Joseph Forster.

Some French and Spanish men of genius. Sketches of Marivaux, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Beaumarachais, Mirabeau, Danton and Robespierre, Béranger, Victor Hugo, Eugéne Sue and Zola, Cervantes and Lope de Vega, Calderon online

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Online LibraryJoseph ForsterSome French and Spanish men of genius. Sketches of Marivaux, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Beaumarachais, Mirabeau, Danton and Robespierre, Béranger, Victor Hugo, Eugéne Sue and Zola, Cervantes and Lope de Vega, Calderon → online text (page 15 of 19)
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' " Oh, M. Rodolphe, how kind you are ! You make
me feel quite ashamed."

' " What, because I am kind 1 "

' " No, but it seems to me that you speak no longer
as you did yesterday that you are some other

' " Come, now, Fleur de Marie, would you rather
that I should be the Rodolphe of yesterday or to-day ? "

' " I like you more as you are to-day : but yesterday
I seemed to be more your equal." Then, fearing she
had mortified Rodolphe, she added, " When I say your
equal, M. Rodolphe, I know that that can never be."

' " There is one thing in you that surprises me, Fleur
de Marie."

' "What is that, M. Rodolphe?"

' " You seem to forget that La Chouette told you
yesterday she knew your parents that she knew your
mother. "

' " Oh, I have not forgotten that ; I thought of it all
night, and I have wept bitterly ; but I am sure it is
not true. She only invented the story to give me
pain. . . ."

' " It may be that La Chouette knows more than you
imagine ; if it is so, would not you be happy to find your
mother ? "

' " Alas ! M. Rodolphe, if my mother never loved
me, what good would it be to find her ] She would not
wish to see me what a disgrace I should be to her ; it
would, perhaps, kill her."

'"If your mother loved you, Fleur de Marie, she
would pity you, she would pardon you, she would love
you again. If she has forsaken you, in seeing to what a
horrible fate her conduct has reduced you, her shame
would be your revenge."


' " And why should I be revenged ? If I were, it
seems to me that I should no longer have the right to
consider myself unfortunate : that belief often consoles

'"Perhaps you are right; let us speak no more
about it."

' At this moment the carriage arrived near St. Ouen,
at the junction of the road to St. Denis and that to la
Revolte. Notwithstanding the monotonous appearance
of the country, Fleur de Marie was so delighted at seeing
the fields, that, forgetting the sad thoughts which the
recollections of La Chouette had awakened in her mind,
her charming face brightened, she leaned out of the
window, and, clapping her hands, cried, "M. Eodolphe,
how delightful fields and hedges ! If you would only
let me alight the weather is so fine ! I would like so
much to run in the meadows ! "

' " We will take a run together, my child. Coach-
man, stop ! "

' " What ! you also, M. Rodolphe 1 "

' " I also 1 ? yes, we will make it a holiday."

' " What happiness ! M. Rodolphe."

{ And he and Fleur de Marie, hand in hand, ran over
the new-mown field till they were both out of breath.

' To attempt to describe the gambols, the little
joyous cries, the delight of Fleur de Marie, would be
impossible. Poor child ! for so long time a prisoner, she
breathed the pure air with intoxication ; she came, she
went, she ran, she rested, always with fresh transports.
At the sight of several tufts of daisies and some marigolds
spared by the first frost of approaching winter she could
not refrain from new exclamations of delight; she did
not leave one of the flowers, but gleaned the whole


meadow. After having run thus over the fields, being
unaccustomed to such exercise, she became tired, and,
stopping to take breath seated herself on the trunk of a
tree, near a deep ditch.

' The fair and transparent complexion of Fleur de
Marie, ordinarily pale, was now lit up with the most
vivid colour. Her large, blue eyes shone sweetly, her
rosy mouth half open, disclosed her pearl-like teeth, and
her heart throbbed under the little orange shawl she wore.
She kept one hand on her bosom, at if to still its pulsa-
tion, while with the other she offered Rodolphe the
flowers she had gathered.

