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Paris As It Was and As It Is by Francis W. Blagdon

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celebrated throughout Europe. Hitherto, with the exception of the
National Institute, this is the only society to which the government
has granted the honour of receiving it as a body, or by deputation,
on solemn occasions; and by that alone, it has _nationalized_, at
least tacitly, its institution. It is also the only one which, to the
present moment, has preserved the right of holding its public and
private sittings in the _Louvre_, since that palace has been ordered
to be wholly evacuated. A report has been spread that the hall of the
_ci-devant_ French Academy is destined for it; but as yet nothing is
determined in this respect.

Its number is confined to sixty resident members, and twenty free
associates or veterans. It is necessary to have been ten years among
the resident members, in order to have a right to be admitted into
the number of the twenty free associates, who enjoy prerogatives,
without being bound to take a part in the labours of the society.
This favour, however, may be granted to those who are for a time
called from Paris by public functions, such as embassies,
prefectures, &c.

This society meets on the 2nd, 12th and 22nd of every month at seven
o'clock in the evening. Its various committees have their particular
days for assembling. Its officers consist of a President, a
Vice-President, a general and perpetual Secretary, a temporary
Secretary, a Treasurer, and a Keeper of the records.

It holds its public sittings at noon on the last Sunday of the second
month of every _trimestre_, or quarter of the republican year,
namely, Brumaire, Pluviose, Floreal, and Thermidor.

It is composed of men of science, literati, and artists; but,
resembling a family rather than a society, its principles of
friendship admit of no classes. On the 19th of every month, it
celebrates its foundation by an entertainment, at which its members
have the liberty of introducing their friends.

It reckons among its members, in the Sciences, LACEPEDE, FOURCROY,


In the Arts, viz. Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music,
Declamation, and Dancing, REGNAULT, VALENCIENNES, SILVESTRE the
FOUBERT, honorary administrator of the Central Museum, LA RIVE the
elder, GARDEL, &c.

The general and perpetual Secretary is JOSEPH LAVALLEE.


It is composed of the junction of the old _Museum of Paris_ and of
the Society called that of the _Nine Sisters_. It is divided into
classes, is unlimited in the number of its members, admits associated
correspondents and foreigners, holds its private sittings at the
_Oratoire_ in the _Rue St. Honore_, every Thursday, and its public
ones at six o'clock in the evening on the 9th of the first months of
the _trimestre_; namely, Vendemiaire, Nivose, Germinal, and Messidor.
Its officers consist of a President, taken alternately from the three
classes, of two temporary Secretaries, a Treasurer, and a Keeper of
the records.

This Society is modelled a little too much after the Institute, and
it is easy to see that the former aims at rivaling the latter. This
_esprit de corps_, which cannot well be perceived but by nice
observers, has this advantage; it inspires a sort of emulation. But
the society having neglected to limit the number of its members, and
having thereby deprived itself of the means of appearing difficult as
to admission, it thence results that its labours are not equally
stamped with the impression of real talent; and if, in fact, it be
ambitious, that is a great obstacle to its views.

ATHENEE (_ci-devant_ LYCEE) DES ARTS.[1]

In imitation of our Royal Society, it comprises not only the
sciences, literature, and the arts, but also arts and trades,
mechanics, inventions, &c. Its members are not idle, and they are a
useful body, as they excite emulation by medals, civic crowns,
premiums, and rewards. Their number is considerable and unlimited; a
condition which is an evil in the last-mentioned society, and a good
in this, whose nature is not so much to shine as to encourage

It was for a while in disrepute, because DESAUDRAY, the director who
founded it, exercised over it a tyrannic sway; it has succeeded in
getting rid of him, and, since then, several persons of merit, who
had before kept aloof, aspire to the honour of being admitted into

For some time past it has adopted a custom, too obsequious and
absurd, of choosing none but ministers for its Presidents. By this,
it exposes its liberty and its opinion, and gives itself chains, the
weight of which it will feel some day, when too late to shake them

It holds its general sittings at the _Oratoire_ every Monday, when it
hears the reports of its numerous committees, who have their
particular days for meeting. Its public sittings are held at the same
place, but at no fixed periods.

Its officers consist of a President, a Vice-President, two
Secretaries, three Conservators, a Treasurer, and a Keeper of the

It has associated correspondents throughout Europe.


It is wholly devoted to natural, physical, and mathematical sciences.
It assembles on Fridays, in the _Rue d'Anjou_, _Faubourg St.
Germain_. It has no public sittings; but is merely a private meeting
of men of learning, who publish once a month a _bulletin_ very
important to the sciences, and to be commended, besides, for its
composition, perspicuity, and conciseness. This publication is of a
4to size, consists of a single sheet of print, and has for its title
_Bulletin des Sciences par la Societe Philomatique_.


This Society is recently formed: It employs itself on the Sciences
only; has not yet held any public sittings, nor published any
memoirs. Consequently, nothing can yet be said of its labours, or
interior regulation.


Its name indicates the sole object of its labours. It is newly
formed, and composed of men eminently distinguished in Medicine and
Physics. It has called in a few literati. Its officers are the same
in the other Societies. It holds its sittings at the _Oratoire_ every
Tuesday at eleven o'clock in the morning. Its labours are pursued
with ardour and it has already made several important experiments. It
announces zeal, and talents, as well as-great defects, and aspires to
fame, perhaps, a little too much; but it may still maintain its


It is somewhat frivolous. Public sittings every month. Half poetry,
half music. It meets at the _Oratoire_ every Wednesday at seven
o'clock in the evening. It arose from a small emigration of the
_Lycee des Arts_, at this day _l'Athenee_, during the tyranny of
DESAUDRAY, and originally bore the title of _Rosati_. A few men of
merit, a great number of youths, and some useless members. Too many
futile readings, too many fugitive verses, too many little
rivalships. It is faulty on account of its regulations, the basis of
which is weak, and it exhibits too much parsimony in its expenses. It
has not enough of that public consideration which perpetuates
establishments of this description. Under such circumstances, it is
to be apprehended that it will not support itself.


This is a fine institution, recently founded. It is composed of the
most celebrated lawyers, and a few distinguished literati. It meets
on the first of every month, gives every day courses of lectures on
all the branches of jurisprudence to a great number of pupils; has
established conferences, where these pupils form themselves to the
art of speaking, by pleading on given points of law. It publishes two
periodical works every month, the one entitled, _Bulletin de
Jurisprudence_ and the other, _Annales de Jurisprudence._ The
preliminary discourse of the first volume of the latter is by JOSEPH
LAVALLEE, and has done him considerable credit. He is, however, a
literary character, and not a lawyer.

This academy has officers of the same description as those of the
other Societies. Senator LANJUINAIS is the President at this moment.
It occupies the _Hotel de la Briffe_, _Quai Voltaire_.


It assembles at the _Hotel de la Rochefoucauld_, _Rue de Seine_,
_Faubourg St. Germain,_ and is composed of very estimable men. Its
labours, readings, and discussions are too metaphysical. In point of
officers, it is formed like the other Societies. Citizen JUAFFRET is
perpetual Secretary.


This society has survived the revolutionary storm, having been
established as far back as the year 1787. According to the
_programme_ published for the present year 1802, its object is to
propagate the culture of the sciences and literature; to make known
the useful improvements in the arts; to afford pleasure to persons of
all ages, by presenting to every one such attractions as may suit his
taste, and to unite in literary conferences the charms of the mildest
of human occupations.

To strangers, the _Athenee_ holds out many advantages. On being
presented by one of the founders or a subscriber, and paying the
annual subscription of 96 francs, you receive an admission-ticket,
which, however, is not transferrable. This entitles you to attend
several courses of lectures by some of the most eminent professors,
LEGRAND, &c. The subjects for the year are as follows:

Experimental Physics, Chymistry, Natural History, Anatomy and
Physiology, Botany, Technology or the application of sciences to arts
and trades, Literature, Moral Philosophy, Architecture, together with
the English, Italian, and German languages.

The lectures are always delivered twice, and not unfrequently thrice
a day, in a commodious room, provided with all the apparatus
necessary for experiments. On a Sunday, an account of the order in
which they are to be given in the course of the following week, is
sent to every subscriber. There is no half-subscription, nor any
admission _gratis_; but ladies pay no more than 48 francs for their
annual ticket.

Independently of so many sources of instruction, the _Athenee_, as is
expressed in the _programme_, really affords to subscribers the
resources and charms of a numerous and select society. The
apartments, which are situated near the _Palais du Tribunat_, in the
_Rue du Lycee_, are open to them from nine o'clock in the morning to
eleven at night. Several rooms are appropriated to conversation; one
of which, provided with a piano-forte and music, serves as a
rendezvous for the ladies. The subscribers have free access to the
library, where they find the principal literary and political
journals and papers, both French and others, as well as every new
publication of importance. A particular room, in which silence is
duly observed, is set apart for reading.

[Footnote 1: This Society has laid aside the title of _Lyceum_ since
the decree of the government, which declares that this denomination
is to be applied only to the establishments for public instruction.]


_Paris, January 13, 1802._

I have spoken to you of palaces, museum, churches, bridges, public
gardens, playhouses, &c. as they have chanced to fall under my
observation; but there still remain houses of more than one
description which I have not yet noticed, though they are certainly
more numerous here than in any other city in Europe. I shall now
speak of


Their number in Paris has been reckoned to exceed seven hundred; but
they are very far from enjoying a comparative degree of reputation.
Celebrity is said to be confined to about a dozen only, which have
risen into superior consequence from various causes. Except a few
resorted to by the literati or wits of the day, or by military
officers, they are, in general, the rendezvous of the idle, and the
refuge of the needy. This is so true, that a frequenter of a
coffeehouse scarcely ever lights a fire in his own lodging during the
whole winter. No sooner has he quitted his bed, and equipped himself
for the day, than he repairs to his accustomed haunt, where he
arrives about ten o'clock in the morning, and remains till eleven at
night, the hour at which coffeehouses are shut up, according to the
regulation of the police. Not unfrequently persons of this
description make a cup of coffee, mixed with milk, with the addition
of a penny-roll, serve for dinner; and, be their merit what it may,
they are seldom so fortunate as to be consoled by the offer of a rich
man's table.

Here, no person who wishes to be respected, thinks of lounging in a
coffeehouse, because it not only shews him to be at a loss to spend
his time, which may fairly be construed into a deficiency of
education or knowledge, but also implies an absolute want of
acquaintance with what is termed good company. Certain it is that,
with the exceptions before-mentioned, a stranger must not look for
good company in a coffee-house in Paris; if he does, he will find
himself egregiously disappointed.

