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well as another ; but your pleasantry, if it is such, passes the limits. '
Monsieur, it is so far from a pleasantry, that my flask is empty.' 'Monsieur,' replied Voltaire, 'I have recently come out of a sickness which has left me with a continual desire to eat, and I eat.' Eat, Monsieur, eat,' said Piron ; 'it is perfectly right; for my part, I have come out of Burgundy with a continual desire to drink, and
Another repartee of Piron's is too good to be lost, as it maintains the superiority of genius to the assumptions of vulgar rank, the honour and the independence which could at that period utter the sentiment.
“At that time, Piron went occasionally into society, dining here and there at a great mansion. He knew very well that it was his wit which was invited; as he said, “They hire me on wages.' He went everywhere without bending the knee. One day, at the house of some marquis, whom I have forgotten, a nobleman made way for him, to enter the dining-room before him. The marquis, observing this ceremony, addressed the nobleman : “Oh, Monsieur, the Count, don't be so ceremonious; he is only a poet.' Piron repelled the insult like a man of spirit. He raised his head proudly, and went in first, saying, “Since our titles are known I take my
rank.' The sketch of the Abbe Prevost must not be passed over; it contains but two colours answering to the two impulses, that alone seemed to have power over him, and exercised him in turn-love and religion. M. Houssaye considers that the famous romance of Manon Lescaut must be taken as a personal reminiscence of its author.
Madame de Pompadour herself was a patron of verse, and especially patronized two poets. They were not immaculate in their own character, nor was the muse much loftier than their patroness. A single scene will be sufficient to mark their fortunes and their genius.
“ When Bernis and Bernard met, as the cardinal expresses it, at the door of that rebellious heart which was to rule the world, they had both already strongly-marked characters. Bernis was devoured with pride and ambition; Bernard, though he never became a cardinal, was, for all that, the wiser of the two ; he knew that glory did not give her favours gratis ; he contented himself with amours, with little songs, and little suppers, all ir private. They had both followed their own course, without digressions and without obstacles, the one with joyous carelessness, the other with blind ardour, both meeting now and then, on account of a rhyme or a woman, with Euterpe or with Madame de Pompadour. Well,
where are we, Monsieur Abbé ?! Faith! I have arrived at the Academy. A little later. • Here I am an ambassador.' Soon after, minister. Finally, “ Alas! there is nothing more to be gained; they have made me cardinal. But how is it with you, Bernard ?' 'Always Gentil-Bernard, as Voltaire says.' 'And as the women say. 'Ah, you happy poet! Do you want to belong to the Academy ?
• Heaven defend me from it! it is more in your line, Monsieur Abbé.?"
Rivarol was the lion of the saloons. The story of his marriage is mingled in with a specimen of his brilliant style on the scene of his triumphs. We shall extract the wit and leave out the romance, especially as we soon find out that the two lovers were a pair of adventurers.
Come, Monsieur de Rivarol,' said Madame de Coigny, “you, who make up the gazette of our times so well, tell us what is going on at the theatre and the government, at the Academy and at Versailles.' 'At the Academy,' said Rivarol, Champfort has had his say, and has spoken like a book. It is a pity ; I hoped better of Champfort at the Academy; he is nothing more than a sprig of lily, grafted on a poppy-head. Alas, the poor Academy !' said the Abbé de Rastignac; Champfort was only wanting to its glory; that Academy which has not given a thought to Rousseau and Diderot. · Rousseau and Diderot l'exclaimed Rivarol excited ; 'they would have disturbed the silence of the dead; for even they, in their writings, have stirring appeals and rhetorical action, after their fashion ; they do not appear to be writing; they are always, as it were, at the tribune, the very reverse of many who have the appearance of writing when they speak.' 'If there was an Academy of good talkers, M. de Rivarol would be its President,' said the Abbé de Balivière. Rivarol bowed. "Monsieur the Abbé de Balivière is like those people who are always going to sneeze; he is always going to be witty.' The Abbé, thinking it was a compliment, bowed in his turn. "Monsieur de Rivarol, I expect an epigraph from you to inscribe in my book on morals.' · You mean an epitaph,' said Rivarol, with refined cruelty. This time the Abbé acknowledged himself beaten. 'Always jesting, always a wag,' he murmured, as he disappeared in the crowd.? But,' said the fair stranger, with an English accent, “Monsieur de Rivarol can not fail to become a member of the Academy, for the wits assemble there.? “Ah, madame,' said Rivarol, “I know that it is a decided advantage not to have done anything, but one should not abuse it.' Monsieur de Rivarol! who, then, is more witty and acconsplished than yourself? Your conversation is a book always open- At the same page,' said Rulhière, who had just arrived.
