being more expressive. But what is the meaning of the word? Upon my word, I dare not say: I leave it to the investigation of savants and the research of etymologists. Lucien Bonaparte, Madame Bacciochi and Madame Lætitia were at the head of the Georgians; Joséphine flung herself headlong into the Carcassian party; Cambacérès remained neutral.

[1] Montmartre.

[2] Le vent.

[3] Le blé.

[4] Galatée ayant été nymphe, Vauvres, qu'habite Galatée, signifie: Vauvres où il y a des bergers.

[5] Façon poétique de dire qu'il y a une manufacture de porcelaines à Sèvres.

[Pg 420]


Imperial literature—The Jeunesse de Henri IV.—Mercier and Alexandre Duval—The Templiers and their author—César Delrieu—Perpignan—Mademoiselle Georges' rupture with the Théâtre-Français—Her flight to Russia—The galaxy of kings—The tragédienne acts as ambassador

In this same year, 1802, Georges was engaged at the Théâtre-Français under Bonaparte's protection, and Duchesnois under Joséphine's, at a salary of four thousand francs each. Six months later they were practically members of the company. This was the very highest favour that could be bestowed on them; and it was owing to the influence of Bonaparte on the one side, and that of Joséphine on the other, that this double result was attained.

"How was it that Napoleon came to desert you?" I asked Georges one day.

"He left me to become an emperor," she replied.

Indeed, the events which set France agog after the débuts of Georges and of Duchesnois as tragedy princesses, was the début of Napoleon as emperor.

This last début was certainly not free from intrigues: kings mocked; but the great actor who provided the world with the spectacle of his usurpation silenced them at Austerlitz, and from that time until the retreat from Russia it must be acknowledged that he carried his audience with him.

Meanwhile, the literature of the Empire held on in its own course.

In 1803, Hoffmann's Roman d'une heure was played. In 1804, Shakespeare amoureux by Alexandre Duval, Molière avec ses amis by Andrieux, and the Jeune Femme colère of[Pg 421] Étienne were played. In 1805, the Tyran domestique and the Menuisier de Livonie of Alexandre Duval were played; Charon's Tartufe de mœurs, Bouilly's Madame de Sévigné and the Filles à marier of Picard; and in 1806 appeared Picard's Marionnettes, Alexandre Duval's Jeunesse de Henri V. Omasis or Joseph en Égypte by Baour-Lormian and the Templiers by Raynouard.

The two greatest successes of this last period were the Templiers and the Jeunesse de Henri V. The Jeunesse de Henri V. was borrowed from an extremely light comedy. This comedy, which was printed and published but not played, was called Charles II, dans un certain lieu. One phrase only of Mercier disturbed Alexandre Duval. Mercier had quarrelled with the Comédie-Française, and it had sworn, in its offended dignity, that never should a play by Mercier be acted in the theatre of the rue de Richelieu.

On the night of the representation of the Jeunesse de Henri V., Alexandre Duval strutted up and down the lounge. Mercier came up to him and, touching him on the shoulder, said, "And so, Duval, the Comédie-Français declared they would never play anything more of mine, the idiots!"

Alexandre Duval scratched his ear, went home, had the jaundice and wrote nothing for two years.

But the real success of the year, the literary success, was the Templiers. This tragedy was indeed the most remarkable dramatic work of the whole period of the Empire; it had, besides, an enormous success, produced piles of money, and, I believe, carried its author at one bound into the Academy.

The part of the queen was the second rôle Mademoiselle Georges had created since her first appearance at the Français four years before. At that time tragic creations were, as will have been observed, rare. Her first rôle had been as Calypso in the tragedy of Télémaque. Who ever, the reader will ask, could make a tragedy out of Télémaque?

A certain M. Lebrun. But, upon my word, I am like Napoleon and in danger of deluding myself. Was it Lebrun-Pindare? Was it Lebrun the ex-Consul? Was it Lebrun the[Pg 422] future Academician, peer of France, director of the imperial printing-house? I really do not know. But I do know that the crime was perpetrated. Peace be to the culprit, and whether dead or alive, may he sleep a sleep as calm and as profound as his tragedy, wherein Mademoiselle Duchesnois played the rôle of Télémaque to Georges' Calypso, and which, in spite of the combined talent of these two great actresses, failed as completely as did the Cid d'Andalousie, twenty years later, in spite of the combined efforts of Talma and of Mademoiselle Mars.

As we were present at the first representation of the Cid d'Andalousie, we know who its author was. His name was Pierre Lebrun. Napoleon was delighted with the immense success of the Templiers. He continued each year to demand his three hundred thousand conscripts from the Minister for War and his poet from the Chancellor of the University.

He fancied he had found his poet in M. Raynouard. Unluckily, M. Raynouard was so busy all the week that he could only become a poet on Sunday. His occupation, therefore, prevented him from producing more than three tragedies: the Templiers, of which we have spoken; the États de Blois, which was not so good as the Templiers; and Caton d'Utique, which was not so good as the États de Blois. Napoleon was desperate. He went on clamouring for his three hundred thousand conscripts and his poet.

In 1808, after four years' reign, he possessed M. Raynouard and M. Baour-Lormian, the author of the Templiers and the author of Omasis. This was only at the rate of half a poet a year. A reign of fourteen years should have produced him a Pleiad.

We are not speaking of the poets of the Republic, of the Chéniers, the Ducis, the Arnaults, the Jouys, the Lemerciers: they were not poets of Napoleon's creation. And Napoleon was rather like Louis XIV., who counted only the dukes of his own creation.

It was about this time that the scouts despatched by M. de Fontanes began to make a great row about a new poet whom they had just discovered, and who was putting the finishing touches to a tragedy. This poet's name was Luce de Lancival.[Pg 423] We have already spoken of him, when relating what he did and what Napoleon said to him. This worthy M. Luce de Lancival had already committed two youthful indiscretions called Mucius Scævola and ... and ... upon my word! I have forgotten the other title; but these indiscretions were so small, and their fall had been so great, that no questions arose concerning them.

Unfortunately, Luce de Lancival laid great store by Hector. He was appointed professor in belles-lettres and he intended to "profess." This was the third poet who came to nothing in Napoleon's hands.

A great event had taken place at the Théâtre-Français during the preceding year, in connection with the production of the tragedy of Artaxercès. There was a certain individual in Paris who, each time Napoleon asked for a poet, touched his hat and said, "Here am I!" This was César Delrieu, author of the aforesaid tragedy. We knew him thoroughly. Heaven could not possibly have gifted anyone with less talent, or more ingenuous self-conceit and evident pride. The sayings of Delrieu form a repertory which hardly has its equal, unless in the archives of the family of Calprenède. We also knew a young lad called Perpignan, who met with every kind of misadventure, and who ended by becoming the censor. His task was to attend the final rehearsals of plays in order to see that there was nothing in the dress of the actors that might offend morality, nothing in their acting which might bring the Government into contempt and lead to the upheaval of the established order of things. Once in his lifetime he had a piece performed at the Gymnase which failed egregiously, and in connection with which Poirson never ceased to reproach him, on account of the expense to which he had been put over a stuffed parroquet. The play was called the Oncle d'Amérique, and by inscribing Perpignan upon the roll of men of letters, it made him, nolens volens, hail-fellow with such men as M. de Chateaubriand and M. Viennet. Let us hasten to add, to the credit of Perpignan, that he did not take advantage of this privilege as a rule, except to make a jest of himself. Still, he did take advantage of it.

[Pg 424]

One night he met Delrieu, as he was ascending the magnificent staircase that led to the lounge of the Odéon.

"Good-evening, confrère," he said.

"Simpleton!" replied the annoyed Delrieu.

"That is exactly the light in which I view it myself," responded Perpignan, in the most gracious manner imaginable.

When Artaxercès was again put on the stage, at the time when we saw it, and after Delrieu had clamoured for its revival for twenty years, the play, notwithstanding its being cracked up by its author, was what is called in theatrical parlance a dead failure (un four complet).

A fortnight later he was met by one of his friends, who said to him—

"So you have made it up with the Comédiens français?"

"With them? Never!"

"What have they done to you now?"

"What have they done to me? Think of it, the scoundrels! ... You know my Artaxercès, a chef-d'œuvre?"


"Well, they played it on just those days when the house is at its emptiest!"

And he never forgave the bad turn played him by the gentlemen of the Comédie-Française.

But Delrieu's sayings would lead us too far astray. Let us go back from the revival of Artaxercès to its first performance, which will bring us to 30 April 1808.

Mademoiselle Georges had created the rôle of Mandane, and had played it four times; but on the day of the fifth performance an ominous rumour spread through the theatre, and from the theatre out into the town. Mandane had disappeared. A satrap more powerful than Arbaces had carried her off—His Majesty the Emperor of All the Russias.

The Russians have never had any other aristocratic literature than ours: Russians do not usually speak Russian; instead of this, they talk much better French than we do.

The Théâtre-Français was rich in crowned heads at this period. In tragedy queens alone it could boast[Pg 425] Mademoiselle Raucourt, Mademoiselle Duchesnois and Mademoiselle Georges.

The Emperor Alexander naturally considered that the rich should lend to the poor. Besides, the Russians had just lost Austerlitz and Eylau, and they felt quite entitled to some compensation. The business was arranged through the intermediary of the exalted Russian diplomatic corps. M. de Nariskin, who fulfilled the functions of Grand Chamberlain, commissioned M. de Beckendorf, on behalf of the emperor, to arrange the flight. It was conducted with the utmost secrecy. Nevertheless, the telegraph wires along the route to the North were busily at work within twenty-four hours after the disappearance of Mademoiselle Georges.

But, as everyone knows, actresses who escape from the Théâtre-Français fly on faster wings than those of the telegraph, and not one has ever been overtaken. So Mademoiselle Georges entered Kehl just as the news of her flight reached Strassbourg. This was the first defection the Emperor Napoleon had experienced; that Hermione, the ungrateful Hermione, should go over to the enemy! Mademoiselle Georges did not stop until she reached Vienna and the salon of Princess Bagration; but, as we were at peace with Austria, the French Ambassador bestirred himself, and laid claim to Mademoiselle Georges; this was equivalent, in diplomatic terms, to a casus belli, and Mademoiselle Georges received an invitation to continue her journey.

If the reader does not know what a casus belli is, he can learn it from M. Thiers. During the lifetime of two or three ministries M. Thiers presented two or three casus belli to the Powers, to which the Powers paid not the slightest attention. Consequently they came back to him, quite fresh and unused.

Four days later, the fugitive stopped at the house of the governor of Vilna, where she made her second halt, to the accompaniment of applause from all the Polish princesses, not only in Poland, but throughout the world. It is a well-known fact that no persons are so abundantly scattered abroad over the face of the earth as Polish princesses, unless it be Russian princes. Ten days later, Mademoiselle Georges was in St. Petersburg.

[Pg 426]

When she had appeared at Peterhof before the Emperor Alexander, before his brothers Constantine, Nicolas and Michel, before the reigning empress and the dowager empress, Mademoiselle Georges, preceded by the reputation of her great fame, appeared at the theatre in St. Petersburg. It goes without saying that at the theatre of St. Petersburg the orthodox style of drama was in vogue. Alexander might carry off Napoleon's actors; but, alas! he could not carry away his poets: poets were too rare in France for Napoleon not to keep an eye on those he possessed. Chateaubriand and Madame de Staël, the two great poets of the time, travelled abroad much; but they were not dramatic poets.

So Mérope, Sémiramis, Phèdre, Iphigénie and Andromaque were played in St. Petersburg, with more pertinacity even than they were in Paris. Nevertheless, if literature lagged behind, politics, at all events, kept to the front.

Napoleon conquered Prussia in a score of days: he dated his decree concerning the Continental blockade from Berlin, and made his brother Jérôme, King of Westphalia, his brother Joseph, King of Spain, his brother Louis, King of Holland, his brother-in-law Murat, King of Naples, his son-in-law Eugène, Viceroy of Italy. In exchange, he deposed an empress. Joséphine, relegated to Malmaison, had yielded her position to Marie-Louise. The great conqueror, the wonderful strategist, the superb politician, had not realised that, whenever a King of France joined hands with Austria, misfortune dogged his footsteps. Be that as it may, the terrible future was still hidden behind the golden clouds of hope. On 20 March 1811, Marie-Louise gave birth, in the presence of twenty-three persons, to a child upon whose fair head his father placed the crown which, nineteen centuries before, Antony had offered to Cæsar.

Europe at this period had, after the fashion of the Northern oceans, a few days of calm between two gigantic storms, on which it could think of poetry. During one of these days of calm the Emperor Napoleon gave a reception at Erfürt to all the crowned heads of Europe. His old and faithful friend, the King of Saxony, lent his kingdom for this sumptuous entertainment.

[Pg 427]

Napoleon invited the kings and queens of art as well as the kings and queens of this world. Princes crowned with golden or bay crowns, princesses crowned with diamonds or with roses, flocked to the rendezvous.

On 28 September 1808, Cinna was performed before the Emperor Napoleon, the Emperor Alexander and the King of Saxony. On the following day, the 29th, Britannicus was played. In that interval of twenty-four hours, the august assembly was increased by Prince William of Prussia, Duke William of Bavaria and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who, later, was to lose three crowns at one fell blow, through the death of his wife, the Princess Royal of England, and the child which, mother-like, she took away to the grave with her: with them, he lost that famous trident of Neptune which Lemierre called the sceptre of the world.

On 2 October, Goethe arrived upon the scene. He had the right to present himself: of all the names of princes we have just mentioned (without wishing to hurt the feelings of the gentlemen of the rue de Grenelle) the name of the author of Faust is perhaps the only one which will survive.

On the 3rd, Philoctète was played. It was during this performance that Alexander held out his hand to Napoleon at the line—

"L'amitié d'un grand homme est un bienfait des dieux!"

