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of cutlets he, the King, had eaten. The oihcer, out
of deference, perhaps, to his royal companion, answered
that, though he had noticed the King ' ' being very
busy," he had paid no particular attention to the num-
ber of cutlets that had disappeared. * ' I should say
three," he suggested modestly. Victor Emmanuel
shook his head, and repeated the question to every one
around. But they were all evidently determined not to
overstep the first estimate of the King's appetite, until a
Savoyard gentleman, an Intimate friend of the sover-
eign, and as outspoken as he, settled the matter by say-
ing that he had seen Victor Emmanuel help himself nine
times. 'That's quite right,' laughed the King; 'I've
eaten nine cutlets.' These are the stories," concluded
d' Azeglio, ' ' with which he entertains Rosina ; for Ro-
sina has to be entertained, not to say conciliated, espe-
cially after a week or a fortnight's absence. She is ab-



70 My Paris Note-Book.

solutely Incapable of fathoming the grandeur of the task
in which Victor Emmanuel is engaged. Nay, more ; if
ever she expresses an opinion on that task, which, truth
to tell, is very seldom, it is to the effect that ' Victor
would do better to look after his own, after what he's
got,' as she puts it, and that the revenues of Piedmont
are quite sufficient for his purpose and his wants, ' which,
after all, are very small,' for she has no idea that the
revenues of Piedmont are not the King's to do with just
as he pleases. In reality, apart from her utter inability
to understand these matters, she is very jealous of the
King's every look and movement when away from her,
and not without cause, though, whatever infidelities
Victor Emmanuel may commit, he always returns to La
Mandria with renewed zest. During one of those ab-
sences lately, while he was presiding at a Council, there
came a mounted messenger from La Mandria asking
him to come back immediately. Of course, he could
not leave like that, at a moment's notice, and he sent an
answer in that sense. In a little over an hour the mes-
senger returned with a second note, which this time he
showed to his ministers, saying, ' Rosina wants to see
me. I must go, for she threatens to fling her son out
of the window if I don't go. I know her, and she would
be as good as her word.' At present Rosina has only
two children ; but she is not above twenty-three, and
before the end there may be a dozen. It will not mat-
ter much to the King ; on the contrary, I believe he
would be very pleased, for he is exceedingly proud of
these two, prouder, in fact, than of his legitimate off-
spring, with whom he is always comparing them in
point of health and strength, to the disadvantage of the
latter, and somewhat unjustly, for I think the others are
quite as vigorous and good-looking."



My Paris Note-Book. 71

So far that particular note of my uncle, to which I
have not been able to find a sequel, relating directly to
''^ la bella del Re^ I have, however, by me some per-
sonal notes, resulting from conversations with Ferrari
and others, and which, though not so amusing from an
anecdotical point of view, are perhaps quite as interest-
ing from a historical. If possible, I will give them at
some future time. Meanwhile, it would appear that my
uncle told the Emperor a few days afterwards about the
scene on the Boulevards, and the disappointment of
Ferrari, and incidentally repeated part of d'Azeglio's re-
marks about Victor Emmanuel's attachment to Rosina
Vercellana. The Emperor seemed very much inter-
ested, nodded his head significantly several times, and
finally gave his own personal and private opinion. ' ' Up
till now," he said, ''there is not much harm done, and
provided he does not contract a morganatic marriage
with her, there will be no harm done. I need scarcely
tell you that the greatest mistake Louis XIV. ever com-
mitted was to marry Mme. de Maintenon, and though
the Comtesse de Mirafiori has probably not a tithe of
widow Scarron's brain or ambition, that kind of union is
always a dangerous experiment. ' *



72 My Paris Note-Book.



CHAPTER IV.

A chapter on the Comedie-Franjaise^My reasons for writing it —
A country has the drama and theatrical institutions it deserves
— Causerie, not history — My first glimpse of the late Augustine
Brohan— Few of those whom I saw in my youth remain— Edmond
Got— Got and Emile Augier— The genesis of Les Fourcham-
^'flw//— Theatrical Paris in 1861 — Les Effrontes—'LoViis Veuillot
and Emile Augier— Got's preparation for playing Bernard — Got's
preparations for playing Rabbi David Sichel— Got and M. Isi-
dore, the late Chief Rabbin of France— Proposed epitaph for
Parade — Got's extensive reading— Got and Mounet-Sully —
Mounet-Sully as an actor— "A ladder for M. Mounet-Sully"—
Got and Raoul Rigault of the Commune — The mise en scene of
the Comedie-Franfaise — A retrospective view — The late M. Emile
Perrin and some other administrators of the Comedie-Franjaise
— A curious official mistake — MM. Erckmann-Chatrian and
their beginnings— Mr. Henry Irving and "The Bells" — Got in
search of a piano — His interview with the superior of a convent
— Nourrit, the celebrated tenor, and King Bomba — The supe-
rior's eye for the main chance— Got's diplomacy — The brasserie
V Esperance— Brasseries of former days — A mot of Augustine
Brohan.

