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544 ALEXANDRE DUMAS.
Thank you. I wrote ; the General looked at me." make the magnitude of his labors inI had written but a few words when he clapped his comprehensible, event o friends who canhands, exclaiming, We are safe!'. How so ? You not divine at what hour or in what time write a beautiful hand.' I let my head fall on my he accomplishes them.” His beautiful bosom; I had no power to hold it up. A beautiful hand! that was all I could boast. *A brevet d'in- handwriting, in other respects, stood him capacité, oh! il était bien à moi. A beautiful in good stead. For two years the Duke hand! 'I might then one day hope to be a clerk. of Orleans never sent à dispatch to a What a future opened before me I could willing- crowned head that was not transcribed by ly have cut off my right hand.”
his pen; soon the mechanical task of copy
ing became so easy, that while his fingers General Foy continued, without appearing rapidly ran to and fro, he could give the to perceive what passed in his mind: “I reins to his imagination, and wander in the dine to-day with the Duke of Orleans; I favorite regions of thought; and in due will speak to him about you. Sit there. time, his salary was raised to 1500 franes, Draw up a petition, and write as well as with a possible “gratification” of 250 at you can. Dumas silently obeyed, and, the the year's end. There was yet one thing petition finished, he was invited to come that seriously impeded his progress; it was back to breakfast the next morning, and necessary to study society as well as literlearn the particulars of its reception. ature, but the engagements of the evening
With the morrow Dumas did not fail to effectually prevented his doing both. A return, and the first word of the General, representation of his wishes to M. Oudard, as he opened the door, reassured his hopes. the chef de bureau, ultimately succeeded The affair had been arranged-he was at in removing even this impediment, and he once to enter the sécrétariat of the Duke was transferred to another department as a supernumerary, at a salary of 1200 where he might leave his desk at an ear francs. “It was not much,” added the lier hour. The friendly voice of his felGeneral; “ but he must work, and remem- low clerks had warned him against the ber his promise to study.” Breakfast was mention of literature in the presence of joyously dispatched over this good news, his superiors, who deemed its cultivation and a letter as gladly written to announce as a profession incompatible with the disit to his mother. This done, he bounded charge of the duties due to themselves. to the Palais Royal, and the same day was They were prudent counsellors; for Duinstalled in his office. There was no rea- mas found his rash avowals exposed him son to despair-“Béranger could not com- to suspicion, and stood not unfrequently mand more money when he entered the in the way of his advancement. Å third university.” His hours of work-business, change-into the Direction des Forêtsfrom half past ten to five o'clock, and from threw him again under the authority of seven to ten during the evening, left him Deviolane, one of his oldest masters in the little time for systematic study; but he set country, and one who had never scrupled himself vigorously to carry out his resolu- to denounce his unfortunate subordinate tions, and the advice of two congenial com as a worthless dreamer. A series of squabpanions whom he found in the office con-bles was the inevitable result. But Ditributed greatly to his encouragement. mas, in the interim, had gained immeasura He knew sufficient Latin to go on without bly upon his former self. He had grown help, and he bought with what remained familiar with the illustrious names that of his little store of francs, a “Juvenal,” a adorned the age; had watched the glitter“Tacitus,” and a “Suetonius.” Geogra- ing constellation, and already fancied be phy he made his recreation, and under the saw the star of his own fortune beaming guidance of a young physician, he sought out in brilliance among them; Chateauan acquaintance with chemistry and phys- briand, and Nodier, and Delavigne, and iology. His iron constitution enabled him Scribe, and Lamartine, and Hugo, and to supplement the limited leisure of the de Vigny—a long and miscellaneous scroll, day by long hours at night. Then, he in- the champions of a buried past, the herald forms us, began that protracted struggle of a glorious future-men who had fought of his will with circumstances, which, hav- and won and faded in their strength-athing at first no settled object, ended by letes beating the air in the energy of leaving him the victor; and in those fever- youth; and he longed to write himself be ish watches of the midnight, he contracted side them. The circle of his acquaintance, habits, which, having never been lost, ever extending, included some of the most
