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among which was a kind of Blue-beard story of a Queen of France, who, according to Brantôme,“ se tenait là d'ordinaire, laquelle fesant le guet aux passants et ceux qui lui revenaient et agréaient le plus, de quelque sort de gens que ce fussent, les. fesait appeler et venir à soy, et, après avoir tiré ce qu'elle en voulait, les fesait précipiter du haut de la tour en bas en l'eau, et les fesait noyer.” The name of this Queen seems a matter much disputed, but Marguerite de Bourgogne, wife of Louis X., who, together with her two sisters, was convicted of practices something similar, furnishes the author of the piece with his heroine, and the plot turns on her intrigue with two brothers, whose parentage she was ignorant of, but who prove to be her own sons, by an adventurer, Buridan. One of these sons is murdered by the mother's order, another by the father's contrivance—there is hardly any crime to be found in the Causes Célèbres, which is not ingeniously crowded into the five acts of this drama.* There is hardly any horrible or ter
* The main plot (for there are several other minor intrigues) of the Tour de Nesle is this. There are two brothers, orphans and ignorant of their parents, Philippe Daulnay and Gaultier Daulnay. Gaultier Daulnay is in the Queen's guard, and is beloved by the Queen. Philippe Daulnay, coming to see him, is seduced to the Tour de Nesle, and, after having partaken of the Queen's revels, is murdered, according to her usual orders. Buridan, who, as, page to the Duc de Bourgogne, had formerly been the lover of Marguerite in early youth, before her marriage, and at her suggestion had murdered her father, Robert II., visits Paris, in order to take advantage of this secret, and finally insists on being made prime minister, and governing France in conjunction with the Queen. Marguerite apparently consents, but determines to contrive his death ; while Buridan also begins to think Marguerite's death necessary for the security of his fortunes. This amiable couple then make a love-appointment at the Tour de Nesle, each intending that it should end in the death of the other. Marguerite posts assassins in the chamber through which Buridan is to pass, and gives them orders to despatch the first man who enters. Buridan informs Gaultier Daulnay of his rendezvous, excites his jealousy, and gives him the key that will admit him into the tower in his (Buridan's) place, while in the mean time he gives the captain of the guard an order in the King's own hand to enter the Tour de Nesle at the hour when he expected Marguerite and Gaultier would be there, and to seize whomsoever, without exception, be might find, as perpetrators of the horrid murders for which the place was famous. Hardly, however, has Gaultier left Buridan, before the latter learns that Philippe Daulnay, already slain by Marguerite, and Gaultier Daulnay, whose death he has just been contriving, are the offspring of his early loves with the Queen. He hastens then to the tower to save Gaultier, and, entering by the window, avoids the assassins. But be only comes in time to hear his son's cries under their hands; and as Gaultier, covered with
rible position of which the stage affords an example, in which the author has not contrived to place his heroine or heroes-there are some events ( the sudden nomination, for instance, of Buridan to be prime minister) too improbable for even the necessities of the scene to justify; but there are no flagrant violations of history such as those in Marie Tudor--nor is there any wanton attempt to interest you in crime. You are not told that you should feel as M. V. Hugo would have told you that you should feel—the deepest interest for the lady who had been strangling her lovers all her life, because she felt some compunction at having accidentally strangled her son at last. Your feelings are allowed to run on in their ordinary course, and your breast is dark from every gleam of pity when the guard leads off the queen and her paramour, caught in their own snares, to execution.
If you choose to judge the Tour de Nesle by the ordinary rules of criticism, it is a melo-dramatic monstrosity; but if you think that to seize, to excite, to suspend, to transport the feelings of an audience, to hush them into the deepest silence, to wring out from them the loudest applause-to keep them with an eye eager, an ear awake, an attention unflagged from the first scene to the last—if you think that to do this is to be a dramatist--that to have done this is to have written a drama -bow down to M. Dumas, or M. Gaillardet-to the author of the Tour de Nesle—whoever he be—that man is a dramatist, the piece he has written is a drama. And yet, powerful as this play is, it wants poesy; there are no glorious passages, no magnificent situations,—written in prose, its prose is strong, nervous, but strictly prosaic. I should find it impossible to sum up an opinion of this performance, by calling it bad, or good-Go, reader, to see it! There is great art, great defects, great nature, great improbabilities, all massed and mingled up wounds, totters into the chamber and dies at the feet of his parents, the King's guards enter. The captain of the guard advancing
You are my prisoners.
Capt. of the Guard. There are here neither Queen nor prime minister : there is a dead body, two assassins, and an order, signed by the King's hand, to arrest this night whomsoever I should find in the Tour de Nesle.
together in the rapid rush of terrible things, which pour upon you, press upon you, keep you fixed to your seat, breathless, motionless. And then a pause comes
the piece is over—you shake your head, you stretch your limbs, you still feel shocked, bewildered, and walk home as if awaked from a terrible nightmare. Such is the effect of the Tour de Nesle.
