LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Fifty Years’ Recollections, Literary and Personal

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Vol. II Contents
‣ Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Vol. III Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH


The triumphal arches were erecting to greet the entrance of the too noted Duchess de Berry, just married to the Duke. We stayed three or four days only in Paris. Returning, via Pontoise, we again dined off our former fare, with mixed company, including two or three British officers. We sat at table too long to think of proceeding, slept, and finding my friend would not move the next morning, I rode home alone. He had met an old Peninsular brother officer. In two days, my companion returned, riding his horse so hard in a burning August day, that it died in consequence. It was the last of four he had taken with him to Spain. Had the horse been mine, I should never have forgiven myself, for it was a noble animal.

The crown and people of France, the creatures of revolutionary progress, stood high in the hopes and fears of Europe at that moment. The constitution of Louis XVIII. was a mockery, because the courtiers of the old
school worked it behind the scenes. The French notion of a free constitution mainly rested on an equality of social rights, and the banishment of the assumption and exclusiveness of privileged orders. This feeling has never been changed, cherished as it was, and is, by the recollection of the miseries of the time when Lettres de Cachet were issued at the will of courtezans, and gamekeepers murdered those whom they suspected of poaching, and buried them in their lord’s ground. Serfage and brute force, even as traditions, were powerful agents in preventing reaction, which the returned emigrants of 1814-15 ought to have known. Freedom of action was less regarded than equal rights, admitting no privileged superiority from rank alone, and this was precisely what the emigrants resisted. The people cared nothing about title; the “all” in England. The oldest nobility in Europe was that of France, and it might have the honour of being so called still, if it chose, but the honour could be nominal only, nor carry a particle of right over citizenship. Hence, while the institutions advanced in France as in England, the latter retained the old system of privilege only in the senate. In the eye of the law all are equal. The deference to title (servility it may often more truly be called) still exists here, but it exists only as a reflection of the imaginary greatness of small minds. There was something touching in the mental feebleness of the returned royalist. He was as a slumberer—a Rip Van Winkle, during thirty years of change and advance. He awoke and could not, or would not credit any different state of the world from that he had known before he fell asleep. How many I knew, little “tainted” as
they would phrase it, by the plebeian affinities of the existing time, who are now in their dusty beds. What a proud, frivolous, gallant, ostentatious, brave, unprincipled race, were the later French nobles under the Regent, with all the vices, and few of the virtues of their predecessors!

Tenacious is the hold of the mind upon all that belongs to the past, even of that it may disapprove, only because the reality has run into a tale. Weaknesses in a Montmorency or Grammont we, therefore, excuse, as in those who live, as the Apostle Paul phrased it, in relation to the Jews, upon “vain genealogies.” I used to think it was well enough for German princes to be what they are, some of whose dominions one may run round in a day. Nobody expects anything of them. But for the noble descendant of a renowned house belonging to a great empire, to persist in the folly of matter-of-fact privilege was absurd. I saw well bred old nobles denuded of the ruffles, embroidery, gold-headed canes, silver buckles, and the insignia in which their superiority consisted. I felt a sadness when I encountered some of them returned with high hopes, and doomed to be disappointed, in not again realizing the worn-out absurdities of the old regime. It was a frightful catastrophe that immolated so many, and drove others from their homes, now attenuated and poor, the mark of the upstart that curled his lip as he passed them. Some worthy spirits, too, little persuaded of the ingratitude of crowns, there must have been among them. Only a few obtained places, or recovered property undisposed of by the state. A few niggardly acres, perhaps, out of the thousands they
had inherited. Yet the Belshazzar hand had written their doom on the walls of their palaces in good time, only they had no Daniel to interpret to them.
Lord Chesterfield had foretold it in England, though it did not come to pass for many years after his decease, one of the most extraordinary fulfilments of a prophecy on record.

I wanted some hay, and was told I might obtain it three or four miles off, from the Marquis de S—— who resided at the old family château. I rode over, and came to an ancient grill, with a small lodge and chapel attached. The entrance with iron gates well rusted, stood open, paint seeming not to have visited them for half a century. I went up to the door of the building, knocked and knocked again. I was answered only by the reverberation within. I looked up at the lofty pointed roof, and ornamented windows in vain, not a creature was observable, nor were hangings visible through the windows. Yet all seemed in tolerable repair. Presently a voice from a window in a remise opposite the house, once the coachman’s or gardener’s residence, enquired whom I sought. I told my business, and obtained a promise of the article I desired. I had tied up my horse under an arcade, which had once been the depository of the family carriages, and accepted an invitation, evidently from a well bred, meagre man in person, to walk into his small apartment with its tiled floor, on which a few plain chairs rested, and a common table. A time-piece and a few ornaments stood over the chimney. The whitewashed walls must have been chilling to look upon in winter. There was a sort of side table bearing a crucifix, and a few
books apparently devotional. An old arm-chair by the fire-place, a half open cupboard with some china, and a small screen, made up the furniture. Being requested to sit, I obeyed. The business transacted, I remarked that it was a solitary residence. He said he had been an emigrant, and tendering me some wine, remarked that he grew none of his own now, and shrugged up his shoulders.

“It was unfortunate,” I remarked, “if it were possible to grow wine here as good as you tender me.”

