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VILLIERS

de lisle

ADAM

HIS LIFE

AND WORKS

VILLIERS DE l'iSLE ADAM.

VILLIERS

de

I'lsle

ADAM

HIS LIFE

AND WORKS

from the French of

Vicomte Robert du Pontavice de Heussey

By Lady Mary Loyd

London
William Heinemann
MDCCCXCIV

LF V757
EL 28819

2.1.%. S(^

All rights

reserved.

TO

THE EVER BLESSED MEMORY OF THE UNKNOWN INDIVIDUAL WHO FIRST INTRODUCED ME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE FRENCH LANGUAGE,
IS

THIS TRANSLATION GRATEFULLY DEDICATED

BY MARY LOYD.

TO THE READER.

I^^^^HE

writings of Villiers de I'lsle

Adam

are so

little
it

known

in this

country, that

may

not be out

of place, before the adventurous

reader embarks on the perusal of the follow-

ing recollerions, to endeavour, in the most


cursory manner, to give
ing them.

some
satire

details concern-

The most
radiant

stinging
;

and the most


of

fancy

the keenest appreciation

nature, especially in her gloomier

and more

mysterious moods, and a constant endeavour


to enforce the

immutable truths of religion


results
all

and morality, and the inevitable


their

of
his

contravention,

run

through

stories.

And

nothing more genuinely witty

can be imagined than some of his sketches

viii

TO THE READER.
more
life.

of the
Parisian

peculiarly

Bohemian

side

of

The
its

charaleristic of Villiers'

work which must


dent most,
is

strike the thoughtful stu-

magnificent thoroughness.
tales bears the impress, not

Every one of his


conscientious

only of laborious preparation, but of the most


elaboration.

So

that

every

word, as

it

finally stands, is indispensable to

the true comprehension of the author's meaning.

And

this

meaning, again,
satire,

is

almost

always of the highest; the

grave or gay,

good-humoured or severe, always tending to the support of what is true and noble, and to the punishment (or, at all events, the discountenance) " of wickedness and vice."

The

poet's

immediate friends

may have

blamed and deplored the extreme Bohemianism into which his needy circumstances drove
him.

We, who

inherit the result of his lifein

work

work accomplished
for

the face of

constant difficulty and discouragement

can

have no room
for the

any

feeling but admiration

man who never


it

published a line with-

out giving

the highest polish he

was capable

of imparting.

TO THE READER.

ix

No modern
perhaps,
of

writer,

with

the

exception,

Edgar Poe, whom Villiers so passionately admired, has his power of dignifying the horrible. And none, I believe (not even Pierre Loti, that master of the art of
portraying nature, to the extent of making
his readers alually feel the heat of the

sun

and the damp of the fog he

describes), excels

him

in calling up,

and

in the fewest words,

the beauty of an

autumn

sunset, the dreariness

of a wild winter night, the horror of a long


corridor in one of the prisons of the Spanish
Inquisition,^ or the exotic

bloom of

certain

phases of existence in Paris.^


say, is the soul of wit.

Brevity, they

Truly, in this case,


it is

brevity
easy,

is

the strength of style, and


first

not

on a

perusal, to realize the conthis

centrated

power

same well-considered
de
I'lsle

brevity gives to that of Villiers

Adam.

Of
is

his life
in

will

say nothing.

Its story

unfolded
^

the pages which succeed this


l'Esprance."
dernires
Ftes,"

"

La Torture par

'

"Le Convive

des

"Antonia,"

" L'Enjeu."

TO THE READER.

note.

sad enough

story

it

is,

full

of

struggle and failure, of brilliant hopes and


bitter

deceptions.

The

history of a great

soul, full of that peculiar simplicity

and un-

fitness for

coping with everyday cares which


;

so often accompany genius

and with that

sad and too

common

close, so eternally dis-

honouring to the public which turns a deaf


ear to the living charmer,

charm he never so

wisely

death

in

an hospital ward, followed

by pseans of admiration when the brave heart that had vainly ached for just one responsive throb was stilled in the silence
of the grave.

There

is

a growing interest

among

culti-

vated people on this side of the Channel in


the extraordinary development of literature
in
I

its

most

brilliant

form on the other, and


this sketch of the life

feel

convinced that

and works of one who, negleled and depreciated as he was to within a few months
of his premature death by
few,
is

all

but a selel

now acclaimed

as one of the chief

glories of
heartily

modern literary France, will be welcomed by the many sympathetic

TO THE READER.

XI

English admirers of our gifted neighbours,

and that the knowledge they may thereby


acquire of the great French writer's
life

and

labour will inspire them with a desire to be-

come acquainted with the remarkable group


of tales,
plays,

and novels on which

his

reputation rests.

Mary

Loyd,

3[n

^emonam.

HE

author of the following recol-

lerions has passed into the silent

country while the sheets of this


translation
for

were being

prepared

the press.

The thought

that his

book

was about to be presented to the English


public helped to cheer the last

months of a

long and trying


I

illness.

And

to that public

submit these pages,

in the confident belief

that those

who have

the patience to read

them

will

share

my

admiration for the grace-

ful talent

of their author, and will regret with

me

that one

spared,

who might yet, if he had been have done much invaluable work in
and
literary research,

literature

should have

been cut
his days."

off prematurely,

"in the flower of

Eequi0cat in pace.

CONTENTS.
CHAPTER
First
I.

meeting
old

Family

ties

Illustrious

origin

of

Villiers

Genealogy of the family of L'Isle Adam


Emigrs Good King Louis XVIII.
Villiers

The

the family

Motto and coat-of-arms of The Cur of Ploumilliau the parsonage " LTntersigne His parents Genealogy of the De Carfort Aunt Kerinou of the Marquis de ITsle Adam His golden dream The inheritance seeker
and M. de
Villiers at
"

Peculiarities

The

treasure seeker

CHAPTER
Birth of Villiers de ITsle

II.

Adam His baptism His childhood Stolen by mountebanks School life St. Brieuc LavalRennes His first poem His early portrait " L'Amour et la Mort " Elegy Literary plans Family devotion and tenderness " Our Matthias " Departure for

Paris


xvi

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER
Paris

III.
PAGK
in literature

The reign of the common-place The poets The defenders of the Beautiful "Le Parnasse Contemporain" "Les Parnassiens" Catulle Mends and the "Revue FanTriumphal entry of de ITsle Poems Friendships Stphane Adam Mallarm and Lon Dierx " Claire Lenoir Appearance of Dr. Triboulat Bonhomet A few
taisiste "

Villiers

First

"

words touching this personage " Le Roman d'une Nuit," by Catulle Mends Death of the " Revue Fantaisiste " The Blue Dragon Hotel The Rue de Douai Villiers de I'Isle Adam,

according to Franois Coppe

37

CHAPTER
Early influences

IV.
father

Charles Baudelaire My Their intimacy The Htel d'Orlans Literary and philosophical and the gatherings Lon Cladel The Princess Hegelian philosophy " Tullia Fabriana Preface Eccentricities of The of Do6lor Bonhomet Do6lor C. "Ellen" and "Morgane" Sensations of Adam conloneliness The Marquis de Paris the course of tinues poisoner, Comte operationsThe the PommeraisThe apartment Courty de Kerinou Aunt marquis Honor The Rue Matthew's decorations His
relations with Villiers
Villiers
Isis

"

style

original

I'Isle

at

his

profitable

financial

la

in

St.

52


CONTENTS.
xvii

CHAPTER
The legend
to

V.
PAGE

The succession de ITsle Adam the throne of Greece the throne " Le Lion de a candidate Numidie " The Moor of Venice Nemesis An imperial audienceThe Marquis and Baron Rothschild The Due de Bassano and
of the hoaxer hoaxed
Villiers
for " "

Villiers

de ITsle

AdamThe

last

ad

of the

comedy A
Kerinou

poet's conclusion

Death
VI.

of

Aunt
7

Separation
CHAPTER

My

return to

search
stages

Paris The Htel d'Orlans My Our reunion The earlier of his lawsuit The historical drama of
for Villiers

"Perrinet
the Porte

Leclerc" Paul
St.

Clves,

dire6lor

of

Martin Theatre The Marchal Jean de I'lsle Adam, according to Messrs. Lockroy and Anicet Bourgeois Villiers' fury

Intervention of cation A duel arranged Settlement on the ground Result of the alion Biographer's reservations Documentary evidence ....
Letters to the press

randum

summons A memoM. de Villiers Provo-

87

CHAPTER

VII.

Le Pin Galant, near Bordeaux Arrival of Villiers with his play "The New World" The Ameri.

can centenary competition The chara6ler of Mrs. Andrews The legend of Ralph Evandale

116


CONTENTS.

CHAPTER
Villiers'

VIII,
PAGE

rage against the


at the

members of

the jury

Dramatic scene

house of Vilor

Hugo

Villiers leaves Paris

The

Bordeaux theatres
Mdlle.

Godefrin, direcSlor of the Thtre Franais


extraordinary reading

Little

Aime

An
131

Madame Aime

Tessandier

CHAPTER
Restful days
fair

IX.
Villiers

life

The and the Talks about bygone days Charles Baudelaire His true nature His strange homeJeanne Duval Edgar Poe Richard Wagner " Axel The Cabala and the occult sciences religious sentiments Quotations " L'Eve Future
real Villiers

sex

"

Villiers'

"

144

CHAPTER
A

X.

metamorphosis An ambitious pastry-cook Appearance of the newspaper, *' La Croix et l'Epe " Its political, artistic, and literary programme Lord E His strange suicide The wax figure A nolurnal conversation The American engineer and his master, Edison First conception of "L'Eve Future" Villiers de I'Isle Adam and Thomas Alva Edison

157


CONTENTS.