—the hand that, three years later, he was to withdraw, and for want of which Napoleon floundered in snow and bloodshed from Moscow to Waterloo. During the second act of Philoctète the King of Wurtemberg arrived, but no one troubled to make way for him. He took his place on one of the seats reserved for kings.

On 4 October, Iphigénie en Aulide was played. The King and the Queen of Westphalia arrived during the piece.

Next day, Phèdre was performed. The King of Bavaria and the Prince-Primate arrived during the matinée.

On the 6th, the Mort de César was represented. The crowned audience was in full swing. There were present two emperors, three kings, one queen, twenty princes and six grand dukes.

After the play, the emperor said to Talma—

[Pg 428]

"I have kept the promise at Erfürt that I gave you in Paris, Talma; I have made you play before an audience of kings."

On 14 October, the anniversary of the battle of Jena, Napoleon left Erfürt, after having given the cross of the Legion of Honour to Goethe.

Four years later, almost to the day, Napoleon entered the capital of the Russian empire in the guise of its conqueror. He dictated a decree from the Kremlin, written by the flickering light of the burning city, regulating the interests of the company of the rue de Richelieu. Henceforth it was war to the death between the two men who had met at Tilsit on the same raft; who had sat side by side at Erfürt; who were called by the names of Charlemagne and Constantine; who divided the world into two parts, appropriating to themselves respectively the East and the West, both of whom were to die in a tragic fashion within five years of each other, the one in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean, the other on the shores of the Sea of Azov.

The actors of the Comédie-Française learnt at St. Petersburg the news of the emperor's entry into Moscow. They could not stay in an enemy's capital; they obtained leave to go, and set out for Stockholm, which they reached after a three weeks' journey in sledges.

A Frenchman reigned in Sweden, or rather held the crown above the head of the old Duke of Sudermania, who was king for the time being. Bernadotte received the fugitives, as they had received his fellow-countryman Henri IV. The actors made a halt of three months in Sweden, our ancient ally, which, under a French king, became our enemy. They then left for Stralsund, where they made a sojourn of a fortnight. On the night before their departure, M. de Camps, Bernadotte's orderly staff officer, sought out Mademoiselle Georges. Hermione was to be utilised as ambassador's courier. M. de Camps brought a letter from Bernadotte; it was addressed to Jérôme-Napoleon, King of Westphalia. This letter was of the very highest importance; they did not know how best to conceal it. Women are never at a loss in hiding letters. Hermione hid the letter among the busks[Pg 429] of her corset. The busk of a woman's corset is the sheath of her sword.

M. de Camps retired only half satisfied; swords were so easily drawn from their sheaths in those days. The ambassador in petticoats left in a carriage that had been presented to her by the crown prince. She held a jewel-case on her lap which contained upwards of three hundred thousand francs worth of diamonds. One does not spurn three crowns without getting some windfall or other. The diamonds in the casket, and the letter among the busks, arrived safely at a destination within two days' journey from Cassel, the capital of the new kingdom of Westphalia. They travelled night and day. The letter was urgent, the diamonds were such a source of fear!

Suddenly, in the dead of night, the clatter of horses' hoofs was heard, and the gleam of a forest of lances appeared. A terrific shouting arose: they had fallen into the midst of a swarm of Cossacks. A crowd of hands were already stretched towards the carriage door, when a young Russian officer appeared. Not even Hippolytus looked more beautiful in the eyes of Phedra. Georges introduced herself. Do you recollect the story of Ariosto, the picture which shows the bandits on their knees? Genuflexion before a young actress was far more natural than before a poet forty years old. The band of enemies became a friendly escort, which did not leave the beautiful traveller until she reached the French outposts. When once she was under the protection of these, Georges and the letter and the diamonds were safe. They reached Cassel. King Jérôme was at Brunswick. They set out for Brunswick.

King Jérôme was a very gallant king, very handsome, very young; he was hardly twenty-eight years of age; he did not seem to be in any great haste to receive the letter from the Crown Prince of Sweden. I do not know whether he received the letter or whether he took it. I do know that the lady-courier spent a day and a night in Brunswick. It will be readily admitted that she required at least twenty-four hours to rest after such an adventurous journey.

[Pg 430]


The Comédie-Française at Dresden—Georges returns to the Théâtre-Français—The Deux GendresMahomet II.Tippo-Saëb—1814—Fontainebleau—The allied armies enter Paris—Lilies—Return from the isle of Elba—Violets—Asparagus stalks—Georges returns to Paris

Mademoiselle Georges left for Dresden the day after her arrival at Brunswick. The giant who had been confounded at Beresina had, Anteus-like, recovered his strength as he neared Paris. Napoleon left Saint-Cloud on 15 April 1813. He stopped on the 16th at Mayence, left it on the 24th, and reached Erfürt the same day.

Napoleon was still in command of forty-three millions of men at this time, and had as his allies against Russia all the kings who had been present at the theatrical entertainments recently mentioned by us. But Napoleon had lost his prestige. The first bloom of his glory had been smirched; the invincible one had been proved vulnerable. The snowy campaign of 1812 had chilled all the friendships professed towards him. Prussia set the example of defection.

On 3 May—that is to say, eighteen days after his departure from Paris—Napoleon despatched couriers to Constantinople, Vienna and Paris from the battlefield of Lutzen, where slept twenty thousand Russians and Prussians, to announce a fresh victory. Saxony had been won back in a single battle. On 10 May, the emperor installed himself at Dresden, in the Marcolini Palace. On the 12th, the King of Saxony, who had taken refuge on the frontiers of Bohemia, returned to his capital. On the 18th, Napoleon proposed an armistice.

[Pg 431]

As it was ignored, he fought and won the battles of Bautzen and of Lutzen on the 20th and 21st. On 10 June, the emperor returned to Dresden, still in hopes of the desired armistice.

On 16 June, MM. de Beausset and de Turenne were appointed to look after the Comédie-Française. M. de Beausset's work was to see to the stage management of the theatre, to obtain lodgings for the actors and to arrange the repertory. M. de Turenne took upon him the invitations and all matters connected with court etiquette. On 19 June, the company of the Comédie-Française arrived. It consisted of the following actors and actresses: MM. Fleury, Saint-Phal,

Baptiste junior, Armand, Thénard, Vigny, Michot, Bartier; and Mesdames Thénard, Émilie Contat, Mézeray, Mars and Bourgoin. We have followed the observances of etiquette à la M. de Turenne, and placed these gentlemen and ladies in the order of their seniority.

All was ready to receive them by 15 June. Lodgings, carriages and servants had all been hired in advance. An hour after their arrival, the thirteen artistes were duly installed. At midnight, on the following day, Mademoiselle Georges also arrived in Dresden. By one o'clock the Duc de Vicence had taken up his residence with her. The next day, at seven o'clock in the morning, she was received by the emperor. That very day, a courier was sent off to command Talma and Saint-Prix to set out for Dresden instantly, no matter in what part of France they might be when the order reached them. The order reached Saint-Prix in Paris, and found Talma in the provinces. Twelve days after, Talma and Saint-Prix arrived, and the company of the Comédie-Française was complete.

A theatre had been arranged for comedy in the orangery belonging to the palace occupied by the emperor.

Tragedies, which require far more staging and much more scenery, were to be performed in the town theatre. The first representation of comedy took place on 22 June; it consisted of the Gageure imprévue and the Suites d'un bal masqué..[Pg 432] The first representation of tragedy was Phèdre, played on the 24th. But these entertainments were very different from those at Erfürt! A veil of sadness had crept over the past; a cloud of fear hung over the future. People remembered Beresina; they foresaw Leipzig. Talma looked in vain among the audience for the kings who had applauded him at Erfürt. There was only the old and faithful King of Saxony, the last of those crowned heads who remained true to Napoleon.

The performances lasted from 22 June until 10 August. The emperor invited either Talma or Mademoiselle Mars or Mademoiselle Georges to lunch with him most mornings. They talked of art. Art had always filled an important place in Napoleon's mind. He was in this respect not only the successor, but also the heir to Louis XIV. It was on these occasions that he gave expression to those incisive appreciations peculiar to himself, and to his opinions on men and on their works. It must have been fine indeed to listen to Napoleon's appreciation of Corneille and his criticism of Racine. And it should be remembered that, to be able to speak of Corneille or of Racine, his powerful mind had to put aside for the moment all thought of the material world which was beginning to press heavily upon him. It is true that he was continually being deluded by hopes of peace; but on the evening of 11 August all hopes of that nature were dispelled.

On the 12 th, at three o'clock in the morning, M. de Beausset received the following letter from Alexandre Berthier, Prince of Neuchâtel:—

"MY DEAR BEAUSSET,—The emperor commands me to tell you that the French actors who are here must leave either to-day or to-morrow morning at the latest, to return to Paris. Have the goodness to inform them of this.—Yours, etc.,


The actors left, and then the battle of Leipzig took place. The Empire's dying struggle had begun. The actors meanwhile returned to Paris. Mademoiselle Georges resumed her ascendency[Pg 433] at the Comédie-Française, after an absence of five years. Raucourt, though still alive, had practically abandoned her career. For a long time past the theatrical life had weighed upon her; she only acted when obliged, and remained almost all the year round in the country. When Mademoiselle Georges was reinstalled, it was arranged that she should become a full member of the company, and her absence was reckoned as though she were present. She reappeared as Clytemnestre when she was still only twenty-eight years of age. Her success was immense. There had not been many changes during those last five years at the Théâtre-Français. The important pieces played during the absence of Mademoiselle Georges were, Hector and Christophe Colombo to which we have referred; the Deux Gendres, by M. Étienne; Mahomet II., by M. Baour-Lormian; and Tippo-Saëb, by M. de Jouy.

The success of the Deux Gendres was not contested, and it could not be contested. But since people must always contest some point or other in the case of an author of any merit, the paternity of M. Étienne's comedy was contested.

A worm-eaten manuscript written by a forgotten Jesuit was dragged out of some bookcase or other, and it was said that M. Étienne had robbed this unlucky Jesuit. It should be stated that the plot of the Deux Gendres was the same that Shakespeare had utilised two centuries before, in King Lear, and that M. de Balzac made use of twenty-five years later, in Père Goriot. All these polemical discussions greatly annoyed M. Étienne, and probably hindered him from writing a sequel to the Deux Gendres. Mahomet II. met with but indifferent success: the play was lifeless and dull.

Nevertheless, M. Baour-Lormian was a meritorious writer: he left, or rather he will leave, a few poems charged with melancholy feeling, all the more striking as such a sentiment was entirely unknown during the Empire, which can offer us, in this respect, nothing save the Chute des Feuilles by Millevoie, and the Feuille de Rose by M. Arnault. Besides, the Chute des Feuilles was written before, and the Feuille de Rose after, the Empire.

[Pg 434]

Let me quote a few of M. Baour-Lormian's pleasant lines:—

"Ainsi qu'une jeune beauté
Silencieuse et solitaire,
Du sein du nuage argente
La lune sort avec mystere....
Fille aimable du ciel, à pas lents et sans bruit,
Tu glisses dans les airs où brille ta couronne;
Et ton passage s'environne
Du cortège pompeux des soleils de la nuit....
Que fais-tu loin de nous, quand l'aube blanchissante
Efface, à nos yeux attristés,
Ton sourire charmant et tes molles clartés?
Vas-tu, comme Ossian, plaintive et gémissante,
Dans l'asile de la douleur
Ensevelir ta beauté languissante?
Fille aimable du ciel, connais-tu le malheur?"

We must now return to Mademoiselle Georges.

Mademoiselle Georges, as we have remarked, found, it seems, the Théâtre-Français pretty much as she had left it. She resumed her old repertory. Is it not curious that during the nine years she was at the Théâtre-Français Mademoiselle Georges, who has created so many rôles since, only created those of Calypso and of Mandane there?...

All this time, the horizon in the North was growing darker and darker: Prussia had betrayed us; Sweden had deserted us; Saxony had been involved in the rout at Leipzig; Austria was recruiting her forces against us. On 6 January 1814, Joachim Murat, King of Naples, signed an armistice with England, the expiration of which had to be notified three months in advance. On the 11th, he promised the Emperor of Austria to go to war against France with thirty thousand men; in exchange for which the Austrian monarch guaranteed the throne of Naples to him and his heirs.

Napoleon then began the marvellous campaign of 1814, that titanic struggle in which a single man and one nation faced two emperors, four kings and six nations of the first rank, including Russia, England, Prussia and Spain.

If we turn over the pages of the repertory of the Théâtre-Français[Pg 435] for the whole of the year 1814, the only new play we shall find is the Hôtel garni, a comedy in one act, and in verse, by Désaugiers.

Meanwhile, at each fresh victory, Napoleon lost a province. Driven-to bay at Fontainebleau, he abdicated. Three days later, the allied forces marched into Paris, and Napoleon left for the isle of Elba. There were still two factions at the Comédie-Française, as there had been during the time of the Revolution. Talma, Mars and Georges remained loyally faithful to the emperor. Raucourt, Mademoiselle Levert, Madame Volnais espoused the Royalist cause. Raucourt was the first to tear down the eagle which decorated the imperial box. Poor soul! she little knew that those whom she helped to recall would refuse her Christian burial, one year later!

The same kings who had been present at the Erfürt representations, as Napoleon's guests and friends, came as enemies and conquerors to see the same plays in Paris. Everybody knows the terrible reaction that took place at first against the Empire. The actors who remained faithful to the emperor were not persecuted, but they were made to exclaim as they came on the stage, "Vive le roi!"

One day Mademoiselle Levert and Madame Volnais outdid even the exacting demands of the public: they came on the stage, in the Vieux Célibataire, with huge bouquets of lilies in their hands.

So things went on until 6 March 1815. On that day a strange, incredible, unheard-of rumour spread through Paris, and, from Paris, to all the four quarters of the earth. Napoleon had landed. Many hearts trembled at the news; but few were more agitated than those of the faithful actors who had not forgotten that once, when he was master of the world and emperor he had conversed upon art and poetry with them.