Having occasion to see an advertisement in an English newspaper, I
went a few evenings ago to one of the most distinguished places of
this sort in the _Palais du Tribunat_: the room was extremely
crowded. In five minutes, one of the company whom I had seen taking
out his watch on my entrance, missed it; and though many of the
by-standers afterwards said they had no doubt that a person of
gentlemanly exterior, who stood near him, had taken it, still it
would have been useless to charge that person with the fact, as the
watch had instantly gone through many hands, and the supposed
accomplices had been observed to decamp with uncommon expedition.
What diverted me not a little, was that the person suspected coolly
descanted on the imprudence of taking out a valuable watch in a crowd
of strangers; and, after declaiming the most virulent terms against
the dishonesty of mankind; he walked away very quietly.
Notwithstanding his appearance and manner were so much in his favour,
he had no sooner affected his retreat than some subalterns of the
police, not thief-takers, but _mouchards_ or spies, some of whom are
to be met with in every principal coffeehouse, cautioned the master
of the house against suffering his presence in future, as he was a
notorious adventurer.

You must not, however, imagine from this incident, that a man cannot
enter a coffeehouse in Paris, without being a sufferer from the
depredations of the nimble-fingered gentry. Such instances are not, I
believe, very frequent here; and though it is universally allowed
that this capital abounds with adventurers and pickpockets of every
description, I am of opinion that there is far less danger to be
apprehended from them than from their archetypes in London. Everyone
knows that, in our refined metropolis, a lady of fashion cannot give
a ball or a rout, without engaging Mr. Townsend, or some other Bow
street officer, to attend in her ball, in order that his presence may
operate as a check on the audacity of knavish intruders.

The principle coffeehouses here are fitted up with taste and
elegance. Large mirrors form no inconsiderable part of their
decoration. There are no partitions to divide them into boxes. The
tables are of marble; the benches and stools are covered with Utrecht
velvet. In winter, an equal degree of warmth is preserved in them by
means of a large stove in the centre, which, from its figure, is an
ornamental piece of furniture; while, in summer, the draught of air
which it maintains, contributes not a little to cool the room. In the
evening, they are lighted by _quinquets_ in a brilliant manner.

Formerly, every coffeehouse in Paris used to have its chief orator;
in those of the more remote part of the suburbs you might, I am
informed, hear a journeyman tailor or shoemaker hold forth on various
topics. With the revolution, politics were introduced; but, at the
present day, that is a subject which seems to be entirely out of the

In some coffeehouses, where literati and critics assemble, authors
and their works are passed in review, and to each is assigned his
rank and estimation. When one of these happens to have been checked
in his dramatic career by an _undiscerning_ public, he becomes, in
his turn, the most merciless of critics.

In many of these places, the "busy hum" is extremely tiresome;
German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Russ, together with English
and French, all spoken at the same time and in the same room, make a
confusion of tongues as great almost as that which reigned at Babel.
In addition to the French newspapers, those of England and Germany
may be read; but as they are often bespoke by half a dozen persons in
succession, it requires no small degree of patience to wait while
these quidnuncs are conning over every paragraph.

Independently of coffee, tea, and chocolate, ices, punch and liqueurs
may be had in the principal coffeehouses; but nothing in the way of
dinner or supper, except at the subterraneous ones in the _Palais du
Tribunat_, though there are many of a rather inferior order where
substantial breakfasts in the French style are provided. Whether
Voltaire's idea be just, that coffee clears the brain, and stimulates
the genius, I will not pretend to determine: but if this be really
the case, it is no wonder that the French are so lively and full of
invention; for coffee is an article of which they make an uncommon
consumption. Indeed, if Fame may be credited, the prior of a
monastery in Arabia, on the word of a shepherd who had remarked that
his goats were particularly frisky when they had eaten the berries of
the coffee-tree, first made a trial of their virtue on the monks of
his convent, in order to prevent them from sleeping during divine

Be this as it may, Soliman Aga, ambassador of the Porte to Lewis XIV,
in 1669, was the first who introduced the use of coffee in Paris.
During a residence of ten years in the French capital, he had
conciliated the friendship of many persons of distinction, and the
ladies in particular took a pleasure in visiting him. According to
the custom of his country, he presented them with coffee; and this
beverage, however disgusting from its colour and bitterness, was well
received, because it was offered by a foreigner, in beautiful china
cups, on napkins ornamented with gold fringe. On leaving the
ambassador's parties, each of the guests, in the enthusiasm of
novelty, cried up coffee, and took means to procure it. A few years
after, (in 1672) one Paschal, an Armenian, first opened, at the
_Foire St. Germain_, and, afterwards on the _Quai de l'Ecole_, a shop
similar to those which he had seen in the Levant, and called his new
establishment _cafe_. Other Levantines followed his example; but, to
fix the fickle Parisian, required a coffeeroom handsomely decorated.
PROCOPE acted on this plan, and his house was successively frequented
by Voltaire, Piron, Fontenelle, and St. Foix.

As drinking, which was then in vogue, was pursued less on account of
the pleasure which it afforded, than for the sake of society, the
French made no hesitation in deserting the tavern for the
coffeehouse. But, in making this exchange, it has been remarked, by
the observers of the day, that they have not only lost their taste
for conviviality, but are become more reserved and insincere than
their forefathers, whose hearts expanded by the free use of the
generous juice of the grape; thus verifying the old maxim, _in vino

No small attraction to a Parisian coffeehouse is a pretty female to
preside in the bar, and in a few I have seen very handsome women;
though this post is commonly assigned to the mistress or some
confidential female relation. Beset as they are from morn to night by
an endless variety of flatterers, the virtue of a Lucretia could
scarcely resist such incessant temptation. In general, they are
coquetish; but, without coquetry, would they be deemed qualified for
their employment?

Before the revolution, I remember, in the _ci-devant Palais Royal_, a
coffeehouse called _Le cafe mecanique_. The mechanical contrivance,
whence it derived its name, was of the most simple nature. The tables
stood on hollow cylinders, the tops of which, resembling a salver
with its border, were level with the plane of the table, but
connected with the kitchen underneath. In the bar sat a fine, showy
lady, who repeated your order to the attendants below, by means of a
speaking-trumpet. Presently the superficial part of the salver,
descended through the cylinder, and reascending immediately, the
article called for made its appearance. This _cafe mechanique_ did
not long remain in being, as it was not found to answer the
expectation of the projector. But besides six or seven coffeehouses
on the ground-floor of the _Palais du Tribunat_, there are also
several subterraneous ones now open.

In one of these, near the _Theatre Francais,_ is a little stage, on
which farces, composed for the purpose, are represented _gratis_. In
another, is an orchestra consisting entirely of performers belonging
to the National Institution of the Blind. In a third, on the north
side of the garden, are a set of musicians, both vocal and
instrumental, who apparently never tire; for I am told they never
cease to play and sing, except to retune their instruments. Here a
female now and then entertains the company with a solo on the French
horn. To complete the sweet melody, a merry-andrew habited _a la
sauvage_, "struts his hour" on a place about six feet in length, and
performs a thousand ridiculous antics, at the same time flogging and
beating alternately a large drum, the thunder-like sound of which is
almost loud enough to give every auditor's brain a momentary

A fourth subterraneous coffeehouse in the _Palais du Tribunat_ is
kept by a ventriloquist, and here many a party are amused by one of
their number being repeatedly led into a mistake, in consequence of
being ignorant of the faculty possessed by the master of the house.
This man seems to have no small share of humour, and exercises it
apparently much to his advantage. In three visits which I paid to his
cellar, the crowd was so great that it was extremely difficult to
approach the scene of action, so as to be able to enjoy the effect of
his ludicrous deceptions.

A friend of mine, well acquainted with the proper time for visiting
every place of public resort in Paris, conducted me to all these
subterraneous coffeehouses on a Sunday evening, when they were so
full that we had some difficulty to find room to stand, for to find a
seat was quite impossible. Such a diversity of character I never
before witnessed in the compass of so small a space. However, all was
mirth and good-humour. I know not how they contrive to keep these
places cool in summer; for, in the depth of winter, a more than
genial warmth prevails in them, arising from the confined breath of
such a concourse. On approaching the stair-case, if the orchestra be
silent, the entrance of these regions of harmony is announced by a
heat which can be compared only to the true Sirocco blast such as you
have experienced at Naples.


_Paris, January 15, 1802._

As after one of those awful and violent convulsions of nature which
rend the bosom of the earth, and overthrow the edifices standing on
its surface, men gradually repair the mischief it has occasioned, so
the French, on the ruins of the ancient colleges and universities,
which fell in the shock of the revolution, have from time to time
reared new seminaries of learning, and endeavoured to organize, on a
more liberal and patriotic scale, institutions for


The vast field which the organization of public instruction presents
to the imagination has, as may be, supposed, given birth to a great
number of systems more or less practicable; but, hitherto, it should
seem that political oscillations have imprinted on all the new
institutions a character of weakness which, if it did not absolutely
threaten speedy ruin, announced at least that they would not be
lasting. When the germs of discord prevailed, it was not likely that
men's minds should be in that tranquil state necessary for the
reestablishment of public seminaries, to lay the foundations of
which, in a solid and durable manner, required the calm of peace and
the forgetfulness of misfortune.

After the suppression of the colleges and universities existing under
the monarchy, and to which the _College de France_ in Paris is the
sole exception, the National Convention, by a decree of the 24th of
Nivose, year III (14th of January 1795) established _Normal_ Schools
throughout the Republic. Professors and teachers were appointed to
them; and it was intended that, in these nurseries, youth should be
prepared for the higher schools, according to the new plan of
instruction. However, in less than a year, these _Normal_ Schools
were shut up; and, by a law of the 3d of Brumaire, year IV (25th of
October, 1796) Primary, Secondary, and Central Schools were ordered
to be established in every department.

In the Primary Schools, reading, writing, and arithmetic formed the
chief part of the instruction. Owing to various causes, the Secondary
Schools, I understand, were never established. In the Central
Schools, the internal regulation was to be as follows.

The whole of the instruction was divided into three classes or
sections. In the first, were taught drawing, natural history, and
ancient and modern languages. In the second, mathematics, physics,
and chymistry. In the third, universal grammar, the fine arts,
history, and legislation. Into the first class the pupils were to be
received at the age of twelve; into the second, at fourteen; and into
the third, at sixteen. In each Central School were to be a public
library, a botanic garden, and an apparatus of chymical and physical
instruments. The professors were to be examined and chosen by a _Jury
of Instruction_, and that choice confirmed by the administration of
the department.

The government, in turning its attention to the present state of the
public schools, and comparing them with the wants and wishes of the
inhabitants of the Republic, has found that the Primary Schools have
been greatly neglected, and that the Central Schools have not been of
so much utility as was expected. Alarmed at the consequences likely
to be produced by a state of things which leaves a great part of the
present generation destitute of the first rudiments of knowledge, the
government has felt that the reorganization of these schools is
become an urgent duty, and that it is impossible to delay longer to
carry it into execution.

The _Special_ Schools of Arts and Sciences are mostly confined to
Paris. The other rich and populous cities of the Republic have
undoubtedly a claim to similar institutions. There is at present no
School of Jurisprudence, and but one of Medicine.

