Fifty years ago there lived at Munich a poor fellow, by name Aloys Senefelder, who was in so little repute as an author and artist, that printers and engravers refused to publish his works at their own charges, and so set him upon some plan for doing without their aid. In the first place, Aloys invented a certain kind of ink, which would resist the action of the acid that is usually employed by engravers, and with this he made his experiments upon copper-plates, as long as he could afford to purchase them. He found that to write upon the plates backwards, after the manner of engravers, required much skill and many trials; and he thought that, were he to practise upon any other polished surface — a smooth stone, for instance, the least costly article imaginable — he might spare the expense of the copper until he had sufficient skill to use it.
One day, it is said, that Aloys was called upon to write — rather a humble composition for an author and artist — a washing-bill. He had no paper at hand, and so he wrote out the bill with some of his newly-invented ink upon one of his Kelheim stones. Some time afterwards he thought he would try and take an IMPRESSION of his washing-bill: he did, and succeeded. Such is the story, which the reader most likely knows very well; and having alluded to the origin of the art, we shall not follow the stream through its windings and enlargement after it issued from the little parent rock, or fill our pages with the rest of the pedigree. Senefelder invented Lithography. His invention has not made so much noise and larum in the world as some others, which have an origin quite as humble and unromantic; but it is one to which we owe no small profit, and a great deal of pleasure; and, as such, we are bound to speak of it with all gratitude and respect. The schoolmaster, who is now abroad, has taught us, in our youth, how the cultivation of art “emollit mores nec sinit esse”—(it is needless to finish the quotation); and Lithography has been, to our thinking, the very best ally that art ever had; the best friend of the artist, allowing him to produce rapidly multiplied and authentic copies of his own works (without trusting to the tedious and expensive assistance of the engraver); and the best friend to the people likewise, who have means of purchasing these cheap and beautiful productions, and thus having their ideas “mollified” and their manners “feros” no more.
With ourselves, among whom money is plenty, enterprise so great, and everything matter of commercial speculation, Lithography has not been so much practised as wood or steel engraving; which, by the aid of great original capital and spread of sale, are able more than to compete with the art of drawing on stone. The two former may be called art done by MACHINERY. We confess to a prejudice in favor of the honest work of HAND, in matters of art, and prefer the rough workmanship of the painter to the smooth copies of his performances which are produced, for the most part, on the wood-block or the steel-plate.
The theory will possibly be objected to by many of our readers: the best proof in its favor, we think, is, that the state of art amongst the people in France and Germany, where publishers are not so wealthy or enterprising as with us,5 and where Lithography is more practised, is infinitely higher than in England, and the appreciation more correct. As draughtsmen, the French and German painters are incomparably superior to our own; and with art, as with any other commodity, the demand will be found pretty equal to the supply: with us, the general demand is for neatness, prettiness, and what is called EFFECT in pictures, and these can be rendered completely, nay, improved, by the engraver’s conventional manner of copying the artist’s performances. But to copy fine expression and fine drawing, the engraver himself must be a fine artist; and let anybody examine the host of picture-books which appear every Christmas, and say whether, for the most part, painters or engravers possess any artistic merit? We boast, nevertheless, of some of the best engravers and painters in Europe. Here, again, the supply is accounted for by the demand; our highest class is richer than any other aristocracy, quite as well instructed, and can judge and pay for fine pictures and engravings. But these costly productions are for the few, and not for the many, who have not yet certainly arrived at properly appreciating fine art.
5 These countries are, to be sure, inundated with the productions of our market, in the shape of Byron Beauties, reprints from the “Keepsakes,” “Books of Beauty,” and such trash; but these are only of late years, and their original schools of art are still flourishing.
Take the standard “Album” for instance — that unfortunate collection of deformed Zuleikas and Medoras (from the “Byron Beauties”), the Flowers, Gems, Souvenirs, Caskets of Loveliness, Beauty, as they way be called; glaring caricatures of flowers, singly, in groups, in flower-pots, or with hideous deformed little Cupids sporting among them; of what are called “mezzotinto,” pencil-drawings, “poonah-paintings,” and what not. “The Album” is to be found invariably upon the round rosewood brass-inlaid drawing-room table of the middle classes, and with a couple of “Annuals” besides, which flank it on the same table, represents the art of the house; perhaps there is a portrait of the master of the house in the dining-room, grim-glancing from above the mantel-piece; and of the mistress over the piano up stairs; add to these some odious miniatures of the sons and daughters, on each side of the chimney-glass; and here, commonly (we appeal to the reader if this is an overcharged picture), the collection ends. The family goes to the Exhibition once a year, to the National Gallery once in ten years: to the former place they have an inducement to go; there are their own portraits, or the portraits of their friends, or the portraits of public characters; and you will see them infallibly wondering over No. 2645 in the catalogue, representing “The Portrait of a Lady,” or of the “First Mayor of Little Pedlington since the passing of the Reform Bill;” or else bustling and squeezing among the miniatures, where lies the chief attraction of the Gallery. England has produced, owing to the effects of this class of admirers of art, two admirable, and five hundred very clever, portrait painters. How many ARTISTS? Let the reader count upon his five fingers, and see if, living at the present moment, he can name one for each.
If, from this examination of our own worthy middle classes, we look to the same class in France, what a difference do we find! Humble café‘s in country towns have their walls covered with pleasing picture papers, representing “Les Gloires de l’Armée Française,” the “Seasons,” the “Four Quarters of the World,” “Cupid and Psyche,” or some other allegory, landscape or history, rudely painted, as papers for walls usually are; but the figures are all tolerably well drawn; and the common taste, which has caused a demand for such things, is undeniable. In Paris, the manner in which the cafés and houses of the restaurateurs are ornamented, is, of course, a thousand times richer, and nothing can be more beautiful, or more exquisitely finished and correct, than the designs which adorn many of them. We are not prepared to say what sums were expended upon the painting of “Véry’s” or “Véfour’s,” of the “Salle Musard,” or of numberless other places of public resort in the capital. There is many a shop-keeper whose sign is a very tolerable picture; and often have we stopped to admire (the reader will give us credit for having remained OUTSIDE) the excellent workmanship of the grapes and vine-leaves over the door of some very humble, dirty, inodorous shop of a marchand de vin.