A
XIX

CHAPTER XL
Villiers'

absent-mindedness
later

ness

despair

justification
culties

His departure from Bordeaux Godefrin's A year Bohemian poverty Want of money His pride His conscientiousand the young ness Drumont's book manner of JewA good answer of dayHis midnight wanderings His and Anatole France
Villiers'
diffi-

His

PAGE
terrible careless-

artistic

Villiers

Villiers'

life

dislike

light

Villiers

165

CHAPTER Xn.
1879 The Rue des Martyrs and the Rue Rochechouart The poet's room His extraordinary indifference Lon Dierx " La Dvoue "


in

Strange

habits

Villiers

the

street

Montmartre Nodlurnal declamations Villiers as a composer Two operas, " Esmeralda " and " Prometheus " Melomania
Boulevard

The

Villiers

as a

musical

performer A
Xin.

strange

couple

178

CHAPTER
First introdudlion

of Wagner and Villiers at the

house of Charles Baudelaire Failure of "Tannhauser" at the Paris Opera in 1861 Portrait and charaler of Richard Wagner His friends

and champions

His

intimacy with Villiers


XX

CONTENTS.
PAGE

The
ITsle

Reminiscences of Augusta Holmes

his

youth and early poverty Villiers' visit to Triebchen

"Rheingold" at Munich Villiers de Adam's artistic confession of faith


.
. .

202

CHAPTER

XIV.
Villiers' filial ten-

The marquis and the marquise derness A monomania for speculation

"

from the marquis


press

"La Rpublique des K. Huysmans Catulle Mends Lettres The "Contes Cruels" Two quotations A study by of His high as a talker and a mimic M. G. Guiches of Dr. Triboulat Some unpublished Bonhomet Bonhomet the commander-in-chief Bonhomet the ermine-hunter Bonhomet the of the Scriptures Bonhomet's Bayreuth The true adventures Adam An unopinions of de A rupture expedled

The

letter

Villiers' contributions to

the

"Figaro"

J.

Villiers'

spirits

loss

illusion

Villiers

traits

ful-

filling

letter

.at

political

Villiers

I'lsle

toast

219

CHAPTER
Fragments of a journal kept
fashion bewitched
in

XV.

1879

-^

woman

of

Villiers

and Mar Yvonne

mystery

of the Conseil Gnral

Meetings

My

Opinions of the pressThe plans of the future councillor departure from Paris Our separation
.

Villiers

a candidate at the eletions

Description of Villiers in 1880 by G. Guiches

237


CONTENTS.

xxi

CHAPTER
Closing years
Little

XVI.
PAGE
Villiers'

Birth

of a son

Totor and his father Cruels" Appearance of "L'Eve Future" in the "Gaulois"The "Vie Moderne" The murderous treatment of the " Nouveau Monde " at the Thtre des Nations The deaths of the marquis and the marquise J. K. Huysmans His opinion of Villiers' work " A Rebours " "Triboulat Bonhomet " " Propos d'au-del"

"Contes

widow Success of the

" L'Amour Supreme " Akdysseril " L'Eve Future Ledtures Belgium Return " Histoires Insolites to Paris Prosperity " Nouveaux Contes Cruels " Axel Sickness Letter from K. Huysmans, detailing the moments and the death of Con"

"

"

in

"

"

"

J.

last

Villiers

clusion

251

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VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

First

CHAPTER meeting Family origin of Genealogy of the family of L'Isle AdamThe old Emigrs Good King Louis XVIII. and M. de Motto and coat-of-arms of the family The Cur of Ploumilliau the parsonage "L'Intersigne" His Parents Genealogy of the De Carforts Aunt Kerinou Peculiarities of the Marquis de ITsle Adam His golden dream The inheritance seeker The treasure seeker. NE Thursday morning in NovemI.
ties

Illustrious

Villiers

Villiers

Villiers at

ber,

1858,

was

in

the dining-

room
and
solitary
;

of

my
I

father's

house

at

Fougres.

was eating
I

my

sad

luncheon under the eye of a cross

old nurse

and

my

heart swelled as

looked

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


sun outside the window-

at the cheerful winter

panes,

and thought of
leafless

my

brothers,

more
pilu-

fortunate than myself,

who were

frolicking

through the

woods which so
lived, in

resquely crown the village of St. Germain.

There

my grandfather

an old manor-

house amongst the

trees,

and every Thurs-

day, according to custom,

my

family spent the


I

day with him.

This time

had been

left

behind, as a punishment for

some childish misdemeanour or some ill-learnt lesson. Suddenly I heard the rumble of a carriage
on the rough pavement of our
street,
I

gene-

rally as silent as the grave,

and soon

saw a
I

hired

chaise

stop

before

our windows.

know when

not

why my

heart began to beat so fast

the bell (pulled


noisily.

by a vigorous hand)
after,

clanged

moment

the door

of the dining-room opened, and a

fair

young

man
furs,

with a large head, and wrapped in rich

rushed

in like

a whirlwind.

He vaulted
I

lightly over the table at

which
I

and
from

lifting

me

up, before

was sitting, had recovered

my

astonishment, he kissed

saying, "

Good

day,

my

little

me heartily, man you don't

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

3
"
!

know me
But
I

am

your cousin Matthias


well
!

did

know him

For long he had

filled

my childish imagination, haunted already


literature.

by the demon of
I

How

often

had

listened

open-mouthed, forgetful of

my

plate, while

my father recounted at

the family
traits
I

board the adventures, the oddities, the


of genius of Cousin Matthias!

True,

un-

derstood but vaguely what

my

father meant,

but

it

had

for

me

the unknown.

all the mysterious charm of Meanwhile the unexpeled

guest had asked for food, having come straight

from
I

Paris,

without warning, as was his way.


heartily,

see

him now, opposite me, eating

asking

me

questions, laughing at

my

prattle

(he had put

me

at

my ease at

once),

and stop-

ping every
his

now and then to push back with hand a thick lock of fair hair which kept
over his eyes.
said he
off to St.

falling

You know," attendant, " I am


"

to

my

astounded
little

Germain, the
come,
all

chap with me.

When /

punish-

ments are stopped."


Willy
cloak
nilly,

she had to wrap


!

me

in

my
later

and

comforter

Ten minutes

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


I,

Cousin Matthias and

seated in the

little

hired gig, were bowling along the frosty road

which led from the town of Fougres to the


village of St. Germain.

Such was
Villiers

my

first

never-to-be-forgotten

meeting with Philip Augustus Matthias de


of his
derful

bloom youth and the first blush of his wongenius his brow and eyes radiant
de
I'lsle

Adam, then

in all the

with those beautiful

illusions,

those glorious
life,

dreams, which attended his entrance into

which never abandoned him


hours,

in his

saddest

and

whose

melancholy

phantoms
and

hovered over the hospital bed on which he


died, high-spirited to the last, hopeful

resigned.

As
But
I

has been seen, our families were kin.


think that the cousinship

between

Villiers

and

my

father,

and

later,

by

inheri-

tance,

between

Villiers

and myself, was more


else.

intelle6lual than

anything

The

family

bond which
It

unites us seems to
I

me very slight.

should be sought,

think, in the alliance

of both our families with that of

But that

is little

matter.

De Kersauson. What is far more

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


urgent
is

to establish the absolutely incon-

testable nobility of the origin of the great


writer.

In his lifetime a sort of mysterious

legendary haze gathered round his personality,

and
fog.
all

fancy he rather enjoyed deepening the

At
that

all

events, such

was

his hatred

of

was conventional, that his Titanic dreams became historical fa6ls concerning which he would admit of no discussion. All those who have heard him speak of his ancestors, of their riches, of " the stately sea-

beaten

manor-house," in
will
I

which

his

early

youth was passed,


further insisting,
rare,

understand, without

what

mean.

Yet, in those

and

for him,

wearisome moments, when

he returned to earth, Villiers knew his family


history perfe6lly,

and

in its minutest detail.

had studied the subje6l profoundly, and his genius illuminated for him all that was prosaic and dull in provincial and Parisian
archives.
I

He

know a
the
life

certain

work of
is

his,

dealing with
Villiers

of the

Marchal de
a master-

de Tlsle Adam, which


return

piece of clearness, eloquent expression, and


erudition.
I

will

to

it

at

a more

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

opportune moment.

At

present
origin.

am

chiefly

concerned with the poet's

The
and de
France.

illustrious family of Villiers

de ITsle

Adam, Seigneurs de
Chailly,

Villiers

de ITsle
the

Adam
lie

originated in

de

Several knights of the

name took

part in the Crusades, others

occupied the

highest positions about the court and in the

army.

In

fa6l,

the brilliant
is

name

of Villiers

de risle

Adam

constantly flashing across

the pages of our history.

But the most


to

cele-

brated amongst these great noblemen, too


well

known

for

me

to

add anything

what

has already been written concerning them,


are, in

order of date

Pierre,

who was Grandin

master and Porte Oriflamme of France


1355;
Jean,

Marshal of France

in

1437;

and

Philippe,

Grand Master of the Order of

the Knights of Malta, the heroic defender


of the Island of

Rhodes against Suliman in The nephew of this last, Franois, 1 52 1. Marquis de Villiers de I'lsle Adam, was
1550.

"Grand Louvetierde France "in


daughter of the old house of

The

grandson of Franois married, about 1670, a

De Courson, and

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


settled in the bishopric of St. Brieuc,

where
of this

he founded the Breton branch of the VilHers


de risle
last,

Adam

family.

