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this is locus locorum, the very spot for you, it like him better-and to my mind it is the seeing that it has seldom been visited by more rational way of spending one's timeany of your countrymen, and has all the I'll lend him as good a gun as ever brought materials out of which your quartos are down deer, and we'll have a day's sport concocted. Here we have, as you may see, upon the mountains.
How say you, abundance of mountains, forests, torrents, signor?" and ruins, and, I dare say, if you particu- But finely as the snare was woven, I larly wished it, we could accommodate you was not to be so deceived—“fare ye well, with the sight of a bandit in full uniform.” gentlemen,” quoted I, putting spurs my How you
do go on, Master Giacomo !" horse. exclaimed the old woman ;
" there are no
“Adieu, Signor,” replied the whole gang such vermin in these parts, I thank heaven with villanous shouts of laughter—the and the saints for it."
rascals !-I was safe-safe--a few hours' Then,” said the doctor, “ your excel- hard riding brought me to the town, which lent guest, whose fancy is of the quickest, had been my original destination. Oh, how shall fashion a robber for himself out of the my supper relished after the events of the shadow of a rock or the stump of some old day. But the best of allthe dishes that were tree; it will answer your purpose just as set before me, was a letter borne upon a well, signor; and, moreover, Beppo is the salver. It came from England—“Hurrah ! very man to be your help in this matter. I may return to my Penates,-my houseHe knows every inch of the country for hold Gods—Sir Phelim O'Connor is deadthirty miles round!”
shot in a duel-blessed be the ball that gave “ That I do," said Giuseppe, “ and most him his quietus.” ready am I to be the signor's guide. Or if
VICTOR HUGO AND THE FRENCH DRAMA.
In literary as in political life, obstinate be discoloured and distorted, but they will perseverance will ensure success for splen- be uniformly so; they will give an errodid errors.
This is the secret of the power neous representation of the great drama of which Victor Hugo has deservedly won, and life, but the representation will be consiswhich he is likely to retain during the pre- tent. Just such is Victor Hugo's delineation sent generation. He is the Napoleon of of humanity ; he has closed the shutters the literary world, trampling an all the on the real world of life and business, he forms of ancient legitimacy, but substitut- views it through a clouded and distorted ing himself for a system; he has founded medium, he laughs history to scorn, and a dynasty which will have no heir, as it sets probability at defiance. No writer had no ancestor; we cannot complete the ever drew so largely and determinately on parallel by quoting any glorious extrava- the stores of his own consciousness, or has gance to serve as the literary despot's more sternly refused to compare the images Russian campaign, nor can we venture to of his solitary fancy with living humanity. speculate on an author's St. Helena, but Victor Hugo's style is as peculiar as his intellectual joins with political history in conceptions; his genius is essentially lyriassigning determined limits to the sway of cal; he is prone to exaggerations, abrupt a selfish principle. The very sources of transitions, reflections generally startling Victor Hugo's strength are also those of and sometimes profound, singular forms of his weakness; he has based his edifice on expression, and extraordinary metaphor's ideality, and on it alone—not the ideality and figures. His most humorous delineaarising from the comparison and generali- tions have in them something Pindaric; no zation of realities—but the ideality of iso- other writer would have said of Quasimodo, lation, the dreams of solitude, the visions “ He looked like a giant that had been of a hermit. Take a small room, close the broken in pieces and badly soldered togeshutters, make a small aperture, place in it ther.” He has written odes, novels, draa convex glass of irregular focus and im- mas, essays, dissertations, and criticisms, at perfect purity; the images on the wall will least works that come nominally under
VOL. X.-N0. IV.—APRIL, 1837.
