List Of Contents | Contents of The Duchess Of Berry-Charles X
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elegant society of Paris. It had the same audiences as the Opera
and the Italiens, and they enjoyed themselves as much in the
entr'actes as during the acts. The spectacle was in the hall as
well as on the stage.

The origin of the Gymnase goes back to 1820. According to the
privilege accorded to the new stage under the Decazes ministry, it
was to be only a gymnase composed of the young pupils of the
Conservatoire, and other dramatic and lyric schools, and was
authorized only to present fragments from the various repertories.
But from the beginning it transgressed the limits set for it. Not
content with simple pupils, it engaged actors already well known.
In place of borrowing debris of the repertories of other theatres,
it created one of its own. At first the authorities shut their
eyes. But when M. de Corbiere became Minister of the Interior, he
tried to enforce the regulations and to compel the new theatre to
confine itself to the limits of its privilege. The Gymnase asked
for time, was very meek, prayed, supplicated. It would have
succumbed, however, but for the intervention of the Duchess of
Berry. Scribe composed for the apartments of the Tuileries a
vaudeville, called La Rosiere, in which he invoked the Princess as
protectress, as a beneficent fairy. She turned aside the
fulminations of M. de Corbiere. The minister was obstinate; he
wished the last word; but the Princess finally carried the day.
The day after he had addressed to the director of the Gymnase a
warning letter, he was amazed to hear the Duchess of Berry say: "I
hope, Monsieur, that you will not torment the Gymnase any longer,
for, henceforth, it will bear my name."

The minister yielded. The Gymnase was saved. It kept its company,
its repertory; it gained the right to give new pieces. From the
first days of September, 1824, it took the name of Madame the
Duchess of Berry. After the death of Louis XVIII., the 16th of
that month, the Duchess of Angouleme having replaced her title of
Madame by that of Dauphiness, and the Duchess of Berry taking the
former, the Gymnase was called the Theatre de Madame.

The programme of the Gymnase was constantly being renewed. Scribe,
whose verve was inexhaustible, wrote for this theatre alone nearly
one hundred and fifty pieces. It is true that he had
collaborators,--Germain Delavigne, Dupin, Melesville, Brazier,
Varner, Carmouche, Bayard, etc. It was to them that he wrote, in
the dedication of the edition of his works:--

"To my collaborators: My dear friends, I have often been
reproached for the number of my collaborators; for myself, who am
happy to count among them only friends, I regret, on the contrary,
that I have not more of them. I am often asked why I have not
worked alone. To this I will reply that I have probably neither
the wit nor the talent for that; but if I had had them I should
still have preferred our literary fraternity and alliance. The few
works I have produced alone have been to me a labor; those I have
produced with you have been a pleasure."

Eugene Scribe was born December 25, 1791, at Paris, Rue Saint-
Denis, near the Marche des Innocents. His father, whom he lost
early, kept a silk store, at the sign of the Chat Noir, where he
had made a considerable fortune. Eugene commenced his career as a
dramatic writer in 1811. From that time to his death (February 20,
1861), he composed alone, or with associates, and had represented
on the various stages of Paris, more than four hundred plays. M.
Vitel said, at the reception of M. Octave Feuillet, at the French
Academy, March 26, 1863:--

"There was in Scribe a powerful and truly superior faculty, that
assured to him and explained to me his supremacy in the theatre of
his day. It was a gift of dramatic invention that perhaps no one
before him has possessed; the gift of discovering at every step,
almost apropos of nothing, theatrical combinations of a novel and
striking effect; and of discovering them, not in the germ only, or
barely sketched, but in relief, in action, and already on the
stage. In the time needed by his confreres to prepare a plot, he
would finish four, and he never secured this prodigious fecundity
at the expense of originality. It is in no commonplace mould that
his creations are cast. There is not one of his works that has not
at least its grain of novelty."

On his part, M. Octave Feuillet, a master in things theatrical,
said in his reception discourse:--

"One of the most difficult arts in the domain of literary
invention, is that of charming the imagination without unsettling
it, of touching the heart without troubling it, of amusing men
without corrupting them; this was the supreme art of Scribe."

They are very pretty, very alert, very French, these plays of the
Theatre de Madame. They have aged less than many pretentious works
that have aimed at immortality. There is hardly one of them
without its ingenious idea, something truly scenic. We often see
amateurs seeking pieces to play in the salons; let them draw from
this repertory; they will have but an embarrassment of choice
among plays always amusing and always in good form.

