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briand will be found in these volumes, and to them we must refer the reader.
His mother's death in 1821 obtained Victor the friendship of the Duc de Rohan, who had retired from the world on the loss of his wife, who was burnt to death, and this friendship had a peculiar effect on him. He was introduced by him to Lamennais, who became his confessor. Curiously enough, he kept in the old convent of the Feuillantines, where Madame Hugo had once resided:
Nothing was changed there, except that at this moment everything was in disorder. The dining and drawing-rooms were encumbered with boxes and trunks, among which walked up and down a little thin, bilious-faced man, with large restless blue eyes, and a nose almost concealing his chin. The most striking thing about him was the contrast between the almost childish expression of the mouth and the other features, which were troubled and nervous. This little man was poorly clad. He wore a worn coat of coarse grey cloth, which displayed beneath it a calico shirt and a cravat, once of black silk, but which was now a net; his short trousers scarce came down to his ankles, and were continued by washed-out blue stockings. At each step could be heard the sound of the triple row of nails that strengthened his peasant's shoes. . . . . Victor confessed very seriously, and with a scrupulous examination of his conscience. His great sin consisted of the sweet looks two actresses had given him. M. de Lamennais, seeing that this was his sole great crime, henceforth substituted conversation for confession.
It would appear that many of the passages and characters of “ Les Misérables” are drawn from personal experience. Thus his father is the colonel (exaggerated, of course), while the chapters describing Marcus when poor are drawn from Victor Hugo's own life, at a time when he had seven hundred francs to keep him a year. He had only three shirts, but, luckily, his chum, a cousin from Nantes, had any quantity of linen, which Victor wore solely to keep it from turning yellow. Still Hugo seems to have been very jolly while waiting for something to turn up, and this something was the fact of his brother Abel finding a publisher for his “ Odes et Poesies Diverses." From this edition Victor drew seven hundred and fifty francs as his share, minus the loss of four sous on each crown of six francs; but the poet did not care for that: had not the king just given him a pension of one thousand francs ? On that it was possible to marry. He asked his father's permission to do so, which was graciously accorded, with no interference on the part of his new mammain-law, and the seven hundred francs obtained from the Odes went in one fell swoop to buy a Cashmere shawl. Although General Hugo did not appear at the festival, he was called to Paris by a misfortune : his son Eugène was pronounced to be insane, and he was confined till death released him.
Hugo's next publication was “ Han d'Islande," which created a sensation and a certain amount of opposition. The two camps of the classicists and the romantics were just beginning to be formed, and the new volume was severely attacked. As a consolation, however, the king at this time raised the poet's pension to two thousand francs. On this he set up his own household gods, and had a reconciliation with his father, whom he at length learned to know and esteem. After a trip to the coronation of Charles X. at Rheims, the merry party, consisting of Hugo and his wife, and Nodier and his family, resolved to pay a long-promised visit to Lamartine at St. Point. The expenses were to be defrayed by an ex• cursion to the Alps, about which each would write a paper on his return, and a confiding publisher would be easily found. On the road, Victor Hugo had a curious adventure: getting out to walk, he was arrested by gendarmes, who asked the meaning of the red ribbon in his button-hole, and would not believe that the cross of the legion could be given to boys. As, too, with a poet's negligence, he had forgotten his passport in Paris, he had to spend an unpleasant quarter of an hour, till Nodier came to the rescue, and stated the prisoner to be the “ celebrated” Victor Hugo. Though the gendarmes had probably never heard of him, they did not wish to be taken for ignoramuses, and hence released their prisoner with many apologies. St. Point severely disillusioned Victor, who had been led to believe in a mediæval château : his host had invited him to a stone romance, and here was a yellow-washed, ordinary house :
“Where is the château of your verses po asked Victor Hugo.
“You see it,” M. de Lamartine replied. “The only thing is that I have rendered it habitable. The thick ivy made the walls damp, and gave me a rheumatism, and so I had it removed. I have had the parapets taken down, and the house modernised, for its grey stones saddened me. Ruins are good to describe, but not to live in.”
The visit to the Alps was paid, and the travellers returned to Paris. It was high time to do so, for when they passed through the gate Charles Nodier had twenty-two francs left, and Hugo but eighteen. As for the book, it never appeared. Hugo certainly wrote his part, but Nodier waited for the engravings to be furnished ere he began his letter-press; the engraving took months, and allowed the publisher time to be bankrupt.