'Nothing could be more charming than the in-
nocent, joyous expression which shone on this lovely

' As soon as she could speak, she said to Rodolphe,
with touching simplicity :

' " How good of the Almighty to give us so fine a

' A tear came to the eye of Rodolphe at the thought
of this poor, abandoned, despised, lost creature, without
a home, without bread, offering thus a cry of joy and of
thanks to the Creator, because she enjoyed a ray of
sunshine and the sight of a meadow !

* *****

' " Now that you are satisfied with me, Fleur de
Marie, we can amuse ourselves, as we said just now, by
building castles in the air ; it won't cost much, so you
can't scold me for being extravagant."

' " Oh, no ! You begin."

' " I'll try. I will suppose that this road will lead us
to a charming village, some distance from the main road

' " Yes, because it will be more quiet and tranquil."


' " It is built on a rising ground, and surrounded by

' " And there is a little streamlet, close by 1 "

' " Exactly so a streamlet. At the end of the
village there is a beautiful farm, and a dining-room for
the mistress."

' " Yes, and the house must have green blinds.
They look so cheerful, M. Rodolphe."

' " Green blinds yes, I am of your opinion ; there is
nothing so lively as green blinds. Naturally the mis-
tress of the farm would be your aunt."

' " Oh, naturally. And she would be a kind, good

' " An excellent woman, who would love you like a

' " Good aunt ! it must be so delightful to be loved
by some one ! "

' " Yes, and you could love her also 1 "

1 " Ah ! ' cried Fleur de Marie, joining her hands,
and lifting her eyes towards heaven with an expression
of happiness impossible to describe.

' " Oh, yes, I would love her, and, besides, I would
help her with her work to sew, wash, bleach to dry
fruits for the winter, enough for the whole household.
She should not complain of my idleness, I assure you.

In the morning "

' " Stop, stop ! Fleur de Marie ; how impatient you
are. Let me finish describing the house "

* " Come, come, M. Painter, it is easy to perceive
that you are accustomed to make pretty landscapes oa
your fans," said the girl, laughing.

[Rodolphe is supposed by Fleur de Marie to be a
painter of fans.]


' " Little prattler, let me finish my house ! "
' " It is true that I do prattle ; but it is so amusing !
M. Rodolphe, I will listen ; pray finish your house."
' " Your room shall be on the first floor."
' " My room ! Oh, how delightful ! Come, let us
see my room." And the young girl fixed her large,
widely opened eyes on Rodolphe.

' " Your chamber shall have two windows, which look
upon the flower-garden, and on the meadows through
which the little river flows. On the other side of this
river will be seen a little hill, all planted with chestnut
trees, from the midst of which peeps the spire of a

' " Oh, how pretty, M. Rodolphe ; it makes me desire
to be there ! "

' " Three or four cows are grazing in the meadow,
which is separated from the garden by a hedge of haw-

' " And can I see the cows from my window ? "
' " Perfectly."

' " Then one of them shall be my favourite, M.
Rodolphe. I'll make her a fine collar with a bell to it,
and I'll accustom her to come and eat from my hand. "

' " She won't fail to do so. She is very young and
pure white, and we'll call her Musette."

' " Ah ! what a pretty name ; poor Musette ! I love
her already."

' " Let us finish your chamber, Fleur de Marie ; it is
hung with a pretty Persian chintz, with curtains to
match. A honeysuckle and rose tree cover the walls of
the cottage on this side, and the flowers hang over your
window, so that in the morning you have only to stretch
out your hands to gather the fragrant blossoms,"


' " Ah ! M. Rodolphe, what a painter you are ! "

' " Now we'll see how you will pass the day. Your
good aunt will come and awaken you in the morning
by a gentle kiss on the forehead ; she will bring you a
bowl of warm milk, because your chest is weak, poor
child ! . Then you'll get up ; you will go and see the
farm, Musette, the chickens, your friends the doves, and
the flowers in the garden. At nine o'clock your writing
master will arrive."

