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now began to work seriously at literature, / whom he lived were the fitting priestesses of and in 1764 brought out a little comedy, in a cynical creed: none of his sayings accordwhich the fashionable doctrines of an ideal ingly are tinged with a fiercer skepticism than primitive perfection were carelessly worked those wbich relate to feminine infirmity. “ Il into an amusing shape. Belton, an erratic faut,” he says, “ choisir : aimer les femmes, Englishman, is wrecked upon a savage shore, ou les connaître: il n'y a pas de milieu." and lights on Betty, an interesting and unso- “ Pour moi," he writes elsewhere, " je rephisticated young lady, who provides himn cherche surtout celles qui vivent hors du with sustenance, introduces him to her fa- mariage et du célibat : ce sont quelquefois les ther's cave, and finally accompanies him to plus honnêtes.” Many of his stories are in his home. Belton's wavering virtue is re- illustration of the same ungallant theme :licved at the fortunate moment by a charita- - Mademoiselle du Thé ayant perdu un de ble Quaker, who provides a dowry and insists ses amants, et cette aventure avant fait du on a formal marriage, much to the astonish- bruit, un homme qui alla la voir la trouva ment of Betty, to whom priests and lawyers jouant de la harpe, et lui dit avec surprise, are still novelties. "Quoi,” she exclaims, Eh! mon Dieu ! je m'attendais à vous " sans cet homme noir, je n'aurais pu t- trouver dans la désolation.' • Ah!' dit-elle aimer?”
d'un ton pathétique, c'était hior qu il fal
i lait une voir.' The pretty trifle succeeded, and Voltaire, and
- L'abbé de Fleury avait été amoureux de in expressing his approval, indoctrinated the Madame la Maréchale de Noailles. qui le young author with that supreme contempt traita avec mépris. Il devint premier minfor his countrymen which became in after life istre ; elle eut besoin de lui, et il lui rappela the leading principle of Chamfort's creed. ses rigueurs. Ah! monseigneur,' lui dit “ Our nation," he wrote, “has emerged naïvement la maréchale, qui l'aurait pu from barbarism only because of two or three prévoir?
T "Un homme était en deuil de la tête aux persons endowed by nature with the taste, and genius which she refuses to all the rest. Il
pieds : grandes pleureuses, perruque noir,
figure allongée. "Un de ses amis l'abordo We must expect the race, who failed to dis- I trietement : Eh ! bon Dieu ! qui est-ce donc cover the merit of Athalie and Misanthrope to que vous avez perdu ?' Moi,' dit-il, je continue ignorant and feeble, and in need of n'ai rien perdu ; c'est que je suis veuf.'' the guidance of a few enlightened men." Chamfort's next efforts were directed to the Thoroughly prosperous in the best society, Academy; and a few years afterwards, in the
Chamfort was gradually becoming a revolu
tionist at heart: it was the fashion in aristoEloge de Molière, one of his successful compositions, he, for almost the first time, gave
cratic quarters to deride aristocracy; and a evidence of that “ âpreté dévorante," that
little play, The Merchant of Smyrna, pubdreary view of life, and that cynical dislike
lished by him in 1770, carried the taste 80 of society, which pointed all his later witri far, that its author, in after years, pleaded it cisms. What, he asked, would be the task
as a proof of bis democratic tendency. The
fun of the piece turns on the perplexities of the Molière of that day?“ Verrait-il,
of a slave-merchant, who has encumbered sans porter la main sur les crayons, l'abus
bimself with several unsalable purchases ; que nous avons fait de la philosopbie et de la
amongst the rest, a German baron and three société ; le mélange ridicule des conditions :
ahbés. They are so useless that he dares not cette jeunesse, qui a perdu tout morale à
even expose them in the market. Here is a quinze ans, toute sensibilité à vingt; cette habitude malheureuse de vivre cnsemble sans
conversation in the same spirit. Ilassan is avoir besoin de s'estimer : la difficulté de se
interrogating one of the captives, a Spaniard, déshonorer, et, quand on est enfin parvenu, la
as to what he is :facilité de recouvrer son honneur et de ren- “L`Espagnol. Je vous l'ai déjà dit, gentrer dans cette île autrefois escarpée et sans tilhomme. bords ?” Unfortunately, in decrying the!
