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termed the Austrian lip, was exceedingly pretty, and had ihat pouting expression which was peculiarly appropriate in many of the characters she personated. In “Blaize et Babet,” for example, nothing could be more charming than her manner of half-reciting, half-singing, the following lines :
• Le soir on dansa sur l'herbette,
Blaise et moi nous dansions tous deux;
Qui vint se mêler à nos jeux.'” The Comédie Italienne now became a rival of the Comédie Française, throwing overboard its own language, and bringing forward farces in the vernacular. This caused a counteracting influence by the latter company, in which Fleury was ably assisted by Malle. Contat, a pupil of Préville. She had been received into the Theatre Francais at a very early age, and played Suzanne in Beaumarchais' " Marriage of Figaro" with great effect. Marivaux's plays, to which she gave some vogue, suited her exceedingly well until her person attained too much enbonpoint for the petit jeu of these pieces. Marie Antoinette ordered suddenly the comedy of “ La Gouvernante," of which the actress knew not one single line; she was obliged to learn off 500 verses in the short space of twenty-four hours, and performed her part in first-rate style. The occasion suggested to her the following witty saying, “ J'ignorais où était le siége de la a mémoire, je sais å present qui'il est dans le cæur.” She died in 1813, of cancer, having become a perfect saint at the end of her life.
It might be well to notice here the different migrations which the French.comedy underwent from the time of Molière. His troupe was at first stationed in 1658, by a grant of Louis XIV., at the Petit Bourbon, near the Louvre, and, two years after, went to the theatre of the Palais Royal, which had been erected by Richelieu in 1634, for the use of Rotrou and Pierre Corneille. The death of the great dramatist sent his company to wander, first to the Rue Gnénégaud, next to the Rue des Fossés St. Germain, and to the Tuilleries, where they were in 1770. Twelve years
' afterwards the “Odéon" began to be built, and they established themselves in it, under the name of the Theatre Français. Again they changed to the Theatre de la Nation in 1790, and finally the present Theatre Francais, built in 1787, was ceded to them in 1799, where they have remained
since, sometimes under the appellation of " Theatre de la Republique,” and sometimes simply called, “la Comédie Francaise.” An allowance for its support has been made by the state of 200,000 francs a year, under the superintendance of a royal or imperial commissioner. We have before noticed the difference of sociétaires and pensionaires, besides which it would seem that there are now élèves, or pupils, who bind themselves to the theatre, which has a right to their services, to the exclusion of any other stage within the confines of France. Malle. Rachel, who, it is believed, became a pupil of the institution,at one time resisted this ordinance very strenuously, but was obliged to tly to England or America, in order to make use of her talent outside the theatre.
When the company transferred themselves to the new theatre of the “ Odéon" in 1782, it was considered a great innovation to provide seats in the pit. La Harpe, the famous critic, shewed himself one of the most strenuous advocates for these, on the ground that no first performance had a chance with a standing pit, liable to cabal at any moment, and enough to mar the success of any piece. He brought out at the new theatre, with unexampled success, a piece entitled, “ Molière à la nouvelle salle," and fell in love with a young lady, Malle. Cléophile, a third-rate dancer at the opera, because she applauded it. La ilarpe was, however, generally disliked ; his egregious vanity rendered him generally ridiculous. A witty writer of the day made the following epigram upon him :
“Si vous voudrez faire bientôt,
Une fortune immense autant que légitime,
Et le vendre ce qu'il s estime.” Dugazon endeavoured now to negotiate a marr are for his friend. The object was a Malle. Luzi, who had retired from the stage at fifty years of age, with a moderate fortune of 18,000 francs per annum, and turned devotee. Fleury, however, after a few visits, broke off the connexion, saying “ that it was infinitely easier to become a martyr than a saint.” He afterwards gained further promotion as a senior associate in the company by the departure of Monvel for Stockholm, at the instance of the court of Sweden.
In the year 1784, Beaumarchais first produced his " Marriage of Figaro.” The success of the “ Barber of Seville” prompted him to go on with the piece, notwithstanding that it had been forbidden by the court. This remarkable man, born in 1732, was the son of a watchmaker, in which trade he invented a peculiar species of escapement, which was disputed with him. He pleaded his own cause before the Academy of Sciences, and gained his tirst laurels. He obtained an intimate acquaintance with the daughters of Louis XV., by whose means he was able to influence the king to many benevolent actions, among the rest that of visiting and approving the Ecole Militaire, which had been founded by Paris Duverney, the patron of the future dramatist. Beaumarchais entered into several large speculations as a merchant, one of which, the supplying the North American colonies, at that time in revolt, with arms and provisions, brought to him a considerable fortune. His first essay in the dramatic art was crowned with success. Up to his time, from that of Molière, there had been no author, as we said before, of more than mediocre talent.