Nevertheless, nobody dared express his joy: hope was faint, the truth of the rumour uncertain.

According to the official newspapers, Napoleon was wandering, hunted and beaten, among the mountains, where he could not avoid being captured before long. Truth, like everything[Pg 436] that is real, makes itself seen in the end. A persistent rumour came from Gap, from Sisteron, from Grenoble; the fugitive of the Journal des Débats was a conqueror round whom the people rallied in intoxicated delight. Labédoyère and his regiment, Ney and his army corps rallied round him. Lyons had opened its gates to him, and from the heights of Fourvières the imperial eagle had started on the flight which, from tower to tower, was to bring it at last to the towers of Nôtre Dame.

On 19 March, the Tuileries was evacuated: a courier was sent to carry this news to Napoleon, who was at Fontainebleau. People expected him all day long on the 20th; they felt confident that he would make a triumphal entry along the boulevards. Mars and Georges had taken a window at Frascati's. They wore hats of white straw, with enormous bunches of violets in them. They attracted much notice, for it was known that they had been persecuted for a year at the Comédie-Française on account of their attachment to the emperor.

The bouquets of violets symbolised the month of March: the King of Rome's birthday was in the month of March, and also the return of Napoleon. From that day violets became a badge. People wore violets in all sorts of fashions—in hats, hanging by their sides, as trimmings to dresses. Some, more fanatic than others, wore a gold violet in their buttonholes, as an order of chivalry. There was quite as great a reaction against the Bourbons as there had been in their favour a year before.

When Talma, Mars and Georges appeared, they were overwhelmed with applause. Georges saw the emperor again at the Tuileries. By dint of his powerful character, Napoleon seemed to have put everything behind him. One might have said he had not left the château of Catherine de Médicis save, as had been his custom, to bring back news of a fresh victory. The only thing that distressed him was that they had taken away some of his favourite pieces of furniture.

He missed greatly a little boudoir, hung with tapestry that had been worked by Marie-Louise and the ladies of the Court.

[Pg 437]

"Would you believe it, my dear," he said to Georges, "I found asparagus stalks on the arm-chairs!" This was the worst with which he reproached Louis XVIII.

The return of the god was of as short duration as the apparition of a ghost. Waterloo succeeded Leipzig; Saint-Helena, the isle of Elba. It was a more terrible, a more melancholy counterpart! Leipzig was but a wound, Waterloo was death; the isle of Elba was but exile, Saint-Helena was the tomb!

One might almost say that he carried everything away with him. We again turn over the leaves of the repertory of the Théâtre-Français and we do not find any play of importance produced throughout the year 1815. The lilies reappeared and the poor violets were exiled;—with the violets, Georges exiled herself. She went to the provinces, where she remained for several years; she reappeared in 1823, more beautiful than she had ever been. She was then thirty-eight.

I will find an opportunity to pass in review the men of letters and the literary works of the Empire, to which, on account of my callow youth, I have scarcely referred, during the period in which these men and their works flourished. Indeed, when Georges made her début, the two men who were to add to her reputation by means of Christine, Bérengère and Marguerite de Bourgogne, Marie Tudor and Lucrèce Borgia, were still wailing at their mothers' breasts. Taken all round, whatever people may say, these five rôles were Georges' greatest successes. Meanwhile, on 12 April 1823, the great actress played in Comte Julien at the Odéon.

[Pg 438]


The drawbacks to theatres which have the monopoly of a great actor—Lafond takes the rôle of Pierre de Portugal upon Talma declining it—Lafond—His school—His sayings—Mademoiselle Duchesnois—Her failings and her abilities—Pierre de Portugal succeeds

The great day for the representation of Pierre de Portugal came at last. Talma, preoccupied with his creation of the part of Danville in the École des Vieillards, had declined to take the rôle of Pierre de Portugal. Lafond had accepted it, and he and Mademoiselle Duchesnois had to bear the brunt of the whole play. Herein lay the indisputable test pointed out by Lassagne: could the play possibly succeed without Talma? The great inconvenience of that rara avis, as Juvenal puts it, or, in theatre parlance, the actor who brings in the receipts, is that on days when he does not play the theatre loses heavily; plays in which he does not figure are judged beforehand to be unworthy of public notice, since they have not been honoured by the actor's concurrence.

At the time to which we are referring the Théâtre-Français was better off than it is now. One day it made money by Talma's tragic acting; the next, it made money by Mademoiselle Mars in comedy. Casimir Delavigne began its downfall by making the two eminent artistes appear together in the same play and on the same day. As for Lafond and Mademoiselle Duchesnois, neither apart nor together did they bring in sufficient receipts.

Lafond would be about forty then: he came out first in 1800, at the Théâtre-Français, in the part of Achilles. Later, when supported by Geoffroy, in Tancrède, in Adélaïde Duguesclin and in Zaire, he became as successful as Talma. The scurvy[Pg 439] race of sheep which we have always with us, which takes its nutriment in the pastures of poetry and which is too feeble to form its own opinion based on its own mental capacity, adopts a judgment ready made wherever it can. It bleated concerning Lafond, "Lafond is inimitable in the rôle of French cavalier."

There was always, at this period of the drama, a part called the French cavalier. This part was invariably played by a person decorated with a plumed toque, clad in a yellow tunic braided with black, ornamented with representations of the sun, or of golden palms when the cavalier was a prince, and wearing buff-leather boots. It was not imperative that the hero should be French, or wear golden spurs, to be a French cavalier: the rôle was designed on well defined lines, and belonged to a particular school. Zamore was a French cavalier, Orosmane was a French cavalier, Philoctètes was a French cavalier. The only distinctions between them were as follows: Zamore played in a cap decorated with peacock feathers, and in a cloak of parrot's feathers, with a girdle of ostrich plumes. Orosmane played in a long robe of white taffeta dropping with spangles and trimmed with minever, in a turban opening out wide like a blunderbuss and decorated with a crescent of Rhine stones, in red foulard trousers and yellow slippers. Philoctètes played in a loose coat of red horse-hair, a cuirass of velvet embroidered with gold, and was furnished with a warlike sword.

Vanhove, in order to play Agamemnon, had a cuirass which cost him a small fortune, two hundred louis, I believe; it was ornamented by two trophies, hand-worked—a magnificent bit of work, representing cannons and drums.

I once said to Lafond—

"M. Lafond, why do you play Zamore in such a shabby girdle? Your feathers look like fish-bones; they are positively indecent!"

"Young man," replied Lafond, "Zamore is not rich; Zamore is a slave; Zamore could not afford to buy himself a new girdle every day; I am true to history."

What was perhaps less true to history was the expansive Stomach which the girdle enclosed.

[Pg 440]

Lafond's triumphs in these cavalier parts made Talma nearly die of envy. One day Geoffroy's articles exasperated him to such a degree that, on meeting the critic in the wings, he flew at him and bit him—at the risk of poisoning himself. But as the law of universal stability decrees that every bullet shall find its billet, the populace, by degrees, grew tired of Lafond's redundant declamation and emphatic gestures, which, at the time of which we are speaking, being used only by a few old-fashioned members of the school of Larive, drew receipts no longer, even when they played the parts of chevaliers français.

Lafond was an odd fellow in other ways besides. Thanks to his Gascon accent and to his way of saying things, one never knew whether he were talking nonsense or saying something witty.

He once came into the lounge of the Théâtre-Français when Colson (an indifferent actor who was often hissed) was blurting out his caricature of Lafond's trick of over-acting. Colson pulled himself up; but it was too late: Lafond had heard his voice in the corridor. He made straight for Colson.

"Eh! Colson, my friend," he said, in that Bordelais accent of which none but those who have heard and followed it could form any idea, "they tell me you have been taking me off?"

"Oh! M. Lafond," Colson replied, trying to recover himself, "take you off?... No, I swear I...."

"All right! all right! that was what I was told.... Come, Colson, do me a favour."

"What is it, M. Lafond?"

"Act my part before me."

"Oh, M. Lafond...."

"I beg you to do it; I shall really be extremely obliged to you."

"The deuce!" said Colson. "If you really wish it...."

"Yes, I do wish it."

Colson yielded, and began Orosmane's tirade—

"Vertueuse Zaire, avant que l'hyménée...."

and declaimed it from the first line to the last, with such[Pg 441] fidelity of imitation that one might have thought Lafond himself were declaiming.

Lafond listened to the end with the deepest attention, nodding his head up and down and expressing his approbation by frequent and obvious signs.

Then, when Colson had finished, he said, "Well! why ever don't you act like that, my dear fellow? The public would not hiss you if you did!"

In the interval between the first and second acts of Pierre de Portugal, Lucien Arnault was in the wings; during the second act, Pierre de Portugal, disguised as a soldier of his army, insinuates himself unrecognised into the house of Inès de Castro, who takes him for a common soldier.

Lucien saw Lafond advance in a costume resplendent with gold and jewels.

He ran up to him. "Ah! my dear Lafond," he said, "your costume is all wrong!"

"Have you anything to say against my costume?"

"Rather, I should just think so."

"But it is blatantly new."

"That is precisely what I take exception to: you have put on the garb of a prince, not that of a common soldier."

"Lucien," replied Lafond, "listen to this: I would rather arouse envy than pity." Then, turning haughtily on his heels, no doubt in order to show the back of his costume to Lucien, since he had shown him the front, he said, "They can ring: Pierre de Portugal is ready."

When, five years later, I read Christine before the Théâtre-Français, whether or not Lafond was a member of the committee, or whether he did not care to trouble himself to listen to the work of a beginner, I had the misfortune to read it in his absence. Although, as we shall see in its proper place, the play was rejected, the reading excited some interest, and it was thought that a drama might be made out of it sooner or later.

One day I saw the door of my humble office open and M. Lafond was announced. I raised my head, greatly surprised,[Pg 442] unable to imagine why I should be favoured by a visit from the viceroy of the tragic stage: it was indeed he! I offered him a chair; but he refused it with a nod of the head, and stopping close to the door, with his right foot forward and his left hand resting on his hips, he said, "Monsieur Dumas, do you happen to have, by any chance, in your play, a well-set-up gallant who would say to that queer queen Christine, 'Madame, your majesty has no right to kill that poor devil of a Monaldeschi, for this, that, or any other reason'?"

"No, monsieur, no! I have no such gallant in my play."

"You are quite sure you haven't?"


"In that case I have nothing to say to you.... Good-day, M. Dumas." And, turning on his heel, he went out as he had entered. He had come to ask me for the part of this well-set-up gallant, as he called it. Unfortunately, as I had been compelled to acknowledge, I had no such part in my play.

In the heyday of his popularity M. Lafond never spoke of Talma, or of M. Talma: he said, the other person.

The Comte de Lauraguais, who had been Sophie Arnould's lover, and who, like the Marquis de Zimènes, was one of the most constant visitors to the actors' green-room, said one day to M. Lafond, "M. Lafond, I think you are too often the one and not often enough the other?"

Mademoiselle Duchesnois was quite different from Lafond: she was really kind-hearted, and her great successes never made her vain. She was born in 1777, one year before Mademoiselle Mars, at Saint-Saulve, near Valenciennes, and she changed her name, after her début in Phèdre, in 1802, from Joséphine Ruffin to Duchesnois. We have said that she was Mile. Georges' rival in everything: her rival on the stage, her rival in love. Harel was the handsome Paris who was the object of this rivalry. Harel, who was in turn manager of the theatre de l'Odéon and of the théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin, will play a great part in these Memoirs—the part that a clever man, be it known, has the right to play everywhere.

Mademoiselle Duchesnois had had to struggle all her life[Pg 443] against her plain looks: she was like one of those china lions one sees on balustrades; she had a particularly big nose which she blew stentoriously, as befitted its size. Lassagne did not dare to go into the orchestra on days when she acted; he was afraid of being blown away. On the other hand, she had a marvellous figure, and her body could have rivalled that of the Venus de Milo. She doted on the part of Alzire, which allowed her and Lafond to appear almost naked. She possessed a certain simplicity of mind which her detractors called stupidity. One day—in 1824—people were busy talking about the inundation of St. Petersburg, and of the various more or less picturesque accidents that had occurred through this inundation.

I was in the wings, behind Talma and Mademoiselle Duchesnois, to whom an actress, who had just arrived from the first, or rather from the second, capital of the Russian Empire, was relating how one of her friends, overtaken by the flood, had only had time to climb up on a crane.

"What! on a crane?" said Mademoiselle Duchesnois, in great astonishment. "Is it possible, Talma?"

"Oh! my dear," replied the actor questioned so oddly, "no one ought to know better than yourself that it is done every day."

But, in spite of her ugliness, in spite of her simplicity, in spite of her hiccough, in spite of her nose-blowing, Mademoiselle Duchesnois possessed the most profoundly tender inflections in her voice, and could express such pathetic sorrow, that most of those who saw her in Marie Stuart prefer her to-day to Mademoiselle Rachel. Especially did her qualities shine when she played with Talma. Talma was too great an artiste, too superb an actor to fear being outbidden. Talma gave her excellent advice, which her fine artistic nature utilised, if not with remarkable intelligence, at least with easy assimilation.

The poor creature retired from the stage in 1830, after having struggled as long as she could against the pitiless indifference of the public, and the cruel hints from other actors which generally embitter the later years of dramatic artistes.[Pg 444] She reappeared once again before her death in 1835, in Athalie at the Opera, I believe.

It was very sad to see her: it inevitably brought to mind the line from Pierre de Portugal

"Inès, vivante ou non, tu seras couronnée!"

Alas! poor Duchesnois was crowned when she was more than half dead. She had a son, a good honest lad. After the Revolution of July, Bixio and I got him a sub-lieutenancy; but he was killed, I believe, in Algeria.

The tragedy of Pierre de Portugal was a success; it was even a great success; but it only ran fifteen or eighteen nights, and did not bring in any money.

