« PreviousContinue »
surrounded by ten or twelve huts, and containing as many stalls, some in the open air, others with a slight covering, with one end fixed to the ground, and the other supported by two pules. Here were sold bread, some salt fish, scraps of cloth, thread, needles, wooden forks and spoons ; the yarious produce of the industry of the prisoners; pepper, twine, and other articles in the smallest quantity, for one could buy a single thread, a scrap of cloth no bigger than one's hand, and even a pinch of snuff, three of which cost a şous. I remember a Polish officer who owed nine pinches, and the shop-keeper refused to give him any more credit.' — pp. 95, 96.
But the following is the most characteristic part of the delineation.
Meanwhile, every one was busy at Cabrera ; we had tailors, shoemakers, public criers, artisans in hair, bones, and tortoise-shell, and some who cut out with their knives little figures of animals in wood; and about two hundred men, the wreck of a dragoon regiment, raised in Auvergne, were quartered in a cave, and made spoons of box-wood. The latter bad only one pantaloon and one uniform among the whole corps, and these articles seemed ready to leave them very speedily, and were delivered successively to one of their number appointed to receive their provisions. All the articles I have enumerated were sold at low prices to the crews of the brig and gun-boats, and to some Spaniards, whom our singular mode of life, or the hope of making a good speculation, attracted to our settlement.
But the most abundant articles with us were professors of all kinds. One half of the prisoners gave lessons to the other half. Nothing was seen on all sides, but teachers of music, mathematics, languages, drawing, fencing, above all, dancing and single-stick. In fine weather, all these professors gave their lessons at the Palais Royal, quite close to each other. It was quite common to see a poor devil half naked, and who bad often not partaken of food for twenty-four hours before, singing a very gay air of a country dance, and interrupting it from time to time for the purpose of saying, with infinite seriousness of demeanour, to his pupil dressed in the remains of a pair
of drawers : " That's right, keep time with your partner, wheel round, hold yourselves gracefully.” Å little farther on, a teacher of single-stick was showing off his acquirements, and endeavoured to excite the emulation of his pupil by such phrases as : “ That will do ; I am satisfied with you ;
you go on with the same success, in less than a fortnight you may show yourself in company.” A scrap of paper, about as large as one's hand, was placed as a sign, and the most eminent of all our professors had no better.
'I was also desirous of doing something; but I had no notions of either giving or receiving lessons. After reflecting a great deal, I thought that, on account of the want of occupation in which many
of the prisoners were placed, a theatre must be eminently successful, and I was astonished that no one had thought of it before. Indeed some scenes had been performed, but it was in the open air, and had not been thought of as an object of speculation. My ideas were quite grand compared to such things. I resolved on being at one and the same time,
if necessary, author, actor, director and machinist, and to make iny companions partners in my labours and the fruits of it, which were to be employed in accomplishing our favourite object.
I could not think of establishing my theatre in the old castle, which was shut up every evening, and where in fact it would not have been allowed by the hypocritical Estebrich ; I thought of a vast cistern that was falling to pieces, with the pipes long ago broken off, and part of the roof fallen in. I was lowered into it by means of a cord I had bought on purpose, and I found about a foot of water, or rather mud, at the bottom. The first thing to be done was to clear it away, and this was the most troublesome part of the whole business. I wished at first to make a pump, but I soon gave up the idea. I had still sixty francs, and prevailed on Señor. Estebrich to get me four leather buckets from Palma; I made a ladder, hired four prisoners at two sous each per day, and got the cistern dry on the third day of our labour. To season it, I made a huge fire of pine wood, got sand and stones conveyed to it during a whole day, and made an elevation that extended about a third of the cistern, intended for the stage; I procured some ochre and red lead; I daubed the walls yellow, with a red border; hung all round garlands of leaves, which I also made use of as a screen between the stage and the spectators, and I finished my labours by writing, not indeed on the curtain, for I had none, but on the bottom of the stage, Castigat ridendo mores.
