Honore De Balzac
Part 8 out of 14
"Contributors don't get very much as it is," he said, addressing
"If there were more of you, there would be so much less," retorted the
captain. "So there!"
The old campaigner swung his loaded cane, and went down coughing as
usual. Out in the street he was amazed to see a handsome carriage
waiting on the boulevard for Lucien.
"_You_ are the army nowadays," he said, "and we are the civilians."
"Upon my word," said Lucien, as he drove away with Coralie, "these
young writers seem to me to be the best fellows alive. Here am I a
journalist, sure of making six hundred francs a month if I work like a
horse. But I shall find a publisher for my two books, and I will write
others; for my friends will insure a success. And so, Coralie, '_vogue
le galere_!' as you say."
"You will make your way, dear boy; but you must not be as good-natured
as you are good-looking; it would be the ruin of you. Be ill-natured,
that is the proper thing."
Coralie and Lucien drove in the Bois de Boulogne, and again they met
the Marquise d'Espard, Mme. de Bargeton and the Baron du Chatelet.
Mme. de Bargeton gave Lucien a languishing glance which might be taken
as a greeting. Camusot had ordered the best possible dinner; and
Coralie, feeling that she was rid of her adorer, was more charming to
the poor silk-mercer than she had ever been in the fourteen months
during which their connection lasted; he had never seen her so kindly,
so enchantingly lovely.
"Come," he thought, "let us keep near her anyhow!"
In consequence, Camusot made secret overtures. He promised Coralie an
income of six thousand livres; he would transfer the stock in the
funds into her name (his wife knew nothing about the investment) if
only she would consent to be his mistress still. He would shut his
eyes to her lover.
"And betray such an angel? . . . Why, just look at him, you old
fossil, and look at yourself!" and her eyes turned to her poet.
Camusot had pressed Lucien to drink till the poet's head was rather
There was no help for it; Camusot made up his mind to wait till sheer
want should give him this woman a second time.
"Then I can only be your friend," he said, as he kissed her on the
Lucien went from Coralie and Camusot to the Wooden Galleries. What a
change had been wrought in his mind by his initiation into Journalism!
He mixed fearlessly now with the crowd which surged to and fro in the
buildings; he even swaggered a little because he had a mistress; and
he walked into Dauriat's shop in an offhand manner because he was a
He found himself among distinguished men; gave a hand to Blondet and
Nathan and Finot, and to all the coterie with whom he had been
fraternizing for a week. He was a personage, he thought, and he
flattered himself that he surpassed his comrades. That little flick of
the wine did him admirable service; he was witty, he showed that he
could "howl with the wolves."
And yet, the tacit approval, the praises spoken and unspoken on which
he had counted, were not forthcoming. He noticed the first stirrings
of jealousy among a group, less curious, perhaps, than anxious to know
the place which this newcomer might take, and the exact portion of the
sum-total of profits which he would probably secure and swallow.
Lucien only saw smiles on two faces--Finot, who regarded him as a mine
to be exploited, and Lousteau, who considered that he had proprietary
rights in the poet, looked glad to see him. Lousteau had begun already
to assume the airs of an editor; he tapped sharply on the window-panes
of Dauriat's private office.
"One moment, my friend," cried a voice within as the publisher's face
appeared above the green curtains.
The moment lasted an hour, and finally Lucien and Etienne were
admitted into the sanctum.
"Well, have you thought over our friend's proposal?" asked Etienne
Lousteau, now an editor.
"To be sure," said Dauriat, lolling like a sultan in his chair. "I
have read the volume. And I submitted it to a man of taste, a good
judge; for I don't pretend to understand these things myself. I
myself, my friend, buy reputations ready-made, as the Englishman
bought his love affairs.--You are as great as a poet as you are
handsome as a man, my boy," pronounced Dauriat. "Upon my word and
honor (I don't tell you that as a publisher, mind), your sonnets are
magnificent; no sign of effort about them, as is natural when a man
writes with inspiration and verve. You know your craft, in fact, one
of the good points of the new school. Your volume of _Marguerites_ is a
fine book, but there is no business in it, and it is not worth my
while to meddle with anything but a very big affair. In conscience, I
won't take your sonnets. It would be impossible to push them; there is
not enough in the thing to pay the expenses of a big success. You will
not keep to poetry besides; this book of yours will be your first and
last attempt of the kind. You are young; you bring me the everlasting
volume of early verse which every man of letters writes when he leaves
school, he thinks a lot of it at the time, and laughs at it later on.
Lousteau, your friend, has a poem put away somewhere among his old
socks, I'll warrant. Haven't you a poem that you thought a good deal
of once, Lousteau?" inquired Dauriat, with a knowing glance at the
"How should I be writing prose otherwise, eh?" asked Lousteau.
"There, you see! He has never said a word to me about it, for our
friend understands business and the trade," continued Dauriat. "For me
the question is not whether you are a great poet, I know that," he
added, stroking down Lucien's pride; "you have a great deal, a very
great deal of merit; if I were only just starting in business, I
should make the mistake of publishing your book. But in the first
place, my sleeping partners and those at the back of me are cutting
off my supplies; I dropped twenty thousand francs over poetry last
year, and that is enough for them; they will not hear of any more just
now, and they are my masters. Nevertheless, that is not the question.
I admit that you may be a great poet, but will you be a prolific
writer? Will you hatch sonnets regularly? Will you run into ten
volumes? Is there business in it? Of course not. You will be a
delightful prose writer; you have too much sense to spoil your style
with tagging rhymes together. You have a chance to make thirty
thousand francs per annum by writing for the papers, and you will not
exchange that chance for three thousand francs made with difficulty by
your hemistiches and strophes and tomfoolery----"
"You know that he is on the paper, Dauriat?" put in Lousteau.
"Yes," Dauriat answered. "Yes, I saw his article, and in his own
interests I decline the _Marguerites_. Yes, sir, in six months' time I
shall have paid you more money for the articles that I shall ask you
to write than for your poetry that will not sell."
"And fame?" said Lucien.
Dauriat and Lousteau laughed.
"Oh dear!" said Lousteau, "there be illusions left."
"Fame means ten years of sticking to work, and a hundred thousand
francs lost or made in the publishing trade. If you find anybody mad
enough to print your poetry for you, you will feel some respect for me
in another twelvemonth, when you have had time to see the outcome of
"Have you the manuscript here?" Lucien asked coldly.
"Here it is, my friend," said Dauriat. The publisher's manner towards
Lucien had sweetened singularly.
Lucien took up the roll without looking at the string, so sure he felt
that Dauriat had read his _Marguerites_. He went out with Lousteau,
seemingly neither disconcerted nor dissatisfied. Dauriat went with
them into the shop, talking of his newspaper and Lousteau's daily,
while Lucien played with the manuscript of the _Marguerites_.
"Do you suppose that Dauriat has read your sonnets or sent them to any
one else?" Etienne Lousteau snatched an opportunity to whisper.
"Yes," said Lucien.
"Look at the string." Lucien looked down at the blot of ink, and saw
that the mark on the string still coincided; he turned white with
"Which of the sonnets was it that you particularly liked?" he asked,
turning to the publisher.
"They are all of them remarkable, my friend; but the sonnet on the
_Marguerite_ is delightful, the closing thought is fine, and exquisitely
expressed. I felt sure from that sonnet that your prose work would
command a success, and I spoke to Finot about you at once. Write
articles for us, and we will pay you well for them. Fame is a very
fine thing, you see, but don't forget the practical and solid, and
take every chance that turns up. When you have made money, you can
The poet dashed out of the shop to avoid an explosion. He was furious.
"Well, my boy, pray keep cool. Take men as they are--for means to an
end. Do you wish for revenge?"
"At any price," muttered the poet.
"Here is a copy of Nathan's book. Dauriat has just given it to me. The
second edition is coming out to-morrow; read the book again, and knock
off an article demolishing it. Felicien Vernou cannot endure Nathan,
for he thinks that Nathan's success will injure his own forthcoming
book. It is a craze with these little minds to fancy that there is not
room for two successes under the sun; so he will see that your article
finds a place in the big paper for which he writes."
"But what is there to be said against the book; it is good work!"
"Oh, I say! you must learn your trade," said Lousteau, laughing.
"Given that the book was a masterpiece, under the stroke of your pen
it must turn to dull trash, dangerous and unwholesome stuff."
"You turn all the good points into bad ones."
"I am incapable of such a juggler's feat."
"My dear boy, a journalist is a juggler; a man must make up his mind
to the drawbacks of the calling. Look here! I am not a bad fellow;
this is the way _I_ should set to work myself. Attention! You might
begin by praising the book, and amuse yourself a while by saying what
you really think. 'Good,' says the reader, 'this critic is not
jealous; he will be impartial, no doubt,' and from that point your
public will think that your criticism is a piece of conscientious
work. Then, when you have won your reader's confidence, you will
regret that you must blame the tendency and influence of such work
upon French literature. 'Does not France,' you will say, 'sway the
whole intellectual world? French writers have kept Europe in the path
of analysis and philosophical criticism from age to age by their
powerful style and the original turn given by them to ideas.' Here,
for the benefit of the philistine, insert a panegyric on Voltaire,
Rousseau, Diderot, Montesquieu, and Buffon. Hold forth upon the
inexorable French language; show how it spreads a varnish, as it were,
over thought. Let fall a few aphorisms, such as--'A great writer in
France is invariably a great man; he writes in a language which
compels him to think; it is otherwise in other countries'--and so on,
and so on. Then, to prove your case, draw a comparison between
Rabener, the German satirical moralist, and La Bruyere. Nothing gives
a critic such an air as an apparent familiarity with foreign
literature. Kant is Cousin's pedestal.
"Once on that ground you bring out a word which sums up the French men
of genius of the eighteenth century for the benefit of simpletons--you
call that literature the 'literature of ideas.' Armed with this
expression, you fling all the mighty dead at the heads of the
illustrious living. You explain that in the present day a new form of
literature has sprung up; that dialogue (the easiest form of writing)
is overdone, and description dispenses with any need for thinking on
the part of the author or reader. You bring up the fiction of
Voltaire, Diderot, Sterne, and Le Sage, so trenchant, so compact of
the stuff of life; and turn from them to the modern novel, composed of
scenery and word-pictures and metaphor and the dramatic situations, of
which Scott is full. Invention may be displayed in such work, but
there is no room for anything else. 'The romance after the manner of
Scott is a mere passing fashion in literature,' you will say, and
fulminate against the fatal way in which ideas are diluted and beaten
thin; cry out against a style within the reach of any intellect, for
any one can commence author at small expense in a way of literature,
which you can nickname the 'literature of imagery.'
"Then you fall upon Nathan with your argument, and establish it
beyound cavil that he is a mere imitator with an appearance of genius.
