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Naturally this was one of the burning questions to found a comic tradition and to be a chief eleof the period, and a subject for royal ordinances. ment in the composition of a national stage; Of pages, lackeys, and broken soldiers there was above all, he had in him stuff that would presalways a sufficiency; a playhouse porter's best ently take shape as “Tartufe," "The Misanqualification was his swordsmanship; and La thrope,” “Scapin,” “ Pourceaugnac," the “MédeGrange notes more than once the payment of cin,” “George Dandin,” the “Festin de Pierre.” surgical expenses for doorkeepers wounded in After winning the regard of Louis XIV, and the discharge of their duty. For riots were fre- his brother Philippe, called Monsieur, at a perquent: Molière and Du Croisy took part in one formance in the Louvre, he and his fellows were that was fatal to some of the rioters; and in M. taken into Monsieur's service, and were settled Campardon's last publication * are documents in the theatre contrived in the great hall of the relating to a disturbance that took place as late Hôtel de Petit-Bourbon. They shared it with as 1691. As a rule, the scenery and decorations Tiberio Fiurelli and his Italians, who had for some were simple almost to absurdity. For “ The Cid” time the Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays for they had but “a room with four doors—an arm- their own, and received from Molière the sum of chair for the King"; for“ Hérculius,” “ une salle fifteen hundred livres for the use of their theatre de palais à volonté” and “three papers"; for on the four off days of the week, when audiences “ Bajazet,” a “saloon à la Turque” and “two could but be thin and receipts not very satisfying. daggers "; for “ Pourceaugnac," which by com- The production at the Petit-Bourbon of the "Préparison was richly equipped, the necessaries were cieuses” and the “Cocu Imaginaire" (1659-'60) “two houses in front and a town behind; three approved their author a competitor of no mean chairs or stools; two musketoons," and seven or force; the Hôtel de Bourgogne took fire at the eight specimens, “ en fer blanc,” of an implement discovery; and in the latter of the two years, by which those who have had the good luck to see an intrigue that reminds you strangely of the M. Got as the excellent gentleman from the machinations in Balzac's novels, he and his folLimousin know for a fear-inspiring implement lowing were turned neck and crop out of their indeed. Disdaining the employment of super- holding and left without a stage. Fortunately, numeraries, they seem, ere now, to have impro- Monsieur was at their elbow to demonstrate the vised a battle by letting down a painted cloth shameful injustice of the proceeding; fortunately, figured over with warring legions. The musical they had succeeded in pleasing the King; and arrangements were of a kindred type: Molière three weeks after their expulsion they started began with three fiddles at the wings, or in a box afresh on the stage within the Palais-Royal. The in the front of the house, and, as Chappuzeau theatre was a good one; it had been built and benevolently explains, if these fiddles did not furnished by Richelieu for his own Mirame," know their cues, it was necessary to shout at and for the five-handed plays he used to have of them from the stage. Add to all this the fact the staff of poets he kept at piece-work. It was that you could, while listening to the high-pitched, out of repair; but it had a pit nine fathoms wide stately, rhythmic chant of the Champmeslé as by eleven deep; there were two gilded galleries Camille, or admiring Poisson in the typical boots running round the three sides of it; it would hold of Crispin, provide yourself quite easily with oc- on a pinch between two and three thousand peocasion for a duel or two, and it is not difficult to ple; it was a royal property, and as long as it conclude that a theatrical performance must, at liked his Majesty the actors were safe from any that time, have had for one of its main attractions kind of interruption. In 1665, after the produca lively tendency toward the unforeseen and un- tion of the two “Ecoles,” the “Impromptu," and expected.
