Library Of The World's Best Literature, Ancient And Modern, Vol 4
Charles Dudley Warner
Part 5 out of 11
"Poetry, though one delve ever so little into his own self,
interrogate his own soul, recall his memories of enthusiasms,
has no other end than itself; it cannot have any other aim,
and no poem will be so great, so noble, so truly worthy of
the name of poem, as that which shall have been written
solely for the pleasure of writing a poem. I do not wish to
say that poetry should not ennoble manners--that its final
result should not be to raise man above vulgar interests.
That would be an evident absurdity. I say that if the poet
has pursued a moral end, he has diminished his poetic force,
and it would not be imprudent to wager that his work would be
bad. Poetry cannot, under penalty of death or forfeiture,
assimilate itself to science or morality. It has not Truth
for object, it has only itself. Truth's modes of
demonstration are different and elsewhere. Truth has nothing
to do with ballads; all that constitutes the charm, the
irresistible grace of a ballad, would strip Truth of its
authority and power. Cold, calm, impassive, the demonstrative
temperament rejects the diamonds and flowers of the muse; it
is, therefore, the absolute inverse of the poetic
temperament. Pure Intellect aims at Truth, Taste shows us
Beauty, and the Moral Sense teaches us Duty. It is true that
the middle term has intimate connection with the two
extremes, and only separates itself from Moral Sense by a
difference so slight that Aristotle did not hesitate to
class some of its delicate operations amongst the virtues.
And accordingly what, above all, exasperates the man of taste
is the spectacle of vice, is its deformity, its
disproportions. Vice threatens the just and true, and revolts
intellect and conscience; but as an outrage upon harmony, as
dissonance, it would particularly wound certain poetic minds,
and I do not think it would be scandal to consider all
infractions of moral beauty as a species of sin against
rhythm and universal prosody.
"It is this admirable, this immortal instinct of the
Beautiful which makes us consider the earth and its spectacle
as a sketch, as a correspondent of Heaven. The insatiable
thirst for all that is beyond that which life veils is the
most living proof of our immortality. It is at once by poetry
and across it, across and through music, that the soul gets a
glimpse of the splendors that lie beyond the tomb. And when
an exquisite poem causes tears to rise in the eye, these
tears are not the proof of excessive enjoyment, but rather
the testimony of a moved melancholy, of a postulation of the
nerves, of a nature exiled in the imperfect, which wishes to
take immediate possession, even on earth, of a
"Thus the principle of poetry is strictly and simply human
aspiration toward superior beauty; and the manifestation of
this principle is enthusiasm and uplifting of the
soul,--enthusiasm entirely independent of passion,--which is
the intoxication of heart, and of truth which is the food of
reason. For passion is a natural thing, even too natural not
to introduce a wounding, discordant tone into the domain of
pure beauty; too familiar, too violent, not to shock the pure
Desires, the gracious Melancholies, and the noble Despairs
which inhabit the supernatural regions of poetry."
Baudelaire saw himself as the poet of a decadent epoch, an epoch in
which art had arrived at the over-ripened maturity of an aging
civilization; a glowing, savorous, fragrant over-ripeness, that is
already softening into decomposition. And to be the fitting poet of such
an epoch, he modeled his style on that of the poets of the Latin
decadence; for, as he expressed it for himself and for the modern school
of "decadents" in French poetry founded upon his name:--
"Does it not seem to the reader, as to me, that the language
of the last Latin decadence--that supreme sigh of a robust
person already transformed and prepared for spiritual
life--is singularly fitted to express passion as it is
understood and felt by the modern world? Mysticism is the
other end of the magnet of which Catullus and his band,
brutal and purely epidermic poets, knew only the sensual
pole. In this wonderful language, solecisms and barbarisms
seem to express the forced carelessness of a passion which
forgets itself, and mocks at rules. The words, used in a
novel sense, reveal the charming awkwardness of a barbarian
from the North, kneeling before Roman Beauty."
Nature, the nature of Wordsworth and Tennyson, did not exist for
Baudelaire; inspiration he denied; simplicity he scouted as an
anachronism in a decadent period of perfected art, whose last word in
poetry should be the apotheosis of the Artificial. "A little
charlatanism is permitted even to genius," he wrote: "it is like fard on
the cheeks of a naturally beautiful woman; an appetizer for the mind."
Again he expresses himself:
"It seems to me, two women are presented to me, one a rustic
matron, repulsive in health and virtue, without manners,
without expression; in short, owing nothing except to simple
nature;--the other, one of those beauties that dominate and
oppress memory, uniting to her original and unfathomable
charms all the eloquence of dress; who is mistress of her
part, conscious of and queen of herself, speaking like an
instrument well tuned; with looks freighted with thought, yet
letting flow only what she would. My choice would not be
doubtful; and yet there are pedagogic sphinxes who would
reproach me as recreant to classical honor."
In music it was the same choice. He saw the consummate art and
artificiality of Wagner, and preferred it to all other music, at a time
when the German master was ignored and despised by a classicized musical
world. In perfumes it was not the simple fragrance of the rose or violet
that he loved, but musk and amber; and he said, "my soul hovers over
perfumes as the souls of other men hover over music."
Besides his essays and sketches, Baudelaire published in prose a
novelette; 'Fanfarlo,' 'Artificial Paradises,' opium and hashish,
imitations of De Quincey's 'Confessions of an Opium Eater'; and 'Little
Prose Poems,' also inspired by a book, the 'Gaspard de la Nuit' of
Aloysius Bertrand, and which Baudelaire thus describes:--
"The idea came to me to attempt something analogous, and to
apply to the description of modern life, or rather a modern
and more abstract life, the methods he had applied to the
painting of ancient life, so strangely picturesque. Which one
of us in his ambitious days has not dreamed of a miracle of
poetic prose, musical, without rhythm and without rhyme,
supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the
lyrical movements of the soul, to the undulations of reverie,
and to the assaults of conscience?"
Failing health induced Baudelaire to quit Paris and establish himself in
Brussels; but he received no benefit from the change of climate, and the
first symptoms of his terrible malady manifested themselves--a slowness
of speech, and hesitation over words. As a slow and sententious
enunciation was characteristic of him, the symptoms attracted no
attention, until he fell under a sudden and violent attack. He was
brought back to Paris and conveyed to a "maison de sante," where he
died, after lingering several months in a paralyzed condition,
motionless, speechless; nothing alive in him but thought, seeking to
express itself through his eyes.
The nature of Baudelaire's malady and death was, by the public at large,
accepted as confirmation of the suspicion that he was in the habit of
seeking his inspiration in the excitation of hashish and opium. His
friends, however, recall the fact of his incessant work, and intense
striving after his ideal in art; his fatigue of body and mind, and his
increasing weariness of spirit under the accumulating worries and griefs
of a life for which his very genius unfitted him. He was also known to
be sober in his tastes, as all great workers are. That he had lent
himself more than once to the physiological and psychological experiment
of hashish was admitted; but he was a rare visitor at the seances in the
saloon of the Hotel Pimodau, and came as a simple observer of others.
His masterly description of the hallucinations produced by hashish is
accompanied by analytical and moral commentaries which unmistakably
express repugnance to and condemnation of the drug:--
"Admitting for the moment," he writes, "the hypothesis of a
constitution tempered enough and strong enough to resist the
evil effects of the perfidious drug, another, a fatal and
terrible danger, must be thought of,--that of habit. He who
has recourse to a poison to enable him to think, will soon
not be able to think without the poison. Imagine the horrible
fate of a man whose paralyzed imagination is unable to work
without the aid of hashish or opium.... But man is not so
deprived of honest means of gaining heaven, that he is
obliged to invoke the aid of pharmacy or witchcraft; he need
not sell his soul in order to pay for the intoxicating
caresses and the love of houris. What is a paradise that one
purchases at the expense of one's own soul?... Unfortunate
wretches who have neither fasted nor prayed, and who have
refused the redemption of labor, ask from black magic the
means to elevate themselves at a single stroke to a
supernatural existence. Magic dupes them, and lights for them
a false happiness and a false light; while we, poets and
philosophers, who have regenerated our souls by incessant
work and contemplation, by the assiduous exercise of the will
and permanent nobility of intention, we have created for our
use a garden of true beauty. Confiding in the words that
'faith will remove mountains,' we have accomplished the one
miracle for which God has given us license."
The perfect art-form of Baudelaire's poems makes translation of them
indeed a literal impossibility. The 'Little Old Women,' 'The Voyage,'
'The Voyage to Cytherea,' 'A Red-haired Beggar-girl,' 'The Seven Old
Men,' and sonnet after sonnet in 'Spleen and Ideal,' seem to rise only
more and more ineffable from every attempt to filter them through
another language, or through another mind than that of their original,
and, it would seem, one possible creator.
[Illustration: Manuscript signature here: Grace King]
Be pitiful, my sorrow--be thou still:
For night thy thirst was--lo, it falleth down,
Slowly darkening it veils the town,
Bringing its peace to some, to some its ill.
While the dull herd in its mad career
Under the pitiless scourge, the lash of unclean desire,
Goes culling remorse with fingers that never tire:--
My sorrow,--thy hand! Come, sit thou by me here.
Here, far from them all. From heaven's high balconies
See! in their threadbare robes the dead years cast their eyes:
And from the depths below regret's wan smiles appear.
The sun, about to set, under the arch sinks low,
Trailing its weltering pall far through the East aglow.
Hark, dear one, hark! Sweet night's approach is near.
Translated for the 'Library of the World's Best Literature.'
THE DEATH OF THE POOR
This is death the consoler--death that bids live again;
Here life its aim: here is our hope to be found,
Making, like magic elixir, our poor weak heads to swim round,
And giving us heart for the struggle till night makes end of the pain.
Athwart the hurricane--athwart the snow and the sleet,
Afar there twinkles over the black earth's waste,
The light of the Scriptural inn where the weary and the faint may
The sweets of welcome, the plenteous feast and the secure retreat.
It is an angel, in whose soothing palms
Are held the boon of sleep and dreamy balms,
Who makes a bed for poor unclothed men;
It is the pride of the gods--the all-mysterious room,
The pauper's purse--this fatherland of gloom,
The open gate to heaven, and heavens beyond our ken.
Translated for the 'Library of the World's Best Literature.'
[Illustration: _Copyright 1895, by the Photographische Gesellschaft_]
_MUSIC_. Photogravure from a Painting by J.M. Strudwick.
Sweet music sweeps me like the sea
Toward my pale star,
Whether the clouds be there or all the air be free
I sail afar.
With front outspread and swelling breasts,
On swifter sail
I bound through the steep waves' foamy crests
Under night's veil.
Vibrate within me I feel all the passions that lash
A bark in distress:
By the blast I am lulled--by the tempest's wild crash
On the salt wilderness.