The concise grand style of the eighteenth century is lacking; you show
that the author substitutes events for sentiments. Action and stir is
not life; he gives you pictures, but no ideas.
"Come out with such phrases, and people will take them up.--In spite
of the merits of the work, it seems to you to be a dangerous, nay, a
fatal precedent. It throws open the gates of the temple of Fame to the
crowd; and in the distance you descry a legion of petty authors
hastening to imitate this novel and easy style of writing.
"Here you launch out into resounding lamentations over the decadence
and decline of taste, and slip in eulogies of Messieurs Etienne Jouy,
Tissot, Gosse, Duval, Jay, Benjamin Constant, Aignan, Baour-Lormian,
Villemain, and the whole Liberal-Bonapartist chorus who patronize
Vernou's paper. Next you draw a picture of that glorious phalanx of
writers repelling the invasion of the Romantics; these are the
upholders of ideas and style as against metaphor and balderdash; the
modern representatives of the school of Voltaire as opposed to the
English and German schools, even as the seventeen heroic deputies of
the Left fought the battle for the nation against the Ultras of the
"And then, under cover of names respected by the immense majority of
Frenchmen (who will always be against the Government), you can crush
Nathan; for although his work is far above the average, it confirms
the bourgeois taste for literature without ideas. And after that, you
understand, it is no longer a question of Nathan and his book, but of
France and the glory of France. It is the duty of all honest and
courageous pens to make strenuous opposition to these foreign
importations. And with that you flatter your readers. Shrewd French
mother-wit is not easily caught napping. If publishers, by ways which
you do not choose to specify, have stolen a success, the reading
public very soon judges for itself, and corrects the mistakes made by
some five hundred fools, who always rush to the fore.
"Say that the publisher who sold a first edition of the book is
audacious indeed to issue a second, and express regret that so clever
a man does not know the taste of the country better. There is the gist
of it. Just a sprinkle of the salt of wit and a dash of vinegar to
bring out the flavor, and Dauriat will be done to a turn. But mind
that you end with seeming to pity Nathan for a mistake, and speak of
him as of a man from whom contemporary literature may look for great
things if he renounces these ways."
Lucien was amazed at this talk from Lousteau. As the journalist spoke,
the scales fell from his eyes; he beheld new truths of which he had
never before caught so much as a glimpse.
"But all this that you are saying is quite true and just," said he.
"If it were not, how could you make it tell against Nathan's book?"
asked Lousteau. "That is the first manner of demolishing a book, my
boy; it is the pickaxe style of criticism. But there are plenty of
other ways. Your education will complete itself in time. When you are
absolutely obliged to speak of a man whom you do not like, for
proprietors and editors are sometimes under compulsion, you bring out
a neutral special article. You put the title of the book at the head
of it, and begin with general remarks, on the Greeks and the Romans if
you like, and wind up with--'and this brings us to Mr. So-and-so's
book, which will form the subject of a second article.' The second
article never appears, and in this way you snuff out the book between
two promises. But in this case you are writing down, not Nathan, but
Dauriat; he needs the pickaxe style. If the book is really good, the
pickaxe does no harm; but it goes to the core of it if it is bad. In
the first case, no one but the publisher is any the worse; in the
second, you do the public a service. Both methods, moreover, are
equally serviceable in political criticism."
Etienne Lousteau's cruel lesson opened up possibilities for Lucien's
imagination. He understood this craft to admiration.
"Let us go to the office," said Lousteau; "we shall find our friends
there, and we will agree among ourselves to charge at Nathan; they
will laugh, you will see."
Arrived in the Rue Saint-Fiacre, they went up to the room in the roof
where the paper was made up, and Lucien was surprised and gratified no
less to see the alacrity with which his comrades proceeded to demolish
Nathan's book. Hector Merlin took up a piece of paper and wrote a few
lines for his own newspaper.--
"A second edition of M. Nathan's book is announced. We had
intended to keep silence with regard to that work, but its
apparent success obliges us to publish an article, not so much
upon the book itself as upon certain tendencies of the new school
At the head of the "Facetiae" in the morning's paper, Lousteau
inserted the following note:--
"M. Dauriat is bringing out a second edition of M. Nathan's book.
Evidently he does not know the legal maxim, _Non bis in idem_. All
honor to rash courage."
Lousteau's words had been like a torch for burning; Lucien's hot
desire to be revenged on Dauriat took the place of conscience and
inspiration. For three days he never left Coralie's room; he sat at
work by the fire, waited upon by Berenice; petted, in moments of
weariness, by the silent and attentive Coralie; till, at the end of
that time, he had made a fair copy of about three columns of
criticism, and an astonishingly good piece of work.
It was nine o'clock in the evening when he ran round to the office,
found his associates, and read over his work to an attentive audience.
Felicien said not a syllable. He took up the manuscript, and made off
with it pell-mell down the staircase.
"What has come to him?" cried Lucien.
"He has taken your article straight to the printer," said Hector
Merlin. "'Tis a masterpiece; not a line to add, nor a word to take
"There was no need to do more than show you the way," said Lousteau.
"I should like to see Nathan's face when he reads this to-morrow,"
said another contributor, beaming with gentle satisfaction.
"It is as well to have you for a friend," remarked Hector Merlin.
"Then it will do?" Lucien asked quickly.
"Blondet and Vignon will feel bad," said Lousteau.
"Here is a short article which I have knocked together for you," began
Lucien; "if it takes, I could write you a series."
"Read it over," said Lousteau, and Lucien read the first of the
delightful short papers which made the fortune of the little
newspaper; a series of sketches of Paris life, a portrait, a type, an
ordinary event, or some of the oddities of the great city. This
specimen--"The Man in the Street"--was written in a way that was fresh
and original; the thoughts were struck out by the shock of the words,
the sounding ring of the adverbs and adjectives caught the reader's
ear. The paper was as different from the serious and profound article
on Nathan as the _Lettres persanes_ from the _Esprit des lois_.
"You are a born journalist," said Lousteau. "It shall go in to-morrow.
Do as much of this sort of thing as you like."
"Ah, by the by," said Merlin, "Dauriat is furious about those two
bombshells hurled into his magazine. I have just come from him. He was
hurling imprecations, and in such a rage with Finot, who told him that
he had sold his paper to you. As for me, I took him aside and just
said a word in his ear. 'The _Marguerites_ will cost you dear,' I told
him. 'A man of talent comes to you, you turn the cold shoulder on him,
and send him into the arms of the newspapers.'"
"Dauriat will be dumfounded by the article on Nathan," said Lousteau.
"Do you see now what journalism is, Lucien? Your revenge is beginning
to tell. The Baron Chatelet came here this morning for your address.
There was a cutting article upon him in this morning's issue; he is a
weakling, that buck of the Empire, and he has lost his head. Have you
seen the paper? It is a funny article. Look, 'Funeral of the Heron,
and the Cuttlefish-bone's lament.' Mme. de Bargeton is called the
Cuttlefish-bone now, and no mistake, and Chatelet is known everywhere
as Baron Heron."
Lucien took up the paper, and could not help laughing at Vernou's
extremely clever skit.
"They will capitulate soon," said Hector Merlin.
Lucien merrily assisted at the manufacture of epigrams and jokes at
the end of the paper; and the associates smoked and chatted over the
day's adventures, over the foibles of some among their number, or some
new bit of personal gossip. From their witty, malicious, bantering
talk, Lucien gained a knowledge of the inner life of literature, and
of the manners and customs of the craft.
"While they are setting up the paper, I will go round with you and
introduce you to the managers of your theatres, and take you behind
the scenes," said Lousteau. "And then we will go to the
Panorama-Dramatique, and have a frolic in their dressing-rooms."
Arm-in-arm, they went from theatre to theatre. Lucien was introduced
to this one and that, and enthroned as a dramatic critic. Managers
complimented him, actresses flung him side glances; for every one of
them knew that this was the critic who, by a single article, had
gained an engagement at the Gymnase, with twelve thousand francs a
year, for Coralie, and another for Florine at the Panorama-Dramatique
with eight thousand francs. Lucien was a man of importance. The little
ovations raised Lucien in his own eyes, and taught him to know his
power. At eleven o'clock the pair arrived at the Panorama-Dramatique;
Lucien with a careless air that worked wonders. Nathan was there.
Nathan held out a hand, which Lucien squeezed.
"Ah! my masters, so you have a mind to floor me, have you?" said
Nathan, looking from one to the other.
"Just you wait till to-morrow, my dear fellow, and you shall see how
Lucien has taken you in hand. Upon my word, you will be pleased. A
piece of serious criticism like that is sure to do a book good."
Lucien reddened with confusion.
"Is it severe?" inquired Nathan.
"It is serious," said Lousteau.
"Then there is no harm done," Nathan rejoined. "Hector Merlin in the
greenroom of the Vaudeville was saying that I had been cut up."
"Let him talk, and wait," cried Lucien, and took refuge in Coralie's
dressing-room. Coralie, in her alluring costume, had just come off the
Next morning, as Lucien and Coralie sat at breakfast, a carriage drove
along the Rue de Vendome. The street was quiet enough, so that they
could hear the light sound made by an elegant cabriolet; and there was
that in the pace of the horse, and the manner of pulling up at the
door, which tells unmistakably of a thoroughbred. Lucien went to the
window, and there, in fact, beheld a splendid English horse, and no
less a person than Dauriat flinging the reins to his man as he stepped
"'Tis the publisher, Coralie," said Lucien.
"Let him wait, Berenice," Coralie said at once.
Lucien smiled at her presence of mind, and kissed her with a great
rush of tenderness. This mere girl had made his interests hers in a
wonderful way; she was quick-witted where he was concerned. The
apparition of the insolent publisher, the sudden and complete collapse
of that prince of charlatans, was due to circumstances almost entirely
forgotten, so utterly has the book trade changed during the last
From 1816 to 1827, when newspaper reading-rooms were only just
beginning to lend new books, the fiscal law pressed more heavily than
ever upon periodical publications, and necessity created the invention
of advertisements. Paragraphs and articles in the newspapers were the
only means of advertisement known in those days; and French newspapers
before the year 1822 were so small, that the largest sheet of those
times was not so large as the smallest daily paper of ours. Dauriat
and Ladvocat, the first publishers to make a stand against the tyranny
of journalists, were also the first to use the placards which caught
the attention of Paris by strange type, striking colors, vignettes,
and (at a later time) by lithograph illustrations, till a placard
became a fairy-tale for the eyes, and not unfrequently a snare for the
purse of the amateur. So much originality indeed was expended on
placards in Paris, that one of that peculiar kind of maniacs, known as
a collector, possesses a complete series.
At first the placard was confined to the shop-windows and stalls upon
the Boulevards in Paris; afterwards it spread all over France, till it
was supplanted to some extent by a return to advertisements in the
newspapers. But the placard, nevertheless, which continues to strike
the eye, after the advertisement and the book which is advertised are
both forgotten, will always be among us; it took a new lease of life
when walls were plastered with posters.
