Matilda Betham-Edwards.

French men, women and books; a series of nineteenth-century studies/ by Miss Betham-Edwards online

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FRENCH MEN
WOMEN AND BOOKS



BY THE SAME AUTHOR

FRENCH VIGNETTES:

A SERIES OF DRAMATIC EPISODES,i7i7-i87i

By Miss Betham-Edwards, Officier de I'lnstruc-
tion Publique de France. With 12 Portraits
reproduced by special permission. Second
Edition. Demy 8vo, 10/6 net,

"The volume is an admirable example of Miss Betham-Edwards'
facile talent for critical narrative. . . . The book glows with sincere
enthusiasm, and is everywhere endowed with literary distinction
of the highest order. Better entertainment it were difficult to
imagine."— Z'azV)' J'eUsraph.

" The accomplished author of these brilliant sketches has proved
in her earlier books that she is not less intimately at home in rural
France than in the East Anglia of her girlhood. . . . The book is
written with dramatic force, and touched throughout with deeply-
felt sympathies, which lend distinction to its chapters. . . . The
style is as admirable as the portraits. There is not a wasted
sentence or a dull page." — British Weekly.

" Distinguished by an unfailing charm of clear and pleasant
writing." — Evening Standard.

" She is deeply and lovingly versed in French life and letters, and
she writes with lucidity and unfailing verve." — Daily News.





liAi.zAC. Front a J'aiiitiiix f>y Houi.anck.k, 1S37



1 Front isJiii-Ci



FRENCH MEN
WOMEN AND BOOKS

A SERIES OF
NINETEENTH-CENTURY STUDIES

MISS BETHAM-EDWARDS

OFFICIER DF. l'iNSTRUCTION PUBLIQUF. DF. FRANCF

AUTHOR OF

"hOMF. life in FRANCE" AND " LITERARY RAMBLES IN FRANCE "



tVITH EIGHT PORTRAITS
REPRODUCED BT- SPECIAL PERMISSION




CHICAGO
A. C. McCLURG & CO.

LONDON : CHAPMAN & HALL, Ltd.
1911



Printed in Great Britain



B3



PREFATORY NOTE

I MUST again express my great indebtedness to
French authors, publishers, editors and others for
their ungrudging services, one and all having ren-
dered every help in their power. To M. Calmann
Levy, for the choice of a Balzac portrait; to M.
Lapret, for a reproduction of Madame Hanska's
bust; to Mile. Louise Read, executrix of Barbey
d'Aurevilly; to MM. Paul and Victor Margueritte,
M. Rene Boysleve, M. Joseph Reinach, Mme. Veure
Demolins; also to M. Langlois, photographic artist,
I tender my grateful thanks, nor must I pass by the
courtesy of Mr. J. A. Spender and other English
editors who have kindly allowed reprints from their
pages.

M. Betham-Edwards.

Hastings^ March 9, 1910.



P141S



CONTENTS

PASS

I FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY, WITH ORIGINAL TRANS-
LATIONS I