" Hlassan. Gentilhomme ! je ne sais pas ce times, Chamfort was but sketching his own so L'Espagnol. Rien.
que c'est. Que fais-tu ? career. He had thrown bimself with disas- " Hassan. Tant pis pour toi, mon ami ; tu trous vehemence into all the worst pleasures vas bien t'ennuyer.- (à Kaled) Vous n'avez of a corrupt capital : the women among pas fait une trop bonne emplette. THIRD SERIES. LIVING AGE.
“ Kaled. Ne voilta-t-il pas que je suis en-devant un râtelier vide.” The idea that he core attrapé! ... Gentilhomme, c'est sans paid for his dinners by his bons-mots robbed doute comme qui dirait baron allemand. them of their charm; the disproportion of C'est ta faute aussi : pourquoi vas-tu dire que his own
| his own fortune to those with whom he lived tu es gentilhomme ? je ne pourrai jamais me
drove him mad with jealousy. Ile detested, défaire de toi."
yet could not bring himself to resign the 80Whatever his real convictions, Chamfort, ciety in wbich his talent shone so brightly ; for the present, was a thorough courtier in he found himself the plaything of a wealthy behavior. . M. Sainte Beuve quotes a pretty class, and he could neither tolerate nor abanepigram which he composed about this time don his position. « Il est ridicule,” he exfor the King of Denmark's arrival in Paris : claimed, “ de vieillir en qualité d'acteur dans
“ Un roi qu'on aime et qu'on révère une troupe où l'on ne peut même prétendre à A des sujets en tous climats :
la demi-part.” Il a beau parcourir la terre,
At last be determined to fly; but not beIl est toujours dans ses états."
fore he had inteneified big passion for equalBefore long his failing health drove him ity, and his hatred of the class which had froin Paris, and the young wit found amuse- loaded him with favors, to a degree of maligment and hospitality awaiting him at several nity which nothing but actual suffering could fashionable watering-places. At Barèges he explain. "Je ne suis pas un monstre d'ornot only recovered his health, but had the gueil," was his apology to a friend for his luck to charm four fine ladies, who loved retreat ; " mais j'ai été une fois empoisonné him“ chacune d'elles comme quatre," and avec de l'arsenic sucré. Je ne le serai plus : whose kindness melted for awhile even his manet altâ mente repostum.'” An interdetermined acerbity. One of them especially val of comparative felicity awaited him. He he enumerates among his other blessings, as had met at Boulogne an aged beauty, of the entertaining for him “all the sentiments of Duchess of Maine's household, talkative, a sister ;” and he adds cheerfully, « il me witty, and cynical as himself; and the two semble que mon mauvais Génie ait lâché lovers retreated, in misanthropical attachprise, et je vis, depuis trois mois, sous la ment, from a world which they agreed in debaguette de la Fée bienfaisante." I can tell testing. After six months the lady died, and you, writes one of his admirers, that M. her husband returned to Paris with a real Chamfort « est un jeune homme bien con- sorrow added to the list of his imaginary tent; et il fait bien de son mieux pour être grievances. "When I wish to sosten my modeste." His humility must have been still heart,” he writes, “ I recall the loss of friends more severely tried wben the Duchess de who are mine no longer,—the women whom Grammont, one of his four admirers, intro- death has snatched from me. J'habite leur duced him at court, and his successful trag- cercueil ; j'envoie mon âme errer autour des edy secured him, as we have scen, the favor leurs. Hélas ! je possède trois tombeaux !" of the queen. He now seemed at the zenith Less than ever inclined for the subserviency of success. Besides his pension, the Prince of social life, and fretting daily more and de Condé had given him a secretaryship; a more at the heavy chain of patronage, Chamsent in the Academy secured his position as fort found opportunity, before the outbreak a writer ; the best drawing-rooms in Paris of the Revolution, to escape from the hospiwere at his command ; and Madame Helvé- tality of an aristocratic friend, and to entius, who held a sort of " literary hospital,” sconce himself in more congenial quarters in was delighted to have him for an inmate. the Palais Royal. Mirabeau was devoted to An uneasiness of soul, however, was begin- him, fired his spirit with something of his ning to mix gall with his cup of enjoyment, own enthusiasm, and carried him into the and Chamfort became restless, moody, and full tide of the new movement. Chamfort, miserable. The very honors that were show- delighted at his emancipation, embraced his cred upon him seemed fraught with indignity; new creed with all the ardor of a neophyte ; bja rank as a successful man of letters was his former friendships were discarded, his ngonizingly equivocal. “ Je ne voudrais,” | favors forgotten.