Newspaper advertising, the offspring of heavy stamp duties, a high
rate of postage, and the heavy deposits of caution-money required by
the government as security for good behavior, is within the reach of
all who care to pay for it, and has turned the fourth page of every
journal into a harvest field alike for the speculator and the Inland
Revenue Department. The press restrictions were invented in the time
of M. de Villele, who had a chance, if he had but known it, of
destroying the power of journalism by allowing newspapers to multiply
till no one took any notice of them; but he missed his opportunity,
and a sort of privilege was created, as it were, by the almost
insuperable difficulties put in the way of starting a new venture. So,
in 1821, the periodical press might be said to have power of life and
death over the creations of the brain and the publishing trade. A few
lines among the items of news cost a fearful amount. Intrigues were
multiplied in newspaper offices; and of a night when the columns were
divided up, and this or that article was put in or left out to suit
the space, the printing-room became a sort of battlefield; so much so,
that the largest publishing firms had writers in their pay to insert
short articles in which many ideas are put in little space. Obscure
journalists of this stamp were only paid after the insertion of the
items, and not unfrequently spent the night in the printing-office to
make sure that their contributions were not omitted; sometimes putting
in a long article, obtained heaven knows how, sometimes a few lines of
The manners and customs of journalism and of the publishing houses
have since changed so much, that many people nowadays will not believe
what immense efforts were made by writers and publishers of books to
secure a newspaper puff; the martyrs of glory, and all those who are
condemned to the penal servitude of a life-long success, were reduced
to such shifts, and stooped to depths of bribery and corruption as
seem fabulous to-day. Every kind of persuasion was brought to bear on
journalists--dinners, flattery, and presents. The following story will
throw more light on the close connection between the critic and the
publisher than any quantity of flat assertions.
There was once upon a time an editor of an important paper, a clever
writer with a prospect of becoming a statesman; he was young in those
days, and fond of pleasure, and he became the favorite of a well-known
publishing house. One Sunday the wealthy head of the firm was
entertaining several of the foremost journalists of the time in the
country, and the mistress of the house, then a young and pretty woman,
went to walk in her park with the illustrious visitor. The head-clerk
of the firm, a cool, steady, methodical German with nothing but
business in his head, was discussing a project with one of the
journalists, and as they chatted they walked on into the woods beyond
the park. In among the thickets the German thought he caught a glimpse
of his hostess, put up his eyeglass, made a sign to his young
companion to be silent, and turned back, stepping softly.--"What did
you see?" asked the journalist.--"Nothing particular," said the clerk.
"Our affair of the long article is settled. To-morrow we shall have at
least three columns in the _Debats_."
Another anecdote will show the influence of a single article.
A book of M. de Chateaubriand's on the last of the Stuarts was for
some time a "nightingale" on the bookseller's shelves. A single
article in the _Journal des Debats_ sold the work in a week. In those
days, when there were no lending libraries, a publisher would sell an
edition of ten thousand copies of a book by a Liberal if it was well
reviewed by the Opposition papers; but then the Belgian pirated
editions were not as yet.
The preparatory attacks made by Lucien's friends, followed up by his
article on Nathan, proved efficacious; they stopped the sale of his
book. Nathan escaped with the mortification; he had been paid; he had
nothing to lose; but Dauriat was like to lose thirty thousand francs.
The trade in new books may, in fact, be summed up much on this wise. A
ream of blank paper costs fifteen francs, a ream of printed paper is
worth anything between a hundred sous and a hundred crowns, according
to its success; a favorable or unfavorable review at a critical time
often decides the question; and Dauriat having five hundred reams of
printed paper on hand, hurried to make terms with Lucien. The sultan
was now the slave.
After waiting for some time, fidgeting and making as much noise as he
could while parleying with Berenice, he at last obtained speech of
Lucien; and, arrogant publisher though he was, he came in with the
radiant air of a courtier in the royal presence, mingled, however,
with a certain self-sufficiency and easy good humor.
"Don't disturb yourselves, my little dears! How nice they look, just
like a pair of turtle-doves! Who would think now, mademoiselle, that
he, with that girl's face of his, could be a tiger with claws of
steel, ready to tear a reputation to rags, just as he tears your
wrappers, I'll be bound, when you are not quick enough to unfasten
them," and he laughed before he had finished his jest.
"My dear boy----" he began, sitting down beside Lucien.
--"Mademoiselle, I am Dauriat," he said, interrupting himself. He
judged it expedient to fire his name at her like a pistol shot, for
he considered that Coralie was less cordial than she should have been.
"Have you breakfasted, monsieur; will you keep us company?" asked
"Why, yes; it is easier to talk at table," said Dauriat. "Besides, by
accepting your invitation I shall have a right to expect you to dine
with my friend Lucien here, for we must be close friends now, hand and
"Berenice! Bring oysters, lemons, fresh butter, and champagne," said
"You are too clever not to know what has brought me here," said
Dauriat, fixing his eyes on Lucien.
"You have come to buy my sonnets."
"Precisely. First of all, let us lay down our arms on both sides." As
he spoke he took out a neat pocketbook, drew from it three bills for a
thousand francs each, and laid them before Lucien with a suppliant
air. "Is monsieur content?" asked he.
"Yes," said the poet. A sense of beatitude, for which no words exist,
flooded his soul at the sight of that unhoped wealth. He controlled
himself, but he longed to sing aloud, to jump for joy; he was ready to
believe in Aladdin's lamp and in enchantment; he believed in his own
genius, in short.
"Then the _Marguerites_ are mine," continued Dauriat; "but you will
undertake not to attack my publications, won't you?"
"The _Marguerites_ are yours, but I cannot pledge my pen; it is at the
service of my friends, as theirs are mine."
"But you are one of my authors now. All my authors are my friends. So
you won't spoil my business without warning me beforehand, so that I
am prepared, will you?"
"I agree to that."
"To your fame!" and Dauriat raised his glass.
"I see that you have read the _Marguerites_," said Lucien.
Dauriat was not disconcerted.
"My boy, a publisher cannot pay a greater compliment than by buying
your _Marguerites_ unread. In six months' time you will be a great poet.
You will be written up; people are afraid of you; I shall have no
difficulty in selling your book. I am the same man of business that I
was four days ago. It is not I who have changed; it is _you_. Last week
your sonnets were so many cabbage leaves for me; to-day your position
has ranked them beside Delavigne."
"Ah well," said Lucien, "if you have not read my sonnets, you have
read my article." With the sultan's pleasure of possessing a fair
mistress, and the certainty of success, he had grown satirical and
adorably impertinent of late.
"Yes, my friend; do you think I should have come here in such a hurry
but for that? That terrible article of yours is very well written,
worse luck. Oh! you have a very great gift, my boy. Take my advice and
make the most of your vogue," he added, with good humor, which masked
the extreme insolence of the speech. "But have you yourself a copy of
the paper? Have you seen your article in print?"
"Not yet," said Lucien, "though this is the first long piece of prose
which I have published; but Hector will have sent a copy to my address
in the Rue Charlot."
"Here--read!" . . . cried Dauriat, copying Talma's gesture in _Manlius_.
Lucien took the paper but Coralie snatched it from him.
"The first-fruits of your pen belong to me, as you well know," she
Dauriat was unwontedly courtier-like and complimentary. He was afraid
of Lucien, and therefore he asked him to a great dinner which he was
giving to a party of journalists towards the end of the week, and
Coralie was included in the invitation. He took the _Marguerites_ away
with him when he went, asking _his_ poet to look in when he pleased in
the Wooden Galleries, and the agreement should be ready for his
signature. Dauriat never forgot the royal airs with which he
endeavored to overawe superficial observers, and to impress them with
the notion that he was a Maecenas rather than a publisher; at this
moment he left the three thousand francs, waving away in lordly
fashion the receipt which Lucien offered, kissed Coralie's hand, and
took his departure.
"Well, dear love, would you have seen many of these bits of paper if
you had stopped in your hole in the Rue de Cluny, prowling about among
the musty old books in the Bibliotheque de Sainte-Genevieve?" asked
Coralie, for she knew the whole story of Lucien's life by this time.
"Those little friends of yours in the Rue des Quatre-Vents are great
ninnies, it seems to me."
His brothers of the _cenacle_! And Lucien could hear the verdict and
He had seen himself in print; he had just experienced the ineffable
joy of the author, that first pleasurable thrill of gratified vanity
which comes but once. The full import and bearing of his article
became apparent to him as he read and re-read it. The garb of print is
to manuscript as the stage is to women; it brings beauties and defects
to light, killing and giving life; the fine thoughts and the faults
alike stare you in the face.
Lucien, in his excitement and rapture, gave not another thought to
Nathan. Nathan was a stepping-stone for him--that was all; and he
(Lucien) was happy exceedingly--he thought himself rich. The money
brought by Dauriat was a very Potosi for the lad who used to go about
unnoticed through the streets of Angouleme and down the steep path
into L'Houmeau to Postel's garret, where his whole family had lived
upon an income of twelve hundred francs. The pleasures of his life in
Paris must inevitably dim the memories of those days; but so keen were
they, that, as yet, he seemed to be back again in the Place du Murier.
He thought of Eve, his beautiful, noble sister, of David his friend,
and of his poor mother, and he sent Berenice out to change one of the
notes. While she went he wrote a few lines to his family, and on the
maid's return he sent her to the coach-office with a packet of five
hundred francs addressed to his mother. He could not trust himself; he
wanted to sent the money at once; later he might not be able to do it.
Both Lucien and Coralie looked upon this restitution as a meritorious
action. Coralie put her arms about her lover and kissed him, and
thought him a model son and brother; she could not make enough of him,
for generosity is a trait of character which delights these kindly
creatures, who always carry their hearts in their hands.
"We have a dinner now every day for a week," she said; "we will make a
little carnival; you have worked quite hard enough."
Coralie, fain to delight in the beauty of a man whom all other women
should envy her, took Lucien back to Staub. He was not dressed finely
enough for her. Thence the lovers went to drive in the Bois de
Boulogne, and came back to dine at Mme. du Val-Noble's. Rastignac,
Bixiou, des Lupeaulx, Finot, Blondet, Vignon, the Baron de Nucingen,
Beaudenord, Philippe Bridau, Conti, the great musician, all the
artists and speculators, all the men who seek for violent sensations
as a relief from immense labors, gave Lucien a welcome among them. And
Lucien had gained confidence; he gave himself out in talk as though he
had not to live by his wit, and was pronounced to be a "clever fellow"
in the slang of the coterie of semi-comrades.
"Oh! we must wait and see what he has in him," said Theodore Gaillard,
a poet patronized by the Court, who thought of starting a Royalist
paper to be entitled the _Reveil_ at a later day.