It would be useless to repeat the list of those who essayed French comedy during that period; their names are too numerous, and their works too little worth noticing. Suffice it to say that the taste of the public had becoine completely degenerate, as were their manners. Absurdity and extravagance had possession of the stage, as well as of the salons, in which a witty word with a double entendre was never to be heard Beaumarchais undertook to do away with the false customs and the servile spirit of the age. He commenced with the piece of “ Eugénie," which, however, must be said to be somewhat improper in its plot, wherein a young lady, who believes that she is yielding herself to à legitimate husband, finds that she has fallen into the snares of an artful seducer.
Of a different character was his second piece, “ Les Deux Amis,” in which he depicts the mutual affection of a youthful pair who had been brought up together from their infancy; and the joy of the parents of each at the happiness of their children. Neither of these plays, however, were calculated to produce any great effect, being rather of a serious and afflicting kind. He was engaged besides in some lawsuits, which brought out his talent before the public, and showed his power of comedy. This induced him to turn his attention to the laughable side of the drama, and he prepared the “ Barber of Seville," at first a comic opera, in which several pretty Spanish and Italian airs were introduced. The Comédie Italienne, to which it was offered, refused to bring it out, so that he found himself obliged to retrench the arias, cut it down to four, instead of five, acts, and hand it over to the Comédie Français, where it obtained very considerable success. It has been pretended that Beaumarchais intended, by the character of Figaro, to depict much of his own manner, and some of the incidents of his life, yet it can scarcely be supposed that he would personify himself by a personage so gross and full of effrontery.
As we said before, Beaumarchais brought out his comedy of the “ Marriage of Figaro," in the year 1784. The manners and fashions of this age, in Paris, were monstrously ridiculous. “Young girls in hoops, married ladies in frocks, fashions à la Marlborough, scarlet coats with black buttons, little hats, enormous masses of frizzled hair, and pictorial waistcoats (gillet de grands hommes covered with the portraits of Destaing, Broglie, Condé, and La Fayette).” The curés even turned marchands de modes, and established bazaars to sell millinery. All these things were fair objects of satire ; while the taste of the public in comedy became completely effeminate; incapable of appreciating the manly plays of Molière, or even Regnard. The “ Marriage of Figaro" was first read at the house of the Duchesse de Villeroi, but the king refused his consent to its performance. It had been, however, attempted to produce it at the Theatre of the Menus Plaisirs ; Malle. Contat was consulted on the cast of the characters, when the king's order again arrived, prohibiting its being played. Five or six hundred carriages were turned away from the door of the Theatre, and Beaumarchais was obliged to pay the expenses, 10, or 12,000 livres, out of his own pocket. M. de Vaudreuil obtained perinission to have it acted at his country residence at Genevilliers, after a revision by M. Gaillard, of the French Academy. The Queen, the Comte d'Artois, and other court personages, were present. The Baron de Breteuil, Minister of the Interior, had been the great opponent of the piece, but Beaumarchais managed to get round him, by reading the play to him, adopting some of his bon mots, ,
and taking the colour of a page's ribbon from Mine. de Matignon. It was announced at length in the bills, the 27th of February, 1784, and half Paris tiocked to obtain tickets. Titled ladies descended from their carriages, and begged the crowd to allow them to pass.
Many dined in the boxes they had hired; the house being nearly transformed into a restaurant. Preville, Malle. Sainval, Ilolé, Dagincourt, and Malle. Olivier, supported the acting ably, but the great success was due to Malle. Contat, who played Suzanne, the soubrette, and so enchanted Preville, that when the play ended, he ran up and embraced her, crying: “This is my first infidelity to Malle. Dangueville.” The first twenty nights of the run brought into the treasury of the Comédie Français, 100,000 francs, and the rage for it scarcely abated during eighty more representations.
The reason of the success of this piece, is that which gave éclat to Molière's and others, that it lashed the morals of the time, and spoke in unrestrained freedom of the government, bastile, press, police, and censorship. It was subsequently performed privately before the king, by the queen and the Comte d'Artois, who acted Figaro with considerable talent. Reaumarchais has been since considered the precursor of the great French revolution. He afterwards produced “ La Mére Coupable," a continuation of the former Spanish subjects, and an imitation of “Tartuffe;" also “Tarare," a comic opera of very little note. He lost his fortune by an endeavour to publish a magnificent edition of Voltaire's works, and by other speculations during the Revolution, which all but took away his life, with that of many other remarkable men. He died suddenly in 1799, without any previous illness.
François de Neufchateau, the author of the celebrated comedy “Pamela,” had been originally brought up to thelaw. He was, however, so unfortunate as to marry the niece of an actor, and consequently being obliged to give up. his
profession, contented himself with an appointment of ballage in the provinces, which he purchased. Ilis wife relieved him shortly after of her sinister influence by dying"; on which he went to Paris to seek his fortune. This came to him very soon in the shape of a young lady, for whom he proposed and was accepted. On the day of his marriage, when the bridal feast was ready, his father brought him