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LITTELL’S LIVING AGE.—No. 616.-15 MARCH, 1856.
From the Edinburgh Review.
fourth story, writing a drama or a novel." 1. Bibliothèque Contemporaine. 2e Série. This ideal was never realized, because the book
De Stendhal. Euvres complètes. Par- sellers and theatrical managers would not, or
is : 1854-55. En vente.
tase. Nouvelle édition. 1 vol. povels from his pen; and he was eventually
velle édition, entièrement revue. 1 vol. Vecchia, where the closing period of his life
was shortened by the diseases of the climate,
as well as embittered by disappointment and
There occurred, indeed, one striking
"Revue Parisienne" of September 23rd 1840,
appeared a long and carefully written article,
Romantisme. Nouvelle édition, enti- in which “ La Chartreuse de Parme"
was described as one of the finest observers
and most original writers of the age. But
plus grande partie d'un Volume inédite. supported by analysis and quotation, this
honorable outburst of enthusiasm was com-
XIXe Siecle. Nouvelle édition. 1 vol. Balzac had been hurried by an exaggeration
tion, entièrement revue.
par M. B. Col- contains the following sentence, showing how
little disposed he was to overestimate his pe-
Introduction, par Prosper Merimée, de ticle, such as no writer ever before received
own to you, with bursts of laughter. Every
bility had been dried up. One solitary gar- and reminiscences by M. Merimée. M. Sainteland of immortelles was flung upon his grave. Beuve has devoted two papers, distinguished An essay on his life and character, by M. by his wonted refinement and penetration, to Auguste Bussière, appeared in the “Revue Stendhal, in the “Causeries du Lundi." An dex Deux Mondes" for January, 1843 ; but extremely interesting biographical notice, the first paragraph was an avowal of the drawn up by M. Colomb, Beyle's most attached bazardous character of the attempt : friend and testamentary executor, from private
“We approach a task which is at the papers and other authentic sources of infor same time both embarrassing and seducing, mation, is prefixed to the “Romans et Nourthat of appreciating a man of talent whose elles ; "' and by way of preface or introducupright character and original qualities tion to the “Chartreuse de Parme," the seemed to promise a greater extent of influ- publishers have judiciously reprinted the longence than he has exercised on his contempora- neglected éloge of Balzac. As if to complicate ries. We shall encounter in this mind and the problem, Beyle’s critics and biographers in this character odd specialities, strange ano- announce and claim him as eminently malies, contradictions which will explain how, French," although he systematically ridiculed after having been more vaunted than read, the vanity of his countrymen, reviled their more read than relished, more decried than taste, disliked the greater part of their literjudged, more cited than known, he bas lived, ature, and, deliberately repudiating his counif the espression may be used, in a sort of try as “ le plus vilain pays
les clandestine celebrity, to die an obscure and nigauds appellent la belle France," directed unmarked death. Contemporary literature, himself to be designated as Milanese on his it must be owned, has found before the tomb tombstone. Here is enough, and more than of one of its most distinguished cultivators, enough, to justify us in devoting our best atonly silence, or words worse than silence. tention to the social and intellectual phenomM. Beyle dead, all has been said for him. enon thus presented, – to say nothing of the His remains have not seen their funeral at interest we naturally take in the reputation tendance swell by those regrets which delight of an author who, in straitened circumstances, in display, and which come to seek under ordered the complete collection of " mon cher ? the folds of the pall a reflection of the lustre Edinburgh Review, and appealed to its exshed by the living."
tended circulation as an unanswerable proof A noble English poet, after an ordinary that the English are more reasonable in polinight's sleep, awoke and found himself fa- tics than the French.
