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"Art and Hope were twin-born, and they die together."
See how faithfully I remember, methinks, your very words. But the magic of the words, which I then but dimly understood, was in your smile and in your eye, and the queen-like wave of your hand as if beckoning to a world which lay before you, visible and familiar as your native land. And how devotedly, with what earnestness of passion, I gave myself up to the task of raising my gift into an art! I thought of nothing else, dreamed of nothing else; and oh, how sweet to me then were words of praise. "Another year yet," at length said the masters, "and you ascend your throne among the queens of song." Then — then — I would have changed for no other throne on earth my hope of that to be achieved in the realms of my art. And then came that long fever: my strength broke down, and the Mastro said, " Rest, or your voice is gone, and your throne is lost forever." How hateful that rest seemed to me! You again came to my aid. You said, "The time you think lost should be but time improved. Penetrate your mind with other songs than the trash of Libretti. The more you habituate yourself to the forms, the more you imbue yourself with the spirit, in which passions have been expressed and character delineated by great writers, the more completely you will accomplish yourself in your own special art of singer and actress." So, then, you allured me to a new study. Ah ! in so doing did you dream that you diverted me from the old ambition? My knowledge of French and Italian, and my rearing in childhood, which had made English familiar to me, gave me the keys to the treasure-houses of three languages. Naturally I began with that in which your masterpieces are composed. Till then 1 had not even read your works. They were the first I chose. How they impressed, how they startled me! what depths in the mind of man, in the heart of woman, they revealed to me! But I owned to you then, and I repeat it now, neither they nor any of the works in romance and poetry which form the boast of recent French literature, satisfied yearnings for that calm sense of beauty, that divine joy in a world beyond this world, which you had led me to believe it was the prerogative of ideal art to bestow. And when I told you this with the rude frankness you had bid me exercise in fclk with you, a thoughtful melancholyshade fell over your face, and you said
quietly, "You are right, child; we, the French of our time, are the offspring of revolutions that settled nothing, unsettled all: we resemble those troubled States which rush into war abroad in order to re-establish peace at home. Our books suggest problems to men for reconstructing some social system in which the calm that belongs to art mav be found at last: but such books should not be in your hands; they are not for the innocence and youth of women, as yet unchanged by the systems which exist." And the next day you brought me Tasso's great poem, the Gerusalemme Liberata, and said, smiling, "Art in its calm is here."
You remember that I was then at Sorrento by the order of my physicians. Never shall I forget the soft autumn day when I sat amongst the lonely rocklcts to the left of the town — the sea before me, with scarce a ripple; my very heart steeped in the melodies of that poem, so marvellous for a strength disguised in sweetness, and for a symmetry in which each proportion blends into the other with the perfectness of a Grecian statue. The whole place seemed to me filled with the presence of the poet to whom it had given birth. Certainly the reading of that poem formed an era in my existence; to this day I cannot acknowledge the faults or weaknesses which your criticisms pointed out — I believe because they are in unison with my own nature, which yearns for harmony, and, finding that, rests contented. I shrink from violent contrasts, and can discover nothing tame and insipid in a continuance of sweetness and serenity. But it was not till after I had read La Gerusalemme again and again, and then sat and brooded over it, that I recognized the main charm of the poem in the religion which clings to it as the perfume clings to a flower — a religion sometimes melancholy, but never to me sad. Hope always pervades it. Surely if, as you said, " Hope is twinborn with art," it is because art at its highest blends itself unconsciously with religion, and proclaims its affinity with hope by its faith in some future good more perfect than it has realized in the past.
Be this as it may, it was in this poem so pre-eminently Christian that I tound the something which I missed and craved for in modern French masterpieces, even yours — a something spiritual, speaking to my own soul, calling it forth; distinguishing it as an essence apart from mere human reason; soothing, even when it excited; making earth nearer to heaven. And when I ran on in this strain to you after my own wild fashion, you took my head between your hands and kissed me, and said, " Happy are those who believe! long may that happiness be thine!" Why did I not feel in Dante the Christian charm that I felt in Tasso? Dante in your eyes, as in those of most judges, is infinitely the greater genius, but reflected on the dark stream of that genius the stars are so troubled, the heaven so threatening.
Just as my year of holiday was expiring I turned to English literature ; and Shakespeare, of course, was the first English poet put into my hands. It proves how childlike my mind still was, that my earliest sensation in reading him was that of disappointment. It was not only that, despite my familiarity with English (thanks chiefly to the care of him whom I call my second father), there is much in the metaphorical diction of Shakespeare which I failed to comprehend; but he seemed to me so far like the modern French writers who affect to have found inspiration in his muse, that he obtrudes images of pain and suffering without cause or motive sufficiently clear to ordinary understandings, as I had taught myself to think it ought to be in the drama.
