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chastity, poor woman, was her only virtue, is brought on the state 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 these 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 consusion, 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 devotionthe character of Catherine de Medicis, reading, perchance believing, the stars—but not trusting to them-man in her ambition-woman in her ways---daring everything-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 headthese two characters of Henry and his mother are as perfect historical portraits--as the melancholy, interesting, and high and stern-minded St. Mégrin is a perfect imaginative picture.
Set Henry III, by the side of Lucrèce Borgia—there is no
biani will both be disposed of by the executioner. Gilbert, the apprentice, consents in a most natural manner to this, and he and the Italian are accordingly condemned to death with the most pompous display of ignora nce as to all the laws and customs of Great Britain.
Two great changes at this time take place in the two ladies' feelings : Marię 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, who had seduced her, but the apprentice, whom she had always before regretted she could not like. The interest of the play now turns on one of the prisoners having escaped--and each lady 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 Marie Tudor herself—all these it is impossible to say anything of here, and it would be difficult in volumes to say enough of their grotesque and original absurdity.
* Rien n'y contredit l'histoire, bien que beaucoup de choses y soient ajoutées; rien n'y est violenté par les incommodités de la représentation, ni par l'unité de jour, ni par celle de lieu.” In what Corneille said of Cinna, M. V. flugo may find a lesson.
one part in Henry III.* 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 gay and dark images are so massed together—where such terror and such luxury, such gaiety 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.
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
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, soments a passion between the Duchesse and one of Henry's favourites, St. Mégrin. The Duc discovers the intrigue, intraps St. Mégrin, and has him slain. The whole play turns, as I have said in an early part of this work, on the Duchesse's lost pocket-handkerchief-which occasioned the lines I then quoted:
“ Messieurs et Mesdames- cette pièce est morale;
On peut oublier tout-excepté son mouchoir." + One of the absurdities of this play, as a picture of French manners, is the extraordinary disgrace which the author has attached to illegitimacy in a capital where more than one illegitimate child is born to every two legitimate ones.
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. d'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 receive 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 journey 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 calied ?
Adèle. I wish to go. Are the horses returned ?
Hostess. They were hardly gone when Madame arrived, and I don't expect them before two or three hours. Would Madame repose herself ?
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.
This is the second Act.
Hostess. The very instant, Madam.
(She goes into the cabinet and shuts the door.)
his arm through, opens the window, enters quickly, and bolts the door
which the Hostess just went out at.) Adèle (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 l_ -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, whither 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 does not quite see why she received, since her friend, the hostess, and queen of the ball, has already changed her lover two or three times during the piece. But misfortunes, says the proverb, never come singly, and hardly can Adèle have gone home, after this insult, when the servant who had been stationed at Frankfort arrives, and announces that Col. d'Hervey will be at Paris almost as soon as himself.
Antony hurries to his mistress's house, and endeavours to persuade her to elope with bim immediately.
ACT V. SCENE III.
Antony. Well, thou see'st! remaining here there is no hope in heaven .. Listen, I am free-my fortune will follow membesides, if it failed, I could supply it easily. A carriage is below. Listen and consider, there is no other course. If a heart devoted—if the whole existence of a man cast at thy feet, suffice thee, say ‘Yes.' Italy, England, Germany, offer us an asylum. I tear thee from thy family, from thy country.-well, I will be to thee family-country. A change of name will disguise us from the world. No one will know who we were till we are dead. We'll live alone-thou shalt be my fortune,
my God, my life. Pu have no will but thine, no happiness but thine. Come, come, we are enough to each other to enable us to forget the world.
Adèle. Yes, yes—but one word to Clara.
adieu, an eternal farewell!
Adèle. My daughter leave my daughter!-my daughter, who will be reproached one day with the crime of her mother, who will still live, perhaps, though not for her. My girl! my poor child ! who will expect to be presented to the world as innocent, and who will be presented to it as dishonoured as her mother, and dishonoured by her mother's fault.
Antony. O my God!
Adèle. Is it not so ? A blot once fallen upon a name is not effaced-it eats into it-it preys upon it-it destroys it. Oh my daughter, my daughter!
Antony. Well!—we'll take her with us : let her come with us. But yesterday, I should have thought it impossible to love her--the daughter of another of thee. Well! she shall be my daughter, my adopted child. But cometake her, then; every instant is death. What dost thou consider about 2-he is coming, he is coming!--he is yonder!
Adèle. Wretch that I am become! Where am I? and where bast thou conducted me? and all this in three months! An honourable man confides his name to me--places his happiness in me-trusts his daughter to me! I adore her. She is his hope, his old age, the being in whom he hopes to survive. Thou comest-it is but three months. My smothered love awakes—I dishonour the name intrusted to me- I destroy the happiness reposed on me; and this is not all--no, this is not enough-I carry away from him the daughter of his heart. I disinherit his old days of his child's caresses, and in exchange of his love I give him shame, sorrow, solitude! Tell me, Antony, is not this infamy?
Antony. What wouldst thou do, then ?
Antony proposes they should die together—“Blessed be God," he says,
Blessed be God who made my life for unity! Blessed be God that I can quit life without drawing a tear from eyes that love me! Blessed be God for having allowed me, in the age of hope, to have known and been fatigued with everything . . . One bond alone attached me to this world . . . Thou wert that bond-it breaks I am content to die, but I would die with thee . . . I wish the last beatings of our hearts to respond—our last sighs to mingle. Dost thou understand ? . . . A death as soft as sleep-a death happier than our life ... Then—who knows? from pity, perhaps, they'll throw our bodies into the same tomb.