Зображення сторінки

6 Turk's


named, our young and ardent Théo- aspects. He can hold a magician's phile went heart and soul into wand over an old theme, and rethe new doctrines, for which, if create it in vivid hue of life. New we are to believe the tradition that ideas he was wont rather to abhor he learned at school more art than than otherwise; they seemed to Latin, he was doubtless well fitted. him over-intimately connected with As a disciple of the Romantiques, something called Progress, which he thought it necessary to pile was to him an abomination. rhyme on rhyme, and to foster the Gautier's idea of life, at least in growth upon his poll of a luxuriant his youth, appears to have been that forest of hair like night. Athletic of a grand, but lawless, Paganism, admirers of Gautier may be inte- uncontrolled by any moral feel. rested in learning that this young ing, and owning allegiance only to littérateur is credited with having beauty, or romance, or pleasure, or struck a blow upon a new

riches, or caprice. He is immoral, head" of five hundred and thirty- as is said, "with a shocking cantwo livres, and that he stated after- dour.” He certainly sneers down wards that it was the proudest act all moralists in surprising of his life. Such was Gautier in fashion; reproaches them for cryhis ardent and vigorous boyhood. ing so violently against poor vice,

Gautier published his first which is so good-natured, so easyvolume of verse in 1830, at a going, that it only asks leave to time when the guns of the Pari- amuse itself, and not bother other sians were firing daily and some- people. “ What would you do what drowned the encouraging without vice ?” he asks of the applause of his friends.

“ Alber

preachers ; "you would be reduced tus,” his second poem, depicts the to mendicity to-morrow if we were diabolic arts of Véronique, a hide- to listen to you to-day.” But ous sorceress, who transforms her- Gautier's bark is worse than his self into Venus, and attempts to bite; and he is rather to be termed seduce the hero, a hard-working unmoral than immoral. That is to young painter, who exasperates her say, if we take his whole sum of by his indifference. When, after work into consideration; but at a much terrible temptation by the certain stage of his career he seems sorceress, the youth gives way, to have fallen into an insane abyss there comes a sinister metamor. of morbid voluptuousness, an unphosis, and she returns to her manly helplessness in the presence hideous form of a depraved old of inebriating influences, that even crone; but Albertus is in her the old poets of Rome would have power, and is taken off bodily to shrunk from. Gautier's friends spend his sabbath in the presence may claim for him sympathy, as a of Satan. In the midst of the Pagan, unfortunately born among horrid revelry he pronounces the Goths; as a name of God, when the scene

Dreamer of dreams, born out of his due vanishes, and he is found, torn and time. lifeless, on a lonely road Rome. The idea here is not very

But even Catullus kept his head

and intellect cool, above the sensual new, but Gautier's forte is not the creation of ideas, but rather the

surges that he permitted to flow

about his making of old ones new by splen

He said :

pen. dour of form and lustre of imagi

Nam castum esse decet pium poetam, nation. Where he cannot create,

Ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est. he can at least see in new and rare Catullus probably followed the


[ocr errors]

fashion of gay young poets of his combined to pull him in one directime, in his verse. We, of course, tion, and that the direction oppodo not see now how the second line site to the true sun of clear light of his excuse can be less strin- and chaste love. Born in the wanton gently negatived than the first can south, with more voluptuous marbe affirmed. Gautier follows the row than steely strength in his lead of Catullus when he says: “It composition, he seems at one time is as absurd to call a man drunkard to have given up his soul to the because he describes an orgy, as it

evil. We would not presume to is to pretend a man is virtuous say, with some English critics, that because he has written a work on he deliberately and calmly poisoned morals.” This is very true, drama- the wells of art. But for a period tically, but it does not afford he certainly allowed himself to be Gautier the shield he seeks. Το under the dominion of poisonous depict such depraved and effemi- influences. We cannot doubt that nate swoonings of body, and brain, the books he wrote at this time and nerve as are to be found, not were to a large extent a reflex of in one only (or it might have been his own state, for they are pardoned) but in almost all, one entirely subject to one influence after the other, of the stories com- that it is impossible to look upon prising the volume entitled “ Nou- them as purely dramatic. One of velles," is not to go to work drama- his principal characters expresses tically. The sympathy of the the disturbance caused him by the author is in his demoralised con- calm serenity of a friend who loves ceptions : he does not keep the the soul, the invisible eternal part true dramatic distance cool and of his betrothed, as much as or clear betwixt himself and his crea- more than the palpable mortal tion. He has allowed his own beauty of body, before which he soul to be fused in the heat of the himself was prostrate. In such a fever, and to succumb to the dis- state, we cannot doubt, was Gautier order which he embodies. To during one period of his early bring demoralised states of soul manhood. into the open pages of a public Gautier owed his first real ad. book is to give them in some sort vancement in the world of letters a real and physical existence. De- to Balzac, whose friend he repraved imaginations hotly and mained through life. At twentysympathetically materialised, with- four the former was inhabiting two out any deliberate antidote being small rooms in what he describes produced to counteract them, and as a desert and savage place in to show that the author's soul was the centre of Paris. One morning clear and free of the morbid agonies a young man called upon him and that he is contemplating, can lay introduced himself as Jules Sanno claim to shelter from the deau; he had come from Balzac dramatic cloak.