II A GREAT LOVE-STORY : BALZAC AND MADAME HANSKA 43

III FRENCH AUTHOR AND PUBLISHER : BARBEY d'aURE-

VILLY AND TREBUTIEN 93

IV AN ANGLO-FRENCH ROMANCE : MARY CLARKE AND

CLAUDE FAURIEL ...... I05

V A 'GOD-INTOXICATED FRENCHMAN': JEAN REYNAUD II7
VI THE NEW FICTION : MM. BOYSLEVE AND HENRY

BORDEAUX 143

VII A GREAT PROSE EPIC, 1870-71 : THE BROTHERS

MARGUERITTE ^53

VIII A TYPICAL ARTISAN AND THE PEOPLE'S UNIVERSITIES 1 65

IX ANGLOPHILE AND REFORMER: EDMOND DEMOLINS . 175

X THE HISTORIAN OF A TRAGEDY: M. JOSEPH REIN ACH 1 87

XI FRENCH VIEWS OF ENGLAND : MM. CHEVRILLON,

COSTE, BOUTMY and OTHERS . . . . 20I

XII POSTSCRIPT. LA FRANCE VUE DE L'ANGLETERRE,

FRENCH STUDY BY THE AUTHOR . . . 223



Vll



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



BALZAC

MADAME HANSKA
BARBEY D'aUR^VILLY
TREBUTIEN
RENE BOYSLEVE
VICTOR MARGUERITTE
EDMOND DEMOLINS .
JOSEPH REINACH



Fcui)ig page
Frontispiece

45

95

I02

M5

155
177
1S9



I

FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY



FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY

Several learned and valuable works have lately
appeared here upon that vast and inexhaustible field
of literature, French poetry. We have seen antho-
logies, annotated editions for students, and volumes
devoted to historic criticism. Among the latter by
far the most important are Mr. Bailey's Claims of
French Poetry and Mr. Eccles's recently published
A Century of French Poets. Both these works are
strictly academic. Admirable as they are alike
editorially and critically, and representative as are
the citations given, one phase of the subject, and
that a most important one, is entirely left out.
The first, with but two exceptions, is devoted to the
great classics of a former period, Racine, Corneille
and La Fontaine. The second is no less restricted
in scope. From neither volume do readers obtain a
hint of what is most vital, most living in French
verse, the poetry of the people, of the work-a-day
world. Indeed, as we glance at Mr. Eccles's list, we
may safely aver that several, nay, most of the poets
here memorialized are as unfamiliar to the majority
of their country-people as to most English readers.
The fireside muse, the muse of the farm, the vine-
yard, the workshop, the garrison, the cabaret, with
its touch of nature making all men kin, find no place
in these academic selections. For such learned

B 2 3



4 i FRETS^GH DOMESTIC POETRY



and laborious compilers the song-writer, the ballad-
maker and the fabulists, La Fontaine excepted, do
not exist.

The explanation of such wholesale omission is
easy. The poetry of the people in France, as else-
where, is only to be appreciated on native soil. We
must also realize the fact that in France poetry is
appreciated rather by the ear than by the eyes. In
no other country is the art of declamation so per-
sistently, so adoringly cultivated. The reciter, as
the troubadour of old, has his status, his special
calling. Thus at rustic weddings, after the long
breakfast, each course being interspersed with a song
from the guests, the professional story-teller and
declaimer comes forward. Pieces grave and gay are
given, care being taken — at least such has been my
own experience — that no jest or word should be
heard unfit for youthful ears. Meanwhile the light,
unheady champagne is passed round, speeches are
made, young and old finally rising, the four or five
hours' sitting followed by as long a spell of the
waltz.

Recitation is cultivated both as a domestic accom-
plishment and a profession, the former often equal-
ling histrionic art.

In Parisian salons and in country chateaux I have
heard, amongst other pieces, Nadaud's Trois Hns-
sards and Barbey d'Aurevilly's Le Cid superlatively
recited by a lady amateur. The dramatic power with
which the ballad was rendered and the pathos put
into the other poet's narrative cast a spell over the
audience. Every one drew a deep breath.

French folks — I speak here of the non-literary



FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY 5

class — do not read poetry; they hearken to it as did
the Greeks of old to their rhapsodists. And here I
will mention a fact overlooked by Mr. Bailey in his
chapter dedicated to the greatest French fabulist —
La Fontaine is above all, dramatic. Thoroughly to
appreciate him we must hear his fables recited before
native listeners. How the famous and unfortunate
actress, Adrienne Lecouvreur, thrilled her public
with her recital of " The Two Pigeons " we have all
heard. For myself, I shall never forget the effect
of "The Animals Sick of the Pest" that I heard
recited at Nantes many years ago. The late gifted
Madame Ernst had drawn an enormous audience.
Packed from parterre to gallery was the great
theatre, and when she came to the verse —

"lis ne mourraient pas tous, mais tous etaient frappes" ("Not
all perished but all were stricken ")

there was hardly a dry eye in the place.

