Imatges de pÓgina

columns, its encircling gallery occupied by venders of newspapers, old prints, cheap novels, surgical treatises, stage plays, and every species of lowpriced literature likely to find purchasers in the vicinity of a medical school and a large theatre. This building is the Odéon, which bore, under Napoleon the Great, the title of Théatre de l'Impératrice, but which is better known as the Second Théatre Français. It has been twice burned down, and has frequently changed its occupants -even the Italian Opera having quartered itself there for a time; but its success as a French theatre has been very fluctuating, and never brilliant. It gives tragedies, comedies, and dramas, and is intended, as its second title indicates, to be a kind of supplement to the Comédie Française. It is one of the houses that enjoy a pecuniary subvention from the French government. Owing to its situation, remote from the modern, and from most of the fashionably inhabited parts of Paris, it must rely for an audience, except in the case of unusually attractive pieces, upon the dwellers upon the southern banks of the Seine. This last winter it has had a run of luck. Henry Mounier's play, The Grandeur and Decline of M. Prudhomme, had scarcely begun to lose the first freshness of its vogue, when a comedy by Ponsard filled every corner of the house-and it takes sixteen hundred spectators to fill the Odéon.

The most successful plays produced at Paris during the season now concluded have been, at the Gymnase, Philiberte and Le Fils de Famille; and at the Odéon, Ponsard's five-act comedy of L'Honneur et l'Argent. We need only refer to Lady Tartuffe, which has been the subject of a previous paper, and with whose exception, the Comédie Française has made no very remarkable hit this season. Mallefille's comedy of Le Cœur et la Dot was well received, and deserves notice, but it was elbowed aside by Madame de Girardin's play, which followed hard upon its heels. Doubtless it will again be performed. The Comédie Française has such an inexhaustible store of excellent stockpieces that the absence of novelty is unheeded by the public, which gladly throngs to the performance of such

pleasant plays as Mademoiselle de la Seiglière, Le Mari à la Campagne, Bataille de Dames, and innumerable others of the same class, to say nothing of Molière, ever new and welcome when well performed, and of the heroines of Racine and Corneille, impersonated by Rachel. Two short pieces, produced at the principal French theatre, derived a factitious interest from their suppression. As nothing in either of them could possibly be twisted into moral or political offence, their prohibition has puzzled everybody. Their very innocence was probably its cause. It was considered, in high quarters, that they were hardly worthy of the stage upon which they were produced. Such, at least, is one of the explanations most generally credited. The slightest of the two, Les Lundis de Madame, a very frivolous one-act comedy, has, however, had its interdiction removed, and is occasionally performed. was hardly worth the trouble either of production or prohibition. The other play, by the Marquis de Belloy, is a very brief tragedy entitled La Mal'aria, in one act of twelve scenes. It bears upon its title-page the concluding lines of the fifth canto of Dante's Purgatory :—


"Ricordi ti di me che sola Pia, Siena mi fe', disfecemi Maremma. Salsi colui che'nnanellata pria, Disposando, m'avea con la sua gemma." Pia, a noble lady of Sienna, the wife of Messer Nello della Pietra, was surprised by her husband, Volpi relates, in a lover's arms. Della Pietra took her with him to the Maremma, a district near Sienna very fertile in corn, but whose exhalations are fatal in summer. "In the Maremma I perished," says the shade to Dante; "in what manner is well known to him who, when he wed me, placed upon my finger a jewelled ring." This is the basis of the wellwritten but almost plotless piece of M. de Belloy, who has somewhat altered Dante's anecdote. The scene passes in the count's castle in the Maremma, where he is awaiting the death of his wife, there shut up with him. He learns that his father-inlaw, Tolommei, is marching with an armed force to attack him. He intercepts a bunch of flowers which Mila,

the countess's attendant, has received from a knight in Tolommei's company, with orders to deliver it to her mistress. In these flowers he sheds a subtle poison; then, Mila's suspicion being aroused, he smells them himself in her presence and that of his wife. The Tolommei reach the castle, and her family march greets the ears of the dying countess, whose husband, dropping the sword he has drawn to defend his stronghold, falls and dies at her feet. The piece is as gloomy as it well can be, but that is no reason for its prohibition, which has not yet been rescinded. As a poem it has merit and elegance.