Lassagne was right.

[Pg 445]


General Riégo—His attempted insurrection—His escape and flight—He is betrayed by the brothers Lara—His trial—His execution

We have mentioned that the École des Vieillards ought to have come after Pierre de Portugal, but between the comedy and tragedy two terrible dramas took place in Madrid and Paris. In Madrid they made a martyr; in Paris they executed a criminal. The martyr's name was Riégo: the guilty criminal's Castaing.

Riégo was born, in 1783, in the Asturias, so he would be about forty: he was of a noble but poor family and, since the invasion of 1808, he had enlisted as a volunteer. He became an officer in the same regiment in which he had enlisted; he was taken prisoner and led away to France. Sent back to Spain, when peace was declared, he attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the same regiment, and, leading this regiment into insurrection, seduced by him, it proclaimed the constitution of 1812 at las Cabesas-de-San-Juan. It will be seen later that it was desired that his head should be exposed, in order that his mute lips and the eyes closed by death might bear witness to the fact that royalty can be cruel for more than a day's span, and common people ungrateful. On 27 September he was arrested at Cadiz. Let us say a few words concerning his arrest and death,—the latter especially, for, alas I it belongs almost to French history. After his last defeat, General Riégo wandered in the mountains with a score of his comrades, all of whom belonged, like himself, to the Liberal party. Fifteen of these fugitives were officers. They were all exhausted by fatigue and hunger, and did not know either where to look for shelter or from whom to beg food, when they[Pg 446] caught sight of two men. They made straight for them. These two men were the hermit of the district of Pédrogil and a native of Valez named Lopez Lara. The general took them aside.

"My friends," he said to them, "you have a chance to win a fortune for yourselves and your families."

"What must we do to gain it?" the two men asked.

"Conduct me safe and sound to Carolina, to Carboneras and to Novas de Tolosa."

"And there...?"

"There I shall find friends who will take me on to Estremadura, where I have business to transact."

Whether the journey appeared to them too long, or whether they fancied they had to deal with outlaws, the hermit and his companion declined. So Riégo arrested them, put them on a couple of mules, and told them that, whether willingly or under compulsion, they would have to act as guides to his band. The party waited until nightfall and then set forth.

During the march in the darkness, Riégo talked with his comrades concerning various events that had recently occurred, from which the hermit and Lopez Lara soon guessed that they were in the company of the notorious Riégo. From that moment Lopez Lara's whole thoughts were filled with the idea of handing Riégo over to the Royalist authorities. When daytime came, they had to stop. They were near the farm of Baquevisones: Riégo announced that he meant to ask for shelter there, so he ordered Lara to knock at the door. Lara obeyed. By chance, his own brother Matéo opened it. Lara perceived that chance had brought him the assistance he needed. Riégo, realising that too large an escort might betray him, would only allow three of his comrades to go in with him. One of these companions was an Englishman, even more daring than Riégo. He at once locked the door of the farm behind him and put the key in his pocket. When they had given the horses fodder, they rested in the stable, each with his naked sword by his side. Three slept, while the fourth mounted guard. When Riégo awaked, he discovered that his[Pg 447] horse was unshod. He ordered Lopez Lara to shoe the horse immediately.

"All right," replied he; "but I must take him to Arguillos to get him shod."

"No," returned Riégo; "you shall stay here and Matéo shall have him shod. But the farrier shall come here; the horse shall not go to him."

Lopez appeared to conform with indifference to this order; but, as he transmitted it to his brother, he managed to say—

"The man who owns the horse is General Riégo."

"So ho!" said Matéo; "arrange for him to be at breakfast by the time I return; do not leave the place where they are or let them out of your sight."

Matéo returned, and made a sign to his brother that the commission was executed. Then to Riégo he said—

"Señor, as the farrier will be here in five minutes, you had better breakfast, if you wish to proceed on your journey directly your horse is shod."

Riégo went to breakfast without making any objection. But not so the Englishman.

The Englishman searched the high road with his field-glasses from a window as far as he could see. Suddenly a score of armed men came into sight, headed by an alcade (magistrate).

"General," he exclaimed, "we have been betrayed! There are soldiers coming."

"To arms!" cried Riégo, rising. He had time to utter this cry, but not to accomplish its fulfilment. Lopez and Matéo seized their guns and covered the outlaws with them.

"The first man who moves is dead!" cried Lopez.

"All right," said Riégo, "I surrender; but warn the soldiers who are coming not to harm us, since we are your prisoners."

The soldiers entered, led by the alcade.

"Shake hands, brother, and do us no harm," said Riégo to the alcade.

After some objection, the alcade greeted Riégo. But, in spite of this, he told him he must bind his hands. Whereupon, Riégo took out of his pocket all the money he[Pg 448] had with him and distributed it among the soldiers, asking them to treat him mercifully. The alcade, however, forbade the soldiers to accept anything. A quarter of an hour later, the civil commandant arrived from Arguillos with a guard, and they took the prisoners to Andujar.

When the captives entered that town, the people wanted to tear them limb from limb. Riégo was accompanied by a French officer. When he arrived in front of the same balcony from which, a year ago, he had harangued the people, he pointed to the crowd which surrounded him howling and shaking their fists and knives at him, and in a tone of profound sadness he said to the officer, "These people whom you see so relentless towards me, these people who if I had not been under the protection of your escort would have butchered me long since, these people carried me here in triumph only last year; the town was illuminated the whole night through, and the very same individuals whom I recognise surrounding me here, who then deafened me with cries of 'Vive Riégo!' now shout 'Death to Riégo!'"

He was taken to the seminary of nobles; his trial lasted over a month. A decree dated 1 October, the very day on which he was freed from prison and reached the port of Sainte-Marie, degraded the general of all his honours; consequently, he was tried by a civil court. The King of Spain gained a twofold advantage by depriving the general of a military court martial.

First he knew that the civil court would condemn Riégo to death. Second, if the sentence were pronounced by a civil court, the death would be ignominious. Vengeance is such a sweet mouthful that it must not be permitted to lose any of its flavour.

On 4 November they led Riégo from the seminary of nobles to the prison of la Tour. The court had not obtained all it demanded. The attorney-general requisitioned that Riégo should be condemned to the gallows; that his estate should be confiscated and given to the Commune; that his head should be exposed at las Cabesas de San-Juan; that his body should be quartered and one quarter sent to Seville, another to the isle of Leon, the third to Malaga and the[Pg 449] fourth exposed in Madrid, in the usual places for such exhibitions,—"these towns being," the attorney-general added, "the principal places where the traitor Riégo scattered the sparks of revolt."

The alcades decided that the mode of death should be by hanging and that the goods should be confiscated; but they refused the request concerning the four quarters.

Once, towards the end of the fifteenth century, the inhabitants of Imola, a small town in the Romagna, found, on waking up, the four quarters of a man hanging each by a hook at the four corners of the square. They recognised the man cut into four quarters for a Florentine, and wrote to the worshipful Republic to advise them of the unforeseen accident that had overtaken one of its citizens. The Republic learnt of this by means of Machiavelli, its ambassador to the Legations. Machiavelli's only reply was as follows: "Noble lords, I have but one thing to say to you apropos of the corpse of Ramiro d'Orco, which was found cut up into four quarters in the square of Imola, and it is this: the illustrious Cæsar Borgia is the prince who best knows how to deal with men according to their deserts."

It riled the King of Spain not to be able to deal with Riégo as Borgia had dealt with Ramiro d'Orco; but he had to content himself with the prisoner being borne to the gibbet on hurdles and with the confiscation of his property. Even that would be quite a pretty spectacle.

On 5 November at noon Riégo's sentence was read to him: he listened to it very calmly. This calmness disturbed the judges for it would set a bad example if Riégo died bravely. They took him to the chapel, and under pretence that fasting induced penitence sooner than anything else, they gave him nothing to eat from that time. Two monks accompanied him to his cell and never left him. At the prison door, in the street, he could see a table with a crucifix thereon, and passers-by placed their alms on the table. These alms were destined to pay the expenses of his mass and funeral.

On the 7th, at nine in the morning, the prison was besieged[Pg 450] by over thirty thousand curious spectators; a much greater number than that lined the whole of the route, and formed a double line from the prison square to the square where the execution was to take place.

Riégo had asked that only Spanish troops should be present during his last moments. This favour was granted him, because France did not wish to dip one corner of its white flag in the blood of the unlucky Riégo.

At half-past twelve, after fifty hours of fasting, the general was led forth to the prison door. He was pale and weak. They had stripped him of his uniform and they had clothed him in a dressing-gown with a girdle fastened round his waist; his hands and feet were likewise bound. He was laid on a hurdle, with a pillow under his head. Monks walked on both sides of this hurdle to administer spiritual consolation to him. An ass drew the hurdle, led by the executioner. The victim was preceded and followed by a corps of cavalry.

It was difficult to get a good sight of the general, so great was the curiosity of the crowd: his head fell forward on his breast, and he had only sufficient strength to raise it two or three times to reply to the exhortations of the priests.

The cortège took nearly an hour to get from the prison to the place of execution. When the foot of the gallows was reached, the general was raised from the hurdle, covered with dust, and placed on the first step of the scaffold. There he made his last confession. Then they dragged him up the ladder; for, his feet being bound, he could not mount it himself. All the while a priest kept beseeching God to forgive him his sins, as he forgave those who had trespassed against him. When they had hauled him a certain height, those who raised the condemned man stopped. The act of faith was begun and, at the last word, the general was hurled from the top of the ladder. At the very instant that the priest pronounced the word Jésus-Christ, which was the signal, the executioner leapt on the shoulders of the martyr, while two men hung from his legs, completing the hideous group. Twice the shout of "Vive le roi!" went up, first from the rows of spectators near by; the[Pg 451] second time from a few individuals alone. Then a man leapt from out the crowd, stepped towards the scaffold, and struck Riégo's body a blow with his stick. That night they carried the corpse into the nearest church, and it was interred in the Campo-Santo by the Brothers of Charity.

Nothing is known of Riégo's last moments, as no one was allowed to come near him; the monks, his bitterest enemies, being desirous of throwing all possible odium on his dying moments.

"The last of the Gracchi," according to Mirabeau, "in the act of death, threw dust steeped in his own blood into the air. Thence was born Marius."

Riégo left a song; from that song was born a revolution, and from that revolution the Republic.

[Pg 452]


The inn of the Tête-Noire—Auguste Ballet—Castaing—His trial—His attitude towards the audience and his words to the jury—His execution

The second drama which happened in Paris, and which was to have its denouement on the place de Grève, on the same day that the École des Vieillards was played, was the poisoning of Auguste Ballet.

We have spoken of the death of poor little Fleuriet, who was as pretty, fresh and flower-like as her name, and who was carried off in twenty-four hours without any apparent reason for her death. May I be forgiven the accusation implied in this statement, for it may be a calumny; but when the facts cited below are considered, the cause of her death may be guessed.

On 29 May, two young people arrived in what at that period was called "une petite voiture," and drew up at the Tête-Noire inn, at Saint-Cloud. They had set off without leaving word where they were going. Towards nine o'clock in the evening they were installed in a double-bedded chamber. One of the couple paid a deposit of five francs. The two friends walked about together the whole of the next day, Friday, the 30th; they only appeared at the hotel at dinner-time, and went out again immediately after their repast for another walk. It was nine o'clock at night before they returned for the second time. When going upstairs, one of them asked for a half-bottle of mulled wine, adding that it need not be sugared, as they had brought sugar with them. The wine was taken up a few minutes after nine, sugared with the sugar that they had brought, and made tasty with lemons bought in Saint-Cloud. The[Pg 453] same young man who made the five francs deposit for the room, who ordered the dinner, and forbade the sugar to be brought upstairs, mixed the sugar and lemon juice in the bowl of warmed wine.

One of the two seemed to be a doctor; for, having heard that one of the servants of the house was ill, he went upstairs to see him, before tasting the prepared wine, and felt his pulse. However, he did not prescribe anything for him, and returned to his friend's room after an absence of a quarter of an hour. The said friend had found the wine very nasty, and had only drunk about a tablespoonful of it. He had stopped short because of the bitter flavour of the beverage. In the midst of all this, the chambermaid entered. "I must have put too much lemon in this wine," said the young man, holding the bowl towards her: "it is so bitter I cannot drink it." The servant tasted it; but she spat it out as soon as she had had a mouthful of it, exclaiming, "Oh yes!... rather, you have made it bitter!" Upon which she left the room. The two friends went to bed.

Throughout the night the young man who had tasted the wine was seized with violent spasms of nervous shivering, which did not give him a moment's rest; he complained to his companion several times that he could not keep himself still. Towards two o'clock, he had fits of colic and, at daybreak, about half-past three in the morning, he said he did not think he would be able to get up, that his feet were on fire and that he could not possibly put on his boots. The other young man said he would take a turn in the park, and recommended his friend to try and sleep in the meantime. But, instead of going for a walk in the park, the young man whose visit to the sick servant led people to suppose him a doctor, took a carriage, returned to Paris, bought twelve grains of acetate of morphine from M. Robin, rue de la Feuillade, and one drachm from M. Chevalier, another chemist, obtaining them readily in the capacity of a medical man. He returned to the inn of the Tête-Noire at eight o'clock, after four hours' absence, and asked for some cold milk for his friend. The sick man felt no better; he[Pg 454] drank the cup of milk prepared by the young doctor, and almost immediately he was taken with fits of vomiting which rapidly succeeded each other. Soon he was seized by colic. Strange to say, in spite of the attack becoming worse, the doctor again left the patient alone, without leaving any instructions and without appearing to be uneasy at a condition of things which was arousing the anxiety of strangers. While he was absent, the hostess of the hotel and the chambermaid went up to the sick man and did what they could for him. He was in great agony. The young doctor returned in about half an hour's time. He found the patient in an alarming condition; he was asking for a doctor, insisting that one should be fetched from Saint-Cloud, and he opposed his friend's suggestion that one should be fetched from Paris. He felt so ill, he said, that he could not wait.