Nadaud's witty Gasconnade, La Garonne (The
Gascon's River), came as a relief. A combined
ripple of laughter greeted each refrain.

Immense attention is given to speech and de-
clamation in French schools, hence the admirably
clear and coherent utterance of our neighbours, and
children will be found expressing themselves with
quite extraordinary promptness and lucidity.

On this subject educationalists and teachers
should consult a recent manual of speech and
elocution (Diction ^), published for use in primary

1 Pour Men lire et Men reciter, par M. Jean Blaize, Professeur
de Diction agre'e d'Ecoles normales. This gentleman, who has
brought out several works on the art of recital and prelection, holds
the Government appointment of visiting lecturer in normal colleges.



6 FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY

schools. Not only are voice, articulation and accent
treated of, but look, pose and gesture, these latter
being illustrated.

There is another and equally noteworthy point
with regard to what I call French domestic poetry.
Here the robust morality, the healthy acceptance of
life as it is, rather as it can be made, offer a striking
contrast to the morbidness and ofttimes suicidal
pessimism of the classical school. Let readers turn
to the charming anthology named below for home
and school use.-^ The volume is divided into four
sections under the heads of poetry domestic, pictur-
esque, moral and patriotic, many unknown names
figuring beside the world-wide famous. Victor
Hugo, Lamartine, Sully Proudhomme are amply
represented. Robert Gaze and Albert Delpit will
certainly be new to English readers.

The most interesting point to note of the vast
category is the uniformly wholesome and bracing
attitude towards existence, its joys, sorrows and
limitations. Life, human and animal, is revered,
and many beautiful devotional pieces are included.
Toil is nobly apostrophized, and the book is a
delightful literary companion for both old and
young. It is also a corrective of insular prejudices,
revealing the homely, home-loving aspect of French
life and the integrity of the family circle. By these
poets such writers as Zola, Maupassant and Mir-
beau for once and for all are refuted. Realistic are
many pieces, but realistic in the true, honest sense of
the word. The best, not the vilest characteristics of

' Choix de Poetes du XIX' Sih/e, par Gustave Merlet, Inspecteur
General de I'Universite, Paris. Colin.



FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY 7

human nature have inspired these writers, whilst
even for the latter there is ever a note of brotherly
compassion. Like the miners described by General
Sherman, the lyrists have " panned out the pure gold
from the black sand."

" From the appearance of La Maison de Syhie,
by Theophile de Viau " (i 590-1 626), writes M.
Remy de Gourmont, "until that of La jeune Cap-
tive of Andre Chenier " (1790), " French poetry was
dramatic, satiric, artificial, burlesque, eloquent, witty,
even at times tender; it was never lyric."

Few readers even in France now-a-days read the
long love-poem in sonnets, which, it is said. La
Fontaine knew by heart. Theophile, however, as he
is usually styled, left a shorter and less artificial
idyll, called Le Matin, which contains several
domestic and quite natural verses. Here is a ren-
dering of one or two, pictures of rural life we may
still come upon any day in France.



When as the morning's primal beam
Wakes man and beast to daily toil,

The ploughman cheers his trusty team
Awhile his coulter cuts the soil.



Her spindle docile Alix brings
The day's allotted task to learn,

Her mother round the distafif rings
A nicely measured length of yarn.

Ill

The blacksmith hastens to his forge,
See, how the sparklets come and go

His brawny arms the bellows urge
Till fiery red the metals glow.



8 FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY

Huguenot, afterwards converted to Romanism,
free-lance alike in his life and with the pen,
Theophile was condemned to burning at the stake,
a sentence later commuted to perpetual exile.