Emile Augier is one of the wittiest and most successful of the French dramatists of the day. His forte is in genteel comedy, and his last production of this class, Philiberte, does no discredit to his former ones. His five-act comedy of Gabrielle received a prize from the French Academy, on the double ground of literary merit and good moral tendency. It was afterwards played in London, where, notwithstanding the certificate of propriety it had obtained in its own country, it was made the subject of a violent and undeserved attack in a morning newspaper; and, although the opinion of the critic ought to have had no weight, and his judgment was promptly controverted by his cotemporaries, it was yet thought proper soon afterwards to withdraw the piece, owing to the gross imputations cast upon it, and lest even the very few persons who saw no other newspaper than the one in question should believe that the St James's Theatre was nightly playing a farrago of vice and immorality. Gabrielle was brought out at the Comédie Française, where most of M. Augier's plays have been first performed, and where Philiberte would doubtless also have been, had its author chosen to wait. But when he was ready, the theatre was not; Rachel was busy with her part of Lady Tartuffe, and Augier, despairing of his piece being brought out in the course of the last winter, took it to the Gymnase, where the characters were excellently cast, although it comprises but two really advantageous parts.

Although we give precedence to


Philiberte, as to a play of a higher class, the late M. Bayard's Fils de Famille was the first performed of all the pieces we have designated as recently successful. It is an extremely amusing comédie vaudeville, such as even a blasé playgoer may sit out twice with pleasure. It has the double merit of beginning with a spirit and vivacity that at once please and fix the attention, and of rising in interest in each successive act. Besides this, and although the nature of the piece hardly permits the anticipation of a tragical termination, the suspense is so well kept up that one feels safe from that, and out of pain about the hero, only in the last scene. The first act passes in the outskirts of the town of Nancy, in the garden of a wine-house, the favourite resort of some lancers of the garrison. The regiment has just been joined by a new colonel, already dreaded and disliked by his subordinates as a martinet and stern officer. Mutual friends have planned a marriage between him and Emmeline de Vilbraie, a rich and fascinating young widow, whose country-house is at Grandchamp, a couple of leagues from Nancy. Emmeline, curious to see and learn something of her proposed suitor, disguises herself as a peasant, and is driven to Nancy by a gardener's wife. When close to the little tavern, their donkey runs away, and is stopped by the lancers, who afterwards wish to pay themselves, soldier fashion, for the assistance they have rendered. Emmeline is rescued from their importunity by Armand, the Fils de Famille, a young man of wealthy family, who, after sowing an unusual quantity of wild oats, has gathered, for sole crop, the coarse jacket and worsted epaulets of a private soldier. His own boundless extravagance, his father's just severity, drove him to enlist, and he is resigned to his lot, although he has not forgotten, and often regrets, the pleasures and refinements of the society he has been compelled to relinquish. Emmeline, detained at the little inn, and availing herself of the opportunity to obtain information concerning the colonel, of whom she receives no very favourable account, is struck by the good manners and aristocratic


air of the young lancer, who, on his part, is so captivated by the peasant girl-whose white hands puzzle him greatly-that he misses a parade, and is confined to quarters by his sergeant. The gardener's wife returns from market, and Emmeline departs, leaving in Armand's possession a nosegay he has stolen from her, but refusing to tell him the name of her village. A very spirited scene-a carousal of lancers in the garden-is interrupted by the arrival of Frederick, an old friend of Armand's, affianced to his sister, and who is on his way to a neighbouring chateau. He has promised his intended to see her brother, and try to restore him to his family, who are anxious to have him released from his humble position. Armand will not pledge himself to quit the service, but agrees to put on a suit of his friend's clothes, and accompany him to a ball to be given that night at the chateau of Grandchamp.

This first act has more of the characteristics of vaudeville than of comedy, but it is extremely gay and amusing, and very well played. The scenes between Emmeline (Rose Chéri) and Armand (Bressant) are, as may be supposed from the high character of both actors, admirably performed. The part of Kirchet-the drouthy old sergeant, whose affection for Armand is certainly not diminished by the clandestine generosity with which the latter (who receives occasional supplies from his sister) rubs out the veteran's long chalk upon the counter of Pomponne the tavernkeeper-falls to the share of that very original actor Lesueur-the Père Violette of Mercadet. Pomponne, the ex-canteen woman, who has retired from the service, and proposes bestowing her hand upon Canard, trumpeter in the lancers, batman to the tyrant colonel, and the droll of the piece, is performed by a sister of Rose Chéri. Priston, who plays Canard, formerly acted in London; he is a low comedian of the Ravel school, and of much promise. Altogether, nothing can be brisker, pleasanter, and more bustling than this act, but the second is of a higher class of comedy. The contrast between the two is complete as regards both scene and personages. The barrack-yard