' " My writing master ! "

' " You know you must learn to read, write, and keep
accounts, so that you can help your aunt with the books
of the farm."

' " True, M. Rodolphe ; I never think of anything.
I must learn to read and write to help my aunt," said
the poor girl, seriously, so much absorbed by the charm-
ing picture of this peaceable life that she believed in its

' " After your lessons, you will work at the linen of the
house, or you will make yourself a pretty peasant bonnet.
At two o'clock you will return to your writing, and then
you will take a long walk with your aunt, see the hay-
makers in summer, and the labourers in the fall ; you will
come home quite tired, bringing with you a handful of
sweet herbs that you have gathered in the meadows for

' " For we will return by the meadows, won't we, M.
Rodolphe "

' " Without doubt ; there is a wooden bridge over the
river. At your return, bless me ! it is six or seven
o'clock, and a fine fire is blazing in the large kitchen of
the farm ; you will go there and warm yourself, and have
a talk with the good folks just returned from work ; then


you will dine with your aunt. Sometimes the curate, or
some other old friend of the house, sits down to talk with
you. After that, you read or work, while your aunt has
her game of cards. At ten o'clock she kisses you, and
you retire to your chamber. Then next morning you
begin again."

' " I could live for a hundred years in that manner,
and never be tired, M. Rodolphe."

' " But all that is nothing to the Sundays and

' " And these days, M. Rodolphe 1 "

' " You will make yourself very fine ; you will put on
your pretty peasant's dress, and the little round cap that
becomes you so well ; then you will get into the basket
waggon with your aunt and James, the farm boy, to go
to grand mass at the village; after that, during the
summer, you will not fail to go with your aunt to the
fetes of the surrounding parishes. You are so kind, so
good, such a nice housekeeper, your aunt loves you so
much, the curate will give such a good account of you,
that all the young farmers around will wish to dance with
you, because that is the way all marriages begin. Then
by-and-by, you will perceive one and "

Rodolphe, astonished at the silence of the young
girl, turned to look at her ; the poor child could
hardly restrain her sobs ; for a moment, deceived by
the words of Rodolphe, she had forgotten the present,
and the contrast of it with a dream, a picture so
charming and delightful, recalled to her the horrors
of her position.

' " Fleur de Marie, what is the matter 1 "


' " Ah ! M. Rodolphe, without intending it you have
caused me deep pain. For a moment I believed in the
paradise you painted."

'"But, poor child, this paradise exists look, look
stop, coachman ! "

' The carriage stopped, Fleur de Marie mechanically
raised her head. She found herself at the top of a hill ;
what was her astonishment, her amazement ! The pretty
village built on the hillside, the farm, the meadows, the
cows, the little river, the chestnut trees, the church
spire rising above the leaves all were before her eyes ;
nothing was wanting ; even Musette was there, a beauti-
ful white heifer, the future favourite of Fleur de Marie.
The charming landscape was lighted by a fine warm
November sun. The yellow and dark green leaves still
covered the noble chestnut trees, standing out in bold
relief from the blue and smiling sky.

' " Well, Fleur de Marie, what say you now 1 Am I
a good painter?" inquired Rodolphe, gaily.

' She looked at him with surprise and inquietude ; it
seemed to her almost supernatural.

' " How is this, M. Rodolphe ? But, good heavens ! is
this a dream ! it almost makes me afraid. How ! what
you told me is "

' " Nothing is more simple, my child. The woman
here is my nurse ; I was brought up here. I wrote to
her this morning that I should come to-day; I only
painted after nature."

' " Ah ! it is true, M. Rodolphe ! " said the girl, with
a profound sigh.'

