Samuel Latham Mitchill.

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fugues, canons, etc., my mother asked

" Well, what do you think ? "

" I think, dear madame, that there
is no way of tiring him ; nothing re-
pels him; everything amuses him,
ever3rthing interests him; and what
pleases me the most is that he always
wants to know the ' why.' **

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52 SBtimtJOrir«^

"Very well," said she, '* I must be
resigned then."

I knew that with my mother there
was no trifling. Several times she
had said to me :

"You know, if you do not do well —
quick, a carriage, and to the notary ! "

The notary ! That was enough to
make me accomplish impossibilities.
Furthermore, my reports from school
were good, and in spite of the threat
suspended over me of making me go
twice through the same studies, in
order to prolong my time in school, I
was careful not to give my teachers
the right to consider my musical pas-
sion detrimental to my other work.
One time, however, I was punished,
and that very severely, for not having
finished some exercise. The teacher
kept me in after school, with a tre-
mendous task — something like 500
verses to copy. I was scrawling away,
with that careless rapidity with which
one usually does such tasks, when
the preceptor approached the table.

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&0nn0tf^ 53

After having observed me for some
moments in silence, he laid his
hand gently upon my shoulder and

" That is very badly written — what
you are doing there ! "

Raising my head, I replied :

" Tiens / perhaps you think it is
amusing ! "

" It is tiresome because you are
doing it badly; if you would take
more care/' added he, quietly, "it
would not be so tedious/'

This simple remark, so full of good
sense, so quiet, and spoken with a
tone of patient and persuasive kind-
ness, put such a new light upon the
matter, that since that day I do not
remember ever to have been negli-
gent or thoughtless at my work. It
was a sudden revelation, complete
and convincing, of the secret of
attention and application. I set myself
again to my task, which was finished
with quite a different feeling, and my
ennui disappeared under the content-

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64 i^UntJOir^^

ment and benefit derived from the
good advice just received.

In the meantime, my musical stud-
ies were followed with satisfactory-
results, becoming more and more
absorbing. A vacation of several
days arrived (that of the New Year),
of which my mother took advantage
to procure for me a pleasure that was
at the same time a g^eat and impres-
sive lesson. They were giving Mo-
zart's Don Giovanni^ at the It aliens^
to a hearing of which she took me
herself; and that heavenly evening
spent with her in a little box on the
fourth floor of that theater is one of
the most memorable and delightful
of my life. I can not say if my
memory is correct, but I think it
was Reicha who advised her to take
me to hear Don Giovanni.

Before describing the emotion pro-
duced in me by that incomparable
chef-d'oeuvrey I ask myself if my pen
can ever transcribe it — I do not say

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faithfully, as that would be impossi-
ble — but at least in a manner to give
some idea of what went on in my
mind during those few hours, the
charm of which has dominated my
life like a luminous apparition, or a
kind of vision of revelation.

From the very beginning of the
overture I felt myself transported
into an absolutely new world, by the
solemn and majestic chords of the
final scene of the Commandant. I
was seized with a freezing terror;
and when came the threatening pro-
gression over which are unrolled
those ascending and descending
scales, fatal and inexorable as a sen-
tence of death, I was overcome with
such a fright that I hid my face
upon my mother's shoulder, and thus
enveloped in the double embrace of
the beautiful and the terrible, I mur-
mured the following words :

"Oh! mamma, what music! that
is, indeed, real music ! "

The hearing of Rossini's Othello

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56 WSUtn0iv0^

stirred in me the fibers of musical
instinct, but the effect produced by
Don Juan had quite another significa-
tion, and an entirely different result.
It seemed to me that between these
two kinds of impressions there must
be something analogous to that felt
by a painter in passing directly from
contact with the Venetian masters
to that with Raphael, Leonardo da
Vinci, and Michael Angelo. Rossini
gave me to know the intoxication of
purely musical delight ; he charmed
me, delighted my ear. Mozart did
more; to that enjoyment so complete,
from an exclusively musical and emo-
tional point of view, was then added
the profound and penetrating influ-
ence of true expression united to per-
fect beauty. It was, from one end to
the other of the score, a long and
inexpressible delight. The pathetic
tones of the trio at the death of the
Commandant, and of Donna Anna's
lament over the body of her father,
the charming g^ace of Zerlina, the

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supreme and stately elegance of
the trio of the Masks, and of that
which begins the second act under
Donna Elvira's window — all, finally
(for in this immortal work all must be
mentioned), created for me that beati-
tude one feels only in the presence of
the essentially beautiful things that
hold the admiration of the centuries,
and serve to fix the height of the
esthetic level of perfection in art.
This representation counts as one of
the most cherished holiday gifts of
my childhood, and later, when I had
won the prix de RomCy it was the
full score of Don Juan that my dear
mother gave me as a reward.

