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all decency. There is, literally, neither rhyme nor season in the majority of their recent productions.

In the conception of a remarkable class of these modern dramas, there is an obvious imitation of Shakspeare. His historical dramás, which—beside their intrinsic beauties-interest us so much by the introduction of the names and the representation of the events of our national annals, excited long ago the emulation of Voltaire: but his failure in this line was signal ;-and the result of his grecising of Adelaide du Guesclin and the Seigneur de Coucy, in the same style in which he frenchified Semiramis and Orestes, disgusted his audience and himself with that class of subjects. Chenier, taking advantage of the revolution, produced his historical tragedy of Charles IX. with a temporary success, which was due altogether to the delight of the mob in seeing a king of France exposed in odious colours, and to the connexion which their absurd ferocity traced between that royal monster and Louis XVI. But even if the powers of Chenier had been greater, the pedantic trammels of the old French theatre were quite inconsistent with the representation of real life, and, above all, of national manuers. Some other similar attempts failed, from the same reasons; and it was not till the license of these latter days, when Hugo and his associates threw off the critical as well as the political yoke, that anything like an approach to nature and reality was made : vulgar nature it undoubtedly is, and mean reality; and although they are certainly much more exciting than the decent tediousness of the old school, we doubt whether they will maintain a more lasting popularity.

M. Hugo, in several of his prefaces, avows his admiration and imitation of Shakspeare; and in that to his sixth and last piece, Mary Tudor,' gives us the chief points of his actual creed :

There are two methods,' he says, “ to create interest in an audience—the grand and the true;* the grand affects the mass—the true the individuals. A dramatic author ought, then, above all, to attempt either the grand, like Corneille, or the true, like Molière; or, still better, to unite the true and the grand, as in Shakspeare.

• For let us observe, en passant, it has been given to Shakspeare —and that it is which constitutes the sovereignty of his genius--to conciliate, to unite, to combine in his works these two qualitiesgrandeur and truth ; qualities, if not opposite, at least so distinct, that a failure in either constitutes an offence against the other—the risk of the over-true is to become mean, the risk of the over-grand is to become false. In all Shakspeare's works, there is grandeur which is true, and truth which is grand. In all his compositions, we

* Le vrai, which perhaps might be better rendered by the natural; but as the author had, in his own language, the word naturel, if he had chosen to use it, we think it right to translate his opinion literally.

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find the point where the grand and the true intersect each other; and to attain that point is the perfection of the dramatic art. Shakspeare realises a problem that looks like a contradiction-to be always within nature, yet sometimes above it. Shakspeare exaggerates the size of objects, but keeps their proportion—with a wonderful omnipotence, he creates what is greater than nature, yet perfectly natural. Hamlet, for instance, is as true to nature as any of us, yet greater-he is colossal, yet real-le is Hamlet, not you or me, but us all-Hamlet is not a man, he is man!'-p. ii.

Hailing, as we do, with satisfaction, the dawn upon the long night of French criticism of the great luminary of the dramatic world, and sensible that such an opinion of Shakspeare is of itself evidence that M. Hugo is a man of genius; we must nevertheless observe, that not only is the expression of this passage too ambitious, (though we have lowered in our translation something of its antithetical pomp,) but that the premises on which the critique proceeds are not quite unquestionable, nor the conclusion altogether logical. In a word, we see in it the seeds of the errors and blemishes which offend us in all M. Hugo's own works. The distinction between grandeur and truth, or, as our idiom would rather express it, nature, is not sound. They are not, we think, two distinct qualities of the poet's mind, intersecting each other at some happy point. Truth or nature seems to us to be rather the cause; and grandeur the effect: for instance, in the celebrated Qu'il mourût' of Corneille, there is little grand in the abstract idea, and still less in the expression; but its truth, that is, its appropriateness to the person and to the circumstances, heightened by some degree of surprise, creates in the spectator or reader the feeling of grandeur, and truth is therefore as direct an ingredient in this sublime exclamation as in any of the gayer touches of Molière. The same may be said of Lady Macbeth's 'Give me the dagger ;' and of Brutus's