He told me he had returned to France with the hope of some office which had been promised him, but he feared he was forgotten—he had obtained none. I remarked that his château was in good order. He replied that he had kept it in order out of the little that remained of the means to do so. “My heirs may inhabit it at some future day, I cannot. I have all I want here, and shall not long want that. All the friends of my early years are gone already, except the Mayor of the Commune.”

“You have many years to live yet from your appearance.”

“I hope not,” said he, looking grave. He then invited me to see the house. He took the key from a drawer, unlocked the door, and with an old fashioned bow, drew back to give the way of entrance. The interior was in fair condition. With a touch of deep melancholy he showed me the room in which he was born. Though it was empty, and he heard no more the voices he had once heard echo there, it was a great satisfaction to possess the old place still. All but the recollection of the past had disappeared, but though
that gave him pain, people had sometimes an affection for their misery. When I paid him for his hay, I thought his bailiff would once have saved him the degradation. His hat was off on parting, after the old formal mode, escorting me to the gate in his coarse grey coat, dark breeches, and white stockings, with buckled shoes. The situation of this nobleman in some old servant’s apartment, with the hope that his family descendants would one day again inhabit the ancient residence, brought up
Sterne’s description of the Sword at Rennes. How could so great a change be effected in France, as the revolution did effect, without sacrifices, violences, and cruel bereavements.

The Duke d’Aguillon copied music in London for a maintenance, thirteen hours a day, and then dressed and appeared at the opera, a noble of the old regime, in the evening.

I read many of the best French authors when in the country, where I found good private libraries; some of their metaphysicans I perused with great advantage. The mystics of Germany never pleased me. I always know what a French writer means, but the same cannot be said of the Germans. They do not know what they mean themselves. Göthe’s exclamation of “Light, light, more light!” is truly applicable to the whole school. How the French levity of character should have mingled in its ranks so many deep-thinkers and first-rate mathematicians, was ever a riddle; the French are a people made up of contradictions.

I liked the country folk, but I dislike crowds well or ill dressed. Yet the gates of the château in which I lived were thrown open to the people on holydays.
A few francs paid for the music, and not less than four or five hundred sometimes came within the wails of the garden to enjoy the merry dance, grateful for our civility to them. Sometimes all classes danced on the green together, and sometimes there were saloon guests. A little orgeat for the ladies was the only expense. The simplicity of the pleasures of the people much pleased me, and the real sense of enjoyment they exhibited. Not a flower was ever plucked in the garden, no fruit gathered, yet all was open to the humblest villager. Intoxication was never seen, yet wine and brandy were cheap and commonly partaken.

When I quitted, the people expressed much regret. An old garde de chasse, who had often accompanied me in the forests, gave me that species of salute in the fullness of his heart, tears in his eyes, with which ladies only are saluted in England. His beard reminded me of Peter Pindar’s comparison of a clown’s beard to a bush of gorse. I took leave, too, of the gun and the field at this time. A day’s healthy exercise with the gun, is I am persuaded, often useful, followed in a rational manner. I reprobate only those who view animal slaughter as a sport, and nothing else—who immolate the beautiful innocent creatures that have licked their hands just before, and bring up youth in the habit of viewing that bloodshed without regret, which, in the chances of life, may lead them to undervalue the lives of their fellow men.

I was sauntering with a dog and gun along one of those immense sweeps of corn-land, where the eyes glance over a wide space, only interrupted by clumps of verdure like islands. Something dashed across a path
in one of these, among the high herbage, which I suspected was a fox, and fired. I was not aware I had killed anything, until a bird of a species quite new to me, fluttered along the path. I had mortally wounded it by accident. I sat down near, and took it up. Its eyes, bright and beautiful in death, seemed I thought to reproach me. I laid it down, and it expired a few moments after. “What right have I to deprive this creature of the light and life I so much enjoy?” became a bosom question. “I do not want it for food. I find fault with no one who takes the same recreation I have done for healthy exercise, but I can exercise without animal slaughter, and I will do so in future.” From that day I never shot any animal except a rat or two committing depredations upon the household stores.

I was not aware until afterwards, that mine was not a singular case. Several persons, not in so unknown a station as myself, had come to the same conclusion. Byron was one instance, and the author of Vathek another. The brave and unfortunate Sir John Franklin may be added to the list. I condemn none who follow the pursuit, I only state that it ceased to be consonant with my feelings when undertaken merely as a sport.