These, however, serve only to educate the public taste, and are ornaments for the most part much too costly for the people. But the same love of ornament which is shown in their public places of resort, appears in their houses likewise; and every one of our readers who has lived in Paris, in any lodging, magnificent or humble, with any family, however poor, may bear witness how profusely the walls of his smart salon in the English quarter, or of his little room au sixième in the Pays Latin, has been decorated with prints of all kinds. In the first, probably, with bad engravings on copper from the bad and tawdry pictures of the artists of the time of the Empire; in the latter, with gay caricatures of Granville or Monnier: military pieces, such as are dashed off by Raffet, Charlet, Vernet (one can hardly say which of the three designers has the greatest merit, or the most vigorous hand); or clever pictures from the crayon of the Deverias, the admirable Roqueplan, or Decamp. We have named here, we believe, the principal lithographic artists in Paris; and those — as doubtless there are many — of our readers who have looked over Monsieur Aubert’s portfolios, or gazed at that famous caricature-shop window in the Rue de Coq, or are even acquainted with the exterior of Monsieur Delaporte’s little emporium in the Burlington Arcade, need not be told how excellent the productions of all these artists are in their genre. We get in these engravings the loisirs of men of genius, not the finikin performances of labored mediocrity, as with us: all these artists are good painters, as well as good designers; a design from them is worth a whole gross of Books of Beauty; and if we might raise a humble supplication to the artists in our own country of similar merit — to such men as Leslie, Maclise, Herbert, Cattermole, and others — it would be, that they should, after the example of their French brethren and of the English landscape painters, take chalk in hand, produce their own copies of their own sketches, and never more draw a single “Forsaken One,” “Rejected One,” “Dejected One” at the entreaty of any publisher or for the pages of any Book of Beauty, Royalty, or Loveliness whatever.
Can there be a more pleasing walk in the whole world than a stroll through the Gallery of the Louvre on a fête-day; not to look so much at the pictures as at the lookers-on? Thousands of the poorer classes are there: mechanics in their Sunday clothes, smiling grisettes, smart dapper soldiers of the line, with bronzed wondering faces, marching together in little companies of six or seven, and stopping every now and then at Napoleon or Leonidas as they appear in proper vulgar heroics in the pictures of David or Gros. The taste of these people will hardly be approved by the connoisseur, but they have A taste for art. Can the same be said of our lower classes, who, if they are inclined to be sociable and amused in their holidays, have no place of resort but the tap-room or tea-garden, and no food for conversation except such as can be built upon the politics or the police reports of the last Sunday paper? So much has Church and State puritanism done for us — so well has it succeeded in materializing and binding down to the earth the imagination of men, for which God has made another world (which certain statesmen take but too little into account)— that fair and beautiful world of heart, in which there CAN be nothing selfish or sordid, of which Dulness has forgotten the existence, and which Bigotry has endeavored to shut out from sight —
“On a banni les démons et les fées,
Le raisonner tristement s’accrédite:
On court, helas! après la vérité:
Ah! croyez moi, l’erreur a son mérite!”
We are not putting in a plea here for demons and fairies, as Voltaire does in the above exquisite lines; nor about to expatiate on the beauties of error, for it has none; but the clank of steam-engines, and the shouts of politicians, and the struggle for gain or bread, and the loud denunciations of stupid bigots, have wellnigh smothered poor Fancy among us. We boast of our science, and vaunt our superior morality. Does the latter exist? In spite of all the forms which our policy has invented to secure it — in spite of all the preachers, all the meeting-houses, and all the legislative enactments — if any person will take upon himself the painful labor of purchasing and perusing some of the cheap periodical prints which form the people’s library of amusement, and contain what may be presumed to be their standard in matters of imagination and fancy, he will see how false the claim is that we bring forward of superior morality. The aristocracy who are so eager to maintain, were, of course, not the last to feel annoyance of the legislative restrictions on the Sabbath, and eagerly seized upon that happy invention for dissipating the gloom and ennui ordered by Act of Parliament to prevail on that day — the Sunday paper. It might be read in a club-room, where the poor could not see how their betters ordained one thing for the vulgar, and another for themselves; or in an easy-chair, in the study, whither my lord retires every Sunday for his devotions. It dealt in private scandal and ribaldry, only the more piquant for its pretty flimsy veil of double-entendre. It was a fortune to the publisher, and it became a necessary to the reader, which he could not do without, any more than without his snuff-box, his opera-box, or his chasse after coffee. The delightful novelty could not for any time be kept exclusively for the haut ton; and from my lord it descended to his valet or tradesmen, and from Grosvenor Square it spread all the town through; so that now the lower classes have their scandal and ribaldry organs, as well as their betters (the rogues, they WILL imitate them!) and as their tastes are somewhat coarser than my lord’s, and their numbers a thousand to one, why of course the prints have increased, and the profligacy has been diffused in a ratio exactly proportionable to the demand, until the town is infested with such a number of monstrous publications of the kind as would have put Abbé Dubois to the blush, or made Louis XV. cry shame. Talk of English morality! — the worst licentiousness, in the worst period of the French monarchy, scarcely equalled the wickedness of this Sabbath-keeping country of ours.
The reader will be glad, at last, to come to the conclusion that we would fain draw from all these descriptions — why does this immorality exist? Because the people MUST be amused, and have not been taught HOW; because the upper classes, frightened by stupid cant, or absorbed in material wants, have not as yet learned the refinement which only the cultivation of art can give; and when their intellects are uneducated, and their tastes are coarse, the tastes and amusements of classes still more ignorant must be coarse and vicious likewise, in an increased proportion.
Such discussions and violent attacks upon high and low, Sabbath Bills, politicians, and what not, may appear, perhaps, out of place in a few pages which purport only to give an account of some French drawings: all we would urge is, that, in France, these prints are made because they are liked and appreciated; with us they are not made, because they are not liked and appreciated: and the more is the pity. Nothing merely intellectual will be popular among us: we do not love beauty for beauty’s sake, as Germans; or wit, for wit’s sake, as the French: for abstract art we have no appreciation. We admire H. B.‘s caricatures, because they are the caricatures of well-known political characters, not because they are witty; and Boz, because he writes us good palpable stories (if we may use such a word to a story); and Madame Vestris, because she has the most beautifully shaped legs; — the ART of the designer, the writer, the actress (each admirable in its way,) is a very minor consideration; each might have ten times the wit, and would be quite unsuccessful without their substantial points of popularity.
In France such matters are far better managed, and the love of art is a thousand times more keen; and (from this feeling, surely) how much superiority is there in French SOCIETY over our own; how much better is social happiness understood; how much more manly equality is there between Frenchman and Frenchman, than between rich and poor in our own country, with all our superior wealth, instruction, and political freedom! There is, amongst the humblest, a gayety, cheerfulness, politeness, and sobriety, to which, in England, no class can show a parallel: and these, be it remembered, are not only qualities for holidays, but for working-days too, and add to the enjoyment of human life as much as good clothes, good beef, or good wages. If, to our freedom, we could but add a little of their happiness! — it is one, after all, of the cheapest commodities in the world, and in the power of every man (with means of gaining decent bread) who has the will or the skill to use it.
