« הקודםהמשך »
yonder delicate lady, with her life and soul devoted to that swarthy, rough-featured being, whose presence our sensitive critic can hardly tolerate within the compass of a small room.
A slight instance this, of what we wish to illustrate, but want of space prevents our enlarging on the subject. A graver cause of offence is given by Balzac, in the general cynical and sensual character of his writings. Human Passions are the prime movers in his Comédie Humaine ; there is no high presiding influence directing their operations for any purpose of good; and out of his scores of stories, and his five thousand personages (a curious admirer has settled them at that figure) there are very few ordinarily good men or women.
We mentioned in a former paper the least objectionable of his tales. We remember being particularly provoked by the conduct of one of them, not objectionable in other respects. He takes his personages, some of them worthy folk, others the reverse ; with defects and wants among some of the good characters, which only wait to be filled up and satisfied by the superfluities of the others. An amiable rich old maid, not so very old either, requires love for the good qualities of her person, not for her purse: a poor relative, who really loves her without her finding it out, will not tell her so for fear of being suspected of selfish views. So cross purposes increase ; the worthless characters fare off best ; and those who deserve some happiness or comfort are punished, and disinherited, and drowned; there is not even the pleasure of a fine tragic effect, but allends as flat, and wearisome, and dismal as a pauper's funeral.
Balzac and George Sand seem to have cordially disliked each other. He once observed, that nature, through some slight inattention, created her of the neuter gender; and that what she chiefly needed was more trowsers and less style. Mirecourt warns his readers when perusing that lady's memoirs of her life (a work which he considers uncalled for, as far as the education of youth is concerned), not to trust blindly to her appreciation of his bero.
Balzac, according to our critic, was really one of the most unaffected, simple-minded, honest men that could be found, getting deeper into debt through desperate efforts to rid himself of it, and this despite his great popularity. The following extract will partially account for this phenomenon.
“ He laboured with too good a conscience, and at too slow a pace; he was never satisfied with his success. When he had revised one of his romances, Pierrette, fourteen times, the printer observed,' you will be at the expense of eighteen hnndred or two thousand franes for corrections.' What matter ?' said he, 'go on ;' and the work saw its twenty-seventh revise before it was published.
Pierrette was dedicated to the accomplished lady (Mme. Eve de Hanska), who afterwards bore his name. He wished to convey to her the combined gift of talent end heart at the same time. The expense of the corrections exceeded the sale of the edition by three or four hundred francs. Certes, it was hard for him to pay his debts by such a procedure.”
Contrary to the system of Elie Berthet, all of whose writings we can cordially recommend for perusal, but who gives the most accurate descriptions of vales of Andorre, La Vendee Marshes, Swiss vallies, Paris catacombs, Auvergne craters, &c., sitting on a low stool, and performing journeys from the folio in front to the quarto on his right hand, Balzac would not mention a street nor an old building in a provincial town, without paying them a conscientious visit. Hence the wonderfully true pictures of the house Grandet in Saumur, the house Bouget at Issodun, &c.
“Chagrined beyond endurance by the clamours of his creditors, he resorted to his sister's family nearly every evening, for some little respite and consolation.
• Come my gazelles (so he called his nieces), said he one evening, give me paper and a pencil: quick ! quick! They gave him what he demanded, and he spent an hour putting down sums and adding them. •Fifty nine thousand francs, said he at last ; fifty nine thousand francs I owe; and what remains for me to do but blow out my brains, or throw myself into the Seine ?'. And the romance you have commenced for me,' said his niece weeping, will never be finished ! Ah! dear angel l' said he, “I was wrong to be so cast down; I will work for you, and that very thing will bring good luck. Away with sadness ! It will be a chef d'oeuvre; I will get three thousand crowns for it. The publishers will give me fabulous prices ; I will pay my debts in two years; I will put by a dower for you ; I will become a peer of France. All that is settled: now let us to dinner.
*And our boxes at the theatre, uncle?' • Here they are, just in my pocket ; we'll go to the Gymnase.' But you have no dress coat.'
• Surville (his brother in law) will lend me his: to the table with you my gazelles ;' and he kept them all laughing while striving to eat their dinner. Balzac forgot his debts, and the Bordeaux and the chesnuts were laid on the tables.
• Dress yourself uncle, we'll be late.' Very well thought of,' said he, rising and passing into the next room, to make bis toilet.
• Balzac would never permit his nieces to read a romance of his except those he wrote expressly for them, such as Ursule Mirouet.
Putting in his bead soon after at the door left ajar, he cried out, • Surville, leave me some of the Bordeaux.' Oh dear!' said Surville, the bottle is empty ; we drank it all, but I'll go to the cellar for another.' •No, no, don't trouble yourself: if the wine is gone, I'll be satisfied with the chesnuts,' and all roared out laughing at the näivete of the expression.
He was blessed with the power of being able to turn aside from the considerations of his debts and his harassing disputes, and finding enjoyment in pure domestic relations.
He often spent hours gambolling with his little nieces; and when his sister scolded him for losing so much time, he would answer, • Silencel Petrarch (her name was Laura): if I don't give my brain a holiday it will burst.'
Though the toothache, contracted in his garret, continued to annoy bim, he still persisted in not allowing one to be pulled out, alleging that wolves never employed dentists, and why should men ?
• You're a coward,' said his sister, Coward, indeed! I have just now_got a loose tooth ; give me a string and see if I don't make it fly.' The string was got; and he proceeded mildly and leisurely with the operation, but the impatient lady seizing hand and string, gave him such a chuck, that it was out in a moment. Very odd,' said he ; ‘it appears that I was only using a sort of moral force.'"