“ Ceux qui passent le fleuve he said, “ faire comme des gens de lettres qui des révolutions," he said, "ont passé le ressemblent à des ânes ruant et se battant fleuve de l'oubli." Henceforth he became the oracle of republican clubs, and lent his direction of the Conservatives. To this period wit to the cause, which always had his sym- we may refer bis translation of Fraternité pathies, and now claimed his open allegiance. ou la Mort, which he said should be rendered His services, as an ally, were speedily appre- “ Sois mon frère, ou je te tue.” He found ciated. One morning he visited the Count his most natural leaders in the Girondists; de Lauraquais : " Je viens de faire un and Roland in re-arranging the Bibliothèque ouvrage," he cried. « Comment ? un livre." Nationale, appointed Chamfort to a post in “Non, pas un livre ; je ne suis pas si bête; connection with it. He now turned the full mais un titre de livre, et ce titre est tout. blaze of his satire against the Convention ; J'en ai déjà fait présent au puritain Sièyes, and there were of course plenty of ready lisqui pourra commenter à son aise. Il aura teners to inform the State conspirators of the beau dire; on ne se ressouviendra que du sarcasms of their new assailant. His friends titre.” “ Quel est-il donc? " Le voici : warned him of his peril, but he relied upon • Qu'est-ce que le Tiers-Etat ? Tout. Qu'a- his reputation as a Liberal. « N'ai-je pas," t-il? Rien,'” Another of his contributions he cried, “ hautement professé ma haine conwas the famous cry: “ Guerre aux châteaux! tre les rois, les nobles, les prêtres, en un mot Paix aux chaumières !” and the horrors of tous les ennemis de la raison et de la liberté ?" September elicited from him no other apology At last he was denounced and imprisoned. than the inquiry, “ Voulez-vous qu'on vous Scarcely bad he recovered his liberty, when a fasse des révolutions à l'eau de rose?” It is second arrest showed the complicated dangers easy to conceive the satisfaction with which, of his position and threatened him with a for the first time, he allows his taste to fol- more protracted confinement. He resolved low its natural bent. Ile abounds in good to escape it by self destruction, and mutilated stories pointed at an incapable ruler, the himself horribly, but without effect, both follies of an aristocracy, the pride of birth, with pistol and razor. Before he was dragged the slavery of a court.
to prison he dictated and signed, all bleeding “ M. D- disait, à propos des sottises min- as he was, the following theatrical declaraistérielles et ridicules, Sans le gouvernement tion : “ Moi, Sébastien Roche lücholas Chamon ne rirait plus en France.'
fort, déclare avoir voulu mourir en homme " On demandait à une duchesse de Rohan à llibre plutôt que d'être conduit en esclavo en quelle époque elle comptait accoucher. Je
e prison.” He lived to appear before the Trime flatte,' dit-elle • d'avoir cet honneur dans deux mois.' L'honneur était d'accoucher
bunal, and was at length partially enlarged. d'un Rohan.
His nervous system, however, had received "Un courtisan disait, à la mort de Louis too great a shock, and the carelessness of his XIV., ' Après la mort du roi, on peut tout physician hastened his end. He died with a croire.'
characteristic sentence on his lips : “ Ah, “ Dans les malheurs de la fin du régne de mon ami," he cried to the Abbé Sièyes, " je Louis XIV, après la perte des batailles de Turin,
m'en vais enfin de ce monde, où il faut que le d'Oudenarde, de Malplaquet, de Ramillies, d'Hochstet, les plus honnêtes gens de la cour
coeur, se brise ou se bronze !" disaient, « Au moins le roi se porte bien c'est.! Melancholy alternative; but happily the le principal.'
verdict of philosophers of the Chamfort school ** Un prédicateur de la Ligne avait pris ought to count for less than nothing in our pour texte de son sermon, Eripe nos, Domine, estimation of existence. He had shut himà lulo fæcis, qu'il tradusait ainsi, Seigneur, self off from the really interesting side of life. de-Bourbonez-nous.'”.