Chenier's pathetic poem is perhaps out-distanced
in favour bv Fabre d' Eglantine's pastoral — // pleut,
bergere, it pleut (It rains, it rains, my shepherd
maid), which is one of the first every French child
learns by heart, and of which Renan wrote : " I can
never hear — II pleut, bergere, il pleut — without
tears." The tender little story may be said to focus
rural life, in revolutionary times as now, simple,
honest and eminently domestic. We have here the
good faith, the neighbourliness and the romance of
the peasant portrayed naively yet with emphasis, the
last verse being especially characteristic. After the
storm and the night's shelter with the lover's mother
and sister, his shepherd maid is formally to be asked
in marriage. The sacredness of wedlock in rustic
circles is here brought out in poetry as it is similarly
revealed in village archives, by the marriage con-
tracts so carefully and religiously preserved through
centuries of civil wars, religious persecution and
social and political upheavals.

Mr. Eccles regards the Revolution as a non-
poetical epoch. -^ But, as M. Rambaud points out in
his " History of French Civilization," those cata-

^ " The pompous vacuity of Chdnier's political odes half con-
cealed by merits of structure shows, as well as his brother's hymns
and tragedies and most of the other poetry of the period, how
little the Revolution and the Empire availed immediately to speed
on the long-expected spring. That time of stress held in suspense
the hopes of disinterested art." — " The Claims of French Poetry,"
P-.43-



FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY 9

clysmal years produced a poetic flower in its matur-
ity. The Revolution developed the genius of Song.
Indeed, what need of proof, argument or disserta-
tion, seeing that the most famous national hymn
in the world, La Marseillaise, belongs to this
period ?

Gustave Nadaud, whose Carcassonne is now cos-
mopolitan property, belongs to the nineteenth cen-
tury (1821-1893). Immensely popular, this prolific
poet appeals to all tastes. From his pen have come
bucolics, drinking songs, satires and patriotic pieces.
But above all, as one of his contemporaries has said,
Nadaud a res fire la bonne odeur de la terre ("he
has breathed the good air of the soil "). In Carcas-
sonne and the Three Hussars we have poetically
embodied for us the very essence of peasant life
and nature; in the first, that indomitable, nostalgic
thrift chaining him to the soil, not allowing even the
privilege of a day's holiday and the sight of a town
only three leagues off; in the second, the innate joy-
ousness and rollicking spirits of the soldier, over-
mastering love of travel and adventure, the clinging
to home and early loves, above all, filial devotion.
This is a particularly dramatic and moving piece,
and is very often recited both in drawing-rooms and
on the platform.

Quite different in tone and spirit is the little ckef-
d'oeuvre, called Les deux Gendarmes, a witty and
subtle delineation of the non-reflective type, the per-
petual assentator. Who, after audition or perusal,
without curiosity can witness a couple of mounted
gendarmes ambling along a country road ? A quite
different type is that of the monosyllabist's com-



10 FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY

panion, the no less perpetual ponderer on men,
things and human destiny.

La Garonne may be regarded as a poetic variation
of the immortal Tariarin de Tarascon.

The next piece is by Nadaud's contemporary,
Pierre Dupont, playwright as well as ballader (182 1-
1870), and is in quite a different style. Mes Bceufs,
with its apparently cynical, even brutal refrain, is
neither one nor the other. When Dupont's peasant
reiterates the ungallant sentiment —

" Dear is my good wife Jeanne, her death I should deplore,
But dearer are my beeves, their loss would grieve me more,"

he foresees the material catastrophe, even ruin
brought about by the disablement or death of his
team. As a running commentary on the poem I cite
an incident that happened during an inundation of
that revolutionary river, ce torrent revohitionnaire,
as Michelet calls the Loire.

A rescuing party hastened to save an old peasant
who had betaken himself and his pig to the garret
of his cottage, already almost chimney-high in water.
The boat was small, and the rescuers shouted —

" No room except for yourself, my good man.
Hurry up," or rather down.

But above the sound of swirling waves and raging
winds came the plea —

" Never mind me. Save my pig."

Here, without doubt, poor piggie's owner was
actuated by the same motive as Jeanne's husband.
Who knows? Perhaps the animal represented a
daughter's dowry? As practical interests are never
lost sight of in France, doubtless the old man gained



FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY 11

his point. Piggie was plumped into the boat with
his master.

