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Art. I.-Souvenirs d'un Sexagénaire. Par A. V. Arnault, de
l'Académie Française. 4 vols. Paris. 1833. HERE, at last, we have something genuine; and after the
long series of fabricated memoirs with which the Parisian press has so impudently and dishonestly wearied and cheated the public, we meet with some degree of satisfaction a work of this class, which really is what it professes to be. The praise of not being a fraud is but small; and yet we can say little more in recommendation of these volumes. The substantive matter is trivial, the facts are few and inaccurately stated, the opinions are strongly marked with prejudice and partiality, the style is laboured and affected; and, on the whole, we are obliged to pronounce these to be, of genuine memoirs, the very worst we
M. Arnault himself is a very uninteresting personage : at two or three periods of his life he contrived to obtain a temporary celebrity; but, except some retired actor of the old Théâtre Français, or some surviving twaddler of the Café Procope, we doubt whether any one can have the least curiosity about M. Arnault. He, indeed, seems to have had some suspicion of this sort, for he takes merit to himself for affising to his work the humble character of Souvenirs rather than the more important and responsible title of Memoirs. The distinction is correct enough, and his practice follows his theory. Memoirs imply an account of the dicta et gesta of the writer himself; while the wider scope of Souvenirs - Reminiscences--enables the author to swell out his volumes into a history, private, political, and literary, of all that has passed in the world since his own birth—with descriptions of all the places he may have ever visited -and biographical characters of every man he has ever chanced to see, coloured or discoloured according to his own passions or partialities. M. Arnault's Memoirs could hardly have occupied a single volume, while the Souvenirs of the earlier half of his life have already filled four octavos, and the sequel bids fair, at bis rate of going, to fill six or eight more.
M. Arnault is justly indignant against modern memoir-writers, who, as he says, make a traffic of self, and sell themselves and
VOL. LI. NO. CI.
their names to book-makers; and he tells us, with some indignation, that
• One of the most accredited editors of those romances, which are now published daily under the title of memoirs,--after buying the manuscript of an author who, having brought a history of self into the market, expressed a desire to revise his own work-replied, “ That's my affair--leave it to me- - I'll arrange all that, I'll do for
you what I do for the others; for between ourselves, my friend, as to memoirs, I publish none that I don't make.”' ?-p. vi.
Our reviews of the soi-disant Memoirs of Louis XVIII. and Lè. Vasseur * have already let our readers into this secret, and have, we have reason to hope, checked, not only in England, but even in France, this disreputable manufacture, or at least (which is eventually the same thing) diminished its profits; and we are not sorry to have, from M. Arnault, additional evidence of the audacity of this system of fabrication, We are tempted on this subject to relate an anecdote :-Soon after our review of the Memoirs. of Louis XVIII. reached Paris, a literary friend wrote to say that he wondered we should have taken so much pains to expose an imposture which tout le monde (at Paris) avait déjà apprécié. This induced us to look a little closer to the fact, and we found that if tout le monde had indeed discovered the work to be a forgery, tout le monde had obligingly held his tongue till four tivraisons (of two volumes each) had plundered the pockets of tout le monde. Nay, we know that M. de Talleyrand—who is, we suppose, no insignificant component part of tout le monde--was, up to the publication of our review, quoted as an authority for the authenticity of the Royal Memoirs ; and the work was proceeding, full swing, without having produced from the Parisian literary world anything like doubt or contradiction.
And even now, although the circulation has been absolutely stopped in England, and checked in all well-informed circles on the continent, we believe that the authors and editors, though they have not ventured to say a word in their defence, ne se tiennent pas pour battus, and are still busy with similar manufactures. We shall not be inattentive to their proceedings, and shall again endeavour, whenever the occasion shall present itself, to save our readers, and the Parisian tout le monde, from paying tribute to the audacious cupidity of those ' accredited editors who publish no memoirs but what they themselves manufacture.'+
But * See Quarterly Review, Nos. XCVI., Art. VII.; and XCVII., Art. II.
+ We hardly think it worth while to bestow even a note upon a specimen of this sort of manufacture which has been placed on our table as we write: it is entitled • Soirées d'Abbotsford, Chroniques et Nouvelles, recueillies dans les salons de Walter Scott. Paris. Librairie de Dumont. 1834. 8vo. Pp. 344.' The preface con