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Arr. I.--Souvenirs d'un Sexagénaire. Par A. V. Arnault, de
l'Académie Française. 4 vols. Paris. 1833. HERE, at last, we have something genuine ; and after the
long series of fabricated memoirs with which the Parisian press has so impudently and dishonestly wearied and cheated the public, we meet with some degree of satisfaction a work of this class, which really is what it professes to be.
. The praise of not being a fraud is but small; and yet we can say
little more in recommendation of these volumes. The substantive matter is trivial, the facts are few and inaccurately stated, the opinions are strongly marked with prejudice and partiality, the style is laboured and affected ; and, on the whole, we are obliged to pronounce these to be, of genuine memoirs, the very worst we have met. M. Arnault himself is a very uninteresting personage: at two or three periods of his life he contrived to obtain a temporary celebrity; but, except some retired actor of the old Théâtre Français, or some surviving twaddler of the Café Procope, we doubt whether any one can have the least curiosity about M. Arnault. He, indeed, seems to have had some suspicion of this sort, for he takes merit to himself for affising to his work the humble character of Souvenirs rather than the more important and responsible title of Memoirs. The distinction is correct enough, and his practice follows his theory. Memoirs imply an account of the dicta et gesta of the writer himself; while the wider scope of Souvenirs-Reminiscences -enables the author to swell out his volumes into a history, private, political, and literary, of all that has passed in the world since his own birth with descriptions of all the places he may have ever visited --and biographical characters of every man he has ever chanced to see, coloured or discoloured according to his own passions or partialities. M. Arnault's Memoirs could hardly have occupied a single volume, while the Souvenirs of the earlier half of his life have already filled four octavos, and the sequel bids fair, at his rate of going, to fill six or eight more.
M. Arnault is justly indignant against modern memoir-writers, who, as he says, “ make a traffic of self, and sell themselves and VOL. LI. NO, CI,
their names to book-makers;' and he tells us, with some indignation, that
• One of the most accredited editors of those romances, which are now published daily under the title of memoirs,-after buying the manuscript of an author who, having brought a history of self into the market, expressed a desire to revise his own work-replied, “ That's my affair-leave it to me—I'll arrange all that I'll do for you
what I do for the others; for between ourselves, my friend, as to memoirs, I publish none that I don't make.” —p. vi.
Our reviews of the soi-disant Memoirs of Louis XVIII. and Le Vasseur * have already let our readers into this secret, and have, we have reason to hope, checked, not only in England, but even in France, this disreputable manufacture, or at least (which is eventually the same thing) diminished its profits; and we are not sorry to have, from M. Arnault, additional evidence of the audacity of this system of fabrication. We are tempted on this subject to relate an anecdote :—Soon after our review of the Memoirs of Louis XVIII. reached Paris, a literary friend wrote to say that he wondered we should have taken so much pains to expose an imposture which tout le monde (at Paris) avait déjà apprécié, This induced us to look a little closer to the fact, and we found that if tout le monde had indeed discovered the work to be a forgery, tout le monde had obligingly held his tongue till four tivraisons (of two volumes each) had plundered the pockets of tout le monde. Nay, we know that M. de Talleyrand—who is, we suppose, no insignificant component part of tout le monde-was, up to the publication of our review, quoted as an authority for the authenticity of the Royal Memoirs; and the work was proceeding, full swing, without having produced from the Parisian literary world anything like doubt or contradiction.
And even now, although the circulation has been absolutely stopped in England, and checked in all well-informed circles on the continent, we believe that the authors and editors, though they have not ventured to say a word in their defence, ne se tiennent pas pour battus, and are still busy with similar manufactures. We shall not be inattentive to their proceedings, and shall again endeavour, whenever the occasion shall present itself, to save our readers, and the Parisian tout le monde, from paying tribute to the audacious cupia dity of those . accredited editors who publish no memoirs but what they themselves manufacture.'t
But * See Quarterly Review, Nos. XCVI., Art. VII,; and XCVII., Art. II.
