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The sensations experienced in standing upon this awful spot are not to be described. Can one forbear reflecting with horror, that every stone one passes over has perhaps served as a pillow to some wretched fellow-creature; that every shovel full of earth which the labourer throws upon his cart, has perhaps been moistened with the tears of heart-rending misery?
Since 'tis impossible to mention the Bastille without recurring to the unfortunate De la Tude, whose sufferings have rendered him so well known to the world, I must here notice the following letter, which was inserted some days ago in one of the public papers :
TO THE PUBLISHERS. “ GENTLEMEN, “I have in general received so much ill-treatment from mankind, that I feel it particularly incumbent on me publicly to express my gratitude when I experience the reverse. A short time since I sent a copy of my memoirs to the committee for regulating the French theatres. Our present Rosciuses have such fine opportunities for supporting freedom, and rendering tyranny odious, that I thought it right to impart to them a detail, which the almost unexampled sufferings of forty years, three months, and fourteen days, gives me ample right to call the Archives of Despotism.”
He then proceeds to make warm acknowledgments to the king's comedians, for the liberal manner in which they have brought him and his benefactress and deliverer, madame le Gros, forward to public observation. My God! what language do not Parisians in these times venture to pu forth, even in the public prints !
Monsieur de la Tude is now an officer in the engineers. What must be his feelings whenever he passes over that large open space, within which he formerly inhabited a small dungeon of only a few feet square ? What more, particularly when he seeks, and perhaps finds the very spot, where that dungeon lay? Every stone must be to him an object of painful recollection, for with every stone he might probably claim a miser. able acquaintance of forty years.
In the evening we visited Les Ambigus Comiques, and were as well entertained as could be expected, considering that we had been the day before at the opera. We saw 'L'Epreuve Raisonable,' a piece in one act; and ‘Bekir et Niza,' a Persian drama, in two acts. In both the fable was simple, but well handled, and the pieces were tolerably performed.
A pantomime, called “The Man with the Iron Mask, concluded the evening. It was founded, as will be supposed, upon the well-known story of the mysterious prisoner confined so many years by Louis the Fourteenth. If the poet had any authority for the story he has made, the mystery so long concealed is now unravelled. The iron mask in the pantomime, is the king's brother, and both are in love with the same woman, who probably is some princess. The king is the rejected lover; he finds his brother at the feet of his beloved, they fight, the guards disarm the prince, the iron mask is put on, and he is hurried away.
Most of the anecdotes that have been circulated relative to this extraordinary prisoner, are here brought forward. The governor always ready with a pistol to shoot him in case he should attempt to make himself known; the silver plate on which he wrote, and threw it out to a fisherman who could not read, with many others.
But from the third act to the end, the piece is only an uninterrupted succession of improbabilities. The mask sits and plays upon the guitar, and is answered from below by a flute. He then descends, God knows by what means, and returns with his mistress, who has made her way into the prison, God knows how, and learnt as unaccountably, that behind a stone in the
wall are concealed a dagger and a pistol. With the latter the gentleman arms himself, while the lady takes the former. The governor is shot, and the guards acknowledge the prisoner for their king. He flies, God knows whither, and is pursued, God knows by whom; finds assistance, God knows where; fights bravely, conquers, and at last, with his lady, looks. quietly on at a dance of peasants.
The music was very pretty. It was indeed taken from a hundred different operas, but what does that signify, since it was appropriate to the purpose ?
Yet, altogether, a pantomime is not a thing much to my taste. Too much is left to conjecture. The imagination wanders about in the dark, and the performers must have uncommon talents to give every motion the expression intended, so as to make it intelligible to the audience.
December 30. This evening a new musical drama, called 'Euphrosyne, or the Tyrant Corrected,' attracted me to the Italian theatre. It was announced in the affiches, as having been performed six-and-twenty nights within a very short time.
The house was, notwithstanding, very full, and I found it not unworthy of its fame.
Three sisters are brought to a court, where the caprices of a despot hold absolute sway; where no subject dares to approach his prince; where no passion is known but insatiable thirst of power ; no pleasures but hunting, fighting, and tournaments; and where every gentler feeling is a crime. The eldest of the sisters, Euphrosyne, undertakes, with much caution and circumspection, to transform this savage despot into a good prince; this ferocious knight, into a gentle and fond lover; and her purpose is effected.
Such is the outline of the piece, which contains some very excellent scenes, particularly that in which the tyrant first begins to feel his new passion, which fills him with alarm. He sends for the physician, to
whom he relates the particulars of his malady; and is informed by him, that 'tis the same which caused the destruction of Troy and the expulsion of her kings from Rome-LOVE. Another scene may also be instanced, in which the prince armed for battle, with helmet, shield, lance, and sword, repairs to Euphrosyne's apartment, and declares his love to her. She dissembles terror at beholding him so arrayed, and disarms him, piece by piece. He then asks whether she is pleased with him? to which she replies, No; he is too tall, she must look up to him, and that is pain. ful to her neck. He takes the hint, and falls at her feet; by degrees she restores him his arms, and at length appoints him her knight.
The music is also good, almost fine. A duet in particular, which from its nature must be acted as well as sung, was received with unbounded applause. An envious countess endeavours to make the newlyenamoured prince jealous; he becomes so, she is transported, and this jealousy, and malicious joy, give occasion to a raging duet, in which, as neither could rise above the other in singing, both began to scream without accent or note, in such a manner, that it perfectly thrilled through and through the auditors! This seemed to be considered as the height of excellence, and the thunder of applause, joined to the clash of the music, all together made such an uproar, that one could almost have supposed the last day coming on, and the world about to be crushed to atoms.
Both parties sank down at last into their seats on each side of the stage, with their breasts palpitating as if they would burst. One of my neighbours indeed asserted, that this was only grimace, to excite sympathy in the audience, but I believe they really were both exhausted; I am sure I was nearly so myself with hearing them.
I must here observe upon a fault in the French performers, which never struck me till to-night. When a noble pride is to be assumed, it is always shewn by turning indignantly away from the person addressed, and making the oration to the wall. Such was the case here between the prince and the countess
such between Titus and the ambassadors of Porsenna, the other night at the Théâtre de la Nation-and such between monsieur Socrate and the high-priest. Strange! that the most polished people in the world should not be able to devise any better expression of elevated pride, than turning their backs on each other!
We had besides a little opera in two acts, which was extremely pleasing. Indeed the performers, both vocal and instrumental, in this theatre, are in general excellent. In Germany, where we are not so liberal as in France, the second piece would have been omitted, since Euphrosyne contained three acts, and the performance lasted two hours and a half. But two hours and a half would by no means content the Parisians; they must have four hours of amusement, and they are in the right. Formerly, it was the same
but the higher our performers rise in their profession, the less attention they think due to the public.
The little, lovely, innocent, Rose Renaud played again to-day. Methinks I see a smile upon the coun. tenance of many of my readers at the word innocent. But oh, let me cherish this sweet delusion, if delusion it be, for it gives me such delight to think her innocent, that I cannot relinquish the idea. To whatever may be objected against it by experience and knowledge of the world, I oppose this consoling truth, that no general rule is without exception, and Rose Renaud is an exception. At least she has not laid aside the uniform of virtue, modesty of demeanour; and while she retains that, I must hope that she truly serves the leader whose uniform she wears.