« EelmineJätka »
its strength and its fidelity would have been but words of an unknown tongue, subjects of a jeer, objects of a jest.
“And you have seen none who have supplanted me since we parted; none of whom I need have jealousy or fear?" she whispered to him, with a certain tremulous, wistful anxiety-he was her all, she could not be robbed of him!-yet with a fond, sunny smile upon her face as it was raised to his in the faint sheen of the starlight, the smile of a love too deeply true, too truly trustful to harbour a dread that were doubt, a doubt that were disloyalty to the faith it received as to the faith it gave.
He looked down into her eyes, and pressed closer against his own the heart that he knew beat solely, purely, wholly for himself.
“My precious one! you need be jealous of no living thing with me. None have twined themselves about my heart, none have rooted themselves into my life as you have done. Have no dread! No rival shall ever supplant you, I swear before God !"
He spoke the oath in all sincerity, in all faith, in all fervour, speaking it as many men have so spoken before him, not dreaming what the day will bring forth, not knowing how fate will make them unwitting perjurers, unconscious renegades to the bond of their word, as they are lured onwards, and driven downwards, powerless, almost one would say blameless, in the hands of chance.
And the woman that nestled in his arms and gazed up into his eyes sighed a low, long, tremulous sigh of too great gladness. He was her world; she knew of and needed no other !
Then he loosened her from his close embrace, and still looking down into the eyes that uttered a love which the women in the world he lived in neither knew nor guessed, and to which he came back as from the atmosphere of gas-lit salons one comes into the clear soft air of the dawn; he led her under the drooping branches of the trees that hung stirless and dew-laden in the warm air, into the house hidden in the profuse and tangled foliage. Their steps ceased to fall on the moss, their shadows to slant across the star-lit path, their whispered words to stir the silence; the woodland country lay beyond calm and still in the shade of the night, the fleecy clouds drifted slowly now and then across the bright radiance of the moon, the winds moved gently amongst the leaves; in the lattice casements shrouded in the trees the lights died out, and the church chimes struck faintly in the distance their hours one by one. On the hushed earth three angels brooded-Night, and Sleep, and Peace.
Aug.-VOL. CXXVIII. NO. DXII.
MEMOIRS OF VICTOR HUGO.*
ALTHOUGH the author of this work traces back the family of the Hugos to the year 1532, he does not enter into any details until he reaches the father of the poet, Joseph Leopold Sigisbert, who entered the army as cadet in 1788, when at the age of fourteen. He fought in the Vendée, which took him frequently to Nantes, where he formed the acquaintance of a shipbroker of the name of Trébuchet, whose daughter Sophia he eventually married. After fighting on the Rhine as brigadier, Hugo found himself father of three sons, of whom the youngest is the subject of the Memoir. As with most remarkable men, a curious anecdote is connected with his birth :
A Victorine was expected, but a Victor arrived. But on seeing him, it might have been said that he knew he was not expected. He seemed to hesitate about coming: he had none of the good looks of his brothers : he was so small, delicate, and thin, that the accoucheur declared he would not live. I have frequently heard his mother describe his entrance into the world. She used to say that he was no longer than a knife.. When he was swaddled he was laid in au easy-chair, and occupied so little room that a dozen like him could have been put there. His brothers were called to see him: he was so ugly, his mother said, and so little resembled a human being, that fat Eugène, who was only eighteen months of age, and could scarce speak, cried on perceiving him. Oh! la bebête !
Unfortunately for the father, he had been a protégé of Moreau, and it is insinuated that Bonaparte never forgave this. Hence he was constantly moved from one corps d’armée to the other, and though his faithful wife at first followed him everywhere, the fatigue at length became too great for her. Hence, when Major Hugo was ordered with his battalion from Bastia to join the army in Italy, his wife and family settled down in Paris, at No. 24, Rue de Clichy. Victor Hugo's earliest reminiscences are attached to this house : he remembers that there were a pump and a willow in the court-yard; how he was taken every morning to the bedroom of Mademoiselle Rose, the schoolmaster's daughter, whom he watched draw on her stockings; and, lastly, how he performed the child in “Geneviève de Brabant,” dressed in tights and a sheepskin, to which a brass claw was attached. As the piece was tedious to him, he amused himself by digging this claw into the legs of the aforesaid Mademoiselle Rose at the most pathetic part of the performance. The audience were no little scandalised at hearing Geneviève say to him, “ Will you be quiet, you little scamp ?”
