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you when you least expect it. From the moment that the curtain is lifted, until the moment it falls, the author is in a perpetual struggle with his audience-now you are inclined to smile, and he suddenly forces you to admire,--now you are inclined to admire, and again you are involuntarily compelled to laugh.
In nothing is M. V. Hugo consistent: careless of applause, as you would suppose, and might really believe, from the plan he pursues--at times he testifies the most vulgar desire for a cheer—and a lady declares to the pit at the Porte St. Martin, that there is something finer than being the Countess of Shrewsbury, viz. being the wife of a cutler's apprentice!!
Recondite in his research after costume and scenery, this writer despises and confounds, in the most painful manner, historical facts. In Marie Tudor, ** Mary of England, whose chastity, poor woman, was
* It is very difficult to make the plan of Marie Tudor intelligible, inore especially since the author has not succeeded in doing so. Marie Tudor, just before her marriage with Philip, has for paramour an Italian adventurer, Fabiani. This Italian adventurer seduces a young woman betrothed to a cutler's apprentice, who appears to be in the lowest state of life, but who is in reality a Talbot, a Countess of Shrewsbury, and the Lord knows what besides. The queen, discovering this intrigue, is determined to be avenged, and in order to be so, she asks the apprentice, as the reward for her recognising the rights of the new Countess of Shrewsbury, to pretend to stab her (the queen), and accuse Fabiani of having bribed him to do it, in which case he and Fabiani will both be disposed of by the executioner. Gilbert, the apprentice, accordingly does this, and he and the Italian are condemned to death in a fashion in which neither Eng. lishman nor Italian have, either before or since, been condemned to death in Great Britain.
Two great changes at this time take place in the two ladies' feelings :- Marie is all agony to save Fabiani, whom she has taken such pains to have beheaded ; and the Countess of Shrewsbury discovers that she never liked Fabiani, but the apprentice, whom she had always before regretted she could not love. The interest of the play now turns on one of the prisoners having escaped, and each lauly believing that it is her lover; and there is a fine scene, where London is shown joyful and illuminated on account of the execution, which the two ladies are both watching with intense anxiety from the Tower. Fabiani is beheaded, and Gilbert saved.
The follies of this play, the queen's solemn interview with Jack Ketch, the mysterious promenadings of a Spanish ambassador, the luxurious loves of poor chaste Mane Tudor hersell-all these it is impossible to say any thing of here, and it would be difficult in vol. umes to say enough of their grotesque and original absurdity.
her only virtue, is brought on the stage with an Italian musician for her lover, in the character of Mary Queen of Scots, with whom it is impossible to believe that M. Hugo really confounded her.*
Monsieur Dumas is not quite so prodigal of hese defects. The drama of Henry III. is almost perfect in its keeping with the times of that prince's court. The gallantry, the frivolity, the confusion, the superstition of that epoch, all find a place there. The character of Henry III., crafty, courageous, weak, enervated, effeminate, sunk in vice, pleasure, and devotion - the character of Catherine de Medicis, reading, perchance believing, the stars—but not trusting to them-man in her ambition, woman in her ways—daring every thing, and daring nothing openly-meeting the rebellious plans of the Duc de Guise by a counterplot against his marriage bed—advising her son to put down the League by declaring himself its head—these two characters of Henry and his mother are as perfect historical portraits, as the melancholy, interesting, and high and stern-minded St. Mégrim is a perfect imaginative picture.
Set Henry III. by the side of Lucrèce Borgia--there is no one part in Henry III.f to be compared with the last act--the supper
in the Negroni Palace, in Lucrèce Borgia. There is no one part in Henry III. in which such splendid and
and dark images are so massed together--where such terror and such luxury, such gayety and such horror, are thrust in vivid contrast at once upon you. But the play of M. Dumas, though it does not strike you as the product of so powerful a talent as that of M. Hugo, satisfies you better as the work of a more natural talent. Its action seems to you more easily animated, more unaffectedly developed. It does not startle you so much at different passages, but it keeps your attention more continually alive--it does not agitate you at times so terribly during the performance, but it leaves a more full and complete impression upon your mind when the curtain drops.