In his * * HIstoire des Petlts Theatres de Paris depiiis
leur Origine," Nicolas Brazier tells the following anec-
dote. In 1 8 14, when the Allied Armies entered Paris,
a Russian officer was heard to inquire anxiously for his
nearest way to the Comedie-Fran9aise, and, the neces-
sary information having been obtained, seen to drive
straight off to the Rue de Richelieu, to secure his seats for
that very evening. This story must be the apology for
my having devoted so large a space in these notes to the
Com6die-Fran9aise in particular, and theatrical doings



My Paris Note-Book. 73

in general ; for I fancy that the interest in those doings
has increased rather than diminished, especially with
educated English and American readers, since the begin-
ning of the century, and in this instance I do not profess
to write for any other class. But they must not expect
long dissertations on the comparative merits of the
French and English stages, nor would-be-profound criti-
cisms. If I have any opinions at all on the subject, I
intend to keep them rigorously to myself Montesquieu
has said that every country has the government it
deserves. I think that the same might be said with
regard to a nation's dramatic literature and theatrical
institutions ; besides, when a man who is no longer in
the prime of Hfe, and who has never been addicted to
frolics, has taken off his coat and hat, turned up his
shirt-sleeves, and carried a band-box for an actress —
even the greatest of her time — in order to be present at
a dress rehearsal, from which the author of the piece was
determined to exclude any and every journalist, that
man has virtually abdicated all claim to the title of a
serious historian of the drama. He is at best but an
anecdote-monger, a chronicler of small talk, a gossiper.
I am, after all, no more than that ; and if I should suc-
ceed now and then in amusing others, it is because I
have strictly fulfilled the essential condition becoming a
causeur ; for many, many years I have listened a good
deal. Auguste Vacquerie, Victor Hugo's most intimate
friend and staunchest admirer, has laid it down that
^^ savoirparler, n' est que s avoir par ler ; savoir qkvs^^^
c' est savoir parler et ecoutery For the first three or
four years after my introduction to the green-room of
the Com^die-Frangaise, which happened early in the
sixties, I did not open my lips once a week, except to
answer a question. To begin with, I was too young,

7*



74 My Paris Note-Book.

and though my grand-uncles were by no means starched
or conventional in their mode of bringing me up, they
would have gently but firmly resented any attempt of
mine to take part in the conversation, even when I had
reached the age of twenty. Secondly, on the evening
of my first visit to the green-room of the Comedie-
Fran9aise, the late Augustine Brohan was engaged in a
" trial of wit," to use the stereotyped expression, with
three or four would-be young admirers, and she posi-
tively frightened me out of my wits — I do not mean to
perpetrate an atrocious pun, but am merely recording a
sober fact. I judged the whole of her fellow actors and
actresses by her. In after years, I learned to discrim-
inate between real wit and flippant mechancete^ and
fancied that I would not have been afraid to pit myself
against her in the latter respect ; but for the moment
I was stricken dumb in her presence. For at least a
decade she had the effect of a wet blanket on me.
When I heard Albert Chevalier sing, *' It isn't what he
says; it's the nasty way he says it," I was irresistibly
reminded of Augustine Brohan, to whom, in the course
of these pages, I shall probably refer again.

But few of those whom I saw there in my young days
remain ; most of them are dead ; the rest have retired
from the stage. The woman I was afraid of was laid to
rest last year ; Bressant, whom I admired more than
any actor of his time in his own parts ; Regnier and
Samson, two geniuses in their own way, have gone over
to the majority long ago ; Delaunay and Febvre, the
latter a new-comer at the period of which I treat, have
said farewell to the public to all intents and purposes ;
Madame Madeleine Brohan no longer delights us with
her finished impersonations ; Madame Judith, after she
became Madame Bernard-Derosnes, took to her hus-



My Paris Note-Book. 75

band's profession, and gives the French some admirable
translations of Miss Braddon's novels and others. For-
tunately, among those who still bear an active part in
upholding the prestige of the " House of Moliere" is
Edmond Got — a host in himself, and one of the men of
whom I have a most vivid recollection, both as an artist
and as a man, for he is no less admirable in the latter
than in the former capacity ; as such I may be permitted
to dwell upon him at greater length than on any of the
others.