The grandson

a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, married


1780, a Mdlle. de Kersauson.

in his turn, in

At
to

the time of the Revolution, he emigrated

England with

his family.

And here should

be related an incident which has an important


bearing on the curious lawsuit brought by
Villiers against the

descendants of the comeI

dian Lockroy, an adlion of which


the details
poet's
life

shall

give

when

come
it

to that part of the

in

which

occurred.

At
of

the time of the Revolution the house


risle

had greatly declined from its ancient splendour. I will not go into the causes of this change suffice it to say, that
;

De

Adam

when

the naval officer emigrated with those

belonging to him, his income barely sufficed


for the stridlest necessaries of life
It follows,

that once established abroad, he did not for

some time attempt to

return.

Meanwhile, the
all

Bourbons having returned to France,

the

so-called servants of the august exiles

were

clamouring for the reward of their services.

VILLI ERS
certain

DE

L'ISLE
Villiers

ADAM.
Deschamps, a
royalist,

Mons. de

rich

man, and an excellent

asked
I'lsle

permission to revive the

name

of

De

Adam, which he
extin6l,

affirmed to be completely

and

to

which a distant relationship

gave him a

claim.

Good Louis XVIII.,

delighted with a petition which would cost

him nothing but a


hesitation the

signature, granted without

prayer of his loyal subjel.


about, that until the day

Thus
its

it

came

when

luxurious peace was disturbed by the poet's

inopportune interference, the family of


Villiers, all

De

unconscious of the fraud, bore an


a famous coat-of-arms to
title.

illustrious

name and

which

it I

had no earthly
this

As

have spoken of the arms of the

De

Villiers,

may be
:

the proper place to

describe

them
"

"

D'or au chef d'azur charg


"
!

d'un dextrochre vtu d'un fanon d'hermines."

Mottoes
a
1

Va

oultre

and

also "

La main
de
l'Isle

uvre.
Ail those familiar with
Villiers

Adam

and

his wonderful books, will recog-

nize that these

two proud mottoes seem


for him.

to

have been made

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


"

ep
is

Va oultre

" "

Go forward
His
clear,

"
!

This

what
its

he always did.
piercing

prophetic glance

the heavens, and

reaching in

impetuous and aspiring


horizon of ordinary

flight far

beyond the
!

human thought

"

La

main

l'uvre !"

"

Hand

at

work

"
!

Yes,

ceaselessly at work, even in the darkest hours

of misery, that hand of the artist and the

gentleman, at once so delicate and so brave,

whose labour only rested


last

in

death

In his

days he used to watch, sadly enough, the


of those poor brave

failing strength

hands

which could no longer hold the pen, and he


uttered one night, to one of his faithful friends,
this phrase,

which sounds

like a knell,

'*

Look

my
I

flesh is ripening for the

tomb."

return to

my

story.

The

old emigre
to leave the
in

marquis,

Armand, not choosing


Villiers

bones of a

de

I'lsle

Adam

England,

returned to France towards 1820, and died,

soon after the birth of the poet, in a

little

manor-house, whose only tower overlooks the


port of

Lgu and the tossing expanse of the

Bay

of St. Brieuc.

He

left

four children,

two sons and two daughters.

One, Gabrielle,

lo

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


ago, a sister

became a nun, and died not long


of the
married,

Sacr

Cur de

Jsus.

The

other

when no longer young,


for their
after

a Mons. du

Rumain.
during

This worthy couple never showed


nephew, either
death.

any great tenderness


his
life

or

his

The

youngest brother, Vilor, entered the priest-

hood very early


saintly

in

life.

He was
all

a wise and

man.

He

refused

honours, and

would never leave the poor parish of Ploumilliau, of which he was for half a century
the devoted re6lor.

His nephew has dedi-

cated to him one of the most extraordinary


of his
in
tales, " L' Intersigne."

It

was written

1875 in the presbytery of the good and


;

simple priest

and the sojourn of the great


life

and unhappy poet (whose

at that

time
the

was

all

storm, agitation, and

care)

in

peace of that quiet retreat, inspired him with


these wonderful lines, which none

who knew
:

and loved him can read without emotion


"

The

rural aspe6l of this house, with its


its

green-shuttered windows,
its

three stone steps,

tangle

of

ivy,

clematis,

and

tea-roses,

covering the walls and reaching the roof

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


(whence a
spired
little

ii

smoke escaped through a chimney topped by a vane), incloud


of

me with

a feeling of calm, of well-being,

of profound peace.

The
all

trees of a neightrellised

bouring orchard showed through the


enclosure, their leaves

rusted by the ex-

hausting

summer

heats.

The two windows

of the only storey shone with the western

Between them was a hollow niche holding the image of some happy saint.
fire.

Silently
to

dismounted, fastening

my
I

horse
raised

the

window-shutter,
I

and

as

the knocker
the

cast a

traveller's

glance at

horizon

behind

me.

But so brightly

did that horizon shine over the wild


distant forests of
last

and

oak and

pine, whither the

birds were winging their belated way,

so solemnly did the waters of a distant reed-

covered lake

reilel

the sky,

so beautiful

was nature
that
in

in the

calm

air of that deserted

spot, at that
I

moment when
'

the silence
still

falls,

stood mute, the knocker


grasp.

dangling
*

my

thou

'
!

thought,

who

findest not the refuge of thy dreams,

and to

whom,

after

many a weary march

'neath cruel


12

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

Stars

so

joyful

at the

start,

so saddened
its

now the

land of Canaan with

palm-trees

and running waters comes not with the dawn.


Heart made
for other exile than that

whose

bitterness thou

sharest

with brothers

who
sit

love thee not

Behold, here mayst thou


the stone of melancholy

thee

down upon

here mayst thou dream such dreams as might

haunt thee

in the
!

tomb, wouldst thou truly


hither,

desire to die

Come
'"

then, for here

the sight of the heavens shall transport thee


into oblivion
!

I cite

this passage, not

only

because

it

seems

to

me
it

to

be exceedingly
is

beautiful, but because


logical

really

a psycho-

document

one

of the very rare in-

stances in which a writer has permitted his

published work to reflel his personal emotion.

The
young

renunciation of
sister

the world
Villiers

and brother of

by the was not

perhaps altogether the result of an


vocation.
spirit
is

irresistible

In these old races,

the family

traditional, and the sacrifice of the


its

earthly interest of

younger members on
is

the altar of the birthright of the eldest,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Still

13

not unfrequently made.


been,

However

this

may have
Villiers

the Marquis

Joseph de

de F Isle Adam, Knight of the Order

of Malta " de la
in

Langue de France," remained


fa6l the only repre-

consequence of that

sentative of his mighty line.

He

obtained a

dispensation

from
the

the

Pope,

and married
Villiers.

Mdlle. Marie Franoise le


fort,

Nepveu de Cardid not dero-

who was

mother of our

The Marquis de
this family.

ITsle

Adam

gate from his dignity by allying himself with

The

knight Roland de Carfort


1248.

took the Cross in

In 1370 Olivier

de Carfort allied himself with the Dukes of


Brittany.

At

the time of the

first

reform of

the nobility in 1669, the

De
It

Carfort family

proved seven generations.


registers of nobility

appears in the
for

from 1425 to 1535,

the parishes of Cesson,

Le

Fil, St. Turiaff,

and

Plaintel, in the bishopric of St. Brieuc.

Le Nepveu, were lords of La Roche, Crnan, Du Clos, La Cour, La Ville Anne, Lescout, and La Coudraye. They bore as arms, De gueules six billettes d'argent, 3, 2, i au chef de mme."
or
Carfort, Beruen,
*'

The Nepvou,

14
I

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


ask indulgence for

my

long dissertation

on these genealogical
but one

details.

There was
of mail

weak spot

in the coat

woven

of pride and haughty scorn with which Villiers

endued himself before he descended


life.

into the terrible lists of

The

polished

vipers of the boulevards, the jealous carrion-

crows of

literature,

knew

well that to poison

and wound

this invulnerability, their bites

and

their beak-thrusts

must be direled against

his family pride.

They

did not

fail

to

do

it

His right to everything was disputed, ancestors, nobility, his

very name

Villiers

used to
flies.

roar like a lion

stung by poisonous
precise

But good,

clear,

proofs

are worth

more
roars,

to the alual public than the loudest

and

if

in that

country beyond the grave


earthly

he

still

troubles concerning trivial

matters, he will rejoice that his Breton cousin

has endeavoured to establish incontestably


his relationship with those heroes of the

sword

from whom, himself a hero of the pen, he so


worthily descended. Unfortunately,
it is

possible to be at the

same time exceedingly well-born and excs-

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


sively poor
;

15

and Mdlle. de Carfort was no


Nevertheless, thanks

richer than the marquis.

to an old aunt, Mdlle. Danile Kerinou,

who

had adopted her and who possessed a modest


competence; thanks,
fortune,
in
too, to

some remnants of
life

and

to the fabulous cheapness of


in

Brittany

those days,

the

household

might have lived with dignity, dividing the


year between the modest residence on the
sea-coast and the
little

old house in the

Rue

disposition

Houvenagues at St. and the


I

Brieuc.

But the singular

perilous whimsicality of

the head of the family spoilt everything.

do not believe that there has ever existed

either in reality or in filion a chara6ler

more

extraordinary than that of the father of Villiers.

To
all

depi(5l

it,

even approximately, would need


all

the raciness of Dickens,

the profound

power of observation of Balzac.


I
I

And

besides,

should be carried too far by the subje6l.


Will

content myself, therefore, with sketching

one
man.

salient trait of this wonderfully original

The Marquis de

I'lsle

Adam

was

possessed with an effulgent dazzling vision of


gold.

