« AnteriorContinua »
Monsieur de Boisse that he has no- which had an immense run last winthing to fear from the man who has ter, five actors sing, in the character done him the honour to cross swords of itinerant musicians, a long burwith him.- (Armand bows. The lesque song, caricaturing the music of Colonel continues, with much emo. different countries, and accompany tion, and tearing Emmeline's letter). themselves, extremely well, upon vio
- If you do not love me, madam, at loncello, harp, violin, flageolet, and least esteem me."
guitar. La Faridondaine is one of the “ Well done, Morbleu !” exclaims successes of the season, thanks to the that tough but honest-hearted old very agreeable musical and dramatic trooper, the widow Laroche ; and so talent of Madame Hebert Massy, forthe piece quickly comes to a conclu- merly of the Opéra Comique, and to sion, the audience being left to infer the originality of Bontin in the charthe subsequent union of Emmeline acter of Chanterelle. It is of the class and Armand.
of plays usually performed at the Independently of the interest of the Adelphi Theatre-plus the good singplot, there is a great deal of fun and ing, and minus the tinge of vulgarity humour in the Fils de Famille, and that seems inseparable from the Lonas is the case with very many of the don house. In the absence of Lepieces played at the Gymnase--not a maitre, who has now once more repassage to shock even the most fasti- turned to the scene of so many of his dious English audience. Translated, triumphs, it formed the great attracor at least adapted, it would make a tion at the Porte St Martin all last charming piece for the Lyceum. The winter. The return of Lemaitre, imcast could not be so strong at any paired though his powers be, makes London theatre as it is at the Gym- the company at that theatre a very nase; but it might be possible to fill strong one ; especially as it also inall the parts pretty creditably. The cludes Mélingue, an excellent actor singing scene would probably be a in historical drama, and knightly difficulty. A piano is on the stage, or military parts. He performed and Rose Chéri sits down to it, and d'Artagnan in the Trois Mousqueaccompanies the colonel, who out- taires, and was one of Alexander strips her accompaniment, and ends Dumas' best unen during the short with a questionable note. Armand time the Théatre Historique was open gets up and sings a verse, and then for the performance of that class of tries to sing the final verse with the drama. He is a clever painter and colonel; but the commander of the sculptor, and, in the play of Benvenuto lancers, whom old Kirchet bas de- Cellini, models a statuette upon the clared to be “zun cheval,” is a horse stage, in presence of the audience. It hard to drive in double harness, and certainly materially adds to the dignity his impetuosity carries him ahead of and respectability of the dramatic proArmand, just as it had caused him fession in France, that a large number ungallantly to take the lead of Emme- of its members are men of refined taste line. Finally, Armand and Emme- and liberal education, quite capable, if line conclude the song together, to the they chose, of earning a living, and latter's accompaniment. This clever even of making themselves a name, scene is not slurred over, or eked out in other arts and pursuits than that by orchestral aid, but passes exactly they have chosen to follow. Amongst as it might do in private society. It them are to be found elegant scholars, requires three good actors, all three dramatists, poets, painters, sculptors, possessing a certain knowledge of musicians — not mere dabblers, but music, and a degree of tact and skill proficients of approved merit. At the which, we fear, is rare amongst Eng. Comédie Française, most of the prin. lish light comedians of the present cipal actors are men of learning and day. The French are inimitable and literary accomplishments, profoundly unapproachable in this style of thing, versed in the history and practice of of which plenty of other examples their art, to whose literature they might be found, even at theatres of an have, in several instances, made valuinferior grade. Thus, at the Porte able additions, and which many of St Martin, in a popular melodrama them have studied not only in French, but in the masterpieces of foreign the cause ; L'Honneur et l'Argent, poets and dramatists. Samson and brought out upon the trans-pontine Régnier may be cited as brilliant ex- stage, was declared a prodigious sucamples of the class of stage-players cess ; has been played upwards of who thus at once illustrate and elevate fifty times, and still continues to be their profession. At the Odéon, Henry nightly performed. Mounier is at once author, artist, and It were erroneous to imagine that a actor, and in all three lines he is full run of this kind is invariably a certain of originality. He performs in his own proof, in Paris, of the merit of a play. plays, and earns double applause. At It is not given to the eye of the profane the same theatre, Tisserant is a musi- to penetrate all the mysteries of the cian, and has written vaudevilles and feuilleton and the réclame, and to desome pleasing poetry. In most of tect the numerous strings pulled to the other theatres, and in various move that big puppet, the public. degrees, similar instances might be Suchmanæuvres are more easily cited. The Porte St Martin has practised at a theatre in the Odéon's at this moment amongst its actors, position than at the Comédie Fransculptors, poets, vaudevilleists, and çaise, at which latter house we are the eccentric Bontin, who composes fully of opinion that M. Ponsard's chansonnettes, and is a professor of the comedy, if it had escaped withdrawal guitar.
