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ing of the ship of State at home, where there is never a hand strong enough to steer it. At this moment, while the young poet pleased himself with Alexandrine rhymes of satire against the helpless and incompetent heads of affairs, Buonaparte, to whom the Legitimists looked hopefully as the instrument of restoring royalty, returned from Egypt; and nothing can better show the popular feeling of the time than the following little incident :
"When the great news of his unexpected return arrived, I was in our cabinet de lecture, in the midst of more than thirty persons. They all rose spontaneously, uttering a long cry of joy. The same manifestations of delight were made throughout the whole country. France believed herself now saved. When the presence of a man in a country produces such effects on the people, he is unquestionably their master; the wise and prudent are without any influence in the matter. When Buonaparte disembarked at Frejus, he was already the Emperor Napoleon."
This incident the poet follows with some remarks full of truth and penetration. He does not feel himself able to take the first Napoleon to task for the violation of the Constitution of the 18th Brumaire, the beginning of his Consulate, and for this reason: "I will candidly confess that in my mind patriotism has always overruled all political doctrines, and that Providence does not always leave to nations the choice of the means by which their safety is secured. This great man alone was able to elevate France from the abyss into which the Directory had ended by precipitating her. I was nineteen years old at the time, and the whole world appeared to be only of my age in order to think as I did. The opposing parties had destroyed each other by violence. .
The wise and prudent who still spoke of liberty, did so with that distrust with which their own minds had been inspired by the result of the unfortunate and badly-managed attempts which had been already made. At last France absolutely required a strong government to deliver her from the Jacobins and the Bour
bons, from uncertainty and anarchy." This same crisis has come more than once in the history of France; and though it is impossible to justify in any man the deliberate breach of an oath, there is much in the extraordinary position occupied by both the first and the present Napoleon to make a historian pause upon this consideration of Beranger, and take the whole scene into account before he passes a hasty judgment. Every one must honour the man who could make magnificent sacrifice of a crown to his word and honour; but to sacrifice even to that the power of doing unspeakable service to his time and country, is a question less easily settled. We are in no such straits, nor have been for centuries; and it is very much easier for us, in the shelter of our seas, to say, “Let us not do evil that good may come.'
Changes of state, however, made no great difference for the time in the position of the boy who lived in a garret on the fifth story in the Boulevard St Martin, and "delighted in the evening to hover in spirit, as it were, over this immense city, especially when to the murmurs ascending from it was added the noise and tumult of some great storm!" Fancy the young poet, with all the troublous world beneath him, with all its cries and its tumults, its emeutes and its agitations, its unconscious human revelation of itself in the streets which his little window surveyed; his post by the window when summer evenings sent everybody out of doors, when snatches of songs and sounds of laughter and audible exclamations came softened up to him out of the heart of the crowd; or when his little light hung gleaming half-way between the lanterns and the stars, and the boy gazed abroad upon the great town growing silent, hushing itself, burying a million cares, an unknown world of hopes and heartache in the night, and in the dark. He is only nineteen; he has no money; he dwells alone, and is a poet. Friend, perhaps you would not choose to change places with Beranger; but there is a magical touch in this little picture which might make many think again with the pleasure of sadness of the early
joyous delightful troubles of their own youth.
After all these preludes and prelegomena-little Peronne, big Paris, the banker's office, and the reading-room -it is thus in his garret that the life of the poet really begins. He is very miserable, afraid of the conscription, terribly vexed about his father's late failure, penniless, and in indifferent health-yet very gay, writing songs and little vaudevilles for the little private fêtes of his comrades, and-full of friendly charity and tenderness, as he always was-sitting up night after night with a sick friend, and singing, to amuse his sleeplessness, the songs which he then for the first time committed to writing. This kind of life goes on for some considerable time. Things do not thrive with the young poet; though he has arranged his poetic system, he has not resolved yet to confine himself to the one thing which he can do so exquisitely.