After dinner, Merlin and Lucien, Coralie and Mme. du Val-Noble, went
to the Opera, where Merlin had a box. The whole party adjourned
thither, and Lucien triumphant reappeared upon the scene of his first
He walked in the lobby, arm in arm with Merlin and Blondet, looking
the dandies who had once made merry at his expense between the eyes.
Chatelet was under his feet. He clashed glances with de Marsay,
Vandenesse, and Manerville, the bucks of that day. And indeed Lucien,
beautiful and elegantly arrayed, had caused a discussion in the
Marquise d'Espard's box; Rastignac had paid a long visit, and the
Marquise and Mme. de Bargeton put up their opera-glasses at Coralie.
Did the sight of Lucien send a pang of regret through Mme. de
Bargeton's heart? This thought was uppermost in the poet's mind. The
longing for revenge aroused in him by the sight of the Corinne of
Angouleme was as fierce as on that day when the lady and her cousin
had cut him in the Champs-Elysees.
"Did you bring an amulet with you from the provinces?"--It was Blondet
who made this inquiry some few days later, when he called at eleven
o'clock in the morning and found that Lucien was not yet risen.--"His
good looks are making ravages from cellar to garret, high and low,"
continued Blondet, kissing Coralie on the forehead. "I have come to
enlist you, dear fellow," he continued, grasping Lucien by the hand.
"Yesterday, at the Italiens, the Comtesse de Montcornet asked me to
bring you to her house. You will not give a refusal to a charming
woman? You meet people of the first fashion there."
"If Lucien is nice, he will not go to see your Countess," put in
Coralie. "What call is there for him to show his face in fine society?
He would only be bored there."
"Have you a vested interest in him? Are you jealous of fine ladies?"
"Yes," cried Coralie. "They are worse than we are."
"How do you know that, my pet?" asked Blondet.
"From their husbands," retorted she. "You are forgetting that I once
had six months of de Marsay."
"Do you suppose, child, that _I_ am particularly anxious to take such
a handsome fellow as your poet to Mme. de Montcornet's house? If you
object, let us consider that nothing has been said. But I don't fancy
that the women are so much in question as a poor devil that Lucien
pilloried in his newspaper; he is begging for mercy and peace. The
Baron du Chatelet is imbecile enough to take the thing seriously. The
Marquise d'Espard, Mme. de Bargeton, and Mme. de Montcornet's set have
taken up the Heron's cause; and I have undertaken to reconcile
Petrarch and his Laura--Mme. de Bargeton and Lucien."
"Aha!" cried Lucien, the glow of the intoxication of revenge throbbing
full-pulsed through every vein. "Aha! so my foot is on their necks!
You make me adore my pen, worship my friends, bow down to the
fate-dispensing power of the press. I have not written a single
sentence as yet upon the Heron and the Cuttlefish-bone.--I will go with
you, my boy," he cried, catching Blondet by the waist; "yes, I will go;
but first, the couple shall feel the weight of _this_, for so light as
it is." He flourished the pen which had written the article upon Nathan.
"To-morrow," he cried, "I will hurl a couple of columns at their
heads. Then, we shall see. Don't be frightened, Coralie, it is not
love but revenge; revenge! And I will have it to the full!"
"What a man it is!" said Blondet. "If you but knew, Lucien, how rare
such explosions are in this jaded Paris, you might appreciate
yourself. You will be a precious scamp" (the actual expression was a
trifle stronger); "you are in a fair way to be a power in the land."
"He will get on," said Coralie.
"Well, he has come a good way already in six weeks."
"And if he should climb so high that he can reach a sceptre by
treading over a corpse, he shall have Coralie's body for a
stepping-stone," said the girl.
"You are a pair of lovers of the Golden Age," said Blondet.--"I
congratulate you on your big article," he added, turning to Lucien.
"There were a lot of new things in it. You are past master!"
Lousteau called with Hector Merlin and Vernou. Lucien was immensely
flattered by this attention. Felicien Vernou brought a hundred francs
for Lucien's article; it was felt that such a contributor must be well
paid to attach him to the paper.
Coralie, looking round at the chapter of journalists, ordered in a
breakfast from the _Cadran bleu_, the nearest restaurant, and asked her
visitors to adjourn to her handsomely furnished dining-room when
Berenice announced that the meal was ready. In the middle of the
repast, when the champagne had gone to all heads, the motive of the
visit came out.
"You do not mean to make an enemy of Nathan, do you?" asked Lousteau.
"Nathan is a journalist, and he has friends; he might play you an ugly
trick with your first book. You have your _Archer of Charles IX._ to
sell, have you not? We went round to Nathan this morning; he is in a
terrible way. But you will set about another article, and puff praise
in his face."
"What! After my article against his book, would you have me say----"
The whole party cut him short with a shout of laughter.
"Did you ask him to supper here the day after to-morrow?" asked
"You article was not signed," added Lousteau. "Felicien, not being
quite such a new hand as you are, was careful to put an initial C at
the bottom. You can do that now with all your articles in his paper,
which is pure unadulterated Left. We are all of us in the Opposition.
Felicien was tactful enough not to compromise your future opinions.
Hector's shop is Right Centre; you might sign your work on it with an
L. If you cut a man up, you do it anonymously; if you praise him, it
is just as well to put your name to your article."
"It is not the signatures that trouble me," returned Lucien, "but I
cannot see anything to be said in favor of the book."
"Then did you really think as you wrote?" asked Hector.
"Oh! I thought you were cleverer than that, youngster," said Blondet.
"No. Upon my word, as I looked at that forehead of yours, I credited
you with the omnipotence of the great mind--the power of seeing both
sides of everything. In literature, my boy, every idea is reversible,
and no man can take upon himself to decide which is the right or wrong
side. Everything is bi-lateral in the domain of thought. Ideas are
binary. Janus is a fable signifying criticism and the symbol of
Genius. The Almighty alone is triform. What raises Moliere and
Corneille above the rest of us but the faculty of saying one thing
with an Alceste or an Octave, and another with a Philinte or a Cinna?
Rousseau wrote a letter against dueling in the _Nouvelle_ Heloise, and
another in favor of it. Which of the two represented his own opinion?
will you venture to take it upon yourself to decide? Which of us could
give judgement for Clarissa or Lovelace, Hector or Achilles? Who was
Homer's hero? What did Richardson himself think? It is the function of
criticism to look at a man's work in all its aspects. We draw up our
case, in short."
"Do you really stick to your written opinions?" asked Vernou, with a
satirical expression. "Why, we are retailers of phrases; that is how
we make a livelihood. When you try to do a good piece of work--to
write a book, in short--you can put your thoughts, yourself into it,
and cling to it, and fight for it; but as for newspaper articles, read
to-day and forgotten to-morrow, they are worth nothing in my eyes but
the money that is paid for them. If you attach any importance to such
drivel, you might as well make the sign of the Cross and invoke heaven
when you sit down to write a tradesman's circular."
Every one apparently was astonished at Lucien's scruples. The last
rags of the boyish conscience were torn away, and he was invested with
the _toga virilis_ of journalism.
"Do you know what Nathan said by way of comforting himself after your
criticism?" asked Lousteau.
"How should I know?"
"Nathan exclaimed, 'Paragraphs pass away; but a great work lives!' He
will be here to supper in two days, and he will be sure to fall flat
at your feet, and kiss your claws, and swear that you are a great
"That would be a funny thing," was Lucien's comment.
"_Funny_" repeated Blondet. "He can't help himself."
"I am quite willing, my friends," said Lucien, on whom the wine had
begun to take effect. "But what am I to say?"
"Oh well, refute yourself in three good columns in Merlin's paper. We
have been enjoying the sight of Nathan's wrath; we have just been
telling him that he owes us no little gratitude for getting up a hot
controversy that will sell his second edition in a week. In his eyes
at this present moment you are a spy, a scoundrel, a caitiff wretch;
the day after to-morrow you will be a genius, an uncommonly clever
fellow, one of Plutarch's men. Nathan will hug you and call you his
best friend. Dauriat has been to see you; you have your three thousand
francs; you have worked the trick! Now you want Nathan's respect and
esteem. Nobody ought to be let in except the publisher. We must not
immolate any one but an enemy. We should not talk like this if it were
a question of some outsider, some inconvenient person who had made a
name for himself without us and was not wanted; but Nathan is one of
us. Blondet got some one to attack him in the _Mercure_ for the pleasure
of replying in the _Debats_. For which reason the first edition went off
"My friends, upon my word and honor, I cannot write two words in
praise of that book----"
"You will have another hundred francs," interrupted Merlin. "Nathan
will have brought you in ten louis d'or, to say nothing of an article
that you might put in Finot's paper; you would get a hundred francs
for writing that, and another hundred francs from Dauriat--total,
"But what am I to say?"
"Here is your way out of the difficulty," said Blondet, after some
thought. "Say that the envy that fastens on all good work, like wasps
on ripe fruit, has attempted to set its fangs in this production. The
captious critic, trying his best to find fault, has been obliged to
invent theories for that purpose, and has drawn a distinction between
two kinds of literature--'the literature of ideas and the literature
of imagery,' as he calls them. On the heads of that, youngster, say
that to give expression to ideas through imagery is the highest form
of art. Try to show that all poetry is summed up in that, and lament
that there is so little poetry in French; quote foreign criticisms on
the unimaginative precision of our style, and then extol M. de Canalis
and Nathan for the services they have done France by infusing a less
prosaic spirit into the language. Knock your previous argument to
pieces by calling attention to the fact that we have made progress
since the eighteenth century. (Discover the 'progress,' a beautiful
word to mystify the bourgeois public.) Say that the new methods in
literature concentrate all styles, comedy and tragedy, description,
character-drawing and dialogues, in a series of pictures set in the
brilliant frame of a plot which holds the reader's interest. The
Novel, which demands sentiment, style, and imagery, is the greatest
creation of modern days; it is the successor of stage comedy grown
obsolete with its restrictions. Facts and ideas are all within the
province of fiction. The intellect of an incisive moralist, like La
Bruyere, the power of treating character as Moliere could treat it,
the grand machinery of a Shakespeare, together with the portrayal of
the most subtle shades of passion (the one treasury left untouched by
our predecessors)--for all this the modern novel affords free scope.
How far superior is all this to the cut-and-dried logic-chopping, the
cold analysis to the eighteenth century!--'The Novel,' say
sententiously, 'is the Epic grown amusing.' Instance _Corinne_, bring
Mme. de Stael up to support your argument. The eighteenth century
called all things in question; it is the task of the nineteenth to
conclude and speak the last word; and the last word of the nineteenth
century has been for realities--realities which live however and move.
Passion, in short, an element unknown in Voltaire's philosophy, has
been brought into play. Here a diatribe against Voltaire, and as for
Rousseau, his characters are polemics and systems masquerading. Julie
and Claire are entelechies--informing spirit awaiting flesh and bones.