So they ran for the nearest available; but nevertheless it was not until eleven o'clock in the morning that the doctor whom they went to seek arrived. His name was M. Pigache.

The sick man was a little easier by that time. M. Pigache asked to see the evacuations, but he was told that they had been thrown away. He ordered emollients, but the emollients were not applied. He came back an hour later and prescribed a soothing draught. The young doctor administered it himself to the invalid; but the effect it produced was prompt and terrible: five minutes after, the patient was seized by frightful convulsions. In the midst of these convulsions he lost consciousness, and from that moment never regained it.

Towards eleven o'clock at night, the young doctor, weeping bitterly, informed a servant that his friend could not survive the night. The servant ran for M. Pigache, who decided, in spite of the short time he had attended him, to pay the dying man one more visit. He found the unhappy youth lying on his back, his neck rigidly strained, his head uncovered, hardly able to breathe; he could neither hear nor feel; his pulse was slow, his skin burning; his limbs were stiff and rigid, his mouth clenched; his whole body was running with a cold sweat and marked with bluish spots. M. Pigache decided[Pg 455] he must at once bleed the patient freely, and he bled him twice—with leeches and with the lancet. It made the sick man a little easier. M. Pigache pointed this out to his young confrère, saying that the condition of the dying man was desperate and that, as the good effect produced by the two bleedings was so noticeable, he did not hesitate to propose a third. But this the young doctor opposed, saying that the responsibility was too great, and that, if the third bleeding ended badly, the whole of the responsibility for the ending would rest on M. Pigache. Upon this, the latter peremptorily demanded that a doctor should be sent for from Paris.

This course would have been quite easy, for, during that very day, as the result of a letter despatched by the young doctor couched in the following terms, "M. Ballet being ill at Saint-Cloud, Jean must come to him at once, in the gig, with the grey horse; neither he nor mother Buvet must speak a word of this to a single soul; if anybody makes inquiry, they must say he is going into the country by order of M. Ballet," Jean, who was a negro servant, arrived with the grey horse and the gig. In spite of this facility of communication, the young doctor made out that it was too late to send for a doctor from Paris. They waited, therefore, until three o'clock, and at three o'clock Jean started off with two letters from M. Pigache to two of his medical friends.

M. Pigache left the house, and as the young doctor accompanied him, he said, "Monsieur, I think no time should be lost in sending for the priest of Saint-Cloud; your friend is a Catholic and I think so badly of his condition that you ought to have the last sacraments administered to him without delay."

The young man recognised the urgency of the advice, and, going himself to the house of the curé, he brought him back with the sacristan.

The priest found the dying man in the same unconscious condition. "What is the matter with your unfortunate friend, monsieur?" asked the priest.

"Brain fever," replied the young man.

Then, as the curé was preparing to administer extreme[Pg 456] unction, the young doctor knelt down, and remained in that position, with clasped hands, praying to God with such fervour that the sacristan could not refrain from remarking when they had both left, "What a very pious young man that was!" The young doctor went out after the priest, and remained away for nearly two hours.

Towards three o'clock, one of the two doctors that had been sent for arrived from Paris. It was Doctor Pelletan junior. M. Pigache, informed of his arrival, came and joined his confrère at the bedside of the sick man. But, after a rapid examination, both concluded that the patient was beyond human aid.

Nevertheless, they tried various remedies, but without success. All this time the young doctor appeared to be overcome with the most poignant grief—a grief that expressed itself in tears and sobs. These demonstrations of despair impressed M. Pigache all the more because, in course of conversation, the young doctor had said to him, "I am all the more unhappy as I am my unfortunate friend's legatee."

Thereupon M. Pelletan, addressing the weeping young man, said to him, "Have you reflected, monsieur, on the peril of your position?"

"What do you mean, monsieur?"

"Well, listen! You come, with your friend, for a couple of days to Saint-Cloud; you are a doctor; you are, anyway, his legatee...."

"Yes, monsieur, I am his residuary legatee."

"Very well: the man who has bequeathed you his entire fortune is dying; the symptoms of his illness are extremely peculiar and, if he dies, as is probable, you will find yourself in a very awkward position...."

"What!" exclaimed the young man. "You think I shall be suspected?"

"I think that, at any rate," replied M. Pelletan, "all imaginable precautions will be taken to ascertain the cause of death. As far as M. Pigache and myself are concerned, we have decided that there ought to be a post-mortem examination."

[Pg 457]

"Oh! monsieur," cried the young man, "you could not do me a greater service; insist upon it, demand a post-mortem examination, and you will play the part of a father to me if you do."

"Very well, monsieur," replied Doctor Pelletan, seeing him so much excited; "do not be troubled. Not only shall the matter be carried through, but it shall be carried through as delicately as possible, and we will pay our utmost attention to it."

Between noon and one o'clock—that is to say, within thirty or forty minutes of this conversation—the dying man expired.

The reader will already have recognised the two principal actors in this drama by the designation of the place where it happened, and by the details of the victim's agony.

The dead man was Claude-Auguste Ballet, lawyer, aged twenty-five, son of a rich Paris solicitor. His friend was Edme-Samuel Castaing, who in a few days' time would be twenty-seven, doctor of medicine, born at Alençon, living in Paris, No. 31 rue d'Enfer. His father, an honourable and universally respected man, was Inspector-General of Forests, and Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur.

One hour after the death of Auguste Ballet, M. Martignon, his brother-in-law, warned by a letter from Castaing that Auguste Ballet could not live through the day, hurried to Saint-Cloud, where he found the sick man already dead.

While they were proceeding to search every object in the inn that might possibly throw some light on the cause of death, Castaing, still at large, absented himself for nearly two hours. No one knew what he did in his second absence. He pretended he wanted fresh air, and stated that he was going for a walk in the bois de Boulogne.

M. Pelletan returned at ten o'clock next morning to make the post-mortem examination.

He had left Castaing in full possession of his liberty, but when he returned he found him under the surveillance of two policemen. Castaing appeared very uneasy at the results to[Pg 458] which a post-mortem examination might lead; but he seemed to feel sure that if the body did not present any trace of poison, he would be set at liberty immediately.

The examination took place and an extremely circumstantial official report was drawn up; but nowhere, either in tongue, or in stomach or in intestines, could they detect the presence of any poisonous substance. As a matter of fact, acetate of morphine, like brucine and strychnine, leaves no more trace than is left by congestion of the brain or a bad seizure of apoplexy. It was because of this, a fact which Castaing knew well, that when the priest had asked him from what his friend was suffering, he had replied, "He has brain fever."

When the post-mortem was finished, without having revealed any material proof against the suspected person, M. Pelletan asked the procureur du roi if he had any objection to Castaing being informed of the result.

"No," replied the procureur du roi; "simply communicate the result to him in general terms, without making him think it is going to be either in his favour or to his detriment."

M. Pelletan found Castaing waiting for him upon the staircase.

"Well," he asked the doctor eagerly, "have you concluded and come to release me?"

"I am unaware," replied M. Pelletan, "whether they mean to release you or to detain you; but the truth is we can find no trace of violent death in the body of Auguste Ballet."

In spite of the temporary absence of material proof, Castaing was kept a prisoner. The preliminary investigation began: it lasted from the month of June to the end of September.

On 10 November, Castaing appeared at the prisoner's bar. The affair had created a great sensation even before it was made public; and the Assize Court presented the appearance usual when an important case is on—that is to say, so many lovely women and fashionably dressed men put in an appearance that one might have thought it the first night of a new play which had been announced with great pomp. The accused was brought in. An indefinable movement[Pg 459] of interest agitated the spectators: they bent forward and oscillated with curiosity, looking like a field of corn tossed about by the wind. He was a handsome young man, well set up, with a pleasant face, although there was something rather odd in his expression as he looked at you. Without being elegantly attired, he was dressed with care.

Alas! the preliminary investigation had revealed terrible facts. Auguste Ballet's death had caused judicial attention to be bestowed upon this unlucky family, and it was discovered that, since Castaing had known the family, the father, the mother, the uncle had all disappeared, struck down mortally within five months of each other, leaving the two brothers Hippolyte and Auguste a very considerable fortune; and, finally, Hippolyte died in his turn in Castaing's arms, without either his brother Auguste or his sister Madame Martignon being able to get to him. All these deaths had successively concentrated pretty nearly the whole of the family fortune on the head of Auguste Ballet.

On 1 December 1822, Auguste Ballet, aged twenty-four, in health of mind and body at the time, made a will, constituting Castaing, without any motive, his residuary legatee, with no reservations beyond a few small bequests to two friends and three servants. Auguste Ballet died in his turn on 1 June, seven months after his brother. Now this is what the proceedings had elicited concerning the two points which in similar cases are specially investigated by those in charge of the case—namely, Castaing's intellectual and his physical life. With regard to his intellectual life, Castaing was a hard worker, urged on by ambition, burning with the desire to become rich; his mother revealed horrible things concerning him, if a letter that was seized at her house was to be believed; his father reproached him with his licentious life and the sorrow with which he overwhelmed both his parents. In the midst of all this, he worked on perseveringly: he passed his examinations; he became a doctor.

Anatomy, botany and chemistry were the subjects to which he devoted most time. Especially chemistry. His note-books[Pg 460] were produced, full of observations, extracts, erasures. They attested the determination shown in his researches and the profound study he had made of poisons, of their various kinds, of their effects, of the palpable traces some leave on different bodily organs, whilst some, quite as deadly and more insidious, kill without leaving any vestiges perceptible to the eyes of the most learned and experienced anatomist.

These poisons are all vegetable poisons: brucine, derived from false angostura; strychnine from Saint-Ignatius nut; morphine from pure opium, which is extracted from the Indian poppy. Now, it was a strange and terrible coincidence that on 18 September 1822, seventeen days before the death of Hippolyte Ballet, Castaing bought ten grains of acetate of morphine. Twelve days later, Hippolyte, suffering from a serious pulmonary disease, but not yet in danger, was seized with a deadly attack and died, as we have said, far from his sister and his brother, after five days' illness! He died in Castaing's arms.

Then Castaing's fortunes changed: he who had been very hard up heretofore lent his mother thirty thousand francs and invested under assumed names or in bearer stock the sum of seventy thousand francs. The matter was further complicated by matters arising out of the will of Hippolyte Ballet, questions which will never be properly cleared up, even in the law courts, and which seemed to imply that Auguste Ballet became Castaing's accomplice. Hence Auguste's weakness for Castaing; hence that will in his favour; hence the intimacy between these two men, who never separated from one another; all these things were explained, from the moment when, instead of the ordinary bond of pure and simple friendship, the link between them was supposed to be the indestructible chain of mutual complicity.

For—and this is the time to return to his outward life, that we have put to one side in order to speak of the intellectual life—Castaing was not wealthy: he lived on a moderate income allowed him by his mother; his own efforts barely produced him five or six hundred francs per annum; he had a[Pg 461] mistress, also very poor, a widow with three children; he had two other children by her, so the young doctor had to keep a family of six persons whilst as yet he had no practice. It seems that he adored his family, especially his children. Letters were found showing warm fatherly affection in a heart that was consumed, even more on behalf of others than on his own account, with that thirst of ambition and that craving for riches which brought him to the scaffold.

We have seen that Castaing's finances suddenly became easier, that he lent his mother thirty thousand francs and that he invested seventy thousand francs in assumed names or in bearer bonds.

Then, next, we saw that on 29 May he arrived at Saint-Cloud with Auguste Ballet, and that, on 1 June, Auguste Ballet died, leaving him residuary legatee. Castaing was in Paris on the evening he was absent under pretence of taking a walk: he bought twelve grains from one chemist and one drachm from a second, of acetate of morphine, or, in other words, of that vegetable poison which leaves no traces and of which he had already bought ten grains, seventeen days before the death of Hippolyte Ballet.

The above is a résumé of the accumulated evidence brought against Castaing, who had to face the jury under the weight of fifteen charges relative to the poisoning of Hippolyte Ballet, of thirty-four connected with the business of the will and of seventy-six relative to the poisoning of Auguste Ballet. People will remember the different phases gone through during that long and terrible trial; the steady denials of the prisoner, and his bearing on receipt of the sentence condemning him to death; a sentence decided by the turn of only one vote—that is to say, by seven against five.

The criminal stood, with bared head, and listened with frigid resignation to the sentence, his hands clasped together, silent, his eyes and hands raised to Heaven.

"Have you anything to say why sentence should not be carried out?" asked the judge.

[Pg 462]

Castaing sadly shook his head, the head so soon to feel the chilly grip of death.

"No, monsieur," he said in a deep but gentle voice,—"no, I have nothing to say against the carrying out of the sentence decreed against me. I shall know how to die, although it is a great misfortune to die, hurried to the grave by such a dire fate as has overtaken me. I am accused of having basely murdered my two friends, and I am innocent.... Oh! indeed, I repeat it, I am innocent! But there is a Providence: that which is immortal in me will go forth to find you, Auguste, Hippolyte. Oh yes, my friends" (and here the condemned man stretched out both his arms to heaven most impressively),—"oh yes, my friends, yes, I shall meet you again, and to me it will be a happy fate to rejoin you. After the accusation brought against me, nothing human can affect me. Now I look no longer for human pity, I look only for Heaven's mercy; I shall mount the scaffold courageously, cheered by the thought of seeing you again! Oh! my friends, this thought will rejoice my soul even when I feel.... Alas!" continued the accused, passing his hand across his neck, "alas! it is easier to understand what I feel than to express what I dare not utter...." Then, in a lower tone, "You have decided on my death, messieurs; behold, I am ready to die." Then, turning to his counsel, Maître Roussel, he said, "Look, look, Roussel, turn round, come here and look at me.... You believed in my innocence, and you defended me believing in that innocence; well, it is even so, I am innocent; take my farewell greetings to my father, my brothers, my mother, my daughter!" Then, without any pause, he went on, addressing the amazed spectators: "And you, young people, you who have been present at my trial; you, my contemporaries, will be present also at my execution; you will see me there animated with the same courage as now, and if the shedding of my blood be deemed necessary to society, well, I shall not regret that it has to flow!"