In Paris, I took up my quarters in the Hotel de Quinze Vingts, now passed away. It stood then in the centre of the Place Carrousel, opposite the triumphal arch, and about the same distance from the palisades eastwards, as the Tuileries is to the west. The windows, in consequence, faced the palace. On my first visit to Paris, I had seen the workmen taking down the two gilt statues which had been the companions of the Venetian horses representing Fame and Victory, and
now the arch stood denuded of all ornament on the summit. I saw daily, from my room, the troops drawn up on morning parade, the Dukes of
Angouleme and Berry, and the renowned marshals of France in attendance upon those two poor specimens of princes. The Duke de Berry, afterwards assassinated, was a mediocre looking, little, lively man. The Duke d’Angouleme, an undersized and rather slender imbecile, anything but a hero. His Duchess was by far the best of the Bourbons in appearance, and truly as Bonaparte characterized her, “the only man of the family.” D’Artois was anxious alone that his son should be able to lead troops, the most desired of royal accomplishments. To see the Count d’Artois, and the two dukes in the midst of the French soldiers, was a sad caricature upon fitness of position. Of the whole group, Louis XVIII. was by far the best, not at all ill-natured, the most accomplished gourmand in Europe, and in person truly Louis le Gros. The French marshals were none of them such stiff germanized figures as people in England imagined them. Our military bearing had been borrowed from Hanover and Prussia. I often saw Marmont, Victor, Macdonald, Suchet, Oudinot and others; Massena was then indisposed. Things always appeared to me much out of place on these occasions; “would the divine right of kings become again an established principle or not?” I asked myself, and common sense replied “never more.” The downfall of Charles X. afterwards settled the point, in coincidence with my own ideas on the subject. I complimented myself on the truth of my anticipation or gift of
prescience, whichever it was, on that event being consummated. Old
Marshal Mortier, destined afterwards to fall by the assassin’s hand, Soult, little swarthy Lamarque, Jourdain, and Vismenil were often added to the list of officers, and all went on, under the surveillance of a hundred thousand allies northwards, ready to swoop down on Paris if the legitimate principle were questioned. While looking at those parades, I asked myself where was the soul that once animated the scene on that spot. The grey coat well worn, and three cornered hat? How awkwardly the post was now occupied! His ambition had overleaped itself. He was on the rock of St. Helena looking over the broad deep, perhaps reflecting, at last, that he himself was going after those who had preceded him in the hacknied track of human glory—in the wild dream of conquest. Could Napoleon and Talma have met, the tragedian would have had the advantage of the hero in place of the significant “Bah!” when Talma repeated

“What is that word honour?”


“Who hath it?”

“He that died on Wednesday.”

This has been before told in some of the Memoirs of Napoleon.

The reply of Talma to a question of mine, in regard to the emperor, was highly in his favour as a man.

“Too ambitious,” said the tragedian, “but with the kindest heart in the world. I have known him from his youth. He never forgot the humblest friend amid cares more vast than it was possible for ordinary men
to bear. Our intercourse never abated on his elevation, though we met less frequently, as might be expected—he was a truly great man.”

Talma had been selected arbitrator, between two Englishmen whom I knew in Paris, and he acted with rigid impartiality. His friend Duchenois was the finest French actress I ever saw. She was wholly French in her acting, and her personations belonged to a school less within the scope of my comprehension than those of Talma. I saw her in Dido first, one of her best characters, and was then, for the first time, fully convinced of the ill adaptation of the French tongue for poetry. The usual monotony in recitation was lessened on the stage, more by the school of Talma, than any other, but there was still too much of it. Duchenois possessed great power. She seemed to enter deeply into the author’s spirit, and to make that spirit pervade all in the representation. She put nothing of herself into her characters. The author was her motive power, and she desired to be one with him, and to obtain applause, as it were, in his name. Her feeling was wholly disinterested, all was harmony between herself and the poet’s sentiments, and however noble or sublime they might be, she became wholly identified with them. Yet, though Siddons did the same, they bore no resemblance to each other in acting. There is more of nature and the ordinary sequence of incident in the French stage since her time, but she made advances in blending the classic and romantic together, which no female performer had ever before done in France. Talma was her professional guiding star. I did not agree with the wholesale vituperation of the French
theatre, in which too many Englishmen indulged at that period. I remember being much struck with several powerful passages in
Zaire, for example, full of noble energy, as that beginning, “Mafille, tendre objet de mes dernières peines,” and ending, “En ces lieux, où son sang te parle par ma voix” Though delightful in acting, her person was so ordinary, I may say ugly, that with any one else it would have destroyed the illusion. Her real name was Rapin. After Talma, she held the first place in tragedy. She was a great favourite with Napoleon, who sent for her to Erfurt to play before a budget of kings and princes. She was a dutiful daughter, and had an excellent heart. She afforded shelter to the mother of the unfortunate Lavalette, and performed many most charitable actions. The death of Talma drove her from the stage. She died in 1834. I saw her at the Theatre Franchise in 1816. In both countries, since that time, the higher theatre has fallen to zero.

To return to Talma. He has been frequently criticised as an actor, by others more adequate to the task than myself. I speak of him here only in the desultory manner in which I noticed him once before.* I never credited the ability of authors, actors, or artists, only because they were lauded by the great, knowing how much on such occasions is due to fashion or accident, and that there is no royal road to just criticism. I did not form my opinion of Talma’s acting in Britannicus, for example, because the Archduke Constantine said, “I thank you, M. Talma, for the pleasure you have afforded me, by which I have been

* In the “New Monthly Magazine,” No. 288.

enabled to enjoy the company of three emperors together.”
Napoleon and Alexander being present. Such a compliment would have added a cubit to the stature of ordinary actors. The suffrages of the most competent judges agreed; the length of time he had sustained his reputation, and the knowledge that as he had advanced in years, he had advanced in excellence were enough. I distrusted my own impression of his abilities.

“I am half English,” he observed one day. “What am I not indebted to Shakspeare?”

He spoke the language so well, he might easily have been taken for a native, having spent his youth in London.