"You might slip off on a side issue at this, and say that we owe a new
and original literature to the Peace and the Restoration of the
Bourbons, for you are writing for a Right Centre paper.
"Scoff at Founders of Systems. And cry with a glow of fine enthusiasm,
'Here are errors and misleading statements in abundance in our
contemporary's work, and to what end? To depreciate a fine work, to
deceive the public, and to arrive at this conclusion--"A book that
sells, does not sell."' _Proh pudor_! (Mind you put _Proh pudor_! 'tis a
harmless expletive that stimulates the reader's interest.) Foresee the
approaching decadence of criticism, in fact. Moral--'There is but one
kind of literature, the literature which aims to please. Nathan has
started upon a new way; he understands his epoch and fulfils the
requirements of his age--the demand for drama, the natural demand of a
century in which the political stage has become a permanent puppet
show. Have we not seen four dramas in a score of years--the
Revolution, the Directory, the Empire, and the Restoration?' With
that, wallow in dithyramb and eulogy, and the second edition shall
vanish like smoke. This is the way to do it. Next Saturday put a
review in our magazine, and sign it 'de Rubempre,' out in full.
"In that final article say that 'fine work always brings about
abundant controversy. This week such and such a paper contained such
and such an article on Nathan's book, and such another paper made a
vigorous reply.' Then you criticise the critics 'C' and 'L'; pay me a
passing compliment on the first article in the _Debats_, and end by
averring that Nathan's work is the great book of the epoch; which is
all as if you said nothing at all; they say the same of everything
that comes out.
"And so," continued Blondet, "you will have made four hundred francs
in a week, to say nothing of the pleasure of now and again saying what
you really think. A discerning public will maintain that either C or L
or Rubempre is in the right of it, or mayhap all the three. Mythology,
beyond doubt one of the grandest inventions of the human brain, places
Truth at the bottom of a well; and what are we to do without buckets?
You will have supplied the public with three for one. There you are,
my boy, Go ahead!"
Lucien's head was swimming with bewilderment. Blondet kissed him on
"I am going to my shop," said he. And every man likewise departed to
his shop. For these "_hommes forts_," a newspaper office was nothing but
They were to meet again in the evening at the Wooden Galleries, and
Lucien would sign his treaty of peace with Dauriat. Florine and
Lousteau, Lucien and Coralie, Blondet and Finot, were to dine at the
Palais-Royal; du Bruel was giving the manager of the
Panorama-Dramatique a dinner.
"They are right," exclaimed Lucien, when he was alone with Coralie.
"Men are made to be tools in the hands of stronger spirits. Four
hundred francs for three articles! Doguereau would scarcely give me as
much for a book which cost me two years of work."
"Write criticism," said Coralie, "have a good time! Look at me, I am
an Andalusian girl to-night, to-morrow I may be a gypsy, and a man the
night after. Do as I do, give them grimaces for their money, and let
us live happily."
Lucien, smitten with love of Paradox, set himself to mount and ride
that unruly hybrid product of Pegasus and Balaam's ass; started out at
a gallop over the fields of thought while he took a turn in the Bois,
and discovered new possibilities in Blondet's outline.
He dined as happy people dine, and signed away all his rights in the
_Marguerites_. It never occurred to him that any trouble might arise
from that transaction in the future. He took a turn of work at the
office, wrote off a couple of columns, and came back to the Rue de
Vendome. Next morning he found the germs of yesterday's ideas had
sprung up and developed in his brain, as ideas develop while the
intellect is yet unjaded and the sap is rising; and thoroughly did he
enjoy the projection of this new article. He threw himself into it
with enthusiasm. At the summons of the spirit of contradiction, new
charms met beneath his pen. He was witty and satirical, he rose to yet
new views of sentiment, of ideas and imagery in literature. With
subtle ingenuity, he went back to his own first impressions of
Nathan's work, when he read it in the newsroom of the Cour du
Commerce; and the ruthless, bloodthirsty critic, the lively mocker,
became a poet in the final phrases which rose and fell with majestic
rhythm like the swaying censer before the altar.
"One hundred francs, Coralie!" cried he, holding up eight sheets of
paper covered with writing while she dressed.
The mood was upon him; he went on to indite, stroke by stroke, the
promised terrible article on Chatelet and Mme. de Bargeton. That
morning he experienced one of the keenest personal pleasures of
journalism; he knew what it was to forge the epigram, to whet and
polish the cold blade to be sheathed in a victim's heart, to make of
the hilt a cunning piece of workmanship for the reader to admire. For
the public admires the handle, the delicate work of the brain, while
the cruelty is not apparent; how should the public know that the steel
of the epigram, tempered in the fire of revenge, has been plunged
deftly, to rankle in the very quick of a victim's vanity, and is
reeking from wounds innumerable which it has inflicted? It is a
hideous joy, that grim, solitary pleasure, relished without witnesses;
it is like a duel with an absent enemy, slain at a distance by a
quill; a journalist might really possess the magical power of
talismans in Eastern tales. Epigram is distilled rancor, the
quintessence of a hate derived from all the worst passions of man,
even as love concentrates all that is best in human nature. The man
does not exist who cannot be witty to avenge himself; and, by the same
rule, there is not one to whom love does not bring delight. Cheap and
easy as this kind of wit may be in France, it is always relished.
Lucien's article was destined to raise the previous reputation of the
paper for venomous spite and evil-speaking. His article probed two
hearts to the depths; it dealt a grievous wound to Mme. de Bargeton,
his Laura of old days, as well as to his rival, the Baron du Chatelet.
"Well, let us go for a drive in the Bois," said Coralie, "the horses
are fidgeting. There is no need to kill yourself."
"We will take the article on Nathan to Hector. Journalism is really
very much like Achilles' lance, it salves the wounds that it makes,"
said Lucien, correcting a phrase here and there.
The lovers started forth in splendor to show themselves to the Paris
which had but lately given Lucien the cold shoulder, and now was
beginning to talk about him. To have Paris talking of you! and this
after you have learned how large the great city is, how hard it is to
be anybody there--it was this thought that turned Lucien's head with
"Let us go by way of your tailor's, dear boy, and tell him to be quick
with your clothes, or try them on if they are ready. If you are going
to your fine ladies' houses, you shall eclipse that monster of a de
Marsay and young Rastignac and any Ajuda-Pinto or Maxime de Trailles
or Vandenesse of them all. Remember that your mistress is Coralie! But
you will not play me any tricks, eh?"
Two days afterwards, on the eve of the supper-party at Coralie's
house, there was a new play at the Ambigu, and it fell to Lucien to
write the dramatic criticism. Lucien and Coralie walked together after
dinner from the Rue de Vendome to the Panorama-Dramatique, going along
the Cafe Turc side of the Boulevard du Temple, a lounge much
frequented at that time. People wondered at his luck, and praised
Coralie's beauty. Chance remarks reached his ears; some said that
Coralie was the finest woman in Paris, others that Lucien was a match
for her. The romantic youth felt that he was in his atmosphere. This
was the life for him. The brotherhood was so far away that it was
almost out of sight. Only two months ago, how he had looked up to
those lofty great natures; now he asked himself if they were not just
a trifle ridiculous with their notions and their Puritanism. Coralie's
careless words had lodged in Lucien's mind, and begun already to bear
fruit. He took Coralie to her dressing-room, and strolled about like a
sultan behind the scenes; the actresses gave him burning glances and
"I must go to the Ambigu and attend to business," said he.
At the Ambigu the house was full; there was not a seat left for him.
Indignant complaints behind the scenes brought no redress; the
box-office keeper, who did not know him as yet, said that they had sent
orders for two boxes to his paper, and sent him about his business.
"I shall speak of the play as I find it," said Lucien, nettled at
"What a dunce you are!" said the leading lady, addressing the
box-office keeper, "that is Coralie's adorer."
The box-office keeper turned round immediately at this. "I will speak
to the manager at once, sir," he said.
In all these small details Lucien saw the immense power wielded by the
press. His vanity was gratified. The manager appeared to say that the
Duc de Rhetore and Tullia the opera-dancer were in the stage-box, and
they had consented to allow Lucien to join them.
"You have driven two people to distraction," remarked the young Duke,
mentioning the names of the Baron du Chatelet and Mme. de Bargeton.
"Distraction? What will it be to-morrow?" said Lucien. "So far, my
friends have been mere skirmishers, but I have given them red-hot shot
to-night. To-morrow you will know why we are making game of 'Potelet.'
The article is called 'Potelet from 1811 to 1821.' Chatelet will be a
byword, a name for the type of courtiers who deny their benefactor and
rally to the Bourbons. When I have done with him, I am going to Mme.
Lucien's talk was sparkling. He was eager that this great personage
should see how gross a mistake Mesdames d'Espard and de Bargeton had
made when they slighted Lucien de Rubempre. But he showed the tip of
his ear when he asserted his right to bear the name of Rubempre, the
Duc de Rhetore having purposely addressed him as Chardon.
"You should go over to the Royalists," said the Duke. "You have proved
yourself a man of ability; now show your good sense. The one way of
obtaining a patent of nobility and the right to bear the title of your
mother's family, is by asking for it in return for services to be
rendered to the Court. The Liberals will never make a count of you.
The Restoration will get the better of the press, you see, in the long
run, and the press is the only formidable power. They have borne with
it too long as it is; the press is sure to be muzzled. Take advantage
of the last moments of liberty to make yourself formidable, and you
will have everything--intellect, nobility, and good looks; nothing
will be out of your reach. So if you are a Liberal, let it be simply
for the moment, so that you can make a better bargain for your
With that the Duke entreated Lucien to accept an invitation to dinner,
which the German Minister (of Florine's supper-party) was about to
send. Lucien fell under the charm of the noble peer's arguments; the
salons from which he had been exiled for ever, as he thought, but a
few months ago, would shortly open their doors for him! He was
delighted. He marveled at the power of the press; Intellect and the
Press, these then were the real powers in society. Another thought
shaped itself in his mind--Was Etienne Lousteau sorry that he had
opened the gate of the temple to a newcomer? Even now he (Lucien) felt
on his own account that it was strongly advisable to put difficulties
in the way of eager and ambitious recruits from the provinces. If a
poet should come to him as he had flung himself into Etienne's arms,
he dared not think of the reception that he would give him.
The youthful Duke meanwhile saw that Lucien was deep in thought, and
made a pretty good guess at the matter of his meditations. He himself
had opened out wide horizons of public life before an ambitious poet,
with a vacillating will, it is true, but not without aspirations; and
the journalists had already shown the neophyte, from a pinnacle of the
temple, all the kingdoms of the world of letters and its riches.