His son was haunted

in the

same way,

i6

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


in

and he has thus described himself


his novels
:

one of
!

"

My

sole inheritance, alas

has
!

consisted in his dazzling hopes and dreams

Indifferent to the political cares of the century

and of the Fatherland


their representatives

indifferent, too, to the


failures of
I

temporary results of the criminal

linger to gaze

upon
not,

the reddening
forest
I
;

crests

of

the

neighbouring
I

instinlively,

though why

know

shun the ill-omened moonlight and the

noxious presence of

my

fellow-men.
I

Yes,

shun them
of

For

feel that

bear in

my

soul the reflele^ glory of the barren wealth

many

a forgotten king."
in the exer-

But whereas the writer found


cise of his art

an outlet

for his besetting idea,

and a defence against its allurements, the marquis formed the wild projel of realizing his visions by becoming a man of business. And a singular business man was he this
tall,

thin marquis

Always

in

the clouds

full

of morgue, and haughty as a descendant of the


" Porte Oriflamme of France " might well be
gifted,
truly,
;

with an all-devouring alivity,


it

but spending

all

in placing shares in the

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


most chimerical of undertakings
!

17

He asserted,

and with some show of reason, that during


the Revolution, and the troublous times that

ensued,

many

inheritances were wrongly as-

signed to people

who had no

right to them,

and

this

to the detriment of the real heirs.

On

this supposition his principal speculation

depended.

He

undertook, in consideration

of a certain percentage, to have restored to

the injured families the properties which were


theirs

by

right.

This
every

brilliant proje6l

once

formed, the marquis went forth, beating up


the

country

in

dire6lion,

searching

private libraries, public archives, and church


registers
;

talking to old people, and accumu-

lating

formidable

mass

of information.
sufficiently
inte-

Then, when he considered himself


armed, apprizing those
rested.

who were most Some, seduced by the hope of


litigation,

gain,

allowed themselves to be tempted, and after

long and expensive

ended by conimaginary
in-

signing the marquis


heritances to
all

and

his

the gods of Erebus.

This

discoverer of doubtful inheritances soon be-

came

the terror of every attorney, lawyer,

il

i8

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


sheriffs' officer in

and
his

Lower

Brittany.

For
and
his

haughty self-confidence carried him everyoffice,

where, into every

every agency

his cool pride, his aristocratic ways,


illustrious

and

name, awed the worthy

scriveners
still

of a remote province, where people are

simple enough to respe6l certain things.


will

It

easily

be conceived that such under-

takings and the failure which generally crowned

them, far from augmenting the redoubtable


marquis's income,

made

fresh gaps

in

his

patrimony.

And
this

the second speculation undertaken

by

astonishing person was as fantastic as


first.

the

Dreaming, as he did incessantly,


elsewhere than
in

of delusive treasure, he soon began to imagine


that
it

existed

his

own

fancy.

He

persuaded himself that the soil of

old Armorica concealed subterranean caves,

mute guardians of the fabulous riches placed in them by former generations in times of trouble and civil war. Where, for example, was the huge fortune
of the Villiers de
I'lsle

Adam, which had

enabled them to take rank amongst the most

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


gorgeous courtiers of France
set himself to
?

19

The

seeker

of inheritances became a treasure seeker, and

work with the same ardour and conviftion as heretofore. In the neigh-

bourhood of Quintin stood the ruins of an


old castle, which had formerly belonged to the
Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam.
I

The marquis bought

a concession, hired labourers, and set about


his researches.

know not whether he had

discovered in his family archives, some proof,


or even any vague indication, which might lead to success.

His son was convinced he

had.

He
;

has spoken to
this

me me

very seriously
buried for

and eloquently of
centuries

treasure,

he has shown

the plan of the

subterranean hiding-place, and he endeavoured


to find capitalists to assist his father in

com-

pleting his excavations.

Fortunately
Villiers,

money was not

to be had,

and

not having been able to carry out


in

this
in a

dream

a pradlical way, has realized


in

it

wonderful manner
I

one of his most

powerful works.
"

speak of the book entitled

Le Vieux de

la

Montagne," the
I

full

and

complete manuscript of which

have held

20 in

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

my

hands.

This drama, according to the

poet's design, should

have immediately
it

fol-

lowed that of
continuation,

"

Axel," of which
"

is

the the

as

The Adoration

of

Magi

" is

the conclusion.

CHAPTER
Birth of Villiers de
I'lsle

IL

childhood
St.

Adam His baptism His Stolen by mountebanks School poem Brieuc Laval Rennes His Mort" Elegy "L'Amour His Literary plans Family devotion and tenderness Our Matthias Departure
first

life

early portrait

et la

*'

"

for Paris.

H LE her husband was thus spendI

ine himself in a feverish and ruinous


alivity,

the gentle and

delicate

marquise lived sadly on at


in the

home

company of her good aunt Kerinou. The existence of these two women was solitary
and
sad, the anxiety

which the undertakings

of the head of the family caused


risle

Mdme. de
monotony;
soul,

Adam

alone breaking

its

but a fervent piety, a rare gentleness of

and a strong hope

in the
life.

goodness of God,

supported her through

Her

faith

was

at

22

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


rewarded, and

last

God

granted her most

ardent desire, by sending her in November,


1838, a son

who was

the joy, the belief, the

hope, and the pride of her simple existence.

Never did a great artist have a more admirDuring her long life she never wavered once in her faith in him, and in his genius. She believed in her son with the same
able mother
!

simple trust with which she believed in her God.


It is

easy to conceive with what joy the


this child

was hailed by these two lonely women. Here was a being to love, to cherish, to bring up sunshine breaking in upon the monotony of their darkness. The marquis, too, was radiant as he gazed on this offshoot of the Villiers de I'lsle Adam. Here -was someone who would restore the glory of the old race. Ah! he would endow his son with fabulous wealth. He would force the
advent of

earth to render up the treasure hidden in

Back he went to his excavations, the marquise and her aunt seeing him depart this time with less regret, for hope and consolation smiled on the two good women
its

breast

from the baby's cradle.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

23

The Bishop
to

of St. Brieuc stood godfather

the new-comer, and baptized him, 28th


in the

November, 1838,
father,

presence of his grand-

his

father,

and Mdlle. de Kerinou.

The venerable prelate bestowed on his godson his own Christian name of Matthias.
I

have no intention of following step by


;

step the progress of the childhood of Villiers

the most talented biographers of famous

men
early-

have seldom succeeded


years of their

making the For heroes interesting.


in
all

child-

hood

is

above

things a period of silent

incubation, during which soul and mind are


secretly

and

laboriously
first

developed.

One

incident of these

years spent at St. Brieuc

must, however, be reported, for later the imagination of Villiers embroidered


tastic details.
it

with fanold,

He was

about seven years

when

his

nurse lost
strolling

him out walking.


child,

A
and

band of

mountebanks,

who were

going to Brest, met the strayed

looking on the sprightly fair-haired boy as


their

legitimate

prize,

laid

hands on him.

Some days
in the

later his father

found him at Brest

booth of his strolling captors.

He was

24

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

already the pet of the company, and there

appeared to be such a bond of affe6lion

between the chief of the poor rope-dancers

and the boy,


secution.

that the marquis, overjoyed to


all

get back his son, relinquished

idea of pro-

Those who were acquainted with Villiers will easily imagine what wonderful and humorous tales he would weave out of such an adventure. It was worth listening
to,

when,

in pi6luresque style,

he would con-

jure up the memories of the two years he

had
ill-

spent amongst those admirable, though

favoured gipsies, visiting successively

Italy,

Germany, the Tyrol, and chivalrous Hungary

rescued
lass,

and restored

at last to his family

through the devotion of a beautiful

Romany

the last descendant of a time-honoured


Villiers

race, etc., etc.

began

his education

at the school of St. Brieuc, but soon after-

wards continued

it

at the

Lyce

at

Laval.

There

his genius

began

to trouble his soul.

The

divine visions of poetry hovered round

him, the

breath of

artistic

enthusiasm

fell

glowing on his brow, and


written.

his first verses

were
his

Between whiles he concluded

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


classical

25

studies,

which,

once finished, his


time Villiers

family setded with him at Rennes, in a house


in the

Rue de

Corbin.

At
him

this

de risle
it

Adam

was seventeen years old, and


for a

was

sufficient to see

few moments
Inspiration
it

to

be convinced of

his vocation.

beamed on

his full pale forehead,

sparkled

in his discourse, in

which the tumult of ideas

pressed disorderly one on the other, trembled

on

his full lips already curled with irony,

and

filled

his clear blue eyes with a disturbing

light.

His

large, fair, dishevelled head, his

strange gestures, his disorderly style of dress,

alarmed the

correl

provincial

society,
little.

of

which, by the way, he saw but


those few privileged mortals

But

who

entered the

magic
sessed

circle of his intimacy,

remained there

fascinated and
that

dazzled.

Villiers already pos-

extraordinary magnetic
all

which he preserved
depth of thought
uncanny.

his

life,

power and of which

every friend of his has


in

felt

the influence.

The

one so young was almost

All in fa6l he needed, at the time


fit

of his arrival at Rennes, to

him

to pro-

nounce

his

vows before the

altar of art,

was

26

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

that his heart should bleed under the divine

wound
It

of love, the agonizing consecration of

every true poet.

was amongst the green

fields

and lanes

of Brittany that there arose for him, to vanish

almost immediately in death, that tender vision


of

womanhood which was

his fleeting, but his

only earthly love.

