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Title: My Memoirs, Volume 3 (of 6) - (1826 to 1830)
Author: Dumas, Alexandre
Language: English
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http;//www.freeliterature.org (Images generously made


MY MEMOIRS

BY

ALEXANDRE DUMAS


TRANSLATED BY

E. M. WALLER

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

ANDREW LANG


VOL. III

1826 TO 1830

WITH A FRONTISPIECE


METHUEN & CO.

36 ESSEX STREET W.C.

LONDON

1907



    CONTENTS

    BOOK I

    CHAPTER I

    I become a fully fledged employé--Bad plays--Thibaut--My
    studies with him--Where they have been of use to
    me--_Amaury_ and the consumptives--My reading--Walter
    Scott--Cooper--Byron--The pleasure of eating _sauerkraut_ at
    the Parthenon.

    CHAPTER II

    Byron's childhood--His grief at being lame--Mary Duff--The
    Malvern fortune-teller--How Byron and Robert Peel became
    acquainted--Miss Parker--Miss Chaworth--Verses on her
    portrait--Mrs. Musters--Lady Morgan--_English Bards and
    Scotch Reviewers_--Byron's letters to his mother--He takes
    his seat in the House of Lords.

    CHAPTER III

    Byron at Lisbon--How he quarrelled with his own
    countrymen--His poem _Childe Harold_--His fits of mad folly
    and subsequent depression--His marriage--His conjugal
    squabbles--He again quits England--His farewell to wife
    and child--His life and amours at Venice--He sets out for
    Greece--His arrival at Missolonghi--His illness and death.

    CHAPTER IV

    Usurped celebrity--M. Lemercier and his works--Racan's white
    hare--_Le Fiesque_ by M. Ancelot--The Romantic artists
    --Scheffer--Delacroix--Sigalon--Schnetz--Coigniet--Boulanger
    --Géricault--_La Méduse_ in the artist's studio--Lord
    Byron's funeral obsequies in England--Sheridan's body
    claimed for debt.

    CHAPTER V

    My mother comes to live with me--A Duc de Chartres born
    to me--Chateaubriand and M. de Villèle--Epistolary
    brevity--Re-establishment of the Censorship--A King of
    France should never be ill--Bulletins of the health of
    Louis XVIII.--His last moments and death--Ode by Victor
    Hugo--M. Torbet and Napoleon's tomb--La Fayette's voyage to
    America--The ovations showered upon him.

    CHAPTER VI

    Tallancourt and Betz--The café _Hollandais_--My Quiroga
    cloak--First challenge--A lesson in shooting--The eve of
    my duel--Analysis of my sensations--My opponent fails
    to keep his appointment--The seconds hunt him out--The
    duel--Tallancourt and the mad dog.

    CHAPTER VII

    The Duc d'Orléans is given the title of _Royal
    Highness_--The coronation of Charles X.--Account of
    the ceremony by Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans--Death of
    Ferdinand of Naples--De La ville de Miremont--_Le Cid
    d'Andalousie_--M. Pierre Lebrun--A reading at the camp at
    Compiègne--M. Taylor is appointed a royal commissioner to
    the Théâtre-Français--The curé Bergeron--M. Viennet--Two of
    his letters--Pichat and his _Léonidas._

    CHAPTER VIII

    Death of General Foy--His funeral--The _Royal
    Highness_--Assassination of Paul-Louis Courier--Death of the
    Emperor Alexander--Comparison of England and Russia--The
    reason why these two powers have increased during the last
    century--How Napoleon meant to conquer India.

    CHAPTER IX

    The Emperor Alexander--Letter from Czar Nicolas to
    Karamsine--History after the style of Suetonius and
    Saint-Simon--Catherine and Potemkin--Madame Braniska--The
    cost of the imperial cab-drive--A ball at M. de
    Caulaincourt's--The man with the pipe--The emperor's boatman
    and coachman.

    CHAPTER X

    Alexander leaves St. Petersburg--His presentiments of
    his death--The two stars seen at Taganrog--The emperor's
    illness--His last moments--How they learnt of his death in
    St. Petersburg--The Grand-Duke Constantine--His character
    and tastes--Why he renounced his right to the imperial
    throne--Jeannette Groudzenska.

    BOOK II

    CHAPTER I

    Rousseau and Romieu--Conversation with the porter--The eight
    hours' candle--The _Deux Magots_--At what hour one should
    wind up one's watch--M. le sous-préfet enjoys a joke--Henry
    Monnier--A paragraph of information--On suppers--On cigars.

    CHAPTER II

    The lantern--_Le Chasse et l'Amour_--Rousseau's part
    in it--The couplet about the hare--The _couplet de
    facture_--How there may be hares _and_ hares--Reception
    at l'Ambigu--My first receipts as an author--Who Porcher
    was--Why no one might say anything against Mélesville.

    CHAPTER III

    The success of my first play--My three stories--M. Marle
    and his orthography--Madame Setier--A bad speculation--The
    _Pâtre,_ by Montvoisin--The _Oreiller_--Madame
    Desbordes-Valmore--How she became a poetess--Madame Amable
    Tastu--The _Dernier jour de l'année--Zéphire._

    CHAPTER IV

    Talma's illness--How he would have acted _Tasso_--His
    nephews--He receives a visit from M. de Quélen--Why his
    children renounced his faith--His death--_La Noce et
    l'Enterrement_--Oudard lectures me on my fondness for
    theatre-going--The capital reply that put the Palais-Royal
    in a gay humour--I still keep the confidence of Lassagne
    and de la Ponce--I obtain a success anonymously at the
    Porte-Saint-Martin.

    CHAPTER V

    Soulié at the mechanical saw-mill--His platonic love of
    gold--I desire to write a drama with him--I translate
    _Fiesque_--Death of Auguste Lafarge--My pay is increased
    and my position lowered--Félix Deviolaine, condemned by
    the medical faculty, is saved by illness--_Louis XI. à
    Péronne_--Talma's theatrical wardrobe--The _loi de justice
    et d'amour_--The disbanding of the National Guard.

    CHAPTER VI

    English actors in Paris--Literary importations--_Trente
    Ans_, or _la Vie d'un Joueur_--The _Hamlet_ of Kemble
    and Miss Smithson--A bas-relief of Mademoiselle de
    Fauveau--Visit to Frédéric Soulié--He declines to write
    _Christine_ with me--A night attack--I come across Adèle
    d'Alvin once more--I spend the night _au violon._

    CHAPTER VII

    Future landmarks--Compliments to the Duc de
    Bordeaux--_Votes_--Cauchois-Lemaire's Orléaniste
    brochure--The lake of Enghien--Colonel Bro's parrot--Doctor
    Ferrus--Morrisel--A tip-top funeral cortège--Hunting in full
    cry--An autopsy--Explanation of the death of the parrot.

    CHAPTER VIII

    Barthélemy and Méry--M. Éliça Gallay--Méry the
    draught-player and anatomist--_L'Épître à Sidi Mahmoud_--The
    Ponthieu library--Soulé--The _Villéliade_--Barthélemy the
    printer--Méry the improvisator--The _Vœux de la nouvelle
    année_--The pastiche of _Lucrèce._

    CHAPTER IX

    I pass from the Secretarial Department to the Record
    Office--M. Bichet--Wherein I resemble Piron--My spare
    time--M. Pieyre and M. Parseval de Grandmaison--A scene
    missing in _Distrait_--_La Peyrouse_--A success all to
    myself.

    CHAPTER X

    The painter Lethière--Brutus unveiled by M. Ponsard--Madame
    Hannemann--Gohier--Andrieux--Renaud--Desgenettes--Larrey,
    Augereau and the Egyptian mummy--Soldiers of the new
    school--My dramatic education--I enter the offices of
    the Forestry Department--The cupboard full of empty
    bottles--Three days away from the office--Am summoned before
    M. Deviolaine.

    CHAPTER XI

    Conclusion of _Christine_--A patron, after a fashion--Nodier
    recommends me to Taylor--The Royal Commissary and the author
    of _Hécube_--Semi-official reading before Taylor--Official
    reading before the Committee--I am received with
    acclamation--The intoxication of success--How history is
    written--M. Deviolaine's incredulity--Picard's opinions
    concerning my play--Nodier's opinion--Second reading at the
    Théâtre-Français and definite acceptance.

    CHAPTER XII

    Cordelier-Delanoue--A sitting of the Athénée--M.
    Villenave--His family--The one hundred and thirty-two
    Nantais--Cathelineau--The hunt _aux bleus_--Forest--A
    chapter of history--Sauveur--The Royalist
    Committee--Souchu--The miraculous tomb--Carrier.

    CHAPTER XIII

    M. Villenave's house--The master's despotic rule--The
    savant's coquetry--Description of the sanctuary of the
    man of science--I am admitted, thanks to an autograph of
    _Buonaparte_--The crevice in the wall--The eight thousand
    folios--The pastel by Latour--Voyages of discovery for an
    Elzevir or a _Faust_--The fall of the portrait and the death
    of the original.

    CHAPTER XIV

    First representation of Soulié's _Roméo et Juliette_--Anaïs
    and Lockroy--Why French actresses cannot act Juliet--The
    studies of the Conservatoire--A second _Christine_ at
    the Théâtre-Français--M. Évariste Dumoulin and Madame
    Valmonzey--Conspiracy against me--I give up my turn to
    have my play produced--How I found the subject of _Henri
    III._--My opinion of that play.

    CHAPTER XV

    The reading of _Henri III._ at M. Villenave's and M.
    Roqueplan's--Another reading at Firmin's--Béranger
    is present--A few words about his influence and
    popularity--Effect produced by my drama--Reception by
    the Comédie-Française--Struggle for the distribution of
    parts--M. de Broval's ultimatum--Convicted of the crime of
    poetry I appeal to the Duc d'Orléans--His Royal Highness
    withholds my salary--M. Laffitte lends me three thousand
    francs--Condemnation of Béranger.

    CHAPTER XVI

    The Duc d'Orléans has my salary stopped--A scribbler
    (_folliculaire_)--_Henri III._ and the Censorship--My mother
    is seized with paralysis--Cazal--Edmond Halphen--A call on
    the Duc d'Orléans--First night of _Henri III._--Effect is
    produced on M. Deviolaine--M. de Broval's congratulations.

    CHAPTER XVII

    The day following my victory--_Henri III._ is interdicted--I
    obtain an audience with M. de Martignac--He removes the
    interdiction-_Les hommes-obstacles_--The Duc d'Orléans sends
    for me into his box--His talk with Charles X. on the subject
    of my drama--Another scribbler--Visit to Carrel--Gosset's
    shooting-box and pistols No. 5--An impossible duel.

    BOOK III

    CHAPTER I

    The Arsenal--Nodier's house--The master's
    profile--The congress of bibliophiles--The three
    candles--Debureau--Mademoiselle Mars and Merlin--Nodier's
    family--His friends--In which houses I am at my best--The
    salon of the Arsenal--Nodier as a teller of tales--The ball
    and the warming-pan.

    CHAPTER II

    Oudard transmits to me the desires of the Duc
    d'Orléans--I am appointed assistant librarian--How this
    saved His Highness four hundred francs--Rivalry with
    Casimir Delavigne--Petition of the Classical School
    against Romantic productions--Letter of support from
    Mademoiselle Duchesnois--A fantastic dance--The person
    who called Racine a _blackguard_--Fine indignation of the
    _Constitutionnel_--First representation of _Marino Faliero_

    CHAPTER III

    Mesmerism--Experiment during a trance--I submit to being
    mesmerised--My observation upon it--I myself start to
    mesmerise--Experiment made in a diligence--Another
    experiment in the house of the _procureur de la République_
    of Joigny--Little Marie D****--Her political predictions--I
    cure her of fear.

    CHAPTER IV

    Fresh trials of newspaper editors--The
    _Mouton-enragé_--Fontan--Harel's witticism concerning
    him--The _Fils de l'Homme_ before the Police Court--The
    author pleads his cause in verse--M. Guillebert's
    prose--Prison charges at Sainte-Pélagie--Embarrassment of
    the Duc d'Orléans about a historical portrait--The two
    usurpations.

    CHAPTER V

    The things that are the greatest enemies to the
    success of a play--The honesty of Mademoiselle Mars
    as an actress--Her dressing-room--The habitués at her
    supper-parties--Vatout--Denniée--Becquet--Mornay--Mademoiselle
    Mars in her own home--Her last days on the stage--Material
    result of the success of _Henri III._--My first
    speculation--The recasting of _Christine_--Where I looked
    for my inspiration--Two other ideas.

    CHAPTER VI

    Victor Hugo--His birth--His mother--Les Chassebœuf and
    les Cornet--Captain Hugo--The signification of his
    name--Victor's godfather--The Hugo family in Corsica--M.
    Hugo is called to Naples by Joseph Bonaparte--He is
    appointed colonel and governor of the province of
    Avellino--Recollections of the poet's early childhood--Fra
    Diavolo--Joseph, King of Spain--Colonel Hugo is made a
    general, count, marquis and major-domo--The Archbishop
    of Tarragona--Madame Hugo and her children in Paris--The
    convent of Feuillantines.

    CHAPTER VII

    Departure for Spain--Journey from Paris to Bayonne--The
    treasure--Order of march of the convoy--M. du Saillant--M.
    de Cotadilla--Irun--Ernani--Salinas--The battalion
    of _écloppés_ (cripples)--Madame Hugo's supplies of
    provisions--The forty Dutch grenadiers--Mondragon--The
    precipice--Burgos--Celadas--Alerte--The queen's review.

    CHAPTER VIII

    Segovia--M. de Tilly--The Alcazar--The doubloons--The
    castle of M. de la Calprenède and that of a Spanish
    grandee--The _bourdaloue_--Otero--The Dutchmen again--The
    Guadarrama--Arrival at Madrid--The palace of Masserano--The
    comet--The College--Don Manoël and Don Bazilio--Tacitus
    and Plautus--Lillo--The winter of 1812 to 1813--The
    Empecinado--The glass of _eau sucrée_--The army of
    merinoes--Return to Paris.

    CHAPTER IX

    The college and the garden of the Feuillantines--Grenadier
    or general--Victor Hugo's first appearance in public--He
    obtains honourable mention at the Academy examination--He
    carries off three prizes in the Jeux Floraux--_Han
    d'Islande_--The poet and the bodyguard--Hugo's marriage--The
    _Odes et Ballades_--Proposition made by cousin Cornet.

    CHAPTER X

    Léopoldine--The opinions of the son of the Vendéenne--The
    Delon conspiracy--Hugo offers Delon shelter--Louis XVIII.
    bestows a pension of twelve hundred francs on the author
    of the _Odes et Ballades_--The poet at the office of the
    director-general des postes--How he learns the existence
    of the _cabinet noir_--He is made a chevalier of the
    Legion d'honneur--Beauchesne-_Bug-Jargal_--The Ambassador
    of Austria's soirée--_Ode à la Colonne_--_Cromwell_--How
    _Marion Delorme_ was written.

    CHAPTER XI

    Reading of _Marion Delorme_ at the house of
    Devéria--Steeplechase of directors--_Marion Delorme_ is
    stopped by the Censorship--Hugo obtains an audience with
    Charles X.--His drama is definitely interdicted--They send
    him the brevet of a pension, which he declines--He sets to
    work on _Hernani_ and completes it in twenty-four days.

    CHAPTER XII

    The invasion of barbarians--Rehearsals of
    _Hernani_--Mademoiselle Mars and the lines about the
    _lion_--The scene over the _portraits_--Hugo takes away
    from Mademoiselle Mars the part of Doña Sol--Michelot's
    flattering complaisance to the public--The quatrain about
    the cupboard--Joanny.

    CHAPTER XIII

    Alfred de Vigny--The man and his works--Harel, the manager
    at the Odéon--Downfall of Soulié's _Christine_--Parenthesis
    about Lassailly--Letter of Harel, with preface by myself
    and postscript by Soulié--I read my _Christine_ at
    the Odéon--Harel asks me to put it into prose--First
    representation of the _More de Venise_--The actors and the
    papers.

    CHAPTER XIV

    Citizen-general Barras--Doctor Cabarrus introduces me to
    him--Barras's only two regrets--His dinners--The Princess de
    Chimay's footman--Fauche-Borel--The Duc de Bordeaux makes a
    mess--History lesson given to an ambassador--Walter Scott
    and Barras--The last happiness of the old _directeur_--His
    death.



THE MEMOIRS OF ALEXANDRE DUMAS



BOOK I



CHAPTER I


I become a fully fledged employé--Bad plays--Thibaut--My studies
with him--Where they have been of use to me--_Amaury_ and the
consumptives--My reading--Walter Scott--Cooper--Byron--The pleasure of
eating _Sauerkraut_ at the Parthenon


On 1 January 1824 I was promoted from being one of the supernumerary
clerks at twelve hundred francs per annum to the position of being
a regular employé at fifteen hundred. I considered this a most
flourishing condition of affairs, and thought that it was now time to
send for my mother. I had not seen her for nine months, and the long
separation began to grieve me. During these nine months I had made a
sad discovery, which it was quite as well I should make, namely, that
I had not learnt anything at all that I needed to learn, in order to
further my progress in the career I wished to take up. But this did
not discourage me, for I felt satisfied that I was now, once for all,
firmly established in Paris and that I should not starve, thanks to my
125 francs per month; so I redoubled my zeal, and, ceasing to think of
the limit of time I had fixed wherein to attain my end, I resolved to
use it in applying myself to study.

Unfortunately, after subtracting my office hours, very little time
remained to me. I had to be at the Palais-Royal by half-past ten in the
morning, and we did not leave until five in the evening. Moreover,
there was a peculiar function connected with the secretary's office,
which did not hold with respect to any other office. Either Ernest or
I had to return, from eight till ten o'clock in the evening, while the
Duc d'Orléans lived at Neuilly, in order to attend to what was called
the _portefeuille_; and the Duc d'Orléans, being fond of a country
life, spent three-quarters of the year at Neuilly. The task was not a
difficult one, but it was imperative; it consisted in sending off by
courier to the Duc d'Orléans the evening papers and his day's letters,
and in receiving in return the orders for the next day. This meant a
loss of two hours in the evening, and, of course, made it impossible
to go to any play except at the Théâtre-Français, which adjoined our
offices. It is but fair to say that M. Oudard, who had three tickets
a day at his disposal for any seat in the theatre, sometimes indulged
us with one of them--an act of generosity hardly ever displayed except
when poor plays were on. Still, the expression "poor plays" must only
be understood to mean the days when neither Talma nor Mademoiselle Mars
was acting. But, since I wanted to go to the theatre for purposes of
study, those days of poor plays were often profitable exhibitions for
me. Then, too, I entered into an arrangement with Ernest by which each
of us had his week, and, in this way, we secured fifteen free nights
per month.

I had made the acquaintance of a young doctor, named Thibaut; he had
no practice at that time, although he was not without ability. One
cure he brought about made his reputation, and another his fortune.
He cured Félix Deviolaine--the young cousin of whom I have several
times spoken and of whom I shall have occasion to speak again--of a
chest complaint that had reached the last stages, by means of inducing
articular rheumatism, which drew off the inflammation; and by sheer
skill he managed to cure the Marquise de Lagrange, whom he accompanied
to Italy, of a chronic affection which was considered incurable. When
the marquise was restored to perfect health, she was so grateful that
she married him, and they both live to-day on their estates near
Gros-Bois. As Thibaut has the control of a fortune of forty to fifty
thousand livres income, he no longer practises the craft of medicine
except to benefit his flowers and fruits.

But, at this period, Thibaut, like Adolphe and myself, was penniless;
we were both his patients, and, pecuniarily speaking, very bad ones.
How came we to be Thibaut's patients? I will explain. In 1823 and
1824 it was all the fashion to suffer from chest complaint; everybody
was consumptive, poets especially; it was good form to spit blood
after each emotion that was at all inclined to be sensational, and
to die before reaching the age of thirty. Of course, Adolphe and
I, both young, tall and thin, considered we were fully entitled to
this privilege, and many people who knew us agreed we had some right
thereto. I have now lost all claim to this distinction, but, to be fair
towards Adolphe, he still has his; for now, at forty-six, he is just as
tall and as thin as he was then, when he was twenty-one.

Thibaut knew everything of which I was ignorant, so he undertook my
education, and it was no light task. We spent nearly all our evenings
together in a tiny room in the rue du Pélican, which looked out on the
passage Véro-Dodat. I was a hundred yards off the Palais-Royal, so it
was the easiest thing imaginable to go from my quarters to make up my
packet for the courier. In the morning, I often accompanied Thibaut
to the Hôpital de la Charité, where I picked up a little knowledge of
physiology and anatomy, although I have never been able to overcome
my aversion towards operations and dead bodies. From these visits
accrued a certain amount of medical and surgical knowledge, which has
often come in very usefully in my novel-writing. As, for example,
in _Amaury_, where I traced the various phases of a lung disease in
my heroine, Madeleine, with such accuracy that once I was paid the
compliment of a visit from M. Noailles, who came to ask me to stop the
run of this novel in the _Presse._ His daughter and his son-in-law,
who were both in the same stage of consumption, had recognised their
precise symptoms in Madeleine's illness, and both waited impatiently
each morning for the paper, to know whether M. d'Avrigny's daughter
was going to die or not. As M. d'Avrigny's daughter had been condemned
to death both by fate and by her author, the _feuilleton_ was
interrupted and, to comfort the two poor invalids, I improvised, in
manuscript, a conclusion which raised their hopes, but which, alas!
did not restore them to health. The _feuilleton_ was not resumed
until after their death. The readers of the _Presse_ had noticed the
interruption, but were ignorant of its cause. Now they know.

I have said that I went with Thibaut to the Hôpital de la Charité most
mornings, from six to seven o'clock. In the evening, we studied physics
and chemistry in his room; and it was in his room that I made my first
study of the poisons used by Madame de Villefort in _Monte-Cristo_--a
study which I followed and perfected later, with Ruolz.

A good-looking young neighbour named Mademoiselle Walker, who was a
milliner, used to join us in our researches. Like la Fontaine's hen,
she failed to set Thibaut and me at variance, although she tried all
sorts of devices, but happily none was successful, and we all three
managed to keep on friendly terms.

I owe much to Thibaut for teaching me method in working, as well as
for actual knowledge. I will relate later how Thibaut, whose name is
several times quoted in _l'Histoire de dix ans_, by Louis Blanc, was
obliged, by reason of his relationship with the family of Maréchal
Gérard, to play a certain part in the Revolution of July.

At Lassagne's persuasion I branched out in other directions, and
began a course of reading. Walter Scott came first. The first novel
I read by the "Scottish Bard," as he was then called, was _Ivanhoe_.
Accustomed to the mild plots of Madame Cottin, or to the eccentric
pranks of the author of the _Barons de Felsheim_ and of the _Enfant du
Carnaval_, it took me some time to get used to the rude, uncouth ways
of Gurth the swineherd, and to the facetious jokes of Wamba, Cedric's
jester. But when the author introduced me to the old Saxon's romantic
dining-hall; when I had seen the fire on the hearth, fed by a whole
oak tree, with its light sparkling on the monk and on the dress of
the unknown pilgrim; when I saw all the members of the family of the
thane take their places at the long oak board, from the head of the
castle, the king of his territory, to the meanest servitor; when I saw
the Jew Isaac in his yellow cap, and his daughter Rebecca in her gold
corselet; when the tourney at Ashby had given me a foretaste of the
powerful sword-shakes and lance-thrusts that I should again come across
in Froissart, oh! then, little by little, the clouds that had veiled my
sight began to lift, I saw open out before me more extended horizons
than any that had appeared to me when Adolphe de Leuven worked these
changes in my provincial imagination that I have already mentioned.

Next followed Cooper, with his big forests, his vast prairies, his
boundless oceans, his _Pioneers_, his _Prairie_, his _Redskins_--three
masterpieces of description, wherein absence of substance is well
concealed beneath wealth of style, so that one goes the whole way
through a novel of his, like the apostle, upon ground ever ready to
yawn open and swallow one up, and yet, nevertheless, one is upheld, not
by faith but by style, from the first page to the last.

Then came Byron--Byron, lyric and dramatic poet, who died at
Missolonghi just when I was beginning to study him in Paris. There had
been a tremendous rage over Lord Byron for some time; the glory of
the poet had derived fresh glamour from the Greek camp bivouacs; his
name would henceforth be associated with those of the famous Greeks of
old; not only would Byron be spoken of as akin to Sir Walter Scott and
Chateaubriand, but in the same breath as the names of Mavrocordato,
Odysseus and Canaris.

One day, before the world even knew that the famous poet was ill, we
read in the papers as follows:--

    "MISSOLONGHI, 20 _April_

    "Our town presents a most touching spectacle; we have all
    gone into mourning, for our illustrious benefactor died at
    six o'clock yesterday evening, the 19th instant."

Byron had died at the age of thirty-seven, like Raphael; he had
died during the Easter celebrations, and thirty-seven volleys were
fired--one for each year of his life--in every town, spreading the news
of his death from Thrace to the Piræus, and from Epeirus to the Asiatic
coasts.

Courts of justice, public offices and shops were closed for three days;
for three days dancing, public amusements and the sound of musical
instruments were forbidden; and the public mourning lasted for three
weeks.

Poor Byron! he only desired to fight and to help to win a victory, or,
if conquered, to die arms in hand. As a general, it would have given
him great joy to lead the Souliotes at the siege of Lepanto; Lepanto,
the land of Don Juan and of Charles the Fifth, seemed to him a fitting
name with which to link his own; it was a noble land to bleed for and
to die in.

But he was not to realise that happiness; he died at Missolonghi, and
it was he who made an unknown land famous, instead of himself receiving
lustre from a sacred land; people say, "Byron died at Missolonghi," not
"Missolonghi, the place where Byron died."

The great man had no notion that, in dying for the Greeks, he was
only dying so that Europe, as the Duc d'Orléans once expressed it to
me, might have the pleasure of eating sauerkraut at the foot of the
Parthenon!

Poor immortal bard, who died in the hope that the news of his death
would resound through all hearts! what would he have said if he could
have heard, as I rushed in, the newspaper containing the fatal notice
in my hand, crying despairingly, "Byron is dead," one of the assistants
in our office ask, "Who was Byron?" Such a question caused me both pain
and pleasure mixed; I had, then, found someone even more ignorant than
myself, and he one of the chief clerks in the office. Had it been only
an ordinary copying clerk I should not have felt so consoled.

This unlooked for death of one of the greatest poets of the time made a
deep impression upon me; I felt instinctively that Byron was more than
a poet, that he was one of those leaders whose inspired utterances,
in the silence of the night and in the obscurity in which art lives,
are heard throughout all nations, whose shining rays lighten the whole
world. Such men are usually not only prophets but also martyrs. They
create from out their own sufferings the divine thoughts which act as
incentives to others; it is at the spectacle of their own tortures that
they utter cries which clutch the heart. Had Prometheus or Napoleon
been poets, think what verses each would have engraved on his rock of
doom!

We will try, then, to give an account of the sufferings of this man,
who was driven from his own country as though he were a Barabbas, to
die for the Greeks as Christ did for the Jews.

Death must be passed through before there can be transfiguration.



CHAPTER II


Byron's childhood--His grief at being lame--Mary Duff--The Malvern
fortune-teller--How Byron and Robert Peel became acquainted--Miss
Parker--Miss Chaworth--Verses on her portrait--Mrs. Musters--Lady
Morgan--_English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_--Byron's letters to his
mother--He takes his seat in the House of Lords


Byron was born on 22 January 1788, of so ancient and noble a family
that it could take rank with many royal families. At his birth, the
child who was predestined to become so famous had his foot dislocated
and no one noticed the fact. This accident made him lame, and we shall
see what an influence this infirmity had upon his life.

Four celebrated men belonging to the close of the eighteenth and the
beginning of the nineteenth centuries were lame: Maréchal Soult, M.
de Talleyrand, Walter Scott and Lord Byron. A woman writer has said
that "Byron would have given half his fame if he could but have been
as proud of his feet as he was of his hands." We are assured that
Juno's bird, the peacock, forgot his rich plumage and uttered a cry
of distress every time he looked down at his feet. And Byron, king
of poets, who had a good deal of the peacock about him, was not more
philosophical than that king of birds.

"What a beautiful child!" some lady once remarked, when Byron was three
years old and she saw him, whip in hand, playing at his nurse's knee;
"but what a pity he is crippled!"

The child turned round, lifted up his whip and lashed the woman with
all his might. "Dinna say that!" he said.

His mother, strange to say, never understood how proud the child was.
Byron was misunderstood by the two beings who, when they understand a
man, can shed most happiness upon his life--his mother and his wife.
Byron's mother, as we have said, never realised the child's pride, and
used to call him "my lame boy."

If you would learn what this flaw in maternal love cost the lad, read
what Arnold says in the first scene of _The Deformed Transformed_:--

    "_A Forest_
    _Enter_ ARNOLD _and his mother_ BERTHA

    _Bert._
    Out, hunchback!

    _Arn._
                    I was born so, mother!

    _Bert._
                                           Out,
    Thou incubus! Thou nightmare! Of seven sons,
    The sole abortion!

    _Arn._
                        Would that I had been so,
    And never seen the light!

    _Bert._
                                      I would so too!
    But as thou _hast_--hence, hence--and do thy best!
    That back of thine may bear its burthen; 'tis
    More high, if not so broad as that of others.

    _Arn._
    It _bears_ its burthen:--but, my heart! Will it
    Sustain that which you lay upon it, mother?
    I love, or, at the least, I loved you: nothing
    Save you, in nature, can love aught like me.
    You nursed me--do not kill me!"

At the age of five Byron was sent to school in Aberdeen, where they
paid but five shillings a quarter for him. I had thought no child had
ever been educated more cheaply than I had; but I was mistaken, and I
present my congratulations to Byron as a brother at least in poverty.

Although the future poet spent a whole year in this school, one of his
biographers tells us he hardly managed to learn his letters. I had this
further advantage over Byron that my mother taught me to read: God gave
me at least half of what Byron was denied--a good mother.

From the school at Aberdeen, Byron passed to the university of the same
town. Alas! he was one of the worst scholars, and was always at the
bottom of his class. Many of his schoolfellows can tell stories of the
jokes which his masters made at his expense.

In 1798 the old Lord Byron died. He had been a roué of quality, who had
had any number of love affairs and duels. He killed his friend Chaworth
in one of his duels--an event which was to have its influence upon his
son's life too.

Two years before, young Byron had paid a visit to the Scotch Highlands,
from whence he derived that love of high peaks, shared by eagles and
poets, which made him later sing the praises of the Alps, the Apennines
and Parnassus.

It was during this tour our Dante met his Beatrice; her name was Mary
Duff, and she was only eight years old.

The old Lord Byron died at Newstead Abbey, and Byron was his heir.
He left Aberdeen with his mother. They sold their furniture for
seventy-five pounds sterling--another point of similarity between us
(I hope I may be pardoned my comparisons, I shall not have much pride
in pressing them further)--and they reached Newstead. There they put
the young man under the care of a quack doctor called Lavemde to try
and cure his foot, for this infirmity occupied the greatest portion of
his thoughts. As it was seen that the young lord's lameness was neither
better nor worse for this charlatan's treatment, he was sent to London,
where he was entrusted for his physical requirements to Dr. Baillie,
and for his moral equipment to Dr. Glennie. There, both doctors had
a certain measure of success, for Dr. Glennie had the satisfaction,
after having put him on the way, of beholding his pupil surpass all his
contemporaries, in letters and poetry.

Dr. Baillie managed to cure his foot sufficiently to enable him to wear
an ordinary boot, so that his lameness did not seem more than a slight
limp. Great was the proud youth's joy, and he communicated it to his
nurse, whom he greatly loved.

In 1801, when he was thirteen, Byron followed his mother to Cheltenham,
where the view of the Malvern Hills, recalling his first visit to the
Highlands, made a deep impression upon him, especially as he saw them
in the early morning and evening. When he and his mother were out
riding together they learnt from the country people of a celebrated
sorceress of those parts, and Lady Byron took a fancy to consult her.
She said nothing of the lad, and introduced herself to the witch as an
unmarried woman. But the sorceress shook her head.

"You are not a maid," she said; "you have been a wife and are now a
widow; you have a son who will be in danger of being poisoned before he
has attained his majority; he will marry twice, and the second time it
will be with a foreigner."

We shall see directly that, if he was not exactly poisoned, he was in
fear of being so, and it is well known that, if he did not marry a
second time, at all events he found a beautiful Venetian lady of rank
who made up to him for his first marriage, save in the recollection of
its unhappiness.

From Dr. Glennie's tutelage, Byron proceeded to Harrow. Dr. Drury was
then headmaster, and he was the first to detect some few faint glimpses
of what the poet would one day become.

"Here I made my first verses," said Byron, "they were received but
coldly; but, in revenge, I fought glorious battles at Harrow: I only
lost one fight out of every seven!"

It was at Harrow that he made the acquaintance of Sir Robert Peel,
and the way in which they became fast friends gives some idea of the
character of Byron.

One of their comrades, taller and stronger than they, with whom
consequently they had no dealings, was discovered by Byron thrashing
poor Peel.

Byron came up and said--

"How many more blows do you mean to give Robert?"

"What business is it of yours?" retorted the combatant. "Why do you ask
such a question?"

"Because, if you please, executioner, I will take half the blows you
intend for him and will return them to you later, you understand, when
I am bigger."

After Harrow, the young man went to finish his education at the
University of Cambridge; but he was ever impatient of regular study,
just as he was of ordinary modes of enjoyment: the only thing he learnt
was how to swim; his only recreation was the training of a bear.

In 1806, when he was eighteen, he joined his mother at Newstead. The
relations between mother and son were not at all of a tender nature;
on the contrary, the two were nearly always quarrelling. One of these
quarrels even went so far one day that each in turn called at a
chemist's, within five minutes of one another, to inquire if he had
sold the other poison, and, on being told not, begged him not to do
so. Besides little Mary Duff, with whom he fell in love when he was
nine, Byron conceived a passion when he was twelve for his cousin, Miss
Parker, for whom he composed his first verses. They were lost, and
the poet never remembered what they were. Miss Parker died, and gave
place to Miss Chaworth, the daughter of the man whom old Lord Byron
had killed. But this time it was the real passion of budding manhood,
tender and deep, and it left its mark for the rest of his life. Miss
Chaworth was beautiful, charming in manner and wealthy.

"Alas!" said Byron, "our union would have wiped out the recollection
of the blood shed between our fathers; it would have reunited two rich
estates and two beings who would have agreed well enough together, and
then--and then--Ah, well, God knows what might have happened!"

But Byron was lame; he was obliged to avoid all kinds of exercise that
could expose his deformity, and consequently dancing. Now Miss Chaworth
was particularly fond of dancing, and Byron would stand, leaning
against a corner by the door or against the chimneypiece, his arms
crossed, frowning, with his lips curled with anger, whilst the music
carried far away from him the girl he loved, some dancer more lucky
than he leading her through the figures of a quadrille or guiding her
in the whirl of a valse. Once, someone said to Mary Chaworth--

"Do you know that Byron seems deeply in love with you?"

"Well, what does it matter to me?" replied Mary.

"What! do you mean what you say?"

"Of course I do. Do you really think I could care for that lame boy?"

Byron heard both questions and answers, and he said it was as though
a dagger had struck him to the heart. These words were uttered at
midnight; but he rushed out of the house like a madman and ran without
stopping to Newstead, where, on arrival, he fell nearly fainting from
exhaustion.

And yet, the disdainful Miss Chaworth having one day sent her portrait
to him, Byron, in exchange, sent her the following verses:--

    TO MARY

    ON RECEIVING HER PICTURE

    "This faint resemblance of thy charms,
      Though strong as mortal art could give,
    My constant heart of fear disarms,
      Revives my hopes, and bids me live.

    Here I can trace the locks of gold
      Which round thy snowy forehead wave,
    The cheeks which sprung from beauty's mould,
      The lips which made me beauty's slave.

    Here I can trace--ah, no! that eye,
      Whose azure floats in liquid fire,
    Must all the painter's art defy,
      And bid him from the task retire.

    Here I behold its beauteous hue;
      But where's the beam so sweetly straying,
    Which gave a lustre to its blue,
      Like Luna o'er the ocean playing?

    Sweet copy! far more dear to me,
      Lifeless, unfeeling as thou art,
    Than all the living forms could be,
      Save her who placed thee next my heart.

    She placed it, sad, with needless fear,
      Lest time might shake my wavering soul,
    Unconscious that her image there
      Held every sense in fast control.

    Through hours, through years, through time, 'twill cheer;
      My hope, in gloomy moments, raise;
    In life's last conflict 'twill appear,
      And meet my fond expiring gaze."

A year later, Miss Chaworth married.

"Pull out your handkerchief, my son," Lady Byron said to the lad, one
day on returning home.

"What for, mother?"

"Because I have bad news for you."

"What is it?"

"Miss Chaworth is married."

Byron drew his handkerchief out of his pocket and blew his nose, and
with that expression of sarcasm which he knew so well how to assume at
certain times, he said--

"Is that all?"

"Isn't it enough?" asked Lady Byron, who knew well enough the real pain
he was concealing beneath that apparent indifference.

"Enough to make me shed tears? No indeed!" and Byron put his
handkerchief back into his pocket.

When Lady Byron had announced to her son in this callous, mocking way
his adored Mary's marriage, and Byron had put on a smiling appearance
of indifference to the news, returning his handkerchief to his pocket
unwet by a tear, the poor youth went to his own room heart-broken, and,
taking up in his hand the portrait of his unfaithful sweetheart, the
poet tried to comfort the lover, inviting himself to mourn, lashing his
passion into words.

Hence resulted those mournful sighings of a broken heart addressed to
_Mrs. Musters:_--

    TO A LADY

    "Oh! had my fate been join'd with thine,
      As once this pledge appear'd a token,
    These follies had not then been mine,
      For then my peace had not been broken.

    To thee these early faults I owe,
      To thee, the wise and old reproving:
    They know my sins, but do not know
      'Twas thine to break the bonds of loving.

    For once my soul, like thine, was pure,
      And all its rising fires could smother;
    But now thy vows no more endure,
      Bestow'd by thee upon another.

    Perhaps his peace I could destroy,
      And spoil the blisses that await him
    Yet let my rival smile in joy,
      For thy dear sake I cannot hate him.

    Ah! since thy angel form is gone,
      My heart no more can rest with any;
    But what it sought in thee alone,
      Attempts, alas! to find in many.

    Then fare thee well, deceitful maid!
      'Twere vain and fruitless to regret thee;
    Nor hope, nor memory yield their aid,
      But pride may teach me to forget thee.

    Yet all this giddy waste of years,
      This tiresome round of palling pleasures;
    These varied loves, these matron's fears,
      These thoughtless strains to passion's measures--

    If thou wert mine, had all been hush'd:--
      This cheek, now pale from early riot,
    With passion's hectic ne'er had flush'd,
      But bloom'd in calm domestic quiet.

    Yes, once the rural scene was sweet,
      For Nature seem'd to smile before thee;
    And once my breast abhorr'd deceit,--
      For then it beat but to adore thee.

    But now I seek for other joys:
      To think would drive my soul to madness;
    In thoughtless throngs and empty noise
      I conquer half my bosom's sadness.

    Yet, even in these a thought will steal
      In spite of every vain endeavour,--
    And friends might pity what I feel,--
      To know that thou art lost for ever."

Alas! Miss Chaworth was not, as Mrs. Musters, to be happier in her
marriage than the man she had forsaken. She married John Musters, Esq.,
in the August of 1805, and lived miserably until 1832, when she died
in as melancholy a way as she had lived. A band of insurgents from
Nottingham came and set fire to Colwick Hall, where she lived. She and
her daughter took refuge in a potting-shed, and, being already in poor
health, she took cold and fell ill, and died practically of the same
complaint that Byron had died of eight years before.

As Byron says in the second verse of his poem to Mrs. Musters, it was
in consequence of the rupture of his friendship with Miss Chaworth that
he flung himself exclusively into the pursuit of pleasure. He flirted,
rode, gambled, kept dogs, took up swimming, fencing and pistol-shooting.

But he found time to write a book called _Hours of Idleness_ in the
midst of all these revels and athletic exercises. He had just published
this book when Lady Morgan, with whom I was to become acquainted thirty
years afterwards, met him for the first time.

This is her description of the meeting:--

"Suddenly my dazzled looks were arrested by an exceedingly beautiful
young man. His expression was taciturn, and yet there seemed as much
shyness as scorn in it. He was alone, and stood in a corner near
a door, with his arms folded across his breast, and one felt that
although he was in the middle of an animated and brilliant crowd, yet
he did not belong to it.

"'How do you do, Lord Byron?' a pretty young creature, dressed in the
height of the fashion, asked him.

"Lord Byron! At that word all the brave Byrons that had belonged to
English and French chivalry rose before my mind; but I did not know
that the handsome youth who was their descendant was destined to give
an even greater right to the name for the admiration of posterity
than the most valiant knight of France, or than the most loyal
cavalier of England who had ever borne the same name. Fame spread
very slowly in our province of Tirerag; and although Lord Byron had
already _taken the first step_ in that career which was to end in the
triumphant acknowledgment of his wonderful genius, and the injustice
and ingratitude of his fellow-countrymen, I knew nothing of this future
fame then, when I heard the name of Byron, save what prompted me to say
to myself, the 'Go, hang thyself, Byron,' of Henry IV."

Poor Lady Morgan! she was not happy in her historical quotations! but
what matters it? she did not look too closely into them. It was Biron
without the _y_ whose head Henry cut off; and it was of Crillon that he
wrote, "Go, hang thyself!"

But the literary fame Byron lacked was soon to be given him by the
critics. The _Edinburgh Review_, in an article written by Mr. Brougham,
who afterwards became Lord Brougham, attacked the young poet violently.

Lord Byron's life was destined to be one continuous fight. Born lame,
he persevered until he became the finest swimmer, the best shot and the
most dauntless horse-rider of his time. The world denied his genius, so
he made up his mind he would become the first poet of his age.

His response to the article in the _Edinburgh Review_ was that terrible
satire hurled at his critics under the title of _English Bards and
Scotch Reviewers_, at the head of which appeared these two epigrams
from Shakespeare and Pope:--

    "I had rather be a kitten, and cry mew!
    Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers!"--_Shakespeare._

    "Such shameless bards we have; and yet 'tis true,
    There are as mad, abandon'd critics too."--_Pope._

When Byron had hurled this lance, he could not draw back. He had
pledged himself heart and soul to poetry, he had taken upon him the
mantle of Nessus which was to consume him but also to immortalise him.
And yet he hesitated for a brief period. By birth he had a right
to sit in the House of Lords, and he decided he would take his seat
there. If his aristocratic peers received him cordially, who knew
what might happen? He might give up everything, even the idea of his
journey to Persia with his friend Hobhouse, to follow his schoolfellow
Robert Peel in a political career. It should all depend on a smile or
a hand-shake; and for such an acknowledgment he would fling away the
pen that had written the _Hours of Idleness_ and _English Bards and
Scotch Reviewers_; for a smile and a hand-shake he would bid farewell
to games, betting, races, drunkenness, and break himself off from those
youthful follies in which he had tried to drown the memory of Miss
Chaworth; he would leave them all, even the woman who had followed him
to Brighton dressed as a man, whose scandalous presence had roused the
indignation of the prudish English aristocracy!

It was at this crisis he wrote to his mother the following letter,
which shows what a degree of coldness existed between mother and son:--

    "TO THE HONOURABLE LADY BYRON

                                     "NEWSTEAD ABBEY, NOTTS
                                     _October_ 7, 1808

    "DEAR MADAM,--I have no beds for the Hansons or anybody
    else at present. The Hansons sleep at Mansfield. I do not
    know that I resemble Jean Jacques Rousseau. I have no
    ambition to be like so illustrious a madman--but this I
    know, that I shall live in my own manner, and as much alone
    as possible. When my rooms are ready I shall be glad to
    see you: at present it would be improper and uncomfortable
    to both parties. You can hardly object to my rendering my
    mansion habitable, notwithstanding my departure for Persia
    in March (or May at farthest), since _you_ will be _tenant_
    till my return; and in case of any accident (for I have
    already arranged my will to be drawn up the moment I am
    twenty-one), I have taken care you shall have the house and
    manor for _life_, besides a sufficient income. So you see my
    improvements are not entirely selfish.--Adieu. Believe me,
    yours very truly,                                  BYRON"

In another letter to his mother, dated 6 March 1809, he adds:--

    "What you say is all very true: come what may, _Newstead_
    and I _stand_ or fall together. I have now lived on the
    spot, I have fixed my heart upon it, and no pressure,
    present or future, shall induce me to barter the last
    vestige of our inheritance. I have that pride within me
    which will enable me to support difficulties. I can endure
    privations; but could I obtain in exchange for Newstead
    Abbey the first fortune in the country, I would reject the
    proposition. Set your mind at ease on that score; Mr. Hanson
    talks like a man of business on the subject,--I feel like a
    man of honour, and I will not sell Newstead. _I shall get
    my seat on the return_ of the affidavits from Carhais, in
    Cornwall, _and will do something in the House soon: I must
    dash, or it is all over._ My Satire must be kept secret
    for a _month_; after that you may say what you like on the
    subject. Lord Carlisle has used me infamously, and refused
    to state any particulars of my family to the Chancellor. I
    have _lashed_ him in my rhymes, and perhaps his lordship may
    regret not being more conciliatory. They tell me it will
    have a sale; I hope so, for the bookseller has behaved well,
    as far as publishing well goes.--Believe me, etc., BYRON

    "_P.S._--You shall have a mortgage on one of the farms."

But Byron was doomed in advance. He had the greatest difficulty in
obtaining the papers necessary to establish his title to the peerage,
and, three days after writing the above letter--that is to say, on 9
March 1809, six weeks after having attained his majority--he presented
himself in the House of Lords.

As we have said, upon this test his whole career was to depend. As he
told his mother, his Satire was to be kept a secret for a month longer,
and if he were well received by his illustrious colleagues, it was to
remain unpublished and the poet unknown.

It was the will of Providence that these aristocrats should be unjust
towards this young man, this boy, nay, more than unjust, cruel.

He entered the House alone, and looked calm, although his face was
deadly pale; not one kindly glance encouraged him, not a single hand
was held out towards his; he searched in vain for a single friendly
look throughout that illustrious assembly, but all heads were turned
away.

He then made up his mind. He, Lord Byron, would make a fresh claim to
nobility for his posterity, since his present title to it was slighted
by his contemporaries. He published his Satire, and set out, with Mr.
Hobhouse, in the June of that same year 1809.



CHAPTER III


Byron at Lisbon--How he quarrelled with his own countrymen--His poem
_Childe Harold_--His fits of mad folly and subsequent depression--His
marriage--His conjugal squabbles--He again quits England--His farewell
to wife and child--His life and amours at Venice--He sets out for
Greece--His arrival at Missolonghi--His illness and death


The first news received from the poet-traveller was from Lisbon, and
it bore the mark of that gloomy spirit of mockery which, when fully
developed, becomes genius.

The letter was addressed to Mr. Hodgson, and began in the following
strain:--

    "I am very happy here, because I loves oranges, and talk bad
    Latin to the monks, who understand it, as it is like their
    own,--and I goes into society (with my pocket-pistols), and
    I swims in the Tagus all across at once, and I rides on an
    ass or a mule, and swears Portugese, and have got a diarrhœa
    and bites from the mosquitoes. But what of that? Comfort
    must not be expected by folks that go a pleasuring."

And yet, while he was mocking in this fashion, he could write such
mournful lines as these in _Childe Harold_:--

    CANTO I

    IX

      "And none did love him: though to hall and bower
      He gather'd revellers from far and near,
      He knew them flatt'rers of the festal hour;
      The heartless parasites of present cheer.
      Yea! none did love him--not his lemans dear--
      But pomp and power alone are woman's care,
      And where these are light Eros finds a feere;
      Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare,
    And Mammon wins his way where Seraphs might despair.

    X

      Childe Harold had a mother--not forgot,
      Though parting from that mother he did shun;
      A sister whom he loved, but saw her not
      Before his weary pilgrimage begun:
      If friends he had, he bade adieu to none.
      Yet deem not thence his breast a breast of steel:
      Ye, who have known what 'tis to dote upon
      A few dear objects, will in sadness feel
    Such partings break the heart they fondly hope to heal.

    XI

      His house, his home, his heritage, his lands,
      The laughing dames in whom he did delight,
      Whose large blue eyes, fair locks, and snowy hands,
      Might shake the saintship of an anchorite,
      And long had fed his youthful appetite;
      His goblets brimm'd with every costly wine,
      And all that mote to luxury invite,
      Without a sigh he left, to cross the brine,
    And traverse Paynim shores, and pass Earth's central line."

And it was in this spirit that he left England to begin his early
travels; and if, perchance, any member of the aristocracy inquired who
this young Lord Byron was who had inscribed his name on the list of
peers, those who were best informed would reply--

"He is a young rake, grand-nephew of the old Byron who killed Chaworth
in a duel; he possesses an old tumbledown Abbey; and a fortune that has
been cut up and squandered. When he was at college, where he never did
any good, he kept a bear; since he left college he has associated with
prostitutes and swindlers, drinking till tipsy out of a human skull,
and, when drunk, writing poetry."

Byron left his country at war with his fellow-men, and one stanza of
the first canto of the poem just referred to was enough to set him at
loggerheads with women too--a much more serious matter:--


    CANTO I

    LVIII

      "The seal Love's dimpling finger hath impress'd
      Denotes how soft that chin which bears his touch:
      Her lips, whose kisses pout to leave their nest,
      Bid man be valiant ere he merit such:
      Her glance how wildly beautiful! how much
      Hath Phœbus woo'd in vain to spoil her cheek,
      Which glows yet smoother from his amorous clutch!
      Who round the North for paler dames would seek?
    How poor their forms appear! how languid, wan and weak!"

Such an anathema as this, hurled by the poet at that England which
Shakespeare compared to a swan's nest in the midst of a great lake,
met with widespread notoriety; for _Childe Harold's Pilgrimage_, the
first canto of which Byron wrote during his travels, had a tremendous
reception.

Byron visited Portugal, the South of Spain, Sardinia and Sicily; then
he went through Albania and Illyria, travelled through the Morea,
stopping at Thebes, Athens, Delphi and Constantinople. If we are to
believe his own words, he looked forward with dread to his return:--

    "Indeed, my prospects are not very pleasant. Embarrassed in
    my private affairs, indifferent to public, solitary without
    the wish to be social, with a body a little enfeebled by a
    succession of fevers, but a spirit, I trust, yet unbroken,
    I am returning _home_ without a hope, and almost without
    a desire. The first thing I shall have to encounter will
    be a lawyer, the next a creditor, then colliers, farmers,
    surveyors, and all the agreeable attachments to estates out
    of repair, and contested coal-pits. In short, I am sick and
    sorry, and when I have a little repaired my irreparable
    affairs, away I shall march, either to campaign in Spain, or
    back again to the East, where I can at least have cloudless
    skies and a cessation from impertinence."


The writer of the above was barely twenty-four years of age, he bore
one of the oldest names in the British Isles, he was a peer of England
and was to become the leading poet of his time!

The first canto of _Childe Harold_ was to reveal him in the latter
capacity, and he sold his poem for two hundred pounds sterling.

His mother died suddenly in Scotland two months after his return, in
1811.

"One day," said Lord Byron, "I heard she was ill; the next, I learnt
that she was dead!"

Nor was this all. Almost at the same time his two best friends,
Wingfield and Matthews, both died.

Byron wrote to Mr. Davies:--

    "Some curse hangs over me and mine. My mother lies a corpse
    in this house; one of my best friends is drowned in a ditch.
    What can I say, or think, or do? Come to me. I am almost
    desolate--left almost alone in the world."


We find traces of these sorrows at the close of the second canto of
_Childe Harold_:--

    "All thou couldst have of mine, stern Death! thou hast;
    The parent, friend, and now the more than friend;
    Ne'er yet for one thine arrows flew so fast,
    And grief with grief continuing still to blend,
    Hath snatch'd the little joy that life had yet to lend.

    What is the worst of woes that wait on age?
    What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?
    To view each loved one blotted from life's page,
    And be alone on earth, as I am now.
    Before the Chastener humbly let me bow,
    O'er hearts divided and o'er hopes destroyed:
    Roll on, vain days! full reckless may ye flow,
    Since Time hath reft whate'er my soul enjoy'd,
    And with the ills of Eld mine earlier years alloy'd."

Byron rejoiced greatly in the success that had greeted the first canto
of his _Childe Harold_; the second was composed after his return to
England, as the stanza upon his mother's death proves.

Even the _Edinburgh Review_ made amends for its mistake in denying that
the author of _Hours of Idleness_ had a vocation for poetry.

"Lord Byron," the Scottish critics now remarked, "has improved much
since we last had his work under review. This new volume is full
of originality and talent; the author herein makes amends for the
literary sins of his youth, and does more, for he promises to give us
better work still."

Lord Byron received £600 for the first two cantos of _Childe Harold_,
and so great was its success that, for the third part, he was paid
£1575, and for the fourth £2100. It was said then, and with some truth,
that he sold his poems at the rate of a guinea a line.

With success came popularity. All the world wanted to see this poet who
had appeared suddenly among them like a brilliant meteor, lighting up
the darkness of the night, and to buy his works. They beheld his face
and saw that he was beautiful; they uttered his name and remembered
that, by his father, he came of an illustrious race, and, by his
mother, being descended from Jane Stuart, daughter of James II. of
Scotland, he had royal blood in his veins. He had said in his poem that
he had seen everything worth seeing and was bored with it all, that
he had committed all kinds of sins and even crimes; he had said--a
most extraordinary confession for a poet of only twenty-five years
of age--that he could not fall in love with even the most beautiful
of women London had to show. _Those pale and languid flowers of the
Norths_, as he called them, vowed, in their turn, to make him break his
oath.

It was not a difficult matter for those who knew Lord Byron; many
succeeded without much effort; Lady Caroline Lamb succeeded best of
all. She was the daughter of the Earl of Bamborough, and had married,
in 1805, William Lamb, second son of Lord Melbourne.

Byron fell madly in love with her, and offered to run away with her;
but she declined. What was the cause of the bitter rupture between them
that ended in Lady Lamb writing the novel called _Glenarvon_ against
her former lover, and in his treating her with great disdain throughout
the remainder of his life? We should probably have found an answer to
these questions in the Memoirs of Lord Byron that Thomas Moore burnt.
Who knows? perhaps he burnt them on account of that episode. After
this quarrel, Byron earned a reputation for being a dandy; he became
the fashionable frequenter of watering-places and of aristocratic
assemblies. But this kind of life ended as it was sure to do, in
weariness and in disgust; and on 27 February 1814 the poet wrote:--

    "Here I am, alone, instead of dining at Lord H.'s, where I
    was asked,--but not inclined to go anywhere. Hobhouse says I
    am growing a _loup garou_,--a solitary hobgoblin. True:--'I
    am myself alone.'"


A strange idea next took hold of the misanthrope, of the poet whose
inspirations had run dry, of the man of many dissipations: he would
marry and settle down. He had exhausted every pleasure youth could
give; he aspired to something fresh, no matter even if it meant misery.
This unknown and painful experience Lady Byron had in store for him.
But the strangest thing was that he wished to marry for the sake of
getting married, and not for the sake of the woman. He, who had once
betted fifty pounds with Mr. Hay that he would never marry, was in such
a hurry to marry that he did not mind who the lady was.

He discussed his intention with Lady Melbourne, and Lady Melbourne
proposed a young lady whom Byron did not know; Byron suggested Miss
Milbanke.

"You are wrong," said Lady Melbourne, "and for two reasons: first,
because you have need of money and Miss Milbanke could only bring you
ten thousand pounds; and in the second place, because you want a wife
who will admire you, and Miss Milbanke admires no one but herself."

"Well, then," said Lord Byron, "what is the name of your young lady?"

Lady Melbourne mentioned her name, and Byron at once wrote to her
parents, who sent him a refusal.

"Good!" said Byron. "You now see that Miss Milbanke is to be my wife."
And he sat down at once and wrote to Miss Milbanke to make known his
wishes to her.

But Lady Melbourne did not mean matters to end thus; she snatched the
letter out of Byron's hands when he had finished it and took it to the
window to read, while Byron remained quietly in his seat. When she had
read it, she said, "Well, I must admit this is a very pretty letter; it
is a pity it should not go."

"Then give it me," said Byron, "and I will seal it and send it off."

Lady Melbourne gave the letter back to Byron, and he sealed it and saw
that it reached its address.

He was married on 2 January 1815, from Sir Ralph Milbanke's house. He
sent the fifty pounds to Mr. Hay the same day, without waiting till he
was asked for the money.

Exactly a month later, he wrote:--

                                          _"Feb._ 2, 1815

    "The treacle-moon is over, and I am awake, and find myself
    married. Swift says, 'No _wise_ man ever married'; but, for
    a fool, I think it is the most ambrosial of all possible
    future states."


The honeymoon was spent at Sir Ralph Milbanke's house; after that, the
young couple went to their house in Piccadilly. But here the worries
of housekeeping overtook them. Miss Milbanke's £10,000 dowry had only
served to irritate Lord Byron's creditors. Creditors only rest quietly
whilst nothing at all is given them, for then they are in despair; but
partial payment rouses them to fury. Urged on by the £10,000 they had
secured, the duns did not give the young couple a moment's peace; in
proportion as these annoyances increased, the relations between the
husband and wife grew colder and more distant. Then, when her husband
was at his unhappiest, and only saved from imprisonment through being
a peer of the realm, Lady Byron left London under cover of a visit
to her father. Their farewell parting was, conventionally speaking,
quite affectionate, and they agreed to meet in a month's time. During
her journey, Lady Byron wrote quite a tender letter to her husband;
then, one morning, Lord Byron learnt from his father-in-law, Sir Ralph
Milbanke, that he must not expect ever to see his wife and his daughter
again.

What was the reason for this sudden separation, which, in spite of
all Byron's protests, ended in a divorce? The poet put it down to the
influence of an old governess of Lady Byron, Mrs. Clermont, against
whom he launched that terrible satire entitled "A Sketch," and this
epigram and apostrophe from the the Moor to Iago:

                                   "Honest, honest Iago!
    If that thou be'st a devil, I cannot kill thee."

which begins with these lines:--

    "Born in the garret, in the kitchen bred,
    Promoted thence to deck her mistress' head;
    Next--for some gracions service unexpress'd,
    And from its wages only to be guess'd--
    Raised from the toilette to the table,--where
    Her wondering betters wait behind her chair.
    With eye unmoved, and forehead unabash'd,
    She dines from off the plate she lately wash'd."

Immediately a tremendous clamour arose in the papers and in society
against the poet who, by force of genius, had already overcome those of
his opposers who might be termed the first coalition against him.

It is ever the case with men in high places who are before the eye of
the public: tempests arise unexpectedly, the existence of which is
not suspected by the victim till they burst over his head. They may
be compared with waterspouts, and they pour down on the poet, be he
a Schiller or a Dante, an Ovid or a Byron, utterly overwhelming him,
rending his heart and body, tearing down his fame, overturning his
reputation, uprooting his honour. These storms come from the enmities,
hatred and jealousies roused by his genius; they are the hyenas that
dog his steps through the darkness, who dare not attack him while
he can stand firm and upright, but which spring on him directly he
totters, and devour him as soon as he falls.

Byron realised he would have to give way before his enemies; so he
left England, meaning to rally his forces amidst the undisturbing
surroundings of foreign lands, for some means of revenging himself
upon them. He left England on 25 April 1816. He had published during
his six years in London, the first two cantos of _Childe Harold_, _The
Giaour_, _The Bride of Abydos_, _The Siege of Corinth_, _Lara_ and _The
Corsair._

He departed, and his saddest regrets were for the wife who had exiled
him, and for the daughter whom he had hardly seen, and whom he was
never to look upon again.

    "Fare thee well! and if for ever.
      Still for ever, fare thee well:
    Even though unforgiving, never
      'Gainst thee shall my heart rebel.

    Would that breast were bared before thee
      Where thy head so oft hath lain,
    While that placid sleep came o'er thee
      Which thou ne'er canst know again:
        .    .    .    .    .    .    .
    Both shall live, but every morrow
      Wake us from a widow'd bed.
        .    .    .    .    .    .    .
    And when thou wouldst solace gather,
      When our child's first accents flow,
    Wilt thou teach her to say 'Father!'
      Though his care she must forego?

    When her little hands shall press thee,
      When her lip to thine is press'd,
    Think of him whose prayer shall bless thee,
      Think of him thy love had bless'd!

    Should her lineaments resemble
      Those thou never more may'st see,
    Then thy heart will softly tremble
      With a pulse yet true to me."

This was to the mother: then, in _Childe Harold_, he addresses his
child:--

      "Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child!
      Ada, sole daughter of my house and heart?
      When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled,
      And then we parted,--not as now we part,
      But with a hope.--
          .    .    .    .    .    .    .
      My daughter! with thy name this song begun;
      My daughter! with thy name thus much shall end;
      I see thee not, I hear thee not, but none
      Can be so wrapt in thee; thou art the friend
      To whom the shadows of far years extend:
      Albeit my brow thou never shouldst behold,
      My voice shall with thy future visions blend,
      And reach into thy heart, when mine is cold,
    A token and a tone, even from thy father's mould.

      To aid thy mind's development, to watch
      Thy dawn of little joys, to sit and see
      Almost thy very growth, to view thee catch
      Knowledge of objects,--wonders yet to thee!
      To hold thee lightly on a gentle knee,
      And print on thy soft cheek a parent's kiss,--
      This, it should seem, was not reserved for me;
      Yet this was in my nature: as it is,
    I know not what is there, yet something like to this.

      Yet, though dull Hate as duty should be taught,
      I know that thou wilt love me; though my name
      Should be shut from thee, as a spell still fraught
      With desolation, and a broken claim:
      Though the grave closed between us,--'twere the same,
      I know that thou wilt love me; though to drain
      _My_ blood from out thy being were an aim,
      And an attainment,--all would be in vain,--
    Still thou wouldst love me, still that more than life retain.

      The child of love, though born in bitterness,
      And nurtured in convulsion. Of thy sire
      These were the elements, and thine no less.
      As yet such are around thee, but thy fire
      Shall be more temper'd, and thy hope far higher.
      Sweet be thy cradled slumbers! O'er the sea
      And from the mountains where I now respire,
      Fain would I waft such blessing upon thee,
    As, with a sigh, I deem thou might'st have been to me."

"Ah!" remarked Madame de Staël (the poor exile who, standing by
the Lake of Geneva, sighed for the gutter that ran in the rue du
Bac),--"ah! I would not mind being unhappy if I were Lady Byron, to
have inspired such lines as those in my husband's brain!"

May be; but Lord Byron and Madame de Staël would have made an
extraordinary couple, and no mistake.

Byron was not in such a hurry to travel far afield this time; perhaps
he only wanted to stretch the double cord that bound him to England,
and not to snap it altogether.

He landed in Belgium, visited the field of Waterloo, still wet with the
blood of three nations; sailed down the Rhine and settled for a time
on the borders of the Lake of Geneva. Here it was that he met Madame
de Staël, who was almost as much of an exile under the Restoration as
under the Empire. "My greatest pleasure amidst the magnificent pictures
round Lake Geneva was to gaze upon the author of _Corinne_."

At Diodati, Byron renewed his swimming feat of Abydos by crossing the
Lake of Geneva where it is four leagues wide. And it was at Diodati
that he wrote the third canto of _Childe Harold_, _The Prisoner of
Chillon_ and _Manfred._ Goethe in a German journal laid claim to the
original idea of _Manfred_, as though _Manfred_ did not descend as
directly from Satan as _Faust_ had from Polichinelle! O thou poor rich
man! with all thy European fame and thy world-wide reputation, wouldst
thou snatch back the leaf that thy brother-poet so sinfully plucked
from thy laurel crown!

Can we not almost hear what D'Alembert said of the author of _Zaïre_
and of the _Dictionnaire philosophique_:--

"This man is past comprehending! he has fame that would satisfy a
million of men, and yet he wants another ha'porth."

Byron took his revenge by dedicating some of his poems to Goethe.

Byron left for Italy in the month of October, stopping first at Milan
to visit the Ambrosian Library. His next halt was at Verona, where
he saw the tomb of Juliet; and, finally, he took up his residence in
Venice, where his name became a household word.

Venice had never possessed any horses except the four bronze ones which
had figured for twelve years on top of Carrousel's triumphal arch. But
Byron never walked, and he was therefore the first person whose living
horses clattered in the Square of Saint Mark, on the quai des Esclavons
and on the banks of the Brenta.

It was in Venice that the real romance of his life began. Here he had
three love affairs, each in a different rank of Venetian society: with
Marguerite, Marianne and ... Alas! the most faithless of the three was
the great lady who shall be nameless--she whom Byron loved more than
all, perhaps, more than Miss Chaworth, more than Caroline Lamb.

It is curious to think that this lady, even at this day, thirty-three
years after the time of which I am writing, is still a fascinating
woman. I made her acquaintance in Rome when she was in the full bloom
of her beauty, when she was almost as wonderful to listen to as to look
at, to hear as to see.

She lived solely upon the memories of the great poet whom she had
loved. It seemed as though the years of their love constituted the
one bright spot in her life, and in looking back the obscurity that
formed the rest of her life was ignored by her. But if I began to speak
of her, I should have to reveal her name; I should have to speak of
the walks we had together by moonlight in the Forum and the Coliseum;
I should have to repeat what she told me among the shadows of those
great ruins, when she never spoke but of the illustrious dead, who had
trodden with her the same stones that we were treading and had sat by
her side in the same places where we rested.

Oh! madam, madam! Why were you unfaithful to the poet's memory, when
your memories of him had gone on increasing in strength, aided by his
death, until you had magnified your love into a god? Why was not the
honour of having been Byron's mistress quite sufficient, instead of
taking any title that a husband, no matter how distinguished he might
be, could give you?

If I might only venture to repeat here what Déjazet once said to
Georges, with reference to Napoleon!

It is true that Byron, with all his fancies and eccentricities and
passions, cannot have been a very pleasant lover. But she should have
been faithless to him when he was alive, and not after he was dead.

The world has forgiven the Empress Joséphine her infidelities in the
Tuileries, but it will never forgive Marie-Louise, the widow, her
faithlessness at Parma.

We will not say any more, madam; we will think, instead, of the poems
Byron wrote at Venice. Here he composed _Marino Faliero_, _The Two
Foscari_, _Sardanapalus_, _Cain_, _The Prophecy of Dante_ and the third
and fourth cantos of _Don Juan._

When Naples rebelled in 1820 and 1821, Byron wrote to the Neapolitan
Government and offered his purse and his sword. So, when reaction set
in, and Ferdinand returned a second time from Sicily, and the lists
of proscribed persons were published throughout Italy, it was feared
Byron's name might be of the number of exiles. Then it happened that
the poor people of Ravenna drew up a petition to the cardinal praying
he might be allowed to stay among them.

This man who boldly and openly offered the Neapolitans a thousand louis
was a never failing source of helpfulness to the poor of Venice and
its surrounding countryside; no poor man ever held out a hand towards
him and drew it back empty, even if Byron himself were in the greatest
straits, and more than once he had to borrow in order to give. He knew
this but too well when he said, "Those who have persecuted me so long
and so cruelly will triumph, and justice will only be done to me when
this hand is as cold as their hearts."

Thus, wherever he went, he left an impression as of fire,--he dazzled,
warmed or scorched.

In 1821, Byron left Venice, in whose streets no one had ever seen him
on foot; the Brenta, upon whose banks no one had ever seen him take a
walk; the Square of St. Mark, whose beauties he had never contemplated
except from a window, for fear of revealing to the beauties of Venice
the slight deformity of his leg, which not even the width of his
trousers could disguise.

From Venice he went to Pisa. There the news of two fresh troubles
awaited him: the death of his natural daughter by an English woman,
and the death of his friend Shelley, who was drowned during a sailing
trip from Livorno to Lerici. He sent his daughter's body to England for
burial.

To save the body of his friend Shelley from the attentions Italian
priests would no doubt have given it, he determined to have it burnt
after the custom of the ancients.

Trelawney, the bold pirate, was present, and relates the strange
funeral rites, as he relates his lion hunt or his fight with the Malay
prince. He was a companion worthy of the noble poet, and was himself
a poet; his book is full of marvellous descriptions, all the more
wonderful because they are always true, although sounding incredible.

"We were on the seashore," said Trelawney; "in front of us lay the sea
and its islands, behind us the Apennines, and by our side was the great
blazing funeral-pyre. The flames, fanned by the wind from the sea,
took a thousand fantastic shapes. The weather was very fine; the lazy
waves from the Mediterranean gently kissed the shore, the sands were
golden yellow and contrasted sharply with the deep blue of the sky; the
mountains lifted their snowy crests up into the clouds, and the flames
from the pyre steadily burnt higher and higher into the air."

From Pisa Byron went to Genoa. It was in this city--once the Queen of
the Mediterranean--that he conceived the idea of going to Greece, to
do for that "Niobe of the Nations," as he called her, the same offices
Naples had not thought fit to accept when offered to her.

So far, Byron had devoted himself mainly to individuals; now he
intended to devote himself to a people.

In the month of April 1823 he entered into communication with the Greek
Committee, and towards the end of July he left Italy. His reputation
had increased extraordinarily, not only in Italy, France and Germany,
but in England too.

One fact will give some idea of the height to which his reputation had
attained.

An insurrection had broken out in Scotland in the county where his
mother's property was situated. The rebels had to cross Lady Byron's
estates to reach their destination, but on the confines of the property
they paused and decided to cross in single file, so as only to tread
down a narrow path in the crops. They did not take the same precaution
on other estates, which they completely devastated.

Byron often related this incident with pride.

"See," he said, "how the hatred of my enemies is being avenged."

Before he left Italy he wrote on the margin of a book that had been
lent him--

"If all that is said of me be true, I am unworthy to see England again;
if all they say of me is false, England does not deserve to see me
again."

But he had a presentiment that he had left his native land for ever;
and Lady Blessington told me herself that, when she met Byron at Genoa,
the day before he was to set sail, he said to her--

"We have met again to-day, but to-morrow we shall be separated, who
knows for how long? Something here (and he laid his hand on his heart)
tells me that we are meeting for the last time; I am going to Greece,
and shall never return from it."

Towards the end of December Byron landed in Morea, and, a few days
later, he made his way into the town, in spite of the Turkish flotilla
that was besieging Missolonghi. He was greeted with enthusiastic shouts
by the people, who led him in triumph to the house they had got ready
for him.

When established there, Byron's whole soul was concentrated in the one
desire to see the triumph of the cause he had espoused, or to die in
defending a fresh Thermopylæ. Neither of these hopes was to be granted
him. He was seized by a violent attack of fever on 15 February 1824,
which ran its course rapidly, caused him much suffering and weakened
him greatly. But as soon as he was sufficiently recovered he resumed
the daily rides on horseback which were his greatest recreation. On
9 April he got very wet when out riding, and although he changed
everything on his return home, he felt ill, for he had been more than
two hours in his wet clothes. During the night there was a slight
return of the fever, although he slept well; but about eleven o'clock
on the morning of the 10th he complained of a violent pain in the head
and of suffering in his arms and legs; nevertheless, he managed to
mount his horse in the afternoon. His old servant, Fletcher, from whose
account we shall now borrow the final details, waited for his return.

"How have you got on, my lord?" he asked.

"The saddle was not dry," replied Byron, "and I am afraid the dampness
has made me ill again."

And indeed it was plain to see next morning that Byron's indisposition
had become more serious: he had been feverish all night, and seemed
very depressed. Fletcher made him a cup of arrowroot; he tasted a few
spoonfuls, then he handed the drink back to the old servant.

"It is excellent," he said, "but I cannot drink any more of it."

On the third day Fletcher grew seriously uneasy about him. During all
his other rheumatic attacks his master had never been sleepless, but
this time he could not sleep at all.

So he went to the two doctors in the town, Drs. Bruno and Millingen,
and asked them several questions as to the nature of the illness from
which they thought Lord Byron was suffering. Both assured the old valet
that he need not be alarmed, that his master was in no danger, but that
in two or three days he would be up again, and then, they said, the
attack would not return again. This was on the 13th. On the 14th, as
the fever had not left his master and the invalid still had no sleep,
Fletcher begged Byron, in spite of the assurance of the two doctors,
to let him send for Dr. Thomas, from Zante.

"Consult the two doctors," the sick man replied, "and act as they
direct."

Fletcher obeyed, and the two doctors said that there was not any
necessity for a third opinion. Fletcher brought back this answer to his
master, who shook his head and said--

"I am much afraid they do not know anything at all about my illness."

"In that case, my lord," Fletcher insisted, "do call in another doctor."

"They tell me," Byron continued, without replying directly to Fletcher,
"that it is a chill such as I have had before."

"But I am sure, my lord, you have never had such a serious one before,"
replied the valet.

"I agree with you," was Byron's reply; and he fell into a reverie from
which no amount of persuasion could arouse him.

On the 15th, Fletcher, whose faithful devotion divined the real
condition of his master, again asked permission to be allowed to fetch
Dr. Thomas; but the doctors of Missolonghi still persisted there was
no cause for alarm. Until now, they had treated their patient with
purgatives, which, as Byron had only taken a cup or two of broth during
eight days, were much too strong remedies and could not have any
desirable effect. They but increased the weakness, which was already
extreme because of want of sleep.

On the evening of the 15th, however, the doctors began to be uneasy,
and talked of bleeding their patient; but he strenuously opposed this,
asking Dr. Millingen if he thought the need for bleeding was urgent.
The doctor replied that he believed he could put it off, without
danger, until next day. So, on the evening of the 16th, they bled Byron
in the right arm, taking sixteen ounces of greatly inflamed blood out
of him. Dr. Bruno shook his head as he examined the blood.

"I always told him he ought to be bled," he murmured, "but he would
never let it be done."

Then the doctors fell into a lengthy dispute over the time lost.

Again Fletcher proposed to send to Zante for Dr. Thomas, but the
doctors replied--

"It would be useless; before he could get here, your master will be
either out of danger or dead."

In the meantime the disease grew worse, and Dr. Bruno advised a second
bleeding. Fletcher broke it to his master that the two doctors deemed
another bleeding indispensable, and this time Lord Byron did not make
any resistance; he held out his arm and said--

"Here is my arm: they may do what they wish." Then he added, "Did I not
tell you, Fletcher, that they do not understand anything at all about
my illness!"

Byron grew weaker and weaker. On the 17th, they bled him in the
morning, and twice again in the afternoon of the same day. He fainted
away after each bleeding, and from that day he himself gave up all hope.

"I cannot sleep," he said to Fletcher, "and you know that I have not
had any sleep for a week; now, it is a fact that a man cannot live
without sleep for any length of time; after a time he goes mad, and
nothing can save him. I would rather blow my brains out ten times than
go mad. I am not afraid of death, I shall watch its approach with more
composure than people would believe."

On the 18th, Byron was perfectly satisfied of his approaching end.

"I fear," he said to Fletcher, "that Tita and you will both fall ill
with nursing me like this, day and night."

Still, both refused to take any rest. Fletcher had been wise enough to
take away his master's pistols and dagger out of his reach, ever since
the 16th, when he saw that the fever was likely to produce delirium.

On the 18th, he repeated several times that the Missolonghi doctors did
not understand his case at all.

"Well, then," Fletcher replied for the tenth time, "let me go and fetch
Dr. Thomas from Zante."

"No, do not go.... Send for him, Fletcher, but be quick about it."

Fletcher did not lose a second in despatching a messenger, and then he
informed the two doctors that he had just sent for Dr. Thomas.

"You were quite right," said they, "for we have ourselves begun to feel
very anxious."

On re-entering his master's room, Byron said to Fletcher--

"Well, have you sent?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Good! I wish to know what is the matter with me."

A few moments later, he was seized with a fresh attack of delirium, and
when he recovered consciousness, he remarked--

"I begin to believe I am seriously ill. If I am to die sooner than I
expected, I desire to give you some instructions. Will you be sure to
carry them out for me?"

"Oh, my lord, you can be sure of my faithfulness," the valet replied;
"but you will live for long enough yet, I hope, and be able to attend
to your own affairs."

"No," said Byron, shaking his head; "no, the end has come.... I must
tell you everything, Fletcher, and without a moment's loss of time."

"Shall I fetch pen and ink and paper, my lord?" asked the valet.

"Oh no; we should waste too much time, and we have none to lose. Pay
attention."

"I am listening, my lord."

"Your future is assured."

"Oh! my lord," cried the poor valet, bursting into tears, "I entreat
you to think of more important matters."

"My child!" murmured the dying man, "my dear daughter, my poor Ada, if
I could but have seen her! Take her my blessing, Fletcher; also to my
sister Augusta and to her children.... You must take it, too, to Lady
Byron.... Tell her ... tell her everything ... you stand well in her
estimation...."

The dying man's voice failed him, and, although he made efforts
to continue speaking, the valet could only make out disjointed
expressions, from which, with the greatest difficulty, he gathered the
following:--

"Fletcher ... if you do not carry out ... the orders I have given you
... I will haunt you ... if God will let me...."

"But, my lord," cried the valet in despair, "I have not been able to
hear a word of what you have been saying to me."

"Oh! my God, my God!" whispered Byron, "then it is now too late....
Have you really not heard me?"

"No, my lord; but try again to make me understand your wishes."

"Impossible!... impossible!" murmured the dying man; "it is too late
... all is over ... and yet ... come close, come close, Fletcher ... I
will try again."

And he renewed his attempts, but all was in vain; he could only utter
a few broken words, such as, "My wife!... my child ... my sister. You
know all ... you will tell them everything ... you know my wishes."

Nothing more was intelligible.

This was at midday on the 18th. The doctors held a fresh consultation,
and decided to give the patient quinine in wine.

He had only taken, as I have said, a little broth and two spoonfuls of
arrowroot for eight days. He took the quinine, and showed by signs that
he wanted to sleep; he did not speak again unless questioned.

"Would you like me to fetch Mr. Parry?" Fletcher asked him.

"Yes, go and fetch him," he replied.

A moment later, the valet returned with him. Mr. Parry leant over his
bed, and Byron became excited as he recognised him.

"Lie quite quiet," said Mr. Parry; and the invalid shed a few tears and
then seemed to fall asleep.

This was the beginning of a state of coma that lasted nearly
twenty-four hours.

Then, towards eight in the evening, he roused, and Fletcher heard him
say, "And now I must go to sleep...."

They were the last words he uttered. His head fell back motionless on
his pillow. He never moved for twenty-four hours; there were occasional
spasms of suffocation and a raucous sound in his breathing: that was
all. Fletcher called Tita to help him raise the head of the invalid,
who seemed quite numbed, and the two servants raised his head every
time the signs of suffocation returned.

This lasted until the 19th, when, at six in the evening, Byron opened
and closed his eyes without any sign of pain and without moving any
other part of his body.

"Oh! my God," cried Fletcher, "I think my lord has breathed his last!"

The doctors came near and felt his pulse.

"You are right," said they; "he is dead!...."

On 22 April, Byron's remains were taken to the church where Marco
Bozariz and General Normann lie buried. The body was enclosed in a
rough wooden coffin; it was covered by a black mantle, and on the
mantle they placed a helmet, a sword and a wreath of laurels.

Byron had expressed a wish that his body should be buried in his native
land; but the Greeks asked to be allowed to keep his heart, and those
who had cruelly made that heart bleed when he was alive, gave it up
when he was dead.

His daughter Ada, whom I have since seen in Florence, was declared
the adopted daughter of Greece. I do not know whether King Otho I.
remembered this fact when he came to the throne.



CHAPTER IV


Usurped celebrity--M. Lemercier and his works--Racan's white hare-_Le
Fiesque_ by M. Ancelot--The Romantic artists--Scheffer--Delacroix
--Sigalon--Schnetz--Coigniet--Boulanger--Géricault--_La Méduse_ in the
artist's studio--Lord Byron's funeral obsequies in England--Sheridan's
body claimed for debt


While Lord Byron's body was being carried from Missolonghi to England,
the literary movement in France was steadily progressing. M. Liadière
and M. Lemercier each did their best in grappling with Shakespeare
and Rowe, each produced _Jane Shore_; M. Liadière at the Odéon on
2 April, and M. Lemercier at the Théâtre-Français on the 1st. M.
Liadière's production just managed to pay its way, while M. Lemercier's
was a failure, in spite of Talma, who played two parts in it--those
of Gloucester and a beggar. Talma was wonderful in this play, poor
though it was. In it he attempted what was in those days looked upon
as a very extraordinary thing. He, a man of fine presence, graceful in
bearing, full of poetry, lofty in mind and eloquent, played the part of
the hunchbacked cripple Richard. The way he managed to make his right
shoulder look higher than his left and his arm appear paralysed was a
miracle of skill, and the denunciatory scene was a miracle of talent.
But nothing could save such a wretched piece. It is now high time some
undeserved reputations, supported by fine coteries and associations of
intrigue and shuffling, should be shown in their true light.

For instance, there is the author of _Agamemnon_ and of _Pinto_,--he
did not deserve a quarter of the reputation he received. _Agamemnon_
is a dull, lifeless play, devoid of poetic feeling, sense, rhythm and
style; what is it compared with the _Orestes_ of Æschylus? _Pinto_ is a
drama of the school of Beaumarchais, the worst type of dramatic school
I know; the play would have died a natural death at the end of eight or
ten representations if the Imperial Censor had not been so stupid as
to attempt to stifle it. The persecution accorded to _Pinto_ gave it
a species of celebrity, but, let it be played nowadays and one would
soon see the worthlessness of the imitation of Æschylus and Seneca, the
so-called original creation. And yet these two plays were the author's
principal works.

Try, too, to read a number of other tragedies and dramas and poems that
have fallen, buried beneath the cat-calls, laughter and hootings of the
public! Try to read _Méléagre_ or _Lovelace_ or _le Lévite d'Éphraïm_;
then, when you have thrown these first three works of the same author
aside, and feel sufficiently recovered and can breathe freely once
more, take up the task again and try to read _Ophis, Plaute_ or _la
Comédie latine, Baudouin, Christophe Colomb, Charlemagne, Saint
Louis, la Démence de Charles VI., Frédegonde and Brunehaut_, which
Mademoiselle Rachel for some unknown purpose drew from the tomb, and
galvanised three or four times without being able to bring back to
life. Then, what else? Stay...we should be lost on the battlefield,
among the productions that did not even linger wounded, but fell
stark dead--_Camille_ and _le Masque de poix_, and _Cahin-Caha_ and
_la Panhypocrisiade_: folly succeeding mediocrity; sheer nonsense and
balderdash.

And yet, although wounded by these rebuffs and completely maimed
by his falls, M. Lemercier sat quietly on in his arm-chair in the
Palais Mazarin--as did his colleagues, M. Droz, M. Briffaut, and M.
Lebrun, one trying to make people forget that he had written a little
volume on _Bonheur_, another that he had perpetrated a tragedy called
_Minus II._, and the third, that he had missed fire in his _le Cid
d'Andalousie_ and mangled Schiller's _Maria Stuart_--he need not
have troubled to say anything, the world would have let him sleep as
quietly in his tomb as the spectators had fain have slept at the
performance of his pieces, if hissing had never been invented. But
nothing of the kind happened! When M. Lemercier perceived the literary
movement of 1829 he cried out at the sacrilege, want of good taste
and scandal of the thing; he signed petitions to the king to have
the representation of _Henri III._ and of _Marion Delorme_ stopped;
he barred the entrance to the Academy when Lamartine and Victor Hugo
endeavoured to gain an entrance; he set the Archbishop of Paris against
the one and produced a M. Flourens to checkmate the other; he recovered
the use of his legs sufficiently to run about collecting votes against
them, and the use of his right hand to turn the lock against them.
Thank Heaven I had very little to do with this wicked little cur,
neither have I had any personal quarrel with him, as I have never had
any dealings with the Academy; but since someone must rise up and speak
for justice I claim the privilege of being the first to set the example.

When M. Flourens was nominated in place of Hugo, I was passing through
the green-room of the Théâtre-Français. I forget what the new play
was, but M. Lemercier was holding forth there against the author of
_Notre-Dame de Paris_ and of _Marion Delorme_ and the _Orientales_,
just as he had opposed him all day long, silently, in the Academy. I
listened to his diatribe for a few minutes, then, shaking my head, I
said to him--

"Monsieur Lemercier, you have refused your vote to Victor Hugo; but
there is one thing you will some day be compelled to yield him, and
that is your own place. Take care lest, instead of the ill-natured
things you are saying against him here, he be not obliged to say a kind
word for you some day to the Academy."

And it happened just as I had predicted. It was no easy matter to
praise Lemercier, but Hugo accomplished the matter by describing the
period instead of speaking of the man, by referring to the emperor
rather than to the poet.

"Have you read my speech?" Hugo asked me the day after he had made it.

"Yes."

"Well, what do you think of it?"

"I think you read as though you had just succeeded Bonaparte as a
member of the Institute, instead of M. Lemercier as a member of the
Academy."

"The deuce! I would much rather have seen you there than myself. How
would you have got out of it?"

"As Racan did, by saying my big white rabbit had eaten my speech."

Racan, it will be remembered, once presented himself before the Academy
with the scraps of a speech he had meant to read.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I had prepared a splendid speech, which could
not fail to have won your suffrages; but my big white rabbit gobbled it
up this morning.... I have brought you the remains, and you must try to
make the best you can of them!"

"Ah! indeed," replied Hugo; "I could have done that, but it never
occurred to me."

M. Liadière's _Jane Shore_ did for Mademoiselle Georges what M.
Lemercier's _Jane Shore_ had done for Talma. It was, besides, the first
attempt Mademoiselle Georges had made in Shakespearean drama: she led
up to it in _Christine_ and in _Lucrèce Borgia._

It was the age of limitations; no one was strong enough to be original.
They had to look for fresh things across the frontier; they sought
admission to the theatres on the shoulders of Rowe or Schiller: if they
were successful, they quietly put the German or English author outside;
if they came a cropper, they fell on him, and it broke the shock of
their fall.

After M. Liadière's production of _Jane Shore_, the Odéon presented
M. Ancelot's _Fiesque._ But M. Ancelot was a purist: he never for one
moment supposed that Schiller's _Fiesque_ could be presented complete
as in the German play; therefore he entirely and discreetly suppressed
the character of the Moor.

Can you imagine _Fiesque_ shorn of the Moor! without the Moor! the main
peg on which the drama is hung! Without the Moor! the character for
which Schiller constructed his play! When shall we have a law which,
whilst permitting translation, will forbid mutilation? The Italians
have no law affecting translators; but they have a proverb as short as
it is expressive, as concise as it is true, "_Traduttore, traditore._"

Meanwhile, the Romantic school, although still shy in theatrical and
literary circles, was boldly invading other branches of art.

M. Thiers, in history, had published his _Révolution française_,
and Botta his _Histoire d'Italie_; M. de Barante was producing his
excellent _Chronique des ducs de Bourgogne_, a work full of knowledge
and brilliancy, which justly, this time, though accidentally, opened
the Academy doors to its author. But the struggle was more noticeable
in painting. David dead and Girodet just dead, their successors were
such men as Scheffer, Delacroix, Sigalon, Schnetz, Coigniet, Boulanger
and Géricault. The works of this galaxy of bold young artists adorned
the walls of the Salon of 1824. Scheffer hung his _Mort de Gaston de
Foix._ It was one of his first pictures, and rather gaudy in colouring,
but the face of the warrior kneeling at the head of Gaston stood out
most remarkably; Scheffer was the painter-poet, the best translator of
Goethe I know; he re-created a whole world of German characters, from
Mignon to the King of Thule, from Faust to Marguerite.

It was Scheffer who transferred to canvas Dante's great and exquisite
story of Francesca da Rimini, a conception which all dramatic poets
have failed to reproduce; Scheffer found time to join in every
conspiracy going, in Dermoncourt's, Caron's and la Fayette's, and yet
managed to become one of the finest painters France has ever produced.

Then there was Delacroix, whose _Massacre de Scio_ roused much
discussion among all schools of painters. Delacroix was doomed to be
pursued by fanatical ignoramuses and determined vilifiers, just as
was Hugo in literature; he had already become known though his _Dante
traversant le Styx_; and all his life he maintained the privilege--rare
among artists--of being able to arouse a storm of hatred and of
admiration upon the production of each fresh work. Delacroix is an
intellectual man, full of knowledge as well as imagination, but he has
one idiosyncrasy, he will persist in trying to become the colleague of
M. Picot and of M. Abel de Pujol, who, let us hope, will happily have
none of him.

Next comes Sigalon, with his rough, passionate Southern nature. His
picture, _Locuste faisant sur un esclave l'essai de ses poisons_, had
been recommended to the notice of M. Laffitte, and this banker patron
of art bought it, probably before he had seen it; when it was hung in
his salon, it terrified the bank clientèle and all the jobbers of the
money market. Everyone asked the future minister why he had bought such
a horrible picture, rather than one of Madame Haudebourg-Lescaut's or
Mademoiselle d'Hervilly's little gems. M. Laffitte was plagued to such
an extent that he sent for Sigalon and begged him to take back his
_Locuste_, which threatened to send the great ladies of the commercial
world into hysterics, imploring him to paint him something else in its
place.

Sigalon took back his _Locuste_, but I do not know what he gave in
exchange. Alas! Sigalon was among the number of those destined to
premature death. He was sent to Rome to copy Michael Angelo's _Last
Judgment_, and he had but just time to bequeath that great piece of
work to France, and to stretch out his arms towards his country, before
he died.

Schnetz had three pictures in the Salon of 1824--two great canvases
which might have been painted by anybody just as well as by himself,
and one of those _genre_ paintings in which he is inimitable. This
_genre_ painting was called _un Sixte-Quint enfant_, the subject being
a gipsy woman predicting he would become pope. The reader will guess
with what fidelity Schnetz succeeded in depicting in his canvas, six
foot high by four feet wide, an old fortune-teller, a shepherd lad and
a young Roman girl: the _Sixte-Quint_ was a masterpiece.

Coigniet's _le Massacre des Innocents_ was hung opposite the door, and
riveted attention directly people entered. It showed a woman crouching
down, disordered in appearance by a long journey, terror in her looks
and very pale, hiding herself, or rather hiding her child, in the
corner of a ruined wall, whilst the massacre was proceeding in the
distance. It was a fine piece of work, every detail of which, well
thought out, well executed, well painted, I can still recall, after
twenty-five years.

Boulanger had taken the subject of his painting from the works of the
famous poet who had just died. Mazeppa, captured, is being bound to a
wild horse, which is going to bear him away, heart-broken, fainting
and dying, to those new lands where a kingdom awaited him on his
awaking. The contortions of the strong young limbs as they struggled,
stiffening, against the villains who were lashing him to the back
of the savage beast, offered a marvellous contrast, not only in the
technical presentation of the flesh, which was quite excellent, but
even more so in the physical and moral suffering of Mazeppa as compared
with the callous strength of his executioners.

Finally, there was Géricault, who, although he was not represented
in that year's Salon, was talked about almost as much as those whose
pictures hung on its walls. And this was because the new school,
wanting a leader, felt that Géricault was the man, even although so far
he had only painted a few studies. He had just finished _le Hussard_
and _le Cuirassier_,--which the Musée lately bought back, on the
accession of King Louis-Philippe,--and he was finishing his _Méduse._
Poor Géricault! he too was to die, and to die miserably, after he
had done his _Méduse._ I saw him a week before his death. The reader
wonders how I became acquainted with Géricault? In the same way that
I became acquainted with Béranger and Manuel. At my weekly dinners
at M. Arnault's house, I often met Colonel Bro, a brave, excellent
soldier, to whom every thought of the army was dear, and who had been
friendly to me solely because I was the son of a general who served in
the Revolution. Of course Bro was opposed to the Bourbon Government.
He had a house in the rue des Martyrs, No. 23, and in that house there
lodged various people according to their varying fortunes--Manuel the
deputy who had been expelled from the Chamber, Béranger the poet and
Géricault. One day when we had been speaking of Géricault, who was
dying, Bro said to me--

"Come and see his picture _la Méduse_, and the painter himself, before
he dies, so that you can at least say you have seen one of the greatest
painters who ever lived."

I took care not to refuse, as will readily be believed, and the meeting
was arranged for the following day. You ask what Géricault died of?
Listen, and observe how, at every turn, fate seemed to put a cross
against his name. He possessed some fortune, an income of about twelve
thousand livres; he loved horses and painted them admirably. One day,
as he was mounting a horse, he noticed that the buckle of his breeches
belt had come off: he tied the two ends of the strap together and set
off at a gallop. His horse threw him, and the knot of the strap bruised
two vertebrae of the spinal cord as he fell. He was under treatment at
the time for a disease which settled in this place; the wound never
healed, and Géricault, the hope of a whole century, died of one of the
longest and most painful diseases there is--decay of the spine. When we
called upon him, he was busy drawing his left hand with his right.

"What on earth are you after, Géricault?" asked the colonel.

"You see, my dear fellow," said the dying man, "I am turning myself to
account. My right hand will never find a better anatomical study than
my left hand can offer it, and the egoist is taking advantage of the
fact."

And, indeed, so thin was Géricault that one could see the bones and the
muscles of his hand through the skin, as they are seen in plaster casts
used for models by art students.

"My dear friend," asked Bro, "how did you bear your operation
yesterday?"

"Very well ... it was a very curious experience. Just imagine, those
butchers were cutting me about for ten minutes."

"You must have suffered horribly."

"Not very much.... I thought of other things."

"What did you think about?"

"A picture."

"How was that?"

"It was very simple. I had the head of my bed turned to the glass,
so that, while the doctors were working at my back, I could see what
they were doing when I raised myself on my elbows. Ah! if I could but
recover, I swear I would make a noble sequel to André Vésale's study in
anatomy! Only, my anatomical study would be taken from a living man."

This was the very scene which, two years later, Talma rehearsed before
Adolphe and me, when he was in his bath.

Bro asked permission of the sick man for me to go upstairs and see his
_Méduse._

"Do what you like," said Géricault; "you are in your own house." And he
went on drawing his hand.

I stood a long time before the marvellous picture, although I was at
that time ignorant about art and unable to estimate it at its true
worth. As I left the studio, I stepped upon an overturned canvas. I
picked it up, looked at the right side of it and saw a wonderful head
of a fallen angel: I gave it to Bro.

"See," I said, "what I have found on the floor."

Bro went back to the sick man's room.

"Why, my dear fellow, you are mad, to leave such things as these lying
about on the floor."

"Do you know whose head that is?" Géricault asked laughingly.

"No."

"Well, my good friend, it is the head of your porter's son. He
came into my studio the other day, and I was so struck with the
possibilities of his face that I asked him to sit for me, and in ten
minutes I had done that study from it. Would you like to have it? Take
it."

"But if it is a study, you did it for an object."

"Yes, for the object of study itself. It will perhaps come in useful to
you some day."

"Some day, my dear Bro, is a far cry, and in the meantime much water
will have flowed under the bridges and many dead bodies will have been
taken through the gates of the cemetery Montmartre."

"Well! well!" said Bro.

"Take it, my friend, and keep it," Géricault replied; "if I ever want
it, I shall be able to find it at your house."

Then he bowed us adieu, and we left him; Bro bringing away his angel's
head. A week later, Géricault died, and his intimate friend and
executor, Dreux-d'Orcy, had the greatest difficulty in getting the
authorities of the Beaux-Arts to purchase _la Méduse_ for six thousand
francs--a canvas which is now considered one of the most valuable
possessions of the Musée. Yet the Government wanted it merely for the
purpose of cutting out five or six of the heads as studies for its
pupils to copy. Happily, De Dreux-d'Orcy stopped this sacrilege before
it got beyond its inception.

But I see I have forgotten to speak of Horace Vernet, of M. Ingres and
of Delaroche, each of whom deserves special mention. They shall receive
notice presently, but first one word more about Lord Byron.

On 5 July, the body of the noble lord reached London from Missolonghi.
It lay in a perforated shell steeped in a cask of spirits of wine.
When the body was taken ashore from the _Florida_, in which it had
been conveyed, the captain was going to throw this liquid overboard;
but now that Lord Byron was dead, even his own countrymen became his
worshippers, and these admirers begged the captain for the spirits
of wine in which Lord Byron's body had been preserved, offering a
louis a pint for it. The captain accepted the offer, and the sum thus
received was at the same rate per pint as, so it was said, the poet
had received per line. Two days after the arrival of the body, a
post-mortem examination was made, and the doctors, who really ought
to be able to find out a few things, discovered that Lord Byron had
died because he had refused to be bled. His body was laid in state,
but only those who had special tickets given them by his executor
were admitted; yet, in spite of this precaution, the crowd was so
great it was necessary to call in the aid of an armed force to keep
order. The spirits of wine had preserved the flesh well enough for
the poet to be still recognisable: his hands, especially, had kept
almost life-like in their beauty--those hands of which the eccentric
nobleman had taken such good care that, even when swimming, he had worn
gloves! His beautiful hair, of which he had been very proud, had become
nearly grey, although he was but thirty-seven. Each white hair in the
poet's head could tell a tale of sorrow. Such had been the public
excitement over Byron, that the question at once arose of burying him
in Westminster Abbey; but his friends were afraid the authorities might
refuse the request, and the family declared that his body should be
buried in the vault at Newstead Abbey, where his ancestors lay. Even
his death raised the clamour of tongues that pursued him through life.
On the 12th, an immense crowd collected from break of day along the
route the cortège was to take. Colonel Leigh, Byron's brother-in-law,
was chief mourner; and in the six coaches that followed were the most
famous Opposition Members of Parliament--Hobhouse, Douglas Kinnaird,
Sir Francis Burdett, and O'Meara, surgeon to the emperor. Then, in
their own private carriages, followed the Duke of Sussex, brother of
the king, the Marquis of Lansdowne, Earl Grey, Lord Holland, etc.
Two Greek deputies closed the procession. When it reached Hampstead
Road, the pace was quickened; it was planned to spend the night
at Welwyn, and to set out early the next day, Tuesday, to reach
Higham-Ferrers that evening; on Wednesday it was to reach Oakham; on
Thursday, Nottingham; and Newstead Abbey on Friday. The arrangement was
punctually carried out, and on Friday, 17 August, the body was laid in
the burying-place of his ancestors. Byron, who had been exiled by his
wife, hunted down by his own family and repulsed by his contemporaries,
had at last earned the right to return triumphantly to his country and
to his home. He was dead! And yet it might have happened to him as it
happened to Sheridan's dead body; poor Sheridan, who drank so much rum,
brandy and absinthe that Lord Byron once said to him during an orgie--

"Sheridan! Sheridan! you drink enough alcohol to set fire to the very
flannel vest you wear next your skin."

And the prophecy was fulfilled: Sheridan drank so much that his flannel
vest was scorched. Sheridan was dead; and he left both his pockets
and his bottles empty. This did not prevent the highest people in the
land from doing him honour, as he lay dead in his home, which had been
stript bare of everything by his creditors. Those friends who had,
perhaps, refused to lend him ten guineas the day before, gave him a
royal burial. The coffin was just going to be borne to the hearse, when
a gentleman clad in deep mourning from head to foot, and apparently
overcome with grief, came into the room in which were assembled the
most aristocratic gentlemen of the three kingdoms, and, advancing to
the coffin, begged, as a particular favour, to be allowed to look for
the last time on the features of his unfortunate friend. He was refused
at first, but his entreaties were so vehement, his voice was so broken,
he was so shaken with sobs, that they did not like to refuse such grief
a hearing. The top of the coffin was unscrewed and the body of Sheridan
uncovered. Then the expression on the face of the gentleman in mourning
changed completely, and he drew out of his pocket an order for the
seizure of the body and took possession of it. He was a bailiff. Mr.
Canning and Lord Lydmouth took the man outside and settled the amount
he claimed, namely, the sum of £480.



CHAPTER V


My mother comes to live with me--A Duc de Chartres born
to me--Chateaubriand and M. de Villèle--Epistolary
brevity--Re-establishment of the Censorship--A King of France should
never be ill--Bulletins of the health of Louis XVIII.--His last moments
and death--Ode by Victor Hugo--M. Torbet and Napoleon's tomb--La
Fayette's voyage to America--The ovations showered upon him


My mother had been quite as lonely without me as I had been without
her, so, in response to my letter, she shut up the tobacco-shop, sold
a portion of our shabby furniture, and wrote telling me she was coming
to Paris, bringing with her her bedstead, a chest of drawers, a table,
two arm-chairs, four chairs and a hundred louis in hard cash. A hundred
louis! Why, it was exactly double my year's income and we should now
have 2400 francs a year for the next two years, so for that time we
should feel quite safe. It was all the more important to be settled
since, on 29 July 1824, whilst the Duc de Montpensier came into the
world at the Palais-Royal, a Duc de Chartres was born to me at No. 1
place des Italiens. This, together with the smallness of my little
yellow chamber, where there was no room for my mother, was one of the
reasons that obliged me to look out for fresh lodgings. To find a new
home was a serious consideration; lodgings were very dear close to
the Palais-Royal, and if I were too far away from the Palais-Royal
my four journeys a day, to and fro, meant a serious wear and tear in
shoe-leather. Any expense comes heavy on a man who only earns four
francs five sous per day.

I had, indeed, two or three plays in hand with de Leuven, but I was
compelled to admit to myself that probably de Leuven, who had not
managed to succeed with Soulié--whom we acknowledged to be the best of
us all--would not have more chance with me. His _Bon Vieillard_ had
been declined at the Gymnase; his _Pauvre Fille_ had been rejected
by the Vaudeville, and his _Château de Kenilworth_ had not even
been read--Mademoiselle Lévêque had politely sent word that she had
not "time at the moment" to pay attention to a new part, and the
Porte-Saint-Martin had received a melodrama upon the same subject.

So I had to find a lodging, as I have said, that should not be too
far away and yet that was not too high a rent. I set to work, and
discovered rooms at No. 53 Faubourg St. Denis, in a house adjoining
the _Lion d'Argent._ We had two rooms on the second floor looking on
the street, one serving for store-room, dining-room and kitchen. We
soon found out that for these apartments we paid a great deal too
much--they were 350 francs. Finally everything was settled; my mother
sent her goods on by carrier, and arrived at the same time they did.
We were delighted to be together again once more; my mother, however,
was a trifle uneasy and unable to share and believe in all my hopes and
plans; for she could look back upon a long and sad life, wherein she
had experienced all kinds of disappointments and sorrows. I consoled
her to the best of my power, and, in order to make the first four or
five days of her life in Paris pleasant, I used all the influence I had
with M. Oudard, M. Arnault and Adolphe de Leuven to get her tickets for
the theatre. In a week's time we were settled in our little nest, and
as accustomed to our new life as though we had never known any other.
On the same landing with us, but on the opposite side, lodged a worthy
fellow of forty years of age, named Després, who was employed in a
ministerial department. He was one of the most regular attenders at the
Caveau; he composed songs after the style of Brazier and Armand Gouffé;
and he had had one or two pieces played at second-rate theatres. He was
dying of consumption. When, after the payment of two terms, we found
our lodgings were dearer than we could afford, he said to us--

"Wait until after my death, which will not be long now; then you can
take my rooms, which are very convenient, and only two hundred and
thirty francs."

And, as a matter of fact, he died six weeks after this--died in that
quiet, gentle, calm, philosophical mood that I have noticed in the case
of nearly all who were born in the eighteenth century. And, as he had
bidden us, we took his rooms when they were vacant, and found ourselves
accommodated according to our means.

In the meantime, political changes were taking place. M. de Villèle
(whom my friend Méry was to make so celebrated and who, in his turn,
also returned the compliment) was sharing political power with M. de
Chateaubriand; and for two years they presented the unusual spectacle
of an alliance between a financier and a poet. It is easy to believe
that such a connection was not likely to last long, and the two
ministers quarrelled over two proposed laws. M. de Chateaubriand
thought to cement the monarchy by the Act of septennial duration, M. de
Villèle thought to enrich the State by an Act concerning the conversion
of consols (_rentes_). The law concerning the conversion of consols was
rejected by the Chamber of Peers by a majority of 128 votes against
94. It was noticed that M. de Chateaubriand, who seemed opposed to the
Act, did not get up to defend it at the Tribune. It was even said that
he voted against it. Such opposition as this, directed against the
president of the Council, was punished with the callous bluntness of
feeling peculiar to men of money.

When M. de Chateaubriand went to mass on Whitsunday, he received
information that a very urgent despatch awaited him at the ministry. He
immediately went there, and found a letter from the president of the
Council in the following terms:--

    "M. LE VICOMTE,--I am obeying the King's command in handing
    you the enclosed mandate."

The mandate enclosed was a dismissal. Ten minutes later, M. de Villèle,
in his turn, had received M. de Chateaubriand's reply. The letter of
the Minister for Foreign Affairs was just as laconic as the letter
received from the Minister of Finance:--

    "M. LE COMTE,--I have left the Foreign Office; the
    department is at your disposal."

There were exactly fifteen words in each letter: it was the fault
of the words themselves, and not of M. de Chateaubriand, that the
answer[1] contained four letters more.

This dismissal was a very bitter pill for the author of _le Génie du
Christianisme_, and it was in connection with this event that he gave
utterance to the words which we believe we have already quoted:--

"I hadn't even stolen a watch from the king's mantelpiece!" he had said
on leaving the Foreign Office.

The order had been drawn up by M. de Renneville,--to whom we shall
refer in due course,--the secretary described by Méry and de Barthélemy
as being _sewed to M. de Villèle's coat-tails._

"M. de Renneville," says Chateaubriand in his _Mémoires_, "is still
so good as to appear embarrassed in my presence! And, good God, who
is this M. de Renneville, that I should ever think of him? I meet him
often enough, ... does he happen to know that I am aware that the order
striking my name off the list of ministers was in his handwriting?"

There were actually men, under the Empire, who were cowardly enough to
cut off their first fingers to prevent their being made soldiers. It is
a pity some men are not brave enough to cut off the whole hand before
they write certain things.

But at the time when M. de Chateaubriand was being ejected from the
ministry, Providence was signing an order, in terms I almost as
brusque, for Louis XVIII. to quit this life. The king was ill at the
time of the Feast of St. Louis, so ill that he was I advised not to
entertain on account of the fatigue it would I entail on him; but, with
his usual sententiousness, the king answered, "A King of France may
die, but he ought never to be ill."

As though Louis XVIII. wished to leave the path easy for his successor,
with regard to the rejection of the appeal of the public ministry in
the affair of the _Aristarque_, he revived the law of 31 March 1820
and 26 July 1821--that is to say, he re-established the Censorship.
It is an odd coincidence that, when this happens, kings are generally
either about to fall or to die. The re-establishment of the Censorship
produced a terrible commotion; to do justice to the literary men of
that time, none of them dare accept or publicly exercise the function
of Censor; a secret commission had to be organised and placed under the
presidency of the _conseiller d'État directeur general_ of the police.
M. de Chateaubriand then threw himself openly into the Opposition
against the measure, and published his _Lettres sur la Censure._ In
a few days, both the Liberal Oppositionist and the Royalist papers
offered nothing but blank columns to their subscribers.

Two days after Louis XVIII. had said that a King of France might
die but he ought never to be ill--that is to say, on 27 and 28
August, during his last two walks at Choisy, he perceived that he
must seriously face the question of death. But he continued to give
audiences, to preside in the Council and to direct the work of the
ministers with a courage one cannot help but admire, when one remembers
that he was suffering from mortification of the legs, the cellular
tissue, muscles and even bones of which were decayed; the right foot
entirely and the lower part of the leg as high as the calf had become
mortified, the bones of it were quite soft, and four toes had rotted
away. It was not until after a consultation of doctors held the night
of 12 September, that it was decided that the condition of the King of
France could no longer be concealed from his subjects. Up to that time
Louis XVIII. had been faithful to the principles enunciated by him, and
had refused to admit that he was ill. "You do not know what it means
to tell a people its king is ill. It means they must close the Stock
Exchange and places of amusement; my sufferings will be protracted, and
I do not want public interests to suffer for such a length of time."

On the morning of 13 September two bulletins appeared at the same time
in the _Moniteur_, signed by the doctors and by the First Gentleman of
the Chamber.

They announced the illness of the king, and made it very evident that
his disease was incurable. At the end of the second bulletin came the
command which Louis XVIII. had greatly dreaded, ordering the Bourse and
theatres to be closed. These were the first bulletins France had read
for half a century--that is to say, since the death of Louis XV.--and
they were to be the last they were to read.

