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Perhaps it would have been better for his permanent reputation had he adhered to his original plan.
As the revolution of July got rid of the censorship, the Comédie Française immediately thought of “ Marion de l’Orme.” But Hugo had not forgotten his former treatment at that theatre, and consequently sigued articles with the manager of -the Porte St. Martin, M. Crosnier. “ Marion de l'Orme” was brought out there with a splendid caste, but the success was not very great. Moreover, the excitement was divided between this play and Dumas's “ Antony," and then the continued revolts interfered with the theatrical receipts. .
The next play to which Victor Hugo turned his attention was “ Le Roi S'Amuse," which he began under peculiar auspices. While he was taking a harmless walk, he was caught by an émeute in the Passage du Saumon, and was peppered with bullets for a quarter of an hour, as he mentions in “Les Misérables.” So soon as “Le Roi s'Amuse” was finished, Hugo began at “ Lucrèce Borgia,” and M. Taylor, on hearing that he had two plays ready, ran to him to secure one at least for the Théâtre-Français. Hugo yielded to his arguments, and let him have“ Le Roi s'Amuse.” The first performance was accompanied by evil omens : the actor who carried off Blanche did so clumsily, with her head down and her feet in the air, while a mistake in the mise en scène caused the king in the last act to miss his most effective cue. In a word, the play was hissed down. When the curtain fell, M. Ligier went up to the author. “Do you wish your name to be given ?” he asked, indirectly as a hint. - Sir, Victor Hugo answered, coldly, “I believe a little more in my play now that it has failed." The next day the author's reputation was saved by a government order to suspend the performance of “ Le Roi s'Amuse.". The pretext for its suspension was its immorality: it was impossible to tolerate a piece the subject of which was the assassination of a king, on the very day after an attempt on the king's life: it was also urged that the author's friends had sang the Carmagnole in the house, and outrageously applauded a verse evidently aimed at the king :
Vos mères aux laquais se sont prostituées. Victor Hugo took the affair into court, and the Tribunal of Commerce decreed that the ministry had the right to exercise a censorship. As some of the papers twitted him with being a government pensioner, he at once gave up the two thousand francs a year Charles X. had given him, although Thiers refused to take his resignation. The money, for all that is known, may still be lying in the Treasury to his order, for he has not touched a farthing of the pension since 1831, though he tried, but in vain, to have it transferred to a poor young poetess, Mademoiselle Elisa Mercœur.
In December following, M. Harel came to ask “ Lucrèce Borgia” of Hugo, for the Porte St. Martin : he offered Frederick Lemaitre, Mademoiselle Georges, and an author's share in the profits. The success of the new sensation drama was electrical : the students wanted to drag his fiacre home, and when he escaped, followed him home on foot; parodies were brought out at all the minor theatres; masks representing the principal characters in the drama appeared in the streets on the Mardi Gras, and shouted under the windows of Mademoiselle Georges “The poisoner.” All this redoubled public curiosity, and the receipts were enormous; for the first thirty nights they amounted to eighty-four thousand seven hundred and sixty-nine francs. For all that, though, M. Harel must show off his airs : thus one night, to prove his authority, he struck “ Lucrèce Borgia” out of the bills, to his own certain loss, and on Hugo stating that he should never more be manager of his, declared that the author had promised him another play. This Hugo denied, and the result was a challenge from Harel, who, however, thinking better of it, apologised, and obtained the promise of the play, which was “Marie Tudor.” Unfortunately, an article appeared about the time of the first performance in the Débats, in which Granier de Cassagnac warmly praised Hugo at the cost of Dumas. It was known that Cassagnac was a protégé of Hugo, and the report spread that the article was written to order. Harel took up the cudgels for Dumas, and eventually threatened to smash “Marie Tudor," to which the author replied that, if he did, he would most assuredly smash his theatre. “Marie Tudor" was not so much a fiasco as a drawn battle, and it was performed a sufficient number of times to render its withdrawal an honourable retreat.
In the beginning of 1834, the Théâtre-Français, forgetting the fiasco of the “Roi s'Amuse” in the triumph of “ Lucrèce Borgia," asked the author for a new play, and he gave “ Angelo.” The two great characters of Catarina and Tisbé were performed by Mademoiselle Mars and Madame Dorval, and the former lady played her old tricks to such a pitch that Hugo was again obliged to ask her to give up her part. Harel, hearing of the squabble, called on Hugo the same evening, acknowledged his former fault, and begged to have Angelo. But the angry author repeated his threat of ruining the Porte St. Martin. It is a curious fact that Harel was bankrupt eventually. The dispute was afterwards made up with Mademoiselle Mars, in spite of her jealousy of Madame Dorval, and “ Angelo” was brought out with some degree of success.