The celebrated FOURCROY[1] has been some time engaged in drawing up a
plan for the improvement of public instruction. In seeking a new mode
of teaching appropriate to the present state of knowledge and to the
genius of the French nation, he has thought it necessary to depart
from the beaten track. Enlightened by the past, he has rejected the
ancient forms of the universities, whose philosophy and acquirements,
for half a century past, called for reformation, and no longer kept
pace with the progress of reason. In the Central Schools he saw
institutions few in number, and too uniformly organized for
departments varying in population, resources, and means. He has,
nevertheless, taken what was good in each of these two systems
successively adopted, and removed their abuses. Without losing sight
of the success due to good masters and skilful professors, he has,
above all, thought of the means of insuring the success of the new
schools by the competition of the scholars. He is of opinion that to
found literary and scientific institutions on a solid basis, it is
necessary to begin by attaching to them pupils, and filling the
classes with students, in order not to run the risk of filling them
with professors. Such is the object which FOURCROY wishes to attain,
by creating a number of national pensions, so considerable that their
funds, when distributed in the Lyceums, may be sufficient for their

Agreeably to these ideas, the following is said to be the outline of
the new organization of public instruction. It is to be divided into
four classes; viz. Primary Schools, Secondary Schools, Lyceums, and
Special Schools.


A Primary School may belong to several _communes_ at a time,
according to the population and the locality of these _communes_.

The teachers are to be chosen by the mayors and municipal councils.

The under-prefects are to be specially charged with the organization
of these schools, and give an account of their state, once a month,
to the prefects.


Every school established in the _commune_ or kept by private
individuals, in which are taught the Latin and French languages, the
first principles of geography, history and mathematics, is to be
considered as a Secondary School.

The government promises to encourage the establishment of Secondary
Schools, and reward the good instruction that shall be given in them,
either by granting a spot for keeping them, or by the distribution of
gratuitous places in the Lyceums, to such of the pupils as shall have
distinguished themselves most, and by gratifications to the fifty
masters who shall have qualified most pupils for the Lyceums.

No Secondary School is to be established without the authority of the
government. The Secondary Schools and private schools, whose
instruction is found superior to that of the Primary Schools, are to
be placed under the superintendance and particular inspection of the


There is to be one Lyceum at least in the district of every tribunal
of appeal.

Here are to be taught ancient languages, rhetoric, logic, morality,
and the elements of the mathematical and physical sciences. To these
are to be added drawing, military exercises and the agreeable arts.

Instruction is to be given to the pupils placed here by the
government, to those of the Secondary Schools admitted through
competition, to those whose parents may put them here as boarders,
and also to day-scholars.

In each Lyceum is to be a director, who is to have immediately under
him a censor of studies, and an administrator who are all to be
nominated by the First Consul.

In the former institutions, which are to be replaced by these new
ones, a vigilant eye was not constantly kept on the state of the
schools themselves, nor on that of the studies pursued in them.
According to the new plan, three inspectors-general, appointed by the
First Consul, are to visit them carefully, and report to the
government their situation, success, and defects. This new
supervisorship is to be, as it were, the key-stone of the arch, and
to keep all the parts connected.

The fourth and highest degree of public instruction is to be acquired
in the


This is the name to be applied to those of the upper schools, where
are particularly taught, and in the most profound manner, the useful
sciences, jurisprudence, medicine, natural history, &c. But schools
of this kind must not be confounded with the Schools for Engineers,
Artillery, Bridges and Highways, Hydrography, &c. which, _special_ as
they are essentially, in proportion to the sciences particularly
taught in them, are better described, however, by the name of
_Schools for Public Services_, on account of the immediate utility
derived from them by the government.

In addition to the _Special_ Schools now in existence, which are to
be kept up, new ones are to be established in the following

Ten Schools of Jurisprudence. These useful institutions, which have
been abolished during the last ten years, are, by a new organization,
to resume the importance that they had lost long before the
revolution. The pupils are to be examined in a manner more certain
for determining their capacity, and better calculated for securing
the degree of confidence to be reposed in those men to whose
knowledge and integrity individuals are sometimes forced to intrust
their character and fortune.

Three new Schools of Medicine, in addition to the three at present in
being. These also are to be newly organized in the most perfect

The mathematical and physical sciences have made too great a progress
in France, their application to the useful arts, to the public
service, and to the general prosperity, has been too direct, says
FOURCROY, for it not to be necessary to diffuse the taste for them,
and to open new asylums where the advantages resulting from them may
be extended, and their progress promoted. There are therefore to be
four new _Special_ Schools of Natural History, Physics, and
Chymistry, and also a _Special_ School devoted to transcendent

The mechanical and chymical arts, so long taught in several
universities in Germany under the name of _technology_, are to have
two _Special_ Schools, placed in the cities most rich in industry and
manufactures. These schools, generally wished for, are intended to
contribute to the national prosperity by the new methods which they
will make known, the new instruments and processes which they will
bring into use, the good models of machines which they will
introduce, in a word, by every means that mechanics and chymistry can
furnish to the arts.

A School of Public Economy, enlightened by Geography and History, is
to be opened for those who may be desirous to investigate the
principles of governments, and the art of ascertaining their
respective interests. In this school it is proposed to unite such an
assemblage of knowledge as has not yet existed in France.

To the three principal schools of the arts dependent on design, which
are at present open, is to be added a fourth, become necessary since
those arts bring back to France the pure taste of the beautiful
forms, of which Greece has left such perfect models.

In each of the observatories now in use is to be a professor of
astronomy, and the art of navigation is expected to derive new
succour from these schools, most of which are placed in the principal
sea-ports. A knowledge of the heavens and the study of the movements
of the celestial bodies, which every year receives very remarkable
augmentations from the united efforts of the most renowned
geometricians and the most indefatigable observers, may have a great
influence on the progress of civilization. On which account the
French government is extremely eager to promote the science of

The language of neighbouring nations, with whom the French have such
frequent intercourse, is to be taught in several Lyceums, as being a
useful introduction to commerce.

The art of war, of which modern times have given such great examples
and such brilliant lessons, is to have its _special_ school, and this
school, on the plan which it is intended to be established by
receiving as soldiers youths from the Lyceums, will form for the
French armies officers equally skilful in theory as in practice.

This new Military School must not be confounded with the old _ecole
militaire_. Independently of its not being destined for a particular
class, which no longer exists in this country, the mode of
instruction to be introduced there will render it totally different
from the establishment which bore the same name.

It is to be composed of five hundred pupils, forming a battalion, and
who are to be accustomed to military duty and discipline; it is to
have at least ten professors, charged to teach all the theoretical,
practical, and administrative parts of the art of war, as well as the
history of wars and of great captains.

Of the five hundred pupils of the Special Military School, two
hundred are to be taken from among the national pupils of the
Lyceums, in proportion to their number in each of those schools, and
three hundred from among the boarders and day-scholars, according to
the examination which they must undergo at the end of their studies.
Every year one hundred of the former are to be admitted, and two
hundred of the latter. They are to be maintained two years in the
Special Military School, at the expense of the Republic. These two
years are to be considered as part of their military service.

According to the report made of the behaviour and talents of the
pupils of the Military School, the government is to provide them with
appointments in the army.


There are to be maintained at the expense of the Republic six
thousand four hundred pupils, as boarders in the Lyceums and Special

Out of these six thousand four hundred boarders, two thousand four
hundred are to be chosen by the government from among the sons of
officers and public functionaries of the judicial, administrative, or
municipal order, who shall have served the Republic with fidelity,
and for ten years only from among the children of citizens belonging
to the departments united to France, although they have neither been
military men nor public functionaries.

These two thousand four hundred pupils are to be at least nine years
of age, and able to read and write.

The other four thousand are to be taken from double the number of
pupils of the Secondary Schools, who, according to an examination
where their talents are put in competition, are to be presented to
the government.

The pupils, maintained in the Lyceums, are not to remain there more
than six years at the expense of the nation. At the end of their
studies, they are to undergo an examination, after which a fifth of
them are to be placed in the different Special Schools according to
their disposition, in order to be maintained there from two to four
years at the expense of the Republic.

The annual cost of all these establishments is estimated at near
eight millions of francs, (_circa_ L336,000 sterling) which exceeds
by at least two millions the amount of the charges of the public
instruction for the few preceding years; but this augmentation, which
will only take place by degrees, and at soonest in eighteen months,
appears trifling, compared to the advantages likely to result from
the new system.

Whenever this plan is carried into execution, what hopes may not
France conceive from the youth of the rising generation, who, chosen
from among those inclined to study, will, in all probability, rise to
every degree of fame! The surest pledge of the success of the measure
seems to consist in the spirit of emulation which is to be
maintained, not only among the pupils, but even among the professors
in the different schools; for emulation, in the career of literature,
arts and sciences, leads to fame, and never fails to turn to the
benefit of society; whereas jealousy, in the road of ambition and
fortune, produces nothing but hatred and discord.

"Envy, to which th' ignoble mind's a slave,
Is emulation in the learn'd and brave."

So much for the plan.[2] In your last letter, you desire that I will
afford you some means of appreciating the essential difference
between the old system of education pursued in France, and the basis
on which public instruction is now on the point of being reorganised
and established. You must be sensible that the comparison of the two
modes, were I to enter deeply into the question, would far exceed the
limits of a letter. But, though I have already extended this to a
certain length, I can, in a few more lines, enable you to compare and
judge, by informing you, from the best authority, what has been the
spirit which has dictated the new organization.

There are very few men who know how to confine themselves within just
bounds. Some yield to the mania of innovation, and imagine that they
create only because they destroy and change. Others bend under the
yoke of old habits. Some, solely because they have remained strangers
to the sciences, would wish that youth should be employed only in the
study of languages and literature. Others who, no doubt, forget that
every learned man, who aims at a solid reputation, ought to sacrifice
to the Muses, before he penetrates into the sanctuary of science,
would wish education to be confined to the study of the exact
sciences, and that youth should be occupied on things, before they
are acquainted with words.

For the sole reason that the old system of instruction bore too
exclusively on the study of the learned languages, it was to be
feared that the new one, through a contrary excess, would proscribe
the Greek and Latin. The study of these two languages, as FOURCROY
has observed to me, is not merely useful to those who wish to acquire
a thorough knowledge of the French, which has borrowed from them no
small number of words, but it is only from the perusal of the great
writers of antiquity, on whom the best among the moderns have formed
themselves, that we can imbibe the sentiment of the beautiful, the
taste, and the rectitude of mind equally necessary, whether we feel
ourselves attracted towards eloquence or poetry, or raise ourselves
to the highest conceptions of the physical or mathematical sciences.

At no time can the instruction given to a youth be otherwise
considered than as a preparatory mean, whose object is to anticipate
his taste and disposition, and enable him to enter with more firmness
into the career which he is intended to follow.

From an attentive perusal of the plan, of which I have traced you the
leading features, you will be convinced that the study of the
sciences will gain by the new system, without that of literature
being in danger of losing. The number of professors is increased, and
yet the period of education is not prolonged. A pupil will always be
at liberty to apply himself more intensely to the branch to which he
is impelled by his particular inclination. He may confine himself to
one course of lectures, or attend to several, according to his
intellectual means. He will not be compelled to stop in his career,
merely because the pupils of his class do not advance. In short,
neither limits nor check have been put to the progress that may be
made by talent.