She was one of those

en-

trancing creatures, of
said, "

whom

he has so well

There are

certain helpmates
life's
is

who

en-

noble every one of

joys, certain radiant

maidens whose love


once.
their

only positively given

Yes, some few saintly souls, ideal in

dawning beauty."

will not

profane the

sacred passion of these two young hearts by


trying to describe
loved,
it.

will

only say,

They

and she

died.

On
all

a sudden, suffering

unfolded and spread the poet's budding wings.


In an artist's youth,
his
feelings,
it

even

sorrow,
Villiers.

turn

to

song,
lines,

and so

was with

These

written at seventeen
disdainful scoffer our

years of age

by the

generation

knew

so well, have their natural

place here, marking, as they do, the close of

the child's and the birth of the

artist's existence.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

27

I.
!

charmants glantiers

soleil,

rayon, verdure

Frais salut que la terre offre dans

un murmure
rveries,
fleurs chries
:

De

zphirs renaissants, aux curs emplis d'espoir,

Bocage encor tout plein de chastes Six mois se sont passs loin de vos
J'avais besoin

de vous

revoir.

Oh De

vous souvenez-vous, fort dlicieuse,

l'avenir,

la jolie enfant qui passait gracieuse,


ciel,

Souriant simplement au

Se perdant avec moi dans ces vertes alles ? Eh bien parmi les lis de vos sombres valles,
!

Vous ne

la verrez plus venir.

printemps

lilas

profondes rames

Comme

autrefois vos fleurs, qu'elle avait tant aimes,


;

Sous vos sentiers dserts exhalent leurs amours


L'aubpine s'enlace au banc de
L'oiseau chante,
la charmille.
:

le ciel est bleu, le soleil brille

Rien n'a chang dans


Silencieux vallon

les

beaux jours

cela n'tait qu'un rve,

Un

songe radieux qui maintenant s'achve


laisse aprs lui

Et ne

qu'un amer souvenir

Ne me demandez
La pauvre jeune

pas ce qu'elle est devenue,

fille

en ce monde venue
et

Pour consoler

pour mourir

Morte et je suis encore en proie l'existence C'est donc cela la vie ? Et dj mon enfance A-t-elle disparu loin de ce cur bris ?
!

28

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


!

Seigneur, vous tes grand, mais vous tes svre

Ainsi

me

voil seul

c'est fini sur la terre


:

Cela s'appelle

" le Pass."

IL
Hlas
!

je

me

souviens.

Les vents au sein des ombres,


sombres
;

Du
Et

fleuve

harmonieux
ails

plissaient les vagues


;

Les chants
la lune,

du

soir s'taient vanouis


les

en glissant parmi
les teintes

blancs nuages,

Souvent illuminait

des feuillages

Du
Le

clair

obscur des belles nuits.

rossignol, cach sous l'paisse feuille,


les soupirs

Modulait

de sa chanson perle.
;

Les
Et

fleurs,

dans leurs parfums, s'endormaient leur tour


rayons runissent leur flamme,
unissions nos

comme deux

Tous deux nous

mes dans une me.

Et nos deux curs dans notre amour.

Comme Comme
Nous

son

joli

pied se posait sur la mousse

sa chevelure tait soyeuse et

douce

allions, enlacs,

sous les hauts peupliers


;

Elle avait dix-sept ans

j'avais cet

ge peine,

Souvent

le

rossignol retenait son haleine

En

coutant nos pas lgers.

Et moi je contemplais mon amante pensive, Et nous nous en allions, seuls, auprs de la rive.

Sa main sur
Et
les

mon

paule et

le front sur

ma

main

frmissements de

la nuit solitaire

Emportaient dans

les cieux, ainsi

qu'une prire,

Tous

les

doux songes du chemin.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

29

III.

Puis, le rveil

la

mort

l'existence qui
!

change

temps

vieillard glac

qu'as-tu fait de

mon

ange
?

l'as-tu

mise, hlas

et froide et

pour toujours

Qu'as-tu
Qu'as-tu

fait

de l'enfant jeune

et pleine

de charmes,

fait
!

du

sourire et qu'as-tu fait des larmes,

Oh
i

qu'as-tu fait de nos

amours ?

IV.

Voyez comme On dirait un bouquet que


les fleurs

viennent bien prs des tombes


les

jeunes colombes,

Qu'avait-elle donc
Est-ce

Retournant au pays, nous laissent pour adieu. fait pour mourir la premire?

un crime de
N'est-il

vivre ? et l'amour, sur la terre.


le

pas

pardon de Dieu

Ne me

souriez plus,

campagne immortelle

Je suis seul maintenant ; si ce n'tait pour elle, Je n'avais pas besoin de vos fraches beauts;
N'ai-je pas

vu l'abme o tombent toutes choses

?
:

Les

lis

meurent dans l'ombre o

se fanent les roses

Les cyprs seuls restent plants.

Elle est sous les cyprs, la ple jeune

femme

Mon amour Comme une

triste et fier

brle encor dans

mon

me.

lampe

d'or veille sur le cercueil.


:

Mais je ne pleure plus la douleur a ses charmes. Et d'ailleurs, mon Dieu, mes yeux n'ont plus de larmes, Et mon cur seul porte le deuil.


30

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


I.

lovely eglantine

sunlit glades

Fresh greeting offered by the murmuring earth

On

circling breezes to all hopeful hearts,


last I

Since

saw those
all

fair

and much-loved

flowers,

Which

yet

fill

your memory-haunted groves,

Six weary

months have passed.


I

And

have longed to look on you again

The

Dost thou remember, Forest, lovely yet, pretty graceful child who wandered by,

Smiling her simple faith in

Heaven and

Fate,

And
Alas

straying with
!

me

through your verdant maze?


in

the

lilies

hidden

your green depths


!

Shall see her pass

no more
!

spring-time

Lilacs

deep greenwood shades

Your
Still

flowers, erstwhile so dear to her sweet soul,


o'er

shed their scent


still

your deserted paths,


shines.
i

The may

twines the bench within the grove.


is

Birds sing, the sky

blue, the sun

still

No

change has come upon your summer-tide


!

Dumb

silent valley

It

was

all

a dream,
!

radiant dream, too soon, alas

to

pass^not

And

leaving but a bitter sense of loss


is

Where she

now,

pray you, ask

me

That sweet young

creature, sent into this world

To
Dead
!

comfort others

then herself

to die

Can

it

be

Is this Life's fate ?

And I must still live on And has my youth indeed


!

Forsaken

for ever this

poor broken heart

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Lord,
I

31
!

Thou
alone
!

art just,

am

I've

I've learnt

but oh Thou strikest hard done with earthly dreams the bitter meaning of " The Past
! !

"
!

k
Alas
!

I see

it still

Out of the shadowy night


;

The

gentle river flowed in darkly rippling waves

Fallen into dreamless sleep, the birds had hushed their


songs,

The moonbeams creeping slow athwart the fleecy clouds Touched with their silver light the dusk and massy shades,
Seen through the twilight of the lovely night.

The

nightingale from out the green

and bosky shade

Sighed forth his passion in his pearly-throated song,

The

flowers

had bowed

their

heads in deep and perfumed

sleep,

And we, whose


Could
love
!

souls were joined as though in one sun ray,

feel

our happy hearts beating in one great

How How

firm her dainty step


silken
in

As arm

upon the mossy path and how soft the masses of her hair arm we walked 'neath the tall poplar

trees,

(She was but seventeen, and I was hardly more,)

Often the nightingale would seem to hold his breath,

To

listen to

our lightly falling steps.

And how
As
far

loved to gaze upon her thoughtful face.


all

along the bank we wandered brow.

alone.

My

shoulder 'neath her hand, while mine caressed her

32

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


all

And

the rustlings of the lovely night

Carried to Heaven, as though they were a prayer,

The

sweet and dreamy fancies of the hour

III.

Then, with Death's awful change, the sad awakening

came

hoary-headed Time

Where
ah
1

hast thou hid


is

my

love ?

For ever cold and

still,

whither

she gone?

That

child, so full of
is

life,

of
?

Where

her magic smile

young resistless charm, and where her melting tears?

And

where the vanished glory of our loves ?

IV.

Mark now, how


Might leave
Is life a

lush the flowers grow near a

tomb

Just hke the nosegays

some young
!

turtle

doves
first?

for farewell offering, ere they fly

Into their native country

Why

should she die

crime?

And

is

not earthly love

God's own forgiveness ?


Smile then no more,

immortal country

fields

1 stand henceforth alone.

And

it

was but

for her

That your

blooming beauty seemed so sweet plumbed the depths which ingulf all hope? The lilies wither, and the roses fade away
fresh

to

me

Have

I not

earthly

Beneath the shadows which the cypress loves

Beneath the cypress sleeps that woman young and pale,

My

sad and

faithful love still

burns within

my

soul,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Like to the golden lamp which burns before a corpse. But I can weep no more, in spite of sorrow's charm,

33

And

this,

Lord,

is

why
its

My

eyes

have no more

tears.

And my
Villiers

heart hides

lonely misery

never

loved

truly,

deeply,

in-

genuously, but this once.

No

other

woman

ever took in his existence the place of the


gentle,

dead Breton

girl.

His imagination

may have been swept away by the rustle of some passing robe, his senses may have been
captivated, his artistic feeling interested,

by

the charm of the perturbing mystery which

surrounds the eternal problem of the softer


sex,

but the poet's heart remained untouched,


its

impregnable, proud, wrapped up in


fidelity to that early

sad

memory.
experience
of sorrow

This

first

terrible

hastened the prodigiously rapid intelle6lual

development of the young writer.