popular, if not the greatest, dramatists of read, I devoured the foreign repertoire, and I perthe day; so that he was well fortified ceived that in the dramatic world everything ema within and without against the complaints nated from Shakspeare as in the natural worl. of his obstinate superior. The range of everything emanated from the sun ; that no one
could be compared to him, for he was as dramatic his studies gradually widened; and new
as Corneille, as concise as Molière, as original as elements of power were continually dis- Calderon, as thoughtful as Goethe, as impassioned closed. He read Scott, and Cooper, and as Schiller. I perceived that his works by themByron-his “brother in poverty, at least ;'' selves embraced more types of character than the he followed with intense eagerness the works of all others united. I perceived, in fine, fluctuating conflict between the classic that he was the one who, after God, had created and romantic schools of art — that reac- I felt that that speciality to which every man is
most. Thenceforward my vocation was decided ; tion against the accepted laws of criticism called, was opened to me ; I had a confidence in which was the necessary supplement of po- myself that till then had failed me, and I launched litical revolution. Translations from the out boldly towards the future against which I had English and German dramatists—though always feared I should dash myself to pieces." too frequently verifying the Italian proverb, traduttere traditore-evinced the “It is men, and not man, who create,” progress of the movement on the stage; and Dumas, therefore, conscious of the nor were there wanting men in each de- difficulties that beset the career he now partment to represent the various shades embraced, began by a still more diligent of opinion that passed across the public culture to prepare to overcome them. He mind.
read Shakspeare, Corneille, Molière, CalThis inner life of the student endured deron, Goethe, and Schiller-analyzed, for three years, without leading to any and produced, and experimented, till he positive result — without his producing believed himself possessed of the secret anything, or even, as he assures us, feeling of their power. But what are we to think the impulse to compose. The construc- of this direct inspiration? Was the mantion of the ordinary drama, and even the tle of the great bard caught by his admirspirit of its dialogues, was alien to his ing follower, or is the whole story as much tastes; and the contemplation of such an exaggeration of fact as it is of language works only deepened the conviction of his ruse to cover the disciple with the inability to rival them. Not yet had he glory of his master? Granted the imdivined a more_excellent way. About pulse given, it is still impossible to reconthis time some English actors arrived in cile this praise of the English actors with Paris. Hamlet, the favorite of his boy- his praise of Talma ; nor can we forget hood, was announced for representation, that if then the “call” of destiny spoke and Dumas, of course, took his place in the trumpet-tongued to ear and heart, the pit. Let the effect be described in his ambition of his youth, as testified by many own words:
a fruitless effort, had pointed throughout “: Imagine a man born blind, whose sight is re- lier endeavors were at length about to ap
in the same direction. Indeed, these earstored, who discovers an entire world of which he had no idea ; imagine Adam awaking after his pear in tangible form. The pressure of creation, and finding the enamelled earth under his poverty continued to be felt--a spur feet, over his head the glowing sky, around him that pricked the sides of his intent.” His trees of golden fruit, in the distance a river, a broad collaboration with De Leuwen availing and beautiful silver stream, by his side a young nothing, he induced Rosseau, a writer of and lovely woman; and you will have an idea of the enchanted Eden, the door of which this repre. with them; and the first fruits of this new
more skill and experience, to co-operate sentation opened to me. Oh, this then was what I sought, what I wanted, and what was to come ;
association was a vaudeville, “La Chasse it was these men of the theatre, forgetting that et L'Amour,” that was played with great they are in a theatre ; it was this factitious life success at the Ambigu theatre, and, for by force of art approaching actual life ; it was the first time in the life of Dumas, raised this reality in word and gesture which made the the question of the rights of authors. actors the creatures of God with their virtues, These he found to consist in twelve francs passions, weaknesses, instead of affected, spiritless, a night and six places in the theatreranting, and sententious heroes. Oh, Shakspeare, , merci ! Oh, Kemble et Smithson,
merci! Merci equivalent, when shared among the three, à mon Dieu ! merci à mes anges de poésie.
