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wits—the gorgeous revels—the heartless in the midst of which he moved—that his pomp-the wonders of that palatial magni- conquest of the trembling, susceptible, and ficence, which eclipsed the inventions of dazzled girl was not a matter to excite the East, and rivalled the elaborate splen- much wonder. The times in which he dours of the Alhambra—a fortunate and lived might have intoxicated a more expea renowned monarch-a
--an abused queen— rienced dweller in courts than the infaand an age of back-stairs' adventures. tuated beauty. The age of Bossuet and These were temptations not to be resisted: Fenelon — the apochryphal priests of a and she chose her degraded heroines, with Papal church which they almost protesta full sense of the accessories of the scene, antized—of Pascal, Boileau, and La Fonand a clear resolution to elevate the whole taine, the age over which Madame de into the fascinating regions of romance, at Sévigné shed the enchantments of her any cost of plain truth and obvious mora inexhaustible wit, her playful fancy, her lity. Her courage was at least as conspi- satire, and her mirth, the age of scandalous cuous as her contempt for facts. In her memoirs and piquant disclosures, of a lax preface to her lives—or nouvelletes—of the faith and equivocal morality, was the very Duchess de la Vallière and Madame de time when such profanations might be Maintenon, she was bold enough to say, supposed to be more frequent, to contain " of one thing I am certain, that this work less pathos in their results, and to have in contains nothing dangerous, and that its their progress less of the fragrant essence morality is pure, since it is drawn from the of poetry than, perhaps, any other period only real source of virtue and truth.” in the records of history. We are not here Agreeably to her system of ethics, the real called upon to discuss the character of source of virtue and truth is the poisoned Louis XIV., to show that the gallant lover spring of passion. Unsullied love-strong was as arrogant as he was treacherous, that in its innocence — unembittered by self- royalty was in him pampered into despotism, reproaches - free from selfishness, from or to point to the revocation of the edict of unlawful desires, and base ambition, would Nantz on the one hand, while we disclose not have been sufficiently exciting for the on the other the exulting magnificence of morbid sensibilities of Madame de Genlis. Versailles. His character is in the hands But it was impossible for such a woman to of the historian ;-in this slight sketch it appreciate the sweetness, gentleness, the appears in only one of its ostentatious enduring beauty and repose of the chaste phases. and confiding Affections !
The course of the royal wooing was The story of Louise de la Vallière— rapid. Louise was no sooner won, than which was rendered notorious by the arti- Louis wearied of her charms, and the artficial narrative of Madame de Genlis, ful Madame de Montespan found no diffiwhich, we regret to find, has been recently culty in supplanting her, to be afterwards "epublished in England—is known to all herself supplanted by the more wary and our readers. She was one of the victims skilful Maintenon—the most respectable of of Louis XIV., a monarch whose character the three. In her despair, Louise exhas rarely been described at its natural changed the court for a convent, after a height of heartlessness. Educated in re brief effort of shame on the part of Louis tirement, her mind was weak and super- to dissuade her from her purpose. These stitious; and called at an early age to the are the whole materials of the story : con-, most brilliant court in Europe, it was not cise enough, common enough, and, we surprising that a young and beautiful may add, repulsive enough to be permitted, woman, whose heart was filled with visions to pass away silently into oblivion. But a such as occupy the day-dreams of enthu- morbid taste has restored them to the pubsiasts, who are uninfluenced by fixed prin- licity which they originally acquired from ciples, should have been enthralled by the the elevation of the persons involved in flattering attentions of the king. Louis them, and Mr. Bulwer—in whom someXIV. possessed so many attractions, per- thing of the spirit of Madame de Genlis sonal and accidental-he had so noble an appears to be regenerated—has tested their exterior, so rich a flow of eloquence, was pathetic qualities by an appeal to the so gracious in his bearing, so magnificent stage. in his style, so flushed with triumphs, and It is not necessary to observe that the su exalted by the atmosphere of intellect catastrophe of a play, founded upon such
LOUISE DE LA VALLIERE. —MADAME DE GENLIS, AND MR. BULWER.