• Good eve
ning, Rulhière,' said Rivarol, a little nettled ; 'it is always your way of announcing yourself; I am here ; why should we not put on gloves ? In your criticism, the other day, you cuffed me with the hand with which you were writing. M. de Grimm was then announced, "The devil!' said the Abbé de Rastignac, approaching Rivarol. “M. de Grimm appears to have given the citizen of Geneva a good dressing, in a letter to Madame Necker.' • He must have taken great delight in writing that letter,' said Rivarol, “for little minds triumph over the faults of great geniuses, as owls enjoy an eclipse of the sun.' 'Take care!' said the Abbé de Rastignac,
M. de Grimm has great readiness of wit.” “Pshaw! there is nothing so unready as readiness of wit. What news is there, Monsieur de Grimm ? asked the Marchioness of St. Charmont, 'what do they say at Versailles ?' 'Nothing much,' said Grimm, there's the king's joke on the Abbé Maury. The illustrious abbé has preached at Versailles, as everybody knows.' 'On what subject, on what text of Scripture ? Does the abbé ever think about Scripture? It was all profoundly political ; he wanted to give the king some lessons in finance, and the administration of government. • It's a pity,' said his majesty, on leaving the church, if the Abbé Maury had only talked to us a little about religion, he would have spoken of everything."
The man of action of the period is well presented in the varying life of La Clos:
"Fancy to yourself, in 1760, at the time when Sophia Arnould made her debût at the opera, under the reign of Madame de Pompadour, a young man, grown pale from dreams of heroic glory, studying the actions of the most illustrious captains, already renowned for his bravery, because he had fought in a duel, in despair of displaying himself on another field of battle ; by turns proud and happy to feel in his grasp the hilt of a sword, to discover in books the science of war. "Now behold another portrait :
-A chevalier of 1766, representative of the roués of the Regency. We are at the opera at the débût of Mademoiselle Beaumesnil. A pastoral is represented. Our chevalier is in a box in fair and good company; they call him zevalier : he applauds the actress, and exclain.s adorable! He disappears from the box, to go and offer his congratulations to the débutante. On approaching, he repeats to her some impertinent verses. Mademoiselle Beaumesnil, in her delight, promises to receive him at her private levée. He returns to the box, where his long absence is already a cause of complaint. In that box there is a lady of forty, and a young girl just entering on life.
"Do you see, in a room in furnished lodgings, at Grenoble, about
1779, a man who is already grey, although still young ?
IIe is seated at a little table, where he is writing rapidly, sometimes interrogating his memory, sometimes turning over Clarissa Harlowe, the Religieuse, and the Nouvelle Heloise. It is midnight; a small lamp throws its faint light upon him.