The first rupture between Hugo and legitimate monarchy took place on an insult being offered to the French marshals at a ball given by the Austrian embassy. The groom of the chambers announced them as Marshal Macdonald, Marshal Soult, &c., instead of the Duc de Tarente, the Duc de Dalmatie, and so on. There could not be a doubt as to the premeditated insult, and hence the marshals quitted the house in a body. The soldier's blood in Hugo's veins mounted to his face, and he wrote the “ Ode à la Colonne," which was published in the Journal des Débats. At the Austrian insult Hugo felt that he was no longer a Vendean, but a Frenchman :
Contre une insulte ici tout s'unit, tout se lève
Sur la pierre de Waterloo. It is no longer the army that he accepts, as in the “Ode to his Father," but the emperor also. “Bonaparte" has become “ Napoleon,” the “ tyrant” is forgotten, and the “ spur of Napoleon” is equal to the 6 sandal of Charlemagne.” M. Taylor was at this time royal commissioner at the Comédie Française, and he one day asked Victor Hugo why he did not write for the stage. On his replying that he had a drama about Cromwell in hand, Taylor begged for it, saying that the part of a Cromwell could only be played by a Talma. The latter, however, died ere the drama was completed, and Hugo thought no more of the matter as regards the stage. The drama, however, enormously developed, was printed with a preface, which served as a rallying-point for all the young fellows who desired the liberation of the stage from the old trammels.
The first piece of Hugo's which appeared on the boards was “ Amy Robsart,” the history of which was curious enough. At the age of nineteen Hugo had joined Soumet, and written the first three acts, to which the collaborateur added other two. When it was finished, Soumet was frightened at the admixture of tragedy and comedy in Hugo's part; and though the latter invoked the example of Shakspeare, the play was not produced. Hugo wrote the other two acts in his way, and laid the play aside. In 1828, his younger brother-in-law, Paul Foucher, had a fancy for play-writing, and finding himself foiled at every turn, he begged Victor Hugo to make him a present of “ Amy Robsart.” It was accepted by the Odéon, and performed; and as it got about that it was by the author of “ Cromwell,” it drew. The Journal des Débats disposed of it in a very lordly way:
“ Yesterday was played at the Odéon an historical drama, in five acts, entitled 'Amy Robsart,' a subject borrowed from Sir Walter Scott's • Kenilworth,' and which already produced at three theatres-reappeared for the fourth time, with no other advantage than that of being enormously lengthened and disfigured by a multitude of trivial phrases. Hisses, shouts, and laughter, did justice to this old novelty.”
Victor Hugo at once wrote to the papers that the passages hissed were his, and the confession was an involuntary puff. The young men—who had not put themselves out of the way for an anonymous piece-then flocked in: they applauded, the hisses were redoubled; the agitation of the pit spread through the Quartier Latin, and the result was that government interfered and suppressed the piece. In the mean while, Victor Hugo was engaged in his " Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamné," which was published in 1829, almost simultaneously with “ Les Orientales." In 1832, in his eagerness to abolish the penalty of death, Hugo brought out a new edition of it, with a long preface; and he followed up the labour of love in 1854 with “ Claude Gueux.” Another interesting anecdote connected with the subject, though often told, will bear repetition. In 1839, Barbès was tried, and sentenced to death as an attempted regicide. The next day Hugo was at the Opera, when a peer of France seated himself by his side, and mentioned the sentence just passed. Victor Hugo went behind the scenes, took a piece of paper, and wrote on it the four lines :
Par vôtre ange envolée ainsi qu'une colombe !
Grâce au nom du berceau ! He placed the paper in one of the theatre envelopes and went with it to the Tuileries. The king wrote to him in reply: “His pardon is granted; it only remains for me to obtain it.” Since this period Hugo has frequently renewed his protest against capital punishment, the most notable instances being his letter to Lord Palmerston in 1854, and his apology for John Brown in 1859.
The first play which Victor Hugo wrote for the stage, with the intention of having it acted, was “ Marion de l'Orme,” which he completed in twenty-four days. It was promised to the Théâtre-Français, but the censor put an embargo on it, whereupon Hugo himself called on M. de Martignac. The fourth act was the most offensive, for it was not merely an ancestor of the king who was ridiculed, but the king himself. In Louis XIII., a sportsman governed by a priest, all the world would see an allusion to Charles X. Hugo appealed to the king, who received him very graciously, as we may read in “ Les Rayons et les Ombres ;" but renewed the prohibition. As a sop, a pension of four thousand francs was offered the author, which he at once declined. M. de Sainte-Beuve made the affair public, and the papers greatly applauded Hugo's conduct, the Constitutionnel saying, “Youth is not so easy to corrupt as the ministers hope.”
Hugo was not one of those who are discouraged by a check : he set to work again immediately, and produced “ Hernani,” which was at once accepted. The author had a great deal to endure from the impertinence of Mademoiselle Mars during the rehearsals, but he tamed even her by requesting her to resign her part. In fact, Hugo was resolved to effect a revolution on the stage or be utterly defeated, and in pursuance of this he prohibited the claque. On the other hand, however, it must not be forgotten that he packed the theatre beforehand with his friends. These were locked into the theatre at half-past three, and the scenes which took place were extraordinary, and indeed improper, although the management were solely to blame for it. Mademoiselle Mars was furious at the profanation, and said, “I have played before many an audience, but I owe playing to such an one as this to you.” It was also publicly said, and very maliciously, “ that the piece was dead, and that Hugo's friends had killed it.”