We are not going to trace the history of the rise and progress of art in France; our business, at present, is only to speak of one branch of art in that country — lithographic designs, and those chiefly of a humorous character. A history of French caricature was published in Paris, two or three years back, illustrated by numerous copies of designs, from the time of Henry III. to our own day. We can only speak of this work from memory, having been unable, in London, to procure the sight of a copy; but our impression, at the time we saw the collection, was as unfavorable as could possibly be: nothing could be more meagre than the wit, or poorer than the execution, of the whole set of drawings. Under the Empire, art, as may be imagined, was at a very low ebb; and, aping the Government of the day, and catering to the national taste and vanity, it was a kind of tawdry caricature of the sublime; of which the pictures of David and Girodet, and almost the entire collection now at the Luxembourg Palace, will give pretty fair examples. Swollen, distorted, unnatural, the painting was something like the politics of those days; with force in it, nevertheless, and something of grandeur, that will exist in spite of taste, and is born of energetic will. A man, disposed to write comparisons of characters, might, for instance, find some striking analogies between mountebank Murat, with his irresistible bravery and horsemanship, who was a kind of mixture of Dugueselin and Ducrow, and Mountebank David, a fierce, powerful painter and genius, whose idea of beauty and sublimity seemed to have been gained from the bloody melodramas on the Boulevard. Both, however, were great in their way, and were worshipped as gods, in those heathen times of false belief and hero-worship.
As for poor caricature and freedom of the press, they, like the rightful princess in a fairy tale, with the merry fantastic dwarf, her attendant, were entirely in the power of the giant who ruled the land. The Princess Press was so closely watched and guarded (with some little show, nevertheless, of respect for her rank), that she dared not utter a word of her own thoughts; and, for poor Caricature, he was gagged, and put out of the way altogether: imprisoned as completely as ever Asmodeus was in his phial.
How the Press and her attendant fared in succeeding reigns, is well known; their condition was little bettered by the downfall of Napoleon: with the accession of Charles X. they were more oppressed even than before — more than they could bear; for so hard were they pressed, that, as one has seen when sailors are working a capstan, back of a sudden the bars flew, knocking to the earth the men who were endeavoring to work them. The Revolution came, and up sprung Caricature in France; all sorts of fierce epigrams were discharged at the flying monarch, and speedily were prepared, too, for the new one.
About this time there lived at Paris (if our information be correct) a certain M. Philipon, an indifferent artist (painting was his profession), a tolerable designer, and an admirable wit. M. Philipon designed many caricatures himself, married the sister of an eminent publisher of prints (M. Aubert), and the two, gathering about them a body of wits and artists like themselves, set up journals of their own:— La Caricature, first published once a week; and the Charivari afterwards, a daily paper, in which a design also appears daily.
At first the caricatures inserted in the Charivari were chiefly political; and a most curious contest speedily commenced between the State and M. Philipon’s little army in the Galérie Véro-Dodat. Half a dozen poor artists on the one side, and his Majesty Louis Philippe, his august family, and the numberless placemen and supporters of the monarchy, on the other; it was something like Thersites girding at Ajax, and piercing through the folds of the clypei septemplicis with the poisonous shafts of his scorn. Our French Thersites was not always an honest opponent, it must be confessed; and many an attack was made upon the gigantic enemy, which was cowardly, false, and malignant. But to see the monster writhing under the effects of the arrow — to see his uncouth fury in return, and the blind blows that he dealt at his diminutive opponent! — not one of these told in a hundred; when they DID tell, it may be imagined that they were fierce enough in all conscience, and served almost to annihilate the adversary.
To speak more plainly, and to drop the metaphor of giant and dwarf, the King of the French suffered so much, his Ministers were so mercilessly ridiculed, his family and his own remarkable figure drawn with such odious and grotesque resemblance, in fanciful attitudes, circumstances, and disguises, so ludicrously mean, and often so appropriate, that the King was obliged to descend into the lists and battle his ridiculous enemy in form. Prosecutions, seizures, fines, regiments of furious legal officials, were first brought into play against poor M. Philipon and his little dauntless troop of malicious artists; some few were bribed out of his ranks; and if they did not, like Gilray in England, turn their weapons upon their old friends, at least laid down their arms, and would fight no more. The bribes, fines, indictments, and loud-tongued avocats du roi made no impression; Philipon repaired the defeat of a fine by some fresh and furious attack upon his great enemy; if his epigrams were more covert, they were no less bitter; if he was beaten a dozen times before a jury, he had eighty or ninety victories to show in the same field of battle, and every victory and every defeat brought him new sympathy. Every one who was at Paris a few years since must recollect the famous “poire” which was chalked upon all the walls of the city, and which bore so ludicrous a resemblance to Louis Philippe. The poire became an object of prosecution, and M. Philipon appeared before a jury to answer for the crime of inciting to contempt against the King’s person, by giving such a ludicrous version of his face. Philipon, for defence, produced a sheet of paper, and drew a poire, a real large Burgundy pear: in the lower parts round and capacious, narrower near the stalk, and crowned with two or three careless leaves. “There was no treason in THAT,” he said to the jury; “could any one object to such a harmless botanical representation?” Then he drew a second pear, exactly like the former, except that one or two lines were scrawled in the midst of it, which bore somehow a ludicrous resemblance to the eyes, nose, and mouth of a celebrated personage; and, lastly, he drew the exact portrait of Louis Philippe; the well-known toupet, the ample whiskers and jowl were there, neither extenuated nor set down in malice. “Can I help it, gentlemen of the jury, then,” said he, “if his Majesty’s face is like a pear? Say yourselves, respectable citizens, is it, or is it not, like a pear?” Such eloquence could not fail of its effect; the artist was acquitted, and La poire is immortal.
At last came the famous September laws: the freedom of the Press, which, from August, 1830, was to be “désormais une vérité,” was calmly strangled by the Monarch who had gained his crown for his supposed championship of it; by his Ministers, some of whom had been stout Republicans on paper but a few years before; and by the Chamber, which, such is the blessed constitution of French elections, will generally vote, unvote, revote in any way the Government wishes. With a wondrous union, and happy forgetfulness of principle, monarch, ministers, and deputies issued the restriction laws; the Press was sent to prison; as for the poor dear Caricature, it was fairly murdered. No more political satires appear now, and “through the eye, correct the heart;” no more poires ripen on the walls of the metropolis; Philipon’s political occupation is gone.