the “Mariage," the company was taken into the It was after a stroll some twelve years long King's service, and received, with an annual grant in the provinces of the west and south that of six thousand livres (increased to seven thousand Jean Baptiste Poquelin came back to Paris to in 1670), the official title of the King's Company. settle and become world-famous as Molière. He That there was a good deal of ill-feeling between had put forth the “Etourdi” at Lyons, in 1655, the two troupes, the Royal and the King's, is suffiand the “Dépit Amoureux” at Béziers, in 1656, ciently proved by the two “Impromptus"-of and in these and lesser works had approved him- Versailles and of the Hôtel de Condé-the “Criself an intelligent and able student of the Italian tique,” the “ Portrait du Peintre," and the “Vendrama; he had played tragedy until he had come geance des Marquis," with the journalism attached to believe himself a tragedian; he had made of to them. But Molière was in good odor at court. the poor little Illustre Théâtre, of which, since Louis made less of him than his enthusiasts will 1645, he had been manager, a company that was confess; but he amused: he was ingenious as a
maker of ballets and diversions; while he lived * « Les Comédiens du Roi," Paris, 1879. he was almost as important a person as Lulli and
Benserade, and stood on what was, perhaps, a on his career as a purveyor of spectacle, with higher plane of royal favor than Scaramouch- great intelligence and varying fortune. Gaining Fiurelli himself; and, after expelling him the largely by the production of “ Circé," a piece Petit-Bourbon, the Hôtel de Bourgogne could whose mounting cost the sum, unprecedented for the moment prevail against him no more. thitherto, of ten thousand eight hundred and Things changed briskly enough in 1673. Molière forty-two livres seventeen sous, he appears in dead, Baron, La Thorilière, and the two Beau- 1676 to have been so pinched for means as to vals were tempted over to the opposition at once; have been unable to pay his bill-sticker. He and so little account was made of the remainder none the less went on with his enterprise, manipuof his company, that, though it yet included Ma- lating into verse and inoffensiveness the audademoiselles Molière and de Brie, the epoch's most cious prose of the “Festin de Pierre," and achievaccomplished actresses of comedy, with Hubert, ing in 1679 a quite extraordinary success with the the original Pernelle, and Madame Jourdain, and “Devineresse” of Corneille and De Visé, a scanLa Grange, the creator of all Molière's “ young dalous melodrama pieced together out of the story
ས firsts" from Don Juan downward, an attempt at of the notorious Madame Voisin. The popularassociation was contemptuously stayed, and the ity of the “Devineresse was certainly gall and artists of Molière were left to their own devices wormwood to those of the Hôtel de Bourgogne; without a chance of appeal.
but its bitterness could have been as nothing to Fortunately for the French stage, La Grange, that of the cup that was brewing for them. La Molière's orator and acting-manager, was at the Grange's next stroke of policy was, indeed, a mashead of affairs, and La Grange was an able and terstroke. The Sieur de Champmeslé, an actoran indefatigable man. His business capacity was author of some parts, and Mademoiselle, his wife, at least equal to his powers as an actor, and his long the amie intime of Jean Racine, and the devices were eminently wise and eminently profit- original exponent of all the heroines of his secable. Thrust out from the Palais-Royal at the ond period, from the plaintive Andromaque to instances of Lulli, who wanted the theatre for his the passionate and terrible Phèdre, were perown enterprise, and got the occupants evicted at suaded to abandon the Hôtel de Bourgogne for a moment's notice, the King's Company, deprived the Hôtel Guénegaud. As this move of the Sieur of its pension and its stage, remained homeless de La Grange put him in possession of the whole for several months. Then the Marquis de Sourdé- repertory of both the great French tragics, and ac-of “ Toison d'Or” and stage-engineering re- made his company as well qualified to excel in nown—sold La Grange a playhouse built by him tragedy as it had always excelled in comedy, and for the performance of opera, but thrown on his as about the same time there occurred the death hands by the action of Lulli, the all-powerful. of the deserter La Thorilière, an actor trained in It was situate at the Bottle Tennis Court, in the Molière's school and actually an exponent of Rue Mazarine, and is known historically as the Molière's tradition, it is to be assumed that the Théâtre-Guénegaud. Here in 1673 did La Grange Hôtel de Bourgogne was in poorer case at this and his following set up their rest. A royal order moment than at any other of its history, and that had abolished the playhouse in the Marais and there was no way for it out of its difficulties but drafted certain of its artists into the broken ranks the way it was forced to take. of the King's Company; the best of them all, That way was the work of Louis XIV. He poor Claude Roze, called Rozimont, had been lived to centralize, as he had lived to dance and engaged by La Grange before the break-up to to dine, and had determined on the centralization replace Molière in Molière's own parts. In the of the dramatic art with the others. On August society, thus enlarged, there were nineteen mem- 18, 1680, an order for the fusion of the two combers; it had Joseph Béjart, one of the original panies, the Royal and the King's, was sent from associates of the Illustre Théâtre, for a pensioner; him at Charleville by the Duc de Créqui. It was its estate was one of seventeen and a half shares, accompanied by a list of the artists to be retained two of which were the property of Sourdéac and in the royal service, and was instantly obeyed, his partner, while the rest were divided, in vari- the united company playing eight days afterward ous proportions, among the nineteen associates. at the Hôtel de Guénegaud for the first time. La Grange, not uninfluenced in all probability by The pieces, I should add, that were chosen for the companionship of the sometime actors of the this solemn occasion were “ Phèdre and “ Les Marais, turned for profit to the spectacular drama. Carrosses d'Orléans "; of the latter I confess to As the greater part of the Molièresque repertory knowing absolutely nothing. On October 21st a was as much the property of the Hôtel de Bour- lettre de cachet, dated from Versailles, and signed gogne as of the Hôtel Guénegaud, he purchased “Louis” and “Colbert,” and a final list of artists the services and interest of De Visé, the journal- appended to it, gave the new society a monopoly ist and hack, and of Thomas Corneille, and started of the French theatre in Paris, and ordered the
Lieutenant-General of Police forthwith to see to dained, and there was naught for it but to obey. the enforcement of its provisions. The institu- La Grange and Le Comte had need of all their tion thus established was the Théâtre-Français. courage and their conduct. The associates
agreed to buy land and build a theatre of their III.
