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257 * Facile à vivre?' I said. “I thought that his vanity had been difficile et exigeante.'
. As a public man,' said Ampère, 'yes; and to a certain degree in general society. But in intimate society, when he was no longer “posing," he was charming. The charm, however, was rather intellectual than moral.
* I remember his reading to us a part of his memoirs, in which he describes his early attachment to an English girl, his separation from her, and their meeting many years after when she asked his protection for her son. Miss Clarke was absorbed by the story. She wanted to know what became of the young man, what Chateaubriand had been able to do for him. Chateaubriand could answer only in generals: that he had done all that he could, that he had spoken to the Minister, and that he had no doubt that the young man got what he wanted. But it was evident that even if he had really attempted to do anything for the son of his old love, he had totally forgotten the result. I do not think that he was pleased at Miss Clarke's attention and sympathy being diverted from himself. Later still in Madame Récamier's life, when she had become blind, and Chateaubriand deaf, and Ballanche very infirm, the evenings were sad. I had to try to amuse persons who had become almost unamusable.'
• How did Madame de Chateaubriand,' I asked, take the devotion of her husband to Madame Récamier ?
• Philosophically,' answered Ampère. He would not VOL. II.
have spent with her the hours that he passed at the Abbaye au bois. She was glad, probably, to know that they were not more dangerously employed.'
Could I read Chateaubriand ?' I asked. “I doubt it,' said Ampère. His taste is not English.'
I have read,' I said, and liked, his narrative of the manner in which he forced on the Spanish war of 1822. I thought it well written.'
• It is, perhaps,' said Ampère, the best thing which he has written, as the intervention to restore Ferdinand, which he effected in spite of almost everybody, was perhaps the most important passage in his political life.
• There is something revolting in an interference to crush the liberties of a foreign nation. But the expedition tended to maintain the Bourbons on the French throne, and, according to Chateaubriand's ideas, it was more important to support the principle of legitimacy than that of liberty. He expected, too, sillily enough, that Ferdinand would give a Constitution. It is certain, that, bad as the effects of that expedition were, Chateaubriand was always proud of it.' •What has Ballanche written?' I asked.
A dozen volumes,' he answered. Poetry, metaphysics, on all sorts of subjects, with pages of remarkable vigour and finesse, containing some of the best writing in the language, but too unequal and too desultory to be worth going through.'
• How wonderfully extensive,' I said, 'is French literature! Here is a voluminous author, some of whose writings, you say, are among the best in the French
French and English Poetry.
language, yet his name, at least as an author, is scarcely known. He shines only by reflected light, and will live only because he attached himself to a remarkable man and to a remarkable woman.'
*French literature,' said Ampère, 'is extensive, but yet inferior to yours. If I were forced to select a single literature and to read nothing else, I would take the English. In one of the most important departments, the only one which cannot be re-produced by translationpoetry-you beat us hollow. We are great only in the drama, and even there you are perhaps our superiors. We have no short poems comparable to the “ Allegro" or to the “Penseroso," or to the “Country Churchyard.”.
•Tocqueville,' I said, 'told me that he did not think that he could could now read Lamartine.'
.Tocqueville,' said Ampère, 'could taste, like every man of genius, the very finest poetry, but he was not a lover of poetry. He could not read a hundred bad lines and think himself repaid by finding mixed with them ten good ones.'
Ingres,' said Beaumont, 'perhaps our greatest living painter, is one of the clever cultivated men who do not read. Somebody put the “Misanthrope" into his hands, “ It is wonderfully clever," he said, when he returned it ; “how odd it is that it should be so totally unknown.”'
*Let us read it to-night,' I said.
• By all means,' said Madame de Tocqueville ; “though we know it by heart it will be new when read by M. Ampère. Accordingly Ampère read it to us after dinner.
• The tradition of the stage,' he said, “is that Célimène was Molière's wife.'
She is made too young,' said Minnie. A girl of twenty has not her wit, or her knowledge of the world.'
.The change of a word,' said Ampère, in two or three places would alter that. The feeblest characters are as usual the good ones.
Philinte and Eliante. • Alceste is a grand mixture, perhaps the only one on the French stage, of the comic and the tragic; for in many of the scenes he rises far above comedy. His love is real impetuous passion. Talma delighted in playing him.'
• The desert,' I said, into which he retires, was, I suppose, a distant country-house. Just such a place as Tocqueville.'
*As Tocqueville,' said Beaumont, 'fifty years ago, without roads, ten days' journey from Paris, and depending for society on Valognes.'
*As Tocqueville,' said Madame de Tocqueville, when my mother-in-law first married. She spent in it a month and could never be induced to see it again.'
•Whom,' I asked, 'did Célimène marry?'
Of course,' said Ampère, `Alceste. Probably five years afterwards. By that time he must have got tired of his desert and she of her coquetry.'
We know,' I said, 'that Molière was always in love with his wife, notwithstanding her légèreté. What makes me think the tradition that Célimène was Mademoiselle!
| Under the ancien régime even the married actresses were called Mademoiselle.-ED.
Tocqueville's Political Career.
Molière true, is that Molière was certainly in love with Célimène. She is made as engaging as possible, and her worst faults do not rise above foibles. Her satire is good-natured. Arsinoé is her foil, introduced to show what real evil-speaking is.'
* All the women,' said Ampère, "are in love with Alceste, and they care about no one else. Célimène's satire of the others is scarcely good-natured. It is clear, at least, that they did not think so.'
"If Célimene,' said Minnie, 'became Madame Alceste, he probably made her life a burthen with his jealousy.'
Of course he was jealous,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'for he was violently in love. There can scarcely be violent love without jealousy'
* At least,' said Madame de Tocqueville,ʻtill people are married.
•If a lover is cool enough to be without jealousy, he ought to pretend it.'
Sunday, August 18.-After breakfast when the ladies were gone to church, I talked over with Ampère and Beaumont Tocqueville's political career.
Why,' I asked, did he refuse the support of M. Molé in 1835? Why would he never take office under Louis Philippe ? Why did he associate himself with the Gauche whom he despised, and oppose the Droit with whom he sympathised? Is the answer given by M. Guizot to a friend of mine who asked a nearly similar question," Parce qu'il voulait être où je suis,” the true
•The answers to your first question,” said Beaumont,