Portia's dead.' It might appear hypercritical to object to M. Hugo, that some of the finest conceptions of Shakspeare are not true, as his spectres and apparitions, and that others are neither true nor grand, as his witches and fairies : dramatic truth, we admit, must not be so strictly limited; it is sufficient if--the existence of the imaginary person being once conceded—its language and actions are consistent with our ideas of what such a being (if real) would have said or done : but how vast a portion of the miraculous merit of Shakspeare has no relation whatever to the grand! The whole range of his comic, and even his social scenes--the entire characters of Falstaff, Sir Toby, Dogberry and Verges, Jack Cade and his insurgents, Menenius, Rosalind, Beatrice, and all the rest, are, to our minds, more admirable, more wonderful, than even his tragic sublimities. In the very instance M. Hugo selects

-and

-and he selects, we on the whole think, the most extraordinary creation of Shakspeare's genius-Hamlet—he seems to us not only not to appreciate, but even to misunderstand the character. There is nothing colossal in Hamlet—of course we speak of the theatric personage—the genius that conceived it is indeed colossal; but Hamlet is a man, and so little of extraordinary proportions, that it is one of the most peculiar merits of the portrait, that he is subject to many striking infirmities; nor is it a just or appropriate praise to say, that he is not a man, but man' -abstract man; on the contrary, he is an individual in all the force of the term, and more than is usual even in Shakspeare's characters) departs from general nature, and acts on principles and notives which are marked with what, to borrow an expression from medicine, we may call idiosyncracy. After all, we are perhaps disputing about words; and M. Hugo would probably, if he understood English, (which evidently he does not,) agree with us in the main—we have only been induced to make the foregoing remarks, because, whatever his better judgment may be, his practice is clearly founded on a very confused notion of the connexion between nature and grandeur, and some very unfortunate principles as to the mode of their combination. He seems to think, that crime is grand—and the more revolting, the grander; and that he combines this grandeur with truth when he mixes it up with trivial events-every-day personages and the chat and circumstances of common life. When he dramatizes the Causes Célèbres, transforms the Cour d'Assises to the theatre, and exhibits, in all their odious details, adultery, rape, incest, and murder, he fancies that he has discovered the exact point where truth and grandeur intersect one another. An analysis of some of his pieces will at once serve to show this error, common to him and M. Dumas, and will make our readers stare at the kind of exhibitions which delight the eyes and ears of regenerated France.

Dumas's Henry III. was, we believe, the first * of this class. It was followed by his Christine ; both played before the July Revolution—and this proves we think, that the censors of Charles X. were not very rigid—for assuredly the general tone of these plays and all their details, which are studiously offensive to the royal character, might have justified a refusal to permit the exhibition of such pieces before an audience so excitable and so acute in finding political allusions as the French always are, and at a period when all their feelings were in a state of more than usual excitement. Hugo's Marion de Lorme was written earlier, in 1829,

* Hngo published in 1827 a piece called Cromwell ; but it is rather a dramatized history than an historical drama : it is as long as three ordinary plays, and was, we believe, never acted.

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at the time when, amidst the general efforts to debase royal authority, and calumniate royal characters, every branch of literature was enlisted in the revolutionary cause.

Its appearance was, he tells us, prohibited, though it seems to us less politically offensive than either Henry III. or Christine ; and it remained in the author's portfolio till the Three Great Days, after which, the government had neither the power nor the will to repress libellous allusions to the kings and ministers of the old dynasty.