to engage the services of Gautier Like Catullus, who dwelt in evil for the Chronique de Paris, a Rome, Gautier lived in evil Paris. weekly journal which was just Puzzled and dismayed by the coming out. Gautier's novel of paradoxes and evils around him, “Mademoiselle de Maupin "—the and having at the same time to one which gives him at once a gain his bread by writing what bad name and his chief notoshould be suitable to the Parisian riety-had gained him this invitapublic, he was under influences, tion from Balzac, who admired both positive and negative, which its style. Dating from this time,

the pair were most intimate friends, some four or five hundred lines Balzac being always a sort of genial of dialogue; and so it was to be king, Gautier an admiring but not finished by the next day. Gauservile subject. Such a friend as tier did not lose his presence of Balzac was not to be gained every mind, but merely asked to be told day: no wonder that young Gau- the subject and the plan of the tier was sensible of the compliment projected drama, and to have a paid him.

He had to pay for his brief sketch of the characters profriendship, however, in the oddest posed. “Ah!” replied Balzac, with ways. He was one who could not an air as if he were utterly overresist the infection of Balzac's whelmed, “if you must be told strange stories, and usually ended the subject, we shall never have by believing, as strongly as Balzac finished.” At length his collaborahimself believed, in the reality of teurs obtained from Balzac the the creations which peopled the faintest indication of the subject, latter's most remarkable imagina- and set to work, or pretended to, tion. This led him sometimes into for the drama was not, as may be strange difficulties. Once he was supposed, read or ready the next on the point of starting on some day. It was afterwards completed, wild-goose chase to the absurdity but the final cast contained only of which Balzac's overpowering a few words of the work of Gautier imagination had blinded him. On and the others, as might have been many occasions, too, was he called expected from the circumstances upon to perform superhuman tasks of its composition. There would at the bídding of the great wizard, seem to be often a certain bizarhis friend. One day he was sum- rerie attendant upon the manumoned to his friend's house in a facture of plays, which an author hurry, and found Balzac dressed is often in a greater hurry to in his white monk's frock, and finish than the theatre to accept. fidgeting with impatience. “There's We met a haggard author one day, Théo at last!” cried Balzac. “Idle, who had chosen to immure him. slow-footed, sluggard, sloth, make self in a cellar in order to comhaste, will you. You should have plete his play. The cellar had the been here an hour ago. I have merit of being a quiet place to to read to Harel, to-morrow, a

work in, and it was necessary to great drama in five acts.”

be without distraction, we you wish to have our advice," given solemnly to understand, for meekly responded Gautier, doubt- the play was bespoke. For all that less with some humorous pre

and in spite of the hurry, it has sentiment of what might be not yet been seen above board. coming, and settling himself on Play-writing, at the present day, a footstool with a parade of being

is to literature what speculation, ready to listen to a long reading. as a business, is to agriculture. Balzac noticed the attitude, and It means a thousand pounds or said at once, simply, “The drama nothing: generally nothing; but is not made yet.'

“ The devil !” the chance of the thousand is answered Gautier; "then the enough to gild a dark cellar, or reading must be postponed six to make even a Balzac lose his weeks. This Balzac would not wits. Every Parisian littérateur hear of; the drama must be done seems to try his hand at a play. at once. Gautier, Balzac, and As for Gautier, he criticised many three others were to do an act hundred more plays than he has apiece, which would be merely composed, as for many years he

[ocr errors]


served as art and dramatic critic and of the boulevards, said he, on the staff of one of the chief were his only forests, the Seine journals of Paris.

his ocean, and the country he Gautier, as a writer, in spite of vowed openly that he detestedhis physical robustness, possesses it was nothing but trees, soil, and more of the poetical faculty than turf.” of a genius for the construction of What was he to do? he asked sensational plots. He is a man himself. Dream ?-but one can. of contemplation rather than of not always have dreams. Read ?action. In one sense, he has the but he had read everything, same views as the most ardent What then? His friends had told devotee of the prevailing sensuous him that he must think of the religions, who sings languorously future, that he must do somewith respect to the earth which thing. The future, he repeated a kindly, Divine power has given contemptuously; what, when we him to dwell and grow in:

are not sure of an hour! As for O Paradise, O Paradise,

achieving something, was not the 'Tis weary waiting here.

