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to cut his majesty's throat in a coupe gorge, into which he had been inveigled by a common prostitute, and to deliver him the royal body in a sack. Intending to escape, after the catastrophe, out of France, he has disguised his unfortunate daughter in inale attire to facilitate their evasion. By a series of accidents, she falls in with the murderers, and is stabbed instead of the king, and the body, yet living, is stuffed into a sack and delivered over to Triboulet, who, when he proceeds to enjoy his vengeance, by looking on the murdered seducer, draws out from the bag the yet living body of his child, who has just breath enough left to tell her story before she dies. The unhappy jester goes, as he well might, distracted, but recovers enough to end the piece à la Marion de Lorme
Triboulet. J'ai tué mon enfant-J'ai tué mon enfant ! -Il tombe sur le pavé.' These catastrophes may have truth and grandeur, but at least there is no great variety. Shakspeare would hardly have made two immediately successive tragedies end with on tombe sur la pavé.' But now our readers will ask, why was this piece suppressed? Was it for its immorality? No-immorality more flagrant, if it be possible, has been tolerated. Was it for degrading all the great names of France, which are exhibited in the vilest colours? No; such libels were in favour at the new court. Was it for exposing to the hatred of the nation a king who had hitherto been a favourite, and to public contempt the royal office and authority? No; Louis Philippe, if he felt, would not have expressed any interest about any of his predecessors. What then could be the cause of so extreme a measure as the despotic suspension of such a drama by such an author? M. Victor Hugo will not venture to tell us openly-but he says that the cause was in one line of the piece, which gave rise to an interpretation of which he had never dreamed, and which, so much does he abhor the imputed allusion, he will not designate. We have twice read the play to discover this mysterious line, and we think we have had the good fortune to find it-it is this: Triboulet, in reproaching a circle of courtiers of illustrious name, some of whom he suspected of carrying off his child, (for he at this period did not know the real offender,) exclaims—
'Non il n'appartient point à ces grandes maisons
Vous êtes tous bâtards!'
M. Hugo never thought of it, but pit, box, and gallery recollected in an instant, that the father of Louis Philippe-Louis Egalité—
'le meilleur citoyen de la France'-had, in the days of the Convention, thought to ingratiate himself with the mob by denying that he was a Bourbon-by claiming for himself the honour of bastardy, and alleging that he was the produce of the adultery of his mother with a stable-boy! The allegation itself was 'as false as hell '—but the fact of the degenerate wretch having made it was notorious. The sensation in the theatre was, as it could not fail to be, tremendous- the line,' says Hugo, was a red-hot brand'-it was clear that such an inflammatory provocative to sedition could not be repeated-and the piece was illegally and arbitrarily, but most properly, prohibited.
And here we must observe on one of those little retributive circumstances which-better even than more important eventsmust bring home to the bosom of M. Hugo himself-we will not say the inconsistency, nor the ingratitude, nor the illegality of his participation in the Revolution of July-but its absurdity, its folly, its fruitlessness. In his preface to Marion de Lorme, written in August, 1831, he gives way to a Pindaric enthusiasm for the liberty of the stage, won, like all other public liberties, by the admirable revolution of July;' and, as a signal subject of triumph, remarks, that this play, acted with such success in regenerated France, 'would, under the elder branch of the Bourbons, have been destined to eternal exclusion from the stage.' Well-his very next preface, written in the very next year, exhales an indignant sorrow for the total failure of the admirable Revolution.' The Viziers of the King of the Barricades' have committed an enormity of despotism, unknown-unheard-of in the worst of former times; and the repressive police of Charles X. assumes the air of lenient precaution, compared with the Turkish despotism (dans quel pachalick vivons-nous ?) of Louis Philippe. We know that there is not a public interest, great or small-hardly an individual man, except the immediate holders of office, the plunder of the victory-that has not, like M. Hugo, seen that all the promises of that revolution have been broken-all their hopes deceived all their rights trampled into the dust-all their liberties invaded, and that all their prospects of internal tranquillity and order are converging to one point,—a military and absolute monarchy! But we must return, from the great national drama, to that of the Porte St. Martin.