own, but clerical influences were paramount at The artists chosen to represent the histrionic Versailles, and the actors were hunted from parability of Frence were twenty-seven, fifteen of ish to parish as though their trade were unmenthem men and twelve women. Among them tionable, and they themselves fit inmates for Forwere the two La Granges, the two Raisins, the l'Evêque and the Salpêtrière. Half a dozen sites two Barons, the two Beauvals, the two Guérins in succession were chosen and bargained for by (Guérin, it should be remembered, married La Grange, and were declared improper and imMolière's widow), and the two Champmeslés; possible by the Court. At last, however, he was with Mademoiselles de Brie, Dupin, and Denne- permitted to conclude a purchase; and in the baut, and Raymond Poisson, Hauteroche, Hu- Rue Neuve-des-Fossés-Saint-Germain-des-Prés, bert, Villiers, and Rozimont. The estate affected on the site of the Star Tennis Court, a theatre to them was divided into twenty-one and three- designed by François d'Aubry was run up, and quarters shares, a half-share of which was re- opened, with “Phèdre ” and the “Médecin,” to tained by the King. The twenty-one and a
a house of eighteen hundred and seventy livres, quarter shares remaining were distributed among
in the April of 1689. The price of the ground the associates. A contract between the mem- alone was sixty thousand livres; and in the end bers of the society (1681) provided for the pay- the actors found that, in good hard cash, the ment of future pensions and the due recognition, prudery of the Sorbonne had cost them close on in case of necessity, of heirship in an associate's two hundred thousand livres, and was to keep next of kin. In the same year the King bestowed them in debt for many years. The theatre his half-share on Le Comte, a diligent and useful served its turn, of course, and was not abanactor, and a coadjutor of La Grange's till that doned till 1770, when decay had made it unsafe, father of the Français died ; in 1682 he ordered and it could be used no more. the reception of Brécourt, also a half-share hold- In 1699 the “Droit des Pauvres" was instier, and so changed the composition of the estate tuted, and the theatre was ordered to pay a to one of twenty-two and a quarter shares; and seventh of its gross receipts to the General Hossome months afterward he assured to the asso- pital. In 1716 a further percentage was demandciates a yearly grant of twelve thousand livres. ed of it, ostensibly for the Hôtel-Dieu, but really For a couple of years more the company appear to provide an official person with cash, which to have been as much their own masters as in brought the impost up to one of a fourth of its the free and easy times of old; but in 1684 they earnings. In evading the payment of this charge, were placed under the control of the First Gen- and in doing battle with the lawless petty theatres tleman of the Chamber. And in 1685 the num- about them, the associates appear to have shown ber of shares was fixed definitely at twenty-three, a great deal of ingenuity, and not less of deterand at twenty-three their number remained until mination. They cooked their accounts quite the Revolution.