    _First Bulletin of the King's health_

             "THE TUILERIES, 12 _September_, 6 _a.m._
    "The King's chronic and long-seated infirmities have become
    sensibly worse for some time past, his health has been very
    considerably impaired and his condition necessitates more
    frequent consultations.

    "His Majesty's constitution and the care he has taken of
    himself had caused hope to be felt for some time that he
    might be restored to his usual state of health; but the
    fact cannot now be disguised that his strength has declined
    considerably and that the hopes entertained are less likely
    to be realised.

    _(Signed)_ PORTAL, ALIBERT, MONTAIGU, DISTEL, DUPUYTREU,
    THÉVENOT First Gentleman of the King's Chamber

                                               COMTE DE DAMAS"

    _Second Bulletin_

                                                "9 _p.m._

    "The fever has increased during the day. The lower limbs
    have become extremely cold: weakness and lethargy have also
    increased, and the pulse has been very weak and irregular.

    _(Signed)_ PORTAL, ALIBERT, MONTAIGU, DISTEL, DUPUYTREU,
    THÉVENOT First Gentleman of the King's Chamber

                                                COMTE DE DAMAS

"In consideration of the King's state of health, all theatres and
places of public amusement, as well as the Bourse, will be closed
until further orders, and public prayers will be offered in every
parish."

On the 16th, at four o'clock in the morning, Louis XVIII. breathed
his last breath. He had blessed the two royal children of France the
previous, evening. Then, turning to his brother, the Comte d'Artois,
who was about to change his title for that of Charles X., and pointing
to the Duc de Bordeaux, he said, "Brother, look well after the crown
for that child."

The dying king's fears for his nephew's future were almost prophetic.
He had rallied all his remaining strength to utter these last words.
His breathing soon became husky and his pulse intermittent, and a
crisis was reached during which the king sank into an alarmingly quiet
state. At two in the morning, the pulse hardly beat and his voice had
completely failed him, although he signified, with his eyes, that he
understood, and could still hear, the exhortations of his confessor.
Finally, at four o'clock in the morning, when the last sign of life
ceased and the body became still for ever, M. Alibert drew one of the
king's hands outside the bed-covering and said, "The king is dead." At
the words, the Comte d'Artois, who had not left his brother's side for
two days, knelt down by the side of the bed and kissed his hand. Madame
la Duchesse d'Angoulême and Mademoiselle followed his example; then
both flung themselves in the arms of the Comte d'Artois and remained
there for some time, weeping bitterly.

As the new king left the death-chamber to return to his apartments, a
herald-at-arms exclaimed three times--

"The king is dead, gentlemen! Long live the king!"

And from that moment Charles X. was King of France. On 23 September we
watched out of our windows the funeral procession of the last king that
was to be taken to Saint-Denis.

Chateaubriand wrote a poem, _le Roi est mort! vive le roi!_ about the
death of the king, and it was one of the poorest productions that ever
came from his pen.

The same occasion inspired Victor Hugo to publish his _les Funérailles
de Louis XVIII.,_ and it was one of his finest odes. I need not ask the
forbearance of my readers if I quote a few stanzas:--

        "Un autre avait dit: 'De ma race
        Ce grand tombeau sera le port;
        Je veux, aux rois que je remplace,
        Succéder jusque dans la mort.
        Ma dépouille ici doit descendre!
        C'est pour faire place à ma cendre
        Qu'on dépeupla ces noirs caveaux;
        Il faut un nouveau maître au monde;
        A ce sépulcre que je fonde
        Il faut des ossements nouveaux!

    'Je promets ma poussière à ces voûtes funestes.
    A cet insigne honneur ce temple a seul des droits;
    Car je veux que le ver qui rongera mes restes
        Ait déjà dévoré des rois.
    Et, lorsque mes neveux, dans leur fortune altière,
        Domineront l'Europe entière,
        Du Kremlin à l'Escurial,
    Ils viendront tour à tour dormir dans ces lieux sombres,
    Afin que je sommeille, escorté de leurs ombres,
        Dans mon linceul impérial!'

        Celui qui disait ces paroles
        Croyait, soldat audacieux,
        Voir, en magnifiques symboles,
        Sa destinée écrite aux cieux.
        Dans ses étreintes foudroyantes,
        Son aigle, aux serres flamboyantes,
        Eût étouffé l'aigle romain;
        La victoire était sa compagne,
        Et le globe de Charlemagne
        Était trop léger pour sa main!

    Eh bien, des potentats ce formidable maître
    Dans l'espoir de sa mort par le ciel fut trompé.
    De ses ambitions, c'est la seule peut-être
        Dont le but lui soit échappé.
    En vain tout secondait sa marche meurtrière;
        En vain sa gloire incendiaire
        En tous lieux portait son flambeau;
    Tout chargé de faisceaux, de sceptres, de couronnes,
    Ce vaste ravisseur d'empires et de trônes
        Ne put usurper un tombeau!

        Tombé sous la main qui châtie,
        L'Europe le fit prisonnier.
        Premier roi de sa dynastie,
        Il en fut aussi le dernier.
        Une île où grondent les tempêtes
        Reçut ce géant des conquêtes,
        Tyran que nul n'osait juger,
        Vieux guerrier qui, dans sa misère,
        Dut l'obole de Bélisaire
        A la pitié de l'étranger.

    Loin du sacré tombeau qu'il s'arrangeait naguère,
    C'est là que, dépouillé du royal appareil,
    Il dort enveloppé de son manteau de guerre,
        Sans compagnon de son sommeil.
    Et, tandis qu'il n'a plus, de l'empire du monde,
        Qu'un noir rocher battu de l'onde,
        Qu'un vieux saule battu du vent,
    Un roi longtemps banni, qui fit nos jours prospères,
    Descend au lit de mort où reposaient ses pères,
        Sous la garde du Dieu vivant!"

But the poet is too generous towards Napoleon in describing him as
"_ce vieux saule battu du vent_" (old weather-beaten willow tree), for
at that very moment the authorities in St. Helena having abolished
the toll that had at first been exacted from, and submitted to by,
visitors to Napoleon's tomb, M. Torbet, the owner of the ground in
which the emperor was interred, when he found that he could not gain
any more from the body, requested that it should be exhumed and removed
elsewhere. There was a long controversy about it, and M. Torbet
threatened that he himself would disinter the body of the man who had,
notwithstanding what the poet had written, usurped everything, even
his own grave, and that he would throw the remains out on the highway,
until at last the Government decided that the India Company should
purchase the land from Torbet for five hundred pounds sterling. It
was decided that in future, in consequence of this _douceur_ given to
M. Torbet, people should visit the tomb of Napoleon free of charge. We
have already mentioned M. Torbet's name three times: let us say it a
fourth, in order that it may not be forgotten.

If anything could make up for such a disgrace to humanity, for such
deeds as M. Torbet revelled in, it would be the reception accorded
forty years afterwards to la Fayette in America, when that nation sent
one of its finest ships, the _Cadmus_, to fetch him to America as the
nation's guest. It was indeed a fine sight to see a whole nation rising
up to do honour to one of the founders of its liberty.

Directly the two Chambers heard, on 12 January, that la Fayette was
contemplating the paying of a visit to the United States, they drew
up a resolution, upon the motion of Mr. Mitchell, to the following
effect:--

    "Seeing that the illustrious champion of our liberty and
    the hero of our Revolution, the friend and comrade of
    Washington, Marquis de la Fayette, who was a volunteer
    general officer during the War of our Independence, has
    expressed a strong desire to pay a visit to our country,
    to whose liberty his courage, his blood and his wealth
    contributed in a very large degree,

    "It is resolved, that the President be asked to convey to
    the Marquis de la Fayette an expression of the feelings of
    respect, gratitude and affectionate attachment that the
    Government and the American people harbour towards him,
    and to assure him that the fulfilment of his desire and
    intention to visit their country will be received by both
    people and Government with deep pleasure and patriotic pride.

    "It is besides, resolved, that the President shall inform
    himself as to the time that it would be most agreeable to
    the Marquis de la Fayette to pay his visit, so that one
    of the nation's vessels may be offered him as a means of
    transport."

So, in accordance with this offer, la Fayette embarked at Havre, on
board the _Cadmus_, 13 July, and reached New York on 15 August, after
a voyage of thirty-two days. No national fête ever did honour to
a finer or a more saintly character. When he left North America it
had scarcely a population of three millions; now seventeen millions
welcomed him. Everything was changed: forests had become plains, plains
had become towns, and millions of steam-boats, the first of which had
been launched in 1808 by Fulton, after having been refused by France,
now plied up and down rivers as big as lakes, and on lakes as big as
oceans. Nor were the towns of the artificial kind that Potemkin built
along the Catherine Road which crosses the Crimea; modern civilisation
was striding across the Atlantic as though it were a stream, to plant
its foot for the first time in the New World.

After four months of fêtes given to and honours showered upon the
friend of Washington, a special committee brought in a Bill on 20
December as under:--

    "That the sum of 200,000 dollars be offered to Major-General
    la Fayette in recognition of his valuable services, and to
    indemnify him for his expenses in the American Revolution;
    also that a portion of land be set aside from the as yet
    unappropriated lands, for the establishment of a township
    for Major-General la Fayette, and that this Act be handed
    him by the President of the United States."

This Bill was carried with enthusiasm by the Chamber of Representatives
on 22 December and by the Senate on the 23rd.

We must just mention before we take leave of the year 1824, that, on 2
December, M. Droz and M. de Lamartine were competitors for the Academy,
and that M. Droz was elected and M. de Lamartine rejected.


[Footnote 1: In the French original.--TRANS.]



CHAPTER VI


Tallancourt and Betz--The café _Hollandais_--My Quiroga cloak--First
challenge--A lesson in shooting--The eve of my duel--Analysis of my
sensations--My opponent fails to keep his appointment--The seconds hunt
him out--The duel--Tallancourt and the mad dog


On 3 January 1825, one of our friends, by name Tallancourt, having,
by Vatout's solicitations, been promoted from his office, to the
Duc d'Orléans' library, he treated me and another of our friends
called Betz to a dinner at the Palais-Royal. Both were old soldiers.
Tallancourt had fought at Waterloo. After the defeat, he felt in
his pockets and found that they were empty, he struck his stomach
and felt that it was hollow, therefore, catching sight of a small
dismounted cannon, and being endowed with herculean strength, he
lifted it upon his shoulder and sold it, two leagues away, to an
ironfounder, for ten francs. Thanks to these ten francs, he managed
to effect quite a comfortable retreat, and he returned to his native
country of Semur, where Vatout got him a berth first in the Duc
d'Orléans' offices and finally in the library. After dinner, these
gentlemen, who were inveterate smokers, as becomes old soldiers of
thirty-two and thirty-five years of age, proposed to adjourn to the
café _Hollandais_ to smoke a cigar. I did not wish to desert them, in
spite of my aversion to tobacco cafés, and for the first, and I hope
I may say for the last time in my life, I crossed the threshold of
that famous establishment which is decorated outside with the sign of
a ship. I possessed a large cloak, romantically called in those days
a Quiroga; I had coveted such a cloak as passionately as I had the
famous top-boots, and I had ended by obtaining it with just as much
difficulty. Apparently, my mode of dress annoyed one of the habitués
who at that moment was playing billiards; he exchanged some words with
his antagonist, accompanied by a glance in my direction, and a burst
of laughter followed. This was quite sufficient to infuriate me, so I
picked up a cue, and mixing up all the balls, I said--

"Who would like to play at billiards with me?"

"But," remonstrated Tallancourt, "the table belongs to those gentlemen."

"Well," said I, looking straight at the player I specially wished to
have dealings with, "we will turn these men out, and I will tackle this
gentleman"; and I advanced towards him.

The provocation was too gross and too pointed not to raise ire.

Betz and Tallancourt at once sprang to my assistance, for they knew
me too well not to be aware that I should not insult anyone in this
fashion without good occasion. The chief thing we cared about was that
it should not be noised abroad that we had taken part in a miserable
café quarrel, so my adversary and I exchanged cards and arranged a
meeting for the next day but one, at nine o'clock in the morning, by
the café which adjoins the threshold of the big lonely house which
stood for a long while in the middle of the place du Carrousel, called
the _hôtel de Nantes._ Of course, Tallancourt and Betz were my seconds,
although they were a little uneasy about their commission: first,
because I was very young, and it was my first duel; then, because I
had just come from the provinces and they did not know whether I knew
how to handle the firearms I was about to use. They had arranged with
the seconds of my adversary, M. Charles B---, our meeting for the
following day at four o'clock in the afternoon, in the garden of the
Palais-Royal, opposite the Rotonde, in order to give them more time to
coach me.

On leaving the café they asked me to tell them the cause of my quarrel,
which I hastened to do; then, as they were commissioned to deal with
the question of arms, they asked me which weapon I preferred. I replied
that the question of weapons was a matter of indifference to me, and
that as I had confided my interests into their hands, it was their
affair and not mine. My assurance somewhat eased their minds; but
Tallancourt nevertheless insisted I should have some practice, next
morning at nine, in Gosset's shooting gallery. I had not put foot in
a shooting gallery since I had come to Paris; but my familiarity with
M. de Leuven's _Kukenreiter_ cannot have been forgotten, nor my broken
slates, and the frogs I shot in two and the pieces of cardboard held in
the hand as targets at Ponce's. Tallancourt asked for a dozen bullets.

"Does the gentleman want to shoot _à la poupée_ or _à la mouche_?" the
lad asked me.

As I did not quite understand Parisian shooting habits and terms, I
turned to Tallancourt, who asked for a _poupée._ The boy placed a metal
doll on the spike--without doubt the biggest the establishment could
produce; for the boy (whose name was Philippe--one recalls the minutest
details connected with events of this sort) noticing my utter ignorance
of shooting-gallery methods, took me for a schoolboy. Tallancourt, too,
it was quite evident, shared the lad's opinion concerning me. I must
confess this unanimity piqued me.

"Tell me," I asked Tallancourt, "what that metal toy costs?"

"Four sous," he said.

"And how many bullets have you applied for?"

"A dozen."

"Well, then, as I am not rich enough to allow myself the luxury of
smashing a dozen dolls, I will make this one a present of eleven of the
bullets, and I will smash it with the twelfth."

"What do you mean?" asked Tallancourt.

"You shall see how we played this game at Villers-Cotterets, my dear
Tallancourt."

I went up to the target, I drew a circle round the doll, and I began
operations. Everything went off as I had anticipated. I did what I
had done a score of times with de Leuven and de la Ponce, but as
Tallancourt was witnessing my proceedings for the first time, he was
perfectly astounded at what took place.

"Well, it will be all right with pistols, I see, and I shall feel easy
enough if you get in the first shot," said he; "but suppose they choose
swords?"

"Well, if they choose swords, we must fight with swords, my friend,
that is all."

"Can you defend yourself with a sword?"

"I hope so."

"I ask this," added Tallancourt, "as I do not like pistols."

"I agree with you, they are fiendish weapons."

"I shall not accept unless I am compelled."

"You will be quite right."

"You agree with me, then?"

"Absolutely."

"Well, so much the better! Give the boy twenty-four sous and let us go
to breakfast."

Fortunately, it was but the fourth day of the month, so I could afford
the twenty-four sous. We breakfasted, and went to the office. Betz
was already there, and he took Tallancourt aside, no doubt to inquire
about my qualifications; but I had every ground for believing that
Tallancourt reassured him. At five o'clock, Betz and Tallancourt came
to tell me my adversary had chosen swords. The rendezvous was to be
the same, at nine next day, by the _hôtel de Nantes._ I returned home
with a smiling face, although my heart beat fast enough. In matters of
courage I had made the following observations with respect to myself. I
was of a sanguine temperament, and readily threw myself in the way of
danger; if the danger were imminent, and I could attack it instantly,
my courage never failed me, for I was kept up by excitement. If, on the
contrary, I had to wait some hours, my nerves gave way, and I relented
having exposed myself to danger. But, by degrees, after reflection,
moral courage overcame physical cowardice, and vigorously commanded it
to conduct itself properly. When arrived on the spot, I shivered to
the bottom of my back; but I never showed the slightest external signs
of my feelings. I fought a duel in 1834, and Bixio was my second: he
was a medical student at the time, and, feeling my pulse just after
I had taken up my pistol, it only indicated sixty-nine pulsations
to the minute, two beats faster than normal. The longer I wait, the
calmer I become. For that matter, I believe every man, especially if
endowed with sensitive organisations, naturally fears danger, and if
left to his own instincts, would do his best to escape it; he is kept
back simply and solely by moral strength and manly pride, and exposes
himself to death and suffering with a smiling face. As a proof of this
theory, I may mention that a man of this temperament, who is brave in
his waking hours, is a coward in his dreams; for in sleep the soul is
absent, and the animal part of him alone remains; and, in the absence
of his strength, his will-power and his pride, the physical part of him
is afraid.

Well, I returned home without saying a word of what had passed; but I
stayed in with my mother the whole night.

It was mid-winter, so I had not to go and make up the portfolio. I
rose at eight next morning, and making some sort of excuse to my
mother, I kissed her, and went out with my father's sword under my
cloak. Tallancourt had undertaken to provide a second sword. I reached
the _hôtel de Nantes_ at ten minutes to nine, and we found there my
adversary's two seconds. I had not had any breakfast, for Thibaut,
who accompanied us, had advised me not to eat, in case I might have
to be bled. We waited: half-past nine, ten, eleven struck. Betz and
Tallancourt were dreadfully impatient, for my adversary's delay was
making them late at their office. I must admit that, so far as I was
concerned, I was enchanted; I had been in hopes that the affair would
conclude with excuses, and I should have liked nothing better. At
eleven o'clock my adversary's godparents gave up waiting, in disgust,
and suggested to my seconds that they should all go and call upon
their godson, who lived, I believe, in the rue Coquillière. As for
me, they sent me back to the office, and, in case we were grumbled at
for our absence, I was to explain frankly to Oudard what had passed
and tell him the cause of our absence. But there was no need to
confess anything, as I found Oudard had been sent for by the Duchesse
d'Orléans. Betz and Tallancourt returned half an hour later: they had
found my adversary in bed! When they pointed out to him that he ought
to have been elsewhere than in his bed, M. Charles B--- replied that,
having been skating on the canal the whole of the previous day, at
seven that morning he felt so utterly fatigued he had not sufficient
strength to get up. His own two seconds considered this such a feeble
excuse that they told him he need not count on their services again,
if the quarrel were followed up. Upon which they withdrew. But Betz
and Tallancourt, who were much angrier than I was myself in my heart
of hearts, had remained, and they had insisted on M. Charles B---
informing them at what hour they might expect to see him take the field
the next day. He promised to meet us, with two fresh seconds, at the
Rochechouart barrier, the following day, at nine o'clock. The fight
could take place in one of the Montmartre quarries. Thus the matter
was only postponed. I thanked my two seconds very cordially, telling
them they had done quite right and that I would wait. The day passed by
quietly enough, and by becoming absorbed in my work and in conversation
I even managed to forget I was to fight on the morrow. Nevertheless, a
slight spasm would attack my heart from time to time, to be stifled in
a yawn.

I returned home early, as on the previous day, and stayed in with my
mother.

Next day was Twelfth Night, and someone had presented us with a
bean-cake. My mother was the queen. I kissed her and wished I might
be able to kiss her for thirty years longer at the same hour, day and
occasion. I knew only too well what I was doing when I wished such a
wish. I slept soundly for the first four or five hours of the night,
badly enough for the remaining two or three. I left my mother at
half-past eight, as on the previous morning, only I had no sword to
carry this time, Tallancourt had taken charge of both. At ten minutes
to nine we reached the barrier at Rochechouart; and, as nine struck,
a cab brought our man and his two fresh seconds. They got out, bowed,
silently crossed the outer boulevard and reached the ramparts of the
mount. One of the seconds of my adversary, who has since become a
friend of mine (in common with the majority of those who, not knowing
me, began by being my enemies), came up to me and, evidently taking me
for one of the witnesses, entered into conversation with me. We walked
for nearly half an hour before a suitable spot could be found. It was
very cold and had snowed all night; it was still snowing; so nearly all
the quarries were occupied.

As it is not a usual sight for six people to be walking across fields
at ten in the morning in such weather, the people in the quarries
became inquisitive about our tramp and followed us. We had already
quite a considerable following, and it was probable that the farther we
thus went the more it would increase; so it was imperative we should
stop at the first place that appeared, I will not say suitable, but
possible, for our purpose. I confess the walk would have seemed very
long had I not talked the whole way with my adversary's witness. At
last they settled upon a sort of plateau, ten paces wide by twenty
long, which was as much room as we needed. Here we stopped. Tallancourt
drew forth the swords from under his cloak and handed them to the
witnesses to be examined. The one he had brought was two inches longer
than the other; Tallancourt had not made a choice, he had taken the
first that came to his hand; so he proposed to draw lots as to which
should have the longest sword. I ended the debate by declaring that I
would take the shortest, which was my father's. I much preferred to
lose the two extra inches of steel, rather than to have my father's
sword turned against my breast. It was only at this juncture that my
opponent's second discovered that the man he had been talking with the
whole way was the other duellist. There was little time to spare by the
time the ground was chosen and the swords distributed; it was horribly
cold, and our audience was increasing every moment.

I flung off my coat and stood on guard. Then my opponent asked me to
take off my waistcoat and my shirt as well as my coat. The demand
seemed to me an exorbitant one; but, as he insisted, I stuck my
sword in the snow and I threw down my waistcoat and my shirt on top
of my coat. Then, as I did not want even to keep on my braces, and
as, like poor Géricault, I had lost the buckle from my trousers, I
tied the two straps into a knot to gird up my loins. These elaborate
preparations took a minute or two, during which my sword remained fixed
in the snow. Then I picked it up, and stood on guard in a pretty bad
temper. My opponent had delivered his commands with a great air of
self-confidence, and as he had also selected swords as our weapons,
I expected to find I had to deal with an experienced swordsman. So I
set to work cautiously. But to my great astonishment, I found he put
himself very carelessly on his guard and exposed himself to my sword.
Of course, his carelessness might be just a ruse to put me off my
guard, when he could take advantage of my imprudence. I took a step
backwards and lowered my sword.

"Ready, monsieur," I said; "defend yourself!"

"But what if I do not choose to put myself into a position of defence?"
replied my adversary.

"Well, that is your affair, ... but your taste is peculiar, I must say."

I fell back on guard, I attacked him _en quarte_, and without making a
pass with my sword in order to feel my way with my man, I thrust out
freely _en tierce._ He gave a leap backwards, stumbled over a vine-root
and fell head over heels.

"Oh! oh!" exclaimed Tallancourt, "have you really killed him at the
first blow?"

"No," I replied, "I think not; I had not even passed, I hardly touched
him."

In the meantime, my opponent's seconds had run up to M. B---, who was
getting up. The point of my sword had pierced his shoulder, and as its
position in the snow had frozen the steel, the sensation it had given
my opponent was so startling that, lightly though he was wounded, the
shock had overturned him. Luckily I had not passed first, or I should
certainly have run him right through. It turned out. that the poor lad
had never handled a sword before!

When he made this confession, and in consideration of the wound he had
received, it was decided the fight should stop there. I put up my sword
in its shield; I donned my shirt, waistcoat and coat; I wrapped myself
in my Quiroga, and I descended the ramparts of Montmartre with a much
lighter heart than I had ascended them.

Such was the cause, such were the sensations, such was the issue of
my first duel. What has become of the two men who were my seconds? I
have lost sight of Betz: he obtained a post as _receveur particulier_
in the provinces. A vague rumour has since reached me of his death.
As for Tallancourt, poor fellow! I saw him die most miserably,
unfortunate and unhappy. The Duc d'Orléans took a fancy to him; for he
was of the type of tools the prince loved--active but not too clever.
Moreover, Tallancourt possessed a further qualification: although he
was sufficiently intelligent, he knew when to appear stupid. When the
Duc d'Orléans became king, he sent for Tallancourt, for he could not
do without him. If his fortune were not exactly made--fortunes are not
often made through being associated with kings--his position was, at
any rate, secure. As Tallancourt had not left the Duc d'Orléans during
27, 28 and 29 July, he knew a fair number of state secrets concerning
the Revolution of 1830. When the king was at Neuilly, he would
purposely send Tallancourt to Paris, and the Hercules of a fellow, ill
at ease in his arm-chair, seated at his desk, in his office, would walk
the distance on foot, in order to breathe the open air and distend his
big lungs a bit.

One day, an enormous savage dog leapt out of the ditch by the side of
the high road and sprang at him. Tallancourt instinctively put up his
hands to save his face, and, by unheard of good luck, in so doing he
seized the beast round its neck. It was useless for the dog to struggle
against the powerful grip of two such fists as Tallancourt's, which
throttled the dog tighter and tighter, and in about five minutes'
time the brute was strangled and the giant had never even received a
scratch. But during these five minutes of struggle and mortal danger
Tallancourt's brain underwent a terrible strain, and five or six months
later, softening of the brain set in. For a year poor Tallancourt
grew visibly feebler, both morally and physically; his strength and
intellect, his power of motion, and even his voice declined, and he
died by inches, after eighteen months of suffering.



CHAPTER VII


The Duc d'Orléans is given the title of _Royal Highness_--The
coronation of Charles X.--Account of the ceremony by Madame la
Duchesse d'Orléans--Death of Ferdinand of Naples--De Laville de
Miremont--_Le Cid d'Andalousie_--M. Pierre Lebrun--A reading at
the camp at Compiègne--M. Taylor appointed a royal commissioner to
the Théâtre-Français--The curé Bergeron--M. Viennet--Two of his
letters--Pichat and his _Léonidas_


My mother never knew anything of the story of my duel; she would have
died of grief had she had the faintest suspicion of it. As we did
not return to the office until nearly one o'clock, we had to tell
Oudard everything; and he appeared quite content, after hearing Betz
and Tallancourt's account, with the way his employé had conducted
himself. Besides, the Palais-Royal had been in a constant state of fête
since the accession of His Majesty Charles X. to the throne. The duc
d'Orléans had just been granted the title of Royal Highness from the
new king--a favour he had begged in vain from Louis XVIII. As we have
already mentioned, Louis XVIII. persistently refused everybody who
asked him to grant M. le Duc d'Orléans this privilege.

"He will always be sufficiently close to the throne," he would reply.

And in other ways, Charles X. made himself most popular.

As a pendant to his phrase, "Nothing is changed in France, there is
simply one more Frenchman in it," he added another dictum, simpler
still, and quite as much appreciated--

"My friends, let there be wider criticism!"

And in the midst of the general merrymaking the preparations for his
coronation went on in sumptuous style.

The last few coronations had brought ill-fortune in their train. It
will be remembered that, at Reims, Louis XVI. had quickly removed the
crown from his head.

"What is the matter, sire?" asked the archbishop.

"That crown hurts me," replied Louis XVI. And, twenty years later, he
died upon the scaffold.

Napoleon wished to be crowned by a higher official than an archbishop;
he wished to have a pope, and had sent for Pius VII. to come from the
Vatican at Rome to Notre-Dame at Paris.

    "Il fallut presqu'un Dieu pour consacrer cet homme!
        Le prêtre, monarque de Rome,
        Vint sacrer son front menaçant,
    Car sans doute, en secret effrayé de lui-même,
    Il voulut recevoir son sanglant diadème
        Des mains d'où le pardon descend!"

Fifteen years later, Napoleon died at St. Helena! And now it was the
turn of Charles X.

Every sovereign in Christendom had been informed of the solemn
celebration, and sent their ambassadors extraordinary. Austria was
represented by Prince Esterhazy; Spain by the Duke of Villa-Hermosa;
Great Britain by the Duke of Northumberland; Prussia by General de
Zastrow; and Russia by Prince Volkonski.

The king and the dauphin left the Tuileries at half-past eleven on the
morning of 24 May, and set out for Compiègne. All went well as far
as Fismes; but an accident augured ill to the king, whose reign was
only to last six years, and to end in his exile. As they descended
at Fismes, the batteries of the Royal Guard, which were mounted in a
dingle to the left of the road, fired a salute to greet the king. The
detonation and its echo were terrible, and at the noise of the firing
the horses attached to the carriage containing the Ducs d'Aumont and
de Damas, and the Counts de Cossé and Curial, ran away; the carriage
was overturned and smashed to bits on the causeway. Two out of the four
occupants of the carriage were seriously injured--MM. the Duc de Damas
and Count Curial; the latter's case was worst, he had his collar-bone
broken. Had it not been for the coachman's strength and presence of
mind, the king himself would not have escaped a similar accident. His
horses bolted; but the coachman had the sense not to try to stop them,
and used all his efforts to keep them in the centre of the roadway; and
after ten minutes' unrestrained career they calmed down.

At the village of Tinqueux the king found the Duc d'Orléans and the Duc
de Bourbon awaiting him. The rain, which had never stopped pouring all
morning, ceased, and the sun, which had not hitherto shown itself, now
shone forth brilliantly. The king, M. le Dauphin, M. le Duc d'Orléans
and M. le Duc de Bourbon entered the coronation coach, and in the
language of the _Report of the Coronation_, "the whole of the way to
Reims was one _arc de triomphe_."

After the coronation service, Charles X. signed the amnesty granted to
men who had deserted from the navy and to political offenders. It was
this amnesty that brought Carrel back to France. Thirteen years later,
Charles X. died at Goritz.

Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans had been present at the coronation,
and wrote an account of it in her private diary in Italian. On her
return to Paris, she desired to have it translated into French, and
commissioned Oudard to do it. Oudard was much embarrassed, and handed
the album over to me, giving me a couple of days' holiday to translate
it for him. This album was the book in which the Duchesse d'Orléans
wrote her most secret thoughts and related her private deeds. I was not
forbidden to read it, so of course I read it. However, there was not
a single word throughout the book that could have put an angel to the
blush, though it contained the actions and reflections of the Duchesse
d'Orléans for the last ten years, though she never intended it to leave
her own hands, not even to pass into those of the Duc d'Orléans, since
it was for the Duc d'Orléans that the translation was being made.
One thing above all struck me as I read, and that was the profound
gratitude of Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans for the favours that the new
king, Charles X., had lavished on the prince her husband, and for the
kindness displayed every day towards her and her family by Madame la
Duchesse de Berry.

Alas and alas! how many times the remembrance of that album came into
my mind when I saw King Charles X. at Gratz, and Madame la Duchesse de
Berry at Blaye, and it made me shudder as I thought of how deeply the
religious-hearted Marie-Amélie must have suffered, when, because of
what princes term "political necessities," the honour of the one, and
the crown of the other, were broken in her husband's hands.

Another page also riveted my attention and kept me for a long time
enthralled, wherein Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans related how lovingly
and tactfully her husband broke to her the news of the death of her
father, Ferdinand I. Now, Ferdinand I. was the very king who had kept
my father a prisoner in the dungeons of Naples for eighteen months;
the very same man who had allowed people to try and poison him three
times, and once to attempt his assassination; he, the shepherd who had
devoured his own flock during those terrible years of 1798-99, had
just been called to render an account of his stewardship to the Lord.
It was a strange coincidence that I, the son of one of the king's
victims, should hold this album in my hands and read the sorrowful
outpourings of the daughter's grief at the death of her father! What a
strange juxtaposition of destiny and fortunes! However, he was dead,
even as just men have to die; he who had watched those whom he called
his friends hung before his very eyes, burnt beneath his very windows,
disembowelled and torn to pieces in his very presence; the people whom
a treacherous capitulation had yielded into his hands; those who, under
another reign, might have been the honour of their king and the glory
of the country!

On 3 January 1825 he was quietly sleeping, at two in the morning. His
attendants heard him cough several times; then, at eight o'clock, as
he had not summoned them to him according to his usual custom, the
officers of his chamber, followed by the Court doctors, entered his
room, and found him dead from a stroke of apoplexy. Ferdinand I. had
just reigned sixty-five years, when he died at the age of seventy-four.

Oudard got his translation, which he re-copied in his own writing,
and handed to the Duchesse d'Orléans as his own. True, he faithfully
retailed to me the compliments he had received for it, adding
that for which I was far more grateful--two tickets for the first
representation of _Roman_ at the Théâtre-Français; it was a capital
five-act comedy in verse, by de Laville de Miremont, already known
because of _Folliculaire_, a piece more commendable for its action than
for any other quality. I knew de Laville very well: an accusation by
Lemercier worried him greatly. Lemercier had accused de Laville, who
had occupied the post of Censor, of having suppressed his _Charles
VI._ and of having afterwards used his plot and ideas. But, in the
first place, de Laville plainly proved both by _Folliculaire_ and by
_Roman_ that he did not need to borrow ideas from other people's plays;
besides, he was utterly incapable of doing such an action. There was a
charming creation in _Roman_: a father who was friendly to and almost
a companion in the escapades of a son born to him when he was only
twenty. Nothing could have been more natural than this situation, which
de Laville was the first to employ in a play.

Owing to the kindness of Talma, I had several times seen the _Cid
d'Andalousie._ Casimir Delavigne's example was infectious: Talma
having taken part in comedy, Mademoiselle Mars asked why she might not
play in tragedy; hence the new reunion of the two actors in the _Cid
d'Andalousie_. But M. Pierre Lebrun, author of an _Ulysse_ which had
not been played, or what is far worse, which had only run one or two
nights, was not Casimir Delavigne. There was nothing at the time to
support him as there had been in 1820 when, in _Maria Stuart_, he had
had the sturdy framework of Schiller to fall back upon. Reduced to
drawing from Spanish romanceros, which only suggested simple scenes,
he was lacking in everything--power, originality and style, and in
spite of the unusual support of both Talma and Mademoiselle Mars, who
had doubled the power of a strong creator and who could not conceal the
weakness of a feeble writer, the _Cid d'Andalousie_ fell flat at the
first representation, managed to survive the second, upheld by hired
applause, dragged on miserably for five or six nights, and then finally
was taken out of the bill. This failure was the beginning of the
fortune of M. Pierre Lebrun--Academician, peer of France and Manager of
the Royal Printing-house.

O thou venerable deity, Mediocrity! Surely thou hast the secret of
the precious essence given to Phaon by Venus to assure successfulness
in this world of ours! Thou who for long rejected Hugo, Lamartine
and Charles Nodier! Thou who left Soulié and Balzac to die without
doing for them a third of what thou didst for M. Pierre Lebrun! Thou
who ignored Alfred de Musset,--wisely, for all light of originality,
all nervous strength, makes thy owl's eyes to blink! Thou whose
leaden-based statue ought to be a hundred feet high, so that its
shadow should fall on the Pont des Arts and the respectable monument
to which it leads! O Mediocrity! sole divinity for whom France has not
a 21 January, a 29 July or a 24 February! Thou whom I despise above
everything else in the world, and would fain hate if I could ever hate
anything! Look ever askance on me and be benign to my enemies, that is
the sole favour I ask thee. And, on this condition, may thou remain in
undisturbed possession of the future, as thou hast been of the past!

Now let us note well that the failure of the _Cid d'Andalousie_ took
place in 1825. One might therefore reasonably have hoped that by 1838,
thirteen years later, the unlucky _Cid_ would have been forgotten by
everybody, even by its author. Nothing of the kind. At Compiègne, in
his country house, the Duc d'Orléans entertained his comrades with
sport in the forest by day, and at night he opened his drawing-rooms to
those who preferred card-playing, dancing and conversation. One evening
a fatal idea came into the unfortunate prince's head. Turning towards
several poets who stood round, he said to them--

"Gentlemen, let us see which of you has some poetry to read to us."

Everybody kept silence, as will be readily understood, and moved a step
or two backwards; except M. Pierre Lebrun, who stepped forward.

"I will, monseigneur," he said; and he sat down and drew a manuscript
out of his pocket--think of it! a whole manuscript!--and, in the midst
of the general silence, he read the title--

"Gentlemen, the _Cid d'Andalousie._"

They all stared at him; but there was no way out of it, they were
trapped, and M. le Duc d'Orléans most of all. Upon my word, it was a
great success. When the reading was over and compliments had been paid,
the Duc d'Orléans said to me--

"Dumas, can you tell me what was the reason of the noise I heard by the
side of the window, which interrupted M. Lebrun, towards the beginning
of the third act?"

"Monseigneur," I replied, "it was A--, who squatted behind the
curtains, where he could sleep more comfortably; but it would seem he
had a nightmare: he gave a cuff to a small stand, and has smashed a
table full of Sèvres china, for which he is excessively sorry."

"He need not be unhappy about it," said the Duc d'Orléans; "tell him he
did quite right, and I will bear the cost of the china."

The poor duke was as wise a prince as Solomon, and as good as St. Louis!

In other respects, too, the Théâtre-Français was not very fortunate
at this time. After playing the _Cid d'Andalousie_ of M. Lebrun, it
put on M. de Comberousse's _Judith_ and _Bélisaire_, by M. de Jouy.
An important change had taken place at the theatre in the rue de
Richelieu. Baron Taylor had been appointed royal commissioner in place
of M. Choron, upon the recommendation of MM. Lemercier, Viennet and
Alexandre Duval.

When Charles X. returned to Paris after the coronation, and the Bishop
of Orléans issued orders for prayers to be offered up in thanksgiving
for the safe accomplishment of the ceremony just concluded, M.
Bergeron, curé of the commune of Saint-Sulpice, canton of Blois, after
delivering from his reading-desk the bishop's mandate, added these
simple words:--

"My dearly beloved brethren, as Charles X. is not a Christian, as he
desires to keep the Charter, which is an Act contrary to religion, we
ought not to pray for him, any more than for Louis XVIII., who was the
founder of that Charter; they are both damned. Those who agree with me,
please rise."

And three hundred listeners out of four hundred rose, and by that act
declared that they were entirely of the same opinion as their priest.

Alas! If the Academy could have known what kind of man Baron Taylor
was, whom the order of Charles X. had introduced into the sanctuary of
the Comédie-Française! If it could only have guessed that he was to
open its doors to MM. Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo and de Vigny,[1] it
would have followed the curé Bergeron's example and excommunicated King
Charles x. But it knew nothing at all about it.

The first bad turn the new commissioner of the king did to his patrons
was to have M. Viennet's _Sigismond de Bourgogne_ played, and M.
Lemercier's _Camille._ I need hardly mention that both these plays
fell flat. This did not discourage M. Lemercier: he decided to change
his style of play, and began a melodrama called the _Masque de poix._
This elated M. Viennet, who, instead of changing his method, like his
honoured confrère, made up his mind, on the contrary, to force his
method into acceptance, and began by reading his _Achille_ in the
salons, a play which had been written twenty years before, and which
had been accepted ten years ago.

"Do you not think my Achille is very heroic?" he said to M. Arnault,
after one of these readings.

"Yes," replied M. Arnault, "as fierce as a turkey-cock!"

But very few men could be more brilliant at repartee than M. Viennet.
It was like watching a tilting bout in the lists to hear him, save that
he never retorted when his adversary missed fire. He certainly offered
a favourable target for such attacks, and people were not slow to avail
themselves of their opportunities. Once, at Nodier's house, he went up
to Michaud.

"Tell me, Michaud," he began, in a manner that was peculiarly his
own,--"tell me what you think, I have just finished a poem of thirty
thousand lines."

"It will need fifteen thousand men to read them," replied Michaud.

On another occasion, at a dinner party, M. Viennet made an attack upon
Lamartine.

"He is a puppy," he said, "who thinks himself the greatest politician
of his age, and who is not even the first poet!"

"At all events," Madame Sophie Gay retorted from the other end of the
table, "he is not the last--that place is already occupied."

Besides everything M. Viennet wrote in verse--fables, comedies,
tragedies, epistles and epic poems--he wrote a couple of letters
in prose which are perfect models. We will quote them in toto and
verbatim; extracts would not give a proper idea of their style. One
was in reference to the nomination of Hugo as an officer of the Légion
d'honneur; the other was in connection with his own nomination to the
peerage. For M. Viennet was both a deputy and a peer of France, besides
also being a Commander of the Légion d'honneur and a member of the
Academy.

Here is M. Viennet's first letter:--

    "MONSIEUR,--Je n'ai pas dit que je ne voulais plus porter
    la croix d'officier de la Légion d'honneur, depuis qu'on
    l'avait donnée au chef de l'école romantique.

    "En ôtant mon ruban de la boutonnière où l'empereur l'avait
    placé, j'ai suivi seulement l'exemple de la plupart des
    généraux de la vieille armée, qui trouvaient plus facile
    de se faire remarquer en paraissant dans les rues sans
    décoration. Il ne s'agissait ici ni de romantiques ni de
    classiques.

    "Il est tout naturel qu'un ministre romantique décore ses
    amis; il serait cependant plus juste de donner la croix de
    chevalier à ceux qui auraient eu le courage de lire jusqu'au
    bout les vers ou la prose de ces messieurs, et la croix
    d'officier à ceux qui les auraient compris. Je désire, en
    outre, qu'on n'en donne que douze par an aux écrivains qui
    font des libelles contre les grands pouvoirs de l'État, les
    ministres et les députés: il faut de la mesure dans les
    encouragements.--Agréez, etc.,                      VIENNET"

And this is M. Viennet's letter about his nomination to the peerage of
France:--

    "MONSIEUR,--Sur la foi d'un journal judiciaire que je ne
    connais pas, vous publiez, que, des vendredi dernier, je me
    suis empressé d'écrire à M. Vedel, pour mettre opposition
    à la représentation des _Serments_, et vous accompagnez
    cette annonce d'une fort jolie épigramme contre cette
    comédie. L'épigramme me touche fort peu, elle sort peut-être
    de la même plume qui avait loué l'ouvrage quand l'auteur
    avait cessé d'être un homme politique. Je ne prétends pas
    l'empêcher de continuer, mais le fait n'est pas vrai et je
    me récrie. Il n'y a eu de ma part ni possibilité ni volonté
    de faire ce qu'on m'impute. Je suis parti vendredi de la
    campagne, et je suis arrivé chez moi, à Paris, vers les
    sept heures, sans me douter de ce que _le Moniteur_ avait
    publié, le matin, d'honorable pour moi. C'est mon portier
    qui m'a salué du titre de pair, attendu qu'il avait expédié,
    le matin même, pour mon village, une lettre officielle qui
    portait ce titre, et comme cette lettre ne m'est pas encore
    revenue, j'ignore à quel ministre je suis redevable de ce
    premier avis. Quant à ma volonté, elle n'existe point,
    elle n'existera jamais! c'est m'insulter que de me croire
    capable d'abjurer les travaux et les honneurs littéraires,
    pour un honneur politique. La Charte n'a pas établi
    d'incompatibilité entre le poète dramatique et le pair de
    France; si elle l'eût fait, j'aurais refusé la pairie. Les
    lettres et les succès de théâtre honorent ceux qui cultivent
    les unes et qui obtiennent les autres sans intrigue et sans
    bassesse. Au lieu d'y renoncer, je sollicite, au contraire,
    avec plus d'instance la représentation des _Serments_, la
    mise en scène d'une de mes tragédies et la lecture d'une
    comédie en cinq actes. Si vous avez quelque crédit auprès de
    M. le directeur du Théâtre-Français, veuillez l'employer en
    ma faveur. Les épigrammes dont on m'a poursuivi comme député
    sont bien usées; vous devez désirer qu'on en renouvelle la
    matière, et une nouvelle comédie, une nouvelle tragédie
    de moi, seraient de merveilleux aliments pour la verve
    satirique de mes adversaires. Rendons-nous mutuellement
    ce service; je vous en serai très-reconnaissant pour mon
    compte, et je vous prie d'agréer d'avance les remercîments
    de votre très-humble serviteur,                   VIENNET"


We will now return to Baron Taylor and the changes he brought about
at the Théâtre-Français. At the Panorama-Dramatique he had produced
_Ismaël et Maryam_ alone; _Bertram_ in collaboration with Nodier; and
_Ali-Pacha_ with Pichat's assistance.

Pichat was a young man of twenty-eight at that time: a play of his,
_Léonidas_, had been received two or three years before at the
Théâtre-Français. Taylor extracted _Léonidas_ from the pandemonium
he found himself in, and had it put in rehearsal. Talma was cast for
the rôle of Léonidas:--not that his supreme intellect was mistaken
about the part, which, dramatically speaking, was nothing at all; but
in the matter of "business" it contained something fresh to do, and
poor Talma, to the day of his death, was ever seeking new worlds,
and, less fortunate than Vasco de Gama, he never succeeded in finding
them. Besides, it was a very appropriate moment for the playing of
_Léonidas_; all Europe was looking towards the successors of the three
hundred Spartans. And the new piece, so it was announced in advance,
was to be staged with unusual sumptuousness and unheard-of effects.
I well remember the first performance of the tragedy of _Léonidas_,
wherein one felt the dawn of new ideas, wherein every historic saying
which immortalised the famous defence of the Thermopælians was
felicitously adapted, and admirably rendered by Talma. One hemistich
of the young Agis was Substituted for the written line. Agis wounded,
fell, exclaiming--

    "Ils sont tous morts ... Je meurs!..."

The play met with a most enthusiastic reception, on account of the
circumstances under which it was played. It was a splendid success for
Talma: he looked like an antique statue descended from its column.
After the performance, when the curtain had fallen, I saw a noisy group
of rejoicing people rush along the corridor and the foyer, anxious to
convey their friendly congratulation. A fine-looking young man, with
a face as radiant as a conquering Apollo, formed the centre and was
the hero of the group. He was the author of _Léonidas._ Alas! he died
only two years later--died before he had hardly lifted the intoxicating
cup of success to his lips. But Taylor had at least the happiness
of holding out to him the nectar which sweetened his last moments.
Without Taylor, Pichat would have died in obscurity, and even though
he were but an ephemeral meteor, many people, myself among the number,
recollect the brilliant light he gave during his short career!


[Footnote 1: It will, of course, be understood that I place my own name
and those of my honoured confrères according to the chronological order
of the representations of _Henri III_, _Marion Delorme_ and _Othello._]



CHAPTER VIII


Death of General Foy--His funeral--The _Royal Highness_--Assassination
of Paul-Louis Courier--Death of the Emperor Alexander--Comparison of
England and Russia--The reason why these two powers have increased
during the last century--How Napoleon meant to conquer India


Since we have just uttered the word _death_ let us consecrate this
chapter entirely to the pale daughter of Erebus and Night.

On 26 June, Princess Pauline Borghèse died at Florence, and, with her,
one of the most striking memories of my early youth passed into the
regions of eternity.

Then, on 28 November, I learnt news which was a more personally
disastrous shock to me. As I was coming out of the office, I saw people
talking together and heard them say, "You have heard that General Foy
is dead!"

They were inclined to doubt the information! But there is a kind of
news about which one is never in doubt; for who, if it were false, dare
spread the news which the brazen lips of Destiny alone has the right
to announce? Yes, General Foy had died directly after returning from
a journey among the Pyrenees, where he had been to take the waters;
he died of an aneurism, and news of his death came before the news of
his illness. They had concealed the fact of the disease, in hope that
it might not prove fatal; but for a week past it had made terrible
strides; attacks of suffocation, beginning at intervals of fifteen
minutes, succeeded one another more rapidly, and sickness occurred
constantly. The general's two nephews were with him, never leaving his
bedside for a moment, lavishing every possible care on him, and as
they were both men, he did not attempt to hide from them his serious
condition.

"I can feel," he said, "some destroying power at work within me; I am
fighting against it, but it is too strong for me, and will conquer my
efforts."

When the final hour approached, he felt the need of more air, although
it was November, and he longed for the comforting rays of the pale
winter sunshine. His nephews placed him on a couch in front of the
window, but he could not manage to sit up for more than a moment.

"My lads," he said to his nephews, "my dear lads, carry me back to my
bed, and with God be the final issue."

He had scarcely spoken the words before God freed his pure and loyal
spirit from the body in which it was confined. I went home to my mother
utterly miserable. Obscure as I was, I felt that the great man who had
just passed away had a right to have expected some return from the
unknown youth whose career in life he had really started. So I wrote
the piece of poetry of which I have already quoted a stanza. They were
not my first lines,--God pardon me the others,--but they were the
first in which, however old and defective the form, appeared something
that resembled an idea. Of some two hundred and fifty to three hundred
lines, only that one stanza, happily, has remained in my memory. I had
this ode printed--at my own expense, of course. It cost my poor mother
two or three hundred francs; still, neither of us regretted it. All
the poems that were written on this occasion were collected under the
title _Couronne poétique du General Foy_, and they made a volume in
themselves.

The most remarkable verses in the whole volume were by a beautiful
young girl of seventeen or eighteen, called Delphine Gay, who had just
become known by a volume of _Essais poétiques._ This is the elegy which
the death of General Foy inspired her to write; it was quoted in all
the newspapers of the day and was immensely popular:--

    "Pleurez, Français, pleurez! la patrie est en deuil;
    Pleurez le défenseur que la mort vous enlève;
    Et vous, nobles guerriers, sur son muet cercueil
    Disputez-vous l'honneur de déposer son glaive!

    Vous ne l'entendrez plus, l'orateur redouté
    Dont l'injure jamais ne souilla l'éloquence;
    Celui qui, de nos rois respectant la puissance,
    En fidèle sujet parla de liberté:
    Le ciel, lui décernant la sainte récompense,
    A commencé trop tôt son immortalité!

    Son bras libérateur dans la tombe est esclave;
    Son front pur s'est glacé sous le laurier vainqueur,
    Et le signe sacré, cette étoile du brave,
        Ne sent plus palpiter son cœur.

    Hier, quand de ses jours la source fut tarie,
    La France, en le voyant sur sa couche étendu,
    Implorait un accent de cette voix chérie ...
    Hélas! au cri plaintif jeté par la patrie
    C'est la première fois qu'il n'a pas répondu!"

General Foy's funeral took place on 30 November. The body was carried
from his house to the church of Notre-Dame de Lorette; and thirty
thousand persons followed it, in spite of a pouring rain which fell
unceasingly from noon until four o'clock in the afternoon, and hundreds
of thousands of spectators lined the roadway. The livery of the Duc
d'Orléans could be distinguished among the mourning carriages which
formed the procession. The day after the funeral the following song,
directed against the prince who had just given a public expression of
his appreciation of the talent and character of the noble general and
illustrious patriot, could be heard in every street of Paris:--

    AIR_--Tous les bourgeois de Châtres_

          "Bon Dieu! quelle cohue!
          Quel attroupement noir!
          Il tient toute la rue
          Aussi loin qu'on peut voir.
    Est-ce pompe funèbre ou pompe triomphale?
        Est-il mort quelque gros richard?
        Car j'aperçois là-bas le char
          D'une Altesse Royale.

          Est-ce un songe civique?
          Est-ce un de ses héros
          Qu'ainsi la république
          Mène au champ du repos?
    Un déluge nouveau fond sur la capitale;
        On ferait rentrer un canard!
        Dehors pourquoi voit-on le char
          D'une Altesse Royale?

          Appuyé sur sa canne,
          Un vieil et bon bourgeois
          Me regarde, ricane,
          Et me dit à mi-voix:
    Un carbonaro mort cause tout ce scandale;
        Tout frère a son billet de part;
        C'est pourquoi nous voyons le char
          D'une Altesse Royale.

          'Le défunt qu'on révère,
          C'est Foy l'homme de bien,
          C'est Foy l'homme de guerre,
          C'est Foy le citoyen.
    Jamais à sa vertu, vertu ne fut égale!
        Moi, je n'en crois rien pour ma part;
        Mais, ici, j'aime à voir le char
          D'une Altesse Royale.

          'Ce Foy, d'après nature,
          Ce député fameux,
          Fut un soldat parjure,
          Un Français factieux.
    Aux vertus de Berton, la sienne fut égale;
        Ce n'est pas l'effet du hasard,
        Si nous voyons ici le char
          D'une Altesse Royale.

          'Sortis de leurs repaires,
          Au tricolor signal,
          Les amis et les frères
          Suivent leur général.
    De la France c'est là l'élite libérale;
        Qu'ils sont bien près du corbillard!
        Qu'ils sont bien tous autour du char
          D'une Altesse Royale!

          'Philippe de ton père
          Ne te souvient-il pas?
          Dans la même carrière
          Tu marches sur ses pas.
    Tu crois mener, tu suis la horde libérale;
        Elle rit sous ce corbillard,
        En voyant derrière son char
          Ton Altesse Royale.'"

Although this petty insult was anonymous, the quarter whence it came
was guessed, especially as a hundred thousand copies were printed and
distributed gratis. Only Government-endowed poets could produce such
doggerel; only works that cannot be sold are printed by the hundred
thousand. Let us drop this wretched side of the affair. There was a
great and noble and magnificent side to it when it was noised abroad
that General Foy had died without being able to bequeath his wife
anything save his renowned name: a subscription was started which, in
three months' time, produced a million [francs].

In the course of one year a Government and a people had each shown
that rare article, a fine sense of gratitude: the American Government
had voted a million to la Fayette, and the French people had raised a
million for the widow and children of General Foy.

Towards the beginning of the year, the death had taken place of a man
who had contributed as much to the emancipation of France by his pen,
as General Foy had by his speeches. About ten o'clock on the morning
of 11 April, Paul-Louis Courier de Méré was found, assassinated within
three-quarters of a league of his country residence, in the wood of
Larçay. He had been killed by a gun or pistol shot, which had entered
his right thigh low down; the weapon had been loaded with three small
balls, one of which remained in the body, and the other two had gone
through and out again. The wad was found by the side of the shot inside
the body, showing that the victim had been killed at close quarters;
his clothes, too, were singed round the wounded part. Three people were
arrested, Symphorien and Pierre Dubois, carters, who both pleaded, and
proved, an alibi and were discharged; and Louis Frémont, whom the jury
acquitted. So Paul-Louis Courier, the famous savant, the precursor of
M. de Cormenin, a pre-eminently intellectual man, was murdered without
his assassinator being found out. The Liberal party lost in Courier one
of their hardiest champions; he did for the pamphlet what Béranger did
for the chanson.

But the death that produced the profoundest and most stirring sensation
was that of the Emperor Alexander, which was to influence not only
the affairs of France, but the fate of the whole world. When I was a
little child, I narrowly escaped being run over at Villers-Cotterets by
a small _kibitz_, driven by a coachman who was bending over the three
horses he was urging forward at a great pace, by the use of a short
whip. This coachman wore a leather cap and a green uniform, he had a
budding beard, gold rings in his ears, and his face was spotted with
freckles. He was driving two officers dressed almost alike, wearing a
star, two or three crosses and two enormous epaulettes. One of these
two officers was a species of Kalmouk, hideous in countenance, rough
in manner, noisy of voice; he swore in French at the top of his voice,
and seemed to be particularly well acquainted with our language, so
far as its coarse slang expressions were concerned. The other was a
handsome man of thirty-three or thirty-four, who looked as gentle and
as polished, as his companion seemed vulgar and ill-bred. His hair was
golden blond, and although he looked strong and healthy, a sad sweet
smile played about his lips whenever he corrected his foul-mouthed
companion.

He was the Emperor Alexander: according to Napoleon, the most beautiful
and the most treacherous of Greeks. His companion was the Grand-Duke
Constantine, and their driver was the Grand-Duke Michel. A strange trio
it was, an almost grotesque vision, that passed before my eyes and
impressed itself so vividly on my memory that I can see it pass before
me to-day, thirty-seven years after--the low carriage drawn by its
three horses, the driver and his two companions. Well, the possessor
of the gentle and melancholy face, who lived longest in my memory of
those three men, was the first to die. Napoleon had done his utmost
at Erfürt to make not merely an ally of this man, but a brother. They
had called each other Charlemagne and Constantine, and Napoleon had
offered Alexander the Empire of the East on condition he would leave
him in peaceful possession of the Empire of the West. For the emperor
had been impressed with one dominant idea during his reign--he had
comprehended that our natural ally against our natural enemy England,
was Russia. And of a truth, I beg my readers to ponder the question
well, instead of accepting hackneyed political traditions that have
been handed on ready-made: alliances between nations become firm on
account of _difference of interests_ and not because of _similarity of
principles._ Now, of what consequence was it that England proclaimed
similar principles to those of France, if she had the same interests
throughout the world? What matters it that Russia has different
principles so long as her interests are different from ours? Look back
over a century, and see how England has increased in power; and you
will find that she has robbed us, her neighbouring country and ally,
of all she could lay her hands on. Look back over a century of Russian
growth and you will see that she has not touched anything belonging
to us. Reckon up the colonies of the one and consider the limits of
the other. England, who a century ago possessed only five factories
in India--Bombay, Singapore, Madras, Calcutta and Chandernagor; who
possessed only Newfoundland, in North America, and that strip of
coast-line which extends like a fringe from Arcadia to Florida; who
possessed only the Lucaya Isles among the Bahamas, the Barbadoes
among the Lesser Antilles and Jamaica in the Gulf of Mexico; whose
only station in the equinoctial portion of the Atlantic Ocean was St.
Helena, of unhappy memory; to-day, like a gigantic sea-spider, has
stretched out her web over the five parts of the globe. In Europe she
possesses Ireland, Malta, Heligoland and Gibraltar;--in Asia, the town
of Aden, which commands the Red Sea, as Gibraltar the Mediterranean;
Ceylon, that great peninsula of India, Nepal, Lahore, the Sind,
Baluchistan and Kabul; the Singapore Isles, Poulo-Penang and Sumatra;
that is to say, a total of 122,333 square leagues of territory,
supporting 723,000,000 of men. Without counting, in Africa, Bathurst,
the Isles of Léon, Sierra-Leone, a portion of the coast of Guinea,
Fernando-Po, Ascension Isle, and St. Helena, which has already been
mentioned; Cape Colony, Natal, Mauritius, Rodriguez, the Seychelles,
Socotra; in America, Canada, the whole of the northern continent from
the Bank of Newfoundland to the mouth of the Mackenzie River; nearly
the whole of the Antilles; Trinidad, part of Guiana, Falkland Isles,
Belize, Tuathan and the Bermudas; in the Pacific, half of Australia,
Van-Diemen's Land, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Hawaii, and the general
protectorate of the Polynesian Isles. She foresaw everything and is
ready for everything. Perhaps one day the isthmus of Panama will be cut
through; if so, she has Belize ready on the spot. Perhaps the isthmus
of Suez will also be opened up; if so, she has Aden as sentry on guard.
The passage from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean will belong to
her, and the passage from the Gulf of Mexico to the immense Pacific
Ocean. In her Admiralty safes she will hold the keys of India and of
the Pacific, as she already does those of the Mediterranean. But this
is not all. Through her title of protectress of the Ionian Isles, she
holds the entrance to and exit from the Adriatic and the Ægean Seas;
she has placed her foot on the territory of the ancient Epirotes and
the modern Albanians. When Ireland refuses to lend her her peasantry
and Scotland her Highlanders, when the slave-markets of men kept by
German princes shall be closed to her, she will draw her recruits from
warlike tribes, she will have her Arnautes, like the Viceroy of Egypt,
or like the Pacha of Acre and of Tripoli. She will have a squadron at
Corfu which will be able to reach the Dardanelles in a few days; she
will have at Cephalonia an army which will be able to reach the summit
of the Balkans in a week. Then, when she has destroyed our influence at
Constantinople, she will do her utmost to supersede Russian influence
in Greece, and she will only need a few warships to destroy the whole
of Austria's commercial seaboard. That is what England has been doing;
and you can see with what powerful allies she has increased her
strength--Canada, India, the Antilles and Mauritius;--you can see how
she has complete control of the Mediterranean, which Napoleon called a
_French lake_ and which was to have no other masters than ourselves;
you can see how England has snatched from us piecemeal our protectorate
over the Holy Land, Egypt and Tunis, envying us our possession of
Algiers, which we bought with blood and treasure and which she managed
to cheat us of twenty years ago.

Now let us pass on to Russia, and see what a foreign country it is
compared with our own. A hundred years ago, Russia extended from Kiev
to the island of St. Lawrence, from the great Ural Mountains to the
Gulf of Yenisei, and possibly those are in the right who think that
it was with a view to setting a bound to her extension that Behring
discovered the Straits which bear his name.

Russia was not to be kept back and has not stopped there--she has
broken her ancient limit of Kiev. The Scandinavian serpent which
enfolded two-thirds of the globe has expanded: it has opened its
jaws to devour Prussia;--in the West, its jaws touch the Vistula on
the one side, and on the other the Gulf of Bothnia. In the East, in
one of its worm-like expansions, it has leapt across the Behring
Straits and has come to a full stop only upon meeting the domains of
England. Divided from the other extremity of the world, at the foot
of Mt. Saint-Elias and the Blackburn Mountains, as though a barrier
mounted up behind it, it bears sway to-day over the whole of that
indented coast-line which, by way of an ultimate limit to the surface
of the globe, fringes the Arctic Ocean from the Piasina river to
the Bear Isles; from Lake Piasina to Holy Cape. Thus, in a century,
Russia has acquired Finland, Abo, Viborg, Esthonia, Livonia, Riga,
Reval and a part of Lapland from Sweden;--Kurland and Samogitia from
Germany;--Lithuania, Volhynia, a part of Galicia, Mohileff, Vitebsk,
Polotsk, Minsk, Bialystok, Kamenetz, Tarnopol, Vilna, Grodno, Warsaw,
from Poland;--part of Little Tartary, the Crimea, Bessarabia, the
coast of the Black Sea, the protectorate of Servia, of Moldavia and
of Wallachia, from Turkey;--Georgia, Tiflis, Erivan and a part of
Circassia from Persia;--the Aleutian Isles and the north-west part of
the northern continent from the St. Lawrence archipelago, from America.
From the other side of the Black Sea, she watches Turkey, whom she is
ever ready to invade, as soon as France and England permit her. Then
if, as seems probable, she some day annexes Sweden, she can close the
Straits of Sund on the west and the Dardanelles on the east, and no one
can then enter without her leave the Black Sea or the Baltic, those two
great mirrors in which are reflected already the towers of Odessa and
of St. Petersburg. Her greatest length extends 3800 leagues, and her
greatest width is 1400 leagues. In all that extent of territory she has
not one inch of land once ours. She has 70,000,000 inhabitants and not
one single soul ever belonged to us.

On 24 June 1807, Lariboissière, general of artillery, had a raft
constructed on the Niemen and placed a pavilion upon it. On the 25th,
at one in the afternoon, the Emperor Napoleon, with the Grand-Duke
de Berg, Murat, Marshals Berthier and Bessières, General Duroc, and
Caulaincourt the grand equerry, crossed from the left bank of the river
to visit this pavilion, prepared for him. The Emperor Alexander set out
at the same time from the right bank, accompanied by the Grand-Duke
Constantine, Benigsen, General-in-chief Prince Labanof, General Ouvarov
and Count de Liéven, general aide-de-camp. The two boats both reached
the raft at the same time, and thus two emperors stepped on the
floating island, confronted one another, clasped hands with each other
and embraced.

This meeting was the prelude to the peace of Tilsit: and the peace of
Tilsit was meant to destroy England. First of all, by the Berlin decree
concerning the Continental blockade, England had been placed in the
dock before a European tribunal. In the North Seas, Russia, Denmark and
Holland, and in the Mediterranean, France and Spain, had closed their
ports to her, and had solemnly engaged to hold no commerce with her.

There were therefore only Portugal on the Atlantic Ocean and Sweden on
the Baltic open to her.

By a treaty dated 27 October 1807, Napoleon decided that the House
of Braganza had ceased to reign, and on 27 September 1808, Alexander
determined to go to war against Gustavus IV. But this was not all. Upon
that raft, and in that pavilion, on the Niemen, a much more terrible
scheme was arranged.

"It is through India that England must be struck down," Bonaparte had
said when he was inducing the Directory to begin the Egyptian campaign.
And, from Alexandria, he had despatched a messenger to Tippoo-Sahib,
to encourage him to take up arms. But the messenger did not get beyond
Aden: the throne of Mysore had fallen and Tippoo-Sahib was dead. From
that moment, the conquest of India, which had been one of Bonaparte's
dreams, became the rooted purpose of Napoleon.

Why had he made his peace with Alexander? Why had he embraced him on
the Niemen? Why had he addressed him as Constantine? Why had he offered
him the Empire of the East? In order to gain him as a sure ally, so
that, supported on the alliance, he could conquer India. What was
to hinder Napoleon from doing what Alexander had done, two thousand
two hundred years before his time? It would be ridiculously easy, as
you will perceive! Thirty-five thousand Russians could embark on the
Volga, descend the river as far as Astrakan, sail down the Caspian Sea
and land at Astrabad. Thirty-five thousand French could descend the
Danube to the Black Sea; there, they could embark, and at the extreme
end of the Sea of Azov land on the banks of the Don; they could ascend
the river for nearly a hundred leagues, cross the twelve or fourteen
leagues that separated the two rivers, the Don and the Volga, at the
point of their nearest approach, then sail down the latter river as far
as Astrakan, and at Astrakan embark to join the Russians at Astrabad.
Seventy thousand men would meet in the heart of Persia before England
was aware of their movements. At Astrabad, they would be exactly a
hundred and fifty leagues off the kingdom of Kabul, and it would only
take them twelve days to reach India; a dozen days would be sufficient
to reach Herat from Astrabad by way of the fertile valley of Herio Rud.

From Herat to Kandahar there were a hundred leagues of splendid road;
from Kandahar to Ghizni fifty leagues; from Ghizni to Attock, sixty;
and the two armies would be on the Indus, a river with a flow of about
a league an hour, with any number of fords, never more than ten to
fifteen feet deep, between Attock and Dera-Ismail-Khan. Moreover,
it was the route followed by all previous Indian invaders, from the
year 1000 to 1729--from Mahmoud de Ghizni to Nadir-Shah. Mahmoud de
Ghizni alone had invaded India seven times between the years 1000
and 1021. In his sixth expedition, in three months he had penetrated
from his capital at Ghizni, to Chanaud, a town situated a hundred
miles south-west of Delhi; in the seventh, he penetrated as far as
the centre of Gujarat and razed the temple of Somnath. Then, in 1184,
came Mahomet Gouri, who marched upon Delhi by the same route, _viâ_
Attock and Lahore, seized the town and substituted his dynasty for
that of Mahmoud de Ghizni. Then, in 1396, came Timur the lame, known
commonly as Tamerlane. He set forth from Samarcand, crossed the river
Amou, leaving Balkh on his right, descended Kabul by the defile of
Andesab, followed the river banks until he reached Attock, where he
crossed it and invaded the Punjaub, seizing Delhi, which he put to
fire and sword, and, the next year, after fourteen months' campaign,
returned to Tartary. Then came Baber in 1505, who again crossed the
Indus, established himself at Lahore, and from Lahore attacked Delhi,
which he took, founding the Mongolian dynasty there. Finally, in 1739,
Nadir-Shah descended from Persia upon Kabul, and, following the same
route to Lahore, took possession of Delhi, which he pillaged for three
days. It would probably be at Delhi that the two combined armies of
Russia and France would meet the Anglo-Indian forces. When Napoleon
and Alexander had demolished that army, they would march next upon
Bombay, rather than on Calcutta, which is only a commercial centre; the
destruction of Bombay would be far more damaging to England than that
of Calcutta, since it is through Bombay that England communicates with
the Red Sea and Europe. If Bombay were taken, the head of the serpent
would be crushed; there would only be Madras left, with its poor
fortification, and Calcutta with its fortress, which, without being
able to support them, would need fifteen thousand men to defend it.

England's power in India would be annihilated, and Russia would succeed
her: Alexander would take as his share, Turkey in Europe, Turkey in
Asia, Persia and India; while we should take Holland, Italy, Spain,
Portugal, the whole of the African seaboard from Tunis to Cairo, the
Red Sea with its Christian colonies and Syria as far as the Persian
Gulf.

I need hardly add that Malta, the Ionian Isles and Greece, to the
Dardanelles, would also be yielded up to us. And then the Mediterranean
would be truly a _French lake_, by means of which we should share the
commerce of India with our sister Russia.

Had Alexander but kept his promise, instead of betraying his ally, this
dream would have become a reality.

So it will be seen that there was another reason for the war with
Russia, besides the refusal of the hand of Princess Olga, which
everyone persists in thinking the sole cause. Alexander conquered, he
would be compelled by force to do what he had refused to do out of
goodwill. But God saw otherwise.



CHAPTER IX


The Emperor Alexander--Letter from Czar Nicolas to Karamsine--History
after the style of Suetonius and Saint-Simon--Catherine and
Potemkin--Madame Braniska--The cost of the imperial cab-drive--A ball
at M. de Caulaincourt's--The man with the pipe--The emperor's boatman
and coachman


We will now devote a few words to the emperor who had failed Napoleon
in his lofty mission of sharing the world, and to the Grand-Duke
Constantine, whom the whole of Europe, in ignorance of the family
secret we are about to relate, looked upon as his successor.

Russian history is less known than that of other countries, not because
it is not worth being known, but because no one dare write it. One
man only, Karamsine, received that mission, but he died before he had
accomplished his task, on 3 June 1826, in the palace of the Taurida,
where the emperor had lodged him.

Three weeks before his death, the Emperor Nicolas, who had been six
months on the throne, wrote him the following letter, which might very
well serve as an example to certain heads of Governments, who flatter
themselves that their ideas are more liberal than, say they, are those
of the Czar of All the Russias:--

                               "CZARKOSJELO, 25 _May_ 1826

    "NICOLAI-MIKAÏLOVITCH,--As your failing health makes it
    necessary for you to leave your native country for a time to
    seek a warmer climate, it gives me much pleasure to express
    to you, on this occasion, the earnest hope that you will
    soon return among us with renewed strength, still to serve
    the interests and the honour of your country as you have
    hitherto done. I have much pleasure in bearing witness,
    on behalf of the late Emperor, who was aware of your noble
    and disinterested devotion to his person, on my own behalf
    and in the name of all Russia, to our grateful recognition
    of your services both as citizen and author. The Emperor
    Alexander said to you, 'The Russian people deserves to know
    its history'; and the history you have written is worthy of
    the Russian people.

    "I now fulfil the intention which my brother had not time
    to carry out. The accompanying paper will assure you of
    my goodwill; it is but an act of justice, so far as I am
    concerned, but I also regard it in the light of a sacred
    legacy deputed me by the Emperor Alexander.

    "I trust your travels will be beneficial to you, and give
    you ample strength to finish the principal work of your
    life."

This letter might have been signed by François I., Louis XIV. or
Napoleon, but it was simply signed "Nicolas." With it was a ukase,
informing the Minister of Finance that His Imperial Majesty had granted
a pension of five thousand roubles to M. de Karamsine, to be continued
to his wife and to his children; the sons were to enjoy the pension
until they were old enough to enter the army, the daughters till they
married.

Karamsine died before he could finish his history; but, had it been
finished, it would only have informed us of the general facts and great
events connected with the Russian Empire, and it would not have given
us any details of the kind we are about to relate.

There are two ways of writing history: one, after the fashion of
Tacitus, the other after that of Suetonius; one like Voltaire, the
other like Saint-Simon. Tacitus is magnificent, but we find Suetonius
more amusing. Voltaire is limpidly clear, but Saint-Simon is a far more
picturesque writer.

We will now write a few pages of Russian history as Suetonius wrote
Roman history and as Saint-Simon wrote French history. The reader, of
course, knows Catherine II. by name?--she whom Voltaire called the
Semiramis of the North; who gave pensions to our literary men when
Louis XV. proscribed them or left them to die of hunger even when he
had not proscribed them.


Catherine II. was thirty-three years of age; she was beautiful,
benevolent and pious; up to that age she had been considered faithful
to her husband, Peter III., when, all at once, she learnt that
the emperor intended to repudiate her, in order to marry Countess
Vorontsov, and as an excuse for this repudiation he proposed to declare
that the birth of Paul-Petrovitch had been illegitimate. She quickly
perceived that it was a matter of life and death for her, and of the
throne for her son; there was a game to be played, and he who was
first in the field would win. The tidings were announced to her at
ten one night. By eleven, she had left the castle of Peterhof, where
she lived, and, as she did not wish her departure to be known by
ordering her carriage to be made ready, she stopped a peasant's cart
and mounted beside him, the carter imagining he was merely taking up
a country woman. She reached St. Petersburg just as day was beginning
to dawn. Directly she arrived, she ordered out the regiments in the
garrison there without revealing for what object, got together the
few friends upon whom she believed she could rely, and went on parade
with them before the assembled soldiers. She rode on horseback up and
down the lines, addressed the officers, invoking their chivalry as
men of honour and appealing to their loyalty as soldiers; then she
seized hold of a sword, drew it from its scabbard, flung the scabbard
far from her, and, fearing lest the sword might drop out of her
unaccustomed hands, asked for a sword-knot to tie it to her wrist. A
young officer of twenty-eight heard his sovereign's request through
the din of the shouts of enthusiasm raised by the regiments, broke
through the ranks, ran up to her side offering her his sword-knot;
then, when Catherine had accepted his offer with the gracious smile of
a woman bent on reigning as empress, a queen in quest of a throne, the
young officer turned aside to fall back in his place; but his horse,
which was one day to share in his master's good fortune, refused to
turn aside; it reared and danced about, and, being used to cavalry
manœuvres, persisted in ranging itself by the side of the empress's
horse. Catherine, who was as superstitious as all are who stake their
fortunes upon the cast of a die, fancied she augured from the horse's
persistency that its rider would become one of her most powerful
defenders; and she promoted him. A week later, after Peter III., who
had been made prisoner by the very person whom he thought to make
captive, had resigned into Catherine's hands the crown which he had
intended to snatch from her, the empress sent for the young officer
from the _place du Sénat_, made him one of her suite and appointed him
groom of the chamber in her palace. This young man's name was Potemkin.
From that day, without hindering in the least the reign of the twelve
Cæsars, as the new régime was dubbed, Potemkin became the favourite of
the empress, and her partiality for him continued to increase.

Many, hoping to replace him, sought to undermine his position and
ruined themselves. A young Servian, called Lovitz, himself a protégé
of Potemkin, imagined he had succeeded. He had been placed near
the empress by his patron, and resolved to take advantage of his
protector's absence to ruin him. How did he bring it about? That
must remain one of the secrets of the closet which the walls of the
palace of the Hermitage has not revealed to us. It is only known
that Potemkin was sent for to the palace; that, upon entering his
apartments, he was told he was utterly disgraced, that he was exiled,
and he was threatened with death if he did not obey. He went at once,
travel-stained as he was after his journey, to the empress's rooms. A
young orderly officer tried to bar his entrance, but Potemkin took him
round the hips, lifted him up, flung him across the chamber, entered
the empress's room and, in ten minutes' time, came out with a paper in
his hand.

"Here, monsieur," he said to the young officer, who was still
considerably knocked about by the treatment he had just received, "this
is the brevet of a captaincy that Her Majesty has been graciously
pleased to sign for you."

That same day, Lovitz was exiled to the town of Schaklov, which was
made into a principality for him.

From time to time Potemkin dreamt of the duchy of Courland and the
throne of Poland; but, upon further reflection, he saw that he did
not want either, for whether the crown were ducal or regal, he knew
he could not be more powerful nor more fortunate than he was in his
present position. Did not there pass through his hands every hour, to
play with as a cowboy plays with pebbles, more diamonds, rubies and
emeralds than any one crown could contain? Had he not couriers at his
beck and call to fetch him sturgeon from the Volga, water melons from
Astrakan, grapes from the Crimea, and most beautiful flowers from
whatever quarter they could be found? Did he not give his sovereign
every New Year's Day a plate of cherries that cost him ten thousand
roubles?

The Prince de Ligne (grandfather of the prince of that name, with whom
we are acquainted), author of the charming memoirs which bear his name,
and of the most intellectually refined letters that have probably ever
been penned, knew Potemkin, and said of him--

"That man was a compound of colossal, romantic and barbaric ideas."

The Prince de Ligne was right. For thirty years, not a single action,
good or bad, was done in Russia save through his instrumentality: angel
or demon, he created or destroyed as the caprice took him; he set
everything at sixes and sevens, but he inspired life into everything;
nothing went on without him; when he reappeared everything else
disappeared and, before his presence, vanished into Limbo.

One day he conceived the notion of building a palace for Catherine;
she had just conquered Taurida, and this palace was to be a monument
in memory of that conquest. In three months' time, the palace was
raised in Catherine's capital, without Catherine knowing anything about
it; then, one evening, Potemkin invited the empress to a night-fête
which he desired to give in her honour, he said, in the palace that
extended along the left bank of the Neva; and there, amidst fine trees,
brilliantly lighted up, and shining with marble, she found the fairy
palace that seemed to have sprung up at one wave of a wand, filled with
statues, magnificently furnished, its lakes abounding in gold and
silver and azure fishes.

Everything connected with this man was mysterious, his death as well as
his life, his unexpected end just as his undreamt of beginning. He had
passed a year in St. Petersburg in fêtes and orgies of all kinds, had
succeeded in advancing Russia's boundaries as far as the Caucasus, and
was thinking that, this new frontier line now made, he had done enough
for his and Catherine's glory. Suddenly, he learnt that old Repnin
had taken advantage of his absence to defeat the Turks, and, forcing
them to demand peace, had accomplished more in two months than he had
in three years. So there was then no more rest for the favourite, but
more glory ahead for the general. He was ill, but that did not matter!
He would wrestle with his disease and slay it. He set out, crossed
Jassy and reached Otchakoff, where he halted for a night's rest; next
day, at dawn, he resumed his journey; but, after traversing several
versts, the atmosphere inside his carriage stifled him, and he had it
stopped: his cloak was spread on the bank of a ditch, and he lay down
on it, panting for breath; he died in his niece's arms before a quarter
of an hour had elapsed! I knew his niece; I have heard her relate the
details of her uncle's death as though it had only just happened. She
was seventy when I knew her. Her name was Madame Braniska, and she
lived at Odessa. She was very wealthy, being worth between sixty and a
hundred millions, possibly. She possessed some of the finest sapphires,
pearls, rubies and diamonds in the world. How had she begun such a
collection of precious gems? She would relate--for she dearly loved
talking about anything that concerned her uncle--that Potemkin, as we
have said, liked nothing better than playing with precious stones which
he poured in cascades from hand to hand; those which, escaping from
the main stream of the cataract, dropped to the ground, fell to the
spoilt child, who made a collection of them. Often, when he composed
himself to rest, on an ottoman, a divan or a couch, Potemkin would push
his arms under the cushion, and then, when he fell asleep, his hands
would relax and a handful of pearls dropped out, which he would forget
to pick up when he awoke. His niece knew this, and, either during his
sleep or after he awoke, she used to raise the cushion and carry off
the treasures. What did it matter to Potemkin? His pockets were full
of other precious stones! And, when his pockets were empty, had he not
casks full, like the sovereigns of Samarcand, Bagdad and of Bassora,
mentioned in the _Thousand and One Nights_?

This Madame Braniska was a singular character, with her sixty to a
hundred millions. She often had fits of avarice, interspersed with
bursts of generosity--very unusual traits to find combined in one
person. For instance, she would send her son, who lived either at
Moscow or St. Petersburg, 500,000 francs for a New Year's gift, and add
a postscript to the letter in closing it, saying--

"I have a dreadful cold; send me some jujubes, but wait till you see a
convenient opportunity; the carriage from Moscow and Odessa is ruinous!"

Catherine nearly died when she heard of Potemkin's death; those two
great hearts and lives seemed to beat in perfect unison. She fainted
away three times on receipt of the fatal news, mourned him for long and
ever regretted him.

Paul-Petrovitch, for whom she had saved the crown when she took it away
from Peter III., became the father of that rich posterity of which I
had seen a specimen in the kibitz driven by the Grand Duke Michael,
besides the emperor reigning to-day.

At that period no one for a moment thought he would ever reign.
Ranging over her fine and numerous company of descendants, the eyes of
Catherine were most constantly fixed on the two eldest, and by their
very names--one was called Alexander and the other Constantine--she
seemed to have divided the world in advance between them. This idea
had, indeed, been so firmly rooted in her mind, that she had them
painted, while they were both infants, one cutting the Gordian knot,
the other carrying the Roman standard. She carried the idea even
farther, and had them educated in conformity with the same two great
ideas. Constantine, whom she destined for the Empire of the East, had
only Greek nurses and tutors, whilst Alexander, destined to rule the
Western Empire, was surrounded by English, Germans and French. Nothing
could have been more diametrically different than the methods employed
in the education of the august pupils. Whilst Alexander, aged twelve,
said to Graft, his professor in experimental physics, who was telling
him that light was a continual emanation from the sun, "That cannot be
true, or the sun would grow smaller every day," Constantine said to his
special tutor, Saken, who was endeavouring to get him to learn to read,
"No, I do not want to learn to read; you are everlastingly reading, and
it only makes you more and more stupid."

We shall see later how mistaken the empress's forecasts were with
regard to Constantine; but first we will devote a little attention to
the Emperor Alexander.

He was much beloved both by the people and the nobles; loved on account
of his own character, and perhaps even more so because of the fear
with which Constantine was regarded. There are hosts of anecdotes told
in his praise, doing honour to his kindliness, his courage and his
ability. Once, when he was walking on foot, as was his custom, seeing
threatenings of rain, he hailed a drovsky to take him to the imperial
palace; on arrival, the emperor searched in his pockets and saw he had
no money.

"Wait," he said to the driver; "I will have your fare sent out to you."

"Oh yes, I know that tale," growled the man.

"What are you saying?" demanded the emperor.

"I am saying that I can't rely on your promises."

"Why not?" asked Alexander.

"Oh, I know what I am talking about," said the driver.

"Well, let me hear all about it."

"I say that there are too many persons whom I take up to houses with
double doors, who go inside without paying me their fares, too many
debtors whom I never see again."

"What! even at the emperor's palace?"

"Oh, there are more there than anywhere else; you don't know what short
memories great nobles have."

"But you should complain, and denounce the thieves, and have them taken
up," said Alexander.

"I have a nobleman taken up! Your excellency surely knows that we
poor devils have no power to do anything of the kind. If it were one
of ourselves, it would be another matter and easy enough," added the
driver, pointing to his long beard, "for they know how to get hold of
us; but all you great nobles have your chins too smoothly shaven for
that.... Good-night, there is nothing more to be said, unless your
excellency will please search your pockets once more, in case there is
a trifle with which to pay me."

"No," said the emperor, "it would be useless ... but I have an idea."

"What is it?"

"You see this cloak--it is worth more than your fare, is it not?"

"Certainly! And if you excellency wishes to give it me without
expecting the change ...?"

"No! keep it as a pledge and do not give it up till I send someone for
it with your fare."

"All right, well and good; you are something like a reasonable
gentleman, you are," replied the driver.

Five minutes later, the driver received a note for a hundred roubles,
in exchange for the pledged cloak. The emperor had paid off the debts
of those who came to see him as well as his own; but the driver made
out he was still out of pocket.

During the time in which Napoleon and Alexander were on friendly terms,
when he inclined towards him and smiled at the line,

    "L'amitié d'un grand homme est un bienfait des dieux!"

the Emperor Alexander was one night at a ball, given by M. de
Caulaincourt, the French Ambassador, and at midnight the host was
informed that the house was on fire. The remembrance of the terrible
accidents that had happened in a fire at the Prince of Schwartzenberg's
ball was still in everybody's mind, so Caulaincourt's first fear when
he received news of the fire was that there would be a panic and the
same disastrous results would happen at his house. He therefore decided
to make sure first himself how serious the danger was, so he placed
an aide-de-camp at every door with directions that no one should be
allowed to go out, and he made his way up to the emperor.

"Sire, the house is on fire," he said in a whisper. "I am going myself
to see how things are; it is important that no one should be told of
the danger until we can ascertain the amount and nature of the peril.
My aides-de-camp have received orders to prevent any person from going
out, except your Majesty and their Imperial Highnesses the Grand-Dukes
and Grand-Duchesses. If your Majesty therefore desires to withdraw,
the way is clear.... But I may, perhaps, be permitted to suggest that
no one will be so ready to take fright at the fire if they see your
Majesty among them."

"Very good," said the emperor; "go, I will stay here."

M. de Caulaincourt went out and discovered that, as he had anticipated,
the danger was not so grave as he had at first been given to
understand. He went back to the ballroom, and found the emperor dancing
a polonaise. They exchanged significant glances, and the emperor danced
to the finish. When the dance was at an end, he asked Caulaincourt how
matters stood.

"It is all right, sire," the ambassador replied; "the fire has been
extinguished." And that was all.

It was not until the next day that the guests who had attended that
magnificent fête learnt that, for a quarter of an hour, they had, as M.
de Salvandy expressed it, been "dancing upon a volcano."

We have mentioned that the Emperor Alexander liked walking alone about
the streets of St. Petersburg; he also indulged in the same habit when
he travelled about. He was once journeying through Little Russia, when
he reached a large village, and whilst the grooms were changing horses
he jumped out of his carriage and told the postillions that he meant to
walk on on foot for a while, therefore they need not hurry after him.
Then, alone, clad simply in a military cloak, and divested of all his
insignia, he began his walk. When he got to the end of the village, he
found there were two roads and did not know which he ought to take, so
he went up to a man who was dressed in a military cloak very similar to
his own. The man was sitting smoking a pipe at his front door.

"My friend," inquired the emperor, "which of those two roads ought I to
take to get to---?"

At this question, the man with the pipe eyed the interrogator from
head to foot and, astounded that such an ordinary looking traveller
should dare to speak with that familiarity to a man of his importance
(especially in Russia, where differences in rank place a great gulf
between superiors and inferiors), he went on puffing at his pipe, and
snapped out--

"The road to the right."

The emperor understood, and respected the reason for his haughty
indignation.

"Forgive me, monsieur," he said, touching his cap, as he went up to the
man with the pipe, "may I ask one more question ...?"

"What is it?"

"May I ask your rank in the army?"

"Guess it."

"Well ... perhaps Monsieur is a lieutenant?"

"Higher."

"A captain?"

"Higher still."

"Major?"

"Go on."

"Commandant of a battalion?"

"Yes, and I didn't gain it save by hard work!..."

The emperor bowed.

"And now," said the man with the pipe, persuaded that he was talking to
an inferior, "who are you, my good man?"

"Guess," replied the emperor, in his turn.

"Lieutenant?"

"Higher."

"Captain?"

"Higher still."

"Major?"

"Go on."

"Commandant of a battalion?"

"Try again."

The questioner drew his pipe out of his mouth.

"Colonel?"

"You haven't got it yet."

The man stood up and assumed a more respectful attitude.

"Your excellency is a lieutenant-general, perhaps?"

"You are getting nearer."

"Then your Highness must be a field-marshal?"

"Have one more guess, Commandant."

"His Imperial Majesty!" exclaimed the stupefied questioner, letting his
pipe fall and breaking it in pieces.

"Exactly so," Alexander replied, with a smile.

"Ah! sire," cried the officer, clasping his hands together, "I entreat
your forgiveness!"

"Oh! what the deuce is there to forgive?" said Alexander. "I asked you
to tell me the way and you told me. Thank you."

And the emperor, waving his hand to the poor stupefied commandant, took
the road on his right and was soon caught up by his carriage.

On another occasion also, when he was travelling (for the life of
Alexander the son of Paul was spent like that of Alexander the son
of Philip, in perpetual journeyings), while crossing a lake in the
department of Archangel, the emperor was overtaken by a violent gale.
Alexander was of a melancholy temperament, and the melancholy grew upon
him, so he would oftener than not travel quite alone. He was thus alone
in a boat with only the boatman, and the waves of the lake, lashed by
the tempest, rose high and threatened to swamp them.

"My friend," said the emperor to the boatman, who was fast losing his
nerve under the weight of the responsibility that rested on him, "about
eighteen hundred years ago Cæsar was placed in just such a position as
we are, and he said with pride to his boatman, 'Do not be afraid, you
are carrying Cæsar and his good luck!' I am not Cæsar; I believe more
in God and have less faith in my luck than the conqueror of Pompey, but
just listen to me: forget that I am the emperor, look upon me simply as
a man like yourself, and try to save both of us."

At these words, which the Russian boatman no doubt understood much
better than the pilot Opportunus understood Cæsar's injunctions, the
brave fellow renewed his struggle, and by strenuous efforts managed to
land the boat safely on the shore.

Unluckily, Alexander was not so fortunate in his coachman as he
was with his boatman. When he was once travelling in the provinces
bordering the Don, he was violently thrown out of his drovsky and his
leg was injured. Being a slave to that discipline which he enforced
on others, and which he made more efficacious by his own example, he
insisted on continuing his journey in spite of his injuries, in order
to arrive at his destination on the promised day. But fatigue and want
of prompt attention caused blood-poisoning from the wound. Erysipelas
set in in the leg, recurred again and again, confining the emperor
to bed for weeks, and leaving him lame for months. He had a violent
attack of the same complaint during the winter of 1824. He was living
at Czarkosjelo, his favourite retreat, to which he became more and more
attached, as it enabled him to give way to the deep melancholy which
preyed upon his spirits. He had been out walking until late, forgetting
the cold, so absorbed was he in his melancholy reflections, and when he
reached home he was frozen; he ordered his meal to be sent up to his
room, and that same night he was attacked by erysipelas, accompanied by
a higher temperature than in any of his previous illnesses. The fever
was so sharp that he became delirious in a few hours. They took the
emperor in a closed sledge to St. Petersburg, and as soon as they got
him there, they put him in the hands of the cleverest physicians. All
these, except his own special surgeon, Dr. Wylie, were unanimously of
opinion that his leg must be amputated. But Wylie took upon himself the
sole responsibility of attending to the august patient, and once more
managed to save his life. The emperor returned to Czarkosjelo almost
before he had recovered from his illness; for all his other residences
had become distasteful to him. There he was alone with the phantom of
his solitary grandeur--a phantom that necessarily terrified him. He
only gave audience at special hours to those ministers who did his
business for him; his life was more like a Trappist mourning over his
sins than that of a great emperor with countless lives in his care.

Alexander rose at six in winter and at five in summer, dressed
himself, went into his study, where he would find a fine cambric
handkerchief folded and laid at the left of his desk, and a packet of
ten freshly-cut quill pens at the right side of it. There the emperor
would set himself to work, never using the same pen twice over if he
were interrupted in his labours, though his pens were only used to
sign his name; then, when he had finished his morning's budget and
signed everything, he would go out into the park, where, no matter what
rumours of conspiracy were abroad (and for two years I there had been
no lack of these), he would always walk unattended, with no other guard
than the palace sentinels.

About five o'clock he would return to the palace, dine alone, and
retire to bed in his private rooms to the melancholy strains of music
selected by himself, lulled to sleep in the same sad frame of mind in
which he had passed his waking hours.

The empress accepted this physical and mental separation with a
philosophy that was characteristic of her. Her gentle influence could
be felt surrounding the emperor, without ever being perceived, and she
seemed to watch over her beloved husband like an angel from heaven.

The winter and spring of 1824 passed in this manner; but, when summer
came, the physicians unanimously declared that a voyage was necessary
for the restoration of the emperor's health, advising the Crimea as
the best climate to hasten his convalescence. And, as though he had
a prevision that he was reaching the end of his life, Alexander made
no plans for the coming year. He consented with profound indifference
to everything that was decided for him. The empress was more alarmed
by this condition of morbid acquiescence, than if he had been in a
constant state of irritability; she begged and obtained leave to
accompany him; and, after a public service soliciting a blessing on his
journey, attended by the whole of the imperial family, Alexander left
St. Petersburg, driven by his faithful coachman Ivan, and followed by
his surgeon Wylie, and by several orderly officers under the command of
General Diebitch.

He left on 13 September at four in the morning, and the empress started
on the 15th. Only his dead body was destined to return to the capital
four months later.



CHAPTER X


Alexander leaves St. Petersburg--His presentiments of his death--The
two stars seen at Taganrog--The emperor's illness--His last
moments--How they learnt of his death in St. Petersburg--The Grand-Duke
Constantine--His character and tastes--Why he renounced his right to
the imperial throne--Jeannette Groudzenska


The departure of the emperor naturally meant an increase of work
before he left, so that he was not able to write and bid his mother,
the dowager-empress, adieu until four o'clock on the afternoon of 12
September. At four o'clock it suddenly became very dark, a great cloud
overshadowing the light. The emperor called his valet.

"Fœdor," he said, "bring me lights."

The valet brought four candles; but it grew light again before the
emperor had done writing, and the valet immediately entered to put them
out.

"Sire," he asked, "shall I take away the lights?"

"Why so?" asked the emperor.

"Because we look on it as an ill omen to write by artificial light when
it is daylight."

"What conclusion do you draw from that?"

"I, sire?... I do not infer anything from it."

"But I do. I understand. You think that people passing by, seeing the
light inside, will imagine there has been a death in in the house."

"Exactly so, sire."

"Ah, well, take away the candles."

The emperor did not seem to take any notice of his valet's
observations, but the incident remained in his mind.

As we have already noted, he left the city of St. Petersburg at four
in the morning of 13 September, just as the sun began to rise.

He stopped his carriage, and stood looking back at the city of the Czar
Peter, plunged in deep sadness, as though warned by some inward voice
that he was looking upon it for the last time. The emperor had spent
the previous night in prayer, both in the convent of Saint-Alexandre
Nevsky and in the cathedral of Kasan. In the monastery he had an
interview, lasting nearly an hour, with the monks and the metropolitan
Seraphin. The latter related a story to the emperor of a monk of his
convent who had voluntarily submitted himself to a life of the most
scrupulous austerity by shutting himself up in a hollow place, scooped
out of the thick walls of the convent, where he meant to pass all his
remaining days. In spite of the lateness of the hour, the emperor asked
to be taken to this monk's cell, and talked with him for nearly twenty
minutes.

Before leaving St. Petersburg, Alexander wished to see his beloved
Czarkosjelo once more. He mounted on horseback at the palace door and
rode over all his favourite haunts, as though to bid them farewell.
When Fœdor asked Alexander when he expected to return to the imperial
palace, he pointed with his finger to an image of Christ and said--

"He alone knows!"

The emperor reached Taganrog towards the close of September. On 5
October the empress, who could only journey by short stages on account
of her state of health, also arrived there. The emperor advanced a
little ahead of the empress, and together they made a solemn entry into
the town.

Why had the emperor taken a liking for Taganrog? It seemed inexplicable
except on the grounds of that fatal destiny which compels men towards
the place in which it is foreordained they are to die.

Taganrog is situated in the finest climate of the Crimea, in the midst
of a fertile country and in a pleasant place at the entrance to the
Sea of Azov, close to the mouths of the Don and the Volga; but the
town itself contains nothing but a heap of tumbledown houses, of which
about a sixth are built of brick or stone, whilst the remainder are
really nothing but wooden huts smeared over with a mixture of clay and
mud. The streets are certainly wide, but they are unpaved, and the soil
is so powdery that, after the least shower of rain, one sinks in mud
up to one's knees. Then, when the heat of the sun has dried up this
damp marsh, the cattle and horses that pass by raise such clouds of
dust that it is impossible in full daylight to distinguish a man from
a beast of burden ten paces away. This dust penetrates everything; it
gets through closed blinds, tightly fastened shutters and the most
impenetrable curtains; it makes its way through clothing, no matter how
thick it be, and fills the water with a kind of crust that can only be
precipitated by boiling it with salts of tartar. The emperor alighted
at the governor's house, but he went out first thing in the morning
and did not return until dinner-time at two o'clock. At four, he took
another long excursion, not returning until nightfall, neglecting all
the precautions that the natives of those parts themselves take against
the dangerous malarial fevers common along the entire coast-line; at
night, he slept on a camp bedstead, his head resting on a leather
pillow. Presentiments of his approaching end never left him. The very
evening of his arrival at Taganrog, just as his valet was about to
leave him for the night, he said to him--

"Fœdor, the candles that I ordered you to take out of my study at St.
Petersburg constantly recur to my mind; before very long they will be
burning for me."

During one night in the month of October several of the inhabitants of
Taganrog saw, at two in the morning, above the house where the emperor
was living, two stars which at first were a wide distance apart from
one another, then approached each other and then again separated. This
phenomenon was repeated three times. Then one of the stars gradually
grew into a luminous ball of considerable dimensions, obliterating the
other, and soon afterwards disappeared below the horizon and was no
longer seen. In its fall, the bigger star left the smaller one behind
in its place; but it, too, paled by degrees, and soon also disappeared.
The superstitious interpreted the larger and more brilliant star to be
the Emperor Alexander, and the other the empress; they augured from the
portent that the emperor was soon to die, and that the empress was only
to survive her husband for a few months.

Besides his daily excursions, the emperor would make others that
lasted for days together, either in the country round the Don, or at
Tcherkask or at Donetz. He was prepared to start for Astrakan, when
Count Voronzov, Governor of Odessa, arrived to tell the emperor that
discontent was increasing throughout the whole of the Crimea and
would cause considerable trouble, if the emperor did not quell the
insubordination, and calm the disquiet by his personal presence.

There was a distance of some three hundred leagues to be traversed;
but what are three hundred leagues in Russia? Alexander promised
the empress he would return within a month, and gave orders for his
departure. He was impatient and irritable throughout the journey--an
attitude of mind so at variance with his usual gentle melancholy
that it surprised all around him; he complained that the horses did
not go fast enough; of the badness of the roads, of the cold in the
morning, the heat at noonday, the frost at night. Dr. Wylie advised the
traveller to take precautions against the changes of temperature which
he seemed to feel so much, but here the emperor's wayward mood showed
itself: he rejected both cloaks and capes, apparently courting the very
dangers his friends advised him to guard against. Finally, one evening
he caught cold, and a persistent cough developed into an intermittent
fever, which, aggravated by the patient's obstinacy, had, by the
time they reached Oridov, become a serious fever, which the doctor
recognised as an attack of the same kind that had raged all autumn
through from Taganrog to Sebastopol. They immediately turned back
towards Taganrog, the emperor himself giving the order to retrace their
journey. Whilst on the way back, the doctor urged upon his patient the
necessity for taking prompt measures, for he knew the gravity of the
nature of his illness. But the emperor objected.

"Leave me alone," he said. "Surely I know myself best what I need--I
want rest, solitude and quiet.... Look after my nerves, doctor; it is
they that are in such a deplorable state."

"Sire," replied Wylie, "kings are much more subject to nervous
disorders than ordinary individuals."

"True," said Alexander in reply, "specially nowadays.... Ah! doctor,
doctor," he continued, shaking his head, "I have ample reason for being
unwell!"

In spite of the doctor's objections, Alexander would ride on horseback
part of the way, until he felt compelled to return to his carriage, and
he was so exhausted by the time he set foot in the governor's house at
Taganrog that he fainted away.

Although the empress was herself dying of heart disease, she forgot
her own sufferings, and rallied when she saw her husband's condition.
When he was a little better, Alexander wrote to reassure his imperial
mother, telling her that although he was ill, she need not be anxious;
that he was able to take food and there was nothing serious to fear.
This was on 18 November. On the 24th, the fever set in with increased
vigour, and the erysipelas in the leg disappeared.

"See!" cried the emperor, when he saw what had occurred,--"this is the
end ... I shall die as my sister died!"

But he still refused to take any medicines. As Dr. Wylie stood by
his side that night, he exclaimed suddenly, as he turned towards the
doctor--

"What a deed! What a deplorable act!"

What reminiscence was it that drew such a sorrowful exclamation from
him? It can hardly be doubted that he was referring to the death of
Paul, who was smothered in a room above his head and whose last groans
he heard, without daring to go to his rescue.

On the 27th, the emperor at last gave himself into his doctor's hands,
who at once applied leeches; this application gave him a little relief,
but the fever soon returned worse than ever. They tried sinapisms, but
could not reduce the temperature, and the patient realised then that it
was time he prepared for his end. A confessor was brought to him at
five in the morning.

"Father," Alexander said to him, as he held out his hand, "deal with me
as an ordinary being and not as an emperor."

The priest drew close to his bedside, received the imperial confession
and administered the sacraments to the noble invalid. Towards two
o'clock the emperor's pains increased terribly.

"Oh!" he exclaimed, overcome by his sufferings. "My God! must kings
suffer more when they come to die than other men?..."

During the night he became unconscious, and remained in a state of
complete lethargy the whole of the next day. On the 29th he recovered
consciousness, and faint hopes were raised. The empress watched by his
bed, and noticed that he slept a little before dawn. He did not wake
until nine the next morning, just as the sun shone out from behind some
clouds as brilliantly as on the finest summer day. As Alexander opened
his eyes, he saw that he was flooded with sunlight.

"What beautiful weather!" he exclaimed, with that fervid joy at sight
of the sun so often noticed in the dying.

Then, turning to the empress and kissing her hand, he said--

"Madam, you must be worn out with fatigue."

Then he relapsed into the same condition of torpor from which he had
momentarily emerged. All hope of his recovery was given up on the 30th.
Nevertheless, towards two o'clock in the morning, General Diébitch
mentioned an old man, named Alexandrovitch, who had, he said, saved
several Tartars from the same fever that had attacked the emperor. They
sent for this old man at Dr. Wylie's instigation, and he came at eight.
He looked at the emperor, shook his head and said--

"It is too late; besides, those I have cured did not suffer from that
complaint."

And he left, taking with him the empress's last ray of hope. However,
the emperor reopened his eyes towards half-past ten that morning, and
all waited anxiously for him to speak. But he did not utter a word;
he only took the empress's hand, kissed it and laid it on his heart.
The empress remained bent over him in the position her husband's hand
caused her to take, and at ten minutes to eleven the emperor died. The
empress's face was so close to his that she felt him draw his last
breath.

She uttered a terrible cry and fell on her knees in prayer; not even
the doctor dared to approach the body, for she had made a sign to all
around not to disturb her. Then, some minutes later, she rose in a
calmer state of mind, closed the emperor's eyes, which had remained
open, tied a handkerchief round his head to prevent his jaws from
dropping, kissed his hands already as cold as ice, and, again falling
on her knees, she remained in prayer by the bedside until the doctors
were obliged to ask her to withdraw into another room, while they made
a post-mortem examination.

Whilst this sad operation proceeded, the widowed empress wrote to the
dowager-empress:--

    "Our angel is in heaven, while I still linger on earth....
    Alas! who would ever have thought that I, weak and ill as I
    am, should have survived him?... Mother, I entreat you not
    to desert me, for I am absolutely alone in this world of
    sorrow!

    "The face of our beloved dead has resumed its expression
    of gentle kindliness; the smile upon it assures me that he
    is happy, and that his eyes see better things than here
    below.... My only comfort in this irreparable loss is that I
    shall not long survive him!..."


And, indeed, the empress died six months later.

The letter was sent off by courier to St. Petersburg, where the
emperor's illness was already known. He had himself written, on 17
November, to say that he had had to return to Taganrog on account
of illness. On the 24th, the Empress Elisabeth had written to the
Grand-Duchess Helena asking her to inform the Empress Marie that the
emperor was going on well. On the 27th, however, General Diebitch
had sent news that the emperor was suffering from an attack of yellow
fever; and on 29 November the Empress Elisabeth again wrote to the
dowager-empress to tell her of a temporary improvement in the emperor's
condition. Although this improvement was so slight, the dowager-empress
and the Grand-Dukes Nicolas and Michel gave orders for a _Te Deum_ to
be sung on 9 December in the great metropolitan cathedral of Kasan. The
people flocked there joyfully, for the good news had been exaggerated
for their sake. Towards the close of the service the Grand-Duke Nicolas
was advised that a messenger from Taganrog was waiting for him in the
sacristy; he was the bearer of a despatch that had to be delivered
only in person. The grand-duke rose and went into the sacristy, where
he found the messenger, and received from his hands the letter we have
already read. He did not even need to read the letter: its contents
were revealed to him by the black seal.

The Grand-Duke Nicolas sent for the metropolitan and announced to him
the melancholy tidings, charging him to break the news as gently as
possible to the dowager-empress, as he felt he had not the courage to
fulfil the cruel mission himself. He then returned and took his place
by her who, in ignorance of the sad truth, was praying for the life
of her dead son. The grand-duke had scarcely resumed his position
by her side before the metropolitan re-entered the choir. He was a
fine-looking old man, with a long white beard and hair that fell almost
to his waist. At a sign from him, all the voices that were chanting
hymns of thankful praise to Heaven ceased, and a death-like silence
followed. Then, with the eyes of all upon him, he walked slowly and
solemnly towards the altar, took down the massive silver crucifix and
draped it with a black veil; then he advanced to the dowager-empress
and gave her the black draped crucifix to kiss.

"My son is dead!" cried the empress; and she fell on her knees, even
as, eighteen centuries before, at the foot of her Son's Cross, another
Mother, the Queen of Heaven, whose name she bore, had fallen.

And in that way Russia learnt she had lost her emperor.

We promised we would relate the history of the strange self-sacrifice
by which a man gave up an empire--a history all the more strange in
that the empire was an absolute monarchy, and that he would then have
succeeded to fifty-three millions of subjects, and to a territory which
already covered a seventh part of the world, without reckoning future
possibilities of expansion. This history is as follows:--

The reader knows what an Ukranian bear Constantine was, for ever
growling, grumbling or roaring, whose countenance was no more like a
human being's than the face of Kalmouk is like that of a man; he was as
rough as his brother Alexander was courteous, as ugly as his brother
Nicolas was handsome; a true son of Paul when he was in a bad temper.
We have learnt his reply as a lad to his own tutor, who tried to make
him learn to read--

"I do not want to learn to read; you are always reading, and you become
more and more stupid every day."

It will be readily believed that a mind built in that fashion had no
inclinations in the direction of learning. But in proportion as the
young prince grew to detest his mental exercises, his love of military
pursuits increased. Here he took after his father, Paul, who rose at
five in the morning after his wedding-night, to control the manœuvres
of a platoon of soldiers on guard near by. His military predilection
led Constantine to spend all his time in soldierly exercises, on
horseback, perfecting himself in the use of the lance, manœuvring
his men, all of which accomplishments seemed to him far more useful
than geometry, astronomy or botany. They only succeeded in making him
learn French by means of telling him that the best books on military
tactics were written in that language. Great was his delight when Paul
had a rupture with France and when Souvarov was sent into Italy. The
grand-duke was placed under command of an old marshal, a chief who
exactly suited Constantine, since he was one of the old Russian stock,
more savage, more brutal, more uncivilised, if that be possible, than
his young pupil. Constantine took part in his victories on the Mincio,
and in his defeats among the Alps; he watched him dig the grave in
which he wished to be buried alive. The consequence of association
with such an uncouth companion was to foster the young prince's own
peculiarities to such an extent, that people more than once queried
whether Paul, in being forced to leave the empire to Alexander, had
made a special point of bequeathing his mad temperament to Constantine.

After the French campaign and the Treaty of Vienna, Constantine was
made Viceroy of Poland. It was just the post for him. Here, placed at
the head of a warlike nation, whose whole history is one long struggle,
his military tastes grew with redoubled energy; unfortunately, he
substituted lawless encounters for the bloody struggles in which he
had just taken part. Summer or winter--whether living in the palace of
Bruhl or residing in the palace of Belvédère--he was up and equipped in
his general's uniform by three in the morning, without the assistance
in his toilet of any valet. He would then seat himself before a
table covered with regimental lists and military orders, in a room
wherein every single panel on the walls was painted with different
regimental costumes; he read the reports that had been drawn up the
day before, either by Colonel Axamilovisky or by Suboividsky, the
Prefect of Police, signifying his approval or disapproval of them in
a side note. With the exception of letter-writing to some members of
his family, these were the only occasions he handled a pen. This work
generally took him until nine in the morning, when he partook of the
hasty breakfast of a soldier. He then went down to the parade ground
to inspect a couple of regiments of infantry or a squadron of cavalry.
The band saluted him as he approached, and the review immediately
began. The platoons marched past the viceroy, a little way off, with
mathematical precision--a sight that always filled him with childish
joy, and moved him as much as though the men were marching to a real
battle. He would stand on foot watching them pass by, attired in the
green uniform of the Light Infantry, his cap, which was decorated
with cocks' feathers, posed on his head in such a manner that one
of the corners touched his left epaulette, whilst the other pointed
heavenwards at an alarming angle. Below shone, like two carbuncles,
eyes that seemed more like a jackal's than those of a human being, set
below a narrow forehead, which was furrowed with deep lines, indicating
constant and anxious preoccupation; and his thick long eyebrows were
crooked from habitual frowning. In his moments of extreme happiness,
the strange vivaciousness of the czarovitch's expression, coupled with
the snub nose that looked like a skeleton's, and his protruding lower
lip, gave a very savage appearance to his head. His neck, which he
could push out and withdraw at will, came in and out of his collar just
like a tortoise's from below its shell. As he listened to the music
and saw the men he had trained and heard the measured tramp of their
feet, his whole being expanded with delight, until he looked feverish
with excitement: the flush would come into his cheeks, his arms would
stiffen against his body down to his elbows, his rigid, tightly clasped
fists would nervously open and close, while his restless feet beat
time, and his guttural voice every now and then, between his harshly
uttered commands, would give vent to hoarse, raucous, inhuman cries,
expressive, alternately, of satisfaction or anger, according as matters
pleased him or he saw something that offended his sense of discipline.
For, indeed, his anger was a terrible sight, and his good humour was
that of a rough savage.

