תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

stand, 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. Ilis first outline, even of the longest of his stories, never exceeds forty pages. He flings every leat 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 yes. terday 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. Не 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 telt 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 bad vaguely ima. gined, was before him in flesh and blood: Robert Macaire was found at last.

That very evening at the theatre, the comedian presented himBelf 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 prosenting Macaire to those who paiil 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 pas. sing on. “But the bill is ten francs, fifty centimes,' observed the tavern keeper. “Never mind,' said Frederick : “the fifty centines 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."

$6

0

We have omitted those parts in the Contemporuins wliich present after all the best specimens of our author's pungent, lively, and sarcastic manner, namely, his replies to Eugine Sue, Girardin, Jules Janin, and others on whom he bestows his hearty hatred. They are too personal and venemous for onr taste. Lively sallies and bon mots innumerable we have been obliged to leave behind. Some look as if their perpetrators were of Irish descent. A worthy giving vent to his hatred says of bis foeman, I would see him drowning and not offer him a glass of water.' Charles Nodier gives an adroit rebuke to one of his young imitators who had been reading a specimen of his composition to the patriarch : “My dear Wey, I fear the piece is without value, for at first I took it for one of my own.' Probably we will inake up for our short comings when we resume our consideration of other literary and artistic celebrities on a future occasion.

Théophile Deschamps, at the instance, as we suppose, of some of the patients smarting under Mirecourt's stripes, writes a biography of the biographer; but the only opprobrium he can tling on the dreaded critic is that his surname is Jacquot, not Mirecourt, that though an anti-infidel and antiBocialist, he seldom hears Mass; and that his occupation resembles that of a broker, who cuts out valuable pictures for the sake of selling the frames.

Picrre Muserolle comes into court after him, and avows himself the author of several of the biographies. He professes Socialism and infidelity, defends the writings and conduct of Eugène Sue, whom Mirecourt had drawn as a luxurious, unfeeling, and selfish sensualist, while pretending the most earnest sympathy for the poor. He acknowledges having assumed Mirecourt's Christian principles while in his pay; but exclaims against bis patron's passing off his ( Mazerolle's) productions as the fruit of his own brain while declaiming against the plagiarisms of Dumus. He reminds the English reader of Samson Bross and Mare-norm in his humble appreciation of himself, and complacency in his abjection. With a very earnest desire to disparage his former employer, he can only convict him of making use of his (Jazerolle's) notes in the concoction of his biographies, trusting to hearsay, and being too much disposed to believe ill of his adversaries. He is compelled

a

to acknowledge his worth as a good citizen and honest man, and his never uttering praise by the inducement of bribery, direct or indirect.

So many good things remain to be gleaned in this field, that we shall, as already mentioned, resume our labours in a future number.

ART. III.—THE FRENCH COMEDY AT PARIS.

1. Histoire Anecdotique du Théatre, de la Littérature, et

de diverses impressions contemporaines. Par Charles

Maurice. Paris : Henri Plon. 1856. 2. Moliere and the French Classical Drama By Madame

Blaz de Bury. Charles Knight. 1846. 3. The French Stage and the French People, as illustrated in the Memoirs of u. Fleury. Edited by Theodore

M.
Hook. Henry Colburn. 1841.

In a former article we gave some account of the rise of the national opera among the French, and their efforts to sustain it against the intluence of foreign music, and the taste for Italian vocalism. No less remarkable has been their perseverance in upholding the drama of their country, although it did not meet with the same opposition and difficulties which beset the Académie de Musique. The perfection to which the art of composing plays, and especially of acting them, has been brought in France, has perliaps been scarcely ever equalled in any other country, not excepting England, at the head of whose stage stand the names of Garrick, Kean, Macready, Siddons, &c. The great critic of dramatic literature, Schlegel, has said that the French actors have brought the art of elocution to as great a degree of refinement as it can be conceived capable of. This may, perhaps, be owing to the peculiar adaptability of the French language to the purposes of conversation or dialogue, and also, in some measure, to the rigid system of governmental instruction adopted in their first-class theatres. It is true that at various periods what is called the legitimate drama in England has been favored and supported by the people very liberally; but then long intervals have occurred during which nothing would go down with the public but extravaganzas, ballets, and farces; and at the present day the rage seems to be directed principally towards translations of French plays and vaudevilles. The English people are by no means so national in their dramatic taste as the French; it is true that they idolize Shakespeare, but then it is more in the closet than on the stage.

It is strange how the knowledge which the ancients undoubtedly possessed in a high degree of the resources of the histrionic art, was completely lost in the darkness of the middle ages. It would appear as if mankind had to commence over again to learn the tricks of the actor, and to go through centuries of apprenticeship to his profession. The pilgrims who rambled throughout Europe from town to town were almost the only performers of the 13th and 14th centuries, instituting mimic scenes and pantomimes in the market-places and at the fairs; their subjects were all taken from Holy Writ, and, no doubt, were intended to edify the passers-by, but were just as likely to create scandal and irreligion. In 1402 Charles VI. authorised a certain class of wanderers to perform sacred plays called mysteres or soties, and they were named Brethren of the Passion, from the invariable scenes represented by them. The Premonstratensian monks obtained subsequently a similar authorization, and their stage was of a very curious construction, consonant with the simplicity and ignorance of the period; it consisted of several scaffoldings, one above the other, the highest of which represented heaven and the lowest hell, with a gaping mouth to swallow up unrepenting sinners. Instead of side-scenes were a row of large shelves on which the performers rested from their fatigues, without withdrawing themselves from the eyes of the spectators.

The Parisians were not, however, very long in getting weary of the uniformly sacred character of these dramas, and soon began to mix up a little of the occurrences of the world on the stage, as is seen in the titles of two very early plays of that age, Le Mystère du Chevalier, qui donne

« הקודםהמשך »