faithfully, and they showed no mercy; these A time was at hand, however, when the very were their chief aims of life. The theatre was being of the institution was in peril. The Louis ordered by the First Gentlemen of the Chamber, of Maintenon was not the Louis of Montespan. with the Duc de Richelieu at their head; and, The devotee in him had mastered the man of bad as was the rule of these noble creatures, whose pleasure ; the devil had turned hermit. Since interference, at once vexatious and stupid and imseventeen years his dancing days were done; his moral, was felt in all its concerns, it was, æsthetifondness for the theatre had declined ; his dietary cally speaking, quite admirably efficient. Among itself had become (comparatively speaking) au- its actors were Grandval, Lekain, Préville, and stere. In the formal practice of piety, he forgot Molé; among its actresses were Lecouvreur, alike to live and to let live. Thus, when in 1687 Dangeville, Gaussin, Dumesnil, Clairon, Dugazon, the dignitaries of the Sorbonne had scruples about and Vestris; and its staff of poets included Volopening their new College of the Four Nations taire, Regnard, Lesage, Marivaux, Piron, Gresset, within a furlong of such a villainous haunt as was Marmontel, Diderot, Vadé, Beaumarchais, and the Théâtre-Français, they found in the reformed Ducis (with an adaptation of “Hamlet "). Finanmonarch an intelligent, a repentant, and a sym- cially, however, its position was abominable; Louis pathetic listener. The actors were ordered out XV. had, in the end, to double the royal grant, and of the Hôtel Guénegaud at three months' notice. to pay the theatre's debts, which amounted to Argument and expostulation availed them no- upward of two hundred and forty thousand livres. thing; Maintenon and the Sorbonne had or- At Vigarani's playhouse in the Louvre, whither
the associates removed in 1770, they added to standing; and, in 1799, the company, with its their number Dazincourt and Mademoiselles Rau- debts paid and a state pension in hand, started court and Contat, and produced (1775) the “Bar- once more at the Odéon. It was burned out of bier" of Beaumarchais, determining by their nig- that theatre in the same year, and for some time gardly treatment of that restless and indomitable there was no Comédie-Française. adventurer the foundation (1777) of the Société Bonaparte, however, was fond of plays and des Auteurs Dramatiques. And in 1782 they acting—almost as fond of them as Richelieu himshifted their scene to the Odéon, and there, in self; and, though he did suppress the chair in the the “Mariage de Figaro,” they put forth, amid Institute set apart by a liberal Convention for the squabbles of all sorts (1784), the last of the classic better honoring of histrionic art, he took the forcomedies. They played it intelligently enough tunes of the broken Comédie into that strong, as artists, for Molé was the Almaviva, and Da- resolute hand of his, and in 1803 the old Variézincourt, a very king of Crispins, was the Figaro. tés-Amusantes received the associates once more, But, as politicians, they learned its lesson not at strong this time in the master's protection, and all; they neither heard nor did they understand. rich in an annual grant of one hundred thousand Almaviva, befooled and jested and shamed, with francs. Nine years after, he found time, in the his droit de seigneur, a mere conventionality to stress of his Russian campaign, to think out and be mocked at and despised, was, if they could dispatch the famous Moscow decree, which is but have known it, a type of themselves. Like supposed to be the Theatre's Great Charter, and him, they had outlived their day; like him, they the authority for its present constitution. It had forgotten nothing and learned nothing. All divided the estate into twenty-four shares, and about them the Figaros of art were brawling and allotted twenty-two of them to the society; eswatching and scheming; their privilege, though tablished a complete system of pensions, retirenever so sound in theory, was in practice dead ments, and débuts; settled finally the vexed and decayed; their lordship of things theatrical question of the possession of parts; determined was on its last legs, they were part of an oppo- a connection between the theatre and the Consition that was beaten ere it came to a division. servatoire; and, providing, in fine, for every conThe Opéra Comique had been founded in spite tingency of every kind, set the association on a of them; Nicolet and Audinot, the famous show- broader, firmer, and less disputable basis than men, had fought and won the battle of theatrical till then it had occupied. It contains one hunliberty; playhouses suppressed by them were re- dred and one clauses, and, if I do not analyze its opened otherwhere and under other names al- provisions at greater length, it is that I am inmost ere the ink had dried on their papers; and formed that the house is ruled in great measure five years after the production of the “Mariage” according to tradition, use, custom, and that the the Revolution had split their society itself into associates consider themselves and their conventwo camps, and the old order of circumstances tionalities to be, in a manner, of superior mold, was at an end for them. Headed by Talma, the and so beyond the influence of ordonnance and democrats among them went to play patriotic law. tragedy—a poor and dull thing it seems from this The Restoration replaced the Comédie, it distance of time—in the Palais-Royal, at what need hardly be said, under the rule of the Genwas then the Variétés-Amusantes, and at what tlemen of the Chamber; but, after the flight of is now the Comédie-Française. The Loyalists, Charles X., the Moscow decree came into force under the captaincy of Dazincourt, staid on at again, and the associates, nominally under official the Odéon, and got presently into hot water; they control, became their own masters. They made were denounced by Robespierre in civic terms of but a poor use of their liberty. The literary