Sayfadaki görseller


the lives and manners of spendthrifts, usurers, adventurers, and adventuresses-and this sarcasm so exasperated the fiery novelist that he exclaimed, " I will transfix him with my pen, ce petit SainteBeuve."

Forthwith there appeared an article in the Revue Parisienne, dictated by one of those violent literary animosities which are so perceptible as to be harmless. He calls “ Port-Royal” a very poor book, and, comparing it to Racine's treatment of the same subject, he proceeds : “But what has M. Sainte-Beuve done? He has scen in the valley of Port-Royal-des-Champs,' six leagues from Paris, a little cemetery, where he has disinterred the innocent relics of his pseudo saints--the idiots of the troop-poor girls, poor women, already dust and ashes ; his ghastly Muse has opened all the coffins where slept, and where every historian would have allowed to sleep, the vainglorious, tiresome dupes and duping family of the Arnaulds.” It was thus that Balzac paid off one of his debts, which must have been a novel sensation for him.

As Sainte-Beuve grew older depression turned to bitterness; he became full of irritation against the existing state of things—the low tone of public taste, the humiliating concessions of authors, and the cant terms of the day. The De Goncourts, in their inimitable journal, took down word for word one of his tirades.

His conversation was out of all keeping with iris ability—consisting of short, half finished sentences linked together with his habitual hesitating hum-hum. “ There is no longer any literature,” he said, “it is music, it is painting-we can't all be painters ! Everything must be defined, enlarged, laid bare. Look at Rousseau-he was the first to fall into exaggeration; then Bernardin de Saint-Pierre-- he goes further. Hugo” (this with the grimace he always made at the name),

Gautier, Saint-Victor! And you ! You pretend that what is wanted is colour—the interior of things. Impossible !” (and with increasing vehemence) “Neutral tint! It isn't in the dictionary--it is a painter's word! And a sky rose thé-rose thé ! What is rose thé ? ” (becoming more and more infuriated) “There is only one roserose thé ! Ridiculous !"

It was in vain, describe the brothers, that they attempted to explain, as soon as he paused for want of breath, that for the faint yellow tints of evening skies there could be no better colour named than that of a tea-rose, quite distinct from other roses. Sainte-Beuve was deaf to reason and continued to argue, to vituperate, with feminine perverseness, which those who knew him well used to say was one of his characteristics. He was often accused of a womanish

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

touch in his nature; he quarrelled and made it up again, with true feminine facility, and he always put himself into a passion when he knew he was wrong.

The remarks which may be gathered as to his personal appear. ance are far from flattering; he is described as short, thick-set, common; "un petit bourgeois," " un petit mercier de province," “sa petite voix," "sa main grasse et froide," complete the picture; a self-sufficient air in society and many small affectations were a scurce of some amusement in the salons he frequented; it was noticed that he never look leave until he had thought of some especially witty last word. One evening when no bon mot would come to his call, and he still rose to go, Madame de Girardin—who held him in no particular esteem, but whose politeness never allowed her to omit the aristocratic de from his name.-exclaimed maliciously, “But, Monsicur de Sainte-Beuve, you have not yet gained the right to leave us."

“Sainte-Beuve n'est pas gentilhomme," said Victor Cousin, and d'Haussonville added : “Sainte-Beuve is full of rage, rancour, and ingratitude-but he is human!” This remarkable eulogy was supported by Jules de Goncourt, who declared that when he was not blinded by passion and malice he was kind and charitable. Charitable, in the sense of putting the best construction on things, he certainly was not ; but he could be generous to struggling authors, and this quality appealed strongly to the Goncourts, who began a scheme very early in their lives for the assistance of worn-out literary men ; they planned the endowment of a certain number of writers with a small independence, and determined to leave their own private fortune, copyrights, and the sale of their valuable collections for those recipients who should be in need of leisure to continue their work with ease of mind. The scheme is to be carried out by Edmond's literary executors.

Dining with Sainte-Beuve one day in every week at the famous Restaurant Magny, the two inseparable brothers set down in their journal that in spite of his association with refined and well-bred people, he could never be made to look like a man of the world, and that to visit him when laid up with illness was to perceive in his toilette intime the very essence of democracy.

The one act of his life which weighed most seriously against him was the fact of his standing alone among authors, the sole supporter during the white terror of journalism of the edict which put an end to the liberty of the Press; and although it had been long established that he was staunch to no principle, this disloyalty to his literary colleagues could never be forgiven; the characteristic of always turn. ing his face towards the rising star was still more evident when there appeared an article from his pen in the Moniteur Officiel directed visibly against his former friends, to which no reply was possible, since all the independent journals were threatened, and a great many actually suppressed. The article, which he called “Regrets,” gave offence even to those who, like himself, had accepted without too many scruples the benefits of the new régime, and the doors of many delightful salons were closed to him. There was a still more marked expression of the general feeling when, having been elected Professor of Poetry at the College of France, he betrayed such personal animosity against the poets whose fame was greater than his own, that the whole assembly of students gave way to an outburst of indignation, and the lecture was cut short amidst unmistakable signs of displeasure.

It was whispered at the next meeting that he had arrived on the platform with two loaded pistols ; whether one was intended for the audience and the other to blow out his own brains was not very clearly specified, but the effect was irresistibly comic and the proceedings came to an end.

