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newspapers containing merely a series of epigrams; and these, when cleverly contrived, are equally formidable to the unfortunate minister, who spares no pains to silence them. Thus, I have been told that the first préfet made by Mr. Guizot, as minister of the interior, was-an editor of Figaro, while by a singular coincidence, the first exercise of his power was a claim
-of his box at the Variétés. Even in this incident a trait of French character is to be found.
As no thorn goes more deep into the side of the King of the French than Mr. Philippon, so no enemies were so fatal to the restoration as Béranger, le Nain Jaune, and the Tablettes politiques. Nor was it Béranger's more serious and elevated odes, kindling the spirit of liberty, that was most dangerous to the Bourbons; it was the light and satiric songs that, wounding the vanity, inspired the hatred of the nation-for its bigoted and impotent rulers. The Nain Jaune, written at Brussels, during the earlier period of the restoration, obtained a celebrity which it is now difficult to account for. I have extracted one or two sentences, rather as a specimen of the style of this paper than as being very remarkable for their wit.
“ Dimanche dernier on arrêta une mercière qui, n'ayant pas fermé sa boutique, selon l'ordonnance de police, avait dit: . Ils veulent nous faire détaler ; qu'ils y prennent garde, ils pourraient bien détaler avant nous.'”
“ Dimanche : Entrée du bæul-gras dans les Tuileries. Sa majesté sortait de la messe; on s'est empressé d'exécuter l'air : • ou peut-on être mieux qu'au sein de sa famille ?'
“On lit dans les journaux de Paris du 25, l'éloge de la clémence du roi, par maitre Bellart ; la condamnation à mort du géneral Debelle, celle du général Travot; l'annonce des noces et festins du duc de Berri.- Que de sujets de fête pour la cour !!"
“On parle toujours d'un changement dans le ministère ; c'est, dit-on, Monsieur ou plutôt Madame Angoulême qui doit remplacer Monsieur le duc de Richelieu, ce qui anéantit entièrement la responsabilité ministérielle ; car l'un et l'autre, comme on le sait, sont inviolables.” Chaque nation a ses usages. On assure que
grand-inquisiteur a offert au roi Ferdinand de faire un auto-da-fé de six hérétiques le jour de son mariage ; et que Clarke a pro
posé de fêter celui du duc de Berri, en faisant fusiller deux maréchaux, quatre généraux, et six colonels .'" * .
I have said that ridicule is only of conséquence to those who, by being ridiculous, humiliate the vanity of their countrymen : a singular proof of this is constantly occurring. No sooner has any piece succeeded at any of the larger theatres, than it is sure to be travestied at a small one. The burlesque attracts crowds; every body laughs, every body is delighted; but nobody takes a dislike to the author, or fancies him one tittle the worse for the ridicule that has been cast
upon him. Some of the dramatic caricatures, written even as they are
of the moment, are not without a certain cleverness. Rather hard on the modern school of dramatists, says one of them
on the spur
“ A croire ces messieurs, on ne voit dans nos rues
I remember, too, being much amused by the last four lines of “Cricri et ses mitrons," a burlesque of Henry III., one of the best of the new plays, but depending altogether for its plot on the Duchesse de Guise's lost pocket-handkerchief.
“Messieurs et mesdames, cette pièce est morale-
Few people have ever been remarkable in France without having a witticisin of some kind attached to their reputation.
Henry IV. reigned by bons mots — even Bonaparte made them. One evening, when he was better pleased with Madlle Georges, the present heroine of the Porte St. Martin, than usual, pulling her by the ear (which was his favourite endearment), he told her, in the way that Emperors make love, “ to ask for any thing she wanted.” The actress, rather mistaking her part, asked very sentimentally for his Imperial Majesty's portrait. “O! if that is all you want,” said Napoleon, who rather disapproved of the familiarity, “ if that is all you want,”—and he took a five franc piece out of his waistcoat
. This was at the time of the proscriptions and executions.
pocket, “ here is my portrait, and a very good likeness it is." M. de Talleyrand, at the present time, is the great monopolist of good sayings. The character of M. de S—-e is pretty well known. He did not make his appearance one morning as usual, at the Chamber of Peers. “But why is not M. de S. here ?” says M. de Talleyrand.“ M. de S. est malade,” said an acquaintance; “ Ha! ha!" replies the old statesman, shaking his head,“M. S. est malade !--Mais qu'est-ce donc qu'il gagne à être malade ?” So, talking one day with a lady, rather universal in her acquirements—“ Which do you like best, M. de Talleyrand ?" said the lady, “ Madame de -- (a very pretty person), or myself ?” The reply was not quite so decisive as the fair and accomplished questioner expected. “Well, now,” said she ; “but suppose we were both to fall into the sea, which should
you first try to save ?” “Oh! madame," said the prince, “ I should be quite certain that you could swim.” As many of these learned ladies are now writing their memoirs, and that in rather a liberal vein, I cannot help furnishing them with at once a molto and a lesson in the true and clever reply of Madame de Staël (Mademoiselle Delaunay) to an acquaintance—“Did you tell every thing in your memoirs ?” said the acquaintance; “Je ne me suis peinte qu'en buste," said Mme de Staël.