Having given our opinion on the waste of time caused by the most harmless of works of fiction, for the best are merely harmless, our readers may naturally expect strong denunciations against those that are produced with an evil intention, or at all events written by people destitute of a moral or religious sense, such as the greater number of Balzac's,* of George Sand's, the one novel of Veron's, and nearly all of Sue's; and to all such indeed we bequeath our hearty malediction.
We were about bestowing a very sufficient amount of pity on the unmarried young ladies of France, for the easy access they enjoy to such a mass of evil reading; but recollected in time, that owing to the peculiarity of female education on the
• To Balzac, Dumas, Veron, Planche and Sue might be applied the remark of Mirecourt on Théophile Gautier, that if you state any thing in his presence whose truth, or accuracy, or proof, rests on Christian ethics, be stares at you as if you were uttering words in an unkuown tongue.'. We observed the same peculiarity about Murger when reading his Vie de Bohème, in which he exhibits the ordinary phases of an existence, perfectly abnormal as far as the recognition of christian principles is concerned. He recognises good nature, endurance and good humour, as laudable qualities, but he sees no necessity for marriage under any circumstances. If his Grisette is very inconstant, it is a fact to be regretted, and she will receive punishment in the end as a natural consequence: but if she abides with her student through his poverty, as well as his season of fair weather, she ranks as high in Murger's scale-as Harriet Byron in Richardson's. His Adeline Protat is a very interesting and thoroughly unobjectionable story. The variation in the moral standard of works by the same writer, is much more striking in French than in English works of fiction.
Continent, nearly all their youth being spent in conventual pensions, the minds of the fair pensionnaires cannot be tainted by the reading of unattainable works. Again, while here at home, merchants' or shopkeepers' daughters are paying visits, or attending morning concerts, or adorning their persons, or shopping, their sisters in the French cities are sitting in glass hives in their fathers' counting houses, and making entries in curious folios bound in rough calf. Again, looking on the myriads of Lelias, Arthurs, Martins, Delphines, and Jeannes, lying on our booksellers' tables in their bright tinted paper wrappers, and sold at the low price of ls. or thereabouts, to any young lady or gentleman desirous of a dose of intoxi. cating poison, we cannot conscientiously say that the youth of our upper and middle ranks are so much better off ihan the corresponding classes beyond the strait of Calais. And how fare our folk of grimy faces and hardened palms, when the week's hire and the day of rest arrive? Have they not translations of the worst French romances ? Have they not the edifying memoirs of that darling George IV., and have they not penny sheets poisoned to the core with the rabies of unprincipled scribblers, who, striving after the power and wickedness of their French brothers in evil, have only succeeded in securing the bad quality.
And when tavern keepers who furnish ardent spirits to customers already intoxicated, when those who keep dens for the destruction of the health, the innocence, and the spiritual life of our youth, or those who sell poison, knowing that it is to be applied for the extinction of human life,—when any or all of these worthies go calmly about their daily occupations, and enjoy life without feeling the sting of conscience, then, but not till then may the writers, the publishers, and the vendors of evil books, think they are leading the lives of Christians, and of honest usefal members of the great social family.*
* We subjoin the names of some works lately come under our notice, and as harmless as the ordinary run of English novels.
Un Mariage en Province, par Mme. Léonie Aunet, La Fin du Procès, par A. de Pontmartin, Belle Rose, par Amedée Achard (this last on a friend's report), Adeline Protat, par Henri Murger, as before mentioned, La Duchesse d'Hanspar, and Amour et Pinance, par Edmond Texier, Tolla, Les Mariages de Paris, Germaine, and Le Roi des Montagnes, par Edmond About. We hope some day for the plea. sure of presenting to our readers, a few specimens from the fictions of this most genial, humorous, and healthy-minded writer.
ART. II.-THE BOOKS OF THE FOUR KINGS. The Hand-Book of Games, fc., fc. Written or Compiled
by Professors and Amateurs. Edited by Henry G. Bohn. London : Bohn, 1850.
Man is at heart a gambler; such has been the opinion of many deep thinkers, who have made human nature their study, and it matters not whether cards, dice, or the thousand-and-one other modes of gambling which exist, from the royal game of chess, played in the princely court, to the thimble-rig and trick-of-the-loop at the rural fair, all, and each in their turn, are gamblers. Nay, is not our every day traffic, at best, a species of gambling, or, if you prefer the term, a speculation.
The most wily diplomatist, whilst intriguing with foreign or domestic courts; the ablest general, marshalling his troops and leading his men to victory; the judge, on his judicial bench ; the pleader, advocating his client's cause; the doctor, whilst holding in his hands the life or death of liis patient; all are, more or less, the creatures of circumstance, and guided by chance, are merely gambling for the liberties, properties, or lives of their respective adherents.
Thus, whilst man's nobler nature is inherently speculative, can we feel surprised at the almost natural tendency to gambling in our social relations, when recreation coinbines with emolument, and the nobleman on the turf, or the whist-player at his elub, feels a pleasurable excitement in the chances and changes of a game, though it may be his all depends on the issue. Nor is gambling confined to the higher circles, or to the middle classes ; the rustic at the hedge side has his well-thumbed pack of cards, and stakes his all with as true a spirit of gambling as the highest noble in the land, aye, or the king on his throne. And now, that we have shown how strong in our nature is the love of play, it may not be uninteresting to give a few details of these talismanic bits of pasteboard-Cards.
Many and various have been the notions conceived, and the opinions given as to the origin of cards, some claiming them as a European, others as an Eastern invention ; Germany, Spain, France, and England have each their adherents