Lest this praise should seem exaggerated, I give an
anecdote which I had from the late Emile Augier him-
self, and I am the more inclined to do this, seeing that
it supplies, as it were, the genesis of the last, and per-
haps the most remarkable piece that came from the
great play-wright's pen. I am alluding to Les Four-
chambault, for the failure of which on the English stage,
under the title of ' ' The Crisis, ' ' I have never been able
to account.

The author and the actor had been college chums, but
college chums such as one rarely meets with nowadays,
except in novels and plays. They climbed the ladder of
fame together, and but for their mutual aid, the ascent
might have been slower than it was. There is great doubt
whether, clever as were Les Effrontes and Le Fils de
Giboyer^ they would have withstood the ordeal of hostile
criticism as successfully as they did, but for Got's abso-
lutely electrical acting. I remember the premiere of Les
Effrontes as well as if it had been yesterday, though
exactly thirty-three years have elapsed as I write about
it. They were rehearsing Tannhauser at the Opera in
that month of January 1861. It was bitterly cold, large
masses of ice were obstructing the navigation of the
Seine ; the Second Empire was in all its glory ; the New



76 My Paris Note-Book.

Year's reception at the Tuileries had been most brilliant,
for every one was congratulating every one else on the
victories of the French armies in China ; Graziani, Gar-
doni, and Mile. Marie Battu were drawing crowded
houses at the Italian Opera ; the public were besieging
the Vaudeville, at that time situated on the Place de la
Bourse, to see Sardou's Femmes Fortes ; the Gymnase
turned money away every night with another of Augier's
pieces — that one written in collaboration with Jules San-
deau ; but what I remember that particular January most
by was by my New Year's present, which came directly
from Napoleon III., though it was not handed to me
personally. It was a set of newly-minted silver coins,
with the laurel-wreathed head of the Emperor. I had
them four days before the end of the year, and for the
next six weeks people were vainly trying to get them.

Napoleon III. was present at the first performance of
Les Fffrontes, and stayed till the very end, frequently
giving the signal for applause. Subsequently, he had
to take up the cudgels for Augier against his detractors
and assailants, the most violent of whom was Louis
Veuillot, the clerical champion, who, as was his wont,
indulged in personal vituperation, and called Augier's
grandfather, Pigault Lebrun, "a gaol-bird." There-
upon, Augier sent his seconds to Veuillot, who refused
to fight on the ground of religious scruples. Augier
took his revenge, and gave a striking portrait of the
polemist in the sequel to Les Fffrontes, viz. , Le Fils de
Giboyer. He called Veuillot ' ' a juggler before the
Holy Ark," to which the "saintly man" replied that
he was only the * ' * chucker-out' of the establishment,
appointed specially to take by the scruff of the neck the
rowdy jokers and ill-behaved dogs that might trouble
the divine service."



My Paris Note-Book. 77

I repeat, clever as were these pieces, they might have
met with a different fate but for the electrical acting of
Got, for every now and then they drag. On the other
hand, it is but fair to say that this was the grandest op-
portunity Got had had until then, and he had been a
societaire for over eleven years. French actors have
before now been indebted for great chances to play-
wrights, and it is generally the latter who have proved
the more grateful. In the instances of Got and Augier,
the gratitude was absolutely mutual, though, as both
often said, ' ' The bonds of friendship could not very
well be closer than they are. " "To arrive at a more
intense feeHng for one another," added Augier, on
the occasion of his telling me the story of Les Four-
chambault, ''one of us would have to be changed into
a woman." Then he went on. "I had produced
nothing for several years, and my comrade, more tena-
cious of my reputation than I was myself, regretted
this, especially in view of the frequently recurring suc-
cessful productions of Dumas and Sardou. Got was
frequently urging me to write a new play, but, as a rule,
I shook my head, until one evening during a conversa-
tion in the green-room an idea struck me. ' Perhaps
you are right,' I said of a sudden. 'It won't do,
maybe, to get more rusty than I am already. I think
I will write you a new part.' I never saw my old
friend's countenance change so suddenly as at that
moment. He looked positively distressed, and after a
while he replied in a tone of protest — ' You misunder-
stood me, that was not what I meant when I asked you
to write a new play. I do not want you to write a new
part for me ; my capabilities in that respect are pretty
nigh exhausted. You and others have pretty well drawn
everything I could represent. Besides, I have neither