If he were pleased, he would double up in fits of laughter, rubbing his
hands together noisily and hilariously, stamping on the ground first
with one foot and then with the other: if he caught sight of a child
at the moment, he would catch hold of it, turn it over and over like a
monkey with a doll, make the child kiss him, pinch its cheeks, pull its
nose, and then putting it down, he would send it away with the first
piece of gold or silver in its hands that he could find in his pocket.

When he was angry, he roared aloud, striking the soldier who had
failed in his work, himself pushing the man towards the prison,
shouting or rather yelling imprecations after him till the man was out
of sight. His severity indeed extended to all--to animals as well as to
men. One day he had a monkey hung because it was too noisy: he lashed
a horse again and again and again with his riding-stick because it
stumbled while he had trustingly let the reins fall on its neck for a
little while; and he had a dog shot one morning because it had kept him
awake during the night with its howling. Between these fits of anger
and moments of exultation he was subject to hours of depression. He
fell into moods of deep melancholy which ended in complete prostration.
Weak as a woman, he would lie on his couch or roll about on the floor,
a prey to nervous attacks.

At these times, not even the most favoured person dared go near him.
The last valet to leave the room would open wide the window and the
door, and upon the threshold would appear a fair pale woman, clothed
almost always in a white dress clasped with a blue girdle, her
expression as sad as a ghost's, and, like a ghost, smiling through her
melancholy. The vision had a magical influence upon Constantine; his
spirits grew brighter, he first sighed and then sobbed, cried out, and,
after bitter and abundant tears, he rested his head on the woman's lap
and would fall asleep to wake up cured.

This woman was Poland's guardian angel, Jeannette Groudzenska. Once,
when quite a child, she was praying in the Metropolitan Church of
Warsaw, before an image of the Virgin, when a crown of immortelles that
had been placed at the foot of the picture fell on her head, resting
upon it, until she removed it and replaced it on its nail. On her
return home, Jeannette related this incident to her father, who told it
to an old Ukranian Cossack thought to be a seen The old Cossack replied
that the falling of the holy crown on the maiden's head meant that God
had intended an earthly crown for her, had she not herself renounced
it by returning it to the Virgin, who would keep her a heavenly
crown instead. Both father and daughter had forgotten all about this
prediction, or, if not forgotten entirely, they only thought of it
as a dream, when chance, or rather, shall we say, Providence, who was
watching over the interests of fifty-three millions of men, brought
Constantine and Jeannette face to face.

Then it came about that that hot-blooded savage, that roaring bear,
became as timid as a young girl; he who broke down all opposition, who
disposed of the lives of fathers and the honour of their children,
came bashfully to the old father to ask for the hand of Jeannette,
imploring him not to refuse him the being without whose presence he
could never be happy again. The old man recollected the Cossack's
prediction, and, seeing in the viceroy's request the fulfilment of
Almighty designs, the viceroy obtained his consent and that of the
daughter. Then the emperor's sanction had to be obtained. Alexander had
a constant dread of what would become of the empire in Constantine's
hands. More than anyone else did he feel the responsibility of having
had the charge of souls committed to him from Heaven. He therefore
tried to utilise this love affair for the benefit of the community at
large, though without much hope that he would succeed. He granted his
consent on condition that Constantine would abdicate his succession,
and awaited the brother's answer as anxiously as his brother waited for
his. Constantine received the imperial despatch, opened it, read it,
gave a shout of delight and renounced his rights. Yes, that strange,
inexplicable man renounced his right to the throne, he, an Olympian
Jove, before whose frown a whole people trembled. He gave up his
twofold right to both an Eastern and a Western sovereignty in exchange
for the heart of a young girl--an empire containing two great capitals
and territory that began at the shores of the Baltic and ended at the
Rocky Mountains, an empire washed by seven seas.

Jeannette Groudzenska received from the Emperor Alexander in exchange,
the title of Princess of Lovics.

Nevertheless, when the news of the death of the Emperor Alexander
reached St. Petersburg, the Grand-Duke Nicolas ignored the fact of the
renunciation, took oath of allegiance to the Grand-Duke Constantine
and despatched a messenger to him to invite him to come and take
possession of the throne. But at the same time that this letter was
being carried from St. Petersburg to Warsaw, the Grand-Duke Michel was
on his way from Warsaw to St. Petersburg with the following letter from
Constantine to his brother:--

    "MY VERY DEAR BROTHER,--It was with the most profound grief
    that I learnt yesterday evening the news of the death of our
    adored sovereign and my benefactor, the Emperor Alexander.
    I hasten to express to you my feelings of sorrow at this
    cruel misfortune, and at the same time I beg to inform you
    that I am sending a letter by the same hands to Her Imperial
    Majesty, our royal mother, in which I declare that, in
    accordance with the edict I obtained dated February 1822,
    sanctioning my renunciation of the throne, it is still my
    unalterable resolution to cede to you all my rights of
    succession to the throne of the Emperor of All the Russias.
    I therefore beg our beloved mother and those who are
    concerned in this matter, to announce that my wishes in this
    respect are still unchanged, in order that matters may be
    settled as arranged.

    "Having made this declaration, I look upon it as my sacred
    duty very humbly to beseech your Imperial Majesty to let me
    be the first to swear faithful allegiance and submission
    to you, and to allow me to assert that I do not wish for
    any fresh dignity or any new title; I wish simply and
    solely to maintain my title of Czarovitch, which my revered
    father condescended to confer upon me in recognition of my
    services. Henceforth my only happiness will be to tender
    your Imperial Majesty tokens of my profoundest respect and
    of my unbounded devotion; I can offer in pledge thereof more
    than thirty years of faithful service, and the unswerving
    zeal that I have displayed towards my imperial father and
    brother. Animated by these sentiments, I will not cease to
    serve your Imperial Majesty and your successors as long
    as life shall be granted me, in my present office and
    functions.--I am, with the most profound respect, CONSTANTINE"

The day after the Grand-Duke Nicolas had despatched his courier to the
czarovitch, the Council of State had informed him that they had been
commissioned to keep a document for him, that had been handed to their
care on 15 October 1823, sealed with the seal of the Emperor Alexander
and accompanied by an autograph letter from His Majesty, who had
charged them to keep the document until further orders, and in case of
death to open it at an extraordinary session.

Now, as the emperor had died, the Council of State had opened the
package, and within a double wrapping they found the Grand-Duke
Constantine's renunciation of the Empire of All the Russias. This
renunciation was couched in the following terms:--

    "SIRE,--I am emboldened by the many proofs of your Imperial
    Majesty's kindness towards me to venture to crave your
    further indulgence and to lay my humble petitions at
    your feet. As I do not think myself fitted by my mental
    endowments and qualifications, nor gifted with sufficient
    capability, should I ever be called upon to fulfil the high
    position my birth would entitle me to assume, I earnestly
    implore your Imperial Majesty to transfer my rights to my
    immediate successor, and thus to place the empire for ever
    upon a stable foundation. So far as I am concerned, my
    renunciation will give an additional guarantee and added
    strength to the solemn oath I took, at the time of my
    divorce from my first wife. The existing condition of things
    establishes me more firmly in the opinion, day by day,
    that I am right in taking this step, and it will prove the
    sincerity of my sentiments to the empire and to the whole
    world.

    "May your Imperial Majesty be moved to listen favourably to
    my entreaties, to influence our noble mother to look upon
    matters in the same light and to sanction my wishes with
    your imperial consent!

    "In the sphere of a private life I will ever strive to
    set a good example to your faithful subjects and to all
    who are animated by a feeling of affection towards our
    beloved country.--I remain, with the most profound respect,
                                                  CONSTANTINE"

To this letter the emperor had made the following reply:--

    "MY VERY DEAR BROTHER,--I have just read your letter with
    all the attention it deserves. I am not surprised at its
    contents, since I have always understood and appreciated
    the lofty sentiments of your heart; it has afforded me one
    proof more of your sincere attachment to the State, and
    of your far-seeing care for the preservation of its best
    interests. I have communicated the contents of your letter
    to our beloved mother, as you desired me; she has read
    it with the same feelings as those I have expressed and
    gratefully recognises the noble motives that have prompted
    you. After consideration of the reasons you have laid before
    us, the only course we feel free to take is to leave you
    full liberty to follow your fixed determination and to ask
    Almighty God to bless your single-hearted zeal, and to
    cause it to produce a happy issue.--I am ever your very
    affectionate brother,                           ALEXANDER"

Nicolas, however, waited for the czarovitch's reply, and not until
25 December did he issue a manifesto accepting the throne that had
devolved upon him by his elder brother's renunciation. He then fixed
the following day, the 26th, for the taking of the oath of allegiance
to himself and to his eldest son, the Grand-Duke Alexander.

And that is the strange story of these two brothers and the refusal
of one of the most splendid crowns the world has to offer, and how
Constantine remained simply the Czarovitch and Nicolas became the
Emperor of All the Russias.



BOOK II



CHAPTER I


Rousseau and Romieu--Conversation with the porter--The eight hours'
candle--The _Deux Magots_--At what hour one should wind up one's
watch--M. le sous-préfet enjoys a joke--Henry Monnier--A paragraph of
information--On suppers--On cigars


While these great events were happening in high political spheres, our
humble fortunes were on the wane. The hundred louis that my mother
had brought with her had come to an end; we were aghast to find we
had spent nearly 4000 francs within a year and a half--nearly 11 1800
francs, that is to say, more than we ought to have done, t; It was
therefore imperative that I should fulfil my promises and add to my
salary by working out of my office hours.

De Leuven and I had stuck valiantly and persistently at collaborating
together, but nothing had come of it--a result that made us bitterly
inveigh aloud against the injustice of managers, and the want of taste
of directorates, although, under my breath, I was more just in my
criticism of our efforts, and frankly admitted to myself that were I
a manager I would not have accepted my own work. So we made up our
minds to make certain sacrifices, and ask Rousseau to join us, in order
that he might add those indescribable finishing touches to our works
which would make all the difference in the world. These sacrifices
consisted in our procuring several bottles of good old Bordeaux, some
flasks of rum and some loaf-sugar. Rousseau belonged to the famous
school of Favart, Radet, Collé, Désaugiers, Armand Gouffé and Company,
who never worked save to the sound of the popping of corks, with the
vision of seething fumes of punch-bowls before their eyes. Rousseau had
a reputation which, later, he was most unwillingly obliged to share
with his illustrious collaborator Romieu. At a certain period I should
not have dared to speak thus of the famous prefect of the Dordogne,
for fear of injuring his political career. It will be remembered what
distress was caused by the news (which happily proved to be false)
of his having been devoured by bugs, and how his partisans hastened
to fling back the ill-natured jest into the face of the wretched
papers that had spread the report. It is, alas! so difficult for an
intellectual man to be forgiven his wit, and for a funny man to pass
for a serious one, that Romieu had scarcely begun to recover from
this duplex reputation, unluckily but too well deserved, when, after
ten years at the _sous-préfecture_ and _préfecture_, a similar fate
overtook him to that of the poor Roman cobbler who taught a raven to
exclaim, "_Vive César Auguste!_" the Cæsar Augustus of France fell, and
all Romieu's pains and labours were lost, _opera et impensa periit._
Romieu retired into private life, and the fall above referred to,
which, contrary to the laws of gravity, operated from the base upwards,
gave us full liberty with respect to the author of the _Enfant trouvé_
and the _Ère des Césars._

In 1825, then, Romieu was collaborating with Rousseau; but, as in the
case of Adolphe and myself, they got absolutely nothing out of it
beyond a crowd of adventures each more delightfully amusing than its
predecessor, which defrayed their expenses at the _café du Roi_ and the
_café des Variétés._

Let us make it clear, for there might be some ambiguity in the
matter, and it might be thought that something also came out of our
collaboration.

No, nothing at all came of ours: Adolphe had always been as jolly as a
Trappist monk, while I, although by nature extremely light-hearted, was
only able to laugh at the farces of others, without ever being able, in
all the farces that were made, to be more than a simple spectator. I
profoundly admired Rousseau's and Romieu's cleverness in these lines.
So there were few nights when Rousseau especially (who could not
carry his wine as well as Romieu, but who, it should be acknowledged,
went in for excellent wines), abandoned to himself by his treacherous
Pylades, had to be led home by some patrol or other, and taken to the
police-station for making a nocturnal uproar. But Rousseau was like
those children who, as a precaution against their being lost, are
taught their name and address. Rousseau had deeply engraved upon his
memory the name of a certain police-officer of his acquaintance, and
it was so firmly embedded there that neither wine, nor brandy, nor rum
nor punch was powerful enough to wash it out. Rousseau staggering,
Rousseau stuttering, Rousseau tight, Rousseau drunk, Rousseau dead
drunk, Rousseau forgetful of the name and address of his mother, the
name and address of Romieu, his own name and his own address, could
always distinctly articulate the name and address of that particular
police-officer!

And as no one could refuse a man as drunk as he was the reasonable
request to be taken to a police-officer, Rousseau was taken to his
friend, who delivered him a formal lecture, but always wound up by
setting him free.

Once, however, the lecture was more keen than usual, and Rousseau
listened to it looking very penitent. Then, as the police-officer
upbraided him for disturbing his slumbers, thus waking him night after
night, Rousseau responded--

"You are quite right, and I promise you I will henceforth have myself
taken before someone else once every three times."

He kept his word. But all police-officers were not so long-suffering as
good M.--. The first one before whom Rousseau appeared sent him to the
Saint-Martin guard-room and kept him there for a couple of days. After
this experience he decided to go back to his old habit.

Rousseau and Romieu were very fond of playing pranks on porters and
grocers. Rousseau would put his head in at a porter's grille and call
out--

"Good-day, my friend."

"Good-day, monsieur."

"May I ask what bird that is you have in your window?"

"It is a blackcap, monsieur."

"Ah! indeed!... Why do you keep a blackcap?"

"Because it sings so nicely, monsieur."

"Really?"

"Stop and listen...."

And the porter would put his hands on his hips and wag his head up and
down with a smile on his face as he listened to the singing of his
blackcap.

"Ah! you are right!... You are married?"

"Yes, monsieur,--been married three times."

"And where is your woman?"

"My wife, Monsieur means?"

"Yes, of course, your wife."

"She is at the lodger's, on the fifth floor."

"Indeed! indeed! And what is she doing at the lodger's on the fifth
floor?"

"Charing."

"Is the lodger on the fifth floor young or old?"

"Between the two."

"Good.... And your children?"

"I haven't any."

"You haven't any?"

"No."

"Then what have you been about during your three marriages?"

"Excuse me ... does Monsieur want someone?"

"No."

"Monsieur wants something?"

"No."

"Well, for the past quarter of an hour Monsieur has been asking me
question after question."

"Yes."

"What did you mean by these questions?"

"Nothing at all."

"What! nothing at all?... But surely Monsieur had some reason?"

"None."

"Monsieur had no reason?"

"No."

"Well, then, I should much like to know why Monsieur did me the honour
...?"

"Why, I was passing by ... I saw the words over your lodge '_Speak to
the porter_,' so I spoke to you."

Romieu would enter a grocer's shop.

"Good-morning, monsieur."

"Monsieur, your very humble servant."

"Have you candles eight to the pound?"

"Certainly, monsieur, plenty of them; it is an article much in demand,
for there are more small purses than large ones."

"Your observation, monsieur, savours of higher matters than groceries."

Romieu and the grocer bowed to each other.

"You flatter me, monsieur."

"Monsieur said that he wanted ...?"

"One candle of eight to the pound."

"Only one?"

"Yes, at first; later, I will see."

The grocer took a candle out of a packet.

"Here it is, monsieur."

"Will you cut it in half? I detest fingering candles!"

"Quite so, monsieur; they have such a strong smell.... Here is your
candle in two pieces."

"Ah! now will you be good enough to cut each of those halves into four
pieces?"

"Into four?"

"Yes; I need eight pieces of candle for my purpose."

"Here are your eight pieces, monsieur."

"Pardon me, will you oblige me by preparing the wicks for me?"

"The whole eight?"

"Seven rather, since one naturally has its wick ready."

"Quite so."

"That is all right ... there, there, very good ... there, thank you.
Now then ... place them on the counter at three inches' distance from
one another.... Ah!..."

"But what on earth is that for?"

"You will see.... Now, would you have the goodness to lend me a lucifer
match?"

"Certainly ... take one."

"Thanks."

And Romieu would solemnly light the eight candle-ends.

"But what is that for, monsieur?"

"I am creating a farce."

"A farce?"

"Yes."

"And now ...?"

"And now the farce is done, I am going"; and Romieu would nod to the
grocer and make off.

"What! are you going without paying for the candle?" shrieked the
grocer. "At least pay for the candle."

Romieu would turn round--

"If I paid for the candle, where would be the farce?"

And he would go on his way quite heedless of the grocer's objurgations.

Occasionally, Romieu's ambitions would soar higher than teasing
grocers, and he would play irreverent pranks in higher circles of
commerce.

One evening, he was passing along the rue de Seine, at the corner of
the rue de Bussy, at half-past twelve midnight, when an assistant
was preparing to close the shop of _les Deux Magots._ Generally, the
establishment closed at eleven, so it was unusually late.

Romieu rushed inside the shop.

"Where is the proprietor of the establishment?"

"M. P---?"

"Yes."

"He has gone to bed."

"Has he been gone long?"

"About an hour."

"But he sleeps in the house?"

"Certainly."

"Take me to him."

"But, monsieur...."

"Without delay."

"But...."

"Instantly."

"Is your communication then of so pressing a nature?"

"It is so important that I shudder lest I be too late."

"Since Monsieur assures me...."

"Come, take me to him, take me to him quickly!"

The assistant did not wait to close the shop, but took Romieu through
into an anteroom, where M. P---- was snoring like a bass-viol.

"M. P----! M. P----!..." shouted the shopboy.

"Well, what is it? Go to the devil with you! What do you want?"

"It is not I...."

"What do you mean by saying it is not you?"

"No, it is a gentleman who wishes a few words with you."

"At this time of night?"

"He says it is very urgent."

"Where is the gentleman?"

"He is at the door. Come in, monsieur, come in."

Romieu entered on tiptoe, hat in hand, with a smiling countenance.

"Pardon, monsieur, a thousand pardons for disturbing you."

"Oh, do not mention it, monsieur; it is nothing. What is your business?"

"I wish to speak with your partner."

"With my partner?"

"Yes."

"But I have no partner."

"You haven't?"

"No."

"Then why put on your sign, '_Aux Deux Magots_'? It deceives the
public!"

But sometimes it happened that the hoaxer was recognised, and then he
was caught in his own trap.

One day Rousseau went into a watchmaker's.

"Monsieur, I wish to see some good watches."

"Monsieur, here is the very article you desire."

"Whose make is it?"

"Leroy's."

"Who is Leroy?"

"One of the most famous of my craft."

"Then you can guarantee it?"

"I can."

"How many times a week does it need winding?"

"Once."

"Morning or evening?"

"Whichever you prefer; though it is really better to wind it in the
morning."

"Why so?"

"Because one may be drunk in the evening, Monsieur Rousseau, and break
the mainspring."

Rousseau was caught this time; he left, promising the watchmaker his
custom--a promise he never fulfilled, bearing in mind the watchmaker's
retort.

It will be seen that when Romieu became first a sub-prefect and then a
prefect he could not continue this kind of pleasantry; nevertheless,
I understand that the old Adam in him would crop out from time to
time, for it is very difficult to efface natural propensities, which,
according to the poet of Auteuil, will persist in returning full tilt.

So it is related that one night the sub-prefect was returning home at
eleven o'clock, after supper;--when Romieu was in Paris and took supper
out he never returned home until the following morning; but every
creature knows, alas! that Paris is not the provinces!--and he caught
sight of three or four street lads belonging to the district, busy
throwing stones at the complimentary street lamp that was always lit
in front of the _sous-préfecture_; however, as it was not Paris, but
only a provincial town, the young guttersnipes were country lubbers,
and had already thrown four or five stones without being able to touch
the spot. The sub-prefect saw them without being seen and shrugged his
shoulders. Finally, being totally unable to contain himself at the
sight of such clumsiness, he came up to them, took his place in the
midst of the astonished urchins, picked up the first stone he saw,
threw it--and behold, lo!--the lamp ceased to be a lamp. "That is how
it should be done, messieurs," he said, and he entered his house,
muttering--

"Oh! the young folk of to-day are a degenerate lot!"

Sometimes, too, M. le préfet, in his brave braided coat of office,
would condescend to be gluttonous,--for who does not have his bad
moments? even the wisest sin seven times a day, so surely the
intellectual man may make a beast of himself once a year.

Henri Monnier, the witty caricaturist, charming creator of _proverbes_
and friend of all, when passing through Périgueux, went to call on
his old comrade Romieu and invited himself to dinner that day. M. le
préfet gave a formal dinner party, the guests being mostly departmental
officials, the stiffest and most punctilious he could find. It took a
great deal to overawe Henri Monnier; he chattered away, told all sorts
of tales just as freely as if he had been in his own house, or in yours
or in mine; in other words, he was delightful. But he noticed that,
although he persistently addressed Romieu in familiar language, Romieu
was equally persistent in being formal with him.

This was entirely contrary to their habits and customs. Henri Monnier
made quite certain that he was not labouring under any misapprehension;
then, when he was sure he was right, he shouted from one end of the
table to the other, "Look here, my dear Romieu, why ever do you address
me as _you_ while I use the familiar _thou_? The company here will take
you for my valet."

Paris really missed Romieu when he left it, although it still possessed
Rousseau; as the authorities were bent on making Romieu a prefect,
Paris would have liked him to be prefect of Paris, but apparently that
was not possible. How could Romieu have left Rousseau behind him in
Paris? Ah! Rousseau never forgave him for doing that! He wrote a very
pretty song about it, which I will give my readers, if I can find it.

When Romieu was appointed sub-prefect, Rousseau jumped for joy; it
would, he argued, be a grave omission on the part of the Government
to make Romieu a sub-prefect without giving Rousseau some title or
other; and as Rousseau had not asked for even a sub-prefecture after
the Revolution, it was but reasonable to refrain from blaming the
Government, and, less proud than Cæsar, he was quite willing to play
second fiddle. He went in search of Romieu.

"Well done, my dear friend, I congratulate you."

"Oh! you have heard?"

"The deuce I have!"

"Yes, they have made me a sub-prefect."

"Well?"

"Well, what?"

"I hope you are thinking of me."

"Thinking of you? In what way?"

"You will require a secretary, I should think."

"Yes, so I shall."

"You have not got one yet?"

"No."

"Very well, that is my berth, then. Twelve hundred francs, board,
lodging and your society. I could ask for nothing better."

"Indeed?" said Romieu.

"Come, now!"

"Return the day after to-morrow, and I will tell you if the thing be
possible."

"Possible! What the devil should prevent it ...?"

Rousseau took his departure, and returned two days later. He found
Romieu looking very serious, even anxious.

"Well?" he asked.

"Well, my dear friend, I am in despair."

"Why?"

"Impossible!"

"Impossible to take me with you?"

"Yes ... you see...."

"No, I don't see."

"Before I could take you with me I had to make some inquiries."

"About me?"

"Yes, about you, and I learnt...."

"You learnt ...?"

"I learnt that you drank."

Rousseau left; but this time he did not return again. Poor Rousseau!
Three months before his death, he related this story to my son and me,
with tears in his eyes.

"Romieu will come to a bad end," he said in tones as tragic as those of
Calchas; "he is an ungrateful being."

May Heaven preserve Romieu from Rousseau's prediction!

Romieu stayed in the provinces for three years without coming back to
Paris, and during those three years his absence led to great changes in
the capital, as the following distich by an unknown author appears to
state:--

    "Lorsque Romieu revint du Monomotapa
    Paris ne soupait plus, et Paris ressoupa."

I said great changes had taken place in Paris, I should have said
fatal changes. The cessation of supper parties has brought about more
troublesome consequences in a civilised world than might be supposed.
I attribute our present state of intellectual degeneration to the
cessation of supper parties and the innovation of the cigar. God forbid
I should state that our sons' mental abilities are not equal to our
own; I, at least, have a son who would not forgive me if I made such
a statement. But they are of a different type of mind. Time alone can
settle which is the better of the two.

We men of forty years and upwards still preserve something of the
aristocratic spirit of the eighteenth century, tempered with the
chivalrous spirit of the Empire.

Women had great influence over minds of that period, and supper parties
were a real social factor.

By eleven o'clock at night all the cares of the day are cast aside,
and one knows there are still from six to eight hours to spend at
one's ease between the night ends and day comes. When one sits at
a well-filled table, face to face with a pretty girl, amid the
pleasurable excitement of lights and flowers, the mind lets itself be
carried away into the realm of dreams, though wide awake, and at such
a time it attains its highest flights of brilliancy and exaltation. It
is not only that one is more brilliant at supper-time than at any other
meal, and that one has more wit than at any other repast, but one's
very nature seems to be different.

I am sure that the greater number of the witty sayings of the
eighteenth century were said at supper-time. Let us, therefore, have
more of these supper parties, and we shall not lack what made them so
brilliant.

Now let us turn to the cigar. Formerly, after _déjeuner_, men and women
would proceed to the billiard-room or to the garden; after dinner,
they would adjourn to the drawing-room; and there the conversation
would continue on the same lines, whether desultory or more general.
Nowadays, men have scarcely risen from table before they say to one
another, "Come, let us have a cigar."

Then they go out, and walk up and down the pavements smoking. There
they meet women also, but not at all capable of the same type of wit
as those whom they have just left in the drawing-room. Men's minds
are raised to the level of the women with whom they associate; one
cannot demean oneself before the most lovely half of creation. And this
generalisation is proved true every day.

One does not meet the same people in the public promenades two days
running, but, though the people change, the type of conversation is
pretty much the same always. Imperceptibly the tone of mind becomes
lower. If you add to this the influence of the narcotic contained in
tobacco, you can judge what the state of society will be in half a
century if the taste for the cigar goes on increasing incessantly. We
shall have about as much intellectual activity in France in 1950 as
there is in Holland at the present time.

The reader will see that we have travelled far from Rousseau and
Romieu. We have only Rousseau now to deal with, and let us, therefore,
return to him.



CHAPTER II


The lantern_--La Chasse et l'Amour_--Rousseau's part in it--The couplet
about the hare--The _couplet de facture_--How there may be hares _and_
hares--Reception at l'Ambigu--My first receipts as an author--Who
Porcher was--Why no one might say anything against Mélesville


De Leuven and I went to hunt up Rousseau, who was then living in the
rue du Petit-Carreau with a woman. We found him in a mad state of mind.
The night before, he had been supping, and supping very well, too, at
Philippe's--I may as well mention here that I can recommend Philippe
as the only man left at whose place one can still have a good supper.
Rousseau had left with Romieu at about one o'clock in the morning,
just tipsy. He had not taken two steps before the fresh air had its
usual effect, and he became drunk; after walking about a hundred paces
he was dead drunk. Romieu made heroic efforts to lead him as far as
he could; but, when he had been dragged down to the pavement twice,
he decided to place him in the safest position possible and then to
leave him. Consequently, at thirty paces from his door, recognising
the impossibility of dragging him farther, Romieu laid him comfortably
down outside a fruiterer's shop-door, on a heap of cabbage leaves and
dead carrot tops which he found there, propping his head up against
a wall. Then, by the aid of his knuckles and boots, he knocked up a
grocer hard by, where he bought a lantern, which he lighted and placed
by Rousseau's side. Then he bid adieu to his unlucky friend, addressing
him in the following terms, half in satisfaction of a duty fulfilled
and half in supplication to the Powers above:--

"And now, sleep peacefully, son of Epicurus. No one will trample upon
you!"

Rousseau spent the night quite quietly, thanks to the lamp which kept
watch over him, and he woke up finding two or three sous in his hand.
Some kind souls had given him alms, taking him for a poor wretched
outcast. But, as he was in his own neighbourhood, when daylight broke,
he was recognised by both grocer and fruiterer, and was exceedingly
humiliated by the fact. We comforted him by the offer of a good
breakfast at the _café des Variétés_, and, being Sunday, and therefore
a holiday, we afterwards took him off to Adolphe's rooms.

Adolphe had a very charming apartment at that time, almost as pretty
as Soulié's. The house that M. Arnault had built in the rue de la
Bruyère was a very nice one, and the de Leuven family had followed the
Arnaults from the rue Pigalle to the rue de la Bruyère. We sat down
and had some tea, Rousseau declaring he was dying of thirst, and then
we each read in turn to our guest the whole of our literary attempts,
in order that he might judge for himself which he thought worthiest
of his exalted protection. By the time we had come to the second
scene, Rousseau pretended that he could listen better if he lay down
on Adolphe's bed, and consequently he mounted it; at the fourth scene
he was snoring--which testified that, no matter how soft the bed of
herbs lent him by the fruiterer in the rue du Petit-Carreau, one never
sleeps properly when one stays out all night. We respected Rousseau's
sleep, and waited patiently till he awoke again. When he awoke, his
head felt heavy and he could not put two ideas together, so he asked to
be allowed to take our MSS. away with him, and promised to read them
carefully at home and let us know the result. We confided our treasures
to him,--two melodramas and three comic operas,--and we arranged to
dine with him at Adolphe's rooms on the following Thursday. Madame de
Leuven herself undertook to see that the dinner should be good and
well served, for she was conscious of the importance of the occasion,
and Rousseau was invited by letter as well as verbally. At the bottom
of the letter, where' one puts on ball invitations "Dancing," we put,
"There will be two bottles of champagne"; and Rousseau, of course,
turned up.

Neither melodramas nor vaudevilles had pleased him. The melodramas were
borrowed from novels too well known, from which plenty of melodramas
had already been taken. The vaudevilles were founded on ideas which
were dull from beginning to end. Stronger men than we might well
have been cast down at such a verdict. But Adolphe had an idea which
supported our courage and soothed our self-respect.

"He has not read them," he whispered to me.

"Quite likely," I replied.

This semi-conviction somewhat restored our spirits. At dessert, I told
several stories, and among them a hunting tale.

"What do you mean," exclaimed Rousseau, "by telling such capital
stories as that and yet amusing yourself by cribbing melodramas from
Florian and tales from M. Bouilly? Why, in the story you have just
related, there is a comedietta complete in itself, _la Chasse et
l'Amour._"

"Do you think so?" we both exclaimed.

(At that period of our friendship we addressed Rousseau in formal
parlance.)

"The deuce I do."

"But suppose we were to write this comedietta ...?"

"Let us do it!" we repeated in chorus.

"Wait a moment; not so fast," said Rousseau. "There is still another
bottle of champagne; let us drink it."

"Yes," said Adolphe, "and we must have a third to toast our new
venture. We will begin work upon it immediately."

"Amen!" cried Rousseau; and he raised his glass. "To the success of _la
Chasse et l'Amour_!" he cried.

We took good care to do full justice to the toast, which was renewed
until not one drop of the golden liquor was left in the bottle.

"The third bottle!" said Rousseau, as he drained the last drops of the
second into his glass.

"Let us set to work on the draft.... The third bottle shall be brought
up."

"All right, let us start!" cried Rousseau.

We rang for the servant, who removed the plates, dishes and cloth,
leaving only the three glasses; then pens, ink and paper were put on
the table, a pen was stuck into my hand, and the third bottle was
brought up. It was emptied in a quarter of an hour's time, and by the
end of an hour the plan was drawn up. Do not ask me to describe the
play, I have no wish to remember it. We divided the twenty-one scenes
which, I believe, composed the work, into three divisions of seven
each. My seven were those of the beginning, Rousseau took the seven
dealing with the denouement and de Leuven the middle seven. Then we
arranged to meet again at dinner in a week's time to read the play,
each undertaking to complete his part in a week. This was how plays of
the old school were composed. Scribe has changed all that, after the
fashion of Molière's doctor, who had located the liver on the left and
the heart on the right. That which had been undertaken before Scribe's
time in a spirit of caprice and flippancy was turned by him into a
serious business. My seven scenes were written by the following night.
At the appointed day we all met; both Adolphe and I had done our parts,
but Rousseau had not written a word of his. He declared that he was so
accustomed to writing in company that his ideas would not flow when he
was alone, and he could not do a thing. We told Rousseau that that need
certainly not stop him, for we would keep him company.

It was arranged that the evening of that day should be given up to
revising Adolphe's and my portions, and that the following day the
sittings should begin, during which Rousseau should compose his
part. My part was read, and was received with great applause--one
couplet especially astonishing Rousseau. The comic rôle was filled
by a Parisian sportsman, bespectacled, a sportsman of the plain of
Saint-Denis, in fact; and he sings the following lines in explanation
of his prowess:--

    "La terreur de la perdrix
    Et l'effroi de la bécasse,
    Pour mon adresse à la chasse,
    On me cite dans Paris.
    Dangereux comme la bombe,
    Sous mes coups rien qui ne tombe,
    Le cerf comme la colombe,
    A ma seule vue, enfin,
    Tout le gibier a la fièvre;
    Car, pour mettre à has un lièvre,
    Je sais un fameux lapin!"

Adolphe read his part, and received honourable mention for his
workmanship in the _couplet de facture._[1] No one nowadays has any
knowledge of the _couplet de facture_, save the Nestors of art, who
have pleasant memories of the _his_ and _ter_ [repeated encores] which
almost always welcomed the _couplet de facture._ Here are Adolphe's
couplets--to every man his due:--

    AIR DU VAUDEVILLE DES _BLOUSES_

    "Un seul instant examinez le monde,
    Vous ne venez que chasseurs ici-bas.
    Autour de moi quand on chasse à la ronde,
    Pourquoi donc seul ne chasserais-je pas?

    Dans nos salons, un fat parfumé d'ambre
    De vingt beautés chasse à la fois les cœurs,
    Un intrigant rampant dans l'antichambre
    Chasse un cordon, un regard, des faveurs.
    Sans consulter son miroir ni son âge,
    Une coquette, à soixante-dix ans,
    En minaudant, chasse encore l'hommage
    Que l'on adresse à ses petits-enfants.
    Un lourd journal que la haine dévore,
    Toujours en vain chasse des souscripteurs;
    Et l'Opéra, sans en trouver encore,
    Depuis longtemps chasse des spectateurs.
    Un jeune auteur, amant de Melpomène,
    Chasse la gloire et parvient à son but:
    Un autre croit, sans prendre autant de peine,
    Qu'il lui suffit de chasser l'Institut.
    Pendant vingt ans, les drapeaux de la France
    Sur l'univers flottèrent en vainqueurs,
    Et l'étranger sait par expérience,
    Si nos soldats sont tous de bons chasseurs:
    Un seul instant examinez le monde,
    Vous ne verrez que chasseurs ici-bas.
    Autour de moi quand on chasse à la ronde,
    Pourquoi donc seul ne chasserais-je pas?"

As we have said, only Rousseau's part now remained to be done. We set
to work the following evening, but, because of the making up of the
mail-bag, we could not begin until nine o'clock, and we did not finish
before one in the morning. As I lived in the faubourg Saint-Denis,
it fell to me to conduct Rousseau to the rue Poissonnière. But when
Rousseau left our hands he was nearly always in a sound state of mind
and body, so I had no occasion to go to the expense of purchasing
lanterns to keep watch over him.

When the play was finished, we had to consider to what theatre we would
present our _chef-d'œuvre._ I had no preference in the matter; so long
as the play was acted at all, and taken up promptly, I cared little
at what house I was presented. Adolphe and Rousseau were in favour of
the Gymnase, and, as I had nothing to say against that house, it was
agreed. Rousseau asked for a reading, and, as he had had his pieces
played there before, they could not refuse him a hearing. He therefore
obtained a reading, though Poirson, who was the mainspring of the
Gymnase, kept him waiting three weeks. There was nothing to be done but
to wait--we had been waiting for the past two years!

The great day arrived at last. We had arranged that the names of only
two of the authors should appear in the matter. I generously yielded
the post of honour to de Leuven, for I did not wish my name to be
known until I had done some really important work. All depends in this
world on a good beginning, and to make myself known by _la Chasse
et l'Amour_, remarkable though that work was, did not seem to my
ambitious pride a sufficiently worthy début. For, although my hopes had
been dwindling during the past two years, my pride was still to the
fore. It was therefore decided that I should not appear either in the
matter of the reading or on the play-bills, but that my name, Dumas,
should be published when the play was printed.

The great day arrived at last. We breakfasted together at the café du
Roi; then, at half-past ten, we separated: Rousseau and Adolphe went to
the Gymnase, and I went to my office.

Oh! I must confess I passed through a terrible strain from eleven
till three o'clock. At three, the door opened, and through the crack
I caught a glimpse of two sorrowful faces. Rousseau came in first,
followed by de Leuven. _La Chasse et l'Amour_ had been declined
unanimously. There hadn't been a single dissentient voice. Poirson
seemed astounded that anyone should have dreamed of reading such a
piece of work at a theatre that bore the lofty title Théâtre de Madame.
He was dreadfully scandalised by the passage which ended with these
four lines:--

    "A ma seule vue, enfin,
    Tout le gibier a la fièvre;
    Car, pour mettre à has un lièvre,
    Je suis un fameux lapin!"

Rousseau pointed out to him that there had not always been, even in
prohibited seasons, such a horror of game, since, in the _Héritière_,
Scribe had made his colonel say, whilst holding up an old hare that he
drew from out his game-bag:--

    "Voyez ces favoris épais
    Sous lesquels se cachent ses lèvres;
    C'est le Nestor de ces forêts,
    C'est le patriarche des lièvres!
    D'avoir pu le tuer vivant,
    Je me glorifîrai sans cesse,
    Car, si je tardais d'un instant,
    Il allait mourir de vieillesse!"

But Poirson retorted that there were hares _and_ hares; that the
comparison which M. Scribe made of his, to a patriarch and to Nestor,
elevated it in the eyes of all cultured people, whilst the horrible
play of words we had allowed ourselves by opposing the word _lièvre_
to _lapin_ was in the worst possible taste, and would not even be
tolerated by a _théâtre de boulevard._ I innocently asked if the
Gymnase was not a boulevard theatre; and now it was Rousseau's turn to
pay me out: he was very angry with me, as he looked upon my passage as
the cause of our rejection.

"You must learn, my dear friend, that there are boulevards _and_
boulevards, just as there are hares _and_ hares."

I was immensely surprised; I had never made any distinction between
hares, other than in dividing them into hares tender and hares tough;
or, in the matter of boulevards, beyond in summer preferring those that
were shadiest to those that were sunniest, and in winter those that
were sunny to those in the shade. I was mistaken: hares and boulevards
had degrees of rank.

We parted, after arranging a meeting for that night. Lassagne noticed
that I was cast down, and was most sympathetic towards me. When
Ernest's back was turned, he said--

"Never mind, my dear friend, we will write a play together."

"Do you really mean it?" I cried, leaping for joy.

"Hush!" he said; "don't go dancing like that in the passages and
bellowing in the office."

"Oh, don't be anxious!"

"I read your ode to General Foy; it is crude, but it contains several
excellent lines, and two or three good metaphors. I will help you to
succeed."

"Oh, thank you, thank you!"

"But we may perhaps be obliged to call in a third person, for neither
you nor I could attend the rehearsals; besides, it must not be known
that I have had anything to do with it."

"Add whoever you like. But when can we begin?"

"Well, try to think of a subject, and I will do the same; we will then
select whichever seems the likeliest."

Then Ernest came back, and Lassagne put his finger on his lips. I
nodded, and the matter was settled. That night, as arranged, Adolphe,
Rousseau and I met.

Can anything possibly be more melancholy than a meeting of authors
whose works have been refused? Unless one is a Corneille or a M.
Viennet, there is always the haunting doubt that the manager may
be correct, and the author self-deceived. Rather than settle this
momentous question outright, we adopted a _via media_, and that was
to read it before some other theatre. But to which should we take it?
Poirson had contemptuously condemned us to the boulevard theatres,
so Rousseau offered to read it at the Ambigu. The manager, Warez,
was a friend of his, so there was a chance he could get a hearing at
once, which would certainly not be the case elsewhere. We therefore
sanctioned the proposal, and the reading, which Rousseau, asked on the
following day, was accorded for the ensuing Saturday.

We awaited that day in great anxiety, I especially; for the result,
miserable though it might be, was almost a matter of life or death to
me. My mother and I were terrified to see how nearly we had reached
the end of our resources. Although our neighbour Després was dead
and we had taken his rooms as he advised, since they were a hundred
francs cheaper than ours, and although we exercised the greatest
possible economy in our expenses, our resources were lessening, little
by little, but quite fast enough to give us serious uneasiness as we
contemplated the time when we should be reduced to living on my income
only.

The eventful Saturday arrived.

I went to my office, the others to the reading.

At one o'clock the door of my office opened, but behind it stood two
faces whose expression left me no more room for doubt than I had had
the first time.

"Accepted?" I cried.

"With acclamation, my dear boy," said Rousseau.

"And what about the hare passage?"

"Encored!"

Oh! instability of human judgment! that which had revolted M. Poirson
sent M. Warez into ecstasies.

It seemed, then, that there were indeed hares _and_ hares, boulevards
_and_ boulevards. I ascertained what the rights of the author of a
vaudeville written for the Ambigu would amount to. They consisted
of twelve francs for author's rights and six seats in the theatre.
That meant four francs each per night and two seats. These two places
were valued at forty sous. The total I should make out of my dramatic
début would be six francs a day. Six francs a day, be it understood,
equalled my salary and half as much again. Only, when would our first
representation be given? They had promised Rousseau it should be as
soon as possible, and, as a matter of fact, he was summoned to read it
to the actors in a week's time. That was indeed a red-letter day. When
he came back after the reading, Rousseau drew me aside.

"Listen," he said; "we have become intimate friends during our ups and
downs of disappointment and delight--if you are hard up for a little
money...."

"Hard up for money? I should think I am, indeed!"

"All right; if you are in need, I will tell you of a decent fellow who
will lend you some."

"On what security?"

"On your tickets."

"On what tickets?"

"Why, on your theatre tickets."

"On my two seats a day?"

"Yes, that is what I mean. I have sold him both my tickets and my
rights ... he has paid me two hundred and fifty francs outright. So, I
said to myself, I mustn't forget my friends. I puffed you up well; I
told him you were a young fellow just beginning your career, but that
you showed considerable promise. I left him under the impression that
you I were going to surpass Scribe and Casimir Delavigne altogether,
and he is expecting you this evening at the café de l'Ambigu."

"What is your man's name?"

"Porcher."

"Good! I will go."

Rousseau had already gone a little way when he came back again.

"By the bye, talk to him about whatever you like, but don't run down
Mélesville to him."

"Why ever do you suppose I should say anything against Mélesville? I
think nothing but good of him."

"Oh, you callow lad! Don't you know that in the literary arena it is of
those one thinks the best that one says the worst things?"

"No, I did not know.... But why must one not speak ill of Mélesville to
Porcher?"

"Some day when I have time I will tell you."

And Rousseau nodded amicably to me, and, with a wave of his hand, went
off jingling his 250 francs, leaving me to puzzle as to why I might not
run down Mélesville to Porcher.

I did not wait till the usual closing hour, but ran home gleefully
with the good news to my mother. I did not, however, mention the offer
Rousseau had made me. That evening, after making up my second mail-bag,
I went to the café de l'Ambigu and asked for M. Porcher. He was pointed
out to me playing a game of dominoes. I went up to him, and he probably
knew who I was, for he got up.

"I am the young man Rousseau spoke about," I said to him.

"I am at your service, monsieur. Are you in a hurry, or will you allow
me to finish my game of dominoes?"

"By all means finish it, monsieur--I am in no hurry; I will take a walk
on the boulevard."

I went outside the café to wait, and Porcher came out five minutes
later.

"So you have had a play accepted at the Ambigu?" he began.

"Yes, and it has been put in rehearsal to-day."

"I know. And you want money advanced on your tickets?"

"Listen!" I said; "this is how I am placed." And I told him in a few
words the whole story of my life.

"How much do you want on your tickets? You know they are only worth two
francs per day?"

"Oh yes, I know that only too well!"

"I cannot therefore give you much."

"I know that also."

"For the piece may not be a success."

"Well, what can you give me?"

"How much?... Let us see!"

I rallied all my courage, for I thought myself that the request was
exorbitant.

"Can you give me fifty francs?"

"Oh yes," said Porcher.

"When?"

"Immediately--I haven't the amount with me, but I will get it from the
café."

"And I will come in and give you a receipt."

"No need; I shall put your name down on my register, as I do M.
Mélesville's and other authors'; but it is an understood thing, is it
not, that you will always do business with me?"

"I agree, on my sacred honour."

Porcher went in, got fifty francs from the desk and handed them to me.
I have experienced few sensations as delightful as the touch of the
first money I earned by my pen: hitherto, what I had earned had been
but for my orthography.

"Look here," he said, "be sensible, work hard, and I will introduce you
to Mélesville."

I looked at Porcher: this was the second time he had pronounced the
name in connection with which Rousseau had cautioned me particularly.

"Why should I make Mélesville's acquaintance?" I ventured to ask
timidly.

"Why, to work along with him, to be sure. If you worked with
Mélesville, your future would be assured."

I looked at Porcher.

"Listen, monsieur," I said; "lam awfully afraid that what I am going to
say to you may displease you."

"Oh! oh!" Porcher began. "You are not going to say anything against M.
Mélesville to me, are you?"

"Heaven forbid, monsieur; no! I have only seen M. Mélesville once or
twice, I believe, at the most: he is a man of about thirty-five, is he
not?"

"Yes."

"Dark and thin?"

"Yes."

"Always laughing?"

"Yes."

"With a splendid set of teeth?"

"That is he."

"Well, M. Mélesville is a man of infinite genius."

"He is indeed!"

"But I have an ambition."

"What is it?"

"To succeed by my own efforts in a year or two's time."

"At what house?"

"At the Théâtre-Français."

"Ah! ah!--that would be a bad job."

"At the Théâtre-Français?"

"Yes."

"For whom?"

"For me."

"Why?"

"Ah! you have no idea of the difficulties they make over their tickets
at that deuced theatre. Never mind! Authors' rights are good, and if
you manage to get in there, why! you will do very well ... only, I warn
you, it won't be an easy matter."

"I know that well enough; but I know M. Talma slightly."

"Oh! all right, then; that is equivalent to the Roman saying, I know
the pope.' Good, excellent, magnificent! Go ahead ... but don't forget
that your first transactions were with Porcher."

"I will remember."

"Have a good memory; people with good memories are generally
good-hearted."

"Monsieur, I think you are a living proof of your own statement."

"Why so?"

"Because you have mentioned the name of Mélesville three times."

"Mélesville! Why, monsieur, I would kill myself for his sake."

"I will not be so inquisitive as to inquire the reason of this
devotion."

"Oh, it is easily explained. I was a hairdresser and used to cut M.
Mélesville's hair; he was in Fortune's good books, but that didn't
matter! he wrote plays. Ten or twelve years ago that was, and then
authors did not sell their tickets, they gave them away."

"Monsieur Porcher, believe me, if I were richer I would give you mine
with the greatest pleasure."

"You do not understand: tickets, in those times, were given away, not
sold. M. Mélesville, then, gave me his tickets; I went to see his plays
with friends, and I applauded. He produced so many plays, and gave me
so many tickets, that an idea came into my head; namely, instead of
taking them and giving them away for nothing, to buy them from him, and
sell them, so I proposed the business to him. 'You are a simpleton,
Porcher,' he said to me. 'What the deuce could you make out of that?'
'Let me try.' 'Oh, try if you like, my dear fellow.' I tried it,
monsieur, and it succeeded. From that time, I have carried on my little
business, and if I ever acquire a fortune, it will be to M. Mélesville
I shall owe it. Come home with me, and I will show you his portrait
along with those of my wife and children."

I have been several times to Porcher's home since then,--probably a
hundred times to ask his help, once only to give him assistance,--and
every time I have been there I have looked at Mélesville's portrait,
raised by the gratitude of that worthy man to the level of those of
his wife and children. Once, Porcher had something or other to ask
of Cavé, when Cavé was Director of the Beaux-Arts. I took Porcher to
Cavé's house, and I said to the latter--

"Look here, I am bringing you a man who has done more for literature
during the past five-and-twenty years than you and your predecessors
and successors have done, or will do, in a century."

And I only said what was true. It never enters the head of any literary
struggler to apply to the Minister of the Interior or to the Director
of the Beaux-Arts in his pecuniary difficulties. But it does occur to
him to apply to Porcher, and he will be aided. He will find a cheerful
face and open bank at Porcher's--two things he will certainly not find
at the Home Office. Théaulon, Soulié and Balzac among the dead, and all
authors now alive, will bear me out.

During the past five-and-twenty years Porcher has probably lent to
literary men 500,000 francs. I am as grateful on my own account to
Porcher, as Porcher was to Mélesville, and when I visit him nowadays I
feel both proud and delighted to see my own portrait, in bust, pastel
and medallion, hanging up beside the portraits of his own children.
But I am the most grateful of all for those first fifty francs he
gave me, which I carried to my mother, and which revived in her heart
the heavenly flower of hope that had begun to fade! And ask Madame
Porcher, who has known all the finest minds in France, to let you see
some of the charming letters she has received. She certainly ought
to publish a selection from them. They would not yield in interest
to those of Madame de Sévigné, although they would be of a somewhat
different nature. We will select one at haphazard, sent her by an
author of our acquaintance; it is not one of mine, though the signature
is extraordinarily like mine. He had asked for the modest loan of a
hundred francs, and had received the reply that he must wait for a few
days, after which the transaction could in all probability be carried
out. This is the letter:--

    "'Wait a few days,'madame! Why, that is the same as telling
    a man whose head is to be cut off to dance a jig--or make
    a pun; why, in a few days I shall be a millionaire! I
    shall have got five hundred francs! If I apply to you, if
    I bother you, it is because I am reduced to such a state
    of wretchedness that I could even give points to Job--the
    most unfortunate hero of times past. If you do not send
    the hundred francs by my slave, I shall squander my last
    remaining sous in procuring a clarionette and a poodle-dog,
    and I shall come and perform with them in front of your
    door, with the inscription writ large on my stomach: 'Have
    pity on a literary man whom Madame Porcher has deserted.'
    Would you have me come and ask you for the hundred francs on
    my head, or cry, 'Vive la république,' or marry Mademoiselle
    Moralès?--Would you rather I went to l'Odéon, or unearthed
    talent _à Cachardy_, or wore _chapeaux gibus_? I will do
    exactly what you command me, if only you will send me the
    hundred francs. Send it me ten times over rather than not at
    all! With deepest and reiterated devotion,               X---

    _"P. S._--It does not matter to me whether the hundred
    francs are in silver, in gold or in notes--send whichever is
    convenient to you."



[Footnote 1: "A couplet written for effect and especially notable for
the wealth of its rhymes."--LITTRÉ.]



CHAPTER III


The success of my first play--My three stories--M. Marie and his
orthography--Madame Setier--A bad speculation--The _Pâtre_, by
Montvoisin--The _Oreiller_--Madame Desbordes-Valmore--How she became a
poetess--Madame Amable Tastu--The _Dernier jour de l'année_--_Zéphire_


_La Chasse et l'Amour_ was played at a special performance on 22
September 1825. It was an immense success. Dubourjal took the
principal part; I entirely forget who were the other actors. I should
certainly have forgotten the title of the play as well as the names
of the actors, if I had not wished to indicate the starting-point of
the hundred dramas I shall probably compose, as I shall presently
indicate the starting-point of the six hundred volumes I have written.
This success inspired Porcher with sufficient confidence to lend me
a hundred crowns in addition to what I had already had, and on the
strength of my future tickets. Now you shall hear what became of
the hundred crowns. Whilst _la Chasse et l'Amour_ was in rehearsal,
and whilst I was looking about me for a subject to start work upon
with Lassagne, I had written a little book of tales that I wished
to publish. It was the period of great successes in small matters;
I have previously made the same remark with reference to Soumet's
_Pauvre Fille_ and M. Guirand's _Savoyards_, and I repeat it. It was
the same with regard to two or three stories just published by Madame
de Duras and Madame de Salm, though not with regard to mine. I did
not thoroughly understand the nature of these successes, or, more
correctly, of the sensation they produced. I did not realise the part
played by the social position of illustrious authors, and I did not see
why I should not have the same reputation and the same success with
respect to my stories that Mesdames de Duras and de Salm (_Ourika_,
etc.) had had with theirs. I had written three tales, which formed a
small volume, and I offered this little volume to six publishers who
refused it at the first glance, and, to give them their due, without
the least hesitation. These three tales were called _Laurette_,
_Blanche de Beaulieu_ and--but I have totally forgotten the title of
the third. But of _Blanche de Beaulieu_ I have since made the _Rose
rouge_; and from the third, the title of which I have forgotten, I
constructed the _Cocher de Cabriolet._ After encountering refusal after
refusal at the publishers, and being convinced that the appearance of
my book would produce quite as great a sensation in the literary world
as _Ourika_, I made up my mind to print the volume at my own expense.

There lived somewhere, at that time, a man who put forth a most
peculiar claim. He claimed to upset all the rules of orthography, and
to substitute for them an orthography without any rule. According to
his notion, each word ought to be written as it was pronounced, and he
did not trouble his head whether it were derived from Greek or Celtic,
Latin, Arabic or Spanish. Thus he would write the adverb _aucunement_,
of which we have just made use, _oqunemen._

It was difficult enough to read, but he considered it much easier to
write. His name was M. Marle. M. Marle hunted far and wide for recruits
for his orthography; he realised that he could not bring about any
revolution unless, Attila-like, he could muster a force of a million or
so of followers.

Now, having doubtless made up his mind that men of letters, and
vaudevillists in particular, would be the most likely of all to
disregard correct orthography, he made special efforts to raise
recruits among us, and, worthy man, he published a journal written
in the strange tongue we have above referred to. He published the
journal at a printing-office owned by Setier, who lived in the cour des
Fontaines. When I made M. Marie's acquaintance, I also made that of
M. and Madame Setier. Madame Setier was a remarkable woman. She was
English, or, at any rate, she knew the language perfectly. She offered
to translate some English plays for me, which she made out I could
easily get taken up on the French stage. As the cour des Fontaines was
close to my office, to which, as I have said, I was obliged to go back
every evening, and also close to the passage Véro-Dodat where my friend
Thibaut lived, to whom I went every day, I frequently called in at the
establishment in the cour des Fontaines.

When my three stories were finished, I gave them to Madame Setier
to read. Madame Setier, being a woman, had an indulgent nature; she
thought my stories charming, and got her husband to print them at half
his usual prices. A thousand copies of the tales--I thought we couldn't
print too many--would cost 600 francs, and M. Setier agreed to print
them for 300. He would stand the remaining 300 francs. After he had
repaid himself the 300 francs, we were to divide the profits in equal
shares between us. That was why I asked Porcher to lend me 300 francs
upon my next tickets as author. I took my 300 francs to M. Setier,
handed him my MS. and, two days later, I experienced the delight of
correcting my first proofs. Who would have thought that what at that
time gave me great joy would, in after life, become a weariness to the
flesh?

At the end of a month, during which _la Chasse et l'Amour_ had a
triumphant run, bringing me in 180 francs in author's royalties and in
the sale of my tickets, my volume of stories appeared under my name,
with the title _Nouvelles contemporaines._

Four copies of it were sold, and an article on it was written in
the _Figaro._ The article was by Étienne Arago. When this chapter
appears, I hope he will have returned to France. In any case, should
it come under his notice, in his exile, great will be his surprise,
no doubt, to find that I recollect, after a lapse of twenty-five
years, an article which he will have forgotten. The four copies sold
brought in ten francs to M. Setier's till. Thus, M. Setier was out of
pocket to the tune of 290 francs for having printed the _Nouvelles
contemporaines_, and I 300 francs for having written them. It was an
unlucky speculation for both of us. I then remembered the advice given
me by a very shrewd publisher, M. Bossange--

"Make a name for yourself, and then I will publish your works."

That was just the very difficulty! _To make a name for oneself!_ It is
the condition laid down for every man who sets forth to carve his own
career. When it is first put to him, he asks himself, in despair, how
the condition is ever to be fulfilled; and, nevertheless, he fulfils it.

I do not believe in the existence of ignored talent, or in genius that
remains unknown. There must have been reasons why Gilbert and Hégésippe
Moreau died in the hospitals. There must have been reasons why Escousse
and Lebras committed suicide. It is a hard thing to say, but neither of
these two poor foolish fellows, if they had lived, would have earned by
the end of twenty years' work the reputation that Béranger's epitaph
gave them.

So I set to work very earnestly to make a name sufficient to sell my
books, in order that I should no longer have to pay half the cost of
printing them. And, moreover, that name, short and humble though it
was, had already begun to be known in the land. Vatout had read my
_Ode au général Foy_ and my _Nouvelles contemporaines_ (for it will
be realised that the sale of only four copies had given a wide field
to my generosity in the matter of presentation copies), and one day
he sent me three or four lithographs, asking me to take one, and
compose some lines to go under it. This requires explanation. Vatout
published the _Galerie du Palais-Royal._ It was a sumptuously printed
work and appeared under the patronage of the Duc d'Orléans. It was a
lithographic reproduction of all the pictures in the gallery of the
Palais-Royal, with notices, information or lines composed in their
honour by all the literary men of the day. It would therefore seem that
I was included among these literary personages, since Vatout asked me
for some lines. My reasoning thus was more in the nature of sophistry
than a dilemma; but, as I had no one with whom to discuss the matter,
it presented itself to me as a dilemma and became an encouragement to
me. Oh! there was nothing I needed then more than encouragement from
all sides. I selected a print depicting a Roman shepherd lad, after a
picture by Montvoisin. The boy was lying down asleep in the shade of a
clump of vines. I do not reproduce the verses I made on this subject
for their merit, but rather as an interesting study of my progress in
poetical diction:--

        "Il est une heure plus brûlante
    Où le char du soleil, au zénith arrêté,
        Suspend sa course dévorante,
    Et verse des torrents de flamme et de clarté.
    Alors, un ciel d'airain pèse au loin sur la terre,
    Les monts sont désertés, la plaine est solitaire,
    L'oiseau n'a plus de voix pour chanter ses amours,
        Et, sur la rive desséchée,
    La fleur implore en vain, immobile et penchée,
    Le ruisseau tari dans son cours.

    Il est une place au bocage
    Où, s'arrondissant en berceaux,
    Le lierre et la vigne sauvage
    Se prolongent en verts arceaux.
    C'est là qu'étendu sous l'ombrage,
    Un berger du prochain village
    Trouve un sommeil réparateur;
    Et près de lui son chien fidèle
    Veille, attentive sentinelle,
    Sur les troupeaux et le pasteur.

        Tu dors! jeune fils des montagnes,
    Et mon œil, aux débris épars autour de toi,
        Reconnaît ces vastes campagnes,
        Où florissait le peuple roi!
    Tu dors! et, des mortels ignorant le délire,
    Nul souvenir de gloire à ton cœur ne vient dire
    Que tes membres lasses ont trouvé le repos
        Sur la poussière d'un empire
        Et sur la cendre des héros.

    Ces grands noms, qu'aux siècles qui naissent
    Lèguent les siècles expirants,
    Et qui toujours nous apparaissent
    Debout sur les débris des ans,
    De nos cœurs sublimes idoles,
    Sont pour toi de vaines paroles,
    Dont les sons ne t'ont rien appris;
    Et, si ta bouche les répète,
    C'est comme l'écho qui rejette
    Des accents qu'il n'a pas compris.

    Conserve donc cette ignorance,
    Gage d'un paisible avenir,
    Et qu'une molle indifférence
    T'épargne même un souvenir.
    Que de tes jours le flot limpide
    Coule comme un ruisseau timide
    Qui murmure parmi des fleurs,
    Et, loin des palais de la terre,
    Voit dans son onde solitaire
    Le ciel réfléchir ses couleurs.

    Si du fleuve orageux des âges
    Tu voulais remonter les bords,
    Que verrais-tu, sur ces rivages?
    Du sang, des débris et des morts;
    Les lâches clameurs de l'envie
    La vertu toujours poursuivie,
    Aux yeux des rois indifférents;
    Et, profanant les jours antiques,
    Sur la cendre des républiques,
    Des autels dressés aux tyrans.

    Que dirais-tu, lorsque l'histoire
    Viendrait dérouler à tes yeux
    Ses fastes sanglants, où la gloire
    Recueille les erreurs des cieux?
    Ici, les fils de Cornélie,
    Que tour à tour la tyrannie
    Écrase, en passant, sous son char;
    Là, trahi du dieu des batailles,
    Caton déchirant ses entrailles
    Pour fuir le pardon de César!

    Près de ces illustres victimes,
    Que pleure encor la liberté,
    Tu verrais, puissants de leurs crimes,
    Les grands fonder l'impunité:
    Lorsque sa rage est assouvie,
    Un Sylla terminant sa vie,
    Tranquille au toit de ses aïeux;
    Un Tibère que l'on encense,
    Et qu'à sa mort un peuple immens
    Ose placer au rang des dieux.

    Alors, à cette heure voilée,
    Où l'ombre remplace le jour,
    Quand les échos de la vallée
    Redisent de doux chants d'amour,
    Seul peut-être, au pied des collines,
    D'où Rome sort de ses ruines,
    Viendrais-tu sans chiens, sans troupeaux,
    Et, regrettant ton ignorance,
    Fuirais-tu les jeux et la danse,
    Pour soupirer sur des tombeaux!"

Meanwhile, M. Marle had been obliged to give up his journal, and
Adolphe and I proposed to turn his two or three hundred subscribers
to account by making of these good folk a nucleus for a monthly
publication. After a great deal of discussion as to whether the
publication had better be in prose or verse, we decided it should be
both in verse and prose and should be styled _Psyché._ This was an
admirable way for me to publish all I had previously written both in
prose and verse without having to pay half the expense. Neither prose
nor poetry inserted in _Psyché_ would bring us in anything, but at the
same time it would not cost us anything. We published, at this period,
some delightful verses by Madame Desbordes-Valmore and by Madame Amable
Tastu. Here are those by Madame Desbordes-Valmore:--

    "Cher petit oreiller, doux et chaud sous ma tête,
    Plein de plume choisie, et blanc, et fait pour moi,
    Quand on a peur du vent, des loups, de la tempête,
    Cher petit oreiller, que l'on dort bien sur toi!

    Beaucoup, beaucoup d'enfants pauvres et nus, sans mère,
    Sans maison, n'ont jamais d'oreiller pour dormir;
    Ils ont toujours sommeil.... O destinée amère!
    Cela, douce maman, cela me fait gémir....

    Et, quand j'ai prié Dieu pour tous ces petits anges
    Qui n'ont point d'oreiller, moi, j'embrasse le mien,
    Et, seul en mon doux nid, qu'à tes pieds tu m'arranges,
    Je te bénis, ma mère, et je touche le tien!

    Je ne m'éveillerai qu'à la lueur première
    De l'aube au rideau bleu; c'est si beau de la voir!
    Je vais faire, tout has, ma plus tendre prière;
    Donne encore un baiser, douce maman; bonsoir!

    PRIÈRE

    "Dieu des enfants! le cœur d'une petite fille,
    Plein de prière, écoute, est ici dans tes mains.
    Hélas! on m'a parlé d'orphelins sans famille;
    Dans l'avenir, mon Dieu, ne fais plus d'orphelins!

    Laisse descendre, au soir, un ange qui pardonne,
    Pour répondre à des voix que l'on entend gémir;
    Mets, sous l'enfant perdu que sa mère abandonne,
    Un petit oreiller qui le fera dormir!"

Madame Desbordes-Valmore was born at Douai.

"I was my mother's last born, and her only fair child," she wrote to
me once, "and I was christened with special honours on account of
the colour of my hair, which was much admired in my mother's case.
She was as beautiful as a Madonna, and everybody hoped I should be
like her in everything; but I only resembled her slightly, and if I
have ever been loved, it has certainly been for other attractions
than great beauty. My father was a heraldic painter; he also painted
arms on carriages and church decorations. His house was close to the
cemetery of the lowly parish of Notre-Dame de Douai. I thought the
dear old house very big when I quitted it at the age of seven; but I
have since seen it, and it is one of the smallest and meanest in the
town. All the same, I love it better than any other place in the whole
world, for I have never really had such peace and happiness as there.
Then, suddenly, came great and overwhelming misery, when my father
could get no more carriages to paint or coats of arms to design....
I was four when France was going through the period of its greatest
troubles. My father's great-uncles, who had been previously exiled
to Holland, at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, offered their
immense inheritance to us if we would renounce the Catholic faith
for Protestantism. These two uncles were centenarians and lived in
Amsterdam, unmarried, where they had established a publishing-house. I
possess some books printed by them in my poor little library. A family
council was called. My mother wept sorely; my father was in a state of
vacillation and kissed us. Finally, the inheritance was declined from
fear of selling our souls, and we remained in our miserable state of
poverty, which grew worse and worse as the months passed by, leaving an
impression of unhappiness on me which has never been obliterated. My
mother was brave and daring, and she made up her mind to go to America
to look for a wealthy relative there, in the hope of re-establishing
the fortunes of her family. Her four children shuddered at the prospect
of the voyage, so she only took me with her. I was willing enough to
go with her, but the sacrifice cost me all my lightness of heart, for
I worshipped my father as one worships God Himself. That long journey,
the seaports, the great ocean filled me with terror, and I sheltered
against my mother's garments as my only harbour of refuge. When we
reached America, my mother found her cousin a widow, driven from her
estate by the negroes. The colony had risen in revolt, and the yellow
fever was raging in all its horror. Awakened thus rudely from her
cherished dream, she could not bear up under the fresh blow that had
overtaken us. It killed her, and she died at the age of forty-one. I
nearly died by her side when they took me in my mourning dress from the
rapidly depopulating isle and shipped me from vessel to vessel, until
I was restored again to my relatives, who were now poorer than ever.
Then it was that the theatre offered us a harbour of refuge. I was
taught to sing; I tried hard to recover my cheerfulness of disposition
but it was of no use; I managed better in melancholy or passion-fraught
parts. That is practically the whole of my life-story. I was taken on
at the Théâtre Feydeau, and everybody predicted a brilliant future
before me. I was made a member before I was sixteen, without either
hoping or asking for it; but at that time my insignificant part only
brought me in eighty francs per month, and the poverty with which I
struggled passes description. I was obliged to sacrifice the future for
the sake of the present, and for my father's sake I returned to the
provinces. At twenty, a great sorrow compelled me to give up singing.
The very sound of my voice would set me weeping; but the music still
rang in my unhappy head, and the measured rhythms unwittingly forced my
thoughts to keep pace with them. I felt compelled to commit my fevered
ideas to paper, and when it was done I was told I had written an
elegy. M. Alibert, who looked after my very frail health, recommended
me to write as a curative, for he knew nought else that would be of
any avail. I followed his advice without any knowledge or study of my
subject. And this gave me much extra trouble, because I could never
find the right words to express my thoughts. My first volume was
published in 1822. You asked, dear friend, how I came to be a poet. I
can only answer you by telling you how I came to write."

Madame Tastu had had a less troublous and unhappy life, and one
discerns it in the calm pulsations of her lines. She had quite simply
accepted, her position as a woman, and given her life to her mother, to
her husband, to her children.

She had lived her life in the light of these three loves, desiring
nothing beyond them, regretting nothing, pouring forth poetry from her
heart when it became too full to contain itself, as water overflows
from a too full vessel. The following example will give some idea of
her gentle, melancholy style:--

    "Déjà la rapide journée
    Fait place aux heures du sommeil,
    Et du dernier fils de l'année
    S'est enfui le dernier soleil.
    Près du foyer, seule, inactive,
    Livrée aux souvenirs puissants,
    Ma pensée erre, fugitive,
    Des jours passés aux jours présents.
    Ma vue, au hasard arrêtée,
    Longtemps de la flamme agitée
    Suit les caprices éclatants,
    Ou s'attache à l'acier mobile
    Qui compte sur l'émail fragile
    Les pas silencieux du Temps.
    Encore un pas, encore une heure,
    Et l'année aura, sans retour,
    Atteint sa dernière demeure,
    L'aiguille aura fini son tour!
    Pourquoi de mon regard avide
    La poursuivre ainsi tristement,
    Quand je ne puis, d'un seul moment,
    Retarder sa marche rapide?
    Du temps qui vient de s'écouler
    Si quelques jours pouvaient renaître,
    Il n'en est pas un seul, peut-être,
    Que ma voix daignât rappeler ...
    Mais des ans la fuite m'étonne;
    Leurs adieux oppressent mon cœur.
    Je dis: 'C'est encore une fleur
    Que l'âge enlève à ma couronne,
    Et livre au torrent destructeur;
    C'est une ombre ajoutée à l'ombre
    Qui déjà s'étend sur mes jours,
    Un printemps retranché du nombre
    De ceux dont je verrai le cours!'
    Écoutons ... le timbre sonore
    Lentement frémit douze fois;
    Il se tait ... je l'écoute encore,
    Et l'année expire à sa voix.
    C'en est fait! en vain je l'appelle!
    Adieu!... Salut, sa sœur nouvelle!
    Salut!... quels dons chargent ta main?
    Quel bien nous apporte ton aile?
    Quels beaux jours dorment dans ton sein?
    Que dis-je! à mon âme tremblante
    Ne révèle pas tes secrets!
    D'espoir, de jeunesse et d'attraits,
    Aujourd'hui tu parais brillante;
    Et ta course, insensible et lente,
    Peut-être amène les regrets.
    Ainsi chaque soleil se lève
    Témoin de nos vœux insensés,
    Et, chaque jour, son cours s'achève
    En emportant, comme un vain rêve,
    Nos vœux déçus et dispersés ...
    Mais l'espérance fantastique,
    Répandant sa clarté magique
    Dans la nuit du sombre avenir,
    Nous guide, d'année en d'année,
    Jusqu'à l'aurore fortunée
    Du jour qui ne doit point finir!"

There was still another poet at this time, a most charming poet, whose
very name is now, perhaps, forgotten save by myself, and I registered a
vow never to forget him. He was called Denne-Baron. We published a poem
by him called _Zéphire_, that Prudhon's picture had inspired him to
write.

Here it is. Tell me if you have ever read smoother lines:--

    "Il est un demi-dieu, charmant, léger, volage;
    Il devance l'aurore, et, d'ombrage en ombrage,
        Il fuit devant le char du jour;
    Sur son dos éclatant, où frémissent deux ailes,
    S'il portait un carquois et des flèches cruelles,
        Vos yeux le prendraient pour l'Amour.

    C'est lui qu'on voit, le soir, quand les heures voilées
    Entr'ouvrent du couchant les portes étoilées,
        Glisser dans l'air à petit bruit;
    C'est lui qui donne encore une voix aux Naïades,
    Des soupirs à Syrinx, des concerts aux Dryades
        Et de doux parfums à la nuit.

    Zéphire est son doux nom; sa légère origine,
        Pure comme l'éther, trompa l'œil de Lucine,
    Et n'eut pour témoins que les airs;
    D'un souffle du printemps, d'un soupir de l'aurore,
    Dans son liquide azur, le ciel le vit éclore
        Comme un alcyon sur les mers.

    Ce n'est point un enfant, mais il sort de l'enfance;
        Entre deux myrtes verts, tantôt il se balance;
    Tantôt il joue au bord des eaux,
    Ou glisse sur un lac, ou promène sur l'onde
    Les filets d'Arachné, la feuille vagabonde,
        Et le nid léger des oiseaux.

    Souvent sur les hauteurs du Cynthe ou d'Érymanthe,
        Sous les abris voûtés d'une source écumante
    Il lutine Diane au bain;
    Ou, quand, aux bras de Mars, Vénus s'est endormie,
    Sur leur couche effeuillant un rosier d'Idalie,
        Il les cache aux yeux de Vulcain.

    Parfois, aux antres creux,--palais bizarre et sombre
        De la sauvage Écho, du sommeil et de l'ombre,--
    Du Lion il fuit les ardeurs;
    Parfois, dans un vieux chêne, aux forêts de Cybèle,
    Dans le calme des nuits il berce Philomèle,
        Son nid, ses chants et ses malheurs.

    O puisses-tu, Zéphire, auprès de ton poëte,
        Pour seul prix de mes vers, au fond de ma retraite
    Caresser un jour mes vieux ans!
    Et, si le sort le veut, puisse un jour ton haleine
    Sur les bords fortunés de mon petit domaine
        Bercer mes épis jaunissants!"



CHAPTER IV


Talma's illness--How he would have acted _Tasso_--His nephews--He
receives a visit from M. de Quélen--Why his children renounced his
faith--His death--_La Noce et l'Enterrement_--Oudard lectures me on my
fondness for theatre-going--The capital reply that put the Palais-Royal
in a gay humour--I still keep the confidence of Lassagne and de la
Ponce--I obtain a success anonymously at the Porte-Saint-Martin


In the midst of these first literary labours, into which we had flung
ourselves with all the ardour of youth, terrible news for the cause of
art spread throughout Paris. Talma was attacked with a fatal disease.
He had just reached the zenith of his talent, perhaps, in his last
creation of the _Démence de Charles VI._ The reader will recollect the
call Adolphe and I paid him, and how, as he was feeling better, he was
hoping to return to the theatre to play _Tibère_, and his pointing to
his lean cheeks which would serve him admirably in taking upon himself
the rôle of the aged emperor. But Talma was struck with a mortal
disease. Charles VI. was to be his last appearance--an appearance finer
than any of the creations of his youth or of his mature years--and
Michelot was destined to take the part of Tiberius. We were not the
only people, for that matter, to have similar recollections. Towards
the close of Talma's life he made a short stay at Enghien, where Firmin
went to see him. Firmin was just going to act _Tasso_, which had been
allotted to Talma, but which he had been obliged to renounce. Talma was
very fond of Firmin; his enthusiasm enchanted him, and he had often
given him advice.

"Well, my dear friend," he said to him, "so you are going to play
_Tasso?_"

"To my infinite regret," was Firmin's reply. "I would much rather have
seen you play it; it would have been a study for me and I should have
learnt a lesson from it."

"It is but a poor play," said Talma, "although there is a fine scene
in the fifth act, where, in the hope of restoring reason to the poor
madman, people tell him of the honours that are being prepared for him
and of the crown awaiting him. And, as you are aware, Firmin, at the
word _couronne_ he seems to realise what is being said to him. 'A crown
for me!' he exclaims. 'If that be so, Alphonse will no longer refuse me
his sister!... Where is this crown? Where is it?' Then, when they show
it him, he looks at it and says sorrowfully, 'It is not a golden crown,
only a laurel wreath ... the brother will never give his consent!'
Listen, Firmin," said Talma; "this is how I should play it...."

And, sitting half up in his bed, he went through the scene in such
telling accents, and with such pathetic and dejected expression, filled
throughout with both despair and insanity, that Firmin, who knew
nothing but what he had just seen, felt inclined to throw up the part.

Towards the beginning of October, the improvement which had somewhat
restored hope disappeared, and the disease made such rapid progress
that Talma himself expressed a desire to see those whom he loved best,
whose occupations placed them at a distance from him. Among these was
his nephew, Amédée Talma, a surgeon-dentist at Brussels. He arrived on
9 October, and never left his uncle till the end. After the sick man
had been prepared for this visitor, Amédée Talma entered the room and
went up to his uncle's bedside. Talma held out his hand, drew him close
and kissed him. It was dark, but the young man saw by the dampness of
his uncle's cheek that he was weeping. The sick man, however, soon
recovered himself, and, after a moment's pause, he said--

"You must not stay here more than two or three days. Your business will
not admit of longer absence. I sent for you because you have known for
a long time the disease I am suffering from, and my doctors wish to
learn what you can tell them about it before they were called in."

A fresh consultation was therefore held on the 12th, at which the young
doctor was present. Only two or three out of the eleven medical men
present thought there was any hope. Still, the new remedies suggested
allayed the attacks of vomiting, and these ceased altogether towards
the end. When the doctors came to his bedside, Talma said to them--

"Well, is it all up? I will do anything you desire ... but I doubt
if you can pull me through, and I have reconciled myself to the
inevitable. But the thing that troubles me most and what I want you to
care for most is my eyesight: I am afraid I am going to lose my sight."

Another of Talma's nephews, named Charles Jeannin, arrived from
Brussels on the 16th. The greatest precautions were necessary in
breaking the news of this fresh visitor to Talma. Nothing that went
on round him escaped his notice. MM. Dupuytren, Biett and Begin were
standing by the fireplace talking in low voices, when Talma caught a
word or two of their conversation.

"What are you talking about?" he asked.

M. Dupuytren did not answer him, but went up to Amédée Talma. "I was
asking these gentlemen," he said to the young man, "whether Talma had
been told of the archbishop's visits."

As a matter of fact, the archbishop called almost daily, but they had
not allowed him to see the patient.

"The archbishop?" repeated Talma. "What are you saying about the
archbishop?"

Amédée hastened to reply--

"M. Dupuytren was telling these gentlemen, uncle, that the Archbishop
of Paris has called every day to ask after you."

"Oh! what good a fellow the archbishop is!" Talma exclaimed. "I am much
touched by his remembering me.... I used to meet him at the house of
the Princesse de Wagram: he is a very excellent man."

"Yes," Amédée reiterated,--"yes, he has called nearly every day."

"Here?" Talma asked.

"Here; I have spoken to him myself twice; I have even promised him
that, when you are better, you will see him."

"Oh! no, no," said Talma quickly; "but when I am better he shall be the
first on whom I will call. I remember once he was good enough to send
an ecclesiastic to me to tell me that he had nothing to do with the
insult put on my children in the matter of the distribution of prizes
and that the whole blame should fall on the headmaster of the school."

I will give the story of what had happened: the event wounded Talma to
the quick, for he adored his two children.

The Archbishop of Paris was asked to preside at a prize distribution
at the College Morin. Now it seems that the authorities did not dare
to ask the ecclesiastic to reward the two sons of the great actor, so
the names of the two lads were omitted, and it was not until after M.
de Quélen's departure that the prizes they had earned were handed to
them privately. Talma instantly caused his two children to renounce
the Catholic faith, and from that time they belonged to the Reformed
religion.

The doctors withdrew, and, as they were leaving, M. Dupuytren said to
Amédée--

"I am going to the château: if I meet the archbishop what shall I say
to him?"

"Why, monsieur," the young man replied, "I do not think you can do
better than tell him what we have just heard and my uncle's answer
to what I said; if, later, my uncle asks for him, I shall have much
pleasure in sending for him at once."

But, instead of following out these instructions, M. Dupuytren, who did
not meet the archbishop, took upon himself to write to him and tell
him he could go and see Talma. The archbishop made haste to attend to
the request, which he had no idea came only from M. Dupuytren; but, as
on previous occasions, he was received by Amédée Talma. On 18 October
M. Charles Jeannin was obliged to leave his uncle and return to keep
an engagement in Brussels for the 20th. On 19 October, at six in the
morning, seeing Amédée by his bedside, Talma said--

"What, my dear boy, have you not gone yet?"

"There was only one vacant seat in the diligence, uncle, and I gave it
up to Charles, who was urgently wanted in Brussels."

"When do you go?"

"To-morrow morning."

"At what time?"

"Six o'clock ... if I can get a seat."

Talma gently shook his head.

"You are deceiving me," he said; "you have not been able to save me,
and you wish to stay with me to the end.... If I had been a peasant
from Brunoy, I could have been cured; but they have bungled over me....
However, my death will enable them to learn how they ought to treat
someone else. So much for doctoring! Now go and fetch MM. Nicod and
Jacquet."

These were his lawyers. The gardener was called and sent on this
errand. Talma recognised him.

"Ah! is that you, Louette?" he said.

Then, turning to his nephew, he added--

"I have not paid him for the last two months; you must tell Madame it
is most essential.... But, by the bye, where is Caroline?"

"She is asleep."

"Which means she is crying."

Madame Talma heard, and she came up to the bedside.

"What time is it?" Talma continued, not seeing her.

"Six o'clock, uncle."

"It is always six o'clock with you."

He tried to set going the repeater of his watch.

"I cannot any longer hear my watch," he said.

"Would you like a timepiece?"

"Yes; go and fetch me the one out of my bedroom."

His nephew went, and Madame Talma was exposed to view.

"Ah! there you are, Caroline," he said; "we must now put matters right
for you."

His nephew brought the clock and put it on the night table.

"I am very unsightly, am I not, my good Amédée?" Talma remarked. "My
beard is so long...."

"You shall have it trimmed to-day."

"Give me a looking-glass."

He took it and looked at himself.

"I tell you, Amédée, I am losing my sight; for pity's sake, have
something done for my eyes. Oh! I shall lose them--I cannot see at all
to-day."

The lawyers arrived and, with them, M. Davilliers. But Talma tried in
vain to discuss business matters--he was past all that; he could only
speak in whispers, although he believed he was speaking very loudly,
and his speech grew more and more indistinct. MM. Arnault and de Jouy
were announced. Talma signed for them to be brought to him. M. Arnault
embraced Talma, to whom he was tenderly attached, and, as he did so,
the word "Adieu" escaped from his lips.

"Are you going away, then?" asked Talma.

"Yes," Amédée answered hastily, "these gentlemen are going to Brussels."

Both men embraced him and, to hide their sobs, rushed quickly from the
room; as Talma saw them go out he said--

"Quite right, be quick and go, then I shall hope to see you again soon;
the sooner you go, the sooner you will come back."

When MM. de Jouy and Arnault had gone away, his two children were
brought him, and Talma held out his hands to them, to be kissed. A few
minutes later, he uttered three words--

"Voltaire!... like Voltaire!..."

Then, immediately afterwards, he murmured--

"The cruellest thing of all is to lose one's sight."

The next moment, some piece of furniture cracked very loudly, and Talma
turned his head in the direction of the sound. A lady who had just
arrived took advantage of this movement to say--

"Talma, it is I, Mademoiselle Menocq."

The dying man made a slight token of acknowledgment and pressed her
hand. It struck half-past eleven. Talma took his handkerchief in both
hands, lifted it up slowly to his mouth, wiped his lips and then put
it behind his head, still holding it in both hands. After the lapse
of a few seconds, his hands released their hold and fell down by his
sides. His nephew took hold of the hand nearest him, and felt that
his pressure was returned feebly. At eleven thirty-five, without any
convulsion or muscular contraction of the face, one sigh escaped his
lips--it was his last breath.

When Garrick died, four peers of England claimed it as an honour to
bear the four corners of his pall, and to follow their English Roscius
to his resting-place among the tombs of kings.

One hundred thousand persons followed Talma's funeral procession, but
not a single representative from those in high places in the State were
among the number.
    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
Lassagne had told me to think of a subject for a vaudeville. I had
done so, and believed I had found one. It was in the _Arabian Nights_,
one of the episodes in the travels of Sinbad the sailor, I believe.
I say "I believe," for I am not quite sure, and the matter is not
really worth the trouble of ransacking my desk to find out. Sinbad, the
indefatigable traveller, reaches a country where they bury wives with
their husbands, and husbands with their wives. He imprudently marries;
his wife dies, and he has a narrow escape of being buried with her. A
mere trifle. But the episode suggested a vague plan, which I took to
Lassagne.

Lassagne read it, and, if that were possible he was more kindly
disposed towards me even than at the first, when he saw how determined
I was to succeed. With the exception of a few corrections, which he
undertook to make, he decided that the scheme would serve. He therefore
communicated with a clever young fellow named Vulpian, a friend of his,
who was also later to become one of mine. Vulpian is one more name
to be marked with a cross in these recollections; for he is dead. We
met together two or three times and shared the task. This time I had
to do with collaborators who were more punctilious in keeping their
promises than poor Rousseau had been. At the first meeting, each of us
had his part ready. We joined the three pieces together and made them
into something like a harmonious whole. Lassagne undertook to put the
polishing touches to the work, which took him three or four days. When
this was done, the three authors, pronouncing it to be perfect, decided
it should be read under the title of _la Noce et l'Enterrement_ at the
Vaudeville, where Lassagne and Vulpian knew Désaugiers. Unluckily,
Désaugiers, who was already affected with the disease that eventually
killed him, was at home undergoing a second or third operation, and
could not be present at the reading. The upshot of his absence was
that _la Noce et l'Enterrement_ received almost as abrupt a refusal
at the Vaudeville as _la Chasse et l'Amour_ had at the Gymnase. It
seemed I was not to be favoured with good luck while I shared my work
with others. I felt terribly discouraged. But I felt worse still the
day after the reading, when Lassagne put in an appearance with an
expression of gloom on his face. It was so rarely he was depressed that
I rose from my seat feeling sure something was wrong.

"What is the matter now?" I asked.

"Matter enough, my poor friend; for somehow or other it has leaked out,
although your name was not breathed at the reading, that I have written
a play with you; and, in consequence, Oudard has just sent for me."

"Well?"

"Well, he made out I had given you a taste for literature; he says
this taste will ruin your future career and he has made me pass my word
of honour not only to cease helping you in any other play, but also to
cast aside the one already finished."

"And did you promise?" I asked.

"I felt obliged to do so for your sake, Dumas. You haven't General Foy
any longer to uphold your interests here. I don't know who has done you
a bad turn by speaking to M. de Broval, but they do not at all look
upon your literary propensities with friendly eyes."

I do not think my heart ever felt heavier. The two or three hundred
francs which _la Chasse et l'Amour_ had brought in had so sensibly
lightened our circumstances, that I had been looking forward to the
time when I should be drawing not merely twenty to twenty-five francs
more per month, but earning four times that amount by literary work.
Moreover, a portion of what _la Noce et l'Enterrement_ was to bring
me in was hypothecated to Porcher, who had lent me 300 francs. What
Lassagne had just told me pretty well overthrew all my castles in
Spain. It seemed to me most cruel to forbid me working for the drama
out of office hours, and to insist that my mother, my son and I
should be compelled to live on 125 francs per month. This feeling was
so strong that it fired me with courage to go straight to Oudard. I
entered his office with tears in my eyes but my voice under control.

"Is it true, monsieur," I asked, "that you have forbidden Lassagne to
work with me?"

"Yes," was his reply. "Why do you ask me that?"

"Because I should not have thought you would have had the courage to do
so."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Well, it seems to me a man needs courage to condemn three persons to
live on a hundred and twenty-five francs a month."

"And it seems to me you ought to think yourself very fortunate to have
the hundred and twenty-five francs per month, instead of despising
them."

"I do not despise them, monsieur; on the contrary, I am very grateful
to those who give them to me; only, I repeat that the sum is not
sufficient and that I think I ought to be allowed the right to add to
it so long as it does not interfere with attention to my office work."

"It may not interfere with your office work now, but it very soon will."

"That will be the time, then, for you to be anxious."

"It is really no affair of mine," said M. Oudard. "I simply and solely
convey the views of the chief director."

"Of M. de Broval?"

"Yes, of M. de Broval."

"I thought M. de Broval pretended to foster literature."

"Literature? Perhaps he does ... but do you call _la Chasse et l'Amour_
and _la Noce et l'Enterrement_ literature?"

"Most surely not, monsieur. But my name was not put on the bills at the
Ambigu, where _la Chasse et l'Amour_ was played, and it will not be put
on the bills of the theatre, whatever it may be, which may accept _la
Noce et l'Enterrement."_

"Still, if you are ashamed to own those productions, why make them?"

"First, monsieur, because at present I do not feel myself able to
do better, and because, such as they are, they bring comfort to our
poverty ... yes, monsieur, to our poverty--I do not shrink from the
truth. One day, you somehow learnt that I had sat up several nights to
copy some stage plays which brought in four francs an act, and that,
under the same conditions, I copied out M. Théaulon's comedy, the
_Indiscret_,--well, you complimented me then on my pluck."

"Quite true."

"How then, may I ask, am I more guilty in making my own plays than in
copying out those of others? You must, of course, be aware that Adolphe
also writes plays?"

"Which Adolphe?"

"Adolphe de Leuven."

"What then?"

"Why, I heard you speak to M. de Broval the other day in support of
Adolphe's request for a post in the offices of the Duc d'Orléans."

"M. Adolphe de Leuven was highly recommended to me."

"And I, monsieur, was not I also highly recommended to you? True, de
Leuven was highly recommended to you by Benjamin Constant, General
Gérard and Madame de Valence, whilst I was only recommended to you by
General Foy."

"And what does that mean?"

"It means that Adolphe de Leuven's patrons are alive while my supporter
is dead."

"M. Dumas!..."

"Oh! do not be put out. I see I have hit the right nail on the head."

"Then you absolutely insist on continuing your writing?"

"Yes, monsieur; I desire to do so both from inclination, and from
necessity."

"Very well, produce literature like Casimir Delavigne's and instead of
blaming you, we will give you encouragement."

"Monsieur," I replied, "I am not M. Casimir Delavigne's age, who has
been poet laureate since 1811; neither have I received the education
M. Casimir Delavigne had at one of the best colleges in Paris. No, I
am only twenty-two; I am busy educating myself every day, probably at
the cost of my health, for all I learn--and I assure you I am studying
many subjects--I learn when other people are fast asleep or amusing
themselves. So I cannot, just at this moment, produce work like M.
Casimir Delavigne's. But, M. Oudard, I would ask you, in conclusion, to
listen carefully to what I am about to say, strange though it may sound
to your ears: if I did not believe I could do different work in days
to come than M. Casimir Delavigne's, well, monsieur, I should meet you
and M. de Broval more than half-way in your wishes, and at this very
instant I would give you my sacred promise, I would take a solemn oath,
never to touch literature again."

Oudard looked at me with expressionless eyes; for my pride took his
breath away. I bowed to him and went out. Five minutes later, he went
to M. Deviolaine to tell him of my insane carryings on. M. Deviolaine
inquired if it were really in his presence, if it were really to him,
that I had said such monstrous things.

"Yes, it was in my presence and to me," said Oudard.

"I will tell his mother about it," said M. Deviolaine; "and if he
continues possessed with this madness, send him to me. I will take him
into my office and see that he doesn't go altogether stark staring mad."

And, indeed, my mother was told that very same night. When I returned
from making up the portfolio, I found her in tears. M. Deviolaine had
sent for her, and told her of all that had passed between M. Oudard and
me that morning. Next day, the crime of which I had been guilty was
public property throughout the offices. The sixty-three clerks of His
Royal Highness never lost an opportunity of saying to each other as
they met, "Have you heard what Dumas said to M. Oudard yesterday?"

And the clerk to whom the question was addressed would reply with
either a Yes or a No. If he replied in the negative, the story was
related with corrections, embellishments and exaggerations, that did
the greatest credit to the imagination of my colleagues. During the
whole day and for several days to follow, homeric laughter could be
heard throughout the corridors of the Maison de la rue Saint-Honoré
No. 216. There was one solitary book-keeping clerk who had only been
engaged the previous day, and whom no one as yet knew, who did not
laugh.

"Why," said the others to him, "you aren't laughing."

"No."

"Why don't you laugh?"

"Because it doesn't seem to me a laughing matter."

"What! Don't you think it a huge joke that Dumas said he would do
better things than Casimir Delavigne?"

"In the first place, he did not say he would do better, he said he
would do something different."

"It is all the same."

"No, it is quite different."

"But do you know Dumas?"

"Yes, and because I know him I tell you he will do something; I don't
know what it will be, but I tell you that that something will astonish
everybody, save myself."

This employé, who had just joined the office, in the book-keeping
department, was my old German and Italian master, Amédeé de la Ponce.

So there were two people out of the seventy-two persons, heads and
employés, who composed His Royal Highness's official staff, who did not
despair of me! Lassagne and he.

From this time began the warfare of which Lassagne had warned me when I
first entered the office. But, no matter what the war was going to be
like, or how long it was going to last, I made up my mind to fight to
the end.

A week later, a ray of comfort came to me. Vulpian came to tell
Lassagne and me that our play had been accepted by the theatre of the
Porte-Saint-Martin for Serres' début.

So it will be seen I was gently drawing nearer to the Théâtre-Français,
but I had learnt Italian enough to understand the 1 proverb, "_Che va
piano va sano._"

The author's rights were also higher. The theatre of the
Porte-Saint-Martin paid eighteen francs for a vaudeville, and allowed
twelve francs' worth of tickets.

So this meant for me eight francs per night instead of six;--exactly
double, this time, what my office work brought me in.

_La Noce et l'Enterrement_ was played on 21 November 1826. My mother
and I saw my play from the orchestra. As my name did not transpire, and
as I was totally unknown, I experienced no inconvenience from allowing
myself the satisfaction of being present. The play succeeded admirably;
but, even as the Roman emperors, in their days of triumph, were
reminded by a slave that they were mortal, so, lest my success should
intoxicate me, Providence placed a neighbour on my left who remarked,
as he rose at the fall of the curtain--

"Come, come, it isn't such stuff as this that will uphold the theatre."

My neighbour was right, and he knew what he was talking about all the
more in that he was a fellow-writer.

The play was acted some forty times, and, as Porcher generously left me
half my rights, claiming only the remaining half to liquidate previous
advances, the four francs per night that I received from the tickets
helped us to get over the winter of 1826 to 1827.



CHAPTER V


Soulié at the mechanical saw-mill--His platonic love of gold--I desire
to write a drama with him--I translate _Fiesque_--Death of Auguste
Lafarge--My pay is increased and my position lowered--Félix Deviolaine,
condemned by the medical faculty, is saved by illness--_Louis XI.
à Péronne_--Talma's theatrical wardrobe--The _loi de justice et
d'amour_--The disbanding of the National Guard


From that moment I made up my mind firmly; like Ferdinand Cortez, I
had burnt my boats, and I had either to succeed or to hang myself.
Unfortunately, I was not staking for myself alone; my poor mother was
also equally involved in the game.

Although Soulié had been less fortunate than we had been, in not yet
having had anything of his acted, I had divined what strength of
imagination lay in his work, and I had decided to attempt a work of
some importance in collaboration with him. At heart, I really agreed
with M. Oudard's estimate of my first two productions, and I had shown
it by not wishing my name to appear in connection with either of them,
while, by some instinct that did not lead me far astray, I had signed
the _Ode sur la mort du général Foy_, the _Nouvelles contemporaines_
and _Pâtre romain._ But I quite decided not to sign my name to any
theatrical work until I could do something that would make a great
sensation. Soulié had moved; he lodged near La Gare. By some means or
other, he had become head of a saw-mill, in which upwards of a hundred
workpeople were employed. In comparison with us, Soulié was wealthy. He
had a small allowance from his father, plus his salary as manager of
this industrial establishment; so he could jingle a little gold in his
pockets, which was quite out of the question in our case. Soulié had
a real passion for gold, and he liked to look at it and to handle it.
Towards the close of his life, he was earning between forty and fifty
thousand francs per annum; and, when he had contracts to pay by the end
of the month, he would often keep the two or three thousand francs thus
hypothecated, in his drawer, from the 15th to the 20th. Then, in order
to procure the joy which the sight of gold gave him, he would change
his five-francs piece or his bank-notes for napoleons, asking that
the newest and most glittering coins should be sent him, even at the
expense of four or five sous per napoleon,--for Soulié had not the good
fortune to live in the happy period of the depreciation of gold,--then,
when the end of the month came, it cost him such anguish to part from
his gold, that, although the sum owing lay there in his drawer, he
seldom settled his account when it was due, preferring to pay twenty,
thirty, fifty or a hundred francs extra, in order to feast his eyes
upon the rich metal for a few days longer. And yet nobody could be
more generous or liberal-handed or lavish than Soulié. He loved gold;
but do not misunderstand us, it was not after the fashion of a miser
that he loved it, but as the representative of luxury, as the surest
means to procure all the pleasures of life: he loved gold for the power
it bestows. So he had a very special predilection for the romance of
_Monte-Cristo._ I hope I may be forgiven if I dwell at too great length
on Soulié; he was one of the most interesting personalities I ever
met, and I say of him, as Michelet once said of me, "he was one of
the forces of nature." I could picture Soulié poaching in the forests
of America, a pirate in the Indian Seas or in the Arctic Ocean, an
explorer along the shores of Lake Tchad or Senegal, far better than as
a romance-writer or a dramatist.

He was consummate, too, in the midst of his hundred workmen at the
saw-mill, as he directed them by a nod of the head, by a wave of the
hand, giving his orders in a tone of voice at once gentle and firm,
kindly yet full of power. He had just finished his imitation of
Shakespeare's _Romeo and Juliet._ There were some fine lines in that
piece of work, well conceived, some great thoughts vigorously handled;
but, in the main, it was a mediocre production. He had started it two
years too late, and had not attempted anything fresh at a time when to
be original was one of the conditions of success.

I told Soulié frankly that I had come to ask him to write a drama with
me; but, as neither of us felt at all strong enough to attempt anything
in the way of original creation, we decided to take a subject from
Walter Scott. Walter Scott was all the rage; his _Kenilworth Castle_
had just been played with great success at the Porte-Saint-Martin, and
a version of _Quentin Durward_ was to be acted at the Théâtre-Français.
Talma was allotted the part of Louis XI., and he had intended it to
follow his Tiberius. What a glorious thing it would have been for the
drama for Talma to have personated a character from Walter Scott!
We settled upon _Old Mortality._ There were two characters in _Old
Mortality_--John Balfour of Burley and Bothwell--that completely
fascinated Soulié.

When our subject was chosen, we set to work with great zest; but in
vain did we put our heads together, the plan did not go well. To put
it baldly, we each of us had too much individuality, and we were
continually knocking against each other's angles. At the end of two or
three months of fruitless labour, after five or six useless meetings,
we had made no headway at all, and were scarcely farther advanced than
at our first meeting. But I had gained enormously by my struggle with
this rough champion; I felt all kinds of new forces springing up in me,
and, like a blind man whose sight has been restored, each day, little
by little, my range of vision seemed to widen.

Meantime, I was practising how to handle dramatic poetry by translating
Schiller's _Fiesque_ into verse. I undertook the task in order to teach
myself, and not in hope of payment; and, although it was not to bring
me in a penny, and we stood in the greatest need of work that would pay
me, I had the courage to finish it from end to end.

About this time, my poor mother, who was always in fear of my losing
my place, and who, I must confess, was quite justified in her fears,
had a fresh instance of deceived hopes to bring before my notice.
My compatriot, Auguste Lafarge, the stylish lawyer's clerk who had
momentarily revolutionised the whole town of Villers-Cotterets, and
who had been obliged to sell his business to pay his debts, because he
could not find a rich wife to save the situation, had flung himself
into literature for want of other means of livelihood, and had just
died after two or three years' struggle against horrible poverty. It
was in vain I said to my mother that Lafarge never had the making of a
dramatic poet in him; in vain I told her he had never struggled, but,
on the contrary, had given in without a fight; in vain I urged that
Lafarge never possessed a fraction of my energy and perseverance; the
material fact was that he had suffered hunger and misery and had died
in consequence of his privations.

Another fact that ought to have set her fears to rest only gave her
fresh anxiety. Betz had been promoted. The reader will recollect
that Betz was the nice lad who had been my second in the duel with
M. B. He had been made chief clerk at a salary of 2400 francs, and
his post as order clerk at 2000 francs was given to Ernest, who, in
his turn, left his place of 1800 francs vacant. As I had attended to
my office work with a regularity that not even my worst enemy could
have found fault with, and as, although they may have been unjust
towards me, they were not really ill-intentioned, they could hardly
refuse to give me Ernest's place, which I asked of Oudard as though
it were my due. My request was acceded to, but they changed me from
the Secretarial Department to the Relieving Offices. The _Bureau des
secours_ was really a branch of the Secretariat, but it was looked
upon as a subordinate department. I should most of all have regretted
leaving Lassagne, but a change had been made some time before in the
arrangement of the offices, and a room had been given him to himself,
in consideration of his position as deputy head-clerk. So it came about
that I was quite as near him in the Relief Office as I had been under
the new arrangements at the Secretariat. I gained two things by this
change: first, an increase of salary; secondly, a greater freedom of
action; since, having to obtain information concerning the unfortunate
people who asked for help, I spent whole days in going about from
one end of Paris to the other. I should have been well pleased, as
compensation for the two advantages thus gained, to have given up my
portfolio making, but there was no way out of this.

In spite of my increase of salary, and the greater freedom I gained,
my mother looked upon this change in my position as in the nature of
a disgrace. She was not deceived; and, if she had been, M. Deviolaine
would have taken care to put her right on this head.

In addition to this, a very real calamity was threatening to strike
at that household with which we were closely connected. For some time
past, Félix Deviolaine, who looked the very picture of health, had
been troubled with a cough, and was losing flesh. He grew uneasy at
the weakness he felt to be growing on him, and one day he sought me
out and begged me to take him to Thibaut, whose medical skill he had
often heard me praise. I hastened to do him this service, and took him
to Thibaut, begging him to examine Félix very carefully. Thibaut made
him strip to the waist, tapped his chest, listened to his breathing
both with his ear and with the stethoscope; and, after ten minutes'
examination, told him plainly that he was suffering from a serious lung
complaint, although he was in no danger. But to me he whispered--

"The lad is doomed."

I cannot describe the grief and dismay this curtly expressed
declaration caused me. Félix had never been particularly friendly
towards me; he was of a somewhat jealous disposition, and had rather
repelled than drawn me in to share the enjoyments which, thanks
to his father's social position, he could have obtained for me,
especially with regard to shooting, which I loved above all else. But,
nevertheless, his was one of the tender friendships of my early days,
and if this prophecy were fulfilled it would be the first leaf that
death would tear from the golden branch of my childish recollections.

I did not want to announce this sad news to M. Deviolaine, so I sought
out Oudard and told him what had transpired. Oudard utterly declined to
believe it; for Félix had seemed, until now, the most unlikely subject
to die of pulmonary consumption; but I sent for Thibaut himself, and
Thibaut repeated to him the fatal verdict he had told me. Without
telling the whole truth to M. Deviolaine, Oudard gave him to understand
that Félix required great care, and, as Félix did not wish to have any
other doctor than Thibaut, it was arranged that Thibaut should pay him
daily visits. It was then that I made the special study of pulmonary
consumption which I later turned to account in my romance, _Amaury._ I
have already stated that, just as Thibaut's prediction was on the point
of being realised, and all hopes were given up--even in his mother's
heart, that last sanctuary of hope--Félix Deviolaine was miraculously
saved by articular rheumatism, which drew off the inflammation, and did
what no other remedies had been able to effect.

Whilst these events were happening, the representation of the drama of
_Louis XI. à Péronne_, in which Talma was to have acted, took place
at the Théâtre-Français. It was a great event for all of us young
writers who were aspiring to produce some novel creation; Taylor had
urged its production, had seen that the costumes were accurate and the
staging perfect. The play owed its success partly to the astonishment
it evoked, and partly to its intrinsic worth. I did not see it at
the first presentation, because I was unable to procure a ticket and
was too poor to afford to buy one at the doors; but Soulié joined us
afterwards at the café des Variétés and told us all about it. He was
most enthusiastic over it. This inspired us with courage, and we tried
to take up our _Puritains d'Écosse_ once more.

Talma's dramatic succession at the Théâtre-Français had been divided:
Michelot took Tiberius and Louis XI.; Firmin took Tasso; Joanny was
prepared to undertake the whole of the illustrious dead actor's
repertory; Lafond had become both _the one_ and _the other_[1];
everybody regarded Talma as an obstacle, and now that this obstacle was
removed, each strove to acquire for himself the reputation of the man
who had eclipsed all other reputations. In order not to lose any chance
of success, they divided his costumes among themselves, as they divided
his rôles. A public sale of Talma's wardrobe was announced for 27
April. Here are some of the prices that the different costumes fetched.
The actors who hoped to buy his talent with his clothes, did not pay
dear for them.

                                             Francs
    Charles VI. et sa perruque ...              205
    Ladislas ...                                230
    Le Cid ...                                   62
    Mithridate ...                              100
    Richard III ...                             120
    Les deux Néron ...                          412
    La couronne de Néron.                       132
    Othello, une fois joué à l'Opéra            131
    Léonidas ...                                200
    Clovis ...                                   97
    Joad ...                                    120
    Nicomède ...                                 60
    Le Maire du palais ...                      115
    Philoctète ...                               40
    Typpo-Saëb ...                               96
    Leicester ...                               321
    Meynau ...                                   45
    Falkland ...                                 42
    Danville ...                                130
    Le Misanthrope ...                          400
    Bayard ...                                   51
    Le grand maître des Templiers                40
    Jean de Bourgogne ...                        79
    Manlius ...                                  80
    Sylla, avec la perruque.                    160
    Hamlet, avec le poignard.                   236
    L'Oreste d'_Andromaque_.               100
    L'Oreste de _Clytemnestre_.             80
                               Total,     fr. 3,884

Two items may be noted in the above: one, _Les deux Néron_, and the
other, _Othello, une fois joué à l'Opéra._ These two descriptions show
how conscientiously Talma hunted up particulars about his costumes.
Once he discovered in Suetonius that Nero had entered the Senate in a
blue mantle embroidered with gold stars; he instantly had a costume
made after the same pattern, and came on to the stage in just such a
blue mantle with gold stars as Nero had worn on entering the Senate.
But, next day, some critic, who had not bothered his head to read
Suetonius, and who took this costume to be a freak of the actor, said
in one of the papers that Talma looked like Night in the prologue to
_Amphitryon._ This was quite enough to prevent Talma from wearing the
star-spangled robe. On another occasion, before playing _Othello_ at
the Opéra for a benefit, he reflected that as the Moor had become
a Venetian general he must necessarily have discarded his Oriental
costume and adopted the Venetian dress. So he wore a very exact copy
of a Venetian costume of the fifteenth century. But, in casting aside
the turban, the girdle and the baggy ornamental pantaloons, half the
picturesque effect had fled and not even all Talma's genius was able to
make up for it, so, disappointed himself, and thinking that the change
of costume had had a damaging effect on his play, he went back to the
traditional costume for the remainder of the performances and never
used the other again. The costume for the Misanthrope, found in Talma's
wardrobe, indicated the lifelong desire he had cherished to play the
part of Alceste, but it was a wish he had never dared to satisfy. The
person who bought it was not afflicted with like modesty.

Whilst these events were occurring, that were of such secondary
importance to France, but so vitally interesting to ourselves, the
Government was slyly attempting to re-establish the Censorship that it
had abolished. In the king's speech to the Chamber, he had said--

"I should have preferred, had it been possible, not to pay any
attention to the press; but, since the habit of publishing political
articles has developed, it has produced fresh abuses which require more
efficacious and extensive means of repression. It is time to put a stop
to painful scandals, and to preserve the liberty of the press itself
from the danger of its own excesses; a project will be submitted to you
with this object in view."

This paragraph was nothing more nor less than a threat, which
translated itself into a Bill presented to the Chamber under the title
of _Projet de loi sur la police de la presse._ The reading of this
Act was interrupted by the Opposition a score of times and ended in a
scene of terrible agitation. Casimir Périer jumped up from his seat,
exclaiming--

"You might just as well bring forward a Bill consisting of the single
clause, 'Printing is suppressed in France to the benefit of Belgium'!"

M. de Chateaubriand called this law a _law of Vandalism._ And to the
outcry in the capital, the whole of France responded, sending joint
and separate petitions to implore the Chamber to reject the Bill as
destructive of all public liberties, disastrous to commerce and an
attack on the sacred rights of property. In the midst of that terrible
manifestation which, in 1827, predicted the armed opposition of 1830,
the _Moniteur_ had either the cleverness or the perfidiousness--one
never can quite fathom the _Moniteur's_ real sentiments--to insert in
an article in favour of the law the phrase characterising it as a _law
of justice and of love._ Oh! what an opportunity this gave for the
weapon of sarcasm, always powerful in France! It fastened upon this
phrase and used it as a weapon with which, on every possible occasion,
to prick the heart of M. de Peyronnet. Everybody exclaimed against this
Act, even the Academy itself. It was M. de Lacretelle who ventured to
take the hazardous and difficult step of attempting to awake the Forty
Immortals in their chairs. He read a rousing discourse to them on 4
January, on the disadvantages of the projected law, and the fetters
it would put upon thought; he repudiated this fresh Censorship, which
was to make printers judges of authors, and demanded that the Academy
should make use of its prerogative and petition the king to accede to
the entreaties of the Forty by withdrawing the Bill. After an hour's
discussion, it was decided almost unanimously that this petition should
be presented to the king, and MM. de Chateaubriand, Lacretelle and
Villemain were deputed to draw it up. On 21 January, the following
notice appeared in the _Moniteur_:--

    "ART. I. The appointment of Sieur Villemain, _maître des
    requêtes_ to the Council of State, is revoked..."