I here give you only a principal idea, but the application of it,
improved by your sagacity and knowledge, will be sufficient to answer
all the objections which may be started against the new plan of
instruction, and which, when carefully investigated, may be reduced
to a single one; namely, that literature is sacrificed to the

[Footnote 1: Counsellor of State, now charged with the direction and
superintendance of public instruction.]

[Footnote 2: The new organization of public instruction was decreed
by the government on the 11th of Floreal, year X.]


_Paris, January 18, 1802._

Of all the private lodgings in Paris, none certainly can be more
convenient for the residence of a single man than those of


I have already said that such is the profession of my landlady.
Whenever I am disposed for a little lively chitchat, I have only to
step to the next door but one into her _magazin de modes_, where,
like a favourite courtier, under the old _regime_, I have both _les
grandes et les petites entrees_, or, in plain English, I may either
introduce myself by the public front entrance, or slip in by the
private back-door.

Here, twenty damsels are employed in making up head-dresses which are
hourly produced and varied by fashion. Closely confined to the
counter, with a needle in their hand, they are continually throwing
their eyes towards the street. Not a passenger escapes their notice.
The place the nearest to the window is in the greatest request, as
being most favourable for catching the transient homages of the
crowds of men continually passing and repassing. It is generally
occupied by the beauty of the _magazin_ or warehouse; for it would be
resented as an almost unpardonable offence to term this emporium of
taste a _boutique_ or shop.

Before each of them is a block, on which they form and adjust the
gallant trophy destined to heighten the loveliness of some ambitious
fair who has set her heart on surpassing all her rivals at an
approaching ball. Montesquieu observes, in his Persian letters, that
"if a lady has taken it into her head to appear at an assembly in a
particular dress, from that moment fifty persons of the working class
must no longer sleep, or have time to eat and drink. She commands,
and is obeyed more expeditiously than the king of Persia, because
interest has greater sway than the most powerful monarch on earth."

In the morning, some of these damsels wait on the ladies with
bandboxes of millinery. Obliged by their profession to adorn the
heads of other women, they must stifle the secret jealousy of their
sex, and contribute to set off the person of those who not
unfrequently treat them with hauteur. However, they are now and then
amply revenged: sometimes the proud rich lady is eclipsed by the
humble little milliner. The unadorned beauty of the latter destroys
the made up charms of the coquette: 'tis the triumph of nature over

If, perchance, the lover drops in, fatal consequences ensue. His
belle cannot but lose by the comparison: her complexion appears still
more artificial beside the natural bloom of the youthful _marchande_.

In a word, the silent admirer all at once becomes faithless.

Many a young Parisian milliner has made a jump from behind the
counter into a fashionable carriage, even into that of an English
peer. Strange revolution of fortune! In the course of a few days, she
returns to the same shop to make purchases, holding high her head;
and exulting in her success. Her former mistress, sacrificing her
rage to her interest, assumes a forced complaisance; while her
once-dear companions are ready to burst with envy.

Millinery here constitutes a very extensive branch of trade. Nothing
short of the creative genius of the French could contrive to give,
again and again, a new form to things the most common. In vain do
females of other countries attempt to vie with them; in articles of
tasteful fancy they still remain unrivaled.

From Paris, these studious mistresses of invention give laws to the
polished world. After passing to London, Berlin, Hamburg, and Vienna,
their models of fashion are disseminated all over Europe. These
models alike travel to the banks of the Neva and the shores of the
Propontis. At Constantinople, they find their way into the seraglio
of the Grand Signior; while, at Petersburg, they are servilely copied
to grace the Empress of Russia. Thus, the fold given to a piece of
muslin or velvet, the form impressed on a ribband, by the hand of an
ingenious French milliner, is repeated among all nations.

A fashion here does not last a week, before it is succeeded by
another novelty; for a French woman of _bon ton_, instead of wearing
what is commonly worn by others, always aims at appearing in
something new. It is unfortunately too true, that the changeableness
of taste and inconstancy of fashion in France furnish an aliment to
the luxury of other countries; but the principle of this
communication is in the luxury of this gay and volatile people.

You reproach me with being silent respecting the _bals masques_ or
masquerades, mentioned in my enumeration of the amusements of Paris.
The fact is that a description of them will scarcely furnish matter
for a few lines, still less a subject for a letter. However, in
compliance with custom, I have been more than once to the


This is a masquerade frequently given in the winter, at the theatre
of the grand French opera, where the pit is covered over, as that is
of our opera-house in the Haymarket. From the powerful draught of
air, which, coming from behind the scenes, may well be termed _vent
de coulisse_, the room is as cold as the season.

Since the revolution, masquerades were strictly forbidden, and this
prohibition continued under the directorial government. It is only
since BONAPARTE'S accession to the post of Chief Magistrate, that the
Parisians have been indulged with the liberty of wearing disguises
during the carnival.

Of all the amusements in Paris, I have ever thought this the most
tiresome and insipid. But it is the same at the _Bal de l'Opera_ as
at _Frascati_, _Longchamp_, and other points of attraction here;
every one is soon tired of them, and yet every one flocks thither. In
fact, what can well be more tiresome than a place where you find
persons masked, without wit or humour? Though, according to the old
French saying, "_I faut avoir bien peu d'esprit pour ne pas en avoir
sous le masque?_"

The men, who at a masquerade here generally go unmasked, think it not
worth while to be even complaisant to the women, who are elbowed,
squeezed, and carried by the tide from one end of the room to the
other, before they are well aware of it. Dominos are the general
dress. The music is excellent; but it is not the fashion to dance;
and _les femmes de bonne compagnie_, that is, well-bred women, are
condemned to content themselves with the dust they inhale; for they
dare not quit their mask to take any refreshment. But,
notwithstanding these inconveniences, it is here reckoned a fine
thing to have been at a _bal masque_ when the crowd was great, and
the pressure violent; as the more the ladies have shared in it, the
more they congratulate themselves on the occasion.

Before the revolution, the _grand ton_ was for gentlemen to go to the
_Bal de l'Opera_ in a full-dress suit of black, and unmasked. Swords
were here prohibited, as at Bath. This etiquette of dress, however,
rendered not the company more select.

I remember well that at a masked ball at the Parisian opera, in the
year 1785, the very first beau I recognized in the room, parading in
a _habit de cour_, was my own _perruquier_. As at present, the
amusement of the women then consisted in teazing the men; and those
who had a disposition for intrigue, gave full scope to the impulse of
their nature. The _fille entretenue_, the _duchesse_, and the
_bourgeoise_, disguised under a similar domino, were not always
distinguishable; and I have heard of a certain French marquis, who
was here laid under heavy contribution for the momentary
gratification of his caprice, though the object of it proved to be no
other than his own _cara sposa_.


_Paris, January 19, 1802._

When you expressed your impatience to be informed of the dramatic
amusements in Paris, I promised to satisfy you as soon as I was able;
for I knew that you would not be contented with a superficial
examination. Therefore, in reviewing the principal scenic
establishments, I shall, as I have done before, exert my endeavours
not only to make you acquainted with the _best_ performers in every
department, but also with the _best_ stock-pieces, in order that, by
casting your eye on the _Affiches des Spectacles_, when you visit
this capital, you may at once form a judgment of the quality and
quantity of the entertainment you are likely to enjoy at the
representation of a particular piece, in which certain performers
make their appearance. Since the revolution, the custom of printing
the names of the actors and dancers in each piece, has been
introduced. Formerly, amateurs often paid their money only to
experience a disappointment; for, instead of seeing the hero or
heroine that excited their curiosity, they had a bad duplicate, or,
as the French term it, a _double_, imposed on them, more frequently
through caprice than any other motive. This is now obviated; and,
except in cases of sudden and unforeseen indisposition, you may be
certain of seeing the best performers whenever their name is

In speaking of the theatres, the pieces represented, and the merits
of the performers, I cannot be supposed to be actuated by any
prejudice or partiality whatever. I have, it is true, been favoured
with the oral criticism of a man of taste, who, as a very old
acquaintance, has generally accompanied me to the different
_spectacles_; but still I have never adopted his sentiments, unless
the truth of them had been confirmed by my own observation. From him
I have been favoured with a communication of such circumstances
respecting them as occurred during the revolution, when I was absent
from Paris. You may therefore confidently rely on the candour and
impartiality of my general sketch of the theatres; and if the stage
be considered as a mirror which reflects the public mind, you will
thence be enabled to appreciate the taste of the Parisians. Without
forgetting that

"_La critique est aisee, mais l'art est difficile_,"

I shall indulge the hope that you will be persuaded that truth alone
has guided my pen in this attempt to trace the attractions of the


The house, now occupied by the performers of this theatre, was built
at the beginning of the revolution by the late duke of Orleans, who,
according to the opinion of those best acquainted with his schemes of
profit, intended it for the representation of the grand French opera,
for which, nevertheless, it is not sufficiently spacious.

It stands adjoining to the south-west angle of the _Palais du
Tribunat_, with its front entrance in the _Rue de la Loi_. Its facade
presents a row of twelve Doric columns, surmounted by as many
Corinthian pilasters, crowned by their entablature. On the first
story is an exterior gallery; ornamented by an iron balustrade, which
runs the whole length of the facade, and communicates with the lobby.
On the north side, and at the back of the theatre, on the
ground-floor, are several covered galleries, bordered by shops,
which communicate with the _Rue St. Honore_ and the _Palais du

The vestibule, where four stair-cases terminate, is of an elliptic
form, surrounded by three rows of Doric pillars. Above the vestibule,
which is on the ground-floor, are the pit and lobby. The inside of
the house, which is immoderately lofty, presents seven tiers of
boxes, and, in the circumference, six Corinthian pillars. The
ornaments, numerously scattered, are in relief. At a certain
elevation, the plan of the house is changed by a recess made facing
the stage. Two angels, above the stage-boxes, shock the eye by their
enormous size. The boxes to the number of two hundred and twenty-two,
are said to contain thirteen hundred persons; and the pit, including
the _orchestre_,[1] seven hundred and twenty-four, making in all two
thousand and twenty persons. The construction of this house is
remarkable for iron only being employed in lieu of wood. The
architect was LOUIS.

This theatre, which was begun in 1787, was finished in 1790, when,
all privileges having been done away, it was first opened by a
company of French comedians, who played tragedy and comedy. It then
took the name of _Theatre Francais de la Rue de Richelieu_, which
street was afterwards and is now called _Rue de la Loi_. Being opened
at the commencement of the revolution, it naturally adopted its
principles; and, when the National Convention had proclaimed the
Republic, it assumed the pompous name of _Theatre de la Republique_.
The greater part of the actors who performed here, rendered
themselves remarkable for their _revolutionary_ ardour, and, during
the reign of terror, it became a privileged theatre.

