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““With the greatest pleasure," replied the Prince, after a brief hesitation, “but unluckily it is impossible, judge for yourself. I have twenty or thirty princes and princesses to dinner to morrow.” “Does your Highness believe that the first performance of · Henri Trois' would be a curious spectacle to offer to these princes and princesses ? ” “How can I offer to them ? The dinner is at six and the performance begins at seven.”—“ Let Monseigneur put on the dinner an hour, I will put off · Henri Trois' an hour. Your Highness will have three hours to satisfy the appetites of your august guests." where shall I put them, I have only three boxes?"_“I have requested the administration not to dispose of the gallery till I should have seen your Highness.” “ You took for granted then that I should consent to attend.”_“I reckoned on your justice. .. Monseigneur, I appeal to Philip sober." This was published, and passed unchallenged, when Philip
the throne. The house was crowded with princes and notabilities : twenty louis were given for a box. The fate of the piece hung on the third act, especially on the scene where the Duc, grasping his wife's wrist with his gauntletted hand, compels her to write the note of assignation to Saint Megrin. This scene raised cries of terror, but simultaneously elicited thunders of applause: it was the first time that dramatic scenes of such force, I may also say of such brutality, had been risked upon the boards.' At the conclusion of the third act, he hurries off to the sickbed of his mother, and returns just in time to witness a complete success and receive the enthusiastic congratulations of his friends. Few men have seen so rapid a change operated in their life as was operated in mine during the five hours that the representation lasted. Completely unknown the evening before, I was the talk of all Paris, for evil or for good, on the morrow. There are enmities, enmities of persons I have never seen, enmities that date from the obtrusive noise made by my name at this epoch. There are friendships, too, that date from it. How many envied me this evening, who little thought that I passed the night on a mattress by the bedside of my dying mother.'
The Duc d'Orleans (Louis Philippe) was present at the second representation also, and called Dumas to his box. After the expected compliments and congratulations, he was informed that he had nearly got his royal patron into a scrape
"“ How so, Monseigneur ?” “Why, apropos of your drama. The king (Charles X.) sent for me yesterday, and began : * Mon Cousin (laying a marked emphasis on our relationship), I am told that you have in your employment a young man who has written a play in which we both have parts, I that of Henri Trois, and you that of the Duc de Guise.'”_“Your highness might have replied that this young
man was no longer in your employment." "No, I declined saying what was not true, for I retain you.” I replied, "Sire, you have been misinformed for three reasons. The first is that I do not use personal violence to my wife; the second, that she is not unfaithful to me; the third, that your Majesty has no more faithful subject than myself.' Is not this a better reply than the one you suggested to me ?”
An attempt was made to prevent the second representation of the piece through the censorship, and, on this failing, a formal protest against its admission into the repertory of the Theatre Français, signed by seven men of letters more or less eminent, was presented to the King, who replied, in terms no doubt suggested by his Minister, Martignac:
6“Messieurs : Je ne puis rien pour ce que vous desirez; je n'ai, comme tous les Français, qu'uno place au parterre."
The utmost that could be urged against the originality of this play was that two or three incidents had been borrowed and turned to good account. The act of violence by which the Duc de Guise extorts the signature of his wife was probably suggested by the scene in “The Abbot' between Lord Lindsay and Queen Mary. In • The Conspiracy of Venice,' Fiesco's suspicions are excited by finding his wife's handkerchief wet with tears in a room which she and Calcagno have just left; and the Duchesse de Guise's handkerchief, found in a compromising spot, is what first turns the Duc's suspicions on her lover. This incident gave rise to the following epigram, preserved by Lord Dalling :
• Messieurs et Mesdames, cette pièce est morale,
On peut oublier tout-excepté son mouchoir.' Although the accusation of immorality was unscrupulously brought against the chiefs of the romantic school, they were not inore open to it than the classicists in regard to the choice of subjects, so long as these were taken from history. The most repulsive subject ever chosen by either of them, that of La Tour de Nesle' for example, was not more repulsive than that of • Medea' or “Edipus;' and neither Lucrece Borgia nor Marion Delorme could be put to shame by Phèdre, who sums up her ruling passion in one line :
• C'est Venus tout entière à sa proie attachée.' A plot laid in the middle ages, in a corrupt French or Italian court, should be judged by the same rules as one laid in Thebes or Colchis. Nor should a poet or dramatist be summarily condemned for immorality, merely because he describes immoral actions, or brings immoral characters on the stage, so long as these are true to nature and correct representatives of their epoch, with its passions, its vices, and its crimes. Dramas can no more be compounded entirely of virtue, than revolutions can be made with rose-water. It was when Dumas abandoned the past for the present, forsook romance for reality, chose his heroes and heroines from modern life, and bade us sympathise with their perverted notions of right and wrong, their systematic defiance of all social ties, their sensuality, and their selfishness,, when, in short, he dressed up the nineteenth century in a livery of heroism, turned up with assassination and incest,' that he justly fell within the critic's ban, and gave point to the most stinging epigram levelled at his school :
“A croire ces Messieurs, on ne trouve dans les rues,
Que des enfants trouvés et des femmes perdues.' In his drama of Antony' he set all notions of morality at defiance; yet his bitterest opponents were obliged to confess that it bore the strongest impress of originality, and that its faults were quite as much those of the epoch, of the applauding public, as of the author. “It contains,' says one of them, badly put together, illogical and odious as it is, scenes of touching sensibility and intense pathos. “It is perhaps the play, says Lord Dalling, ‘in which the public have seen most to admire. The plot is simple, the action rapid; each act contains an event, and each event develops the character, and tends to the catastrophe.'