circumstances, must inevitably disappoint Mrs. Haller, and more dangerous than the feelings of the audience ; for it is a Calista. In the former there is a life of universal principle in mankind to desire practical atonement—in the latter overthe triumph of virtue, and the punishment whelming and retributive punishment-in of vice. Whatever inay be the extent of Louise, the guilt is followed by an act of individual transgressions, or the indiffer- dedication which loses the terrors of a saence with which individuals violate truth crifice in the repose of hope to which it and justice themselves, the world in its leads. In taking this estimate of the сараcollective capacity sympathizes only with bilities of the story, Mr. Bulwer has filled the innocent and the oppressed. It would up with bolder colours the sketch of Mabe impossible, by the exercise of the most dame de Genlis. His Mademoiselle de la consummate art, to draw down the pity of Vallière is the same loveable and innocent an audience upon a hypocrite or an assassin, being, full of pure aspirations, and inspired or to excite an interest in the distresses of by ardent affections: and, although he a character whose bad passions had wrought does not follow his prototype to the tranself-ruin. Yet Mr. Bulwer selected for the quil death of his heroine in the arms of her subject of his first dramatic essay a story daughier, he assigns her to a destiny still in which 1-50 far as the facts on which it is more consoling and satisfactory. He adfounded are concerned—the pathos turns mits her dereliction with reluctance, and chiefly on the misfortunes of a rejected makes her proud lover, the chivalric Bramistress. An attempt so hazardous as this gelone, describe her as one in whom origicould not, of course, have even a faint ginal purity still dweltchance of success if the heroine were to be
The angel has not left her !-if the plumes delineated exactly as she was, in all the
Have lost the whiteness of their younger glory,
The wings have still the instinct of the skies, deformity of her guilt: and, therefore, in
And yet shall bear her up! order to invest her with some claims upon This is the moral of the play: you must the generosity of the spectator, he has sympathize with the beautiful delinquent, softened her errors down into that sort of if you would enjoy the tender sadness of her frailty which is thought to be akin to
fate: you must rejoice in her heavenward virtue, and endeavoured to absorb her destination, if you would do full justice to faults in a halo of intense devotion. On a her deserts. Goldsmith would have treated mere principle of taste, this is fatal to the
this subject differently: his morality was play ; for neither the excessive delicacy of of another cast. Of the lost one he says, portraiture, nor the deep womanly truth
The only art her guilt to cover, that clings even in despair to the object of its idolatry, can conceal the primary vice, To give repentance to her lover, out of the consequences of which the whole
And wring his bosom is—to die! interest arises. The main fact admits of But these are trite lines, that would furnish no equivocation : it cannot be modified or but a sorry hint for the Anglo-French evaded : nor has the dramatist taken drama of our times. any pains to obscure it, but has brought it That the crowds who gather in our forward into the most prominent light by theatres may tolerate these violations of tracing the three eras of Louise de la moral truth, for the sake of the art with Vallière's life-her early innocence—her which they are sometimes conducted, does fall-her remorse. Thus we are compelled not diminish the weight of the fact, that to look upon the ruin, which is heightened they are regarded with censure by the pubbefore our eyes by the force of the strong lic. The sentence may be slow in coming, contrasts in which it is placed between the, but it is sure to come at last. Such plays confiding simplicity of youth, and the cannot survive the temporary curiosity they mental sufferings of a premature decline. excite : when the first gaze is gratified they But the morality is worse than the taste. are set aside. The most energetic dialogue, The character of Louise is consecrated by the most refined spirit of poetry, cannot the charms of abiding tenderness, of still rescue them from ultimate condemnation. and patient reliance, of deep emotion, and In the construction of the play, Mr. Bulfeminine sweetness. These embellishments wer has been equally unfortunate: a defect are employed as palliatives : and the error that is quite as visible to the ordinary playis excused in the person of the erring. She goer as to the most rigid critic. The rules is a poetical sophistication—more false than of art are not such mysteries as simple,
To hide her shame from every eye,
· LOUISE DE LA VALLIERE.—MADAME DE GENLIS, AND MR. BULWER.