That year was, as it happened, par-
ticularly favorable to the develop-
ment of my love of music. During
Holy Week, I heard two concerts by
the concert society of the Conserva-
tory, then directed by Habeneck. At
one of these, Beethoven's Pastoral
Symphony was played; and at the
other, the sjnnphony with chorus, by

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58 ^&Httn0iv0^

the same master. A new inspiration
was then given to my musical ardor,
and I remember that, while these two
compositions revealed to me the lofty,
bold individuality of this singular
and gigantic genius, I also instinct-
ively recognized in them a manner
of expression similar, in many re-
spects, at least, to that into which the
hearing of Don Juan had initiated
me. Something told me that these
two great geniuses, so differently in-
comparable, had a common country,
and belonged to the same school.

My time at the lyceum was passing
rapidly away. Among the means to
which my mother had recourse to
force me to reflect upon the conse-
quences of my determination, besides
that of counting somewhat on keep-
ing me another year in school, by
having me go twice over the same
studies, she hoped to dissuade me by
declaring that if I held an unlucky
number in the drawing of lots for
the military conscription, she would

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be obliged to let me go, being too
poor to pay for a substitute. Evi-
dently that was only a subterfuge —
the poor woman who had eaten dry
bread more than once, so that her
children should lack nothing, would
have sold her bed rather than be
separated from one of us ; and, as I
was of an age to feel and comprehend
how much such a life of devotion and
sacrifice imposed upon me in the
way of respect and love for my
mother, I said to her :

" Very well, dear mamma ; say no
more about it; I will look out for
that; I will exempt myself; I shall
have the prix de Rome**

I was then in the third class, in
which a circumstance had happened
that attracted to me special consid-
eration among my comrades. One
of our professors, M. Roberge, was
particularly fond of Latin poetry.
To be clever in Latin verse was to be
sure of conquering his good graces.

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60 ^!cnt0iv0^

One day the boys had played some
trick upon him, the perpetrator of
which would not confess his fault,
and no one else was allowed to reveal
the secret. On account of this refusal
to confess, M. Roberge punished the
whole class by depriving us of leave of
absence. As the Easter vacation was
approaching — a vacation of perhaps
three or four days' duration — the
punishment promised to be dreadful.
Nevertheless, the spirit of our boy-
ish solidarity did not falter, and the
guilty one remained unknown.

The idea came to me of taking M.
Roberge on his weak side, and of
trying to unbend him. Saying noth-
ing to my comrades, I composed a
piece of Latin poetry, the subject of
which was the grief of little birds
immured in a cage, far from the fields,
the woods, the sun, the air, begging
for their liberty with piteous cries.
It must be that the feeling under
the dictation of which my verses
were written brought me good luck.

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On going into the class-room, I took
advantage of a moment when the
attention of M. Roberge was turned
in another direction, and furtively
laid my little composition on his
chair. Returning to his seat, he
noticed the paper, unfolded it, and
began to read. Then he asked :

"Messieurs, who is the author of
this poetry?'*

I raised my hand.

"It is very good," said he; then
added : " Messieurs, I withdraw the
refusal of leave of absence ; you may
thank your comrade, Gounod, whose
work has earned you your deliver-

The civic honors with which I was
crowned in return for this amnesty
may be imagined !

