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it at its truest and best source, and yet a source worth to "Paradise Regained," and makes a where all may go and draw for it.
Nevertheless we are not to suppose that everything is precious which Wordsworth, standing even at this perennial and beautiful source, may give us. Wordsworthians are apt to talk as if it must be. They will speak with the same reverence of The Sailor's Mother," for example, as of "Lucy Gray." They do their master harm by such lack of discrimination. "Lucy Gray" is a beautiful success; "The Sailor's Mother" is a failure. To give aright what he wishes to give, to interpret and render successfully, is not always within Wordsworth's own command. It is within no poet's command; here is the part of the Muse, the inspiration, the God, the "not ourselves." In Wordsworth's case, the accident,
for so it may almost be called, of inspiration, is of peculiar importance. No poet, perhaps, is so evidently filled with a new and sacred energy when the inspiration is upon him; no poet, when it fails him, is so left "weak as is a breaking wave." I remember hearing him say that "Goethe's poetry was not inevitable enough." The remark is striking and true; no line in Goethe, as Goethe said himself, but its maker knew well how it came there. Wordsworth is right, Goethe's poetry is not inevitable; not inevitable enough. But Wordsworth's poetry, when he is at his best, is inevitable, as inevitable as Nature herself. It might seem that Nature not only gave him the matter for his poem, but wrote his poem for him. He has no style. He was too conversant with Milton not to catch at times his master's manner, and he has fine Miltonic lines; but he has no assured poetic style of his own, like Milton. When he seeks to have a style he falls into ponderosity and pomposity. In "The Excursion" we have his style, as an artistic product of his own creation; and, although Jeffrey completely failed to recognize Wordsworth's real greatness, he was yet not wrong in saying of "The Excursion," as a work of poetic style, "This will never do." And yet, magical as is that power, which Wordsworth has not, of assured and possessed poetic style, he has something which is an equivalent for it.
Every one who has any sense for these things feels the subtile turn, the heightening, which is given to a poet's verse by his genius for style. We can feel it in the
"After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well "of Shakespeare; in the
.... though fall'n on evil days, On evil days though fall'n, and evil tongues of Milton. It is the incomparable charm of Milton's power of poetic style which gives such
great poem of a work in which Milton's imagination does not soar high. Wordsworth has in constant possession, and at command, no style of this kind; but he had too poetic a nature, and had read the great poets too well, not to catch, as I have already remarked, something of it occasionally. We find it not only in his Miltonic lines; we find it in such a phrase as this, where the manner is his own, not Milton's
". . . . the fierce confederate storm Of sorrow barricadoed evermore Within the walls of cities "
although even here, perhaps, the power of style, which is undeniable, is more properly that of change wrought by genuine poetic style. It is eloquent prose than the subtile heightening and style, again, and the elevation given by style, which chiefly makes the effectiveness of "Laodameia."
Still the right sort of verse to choose from Wordsworth, if we are to seize his true and most characteristic form of expression, is a line like this:
"And never lifted up a single stone."
There is nothing subtile in it, no heightening, no study of poetic style, strictly so called, at all; yet it is expression of the highest and most truly expressive kind.
Wordsworth owed much to Burns, and a style of perfect plainness, relying for effect solely on the weight and force of that which with entire fidelity it utters, Burns could show him :
"The poor inhabitant below
Was quick to learn and wise to know,
But thoughtless follies laid him low
Every one will be conscious of a likeness here to Wordsworth; and, if Wordsworth did great things with this nobly plain manner, we must remember, what indeed he himself would always have been forward to acknowledge, that Burns used it before him.
Still Wordsworth's use of it has something unique and unmatchable. Nature herself seems, I say, to take the pen out of his hand, and to write for him with her own bare, sheer, penetrating power. This arises from two causes: from the profound sincereness with which Wordsworth feels his subject, and also from the profoundly sincere and natural character of his' subject itself. He can and will treat such a subject with nothing but the most plain, first-hand, almost austere naturalness. His expression may often be called bald, as, for instance, in the poem of
"Resolution and Independence"; but it is bald as the bare mountain-tops are bald, with a baldness which is full of grandeur.
