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The merits of M. Dumas_" Angèle"_“ Darlington"_" Teresa"“ Tour de Nesle"-Description of the effect produced by “Tour de Nesle"- The characters of a time should be in the character of the time-M. Dumas dresses up the nineteenth century in a livery of heroism, turned up with assassination and incest.
There is enough, I think, even in the short and imperfect translation I have just given from Antony, to show considerable energy and talent, and that kind of passion and movement which hurries away an audience. Indeed, the productions of M. Dumas, which lose much of their effect in reading, assord, in acting, a thousand proofs of this author's having taken every pains to study and to succeed in the arts of the stage. There is a line in " Angèle," wonderful in its exemplification of his knowledge and his study of these arts.
Angèle, * a young lady, unhappily seduced, is desirous of confessing her misfortune to her mother--she says she has something to say—the mother inquires tenderly what it is-Angèle weeps—the mother takes her hand, endeavours to sooth and encourage her; Angèle still weeps. "Is it something so very bad, then ?” says the mother, not suspecting her daughter's innocence. The daughter fixes her eyes upon her
* Angèle is a young lady, seduced by an adventurer who intends marrying her on a speculation, but on finding the mother a better affair, he engages himself to her. Angèle, however, after being confined (which she is, one may say, on the stage), confesses the story to her mamma just before the marriage takes place.
D'Alvinar, the adventurer, is for making off, but is stopped by a Doctor Muller, a young physician, who, having long loved Angele, had aceidentally delivered her of her child, and now delivers her of her false-hearted lover, whom (by a most unmedical mode of destruction) he shoots, then marries Angèle, adopts her child, and (in order to make her quite happy and comfortable, I suppose) assures her he must die within the year of a pulmonary complaint.
mother, sobs, struggles to speak—the audience is all attention. But how make the confession ?
“ Ah, si j'avais mon enfant je-le mettrais à vos pieds.” A more enthusiastic burst than followed this exclamation (I saw the piece the first night of the representation) it is impossible to describe.*
M. Dumas has written Henry III., Antony, Angèle, Darlington,t Teresa, and also claims a share in the Tour de Nesle.
The Tour de Nesle is the most powerful of these performances, and, thrown back into a dark century, is excusable in its ghastly accumulation of midnight horrors. This tower, the Tour de Nesle, built in the twelfth century, on the site now occupied by the college “Mazarin,” tall, round, and casting its gloomy shadow on the Seine, was the spot sacred to many of the old popular superstitions, 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 a gréaient le plus, de quelque sorte 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
* I remember another instance, in the “Tour de Nesle :" imme. diately after the murder of Philippe Daulnay and all the abominations of Marguerite and her sisters, the guardian of the night is heard without—" Il est trois heures; tout est tranquille-Parisians, dormez !"
† Darlington is the illegitimate son of a hangman (this is in England), who is determined to make his fortune. To do this, nothing is so easy (N.B.these were the days of unreformed parliaments) as to be returned M.P. for the County of Northumberland and the Borough of Darlington (both meaning the same thing). Darlington, then, is soon an M. P.; and he now makes a good speech, on which he is instantly sent for by the minister, and offered at once, by the king in person, a secretaryship of state, an earldom, and an immense estate, with the only condition of his forsaking his principles and marrying a second wife, his own wife being yet living; this he of course complies with. But his wife is more difficult to be got rid of than his principles, and in his attempt to carry the good lady abroad, he is stopped by his moral, and virtuous, and indignant father, the hangman. Here ends the piecefinis coronat apus.
| Teresa is married to an officer older than herself, and who, indeed, has a daughter, Amelia, of nearly her age. Teresa is in love with a young man, Arthur, who marries Amelia and then intrigues with Teresa. Amelia gets possession of Teresa's letters, without knowing whose letters they are, but suspecting some intrigue, places them in her father's hands, and her father finds his wife and his sonin-law to be little better than they should be. He satisfies himself, however, with hurrying daughter and son-in-law off on a foreign mission (in all M. Dumas's plays there is a foreign mission--no one has such interest in the diplomacy), and Teresa thereupon destroys her. self, as will be seen in a note a little further on.
See note on page 203.
a matter much disputed, but Marguerite de Bourgoyne, 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 celébres” which is not ingeniously crowded into the five acts of this drama.* There is hardly any horrible or terrible position of which the stage affords an example, into 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
+ 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 Burgoyne 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 her death necessary for the security of his fortunes. They 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 hin 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, he might tind, as perpetrators of the horrid murders for which the place was fainous. "Hardly, however, has Gaultier left Buridan, before the latter learns that Philippe Daulnay,
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
already slain hy 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 the chamber by the window, avoids the assassins. But he only comes in time to hear his son's cries under their hands; and as Gaultier, covered with 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 whoever I should find in the Tour de Nesle.
to the author of the Tour de Nesle, whoever he bethat 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 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 overyou 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 startling figures. They exist, they are in nature, but they are not in theatrical nature. The individual case which startles you in the newspaper is not the case to bring upon the stage. There the characters of a time should be in keeping with the char. acter of the time.
The personages you can fancy in the dark and nar. row 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 guingettes, 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