He tries odes and idyls, comedies and epic poems. Between hands he sends his watch to the Mont de Piété; his wardrobe dwindles down to "three bad shirts, which a friendly hand wearied itself in endeavouring to mend, a thin and well-patched greatcoat, a pair of trousers with a hole in the knee, and a pair of boots which I regarded with despair, every morning, as I was engaged in restoring their lustre, discovering some new damage." It was when brought down thus far by many adversities, that the youth, in a fit of sudden hope or despair, enclosed a couple of his poems to Lucien Buonaparte, telling no one. Two days after, his friend Judith laughingly predicted to him the arrival of a letter which should overwhelm him with joy. He went home, and went to sleep, pleased in spite of himself with the prophecy, and dreaming delightful dreams of the postman. 'But I awoke, and adieu, ye bright illusions !—the damaged boots met my sight; and moreover, his old pair of trousers must be patched by the tailor's grandson. Needle in hand, I continued ruminating on some misanthropical rhymes, such as I was then in the occasional habit of composing, when my portière enters out of breath, and hands to me a letter, the address of which was in
VOL. LXXXIII.-NO. DVII.
a writing unknown to me. Rhymes, needle, trousers, everything is forgotten. In my agitation I cannot muster up courage to open the missive. At last with a trembling hand I break the seal: the senator Lucien Buonaparte has read my verses, and he wishes to see me. Let such young poets as are in my position, imagine to themselves my happiness, and describe it if they can. It was not fortune which first appeared to me-it was glory! My eyes swelled with tears, and I returned thanks to God, whom I have never forgotten in my moments of prosperity.'
Lucien Buonaparte, the gentlest and most lovable of his family, established at once, to a modest and moderate extent, the fortunes of the young poet. He gave him kind criticism, suggestions, not over-wise perhaps, but in accordance with the spirit of the time; and with the natural
And open bounty of his race," conferred his more substantial benefits in such a manner as to elevate rather than humiliate the receiver of them. He made over to Beranger the little income to which he himself was entitled as a Member of the Institute a thousand francs, or somewhere about forty pounds a-year. The arrears of three years were paid at once to the fortunate rhymster. He could help his father-he could maintain himself. So far as his worldly concerns went, he had no greater ambition. Fortune had come to him in a moment.
The protection of Lucien conferred other advantages upon the young poet. It introduced him to Arnault, then Minister of Public Instruction, through whom, at a later period, he obtained a permanent appointment, and who "opened to me the doors of the world of literature, which I had never been able to frequent till then." Beranger had, however, little personal intercourse afterwards with his first patron; but when Lucien was in exile at Rome, the grateful poet vainly endeavoured to do him homage in his banishment. He had then some pastoral poems nearly completed-poems of which he seems to have had no opinion, and which he desired to pub
lish solely for the sake of the dedication to Lucien, which, however, the imperial censor condemned. Those sweet and tender verses which are quoted, seem very innocent matters for the ban of the censorship; and Beranger, finding that he could not be permitted to publish them, abandoned the book: he made another unsuccessful attempt subsequentlybut it was not until 1823, eighteen years after the period of his brief acquaintance with this prince, that he was able to express the thanks of his grateful memory in a dedication to Lucien Buonaparte.
He was now twenty-five years old, and thoughts of more serious import stirred in the mind of the poet. These were the days in which the aftercourse of his life had to be settled. He was free of want, but he was not free of anxiety for the future, and feared the necessity of falling back upon literature as his sole support. Other questions too, still more important, yet all more or less connected with his art, which seems to have exercised an influence upon everything he did, occupied him. The Génie du Christianisme had a great effect upon his mind-almost he was persuaded to be, if not a Christian, a good Catholic, once more. He began to write idyls and religious poems, to frequent the churches when they were empty, to read ascetic works, and to endeavour to persuade himself into devoutness: but his mind was too honest to be content with the false faith of his verses, and true faith would not come to him-his religious studies came to no result. I have often said," he concludes, "that the only thing of which Reason was capable, was to sink us when we fell into the water. Nevertheless, to my misfortune, she at this time assumed absolute dominion over my mind. Fool! she would not suffer me to believe in that which formed the faith of Turenne, Corneille, and Bossuet. And yet I have always been, I am at present, and I hope I shall die, that which in philosophy is termed a spiritualist." We confess we are not able to perceive the light which, according to some critics, this confession throws upon the life of Beranger; it is a record of the com
mon crisis, terminating unhappily but not unnaturally the wrong way; for Reason, which cannot do much against Religion, finds a perfectly suitable antagonist in the religious sentiment, which she is sufficiently able to depose from the first place in every mind. This is what seems to have happened to Beranger. The sentiment which is his only idea of faith cannot reign paramount in a mind which, in spite of its poetic character, is still so practical and reasonable. He retains just enough of it to beautify nature and humanity with a thought of God, and to encourage his own benevolent intuitions. He cannot be a good Catholic. He sees nothing to believe in but the faith of the Church, or that which seems the faith of nature. With all his education and surroundings, his decision seems only what was to be looked for--and it is not for us to judge him.