after one or two performances, would In its present state, the English have found but small success and a stage is not of sufficient importance very short run. Our reason for this to give rise to a tithe of the intrigues, opinion is, that it is utterly wanting in jealousies, cabals, and mananvres wit, and that it is full of claptraps daily witnessed in the dramatic which would hardly have drawn apworld of Paris, and composing a chron- plause from a refined audience. Before icle, more or less scandalous, deeply criticising, let us glance at the plot. interesting to all connected with the This has little that is new or striking. theatre, and far from unheeded by the It is a very old and a very common general public. Certain circumstances story, which we do not think has acconnected with Ponsard's comedy of quired any fresh charm by M. PonL'Honneur et l'Argent gave rise to sard's manner of telling it. George much discussion and newspaper com- is a young man of five-and-twenty, ment, and to some published corre- the son of wealthy parents. He is spondence. The truth of the case, as open-hearted, generous, hospitable, far as it can be elicited from the mass lavish to prodigality; of course, he is of conflicting statements, was simply surrounded by much-attached friends. this : Ponsard offered his play to the A capitalist is anxious to give him Comédie Française; it was read to the shares in profitable speculations; a committee of the theatre, who were statesman urges him to accept a place but moderately impressed by its -a prefecture or a diplomatic apmerits, and doubted its success upon pointment. He declines these kind their boards. Out of consideration, offers ; he is happy in his mode of however, for the author of Lucrece, life, and in the pursuit of painting, of and other approved plays, they would which he is passionately fond. His have acted the comedy, bad Ponsard proficiency in the art, his friends asagreed to make corrections. The poet, sure him, is truly admirable ; a thouhowever, was displeased by the little sand pities, they say, that he is not enthusiasm shown. He requested the compelled to paint for his living; he committee to accept his piece as it would make a handsome income and was, with the understanding that it immortalise his name. He loves Laura, should not be performed at the whose father, a gentleman magnaniComédie Française. They did as he mous in speech, willingly accepts his wished; then he took the comedy proposals--not, he says, on account across the water to the Odéon. The of his wealth, but of his worth. Riches, semi-acceptance by the committee of according to the pompous M. Merthe principal theatre was skilfally cier, are a very secondary consideramade use of; the poet's admirers and tion, and “ an honest man the noblest partisans displayed great activity in work of God.” George's father dies, leaving, for sole inheritance, six hun- ther's, and in which he sees a fortune dred thousand francs of debts. Still to be made. But a friendly notary M. Mercier does not withdraw his supplies him with the money, and in the consent to the marriage, although he fifth act we find George, after a year's makes a little merit of giving his industry and application, at the head daughter to the young man who has of a flourishing concern, and on the pow no other fortune than that of his high-road to a fortune which, Rodeceased mother, amounting to thirty dolph says, will be a better one than thousand francs a-year. But, says that he has lost, because he will owe this French Pecksniff, speaking from it to himself and not to his ancestors. the summit of his stiff neck and white Meanwhile the magnanimous Mercier cravat, what is gold, compared to has got into trouble ; the son-in-law honour ? George thinks as he does, of his choice, in whom he placed unand applies his mother's fortune to bounded confidence, has induced him the extinction of bis father's debts, to intrust him with his capital, and remaining literally penniless. O, ho! Mercier is a ruined man.