I have said that the drear and distant times from which this tragedy is brought forth excuse its atrocities. These atrocities
. are part
of the dark shadows of that haunted age. The crimes of Atreus, the punishment of Prometheus, the horrors and the passions of Medea were allowed on the Greek stage, because they also were sanctified by long superstition. But one does not expect a Buridan in every shopboy, or a Marguerite in every sempstress. The general colouring of modern days is too pale and commonplace for these strange and startling figures. They exist, they are in nature, but they are not in theatrical nature. The individual case which startles you the newspaper is not the case to bring upon the stage. There the characters of a time should be in keeping with the character of the time.
The personages you can fancy in the dark and narrow streets, passing by the gaunt buttresses, and pausing under the dim archways of ancient Paris, you cannot fancy (though they may be found) strolling in the guinguettes, or dancing on the Boulevards of Paris at the present day. The Lara of an unknown land, corsair, captain, whose tall shadow shoots along the wall of his old ancestral castle, is not the kind of gentleman whom you expect to shake hands with at a banker's ball; * nor can you think that the footman who announced you at the door, has got a dagger in one pocket, and a bowl of poison in the other. +
M. Dumas having divined the costume of the dark and gloomy
As Antony. + In Teresa, the lady rings for her footman :
Teresa. Paulo, when we left Italy, you must have thought that you would fall into some misfortune you would not survive ?
times of Louis X. and the gay, and chivalric, and superstitious times of Henry III., appears to me at all events) to have mistaken, or misrepresented, that of his own. As M. V. Hugo claps a republican cap on the sixteenth century, so M. Dumas dresses up the nineteenth century in a livery of heroism, turned up with assassination and incest. He parades before you a parcel of doctors, and adventurers, and fine gentlemen, all scowling, and plotting, and folding their arms. The stage is Burlington Arcade, on an August evening, crowded with those mysterious shopkeepers, who wear moustaches when their customers are out of town, and fold a mantle about their shoulders to keep out the heat, and look at every lady of Covent Garden saloon, as if they expected to find a nouvelle Heloise.*
But let us now pass from the authors of the new drama to that drama itself
The modern French drama naturally changed from the ancient one. --The
person you meet in the streets of Paris not dressed as he was in the time of Louis XIV.-How expect the drama to remain the same. What you should allow for.-What you should expect.
For years England disputed with France, and France with herself, the true principles of the dramatic art; for there were some to contend that, though the governments and the feelings of mankind are for ever changing, the rules which govern the expression of those feelings were not to change.
These critics would have declared that the gorgeous and kingly verse of Virgil ought to have been the model on which the abrupt, the stern, and supernatural genius of Milton should have framed its periods.
* Such gentlemen are capital characters for a comedy; no author need seek a better; but it is too bad to give them as heroes, and models of heroism, in sober earnest.
They would have said that the spirit of the bold age which solemnly adjudged a monarch to the death in the full gaze of Europe was not to vary in its style from that of the time in which one man had gathered to himself the ancient majesty of free Rome.
Is the person you meet in the streets of Paris dressed as you would have found him in the reign of Louis XIV., and can you expect the stage to appear in the old costume ?
When a rigid order reigned over the arts, it reigned also over the world of action; and the stage was only subject to the same spirit which regulated real life. Society was a machine, in which every thing had a certain place, and moved in a certain way, by a certain law. The smallest atom had its appropriate sphere, beyond wbich it was impossible to soar. But when men rose daily to the bighest ranks from the lowest, rapid and extraordinary in their own career, they soon lost all sympathy with the stiffjointed transitions of the poet. The slow proprieties of the world were broken through—what, then, were these proprities on the stage? The events which had created a new public, created necessarily a new theatre.—A change in the one, tardy in following, was still sure to follow the other. The movement which had taken place in the material world passed to the intellectual—the arts were subjected to the influences which had remoulded society.
A perfectly new style arose.
Racine overpurified and polished his language, as Pope too symmetrically modulated ours. In England, the sterile but bold and hardy genius of Gray founded a new, a more daring and energetic style of composition, but the author of “Ruin seize thee, ruthless King !” burst from the chains of the sing-song heroic with no less dignity than courage. There was as much elegance as force in the rhythm of his couplets, and to the old'expressions, and to the rich and glowing epithets which he revived and coined, a parity was breathed, which set the accusation of quaintness or extravagance at defiance. It is almost curious, indeed, to find in Gray's correspondence with Mr. West, the trembling foot which he put forward to new regions, and the anxiety which he showed, to give each more daring syllable the authority of a forgotten usage. But Gray lived under the same government, in the same state of society, as Pope. No vast