Beyle must have slumbered thirteen Marie-Henri Beyle was born at Grenoble, years, dating from the commencement of his on the 23d of January, 1783, of a family last long sleep, before he could have calcu- which, without being noble, was classed and lated on a similar surprise on waking. But lived familiarly with the provincial aristocracy. his hour has come at last, and come sooner One of his earliest preceptors was a priest, than he anticipated. We have now (1855) who appears to have sadly misunderstood and before us popular and cheap editions of almost mismanaged his pupil. " Beyle,” says M. all his books (thirteen volumes), in addition Merimée, was wont to relate with bitterto two closely printed volumes of correspond- ness, after forty years, that one day, having ence, and three volumes of novels from his torn his coat whilst at play, the Abbé enunpublished MS., bearing striking evidence trusted with his education reprimanded him to the assiduity with which every scrap of severely for this misdeed before his comrades, his composition has been hunted up. We and told him he was a disgrace to religion have, moreover, a somewhat embarrassing and to his family. We laughed when he superfluity of biographical notices from sur- narrated this incident; but he saw in it sim. viving friends, who, whatever their amount ply an act of priestly tyranny and a horrible of agreement with Balzac in 1840, have no injustice, where there was nothing to laugh objection to respond to the popular demand at, and he felt as acutely as on the day of its for Beyle testimonials in 1855. Prefixed to occurrence the wound inflicted on his self
Correspondence is a condensed and love." It was one of his aphorisms that our pithy series of clever, polished, highly illus- parents and our masters are our natural ene trative, and by no means enthusiastic, notes mies when we enter the world ; the simple
matter of fact being, that his own character, a regiment of dragoons as quartermaster ; tendencies, and aspirations had been invaria- and, in the course of a month, received a bly opposed to the plans, wishes, and modes commission as sub-lieutenant. He served for of thinking of his family. They were clearly about half a year as aide-de-camp to General wrong in endeavoring to force him into uncon- Michaud, and received the most flattering cergenial paths of study; nor was he likely to tificate of courage and conduct ; but before be cured of his inborn wilfulness, or his mor- the expiration of a year (on September 17th, bid sensibility, by harsh treatment. On the 1801) he was ordered to rejoin his regiment, establishment of the Ecole Centrale, in 1795, then in garrison at Savigliano, in Piedmont, they had no alternative but to send him there ; in consequence of a regulation forbidding any and such was his quickness or diligence, that officer under the rank of lieutenant to be when the day arrived for the examination in employed as aide-de-camp.
grammaire générale,” not one of the pupils His life in a provincial town differed widely could compete with him, and he received all from that of the brilliant staff-officer, which, the prizes that had been proposed.
divided between Brescia and Bergamo, with During the four following years he sus- frequent excursions to Milan and the Isles, tained his reputation by carrying off all the and thickly sown, says his biographer, with first prizes in all the courses that he attended; various and romantic sensations, realized his and at the end of that time, in 1798, he con- conceptions of perfect happiness. So soon as centrated his energies on mathematics for the treaty of Amiens afforded him an honor(according to M. Colomb) the strange reason able pretext for quitting an inactive and unthat he had a horror of hypocrisy, and rightly exciting course of life in the army, he flung judged that in mathematics it was impossible. up his commission, very much to the dişgust A more intelligible and more likely motive of his patrons, and went reside with his was his laudable ambition to be admitted into parents at Grenoble. Of course this experithe Polytechnic School, for which he was ment failed, but he made himself sufficiently about to become a candidate after much anx- disagreeable to extort an allowance of 150 ious preparation, when a sudden change took francs a month from his father with leave to place in his prospects ; and we find him in live at Paris, where, in June, 1807, he took 1800, at the age of seventeen, a supernumer- up his elevated abode (au cinquième) in the ary in the ministry of war. He was indebted Rue d'Angivilliers, and without seeking for for this employment to the Daru family, which introductions or aiming at immediate distincwas distantly related to his own ; and when, tion, calınly and resolutely set about educatearly in the same year, the two brothers Daru ing himself anew. Montesquieu, Montaigne, were