is exchanged for the boudoir. The lifting of the curtain discloses an elegant drawing-room in the chateau of Grandchamp. Emmeline is there, and with her Madame Laroche, the sister of the colonel of lancers. The officer's wife or widow is a personage daily met with in France, and possessing very marked characteristics; and this opportunity has been embraced to exhibit, and even exonerate, her peculiarities. The thing has been a little overdone, and Madame Laroche is a caricature rather than a type. She has buried a brace of military husbands, and avenged, with her own pistol, the death of one slain in her presence by a Bedouin. She walks and talks like an old soldier, and lives with her brother, for whose character, qualities, and accomplishments (including his skill as a musician and draughtsman) she cherishes a somewhat higher admiration than they deserve. Her eulogium of his merits, and her narrative of her African exploits, are interrupted by his arrival. Canard follows him, carrying a musicbook, and is kept in a state of fever and bewilderment throughout the act, by his meetings with the peasant girl converted into a fine lady, and with his own comrade in the garb of an elegant civilian. Frederick arrives with Armand, who is as astonished as Canard at sight of Emmeline, and perfectly thunderstruck at beholding his new colonel, who, however, is far from recognising in the well-dressed Parisian the private soldier he has scarcely seen and never noticed. The situations that ensue are remarkably dramatic, and keep the audience continually on the qui vive. Frederick, who is an artist, is introduced as such to the colonel, who, on the strength of certain daubs with which he has beguiled garrison leisure, offers him his hand, and greets him as a brother of the brush. Frederick profits by this cordial humour, not very common with Colonel Alphonse Deshayes, to ask him to assist in obtaining the discharge of Armand Dalber, a young soldier of his regiment. The colonel remembers the name as that of a bad soldier who had that morning missed parade. He speaks contemptuously of gentlemen recruits, whose families, hopeless of redeeming them from idle

and dissolute courses, suffer them to enter a regiment as they would send them to a school of correction. Armand (who has been presented at the chateau by his mother's name of De Boisse) winces under the colonel's harsh epithets, and thus betrays himself to Emmeline, who, up to that moment, has refused fully to credit her eyes and his identity. The colonel, who is abrupt and soldierlike in his tone, manner, and discourse, continues to harp upon this string, and to inveigh against parade soldiers, who pursue their club habits in coffeehouses, and pass all the time which they do not spend in the blackhole in smoking and running after ladies'maids. Armand loses patience, and retorts with affected politeness. "Really, sir," he says, "it is not reasonable to expect in a private lancer the distinguished manners and exquisite tone of his colonel." This remark, the ironical intention of which is unmistakable, is the commencement of a course of sparring between Armand and the colonel, in which all the advantage is on the side of the former. The colonel, put forward by his sister, who proclaims his musical talents and complaisant disposition all the while that he abuses her in an under tone for her officiousness, goes to the piano to sing. He sings out of time and out of tune, and finds Emmeline's accompaniment too slow. Armand laughs, and is decidedly impertinent-politely, but provokingly so. The colonel's choler rises; he sings all the worse, and requests Armand to do it better. Armand does so, sings the second verse in excellent style, and the third, which is for two voices, with Emmeline, amidst the applause of the company. The colonel and his dragoon-sister are furious. The orchestra strikes up for a quadrille. Colonel Deshayes asks Emmeline to dance; Armand, who is talking to her, declares she is already engaged to him; and the lady, taken aback, does not confute the assertion. There is a succession of incidents of this kind.

Emmeline loses her nosegay; the colonel crosses the room to seek one he has found and laid aside; before he can return, Armand produces that which he had taken from her in the tavern garden. The colonel nurses his wrath, repressing its

outbreak with extreme difficulty; Emmeline and Frederick, observant of all that passes, are on tenterhooks, and endeavour, but in vain, to put an end to the dangerous system of aggravation adopted by the imprudent lancer, who presently finds himself on the verge of a duel with his commanding officer. A scene in the cardroom, audible but not visible to the public, and some unlucky pleasantry with a trophy of swords with which a military relation of Emmeline's has adorned the gallery of the chateau, bring matters to a crisis. The colonel's wrath boils over, and he and Armand walk out into the grounds and fight-the former receiving a scratch in the hand, the latter a wound in the arm-it being evidently Lafontaine's destiny to be continually wounding Bressant. The act ends by the entrance of the colonel-fresh from the fight, but kid-gloved and as cool as a cucumber-to claim Emmeline's hand for a promised countrydance.