Ere long Alexandre Dumas had also cause of complaint against Harel, and he induced the Duc d'Orléans to speak to Guizot about founding a theatre for the romantic school. M. Anterior Joly was put forward as the manager, and, after great difficulties in obtaining a moneyed partner, the Ventadour theatre was opened under the title of the Renaissance. For the opening, Victor Hugo gave “Ruy Blas,” in which the hero's part was written for Frederick Lemaitre. The press generally was favourable to the new play, and, though passages in it were hissed, it was performed for fifty nights. Soon after, Victor Hugo sold the MS. of it, as well as the issue of all his former works, for eleven years, to M. Delloye, for the sum of two hundred and forty thousand francs. In this sum were included two unpublished volumes, one of which was“ Les Rayons et les Ombres,” the other “ Le Rhin."
The “ Burgraves” were written in 1842, and read to the committee of the Français on November 20th. The first performance had but slight success, and the opposition was displayed in the second. Although the piece did not go through such an ordeal as “ Hernani,” it was troubled by laughter and hisses. This was the last drama Victor Hugo produced, though he has had one in his portfolio since 1838, under the title of “ Les Jumeaux ;” but he no longer deigned “to expose his thoughts to these facile insults, and the anonymous hissers whom twenty years had not disarmed.” That is to say, he saw a better field opening before him in politics.
The slow and indirect action of literature—so his biographer puts it no longer satisfied Victor Hugo: he wished to join to it the immediate action of politics, and complete the author by the orator. He could take the oath of allegiance to Louis Philippe. He had more than paid his debt to the fallen monarchy. On every occasion he had reminded people " that it was more than ever a duty to pronounce the name of Bourbon with caution, gravity, and respect, now that the old man who had been king had but grey hairs on his head.” (Preface to “ Marion de l'Orme," 1831.) A year later, when the Duchesse de Berry was surrendered by a traitor, he branded, with all his indignation, “the man who sold a woman :"
Rien te ne disait donc dans l'âme, O misérable!
Et que n'étant plus reine elle était encor femme. When Charles X. died in exile in November, 1836, the last farewell was offered him by no one with greater emotion than by the author of “ Marion de l'Orme:”
Et moi je ne veux pas, harpe qu'il a connue,
Un lambeau de velours pour couvrir ce cercueil. Victor Hugo, then, was freed from the last tie that bound him to the fallen monarchy : the recollection of a pension was, moreover, balanced by the confiscation of a drama. He was at liberty to follow his convictions, which had, indeed, become detached from the Bourbons before their fall. He had a choice between the House of Deputies and that of Peers. He could not well be a deputy, for the electoral law of that day was made for richer men than him : Notre-Dame and Les Feuilles d'Automne were not equivalent to an estate or a house. There was certainly a way of cheating the law which was much used, and that was borrowing a house of a friend. But even if Victor Hugo had done so, the electors did not care to return literary men: writers were for them dreamers, useful to amuse them in the intervals of business, but from the moment that a man was a thinker, and, before all, a poet, he became radically incapable of possessing common sense or understanding practical things. By some piece of good luck M. de Lamartine had slipped in, but there was certainly no room for another poet.
There remained the Chamber of Peers, and for this the Académie was alone accessible to Victor Hugo. He presented himself in 1836, but the Académie preferred M. Dupaty to him. He offered himself a second time in 1839, but the Académie preferred M. Molé; he presented himself a third time in 1840, and the Académie preferred M. Flourens. In 1841 he again rapped at the gate, and was this time admitted.
At this point the interesting Memoirs we have under notice break off, but we hope to return to them so soon as the ensuing volumes are published.
THE KINGDOM OF SIAM.
The kingdom of Siam is one of those countries in the distant East which, after two hundred years of seclusion, has recently been compelled to surrender its retrograde policy and open its gates to that world commerce which will not tolerate arbitrary barriers. As in the case of China and Japan, Europe owes its first acquaintance with Siam to the Portuguese; but in the latter country, too, the misunderstood zeal and copverting mania of the Catholic priests were the first cause that the friendly relations with Europeans were again broken off, the latter driven from the country by force, and the harbours closed against their ships.