However, he destroyed the religious verses; he was uneasy in any kind of sham. Nor did he please himself much better in dramatic writings : for a time, indeed, he is altogether at sea, irresolute about his work, his opinions, and his future, and even troubled with that other kind of scepticism-melancholy dissatisfaction and doubt about the world surrounding him, which is no unusual feature in the first serious period of thought. These shadows, however, pass away eventually from a mind about which there was nothing morbid. In correcting a pastoral poem which he had begun some time previously, but never completed, he began to see better than he had ever done the secrets of his own language. He discovered that the odes and dithyrambics, after which all the world ran wild, were but exotics transplanted into a soil where they had never taken deep root. could find no parallel between a Pindar chanting the verse in which he celebrated his country, its heroes, and its gods, to the assembled people on Olympus, and a modern poet, whose works are submitted to the cool judgment of critical readers. His old dislike to the classical mania, then prevalent everywhere, takes form and force as he pursues his own
studies. He throws aside all his attempts in the so-called higher orders of literature, and defies the Academy, "so strong in Latin and in Greek," to pardon him for his heresy. "They say," he adds with humour, "that nothing enlightens like the flame of manuscripts which their authors have had the courage to throw into the fire; I ought to see very clearly. I have known authors who have not lost one of their verses. I have not preserved more than a quarter of mine, yet I feel to-day that I have preserved too many."
At the same time in which he arrives at this decision, he also sets himself seriously to work to perfect his style. Ideas, good or bad, rarely failed him; but it is now the niceties of expression in which he labours. He thinks that each subject should have its own grammar and dictionary, and even its manner of rhyme, and broods long over his thoughts before he permits them to see the light. "I only give these details," says Beranger, "for those men who think that to write well it is enough to let their words fall at hazard on the paper, and that a foundation of reflection or preparatory reading is of no value. If this continues, you shall see that they will write without knowing how to read. Certainly there are some who, privileged by genius, might succeed in everything without trouble; but who has the right to believe himself a genius?"
The old man could not have put a better moral to his life. He, of all men, conscious of his native rights as a poet, yet voluntarily and soberly choosing for himself the occupation of a chansonnier, might have presumed upon his genius, if any one could. On the contrary, he laboured closely at his profession, bringing to it all his experience of life, all his conscientious exertions, all the helps which industry and good sense could see available. It is a lesson which many people may read with advantage; true genius seldom presumes upon its own powers.
Beranger by this time has become popular and sought after in society: his songs, still unpublished, have attained a private circulation from hand
to hand, which perhaps gives a more piquant celebrity to their author than the mere reputation of a book. Official critics even predict troubles which do not overtake the author of the Roi d'Yvetot, though he has reason to believe that it has been brought under the notice of the Emperor as a political satire. Beranger himself, however, does not add this pleasant story, which we quote from his friend Lapointe's Mémoires sur Beranger, of the reception given to this song by Napoleon.
"Certain courtiers, wishing to injure the poet, who then held a modest appointment worth twelve hundred francs, denounced the chanson and the chansonnier to the Emperor.
"Who has made this song?' asked the hero, who was not much disturbed by it.
