« PoprzedniaDalej »
to-day at the Italian theatre, the title of which, “The last Moments of Jean Jacques Rousseau,' irresistibly attracted me thither. The appearance of this truly eccentric man upon the stage affected me exceedingly. All the speeches put into his mouth were taken from his writings, all that he did was founded upon historic truth.
The scene' was laid in Rousseau's chamber, at Ermenonville. It was decorated with a harpsichord, a writing-table, and the picture of madame de Warens. Theresa, Rousseau's wife, and his nurse of fourscore years old, were discovered waiting his return to breakfast from his usual morning's walk, and were meanwhile conversing together upon the melancholy fate of this persecuted philosopher, and on the repose which he then happily enjoyed.
Rousseau himself next appeared. The player who represented him must, doubtless, have copied him very faithfully, since a tumult of applause instantly resounded through the whole house. Probably most of the audience must have known, or, at least, fre. quently have seen the original. A unanimous bravo! saluted the actor, and Rousseau's widow, who was in the house, actually fainted away.
He was dressed in a complete grey suit, with a round hat. His knees were somewhat bowed, his step slow and circumspect, and his whole appearance mild and serene, He brought under his arm a bundle of plants, and in his hand a bird's nest, in which he showed his wife six young birds. Theresa reproved him for the barbarity of taking them away from their mother, when he related, with a truly affecting simplicity, how he had watched this nest every morning for a fortnight, how he had seen the mother that very morning feeding her young, and how she was immediately after, in seeking more food, devoured by a sparrow-hawk. Then did he take the nest, for the purpose of intreating his wife to take care of the young ones.
And what will you do with them?” asked the wife.
Give them liberty as soon as they are able to use it," answered the philanthropist.
This was followed by a burst of applause, and as the piece proceeded, the clapping continued to increase, till my ears were half stunned. I did not join in the clapping, but I wept.
Rousseau then sat down to breakfast with his little family, exactly as he describes himself, in the Confessions,' at the time he lived near the maréchal de Luxembourg. I cannot express how much I was affected by the scene. Tears gushed involuntarily from my eyes; I resigned myself wholly to the interesting delusion, which had been much more impressive, if it had not been so perpetually interrupted by ill-timed clapping:
The brcakfast ended, Rousseau desires his wife to go and visit a poor woman, who was lying-in of her eighth child, and was in great necessity. Soon after, a young journeyman joiner enters, bringing home some work for Rousseau. The philosopher perceives traces of deep sorrow on his countenance, enquires into the cause of it, and learns that his father is in danger of being carried to prison that very day for a debt of three hundred livres. The consequence of this must be, that the son would lose a maiden with whom he was about to be united, since her father would no longer consent to her marrying into a family he considered as dishonoured. Rousseau laments his inability to relieve this distress, when the youth begs him to intercede in their behalf with the lord of the estate, monsieur Girardin, which he promises.
Just after the joiner's departure, when Rousseau was beginning to revolve in his mind how to execute what he had undertaken, monsieur Duval brings him a letter, with three hundred livres, from his bookseller Rey. By the way it must be observed, that monsieur Duval had
a national cockade in his hat: an anachronism so gross, that it had an astonishing effect in lessening the delusion.
Rousseau, extremely rejoiced at this accident, enquires of the nurse whether they are at present in want of money, and learning that they are not, he sends immediately after the young man, to whom he gives the whole sum. The latter supposes this to be a present from monsieur Girardin, an error in which the philosopher leaves him ;-a beautiful stroke indeed !
The youth, in his gratitude for the supposed intercession, endeavours to throw himself at Rousseau's feet, but is repressed. “ That were degrading both to yourself and me," says the philosopher.
"May 1?-may I?”-stammers the youth, as he spreads out his arms towards the philanthropic patron.
Why not?” says_Rousseau, and clasps him eagerly to his heart. Few eyes remained dry at this
The youth now flies to his father to free him, and Rousseau in the meantime receives a visit from mon. sieur Girardin, to whom he observes, that he feels his last hour approaching, that his eyes are become dim, and that he has been endeavouring in vain to read. He thanks the worthy man for all his kindness, particularly for having granted him an asylum where he may die in peace, and recommends his wife to his protection. He then presents him, as a memorial of their friendship, with his own manuscript of the • Social Contract,' which Girardin receives with transport, presses to his lips, and—now comes a specimen of true French gasconade—asserts, that the work was dictated by God himself. Tis in future therefore to be considered, I suppose, as a fifth gospel.
The young joiner then appears again, with his father, and his maiden, who all overpower Girardin with their expressions of gratitude, which he of course
does not understand, nor knows therefore how to reply to them. Rousseau enjoys this delightful scene in silence, and when Theresa explains the riddle, they all surround his chair, and load him with caresses.
He still continues to feel, with greater and greater certainty, the approach of his last moments. He desires the window to be opened, that he may see the sun once more, and for the last time admire the beautie of creation. “ That is God!” he exclaims; “God, who now calls me to himself !”_With these words he sinks back in his chair, the company present form an interesting groupe around him, and the curtain falls.
This is indeed a tragedy. The first French tragedy ever written in prose, and in which the actors played naturally and rationally, without sawing the air. The extraordinary applause they obtained might serve as a lesson to them in future, that this, as being the way of nature, is the only way which can please all times and nations. When the curtain dropped, a thousand handkerchiefs were in motion, a thousand tongues vociferated their satisfaction, and two thousand pair of hands clapped. « The author! the author!” resounded from all parts of the house, pit as well as boxes.
This continued for a long time, before any one thought proper to appear upon the stage. But as the cry redoubled, the curtain at length drew up, and a performer came forward, who addressed the audi
Gentlemen, the author is monsieur Bouïlly, the same to whom we are indebted for "Peter the Great.'»
The curtain dropped again, but still the cry of “ The author! the author !” continued. After waiting ten minutes longer, since the audience would not be quiet, a player again appeared, and said, that the author had been sought for, but was not in the house.
“He is here! he is here !” they unanimously ex
claimed. How they knew this so certainly I cannot tell ; perhaps he might have been discovered behind the scenes during the representation. But since there was no possibility of appeasing the audience, he did at length appear, with extreme modesty and timidity, and made a low bow, which was received with a perfect tumult of applause, when he was retiring.
“ Jean Jacques ! Jean Jacques!” was now vociferated with equal vehemence, till the actor who had played Rousseau came forwards. The author took him by the hand, both bowed respectfully to the public, then embraced each other, and went off arm in arm. The noise that succeeded must have been heard to obtain any idea of it.
The other two pieces performed this evening, *Lucas et Luzette,' an opera in one act, and · Felix,' an opera in three acts, were absolutely insupportable, Insipid music, insipid dialogue, and insipid plots. I could not forbear laughing at an old nurse in . Felix,' intended for a German, but the poor soul had entirely forgotten her mother tongue, and tortured her words in such a deplorable manner, that it might as well have been the language of the Hottentots.
The Journal de Paris' of this morning contains so high an encomium on the fishwomen, that I cannot resist giving it a place here.
“Les Dames de la Halle"—such is the name given to these ladies" were admitted at the opening of this sitting, and presented their good wishes for a happy issue to the labours of the national representatives. The assembly received their wishes with satisfaction as the voice of the people. It is known, that the Dames de la Halle have often stepped forward in this revolution, and always full of patriotism. Their character, at all times prone to independance, their freedom of speech, which was pardoned even at a time when little was pardoned, must naturally give them a distinguished zeal for liberty. How ignorant then must they be of the motives which have influ