He makes Fate so cruel that we lose sight of the mild deity behind her. Compare, in this, Corneille's "Po/yeuc/e" with the " Hamlet." In the first an equal calamity befals the good, but in their calamity they are blessed. The death of the martyr is the triumph of his creed. But when we have put down the English tragedy — when Hamlet and Ophelia are confounded in death with Polonius and the fratricidal king, we see not what good end for humanity is achieved. The passages that fasten on our memory do not make us happier and holier; they suggest but terrible problems, to which they give us no solution.
In the "Horaces" of Corneille there arc fierce contests, rude passions, tears drawn from some of the bitterest sources of human pity; but then through all stands out, large and visible to the eyes of all spectators, the great ideal of devoted patriotism. How much of all that has been grandest in the life of France, redeeming even its worst crimes of revolution in the love of country, has had its origin in the '■'■Horaces" of Corneille. But I doubt if the fates of Coriolanus, and Caesar, and Brutus, and Antony, in
the giant tragedies of Shakespeare, have made Englishmen more willing to die for England. In fine, it was long before — I will not say I understood or rightly appreciated Shakespeare, for no Englishman would admit that I or even you could ever do so — but before I could recognize the justice of the place his country claims for him as the genius without an equal in the literature of Europe. Meanwhile the ardour I had put into study, and the wear and tear of the emotions which the study called forth, made themselves felt in a return of my former illness, with symptoms still more alarming; and when the year was out I was ordained to rest for perhaps another year before I could sing in public, still less appear on the stage. How I rejoiced when I heard that fiat, for I emerged from that year of study with a heart utterly estranged from the profession in which I had centred my hopes
before . Yes, Eulalie, you had bid
me accomplish myself for the arts of utterance by the study of arts in which thoughts originate the words they employ, and in doing so—I had changed myself into another being. I was forbidden all fatigue of mind; my books were banished, but not the new self which the books had formed. Recovering slowly through the summer, I came hither two months since, ostensibly for the advice
of Dr. C , but reallv in the desire to
commune with my own heartland be still.
And now I have poured forth that heart to you—would you persuade me still to be a singer? If you do, remember at least how jealous and absorbing the art of the singer and of the actress is. How completely I must surrender myself to it, and live- among books, or among dreams, no more. Can I be anything else but a singer? and if not, should I be contented merely to read and to dream?
I must confide to you one ambition which during the lazy Italian summer took possession of me— I must tell you the ambition, and add that I have renounced it as a vain one. I had hoped that I could compose, I mean in music. I was pleased with some things I did — they expressed in music what I could not express in words ; and one secret object in coming here was to submit them to the great Mastro. He listened to them patiently; he complimented me on my accuracy in the mechanical laws of composition; he even said that my favourite airs were "touchants ct gracieux."
And so he would have left me, but I stopped him timidly, and said, " Tell me frankly, do you think that with time and study 1 could compose music such as singers equal to myself would sing to?"
"You mean as a professional composer?"
"And to the abandonment of your vocation as a singer?"
"My dear child, I should be your worst enemy if I encouraged such a notion; cling to the career in which you can be greatest ; ^ain but health, and I wager my reputation on your glorious success on the stage. What can you be as a composer? You will set pretty music to pretty words, and will be sung in drawing-rooms with the fame a little more or less that generally attends the compositions of female amateurs. Aim at something higher, as I know you would do, and you will not succeed. Is there any instance in modern times, perhaps in any times, of a female composer who attains even to the eminence of a thirdrate opera writer? Composition in letters may be of no sex. In that Madame Dudevant and your friend Madame de Grantmesnil can beat most men; but the genius of musical composition is homme, and accept it as a compliment when I say that you are essentially femme\"
He left me, of course, mortified and humbled; but I feel he is right as regards myself, though whether in his depreciation of our whole sex I cannot say. But as this hope has left me, I have become more disquieted, still more restless.
counsel, and, if
Counsel me, Eulalie; possible, comfort me.
From the Same to the Same. No letter from you yet, and I have left you in peace for ten days. How do you think 1 have spent them? The Meestro called on us with M. Savarin, to insist on our accompanying them on a round of the theatres. I had not been to one since my arrival. I divined that the kindhearted composer had a motive in this invitation. He thought that in witnessing the applauses bestowed on actors, and sharing in the fascination in which theatrical illusion holds an audience, my old passion for the stage, and with it the longing for an artiste's fame, would revive.
In my heart I wished that his expectations might be realized. Well for me if 1 could once more concentre all my aspirations on a prize within my reach!