considerable force, they were arrested in a body, revolution of 1830 was as unintelligible to them and they were sent to durance. Collot d'Herbois, as the political of 1789. They continued faithwith all the bad actor's ferocious jealousy of his fully to represent the classic principle in art, and chief, wanted very much to cut off Dazincourt's they paid dearly for their fidelity. The multitude head; but Dazincourt succeeded in keeping it on flocked to hear Hugo and Dumas, and to see his shoulders, and lived to use it as a professor Frédérick Lemaître and Dorval at the Odéon and at the Conservatoire, and as Napoleon's Direc- the Porte-Saint-Martin; and on one occasion in teur des Spectacles. Talma received the rebels 1831 the Comédie-Française had the honor of when the term of their prison-life was past; and playing “Tartufe” and “Le Legs "-Molière at at what was called in turn the Theatre of Liberty his strongest, and Marivaux at his brightest—to and Equality, the Theatre of the Nation, and the a house of sixty-seven francs. The associates Theatre of the Republic, the association was forowed a matter of six hundred thousand francs, a brief space held together. Then came quar- and though Louis Philippe increased their penrels, partings, new attempts at a common under- sion from two hundred thousand francs to two hundred and forty thousand francs, and lent them peculiar literature; not only is its connection with some three hundred thousand francs besides, they the Société des Auteurs Dramatiques quite special could not make ends meet for some time. In and extraordinary; it has also a style, a tradition, 1850, after various attempts at self-government a standard, a position, an authority of its own. under tutelage, the association was given into Fed yearly from the Conservatoire—which is betthe charge of the Minister of the Interior and of ter able to deal with its scholars than it was when an Administrator-General in his nomination; and Alexandre Dumas, who knew well enough what six years afterward its grant was fixed at two he was talking about, could cry out (1849) that hundred and forty thousand francs. There, for he could more easily make an actor of a National the moment, ends its story. Among its admin- Guard or a retired shopkeeper than of a pupil of istrators have been MM. Arsène Houssaye and the Conservatoire—it takes to itself the best of Edouard Thierry; and it is on record that the the youngsters sent forth to be tested on its higher officials of the Second Empire were used stage, schools and trains them into intelligence to abuse its function as that function had been and capacity, assigns to each of them his proper abused under Louis XV., to the profit of ladies walk in art, and by precept, example, practice, not distinguished for the possession of either encouragement, constraint, makes artists of them talent or reputation. Of late, however, under the at last, and fits them to do for their juniors what guidance of M. Emile Perrin, the theatre has it has done for them. A part of its function is succeeded both artistically and financially. The the discovery and encouragement of young aureceipts of the last few years have been largely thors; a play has only to be sent in to its comin excess of the million (of francs, of course), and mittee to be publicly read and discussed, and acare steadily increasing. And putting tragic art cepted or rejected, as the case may be, officially. aside—in which, such accidents as the “ tempera- It has authority to call into its pale any artist of ment” called Sarah Bernhardt notwithstanding, promise or of parts without it, and is thus enathe Comédie-Française is not now eminently dis- bled incessantly to renew its strength and fill up tinguished—and taking as representative artistic the breaches in its ranks. As its associateship is figures so complete and finished as MM. Got, the Garter or the Golden Fleece of the stage, and Delaunay, and Coquelin, and Mademoiselles Bro- entitles its possessor not only to a fitting salary han and Favart, it is lawful to conclude that the and a share in the profits of the year, but to a theatre's present is such as may challenge com- pension and consideration in after-times, its staff parison with the most brilliant epochs of its past. is always as complete as the quality of the epoch
As we see it, indeed, the Comedie-Française will permit, and it is able of its every performance is almost the ideal theatre. Not only has it a li- to make a lesson, authoritative and practical, in brary, a museum, a vast collection of archives, a histrionic art.
THE MIRABE AUS. *
exhaustible stores of French memoirs and vigor of mind, a disposition to dwell on trifles, an materials for history lies before us, and one of the industry wasted in small things which are by nabest that has appeared for a good while. The ture incompatible with the higher achievements anonymous preface which precedes the work- of authorship. Such an inference would be most the author himself having been recently snatched erroneous in the present case. M. de Loménie's away by an untimely death—informs us that it work is not more distinguished by painstaking was the result of twenty years' research and study industry and accuracy than by the attractive gifts on the part of the lamented M. de Loménie. It and graces which go to form a really able writer. is not always that such protracted effort is re- In the biographical portion of his work M. de warded by corresponding excellence in the result. Loménie shows himself a master of narrative, Not only has a writer oftentimes to spoil good telling his story not only with spirit and effect, work in such long elaboration, but such tardi- but with much insight into character and fine
moral discrimination. In the speculative portion, * Les Mirabeau. Nouvelles Etudes sur la Société he discusses economical and political questions Française au 18me Siècle. Par Louis de Loménie. with insight and real weight; while all through Paris : Dentu.
the book are diffused an impression of candor, a