“England is indebted to you, M. Talma, for making her great dramatic poet familiar to the people of France, though you must admit, not exactly in his native dress.”

“That may come at some future time. Long established feelings in the French people cannot be altered quickly—Shakspeare must wear our habit de cérémonie for a little time. I adopt the spirit of the author in my performances as much as I can, where the French version will hardly bear me out. I studied his works in England in my youth, and I have tried to act after nature as he wrote.”

Talma was master of those nice points in the great bard, which even a native of England must study to acquire. As far as any foreigner can be deemed in possession of the scope and depth of the creations of that mighty dramatic writer, Talma was the man. I never knew another except Augustus Schlegel. His
countenance, touched with a melancholy expression, sometimes to deep sadness, was a peculiarly thoughtful one. I was told that the fondness for his professional pursuits, and the mastership it had over him in all times and circumstances, was alone capable of rousing him from some of his fits of mental depression.

He did not like to be chosen umpire in the dispute already mentioned, and strove to evade the task.

“You are both in the wrong,” he said, “if I decide, I shall make one of you my enemy. I desire to have no enemies, make concessions on both sides.”

“We have endeavoured in vain to arrange this affair between ourselves, M. Talma. You are particularly adapted for an umpire. There is no one in Paris capable of judging in the matter as you are.”

“I am sorry for it, gentlemen, I am not at all disposed to admit my superior ability.”

“But if we are satisfied?”

“It does not matter whether your umpire be English or French, justice is neither of one country nor the other. Reconsider the point in dispute.”

“It will be in vain, M. Talma.”

“They who, in a dispute, think themselves equally in the right, are like religious fanatics, who burn each other to prove the truth of opposite doctrines. Reason a little, gentlemen. If each of you will forget his own part in the matter, and judge as for another, the dispute will not last a minute.”

“We cannot approximate—we differ too widely.”

“No matter how wide the gap, it is only because you will not reason impartially, that it is not closed.”

“But M. Talma—”


“Suffer me—I am always ready to afford my aid to the persecuted, but you persecute each other when you suffer passion to rule. Pray reconsider the whole matter, each for the other, you will then arrange without doing injustice to each other’s friendship—concede mutually.”

“It is impossible.”

“Nothing that depends upon the will is impossible— delay, reconsider. I cannot afford to be out of favour with either of you.”

“That will not be, M. Talma, decide how you may.”

“I know something of the heart, therefore I do not know that. Make a small concession each of you. In a dispute about money men of sense cannot be at variance. No sacrifice is required but of the vulgarest feeling; it is a mere shopkeeping subject. Gold is dross, compared to friendship. I will see you on the subject to-morrow, when you have tried an arrangement. Adieu!”

On the following day they met. After the customary compliments, he asked if they had been able to settle their difference. The reply was, that having taken his advice, they had divided the sum in dispute.

“That is wise; when you quarrel let it be about something worthy of your conflicting humour. A point of honour, an affront, anything save a little vile money. I will tell you another obstacle on my part, complicating the difficulties of my position in allowing myself to be your umpire. If one of you had been pleased with my decision the other would have felt offended, you may say no, but I feel it would be so. I cannot answer
either, how I might have decided. I am a tragedian, not a judge, and I might have leaned to the side I ought not—to his who was ready to follow my advice. I might have been influenced that way thinking,

Ce cœur qui veut bien tn’obéir,
N’est pas entre les mains qui puissent trahir.

“We should have thought nothing of the kind, M. Talma.”

“You know not how small a matter will bias the mind—it is incredible with the best of us—you see what a hazard you ran.”

“We are only more certain from the statement you make, and from the knowledge you must have of the human mind, that you would have been, on the ground of your self-alleged disqualification, the safest umpire between us.”

“Bah! now you turn advocate.”

I spent the evening with Madam D——, in the ci-devant Rue Bonaparte. There was little opportunity there of enjoying the great tragedian’s company, he being taken up with the attentions of the ladies, with whom he was a marked favourite. To women of refinement, his peculiarly melancholy look and staid deportment, made him always welcome; ‘there was something so interesting in M. Talma.’ Easy, grave, with deference, he took a pleasure in pleasing those whom his presence gratified. This always ensures favourable prepossessions. There were in his acting, a number of those delicate touches in art, which are particularly responsive to female sensibility, and they told much in his favour in the drawing-room. I never saw him
in comedy, though as with
Garrick, he was said to be equally excellent in that line of his profession. He reminded me of Cooke, in some parts, I scarcely know why, and yet there was no personal likeness between them. In both, the representation of ferocious cunning, tiger-like wary savageness, were admirably represented. The energy of Kean had much less support, from the idea of physical force. John Kemble never exhibited that precise kind of effect. “I have lived through the excesses of a sanguinary revolution. I have seen the extremes of horror and joy, the defeats and triumphs of men of all parties. There are no poetical tragedies deeper in pathos or blood, than I have known pass before my eyes in reality—no changes from sorrow to joy and the reverse, more sudden. If, therefore, tragedy walked the world in my time, it would be singular if I missed its study. While keeping to nature I did not trust to my own conceptions alone, when we do, we make false pictures. I asked myself how an individual, under any particular contingency, would demean himself. I then proved my own conceptions by some actual standard, as near as I could obtain it. I paid no attention to other actors whom I had seen in the same part, for we are too apt to copy each other. I searched out the most approximative example, for all variety of passion is certain to be displayed every day in a great city like Paris. It was only to develop them in the connection I thought most fitting. We must thus prepare by extrinsic aid, as well as by our own conceptions, for that nearer approach to truth, which never fails of effect.”

