תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

but never lets the idea of the licking cross his mind. It may be supposed, from the character of his works, especially the earlier one3, that his life in one respect has been far from correct. Our lenient critic throws out hopes that there will be a decided improvement in his works to come, as he is Christian at heart and studies the Scriptures. Amen, say we.

However our author may relax in his dislike to Dumas, his feelings towards Emile de Girardin exhibit a most determined personal hatred ; and, therefore, he is not so much tu be trusted in his statements concerning his character.

Ilis portrait, serving for frontispiece, exhibits a Napoleon when in good humour. So he is an anomaly, if his veins are filled with poison instead of blood, as insinuated by his critic. Circumstances connected with his birth, and the after neglect or dislike of his parents, have given a misanthropic tinge to his character. He considers every office beneath him but that of prime minister; and his political creed has been re-modelled a dozen times. The facts adduced by Mirecourt, such as ordering his own immediate release from prison, when he might have kept him there at pleasuure, do not bear out his theory to our satisfaction.

If he dispraises the husband to the utmost stretch of language, he makes up in his unqualified admiration of Madame, nee Delphine Gay, a lovely compound of personal beauty, grace, goodness, conversational powers, and poetical gifts. Any person who has read or seen acted her delightful dramas, or read her tales, too few in number, alas! or her lively and picturesque sketches of Parisian life, social, political, literary and artistic, from about 1836 to 1848, under the name of the Cheralier de Launay, will bear out the critic as far as evidence is before themselves. Mirecourt evidently grudged her to her selfish lord. Literature has bad a great loss by her too early death.

One of Mirecourt's grievances against the editor of La Presse arose from his rejecting Marion D'Lorme unless signed Alex. Dumas.

We must find space for the unhappy duel between Girardin and Armand Carrel, judging that a simple recital of an incident so contrary to the spirit of Christianity is nearly as good as a sermon. The account is from Le National, Carrol's paper :- July 1st, 1836.

. The direct explication which had place between M. Carrel and M de Girardin left nothing in the power of the seconds to bring about a reconciliation. Having reached the ground, the Bois de Vincennes, M. Carrel advanced towards M. de Girardin, and said,

Monsieur, you have threatened me with a biography: as the chance of the day may be against me you will probably fulfil your promise ; but if you write it in an honest spirit you will not find either in my private or public life anything unbecoming a man of honor. Is it not so, Monsieur ?' • It is, Monsieur' replied M. de Girardin.

It had been decided that the combatants should be placed at a distance of forty paces, and that each was then at liberty to walk forward ten steps.

M. Carrel advanced that distance with a firm and rapid pace; then, raising his pistol and taking aim he fired at his adversary, who had only advanced three paces. The two dis. charges were nearly simultaneous, but M. Carrel had fired first. M. de Girardin cried out I am hit in the thigh ;' and I in the groin,' said M. Carrel.

He had still strength enough left to walk to a bank at the edge of the avenue, and sit down. His second, and Dr. Marx his friend, ran up to him. M. Persat (proprietor of Le Vational) burst into tears.

Do not weep, my good friend,' said Carrel; “this ball has given you quittance. This was an allusion to a legal process to come off on the next day.”

They carried him to St. Mandé, to the house of M. Peyra, an old comrade of the Ecole Militaire. Passing near M. Girardin, M. Carrel addressed him : 'Are you suffering much, M. Girardin ?' 'I would be rejoiced if your sufferings were no greater.' 'Adieu, Monsieur, I bear no ill will to you.'

Carrel was not deceived as to the dangerous character of his wound. He requested that they would bear him directly to the cemetery after his decease ; no priest, no church. Such was his short and definite direction.

The next day Armand Carrel was dead. Had his last hours been consoled by religion, bis posthumous reputation would surely have sustained no loss. It is a pity that republicanism and impiety are such near neighbours."

Mirecourt handles George Sand with delicate touch, passes slightly over the unsound portions of her career, and gives all homage due to her great powers. She has not taken his biography, however, in good part at all; and he complains that she even adds a year or two to her age, in order to enjoy the pleasure of a contradiction. Still he will not have the public to be too fastidious as to the self-restraint, &c. of those who write or act for their amusement. Let them be satisfied that his heroine for the moment is what Ninon de l'Enclos once boasted herself to be, viz. : an honest man.

He quotes from the Lettres d'un Voyageur, a passage which we repeat for its beauty. All the world knows that Aurora Dudevant is a native of Berri, and that she was brought up in that rough province under the wing of an energetic grand-mother.

“Oh! who amongst us does not fondly recollect the first volumes which he has tasted or devoured! Has not the very cover of an old book, found mantled over with dust, on the shelf of a neglected bookcase, retraced the sweet outlines of the picture of your youthful years! Have you not seen rise before you, the wide meadow bathing in the warm rays of the evening, where you perused it for the first time! Oh! how quickly fell the night over the enchanted leaves, and how cruelly the fading twilight made the characters dance in confu. sion on the darkening pages !

It is all over: the lambs are bleating ; the sheep have gathered to the fold; and the cricket has taken possession of the buts and the plains : you must depart.

The road is stony, the plank is narrow and slippery, the side paih rough. You are covered with perspiration, but all is useless : you arrive too late, they have commenced supper. It is to no purpose that the old sérvant, who loves you so much, has delayed to ring the bell as long as she could. You must endure the mortification of sitting down last, and the grand-mother, relentless in etiquette even in the depth of her secluded farm, administers a tender reproach in a mild, sorrowful tone, which affects you more sensibly than a severe reproof.

But when at night, she asks you for an account of how the day was spent, and you acknowledge with a blush, that you forgot the time reading ; and being required to produce the book, you draw out, with a trembling hand, Estelle et Némorin, Oh, then the old lady cannot help smiling. Take courage ; your treasure will be restored, but mind, never be late for supper again.