sole result that one got dubbed The paradise Gautier looks to,

with a

name in consequence, a however, is not an ineffable and title for all the world like the prematurely realized other world; it label on the bottles in the apotheis the domain of art, and his refuge cary's shop? So, he tells us, he and heaven within the common

became an egotist; and, owing to every-day routine. In the latter, at this concentration of himself into least during his morbid youth, the “ego,” the idea came to him he

sees only a Sahara plain, many a time that he was alone in where the traveller's foot drags the midst of the creation; that the heavily, and the only spot of sky, the stars, the earth, the green visible is a cypress wood houses, the forests, were only desown with stones of white. God, corations, painted scenes, daubs to give refuge in the desert of of the brush, which the mysterious time, has given for oases the grave

Machinist had disposed around yards." Gautier, at the period of

him in order to hide from sight life when he wrote like this, would, the dusty and cobwebbed walls after a course of bodily mortifica- of the theatre called the world. tion, have made a very good High. What astounding cynicism in a Church hymn-maker.

young man! But at least there is Gautier's love for art is some- some originality in the cynicism. thing especially noteworthy. We In this cobwebbed and moonlit may say, in a sense, that he

theatre of his imagination all that gained his salvation therein. It moved round about him appeared saved him from being an abso

to him as the confidant of the lute Pyrrhonist, with a soul en- tragedy, who had only to say "Sir" tirely negative or evil. When he to him, and to break up by an was quite young, he expressed occasional interjection his interhimself as having exhausted all

minable monologues. that could be gained from the Gautier's political opinions as exbookshelf. What unhappy lovers, pressed in the writings of his youth, what persecuted woman had not and which ostensibly changed but passed before his eyes ? Froin little during his life, were somethe first syllable of a romance he what peculiar for their simplicity. could at once conjure up its dénoue- After profound reflections upon ment. The trees of the Tuileries the overthrow of thrones, the

[ocr errors]

changes of dynasty, "I have sent some change in the people's arrived,” says he, “at this—a aspirations. So long as the fevers round 0."

of famine haunt as usual the slums, “What is a revolution ?” he asks. and the fevers of luxury the pa“Some people shoot each other in laces; so long as the comic operas a street: this breaks a number of are thronged by the same gay, panes of glass; there is no one frivolous crowd as of old, Paris besides the glaciers who gains any is not so appreciably improved as profit therefrom. The wind carries to oblige a sane man to go into away the smoke: those who re- raptures, merely on the news that main above put the others below; the country is to be governed under the grass grows greener the follow- a fresh title. Gautier looks on the ing spring: a hero makes excellent little selfish and self-satisfied peckmanure for peas. What then? ings at the husks of things which -they change for the mayor's dub themselves reform : he is disbâton the rags they call ensigns. gusted, and forthwith abjures the The guillotine, that grand prosti- mockeries the world calls politics tute, seizes by the neck with her red and morality. Instead of penearms those the bullet has spared trating below the surface and

the first-comer snatches fur. studying interior significances-intively at the crown and sits down stead of purifying people's minds in the empty place. None the less," with a holy and chaste art—he adds Gautier,“ does one continue loses interest altogether in the to have the plague, to pay one's drama of life that is transacted debts, to go to comic operas, under before him ; turns to the sensuous this régime than under that. So in art, and soon grows to look much for the trouble of moving so upon his callousness and debasemany honest paving-stones that ment with pride. This is as we could not help it!" We of England find him in his writings: in actual have seen enough in France, in the deed his friends allege that he was days that we hope are now quite never otherwise than patriotic. It passed away, to make us accept is recounted that when Paris was such scepticism as Gautier's as threatened with siege, he, though the not unnatural offspring of feeble in health, came back straightcircumstances. Our cynic did not way from Switzerland, where he live to be old, but during his life- was staying, in order to shut himtime there reigned two emperors self up with the besieged, his and three kings, not one of whose brethren; repeating always to himreigns both began and ended tran- self: “ They are beating Mamma; quilly; there were three, if not I must return." more, serious crises of street-fight- We have spoken of Gautier's ing in Paris; there were several Paradise as lying in the realms of kinds of republics, from the demo- art, in opposition' to those who cratic to the conservative; and place theirs in the mystic realms there were both prince-presidents of futurity.

One thing more than and plebeians at the head of them. these does Gautier: he strives to There is often more solid truth

bring his paradise into life, and in such criticism as Gautier's- not keep it at an unsatisfactory the careless, unstudied expression distance from everything real. For of disgust — than is imagined. this end he even takes the trouble Changes of nominal régime are to write a little brochure on the mere frivolities, unworthy of se- fashion of every-day clothing, in rious attention unless they repre- which he promulgates his artistic

« НазадПродовжити »