But there is always food for satire; and the French caricaturists, being no longer allowed to hold up to ridicule and reprobation the King and the deputies, have found no lack of subjects for the pencil in the ridicules and rascalities of common life. We have said that public decency is greater amongst the French than amongst us, which, to some of our readers, may appear paradoxical; but we shall not attempt to argue that, in private roguery, our neighbors are not our equals. The procès of Gisquet, which has appeared lately in the papers, shows how deep the demoralization must be, and how a Government, based itself on dishonesty (a tyranny, that is, under the title and fiction of a democracy,) must practise and admit corruption in its own and in its agents’ dealings with the nation. Accordingly, of cheating contracts, of ministers dabbling with the funds, or extracting underhand profits for the granting of unjust privileges and monopolies — of grasping, envious police restrictions, which destroy the freedom, and, with it, the integrity of commerce — those who like to examine such details may find plenty in French history: the whole French finance system has been a swindle from the days of Luvois, or Law, down to the present time. The Government swindles the public, and the small traders swindle their customers, on the authority and example of the superior powers. Hence the art of roguery, under such high patronage, maintains in France a noble front of impudence, and a fine audacious openness, which it does not wear in our country.
Among the various characters of roguery which the French satirists have amused themselves by depicting, there is one of which the GREATNESS (using the word in the sense which Mr. Jonathan Wild gave to it) so far exceeds that of all others, embracing, as it does, all in turn, that it has come to be considered the type of roguery in general; and now, just as all the political squibs were made to come of old from the lips of Pasquin, all the reflections on the prevailing cant, knavery, quackery, humbug, are put into the mouth of Monsieur Robert Macaire.
A play was written, some twenty years since, called the “Auberge des Adrets,” in which the characters of two robbers escaped from the galleys were introduced — Robert Macaire, the clever rogue above mentioned, and Bertrand, the stupid rogue, his friend, accomplice, butt, and scapegoat, on all occasions of danger. It is needless to describe the play — a witless performance enough, of which the joke was Macaire’s exaggerated style of conversation, a farrago of all sorts of high-flown sentiments such as the French love to indulge in-contrasted with his actions, which were philosophically unscrupulous, and his appearance, which was most picturesquely sordid. The play had been acted, we believe, and forgotten, when a very clever actor, M. Frederick Lemaitre, took upon himself the performance of the character of Robert Macaire, and looked, spoke, and acted it to such admirable perfection, that the whole town rung with applauses of the performance, and the caricaturists delighted to copy his singular figure and costume. M. Robert Macaire appears in a most picturesque green coat, with a variety of rents and patches, a pair of crimson pantaloons ornamented in the same way, enormous whiskers and ringlets, an enormous stock and shirt-frill, as dirty and ragged as stock and shirt-frill can be, the relic of a hat very gayly cocked over one eye, and a patch to take away somewhat from the brightness of the other — these are the principal pièces of his costume — a snuff-box like a creaking warming-pan, a handkerchief hanging together by a miracle, and a switch of about the thickness of a man’s thigh, formed the ornaments of this exquisite personage. He is a compound of Fielding’s “Blueskin” and Goldsmith’s “Beau Tibbs.” He has the dirt and dandyism of the one, with the ferocity of the other: sometimes he is made to swindle, but where he can get a shilling more, M. Macaire will murder without scruple: he performs one and the other act (or any in the scale between them) with a similar bland imperturbability, and accompanies his actions with such philosophical remarks as may be expected from a person of his talents, his energies, his amiable life and character.
Bertrand is the simple recipient of Macaire’s jokes, and makes vicarious atonement for his crimes, acting, in fact, the part which pantaloon performs in the pantomime, who is entirely under the fatal influence of clown. He is quite as much a rogue as that gentleman, but he has not his genius and courage. So, in pantomimes, (it may, doubtless, have been remarked by the reader,) clown always leaps first, pantaloon following after, more clumsily and timidly than his bold and accomplished friend and guide. Whatever blows are destined for clown, fall, by some means of ill-luck, upon the pate of pantaloon: whenever the clown robs, the stolen articles are sure to be found in his companion’s pocket; and thus exactly Robert Macaire and his companion Bertrand are made to go through the world; both swindlers, but the one more accomplished than the other. Both robbing all the world, and Robert robbing his friend, and, in the event of danger, leaving him faithfully in the lurch. There is, in the two characters, some grotesque good for the spectator — a kind of “Beggars’ Opera” moral.
Ever since Robert, with his dandified rags and airs, his cane and snuff-box, and Bertrand with torn surtout and all-absorbing pocket, have appeared on the stage, they have been popular with the Parisians; and with these two types of clever and stupid knavery, M. Philipon and his companion Daumier have created a world of pleasant satire upon all the prevailing abuses of the day.
Almost the first figure that these audacious caricaturists dared to depict was a political one: in Macaire’s red breeches and tattered coat appeared no less a personage than the King himself — the old Poire — in a country of humbugs and swindlers the facile princeps; fit to govern, as he is deeper than all the rogues in his dominions. Bertrand was opposite to him, and having listened with delight and reverence to some tale of knavery truly royal, was exclaiming with a look and voice expressive of the most intense admiration, “AH VIEUX BLAGEUR! va!”— the word blague is untranslatable — it means FRENCH humbug as distinct from all other; and only those who know the value of an epigram in France, an epigram so wonderfully just, a little word so curiously comprehensive, can fancy the kind of rage and rapture with which it was received. It was a blow that shook the whole dynasty. Thersites had there given such a wound to Ajax, as Hector in arms could scarcely have inflicted: a blow sufficient almost to create the madness to which the fabulous hero of Homer and Ovid fell a prey.
Not long, however, was French caricature allowed to attack personages so illustrious: the September laws came, and henceforth no more epigrams were launched against politics; but the caricaturists were compelled to confine their satire to subjects and characters that had nothing to do with the State. The Duke of Orleans was no longer to figure in lithography as the fantastic Prince Rosolin; no longer were multitudes (in chalk) to shelter under the enormous shadow of M. d’Argout’s nose: Marshal Loban’s squirt was hung up in peace, and M. Thiers’s pigmy figure and round spectacled face were no more to appear in print.6 Robert Macaire was driven out of the Chambers and the Palace — his remarks were a great deal too appropriate and too severe for the ears of the great men who congregated in those places.
6 Almost all the principal public men had been most ludicrously caricatured in the Charivari: those mentioned above were usually depicted with the distinctive attributes mentioned by us.