The _Comedie Francaise_ in the _Faubourg St. Germain_, which, in its
interior, presented the handsomest playhouse in Paris, was called
_l'Odeon_ a few years ago, and, since then, has been reduced by fire
to a mere shell, the walls only being left standing. In 1789, this
theatre appeared to follow the torrent of the revolution, and changed
its name for that of _Theatre de la Nation_. Nevertheless, the actors
did not, on that account, relinquish the title of _Comediens
ordinaires du Roi_. Shortly after, they even became, in general, the
declared partisans of the old _regime_, or at least of the court.
Their house was frequently an _arena_ where the two parties came to
blows, particularly on the occasion of the tragedy of _Charles Neuf_,
by CHENIER, and of the comedy of _L'Ami des Loix_. The former of
these pieces, represented in the first ebullition of the revolution,
was directed against the court; and the comedians refused to bring it
on the stage, at the time of the assemblage of the national guards in
Paris, on the 14th of July, 1790, known by the title of _Federation_.
The latter was played after the massacres of September 1792, and had
been composed with the laudable view of bringing back the public mind
to sentiments of humanity, justice, and moderation. The maxims which
it contained, being diametrically opposite to those of the plunderers
who then reigned, that is, the members of the _commune_ of Paris, the
minority of the National Convention, the Jacobins, Cordeliers, &c.
they interrupted the representation, and, after a great uproar, the
piece was prohibited.

This minority of which I have just spoken, having succeeded in
subduing the majority, nothing now stopped the rage of the
revolutionary party. All those who gave them umbrage were imprisoned,
and put to death with the forms of law. The comedians of the French
theatre were thrown into prison; it appears that they were, both men
and women, partly destined for the scaffold, and that if they
escaped, it was through the address of a clerk of one of the
Committees of Public Welfare or of Public Safety, who repeatedly
concealed the documents containing the charges brought against them.
It is said that the comedians purpose to prove their gratitude, so
long delayed, to this young man, without putting themselves to any
expense, by giving for his benefit an extraordinary

At length the happy 9th of Thermidor arrived; the prisons were thrown
open; and, as you may well imagine in such a nation as this, the
French comedians were not the last to be set at liberty. However,
their theatre was not immediately restored to them. It was occupied
by a sort of bastard _spectacle_, with the actors of which they were
then obliged to form an association. This did not last long. The
French comedians were received by the manager of the lyric theatre of
the _Rue Feydeau_, whom they afterwards ruined. The actors of comedy,
properly so called, contrived to expel those of tragedy, with whom
they thought they could dispense; and, shortly, they themselves,
notwithstanding their reputation, were deserted by the public. The
heroes and heroines, with Mademoiselle RAUCOURT at their head, took
possession of the theatre of the _Rue de Louvois_, and there
prospered. But, after the 18th of Fructidor, (5th of September, 1797)
the Directory caused this house to be shut up: the reason assigned
was the representation given here of a little comedy, of ancient date
however, and of no great importance, in which a knavish valet is
called MERLIN, as was the Minister of Justice of that day, who since
became director, not of the theatre, but of the republic.
Mademoiselle RAUCOURT, who was directress of this theatre, returned
with her company to the old theatre of the _Faubourg St. Germain_,
which then took the name of _l'Odeon_.

In the mean time, the theatre of the _Rue de Richelieu_ had
perceptibly declined, after the fall of Robespierre, and the public
appeared to have come to a positive determination to frequent it no
longer. The manager of the _Theatre Feydeau_, M. SARGENT, formerly a
banker, who was rich, and enjoyed a good reputation, succeeded in
uniting all the actors of the _Comedie Francaise_ and those of the
_Theatre de la Republique_. This effected his own ruin. When he had
relinquished the management of the undertaking, the government took
it in hand, and definitively organized this tragic and comic
association, to superintend which it appointed a special

The _repertoire_ (or list of pieces which are here played habitually,
or have been acted with applause) is amazingly well furnished, and
does infinite honour to French literature. It may be divided into two
parts, the ancient and the modern. It is the former that deserves the
encomium which I have just bestowed. In the line of Tragedy, it is
composed of the greater part of the pieces of the four principal
pillars of the temple of the French Melpomene: namely CORNEILLE[3],
RACINE, CREBILLON, and VOLTAIRE, to whom may be added DU BELLOY, as
well as of some detached pieces, such as _Iphigenie en Tauride_ by
GUIMOND DE LA TOUCHE, _Le Comte de Warwick_ and _Philoctete_ by LA
HARPE. The modern _repertoire_, or list of stock-pieces, is formed of
the tragedies of M. M. DUCIS, CHENIER, ARNAULT, LEGOUVE, and LE

In the line of Comedy, it is also very rich. You know that, at the
head of the French comic authors, stands MOLIERE, who, in this
country at least, has no equal, either among the ancients or the
moderns. Several of his pieces are still represented, though they are
not numerously attended; as well because manners are changed, as
because the actors are no longer able to perform them. Next to
MOLIERE, but at a great interval, comes REGNARD, whom the French
comedians have deserted, for much the same reason: they no longer
give any plays from the pen of this author, who possessed the _vis
comica_, except _Les Folies Amoureuses_, a pretty little comedy in
three acts. We no longer hear of his _Joueur_ and his _Legataire
Universel_, which are _chefs d'oeuvre_. There are likewise the works
of DESTOUCHES, who has written _Le Glorieux, Le Dissipateur_, and _La
Fausse Agnes_, which are always played with applause. _Le Mechant_,
by GRESSET, is a masterpiece in point of style, and _La Metromanie_,
by PIRON, the best of French comedies, next to those of MOLIERE and
REGNARD. Then come the works of LA CHAUSSEE, who is the father of the
_drame_, and whose pieces are no longer represented, though he has
composed several, such as _La Gouvernante_, _L'Ecole des Meres_, _Le
Prejuge a la Mode_, which, notwithstanding, their whining style, are
not destitute of merit, and those of DANCOURT, who has written
several little comedies, of a very lively cast, which are still
played, and those of MARIVAUX, whose old metaphysical jargon still
pleases such persons as have their head full of love. I might augment
this list by the name of several other old authors, whose productions
have more or less merit.

The number of modern French comic authors is very limited; for it is
not even worthwhile to speak of a few little comedies in one act, the
title of which the public scarcely remember. According to this
calculation, there is but one single comic author now living. That is
COLIN D'HARLEVILLE, who has written _L'Inconstant_, _Les Chateaux en
Espagne_, _Le Vieux Celibataire_, and _Les Moeurs du Jour_, which are
still represented. _Le Vieux Celibataire_ is always received with
much applause. In general, the pieces of M. COLIN are cold, but his
style is frequently graceful: he writes in verse; and the whole part
of _L'Inconstant_ is very agreeably written. Indeed, that piece is
the best of this author.

FABRE D'EGLANTINE is celebrated as an actor in the revolution (I mean
on the political stage), and as the author who has produced the best
piece that has appeared since _La Metromanie_. It is the _Philinte de
Moliere_, which, in some measure, forms a sequel to the comedy of the
_Misanthrope_. Nevertheless, this title is ill chosen; for the
character of the _Philinte_ in the piece of MOLIERE, and that of
FABRE'S piece scarcely bear any resemblance. We might rather call it
the _Egoiste_. Although the comic part of it is weak, the piece is
strongly conceived, the fable very well managed, the style nervous
but harsh, and the third act is a _chef-d'oeuvre_.

Since the death of FABRE, another piece of his has been acted,
entitled _Le Precepteur_. In this piece are to be recognized both his
manner and his affected philosophical opinions. His object is to
vaunt the excellence of the education recommended by J. J. ROUSSEAU,
though the revolution has, in a great measure, proved the fallacy of
the principles which it inculcates. As these, however, are presented
with art, the piece had some success, and still maintains its ground
on the stage. It was played for the first time about two years ago.
The surname of EGLANTINE, which FABRE assumed, arose from his having
won the prize at the Floral games at Toulouse. The prize consisted of
an _eglantine_ or wild rose in gold. Before he became a dramatic
author, he was an actor and a very bad actor. Being nominated member
of the National Convention, he distinguished himself in that
assembly, not by oratorical talents, but by a great deal of villainy.
He did not think as he acted or spoke. When the _montagnards_[4] or
mountaineers, that is, those monsters who were always thirsting for
blood, divided, he appeared for some time to belong to the party of
DANTON, who, however, denied him when they were both in presence of
each other at the bar of the revolutionary tribunal. DANTON insisted
that he who had been brought to trial for a just cause, if not a just
motive, ought not to be confounded with stealers of port-folios.[5]
They were both sentenced to die, and accordingly executed.

Among the comic authors of our age, some people would reckon
DUMOUSTIER, whose person was held in esteem, but whose works are
below mediocrity. They are _Le Conciliateur_, a comedy in five acts,
and _Les Femmes_, a comedy in three acts. The latter appears to be
the picture of a brothel. They are both still played, and both have
much vogue, which announces the total decline of the art.

There is a third species of dramatic composition, proscribed by the
rules of good taste, and which is neither tragedy nor comedy, but
participates of both. It is here termed _drame_. Although LA CHAUSSEE
is the father of this tragi-comic species of writing, he had not,
however, written any _tragedies bourgeoises_, and the French declare
that we have communicated to them this contagion; for their first
_drame_, _Beverley, ou le Joueur Anglais_ is a translation in verse
from the piece of that name of our theatre. The celebrated LEKAIN[6]
opposed its being acted, and affirmed with reason that this mixture
of the two species of drama hurt them both. MOLE, who was fond of
applause easily obtained, was the protector of the piece, and played
the part of _Beverley_ with success; but this _drame_ is no longer
performed on the Parisian stage. Next to this, comes _Le Pere de
Famille_, by DIDEROT. It is a long sermon. However, it presents
characters well drawn. This species of composition is so easy that
the number of _drames_ is considerable; but scarcely any of them are
now performed, except _Eugenie_ and _La Mere Coupable_, by
BEAUMARCHAIS,[7] which are frequently represented. I shall not finish
this article without reminding you that MERCIER has written so many
_drames_ that he has been called _Le Dramaturge_. All his are become
the prey of the little theatres and the aliment of the provincial
departments. This circumstance alone would suffice to prove the
mediocrity of the _drame_. MONVEL, of whom I shall soon have occasion
to speak, would well deserve the same title.

[Footnote 1: This is a place, so called in French theatres,
comprising four or five rows of benches, parted off, between the
place where the musicians are seated and the front of the pit.]

[Footnote 2: It is not mentioned whether these sons and daughters of
Thespis, who have since gained a great deal of money, have offered
any _private_ remuneration to their benefactor, rather to their
guardian-angel.] [TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: The scan of this footnote was
imperfect. Some of the text was interpolated.]

[Footnote 3: Of course, PIERRE CORNEILLE is here meant. THOMAS
CORNEILLE, who was surnamed the Great, must not, however be
forgotten. THOMAS is the author of _Ariane_ and _le Comte d'Essex_, a
tragedy much esteemed, and which is deserving of estimation.]

[Footnote 4: Thus called, because they formed a very close and very
elevated group at one of the extremities of the hall of the National

[Footnote 5: FABRE D'EGLANTINE was tried for having, in concert with
certain stock-jobbers, proposed and caused the adoption of decrees
concerning the finances.]