Government, religion, marriage, death, the Chamfort's posts and pensions were of unseen world, all the great springs of human courbo boon swamped by the revolutionary action, all the tenderest sentiments of human tide, but bis zeal was only quickened by the hearts, were to him but so many whetstones loss. He was one of the first to enter the on which to sharpen the glittering razor of Bastille after its capture, and he talked with his wit. Mephistopheles himself might envy Brutus-like severity of the sacrifices which a the icy heartlessness of the glittering epigrams patriot should be prepared to make. For in which his contempt for each was crystalsome time he acted as secratary to the Jacobin lized. His wit fed upon himself, and merrily Club; but the growing ascendency of Robes-proclaimed his own degradation : “ L'homme pierre and Marat drove him once again in the est un sot animal,” he said, “ si j'en juge par
moi-même." His estimation of mankind at à Dien, ce que je dois au roi, ce que je dois large was cqually unflattering: « Le public, à l'état.' ... Un de ses amis l'interrompit, le public, combien faut-il de sots pour faire "Tais-toi, dit-il, ' tu mourras insolvable.'" un public?” The best thing to do with so- ! The examples already quoted will suffice to ciety was to leave it. He preferred solitude give an idea of the cold, hard, metallic glare to the company of his fellow men, “ parce of a genius which, like Chamfort's, was unque je suis plus accoutumé à mes défauts qu'à enlightened by earnest thought, softened by ceux d'autrui.”
no humanizing emotion, and devoid of all in« Je demandais à M- pourquoi, en se op!
en se spiring sincerity. His witticisms glitter about condamnant à l'obscurité, il se dérobait au him like a cascade of sparks, emitting neibien qu'on pouvait lui faire. Les hommes,' ther distinct light nor creative heat; his very mo dit il, ne peuvent rien faire pour moi qui polish is suggestive of sterility; and the smile vaillc leur oubli.'
which his humor suggests is quickly suc“ M. D--, pour peindre d'un seul mot ceeded by a wearisome sense of deliberate la rareté des honnêtes gens, me disait que heartlessnesa hone dans la société l'honnête homme est une
heartlessness, hopelessness, and indifference. variété de l'espèce humaine.
6. M. de Lassay, homme très-doux. mais! We turn with relief to a mind more inqui avait une grande connaissance de la soci- stinct with purpose, and certainly not less été, disait qu'il faudrait avaler un crapaud entertaining in performance. Rivarol was tousles matins pour ne trouver rien de dégoû- pronounced by no less a judge than Voltaire tant le reste de la journée, quand on devait la to be " the Frenchman par excellence of his passer dans le monde.”
day ;” and even without so authoritative a The verdict of after-times is disposed of verdict, it would be impossible to overlook with a single sneer: “ La postérité n'est pas the numerous particulars in which he typiautre chose qu'um public qui succède à un fied the tastes, if not always the convictions, autre; or vous voyez ce que c'est que le pub- of his countrymen. His short career-for he lic d'à présent."
• died at forty-four — explains the incomplete · His feelings about religion were tinged and fragmentary nature of his works; but, with all the bitterness of the period ; and the besides his extraordinary conversational repsarcasms which he poured out so freely upon utation, which raised him to the dignity of this world, lost none of their sting when di- a professed improvisatore, he has left enough rected against the next.
behind him to assure neutral critics of his : « On s'habitue à tout, même à la vie. La rendine
ja readiness, versatility, and resource, and to Fontaine, entendant plaindre le sort des justify his biographers in claiming for him damnés au milieu du feu de l'enfer, dit : Je admission to that shadowy temple of fame in me flatte qu'ils s'y accoutument, et qu'à la which those who, but for adverse chance, fin ils sont là comine le poisson dans l'eau.' might, could, should, or would have been ..“ A propos des choses de ce bas monde qui among the leaders of mankind. reccive the vont de mal en pis, M. L- disait, • J'ai lui
langaid honors of conjectural admiration. quelque part qu'en polítique il n'y a rien de si malheureux pour les peuples que les règnes
He was born in 1757, in a village in Languetrop lonrs. J'entends que Dieu est éternel ; doc, and, as the eldest of a family of sixteen, tout est dit.'"
was very speedily impressed with the impera
tive necessity of securing a livelihood. The We conclude with two stories of less
ens father, though coming of good Italian stock, gloomy import, and good specimens of Cham
and by no means without education, had dofort's lighter order of fun. The first sounds
Us scended to the inglorious but profitable busias if it owned the parentage of Moliere. ness of an innkeeper. The circumstance was
66 On dirait à Délon, médecin mesmérist : not forgotten when Rivarol, in after times, Eh bien, M. de B— est mort, malgré la surrounded by an eager and revengeful army promesse que vous aviez faite de le guérir.' of literary enemies, stood forth as the cham
Vous avez,' dit-il, “ été absent; vous n'avez pion of aristocratic rights. Even those who pas suivi les progrès de la cure : il est mort guéri.'