“You must have had moments of intense anxiety
when you began your innovations upon the old system of scenic representation?”

“I feared for the result. My friends censured my temerity, prophesying it would be my ruin, as timorous persons are certain to do. I was aware that if I failed I should be censured—be crushed. On the other side, I had a reliance upon truth and nature for being effective among my countrymen, who are as remarkably open to slight impressions as you are little susceptible of them. I was to introduce a course of dependent events, inevitable in the action I represented. An audience could not be displeased with pure simplicity of delineation, if preceding custom were against it. I dared and succeeded. The judgment of an enlightened age prevailed over the prejudices of usage.”

Shakspeare and nature, the natural against the artificial—it was a bold venture.”

“Yet our versions of your poet are much disguised, for in his native dress he would hardly do for us. Time will make him better comprehended.”

“Two nations are obliged to you.”

“Not to me—truth will in the end prevail in everything.”

“When we have a millenium, M. Talma!”

“Before that comes, or we shall have long to wait.”

His voice was of great compass, completely under control. John Kemble was always sepulchral, Talma varied so as to adapt his to the want of the moment. His sadness of visual expression responded to a mind of the same cast, and to a remarkable sensibility. Thus the difficulties thrown in his way by his friends delayed the execution of his designs, and he suffered the critics
to embarrass him; they believing there could be no excellence but under a fixed law—a law not to be modified or changed. They perpetually talked to him of the laws sanctioned by time. Since those days the iconoclasts have made sad havock with the custom-gods of the past.

It was reported that Louis XVIII. had paid Talma some compliments, in imitation, no doubt, of his great predecessor, Napoleon, as the actor bore the lights in attendance upon the king when he left the theatre. I forget the exact words, but the compliment was paid at the expense of the famous tragedian of the old school, Lekain, whom Louis le Gros, as some people called him, in return for the false appellation of Louis le Desirée, told Talma he well remembered having seen. A lady had privately circulated a remarkable paper, in MS., in which she prophesied the downfall of the Bourbons thirteen years before the event. It was the only safe mode to circulate political papers at that period. She compared the former Count d’Artois to James II. of England, for his fanaticism, but acquitted James of the debaucheries of d’Artois.

“So, M. Talma, you acted before the king last night after you had taken leave of the house?”

“No, Madam, I only ‘rehearsed’ preparatory to acting under your coming dynasty.”

The lady lived to see the fulfilment of her prophecies, which the actor never saw. In politics he was liberal. He had sheltered royalist and republican from danger alike, in his own house. He said that party adulterated the source of humane feeling, and that charity was due to every man’s failings. He was remarkably sincere.


“You are aware of the value of appearances, M. Talma?” said a lady to him, “we must learn to respect them.”

“When they should not be read hypocrisies—it is better that truth and appearance should agree—that we should appear what we really are.”

“Then I fear we should live less happily in society.”

“I should not, Madam. I should continually fear self-betrayal.”

“Pooh, M. Talma, you judge too nicely; we must live agreeably with those around us.”

“Give up money, time, good offices, but not sincerity.”

“Ladies give a more liberal meaning to their words than you do—they are well understood.”

“Then would it not be better to speak plainly—ambiguity is mischievous.”

“But if you were making love on the stage, you would adopt a different phraseology from that you now advocate.”

“True, I should be ‘acting,’ my professional phraseology is not my own. In making love for myself, I conceive I should succeed best in proportion as the object of my affection credited my sincerity.”

Talma had a great dislike to inconsistency of character. He could not bear to see a priest outrage religion, although the implacable animosity of the church towards him and his profession, made him regard the order with a natural aversion, excommunication being promulgated by them against all actors. He was too susceptible of the attacks of the petty journalists, often unjust and malign. These had no
effect on the public judgment. It is true, that many years ago, in his time, literary works were more respected than in the present day, and, therefore, of more consequence, the editors being always men of learning and reputation. That the small fry of the class should affect Talma so much, when all the papers of note were in his favour, and honestly supported his ideas, it is difficult to conceive. Now, when in France, as in England, papers are become wholly commercial speculations, criticism a trade, and principles have no concern with proprietaries, the editors going to the wall, the public will neither accept a good nor evil report upon the mere credit of journalism. Talma, too, attempted to conciliate the petty critics, a task as hopeless as the traveller’s who got off his horse on his journey, to kill all the grasshoppers. He was accused, I know not with what truth, of listening to flattery with complacency.