The play what a change of scene and tone en- ends, as it is not difficult to foresee, sues! A fine fellow is George, that with the marriage of George and every one admits, but secretly every Lucile. one holds him for a Quixotic fool. George and Rodolph are the two Mercier has now other views for prominent characters in the play, and Laura; be marries her to Richard, a upon them its whole interest hinges. wealthy libertine, whose father has The former part is judiciously and thrice failed, and is consequently im- well performed by Laferrière ; and mensely rich. The statesman bas Tisserant, a good actor, with a stenunfortunately disposed of all his ap- torian voice, does his best to give pointments, but will bear George in spirit and interest to the long-winded mind, and try to find him a little clerk- part of Rodolph-an honest but weariship. George's first idea was to sup- some cynic, who takes upon himself port himself by painting, but the pic. to lecture everybody, and who, when ture-dealers decline to make him an none are at hand to be lectured, adoffer for his productions, and truly, dresses a moral discourse to the first say his friends—who had once com- comer. It is poor George, however, pared bim to Décamps and Delacroix who bears the brunt of bis inflated -the dealers are in the right, and bis oratory ; and, after George, Mercier pictures worth but the canvass. The comes in for the greatest amount of capitalist is the only man who comes sermonising. He sometimes preludes to his aid, and that not with bis his lectures by preambles essentially purse. A spinster of fifty, whose undramatic." I will only speak a dowry had been in the hands of few candid words to you," he says ; George's father, and who has received “ dictated by friendship as I underhalf the poor young man's six bun- stand it.” And thus he proses on for dred thousand francs, offers to restore a page or more. Earnest, ardent perit to him—with her own hand. George sons, such as Rodolph is represented, at first declines wealth thus encum- oftener run over their ideas than thus bered, but at last, soured and exas- delay their expression, to say noperated by the ingratitude he on all thing of the cruelty to the victim. It sides encounters, wavers, and would is as if a surgeon, preparing for actual perhaps accept, but for the interfer- cautery, were carefully to inform his ence and arguments of his blunt but patient that he is heating the iron. honest friend Rodolph, and for the No wonder that poor George winces bright eyes of Lacile, Laura's sister, and frets under the reiterated torment, who, with feminine sweetness and de- and once loses patience, and requests licacy, pours balm upon his wound- his friend to leave him in peace. The ed beart. The ungrateful creditors whole play is didactic rather tha whom George had so nobly paid, dramatic. It is less a comedy (in the and who then were profuse with their popular acceptation of the word) than offers of service, have refused to a moral lecture put into metrical dialend him a small sum necessary to logne. M. Ponsard is a dramatist of purchase a paper-mill, once his fa- reputation, and although his style is
cold and somewbat tame, he has un- and letter-carrier qui le valent bienquestionable merit. His voice is son- who are just as good as he-there is orous, his vocabulary good. But he a rapturous roar from pit and gallery, is not a man of wit-judging, at least, and a gleam of delighted approbation
from this play, in which, from the on many a grimy visage. Tisserant, first scene to the last, there is not a who works like a horse, and must have single spark of that quality of which a sore throat, poor lad! at the end of French dramatists are usually con- each night's performance, seems as if sidered to possess a larger share than bent upon atoning by the vigour of those of almost any other nation. his lungs for any weakness in the And his stock of ideas seems but limit- play, and is very skilful in leading up ed, since, when he catches one, he to the claptraps (most of which fall uses it over and over again, first to his share), and in suffering none of smothering it in a cloud of words, and them to escape notice. He speaks then resuscitating it to smother it them as if he claimed applause, which again. His play might very well have he seldom fails to obtain. Applause, been compressed into four, or even into however, does not go for much at a three acts. It was unnecessary to French theatre, where the better repeat, in a dozen different forms of classes of the audience never join in amplification, that men's merits are it, and where so much depends upon often ineasured by their purses' length. the claque. The tears of the women, Where he certainly excels is in clap- the laughter of the men, form the true trap. His play is full of it; and to criticism of the effect of a play, that may be attributed a good por- tragic or comic. At the Odéon, the tion of its success. Owing to its sitn- boxes neither laugh nor cry. They ation and low prices, the Odéon's sit the piece out, and seem upon the audiences are in great part composed whole satisfied ; and probably they of the lower classes, to whose sym- speak well of it afterwards, since it pathies many of the “points ” of the continues to fill the house. For our play directly appeal. It is to be ob- part, we frankly confess that, what served that all the good qualities are with the oppressive atmosphere, and on the side of the poor-of George, the moderately-washed audience, we who is ruined, and of Rodolph, the found it hard work to sit out M. Ponneedy philosopher. Early in the play, sard's moral poem. The success, al. M. Ponsard disclaims the design of though we doubt it surviving the