* “Rien n'y contredit l'histoire bien que beaucoup de choses y soyent ajoutées; rien n'y est violenté par les incommodités de la representation, ni par l'unité de jour, ni par celle de lieu.” In what Corneille said of Cinna, M. V. Hugo may find a lesson.
+ Henry III. has been so well translated, and is so well known in Catherine of Cleves, that I only refer to it. The plot consists in the fact I have alluded to. Catherine de Medicis, in order to occupy the Duc de Guise, foments a passion between the duchesse and one of Henry's favourites, St. Mégrim. The duc discovers the intrigue, entraps St. Mégrim, and has him slain. The whole play turns, as I have said in an early part of this work, on a lost pocket-handkerchief, which occasioned the lines I then quoted
“Messieurs et mesdames-cette pièce est morale
Between Henry III. and the other pieces of M. A. Dumas, there appears to me, however, no comparison. There is in that piece a grace, a dignity, a truth, which one seeks in vain, as it appears to me, in the subsequent productions which crowded audiences have declared equally successful.
Antony is the play, perhaps, in which the public have seen most to admire. The plot is simple, the action rapid, the divisions decided--each act contains an event, and each event develops the character and tends to the catastrophe of the piece. Antony is an illegitimate child, brought up by charity, and who never knew his parents. He is rich, however, and in love with Adèle (a young lady of good fortune and family), to whom he does not venture to propose on account of the mystery of his birth*—a mystery with which the young lady, and Antony's acquaintance in general, it would seem, are strangely unacquainted. Adèle, attached to Antony, but piqued and offended at his conduct, for he had left her suddenly, at the moment when she supposed him likely to claim her hand, marries a Col. Hervey. It is three years after this marriage, I think, that the play begins.
Antony then returns and requests, as a friend, an interview with Adèle, which she determines to avoid, and getting into her carriage, leaves her sister to re
One of the absurdities of this play, as a picture of French manners, is this extraordinary disgrace which the author has attached to illegitimacy in a capital where there is born more than one illegits. mate child to every two legitimate ones. Vol. II.--)
ceive the visiter. The horses, however, run away with her, and by one of those old and convenient accidents which authors have not yet dispensed with, Antony stops them, saves her life, gets injured in the chivalrous enterprise, and is carried by the physician's order to Madame d'Hervey's house. Here he soon finds an opportunity to tell his misfortune, his despair, the passion he feels, and the reasons why he did not declare it sooner-and Adèle, after hearing all this, thinks it safer to make the best of her way after her husband, who is at Frankfort.
She starts, her voyage is nearly over, when she arrives at a little inn, where she is obliged to stop, on account of another convenient accident--a want of post-horses. Here the following scene will explain what takes place.
Hostess from without). Coming! coming !—(entering.)—Was it madame who called ?
Hostess. They were hardly gone when madame arrived, and I don't expect them before two or three hours. Would madame repose herself?
Hostess. In this cabinet, there's a bed.
Hostess (bringing a light into the cabinet). What could madame be alarmed at?
ADELE. This is silly.-(Hostess goes out of the cabinet)-Come, for Heaven's sake, and tell me as soon as the horses are returned.
Hostess. The very instant, madame.
ADELE (going into the cabinet). No accident can happen in this hotel ?
Hostess. None. If madame wishes it, I will order some one
to sit up.
Adele (at the entry of the cabinet). No, no-indeed-excuse me-leave me.
(She goes into the cabinet and shuts the door. (Antony appears on the balcony behind the window,
breaks a glass, pushes his arm through, opens the window, enters quickly, and bolts the door which the Hostess just went out at).
Adele (coming out of the cabinet). A noise--a man-oh!
ANTONY. Silence!-(taking her in his arms and putting a handkerchief to her mouth) - It's 1-1-Antony.
(He carries her into the cabinet.) Thus ends Act III.
Some months have passed away. Antony and his mistress are then at Paris, and Col. d'Hervey still (this is again convenient) remains at Frankfort, where Antony has sent a faithful servant, who is to watch over the movements of the unfortunate husband, and ride to Paris with the news, if he should take it into his, head to return.
You are now taken to a ball; and here Adèle gets insulted by a lady for her supposed weakness in favour of Antony-the weakness, as yet, is only supposed. Antony consoles his mistress for this insult, which one