"Sire, it is one employed at the Uni
"How much has he?' "Twelve hundred francs, sire.' "Eh bien, let fifteen.'" them give him
When a poet's genius is acknowledged, his position assured, and his popularity steadily advancing, his life is apt to lose its events, and, so far as story-telling goes, its interest. He is no longer a boy in the shelter of domestic circumstances, which tenderness, discontent, uncertainty, and the vivid recollection of youth, make always picturesque and interesting. His father is dead, he has formed no new relations save those of friendship, and speaks of himself as strengthened against the hypocrisy of "la haute société" by a ripe age, settled ideas, and a character tried by evil fortune.' We are no longer made aware of the busy and perpetual flow of events and changes, of good fortune and evil fortune, every shadow of which helps to form the youth for his future life. He is now living the life for which all these things prepared him, not despising the charms of society, yet shy of them, and loving to dine with the companions of his poverty in the garret or behind the shop, places familiar and dear to him. Nor is he less shy of the organised society of wits which woos him next. Though he loves the social table, Beranger is no admirer of the systematised merry
making which has no longer licence to be spontaneous. He does not refuse to go to the Caveau, the literary club of chansonniers and dramatists, nor to be elected a member of it; but he shrinks presently from habits so much unlike his own, and leaves it at last with one of those shrewd sayings which his good-humoured philosophy abounds in: Societies which profess to be joyous are seldom gay."
In the latter part of this autobiography, these sparks of kindly and wise thought abound. He has arrived at the time of leisure, and the speed of his recital pauses. He has time to linger and let us know what he said under such and such circumstances, and what were the rules of his conduct-not without a pleasant old man's word of counsel to the young men whom he loves. It is these young men whom he warns not to permit themselves to be transplanted into gilded salons, where they will be separated from their old friends; and not to blush for their poverty, but to learn how to say, "I am poor;" and he pleases himself with recalling the comfort which he found in the society of youth, when those who professed to lead the liberal and revolutionary forces gave him small satisfaction. And in the slower course of personal experience, lively sketches of political personages and public events intervene. He
sees with a sore heart the entrance of the allied armies into Paris, believing that if he had but got the gun which he wanted, in common with hundreds of the working people who sought for arms without being able to obtain them, "I should have been brave that day!" But the Allies entered, the Bourbons were restored, and the author of the Roi d'Yvetot was perfectly safe in his appointment, getting abundant credit from the Royalists for that satire. And it is not till after this period that the well-known and popular chansonnier publishes his first volume, which, though it makes him "le chansonnier de l'opposition," is tolerably well received for the moment by the authorities. This good humour does not last, however. By-and-by he is warned, that if he publishes
more, it will be at the peril of his income. This is not a kind of threat to awe Beranger; and accordingly, when he is ready with his next publication, he resigns the situation, and trusts himself to fortune. The publication of the two volumes which now appear, he contracts for at the cost of fifteen thousand francs-a sum which it seems impossible to him can ever be paid by his little books, and the acquisition of which fills him with a "foolish joy," in comparison with which all his afterreceipts have little effect upon him. This book, however, brings on a State prosecution, concluded by an imprisonment of three months and a fine of five hundred francs-in all which proceeding, the thing which Beranger feels most is that his advocate undervalued "the importance of the chanson." This was his friend Dupin, who defended him with the greatest zeal and eloquence, but who thought it was for his client's interest to speak as lightly as possible of those beloved verses, which Marchangy the Avocat-Général was more respectful to, even in opposing. The accusation did him more justice than the defence, he says, with a whimsical and comic displeasure: "I love better to be hanged by my enemies than drowned by my friends. It was, however, not the less wise of my advocate to endeavour thus to avoid the long imprisonment with which I was menaced. Besides, it was not till some time later that they granted the quality of poet to the chansonnier; and, strange enough! the English were, I believe, the first to give me this title in the Edinburgh Review."
Beranger, however, spite of his annoyance at this lèse majesté on the part of his advocate, found his quarters in St Pelagie extremely comfortable, and bore his imprisonment with much gaiety. He had scarcely left the prison when another accusation was preferred against him, which came to nothing. Later, when he published a fourth volume, he was again condemned, and spent another nine months in prison without losing heart. He suffered, however, for his own sentiments, and not for those of any party; indeed, he is particular