Scribe said, in his reception discourse at the French Academy
(January 28, 1836):--

"It happens, by a curious fatality, that the stage and society are
almost always in direct contradiction. Take the period of the
Regency. If comedy were the constant expression of society, the
comedy of that time must have offered us strong license or joyous
Saturnalia. Nothing of the sort; it is cold, correct, pretentious,
but decent. In the Revolution, during its most horrible periods,
when tragedy, as was said, ran the streets, what were the theatres
offering you? Scenes of humanity, of beneficence, of
sentimentality; in January, 1793, during the trial of Louis XVI.,
La Belle Fermiere, a rural and sentimental play; under the Empire,
the reign of glory and conquest, the drama was neither warlike nor
exultant; under the Restoration, a pacific government, the stage
was invaded by lancers, warriors, and military costumes; Thalia
wore epaulettes. The theatre is rarely the expression of society;
it is often the opposite."

Scribe was an exception to the rule thus laid down by him. The
Theatre de Madame is an exact painting of the manners, the ideas,
the language of the Parisian bourgeoisie in the reign of Charles
X. Villemain was right in saying to Scribe, on receiving him at
the Academy:--

"The secret of your success with the theatre lies in having
happily seized the spirit of your century and in making the sort
of comedies to which it is best adapted and which most resemble

The world that the amiable and ingenious author excels in
representing, is that of finance and the middle classes; it is the
society of the Chaussee d'Antin, rather than that of the Faubourg
Saint Germain. His Gymnase repertory is of the Left Centre, the
juste milieu, nearer the National Guard than the royal guard. The
protege of Madame the Duchess of Berry never flattered the ultras.
There is not in his plays a single line that is a concession to
their arrogance or their rancor; not a single phrase, not one
word, that shows the least trace of the prejudices of the old
regime; not one idea that could offend the most susceptible
liberal. It is animated by the spirit of conciliation and
pacification. We insist on this point because we see in it a proof
that a Princess who took under her protection a kind of literature
so essentially modern and bourgeois, never thought of reviving a
past destroyed forever.

The 28th of June, 1828, when the struggles of the liberals and the
ultras were so heated, Eugene Scribe, in connection with M. de
Rougemont, wrote for the Gymnase a piece entitled Avant, Pendant,
Apres, historical sketches in three parts. Avant was a critique of
the view of the old regime; Pendant, a critique of those of the
Revolution; Apres an appeal for harmony under the Charter and
liberty. This piece seems to us very curious, as a true programme,
a faithful reflection of the ideas of the haute bourgeoisie of
Paris a little before 1830.

The principal personage is a great liberal noble, the General
Count de Surgy, who has served gloriously in the armies of the
Republic and of the Empire, and at the close is named as deputy to
represent an intelligent and wise royalism. By the side of the
General is a certain Viscount, who has lived in a savage island
since the wreck of La Perouse, and who, more royalist than the
King, finds himself among strangers and is utterly dumfounded on
beholding the new France. Let us cite some fragments of this piece
in which there is more acuteness, more observation, more truth,
than in many of the studies called psychologic or historic:--

"THE GENERAL. Ah, do not confuse Liberty with the excesses
committed in her name. Liberty, as we understand her, is the
friend of order and duty; she protects all rights. She wishes
laws, institutions, not scaffolds.

THE MARQUIS. Alas! of what service to you are your courage and
your wise opinions? You are denounced, reduced as I am, to hiding,
after shedding your blood for them.

THE GENERAL. Not for them but for France. The honor of our country
took refuge in the armies, and I followed it there. I have done a
little good; I have hindered much evil, and if the choice were
still mine, I should follow the same route.

A VOICE (in the street). A great conspiracy discovered by the
Committee of Public Safety.

THE GENERAL. Still new victims.

THE MARQUIS. They who did not respect the virtues of Malesherbes,
the talents of Lavoisier, the youth of Barnave, will they recoil
from one crime more?

THE GENERAL. Decent people will get weary of having courage only
to die. France will reawaken, stronger and more united, for
misfortune draws to each other all ranks, all parties; and already
you see that we, formerly so divided, are understanding each other
better at last, and love each other more than ever.

THE MARQUIS (throwing himself into the General's arms). Ah, you
speak truly."

This scene passes in the midst of the Terror. The conclusion, the

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