I We went first to see a comedy greatly in- vogue, and the author theroughly understands the French stage of our day. The acting was excellent in its way. The next night we went to the Odeon, a romantic melodrama in six acts, and I know not how many tableaux. I found no fault with the acting there. I do not give vou the rest of our programme. We visited all the principal theatres, reserving the
opera and Madame S for the last.
Before I speak of the opera, let me say a word or two on the plays.
There is no country in which the theatre has so great a hold on the public as in France; no country in which the successful dramatist has so high a fame; no country perhaps in which the state of the stage so faithfully represents the moral and intellectual condition of the people. I say this not, of course, from my experience of countries which I have not visited, but from all I hear of the stage in Germany and in England.
The impression left on my mind by the performances I witnessed is, that the French people are becoming dwarfed. The comedies that please them are but pleasant caricatures of petty sections in a corrupt society. They contain no large types of human nature; their witticisms convey no luminous flashes of truth; their sentiment is not pure and noble — it is a sickly and false perversion of the impure and ignoble into travesties of the pure and noble.
Their melodramas cannot be classed as literature — all that really remains of the old French genius is its vaudeville.
Great dramatists create great parts. One great part, such as a Rachel would gladly have accepted, I have not seen in the dramas of the young generation.
High art has taken refuge in the opera; but that is not French opera. I do not complain so much that French taste is less refined. I complain that French intellect is lowered. The descent from Polyeucte to Ruy Bias is great, not so much in the poetry of form as in the elevation of thought; but the descent from Ruy Bias to the best drama now produced is out of poetry altogether, and into those flats of prose which give not even the glimpse of a mountain-top.
But now to the opera. S in
Norma! The house was crowded, and its enthusiasm as loud as it was genuine.
You tell me that S never rivalled
Pasta, but certainly her Norma is a great performance. Her voice has lost less of its freshness than I had been told, and what is lost of it her practised management conceals or carries off.
The Mastro was quite right — I could nev.er vie with her in her own line; but conceited and vain as I may seem even to you in saying so, I feel in my own line that I could command as large an ap
Elause— of course taking into account my rief-lived advantage of youth. Her acting, apart from her voice, does not please me. It seems to me to want intelligence of the subtler feelings, the under-current of emotion, which constitutes the chief beauty of the situation and the character. Am I jealous when I say this? Read on and judge.
On our return that night, when I had seen the Venosta to bed, I went into my own room, opened the window, and looked out. A lovely night, mild as in spring at Florence — the moon at her full, and the stars looking so calm and so high beyond our reach of their tranquillity. The evergreens in th6 gardens of the villas around me silvered over, and the summer boughs, not yet clothed with leaves, were scarcely visible amid the changeless smile of the laurels. At the distance lay Paris only to be known by its innumerable lights. And then I said to myself —
"No, I cannot be an actress; I cannot resign my real self for that vamped-up hypocrite before the lamps. Out on those stage robes and painted cheeks! Out on that simulated utterance of sentiments learned by rote and practised before the looking-glass till every gesture has its drill."
Then I gazed on those stars which provoke our questionings, and return no answer, till my heart grew full, so full, and I bowed my head and wept like a child.
From the Same to the Same.
And still no letter from you! I see in the journals that you have left Nice. Is it that you are too absorbed in your work to have leisure to write to me? I know you.are not ill; for if you were, all Paris would know of it. All Europe has an interest in your health. Positively I will write to you no more till a word from yourself bids me do so.
I fear I must give up my solitary walks in the Bois de Boulogne: they were very dear to me, partly because the quiet path to which I confined myself was that to which you directed me as the one you habitually selected when at Paris, and in which you had brooded over and revolved the loveliest of your romances; and partly because it was there that, catching,
alas! not inspiration but enthusiasm from the genius that had hallowed the place, and dreaming I might originate music, I nursed my own aspirations and murmured my own airs. And though so close to that world of Paris to which all artists must appeal for judgment or audience, the spot was so undisturbed, so sequestered. But of late that path has lost its solitude, and therefore its charm.
Six days ago the first person I encountered in my walk was a man whom I did not then heed. He seemed in thought, or rather in reverie, like myself; we passed each other twice or thrice, and I did not notice whether he was young or old, tall or short; but he came the next day, and a third day, and then I saw that he was young, and, in so regarding him, his eyes became fixed on mine. The fourth day he did not come, but two other men came, and the look of one was inquisitive and offensive. They sat themselves down on a bench in the walk, and though I did not seem to notice them, I hastened home; and the next day, in talking with our kind Madame Savarin, and alluding to these quiet walks of mine, she hinted, with the delicacy which is her characteristic, that the customs of Paris did not allow Demoiselles comme il faut to walk alone even in the most sequestered paths of the Bois.