Wherever we meet with the successful balance, in Wordsworth, of profound truth of subject with profound truth of execution, he is unique. His best poems are those which most perfectly exhibit this balance. I have a warm admiration for "Laodameia and for the great Ode"; but, if I am to tell the very truth, I find "Laodameia" not wholly free from something artificial, and the great "Ode" not wholly free from something declamatory. If I had to pick out the kind of poems which most perfectly show Wordsworth's unique power, I should rather choose poems such as "Michael," "The Fountain," "The Highland Reaper." And poems with the peculiar and unique beauty which distinguishes these he produced in considerable number; besides very many other poems of which the worth, although not so rare as the worth of these, is still exceedingly high.
On the whole, then, as I said at the beginning, not only is Wordsworth eminent because of the goodness of his best work, but he is eminent, also, because of the great body of good work which he has left to us. With the ancients I will not compare him. In many respects the ancients are far above us, and yet there is something that we demand which they can never give. Leaving the ancients, let us come to the poets and poetry of Christendom. Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, even Goethe, are altogether larger and more splendid luminaries in the poetical heaven
than Wordsworth. But I know not where else, among the moderns, we are to find his superiors.
I have spoken lightly of Wordsworthians; and, if we are to get Wordsworth recognized by the public and by the world, we must recommend him not in the spirit of a clique, but in the spirit of disinterested lovers of poetry. But I am a Wordsworthian myself. I can read with pleasure "Peter Bell," and the whole series of "Ecclesiastical Sonnets," and the address to Mr. Wilkinson's spade, and even the "Thanksgiving Ode "-everything of Wordsworth, I think, except "Vaudracour and Julia." It is not for nothing that one has been brought up in the veneration of a man so truly worthy of it; that one has seen him and heard him, lived in his neighborhood and been familiar with his country. No Wordsworthian has a tenderer affection for this pure and sage master than I, or is less really offended by his defects. But Wordsworth is something more than the pure and sage master of a small band of devoted followers, and we ought not to rest satisfied until he is seen to be what he is. He is one of the very chief glories of English poetry; and by nothing is England so glorious as by her poetry. Let us lay aside every weight which hinders our getting him recognized as this, and let our one study be to bring to pass, as widely as possible and as truly as possible, his own word concerning his poems: "They will coöperate with the benign tendencies in human nature and society, and will, in their degree, be efficacious in making men wiser, better, and happier."
MATTHEW ARNOLD, in Macmillan's Magazine.
HE origins of the national theatre of France are remote and manifold. It was not made in a day, nor was it the work of a single man. To say nothing of the fact that a new literature had to be created to make its foundation desirable, its institution was the result of several distinct processes of combination and assimilation, extending over a long period of years and dealing with a vast quantity of wide-scattered and heterogeneous material; and the privileges of monopoly and state protection were necessary to its well-being from the time of its establishment in its present likeness. The project has been often mooted of endowing England with a national stage; it is not impossible but the idea may take shape of some sort after all. And, with
thus much in view, it may be neither uninteresting nor unprofitable to trace the story of what would be our pattern institution, from its beginnings downward to those later and not less honorable developments that are near and familiar to ourselves.
The Théâtre-Français, as we know it, is the foundation of Louis XIV. Into his work he put whatever was worth preserving of the three chief theatres that kept Paris in amusement during the first eighty years of the seventeenth century. These three theatres were that of the Hôtel de Bourgogne, that of the Marais, and that one established by Molière, at the Hôtel du Petit-Bourbon first of all and afterward within the Palais
Royal, and transferred at his death, by his friend and comrade La Grange, to the Hôtel Guénegaud.