• I had long before this fixed upon the play with which my troop was to commence their operations. It was the Philoctète of Laharpe. I had formerly played the character, and still remembered it, as well as fragments of a variety of plays. I wrote them out as well as I could, and when I forgot the lines, I filled up.the vacancy in prose. Darlier engaged to play the character of Ulysses. Chobar that of Pyrrhus, and a pioneer of the line, with a stentorian voice, and no small portion of sense, assumed the character of Hercules. At length, a public crier went through the camp,
gave notice that the same evening Philoctète would be performed, with the afterpiece of Marton et Frontin. I had transcribed this little piece pretty correctly, and performed it along with Cbobar.
* About three hundred persons could find room in my cistern, and as I had put the places at two sous it was completely crowded ; the company descended into it by the ladder I had made; and a confidential man was placed on the first step to receive the money, which he put into a little cloth bag that was tied round bis neck. The theatre was lighted up by torches of pine wood, borne at different distances by the attendants of the theatre, and they lighted fresh ones in proportion as the others were consumed. All the allusions to our situation in the tragedy were noticed, with a tact that would have done honour to the taste of a more brilliant assembly. At the début :
Nous voici dans Lemnos, dans cette île sauvage,
Dont jamais nul mortel n'aborda le rivage'we were covered with shouts of applause; and I thought they would bring down the roof of the cistern when I pronounced this line :
' Ils m'ont fait tous ces maux ; que les dieux le leur rendent.' I was obliged to repeat it, and to stop for some time, to allow the agitation of the audience to be calmed.
• Such a successful beginning was well calculated to encourage us; I laboured incessantly, and wrote out several plays that I recollected, and we performed them all in their turn. Our funds increased amazingly, as well as our general comforts. We left half of our profits to the general fund, and divided the rest. Ricaud had already procured himself decent clothing : I had already bought a curtain for my theatre; I had obtained ropes, nails, a hammer, and even a hatchet, for which a Spaniard had made me pay a most exorbitant price; all these objects were inteuded to aid us in our theatrical arrangements, but they could also be of use in our grand project, which we had not lost sight of; every evening we carefully locked them up in our hut. I was very desirous also of obtaining some arms, a sabre at least, for each of us; but I tried in vain, and I did not press this matter much, for fear of becoming suspected; so that our tragic heroes were forced to be satisfied with wooden sabres.'—pp. 106-111.
This serjeant (by name Robert Guillemard, son to the mayor of Sixfour, a small town near Toulon) rests his principal claim to immortality on the fact—if fact it be—that he, then a conscript of a month's standing, was the identical maintopman of the Redoutable by whose hand Nelson fell. The gentleman hugs himself on this feat, which nobody but himself seems ever to have believed he performed, with the ill disguised exultation of a successful asp. • Truly he makes a very good report of the pretty worm.'
ART. VI.-Mémoires de Madame la Comtesse de Genlis. 8 tomes.
Paris. 1825, 1926. THE light which this lady has thrown upon every object at
which she glances is so admirably proportioned to it; her copy sets forth, with such commensurate egotisin and levity, the profound frivolity, the inportant littleness, the grandiloquous emptiness of her original, that we never saw a painter and a model so harmonise together; and we must confess that as much of the eighteenth century and the French revolution as she describes, seems to have existed but for her pencil, and her pencil for it. Happy the leaders of the Grecian bands who had Homer for their bard! but happier far the chieftains of Parisian futility, for their feats are embalmed by a Genlis.
Before we give an account of the work, we must say something of the author. She was born near Autun in Burgundy, on the 25th January, 1746; but so weak that she could not be committed to swaddling clothes. She was consequently pinned up in a bag of feathers, and thus laid to repose in a great arm-chair. DD 3
But her existence was soon threatened by M. le Bailli du village, who came to pay his compliments on the happy occasion, and was going to seat himself on, the easy cushion, never suspecting it to contain so precious a deposit. She then suffered fresh dangers from her nurse; and was fed entirely upon a panada composed of rye bread steeped in wine and water; a mess which we cannot recommend to nurses or parents in general, even though fifty of Mad. de Genlis's hundred volumes may have resulted from its administration in the present instance.
At the age of eighteen months she threw herself into a poud, from which she was with difficulty extricated. When five years old she cut her head severely: shortly afterwards she fell into the fire, but her face, as she takes care to tell us, was not injured. These accidents show a tenacity of life granted only to those who are destined to mighty ends. At eight years old she was taken to Paris, where she underwent the usual operations of her age; and was clad in the species of armour then peculiar to females, whalebone bodices. She informs us, that her education was much neglected by her mother, and principally conducted by waiting-maids, whose chief instruction consisted in ghost stories.