In due course of time I reached the
second class, and found myself again
under the instruction of my dear
old master of the sixth, Adolphe
R^gnier. I had, then, among my
comrades, Eugfene Despois, who be-

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62 ptemjoir^^

caine a brilliant pupil of the Normal
School, and afterward a distinguished
humanitarian; Octave Ducrois de
Sixt; and, finally, Albert Delacourtie,
the honorable and intelligent attor-
ney, who has remained one of my
best and most faithful friends. We
four boys occupied between us almost
entirely the "bench of honor." At
Easter I was judged sufficiently ad-
vanced to take up rhetoric, which I
studied but three months; and my
progress in other branches having
been so satisfactory, my mother re-
nounced her favorite project of hav-
ing me go over the ground again. I
left the lyceum at the summer vaca-
tion, being then a little more than
seventeen years old.

But I had not finished philosophy,
and my mother did not intend that
any of my studies should be incom-
plete. It was, therefore, arranged to
go on with them at home, so that,
while pursuing my work in composi-
tion, I was also preparing for exami-

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nation as bachelor of arts, which
degree I passed at the end of the

I have often regretted not having
added that of the baccalaureate of
sciences, which would have familiar-
ized me early with a crowd of ideas,
the importance of which I appreci-
ated when all too late, and regard-
ing which I have, unfortunately,
remained in ignorance. But time
was pressing; it was necessary to
prepare for winning tlje prtx de Rome,
to which I aspired, and which was
for me a question of life or death
for my future. Therefore, there was
no time to lose.

Reicha had just died, and I found
myself without a teacher. My mother
decided to take me to Cherubini, and
to ask for my admission into one of
the classes in composition at the
Conservatory. I carried with me
some of my exercises written under
Reicha, in order to show Cherubini

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64 W^jmt0iva*

the degree of my advancement. This,
however, was not necessary, as he
took only verbal information of my
progress, and, when he learned that I
had been a pupil of Reicha (who had
also taught at the Conservatory), he
said to my mother :

"Ah, well! he must now begin
again and do it all over in another
way. I do not like Reicha's method ;
he was a German. The young man
must now follow the Italian school.
I will put him into the class of coun-
terpoint and fugue under my pupil,

Now, the Italian school preferred
by Cherubini was that great one
handed down from Palestrina, just
as, for the Germans, the master par
excellence is Sebastian Bach. Far
from discouraging me, this decision
delighted me.

"So much the better," said I, re-
peatedly, to my mother. "I shall
only be more thoroughly equipped,
having learned from each of these

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two great schools that which charac-
terizes each. All is for the best."

I went into Hal^vy's class, Cheru-
bini placing me at the same time,
for lyrical composition, in the hands
of Berton, author of Montana et SU-
phanicy and of a great number of
works enjoying a well-merited repu-
tation. He was a man of fine mind,
agreeable, delicate in feeling, and a
great admirer of Mozart, the assidu-
ous study of whose works he recom-

"Read Mozart," repeated he, con-
stantly; "read the Marriage of Figaro''

He was right ; this ought to be the
breviary of musicians. Mozart is to
Palestrina and to Bach what the
New Testament is to the Old, both
being considered as parts of one and
the same Bible.

Berton having died about two
months after my entrance into his
class, Cherubini placed me in that of
Le Sueur, the author of Les Bardes,
La Caverney and of several masses


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66 i^mMr04

and oratorios; a man serious, reserved,
earnest, and devout, with an inspira-
tion sometimes biblical; very much
given to sacred subjects ; tall, with a
face pale as wax, and with the air of
an old patriarch. Le Sueur treated
me with paternal kindness and ten-
derness ; he was affectionate ; he had
a warm heart. His instructions,
which, unfortunately, lasted only
nine or ten months, were very bene-
ficial, and I derived from him ideas,
the light and elevation of which
insure him an indelible place in my
memory and in my grateful affec-

I went over again, under the direc-
tion of Hal6vy, the whole course of
counterpoint and fugue ; but in spite
of my work, with which my master
was well satisfied, I never obtained a
prize at the Conservatory. My special
object was the grand prix de Rome,
which I was determined to carry off,
cost what it might.