To repeat the story of the first night of “ Hernani” would be a twicetold tale indeed. Every French author who has published his reminiscences during the last thirty years has made a stock-piece of the great battle between the romantic and the classical schools, which were equally wrong and right. Granted that French tragedy, walking on stilts, is the most ponderous thing in the world, we see no reason to rush to the other extreme by cutting ordinary prose into lengths, and deliberately affecting ruggedness, because it annoyed the old masters. One anecdote about the first night of “ Hernani” is not so well known, perhaps. At the end of the fourth act, Hugo was told that some one wished to speak to him : he went out and found a publisher, who offered him six thousand francs for the right of printing "Hernani.” Hugo wished to put off the affair till the morrow, but the publisher insisted on paying the money and taking an agreement on the spot; that is to say, at the nearest tobacconist's. Hugo in vain urged that the publisher did not know what he was buying, as the success might diminish in the last act, but the other said that it might be augmented. “At the second act, I thought of offering you two thousand francs ; at the third, four thousand : I offer you six thousand at the fourth, and I am afraid that if I wait till the fifth act, I shall be offering you ten thousand.” After this, Victor Hugo could no longer hesitate about taking the money, which arrived very opportunely, as he had scarce fifty francs in the house. On the next morning, Hugo, on waking, found the following letter:
I saw, sir, the first representation of “Hernani.” You are aware of my admiration of you. My vanity is attached to your lyre, you know for what reason. I am departing, sir, and you are arriving. I recommend myself to the recollection of your muse. A pious glory should pray for the dead
CHATEAUBRIAND. The first performance had taken place on a Saturday, and on Monday the dramatic reviews appeared. All were unfavourable except the Débats. This roused his friends, who were resolved to go to the theatre again that night, as they foresaw a contest. A doubtful victory was gained for the first four nights, but then the author's free list ceased, and “ Hernani" was left at the mercy of the public. So persistent was the hissing that all the company turned against the author, with the exception of Mademoiselle Mars. There was one thing, and only one, in favour of the play, that it drew enormous houses. The quarrel extended to the departments. At Toulouse, a young man of the name of Batlam fought a duel for “Hernani,” and was killed. At Vannes, a corporal of dragoons, on dying, left this will: “I desire that there may be inscribed on my tomb, · Here lies a man who believed in Victor Hugo.'” The play ran forty-five nights, and was then interrupted by Mademoiselle Mars's furlough.
One of the results was that the Hugos were turned out of their apartments, for the landlady could not stand the constant traffic on the stairs at such unearthly hours of the morning. The fact was, that Hugo had received a threatening anonymous letter, and a band of brothers saw him home each night. Another vexation was that Gosselin, Victor Hugo's publisher, feeling annoyed at the sale of “ Hernani" to another house, insisted on the immediate delivery of the copy of Notre-Dame," which was overdue. It was found necessary to call in the intervention of M. Bertin, of the Débats, and it was finally arranged that Hugo should be allowed five months to write the book in, and pay a forfeit of one thousand francs for each week's delay. The author sat down to his work on July 27, 1830, but the successes of the revolt suddenly aroused him to the blessings of a republic, and he spent his time in writing socialistic theses after the style of those which disfigure “ Les Misérables.” However, his publisher stood on his rights, and hence M. Hugo laid in a bottle of ink, bought a woollen Guernsey, locked up his walking clothes, and entered his romance like a prison. On January 14 the book was finished, and so was the ink-bottle, which made him think for a moment of calling his romance “ What there is in a Bottle of Ink.” M. Gosselin gave the manuscript to his wife to read, who found it awfully slow, and her husband said this would be a lesson to him in future against buying a manuscript unread. The newspaper critiques were generally unfavourable, but they did not prevent “ Notre-Dame de Paris” from having an extraordinary success. Publishers besieged Victor Hugo for more romances, but he had done to give them: then they implored a title. It was in this way that M. Renduel's catalogue for a long time announced, “ Le Fils de la Bossue,” and “La Quiquengrogne.” On this subject we read in a letter of Hugo's :
“The Quiquengrogne" is the popular name of one of the towers of Bourbon l'Archambault. This romance is destined to complete my views about mediæral art, of which “ Notre-Dame" gave the first part. “Notre-Dame" is the catbedral, and the “Quiquengrogne" will be the keep. In “Notre-Dame” I have depicted more particularly the sacerdotal middle age : in the “Quiquengrogne" I shall direct my attention to mediæval feudalism, in accordance with my own ideas, which, whether good or bad, are my own. The “Hunchback's Son" will appear after “Quiquengrogne,” and be but one volume.
These two romances, announced thirty years ago, were never written. M. Hugo's first romance after “Notre-Dame” was “ Les Misérables.”