The Chambers and the Palace were shut to him; but the rogue, driven out of his rogue’s paradise, saw “that the world was all before him where to choose,” and found no lack of opportunities for exercising his wit. There was the Bar, with its roguish practitioners, rascally attorneys, stupid juries, and forsworn judges; there was the Bourse, with all its gambling, swindling, and hoaxing, its cheats and its dupes; the Medical Profession, and the quacks who ruled it, alternately; the Stage, and the cant that was prevalent there; the Fashion, and its thousand follies and extravagances. Robert Macaire had all these to exploiter. Of all the empire, through all the ranks, professions, the lies, crimes, and absurdities of men, he may make sport at will; of all except of a certain class. Like Bluebeard’s wife, he may see everything, but is bidden TO BEWARE OF THE BLUE CHAMBER. Robert is more wise than Bluebeard’s wife, and knows that it would cost him his head to enter it. Robert, therefore, keeps aloof for the moment. Would there be any use in his martyrdom? Bluebeard cannot live for ever; perhaps, even now, those are on their way (one sees a suspicious cloud of dust or two) that are to destroy him.
In the meantime Robert and his friend have been furnishing the designs that we have before us, and of which perhaps the reader will be edified by a brief description. We are not, to be sure, to judge of the French nation by M. Macaire, any more than we are to judge of our own national morals in the last century by such a book as the “Beggars’ Opera;” but upon the morals and the national manners, works of satire afford a world of light that one would in vain look for in regular books of history. Doctor Smollett would have blushed to devote any considerable portion of his pages to a discussion of the acts and character of Mr. Jonathan Wild, such a figure being hardly admissible among the dignified personages who usually push all others out from the possession of the historical page; but a chapter of that gentleman’s memoirs, as they are recorded in that exemplary recueil — the “Newgate Calendar;” nay, a canto of the great comic epic (involving many fables, and containing much exaggeration, but still having the seeds of truth) which the satirical poet of those days wrote in celebration of him — we mean Fielding’s “History of Jonathan Wild the Great”— does seem to us to give a more curious picture of the manners of those times than any recognized history of them. At the close of his history of George II., Smollett condescends to give a short chapter on Literature and Manners. He speaks of Glover’s “Leonidas,” Cibber’s “Careless Husband,” the poems of Mason, Gray, the two Whiteheads, “the nervous style, extensive erudition, and superior sense of a Corke; the delicate taste, the polished muse, and tender feeling of a Lyttelton.” “King,” he says, “shone unrivalled in Roman eloquence, the female sex distinguished themselves by their taste and ingenuity. Miss Carter rivalled the celebrated Dacier in learning and critical knowledge; Mrs. Lennox signalized herself by many successful efforts of genius both in poetry and prose; and Miss Reid excelled the celebrated Rosalba in portrait-painting, both in miniature and at large, in oil as well as in crayons. The genius of Cervantes was transferred into the novels of Fielding, who painted the characters and ridiculed the follies of life with equal strength, humor, and propriety. The field of history and biography was cultivated by many writers of ability, among whom we distinguish the copious Guthrie, the circumstantial Ralph, the laborious Carte, the learned and elegant Robertson, and above all, the ingenious, penetrating, and comprehensive Hume,” &c. &c. We will quote no more of the passage. Could a man in the best humor sit down to write a graver satire? Who cares for the tender muse of Lyttelton? Who knows the signal efforts of Mrs. Lennox’s genius? Who has seen the admirable performances, in miniature and at large, in oil as well as in crayons, of Miss Reid? Laborious Carte, and circumstantial Ralph, and copious Guthrie, where are they, their works, and their reputation? Mrs. Lennox’s name is just as clean wiped out of the list of worthies as if she had never been born; and Miss Reid, though she was once actual flesh and blood, “rival in miniature and at large” of the celebrated Rosalba, she is as if she had never been at all; her little farthing rushlight of a soul and reputation having burnt out, and left neither wick nor tallow. Death, too, has overtaken copious Guthrie and circumstantial Ralph. Only a few know whereabouts is the grave where lies laborious Carte; and yet, O wondrous power of genius! Fielding’s men and women are alive, though History’s are not. The progenitors of circumstantial Ralph sent forth, after much labor and pains of making, educating, feeding, clothing, a real man child, a great palpable mass of flesh, bones, and blood (we say nothing about the spirit), which was to move through the world, ponderous, writing histories, and to die, having achieved the title of circumstantial Ralph; and lo! without any of the trouble that the parents of Ralph had undergone, alone perhaps in a watch or spunging-house, fuddled most likely, in the blandest, easiest, and most good-humored way in the world, Henry Fielding makes a number of men and women on so many sheets of paper, not only more amusing than Ralph or Miss Reid, but more like flesh and blood, and more alive now than they. Is not Amelia preparing her husband’s little supper? Is not Miss Snapp chastely preventing the crime of Mr. Firebrand? Is not Parson Adams in the midst of his family, and Mr. Wild taking his last bowl of punch with the Newgate Ordinary? Is not every one of them a real substantial HAVE-been personage now — more real than Reid or Ralph? For our parts, we will not take upon ourselves to say that they do not exist somewhere else: that the actions attributed to them have not really taken place; certain we are that they are more worthy of credence than Ralph, who may or may not have been circumstantial; who may or may not even have existed, a point unworthy of disputation. As for Miss Reid, we will take an affidavit that neither in miniature nor at large did she excel the celebrated Rosalba; and with regard to Mrs. Lennox, we consider her to be a mere figment, like Narcissa, Miss Tabitha Bramble, or any hero or heroine depicted by the historian of “Peregrine Pickle.”
In like manner, after viewing nearly ninety portraits of Robert Macaire and his friend Bertrand, all strongly resembling each other, we are inclined to believe in them as historical personages, and to canvass gravely the circumstances of their lives. Why should we not? Have we not their portraits? Are not they sufficient proofs? If not, we must discredit Napoleon (as Archbishop Whately teaches), for about his figure and himself we have no more authentic testimony.
Let the reality of M. Robert Macaire and his friend M. Bertrand be granted, if but to gratify our own fondness for those exquisite characters: we find the worthy pair in the French capital, mingling with all grades of its society, pars magna in the intrigues, pleasures, perplexities, rogueries, speculations, which are carried on in Paris, as in our own chief city; for it need not be said that roguery is of no country nor clime, but finds [Greek text omitted], is a citizen of all countries where the quarters are good; among our merry neighbors it finds itself very much at its ease.
Not being endowed, then, with patrimonial wealth, but compelled to exercise their genius to obtain distinction, or even subsistence, we see Messrs. Bertrand and Macaire, by turns, adopting all trades and professions, and exercising each with their own peculiar ingenuity. As public men, we have spoken already of their appearance in one or two important characters, and stated that the Government grew fairly jealous of them, excluding them from office, as the Whigs did Lord Brougham. As private individuals, they are made to distinguish themselves as the founders of journals, sociétés en commandite (companies of which the members are irresponsible beyond the amount of their shares), and all sorts of commercial speculations, requiring intelligence and honesty on the part of the directors, confidence and liberal disbursements from the shareholders.