Antony is a man formed after the Byronic model, gloomy and saturnine, whose birth (illegitimate) and position are a mystery. He is in love with Adèle, a young lady of family and fortune, who returns his passion, but not venturing to propose to her, he suddenly disappears, and is absent for three years ; at the end of which he returns to find her the wife of Colonel d'Hervey, with a daughter.
In the first Act an opportune accident causes him to be domiciled in her house whilst her husband is away. * Explanations take place. He eloquently expatiates on his love, his heartbroken condition, his despair; and Adèle, distrusting her own powers of prolonged resistance, suddenly gives him the slip, orders post-horses, and makes the best of her way to join the Colonel at Frankfort. She is pursued by Antony, who passes her on the road, arrives first at the little inn at which she is
Apropos of plagiarism, this mode of bringing the lover under the conjugal roof is employed by Charles de Bernard in his fascinating novel, “ Gerfault.'
compelled to sleep for want of post-horses, and makes arrangements as to rooms, which may be collected froin the result.
Adèle. Jamais il n'est arrivé d'accident dans cet hotel ? L'Hotesse. Jamais ... Si Madame veut, je ferai veiller quelqu'un ?
Adèle. Non, non ... au fait, pardon ... laissez-moi ... (Elle rentre dans le cabinet et ferme la porle).
Antony parait sur le balcon, derrière la fenêtre, casse un carreau, passe son bras, ouvre l'espagnolette, entre vivement, et va mettre le verrou à la porte par laquelle est sortie l'hotesse.
Adèle (sortant du cabinet). Du bruit ... un homme ... ah!...
Antony. Silence !... (La prenant dans ses bras et lui mettant un mouchoir sur la bouche.) C'est moi.... moi, Antony ... (Il l'entraine dans le cabinet).'
This is the end of the third Act. In the fourth, the lovers are again in Paris and suffering tortures from the sarcasms and covert allusions of their social circle, in which their inn adventure has got wind. Antony, hearing that the Colonel will arrive within the hour, has only just time to prepare Adèle for the meeting. We borrow Lord Dalling's translation of the catastrophe:
* Adèle. Oh! it's he. ... Oh! my God! my God ! Have pity on me ! pardon, pardon!
Antony. Come, it is over now !
Adele. Somebody's coming upstairs somebody rings. It's my husband-fly, fly!
Antony (fastening the door). Not I-I fly not ... Listen! ... You said just now that you did not fear death.
Adèle. No, no Oh! kill me, for pity's sake.
knees. (A voice from without, “ Open, open ! break open the door !") Antony. And in thy last breath thou wilt not curse thy assassin ? Adèle. I'll bless him— but be quick ... that door.
Antony. Fear nothing! death shall be here before any one. But reflect on it well--death!
Adèle. I beg it-wish it-implore it throwing herself into his arms) -I come to seek it.
Antony (kissing her). Well then, die.
(At the same moment the door is forced open, Col. d'Hervey rushes on the stage.)
SCENE IV. Col. d'Hervey, Antony, Adèle, and different serrants. Col. d'Hervey. Wretch !- What do I see ?- Adèle ! Antony. Dead, yes, dead !—she resisted me, and I assassinated her. (He throws his dagger at the Colonel'8 feet.)'
In point of conventional delicacy or propriety, the action of this play is not more objectionable than · La Grand Duchesse,' and even the concluding scene of the third Act is not more hazardous than the critical one in “Tartuffe,' nor than the famous scene in "Les Intimes,' which, after an unavailing remonstrance from our decorous and esteemed Lord Chamberlain, Mademoiselle Fargueil played not many weeks since, in her own manner, to one of the most aristocratic audiences which this metropolis could supply. But the profound immorality, the ingrained corruption and perversion of principle, the .mockery of sensibility, which pervade · Antony,' and struck a sympathetic chord' in a highly cultivated audience (half the notabilities of Paris being present at the first representation) are positively startling. There is nothing to idealise ; nothing to throw a delusive halo over vice; not a particle of ennobling passion
* That exquisite passion-ay, exquisite, even
In the ruin its madness too often hath made,
The heaven of virtue, from which it has strayed.' What one redeerning quality has Adèle, who only shrinks from remaining under the conjugal roof, and affecting innocence, for fear of discovery? What one redeeming quality has Antony, if we except the nerve to perpetrate crime and the courage to face the criminal court ? He is hard, selfish, material, brutal throughout; and the crowning atrocity is an absurdity. There is a charming novel by Count de Jarnac in which the hero endures torture, and is ready to endure death, rather than compromise a woman. This is natural and (it is to be hoped) not very improbable. But how could Antony hope to silence a scandal, which was already the talk of Paris, by deepening it? What human being would believe that he had killed his known, almost avowed, mistress for resisting him! But the French mind, or rather the mind of the French play-going public, is so constituted that a moral paradox or sentimental extravagance fascinates them, and they will applaud impulsively whatever creates a sensation or excites, however false or foolish in conception or in act. And that public, when · Antony' was brought out, was still fevered and disordered, still seething and surging, from the Revolution of July. The subversive spirit was in the ascendant: established rules and principles had shared the fate of established institutions: the legitimate drama had fallen with the legitimate monarchy; and the Academy was at a discount like the throne.