I confess the effect of Talma’s acting in the pieces of Shakspeare, altered as they were, was such as I never experienced in any other acting, except that of Mrs. Siddons. He abandoned the French declamation, substituting the natural intonation. He fixed his characters, like Siddons, with all the terror of their majesty in the heart’s core of the spectator. He made the frame thrill, in the gloomy, profound, and energetic, where vengeance, fury, and despair alternately ruled. In Othello his rage and despair were terrific, electrical—those of the real man, not the actor. He personified age admirably, and not less well the vivacity of youth. He one day, at a dinner party, recited to us some passages from Richard III. His fearful sardonic laugh in that character was notorious. He accented the
passage beginning, “A horse, a horse, &c.,” differently from our tragedians, who lay the emphasis on the first syllable of “kingdom.” The French tragedian, in accordance with nature, laid the strongest accent upon the thing the tyrant demanded, and of which he was in need—the horse.

“A pretty girl from the provinces, who had heard of his fame, was anxious to be introduced. Madame D—— when he entered the room in good spirits, but with his usual sad expression, pointed him out, when the provinciale turned to her and said,

“So that is M. Talma, how melancholy he looks. I suppose it comes from his playing tragedy too much.”

“No, my dear, it is his natural expression.”

“Why then I suppose his melancholy made him play tragedy, in place of tragedy having made him look melancholy.”

The actor was diverted by this ingenious inference. Talma always discouraged those who desired to make the stage a profession, full of enthusiasm as they generally are, and anxious for a débût. “I tell them they are on the verge of a precipice blindfolded, while they fancy they are strutting in royal robes in the palace gardens.”

He said he would choose the life of an actor himself again, having succeeded, but he would not otherwise, knowing how many had failed. He remarked that Napoleon leaned rather to the sentiment, than the perfect representation of the character, that his judgment was sound, though sometimes tinctured with a cherished notion. “His successes,” said Talma,
“strengthened my regard for simplicity in all connected with my profession, for his habits, expressions, combinations, actions, were governed by the simplest principles possible. Ask any of our generals the character of his military operations.”

Of the French dramatic authors, the great tragedian preferred Corneille. I remarked that the French wanted our blank verse as a vehicle for tragedy. He observed in reply, that the genius of the French language did not admit the freedom of expression allowed in the English, but was hampered by rules that must be followed. French audiences were accustomed to rhyme, and without it the people would hardly think a tragedy sufficiently poetical. The peculiar manner of this great actor and many of his delicate touches in his profession, stamping him the founder of a school in which he stands alone in his glory, have perished with him, and cannot be submitted to present or future judgment—but this is the lot of the profession. He died from an obliteration of a portion of the intestinal canal, and bore exquisite sufferings with exemplary patience. The priests besieged the bed of him, towards whom, under the Bourbon restoration, they had hoped to display their former insolent conduct. They had refused the funeral rites, as if under the old regime, to a lady who had been an actress, but happily the burial places were in the hands of the civil power. Talma knew this, and that he was excommunicated as other actors were under Louis le Desirée, a thing Napoleon would not permit. He, therefore, would not suffer the bishops to undesecrate him. He believed that neither hosts, nor mitres, nor ceremonies, had the power of procuring pardon for a
sinner before God, but a penitent and contrite heart alone.

In one respect I am fortunate in having seen almost all the celebrated performers in England and France, from the time of Cooke here and of Talma in France.

I was not a great visitor of the theatre after thirty, but I was as all men are who seek for variety in life, a visitor upon particular occasions only after that age. In Paris, when I became connected with a daily newspaper, I found the necessity of giving theatrical critiques, a task to which I was by no means equal. Among a people so awake to the ludicrous as the French, a foreigner would be certain to lay himself open to censure or satire. A Frenchman, therefore, was obtained for the office of a theatrical critic, who transmitted his criticism in French, which I turned into English. One day he told me with great confidence, that he could save me the trouble, as he was certain he could write his criticisms in English fully as well as French. I desired him to write me a specimen. The following is the production alluded to, a rare example of the kind, worthy of record. The play was “Andromaque,” in which Talma and Duchenois figured, followed by “L’Ecole des Maris.”

“If the tragedy of Andromaque was played to-day for the first time, I doubt that the character of Pyrrhus and his languishing sighs was suffered; but the rich character of the predestinated Orestes, of the furious Hermione, and the immense beauties of style, hungs up again in this work, place him in the first order of the better tragedies. Talma, who is upon his departure for the departements, has played Sunday the character
of Orestes with a great perfection, the three latter act an uppercoat, with a despairing superiority for his followers. Never the tragic art had not a so worthy interpreter; the expression of his face, his gesture, his position, and the expressive and dreadful tune of his voice, incite the terror in the mind of the spectator, when he had said:—

Et ne m’avez vous pas,
Vous même, ici, tantôt, ordonné son trépas?

The surprise pictured upon his face, the horror of his portraiture, and the truth of his accent had excitated the most quick applause. Mademoiselle Duchesnois, in the second act, had leaved many to desire in his verse:—

Madame le voici—
Ah je ne croyais pas qu’il fut si prés d’ici!

This actress, who is pitiful when is not rich, had a voice full of melody and grace. His tunes had so milds, that she sent the accent of the love and sensibility until in the soul. His face even which is disagreeable, had an energic expression when the passion come enflame his spirit. She had overtake the degree of sublime when she had said, with the accent of the delirium:—

Mais parle de son sort, &c., &c.