7*



78 My Paris Note-Book.

the time nor the inclination to study a new part. ' ' Don't
you worry about that,' I answered, for, having once
got hold of my idea, I clung to it ; 'don't you worry
about that. There will be no need for you to study or
to polish your part. I am merely going to photograph
the real Got as I know him, a good sort, a good chum ;
in short, a thorough brick.'

'* That was the commencement ofLes Fourchambault,
and all those who know my old friend agree that Ber-
nard is only Got under another name, and that, given
the circumstances. Got would have acted as did Bernard.
Conscious, however, as was Got from the beginning of
the similarity of character between himself and the ship-
owner whom I had drawn, he was equally aware that the
outer man could not be like him either in speech or in
manners. He felt more worried about this than I did,
for I knew that, come what might, he would get over
the difficulty. I knew exactly what he would do,
though he did not suspect me of divining his thoughts.
It turned out exactly as I expected ; for three or four
weeks running he was absent from Paris for a whole day
and night, and no one seemed to know whither he had
gone. Serious as they appear to be in the Rue de
Richelieu, they are fond of a joke, and in this instance
they relished the one they had concocted more than
usually, for they thought they were speaking the truth
when they said — ' Voila que Got se derange malntenant.'
With his never-relaxing conscientiousness, he had simply
put himself Into communication with an intimate ac-
quaintance at Havre, taken a few trips to the seaport,
and from half-a-dozen individuals constructed a type
which I have no hesitation in proclaiming to be one of,
if not the most perfect on the modern stage. ' '

Augler was right ; Bernard is one of the most won-



My Paris Note-Book. 79

derful creations of the modern stage, just because at the
first blush ' * there is nothing in it. ' ' It was a far more diffi-
cuh task to portray Bernard than to portray Rabbi David
Sichel in H Ami Fritz ^ for in the latter case there were
many salient points to get hold of ; there was the dress,
the gait, the gesture, the diction, the accent, and above
all, the facial play of the provincial Jewish minister, who,
in spite of his oflicial position, does not occupy a very
elevated plane in society. In that, as in the later study,
Got adopted the same method. He went to M. Isidore,
the late Grand Rabbin of France, and told him of his
predicament ; and the latter invited the actor to supper
one Friday night, when there were gathered around his
hospitable board a dozen or more models to choose
from. They were not hampered by the conventionalities
of ''good society," which enjoins, even in France, the
duty of not displaying one's feelings physiognomically,
orally, or plastically, which votes picturesque attitudes
*' bad form," decrees the adoption of a certain diapason
irrespective of emotion, and bids the features to remain
stolid whether in joy or sorrow. The comedian had
only to single out one specimen, and to reproduce his
peculiarities in every detail, which, in fact, he did.
That's how Got "constructs," or ** composes," as the
French say, his characters, plus his own brains, as Opie
would have remarked.

That such an artist should have no history apart from
his profession is not unnatural. There are, however,
two utterly different ways of looking at one's profession.
One man considers it a watch-tower, the altitude of
which gives him greater facilities for surveying his fel-
low-creatures ; another considers it merely the top of a
wall enclosing the whole of the world, beyond which
there is nothing worthy of his attention. When that



8o My Paris Note-Book.

very clever actor Parade died a few years ago, some of
his old comrades were discussing in the cafi next to the
Vaudeville a suitable inscription for his gravestone. For
the better guidance of the reader, I may inform him
that I am alluding to the Cafe Am6ricain ; but I wish to
add that with regard to the clientele of this famous
house of entertainment, ' ' the evening and the morning
are not one day." Having pointed this out, I proceed.
We were, then, discussing a suitable epitaph, when one
of the brothers Lionnet, both of whom play-goers of
the last generation but one are sure to remember, re-
marked — " Save an allusion to his eminence in his pro-
fession, I fail to see what one could put on that grave-
stone, except that 'he played baccarat and did not
draw at five.' " The whole of Parade was painted in
that one sentence. Not his greatest detractors — if he
have any, which I doubt — would accuse Got of such
onesidedness ; he and Febvre are men of extensive
reading, and need not yield the palm in that respect to
their famous predecessor at the Comldie, Regnier.
Got's literary baggage is, however, very small ; it con-
sists of a solitary operatic libretto, entitled Frangois
Villon ; but those competent to judge have voted it a
small masterpiece from a literary point of view.

