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them from Eschylus to Sophocles, from Sophocles to Euripides, from Euripides to Seneca, from Seneca to Racine, from Racine to Voltaire, and from Voltaire to Chenier. So much for tragedy. Thus, you will be present at this transformation of a race of eagles, ending in parrots.
-“ And to whom shall I pass from Shakspeare ?”-—From Shakspeare to Schiller.”_" And from Schiller ?”—“To nobody:'“But Ducis ?”_" Oh, don't let us confound Schiller with Ducis : Schiller draws inspiration, Ducis imitates; Schiller remains original : Ducis becomes a copyist, and a bad copyist.
6 " Now for Molière ? “As to Molière, if you wish to study something worth the trouble, instead of descending, you will ascend from Molière to Terence, from Terence to Plautus, from Plautus to Aristophanes.”
But Corneille, you have forgotten him, I fancy?—I do not forget him, I place him by himself, because he is neither an ancient Greek, nor an old Roman. He is a Cordovan, like Lucan ; you will when you compare them, that his verse has a great resemblance to that of the “ Pharsalia.”
66 Then you
““ And in romance, what is to be done?”—“ Everything, as with the theatre.” “I believed, however, that we had excellent romances.” “What have you read in this line ? '_“Those of Lesage, of Madame Cottin, and of Pigault-Lebrun.” " What was their effect on you ? "
“ Those of Lesage amused me, those of Madame Cottin made me shed tears, those of Pigault-Lebrun made me laugh.” have read neither Goethe, nor Walter Scott, nor Cooper ? Read them.
«« And when I have read them, what am I to make of them? * Corinthian brass, as before; only you must endeavour to add a trifling ingredient which is to be found in neither one of thempassion. Goethe will give you poetry, Walter Scott the study of character, Cooper the mysterious grandeur of the prairie, the forest, and the ocean; but as for passion, you will seek for it in vain in any of them.”
As an indispensable preparation for the historical romance, he is told to read Joinville, Froissart, Monstrelet, Chatelain, Juvénal des Ursins, Montluc, Saulex-Tavannes, l'Estoile, De Retz, Saint Simon, Villars, Madame de la Fayette, Richelieu ; and he then begs to have a course of poetic reading marked out for him.
6“ In the first place, what have you read ?”—“ Voltaire, Parny, Bertin, Demoustier, Legouvé, Colardeau.” “ Good.
Forget the whole of them. Read, in antiquity, Homer; amongst the Romans, Virgil; in the middle
Dante. It is living marrow that I am now prescribing for you.” “ And amongst the moderns ?”. “Ronsard, Mathurin, Regnier, Milton, Goethe, Úhland, Byron, Lamartine, Victor Hugo, and, above all, a little volume about to appear entitled “ André Chenier.” 1
Dumas' first publication was a volume containing three novels, entitled • Nouvelles Contemporaines.' He sold four copies, neither more nor less, and having contributed 300 francs (borrowed money) towards the printing, began to turn over in his mind the suggestions of an intelligent publisher : •Make yourself a name and I will print for you:'-• There (he continues) was the entire question. Make oneself
This is the condition imposed on every man who ever made himself one. This is the condition which at the moment when it was imposed on him, he has asked himself despairingly how he was to fulfil. And yet he has fulfilled it. I am no believer in unknown talent, in undiscovered genius. There were reasons for the suicide of Escousse and Lebras. It is a hard thing to say, but neither one nor the other of these two poor madmen, if he had lived, would have had at the end of twenty years of work, the reputation which the epitaph of Beranger conferred upon them.* I therefore seriously set about making myself a name, to sell my books and not print them again at half profits.'