O, happy days! O, my dark glen! 0, Corinne! 0, Bernardin de St. Pierre ! Ye willows by the river, my vanished youth, and oh! my poor old hound, who never missed the supper hour, but answered to the ring of the distant bell by a hungry and sorrowful howl!”

Charles Nodier, with whom we spent some pleasant moments in Les Mémoires de Alexandre Dumus, Méry, the exaggerated type of our Theodore Hook, Victor Hugo,

Beranger, Alfred de Vigny, Arsène lloussaye, Francis Wey, Baron Taylor, Paul Feval, and other estimable

writers meet with warm though judicious welcome in the pages of Les Contemporains. The degree of blame administered to Paul de Kock and Balzac is very slight, compared to the kindness with which they are treated. How Balzac could have spent much time in collecting materials for his Comedy of Hľuman Life, we are unable to understand, with the following programme of his daily occupation before us.

“ Balzac has been the most assiduous worker of modern times. We must refer to the monks of the middle ages to find the same zeal, the same assiduity, the same patience. He goes to bed at half-past five, soon after taking dinner, rises at 11 o'clock, or mid-night, wraps himself in a sort of monk's gown, and works away till 9 o'clock in the morning. His servant, François, then brings in his breakfast, takes up the proofs, and Balzac, drawing out his watch, says to him, with the gravest air imaginable, • I give you ten minutes to take these to Charenton.' Charenton (the locale of the printing office) is two leagues distant, but that does not frighten François. His stereotyped answer is-'ten minutes ! very good! off I go.' Balzac resumes his writing after breakfast, and works till three o'clock; then takes a country walk till dinner, immediately after which he retires to rest, to resume the same process on awaking.

Balzac sketehes a romance as a painter does a picture. IIis first outline, even of the longest of his stories, never exceeds forty pages. He flings every leaf behind him without even paging it, for fear of being tempted to make corrections ; and the next day he receives the proofs, furnished with enormous margins. The forty pages yield a hundred in the second proof, two hundred in the third, and so on to the end of the story. This mode of proceeding throws the unfortunate compositors into despair ; finding their work of yesterday buried under a mountain of corrections and additions. It is a chaos, an irregular expansion of lines from a common centre, a system of fireworks; the rockets crossing and encircling each other, turning to the right, to the left, ascending, descending, knocking their heads together, and inflicting head-aches innumerable. In the compositor's time-tables, two hours of Balzac make one day.”

If we can believe his indulgent critic, Balzac, despite the uncommon penetration into character apparent in his writings, was a very Oliver Goldsmith in all matters where worldly wisdom was requisite. Unable to dupe a simpleton, he was himself the most facile of that unhappy class. He Was ever labouring to diminish a heavy amount of debt, and only augmented it with every new literary speculation. We give him much credit for never allowing his nieces to read his books. He enjoyed his release from his grim creditors but a short period ; and now Dumas, his relentless toe during life, will pull down the moon, if not allowed by the widow to raise a monument to his memory, with this inscription, "To BALZAC, BY HIS RIVAL, DUMAS."

We must find room for an extract from the sketch of Frederick Lemaitre. He made his debut at the Ambigu, in l’Auberge des Adrets, and was very badly received. He felt that

success in the part of lacaire, as then played, was out of the question, and was pensively walking along the Boulevards, devising some plan for ensuring success to his part.

“ All at once he perceived a personage standing before the door of a cake shop, covered with indescribable drapery from head to foot. His clothes might once have been of irreproachable stuff and fashion ; but now they hung about him in ragged stripes. Wretchedness and debauchery had left their marks everywhere ; but still the wearer maintained an arrogant deportment, and the most excellent opinion of his individual merits.

Proudly poised on his old boots, broken and down at heel, and with a greasy and many cornered hat set jauntily on his left ear, he was daintily breaking, with the tips of his fingers, a halfpenny cake, carrying it to his lips with the gestures of a petit maitre, and eating it with all the air of a gourmand. His collation over, he drew a depending rag from his coat pocket, wiped his hands, brushed his filthy habits, and continued his route along the Boulevard. “That's my very man,' said Frederick. In effect, the type he had vaguely imagined, was before him in flesh and blood; Robert Macaire was found at last.

That very evening at the theatre, the comedian presented himself with a coat, bat, and boots, the very fellows of those worn by the man of the Boulevards. He imitated the gestures of this Brummel in tatters ; his grotesque self-possession, and his sinister dignity, induced his fellow-comedean, Serres, to adopt an analogous style, and the piece obtained an unhoped success."

Not content with presenting Macaire to those who paid for the exhibition, he occasionally gave gratuitous specimens according as circumstances offered.

“One morning at the Café de Malte the bill was presented after the déjeuner. He arose, threw ten francs on the counter, and was passing on. “But the bill is ten francs, fifty centimes,' observed the tavern keeper. Never mind,' said Frederick : the fifty centimes are for the

garçon.' In the winter of 1836 he was skating one afternoon on the pond of the Luxembourg. Some women were admiring the grace of his evolutions, when all at once one of them cried out, I want my fifteen francs, M. Frederic; you have forgotten my fifteen francs. Our actor stopped. It was his old hostess of the Quartier Latin, at the time of his first engagement at the Odéon. Your fifteen francs, Madame-what assurance! I forgot a periwig when leaving your house, it is in my old trunk in the recess ; it cost me thirty-five francs : you owe me a louis consequently; I will call for it the first morning I am in your neighbourhood.' He advanced the skate of his left foot and disappeared. Next day the landlady received the balance. Frederick never intended to repudiate, but he could not deny himself the pleasure of enacting Robert in the open air.”

« הקודםהמשך »