Of these three, the oldest and in some ways the most important, was the theatre of the Hôtel de Bourgogne, situate in the Rue Mauconseil, and owing its existence to the histrionic initiative of the Brotherhood of the Passion. At what moment this initiative began is not precisely determined, documentary evidence in the matter going back no further than 1398, when the Provost of Paris forbade the Brotherhood's performances within his limits. In 1402, however, the Brothers got a charter from Charles VI., authorizing their association and establishment as actors in Paris. Their first stage was erected in the great hall of the Hospital of the Trinity, where they began by playing mysteries, and went on presently to play farces as well. They filled it for one hundred and thirty-seven years, and had its privileges confirmed by letters patent from Francis I. in 1513. In 1538 they shifted their scene to the Hôtel de Flandre; and in 1548, in the dismantlement by royal order of that refuge, they purchased a large slice of the site of the Hôtel de Bourgogne, unoccupied since the death of Charles the Bold, and gone entirely to ruin. In the same year they got a confirmation of their privilege from the Parliament, and were granted a monopoly of Parisian theatricals. The only condition imposed was to the effect that the subjects of their plays should be no longer taken from the Scriptures; so that, though this condition seems to have been interpreted with great freedom, 1548 may be regarded as the birth-year, not only of the French stage, but also of the French secular drama. Letters patent from Henri II. (1554 and 1559) and from Charles IX. (1569) established the Brothers yet more firmly in their place; and from him of the Saint Bartholomew, like all the Valois an artist to his finger-ends, they received material encouragement of some value. Their influence about this time was none the less upon the wane. The spirit of change was abroad. The Renaissance had made men literary and intolerant of ignorance; the good Brothers were unlettered and conservative, and their simple art, disdained of the studious and serious enthusiasts into opposition with whom it had survived, had outlived its means and its function, and was found no more acceptable. Their farces and moralities were treated as mere horse-play and foolerybadineries et folies; and at the various colleges about them Ronsard and his following were putting before the very public which had applauded them pieces antique in interest and novel and ambitious in form, and were doing their utmost to shatter into nothingness the respectable tradition they had worked so hard and so long to establish.
Naturally the Brothers took to standing on their rights and defending their position. Backed by the Parliament, they shut up a theatre of farce, opened in 1571; they drove over the Alps in 1576 the famous Italian company called the Gelosi, though it had letters patent from Henri III., and had been summoned by him to amuse into inaction the States-General of Blois, and was composed of artists of the stamp of Flaminio Scala and of Gabriel of Bologna, creator of the type of Francatrippa; they expelled the capital in 1584 a provincial company that had ventured to quarter itself at the Hôtel de Cluny. But these moves availed them nothing. The Italian actors came back on their hands again and yet again; they could get no encouragement from the poets, and the public had grown tired of them; the students and the strollers were better liked than they. They ended by being wise and provident; in 1585 they let their stage to a company of actors better qualified to adorn it than themselves, and these, after arguments and petitions and devices innumerable, succeeded (1676) in dispossessing them of their theatre.
At the date of its cession the play-house appears to have been in no sort of good repute. It was thoroughly out of repair; it had earned the qualification of a "cloaque et maison de Sathan"; its audiences, 'tis said, were wont to assemble some two hours or so before the curtain rose, and to spend the interval in dicing, immodest talk, gluttony, drunkenness, and other pleasing pastimes. The new tenants do not seem to have sweetened its fame, and they soon got into trouble of another sort. After caricaturing Mayenne and the League, they were on the point of seeing their occupation gone and their room filled with a Jesuits' college. Henri IV., however, got the upper hand of the League, and, as he loved to laugh and amuse himself, the actors went on playing in safety. In safety, if not in peace. Impudent strollers insisted on opening playhouses at the fairs; a whole cloud of theatres, including that of the Marais, came into being and action about them; and though, by persecuting these relentlessly, and by rigidly enforcing the terms of their monopoly, they succeeded in keeping themselves at the head of things, and in making their rivals a source of income, they did not succeed in keeping the ground to themselves. For the moment this was of little consequence to them. They were successful, and that was enough. Enriched with a royal grant of twelve thousand livres a year, in 1629 they called themselves the "Comédiens de l'élite royale," and they were presently known as the Troupe Royale — the Royal Company: a title to which they had every right, and out of their pride in which there proceeded not a little of the suspicion and contempt
they were afterward to bestow on the pretensions sociates of the Théâtre-Français, was a tradition of Molière. of histrionic art till Adrienne Lecouvreur replaced it with her own; and the name of Michel Baron, who left La Grange in 1673 to join the Royal Company, is greatest in the early history of the French stage.