+ We hardly think it worth while to bestow even a note upon a specimen of this sort of manufacture which has been placed on our table as we write: it is entitled
Soirées d' Abbotsford, Chroniques et Nouvelles, recueillies dans les salons de Walter Scott. Paris. Librairie de Dumont. 1834. 870. Pp. 344. The preface con
But while we cordially agree with M. Arnault in censuring this disgraceful traffic, we cannot think that his own course is altogether blameless; for, as we have hinted, three at least of his volumes are mere catchpennies; and under the title of his Souvenirs he had inveigled us into the purchase of a mass of old newspaper criticisms on departed plays, stale anecdotes from all the Biographies Modernes, and tedious accounts of his travels, extracted from road-books and local Guides. We have also to complain, that he has, in another particular, imitated the objects of his censure—by publishing not a complete work, but merely livraisons of a work, of which the extent and expense are indefinite. This is another trick of the Parisian trade, against which we warn our readers. One is content to give a dozen francs for a couple of volumes of Le Vasseur, or of the Duchess of Abrantes, or of Louis XVIII., or even of M. Arnault, but when you have bought them you find these two to be only the preludes to two more: well, you are unwilling to have an incomplete book, however worthless--you buy the second livraison ; then comes another and another, and you are still tempted to throw good money after bad,' as the saying is, till at last you find yourself involved to the extent of eight, ten, or twelve volumes, really not worth binding. We therefore earnestly press upon our readers the prudence of suspending their purchases of such works till they shall be completed a course which, if generally adopted, would have two excellent effects : il would oblige the Parisian publishers to let us have the whole work at once; and it would force the authors or editors to compress their information into reasonable compass. Eight or ten, or a dozen volumes, and an expense of two or three pounds, would be abridged to two volumes and a cost of ten shillings, not only without any sacrifice, but even with improvement, of the merit of the works. Now for M. Arnault personally.
We remember hearing Madame de Stael say, in her epigrammatic way, · L'Etranger est la postérité contemporaine :' this mot we believe she borrowed from Desmoulins-for, rich as she was in bon-mots, she frequently condescended to borrow-particularly chez l'etranger; but whether the phrase be hers or his-Corinne's or Camille's -it gives M. Arnault but a short prospect of posthumous fame; for we verily believe that, beyond the exterior Boulevard of Paris, he is scarcely remembered as an author, and that tains a minute description of Sir W. Scott and his house, which shows that the writer never conversed with the one nor entered the other; and as to the Chroniques,' &c., they are—what English reader would have believed such impudence to be possible ? --they are, without exception, paltry scraps of fiction, translated from the London Annuals of the last three or four years. The Gem'— The Bijou’- The Forget Me Not,' &c. &c. In short, the whole affair is a stupid lie.
none of his works ever passed the Rhine, the Alps, the Pyrenees, or the Channel. Accordingly, his personal and literary story will be soon told. He was born in 1766); his father, and subsequently he himself, had purchased offices in the household of the French princes
-Arnault's being in that of Monsieur, afterwards Louis XVIII. Arnault's liberal spirit confesses this with evident reluctance, and describes his office by studied periphrases. · His duty was, he says, 'to supply, for six weeks in the year, the place of the Comte d'Avaray, who was about Monsieur what the Duke of Liancourt was about the king.'--p. 164. This lucid explanation, ignotum per ignotius, is all that M. Arnault affords us : though he is minute enough upon other points, he leaves his reader quite in the dark as to what his official duties and title were.
We are sorry, however, to be obliged to confess our mortifying suspicion that he was neither more nor less than a kind of valet; and still more sorry to say, that the art with which he distigures this fact gives no favourable impression of his candour. Who would not believe, from his expressions, that he and M. d'Avaray performed, in each other's absence, the same duties to Monsieur, that the Duke de Liancourt performed for the king—and that he and M. d'Avaray were equals, or, at worst, that he was M. d'Avaray's deputy ? Now, if we are not misinformed, it was no such thing: the Duke de Liancourt was Grand Maitre de la garderobe du Roi, (grand master of the wardrobe,) and Messrs. Le Comte de Crénay and Le Marquis d'Avaray were maîtres de la garderobe de Monsieur, and relieved each other in the tour of duty-while poor little Arnault was, as we have heard and believe, in the very
subordinate station of valet de la garderobe; and if he ever replaced M. d'Avaray in his absence, it must have been as a corporal replaces a captain in the command of a company, when all the other officers happen to be out of the way. Ofie, M. Arnault !
-a liberal should not be ashamed of his proper calling ; an honest autobiographer ought not to involve his first step in life in studied obscurity; and above all, he should not, for the sake of a little paltry vanity, make an elaborate falsification of a fact.
In the winter of 1790, while he was still in the service of Monsieur, he produced his first and best-known work, the tragedy of Marius à Minturnes.' The Revolution had already gotten possession of the stage, and the Roman names and republican sentiments which naturally entered into the subject, contributed, no doubt, to the short popularity of this piece. But this literary success was soon counterbalanced, and his prospects were sadly clouded by Monsieur's emigration, which left Arnault without office or salary; and as he had spent most of his patrimony in the purchase of this little place, the loss was very severe to him : indeed, he