Delille was remarkable for his dislike to have the unprinted works, which he was in the habit of declaiming, committed to paper. One day this poet, who was blind, was reciting his compositions as usual, when Madame Dubourg, with whom he was on terms of great intimacy, took a small crow quill and began writing very softly---not so softly, however, but that Monsieur Delille heard the scratching of the pen against the paper : continuing, however, in his usual tone of voice, instead of the lines that were expected from him, he said
“Et tandis que je dis mes chefs-d'euvre divers,
Voltaire was liberated from the Bastille (where he had been confined as the suspected author of a satire) on the success of Edipe ; at which the regent was so delighted, that he permitted the author to return to Paris. His first visit was a visit of
thanks to the prince who had granted bim his liberty—“Soyez sage, et j'aurai soin de vous ;” said the regent. . " Je remercie votre altesse," said Voltaire,“ de ce qu'elle veut bien se charger de ma nourriture, mais je la supplie de ne plus se charger de mon logement."
A lady being asked--why she married her son, who was poor, to an heiress roturière, said, “Il faut bien quelquefois fumer (manure) ses terres."
This point and quickness of repartee exists among the lowest classes in France, quite as much as amongst the highest. I remember, during
a hard frost, and at a time when Monsieur de Villèle was at the height of his unpopularity, and every vision of courtly tyranny was believed—seeing a poor fellow fall down with some violenee, while a couple of well-dressed young men stopped to laugh at him. “De quoi riez-vous, Messieurs ?” said the unfortunate man, rubbing his side ; “ dans ce pays-ci les pauvres gens sont toujours par terre.” What is more-the kind of wit I speak of is alive even at a nursery age. Monsieur de Ségur tells us the story of a child who being present at the opera of Castor and Pollux was asked by Prince Henry of Prussia (brother of the great Frederic), who Castor and Pollux
“ They are," said the child,“ two twin brothers who came out of the same egg.' you, you came out of an egg yourself-did not you ?” The boy immediately said
“Ma naissance n'a rien de neuf,
J'ai suivi la commune règle ;
Car vous êtes un aigle."
Certainly we cannot find little children quite so prompt or so poetical as Master Sebran every day; but even where there is not wit, there is frequently at this tender age a pretension to it,
-a desire to astonish, and to produce effect, which we do not see among our own maternal progenies. I asked two little village boys, one seven, the other eight years old, what they meant to be when they were men? Says one, “ I shall be the doctor of the village.” “And you, what shall you be ?” said I to the other. “Oh! if brother's a doctor, I'll be curé. He shall kill the people, and I'll bury them--so we shall have the whole village between us.
Any one who takes any pains to examine the French language will see the reciprocal effect which the wit produced upon the manners, the manners upon
the wit of the French. No sooner was society formed, and that men and women, according to modern fashion, mixed freely together, than the grace which succeeded best in society, and gave the admirer the fairest chance with his mistress, was the grace of conversation ;--that happy turn and choice of words, that brilliant and piquant setting' of ideas, that gay and lively method of being satirical and serious, wbich had been brought to such perfection at the time of the revolution. It had been brought to such perfection, because, while it was decreed the charm of society, society was the only road to ambition. The man of ambition and ability then went to a soirée or a souper, with the same intention to shine by his wit that our orators in going to the House of Commons had to shine by their eloquence. He gave that attention to his conversation that we gave to our discourses. A bon mot was as likely to carry a man as far in one country as a good speech would in another; and the position which Pym acquired in the long Parliament by his orations, De la Rochefoucauld obtained in the Fronde by his epigrams. But the talent so cultivated by one sex aspiring to power, was just the talent best calculated to be imitated and to be polished by that other sex which, during the long reign of royal mistresses, had the faculty of giving power. The women who mixed with the wittiest and cleverest men of their time, became themselves clever and witty. The courtier and the courtezan formed themselves on each other : where a phrase was a fortune, a thousand remarkable phrases were made; applauded, circulated, they became popular modes of expression. In this manner the language was perpetually enriched ; in this manner it took its epigrammatic and sententious form; in this manner it became a collection of witticisms, that to talk French well was to be a witty man. Nor was this without its advantages—for in every evil there is implanted a germ of good, tending to its correction and this style of conversation, sprung from a debauched and tyrannical court, became in time, as Madame de Staël has shrewdly observed, a powerful substitute for the liberty of the press. A course of events which brought new men into action, and which opened for politics a very different field of contention, has pro