After putting down Fra Diavolo, for which he was made colonel of the Royal Corsican, Hugo settled down in Italy, and summoned his family to join him in 1807. The pleasant villegiatura, however, was broken up too soon for the children by Joseph being appointed King of Spain, and he would not leave his favourite colonel behind him. The three boys returned to Paris with their mother to pursue their studies, and were fortunate enough to have the use of a splendid garden belong. ing to the ex-convent of the Feuillantines, where they lodged. After
* Victor Hugo, Raconté par un Témoin de sa Vie. Brussels: Lacroix and Cle.
three years of separation, during which the boys made equal progress mentally and physically, Madame Hugo agreed to rejoin her husband in Spain, where he held a fine position as governor of three provinces. After many curious adventures en route, owing to the terror felt by the French about the Spanish guerillas, who followed the commissariat train almost within gun-shot, and cut off every straggler, Madame Hugo arrived in Madrid. Here the boys were sent to the College of Nobles until Abel was of the age to enter the king's service as page. The sight of his glittering uniform excited little Victor, who was delighted on hearing that in a year's time he would be a page too. By that time, however, Joseph was a fugitive, and Abel's uniform was put away in a chest to be devoured by the moths.
In the early part of 1812, matters were beginning to look so bad in Spain that General Hugo thought it advisable to send his wife and two youngest sons back to France. The lads were as glad to get away from Spain as they had been sorry to leave Madrid, for the confinement of the college and separation from their mother had painfully affected them. The restoration of the Bourbons was a great joy for Madame Hugo, and her hatred of Napoleon, hitherto repressed through fear of compromising her husband, had a free course. “ The Emperor was now only Bonaparte : he had neither genius nor talent, not even of a military sort: he had been beaten everywhere, in Russia and France: he was a coward: he had fled from Egypt and Russia, abandoning to plague and ice those whom his ambition had dragged thither: he had wept at Fontainebleau like a child : he had assassinated the Duc d'Enghien," &c. The Comte d'Artois, on the day of his entrance, sent the sons of so good a royalist the order of the Lily, made of silver, and suspended from a black moire ribbon. Wearing this, and with white cockades in their hats, they fancied themselves perfect royalists. But at this time General Hugo was in disgrace for having defended Thionville too well against the Hessians, and the Abbé de Montesquiou, the minister, spoke in the tribune about the “revolt of Thionville.” He was dismissed the service, and, on coming to Paris, turned his attention to the education of his two boys, Eugène, then fifteen, and Victor, aged thirteen. They were placed as boarders at the Pension Cordier. Here their chief amusement was writing plays, in which they performed the principal characters. These plays were always of a military caste, and the difficulty was to find any one who would consent to play the enemy.
During the Hundred Days, General Hugo resumed the command of Thionville, and on the grand break up he hoisted the white flag, to prove that he was resisting the foreigners and not the king. When, however, the latter signed the treaty by which Thionville with other fortresses was handed over to be occupied by the allies, he threw up his command and went to Paris. An interesting trait is connected with his departure. In the previous year, the Thionville Jews had offered him a large sum as a reward for his firmness; he refused it: they now repeated their offer, and be repeated his refusal.
During the three years which Victor spent at the Pension Cordier (1815-1818), he wrote verses of every possible description, as well as a comic opera. These verses he read to his mother and brother, who annotated either favourably or unfavourably the passages that struck
them. At the end of a poem of five hundred lines, called the Deluge, our author finds the following recapitulation : Twenty lines bad, thirtytwo good, fifteen very good, five passable, one weak. We wonder what character Victor was inclined to give to the other four hundred lines. The curious reader will find in the volumes several specimens of his earliest efforts, in which we only notice, to our sorrow, that tendency for bombast and “tall language" in which Hugo offered so unpleasant a proof in his “La Légende des Siècles.” The most interesting thing about these youthful essays is the affection he constantly displays for his mother. The following extract is a proof of this :
Séparé d'une tendre mère,
Privé du bonheur de la voir,
Quel crime aí je commis? .... Another curious thing is the rabid royalist feeling that pervades all his poetic effusions, but in truth he only repeated what he constantly heard. His first tragedy, written at the age of fourteen, is a Restoration, the scene of which is laid in Egypt. The last verse perfectly sums up what the lad saw at that time in the word royalty :
Quand en hait les tyrans en doit aimer les rois. At the same time, his royalism was the Voltarian royalism of his mother : the throne without the altar. At the age of sixteen he wrote his first piece, which the author reproduces pro memoriâ, and as a curiosity, but which, we take it, few will care to read. It certainly displays several beauties of diction about it, and much of that tropical luxuriance which Hugo has never entirely got rid of, but, at the same time, there is a sort of offensive “ bumptiousness” about it which makes you feel that the author has never been a boy in the honest meaning of the term.