He sought
and

and found refuge


Inspiration, great

in excessive adlivity,

and radiant

consoler, illuhis heart.

mined

his

mind and beamed upon

Vast conceptions, gigantic projels, such as


are always formed by youthful
artists,

en-

34

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


spirit

veloped his
"

with their luxuriant growth.

In this one year, he conceives the idea of a

drama,

Morgane," impressed with a melan;

choly splendour

he plans a wonderful

trilogy,

which eventually, under the three


"

titles

of

Axel," " L'Adoration des Mages," and "


la

Le

Vieux de

Montagne,"

will

become the chief

work, the crowning point of his existence as


a thinker; he imagines his mysterious novel,
**

Isis,"

and, above
life

all,

he pours forth
all

in lines

pulsating with

and glow,

the tumultuous
!

grief of his tortured

and sorrow-laden soul


his genius

During this period, while


Villiers
fireside

was

agi-

tatedly beating her wings like a captive eagle,

de

I'lsle

Adam

found at the home-

constant encouragement, unceasing

sympathy,

and

immeasurable

tenderness

There
in his

is

something admirably touching and

rare in this worship of

him by

his

own people
the in-

early days.

Generally the youth of


ill-will,

an

artist is

darkened by the

stin6live mistrust of art, the


ness, the

narrow-mindedIn the
the contrary

love of lucre,

of his family.

case of Villiers de

I'lsle

Adam,

was the

fa6l.

The

mother, the old aunt, the

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


treasure-seeking marquis, disagreeing in
else,

35
all

formed a perfe6l union when


of singing the
praises

it

was a

question

of "their

Matthias."

They lauded
a pedestal.

him, they exalted

him on
genius,

to

His vocation,

his

the certainty of his success, of his

future glory, were so

many

articles of faith to

them.

And

they proved

it.

Persuaded that Paris was the only stage

worthy of the great part which their Matthias

was
their

called to ena6l, convinced

that

it

was

own

absolute duty to sacrifice every-

thing in order that the genius of the family

might expand
souls,

in full

freedom, these admirable

at the

very sight of

whom

the self-

important

bourgeois

smiled and shrugged

their shoulders, resolved to sell everything,

to realize their

little

fortune, and, their small

purse in hand, to go and await in some out-of-

the-way corner in the formidable town the


final

vi6lory of the last of the Villiers

de

risle
faith,

Adam, who, according

to their childlike

for

was with brain and pen to reconquer them the fortune and the celebrity which
had won by blood and sword
!

their ancestors


36

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


All hastened to the rescue.

The nun

of

the Sacred Heart, the abb, the old aunt

the marquis was indefatigable in calling in


his funds;

he sold at an enormous

loss,

but

without a shadow of regret, his

little

manorSt.

house at Lgu and the old residence at


Brieuc.

He

abandoned the excavations

for

ten treasures, and the search for half a hundred


inheritances,

and following
not be
left

his son,

accom-

panied by his wife, and having in tow the old


aunt,

who would
will
!)

behind, he started

for Paris, to the cry of


is

God's

"Dieu le volt!" (It with the same confidence in

which his crusader ancestors had departed to


Jerusalem.

CHAPTER
Paris

III.

The reign of the common-place in literature The poets The defenders of the Beautiful " Le Par-

nasse Contemporain

" " Les Parnassiens" Catulle


Fantaisiste "

Triumphal Friendships "Claire Lenoir" Appearance of Dr. Triboulat Bonhomet A few words touching personage " Le
Mends and the
"

Revue

entry of Villiers

de ITsle Adam First Poems Stphane Mallarm and Lon Dierx


this

Roman
the

d'une Nuit," by Catulle

Mends Death

of

"Revue Fantaisiste "The Blue Dragon Hotel The Rue de Douai Villiers de ITsle Adam, accord-

ing to Franois Coppe.

the time of the exodus of Villiers


his family, Paris
artistic

and

had become,
literary point

from the
mon-place.

and

of view, the paradise of the com-

The gods
of

of this

Olympus were
of

composers
serial

operettas,

manufa6lurers

novels, historiographers of the latest

scandals, poets of the drawing-room, of the

38

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


All these

boudoir, nay, of the caf concerts.


lived

and fattened on
yet ignorant
of,

their trade, honoured,


to the title of

and almost celebrated, clinging


artist,

or despising, the pri-

mordial rules of

art.

The

censure, which

smiled san6limoniously on the short skirts

and sprightly whims of the Offenbach School, could never be severe enough on truly artistic

and conscientious work.


*'

It

was the epoch of


the

the ridiculous prosecution of the author of

Madame
As
for

Bovary," and

of

sentence

against Baudelaire.

those poets

who pursued

their

divine chimera with fervour and disinterestedness,

no jest was reckoned too coarse, no

insult

in too

bad
press

taste, to

be thrown

in their faces.

The

was perpetually sharpening the


its

arrows of
pierce

keenest

satire,

wherewith to

whomsoever aspired to any great ideal. Vilor Hugo, exiled as he was, alone succeeded in stirring the masses to their depths.
In the face of
all this

opprobrium, the

last

survivors of the admirable phalanx of romantic

poets had wrapped themselves in scornful


silence.

Emile Deschamps lay dying ob-

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

39

scurely in the dreary town of Versailles, he,

the author of the " Romanceros," rhyming


sickly madrigals to Chloris
;

while the divine

Thophile Gautier, the


first

illustrious

hero of the

performance of

"

Hernani," cast the last


intellel

blossoms of his astonishing

on the

common
stifled

track of the newspaper feuilleton.


in truth to

Poetry and art seemed

be dead,
stupidity.

by the triumph of materialistic

But poetry and art are as immortal as the


starry heavens,

and

at the
lie in

very moment

in

which they seemed to


vigorous

their last agony,

they were silently making ready to spread


their

limbs and

soar with
!

lofty

flight into the

blue realms of the ideal

Certain

youths,
in

banded together

young and poor, the same faith, the same


very
beautiful, the

deep and passionate love of the

same
ing,

lively hatred of the

common-place and
as

the vulgar, formed the bold projel of revolt-

weak and almost

defenceless

they

were, against this formidable tyranny of folly

and mediocrity. They resolved to defend the sacred domain of literature with all their

young strength against the invasion which

40

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


it
;

threatened

to

proclaim the
is

power of

rhythm, the respe6l that


affirm, in short, that
artistic

due

to syntax, to

no work can be really


chief

without a constant jealousy for form.


of

The

critics

the

newspapers,

the

drew upon their usual arsenal of gibes and jeers, and old jokes
chroniclers of the small ones,

turned out as new, to scoff


youths.
"

down

these rash

They were given

strange nicknames,

Formists," "Stylists," " Fantaisistes," " Im-

passibles."

Songs were made about them,

they were caricatured,


of idiots in the "
year,
lisher,

made
" at

to play the parts

Revues

the end of each

and

to conclude,

when a young pub-

who (thanks to his lucky daring) had become a millionaire, ventured to publish the first number of their colle6led poems, " Le
Parnasse Contemporain," they were held up
to public laughter

and indignation as

"

Les

Parnassiens

" (the Parnassians).

All this rage, however, far from crushing

these chivalrous young votaries of the ideal,


filled their

hearts with fresh courage.

In spite

of jests and insults, they pursued their course, and what is still more admirable and touching.

VILLIERS DE
pursued
it

L'ISI.E

ADAM.

41

in spite of the direst poverty.


artist,
it

Of
been

them, as of every
the true judge
;

posterity has

and

has sent back to their

native obscurity those who, from the heights of their brilHant existence,

made game

of the

poor Httle feverish -eyed, shabby-coated poets.

Where

are

now

the

names of those sparkHng

and witty

quill-drivers,

who poured

forth their
?

And, on the other hand, the names of these same


sarcasms on the obscure Parnassians
Parnassians, are they not

now familiar to us To cite only the chief among them, have all ? we not Franois Coppe, Sully Prudhomme,
Alphonse Daudet,
Catulle Mends,

Lon
first

Cladel,

Glatigny,

and

Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam ?

Res miranda! The

publication of these

France" was not a colle6lion of verses, it was just simply a review in which prose and poetry
representatives of "la jeune

new

joyously alternated.
in tone,
title, its

Gaily covered, cheerful

with an attralive and well-sounding


editor

was nineteen years

old,

and

it

had not a contributor who counted more than In short, it was five-and- twenty summers. the " Revue Fantaisiste," whose direlor was


42

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


in Paris,

a native of Bordeaux, newly arrived

poor as Job and handsome as Apollo, by name Catulle Mends. The offices of this
review were in
the

Passage

Mires,

now
I'lsle

Passage des Princes.