Among the occupations of our author in her youth, the favourite pursuit seems to have been the comedian's art, aud to this she has been constant through life. Another much relished employment was that of instructing others; and this taste also adheres to her to the last; for, at a very advanced period, we shall find her regretting that she had not been the governess of Madame de Staël. Her first appearance in disguise was at a little festival, prepared by her mother, for her father's return after an absence of three months. The part which our heroine enacted was l'Amour. Her dress was
couleur de rose, recouvert de dentelle de point, parsemé de petites fleurs artificielles de toutes couleurs. Il me venoit jusqu'aux genoux : j'avois de petites bottines couleur de paille et argent; mes longs cheveux abattus, et des ailes bleues.' This costume was found so becoming that it was multiplied. One was made for week days, another for Sundays; only the wings were suppressed when she went to church; and thus was she dressed daily during nine happy months.
We do not reach the fortieth page of the first of our eight volumes, before a large portion of Mad. de Genlis's propensities have unveiled themselves;-a self-adulation never seen before in any human author; a complacency for which nothing is too great or too little; which has a craving alike for flattery of every kind, although it digests the most fulsome the most easily. Already have we been told a hundred times of her talents, and of the com
pliments which her aptitude for music, singing, acting, her heroism, her agility, &c. &c. &c. procured her: and more than once she glances at the beauty of that face and hair which are so often to be lauded in the sequel. As such are the most striking features of the performance, in as far as she herself is concerned, we must, before we proceed further, extract a few specimens-although we have as little hope of giving an adequate idea of Madame de Genlis's vanity by quotations, as of representing a Swiss avalanche by means of Professor Leslie's frigorific apparatus.
*My brother was far from being so brilliant a child as I was. His face indeed was pretty; but he was awkward, and simple, &c.'
My performance of Zara had such prodigious success that the ladiesof Moulins deelared me to be superior to Mademoiselle Clairon in tragedy.'
By this exercise (to wit, fencing) my feet were better turned, and I walked better than the generality of women.'
Il y a quelque chose d'extrême dans mon caractère, et une grande mesure dans mes opinions ; ce qui fait que j'ai bien raisonné, que j'ai eu du goût, et que néanmoins j'ai fait beaucoup d'étourderies.'
En moins de six mois je déchiffrai tout à livre ouvert, et les pièces de clavecin les plus difficiles; et j'ai poussé ce talent aussi loin qu'il peut aller.'
* J'appris à saigner, talent que j'ai depuis perfectionné tout à fait.'
* J'ai inventé une composition avec laquelle j'imite à s'y tromper toutes sortes de cailloux, &c.?
Il est une louange que je puis me donner, parce que je suis sure que je la mérite; c'est que j'ai toujours eu l'esprit parfaitement juste, et, par conséquent, un grand fond de raison.'
Louis XV. parla beaucoup à Madame de Prusieux, et lui dit plusieurs choses agréables sur moi.'
• Nous retournames à Genlis; nous y jouames la comédie ; les meilleurs acteurs étoient M. de Genlis et moi-ma belle-sœur, malgré toutes mes leçons, ne jouoit pas bien.'
' * Tandis qu'on peignoit mes longs cheveux, ce qui étoit fort long, je lus l'Histoire Ancienne de Rollin.'
Quelqu'un louant devant Madame de Cambis ma gaieté, elle reprit, Oui, une gaieté de jolies dents ; voulant dire que je ne riois que pour faire voir mes dents, ce qui étoit fort injuste, car je n'ai jamais eu la moindre affectation.'
• Quand on leva la toile je fus applaudie à trois reprises, et on me redemanda deux fois mon Arriette.'
Pour la première fois je suivis à cheval la chasse du cert. Je n'avois chassé à Genlis que le sanglier ; la chasse du cerf me parut charmante, parcequ’on admiroit beaucoup la manière dont je montois à cheval.'
*Madame de P. vouloit me montrer dans le château du Vaudreuil, où l'on aimoit les talens et les fêtes.'
* Tous mes premiers mouvemens et mes sentimens ont toujours été généreux et bons.' bd 4