profited by his talent could not help sneering Le maréchale de Biron eut une maladie at the hand which defended them. Once in très-dargereuse : il voulut se confesser, et dit a well-born crowd, at the first outbreak of devant plusieurs de ses amis : Ce que je dois the Revolution, Rivarol was descanting with an air of importance on the dangers of the with a real literary enthusiasm. “ Les gens times. “Nos droits,” he cried, “ nos privi- de goût sont les hauts-justiciers de la littéraléges sont menacés.” “ Nos droits ? ” cried ture. L'esprit de critique est un esprit d'orthe duc de Crequi, who was standing by, dre; il connait les délits contre le goût et les " Eh bien, qu'est-ce que vous trouvez donc porte au tribunal du ridicule ; car le rire est singulier en ce mot?” “C'est votre pluriel," souvent l'expression de sa colère, et ceux qui replied the duke, “ que je trouve singulier." | le blâment ne songent pas assez que l'homme The young aspirant to same, however, was de goût a reçu vingt blessures avant d'en faire too sure of his powers to be easily abashed, une.” The critical activity thus explained and he contrived that his first literary task and defended led him before long to undershould call attention to his hereditary re- take a systematic onslaught on a host of spectability. Coming to Paris, and appar- insignificant poetasters, who at this time ently absorbed in frivolous amusements, he crowded the booksellers' windows with worthwas in reality working hard at a translation less productions. This was the Petit Almaof Dante. “C'est un bon moyen," he told nach de Grands Hommes, a sort of prose Dunhis friends laughingly, “ de faire ma cour aux ciad in which the chief literary culprits of Rivarol d'Italie ; "and elsewhere he explains, the year were, under a transparent veil of " J'ai traduit l'Enfer de Dante parceque j'y bombastic eulogy, held up to well-merited retrouvais mes ancêtres.” The undertaking derision. As with the victims of Pope's imof 80 ambitious a task bespoke already the mortal satire, time has already effectually lofty designs which were concealed under af- completed the assailant's purpose, and the fected manners and an ostentatious indolence. heroes of the Petit Almanach are for the most Success soon smiled upon his hopes. His part only known to fame by the very instrugraceful manners and imposing delivery pro- mentality which was intended for their more cured him an easy triumph in several literary speedy consignment to oblivion. cafés, especially “ Le Caveau," where a set Rivarol had now, however, graver employof brilliant talkers were accustomed to meet. ments before bim. Immediately upon the In 1781 be acquired an almost European celeb- outbreak of the Revolution, be made the rity by carrying off the prize offered by the choice which interest, taste, and prejudice, Academy of Berlin, under the auspices of alike recommended, and stood boldly forward Frederick the Great, for the best treatise on against the advancing current of democracy. the universality of the French language, and A journal named Politique National was the the probable causes of its continuance. The organ of the most enlightened Conservatives, essay, though as rhetorical and high-down and to this Rivarol contributed the most foras was natural under the circumstances, im- cible, and certainly the most sagacious, explied a real critical faculty, and was the positions of the existing crisis which had as menns probably of directing its author to a yet appeared upon his side of the controversy. line of grammatical inquiry on which he sub- With a vehemence which lost none of its efBequently grounded other and far deeper spec- fect by being polished and antithetical, he ulations. The labored enjoyments of Paris- denounced the jealous vanity of the bour ian salons and a life of polished dissipation geoisie, as being, rather than the sufferings were, however, beginning to tell upon his of the mass, the true cause of disturbance. powers, and before his thirtieth year he be- Though the slave of his own brilliancy, and gan to complain of dininishing versatility. too epigrammatic to be invariably correct, he “Ma vie est un drame si ennuyeux," he gives from time to time satisfactory evidence writes, ' que je prétends que c'est Mercier of his real thoughtfulness and political inqui l'a fait. Autrefois je réparais dans une sigbt. For one thing, he thoroughly appreheuro huit jours de folic; et aujourd'bui il ciated the gravity of the statesman's task : me faut huit grands jours de sagesse pour ré- “ La politique," he said, “ est comme le parer une folie d'une heure.” Ilis judginent sphinx de la fable - clle dévore tous ceux as a critic, and his never-failing loquacity, qui n'expliquent pas ses énigmes.” The placed him, however: daily in a more con- follies of his own party did not escape him spicuous social position. His taste in au- any more than the crimes of his antagonista. thorsi.ip was delicate, sensitive, and correct, Upon the blind tardiness of the court he was and the judgments he pronounced were tinged especially severe; he pointed out the futility