to six francs a day. Overjoyed with his * I thus saw Romeo, Virgivius, Shylock, William good fortune, he was nevertheless not Tell, Othello ; I saw Macready, Kean, Young. I slow to avail himself of a suggestion of his
VOL. XXXVII.-10. IV.
wary comrade, and to sell his interest in | act with trembling voice; the second and the performance to one of those speculators each succeeding one with greater confipeculiar to the French theatre for fifty dence. The piece was approved, and he francs. Another vaudeville followed with went away with a lightsome step. Three similar success; but an attempt to com- days later he was seated in the green bine with Soulié, who had just translated room with all the grandees of the Théâtre “Romeo and Juliet,” in some more seri- Français listening round him: the drama ous work, failed altogether.
was received with acclamation. “I went Not long after the appearance of the out of the theatre,” writes Dumas, "elated English actors in Paris, Dumas chanced and proud as when my first mistress said to visit the Exposition of Sculpture. A to me, I love thee. I made my way along group, representing Christine ordering the the street, measuring every one who passassassination of Monaldeschi, struck his ed from head to foot, as much as to say, attention, and suggested the idea of a tra- "You!-you have not written "Christine!" gedy. A plan was quickly sketched, and -you are not going from the Théâtre in four months “ Christine” was finished. Français-you are not received by acclaEvery moment that could be snatched mation!-and in my joyous absence of from the mechanical duties of the office mind, I made an attempt to jump over —and the rapidity with which he wielded some water, and fell in the midst; I did his pen made him master of many—was not see the carriages, and ran into the devoted to its composition, and three days horses. On reaching home, I had lost my rebellious absence in consequence of a col manuscript; but it was all the same to me lision with his superior, that nearly ended -I knew it by heart.” in his expulsion, were pressed into the ser- The next morning the newspapers anvice, and materially contributed towards nounced the reception of the drama, and its completion.
for the first time the name of Dumas made “Whilst I was at the secretariat (says Dumas), a noise in the world. The news spread to where I went to the office at ten o'clock in the the Palais Royal, and was whispered from morning, I did not go away till the evening, then room to room, so that when the author returning at eight not to leave again till ten— appeared, his chef de bureau alone was when I traversed eight times a day the road from silent. He could not forget the hours 55 in the Faubourg St. Denis to 216 in the Rue stolen from the desk. From that time it St. Honoré--I was so wearied that I could sel
was an open war; the strictest surveillance dom work in an upright posture. I laid down and went to sleep, having arranged my work on and if at any time found away from his
was exercised over the reckless truant, the table near my bed. I slept for two hours, and at midnight my mother awoke me that she post, his absence was immediately report. might rest in her turn. Then I used to work as ed to the Directeur-General. The “graI lay; and to this lying-down work I became so tifications,” then due, but in their nature accustomed, that for a long time after I obtained dependent upon the good behavior and my liberty I continued it whenever I composed diligence of the subordinate, were in his for the theatre. .. I also contracted the
case withheld. No martyr ever endured habit of writing my dramas in an inverted hand. This habit I have not lost like the other, and
a more vigilant persecution; "but,” says even now I have one sort of writing for my dra. Dumas, with customory profanity, “God mas and another for my romances.”