The most remarkable feature of this second act, as performed at the Gymnase, is the admirable acting of Lafontaine, as the colonel. Although this personage is more than once placed in awkward positions, bordering on the ridiculous, he is not intended to be laughed at; the part is a grave one, and, notwithstanding his military style and queer temper, the colonel is to be represented as a man of honour and dignity, not without a certain harsh nobility of character. At the same time, until quite the close, it is a most ungenial and unprepossessing part, and, as such, doubly difficult to play. Lafontaine's creation of it, to use the French term, leaves little or nothing to be desired. He makes up to the very life; and nothing can be better than his imperious gestures, his stiff bearing, his ill-suppressed irritation at the raillery of the Parisian (as he contemptuously designates Armand), his assumed softness to Emmeline, and his aside remarks, ground between his teeth at his sister. The grim smile of triumph and satisfaction which he casts at her over his shoulder as he leads Emmeline off at the end of the act, would alone stamp him as a comedian of great dramatic capability. Although he had pre

viously performed several parts with credit to himself, he had not yet had such a success as this, and, if he continues as well, he can hardly fail to attain a high rank in his profession.

It is in Colonel Deshayes' quarters at Nancy that the third act passes. It is chiefly occupied with the endea vours of Armand's friends to save him from the fate to which, according to the rigour of martial law, his duel with the colonel inevitably dooms him. If the inexorable chief discovers whom he has had for antagonist, a brief court-martial and a speedy firingparty are all that can be expected. And he does discover it, although not without much difficulty-even Canard abjuring his habitual garrulity, and obstinately denying the identity of which he is perfectly convinced. Armand, brought before the colonel, feigns drunkenness. The colonel, who has sent for him merely with reference to his discharge, cannot believe his eyes, and is staggered by the positive assertions of Canard and Emmeline that they do not see any resemblance to M. de Boisse. Bressant plays the pretended drunkard with great judgment and tact. The colonel orders him off to the guard-house, in custody of poor Kirchet, who is at his wits' end, trembling at once for his comrade's life and his sergeant's stripes. Suddenly a thought strikes the colonel, who is about to leave the room, but returns and grasps Armand's right arm. The soldier breaks off a song he is singing, and his cap, which he held in his right hand, falls to the ground. "Pick up your cap," says the colonel. "My cap," says Armand, with a vacant smile, and pointing to it with his left hand, "there is my cap." He picks it up and resumes his stave. The colonel looks hard at him, maintaining his grip upon his arm; asks him another question to try to throw him off his guard, and then relinquishes his hold and quits the room, still uncertain of his man. As he goes out, Armand concludes his song; then, when sure that he is alone with Kirchet, he falls into a chair and utters a cry of agony. The cruel colonel has been torturing his recent wound. The incidents of this three-act comedy, which has a good deal of under-plot, are too complicated and numerous to

be here completely traced. Everybody tries to save Armand, and everybody fails. Emmeline comes to Nancy in post-haste at the commencement of the third act, to call upon the colonel and his military sister, and coax them out to her house to pass the day, in hopes that Armand's discharge may be obtained before he is recognised by his terrible chief. As a last resource, when all seems lost, poor Pomponne suffers it to be believed, and even herself declares, that at the very time the duel occurred at Grandchamp, Armand was tête-à-tête with her in her wine-shop. As an ex-vivandière, the slur thus cast upon her fair fame may perhaps not have greatly affected her. But Canard once more blunders everybody into difficulty (and this time one cannot but forgive him) by vindicating his sweetheart, and declaring that he himself had recognised his comrade at the ball at Madame de Vilbraie's. There seems no issue but death from Armand's unfortunate position; and were further proof wanting, it is furnished by the dejected sergeant, who blurts out, in reply to a question from his colonel, that the prisoner is in hospital, instead of in the guard-room, owing to the hemorrhage from a wound in his arm. All is lost. In despair, Emmeline writes to the colonel, offering her hand as the price of Armand's pardon. An attempt to escape brings the young soldier once more into her presence, and various circumstances assemble the other principal characters of the piece. The colonel enters, Emmeline's letter in his hand.

"The COLONEL (quietly to Armand).-You no longer belong to my regiment, sir;-and, fortunately for you, your discharge is dated yesterday, and covers your fault.

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"The COLONEL (with gentleness, and showing her her letter).-Is not that what you asked, madam, as the price of your hand?

"ARMAND (between his teeth).— Ha! that is it then?

"The COLONEL (quickly).-Sir!(Emmeline starts. He continues, mildly, but with some bitterness of tone). I am thought very ill of, really, since you believe me capable of such a bargain! Go, sir, and tell

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