Then comes the dead calm--mirrored there
I behold my despair.
Translated for the 'Library of the World's Best Literature.'
THE BROKEN BELL
Bitter and sweet, when wintry evenings fall
Across the quivering, smoking hearth, to hear
Old memory's notes sway softly far and near,
While ring the chimes across the gray fog's pall.
Thrice blessed bell, that, to time insolent,
Still calls afar its old and pious song,
Responding faithfully in accents strong,
Like some old sentinel before his tent.
I too--my soul is shattered;--when at times
It would beguile the wintry nights with rhymes
Of old, its weak old voice at moments seems
Like gasps some poor, forgotten soldier heaves
Beside the blood-pools--'neath the human sheaves
Gasping in anguish toward their fixed dreams.
Translated for the 'Library of the World's Best Literature.'
The two poems following are used by permission of the J.B. Lippincott
My youth swept by in storm and cloudy gloom,
Lit here and there by glimpses of the sun;
But in my garden, now the storm is done,
Few fruits are left to gather purple bloom.
Here have I touched the autumn of the mind;
And now the careful spade to labor comes,
Smoothing the earth torn by the waves and wind,
Full of great holes, like open mouths of tombs.
And who knows if the flowers whereof I dream
Shall find, beneath this soil washed like the stream,
The force that bids them into beauty start?
O grief! O grief! Time eats our life away,
And the dark Enemy that gnaws our heart
Grows with the ebbing life-blood of his prey!
Translation of Miss Katharine Hillard.
Beautiful am I as a dream in stone;
And for my breast, where each falls bruised in turn,
The poet with an endless love must yearn--
Endless as Matter, silent and alone.
A sphinx unguessed, enthroned in azure skies,
White as the swan, my heart is cold as snow;
No hated motion breaks my lines' pure flow,
Nor tears nor laughter ever dim mine eyes.
Poets, before the attitudes sublime
I seem to steal from proudest monuments,
In austere studies waste the ling'ring time;
For I possess, to charm my lover's sight,
Mirrors wherein all things are fair and bright--
My eyes, my large eyes of eternal light!
Translation of Miss Katharine Hillard.
Ho, Death, Boatman Death, it is time we set sail;
Up anchor, away from this region of blight:
Though ocean and sky are like ink for the gale,
Thou knowest our hearts are consoled with the light.
Thy poison pour out--it will comfort us well;
Yea--for the fire that burns in our brain
We would plunge through the depth, be it heaven or hell,
Through the fathomless gulf--the new vision to gain.
Translated for the 'Library of the World's Best Literature.'
THE PAINTER OF MODERN LIFE
From 'L'Art Romantique'
The crowd is his domain, as the air is that of the bird and the water
that of the fish. His passion and his profession is "to wed the crowd."
For the perfect _flaneur_, for the passionate observer, it is an immense
pleasure to choose his home in number, change, motion, in the fleeting
and the infinite. To be away from one's home and yet to be always at
home; to be in the midst of the world, to see it, and yet to be hidden
from it; such are some of the least pleasures of these independent,
passionate, impartial minds which language can but awkwardly define. The
observer is a prince who everywhere enjoys his incognito. The amateur of
life makes the world his family, as the lover of the fair sex makes his
family of all beauties, discovered, discoverable, and indiscoverable, as
the lover of painting lives in an enchanted dreamland painted on canvas.
Thus the man who is in love with all life goes into a crowd as into an
immense electric battery. One might also compare him to a mirror as
immense as the crowd; to a conscious kaleidoscope which in each movement
represents the multiform life and the moving grace of all life's
elements. He is an ego insatiably hungry for the non-ego, every moment
rendering it and expressing it in images more vital than life itself,
which is always unstable and fugitive. "Any man," said Mr. G---- one
day, in one of those conversations which he lights up with intense look
and vivid gesture, "any man, not overcome by a sorrow so heavy that it
absorbs all the faculties, who is bored in the midst of a crowd is a
fool, a fool, and I despise him."
When Mr. G---- awakens and sees the blustering sun attacking the
window-panes, he says with remorse, with regret:--"What imperial order!
What a trumpet flourish of light! For hours already there has been light
everywhere, light lost by my sleep! How many lighted objects I might
have seen and have not seen!" And then he starts off, he watches in its
flow the river of vitality, so majestic and so brilliant. He admires the
eternal beauty and the astonishing harmony of life in great cities, a
harmony maintained in so providential a way in the tumult of human
liberty. He contemplates the landscapes of the great city, landscapes of
stone caressed by the mist or struck by the blows of the sun. He enjoys
the fine carriages, the fiery horses, the shining neatness of the
grooms, the dexterity of the valets, the walk of the gliding women, of
the beautiful children, happy that they are alive and dressed; in a
word, he enjoys the universal life. If a fashion, the cut of a piece of
clothing has been slightly changed, if bunches of ribbon or buckles have
been displaced by cockades, if the bonnet is larger and the back hair a
notch lower on the neck, if the waist is higher and the skirt fuller, be
sure that his eagle eye will see it at an enormous distance. A regiment
passes, going perhaps to the end of the earth, throwing into the air of
the boulevards the flourish of trumpets compelling and light as hope;
the eye of Mr. G---- has already seen, studied, analyzed the arms, the
gait, the physiognomy of the troop. Trappings, scintillations, music,
firm looks, heavy and serious mustaches, all enters pell-mell into him,
and in a few moments the resulting poem will be virtually composed. His
soul is alive with the soul of this regiment which is marching like a
single animal, the proud image of joy in obedience!
But evening has come. It is the strange, uncertain hour at which the
curtains of the sky are drawn and the cities are lighted. The gas throws
spots on the purple of the sunset. Honest or dishonest, sane or mad, men
say to themselves, "At last the day is at an end!" The wise and the
good-for-nothing think of pleasure, and each hurries to the place of his
choice to drink the cup of pleasure. Mr. G---- will be the last to leave
any place where the light may blaze, where poetry may throb, where life
may tingle, where music may vibrate, where a passion may strike an
attitude for his eye, where the man of nature and the man of convention
show themselves in a strange light, where the sun lights up the rapid
joys of fallen creatures! "A day well spent," says a kind of reader whom
we all know, "any one of us has genius enough to spend a day that way."
No! Few men are gifted with the power to see; still fewer have the power
of expression. Now, at the hour when others are asleep, this man is bent
over his table, darting on his paper the same look which a short time
ago he was casting on the world, battling with his pencil, his pen, his
brush, throwing the water out of his glass against the ceiling, wiping
his pen on his shirt,--driven, violent, active, as if he fears that his
images will escape him, a quarreler although alone,--a cudgeler of
himself. And the things he has seen are born again upon the paper,
natural and more than natural, beautiful and more than beautiful,
singular and endowed with an enthusiastic life like the soul of the
author. The phantasmagoria have been distilled from nature. All the
materials with which his memory is crowded become classified, orderly,
harmonious, and undergo that compulsory idealization which is the result
of a childlike perception, that is to say, of a perception that is keen,
magical by force of ingenuousness.
Thus he goes, he runs, he seeks. What does he seek? Certainly this man,
such as I have portrayed him, this solitary, gifted with an active
imagination, always traveling through the great desert of mankind, has a
higher end than that of a mere observer, an end more general than the
fugitive pleasure of the passing event. He seeks this thing which we may
call modernness, for no better word to express the idea presents itself.
His object is to detach from fashion whatever it may contain of the
poetry in history, to draw the eternal from the transitory. If we glance
at the exhibitions of modern pictures, we are struck with the general
tendency of the artists to dress all their subjects in ancient costumes.
That is obviously the sign of great laziness, for it is much easier to
declare that everything in the costume of a certain period is ugly than
to undertake the work of extracting from it the mysterious beauty which
may be contained in it, however slight or light it may be. The modern is
the transitory, the fleeting, the contingent, the half of art, whose
other half is the unchanging and the eternal. There was a modernness for
every ancient painter; most of the beautiful portraits which remain to
us from earlier times are dressed in the costumes of their times. They
are perfectly harmonious, because the costumes, the hair, even the
gesture, the look and the smile (every epoch has its look and its
smile), form a whole that is entirely lifelike. You have no right to
despise or neglect this transitory, fleeting element, of which the
changes are so frequent. In suppressing it you fall by necessity into
the void of an abstract and undefinable beauty, like that of the only
woman before the fall. If instead of the costume of the epoch, which is
a necessary element, you substitute another, you create an anomaly which
can have no excuse unless it is a burlesque called for by the vogue of
the moment. Thus, the goddesses, the nymphs, the sultans of the
eighteenth century are portraits morally accurate.
FROM 'LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE'
EVERY ONE HIS OWN CHIMERA
Under a great gray sky, in a great powdery plain without roads, without
grass, without a thistle, without a nettle, I met several men who were
walking with heads bowed down.
Each one bore upon his back an enormous Chimera, as heavy as a bag of
flour or coal, or the accoutrements of a Roman soldier.
But the monstrous beast was not an inert weight; on the contrary, it
enveloped and oppressed the man with its elastic and mighty muscles; it
fastened with its two vast claws to the breast of the bearer, and its
fabulous head surmounted the brow of the man, like one of those horrible
helmets by which the ancient warriors hoped to increase the terror of
I questioned one of these men, and I asked him whither they were bound
thus. He answered that he knew not, neither he nor the others; but that
evidently they were bound somewhere, since they were impelled by an
irresistible desire to go forward.
It is curious to note that not one of these travelers looked irritated
at the ferocious beast suspended from his neck and glued against his
back; it seemed as though he considered it as making part of himself.
None of these weary and serious faces bore witness to any despair; under
the sullen cupola of the sky, their feet plunging into the dust of a
soil as desolate as that sky, they went their way with the resigned
countenances of those who have condemned themselves to hope forever.
The procession passed by me and sank into the horizon's atmosphere,
where the rounded surface of the planet slips from the curiosity of
human sight, and for a few moments I obstinately persisted in wishing to
fathom the mystery; but soon an irresistible indifference fell upon me,
and I felt more heavily oppressed by it than even they were by their
At the feet of a colossal Venus, one of those artificial fools, those
voluntary buffoons whose duty was to make kings laugh when Remorse or
Ennui possessed their souls, muffled in a glaring ridiculous costume,
crowned with horns and bells, and crouched against the pedestal, raised
his eyes full of tears toward the immortal goddess. And his eyes
said:--"I am the least and the most solitary of human beings, deprived
of love and of friendship, and therefore far below the most imperfect of
the animals. Nevertheless, I am made, even I, to feel and comprehend the
immortal Beauty! Ah, goddess! have pity on my sorrow and my despair!"
But the implacable Venus gazed into the distance, at I know not what,
with her marble eyes.