Hugo's next piece was LUCRECE BORGIA, played in February, 1833. In this he throws off the trammels of rhyme, as in his former plays he had discarded the old rules of metre. This play is in avowed prose. The hero, Gennaro, is like the Didier of Marion, a bastard-foundling. The play opens with a relation of a scene that had passed in Rome some years before. Two figures
were seen at night, on the same horse, making for the banks of the Tiber; one was a corpse, the other the murderer. Who were
they?-brothers! What the cause of quarrel?—a mistress ! Who that mistress ?—their sister!! An infant had been the produce of the incest-it survived-it lives-'tis Gennaro, the hero of the piece :-the mother is Lucrèce Borgia. This Gennaro, in process of time, his mother sees by accident-she falls in love with him, and follows him to Venice in disguise. He feels towards her a kind of attraction, but without any suspicion that she is Lucrèce Borgia, whose very name he, from the reputation of her crimes, detests so enthusiastically, that he defaces, in a moment of indignation, the escutcheon of her arms over the gate of the palace of her (fourth) husband, Don Alphonso d'Este! Lucrèce, indignant at the affront, but ignorant of its author, solicits vengeance from Don Alphonso. He grants it. She urges that the offender may be pursued. Alphonso answers,-that he is already taken. She insists on satiating her vengeance by being present at the condemnation; but, before he is introduced, she makes her husband swear that be he who he may, however born, however allied, however near and dear, even to Don Alphonso himself—he shall die. The Don, who had discovered, by his spies, his wife's inclination for the author of the insult, and who already meditated Italian vengeance on him and on her, readily grants her desire, and confirms it by a solemn oath. He had indeed before prepared both sword and poison to rid himself of at least one of them. When, however, Gennaro is introduced, Lucretia discovers, with horror, that she had obtained the condemnation of her son. She suddenly endeavours to retract. Then follows a scene, very well written, in which she endeavours to cajole Don Alphonso into mercy. He, seeing in this sudden change only a confirmation of his jealousy, becomes but the more resolved; but affects a playful tenderness and gallantry for her, and excuses his refusal by his devotion to her wishes and his zeal for her character. At last he throws off the mask, upbraids her with the crimes of herself and her family, and only gives her the choice of whether her favourite shall die by poison or the sword. She, still not daring to own the real cause of her interest, chooses the poison. Alphonso consents, on condition that she shall herself administer it. The criminal is then re-introduced. Don Alphonso affects clemency, forgives him the nocturnal indiscretion, and invites him to drink some wine of Syracuse, poured out by the fair hands of the Duchess. She, knowing that a bravo is hidden behind the arras, ready to cut Gennaro's throat on the instant, complies in desperation: the dose is given and taken, and Don Alphonso leaves them-' to spend the last quarter of an hour of her gallant's life together.'
But the Don was deceived: Lucrèce has an infallible antidote against the effect of the poison. She tells Gennaro of his danger, and offers him the antidote: he refuses to believe her: he thinks the offered draught from the hands of Lucrèce Borgia can be only poison he loads her with the bitterest reproaches-talks with filial enthusiasm of his unknown mother-then begs pardon of heaven and her for having profaned her name by uttering the word mother' before such a monster as Lucrèce. Every word cuts deep into her soul; but at last he is persuaded to drink. She gives him some more of the antidote for a future occasion, indicates to him the way of escape out of the palace, and blesses him; he, in return, curses her, and she falls down in a swoon.
