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