Never nothing pictured like the various tunes of actors, the expression of the face of Orestes—Talma, and the admirable picture which resulted by the harmony of the scene. Michelot obtained gusts applauses
in the character of Pyrrhus, whom the type is taken in the mark from the century of
Louis Fourtheen. This actor merits a peculiar mention, his diction is learned, and he had vanquished the nature which had refused to him the means to play tragedy. Mademoiselle Volnais had psalmed from beginning to end, the beautiful character of Andromaque; this sung declamation, and this gesture measured by compasses, had goods in a melodrame, but had not received in the simplicity of the French school. Mademoiselle Volnais yet had a great understanding, but the physic means want to him, and this defaults are not compensated by cries and contortions. The voice of the truth can wound Mademoiselle Volnais, but the interest of the art is always that conduct my pen, and it is true to be said that Mademoiselle Volnais cannot play the young princess in the tragedy, because his physic and his age defend it imperiously to her. After the tragedy the charming comedy of L’Ecole des Maris, by the great Molière, had been played. Mademoiselle Volnais played Isabelle, who is a young miss from eighteen years, what mean to have an illusion. Firmin had played Valère with a great art, and Mademoiselle Devin another miss with a great decency; for Mademoiselle Delattre, she is indeed a glacial nullity. Cartigny, who make always great progresses, had played the comic with a spiritual penetration. This actor had that which is named in the terms of coulisses de la rondeur, and the truth. He is destinated to remplace Michot, in the character of the Paysan, and to play with superiority this part of employ, said les grandes livres.”

Poor Cartigny, I met him and his daughter at a
friend’s house in London, long years afterwards, and thought of this critique. How time had changed him—changed all since! He recalled those gay days mid his country’s adversity—gay to the foreigner, to youth, health, and the vision that glances not at the morrow. How ungrateful we are to the past, under the delusions of that future, which will soon for us prove equally fallacious.

Potier, among the comic actors, was as great a favourite of mine as of every body else. He was well ingrained with his country’s habits and feelings. His humour was too delicate for an English audience, thickened by the heavy potations of the mash-tub, in place of being levigated by Champagne and Volnay. Potier, too, displayed much mind; felt the character he represented; and yet for ever varied in playing the same character. His resources were boundless, and no one resembled him. He revelled in the ludicrous without buffoonery—his acting was universal in its range—his spirits never flagged. The audience, kept perpetually on the stretch, was entertained with as little of the rational, as absence of thought and care can make humanity relish, thrown into a sort of intellectual slumber, as if enjoying a merry dream.

Paris presented, at this time, a motley spectacle, particularly of Englishmen to whom the continent was a novelty. Peer and cockney, honest men and knaves, exchanged their own metropolis for that of France. Russians, Austrians, Prussians, some of every European nation congregated there in uniforms and dresses exceedingly diverse. Of my own countrymen I had too many unworthy examples continually before me. Some
were inveterately stolid. I knew a French officer who had been several years imprisoned in Malta during the war. He was placed on half-pay, sufficiently scanty, and as it was thought not infra dig. in France, he determined to eke out his means of living by teaching Frenchmen English, and Englishmen French. One day he came to me and said, he was so out of patience with one of my countrymen, he had ‘discharged’ him.

“Wherefore,” I enquired, “he does not pay you, I suppose?”

“Yes, punctually, I have had him six months.”

“Discharged him—a master discharge his scholar.”

“Yes, it is true. I shall not have a grain of patience left, if he does not go.”

“I thought you said he was gone?”

“Yes, and has paid me, but I could undertake to teach him nothing at the expense of my own patience. His name is Hart; he gambles a great deal I fancy. When he came to me, I said, ‘You know the parts of speech, the article, noun, verb, and so on?’

“’No, I don’t.’

“’They are so called in all languages.’

“’I know nothing about them—you must teach me: I came to you to learn.’

“’True, Sir, to learn French; but not what the names of the parts of speech are so common every where, in all languages—in your own, par exemple.’

“’I know nothing about them.’”

“We went on together. I found I could teach him nothing. All my trouble was wasted. Three days after a lesson he had forgotten all about it. We began
again, he wanted to learn, but he could not. Nature only made him to look at”

“And you ‘discharged’ him for dullness.”

“I did not like to take his money any longer, and I said, ‘Mr. Hart, I have taught you for nearly twice three months. I cannot teach you any further.’ So I went no more to Mr. Hart. I think of our proverb, ‘à laver la tête d’une âne on y perd sa lessive.”

This Hart had been in trade in London, and it was reported made some money, but he continually visited the gambling tables both of London and Paris. It was said he had shares in certain establishments of the kind in both cities, and regulated them personally. He was afterwards British Consul at Leipsic, or Dresden, as I have heard.

The Americans, in Paris, wore silver eagles in their round hats, “that they might not be mistaken for Englishmen,” an incident, not much calculated at that proud moment of their triumph to lessen Englishmen’s importance. Talleyrand, who noticed every thing and said little, on observing it, remarked dryly in reply to an observation on the subject:

That he “had seen many Americans who wished to pass for Englishmen, but had never met an Englishman who wished to pass for an American.”