He who looks from without through an open window never sees as many
things as he who looks at a closed window. There is no object more
profound, more mysterious, more rich, more shadowy, more dazzling than a
window lighted by a candle. What one can see in the sunlight is always
less interesting than what takes place behind a blind. In that dark or
luminous hole life lives, dreams, suffers.
Over the sea of roofs I see a woman, mature, already wrinkled, always
bent over something, never going out. From her clothes, her movement,
from almost nothing, I have reconstructed the history of this woman, or
rather her legend, and sometimes I tell it over to myself in tears.
If it had been a poor old man I could have reconstructed his story as
And I go to bed, proud of having lived and suffered in lives not my own.
Perhaps you may say, "Are you sure that this story is the true one?"
What difference does it make what is the reality outside of me, if it
has helped me to live, to know who I am and what I am?
One should be always drunk. That is all, the whole question. In order
not to feel the horrible burden of Time, which is breaking your
shoulders and bearing you to earth, you must be drunk without cease.
But drunk on what? On wine, poetry, or virtue, as you choose. But get
And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace, on the green grass of a
moat, in the dull solitude of your chamber, you awake with your
intoxication already lessened or gone, ask of the wind, the wave, the
star, the clock, of everything that flies, sobs, rolls, sings, talks,
what is the hour? and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock
will answer, "It is the hour to get drunk!" Not to be the martyred slave
of Time, get drunk; get drunk unceasingly. Wine, poetry, or virtue, as
FROM A JOURNAL
I swear to myself henceforth to adopt the following rules as the
everlasting rules of my life.... To pray every morning to God, the
Fountain of all strength and of all justice; to my father, to Mariette,
and to Poe. To pray to them to give me necessary strength to accomplish
all my tasks, and to grant my mother a life long enough to enjoy my
reformation. To work all day, or at least as long as my strength lasts.
To trust to God--that is to say, to Justice itself--for the success of
my projects. To pray again every evening to God to ask Him for life and
strength, for my mother and myself. To divide all my earnings into four
parts--one for my daily expenses, one for my creditors, one for my
friends, and one for my mother. To keep to principles of strict
sobriety, and to banish all and every stimulant.
BY ISA CARRINGTON CABELL
Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, born in London, December, 1804;
died there April 19th, 1881. His paternal ancestors were of the house of
Lara, and held high rank among Hebrew-Spanish nobles till the tribunal
of Torquemada drove them from Spain to Venice. There, proud of their
race and origin, they styled themselves, "Sons of Israel," and became
merchant princes. But the city's commerce failing, the grandfather of
Benjamin Disraeli removed to London with a diminished but comfortable
fortune. His son, Isaac Disraeli, was a well-known literary man, and the
author of 'The Curiosities of Literature.' On account of the political
and social ostracism of the Jews in England, he had all his family
baptized into the Church of England; but with Benjamin Disraeli
especially, Christianity was never more than Judaism developed. His
belief and his affections were in his own race.
[Illustration: Lord Beaconsfield]
Benjamin, like most Jewish youths, was educated in private schools, and
at seventeen entered a solicitor's office. At twenty-two he published
'Vivian Grey' (London, 1826), which readable and amusing take-off of
London society gave him great and instantaneous notoriety. Its minute
descriptions of the great world, its caricatures of well-known social
and political personages, its magnificent diction,--too magnificent to
be taken quite seriously,--excited inquiry; and the great world was
amazed to discover that the impertinent observer was not one of
themselves, but a boy in a lawyer's office. To add to the audacity, he
had conceived himself the hero of these diverting situations, and by his
cleverness had outwitted age, beauty, rank, diplomacy itself.
Statesmen, poets, fine ladies, were all genuinely amused; and the author
bade fair to become a lion, when he fell ill, and was compelled to leave
England for a year or more, which he spent in travel on the Continent
and in Egypt, Nubia, and Palestine. His visit to the birthplace of his
race made an impression on him that lasted through his life and
literature. It is embodied in his 'Letters to His Sister' (London,
1843), and the autobiographical novel 'Contarini Fleming' (1833), in
which he turned his adventures into fervid English, at a guinea a
volume. But although the spirit of poesy, in the form of a Childe
Harold, stalks rampant through the romance, there is both feeling and
fidelity to nature whenever he describes the Orient and its people. Then
the bizarre, brilliant _poseur_ forgets his role, and reveals his
When Disraeli returned to London he became the fashion. Everybody, from
the prime minister to Count D'Orsay, had read his clever novels. The
poets praised them, Lady Blessington invited him to dine, Sir Robert
Peel was "most gracious."
But literary success could never satisfy Disraeli's ambition: a seat in
Parliament was at the end of his rainbow. He professed himself a
radical, but he was a radical in his own sense of the term; and like his
own Sidonia, half foreigner, half looker-on, he felt himself endowed
with an insight only possible to, an outsider, an observer without
Several contemporary sketches of Disraeli at this time have been
preserved. His dress was purposed affectation; it led the beholder to
look for folly only: and when the brilliant flash came, it was the more
startling as unexpected from such a figure. Lady Dufferin told Mr.
Motley that when she met Disraeli at dinner, he wore a black-velvet coat
lined with satin, purple trousers with a gold band running down the
outside seam, a scarlet waistcoat, long lace ruffles falling down to the
tips of his fingers, white gloves with several rings outside, and long
black ringlets rippling down his shoulders. She told him he had made a
fool of himself by appearing in such a dress, but she did not guess why
it had been adopted. Another contemporary says of him, "When duly
excited, his command of language was wonderful, his power of sarcasm
He was busy making speeches and writing political squibs for the next
two years; for Parliament was before his eyes. "He knew," says Froude,
"he had a devil of a tongue, and was unincumbered by the foolish form of
vanity called modesty." 'Ixion in Heaven,' 'The Infernal Marriage,' and
'Popanilla' were attempts to rival both Lucian and Swift on their own
ground. It is doubtful, however, whether he would have risked writing
'Henrietta Temple' (1837) and 'Venetia' (1837), two ardent love stories,
had he not been in debt; for notoriety as a novelist is not always a
recommendation to a constituency.
In 'Henrietta' he found an opportunity to write the biography of a lover
oppressed by duns. It is a most entertaining novel even to a reader who
does not read for a new light on the great statesman, and is remarkable
as the beginning of what is now known as the "natural" manner; a revolt,
his admirers tell us, from the stilted fashion of making love that then
prevailed in novels.
'Venetia' is founded on the characters of Byron and Shelley, and is
amusing reading. The high-flown language incrusted with the gems of
rhetoric excites our risibilities, but it is not safe to laugh at
Disraeli; in his most diverting aspects he has a deep sense of humor,
and he who would mock at him is apt to get a whip across the face at an
unguarded moment. Mr. Disraeli laughs in his sleeve at many things, but
first of all at the reader.
He failed in his canvass for his seat at High Wycombe, but he turned his
failure to good account, and established a reputation for pluck and
influence. "A mighty independent personage," observed Charles Greville,
and his famous quarrel with O'Connell did him so little harm that in
1837 he was returned for Maidstone. His first speech was a failure. The
word had gone out that he was to be put down. At last, finding it
useless to persist, he said he was not surprised at the reception he had
experienced. He had begun several things many times and had succeeded at
last. Then pausing, and looking indignantly across the house, he
exclaimed in a loud and remarkable tone, "I will sit down now, but the
time will come when you will hear me."
He married the widow of his patron, Wyndham Lewis, in 1838. This put him
in possession of a fortune, and gave him the power to continue his
political career. His radicalism was a thing of the past. He had drifted
from Conservatism, with Peel for a leader, to aristocratic socialism;
and in 1844, 1845, and 1847 appeared the Trilogy, as he styled the
novels 'Coningsby,' 'Tancred,' and 'Sibyl.' Of the three, 'Coningsby'
will prove the most entertaining to the modern reader. The hero is a
gentleman, and in this respect is an improvement on Vivian Grey, for his
audacity is tempered by good breeding. The plot is slight, but the
scenes are entertaining. The famous Sidonia, the Jew financier, is a
favorite with the author, and betrays his affection and respect for
race. Lord Monmouth, the wild peer, is a rival of the "Marquis of
Steyne" and worthy of a place in 'Vanity Fair'; the political intriguers
are photographed from life, the pictures of fashionable London tickle
both the vanity and the fancy of the reader.
'Sibyl' is too clearly a novel with a motive to give so much pleasure.
It is a study of the contrasts between the lives of the very rich and
the hopelessly poor, and an attempt to show the superior condition of
the latter when the Catholic Church was all-powerful in England and the
king an absolute monarch.
'Tancred' was composed when Disraeli was under "the illusion of a
possibly regenerated aristocracy." He sends Tancred, the hero, the heir
of a ducal house, to Palestine to find the inspiration to a true
religious belief, and details his adventures with a power of sarcasm
that is seldom equaled. In certain scenes in this novel the author rises
from a mere mocker to a genuine satirist. Tancred's interview with the
bishop, in which he takes that dignitary's religious tenets seriously;
that with Lady Constance, when she explains the "Mystery of Chaos" and
shows how "the stars are formed out of the cream of the Milky Way, a
sort of celestial cheese churned into light" the vision of the angels on
Mt. Sinai, and the celestial Sidonia who talks about the "Sublime and
Solacing Doctrine of Theocratic Equality,"--all these are passages where
we wonder whether the author sneered or blushed when he wrote. Certainly
what has since been known as the Disraelian irony stings as we turn
Meanwhile Disraeli had become a power in Parliament, and the bitter
opponent of Peel, under whom Catholic emancipation, parliamentary
reform, and the abrogation of the commercial system, had been carried
without conditions and almost without mitigations.
Disraeli's assaults on his leader delighted the Liberals; the country
members felt indignant satisfaction at the deserved chastisement of
their betrayer. With malicious skill, Disraeli touched one after another
the weak points in a character that was superficially vulnerable.
Finally the point before the House became Peel's general conduct. He was
beaten by an overwhelming majority, and to the hand that dethroned him
descended the task of building up the ruins of the Conservative party.