Here
lance,

Villiers

de

Adam
will

broke his

first

and

my

readers

doubtless appreciate this quotation from

known but amusing work, in which " the former direftor of the " Revue Fantaisiste
a
little

has presented, in a style at once witty and


feeling, the pi6lure of the

home

of the " Par-

nasse Contemporain

"

"The
ing

office 'was
;

a somewhat strange-lookof

place

hangings

green

and

rose-

coloured chintz, like a smiling meadow, seemed


to gaze in

wonder

at the

mahogany cupboards
to sulk at

and
the

tables.

lounge (seldom unoccupied)

at the

back of the room appeared


It

leathern

arm-chair and the cardboard

manuscript cases.

was half drawing-room,


all

and would
o'clock,

fain

have been

boudoir

" Hither, every afternoon,

towards three
Banville, giving

came Thodore de

us freely, with the good-nature of a youthful


maestro, his intoxicating mixture of

Orpheus

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

43

and Balzac, at one and the same time so lyric and so truly Parisian Charles Asselineau, with his long soft hair already grey, and on
;

his lips that smile, tender

though

ironic,
;

which

none but Nodier ever had before him


Golzan,

Lon

who
of

graciously vouchsafed
his

us the

support

name

Charles

Monselet,

Jules Noriac, Philoxne Boyer, dreaming of

Shakespeare, and Charles Baudelaire,


elegant, a
his
little

slight,

stealthy, almost alarming with


air,

half-frightened

gracefully

haughty,

with the attralion and charm of beauty in


distress, rather like

a very delicate bishop,

somewhat fallen away from grace perhaps, who had donned an elaborate lay costume for His Eminence Montravelling purposes seignor Beau Brummel He used to bring
'
:

'

us those wonderful prose poems, which are

numbered now amongst the most perfedl pages in French literature. There, too, Albert
Glatigny, with his vagrant flow of speech,

hand on

hip, his necktie

undone, his waistcoat


faun, wearied out

too short, and obstinately ignorant of braces,

smiling like

some young

by

the tendernesses of the nymphs, would recite

44

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


amorous strophes of
to re-echo the
his,

to us those

whose

rhymes seem
It

sound of

kisses."

was in this abode, with its strange charm, where the three twin sisters. Youth, Poetry, and Poverty, seemed that Villiers de I'lsle
into the world
self,

to

have met together,

Adam made his entry of letters. He presented himin

almost immediately on his arrival


his

Paris,

pockets stuffed with his family

parchments
positions.
office

and

his

own manuscript com-

At

the very outset he took the

by storm, and he soon became one of the chief editors of the " Revue Fantaisiste."

The

brilliant apparition of the last

descendant

of the

Grand Master of the Knights of Malta


it.

has often been described in enthusiastic terms

by those who were eye-witnesses of

"

He

impressed us," says M. Henri Laujol, "as

being the most magnificently gifted young

man of his generation."

Villiers

brought with

him some manuscript poems, which were published that very year by Scheuring of Lyons, with much luxury of paper and printing, under
the
title

of " Premires Posies " (First Poems).

The book was

dedicated to the

Comte Alfred

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


de Vigny.
In this collection of verse,
is

45

now

hardly to be found, there

already a glimpse

of the profound original thinker, scornful of


all

conventionalism.

It is not, to

be

sure,

by

any means a piece of


its

perfe6lion, but through


its

uncertainties,

its

weaknesses,

gropings
"

in the dark,

here and

there, as in "

and

**

Le Chant du
first

Calvaire,"

Hermosa there beams

the flash of genius.

These
tain the
full

years of Villiers in Paris conlife

few truly happy moments of a

of bitterness.

He

was

free,

then, from

the anxiety of earning his daily bread, and

when he
adored

left

the family

circle,

where he was

like a deity,

he met everywhere, on
an enthusiastic wel-

his first appearance, with

come.

The

originality of his gestures

and

demeanour, and his profound, passionate, and


piluresque speech,
full

as

it

was of glowing
to
fanaticism.

imagery, aroused amongst young people an

admiration which amounted

He

was the spoiled


all

child of the Parnassians,

and he found
who, through
all

in their coterie the

two friends
remained

the

trials

and hardships, and


life,

the mortifications of his

46
faithful

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


to
;

him till death, and after it I speak of M. Stphane Mallarm and M. Lon Dierx. Every friend of Villiers must,
like

myself,

vow an
author

infinite

gratitude to

the two excellent-hearted poets who, having

supported

the

of

the

"

Nouveau
ill-

Monde

" in

the hours of his despondency and

darkest poverty, showed him, in his last

ness, a care, a delicate tenderness, a devotion,

and a disinterestedness, which the tenderest

woman might have


existence,

envied them.

No artist's
could

even

in the direst tribulation,

be completely wretched, while brightened and

warmed by the flame


Villiers

of such sturdy friendship.

de

I'lsle

Adam made

his dbuts

then, in the "


called " Claire
terrifying

Revue

Fantaisiste," with a tale

Lenoir," a strange, mysterious,

story.

What makes
is

this
it

work
there

peculiarly interesting to us

that in

appears, for the

first

time, a chara6ler which

has become almost legendary, and on the


creation of which the writer

worked up
figure

till

the end of his


that
I

life.

It will

be understood
of Dr.

refer to

the

striking

Triboulat Bonhomet, the personification of

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


the
scientific

47

and

atheistic

bourgeois

monstrous Prud'homme, transcendently foolish

and ferociously
portrait,

egotistic.

In drawing his

own

Bonhomet

writes this sentence,

which seems to
of

me
:

to

sum up
I
;

the original

idea of his author

"

My physiognomy is that
have reason to
briefly, I

my

century,

of which

believe myself the archetype


doctor, a philanthropist,

am

and a man of the

world."
tions,

Again, speaking of his

own

convic-

he

says

"My

religious

ideas

are

limited to the absurd convilion that

God

has

created

man

in

His own image,

a.nd

mce versa."
Villiers

This Dr. Triboulat Bonhomet was to

what "le garon" was


imaginary personage,

to Flaubert

a sort of

whom

he endued with a
the passions of

complete personality, with

all

a real and complicated chara6ler, in whose

mouth he placed the jokes and the aphorisms which he colleled in conversation and in life, or which his profound and ironic wit invented for him. This do6lor makes one shudder rather than laugh, and the circumstantial pedantry
with which he relates the alarming adventures
of " that
discreet

and

scientific

personage,

48

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Claire

Dame
But
this "

Lenoir, widow," adds to

the

terror of her story.


I

shall frequently

have occasion,
of

in the

course of these notes, to quote the sayings of

honorary

member

many academies

and professor of physiology," whose greatest enjoyment, according to his biographer, was
to kill swans, in order to hear their dying

song.

For the moment,


of

must
little

register the

decease

the

poetical

review,

in

which so many talents


wings.
its

tried

their

budding

It

passed away in the second year of

existence, beaten to death

by the censure,

in the

name

of public morality.

The so-called
its

outrage had been committed by

diredlor,

Catulle Mends, and took the form of a oneal

comedy in verse, entitled, **A Night's Romance" ("Le Roman d'une Nuit"). The piece was far from being a good one, but, though frivolous and mediocre, it was not
and one wonders on reading
it

criminal,

how

judges were found to condemn the author of


such a tiny spark to a month's imprisonment,

and the review which published it The poet had to go francs fine.

to

500
Ste.

to

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

49"

Plagie and the review had to pay the fine.

Money was

scarce,

and by the time the

demands of justice were satisfied, the cashbox was empty. The contributors cheerfully celebrated the obsequies of their literary offspring,

and most of them went


inn in the

to live in a furnished

Rue Dauphine, famous in the annals


Four
years
later,

of contemporary literature as the Blue


Hotel.

Dragon we find them


chief.

gathered once more round their former

Fortunehad smiled on Catulle Mends; he had

money

in his pockets,

and owned,

in the

Rue

de Douai, an apartment containing


ture and a piano
Covielle,
;

real furni-

likewise a groom,

surnamed

who opened

the door to such visitors

as

were

word.

in possession of the necessary passIn one of his articles in the " Patrie,"

these meetings of the future Parnassians have

been admirably reproduced by Franois Coppe.

Want
I

of space forbids

me

to cite the

whole, but
risle

quote this portrait of Villiers de


perfe6l

Adam, which represents him with


truthfulness.

and striking

"Suddenly, round the assembled poets, runs


the universal cry of joy,
*

Villiers

Heres

50
Villiers

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


'

And

all

at once
little

a young man,

with light blue eyes, a

wavering

in his

walk, chewing a cigarette, tossing back his

disordered locks, and twisting his small, fair

moustache, enters, wearing a haggard look,

shakes hands absently, sees the open piano,


sits

down

to

it,

and nervously touching the

keys, sings in a voice which trembles, but the

deep and magic accents of which none of us can ever forget, a melody he has improvised
in the street, a vague, mysterious melopza,

which accompanies (thereby doubling the depth and agitation of the impression it
makes) Charles Baudelaire's beautiful sonnet:
Nous aurons des lits pleins d'odeurs lgres Des divans profonds comme des tombeaux,' etc.
'

Our beds shall be scented with sweetest perfume, Our divans be as cool and as dark as the tomb
' '
!

"

Then, while

all

are

still

under the
air,

spell,

humming

the last notes of his


it

or else

abruptly breaking

off,

he

rises,

leaves the

piano, goes as though to hide himself in the

corner

of

the

room,

and

rolling

another
audience

cigarette,

casts over

his stupified


VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.
51

a comprehensive glance, the glance of Hamlet


as he lies at Ophelia's
feet,

during the repre-

sentation of the death of Gonzago.


"

Thus appeared

to us, eighteen years ago,

in those pleasant gatherings at the

house of
the

Catulle Mends, in the

Rue de Douai,

Comte Auguste Philippe Villiers de Adam." Patrie, Feb. 26, 1883.

I'lsle

CHAPTER IV. Early influences Charles Baudelaire My father Their intimacyThe His relations with Htel d'Orlans Literary and philosophical gatherand the Hegelian philoings Lon Cladel "The Princess Tullia Fabriana" sophy " The original of Preface Eccentricities of Dodor Bonhomet Dodor C "Ellen" and " Morgane Sensations of loneliness The MarParis the course of quis de ITsle Adam continues profitable financial operations The poisoner, Pommerais The apartment Comte Courty de Honor The marquis Aunt Kerinou the Rue Matthew's decorations.
Villiers
Villiers
Isis

"

style

"

at

his

la

in

St.

sometimes happens that strong

influences felt

by an
life

artist

in his

early intellectual
effaceable

leave an in-

mark on

his existence.