I begin now to comprehend your disdain of customs which impose chains so idly galling on the liberty of our sex.
We dined with the Savarins last evening: what a joyous nature he has! Not reading Latin, I only know Horace by translations, which I am told are bad; but Savarin seems to me a sort of half Horace. Horace on his town-bred side, so playfully well-bred, so good-humoured in his philosophy, so affectionate to friends, and so biting to foes. But certainly Savarin could not have lived in a country farm upon endives and mallows. He is town-bred and Parisian, jusgu'au bout des ongles. How he admires you, and how I love him for it! Only in one thing he disappoints me there. It is your style that he chiefly praises: certainly that style is matchless; but style is only the clothing of thought, and to praise your style seems to me almost as invidious as the compliment to some perfect beauty, not on her form and face, but on her taste in dress.
We met at dinner an American and his wife — a Colonel and Mrs. Morley: she is delicately handsome, as the American women I have seen generally are, and with that frank vivacity of manner which distinguishes them from English women. She seemed to take a fancy to me, and we soon grew very good friends.
She is the first advocate I have met, except yourself, of that doctrine upon the Rights of Women — of which one reads 'more in the journals than one hears discussed in salons.
Naturally enough I felt great interest in that subject, more especially since my rambles in the Bois were forbidden; and as long as she declaimed on the hard fate of the women who, feeling within them powers that struggle for air and light beyond the close precinct of household duties, find themselves restricted from fair rivalry with men in such fields of knowledge and toil and glory, as men since the world began have appropriated to themselves, I need not say that I went with her cordially: you can guess that by my former letters. But when she entered into the detailed catalogue of our exact wrongs and our exact rights, I felt all the pusillanimity of my sex, and shrank back in terror.
Her husband, joining us when she was in full tide of eloquence, smiled at me with a kind of saturnine mirth. "Mademoiselle, don't believe a word she says; it is only tall talk! In America the women are absolute tyrants, and it is I who, in concert with my oppressed countrymen, am going in for a platform agitation to restore the Rights of Men."
Upon this there was a lively battle of words between the spouses, in which, I must own, I thought the lady was decidedly worsted.
No, Eulalie, I see nothing in these schemes for altering our relations towards the other sex which would improve our condition. The inequalities we suffer are not imposed bylaw — not even by convention; they are imposed by nature.
Eulalie, you hay,e had an experience unknown to me; you have loved. In that day did you — you, round whom poets and sages and statesmen gather, listening to your words as to an oracle — did you feel that your pride of genius had gone out from you — that your ambition lived in him whom you loved — that his smile was more to you than the applause of a world?
I feel as if love in a woman must destroy her rights of equality — that it gives to her a sovereign even in one who would ■ be inferior to herself if her love did not glorify and crown him. Ah! if I could But merge this terrible egotism which op
presses me, into the being of some one who is what I would wish to be were I man! I would not ask him to achieve fame. Enough if I felt that he was worthy of it, and happier methinks to console him when he failed than to triumph with him when he won. Tell me, have you felt this? When you loved did you stoop as to a slave, or did you bow I down as to a master?
I From Madame de Grantmesnil to Isaura Cicogna.
Chere enfant, — All your four letters have reached me the same day. In one of my sudden whims I set off with a few friends on a rapid tour along the Riviera to Genoa, thence to Turin on to Milan. Not knowing where we should rest even for a day, my letters were not forwarded. I I came back to Nice yesterday, consoled for all fatigues in having insured 'that accuracy in description of localities 'which my work necessitates.
You are, my poor child, in that revolutionary crisis through which genius passes I in' youth before it knows its own self, and 'longs vaguely to do or to be a something I other than it has done or has been before. ! For, not to be unjust to your own powers, 'genius you have — that inborn undefinaj ble essence, including talent, and yet dis! tinct from it. Genius you have, but genj ius unconcentrated, Undisciplined. I see, I though you are too diffident to say so ! openly, that you shrink from the fame of singer, because, fevered by your reading, 1 you would fain aspire to the thorny crown of author. I echo the hard saying of the Mastro, I should be your worst enemy did I encourage you to forsake a career in which a dazzling success is so assured, for one in which, if it were your true vocation, you would not ask whether you were fit for it; you would be impelled to it by the terrible star which presides over the birth of poets.
Have you, who are so naturally observant, and of late have become so reflective, never remarked that authors, however absorbed in their own craft, do not wish their children to adopt it? The most successful author is perhaps the last person to whom neophytes should come for encouragement. This I think is not the case with the cultivators of the sister arts. The painter, the sculptor, the musician, seem disposed to invite disciples and welcome acolytes. As for those engaged in the practical affairs of life, fathers mostly wished their sons to be as they have been.