Why have I related the details of this terrible trial in such fulness? Is it in order to awake gloomy memories of the past in the hearts of the members of those two unhappy[Pg 463] families who may still be alive? No! It was because, by reason of the reports connecting poor Fleuriet with Castaing, I was present at the final tragedy; I begged a day's holiday from M. Oudard in order to see the end; I was present among the number of those young people whom the condemned man, in a moment of exaltation, of delirium, perhaps, invited to his execution; and when I saw that man so exuberantly young, so full of life, so eager after knowledge, condemned to death, bidding farewell to his father, his mother, his brothers, his children, society, creation, light, in those poignant tones and miserable accents, I said to myself in inexpressible anguish of heart, "O my God! my God! suppose this man should be another Lesurques, another Labarre, another Calas!... O my God! my God! suppose this man be not guilty!"

And, then and there, before the tribunal which had just condemned a man to death, I vowed that, no matter to what position I might attain, I would never look upon it as justifiable to punish a sentient, suffering human being like myself by the deprivation of life.

No, I was not present at the execution; for, I must admit, I could not possibly have borne such a spectacle; and now twenty-eight years have flown by between Castaing's execution and Lafourcade's, and they have been full of such cases, in spite of the penalty of death, which is meant to be a deterrent and does not deter! Alas! how many wretched criminals have passed along the route that led from the Conciergerie to the place de Grève, and now leads from la Roquette to the barrière de Saint-Jacques, during those twenty-eight years!

On 6 December, at half-past seven in the morning, Castaing was led from Bicêtre to la Conciergerie. A moment later, the gaoler entered his cell and told him of the rejection of his petition. Behind the gaoler came the abbé Montes.

Castaing then turned his attention to his prayers, praying long and earnestly. He did not utter a single word during the whole of the time he spent in the vestibule of the Conciergerie, while they were preparing him for his execution.

When he looked round at the vast crowd that awaited his[Pg 464] appearance as he mounted into the cart, his cheeks grew suddenly purple, and then gradually subsided to a deathly paleness. He only lifted his head at the foot of the scaffold; it had remained sunk on his breast during the journey; then, glancing at the crowd again as he had done on coming out of the Conciergerie, he knelt at the foot of the ladder and, after he had kissed the crucifix and embraced the worthy ecclesiastic who offered it him, he climbed the scaffold, held up by the executioner's two assistants. He raised his eyes twice quite noticeably to Heaven while they pinioned him on the fatal block; then, at fifteen minutes past two, as the quarter chimed, his head fell.

Castaing had experienced the sensation of death that he had not dared more clearly to define to the audience when he drew his hand across his neck—Castaing had passed before his Creator—if guilty, to receive forgiveness, if innocent, to denounce the real criminal.

He had asked to see his father, to receive his benediction in extremis; the favour was refused him. He next asked for this benediction to be sent him in writing. It was sent to him thus, but was first passed through vinegar before being handed to him. They feared the paternal benediction might hide some poison by the aid of which Castaing might find means to cheat the scaffold of its due.

All was ended by half-past two, and those who wished to have comedy after tragedy still had time to go from the place de Grève to take their stand in the queue outside the Théâtre-Français. On that day, 6 December 1823, the École des Vieillards was played.

[Pg 465]


Casimir Delavigne—An appreciation of the man and of the poet—The origin of the hatred of the old school of literature for the new—Some reflections upon Marino Faliero and the Enfants d'Édouard—Why Casimir Delavigne was more a comedy writer than a tragic poet—Where he found the ideas for his chief plays

The first representation of the École des Vieillards played by Talma and Mademoiselle Mars was a great occasion. It was the first time indeed that these two great actors had appeared together in the same play.

Casimir Delavigne had laid down his own conditions. Expelled from the Théâtre-Français under pretext that his work was badly put together, he had profited by the proscription. His Messéniennes, his Vêpres siciliennes, his Comédiens and the Paria, and perhaps even more than all these, the need felt by the Opposition party for a Liberal poet to set against Lamartine and Hugo, the Royalist poets of the period, had made the author of the École des Vieillards so popular that, with this popularity, all difficulties were cleared away, perhaps even too smoothly; for, like Richelieu in his litter, Casimir Delavigne returned to the Théâtre-Français not through the door, but by means of a gap.

I knew Casimir Delavigne very well as a man, I studied him very much as a poet: I never could get up much admiration for Casimir Delavigne as a poet, but I have always had the greatest respect for him as a man. As an individual, in addition to his uncontested and incontestable literary probity, Casimir Delavigne was a man of pleasant, polite, even affable demeanour. The first sight of him gave one the disagreeable[Pg 466] impression that his head was much too big for his small body; but his fine forehead, his intelligent eyes, his good-natured mouth, very soon made one forget this first impression. Although a man of great talent, he was of the number of those who display it only when pen in hand. His conversation, pleasant and affectionate, was colourless and insipid; as he lacked dignity of expression and strength of intonation, so he lacked strength and dignity of actual words. He attracted no notice at a salon: people needed to have Casimir Delavigne pointed out before they paid any attention to him. There are men who bear the stamp of their kingly dignity about with them: wherever these people go they instantly command attention; at the end of an hour's intercourse they reign. Casimir Delavigne was not one of them: he would have declined the power of commanding attention, had it been offered him; had sovereignty been thrust upon him, he would have abdicated. All burdens, even the weight of a crown, were embarrassing in his eyes. He had received an excellent education: he knew everything that could be taught when he left college; but since he left college he had learnt very little by himself, had thought but little, had reflected but little.

One of the chief features of Casimir Delavigne's character—and, in our opinion, one of his most unlucky attributes—was his submission to other people's ideas, a submission that could only arise from want of confidence in his own ideas. Oddly enough, he had created among his friends and in his family a kind of censorship, a sort of committee of repression, commissioned to watch over his imagination and to prevent it from wandering; this was all the more futile since Casimir Delavigne's imagination, enclosed in decidedly narrow limits, needed stimulating much more than restraining. The result was that this Areopagitica, inferior as it was in feeling and, above all, in style to Casimir Delavigne himself, played sad havoc with what little picturesqueness of style and imagination in plot he possessed. This depreciatory cenacle often reminded him that Icarus fell because he flew too near the sun; and[Pg 467] I am sure he did not even dream of replying, that if the sun melted Icarus's wings, it must have been because Icarus had false wings fastened on with wax, and that the eagle, which disappears in the flood of fiery rays sent forth by the god of day, never falls back on the earth as the victim of a similar accident.

The result of this abdication of his own will was that just when Casimir Delavigne's talent was at its best and his reputation was at its height, he dared not do anything by himself, or on his own initiative. The ideas that arose in his brain were submitted to this committee before they were worked into proper shape; the plot decided upon, he would again put himself in the hands of this commission, which commented upon it, discussed it, corrected it and returned it to the poet signed examined and found correct. Then, when the plot became a play and was read before (of course) the same assembly, one would take a pencil, another a pair of scissors, a third a compass, a fourth a rule, and set to work to cut all vitality out of the play; to such purpose that, during the sitting, the comedy, drama or tragedy was lopped, trimmed and cut about not according to the notions of the author but as MM. So and So, So and So, So and So thought fit, all conscientious gentlemen after their own fashion, all talented men in their own line, wise professors, worthy savants, able philologists, but indifferent poets who, instead of elevating their friend's efforts by a powerful breath of inspiration, only thought instead of keeping him down on the ground for fear he should soar above them to realms where their short-sighted glance could not follow him.

This habit of Casimir Delavigne, of submitting his will to that of others, gave him, without his being aware of it himself, a false modesty, an assumed humility, that embarrassed his enemies and disarmed those who were jealous of him. How indeed could anyone begrudge a man his success who seemed to be asking everybody's leave to succeed and who appeared surprised when he did succeed; or be envious of a poor poet who, if they would but believe it, had only succeeded through[Pg 468] the addition to his feeble intelligence of abilities superior to his own; or be vexed with such a quaking victor, who implored people, in the moment of his triumph, not to desert him, as beseechingly as a vanquished man might pray them to remain true to him under defeat? And people were faithful to Casimir Delavigne even to the verge of fanaticism: they extended hands of flattering devotion in homage to his renown, the diverging rays of which, like the flame of the Holy Spirit, became divided into as many tongues of fire as the Casimirian cult could muster apostles.

We have mentioned the drawbacks, now let us point out the advantages, of his popularity. His plays were praised abroad before they were finished, spoken highly of before they were received, in the three classes of society to which Casimir Delavigne belonged by birth, and I will even go so far as to say above all by his talent. Thus his clientèle comprised: through Fortune Delavigne, who was an advocate, all the law students in Paris; through Gustave de Wailly, professor, all the students of the Latin quarter; through Jules de Wailly, chief clerk in the Home Office, all the Government officials.

This sort of family clientèle was extremely useful for the purpose of doing battle with theatrical managers and publishers.

It knew Casimir and did not allow him to undertake any business arrangements: he was so modest that he would have unconditionally given his plays to the comedians, his manuscripts to the publishers without any agreements. Casimir was aware of his failing in this direction: he referred publishers and managers to his brother Germain, his brother Germain referred them to his brother Fortune, and his brother Fortune managed the affair on a business footing.

And I would point out that all this was done simply, guilelessly, in kindly fashion, out of the admiration and devotion everybody felt towards Casimir; without intrigue, for this assistance never prejudiced anyone who rendered it; and I might even say without there being any coterie; for, in my opinion, where there is conviction coteries do not exist.

[Pg 469]

Now, every friend of Casimir Delavigne was absolutely and perfectly convinced that Casimir Delavigne was the first lyric poet of his time, the first dramatic poet of his century. People who never came in touch with him, and those who were stopped by the vigilant cordon which surrounded him, acted for and praised him, might well believe that these opinions emanated from himself, as from the centre to the circumference; but if they did get to close quarters with him, they were soon persuaded of the simplicity, the sincerity and the kindliness of that talented man.

I believe Casimir Delavigne never hated but one of his confrères. But him he hated well. That man was Victor Hugo. When the author of Odes et Ballades, of Marion Delorme and of Nôtre-Dame de Paris was taken with the strange fancy of becoming the colleague of M. Droz, of M. Briffaut and of M. Viennet, I took upon myself to go personally on his account to ask for Casimir Delavigne's vote. I thought that such an intelligent person as the author of the Messéniennes would regard it as the duty of one in his position to help as much as was in his power in providing a seat for his illustrious rival, a candidate who had done the Academy the honour of applying for a seat therein.

I was quite wrong: Casimir Delavigne obstinately declined to give his vote to Victor Hugo, and that with such vehemence and tenacity as I should have dreamt him incapable of feeling, especially towards me, of whom he was extremely fond. Neither entreaty nor supplication nor argument could, I will not say convince, but even persuade him to agree. And yet Casimir Delavigne knew well enough that he was rejecting one of the eminent men of his time. I never found out the reason for this antipathy. It was certainly not on account of their different schools: I was most decidedly not of the school of Casimir Delavigne, and he offered me the vote he withheld from Victor Hugo.

The poor Academicians were in a sorry fix in my case; for, if I had put myself up, I believe they would have elected me! They nominated Dupaty.

Hugo comforted himself by one of the wittiest sayings he ever[Pg 470] made. "I believed," he said, "that one could enter the Academy par le pont des Arts; I was mistaken, for it appears it is by the Pont Neuf that entrance is effected."

And now that I have criticised the man, perhaps it may be thought that it will be a much more difficult matter still for me his confrère, his rival, at times his antagonist, to criticise his poetry. No! my readers are labouring under a misapprehension: nothing is difficult to whoso speaks the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Moreover, I have never written anything about a man that I was not ready to tell him to his face.

In order to judge Casimir Delavigne fairly, we must glance over the period at which he was born and in which he lived. We must speak of the imperial era. What occasioned the burst of hatred that made itself felt after the appearance of Henri III., of Marion Delorme and of the Maréchale d'Ancre, between the new and the old school of poetry and their representatives?

People have stated the fact without inquiring into its causes: I can tell you them.

Because, during all the years that Napoleon was levying his toll of 300,000 conscripts, he did not perceive that the poets he looked for, and looked for so vainly, had been compelled to change their calling, and that they were in camp, sword, musket or sabre in hand, instead of pen in hand in their studies. And this state of things lasted from 1796 to 1815—a period of nineteen years.

For nineteen years the enemy's cannon swept down the generation of men from fifteen to thirty-six years of age. So it came about that when the poets of the end of the eighteenth century and those of the beginning of the nineteenth confronted one another, they found themselves hemmed in on each side by an immense ravine which had been hollowed out by the grapeshot of five coalitions: at the bottom of this ravine a million of men were stretched, and among this million of men, snatched away before they had added to the population, were those twelve poets that Napoleon had so insistently demanded of M. de Fontanes, without being able to obtain them from him.

Those who escaped were consumptive poets, considered too[Pg 471] feeble to undertake soldiers' duties, who died young, like Casimir Delavigne and Soumet. These were bridges thrown across the ravine of which we have just spoken, but quite unequal to the task allotted them.

Napoleon, with his eighteen years of warfare and his ten years' reign, the re-constructor of religion, the re-builder of society, he who established legislation on a firm basis, was foiled in the matter of poetry. Had it not been for the two men whom we have named—Soumet and Casimir Delavigne—the thread of continuity would have been broken.