these heads, but, with the exception of the teries, the statesman roused popular feeling odes, all his works should rather be called by dramatic representations of the national Hugoisms, for they have a common spirit enemy; thestrolling story-teller and balladand substance, a very slight difference in singer of a former age added acting and form, and they violate every rule that has scenery to his tales and songs; and it was hitherto been deemed stringent on the no- almost exclusively on the stage that ancesvelist, the essayist, and the dramatist. In tral records had “ a local habitation and a fact, his tales are irregular odes, with the name.” Can such a state of things be recommentary worked into the text; his stored? Will popular preachers descend dramas are lyrical ballads of action, and from the pulpits and close their chapels ? his criticisms are Pindaric essays. In Eng. Will the Times dismiss its corps of editors land Victor Hugo is chiefly known as a and reporters, the Chronicle burn its presses, novelist; Hans of Iceland, Bug Jargal, and the Herald melt down its types? Will and above all that extraordinary production Murray, Colburn, Bentley, and Saunders Notre Dame de Paris, have been the chief migrate in a body to Covent Garden and sources from which our countrymen have Drury Lane, give up the publishing trade, drawn an estimate of his power; but in and devote themselves to the speculations France he is far more remarkable as a dra- of Bunn and Osbaldiston? Whether has matist, he has devised plans for restoring Bulwer derived the greater share of fame the theatre to its former supremacy, and or profit from Rienzi or the Duchess de la every one who possesses a taste for dramatic Vallière ? These are questions assuredly of literature is deeply engaged in speculating no difficult solution; the theatre was allon his certain success or assured overthrow. powerful when it stood alone; it is now Indeed, it is on his dramas that the author surrounded with competitors, its monopoly himself rests his claims to fame; he deems is gone for ever, and, consequently, every that it is his destiny to become the Martin effort to invest it with the influence which Luther of the stage; he believes that the monopoly alone could confer must prove a theatre ought to be, and may be, made the hopeless failure. great school of civilisation, the chief in- But though the theatre can not be restrument of moral advancement; but that stored to its ancient pride of place, we must it should be able to discharge such functions, not be understood to assert that it may not he deems that it must be regenerated, and or ought not to possess a certain influence, he unhesitatingly offers himself to work and that too of a commanding nature. Such out the difficult task of its renovation. a speculation has floated through the minds
Now before we examine how far Victor of many able men, but every effort to Hugo has succeeded, it is necessary to make realize it has been frustrated. We stop not some preliminary inquiry respecting the to inquire the cause of these repeated disfeasibility of his project. Can the theatre asters in others, we contine ourselves to be restored to its former eminence in the Victor Hugo's plans. Let us just see what scale of civilisation ;—is it capable of such is the ideal form of drama by which he an application to the present state of society proposes to restore the dynasty of the stage. as would render it so efficient for the in- “Were there any man who could realize struction of this generation as it was for the the drama such as we comprehend it, that teaching of the grandfathers of our grand- drama would be the human head, the hufathers? The hermit of the dark room, the man heart, the human passions, the human observer through the imperfect convex will : it would be the resurrection of the glass, never dreams of mooting the ques- past for the benefit of the present: it would tion; though it is the most essential con- be the history of our fathers contrasted sideration in his enterprise. We have no with our own deeds; it would be the mixhesitation in declaring that the revival of ture on the stage of all that we behold theatrical influence appears to us just as commingled in life ; it would be here an hopeless, and every whit as absurd, as Don insurrection and there a peaceful chat beQuixote's efforts to restore chivalry. The tween lovers; the lovers' conversation condrama was at one time the sermon, the taining instruction for the people, and the newspaper, the novel, and even the history; insurrection an appeal to the heart: it it concentrated in itself all the means would be laughter: it would be tears : it by which intellectual power can work on would be the good, the evil, the high, the low, mind; the priest preached in the mys- fatality, providence, genius, chance, society,
the world, nature, life; with an undefinable Could the devil, who is the father of lies sublimity hovering and flitting over all.” produce a more monstrous falsehood ?”
This description is not of course to be Every body with a grain of common senso taken as a strict logical definition, but in their heads of course sees and laughs at though it is thus freed from the rules of a the stupid absurdity of the ranter; but severe analysis, it is open to the objection many of the laughers fall into the self-same of being vague and rather unintelligible. error when they speak of fiction as opposed We gather from it, however, that the poet to truth, when it is in fact an inference has not accurately settled in his mind the from truth. relations of truth and fiction, and as this The question then is not as Victor Hugo is one of the most important elements in elsewhere puts it, “Should limits be asthe inquiry, we shall say a few words on signed to invention?” because in strict accuthe subject.
racy, inference, not invention, is the foundFor some half dozen centuries it has been ation of fiction. The real question is, “ Are the fashion with novelists and penny scrib- the fictions true—do they give accurately blers to call upon the world to hold up their the form and pressure of the time that they hands in wonderment at some circumstance profess to portray ?” illustrating the hackneyed truism, " Truth Tried by this test, Victor Hugo is found is often much stranger than fiction.” To sadly wanting. It is not in history, it is be sure it is: it would be exceedingly not in human nature that we are to seek strange if it were not; nay, in a certain for the originals of his dramas, it is in the very important sense fiction ought to be depths of the author's own mind. He does generally more true than truth itself. Fic- not profess to develop and reproduce any tion is based on statistics, it has a calculus authentic event; he takes his models from of its own, and its estimate of probabilities his consciousness, he appeals neither to anoften presents problems more difficult than nals nor to chronicles, but to the most abthe solution of Cardan's rule. It is not stracted species of truth, and the most enough for the novelist or dramatist to seize mysterious laws of human nature. on circumstances that have happened, he fine, he professes to have gone to the very must also choose such as are likely to hap- highest point in mental analysis, to have pen again ; fiction deals not in the excep- abstracted not merely the limits of time tions but the generalities of life, it is more and place, but of age, country, and condior less the estimate of the mean propor- tion. To examine productions so constitional of humanity according to the most tuted we must, if possible, trace out the approved tables of Quetelet and Babbage. process of their development; let us for a Take Hamlet for instance, every word he time direct our attention to one of the speaks finds an echo in your bosom as he author's most celebrated plays, “ Le Roi does in ours, bat Hamlet is neither you, s'amuse." gentle reader, nor is he any one of us; he is A very brief consideration of this drama at once all and none, Hamlet is not a man reduces the number of actors to three; a
king, a young girl, a father. The entire The imperfection of language misleads plot is concerned with these personages most people in this investigation: we are alone, the others are introduced only to aid sadly in want of an intellectual alphabet ; the development. The king is introduced
every moral truth is a falsehood” sounds to us in the first act, a passionless libertine, very oddly to the ear, yet it is only saying a capricious despot, a debauchee whose in other words “ there is no general rule heart has never been touched, and whose without an exception,” the adherence of a senses are ever excited, consequently, a dramatist or novelist to truths purely indi- wretch who scruples not to use every means vidual would change the exception into the to gratify unbridled passion. rule and the rule into the exception. There The second act introduces us to a father was once a Methodist preacher haranguing who has no consolation, no earthly happiin our presence on the immorality of the ness but the beauty and chastity of a bestage, “ Does it not,” said he, “ begin and loved daughter, whose pure bosom is a end in lies; a man comes in and says to heaven on which his soul, tossed by the another, not at all related to him,
tempests and storms of the world, anchors
assured of safety. ““I am thy father's spirit, Doom'd for a certain time to walk the night,' &c.