despatched to Italy on public duty of Cabanis, Destutt de Tracy, Say, J. J. Rousan administrative kind, they invited Beyle to seau, were his favorite authors. He also rejoin them there on the chance of some fit- made a careful study of Alfieri's tragedies ; ting occupation for him turning up. He made and out of bis five francs a day he contrived the journey from Geneva to Milan on horse- to pay masters in English and fencing. He back, following so close on the traces of the got on tolerably well in English, although his invading army, that he had to run the gaunt- instructor was an Irishman with a touch of let before the fort of Bard, which, overlooked the brogue ; but his skill with the foil was from its insignificance, had well-nigh frustrated of so equivocal a description, that Renouvier, the most brilliant of Napoleon's early cam- the director of the Salle Fabien, is reported paigns at starting. Our young adventurer to have given him nearly the same advice entered Milan at the beginning of June, 1800 ; / which was addressed to a British peer by a and, on the 14th of that month, had the good celebrated French fencing master, when his fortune to be present, as an amateur, at the lordship was settling account with him at the battle of Marengo. An armistice having been conclusion of a long series of lessons at & signed the next day, he took advantage of it napoleon per hour : “ Milord, je vous conto visit, in company with a son of General seille décidément d'abandonner les armes.” Melas, the Boromean Isles and the other re Beyle's figure was ill adapted for active markable objects in the vicinity. Hurried exercises; but his nerves, which grew tremuaway, we suppose, by the military spirit lous at the slightest touch of emotion, were which animated all around him, Beyle entered firm as steel in the presence of danger ; his
eye was good, and he attained to such profi- | Daru (the father) procured for Beyle the
do such great things. We had the sacred fire,' nounced infallible, runs thus: “Whilst your worthy. I had been sent to Brunswick, to lery adversary is taking his aim, look at a tree, an extraordinary contribution of five millions. and begin counting the leaves. One
I raised seven millions, and I narrowly escaped cupation will distract from another of a graver exasperated at the excess of my zeal. The Em
being torn in pieces by the populace, who were kind. Whilst taking aim yourself, recite two peror inquired the name of the auditor who had Latin verses ; this will prevent you from fir- so acted, and said “C'est bien.' ing too quickly, and neutralize that five per It would have been difficult to discover cent. of emotion which has sent so many another auditor similarly circumstanced, who balls twenty feet above the mark.”
would have refrained from putting into his About this time (1803), Beyle formed the own pocket one, at least, of the two extra curious project of writing a comedy, in one millions; and it is far from clear that the act and in prose, to confute the critical can- Emperor would have trusted or respected him ons of the celebrated Geoffroy. It was to be less on that account, so long as the imperial called “Quelle Horreur ! Ou l'ami du des- demands were fully answered. Napoleon potisme pervertisseur de l'opinion publique.” commonly knew to a fraction the amount of He worked at it, from time to time, for ten or the illicit gains of his functionaries, as the twelve years; and then definitively abandoned famous contractor Ouvrard discovered to his it. In 1805 he renewed the experiment of cost. This man was once foolish enough to domestic life at Grenoble, which this time bet that Mademoiselle Georges would sup was curiously and characteristically inter- with him instead of keeping her known enrupted. He fell in love with an actress ; gagement to sup, on a specified night, at the and, on her leaving Grenoble on a professional Tuileries. He overcame her scruples by a engagement for Marseilles, he pretended a bribe of 200,000 francs, and won his wager. sudden inclination for commerce, and became the day following, he was ordered to attend clerk to a Marseilles firm of dealers in colo- the Emperor, and was thus quietly addressed : nial produce, with whom he remained a year, "M. Ouvrard, you have gained five millions when the lady married a rich Russian mag- by your contracts for the supply of the army, pate, and Beyle returned to Paris. Having in Spain : you will pay two into the imperial contracted a fixed taste for intellectual pur- treasury without delay.” This state of things suits, he was with difficulty persuaded by and tone of feeling must be kept in mind in bis friends, the Darus, to attach himself appreciating a mản like Beyle, who, after once more to their fortunes. He complied, dealing with millions in times of commotion however, and rejoined them in Germany, and confusion, died in exile because he could where he was present, as a non-combatant, never muster capital enough to secure an at the battle of Jena, and witnessed the tri- annuity of £160 a year. umphant entry of Napoleon into Berlin in