gave me strength to support all this, and
God only knows what I suffered.” Still, “Christine" finished, the great question why this ready blame of so natural a prowas how to get it played ? It so hap- cedure? His neglect of duty is punished; pened that at one of his first visits to the his intellectual efforts are rewarded. Were theatre, Dumas had sat beside Charles it not that all things and men were bound Nodier, and been honored with his con- to perceive his genius, and smooth the way versation. He resolved to turn the inter- for its regal progress, who could dispute view to good account, and remembering the justice of his fate? Nodier's intimacy with Baron Taylor, the Some months passed, and the petty inroyal commissaire of the Théâtre Français, trigues of the green room intervened to wrote requesting him to solicit a “read- prevent “Christine” being brought on the ing” for his drama. The answer came stage. Dumas, therefore, resolved to from Taylor himself, appointing an hour commence another work, and happening to meet him at his house. Prompt to the to read a passage relating to the assassitime, Dumas was there. He read the first nation of St. Megrim, the subject so commended itself that he at once made it the sentation of 'Henri III.' my poor mother, crushbasis of his tragedy. In three months ed by chagrin and anxiety, was attacked by a “ Henri III.” was finished, and received frightful apoplexy, which nearly ended in death, with enthusiasm, which this time Dumas and from which she only escaped with the loss of
an arm and a limb.
Let any one judge of my did not allow to cool. He urged that one
position, placed as I was, between my mother at or other of his dramas should be imme- death's door, and my piece ready to be played ; diately played, and the choice fell upon there all my past, here all my future ; on the one the last made. Two hours a-day were hand all my hope, on the other all my heart." stolen from the Palais Royal for the rehearsals, till his impatient " chef” became The day of the representation arrived. exasperated, and he was at last given to Dumas went to the Duke of Orleans, and understand that he must choose between begged him to assist at the solemn strug. his piece and his place.
gle that was to decide the “to be or not
to be” of his life. His Royal Highness “I answered (writes Dumas) that I held my had a number of the nobility engaged to place from the Duke of Orleans, and that in him dine with him; but it was arranged that alone did I recognize any right to take it from he should not only come himself, but bring me ; that as to my salary, it cost the budget 125 his guests with him. The day was passed francs a month, that was another thing ; I offered to renounce it. This offer was accepted. From by the bedside of his mother; the eventhat day I ceased to receive my salary, but also ing found him in the theatre just as the ceased to go to the office, to the great alarm of curtain rose. The coup d'oeil was brilliant my poor mother. This alarm, it is true, had been in the extreme. The first gallery was awakened, and was cherished by the officious thronged with princes, starred with the opinions that certain persons charitably gave her, orders of five or six different nations; the the general burden of which was, that my piece aristocracy crowded the boxes, and the would fail, and that I should lose my place; two women sparkled with jewels. The first prophecies
, I think, that they should have spared act was listened to attentively; at the end her years, if not her heart. These opinions produced a greater effect than even they expected, of the second the curtain fell in the midst who, under the mask of interest, made them a of applause; and from the third act to the means of revenge. Three days before the repre- I end, it was a perfect delirium of success.