MARION DE LORME was a celebrated courtezan* who flourished in the reign of Louis XIII. She was the mistress of the unfortunate Cinq-Mars, and, after his death, of all the world. It is at this interesting period that the tragic muse of M. Hugo takes

up this interesting personage. Besides her numerous admirers amongst the young men of fashion, there is an humbler personage, one Didier, whom she loves, and who (kept in ignorance of who she is) loves her in return, but honourably. Didier being admitted to an evening rendezvous just after the Marquis de la Savary, the latter is attacked by four assassins in the street, under Marion's window. Didier jumps out and saves him. They both return to Marion's apartments, where Didier is disgusted with the familiarity with which the young courtier treats his adorable Marie, and resolves to take future vengeance of him he had just saved. About this time, an edict of the king is published, at the instigation of the Cardinal de Richelieu, denouncing death to all parties to any duel. This proclamation has hardly been promulgated, when Didier meets Savary, insults him, and they fight. Marion, alarmed by the noise, rushes out, and, ignorant of the edict, calls the guard. Didier is seized ; Savary escapes by feigning to have been killed—but he, in disguise, attends the empty coffin, inscribed with his own name, to the chateau of his aged uncle, the Comte de Nangis. Didier is conveyed to prison, whence he escapes by the aid of, and in company with, Marion, and they join a party of strolling players, who arrive at the castle almost with the funeral. Savary—gay, generous, and giddy-assists merrily at his own funeral, but has the indiscretion to betray Didier to one of the satellites of the cardinal, and to open Didier's eyes to the real name and occupation of his chaste Marie. Didier, indignant, now rejects her with disdain ; and Savary, too soon disclosing the secret of his own existence, is, with Didier, seized and condemned to death. The old uncle and Marion supplicate Louis XIII. for their lives, but in vain. His jester, L'Angely, strives to move him by representing them as two excellent falconers, and obtains, with some difficulty, their pardon ; but the cardinal's death-warrant prevails over his master's amnesty. The Comte de Nangis bribes a gaoler to permit his nephew to escape; but Savary refuses, unless he can share his good fortune with Didier; and, if one only can be saved, he insists it shall be his adversary. Marion, on her part,--by a sacrifice which we dare but hint at,-obtains from the cardinal's chief man-of-blood the release of Didier; but he, already shocked at the profession of one whom he loved and still loves in all purity, is now quite revolted by this extreme instance of generosity, and resolves to die rather than profit by a pardon so infamously purchased. They are led to the scaffold; - a huge scarlet litter, containing the cardinal ill of the disease of which he soon after died, crosses the stage. Marion implores, with extreme vehemence, the pardon of these young men. A voice from the litter answers,-Pas de grace. They are led off to death: the return of the litter announces that all is over; and Marion, in enthusiastic despair, ends the play by pointing to the litter, and exclaiming• Regardez tous-voilà l'homme rouge qui passe !

* She was born about the year 1606; her real name is said to have been Marie. Anne Grappin ; and that name happening to be found in a burial register of 1741, with a note that she had been thrice a widow, and was 134 years old, some writers think that this was Marion ; but there is no evidence of the identity.

falconers,

- Elle tombe sur le pavé.' This piece is in rhyme, and notwithstanding the grossness the improbability of the plot, is written with decency of language, and contains some portraits of the day-particularly that of Louis XIII.-rather caricatured but cleverly sketched, and on the whole has that kind of interest which a tragic-melodrame often produces. Our readers will have observed that even this was already a violent infraction of the boasted decorum of the French stage. But il n'y a que le premier pas qui coûte, and the next step was a stride.

In Nov. 1832— after the popularity of Louis Philippe had evaporated—was announced Le Roi s'amuse. The very title excited curiosity, and the more so because Hugo had begun his literary life as a royalist,* and it was suspected that this was a return to his ancient sentiments, and a satire on the Citizen King. It was acted but one night, being the next evening stopped by the police, every body knew, but no one was bold enough to say, why. It was no caricature of Louis Philippe—the king of the piece is Francis 1.-his amusement is to seek love-adventures in obscure streets and in low brothels. Sometimes his majesty soars a little higher, and he had contrived to seduce—under a false name, the appearance of a rank suitable to her own, and a promise of marriage-an innocent young girl, the daughter of his own jester. The jester (the celebrated Triboulet) discovers the intrigue and the offender, and in a high paternal indignation hires an assassin

* Mes premières illusions avaient été royalıstes, et Vendéennes.- Pref. to Marion de Lorme, p. viii.

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