Lucien himself had no suspicion of a little plot that was being woven,
nor did he imagine that M. de Rhetore had a hand in it. M. de Rhetore
had spoken of Lucien's cleverness, and Mme. d'Espard's set had taken
alarm. Mme. de Bargeton had commissioned the Duke to sound Lucien, and
with that object in view, the noble youth had come to the
Do not believe in stories of elaborate treachery. Neither the great
world nor the world of journalists laid any deep schemes; definite
plans are not made by either; their Machiavelism lives from hand to
mouth, so to speak, and consists, for the most part, in being always
on the spot, always on the alert to turn everything to account, always
on the watch for the moment when a man's ruling passion shall deliver
him into the hands of his enemies. The young Duke had seen through
Lucien at Florine's supper-party; he had just touched his vain
susceptibilities; and now he was trying his first efforts in diplomacy
upon the living subject.
Lucien hurried to the Rue Saint-Fiacre after the play to write his
article. It was a piece of savage and bitter criticism, written in
pure wantonness; he was amusing himself by trying his power. The
melodrama, as a matter of fact, was a better piece than the _Alcalde_;
but Lucien wished to see whether he could damn a good play and send
everybody to see a bad one, as his associates had said.
He unfolded the sheet at breakfast next morning, telling Coralie as he
did so that he had cut up the Ambigu-Comique; and not a little
astonished was he to find below his paper on Mme. de Bargeton and
Chatelet a notice of the Ambigu, so mellowed and softened in the
course of the night, that although the witty analysis was still
preserved, the judgment was favorable. The article was more likely to
fill the house than to empty it. No words can describe his wrath. He
determined to have a word or two with Lousteau. He had already begun
to think himself an indespensable man, and he vowed that he would not
submit to be tyrannized over and treated like a fool. To establish his
power beyond cavil, he wrote the article for Dauriat's review, summing
up and weighing all the various opinions concerning Nathan's book; and
while he was in the humor, he hit off another of his short sketches
for Lousteau's newspaper. Inexperienced journalists, in the first
effervescence of youth, make a labor of love of ephemeral work, and
lavish their best thought unthriftily thereon.
The manager of the Panorama-Dramatique gave a first performance of a
vaudeville that night, so that Florine and Coralie might be free for
the evening. There were to be cards before supper. Lousteau came for
the short notice of the vaudeville; it had been written beforehand
after the general rehearsal, for Etienne wished to have the paper off
his mind. Lucien read over one of the charming sketches of Parisian
whimsicalities which made the fortune of the paper, and Lousteau
kissed him on both eyelids, and called him the providence of
"Then why do you amuse yourself by turning my article inside out?"
asked Lucien. He had written his brilliant sketch simply and solely to
give emphasis to his grievance.
"_I_?" exclaimed Lousteau.
"Well, who else can have altered my article?"
"You do not know all the ins and outs yet, dear fellow. The Ambigu
pays for thirty copies, and only takes nine for the manager and box
office-keeper and their mistresses, and for the three lessees of the
theatre. Every one of the Boulevard theatres pays eight hundred francs
in this way to the paper; and there is quite as much again in boxes
and orders for Finot, to say nothing of the contributions of the
company. And if the minor theatres do this, you may imagine what the
big ones do! Now you understand? We are bound to show a good deal of
"I understand this, that I am not at liberty to write as I think----"
"Eh! what does that matter, so long as you turn an honest penny?"
cried Lousteau. "Besides, my boy, what grudge had you against the
theatre? You must have had some reason for it, or you would not have
cut up the play as you did. If you slash for the sake of slashing, the
paper will get into trouble, and when there is good reason for hitting
hard it will not tell. Did the manager leave you out in the cold?"
"He had not kept a place for me."
"Good," said Lousteau. "I shall let him see your article, and tell him
that I softened it down; you will find it serves you better than if it
had appeared in print. Go and ask him for tickets to-morrow, and he
will sign forty blank orders every month. I know a man who can get rid
of them for you; I will introduce you to him, and he will buy them all
up at half-price. There is a trade done in theatre tickets, just as
Barbet trades in reviewers' copies. This is another Barbet, the leader
of the _claque_. He lives near by; come and see him, there is time
"But, my dear fellow, it is a scandalous thing that Finot should levy
blackmail in matters intellectual. Sooner or later----"
"Really!" cried Lousteau, "where do you come from? For what do you
take Finot? Beneath his pretence of good-nature, his ignorance and
stupidity, and those Turcaret's airs of his, there is all the cunning
of his father the hatter. Did you notice an old soldier of the Empire
in the den at the office? That is Finot's uncle. The uncle is not only
one of the right sort, he has the luck to be taken for a fool; and he
takes all that kind of business upon his shoulders. An ambitious man
in Paris is well off indeed if he has a willing scapegoat at hand. In
public life, as in journalism, there are hosts of emergencies in which
the chiefs cannot afford to appear. If Finot should enter on a
political career, his uncle would be his secretary, and receive all
the contributions levied in his department on big affairs. Anybody
would take Giroudeau for a fool at first sight, but he has just enough
shrewdness to be an inscrutable old file. He is on picket duty; he
sees that we are not pestered with hubbub, beginners wanting a job, or
advertisements. No other paper has his equal, I think."
"He plays his part well," said Lucien; "I saw him at work."
Etienne and Lucien reached a handsome house in the Rue du
"Is M. Braulard in?" Etienne asked of the porter.
"_Monsieur_?" said Lucien. "Then, is the leader of the _claque_
"My dear boy, Braulard has twenty thousand francs of income. All the
dramatic authors of the Boulevards are in his clutches, and have a
standing account with him as if he were a banker. Orders and
complimentary tickets are sold here. Braulard knows where to get rid
of such merchandise. Now for a turn at statistics, a useful science
enough in its way. At the rate of fifty complimentary tickets every
evening for each theatre, you have two hundred and fifty tickets
daily. Suppose, taking one with another, that they are worth a couple
of francs apiece, Braulard pays a hundred and twenty-five francs daily
for them, and takes his chance of making cent per cent. In this way
authors' tickets alone bring him in about four thousand francs every
month, or forty-eight thousand francs per annum. Allow twenty thousand
francs for loss, for he cannot always place all his tickets----"
"Oh! the people who pay at the door go in with the holders of
complimentary tickets for unreserved seats, and the theatre reserves
the right of admitting those who pay. There are fine warm evenings to
be reckoned with besides, and poor plays. Braulard makes, perhaps,
thirty thousand francs every year in this way, and he has his
_claqueurs_ besides, another industry. Florine and Coralie pay tribute
to him; if they did not, there would be no applause when they come on
or go off."
Lousteau gave this explanation in a low voice as they went up the
"Paris is a queer place," said Lucien; it seemed to him that he saw
self-interest squatting in every corner.
A smart maid-servant opened the door. At the sight of Etienne
Lousteau, the dealer in orders and tickets rose from a sturdy chair
before a large cylinder desk, and Lucien beheld the leader of the
_claque_, Braulard himself, dressed in a gray molleton jacket, footed
trousers, and red slippers; for all the world like a doctor or a
solicitor. He was a typical self-made man, Lucien thought--a
vulgar-looking face with a pair of exceedingly cunning gray eyes,
hands made for hired applause, a complexion over which hard living
had passed like rain over a roof, grizzled hair, and a somewhat husky
"You have come from Mlle. Florine, no doubt, sir, and this gentleman
for Mlle. Coralie," said Braulard; "I know you very well by sight.
Don't trouble yourself, sir," he continued, addressing Lucien; "I am
buying the Gymnase connection, I will look after your lady, and I will
give her notice of any tricks they may try to play on her."
"That is not an offer to be refused, my dear Braulard, but we have
come about the press orders for the Boulevard theatres--I as editor,
and this gentleman as dramatic critic."
"Oh!--ah, yes! Finot has sold his paper. I heard about it. He is
getting on, is Finot. I have asked him to dine with me at the end of
the week; if you will do me the honor and pleasure of coming, you may
bring your ladies, and there will be a grand jollification. Adele
Dupuis is coming, and Ducange, and Frederic du Petit-Mere, and Mlle.
Millot, my mistress. We shall have good fun and better liquor."
"Ducange must be in difficulties. He has lost his lawsuit."
"I have lent him ten thousand francs; if _Calas_ succeeds, it will repay
the loan, so I have been organizing a success. Ducange is a clever
man; he has brains----"
Lucien fancied that he must be dreaming when he heard a _claqueur_
appraising a writer's value.
"Coralie has improved," continued Braulard, with the air of a
competent critic. "If she is a good girl, I will take her part, for
they have got up a cabal against her at the Gymnase. This is how I
mean to do it. I will have a few well-dressed men in the balconies to
smile and make a little murmur, and the applause will follow. That is
a dodge which makes a position for an actress. I have a liking for
Coralie, and you ought to be satisfied, for she has feeling. Aha! I
can hiss any one on the stage if I like."
"But let us settle this business about the tickets," put in Lousteau.
"Very well, I will come to this gentleman's lodging for them at the
beginning of the month. He is a friend of yours, and I will treat him
as I do you. You have five theatres; you will get thirty tickets--that
will be something like seventy-five francs a month. Perhaps you will
be wanting an advance?" added Braulard, lifting a cash-box full of
coin out of his desk.
"No, no," said Lousteau; "we will keep that shift against a rainy
"I will work with Coralie, sir, and we will come to an understanding,"
said Braulard, addressing Lucien, who was looking about him, not
without profound astonishment. There was a bookcase in Braulard's
study, there were framed engravings and good furniture; and as they
passed through the drawing room, he noticed that the fittings were
neither too luxurious nor yet mean. The dining-room seemed to be the
best ordered room, he remarked on this jokingly.
"But Braulard is an epicure," said Lousteau; "his dinners are famous
in dramatic literature, and they are what you might expect from his
"I have good wine," Braulard replied modestly.--"Ah! here are my
lamplighters," he added, as a sound of hoarse voices and strange
footsteps came up from the staircase.
Lucien on his way down saw a march past of _claqueurs_ and retailers of
tickets. It was an ill smelling squad, attired in caps, seedy
trousers, and threadbare overcoats; a flock of gallows-birds with
bluish and greenish tints in their faces, neglected beards, and a
strange mixture of savagery and subservience in their eyes. A horrible
population lives and swarms upon the Paris boulevards; selling watch
guards and brass jewelry in the streets by day, applauding under the
chandeliers of the theatre at night, and ready to lend themselves to
any dirty business in the great city.
"Behold the Romans!" laughed Lousteau; "behold fame incarnate for
actresses and dramatic authors. It is no prettier than our own when
you come to look at it close."