I DELIGHT in a decayed old town. It is and the last bearer of the name is the still like a withered old beauty of the court of haughty widow, sitting in her faded satin, George the Third, and gives itself such airs, and lodging above a greengrocer's in a and boasts of its antediluvian conquests, narrow street, but always at the court end and its former lovers, and the sonnets of of the town; for she is utterly ignorant
of its eyebrows-poor old thing—and shakes the new terraces to the west of Tyburn, its ragged old fan, and darns its old finery; and inquires doubtfully even about the lofor it has fallen into poverty as well as age. cality of Belgrave Square. Their experiences are indeed very similar, I don't think we have any city in Engfor the maid of honor had married a disso- land exactly answering this description of lute old lord, and had dissolute children, the attendant on Queen Charlotte: for and they treated her ill and neglected her, when a town with us falls into the sere and wasted their substance with riotous and yellow leaf as a resort of fashion, living; and the old nobleman is now dead, there comes some tremendous manufactuand the sons are all likewise departed; rer of an enterprising mind, and turns the
residence of the lord-lieutenant of the been heard in every part of the city, carry. county into a mill; and another makes ing away stone, iron, earth—everything,
enormous warehouse of the great even the image of St. Fiacre, and leaving assembly room - (you see the rings of Blois “lone, sitting by the shore,” without the ceiling yet, from which the chan- the power of visiting its opposite neighdeliers hung, and if you look minutely bors. And there were many churches at there are Cupids playing the harp, imper- that golden time, all ringing out with joy. fectly hidden beneath dust and whitewash, ous bells when the town made holiday; all round the cornice); and behold! in a these are now reduced to the paltry numyear or two the streets are alive with busy ber three, and have forgotten even how to multitudes, and the air darkened (a little) pretend to look happy. But the charm with smoke; but there are reading-rooms, of all, the crowning monument of the and school-rooms, and lecture-rooms, city's splendor, was the noble Castle of where there were none before; and intel- Blois. It was a real feudal palace, built lect is at work, and there are signs of in the purest taste, vast in its extent, mag. progress and improvement; and only Miss nificent in its decorations, and giving life, Rebecca Verjuice (how sour and crabbed and wealth, and dignity to the whole she has grown!) sighs for the balls at the county. assembly in the olden time, when she met I do not speak of the time dear to the all the nobility of the district, and once hearts of patriotic Englishmen, when King even danced with a marquis (this was Stephen resided here, and probably prowhen his lordship's son was a candidate for vided himself in his native capital with the borough) and laments the change. But those expensive habiliments which Shakin France--gay, happy, gallant France- speare has not disdained to celebrate. And what'numbers of those urban celebrities what a fine touch of character it is, to there are! Charming young cities in the make that gross and coarse rival of Matilfifteenth century; beautiful, full-sized, da break forth into such vulgar reflections blooming cities in Louis the Fourteenth's on the tradesmen who supplied the clothes. time; but faded now-tattered, feeble, Not of the times of that worthy peer do never more to flourish; yet interesting in I speak, but of a more civilized and gentheir decay — venerable in their ruins; tlemanly personage, the gay and gallant with traces seen through all their decrepi- Louis the Duke of Orleans. That was the tude of their former charms. For instance climax of the grandeur and the happiness -there's Blois.
of the city. There were crowds in the What a charming situation on the Loire! streets, hundreds of retainers in the castle
a How splendidly in its gay young time it yard, knights and nobles coming in to ball displayed the inimitable beauties of its po- or tournament from Orleans or Tours, or sition! its streets rising from the water even distant visitors from Nevers or Limoedge in steeper ascent than Ryde, and ges. For Louis is young yet: this is in boasting loftier houses than Bath. Then fourteen hundred and ninety-six, and he is its bridge—wasn't that a thing to be proud only thirty-four years of age; he is planof, spanning the clearest of French rivers, ning new additions to his native château; and leading directly towards the château ? he is recovering from the disagreeable Not the great, strong, solid construction three years he had spent in a prison at of the present day with its pyramid in the Bourges, where, by the kindness of his middle, surmounted by a cross, but the sister-in-law, Anne of Beaujeu, he is locked long narrow highway which ran between up every night in an iron cage;
he is constrong parapets, and sustained on its cen- gratulating himself on his victories in the tral portion the oratory of St. Fiacre- Italian campaign of Charles the Eighth; he that saint who has since extended his pro- is consoling himself for the plainness of his tection to the fraternity of hackney coach- wife, the gentle Jeanne de Valois (who men, but was unable in seventeen hundred had been forced upon him by her father and fourteen to defend his own residence Louis the Eleventh), with noble entertainfrom the accumulated ice which on the ments to all the beauties of the country. He beaking up of the frost in that year came is doing all these things, and Blois rejoices. down in heaped up masses, shocking It even breaks out into trade in the sunagainst the piers, piling itself up over arch, shine of royal favor. The gloves of Blois over architrave, over parapet; and then become famous—whether soft and white with one great crash, which must have for the fair hands of princesses, or gaunt