Then, lower down:--

    "By order of the King, M. Michaud of the French Academy will
    no longer be one of His Majesty's readers.

    "By command of His Excellency the Minister of the Interior,
    dated to-day, M. de Lacretelle has been dismissed from the
    post of Dramatic Censor."

This persecution was received by a burst of indignation against the
Government and with demonstrative sympathy towards the victims of
Ministerial cruelty. Finally, the chorus of opposition rose to such a
threatening pitch that the Government grew frightened and withdrew on
18 April the Act that it had introduced on 29 November. A furore of
delight then broke out in Paris: houses poured forth their inhabitants
into the streets, and every face glowed with joy; hands were held
out in greeting, and journeymen printers ran through the boulevards
shouting, "Vive le roi!" waving white flags; and a general illumination
took place all over Paris that night. But the mortified Government sent
out troops, shots were fired and wounds received, and the withdrawal of
the famous _loi de justice et d'amour_ should be accredited not to the
king's intelligence, but to his fear.

When Charles X.--poor, blind, deaf monarch--believing that the
enthusiasm aroused by his accession to the throne would last for ever,
commanded a review of the National Guard to be held on 29 April, on
the Champ de Mars, he heard, to his vast surprise, mingled with those
cries of "Vive le roi!" with which sovereigns are intoxicated, and
thrill on their thrones, the bitter and raucous cries of "A bas les
ministres!" and "A bas les Jésuits!" These cries came particularly from
the ranks of the second, third, fifth, seventh and eighth legions,
those, namely, belonging to the financial aristocracy and the lower
middle classes. Astounded by such a reception, Charles X. drew up for
an instant; then, spurring his horse to the front ranks of the legion
that had uttered the bitterest of these invectives, he exclaimed--

"Messieurs, I have come here to receive homage and not lectures."

Alas! the kings of 1827, like those of 1848, should have known that
homage blinds and lectures enlighten.

By six o'clock next morning every post of the National Guard was
relieved by troops of the line, and by seven o'clock, instead of a
leading article in the _Moniteur_ on the review, there appeared the
order to disband. From that moment there was a breach between the Elder
Branch, and the middle class. The former possessed its king, elected by
divine right, to reign over it and to die with it. But from that hour
far-seeing eyes could discern the approaching clouds that were bringing
on their wings the tempest of 1830.

[Footnote 1: See vol. ii. p. 442.]



CHAPTER VI


English actors in Paris--Literary importations--_Trente Ans_, or
_la Vie d'un Joueur_--The _Hamlet_ of Kemble and Miss Smithson--A
bas-relief of Mademoiselle de Fauveau--Visit to Frédéric Soulié--He
declines to write _Christine_ with me--A night attack--I come across
Adèle d'Alvin once more--I spend the night _au violon_


Somewhere about 1822 or '23, I believe, a company of English actors
attempted to give a series of representations in the theatre of the
Porte-Saint-Martin, but they were received with so much opposition
and hooting, and so many apples and oranges had been flung at the
unfortunate actors from the pit, that they were compelled to abandon
the field of battle under the heavy firing of projectiles. And that
was how the national spirit expressed itself in 1822. But then, in
1822, it was considered degrading for any theatre where the productions
of MM. Caignez and Pixérécourt were performed (not to mention those
of Corneille and Molière) to lend its boards to such a barbarian as
Shakespeare, and to the train of _œuvres immondes_ which followed in
his wake.

Only five years had gone by since that period, and now the second
Théâtre-Français greatly astonished everybody by advertising that
a company of English actors was going to act the chief plays of
Shakespeare. So quickly did ideas mature in the burning sun of the
nineteenth century that only five years were necessary to bring about
such an enlightenment of public opinion as this. However, the example
of courtesy had been set us by our neighbours across the Channel.
Mademoiselle Georges had just succeeded--thanks, no doubt, to the
political reminiscences that surrounded her--in obtaining what Talma
never obtained, in spite of his Anglo-French descent, namely, a public
non-subsidised performance of a French play.

On 28 June 1827, Mademoiselle Georges gave a most successful
representation of _Sémiramis_, under the patronage of the Duke of
Devonshire. The receipts amounted to eight hundred pounds sterling
(20,000 francs). A few days later, again with similar success, she
played _Mérope._ This twofold triumph suggested to the director of the
Odéon the idea of inviting a company of English actors over, and a
series of performances, announced for the beginning of September, was
looked forward to eagerly. In fact, opinion had changed from complete
disdain of English literature to enthusiastic admiration of it. M.
Guizot, who did not then know a word of English--and who has known it
but too well since--had re-translated Shakespeare with the help of
Letourneur. Walter Scott, Cooper and Byron were in everybody's hands.
M. Lemercier had made a tragedy out of _Richard III._; M. Liadière had
produced another on _Jane Shore. Kenilworth Castle_ had been played at
the Porte-Saint-Martin; _Louis XI. à Péronne_ at the Théâtre-Français;
_Macbeth_ at the Opéra. People talked of Frédéric Soulié's _Juliette_
and of Alfred de Vigny's _Othello._ Assuredly, the wind had veered
round to the west and pointed to a literary revolution. Nor was this
all: a play was produced at the Porte-Saint-Martin, with a denouement
borrowed from Werner's _Vingt-Quatre Février_, which had brought about
a revolution both by its style and its execution.

We should like to say a few words with reference to _Trente Ans_, or
_la Vie d'un Joueur_, by MM. Victor Ducange and Goubaux. Besides the
dramatic importance of this work, it brought to light two eminent
artistes, Frédérick and Madame Dorval. It is rarely one finds two
actors so highly endowed, the one as good as the other. He, as a matter
of fact, was the wretched tragedian who, three years before, had played
one of the brothers Macchabée at the Odéon! She was the little girl,
forgotten as soon as she had played the thankless part of Malvina, in
the _Vampire!_

Popular drama had its Talma, and boulevard tragedy its Mademoiselle
Mars. Everybody has become familiar with _Trente Ans_; everybody has
seen it played by the two artistes I have just named. But not everybody
witnessed the fever of excitement that mastered both actors and
spectators during those first representations.

So the English artistes found Parisian playgoers warmly enthusiastic,
eagerly demanding new emotions to take the place of those they had just
experienced. Such moments as these are experienced at various times and
seasons when everything is quiet outside the realms of imagination.
As physical life is in no danger, minds sigh after imaginary dangers;
human sympathy must exercise itself on something. Twelve years of calm
caused everyone to cry out for emotion; ten years of laughter called
aloud for tears. With a national spirit restless and adventurous by
nature, we must ever express ourselves dramatically, whether on the
stage or in real life.

In 1827 the theatre had things all its own way. On 7 September the
English actors gave their first performance. Abbott opened the
proceedings with a short speech in very carefully pronounced French,
and they played _The Rivals_ by poor Sheridan, who had just been buried
amidst financial difficulties; then Allingham's _Caprice of Fortune._
The comic actors of the company carried off the honours of the first
night, and, although one noticed a comic actor called Liston, and a
sweetheart played by Miss Smithson, we felt quite certain that the much
longed for company had not been brought across the Channel just for
this exhibition of its powers. I had made up my mind to attend these
English performances with some assiduity, and as Porcher had nearly got
back the advances he had lent me, I asked him for two hundred francs,
a hundred and fifty of which went towards our housekeeping expenses,
and fifty were intended to initiate me into the beauties revealed
in the English drama. I already nearly knew Shakespeare by heart at
this period; but plays, according to the Germans, are meant to be
seen and not read. So I resisted the temptation of going to the first
representation, and waited to see the English company in Shakespeare.

They announced _Hamlet._ There was no fear of my missing it this time.
Fortunately, it was Ernest's week to make up the portfolio. I left
the office at four o'clock and went to take my position in the queue,
rather better informed, this time, than I had been on my first visit to
Paris. I knew _Hamlet_ so well that I did not need to buy the words;
I could follow the actors, translating the words as soon as they were
uttered. I must admit that the impression made upon me far exceeded my
expectations: Kemble was wonderful as Hamlet, and Miss Smithson made a
divine Ophelia. The stage scene, the screen scene and that of the two
portraits, the mad scene and that in the graveyard electrified me. Only
then did I realise what the drama could be, and from the ruins of my
past feeble attempts, which the shock of this revelation brought about,
I saw what was needed to create a new world.

"And darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God
moved upon the face of the waters"; as the Bible puts it.

This was the first time that I had seen real passions on the stage,
inspiring men and women of real flesh and blood. Now I understood
Talma's moans over each fresh part he created; I understood that
everlasting aspiration for a literature that could give him the chance
of depicting a hero who should be a living being; I understood his
despair at dying before he had given expression to that side of his
genius which perished unknown within him and with him. The present
generation will not understand what I am saying; for its childish
studies have made it as familiar with Walter Scott as with Lesage,
with Shakespeare as with Molière. Our century, which has become
pre-eminently a century of appreciation, smiles incredulously when it
hears that a comedian could be hissed because he was an Englishman, or
a play hooted because it was by Shakespeare.

These representations continued with increasing popularity. After
_Hamlet_ came _Romeo and Juliet_, then _Othello_; then, finally, one
after the other, all the masterpieces of the English stage. To Kemble
and Miss Smithson belonged all the honours of these representations.
It is impossible to describe the scene of Ophelia's madness, the
balcony scene in _Juliet_, the poisoning scene in the vault among the
dead, Othello's jealousy and the death of Desdemona, as played by those
two great artistes. Abbott, also, showed himself a graceful comedian
in the parts he played. His Mercutio, among the rest, was a real
masterpiece of delightful acting.

And now let us notice how strange it is that events which are to
influence a man's life seem to link themselves together. On the 10th,
the English actors gave the last of their series of representations,
leaving me palpitating with fresh impressions, and my mind flooded with
fresh light. On the 4th, six days before, the Salon Exhibition had just
opened. At this Salon, Mademoiselle de Fauveau exhibited two small
bas-reliefs, round which all artists congregated.

One of these bas-reliefs represented a scene from the _Abbé_; the
other, the assassination of Monaldeschi. I came up to look at these
bas-reliefs with the crowd, and I probably appreciated more than most
of the gazers the power and delicacy of the work thus cleverly handled
by a woman's fingers. I had read the _Abbé_, so I knew all about one of
these bas-reliefs; but I was so ignorant on some portions of history
that I not only did not know the incident the other piece of sculpture
depicted, but I was also ignorant who were either Monaldeschi or
Christine; and I left the Musée without venturing to ask anyone to tell
me. As it was Sunday, and as I had not seen Soulié for several days, I
decided to go and spend part of the evening with him at la Gare.

At nine o'clock--after telling my mother that I should probably not be
home until very late--I sweetened a cup of tea in front of a capital
fire (for wood is plentiful in a saw-mill) and began a discussion
with Soulié concerning the alterations his _Juliette_ would need to
undergo since the English acting had come under notice. All at once,
I recollected the bas-relief of the death of Monaldeschi, and, not
daring to ask Soulié for particulars for fear he would make fun of me
because of my ignorance, I asked him if he possessed a _Biographie
universelle._ He had one, and I read the two articles on _Monaldeschi_
and on _Christine._ Then, after a few moments' reflection, in the
depths of which I seemed to see all sorts of tragic characters moving
amid the glitter of swords, I said to Soulié, as though he had been
following my thoughts--

"Do you know, there is a terrible drama in all that?"

"In what?"

"In the assassination of Monaldeschi by Christine."

"I should just think so."

"Shall we do it together?"

"No," Soulié replied emphatically; "I do not mean to work any more with
others."

"Why?"

"Because David has promised me the Cross, through the influence of M.
Portalis, when I write my first important work alone."

I looked at Soulié in utter amazement. I do not think that even he
himself quite realised the nature of his brusque outbursts.

"Therefore," he added, "I intend to use that subject for a tragedy
myself."

"Oh!" I said, laying the volumes down.

"That need not prevent you writing your own drama, you understand, if
you mean to stick to the idea."

"On the same subject as you?"

"There are more theatres than one in Paris; and a dozen ways of
treating a subject."

"But which of us will read it at the Théâtre-Français?"

"Whichever shall finish first."

"Would it not annoy you?"

"What the devil do you think it would do to me?"

"You are not very amiable to-night."

"I am not in a good temper."

"What is the matter with you?"

"This is the matter. If only I had seen the English actors before I had
constructed my _Juliette_ I should either not have done it at all, or
done it differently."

"Will you take my advice?"

"In what way?"

"As the sincere advice of a friend.... Leave your _Juliette_ on one
side as I have left my _Fiesque_, and dream of something else."

"Bah! when it is finished!"

I saw Soulié had made up his mind to go on with it, and I dropped
the subject. Then, as I could not afford to buy the _Biographie
universelle_, I asked Soulié if I might copy out the two articles, and
he let me do so. It was evident my writing on the same subject did
not inspire him with much terror. We separated at midnight; and, as I
went along the boulevard, I dreamt already of my future _Christine._
It was a dark, rainy night, and the boulevard was almost deserted.
When I reached the gate of Saint-Denis, just as I was leaving the
boulevard to re-enter the street, I heard cries thirty steps ahead of
me; then, in the midst of the darkness, I could see what looked like
a group of people struggling violently on the boulevard, and I ran in
the direction of the cries. Two fellows were attacking a man and woman.
The man attacked was trying to defend himself with a cane, the woman
had been thrown down and the thief was trying to snatch a chain that
hung round her neck. I leapt on the thief, and the next moment he was
on the ground in his turn, and I was kneeling on him. When the second
thief saw this, he left off attacking the man and ran away. It would
seem that, unwittingly, I had been squeezing the throat of my thief
unmercifully; for suddenly, to my great surprise, he yelled out--

"Help, help, help!"

This shout, together with those already uttered by the man and
woman assaulted, brought several soldiers from the military station
of Bonne-Nouvelle. I had not loosened my hold of the thief, and
the soldiers dragged him out of my hands. Then only was I able to
respond to the thanks of those whom I had rescued. The woman's voice
struck me strangely. It was Adèle d'Alvin, whom I had not seen since
I left Villers-Cotterets, and the man was her husband. There had
been a special performance at the Porte-Saint-Martin at which _la
Noce et l'Enterrement_ had been played, and knowing I had had a hand
in that masterpiece, they had wanted to see it. The performance
had not finished until late, as is usual in the case of special
representations, and Adèle was hungry. When they came out, they went
to the theatre café for supper, and this had delayed them. Just as
they reached Charlard's chemist's shop they were attacked by the two
ruffians of whom I had rid them, and of whom one had been arrested by
the defenders of the country. Unluckily, these defenders of the country
were not as intelligent as they were brave. They could not distinguish
between robbers and robbed, between thieves and honest folk, and they
took us all to the guard-room, informing us we must stop there till the
morning. At daybreak they sent for a police-officer, who separated the
wheat from the tares.

We tried to explain ourselves, and asked that they should examine
carefully our persons, our countenances, our appearances, and compare
them with those of the man whom I had arrested, and that they should
not keep us till next day before rendering us the justice that was our
due. But to all this the defenders of the country replied imperturbably
that _by night all cats look grey_; and, consequently, one might easily
be deceived, whereas, on the morrow, there would be _daylight_ on the
matter.

The decision was neither logical nor eloquent; but we were the weaker
party. They made us, assaulted and assaulter alike, go into that part
of the guard-house that is called the _violon_, and there was no help
for it but to await the good pleasure of M. _le chef du poste._

We all leant up one against another, as people do in a carriage, and
tried to sleep. As Adèle and her husband had taken one corner of the
camp bed for themselves, there was one left for me. I gazed sadly
at the woman for a long time; she was associated with the earliest
recollections of my life, and now, apparently perfectly happy, she
was falling asleep on the shoulder of another, to whom she spoke in
accents of familiar intercourse. She had two children: motherhood had
consoled her for her lost love. They both fell asleep; but neither
the thief nor I slept at all. Soon my eyes tore themselves away from
watching Adèle and her husband; my thoughts retraced their steps
and I resumed my dream where it had been interrupted. I saw, in my
mind's eye, the bas-relief of Mademoiselle de Fauveau as it hung
fastened against the wall, and, in the guard-room of the boulevard
Bonne-Nouvelle, by the side of that woman and her husband, face to face
with the thief who was to get three years' imprisonment at the next
assizes, my imagination conjured up the first scenes of _Christine._
At eight next morning the police-officer entered, took down our
depositions and addresses and then set us at liberty; whilst our
friend the thief was immediately hustled off to the police station. I
returned home to find my poor mother terribly upset. She, like myself,
had never closed her eyes all night. I saw Adèle again once or twice
during her stay in Paris; but, since that time, my imagination, if not
my heart, has been the slave of a mistress who has supplanted all my
past mistresses, and even done injury to those of later years. That
mistress, or rather that master, was Art.



CHAPTER VII


Future landmarks--Compliments to the Duc de Bordeaux--_Vates_
--Cauchois-Lemaire's Orléaniste brochure--The lakeof Enghien--Colonel
Bro's parrot--Doctor Ferrus--Morrisel--A tip-top funeral cortège
--Hunting in full cry--An autopsy--Explanation of the death of the parrot


It is most instructive to every philosophic mind to review a past
period of time, and to recall that once it was looked forward to
as a future. It can then be seen how gradually changes came about;
landmarks are recognised, and it is realised that there is nothing
sudden or inexplicable in the evolution of things; that which in the
present we look upon as all-powerful chance, when investigated in the
light of the past, is seen to be Providence. Thus, Charles X., the
last representative of a dying aristocracy, was destined to fall; thus
Louis-Philippe, the representative of the people at its strongest
moment, was destined to ascend the throne; and, from 1827 and 1828,
everything was being prepared so that people were ready for the great
catastrophe of 1830. And yet no one can clearly read the signs of an
immediate future.

All the country's hopes seemed centred in the "phenomenal child"
(_l'enfant du miracle_), as they called the Duc de Bordeaux, and, on
I January, M. de Barbé-Marbois, first president of the _cours des
Comptes_, addressed to him the following delightful little speech,
entirely suited to the young prince's years and intelligence:--

"Monseigneur, you will to-day receive the customary gifts: mine shall
be a short story. Once upon a time, the prince whose name you bear, who
was then as young as you are, returned to the Court of Navarre after
being away. While he was still seated on his horse, he was surrounded
by children of the countryside, who, delighted to see him back again,
kept repeating, '_Caye nostre Henry!_' which means 'Here is our Henri!'
just as though the young prince belonged to them. Queen Jeanne, his
mother--an excellent princess--who had seen and heard everything from
the palace balcony, well pleased by the welcome they gave the young
prince, said to him, 'Those children, my son, have just given you
a lesson, the sweetest you can ever receive; by calling you "_our
Henry_," they are teaching you that princes belong to their country
just as much as to their own family.' The prince remembered the lesson,
and that is why for more than two centuries the French have continued
to call him 'our Henry' and will always so speak of him."

M. le Duc de Bordeaux listened attentively, then replied--

"_I will not forget._"

Already the previous year it had been said to him, "And you,
monseigneur, who are yet very young and upon whose head rests the
future happiness of France, always remember that this fine kingdom also
needs a good king--a king who loves truth and wishes it to be spoken to
him; a king who despises flattery and who will banish from his presence
those who deceive him. You will remember, monseigneur, that this advice
has been given you by an aged white-haired man?"

M. le Duc de Bordeaux had replied--

"_Yes._"

"Your _Yes_, monseigneur," added the first president, "shall be
registered in our annals, where you will find it when you reach your
majority,"

Alas; all these counsels were to be wasted. The white-haired veteran
who had learnt so much by reflection on the past, could not foresee the
future. God only endows poets with the gift of clairvoyance. It was a
poet, monseigneur, who addressed these words to you--

    "Salut, petit cousin germain!
    D'un lieu d'exil, j'ose t'écrire.
    La fortune te tend la main;
    Ta naissance la fait sourire.

    Mon premier jour aussi fut beau,
    Point de Français qui n'en convienne:
    Les rois m'adoraient au berceau ...
    Et, cependant, je suis à Vienne!"

It was a poet, sire, who addressed these words to you:--

    "O rois, veillez, veillez! tâchez d'avoir régné.
    Ne nous reprenez pas ce qu'on avait gagné;
    Ne faites point, des coups d'une bride rebelle,
    Cabrer la liberté, qui vous porte avec elle;
    Soyez de votre temps, écoutez ce qu'on dit,
    Et tâchez d'être grands, car le peuple grandit!
    Écoutez, écoutez! à l'horizon immense,
    Ce bruit qui parfois tombe et soudain recommence,
    Ce murmure confus, ce sourd frémissement
    Qui roule et qui s'accroît de moment en moment!
    C'est le peuple qui vient! c'est la haute marée
    Qui monte, incessamment par son astre attirée!
    Chaque siècle, à son tour, qu'il soit d'or ou de fer,
    Dévoré comme un cap sur qui monte la mer,
    Avec ses lois, ses mœurs, les monuments qu'il fonde,
    Vains obstacles qui font à peine écumer l'onde,
    Avec tout ce qu'on vit et qu'on ne verra plus,
    Disparaît sous ce flot qui n'a pas de reflux!
    Le sol toujours s'en va, le flot toujours s'élève;
    Malheur à qui, le soir, s'attarde sur la grève,
    Et ne demande pas au pêcheur qui s'enfuit
    D'où vient qu'à l'horizon l'on entend ce grand bruit!
    Rois, hâtez-vous! rentrez dans le siècle où nous sommes;
    Quittez l'ancien rivage!--A cette mer des hommes
    Faites place, ou voyez si vous voulez périr
    Sur le siècle passé, que son flot doit couvrir!"

Again it was a poet who uttered these words:--

    "Mais bientôt, aux regards de ce nouveau ministre,
    La nuit vint révéler au avenir sinistre;
    Des signes éclatants, au fond des cieux écrits,
    De ces partis vainqueurs glacèrent les esprits;
    Et la France espéra!--L'immortelle déesse
    Qui prête son épée aux martyrs de la Grèce,
    Sur le fronton aigu du sénat plébéien,
    Parut, en agitant son bonnet phrygien!
    Panthéon, la croix d'or s'éclipsa de ton dôme!
    Sous les marbres sacrés de la place Vendôme,
    La terre tressaillit, et l'oiseau souverain
    S'agita radieux sur sa base d'airain!..

It was a poet, too, who uttered the following threat:--

    "Il est amer et triste, à l'heure où le cœur prie,
    Et dans l'effusion des plus secrets moments,
    D'entendre à ses côtés les pleurs de la patrie,
    Des clameurs de colère et des gémissements.

    Il est dur que toujours un destin nous entraîne
    Aux civiques combats qu'on croyait achevés;
    De voir aux passions s'ouvrir encore l'arène,
    Et s'enfuir la concorde et le bonheur rêvés.

    Rien qu'à ce seul penser, tout ce qu'en moi j'apaise!
    Est prêt à s'irriter; la haine me reprend;
    Et, pour qui vent guérir toute haine est mauvaise,
    Et, pourtant, je ne puis rester indifférent.

    Oh! meurent les soupçons! oh! Dieu nous garde encore
    De ces duels armés entre un peuple et son roi!
    Sous le soleil d'août, dont la chaleur dévore,
    Le sang bouillonne vite, et nul n'est sûr de soi."

True, as we have stated, the action of the Government really helped
the public cause. Trial after trial was brought against the press
unceasingly, but liberty always comes out triumphant from these
encounters, no matter what happens, and, by succeeding, kills those
who try to suppress it. Monarchies are not overturned, they undermine
themselves and begin to totter; then, some day, the people seeing them
shake, shout with a loud voice and down they fall.

The case of the _Spectateur religieux_ was taken from court to court,
and finally brought before the Court of Orléans. M. de Senancourt,
who had been sentenced by the _police correctionelle_ to nine months'
imprisonment and five hundred francs fine for his résumé of _Traditions
morales et religieuses_, was acquitted on appeal.

Finally, Cauchois-Lemaire was condemned to fifteen months' imprisonment
and to a fine of two thousand francs, for having urged a change of
government and a change in the order of succession to the throne in
his _Lettre à Son Altesse royale M. le Duc d'Orléans, sur la crise
actuelle._ This letter contained the following incriminating passages.
The author laid bare before the prince the situation of France and
added:--

    "But you will perhaps say to me, 'What can I do? As a peer
    of the realm, France knows that I submit to an ostracism
    which forbids me to take any part in public affairs.' That,
    monseigneur, is just the point at issue. Because you are
    suspended from your privileges, are you therefore suspended
    from common law? Is the country circumscribed in the Higher
    Chamber? Does parliamentary inertia condemn everybody to
    political lethargy? And, because people do not happen to
    belong to the aristocracy, are they therefore of no account?
    'Dangerous questions,' some will exclaim. 'Unsuitable and
    at any rate irrelevant,' others will say. Such questions,
    I would reply, are both natural and useful under a
    constitutional form of government."

After that paragraph came the following:--

    "Instead of going to Gand, he went to England, thus saving
    himself from association with the system that marked the
    epoch of 1815 and from following in the wake of 1815."

Then, passing on from politics to advice, he added:--

    "And in order not to depart from his custom of offering
    advice, the writer of this letter urges you to exchange
    your ducal arms for the civic crown. Come, prince, pick up
    courage; there still remains in our monarchy a fine opening
    at your disposal, a position such as la Fayette might
    occupy in a Republic, that of the first citizen of France.
    Your princedom is but a paltry sinecure beside that moral
    kingdom!"

Then, on the following page:--

    "The French people is like a big baby in need of teaching.
    Let us pray it fall not into wicked hands."

Again:--

    "An eager patriotism cannot hold out against a great and
    noble example, an eminent position and immense wealth--three
    qualifications all united in your Highness's person. With
    these you have but to stoop to pick up the jewel lying at
    your feet, which many are striving for, but cannot obtain
    for want of the qualifications you have been endowed with by
    the grace of God."

Then:--

    "Furthermore, a prince who saw the State in peril would
    not be content to fold his arms lest the chariot, lacking
    direction, should overturn. We, on our part, have done all
    in our power; it is for you to try, and to seize hold of the
    wheel ere it go over the precipice."

And finally:--

    "Whilst we are declining," said the writer of that letter,
    "the Duc de Bordeaux, the Duc de Chartres and even the Duc
    de Reichstadt are growing up...."

Of the three princes specified by Cauchois-Lemaire as growing up at
that period, only one survives.

The Duc de Reichstadt disappeared in 1832, as a shadow vanishes
with the body that has thrown it. The Duc de Chartres was violently
withdrawn from society in 1842, because, by his popularity, he was a
substantial obstacle in the way of plans that were developing towards
their accomplishment in 1848. Finally, the Duc de Bordeaux, whom
Béranger had greeted in the name of his small cousin-german, the Duc
de Reichstadt, was to join that duke in his exile two years before his
death. What a melancholy yet eloquent spectacle for the populace was
that of all those children, born with crowns on their heads or within
their grasp, who were to cling weeping to the door-posts when the storm
of revolution came to tear them away, one after the other, from the
royal hostel which passes by the name of the palace of the Tuileries!

I gradually became acquainted with all the men of the Opposition
party, who were beginning the work of undermining the monarchy at the
commencement of the nineteenth century--the uncompleted task of the
end of the eighteenth century. I met Carrel at M. de Leuven's house,
where he often came, as he wrote for the _Courrier_, of which paper
M. de Leuven was one of the chief editors. I met Manuel, Benjamin
Constant and Béranger at Colonel Bro's; but Béranger was the only one
of the three with whom I had time to become intimately acquainted or
who had himself leisure to gauge me: the other two were to die, one
before I became known, and the other when I was but little known.
Bro was much attached to me. I have previously recorded how, thanks
to him, I had seen Géricault upon his dying bed. He had one son, at
that time a charming boy named Olivier, who became one of our bravest
officers in the new army, as his father had been one of the bravest
in the old _grande armée._ It was his life that was so miraculously
saved by General Lamoricière when a Bedouin's yataghan was already at
his throat. I have not seen him since 1829, and I am going to relate a
story that will bring back recollections of childhood to him wherever
he may be.

Colonel Bro used to procure Adolphe and me all the enjoyments he
possibly could, and among them the sport of shooting. By some means or
other, I know not how, he owned, at that time, the Lake of Enghien. In
1827 and '28 the Lake of Enghien was not a pretty little smooth, trim,
well-kept lake as it is now; it had then no public gardens on its banks
filled with roses, dahlias and jessamine; no Gothic châteaux, Italian
villas and Swiss châlets all round it; nor, indeed, upon its surface
had it a flotilla of swans, as now, begging for cakes from the people
who hired boats at three francs fifty centimes the hour, furrowing the
surface of its waters, which were as clear as the water in a basin,
and as smooth as the glass of a mirror. No, the Lake of Enghien was,
at that period, a simple, natural lake, too muddy to be called a lake,
and not muddy enough to be called a pond. It was covered with reeds and
water-lilies, amongst which diver birds played, water-hens cackled and
wild ducks dabbled, in quite sufficient quantities to give sport to a
score of guns.

So Colonel Bro had arranged for a day's shooting at Adolphe's and my
entreaty and had fixed a Sunday, as on that day Adolphe and I were
free from our desks and could take part. The rendezvous was to be at
Colonel Bro's house at seven o'clock. We left the rue des Martyrs in
three carriages and were at Enghien by nine. Here a breakfast, worthy
of a Saxon thane, awaited the guests. At ten o'clock we began our
sport; by five we again found a good meal served, and by eleven at
night we were all back in our various homes. I was always ready before
other people if it were a question of shooting, so I turned up at
Colonel Bro's house by half-past six in the morning. I was shown into
a little boudoir, where I found myself tête-à-tête with an immense
blue-and-red Carolina parroquet. The parroquet was on its stand and I
sat down on a sofa. Now I have always felt the greatest respect for
men with large noses and animals with big beaks; not because I think
them pretty, but because I believe Nature has her reasons when she
produces a monstrosity. And on these grounds, Colonel Bro's parrot was
fully entitled to my most profound respect. So I addressed a few polite
words to it, as I sat down, as I have said, on a couch opposite its
perch. The parroquet looked me over for a minute with that melancholy
expression peculiar to parroquets; then, with that precaution which
never deserts them, it slowly climbed down each branch of its perch,
by the help of its claws and beak; then, finally, down the main
pole of the perch itself, until it reached the ground. Then it came
across to me, waddling, stopping, looking round it on all sides, and
uttering a cry at every step it took, until it had reached the toe of
my boot, when it began to try to climb my leg. Touched by this mark
of confidence on the bird's part, I stretched out my hand to spare it
the trouble of the climb; but, whether it was under a misapprehension
as to the friendliness of my intentions, or whether it disguised a
premeditated attack behind a benevolent exterior, it had scarcely
caught sight of my hand within reach when it seized my fore-finger
and gave me a double bite above the first joint right through to the
bone. The pain was all the more violent because it was unexpected. I
uttered a shriek, and, by a convulsive movement, my leg stiffened with
the elasticity of a steel spring, and I kicked the parrot spinning
with the end of my hunting-boot, in the centre of its breast, sending
it flat against the wall. It fell to the floor, and lay there without
a movement. Was its death caused by the kick or by the blow that
followed? Was it caused by my boot or by contact with the wall? I never
found out, and I made no attempt to ascertain, for I heard footsteps in
the next room. I seized hold of the bird, which was still motionless, I
raised the cover of the couch, I pushed it with my foot underneath into
the dark depths, I let fall the cover again and I sat down as though
nothing extraordinary had happened. Next, I bound up my finger I with
my handkerchief, and then Colonel Bro entered. We exchanged greetings
and, as I kept my hand in my pocket, nothing was noticed.

Everyone came, and we set out without a single cry or movement, or sign
of existence from the parroquet buried under the couch.

When we reached Enghien, one of our party seemed to have his hand
bandaged up like mine, and fellow-feeling opened up a current of
sympathy between us. I asked him how he had met with his accident.
A door had been violently shut by the wind just as he had his hand
between it and the doorpost, and his fingers had been caught. As
for myself, I simply told him I had cut myself with the flint of my
gun; for in those days I still used a flint-gun for shooting. This
sportsman who was maimed in the same hand as I was turned out to be
the celebrated Doctor Ferrus. Directly he heard my name he asked me if
I was the son of General Alexandre Dumas, and, on my replying in the
affirmative, he related the story of the lifting of the four muskets
with four fingers, that I gave on his authority in the early portion of
these Memoirs.

We had with us, too, among the shooters, a friend of Telleville
Arnault--a man who was certainly one of the bravest, wittiest and most
original people who ever breathed--Colonel Morrisel. He wore spectacles
and looked anything but a colonel. He had just fought an unsuccessful
duel which made more sensation than if it had come off successfully.

In those days, there was a café called the café _Français_ in the rue
Lafitte, which was the rallying-place of fashionable young men. The
head waiter was a great billiard player named Changeur, and one night
he was playing with a very young man, who found it necessary to take
lessons at three francs the game, when M. le Baron de B---, accompanied
by one of his friends, entered the establishment. M. le Baron de B
was somewhat of a tricky character, and notorious, besides, because
of two or three lucky or unlucky duels (according to the degree of
philanthropy with which the reader may be endowed, and whether he think
it fortunate or unfortunate to wound or kill his neighbour); he came up
to the billiard-table and, without even addressing the young man, he
said--

"Changeur, get us some coffee, and let us have the billiard-table."

"Excuse me, Monsieur le Baron," said Changeur, in amazement, pointing
to the young man, "but I am engaged in a game."

"Well, then, you will stop the game, that's all."

"Monsieur," said the young man timidly and politely, "we have only a
few points more to make; in ten minutes the billiard-table will be at
your service."

"I am not asking for it in ten minutes, but at once.... Come, Changeur,
come, my lad, give me your cue."

Morrisel, who was already old, grey, thin, feeble, mean-looking and
poverty-stricken in appearance, was taking a cup of coffee in a corner.

"Changeur," he said, without rising, and in dulcet tones, that
contrasted oddly with the words he uttered,--"Changeur, my lad, I
forbid you to give up the billiard-table."

"But, monsieur," replied Changeur, in great embarrassment, "if indeed
M. le Baron de B--- wishes me to give him my cue...."

"If you give your cue to M. le Baron, Changeur, I shall take it out of
the hands of M. le Baron and break it across your head!"

M. le Baron de B--- saw clearly enough that Changeur was merely being
used as a spark to kindle the flame. The thrust had, in fact, been
aimed at him and he returned the stroke in the direction whence it came.

"It seems to me, monsieur," he said, "you are very anxious to pick a
quarrel with me."

"I am charmed, monsieur, that you see things so plainly!"

"And what is your excuse for picking a quarrel with me?"

"Why, because you have abused your position with respect to that young
fellow, and all misuse of power, no matter what it is, appears to me
odious."

"Do you know who I am, monsieur?" said the Baron de B---, striding
towards Morrisel with a threatening air.

"Yes, monsieur," replied the latter, calmly lifting his spectacles;
"you are M. le Baron de B---. You killed M.--- in one duel and wounded
M.--- in another. I know that much about you."

"And yet you insist I shall not have the billiard-table given up to me?"

"I insist more pertinaciously than ever!"

"Very well, monsieur; but you understand that I look upon your remarks
as an insult."

"I offer no objection, monsieur."

"Therefore, we shall meet to-morrow morning at six o'clock, if you
please, in the bois de Vincennes, or in the bois de Boulogne."

"Monsieur, I am twenty-five years your senior, and I need more sleep;
besides, I am a player, and I generally play all night long, therefore
I do not go to bed before five and I rarely rise before noon. Then,
when I get up, I have my toilet to make--a habit I have maintained too
long to break through now. When my toilet is finished, my servant gets
ready my _déjeuner._ After I have had lunch, I come here for my coffee,
as you perceive; I am extremely methodical. Now, all this takes me
till two o'clock. Therefore, to-morrow, if that will be convenient
to you, I shall be at your disposal by half-past two, but not until
half-past two."

"At half-past two so be it, monsieur; here is my card."

Morrisel examined it with attention, bowed in acknowledgment, put it in
his pocket, drew forth two cards bearing his address, presented one to
M. le Baron de B--- and wrapped the other in a five-hundred franc note.
Then he called to Changeur, M. le Baron de B--- watching what he was
doing.

"Changeur," he said, "here is a five-hundred franc note."

"Does Monsieur wish to settle his account?" asked Changeur.

"No, no, my lad."

"What am I to do, then, with this five-hundred franc note?"

"First of all take Monsieur's measurements."

Changeur looked at the Baron de B---, frightened out of his wits.

"Do you hear?" said Morrisel, "and when you have taken his measure you
can go with it to the undertaker's."

"To the undertaker ...?"

"Yes, Changeur; and there you can order in my name--in the name of
Colonel Morrisel, you quite understand?--a first-rate funeral equipage
for M. le Baron de B---. You understand, it is to be of the very
best!--I know it will come to more; but the five hundred francs will do
on account;--you understand, Changeur? it is to be a thoroughly good
funeral."

M. le Baron de B--- tried to take it as a joke.

"Monsieur," he said, "I should have thought you could have left my
family to make these arrangements."

"Not so, M. le Baron; your family is ruined--so people say--and the
thing would be shabbily done. Think of carrying M. le Baron de B--- to
the cemetery in a second-rate hearse, or with a third-rate pall! Fie!
I have killed twenty-two men in duels during my life, M. le Baron,
and I have always borne the cost of their burials. Rely upon me, you
shall be handsomely buried. When strangers see your cortège pass by, I
mean them to ask, 'Dear me! whose is that magnificent funeral?' Then,
as it passes along the boulevard, Changeur will reply, 'It is that of
M. le Baron de B---, the famous duellist, you know. He rudely forced
a quarrel on a young fellow who could not defend himself; Colonel
Morrisel happened to be present, took up cudgels for the young man
and, upon my word, if he didn't kill the Baron de B--- at the first
thrust! It will be an excellent example for all impertinent people and
duellists ...' Au revoir, M. le Baron de B---, that is to say, until
to-morrow. You know my address, send me the names of your seconds;
yours is the choice of arms."

Then, turning towards the waiter: "And now, Changeur, my lad, you
understand, a first-class turn out--the very best that can be had!
Nothing shall be too good for M. le Baron de B---!"

And he readjusted his spectacles, took up his umbrella and went out.

The quarrel had made a great commotion, and next day, from noon
onwards, the café _Français_ was crowded with inquisitive people,
anxious to know what had passed and, still more, what was going to
happen. At one o'clock Morrisel arrived as usual, his spectacles on his
nose, his umbrella in his hand. Everybody made way for him. Morrisel
bowed with his accustomed politeness, went to his usual place and
called for Changeur, who ran to him and hastened to serve him.

"My coffee, Changeur," said Morrisel; and he phlegmatically melted his
sugar into the last atom, and then M. le Baron de B--- entered the café.

He advanced towards Morrisel, who raised his glasses, and returned his
adversary's salute with a smile on his lips.

"Monsieur le Comte," said the baron, "when I insulted you yesterday, I
was not sober; to-day, I offer you my apologies, will you please accept
them? I have made reparation, and I can therefore address you thus
without damage to my honour."

"That is your own concern, M. le Baron," returned Morrisel.

Then he turned to Changeur: "Changeur, go and tell the undertaker that
M. le Baron's funeral is indefinitely postponed."

"It is unnecessary," said Changeur; "I took the liberty of waiting.
Here is your note, Colonel."

"Then go and ask your master for my bill, my lad."

Changeur went to the desk and returned with an elaborately made out
bill.

"Ah!" said Morrisel, lowering his glasses, "nine hundred francs. Stop,
Changeur, here is another five-hundred franc note; the change is for
the waiter."

Then, having finished his coffee with his accustomed nonchalance,
he lowered his spectacles, took up his umbrella and departed amidst
the applause of the customers and onlookers. If I remember rightly,
Godefroy Cavaignac wrote a charming story on this anecdote.

Morrisel was also a card-player and would play as high as anybody
wished. One night at a party at either Madame Regnault de
Saint-Jean-d'Angely's or at Madame Davilliers', I forget which, we
heard a little discussion being carried on at a card-table on which
there were not quite twenty-five louis. We went closer and asked what
it was about. Morrisel held the cards; he had passed seven times, and
he had won six hundred thousand francs (I purposely express the figures
in letters) from M. Hainguerlot. M. Hainguerlot took the cards and
wagered to win back the 600,000 francs in a single game. Morrisel was
willing to wager 500,000 francs _en partie liée_, running the risk
of retaining only 100,000 francs of the celebrated banker's, for he
looked upon himself (and rightly so, too) as a very good player, for
when, finally, he rose from the table on making _Charlemagne_, he had
made for himself the sum of 30,000 livres income by this throw, which
was not a bad sum for a retired colonel. When the question was argued
out, each had made a concession. M. Hainguerlot agreed to a stake of
500,000 francs, and Morrisel renounced his _partie liée_. Two witnesses
were appointed for each side, as in the case of a duel. Morrisel lost.
He got up with the same coolness as though it was only a question of a
half-napoleon. True, he had still won 100,000 francs.

In summer, Morrisel sometimes lived at Madame Hamelin's country
house at Val, near Saint-Len-Taverny. One day, at the beginning of
the shooting season, he ventured out on the lands of the commune of
Frépillon, where, encountering the gamekeeper, he was vigorously
threatened with legal proceedings in case of a second offence. Morrisel
was invited to dinner on the following Sunday at the château of Madame
Regnault de Saint-Jean-d'Angely, situated on the other side of the
forbidden territory. When Sunday arrived, so that it should not be
said he had skulked across the forbidden land unperceived, Morrisel
took with him the beadle, a wind instrument and four chanters, formed
a square of six with himself in the centre, and crossed the Frépillon
territory, shooting to the accompaniment of Gregorian chants. By the
time he reached Madame Régnault de Saint-Jean-d'Angely, he was followed
by the whole village, whose curiosity was greatly excited by this
unprecedented method of going a hunting.

Poor Morrisel died from the effects of a painful disease. In spite
of surgical assistance, in spite of nitrate of silver, in spite of
Civiale, Pasquier and Dupuytren, it came about that, being a plentiful
drinker, he could not get rid of a single drop of the liquor he had
drunk when it was absorbed into his system. They prolonged his life
by using means to make him perspire. Finally, one day, as he did not
thoroughly understand what the doctors told him about his disease, he
asked if, before he himself died, they could not procure him from any
hospital the body of a person who had died of the disease of which
he himself was to die. The doctors told him it was possible, and set
to work to find one. Three or four days later, they told him they
had found one. Morrisel bought it at the usual price--six francs, I
believe--had the body brought close to his bedside, placed it on a
table and begged one of the doctors to make a post-mortem examination.
When the autopsy was finished, Morrisel had the satisfaction of knowing
the exact nature of the malady from which he was suffering, and from
henceforth was content to die quietly--an act, it should be recorded,
which he accomplished with wonderful courage.

But to return to the parrot of the rue des Martyrs. A fortnight later,
on returning to Colonel Bro's for another shooting trip like the
former, I was astounded to find it on its perch again. But after a few
minutes' gaze its stillness struck me as unusual. I went up to it: it
was stuffed!

"Oh!" I said to the colonel, "your poor Jacquot is dead, is it?"

"Ah yes, it is," replied the colonel. "They told me a curious incident
in connection with it--a story I had never believed previously, namely,
that certain animals hide themselves to die, and that is why their
bodies are never recovered...."

"Well?"

"Well, just think of it! that unlucky parroquet went and hid itself to
die right underneath the sofa cover; we thought it was lost at first;
we searched all over for it, and finally we found it there, the day
after our shooting party."

"Did it ever bite people?" I timidly asked General Bro.

"_It?_ Never!" was the colonel's reply.

I thought of showing the colonel my finger, which was still badly
marked; but I reflected that it was much better to leave the colonel
in ignorance as to his parroquet's defects of character and under
the illusion that it had died, as indicated, a noble death. Now that
many years have passed by since that event, and probably not a single
feather of the unfortunate Jacquot remains, I humbly confess my crime,
and ask for forgiveness from all whom it may concern.



CHAPTER VIII


Barthélemy and Méry--M. Éliça Gallay--Méry the draught-player and
anatomist--_L'Épître à Sidi Mahmoud_--The Ponthieu library--Soulé--_The
Villéliade_--Barthélemy the printer--Méry the improvisator--The _Vœux
de la nouvelle année_--The pastiche of _Lucrèce_


At the beginning of the preceding chapter we spoke of poets who were
prophets; now let us say a little about poets who fought for their
craft. And among these, the most undaunted and persevering were
without doubt MM. Barthélemy and Méry, who did the roughest kind of
work as sappers, and helped in the toughest assaults in the first line
of fighters. Both were Marseillais, but they were hardly acquainted
with one another in 1825. M. Méry had never left Marseilles and M.
Barthélemy, having left it as a child, had scarcely ever been there
again.

M. Barthélemy (whom, if we may, we will call simply Barthélemy for
brevity) was educated at the college of Juilly and received there an
excellent education in Greek and Latin; he had already composed at
Marseilles, after the style of Mathurin Régnier, a satire which had
been much talked of, though never printed, when he published an ode
to Charles X. at the time of the coronation. It was lost sight of
beneath the successes of more famous poetic rivals of the period, even
before it became known, and Barthélemy saw his ode pass away unnoticed,
although it contained some striking stanzas, among them this one
addressed to Camoëns:--

    "Et toi, chantre fameux des conquérants de l'Inde,
    Fier de ton indigence et des lauriers du Pinde,
    Tu nageais sur les flots de l'abîme irrité,
    Et du double trépas vainqueur digne d'envie,
        D'une main tu sauvais ta vie,
    De l'autre tu sauvais ton immortalité!"

Barthélemy had inherited a certain patrimony from his father, and he
lived quietly in the hôtel _Grand-Balcon_ 11 rue Traversière. Méry had
also made his début at the age of eighteen, and paid for it by eight
months' imprisonment. His début took the form of a pamphlet against M.
Éliça Gallay.

When, after twenty-five years have flown by, one stops to look back
over one's past life, one is surprised to find how many men and events
are completely forgotten that in their time occasioned much stir in the
world, remembrance of them being obliterated as soon as equilibrium was
restored. M. Éliça Gallay was Inspector of the University.

One day he arrived at Marseilles and gave his usual discourse at the
royal college. In this speech was the phrase which follows; we give the
sense of it if not exactly the actual words:--

    "Messieurs, we are obliged to have two scales of weights
    and measures. When a pupil is loyal and religious anything
    can be forgiven him; but if he be a Liberal the greatest
    severity must be exercised towards him."


The use of these two scales of _weight_ and _measurement_ was much
commented upon in the newspapers at the time, and it disgusted Méry to
such an extent that he wrote a pamphlet, of a somewhat scathing nature,
it would seem, against M. Éliça Gallay; and this pamphlet, as we have
said, cost our author eight months' imprisonment. Méry had no means of
livelihood in Marseilles, he hated a commercial life, he could write
poetry with the greatest facility and he was an adept in the art of
draughts-playing. He would not dream of a commercial life, he could not
count on poetry, so he resolved to make use of the game which, played
as he played it, became an art. Méry left for Paris with the intention
of making a living as a draught-player. He was then twenty-one, and
he lodged at Madame Caldairon's, 11 rue des Petits-Augustins, with
Achille Vaulabelle, author of the _Deux Restaurations_, and began
an existence divided between the study of geology under Cuvier and
perfecting himself at draughts by playing with the best amateurs at the
café _Manoury._ So he played draughts at the café _Manoury_ and studied
geology at the Jardin des Plantes. By playing ten sous a game--never
more--Méry managed for a year to make an income of ten francs per day.
On the other hand, he never missed his lesson in comparative anatomy,
and Cuvier had not a more assiduous pupil than he; showing him great
friendliness, and predicting that he would make a name in geology. In
other ways, too, matters shaped themselves wonderfully to the advantage
of the future of our friend from Marseilles. Madame Caldairon, who
worshipped him, wanted him to marry a young dressmaker who was very
much in the fashion at that time, and whose business, one of the most
flourishing in Paris, brought in from twenty-five to thirty thousand
francs a year. The marriage was arranged, and Méry was gleefully
looking forward to a rosy future, when his young fiancée caught a chill
one cold February night in 1826, when she and Méry were obliged to
walk across the pont des Arts, as they could not get a cab anywhere,
either in the rue Jacob or on the Embankment. The chill developed into
pneumonia, she died in three days and Méry was a widower before he
had become a husband. He believed himself to be condemned to eternal
lamentation; but draughts and geology are powerful consolations, and,
without forgetting the poor dear girl, Méry yet found his mind free
enough one day to say to Barthélemy--

"My dear fellow, a man who could write satires at the present time
would have a fine chance of an opening in politics and in poetry."

"Have you an idea?" asked Barthélemy.

"Yes, certainly."

"What is it?"

"An epistle to Sidi Mahmoud."

You have forgotten who Sidi Mahmoud was, have you not? Well then, I
will refresh your memory.

He was the envoy sent by our friend the Bey of Tunis--who was then on
not quite such amicable terms with us as he is to-day--to congratulate
Charles X. on his accession to the throne. Sidi Mahmoud was received
in state on 5 May at the Foreign Office, by M. le Baron de Damas,
surrounded by peers, deputies and general officers. When the usher
announced the ambassador, everybody rose with the exception of M.
de Damas, who, representing the King of France, remained seated and
covered. M. de Damas saluted the ambassador with a wave of his hand,
and signed to him to be seated. The ambassador then delivered his
letters and sat down, and it was left to an Arabian interpreter to
translate them. Paris, having nothing special at that moment with
which to occupy its attention, gave itself wholly and entirely to
Sidi Mahmoud: his thirty years, his fine dark face, his white dolman
embroidered in sky-blue silk and fastened with gold hooks, the two
shawls that formed his turban and the cashmir robe flung over his
shoulder. Méry was perfectly right; Barthélemy saw at once, as he had,
that the plan was excellent. Unfortunately he had to go to London.

"Compose your epistle alone," he said to Méry, "and on my return we
will talk again about the satire."

Barthélemy left for London, and Méry composed his epistle. When the
epistle was composed, the worst part of his task was not over, for the
question now was how to get it published.

Méry took his epistle to Ponthieu, who declared that nobody was reading
poetry then! Méry naturally retorted by pointing to the twenty editions
of Casimir Delavigne, to the fifteen editions of Béranger, to the
twelve editions of Lamartine, to the ten editions of Victor Hugo; at
each name Méry uttered, Ponthieu said--

"Oh! M. Casimir Delavigne, that is a different matter! Oh! M. Béranger,
that is a different matter! Oh! M. Victor Hugo, that is a different
matter! Oh! M. Lamartine, that is a different matter!"

Or, to translate it into the language of a publisher--

"My dear sir, all those gentlemen of whom you remind me are celebrated
and possess talent, while you have neither of these qualifications."

Méry beat a retreat, his epistle in his hand, feeling defeated,
repulsed, routed.

He had heard of another printer named Bérand; but, unfortunately, this
man held views, he was a supporter of the Government. Méry decided
to show him his ode as a piece of poetry written in M. de Villèle's
honour. The printer's business instincts would do the rest.

Méry had made no mistake. The printer read the epistle to Sidi Mahmoud,
quite approved of it and offered to print it on condition he should
repay his own costs out of the proceeds of the first copies sold. They
printed two thousand copies, and the two thousand disappeared in less
than a week.

Meanwhile, Barthélemy had returned from London. On reaching Paris, he
heard of the success of the epistle, and, taking time by the forelock,
he composed another epistle entitled _Adieux à Sidi Mahmoud_, which was
almost as popular as the first. Méry and Barthélemy had at that time an
intimate friend who was one of the leading powers on the _Nain jaune_.
His name was Soulé, and he had just been sentenced to two months'
imprisonment for an article on St. Domingo. Soulé had no inclination
to spend his two months in prison, and, as he and Barthélemy happened
to be very much alike in looks, sufficiently so for him to be able to
use Barthélemy's passport, it was lent him; he set out for London,
from London took passage to the United States, and he is to-day the
foremost lawyer in New Orleans, where he is making an income of a
hundred thousand francs per annum. Meanwhile, Méry was writing alone
his epistle to M. de Villèle. These publications being in opposition
to the Government, and full of satirical humour and the spirit of the
hour, caught the public taste, and met with great success. Two more
poets had now inscribed their names amongst those of the votaries of
the poetic muse. And, as they were running on similar lines, they
decided to combine and publish their works under the joint title of
_Villéliade._ In the end it ran through fifteen editions. But when the
_Villéliade_ was finished there still remained, as in the case of the
_Épître à Sidi Mahmoud_, the great question as to what publisher would
be bold enough to publish it. Publishers had three dangers to fear:
fine, imprisonment or withdrawal of their licenses. The monarchy of
1826 did not treat such conduct as a trifling matter any more than does
the Republic of 1852. Méry and Barthélemy went round to every publisher
of their acquaintance offering their poem; one and all made as though
they would accept it at first, but handed the MS. back after reading a
verse or two, shook their heads and said--

"Let who will publish your poem, it certainly shall not be I!"

The two collaborators picked up their manuscript and went forth to make
a fresh attempt on another publisher, with the same result. When they
had exhausted the list of well-known publishing firms, they began to
approach printers with whom they had had dealings. Printers were in the
same situation as publishers, and were afraid of fine, imprisonment and
the withdrawal of their licenses, just in the same way: they refused.

It is sad work to be left with five or six thousand lines of poetry on
one's hands. And such lines! Lines which, a month later, the whole of
France was to know by heart. Méry proposed to make a last attempt with
a totally unknown printer. It was a desperate remedy, but desperate
remedies sometimes save a patient's life. They opened the _almanack de
la librairie_, to find the name of a printer which, from the succession
of letters in his name, its signification, or its sound, might give
some hope either to the eyes or the ears of the two poets. There was
a printer called Auguste Barthélemy, who lived at No. 10 rue des
Grands-Augustins. The name struck the two authors as auguring good
luck to them. They took up their MS. and went to M. Barthélemy's. They
found a tall young man, with an intelligent face, a firm but pleasing
expression and an honest, kindly air about him. They laid their
difficulties before him.

"Your work, then, is antagonistic to the Government?" he asked.

"Yes, monsieur."

"Is it very strong?"

"Too strong, it would seem."

"And there is risk in printing it?"

"So we are told."

"All right I will print your work and run the risk...."

The two poets both held out their hands to M. Barthélemy, who
reciprocated their greeting.

Ten days later the _Villéliade_, for which he had advanced the cost of
printing, paper, binding, etc., made its appearance, and, as we have
said, ran through fifteen editions! This printer, who favoured the
Opposition in the time of the Bourbons and also under Louis-Philippe,
was our good and brave friend Auguste Barthélemy, since representative
for Eure-et-Loir, both to the _Constituante_ and to the _Législative._
He was obliged to flee the country after 2 December, and he stayed
five months in Brussels; now, having returned to France and having
refused to take oath as _conseiller général_ he lives in his château of
Lévéville, a league from Chartres. Let us hasten to state that it was
not out of his savings as a printer that he bought this château; no,
alas! his commercial loyalty, of which we have just had an instance,
cost him, on the contrary, something like a hundred and fifty to two
hundred thousand francs! That is the history of the _Villéliade._ I
have only to add that in the notes to the Sixth Song of the _Énéide_
Barthélemy stated that the poem was written by Méry alone.

I did not know Barthélemy well; I scarcely met him more than once or
twice in my life; but I knew Méry very well. He has been, he is and he
always will be, probably, one of my closest friends. And I can easily
count the number of these friends: I have had but two or three at the
most; I might, perhaps, say four. You see, therefore, that, however
small my house, even supposing I had a house, it would never be filled.

Nothing was stranger than the physical and moral differences between
Méry and Barthélemy. Barthélemy was exceptionally tall, Méry of
ordinary stature; Barthélemy was as cold as ice, while Méry was as hot
as fire; Barthélemy was self-contained and quiet, Méry loquacious and
as open as the day; Barthélemy lacked wit in conversation, while Méry
poured forth a perfect cascade of smart sayings, a shower of sparks,
a display of fireworks. Méry--and here I give up comparison--knew
everything, or almost everything, it is possible for a man to know.
He knew Greek like Plato, Rome like Vitruvius, India like Herodotus;
he spoke Latin like Cicero, Italian like Dante, English like Lord
Palmerston. Passionately fond of music, he was once arguing with
Rossini, and he said to the composer of _Moses_ and _William Tell_--

"Stay! you need say no more, you know nothing whatever about music!"

"True enough," replied Rossini.

Even the most highly gifted of men have their good and their bad days,
their moments of heaviness and of gaiety. Méry was never tired, Méry
was never barren. When, by chance, he did not talk, it was not that he
was resting, but simply because he was listening; it was never because
he was tired, it was simply that he held his tongue. If you wanted Méry
to hold forth, you had just to put a match to his wick and set him on
fire, and off he would go. And if you let him have free play and did
not interfere with him, no matter whether the conversation were upon
ethics, or literature, or politics, or travels, on Socrates or M.
Cousin, Homer or M. Viennet, Napoleon or the president, Herodotus or
M. Cottu, you would have the most extraordinary improvisation you ever
heard. Then--still more incredible!--added to all this, he never said
anything slanderous, or bitter, or carping, about a friend! If Méry had
but once held the tips of a man's fingers in his clasp, the rest of the
body was sacred in his eyes. And, indeed, what is it that makes men
wicked? Envy! But what is there for Méry to be envious about? He is as
learned as Nodier; as much a poet as all the rest of us put together;
he is as idle as Figaro, as witty as--as Méry; a very fine position,
it seems to me, in the literary world. As for Méry's aptitude, it
became proverbial. I will give two examples of it. One evening, it was
31 December, a group of us were discussing this facile gift, and some
literary Saint Thomas, whose name I forget, called it in question. Méry
retorted by suggesting that he should be supplied with a certain number
of _bouts-rimés_, which he undertook to complete instantly. We set our
heads together, and by a supreme effort of imagination we put together
the following rhymes:--

    "Choufleur,
    Trouble,
    Souffleur,
    Rouble.

    Clairon,
    Dune,
    Perron,
    Lune.

    Fusil,
    Coude,
    Grésil,
    Boude.

    Nacarat,
    Conque,
    Baccarat,
    Quelconque.

    Argo,
    Jongle,
    Camargo,
    Ongle."

In less time than it had taken us to find the rhymes Méry composed the
following verses:--

    VŒUX DE LA NOUVELLE ANNÉE

    "A tous nos Curtius je souhaite un             choufleur;
    A nos législateurs, des séances sans           trouble;
    A l'acteur en défaut, un excellent             souffleur;
    Aux Français en Russie, un grand dédain du     rouble.

    A Buloz, le retour de Mars et de               Clairon;
    Aux marins, le bonheur de vivre sur la         dune;
    A la Sainte-Chapelle, un gothique              perron;
    A l'apôtre Journet, l'amitié de la             lune.

    Au soldat citoyen, l'abandon du                fusil;
    A l'écrivain public, un coussin pour son       coude;
    A moi, l'hiver sans froid, sans neige et sans  grésil;
    Un soleil qui jamais dans un ciel gris ne      boude.

    Au Juif errant, un banc de velours             nacarat;
    A l'Arabe au désert, des eaux à pleine         conque;
    Au joueur, un essaim de neuf au                baccarat;
    A l'homme qui s'ennuie, une douleur            quelconque.

    A Leverrier, un point dans le signe d'         Argo;
    Au tigre du Bengale, un Anglais dans la        jongle;
    Aux danseuses du jour, les pieds de            Camargo;
    A l'auteur qu'on attaque, une griffe pour      ongle!"

Another evening, at the house of Madame de Girardin there was a heated
discussion on Ponsard's _Lucrèce._ The Academy, spiteful and driven to
bay, was, just because of its malice, obliged to simulate some show of
good feeling. So, although it was not acquainted with a single word
of _Lucrèce_, the Academy puffed it up, praised it, extolled it to
the skies. The work became the adopted daughter of all those impotent
beings who, having never begot offspring, are reduced to pet the
children of others; it was, in short, a work which was going to compete
with _Marion Delorme_ and _Lucrèce Borgia_, the _Maréchale d'Ancre_ and
_Chatterton_, _Anthony_ and _Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle._ So there was
mirth at the palais Mazarin.

Whilst waiting for the appearance of the _chef-d'œuvre_, we aired
our own views on the subject. I was acquainted with and had heard
_Lucrèce._ I knew that it was an estimable tragedy of the schoolboy
type, conscientiously put together by its author, who, perhaps slightly
ignorant of the Roman eras, seemed to me to have confused the Rome of
the kings with that of the emperors, Sextus Tarquin with Caligula,
Tully with Messalina; but, nevertheless, I maintained that the work,
devoid though it was of imagination and dramatic power, deserved a
hearing because of its style, when Méry said--

"I mean to write a _Lucrèce_, and to get it played before Ponsard's
_Lucrèce_ itself appears. It is advertised for the 25th of the month;
it is now the 14th--it will not be played till the 30th. There is more
than time enough to compose two thousand lines, to get them read,
distributed, rehearsed and played."

"How long will it take you to complete your tragedy?" I said to Méry.

"Why! four hundred lines an act, five acts in five days---"

"So, to-morrow night you can give us the first Act?"

"To-morrow night, yes."

We arranged to meet again the next evening, not in the least counting
on the first Act of Méry's _Lucrèce_. Next day we were all at the
appointed place, punctual to the minute. We turned ourselves into an
audience to listen to his reading. A glass of water was brought to
Méry. He sat down at the table, and we made a circle round about. He
drew his manuscript from his pocket, coughed, just moistened his lips
with the water and read the following scenes.

He had not finished the Act because he had been interrupted, but as
we entered the _salle à manger_ he offered to finish what was wanting
before the end of the evening.

    LUCRÈCE

    _TRAGÉDIE_

    SCÈNE PREMIÈRE

    La maison de l'aruspice Faustus, c'est-à-dire une vaste treille à mi-côte du
    mont Quirinal. A gauche, la façade d'une maison en briques rouges;
    devant la porte, un autel supportant un dieu pénate en argile; au
    pied du Quirinal, dans un fond lumineux, le Champ de Mars bordé
    par le Tibre

    FAUSTUS, _seul, à l'autel de ses dieux_

    Dieu pénate d'argile, ô mon dieu domestique!
    Un jour, tu seras d'or, sous un riche portique,
    Tel que Rome en prepare à nos dieux immortels
    Et le sang des taureaux rougira tes autels.
    Mais, aujourd'hui, reçois avec un œil propice
    La prière et le don du pieux aruspice;
    Ces fruits qu'une vestale a cueillis, ce matin,
    Dans le verger du temple, au pied de l'Aventin,
    Et ce lait pur qui vient de la haute colline
    Où, la nuit, on entend une voix sibylline,
    Quand le berger craintif suspend aux verts rameaux
    La flûte qu'un dieu fit avec sept chalumeaux.
    L'aube sur le Soracte annonce sa lumière;
    Si j'apporte déjà mon offrande première,
    C'est qu'une grande voix a retenti dans l'air;
    C'est que la foudre, à gauche, a grondé sans éclair,
    Et que, dans cette nuit sombre et mystérieuse,
    A gémi l'oiseau noir aux branches de l'yeuse.
    O dieu lare! dis-moi quel forfait odieux
    Doit punir aujourd'hui la colère des dieux,
    Afin que le flamine et la blanche vestale
    Ouvrent du temple saint la porte orientale,
    Et qu'au maître des dieux, dans les rayons naissants,
    Montent avec le jour la prière et l'encens.

    SCÈNE II

    FAUSTUS, BRUTUS, _en tunique de couleur brune, comme un
    laboureur suburbain_

    BRUTUS

    Que les dieux te soient doux, vieillard, et que Cybèle
    Jamais dans tes jardins n'ait un sillon rebelle!
    La fatigue m'oppresse; à l'étoile du soir,
    Hier, je vins à la ville ...

    FAUSTUS

                             Ici, tu peux t'asseoir.
    Modeste est ma maison, étroite est son enceinte.
    Mais j'y vénère encor l'hospitalité sainte,
    Et j'apaise toujours la faim de l'indigent,
    Comme si mon dieu lare était d'or ou d'argent.

    BRUTUS

    Je le sais.

    FAUSTUS

    Quelle rive, étranger, t'a vu naître?

    BRUTUS

    Quand les dieux parleront, je me ferai connaître.
    Ma mère est de Capène; elle m'accoutuma,
    Tout enfant, à servir les grands dieux de Numa.
    Du haut du Quirinal, on voit ma bergerie
    Sous le bois saint aimé de la nymphe Égérie,
    Et jamais le loup fauve, autour de ma maison,
    Ne souilla de ses dents une molle toison.

    FAUSTUS

    Et quel secret dessein à la ville t'amène?

    BRUTUS

    La liberté!... Jadis Rome était son domaine,
    Lorsque les rois pasteurs, sur le coteau voisin,
    Pauvres, se couronnaient de pampre et de raisin;
    Lorsque le vieux Évandre arrivait dans la plaine,
    Pour présider aux jeux, sous un sayon de laine,
    Et que partout le Tibre admirait sur ses bords
    Des vertus au dedans et du chaume au dehors ...
    Mais ces temps sont bien loin! Tout dégénère et tombe
    Le puissant Romulus doit frémir dans sa tombe,
    En écoutant passer sur son marbre divin
    Des rois ivres d'orgueil, de luxure et de vin!

    FAUSTUS

    Jeune homme, la sagesse a parlé par ta bouche.
    Ton regard est serein; ta voix rude me touche.
    Non, tu n'es pas de ceux qui vont à nous, rampant
    Sous l'herbe des jardins, comme fait le serpent;
    Infâmes délateurs qui touchent un salaire
    En révélant au roi la plainte populaire,
    Et livrent au bourreau, sous l'arbre du chemin,
    Tout citoyen encor fier du nom de Romain ...

    BRUTUS

    Prêtre, écoute ton fils.--Tu te souviens, sans doute,
    D'un nom sacré, d'un nom que le tyran redoute,
    D'un nom qui flamboyait sur le front d'un mortel,
    Comme un feu de Cybèle allumé sur l'autel,
    De Brutus?

    FAUSTUS

                Sa mémoire est-elle ensevelie?
    Ce nom est-il de ceux que le Romain oublie?
    Il vivra tant qu'un prêtre en tunique de lin
    Dira l'hymme de Rome au dieu capitolin!
    Je l'ai connu! J'ai vu s'incliner, comme l'herbe,
    Ce héros sous le fer de Tarquin le Superbe!..
    Il est mort! Morts aussi tous ses nobles parents,
    Hécatombe de gloire immolée aux tyrans!

    BRUTUS

    Prêtre, il lui reste un fils.

    FAUSTUS

                              Je le sais: corps sans âme!
    Noble front que le ciel a privé de sa flamme!
    Ombre errante qui va demander sa raison
    Au sang liquide encore au seuil de sa maison!

    BRUTUS

    C'est un faux bruit: sa main à la vengeance est prête;
    Minerve a conservé sa raison dans sa tête.
    Son père lui légua son visage, sa voix,
    Sa vertu ...

    FAUSTUS, _s'écriant_

    Dieux, je veux l'embrasser!

    BRUTUS

                                                 Tu le vois.

    FAUSTUS

    Oh!...
    _(Serrant Brutus dans ses bras)_
               Les dieux quelquefois jettent sur la paupière
    Un voile, comme ils font aux images de pierre;
    La vieillesse est aveugle! Oh! je te reconnais!
    Je rentre dans la vie ... Oui, mon fils, je renais!
    O dieu lare, pourquoi ton funèbre présage?
    Oui, voilà bien son pas, son regard, son visage,
    Son maintien de héros, son geste triomphant!
    Brutus, mort sous mes yeux, revit en son enfant!
    Mes pleurs réjouiront ma paupière ridée!...
    Dis, quel heurteux distin t'a conduit?

    BRUTUS

                                           Une idée.
    Le temps est précieux; le premier rayon d'or
    Luit sur le fronton blanc de Jupiter Stator.
    Il faut agir! Apprends que, dans Rome, j'épie
    Les cyniques projets de cette race impie,
    Et qu'elle nous prépare un crime de l'enfer,
    Rêvé par l'Euménide en sa couche de fer.
    La ville de nos dieux par le crime est gardée;
    Le sénat dort; Tarquin fait le siège d'Ardée;
    La justice se voile et marche d'un pas lent;
    Sextus règne au palais! Sextus!... un insolent!
    Entouré nuit et jour de ses amis infâmes,
    Braves comme Ixion pour insulter les femmes!
    Ne laissant, sous le chaume ou le lambris doré,
    Dans une alcôve en deuil, qu'un lit déshonoré!
    Ce matin, éveillé, l'aube luisant à peine,
    J'ai vu Sextus assis sous la porte Capène.
    Il parlait, l'imprudent! et ne se doutait pas
    Du fantôme éternel qui brûle tous ses pas!
    Donc, j'ai su qu'il attend que Rome tout entière
    S'éveille, et qu'un esclave apporte sa litière.
    Je ne puis en douter: un obscène souci,
    Avant le grand soleil, doit le conduire ici.

    FAUSTUS

    Ici?

    BRUTUS

           Dans ta maison quel dieu jaloux amène,
    Par ce sentier désert, une dame romaine?

    FAUSTUS

    Une seule ... elle vient aux heures du matin.

    BRUTUS

    Quel est son nom?

    FAUSTUS

                      L'hymen l'unit à Collatin.

    BRUTUS

    Lucrèce!... Dieux, le lys de notre gynécée!
    Sainte pudeur, défends ta fille menacée!

    FAUSTUS

    Son époux est absent, et, quand le jour a lui,
    Elle vient consulter les augures pour lui.

    BRUTUS

    Oh! qu'aujourd'hui des dieux la puissance immortelle
    L'écarte!

    FAUSTUS

              Un bruit de pas!...

    BRUTUS

                              Sainte pudeur! c'est elle!...

Now we certainly wanted our joke, but we did not wish to commit a
murder; and to have played this piece at the Théâtre-Français or at the
Porte-Saint-Martin, before M. Ponsard's _Lucrèce_, would assuredly have
killed the latter. Méry, therefore, pulled himself up half-way through
the first Act.


One last word about 1828.

At this period, Méry lived at 29 rue du Harlay, in the same rooms with
Carrel. Their evening gatherings generally consisted of Rabbe, Raffenel
and Reboul.

Of these five friends, who were well-nigh inseparable, four were
carried off cruelly in the prime of their life. Rabbe, by a terrible
disease that brought him to his grave as disfigured as though his
features had been gnawed by a tiger. Carrel and Reboul were killed in
duels, the one at Saint-Mandé, the other at Martinique. Raffenel was
blown to pieces on the Acropolis by a Turkish cannon-ball.



CHAPTER IX


I pass from the Secretarial Department to the Record Office--M.
Bichet--Wherein I resemble Piron--My spare time--M. Pieyre and
M. Parseval de Grandmaison--A scene missing in _Distrait_--_La
Peyrouse_--A success all to myself


It was in the Luxembourg Gardens that I first made the acquaintance
of Méry. I was introduced to him there. We drew together like iron
and magnet; and, although I really could not say which of us was iron
and which magnet, we became inseparable. I was already well forward
with my drama _Christine._ I repeated about two or three hundred lines
to him, and he encouraged me greatly. I stood in much need of this
encouragement.

I had just undergone a change of position. When Oudard saw that I was
incorrigible, and found out that I was working at a drama, he moved
me from the Secretarial Department to the Record Offices. And this
was equivalent to disgracing me. I was put there with a tiny old man
of eighty years, called M. Bichet, who since 1788 had always dressed
in a pair of satin breeches, variegated stockings, a black cloth
coat and a waistcoat of flowered silk. This costume was finished off
with ruffles and frills. His face, which was surrounded by a halo of
snow-white hair ending in a little queue, was ruddy and honest and
kindly in expression. He tried to receive me rudely, but did not manage
to succeed. My extreme politeness to him disarmed him. He showed me my
place, and loaded my table with all the accumulated arrears of work
that lack of a clerk for a month had brought about. I finished the work
by the end of three days. I carried it to him in his office, and asked
him for something else.

"What! something else already?" he exclaimed.

"Certainly."

"Why?"

"Because I have done what you gave me."

"Completely finished it?"

"Completely."

"Oh! oh! oh!" gasped M. Bichet.

And he picked up my work with the air of a man who says to himself, "It
must have been pretty badly scamped!"

M. Bichet was mistaken: my mettle had been roused. Each report, each
despatch, each copy drew from him an exclamation of delight.

"Really," he said, "really this is very good! Excellent, monsieur,
excellent!... Your writing is the same style as Piron's, monsieur."

"The deuce! That is a fine compliment for me."

"You know Piron's handwriting? He was a copying clerk for five years in
this Record Office, monsieur."

"Oh, indeed!... So my handwriting is like his?"

"You have another point in common with him, I hear."

"What is that, monsieur?"

"You write poetry."

"Alas!..."

He came up to me and said roguishly--

"Are the poems you compose the same style of thing as his?"

"No, monsieur."

"Ah! I thought not. Piron was a gay young dog!... I saw him at Madame
de Montesson's.... I suppose you never knew Madame de Montesson, did
you?"

"Yes, I did, monsieur; my father took me to her house when I was quite
a child."

"She was a charming woman, monsieur, a charming woman, and she
entertained the best society of Paris."

"Now, monsieur," I asked, "will you please give me some fresh work?"

"What work?"

"Why! any work."

"But there is no more to do!"

"What! nothing else to do?"

"No, since you have finished everything."

"But what, then, am I to do?"

"Whatever you like, monsieur."

"Do you mean I am to do what I like?"

"Yes ... until fresh work comes, when I will put it on your desk, and
you can then set to work on it."

"And in my spare moments?..."

"Young man, young man! at your age you ought not to waste a single
moment."

"I am quite of your opinion, monsieur, and you will be convinced of my
industry if you will let me finish...."

"Ah! ah!"

"I want to know if I may work at my tragedy in my spare time?"

Notice that I said _tragedy_ instead of _drama_; I did not wish to
frighten M. Bichet.

"Are you composing a tragedy, then?" he said.

"Hum!... I do not know whether I ought to tell you."

"Why not? I see no harm in it. My old friend Pieyre has written a
comedy."

"Yes, monsieur, and a very striking one it is: _l'École des Pères._"

"You know it?"

"I have read it."

"Good.... Then, too, another old friend of mine, Parseval de
Grandmaison, writes epic poetry."

"Yes--_Philippe-Auguste_, for instance."

"You have read it?"

"No, I confess I have not."

"Well then, let me say that although the one writes comedies and the
other epic poems, they are none the less worthy men for all that."

"On the contrary, monsieur, they are both excellent fellows."

"Have you met them?"

"Never."

"Hum ... Hum...."

And M. Bichet seemed to be thinking over something to himself.

"Good!..." he said, after a moment's silence.

"Then, monsieur, you have nothing more to say to me at present?"

"Nothing."

"Of course I shall be at my desk, and if you want me...."

"Certainly; you can go."

I resumed my seat with delight. Except for losing Lassagne and Ernest,
my disgrace resolved itself into a privilege. The office-boy warned me
that if I arrived before eleven o'clock, I should not find him there,
and if I stayed past four he would lock me in when he went. So, no
more portfolios to make up, all my evenings to myself, and a chief who
did not prevent me from writing tragedies! And, forthwith, I set to
work on _Christine._ I cannot say how long I had been working when the
office-boy came to tell me that M. Bichet wanted me in his office. I
went in at once. M. Bichet was not alone this time; on his right stood
a short old man, and on his left a tall old man. As they stood there,
the three judges, before whom I seemed about to be arraigned, looked
not unlike Minis, Æacus and Rhadamanthus. I bowed, feeling considerably
surprised.

"See, there he is," said M. Bichet. "Upon my word, his handwriting is
beautiful, it is exactly like Piron's, and he has done fifteen days'
work in three."

"What did you tell me monsieur did besides?" asked the tall old man.

"Why, he writes poetry!"

"Ah! yes, quite so, poetry...."

A light dawned on me.

"Have I the honour of addressing M. Parseval de Grandmaison?" I asked.

"Yes, monsieur," he replied.

Then, turning to the other old gentleman, he said--

"Only think, my dear Pieyre, I am so absent-minded, that the most
extraordinary thing happened to me the other day."

"What was it?"

"Just imagine! I forgot my own name."

"Bah!" exclaimed M. Bichet.

"Your own name? Not your own name?" queried M. Pieyre.

"Yes, my name, my very own name! It was at the marriage contract of ...
what's his name ... you know, who married the daughter of so and so
...?"

"How can I assist you on such slight information as that?"

"Oh! dear, dear! the daughter of so and so ... who is my colleague at
the Academy?... who writes comedies ... who wrote ... I cannot remember
what it was.... A play that Mercier had already done; you know well
enough?"

"Alexandre Duval?..."

"Yes, yes; it was at the signing of the contract of what's his name
... who married his daughter ... an architect ... who wrote a work on
something ... that was burned ... in the eruption of Vesuvius, where
somebody or other died...."

"Oh, yes! Marois, who wrote a work on _Pompeii_, where Pliny died?" I
hazarded timidly.

"That is exactly it!... Thanks, monsieur."

And he quietly stretched himself back in his arm-chair, after having
first made me a gracious bow.

"Well then," said M. Bichet, "come, now finish your story, my dear
friend."

"What story?"

"Why, the story you were telling."

"Was I telling a story?"

"Of course," said M. Pieyre; "you were relating, my dear friend, that
at the signing of the marriage contract of Marois, who has married the
daughter of Alexandre Duval, you had forgotten your name."

"Oh yes, true.... Well then, this was it. Everybody signed: then I
said to myself, 'Now comes my turn to sign,' and I prepared to do so.
I began to think what my name was and--the deuce! I couldn't remember
it any longer! I thought I should be obliged to ask my neighbour what
I was called, and how humiliating that would be to me. It was on the
ground floor, and the door opened out on the garden. I hurried into the
garden, striking my forehead and saying to myself, 'You rascal! you
rascal! what is your name?' Yes, indeed, if I had but had to remember
my name to save myself from being hanged I should have been hanged,
right enough. Meanwhile my turn to sign had come, and people were
searching for me. Alexandre Duval caught sight of me in the garden.
'Well, this is fine,' he said; 'there is that devil of a Parseval de
Grandmaison overcome by a poetic seizure, just when he ought to be
signing.... Here! Parseval de Grandmaison!' 'That is it,' I exclaimed,
'that is it: Parseval de Grandmaison! Parseval de Grandmaison! Parseval
de Grandmaison!' and I went up to the table and signed."

"That is just the scene needed in the _Distrait_," I said, smiling.

"Yes, monsieur, you are quite right, it does need it; and if you wrote
poetry I should say to you 'Add it.'"

"But," M. Bichet interpolated, "he does write poetry, that was the very
reason why you had him called in."

"Ah, true, true!... Well then, young man, come, recite some of your
lines to us."

"Something out of your tragedy."

"Ah! you are writing a tragedy?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"What is your subject?" asked M. Parseval de Grandmaison.

"Christine...."

"A good subject! Somebody has written one on the same theme.... Very
poor! ah! very poor!"

"Pardon me, messieurs, I would much rather recite you something other
than lines out of my tragedy." The lines of my tragedy were dramatic
lines, which would probably not be very much to the taste of these
gentlemen. "I would far rather," I added, "recite you an ode."

"Oh! oh! an ode!" said M. Parseval de Grandmaison."

"Oh! oh! an ode!" said M. Pieyre.

"Oh! oh! an ode!" said M. Bichet.

"Well, then, now for the ode," said M. Parseval. "What is it on, young
man?"

"You may remember that, for some time past, people have been much taken
up with la Peyrouse? The papers have even lately been announcing that
traces of the shipwreck have been found...."

"Is that so?" asked M. Bichet.

"Yes, it is," said M. Pieyre.

"I knew la Peyrouse well," said M. Parseval de Grandmaison.

"I, too," said M. Pieyre.

"I did not know her," said M. Bichet, "but I knew Piron."

"That is not the same thing," said M. Parseval.

"Let us have your ode, young man," said M. Pieyre.

"This is it, monsieur, since you would like to hear it."

"Come, come, don't be afraid," said old Bichet.

I rallied all my powers, and in fairly confident tones I repeated
the following lines, which I think may indicate that I had made some
progress:--


    LA PEYROUSE

    Le ciel est pur, la mer est belle!
    Un vaisseau, près de fuir le port,
    Tourmente son ancre rebelle,
    Fixée au sable, qu'elle mord.
    Il est impatient d'une onde
    Plus agitée et plus profonde;
    Le géant voudrait respirer!
    Il lui faut pour air les tempêtes;
    Il lui faut les combats pour fêtes,
    Et l'Océan pour s'égarer.

    Silencieux et solitaire,
    Un homme est debout sur le pont,
    Son regard, fixé vers la terre,
    Trouve un regard qui lui répond.
    Sur le rivage en vain la foule,
    Comme un torrent, s'amasse et roule,
    Il y suit des yeux de l'amour
    Celle qui, du monde exilée,
    Doit désormais, triste et voilée,
    Attendre l'heure du retour.[1]

    Son œil se trouble sous ses larmes,
    Et, pourtant, ce fils des dangers
    A vu de lointaines alarmes,
    A vu des mondes étrangers:
    Deux fois le cercle de la terre,
    Découvrant pour lui son mystère,
    Des bords glacés aux bords brûlants,
    Sentit, comme un fer qui déchire,
    La carène de son navire
    Sillonner ses robustes flancs.

    Et la fortune enchanteresse
    Ne l'entraînait pas sur les flots;
    L'espoir de la douce paresse
    Ne berçait pas ses matelots.
    Dédaigneux des biens des deux mondes,
    Il ne fatiguait pas les ondes
    Pour aller ravir, tour à tour,
    L'or que voit germer le Potose
    L'émeraude à Golconde éclose,
    Et les perles de Visapour.

    C'est une plus noble espérance
    Qui soutient ses travaux divers.
    Sa parole, au nom de la France,
    Court interroger l'univers.
    Il faut que l'univers réponde!
    Dans son immensité féconde,
    Peut-être cherche-t-il encor
    Quelque désert âpre et sauvage,
    Quelque délicieux rivage,
    Que garde un autre Adamastor.

    Il le trouvera! Mais silence!
    Du canon le bruit a roulé;
    Au haut du mât, qui se balance,
    Un pavillon s'est déroulé.
    Comme un coursier dans la carrière
    Traîne un nuage de poussière
    Que double sa rapidité,
    Le vaisseau s'élance avec grâce,
    A sa suite laissant pour trace
    Un large sillon argenté.

    Bientôt ses mâtures puissantes
    Ne sont plus qu'un léger roseau;
    Ses voiles flottent, blanchissantes,
    Comme les ailes d'un oiseau.
    Puis, sur la mouvante surface,
    C'est un nuage qui s'efface,
    Un point que devinent les yeux,
    Qui s'éloigne, s'éloigne encore,
    Ainsi qu'une ombre s'évapore ...
    Et la mer se confond aux cieux.

    Alors, lentement dans la foule,
    Meurt le dernier cri du départ;
    Silencieuse, elle s'écoule
    En s'interrogeant du regard.
    Puis l'ombre, à son tour descendue,
    Occupe seule l'étendue.
    Rien sur la mer, rien sur le port;
    Au bruit monotone de l'onde,
    Pas un bruit humain qui réponde:
    L'univers fatigué s'endort!

    Les ans passent, et leur silence
    N'est interrompu quelquefois
    Que par un long cri qui s'élance,
    Proféré par cent mille voix.
    On a, sur un lointain rivage,
    Trouvé les débris d'un naufrage ...
    Vaisseaux, volez sur cet écueil!
    Les vaisseaux ont revu la France
    Mais les signes de l'espérance
    Sont changés en signes de deuil!

    Hélas!... combien de fois, trompée,
    La France reprit son espoir!
    Tantôt, c'est un tronçon d'épée
    Qu'aux mains d'un sauvage on crut voir;
    Tantôt, c'est un vieil insulaire
    Séduit par l'appât du salaire,
    Qui se souvient, avec effort,
    Que d'étrangers d'une autre race
    Jadis il aperçut la trace
    Dans une île ... là-bas ... au nord.

    Que fais-tu loin de ta patrie,
    Qui t'aimait entre ses enfants,
    Lorsque, pour ta tête chérie,
    Elle a des lauriers triomphants?
    Pour toi, la mer s'est-elle ouverte?
    Dors-tu sur un lit d'algues vertes?
    Ou, par un destin plus fatal,
    Sens-tu tes pesantes journées
    Rouler sur ton front des années
    Qu'ignore le pays natal?

    Et, pourtant, te dictant ta route,
    Un roi t'a tracé ton chemin;
    Mais du ciel le pouvoir, sans doute,
    A heurté le pouvoir humain.
    Et, tandis qu'à leur ignorance
    Du retour sourit l'espérance,
    Dieu, sur les tables de la loi,
    A deux différentes tempêtes
    A déjà voué les deux têtes
    Du navigateur et du roi!..."

I had followed with the closest attention the effect produced upon my
hearers. M. Parseval blinked his eyelids and simply twirled his thumbs
one round the other; M. Pieyre opened his eyes very wide and smiled,
his mouth also wide open. Old Bichet, as curious as I was as to the
impression I was making on his two friends, seeing that this impression
was favourable, shook his head delightedly, saying under his breath--

"Just like Piron! Just like Piron!

When I had finished, they burst out into applause, which was followed
by all sorts of encouraging advice.

I did not know whether I stood on my head or my heels. Imagine the
feelings of Ovid, exiled among the Thracians, when he found a sun more
radiant than that at Rome, and on carpets of flowers more fragrant
than those of Pæstum, under trees that lent a cooler shade than those
by the Tiber, listened to the applause given his _Tristia_ and his
_Metamorphoses._ I gave thanks to the gods who, unsolicited, had
granted me this moment of peace. We shall see that it was to be of but
short duration.


[Footnote 1: Madame de le Peyrouse avait promis à son mari de rester
voilée jusqu'à son retour; madame de la Peyrouse a tenu parole, et a
gardé son voile jusqu'à la mort.]



CHAPTER X


The painter Lethière--Brutus unveiled by M. Ponsard--Madame
Hannemann--Gohier--Andrieux--Renaud--Desgenettes--Larrey, Augereau
and the Egyptian mummy--Soldiers of the new school--My dramatic
education--I enter the offices of the Forestry Department--The cupboard
full of empty bottles--Three days away from the office--Am summoned
before M. Deviolaine


In the meantime, as I have stated, I had become master of my evenings
as I had no longer to see after the portfolio, and I took advantage
of my liberty to taste a little of life. My mother recollected an old
friend of my father, and we ventured to call upon him. He belonged to
the good-natured order of human beings, and gave us a warm welcome.
He was the famous artist Lethière, painter of _Brutus Condamnant ses
fils_, a heroism that always seemed to me a trifle too Spartan, but
which M. Ponsard's _Lucrèce_ has since made clearer to me. M. Ponsard
was the first to reveal the great conjugal mystery that the sons of
Brutus were not the sons of Brutus, but only the fruit of adultery: by
beheading them Brutus exhibited revenge, not his devotion to them!

M. Ponsard, it will be noted, deserved not only to belong to the
Academy, but also to the Suscriptions and Belles-Lettres. Well, my
father's old friend was the painter of the fine picture entitled
_Brutus Condamnant ses fils._ He had painted my father's portrait,
representing him just as a horse had been shot dead under him by
a cannon-ball; my father had also sat to him for the model of his
_Philoctète_, in the Chamber of Deputies. We soon made ourselves known
to him, and were received with open arms. He embraced both my mother
and me, and invited us to look upon his house as our own, particularly
on Thursdays, when places should always be laid for us at his table.
We were greatly delighted with the latter offer. I have no desire to
hide from my readers that we were in a position to welcome the economy
effected by the gain of a dinner not at our own expense! M. Lethière
possessed fine talents, a kind heart and a winning manner. There lived
with him then, as ruling spirit in his household, a young woman,
fair, tall and thin, who nearly always dressed in black; her name
was Mademoiselle d'Hervilly, and under that name she became known in
painting and literature. She afterwards became Madame Hannemann, and
under that name became known in the medical profession. Her nature was
cold and very hard, but she possessed plenty of will-power. I believe
Madame Hannemann, now a widow, is extremely wealthy. This lady, who was
of a very superior character, did the honours of M. Lethière's house
and entertained his old friends, several of whom had been old friends
of my father. These old friends were: M. Gohier, past President of the
Directoire; Andrieux, Desgenettes, an old painter named Renaud and
several others.

Desgenettes, who had known my father very intimately in Egypt, at once
made friendly overtures to me, and introduced me to Larrey.

I shall have occasion several times to refer to the latter gentleman
and his son, who was one of my best friends. The Siege of Anvers in
1832 gloriously enabled him to prove himself a worthy son of his father.

Of all these men, Gohier struck me as the most remarkable. Contrary to
the laws of perspective, there are certain persons of ordinary calibre,
who having, through stress of eventful circumstance, occupied high
positions, loom larger in one's view the further away they recede. Now
I could not help but look upon the man who had presided over Barras,
Roger-Ducos, Moulin and Sièyes as worth notice; for, for the time
being, he had been first of the five kings who had governed France.
But I was deceived in my estimate of his greatness: M. Gohier was a
solid, worthy man who knew just so much of history as one cannot help
learning, who knew nothing of politics and who possessed no depth of
judgment. I cannot do better than compare him with our Boulay (de
la Meurthe), whom history will enroll as having been three years
Vice-President of the Republic, although he may pretend to have no
idea of such a thing, even on 2 December! Gohier cordially detested
Bonaparte; but his hatred was neither philosophical nor political,
but wholly a personal matter. He could never forgive the future First
Consul for the ridiculous part he had made him play on 18 Brumaire, by
inviting him to lunch with Joséphine, and in inviting himself to dine
at his house, whilst he was changing the whole Government.

I need not draw the portrait of Andrieux: everybody knows that petty,
old, shrivelled man, with his petty voice and his petty eyes, the
author of petty fables and petty comedies and petty stories, who died
at the age of eighty, leaving behind him a petty reputation after
having raised petty hopes.

Renaud was an old artist who had once painted a picture that was
thought well of, the _Jeunesse d'Achille._ He had grown old in painting
the nude. And in his old age he painted nothing but the Graces, naiads
and nymphs, turning to the public their ... blue and rosy backs.

Desgenettes was an old libertine of an extremely quick-witted and very
cynical turn of mind, half soldier, half doctor, very fond of the real
flesh-and-blood goddesses that old Renaud was so fond of copying; he
would relate in season and out" the broadest and most immodest of
stories, with great glee. There was much of the eighteenth century
about him.

Larrey, on the contrary, was austerely puritanic in appearance. He wore
his hair quite long, trimmed after the fashion of Merovingian princes:
he spoke slowly and seriously. The emperor was said to have spoken
of him as the most honest man he ever knew. Apart from the influence
of sincere kindliness that he diffused among young people, Larrey
presented a curious study to us all. He had known every celebrated
personage of the Empire; and he had cut off most of the arms and legs
that needed amputation; he had collected much curious information
indicative of character or of the secrets of the soul, by listening
to the first words of the wounded and the last words of the dying.
He would sometimes relate anecdotes which, without any malicious
intention, gave one an idea of the ignorance of those decorated and
beplumed warriors, who were in the main lion-hearted, but also, for
the most part, of dull intellect, and infinitely less brilliant in any
drawing-room than on a battlefield. When Larrey returned from Egypt he
brought back a curiosity that is not thought much of nowadays, in the
shape of a mummy, but which at that time raised scientific curiosity to
the highest pitch. When he met Augereau, he said to him--

"Ah! come now and dine with me to-morrow; I will show you a mummy I
have brought back from the Pyramids."

"With pleasure," Augereau replied; and he went next day to dinner.

"Well," he said at dessert, "why have we not seen that mummy yet?"

"Because it is in my study," said Larrey. "Follow me, and you shall see
it."

Larrey led the way, Augereau following full of curiosity. When they
reached the study, Larrey went to the box, which was leaning up against
the wall, opened it, and revealed the mummy. Then Augereau approached
and touched it with his finger.

"I declare," he exclaimed contemptuously, "it is dead!"

Larrey was so astonished by this exclamation that he did not even
bethink himself to offer apologies to Augereau for having disturbed him
to look at so uninteresting an object as a _dead mummy._

But throughout that period everybody was literary, not in themselves,
or from choice, but from tradition. No one had yet forgotten that
Bonaparte had signed his own proclamations to the Army of Egypt, and
that Napoleon had accosted M. de Fontanes every time he met him with
the question--

"Well, Monsieur de Fontanes, have you found me a poet?"

But the day and the appointed hour had come for all those poets who had
escaped the notice of M. de Fontanes and Napoleon's munificent offers.
They were springing up, blossoming and glowing like hawthorn in the
month of May; and their names had already begun to give promise of the
immense sensation they were to create in the future. Their names were
Lamartine, Hugo, de Vigny, Sainte-Beuve, Méry, Soulié, Barbier, Alfred
de Musset, Balzac; these were already filling, at the cost of their
heart's blood, that great and unique stream of poetry from which France
and Europe and the whole world were to drink during the nineteenth
century.

But the movement was taking place not only amidst that _pléiade_ which
I have just named; a whole host of others was fighting, each helping
forward the general cause by separate attacks, to make a breach in the
walls of the old school of poetry. Dittmer and Cavé were publishing the
_Soirées de Neuilly_; Vitet, the _Barricades_ and the _États de Blois_;
Mérimée the _Théâtre de Clara Gazul._ And note carefully that all these
movements took place away from the stage whereon the real struggle took
place, and apart from its manifestations. The real struggle was that in
which I, and Victor Hugo (I put myself first for chronological reasons)
were to take part. I was preparing for it not only by the continuation
of my _Christine_, but still more by studying humanity as a whole,
combined with individual characterisations.

I have referred to the immense service the English actors had done me;
Macready, Kean, Young had in turn completed the work begun by Kemble
and Miss Smithson. I had seen _Hamlet_, _Romeo_, _Shylock_, _Othello_,
_Richard III._ and _Macbeth._ I had read and devoured not only the
whole of Shakespeare, but even the whole of the foreign dramatic
output. I had recognised that, in the theatrical world, everything
emanated from Shakespeare, just as in the external world everything
owes its existence to the sun; that nothing could be compared with him;
for, coming before everyone else, he was yet as supreme in tragedy as
Corneille, in comedy as Molière, as original as Calderon, as full of
thought as Goethe, as passionate as Schiller. I realised that his works
contained as many types as the works of all the others put together. I
recognised, in short, that, after the Creator Himself, Shakespeare had
created more than any other being. As I have stated, when I saw these
English artists, actors who forgot that they were on a stage,--the
life of the imagination became actual life through the power of Art;
their convincing words and gestures seeming to transform them from
actors into creatures of God, with their virtues and their vices, their
passions and their failings,--from that moment my career was decided.
I felt I had received that special call which comes to every man. I
felt a confidence in my own powers that I had lacked until then, and
I boldly hurled myself upon the unknown future that had hitherto held
such terrors for me. But, at the same time, I did not disguise from
myself the difficulties in the way of the career to which I had devoted
my life; I knew that it would require deeper and more special study
than any other profession; that before I could experiment successfully
on living nature I must first perseveringly study the works of others.
So I did not rest satisfied with a superficial study. One after the
other, I took the works of men of genius, like Shakespeare, Molière,
Corneille, Calderon, Goethe and Schiller, laid them out as bodies on a
dissecting table, and, scalpel in hand, I spent whole nights in probing
them to the heart in order to find the sources of life and the secret
of the circulation of their blood. And after a while I discovered with
what admirable science they galvanised nerve and muscle into life, and
by what skill they modelled the differing types of flesh that were
destined to cover the one unchangeable human framework of bone. For man
does not invent. God has given the created world into his hands, and
left him to apply it to his needs. Progress simply means the daily,
monthly and everlasting conquest of man over matter. Each individual
as he appears on the scene takes possession of the knowledge of his
fathers, works it up in different ways, and then dies after he has
added one ray more to the sum of human knowledge which he bequeaths
to his sons,--one star in the Milky Way! I was then not only trying
to complete my dramatic work but also my dramatic education. But that
is an error, one's work may be finished some day, but one's education
never!

I had just about concluded my play, after two months' peace and
encouragement in my humble post in the Archives Office, when I received
notice from the Secretariat that, as my position was almost a sinecure,
it had been done away with, and that I must hold myself ready to enter
the Forestry Department--under M. Deviolaine. So the storm that had
been hanging over my head for long had burst at last. I said good-bye
to old father Bichet with tears in my eyes, and to his two friends MM.
Pieyre and Parseval de Grandmaison, who promised to follow my career
with sympathetic interest wherever I might be. The reader knows M.
Deviolaine. During the five years I had been in the Government offices
I had been looked upon as a _bête-noir_, so I entered upon my new
official work under no very favourable auspices.

The struggle began immediately I took up my new duties. They wanted
to herd me together with five or six of my fellow-clerks in one large
room, and I revolted against the proceeding. My companions were
good enough to explain to me in all innocence that they found it an
advantageous way of killing time--that deadly enemy to employés--to
sit together, for then they could talk. Now, talk was just what I most
dreaded; to them it was a pleasure, to me a torture, for chattering
distracted my own ever-increasing imaginative ideas. No, instead of
wanting to be in this big office, strewn thick with supernumeraries,
clerks and assistants, I had my eye on a sort of recess separated by a
simple partition from the office-boy's cubicle, and in which he kept
the ink-bottles that were returned to him empty. I asked if I might
take possession of this place. I might as well have asked for the
archbishopric of Cambrai, which was just vacant. A fearful clamour went
up at this demand, from the office boy to the head of the department
_(directeur général)._ The office boy asked the clerks in the big
room where he could put his empty bottles henceforth; the clerks in
the big room asked the assistant head clerk (the one who had never
heard of Byron) whether I thought myself too good to work with them;
the assistant head clerk asked the chief clerk whether I had come to
the Forestry Department to give or to receive orders; the chief clerk
asked the head of the department if it were usual for a clerk paid
fifteen hundred francs to have an office to himself, as though he were
a head clerk at four thousand. The head of the department replied
that it was not only absolutely contrary to administrative customs,
but that no such precedent would be allowed me, and that my claim was
most presumptuous! I was trying to fit myself into the unlucky recess
which, for the moment, formed the sum of my ambition, when the head
clerk walked haughtily from the office of the head of the department,
bearing the verbal command that the rebellious employé, who had dared
for one moment to entertain the ambitious hope of leaving the ordinary
ranks, should at once return to his place there. He transmitted the
order immediately to the assistant head clerk, who passed it on to the
ordinary clerks of the large office, who transmitted it to the office
boy! There was joy throughout the department: a fellow-clerk was to be
humiliated and, if he did not take his humiliation in a humble spirit,
he I would lose his situation! The office boy opened the door between
his cubicle and mine; he had just come from making a general clearance
throughout the office and had brought back all the empty bottles he
could manage to unearth.

"But, my dear Féresse," I said, watching him uneasily, "how do you
think I can manage here with all those bottles, or, rather, how are all
those bottles going to fit in with me,--unless I live in one of them,
after the style of _le Diable boiteux?_"

"That's just it!" leered Féresse, as he deposited fresh bottles by the
old ones. "_M. le Directeur général_ does not look upon it in that
light: he wishes me to keep this room for myself, and does not intend a
new-comer to lay down the law."

I walked up to him, the blood mantling my face.

"The new-comer, however insignificant he may be, is still your
superior," I said; "so you should speak to him with your head
uncovered. Take your cap off, you young cub!"

And, at the same moment, I gave the lad a back-hander that sent his
hat flying against the wall, and took my departure. All this happened
in the absence of M. Deviolaine; therefore I had not the last word in
the matter. M. Deviolaine would not return for two or three days; so
I decided to go home to my poor mother, and there await his return.
But, before I left the office, I went and told Oudard all that had
happened, who said he could not do anything in the matter, and I
told M. Pieyre, who said that he could not do much. My mother was in
a state of despair: it reminded her too much of my return home from
Maître Lefèvre's in 1823. She rushed off to Madame Deviolaine. Madame
Deviolaine was an excellent woman but narrow-minded, and she could
not understand why a clerk should have any other ambition beyond that
of ultimately becoming a first class clerk; why a first class clerk
should desire to become anything beyond an assistant chief clerk; why
an assistant chief clerk should have any other ambition than that
of becoming chief clerk, and so forth. So she did not hold out any
promises to my mother; for that matter, the poor woman had not much
influence over her husband, as she well knew, and she but rarely tried
to exercise what little she did possess. Meanwhile, I had begged
Porcher to come to our house. I showed him my almost completed tragedy,
and I asked him whether, in case of adverse circumstances, he would
advance me a certain sum.

"Confound it!" Porcher replied--"a tragedy!... If it had been a
vaudeville I do not say but that I would!... However, _get it received_
and we will see."

"Get it received!" Therein, of course, lay the whole question.

My mother returned at that moment, and Porcher's answer was not of
the kind to reassure her. I wrote to M. Deviolaine, and begged that
my letter might be given him on his return; then I waited. We spent
three days of suspense; but during those three days I stayed in bed
and worked incessantly. Why did I stop in bed? That requires an
explanation. Whilst I was at the Secretariat, and had to be at the
office from ten in the morning until five in the evening, returning
there from eight until ten o'clock, I had to traverse the distance
between the faubourg Saint-Denis No. 53 to the rue Saint-Honoré No.
216, eight times a day, and I was so tired out that I could rarely
work if I sat up. So I went to bed and slept, first putting my work
on the table near my bed; I slept for two hours, and then at midnight
my mother woke me and went to sleep in her turn. That was the reason
I worked in bed. This habit of working in bed attained such hold of
me that I kept it up long after I had gained freedom of action, doing
all my theatrical work thus. Perhaps this revelation may satisfy those
physiologists who dilated upon the kind of rude passion which has been
noted in my earliest works, and with which, perhaps not unreasonably,
I have been reproached. I contracted another habit, too, at that time,
and that was to write my dramas in a backward style of handwriting:
this habit I never lost, like the other, and to this day I have one
style of handwriting for my dramas and another for my romances. During
those three days I made immense progress with _Christine._ On the
fourth day, I received a letter from M. Deviolaine, summoning me to his
office. I hurried there, and this time my heart did not beat any the
faster; I had faced the worst that could happen and I was prepared for
anything.

"Ah! there you are, you cursed blockhead!" cried M. Deviolaine, when he
saw me.

"Yes, monsieur, here I am."

"So! so, monsieur!"

I made no reply.

"So we are too grand a lord to work with ordinary mortals?" M.
Deviolaine continued.

"You are mistaken ... quite the contrary. I am not a sufficiently grand
lord to work with the others, that is why I want to work alone."

"And you ask for an office to yourself, on purpose to do nothing in it
but to write your dirty plays?"

"I ask for an office to myself so that I can have the right to think
while I am working."

"And if I do not let you have an office to yourself?"

"I shall try to earn my living as an author. You know I have no other
resource."

"And if I do not immediately send you packing, you may be very sure it
is for your mother's sake and not for your own."

"I am fully aware of that, and I am grateful to you on my mother's
account."

"Very well, take your office to yourself, then; but I give you warning
that...."

"You will give me double the work of any other clerk?"

"Exactly so."

"It will be unjust, that is all; but, since I am not the stronger, I
shall submit."

"Unjust! unjust!" shrieked M. Deviolaine. "I would have you know that I
have never done an unjust thing in my life."

"It would seem there is a beginning for everything."

"Did you ever see--oh, did you ever see such a young rip!" continued M.
Deviolaine, as he paced up and down his office,--"did you ever see! did
you ever see!..."

Then, turning to me again, he said--

"Very well, I will not treat you unjustly; no, indeed no, you shall not
have more work to do than the others; but you shall have as much, and
you shall be watched to see that you get through it! M. Fossier shall
receive orders from me to carry out this inspection."

I moved my lips.

"What next! Have you something now to say against M. Fossier?"

"No, only that I think him ugly."

"Well, what then?"

"Why, I would much rather he were good-looking, on his own account
first and also on my own."

"But what does it matter to you whether M. Fossier be ugly or
beautiful?"

"If I have to meet a face three or four times in a day I should much
prefer it to be agreeable rather than disagreeable."

"Well, I never met such a cursed young puppy in all my days! You will
soon want me to choose my head clerks to suit your taste!... Get out!
Go back to your office, and try to make up for lost time."

"I will do so; but, first, I want to ask a promise from you, monsieur."

"Well, upon my word, if he isn't actually going to impose his own
conditions on me!"

"You will accept this one, I am sure."

"Now, what do you wish, Monsieur le poëte?"

"I should like you yourself each day to overlook the work I have done
and see how I have done it."

"Well, I promise you that.... And when is the first performance to take
place?"

"I can hardly tell you; but I am very sure you will be present at it!"

"Yes, I will be there, in more senses than one; you may be quite easy
on that score.... Now, go and behave yourself!"

And he made a threatening gesture, upon which I went out.

M. Deviolaine kept his word to me. He gave me plenty of work to do
without overdoing me. But, as he had promised, M. Fossier always came
and brought the work to me himself, and if, by ill luck, I was not at
my desk, M. Deviolaine was instantly informed of my absence.



CHAPTER XI


Conclusion of _Christine_--A patron, after a fashion--Nodier
recommends me to Taylor--The Royal Commissary and the author of
_Hécube_--Semi-official reading before Taylor--Official reading before
the Committee--I am received with acclamation--The intoxication of
success--How history is written--M. Deviolaine's incredulity--Picard's
opinions concerning my play--Nodier's opinion--Second reading at the
Théâtre-Français and definite acceptance


But none of these hindrances prevented me from finishing _Christine._ I
had, however, scarcely written the famous last line--

    "Eh bien, j'en ai pitié, mon père ... Qu'on l'achève!"

when I found myself in as embarrassing a situation as any poor girl
who has just given birth to a child outside the pale of legitimate
matrimony. What was I to do with this bastard child of my creation,
born outside the gates of the Institute and the Academy? Was I to
stifle her as I had smothered her elders? That would have been hard
lines indeed! Besides, this little girl was strong, and quite capable
of living; it seemed good, therefore, to acknowledge her; but first it
was necessary to find a theatre to receive her, actors to clothe her
and a public to adopt her!

Oh! if only Talma were living! But Talma was dead and I did not know
anyone at the Théâtre-Français. Perhaps it might be possible for me
to manage it through M. Arnault. But he would ask to see the work on
behalf of which his services were requested, and he would not have read
ten lines before he would fling it as far from him as poor M. Drake had
the rattlesnake that bit him at Rouen. I went to look for Oudard. I
told him that my play was completed and I boldly asked him for a letter
of introduction to the Théâtre-Français. Oudard refused under pretence
that he did not know anyone there. I had the courage to tell him that
his introduction as head of the Secretariat of the Duc d'Orléans would
be all-powerful.

He replied, after the manner of Madame Méchin, when she did not incline
to promote any particular end--

"I will never lend my _influence_ in that direction."

I had several times noticed a man with thick eyebrows and a long nose,
in the Secretarial Department, who took his tobacco Swiss-fashion. This
man periodically brought the ninety theatre tickets to all parts of the
house that M. Oudard had the prerogative of giving away every month,
at the rate of three per day. I did not know who this man was, but I
asked. I was told that he was the prompter.

I lay in wait for this prompter, took him by surprise in the corridor
and begged him to tell me what steps were necessary to obtain the
honour of a reading before the Committee of the Théâtre-Français. He
told me I must first deposit my play with the Examiner; but he warned
me that so many other works were already deposited there that I must
expect to wait at least a year. As though it were possible for me to
wait a year!

"But," I asked, "is there no short cut through all these formalities?"

"Oh dear me, yes!" he replied, "if you know Baron Taylor."

I thanked him.

"There is nothing to thank me for," he said.

And he was right; there wasn't anything to thank him for, for I did not
know Baron Taylor in the slightest.

"Do you know Baron Taylor?" I asked Lassagne.

"No," he answered; "but Charles Nodier is his intimate friend."

"What of that?"

"Well, did you not tell me that you once talked with Charles Nodier a
whole evening at a representation of the _Vampire?_"

"Certainly."