people imagine. They are founded in na convent, without an absolute abrogation of ture, and have their response in the sensa the conventual laws. tions of the multitude, who feel, without So paramount is the influence of Brageprecisely knowing why, every departure lone over the whole persona, that the fate from a requisition that directly appeals to of the remainder scarcely touches our feeltheir own experience. Audiences are like ings, or only to provoke our contempt. The juries in libel cases, who, under the provi- play, consequently, displays that sort of sions of the act of Charles James Fox, are anomaly, that disturbs our sympathies withjudges alike of the law and the fact, and out engaging them. We watch the course preside over not only the morals of a play, of Bragelone with increasing emotion, while but the distribution of its action, upon which we are conscious that Louise ought to be its success chiefly depends. The drama of entitled to the pity we expend upon him. The Duchess de la Valliere is exposed to radi- It is but justice to observe, however, that cal objections on this ground. The plot notwithstanding all the pains the author presents a succession of distinct scenes, in has taken to make Louise appear amiable, which the sources of interest are shifted and she sinks deeper and deeper, scene after deranged; the progress of the events does scene, in contempt and abhorrence. not mount gradually to the catastrophe; the As a poem, this drama is occasionally want of unity of design is felt throughout; effective, and sometimes rises into subthe attention is scattered over the surface, limity : but the flight is not sustained, and instead of being concentrated to a point: and the author's wings often fall, as we suspect the immediate sympathy of the spectator is the tarnished plumes of his heroine did, becalled off from one character to another, as fore they reach the height towards which the broken incidents advance, when it ought they betray a perpetual instinct. The neto be constantly attracted onwards with the cessity under which Mr. Bulwer was placed fortunes of the chief movers of the action. of introducing the court of Versailles These objections must be attributed in a which, except by the scene-painters and great measure to the nature of the subject, machinists, could not be represented on the which hardly admitted of that close and in- stage-has committed him to a very absurd tense development of interest which is es- underplot, in which the Duke de Lauzun, sential to excellence, while it utterly pro- the living enigma of his day, and Madame hibited the dramatist, had he even been so de Montespan and her silly husband, and inclined, from producing a denouement suffi- other witless and frivolous persons, are ciently impressive to fulfil the demands of brought forward to give an image of that tragedy.
brilliant and dissipated scene.
The whole But the most palpable fault of treatment of this bye-play is a signal failure. It lies in that part of the play, which, singly wants the vivacity, the refinement, the exconsidered, is in all respects the best. The cess, and turbulent joyousness of Versailles: most subtle artifices of diction, or contri- poor Madame de Montespan is painted as a vance of effects, could not have rendered mere lady of the bedchamber, plotting to Louise de la Vallière that immaculate im- accomplish her own disgrace; and Louis personation in which a deep and permanent XIV. is steeped in a fictitious grandeur that anxiety could be centred; the author, there- not only does little credit to his illustrious fore, transferred the heroic virtues—the name, but that is very inadequate to the epic spirit-of his drama, to her discarded exhibition of his mosaic character. lover, Bragelone, whose devotion to an un A passage or two will abundantly exemfaithful mistress brought him to an untimely plify the quality of the dialogue. The grave. By an excusable liberty with his following is part of the opening scene betorical facts, he makes Bragelone the in- tween Madame de Vallière and her daughstrument of her redemption from the court, ter, previously to her departure from the and of her final seclusion in a Carmelite home of her youth. convent. He is the saving grace of the piece. The nobility of mind he discovers, 'Tis our last eve, my mother! his high sense of honour, his frankness, truth, and courage, sustain the interest even
Thou regrett'st it, through the solemn mockery" of the last My own Louise ! albeit the court invites thee
A court, besides, whose glories dull and dim Scene, which ex
bits a religious ceremony The pomp of Eastern kings, by poets told : such as never could have taken place in any
MADEMOISELLE DE LA VALLIERE.
MADAME DE LA VALLIERE.
MADEMOISELLE DE LA VALLIERE,
Breathing through earth the Lovely and the Holy, In which I shall not see my mother!
And clothing Poetry in human beauty ! Nor these old walls, in which, from every stone,
When in this gloomy world they spoke of sin, Childhood speaks eloquent of bappy years ;
I thought of thee, and smiled-for thou wert sinless! Nor vines and woods which made me love the earth, And when they told of some diviner act Nor yonder spires, which raised that love to God!
That made our nature noble, my heart whisper'dThe Vesper bell tolls.
So would have done Louise !-'Twas thus I loved The vesper bell! My mother, when once more
thee! I hear from these grey towers that holy chime,
To lose thee, I can bear it; but to lose May thy child's heart be still as full of heaven,
With thee all hope, all confidence, of virtueAnd callous to all thoughts of earth, save those
This-this is hard! Oh! I am sick of earth. Which mirror Even in the face of Home!