In his capacity of auditor he was attached 1806. A few days after this event, Count to the grand army during the invasion of
Russia, and had his full share of the glories, self out for office under the restored monarchy,
One day, not far from the where he resided till 1821, with the exception Beresina, Beyle presented himself, shaved and of visits to Paris and London in 1817. At carefully dressed, before his chief. “You Milan be enjoyed in perfection the precise have shaved as usual, I see,” observed M. kind of life which suited him. The opera
you are a brave man (un homme de was a never-failing source of enjoyment; and ceur).” In a letter from Moscow he has there was no department of the fine arts from given one of the most graphic and picturesque which he could not draw both instruction accounts we are acquainted with of the fire. and amusement at will. The cosmopolite It concludes thus :
character of his taste may be inferred from "We left the city lighted up by the finest the manner in which he speaks in a letter, conflagration in the world, forming an immense dated October, 1818, of Vigano, the composer pyramid, which, like the prayers of the faithful, of ballets : had its base on earth and its summit in heaven. The moon appeared above this atmosphere of
Every man who has an immense success in fame and smoke. It was an imposing spectacle, his own country is remarkable in the eyes of a but one ought to have been alone, or surrounded philosopher. Vigano, I repeat, has had this by men of mind, to enjoy it. That which has
For example, 4000 francs a year has spoilt the Russian campaign for me, is to have been usually paid to the composers of ballets; he made it with people who would have common- has 44,000 for 1819. A Parisian will exclaim, placed the Coliseum and the Bay of Naples.”
Fi, l'horreur! He may speak in good faith;
only I shall add aside, so much the worse for Ile said he had not suffered so very much him. If Vigano discovers the art of writing from hunger during the retreat, but found it gestures and groups, I maintain that, in 1860, impossible to recall to memory how he had Therefore, I have a right to call him a great
he will be more spoken of than Madame de Staël. procured food, or what he had eaten, with man, or at least, a very remarkable man, and the exception of a lump of tallow, for which superior, like Rossina or Canova, to all that you he had paid twenty francs, and which he al- have at Paris in the fine arts or literature.” ways recollected with delight. Before set In another letter, in which he repeats and ting out on this expedition he deemed it pru- justifies this opinion, he says, “I pass my dent to take especial precautions against the evenings with Rossini and Monti: all things want of ready money. His sister replaced all considered, I prefer extraordinary men to orthe buttons of a surtout by gold pieces of dinary ones." Amongst the extraordinary twenty and forty francs, covered with cloth. men with whom he associated on familiar On his return she asked if this expedient had terms at Milan was Lord Byron, who thus answered. He had never once thought of it alludes to the circumstance in a letter to since his departure. By dint of taxing his Beyle in 1823 : " You have done me too memory, he recalled a vague impression of much honor by what you have been so good having given the old surtout to the waiter of as to say of me in your work; but that an inn near Wilna, with the gold buttons which has caused me as much pleasure as the bewed
up as at Paris. This incident, observes praise is to learn at last (by accident) that I M. Colomb, is truly illustrative, for Beyle am indebted for it to one whose esteem I was was excessively given to precaution, without really ambitious to obtain. So many changes a parallel for forgetfulness, and reckless to the have taken place since this epoch in our Mi
lan circle, that I hardly dare revive the memHe abided faithfully by the declining for- ory of it. Death, exile, and Austrian pristunes of Napoleon, and did good service in the ons, have separated those we loved. Poor crisis of 1814; but he was destined never to Pellico! I hope that in his cruel solitude his enjoy the reward of his devotion ; and when Muse consoles him sometimes, to charm us the crash came, he bore his ruin with so once again when her poet shall be restored philosophical an air, that many superficial again with herself to liberty.” observers openly accused him of ingratitude Beyle's account of their introduction and and tergiversation. The best answer to such dinner with Monti is quoted in Moore's “ Life charges was bis refusal to apply or lay him- of Byron.” In March, 1818, he writes thus