"Write to Charles Nodier."

"Bah! he will have forgotten all about me."

"He never forgets anything; write to him."

I wrote to Charles Nodier, recalling to his memory the Elzevirs, the
rotifer, the vampires, and in the name of his well-known kindliness
towards young people I entreated him to introduce me to Baron Taylor.
It can be imagined with what impatience I awaited the reply. Baron
Taylor himself replied, granting my request and fixing an appointment
with me five or six days later. He apologised at the same time for the
hour he had fixed; but his numerous engagements left him so little time
that seven o'clock in the morning was the only hour at which he could
see me. Although I am probably the latest riser in Paris, I was ready
at the appointed hour. True, I had kept awake all the night. Taylor
then lived at No. 42 rue de Bondy, fourth floor. His suite of rooms
consisted of an anteroom filled with books and busts; a dining-room
full of pictures and books; a drawing-room full of weapons and books;
and a bedroom full of manuscripts and books. I rang at the door of
the antechamber, my heart beating at a terrible rate. The good or ill
natured mood of a man who knew nothing about me, who had no inducement
to be kindly disposed towards me, who had received me out of pure
good-nature, was to decide my future life. If my play displeased him,
it would stand in the way of anything I could bring him later, and I
was very nearly at the end of my courage and strength. I had rung the
bell, gently enough, I admit, and no one had answered it; I rang a
second time, as gently as at first; again no one took any notice of me.
And yet, putting my ear close, I seemed to hear a noise indicative of
something unusual taking place inside: confused sounds and snarls which
now sounded like bursts of anger, and now, decreasing in pitch, seemed
like a continuous monotonous bass accompaniment. I could not imagine
what it could be; I was afraid to disturb Taylor at such a moment and
yet it was the very hour he had himself fixed for my coming. I rang
louder. I heard a door open, and simultaneously the mysterious noise
from inside that had greatly roused my curiosity for the last ten
minutes sounded louder than ever. At last the door was opened by an old
serving-woman.

"Ah! monsieur," she said, with a flustered manner, "your coming will do
M. le Baron an excellent turn. He is waiting anxiously for you; go in."

"What do you mean?"

"Go in, go in ... do not lose a minute."

I went quickly into the sitting-room, where I found Taylor caught in
his bath-tub like a tiger in his den, a gentleman near him reading
a tragedy called _Hécube._ This gentleman had forced his entrance,
no matter what was said to him. He had surprised Taylor as Charlotte
Corday had surprised Marat when she stabbed him in his bath; but the
agony that the King's Commissary endured was more prolonged than that
of the Tribune of the People. The tragedy was two thousand four hundred
lines long! When the gentleman caught sight of me, he realised that his
victim was to be snatched away from him; he clutched hold of the bath,
exclaiming--

"There are only two more acts, monsieur,--there are only two more acts!"

"Two sword-cuts, two stabs with a knife, two thrusts with a dagger!
Select from among the arms round about--there are all kinds
here--choose the one that will slice the best and kill me straight off!"

"Monsieur," replied the author of _Hécube_, "the Government appointed
you _commissaire du roi_ on purpose to listen to my play; it is your
duty to listen to my play--you shall hear my play!"

"Ah! that is just where the misfortune comes in!" cried Taylor,
wringing his hands. "Yes, monsieur, to my sorrow I am _commissaire
du roil_ ... But you and such people as you will make me hand in my
resignation; you and your like will force me to give it up and leave
France. I have had an offer to go to Egypt, I will accept it; I will
explore the sources of the Nile as far as Nubia, right to the Mountains
of the Moon,--and I will go at once and get my passport."

"You can go-to China, if you like," replied the gentleman, "but you
shall not go until you have heard my play."

Taylor gave one long moan, like a vanquished athlete, made a sign to
me to go into his bedroom and, falling back into his bath-tub, he
bowed his head in resignation upon his breast. The gentleman went on.
Taylor's precaution of putting a door between him and his reader and me
was quite useless; I heard every word of the last two acts of _Hécube._
The Almighty is great and full of compassion--may He bestow peace on
that author! At last, when the play was finished, the gentleman got up
and, at Taylor's earnest entreaty, consented to depart. I heard the old
woman double lock the door after him. The bath-water had made good use
of the time spent on the reading to grow cold, and Taylor came back
into his bedroom shivering. I would have sacrificed a month's pay for
him to have found a warmed bed to creep into. And the reason is not far
to seek; for, naturally, a man who is half frozen, after just listening
to five acts, is not in a favourable mood to hear five more acts.

"Alas! monsieur," I said to him, "I have happened upon a most
unsuitable time, and I fear you will not be in the least disposed to
listen to me, at least with the patience I could desire."

"Oh, monsieur, I will not admit that, since I do not yet know your
work," Taylor replied; "but you can guess what a trial it is to have
to listen to-such stuff as I have just heard, every blessed day of my
life."

"Every day?"

"Yes, indeed, and oftener! See, here is my agenda for to-day's
Committee. We are to hear an _Épaminondas._"

I heaved a sigh. My poor _Christine_ was caught between two cross-fires
of classicism.

"M. le Baron," I ventured to say, "would you rather I came another
day?"

"Oh! certainly not," said Taylor, "now we are here...."

"Very well," I said, "I will just read you one act, and if that tires
you or bores you, you must stop me."

"All right," Taylor murmured; "you are more merciful than your
confrères. And that is a good sign.... Go on, go on; I am listening."

Tremblingly I drew my play from my pocket;--it looked a terribly big
volume. Taylor cast a glance on the immense bulk with such an alarmed
expression that I cried out to him--

"Oh, monsieur, do not be afraid! The manuscript is only written on one
side of the paper."

He breathed again. I began. I was so nervous I could not see to read;
my voice shook so that I could not hear my own voice. Taylor reassured
me; he was unaccustomed to such modesty! I resumed my reading, and I
managed somehow to get through my first act.

"Well, monsieur, shall I go on?" I asked in a faint voice, without
daring to raise my eyes.

"Certainly, certainly," Taylor replied, "go on. Upon my word, it is
excellent!"

Fresh life came to me, and I read my second act with more confidence
than the first. When I had finished, Taylor himself told me to
go on with the third, then the fourth, then the fifth. I felt an
inexpressible desire to embrace him; but I refrained, for fear of the
consequences.

When the reading was finished, Taylor leapt from his bed.

"You must come to the Théâtre-Français with me," he said.

"But what must I do there?"

"Why, get your turn to read your play as soon as possible."

"Do you really mean it? Shall I read it to the Committee?"

"Not a day later than next Saturday." And Taylor called out, "Pierre!"

An old man-servant came in.

"Give me all my clothes, Pierre."

Then turning to me, he said, "You will excuse me?"

"Oh, there is nothing to excuse!..." I replied.

On the following Thursday (for Taylor would not wait until the
Saturday, but had called a special Committee) the Committee, whether
from chance or because Taylor had praised my play extravagantly,
was a very large one; there were as many well-dressed men and women
present as though a dance were on the way. The ladies decked out in
gay hats and flowers, the gentlemen in fashionable dress, the large
green carpet, the inquisitive looks which were fixed upon me, every
detail down to the glass of water which Granville solemnly placed by my
side--which struck me as very ludicrous--all this combined to inspire
me with profound emotion.

_Christine_ was then quite different from what it is to-day: it was a
simple play, romantic in style, but founded on classical traditions.
It was confined to five acts; the action took place entirely at
Fontainebleau, and it conformed with the unity of time, place and
action laid down by Aristotle. Stranger still! it did not contain the
character of Paula, which is now the best creation in the play, and
the real dramatic mainspring of the whole work. Monaldeschi betrayed
Christine's ambition, but not her love. And yet I have rarely known
any work to have such a successful first reading. They made me read
the monologue of Sentinelli and the scene with Monaldeschi three
times over. I was intoxicated with delight. My play was received with
acclamation. Only, three or four of the agenda papers contained the
following cautious phrase:--

"_A second, reading, or the manuscript to be submitted to an author in
whom the Committee has confidence._"

The result of the deliberations of the Comédie-Française was that the
tragedy of _Christine_ was accepted; but, on account of the great
innovations which it contained, they would not undertake to perform it
until after another reading, or the manuscript had been submitted to
another author, to be named by them.

The whole thing had passed before my eyes like a mist. I had seen
face to face for the first time the kings and queens of the tragic
and comic stage: Mademoiselle Mars, Mademoiselle Leverd, Mademoiselle
Bourgoin, Madame Valmonzey, Madame Paradol and Mademoiselle Demerson,
an engagingly clever _soubrette_, who played Molière with great
freshness, and Marivaux with such finished style as I never saw in
anyone else. I knew I was accepted and that was all I wished to know:
the conditions I would fulfil, the difficulties I would overcome.
Therefore I did not wait until the conclusion of the conference. I
thanked Taylor, and I left the theatre as proud and as light-hearted
as though my first mistress had said to me, "I love you." I made off
for the faubourg Saint-Denis, ogling everybody I met, as much as to
say, "You haven't written _Christine_; you haven't just come away from
the Théâtre-Français; you haven't been received with acclamation, you,
you, you!" And, in the joyful preoccupation of my thoughts, I did not
take care to measure my steps across a gutter but stumbled into the
middle of it; I took no notice of carriages, I jostled in and out among
the horses. When I reached the faubourg Saint-Denis I had lost my
manuscript; but that did not matter! I knew my play by heart. With one
leap, I bounded into our rooms, and my mother cried out, for she never
saw me back before five o'clock.

"Received with acclamation, mother! received with acclamation!" I
shouted. And I began to dance round our rooms, which allowed but little
space for such exercise. My mother thought I must have gone mad; I had
not told her I was going to the reading for fear of disappointment.

"And what will M. Fossier say?" my poor mother exclaimed.

"Oh!" I replied, suiting my words to the tune of _Malbrouck_, "M.
Fossier can say whatever he likes, and if he is not satisfied, I will
send him about his business!"

"Take care, my dear lad," my mother replied, shaking her head; "it will
be you who will be sent packing and in good earnest, too."

"All right, mother; so much the better! It will give me time to attend
my rehearsals."

"And suppose your play is a failure, and you have lost your situation,
what will become of us?"

"I will write another play that will succeed."

"But in the meantime we must live."

"Ah yes! it's very unfortunate that one has to live; happily, in seven
or eight days we shall receive something on account."

"Yes, but while we are waiting for that, which you have not yet got, my
lad, take my advice and return to your desk, so that no one may suspect
anything, and do not boast of what has happened to a single person."

"I fancy you are in the right, mother; and although I asked the whole
day off from M. Deviolaine, I will return to my desk. It is half-past
two. Why, I shall yet have time to despatch my day's work."

And I set forth at a run to the rue Saint-Honoré. The exercise did me
good, for I needed fresh air and action; I felt stifled in our tiny
rooms. I found a pile of reports ready for me; I set to my task, and by
six o'clock everything was finished. But by this time Féresse's anger
against me amounted to hatred: I had compelled him to stay till the
stroke of six before I had finished the last lines. I had never written
so fast or so well. I re-read everything twice for fear I might have
interpolated some lines from _Christine_ in the reports. But, as usual,
they were innocent of poetic effusions. I gave them back to Féresse,
who went with them to M. Fossier's office, growling like a bear. I then
went home to my dear mother, quite spent and utterly exhausted with the
great events of that day. It was 30 April 1828. I spent the evening,
the night and the morning of the next day in rewriting my manuscript
afresh. By ten o'clock, when I reached the Administration, I found
Ferésse at the door of his office. He had been looking out for me since
eight o'clock that morning, although he knew well enough that I never
came before ten.

"Ah! there you are," he said. "So you have been writing a tragedy, I
hear."

"Who told you that?"

"Why, good gracious, it is in the newspaper."

"In the paper?"

"Yes, read it for yourself."

And he handed me a paper which did, indeed, contain the following
lines:--

    "The Théâtre-Français to-day accepted with acclamation and
    unanimity a five-act tragedy in verse, by a young man who
    has not yet produced anything. This young man is in the
    administrative offices of M. le Duc d'Orléans, who made his
    path easy for him and who strongly recommended him to the
    Reading Committee."

You see how accurately the daily press gauged the situation! it has
not lost the tradition even to-day. Nevertheless, although inaccurate
enough in detail, the news was fundamentally true; and it circulated
from corridor to corridor and from storey to storey. It flew from
office to office, by means of people coming in and going out, just
as though Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans had given birth to twins. I
was congratulated by all my colleagues, some with sincerity, others
mockingly; only the chief of my office hid himself from view. But,
since he kept me going with four times my usual amount of work, it
was quite evident he had seen the paper. M. Deviolaine came in at two
o'clock and at five minutes past two he sent for me. I walked into his
office with my head in the air and my hands perched jauntily on my hips.

"Ah! there you are, you young blade!" he said.

"Yes, here I am."

"So you asked me for a holiday yesterday in order to play pranks!"

"Have I neglected my work?"

"That is not the question."

"Excuse me, M. Deviolaine, on the contrary it is the only question."

"But don't you see that they have been making game of you?"

"Who has?"

"The Comedians."

"Nevertheless, they have accepted my play."

"Yes, but they will not put it on the stage."

"Ah! we shall see!"

"And if they do produce your play...."

"Yes?"

"You will still need the approbation of the public."

"Why should you imagine it will not please the public since it has
pleased the Comedians?"

"Come now, do you want to make me believe that you, who only had an
education that cost three francs a month, will be successful when such
people as M. Viennet and M. Lemercier and M. Lebrun fall flat?... Go
along with you!"

"But instead of judging me beforehand, wouldn't it be fairer to wait?"

"Oh yes, wait ten years, twenty years! I sincerely hope I shall be
buried before your play is acted, and then I shall never see it."

At this juncture, Ferésse slily opened the door.

"Excuse me, M. Deviolaine," he said, "but there is a _Comedian_ here
(he carefully emphasised the word) asking for M. Dumas."

"A Comedian! What Comedian?" M. Deviolaine asked.

"M. Firmin, from the Comédie-Française."

"Yes," I replied quietly; "he takes the part of Monaldeschi."

"Firmin plays in your piece?"

"Yes, he takes Monaldeschi.... Oh, it is admirably cast: Firmin plays
Monaldeschi, Mademoiselle Mars Christine...."

"Mademoiselle Mars plays in your piece?"

"Certainly."

"It is not true."

"Would you like her to tell it you herself?"

"Do you imagine I am going to take the trouble to assure myself you are
lying?"

"No; she will come here."

"Mademoiselle Mars will come here?"

"I am sure she will have the kindness to do that for me."

"Mademoiselle Mars?"

"Yes, you see that Firmin...."

"Stop! Go your own way! for upon my word you are enough to turn my
brain!... Mademoiselle Mars ... Mademoiselle Mars put herself out for
you? Think of it!... Mademoiselle Mars!" and he raised his hands to
heaven in despair that such a mad idea should ever enter the head of
any member of his family.

I took advantage of this theatrical display to escape. Firmin was,
indeed, waiting for me. He had made use of his time in looking round
the office, and he had ascertained that the windows of my office looked
exactly across to those of the Comédie-Française--a circumstance that
offered great facilities for my future communications. He came so that
no time should be lost, to offer to take me to Picard's house, who was
going to read my manuscript. Picard enjoyed the absolute confidence of
the Comédie-Française and the Comédie-Française would rely implicitly
on his decision. I felt an intense aversion towards Picard, who,
according to my views, had retarded the development of real comedy as
much as Scribe had advanced the cause of the vaudeville. It was out of
the question that Picard could understand _Christine_ from the point of
view either of style or of construction. I therefore fought as long as
I could against having to submit to Picard's arbitrament. But Firmin
knew Picard very well and said that he had such a partiality for young
people, and that his advice was so good that, rather than vex Firmin at
the outset of my career, I was persuaded to go. It was arranged that,
at half-past four that evening, Firmin should call for me and take
me to see Picard. At half-past four we set off. _Christine_ had been
neatly re-copied. It may be guessed that since I had taken such pains
over the plays of Théaulon, I took extra care of my own! The manuscript
was rolled and tied up with a pretty new piece of ribbon that my mother
had given me.

Where did Picard live? Upon my word, I could not say and I will not
lose any time in trying to find his address. Wherever he lived, we
arrived at his house. His appearance corresponded exactly with the
idea that I had formed of him: he was a little, deformed man with
long hands, small bright eyes, and a nose as sharp as a weasel's.
He received us with that polite, bantering manner peculiar to him,
which many people take for intellectual good-fellowship. We conversed
for ten minutes and he pretended entire ignorance of the news he had
been possessed of since morning; he laid bare the object of our visit
and he asked us to leave the manuscript with him, and to return a
week later. He gave us his humble advice upon this important matter,
pleading for our leniency beforehand if his judgment were more inclined
to the shorter classic forms of comedy, rather than to the _long
Romantic productions (des grandes machines romantiques)._ This exordium
foreboded no good. We saw Picard a week later; he was expecting us,
and we found him seated in the same arm-chair, with the same smile on
his lips. He bade us be seated and politely inquired after our health;
finally, he stretched his long fingers over his desk and rolled up my
manuscript carefully, wrapped it and tied it up. Then, with a winning
smile, he said to me--

"My dear monsieur, have you any means of subsistence?"

"Monsieur," I replied, "I am a clerk at fifteen hundred francs a year
in the offices of M. le Duc d'Orléans."

"Well, then, my advice to you, my dear lad, is to return to your
desk--to return to your desk!"

After such a declaration, the conversation was, of necessity, brief.
Firmin and I rose, bowed and departed. Or, rather, I departed;
Firmin stayed behind a moment after me: he probably wished a further
explanation. Through the half-opened door I could see Picard shrugging
his shoulders with such violence that his head seemed in danger of
coming off his body. The modern Molière looked extremely repulsive
thus, his expression above all being remarkably malicious. Had Picard
really given us a conscientious opinion? Firmin was convinced he had,
but I doubted it always. It was impossible that an intellectual man, no
matter how narrow his views might be, should not discern--I will not go
so far as to say a remarkable work in _Christine,_ but remarkable works
belonging to the school of _Christine._

Next day, I went to see Taylor, carrying with me my manuscript
containing Picard's annotations. These annotations consisted of
crosses, bracketing and marks of exclamation, which might well be
called marks of stupefaction. Certain lines especially seemed to have
astounded the author of the _Petite Ville_ and the _Deux Philibert._
These had been honoured by three exclamation marks.

    CHRISTINE

    "Vous êtes Français, vous; mais ces Italiens,
    L'idiome mielleux qui détrempe leurs âmes
    Semblerait fait exprès pour un peuple de femmes;
    D'énergiques accents ont peine à s'y mêler.
    Un homme est là; l'on croit qu'en homme il va parler;
    Il parle, on se retourne, et, par un brusque échange,
    A la place d'un homme, on trouve une louange."-!!!

It was to the last line that the three wretched notes of exclamation
had been affixed, which were intended to express many things. For
the most part, Picard's criticisms were laconically brief. After the
following lines came one huge note of interrogation:--

    "Sur le chemin des rois, l'oubli couvre ma trace;
    Mon nom, comme un vain bruit, s'affaiblit dans l'espace:
    Ce n'est plus qu'un écho par l'écho répété,
    Et j'assiste vivante à la postérité.
    Je crus que plus longtemps--mon erreur fut profonde!--
    Mon abdication bruirait dans le monde ...
    Pour le remplir encore un but m'est indiqué;
    Je veux reconquérir cet empire abdiqué.
    Comme je la donnai, je reprends ma couronne,
    Et l'on dira que j'ai le caprice du trône!"--?

a point of interrogation which seemed to say, "Perhaps the author
understands this passage. I, certainly, do not."

After the last line--

     "Eh bien, j'en ai pitié, mon père ... Qu'on l'achève!"

was written the word "IMPOSSIBLE."

Was it the piece which was _impossible_ or only that line? Picard had
had the delicacy to leave me the benefit of the doubt. I related my
adventure to Taylor and showed him Picard's notes.

"All right," he said; "leave the play with me and return to-morrow
morning."

I left the play with him, feeling very subdued in spirits. I was
beginning to learn to my cost that the joys connected with the
theatre are the opposite of those in nature, and belong only to early
days--after that brief period one's real troubles immediately begin. I
took good care to keep my engagement and was with Taylor by eight next
morning. He showed me my manuscript, across which Nodier had written in
his own handwriting--

"Upon my soul and conscience, I declare _Christine_ is one of the most
remarkable works I have read for the last twenty years."

"You realise," said Taylor to me, "I shall need that to back me up. You
must keep yourself in readiness to re-read your play on Saturday."

"Monsieur le Baron," I said to him, "I am in an office, and there they
are all the more strict with me because I go in for literary work,
which bureaucratic eyes look upon as an unpardonable crime. Could I
read it on Sunday, rather than Saturday?"

"It is contrary to all custom, but I will see what I can do."

Three days later, I received my notice for the following Sunday. The
assembly was even larger than the first time and the play was even more
enthusiastically applauded, if that be possible, than it had been on
the previous reading. It was put to the vote and accepted unanimously,
subject to some alterations which I was to arrange after consultation
with M. Samson. Fortunately, M. Samson and I did not see eye to eye; I
say fortunately, since the disagreement led to my recasting the whole
play, which gained, by this re-handling, the prologue, the two acts at
Stockholm, the epilogue at Rome and the entire part of Paula. When we
come to the proper place, we will relate how these transformations
came about; they left the _Metamorphoses_ of Ovid (of which a splendid
edition had just been published by M. Villenave) a very long way
behind. I must say a few words about M. de Villenave, who was one of
the best informed and most original men of his day; and I must say a
little about his wife, his son, his daughter and his home, all of which
personages and things had a great influence on this first part of my
life.



CHAPTER XII


Cordelier-Delanoue--A sitting of the Athénée--M. Villenave--His
family--The one hundred and thirty-two Nantais--Cathelineau--The hunt
_aux bleus_--Forest--A chapter of history--Sauveur--The Royalist
Committee--Souchu--The miraculous tomb--Carrier


During the period of the first representations of the English
actors (which coincided with my evening attendance at the offices
of the Secretariat) I made the acquaintance of a young fellow named
Cordelier-Delanoue. It came about very naturally. We were publishing
_Psyché_ at that time and Delanoue had sent us a poem which he called
_Hamlet_; this we inserted in our journal, he came to thank us and
Adolphe and I became friendly with him, I especially. Delanoue was the
son of one of the generals of the Revolution, who had formerly known my
father; this circumstance had drawn us together and our dramatic and
political sympathies did the rest. One night Delanoue came to see me
at the office and suggested taking me to the Athénée while the courier
from the Palais-Royal went to Neuilly and back. I was ignorant about
many things, so it will not be any cause for astonishment, I hope, if
I admit that I had never heard of the Athénée. M. Villenave was giving
a literary soirée there that evening. I did not know who M. Villenave
was; and my ignorance in this respect was a little more excusable than
my not knowing what the Athénée was. However, I accepted. At that time,
I had not the horror of making fresh acquaintances which beset me
later. I was promised something connected with literature and literary
people, and a promise such as this would have urged me on to cross the
razor edge which serves as a bridge between the Mohammadan Paradise
and this earth. I could cross such an edge now, prone though I am to
giddiness, but it would be in order to fly from the very thing I then
went to seek. So far as I can recollect, the meetings of the Athénée
were held in a lower hall of the Palais-Royal, which had its entrance
from the rue de Valois. They discussed all sorts of topics that would
have been insufferable in drawing-rooms, but which at the Athénée were
simply tedious. The people who discussed these tedious subjects had the
right to a certain number of tickets to distribute among the members of
their families, their friends and their acquaintances. They could have
discussed these subjects quite well alone, but, for some inexplicable
reason, they preferred to have an audience. On this particular evening
the hall was full. M. Villenave was very popular in society, and,
besides, these meetings had a certain celebrity. If I were condemned
to be hung, I could not to save my life say what they talked of that
night. It was probably some treatise on a second-rate deceased author,
who served as an excuse to the writer to deliver a few raps to the
living. M. Villenave conducted the meeting: he addressed it standing,
by the aid of a couple of candelabras and a glass of _eau sucrée_ near
him. He was a fine-looking old man of, perhaps, at that time, some
sixty-six or sixty-eight years of age. He had splendid white hair,
daintily curled about his temples; black eyes that flashed with quite
Southern fire; he was very tall but stooped a little from much bending
over a desk; there was something distinguished-looking and graceful
in his movements and manners. I had stopped modestly by the door for
two reasons: first, because I was yet too unknown to imagine I had
the right to put the speaker himself or anybody else out for my sake;
secondly, as I had to return to my office by half-past nine, it was
more convenient to be near the door than elsewhere, in order to escape
incognito, as I had entered. Delanoue, who was more familiar with the
company than I, left me to go and joke with them, during the short
intervals when the sitting broke up to give M. Villenave time to take
breath.

The usual hour for the courier having come, I was quietly escaping to
return and receive him at my office, when Delanoue ran after me and
caught me up under the peristyle. He had been deputed by the Villenave
family to invite me to go and take tea with them at their house, after
the meeting. I owed this favour to the kind things my friend Delanoue
had said about me. I then had to inquire where the Villenaves lived.
No. 82 rue de Vaugirard. Oh! but 53 faubourg Saint-Denis was a fair
distance from my home. Fortunately, during my five years' residence in
Paris, I had learnt to know its streets pretty thoroughly, so I did
not feel obliged, as on my first visit, to hire a conveyance to take
me from the place du Palais-Royal to the rue des Vieux-Augustins. The
invitation conveyed by Delanoue had been so courteously and warmly
pressed that the least I could do was to accept it. I ran off to the
office, attended to the courier and returned. During the half-hour of
my absence the sitting had been concluded, and I returned to find M.
Villenave in a small drawing-room that opened out of the large hall,
receiving the congratulations of his friends. Delanoue introduced me to
M. Villenave and to his family. The Villenave family consisted first of
Madame Villenave, a very gracious little old lady, very intellectual
and an experienced society entertainer, but very fond of grumbling in
her home-life, for she suffered, like Anne of Austria, from a cancer
which ultimately killed her; Théodore Villenave, a tall, energetic
young fellow, an author, at that time, of various fugitive poems,
and translator of _Wallenstein_, which was destined to make a great
commotion behind the scenes of the Odéon for three or four years before
it was put on the stage, where it had a fairly successful reception;
Madame Mélanie Waldor, the wife of a captain in the infantry on service
and in garrison, who only put in short and rare appearances at Paris,
where those who knew him spoke of him as a brave and loyal soldier.
Madame Waldor composed fugitive verses, like her brother, which she
published in the daily paper; like her brother, too, she afterwards
wrote a play which had a successful run under the title of the _École
des Jeunes Filles._ Last came Élisa Waldor, who at that period was
only a charming little child with the head of a chérubin surrounded by
lovely golden curly hair; she afterwards grew into a tall, beautiful
woman, and was twice married--and happily each time, I trust.[1]

The family returned home on foot, in patriarchal fashion, accompanied
by five or six friends, who, like myself, were on their way to the
rue de Vaugirard, to take tea and nibble cake together there. As I
was the stranger, I was allotted the position of honour--namely, to
give my arm to Madame Waldor. As the distance was very long, it was
a good opportunity of becoming acquainted. But, as we had never seen
each other or spoken together before, the long walk would have been
embarrassing to us both, had not Delanoue joined us and made a third
in the conversation between the place du Palais-Royal and the rue de
Vaugirard. He thereby rendered us both a great service, for which both
of us were profoundly grateful to him.

What a strange thing these chance meetings are! How astonished I should
have been had anyone told me that this family, whose very existence I
had not known a couple of hours before, and who were complete strangers
to me, would become for the next two or three years almost as close to
me as my own, and that I should traverse the road that then seemed
to me so long between the rue du faubourg-Saint-Denis and the rue de
Vaugirard twice every day in future!

But I was in haste to reach our destination, to have a talk with M.
Villenave. I do not remember how it was, or on what occasion, but
a pamphlet he had written fell into my hands--a little work he had
published in 1794, entitled _Relation des noyades de cent trente-deux
Nantais_ (Story of the drowning of a hundred and thirty-two people of
Nantes). Directly I saw M. Villenave I remembered this pamphlet, and as
soon as I thought of the pamphlet I resolved to lead the conversation
to Carrier, and Nantes and the hundred and thirty-two Nantais. It
was not a difficult matter to set M. Villenave talking; only, his
conversation was very much like a sermon. When he talked, one had to
let him go on, not interrupt him, and listen to him with reverent
attention. He had, indeed, happened to be at Nantes in 1793, at the
same time as Jean-Baptiste Carrier, of bloody memory. God forbid we
should make the faintest excuses for that terrible proconsul and the
horrors he perpetrated! But it must be admitted that the Vendeans had
themselves set him an abominable example. Wars conducted by priests are
apt to be barbarous wars, and it is known--or rather, it is not known,
that at the beginning the insurrection was entirely in the hands of
priests; the nobles did not involve themselves in it until later, and,
when they did take part in it, the method of butchery became rather
more humane: it changed to shooting. The first person to play a part
in that bloody squabble was a sacristan named Cathelineau. Machiavelli
says that, "When it was decided to. assassinate Julian de Medicis in
the church of Sainte-Marie-des-Fleurs, they chose ecclesiastics to
do the work of assassination, because they were less likely to be
impressed by the sanctity of the place."

It is a strange but indisputable fact that when men of peace and love
and charity turn into executioners, they become the most refined in
cruelty of all; witness the _in-pace_ (dungeons) of convents, witness
the cells of the Inquisition, witness the massacres of Alby, witness
the auto-da-fés of Madrid, witness Joan of Arc, witness Urbain Grandier.

This Cathelineau was what the country people between Angers and
Saint-Laurent would term a sturdy lad (_gars_). Only three months
elapsed between the day of his first shot and the day when he was
killed, but these three months sufficed to make his name renowned in
history. He was neither tall, nor had he refined manners; he was but
five feet four inches high; but he had well-set shoulders and the hips
were splendidly poised, and he possessed the fine cool prudent courage
of the men of the West. We have mentioned that he was a sacristan, but
he was many other things beside; he was mason, carrier, linen-merchant,
a married man and the father of twelve or fourteen children. He had
hardly gained a hearing before he set up a superior council comprised
chiefly of priests: they troubled themselves but little over the
nobles. The head of this council was the famous Bernier, curé d'Angers.
Cathelineau was the man for him; the simple peasant discovered a
quicker method of starting an insurrection than the pope with his bulls
or the priests with their sermons. He advised the curés to shroud the
crucifixes in black crèpe and to carry them thus in their processions.
At the sight of their Christ in mourning, the peasants could no longer
contain themselves; women tore their hair, men beat their breasts and
all swore to kill the Republicans, root and branch, since they had
grieved the Saviour. It should be added that nothing could be less
knightly and less patriotic than the proclamations of these brave
folk:--

    "Down with conscription! Down with the militia! Let us dwell
    in our own countryside. People tell us the enemy may descend
    on us and threaten our homes. Well and good, let them first
    trespass on our soil, we shall be ready to meet them there!"

And those who talked thus were well aware that the enemy would have
devastated, pillaged and burned all France and demolished Paris before
it ventured between their hedges and among their furze bushes and in
their sunken pathways.

It was equivalent to saying, "What does it matter to us what may happen
to Alsace and Lorraine, Champagne and Burgundy, the Dauphiné and
Provence?... What does it matter to us if they extinguish Paris, the
light of the world?... Time enough to seize our guns when we see the
Cossack leap his horse over our hedges!"

Now the most picturesque of writers would find great difficulty in
giving a patriotic turn to such assertions as these. Personally, I
much prefer the volunteers who ran in front of the Prussians as far as
Valmy, to these peasants who waited quietly behind their hedgerows;
and all the more so since I am not at all convinced that they were
not really waiting for them on purpose to ally themselves to them.
Why should they not compound with the Prussians? they entered into
plenty of negotiations with the English! The war, then, began between
patriots and royalists, between citizens and peasants. There were
constitutional towns, manufacturing ones,--as, for example, Chollet,
where very beautiful handkerchiefs are made,--which contained numbers
of workpeople who did not wish for Prussians in France or for friends
of the Prussians. One day they heard that the people of Bressuire
had risen in revolt; they armed themselves with pikes and rushed off
to attack them. So the town of Chollet was especially marked out for
hatred by the peasants.

On 4 March, they attacked it in their turn. A commanding officer
belonging to the National Guard trusted himself among a group of
royalists; he went among them to endeavour to reconcile the two
parties; soon, cries of pain issued from this group, the members of
which had closed round him and were slashing at his legs with his own
sword.

On the 10th, came the turn of Machecoul; here, there was less to do
than at Chollet. Machecoul was a small town, exposed on every side
and easy to capture. They first learnt the danger they were in on a
Sunday; the tocsin was rung and all the peasantry of the surrounding
country made for the town. Two hundred patriots rallied and bravely
advanced against the assailants--two hundred against two thousand!--the
mass opened, surrounded the little band and made but one mouthful of
it. Machecoul had a constitutional curé, and the priests who had not
taken the oath to the constitution bore a grudge against those who had:
they protested that the latter "spoilt the profession"; they seized
the poor man as he came to say mass, and they killed him; but there
was a preconcerted plan among them to kill him by inches by blows
on the face. The torture lasted a long time: life is sometimes very
tenacious, especially in the hands of skilful executioners, who do not
incline to chase it too quickly out of the body. But everything has an
end: the curé died a martyr, and, when he was dead, they consulted an
old huntsman, a clever bugle blower, and organised a hunt, searching
from house to house to track down their quarry. When they unearthed a
patriot they blew the _vue_, at the sound of which every man, woman and
child ran out (in this kind of warfare, women and children are even
worse than men). When the patriot was beaten down, the _hallali_ was
bugled, then came the _curée_, which lasted a long time: it was carried
out, usually, by women, with the help of scissors and nails, and by
children, with the aid of stones. Machecoul lies on an eminence between
two departments; it was judged to be a good place for establishing a
court of justice; and they massacred there for forty-two days, from 10
March to 22 April.

The reader knows how the insurrection spread from the Lower Vendée to
the Higher. It was brought about by an affair at Saint-Florent: an
émigré had sent his servant, a Vendean named Forest into Vendée to
preach resistance, and opposition to the military system. They tried
to stop him, but he would not be denied a hearing; he openly preached
revolt in the streets. A gendarme came to him; he drew a pistol from
his pocket, fired at the gendarme and killed him. That pistol-shot woke
those who were yet slumbering, And, mark well, when this unlucky shot
was fired, the tocsin was already ringing in six hundred parishes;
then it was carried by the wind in all directions; nothing could be
heard but the ringing of bells, as though flocks of invisible birds
were flying over their brazen tongues. The vibration of those deadly
knells, which were answering one another from village to village,
grew in volume, clashing in the air, charging the atmosphere like a
thunderstorm, with electric currents of hatred and of revenge.

Meantime, what was Cathelineau, the prime mover of all this, busy
about? We will hear Michelet's version:--

    "He had heard of the fight at Saint-Florent and the firing
    of guns clearly enough; nor could he be unaware by the 12th
    of the frightful massacre of the 10th, which had compromised
    the Vendean coast in the revolt past all drawing back.
    Even if he had not heard anything, the tocsin would have
    roused him hard enough: the whole country seemed in an
    uproar, the very earth trembled. He began to think things
    were growing serious, and whether from the foresight of
    the father of a family which he was shortly to leave, or
    whether from military prudence, in the matter of laying
    in stores of food, he began to heat his ovens and to make
    bread. First came his nephew, with the story of the affray
    at Saint-Florent. Cathelineau continued to knead his dough.
    Then the neighbours began dropping in--a tailor, a weaver, a
    shoemaker, a hatter.

    "'Well, neighbour, what shall we do?'

    "Quite twenty-seven of them had assembled there, bent on
    following his counsel implicitly. He pointed out first
    that a crisis had come: the leaven had done its work, the
    fermentation was sufficiently advanced; it was time to stop
    kneading, wipe his hands and shoulder his gun. Twenty-seven
    went forth; at the end of the village they numbered five
    hundred. It was the whole of the population, all worthy men,
    sturdy, strong, steadfastly brave and honest, the very pick
    of the Vendean armies, intrepid leaders almost always to be
    found in the front ranks, facing the Republican cannon."

By the time they reached Chollet, they were fifteen thousand. They
had seized a piece of cannon at Jallais, which they christened the
_Missionnaire_; and a second, at some other place, which was dubbed
_Marie-Jeanne_. All along the route priests joined their ranks,
exhorting, preaching, singing mass to them. They started on the 12th,
as we have seen; after the 14th, a large band joined forces with them,
headed by a man who was to share the command with Cathelineau, and,
later, to succeed him. This was Stofflet, another rough but brave
peasant, a gamekeeper on M. Maulevrier's estate, whose grandson, poor
lad, the last descendant of the race, was killed out hunting, at the
age of sixteen. When the Vendean army reached Chollet it sent in a flag
of truce--a strange envoy he was, too, and he gives us a good idea of
the times, the place and the circumstances: his head and his feet were
bare; he carried in his hand a crucifix crowned with thorns, bound
round with a huge rosary; his eyes were lifted to heaven, as those of a
mystic or martyr, and he cried out between his sobs--

"Surrender, my dear friends, or you will all be put to fire and sword!"

This summons was made in the name of _commanding officer_ Stofflet and
_almoner_ Barbotin.

The whole of the garrison of Chollet comprised three hundred patriots
armed with muskets, and five hundred armed with pikes; they attempted
to offer resistance to fifteen thousand men; but, of course, resistance
was utterly impossible; M. de Beauveau, the head of the Republicans,
fell in the first attack. The patriots retired into a part of the
castle which commanded the square, and from whence they could fire
upon the Vendeans as they entered the square; this was all the easier
as there was a Calvary in the square before which every peasant knelt
and prayed, heedless of the firing, not returning to the fight until
his prayers were finished and the sign of the cross made. These good
folk--let us lay stress on the word and call them brave folk--for they
did not understand the enormity of the crimes they were committing,
since their priests had ordered them!--did not plunder, but they killed
not merely during battle, which was a necessity, but even afterwards,
and they killed cruelly, as we shall see.

We will again refer to Michelet for an account of how they killed; if
I related it to you in my own words you would say I was romancing. He,
it is known, did not lie; he was, indeed, driven from his chair because
he told the truth not only about the past but also about the future.
Michelet says:--

    "Directly a prisoner was confessed, the peasants no longer
    hesitated to kill him, as his spiritual salvation was made
    secure; several escaped death by refusing confession, and
    by saying that they were not yet in a state of grace; one
    of them was spared because he was a Protestant and could
    not confess. They were afraid to send him into damnation.
    History has dealt very severely with the unfortunate
    patriots who slaughtered the Vendeans; many of them
    displayed heroic courage and died like martyrs. Those who
    were cut into pieces could be counted by hundreds. I will
    give one instance, among many, of a boy of sixteen who, over
    the dead body of his father, shouted '_Vive la nation!_'
    until he was pierced through by a score of bayonettes.
    The most celebrated of these martyrs was Sauveur, a
    municipal officer of Roche-Bernard, rather let us say of
    Roche-Sauveur, for it should preserve his name. This town,
    which is a thoroughfare between Nantes and Vannes, was
    attacked on the 16th by an immense gathering of nearly
    six thousand peasants; there were hardly any armed men in
    the town and it was compelled to surrender. The maddened
    crowd began at once by butchering twenty-two persons on
    the square, on the pretext of a gun going off suddenly in
    the air; they rushed upon the town hall and discovered the
    _procureur syndic_, Sauveur, a fearless magistrate who had
    stuck to his post. He was seized and dragged off; they put
    him into a dungeon whence, next day, he was taken out to be
    barbarously massacred. They sampled all kinds of weapons on
    him, principally pistols: they fired at him with small shot,
    trying to make him cry, '_Vive le roi!_' but he would only
    shout, '_Vive la république!_' Infuriated, they fired at his
    mouth with gunpowder and dragged him before the Calvary to
    beg for mercy; he lifted his eyes to heaven in adoration,
    but still he cried, '_Vive la nation!_' Next they shot his
    left eye out and kicked him on a few paces; mangled and
    bleeding, he stood with hands clasped looking upward.

    "'Commend thy spirit to God!' yelled his assassins.

    "They shot him down; he fell, but rose again, clasping
    tightly his magisterial medal and still kissing it. Again
    he was fired upon; he fell on one knee, dragged himself to
    the edge of a trench with stoical calmness, without a single
    groan or cry of anger or of despair! His fortitude drove the
    frenzied mob to madness, for his only words were--

    "'Finish me off, my friends,' and '_Vive la République!_ Do
    not keep me lingering on, friends; '_Vive la nation!_'

    "He made his confession of faith to the end, and they
    silenced him with blows from the butt ends of their rifles!"

What do you think of that, you Royalist gentlemen? Surely the 2nd and
3rd of September could not show you anything better than that? Wait
a bit, this is not all; and what we are about to tell, be it clearly
understood, is not written for the purpose of reviving hatred, but to
make people detest civil warfare. If I once again borrow Michelet's
words, it is not only because they are more eloquent than mine, but so
that there may be two of us to cry "Shame!" Listen, and you will see
how true are his words:--

    "One essential difference that we have noticed between the
    violence of the revolutionist and that of the fanatic,
    urged on by the fury of priests is, that the former, in
    killing, desire nothing but to be rid of their enemy; the
    latter, inspired with the feelings of ferocity of the
    times of the Inquisition, have less desire to kill than to
    cause suffering, to make the poor finite victim expiate in
    infinite misery, in protracted agony, by way of avenging
    God! To read the gentle idyllic accounts of Royalist
    writers, one might think that these insurgents were saints;
    that, in the main, they only exacted vengeance and entered
    upon reprisals when forced thereto by the cruelties of
    the Republicans. Let them tell us what were the reprisals
    which caused the people of Pontivy, on the 12th or 13th of
    March, led by a refractory curé, to murder seventeen of the
    National Guard in the public square! Were they reprisals
    which were exercised at Machecoul, for six weeks, under the
    organised authority of the Royalist Committee? One Souchu,
    a tax-gatherer, who presided, filled and emptied the town
    prisons four times. The mob had, as we have seen, at first
    killed from sheer sport out of brutal delight. Souchu put a
    stop to that, and took care that the executions should be
    long drawn-out and painful. As executioners, he specially
    preferred children, because their clumsy hands caused more
    protracted suffering. Seasoned men such as sailors and
    soldiers could not witness these deeds without indignation,
    and wanted to prevent them, so the Royalist Committee did
    its murders by night: they did not shoot any longer, but
    slaughtered their victims and then hastily covered up the
    dying with earth. According to authentic reports made at the
    Convention, 542 persons perished in one month and by what
    ghastly deaths! When they could find practically no more men
    to slay they proceeded to women. Many were Republicans and
    not sufficiently complaisant to the priests who had a spite
    against them. A frightful miracle took place: in one of the
    churches there was a tomb of some noted saint or other; they
    consulted it; a priest said mass over the tomb and laid
    hands on it. Behold, the stone moved.

    "'I can feel it rising up!' exclaimed the priest.

    "And why did it rise up? To demand a sacrifice pleasing
    to God, namely, that women should no longer be spared but
    slaughtered! Happily, indeed, the Republicans, the National
    Guard from Nantes, arrived.

    "'Alas!' the townspeople said to them, coming to them
    weeping and wringing their hands, 'you come too late! You
    can but save the walls, the town itself is exterminated!...'

    "And they pointed to the place where men had been buried
    alive. Horrified, they beheld a shrivelled hand which in
    the fearful anguish of suffocation had seized hold of and
    twisted the withered grasses...."

Is it any good to speak about Carrier after all this? What would
it serve to tell of his _bateaux à Soupapes_;[2] of his _bagnades
républicaines_; of his _mariages révolutionnaires_ [men and women
bound hands and feet together and thrown into the Loire]; of his
_déportations verticales._[3] It would only be to set crime against
crime, which would prove nothing beyond the wickedness of man. Besides,
Carrier has atoned for his crimes. I am well aware that though this
may have been enough to satisfy the requirements of justice as far as
the man himself was concerned, it has not been sufficient to satisfy
history. It was in vain for Carrier to struggle with all his might and
main against the accusation, which came upon him like a shock; in vain
for him to exclaim, with sombre eyes, outstretched arms and strident
voice, to his old colleagues, now become his judges--

"I do not understand you! You must be mad! Why blame me to-day for
doing what you gave me orders to do yesterday? In accusing me, the
Convention accuses itself.... My condemnation, look to it, is your
condemnation also; you will find yourselves caught in the same
proscription with me: if I am guilty, so is every man here ... every
one, every one, every one! down to the very bell on the president's
table!"

But all his cries were useless. And herein lies the horror of
revolutions; they reach a pitch at which the same terror that
drove them into action drives them into reaction, and in which
the guillotine, sated with drinking the blood of the accused, is
callously and indifferently willing to drink the blood of judges and
executioners! This reaction, which set in two days later, saved the
lives of André Chénier and M. Villenave, together with a hundred and
thirty-one of the Nantais, his companions.



[Footnote 1: Alas! since these lines were penned death has intervened
in the life and happiness of this poor lady, for I read in the papers
one day at Brussels, in words as cold as the steel of the Middle Ages
which used to be placed in the hands of a skeleton:--

    "Madame Bataillard, daughter of Madame Mélanie Waldor, has
    just died after a long and painful illness. The funeral will
    take place to-morrow. Any friends who may not have received
    an invitation to be present are invited to attend at the
    cemetery at eleven o'clock."


Unhappily, the notice came too late for me. Amongst all her many
friends I certainly held her in the most affectionate remembrance, and
I was denied the consolation either of seeing her before she died or of
following her to her grave. The merry child, the beautiful young girl,
the serious and intelligent wife, who should have died long after us,
since we saw her grow up, has gone before us, and we still wait here!]

[Footnote 2: TRANSLATOR'S NOTE.--Carrier compelled his victims to
embark on boats, which were then scuttled.]

[Footnote 3: TRANSLATOR'S NOTE.--See note 2.]



CHAPTER XIII


M. Villenave's house--The master's despotic rule--The savant's
coquetry--Description of the sanctuary of the man of science--I am
admitted, thanks to an autograph of _Buonaparte_--The crevice in the
wall--The eight thousand folios--The pastel by Latour--Voyages of
discovery for an Elzevir or a _Faust_--The fall of the portrait and the
death of the original


I meant to talk of M. Villenave, and behold I have been talking about
Cathelineau, Stofflet, Sauveur and Carrier. What a strange thing
imagination is! the wayward inhabitant of one's house, thought to be a
slave therein, but in reality its queen!

I left off saying that we were going to take tea at M. Villenave's
house.

Every bird makes its own nest, whether of twigs or of different kinds
of feathers; and each man makes his own home--when he possesses one at
all--indicative of his character, his temperament and his idiosyncrasy.
And so M. Villenave's house had its own characteristics, reflecting
the taste of its occupant. It was built of stones which had once been
white, but which time had coloured grey, and which were fast turning
into black. It did not open out on the road; it was a severe and
gloomy-looking house which did not lend itself to any such frivolous
doings; a wall, ten feet high, faced the street, like a kind of
outwork, ornamented at the top by a formidable fringe of jagged glass.
This wall had in it two gates, a large one and a small one. Unless
carriages wanted to enter, the large one was always kept shut, its
hinges rusty, its lock broken; the small door, next to the porter's
lodge, opened upon and gave access to the garden--a garden trodden
hard into paths without flower-borders, possessing vines without
grapes, and leafless trees that did not afford any shade. If, by any
chance, a flower pushed its way up in some corner, it was a wild flower
that had mistaken that damp enclosure for waste ground and had sprung
up there unawares--a bindweed, a daisy or a buttercup. One day the poor
flower would hear a cry of surprise and see a pretty, rosy-cheeked
child, with curly golden hair, running to it in breathless haste and
with eager feet, her eyes fixed on it, and then furtively grasp it as
carefully as though it were a butterfly; when she had picked it, she
would run with joyful surprise to her mother, crying--

"See, mamma! a flower!..."

The garden, which may have been fifteen mètres square, was bounded
on the side of the house by a pathway of paving-stones, leading to
a corridor tiled with square red bricks, a staircase at the end
completing the vista. But before you reached this staircase, you first
passed four doors. The one on the left belonged to the dining-room,
the window of which looked out upon the tidiest part of the garden; on
the right, opposite it, was a small room, not much used, where a table
and three or four old arm-chairs were left to grow damp. In several
places the wall paper was bulging out and falling off, without anybody
taking any notice of it, and was becoming pitted with green and white
damp spots. Then, on the left again, came the kitchen door, and, on
the right, the larder and pantry. This dark and damp ground-floor
was like a catacomb, and was only descended into at meal-times. The
real dwelling-rooms, where we were entertained, were on the first
floor. This floor contained a small and a large drawing-room, and the
bedrooms belonging to Madame Villenave and Madame Waldor. We will
leave the small drawing-room and the two bedrooms and give our whole
attention to the large salon, which, after the attics (let us hasten
to mention these here, before we have the right of entering them),
was the strangest room in the house. Its shape was a long rectangle,
having, at each of its angles, a console table supporting a bust.
One of these busts was that of the master of the house. Between the
two busts, at the bottom end, on a marble-topped table opposite the
fireplace, was the most important piece of art and archæology in the
room: this was the bronze urn that had once contained the heart of
Bayard. A little bas-relief encircled the urn depicting the "chevalier
_sans peur et sans reproche_" leaning against a tree and kissing his
sword handle. Next came four large pictures--three of them portraits
and the fourth a landscape. Let us begin with the landscape--honour to
whom honour is due--the landscape was by Claude Lorraine. One of the
portraits represented Anne Boleyn and was signed by Holbein. I forget
by whom the two other paintings were: one was of Madame de Montespan
and the other either Madame de Sévigné or de Grignan, I am not sure
which. The walls were covered with one of those indefinite papers that
leave no impression on the memory; the furniture was upholstered in
Utrecht velvet; large couches with thin white arms, like the arms of
a hunchback, invited friends of the family to be comfortable; while
there were chairs and arm-chairs for more formal visitors. That storey
had both its king and its vice-queen: the king was M. Villenave, the
vice-queen was Madame Waldor. We purposely say "vice-queen," because
immediately M. Villenave entered his salon he became the master of it,
the king--more than king, the despot! M. Villenave was inclined to be
tyrannical in character, and exercised this tyranny over strangers as
well as over his own family. Like those petty princes of Italy whose
principles people are obliged to adopt as soon as they have crossed the
borders of their limited territories, so with M. Villenave, when you
had stepped across the threshold of his salon, he would not allow you
to hold a different opinion from his own on any subject. You became
part of the being of the man, who had seen everything and studied
everything, and, in fact, knew everything. Although this tyrannical
spirit was tempered by the courtesy appertaining to the master of
the house, it none the less had a depressing effect on the company
generally. Although in the presence of M. Villenave the conversation
was, as they used to express it, _bien menée_--i.e. skilfully
managed--yet it was always less amusing, more fettered and less
brilliant than when he was not present. It was just like the difference
between a minuet and the game of puss-in-the-corner. It was exactly
the reverse at Nodier's social evenings: Nodier liked people to make
themselves as much at home as he was.

This recalls to my mind that I have not mentioned Nodier since I
described him as helping me to gain entrance to the Théâtre-Français.
Excellent and beloved Nodier!--one of my dearest friends! He shall not
lose, you may be sure, by the postponement.

Happily, M. Villenave very rarely appeared in the salon, except on the
Athénée nights. He spent the rest of his time on the second floor,
only appearing among his family for dinner; then, after a few minutes'
chat, after lecturing his son and scolding his wife, he would stretch
himself out in an armchair, have his curls attended to by his daughter
and return to his own apartments. The quarter of an hour during which
the teeth of the comb gently scratched his head was the happiest time
of the day to M. Villenave, the only rest he allowed himself from his
unending absorption in scribbling.

"But why did he curl his hair?" someone asks.

That was the question I myself put.

Madame Waldor declared that it was purely an excuse for having his
head scratched. M. Villenave must have been a parrot in one of
the metamorphoses that preceded his life as a human being. Madame
Villenave, who had known her husband longer than her daughter had,
and who therefore could claim to know him better, averred that it was
from vanity. And, indeed, M. Villenave, who was a good-looking old
man, must have been splendidly handsome as a young man. His strongly
marked features were wonderfully set off in their frame of flowing
white hair, which showed up the fiery light of his fine black eyes.
In fact, although M. Villenave was a learned man, he was also vain--a
combination of virtue and fault rarely found together--but he was
only vain about his head. As for the rest of his appearance, with the
exception of his cravat, which was invariably white, he left it to
his tailor and his bootmaker, or rather, to his daughter's care, who
looked after these matters for her father. Whether his coat were blue
or black, his trousers wide or narrow, the toes of his boots round or
square, so long as M. Villenave's hair was well dressed, it was all
he cared about. We have mentioned that when his daughter had combed
and curled his locks, M. Villenave went upstairs to his own rooms--or
_home>_ as the English say. Good gracious! what a curious place it was,
too!

Follow me, reader, if these minute details after the fashion of Balzac
amuse you, and if you believe nature takes as much pains over the
making of a hyssop as over the making of a cedar-tree. Besides, we may
perhaps be able to unearth some curious anecdote from out the medley,
concerning a charming pastel by Latour. But we have not got there yet;
we shall come to it in the end, just as at last we have come to M.
Villenave's sanctum.

We have divided up the ground floor into dining-room, kitchen, pantry;
and on the first floor into the small and large salons and the
bedrooms; there was nothing like that on the second floor. The second
floor had five rooms, five rooms full of nothing else but books and
boxes. These five rooms must have contained forty thousand volumes and
four thousand boxes, piled up on the floor and on tables. The anteroom
alone was a vast library. It had two entrances: that on the right led
to M. Villenave's bedroom--a chamber to which we shall return. That on
the left opened into a large room, which, in its turn, led into a much
smaller one. These two rooms, be it understood, were nothing but two
libraries. The four walls of them were tapestried with books upheld on
a substratum of boxes. This was odd enough in itself, as will readily
be imagined, but it was not the most original thing that caught one's
notice. The most ingenious arrangement was a square construction which
stood in the middle of the room like an enormous block and formed a
second library within the first, leaving only space for a pathway
round the room, bordered with books on left and right, just wide
enough to allow a single person to move freely; a second person would
have blocked the traffic. Moreover, only M. Villenave's most intimate
friends ever presumed to be allowed the privilege of admission to this
_sanctum sanctorum._ The substratum of boxes contained autographs.
The age of Louis XIV. alone needed five hundred boxes! Herein were
contained the result of fifty years of daily labour, concentrated on
this one object; hour after hour taken up by this one passion. It was,
in a word, the gentle and ardent passion of a born collector, into
which he put his mind and happiness and joy and life!

There were to be found a portion of the papers of Louis XVI.,
discovered in the iron chest; there was the correspondence of
Malesherbes, two hundred autographs of Rousseau, and four hundred of
Voltaire together with autographs of all the kings of France, from
Charlemagne down to our own time; there were drawings by Raphael and
Jules Romain, by Leonardo da Vinci, Andrea del Sarto, Lebrun, Lesueur,
Greuze, Vanloo, Watteau, Boucher, Vien, David, Girodet, etc.

M. Villenave would not have parted with the contents of those two rooms
for a hundred thousand crowns.

I There now only remain the bedroom and the black cabinet behind M.
Villenave's alcove, which was reached by a corridor, about which
we shall have occasion to say a few words. Only those who saw that
bedroom, wherein the bed was the least conspicuous piece of furniture,
can conceive any idea of what the bedroom of a bibliomaniac is like.
It was in this room that M. Villenave received his friends. After
four or five months' intimacy in the household, I had the honour of
being received in it. An old servant, called, I believe, Françoise,
conducted me to it. I had promised M. Villenave an autograph--not that
of Napoleon, of which he possessed five or six, or that of Bonaparte,
of which he had three or four--but one of _Buonaparte._

He had given orders that I was to be shown upstairs as soon as I
arrived.

Françoise half opened the door.

"M. Dumas is here," she said.

Generally, when anyone was announced, even were he an intimate friend
who had come unexpectedly, M. Villenave would utter a loud cry, scold
Françoise and fling up his arms in despair; then, finally, when he had
indulged his fit of despair, and moaned and sighed his fill, he would
say--

"Very well, Françoise, as he is there, show him in."

Then the intruder would be let in.

My reception was quite otherwise. M. Villenave had hardly caught my
name before he exclaimed--

"Show him in! show him in!"

In I went.

"Ah! here you are," he said. "Well, I wager you have not been able to
find it!"

"What?"

"That famous autograph you promised me yesterday."

"Yes, indeed ... I have found it."

"And have you brought it?"

"To be sure I have!..."

"Really?"

"Here it is!"

"Quick, let me see it!"

I handed it to him. M. Villenave rushed up to the window.

"Yes, it is genuine," he said; "there is the _u_!... Oh! there is his
very own _u_, there is no doubt about it. Let us see: '29 vendémiaire,
year IV,' that is it!... Stop, stop!" He went to a box. "See, here is
one of _frimaire_ in the same year, signed 'Bonaparte, 12 frimaire';
so it must have been between 29 vendémiaire and 12 frimaire that he
dropped his _u_; this determines a great historic question!"

While this monologue was being carried on, I had been glancing round
the bedchamber thoroughly, and I had noticed that the only piece of
furniture that was not encumbered with books was the arm-chair from
which he had just risen. After M. Villenave had carefully examined the
autograph, he put it into a white wrapper, wrote on the wrapper, placed
it in a box, put the box in its place and flung himself back into his
arm-chair, with a sigh of joy.

"Ah! now, sit down," he said.

"I should like nothing better," I replied; "but what do you mean me to
sit on?"

"Why, on the couch."

"Oh yes, on the couch!"

"What about it?"

"Well, just look at the couch for yourself."

"Upon my word, you are right; it is full of books. Never mind, pull up
an arm-chair."

"With great pleasure. But the arm-chairs ...?"

"The arm-chairs?"

"Are littered just like the couch."

"Ah! I have so many books.... Have you noticed the great crack in the
walls of the house?"

"No."

"It is visible enough, nevertheless.... Well, my dear monsieur, it is
the books! The books are pulling down the house."

"The books? How?"

"Yes, twelve hundred folios, monsieur, twelve hundred splendid and rare
folios; I even believe there are quite unknown ones among them, so rare
are they! I put all those in the garret and I was intending to put more
there, for there was room for another twelve hundred; when, suddenly,
the house trembled, uttered a groan and cracked."

"Why, you must have thought it was an earthquake?"

"Exactly!... but when we found the damage was limited we sent for an
architect. The architect examined the house from the cellar to the
second floor and declared that the accident could only have been caused
by too heavy a weight. And, consequently, he asked to be allowed to
look at the attics. Alas! this was what I dreaded. Oh! if it had only
been a question of myself, I would never have given him the key; but
one has to sacrifice oneself for the general good.... He visited the
attics, discovered the folios, reckoned that the weight must come to
eight thousand pounds, and declared that they must be sold or he would
not answer for the consequences.... And they were sold, monsieur!"

"At a loss?"

"No.... Alas! I made a profit of five or six thousand francs on
them, because, you know, books increase in value from having been in
the possession of a bibliophile; but the poor folios were lost to
me--hounded from beneath the roof that had sheltered them.... I shall
never come across such a collection again. But pray take a chair."

The chairs were in a similar condition to the easy-chairs and
couches--not one was unoccupied. I decided to change the conversation.

"Oh!" I said to M. Villenave, approaching towards his recess, at the
back of which an open door leading to the corridor permitted me to see
what was there. "Oh! monsieur, what a beautiful pastel you have down
there!"

"Yes, yes," replied M. Villenave, with that old-fashioned courtly air
that I have only met with in two or three old men who were as vain as
he. "Yes, that is the portrait of an old friend of mine--I say old,
because I am no longer young, and she, if I remember correctly, was
five or six years older than I. We became acquainted in the year 1784;
you see that is not yesterday. We have not seen each other again since
1802, but that has not prevented us from writing to one another every
week, or from looking forward to the weekly letters with exactly the
same pleasure.... Yes, you are right, the pastel is charming, but
if you had known the original you would have thought her still more
charming!"

And a sweet reflection of youth, like a ray of sunlight, passed over
the handsome face of the old man, making it look forty years younger.

Alas! I only entered that sacred tabernacle of the intellect twice: I
have described what happened on my first visit, and I will immediately
tell what happened at the second. But I ought previously to answer the
question as to how M. Villenave managed to collect all these valuable
treasures since he had not a large fortune. It was by patience and
perseverance, as la Fontaine would say. This collection had been
the work of his whole life. Just as Ghiberti began the gates of the
Baptistery at Florence when he was a young man and finished them as
an old one, so M. Villenave had given up fifty years to this task.
He never burnt a single paper or destroyed a letter. I wrote two or
three times to M. Villenave to ask for information; well, my unworthy
epistles were put into their wrappers, classified and labelled. Why
was I thus honoured? Who can tell? Perhaps he thought even I might
some day become a great celebrity. It will readily be imagined that,
if he preserved such letters as mine, he would religiously preserve
other things. Notices of meetings of learned societies, invitations to
marriage ceremonies, funeral cards, all were kept, classified and put
in their place. I cannot say what M. Villenave's collection did _not_
contain; I saw amongst it a collection of half-burnt volumes which had
been snatched out of the fire of the Bastille on 14 July.

M. Villenave employed two aides-de-camp, or, rather, bloodhounds: one
named Fontaine, himself the author of a book called the _Manuel des
Autographes_; the other an employé in the War Office. Twice a week they
went a hunting; they rummaged the shops of the grocers, who, accustomed
to these visits, would put aside all the papers that they thought might
be rare or curiosities. From amongst these papers the two visitors
would make a selection, paying the grocers fifteen sous a pound, M.
Villenave paying them at the rate of thirty sous. There also were what
might be described as royal hunting-days; on these days M. Villenave
hunted in person; every grocer in Paris knew him, and came up to him
with his hands full of papers, far more precious to him than roses and
lilies.

The reader should have seen M. Villenave when he sallied forth to take
his leisure, or, rather, when he went out to accomplish the principal
work of his life. He was no vain, becurled dandy on these days, neither
did he wear the white cravat or the blue coat with gold buttons; no,
he did not wish to look too well-to-do in the presence of the old
second-hand booksellers amongst whom he was going to glean; on these
days he wore a rather dirty old hat, a black cravat cut away by his
beard and an unbrushed coat. Then the indefatigable bibliomaniac
proceeded along the quays. Here, with both hands in his trousers'
pockets, his big body bent down, his fine intelligent head lit up with
desire, he would send his piercing glances right into the depths of the
assemblage of wares, looking incessantly for some unknown treasure, a
text of _Faust_ or an Elzevir. Sometimes the hunter would return home
empty-handed; then he would be sullen, and silent at dinner, and would
grumble that his daughter was pulling his hair while she was curling
it; after this he would pick up his candlestick and go upstairs to
his room without wishing anyone good-night. On the other hand, if a
hunting-day proved to be productive, and M. Villenave returned with
a precious volume or a scarce edition, then he would come in with
his face radiant with smiles; he would toss Élisa up and down in his
arms; he would joke with his son, kiss his daughter, pay his wife
compliments on the dinner; and, when dinner was over, he would thank
his hairdresser, purring like a contented cat. M. Villenave had but
one cause for disquiet: where was the fresh acquisition to be put? The
books were squeezed into their shelves so tightly that you could not
get a paper knife in between. He would walk from one side to another,
turning round, tacking, complaining, lifting up his long arms to the
heavens in despair, finally deciding to put the book on a couch or on
one of the arm-chairs or chairs, saying with a sigh--

"We must find a place for it later."

That place would never be found, and the book would remain on the
couch, the arm-chair or the chair, where it had been placed, a fresh
obstacle in the way of any visitor who had to find a seat.

I was too well aware of M. Villenave's dislike to be disturbed, to
have ventured on a second visit to his sanctum, until, when recasting
_Christine_ afresh, I wished to consult the autograph writing of the
daughter of Gustavus-Adolphus; I wanted to acquaint myself with
certain oddities in her character that might possibly, I thought, be
reflected in her writing. So I made up my mind to venture to disturb
M. Villenave in those intellectual regions wherein he soared far above
common humanity. It was in the month of March 1829, about five o'clock
in the afternoon, when I rang the bell and the gate was opened. I asked
for M. Villenave and was shown in. I had not gone many steps towards
the house before Françoise called me back.

"Monsieur!" she said, "monsieur!"

"What is it, Françoise?"

"Does Monsieur want to go up to M. Villenave's rooms?"

"Yes, Françoise."

"I thought Monsieur was visiting the ladies as usual."

"You are wrong, Françoise."

"Then Monsieur will be good enough to spare my poor legs going up two
flights of stairs and give M. Villenave this letter for him that has
just come."

"Willingly, Françoise."

Françoise gave me the letter, and I took it and went upstairs. I
knocked when I reached the door, but there was no answer. I knocked a
little louder. Again no answer. I began to feel uncomfortable; the key
was in the door, and the presence of that key invariably indicated the
presence of M. Villenave in his room. Surely some accident must have
happened to him. I knocked a third time, meaning to enter if I was
not answered. There was no response, and I entered. M. Villenave was
asleep in his arm-chair. The noise I made in entering and, perhaps,
the draught that I caused, disturbed some magnetic influences, and M.
Villenave uttered a cry, awoke and jumped up.

"Ah! pardon me," I exclaimed. "I beg a thousand pardons! I have
disturbed you."

"Who are you? What is your business?" asked M. Villenave quickly.

"Why, upon my word, do you not recognise me?... Alexandre Dumas."

"Oh!" said M. Villenave, with a gasp.

"Really, monsieur," I said, "I am very sorry. I will withdraw."

"No, no; on the contrary, come in," said M. Villenave, as he passed his
hand across his forehead; "you will render me a service."

I went in.

"Take a seat," he said, from customary habit.

Eight or ten folios lay tossed about on the floor; I formed a pile of
them and sat down on the top.

"Yes," continued M. Villenave, "it was a very singular thing.... I fell
asleep, the dusk came on and, in the meantime, my fire went out. You
awoke me and found me in the dark, so I could not account for the noise
inside my room; it was, no doubt, the draught from the passage that
touched my face, but, in waking, I seemed to see something white, like
a shroud, dancing before my eyes.... Curious, was it not?" went on M.
Villenave, with a shiver, as though he felt cold through and through.
"But here you are, so much the better!" And he held out his hand to me.

I responded to his courtesy, transferring to my left hand the letter I
had brought him in my right.

"What have you there?" asked M. Villenave.

"Ah! pardon, I was forgetting ... it is a letter which Françoise gave
me for you and that is the reason I disturbed you."

"Thanks ... Stop a minute, would you please feel about for a match? I
am really quite bewildered still, and if I were superstitious I should
believe I had had a presentiment."

He took the match I held out to him and lit it in the red embers on the
hearth. Directly the match caught fire, we could distinguish objects in
the room by its flickering light, faint though it was.

"Oh! good gracious!" I exclaimed suddenly, "what has happened to your
beautiful pastel?"

"As you see, the glass and the frame are broken; I am waiting to
send it to the glazier's and picture-framer's ... it was a most
incomprehensible thing!"

"What was?"

"The way it fell."

"Did the nail come out, or the ring break?"

"Neither the one nor the other. The day before yesterday I was working
all evening; when it reached a quarter to twelve, I was tired, but I
still had to correct a proof of a handy little edition of my _Ovid._
I decided to combine rest and work by going to bed and correcting the
proofs when I was in bed. So I lay down: I put my candle on the table
by the bedside, and the light from it shone on the portrait of my poor
friend; my glance followed the candlelight and I said good-night to the
picture as usual.... A half-open window let in a little breeze which
blew the flame of my candle about so that it seemed to me as though
the portrait returned my good-night by bending its head as I had done!
You will understand that I looked upon this movement as visionary and
foolish; but, whether folly or a vision, my mind persisted in dwelling
upon the movement, and the more I pondered over it, the more real the
incident seemed; my eyes would stray from my _Ovid_, and fix themselves
on that one point, the picture; my wandering thoughts would fly back,
in spite of myself, to the days of my youth; and these early days
passed before me one by one.... Ah me! I think I have told you that the
original of that pastel occupied a good deal of my attention in those
early days! So there I was, going at full tilt over old recollections
of twenty-five years back; I addressed the copy as though the original
could hear me, and my memory answered for her; it seemed as though
the lips in the pastel moved; I thought the colours of the painting
began to fade, and the expression on the face grew sad and unhappy....
Something like a smile of farewell passed over her lips; a tear came
into her eyes ready to moisten the glass. Midnight began to strike;
and, in spite of myself, I shivered--why, I could not tell! The wind
blew, and, at the last stroke of midnight, while the clock was still
vibrating, the half-open window opened wide violently, I heard a sigh
like a groan, the eyes of the portrait closed, and the picture fell
without either the nail that held it or the cord being broken; and my
candle went out. I tried to light it again, but there was no fire in
the grate, there were no matches on the chimneypiece; it was midnight,
everybody in the house was asleep; so there was no way of obtaining a
light. I shut my window again and I went back to bed.... Although I
was not afraid, I felt much moved, I was sad, I had a great desire to
weep; I thought I heard something pass through my room like the rustle
of a silk dress.... I heard this noise three times so distinctly that I
asked, 'Is there anyone there?' Finally, I fell asleep, very late, and
the first thing I looked at when I woke again was my poor pastel, which
I found in the state in which you now see it."

"That is indeed a strange story!" I said. "And have you received your
weekly letter as usual?"

"No, and that is what makes me uneasy; that is why I gave Françoise
orders to bring or send up any letters that might come for me the
moment they arrive."

"Well," said I, "perhaps the one I have just brought you...."

"That is not her style of folding:--still, never mind, as it comes from
Angers...."

Then, turning it over to break the envelope he exclaimed, "Ah! my God!
it is sealed in black! Poor soul, some misfortune has befallen her!"

And M. Villenave grew pale as he unsealed the letter; it enclosed a
second one.

His eyes filled with tears as he read the first lines of the first
letter.

"Look," he said, and he held it out to me, "read it"; and, while he
silently and sadly opened the second letter, I took the first and
read:--

    "MONSIEUR,--It is with personal grief, increased by
    realising what you too will feel, that I have to inform you
    that Madame---died on Sunday last, at the last stroke of
    midnight. The day before, while she was writing to you, she
    was seized by an indisposition which we thought at first
    was only slight, but it grew worse, until she died. I have
    the sad duty of sending to you the letter she had begun to
    write to you, unfinished as it is. This letter will assure
    you that her affection for you remained unchanged to the end.

    "I remain, Monsieur, in great grief, as you will readily
    believe, your very humble and very obedient servant,

                                             "THÉRÈSE MIRAUD"

"So you see," resumed M. Villenave, "it was at the last stroke of
midnight that the portrait fell, and it was at the last stroke of
midnight that she died."

I felt that his grief needed a solitude peopled only by past
recollections and uninterrupted by any poor attempts I could offer at
consolation. I picked up my hat, pressed his hand and left.

This incident recalled to me the apparition of my father, on the very
night of his death, which woke me up when I was a little child, and I
put to myself the question that is so often asked and never answered,
"What are the mysterious bonds which bind the dead to the living?"
Later, when I lost my mother, whom I loved more than anyone else in the
world, and who, on her side, loved me beyond all telling, I remembered
these two visions and, kneeling down by the bed on which she had just
expired, with my lips on her hand, I implored her, if anything of
her had survived, to appear to me just once again; then, when night
came, I lay down in a lonely room and waited with a beating heart,
hoping to see the beloved vision. I counted in vain nearly all the
hours of that night, and not the slightest sound or apparition came to
solace my sorrowful watch. After that, I doubted all such experiences,
whether my own or others'; for my mother's love for me, and mine for
her, were so great that I knew if she had been able to rise once more
from her resting-place to bid me a last farewell she would surely
have done it. But perhaps it is only children and old people who are
privileged--children because they are nearer the cradle, old people
because they are nearer the grave.



CHAPTER XIV


First representation of Soulié's _Roméo et Juliette_--Anaïs and
Lockroy--Why French actresses cannot act Juliet--The studies of the
Conservatoire--A second _Christine_ at the Théâtre-Français--M.
Évariste Dumoulin and Madame Valmonzey--Conspiracy against me--I give
up my turn to have my play produced--How I found the subject of _Henri
III._--My opinion of that play


Meantime, we had reached the beginning of June 1828, and I was informed
by Soulié that the Odéon had accepted his _Roméo_, were rehearsing
it and were nearly ready to perform it. We had not seen each other
since the night when we had agreed each to write our own version of
_Christine._ But he had not forgotten me, and I received two gallery
stall tickets for the first night. As my mother had often heard me talk
of Soulié, and as she knew that Soulié was one of my friends, it was
by way of preparing her for the first representation of my work that
I took her to see the first representation of Soulié's. Poor mother!
It was a great treat to her to go out with me. Alas! I had neglected
her sadly for months past. We become so accustomed to those guardian
angels, our mothers, that we never dream, as we leave them to pursue
all the foolish fancies of youth, that a moment will come--a terrible
and unanticipated moment--when they, in their turn, will leave us! Then
only do we recollect, with tears in our eyes and remorse at our hearts,
those many thoughtless and cruel absences and we exclaim, "Good God!
why did I so often leave her for this and that, now to be separated
from her by you for ever?"

We made our way to the Odéon. A first representation was a great
affair in those days--especially when the play to be acted for the
first time was by a man belonging to the new school. Nevertheless,
this play of Soulié was not epoch-making: had it been produced before
the visit of the English company to Paris, it would have been looked
upon as extremely advanced, but, coming after their representations,
it was by no means up to date. There was no fear, indeed, of its
being an out-and-out failure, but there was no chance, either, of its
being a grand success. Observe, too, that it was to be played on the
same stage, and, probably, with the same _mise-en-scène_ that had
accompanied Kemble's and Miss Smithson's acting of Shakespeare's _chef
d'œuvre._ Anaïs and Lockroy were entrusted with the principal parts. It
was almost Lockroy's first appearance. He was handsome, young, romantic
and daring--an actor of whom great things were expected, especially
in this particular kind of rôle. But it was otherwise with regard to
Anaïs. In comedy she was admirable and delightful, unfailing in taste,
in wit, in delicacy of style and of interpretation; but in drama and
tragedy she was entirely inadequate. And she was to appear on those
same boards, before that same audience, in the same part of Juliet
which Miss Smithson had presented with wonderful skill, and with all
the qualities that go to the making of a great tragedienne! Besides,
there was not a single woman in Paris in those days who could act
Juliet, nor, we may add, have we anyone who could do it now. What is
the reason for our lack of that charming type, the woman who combines
gaiety of spirit with dramatic and poetic faculties? Why have we never
produced, and probably never shall until some far distant future,
anyone who will recall to both eyes and memory the personalities of
Miss Smithson and Miss Faucett? Why was Mademoiselle Mars unequal to
the part of Desdemona, and Madame Dorval herself unequal to Juliet?
Because the dramatic education of our actresses is only conducted on
the lines of three masters, without doubt of great merit, but whose
genius does not include, as Shakespeare's did, that happy mixture of
natural, dramatic and poetic expression to be found in most of the
works of the English poet. Moreover, at the Conservatoire, pupils are
only prepared for a single branch of the art, either tragedy or comedy,
never for tragedy and comedy combined. Why, again? Because in the
masters studied--Molière, Corneille and Racine--these two styles are
never found intermingled. It is a fatal mistake to exclude comedy from
the education of the tragedienne, and tragedy from the training of the
comedienne; it makes the tragedienne heavy in comedy, the comedienne
affected in tragedy. Our seventeenth and eighteenth century theatres
knew nothing beyond the realism of Molière's women, the boorishness of
Corneille's women; the rage or the gentleness of the women of Racine;
the Agnès and Célimène of Molière; Corneille's Émilie and Rodogune;
Racine's Hermione and Aricie. You will search in vain among them all
for anything which resembles the nurse, balcony and tomb scenes, all
of which centre round the single character of Juliet. To attain to the
standard of the English actors it would be necessary either not to be
trained at the Conservatoire--which I, for one, should look upon as a
distinct advantage--or that the Conservatoire should allow, combined
with the study of the French masters, the study of foreign masters
or contemporary authors, whose dramatic works contain the threefold
elements of nature, dramatic art and poetic feeling. It would be a very
simple matter to arrange; it would, I am quite well aware, annoy MM.
Samson and Provost; but what would it matter to an intelligent Minister
of the Interior to meet opposition of that kind? It would, of course,
rouse MM. Viennet, Lebrun and Jouy; but M. Viennet is no longer a
member of the Chamber of Deputies, and M. Lebrun is no longer a member
of the Chamber of Peers; M. Jouy no longer belongs to the editorial
staff of the _Constitutionnel_; so what would their remonstrances
matter to a Minister of the Interior who does not care whether he
belong to the Academy or not? At first blush it would seem to be very
easy indeed to discover a clear-headed Minister of the Interior who
thinks lightly of belonging to the Academy; ah, well! we are mistaken.
We have been trying to find such a man for the last thirty years! We
have seen two revolutions without finding such a minister, and we may
have to live through two more revolutions before he appears. I have no
desire to see two other revolutions before I die, but I should much
like to find the minister.

The upshot of all this is that Anaïs, although a charming comedienne
(she was probably trained at the Conservatoire), made an inadequate
Juliette; and Lockroy, who had studied his part from Kemble and
Macready and, above all, had thought about it himself, did marvels
in the part of Romeo. One of these marvellous things was a stroke of
genius. When he sees Juliette rise from her tomb and walk, he retreats
backward, keeping his eyes fixed on her, for fear lest she whom he
takes for a ghost should vanish, and feels in the funeral couch she
has just left, refraining from uttering his cry of joy until he has
assured himself that the bed is empty. The play obtained the literary
success it deserved--a success that culminated in the last act, which
was almost entirely borrowed from Shakespeare.

I do not think I ever felt so much moved at any of my own
representations as I was at this representation of Soulié; I never
suffered more than during these first four acts, when I felt that the
piece dragged along lifeless and dull, realising that this dulness and
lack of life arose from the _excessive good taste_ of the poet, who had
thought it necessary to improve on Shakespeare. However, it was quite
original enough to satisfy the public, and the public was content; but
I am very sure that Soulié himself was not.

Meanwhile, the influence of Picard's criticism on _Christine_ was
making itself felt at the Comédie-Française. Mademoiselle Mars, who
was at first fired with enthusiasm over the part of Christine, cooled
in her study of it; for, incomplete as it then was, she felt it
beneath her powers; Firmin, inspired comedian though he was, lacked a
sense of composition and was beginning to feel uneasy over the part
of Monaldeschi; finally, Ligier, who was to have acted the part of
Sentinelli, left the Comédie-Française and went to the Odéon. Something
still more serious had happened. The Committee of the Théâtre-Français
had received a second play entitled _Christine._

This second _Christine_ had been written by a M. Brault, formerly
a prefect and a friend of M. Decazes, who supported him with all
his might. The principal rôle in this new tragedy, namely, that of
Christine, had been deputed to Madame Valmonzey. In case you do
not know anything about Madame Valmonzey, I will tell you who she
was. Madame Valmonzey was not a good actress, but she was a very
good-looking woman, the mistress of M. Évariste Dumoulin, editor of
the _Constitutionnel._ It may, perhaps, be asked why I mention this
fact. I reply that it is because I must. Heaven forbid I should rake
up a scandal needlessly and needlessly speak ill of the dead; but I
am writing the history of art and the history of literature and the
history of the theatre, and in order that this history may be history
the truth must be told.

This was what happened on the receipt of a second _Christine_ at the
Théâtre-Français and in consequence of the amours of M. Évariste
Dumoulin and Madame Valmonzey. M. Évariste Dumoulin let it be known
that if they did not perform the play of his friend M. Brault before
that of M. Alexandre Dumas he would ruin the Théâtre-Français by
means of his journal. This declaration of war greatly frightened the
Théâtre-Français; nevertheless, as it was a serious and unprecedented
thing that M. Évariste Dumoulin demanded of the Committee, they replied
that they were quite ready to play M. Brault's _Christine_, but that,
in order to do so, my consent to cede my turn to him would first have
to be obtained. M. Brault, moreover, was ill of an incurable disease,
from which he died some time after, and it would be a comfort to
the poor dying man to see his play acted before he died. This was
the way the request was put to me by his son, in a most polite and
affable letter, and by the Duc de Decazes in the most friendly terms,
making me also offers of help. On their side, the Comedians of the
Théâtre-Français guaranteed, after a Committee meeting, to play my
piece after they had performed M. Brault's, upon the first request I
should make them to do so.

I have always been easily moved by appeals of this kind. But this
postponement was a serious matter to my mother and to me, for we were
literally looking to the production of this play for the wherewithal to
live. The bonuses of which I had told my mother had been distributed,
but my share was fifty francs less than those my fellow-clerks
received--a warning that I must behave myself better. Furthermore, I
was under M. Deviolaine, who had predicted that my piece would never
be played, and who pretty well leapt for joy when he saw that his
prophecy was likely to be fulfilled. Finally, this promise to play my
piece as soon as I should ask for it was illusory, for after the first
_Christine_ had been performed I could hardly ask the Comedians to play
a second until at least a year had passed by. But, as a matter of fact,
I could not do anything save yield, for I was surrounded on all sides
by solicitations, even among the Villenave family, and besides, my own
instinct fell into line with these solicitations. So I gave way and
yielded place to M. Brault.

No reward attended my sacrifice. The very next day, the papers
announced that the Committee of the Théâtre-Français, having discerned
more chances in M. Brault's play than in mine, had decided that M.
Brault's piece should be performed, while mine was to be indefinitely
postponed. I could have objected publicly, produced the letter of
M. Brault's son and revealed the engagement entered into by the
Comédie-Française. I did nothing of the kind, and from that day to
this, I have never taken any notice of the petty intrigues of the
papers; I can boast with pride, and without fear of contradiction,
that I have never soiled my hands either to gain my own ends or to
injure other people. Of course, neither M. Brault, the poor dying poet,
nor his son, nor M. Decazes, had any hand in all these intriguing
announcements. I even believe that M. Brault's son had the decency to
write and tell the true version of the facts, and to thank me publicly,
as he had thanked me privately. But although I treated these hardships
with disdain, they had their annoyances. My mother never read the
papers, but the Deviolaine family read them, and everybody in the
offices read them, and charitable souls took care to say to my mother--

"Upon my word, your son is getting himself talked about!"

"What about?" my mother would ask, trembling with fright.

And then they hastened to inform her, and saddened her poor heart, for
I was her all in all, and she was far more anxious about me than I was
about myself.

The rehearsals of M. Brault's _Christine_ were pushed on as fast as
mine had been delayed--though everybody knows what rapidity means at
the Théâtre-Français; M. Brault had ample time in which to die before
the representation of his play, which had only an indifferent success.
As to Madame Valmonzey, she did not even achieve any success. All the
same, my piece was delayed indefinitely.

Soulié had finished his _Christine_ and got it accepted at the Odéon,
with Mademoiselle Georges and Ligier to play the principal parts. And
what was happening to me all this time?...

One of those chances which fate deals out only to those marked out
by destiny gave me the subject of _Henri III._ by just such another
accident as had led me to _Christine._ The only cupboard I had in my
office--the office, it will be remembered, that I ardently coveted--I
had to share with Féresse: I put my paper in it, he put his bottles
there. One day, whether by inadvertence or to play a trick on me,
or to show his superior rights over mine, he took away the key of
this cupboard when going an errand. During his absence I used up all
the paper lying about in my office, and, as I still had three or
four reports to copy out, I went to get some more paper. A volume of
Anquetil lay open, on a desk: I mechanically cast my eyes on it, and at
page 95 I read the following lines:--

    "Although attached to the king, and by rank an enemy of the
    Duc de Guise, Saint-Mégrin was none the less in love with
    the duchess, Catherine de Clèves, and it was said that she
    returned his love. The author of this anecdote gives us to
    understand that the husband was indifferent on the subject
    of his wife's actual or supposed infidelity. He opposed the
    entreaties of his relations that he should avenge himself,
    and only punished the indiscretion or the crime of the
    duchess by a joke. One day he entered her room early in the
    morning, holding a potion in one hand and a dagger in the
    other; after rudely awaking his wife and reproaching her, he
    said in tones of fury--

    "Decide, madame, whether to die by dagger or poison!'

    "In vain did she ask his forgiveness; he compelled her to
    make her choice. She drank the concoction and flung herself
    on her knees, recommending her soul to God and expecting
    nothing short of death. She spent an hour in fear; and then
    the duke came back with a serene countenance, and told her
    that what she had taken for poison was an excellent soup.
    Doubtless this lesson made her more circumspect afterwards."

I gained access to the _Biographie_; the _Biographie_ referred me to
the _Mémoires de l'Estoile._ I did not know what the _Mémoires de
l'Estoile_ were; I asked M. Villenave, who lent me them. The _Mémoires
de l'Estoile_, volume i. page 35, contain these lines--:

    "Saint-Mégrin, a young gentleman of Bordeaux, handsome,
    wealthy and good-hearted, was one of the curled darlings
    kept by the king. One night when coming away, at eleven
    o'clock, from the Louvre, where the king was, in the rue
    du Louvre, near the rue Saint-Honoré, he was set upon by
    some twenty to thirty unknown men, with pistols, swords and
    cutlasses, who left him on the pavement for dead; he died,
    indeed, the next day, and it was a wonder how he could
    have lived so long, for he had received thirty-four or
    thirty-five mortal wounds. The king ordered his dead body to
    be carried to Boisy, near the Bastille, where Quélus, his
    companion, had died, and buried at Saint-Paul with as much
    pomp and solemnity as his companions Maugiron and Quélus
    had been buried there before him. No inquiries were made
    concerning the assassination, His Majesty having been warned
    that it had been done through the instrumentality of the Duc
    de Guise, because of the reports of intimacy between the
    young mignon and the duke's wife, and that the blow had been
    dealt by one who bore the beard and features of his brother
    the Duc du Maine. When the King of Navarre heard the news,
    he said--

    "'I am glad to hear that my cousin the Duc de Guise has not
    suffered himself to be cuckolded by a _mignon de couchette_
    such as Saint-Mégrin; I wish all the other gilded youths
    about court who hang round the princesses ogling them and
    making love to them could receive the same treatment'...."

Farther on, in the _Mémoires de l'Estoile_, came this passage,
concerning the death of Bussy d'Amboise:--

    "On Wednesday, 19 August, Bussy d'Amboise, first
    gentle-man-in-waiting of M. le Duc, Governor of Anjou,
    Abbé de Bourgueil, who assumed very high and mighty airs,
    because of the partiality of his master, and who had done
    all kinds of evil deeds and robbed the countries of Anjou
    and Maine, was slain by the Seigneur de Monsoreau, together
    with the wicked lieutenant of Saumur, in a house belonging
    to the said Seigneur de Monsoreau, where, at night, the said
    lieutenant, who was his love messenger, had brought him to
    sleep that night with the wife of the said Monsoreau, to
    whom Bussy had for a long time made love; with whom the said
    lady had purposely made this false assignation in order
    to have him surprised by her husband, Monsoreau; when he
    appeared towards midnight, he was immediately surrounded
    and attacked by ten or a dozen men who accompanied the
    Seigneur de Monsoreau, and who rushed upon him in fury to
    massacre him: this gentleman, seeing himself so contemptibly
    betrayed, and that he was alone (as on such expeditions
    people usually prefer to be), did not, however, cease to
    defend himself to the last, proving, as he had often said,
    that _fear had never found room in his heart_;--for so long
    as an inch of sword remained in his hand, he fought on
    till only the handle was left him, and then he made use of
    tables, forms, chairs and stools, with which he disabled
    three or four of his enemies, until, overpowered by numbers
    and bereft of all arms and means of defending himself, he
    was beaten down, close to a window, from which he had tried
    to fling himself in the hope of escape. Such was the end of
    Captain Bussy...."

It was from these two paragraphs relating to Bussy and to Saint-Mégrin
that I built up my drama. M. Villenave told me that I should find
details as to manners in two valuable books entitled the _Confession de
Sancy_, and the _Ile des Hermaphrodites_.

In connection with _Henri III._ it is easy to see that the dramatic
gift is born with certain people. I was twenty-five years of age,
_Henri III._ was my second serious piece of work: let any conscientious
critic take it and submit it to the most rigorous examination and he
will find plenty to blame in the style, but nothing in the plot. I have
written fifty dramas since _Henri III._, but not one of them is more
cleverly constructed.



CHAPTER XV


The reading of _Henri III._ at M. Villenave's and M.
Roqueplan's--Another reading at Firmin's--Béranger is present--A
few words about his influence and popularity--Effect produced by
my drama--Reception by the Comédie-Française--Struggle for the
distribution of parts--M. de Broval's ultimatum--Convicted of the crime
of poetry I appeal to the Duc d'Orléans--His Royal Highness withholds
my salary--M. Laffitte lends me three thousand francs--Condemnation of
Béranger


The execution of _Henri III._ was, relatively speaking, rapid; as soon
as the plot was completely settled in my mind it scarcely took me two
months to finish the work. I recollect that, in the interval between
the composition of the plot and the execution of the piece, I went to
Villers-Cotterets, to shoot, I believe; on my return, I started before
the carriage, and my young friends, Saunier, Labarre and Duez, put me
on my way as far as the village of Vauciennes. During our walk I told
them the whole of _Henri III._ from beginning to end. _Henri III._
was completed directly the plot was completed. When I am busy working
at one of my plays it is a help to me to tell the story; as I tell
it I invent, and, at the conclusion of one of these recitals, some
fine morning, there the play is, ready finished. But it often happens
that this way of composing, namely, by not beginning the composition
until I have finished the plot, is very slow. I kept _Mademoiselle de
Belle-Isle_ nearly five years thus in my head, and since 1832 I have
had the plot of a _Juif errant_ in my mind, waiting till I can get a
moment's leisure to finish it; it will be one of my best pieces of
work. I have only one fear, and that is that I shall die before I can
get it done.

When I had finished _Henri III._ I read it to a small circle of friends
at Madame Waldor's. The play made a great impression; but the unanimous
advice was that I ought to have _Christine_ produced first. They said
that _Henri III._ was too daring for a first production. I need hardly
say that M. Villenave thought all these new movements in literature
monstrous aberrations of the human intellect. It was the period when
an entirely fresh generation was springing up around us and with us.
Several journals had just been begun by men of our age, full of the new
ideas then afloat, in opposition to the views of the _Constitutionnel_,
the _Courrier français_, the _Journal de Paris_ and the _Journal des
Débats_, which from that time reserved the whole of its praise for
Victor Hugo.

These journals were the _Figaro_ and the _Sylphe._ They were edited
by Nestor Roqueplan, Alphonse Royer, Louis Desnoyers, Alphonse Karr,
Vaillant, Dovalle and a dozen other bold champions of the Romantic
school. I invited them all to meet in Nestor Roqueplan's rooms, also
asking Lassagne and Firmin to join us. In those days Nestor Roqueplan
was not magnificently lodged in his apartments at the Opéra; his
salons were not ornamented by Boule, nor were the corner-stones from
Coromandel. He had a small room on the fifth floor, with a chimneypiece
ornamented with a washhand basin, in lieu of a clock, and duelling
pistols instead of candlesticks. Nearly a score of us were packed in
this room; we laid out the mattresses from the bed on the floor to form
divans; we transformed the bedstead into a sofa. I stood before a table
lit by plain candles; the kettle was put on the fire so that each act
could be divided by a cup of tea--and I began. This time, I was dealing
with men of daring opinions, and their advice was therefore exactly the
opposite: they all declared with one accord that I ought to abandon
_Christine_ to her unhappy lot and to push forward _Henri III._ Firmin
was enchanted; he could understand the part of Saint-Mégrin much better
than he had been able to enter into that of Monaldeschi. He undertook
to ask for a reading for me and to hurry one forward. In the meantime,
if I were willing, he would gather his fellow-actors together at his
own house, so that I could read my play to them before the definitive
reading at the Théâtre-Français. I felt beside myself with my success;
I would have read it fifty times had I been asked to do so. I placed
myself in his hands and told him to do whatever he wished. As I was
going away, Lassagne caught me by the arm.

"My friend," he said, "you were only half right in the matter of
_Christine_; you are altogether right in _Henri III._"

Firmin fixed the reading for the following Thursday; it was necessary
that Béranger should be present at it. You must understand the import
of those few words, "It was necessary that Béranger should be present
at it!" Béranger was the hero of the hour; of him Benjamin Constant had
just said, "Good old Béranger! he thinks he is writing chansons and
really he is composing odes!" This _mot_ had gone round, it hit the
mark so deliciously, and the whole of the Liberal party had pronounced
Béranger to be the greatest poet of his age. This partisanship had
roused some opposition, but the only effect was to carry enthusiasm
to the utmost pitch. Please, let me make it clear that I do not wish
to convey the impression that Béranger was overrated, but I think it
was rather unjust on the others; and by the others I mean Lamartine
and Hugo. They also composed odes, admirables odes, too, and no one
went so far as to say that they could not also compose chansons. The
explanation was that Lamartine and Hugo were both out-and-out members
of the Royalist party, and the Royalist party was far from representing
the opinion of the majority. Now, this popular enthusiasm was not on
account of Béranger as a poet pure and simple; it was for Béranger as
a national poet, for Béranger as the author of the _Vieux Drapeau_,
the _Dieu des bonnes gens_, the _Grand'mère._ Here the instincts of
the masses were not at fault; they fully realised that Béranger was
a fiery socialist, that each of his political chansons was the blow
of a pickaxe aimed to undermine the foundations of the throne, and
they applauded with hands and with voices the bold pioneer who dug
the trench by which the people were, one day, to gain access to the
Tuileries. Therefore, Béranger enjoyed an immense influence; all
parties vied with each other as to who should gain Béranger to their
side. They offered him the Cross and he refused it; they offered him a
pension and he refused it; they offered him membership in the Academy
and he refused it; no one became possessed of Béranger, but, on the
contrary, Béranger gained the confidence of everybody in general and of
Laffitte in particular.

Laffitte's friendship with Béranger and Béranger's influence on
Laffitte displayed itself in a singular way in 1830. France owed
the reign of Louis-Philippe to these two men; that is to say, the
indispensable transition as I deem it from aristocratic royalism to
democratic rule--that intermediate stage which has been termed _la
royauté bourgeoise._ We shall have some strange details to relate when
we reach the proper time and place; for, throughout that great week,
we were closely associated with makers and unmakers of kings. But, for
the moment, the Béranger that Firmin promised me was not the man of
politics, but Béranger the poet, the author of _Lisette_, the _Deux
Sœurs de Charité_ and _Frétillon._ We were, besides, to have such
authorities as MM. Taylor, Michelot and Samson; Mlle. Leverd and Mlle.
Mars.

I wished my mother to have the pleasure of being present at this
reading, as I felt quite certain of a successful issue, so I persuaded
her to accompany me.

Alas! poor mother! I might have had a presentiment that she would not
be present at its performance!

The reading created a great impression on everybody. Although, in the
nature of things, Béranger could not thoroughly enter into the spirit
of dramatic form, he, too, was moved to enthusiasm along with the rest,
by the third and fifth acts and did not hesitate to predict that I
should have a great success.

From that night dates a friendship between Béranger and me--a
friendship which has never failed. This friendship often took a
sardonic, almost bitter form of expression, for Béranger is not at
all the good-humoured man people imagine, he has too much genius to be
genial; but this friendship was always sincere and ready to be put to
the proof by deeds and tokens.

The reading, as I have said, had a marked effect upon all present; but
especially were the five Comedians impressed by it--Firmin, Michelot,
Samson, Mlle. Mars and Mlle. Leverd. It was settled that when the
Committee met two days hence, a special reading should be asked for
and that, making use of the guarantee which was given me with regard
to _Christine_, special favour should be sought on my account so that
the piece might be played as soon as possible. The play was read on
17 September 1828 and received with acclamation. After the reading, I
was called into the director's office, which was vacant, for the time
being. There I found Taylor, Mademoiselle Mars, Michelot and Firmin.
Mademoiselle Mars began the subject with her usual frankness, I was
going to say with her usual brutal frankness. I was not to allow
_Henri III._ to be put aside as I had in the case of _Christine_;
everything must be settled at once, while the Committee was in the
mood--the distribution of rôles, the signing of the contract; and,
taking advantage of the eager enthusiasm of the Committee, steps
were immediately to be taken to obtain the _mise en scène_ from the
Administration. Moreover, my generous patron Taylor was about to
quit the theatre to travel in the East; he had kept his promise to
the author of _Hécube_ and was setting out, not only for Alexandria
and Cairo, but even as far as Luxor. Advantage might be taken of his
absence to do me a bad turn. I endowed Mlle. Mars, Firmin and Michelot
with plenary powers, and they undertook my affairs, constituting
themselves my tutelary guardians, and declaring that I was incapable of
carrying out the necessary negotiations myself.

When the question of the distribution of rôles was discussed, Mlle.
Mars met with great opposition. She wished Armand to undertake the
part of Henri III. and Madame Menjaud to be the page. Now, I wanted
Louise Despréaux to be the page and Michelot to be Henri III. The
discussion was protracted, lasting for a week. This struggle was the
beginning of a series of battles between Mlle. Mars and myself which,
in spite of our real friendliness, lasted first with regard to one
subject and then another, until the death of that estimable actress.
But I stood firm. I had profited by the reproaches of Mlle. Mars and
I turned the tables against her. Madame Menjaud was a very talented
woman, but she was neither young enough nor pretty enough for a page
boy, and it was just precisely on this account that Mlle. Mars could
not get rid of that egoism which is the defect of even the most eminent
of artistes, objecting to the contrast of a young and fresh face by the
side of her own, she being at that time fifty-one years of age. I had
to be satisfied with retorting that as Louise Despréaux was a pupil of
Firmin I was bound to have her. My reason for declining to let Armand
play the part of Henri III. was more difficult to divulge. Although
Armand was five or six years the senior of Mlle. Mars, he was still
good-looking, looked quite young and was the most presentable of the
French Comedians, but nobody save Armand himself would ever have dreamt
of his taking the part of Henri III.! I was obliged to tell Armand that
his acting of the part was too realistic, and that I did not wish him
to take it. This answer made Armand my enemy for life, and very nearly
caused me to fall out with Mlle. Mars.

Such were my worries at the theatre--there were plenty more for me at
the offices.

As in the case of _Christine_, the papers immediately published the
news of my reception, and as in the case of _Christine_ there was a
great commotion about it in the offices. However, nothing was said to
me at first. Thanks to the easy means of communication between the
Committee and my little office, Firmin called on me several times, and
my subsequent absences after his calls, which had reference to various
difficulties that arose about distribution of parts or the _mise en
scène_, having been noted, an accusation was concocted against me of a
sufficiently grave nature to constitute a charge of insubordination.
Consequently, I received one morning, through the agency of Féresse,
a request to step upstairs and appear before the director-general. M.
de Broval received me with a severe look that boded a storm. I was at
once reminded of M. Lefèvre and his discourse on the well organised
machine, and the wheel, which, small though it was, prevented the whole
from working. Alas! for the last six years I had not grown into a much
larger wheel, and I felt as small before M. de Broval as I had done
before M. Lefèvre. But there was something stirring in the depths of my
being that was growing, and that was a self-confidence which six years
of work had given me and the reception of my two plays _Christine_ and
_Henri III._ So I awaited the tempest with a calmness that surprised
and almost disconcerted M. de Broval.

At length, in dulcet tones, he explained to me that literature and
official work were incompatible and that, knowing how, in spite of the
natural antipathy between them, I had been endeavouring to combine
them, he requested me to make my choice between the two.

M. de Broval was a fine talker, for he had been a third-class clerk
in the diplomatic service. On great days he wore, as I believe I have
mentioned, a coat with a braided collar, and on this coat the medal
of Saint-Janvier, which he had received on the marriage of the Duc
d'Orléans with the daughter of Ferdinand of Sicily; on ordinary days,
he dressed like everybody else. One of his shoulders was higher than
the other and he had a big red nose. I was always unlucky with deformed
persons. I knew that the time had come when I must stake my last throw;
I let M. de Broval proceed with the rounding off of his sentences, and
his greatly beloved climaxes, until he had finished, and then I said--

"Monsieur le Baron, as far as I have been able to follow your
discourse, I gather you leave me the choice between my place as copying
clerk and my vocation as a literary man."

"That is so, Dumas," the baron replied.

"My place was obtained from the Duc d'Orléans by General Foy; it was
accorded me by the Duc d'Orléans through his influence; now, before
I can believe that the first prince of the blood royal, a man whom
everybody declares to be a patron of letters--and who justified this
title by receiving into his library M. Casimir Delavigne, dismissed
from his office for the crime of making poetry--before, I say, I can
credit that such a man could dismiss me from his administration for the
same crime as that committed by M. Casimir Delavigne, which, in the
case of M. Casimir Delavigne, was a title to favour, I must receive my
_exeat_, whether verbal or in writing, either from the lips or the hand
of M. le Duc d'Orléans. I will neither resign nor accept dismissal. As
for my salary, as M. le Baron has given me to understand that the one
hundred and twenty-five francs payment I draw monthly is an exorbitant
tax upon His Royal Highness's budget, I am willing to renounce it on
the spot."

"Ah! ah!" M. de Broval exclaimed in surprise; "and how do you and your
mother propose to live, monsieur?"

"That is my own business, monsieur"; and I bowed and prepared to take
my leave.

"Take notice, Monsieur Dumas," said M. de Broval, "from the end of next
month you shall not receive any further salary."

"From this present one, monsieur, if you wish it. This will enable you
to save one hundred and twenty-five francs on His Highness's account,
and I have no doubt that His Highness will be duly grateful to you for
this economy."

Whereupon I again bowed and withdrew.

M. de Broval kept his word. When I returned to my office, I was
officially informed that in future I could dispose of my time as I
thought proper, since from that day _my salary was suspended._ It seems
incredible and yet it is a fact. Furthermore, the salaries in the
prince's offices were as a general rule so poor they were not enough
for us to live on. So each had recourse to some particular industry to
ameliorate his constant state of penury: some had married sempstresses
who kept little shops; others had shares in livery stables; there were
even some who ran thirty-two sous restaurants in the Latin Quarter, who
laid down the ducal pens at five o'clock to take up the serviette of
a waiter in a cheap eating-house. Ah well! nothing was said to these,
they were not reproached with lowering his princely dignity in the
eyes of others; no, their industry was extolled and it was looked upon
as quite natural and quite ordinary; whilst I, who felt no vocation
to marry a shopkeeper; who did not possess any capital to invest in
the cab trade; who was accustomed to put a serviette on my knees and
not over my arm, was looked upon as a criminal because I sought a way
of salvation in literature! They suspended my salary because I had a
tragedy and a drama accepted by the Comédie-Française!

Well, I had prepared my plans beforehand, and these plans had fortified
me. I had decided that I would lay my case before Béranger, and ask him
to obtain for me an interview with Laffitte. It was just possible that
Laffitte might do for me what he had done for Théaulon, under similar
circumstances. Laffitte might, perhaps, lend me a thousand crowns. I
went and told Firmin all my difficulties, and he took me to Béranger.
And Béranger took me to Laffitte. I should misrepresent the truth if I
said that M. Laffitte jumped at the opportunity of rendering me this
service; but I should also misrepresent it if I did not hasten to add
that he did render it me. I signed a promissory note for three thousand
francs, I deposited a copy of my manuscript of _Henri III._ with the
cashier, and I pledged my word of honour to return the three thousand
francs upon the sale of the manuscript. There' was no question of
interest.

I left Laffitte's house with my three notes of a thousand francs each
in my pocket, I shook hands warmly with Béranger and I ran home to
my mother. I found her in despair; she had already heard what had
happened. I drew the three notes of a thousand francs from my pocket
and put them into her hands. They represented my salary for two years.
I explained to her how I had come by the money, but she could not
realise it. Nevertheless, my poor mother began to believe that I was
not altogether out of my senses for writing plays, since I could borrow
a thousand crowns on the bare manuscript of one of these plays--a sum
equivalent to two years of my salary. That night, I related at M.
Villenave's what had happened. M. Villenave blamed me, but everyone
else said I had done right.

A fortnight after Béranger had rendered me this service he was
sentenced by the _tribunal de police correctionnelle de la Seine_ to
pay a fine of ten thousand francs and to nine months' imprisonment, as
author of the _Ange gardien_, of the _Gérontocratie_ and of the _Sacre
de Charles le Simple._ Béranger did not appeal against the judgment and
he was a prisoner at the beginning of the year 1829. A month after his
entry into prison, M. Viennet visited him.

"Well, my noble songster," began the author of the _Philippide_, "how
many chansons have you already composed under lock and key?"

"Not one yet," replied Béranger; "do you suppose chansons are written
as easily as epic poems?"



CHAPTER XVI


The Duc d'Orléans has my salary stopped--A scribbler
(_folliculaire_)--_Henri III._ and the Censorship--My mother is
seized with paralysis--Cazal--Edmond Halphen--A call on the Duc
d'Orléans--First night of _Henri III._--Effect it produced on M.
Deviolaine--M. de Broval's congratulations


It was under these conditions that the year 1829 broke upon me--the
year in which was to take place the grand duel between my past and my
future. My intimate intercourse with the Villenave family had been the
means of opening to me several of the salons of the day, and among
these that of the Princess de Salm. Here it was that I met Lady Morgan,
Cooper and Humboldt.

Meanwhile, _Henri III._ was causing a great sensation. Nothing was
talked of save the revolution which its representation meant. I
attended the rehearsals with great assiduity, attracted, so I asserted,
by my interest in the work; but, according to Mlle. Mars, the real
reason was the interest I took in an exceedingly pretty and charming
lady, named Mlle. Virginie Bourbier, who played a trifling part in my
drama. Since the month of October I had not put foot inside the office.
Now, although I had worked hard for nine months of the year and,
consequently, was entitled to three-quarters of my bonus, everyone save
myself seemed to have had share in the distribution of funds, and in
the munificence of His Royal Highness. It was not a simple oversight,
as I might have hoped, although that would have been humiliating
enough--no, the fact had been debated, considered and decided, and His
Royal Highness had condescended to write beside my name, in his own
hand--

"The gratuities of M. Alexandre Dumas are to be withheld, as he is
engaged in literary work."

The Administration was divided into two camps over my position. Some
had bravely dared to take the side of literature against bureaucracy.
Among the number of my partisans was little old Bichet, whose head
being turned by M. Pieyre and M. Parseval de Grandmaison maintained
that I should do great things ... not so great, of course, as Piron;
but still, I should make my name known. The others were Lassagne,
Lamy, secretary of Mlle. Adélaïde, the son of the director of the
_comptabilité Jamet_, whose admiration for the English actors, and
specially for a charming English actress, had brought him over to the
Romantic school, and some others, who were too dependent on their
positions to dare to manifest their sympathy with me openly. Oudard
remained neutral. M. Deviolaine wavered; all this talk there had been
about me had shaken his opinion. Was I right, in spite of the whole
world, and, in spite of my education at three francs per month, should
I succeed where scores of others had failed? He expressed his doubt,
from time to time, nearly always winding up his hesitation by the
following words:--

"The --- is crazy enough to do it!"

As is usual in theatrical matters, the production was postponed from
day to day but at last it was fixed to take place on 11 February.
A grave anxiety, however, hovered over everybody and myself in
particular, like a black cloud. The Censor had not yet given his final
decision upon the play. A wretched creature occupied the office at
that time, who lived on scandal, making capital of others' self-esteem
or their weakness, beside whom Geoffroi was honesty itself and a
conscientious critic. The following lines on the _Folliculaire_ by
Laville might have been written about him:--

    "Un vase de vermeil, une bague de prix,
    Du vin surtout, voilà ses cadeaux favoris.
    On assure--je crois que, sur ce fait probable,
    Pour le vrai, la chronique a pris le vraisemblable--
    Qu'au jour où nos amis viennent du vieux Nestor
    Nous souhaiter les ans, et bien d'autres encor;
    Au jour où les filleuls aiment tant leurs marraines;
    Jour de munificence où, sous le nom d'étrennes,
    Chacun de son voisin attend quelques tributs,
    Et d'une honnête aumône accroît ses revenus,
    Il revend au rabais, ou plutôt à l'enchère,
    Le superflu des vins et de la bonne chère
    Dont l'accable le zèle ou l'effroi des acteurs;
    Et que Follicula, pour qui les directeurs
    De schalls et de chapeaux renouvellent l'emplette,
    Se fait, pendant deux mois, marchande à la toilette!"