In this retreat Rodolphe leaves Fleur de Marie
to enjoy a little peace and calm. She is torn from


her new life by La Chouette, the Brigand, and

The Chironeur twice saves the life of his bene-
factor, Rodolphe ; the last time at the expense of his

Rodolphe is attacked by a mob, led by the Skele-
ton, and the poor outcast wretch, whom he had raised
from a beast to a man, is stabbed in defending

The death of the poor fellow is powerfully

'The Chironeur had just opened his eyes, when
Rodolphe entered. At the sight of him, his countenance,
of death-like pallor, brightened a little ; he tried to smile,
and said, in a feeble voice :

' " Ah, M. Rodolphe, how fortunate it was that I was
there ! "

' " Brave and devoted as always, you have saved
my life again," replied Rodolphe.

' " I was going to the Barrier de Charenton, to see you
depart happily, I was stopped here by the crowd
besides, this was to happen to me I said so to Martial
I had a presentiment."

' " A presentiment ? "

1 " Yes, M. Rodolphe the dream of the sergeant, I had
it last night "

' " Forget such ideas. Hope ! the wound will not be

' " Oh, yes the Skeleton has struck home. Never
mind, I was right to say to Martial that an earthworm
like me could sometimes be useful to a great lord
like you."


' " But it is life life that I owe you again."

' " We are quits, M. Rodolphe. You told me that I
had a heart and honour. Those words do you see Oh,
I suffocate, my lord ! without you command do me
the honour of your hand I feel that I am going "

' " No, it is impossible ! " cried Rodolphe, bending
over the Chironeur, and pressing in his hands the icy
fingers of the dying man. " No ! you will live you will
live ! "

' " M. Rodolphe do you see there is something up
there I have killed with the blow of a knife ! " said
the Chironeur, in a voice more and more feeble and

' At this moment his eyes became fixed on Fleur de
Marie, whom he had not yet perceived. Astonishment
was painted on his dying face.

' " Ah ! my God ! La Goualeuse."

' " Yes, she is my daughter. She blesses you for
having preserved her father."

' " She your daughter ! here that reminds me of
our acquaintance M. Rodolphe and the blows with the
fists at the end but this blow with the knife will
be also the blow of the end. I killed they kill it
is just."

' Then he uttered a deep sigh, his head falling back-
wards he was dead.'



To compare Lope de Yega with Cervantes ap-
pears on the surface absurd. A novel of character
by Lope de Vega would not have compared favour-
ably with one by Cervantes ; but a comedy by the
latter, so far as invention, intrigue and stage ' go '
are concerned, could mot and did not stand its ground
against one by the former.

Shakespeare's plays stand out in the boldest relief
when compared with the best work of his contem-
poraries ; but his poems do not bear comparison with
Milton and Spenser.

Lope de Vega's dramatic works deal with the
mere outside of life, Cervantes' immortal Don
Quixote searches into the depths of life and passion.
"We find in it some of the broad humanity, the rich
humour, the genial tolerance of human weakness
and folly that make Shakespeare the never-failing
delight of the whole world. Cervantes' genius had
attained a ripe perfection before he produced his
masterpiece. All his other works were so much


preparatory training. A work like Don Quixote is
for all time and all nations, and does not spring up
like a reed. The genius of Lope de Vega was ripe
at once. It was not the result of deep study and
profound reflection. It was the success of a day,
and his best plays were written almost as rapidly
as they were performed.

This is what his friend and contemporary,
Montalvon, says of the almost miraculous rapidity of
his productive powers :