These are, among the French, so numerous, and have been of late years (in the shape of Newspaper Companies, Bitumen Companies, Galvanized-Iron Companies, Railroad Companies, &c.) pursued with such a blind FUROR and lust of gain, by that easily excited and imaginative people, that, as may be imagined, the satirist has found plenty of occasion for remark, and M. Macaire and his friend innumerable opportunities for exercising their talents.
We know nothing of M. Emile de Girardin, except that, in a duel, he shot the best man in France, Armaud Carrel; and in Girardin’s favor it must be said, that he had no other alternative; but was right in provoking the duel, seeing that the whole Republican party had vowed his destruction, and that he fought and killed their champion, as it were. We know nothing of M. Girardin’s private character: but, as far as we can judge from the French public prints, he seems to be the most speculative of speculators, and, of course, a fair butt for the malice of the caricaturists. His one great crime, in the eyes of the French Republicans and Republican newspaper proprietors, was, that Girardin set up a journal, as he called it, “franchement monarchique,”— a journal in the pay of the monarchy, that is — and a journal that cost only forty francs by the year. The National costs twice as much; the Charivari itself costs half as much again; and though all newspapers, of all parties, concurred in “snubbing” poor M. Girardin and his journal, the Republican prints, were by far the most bitter against him, thundering daily accusations and personalities; whether the abuse was well or ill founded, we know not. Hence arose the duel with Carrel; after the termination of which, Girardin put by his pistol, and vowed, very properly, to assist in the shedding of no more blood. Girardin had been the originator of numerous other speculations besides the journal: the capital of these, like that of the journal, was raised by shares, and the shareholders, by some fatality, have found themselves wofully in the lurch; while Girardin carries on the war gayly, is, or was, a member of the Chamber of Deputies, has money, goes to Court, and possesses a certain kind of reputation. He invented, we believe, the “Institution Agronome de Coetbo,”7 the “Physionotype,” the “Journal des Connoissances Utiles,” the “Pantheon Littéraire,” and the system of “Primes”— premiums, that is — to be given, by lottery, to certain subscribers in these institutions. Could Robert Macaire see such things going on, and have no hand in them?
7 It is not necessary to enter into descriptions of these various inventions.
Accordingly Messrs. Macaire and Bertrand are made the heroes of many speculations of the kind. In almost the first print of our collection, Robert discourses to Bertrand of his projects. “Bertrand,” says the disinterested admirer of talent and enterprise, “j’adore l’industrie. Si tu veux nous créons une banque, mais là, une vraie banque: capital cent millions de millions, cent milliards de milliards d’actions. Nous enfonçons la banque de France, les banquiers, les banquistes; nous enfonçons tout le monde.” “Oui,” says Bertrand, very calm and stupid, “mais les gendarmes?” “Que tu es bête, Bertrand: est-ce qu’on arrête un millionaire?” Such is the key to M. Macaire’s philosophy; and a wise creed too, as times go.
Acting on these principles, Robert appears soon after; he has not created a bank, but a journal. He sits in a chair of state, and discourses to a shareholder. Bertrand, calm and stupid as before, stands humbly behind. “Sir,” says the editor of La Blague, journal quotidienne, “our profits arise from a new combination. The journal costs twenty francs; we sell it for twenty-three and a half. A million subscribers make three millions and a half of profits; there are my figures; contradict me by figures, or I will bring an action for libel.” The reader may fancy the scene takes place in England, where many such a swindling prospectus has obtained credit ere now. At Plate 33, Robert is still a journalist; he brings to the editor of a paper an article of his composition, a violent attack on a law. “My dear M. Macaire,” says the editor, “this must be changed; we must PRAISE this law.” “Bon, bon!” says our versatile Macaire. “Je vais retoucher ça, et je vous fais en faveur de la loi UN ARTICLE MOUSSEUX.”
Can such things be? Is it possible that French journalists can so forget themselves? The rogues! they should come to England and learn consistency. The honesty of the Press in England is like the air we breathe, without it we die. No, no! in France, the satire may do very well; but for England it is too monstrous. Call the press stupid, call it vulgar, call it violent — but honest it is. Who ever heard of a journal changing its politics? O tempora! O mores! as Robert Macaire says, this would be carrying the joke too far.
When he has done with newspapers, Robert Macaire begins to distinguish himself on ‘Change,8 as a creator of companies, a vender of shares, or a dabbler in foreign stock. “Buy my coal-mine shares,” shouts Robert; “gold mines, silver mines, diamond mines, ‘sont de la pot-bouille de la ratatouille en comparaison de ma houille.’” “Look,” says he, on another occasion, to a very timid, open-countenanced client, “you have a property to sell! I have found the very man, a rich capitalist, a fellow whose bills are better than bank-notes.” His client sells; the bills are taken in payment, and signed by that respectable capitalist, Monsieur de Saint Bertrand. At Plate 81, we find him inditing a circular letter to all the world, running thus: “Sir — I regret to say that your application for shares in the Consolidated European Incombustible Blacking Association cannot be complied with, as all the shares of the C. E. I. B. A. were disposed of on the day they were issued. I have, nevertheless, registered your name, and in case a second series should be put forth, I shall have the honor of immediately giving you notice. I am, sir, yours, &c., the Director, Robert Macaire.”—“Print 300,000 of these,” he says to Bertrand, “and poison all France with them.” As usual, the stupid Bertrand remonstrates —“But we have not sold a single share; you have not a penny in your pocket, and”—“Bertrand, you are an ass; do as I bid you.”
8 We have given a description of a genteel Macaire in the account of M. de Bernard’s novels.
Will this satire apply anywhere in England? Have we any Consolidated European Blacking Associations amongst us? Have we penniless directors issuing El Dorado prospectuses, and jockeying their shares through the market? For information on this head, we must refer the reader to the newspapers; or if he be connected with the city, and acquainted with commercial men, he will be able to say whether ALL the persons whose names figure at the head of announcements of projected companies are as rich as Rothschild, or quite as honest as heart could desire.
