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comes, and shake off the dust of our feet against this paradise of vanities, and go forth out of it into a world of earnest and serious men.'
•Amid a great confusion of metaphor and illustration. After that we must go and dine at the Café Voisin.'
A PROPOS OF “RACHEL AND THE
WE like contrast. It is the main principle and theory of our contributions to the "Spirit." In accordance with this principle we sit down on the fourth of July to give whomever it may concern the butt end of our mind touching M. Leon Beauvallet and his book. The greatest of days, and the meanest of men. There is a good contrast to begin with.
Our country has been blessed with a great variety of travellers and tourists, of all sorts and nations, and difference of fitness for their self-imposed task of deciding and discussing our manners and institutions. Beauvallet in one or two points was qualified for the task beyond all his predecessors.
In the first place, he understood just one word, and no more, of our language. This gives peculiar value to his explanations, as, for instance, when he informs his countrymen that cammillia is the English for camelia.
Secondly, he had made up his mind, before coming to America, that everything in it must be perfectly detestable.
But if so, naturally exclaims the reader, why did he come here at all? 'Ah, why indeed? Quis erpedicit psittaco suum chaire? quoth Persius (we give timely warning that, having been bitten by Jules Janin, we intend in this article to discharge a vast superfluity of quotation upon society.) The one word of English which Beauvallet understood was dollar. America to him, like England to Dr. Wagner, was "only to be valued for her money.” Probably he was not the only one in the Felix company (they turned out anything but a happy family in the end) who entertained the same opinion.
But Beauvallet had other qualifications. America must present to any Frenchman, seeing it for the first time, a strange contrast to his customary associations. The best educated Parisian, the most worldly-wise gentleman of the Faubourg St. Germain, must find many things to surprise, mystify, and annoy him. A country which you enter without passports, and inhabit without fogs; men who assemble in huge crowds daily, and keep order without the presence of soldiers, and almost without the presence of policemen; politicians who can support the government without being paid for it, and abuse it without being imprisoned or exiled; editors who publish without caution-money or censors; a whole society which, being perfectly free to spend its Sunday as it chooses, goes to church, instead of to a theatre or to a horserace; a population which finds baths a necessity, and an opera a superfluity; bad coffee and good cigars; spirited horses driven without half a yard of curb-bit, and gentlemen who drive them without a rear guard of two flunkies, married women who love their husbands, and who do not love indecent conversation; young girls who are not shut up in convents, but allowed to go about freely in good society — just as if every man in good society was not an unprincipled and dangerous character where women are concerned; all these things, and a thousand more, so shock his old ideas that he may well be pardoned for feeling uncomfortable.
Beauvallet was not an educated Frenchman (every educated Frenchman, now-a-days, knows a little English
unless, indeed, he happen to be a literary man,) still less a French gentleman. He was a third or fourth-rate actor, who had never attained celebrity, or filled an important role on the boards of any Parisian theatre. He had hung on the skirts of people really great in his calling; he knew some low literary men, like Roger de Beavoir (a person chiefly notorious for his perpetual squabbles and lawsuits with his wife); he had frequented second-class restaurants such as Vachette's and Bonvalet's, places much patronised by rapins out on a holiday, and the inferior grade of Lorettes, and which he apostrophizes as a real epicure might Philippe's or the Voisin. In short, he was a thorough specimen of a French Cockney and snob. He saw in the papers that “Rachel was going among the savages," and took it all for granted beforehand. His barbarian experiences begin as soon as he goes to sea. “ Eight bells” are to him the most idiotic of absurdities; the gong for dinner is absolute heathenism. The steamer pitches and rolls in the most absurd way, as if on purpose to disconcert the illustrious voyager. Still amid all his tribulations it is gratifying to find that his finer sentiments are unimpaired. We have a touching little illustration of this. The ship's calf dies, and is thrown overboard. Beauvallet bewails his untimely fate in accents of genuine sympathy.
"A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind." When the voyage was ended, B.'s troubles had only begun. By a striking manifestation of poetic justice, he who had come to bleed the Yankees falls at once into the clutches of a New York hackman, probably the most rapacious species of the genus extortioner on record, except all the inhabitants of Marseilles, and the ordinary Italian Custom House officer Douanierius Italicus, Domesticus, as Janin would say. He then goes to a French hotel, and by a natural sequence finds the American cooking very bad. As a general rule, everything American is bad, because it is different from Paris. One saving clause there is, though he will not allow even this to be such. He discovers hundreds of prostitutes. He must have felt as much at home as the Englishman who arrived in a foggy country.