The best scenes are those that take place MADAME DE LA VALLIERE.
between Louise and Bragelone, and BrageDo I pot know thy soul? through every snare My gentle dove shall 'scape with spotless plumes.
lone and the King. There is more pith in Alone in courts I have no fear for thee;
them—more reality-more intense emotion Some natures take from Innocence the love Experience teaches; and their delicate leaves,
and just sentiment, than in the whole of the Like the soft plant, shut out all wrong, and shrink rest of the play. From one of the latter From vice by instinct, as the wise by knowledge; we take a burst of denunciation, uttered by And such is thine! My voice thou wilt not hear, But Thought shall whisper where my voice should
the indignant lover, who has now taken the warn,
cowl, against the monarch, who at this And Conscience be thy mother and thy guide!
period acquired the title of the Great. MADEMOISELLE DE LA VALLIERE. Oh, may I merit all thy care, and most
The world proclaims you “Great ;"
A million warriors bled to buy your laurels;
A million peasants starved to build Versailles ;
Your people famish; but your court is splendid !
Priests from their pulpits bless your glorious reign ; To the poor cotters in the wood ;-alas, They'll miss me in the winter!-and my birds !
Poets have sung thee greater than Augustus; Thy hand will feed them?
And painters placed you on immortal canvass,
Limned as the Jove whose thunders awe the world; The images gathered into this picture of But, to the humble minister of God, the home of childhood and its associations
You are the king who has betrayed his trust, are sufficiently common-place, and discover Beggared a nation but to bloat a court,
Seen in men's lives the pastime to ambition, in the author no higher poetical faculty Looked but on virtue as the toy for vice, than that of collecting with skill the figures And, for the first time, from a subject's lips,
Now learns the name he leaves to time and God ! and allusions most appropriate to the situation. But Mr. Bulwer is capable of an occa
But the work is very unequal. There sional snatch of poetry full of true feeling, are passages in this drama which are not although, perhaps, slightly spoiled by only unworthy of Mr. Bulwer's reputation, extraneous embellishment in the expres- but which we are surprised could have sion. Ex. gr., from the interview be- escaped the pen of any writer whose judgtween Bragelone and Louise, when she ment was not utterly overborne by the is struggling with her half-confessed passion caprices of his fancy.
We find an examfor the king.
ple of this species of mere rhodomontade in
the soliloquy of Bragelone, after he has sucCurs'd be the lies that wronged thee!-doubly curst
ceeded in prevailing on Louise to take the The hard, the icy selfishness of soul,
veil—an historical untruth, but a good That, but to pander to an hour's caprice,
stage incident. Blasted that flower of life-fair fame! Accurst The king, who casts his purple o'er his vices !
A never heard philosopher is Life!
Our happiest hours are sleep's ;-and sleep proclaims,
Did we but listen to its warning voice,
That, ere our years grow feverish with their toil,
Too weary-worn to find the rest they (the years ?] MADEMOISELLE DE LA VALLIKRE.
We learn betimes THE MORAL OF REPOSE?
I will lie down, and sleep away this world.
The pause of care, the slumber of tired passion,
Why, why defer 'till night is well-nigh spent? Thou !-no-thou lov'st him not?-thou hid'st thy
When the brief sun that gilt the landscape sets, face!
When o'er the music on the leaves of life Woman, thou tremblest! Lord of Hosts, for this
Chill silence falls, and every futtering hope Hast thou preserved me from the foeman's sword, That voiced the world with song has gone to roost, And through the incarnadined and raging seas
Then [what then ?] let thy soul, from the poor Of war upheld my steps ?-made life and soul
labourer, learn, The sleepless priests to that fair idol-Honour
“ Sleep's sweetest taken soonest!" Was it for this - I loved thee not, Louise, As gallants love! Thou wert this life's IDEAL,
Which piece of information, to be ob
tained from the labourer, is a palpable lateness of the night—the gilding of the plagiarism from the good old adage. “ brief sun"—the falling of chill silence Early to bed,
over the music upon the leaves of life, when Early to rise,
the fluttering hopes that used to sing such Makes a man healthy,
pretty songs are gone to roost—are dug up Wealthy, and wise ! from the lowest depths of bathos.
But We beg of the reader to analyse the such faults are less censurable than the whole of this passage, if it were for no other grand moral of the drama. It is in this purpose than to assure himself of the skill that Mr. Bulwer has placed himself bewith which a quantity of words can be put yond the pale of clemency: his meretritogether, and subdivided into heroic lines, cious and silken absurdities may be excused, without containing a single grain of sense. but what apology can be offered for an The confusion of images is almost without attempt to redeem the character of Louise a parallel : the elixir and the moral of re de la Vallière, and elevate her into a stage pose—the sleeping away the world—the heroine ?