But Gennaro unfortunately delays his journey, and is persuaded to join a party of five young friends at supper, at the Princess Negroni's. The palace Negroni adjoins that of Borgia-Lucrèce is mistress of both; the young guests are all her personal enemies, for whom this supper is a snare. After a scene of Bacchanalian revelling-they find that they had indeed 'supped full of horrors'Lucrèce appears suddenly, followed by a train of monks chanting the burial service; she reproaches them with all their offences against her, acquaints them that they are poisoned, that they have but a few minutes to live, and that the monks are there to assist them with the offices of religion in their last moments. Then a long gallery hung with black is opened by folding-doors, in which are seen five coffins, to each of which a victim is summoned. There were five coffins, but there were six guests; the supernumerary is Gennaro, who had come uninvited. He is left in the outer apartment alone with Lucrèce. Again she has to announce to him that he is poisoned, and urges him to take what was left of the antidote; he asks whether there is enough to save all-she answers, no, barely enough for one'-he refuses to be saved alone, and in fury seizes a knife from the table, and purposes to inflict a bloody vengeance on the cause of all these horrors she prays for mercy, he is obstinate-at last, she is driven to own that he is the son of her brother. He understands that he is her nephew-and his resolution is for a moment shaken-but the dying screams of his companions are heard from the gallery: his fury revives-he stabs her-she exclaims, Ah, tu m'as tuée ! Gennaro! Je suis ta mère'-and so ends this complication of
These Borgias were terrible people, but nothing, we suspect, like this! The crimes which some writers have attributed to Lucretia are doubted by others more intelligent, and we think trustworthy--by Roscoe, for instance, and Sismondi-the latter of whom says that her union with Alphonso D'Este was happy
that she survived all her family-that she lived honoured at the court of Ferrara-that she patronized literature and the arts, and some men of letters, amongst others Bembo, who gave her a character very different from that of the ordinary historians. Be all this as it may, it is clear that the chief crimes of Hugo's Lucrèce are pure or rather impure-invention; even if they were true, they are not fit subjects for dramatic revival; but it is doubly unjustifiable to offend decency and sully history by such disgusting fables.
Hugo's next and last piece, though not quite so shocking, is grossly offensive to morals, and still more at variance with historyMARY OF ENGLAND. In the present taste of the French for historical horrors, our bloody Mary might not have been a bad theme, if it had been managed with any judgment ;-Her political position-her personal character-her cruel, but conscientious bigotry the dramatic aspect of the characters that surrounded her -the dark ambition of Philip—the tender and innocent Jane Grey -the youthful prudence, masculine spirit, and personal graces of Elizabeth-the fury of the persecutors-the courage of the martyrs might be grouped, without much deviation from historic truth, into very striking situations. But M. Hugo has made a different choice, and produced an historic drama where all is false, ridiculous, and disgusting. Mary-the severe and scrupulous Mary-is represented (after she has been betrothed to Philip, and while she is expecting his arrival) as living in open criminal commerce with an Italian adventurer, one Fabiano Fabiani, whom she has created Earl of Clanbrassil, and Baron of Dinasmonddy (meaning, we presume, Dinasmouddey-there is such a village. in North Wales). Fabiano has, under the name of Sir Amyas Powlet, seduced Jane, a poor girl of the lowest class, a foundling, who is betrothed to one Gilbert, a carver. In visiting this girl one night in her humble and retired lodgings, Fabiano is accosted by a Jew, a stranger (a stranger, indeed, to the end), who tells him that he knows all his story and his objects; that he has seduced Jane, not because he loved her, but because he had discovered that she was the only child of a certain Lord Talbot, Earl of Waterford, Wexford, and Shrewsbury, beheaded in the last reign for his adherence to popery, and whose large possessions had been conferred, in default of issue, by the queen on Fabiani. So that, by having the heiress in his power as mistress or wife, he was secure, in case of any reverse of favour, of possessing her great inheritance. The proofs of Jane's birth the stranger has about him -to obtain them, and get rid of so disagreeable and omniscient a spy, Fabiani stabs him, but the stranger in falling, throws away Jane's title-deeds-and Fabiani, finding nothing on him, retires to