« PoprzedniaDalej »
same hotel that we inhabit, and is remembered here, as he always will be wherever he goes, with kindness and attachment. Both our host, and the barber who had the honour of dressing his hair, call him bon enfant, and probably think they confer a great honour upon him, as a German, by giving him so familiar an appellation.
December 20. Tin, leather, and paper, have often been stamped as money in times of necessity. At present scarcely any other money is to be seen here but scraps of paper, called assignats, stamped with the head of the king. The least are for two hundred livres.
I was this morning with my banker, monsieur Perregaux, to get a bill of exchange for two thousand livres discounted.
“ What shall I do with these?” said I, as he was paying me with this new-fashioned coin.
« We liave no other,” said he, shrugging his shoulders.
“ That is melancholy,” said I.
“ Extremely so," he rejoined; and wished me good morning.
I lost five per cent in getting my paper exchanged, yet to exchange it was absolutely necessary, since there are a thousand trifling expenses below the sum of two hundred francs. I now understand perfectly what the Savoyards meant, who assailed me by dozens the other day in the Palais Royal, crying, Voulez-vous de l'argent, monsieur? at the same time clinking their full purses in my ears. I thought at the time it was only impertinent banter.
This day we went to the Boulevards to see les grands danseurs du roi, who indeed are no dancers at all. They have scarcely even so much of the great in them as the king their master, and as little deserve their pompous title as the archbishops of Chalcedonia, Tarsus, Joppa, and others. How they came by it, heaven only knows; but the king can certainly never have seen his grands danseurs.
The theatre would have done some credit to a little provincial town in Germany: The best places were only thirty sous, about six times less than the opera.
" And the performance is six times less entertaining?” perhaps it may be asked.
To that I make no answer. We went thither about half after five, when we found a parcel of very dirty unhealthy-looking children dancing upon the rope, which they called an entertainment, though I could not find that it entertained anybody. However, we will not quarrel about a name: 'tis ever thus in the world at large.
At six the regular play began; it was 'The Oyster Fishery. Four women scolded and abused their husbands unmercifully, often using very indecent language, particularly, gross and broad double entendre. Yet the performers played with an
ease, vivacity, nature, and truth, that was truly admirable; and such as I never witnessed upon the most celebrated German stage. They were always ready with repartee, never hesitating, or wanting the assistance of the prompter ; yet their wit was not pointed improperly, as is so commonly the case with our German performers. In short, they kept me ivoluntarily in a constant laugh.
I have observed that many of the Parisian theatres have no prompter, and even where there is one, he does not sit in the cursed bee-hive as among us, but is sunk so below the stage that his eyes are just parallel with it, and his head is concealed by the lamps. I wish the vile custom of prompting were entirely abolished, and then players would be constrained to study their parts thoroughly, nor would our ears any longer be offended with their eternal blunders and hesitation. Here the performers were all so perfect, and had so completely acquired the tone of conversation, that all idea of previous study was lost, and they had exactly the appearance of a number of persons met together, and actually conversing.
After The Oyster Fishery,' was performed a little piece, called 'L'Abbé Court-diner.' It was wholly devoid of plot, but contained many truly comic scenes, and by the perfect ease of the performers was rendered extremely pleasant.
The entertainments concluded with a pantomime in four acts, entitled “The Metamorphoses of the Benevolent Fairy.' It was a true Italian comedy, with a harlequin, and fatigued me exceedingly. The machinery was bad, the dresses dirty and devoid of taste; and in short, I had seen the same kind of performance, in a far better style, at Petersburgh, in the year 1782. In spite of the ridicule of my friends, I seldom missed the Italian comedy there, for I could always laugh at it heartily; and I own I like a laugh, even though reason may not be on my side. The world in general had no conception how anybody could be amused with such absurdity, yet all the world went, and all laughed as well as myself. The difference was, that they were ashamed to confess they found it laughable, and I confessed it at once, without any shame at all.
I return to the grands danseurs du roi. The conclusion of their exhibitions was a very licentious piece called 'Les Quatre Rendezvous,' closing with a féte champêtre, in which these grands danseurs danced very vilely. Yet what better could be expected for thirty sous ?
December 21. On this day a wretched culprit was broken upon the wheel in the Place de Grêve. I cautiously avoided stirring out the whole morning, lest my stars should lead me in the way of so horrible a scene.
I constantly devote a part of every forenoon to the Palais Royal, spending it sometimes in the Caffé de Chartres,' to read the German newspapers ; or in Cussac the bookseller's shop; or among the busy bustling crowd, where my ears are deafened by the noise of a thousand criers, and my eyes distracted by
a thousand elegant objects, which luxury, united with the love of gain, places in the shop windows.
We spent the evening at mademoiselle de Montansier's theatre in the Palais Royal.
A little opera was performed in the usual style of such pieces, poor both in body and soul; that is to say, both in music and dialogue. The only comic part was a gormandizing abbé who, in a humourous song, complained that the ecclesiastics had been deprived of their property. Such strokes are always received with peals of applause.
This little opera was followed by · Le Sourd, ou l'Auberge plein,' a comedy, or rather a farce, in three acts. Yet as a farce, it is of a superior kind, and I think, would be well received upon the (ierman stage. In one scene, where the action passes in two different rooms at the same time, the scenery was uncommonly well managed. In the front was a dining-hall, with some steps in the back ground leading to a chamber, about half of which was visible through a window into the dining-hall; a mode of building not unusual in old mansions. - Behind this window a part of the action was going forward, connected with what was passing at the same time in the front room, and had an extremely good effect. At the end of this scene the deaf man drew the curtain again before the window, and then the stage appeared undivided.
I was afterwards introduced to the author of this piece, monsieur des Farges. It is not yet printed, but he was so polite as to lend me his manuscript, of which I may very probably make some use.
December 22. This morning I received a visit from madame de Rome, the translator of my 'Adelaide of Wulfingen.' She had put her translation into the hands of the performers at Monsieur's theatre, and was in daily expectation of their decision upon it. For my own part, I am thoroughly convinced, that if, for the sake
of some scenes, the piece in its original form deserved to live, Frenchified as it now is, it deserves nothing but damnation.
Madame de Rome has an idea of honouring me farther with translating 'Misanthropy and Repentance, but this also must undergo a purgation. adultress! No, that will never do ! She must only be a little indiscreet!”
“ Bon!” say I. Then there are too many characters; some of them must be discarded. The general, the old man, and Bittermann, cannot by any means be allowed a place in the French • Misanthropy and Repentance.'
That also might pass; but, besides, there are not confidants enough in the play, and the fair translator must supply my deficiency. Upon which among the dramatis
personæ will it be supposed her choice has fallen for filling this important office? Neither more nor less than master Peter, whom she thus exalts into the pivot on which the whole intrigue turns. He is the major's confidant, and the friend and companion of Francis, with whom he plots and contrives till the misanthrope is made to dance to their pipe, and the denguement is brought about.
This is fine indeed!
The only really superfluous person in my drama-I mean Charlotte-is to be retained. Indeed, if this plan of translation is carried into effect, nothing will remain of Misanthropy and Repentance,' but repentance in my bosom for having written it. If it be not suited to the French stage as it came out of my hands, rather may it remain untranslated.
“ It cannot remain as it is,” said madame de Rome: the French are too far removed from nature to endure it. A very high eulogium on me, I thought within myself; if on that account alone they deviate from the spirit of my work.
For the rest, madame de Rome interested me extremely. She appears an amiable and cultivated