A malicious smile passes now and then over his lips. Lavater would have said that this man, who is writing a satire in the style of Petronius, is taking vengeance. It is a satire on the world in which he has lived, on the world wbich has opened its heart to him. Why should he seek revenge ? From caprice ; because he has discovered that at the bottom of the cup was poison ; because, dwelling in the hearts of women, he found the hell that was there concealed. But, believe it, he sought vengeance, because, as a poet has said, he felt the shores of youth gliding away
“ '89 has struck, like the funeral knell of the eighteenth century. Let us follow this man, who is beginning to be old; but who, by his actions, wishes to persuade himself that he is still young. Let us follow him, step by step. Do you see him, at first, in those noisy orgies of the Palais Royal, seated at the right of the prince, whose counsellor he is. 'Liberty ! republie!' cry all these men of wit after supper, who fancy themselves proud Romans; ‘Liberty ! republic! The
cry issues from the Palais Royal, like a cannon-ball, against the palace of the Tuilleries. Follow the most excited of them all. Behold him drawing up with Brissot the famous petition of the Champ de Mars, calling for the trial of Louis XVI. That is not all; he makes himself the orator of the street, like Camille Desmoulins, on the day of the taking of the Bastile ; he draws in his train all the passions of the mob. A moment ago, he demanded the trial of the king; it is the head of Louis XVI. that he now demands. The orators of the clubs are jealous of the orator of the street, they imprison him to rid themselves from his furious ambition. Is it over ?
“No; on the fifth of October, 1803, do you see that man at Tarento who is dying, worn out by every passion, good and evil? On the previous night he had still fought. Grateful France will not, perhaps, inscribe his name on a triumphal arch; but will she forget that the general of artillery, Chauderlos de la Clos, author of the Liaisons Dangereuses, fought heroically for her, on the Rhine and in Italy ?"
The charming and pathetic life of the musician Gretry, must be read throughout, and though we are tempted to extract the death of his three daughters-dying in succession, so young and so gifted with genius, we should perhaps weaken the interest by separating this touching episode from the events with which it is associated.
We turn to the following glowing eulogy on the intellectual wealth of Diderot, the Encyclopædist :
“He had the richest nature of the age, both in head and heart. Behold how ideas of all sorts breed tempests in that immense forehead. The other chiefs of the valiant army, which called itself the Encyclopedia, were present only to temper his warmth, or profit by his conquest. All, Jean-Jacques himself, are more pre-occupied with laurels than with victory. Diderot alone did not think of laurels.
“ A man worthy of glory for all ages, he nevertheless came in his own proper time. The Deity had marked him with a fatal seal. The arins which he had seized would have broken in his hands a century sooner or even a century later.
"He was the true philosopher of the eighteenth century. He alone utters tones worthy of Leibnitz or Malebranche. While Montesquieu and Raynal were studying politics, Voltaire the philosophers, without studying himself enough, Condillac psychology, D'Alembert geometry, Buffon the pomp of ideas rather than ideas, D’Holbach chemistry, Diderot rose higher—he dared to create an entire world. Jean-Jacques alone, by his sublime reveries, approaches him on these precipitous heights. I have said that Diderot dared to create. It would be more just to say that he dared to destroy. His work is actually one of destruction, but not a sterile work. After the mournful harvest of prejudice, the good seed may be sown.
“ Ideas are birds of passage which traverse the world, carried along by a fragrant breeze, or chased by storms. Sometimes the bird of passage is an eagle, who is to strike with his unseen wing the forehead of a philosopher or a hero. Sometimes it is a light swallow who shakes over poets and lovers, his wing steeped in the dew of the meadows. Diderot saw the flight of the eagle and the swallow. The great wing struck his forehead, the drop of dew fell
upon his heart.”
In the sketch of Louis XV. are the following observations, equally profound and poetical. Do they not furnish the clue with which to unravel many of the enigmas of the period ?
"Love metamorphoses itself often in France. Sometimes it is a dreamer. There are two kinds of dreamers: the dreamer on the borders of the Lignon, and the dreamers upon the shore of Lake Leman : at another time it is a petit-maître like Boufflers or Dorat; it is a shepherd playing his pipes; it is a précieuse ridicule, that opens, like Mademoiselle de Scudéry, her circle (saloon,) her alcove (bed-chamber,) her recess (boudoir,) to people of leisure; in a word, a half a century hardly passes in France before love changes its