So it came about that Casimir Delavigne, the connecting link between the old and the new schools, showed always in his poetry a little of that anæmic quality which was evident in his person; in any work by Casimir (which never exceeded the limits of one, three or five acts ordained by the old theatrical régime) there was always something sickly and airless; his plays lacked breath, as did the man; his work was as consumptive as the poet.

No one ever made three acts out of his one; no one ever made five acts out of his three; no one ever made ten acts out of his five. But it was a simple task to reduce five of his acts to three; three of his acts to one.

When imagination failed him, and he appealed to Byron or Shakespeare, he could never attain their sublime heights; he was obliged to stop short a third of the way up, midway at the very utmost, like a child who climbs a tree to gather apples and finds he cannot reach the ripest, which always grow on the highest branches, and are the most beautiful because they are nearest the sun, save at the risk of breaking his neck—a risk he is wise enough not to venture to take.

We will make our meaning clearer by a couple of instances: Marino Faliero and the Enfants d'Édouard.

In Byron's Marino Faliero, the doge plots to revenge himself on the youthful satirist, who has insulted him by writing on his chair "Marin Falier, the husband of the fair wife; others kiss her, but he keeps her." This was a calumny: the fair Angiolina is as pure as her name implies, in spite of being but[Pg 472] eighteen and her husband eighty. It is therefore to defend a spotless wife, and not to avenge the husband's outraged honour, that Byron's Marino Faliero conspires, and we hardly need say that the play gains in distinction by the passage across it of a sweet and lofty figure, inflamed with devotion, rather than suffused with repentance.

Now, in Casimir Delavigne's imitation, on the contrary, the wife is guilty. Héléna (for the poet, in degrading her, has not ventured to keep her heavenly name) deceives her husband, an old man! She deceives him, or rather she has deceived him, before the rising of the curtain. The first lines of the tragedy are concerned with a scarf that she is embroidering for her lover—a serious blunder in our opinion; for there could be only one means of making Héléna interesting, if she were to be made guilty, and that would be to show the struggle in her between passion and virtue, between love and duty; in short, to have done, only more successfully, what we did in Antony.

But we reiterate that it was far better to make the wife innocent, as Byron does; far better to put a faithful wife alongside the old man than an adulterous one; far better in the fifth act, where the wife seeks out her husband, to let him find devotion and not repentance when his prison doors are opened. When Christ was bowed down under His bloody agony, God chose the purest of His angels, not a fallen one, to carry Him the cup of bitterness!

We will pass over the conspiracy which takes place in Venice at midnight, in the middle of the square of Saint Mark, where fifty conspirators cry in eager emulation, "Down with the Republic!" In Venice and at midnight! in Venice, the city of the Council of Ten! in Venice, the city that never really sleeps, where at least half the populace is awake while the other half sleeps!

Casimir Delavigne did not venture to borrow anything from Shakespeare's Richard III. but the death of the two princes: instead of that magnificent historical play by the Elizabethan poet, he substituted an insignificant little drama, replete with infantine babblings and maternal tears; of the great figure of[Pg 473] Richard III., of the marvellous scene between the murderer and the wife of the murdered man and of the assassination of Buckingham, of the duel with Richmond and Richard's remorse, nothing is left.

The gigantic statue, the Colossus of Rhodes, between whose legs the tallest galleys can pass, has become a bronze ornament suitable for the top of a timepiece.

Did Casimir Delavigne even take as much of the subject of the children of Edward as he might have taken? Has he not turned aside from his model, Shakespeare, with regard to the dignified way in which the characters of the heir to the throne and his gentle brother the Duke of York are treated? We will adduce one example to demonstrate this.

In Casimir Delavigne, when the young Richard takes refuge in Westminster Abbey, the church possessing the right to offer sanctuary, the author of the Messéniennes, in order to compel the young prince to come out of the church, causes a letter to be written, apparently from his brother, inviting him to come back to him at the palace. The poor fugitive, although surprised at receiving it, puts reliance on this letter, and comes out of his place of safety. When he reaches the palace, Richard III. immediately arrests him.

In Shakespeare, the young prince also seeks this refuge. What does Richard III. do? He sends for the archbishop and says to him, "Has the crown prince sought refuge in your church?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"You must give him up to me."

"Impossible, monseigneur."

"Why so?"

"Because the church is a place of sanctuary."

"For guilty men, idiot!" replies Richard, "but not for innocent ones...."

How small, to my thinking, is Mézence, that scoffer at men and at gods, by the side of Richard III., who kills his innocent enemies just as another would kill his guilty enemies. It will be understood that, since Casimir Delavigne was devoid both[Pg 474] of picturesqueness and dignity, he succeeded much better in comedy than in tragedy; and we think his two best productions were the two comedies, Les Comédiens and the École des Vieillards. It should be clearly understood that all we have to say is said from the point of view of a rigid standard of criticism, and it does not therefore follow that Casimir Delavigne was not gifted with very genuine qualities. These good qualities were: a facile aptitude for versification which only occasionally rises to poetic expression, it is true, but which on the other hand never quite descends to flabbiness and slackness; and, indeed, from the beginning to the end of his work, from the first line to the last, whatever else his work may be, it is careful, presentable and particularly honest; and please note that we have used the word "honest" as the most suitable word we could choose; for Casimir Delavigne was never the kind of man to try and rob his public by stinting the work he had in hand in order to use similar material in his next piece. No; in the case of Casimir Delavigne, one got one's money's worth, as the saying is: he gave all he possessed, to the last farthing. The spectators at the first production of each of his new plays had everything he had at that time to give them. When midnight arrived, and, amidst the cheering of the audience, his signature was honoured—that is to say, what he had promised he had performed—he was a ruined man. But what mattered it to be reduced to beggary! He had owed a tragedy, a drama, a comedy, he had paid to the uttermost farthing; true, it might perhaps mean his being compelled to make daily economies of mind, spirit and imagination, for one year, two years, three years, before he could achieve another work; but he would achieve it, cost what it might, at the expense of sleepless nights, of his health, of his life, until the day came when he died worn out at fifty-two years of age, before he had completed his last tragedy.

Well, there was no need for the poet of the Messéniennes, the author of the École des Vieillards, of Louis XI. and of Don Juan to commiserate himself. He who does all he can does all that can be expected of him. Nevertheless, we shall[Pg 475] always maintain that Casimir Delavigne would have done better still without his restraining body-guard; and we need not seek through his long-winded works for proof of what we assert; we will take, instead, one of the shorter poems, which the poet wrote under stress of sadness—a similar effort to M. Arnault's admirable Feuille—M. Arnault, who was not only far less of a poet but still less of a versifier than Casimir Delavigne.

Well, we will hunt up a little ballad which Delavigne relegated to notes, as unworthy of any other place and which we, on the contrary, consider a little masterpiece.

"La brigantine
Qui va tourner,
Roule et s'incline
Pour m'entraîner ...
O Vierge Marie!
Pour moi priez Dieu.
Adieu, patrie!
Provence, adieu!

Mon pauvre père
Verra son vent
Pâlir ma mère
Au bruit du vent ...
O Vierge Marie!
Pour moi priez Dieu.
Adieu, patrie!
Mon père, adieu!

La vieille Hélène
Se confira
Dans sa neuvaine,
Et dormira ...
O Vierge Marie!
Pour moi priez Dieu.
Adieu, patrie!
Hélène, adieu!

Ma sœur se lève,
Et dit déjà:
'J'ai fait un rêve,
[Pg 476]Il reviendra!'
O Vierge Marie!
Pour moi priez Dieu.
Adieu, patrie!
Ma sœur, adieu!

De mon Isaure
Le mouchoir blanc
S'agite encore
En m'appelant ...
O Vierge Marie!
Pour moi priez Dieu.
Adieu, patrie!
Isaure, adieu!

Brise ennemie,
Pourquoi souffler,
Quand mon amie
Veut me parler?
O Vierge Marie!
Pour moi priez Dieu.
Adieu, patrie!
Bonheur, adieu!"

Scudo, the author of that delightful melody, Fil de la Vierge, once asked Casimir Delavigne for some lines to put to music. Casimir seized his pen and dashed off Néra. Perhaps you do not know Néra? Quite so: it is not a poem, only a simple song: the Brigantine was relegated to the notes; Néra was excluded from his works.

A day will come—indeed, we believe that day has already come—when the Messéniennes and Néra will be weighed in the same balance and we shall see which will turn the scale.

This is Néra:—

"Ah! ah!... de la montagne
Reviens, Néra, reviens!
Réponds-moi, ma compagne,
Ma vache, mon seul bien.
La voix d'un si bon maître,
Peux-tu la méconnaître?
Ah! ah!
[Pg 477]Néra!

Reviens, reviens; c'est l'heure
Où le loup sort des bois.
Ma chienne, qui te pleure,
Répond seule à ma voix.
Hors l'ami qui t'appelle,
Qui t'aimera comme elle?
Ah! ah!

Dis-moi si dans la crêche,
Où tu léchais ma main,
Tu manquas d'herbe fraîche,
Quand je manquais de pain?
Nous n'en avions qu'à peine,
Et ta crêche était pleine!
Ah! ah!

Hélas! c'est bien sans cause
Que tu m'as délaissé.
T'ai-je dit quelque chose,
Hors un mot, l'an passé?
Oui, quand mourut ma femme,
J'avais la mort dans l'âme,
Ah! ah!

De ta mamelle avide,
Mon pauvre enfant crira;
S'il voit l'étable vide,
Qui le consolera?
Toi, sa mère nourrice,
Veux-tu donc qu'il périsse?
Ah! ah!

Lorsque avec la pervenche
Pâques refleurira,
Des rameaux du dimanche
[Pg 478]Qui te couronnera?
Toi, si bonne chrétienne,
Deviendras-tu païenne?
Ah! ah!

Quand les miens, en famille,
Tiraient les Rois entre eux,
Je te disais: 'Ma fille,
Ma part est à nous deux!'
A la fête prochaine,
Tu ne seras plus reine.
Ah! ah!

Ingrate! quand la fièvre
Glaçait mes doigts roidis,
Otant mon poil de chèvre,
Sur vous je l'étendis ...
Faut-il que le froid vienne,
Pour qu'il vous en souvienne
Ah! ah!

Adieu! sous mon vieux hêtre
Je m'en reviens sans vous;
Allez chercher pour maître
Un plus riche que nous ...
Allez! mon cœur se brise,
Pourtant, Dieu te conduise
Ah! ah!

Je n'ai pas le courage
De te vouloir du mal;
Sur nos monts crains l'orage
Crains l'ombre dans le val.
Pais longtemps l'herbe verte,
Nous mourrons de ta perte,
Ah! ah!
[Pg 479]Néra!

Un soir, à ma fenêtre,
Néra, pour t'abriter,
De ta come peut-être
Tu reviendras heurter;
Si la famille est morte,
Qui t'ouvrira la porte?
Ah! ah!

[Pg 480]


Talma in the École des Vieillards—One of his letters—Origin of his name and of his family—Tamerlan at the pension Verdier—Talma's début—Dugazon's advice—More advice from Shakespeare—Opinions of the critics of the day upon the débutant—Talma's passion for his art

The École des Vieillards was very successful. A fatal Dud, which had recently taken place under pretty nearly similar conditions to those that operated between Danville and the duke, gave the piece just that appropriate touch which captivated the Parisian public. We ought also to add that Talma had perhaps never looked finer; the play of emotions in the part of the old and betrayed lover could not have been rendered in more moving accents. It was a part that interested the audience from an entirely different point of view than that of the part of Marino Faliero, who shares with Danville the lot of a betrayed lover.

Oh! what an inestimable gift a good voice is to the actor who knows how to use it! How tender were Talma's tones in the first act, how impatient in the second, uneasy in the third, threatening in the fourth, dejected in the fifth! The part is gracious, noble, pleasing and harmoniously consistent throughout. How the old man's heart goes out to Hortense partly from paternal feeling, partly as a lover! And, while complaining of the wife who allows herself to be snared, like a foolish lark, by the mirror of youth and the babblings of coquetry, how he despises the man who has in some inexplicable way managed to catch her fancy! Alas! there is in every maiden's heart one vulnerable place, open to unscrupulous attack.

The wife's part is very much below that of the man. Does[Pg 481] Hortense love the duke or does she not? Is she a flirt or is she not? It is a serious flaw that the situation is not more clearly defined, and the following passage shows it: in the fourth act, while Hortense is conversing with the duke in a salon at one o'clock in the morning, she hears her husband's footsteps, and hides the duke.

Now, I appeal to all wives: would any wife hide a man whom she did not love when surprised by her husband, no matter at what hour of the day or night it might be?

Hortense must love the duke, since she hid him. If Hortense loves the duke, she cannot escape from an accusation of ingratitude; for it is impossible to comprehend how an honourable wife, who had a good and thoughtful husband, young-hearted in spite of his white hairs, could for one moment fall in love with such a colourless creature as the Duke Delmas.

With what moving accents does Talma utter the words

"Je ne l'aurais pas cru! C'est bien mal! C'est affreux!"

as he gets up and traverses the stage in despair. No human anguish was ever more clearly revealed than in this sob.

Vulgar amateurs and second-rate critics praised exceedingly the character of one of Danville's college chums, in this comedy by Casimir Delavigne, played with much humour by an actor called Vigny. It is the part of an old bachelor, who, after remaining in single blessedness for sixty years, decides to marry on the strength of the description Danville draws of conjugal happiness, and comes to tell his friend of his decision at the very moment when he is racked with jealous pangs.

No, indeed, a hundred times no, it is not here where the real beauty of the École des Vieillards lies. No, it is not that scene wherein Danville repeats incessantly: "Mais moi, c'est autre chose!" that should be applauded. No, the matter to be applauded is the presentation of the deep and agonising torture of a broken heart; what should be applauded is the situation that gives scope for Talma to display both dignity and simplicity at the[Pg 482] same time, and that shows how much suffering that creature, born of woman, cradled in grief and brought up to grief, whom we call man, is capable of enduring.