I was then going on nineteen years

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of age, when I competed for the first
"time, and won the second prize. Le
Sueur being dead, I became a pupil
of Paer, who had replaced the former
as teacher of composition. I com-
peted again the following year. My
mother was filled with hope and fear
at the same time, for nothing more
was left me but the grand prix or
failure. It was a failure! I was
twenty years old — the age for con-
scription! But my second prize of
the preceding year gave me one more
chance, a respite of a year, after
which I could enter for the third and
last time into the competition. To
console me for my defeat, my mother
took me for a journey of a month in
Switzerland. She had yet, in spite of
her fifty-eight years, all the freshness
and vigor of a woman of thirty. For
me, also, who, outside of Paris, had
seen only Versailles, Rouen, and
HSvre, this journey was a series of
enchantments, going from Greneva
by Chamouni to the Oberland, the

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Righi, the lakes, and returning by
Basel. We went on two mules, set-
ting out early each morning, and
retiring late to rest, my mother
always being the first one up, and all
dressed before I was awake.

I returned to Paris full of new zeal
for my work, and determined to finish
this time with the grand prix de
Rome. The date of this competi-
tion, so impatiently awaited, came at
last. I went into the required seclu-
sion, and carried off the prize ! My
mother wept; with joy, at first, and
then at the thought that this triumph
meant speedy separation — and that
a separation of three years, of which
two were to be passed in Rome and
the third in Germany. We had
never been parted, and the fable of
"The Two Pigeons" would come
daily to her remembrance.

The artists who won the other
grand prizes in the same year with
me were: Hubert, for painting,

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Gruyfere, for sculpture ; Le Fuel, for
architecture; for engraving on medals,
Vauthier, grandson of Galle.

The ofi&cial distribution of the prix
de Rome took place near the end of
October, at the annual public session
of the Institute, during which was
performed the cantata of the laureate
musician. My brother, who was an
architect, had made excellent prog-
ress at the School of Fine Arts, as a
pupil of Huyot; but, not wishing
to leave our mother, and foresee-
ing, perhaps, that the grand prix
would take from her, some day, the
younger of her two sons, he renounced
the competition for Rome, which, in
case he had obtained it, would have
separated him for five years from
that mother whom he adored, and of
whom he was the mainstay and sup-

But he had received what was
called the "departmental prize,"
awarded to pupils obtaining the
greatest number of medals in the

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course of their studies at the School
of Fine Arts. This prize was also
announced at the same public ses-
sion of the Institute, and our mother
thus had the happiness of seeing her
two sons crowned on the same day.

I have already stated that my
brother was a student at the lyceum
of Versailles. It was there that he
first knew Lefuel, whose father, in-
deed, was architect of the palace,
and who was destined later to make
illustrious the name he bore. He
found my brother again as a fellow-
student in the atelier of Huyot, the
celebrated architect, one of the de-
signers of the Arc de Triomphe de
VEtoile; and from that time forward
they were bound together in an in-
destructible friendship. Lefuel was
nearly nine years older than I, and
my mother, who loved him as a son,
confided me to his care in going to
Rome (it may be imagined with how
many charges), and I owe it to the
memory of this most excellent friend

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to say that he acquitted himself of
his duty with the greatest fidelity
and the most watchful care.

Before my departure, an oppor-
tunity was offered me of attempting a
work, serious enough at any age, and
especially so at mine. The chapel
master of St. Eustache — Dietsch —
who was then director of chorus at
the Op/ra, said to me one day :

" Come, write a mass before start-
ing for Rome; I will have it sung at
St. Eustache."

A mass ! of mine ! at St. Eustache !
I thought I was dreaming. I had five
months before me, and set myself
resolutely to the work. On the day
fixed, I was ready, thanks to the as-
sistance of my mother, who had
helped me copy the orchestral parts,
we not having the means with which
to pay a copyist. A mass, with grand
orchestra, if you please ! I dedicated
it, with as much temerity as grati-
tude, to my beloved and regretted

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72 pUntMr04

master, Le Sueur, and directed the
performance of it myself, at St.

My mass was certainly not a re-
markable work ; it showed the inex-
perience that might be expected from
a young artist as yet a novice in the
handling of the rich palette of the
orchestra, the acquirement of which
demands such long practice. As to
the value of the musical ideas, con-
sidered by themselves, they were
conceived with correct feeling, and
with an instinct truly in harmony
with the sense of the sacred text;
but in the particulars of arrange-
ment and development, there was
much left to be desired. Such as
it was, however, this first attempt
brought me much kind encourage-
ment, with one instance of which I
was especially touched.