The Rachel campaign is opened, and the audience buy books of the play with parallel translations. Here, of course, is an opportunity for enlarging on the ignorance of the Americans, who do not understand French sufficiently to follow a play without books.
Now to take a broad and serious view of this mighty subject, (though, to be sure, to talk of anything serious where Beauvallet is concerned is a joke in itself), the American audience did exactly what audiences of all countries do when they go do hear foreign players. The only marked exception is in the case of opera, and that simply because the stock pieces of any operatic establishment are not numerous, and are well known to the ordinary frequenters of it. When a new Italian opera of any mark appears, be it in London or Paris, there is a very general purchasing of libretti with parallel translations. The Parisians did the very same thing, too, when Ristori appeared among them; parontes oidamen (as Janin would say again), we saw it with our own eyes. The fact is, that to follow a play on the stage requires not only a knowledge of, but a very familiar acquaintance with, the language in which it is written, as any one who remembers his first visit to a German or Italian theatre can bear us witness. In many instances it requires an acquaintance with a great deal more than the language - with the habits and familiar sayings of the people. Thus no one could understand the joke in Dumas Jr.'s Demi Monde, about la tour prends garde unless he was well up in the French nursery songs.
The idea that no Americans understand French is about on a par with the almost equally prevalent one on our side that no Frenchmen understand English, while, in fact, it is very generally taught, at present, to the better classes in France. Take five young men of the Jockey Club, and it is safe betting that three of them speak tolerable English. The error on both sides has the same twofold origin; it is partly anachronism, supposing the state of things which existed two generations ago to be prolonged until the present time; and it partly arises from the unfortunate fact that a certain class of literary men in each country, who ought to be the best acquainted with each other's languages respectively, are about the worst acquainted with them of any tolerably decent classes in the two communities.
Returning to our traveller, we find him equally severe on us because Lecouvreur was spelt Lacouvreur in the play bills. Considering that the first newspapers in Paris, such as “La Presse, can rarely set up one sentence in English without making more than one blunder in spelling it; that in the Emperor's works there occur orthographical errors in English names (as we can testify from our own observation); that another illustrious person, no less than Beauvallet himself, cannot write the name of an ordinary flower in English without two mistakes; in view of all this, he need not have been quite so hard on our printers. Some one has naively asked, Could not Beauvallet have corrected the proof himself?
Pas si bete. He was not going to lose a whole paragraph of jokes on Yankee ignorance.
Certainly the setting up of French type is not the strongest point of the great Anglo-Saxon race. member a ludicrous instance which occurred in London. The French company there were bringing out Mme. de Girardin's play, La Joie fail Peur (Joy causes Fear). The printers persisted in rendering the last word Pure (Joy Makes Pure). Being much expostulated with, they made another effort, and finally printed it Puer, producing an untranslateable title which would have answered for the theatre delle Antiche Stinche at Florence.
This London version of Madame de Giradin was very possibly known to Beauvallet. It was quite current in Paris two seasons ago, and as these things circulate fast (they are precisely the sort of matters which the Parisian public is allowed to discuss and competent to understand), it might well bave gone down as low as bis set. But it wouldn't do to say anything just now against "our allies." He is very discreet in the few remarks he has to make about England. All his wrath is reserved for the New Yorkers, who did not receive (or pay) Rachel as they did Jenny Lind. “So much the worse,
says he, with an er cathedra air of Minos, Radamanthus, and Æacus, rolled into one, and a Pope thrown in, “so much the worse for the Americans." Now that the Iron Duke is dead, Jenny Lind is the greatest existing thorn in the side of the French. She is the slave in their chariot, the amari aliquid that rises up in their cups amid Sebastopol triumphs and Exhibition splendors. A great singer who won't come to Paris! They would give one of their best victories, or finest shows, to have her there, just for the pleasure of not receiving her well. It is really a national question with them; we never yet met a Frenchman, whether he had ever heard her or not, whether he knew anything about music or not, with whom it was not an article of religion that she couldn't be a great artist - it was impossible in the nature of things. Moreover, when you tell a Frenchman that part of the enthusiasm which welcomed Jenny Lind here was due to her moral antecedents, you are talking more Greek
him than all Janin's scholarship can translate. For if there is anything more incredible and impossible to a