"It is difficult to keep illusions on any subject in Paris," answered
Lucien as they turned in at his door. "There is a tax upon everything
--everything has its price, and anything can be made to order--even
Thirty guests were assembled that evening in Coralie's rooms, her
dining room would not hold more. Lucien had asked Dauriat and the
manager of the Panorama-Dramatique, Matifat and Florine, Camusot,
Lousteau, Finot, Nathan, Hector Merlin and Mme. du Val-Noble, Felicien
Vernou, Blondet, Vignon, Philippe Bridau, Mariette, Giroudeau, Cardot
and Florentine, and Bixiou. He had also asked all his friends of the
Rue des Quatre-Vents. Tullia the dancer, who was not unkind, said
gossip, to du Bruel, had come without her duke. The proprietors of the
newspapers, for whom most of the journalists wrote, were also of the
At eight o'clock, when the lights of the candles in the chandeliers
shone over the furniture, the hangings, and the flowers, the rooms
wore the festal air that gives to Parisian luxury the appearance of a
dream; and Lucien felt indefinable stirrings of hope and gratified
vanity and pleasure at the thought that he was the master of the
house. But how and by whom the magic wand had been waved he no longer
sought to remember. Florine and Coralie, dressed with the fanciful
extravagance and magnificent artistic effect of the stage, smiled on
the poet like two fairies at the gates of the Palace of Dreams. And
Lucien was almost in a dream.
His life had been changed so suddenly during the last few months; he
had gone so swiftly from the depths of penury to the last extreme of
luxury, that at moments he felt as uncomfortable as a dreaming man who
knows that he is asleep. And yet, he looked round at the fair reality
about him with a confidence to which envious minds might have given
the name of fatuity.
Lucien himself had changed. He had grown paler during these days of
continual enjoyment; languor had lent a humid look to his eyes; in
short, to use Mme. d'Espard's expression, he looked like a man who is
loved. He was the handsomer for it. Consciousness of his powers and
his strength was visible in his face, enlightened as it was by love
and experience. Looking out over the world of letters and of men, it
seemed to him that he might go to and fro as lord of it all. Sober
reflection never entered his romantic head unless it was driven in by
the pressure of adversity, and just now the present held not a care
for him. The breath of praise swelled the sails of his skiff; all the
instruments of success lay there to his hand; he had an establishment,
a mistress whom all Paris envied him, a carriage, and untold wealth in
his inkstand. Heart and soul and brain were alike transformed within
him; why should he care to be over nice about the means, when the
great results were visibly there before his eyes.
As such a style of living will seem, and with good reason, to be
anything but secure to economists who have any experience of Paris, it
will not be superfluous to give a glance to the foundation, uncertain
as it was, upon which the prosperity of the pair was based.
Camusot had given Coralie's tradesmen instructions to grant her credit
for three months at least, and this had been done without her
knowledge. During those three months, therefore, horses and servants,
like everything else, waited as if by enchantment at the bidding of
two children, eager for enjoyment, and enjoying to their hearts'
Coralie had taken Lucien's hand and given him a glimpse of the
transformation scene in the dining-room, of the splendidly appointed
table, of chandeliers, each fitted with forty wax-lights, of the
royally luxurious dessert, and a menu of Chevet's. Lucien kissed her
on the forehead and held her closely to his heart.
"I shall succeed, child," he said, "and then I will repay you for such
love and devotion."
"Pshaw!" said Coralie. "Are you satisfied?"
"I should be very hard to please if I were not."
"Very well, then, that smile of yours pays for everything," she said,
and with a serpentine movement she raised her head and laid her lips
When they went back to the others, Florine, Lousteau, Matifat, and
Camusot were setting out the card-tables. Lucien's friends began to
arrive, for already these folk began to call themselves "Lucien's
friends"; and they sat over the cards from nine o'clock till midnight.
Lucien was unacquainted with a single game, but Lousteau lost a
thousand francs, and Lucien could not refuse to lend him the money
when he asked for it.
Michel, Fulgence, and Joseph appeared about ten o'clock; and Lucien,
chatting with them in a corner, saw that they looked sober and serious
enough, not to say ill at ease. D'Arthez could not come, he was
finishing his book; Leon Giraud was busy with the first number of his
review; so the brotherhood had sent three artists among their number,
thinking that they would feel less out of their element in an
uproarious supper party than the rest.
"Well, my dear fellows," said Lucien, assuming a slightly patronizing
tone, "the 'comical fellow' may become a great public character yet,
"I wish I may be mistaken; I don't ask better," said Michel.
"Are you living with Coralie until you can do better?" asked Fulgence.
"Yes," said Lucien, trying to look unconscious. "Coralie had an
elderly adorer, a merchant, and she showed him the door, poor fellow.
I am better off than your brother Philippe," he added, addressing
Joseph Bridau; "he does not know how to manage Mariette."
"You are a man like another now; in short, you will make your way,"
"A man that will always be the same for you, under all circumstances,"
Michel and Fulgence exchanged incredulous scornful smiles at this.
Lucien saw the absurdity of his remark.
"Coralie is wonderfully beautiful," exclaimed Joseph Bridau. "What a
magnificent portrait she would make!"
"Beautiful and good," said Lucien; "she is an angel, upon my word. And
you shall paint her portrait; she shall sit to you if you like for
your Venetian lady brought by the old woman to the senator."
"All women who love are angelic," said Michel Chrestien.
Just at that moment Raoul Nathan flew upon Lucien, and grasped both
his hands and shook them in a sudden access of violent friendship.
"Oh, my good friend, you are something more than a great man, you have
a heart," cried he, "a much rarer thing than genius in these days. You
are a devoted friend. I am yours, in short, through thick and thin; I
shall never forget all that you have done for me this week."
Lucien's joy had reached the highest point; to be thus caressed by a
man of whom everyone was talking! He looked at his three friends of
the brotherhood with something like a superior air. Nathan's
appearance upon the scene was the result of an overture from Merlin,
who sent him a proof of the favorable review to appear in to-morrow's
"I only consented to write the attack on condition that I should be
allowed to reply to it myself," Lucien said in Nathan's ear. "I am one
of you." This incident was opportune; it justified the remark which
amused Fulgence. Lucien was radiant.
"When d'Arthez's book comes out," he said, turning to the three, "I am
in a position to be useful to him. That thought in itself would induce
me to remain a journalist."
"Can you do as you like?" Michel asked quickly.
"So far as one can when one is indispensable," said Lucien modestly.
It was almost midnight when they sat down to supper, and the fun grew
fast and furious. Talk was less restrained in Lucien's house than at
Matifat's, for no one suspected that the representatives of the
brotherhood and the newspaper writers held divergent opinions. Young
intellects, depraved by arguing for either side, now came into
conflict with each other, and fearful axioms of the journalistic
jurisprudence, then in its infancy, hurtled to and fro. Claude Vignon,
upholding the dignity of criticism, inveighed against the tendency of
the smaller newspapers, saying that the writers of personalities
lowered themselves in the end. Lousteau, Merlin, and Finot took up the
cudgels for the system known by the name of _blague_; puffery, gossip,
and humbug, said they, was the test of talent, and set the hall-mark,
as it were, upon it. "Any man who can stand that test has real power,"
"Besides," cried Merlin, "when a great man receives ovations, there
ought to be a chorus in insults to balance, as in a Roman triumph."
"Oho!" put in Lucien; "then every one held up to ridicule in print
will fancy that he has made a success."
"Any one would think that the question interested you," exclaimed
"And how about our sonnets," said Michel Chrestien; "is that the way
they will win us the fame of a second Petrarch?"
"Laura already counts for something in his fame," said Dauriat, a pun
[Laure (l'or)] received with acclamations.
"_Faciamus experimentum in anima vili_," retorted Lucien with a smile.
"And woe unto him whom reviewers shall spare, flinging him crowns at
his first appearance, for he shall be shelved like the saints in their
shrines, and no man shall pay him the slightest attention," said
"People will say, 'Look elsewhere, simpleton; you have had your due
already,' as Champcenetz said to the Marquis de Genlis, who was
looking too fondly at his wife," added Blondet.
"Success is the ruin of a man in France," said Finot. "We are so
jealous of one another that we try to forget, and to make others
forget, the triumphs of yesterday."
"Contradiction is the life of literature, in fact," said Claude
"In art as in nature, there are two principles everywhere at strife,"
exclaimed Fulgence; "and victory for either means death."
"So it is with politics," added Michel Chrestien.
"We have a case in point," said Lousteau. "Dauriat will sell a couple
of thousand copies of Nathan's book in the coming week. And why?
Because the book that was cleverly attacked will be ably defended."
Merlin took up the proof of to-morrow's paper. "How can such an
article fail to sell an edition?" he asked.
"Read the article," said Dauriat. "I am a publisher wherever I am,
even at supper."
Merlin read Lucien's triumphant refutation aloud, and the whole party
"How could that article have been written unless the attack had
preceded it?" asked Lousteau.
Dauriat drew the proof of the third article from his pocket and read
it over, Finot listening closely; for it was to appear in the second
number of his own review, and as editor he exaggerated his enthusiasm.
"Gentlemen," said he, "so and not otherwise would Bossuet have written
if he had lived in our day."
"I am sure of it," said Merlin. "Bossuet would have been a journalist
"To Bossuet the Second!" cried Claude Vignon, raising his glass with
an ironical bow.
"To my Christopher Columbus!" returned Lucien, drinking a health to
"Bravo!" cried Nathan.
"Is it a nickname?" Merlin inquired, looking maliciously from Finot to
"If you go on at this pace, you will be quite beyond us," said
Dauriat; "these gentlemen" (indicating Camusot and Matifat) "cannot
follow you as it is. A joke is like a bit of thread; if it is spun too
fine, it breaks, as Bonaparte said."
"Gentlemen," said Lousteau, "we have been eye-witnesses of a strange,
portentous, unheard-of, and truly surprising phenomenon. Admire the
rapidity with which our friend here has been transformed from a
provincial into a journalist!"
"He is a born journalist," said Dauriat.
"Children!" called Finot, rising to his feet, "all of us here present
have encouraged and protected our amphitryon in his entrance upon a
career in which he has already surpassed our hopes. In two months he
has shown us what he can do in a series of excellent articles known to
us all. I propose to baptize him in form as a journalist."
"A crown of roses! to signalize a double conquest," cried Bixiou,
glancing at Coralie.
Coralie made a sign to Berenice. That portly handmaid went to
Coralie's dressing-room and brought back a box of tumbled artificial
flowers. The more incapable members of the party were grotesquely
tricked out in these blossoms, and a crown of roses was soon woven.
Finot, as high priest, sprinkled a few drops of champagne on Lucien's
golden curls, pronouncing with delicious gravity the words--"In the
name of the Government Stamp, the Caution-money, and the Fine, I
baptize thee, Journalist. May thy articles sit lightly on thee!"
"And may they be paid for, including white lines!" cried Merlin.
Just at that moment Lucien caught sight of three melancholy faces.
Michel Chrestien, Joseph Bridau, and Fulgence Ridal took up their hats
and went out amid a storm of invective.