Disraeli's best friends felt this a welcome necessity. There is no
example of a rise so sudden under such conditions. His politics were as
much distrusted as his serious literary passages. But Disraeli was the
single person equal to the task. For the next twenty-five years he led
the Conservative opposition in the House of Commons, varied by short
intervals of power. He was three times Chancellor of the Exchequer,
1853, 1858, and 1859; and on Lord Derby's retirement in 1868 he became
In 1870, having laid aside novel-writing for twenty years, he published
'Lothair.' It is a politico-religious romance aimed at the Jesuits, the
Fenians, and the Communists. It had an instantaneous success, for its
author was the most conspicuous figure in Europe, but its popularity is
also due to its own merits. We are all of us snobs after a fashion and
love high society. The glory of entering the splendid portals of the
real English dukes and duchesses seems to be ours when Disraeli throws
open the magic door and ushers the reader in. The decorations do not
seem tawdry, nor the tinsel other than real. We move with pleasurable
excitement with Lothair from palace to castle, and thence to
battle-field and scenes of dark intrigue. The hint of the love affair
with the Olympian Theodora appeals to our romance; the circumventing of
the wily Cardinal and his accomplices is agreeable to the Anglo-Saxon
Protestant mind; their discomfiture, and the crowning of virtue in the
shape of a rescued Lothair married to the English Duke's daughter with
the fixed Church of England views, is what the reader expects and prays
for, and is the last privilege of the real story-teller. That the author
has thrown aside his proclivities for Romanism as he showed them in
'Sibyl,' no more disturbs us than the eccentricities of his politics. We
do not quite give him our faith when he is most in earnest, talking
Semitic Arianism on Mt. Sinai.
A peerage was offered to him in 1868. He refused it for himself, but
asked Queen Victoria to grant the honor to his wife, who became the
Countess of Beaconsfield. But in 1876 he accepted the rank and title of
Earl of Beaconsfield. The author of 'Vivian Grey' received the title
that Burke had refused.
His last novel, 'Endymion,' was written for the L10,000 its publishers
paid for it. It adds nothing to his fame, but is an agreeable picture of
fashionable London life and the struggles of a youth to gain power
Lord Beaconsfield put more dukes, earls, lords and ladies, more gold and
jewels, more splendor and wealth into his books than any one else ever
tried to do. But beside his Oriental delight in the display of luxury,
it is interesting to see the effect of that Orientalism when he
describes the people from whom he sprang. His rare tenderness and
genuine respect are for those of the race "that is the aristocracy of
nature, the purest race, the chosen people." He sends all his heroes to
Palestine for inspiration; wisdom dwells in her gates. Another
aristocracy, that of talent, he recognizes and applauds. No dullard ever
succeeds, no genius goes unrewarded.
It is the part of the story-teller to make his story a probable one to
the listener, no matter how impossible both character and situation. Mr.
Disraeli was accredited with the faculty of persuading himself to
believe or disbelieve whatever he liked; and did he possess the same
power over his readers, these entertaining volumes would lift him to the
highest rank the novelist attains. As it is, he does not quite succeed
in creating an illusion, and we are conscious of two lobes in the
author's brain; in one sits a sentimentalist, in the other a
[Illustration: Signature: Isa Carrington Cabell.]
A DAY AT EMS
From 'Vivian Grey'
"I think we'd better take a little coffee now; and then, if you like,
we'll just stroll into the REDOUTE" [continued Baron de Konigstein].
In a brilliantly illuminated saloon, adorned with Corinthian columns,
and casts from some of the most famous antique statues, assembled
between nine and ten o'clock in the evening many of the visitors at Ems.
On each side of the room was placed a long, narrow table, one of which
was covered with green baize, and unattended, while the variously
colored leather surface of the other was very closely surrounded by an
interested crowd. Behind this table stood two individuals of very
different appearance. The first was a short, thick man, whose only
business was dealing certain portions of playing cards with quick
succession, one after the other; and as the fate of the table was
decided by this process, did his companion, an extremely tall, thin man,
throw various pieces of money upon certain stakes, which were deposited
by the bystanders on different parts of the table; or, which was more
often the case, with a silver rake with a long ebony handle, sweep into
a large inclosure near him the scattered sums. This inclosure was called
the bank, and the mysterious ceremony in which these persons were
assisting was the celebrated game of _rouge-et-noir._ A deep silence was
strictly observed by those who immediately surrounded the table; no
voice was heard save that of the little, short, stout dealer, when,
without an expression of the least interest, he seemed mechanically to
announce the fate of the different colors. No other sound was heard save
the jingle of the dollars and napoleons, and the ominous rake of the
tall, thin banker. The countenances of those who were hazarding their
money were grave and gloomy their eyes were fixed, their brows
contracted, and their lips projected; and yet there was an evident
effort visible to show that they were both easy and unconcerned. Each
player held in his hand a small piece of pasteboard, on which, with a
steel pricker, he marked the run of the cards, in order, from his
observations, to regulate his own play: the _rouge-et-noir_ player
imagines that chance is not capricious. Those who were not interested in
the game promenaded in two lines within the tables; or, seated in
recesses between the pillars, formed small parties for conversation.
As Vivian and the baron entered, Lady Madeleine Trevor, leaning on the
arm of an elderly man, left the room; but as she was in earnest
conversation, she did not observe them.
"I suppose we must throw away a dollar or two, Grey!" said the baron, as
he walked up to the table.
"My dear De Konigstein--one pinch--one pinch!"
"Ah! marquis, what fortune to-night?"
"Bad--bad! I have lost my napoleon: I never risk further. There's that
cursed crusty old De Trumpetson, persisting, as usual, in his run of bad
luck, because he will never give in. Trust me, my dear De Konigstein,
it'll end in his ruin; and then, if there's a sale of his effects, I
shall perhaps get the snuff-box--a-a-h!"
"Come, Grey; shall I throw down a couple of napoleons on joint account?
I don't care much for play myself; but I suppose at Ems we must make up
our minds to lose a few louis. Here! now for the red--joint
"There's the archduke! Let us go and make our bow; we needn't stick at
the table as if our whole soul were staked with our crown pieces--we'll
make our bow, and then return in time to know our fate." So saying, the
gentlemen walked up to the top of the room.
"Why, Grey!--surely no--it cannot be--and yet it is. De Boeffleurs, how
d'ye do?" said the baron, with a face beaming with joy, and a hearty
shake of the hand. "My dear, dear fellow, how the devil did you manage
to get off so soon? I thought you were not to be here for a fortnight:
we only arrived ourselves to-day."
"Yes--but I've made an arrangement which I did not anticipate; and so I
posted after you immediately. Whom do you think I have brought with me?"
"Ah! And the count?"
"Follows immediately. I expect him to-morrow or next day. Salvinski is
talking to the archduke; and see, he beckons to me. I suppose I am going
to be presented."
The chevalier moved forward, followed by the baron and Vivian.
"Any friend of Prince Salvinski I shall always have great pleasure in
having presented to me. Chevalier, I feel great pleasure in having you
presented to me! Chevalier, you ought to be proud of the name of
Frenchman. Chevalier, the French are a grand nation. Chevalier, I have
the highest respect for the French nation."
"The most subtle diplomatist," thought Vivian, as he recalled to mind
his own introduction, "would be puzzled to decide to which interest his
imperial highness leans."
The archduke now entered into conversation with the prince, and most of
the circle who surrounded him. As his highness was addressing Vivian,
the baron let slip our hero's arm, and seizing hold of the Chevalier de
Boeffleurs, began walking up and down the room with him, and was soon
engaged in very animated conversation. In a few minutes the archduke,
bowing to his circle, made a move and regained the side of a Saxon lady,
from whose interesting company he had been disturbed by the arrival of
Prince Salvinski--an individual of whose long stories and dull romances
the archduke had, from experience, a particular dread; but his highness
was always very courteous to the Poles.
"Grey, I've dispatched De Boeffleurs to the house to instruct the
servant and Ernstorff to do the impossible, in order that our rooms may
be all together. You'll be delighted with De Boeffleurs when you know
him, and I expect you to be great friends. Oh! by the by, his unexpected
arrival has quite made us forget our venture at _rouge-et-noir._ Of
course we're too late now for anything; even if we had been fortunate,
our doubled stake, remaining on the table, is of course lost; we may as
well, however, walk up." So saying, the baron reached the table.
"That is your excellency's stake!--that is your excellency's stake!"
exclaimed many voices as he came up.
"What's the matter, my friends? what's the matter?" asked the baron,
"There's been a run on the red! there's been a run on the red!
and your excellency's stake has doubled each time. It has been
4--8--16--32--64--128--256; and now it's 512!" quickly rattled a little
thin man in spectacles, pointing at the same time to his unparalleled
line of punctures. This was one of those officious, noisy little men,
who are always ready to give you unasked information on every possible
subject, and who are never so happy as when they are watching over the
interest of some stranger, who never thanks them for their unnecessary
Vivian, in spite of his philosophy, felt the excitement and wonder of
the moment. He looked very earnestly at the baron, whose countenance,
however, remained perfectly unmoved.
"Grey," said he, very coolly, "it seems we're in luck."
"The stake's then not all your own?" very eagerly asked the little man
"No, part of it is yours, sir," answered the baron, very dryly.
"I'm going to deal," said the short, thick man behind. "Is the board
"Your excellency then allows the stake to remain?" inquired the tall,
thin banker, with affected nonchalance.
"Oh! certainly," said the baron, with real nonchalance.
"Three--eight--fourteen--twenty-four--thirty-four, Rouge 34--"
All crowded nearer; the table was surrounded five or six deep, for the
wonderful run of luck had got wind, and nearly the whole room were round
the table. Indeed, the archduke and Saxon lady, and of course the silent
suite, were left alone at the upper part of the room. The tall banker
did not conceal his agitation. Even the short, stout dealer ceased to be
a machine. All looked anxious except the baron. Vivian looked at the
table; his excellency watched, with a keen eye, the little dealer. No
one even breathed as the cards descended. "Ten--twenty--" here the
countenance of the banker brightened--"twenty-two--twenty-five--
twenty-eight--thirty-one'--Noir 31. The bank's broke; no
more play to-night. The roulette table opens immediately."
In spite of the great interest which had been excited, nearly the whole
crowd, without waiting to congratulate the baron, rushed to the opposite
side of the room in order to secure places at the roulette table.
"Put these five hundred and twelve Napoleons into a bag," said the
baron; "Grey, this is your share, and I congratulate you. With regard to
the other half, Mr. Hermann, what bills have you got?"
"Two on Gogel's house of Frankfort--accepted of course--for two hundred
and fifty each, and these twelve napoleons will make it right," said the
tall banker, as he opened a large black pocket-book, from which he took
out two small bits of paper. The baron examined them, and after having
seen them indorsed, put them calmly into his pocket, not forgetting the
twelve napoleons; and then taking Vivian's arm, and regretting extremely
that he should have the trouble of carrying such a weight, he wished Mr.
Hermann a very good-night and success at his roulette, and walked with
his companion quietly home. Thus passed a day at Ems!
THE FESTA IN THE "ALHAMBRA"
From 'The Young Duke'
You entered the Alhambra by a Saracenic cloister, from the ceiling of
which an occasional lamp threw a gleam upon some Eastern arms hung up
against the wall. This passage led to the armory, a room of moderate
dimensions, but hung with rich contents. Many an inlaid
breastplate--many a Mameluke scimitar and Damascus blade--many a gemmed
pistol and pearl embroided saddle might there be seen, though viewed in
a subdued and quiet light. All seemed hushed and still, and shrouded in
what had the reputation of being a palace of pleasure.