[Footnote 6: LEKAIN said humourously that to play the _drame_ well,
it was sufficient to know how to make a summerset.]

[Footnote 7: Every one is acquainted with the two comedies written by
this author, _Le Barbier de Seville_ and _Le Mariage de Figaro_. The
astonishing run of the latter, which was acted one hundred and fifty
succeeding nights, was greatly owing to BEAUMARCHAIS having there
turned into ridicule several persons of note in the ministry and the
parliament: _La Mere Coupable_, which is often given, is the sequel
to _Le Mariage de Figaro_, as that piece is to _Le Barbier de


_Paris, January 20, 1802._

Let us now examine the merits of the principal performers belonging
to the _Theatre Francais_.


_Noble Fathers, or characters of Kings_.


VANHOVE. This king of the _Theatre Francais_ neither has majesty nor
nobleness of manner. His countenance is mean, and his make common.
His monotonous and heavy utterance is sometimes intermingled with
yelping sounds. He possesses no sensibility, and substitutes noise
for expression. His mediocrity caused him to be received at the old
_Comedie Francaise_; for the first or principal actors of that
theatre were rather fond of receiving persons of weak talents, merely
that they might be set off. He _doubled_ BRIZARD, whom nature had
endowed with the happiest gifts for tragedy.

VANHOVE was the first player ever called for by a Parisian audience
after the representation, in order to express to him their
satisfaction. However, it may be proper to observe that, in such
cases, it is always some friend of the author who takes the lead.
VANHOVE no longer obtains this favour at present, and is seldom
applauded. He also plays the parts of fathers in comedy.

MONVEL. This actor is not near so old as VANHOVE; but the decay of
his person is such that, when he plays, he seems a skeleton
bestirring itself, or that is set in motion. It is a misfortune for
him that his physical means betray his talents. MONVEL is a man of
genius. Thus gifted, it is not astonishing that he has a just
diction, and is not deficient in intelligence. Some persons doubt
whether he has real sensibility; but he at least presents the
appearance of it. He, in some measure, breaks his voice, and vents
mournful accents which produce much effect. With a constitution
extremely weak, it is impossible that he should perform characters
which require energy and pride. He therefore confines himself to
those in which the pathetic is predominant, or which do not
imperiously demand great efforts, such as _Auguste_ in _Cinna_,
_Burrhus_ in _Britannicus_, _Brutus_ in the tragedy of that name (now
no longer played), _Lusignan_ in _Zaire_, _Zopire_ in _Mahomet_,
_Fenelon_[1] and _l'Abbe de l'Epee_ in the two pieces of that name.
His stock of characters then is by no means extensive. We may also
add to it the part of _Esope a la cour_, in the comedy of that name
by BOURSAULT, which he plays or recites in great perfection, because
it is composed of fables only. MONVEL delivers them with neatness and
simplicity. For this part he has no equal in France.[2]

MONVEL is author as well as actor. He has composed several comic
operas and _drames_; and his pieces, without being good, have always
obtained great applause. His _drames_ are _l'Amant Bourru_,
_Clementine et Desormes_, _Les Amours de Bayard_, _Les Victimes
Cloitrees_, &c. You will find in them forced situations, but set off
by sentiment. He is lavish of stage-effect and that always pleases
the multitude. _L'Amant Bourru_ has alone remained as a stock-piece.

By his zeal for the revolution, he alienated from him a great part of
the public. When every principle of religion was trodden under foot,
and, under the name of festivals of reason or of the goddess of
reason, orgies of the most scandalous nature were celebrated in the
churches, MONVEL ascended the pulpit of the parish of St. Roch, and
preached _atheism_ before an immense congregation. Shortly after,
Robespierre caused the National Convention to proclaim the following
declaration: "_The French people acknowledge the Supreme Being and
the immortality of the soul." MONVEL trembled; and it is probable
that, had not that sanguinary tyrant been overthrown, the atheistical
preacher would have descended from the pulpit only to ascend the

ST. PRIX. He has no fixed employment. Sometimes he plays the parts of
kings, sometimes those of lovers; but excels in none. He would be a
very handsome man, were it possible to be so with a face void of
expression. Nature has given him a strong but hollow voice; and he
recites so coldly, that he makes the public yawn, and seems sometimes
to yawn himself. When he means to display warmth, he screams and
fatigues the ear without mercy.

NAUDET. This man, who is great only in stature, quitted the rank of
serjeant in the _Gardes Francaises_ to become a bad player. In the
character of kings, he scarcely now appears but to personate tyrants.
He is very cold, and speaks through his nose like a Capuchin friar,
which has gained him the appellation of the Reverend Father NAUDET.

_First parts or principal lovers, in Tragedy_.


TALMA. The great reputation which circumstances and his friends[4]
have given to this actor has, probably, rendered him celebrated in
England. His stature and his voice (which, in theatrical language, is
called _organ_), should seem to qualify him for the parts of _jeunes
premiers_ only, of which I shall say more hereafter. Accordingly he
made his _debut_ in that line about fifteen or sixteen years ago.
Without being brilliant, his first appearances were successful, and
he was received on trial. He soon caused himself to be remarked by
the correctness of his dress.[5] But what fixed attention on TALMA,
was the part of _Charles Neuf_, which he plays in the tragedy of that
name.[6] In the riots to which this piece gave rise in 1790, TALMA
figured as a patriot. Having fallen out with the comedians who had
behaved ill to him, and no longer placed him in any other parts than
those of confidants, he was engaged at the new _Theatre Francais_ of
the _Rue de Richelieu_, where it was proposed to him to perform the
characters which pleased him best, that is, the best in each piece.
Thus he was seen alternately personating young princes, heroes, and

TALMA is now reduced to those of the old stock. The characters he at
present represents are _Cinna_ in the tragedy of that name by
CORNEILLE, _Oreste_ in the _Andromaque_ of RACINE, _Neron_ in the
_Britannicus_ of the same, _OEdipe_ in the tragedy of that name by
VOLTAIRE, and _Faiel_ in _Gabrielle du Vergy_ by DU BELLOY, _Oreste_
in _Iphigenie en Tauride_ by GUIMOND DE LA TOUCHE, and _AEgisthe_ in
the _Agamemnon_ of LE MERCIER. TALMA also plays many other parts,
but, in these, he makes no great figure. He had a great aversion to
old pieces, and as long as he preserved his sway at the theatre, very
few, if any were performed. In fact, there are many in which he is
below mediocrity.

You will certainly expect that I should tell you what constitutes the
talent of this performer. He is small in stature, thin in person, and
rather ill-made; his arms and legs being bowed, which he takes care
to conceal by the fulness of his garments. He has a fine eye, and his
features are regular, but too delicate for the perspective of the
theatre. He has long since adopted the antique head-dress,[7] and has
contributed to bring it into fashion. He distinguished himself
formerly in Paris by wearing clothes of a strange form. As an actor,
he has no nobleness of manner, and not unfrequently his gestures are
aukward. His deportment is always ungraceful, though he often
endeavours to imitate the posture of the antique statues; but even
then he presents only a caricature. His countenance has little or no
expression, except in moments of rage or terror. In pourtraying the
latter sentiment, all the faculties of his soul appear absorbed; yet,
though his distraction seems complete, there is a sort of silliness
blended with his stupor, which certain persons take for truth, and
which is much more perceptible in the rest of his characters. In
rage, he is a tiger mangling his prey, and sometimes you might
believe that you heard that animal drawing his breath. TALMA has
never expressed well a tender, generous, or noble sentiment. His soul
is neither to be softened nor elevated; and, to produce effect, he
must be in a terror or in a rage; but then he makes a great
impression on the majority of the public. His utterance is slow,
minced, and split into syllables. His voice is hollow; but, in
moments of rage, it is strong, yet without being of a considerable
volume. He is generally reproached with being deficient in
sensibility: I think, however, that, by dint of labour, he might
paint feeling; for I have heard him render delicate passages happily
enough. He is accused here of having adopted the English style of
acting, though, as far as my opinion goes, with little or no
foundation. Be this as it may, he passed the early part of his youth
in London, where his father resides, and follows the profession of a
dentist. The son may now be about thirty-eight years of age.

TALMA preserves the reputation of being a zealous partisan of the
revolution; but I am confidently assured that he never injured any
one, and held in horror the assassinations which have left an
indelible stain on that event. He was intimately connected with the
deputies, styled _Girondists_ or _Brisotins_, who perished on the
scaffold, after their party was overcome, on the 31st of May, 1793,
by that of the ferocious mountaineers. The latter warmly reproached
TALMA with having, in the year 1792, after the retreat of the
Prussians, given a _fete_ or grand supper to the famous DUMOURIEZ,
with whom they were beginning to fall out, and whom they accused of
treason for not having taken the king of Prussia prisoner. The
hideous MARAT, I am told, went to call on that general at TALMA'S,
where the company received him very cavalierly, and when he was gone,
DUGAZON the actor, hot-headed revolutionist as he was, by way of
pleasantry, pretended to purify the room by burning sugar in a
chaffing-dish. All this amounted to more than was necessary for being
condemned by the revolutionary tribunal; and TALMA, being detested by
ROBESPIERRE, would, in all probability, have been delivered over to
that tribunal, but for the protection of DAVID, the celebrated
painter, who was concerting with him about changing the form of dress
of the French people. During all the reign of terror, TALMA and his
wife were in continual fear of the scaffold.

LAFOND. TALMA reigned, and was in possession of the first cast of
parts. Of these, he played whatever suited him, and rejected what he
disliked, when about a year ago, there appeared in the same line a
young actor of a rather tall and well-proportioned stature, and whom
Nature had, besides, gifted with an agreeable countenance and a
tolerably good voice. He had played in the provincial theatres; but,
in order to overcome every obstacle which might be opposed to his
_debut_, he became a pupil of DUGAZON, an actor of comedy, and what
is more singular, of one more frequently a buffoon than a comedian.
The latter, however, is said to possess a knowledge of the style of
playing of the actors who, thirty years ago, graced the French stage,
and consequently may be capable of giving good advice.

By means of this powerful protection, LAFOND got the better of every
difficulty. This actor made his first appearance in the character of
_Achille_ in the tragedy of _Iphigenie en Aulide_ by RACINE. He was
not the Achilles of Homer, nor even that of the piece, or at best he
represented him in miniature. However, his diction generally just,
his acting, some grace, and, above all, the fatigue and _ennui_ which
TALMA impressed on many of the spectators, procured this rival a
decisive success. As is customary in such cases, the newspapers were
divided in opinion. The majority declared for LAFOND, and none of the
opposite side spoke unfavourably of him. It was not so with TALMA.
Some judged him harshly, calling him a detestable actor, while others
bestowed on him the epithet of _sublime_, which, at the present day,
has scarcely any signification; so much is it lavished on the most
indifferent performers. This instance proves the fact; for if TALMA
has reached the _sublime_, it is _le sublime de la Halle_.