It was as dramatist that he was resolved to make the desiderated name; and the time was singularly opportune, for the innovating and vivifying influences which had transformed and elevated the literature of the Restoration were on the point of extending to the stage,--that stage which had survived the monarchy, survived the republic, survived the first empire, and might have survived the second but for the united and co-operating energies of two master spirits, of whom Dumas took the lead. "Well, M. de Fontanes, have you found me a poet ?' was the habitual demand of the would-be Augustus every time ne met his improvised Mæcenas. The answer was uniformly in the negative : poetry could not be made to order; poets would not be forthcoming, like armed legions, at the stamp of the iron heel of a despot. Yet they began to crop up abundantly as soon as they were allowed to breathe freely : Their
names gave present promise of the immense reverberation they were to produce in the future. Lamartine, Hugo, De Vigny, Sainte Beuve, Méry, Scribe, Barbier, Alfred de Musset, Balzac—these fed with their sap or rather with their blood that large and unique spring of poetry at which the whole nineteenth century, France, Europe, the universe, were to drink. But the movement was not only in this pleiad: an entire soldiery were engaged, co-operating in a
* Escousse and Lebras were two young men who, on the failure of a small piece at a minor theatre, shut themselves up in a garret with a pan of charcoal and suffocated themselves. Escousse left in prose and verse pathetic appeals to the press to do justice to his memory, and especially to state that “ Escousse killed himself because he felt his place was not here, because the love of glory did not snfficiently animate his soul, if he had a soul."
general * •France, Social, Literary, Political,' By Henry Lytton Bulwer, Esq., M.P, In two volumes. London, 1834.
general work by particular attacks : it was who should batter the old poetry in breach. Dittmer and Cavé published the Soirées de Neuilly: Vitot, the Barricades and the Etats de Blois : Merimée the “Theatre de Clara Gazul.” And observe well that all this was beside the theatre, beside the acting drama, beside the real struggle. The real struggle, it was myself and Hugo—I am speaking chronologically-who were about to engage in it.'
This claim is recognised and confirmed by Sir Henry Bulwer (Lord Dalling), writing in the height of the contest between the Classicists and Romanticists, intimately acquainted with both schools and fully imbued with the spirit of the period :
* This (the age of Louis Quatorze) was a great period of the human mind, and, from this period to our own, tragedy has taken but one giant stride. The genius which governed the theatre stood unappalled, when the genius that had founded the throne lay prostrate. The reign of Robespierre did not disturb the rule of Racine. The republican Chenier, erect and firm before the tyranny of Bonaparte, bowed before the tyranny of the Academy. The translations of Ducis were an homage to the genius of Shakspeare but no change in the dramatic art. In M. Delavigne you see the old school modernized but it is the old school. I pass by M. de Vigny who has written “ La Maréchale d'Ancre:” I pass by M. Soulier, who has written “Clotilde :" I pass by the followers to arrive at the chiefs of the new drama, M. Victor Hugo and M. Alexandre Dumas.'
The bare definition of the rival schools went far in popular opinion to decide the merits of the controversy. “Romanticism,' says Beyle, “is the art of presenting a people with the literary works which, in the actual condition of their habits and modes of faith, are capable of affording them the greatest possible amount of pleasure. Classicism, on the contrary, presents them with the literature which afforded the greatest possible amount of pleasure to their great grandfathers.' It was a clear gain to the dramatist to be emancipated from the rigid observance of the unities, to be free to choose subjects from modern history or the ordinary walks of life, to drape them appropriately, and make them talk naturally, instead of being tied down to Greek and Roman models, or rather what passed for Greek and Roman amongst the courtiers of the Grand Monarque. But a revolution in literature and art is as difficult to moderate as a revolution in government: it is idle to play Canute, and say “thus far shalt thou go and no farther’ to the advancing waves of thought: we must take the evil with the good ; and it was Victor Hugo him.self who drew a parallel between the excesses of the Reign of
Terror and what he called the nightmares of the new school, asthe necessities or inevitable results of progress. The extravagance to which they pushed their doctrine may be collected from the fact that, on the night of their crowning triumph after the first representation of • Henri Trois,' a party of them formed a ring by joining hands in the foyer of the Theatre Français, and danced round the bust of Racine, shouting in chorus, 'Enfoncé, Racine ! Enfoncè, Racine !' Dumas, to do him justice, never lost his reverence for the best classic models, and in the first of his accepted dramas, ' Christine,' he was obviously still trammelled by their rules. The representation of this play was indefinitely postponed through a theatrical intrigue, which is amusingly detailed in the Memoirs
• What happened to me during this period of suspense. One of those accidents which only happen to the predestined gave me the subject of Henri Trois as another had given me the subject of Christine. The only cupboard in my bureau was common to Ferisse (his fellowclerk) and me. In it, I kept my paper : he, his bottles. One day whether by inadvertence or to establish the superiority of his rights, he took away the key of this cupboard. Having three or four documents to transcribe, and being out of paper, I repaired to the accountant's office to get some.