In the third act the father has lost his
last earthly stay; the shrine where his ance, and endeavours to inspire her with spirit loved to dwell has been polluted by a maddening sense of her wrongs. royal lust and ruffian violence; the flower The worthless king appears in the fourth that he fostered with anxious care is blighted act utterly forgetful of the ruin he has and flung away as a worthless thing, to be wrought: the father exhibits him to his trampled or scorned by any who may pass daughter toying with a worthless courtesan, by. But the unhappy girl loves the author and addressing to this wretched hireling of her ruin, and intercedes with her father the very same professions of undying love for his pardon. He sternly swears venge- that he had used the night before to his
Your sister : a glass. We need not quote any of the repulsive ject of a noble tragedy. But the original scene between the king and the courtesan; conception was a mere possibility, the arthe unhappy daughter consents to her fa- tistic skill of the poet was necessary to conther's plan of vengeance, but she displays vert it into a probability. In almost every so much weakness that her sire sends her step of the process Victor Hugo has signally out of the way.
She returns just as a failed. His first blunder is the baptism of hired assassin is about to murder the king, the characters; he names the king Francis offers her innocent bosom to the knife, and I., a prince of many and great faults, but saves her perjured lover by the sacrifice of surely not liable to the imputation of hearther heart's blood.
lessness. But what is far worse, indeed In the fifth act the unhappy father en- almost inconceivable, he makes the noble ters, beholds the corpse, mistakes it for the father, the very model of paternal love, to king, triumphs in his imagined vengeance, be none other than Triboulet, the Court resolves to wash his hands in the blood, Jester, the pander to his master's lusts, the and stooping down, discovers his daughter. villain that most frequently stimulated the
This may be regarded as the germ of the monarch's desires, and prompted his deplay, such as it first presented itself to the bauchery. Let us look at one of the scenes mind of the poet, and there are few who between this Roman father and his sovewill not confess that it might form the sub- reign.
And why not?
Have a care,
Let us kings and fools be contented to sport
Away then and take her.
KING. 'Tis a difficult task.
Bah I to night we will make her
Oh no! sir, oh no!
If he makes any noise, send him out of the land-
When we'll swear that he plotted with Rome or with Spain.
Whose mountain back might well be said
And raise itself aboveis a court-jester, wearing a chain like a against every noble family, incessantly dog, clothed in the livery of a slave, ready pointing out to him a wife to seduce, a to suggest and share in every detestable sister to steal, a daughter to dishonour. crime, capable of the sublimity of sorrow The king, in Triboulets hands, is but the ascribed to a sensitive and agonized father? Punch of a puppet-show, breaking every Victor Hugo refuses to appear at the bar of doll against which his force is directed by reality, he appeals to the unrestricted feel- the juggler behind the curtain. One day, ings of the heart;-fearlessly we accom- in the midst of a feast, at the very moment pany him to that tribunal, convinced that when Triboulet is urging the king to carry it will decide Triboulet to be an impossible off the Countess de Cossè, M. de St. Valcreation or existence.
lier forces his way into the king's presence, But the author has a right to be heard and sternly reproaches him for the disin his own defence, and he must state his honour of his daughter Diana de Poitiers. own conception of Triboulet.
Triboulet rallies and insults the hapless “ Triboulet is deformed, he is sickly, he complainant. The father raises his arm is the buffoon of the court, and this triple and pronounces a malediction on Triboulet. misery renders him depraved. Triboulet From this the entire action of the drama hates the king, because he is a king; the is derived. The true subject of the drama lords, because they are lords; and all man- is the curse of St. Vallier." kind, because all men have not humped The existence of such a monster of debacks. His only delight is constantly to pravity as Victor Hugo describes, is barely knock the king and the lords against each possible ; but we doubt whether the most other, breaking the weaker against the licentious buffoon of the most licentious stronger. He depraves, corrupts, and bru- court would, under the circumstances, have talizes the king ; he urges him to tyranny,
insulted St. Vallier as Triboulet is described to ignorance, to vice : he lets him loose to have done. A short specimen will suffice.