When Macaire has sufficiently exploité the Bourse, whether as a gambler in the public funds or other companies, he sagely perceives that it is time to turn to some other profession, and, providing himself with a black gown, proposes blandly to Bertrand to set up — a new religion. “Mon ami,” says the repentant sinner, “le temps de la commandite va passer, MAIS LES BADAUDS NE PASSERONT PAS.” (O rare sentence! it should be written in letters of gold!) “OCCUPONS NOUS DE CE QUI EST ÉTERNEL. Si nous fassions une réligion?” On which M. Bertrand remarks, “A religion! what the devil — a religion is not an easy thing to make.” But Macaire’s receipt is easy. “Get a gown, take a shop,” he says, “borrow some chairs, preach about Napoleon, or the discovery of America, or Molière — and there’s a religion for you.”
We have quoted this sentence more for the contrast it offers with our own manners, than for its merits. After the noble paragraph, “Les badauds ne passeront pas. Occupons nous de ce qui est éternel,” one would have expected better satire upon cant than the words that follow. We are not in a condition to say whether the subjects chosen are those that had been selected by Père Enfantin, or Chatel, or Lacordaire; but the words are curious, we think, for the very reason that the satire is so poor. The fact is, there is no religion in Paris; even clever M. Philipon, who satirizes everything, and must know, therefore, some little about the subject which he ridicules, has nothing to say but, “Preach a sermon, and that makes a religion; anything will do.” If ANYTHING will do, it is clear that the religious commodity is not in much demand. Tartuffe had better things to say about hypocrisy in his time; but then Faith was alive; now, there is no satirizing religious cant in France, for its contrary, true religion, has disappeared altogether; and having no substance, can cast no shadow. If a satirist would lash the religious hypocrites in ENGLAND now — the High Church hypocrites, the Low Church hypocrites, the promiscuous Dissenting hypocrites, the No Popery hypocrites — he would have ample subject enough. In France, the religious hypocrites went out with the Bourbons. Those who remain pious in that country (or, rather, we should say, in the capital, for of that we speak,) are unaffectedly so, for they have no worldly benefit to hope for from their piety; the great majority have no religion at all, and do not scoff at the few, for scoffing is the minority’s weapon, and is passed always to the weaker side, whatever that may be. Thus H. B. caricatures the Ministers: if by any accident that body of men should be dismissed from their situations, and be succeeded by H. B.‘s friends, the Tories — what must the poor artist do? He must pine away and die, if he be not converted; he cannot always be paying compliments; for caricature has a spice of Goethe’s Devil in it, and is “der Geist der stets verneint,” the Spirit that is always denying.
With one or two of the French writers and painters of caricatures, the King tried the experiment of bribery; which succeeded occasionally in buying off the enemy, and bringing him from the republican to the royal camp; but when there, the deserter was never of any use. Figaro, when so treated, grew fat and desponding, and lost all his sprightly VERVE; and Nemesis became as gentle as a Quakeress. But these instances of “ratting” were not many. Some few poets were bought over; but, among men following the profession of the press, a change of politics is an infringement of the point of honor, and a man must FIGHT as well as apostatize. A very curious table might be made, signalizing the difference of the moral standard between us and the French. Why is the grossness and indelicacy, publicly permitted in England, unknown in France, where private morality is certainly at a lower ebb? Why is the point of private honor now more rigidly maintained among the French? Why is it, as it should be, a moral disgrace for a Frenchman to go into debt, and no disgrace for him to cheat his customer? Why is there more honesty and less — more propriety and less? — and how are we to account for the particular vices or virtues which belong to each nation in its turn?
The above is the Reverend M. Macaire’s solitary exploit as a spiritual swindler: as MAÎTRE Macaire in the courts of law, as avocat, avoué— in a humbler capacity even, as a prisoner at the bar, he distinguishes himself greatly, as may be imagined. On one occasion we find the learned gentleman humanely visiting an unfortunate détenu — no other person, in fact, than his friend M. Bertrand, who has fallen into some trouble, and is awaiting the sentence of the law. He begins —
“Mon cher Bertrand, donne moi cent écus, je te fais acquitter d’emblée.”
“J’ai pas d’argent.”
“Hé bien, donne moi cent francs.”
“Pas le sou.”
“Tu n’as pas dix francs?”
“Pas un liard.”
“Alors donne moi tes bottes, je plaiderai la circonstance atténuante.”
The manner in which Maitre Macaire soars from the cent écus (a high point already) to the sublime of the boots, is in the best comic style. In another instance he pleads before a judge, and, mistaking his client, pleads for defendant, instead of plaintiff. “The infamy of the plaintiff’s character, my LUDS, renders his testimony on such a charge as this wholly unavailing.” “M. Macaire, M. Macaire,” cries the attorney, in a fright, “you are for the plaintiff!” “This, my lords, is what the defendant WILL SAY. This is the line of defence which the opposite party intend to pursue; as if slanders like these could weigh with an enlightened jury, or injure the spotless reputation of my client!” In this story and expedient M. Macaire has been indebted to the English bar. If there be an occupation for the English satirist in the exposing of the cant and knavery of the pretenders to religion, what room is there for him to lash the infamies of the law! On this point the French are babes in iniquity compared to us — a counsel prostituting himself for money is a matter with us so stale, that it is hardly food for satire: which, to be popular, must find some much more complicated and interesting knavery whereon to exercise its skill.
M. Macaire is more skilful in love than in law, and appears once or twice in a very amiable light while under the influence of the tender passion. We find him at the head of one of those useful establishments unknown in our country — a Bureau de Mariage: half a dozen of such places are daily advertised in the journals: and “une veuve de trente ans ayant une fortune de deux cent mille francs,” or “une demoiselle de quinze aus, jolie, d’une famille très distinguée, qui possède trente mille livres de rentes,”— continually, in this kind-hearted way, are offering themselves to the public: sometimes it is a gentleman, with a “physique agréable — des talens de société"— and a place under Government, who makes a sacrifice of himself in a similar manner. In our little historical gallery we find this philanthropic anti-Malthusian at the head of an establishment of this kind, introducing a very meek, simple-looking bachelor to some distinguished ladies of his connoissance. “Let me present you, sir, to Madame de St. Bertrand” (it is our old friend), “veuve de la grande armée, et Mdlle Eloa de Wormspire. Ces dames brûlent de l’envie de faire votre connoissance. Je les ai invitées à dîner chez vous ce soir: vous nous menerez à l’opéra, et nous ferons une petite partie d’écarté. Tenez vous bien, M. Gobard! ces dames ont des projets sur vous!”