They began by playing farce. On their stage at one time or another figured the accomplished buffoons known to fame as Turlupin, Bruscambille, Gros-Guillaume, Galinette la Galine, Gaultier-Garguille, Dame Gigogne, and Guillot-Gorju: singers to a man of questionable songs, and artists of questionable modesty. But gradually they rose to higher things; their specialty got to be the arts of tragedy and tragi-comedy. Herein they were unrivaled. Bellerose, the player whom Richelieu, a passionate lover of the theatre, did not disdain to provide with apparel, was their manager from 1629 to 1643. Montfleury, of the mountain-belly, an ancestor of the illustrious Dangeville; Bellemore, the Miles Gloriosus of his epoch; Beauchâteau, a butt of Molière; Hauteroche and De Villiers, the author-actors; Raymond Poisson, poet and player, the original Crispin, whose naturalness was envied and admired by the maker and creator of Sganarelle himself; Alizon, the Hubert of the company, famous in old women, and in nurses and servants; Brécourt, the Dutchman, desperado and ruffian, dicer and drinker, adventurer and artist; the illustrious Josias de Soulas, Sieur de Primefosse, called Floridor, the most accomplished tragedian of his decade; Marie Desmares, better known as Mademoiselle de Champmeslé; Mademoiselle Beaupré, one of the first women to appear upon the boards, and aunt of the Marotte Beaupré who fought a duel with Catherine des Urlis-all these artists figured, early or late, on the stage of the Hôtel de Bourgogne. That stage, moreover, was actually the stage of "Cinna," of "Horace," of " Polyeucte," and was presently to be that of "Mithridate," and of "Phèdre," and as the nursery, if not actually the birthplace, of French tragedy, it was a stage with a tradition and a reputation. It is, indeed, the parent stem of the Théâtre-Français. Its company was an association formed for the acting of plays, sharing its profits and expenses day by day and year by year, selling its vacancies at high prices for the common weal, presenting the heirs of such of its associates as died in harness with a sufficiency of pistoles to indemnify them for their loss, playing but thrice a week, setting the example in theatrical procedure, and exercising indisputable authority in stage questions and in all matters connected with the art of tragedy. Racine, befriended liberally and sincerely by Molière, took over to the Hôtel de Bourgogne his second play, although it was already cast, mounted, and rehearsed by the company of the PalaisRoyal. The best poets were proud to write for it. The elocutionary system of Mademoiselle de Champmeslé, who became one of the original as
The Marais Theatre was of infinitely less authority, though 'twas actually from its boards that the classic comedy, the classic tragedy, and what is now called the spectacular drama, were introduced to France and such of the world as has been exampled by her. Opened somewhere in the latter years of the sixteenth century, and affected from time to time by actors in revolt against the tyranny of the Hôtel de Burgogne, it acquired no real importance until 1629. The quarter, abominably paved and lighted and situate afar from the modish parts of Paris, was a quarter in ill repute; it was infested with cutpurses and cloak - snatchers, with blackguard sworders and disreputable women; and only in its unused tennis-courts-the refuge in those days of strollers seeking a local habitation— could room be found for such actors as stooped to its use. In 1629, however, "Mélite," the first play of the illustrious Corneille, was produced in the Rue Mauconseil, apparently through the influence of the celebrated Montdory. This notable man, a great actor and an able manager, was chief of a company of strollers, knew Corneille at Rouen, and was the means of introducing him to fame. He took "Mélite" from the Royal Company and played it for himself in the Marais. In 1632 he and his followers were established in the Fountain Tennis Court; and in 1633, protected by Richelieu, who esteemed him greatly, he was able to snap his fingers at a Parliamentary mandate ordering him to discontinue his performances, which had disgusted the inhabitants of the street by reason of the noise and crowding attendant on them. In the same year Louis XIII.-possibly to annoy Richelieu-drafted six of his best actors into the Royal Company. But Montdory, who was a troop in himself, and who had still the services of Floridor, Bellemore, and De Villiers, established himself in a tenniscourt in the Rue Vieille-du-Temple. The public loved and admired him greatly; he was very notably protected; he produced good pieces, and mounted his productions with exceptional tact and skill; and he succeeded splendidly. Scarron, Mairet, Tristan l'Hermite, and Scudéry were among his authors. Corneille, after giving him "La Galerie du Palais," and "L'Illusion Comique," a play revived in our own time, for M. Got to create anew and with extraordinary humor and art the original part of Bellemore, gave him "The Cid" (1636), and the year afterward the success of this famous play was almost eclipsed
by that of Tristan's "Mariamne." The effect produced by Montdory's "Herod seems to have been akin to that produced on contemporary audiences by Salvini's "Conrad." Unhappily the part was so tremendous in its quality as to cost Paris her greatest actor. Montdory was struck down with apoplexy after a performance of it, and rose a paralytic. As he was a favorite with Richelieu, the courtiers were liberal to him in the matter of pensions; he retired worth ten thousand livres a year. With him the theatre lost its vogue. Tragedy and comedy ceased to be proper to its artists; and though Corneille returned to it (1646) with “Le Menteur," it gradually declined to the uses of spectacle and farce. Of the former of these, in Molière's day, it had come to make a specialty. On its stage was produced, in 1661, the "Toison d'Or" of Pierre Corneille, with elaborate engines and contrivances, the invention of the crack-brained, the litigious, the mechanical Marquis de Sourdéac, who was afterward to be a thorn in the flesh of La Grange and the young Théâtre-Français. And in 1669, Rozimont the author-actor, believing that a so famous subject could hardly fail of success if taken in connection with “ces superbes ornemens de théâtre qu'on voit d'ordinaire chez nous," wrote for it a version of the legend of Don Juan that may be read with interest even after those of Molière and Tirso de Molina.