Apropos of this extensive reading, and the use Got
makes of it in everyday life, the late M. Emile Perrin,
of whom I shall have occasion to speak now and then
in these pages, told me a rather amusing anecdote.
The late Administrator-General was, though a clever
man, by no means a sprightly one, especially in busi-
ness hours; and he disliked "scenes." M. Mounet-
Sully, who has considerably toned down within the last
ten years, did not always have his temper under control,
and there were many violent altercations at the meet-



My Paris Note-Book. 8i

ings of the Board of Management, of which the famous
representative of the heroes of Shakespeare and Victor
Hugo is a member. Animated by the best intentions,
he had, Uke Lamartine, the misfortune to fancy himself
a great authority on financial and economical questions,
and, as such, objected frequently to M. Perrin's lavish
expenditure in the way of scenery, adjuncts, and
dresses. I am afraid I shall puzzle the reader by call-
ing M. Mounet-SuUy an idealist and naturalist in one,
so I hasten to explain. Hamlet, Othello, Orestes,
Hippolyte, Hernani, Ruy-Blas and Rodrigue are to M.
Mounet-Sully not the mere creations of the poet's
fancy, but beings that have existed in the flesh. He
can enter fully into the motives that swayed their
actions, which, extravagant as they may seem to sober-
minded people, are perfectly logical to him ; if pressed
very hard, he would probably admit that they spoke as
the poet makes them speak. He would fain endow the
public with his own imagination ; and where he himself
is concerned, he succeeds to a marvellous extent. So
far so good. But they refuse to see with their mind's
eyes the battlements of Elsinore, the sunlit island of
Cyprus, the majestic cathedrals of Spain ; they want all
these pictorially represented to them, and M. Mounet-
Sully, who, his idealism notwithstanding, is naturalistic
enough to rehearse for weeks in his stage clothes, so
as to get used to them and destroy their unpractical,
brand-new look, called the public names in consequence,
and nearly always discussed M. Perrin's budget, where
it related to such adjuncts, in violent terms. There was
no means of stopping him until Got one day bethought
himself of a masterly move. Some time before that he
had told Mounet-Sully the well-known story of Ed-
mund Kean lashing himself into a rage by shaking a
/



82 My Paris Note-Book.

ladder before entering upon the grand scene of The
Merchant of Venice. ' ' Here you have got your real
artist," exclaimed Mounet-Sully, carried away by
admiration. A characteristic trait of Mounet-Sully' s
was that, like Beethoven in some of his sympho-
nies, he prefaced the storm by peaceful, gentle
strains. Mounet-Sully nearly always began by dis-
claiming all idea of making himself disagreeable ; the
moment they heard such protestations, his fellow- com-
mitteemen knew what to expect. On the occasion in
question, Mounet-Sully was softly delivering his pream-
ble, when in the middle of it Got held up his hand and
asked permission of M. Perrin to ring the bell. "A
ladder for M. Mounet-Sully," said Got to the attendant
who answered the summons. Then turning to his com-
rades, he explained — ' ' The ladder will facilitate the busi-
ness, as in the case of Kean." The tragedian sat as if
thunderstruck, but there was no scene during that meet-
ing, and subsequently, whenever he showed signs of
becoming restless, the order was repeated. There is no
longer any necessity for doing so, for Mounet-Sully has
become one of M. Claretie's most valuable coadjutors
in budgetary questions, but the conversion has given
rise to a delightful saying at the Com6die : ' ' Mounet
s'agite et Got le mene." Anglice : " Mounet proposes
and Got disposes."

' ' After all, ' ' said Got one evening more than fifteen
years ago, when he told us this story, * ' after all, Mou-
net' s bark is worse than his bite (il offense plus qu'il ne
punit), and I have tamed more formidable creatures,
and not only more formidable, but more vicious." We
knew^ that we were in for a good thing, and gathered
round him, for Got is at all times reluctant to talk about
himself, and when for the nonce he relaxes this reserve,



My Paris Note-Book. 83



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