A volume of Anquetil lay open upon a desk: I cast my eyes mechanically on the page and read what follows.'
Wi he read was a scene between the Duc de Guise and the Duchesse, in which the Duc com pels her to choose between the dagger and the bowl. This led Dumas to study the domestic history of the pair and the manners of the period. The result was the play familiar to English readers as 'Catherine of Cleves.' It succeeded, and deserved to succeed : the historical portraits were true and life-like; the tone and manners in perfect keeping with the times; and the leading scenes admirably adapted for effect. The part of the Duchess was played by Mademoiselle Mars, who was the tyrant of the green-room as well as the queen of the stage:
“ After the reading, I was summoned to the director's cabinet, where I found Mademoiselle Mars, who began with that sort of brutality which was habitual to her!—“Ah, it is you? We must take care not to make the same betises as in Christine.' What betises, Madame?”—“ In the distribution of parts.”—“ True, I had the honour of giving you the part of Christine, and you have not acted it.”- “ That may be: there is a good deal to be said on that subject; but I promise you I will play that of the Duchess of Guise." —“Then, you take it ? ”.
Was it not intended for me?” -“ Certainly, Madame.”—“ Well then.”. “ Therefore I thank you most sincerely.” Now, the Duc de Guise.
To whom do you give the Duc de Guise ?”
_“. Of course.
They differ upon this part and two or three others which Dumas refuses to her friends-
““ So far so good: now for the page. I play three scenes with him. I give you fair warning that I insist on some one who suits me for this part.”—“ There is Madame Menjaud, who will play it to admiration.”—“Madame de Menjaud has talent, but she wants the physical qualities for the part.”—“Oh, this is too much! And doubtless this part is given too ?”—“ Yes Madame, it is, to Mademoiselle Louise Despreaux." “ Choose her for a page !" Why not? Is she not pretty? -“ Oh yes, but it is not enough to be pretty.”
“ Has she not talent?”—“It may come in time; but make that little girl play the page!” “I am ready to listen to any good reason why she should not." -“Well then, see her in tights; and you will see that she is horribly knockkneed.”
'I made my bow and took my departure, leaving Mademoiselle Mars stupefied. It was the first time an author had held out against her. I must confess, however, that the legs of my page kept running in my head.' The young lady turned out an unexceptional page in all respects ; and Dumas explains that the real objection to her was her youth. Mademoiselle Mars at fifty-one did not wish to be brought into close contact with sweet seventeen. From the moment Dumas took up the position of —
Some youth his parents' wishes doom'd to cross,
Who pens a stanza when he should engross, his official superiors lost no opportunity of finding fault with him, and at length the Duc d'Orleans was overpersuaded to write against his name: Supprimer les gratifications de M. Alexandre Dumas, qui s'occupe de littérature. Unabashed by this marked disapproval, Dumas, the day before the first performance of his play, boldly presented himself at the Palais Royal and demanded to speak with his royal master. Under the belief that he came by appointment, he was admitted.
6“So, M. Dumas, it is you. What good wind brings you or rather brings you back?”—“Monseigneur, Henri Trois'is to be brought out to-morrow, and I came to ask a favour or rather an act of justice, to attend my first representation. During a full year passed since your Highness has been assured that I am 'a vain, headstrong, foolislı fellow: during a full year I have maintained that I am a humble and hardworking poet: you have sided, without hearing me, with my accusers. Haply your Highness should have waited : your Highness judged differently and has not waited. To-morrow the cause comes before the public to be judged. Be present, Monseigneur,
the judgment. This is the prayer I am come to prefer.