Happy Gobard! happy system, which can thus bring the pure and loving together, and acts as the best ally of Hymen! The announcement of the rank and titles of Madame de St. Bertrand — “veuve de la grande armée”— is very happy. “La grande armée” has been a father to more orphans, and a husband to more widows, than it ever made. Mistresses of cafés, old governesses, keepers of boarding-houses, genteel beggars, and ladies of lower rank still, have this favorite pedigree. They have all had malheurs (what kind it is needless to particularize), they are all connected with the grand homme, and their fathers were all colonels. This title exactly answers to the “clergyman’s daughter” in England — as, “A young lady, the daughter of a clergyman, is desirous to teach,” &c. “A clergyman’s widow receives into her house a few select,” and so forth. “Appeal to the benevolent. — By a series of unheard-of calamities, a young lady, daughter of a clergyman in the west of England, has been plunged,” &c. &c. The difference is curious, as indicating the standard of respectability.
The male beggar of fashion is not so well known among us as in Paris, where street-doors are open; six or eight families live in a house; and the gentleman who earns his livelihood by this profession can make half a dozen visits without the trouble of knocking from house to house, and the pain of being observed by the whole street, while the footman is examining him from the area. Some few may be seen in England about the inns of court, where the locality is favorable (where, however, the owners of the chambers are not proverbially soft of heart, so that the harvest must be poor); but Paris is full of such adventurers — fat, smooth-tongued, and well dressed, with gloves and gilt-headed canes, who would be insulted almost by the offer of silver, and expect your gold as their right. Among these, of course, our friend Robert plays his part; and an excellent engraving represents him, snuff-box in hand, advancing to an old gentleman, whom, by his poodle, his powdered head, and his drivelling, stupid look, one knows to be a Carlist of the old régime. “I beg pardon,” says Robert; “is it really yourself to whom I have the honor of speaking?”—“It is.” “Do you take snuff?”—“I thank you.”—“Sir, I have had misfortunes — I want assistance. I am a Vendéan of illustrious birth. You know the family of Macairbec — we are of Brest. My grandfather served the King in his galleys; my father and I belong, also, to the marine. Unfortunate suits at law have plunged us into difficulties, and I do not hesitate to ask you for the succor of ten francs.”—“Sir, I never give to those I don’t know.”—“Right, sir, perfectly right. Perhaps you will have the kindness to LEND me ten francs?”
The adventures of Doctor Macaire need not be described, because the different degrees in quackery which are taken by that learned physician are all well known in England, where we have the advantage of many higher degrees in the science, which our neighbors know nothing about. We have not Hahnemann, but we have his disciples; we have not Broussais, but we have the College of Health; and surely a dose of Morrison’s pills is a sublimer discovery than a draught of hot water. We had St. John Long, too — where is his science? — and we are credibly informed that some important cures have been effected by the inspired dignitaries of “the church” in Newman Street which, if it continue to practise, will sadly interfere with the profits of the regular physicians, and where the miracles of the Abbé of Paris are about to be acted over again.
In speaking of M. Macaire and his adventures, we have managed so entirely to convince ourselves of the reality of the personage, that we have quite forgotten to speak of Messrs. Philipon and Daumier, who are, the one the inventor, the other the designer, of the Macaire Picture Gallery. As works of esprit, these drawings are not more remarkable than they are as works of art, and we never recollect to have seen a series of sketches possessing more extraordinary cleverness and variety. The countenance and figure of Macaire and the dear stupid Bertrand are preserved, of course, with great fidelity throughout; but the admirable way in which each fresh character is conceived, the grotesque appropriateness of Robert’s every successive attitude and gesticulation, and the variety of Bertrand’s postures of invariable repose, the exquisite fitness of all the other characters, who act their little part and disappear from the scene, cannot be described on paper, or too highly lauded. The figures are very carelessly drawn; but, if the reader can understand us, all the attitudes and limbs are perfectly CONCEIVED, and wonderfully natural and various. After pondering over these drawings for some hours, as we have been while compiling this notice of them, we have grown to believe that the personages are real, and the scenes remain imprinted on the brain as if we had absolutely been present at their acting. Perhaps the clever way in which the plates are colored, and the excellent effect which is put into each, may add to this illusion. Now, in looking, for instance, at H. B.‘s slim vapory figures, they have struck us as excellent LIKENESSES of men and women, but no more: the bodies want spirit, action, and individuality. George Cruikshank, as a humorist, has quite as much genius, but he does not know the art of “effect” so well as Monsieur Daumier; and, if we might venture to give a word of advice to another humorous designer, whose works are extensively circulated — the illustrator of “Pickwick” and “Nicholas Nickleby,”— it would be to study well these caricatures of Monsieur Daumier; who, though he executes very carelessly, knows very well what he would express, indicates perfectly the attitude and identity of his figure, and is quite aware, beforehand, of the effect which he intends to produce. The one we should fancy to be a practised artist, taking his ease; the other, a young one, somewhat bewildered: a very clever one, however, who, if he would think more, and exaggerate less, would add not a little to his reputation.
Having pursued, all through these remarks, the comparison between English art and French art, English and French humor, manners, and morals, perhaps we should endeavor, also, to write an analytical essay on English cant or humbug, as distinguished from French. It might be shown that the latter was more picturesque and startling, the former more substantial and positive. It has none of the poetic flights of the French genius, but advances steadily, and gains more ground in the end than its sprightlier compeer. But such a discussion would carry us through the whole range of French and English history, and the reader has probably read quite enough of the subject in this and the foregoing pages.
We shall, therefore, say no more of French and English caricatures generally, or of Mr. Macaire’s particular accomplishments and adventures. They are far better understood by examining the original pictures, by which Philipon and Daumier have illustrated them, than by translations first into print and afterwards into English. They form a very curious and instructive commentary upon the present state of society in Paris, and a hundred years hence, when the whole of this struggling, noisy, busy, merry race shall have exchanged their pleasures or occupations for a quiet coffin (and a tawdry lying epitaph) at Montmartre, or Père la Chaise; when the follies here recorded shall have been superseded by new ones, and the fools now so active shall have given up the inheritance of the world to their children: the latter will, at least, have the advantage of knowing, intimately and exactly, the manners of life and being of their grandsires, and calling up, when they so choose it, our ghosts from the grave, to live, love, quarrel, swindle, suffer, and struggle on blindly as of yore. And when the amused speculator shall have laughed sufficiently at the immensity of our follies, and the paltriness of our aims, smiled at our exploded superstitions, wondered how this man should be considered great, who is now clean forgotten (as copious Guthrie before mentioned); how this should have been thought a patriot who is but a knave spouting commonplace; or how that should have been dubbed a philosopher who is but a dull fool, blinking solemn, and pretending to see in the dark; when he shall have examined all these at his leisure, smiling in a pleasant contempt and good-humored superiority, and thanking heaven for his increased lights, he will shut the book, and be a fool as his fathers were before him.
It runs in the blood. Well hast thou said, O ragged Macaire — “Le jour va passer, MAIS LES BADAUDS NE PASSERONT PAS.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55