"Queer customers!" said Merlin.
"Fulgence used to be a good fellow," added Lousteau, "before they
perverted his morals."
"Who are 'they'?" asked Claude Vignon.
"Some very serious young men," said Blondet, "who meet at a
philosophico-religious symposium in the Rue des Quatre-Vents, and
worry themselves about the meaning of human life----"
"They are trying to find out whether it goes round in a circle, or
makes some progress," continued Blondet. "They were very hard put to
it between the straight line and the curve; the triangle, warranted by
Scripture, seemed to them to be nonsense, when, lo! there arose among
them some prophet or other who declared for the spiral."
"Men might meet to invent more dangerous nonsense than that!"
exclaimed Lucien, making a faint attempt to champion the brotherhood.
"You take theories of that sort for idle words," said Felicien Vernou;
"but a time comes when the arguments take the form of gunshot and the
"They have not come to that yet," said Bixiou; "they have only come as
far as the designs of Providence in the invention of champagne, the
humanitarian significance of breeches, and the blind deity who keeps
the world going. They pick up fallen great men like Vico, Saint-Simon,
and Fourier. I am much afraid that they will turn poor Joseph Bridau's
head among them."
"Bianchon, my old schoolfellow, gives me the cold shoulder now," said
Lousteau; "it is all their doing----"
"Do they give lectures on orthopedy and intellectual gymnastics?"
"Very likely," answered Finot, "if Bianchon has any hand in their
"Pshaw!" said Lousteau; "he will be a great physician anyhow."
"Isn't d'Arthez their visible head?" asked Nathan, "a little youngster
that is going to swallow all of us up."
"He is a genius!" cried Lucien.
"Genius, is he! Well, give me a glass of sherry!" said Claude Vignon,
Every one, thereupon, began to explain his character for the benefit
of his neighbor; and when a clever man feels a pressing need of
explaining himself, and of unlocking his heart, it is pretty clear
that wine has got the upper hand. An hour later, all the men in the
company were the best friends in the world, addressing each other as
great men and bold spirits, who held the future in their hands.
Lucien, in his quality of host, was sufficiently clearheaded to
apprehend the meaning of the sophistries which impressed him and
completed his demoralization.
"The Liberal party," announced Finot, "is compelled to stir up
discussion somehow. There is no fault to find with the action of the
Government, and you may imagine what a fix the Opposition is in. Which
of you now cares to write a pamphlet in favor of the system of
primogeniture, and raise a cry against the secret designs of the
Court? The pamphlet will be paid for handsomely."
"I will write it," said Hector Merlin. "It is my own point of view."
"Your party will complain that you are compromising them," said Finot.
"Felicien, you must undertake it; Dauriat will bring it out, and we
will keep the secret."
"How much shall I get?"
"Six hundred francs. Sign it 'Le Comte C, three stars.'"
"It's a bargain," said Felicien Vernou.
"So you are introducing the _canard_ to the political world," remarked
"It is simply the Chabot affair carried into the region of abstract
ideas," said Finot. "Fasten intentions on the Government, and then let
loose public opinion."
"How a Government can leave the control of ideas to such a pack of
scamps as we are, is matter for perpetual and profound astonishment to
me," said Claude Vignon.
"If the Ministry blunders so far as to come down into the arena, we
can give them a drubbing. If they are nettled by it, the thing will
rankle in people's minds, and the Government will lose its hold on the
masses. The newspaper risks nothing, and the authorities have
everything to lose."
"France will be a cipher until newspapers are abolished by law," said
Claude Vignon. "You are making progress hourly," he added, addressing
Finot. "You are a modern order of Jesuits, lacking the creed, the
fixed idea, the discipline, and the union."
They went back to the card-tables; and before long the light of the
candles grew feeble in the dawn.
"Lucien, your friends from the Rue des Quatre-Vents looked as dismal
as criminals going to be hanged," said Coralie.
"They were the judges, not the criminals," replied the poet.
"Judges are more amusing than _that_," said Coralie.
For a month Lucien's whole time was taken up with supper parties,
dinner engagements, breakfasts, and evening parties; he was swept away
by an irresistible current into a vortex of dissipation and easy work.
He no longer thought of the future. The power of calculation amid the
complications of life is the sign of a strong will which poets,
weaklings, and men who live a purely intellectual life can never
counterfeit. Lucien was living from hand to mouth, spending his money
as fast as he made it, like many another journalist; nor did he give
so much as a thought to those periodically recurrent days of reckoning
which chequer the life of the bohemian in Paris so sadly.
In dress and figure he was a rival for the great dandies of the day.
Coralie, like all zealots, loved to adorn her idol. She ruined herself
to give her beloved poet the accoutrements which had so stirred his
envy in the Garden of the Tuileries. Lucien had wonderful canes, and a
charming eyeglass; he had diamond studs, and scarf-rings, and
signet-rings, besides an assortment of waistcoats marvelous to behold,
and in sufficient number to match every color in a variety of costumes.
His transition to the estate of dandy swiftly followed. When he went to
the German Minister's dinner, all the young men regarded him with
suppressed envy; yet de Marsay, Vandenesse, Ajuda-Pinto, Maxime de
Trailles, Rastignac, Beaudenord, Manerville, and the Duc de
Maufrigneuse gave place to none in the kingdom of fashion. Men of
fashion are as jealous among themselves as women, and in the same way.
Lucien was placed between Mme. de Montcornet and Mme. d'Espard, in
whose honor the dinner was given; both ladies overwhelmed him with
"Why did you turn your back on society when you would have been so
well received?" asked the Marquise. "Every one was prepared to make
much of you. And I have a quarrel with you too. You owed me a call--I
am still waiting to receive it. I saw you at the Opera the other day,
and you would not deign to come to see me nor to take any notice of
"Your cousin, madame, so unmistakably dismissed me--"
"Oh! you do not know women," the Marquise d'Espard broke in upon him.
"You have wounded the most angelic heart, the noblest nature that I
know. You do not know all that Louise was trying to do for you, nor
how tactfully she laid her plans for you.--Oh! and she would have
succeeded," the Marquise continued, replying to Lucien's mute
incredulity. "Her husband is dead now; died, as he was bound to die,
of an indigestion; could you doubt that she would be free sooner or
later? And can you suppose that she would like to be Madame Chardon?
It was worth while to take some trouble to gain the title of Comtesse
de Rubempre. Love, you see, is a great vanity, which requires the
lesser vanities to be in harmony with itself--especially in marriage.
I might love you to madness--which is to say, sufficiently to marry
you--and yet I should find it very unpleasant to be called Madame
Chardon. You can see that. And now that you understand the
difficulties of Paris life, you will know how many roundabout ways you
must take to reach your end; very well, then, you must admit that
Louise was aspiring to an all but impossible piece of Court favor; she
was quite unknown, she is not rich, and therefore she could not afford
to neglect any means of success.
"You are clever," the Marquise d'Espard continued; "but we women, when
we love, are cleverer than the cleverest man. My cousin tried to make
that absurd Chatelet useful--Oh!" she broke off, "I owe not a little
amusement to you; your articles on Chatelet made me laugh heartily."
Lucien knew not what to think of all this. Of the treachery and bad
faith of journalism he had had some experience; but in spite of his
perspicacity, he scarcely expected to find bad faith or treachery in
society. There were some sharp lessons in store for him.
"But, madame," he objected, for her words aroused a lively curiosity,
"is not the Heron under your protection?"
"One is obliged to be civil to one's worst enemies in society,"
protested she; "one may be bored, but one must look as if the talk was
amusing, and not seldom one seems to sacrifice friends the better to
serve them. Are you still a novice? You mean to write, and yet you
know nothing of current deceit? My cousin apparently sacrificed you to
the Heron, but how could she dispense with his influence for you? Our
friend stands well with the present ministry; and we have made him see
that your attacks will do him service--up to a certain point, for we
want you to make it up again some of these days. Chatelet has received
compensations for his troubles; for, as des Lupeaulx said, 'While the
newspapers are making Chatelet ridiculous, they will leave the
Ministry in peace.'"
There was a pause; the Marquise left Lucien to his own reflections.
"M. Blondet led me to hope that I should have the pleasure of seeing
you in my house," said the Comtesse de Montcornet. "You will meet a
few artists and men of letters, and some one else who has the keenest
desire to become acquainted with you--Mlle. des Touches, the owner of
talents rare among our sex. You will go to her house, no doubt. Mlle.
de Touches (or Camille Maupin, if you prefer it) is prodigiously rich,
and presides over one of the most remarkable salons in Paris. She has
heard that you are as handsome as you are clever, and is dying to meet
Lucien could only pour out incoherent thanks and glance enviously at
Emile Blondet. There was as great a difference between a great lady
like Mme. de Montcornet and Coralie as between Coralie and a girl out
of the streets. The Countess was young and witty and beautiful, with
the very white fairness of women of the north. Her mother was the
Princess Scherbellof, and the Minister before dinner had paid her the
most respectful attention.
By this time the Marquise had made an end of trifling disdainfully
with the wing of a chicken.
"My poor Louise felt so much affection for you," she said. "She took
me into her confidence; I knew her dreams of a great career for you.
She would have borne a great deal, but what scorn you showed her when
you sent back her letters! Cruelty we can forgive; those who hurt us
must have still some faith in us; but indifference! Indifference is
like polar snows, it extinguishes all life. So, you must see that you
have lost a precious affection through your own fault. Why break with
her? Even if she had scorned you, you had your way to make, had you
not?--your name to win back? Louise thought of all that."
"Then why was she silent?"
"_Eh! mon Dieu!_" cried the Marquise, "it was I myself who advised her
not to take you into her confidence. Between ourselves, you know, you
seemed so little used to the ways of the world, that I took alarm. I
was afraid that your inexperience and rash ardor might wreck our
carefully-made schemes. Can you recollect yourself as you were then?
You must admit that if you could see your double to-day, you would say
the same yourself. You are not like the same man. That was our
mistake. But would one man in a thousand combine such intellectual
gifts with such wonderful aptitude for taking the tone of society? I
did not think that you would be such an astonishing exception. You
were transformed so quickly, you acquired the manner of Paris so
easily, that I did not recognize you in the Bois de Boulogne a month
Lucien heard the great lady with inexpressible pleasure; the
flatteries were spoken with such a petulant, childlike, confiding air,
and she seemed to take such a deep interest in him, that he thought of
his first evening at the Panorama-Dramatique, and began to fancy that
some such miracle was about to take place a second time. Everything
had smiled upon him since that happy evening; his youth, he thought,
was the talisman that worked this change. He would prove this great
lady; she should not take him unawares.
"Then, what were these schemes which have turned to chimeras, madame?"
"Louise meant to obtain a royal patent permitting you to bear the name
and title of Rubempre. She wished to put Chardon out of sight. Your
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