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into the garden for a short stroll, and, producing a pistol, gravely announced that that should be the last day of his own life, as he had fallen in love with the young lady to whom Francois was about to be married. This so horrified the young man, that he fled from the scene, and could not to be heard of for many years. He was supposed dead, and an
Ile edition of his works about being brought out by the Abbé Geoffroy, when he reappeared, and offered himself as a member of the Legislative Assembly, for which he was elected. He shared the imprisonment of the French comedians in the Luxembourg, and being afterwards raised to the Imperial Senate by Napoleon, became one of the principal persons who assisted in reviving the French drama, after it had been crushed and disgraced by the barbarities and terrors of the Revolution.
Préville and his wife, Brizard, and Malle. Fanier, all retired from the Theatre together. The first two removed to a small estate near Senlis, and had a box in the private Theatre of the Prince de Condé. Here they once received the royal honors of an obeisance from the actors in a piece, with the prince at their head, in the same manner as if the king were present. Brizard set himself about collecting a large library, binding the books with his own hand. He invented a curious system of paying himself every Saturday evening, for his labour during the week, and handing over the proceeds to the poor.
At this time a very good inoral comedy, "l'Ecole des Pères," by M. Peyre, was brought out by the company, and so pleased the court, that it was ordered to be played at the private royal Theatre, a magnificent sword presented to the author, and a splendid dress coat sent !o Fleury, to be used in his part. Unfortunately this required a plain one, but the king expressed a wish that some play should be performed, in which it might be shown to advantage. Fleury chose “ Turcaret," in which he performed the Marquis, a drunken character, and so much to the life, that the Count d'Artois exclaimed: “I have seen Molé in the Marquis de Lauret, but he seemed to have got drunk only on piquette; Fleury's drunkenness was the drunkenness of champagne."
A strange incident occurred to Malle. Contat one day. She was driving over the Pont Neuf in her whisky, a species
of gig then the rage, and ran against a gentleman, who er.deavoured to apologise for being in the way. She, however, resisted the apology, saying that she had cried out“ gare” and he had never looked round. He retorted “ Truly, Madame, you have more need to say gare now, when I do look round. The danger is in looking at you.” This com
" pliment produced some curiosity in the actress to find out her adınirer, who sent her a note a few days afterwards, signed “ Henry,” and requesting her to attend a rehearsal of a small piece at the Comédie Italienne. She discovered subsequently that the personage was no less than Prince Henry of Prussia. The piece, afterwards brought out under the auspices of Malle. Contat and Fleury, was entitled “ Les Deux Pages,” founded on an incident in the life of Frederick the Great, where he placed a rouleau of ducats in the pocket of a page,while sleeping, who had been in the habit of sending his pension home to his aged mother. It produced a very favourable impression in Paris at the time, notwithstanding the publication of a book, by Mirabeau, containing many scandalous and libellous matters concerning the court at Berlin. Prince Henry caused a gold snuff:box to be presented to Fleury on the occasion, surmounted with the portrait of the great Frederick, surrounded by brilliants; assuring him at the same time, that he had completely fulfilled a saying of the illustrious captain; “feeling is the mainspring of every great effort.”
During the severe winter of 1783-4 the Comédie Francaise brought out “ Coriolanus,” by La Harpe, for the benefit of the poor. There was a full house, although the play met but a very cold reception, and gave rise to a witty epigram by M. de Champcenetz :
“ Pour les pauvres, la comédie
De l’applaudir en charité." A fête was also got up for the same benevolent purpose at the winter Vauxhall, where all Paris, and all grades of society evinced great liberality. La Harpe met his enemy, M. de Champcenetz, there, when a laughable incident occurred. At one of the lottery tables the Marquis de Malseigne, an officer of carabiniers, won a small china figure, which represented an old shivering man trying to warm himself. He held it up to the company, and asked aloud, “What do you call this?” “ A Coriolanus,” replied a voice from the crowd. La Harpe, who was standing near, immediately fastened on M. de Champcenetz as his reviler, and a lively altercation occurred between them, much to the amusement of the company. The sun of money collected at the different theatres for the relief of the poor amounted to 36,679 livres ; but the curés of the different parishes would not receive it from the hands of the actors. They were obliged to hand it over to the lieutenant of police.