In this chamber assembled the expected guests. His Grace and the Bird of
Paradise arrived first, with their foreign friends. Lord Squib and Lord
Darrell, Sir Lucius Grafton, Mr. Annesley, and Mr. Peacock Piggott
followed, but not alone. There were two ladies who, by courtesy if no
other right, bore the titles of Lady Squib and Mrs. Annesley. There was
also a pseudo Lady Aphrodite Grafton. There was Mrs. Montfort, the
famous _blonde_, of a beauty which was quite ravishing, and dignified
as beautiful. Some said (but really people say such things) that there
was a talk (I never believe anything I hear) that had not the Bird of
Paradise flown in (these foreigners pick up everything), Mrs. Montfort
would have been the Duchess of St. James. How this may be I know not;
certain, however, this superb and stately donna did not openly evince
any spleen at her more fortunate rival. Although she found herself a
guest at the Alhambra instead of being the mistress of the palace,
probably, like many other ladies, she looked upon this affair of the
singing-bird as a freak that must end--and then perhaps his Grace, who
was a charming young man, would return to his senses. There also was
her sister, a long, fair girl, who looked sentimental, but was only
silly. There was a little French actress, like a highly finished
miniature; and a Spanish _danseuse_, tall, dusky, and lithe, glancing
like a lynx, and graceful as a jennet.
Having all arrived, they proceeded down a small gallery to the
banqueting-room. The doors were thrown open. Pardon me if for a moment I
do not describe the chamber; but really, the blaze affects my sight. The
room was large and lofty. It was fitted up as an Eastern tent. The walls
were hung with scarlet cloth tied up with ropes of gold. Round the room
crouched recumbent lions richly gilt, who grasped in their paw a lance,
the top of which was a colored lamp. The ceiling was emblazoned with the
Hauteville arms, and was radiant with burnished gold. A cresset lamp was
suspended from the centre of the shield, and not only emitted an equable
flow of soft though brilliant light, but also, as the aromatic oil
wasted away, distilled an exquisite perfume.
The table blazed with golden plate, for the Bird of Paradise loved
splendor. At the end of the room, under a canopy and upon a throne, the
shield and vases lately executed for his Grace now appeared. Everything
was gorgeous, costly, and imposing; but there was no pretense, save in
the original outline, at maintaining the Oriental character. The
furniture was French; and opposite the throne Canova's Hebe, by
Bertolini, bounded with a golden cup from a pedestal of _ormolu_.
The guests are seated; but after a few minutes the servants withdraw.
Small tables of ebony and silver, and dumb-waiters of ivory and gold,
conveniently stored, are at hand, and Spiridion never leaves the room.
The repast was most refined, most exquisite, and most various. It was
one of those meetings where all eat. When a few persons, easy and
unconstrained, unincumbered with cares, and of dispositions addicted to
enjoyment, get together at past midnight, it is extraordinary what an
appetite they evince. Singers also are proverbially prone to gormandize;
and though the Bird of Paradise unfortunately possessed the smallest
mouth in all Singingland, it is astonishing how she pecked! But they
talked as well as feasted, and were really gay. It was amusing to
observe--that is to say, if you had been a dumb-waiter, and had time for
observation--how characteristic was the affectation of the women. Lady
Squib was witty, Mrs. Annesley refined, and the pseudo Lady Afy
fashionable. As for Mrs. Montfort, she was, as her wont, somewhat
silent but excessively sublime. The Spaniard said nothing, but no doubt
indicated the possession of Cervantic humor by the sly calmness with
which she exhausted her own waiter and pillaged her neighbors. The
little Frenchwoman scarcely ate anything, but drank champagne and
chatted, with equal rapidity and equal composure.
"Prince," said the duke, "I hope Madame de Harestein approves of your
trip to England?"
The prince only smiled, for he was of a silent disposition, and
therefore wonderfully well suited his traveling companion.
"Poor Madame de Harestein!" exclaimed Count Frill. "What despair she was
in when you left Vienna, my dear duke. Ah! _mon Dieu!_ I did what I
could to amuse her. I used to take my guitar, and sing to her morning
and night, but without the least effect. She certainly would have died
of a broken heart, if it had not been for the dancing-dogs."
"The dancing-dogs!" minced the pseudo Lady Aphrodite. "How shocking!"
"Did they bite her?" asked Lady Squib, "and so inoculate her with
"Oh! the dancing-dogs, my dear ladies! everybody was mad about the
dancing-dogs. They came from Peru, and danced the mazurka in green
jackets with a _jabot!_ Oh! what a _jabot!_"
"I dislike animals excessively," remarked Mrs. Annesley.
"Dislike the dancing-dogs!" said Count Frill. "Ah, my good lady, you
would have been enchanted. Even the kaiser fed them with pistachio nuts.
Oh, so pretty! delicate leetle things, soft shining little legs, and
pretty little faces! so sensible, and with such _jabots!_"
"I assure you, they were excessively amusing," said the prince, in a
soft, confidential undertone to his neighbor, Mrs. Montfort, who,
admiring his silence, which she took for state, smiled and bowed with
"And what else has happened very remarkable, count, since I left you?"
asked Lord Darrell.
"Nothing, nothing, my dear Darrell. This _betise_ of a war has made us
all serious. If old Clamstandt had not married that gipsy little
Dugiria, I really think I should have taken a turn to Belgrade."
"You should not eat so much, poppet," drawled Charles Annesley to the
"Why not?" said the little French lady, with great animation, always
ready to fight anybody's battle, provided she could get an opportunity
to talk. "Why not, Mr. Annesley? You never will let anybody eat--I never
eat myself, because every night, having to talk so much, I am dry, dry,
dry--so I drink, drink, drink. It is an extraordinary thing that there
is no language which makes you so thirsty as French. I always have heard
that all the southern languages, Spanish and Italian, make you hungry."
"What can be the reason?" seriously asked the pseudo Lady Afy.
"Because there is so much salt in it," said Lord Squib.
"Delia," drawled Mr. Annesley, "you look very pretty to-night!"
"I am charmed to charm you, Mr. Annesley. Shall I tell you what Lord Bon
Mot said of you?"
"No, _ma mignonne_! I never wish to hear my own good things."
"_Spoiled_, you should add," said Lady Squib, "if Bon Mot be in the
"Lord Bon Mot is a most gentlemanly man," said Delia, indignant at an
admirer being attacked. "He always wants to be amusing. Whenever he
dines out, he comes and sits with me half an hour to catch the air of
"And you tell him a variety of little things?" asked Lord Squib,
insidiously drawing out the secret tactics of Bon Mot.
"_Beaucoup, beaucoup_," said Delia, extending two little white hands
sparkling with gems. "If he come in ever so--how do you call it?
heavy--not that--in the domps--ah! it is that--if ever he come in the
domps, he goes out always like a _soufflee._"
"As empty, I have no doubt," said Lady Squib.
"And as sweet, I have no doubt," said Lord Squib; "for Delcroix
complains sadly of your excesses, Delia."
"Mr. Delcroix complain of me! That, indeed, is too bad. Just because I
recommended Montmorency de Versailles to him for an excellent customer,
ever since he abuses me, merely because Montmorency has forgot, in the
hurry of going off, to pay his little account."
"But he says you have got all the things," said Lord Squib, whose great
amusement was to put Delia in a passion.
"What of that?" screamed the little lady. "Montmorency gave them to
"Don't make such a noise," said the Bird of Paradise. "I never can eat
when there is a noise. St. James," continued she, in a fretful tone,
"they make such a noise!"
"Annesley, keep Squib quiet."
"Delia, leave that young man alone. If Isidora would talk a little more,
and you eat a little more, I think you would be the most agreeable
little ladies I know. Poppet! put those _bonbons_ in your pocket. You
should never eat sugar-plums in company."
Thus talking agreeable nonsense, tasting agreeable dishes, and sipping
agreeable wines, an hour ran on. Sweetest music from an unseen source
ever and anon sounded, and Spiridion swung a censer full of perfumes
around the chamber. At length the duke requested Count Frill to give
them a song. The Bird of Paradise would never sing for pleasure, only
for fame and a slight check. The count begged to decline, and at the
same time asked for a guitar. The signora sent for hers; and his
Excellency, preluding with a beautiful simper, gave them some slight
thing to this effect:--
Charming Bignetta! charming Bignetta!
What a gay little girl is charming Bignetta!
She dances, she prattles,
She rides and she rattles;
But she always is charming--that charming Bignetta!
Charming Bignetta! charming Bignetta!
What a wild little witch is charming Bignetta!
When she smiles I'm all madness;
When she frowns I'm all sadness;
But she always is smiling--that charming Bignetta!
Charming Bignetta! charming Bignetta!
What a wicked young rogue is charming Bignetta!
She laughs at my shyness,
And flirts with his highness;
Yet still she is charming--that charming Bignetta!
Charming Bignetta! charming Bignetta!
What a dear little girl is charming Bignetta!
"Think me only a sister,"
Said she trembling; I kissed her.
What a charming young sister is--charming Bignetta!
He ceased; and although
To choicer music chimed his gay guitar
In Este's halls,"
as Casti himself, or rather Mr. Rose, choicely sings, yet still his song
served its purpose, for it raised a smile.
"I wrote that for Madame Sapiepha, at the Congress of Verona," said
Count Frill. "It has been thought amusing."
"Madame Sapiepha!" exclaimed the Bird of Paradise. "What! that pretty
little woman who has such pretty caps?"
"The same! Ah! what caps! _Mon Dieu!_ what taste! what taste!"
"You like caps, then?" asked the Bird of Paradise, with a sparkling eye.
"Oh! if there be anything more than other that I know most, it is the
cap. Here, _voici!_" said he, rather oddly unbuttoning his waistcoat,
"you see what lace I have got. _Voici! voici!_"
"Ah! me! what lace! what lace!" exclaimed the Bird in rapture. "St.
James, look at his lace. Come here, come here, sit next me. Let me look
at that lace." She examined it with great attention, then turned up her
beautiful eyes with a fascinating smile. "_Ah! c'est jolie, n'est-ce
pas?_ But you like caps. I tell you what, you shall see my caps.
Spiridion, go, _mon cher,_ and tell ma'amselle to bring my caps--all my
caps, one of each set."
In due time entered the Swiss, with the caps--all the caps--one of each
set. As she handed them in turn to her mistress, the Bird chirped a
panegyric upon each.
"That is pretty, is it not--and this also? but this is my favorite. What
do you think of this border? _c'est belle, cette garniture? et ce jabot,
c'est tres seduisant, n'est-ce pas? Mais voici,_ the cap of Princess
Lichtenstein. _C'est superb, c'est mon favori._ But I also love very
much this of the Duchesse de Berri. She gave me the pattern herself. And
after all, this _cornette a petite sante_ of Lady Blaze is a dear little
thing; then, again, this _coiffe a dentelle_ of Lady Macaroni is quite
"Pass them down," said Lord Squib, "we want to look at them."