Although the visits of foreigners were not prohibited in Siam by such rigorous and cruel laws as in China and Japan, still equally effective means were found to keep them aloof, and these measures also possessed the great advantage that they could not possibly insult and embitter foreign nations. The port dues for European vessels were simply raised to such a pitch that trade was rendered impossible. Hence, since the beginning of the seventeenth century, Siam has been gradually becoming forgotten in Europe, and the Christian civilisation planted there almost entirely died out. The people became again what it had formerly been -a fock of submissive slaves under the rule of unbridled despots, who drove each other from the throne by turns, and disposed of the blood and wealth of their subjects as they pleased, either in civil wars or in contests with neighbouring rulers.
For the scanty information which up to very recently reached Europe about the inner state of this country, we are indebted to a few missionaries, chiefly French, who from time to time succeeded in obtaining admission, and have been permanently settled there since 1830. Bishop Pallegoix, Vicar Apostolic of Siam, and resident at Bangkok, published a few years back a description of Siam, which, as it is based on four-andtwenty years' experiences in the country, is the best and completest work about Siam, in so far as it does not trench on religion, when the worthy bishop's wish is too often apt to be father to the thought.
Since the accession of the present king, a prince very enlightened and liberal for the East, Siam has emerged from its retiring position, and the country during the last ten years has made such commercial progress that it must eventually attract the attention of all Europe. We may, therefore, be permitted to tell our readers something about this hitherto mysterious country.
The present king had been for twenty-six years in a monastery, in order to escape the notice of the usurper, when he ascended the throne. During his enforced seclusion in the temple, King Mongkut had been engaged with earnest studies in Sanskrit, Pali, history, religion, geography, and natural history, and had learnt English of the missionaries. His ideas had also been enlarged by intercourse with Europeans. The prince recognised that the voluntary introduction of Western civilisation and liberal institutions could alone guard his country from conflicts with the European powers and possible subjection, and very soon after his accession he showed that a new era was about to commence for Siam. He abolished the ruinous monopolies, made commerce free, encouraged navigation and trade, made treaties with England, France, Holland, and Prussia, made canals and roads, gave entire religious liberty, and supported the Christian missions in their attempts at conversion. The effect of these wise measures soon became visible. Siam is annually growing more flourishing, trade is prosperous, and hundreds of European ships visit Bangkok. The country enjoys peace and development, and promises to play a prominent part among the Asiatic coast lands. Civilisation is making rapid progress, and there is no reason to apprehend any revolution. The constant intercourse of the king and high officials with Europeans does not fail to produce a favourable effect, and the children of the king and of the mandarins have already been educated in the European way. Apart from this fact, the constantly increasing revenues have reconciled the nobles with the once detested foreigners, and induce them to urge the extension of this intercourse. It may be therefore assumed that government will do more and more for the material welfare of the land, even though for the present selfishness is the chief motive. The people have bitherto derived but little benefit from the changes in Siam, and, indeed, the circumstances of the country leave much to be desired; but it must not be forgotten that only fifteen years ago Siam was a country sunk in barbarism, and that King Mongkut is a despot brought up in Oriental ignorance.
According to Pallegoix, the population of Siam amounts to six millions. It is very difficult to estimate it correctly, because the Siamese census only reckons males from seven to seventy years of age, and leaves all the rest out. It consists of several races whose numerical proportions Pallegoix gives as follows:
Siamese, or Thai . . . . . 1,900,000
. . 50,000 | Karieng, Xong, Lowa . . . . 50,000 The last three tribes represent the aborigines. They were driven back by the Thai, who immigrated from the north, and retired to the eastern and western border hills, where they still dwell under self-elected chiefs, live by hunting, fishing, and agriculture, and are tributaries of Siam. The Peguans are of Burmese origin, and were partly translated to the south of the land as prisoners of war. The Laos live on the northern plateaux and mountains. They are a gentle, peaceful people, who never had the strength to liberate themselves from the yoke. The Cambodjians differ but little from the Thai, and have evidently a common origin with them. The Malays probably came from Sumatra, and the majority of them have remained in Bangkok. The Malays are a nomadic nation, who have spread over the entire Indian archipelago, and their language has become universal in all the littoral to the east of the Sunda islands, and they exclusively settle on the coasts. They are the