Considering the strange mass congregated, excellent order was maintained. It was only after nightfall that the cry of ‘qui vive’ was heard passing places where before sunset no sentries were to be seen. Play was the common rendez-vous. At the public tables, Russ, Pruss, Greek, Austrian, English and French, met amicably. The sums won and lost were prodigious.
The game under the surveillance of the police was fair. The display of gold in what were called ‘gold houses,’ where that metal only was staked, looked tempting to novices, and men plunged headlong into ruin. There it lay in heaps of glittering Napoleons. Nor were the public tables alone the temptation. The lottery was, if possible, worse, as it admitted the play of the poorer classes, the sum staked being as low as the smallest coin. In certain places like the receiving offices for lotteries in England, a few sous might be put down on passing, and so up to a Louis, and a ticket was given for the number demanded. The prizes increased according to the number drawn, if they corresponded with the tickets. Thus, a single number coming up received double what was staked. If two were selected and both came up, it was called an ambe, and so on, an equal sum being staked on each, the prize was then greatly increased, if three, still more. It is said that all five of the numbers chosen once came up to the same individual, a thing well nigh incredible, and that the receiver took away an enormous sum besides a government life annuity. The Russian officers played deepest, and were most ostentatious of their wealth.

A murder I remember in the Rue Neuve des Petits Champs, singular both in regard to the position in life of the murderer, and as to the motive for its committal. It was very striking too in its result. A female named Niquet, on coming out of an apartment in the house heard cries, apparently weak, coming from the landing-place of the stairs higher up. There she found a female covered with blood, who was only able to articulate, “O, help, help, I am assassinated!” Niquet,
frightened, called the porteress, named Piat, and stated the circumstance. In the mean time the unhappy female, Cornelia Kaersmakers, having been repelled from a kitchen she attempted to enter, by the fright of those within, had just strength enough left to ascend to the entresol, crying to Madam Piat for help. Here she met Niquet, and those who were hastening to her aid. “Cut, cut, scissars, scissars!” was all she could articulate. They cut open her stays. This, by permitting a greater dilatation of the lungs hastened her death. She expired as they entered her chamber with her in their arms.

It happened that from her person there fell a fragment of linen, covered with blood, which had clearly been pressed violently together, and this piece was torn from the shirt of a Captain St. Clair, evidently in the death struggle. Her chamber presented no symptoms of disorder. Her bonnet lay upon a stand in the middle of the room on which there was also some china. Her shawl, which she seemed to have just taken off, was carefully hung across the arms of a chair, where, there was no doubt, it had been placed by herself. There was a man’s hat on the commode; three five franc pieces, a purse containing money and three rings were upon the chimney-piece, all acknowledged as the property of St. Clair, a captain of Grenadiers in the twenty-second regiment.

The murdered girl had received more than a dozen inconsiderable wounds, besides one on the throat which proved mortal, it having divided the jugular vein. I need not state further particulars. The absence of all motive seemed a very singular point in the case. The
public accuser and the counsel for the defendant,
M. Berryer, after an obstinate charge and defence, under an accusation of the most suspicious nature, left the question to the Council of War, which deliberated an hour and a half, six were against the accused, as having committed the crime, and one against his guilt altogether. Six were of opinion that the crime was committed, but not with premeditation, one that he was not guilty. St. Clair was condemned to be detained in irons for life, and to be degraded. The accused declared his innocence, which would some day appear, pressed the hand of M. Berryer to his lips, and appeared perfectly calm. The court sat still while the proper officer went out to read the sentence before the assembled guards and returned. The officer next read St. Clair’s degradation from the Legion of Honour. The prisoner looked deadly pale, but moved with a firm step, between the gens-d’armes. The President then said:

“Condemned prisoner you have dishonoured yourself!”

“Stop, stay, no, no; I have never dishonoured myself.”

Then with a movement, too rapid to be arrested, he drew out a dagger and attempted to stab himself in several places, but one alone seemed to have been effective. The blood ran down over his clothes. The gens-d’armes threw themselves upon him to disarm him. The women in court shrieked frightfully, and several fainted away. Some persons ran out, and others pressed forward. The tumult a little subdued, the President hastily repeated the words:

“You have dishonoured yourself, you are no longer a member of the Legion of Honour.”


“No, no,” cried the prisoner, whom it was difficult to constrain, while the blood flowed from him rapidly. “No, I swear before God I am innocent.” He opened his dress, and the wound he had inflicted upon himself was just over the heart. “I am a lost man—I pardon you for causing my death!”

He asked if he had hurt any one with the dagger, and on being told not became more tranquil. They advanced to tear away his decoration, he said:

“Don’t do so. I will give it you myself.”

“Take away the prisoner,” said the President to the gens-d’armes.

He appeared to be growing weak in the limbs, though his voice retained its fullness. The guards were obliged to support him, as his knees gave way on passing to the carriage, which awaited him outside.

“I am dying,” he said, when he reached the staircase, “is there no priest here to do me the last offices.”

Two medical men offered their services.

“No, I do not want your aid. Soldiers,” said he to the gens-d’armes, “take my life, the least blow will suffice.”

He thanked M. Berryer for his efforts to save an innocent—God knew he was so!

This terrible scene produced a great sensation. There was no doubt of St. Clair’s guilt, yet there appeared to be no possible motive for the crime, which he clumsily placed to the account of thieves that had entered the chamber, and had wounded him in defending himself and the lady. It was altogether thrilling.