Accordingly they were passed down. Lord Squib put one on.
"Do I look superb, sentimental, or only pretty?" asked his lordship.
The example was contagious, and most of the caps were appropriated. No
one laughed more than their mistress, who, not having the slightest idea
of the value of money, would have given them all away on the spot; not
from any good-natured feeling, but from the remembrance that to-morrow
she might amuse half an hour buying others.
While some were stealing, and she remonstrating, the duke clapped his
hands like a caliph. The curtain at the end of the apartment was
immediately withdrawn and the ball-room stood revealed.
It was of the same size as the banqueting-hall. Its walls exhibited a
long perspective of gilt pilasters, the frequent piers of which were
entirely of plate looking-glass, save where occasionally a picture had
been, as it were, inlaid in its rich frame. Here was the Titian Venus of
the Tribune, deliciously copied by a French artist; there, the Roman
Fornarina, with her delicate grace, beamed like the personification of
Raphael's genius. Here Zuleikha, living in the light and shade of that
magician Guercino, in vain summoned the passions of the blooming Hebrew;
and there Cleopatra, preparing for her last immortal hour, proved by
what we saw that Guido had been a lover.
The ceiling of this apartment was richly painted and richly gilt; from
it were suspended three lustres by golden cords, which threw a softened
light upon the floor of polished and curiously inlaid woods. At the end
of the apartment was an orchestra, and here the pages, under the
direction of Carlstein, offered a very efficient domestic band.
Round the room waltzed the elegant revelers. Softly and slowly, led by
their host, they glided along like spirits of air; but each time that
the duke passed the musicians, the music became livelier, and the motion
more brisk, till at length you might have mistaken them for a college of
spinning dervishes. One by one, an exhausted couple slunk away. Some
threw themselves on a sofa, some monopolized an easy-chair; but in
twenty minutes all the dancers had disappeared. At length Peacock
Piggott gave a groan, which denoted returning energy, and raised a
stretching leg in air, bringing up, though most unwittingly, on his foot
one of the Bird's sublime and beautiful caps.
"Halloo! Piggott, armed _cap au pied_, I see," said Lord Squib. This
joke was a signal for general resuscitation....
Here they lounged in different parties, 'talking on such subjects as
idlers ever fall upon; now and then plucking a flower--now and then
listening to the fountain--now and then lingering over the distant
music--and now and then strolling through a small apartment which opened
to their walks, and which bore the title of the Temple of Gnidus. Here
Canova's Venus breathed an atmosphere of perfume and of light--that
wonderful statue whose full-charged eye is not very classical, to be
sure--but then, how true!
Lord Squib proposed a visit to the theatre, which he had ordered to be
lit up. To the theatre they repaired. They rambled over every part of
the house, amused themselves, to the horror of Mr. Annesley, with a
visit to the gallery, and then collected behind the scenes. They were
excessively amused with the properties; and Lord Squib proposed they
should dress themselves. Enough champagne had been quaffed to render any
proposition palatable, and in a few minutes they were all in costume. A
crowd of queens and chambermaids, Jews and chimney-sweeps, lawyers and
charleys, Spanish dons and Irish officers, rushed upon the stage. The
little Spaniard was Almaviva, and fell into magnificent attitudes, with
her sword and plume. Lord Squib was the old woman of Brentford, and very
funny. Sir Lucius Grafton, Harlequin; and Darrell, Grimaldi. The prince
and the count, without knowing it, figured as watchmen. Squib whispered
Annesley that Sir Lucius O'Trigger might appear in character, but was
prudent enough to suppress the joke.
The band was summoned, and they danced quadrilles with infinite spirit,
and finished the night, at the suggestion of Lord Squib, by breakfasting
on the stage. By the time this meal was dispatched, the purple light of
morn had broken into the building, and the ladies proposed an immediate
departure. Mrs. Montfort and her sister were sent home in one of the
duke's carriages; and the foreign guests were requested by him to be
their escort. The respective parties drove off. Two cabriolets lingered
to the last, and finally carried away the French actress and the Spanish
dancer, Lord Darrell, and Peacock Piggott; but whether the two gentlemen
went in one and two ladies in the other I cannot aver. I hope not.
There was at length a dead silence, and the young duke was left to
solitude and the signora!
SQUIBS PROM 'THE YOUNG DUKE'
Dandy has been voted vulgar, and beau is now the word. I doubt whether
the revival will stand; and as for the exploded title, though it had its
faults at first, the muse or Byron has made it not only English, but
classical. However, I dare say I can do without either of these words at
present. Charles Annesley could hardly be called a dandy or a beau.
There was nothing in his dress, though some mysterious arrangement in
his costume--some rare simplicity--some curious happiness--always made
it distinguished; there was nothing, however, in his dress which could
account for the influence which he exercised over the manners of his
contemporaries. Charles Annesley was about thirty. He had inherited from
his father, a younger brother, a small estate; and though heir to a
wealthy earldom, he had never abused what the world called "his
prospects." Yet his establishments--his little house in Mayfair--his
horses--his moderate stud at Melton--were all unique, and everything
connected with him was unparalleled for its elegance, its invention, and
its refinement. But his manner was his magic. His natural and subdued
nonchalance, so different from the assumed non-emotion of a mere dandy;
his coldness of heart, which was hereditary, not acquired; his cautious
courage, and his unadulterated self-love, had permitted him to mingle
much with mankind without being too deeply involved in the play of their
passions; while his exquisite sense of the ridiculous quickly revealed
those weaknesses to him which his delicate satire did not spare, even
while it refrained from wounding. All feared, many admired, and none
hated him. He was too powerful not to dread, too dexterous not to
admire, too superior to hate. Perhaps the great secret of his manner was
his exquisite superciliousness; a quality which, of all, is the most
difficult to manage. Even with his intimates he was never confidential,
and perpetually assumed his public character with the private coterie
which he loved to rule. On the whole, he was unlike any of the leading
men of modern days, and rather reminded one of the fine gentlemen of our
old brilliant comedy--the Dorimants, the Bellairs, and the Mirabels.
THE FUSSY HOSTESS
Men shrink from a fussy woman. And few can aspire to regulate the
destinies of their species, even in so slight a point as an hour's
amusement, without rare powers. There is no greater sin than to be _trop
prononcee_. A want of tact is worse than a want of virtue. Some women,
it is said, work on pretty well against the tide without the last. I
never knew one who did not sink who ever dared to sail without
Loud when they should be low, quoting the wrong person, talking on the
wrong subject, teasing with notice, excruciating with attentions,
disturbing a _tete-a-tete_ in order to make up a dance; wasting
eloquence in persuading a man to participate in amusement whose
reputation depends on his social sullenness; exacting homage with a
restless eye, and not permitting the least worthy knot to be untwined
without their divinityships' interference; patronizing the meek,
anticipating the slow, intoxicating with compliment, plastering with
praise that you in return may gild with flattery; in short, energetic
without elegance, active without grace, and loquacious without wit;
mistaking bustle for style, raillery for badinage, and noise for
gayety--these are the characters who mar the very career they think they
are creating, and who exercise a fatal influence on the destinies of all
those who have the misfortune to be connected with them.
Eloquence is the child of Knowledge. When a mind is full, like a
wholesome river, it is also clear. Confusion and obscurity are much
oftener the results of ignorance than of inefficiency. Few are the men
who cannot express their meaning when the occasion demands the energy;
as the lowest will defend their lives with acuteness, and sometimes even
with eloquence. They are masters of their subject. Knowledge must be
gained by ourselves. Mankind may supply us with facts; but the results,
even if they agree with previous ones, must be the work of our own mind.
To make others feel, we must feel ourselves; and to feel ourselves, we
must be natural. This we can never be when we are vomiting forth the
dogmas of the schools. Knowledge is not a mere collection of words; and
it is a delusion to suppose that thought can be obtained by the aid of
any other intellect than our own. What is repetition, by a curious
mystery, ceases to be truth, even if it were truth when it was first
heard; as the shadow in a mirror, though it move and mimic all the
actions of vitality, is not life. When a man is not speaking or writing
from his own mind, he is as insipid company as a looking-glass. Before a
man can address a popular assembly with command, he must know something
of mankind, and he can know nothing of mankind without he knows
something of himself. Self-knowledge is the property of that man whose
passions have their play, but who ponders over their results. Such a man
sympathizes by inspiration with his kind. He has a key to every heart.
He can divine, in the flash of a single thought, all that they require,
all that they wish. Such a man speaks to their very core. All feel that
a master hand tears off the veil of cant, with which, from necessity,
they have enveloped their souls; for cant is nothing more than the
sophistry which results from attempting to account for what is
unintelligible, or to defend what is improper.
There are some sorts of beauty which defy description, and almost
scrutiny. Some faces rise upon us in the tumult of life, like stars from
out the sea, or as if they had moved out of a picture. Our first
impression is anything but fleshly. We are struck dumb--we gasp for
breath--our limbs quiver--a faintness glides over our frame--we are
awed; instead of gazing upon the apparition, we avert the eyes, which
yet will feed upon its beauty. A strange sort of unearthly pain mixes
with the intense pleasure. And not till, with a struggle, we call back
to our memory the commonplaces of existence, can we recover our
commonplace demeanor. These, indeed, are rare visions--these, indeed,
are early feelings, when our young existence leaps with its mountain
torrents; but as the river of our life rolls on, our eyes grow dimmer,
or our blood more cold.
LOTHAIR IN PALESTINE
A person approached Lothair by the pathway from Bethany. It was the
Syrian gentleman whom he had met at the consulate. As he was passing
Lothair, he saluted him with the grace which had been before remarked;
and Lothair, who was by nature courteous, and even inclined a little to
ceremony in his manners, especially with those with whom he was not
intimate, immediately rose, as he would not receive such a salutation in
a reclining posture.
"Let me not disturb you," said the stranger; "or, if we must be on equal
terms, let me also be seated, for this is a view that never palls."
"It is perhaps familiar to you," said Lothair; "but with me, only a
pilgrim, its effect is fascinating, almost overwhelming."
"The view of Jerusalem never becomes familiar," said the Syrian; "for
its associations are so transcendent, so various, so inexhaustible, that
the mind can never anticipate its course of thought and feeling, when
one sits, as we do now, on this immortal mount." ...
"I have often wished to visit the Sea of Galilee," said Lothair.