We have now arrived at the period when the revolutionary spirit appeared in Paris, and the clubs began to be held in all parts of the city. The tone of society became completely changed; every one talked of constitutions, laws, the rights of the people, &c., even the green-room of the Comédie was invaded by the mania. It was then that Chénier's famous tragedy of “ Charles IX." appeared on the scene. Like the “Marriage of Figaro” of Beaumarchais, it may be said to be the precursor of the revolution. The play, however, produced a species of earthquake in the theatre; Fleury, Dazincourt, Contat, and Rancourt, at one side, demanded a certain cast of characters ; Talma, Dugazon, and Madame Vestris, insisted on another. In fact Chénier had given over to Talma the principal part in the play, as some said, merely because Saint-Fal had refused it. It was looked upon by some of the sociétaires as a fendal assertion of right on the part of the elder members of the company, and as such resisted. The subject of “Charles IX. the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and introduced a cardinal on the stage, an unheard-of novelty. Its other name, "l'Ecole des Rois," and many incidents in the drama, caused it to be displeasing to the court, which forbad the performance. The company fell into disrepute with the public, and were accused of keeping back Talma in order to bring forward Larive, who reappeared at this time in the stage, for, as Fleury says, "Larive was a theatrical Montmorency-an actor for the aristocracy ; Talma was the actor of a revolutionized people.”
Talma, whose father was a dentist, was born in the year 1763. Ile resided for a considerable time in London, and
evinced so much talent that Lord Harcourt shewed a great desire to have him brought up for the English stage. lle removed, however, to Paris, and being very much struck with the playing of the most popular actors of the day there, took lessons in declamation from Molé, and held Dugazon as a model in acting before his eyes. He made his debut as “Séide” in the tragedy of “ Mahomet," in 1787, producing only a very ordinary impression on the public. What brought him first prominently forward, and inade him exceedingly popular, were his extreme republican opinions, and the affair of the play of “Charles IX.," which we shall now relate.
Mirabeau, the famous orator, visited the foyer of the Theatre Français, and endeavoured to obtain the performance of "Charles IX.” for the fete of the Fédération, when the Provençal Deputies were to be present in Paris. Molé tried to support Mirabeau's proposition, as he admired the man extremely, but the whole company decided on refusing the request of the orator. The deputies themselves wrote to demand the representation, but it was again politely declined. The Fédéralists took umbrage, and threatened to call the actors to account. On the evening of the 21st February, 1790, tbe Deputies were at their posts in the theatre, and when Naudet appeared in the play of “ Epimenide," loud cries were raised for “Charles Ix. Naudet stated that it could not he played, as two of the principal actors, Madame Vestris and St. Prix, were ill. Talma, however, came forward, and said the audience should have “ Charles IX." performed, as Madame Vestris was in the theatre and willing to play her part, while that of St. Pris might be easily read. It became absolutely necessary now for the corps dramatique to yield to the popular voice and bring out the forbidden tragedy.
It went off as was expected, in first-rate style, Talma surpassing himself in the representation of his róle. A curious incident, however, occurred at it. It had been customary for all persons in the pit to take off their hats. One athletic figure appeared with his head covered, and was saluted with a tremendous roar from the house. He fixed his couore chef, however, only the more stoutly on his head, declaring it to be as “firm as the hat of Servandony,” (a soubriquet for one of the towers of. St. Sulpice), and defied
the audience, who dragged him out to the Hotel-de-Ville. This individual's name was Danton, one of the most terrible stains on that dark page of history. Talma, not content with his triumph over the other sociétaires, engaged in a paper warfare on the subject, and so mishandled Chénier, Naudet, and others, that they judged it necessary to dismiss him from the company. Fleury was the man who proposed the measure, notwithstanding the great danger from the republican party. The actors were treated as aristocrats and inciviques, and threatened with denunciation at the Legislative Assembly. On the 16th September an enormous crowd invaded the theatre and demanded Talma ; Fleury endeavoured to brave the storm, and explain that Talınå had broken the regulations of the company. Dugagon came forward to support the dismissed actor, and the stage would have been pulled down by the mob, but for the interference of the military. Bailly, the mayor of Paris, caused the whole company to be brought before him, and insisted on their receiving back their associate, which they were obliged to do. Some of the actresses retired under protest, and resigned their appointments.
In November, 1790, La Harpe came before the Legislative Assembly with a petition that several companies of comedians should be licensed to act the plays of all authors, living or dead. His propositions produced a revolution in the theatrical world. Fleury tell suddenly into a violent fit of sickness; Talma, with Dugazon and Madame Vestris, ronounced their rights as associates, and went to the Rue de Richelieu. The Comédie Italienne joined the Comédie Française, and every species of performance was brought out at either theatres ; a complete bouleversement occurred. It may be easily remembered, by any one who has studied the history of these times, what an amount of license was granted to the populace in their places of amusement, and what infamous pieces replaced on the various stages the productions of the best dramatic writers. In fact these were the dark ages of classical comedy, which could only be revived under the strong hand of the Empire.
Préville, the compedian, had retired a very considerable time before, and lived at Senlis. During one of the revolutionary scenes in that town, a ball, which killed a man at his side, grazed the eye of the actor and took away his sight