At the same time a perfectly unfounded accusation was brought against him ; he was charged with misappropriation of public money -a ridiculously small sum and quite easily accounted for.

"On m'attaque par mon côté fort," he said, but the affair was annoying, and he left Paris, accepting a professorship at Liège, and taking as the subject of his first lecture “Chateaubriand and his literary group." It was unfortunately chosen : Chateaubriand had not been dead a year : Madame Récamier was dying. Sainte-Beuve had been the intimate friend of both, and was a familiar figure in the brilliant circle of the Abbaye aux Bois, yet the author of so many celebrated works was treated with little indulgence, and far less justice, the outcome of personal jealousy which he could never conceal and which had latterly become more apparent in his criticism. There was hardly a writer, however differing in his line of work, who had not felt the sting of his unreasoning and uncontrollable temper; even Michelet, whose equanimity was statuesque, even the Abbé Lamennais, who for a time had exercised the most profound influence on his contradictory character, received from him some rough assaults; with Michelet there was no real animosity; it was a purely intellectual matter; their views were discordant, and the imaginative method of the historian was held in contempt and undisguised suspicion by the patient collector of facts.

[ocr errors]

The last quarrel of his life, although entirely of his own seeking, was possibly that which touched him the most nearly. His somewhat solitary days had been brightened by a cordial friendship with a distinguished woman and cultivated connoisseur in most literary matters. Princess Mathilde fully appreciated the talent, learning, originality, sociability of Sainte-Beuve, and it was through her persuasion and interest that he took his place in the Senate, and accepted the ribbon of the Legion of Honour, which he had formerly refused. It was with a prevision of the difficulties and dangers to come that he took up his new position, and as a proof of his clairvoyance he directed the attention of the Princess to a florid account of a banquet given at Brussels in honour of Victor Hugo, remarking that what seems of little moment to-day may become no matter for jesting to-morrow, and that such demonstrations were very significant although unheeded at Compiègne-cette atmosphère isolée et dorée.

But his old socialistic tenets were not long in reasserting themselves. Napoleon III, had not been careful enough to avoid causes of irritation, and had on one occasion made the mistake of speaking to him of the ability of an article he had written in the Moniteur when it had in fact appeared in the Constitutionnel. It was a trivial blunder, but to such pin-pricks Sainte-Beuve was notably susceptible. He took up his anti-clerical campaign with renewed energy, and sent an article to the Temps, one of the chief organs of the Opposition, which occasioned a strong feeling against him in the Tuileries, and greatly displeased the Princess Mathilde, who had, as she professed, but little sympathy for “les hommes noirs,” but who deeply resented his disloyalty. He was no longer favoured with her correspondence, and was forbidden to appear at the literary réunions where he had once been such a welcome guest. The depression which made his latter days a terrible burden rapidly increased ; the malady he had borne with so much courage and patience gained ground, but the intellectual man maintained his vigour; he was still critic par excellence, to be courted by all who aspired to distinction, but he had alienated the troops of friends who should have gathered round him at the last ; and although his life had been blameless, in spite of his great talent, his scholarship, his independence and unquestionable sincerity, many men who deserved it less have been better mourned.


[ocr errors]



THINK 'ee've heard tell of Miss Twinch, 'ave 'ee? Yes ?

but only a few words, if I mind rightly. Her don't belong to these parts, as the sayin' is ; her comes Lunnon way, so I've heard 'em say ; but, Lunnon or not, her’ve took to country ways, lor ! as nat’ral as a duck takes to water, as the sayin' is; why, 'ee'd think her was rale born and bred ’mong us, none o' the foine madam 'bout she ! I don't s’pose as 'ee'd find ne'er a one as would say a contrairey word agin she, tho' us don't take to furriners most ways. But when her had the infloiza--and her had it turrible bad-'ee couldn't go down street but the folks would stop 'ee to ask, “How's miss, do 'ee know? Do 'ee tell we.” As to Matthew, what does her garden an such loike, the women folks used to lay wait for him when he went for his “noonins," as they sezs in these parts. Gentry calls it “lunch"; leastways our Tryphenee tells I so, and her ’ave been up to Squire's now an' agin to help the maids. But I be maunderin'.

Well, the day Miss Twinch come down for the fust toime arter the infloiza I met Matthew, so I sezs to he

“How be the missis, Mat?”

And Mat, he be a solemn sort o'chap, hini's a local preacher, but la he looked that spry I hardly knowed him, so to speak, an' he sezs out that gleesome

“The Lord be praised, her've come downstairs agin!”

So thinks I, “Well, now she be better her'll want somethin' to amoose her," for I'd heard tell as her was turrible set on books. I've got one as my poor old mother ’ave told I her missis was mighty took up wi’; 'twould moither most folks to read it. Our 'Zekiel, him have passed arl the standards, whoi him can't make head nor tail on it; howsomever I takes this 'ere book up to "Meadowlands” and knocks at the back door. I didn't go to front, cos I allers did know how to behave towards my betters, as the Church Catechism sezs, which is more than the young uns do nowadays.

An' 'Lizbeth—her’ve lived twenty years an’ more along o' Miss

[ocr errors]
« ÖncekiDevam »