"Well, you have now an opportunity," said the Syrian: "the north of
Palestine, though it has no tropical splendor, has much variety and a
peculiar natural charm. The burst and brightness of spring have not yet
quite vanished; you would find our plains radiant with wild-flowers, and
our hills green with young crops, and though we cannot rival Lebanon, we
have forest glades among our famous hills that when once seen are
"But there is something to me more interesting than the splendor of
tropical scenery," said Lothair, "even if Galilee could offer it. I wish
to visit the cradle of my faith."
"And you would do wisely," said the Syrian, "for there is no doubt the
spiritual nature of man is developed in this land."
"And yet there are persons at the present day who doubt--even deny--the
spiritual nature of man," said Lothair. "I do not, I could not--there
are reasons why I could not."
"There are some things I know, and some things I believe," said the
Syrian. "I know that I have a soul, and I believe that it is immortal."
"It is science that, by demonstrating the insignificance of this globe
in the vast scale of creation, has led to this infidelity,"
"Science may prove the insignificance of this globe in the scale of
creation," said the stranger, "but it cannot prove the insignificance of
man. What is the earth compared with the sun? a molehill by a mountain;
yet the inhabitants of this earth can discover the elements of which the
great orb consists, and will probably ere long ascertain all the
conditions of its being. Nay, the human mind can penetrate far beyond
the sun. There is no relation, therefore, between the faculties of man
and the scale in creation of the planet which he inhabits."
"I was glad to hear you assert the other night the spiritual nature of
man in opposition to Mr. Phoebus."
"Ah, Mr. Phoebus!" said the stranger, with a smile. "He is an old
acquaintance of mine. And I must say he is very consistent--except in
paying a visit to Jerusalem. That does surprise me. He said to me the
other night the same things as he said to me at Rome many years ago. He
would revive the worship of Nature. The deities whom he so eloquently
describes and so exquisitely delineates are the ideal personifications
of the most eminent human qualities, and chiefly the physical. Physical
beauty is his standard of excellence, and he has a fanciful theory that
moral order would be the consequence of the worship of physical beauty;
for without moral order he holds physical beauty cannot be maintained.
But the answer to Mr. Phoebus is, that his system has been tried and has
failed, and under conditions more favorable than are likely to exist
again; the worship of Nature ended in the degradation of the
"But Mr. Phoebus cannot really believe in Apollo and Venus," said
Lothair. "These are phrases. He is, I suppose, what is called a
"No doubt the Olympus of Mr. Phoebus is the creation of his easel,"
replied the Syrian. "I should not, however, describe him as a Pantheist,
whose creed requires more abstraction than Mr. Phoebus, the worshiper of
Nature, would tolerate. His school never care to pursue any
investigation which cannot be followed by the eye--and the worship of
the beautiful always ends in an orgy. As for Pantheism, it is Atheism in
domino. The belief in a Creator who is unconscious of creating is more
monstrous than any dogma of any of the churches in this city, and we
have them all here."
"But there are people now who tell you that there never was any
creation, and therefore there never could have been a Creator,"
"And which is now advanced with the confidence of novelty," said the
Syrian, "though all of it has been urged, and vainly urged, thousands of
years ago. There must be design, or all we see would be without sense,
and I do not believe in the unmeaning. As for the natural forces to
which all creation is now attributed, we know they are unconscious,
while consciousness is as inevitable a portion of our existence as the
eye or the hand. The conscious cannot be derived from the unconscious.
Man is divine."
"I wish I could assure myself of the personality of the Creator," said
Lothair. "I cling to that, but they say it is unphilosophical."
"In what sense?" asked the Syrian. "Is it more unphilosophical to
believe in a personal God, omnipotent and omniscient, than in natural
forces unconscious and irresistible? Is it unphilosophical to combine
power with intelligence? Goethe, a Spinozist who did not believe in
Spinoza, said that he could bring his mind to the conception that in the
centre of space we might meet with a monad of pure intelligence. What
may be the centre of space I leave to the daedal imagination of the
author of 'Faust'; but a monad of pure intelligence--is that more
philosophical than the truth first revealed to man amid these
everlasting hills," said the Syrian, "that God made man in his
"I have often found in that assurance a source of sublime consolation,"
"It is the charter of the nobility of man," said the Syrian, "one of the
divine dogmas revealed in this land; not the invention of councils, not
one of which was held on this sacred soil, confused assemblies first got
together by the Greeks, and then by barbarous nations in
"Yet the divine land no longer tells us divine things," said Lothair.
"It may or may not have fulfilled its destiny," said the Syrian. "'In my
Father's house are many mansions,' and by the various families of
nations the designs of the Creator are accomplished. God works by races,
and one was appointed in due season and after many developments to
reveal and expound in this land the spiritual nature of man. The Aryan
and the Semite are of the same blood and origin, but when they quitted
their central land they were ordained to follow opposite courses. Each
division of the great race has developed one portion of the double
nature of humanity, till, after all their wanderings, they met again,
and, represented by their two choicest families, the Hellenes and the
Hebrews, brought together the treasures of their accumulated wisdom, and
secured the civilization of man."
"Those among whom I have lived of late," said Lothair, "have taught me
to trust much in councils, and to believe that without them there could
be no foundation for the Church. I observe you do not speak in that
vein, though, like myself, you find solace in those dogmas which
recognize the relations between the created and the Creator."
"There can be no religion without that recognition," said the Syrian,
"and no creed can possibly be devised without such a recognition that
would satisfy man. Why we are here, whence we come, whither we go--these
are questions which man is organically framed and forced to ask himself,
and that would not be the case if they could not be answered. As for
churches depending on councils, the first council was held more than
three centuries after the Sermon on the Mount. We Syrians had churches
in the interval; no one can deny that. I bow before the divine decree
that swept them away from Antioch to Jerusalem, but I am not yet
prepared to transfer my spiritual allegiance to Italian popes and Greek
patriarchs. We believe that our family were among the first followers of
Jesus, and that we then held lands in Bashan which we hold now. We had a
gospel once in our district where there was some allusion to this, and
being written by neighbors, and probably at the time, I dare say it was
accurate; but the Western Churches declared our gospel was not
authentic, though why I cannot tell, and they succeeded in extirpating
it. It was not an additional reason why we should enter into their fold.
So I am content to dwell in Galilee and trace the footsteps of my Divine
Master, musing over his life and pregnant sayings amid the mounts he
sanctified and the waters he loved so well."
BY BRANDER MATTHEWS
Pierre Augustin Caron was born in Paris, January 24th, 1732. He was the
son of a watchmaker, and learned his father's trade. He invented a new
escapement, and was allowed to call himself "Clockmaker to the
King"--Louis XV. At twenty-four he married a widow, and took the name of
Beaumarchais from a small fief belonging to her. Within a year his wife
died. Being a fine musician, he was appointed instructor of the King's
daughters; and he was quick to turn to good account the influence thus
acquired. In 1764 he made a sudden trip to Spain to vindicate a sister
of his, who had been betrothed to a man called Clavijo and whom this
Spaniard had refused to marry. He succeeded in his mission, and his own
brilliant account of this characteristic episode in his career suggested
to Goethe the play of 'Clavigo.' Beaumarchais himself brought back from
Madrid a liking for things Spanish and a knowledge of Iberian customs
He had been a watchmaker, a musician, a court official, a speculator,
and it was only when he was thirty-five that he turned dramatist.
Various French authors, Diderot especially, weary of confinement to
tragedy and comedy, the only two forms then admitted on the French
stage, were seeking a new dramatic formula in which they might treat
pathetic situations of modern life; and it is due largely to their
efforts that the modern "play" or "drama," the story of every-day
existence, has been evolved. The first dramatic attempt of Beaumarchais
was a drama called 'Eugenie,' acted at the Theatre Francais in 1767, and
succeeding just enough to encourage him to try again. The second, 'The
Two Friends,' acted in 1770, was a frank failure. For the pathetic,
Beaumarchais had little aptitude; and these two serious efforts were of
use to him only so far as their performance may have helped him to
master the many technical difficulties of the theatre.
Beaumarchais had married a second time in 1768, and he had been engaged
in various speculations with the financier Paris-Duverney. In 1770 his
wife died, and so did his associate; and he found himself soon involved
in lawsuits, into the details of which it is needless to go, but in the
course of which he published a series of memoirs, or statements of his
case for the public at large. These memoirs are among the most vigorous
of all polemical writings; they were very clever and very witty; they
were vivacious and audacious; they were unfailingly interesting; and
they were read as eagerly as the 'Letters of Junius.' Personal at first,
the suits soon became political; and part of the public approval given
to the attack of Beaumarchais on judicial injustice was due no doubt to
the general discontent with the existing order in France. His daring
conduct of his own cause made him a personality. He was intrusted with
one secret mission by Louis XV; and when Louis XVI came to the throne,
he managed to get him again employed confidentially.
Not long after his two attempts at the serious drama, he had tried to
turn to account his musical faculty by writing both the book and the
score of a comic opera, which had, however, been rejected by the
Comedie-Italienne (the predecessor of the present Opera Comique). After
a while Beaumarchais cut out his music and worked over his plot into a
five-act comedy in prose, 'The Barber of Seville.' It was produced by
the Theatre Francais in 1775, and like the contemporary 'Rivals' of
Sheridan,--the one English author with whom Beaumarchais must always be
compared,--it was a failure on the first night and a lasting success
after the author had reduced it and rearranged it. 'The Barber of
Seville' was like the 'Gil Blas' of Lesage in that, while it was
seemingly Spanish in its scenes, it was in reality essentially French.
It contained one of the strongest characters in literature,--Figaro, a
reincarnation of the intriguing servant of Menander and Plautus and
Moliere. Simple in plot, ingenious in incident, brisk in dialogue,
broadly effective in character-drawing, 'The Barber of Seville' is the
most famous French comedy of the eighteenth century, with the single
exception of its successor from the same pen, which appeared nine
During those years Beaumarchais was not idle. Like Defoe, he was always
devising projects for money-making. A few months after 'The Barber of
Seville' had been acted, the American Revolution began, and Beaumarchais
was a chief agent in supplying the Americans with arms, ammunition, and
supplies. He had a cruiser of his own, Le Fier Roderigue, which was in
D'Estaing's fleet. When the independence of the United States was
recognized at last, Beaumarchais had a pecuniary claim against the young
nation which long remained unsettled.