When the manager of the Illustre Théâtre, itself, through Madeleine Béjart, an offshoot of the Marais, returned to Paris in 1658, he found these two chief play-houses in full working order. There was, besides, a company of Spanish actors, playing chiefly for the amusement of their countrywoman, the Queen. There was a company of Italians in receipt of a royal grant of fifteen thousand livres a year, and ruled by Tiberio Fiurelli, known for the greatest of all the Scaramouches. At the fairs of Saint Laurent and Saint Germain there were booths of strollers always. The Jesuits were fast acquiring an indomitable habit of college theatricals. The beginnings of the opera were a fact. At the court, which was even more choregraphically bent than that of our own Elizabeth, they danced in interminable ballets, contrived by M. de Benserade and others, with a gravity and a determination unparalleled in history. It was a time, indeed, when play-acting and play-making were popular professions, and, for a man who had ideas on the subject of both, there was room in it and to spare. Rotrou, the valiant artist, had been eight years in his grave, and the world had got from Corneille the best he was ever to give; Racine was a lad of nineteen, studying the Greek poets with Claude Lance
lot, and learning "Theagenes and Chariclea" by heart. The comedy of the epoch was either caricature or extravagance. The "Visionnaires" of Desmarets, the "Don Japhet" of Scarron, the "Pédant Joué" of Cyrano, were stock pieces; and audiences had not much to content them but the rodomontades and stramazouns of the captain, the pedantic brutalities of the doctor, the knavish nastiness of the valet. Among these well-worn types the men and women of Molière had not much to do to make a place for themselves; besides the stale, exaggerated fun of the hack authors, his humor-fresh, spontaneous, abundant, human-had but to be heard to be recognized and acclaimed. The hour had come, and the man was there to keep tryst with it.
As for the way in which his works and those of his great associates were produced, it differed strangely from the ways of to-day. The French have lost, it may be, the knack of masterpieces, but their knowledge and practice of the art of scenic decoration have mightily increased. In the beginning the theatres opened their doors but thrice a week-on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays: all Mondays being days of departure, all Wednesdays and Saturdays market-days, and all Thursdays walking and visiting days: and the play-goer, studying the red bill of the Hôtel de Bourgogne, whether it was couched in plain prose or in trivial verse-read on it but the names of piece and author, and saw no mention whatever of actors. Under Louis XIII. the curtain rose at two of the afternoon; under Louis XIV., who loved to dine and kept his courtiers waiting while he dined, it got to rise as late as five. Usually the house was lighted with tallow; but when the King was of the audience, he sat superbly among wax-candles supplied by his officers. You could get into the pit-where cooling drinks and sweetmeats were sold in summer, and comforting and strengthening cordials and cough-mixtures could be got in winter-for fifteen sous on ordinary occasions; but, on extraordinary, you had to pay thirty sous for your standing-room. After the crush there was to see "The Cid" at Montdory's theatre, the sides of the stage, once the refuge of the poor author, became the fashionable part of the auditorium; there you could see and be seen, you could get in the actor's way, you could bring in a performing dog with you, and show off his tricks between the alexandrines of Polyeucte and Pauline; you could interrupt the play with all possible ease and security; and the cost of it all was but a single half-louis, or five livres ten sous. Money was, in those days, about four times as dear as now it is, and it was the habit of a certain class of spectators to try and see the play for nothing, and so put themselves on the footing of the officers and soldiers of the household brigade.