At the instant w;hen my mother
and I arrived at home, after the pro-
duction of the mass, I found waiting
for me at the door of our apart-

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ments (we were then living at No. 8
rue de VEperon^ rez-de-chausse^^y a
messenger with letter in hand. I
took it, opened it, and read as follows :

" Bravo ! dear young man, whom I
knew as a child. All honor to the Glo-
ria, to the Credo, and especially to
the Sanctus! It is fine, it is truly relig-
ious. Bravo ! and thanks ; you have
rendered me truly happy."

This was from good M. Poirson,
my old principal at the Lyc^e St.
Louis, and at that time principal of
the Lyc^e Charlemagne. He had seen
the notice of the production of my
mass and hastened, full of interest
and anxiety, to hear the first efforts
of the young artist to whom he had
said, seven years before :

** Go on, my child, with your music."

I was so much affected by his
remembrance that I did not take
time to enter the house ; I made but
one bound into the street, leaped into
a cab, and arrived at the Lyc^e Charle-
magne, rue St. Antoine, where I found

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74 pUntJOir0«

my dear old principal, who opened
his arms and embraced me with all
his heart.

I had then but four days to spend
with that mother from whom I was
to be separated for three years, and
who, through her tears, was pre-
paring everything for the day of my
departure. That day approached

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On the 5th of December, 1834, Le-
fuel, Vauthier, and I left Paris at
eight o'clock in the evening, by the
mail-stage that started from the rue
Jean-Jacques Rousseau. My brother
was the only one to witness our
departure. Our first stop was at
Lyons. From there we descended
the Rhone by Avignon, Aries, etc., to
Marseilles. At Marseilles we took a

The coach! how many memories
are suggested by the word! Poor,
old vehicle ! — crushed, ground down,
outstripped by the breathless, dizzy
speed of the iron wheels of steam —
the coach which permitted one to stop,
to look, and to peacefully admire the
places through which — if, indeed,


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76 pUmMr^^

not under which — the roaring loco-
motive now drags you like a piece
of baggage, and hurls you into space
with the fury of a meteor.

The coach which carried you little
by little, gradually, cautiously, from
one scene to another, instead of that
howitzer on rails that takes you,
sleeping under the sky of Paris, and
throws you, waking, roughly, like a
piece of merchandise, h rAnglaise,
under that of the Orient, without
gradual preparatory transition of
mind or of temperature. Many to-
gether, closely packed, and in quick
time, like fish sent by express, so as
to be fresh on arrival !

If progress, that pitiless conqueror,
would, at least, leave life in the van-
quished ! But no — the coach exists
no longer. I bless it for having been;
it permitted me to enjoy in detail the
admirable route from La Comiche,
which prepares one so well for the
climate and the picturesque beauties
of Italy — Monaco, Mentone, Sestri,

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Genoa, Spezzia, Trasimeno, Tuscany,
and Pisa, Lucca, Siena, Perugia, Flor-
ence — alternating and progressive
instruction in nature, which explains
the masters, who, in their turn, teach
one to observe nature. All this we
dwelt upon and enjoyed at our leisure
for nearly two months, and on the 27th
of January, 1840, entered that Rome
which was to be our dwelling place,
our instructor, and our initiator into
the grand and severe beauties of
nature and of art.

The director of the Academy of
France, at Rome, then, was Monsieur
Ingres, whom my father had known
when quite young. Upon our arrival
we called upon the director, as was
customary, to be personally presented
to him. He had scarcely seen me
when he exclaimed :

"You are Gounod! Dieu! How
much you resemble your father ! "

And he pronounced upon my
father's talent as a draughtsman, his
nature, and the charm of his mind

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78 pUmMrtf^

and conversation, a eulogy that I
was proud to hear from the lips
of so eminent an artist, this being
for me the most agreeable reception

Each of us having been installed
in his allotted lodging — a lodging
consisting of one large room, serving
for both working and sleeping quar-
ters — ^my first thought was of the long
exile that was to separate me from
my mother. I wondered if my work
as a student would suffice to help me
to endure patiently a separation that
my stay in Rome and in Germany
would prolong to three years. From
my window I perceived in the dis-
tance the dome of St. Peters, and
involuntarily yielded myself to the
melancholy induced by my first
experience in solitude, although
a building could hardly be called

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