Paul Deroulede, nephew of Emile Augier and
volunteer in 1870, will never wear the Immortal's
uniform, but enjoys a fame far transcending any that
academies can bestow. He is above all things the
people's, the patriots' poet, the Korner of nineteenth-
century France. The one man who could have
written a Marseillaise had not Rouget de Lisle fore-
stalled him, his Chants de Guerre, or songs of war,
stir the blood as do the strophes of the national
hymn, and, it must be added, of that song of social
revolt, the Internationale.

Outsiders who have witnessed the departure,
passage or home-coming of conscripts will under-
stand his Boyt Gite (The Soldier's Reception), its
deep feeling and homely pathos. But for the labour
and responsibility involved in translating such
poetry, I should have given more of Deroulede's
impassioned muse.

Of Richepin, son of the palmy, sunny France
beyond sea. the other's junior by three years, it is
hardly necessary to speak, so cosmopolitan is his
fame. Dramatist, lyrist and "the bard of the beg-
gars," as I have elsewhere called him, M. Richepin,
whilst familiar with strata of life below the slum-
line, nay, with thieves' dialect, yet possesses the
daintiest, purest fancy. His poems in vagabonds'
jargon, requiring translation from the appended
glossary, I could not hope to render; from the
celebrated Chants des Giieiix I have extracted one
little piece, a pearl indeed, or rather, as that word
recalls another of evil omen, I will call La Flute.



12 FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY

The poet, I am glad to say, has expressed his satis-
faction at the rendering, over which his translator
spent a whole week !

Albert Delpit, nearly of an age with the two last-
named, was born in New Orleans, but of French
parentage, and is patriot of the patriots. After the
Franco-Prussian War his volumes of verse, called
U Invasion and Les Dieux qu'on brise, received the
prizes of the Academy. In Petit fiou (Soldier,
paid a sou) we have the disillusion, not a scintilla
of the glamour of war. This highly popular piece
is one of the most characteristic in M. Delpit's
volume. A garde-mobile during that infamous and
most unnecessary war, like Paul Deroulede, Albert
Delpit sings of what he knew and felt, not sentiment-
ally hymning war and its miseries by a comfortable
fire. Every line rings true.

Not of military glory and disaster sings Robert
Caze, who died young (i 853-1 886), author of
Poemes Rustiques and other simple idylls. The
little picture outlined in the piece here given is one
familiar enough to the tourist through provincial
France.

Rustic Hospitality is no exaggerated apo-
strophe of the peasant. Thrifty, even parsimonious
although he be, Jacques Bonhomme has ever a corner
in his heart for the chemiiicau, the beggar at the
gate. Edie Ochiltrees on French soil have survived
Revolution and regime after regime. Toulouse,
indeed, would be a suitable paradise to that lover of
beggars, Charles Lamb. In certain country places
what in England were formerly called trampers have
now-a-days, as of old, their regular rounds, calling



FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY 13

at one farmhouse for their basin of soup, at another
for their broken victuals, at a third for their draught
of piquette, or sour wine. No one hustles them;
" move on " is not a watchword of rural police ; the
chercheur de fain (seeker for bread) remains an
institution in what is still nominally Catholic France.

The Cid has no place in domestic poetry
properly speaking, but is now so popular as a recita-
tion that I have included it in my little collection.
Barbey d'Aurevilly (i 808-1 889) forms the subject of
a later chapter, and I will not here add a critical or
bjographical note. Journalist, romancer, poet and
critic, brilliantly gifted under each head, maybe
this splendid and most original poem is all that will
outlive a reputation altogether posthumous.

Not perhaps, technically speaking, should follow
the names of Florian and Lachambeaudie, fabulists
separated by a century, the former dying amid the
throes of Revolution (1794), the latter exiled by that
shoddy Caesar, the soi-disant third Napoleon.