Talma's friends blamed him for playing the part in a frock-coat; he told them he had been sacrificed to Mademoiselle Mars. They asked him why he had so easily allowed himself to be made the footstool of an actress placed above him, the pedestal for one whose renown rivalled his own: Talma let them say.

He knew well enough that in spite of all Mademoiselle Mars' talent, all her winsomeness, all her ease of manner on the stage, all the pretty things she said in her charming voice, everything was eclipsed, effaced, annihilated, by a single utterance, a sob, a sigh of his. It must have been a proud moment for the poet when he saw his work thus finely interpreted by Talma; but it must have been quite a different matter to Talma, for he felt that the limits of art could be extended farther, or rather that art has no boundaries. For Talma had been educated in the spacious school of Shakespeare, which intermingles laughter with tears, the trivial with the sublime, as they are intermingled in the pitiful struggle which we call life. He knew what the drama should aim at: he had played tragedy all his life and had never ventured to attempt comedy. We will briefly relate how he came to be the man we knew.

Talma was born in Paris, in the rue des Ménétriers, on 15 January 1766. When I became acquainted with him he would be about fifty-seven. He received from his godfather and godmother the names François-Joseph and from his father that of Talma. In a letter from Talma which I have by me, it is stated that the name of Talma, which became celebrated by the deeds of the great artiste, was several times made the subject of investigation by etymologists.

This autograph letter by Talma is the copy of one in which he replies in 1822 to a savant of Gruningen, named Arétius Sibrandus Talma, who, after giving details of his ancestry, asks the modern Roscius if he cannot lay claim to the honour of relationship with him. This is Talma's reply:—

[Pg 483]

"I do not know, monsieur, and it would be a difficult matter for me to find out, whether you and I are of the same family. When I was in Holland, more than fifteen years ago, I learnt that there were many people bearing the same name as myself in the land of Ruyter and of Jan de Witt My family mainly inhabited a little strip of country six leagues from Cambrai, in French Flanders. This is not the first time, monsieur, that my name has given rise to discussion with regard to my origin, on the part of foreigners. About forty or fifty years ago, a son of the Emperor of Morocco staying in Paris and hearing mention of my father's name came and asked him if it were not of Arabian derivation—a question that my father was unable to answer. Later, an Arab merchant whom I met in Paris in my youth put the same question to me: I could not answer him more explicitly than could my father, the son of His Majesty of Morocco.

"M. Langlais, a distinguished savant, who had made a very profound study of Oriental languages, told me, at that time that the word Talma, in the Arabic tongue, meant intrepid, and that it was a very customary name among the descendants of Ishmael, to distinguish the different branches of the same family. You may be sure, monsieur, that such an interpretation ought to make me very proud, and I have ever done my utmost not to fall short of it. I have consequently given rein to my imagination and conjecture that a Moorish family remained in Spain, embraced Christianity and wandered from that kingdom to the Netherlands, which were formerly under allegiance to the Spaniards, and that by degrees members of this family wandered into French Flanders, where they settled. But, on the other hand, I have been informed that our name has a Dutch ending and that it was once very common in one of the provinces of Holland. This new version has completely upset my castle in Spain, and conveyed me from the African deserts to the marshes of the United Netherlands. Now, monsieur, you ought to be able to decide better than anyone, certainly better than I, since you speak Dutch, whether we really came from the North or from the South, whether our ancestors wore turbans or hats, whether they offered their prayers to Mahomed or to the God of the Christians.

"I have omitted to give you another piece of information, which is not without its relevancy—namely, that the Count de Mouradgea d'Olisson, who lived in the East for some years,[Pg 484] and who has brought out a work on the religious systems of Oriental peoples, quotes a passage from one of their authors which tells us that the king, or rather the pharaoh, who drove the Israelites out of Egypt, was called Talma. I have to admit that that king was a great scoundrel, if the account given of him by Moses (surely a reliable authority) be correct; but we must not look too closely into the matter if we wish to claim so illustrious an origin.

"You see, monsieur, there is not a single German baron who boasts his sixteen quarterings, not even a king, throughout the four quarters of the globe, were he even of the house of Austria, that oldest of all royal families, who can boast such a lofty descent as mine. However it may be, monsieur, believe me, I hold it a much greater honour to be related to so distinguished a savant as yourself than to be the descendant of a crowned head. Such men as you work only for the good of men, whilst others—and by others I mean kings, pharaohs and emperors—think only of driving them mad. I trust, monsieur, that, since you seem to have made up your mind on this matter, you would be so good as to inform me whether the name we bear is Dutch or Arabian. In any case, I congratulate myself, monsieur, upon bearing the name that you have made celebrated.—Believe me, etc. etc.


This letter serves to give us both positive information concerning Talma's family and a good idea of his way of looking at things.

Talma often told me that his remotest recollections carried him back to the time when he lived in a house in the rue Mauconseil, the windows of which looked towards the old Comédie-Italienne theatre. He had three sisters and one brother; also a cousin whom his father, who was a dentist by profession, had adopted.

One day, Lord Harcourt came to Talma's father to have a troublesome tooth extracted, and he was so pleased with the way the operation was performed that he urged Talma's father to go and live in London, where he promised to procure him an aristocratic clientèle. Talma's father yielded to Lord Harcourt's pressure, crossed the Channel and set up in[Pg 485] Cavendish Square. Lord Harcourt kept his promises: he brought the French dentist such good customers that he soon became the fashionable dentist, and included the Prince of Wales,—afterwards the elegant George IV.,—among his clients.

The whole family followed its head; but Talma's father, considering a French education better than any other, sent his son back to Paris in the course of the year 1775. He was then nine years old and, thanks to having spent three years in England at the age when languages are quickly picked up, he could speak English when he reached Paris as well as he could speak French. His father chose M. Verdier's school for him. A year after he joined the school, great news began to leak out. M. Verdier, the head of the school, had composed a tragedy called Tamerlan. This tragedy was to be played on Prize Day. Talma was hardly ten at that time, so it was probable that he would not be allotted a leading part, even if he were allowed to take any part in it at all. The assumption is incorrect. M. Verdier gave him the part of a confidential friend. It was like all such parts,—a score of lines strewn throughout the play and a monologue at the end.

In this peroration the bosom-friend expatiates on the death of his friend, who was condemned to death, like Titus, by an inexorable father. The beginning of this recitation went like a charm; the bulk of it was successfully delivered also; but, towards the end, the child's emotion grew to such a pitch that he burst into tears, and fainted away. This fainting fit marked his destiny, for the child was an artiste! Ten years later, on 21 November 1787, Talma made his first appearance at the Théâtre-Français, in the part of Séide.

On the previous day, he paid a visit to Dugazon, and Dugazon gave him a paper containing the following advice. I copy it from the original, which is now in my possession.

"Aim at greatness, from your first entry, or at any rate at something above the common. You must try to leave your mark and to make an appeal to the spirit of curiosity. Perhaps[Pg 486] it may be better to hit straight than to strike hard; but amateurs are legion and connoisseurs are scarce. However, if you can unite both truth and strength, you will have the suffrages of all. Do not be carried away by applause; nor allow yourself to be discouraged by hissing. Only fools allow themselves to be disconcerted by cat-calls; none but idiots are made dizzy by applause. When applause is lavished without discrimination, it injures talent at the very outset of its career. Some artistes have failed, instead of having passed through their careers with distinction, because of faults which genuine criticism might have pointed out or hissing punished.

"Lekain, Peville, Fleury were all hissed and they are immortal. A. and B. and C. have succumbed beneath the hail of too much applause. What has become of them?

"Fewer means and more study, less indulgence and more discipline, are all pledges of success; if not immediate and striking, at least permanent and substantial. Do you want to captivate women and young people? Begin in the genre sensible. 'Tout le monde aime,' as Voltaire says, 'et personne ne conspire.' At the same time, what may have been good advice in his day may not be worth very much in ours. If you want chiefly to delight the multitude, which feels much and reasons but little, adopt either a magnificent or an awe-inspiring style: they will instantly take effect. How is it possible to sustain the dignified part of Mahomed, the condescension of Augustus, the remorse of Orestes? The impression to be made by such parts as Ladislas, Orosmane and Bajazet should be carefully prepared and it will then be ineffaceable.

"True talent, well supported, and a fortunate début are a guarantee of immediate popularity; but the artiste should strive to perpetuate them; he must compel the public to go on appreciating. After having applauded from conviction, people should be made to continue their applause from habit. That collective body of people whom we call the public has its caprices like any ordinary individual; it must be coaxed; and (may I go so far as to say that) if it be won over by good qualities, it is not impossible to keep its favour by faults; you may use defects, then, to that end! Nevertheless, you must be careful that they are those with which your judges will be in sympathy. Should the case be otherwise, you may still have defects; but they will be poor relations dogging the footsteps of your talent and welcomed only by reason of its greater[Pg 487] authority. Molé stammered and slurred, Fleury staggered and I have been reproached with over-acting; but Molé had indescribable charms, Fleury an alluring delivery, and I make people laugh so heartily that the critic who tries to be solemn at my expense is never given a hearing.

"There are débutants who shoot up like rockets, shine for a few months and fall back into utter darkness. There are several causes for such disasters: their talents were either forced, or without range, or immature; as the English say, a few exhibitions have used them up; one or two efforts have exhausted them. Perhaps, too, deviating from the path trodden by the masters, they have entered the crooked labyrinths of innovation, wherein only genius can lead temerity aright. Perhaps also, and this is more hopeless still, they have been bad copies of excellent originals. And the public, seeing that they have aped defects rather than copied excellences, has taken them for parodists and called their efforts caricatures. When a comedian has reached this point, the best thing for him to do is to escape out of it by the prompters side door, and fly to Pan to amuse the Basques, or to Riom to entertain the Auvergnats. But Paris lays claim to you, my dear Talma, Paris will cleave to you, Paris will possess you; and the land of Voltaire and of Molière, of which you will become the worthy interpreter, will not be long in giving you letters of naturalisation.


"20 November 1787"

It is interesting to read the advice that Shakespeare gave two centuries before, through the mouth of Hamlet, to the players of his time. It was as follows:—

"Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounce it to you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus; but use all gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who, for the most part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise: I would have such a[Pg 488] fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant; it out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.

"Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure of the which one must in your allowance o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that neither having the accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed, that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

"And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them; for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too; though, in the meantime, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered: that's villanous, and shows' a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it."

Let the successors of Lekain and of Garrick, of Molé and of Kemble, of Talma and of Kean, compare this last advice with the first, and profit by both!

Talma succeeded, but there was nothing extraordinary about his success. The débutant was marked out rather by amateurs than by the general public. It was agreed that his acting was simple and natural. The account books of the Comédie-Française show that the receipts at Talma's first appearance amounted to three thousand four hundred and three francs, eight sous.

Now shall we hear the opinion of the critics on Talma's début? The Journal de Paris wrote thus: "The young man who has just made his début in the character of Séide gives promise of most pleasing talents; he possesses, besides, every[Pg 489] natural advantage that it is possible to desire, in the rôle of a jeune premier,—figure, grace, voice,—and the public were justified in their applause."

We will next see what Bachaumont had to say about him. "The débutant possesses besides his natural gifts, a pleasing face, and a sonorous and expressive voice, a pure and distinct pronunciation; he both feels and can express the rhythm of his lines. His deportment is simple, his movements are natural; moreover, his taste is always good and he has no affectation; he does not imitate any other actor, but plays according to his own ideas and abilities."

Two months later, Le Mercure said, apropos of the revival of Ducis' Hamlet: "We mean soon to speak of a young actor, M. Talma, who has caught the fancy of playgoers; but we will wait until he has played more important parts. His taste lies in the direction of tragedy."

It will readily be understood that the appearance of Mademoiselle Rachel met with a very different reception from these mild approbations. And the explanation is not far to seek. Mademoiselle Rachel was a kind of fixed star, which had been discovered in the high heavens, where she dwelt unmoved, shining brilliantly. Talma, on the contrary, was a star destined to shine during a definite period, to describe the gigantic arc that separates one horizon from another horizon, to have his rising, his zenith, his setting—a setting equivalent to that of the sun in mid-August, more fiery, more magnificent, more splendid in his setting than during the noontide of his brightness. And indeed what a triumphant progress his was! from Séide to Charles IX., from Charles IX. to Falkland, from Falkland to Pinto, from Pinto to Leicester, from Leicester to Danville, from Danville to Charles VI.!

But in spite of the brilliant career that was Talma's lot, he always regretted that he did not see the full dawn of the modern drama. I spoke to him of my own hopes several times. "Make haste," he would say to me, "and try to succeed in my time."

Well, I saw Talma play what very few people outside his own[Pg 490] intimate circle were privileged to see him play—the Misanthrope, which he never dared to put upon the boards of the Théâtre-Français, though he was anxious to do so; a part of Hamlet in English, particularly the monologue; also some farcical scenes got up at the Saint-Antoine for M. Arnault's fête.

Art was Talma's only care, his only thought, throughout his life. Without possessing a brilliant mind, he possessed fine feeling, much knowledge and profound discernment. When he was about to create a new part, he spared no pains in investigating what history or archæology might have to offer him in the way of assistance; every gift, good or indifferent, that he possessed, qualities as well as defects, was utilised by him. A fortnight before his death, when he rallied a little, and the rally gave rise to the hope that he might again reappear at the Théâtre-Français, Adolphe and I went to see him.

Talma was having a bath; he was studying Lucien Arnault's Tibère, in which he hoped to make his reappearance. Condemned by a disease of the bowels to die literally of starvation, he was terribly thin; but he seemed to find consolation even in his emaciated state and to derive hope of a success from it.

"Well, my boys," he said to us, as he pressed his hanging cheeks between his hands, "won't these be just right for the part of old Tiberius?"

Oh! how great and glorious a thing art is! It shows more devotion than a friend, is more faithful than a mistress, more consoling than a confessor!