These two rivals might live in peace; the parts which suit the one,
being absolutely unfit for the talents of the other. TALMA requires
only concentered rage, sentiments of hatred and vengeance, which
certainly belong to tragedy, but which ought not to be expressed as
if they came from the mouth of a low fellow, unworthy of figuring in
an action of this kind; and LAFOND is little qualified for any other
than graceful parts, bordering on knight-errantry or romance. His
best character is _Achille_. I have also seen him perform, if not in
a manner truly tragic, at least highly satisfactory, _Rodrigue_ in
_Le Cid_ of CORNEILLE, and the part of _Tancrede_ in VOLTAIRE'S
tragedy of that name. LAFOND obtains the preference over TALMA in the
character of _Orosmane_ in the tragedy of _Zaire_; a character which
is the touchstone of an actor. Not that he excels in it. He has not a
marked countenance, the dignity, the tone of authority, the energy,
and the extreme sensibility which characterize this part. He is not
the Sultan who commands. He is, if you please, a young _commis_ very
amorous, a little jealous, who gets angry, and becomes good-humoured
again; but at least he is not a ferocious being, as TALMA represents
_Orosmane_, in moments of rage and passion, or an unfeeling one in
those which require sensibility.

LAFOND is reproached sometimes with a bombastic and inflated tone.
Feeling that he is deficient in the necessary powers, he swells his
voice, which is prejudicial to truth, and without truth, there is no
theatrical illusion. Nature had intended him for the parts of young
lovers, of which I shall presently speak. His features are too
delicate, his countenance not sufficiently flexible, and his person
bespeaks too little of the hero, for great characters. But when he
first appeared, there was a vacancy in this cast of parts, and none
in the other.

Jeunes Premiers, _or parts of young Lovers_.


ST. FAL. This performer, who is upwards of forty-five, has never had
an exterior sufficiently striking to turn the brain of young
princesses. Every thing in his person is common, and his acting is
really grotesque. However, not long since he frequently obtained
applause by a great affectation of sensibility and a stage-trick,
which consists in uttering loud, harsh, and hoarse sounds after
others faint and scarcely articulated. He has, besides, but a trivial
or burlesque delivery, and no dignity, no grace in his deportment or

DAMAS. He is much younger than ST. FAL, but his gait and carriage are
vulgar. He is not deficient in warmth; but all this is spoiled by a
manner the most common. He first played at the theatres on the
_Boulevard_, and will never be able to forget the lessons he imbibed
in that school. It is with him as with the rabbits of which BOILEAU
makes mention, in one of his Satires where he describes a bad dinner,

"-------- et qui, nes dans Paris,
Sentaient encore le chou dont ils furent nourris."

The _drame_ is the style in which DAMAS best succeeds. There is one
in particular, _Le Lovelace Francais_, where he personates an
upholsterer of the _Rue St. Antoine_, who has just been cornuted by
the young Duke of Richelieu. This part he performs with much truth,
and _avec rondeur_, as the critics here express it, to signify
plain-dealing. But DAMAS is no less ignoble in comedy than in

DUPONT. This young actor, who is of a very delicate constitution, has
never had what we call great powers on the stage; and a complaint in
his tongue has occasioned a great difficulty in his articulation.
Without having a noble air, he has something distinguishing in his
manner. His delivery is correct; but the defect of which I have
spoken has rendered him disagreeable to the public, who manifest it
to him rather rudely, though he has sometimes snatched from them
great applause.

After all the actors I have mentioned, come the confidants, a dull
and stupid set, of whom one only deserves mention, not as an actor,
but as an author. This is DUVAL. He has written that pretty comic
opera, entitled _Le Prisonnier_, as well as _Maison a vendre_, and
several _drames_, among which we must not forget _Le Lovelace
Francais, ou la Jeunesse du Duc de Richelieu_, the piece

_January 20, in continuation_.

Next follow the daughters of Melpomene, or those heroines who make
the most conspicuous figure in Tragedy.

_Characters of Queens_.


Mademoiselle RAUCOURT. Never did _debut_ make more noise than that of
this actress, who appeared for the first time on the French stage
about thirty years ago, and might then be sixteen or seventeen years
of age. She was a pupil of Mademoiselle CLAIRON, who had a numerous
party, composed of Encyclopaedists, French academicians, and almost
all the literati of Paris. The zeal of her friends, the youth, tall
stature, and person of the _debutante_ supplied the place of talent;
and her instructress has recorded in her memoirs that all her labour
was lost. The success, however, of Mademoiselle RAUCOURT was such,
that there were, it is said, several persons squeezed to death at the
door of the playhouse. What increased enthusiasm in favour of the
young actress was, that a reputation for virtue was granted to her as
great and as justly merited as that for talent. Her father declared
in the public lobby that he would blow out her brains if he suspected
her of having the smallest intrigue. He kept not his word. Besides,
it is well known that his daughter always took care to conduct
herself in such a manner as to set the foresight even of jealousy at
defiance. Her _penchant_ not leaving her the resource to which women
of her profession generally recur, and her expenses being
considerable, her debts increased; and to avoid the pursuit of her
creditors she took refuge in Germany with her tender friend,
Mademoiselle SOUK, who has since been mistress to the late king of
Prussia. They both travelled over that country, and a thousand
reports are circulated to their shame; but the most disgraceful of
these are said to be unfounded. The protection of the queen of
France, who paid her debts repeatedly, at length restored her to the
_Comedie Francaise_. Such inconsiderate conduct did no small injury
to that unfortunate princess, whom I mention with concern on such an

The stature of Mademoiselle RAUCOURT is colossal, and when she
presents herself, she has a very imposing look. Her face, however, is
not so noble; she has small eyes, and her features have not that
flexibility necessary for expressing the movements of the passions.
Her voice was formerly very full in the _medium_ of level-speaking;
but it seemed like that of a man. When you heard it for the first
time, you thought that, in impassioned sentences, she was going to
thunder; but, on the contrary, she assumed a very extensive
_falsetto_, which formed the most singular contrast with the dull
sounds that had preceded it. That defect, perhaps, is somewhat less
striking at the present day; but the voice of this actress is become
hoarse, like that of persons who make a frequent use of strong
liquors. The delivery of Mademoiselle RAUCOURT is, in general, just
and correct; for she is allowed to have understanding; yet, as she
neither has warmth nor sensibility, she produces scarcely any effect.
Plaudits most frequently burst forth when she appears; but, though
these are obtained, she never touches the feelings of the spectator,
she never reaches his heart, even in the parts, where she has had the
most vogue. That of _Medee_, in which she has begun to reestablish
her declining reputation, was neither better felt nor better
expressed. She was indebted for the success she obtained in it only
to the magician's robe, to the wand, and to a stage-trick which
consists in stooping and then raising herself to the utmost height at
the moment when she apostrophizes the sun. In the scene of Medea with
her children, a heart-rending and terrible scene, there was nothing
but dryness and a total absence of every maternal feeling.

The characters of queens, which Mademoiselle RAUCOURT performs, are
the first cast of parts at the theatre. It consists of those of
mothers and a few parts of enraged or impassioned lovers. In the
works of CORNEILLE, the principal ones are _Cleopatre_ in _Rodogune_,
and _Cornelie_ in the _Mort de Pompee_. In RACINE'S, the parts of
_Athalie_ and of _Phedre_ in the tragedies of the same name, of
_Agrippine_ in _Britannicus_, of _Clitemnestre_ in _Iphigenie en
Aulide_, and of _Roxane_ in _Bajazet_. In VOLTAIRE'S, those of
_Merope_ and _Semiramis_; and, lastly, that of _Medee_ in the tragedy

Like all the performers belonging to the _Theatre Francais_,
Mademoiselle RAUCOURT was imprisoned during the reign of terror. The
patriots of that day bore her much ill-will, and it is asserted that
Robespierre had a strong desire to send her to the guillotine. When
she reappeared on the stage, the public compensated her sufferings,
and to this circumstance she owes the rather equivocal reputation she
has since enjoyed.

Madame VESTRIS. Although she has been a very long time on the
Parisian stage, this actress is celebrated only from the famous
quarrel she had twenty years ago with Mademoiselle SAINVAL the elder.
Through the powerful protection of the Marshal de DURAS,[8] her
lover, she prevailed over her formidable rival, who, however, had on
her side the public, and the sublimity of her talent. This quarrel
arose from Madame VESTRIS wishing to wrest from Mademoiselle SAINVAL
the parts for which she was engaged. A memoir, written by an
indiscreet friend, in favour of the latter, which she scorned to
disavow, and in which the court was not spared, caused her to be
banished from the capital by a _lettre de cachet_. The public,
informed of her exile, called loudly for Mademoiselle SAINVAL. No
attention was paid to this by the higher powers, and the guard at the
theatre was tripled, in order to insure to Madame VESTRIS the
possibility of performing her part. Nevertheless, whenever she made
her appearance, the public lavished on her hisses, groans, and
imprecations. All this she braved with an effrontery, which
occasioned them to be redoubled. But, as all commotions subside in
time, Madame VESTRIS remained mistress of the stage; while
Mademoiselle SAINVAL travelled over the provinces, where the
injustice of the court towards her caused no less regret than the
superiority of her talent excited admiration.

Madame VESTRIS was rather handsome, and this explains the whole
mystery. She had, above all, a most beautiful arm, and paid no small
attention to her toilet. She delivers her parts with tolerable
correctness, but her tone is heavy and common. The little warmth with
which she animates her characters, is the production of an effort;
for she neither possesses energy nor feeling. Her gestures correspond
with her acting, and she has no dignity in her deportment. She seldom
appears on the stage at present, which saves her from the
mortification of being hissed. She is now old, and the political
opinion of those who frequent most the theatres rouses them against

Although the court had really committed itself to favour her, Madame
VESTRIS was the first to betray her noble patrons. At the period of
the revolution, she quitted the old _Comedie Francaise_, taking with
her DUGAZON, her father, and TALMA, and founded the present theatre,
styled _Theatre de la Republique_. She was also followed by several
authors; for not being able to conceal from herself the mediocrity of
her talents, especially in such parts of the old plays as had been
performed by other actresses in a manner far superior, she
facilitated the representation of new pieces, in which she had not to
fear any humiliating comparison. The principal of these authors were
LA HARPE, DUCIS, and CHENIER. The last, who, besides, is famous as
member of the National Convention and other Legislative Assemblies,
composed the tragedy of _Charles Neuf_, in which Madame VESTRIS,
playing the part of _Catherine de Medicis_, affected, I am told, to
advance her under-lip, _a l'Autrichienne, in order to occasion
comparisons injurious to the ill-fated Marie-Antoinette.[9]

_Characters of Princesses._


Mademoiselle FLEURY. She has no longer youth nor beauty, and her
talents as an actress are much on a par with her personal
attractions. She recites with judgment, but almost always with
languor, and betrays a want of warmth. Besides, her powers have
declined. However, she sometimes displays energetic flashes of a real
tragic truth; but they are borrowed, and it is affirmed, not without
foundation, that Mademoiselle SAINVAL the elder (who is still living)
has been so obliging as to lend them to her.