' His pen was unable to keep pace with his mind,
as he invented even more than his hand was capable
of transcribing. He wrote a comedy in two days,
which it would not be easy to copy out in the time.
At Toledo, he wrote fifteen acts in fifteen days, which
made five comedies. These he read at a private house,
where Maestro Joseph Valdebieso was present, and was
witness of the whole ; but, because this is variously
related, I will mention what I myself know from my
own knowledge. Roque de Figueroa, the writer for
the theatre at Madrid, was at such a loss for comedies
that the doors of the Theatre De la Cruz were shut;
and, as it was in the Carnival, he was so anxious upon
the subject that Lope and myself agreed to compose a
joint comedy as fast as possible. It was the Tercera
Orden de San Francisco, and it is the very one in which
Arias acted the part of the saint more naturally than
was ever witnessed on the stage. The first act fell to
Lope's lot, and the second to mine ; we dispatched these
in two days, and the third was divided into eight leaves
each. As it was bad weather, I remained in his house


that night, and, knowing that I could not equal him in
execution, I had a fancy to beat him in the dispatch of
the business ; for this purpose I got up at two o'clock,
and at eleven had completed my share of the work. I
immediately went out to look for him, and found him
very deeply occupied with an orange-tree that had been
frost-bitten in the night. Upon my asking him how he
had gone on with his task, he answered : " I set about it
at five ; but I finished the act an hour ago ; took a bit
of ham for breakfast ; wrote an epistle of fifty triplets ;
and watered the whole of the garden, which has not a
little fatigued me." Then, taking out the papers, he
read me eight leaves and the triplets ; a circumstance
that would have astonished me, had I not known the
fertility of his genius and the dominion he had over the
rhymes of our language.'

Lope de Vega's fame was so enormous that it
became a synonym for every kind of excellence, so
that people talked of a Lope melon, a Lope cigar, a
Lope horse, as perfect specimens of their kind. Lope
de Yega's reputation was not ephemeral in Spain.
He is still read and acted there. In spite of this
prodigious popularity and success, he was unable to
bestow a dowry on his daughter. The bridegroom
was noble, but so poor that he could not marry her
without one.

In this difficulty, the poet addressed the king in
the following terms :

'Lope says, sire, that he served your grandfather
with his sword. He did nothing remarkable then, and



has since done less ; but he showed his zeal and his
courage. He served your father with his pen. If it
has not carried your father's name and praises from one-
end of the world to the other, it is the fault of his want
of talent, and not a deficiency of zeal. Lope has a
daughter, and he is old. The Muses have made him
honoured, but poor. Assist me ; I am endeavouring to
get my child a husband. Spare me, great Philip, a
slight portion of your riches, and may you have more
gold and diamonds than I have rhymes !'

The king gave a handsome dowry in response to
this appeal.


Instead of saying, 'the dog in the manger,' a
Spaniard says ' the gardener's dog/ The play with
the above title, is one of the author's most brilliant
and amusing productions. The opening scene will
enable the reader to form an idea of the glittering
rapidity of the author's style. Teodoro is secretary
to the Countess Diana. She is in love with him, but
is too proud to own it.

SCENE I. Enter TEODORO, tJie secretary, in a cloak, and
TRISTAN, his servant, as if pursued.

TEODORO. Let us fly, Tristan ; this way.

TRISTAN. What a disgrace !

TEODORO. No one has recognised us.

TRISTAN. I don't know ; but I fancy so. [Exeunt.

DIANA. Stop, ah ! stop, worthy gentlemen ! Listen


to me. What can I say? ... Is this the way I am
treated ? Hollo ! no servant here 1 Ho ! no one ? . . .
Did not I see a man, or was it but a dream ? Ho, there !
is all the house asleep ?

Enter FABIO, a servant.

FABIO. Did the senora call ?

DIANA. Did I call 1 . . . His calmness maddens
me ! . . . Hun, booby ! run at once, and see who that
man was that just passed through this room !

FABIO. This room 1

DIANA. Fly : answer with your feet, not with your

FABIO. I fly. [Exit.

DIANA. Learn who it is. ... What treason !


OCTAVIO. Although I heard your voice, senora, I
could not believe it was you calling at such an hour.

DIANA. You take things calmly. You go to bed,
and come quietly and slowly even when called. Men
may enter my house, and almost my apartment; and
you, faithful squire, what do you do to assist me ?

OCTAVIO. Although I heard your voice, senora, I
could not believe it to be you calling at such an hoiu.