The entire theatrical world paid tribute to this man. Mademoiselle Mars
gave him a pension; he received subsidies from the Théâtre-Français,
the Odéon, the Opéra and the Opéra-Comique. They came to him as to
the open market: he sold eulogy to one, calumny to others; he sold
everything, even his silence.

Mademoiselle Mars, Firmin, the company of the Comédie-Française, and
even Taylor himself had urged me to pay this man a call; but I had
obstinately refused. So, one morning, someone brought me his paper,
which contained the following lines:--

    "In the play that has just been accepted by the
    Comédie-Française, the work of an author who, we are told,
    possesses great merit, there appear characters who had a
    disgraceful connection with the subject (the Court of Henri
    III.), whose new appearance on the stage may possibly serve
    to prove the author's talent, but whose presence, it cannot
    be denied, create an impropriety impossible to tolerate.
    History has preserved the names of these miserable heroes,
    those infamous personages, who took part in a debauch as
    dissolute as it was inexcusable; we will venture to call
    them by their true names, and to signify our detestation of
    the representatives of these rôles of _mignons_, on account
    of the scandalous mischief they will do to the masses.
    If the information we have received upon this subject be
    correct, the authority which honours the theatre with
    its guardian vigilance will not permit an innovation of
    this nature, for it knows that its first duty is only to
    authorise those plays concerning the representation of which
    a son or a daughter can be innocently satisfied when they
    ask of their parents, 'What does that mean?'"

I had expected this and was prepared to meet it. I had hardly read the
above paragraph before I had armed myself with a substantial cane and
had reappeared at the offices.

"De la Ponce," I said, in scriptural phrase, "take up your cloak and
your hat."

I set off in search of the critic with all the more satisfaction in
that I knew there were days when he was no coward: if a duel would
serve his purpose he would fight one. I sent in my name.

He had been expecting me, he said, when he heard my name; but he
probably did not expect me to come to him in the frame of mind in which
I presented myself before him.

Was I going to be lucky or unlucky? I could not tell, but the
_folliculaire_ was not in one of his brave moods: he beat about the
bush, spoke of his influence with the Government, tried to show us his
last New Year's presents and ended up, in short, by offering to use his
influence on my behalf with M. de Martignac, _who was a friend of his
and owed him some money._

I quote this sentence especially, as an example of the man's impudence.

I told him I had not come to solicit his influence but to request
him to withdraw as quickly as possible and in the fullest manner
his article in that day's papers. Next day, his paper contained the
following apology:--

    "We are exceedingly sorry to find our brief article on
    _Henri III._, recently accepted by the Comédie-Français, in
    yesterday's issue contained imputations which were far from
    our intention. We had not received the accurate information
    on the subject which is now in our possession, and we can
    satisfy our readers concerning the taste, the delicacy and
    the tact with which the scenes and personages to which we
    referred are handled. This method of treating romance is too
    closely akin to classic traditions to admit of objection on
    our part."

My readers may, perhaps, be surprised that I should have had one
moment's uneasiness in connection with such a man, but--I must repeat
it to be believed--despicable and despised though this man was, he
had his influence. Instead of his expressions of opinion being torn
up before his eyes by those to whom they referred, they received due
attention in the eyes of critics, and I knew intimately one director of
the Beaux-Arts who paid him, for many years, a pension of a thousand
francs. For the rest, whether this apology influenced the Commission of
Examiners or not, the day after the appearance of the apology the piece
was returned less cut about and lacerated and mauled than it would have
been to-day! True, M. de Martignac, who had heard much about the play,
desired to be its censor, and M. de Martignac, as everyone knew, was
so clever a man that, while he was in the Government, even Charles X.
showed signs of cleverness.

I was at the theatre, full of delight at this unexpected escape of my
play, which was now to be produced the following Saturday, when one of
M. Deviolaine's servants came hurriedly to me, looking very scared, to
tell me that my mother had fallen ill as she was going down the stairs
after visiting M. Deviolaine, and that they could not bring her back
to consciousness. M. Deviolaine lived on the fourth floor of the house
of one Chaulin, a stationer, at the corner of the rue Saint-Honoré
and the rue de Richelieu. I rushed away from the theatre, sending the
property-lad to tell M. Florence, the doctor belonging to the theatre,
that my mother needed his assistance. In a few seconds I was with my
mother: she was seated in a large arm-chair; her eyes were open and
she had regained consciousness, but she could hardly speak. The whole
of one side of her body was quite paralysed. She had been to call on
Madame Deviolaine; as usual, I had been the subject of conversation;
as usual, they had been telling her I was a wilful blockhead, unworthy
the clemency the House of Orléans had shown me; that my play would be a
failure and would not even produce enough to pay back M. Laffitte his
thousand crowns, and that then I should find myself out of a berth and
with no future before me. My poor mother had wept copiously, going away
in great distress of mind, and as she was about to step downstairs she
was seized with faintness, absolutely lost all power and fell down in
a heap, her legs on the stairs and her body on the landing. A lodger
found her in this position as he came upstairs; he rang M. Deviolaine's
door-bell, and they carried her in and put her in a chair. My poor
mother had somewhat regained consciousness by the time I reached her. I
felt her pulse, and held up her arm, which fell inert; I pinched her to
find the extent of her insensibility, and I came to the conclusion that
she had just had a stroke of apoplexy, serious enough at any rate to
cause paralysis of her left side. I sent for some mustard and put her
feet in hot water till the doctor came. Then, as he was a long while in
coming, I sent, to an instrument maker, who lived nearly opposite, for
a lancet, and decided to bleed her myself in the foot if Florence did
not come. But he came, and performed this operation himself; a slight
improvement at once manifested itself, and, her tongue feeling freer,
she was able to pronounce a few words. Meanwhile my sister had hastened
there; fortunately, she was in Paris, having come up to see the first
performance of my play. Fortunately, too, there was an empty room in
the house--on the third floor, I think--and we took it for a quarter.
Madame Deviolaine sent a bed down to it for my mother; we carried
mattresses for ourselves from the rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis; we put
the mattresses on the floor of my mother's room; and both my sister and
I were determined not to leave her alone for a single moment.

Unluckily, Thibaut was away from Paris. Madame de Celles, daughter
of General Gérard, was suffering from consumption and had required a
doctor to accompany her to Italy. Madame de Leuven had recommended
Thibaut, and he had gone with her. As we only knew Florence slightly,
he thoughtfully withdrew of his own accord after he had rendered first
aid to our invalid. So I called in another of my friends, named Cazal.
He was an extremely clever fellow who, when he found that, in spite of
his medical skill, his practice did not increase, invented a new kind
of umbrella and parasol, took out a patent for them and made a fortune.
Cazal spent the whole night with us by my mother's side; and next
day, as the improvement continued, he believed he might look for her
recovery if she had no relapse.

How I rejoiced that the idea had come to me of applying to M. Laffitte!
how I rejoiced that M. Laffitte had lent me the thousand crowns! We
could at least be certain of one thing, that, no matter how things
turned out, our mother would want for nothing during her illness.
Furthermore, on learning this news, one of my friends, son of a
celebrated diamond merchant, Edmond Halphen, not knowing I was as rich
as Ali Baba, sent me a small purse containing twenty louis. I returned
him the louis, but I kept the purse, in remembrance of that delicate
kindness which so few have shown to me, and I recall the act with
gratitude, for it touched me deeply. I have, however, sometimes met
with the same spontaneous generosity elsewhere, but among my _women_
friends, not among my _men_ friends.

Deeply troubled as I was,--God alone knew how deeply this blow had
struck me!--I was obliged to leave my mother, for a few hours; my drama
was so novel, even to those who were rehearsing it, that, unless I was
present, their confidence took flight. I returned and found everyone
greatly concerned by the misfortune that had overtaken me in such an
unexpected manner. Taylor was present to prompt in my place in case I
was unable to turn up. The play was ready or all but ready, and there
was no doubt it would be performed the following Saturday. When I
returned home, I found the whole of the Villenave family awaiting me,
from Théodore to Élisa. They had missed me the night before, I who
never missed going to their house a day, and, when the letter arrived
that told my kind friends what had happened, they came off to see me at
once. No one can have any idea of the strain of the next two or three
days--the profound grief at watching my mother's dying condition, and
the terrible labour of preparing a first drama for its public ordeal.

The night before the representation, I took a step that I had decided
upon for some time previously. I presented myself at the Palais-Royal
and asked to see M. le Duc d'Orléans. The request was so unusual and
so audacious that, no doubt, the attendants expected I had an audience.
They informed the Duc d'Orléans of my presence and of my request to
speak to him. The Duc d'Orléans repeated my name over to himself twice
and gave orders to admit me. "Ah! ah! is it you, M. Dumas?" he said.
"What good wind blows you hither or, rather, blows you back again?"

"Monseigneur," I said to him, "to-morrow they play _Henri III._"

"Yes," he said, "I know that."

"Well, monseigneur, I have come to ask a favour of you, or rather an
act of justice."

"What is it?"

"To give me your presence at my first representation.... A year ago,
your Highness was informed that I was an empty-headed, vain fool; for a
year I have been working as a humble poet; without giving me a hearing,
monseigneur, you have sided with those of your retinue who have been my
accusers--perhaps your Highness should have waited, but your Highness
thought otherwise and did not wait. To-morrow things will be put to
public trial; all I come to beg of you, monseigneur, is that you will
be present at the sentence."

The duke looked at me for a moment, and, seeing how calmly I met his
scrutiny, he replied--

"I would have granted your request with great pleasure, M. Dumas, for
various people have told me that if you were not a model of industry
you were an example of perseverance; but, unfortunately, it is
impossible."

"Your Highness probably means that a man who aspires to talk with
people in high places should know better than to interrogate a prince;
but, monseigneur, I have come to you in such exceptional circumstances
that I will venture to ask whence arises that impossibility, for I must
confess it disappoints me greatly."

"You shall judge for yourself: to-morrow I expect twenty to thirty
princes and princesses to dinner."

"Would it not be a novel entertainment, monseigneur, to take these
princes and princesses to see _Henri III.?_"

"How could I take them to see it when dinner begins at six and _Henri
III._ begins at seven?"

"Let monseigneur advance his dinner one hour and I will delay _Henri
III._ for an hour; that would allow monseigneur three hours wherein to
assuage the hunger of his august guests."

"Well, that is not a bad idea.... Do you think the Théâtre-Français
would consent to the delay?"

"They would be only too delighted to accommodate your Highness."

"But where should I seat them? I only have three boxes."

"I asked the Administration not to dispose of the first circle until I
had seen your Highness."

"You presumed, then, to think that I should consent to see your play?"

"I relied upon your sense of justice.... You see, monseigneur, I appeal
to Philippe awakened."

"Very well. Go and tell M. Taylor that, if the Comédie-Français
consents to put back the representation an hour, I will be present at
it, and in order to carry this out I will engage the whole circle."

"I will hasten there immediately, monseigneur."

"Are you satisfied?"

"Enchanted! I trust also that your Highness will not have reason to
repent of this kindness."

"I hope so too.... Away with you, and good luck!"

I bowed and left.

Ten minutes later, the theatre had been told; twenty minutes later,
the Duc d'Orléans had received an answer in the affirmative. That very
evening letters were sent to the guests informing them of the change of
hour.

The long-expected day came at last! On that day there was neither
rehearsal nor any other meeting: I could remain by my mother's side
until the evening. They had given me a certain number of theatre
tickets, especially tickets for the pit; the _claque_, _i.e._ hired
applause, was not a recognised thing in those days as it is now, and
the post of _entrepreneur de succès_ was almost a sinecure: it was left
to the care of one's friends and to the impartiality of the public.
The generosity of the theatre allowed me to sign a pit ticket for each
of my old office companions. Porcher and his wife had each a balcony
ticket. I had a little box on the stage itself which held two persons.
My sister had one of the boxes in the first row, where she entertained
Boulanger, de Vigny and Victor Hugo. I did not know either Hugo or de
Vigny, and they introduced themselves to me in despair of getting a
chance otherwise. I made the acquaintance of both of them that night.
M. Deviolaine had an orchestra ticket. The whole of the remaining seats
in the house had been taken for a week past, and the exorbitant price
of twenty louis was given for one box.

At a quarter to eight I kissed my mother, who, in the clouded state
of her brain, scarcely realised what a battle I was on the eve of
fighting. I met M. Deviolaine in the corridor.

"Well, you young rip!..." he said, "so you have got your way at last!"

"What did I tell you?"

"Yes, but we have yet to see what the public thinks of your prose."

"You will see, since you are here."

"I shall see, I shall see," growled M. Deviolaine. "It is highly
probable that I shall see...."

I moved away from him, not knowing what he meant by his words, and I
reached my box, which, as I have said, was on the stage. I could see
the whole house from my box perfectly. Those who were present at that
performance will recollect what a splendid sight it was: the first
circle was filled with princes smothered under the orders of five or
six nations; the whole of the aristocracy crowded into the first and
second rows of the boxes; ladies sparkled with diamonds.

The curtain rose. I have never experienced such a sensation as that
which a breath of air from the theatre caused me as it passed across my
feverish brow. The first act was listened to with patience, although
the narrative was long, cold and tiresome. The curtain fell. The words
of the Duc de Guise, "Saint Paul! if I can only hunt out the men who
assassinated Dugast!" were heartily applauded, and this warmed up both
audience and actors.

I ran off to see how my mother was. On my return to the theatre I met
M. Deviolaine in the corridor; but, as soon as I appeared, he quickly
retired into a small antechamber, on purpose, as I imagined, to avoid
me. I did the poor dear man injustice! he had quite other intentions in
his thoughts.

The second act began; it was an amusing one; the scene of the
pea-shooter concerning which I was much afraid, passed without any
signs of objection, and the curtain fell amidst pretty general applause.

The third act was the one to decide the success of the play. In
this act comes the scene between the page and the duchess, and the
scene between the duchess and the duke--the scene where M. de Guise
compels his wife to appoint a meeting with Saint-Mégrin. If the strong
situations in that scene found favour with the public, the battle was
won. The scene roused cries of horror, but, at the same time, peals of
applause; it was the first time any dramatic scenes had been presented
with great freedom--I might even call it with brutal frankness.

I went out; I was very anxious to see my poor mother and to embrace
her, although she was then hardly in a condition to understand who it
was that was embracing her.

How happy I should have been if she had been in the theatre, instead
of on her bed! She was sleeping quite peacefully; I kissed her without
waking her, and returned to the theatre. Under the porch I again met M.
Deviolaine, who was going away.

"What!" I said, "are you not going to stay to the end?"

"How can I stay to the end, you brute?"

"Why can you not stay?..."

"Because I am thoroughly upset! Because I am turned inside out.. an
attack of colic."

"Ah!" I exclaimed, laughing; "so that was why I saw you going to the
lavatory?"

"Yes, that was the reason, monsieur.... You have already cost me fifty
sous! at two sous each time it is ... Why, you will ruin me!"

"Bah! you exaggerate. Whatever could you do at the twenty-fifth time?"

"Nothing, you young puppy! And the last time, if I had not been stopped
by the hair of my head, I should have disappeared entirely! Ah! what a
business!... Oh dear! I am horribly ill!" and M. Deviolaine laid both
hands on his stomach and began running towards the Rue Saint-Honoré.

I went into the theatre; as I had indeed foreseen, from the fourth act
to the end it was more than a success, it was an increasing delirium:
all hands applauded, even those of the ladies. Madame Malibran, who had
only been able to find a seat on the third row, leant right out of her
box, holding on to a pillar to keep herself from falling. Then, when
Firmin appeared to give the name of the author, the enthusiasm was so
universal that even the Duc d'Orléans himself stood up and called out
the name of his employé, the success of whose work--if not the most
merited, at least the most striking of the epoch--had just caused him
to be greeted as a poet.

That very night, when I returned home, I found a letter from M. le
Baron de Broval, which I will give word for word:--

    "I cannot sleep without first telling you, my dear young
    friend, how very happy I am at your splendid triumph,
    without congratulating you and, above all, your estimable
    mother most heartily, for I know you felt more anxious on
    her behalf than on your own. My sister and I and all at the
    office sympathised deeply with you; and now we rejoice at a
    triumph justly deserved both on account of your very great
    and persevering talent and your filial devotion. I am very
    sure that your laurels, and the success in wait for you in
    the future now laid open before you, will not stand in the
    way of your friendships, and I assure you that my feelings
    towards you are very warm.                BARON DE BROVAL"

    "10 _February_ 1829"

This was the man who, five months before, had compelled me to renounce
my salary!



CHAPTER XVII


The day following my victory--_Henri III._ is interdicted--I obtain
an audience with M. de Martignac--He removes the interdiction--_Les
hommes-obstacles_--The Duc d'Orléans sends for me into his
box--His talk with Charles X. on the subject of my drama--Another
scribbler--Visit to Carrel--Gosset's shooting-box and pistols No. 5--An
impossible duel


To few men has it been given to see such a rapid change take place
in their lives as took place in mine during those four hours of the
representation of _Henri III._ I was totally unknown until that night,
and, next day, whether for good or for evil, I was the talk of all
Paris. From that night dated the hatreds of people whom I had never
seen--hatreds roused by the unwelcome fame attached to my name. But
friendships also dated from that epoch. What multitudes of people
envied me that night, who had no idea that I spent it on a mattress
on the floor by the side of my dying mother! Next day, the room was
filled with bouquets; I covered my mother's bed with them, and she
touched them with the hand that was left unparalysed, pulling them
nearer to her or pushing them away, unconscious what all these flowers
meant--and, possibly, even unconscious that they were flowers at
all. By two o'clock in the afternoon, the day after the performance,
my manuscript had sold for six thousand francs. These six thousand
francs were paid me in six bank-notes; and I went to show them to M.
Deviolaine.

"What are those?" he asked.

"They are the price of my manuscript," I replied. "You see it amounts
to M. Laffitte's three thousand francs and three thousand francs
besides."

"What!" cried M. Deviolaine; "are there idiots who have bought it of
you?"

"You see for yourself."

"Well, they are brainless idiots!"

Then, handing me back the notes, and shrugging his shoulders, he said--

"You do not inquire how I am!"

"I did not dare.... How are you?"

"A little better, happily."

"Were you able to return to the theatre?"

"Yes, I was there for the conclusion."

"Were you there when my name was given out?"

"The deuce I was!"

"And did it not give you a little gratification?"

"A little! Why, you rascal, I wept like a baby!"

"Come now! it cost you a lot to acknowledge that.... Let us shake
hands."

"Ah!" said M. Deviolaine, "if only your poor father could have been
there!"

"My mother could have been there if people had not made her so unhappy."

"Come, come! you are not going to tell me that it is my fault
your mother is in bed, are you? Good gracious me! it tormented me
sufficiently during your representation. I could not think of anything
else; I believe it was that which gave me the beastly colic.... By the
bye, what are they saying in the office?"

I showed him M. de Broval's letter. He read it through twice over.

"Well, I never!..." he said, as he handed it me back, shrugging his
shoulders. "Shall you return to the office?"

"I? Dear me no!"

"Well, I think you are right. Shall you go and see M. Fossier?".

"No, indeed."

"He likes you, nevertheless."

"Then why did he not write me a letter of congratulation, too?"

"Well, but he might have expected tickets for his daughter."

"That reminds me. Shall I save you a box for the second performance?
You hadn't a good place for the first ... you were close to the door."

"You scoundrel! I was right where I was, near the door.... Do you
believe this mad prank you have just played is going to bring you in
any more than what you have just shown me?"

"Certainly I do."

"About how much?"

"Fifteen thousand francs."

"What!"

"About fifteen thousand francs."

"And how long will it run to gain that?"

"Perhaps two months."

"So in two months, you will have earned the whole year's salary of
three chief clerks, including bonuses?"

"Call in your three chief clerks and tell them to do as much for
themselves."

"Get out! I am afraid the very ceiling will fall on our heads while you
are saying such monstrous things!"

"To-morrow night, then?"

"Yes, to-morrow night, if I have nothing better to do."

I was quite easy. M. Deviolaine would not have anything better to do,
nor would he have accepted a year of his salary to be kept away.

From M. Deviolaine's house I ran to M. Laffitte's. I was proud to be
able to pay him what I owed him so promptly. I gave him his thousand
crowns, and he returned me my promissory note and my manuscript.
But I always remembered the service rendered me, which, coming when
my mother was taken ill, was of priceless value. Still, I had not
reached the conclusion of my worries. When I returned to my temporary
dwelling-place, I found a letter from the Théâtre-Français asking me
to go to the office there immediately. I rushed there, and found the
Committee in a state of consternation from Taylor downwards. They had
received a letter from the Home Minister suspending _Henri III._
This was a far more serious matter than the suspension of my salary.
Luckily, Taylor had made up his mind what should be done. He proposed
I should urgently demand an audience of M. de Martignac. He himself
undertook to take the letter and see that it was conveyed to him. I
sat down and wrote at once, asking for an audience for the next day.
I received an answer two hours later. M. de Martignac would see me
at seven next morning. By seven next morning I was at his house. Oh!
what a blessing it is to find a Minister who is both polished and
cultivated, like M. de Martignac! _rara avis_, as Juvenal would call
it, and, worse still, a bird of passage! We remained together for an
hour, not talking of the play, but of all sorts of subjects; in ten
minutes, we came to an understanding over the play, and I carried my
manuscript back, saved, this time not from Annihilation, but from
Limbo. Oh! poor M. de Martignac! how well he understood Art! How
thoroughly well he knew that type of human being who obstructs all
progress he meets with on the way, with a view rather of hindering
others from advancing than of advancing himself! It was not under M. de
Martignac's administration that Art, wherever it turned, encountered
the notice, "This road is closed by order of the authorities." And to
think that for twenty years the same men blocked the same avenues;
that, from being old men, they grew into being decrepit ones, whilst
we young men grew old; that, by dint of ill-will and persecution, they
managed to drive both Lamartine and Hugo into politics, Soulié and
Balzac into their graves; that I stood almost alone, in my struggle
against them; that they set their mark on things, like the seal of
Solomon which enclosed the genii of the _Thousand and One Nights_ in
clay vases; and that all this political and literary compression will
one day burst in their faces, killing and overturning all around it
without injuring itself--wrinkled dwarfs who everlastingly stir up the
glowing fires of revolutions! Some things, at least, are very clear;
that, for twenty years, these rulers were petty, paltry, contemptible;
that they left behind them a sad and shameful memory amongst the
Germans, Hungarians, Italians, along the banks of the Nile as well
as on the shores of the Bosphorus, at Mogador even as at Montevideo,
in the old World as well as the New; that, during the whole of the
time which transpired between the day on which M. Sébastiani made his
announcement at the Tribune that "Order reigned at Warsaw," and that on
which M. Barrot wrote in the _Moniteur_ that "The French have entered
Rome," they gave the lie not only with respect to every promise made
by man--whether these promises came through M. de la Fayette or M. de
Lamartine--but still, more, with respect to everything hoped of God,
who destined France to be the Pole Star to other nations, who said to
the peoples, "You wish to sail towards the unknown world, towards the
Promised Land called Liberty; there is your compass. Spread your sails
and follow boldly!" Instead of keeping faith with men and fulfilling
God's will, what did you do, you poor slaves of passion, and miserable
servants of blindness? You made the sea rough and the winds contrary
for every noble vessel that set sail under divine inspiration. You know
it is so, I am not telling you anything fresh; you know that whatever
is young and noble and pure, that has not been dragged through the
mud of the past, and reaches forth to ethereal regions in the future,
is against you; you know that those whom you allowed to be murdered
by Austrian rods, those whom you left shut up in pontifical dungeons,
those whom you suffered to be shot down by Neapolitan cannon, were
martyrs. You are aware that, whilst people hail you, you tyrants, as
you go to your places of entertainment, we shall have their devotion;
you are aware, in short, that we, the torchbearers, are loved, whilst
you, the workers of darkness, are detested; you know that should you
ever be forgiven your deeds, it will be because of what we have said on
your behalf; and hence come your persecutions--powerless, thank God,
like all things that come from below and seek to harm what is above....
Yes, what is above, for he who can say "I have just written this page,
and you could not write it," is above you!

Let us return to _Henri III._, which had nothing to do with all this,
and which suddenly and unexpectedly found itself raised sky-high.
My return was awaited with impatience, for they dared not advertise
without the minister's permission. I brought them that permission, and
they advertised. M. le Duc d'Orléans announced that he would be present
at the second performance. When I reached the theatre that night, I was
told that he had already arrived and had asked me to go to his box. I
did as I was bidden, between the first and second acts. The densely
packed theatre bore witness to the genuine strength of my success. The
Duc d'Orléans received me most graciously.

"Now, M. Dumas," he said, "are you not satisfied? You have gained your
case against everybody--the public and myself included. Even Broval,
Deviolaine and Oudard are enchanted."

I bowed.

"But for all that, do you know," he continued laughingly, "you have
very nearly got me into serious trouble?"

"You, monseigneur?"

"Yes, I."

"How is that?"

"The king sent for me yesterday."

"The king?"

"Yes, indeed."

"And what about, monseigneur?"

"About your drama."

"About _Henri III.?_"

"'Are you aware of what I have been informed, _cousin_?' he said,
laying emphasis upon the last word. 'I have been told that you have a
youth in your offices who has written a play in which both you and I
figure--I as Henri III., and you as the Duc de Guise?'"

"Monseigneur, you could of course have replied that the king was
mistaken and that the young man was no longer in your employ."

"No; I much preferred to reply otherwise, and not to lie, since I mean
to keep you on."

"Then what did your Highness say?..."

"I said, 'Sire, people have misinformed you, and for three
reasons:--First, I do not beat my wife; secondly, Madame la Duchesse
d'Orléans has not made me a cuckold; thirdly, your Majesty has not a
more faithful subject than myself.' Do you think my reply was equal to
anything you would have advised me to make?"

"Indeed, monseigneur, it is infinitely more witty."

"And nearer the truth, monsieur.... Ah! the curtain is rising: go about
your business; mine is to listen to you."

I bowed.

"By the bye," said the duke, "Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans desires to
see you to-morrow morning, to inquire how your mother is."

I bowed and withdrew.

Oh! what a power is success, with its notoriety and fuss over a
name; with its calm and serene supremacy of mind over matter! M. de
Broval, M. Deviolaine and M. Oudard were enchanted; the Duc d'Orléans
had called me to his box to repeat a witty _mot_ he had said to the
king; and, finally, Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans would see me on the
morrow to ask me news of my mother! Birth, it would seem, only bestows
principalities; talent gives the dignity of princehood.

Next day, I paid my visit to the Duchesse d'Orléans, who was as
gracious to me as could be; but, alas! why did all this kindness come
so late? When I returned, I found in an envelope a newspaper, the name
of which I have forgotten;--some friend who was sensitive concerning my
reputation had sent it me. It announced the success of _Henri III.,_
and added--

    "That success, great though it be, is not surprising to
    those who know how these literary and political jobs are put
    up by the House of Orléans. The author is an underling in
    His Royal Highness's _pay._"

The article was painful as well as untruthful; a lie, because the House
of Orléans, as was well known, had not schemed to help me in any way;
and painful, because the writer by the use of the word "pay" _(gages)_
had evidently intended to imply that I was only a common servant. I
looked at my poor sick mother, who, unaware of what I was reading,
was trying to express the first desires of returning consciousness
by smiles of tender affection; and at such a moment as this I was
compelled, by an individual whom I had never set eyes upon, whose very
existence was unknown to me and who had no reason for hating me, to
leave her in order to demand an apology for a gross and gratuitous
insult! I went to de la Ponce. I begged him to go to the office of the
paper and arrange there and then, with the writer of the article, the
conditions of a duel for the following morning. Such a long time has
elapsed since then and I have so short a memory for injuries, that I
have completely forgotten both the name of the paper and the name of
the writer with whom I had the quarrel. I regret the latter, for he
bore himself so well in the whole affair that I am still of opinion
he took upon himself the responsibility for an article that was not
his. As I cannot recollect his name, allow me to speak of him as M.
X---. De la Ponce returned in about an hour's time. The duel had been
accepted for the next day but one, as M. X---, who acknowledged himself
the author of the article, had a duel on the day between with Carrel.
I went to call on Carrel, whom I had known for a long time, having met
him at M. de Leuven's and also with Méry. Like myself, he, too, had
been gratuitously insulted; like me, he had demanded satisfaction, and
he was to meet my future adversary in a pistol duel at eight o'clock
next morning. Carrel complimented me on my success, and promised to do
his utmost so that M. X--- would not be able to fight with me the day
after. It was a sad fact that scarcely had I begun my dramatic career
before, in less than a week, I was compelled to demand satisfaction
from two men, not on account of criticisms passed upon my talent, but
for injury done to my personal character. A few words de la Ponce
dropped led me to believe that pistols would be the weapons chosen, and
Carrel confirmed me in this opinion; so, when I met Adolphe, I told him
what had happened and begged him to come and practise shooting with
me next day. Although I could not afford to squander money, I still
had sufficient to permit myself a turn once a month at Gosset's. I had
become a habitué there. We reached the place about ten o'clock.

"Philippe!" I shouted to the lad attendant as I passed in, "pistols No.
5 and twenty-five balls."

Philippe came up.

"You can have twenty-five balls," he said, "but not pistols No. 5,
unless you are going to practise alone."

"Why so?"

"Because they were lent this morning to a gentleman who had a duel, and
you should see the state in which he brought them back."

And, indeed, the second No. 5 pistol had the trigger-guard broken and
the butt end blown off.

"What did that?"

"Why! a bullet," said Philippe.

"Quite so, but what about the gentleman who held it?"

"He had two of his fingers cut."

"Cut?"

"Yes, cut!"

"So he had to pay the price of two of his fingers?"

"And also for the mending of the pistol."

"What was this gentleman's name?"

"I do not recollect his name; he was fighting with M. Carrel."

"Stuff and nonsense!"

"It's true."

"Are you certain?"

"Of course I am. M. Carrel's seconds brought back the pistols."

"See," I said to Adolphe, "this will postpone my duel of to-morrow and
no mistake."

And then I related to him that my adversary had arranged to fight a
duel with Carrel that very day, and that it was probably he who had had
his two fingers injured.

"It is very easy to find out," said Adolphe; "let us go and inquire."

We went to M. X---'s house, and found that it was really he who had
been fighting; he had had two fingers blown off--his third and little
fingers. I sent up my visiting-card by his man-servant, and we took
our departure. We had not gone more than two storeys downstairs when
we heard the man running after us. M. X--- begged me to go in. I found
him smiling in spite of his wounds, and very courteous in spite of his
attack.

"Pray excuse me, monsieur," he said, "for the liberty I took in asking
you to come back and see me; I use the privilege of a wounded person."

"Is your injury a serious one, monsieur?" I asked.

"No--I escaped with the loss of two fingers from my right hand; and
since I still have three left with which to write and tell you how
sorry I am for having made myself unpleasant towards you, I have all I
need."

"You still have the use of your left to shake hands with me, monsieur,"
I said, "and that would be better than tiring your right over anything
imaginable."

We shook hands; conversed on indifferent topics; and then, ten minutes
later, we took leave of one another. We have never seen each other
since, and, as I have said, I have totally forgotten his name. I bear
my memory a grudge, for I shall ever remember him with pleasure.

Singular freak of chance! If this man had not had a quarrel with
Carrel, and if Carrel had not deprived him of his two fingers, he would
have fought with me, and he might have killed me or been killed by me.
And for what reason, I ask you?



BOOK III



CHAPTER I


The Arsenal--Nodier's house--The master's profile--The congress of
bibliophiles--The three candles--Debureau--Mademoiselle Mars and
Merlin--Nodier's family--His friends--In which houses I am at my
best--The salon of the Arsenal--Nodier as a teller of tales--The ball
and the warming-pan


I promised I would return to Nodier, and I will keep my word. After the
service Nodier rendered me by opening the doors of the Théâtre-Français
to me, I went to thank him. Nodier did better for me on my second visit
than he did on the first--he opened the doors of the Arsenal to me.
And, lest my readers should be frightened at the word, and think that I
mean a collection of arms, a museum of artillery, let me hasten to add
that the doors of the Arsenal were the doors of Charles Nodier's house.
Everybody knows the large, gloomy-looking building called the Arsenal,
in a line with the quai des Célestins, at the back of the rue de
Morland, looking over the river. This was where Nodier lived. In these
unpretentious Memoirs it would take us too far afield to relate how,
once upon a time, when Paris was preparing for war, this heavy building
was raised upon a piece of ground called the Champ-au-Plâtre; how, when
the heavy-looking building was raised, François I. had the cannon cast
there which did much unlucky work at Pavia; how, requiring a plot of
ground, he borrowed a farm from his good town of Paris, promising to
return it; how, having borrowed this first farm, he borrowed a second
from it, and a third; how, in short, on the principle of the axiom
"What is good to take is good to keep," he kept the three borrowed
farms--we will relate these matters when, at the end of our impressions
of Europe, Asia and Africa, we set about putting down our impressions
of rambles in Paris. These farms, together with the great building of
which we have spoken, were used to store cannon and powder. One day, in
the reign of Henri II., a spark, coming from nobody knew where,--who
knows whence terrible fires spring!--set fire to the powder-magazine
and exploded it. Paris shook as Naples and Catana shake when Vesuvius
or Etna are in a state of eruption; the fish perished in the river;
at the unexpected concussion the neighbouring houses swayed and then
collapsed one upon another. Melun, a dozen leagues off, shuddered at
the noise of the explosion; thirty persons blown into the air by this
volcano fell down in fragments, a hundred and fifty were wounded and,
unacquainted with the cause of the accident, attributed it to the
Protestants, against whom they were not slow to pick a grievance. It
will be readily understood that the buildings erected by François I.
and the three farms of the city of Paris disappeared in this commotion.
Charles IX., who was a great hand at building, and was responsible for
the sculpturing in the Louvre and the carving of the fountain of the
Innocents, paid a visit to the ruins with his architect. He designed
the plan of a new building, began the fresh erection and, as he was
both a great artist and a great poet, it is probable that he would have
made a good piece of work of it. But Queen Catherine of Medici, having
already got rid of one son, was not sorry to be rid of Charles IX.,
after the fashion of François II., in order to hasten the coming of
Henri III. In case this accusation against Catherine de Medici should
strike our readers as rather too strong, who may prefer to look upon
the death of Charles IX. as the judgment of God (an act which, indeed,
might quite possibly go hand in hand with the poisoning of Charles
IX. by his mother), we will here reproduce a dialogue recorded by
Bassompierre; it is short, but instructive.

"Sire," Bassompierre said to King Louis XIII., who was seated in
the embrasure of a window of the old Louvre, fiercely blowing a
horn,--"sire, you ought not to blow with all your strength like that;
you are weak in the lungs, and the same thing might happen to you as
happened to King Charles IX."

"My dear Bassompierre," Louis XIII. replied, "King Charles IX. did not
die from blowing his horn too long and too frequently; he died from
being so imprudent as to become reconciled to his mother, after he had
had the prudence to quarrel with Catherine of Medici."

Let us return to the Arsenal, and to another king who was so imprudent
as to quarrel with his wife--or, rather, with the House of Austria to
which she belonged--to Henri IV. He it was, in fact, who finished the
Arsenal and laid out the beautiful garden, which we can still see in
pictures of the period of Louis XIII. He gave it to Sully, wherein to
carry on his ministry of finance; and here it was that the parsimonious
minister amassed the millions with which Henri III. intended to carry
on his war with Flanders, when the poignard of Ravaillac put an end
to that strange dream of the seventeenth century, which was to become
a reality in the nineteenth, namely, the union of the seven elective
republics and of the six hereditary monarchies, under one supreme head,
established under the title of the _Congrès de la Paix._

Ah! my dear Mr. Cobden, you with whom I once spent several dull days
and shared some melancholy dinners in Spain, the idea of this Peace
Congress did not originate with you; it came from our unfortunate King
Henri IV.,-"Let us render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's."

And so all you who visit the Arsenal should know that those beautiful
rooms which now form the library were decorated by Sully with Henri
IV.'s money.

In 1823, Charles Nodier was appointed librarian of this library, and
left the rue de Choiseul, where he lived, to establish himself in
his new habitation. But the building that was often the subject of
illustrations was not a very magnificent place to live in! On the first
landing of a flight of steps with massive balustrades, you came upon a
badly fitting door on the left which led to a bricked corridor; the
dining-room and the office were paved with bricks like the corridor.
Three other rooms completed the suite--three luxurious rooms, with
parquetried floors and panelled walls: one was Madame Nodier's bedroom;
the other the salon; and the third the workroom, library and bedchamber
of Charles. Charles led two separate existences: his week's existence
was that of a worker and bibliophile; his Sunday existence was that
of a society man and host. Nodier was an adorable personality; I have
never met nor ever known anyone so learned, so much of an artist and
yet so kindly in disposition as he, save, perhaps, Méry. And though
he possessed plenty of faults he hadn't a vice, and his winning
faults sprang from the originality of the man of genius. Nodier was
extravagant, careless, dilatory; but his was the delightful idleness
of a Figaro. He might, perhaps, have been accused of being rather too
worldly; but that, too, sprang from his carelessness, in not taking the
trouble to examine into his feelings. It was rather the whole community
of martyrs, so to speak, that Nodier loved after this fashion; he had
an inner circle of privileged friends whom he loved with all his heart;
others, he liked only intellectually. Nodier was _par excellence_ a man
of learning: he knew everything and a host of things besides; for he
exercised the prerogative of men of genius: if he did not know a thing
he invented his knowledge of it, and it must be confessed his invention
was generally far more likely, far more ingenious and romantic and
specious and, I will venture to say, far nearer the truth than the
reality itself. It will be readily guessed that, with this gift of
invention, Nodier was a veritable mine of paradoxes. But he never tried
to force you to accept these paradoxes; he created three-fourths of his
paradoxes for his own diversion.

One day, when I had been lunching with a minister, I was asked--

"How did the luncheon pass off?"

"All right," I replied; "but if I hadn't been there myself I should
have been horribly bored!"

And so it was with Nodier; for fear of being bored, he made up
paradoxes, just as I told stories.

I must return to what I said about Nodier being a little too much
inclined to love everybody. My sentence sounds somewhat reproachful,
but it must not be taken so. Nodier was the philanthropist of Terence,
the man unto whom nothing is alien. Nodier loved, as fire warms, as a
torch lightens, as the sun shines; he loved because to love and make
friendships were as much the fruition of his nature as grapes are the
fruit of the vine. Let me be permitted to coin a _mot_ to describe
the man who himself coined so many, he was a lover (_aimeur_). I
have said he loved and made friendships because, for Nodier, women
existed as well as men. As he loved all men of goodwill, so, in his
youth (and Nodier was never old), did he love all lovable women. How
he managed this he himself would have found it impossible to explain.
But, in common with all eminently poetic minds, Nodier always confused
the dream with the ideal, and the ideal with the material world; for
Nodier, every fancy of his imagination really existed--Thérèse Aubert,
la Fée aux miettes, Inès de las Sierras--he lived in the midst of all
these creations of his genius, and never sultan had a more magnificent
harem.

It is interesting to know how a writer who produced so many books,
and such entertaining ones too, as he did, worked. I am going to tell
you. We will take the Nodier of the week-days, romance-writer, savant
and bibliophile, the writer of the _Dictionnaire des Onomatopées_,
_Trilby_, the _Souvenirs de Jeunesse._ In the morning, after two or
three hours of easy work, when he had covered a dozen or fourteen
pages of paper six inches long by four wide, with a regular, legible
handwriting, without a single erasure, he considered his morning task
done, and went out. When he was out of doors, Nodier wandered about
aimlessly, going up now one street of the boulevards, now another, now
along this or that quay. No matter what road he took, three things
preoccupied him: the stalls of the second-hand bookshops, booksellers'
windows and book-binders' shops; for Nodier was almost as fond of
fine bindings as of rare books, and I believe he really classed
Deneuil, Derome, Thouvenin and the three Elzevirs in the same rank in
his mind. These adventurous walks of Nodier, which were protracted by
discoveries of books or by meetings with his friends, usually began
at noon and nearly always ended between three and four o'clock at
Crozet's or at Techener's. In these houses, at about that hour, the
book-lovers of Paris gathered together: the Marquis de Ganay, the
Marquis de Châteaugiron, the Marquis de Chalabre; Bérard, the Elzevir
collector, who, in his spare moments, made the Charter of 1830;
finally, the bibliophile Jacob, king of bibliographical knowledge when
Nodier was not present, viceroy when Nodier came on the scenes. Here
they exchanged opinions and discussed _de omni rescibili et quibusdam
aliis._ These causeries lasted till five o'clock. At five o'clock,
Nodier went home by some other route than that which he had traversed
in the morning; thus, if he had come by the quays he would return by
the boulevards, and if he had gone along the boulevards, he would
return by the quays. At six o'clock, Nodier dined with his family.
After dinner, came a cup of coffee sipped like a true Sybarite, in
little and big draughts, then the cloth was removed with everything
on it, and three candles were placed on the bare table. Three tallow
candles, not three wax ones. Nodier preferred tallow to wax--why, no
one ever knew: it was one of Nodier's caprices. These three candles,
never more, never fewer, were placed triangularly. Then Nodier brought
out the work on which he was engaged and his quill pens--he detested
steel pens--and he worked until nine or ten o'clock at night. At that
hour, he went out a second time; but, this time, he invariably followed
the course of the boulevards; and, according to what might be on, he
would go to the Porte-Saint-Martin, to the Ambigu or to the Funambules.
It will be remembered that it was at the Porte-Saint-Martin that I met
him for the first time.

There were three actors whom Nodier adored--Talma, Potier and Debureau.
When I made Nodier's acquaintance, Talma had been dead three years; and
Potier had retired two years before; so there only remained to him the
irresistible attraction of Debureau. He it was who first extolled the
famous Pierrot; in this respect, Janin came after Nodier and was merely
his imitator. Nodier saw the _Bœuf enragé_ nearly a hundred times. At
the first representation of the piece he waited for the ox until the
end, and not seeing it, he went out and spoke about it to the boxkeeper.

"Madame," he asked, "will you please inform me why this pantomime that
I have just seen is called the _Bœuf enragé?_"

"Monsieur," replied the boxkeeper, "because that is its title."

"Ah!" exclaimed Nodier; and he withdrew satisfied with the explanation.

The six days of the week were spent in exactly the same way: then came
Sunday. Every Sunday Nodier went out at nine o'clock in the morning to
breakfast with Guilbert de Pixérécourt, for whom at that time he had
a profound admiration and the friendliest feelings. He called him the
Corneille of the boulevards. Here he met the scientific gatherings of
Crozet or of Techener.

We have mentioned that one of these bibliomaniacs was called the
Marquis de Chalabre. He died leaving a very valuable library, which he
bequeathed to Mademoiselle Mars. Mademoiselle Mars read very little
or, to be truthful, she did not read at all. She commissioned Merlin
to classify the books left her and to arrange for their sale. Merlin
was the most honest man on the face of the earth; and he set about
this commission with his usual conscientiousness, and he turned and
re-turned the leaves of each volume so carefully that one day he went
to Mademoiselle Mars with thirty or forty one-thousand franc notes in
his hand, which he laid on a table.

"What is that, Merlin?" asked Mademoiselle Mars.

"I do not know, madame," he replied.

"What do you mean? Why, those are bank-notes!"

"Certainly."

"Where have you found them?"

"In a pocket-book, within the cover of a very rare Bible; and, as the
Bible belongs to you, these bank-notes are yours too."

Mademoiselle Mars took the bank-notes, which were of course hers, and
she had the greatest difficulty in making Merlin accept a present of
the Bible in which he had, as I understand, discovered the bank-notes.

Nodier would return home between three and four o'clock, and, like M.
Villenave, would allow his daughter Marie to dress and titivate him.
For we have omitted to mention that Nodier's family was composed of
his wife, his daughter, his sister Madame de Tercy and his niece. At
six o'clock, Nodier's table would be laid. Three or four spare covers
would be provided in excess of the number of the family party, and
these were for regular habitués. Three or four more covers were put for
chance comers. The habitués were Cailleux, the director of the Musée;
Baron Taylor, who was soon to leave his place vacant because of his
journey to Egypt; Francis Wey, whom Nodier loved as though he were his
own child, whose old French aristocratic accent was but little less
noticeable than Nodier's own, and Dauzats'. The casual diners were
Bixio, the huge Saint-Valery and myself. Saint-Valery was a librarian,
like Nodier. He was six feet one inch in height and an extremely well
informed man but possessed of no originality or any wit: it was of him
that Méry wrote this line--

    "Il se baisse, et ramasse un oiseau dans les airs!"

When he was at the library, it was a very rare thing for him to need a
ladder to reach down a book, so tall was he. He would stretch up one of
his long arms, standing on tiptoe, and find the book that was required,
even if it were close to the ceiling. He was susceptible in the
extreme, and could not bear any joking references to his tall figure no
matter how harmless they were; he was angry with me for a long while
because once, when he was complaining to Madame Nodier of a violent
cold in his head, I asked him if he had had cold feet a year ago.

When you were admitted into that charming and desirable inner circle
of the Nodier family, you could dine with them as often as you liked.
If one, two or three covers were needed beyond the number already
laid, they were added; if the table had to be enlarged, it was made
longer. But unlucky was the man who happened to be the thirteenth! he
was pitilessly placed at a little table to dine by himself, unless
a fourteenth guest, still less expected than he, should turn up to
relieve him of his penance. I was very soon among the number of the
more intimate friends of whom I have just spoken, and my place at
the table was settled once for all, between Madame Nodier and Marie
Nodier. When I appeared at the door I was greeted with exclamations of
joy; they all rushed at me, from Nodier downwards, who stretched out
his two great arms to embrace me or shake me by the hand. At the end
of a year, from being an accepted fact, my place became recognised as
mine by right: it remained vacant for me until after the soup course;
then they ventured to fill it, but if I happened to arrive, either ten
minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or half an hour late, even if I did
not arrive until dessert, the interloper got up, or was made to do so,
and my place given up to me. Nodier used to make out that I was as
good as a fortune to him, because I saved him from doing the talking;
but what may have been a pleasure, in this respect, to the idle master
of the house, was a source of sorrow to his guests: to relieve the
most fascinating talker imaginable from conversing was tantamount to
a crime. Nevertheless, when I was charged with being viceroy of the
conversation I was on my mettle to fill my position to the best of
my abilities. There are certain houses wherein one is spontaneously
brilliant; others where one is dull no matter how one tries to be
the reverse. There were three houses where I was at my best, three
houses in which my spirits ever rose and scintillated with youthful
exuberance; these houses were Nodier's, Madame Guyet-Desfontaines' and
Zimmermann's. At all other places I could still be entertaining, but
merely in the ordinary way of social intercourse. However, no matter
whether Nodier himself was the talker (and when this was the case,
grown-up people and small children all held their peace to listen);
whether his silence left the conversation to Dauzats, to Bixio or to
me, the time flew by unheeded until the close of dinner was reached--a
dinner that might have been envied by the most powerful prince of the
earth, provided his tastes were intellectually inclined. Dinner over,
coffee was handed round, while we were still at table. Nodier was
far too much of a Sybarite to rise from the table to take his Mocha
standing uncomfortably in a half-warmed salon, when he could take it
lolling back in his chair, in a warm dining-room, well scented with
the aroma of fruits and liqueurs. During this last act, or rather this
epilogue to the dinner, Madame Nodier and Marie rose to go and light
up the salon, and I, who took neither coffee nor liqueurs, accompanied
them, to help in their task, my tall figure being very useful to them
in lighting the lustres and candelabras without the necessity of
standing on chairs. I need hardly say that if M. Saint-Valery, who was
a foot taller than I, were there, the charge of lighting up fell to him
by right.

When, thanks to us, the salon was lit up,--a ceremony that only took
place on Sundays, for on week-days the receptions were held in Madame
Nodier's room--the light illuminated white panelled walls with Louis
XV. mouldings, and furniture of extreme simplicity, comprising a
dozen chairs or easy-chairs and a sofa covered with red cashmere, the
hangings being of the same colour; a bust of Hugo, a statue of Henri
IV. as a child, a portrait of Nodier and a landscape of a view in the
Alps, by Régnier. On the left, as you entered, was Marie's piano, in a
recess almost like a room in itself. This recess was large enough, like
the spaces between bedsteads in the time of Louis XIV., for the friends
of the household to stand round and talk with Marie as she played
quadrilles and valses with her clever, agile fingers. But quadrilles
and valses did not begin before the given moment: two hours, from eight
to ten, were invariably devoted to conversation; then we danced from
ten to one in the morning. Five minutes after Madame Nodier, Marie and
I had lighted up the salon, Taylor and Cailleux were the first to come
in--they were far more at home in the house than was Nodier himself;
then came Nodier with his arm through that of Dauzats or Francis Wey or
Bixio; for although Nodier was only thirty-eight or forty at that time,
he was like a tall climbing plant that covers walls with leaves and
flowers, but already needs something to lean on. Behind Nodier entered
the rest of the guests, with his little daughter dancing and skipping.
Ten minutes later, the usual callers began to drop in--Fontanay and
Alfred Johannot, with their two impassive faces, always melancholy in
the midst of our laughter and gaiety, as though they were under some
vague presentiment of death; Tony Johannot, who never came without a
fresh drawing or an engraving to enrich Marie's album or collection;
Barye, who looked lonely in the midst of the tumult, for it always
seemed as though his mind were far away from his body in quest of
something wonderful; Louis Boulanger, with his variable moods, to-day
sad, to-morrow gay, ever the same great artist, great poet and faithful
friend; Francisque Michel, a seeker of old manuscripts, often so
preoccupied with his researches of the day that he would forget he
had come in an ancient hat of the period of Louis XIII. and yellow
slippers; de Vigny, who, in ignorance of his future transfiguration,
still deigned to mix with mortals; de Musset, almost a boy, dreaming
over his _Contes d'Espagne et d'Italie_; and, bringing up the rear,
Hugo and Lamartine, the two kings of poetry, the peaceful Eteocles and
Polynices of Art, one bearing the sceptre of the ode and the other the
crown of elegy.

Alas! and alas! what has become of all those who gathered there?
Fontanay and Alfred Johannot are dead; de Vigny has made himself
invisible; Taylor is given over to his travels; Lamartine, with his
provisional government, has let France slip through his fingers; Hugo
is a deputy and strives to hold the country together, a task that
proved too difficult for his colleague's hands; and the rest of us
are all scattered, each following his own laborious career, hampered
with spiteful enemies, harassing laws and petty ministerial hatreds;
we struggle on, blindfold and weary, towards that new world which
Providence is preserving for our sons and our grandsons, which we shall
not see, but towards which at least our tombs, like milestones, will
point the way.

Let us go back to our salon, into which those of whom I have just
been speaking were now entering, hailed with effusive greetings of
delight. If Nodier, when he left the dinner-table, went and stretched
himself out in his arm-chair by the fireside, it was because he liked,
after the fashion of the egoistic Sybarite he was, to enjoy at his
ease some chance play of his imagination, during that blissful moment
which follows in the wake of coffee; if, on the other hand, making
an effort to remain standing, he leant against the chimneypiece, his
calves to the fire and his back to the mirror, it meant he was going
to tell some of his stories. We were then all on the _qui vive_ to
smile at the anecdotes which were to drop from those finely modelled,
satirical and witty lips; everybody kept silence; and he would pour
forth one of the delightful stories of his youth, which sounded like
a romance of Longus, or an idyll of Theocritus. He seemed like Walter
Scott and Perrault; the savant grappling with the poet, memory battling
with imagination. Nodier was not merely amusing to listen to, but in
addition he was delightful to watch. His tall, lean body, his long
thin arms, his white tapering hands, his long face, full of a serene
melancholy, all harmonised and fitted in with his rather languid voice,
and with the afore-mentioned aristocratic accent; and, whether Nodier
were reciting a love-story, or describing a fight on the plains of la
Vendée, or some drama that happened in the place de la Révolution,
a conspiracy of Cadoudal or of Oudet, his hearers would hold their
breath to listen, so wonderfully did the story-teller know how to get
at the heart of everything he described. Those who came in in the
middle bowed silently and sat down in an arm-chair or leant against the
wainscotting; the recital always came to an end too soon; why he ever
concluded was a mystery, for we knew that Nodier could draw eternally
on that purse of Fortunatus which we call imagination. We did not
applaud,--do we applaud the murmur of a stream, the song of a bird,
the perfume of a flower?--but when the murmur ceased, the song died
away, the perfume evaporated, we listened, we waited, we longed for
more! Then Nodier would slide back quietly from his position at the
fireplace into his big arm-chair; would smile and turn to Lamartine or
Hugo with--

"Enough of such prose as that--now let us have poetry, poetry!"

And, without a second bidding, one of the two poets would, from where
he was, with hands leant on the back of an armchair, or shoulders
propped up against the panelled walls, give birth to the harmonious and
eager flow of his poetic fancy; then every head would turn in the fresh
direction, every intellect would follow the flight of a thought which
soared above them on eagle's wings to play now in the mist of clouds
among the lightnings of the tempest, now in the rays of the sun.

On these occasions applause followed; then, when the applause had
ceased, Marie would go to her piano and a brilliant rush of notes would
burst upon the air. This was the signal for a quadrille; arm-chairs and
chairs were put away, card-players took refuge in corners, and those
who, instead of dancing, preferred to talk with Marie, would slip into
her alcove. Nodier was one of the earliest at the card-tables; for a
long time he would only play at _bataille_, at which he claimed to be
very expert; but, finally, he was induced to make a concession to the
taste of the century and played _écarté_. When the ball had begun,
Nodier, who was usually very unlucky, would call for cards. From the
moment he began, Nodier effaced himself, disappeared and was utterly
forgotten; he was one of those old-fashioned hosts who obliterated
themselves in order to give precedence to their guests, who, when
made welcome, become masters of the house themselves. Moreover, after
Nodier had disappeared for a time, he would disappear entirely. He went
to bed in good time, or, to speak more correctly, he was put to bed
early. To Madame Nodier belonged the care of putting this great child
to bed; she would therefore leave the salon first in order to get
his bed ready. If it were winter, and very cold, and the kitchen fire
had perchance gone out, a warming-pan would be seen to thread its way
amidst the dancers to the salon fireplace, its wide jaws would open to
receive the glowing coals, and then it would be taken away to Nodier's
bedroom. Nodier followed the warming-pan, and we saw him no more that
night.

Such was Nodier; such was the life of that excellent man.

Once we came upon him in a mood of humiliation and shame and
embarrassment. The author of the _Rot de Bohème et ses Sept Châteaux_
had just been nominated an Academician. He made very humble apologies
to Hugo and to me, and we forgave him.

After having been rejected five times, Hugo was nominated in his turn.
He offered me no excuses, which was as well; since I should certainly
not have forgiven him!



CHAPTER II


Oudard transmits to me the desires of the Duc d'Orléans--I am
appointed assistant librarian--How this saved His Highness four
hundred francs--Rivalry with Casimir Delavigne--Petition of the
Classical School against Romantic productions--Letter of support from
Mademoiselle Duchesnois--A fantastic dance--The person who called
Racine a _blackguard_--Fine indignation of the _Constitutionnel_--First
representation of _Marino Faliero_


It will be remembered that, during the brief conversation which I had
the honour of holding with M. le Duc d'Orléans in his private box, he
had expressed the desire to keep me near him. I had no motive, now I
had gained my liberty of action, for leaving the man who, at any rate,
had assured me a living for six years and had allowed me to continue
my studies and to become what I was. Moreover, at that time, M. le Duc
d'Orléans was a typical representative of that Opposition party to
which I belonged by rights as the son of a Republican general. M. le
Duc d'Orléans, son of a regicide, member of the Jacobin Club, defender
of Marat and indebted to Collot d'Herbois, seemed, indeed, to me, I
must admit, if he had not greatly degenerated since 1793, to be far
more advanced in 1829 than I was myself. He acted well up to the _mot_
he uttered the day I was writing to his dictation: "Monsieur Dumas,
bear in mind that, if one is descended from Louis XIV., if only by
means of one of his bastards, it is still a sufficient honour to be
proud of." I had, of course, called forth this _mot_ by my ignorant
hesitation. Besides, one could be proud of being descended from Louis
XIV., while still blaming the turpitude of Louis XV. and the faults of
Louis XVI.; furthermore, where had even our Republican fathers come
from?--the Parc-aux-Cerfs and the Petit Trianon. So then the Duc
d'Orléans, if not precisely a Republican prince, as he had been styled
in 1792, was at least a citizen prince, as he was called in 1829. In
short, it was good for my position, and in harmony with my sympathies,
to remain attached to M. le Duc d'Orléans. All these reflections had
had sufficient time to ripen in my mind before I received a letter
from Oudard asking me to call on him at his office. Formerly, such an
invitation would have made me very uneasy; now, it only made me smile,
and I presented myself. Raulot bowed nearly to the ground before me; he
opened the door and announced--

"M. Alexandre Dumas."

Oudard came to meet me with a laughing face.

"Well, my dear poet," he said, "it seems you have had an undoubted
success?"

"Yes."

"First, let me congratulate you heartily.... But who could have
foreseen it?"

"Those who suppressed my bonus money and kept back my salary; for I
presume that if they had foreseen a failure they would not have had the
cruelty to expose my mother and me to die of starvation."

"Did not M. de Broval write to you the night of the representation?"
Oudard asked in some confusion.

"Yes, indeed; here is his letter."

I showed him the letter the reader has seen.

"And I am keeping it as a model," I continued, putting it back into my
pocket again.

"As a model of what?"

"Of diplomatic lying and of stupid sycophancy."

"Come, that is strong language!"

"True, but one ought to call a spade a spade."

"However that may be, let us drop the subject and speak of your
position here."

"That is equivalent to discussing castles in the air."

"I do not refer to your past position, for I am well aware that you
would decline to remain in the household under the old conditions;
neither do we desire you to do so.... You must have leisure for your
work."

"Continue, my lord Mæcenas, speak in the name of Augustus; I am
listening."

"No, on the contrary it is for you to speak. What do you desire?"

"I? I desired success and I have had it. I do not want anything else."

"But what can we do that will be agreeable to you?"

"Not a great deal."

"Nevertheless, there must be some position in the house you would like."

"There is none I covet; but there is one post that would suit my
convenience."

"Which is that?"

"To be M. Casimir Delavigne's colleague at the library."

Oudard's facial muscles twitched with an expression indicative of, "You
are indeed ambitious, my friend."

"Oh! indeed I quite understand the difficulties," I said.

"You see," Oudard continued, "we already have Vatout and Casimir, a
librarian and assistant librarian."

"Of course, and that is ample, is it not, when there is no library?"

For, as a matter of fact, the library of the Duc d'Orléans, at that
time especially, was very inferior.

"What do you mean by no library?" Oudard exclaimed; for, like the
servant of a curé, he could not bear to have his master's house
depreciated. "We have three thousand volumes!"

"You are mistaken, my dear Oudard: there are three thousand and four;
for I saw the _Mémoires de Dumouriez_, which had just come from London,
in the house of M. le Duc d'Orléans, the day before yesterday."

I gave the thrust good-humouredly, and so Oudard took it. He could not
ward it off without acknowledging himself hit: he continued--

"Well, well, you are wonderfully clever, my friend; I will convey
to monseigneur your desire to become attached to the household as
librarian."

I stopped him.

"Stay, let us quite understand one another, Oudard."

"I do not wish for anything better."

"Did you not ask me to come to you?"

"Certainly."

"It was not I who came on my own initiative?"

"No."

"I should not have come if you had not written to me."

"That would have been very remiss on your part."

"Possibly; but, all the same, I did not come. Now you talk of a desire:
I have not expressed any; it is not I who desire to remain attached to
the household. If they want to keep me, they must make me librarian;
as to salary, they need not give me any. You see I am making things
exceedingly easy for His Royal Highness."

"Ah! are you always going to be wilful?"

"No, but I remember what M. le Duc d'Orléans condescended to write, by
the side of my name, in his own handwriting, a month ago: 'Suppress his
bonuses,' etc. etc."

"Come, I will tell you something that will restore the prince in your
estimation."

"Ah! my dear Oudard, I am indeed far too insignificant an individual to
lay claim to the right of quarrelling with him."

"Well, then, I fancy he would accept the dedication of your drama."

"The dedication of my play, my dear Oudard, belongs to the man who got
it acted; my drama _Henri III._ will be dedicated to Taylor."

"You are making a mistake, my dear friend."

"No, I am repaying a debt."

"All right, we will not continue the subject; so, a librarian like
Casimir Delavigne...."

"Or like Vatout, if the comparison seems to you to be simpler."

"Are you aware how epigrammatic you have become since your success?"

"No; it is only that I can now say aloud what I formerly thought
unspoken."

"Well, I see clearly that you mean to have the last word."

"Of course; try and find a word to which I cannot fit an answer. _Au
revoir!_"

"Adieu!"

Two days later, Oudard called me in again; he had discovered a post
that would suit me much better than being librarian: namely, to be
reader to Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans. I thanked Oudard; but I assured
him that I still held to my first idea of being librarian or nothing at
all.

We parted rather more coldly than at first. Two days later, I received
a third letter; this time, he had found something that would suit
me best of all. They would make me _chevalier d'honneur_ to Madame
Adélaïde! I persisted obstinately that I wanted to be librarian.
Finally, I received a fourth invitation, and I paid a fourth visit.
They had decided to grant my request, and I was appointed assistant
librarian, at a salary of 1200 francs.

As I had announced beforehand that the question of money was not of any
consequence, they had taken advantage of it to suggest to monseigneur
to pay me 300 francs less as librarian than they had paid me as a
clerk. That didn't matter; but listen, and may Harpagon and Grandet
hang themselves for not having invented what the people devised who
arranged the affairs of M. le Duc d'Orléans and myself. As they had
not paid me any salary for six months, they antedated my nomination by
six months. Consequently, as I had a salary of 1500 francs as clerk
and 1200 francs as librarian, they saved, by paying me for these six
months as a librarian, the sum of 150 francs, which, added to my unpaid
up bonuses of 1829, saved them 350 francs; and the 350 francs, added
to the 50 francs cut off my bonus of 1828, amounted to a net total of
400 francs more into the princely coffers. It will be admitted, will
it not? that the Duc d'Orléans was surrounded by men of large views!
Unfortunately, these were the very same men who, later, surrounded the
king.

When I was installed at the Library, I became acquainted with Vatout
and Casimir Delavigne, who, as Oudard had warned me, did not welcome
my advent with much warmth. Casimir Delavigne in particular, who,
although he made it up with me afterwards, at first could not forgive
me the success I had had with _Henri III._ Indeed, my success with
_Henri III._ continued throughout the year, and, as there is a proverb
to the effect that two successes, on the stage, never come together,
the success of _Henri III._ prevented the success of _Marino Faliero_,
which was awaiting its turn, and in which Mademoiselle Mars was to play
Héléna. But Mademoiselle Mars was engaged for three long months in
_Henri III._; then came her two months' holiday; so _Marino Faliero_
was put off until the coming winter. This did not in the least suit
Casimir Delavigne.

I have related how Casimir Delavigne's dramatic affairs were
conducted: a family council was called on account of _Marino Faliero_,
and it was decided that the Doge of Venice should migrate to the
Porte-Saint-Martin; that Madame Dorval, whose reputation had begun to
spread, should replace Mademoiselle Mars and that Ligier should be
seduced from the Odéon to play Marino Faliero. This migration made a
great sensation. Casimir at the Porte-Saint-Martin! It was Coriolanus
among the Volscians; all the papers wailed aloud and made moan over
this exile of the national bard, and people began to look on me as a
usurper who had risen up to drive out a crowned and anointed king from
his legitimate throne. The situation was complicated by an event as
novel as it was unexpected. A petition to the king appeared, entreating
His Majesty to do for Corneille, Molière and Racine--who stood on
their marble pedestals in the _foyer_ unmoved by this agitation--what
His Majesty's august predecessor had done for King Ferdinand VII.
when he was expelled by the Cortes:--to re-establish them on their
thrones. Alas! no one was ever less ambitious to snatch other people's
thrones than I.... I was willing enough to take a seat or a comfortable
arm-chair, ay, an elevated one, well in view, by all means, but a
throne! the word and the position were too classic, and I never aspired
thereto. It is inconceivable, is it not? that there could be found
seven men of letters sufficiently intolerant, silly and ridiculous
to appeal to a king to proscribe a method of art, an invisible,
indefinable and intangible conception, and boldly to say to him, "Sire,
we are the representatives of Art; we alone know what is beautiful; we
alone possess knowledge, taste and genius; true, the public hisses at
us as soon as we appear; true, our tragedies do not attract anyone when
they are acted; the Comedians play our pieces with marked aversion, it
is true, since they do not draw the same profits from them, although
expenses are the same; but what does all that matter! It is hard for
us to die and to be forgotten; we would rather be hooted at than
buried. Sire, issue your commands that our plays, and ours alone, be
played;--for we are the sole descendants of Corneille, and Molière and
Racine, whilst these new-comers are but the bastards of Shakespeare and
Goethe and Schiller!"

How very logical! I was a bastard of Shakespeare, of Goethe and
of Schiller, because I had just composed _Henri III._, a play so
pre-eminently French, that, if it were open to any reproach, it would
be that I had represented the manners of the end of the sixteenth
century too faithfully. And as the thing really sounds incredible,
we will place before our readers' own eyes the petition of these
gentlemen:--

    "SIRE,--The glory of letters is not the least brilliant
    among French glories, and the glory of our theatre is not
    the least brilliant of our literary glories. So thought your
    ancestors when they honoured the Théâtre-Français with a
    special protection; so thought Louis XIV., to whom it owed
    its first organisation. That regal protector of letters,
    persuaded that the _chefs d'œuvre_ which his reign had
    produced could not be represented too perfectly, decreed
    that the best actors who were scattered about in the various
    companies which the capital then possessed should be united
    into one company, to be called the Comedians in Ordinary
    to the King. He gave rules to this select company, granted
    them rights and, among others, the exclusive privilege of
    representing tragedy and high comedy; and he added to these
    favours that of endowment. His object in doing this, sire,
    as you are aware, was not solely to reward those actors who
    had the good fortune to please him, but also to encourage
    them in the exercise of an art which by its elevation should
    be in harmony with his royal spirit; also to perpetuate the
    prosperity of that art, and to establish a model theatre
    on a solid foundation, for both actors and authors. For a
    long while, the intentions of Louis XIV. were fulfilled by
    his successors, in whom there was no falling off, either in
    good taste or in generosity; the two arts that he loved,
    and to which the French stage owed its dignity and its
    superiority, have reigned there in almost undisputed sway.
    Such was the condition of things at the time of the decease
    of your august brother; why must it be confessed that it
    is no longer the same to-day? The death of the actor whose
    talents vied with those of the most perfect artist of any
    epoch, has brought about more than one injury to the noble
    art which he upheld. Whether from depravity of taste or from
    consciousness of their inability to take his place, certain
    associates of the Théâtre-Français have pretended that the
    method of art in which Talma excelled could no longer be
    beneficially carried on; they are seeking to exclude tragedy
    from the stage and to substitute for it plays composed
    in imitation of the most eccentric dramas that foreign
    literature affords--dramas which no one had ever dared
    before to reproduce except in our lowest theatres. It is
    quite conceivable that third-rate actors should pursue these
    tactics, which are in accordance with their indifferent
    performances; and that, since they are incapable of rising
    to the height of tragedy, they should wish to lower art to
    the level of their talent; but it is almost inconceivable,
    sire, that this attitude should be encouraged by those who
    should combat it. They not only violate the privileges
    granted them in order to advance, on every possible
    occasion, the particular method of art to which they have
    become attached; but, in order to satisfy the exigencies of
    this method, which seeks less to elevate the soul, entice
    the heart and occupy the mind, than to dazzle the eyes by
    material means, by the distraction of vain show and by stage
    effect, they are exhausting the capital of the theatre,
    increasing its debt and bringing about its ruin. And, in
    addition, as tragedy still struggles, and struggles with
    some success, against its ignoble rival, in spite of all
    that is done to prevent it, the authorities, not satisfied
    with refusing to undertake necessary expenses and supply
    the apparatus needed, are doing their best to discourage
    tragic representations altogether, and only give subsidies
    to the principal actors in subjects of which the public
    disapproves; far worse still, in order to make all tragic
    acting henceforth impossible, in anticipation of the time
    when the two leading exponents of tragedy, Mademoiselle
    Duchesnois and M. Lafond, shall have retired from the stage,
    they have compelled them to submit to an exile of a year,
    under cover of a holiday, during which time they promise
    themselves to complete the absolute ruin of the theatre of
    Racine, Corneille and Voltaire.

    "Sire, are the agents in whom you have placed confidence, to
    watch over and control the theatre, responding properly to
    your beneficent designs? Was it intended that the liberty
    with which they were entrusted was to be used to advance
    the cause of melodrama to the detriment of tragedy? Ought
    the funds placed, by your liberality, at their disposal, in
    order to advance the cause of good taste, to be squandered
    over their own particular fancies, which tend to make the
    greatest names in Art subservient to the Melpomene of the
    boulevards, and to reduce their sublime art to the condition
    of a vile trade? We are convinced, sire, that the glory of
    your reign is concerned in the preservation of all sources
    of French glory, and we therefore consider it our duty to
    call your attention to the degradation by which the foremost
    of our theatres is threatened. Sire, the evil is already
    grave! In a few months' time it will be past redress; in a
    few months' time the theatre founded by Louis le Grand will
    be entirely closed to works which have been the delight of
    the most polite of courts, the most enlightened of nations;
    it will have fallen below the level of the meanest of
    stages, or, rather, the Théâtre-Français will have ceased to
    exist.

    _"(Signed)_ A. V. ARNAULT, N. LEMERCIER, VIENNET, JOUY,
    ANDRIEUX, JAY, O. LEROY"

This curious epistle was capped by another quite as strange--or, more
correctly speaking, it was preceded by it. The letter of Mademoiselle
Duchesnois, which we shall produce in its entirety, in the same way
that we have produced the petition of these gentlemen, was the rocket
which warned the public that a great pyrotechnic display was about to
take place.

My readers will recall the visit M. Lafond paid me in my office, to
ask me if I had a smart, well-groomed fellow in my play who could say
to Queen Christine, "_Sacrebleu!_ your Majesty has not the right to
assassinate this poor devil!" It will be remembered that I told him
I had not. Whereupon M. Lafond had turned daintily upon his heels,
remarking that his visit was, therefore, fruitless.

After the reading of _Henri III._, M. Lafond had said to himself
that the part of that extremely well set up courtier, the Duc de
Guise, would be his by right; but, alack, he had seen the rôle
given to Joanny, who played it strikingly well although he was
not irreproachable. It had been just as bad for poor Mademoiselle
Duchesnois: she had seen successively the rôle of Christine and that
of the Duchesse de Guise pass over her; she had done me the honour of
wishing to act them both, and each time, with infinite trouble, I had
had to explain to her how impossible it was for her to undertake either
rôle; consequently, she was furious. Now, anger is a bad counsellor, so
it came about that Mademoiselle Duchesnois wrote the following letter
under its sway:--


    "MONSIEUR,--I should have preferred to keep out of the
    quarrel which is engaging the attention of the newspapers
    concerning the Théâtre-Français; but, inasmuch as the
    defence of a system which is compromising our social
    existence is based upon erroneous facts, I have thought it
    my duty to the public to offer certain explanations which
    will show the question in its true light. Unquestionably,
    the first duty of the French Comedians should be to retain
    the favour of the public, and we cannot be reproached with
    respect to this, since, during the past three years, we have
    successively produced, at a very heavy expense, all the
    works of the new school; in consequence, our shares have
    fallen from sixteen thousand to seven thousand francs, and
    we have contracted, in the interim, a debt estimated at a
    hundred thousand francs. However, the old repertoire and
    works based on those of the old masters, such as _Tartufe,
    Phèdre, Zaïre, Germanicus, Sylla, Pierre de Portugal,
    Marie Stuart, l'École des Vieillards, Blanche, le Roman_
    while they no longer glorify the stage, still bring some
    money to our pockets, and help to provide for the terrible
    expenses of the scenery and properties required for the
    dramas. In spite of the ruin of our prosperity and the
    increase of our liabilities, I should have kept silence
    if the rumour had not spread abroad that we were about to
    dissolve our Association in order to prepare ourselves for
    a new management, and to raise a so-called Romantic theatre
    on our ruins. These reports have gained enough strength to
    be repeated by several papers, and it has been noticed that
    the usual supporters of the Commissary Royal have gone out
    of their way to point out the advantages of such an absurd
    proposition, instead of denying it. The tragic actors, who,
    since the arrival of M. Taylor, have been the object of an
    animadversion for which, until recently, they have not been
    able to find a cause, were attacked in these same papers
    with unheard-of bitterness, and with the catchword of the
    moment, _The public does not want any more tragedies._
    There is no denying that tragedy no longer brings in the
    enormous sums of the prosperous days of Talma and of the
    first fifteen years of my theatrical career; but, without
    dwelling upon its importance and its necessity, it can be
    seen by the receipts--not those obtained from the Commissary
    Royal, but the actual receipts entered on the _registre
    des pauvres_ (which I am having looked out, at this very
    moment, in order to their publication)--that tragedy would
    again see prosperous days if the Government would grant it
    the protection that is its due, rather than persecute the
    actors and authors who are still its supporters. It would
    be a difficult task to enumerate all the instances of M.
    Taylor's ill-will: here are one or two which will be enough
    to convince you. Three young actors who were taken away from
    the Odéon showed some interest and aptitude for tragedy. M.
    Taylor tried to drive them away from the Comédie-Française.
    He succeeded with regard to MM. Ligier and Victor; and, if
    M. David has been saved to us, it was because a decision of
    the court overruled the Commissary Royal. M. Beauvallet,
    a young man who roused high hopes among the friends of
    dramatic art, has been obliged to take an engagement at a
    secondary theatre. Nor is this all; my presence and that
    of M. Lafond were obstacles in the way of carrying out
    the plans of the Romantic school. So we received, this
    winter, an intimation, almost tantamount to a command, to
    leave Paris for a year, without having solicited anything
    of the kind, as certain wrongly informed journals have
    announced. It is under these circumstances, monsieur, that
    distinguished literary men who, by their connection with
    actors, are much better acquainted with the situation at
    the Théâtre-Français than are the writers of many articles,
    have felt it their duty to present a memorial to the King,
    not in order to exclude the new style of drama (a pleasantry
    invented by M. Taylor's friends to hold up to _ridicule_ a
    perfectly justifiable proceeding), but to claim a protection
    for authors who belong to the _Classical_ school and for the
    actors who support them, at least equal to that given to the
    Romantic school.

    "I beg you, monsieur, to have the goodness to announce
    that I have just cited MM. Taylor and the Vicomte de
    la Rochefoucauld before the courts to answer for their
    violation of the rules of our company, by means of which
    they have prorogued a committee for the past four years, a
    third part of which, according to the terms of our statutes,
    ought to have been renewed annually. I beg you also to be so
    good as to announce, in my name, that the article contained
    in the _Journal de Paris_ of this morning is incorrect in
    all its statements and in all its calculations, and that I
    shall hasten to put the proofs of this statement before the
    public with the least possible delay. Allow me at the same
    time to contradict the false statement that any one of those
    who signed the petition wished to _withdraw_ or to _disown_
    his signature; on the contrary, I know that several of our
    most distinguished authors are preparing to make public
    their adhesion to the memorial to the King.--I am, etc.,
                                                   J. DUCHESNOIS"

We said before that under a clever ministry everybody, even the king,
has his wits sharpened.

The king made answer to his petitioners as follows:--

    "GENTLEMEN,--I cannot do anything in the matter you desire;
    I only occupy one seat in the theatre, like every other
    Frenchman."

Now, I shall be asked how it was that M. Arnault reconciled this demand
directed against me with his friendliness towards me? How could he
receive me intimately at his house and table every Sunday, while he
was doing his best to have me driven away from the theatre? Oh! be
quite easy on that score! M. Arnault had a more logical mind than that.
On the Sunday following the production of _Henri III._--namely, the
very next day--I found Madame Arnault quite alone in the house, and she
said to me, in course of conversation--

"Dumas, when you intend dining with us, tell us beforehand; for
otherwise you will run the risk of dining _tête-à-tête_ with me, as
to-day, which is not very entertaining for you."

I took the hint, and I never returned there again.

The success of _Henri III._, therefore, it will be seen, brought in
its train all the advantages and all the drawbacks of great successes.
I was the fashionable author for the rest of the winter of 1829; I
received invitations innumerable, and M. Sosthène de la Rochefoucauld,
Minister of the King's Household, wrote me a letter, giving me free
entry to all the royal theatres, being shrewd enough to see that, if he
did not give me the privilege, I was just the sort of man to take it.
Devéria made a lithograph of me; David d'Angers, a medallion. It will
be seen that nothing was wanting to complete my triumph, not even the
ridiculous side which always accompanies a rising reputation.

Then a crowd of anecdotes were related about me, each more absurd than
the last. It was said that, after the representation of _Henri III._,
when the lights in the house had all been put out, a sabbatical dance
took place _round_ the bust of Racine (it is set against the wall!), by
the light of the dying fires in the green-room, similar to Boulanger's
magnificent dance; that the spectral dancers were heard to utter the
sacrilegious refrain, "Racine is fallen!" and that even shouts for
blood were raised by a young fanatic of the name of Amaury Duval, who
demanded the heads of the Academicians--a parricidal cry, since this
unfortunate creature was the son of M. Amaury Duval of the Institut,
and nephew of M. Alexandre Duval of the Académie française.

Further, a rabid Romantic, to whom God had sent one of the seven
plagues of Egypt in punishment for his sins, was accused--and this
story might well be true--of saying in a burst of frenzied scratching,
"Racine was a regular scoundrel!"

This fanatic was called Gentil.

Stories like these, told by the fireside, were enough, it may well be
imagined, to make the hair of all respectable people stand on end, and
the _Constitutionnel_, which has always been the literary and political
representative of respectable people, was particularly shocked.

It was from this period that every worthy man gave himself up to hatred
of all ideas which did not date back a half-century, and of every
author who was not at least sixty years of age--a style of writing
which lasted from 1830 to 1850--the vigorous style of hatred to which
Alceste refers, and which, we think, eats far more readily into the
hearts of weak-minded, wicked and jealous people, than into the hearts
of men of goodwill.

People waited in daily expectation of a new St. Bartholomew's Eve,
and poor M. Auger, who had just killed himself under such sad
circumstances, was congratulated on having escaped a general massacre
by means of suicide. So great was the consternation that the whole
of the Classical party only produced one play--which was a failure.
This was _Elisabeth d'Angleterre_, by M. Ancelot. For we do not call
Casimir Delavigne's _Marino Faliero_, pompously christened a melodrama
in verse, a classical production. The very choice of subject, _Marino
Faliero_, and the imitation of Byron's principal scenes, formed a
twofold concession to foreign genius and to modern taste.

Casimir Delavigne, as we have remarked elsewhere, was born fifteen
years too soon to take part whole-heartedly in the new school; his
style seemed ever hampered, and incessantly vacillating between
Voltaire and Byron, Chénier and Shakespeare, never succeeding in
clothing his ideas in a definite manner. Still, nothing had been
neglected to make _Marino Faliero_ a success. The papers had made much
of the ingratitude of the members of the Comédie-Française and of the
transfer of M. Ligier to the Porte-Saint-Martin. It was announced
that the music of the overture was by Rossini, and the costumes by M.
Delaroche. Now M. Delaroche was the exact analogy in painting of what
Casimir Delavigne was in literature; both at that time enjoyed far
too great a reputation to last, and were destined to see it pale and
decrease and almost expire during their life-time. However, Rossini had
composed the music, and Delaroche had designed the costumes.

The play was produced on 30 May, and was very successful; but, strange
to relate, the author's most elaborately conceived rôle was not the
most applauded one, nor did the actor's chief success fall to the share
of Ligier or of Madame Dorval: it fell to Gobert, who played the rôle
of Israël Bertuccio.

The work was mounted with great sumptuousness and scrupulous care,
especially with regard to the costumes. M. Delaroche, having deemed it
desirable, in order to lend a more picturesque effect to his designs,
that they should be wafted by the wind, the theatrical costumier
devised the ingenious notion of sewing air into the mantles.

I have elsewhere given my opinion of this play.



CHAPTER III


Mesmerism--Experiment during a trance--I submit to being mesmerised--My
observation upon it--I myself start to mesmerise--Experiment made in
a diligence--Another experiment in the house of the _procureur de la
République_ of Joigny--Little Marie D---- --Her political predictions--I
cure her of fear


Between the representation of my play and Casimir Delavigne's, the
scientific world was much taken up with an important event which
established the power of magnetism, that had been under dispute since
Mesmer's day.

One of the cleverest surgeons of the time, Jules Cloquet, had just
performed an operation on Madame Pl--- for cancer in the breast,
without her feeling the least pain, she having been put into a trance
by mesmerism.

One word about mesmerism. Let us leave actualities and turn to
abstractions.

Madame Pl---, upon whom this strange experiment had just been made,
was between sixty-four and sixty-five years of age; she had been a
widow ten years and had suffered for two or three years from glandular
swellings on the right breast. Doctor Chap---- was her medical
adviser; he had practised magnetism for some time and found himself
apt at it. He attempted to apply it to the cure of Madame Pl---, but
the disorder had gone too far, and he decided to try if it might be
possible to lessen her pain while the operation was being performed.
Jules Cloquet was consulted, and it was proposed that he should operate
on the sleeping patient. He consented, welcoming the opportunity of
seeing for himself a phenomenon concerning which he was sceptical,
and also, at the same time, glad to be able to spare the patient the
suffering inevitably connected with one of the most painful of surgical
operations. Doctor Chap---- magnetised Madame Pl--- and rendered the
whole of her right side completely insensible to pain. The ablation of
the breast began by an incision eleven inches long, followed by another
nine inches long. By means of these two incisions they could get at
several glands under the armpit, which were carefully dissected. During
the operation, which lasted ten minutes, the patient gave no signs of
sensibility. To use the surgeon's own words--

"It seemed as though he were _operating on a dead body_; save that,
when the operation was over and the patient's wound was being bathed
with a sponge, she twice cried out, without coming out of her state of
trance, 'Be quick and finish, and do not tickle me like that!'"

When the operation was over, Madame Pl--- was brought out of her
trance: she did not remember anything, had not felt any pain and showed
profound astonishment that the operation was over. The dressing was
done in the usual way, and the wound showed every symptom of quick
healing. At the end of a week's time Madame Pl--- drove out in a
carriage. The suppuration was decreased and the wound was making rapid
progress towards healing, when, about the evening of the fifteenth day,
the patient complained of feeling great oppression, and swellings began
to show in the lower extremities.

All this is nothing but the simple truth: now comes in the marvellous.
Madame Pl--- had a daughter who came from the country to nurse her
mother. Dr. Chap----, having seen that she had a very clear mind,
put her into a magnetic sleep and consulted her about her mother's
condition. At the first attempt she made to see, her face grew troubled
and tears rose to her eyes.

Then she announced that the peaceful but inevitable death of her mother
would take place the next morning. When questioned upon the internal
state of her mother's chest, she said that the right lung was quite
dead, that it was empty, suppurating on the side nearest the lower
portion of the spine and bathed in serous fluid; that the left lung
was sound and alone supported life. As for the abdominal viscera, the
liver, according to her, was whitish and wrinkled; but the intestines
were sound.

These depositions were taken down in the presence of witnesses.

The next day, at the given hour, Madame Pl--- died. The autopsy was
made in the presence of deputies from the Académie, and the state of
the body was found to conform precisely with the description given by
the mesmerised girl.

This was what was reported in the papers, stated in the official
return, related to me and confirmed by Jules Cloquet himself, one day
when we were talking together--before the discovery of chloroform--of
the great mysteries of nature which baffle human intelligence. Later,
when I was preparing my book _Joseph Balsamo_, being interested
to fathom the often debated question of the power or impotence of
magnetism, I decided to make some personal experiments, not relying
upon those produced by foreigners interested in accrediting magnetism.
So I studied magnetism first hand, and the result of my investigations
was as follows:--

I was endowed with great magnetic powers, and this power, as a rule,
took effect on two out of every three persons upon whom I experimented.
Let me hasten to state that I never practised it except upon young
girls or women. This power in connection with physical phenomena is
incontestable. A woman who has once submitted to magnetic sleep is
the slave of the man who sent her to sleep. Even after she has waked
she remembers or forgets what passed during her sleep, according to
the will of the magnetiser. She could be made to kill someone during
her sleep and, if he willed that she should be totally ignorant of
having committed her crime, she would never know anything about it.
The mesmeriser can make his victim feel pain of any kind in any part;
he has only to touch the place with the tip of his finger, the end of
a stick, or the end of an iron rod. He can cause a sensation of warmth
with ice, a sensation of cold with fire; he can cause drunkenness with
a glass of water, or even with an empty glass. He can put an arm, a
leg or the whole body into a state of catalepsy, and make it hard and
rigid as a bar of iron or as soft and supple as a scarf. He can cause
insensibility to the prick of a needle, to the blade of a bistoury or
the smart of cautery.

I believe all these things come under the domain of physical phenomena.
Even the brain can be impelled to such a pitch of excitement as to make
an ordinary being a poet, a child of twelve possess the ideas, feelings
and manner of expressing them of a person of twenty or twenty-five.

In 1848, I made a tour in Burgundy. My daughter and I were in the
same coach with a very charming lady of thirty to thirty-two; we
only exchanged a few words; it was eleven o'clock at night; and one
of the things she had told me was that she never slept when she was
travelling. Ten minutes later, she was not only asleep, but asleep with
her head on my shoulder. I waked her up; she was extremely surprised to
find she had fallen asleep, and fallen asleep in the position in which
she found herself. I renewed the experiment two or three times during
the night, and my strength of will was sufficient, without my needing
to touch my neighbour, to be successful in every instance.

When the coach stopped at the posting-house and horses were being
changed, I woke her abruptly and asked her what time it was; she opened
her eyes and tried to pull out her watch.

"Never mind that," I said to her; "tell me the time by your watch
without looking at it."

"Three minutes to three o'clock," she replied immediately

We called the postillion, and by the light of his lantern we verified
that it was exactly three minutes to three.

These were nearly all the experiments I tried upon that lady; they
yielded the results I have just related, and, with the exception of the
time being told without looking at the watch, they all appertain to the
order of physical phenomena.

At Joigny, I made an official call on M. Lorin, the _procureur de la
République_, whom I had never met before. It was just about the time of
the publication of _Balsamo_, which had made magnetism quite the rage.
I rarely entered a salon at that period without being questioned about
this great mystery. At Joigny I replied, as I always did--

"Magnetic power exists; it can be practised, but its scientific basis
is not yet known. It is in a similar condition to that of air balloons:
we can send them up, but no means of directing them have yet been
devised."

Doubts were then expressed by persons present, and especially by women.
I asked one of these ladies, Madame B----, if she would allow me to
put her to sleep; she refused in such a manner as to convince me that
she would not be overweeningly angry if I did it without her leave.
Nevertheless, I assumed an attitude of submission to her; but, five
minutes later, having got up as though to look at an engraving hanging
above her arm-chair, I summoned to my aid all my magnetic power and for
five minutes I persistently willed her to go to sleep; at the end of
that five minutes she was asleep. Then I began a series of extremely
curious experiments on this lady, who was a total stranger to me, in a
house which I had never entered before or have since re-entered. Madame
B----, in spite of her will, obeyed both my expressed mandates and also
my mute wishes. Every ordinary sensation in her was reversed: fire felt
like ice, ice like fire. She complained of a bad headache: I bound her
forehead with an imaginary bandage which I told her contained snow,
and she immediately experienced a delicious sensation of coolness;
then, a moment later, she wiped away from her forehead the water from
the imaginary bandage, as though the heat of her head were melting
the supposititious snow; but, soon, her handkerchief was not enough
for the operation; she borrowed a friend's; finally, the demand for a
handkerchief was followed by that for a serviette; then, her dress and
the rest of her clothes being damp, she asked to be allowed to go to a
room to change everything. I let her feel this sensation of cold till
she shivered; then, suddenly, I gave the order for her clothes to dry
themselves, and they dried themselves. The whole thing, of course, was
in the imagination of the lady mesmerised. She had an extremely fine
voice, of a fairly wide range, but which stopped short at the Ionic
_si._ I ordered her to sing as high as _re;_ she sang, and gave the
two last notes perfectly--an impossible feat for her in her ordinary
state, and one which she tried in vain when I had wakened her from
her magnetic sleep. A woman was working in the next room. I put a
paper-knife in the somnambulist's hands and made her think it was a
real knife. Then I ordered her to go and stab the workwoman. Thereupon
what free will she had left in her revolted; she refused, writhed,
hung back on the furniture, but I had only to will and to point in
the direction I wished her to take, and she obeyed and went up to the
workwoman, utterly stupefied, the knife raised.

Her eyes were open and her face, which was a very lovely one, assumed
an admirable stage expression, as beautiful as that of Miss Faucit when
she is acting the sleep-walking scene in _Hamlet._ The _procureur de la
République_ was terrified at the thought of such a power, which could
urge a person to a crime, in spite of herself. When I had willed Madame
B---- back to calmness, I tried to make her see things at a distance.
When Colonel S. M----, who was a friend of mine, had been staying in
Joigny with his regiment, she had made his acquaintance, so I asked
where the colonel was at that hour, and what he was doing.

She replied that Colonel S. M---- was in garrison at Lyons and at that
moment, at the officers' café, where he was standing talking with the
lieutenant-colonel, near the billiard-table. Then, suddenly, she saw
the colonel grow pale, totter and sit down on a bench. He had just
been seized with rheumatics in his knee. I touched her on the knee and
willed that she should feel the same pain herself: she uttered a cry,
grew rigid and shed many tears. We were so alarmed by this fictitious
grief, which showed every symptom of real trouble, that I woke her
up. As soon as she was awakened, she remembered what I wished her to
remember, and forgot the things I commanded her to forget.

Then began another series of experiments on the woman when she was
awake.

I enclosed her within an imaginary circle, which I drew with a stick,
and I left the room, forbidding her to quit the circle. In five
minutes' time I came back, and found her seated in the centre of the
salon, waiting my permission to regain her liberty. She sat in one
corner of the room, and I placed myself at the opposite end; I told
her to do her utmost to resist coming over to me, and at the same
time I commanded her to come to me. She clung tight to her arm-chair,
but, drawn by an irresistible force, she was obliged to release her
hold; then she sat down on the floor to resist the attraction, but the
precaution was useless: she came, dragging herself along. When she was
at my feet, I only had to stretch out my hand to her head and slowly
lift my hand; she rose obediently, and in spite of her efforts, she
stood before me. She asked for a glass of water; she tasted it, and it
was really water; then, before she had put the glass down, or it had
left her hands, I told her the water was Kirsch: she knew perfectly
well it was not, and yet, at the first draught she swallowed, she cried
out that it was burning her mouth. Poor woman! She was a charming young
creature, who has since experienced an even profounder mystery--that of
death! I wonder whether she remembers or has forgotten what happened
when she was on the earth?

I have not yet done with the subject of magnetism; on the contrary, I
have another most extraordinary incident of this kind to relate which
took place in the presence of twelve to fifteen people. What follows is
a simple recital, drawn up in the form of a legal report by two of the
witnesses and signed at the time by us all.

During my stay at Auxerre, I was received into the house of M. D----.
He had two children, a boy of six and a girl of eleven years of age.
Marie was the name of the daughter, and she was a lovely child, like
an angel, for her cheeks were pale and her eyes were black and almost
austere. She was an exquisitely delicate creature, but, of course, she
only possessed the intelligence and qualities usual to a child of her
age, and I had, accordingly, paid very little attention to her, beyond
remarking to my daughter that she was very pretty. And my daughter,
who agreed with me, made a portrait of the child awake. One day we
were dining in a room which opened out on the garden. We had reached
dessert; the two children had left the table and were playing amidst
the shrubs and flowers. We were discussing the everlasting question of
magnetism, a subject the constant recurrence of which bored me the more
because the usual doubts were expressed which I could only confront
with facts; now, as these facts had nearly always taken place in a
different locality from that in which the discussion was being held, I
was obliged to choose from among those present a subject whom I guessed
might be easily hypnotised, and, whether willing or not, to operate
on this subject. Now, anyone who has ever practised the hypnotic art
knows that the exercise is as fatiguing to the hypnotiser as to the
hypnotised. I related several of the incidents I have just recorded
in the preceding chapter, but they were received with the utmost
incredulity.

"I should not believe in mesmerism," Madame D---- said to me, "unless,
for instance (and she tried to think of the most unlikely subject she
could find),--unless you could send my daughter Marie into a trance."

"Call Mademoiselle Marie and let her sit down to her usual place at the
table; give her a biscuit and some fruit, and while she is eating I
will try and put her into a trance."

"There is no danger, is there?"

"Of what?"

"It will not injure my daughter's health?"

"Not in the least."

"Marie!"

They called the child, and she ran up; they put some greengages and a
biscuit on her plate and told her to eat them, where she was. Her seat
was near me, on my left. While everyone continued talking, as though
nothing were going on, I stretched out my hand behind the child's head
and was the only one to keep silence, my will being concentrated on
making the child go to sleep. In half a minute, she had stopped every
movement, and seemed absorbed in the contemplation of a greengage which
she was just going to put into her mouth.

"What is the matter, Marie?" asked her mother.

The child did not reply: she was asleep.

The thing had come about so rapidly that I could hardly believe it
myself. I made her lean her head against the back of the chair without
touching her, just by my power of attraction; her face looked the
picture of perfect peace. I made some passes with my hand, up and down
in front of her eyes, to make her open them. She opened her eyes, her
eyeballs lifted skywards, a light iridescent film appearing beneath
them,--the child was in a state of trance. When in this condition the
eyelids do not flinch, and objects can be brought quite close to the
pupil without causing the slightest movement. My daughter drew her
portrait, while she was in this trance, as a companion to the other.
There was such a striking likeness in the second portrait to that of an
angel, that she added wings to it, and the drawing looked like a study
after Giotto's or Perugino's lovely angel-heads. The child was in a
trance: it now remained to find out if she could speak. A simple touch
of my hand on hers gave her her voice: a simple invitation to get up
and walk about endowed her with movement. But her voice was plaintive
and toneless; her movements were more like those of an automaton than
of a living creature. Whether her eyes were closed or open, whether
she walked forward or backward, she moved with the same ease and sense
of safety. I began by isolating her from others, so that she only
heard me and only replied to me. The voices of her father and mother
ceased to reach her; a simple wish on my part I expressed by a sign,
changed her state of isolation and put the child again in touch with
whatsoever person I chose to select as her interrogator. I transmitted
several questions to her, to which she responded so accurately, so
intelligently and so concisely that the idea suddenly came into her
uncle's head to say to me--

"Question her upon political subjects."

The child, let me repeat, was eleven years old. All political
questions were therefore perfectly unknown to her; she was equally
ignorant of politics and of political personages.

I will put down an exact account of the proceedings of that strange
cross-examination, without putting the least faith in any of the
predictions the child uttered; they were predictions, I confess, which
I should be extremely sorry to see fulfilled, and I can only attribute
them to the feverish state into which the hypnotic sleep had thrown her
brain.

I will devote the following pages to the dialogue and give the exact
terms in which it was conducted.

"In what social State are we at the present time, my child?"

"We are a Republic, monsieur."

"Can you explain to me what a Republic is?"

"It is the sharing of rights equally between every class of people of
which the nation is composed, without distinction of rank or birth or
circumstances."

We all stared at one another, amazed at this beginning; the answers
had come without any hesitation and as though she had learnt them
beforehand. I turned to her mother.

"Shall we proceed any further, madame?" I asked.

She was almost struck dumb with astonishment.

"Oh! Heavens!" she said, "I am afraid it will exhaust the poor child
too much to answer such questions as those; they are far beyond the
range of her age and understanding. The way she answers them," added
the mother, "terrifies me."

I turned again to the child.

"Does the hypnotic sleep tire you, Marie?"

"Not in the slightest, monsieur."

"You think, then, that you can answer my questions easily?"

"Certainly."

"Yet they are not the usual questions that are addressed to a child of
your age."

"God is willing that I should understand them."

We again looked at each other.

"Continue," said the mother.

"Go on," all the rest of the company exclaimed, in eager curiosity.

"Will the present form of government continue?"

"Yes, monsieur; it will last for several years."

"Will Lamartine or Ledru-Rollin be its bulwark?"

"Neither the one nor the other."

"Then we shall have a president?"

"Yes."

"And after this president whom shall we have?"

"Henri V."

"Henri V.?... But you know quite well, my child, that he is in exile!"

"Yes, but he will return to France."

"How will he return to France? By force?"

"No; by the consent of the French people."

"And where will he re-enter France?"

"At Grenoble."

"Will he have to fight to gain an entry?"

"No; he will come by way of Italy; from Italy he will enter Dauphiné,
and one morning it will be reported, 'Henri V. is in the citadel of
Grenoble.'"

"So there is a citadel at Grenoble?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Can you see it?"

"Yes, on a height."

"And the town?"

"The town is low down, in the valley."

"Is there a river in the town?"

"There are two."

"Are their waters of the same colour?"

"No; one is white and the other is green."

We looked at each other in still greater astonishment than at first.
Marie had never been to Grenoble and they did not think she even knew
the name of the capital of Dauphiné when she was in her ordinary senses.

"But are you quite sure that the Duc de Bordeaux will be at Grenoble?"

"As sure as though his name were written here"; and she pointed to her
forehead.

"What does he look like? Come, give us a description of him."

"He is of medium height, rather stout; he is auburn; his eyes are blue
and his hair is fashioned in the same way as that of the angels drawn
by Mademoiselle Marie Dumas."

"Well, as he passes before your eyes, do you notice anything peculiar
about his gait?"

"He limps."

"And where will he go from Grenoble?"

"To Lyons."

"Will they not oppose his entrance at Lyons?"

"They will try to do so at first, but I can see a number of workpeople
going before him, leading him in."

"Are there no shots fired?"

"Oh yes, monsieur, several; but not much harm is done."

"Where are those shots fired?"

"On the road from Lyons to Paris."

"By which suburb will he enter Paris?"

"By Saint-Martin."

"But, my child, what will be the good of Henri V. becoming King of
France, since he has no children...." I added hesitatingly, "and they
say that he cannot have any?"

"Oh! that is not his fault, monsieur; it is his wife's."

"It comes to the same thing, my dear Marie, since divorce is not
permitted."

"Oh yes! but something will happen that is now only known to God and
myself."

"What is it?"

"His wife will die of consumption."

"And whom will he marry? Some Russian or German princess, I suppose?"

"No; he will say, 'I have returned by the will of the French people, so
I will marry a daughter of the People.'"

We laughed: divination was beginning to intermingle with prophecy.

"And where will he find this daughter of the People, my child?"

"He will say, 'Seek the young girl I saw at No. 42 in the faubourg
Saint-Martin, where she had climbed up on a street-post ; she was clad
in a white dress and was waving a green bough in her hand.'"

"Well, will they go to the faubourg Saint-Martin?"

"Certainly."

"Will they find the young girl?"

"Yes, at No. 42."

"To what family does she belong?"

"Her father is a joiner."

"Do you know the name of this future queen?"

"Léontine."

"And the prince will marry this young girl?"

"Yes."

"He will have a son by her?"

"He will have two."

"What will the eldest be called--Henri or Charles?"

"Neither. Henri V. will say that these two names have brought too much
misfortune to those who have borne them: they will call the boy Léon."

"How long will Henri V. reign?"

"Between ten and eleven years."

"How will he meet his death?"

"He will die of pleurisy, contracted from drinking cold water
from a fountain, one day, when he is out hunting in the forest of
Saint-Germain."

"But remember, my child, that you are making this prophecy before
twelve to fifteen people: one of us here may warn the prince and then,
if he is told that he will die if he drinks cold water, he will refrain
from drinking it."

"He will be warned, but he will drink it, all the same; for he will say
he has eaten many an ice when he was hot, so he can surely drink cold
water."

"Who will warn him?"

"Your son, who will be one of his intimate friends."

"What! my son one of the intimate friends of the prince?"

"Yes, you are well aware that your son's opinions differ from yours."

My daughter and I exchanged glances and burst out laughing, for
Alexandre and I are eternally squabbling over politics.

"And when Henri V. is dead Léon I. will succeed to the throne?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"What will happen during his reign?"

"I cannot see any further: wake me."

I made haste to awake her, but she did not remember anything when
she was awakened; I asked her a few questions about Lamartine,
Ledru-Rollin, Grenoble, Henri V. and Léon I., and she burst out
laughing. I passed two thumbs across her forehead to will her to
remember, and she remembered instantly; I begged her to begin the story
over again, and she repeated it faithfully, in exactly the same terms,
so that the person who had written down my questions and her answers
while she uttered them was able to correct the first narration by the
second.

I have since, upon several occasions, carried out other experiments on
this child; there seemed to be no limits to the power which mesmerism
had in or, rather, upon her; I could make her dumb, blind, or deaf
at will; and, by a word, I could give her back all her faculties and
excite them to a degree of perfection which seemed to exceed the limits
of mortal knowledge. For instance, if I sent her to the piano--asleep
or awake, it mattered little--she would begin a sonata; some person
present would hum in a low voice to me an air that the child was
desired to play, instead of the sonata; the sonata would instantly
cease, and directly I stretched out my hand towards her the child would
play the required tune. We tried this experiment a score of times
before the most incredulous people, and she never failed.

Marie's father's house was built on the site of an old cemetery;
several burial inscriptions could be deciphered even on the stones of
the garden wall; and, because of these, when night fell, the poor
child dared not stir out, but trembled with fear. The night I left,
Madame D---- spoke to me of this terror, and so great was my influence
over the child, that she asked me if I could not do anything in the
matter. I was so accustomed to working miracles that I replied that
nothing could be easier and that we would at once make the experiment.
So I called the child, and, putting both my hands on her head, willing
that all fear should be taken away from her, I said--

"Marie, your mother has just given me some peaches for my journey; go
and fetch me a few vine leaves from the garden to wrap them in."

It was nine o'clock at night, and very dark. The child went out and
returned singing; she brought back the vine leaves which she had
gathered from the very spot where the tombstones were which caused her
such terror by day. From that hour, she showed no hesitation in going
into the garden or to any other part of the house, at any time of the
night and even without a light.

I returned to Auxerre three months later; I had not announced my
journey to anyone. Two days before my arrival, they wanted little Marie
to have a tooth drawn.

"No, mother dear," she said, "wait; M. Dumas will be here the day after
to-morrow: he will take hold of my little finger, while they take out
my tooth, and then I shall not feel the pain."

I came on the day she said; I held the child's hand in mine during the
operation, which was accomplished without her feeling the least pang of
pain.

If I am asked for an explanation of the phenomena I have just related I
cannot give any. I simply state what has happened. I am not an advocate
of magnetism, I only use it when people compel me to do so, and it
always fatigues me excessively. I believe a dishonourable person might
put magnetism to evil uses, and I doubt whether a well-intentioned
person does the least good by the practice of it. Magnetism is a
pastime, it has not yet become a science.



CHAPTER IV


Fresh trials of newspaper editors--The _Mouton enragé_--Fontan--Harel's
witticism concerning him--The _Fils de l'Homme_ before the Police
Court--The author pleads his cause in verse--M. Guillebert's
prose--Prison charges at Sainte-Pélagie--Embarrassment of the Duc
d'Orléans about a historical portrait--The two usurpations


We left the Government busy imprisoning Béranger for nine months, about
the close of the year 1828; we now find it in July 1829 prosecuting the
_Corsaire_ at the Police Court, and sentencing M. Vremiot, its manager,
to fifteen days' imprisonment and to a fine of 300 francs, for an
article entitled _Sottise des deux parts._ The same month it prosecuted
Fontan for an article in the _Album_ called the _Mouton enragé_; and
Barthélemy for his poem _Fils de l'Homme._ As both these trials made
a great sensation, and as it was the general opinion that, by making
it unpopular, they took part in the fall of the Government, we will go
into the matter more fully.

On 20 June 1829, Fontan, who had had a tragedy called _Perkin Warbeck_
acted at the Odéon a year or two before, published in the old _Album_,
edited by Magallon, an article entitled the _Mouton enragé._ The Public
Minister believed this article was meant as an insult to the person of
the king and referred the matter to the Police Court.

The following passages are those particularly specified in the
accusation:--

    "Picture to your imaginations, a pretty white sheep, combed,
    curled and washed every morning; with goggle-eyes, long
    ears, spindle-shanked legs, the lower jaw (or, in other
    words, the lower lip) heavy and hanging down; in short, a
    true Berry sheep. He walks at the head of the flock of
    which he is pretty nearly the monarch; an immense meadow
    is his pasture-land and that of his fellow-sheep; some
    of the acres of this meadow devolved upon him by right.
    And here grew the tenderest grass, and he waxed fat upon
    it, which delighted his soul! What a nice thing it is to
    inherit an estate! Our sheep is called Robin; he responds
    with gracious salutations to the compliments paid him; and
    shows his teeth as evidence of his pleasure. In spite of
    his gentle appearance, he can be disagreeable when roused;
    he can then bite like any other animal. I have been told
    that a ewe which was related to him bit him every time she
    met him, because she considered he did not govern his flock
    with sufficient despotism. I tell you this under the seal
    of secrecy,--poor Robin-Mouton is mad! His madness is not
    apparent; on the contrary, he strives his utmost to conceal
    it; if he feels a fit approaching, and a longing to satisfy
    an evil thought, he takes good care to look first to see if
    anybody is watching him; for Mouton-Robin knows the lot that
    is destined for animals touched with this malady--he lives
    in dread of bullets does our Robin-Mouton! And besides, he
    is conscious of his weakness. If only he were a bull, ah!
    how he would use his horns! he would soon let you see. How
    he would insist upon his prerogatives among the sheep-folk
    of his acquaintance! He might possibly even be brave enough
    to declare war against a neighbouring flock. But, alas! he
    comes of a stock that is not very fond of fighting, and
    however alluring the amenities of conquest may be to him,
    he arrives at the bitter conclusion that he has but the
    blood of a sheep running through his veins. This fatal idea
    makes him desperate.--Never mind, Robin, you have not much
    to complain of; all you have to do is to lead a luxurious
    life of idleness. What have you to do from morning to
    night? Nothing. You eat, you drink, and you sleep: your
    sheep faithfully carry out your commands and satisfy your
    smallest caprices; they leap to do your bidding; what more
    can you desire? Believe what I tell you and do not attempt
    to quit your state of animal tranquillity; crush these vast
    ideas of glory, which are too great for that narrow brain of
    yours; vegetate in the same way your fathers have vegetated
    before you; Heaven made you a sheep, die a sheep! I tell
    you frankly you would be quite a charming quadruped if, _in
    petto_, you were only sane!"

Fontan was condemned to ten years' imprisonment and a fine of 10,000
francs. The sentence was rather too severe, and it caused a great
outcry. It will be admitted that the article was not good enough to
deserve this severe treatment. The result was to raise Fontan to the
height of a martyr. And Fontan, who was of an energetic and headstrong
character, made no attempt to justify himself before his judges.

"Messieurs," he said simply, "whether or not I intended my article
to bear the interpretation you put upon it, I have the right of
withholding any explanation of the subject; I allow no man to examine
the inner sanctuary of my conscience. I wished to write an article
about a mad sheep and I did it; that is the only explanation I ought or
desire to give you."

I used to know Fontan very well at M. Villenave's house--he was a great
friend of Théodore--an unpolished sort of man, who nevertheless did
not lack some poetic feeling. He was unclean to the point of cynicism,
and less aristocratic than Schaunard in the _Vie de bohème_; instead
of having one pipe for continual smoking and a finer one when he went
out, he had but one cutty pipe which never left his mouth, which smelt
vilely when alight and between his teeth, but which smelt far worse
when it was extinguished and in his pocket.

This condemnation made Fontan's name notorious. I believe the
revolution of July found him at Poissy. He reappeared amidst a certain
measure of popularity, but it was only the transient popularity of
persecution.

Harel, who was the manager of the Odéon, quickly conceived the notion
of turning this popularity to account by asking Fontan to write a play
for him. Fontan complied, and wrote _Jeanne la Folle_, but it was a
failure, or, at any rate, only a partial success. Harel came up to me
after the representation and said--

"Unmistakably I have been deceived in Fontan. There is more of the
prison about him than of talent!"