Madame TALMA. For this name she is indebted to a divorce, having
snatched TALMA from his first wife, an elderly woman who had ruined
herself for him, or whom he had ruined. She quitted her first
husband, a dancing-master of the name of PETIT, to live under the
more than friendly protection of Mademoiselle RAUCOURT.----Madame
TALMA is not handsome, and is now on the wane. She plays tragedy,
comedy, and the _drame_; but has no real talent, except in the
last-mentioned line. In the first, she wants nobleness and energy.
Her delivery is monotonous. It is said in her praise, that she has
"_tears in her voice_." I believe that it seldom happens to her to
have any in her eyes, and that this sensibility, for which some would
give her credit, proceeds not from her heart. In comedy, she wishes
to assume a cavalier and bold manner, brought into vogue by
Mademoiselle CONTAT. This manner by no means suits Madame TALMA, who
neither has elegance in her shape, nor animation in her features. In
the _drame_, her defects disappear, and her good qualities remain.
She then is really interesting, and her efforts to please are
rewarded by the applause of the public.

Mademoiselle BOURGOIN. With respect to this young lady, a powerful
protection serves her in lieu of talent; for she is handsome. She
persists in playing tragedy, which is not her fort. In comedy, she
appears to advantage.

Mademoiselle VOLNAIS. This is a very young girl. All she says is in a
crying tone, and what is worse, she seems not to comprehend what she
says. In the characters which she first represented she was very
successful, but is no longer so at the present day.

_Characters of Confidantes._

Mesdames SUIN and THENARD.

There are two only who are deserving of notice. The one is Madame
SUIN, who certainly justifies the character she bears of a woman of
judgment; for she has the most just delivery of all the performers
belonging to the _Theatre Francais_; but she is advanced in years,
and the public often treat her with rudeness. The other confidante is
Mademoiselle THENARD, who has played the parts of princesses at this
theatre with a partial success.

There are also other confidantes, whom it is not worth while to

I shall conclude this account of the tragedians belonging to the
_Theatre Francais_, by observing that the revolution is said to have
given a new turn to the mind and character of the French women; and
the success which several actresses, at this day obtain in the
dramatic career, in the line of tragedy, is quoted in support of this
opinion. For a number of years past, as has been seen, Melpomene
seemed to have placed the diadem on the head of Mademoiselle
RAUCOURT, and this tragic queen would probably have grown gray under
the garments of royalty, had not the revolution imparted to her sex a
degree of energy sufficient for them to dispute her empire. Women
here have seen so many instances of cruelty, during the last ten or
twelve years, they have participated, in a manner more or less
direct, in an order of things so replete with tragical events, that
those among them who feel a _penchant_ for the stage, find
themselves, in consequence, disposed to figure in tragedy.[10]

[Footnote 1: _Fenelon_ is no longer performed. It is a very bad
tragedy by _Chenier_.]

[Footnote 2: There are players members of the National Institute.
MONVEL belongs to the Class of Literature and the Fine Arts.]

[Footnote 3: Notwithstanding the ill effects likely to result from
such doctrine, far more dangerous to society than the poniards of a
host of assassins, it appears that, when those actors called
terrorists, or partisans of terror, were hunted down, MONVEL was not

[Footnote 4: There are a great many enthusiastic admirers of his

[Footnote 5: It is really to TALMA that the French are indebted for
the exact truth of costume which is at this day to be admired on the
theatres of Paris, especially in new pieces. An inhabitant of a
country the most remote might believe himself in his native land; and
were an ancient Greek or Roman to come to life again, he might
imagine that the fashion of his day had experienced no alteration.]

[Footnote 6: The subject of it is the massacre of St. Bartholomew's

[Footnote 7: He wears his hair cut short, and without powder.]

[Footnote 8: One evening at the opera, M. DE DURAS authoritatively
took possession of a box hired for the night by another person. The
latter, dreading his power, but at the same time desirous to
stigmatize him, said: "'Tis not he who took Minorca, 'tis not he who
took this place nor that, the man of whom I complain, never took any
thing in his life but my box at the opera!"]

[Footnote 9: All the princes and princesses of the House of Austria
have the under-lip very prominent.]

[Footnote 10: The example of Mesdemoiselles BOURGOIN and VOLNAIS
having proved that first-rate talents were not necessary for being
received at the _Theatre Francais_, as a tragic queen or princess,
the number of candidates rapidly increased. For several months past,
the merit of these _debutantes_ has been the general concern of all
Paris. Each had her instructor, and, of course, was carefully tutored
for the occasion.

M. LEGOUVE, the tragic writer, first brought forward on this stage
Mademoiselle DUCHESNOIS, a girl about twenty, extremely ill-favoured
by nature. DUGAZON, the actor, next introduced Madame XAVIER, a very
handsome and elegant woman. Lastly, Mademoiselle RAUCOURT presented
her pupil, Mademoiselle GEORGES WEIMER, a young girl of perfect
beauty. Mademoiselle DUCHESNOIS played _Phedre_, in RACINE'S tragedy
of that name, seven successive times. She certainly displayed a
semblance of sensibility, and, notwithstanding the disadvantages of
her person, produced such an effect on the senses of the debauched
Parisian youth by the libidinous manner she adopted in the scene
where _Phedre_ declares her unconquerable passion for her son-in-law
_Hippolyte_, that her success was complete. What greater proof can be
adduced of the vitiated taste of the male part of the audience? She
also performed _Semiramis_, _Didon_, and _Hermione_; but in the first
two characters she betrayed her deficiency. The next who entered the
lists was Madame XAVIER. On her _debut_ in _Semiramis_, she was
favourably received by the public; but, afterwards, choosing to act
_Hermione_, the partisans of Mademoiselle DUCHESNOIS assembled in
such numbers as to constitute a decided majority in the theatre. Not
content with interrupting Madame XAVIER, and hissing her off the
stage, they waited for her at the door of the play-house, and loaded
her with the grossest abuse and imprecations. Lastly appeared
Mademoiselle GEORGES WEIMER. Warned by the disgraceful conduct of the
_Duchesnistes_ (as they are called) towards Madame XAVIER, the
comedians, by issuing a great number of _orders_, contrived to
anticipate them, and obtain a majority, especially in the pit.
Mademoiselle GEORGES made her _debut_ in the character of
_Clitemnestre_, and was well received. Her beauty excited enthusiasm,
and effected a wonderful change in public opinion. After playing
several parts in which Mademoiselle DUCHESNOIS had either failed, or
was afraid to appear, she at last ventured to rival her in that of
_Phedre_. At the first representation of the piece, Mademoiselle
GEORGES obtained only a partial success; but, at the second, she was
more fortunate. The consequence, however, had well nigh proved truly
tragic. The _Duchesnistes_ and _Georgistes_ had each taken their
posts, the one on the right side of the pit; the other, on the left.
When Mademoiselle GEORGES was called for after the performance, and
came forward, in order to be applauded, the former party hissed her,
when the latter falling on them, a general battle ensued. The guard
was introduced to separate the combatants; but the _Duchesnistes_
were routed; and, being the aggressors, several of them were
conducted to prison. The First Consul assisted at this
representation; yet his presence had no effect whatever in
restraining the violence of these dramatic factions.

Since then, Mesdemoiselles DUCHESNOIS and GEORGES have both been
received into the company of the _Theatre Francais_. Madame XAVIER
has returned to the provinces.]


_Paris, January 22, 1802._

The observation with which I concluded my last letter, might explain
why the votaries of Thalia gain so little augmentation to their
number; while those of Melpomene are daily increasing. I shall now
proceed to investigate the merits of the former, at the _Theatre


_Parts of noble Fathers._


VANHOVE. This actor is rather more sufferable in comedy than tragedy;
but in both he is very monotonous, and justifies the lines applied to
him by a modern satirist, M. DESPAZE:

"VANHOVE, _plus heureux, psalmodie a mon gre;
Quel succes l'attendait, s'il eut ete Cure!_"

NAUDET. I have already said that the Reverend Father NAUDET, as he is
called, played the parts of tyrants in tragedy. Never did tyrant
appear so inoffensive. As well as VANHOVE, in comedy, he neither
meets with censure nor applause from the public.

_First parts, or principal lovers, in Comedy._

MOLE, FLEURY, and BAPTISTE the elder.

MOLE. At this name I breathe. Perhaps you have imagined that
ill-humour or caprice had till now guided my pen; but, could I praise
the talent of MOLE as he deserves, you would renounce that opinion.

MOLE made his _debut_ at the _Comedie Francaise_ about forty-five
years ago. He had some success; but as the Parisian public did not
then become enthusiasts in favour of mere beginners, he was sent into
the provinces to acquire practice. At the expiration of two or three
years, he returned, and was received to play the parts of young
lovers in tragedy and comedy. He had not all the nobleness requisite
for the first-mentioned line of acting; but he had warmth and an
exquisite sensibility. In a word, he maintained his ground by the
side of Mademoiselle DUMESNIL and LEKAIN, two of the greatest
tragedians that ever adorned the French stage. For a long time he was
famous in the parts of _petits-maitres_, in which he shone by his
vivacity, levity, and grace.

This actor was ambitious in his profession. Although applauded, and
perhaps more so than LEKAIN, he was perfectly sensible that he
produced not such great, such terrible effects; and he favoured the
introduction of the _drame_, which is a mixture of tragedy and
comedy. But those who most detest the whining style of this species
of composition are compelled to acknowledge that MOLE was fascinating
in the part of _St. Albin_, in DIDEROT'S _Pere de Famille_.

BELLECOURT being dead, MOLE took the first parts in comedy, with the
exception of a few of those in which his predecessor excelled, whose
greatest merit, I understand, was an air noble and imposing in the
highest degree. As this was MOLE's greatest deficiency, he
endeavoured to make amends for it by some perfection. He had no
occasion to have recourse to art. It was sufficient for him to employ
well the gifts lavished on him by nature. Though now verging on
seventy, no one expresses love with more eloquence (for sounds too
have theirs), or with more charm and fire than MOLE. In the fourth
act of the _Misanthrope_, he ravishes and subdues the audience, when,
after having overwhelmed _Celimene_ with reproaches, he paints to her
the love with which he is inflamed. But this sentiment is not the
only one in the expression of which MOLE is pre-eminently successful.

In the _Philinte de Moliere_, which also bears the title of _La Suite
du Misanthrope_, and in which FABRE D'EGLANTINE has presented the
contrast between an egotist and a man who sacrifices his interest to
that of his fellow-creatures, MOLE vents all the indignation of
virtue with a warmth, a truth, and even a nobleness which at this day
belong only to himself. In short, he performs this part, in which the
word _love_ is not once mentioned, with a perfection that he
maintains from the first line to the last.

In the fifth act of _Le Dissipateur_ (a comedy by DESTOUCHES), when
he sees himself forsaken by his companions of pleasure, and thinks he
is so by his mistress too, the expression of his grief is so natural,
that you imagine you see the tears trickling from his eyes. In
moments when he pictures love, his voice, which at times is somewhat
harsh, is softened, lowers its key, and (if I may so express myself)
goes in search of his heart, in order to draw from it greater
flexibility and feeling. The effect which he produces is irresistible

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