Not content with making war on his own account almost, Beaumarchais
also undertook the immense task of publishing a complete edition of
Voltaire. He also prepared a sequel to the 'Barber,' in which Figaro
should be even more important, and should serve as a mouthpiece for
declamatory criticism of the social order. But his 'Marriage of Figaro'
was so full of the revolutionary ferment that its performance was
forbidden. Following the example of Moliere under the similar
interdiction of 'Tartuffe,' Beaumarchais was untiring in arousing
interest in his unacted play, reading it himself in the houses of the
great. Finally it was authorized, and when the first performance took
place at the Theatre Francais in 1784, the crush to see it was so great
that three persons were stifled to death. The new comedy was as amusing
and as adroit as its predecessor, and the hits at the times were sharper
and swifter and more frequent. How demoralized society was then may be
gauged by the fact that this disintegrating satire was soon acted by the
amateurs of the court, a chief character being impersonated by Marie
The career of Beaumarchais reached its climax with the production of the
second of the Figaro plays. Afterward he wrote the libretto for an
opera, 'Tarare,' produced with Salieri's music in 1787; the year before
he had married for the third time. In a heavy play called 'The Guilty
Mother,' acted with slight success in 1790, he brought in Figaro yet
once more. During the Terror he emigrated to Holland, returning to Paris
in 1796 to find his sumptuous mansion despoiled. May 18th, 1799, he
died, leaving a fortune of $200,000, besides numerous claims against the
French nation and the United States.
An interesting parallel could be drawn between 'The Rivals' and the
'School for Scandal' on the one side, and on the other 'The Barber of
Seville' and 'The Marriage of Figaro'; and there are also piquant points
of likeness between Sheridan and Beaumarchais. But Sheridan, with all
his failings, was of sterner stuff than Beaumarchais. He had a loftier
political morality, and he served the State more loyally. Yet the two
comedies of Beaumarchais are like the two comedies of Sheridan in their
incessant wit, in their dramaturgic effectiveness, and in the histrionic
opportunities they afford. Indeed, the French comedies have had a wider
audience than the English, thanks to an Italian and a German,--to
Rossini who set 'The Barber of Seville' to music, and to Mozart who did
a like service for 'The Marriage of Figaro.'
[Illustration: Signature: Brander Matthews]
FROM 'THE BARBER OF SEVILLE'
OUTWITTING A GUARDIAN
[Rosina's lover, Count Almaviva, attempts to meet and converse with her
by hoodwinking Dr. Bartolo, her zealous guardian. He comes in disguise
to Bartolo's dwelling, in a room of which the scene is laid.]
[_Enter Count Almaviva, dressed as a student_.]
_Count [solemnly]_--May peace and joy abide here evermore!
_Bartolo [brusquely]_--Never, young sir, was wish more apropos! What do
_Count_--Sir, I am one Alonzo, a bachelor of arts--
_Bartolo_--Sir, I need no instructor.
_Count_---- ---- a pupil of Don Basilio, the organist of the convent,
who teaches music to Madame your--
_Bartolo [suspiciously]_--Basilio! Organist! Yes, I know him. Well?
_Count [aside]_--What a man! _[Aloud.]_ He's confined to his bed with a
_Bartolo_--Confined to his bed! Basilio! He's very good to send word,
for I've just seen him.
_Count [aside]_--Oh, the devil! [_Aloud._] When I say to his bed, sir,
it's--I mean to his room.
_Bartolo_--Whatever's the matter with him, go, if you please.
_Count [embarrassed]_--Sir, I was asked--Can no one hear us?
_Bartolo [aside]_--It's some rogue! _[Aloud.]_ What's that? No, Monsieur
Mysterious, no one can hear! Speak frankly--if you can.
_Count [aside]_--Plague take the old rascal! _[Aloud.]_ Don Basilio
asked me to tell you--
_Bartolo_--Speak louder. I'm deaf in one ear.
_Count [raising his voice_]--Ah! quite right: he asks me to say to you
that one Count Almaviva, who was lodging on the great square--
_Bartolo [frightened]_--Speak low, speak low.
_Count [louder]_----moved away from there this morning. As it was I who
told him that this Count Almaviva--
_Bartolo_--Low, speak lower, I beg of you.
_Count [in the same tone_]--Was in this city, and as I have discovered
that Senorita Rosina has been writing to him--
_Bartolo_--Has been writing to him? My dear friend, I implore you, _do_
speak low! Come, let's sit down, let's have a friendly chat. You have
discovered, you say, that Rosina--
_Count_ [_angrily_]--Certainly. Basilio, anxious about this
correspondence on your account, asked me to show you her letter; but the
way you take things--
_Bartolo_--Good Lord! I take them well enough. But can't you possibly
speak a little lower?
_Count_--You told me you were deaf in one ear.
_Bartolo_--I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon, if I've been surly and
suspicious, Signor Alonzo: I'm surrounded with spies--and then your
figure, your age, your whole air--I beg your pardon. Well? Have you
_Count_--I'm glad you're barely civil at last, sir. But are you quite
sure no one can overhear us?
_Bartolo_--Not a soul. My servants are all tired out. Senorita Rosina
has shut herself up in a rage! The very devil's to pay in this house.
Still I'll go and make sure. [_He goes to peep into Rosina's room_.]
_Count_ [_aside_]--Well, I've caught myself now in my own trap. Now what
shall I do about the letter? If I were to run off?--but then I might
just as well not have come. Shall I show it to him? If I could only warn
Rosina beforehand! To show it would be a master-stroke.
_Bartolo_ [_returning on tiptoe_]--She's sitting by the window with her
back to the door, and re-reading a cousin's letter which I opened. Now,
now--let me see hers.
_Count_ [_handing him Rosina's letter_]--Here it is. [_Aside._] She's
re-reading _my_ letter.
_Bartolo_ [_reads quickly_]--"Since you have told me your name and
estate--" Ah, the little traitress! Yes, it's her writing.
_Count_ [_frightened_]--Speak low yourself, won't you?
_Bartolo_--What for, if you please?
_Count_--When we've finished, you can do as you choose. But after all,
Don Basilio's negotiation with a lawyer--
_Bartolo_--With a lawyer? About my marriage?
_Count_--Would I have stopped you for anything else? He told me to say
that all can be ready to-morrow. Then, if she resists--
_Count_ [_wants to take back the letter; Bartolo clutches it_]--I'll
tell you what we'll do. We will show her her letter; and then, if
necessary, [_more mysteriously_] I'll even tell her that it was given to
me by a woman--to whom the Count is sacrificing her. Shame and rage may
bring her to terms on the spot.
_Bartolo_ [_laughing_]--Calumny, eh? My dear fellow, I see very well now
that you come from Basilio. But lest we should seem to have planned this
together, don't you think it would be better if she'd met you before?
_Count_ [_repressing a start of joy_]--Don Basilio thought so, I know.
But how can we manage it? It is late already. There's not much
_Bartolo_--I will tell her you've come in his place. Couldn't you give
her a lesson?
_Count_--I'll do anything you like. But take care she doesn't suspect.
All these dodges of pretended masters are rather old and theatrical.
_Bartolo_--She won't suspect if I introduce you. But how you do look!
You've much more the air of a disguised lover than of a zealous
_Count_--Really? Don't you think I can hoodwink her all the better for
_Bartolo_--She'll never guess. She's in a horrible temper this evening.
But if she'll only see you--Her harpsichord is in this room. Amuse
yourself while you're waiting. I'll do all I can to bring her here.
_Count_--Don't say a word about the letter.
_Bartolo_--Before the right moment? It would lose all effect if I did.
It's not necessary to tell me things twice; it's not necessary to tell
me things twice. [_He goes._]
_Count_ [_alone, soliloquizes_]--At last I've won! Ouf! What a difficult
little old imp he is! Figaro understands him. I found myself lying, and
that made me awkward; and he has eyes for everything! On my honor, if
the letter hadn't inspired me he'd have thought me a fool!--Ah, how they
are disputing in there!--What if she refuses to come? Listen--If she
won't, my coming is all thrown away. There she is: I won't show
myself at first.
_Rosina_ [_angrily_]--There's no use talking about it, sir. I've made up
my mind. I don't want to hear anything more about music.
_Bartolo_--But, my child, do listen! It is Senor Alonzo, the friend and
pupil of Don Basilio, whom he has chosen as one of our marriage
witnesses. I'm sure that music will calm you.
_Rosina_--Oh! you needn't concern yourself about that; and as for
singing this evening--Where is this master you're so afraid of
dismissing? I'll settle him in a minute--and Senor Basilio too. [_She
sees her lover and exclaims_:] Ah!
_Bartolo_--Eh, eh, what is the matter?
_Rosina_ [_pressing her hands to her heart_]--Ah, sir! Ah, sir!
_Bartolo_--She is ill again! Senor Alonzo!
_Rosina_--No, I am not ill--but as I was turning--ah!
_Count_--Did you sprain your foot, Madame?
_Rosina_--Yes, yes, I sprained my foot! I--hurt myself dreadfully.
_Count_--So I perceived.
_Rosina_ [_looking at the Count_]--The pain really makes me feel faint.
_Bartolo_--A chair--a chair there! And not a single chair here! [_He
goes to get one_.]
_Count_--There are a hundred things I must say to you.
_Rosina_--He won't leave us alone.
_Count_--Figaro will help us.
_Bartolo_ [_bringing an arm-chair_]--Wait a minute, my child. Sit down
here. She can't take a lesson this evening, Senor: you must postpone
_Rosina_ [_to the Count_]--No, wait; my pain is better. [_To Bartolo_.]
I feel that I've acted foolishly! I'll imitate you, and atone at once by
taking my lesson.
_Bartolo_--Oh! Such a kind little woman at heart! But after so much
excitement, my child, I can't let you make any exertion. So good-bye,
_Rosina_ [_to the Count_]--Do wait a minute! [_To Bartolo_.] I shall
think that you don't care to please me if you won't let me show my
regret by taking my lesson.
_Count_ [_aside to Bartolo_]--I wouldn't oppose her, if I were you.
_Bartolo_--That settles it, my love: I am so anxious to please you that
I shall stay here all the time you are practicing.
_Rosina_--No, don't. I know you don't care for music.
_Bartolo_--It _will_ charm me this evening, I'm sure.
_Rosina [aside to the Count_]--I'm tormented to death!
_Count [taking a sheet of music from the stand_]--Will you sing this,
_Rosina_--Yes, indeed--it's a very pretty thing out of the opera 'The
_Bartolo_--Why do you _always_ sing from 'The Useless Precaution'?
_Count_--There is nothing newer! It's a picture of spring in a very
bright style. So if Madame wants to try it--
_Rosina [looking at the Count_]--With pleasure. A picture of spring is
delightful! It is the youth of nature. It seems as if the heart always
feels more when winter's just over. It's like a slave who finds liberty
all the more charming after a long confinement.
_Bartolo [to the Count_]--Always romantic ideas in her head!
_Count [in a low tone_]--Did you notice the application?
_[He sits down in the chair which Rosina has been occupying. Rosina
sings, during which Bartolo goes to sleep. Under cover of the refrain
the Count seizes Rosina's hand and covers it with kisses. In her emotion
she sings brokenly, and finally breaks off altogether. The sudden
silence awakens Bartolo. The Count starts up, and Rosina quickly resumes
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