In 1817, Hugo competed for the poetical prize of the Académie, and received a mention instead of the prize, which would have been his, had not a couple of lines led the worthy Académie to believe in a mystification. The report said, “ The author states in his work that he is only fifteen years of age :
Moi qui, toujours fuyant les cités et les cours,
De trois lustres à peine ai vu finir le cours. If he really is only that age,” &c. At that time, however, even a mention was an event, and the schoolboy woke up one fine morning to find himself celebrated. Victor wished to convince the Académie of his fifteen years, and sent M. Raynouard, the secretary, his baptismal certificate. The secretary replied, politely, “Je fairai avec plaisir votre connoissance." Alas, when Victor called, the secretary treated him as the boy he was, did not ask him to sit down, said that his disappointment would do him good, and then turned his back on him with a simplicity which made Victor say that he knew as much about politeness as he did about orthography.
The origin of Burg Jargal is curious. Victor was accustomed to dine once a week with a number of other ambitious youths, and it was proposed that they should bring out a volume of collected tales. Abel Hugo asked by what time all the stories should be ready, and Victor said
boldly, in a fortnight. This being thought impossible, he wagered a dinner for all the members of the “ Banquet Littéraire" that he would complete his task, which he did triumphantly. The next year Victor competed again at the Académie, but did not even have a mention, and as his brother Eugène had gained a prize at the floral games of Toulouse, Victor sent in two poems, which both gained rewards. The second ode was written in one night, while he was nursing his mother, who was confined to her bed. At the same time, too, he was violently in love with Mademoiselle Foucher, and, with his natural impetuosity, wished to marry her out of hand, but as he had nothing, and the lady only her good looks, their friends thought it advisable to part them.
The death of the Duc de Berry inspired Victor with an ode which met with great success in Royalist circles. Louis XVIII. frequently repeated to his intimates the strophe beginning :
Monarque en cheveux blancs, hâte toi, le temps presse :
Un Bourbon, &c. Even greater honour than this, at least in his own estimation, was a request from Chateaubriand that he would call. On his arriving, Chateaubriand, who was leaning against the chimney, said to Victor, without deranging himself, “M. Hugo, I am enchanted at seeing you. I have read your verses, those you wrote on the Vendée, and those you have just written about the death of the Duc de Berry. There are, especially in the latter, things which no poet of the age could have written. My old years and my experience give me, unfortunately, the right to be frank, and I tell you sincerely there are passages I like less; but what there is fine in your odes is very fine.” This might be found sufficiently hot and strong in the way of praise, but it was delivered in such a way that Victor felt diminished rather than exalted, and a strong inclination to bolt. The following extract is one of the many passages proving that, whoever the witness of Victor Hugo's life may be who fathers (or, to speak more correctly, perhaps, mothers) the book, Victor Hugo himself “put in the plums,” to use Gifford's expression anent the Quarterly Review:
M. de Chateaubriand affected a military air: the man of the pen remembered the man of the sword; his neck was stiffened by a black cravat, which concealed his shirt-collar; a black frock-coat, buttoned up to the chin, improved his little bent body. What there was fine was the head, in disproportion with the body, but noble and grave. The nose had a firm and imperious line, the eye was haughty, the smile charming, but it was only a flash, and the mouth soon resumed the stern and haughty expression.
This description is certainly akin to an anecdote going the round of the papers. When the Duke of B- attained his majority, everybody began saying all sorts of good things about his beauty, form, &c. But Rogers, the poet, made a discovery which doubtless afforded him satisfaction : “ Thank God, he has bad teeth.” A second interview, however, reconciled Hugo with his brother poet, even though the latter subjected him to the peine forte et dure of listening to his MS. of Moses. . As a compensation, Victor was offered a post on the Berlin embassy, to which Chateaubriand had just been appointed. He was, however, compelled to decline it on his mother's account, though the envoy asked sarcastically, “Is it only your mother?” Many characteristic traits of Chateau