This was, unfortunately, true. Poor Fontan died quite young and left
nothing remarkable behind him; he published a volume of poetry and saw
two or three dramas or tragedies put on the stage.

Barthélemy's sentence was less severe; he had three months'
imprisonment and was fined 1000 francs.

We will give the reasons that led to his trial. We have already
entertained our readers with the débuts of Barthélemy and Méry. They
are aware how these two poets came together and how the _Villéliade_,
the _Peyronnéide_, the _Corbiéréide_ and a host of other pieces were
concocted which kept public attention spell-bound for a couple of
years. The most important of these poems was _Napoléon en Égypte_. It
took tremendously, and ran into ten editions in less than six months'
time.

Méry, who had pined for sunshine, had gone to find warmth and sea
breezes, those two opposing elements which are, however, admirably
combined at Marseilles. Barthélemy, left alone, conceived the idea
of going to Vienna to offer a copy of a poem to the young Duke of
Reichstadt, wherein his father figured as the hero. To use Benjamin
Constant's words, as the father had been _allowed_ to die of political
cancer, so the son was by way of being _allowed_ to die of a disease
of the chest. A charming dancer and a beautiful archduchess were the
two strange doctors that Austria deputed to follow the progress of the
prince's malady, which, three years later, became simply a matter of
history.

Barthélemy's journey was, of course, useless: he was not allowed to
approach the prince, and he brought back his poem without having been
suffered to offer it to him. But Barthélemy's Odyssey had furnished
him with the subject of a new poem entitled the _Fils de l'Homme,_ and
this was the poem that was denounced by the law. Barthélemy proclaimed
beforehand his intention of defending himself in verse. Of course, such
a proclamation as this filled the Police Court where this poetical
trial was to be held, from eight o'clock in the morning. Barthélemy
kept his word. Here are some of the lines of that singular pleading
which is without precedent the annals of justice.

"Messieurs," he began,--

    "Voilà donc mon délit! sur un faible poëme
    La critique en simarre appelle l'anathème;
    Et ces vers, ennemis de la France et du roi,
    Témoins accusateurs, se dressent contre moi!
    Hélas! durant les nuits dont la paix me conseille,
    Quand je forçais mes yeux à soutenir la veille,
    Et que seul, aux lueurs de deux mourants flambeaux,
    De ce pénible écrit j'assemblais les lambeaux,
    Qui m'eût dit que cette œuvre, en naissant étouffée,
    D'un greffe criminel déplorable trophée,
    Appellerait un jour sur ces bancs ennemis
    Ma muse, vierge encor des arrêts de Thémis?
    Peut-être ai-je failli; mais, crédule victime,
    Moi-même, j'ai bien pu m'aveugler sur mon crime,
    Puisque des magistrats, vieux au métier des lois
    M'ont jugé non coupable une première fois.
    Aussi, je l'avoûrai, la foudre inattendue,
    Du haut du firmament à mes pieds descendue,
    D'une moindre stupeur eût frappé mon esprit,
    Que le soir si funeste à mon livre proscrit
    Où d'un pouvoir jaloux les sombres émissaires
    Se montraient en écharpe à mes pâles libraires,
    Et, craignant d'ajourner leur gloire au lendemain,
    Cherchaient _le Fils de l'homme_, un mandat à la main.
    Toutefois, je rends grâce au hasard tutélaire
    Qui, sauvant un ami de mes torts solidaire,
    Sur moi seul de la loi suspend l'arrêt fatal.
    Triste plus que moi-même, au rivage natal
    Il attend aujourd'hui l'heure de la justice.
    S'il eût été présent, il serait mon complice.
    Éternels compagnons dans les mêmes travaux,
    Forts de notre union, frères et non rivaux,
    Jusqu'ici, dans l'arène à nos forces permise,
    Nos deux noms enlacés n'eurent qu'une devise,
    Et jamais l'un de nous, reniant son appui,
    N'eût voulu d'un laurier qui n'eût été qu'à lui.
    Trois ans, on entendit notre voix populaire
    Harceler les géants assis au ministère;
    Trois ans, sur les élus du conseil souverain
    Nos bras ont agité le fouet alexandrin;
    Et jamais l'ennemi, froissé de nos victoires,
    N'arrêta nos élans par des réquisitoires.
    Mais, dès le jour vengeur où, captive longtemps,
    La foudre du Château gronda sur les titans,
    Suspendant tout à coup ses longues philippiques,
    Notre muse plus fière, osant des chants épiques,
    Évoqua du milieu des sables africains
    Les soldats hasardeux des temps républicains,
    Et montra réunis en faisceau militaire,
    Les drapeaux lumineux du Thabor et du Caire;
    De nos cœurs citoyens là fut le dernier cri;
    Notre muse se tut, et, tandis que Méry
    Allait sous le soleil de la vieille Phocée
    Ressusciter un corps usé par la pensée,
    'J'osai, vers le Danube égarant mon essor,
    A la cour de Pyrrhus chercher le fils d'Hector.'
    Je portais avec soin, dans mes humbles tablettes,
    Ces dons qu'aux pieds des rois déposent les poëtes,
    Et, poëte, j'allais pour redire à son fils
    L'histoire d'un soldat, aux plaines de Memphis.
    Voilà tout le complot d'un long pèlerinage.
    Un pouvoir soupçonneux repoussa mon hommage,
    Et, moi, loin d'un argus que rien n'avait fléchi,
    Je repassai le Rhin, imprudemment franchi."

The above was his defence as regarded facts. When he had defended its
theme Barthélemy went on to its form; he complained of the method of
interpretation which judges of all times have pushed to extremes, so
that they persecute whether under the elder or the younger branch of
the Bourbons, whether under M. Cavaignac or under M. Louis-Bonaparte;
he said--

    "Pourtant, voilà mon crime! Un songe, une élégie
    Me condamne moi-même à mon apologie!
    Partout, sur ce vélin, je frissonne de voir
    Des vers séditieux soulignés d'un trait noir;
    Le doigt accusateur laisse partout sa trace,
    Et je suis criminel jusque dans ma préface;
    Ah! du moins, il fallait, moins prompt à me juger
    Pour me juger, tout lire et tout interroger;
    Il fallait, surmontant les ennuis de l'ouvrage,
    Jusqu'au dernier feuillet forcer votre courage,
    Et, traversant mon livre un scalpel à la main,
    Avancer hardiment jusqu'au bout du chemin.
    Certes, si comme vous on dépeçait un livre,
    Combien peu d'écrivains seraient dignes de vivre!
    Qu'on pourrait aisément trouver de noirs desseins
    Jusque dans l'Évangile et les ouvrages saints!
    Ma prose est toujours prête à disculper ma muse;
    La note me défend quand le texte m'accuse;
    D'un tissu régulier pourquoi rompre le fil?
    De quel droit venez-vous, annotateur subtil,
    Dédaignant mon histoire, attaquer mon poëme,
    Prendre comme mon tout la moitié de moi-même,
    Et, fort de ma pensée arrêtée au milieu,
    Diviser contre moi l'indivisible aveu?
    Mais j'ose plus encor, fort de mon innocence,
    Armé du texte seul, j'accepte la défense;
    Seulement, n'allez pas, envenimant mes vers,
    D'un sens clair et précis extraire un sens pervers!
    Gardez-vous de chercher, trop savant interprète,
    Sous ma lucide phrase une énigme secrète!
    Ainsi, quand vous lirez: 'qu'à mes yeux éblouis,
    La gloire a dérobé les fils de saint Louis;
    Qu'aveuglément soumis aux droits de la puissance,
    Je ne me doutais pas, dans mon adolescence,
    Que l'héritier des lys, exilé de Mittau,
    Régnait chez les Anglais dans un humble château,
    Et que, depuis vingt ans, sa bonté paternelle!
    Rédigeait pour son peuple une charte éternelle!'
    Lisez de bonne foi comme chacun me lit.
    Pourquoi vous tourmenter à flairer un délit,
    A tourner ma franchise en coupable ironie,
    A voir un seul côté de mon double génie?
    Voulez-vous donc me lire aux lueurs du fanal
    Dont la sainte _Gazette_ escorte son journal,
    Et, serrant vos deux mains à nuire intéressées,
    Exprimer du poison en tordant mes pensées?"

Those are certainly the well-turned lines of a very clever versifier if
not of a great poet. At Athens, before the Areopagitica where Æschylus
pleaded his cause, M. Barthélemy would have been acquitted! But what
could he expect? We are not Athenians, and our judges are by no means
archons.

The poet proceeded, nevertheless, although it was easy to read, in the
frowning faces of the judges, their want of sympathy with the defence
of the accused.

Again let us listen to Barthélemy:--

    "Jusqu'ici, l'on m'a vu, d'un tranquille visage,
    Conquérir pour ma cause un facile avantage.
    J'ai vengé sans effort, dans mon livre semés,
    Quelques vers, quelques mots par Thémis décimés.
    Redoublons de courage: un grand effort nous reste;
    Abordons sans pâlir ce passage funeste,
    De l'un à l'autre bout chargé de sombres croix!
    Là, sapant par mes vœux le palais de nos rois,
    Ébranlant de l'État la base légitime,
    D'un sang usurpateur j'appelle le régime,
    J'invoque la Discorde aux bras ensanglantés!
    Est-il vrai? Suis-je donc si coupable?... Écoutez!
    'Il sait donc désormais, il n'a plus à connaître
    Ce qu'il est, ce qu'il fut et ce qu'il pouvait être.
    Oh! que tu dois souvent te dire et repasser
    Dans quel large avenir tu devais te lancer!
    Combien dans ton berceau fut court ton premier rêve
    Doublement protégé par le droit et le glaive,
    Des peuples rassurés espoir consolateur,
    Petit-fils d'un César, et fils d'un empereur,
    Légataire du monde, en naissant roi de Rome,
    Tu n'es plus aujourdhui rien que le _fils de l'homme!_
    Pourtant, quel fils de roi contre ce nom obscur
    N'échangerait son titre et son sceptre futur?
    Mais quoi! content d'un nom qui vaut un diadème,
    Ne veux-tu rien, un jour, conquérir par toi-même?
    La nuit, quand douze fois ta pendule a frémi,
    Qu'aucun bruit ne sort plus du palais endormi,
    Et que, seul au milieu d'un appartement vide,
    Tu veilles, obsédé par ta pensée avide,
    Sans doute que parfois sur ton sort à venir
    Un démon familier te vient entretenir.
    Oui, tant que ton aïeul, sur ton adolescence,
    De sa noble tutelle étendra la puissance,
    Les jaloux archiducs, comprimant leur orgueil,
    Du vieillard tout-puissant imiteront l'accueil;
    Mais qui peut garantir cette paix fraternelle?
    Peut-être en ce moment la mort lève son aile;
    Tôt ou tard, au milieu de ses gardes hongrois,
    Elle mettra la faulx sur le doyen des rois.
    Alors, il sera temps d'expliquer ce problème
    D'un sort mystérieux ignoré de toi-même.
    Fils de Napoléon, petit-fils de François,
    Entre deux avenirs il faudra faire un choix.
    Puisses-tu, dominé par le sang de ta mère,
    Bannir de ta pensée une vaine chimère,
    Et de l'ambition éteindre le flambeau!
    Le destin qui te reste est encore assez beau;
    Les rois ont grandement consolé ton jeune âge;
    Le duché de Reichstadt est un riche apanage,
    Et tu pourras, un jour, colonel allemand,
    Conduire à la parade un noble régiment!
    Qu'à ce but désormais ton jeune cœur aspire;
    Borne là tes désirs, ta gloire et ton empire.
    Des règnes imprévus ne gardons plus l'espoir,
    Ce qu'on vit une fois ne doit plus se revoir!'"

Not so, O poet! We shall never see again what we have seen; the phantom
child which you have invoked from its premature grave was only to be
seen by history as a pale spectre held up to view in a dim poetic
distance, as Astyanax or Britannicus; the days that have been we shall
know no more. But the future was reserving a still more extraordinary
vision for us, which was to confirm the words Dr. Schlegel said to
me in 1838: "History has been invented to prove the futility of the
examples she sets before us."

Meanwhile Barthélemy was being sentenced to three months' imprisonment
and a fine of 1000 francs, in spite of, or perhaps because of, his
pleading. But if the prisoner had not done with Justice, neither had
Justice done with the prisoner. Barthélemy was hardly inside the prison
before he received the following letter from M. Guillebert, Registrar:--

    "PARIS, 6 _May_ 1830

    "MONSIEUR,--I had the honour of asking you in my letter
    of 22 March last, to settle the fines and expenses which
    you were sentenced to pay by order of the Royal Court on 7
    January last, amounting to:--

           _Invoice_

                                     francs

    Fine..                          1,000  00

    Ten per cent..                    100  00

    Legal expenses and appeal ditto..  81  45

                         Total,     1,181  45

    "I repeat my request, as I made a mistake in my first
    application, for 1208 francs 95 centimes. I beg you to
    discharge these payments by the 10th instant, to avoid the
    putting into execution of legal methods according to Article
    52 of the _Code pénal._

    "I have the honour to remain

                                    "GUILLEBERT, _Registrar"_

And M. Guillebert, who would have been as polite to any prisoner but
would, undoubtedly, not have been so punctilious with him if he had not
been a poet, had the complaisance to put that 52nd Article of the _Code
pénal_, to which he alluded so delicately, in a postscript. This is the
article which, I suppose, has remained unaltered under the government
of King Louis-Philippe I., and under that of M. Bonaparte:--

_Article_ 52

"Distraining for fines, restitutions, damages and interest,
and for costs, can be enforced by means of imprisonment."

To this letter Barthélemy replied, on 9 May 1830, by an epistle
entitled _La Bourse ou la Prison._ But in comparison with Fontan and
Magallon, Barthélemy had nothing to complain of: he was lodged in a
palace. The palace was rent free, but he gives us the tariff for the
cost of furnishing it:--

                                                             francs

    Ordinary bed, two mattresses, sheets, one blanket and
    bolster . . . . . .                                      4  50

    For every extra blanket. . . . .                         6  50

    One pillow . . . . .                                     9  50

    One chair. . . . . .                                     6  50

    One table......                                          6  50

                                                   Total,   33  50

And it was by these actions that the Government was alienating itself
from the people by the scandalous trials of Carbonneau, Pleignies and
Tolleron successively; from the army by the executions of Bories,
Raoul, Goubin and Pommier; from the high military aristocracy by the
assassination of Brune, Ramel, Ney and Mouton-Duverney; from the
middle classes by the dissolution of the National Guard; and was
alienating a race far more dangerous still, namely poets, journalists
and men of letters, by the sentences which struck successively such men
as Paul-Louis Courier, Cauchois-Lemaire, Magallon, Béranger, Fontan and
Barthélemy.

Now, a Government which has the people, the army, the middle classes
and literature opposed to it is in a very bad way, and this Government
was therefore in a very bad way on 31 July 1829, on which day it
pronounced its sentence on Barthélemy; exactly a year later, to the
day, it was defunct.

Finally, an anecdote I am just about to relate will prove that I
partially foresaw the trend of coming events. My new position in the
library of the Duc d'Orléans (a post which, as I have already pointed
out to my readers, was more honorary than lucrative) possessed the
great advantage to me of affording me an immense office, where I could
carry on my literary and historical researches nearly as well as, and
far more comfortably than, in the Bibliothèque royale. So I was more
regular in my attendance than either of my two confrères, Vatout and
Casimir Delavigne. Accordingly, one day, when the Duc d'Orléans came
in, humming a tune from one of the masses--a habit of his when he was
in a good temper, which, I must say, he nearly always was--he remarked:

"So! are you by yourself, M. Dumas?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

The Duc d'Orléans took two or three turns round the library, still
continuing his singing. Then he went on, a moment later--

"Neither Vatout, nor Casimir, nor Tallencourt?..."

"MM. Vatout and Casimir have not come, monseigneur, and Tallencourt has
gone out."

Twice again he perambulated round the library, still humming to
himself. He evidently wished to enter into conversation, so I ventured
to ask him--

"Does monseigneur want anything I can do in the absence of the other
gentlemen?"

"No; I wanted to show Vatout an historic portrait and to ask his
opinion."

"Unhappily, as monseigneur needs advice, I am afraid I am no substitute
for M. Vatout."

"Come with me, nevertheless," said the duke.

I bowed and followed the prince from the library to the picture gallery.

Upon an easel rested a portrait that had just been brought back from
the framer; it was waiting for the name of the original to be painted
on the frame. It was a portrait of the emperor, painted by Manzaisse.
To find, in 1829, a portrait of the emperor in the palace of the first
prince of the blood royal was such a novel species of boldness that I
could do nothing but wonder at it.

"What do you think of that portrait?" asked the Duc d'Orléans.

"I am "not very fond of the paintings of M. Mauzaisse, monseigneur."

"Ah, true, I forgot you were a romanticist in painting and in
literature. You admire the painting of M. Delacroix?"

"Yes, monseigneur; also of M. Delacroix, M. Scheffer, M. Granet, M.
Decamps, M. Boulanger, M. Eugène Devéria--oh! we allow a wide margin!"

"Excellent! I am aware you know all about these gentlemen--but that
is not to my present purpose. This is a portrait which I have just
had painted for my gallery; and there is nothing wanting, as you see,
except the insertion of the name. Ought I to put _Bonaparte?_ It would
look like affectation only to recognise the First Consul. Ought I to
put _Napoléon?_ It would seem an affectation to call him emperor; that
was the point on which I wished to consult Vatout."

"But," I replied, "it seems a very simple matter to me; put _Napoléon
Bonaparte_, monseigneur."

"Yes; but that still implies the emperor.... Napoleon, if my memory
serves me correctly, was unjust to your family and you have no love for
him, I believe."

"Monseigneur, I must confess that where that great man is concerned I
share Madame Turenne's opinion of him, that of admiration."

"He was a great man; but there were two terrible blots on his
character--one was a crime, the other a fault--his assassination of the
Duc d'Enghien, and his marriage with Marie-Louise."

"Does monseigneur pardon his usurpation?"

"I did not say so."

"Monseigneur knows the _Médecin malgré lui?_"

"Yes, I admire it immensely."

"Well, in the _Médecin malgré lui_ Sganarille remarks that there are
fagots _and_ fagots."

"Meaning, I presume ...?"

"That there are usurpations and usurpations."

"Bah!"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"I do not understand your meaning."

"I mean to say--and you who are so fair-minded, monseigneur, will
readily understand me--that there is a usurpation which substitutes
one dynasty for another dynasty by the instrumentality of violence,
breaking up all the roots of the old dynasty throughout the country,
all the interests connected with it, leaving raw open wounds for long
enough among the aristocracy and the middle and lower classes, which
are slow to heal; and there is the usurpation which purely and simply
substitutes one man for another, a green bough for a withered branch,
and popularity for unpopularity--that is what I mean, monseigneur, by
my two usurpations."

The Duc d'Orléans laughingly lifted up his hand, as though to stop me;
but he let me finish, all the same.

"M. Dumas," he said to me, "that is a somewhat subtle question, and one
which, if you must have it answered, should be referred to a council
and not to a prince of the blood. However, you are right about the
portrait; I will put _Napoléon Bonaparte_."

I bowed and withdrew to the library.

The duke remained in the picture gallery lost in thought.



CHAPTER V


The things that are the greatest enemies to the success of a play
--The honesty of Mademoiselle Mars' as an actress--Her dressing-room
--The habitués at her supper-parties--Vatout--Denniée--Becquet
--Mornay--Mademoiselle Mars in her own home--Her last days on the stage
--Material result of the success of _Henri III._--My first
speculation--The recasting of _Christine_--Where I looked for my
inspiration--Two other ideas


At the thirty-fifth representation of _Henri III._ Mademoiselle Mars
was obliged to take her holiday. She did her utmost to persuade the
Comédie-Française to compensate her for this holiday; she gave them
every possible facility, but the Comédie-Française would not listen
to anything. The success of _Henri III._ served certain interests but
wounded certain _amour-propres._ At the Comédie-Française one suffers
from a peculiarity unknown, or very nearly so, in any other theatre.
The author whose piece is being acted makes enemies of all the actors
who are not taking part in it.

Towards the close of the run of _Henri III._ I noticed Monrose, an
excellent comedian whose talents should have raised him above the
paltry jealousies of those of lesser genius, come into the green-room,
rubbing his hands together and exclaiming gleefully--

"Ah! we have taken five hundred francs less to-night than at the last
representation!"

I was present--he had not perceived me at first, and, when he caught
sight of me, he pretended not to have seen me, and went away.

Mademoiselle Mars was on the point of renouncing her holiday, so
reluctant was she to interrupt the success of the run.

Mademoiselle Mars was an exceedingly straightforward, honest actress, I
nearly said an honest _man_, and punctiliously accurate; everyone did
his duty when connected with her, because she did hers as carefully as
a pupil during her first year at a boarding-school. Once only was she a
few minutes late at a rehearsal.

"I beg your pardon for being a quarter of an hour late," she said as
she came in; "but I have just lost forty thousand francs.... Let us be
quick and begin." And she rehearsed as though nothing had happened.

Once, when she was going on the stage, she had a sort of apoplectic
fit; but, instead of interrupting the play, as any other actress would
have done, she sent for leeches, and between the first and third acts
she took advantage of the second act, in which she did not have to
appear, to apply them to her chest. When I entered her dressing-room
after the play, she was covered with blood down to her slippers.

Mademoiselle Mars had a very large room--the same that Mademoiselle
Rachel now has. At the end of each performance the room was always
filled with people. Mademoiselle Mars did not trouble herself in the
least about her visitors being present; she would undress and take off
her paint and rouge with a modest dexterity quite remarkable: she had
in particular a way of changing her chemise while talking, without
showing anything of her person beyond her finger tips, that was a _tour
de force._ When her toilet was complete, those who wished to accompany
her home went with her and found a supper ready. The regular attenders
at these suppers were Vatout, Romieu, Denniée, Becquet and myself,
among men, and Julienne, her lady-companion--a character--the beautiful
Amigo, the fair Madame Mira, and sometimes an old lady named Fusil.

Mornay called every evening to conduct Mademoiselle Mars to the
theatre, or saw her safely home.

My readers are acquainted with Romieu; I introduced him in company with
his friend Rousseau. So as I have nothing fresh to tell about him, I
will pass him over.

But I have hardly as yet described Vatout; Madame Valmore took him
off well when she dubbed him a "_butterfly in top-boots._" Vatout was
full of small defects and great qualities. He would superciliously
hold out a finger to you if you offered to shake hands with him, and
he put on the airs of a grand seigneur without ever succeeding in
being mistaken for a grand seigneur. He had a good heart in spite of
his uppish manners; and a charming mind behind his awkward appearance.
He had a way of saying certain things that did not sit at all well on
him. One of his monstrous affectations was to try and resemble the Duc
D'Orléans; I have even been assured that, in confidence, he let people
draw conclusions about this resemblance. The Duc d'Orléans was very
fond of him and, when king, maintained his friendship with him. At the
_Cour Citoyenne_ they quoted his quips and sang his chansons. There
was one in particular about the Mayor of Eu, which became the rage.
Will our modest readers allow us to insert it here? for, to our way of
thinking, it constituted his worthiest claim to the Académie. Do not
let us do injustice to poor Vatout.

    LE MAIRE D'EU

    AIR_--à faire_

    "L'ambition, c'est des bêtises;
    Ça vous rend triste et soucieux;
    Mais, dans le vieux manoir des Guises.
    Qui ne serait ambitieux?...
    Tourmenté du besoin de faire
    Quelque chose dans ce beau lieu,
    J'ai brigué l'honneur d'être maire,
    Et l'on m'a nommé maire d'Eu!

    Notre origine n'est pas claire ...
    Rollon nous gouverna jadis;
    Mais César fut-il notre père,
    Où descendons-nous, de Smerdis?
    Dans l'embarras de ma pensée,
    Un mot peut tout concilier:
    Nous sommes issus de Persée;
    Voyez plutôt mon mobilier!

    Je ne suis pas fort à mon aise:
    Ma mairie est un petit coin,
    Et mon trône une simple chaise
    Qui me sert en cas de besoin;
    Mes habits ne sentent pas l'ambre:
    Mon équipage brille peu;
    Mais que m'importe! un pot de chambre
    Suffit bien pour un maire d'Eu!

    On vante partout ma police;
    Ce qu'on fait ne m'échappe pas.
    A tous je rends bonne justice;
    J'observe avec soin tous, les cas.
    On ne peut ni manger ni boire
    Sans que tout passe sous mes yeux;
    Mais c'est surtout les jours de foire
    Qu'on me voit souvent sur les lieux.

    Grâce aux roses que l'on recueille
    Dans mon laborieux emploi,
    Je préfère mon portefeuille
    A celui des agents du roi.
    Je brave les ordres sinistres
    Qui brise leur pouvoir tout net;
    Et, plus puissant que les ministres,
    J'entre, en tout temps, au cabinet.

    Je me complais dans mon empire;
    Il ne me cause aucun souci;
    Moi, j'aime l'air que l'on y respire;
    On voit, on sent la mer d'ici!
    Partout l'aisance et le bien-être;
    Ma vie est un bouquet de fleurs..
    Aussi j'aime beaucoup mieux être
    Maire d'Eu que maire d'ailleurs!

    Beau château bâti par les Guises,
    Mer d'azur baignant le Tréport,
    Lieux où Lauzun fit des bêtises,
    Je suis à vous jusqu'à la mort;
    Je veux, sous l'écharpe française,
    Mourir en sénateur romain,
    Calme et tranquille sur ma chaise
    Tenant mes papiers à la main!'

Vatout was also the author of the famous _mot_ said to an official who,
accompanying the king down a by-street which the latter was determined
to penetrate, made excuses at each step for the obstructions they
encountered. Many hens had laid there, of the type of which Henri IV.
had remarked, "Stop, stop, mother! I much prefer to see the hen than
the egg!"

"Oh, sire," said the poor fellow,--"oh, sire, had I only known your
Majesty intended passing this way, I would have had them all cleared
away."

"You would not have had the right to do that, M. le maire," Vatout
gravely remarked; "they have their papers!"

Between 1821 and 1822 Vatout wrote a book which was an enormous
success. It was about the adventures of la Charte and was entitled
_Histoire de la fille d'un Roi._ Later, he wrote _Idée fixe_, which was
scarcely read; then, some sort of a novel called the _Conspiration de
Cellamare_; finally, various publications about the royal châteaux. In
all, nothing very striking; but nevertheless he was consumed with the
desire to become an Academician, Scribe urging him to it. He reached
his goal, poor fellow; but in the interval between his nomination and
his reception, being as faithful to the royal cause during its exile as
he had been in the heyday of its powerfulness, he went to pay a visit
to the exiles at Claremont, where he was taken ill after dinner, and
died twenty-four hours later! He died without having had the joy of
sitting once in the Académie! Poor Vatout! No one, I am sure, did him
greater justice or regretted him more than I did. I obtained Hugo's
vote for him with much difficulty.

The whole of Parisian society knew Denniée, ex-ordonnateur-general,
who, man of wit and pleasure-seeker as he was, talked as though his
mouth were full of nutshells, and told a host of stories and anecdotes,
each more strange and amusing than the last, with such a defective
pronunciation that they acquired a convincing air of originality. He
worshipped Mademoiselle Mars, who was very fond of him in return. If
three days went Dy without Denniée being seen at her house, one asked
what had become of him; for nothing but illness or an accident could,
it was supposed, account for so long an absence.

Becquet was as well known as Denniée: perhaps he was even better known.
He was one of the weekly contributors to the _Journal des Débâts._ He
was exceedingly clever; but, as he got drunk regularly once a day, his
intellect gradually became dulled. Two often quoted sayings of his will
serve to illustrate the sort of respect and filial affection he had for
his father. Once when Becquet the elder took his son to task concerning
his unfortunate habit of drunkenness, saying to him.

"See, you wretch, how it is ageing you; you will be taken for my
father, and I shall outlive you by ten years!"

"Ah!" Becquet languidly retorted, "why do you always say such
disagreeable things to me?"

Becquet possessed another habit, that of contracting debts. He owed
money to everybody, and this widespread indebtedness reduced his father
to despair.

"Wretch!" he said to him, on another occasion,--this was old Becquet's
usual term for his son, sometimes used as an adjective, at others as
a substantive,--"Wretch!" he said, "by God and the devil, I cannot
conceive how you can live like this."

"Stay, father," Becquet replied, "you have just mentioned the only two
powers to whom I do not owe anything."

The day his father died--it is sad to relate that it was a festival-day
for Becquet, who made merry in heart and purse--he dined at the _café
de Paris_ and ordered his menu like a man who is regardless of cost;
but, when it came to the wine, he called the waiter; some doubt had
probably arisen in his mind, and he wished the opinion of an expert.

"Waiter," he asked, "is the Bordeaux in mourning?"

Two hours later, they carried Becquet home.

One night, I met Becquet in one of those marvellous states of
intoxication that he alone could carry off in such lordly style. It was
on the 21st of January.

"What!" said I to him, "drunk on this day of all days, Becquet?"

"May I ask if there is, perchance, any day on which a man may not be
drunk if he likes?" asked the author of _Mouchoir bleu_ in amazement.

"Certainly, I should have thought there was, especially for you who are
a Royalist, it being the anniversary of the death of Louis XVI."

Becquet seemed to reflect for an instant over the gravity of my
observation; then, placing a hand on my shoulder--

"If they had not cut off the head of good King Louis XVI., do you
suppose he would be dead now?"

"It is more than probable."

"Well, then," said Becquet, carelessly snapping his fingers, "how can
you say anything to me?"

And off he went with the aplomb of the drunkard, who, from long
practice, has learnt to be superior to the general run of drinkers in
being always able to walk straight when intoxicated.

It was when dead-drunk, after having left the house of Mademoiselle
Mars, that Becquet wrote the famous article for the _Journal des
Débats_ which concluded with the following words, and which overthrew
the monarchy:--

"Malheureuse France! Malheureux roi!" "Unfortunate France! Unfortunate
King!"

Becquet died of drink and died whilst drinking. For the last six
months of his life he was never sober: his eyes became dull and
expressionless; his actions were involuntary and instinctive; his hand
mechanically felt for the bottle to pour wine into his glass, which he
had not sufficient strength to empty. To the last moment, Mademoiselle
Mars received him with the whole-hearted friendship that was one of her
finest virtues. When Becquet died, she had not the heart to regret him
although she shed tears at the news.

Mornay formed a singular contrast to all those of whom I have been
speaking. Mornay was elegant and aristocratic, he was the _gentry_
personified, and, in addition to all these qualifications, he had as
much wit as all the rest of us put together. When Mornay was appointed
plenipotentiary, and left first for the grand-duchy of Baden, and
afterwards for Sweden, Mademoiselle Mars lost the brightest star of her
salon. There are minds which possess the qualities of well-seasoned
tinder, and set fire to all around with whom they come in contact;
Mornay was one of these; the rest of us served him for flint. When,
perchance, he happened to be too fatigued to use his own wits, he
counted on our supplying his deficiency. Mornay had no fortune; but
Mademoiselle Mars left him an income of 40,000 livres per annum at her
death. He took down a portrait of her, which he carried away with him,
remarking, "That is the only thing to which I have a right here," and
he left the 40,000 livres per annum to the heirs of Mademoiselle Mars.

Mademoiselle Mars at the theatre, and Mademoiselle Mars in her private
home, were two quite different beings. On the stage, her voice was
entrancing, almost like a song, and her looks were endearing and
soft, full of bewitching charm. At home, her voice was harsh, she
looked almost hard and her movements were brusque and impatient. Her
theatrical voice was acquired, an instrument on which she had been
taught to play and which she played marvellously well, but she rightly
mistrusted it when she had to express great crises of passion, or to
give effect to great heights of poesy; she was afraid then of straining
her gentle notes, and she almost envied Madame Dorval her hoarse,
raucous voice which enabled her to utter piteous cries that went
straight to the heart. I never knew anyone who was more modest about
her talents than was Mademoiselle Mars: she never spoke of herself, her
triumphs, or her creations; she admired her father, Mouvel, profoundly;
she was his pupil, and it gave her evident pleasure to talk of him.
She was also a great admirer of Mademoiselle Contat, and it was odd to
hear her confessing her inferiority to this great actress, in regard to
certain points of art. I cannot say if all the tales told about the age
of Mademoiselle Mars be true, but I know she never concealed a week of
it from her friends. She had a marble sculpture by Boule, in her salon,
which had been given by Queen Marie-Antoinette to her mother because
they had both been confined on the same day. Therefore, Mademoiselle
Mars must have been exactly the same age as the Duchesse d'Angoulême,
who was born on 19 December 1778. When Mademoiselle Mars liked, she
could be charming, for she possessed a great fund of humour; her voice
was just the voice that could imitate, and when she criticised the
members of the Comédie-Française, from Mademoiselle Plessy to Ligier,
it was tersely but capitally done. She showed much kindness towards and
interest in persons whom she thought to possess talent, and would help
them with her advice, her talent and her influence. She once rescued a
clown who was performing in the square at Metz and never rested until
she had found a small position for him. She recommended him to me in
1833 or 1834, but I had no opportunity of giving him a part for fifteen
or eighteen years, when I entrusted him with the rôle of Lorrain in the
_Barrière de Clichy._ The man's name was Patonnelle and he was one of
the best riders at the Cirque.

In common with Talma, Mademoiselle Mars saw her reputation go on
increasing to the very day on which she finally left the stage. Her
last creation, Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle, was one of her happiest
performances. I was her latest supporter at the theatre and, in all
probability, I had the good fortune of prolonging her career for two or
three years.

The latter days of her period at the Comédie-Française were tinged with
bitterness. One day, at an extra performance, someone threw a crown of
immortelles at her feet, such as are placed upon tombs. It had been
put together in one of the very boxes of the theatre, and I could,
if I chose, mention in whose. When she left the stage the same thing
occurred as after the loss of Talma. Everyone believed himself capable
of replacing Talma, and everyone hoped to replace Mademoiselle Mars:
they attempted it in their old rôles; they invented new ones. Managers
and papers did their part by puffing and praising budding reputations.
They had Turenne's money;--had they even the money of Mademoiselle
Mars?...

Although _Henri III._ did not bring any very great wealth to our
household, it had, nevertheless, produced a considerable change: first
and foremost it had freed us from debt; it had repaid Porcher and M.
Laffitte; it had permitted us to quit our humble lodgings in the rue
Saint-Denis and to hire for my mother a set of rooms on the ground
floor, with a garden, at No. 7 rue Madame. She had been recommended
to have air and exercise, and I chose that street and quarter so as
to be close to Mesdames Villenave and Waldor, who from family reasons
had left their house in the rue de Vaugirard and taken a suite of
apartments at No. 11 rue Madame. I had hired a separate room for
myself, on the fourth floor, at the corner of rue de l'Université and
the rue du Bac, and, as my new position brought me visitors from among
the ladies and gentlemen of the Théâtre-Français, I made this room as
pretty as I could afford.

As I had learnt from past experience never to trust too much to the
future, I had compounded for my food for one year, paying 1800 francs
in advance; or, to be more exact, I paid for 365 breakfast coupons and
365 dinner tickets, wine not included. Unluckily, a month after I had
made this arrangement, the Café Desmares went bankrupt, and I lost my
year's payment and meals. It was my first speculation, and it turned
out badly, it will be seen.

Meanwhile, I had been receiving reproaches from an exceedingly charming
young lady at the Théâtre-Français, who grumbled because, after having
had an insignificant part in _Henri III._ there was none at all for
her in _Christine_--for I still flattered myself with the hope that
my _Christine_ would yet be played at the Théâtre-Français, in spite
of the delay owing to M. Brault, who had died meanwhile; and now the
Comédie-Française was not in a hurry to take up either. Her reproaches
went home, as they were deserved, and I felt I owed her a double
reparation. I therefore replied--

"Set your mind at rest: I will recast _Christine_ in order to make
it more dramatic and up to date, and something shall come out of the
transformation that will, I hope, satisfy you."

The mind of a worker is often full of singular prejudices, which are
sometimes odd enough to border upon mania: at times he imagines he can
only conceive his schemes in such and such a place; at others, that he
can only write his play on some special kind of paper. I got it into
my head that I could only evolve a fresh _Christine_ out of my old
_Christine_ if I took a short journey, and was rocked by the motion of
a carriage. As I was not yet rich enough to go in a carriage, I chose a
diligence; it did not matter where the diligence was going, provided I
had the _coupé_, the inside or the _rotonde_ to myself. I went to the
cour des Messageries and, after a couple of hours' waiting, I found
what I wanted, a coach with no passenger in the _coupé._ The diligence
was bound for Havre. This was, indeed, a chance for me, for I had never
been to a seaport, and I should be killing two birds with one stone. In
those days it took fully twenty hours to go from Paris to Havre; this,
again, suited me well enough. Inspiration would have plenty of time to
work, or it would never come at all. I set off and, as imagination,
naturally, plays a principal part in works of art, when my imagination
had what it wanted in the way of external conditions for working, it
began to work. By the time I reached Havre, my play was recast; I had
divided the scenes between Stockholm, Fontainebleau and Rome, and the
character of Paula rose out of this fresh genesis. It meant a complete
overhauling and rewriting of the entire play, and very little was left
of the original one. Although I was in great haste to set to work, I
did not start back again to Paris before I had seen the sea. I stayed
at Havre just long enough to eat some oysters, to have a sail on the
sea, and to buy a couple of china vases which I could have got cheaper
in Paris, and then I got into the diligence. In seventy-two hours I had
been my journey and reconstructed my play.

I have spoken of the strange prejudices which imperiously impose
certain conditions under which work shall be fulfilled. No one is less
of a maniac than myself; nobody who acquires the habit of working
incessantly, as I did, could work with greater ease than I, and yet,
three times, I have felt absolutely compelled to obey a caprice. The
first occasion I have just related; the second was over the composition
of _Don Juan de Marana_, and the third was connected with _Capitaine
Paul._ I was possessed with the notion that I could only conceive my
fantastic drama to the sound of some music. I asked for tickets from my
friend Zimmermann, for the Conservatoire, and, in the corner of a box
together with three strangers, my eyes closed as though I were asleep,
soothed into semi-unconsciousness by Beethoven and Weber, I composed
the principal scenes of my drama in two hours.

It was different in the case of _Capitaine Paul_: I needed sea, a wide
horizon, clouds scudding across the sky, and breezes whistling through
the rigging and masts of ships. I went a voyage to Sicily and anchored
my little boat for a couple of hours at the entrance to the Straits of
Messina. In two days' time _Capitaine Paul_ was finished.

On my return, I found a letter from Hugo. The success of _Henri III._
had inspired him with the desire to write a drama, and he invited me
to go and hear it read at the house of Devéria. That drama was _Marion
Delorme._



CHAPTER VI


Victor Hugo--His birth--His mother--Les Chassebœuf and les
Comet--Captain Hugo--The signification of his name--Victor's
godfather--The Hugo family in Corsica--M. Hugo is called to Naples
by Joseph Bonaparte--He is appointed colonel and governor of the
province of Avellino--Recollections of the poet's early childhood--Fra
Diavolo--Joseph, King of Spain--Colonel Hugo is made a general, count,
marquis and major-domo--The Archbishop of Tarragona--Madame Hugo and
her children in Paris--The convent of Feuillantines


We will now devote a few pages to the author of _Marion Delorme_,
_Notre-Dame de Paris_ and _Orientales_; for we deem he is well worth
the digression.

Victor Hugo was born on 26 March 1803. Where and under what conditions
the poet himself tells us on the first page of his _Feuilles
d'Automne_:--

    "Ce siècle avait deux ans; Rome remplaçait Sparte;
    Déjà Napoléon perçait sous Bonaparte,
    Et du premier consul, trop gêné par le droit,
    Le front de l'empereur brisait le masque étroit.
    Alors, dans Besançon, vieille ville espagnole,
    Jeté comme la graine au gré de l'air qui vole,
    Naquit, d'un sang breton et lorrain à la fois,
    Un enfant sans couleur, sans regard et sans voix;
    Si débile, qu'il fut, ainsi qu'une chimère,
    Abandonné de tous, excepté de sa mère,
    Et que son cou, ployé comme un frêle roseau,
    Fit faire, en même temps, sa bière et son berceau.
    Cet enfant que la vie effaçait de son livre,
    Et qui n'avait pas même un lendemain à vivre,
    C'est moi...."

The child was, indeed, so weak that, fifteen months after his birth, he
could not even hold up his head on his shoulders, but, as though it
were already weighted with all the thoughts of which it only possessed
the germ, it persistently fell forward on his breast.

The poet continues:--

               "Je vous dirai peut-être, quelque jour,
    Quel lait pur, que de soins, que de vœux, que d'amour,
    Prodigués pour ma vie, en naissant condamnée,
    M'ont fait deux fois le fils de ma mère obstinée."

His mother, of Breton blood, who persevered in battling with death
for the life of her child, like a true mother and a Bretonne, was
the daughter of a rich ship-owner of Nantes, and granddaughter of
one of the leaders of the _bourgeoisie_ in that land of opposition.
Furthermore, she was cousin-german to Constantin François, Count of
Chassebœuf, who renounced that grand feudal name, reminiscent of
the _barons pasteurs_ of the Middle Ages, for that of Volney, which
would merely remind one of the name of a provincial comedian, if the
gentleman who had the strange fancy of taking that name had not made it
famous by putting it at the beginning of his _Voyage en Égypte_, and at
the end of his _Ruines_; she was, besides, cousin of another imperial
celebrity, Comte Cornet, who was less literary in his tastes than
political. Comte Cornet, whose name is now, perhaps, forgotten, was
deputy for Nantes and one of the Conseil des Cinq-Cents; he took part
in the doings of the famous 18 brumaire, which changed the aspect of
France for half a century. Instead of defending the privileges of the
Assembly, he supported Bonaparte's pretensions; and Napoleon, ont of
gratitude, made him senator--the usual reward for such services--then
count; and so that he should possess everything--in quantity if not
in quality--that the members of the old nobility possessed, who had
rallied round the Empire, he gave him a coat of arms; but, through
one of those pleasantries which a crowned soldier sometimes permits
himself, this coat of arms, which recalled the somewhat plebeian origin
of the person whom it was intended to ennoble, was azure with three
cornets argent.

Madame Hugo's name was Sophie Trébuchet. She had, as we have seen, two
peerages in her family, that of Comte Volney and that of Comte Cornet.
Please remember this fact, for we shall have occasion again to refer to
it. The Lorraine blood of which the poet sings came from his father,
Joseph-Léopold-Sigisbert Hugo. From this side noble descent was quite
undoubted; it sprang from an ancient German source.

His grandfather, Georges Hugo, was captain of the guards to some duke
of Lorraine, and had been ennobled in 1531, by letters patent dated
at Lillebonne, in Normandy, by this duke, who bestowed on him as
coat of arms, on a field azure, _au chef d'argent_, two martlets in
sable. Three martlets are, as is well known, the arms of the House of
Lorraine. So the duke could not have done more for his captain; another
martlet, and he would have put him on the same level with himself. But
those who wish for fuller details than we give on this subject, and
a greater authority, should consult Hozier, register IV., under the
heading of _Hugo._ However, as we believe in the magic of names, we
will give some information that Hozier does not give--namely, that the
old German word _hugo_ is equivalent to the Latin word _spiritus_, and
means breath, soul, spirit!

The feebler a babe is, the more need there is for haste to baptize it.
Major Sigisbert Hugo, in command at that time at Besançon, which was
the depot of a Corsican regiment, seeing his third son was so delicate,
looked round and selected Victor Faneau de la Horie for godparent, who
was shot in 1812 for being the instigating spirit of the conspiracy
of which Mallet was the active agent. And from him the poet received
his Christian name of _Victor_, which, added to his surname, no matter
whether it precedes or follows it, can be translated in no other way
than to mean--

"Conquering spirit--triumphant soul--victorious breath!"

The poet never thought of calling himself by any other name than
the accident of his birth had decreed, as had his maternal cousin
Chassebœuf, and we shall even see later that, when the addition would
have been useful to him, he declined to call himself Hugo-Cornet.

Victor's father was one of the rough champions bred by the Revolution;
he took up arms in 1791, and did not sheathe his sword until 1815.
Others kept theirs in use until 1830 and 1848, but it was rarely
that it brought them good fortune. In 1795 he was a lieutenant and
fought in the Vendéan War. It was his company which formed part of
the detachment, led by Commandant Muscar, that took Charette in the
forest of la Chabotière. By a strange coincidence, it was Colonel
Hugo who captured Fra Diavolo in Calabria, and General Hugo who took
Juan Martin, otherwise known as the _Empecinado_, on the banks of the
Tagus; they were the three principal leaders of that great period
of wars which lasted more than a quarter of a century. Of course it
will be well understood that we do not compare the noble and loyal
Charette with the Calabrian brigand or the Spanish bandit. Charette was
shot, Fra Diavolo hung and Juan Martin garroted. After the peaceful
settlement of la Vendée the lieutenant got his captaincy, left the
Loire for the Rhine and civil war for foreign campaigns, and became
attached to the general staff of Moreau, with whom he made the campaign
of 1796; he next went into Italy, to serve in Masséna's army corps.

In connection with my father, I have mentioned what an antipathy
Bonaparte felt towards officers who came to him already distinguished
by their actions in the armies of the West and the Pyrenees and the
North. Captain Sigisbert Hugo was yet another instance. At the battle
of Caldiero, he was commanded by Masséna to hold the head of the
bridge, with his company, and he was the pivot on which the fate of
the whole battle turned; Masséna accordingly expected to be able to
recompense this magnificent feat of arms by obtaining Captain Hugo
his majority (_chef de bataillon_). But he had not reckoned for the
general-in-chief's hatred. Bonaparte asked whence Captain Hugo had
come, and when he learnt that he had belonged to the Army of the Rhine,
he cancelled the nomination. King Louis-Philippe did pretty much the
same injustice to the general as Bonaparte had to the captain: the
name of the battle of Caldiero is on the Triumphal Arch at Étoile,
but that of General Hugo is not there. The poet avenged this strange
oversight in the last line of his final stanza on the Arc de Triomphe
de l'Étoile:--

    "Quand ma pensée ainsi, vieillissant ton attique,
    Te fait de l'avenir un passé magnifique,
    Alors, sous ta grandeur je me courbe effrayé;
    J'admire! et, fils pieux, passant que l'art anime,
    Je ne regrette rien devant ton mur sublime,
    Que Phidias absent, et mon père oublié!"

However, as Captain Hugo was not among the number of those who are
beaten in their career, he obtained his majority at last, but under
what circumstances I am not aware. However that may be, he was a major,
and happened to be in garrison at Lunéville when the conferences for
the ratification of the treaty of Campo-Formio were begun in that
town. At these conferences Joseph Bonaparte, who was later King of
Naples, then King of Spain and the Indies, was plenipotentiary of the
Republic. I knew this King of Naples and Spain well at Florence. His
disposition was more gentle than elevated, more placid than bold; like
his brothers Louis and Lucien, and we might even say like his brother
Napoleon, he had had at first a passion for literature; the others
had written memoirs, comedies and epic poems, he had written novels.
His daughter, Princess Zenaïde, who is now Princess of Canino, was, I
believe, named after one of her father's heroines. Joseph Bonaparte,
as plenipotentiary, became intimate with Major Hugo, who, as we have
mentioned, joined the depot of the Corsican regiment at Besançon when
the conferences were concluded. And we have also stated that it was
there the famous poet was born of whom we are now writing.

Some months after his birth, the depot of which his father was in
command received orders to undertake garrison duty on the isle of
Elba. And on that island, where Napoleon began his decline and fall,
the author of the _Ode à la Colonne_, or, rather, of the _Odes à la
Colonne_, began to grow strong.

The first tongue that the child, who was predestined to be so
celebrated, learnt to talk was Italian; and the first word he
pronounced--after those two words with which all human voices, lips and
tongues begin, _papa_ and _mamma_--was an apostrophe to his governess:
"_cattiva_!" he called out one day, before anyone knew he had learnt
the meaning of the word. Perhaps it may not be generally known that
_cattiva_ means _naughty._ Of the isle of Elba the child remembers
nothing, and nothing of his early sojourn among his fellow-men; nothing
of this earliest halt on the threshold of his existence has remained in
his memory.

In 1806 the plenipotentiary Joseph was made King of Naples; he then
remembered his friend the major of Lunéville; he inquired what had
become of him, learnt that he was living on the isle of Elba, and
that he had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, or,
as it was still called in 1806, _gros-major._ He wrote to him and
proposed he should come and join fortunes with him, and aid him in the
establishment of his throne in the beautiful city which all ought to
see before they die, and leave in order to die as soon as they have
seen it. But no one dared venture on such military escapades without
the permission of the master. Lieutenant-Colonel Hugo asked leave of
the Emperor Napoleon to attach himself to King Joseph. The Emperor
Napoleon condescended to reply that he not only authorised this change
of service, but that he should be pleased to see a French element in
his brother's armies, which were only the wings of his own army.

Frenchmen never take service in a foreign army without certain feelings
of regret, but this army was destined to be one of the wings of the
National Army. And to ameliorate so far as he could the hardships of
this exile, the newly made king promoted _gros-major_ Hugo a colonel,
made him an aide-de-camp and appointed him governor of the province of
Avellino. When installed in his governorship, the husband sent for his
wife and children, whom he longed to have near him. So, in 1807, Madame
Hugo and her three sons set out for Naples; and the child continued the
life of wandering which had begun in his cradle, and which, continued
through his youth, was to be his lot to the threshold of manhood.
It is to these long journeys taken in his dawning days that the poet
alludes in the following lines:--

    "Enfant, sur un tambour ma crèche fut posée;
    Dans un casque pour moi l'eau sainte fut puisée;
    Un soldat, m'ombrageant d'un belliqueux faisceau
    De quelque vieux lambeau d'une bannière usée,
        Fit les langes de mon berceau.

    Parmi les chars poudreux, les armes éclatantes,
    Une muse des camps m'emporta sous les tentes.
    Je dormis sur l'affût des canons meurtriers;
    J'aimai les fiers coursiers aux crinières flottantes,
    Et l'éperon froissant les rauques étriers.

    Avec nos camps vainqueurs, dans l'Europe asservie,
    J'errai; je parcourus la terre avant la vie,
    Et, tout enfant encor, des vieillards recueillis
    M'écoutaient, racontant d'une bouche ravie
    Mes jours si peu nombreux et déjà si remplis.

    Je visitai cette île en noirs débris féconde,
    Plus tard premier degré d'une chute profonde!
    Le haut Cenis, dont l'aigle aime les rocs lointains,
    Entendit, de son antre où l'avalanche gronde,
    Ses vieux glaçons crier sous mes pas enfantins.

    Vers l'Adige et l'Arno, je vins des bords du Rhône;
    Je vis de l'Occident l'auguste Babylone:
    Rome, toujours vivante au fond de ses tombeaux,
    Reine du monde encor sur un débris de trône,
        Avec une pourpre en lambeaux.

    Puis Turin; puis Florence, aux plaisirs toujours prête;
    Naple, aux bords embaumés où le printemps s'arrête,
    Et que Vésuve en feu couvre d'un dais brûlant,
    Comme un guerrier jaloux qui, témoin d'une fête,
    Jette, au milieu des fleurs, son panache sanglant?"

Happy, a hundred times happy, is the man who is able to embroider
the web of his life with such magic characters! I too have had
recollections similar to those of my literary brother, but I have
expressed mine in humble prose, and I rejoice to find them expressed
again in his splendid and sonorous poetry. Thence ascend the earliest
recollections of the child, indelible recollections, which still shine
clearly when extreme old age has come upon us, as a mirage reflects a
vanished oasis.

Hugo, who had only once been across beautiful Italy, often talked to
me about the grand pictures of it that remained on his memory; they
were as present to his mind as though he had been my companion during
my fifteen or twenty journeys therein! But he never remembered things
in their normal conditions; they always recurred to him in connection
with some momentary incident or accident that happened to have changed
their ordinary aspect. Thus, Parma was remembered as surrounded by a
flood; Acquapendente's volcanic peak stood out lit with the lightnings
of a storm; the Trajan column in connection with the excavations
that were being carried on round it. And yet his recollection was as
exact as it could be. Florence, with its embattled inns, its massive
palaces, its granite fortresses; Rome, with its leaping fountains,
its obelisks which make it look like a town of ancient Egypt, and its
colonnade of Bernino, twin-sister to that of the Louvre; Naples, with
its promenades, its Pausilippe, its rue de Toledo, its bay, its isles
and its Vesuvius. The three children had amused themselves on the long
journey by making crosses with straw and putting them in the cracks
between the glass doors and the grooves they ran in. When the Italian
peasants, especially those who lived in the neighbourhood of Rome, saw
these simple Calvaries, faithful in their worship of images, they would
kneel down or at least make the sign of the Cross. The young travellers
had been much terrified at the sight of bandits' heads stuck on poles
by the roadsides, shrivelling up in the sun. For a long time the poor
children refused to believe they were really human heads, and persisted
that they were bewigged masks like those hung outside all hairdressers'
shops at that period; but when they were taken down and shown them,
in all their hideous reality, they remained very deeply engraved on
Victor's memory.

In the case of a man like Hugo, a genius out of the common run, who
has already played and will still play a great part in the literary
and political history of his country, it is the duty of those who knew
him to depict him for his contemporaries and successors, in the light
and shade which formed the character of the man and the genius of the
poet. Let us hope that the genius of the poet will stand out flawless
throughout our narrative: the character of the man will speak for
itself by his line of conduct and his accomplished actions.

A home for Madame Hugo and her sons was not prepared for them at
Naples, but at Avellino, capital of the province over which Colonel
Hugo had been appointed governor. This home was in a palace, a palace
of marble, like most palaces in that country, where marble is more
common than stone; but this palace possessed a strange peculiarity
which was certain to attract the attention and to remain in the memory
of a child.

One of those shocks of earthquake which are common in the Italian
peninsula had just shaken Calabria from end to end; the marble palace
of Avellino had been shaken like the rest of the buildings; yet, being
on a more solid foundation than they, after oscillating and trembling
in the balance for a moment, it kept upright, but remained cracked
from roof to base. The crack extended diagonally across the wall of
Victor's bedroom, so that he could see the country through this most
original opening almost as plainly as through his window. The palace
was built on a sort of precipice, lined with great nut trees, which
produce the enormous nuts called _avelines_ (filberts) from the name
of the district in which they are grown. When these nuts reached
maturity, the children spent their days wandering among the trees,
hung over the abyss, to gather the bunches. No doubt this taught Hugo
that familiarity with high places, that scorn of precipices and that
indifference to empty space, which he possessed beyond most men and
which filled me with admiration, for I turn giddy on the balcony of a
first storey.

About this time, one of the bitterest enemies of the French was Michel
Pezza, nicknamed Fra Diavolo, about whom my confrère Scribe composed
a comic opera, although the life of the original was a most terrible
drama! Fra Diavolo had begun as a brigand chief, something after the
fashion of Cartouche, but with more cruelty. He practised that romantic
profession, until Cardinal Ruffo, another brigand chief, only in a
higher sphere of society, conceived the idea of reconquering Naples
for his beloved sovereign Ferdinand I., who had abandoned his capital,
disguised as a lackey, in consequence of the French invasion, which was
provoked by his insolent proclamations.

Everyone knows the terrible story of the Two Sicilies, the orgies of
blood presided over by two courtesans, in which a whole generation
disappeared, and in which, in order to prevent the ruin of the State,
they were obliged to give fixed salaries to the executioners, who had
been having ten ducats per execution.

Fra Diavolo joined his band to Cardinal Ruffo's army, with which he
marched upon Naples, recapturing it in company with the cardinal,
and finally being made colonel (and even count, so I understand) by
Ferdinand I. Nevertheless, Ferdinand I. returned to Sicily later,
not only a fugitive before the French invasion, but also before a
brother of the emperor; and Fra Diavolo, with his rank of colonel
and his title of count, started afresh his guerilla warfare and his
brigandage. Colonel Hugo was commissioned to take him, and the price of
20,000 ducats was put on his head. He had already escaped once through
a prodigious feat of audacity and address. He was pursued, hounded
out and hemmed in on every side, with two hundred and fifty to three
hundred men, the remnant of his band; but he hoped to be able to escape
by a defile that he believed was known only to himself. So he had
directed his course towards this defile, but, to his great surprise, he
found this final way of escape guarded like the rest. His last hope had
vanished! He had no means of turning back; they had tried every gorge
and found a wall of bayonets barring the way.

"Come along, then; we have but one way left us!..." exclaimed Fra
Diavolo. "Perhaps they may let us take it! Bind me hand and foot to a
horse.... You have taken me prisoner, and are leading me to the French
colonel to obtain your twenty thousand ducats, the price of my head.
Leave the rest to my lieutenant and do as he does."

They had to hasten, for they were within sight of the French
detachment, which was growing uneasy as to who the troop of men
might be; moreover, they were accustomed, especially in desperate
circumstances, to follow Fra Diavolo's instructions with blind
obedience. In a second he was strapped and bound down, like Mazeppa,
on a horse, and the cortège continued its way, making straight for the
French detachment. This detachment was composed of five or six hundred
men and was commanded by a major. When they saw the troop marching to
them, the French battalion marched to meet it and the two corps came to
close quarters. The Calabrian troop halted within a hundred feet of the
French, and only the lieutenant, clad like a simple peasant, stepped
forward out of the ranks and advanced towards the major.

"What is your business and who is the man you have strapped there?"
demanded the major.

"That strapped man is Fra Diavolo," replied the lieutenant, "whom we
have caught ... and we want the twenty thousand ducats promised for his
head."

Instantly, the name of Fra Diavolo was passed from mouth to mouth.

"You have taken Fra Diavolo?" exclaimed the major.

"Yes," the lieutenant went on, "and, as proof, there he is, bound hand
and foot and strapped to the horse."

Fra Diavolo's eyes flashed fire.

"How did you take him?" asked the major.

The lieutenant invented a fable, to the effect that Fra Diavolo,
hunted, pursued, hemmed about, had sought shelter in a village which he
believed to be friendly to him; but he had been arrested, seized and
bound during the night, and the whole village had formed his escort for
fear he should escape.

"Bandits! wretches! traitors!" exclaimed Fra Diavolo.

The explanation was all sufficient for the major; besides, the chief
thing was that Fra Diavolo was caught; any accompanying explanations
concerning the capture were mere questions of curiosity.

"Very good!" he said; "hand me over your bandit."

"Certainly; but first hand over to us the twenty thousand ducats."

"How is it likely I should have twenty thousand ducats with me?"
retorted the major.

"In that case," said the lieutenant, "no money, no Fra Diavolo!"

"Humph!..." said the major.

"Oh! I am well aware that you are the stronger force," remarked the
lieutenant, "and that you can take us if you wish; but, if you do take
us, you will have stolen twenty. thousand ducats from our pockets."

The major was a logical soul, and he realised the justice of the
reasoning.

"Very well," he said, "take your prisoner to the headquarters; I will
give you a hundred men to accompany you."

The lieutenant and Fra Diavolo exchanged a sly glance which implied
that the major had played into their hands.

The hundred men of the escorting party and the two hundred and fifty
Calabrian peasants set off for the headquarters six leagues away. But
the headquarters never received news of Fra Diavolo, and the hundred
men of the escort never reappeared. When a defile was reached, the
hundred Frenchmen were slaughtered, and Fra Diavolo and his two hundred
and fifty men regained the mountains! Colonel Hugo meant to go on
with the pursuit; and, from henceforth, there was a constant series
of outwittings and marches and counter-marches between him and the
Calabrian chief, which ended in Fra Diavolo being defeated. Taken a
second time, Fra Diavolo was sent to Naples, where his trial was to
take place, and the 20,000 ducats were immediately paid over to those
who had taken him. One morning Colonel Hugo learnt that Fra Diavolo was
condemned to be hung.

"Hung!" The word sounded odd to French ears. Colonel Hugo at once
started off for Naples and obtained an audience of the king, from whom
he wished to solicit a commutation, not of the penalty, but of the
manner of execution. He asked that, as Fra Diavolo had been a soldier,
he might be shot. Unluckily, Fra Diavolo had been a bandit before he
became a soldier, and he had served his own ends before enlisting
in the services of Cardinal Ruffo and Ferdinand I. The documentary
evidence shown to Colonel Hugo by King Joseph was so crammed with
wilful crimes, murders and incendiary fires that Colonel Hugo was
the first to withdraw his proposition. Consequently, Colonel Michel
Pezza, otherwise Fra Diavolo, and Count of I know not what title, was
summarily hung.

In 1808, Napoleon having declared that the Bourbons of Spain had ceased
to reign, Joseph Bonaparte passed from the throne of the Two Sicilies
to that of Spain, where Colonel Hugo followed him. Upon his arrival
in Madrid, Colonel Hugo was made brigadier-general, governor of the
Cours de Tagus, first major-domo and first aide-de-camp to the king, a
grandee of Spain, Count of Cogolludo and Marquis of Cifuentes and of
Siguença! These were high proofs of favour; but there was one among
them all which Colonel Hugo accepted with some aversion: and that was
the title of marquis.

"Sire," he said to Joseph, when the King of Spain condescended to
announce his intentions towards him, "I thought that the emperor had
abolished the title of marquis?"

"Not in Spain, my dear colonel ... only in France."

"Sire," insisted the new general, "if the emperor has only abolished it
in France, Molière has abolished it everywhere else."

And General Hugo contented himself with using the title of count,
and never bore that of marquis. But, in spite of this, he was none
the less be-marquised and be-majordomoed. Among the privileges which
accompanied this latter office was that of presenting people to the
king. On one occasion the new major-domo had to present to King Joseph
the Archbishop of Tarragona, who had come to profess his allegiance to
the king. The Archbishop of Tarragona had a reputation for ugliness,
which left far behind it that which General Hugo's son later bestowed
on the bell-ringer of Notre-Dame. So, when the major-domo looked at
the worthy prelate and recognised that his ugliness had not only not
been exaggerated but that it was, perhaps, even worse than people
had said, ignorant that the archbishop could speak and understand
French, he could not refrain from adding, after he had pronounced the
all-important formula in pure Castilian, "_Señor, presento á vuestra
Magestad el se señor arzobispo de Tarragona_," the following words in
French: "The most villainous-looking brute in your Majesty's kingdom!"

The archbishop respectfully saluted the king; then, turning to the
major-domo, he said in the purest French, with a faultless accent--

"I thank you, general!"

In the precarious state of unsettlement through which Spain was then
passing, General Hugo felt it to be out of the question, when he left
Naples, to bring his family with him. So Madame Hugo, Abel, Eugène and
Victor returned to France. Directly Madame Hugo returned to Paris,
she took an old convent that had belonged to the Feuillantines; for,
during the two years spent in the palace of Avellino, she had learnt
to appreciate the effect on the health of her children of an airy
residence, where they had room to run wild and play at liberty. We
shall see, later, in connection with this convent, what recollections
its large garden, its glorious sunshine and its cool shade left on the
mind of the poet. Here the three children were allowed full liberty, as
I had been allowed in the great park of Saint-Remy whose splendours I
have described. Here Hugo managed to avoid going through the university
treadmill, and learnt his Latin fairly well and his Greek scarcely at
all, thanks to the care of a married priest, an ex-Oratorian, named
Larivière.

"_Il savait le latin très-bien, très-mal le grec!_" his pupil said of
him, in a scrap of verse yet unpublished.

Madame Hugo dwelt in this retreat, which sheltered her fine brood,
from 1808 until 1811. In the early part of 1811 she received a letter
from her husband. The government of King Joseph seemed settled, and
therefore it became necessary to go to Madrid, where her three children
could be attached to the court as pages.



CHAPTER VII


Departure for Spain--Journey from Paris to Bayonne--The
treasure--Order of march of the convoy--M. du Saillant--M. de
Cotadilla--Irun--Ernani--Salinas--The battalion of _écloppés_
(cripples)--Madame Hugo's supplies of provisions--The forty Dutch
grenadiers--Mondragon--The precipice--Burgos--Celadas--Alerte--The
queen's review


As we are about to see, it was then a great business to travel to
Madrid. First, there was France to cross from Paris to Bayonne. This
was merely a question of time. A century ago it took five weeks, and
forty years ago it took nine days, to cover a distance that, later, was
accomplished in fifty hours, and now is done in fifteen or eighteen.
One used to sleep at Blois, at Angoulême and at Bordeaux. Then there
was Spain to cross, from Bayonne to Madrid. In due course, we shall
see what an uncomfortable business it was to cross Spain from Bayonne
to Madrid in the year of grace 1811, in the seventh year of the reign
of Napoleon. Madame Hugo hired the whole diligence to take herself,
her children and her servants across France. Diligences, at that
time, and during the whole of the period, bore the emperor's livery;
they were large coaches, painted green; the interior held six and the
_cabriolets de cuir_ three seats--a total of nine places. The whole of
the luggage was put behind and above. Six persons only occupied the
vast ark, which started on its journey at the accustomed hour, and
rolled heavily away towards the frontier. At Poitiers, two passengers
wished to take their seats in the coach, a Frenchman and a Spaniard.
They were told that the whole diligence was taken by a French lady;
but they appeared to be so disappointed that Madame Hugo offered both
of them seats on condition that they did not pay anything, and they
accepted her offer. Madame Hugo kept the interior of the coach for
herself, Abel, Eugène, the servant and her chambermaid; Victor declined
to be dispossessed of his seat on the cabriolet, and he stayed there
with the two strange passengers. He kept an ineffaceable recollection
of one of the travellers whose name was Isnel, because he stuffed him
and his brothers with cakes and sweetmeats the whole of the journey.
At last, on the ninth day, they reached Bayonne; but there they were
obliged to stop: they could not go into Spain with what was called
treasure. This is a curious bit of history. Joseph was King of Spain,
but his sovereignty was confined to Madrid, and to those parts occupied
by the French army. All the remaining portions of the country were in
a state of insurrection. When any army corps entering the country made
an inlet through the insurrectionary forces, the latter, after opening
before it, closed up behind it again, and the army became a sort of
floating island--a Delos, constantly buffeted by the waves of revolt.
There are no means of levying contributions under such circumstances.
So the King of Spain and of the Indies, who, in reality, was no more in
possession of Spain than of the Indies, not only was unable to maintain
the splendours of his court, but would even have died of starvation
at Madrid, if Napoleon had not sent this prefect of the empire _his
income_ four times a year. King Joseph's income was 48,000,000 francs.
Therefore, every three months they sent him a consignment of 12,000,000
francs. And this was called the _treasure._ Of course, it will be
readily understood that this treasure trove was lovingly coveted by
Spanish guerilleros, and a strong escort had therefore to accompany it,
to keep these gentlemen as much at a distance as possible. Travellers
who had to go to Madrid put themselves under the protection of this
escort just as pilgrims to Mecca put themselves under the protection of
caravans. But, in spite of every precaution, and the escort of two or
three thousand men, the treasure and the pilgrims were not always safe;
the preceding convoy had been attacked, pillaged and slain at Salinas,
with frightful atrocity. General Lejeune, if I remember rightly,
painted a picture of this attack, which was exhibited in the Salon of
1824 or 1825. Notwithstanding this, however, it was much safer to go
with the convoy, and our party therefore waited nearly a month for it
at Bayonne. It arrived about the end of April.

Meantime, Madame Hugo had had plenty of time to complete her
preparations; she had purchased a carriage, the only one, moreover,
there was for sale in Bayonne. It was one of those large trunk-like
conveyances only to be seen nowadays in the drawings of Piranesi
and also, perhaps, occasionally in the procession of a pontifical
gala in the streets of Rome. Picture to yourself an enormous chest,
hung between two poles, upon colossal straps, with steps united to
these poles, so that you began to climb over the pole, and ended by
descending into the carriage. This vehicle had one advantage, however,
since, at a push, it could be converted into a fortress, its sides
being shot-proof, and only destructible by bullets or grape-shot.
Before starting, grave dispute arose concerning the course to take
during the march. There were about three hundred carriages and five or
six hundred passengers waiting, like Madame Hugo, for the reassuring
escort; and it was no easy matter to enforce rules of etiquette in such
a crowd as this, composed, besides, almost exclusively of men or women
attached to the highest offices in the State, or members of the oldest
families of Spain.

Casting a glance over the order of the march, it will be seen that the
desirable places, concerning which everyone put forth his own special
claims, possessed a value which make the persistency with which they
were quarrelled for excusable. This is how the march of the convoy was
arranged, with its escort of a detachment of three thousand men:--

First, at the head as advance-guard, marched five hundred men, with
loaded arms. Next came the waggons containing the treasure, twenty-five
or thirty carriages, surrounded by a thousand men placed five deep.
Then came the travellers, according to their rank, title, grade and,
especially, according to the seniority of their titles to nobility.
These travellers who, as we have said, might easily number some six
hundred, filled three hundred carriages, some drawn by four and some
by six mules, forming a line a league in length. This line could not
be defended so energetically as the treasure; it would have needed ten
thousand men instead of three to protect it. So the carriages were only
guarded by a single line of soldiers, instead of five abreast. Finally,
the convoy was completed by five hundred more men dragging a piece
of cannon forming the extremity of this immense reptile, which could
bite with its head, and sting with its tail. The consequence of this
disposition was that, to be properly guarded, you had to be quite sure
you were of that portion of the convoy which was immediately behind
the waggons containing the treasure. Therefore, it was not simply a
question of etiquette, who came first, second or third, but a matter of
life or death.

Madame Hugo, who had to protect herself and her three children at the
same time, advanced her claim not as a fearful woman, but as an anxious
mother. Several grand ladies of Spain of very old family, and, among
them, the Duchess of Villa-Hermosa, had a right, if they had chosen to
enforce it, of taking precedence over Madame Hugo; but as Madame Hugo
was the wife of a French general, aide-de-camp to the king, she took
precedence of all others and went first, in spite of the protests,
recriminations and complaints of the grandees of Spain, male and
female, her superiors. She had, also, been wonderfully helped in her
claim by the arrival at Bayonne of an aide-de-camp from her husband, M.
le Marquis du Saillant, son of that sister of Mirabeau whom the famous
orator loved and held in sufficiently high esteem to acquaint with his
political sayings and doings, in one of the most curious letters he has
written.

The escort was commanded, first, by the Duc de Cotadilla, a man of
noble name, great fortune and huge appetite, who had thrown in his
lot with Joseph; and, secondly, by Colonel de Montfort, a young man
of thirty, who looked charming in his hussar's uniform, and belonged
to the race of curled darlings who were nevertheless brave young
colonels; amongst whom were Colonels Lefèvre, Bessières and Moncey--all
sons of marshals who had been left killed or mutilated on the
battlefields of the Empire; Colonel Moncey was, probably, the only one
who survived that ten years' tempest of shot and shell, and saw the
Restoration. The Duke of Cotadilla and M. de Montfort produced a very
different impression on the youthful imagination of the future poet.
Twenty years later we find a reminiscence in _Claude Gueux_ of the
impression made by the Duc de Cotadilla's appetite.

"Claude Gueux was a great eater; it was a peculiarity of his
constitution; he possessed a stomach made in such a fashion that the
food supply for two men was hardly sufficient to last him one day. M.
de Cotadilla had a similar appetite and laughed at it: but what may be
a matter of mirth to a grand-duke of Spain who possessed 500,000 sheep
is a burden to a working man and a misfortune to a prisoner."

There is no other mention either before or after this paragraph of the
Duc de Cotadilla in _Claude Gueux_; so we see that this illustrious
Spanish grandee left a very special mark on Victor Hugo's memory.

I do not know whether Hugo has anywhere spoken of Colonel Montfort;
but he will do so, some day or other, for the earliest memories of
childhood are bound to break forth sooner or later.

The Marquis du Saillant was a man of fifty or fifty-five, who loved
taking life easily, always courageous, but bravest of all if anyone
disturbed him at a meal or during his sleep, since nothing being more
disagreeable to him than to be disturbed, he thereupon did his very
best to make the enemy suffer for disturbing him.

Well, at last the huge cavalcade was set in motion and crossed the
Bidassoa in view of the isle des Faisans, the famous political and
matrimonial island. The first night they slept at Irun. The child's
mind was vividly impressed by the fresh style of architecture, strange
manners and different tongue. He ever remembered that halt at Irun,
and revisited it in his poetical dreams, as well as the towns of
Burgos, Vittoria and of Valladolid, noted in other ways:--

    "L'Espagne me montrait ses couvents, ses bastilles;
    Burgos, sa cathédrale aux gothiques aiguilles;
    _Irun, ses toits de bois_; Vittoria, ses tours;
    Et toi, Valladolid, tes palais de familles,
    Fiers de laisser rouiller des chaînes dans leurs cours.

    Mes souvenirs germaient dans mon âme échauffée;
    J'allais chantant des vers d'une voix étouffée,
    Et ma mère, en secret observant tous mes pas,
    Pleurait et souriait, disant: 'C'est une fée
    Qui lui parle et qu'on ne voit pas!'"

The manner of travelling, too, made a deep impression on the brain of
the child who, as a man, was to possess the descriptive faculty in the
very highest degree! How well one can picture the five hundred men
who formed the advance-guard; the thousand escorting the heavy, noisy
waggons; the great carriage with its gilding half worn off, that came
next, drawn by six mules, reinforced, in difficult places, by two and
even four oxen, led by a _mayoral_,[1] escorted by two _zagales!_[2]
Think of the burning sun, the parching dust, the arms sparkling
in the glowing atmosphere, of villages laid waste and the hostile
and threatening populations, the unspeakably terrible and bloody
recollections which seemed to belong rather to the isles of the Pacific
than to a European continent!--and we shall have some idea of scenes
which we cannot attempt to describe, which only Hugo himself could
relate.

The first day they went three leagues! The second day, they halted for
the night at the village of Ernani. In the poet's recollections, the
name of the village is changed to that of a man. Everyone knows the
romantic bandit, lover of Doña Sol, adversary of Charles V., and rival
of Ruy Gomez. On the third day, a curious spectacle met the travellers'
gaze: a battalion of _écloppés._ A battalion of _écloppés_ was a
gathering of soldiers of all arms, the débris of a score of combats,
or, may be, of a single battle; for, in those days, battles were
barbarously conducted: often, two, three or four regiments were wiped
out; as many as a thousand, fifteen hundred or two thousand wounded
would be picked up from the field of battle; a leg would be cut off
here, an arm there, a bullet extracted from one, splinters pulled ont
of another. All these would go to the rear and, when cured, or nearly
so, from the débris of four or five different regiments would be formed
a battalion of _écloppés_ (cripples), which was sent back to France
and left to defend itself on the way thither. The poor fellows had to
extricate themselves from the terrible game of war as best they could.

Our cortège, then, met one of these battalions at Salinas. It was
composed of Light Infantry, Cuirassiers, Carabineers and Hussars. Not a
man among them but had lost an arm or a leg, a nose or an eye; but they
were gay, and sang and shouted "Vive l'empereur!" The children were
particularly struck by the fact that every man carried a parroquet or a
monkey on his shoulder or at his saddle-bow; some even had both. They
had come from Portugal, where they had left their limbs behind them,
and whence they had brought this menagerie.

At Mondragon, two or three leagues before Salinas, thanks to the
devotion of the soldiers, they escaped a very serious danger. By
"they," I mean Madame Hugo and her three children. But a slight
explanation will be necessary before giving an account of this
incident. The soldiers received their rations every three days;
according to their usual custom, they consumed the three days' rations
in the first twenty-four hours, or flung away what food burdened
them; so that the whole cortège usually fasted one day, at least, out
of three. This fast was the more painful to bear--especially in the
matter of liquids, which were not thrown away but usually consumed
prematurely--as they journeyed over arid plains, under a burning
sun and in suffocating air. They started at break of day, to avail
themselves of the cool air, halted at noon, to eat and drink and then
they set off again and travelled till nightfall. The soldiers camped
round the waggons; the officers and travellers lodged in the villages
or towns on billet; Madame Hugo was generally lodged with the Alcade.
There, her distribution of rations was made her every night: it was the
same allowance as that given to her husband when he was on campaign,
namely, twenty rations. Now these portions were very large; great
mountains of bread and meat and more wine than she could possibly
consume, were piled up before her every night. The soldiers who marched
to right and left of her carriage, by the side of the six mules and
the immense chariot, amounted to about forty men. They were Dutch
grenadiers; for the French army, at that time, like the Roman legions
of the time of Augustus, was a mixture of all the nations of Europe.
These forty men shared the rations of Madame Hugo, who had no need of
twenty portions of bread, meat and wine for herself, her children and
her servants, since she and they were nearly always supplied with meals
by the host with whom they lodged; neither did the _mayoral_ and the
two _zagales_ need any, since they lived on a glass of water, a piece
of bread smeared with garlic and the smoke of their cigarettes. The
forty Dutchmen were accordingly deeply grateful to Madame Hugo, and
their gratitude found expression on two occasions. We will relate the
first at once: the second will come in due course.

Mondragon is left by a dark and steep tunnel which forms the gate of
the town; the roadway through this tunnel takes a sudden turn on the
right, by the side of a precipice. Some slight palings were placed
at the edge of the roadway to give any vehicles being carried over
the abyss a last chance to pull themselves up, if they happened,
by chance, to knock up against one of these barriers. Whether the
_mayoral_ and _zagales_ were unacquainted with the geography of the
district, or whether they were unable to control the heavy coach, when
the vehicle came out of the dark tunnel it was advancing at a rapid
pace, carried away by its own weight, towards the precipice, when the
Dutch grenadiers, perceiving Madame Hugo's danger, rushed to the heads
of the mules and, forcing them quickly to turn round, stopped the
carriage just as one of the wheels had begun to roll over the edge of
the precipice. For one instant the travellers were literally suspended
between life and death. But life gained the day. Two or three soldiers
were nearly flung off by the shock; but some of them clung to the
traces and others to the poles. And, as it happened, the only injuries
were a few bruises and sores, which did not prevent them making merry
that night with Madame Hugo's distribution of rations. The Duc de
Cotadilla, who was very gallant, in spite of his sixty years, and who
cantered by Madame Hugo's carriage door throughout the journey, added
some bottles of rum to that distribution, and there was a regular feast.

After about twelve or fourteen days' journey, they reached Burgos.
They had had frequent alarms since they left Bayonne, but had often
found that what they took for guerilleros were only quiet mule-drivers,
united into bands for their own protection. This mistake was easily
made, since the mule-drivers were armed almost like soldiers and could
not be distinguished from such, on account of the dust raised round
them, except at close quarters, when it would be seen they rode mules,
not horses. At Burgos a halt of three or four days was made, and Madame
Hugo took the opportunity these days offered to show her children the
cathedral, that wonderful pile of Gothic architecture, the gate of
Charles V. and the tomb of the Cid.

Of the tomb of the Cid, the soldiers had made a rifle-target. The
child left Burgos dazed and breathless with wonder. Young as he was,
he already possessed a passionate admiration for the _chefs-d'œuvre_
of architecture; and the cathedral of Burgos, with its sixty or eighty
bell-towers, is, indeed, a masterpiece of its kind. By a strange
coincidence, General Hugo, who was in command of the Spanish retreat
in 1813, knocked down three of these bell-towers when he blew up the
citadel of the town of Burgos, of which he was the last governor.

The farther they advanced, the more frequent did traces of destruction
become apparent. After Burgos, they stopped at a village which had once
been Celadas; it was a heap of ruins from one end to the other; and,
as though it had been feared that the place might revive, the ruins
had been thoroughly set fire to. Nothing could be sadder than to see
that fire-destroyed village in the middle of the sunburnt plains. A few
wall sides stood crumbling and roofless and, of these, the children
belonging to the caravan made a fortress, soon dividing their small
party into besiegers and besieged. War, which was, in those days, the
trade of the fathers, was the play of the children. Little Victor and
his two brothers formed part of the besieging party. Just when they
were scaling a breach to enter the town, and Victor, who always loved
high places, was running along the top of a wall, doubtless to make a
diversion during the attack, he lost his footing and fell head foremost
from the top of the wall into an uncovered cellar, and his head struck
against the corner of a stone with such violence that he was stunned
and lay where he fell. No one had seen him fall: his descent had been
effected too rapidly for him to cry out. So the assault was carried on
as though the besiegers had not lost one of their number. When the town
was taken, vanquishers and vanquished counted their numbers, and only
then did they discover that one of them, young Victor Hugo, was left
gloriously on the field of battle. They began to search for him, Abel
and Eugène at the head, and so carefully did they hunt into every nook
and corner, that they soon discovered the wounded victim in the depths
of a cellar. They thought he was dead, as he did not give any signs of
life, and they rushed off with him amidst great lamentations to Madame
Hugo, who soon saw he was still alive.

We have forgotten to mention that there were specimens of all kinds of
humanity in the convoy, including six or eight Councillors of State,
whom Napoleon was sending ready-made to his brother! So a doctor was
easily found. The doctor attended to the child and, luckily, the shock
had been worse than the actual blow; the wound was therefore more
terrifying to look at than dangerous and, although the mark of the cut
can even to-day be plainly seen, where Hugo parts his hair, by the next
day the child had forgotten all about it; and like Kléber after the
capture of Alexandria, he was ready to take part in besieging a fresh
town.

So far, nothing serious had disturbed the march of the caravan.
Occasionally, a bullet from a hidden guerillero would bury itself in
the thickness of the panels of one of the carriages, or break the glass
of a door; and Colonel Montfort would send a score of hussars to search
among the undergrowth from whence the stray shot had come; but it was
easy enough in that part of the country through which the travellers
were then passing for the culprit to slip down the sides of a ravine or
gain a mountain gorge and put himself beyond reach.

One night, however, they had a genuine alarm, and expected this time
that they were really face to face with a formidable enemy. They had
traversed nearly two-thirds of their way and had reached the small town
of Valverde, a collection of sombre-looking houses with high walls and
no windows, looking like a nest of fortresses of the time of Louis
XIII. As usual, the escort had set up its camp at the entrance to the
town, sentinels had been posted in all directions and the travellers
and officers had received their billeting papers for the houses of the
principal inhabitants. Madame Hugo, as usual, lodged with the Alcade.
As he left her, the Duc de Cotadilla said--

"Be on your guard, madame; we are in the heart of the insurrection,
and your host has not only a very bad reputation but also a very
evil-looking face."

Madame Hugo could only judge of the face, and her opinion thereon
entirely coincided with that of the Duc de Cotadilla. Moreover, the
inside of the house accorded with the appearance of the town and with
her host: doors were barred with iron and lined with sheet-lead; there
were severe-looking vestibules as dark as the passages in a convent,
huge bare-walled rooms with only the earth for flooring on the ground
floor and bricks on the first floor; and the furniture was composed of
wooden benches and leather arm-chairs. When Madame Hugo had seen over
the whole house to select the rooms that suited her best, she decided
on an immense low room on the ground floor, lighted by a branch of
pinewood burning in an iron hand which was attached to the wall; she
drew ont her bed from the immense portmanteau which enclosed it during
the day, and put the children to sleep on a dozen sheepskins, placed
M. du Saillant in a recess adjoining the large room and, when night
fell, awaited what might happen. The outlook was not a cheerful one;
the events that might be expected were terrible to contemplate, for the
Spanish had been steadily gaining a reputation for ferocity since the
beginning of the war; and the tortures they invented for the wretched
Frenchmen who fell into their hands were unmentionably horrible. Among
primitive peoples, who are wholly savage, like the Turks, for instance,
you know what to expect; it will be one of their three methods of
torture and execution--chopping off heads, strangulation or impalement;
and the imagination of the executioners does not exceed those three
ways of killing. But with a civilised people like the Spanish, who
had their Charles V., Philip II. and the Inquisition, it is another
matter: the miserable man under sentence of death may be roasted
over a slow fire, sawed between two planks, put on the rack, hung by
the feet; or have his entrails unravelled like a skein of cotton;
or his body slashed in slices like a sixteenth-century doublet; or
his eyes put out, his nose, his tongue or his hands cut off. Spanish
executioners are men of resource! Besides, if they had exhausted their
own imagination, there remained the resources of the Inquisition, for
it should be borne in mind that the men who fought against us were
Catholics first and foremost, priests and saints!

In spite of reflections like these, dispiriting enough to a mother who
is answerable to her husband for the safety of herself and their three
children, Madame Hugo began to fall asleep, envying the tranquillity
of Colonel du Saillant, who had been asleep a long time in the recess
they had discovered adjoining this low room, when, suddenly, the cry
"To arms!" and the noise of sharp firing roused her. She had gone
to bed with very few clothes off, especially after the warning she
had received, and she was up in an instant. The fusillade went on
continuously, though somewhat irregularly directed, and the cries "To
arms!" redoubled. In the midst of these cries, someone knocked on the
outside shutters of the large low room, loud enough to be heard, but
meant evidently to be reassuring. Madame Hugo opened the shutter. It
was Colonel Montfort, who had knocked on the shutters with the hilt of
his sword.

"It is I, madame," he said, "Colonel Montfort, who have the honour to
address you. The enemy has attacked us, but we have taken measures to
give it a warm reception, therefore be tranquil. In any case, please
barricade yourself in here, and only open to the Duc de Cotadilla or to
myself."

Madame Hugo thanked Colonel Montfort for his attentive care; M. du
Saillant went out to him, and she shut the door fast behind him,
barricaded it, with every available precaution, and waited further
developments. The firing continued for some time, and even occasionally
seemed to increase; finally it decreased and gradually died out. Which
had been victorious? French or Spaniards? She did not know as yet, but
she had good hopes that the French had won, and soon there came a fresh
rapping on the shutters, and, amidst shouts of laughter, which Madame
Hugo recognised as coming from the Duc de Cotadilla, Colonel Montfort
and her husband's aide-de-camp, she was asked to open the great door.
This done, the three officers entered.

A trumpeter of the hussars had discovered, just outside the town, a
bit of meadow where he thought that his horse, to which he was greatly
attached, could find a little fresh grass when the sentinels had been
placed, he had picketed his horse in this tiny oasis. A peasant had
noticed and wondered at this confidence and, when night fell, he had
slipped from bush to bush, in order to steal the horse; the animal had
allowed him to approach until he felt the picket detached, when, with a
violent shake, he freed himself from his thief, and rushed off neighing
and rearing back to the French camp. The sentinel advanced shouting,
"Who goes there?" And the horse, of course, went past him without
replying. The sentinel fired and fell back on the first outpost,
crying, "To arms!" The first outpost fired and cried, "To arms!" and
then the soldiers in their turn had run to their piled and loaded
muskets, fired and shouted, "To arms!" Hence the alarm, the firing,
the fearful tumult, which for an hour had filled the little town of
Valverde with fire, smoke and noise.

Nobody dreamt of trying to sleep again for the remainder of that night,
so Madame Hugo and the three officers spent it together, and next
morning, at daybreak, they continued their march.

The following day, another scene almost as grotesque as the alarming
incident of the previous night, was in preparation for the travellers,
under the rays of the hot noontide sun. They were halting at that hour
in the middle of a great plain. The soldiers were covered with dust,
and streaming with perspiration, under a sun of 35 degrees Centigrade,
having finished their meal, when a courier arrived for the Duc de
Cotadilla, to announce that the queen, who was also on her way under an
escort to rejoin her husband, would soon pass by the cortège. The Duc
de Cotadilla thanked the courier for his information and, when he had
learnt the time that they were likely to meet the queen, and found they
could still count on nearly an hour, he sent the courier on his way.
Then he went to the door of Madame Hugo's coach, where, we know, he was
accustomed to hold converse.

"Madame," he said, "I venture to ask you to lower your blinds, first
on account of the sun, and next because of the sights you would
see going on among the escort. The queen is going to pass by in an
hour's time, and I desire to show her due deference by making my men
dress themselves in parade attire; and, to do this, they will have
to change everything, from their collars to their leggings. During
this transformation, which will be even more extensive than I have
described, there will be evolutions which may be all right for a
general or a colonel to see, but which are more unseemly for a lady to
look upon. I have warned you, madame, and I am now going to warn the
Duchesse de Villa-Hermosa and the other ladies."

And, with his usual politeness, the Duc de Cotadilla took leave of
Madame Hugo and issued his commands. Madame Hugo drew down her blinds.

The orders of the Duc de Cotadilla were that the men should at once
put on parade dress to line the route for the queen. The men quickly
formed single line along the whole of the roadside, piled arms, opened
knapsacks and began their toilet. They had just reached the most
delicate part of their toilet, on account of which the Duc de Cotadilla
had cautioned the ladies to lower their carriage blinds, when a huge
cloud of dust appeared on the top of a mountain five hundred feet off,
and cries of "The queen! The queen!" rang through the air. The queen
had come half an hour sooner than the courier had announced. A stronger
head than that of the Duc de Cotadilla might have been upset by such
an accident as this; moreover, in no book on the art of warfare had
provision been made for such a contingency. So he kept silence, and,
left to their own inspiration, the drums beat the call to arms, the
soldiers shouldered their weapons and the non-commissioned officers
yelled, "Fall in!"

Thus it fell ont that the Queen of Spain held a review such as no other
queen or empress, were she even Marguerite of Burgundy or Catherine
II., had ever held; and, as she learnt later that M. de Cotadilla had
been forewarned of her arrival, nothing removed the idea from her mind
that the nakedness of those three thousand men was a joke which the
illustrious duke had prepared for her.

The queen went by, and, as the parade dress was of no further use,
they resumed their everyday uniform, restored their fine clothes to
their knapsacks, the signal for starting was given and the journey was
resumed.


[Footnote 1: Translator's note.--Spanish leader of a mule-team.]

[Footnote 2: Young shepherds.]



CHAPTER VIII


Segovia--M. de Tilly--The Alcazar--The doubloons--The castle
of M. de la Calprenède and that of a Spanish grandee--The
_bourdaloue_--Otero--The Dutchmen again--The Guadarrama--Arrival
at Madrid--The palace of Masserano--The comet--The College--Don
Manoël and Don Bazilio--Tacitus and Plautus--Lillo--The winter of
1812 to 1813--The Empecinado--The glass of _eau sucrée_--The army of
merinoes--Return to Paris


At length they reached Valladolid; then, after a few days' stay there,
they proceeded from Valladolid to Segovia across steep mountains,
sometimes sharp peaked, sometimes leading by gentler slopes to high
summits from which they could see vast plains basking in the June
sunshine.

The Count of Tilly was governor of Segovia. He belonged to the old
court, was page to Louis XVI. and left Memoirs which are not wanting in
a certain picturesqueness of their own--a much rarer quality at that
epoch than the quality of arousing interest. He came to the door of
Madame Hugo's carriage to welcome her, installed her in a palace and
looked after her and her children during their stoppage at Segovia.

The event that struck the young poet most and remained most vividly
in his memory during his sojourn in this town was his visit to the
Alcazar--that splendid fairy palace, less famous but as beautiful as
those of Granada and Seville, with its gallery containing portraits of
all the Moorish kings painted in the trefoils and on backgrounds of
gold. We need not explain to our readers that these pictures are later
than Arabian times, the religion of the Arabs forbidding them to paint
images. The Alcazar at that time was also used as the Mint. M. de Tilly
took Madame Hugo and her children into the coining-room, where he had
a doubloon struck specially for each child to keep. One of the greatest
of Hugo's youthful troubles was the losing of his coin in Madrid by
letting it fall through the crack of a carriage door.

They waited eight days for reinforcements; for they dared not risk
setting ont for Madrid without a fresh escort; when this new escort
arrived, they resumed their journey to rejoin the convoy party on the
Madrid road. At Segovia, Madame Hugo, as we know, had, through the
intervention of Count Tilly, been lodged in the palace of a Spanish
grandee. As in M. de la Calprenède's palace, everything was of silver,
chandeliers, plates, basins, washing-bowls, everything, even to the
chamber articles. One of the pieces of furniture that especially
charmed Madame Hugo with its beauty and originality of shape was a
delightful little _bourdaloue._

Here I shall be pulled up and asked why a night commode should have
been associated with the name of the celebrated pupil of the Jesuits
and why a chamber utensil should have been named after a preacher. I
will explain, after I have done with Madame Hugo's fascination for this
little article of furniture and the consequences that ensued.

Well, Madame Hugo was so delighted with the form of the charming
_bourdaloue_ that she asked the master of the house in which she was
staying if she might buy it of him. But, like a true Spaniard, the
old Castillian was an implacable enemy to our nation, so he replied
that Madame Hugo could have the coveted object if she wished, but that
he never sold anything to the French. As, in this case, to take it
was equivalent to stealing it, Madame Hugo refrained, supposing the
_bourdaloue_ to form part of a collection which it would be a pity to
spoil. Now let us explain why those little elongated vessels are called
_bourdaloues._ The famous preacher gave such interminably long sermons
that ladies were compelled to take certain precautions against their
length which we think we need not explain more fully. More happy than
Christopher Columbus, who gave his name to a new continent, the pillar
of Christian eloquence gave his name to a new article of furniture,
made especially because of his doings--an article which from its long
and narrow shape was easily carried about.

Now that we think we have cleared up this historical question to the
satisfaction of our readers, we will rejoin the convoy on its journey
to Madrid. It had reached within a league of Otero, where they were
to pass the night and whose towers they could already discern, when,
because one of the spokes of a back wheel of Madame Hugo's gigantic
coach snapped in two, they had to make an enforced halt on the
high-road, which was paved with enormous pieces of rock. Faithful
to his courteous habits, the Duc de Cotadilla had ordered a general
halt, causing an outburst of objections. A general halt at seven in
the evening! a halt which might last a couple of hours and allow the
convoy to be overtaken by nightfall! The duke could hardly have done
more even if the accident had happened to one of the waggons containing
the treasure, and he was exceeding his duties altogether when it was
only for the wife of a French general, a lady who had been a member
of the Spanish aristocracy for barely three years! So there was a
great clamour throughout the convoy. There had been precedents in
similar cases, and the unfortunate carriage had been left behind bag
and baggage to the mercy of Providence! The Duc de Cotadilla wished to
keep his word, but he had to give way before the chorus of complaints.
The convoy meant to continue its way to Otero; but help on which she
had not counted was to be given to Madame Hugo and her poor abandoned
coach. The forty Dutch grenadiers asked to be allowed the favour of
remaining by her coach as escort until the wheel could be mended and it
was possible to continue the journey. This favour was granted them. The
convoy moved off and gradually, like a receding tide, left the coach
stranded on the highway. But never did shipwrecked people alone on a
desert island set themselves to work with greater energy to construct a
raft than did the forty Dutch grenadiers to the mending of the wheel.
It was completed in an hour or so. When they set off again, the rear
of the convoy had long been lost to sight and darkness had begun to
fall. However, in spite of all these adverse circumstances, the coach,
with Madame Hugo, her three children, the servant, the chambermaid, the
forty Dutch grenadiers, entered Otero by ten that night, without having
had to pay toll to the guerilleros--a most unusual stroke of good luck.
During the night, owing to the efforts of a local wheelwright, whom
they compelled by force to undertake the job, with two army blacksmiths
superintending his labours, the coach was mended; and next day it was
ready to take its place at the head of the file of carriages.

They reached the chain of the Guadarrama Mountains and began to climb
them; ascending the highest summit, they made a halt at the foot of the
gigantic lion which turns its back on Old Castile, and, with one paw on
the scutcheon of the Spains, looks to New Castile; then they descended
towards the campagna round Madrid. The campagna of Rome is bare and
gloomy, but flecked with glorious sunshine, and looks alive, if one
may so put it, in spite of its loneliness. The campagna of Madrid is
bare, arid and grey, and like a cemetery. And the Escurial rises up at
the end of the plain like a tomb. This, indeed, was the impression it
left on me, and also the impression it left on Hugo, who visited it
thirty-five years before I did.

    "L'Espagne m'accueillit livrée à la conquête;
    Je franchis le Burgare où mugit la tempête;
    _De loin y  pour un tombeau, je pris l'Escurial_,
    Et le triple aqueduc vit s'incliner ma tête
        Devant son front impérial.

    Là, je voyais les feux des haltes militaires
    Noircir les murs croulants des villes solitaires;
    La tente de l'église envahissait le seuil;
    Les rires des soldats, dans les saints monastères,
    Par l'écho répétés, semblaient des cris de deuil!"

The convoy wound over the plain from the Escurial to Madrid like a long
snake; they only slept once on the road, at Galapagar. Next day, by
six in the evening, they had reached Madrid. They had scarcely entered
its streets before everybody disbanded, overjoyed at being no longer
under the restraint of military discipline. Madame Hugo bade farewell
to the Duc de Cotadilla, of Colonel Montfort and her forty Dutchmen;
then Colonel du Saillant took her to the palace of the princes of
Masserano, which was prepared for her reception. The general was at his
governorship in Guadalajara: we shall see later what he was doing there.

The palace of Masserano was in the _Calle de la Reyna._ It was a
vast building of the seventeenth century, in all the splendour and
severity of that period; it had no garden but a multitude of little
square courtyards paved with marble, each with a fountain in the
centre. These courtyards could only be entered through a kind of
postern gateway; the sun never reached down into them, for the walls
enclosing them were some forty to fifty feet high; and they were only
just large enough for a wolf to walk round the fountain; in fact, they
were simply store-places of shade and coolness. So far as Victor's
memory carried him, the interior of the palace was of incredible
magnificence; especially the dining-room, which had large glass windows
on each of its four sides, the light through which showed up in all
their glory splendid paintings by Fra Bartolommeo, Velasquez, Murillo,
Sébastian del Piombo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michael Angelo.
This dining-room led into a large salon, upholstered in red damask,
which led into another salon upholstered in blue damask, which in its
turn led to what was called the princess's room, an immense chamber,
upholstered and furnished in blue figured silk and silver. On the
other side of the dining-room, through an anteroom, ornamented solely
with oak chests which were meant to serve as seats for attendants, you
entered a large gallery which contained a collection of full-length
portraits of the Counts of Masserano, in court dress, also of princes
of the same name; the principality, by the way, only dated back as
far as the middle of the seventeenth century. It was in these great
galleries that the children played hide-and-seek with the sons of
General Lucotte, in rooms a hundred and fifty feet long, and among
Chinese vases and porcelain ornaments six feet in height! Their
evenings were spent on a large balcony, from whence they could see the
comet, in which they could distinguish the Virgin giving her hand to
Ferdinand VII.,--so said the Spanish priests.

One morning an escort of Westphalian cavalry arrived, accompanying a
messenger bearing a letter from General Hugo. The general was unable
to come to Madrid, being busily engaged in warfare on the banks of the
Tagus. The main purpose of the letter was to recommend the best college
for the education of the three children. They were to be placed in the
Séminaire des Nobles, where they would be prepared as pages of the
king. It was not usual to take boys under thirteen, but, although Abel
was only twelve, Eugène but ten and Victor only eight, an exception
was made in their favour and a license from the king provided for
their immediate admission. They had to leave the splendid Masserano
palace, with its beautiful paintings by old masters, its splendid
tapestries, its interminable galleries decorated with Chinese vases
and the walls whereon three generations of counts and princes seemed
to come to life again in their state costumes or in their trappings of
war, for the gloomy seminary in the _Calle San-Isidro._ The Séminaire
des Nobles was, indeed, a formidable and severe-looking edifice, with
its great treeless courts, and one might almost go so far as to say its
vast schoolrooms without scholars. There were twenty-five pupils, not
including the three new-comers in this seminary, which had contained
three hundred before the French invasion. This was, approximately, the
proportion of the aristocracy of Spain that had rallied round Joseph
Bonaparte. And besides the twenty-five scholars there was, as we have
said, the three sons of General Hugo and a Spanish prisoner. The
seminary looked indeed a gloomy place to the poor children when they
entered it. Imagine those schoolrooms and dormitories and lavatories
and refectories intended to meet the needs of three hundred pupils, now
containing but twenty-five unhappy scholars, who looked lost therein.
Virgil's phrase, _rari nantes_, seemed entirely to meet the case. The
establishment was kept by two Jesuits who controlled the college
with apparently equal strictness; these two Jesuits each represented
opposite types of their order: one was named Don Manoël and the other
Don Bazilio. Don Bazilio was tall and nearly fifty-five years of age;
his forehead was bare and bald, and his nose was like a vulture's beak;
his mouth was large and firm, and his chin protruded. He was hard and
severe in character and never forgave. But, at the same time, he was
just, and never punished unless punishment was deserved. The other,
Don Manoël, was plump and very broad. His figure was thick-set; he had
a smiling, almost a gay, face; and his manner towards new-comers was
gentle and gracious and caressing; judging from his appearance, he was
always ready to excuse, or at any rate to make allowance for faults;
he was extremely false, very deceitful and utterly mischievous; he
directed the college alone, in spite of the pretended collaboration
of Don Bazilio, doubtless by order of his superiors. When the first
edge of his appearance of sympathy had worn off, Don Manoël became
unbearable. Lads began by detesting Don Bazilio; but, as he was just,
in spite of his severity, this hatred gradually passed away; whilst,
on the other hand, people began by liking Don Manoël, and ended by
detesting him. But when the latter feeling was aroused it went on
increasing _crescendo._

The studies which these two Jesuits set their pupils were ridiculous.
They were so feeble that, in a college composed of young people of
eighteen to twenty years of age, a special class had to be started
for the new arrivals of whom the oldest was but twelve. They actually
judged of the children's capacities by their size when they began to
examine them, and gave Abel a Quintus Curtius, and Eugène _De Viris_,
and little Victor an _Epitome._ But at sight of this book, with which
he had finished a long time before, the child rebelled and boldly asked
for Tacitus. The fathers looked at one another in stupefaction and,
refraining from punishing the audacious boy who had delivered himself
of this ill-timed jest, they brought him the book. Victor opened it and
immediately translated the paragraph about Cocceius Nerva on which
he had alighted at haphazard. The two other brothers took up Tacitus
in their turn, and gave an equal, if a not superior, proof of skill.
They brought them Perseus and Juvenal; the children were familiar with
both these satirists, and could not merely interpret them, but even
offered to recite whole satires by heart. Thus the children fresh
from France made light of these three authors, who were looked upon
at the Séminaire des Nobles as beyond the reach of rhetoricians of
twenty! The two Jesuits put their heads together, decided that they
must make a special class for the three new-comers and settled that
they would expound Plautus to them. Don Manoël it was, a true Jesuit,
who chose an author full of ellipses, bristling with idioms, crammed
with Roman patois, like that which Molière puts into the mouths of his
peasant-folk, and for ever alluding to customs that had disappeared
even in Cicero's time. But Don Manoël's end was accomplished: the
children's brains grew dull over Plautus; and this was exactly what
he wished, to break their pride. The twenty-two other pupils were
Spaniards, sons of Spanish grandees who had thrown in their lot with
Joseph. Among them were two sons of high birth to whom Victor dedicated
different Souvenirs in his works: one, the Count of Belverana, whom
he put in his _Lucrèce Borgia_, and Raymond de Benavente, to whom he
addressed, in 1823, the Ode that begins with this stanza:--

    "Hélas! j'ai compris ton sourire,
    Semblable au ris du condamné
    Quand le mot qui doit le proscrire
    A son oreille a résonné!
    En pressant ta main convulsive,
    J'ai compris ta douleur pensive,
    Et ton regard morne et profond,
    Qui, pareil à l'éclair des nues,
    Brille sur des mers inconnues,
    Mais ne peut en montrer le fond."

The young poet noticed one custom peculiar to Spanish manners, namely,
these children, whose ages varied from thirteen and every year up to
twenty, all used the familiar form of address among themselves, as
became sons of Spanish grandees, and never addressed one another by
their baptismal or family names, but only by their titles of prince,
duke, marquis, count or baron. They called Victor "Baron," which filled
him with pride.

Among these young folk--and to be exact in our figures we ought to
reduce the number of these juvenile nobilities to twenty-one--was one
who was neither knight, baron, count, marquis, duke nor prince, and who
nevertheless was not the least remarkable inmate of the college. This
was a young Spanish officer named Lillo, aged fifteen, who had been
taken prisoner at the siege of Badajoz. He had fought like a demon, had
killed a French grenadier with his own hand and had been taken only
after a heroic defence. They were about to shoot him when Marshal Soult
happened to pass by, and, having inquired and been informed what was
being done, had him despatched to Madrid, with orders that he should be
placed in the college. The order was carried out, and Lillo was sent
to the college, but in the twofold capacity of pupil and prisoner.
The lad, who had borne the rank of second lieutenant, had commanded
grown men, had faced battle in open field, equipped as a soldier, took
badly to the college discipline full of Jesuitical chicaneries, to
which he had to submit like all the others, save in the matter of the
common dormitory, where, however, each pupil had his own cubicle. He
therefore, as far as he was permitted, kept to himself in solitude,
rage burning at his heart's core, and in his relations with the other
young lads he was cold, melancholy and haughty. Of course, the three
French boys were the object of his particular aversion, and he was
constantly picking quarrels with one and sometimes with all three of
the sons of the general attached to Joseph, he a soldier of Ferdinand
VII. Once he called Napoleon _Napoladron_ before Eugène--true, nearly
every Spaniard called the conqueror of Austerlitz by that nickname, but
Eugène was none the less sensitive? to the insult on that account, and
he retorted that Lillo had been taken prisoner between the legs of a
French grenadier. Lillo had a pair of compasses in his hand; he did not
wait for any other weapon, but threw himself on Eugène and stabbed him
brutally with it on the cheek. The wound, or rather the tear, was an
inch and a half in length. Eugène wished to fight a duel, and Lillo was
willing enough; but the professors intervened and separated the youth
and the lad. Lillo disappeared the next day; and neither Victor nor his
brother ever heard what became of him. I can still hear Victor's grave
voice when he told me the anecdote, saying--

"And the young fellow was right: he was standing up for his country ...
but children do not understand that."

The living at the Séminaire des Nobles was cloistral; probably no
monastery throughout Spain kept severer rules. Once a fortnight they
went for a walk, but even this was restricted, and they might not even
go to the Délices (corresponding to our Champs-Élysées), for fear of
guerilla bands. These twenty or twenty-five lads would have been a
great prize, and worth a good ransom, belonging, as they did, not only
to the first families in Madrid, but also to the families which had
thrown in their lot with the brother of _Napoladron_, as Lillo had
called him.

From time to time, the boys would look up at the sound of an opening
door and they would see a vision out of the seventeenth century appear
in the beginning of the nineteenth. One day, when in the refectory,
eating their meal in silence, while a junior master, seated on a raised
chair in the midst of an immense hall, was reading to them in Spanish
out of a pious book, suddenly, the door opened, after a couple of
knocks, as though a prince, cardinal or Spanish grandee were outside.
The four little Benavente boys had not seen their mother for over a
year, and it was the Princess of Benavente. She advanced a few steps
into the room and waited. Then her four sons rose, ranged themselves
according to their age, eldest first, second next, and so on, and,
without taking one step faster than another, advanced ceremoniously and
kissed their mother's hand in turn from the tallest to the smallest.
The three young French lads were greatly astonished at the proceeding
and at a loss to understand such etiquette as this, for they were
accustomed to rush to their mother and fling themselves on her neck,
when they caught sight of her.

At the end of six months' sojourn at the Séminaire des Nobles, Abel
attained his twelfth year and was allowed by special privilege to enter
as a page at that age.

Then came the winter and famine. It was cold everywhere during the
fatal winter of 1812-1813, although it was nothing compared with the
severity experienced in Russia.

It was the fate of Napoleon to attract and concentrate the attention of
the world upon him during his reverses as during his victories.

The twenty-five pupils buried in that vast Séminaire des Nobles, in the
dormitories, schoolrooms and refectories intended for three hundred
inmates, were perished with cold. Nothing could warm those great rooms
wherein there was not a single fireplace; braziers placed in the middle
of the rooms only served to emphasise winter's triumph. Besides this,
the children were not only perishing of cold, but, worse still, were
dying of starvation. The wealthiest in Madrid could not get bread in
1812. And King Joseph himself--probably to set a good example--ordered
that nothing but soldiers' bread should be served at his table. People
were constantly found in the streets who had not even as much warmth as
the braziers at the Séminaire des Nobles, or King Joseph's army bread,
lying down on the thresholds of the great in tattered cloaks and dying
of hunger and cold. If they were still alive, every effort was made to
feed and warm them; if they were dead, they were removed and buried.
Bread was as scarce at the Séminaire des Nobles as elsewhere, and the
lads complained bitterly of hunger; to the less patient, father Manoël
would say--

"Make the sign of the Cross on your stomachs, and that will feed you."