But if not poets of domesticity or lyrists of the
fireside, these philosophers in verse essentially
belong to daily life, and not only of any especial
country, but of the civilized world. France is pre-
eminently the land of the fabulist, her goodly list
crowned by the immortal La Fontaine, the beautiful
and joy-giving tradition being carried on till our own
times. And if not possessing the great master's
unrivalled and, at times, cynical raillery of human
nature, the eighteenth-century Florian and the nine-
teenth-century Lachambeaudie possess compensatory
wit, fancy and unfailing bonhomie. Both are con-
stantly on the lips of reciters and prelectors. Both



14 FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY

equally move to tears and laughter, and both are
equally beloved of old and young.

Florian, simply considered as a poet, is uniformly
charming, and did apology in such case ever serve
any purpose, my palinode would be long. Of his
musical and witty pieces I could only hope to give
the meaning, or rather the spirit. Lachambeaudie's
flowing narratives offer fewer stumbling-blocks to
the translator. Indeed, to a facile versifier the ren-
dering into native tongue of these is mere pastime,
the delightful recreation of spare moments.

I add that, with the exception of Jean Richepin,
no poet here represented appears in Mr. Eccles's
long list. His predecessor, in The Claims of FrencJi
Poetry, mentions Florian, but gives no citations from
the small legacy of famous fables.



FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY 15



THE RAIN IS FALLING, SHEPHERD MAID (IL
PLEUT, BERGERE, IL PLEUT)



The rain is falling, shepherd maid,

A storm is coming fast.
Let's hasten to some friendly shade

And shelter till 'tis past.



Hark how the big drops patter down,

The water runs in streams,
Whilst from yon clouds that darkly frown,

Fiercely the lightning gleams.

Ill

The thunder growls, my shepherd maid,

Delay not, take my arm.
Gather your sheep, be not afraid,

We're near my mother's farm.

IV

Ah ! there she stands, the housewife dear,

And with her, sister Anne;
See both, a visitor is here,

Beguile her as you can.

V

With sister Anne, sit down, ma mie,
The peat shall soon burn bright ;

Your little flock shall cared for be.
And folded for the night.

VI

Good-night, good-night, my shepherd maid.

The storm has passed away.
But sister makes your little bed.

There sweetly dream till day.



16 FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY



VII

To-morrow, with my mother, I,

— May fortune us betide ! —
Unto your father we will hie,

And ask you for my bride.

Fabre d'Eglantine.



CARCASSONNE

"I'm growing old; just threescore year,

In wet or dry, in dust and mire
I've sweated, never getting near

Fulfilment of my heart's desire.
Ah ! well I see that bliss below

'Tis Heaven's will to grant to none,
Harvest and vintage come and go,

I've never got to Carcassonne!

"The town I've glanced at many a day,

You see it from yon mountain chain ;
But five long leagues it lies away,

Ten long leagues there and back again.
Ah ! if the vintage promised fair,

But grapes won't ripen without sun
And gentle showers to make them swell,

I shall not get to Carcassonne !

"You'd think 'twas always Sunday there,

So fine, 'tis said, are folks bedight.
Silk hat, frock coats, the bourgeois wear,

Their demoiselles walk out in white.
Two generals with their stars you see,

And towers out-topping Babylon.
A bishop, too — ah me ! ah me !

I've never been to Carcassonne.

" Yes, truly did our curd call
Pride the besetting sin of man;

Ambition brought on Adam's fall,
And soaring wishes arc my bane.



FRENCH DOMESTIC POETRY 17

Yet could I only steal away

Before the winter has begun,
I'd die contented any day,

If once I'd been to Carcassonne!

** Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu ! Forgive my prayer,

I'm but a poor presumptuous fool.
We build fine castles in the air,

When grey as when new breeched at school.
My wife with our first-born, Aignan,

Have even journeyed to Narbonne,
My grandson has seen Perpignan,

I've never been to Carcassonne ! "

So sighed a peasant of Limoux,

A worthy neighbour, bent and worn.
"Ho, friend," quoth I, "I'll go with you,


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