seadoing “as in melodramas, and con- son, of a play of this class, goes some stantly contrasting virtuous poor with way to disprove the assertion, often infamous rich;" but, nevertheless, made, that the play-going palate of the enough of that effect is conveyed to French requires some highly-spiced tell upon the groundlings. A deep performances-ladies with camelias, sensation is produced when George Parisian mysteries, and complicated enters the ball-room at the house of immorality. The strictly correct tenthe potary, who has invited him to dency of this latest production of M. meet his former friends and creditors, Ponsard's muse is undeniable, but in hopes some of them may proffer we cannot help wishing that his prohim service. His threadbare coat, priety were of a rather more lively strictly battoned to the chin, to imply complexion. the absence of a waistcoat, and his The minute care with which every pale woe-begone countenance, excite political allusion is now prevented the strong sympathy of the pit, which upon the stage, is evinced by the alis profoundly touched when he de- teration of a single word at the end clares, with some slight want of dig- of a long and rather heavy scene, in nity in his tones, that he has gone which Rodolph takes Mercier to task, without dinner to buy a pair of gloves. and rebukes bim, in some pages of On est toujours millionnaire pour aller verse, for refusing his daughter to au bal. Then, when Rodolph-rather George, and bestowing her upon & brutally, as it appears to us- - tells his man of iņdifferent character, whom ruined friend, who recoils from occu- she has scarcely seep. pation beneath his birth and former tleman is not at all moral in his dis. station, that he knows many a porter course," says Mercier, when Rodolph leaves him : “he is a Socialist.” On tufted chestnuts, the lively scene prethe stage the word Voltairean is sub- sented by the Champs Elysées, the stituted for Socialist, doubtless out of drive in the pleasant Bois de Boulogne, tenderness to the feelings of any mem- the evening saunter on the crowded bers of that discomfited faction who boulevards, are now at least as seducmay chance to be amongst the au- tive as any entertainment that has dience.
6. That gen
to be sought within walls, in a blaze After a disjointed winter, which has of gas, and in a throng of hamanity. swallowed up spring, a season has at But when shortening days and chillLast come when the idler in Paris may ing airs again admonish us of the cease to cower at the chimney-corner year's decline, it were hard to devise, for protection from the inclement gales and unreasonable to desire, a better of May, and need no longer rely upon evening pastime than is afforded by in-door amusements in well-warmed the combined efforts of the best French buildings. The shade of the Tuileries' dramatists and actors.
THE FINE ARTS AND THE PUBLIC TASTE IN 1853,
I SCARCELY know how, my dear And stranger still, I find the public post - Raphaelite friend, to answer running after both kinds with unyour many queries--whether to in- bounded enthusiasm, and purses that clude them in one, or take them in take a pleasure in opening themselves. detail - whether I should profess to The extravagance on both sides be wise upon the subject-matter, or throws me into a bewilderment; much subscribe myself an ignoramus. What I doubt myself while I walk scrutinisever be my reply, I shall be sure to ingly enough through the displays, give offence to somebody or other in and say with the philosopher, "What the multifarious throng of dissonant a number of things are here which I opinion-makers and opinion-receivers do not want." Not want! how many There will be many a metamorphosed things which I dislike, and which I “ Bottom" with his new-made ears find multitudes eagerly bidding for, up, to catch such words as may be as if each additional “ bid" was to conscientiously uttered, and, lacking stamp the fiat of taste. Do not exhis patient sapience, and mistaking pect me to give up my judgment all bis own condition for mine, bid me at once; it may be true that I know write me down in the phraseology of nothing whatever of Art, or the Weaver. You would have me to Arts;" I have studied the old prinbe disputatious indeed, and the object ciples, but it seems they won't do. of disputation, by discussing Art and Then allow me, until time, or sense, Taste ; nevertheless, I will assume or folly shall have initiated me in the pretensions which I have been so new, and dipped in Lethe the intellect many long years acquiring, with so which I may have so wrongly cultimuch pains and study. You ques- vated, to indulge my prejudices—for tion me on the state of the Fine such, if I am modest, I ought to conArts—you have not considered how sider all my atoms of former taste to wide is your question. Where are be; and I know you have a leaning to the Fine Arts to be found, and put prejudices, and reverentially receive under a scrutiny? There are con- them as instincts, which you have ditions of art so contradictory, and called the elder brothers of Reason. all demanding supremacy, that I am What a word is Taste! What tomes, at a loss where or how to look these ponderous and light, have been real or allegorical personages, “ The written upon it! And lest it should Fine Arts," in the face. I have give every argument the slip, the looked into galleries old, and galleries more prudent authors have bound it new-in some, the Arts are not only to genius. Yet with all their toil, “Fine," but superfine—a great deal it remains the mystery, the "unknown too fine – in others, they are not quantity," and quality too ! It is still Fine" at all, and lamentably dingy. the Sphinx ; the riddle never to be