The boys made many crosses, and, although the action warmed them a
little, it certainly did not nourish them. But they suspected Don
Manoël, who kept fat amongst all the sad and emaciated faces, to have
an illicit intimacy with the kitchen, which he hid even from Don
Bazilio.

All this while, General Hugo was waging war along the banks of the
Tagus against the famous Juan Martin, nicknamed the _Empecinado_, as he
had against Charette in the Vendée and against Fra Diavolo in Calabria.
He has himself given a modest and learned account of the strategic
movements of that fine campaign, which concluded with the capture and
execution of the captain of the guerilla hordes which he combatted.
We will select a few only of the picturesque accounts of dangers
incurred--those fragments which History drops from her robe and which
chroniclers carefully collect for their Memoirs.

One day, General Hugo and a hundred men came to a village situated on
one of the many little streams that run into the Tagus. In order to
avoid rousing needless alarm, he entered the village with only his
two aides-de-camp, to obtain from the inhabitants some information of
which he stood in need. He came from his camp, which included some
five to six thousand men, who were a league lower down the river. To
obtain the desired information, he applied to the proprietor of a
large sugar-refining factory, who, seeing him accompanied by only two
aides-de-camp, said never a word. General Hugo was thirsty. Unable
to get his information, he thought he might at any rate get some
refreshment and asked for a glass of water.

"Water?" said the proprietor of the sugar refinery. "There is plenty in
the river."

And he shut the door in the general's face. The general waited a moment
to see if the door would be reopened. Instead of the door, it was a
window that was opened, the muzzle of a gun slyly protruded, fired,
and a bullet whizzed past. At the sound of the gunshot, the detachment
which had remained outside the town rushed in; and when the soldiers
learnt what had just happened they wanted to demolish the sugar factory
and burn the village. General Hugo stopped them and said to his
orderly, "Go back to the camp, and invite the whole of the six thousand
men who form it, in my name, to come and drink some _eau sucrée_; it
will be a treat for them--it is a long time since the poor devils
tasted any!" It was one of the special virtues of the Imperial epoch to
be quick to understand when one wished to understand: the aide-de-camp
understood and set off at a gallop. The soldiers also understood. They
burst open the doors of the sugar factory, threw two or three thousand
sugar-loaves into the river; and for the rest of that day General
Hugo's six thousand men had as much _eau sucrée_ to drink as they
wanted! This was the only revenge he took on the refusal of a glass of
water and the gun fired at him. The deed has remained in the annals of
the army of Spain as one of the most toothsome jokes a general ever
cracked with his men.

On another occasion, also when they were marching by the banks of
the Tagus, in the place where I myself--I will tell the story in due
course--sojourned thirty years later, one wretched night, on the
great plains of Old Castile, between Toledo and Aranjuez, and it was
just such a burning sun as made Sancho bitterly regret he had not an
excellent curd cheese at hand, suddenly, the scouts fell back at full
gallop on the advance-guard to warn General Hugo that what appeared to
be an army corps of the enemy, of considerable number, was marching to
encounter the French army. And, indeed, so great a cloud of dust was to
be seen on the horizon as only a great body of men or the simoom could
produce. This dust shone like those clouds of crimson and gold which
appear in the atmosphere during the hottest of the dog-days. General
Hugo gave orders for a halt. He then rode on in advance with a hundred
men to examine the enemy's position himself, and if possible to divine
its intentions. There was no doubt about it--it was an immense troop
to judge by the space it occupied and the dust it raised, and it was
marching towards him with one of its wings on the right bank of the
Tagus. The infantry instantly received orders to prepare for battle,
the artillery to plant their batteries on a small hillock, and the
cavalry to take up a position on the right wing. Then they despatched a
few men on horseback in front under the command of an orderly officer.
But both officer and men returned at a gallop a few moments later.
General Hugo thought his men must have been _driven back_, and as not a
single shot had been fired he was just preparing to give the fugitives
a good wigging when on nearer approach he detected unequivocal signs of
hilarity on the countenances of both officer and men.

"Well, what is it?" asked the general. "Who is our enemy?"

"General," replied the aide-de-camp, "our enemy is a flock of three
hundred thousand merino sheep being driven by two hundred dogs,
conducted by a dozen shepherds, and belonging to M. _Quatrecentberger._"

"What tomfoolery is this, monsieur?" said the general, frowning.

"I am not joking, general," said the officer, "and in ten minutes you
will see that I have had the honour to tell you the precise truth."

A flock of 300,000 sheep! It made the mouths of the soldiers water!
What a suitable aftermath to the barrels of _eau sucrée_ which the
general had provided for them!

The army corps consisted of 4000 men; each soldier could have at least
a sheep to himself, and each began considering what kind of sauce he
would serve to his own dish.

At the announcement of this strange news, M. Hugo advanced to the
front. And there he saw through the dust first a dozen men on
horseback, armed with long sticks studded with nails, like lances;
behind these came the impenetrable front of 300,000 sheep; and upon
the heels of these 300,000 sheep two hundred barking, biting dogs
darting hither and thither. It looked like the migration of a great
Arab tribe, in the time of Abraham. The story was quite correct, except
the name of the owner, which the officer had taken the liberty of
mispronouncing slightly to suit the occasion. The proprietor's name was
not _Quatrecentberger_ (four hundred shepherds), but _Katzenberger._
It will be seen that the difference in pronunciation was so slight
that the officer may be forgiven his appropriate pun. M. Katzenberger
was a wealthy Alsatian speculator who had risked almost the whole
of his fortune in a speculation in merino sheep. A great melancholy
spread throughout the troops when it became known that the flock
belonged to a compatriot. It was utterly unlikely that M. Hugo would
allow M. Katzenberger's flock to be impounded, whether of 300,000 or
even of 400,000 beasts. And, as a matter of fact, the chief shepherd,
who had trembled for a moment at the prospective ruin of his master,
received from General Hugo a promise that not only should every single
hair of his merinoes go scot free, but that he should have a passport
requesting all the French army corps to treat M. Katzenberger's
shepherds, dogs and sheep with the utmost respect.

It was an odd incident! The flock reached France without any serious
accident, and by this almost unexpected good fortune M. Katzenberger
doubled, trebled and quadrupled his fortune. His first action was to
offer General Hugo a sum of money proportionate to the service he had
rendered him. General Hugo's first and final decision was to decline
the offered sum. I believe it was 300,000 francs--a franc per sheep.

And here let us state that General Hugo, who held a high position
for four years during the wars in Spain, who was given the charge of
conducting the retreat from Madrid to Bayonne, a position which always
allowed a general great facilities for enriching himself, died without
any picture gallery, or a single Murillo or Velasquez or Zurbaran,
possessing no other fortune but his retiring pension. It seems
incredible, does it not? And yet so it was. But, the directors of the
Musée will ask me, or those millionaire collectors who bought pictures
for 600,000, 200,000, 50,000 and even 25,000 francs, at the sale after
the decease of the late Marshal Soult, what benefit did he derive from
his disinterested conduct towards M. Katzenberger? He was the gainer
by an annual dinner which M. Katzenberger came from Strasbourg on
purpose to give him and all the members of his family in Paris, on the
anniversary of the great event that made his fortune. And this dinner
was on a splendid scale: it must have cost the grateful Strasbourgian
at least fifty louis.

During the winter of 1812 and the early months of 1813, in consequence
of our misfortunes in Russia, matters began to assume such a
threatening aspect in Spain that General Hugo felt it was dangerous to
keep his wife and children at Madrid. Therefore Madame Hugo and her
two youngest sons were put under the protection of quite as strong an
escort as the one we have described, and they made the return journey
from Madrid to Bayonne on their way to Paris, as successfully as they
had travelled between Bayonne and Madrid. Madame Hugo had thought it
best to keep the convent of the Feuillantines, so the two children
returned to their old nest with its light and shade, its recollections
of work and of play, and, furthermore, the abbé Larivière and his
_Tacitus_. Abel Hugo, a soldier boy of thirteen, remained with his
father.



CHAPTER IX


The college and the garden of the Feuillantines--Grenadier or
general--Victor Hugo's first appearance in public--He obtains
honourable mention at the Academy examination--He carries off three
prizes in the Jeux Floraux--_Han d'Islande_--The poet and the
bodyguard--Hugo's marriage--The _Odes et Ballades_--Proposition made by
cousin Cornet


That wretched year 1813 was a strange period of introspection. _Un
jour_ ... But we will let the poet himself describe matters, in the
verses below:--

    "J'eus, dans ma blonde enfance, hélas, trop éphémère,
    Trois maîtres: un jardin, un vieux prêtre et ma mère.
    Le jardin était grand, profond, mystérieux,
    Fermé par de hauts murs aux regards curieux,
    Semé de fleurs s'ouvrant ainsi que des paupières,
    Et d'insectes vermeils qui couraient sur les pierres;
    Plein de bourdonnements et de confuses voix;
    Au milieu presqu'un champ, dans le fond presqu'un bois.
    Le prêtre, tout nourri de Tacite et d'Homère,
    Était un doux vieillard; ma mère était ma mère.
    Ainsi, je grandissait sous un triple rayon!
    _Un jour_ ... Oh! si Gauthier me prêtait son crayon,
    Je vous dessinerais d'un trait une figure
    Qui, chez ma mère, un soir entra, fâcheux augure!
    Un docteur au front pauvre, au maintien solennel;
    Et je verrais éclore a vos bouches sans fiel,
    Portes de votre cœur qu'aucun souci ne mine,
    Ce rire éblouissant qui parfois m'illumine.

    Lorsque cet homme entra je jouais au jardin,
    Et rien qu'en le voyant je m'arrêtai soudain.
    C'était le principal d'un collège quelconque;
    Les tritons que Coypel groupe autour d'une conque,
    Les faunes que Watteau dans les bois fourvoya,
    Les sorciers de Rembrandt, les gnomes de Goya,
    Les diables variés, vrais cauchemars de moine,
    Dont Callot, en riant, taquine saint Antoine,
    Sont laids mais sont charmant; difformes, mais remplis
    D'un feu qui, de leur face, anime tous les plis,
    Et parfois, dans leurs yeux, jette un eclair rapide!
    Notre homme était fort laid, mais il était stupide!

    Pardon, j'en parle encor comme un franc écolier;
    C'est mal; ce que j'ai dit, tachez de l'oublier.
    Car de votre âge heureux, qu'un pedant embarrasse,
    J'ai gardait la colère et j'ai perdu la grâce.

    Cet homme chauve et noir, très effrayant pour moi,
    Et dont ma mère aussi d'abord eut quelque effroi,
    Tout en multipliant les humbles attitudes,
    Apportait des avis et des sollicitudes:
    Que l'enfant n'était pas dirigé; que, parfois,
    Il emportait son livre en rêvant dans les bois;
    Qu'il croissait au hasard dans cette solitude;
    Qu'on devait y songer, que la sévère étude
    Était fille de l'ombre et des cloîtres profonds;
    Qu'une lampe pendue à de sombres plafonds,
    Qui de cent écoliers guide la plume agile,
    Éclairait mieux Horace et Catulle et Virgile,
    Et versait à l'esprit des rayons bien meilleurs
    Que le soleil qui joue à travers l'arbre en fleurs;
    Et qu'enfin, il fallait aux enfants, loin des mères,
    Le joug, le dur travail, et les larmes amères.
    Là dessus le collège, aimable et triomphant,
    Avec un doux sourire, offrait au jeune enfant,
    Ivre de liberté, d'air, de joie et de roses,
    Ses bancs de chêne noir, ses longs dortoirs moroses,
    Les salles qu'on verrouille et qu'à tous leurs pilliers
    Sculpte avec un vieux clou l'ennui des écoliers;
    Les magisters qui font, parmi les paperasses,
    Manger l'heure du jeu par les pensums voraces,
    Et, sans eau, sans gazon, sans arbres, sans fruits mûrs,
    Sa grande cour pavée, entre quatre grands murs!"

Here I would fain break off the quotation and continue in prose; but,
to tell the truth, I have not the courage to do so. Oh! what fine lines
yours are, my friend, and what a joy it is to me, not simply to cause
them to be read--all the world has read them--but to cause them to be
re-read by the hundred thousand readers whose eyes will travel over
this chapter and who will sigh, with looks turned towards England--

    "Soupir qui va vers toi sur la brise du soir,
    Fait d'un quart de tristesse et de trois quarts d'espoir."

Let us pick up the thread of Hugo's lines, into the middle of which I
had the temerity to venture to put a couple of my own:--

    "L'homme congédié, de ses discours frappée,
    Ma mère demeura triste et préoccupée.
    --Que faire? que vouloir? qui donc avait raison,
    Ou le morne collège ou l'heureuse maison?
    Qui sait mieux de la vie accomplir l'œuvre austère,
    L'écolier turbulant ou l'enfant solitaire?--
    Problèmes! questions! Elle hésitait beaucoup.
    L'affaire était bien grave. Humble femme après tout,
    Ame par le destin non pas les livres faite,
    De quel front repousser ce tragique prophète
    Au ton si magistral, aux gestes si certains,
    Qui lui parlait au noms des Grecs et des Latins?
    Le prêtre était savant, sans doute; mais, que sais-je,
    Apprend-on par le maître ou bien par le collège?
    Et puis enfin,--souvent ainsi nous triomphons,--
    L'homme le plus vulgaire a de grands mots profonds;
    _II est indispensable! il convient! il importe!_
    Qui trouble quelquefois la femme la plus forte ...
    Pauvre mère, lequel choisir des deux chemins?
    Tout le sort de son fils se pesait dans ses mains.
    Tremblante, elle tenait cette lourde balance,
    Et croyait bien la voir, par moment, en silence,
    Pencher vers le collège, hélas! en opposant
    Mon bonheur à venir à mon bonheur présent.
    Elle songeait ainsi, sans sommeil et sans trêve;
    C'était l'été vers l'heure ou la lune se lève,
    Par un de ces beaux soirs qui ressemblent au jour,
    Avec moins de clarté, mais avec plus d'amour.
    Dans son parc, où jouaient le rayon et la brise,
    Elle errait toujours triste et toujours indécise,
    Questionnant tout has l'eau, le ciel, la forêt,
    Écoutant au hasard les voix qu'elle entendrait.
    C'est dans ces moments là que le jardin paisible,
    La broussaille où remue un insecte invisible,
    Le scarabée, ami des feuilles, le lézard
    Courant au clair de lune au fond du vieux puisard,
    La faïence à fleur bleue où vit la plante grasse,
    Le dôme oriental du sombre Val-de-Grâce,
    Le cloître du couvent, brisé mais doux encore,
    Les marroniers, la verte allée aux boutons d'or,
    La statue où sans bruit se meut l'ombre des branches,
    Les pâles liserons, les pâquerettes blanches,
    Les cent fleurs du buisson, de l'arbre, du roseau,
    Qui rendent en parfums les chansons à l'oiseau,
    Se mirent dans la mare ou se cache sous l'herbe,
    Ou qui, de l'ébénier chargeant le front superbe,
    Au bord des clairs étangs, se mêlant au bouleau,
    Tremblent en grappes d'or dans les moires de l'eau,
    Et le ciel scintillant derrière les ramées,
    Et les toits répandant de charmantes fumées;
    C'est dans ces moments-là, comme je vous le dis,
    Que tout ce beau jardin, radieux paradis,
    Tous ces vieux murs croulants, toutes ces jeunes roses,
    Tous ces objets pensifs, toutes ces douces choses
    Parlèrent à ma mère avec l'onde et le vent,
    Et lui dirent tout has: 'Laisse-nous cet enfant!'
    Laisse-nous cet enfant, pauvre mère troublée;
    Cette prunelle ardente, ingénue, étoilée,
    Cette tête au front pur qu'aucun deuil ne voilà,
    Cette âme neuve encor, mère, laisse-nous la,
    Ne va pas la jetter au hasard dans la foule:
    La foule est un torrent qui brise ce qu'il roule.
    Ainsi que les oiseaux, les enfants ont leurs peurs.
    Laisse à notre air limpide, à nos moites vapeurs,
    A nos soupirs légers comme l'aile d'un songe,
    Cette bouche où jamais n'a passé le mensonge,
    Ce sourire naïf que sa candeur défend.
    O mère au cœur profond, laisse-nous cet enfant!
    Nous ne lui donnerons que de bonnes pensées;
    Nous changerons en jours les lunes commencées;
    Dieu deviendra visible à see yeux enchantés;
    Car nous sommes les fleurs, les rameaux, les clartés;
    Nous sommes la nature, et la source éternelle
    Où toute soif s'étanche, où se lave toute aile;
    Et les bois et les champs, du sage seul compris,
    Font l'éducation de tous les grands esprits;
    Laisse croître l'enfant parmi nos bruits sublimes,
    Nous le pénétrerons de ces parfums intimes
    Nés du souffle céleste épars dans tout beau lieu,
    Qui font sortir de l'homme et monter jusqu'à Dieu,
    Comme le chant d'un luth, comme l'encens d'un vase,
    L'espérance, l'amour, la prière et l'extase!
    Nous pencherons ses yeux vers l'ombre d'ici bas,
    Vers le secret de tout entr'ouvert sous ses pas.
    D'enfant nous ferons homme, et d'homme poëte;
    Pour former de ses sens la corolle inquiète,
    C'est nous qu'il faut choisir, et nous lui montrerons
    Comment, de l'aube au soir, du chêne aux moucherons;
    Emplissant tout, reflets, couleurs, brumes, haleines,
    La vie aux mille aspects rit dans les vertes plaines;
    Nous te le rendrons simple et des cieux ébloui,
    Et nous ferons germer de toute part en lui,
    Pour l'homme, triste d'effet, perdu sous tant de causes
    Cette pitié qui naît du spectacle des choses.
    Laisse-nous cet enfant, nous lui ferons un cœur
    Qui comprendra la femme; un esprit non moqueur,
    Où naîtront aisément le songe et la chimère;
    Qui prendra Dieu pour livre et les champs pour grammaire;
    Une âme pour foyer de secrètes faveurs,
    Qui luira doucement sur tous les fronts rêveurs,
    Et, comme le soleil dans les fleurs fécondées,
    Jettera des rayons sur toutes les idées.'
    Ainsi parlaient, à l'heure où la ville se tait,
    L'astre, la plante et l'arbre,--et ma mère écoutait.
    Enfant! ont-ils tenu leur promesse sacrée?
    Je ne sais, mais je sais que ma mère adorée
    Les crut, et m'épargnant d'ennuyeuses prisons,
    Confia ma jeune âme à leur douces leçons!"

We see from what the poet tells us himself, what a struggle his
mother had to keep up (having for ally the beautiful garden of the
Feuillantines) against a master of the college, sent by M. de Fontanes,
who was uneasy, after the fashion of Napoleon, that a child should
grow up wild in the depths of an old cloister, thus escaping the
university training which, in all ages and in every reign, has had for
its object the breaking in of high-stepping colts. Thus, at fifteen,
the old convent of the Feuillantines had fulfilled its promises, and
made the child a poet. We shall see more of this presently, but for the
moment let us go back to General Hugo, who, at the very time when the
mother and son conflict was proceeding was assisting at the retreat
from Spain, after the two great battles of Salamanca and Vittoria, the
Leipzig and Waterloo of the South. He had with him, as aide-de-camp,
his son Abel, who, when only fourteen, had already been present at and
taken part in three pitched battles and seventeen skirmishes. He had no
need to envy his old schoolfellow Lillo, of the Séminaire des Nobles,
who was an officer at fifteen years of age.

When the remnant of the army of Spain returned to France they found
a French _corps d'observation_ awaiting them with Imperial orders to
incorporate the Spanish army with the French army. But those four years
of service in Spain, that arduous campaign during which they had had
to struggle not only against two armies, but also against the entire
population; those dreadful sieges rivalled only in ancient warfare,
when women and children defended every corner of the ramparts, every
home and every stone, with musket and poignard in hand; those sierras,
recalling the wars of the Titans, when fires were lit on every high
peak; those jagged mountains taken by charges of cavalry; those rock
fortresses defended and carried one after another; those scores of
passes each like another Thermopylæ; that butchery in which torture
and death awaited anyone taken prisoner, all went for nothing, was
forgotten, had ceased to exist, had never existed directly Spain was
evacuated. It might have been asked of Napoleon why he evacuated
Russia. But it had taken a very god to bend the invincible one beneath
him; like Thor, son of Odin, he had struggled with Death itself; he had
not been vanquished like Xerxes, he had been crushed like Cambyses.
The distinction is subtle, but one no more dreamt of disputing with
the conqueror of Austerlitz than with the hero vanquished at Beresina.
So the services of the French in Spain were regarded as of naught,
and--except the 200,000 men left upon the battlefields of Talavera,
Saragossa, Bayleu, Salamanca and Vittoria--all was as though nothing
had occurred.

Consequently, General Hugo found this order addressed to himself at
Bayonne:--

"_Major_ Hugo will at once put himself under the command of General
Belliard."

On the following day, General Hugo presented himself at the house of
General Belliard in the uniform of an ordinary grenadier with woollen
epaulettes. Belliard did not recognise him. General Hugo gave his name.

"What does this private soldier's uniform mean?" Belliard inquired.

"Grenadier or general," was Hugo's response.

And Belliard flung his arms round him. That very day he sent back the
order to the emperor. It was returned with this correction in the
margin in Napoleon's handwriting:--

"_General_ Hugo will immediately take up the command at Thionville."

History has related the details of that siege in which General Hugo
defended the citadel and governed the town. The citadel of Thionville
was one of the latest to float the tricoloured flag. But it had to
yield, though to the Bourbons, not to the enemy. General Hugo could not
stop in Paris: there were too many heart-breaking scenes for the old
soldier in the capital, where women strewed flowers in front of the
Cossacks, where the people shouted "_Vivent les allies!_" and where the
statue of the emperor was dragged through the gutters.

He bought the château of Saint-Lazare at Blois and retired there. Means
did not allow of the beautiful convent of the Feuillantines being kept
any longer. Madame Hugo remained at Paris in modest apartments, to
look after her children, Eugène and Victor being placed in the abbé
Cordier's boarding school, rue Sainte-Marguerite No. 41. Abel, an
officer exempt from these things, was left free. Eugène and Victor were
destined for the École polytechnique.

We have already pointed out that the convent of the Feuillantines had
kept its word and turned Victor into a poet. Now let us hear about the
boy's first attempts.

How grateful would I have been to-day to any contemporary of Dante,
Shakespeare or Corneille who would give me similar details of their
lives, that twenty years of friendship with Victor Hugo enables me to
give here!

It was just at the height of the Restoration. The Académie had
announced as the subject for its annual prize, to be awarded on 25
August, Saint Louis's Day, "The happiness that study brings in all
situations of life."

Victor went in for the competition without saying a word to anyone
about it. He put his name down, according to the rules of the
competition, in a sealed paper together with his piece of verse; but,
after his name, he added his age, fourteen and a half. Besides giving
his age thus, there were these lines in the course of the poem:--

    "Moi qui, toujours fuyant les cités et les cours,
    De trois lustres à peine ai vu finir le cours."

Think of this future philosopher, who, at fourteen, had _fled from
cities and courts!_ What delicious childish naïveté! But, strange to
relate, it was this admission of fourteen years of age that condemned
the poet, and prevented him from winning the prize. M. Raynouard, the
_rapporteur_, declared that the competitor, by allowing himself _trois
lustres à peine_--this was the method of counting in 1817 and is still
used by the Académie--had intended to make game of the Académie. And,
as though it were not a customary thing for the Académie to be made
fun of, the prize was divided between Saintine and Lebrun. However,
they read the whole piece composed by the impudent person who made
fun of the Académie by speaking of his fourteen years and a half. The
assembly, which enjoyed the Académie being thus made game of, highly
applauded the lines of the young poet, who at the very moment he was
being praised at the Académie was playing prisoners'-base in the
college courtyard.

The following stanza was specially applauded, and would have been
encored if encores were allowed at the Académie:--

    "Mon Virgile à la main, bocages verts et sombres,
    Que j'aime à m'égarer sous vos paisibles ombres!
    Que j'aime, en parcourant vos gracieux détours,
    A pleurer sur Didon, à plaindre ses amours!
    Là, mon âme, tranquille et sans inquiétude,
    S'ouvre avec plus de verve aux charmes de l'étude;
    Là, mon cœur est plus tendre et sait mieux compatir
    A des maux que peut-être il doit un jour sentir."

It had been a remarkable contest; for, among the competitors, besides
those we have named who won the prize--Saintine and Lebrun--were
Casimir Delavigne, Loyson, Who has since acquired a certain popularity
which has been interrupted by death, and Victor Hugo. Loyson obtained
the _accessit_, and Victor Hugo, in spite of M. Raynouard's contention
that he had made game of the Académie, was the first to have honourable
mention.

Casimir Delavigne, who had really committed the crime of poking fun at
the Académie by treating the subject in exactly the opposite way, had a
separate honourable mention apart from the competition.

Victor was playing at prisoners'-base, as we have said, whilst he
was being applauded at the Académie. The first news he heard of his
success was brought him by Abel and by Malitourne, who came rushing
in, leapt on him and told him what had just happened and that he would
in all probability have obtained the prize if the Académie had been
ready to admit that a poet of fourteen could have written the lines.
The supposition--not that he had wished to mock the Académie, but
that he could lie--hurt the child exceedingly, and he procured his
birth-certificate and sent it the Académie.

_Vide pedes! vide latus!_

They then had to believe it. And the indignation of that worthy
grandmother changed to admiration.

M. Raynouard, the perpetual secretary, sent the honoured poet a
characteristic letter. There was a deliciously fine mistake in spelling
in the letter sent by the perpetual secretary: he told Victor Hugo that
he should be pleased to make (_fairait_) his acquaintance. Two other
members of the Académie wrote to the young poet without suggestion
from outside. These were François de Neufchâteau and Campenon.

    "Tendre ami des neuf sœurs, mes bras vous sont ouverts,
        Venez, j'aimie toujours les vers!"

wrote François de Neufchâteau.

    "L'esprit et le bon goût nous ont rassasiés;
      J'ai rencontré des cœurs de glace
    Pour des vers pleins de charme et de verve et de grâce
      Que Malfilâtre eut enviés!"

wrote Campenon.

And Chateaubriand called Hugo "_l'Enfant sublime._" The appellation
stuck to him.

From that moment the youth was no longer his own master, but was given
over to that consuming tyrant we call Poetry.

In those days, people still went in for the _Jeux Floraux_, and Hugo
competed in two successive years, 1818 and 1819. He won three prizes.
The successful pieces were _Moïse sur le Nil_, the _Vierges de Verdun_
and the _Statue de Henri IV._ Besides these, he published two satires
and an ode. The satires were the _Télégraphe_ and the _Racoleur
politique_; the ode was the _Ode sur la Vendée._ He published these
three things at his own expense and, strange to relate, they brought
him in 800 francs.

Poetry sold in those days: society was greedy for novelties and, when
anything new was offered it, eagerly put its lips to the cup.

Meanwhile, two years of rhetoric in Latin, two years of philosophy and
four years of mathematics had prepared the student for entrance at the
École polytechnique.

He now began to face the future seriously, for the first time, and it
terrified him. The vocation for which he was being educated was not the
one for which he was fitted.

Just when he was about to take the leap and present himself for
examination, he wrote to his father that he had found a profession: he
was a poet and did not wish to enter the École; he would do without
his allowance of 1200 francs. General Hugo was a man of decision
himself and he realised that the boy had made up his mind; there was no
time to be lost: Victor had eighteen months yet to study. He suppressed
the allowance and abandoned the poet to his own resources. Victor
possessed within himself as inexhaustible a treasure as those in the
_Thousand and One Nights_, and he had the 800 francs from his satires
and the ode. On these 800 francs he lived for thirteen months, and
during these thirteen months he composed _Han d'Islande_. That curious
book was the work of a youth of nineteen.

While he was writing _Han d'Islande_ Victor's mother died--an event
that influenced the sombre tone of his work considerably. This was his
first sorrow and he never forgot it. From the day that that deep sorrow
settled on his life, Victor never wore anything but black clothes or
a black coat, and he never sealed his letters with aught but black
sealing-wax.

And, indeed, we who have seen him grow up, from his childish days at
the Feuillantines, at Avellino and at the Séminaire des Nobles, can
guess how much his mother was to him. One day, in one of those moments
of profound grief when the sorrowful heart seeks for surroundings in
harmony with its own mourning, the youth went to Versailles, that most
sorrowful and mournful of all places. He breakfasted at the café,
holding a paper in his hand which he was not reading, for he was
deep in thought. A life-guardsman, who was not given to thought and
wanted to read, took the paper out of his hands. Victor at nineteen
was fair and delicate of complexion and he looked only fifteen. The
life-guardsman thought he was dealing with a boy, but he had insulted
a man--a man who was in one of the dark crises of life, when danger
often comes as a blessing. So the young man accepted the quarrel that
was thrust upon him, coarse and foolish though it was. They fought with
swords, almost there and then, and Victor received a slash in the arm.
This _contretemps_ hindered the appearance of _Han d'Islande_ for a
fortnight. Happily, his grief-stricken heart had its star as every dark
night has, and its flower as has every precipice;--he was in love! He
was passionately in love with Mademoiselle Foucher, a maiden of fifteen
with whom he had been brought up. He married this young girl, and she
is to-day the devoted wife who followed the poet into exile. _Han
d'Islande_, sold for 1000 francs, was the dowry of the wedded pair, who
between them could only add up thirty-five years. The witnesses of the
marriage were Alexandre Soumet and Alfred de Vigny, both poets just
starting out in life and in art themselves. This thousand francs had to
be used for housekeeping.

The first volume of poetry Victor published at this time was printed
by Guiraudet, No. 335 rue Saint-Honoré and sold by Pélissier, place du
Palais-Royal; it brought him in 900 francs, which were to be spent on
luxuries. And out of these 900 francs the poet bought the first shawl
he gave his young wife. Other women, wives of bankers and princes, have
had more beautiful Cashmere shawls than yours, Madame Hugo, but none
were woven out of more precious and valuable tissue!

This first volume was an immense success. I remember hearing about it
when I was in the provinces.

Lamartine's first volume, _Méditations poétiques_, had appeared in
1820. It had an enormous and deserved success, and sooner or later
it was destined to be superseded by another successful rival. It
chanced this time that the rival proved equally successful, and the
two successes kept pace with one another, hand in hand supporting each
other. Nothing happened that could set the poets at variance, their
styles were so unlike; nor did politics, thirty years later, succeed in
severing the two men, no matter how different their opinions were.

The wedding took place at the house of M. Foucher, the father of the
bride, who lived at the War Office. The wedding feast took place in the
very hall where, by a strange coincidence to which we shall presently
return, General la Horie, Victor's godfather, was sentenced.

_Han d'Islande_, which we have most unfairly deserted, achieved, by
reason of its curious originality, quite as great a success as its
admired sisters the fair and fresh _Odes._ But it did not bear its
author's name and it was impossible to guess that that bunch of lilies
and lilacs and roses called _Odes et Ballades_ grew under the shade
of the rugged and dark oak tree called _Han d'Islande._ Nodier read
and marvelled at the latter production. Good and worthy Nodier! he was
always to be found feeding his mind on everything that could nourish it
and on everything that could expand his intellect. He announced that
Byron and Mathurin were surpassed and that the unknown author of _Han
d'Islande_ had attained the ideal of a nightmare. He, the man who was
to write _Smarra_! was, upon my word, very modest. Nodier was not the
sort of man from whom an author could long conceal his anonymity, no
matter in what disguise he masqueraded. The great bibliomaniac who had
made so many discoveries of this kind, quite as difficult to detect,
discovered that Victor Hugo was the author of _Han d'Islande._ But
who was Victor Hugo? Was he a misanthrope like Timon, a cynic like
Diogenes or a mourner like Democritus? He raised the veil and found,
as we are aware, a fair-complexioned youth who had only just reached
his twentieth year and looked but sixteen. He recoiled in amazement:
it was incredible. He expected to find the distorted countenance of an
aged pessimist; he found the youthful, open, hopeful smile of a budding
poet. The very first time they met each other the foundations of a
friendship were laid that nothing ever changed. Nodier always loved and
was loved in return after this fashion.

Meanwhile, a competence amounting almost to a fortune, had come to the
young housekeepers: the first edition of _Han d'Islande_, which was
sold for 1000 francs, had run out, and just when Thiers was making
his literary début, under cover of the name of Félix Bodin, with his
_Histoire de la Révolution_, Victor was selling his second edition
of _Han d'Islande_ for 10,000 francs. Lecointre and Durey were the
publishers who thus showered gold upon the nuptial bed of the young
people. Honours now knocked at their door. We have spoken before of
cousin Cornet, who had been made a senator and count under the Empire,
and a peer of France under the Restoration; Victor's growing fame
pleased the family pride of the old député of Nantes and member of the
_Cinq Cents._ He had no child of his own to whom to bequeath his coat
of arms of azure with its three cornets argent and his peer's robes;
so he proposed to throw the mantle over the young poet's shoulders on
one condition. True, the condition was a severe one: in order that
the giver's name should not be forgotten, the young poet was to call
himself Victor Hugo-Cornet. The proposition was transmitted by General
Hugo to the author of _Han d'Islande_ and of the _Odes et Ballades._
The author of _Han d'Islande_ and of the _Odes et Ballades_ replied
that he preferred to call himself simply Victor Hugo; and if he wanted
to become a peer of France at some future period he did not require
the assistance of another, but would become so through his own unaided
efforts. So Comte Cornet's offer was declined.

He had another cousin, Comte Volney, who nearly made him a similar
proposal to become his heir; but, unluckily, he discovered that _Han
d'Islande_ had been written by the same hand as the _Odes et Ballades_,
so he shook his head and buttoned his peer's robes over his own
shoulders more tightly than before.



CHAPTER X


Léopoldine--The opinions of the son of the Vendéenne--The Delon
conspiracy--Hugo offers Delon shelter--Louis XVIII. bestows a pension
of twelve hundred francs on the author of the _Odes et Ballades_--The
poet at the office of the director-general des postes--How he learns
the existence of the _cabinet noir_--He is made a chevalier of the
Légion d'honneur--Beauchesne--_Bug-Jargal_--The Ambassador of Austria's
soirée--_Ode à la Colonne_--_Cromwell_--How _Marion Delorme_ was written


In 1824, at the same time as the appearance of a fresh volume of Odes,
delightful little Léopoldine was born, whose death he witnessed later
under such sad circumstances in front of the château de Villequier,
drowned with her husband, on a fine day, by a sudden gust of wind. It
was a cruel stroke of destiny, perhaps intended to prove the temper of
the father's heart, which was to be severely tried during the days of
civil strife that were in preparation for him. All these Odes bore the
impress of Royalist opinions. The young man, scarcely past childhood,
was the son of his Vendéenne mother, that saintly woman who saved the
lives of nineteen priests in the civil war of 1793. General Hugo's
friends, who held what were called at that time "Liberal opinions,"
without openly belonging to the Opposition, were yet often concerned at
these ultra-monarchical tendencies; but the general shook his head and
answered them smilingly.

"Leave things to time," he said. "The boy holds his mother's opinions;
the man will hold his father's."

Here is a statement of the poet himself, which sets forth the promise
made by his father, not only to a friend, but to France, to the future
and to the whole world:--


    "_December_ 1820

    "The callow youths who succeed nowadays to political ideas
    are in a strange predicament: our fathers are generally
    Bonapartists and our mothers Royalists. Our fathers only
    see in Napoleon the man who bestowed epaulettes upon them;
    our mothers only see in Bonaparte the man who took their
    sons away from them. Our fathers see in the Revolution the
    grandest result that the genius of a National Assembly could
    produce; the Empire, the greatest thing that the genius of a
    man could devise.

    "To our mothers, the Revolution only meant the guillotine,
    and the Empire a sword. We children who were born under
    the Consulate have all been brought up at our mothers'
    knees,--our fathers were in camp,--and since they were often
    deprived of their husbands and brothers through the vagaries
    of the conquering Man, they riveted their hopes on us, young
    schoolboys of eight and ten years of age, and their gentle
    motherly eyes would fill with tears at the thought that by
    1820 we should be eighteen, and by 1825 be either colonels,
    or else killed. The acclamation that greeted Louis XVIII. in
    1814 was the delighted cry of our mothers. There are very
    few adolescents of our generation but have sucked in, with
    their mothers' milk, a hatred of the two periods of violent
    upheaval which preceded the Restoration. Robespierre was the
    bogey that frightened the children of 1803; and Bonaparte
    the bogey that terrified the children of 1815. I was lately
    strongly upholding my Vendéen opinions in my father's
    presence. He listened to me in silence, then he turned
    to General L----, who was with him, and remarked, 'Leave
    things to time: the child holds his mother's opinions; the
    man will follow his father's.' This prophecy set me to
    thinking. Whatever the case may be, and even admitting that,
    up to a certain point, experience modifies the impressions
    that we receive during our early years, _the honest-minded
    man is sure not to be led astray if he submits all these
    modifications to the severe criticism of his conscience.
    A good conscience kept ever awake saves him from all the
    devious pitfalls wherein his honesty might go astray._ In
    the Middle Ages people believed that any liquid in which
    a sapphire had rested was a preservative against plague,
    carbuncles, leprosy and every kind of disease. Jean-Baptiste
    de Rocoles said, 'Conscience is a similar sapphire!'"


These few lines completely explain Victor's political conduct at
different periods of his life. Meantime, the Royalist opinions which he
revealed in his beautiful verses to those who looked upon such opinions
as heresy were absolved by good deeds.

Let us mention a fact that will also serve to show the poet's life from
an original aspect. In 1822 the Berton conspiracy burst forth, and
all eyes were turned towards Saumur. Among the conspirators,--besides
Berton, who died bravely, and Café, who opened his veins like a hero
of old with a scrap of broken glass,--was a young man called Delon.
I had caught occasional glimpses of this young man at the house of
M. Deviolaine, to whom he was related, either carrying little Victor
on his shoulder or jumping the future poet up and down on his knees.
He was the son of an old officer who had served under General Hugo's
orders. In the famous trial of the Chauffeurs this officer was the
captain _rapporteur_; in the equally famous trial of Malet he was major
_rapporteur_, and, in both trials, without making any distinction
between the accused, he had pronounced sentence of death on them. So
General la Horie, Victor's godfather, of whom mention has been already
made, was shot by Delon's orders. It was a strange coincidence that
the son of the man who had pronounced sentence of death on others for
conspiracy, should be doomed to death for the same cause! Since the
day on which Major Delon had delivered sentence on General la Horie,
instead of declining to adjudicate in the case, there had been a
complete rupture between the Hugo and Delon family.

But although intercourse between the fathers was broken off, there had
not been any rupture between the children. Victor lived then at No. 10
rue de Mézières. One morning he read in the papers the terrible story
of the conspiracy of Saumur. Nearly all those concerned were arrested,
with the exception of Delon, who had escaped. Very soon, childish
recollections, strong and indelible, rose to the poet's mind; he seized
his writing materials and, forgetting the family hatreds and the
difference of opinion, he wrote to Madame Delon, at Saint-Denis:--

    "MADAME,--I learn that your son is proscribed and a
    fugitive; we hold different opinions, but that is only
    another reason why he would not be looked for at my house. I
    shall expect him; at whatever hour of day or night he comes
    he will be welcome. I am sure that no other place of refuge
    can be safer for him than the share of my room which I offer
    him. I live in a house without a porter's lodge, in the rue
    de Mézières No. 10, on the fifth floor. I will take care
    that the door shall be kept unlocked day and night.

    "Accept my most respectful greetings, dear madame, and
    believe me, yours,                              VICTOR HUGO"


When this letter was written, with the guilelessness of a child, the
poet entrusted it to the post. To the post! A letter addressed to the
mother of a man for whom the whole police force was in search! Well,
when it was posted, Victor crept out every night at twilight to explore
the neighbourhood, expecting to find Delon in each man who was leaning
against a wall. Delon never appeared. But something else appeared, to
the immense surprise of the poet, who had not made any move towards
it whatever, namely, a pension of 1200 francs which the author of
_Odes et Ballades_ received one morning in his small room in the rue
de Mézières, the grant being signed by Louis XVIII. It could not have
arrived at a more opportune time, for the poet had just married.

On 13 April 1825, Hugo went to the hôtel des Postes to engage three
places on the mail coach for himself, his wife and a servant. They
were going to Blois. He was anxious to secure these three seats in
advance, but, unfortunately, this was not an easy thing: the mail went
as far as Bordeaux, and to save places as far as Blois meant risking
the emptiness of the seats from Blois to Bordeaux. However, the favour
which Victor required could be granted by one man, and that man was M.
Roger, the Postmaster-general. M. Roger was by way of being a literary
man, he belonged to the Académie and might possibly grant Victor Hugo
his desire. So Victor decided to go to the Postmaster-general's house.
The usher announced the poet and, at Victor Hugo's name, which at that
time was already well known, especially by reason of the ode which had
appeared on the death of Louis XVIII. (the ode we have already partly
quoted), M. Roger rose and approached the poet with demonstrations of
the greatest friendliness. Needless to relate, the request for reserved
places on the mail coach to Blois was at once accorded. But M. Roger,
having the good fortune to have secured a visit from the poet, would
not let him go easily: he made him sit down, and they talked together.

"By the way," M. Roger suddenly burst out in the middle of the
conversation, "do you know to what you owe your pension of twelve
hundred francs, my dear poet?"

"Why, I probably owe it to my small efforts in literature," Victor
answered laughingly.

"Yes, of course," replied the Postmaster-general; "but would you like
me to tell you exactly how you got it?"

"Certainly, I should be glad to know, I must confess."

"Do you remember the conspiracy of Saumur?"

"Of course."

"Do you recollect a young man named Delon who compromised himself in
that conspiracy?"

"Perfectly well."

"You remember writing to him or, rather, to his mother, offering the
outlaw half your room at No. 10 rue de Mézières?"

Victor made no answer this time; he stared at the Postmaster-general
with startled eyes, not amazed at the magnificence of the worthy M.
Roger, but at his powers of penetration. He had written that letter
alone, between his own four walls: he had not told a single soul
about it. Not even his own nightcap--that confidant which Louis XI.
thought ought to be burned, since it had been the recipient of certain
secrets--knew anything about it, seeing he never wore a nightcap.

"Well," continued the Postmaster-general, "that letter was laid before
King Louis XVIII., who already knew you as a poet. 'Ah! ah!' said the
king, 'he possesses great talents and a good heart ... that young man
must be rewarded!' and he ordered a pension of twelve hundred francs to
be settled on you."

"But," Victor finally stammered out, "how did my letter get to the
notice of King Louis XVIII.?"

The Postmaster-general burst into shouts of Homeric laughter. And,
simple-minded though the poet was, at last he understood.

"But," he exclaimed, "what became of the letter?"

"Why, _naturally_, it was replaced in the post."

"And reached its destination?"

"Probably."

"But if Delon had accepted my offer and had come to me, what would have
happened?"

"He would have been arrested, tried and probably executed, my dear
poet."

"So that my letter would have been regarded as a deathtrap for him;
and if he had been arrested, tried and executed ... the pension I have
received would have been blood-money! Oh!..."

Victor uttered a cry of horror at what might have happened, clapped his
hands to his head and rushed out into the antechamber, where M. Roger
followed him, laughing greatly, telling him he had left his hat behind
him and saying--

"Remember that the mail coach is entirely at your service, for the day
after to-morrow, April 15."

His horror at what might have happened gradually subsided into
calmness, and Hugo breathed again when he realised that Delon was in
safety in England. But he began to believe in the existence of that
famous black cabinet that he had looked on as a fable, and he vowed
never again to offer an outlaw shelter through the medium of the
ordinary post.

When the day of departure for Blois arrived, he and Madame Hugo and
her lady's-maid went to the hôtel des Postes and, just as he was about
to enter the coach, an orderly officer, who was very nearly too late,
rode up at full gallop and placed a letter in his hand which bore the
king's seal. It contained a commission making him a chevalier of the
Légion d'honneur, signed by Charles X. Hugo was only twenty-three at
the time, and that is an age when such things cause immense delight,
especially if they are bestowed graciously. In the general promotion,
Hugo and Lamartine had at first been mixed up together in what is
popularly termed a _batch_, and King Charles X. had struck off both
their names. M. de la Rochefoucauld, who approved of the list and was
particularly glad of the inclusion of the two young poets, ventured to
inquire of His Majesty why he had cancelled two such celebrated names
as theirs?

"Precisely because they are so famous, monsieur," replied Charles X.,
"in order that they may not be confounded with other names. You must
present me with a separate report for MM. Lamartine and Hugo."

The warrant was accompanied by an official letter from M. le Comte
Sosthène de la Rochefoucauld and by a friendly letter from his
secretary, M. de Beauchesne.

M. de Beauchesne, or rather Beauchesne, was a true guide to M. de la
Rochefoucauld in every piece of good work he did, and it should be
mentioned that the Director of the Fine Arts, who was greatly taunted
by the Opposition papers at that time--I am not referring to political
matters--did excellent work in the way of encouraging literary efforts.
Let me repeat, however, that Beauchesne was his guide in these matters.
Beauchesne was then a charming fellow of twenty-four or twenty-five,
and has since developed into a charming poet. So loyal a heart was his
that he seemed to have taken for his motto, "_Video nec invideo_"; and,
indeed, what more could he have wanted? All who were great called him
_brother_, and all who were good called him _friend._ A free and loyal
Breton when the true monarchy fell, but Beauchesne remained faithful to
its ruins. I shall relate in its proper place how once we very nearly
had a duel over politics, and I shall maintain that we were never
better friends than then, when we faced each other sword in hand. Dear
Beauchesne! He disappeared quite suddenly: it was ten or fifteen years
before I saw him again, but one morning he came to see me as though he
had only left the previous day, and we embraced heartily. He brought
with him a charming tragedy or drama, I forget which now, a phantasy
taken from one of our ancient _fabliaux_--the _Épreuves de la belle
Griseldis_--which, in all probability, will be read, received, played
and applauded at the Théâtre-Français. He had a bewitching little
mansion in the bois de Boulogne which he sold. Ivy has no time to grow
over the homes of poets. I remember when he had just built his house he
sent me his album to write a few lines in, and I wrote these:--

    "Beauchesne, vous avez une douce retraite;
    Moi, je suis sans abri pour les jours de malheur!
    Que votre beau castel, pour reposer sa tête,
    Garde dans son grenier, une place au poëte,
    Qui vous garde en échange une place en son cœur."

I lost sight of Beauchesne a second time. A catastrophe happened to me
which left me indifferent, but which most people look upon as a great
misfortune. I opened a letter full of tender sympathy. It was from
Beauchesne. I did not answer it then; I will answer it to-day. As this
is by no means the last time I shall mention dear Beauchesne I will not
bid him _adieu_ but _au revoir !_ ...

So Hugo received his brevet of chevalier, and M. de la Rochefoucauld's
official letter, with Beauchesne's friendly one, at the same time.
He buttoned them all three next to his heart, climbed upon the coach
and composed the whole of the ballad of the _Deux Archers_ during the
drive between Paris and Blois. When he arrived at Blois he joyfully
laid his brevet in his father's hands. The old soldier took off from
an ancient coat, that had received the dust of many lands, one of his
old decorations that had faced the fire of many battles, and tied it to
his son's buttonhole, wiping away a tear--I strongly suspect that every
father's eye is capable of that weakness. During this visit to Blois
the poet received a private letter from Charles X., inviting him to be
present at his coronation at Rheims, and Hugo set out in company with
Nodier.

At Rheims he found Lamartine, with whom he became acquainted. They each
acknowledged the king's hospitality, Lamartine by his _Chant du sacre_;
Hugo by his _Ode à Charles X._

In 1826 _Bug-Jargal_ appeared. Just as _Christine_ had been composed
before _Henri III._, so _Bug-Jargal_ had been finished before _Han
d'Islande._ I do not know why this chronological transposition was made
in the publication.

In 1827 the Austrian Ambassador gave a grand soirée, to which he
invited all the most illustrious persons in France, and all the most
illustrious persons in France, who are always eager to attend soirées,
went to that of the ambassador. The marshals were there among the
rest of the people, and a singular thing happened at this particular
soirée. At the door of the salon was the customary lackey to announce
the names of the visitors who had been deemed worthy of an invitation.
When Marshal Soult arrived, the lackey asked him, "What name shall I
announce?"

"_The Duc de Dalmatie_," replied the marshal.

"_M. le maréchal Soult_," announced the lackey, who had received his
orders.

This might very well have been thought to be a mistake, so
the _illustre épée_ (as he had been called since the time of
Louis-Philippe, who, probably, did not care to call him the Duc de
Dalmatie any more than did the Austrian Ambassador) paid no attention
to the matter.

Marshal Mortier came next.

"What name shall I give?" asked the lackey.

"_The Duc de Trévise._"

"_M. le maréchal Mortier_," called out the lackey.

The eyes of the two old comrades of the emperor flashed lightnings of
interrogation across at one another; but they did not know what to
reply, for it was not yet quite clear what would be the best course to
take.

Marshal Marmont came third.

"What name shall I announce?" asked the lackey.

"_The Duc de Raguse._"

"_M. le maréchal Marmont_," announced the lackey.

This time there could not be any mistake about it; so the two first
arrivals joined the third and told him of their difficulty. But they
all three decided to wait a while longer.

The Duc de Reggio, the Duc de Tarente and all the other dukes of the
Imperial creation came, one after another, and, although they all gave
their ducal titles, they were only announced by their family names.

The insult was open and patent, and offered publicly, and yet the
insulted men silently withdrew, to nurse the insult they had endured.
Not one of them thought of striking the insulter. But a poet was ready
to demand redress and to obtain it on their behalf! Three days after
this insult had been offered to the whole of the army, in the person of
its chiefs, the _Ode à la Colonne_ appeared.

    ODE À LA COLONNE

    "O monument vengeur, trophée indélébile!
    Bronze qui, tournoyant sur ta base immobile,
    Sembles porter au ciel ta gloire et ton néant,
    Et de tout ce qu'a fait une main colossale,
    Seul es resté debout! ruine triomphale
        De l'édifice du géant!

    Débris du grand empire et de la grande armée,
    Colonne d'où si haut parle la renommée!
    Je t'aime; l'étranger t'admire avec effroi,
    J'aime tes vieux héros sculptés par la victoire,
        Et tous ces fantômes de gloire
        Qui se pressent autour de toi.

    J'aime à voir sur tes flancs, colonne étincelante!
    Revivre ces soldats qu'en leur onde sanglante
    Ont roulés le Danube, et le Rhin, et le Pô;
    Tu mets, comme un guerrier, le pied sur ta conquête,
    J'aime ton piédestal d'armures et ta tête,
        Dont le panache est un drapeau.

    Au bronze de Henri, mon orgueil te marie.
    J'aime à vous voir tous deux, honneur de la patrie,
    Immortels, dominant nos troubles passagers,
    Sortir, signes jumeaux d'amour et de colère,
        Lui, de l'épargne populaire,
        Toi, des arsenaux étrangers.

    Que de fois, tu le sais, quand la nuit sous ses voiles
    Fait fuir la blanche lune, ou trembler les étoiles,
    Je viens, triste, évoquer tes fastes devant moi,
    Et d'un œil enflammé, dévorant ton histoire,
    Prendre, convive obscur, ma part de tant de gloire
        Comme un pâtre au banquet d'un roi!

    Que de fois j'ai cru voir, ô colonne française!
    Ton airain ennemi rugir dans la fournaise;
    Que de fois, ranimant des combattants épars,
    Heurtant sur tes parois leurs armees dérouillées,
        J'ai ressuscité ces mêlées
        Qui s'assiègent de toutes parts!

    Jamais, ô monument! même ivres de leur nombre,
    Les étrangers sans peur, n'ont passé sur ton ombre;
    Leurs pas n'ébranlent point ton bronze souverain,
    Quand le sort une fois les poussa vers nos rives;
    Ils n'osaient étaler leurs parades oisives
        Devant tes batailles d'airain.

    Mais, quoi! n'entend-je point, avec de sourds murmures,
    De ta base à ton front bruire les armures?
    Colonne! il m'a semblé qu'éblouissant mes yeux,
    Tes bataillons cuivrés cherchaient à redescendre;
    Que tes demi-dieux, noirs d'une héroïque cendre,
    Interrompaient soudain leur marche vers les cieux.

    Leurs voix mêlaient des noms à leur vieille devise:
    TARENTE, REGGIO, DALMATIE ET TRÉVISE,
    Et leurs aigles, sortant de leur puissant sommeil,
    Suivaient d'un bec ardent cette aigle à double tête
    Dont l'œil, ami de l'ombre où son essor s'arrête,
    Se baisse à leur regard comme au feu de soleil.

    Qu'est-ce donc, et pourquoi, bronze envie de Rome,
    Vois-je tes légions frémir comme un seul homme?
    Quel impossible outrage à ta hauteur atteint?
    Qui donc a réveillé ces ombres immortelles,
    Ces aigles qui, battant ta base de leurs ailes,
    Dans leur ongle captif pressent leur foudre éteint?

    Je comprends: l'étranger, qui nous croit sans mémoire,
    Veut, feuillet par feuillet, déchirer notre histoire,
    Écrite avec du sang, à la pointe du fer ...
    Ose-t-il, imprudent, heurter tant de trophées?
    De ce bronze, forgé de foudres étouffées,
        Chaque étincelle est un éclair.

    Est-ce Napoléon qu'il frappe en notre armée?
    Veut-il, de cette gloire en tant lieux semée,
    Disputer l'héritage à nos vieux généraux?
    Pour un fardeau pareil il a la main débile:
    L'empire d'Alexandre et les armes d'Achille
        Ne se partagent qu'aux héros.

    Mais non; l'Autrichien, dans sa fierté qu'il dompte,
    Est content si leurs noms ne disent que sa honte;
    Il fait de sa défaite un titre à nos guerriers,
    Et, craignant des vainqueurs moins que des feudataires,
    Ils pardonne aux fleurons de nos ducs militaires,
        Si ne sont que des lauriers.

    Bronze! il n'a donc jamais, fier pour une victoire,
    Subi de tes splendeurs l'aspect expiatoire?
    D'où vient tant de courage à cet audacieux?
    Croit-il impunément toucher à nos annales?
    Et comment donc lit-il ces pages triomphales
        Que tu déroules dans les cieux?

    Est-ce un langage obscur à ses regards timides?
    Eh! qu'il s'en fasse instruire au pied des Pyramides,
    A Vienne, au vieux Kremlin, au morne Escurial;
    Qu'il en parle à ces rois, cour dorée et nombreuse,
    Qui naguère peuplaient, d'une tente poudreuse,
        Le vestibule impérial!

    A quoi pense-t-il donc, l'étranger qui nous brave?
    N'avions nous pas hier l'Europe pour esclave?
    Nous, subir de son joug l'indigne talion!
    Non, au champ du combat nous pouvons reparaître.
    On nous a mutilés, mais le temps a peut-être
        Fait croître l'ongle du lion....

    De quel droit viennent-ils découronner nos gloires?
    Les Bourbons ont toujours adopté des victoires;
    Nos rois t'ont défendu d'un ennemi tremblant,
    O trophée! A leur pieds tes palmes se déposent;
    Et si tes quatre aigles reposent,
        C'est à l'ombre du drapeau blanc.

    Quoi! le globe est ému de volcans électriques,
    Derrière l'Océan grondent les Amériques,
    Stamboul rugit, Hellé remonte aux jours anciens;
    Lisbonne se débat aux mains de l'Angleterre;
    Seul, le vieux peuple franc s'indigne que la terre
        Tremble a d'autres pas que les siens.

    Prenez garde, étrangers! nous ne savons que faire;
    La paix nous berce en vain dans son oisive sphère,
    L'arène de la guerre a pour nous tant d'attrait!
    Nous froissons dans nos mains, hélas! inoccupées.
        Des lyres à défaut d'épées;
        Nous chantons comme on combattrait.

    Prenez garde! la France, où grandit un autre âge,
    N'est pas si morte encor, qu'elle souffre un outrage;
    Les partis pour un temps voileront leur drapeau.
    Contre une injure, ici, tout grandi, tout se lève,
    Tout s'arme, et la Vendée aiguisera son glaive
        Sur la pierre de Waterloo.

    Vous dérobez des noms! Quoi donc, faut-il qu'on aille
    Lever sur tous vos champs des titres de bataille?
    Faut-il, quittant ces noms par la valeur trouvés,
    Pour nos gloires chez vous chercher d'autres baptèmes;
        Sur l'airain de vos canons mêmes
        Ne sont-ils point assez gravés?

    L'étranger briserait le blason de la France!
    On verrait, enhardi par notre indifférence.
    Sur nos fiers écussons tomber son vil marteau!
    Ah! comme ce Romain qui remuait la terre,
    Vous portez, ô Français, et la paix et la guerre
        Dans les plis de votre manteau!

    Votre aile en ce moment touche, à sa fantaisie,
    L'Afrique par Cadix et par Moscou l'Asie;
    Vous chassez en courant Anglais, Russes, Germains;
    Les tours croulent devant vos trompettes fatales,
        Et de toutes les capitales
        Vos drapeaux savent les chemins.

    Quand leur destin se pèse avec vos destinées,
    Toutes les nations s'inclinent détrônées;
    La gloire pour vos noms n'a point assez de bruit;
    Sans cesse autour de vous les États se déplacent
    Quand votre astre paraît tous les autres s'effacent;
        Quand vous marchez, l'univers suit.

    Que l'Autriche en rampant, de nœuds vous environne,
    Les deux géants de France ont foulé sa couronne;
    L'histoire, qui des temps ouvre le Panthéon,
    Montre, empreints aux deux fronts du vautour d'Allemagne,
        La sandale de Charlemagne,
        L'éperon de Napoléon.

    Allez, vous n'avez plus l'aigle qui, de son aire,
    Sur tous les fronts trop hauts portait votre tonnerre
    Mais il vous reste encor l'oriflamme et le lys;
    Mais c'est le coq gaulois qui réveille le monde,
    Et son cri peut promettre à votre nuit profonde
        L'aube du soleil d'Austerlitz.

    C'est moi qui me tairais! moi qu'enivrai naguère
    Mon nom saxon mêlé parmi des cris de guerre;
    Moi qui suivais le vol d'un drapeau triomphant;
    Qui, joignant aux clairons ma voix entrecoupée,
    Eus pour premier hochet le nœud d'or d'une épée;
    Moi qui fus un soldat quand j'étais un enfant!

    Non, frères! non, Français de cette âge d'attente!
    Nous avons tous grandi sur le seuil de la tente;
    Condamnés à la paix, aiglons bannis des cieux,
    Sachons du moins, veillant aux gloires paternelles,
    Garder de tout affront, jalouses sentinelles,
        Les armures de nos aïeux."

This was the first sign of opposition against the Government of the
Bourbons of the older branch that Hugo had given.

In the course of that same year, 1827, _Cromwell_ was published. The
poem itself did not raise so much discussion as the preface, which was
a novelty in the poetic world. In 1828 appeared the _Orientales_ and
the _Dernier jour d'un condamné._ Finally, on 16 February 1829, as I
have said, _Henri III._ was played.

Hugo and Lamartine were almost entirely responsible for the revolution
in the poetical world, but the revolutionising of the whole of the
drama had yet to come. Happily _Henri III._ began the work with its
bold and new style. Besides, this representation, the full details
of which I have already given, delighted Hugo, and gave him much
encouragement. We saw each other after the play and he held out his
hand to me.

"Ah!" I cried, "at last I have the chance of grasping your hand!"

I was very happy over my success, but the right to clasp those hands
was the most precious thing I had won.

"Now," said Hugo, "it will be my turn next!"

"When the day comes don't forget me...."

"You shall be at the first reading."

"Is that a promise?"

"It is a definite engagement!"

With that we parted.

And, indeed, the very next day Hugo chose the drama of _Marion Delorme_
from among the different subjects that were already in his mind. For,
just as a mother carries her babe within her until it is ripe for
birth, so we mental creators carry our subjects in our brains before
they are brought forth. Then, one day, he said to himself, "On 1 June
1829 I will begin my drama." And on that date he did actually set to
work upon it.

On the 19th, he had completed the first three acts. On the 20th, at
break of day, as the sun rose and filled his window with its golden
rays, lighting up his room in the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, he
composed the first lines of his fourth act:--

            "LE DUC DE BELLEGARDE.
        Condamné?

            LE MARQUIS DE NANGIS.
                 Condamné!

            LE DUC DE BELLEGARDE.
                          Bien!... mais le roi fait grâce?..."

Next day, just twenty-four hours later, when the sun was again paying
his accustomed visit, he wrote the last line--

    "On peut bien, une fois, être roi par mégarde!"

During those twenty-four hours he had neither eaten, nor drunk,
nor slept; but he had written an act containing nearly six hundred
lines--an act which I take to be a masterpiece; six hundred lines which
to my thinking are among the finest in the French language.

On 27 June _Marion Delorme_ was finished.



CHAPTER XI


Reading of _Marion Delorme_ at the house of Devéria--Steeplechase of
directors--_Marion Delorme_ is stopped by the Censorship--Hugo obtains
an audience with Charles X.--His drama is definitely interdicted--They
send him the brevet of a pension, which he declines--He sets to work on
_Hernani_, and completes it in twenty-four days


Hugo had no need to write to Nodier as I had done, and to wait for
an appointment with Taylor: he was already as famous before _Marion
Delorme_ as I was unknown before _Henri III._

As I have already mentioned, Hugo notified me of a reading at Devéria's
house, and invited Taylor to this reading, together with de Vigny,
Émile Deschamps, Sainte-Beuve, Soumet, Boulanger and Beauchesne--in
fact, the whole Pleiades; and so the reading began.

The first act of _Marion Delorme_ is a masterpiece; there is nothing
in it to which one can take exception, apart from Hugo's mania for
making his characters enter by windows instead of by doors, which here
betrayed itself for the first time. No one could be more free from
envious feelings than I am. So I listened to this first act with the
profoundest admiration, intermingled, however, with some sadness. I
felt how far behind his style I was, and how long it would be before I
attained to it, if I ever should at all. Then came the second and the
last three acts successively. I was seated next to Taylor, and at the
last line of the play he leant over to me and said--

"Well, what do you think of that?"

I replied that I would be hanged if Victor had not shown us his finest
piece of work. And I added, "I am certain he has."

"Why do you think so?"

"Because _Marion Delorme_ shows all the qualities of the work of
a mature man and none of the faults of a young one. Progress is
impossible to one who begins by perfect work or work very nearly
perfect."

I am interested to find I was right, whether from conceit or not; I
still believe that _Marion Delorme_ is, if not quite his best piece
of work, yet one of his best. I congratulated him very heartily and
very sincerely; I had never heard anything to compare with the lines
of _Marion Delorme._ I was overwhelmed by the splendour of their
style, I who lacked style throughout my work. If I had been asked to
exchange ten years of my life in return for some day attaining such a
style as that, I should not have hesitated for one moment, I should
have given them instantly! One thing offended me greatly in the fifth
act: Didier goes to his death without forgiving Marion. I entreated
Hugo to substitute a more humane spirit for that inflexible character.
Sainte-Beuve agreed with me and, between us, we obtained poor Marion's
pardon.

Now came the question of the Censorship. None of us believed that it
would pass the character of Louis XIII., though admirably drawn, simply
because of its accurate drawing and the vividness of its colouring.
True, the act which contained Louis XIII. could have been taken out
without in any way spoiling the interest of the piece, and Crosnier
many times omitted it at the theatre of the Porte-Saint-Martin, without
the public perceiving the omission. It was what critics of petty
words and petty things call a superfetation, a _hors d'œuvre._ What
a magnificent _hors d'œuvre_ it was! What a sublime superfetation! I
would allow anyone to take their choice among my dramas, if I might
but have written the fourth act of _Marion Delorme._ For that matter,
it was a great failing with Victor Hugo, for a time, to compose his
fourth acts so that they could be taken out like separate episodes. The
fourth act of _Hernani_, which contains the stupendous monologue of
Charles V., can be taken out without injury to the play, and it is the
same with the fourth act of _Ruy Blas._ But, because this fourth act
was not an integral part of the play, does it follow that a marvellous
conception ought to be suppressed? Because a woman is beautiful, is it
absolutely necessary to throw her jewels into the water, especially if
they be worth thousands?...

Reports of the reading leaked out in Paris, and there was quite a
steeplechase of theatrical managers to the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs
to obtain _Marion Delorme_. Harel came first. Directly he entered, he
seized hold of the manuscript and, regardless of everything, began
writing on it below the title, "Received by the Odéon theatre, 14 July
1829." It was the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille, and Harel
thought he would take _Marion Delorme_ by surprise as the Bastille had
been taken by our fathers! Harel was repulsed with loss; but, as his
name was on the manuscript, he stuck to it that he had taken possession
of it.

A day or two after Harel's attempt, M. Crosnier was announced and
introduced into the drawing-room. Hugo was reading a newspaper; he
rose and showed M. Crosnier to a seat. When M. Crosnier took it, Hugo
himself resumed his seat and waited. But, as M. Crosnier kept silence,
Hugo took up his paper again; which course decided M. Crosnier to open
his mouth.

"Monsieur," he said, addressing Hugo, "I have come to see your father;
I was told he lived here. If it is not taking too much advantage of
your kindness, would you be so good as to tell him I am here?"

"Alas I monsieur," Hugo replied, "my father died a year ago, and I
presume it is with me you desire to speak."

"I wish to speak to M. Victor Hugo."

"I am he, monsieur."

Crosnier could not believe that this slightly built, fresh-coloured
young man, who looked nothing but a boy of twenty, could be the man
about whom there had already been so much stir for the past five or six
years. However, he revealed the object of his visit. He had come to ask
_Marion Delorme_ for the theatre of the Porte-Saint-Martin. Hugo smiled
and gave him the same answer that Harel had received, namely, that the
Théâtre-Français had been promised the first refusal. Crosnier smiled
in his turn, with the fine-edged smile that is peculiarly his own;
then, taking up a pen--

"Monsieur Hugo," he said, "allow me to inscribe my acceptance under
that of my confrère."

"Write what you please, monsieur," said Hugo; "but you must remember
that there are already two acceptances before yours."

"No matter, monsieur; I wish to take my place. For, bless me! who
knows? I may be the one to bring out your play in spite of its having
been already accepted twice!"

And he wrote under Harel's acceptance--

"Received by the Porte-Saint-Martin theatre, 16 July 1829."

Supported by this twofold acceptance, _Marion Delorme_ was presented
to the Théâtre-Français and was received with unanimous applause. I
recollect that as we were leaving the reading, full of enthusiasm
over what we had all heard, Émile Deschamps pointed to a bill which
announced the evening's play and, shrugging his shoulders, exclaimed
compassionately, at the sight of Racine's _chef-d-œuvre_--

"And _they_ are going to play _Britannicus_!..."

None of us to-day, not even Émile Deschamps, would confess to having
given utterance to the above _mot._ I am certain that we should all
have said it in 1829, and more than one who has since paid his visit to
the thirty-nine Academicians envied him the phrase at the moment.

The play was distributed, and immediately after its reception began
to be rehearsed. Mademoiselle Mars played Marion; Firmin, Didier;
Joanny, Nangis; Menjaud, Saverny, etc. But, one morning, the dreadful
news spread abroad that the play had been stopped by the Censor! The
same thing had happened to _Henri III._; the Censor always stopped
everything; it was his business, and then the sentence could afterwards
be relaxed, if the work justified its existence, or the author
clamoured loudly enough. I had remonstrated and _Henri III._ had
escaped safe and sound out of his claws, thanks to M. de Martignac,
who had come to my aid. So Hugo applied to M. de Martignac. But
well-meaning, cultured and even literary as was this model of ministers
past, present and future, he confessed himself powerless. It was a
question that did not merely affect a Valois but a Bourbon; not merely
a predecessor but the grandfather of Charles X. No one but Charles
X. could pronounce judgment on this family question. Hugo decided to
ask an audience of Charles X. and it was granted him. In those days
persons who approached the kings of France had to wear court dress _à
la française_ and a sword. Hugo raised great objections at having to
submit to this disguise; but Taylor undertook to collect the necessary
articles of apparel. He set great store by _Marion Delorme_, and to
gain permission to produce it he would have dressed up Hugo as a
Turk or a Chinaman. The day of the audience came and Hugo went to
Saint-Cloud, where he found the antechamber crowded. Among those in
attendance were Madame du Cayla, who had just put the finishing touch
to the Polignac ministry; and Michaud of the Académie, who was going
to Palestine. Michaud was Reader to the king. He was covered with
as much gold braid as the coats of four generals all put together!
Nevertheless, he was a man of much genius. Hugo was busily talking to
him when the two doors opened and His Royal Highness Monseigneur the
Dauphin was announced. Hugo had never seen the being for whom he had
wished the Arc de triomphe to be raised, except at a distance:--

    "Que le géant de notre gloire
    Pût y passer sans se baisser!"

He saw what looked like a monkey, yet without a monkey's grace; a
kind of mummy, with its face perpetually contorted with neuralgia,
crossing the hall, responding to all the bows and greetings and homage
with a deep growl, from which you could not make out one single word
clearly. And that was the conqueror of the Trocadero! the pacificator
of Spain! He took no more notice of Madame du Cayla than of the rest.
Perhaps, if some courtier had whispered to him that a great poet
was present, he might have stopped to see what sort of an animal a
poet was. No courtier informed Monseigneur le Dauphin and he passed
without stopping. Soon afterwards, King Charles X. passed through with
as gracious and smiling a presence as his son's was grotesque and
ill-tempered. He greeted Madame du Cayla with a word, shook hands with
Michaud and Victor, bowed to others and entered his audience-chamber.
A moment later, Madame la Comtesse du Cayla was summoned. Without
troubling himself concerning the length of time she had been waiting,
or whether she had come before the other visitors, the last king of the
line of chivalrous kings sent for her first, because she was a woman.
Madame du Cayla remained nearly an hour with the king. This was not too
long wherein to give birth to a ministry which itself a year later was
to give birth to the Revolution of July. Then, when Madame du Cayla
withdrew, the poet was called. Charles X. first recollected that he was
the successor of François I. and then that he was the descendant of
Louis XIV. The poet went in, and we will let him relate what took place
at that remarkable interview in his own words:--

    "C'était le sept août.--O sombre destinée!
    C'était le premier jour de leur dernière année!
    Seuls, dans un lieu royal, côte à côte marchant,
    Deux hommes, par endroits du coude se touchant,
    Causaient.... Grand souvenir qui dans mon cœur se grave!
    Le premier avait l'air fatigué, triste et grave,
    Comme un trop faible front qui porte un lourd projet.
    Une double épaulette à couronne chargeait
    Son uniforme vert à ganse purpurine,
    Et l'ordre et la toison faisaient, sur sa poitrine,
    Près du large cordon moiré de bleu changeant,
    Deux foyers lumineux, l'un d'or, l'autre d'argent.
    C'était un roi, vieillard à la tête blanchie,
    Penché du poids des ans et de la monarchie!
    L'autre était un jeune homme étranger chez les rois,
    Un poëte, un passant, une inutile voix...

    Dans un coin, une table, un fauteuil de velours
    Miraient dans le parquet leurs pieds dorés et lourds;
    Par une porte en vitre, au dehors, l'œil, en foule,
    Apercevait au loin des armoires de Boule,
    Des vases du Japon, des laques, des émaux
    Et des chandeliers d'or aux immenses rameaux.
    Un salon rouge orné de glaces de Venise,
    Plein de ces bronzes grecs que l'esprit divinise,
    Multipliait sans fin ses lustres de cristal;
    Et, comme une statue à lames de métal,
    On voyait, casque au front, luire, dans l'encoignure,
    Un garde argent et bleu, d'une fière tournure.

    Or, entre le poëte et le vieux roi courbé,
    De quoi s'agissait-il?
                           D'un pauvre ange tombé
    Dont l'amour refaisait l'âme avec son haleine:
    De Marion, lavée ainsi que Madeleine,
    Qui boitait et traînait son pas estropié,
    La censure, serpent, l'ayant mordue au pied.

    Le poëte voulait faire, un soir, apparaître
    Louis-Treize, ce roi sur qui régnait un prêtre;
    Tout un siècle: marquis, bourreaux, fous, bateleurs;
    Et que la foule vînt, et qu'à travers les pleurs,
    Par moments, dans un drame étincelant et sombre,
    Du pâle cardinal on crût voir passer l'ombre.

    Le vieillard hésitait.--Que sert de mettre à nu
    Louis-Treize, ce roi, chétif et mal venu?
    A quoi bon remuer un mort dans une tombe?
    Que veut-on? où court-on? sait-on bien où l'on tombe?
    Tout n'est-il pas déjà croulant de tout côté?
    Tout ne s'en va-t-il pas dans trop de liberté?
    N'est-il pas temps plutôt, après quinze ans d'épreuve,
    De relever la digue et d'arrêter le fleuve?
    Certe, un roi peut reprendre alors qu'il a donné.
    Quant au théâtre, il faut, le trône étant miné,
    Étouffer des deux mains sa flamme trop hardie;
    Car la foule est le peuple, et d'une comédie
    Peut jaillir l'étincelle aux livides rayons
    Qui met le feu dans l'ombre aux révolutions!
    Puis il niait l'histoire, et, quoi qu'il en puisse être,
    A ce jeune rêveur disputait son ancêtre;
    L'accueillant bien, d'ailleurs; bon, royal, gracieux,
    Et le questionnant sur ses propres aïeux.

    Tout en laissant aux rois les noms dont on les nomme,
    Le poëte luttait fermement, comme un homme
    Épris de liberté, passionné pour l'art,
    Respectueux pourtant pour ce noble vieillard.
    Il disait: 'Tout est grave, en ce siècle où tout penche.
    L'art, tranquille et puissant, veut une allure franche.
    Les rois morts sont sa proie; il faut la lui laisser.
    Il n'est pas ennemi; pourquoi le courroucer
    Et le livrer, dans l'ombre, à des tortionnaires,
    Lui dont la main fermée est pleine de tonnerres?
    Cette main, s'il l'ouvrait, redoutable envoyé,
    Sur la France éblouie et le Louvre effrayé,
    On s'épouvanterait--trop tard, s'il faut le dire,--
    D'y voir subitement tant de foudres reluire!
    Oh! les tyrans d'en has nuisent au roi d'en haut.
    Le peuple est toujours là qui prend la muse au mot,
    Quand l'indignation, jusqu'au roi qu'on révère,
    Monte du front pensif de l'artiste sévère!
    Sire, à ce qui chancelle est-on bien appuyé?
    La censure est un toit mauvais, mal étayé,
    Toujours prêt à tomber sur les noms qu'il abrite.
    Sire, un souffle imprudent, loin de l'éteindre, irrite
    Le foyer, tout à coup terrible et tournoyant,
    Et, d'un art lumineux, fait un art flamboyant.
    D'ailleurs, ne cherchât-on que la splendeur royale,
    Pour cette nation moqueuse mais loyale,
    Au lieu des grands tableaux qu'offrait le grand Louis,
    Roi-soleil fécondant les lis épanouis,
    Qui, tenant sous son sceptre un monde en équilibre,
    Faisait Racine heureux, laissait Molière libre,
    Quel spectacle, grand Dieu! qu'un groupe de censeurs
    Armés et parlant has, vils esclaves chasseurs,
    A plat ventre couchés, épiant l'heure où rentre
    Le drame, fier lion, dans l'histoire, son antre!'

    Ici, voyant vers lui, d'un front plus incliné,
    Se tourner doucement le vieillard étonné,
    Il hasardait plus loin sa pensée inquiète,
    Et, laissant de côté le drame et le poëte,
    Attentif, il sondait le dessein vaste et noir
    Qu'au fond de ce roi triste, il venait d'entrevoir.

    --Se pourrait-il? quelqu'un aurait cette espérance?
    Briser le droit de tous! retrancher à la France,
    Comme on ôte un jouet à l'enfant dépité,
    De l'air, de la lumière et de la liberté!
    Le roi ne voudrait pas, lui? roi sage et roi juste!
    Puis, choisissant les mots pour cette oreille auguste,
    Il disait que les temps ont des flots souverains;
    Que rien, ni ponts hardis, ni canaux souterrains,
    Jamais, excepté Dieu, rien n'arrête et ne dompte
    Le peuple qui grandit ou l'Océan qui monte;
    Que le plus fort vaisseau sombre et se perd souvent,
    Qui veut rompre de front et la vague et le vent,
    Et que, pour s'y briser, dans la lutte insensée,
    On a derrière soi, roche partout dressée,
    Tout son siècle, les mœurs, l'esprit qu'on veut braver,
    Le port même où la nef aurait pu se sauver!...
    Charles-Dix, souriant, répondit: 'O poète!'

    Le soir, tout rayonnant de lumière et de fête.
    Regorgeant de soldats, de princes, de valets,
    Saint-Cloud, joyeux et vert, autour du fier palais
    Dont la Seine, en fuyant, reflète les beaux marbres,
    Semblait avec amour presser sa touffe d'arbres;
    L'arc de triomphe, orné de victoires d'airain;
    Le Louvre, étincelant, fleurdelysé, serein,
    Lui répondaient de loin du milieu de la ville;
    Tout ce royal ensemble avait un air tranquille,
    Et, dans le calme aspect d'un repos solennel,
    Je ne sais quoi de grand qui semblait éternel!"
    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
The day after this interview and the refusal--for Charles X. refused to
allow _Marion Delorme_ to be played--Victor Hugo's pension, which had
been 2400 francs, was raised to 6000 livres, in compensation. Everybody
knows how the poet refused--we will not say scornfully, but with
dignity--this increase of his pension. A great deal of discussion has
since raged round this refusal. Certain puritans even now hold to the
opinion of the senator of M. Louis Bonaparte, and blame the poet for
keeping his original pension of 2400 francs after the interdiction of
_Marion Delorme_ by Charles X. God have mercy on them! They are now in
the Halls of Elysium and the finest poet of France, and therefore of
the world, is in Jersey! I ask Lamartine's forgiveness for speaking of
Hugo as the first poet of France and of the world: Hugo is exiled, and
Lamartine is too generous not to yield the palm to him. If Lamartine
were banished like Hugo--and, for the sake of his fame, I am sorry that
he is not--I would have said, "The first two poets of France and of the
world!"

One day, in a club, I was speaking of Prince Louis Bonaparte, and
I called him "Monseigneur." It was at the time of Prince Louis
Bonaparte's exile. A voice shouted to me--

"There is no longer any _Monseigneur._"

"I always speak of those who are exiled by that title," I replied.

And my voice was drowned by applause.

When Hugo returned from Saint-Cloud, he found Taylor awaiting him.
The news he brought back was bad enough, like the news of Madame
Malbrouck's page. Taylor was in despair.

"We have nothing else in our portfolios!" he repeated.

At that time the Comédie-Française had ten plays of M. Viennet, four or
five of M. Delrieu, two or three of M. Lemercier, without reckoning M.
Arnault's _Pertinax_ and M. de Jouy's _Julien_, etc. etc. And that was
what Taylor called having nothing in his portfolios!

"We were building on _Marion Delorme_ for the winter season," he said,
"and now our winter season will be ruined!"

Hugo let him go on lamenting and then asked--

"When did you hope to play _Marion Delorme_?"

"Why, either in January or February."

"Ah, good! then we shall have a margin.... Very well...." and he fell
to making a calculation. "This is the 7th of August: come back to me on
the 1st of October."

Taylor returned on the 1st of October. Hugo picked up a manuscript and
gave it to him. It was _Hernani._ Hugo had begun this second work on
17 September and had finished it on the 25th of the same month. He had
taken three days less over its composition than in the case of _Marion
Delorme._ Let us, however, hasten to explain that the plots of both
plays had been matured beforehand in the poet's head.



CHAPTER XII


The invasion of barbarians--Rehearsals of _Hernani_--Mademoiselle Mars
and the lines about the _lion_--The scene over the _portraits_--Hugo
takes away from Mademoiselle Mars the part of Doña Sol--Michelot's
flattering complaisance to the public--The quatrain about the
cup-board--Joanny


There was this time nothing to fear from the Censorship: unless it were
on the ground of modesty, there was nothing in _Hernani_ to which it
could take exception. I really believe I have spoken of the _modesty_
of the Censorship! Upon my word, how shocking of me! but since I have
said it, let it stay!

The piece naturally took the place of his first-born, _Marion Delorme_;
it was read for form's sake, received with shouts of hurrahs and
acclamation--Hugo read very well, especially his own works--the parts
were allotted and the rehearsals started at once. I do not state the
fact of Hugo's fine reading here because I think his manner of reading
had any influence either way on the enthusiasm of his reception, but
because, never having heard him speak at the Tribune, I cannot form
any idea of the style of his public speaking from the very different
opinions I have heard expressed concerning his oratorical style. I
can only say that his speeches when read always seemed to me to be
masterpieces of language and logic.

With the rehearsals began the worries. No one at the Théâtre-Français
felt much real sympathy with the Romantic school save old Joanny; the
rest (and Mademoiselle Mars was first among their number, in spite of
the splendid success she had just achieved in the Duchesse de Guise)
really looked upon the encroachment as a species of invasion by
barbarians, to which they were laughingly obliged to submit. Underneath
the flattery paid us by Mademoiselle Mars, there was always the
mental reservation of an outraged woman. Michelot, professor at the
Conservatoire, a man of the world, with finished manners, showed us his
most gracious and agreeable side; but at heart he loathed us. And as to
Firmin, whose talent was so essential to us--a real talent, although it
had nothing to do with the highest reaches of form, namely, the plastic
side of art--well, his literary judgment was worthless; he merely
possessed a kind of dramatic instinct, which served in lieu of art, and
gave movement and life to his acting. He liked us well enough, because
we supplied him with means to exercise his qualities of action and
life; but he was terribly in fear of the older school, and accordingly
remained neutral in all the literary quarrels, rarely appearing at a
reading, so that he might avoid being obliged to give his opinion. He
was not a stumbling-block, but, on the other hand, he was certainly not
a support.

The play--by which we mean the leading parts--was distributed
between the four principal actors of the Théâtre-Français whom we
have just mentioned. Mademoiselle Mars played Doña Sol; Joanny, Ruy
Gomez; Michelot, Charles V.; and Firmin, Hernani. I have said that
Mademoiselle Mars felt no sympathy with our style of literature; but I
ought to add or, rather, to repeat that, in her theatrical dealings,
she was strictly honourable, and, when she had gone through her first
representation of a part and endured the fire of applause or of
hissings that had greeted the fall of the curtain, no matter what the
play was in which she was acting, she would have died rather than give
in; she would submit to a martyrdom rather than--we will not say deny
her faith, because our School was not included in her creed--break her
word.

But, before this point was reached, there were between fifty and
sixty rehearsals to be gone through, at which an incalculable number
of observations were hazarded at the expense of the author, faces
were made, and pin-pricks given him. And of course it often happened
that these pin-pricks penetrated through the skin and stabbed to the
heart. I have recounted my own sufferings from Mademoiselle Mars during
the rehearsals of _Henri III._; the discussions, quarrels, disputes
even which I had with her, the passionate scenes which, in spite of
my obscurity, I was unable to refrain from causing, no matter what I
risked in the future. The same thing was just as likely to happen to
Hugo, and did happen. But Hugo and I were two absolutely different
characters: he was cold and calm and polished and severe, and harboured
the remembrance of good or ill done him; whilst I am open and quick
and demonstrative, and make game of things, forgetful of ill, and
sometimes of good. So the arguments between Mademoiselle Mars and Hugo
were entirely different from mine. And remember that, on the stage,
dialogues between actor and author usually take place before the
foot-lights--that is to say, between the stage and the orchestra--so
that not a word is lost by all the thirty to forty actors, musicians,
managers, supernumeraries, call-boys, lighters-up, and firemen present
at rehearsals. This audience, as will be understood, always does
its best to catch any episode likely to distract the _ennui_ of the
daily work, the rehearsal itself; this fact considerably adds to the
nervous irritability of the interlocutors and, in consequence, tends to
introduce a certain amount of tartness in the telephonic communications
which take place between the orchestra and the stage.

Things happened somewhat after this fashion. In the middle of the
rehearsal Mademoiselle Mars would suddenly stop.

"Excuse me, my friend," she would say to Firmin or Michelot or Joanny,
"I want a word with the author."

The actor to whom she addressed her remark would bow his assent and
stand motionless and silent where he happened to be.

Mademoiselle Mars would come up close to the footlights, with her hand
shading her eyes, although she knew well enough in what part of the
orchestra to look for the author whom she was pretending to find. This
was her little curtain raiser.

"M. Hugo?" she would ask. "Is M. Hugo here?".

"I am here, madame," Hugo would reply, as he rose from his seat.

"Ah! that is all right!--thanks.... Will you please tell me, M.
Hugo...."

"Madame?"

"I have this line to say--

    'Vous êtes, mon lion, superbe et généreux!'"

"Yes, madame; Hernani says to you--

    'Hélas! j'aime pourtant d'une amour bien profonde!
    Ne pleure pas ... Mourons plutôt! Que n'ai-je un monde,
    Je te le donnerais! Je suis bien malheureux!'

And you reply to him--

    "Vous êtes, mon lion, superbe et généreux!'"

"Do you like that phrase, M. Hugo?"

"Which?"

    '"_Vous êtes, mon lion!_'"

"That was how I wrote it, madame; so I think it is all right."

"Then you stick to your _lion?_"

"I may or may not, madame. If you can find something better, I will
insert it instead."

"It is not my place to do so; I am not the author."

"Very well, then, madame; if that be so, leave what is written exactly
as you find it."

"Really it does sound to me very comic to call M. Firmin _mon lion!_"

"Oh! that is because while acting the part of Doña Sol you think of
yourself as Mademoiselle Mars. If you were a true pupil of Ruy Gomez
de Sylva, a noble Castilian of the sixteenth century, you would only
see Hernani in M. Firmin; you would look upon him as a terrible
robber-chief, who made even Charles V. tremble in his capital; then
you would comprehend how such a woman could call such a man _son lion_,
and you would no longer look upon it as comic!"

"Very well! if you stick to your _lion_ we will say no more. It is my
duty to say what is written, and as the manuscript has '_mon lion!_' I
will say '_mon lion!_' Of course, it is all one to me. Let us go on,
Firmin!

    'Vous êtes, mon lion, superbe et généreux!'"

And the rehearsal would be resumed.

But, the next day, when Mademoiselle Mars reached the same place, she
stopped as on the day before and, as on the day before, she approached
the footlights, again going through the pretence of looking for the
author with her hands shading her eyes.

"M. Hugo?" she would say in her harsh voice, the voice of Mademoiselle
Mars and not of Célimène. "Is M. Hugo there?"

"Here I am, madame," Hugo would reply with the same placidity.

"Oh! that is all right. I am glad you are here."

"I had the honour of presenting you my compliments before the
rehearsal, madame."

"True.... Well, have you thought over it?"

"Over what, madame?"

"Over what I said to you yesterday."

"You did me the honour of saying a great many things to me yesterday."

"Yes, that was so ... but I mean about that famous hemistich."

"Which?"

"Oh, good gracious! you know quite well the one I mean!"

"I swear I do not, madame; you make so many neat and valuable
suggestions that I confuse one with the other."

"I mean the line about the _lion._"

"Ah yes! '_Vous êtes, mon lion!_' I remember...."

"Well, have you found another line?"

"I confess I have not tried to think of one."

"You do not then think the line risky?"

"What do you mean by risky?"

"Anything that is likely to be hissed."

"I have never presumed to claim exemption from being hissed."

"That may be; but you should avoid being hissed as much as possible."

"So you think the _lion_ phrase will be hissed?"

"I am certain of it!"

"Then, madame, it will be because you have not rendered it with your
usual talent."

"I shall say it as well as I can.... All the same, I should prefer...."

"What?"

"To say something different...."

"What?"

"To have it altered altogether!"

"For what?"

"To say"--and Mademoiselle Mars made a show of trying to find the word
which she had really been turning over in her mind for three days--"to
say, for instance ... ahem!... say ... ahem!

    'Vous êtes, _monseigneur_, superbe et généreux!'

_Monseigneur_ enables the line to be scanned just the same as _mon
lion_, does it not?"

"Quite so, madame; only _mon lion_ lightens the line, and _monseigneur_
makes it heavy."

"I would much rather be hissed for a good line than applauded for a
bad one. Very well, very well ... we will not bother any longer about
it.... I will say your _good line_ without changing anything in it!
Come, Firmin, my friend, let us go on....

    'Vous êtes, mon lion, superbe et généreux!'"

It is a well-known fact that, on the day of the first representation,
Mademoiselle Mars said, "_Vous êtes, monseigneur!_" instead of "_Vous
êtes, mon lion!_"

The line was neither applauded nor hissed: it was not worth either
notice.

A little farther on, Ruy Gomez, after having surprised Hernani and Doña
Sol in one another's arms, at the announcement of the king's coming
hides Hernani in a room, the door of which is hidden by a picture.
Then begins the famous scene known by the title of the _scène des
portraits_, which is composed of seventy-six lines and takes place
between Don Carlos and Ruy Gomez, the scene in which Doña Sol listens
as mute and motionless as a statue, in which she only takes part when
the king wishes to have the duke arrested; when she tears off her veil
and flings herself between the duke and the guards, exclaiming--

           "Roi don Carlos, vous êtes
    Un mauvais roi!..."

This long silence and absence of movement had always been an offence
to Mademoiselle Mars. The Théâtre-Français was used to the traditions
of Molière's comedies or the tragedies of Corneille and was up in arms
against the _mise en scène_ of the modern drama, neither understanding,
as a whole, the passion of action nor the poetry of stillness. The
consequence was that poor Doña Sol did not know what to do with herself
during these seventy-six lines. One day she decided to have the matter
out with the author. You know her way of interrupting the rehearsals
and of advancing to the footlights. The author was in front of the
orchestra and Mademoiselle Mars was behind the footlights.

"Are you there, M. Hugo?"

"Yes, madame."

"Ah, good!... Do me a service."

"With the greatest pleasure.... What is it?"

"Tell me what I am to do here."

"Where?"

"On the stage, while M. Michelot and M. Joanny are holding their
dialogue."

"You are to listen, madame."

"Yes! I am to listen.... I know that; but I find listening rather
tedious."

"Yet you know the scene was originally much longer and I have already
cut it down by twenty lines."

"Yes, but could you not cut out another twenty lines?"

"Impossible, madame!"

"Or, at all events, arrange that I take some sort of part in it."

"But you naturally take part by your very presence. It is a question of
the man you love whose life or death is being debated; it seems to me
that the situation is sufficiently moving and strong to enable you to
wait in patient silence to the close."

"All the same ... it is long!"

"I do not feel it so, madame."

"Very good! then we will say no more about it.... But the public are
certain to ask, 'What is Mademoiselle Mars supposed to be doing with
her hand upon her breast? It was not necessary to give her a part just
to remain standing still, with a veil over her eyes, without saying a
word for half an act!'"

"The public will say that under the hand of Doña Sol--not of
Mademoiselle Mars--her heart is beating; that, beneath the veil of Doña
Sol--not of Mademoiselle Mars--her face is crimsoning with hope or
turning pale with terror; that, during the silence--not of Mademoiselle
Mars but--of Doña Sol, Hernani's lover, the tempest is gathering in her
heart which bursts forth in these words, none too respectful from a
subject to her sovereign--

         'Roi don Carlos, vous êtes
    Un mauvais roi!...'

And, believe me, madame, it will be sufficient for the public."

"If that is your idea, well and good. It is not on my account I am
troubling myself about it: if they hiss during the scene it will not
be at me they are hissing, as I do not speak one word.... Come on,
Michelot; come on, Joanny; let us proceed.

         'Roi don Carlos, vous êtes
    Un mauvais roi!..

There, does that satisfy you, M. Hugo?"

"Perfectly, madame." And Hugo bowed and sat down with his imperturbable
serenity.

The next day, Mademoiselle Mars stopped the rehearsal at the same
place, came up to the footlights and, shading her eyes with her hand,
said, in exactly the same voice as that of the day before--

"Are you there, M. Hugo?"

"I am here, madame."

"Well, have you found me something to say?"

"Where?"

"Why, you know where ... in the famous scene where these gentlemen
say a hundred and fifty lines while I stare at them and do not utter
a word.... I know they are charming to contemplate, but a hundred and
fifty lines take a long time to say."

"In the first place, madame, the scene is not a hundred and fifty lines
in length, it is only seventy-six, for I have counted them; then, I did
not make you any promise to put in something for you to say, since, on
the contrary, I tried to prove to you that your silence and immobility,
from which you emerge with terrible _éclat_, is one of the beauties of
the whole scene."

"Beauties, beauties!... I am much afraid the public will not agree with
you."

"We shall see."

"Yes, but you may see a little too late.... So you definitely mean to
have your way in not giving me anything to say through the whole scene?"

"I do."

"It is all one to me; I will go to the back of the stage and let these
gentlemen talk over their business in the front of it."

"You can retire to the back of the stage if you wish, madame, but as
the affairs under discussion are as much yours as theirs, you will
spoil the scene.... When it suits you, madame, the rehearsal shall be
proceeded with."

And the rehearsal was continued.

But, every day, there were some interruptions of the kind to which
we have just drawn attention; this annoyed Hugo greatly, for he was
still only at the outset of his dramatic career, and imagined that the
greatest difficulty was the creation of the play and the most vexatious
that of putting it into proper form; he now discovered that all this
was child's play compared with the rehearsals. At last, one day, he
lost patience and, when the rehearsal was over, he went on the stage
and, approaching Mademoiselle Mars, he said--

"Madame, may I be allowed the honour of a few words with you?"

"With me?" replied Mademoiselle Mars in astonishment at this solemn
beginning.

"With you."

"Where?"

"Where you will."

"Come this way, then"; and, walking first, Mademoiselle Mars led
Hugo into what in those days was called the _petit foyer_ (small
green-room), which was, I believe, situated where nowadays is the salon
belonging to the manager's box. Louise Despréaux was seated in a corner
by herself.

We have mentioned that Louise Despréaux was one of the pet aversions
of Mademoiselle Mars, Madame Menjaud being her favourite. I have
described, in due course, the scene I had with Mademoiselle Mars over
Louise Despréaux concerning the distribution of the part of page to the
Duchesse de Guise. When she saw Mademoiselle Mars and Hugo enter, she
discreetly rose and left the room; although I have strong suspicions
that, with the inquisitiveness of seventeen years of age, she glued
her ear and her rosy young face to the keyhole.

Mademoiselle Mars leant against the mantelpiece, holding her part in
her hand.

"Well, what do you wish to say to me?" she asked.

"I wished to tell you, madame, that I have just made a resolution."

"What is it, monsieur?"

"To ask you to give up your part."

"My part!... Which?"

"The one you asked for in my drama, to my great honour."

"What! the part of Doña Sol," exclaimed Mademoiselle Mars, astounded;
"do you mean this part?" ... And she pointed to the roll of paper which
she held in her hand, frowning her black eyebrows over those eyes which
could on occasion assume an incredibly hard expression.

Hugo bowed.

"Yes," he said, "the part of Doña Sol which you hold in your hand."

"Ah! that is it, is it?" said Mademoiselle Mars; and she struck the
marble chimneypiece with the roll, and stamped on the floor with her
foot. "This is the first time an author has ever asked me to give up my
part!"

"Very well, madame; I think it is time an example should be set and I
will set it."

"But why do you want to take it from me?"

"Because I believe I am right in saying, madame, that when you honour
me with your remarks you appear totally to forget to whom you are
speaking."

"In what way, monsieur?"

"Oh! I am aware that you are a highly talented lady ... but there is
one point, I repeat, upon which you seem to be ignorant, to which
I ought to call your attention; namely, that I also, madame, am a
talented person: take this fact into consideration, I beg of you, and
treat me accordingly."

"You think, then, that I shall act your part badly?"

"I know that you will play it admirably well, madame, but I also know
that, from the beginning of the rehearsals, you have been extremely
rude to me--conduct that is unworthy both of Mademoiselle Mars and of
M. Victor Hugo."

"Oh!" she muttered, biting her pale lips, "you do indeed deserve to
have your part given back to you!"

Hugo held out his hand.

"I am ready to take it, madame," he said.

"And if I do not play it, who will?"

"Oh! upon my word, madame, the first person that comes to hand.... Why,
Mademoiselle Despréaux, for instance. She, of course, does not possess
your talent, but she is young and she is pretty, and so will fulfil two
out of the three conditions the part demands; then, too, she will yield
me the deference to which I am entitled, of the lack of which, on your
part, I have had to complain."

And Hugo stood with his arm stretched out and his hand open, waiting
for Mademoiselle Mars to give him back the part.

"Mademoiselle Despréaux! Mademoiselle Despréaux!" muttered Mademoiselle
Mars. "Ah! indeed that is a good joke!... So it seems you are paying
attentions to Mademoiselle Despréaux?"

"I? I have never spoken a word to her in my life!"

"And you definitely and formally ask me to give you back my part?"

"Formally and definitely I ask you to give me back the part."

"Very well; I shall keep the rôle.... I shall play it, and as no one
else would play it in Paris, I swear."

"So be it. Keep the rôle; only, do not forget what I have said to you
with regard to the courtesy that should obtain between people of our
distinction."

And Hugo bowed to Mademoiselle Mars and left her utterly overcome
by that haughty dignity to which the authors of the Empire had not
accustomed her; they had grovelled before her talent, conscious that,
without her, their plays would not bring them in a halfpenny.

From that day, Mademoiselle Mars was cold but polite to Hugo and, as
she had promised him, when the night of the first representation came,
she played the part to perfection.

Michelot, a very different person from Mademoiselle Mars, was polite
almost to the verge of sycophancy; but as he detested us in his heart
of hearts, when the hour of the struggle came, instead of fighting
loyally and valiantly, as Mademoiselle Mars did, he slyly went over
to the enemy and gave the sharpshooters in the pit the hint where, at
the most opportune moments, they might find our weakest places. Many
liberties were taken with Michelot's part which an actor who had cared
less for popular opinion would never have allowed himself to take. As
a matter of fact, before the representation, we had waged rude warfare
against the risky passages in the part of Don Carlos; I remember among
others having very regretfully made Hugo cut out a quatrain to which
Michelot seemed to cling tenaciously: I have since discovered why.
These four lines were of that charmingly quaint turn which is natural
to Hugo and to no one else.

When Ruy Gomez de Sylva goes back to his niece's house and is on the
point of taking Don Carlos and Hernani by surprise, the latter, fearful
for the reputation of Doña Sol, wishes to hide the king and himself in
the very narrow cupboard which Don Carlos was about to vacate, wherein
he was sufficiently uncomfortable by himself; but the king rebelled
against the suggestion. Is it, indeed, he says--

    "Est-ce donc une game à mettre des chrétiens?
    Nous nous pressons un peu; vous y tenez, j'y tiens.
    Le duc entre et s'en vient vers l'armoire où nous sommes,
    Pour y prendre un cigare.... Il y trouve deux hommes!"

For these lines to have their comic effect, they ought to be flung
off with the lightheartedness and easy bearing of a king who numbers
only nineteen years, and who is in the heyday of prosperity (notice
that Charles V. was but nineteen when he was made Emperor of
Germany)--well, they were declaimed in the same tones as Mahomet
saying--

    "Si j'avais à répondre à d'autres que Topyre,
    Je ne ferais parler que le Dieu qui m'inspire;
    Le glaive et l'Alcoran, dans mes terribles mains,
    Imposeraient silence au reste des humains!"

It was perfectly idiotie! so, on my persuasion, and in spite of
Michelot's objections, who privately hoped those lines would _produce
their effect_, the erasure was decided on and pitilessly adhered to.

I have said that it was very different with Joanny: he was an old
soldier, the soul of honour and openness, who came to the fourth
rehearsal without his manuscript, for he already knew his part
thoroughly; so if one had to find any fault with him at all, it was
that he became _blasé_, by the thirty to forty general rehearsals,
before the first public performance of the piece.

This first representation was an important affair for our party. I had
won the Valmy of the literary revolution; Hugo must win the Jemmapes
in order that the new school might be well on the way to victory. So,
when the time comes to speak of the first reproduction of _Hernani_, we
will give it the full attention it deserves. But for the moment we must
be slaves to chronology and pass from Victor Hugo to de Vigny, from
_Hernani_ to _Othello._



CHAPTER XIII


Alfred de Vigny--The man and his works--Harel, the manager at
the Odéon--Downfall of Soulié's _Christine_--Parenthesis about
Lassailly--Letter of Harel, with preface by myself and postscript by
Soulié--I read my _Christine_ at the Odéon--Harel asks me to put it
into prose--First representation of the _More de Venise_--The actors
and the papers


Whilst the Théâtre-Français was waiting for the famous 1st of October,
on which Hugo had engaged to provide the unnamed drama at which he
was working, in place of _Marion Delorme_, they decided to rehearse
Shakespeare's _Othello_, translated by Alfred de Vigny, which, in
common with _Henri III._ and _Marion Delorme_, had been received with
enthusiastic acclamation at its reading before the committee.

Alfred de Vigny completed the poetic trinity of the period, although
his work was of a lower order: people talked of Hugo and Lamartine, or
Lamartine and Hugo, and spoke of Alfred de Vigny as of the next rank.
Alfred de Vigny possessed very little imagination, but he had a fine
and correct style; he was known by his romance _Cinq-Mars_, which would
only have met with a medium success had it appeared nowadays, but,
coming as it did at a time of dearth in literature, it had a great run.

When Hugo read _Marion Delorme_ de Vigny had whispered to his
friends--this sort of thing is always said to one's friends--that
Didier and Saverny, the two principal characters in the drama, were an
imitation of Cinq-Mars and de Thou. But I am convinced that, when Hugo
wrote his play, he never even thought of de Vigny's romance.

Besides the novel _Cinq-Mars_, de Vigny had composed several dainty
little poems in the then current manner: Byron had set the fashion for
this kind of poem. Among these five or six charming little poems were
_Eloa_ and _Dolorida._ Finally, he had just published an extremely
touching elegy on two unhappy young people who had committed suicide at
Montmorency, under cover of the noise of the music of a ball.

De Vigny was a very singular man; he was polite and affable and gentle
in all his dealings, but he affected the most utter unworldliness--an
affectation, moreover, that accorded perfectly with his charming
face, its delicate and refined features, encased in long fair curly
hair, making him look like a brother of the cherubim. De Vigny never
descended to earthly things if he could avoid it; if perchance he
folded his wings and rested on the peak of a mountain, it was a
concession which he made to humanity, because, after all, it was
useful to him when he held his brief intercourse with us. Hugo and I
used to marvel greatly at his utter unconsciousness of the material
needs of our nature, which many of us, Hugo and I among the number,
satisfied not only without any feeling of shame but with a certain
sensual enjoyment. None of us had ever surprised de Vigny at table.
Dorval, who for seven years of her life had passed several hours a
day with him, declared to us with an astonishment almost amounting
to terror, that she had never even seen him eat a radish! Now even
Proserpine, a goddess, was not so abstemious as that; carried off by
Pluto to the lower regions, she had, from the first, in spite of the
preoccupation of mind to which her unappetising sojourn had naturally
disposed her, managed to eat seven pomegranate seeds! Nevertheless,
these characteristics did not prevent de Vigny from being an agreeable
companion, a gentleman to his finger-tips, always ready to do you a
kindness and totally incapable of doing you a bad turn. Nobody exactly
knew de Vigny's age; but, judging approximately, as it was known that
de Vigny had served in the guards on the return of Louis XVIII., and
supposing he was eighteen at the time he entered the service, say in
1815, he must have been thirty-two in 1829.

It will be observed that all these great revolutionaries were very
young and that the revolutionary poets were very much like the three
generals of the Revolution of whom I have, I believe, spoken, who
commanded the army of Sambre-et-Meuse, and whose combined ages reckoned
seventy years: Hoche, Marceau and my father.

The coming representation of _Othello_ made a great stir. We all knew
de Vigny's translation, and although we should have preferred to
have been supported by national troops and a French general, rather
than by this poetical condottiere, we realised that we must accept
all the arms we could against our enemies, especially when such arms
came from the arsenal of the great master of us all--Shakespeare.
Mademoiselle Mars and Joanny were allotted the principal parts. They
were powerful auxiliaries, but they were not precisely the kind we
wanted. Mademoiselle Mars and Joanny looked a little awkward in the
habiliments which (dramatically speaking) were not suitable to their
figures. Mademoiselle Mars was a charming woman of the Empire period,
refined, light, delicate, graceful, satirical, possessing none of the
gentle, innocent melancholy of the Moor's mistress; and Joanny, with
his _retroussé_ nose _à la_ Odry and his gestures with no grandeur
or majesty in them, did not recall the gloomy and terrible lover of
Desdemona. The part of Iago that Ducis had replaced by that of Pezarre,
as one replaces a flesh-and-bone leg by a wooden one, fell to the lot
of Perrier, and was to make its appearance in full daylight for the
first time.

So the representation was looked forward to with much impatience; but,
whilst awaiting this solemn occasion, which, as we have mentioned,
was to take place at the Théâtre-Français, another production was
being prepared at the Odéon which was of special importance to me,
namely, the _Christine à Fontainebleau_ by Frédéric Soulié. M. Brault's
_Christine_ died a few days after its birth, as I have said in due
course, and had disappeared without leaving any trace!

The Odéon had been recently reorganised on new lines. Harel, whom we
have seen attempting to seize _Marion Delorme_ at Hugo's house by
surprise, formerly secretary to Cambacérès, formerly sous-préfet of
the department of l'Aisne, formerly préfet of the Landes, a political
refugee in 1815, editor of the _Nain Jaune_ in Belgium, in short, one
of the most versatile men who ever lived, had just been appointed
director of the Odéon, I believe in place of Éric Bernard. He had
opened the theatre with Lucien Arnault's _États de Blois_, which did
not meet with a great success, in spite of the sumptuous manner in
which the piece had been mounted; and, being a good journalist and
clever at handling the triple element which comprises the feuilleton,
the short paragraph and the puff, Harel knew how to set the drums
sounding in favour of my friend Frédéric Soulié's _Christine à
Fontainebleau._

I had not seen Frédéric since the night upon which we had parted
with feelings of coldness towards one another and had each--decided
to go on with our own _Christines._ _Henri III._ and its success and
all the renown it had brought with it had passed without my hearing
mention of Soulié's name. His _Christine_ was finished and that was the
last I heard of him. He had sent me two seats in the gallery for his
_Juliette_ and I had sent him two balcony tickets for my _Henri III._,
and that was the extent of our exchange of politeness. I expected seats
to be sent me for _Christine_, but, to my great astonishment, I did not
receive them. Later, I found out that this was due to Harel, who feared
I should do the play an ill turn, and so opposed tickets being sent me.

As I had no seat for the first production I made no effort to procure
one for myself; and I went to bed quite satisfied that I should hear
first thing next morning whether the play had been received with
applause or hissed at. As a matter of fact, one of my good friends, a
lad who had done nothing then beyond showing promise of talent but who
has since made his mark, Achille Comte, came to my room at seven next
morning. Poor _Christine_ had fallen quite flat. Soulié, apparently,
had conceived the notion of introducing an Italian bandit in the forest
of Fontainebleau, and this had produced the most grotesque effect
imaginable. The day before, I should have thought that this news would
have delighted me after Soulié's treatment of me; but, on the contrary,
it made me feel wretchedly miserable. The innocent and primitive
friendships of our youth are the only real friendships.

The reading of _Marion_ had not only impressed me deeply, but it had
done me immense service: it had opened out to me hitherto undreamed-of
poetic suggestions; it had revealed to me possibilities in the way of
treating poetry of which I had never thought; finally, it had given
me my first idea for _Antony._ The day after the reading of _Marion
Delorme_ I set to work with unusual courage. Before the music of the
lines I had listened to the previous night had ceased ringing in my
ears, I had started, inspired by the harmony of their dying strains;
and the new _Christine_ opened its eyes to the strains of the distant
and melodious echo which still lived in my spirit, although the sound
itself had ceased.

I must be allowed a brief digression on the subject of _Christine_: I
give it as a study in manners and customs and I hope it will not be
mistaken for boasting.

There was in those days, outside the literary world, a big fellow who
was half an idiot, with a long crooked nose and legs like Seringuinos
in the _Pilules du Diable._ He was, I believe, the son of an Orléans
apothecary and he played the young Don Juan to chambermaids and
daughters of the porter, whom he transformed into baronesses and
duchesses in his elegies and sonnets; he wrote a novel which was
published but, I am certain, was never read. This novel was entitled
the _Roueries de Trialph._