Enter FABIO.

FABIO. I never saw anything like it. He fle - v away
like a sparrow-hawk.

DIANA. You recognised him ?

FABIO. By what signs 1

DIANA. A cloak embroidered with gold,

FABIO. As he descended the staircase


DIANA (impatiently), Pretty guardians, my servants !

FABIO. He extinguished the lamp with his hat ; he
then ran on, and at the doorway drew his sword and
vanished (aside) and so did I.

DIANA. You are a pretty hen !

FABIO. What would you have wished]

DIANA. Courage : you should have awaited him
sword in hand.

FABIO. But suppose he was a gentleman? It would
have been casting your honour into the open street.

DIANA. A gentleman here ! and for what ]

OCTAVIO. Is there no one in Naples who loves and
would marry you ] And would not he seek every means
of seeing you ? Are there not hundreds who are blind
with love for you ] Besides, you say yourself that he was
fashionably dressed ; and Fabio saw him extinguish the
lamp with his sombrero.

DIANA. Without doubt it was a cavalier, who out
of love has sought to corrupt my servants. What ser-
vants mine are, Octavio ! . . . But, I will know who it
was. The hat must have had feathers. Go ; fetch it.

FABIO. If it is still there.

DIANA. Dolt ! do you think that he had time to
leturn for it when he was flying]

FABIO. I will take a light and see. [Exit.

(He returns tvith the hat.)

FABIO. This is the hat I run against ; and a pretty
thing it is.

DIANA. That !

OCTAVIO. I never saw a shabbier one.

FABIO. That's it, however.

DIANA. Do you mean to say that is it ]

FABIO. Does the senora think I would deceive her?


DIANA. I tell you I saw feathers ; a hat with waving
plumes ; and that is wh at you dare to bring me !

FABIO. As he threw it on the lamp, of course, the
feathers were burnt ! Icarus, ignorant that the sun would
singe, fell into the white foam of the sea. Here we have
the same story again. The sun that's the lamp ; Icarus
that's the hat; the sea why, that's the staircase
where it fell.

DIANA. I am in no humour for jesting. This event
makes me thoughtful.

OCTAVIO. We shall get at the truth in time.

DIANA. In time ? When ?

OCTAVIO. Repose yourself now, and to-morrow

DIANA. To-morrow, indeed ! . . . I am Diana, coun-
tess of Belflor, and I will not rest till I have discovered
the truth. . . . Call all my women ! [Exit FABIO.

Re-enter with DOROTEA, MARCELA, and ANARDA.

ANARDA (aside). This night the sea will be troubled
and its waves will rage. (Aloud) Do you wish us to re-
main alone with you, senoral

DIANA. Yes. (To FABIO and OCTAVIO) Leave us.

FABIO (aside). Pleasant examination !

OCTAVIO (aside). She is mad !

FABIO (aside). Yes, and suspects me.

[Exeunt FABIO and OCTAVIO.

DIANA. Come here, Dorotea.

DOROTEO. I am here, senora.

DIANA. Who are the cavaliers who usually hover
about this street?

DOROTEA. The Marquis Ricardo and the Count of

DIANA. Answer my next question with frankness.


DOROTEA. I have nothing to hide.

DIANA. With whom have you seen them talking ?

DOROTEA. Had I thousand tongues I could give but
one reply : with you, senora, and with you only.

DIANA. You have had no letter given you? Has
no page entered the house 1

DOROTEA. Never, senora.

DIANA. Stand aside.

MARCELA (to ANARDA). Here's a pretty inquisition !

ANARDA. Yes ! the torture will be applied next.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19

Online LibraryJoseph ForsterSome French and Spanish men of genius. Sketches of Marivaux, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Beaumarachais, Mirabeau, Danton and Robespierre, Béranger, Victor Hugo, Eugéne Sue and Zola, Cervantes and Lope de Vega, Calderon → online text (page 15 of 19)