At

the time of his initiation into literature,

Villiers fell

under two such influences, that

of Charles Baudelaire, and that of

my

father.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

53

The ascendancy
" Satanic
"

exercised over

him by the
have been
his

poet seems to
inauspicious.

me
It

to

somewhat
taste for

developed
it

extremes and for mystification,

led

him astray from the exercise of his talent, naturally clear and simple in its expression, instigating him to bury it in clouds of whimsical

metaphor, or to allow himself to be


into the obscurities, the affecftations,

drawn

the over-refinements, which sometimes disfigure his work,

and make
irony,

it

so difficult to
I

read.

Let

it

be understood that

do not
one
of

speak
Villiers'

here of

which

was

most powerful weapons, and which


thoroughly goodlife,

was

originally, in his case,

natured, though the hardships of

and the

wicked stupidity of those who considered


themselves
it,

"

the pink of gentility," sharpened


it

and rendered
But

pitiless

and

terrible.

his connedlion with Baudelaire, the in-

fluence which the author of the " Fleurs

du

Mal

"

gained over his heart and

intellel at

the threshold of his literary career, inspired

him with
class

that
"

mania
pater

for
le

stare,

making the middle bourgeois," and for

54

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


from which he was
in his

mystifying his readers,

never able to free himself even


deeply thought-out work,
"

most

L'Eve Future."

My father's

influence,

on the contrary, was,

by Villiers' own acknowledgment, very useful and precious to him. He often told me that
he would have risen much higher
listened to

him more.

if he had was nothing But there

strange in the fa6l that his nervous nature,


his

mind

full

of every sort of curiosity, his

youth, indeed, should have been

much more
the

captivated by the wilful


exotic
life,

eccentricities,

the dandyism, and the cool per-

versity of Charles Baudelaire, than

by the
for
soli-

counsels of his Breton relative,

who was

ever preaching to him sobriety, labour,


tude,

and

silence.

Up

to the time of the arrival of the family


I'lsle

of Villiers de

Adam

in Paris,

my father's

relations with Villiers

had merely been those

which usually exist between a youth and a

man

considerably his senior; but, after the

young poet's triumphant entry into the capital, attra6led more than any other person by the brilliant dawn of the budding genius, and

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


dreading
for

55

him the formidable

reefs

on

which so many great

men make shipwreck

during their apprentice days, he drew Villiers

towards him, and took him, so to say, under


his

wholesome

tutorship.

From

that day,
it

Matthias became part of the family, and

was soon after that he paid that first Fougres my recollelion of which
described at the

visit to
I

have
work.
to

commencement of
is

this

Here,
insert

perhaps,

the

fittest

place

an
is

amusing
offered

letter,

the facsimile
inquiring

of

which
It is

to

the

reader.

addressed to

my
In

father,

and dated from


alludes
to

Montfort, a small town in the department of


Ille-et- Vilaine.
it

Villiers

first volume of poems. M. Lemenant, the lawyer- friend in whose house the letter was written, was a worthy and eccentric man, an old schoolfellow of the

the printing of his

poet's at
little

Laval, who,

having profited but

by

his earlier education at school,

and

by

his

subsequent study of transcendental

philosophy in Paris, wisely devoted himself


to the care of the parental acres
in his native province.

and

briefs,

He

died young and

56
rich.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Villiers dedicated

some verses

to

him

in the "

Premires Posies."
dear good poet,
"

"

My

And how
in

are you
I

Better

hope.
in the

If

were

your place,

should be

rudest health.

But

let that

be as

it

may,

am

certain that the

one thing that you pine


is

for at this

moment,

your seventy-second

game
" If,

of chess.

however, you should be thinking of


the land of shadows, be

starting for

good

enough to give me warning, so that I may compose in your glory, and for the wonderment of the world in general, a funeral march It is the fashionable key, and on in E flat.
fashion
" I
I

take

my

stand

have no

letters

from
I

my

interesting

family.

Lemenant and

are in the depths of

poverty, which fa6l forces

me
me

to ask

your

permission to put off the repayment of your


kindly help.

Don't swear at

publish

the praise of your amiability far

and wide.
and
it
I

And,

besides, the fault

is

yours,
!

will

teach you to be too good-natured

Now,

ask

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

57

you, whether in this nineteenth century, any

sane

man

should lend

money

to his friend

Do

you desire
will

to see the finger of scorn

pointed at you in every drawing-room you


enter
?

denounce you to the whole

of society as a traitor to the principle of

modern
"

selfishness

This
it
!

may

bore you

but

you

richly de-

serve
"

The proofs

of Master Perrin
*

'

are comical

to the last degree.


"

Lemenant and
little

have had several hearty


I

laughs at his expense.

am

going to write

him a
his
**

jeering letter which will puzzle

poor brains.

all

Here is a specimen of his manner. the same from beginning to end.

It is

'" L'ujaige de

Don Ivan f
Don Juan

dej pchevrj dv

golfe:
"
'

L'usage de

et des pcheurs

du

golfe.'

"

Here you have an impossible rhyme,


in

printed

this

man's extraordinary

style.

Too much of a joke, isn't it ? Between ourselves, a man who has such a notion must be

58

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


;

mad

just fancy a
in this

paper

style

book printed on yellow Lemenant vows it


!

would be quite phosphorescent.


comical,

It really is
(if

and

in

my

colle6led
I

works

they

are

ever published)

might afford myself


!

such a luxury, but at present

Zut ! This
or,

is

my

definition.

He

is

the ne plus ultra of a


if

grinning, superannuated typographer,

you prefer

it,

the weird ink-scratcher of the


!

Gutenbergian Press
the grave of
"

and, in other words,


!

human thought
is

Now,

let

us go on to less casual matters.

" Montfort

a town, or rather
it

am

right in calling

a town
in
it,

stay
'

full

of mud,

and

of calm.
that

We

live

under the wing of


is

good old seraph whose name

cheerful-

ness.'

"

The
!

country swarms with worthy people,


oneself,

and one hardly knows


Paris
"

coming from

There is a mill here, a real mill, exa6lly like Rosa Bonheurs pilures (still life). " Lemenant pours daily from our open window his san6limonious speeches, and his
metaphysico-transcendental spleen.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


"

59

The few

terrified passers-by listen, listen,

and
*

accompany
efifel

his

discourse to

the

air,

II

a des bott,

bott, bott.'
I

The which

pro-

duces an
him.
"

whereon

heartily congratulate

We

live in the square,

which

triples the

interest of the view,

and

peacefully go on

making rhymes

in the

midst of the tumult.


!

A
If

bientt,
"

dear kind poet

Believe in

my

true faithful friendship


heartily

clasp your

hand and

embrace you.

you have time, send


"

me

a reassuring word

about your health.

Ni
At
an
hotel

ViLLIERS DE l'IsLE AdAM."

the very end of the

Rue

Richelieu,

almost opposite the Thtre Franais, stands

the
As
I

Htel
stay.

d'Orlans
I

where

often
its

and gladly

cannot pass under

vaulted entrance

without being deeply

moved.
its

gaze on the inner court with


the ghosts of

steep flight of steps, and glance at the


all

second-floor windows,

my

youthful school-days rise up around me, every

corner of the dwelling

is familiar,

and at each

6o

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


I

turn

seem

to see the

proud outline of

my

father's face.

Here he Hved
brothers and

for twelve years,


I,

and here

my

students at the

Collge RoUin, spent our Sunday holidays.

We

used to be present in clouds of tobacco

smoke, at endless discussions between Villiers

de risle

Adam and

the master of the

little

apartment.
it

We
at

did not understand much,


to

must be admitted, but we used


the

gaze
the

open-mouthed
feature, with

wild

gestures,

chamois-like bounds, the contortions of every

which our cousin Matthias used


in the

to embellish his arguments.

This hotel
then,
it

Rue

Richelieu had not

has not now, the commonplace aspel

of our
all

modern

caravanserais.

In spite of

the alterations

made by
still

its

new owners,

the walls of the building


of
its illustrious

bear the marks

origin.

was the old town-house of the Cardinal Armand de Richelieu, and the principal building, reached by a flight of stone

For

this

steps of great dignity of form, has preserved


all

the majestic simplicity of the architelural

style of the time of Louis

XIII.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


In the days of

6i

my

father

and of VilHers,

the hotel was kept by a worthy couple

son was an

artist,

whose and hence, scattered through

the rooms, were tapestries, frescoes, pilures,

and trophies of arms, which heightened the


quaint air of the dwelling.
Hither,
in

the

evenings,

to

apartment on the second


dreamers, some
thinkers,

floor,

modest came some


a

some
at

philosophers.

Besides the face of


tenance,

Villiers,

a second coun-

seen

by chance

one of these

reunions, remains graven


that of
his

on

my memory,
stature,

Lon Clad el.


hair,

His mighty
his

long

his

pallid

complexion,
wild
eyes,

his
his

gloomy

countenance,

reddish-brown beard, really gave him that air


attributed to
fallen angel.

him by Catulle Mends, of a

He
laire,

used to come with his friend Baude-

whom,

am ashamed

to say,

do not

recollect.

As my

father

was much occupied with


life,

philosophy at this period of his

the philo-

sophers were the most numerous and eager


guests at these gatherings, where

much

coffee

II

62

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

was drunk, and an incalculable number of The host pipes and cigarettes consumed.

was
the

at that time passionately interested

in

German
de
I'lsle

school

of

philosophy,

which

soon laid hold of the profound mind of Villiers

Adam.

His friend

initiated

him

into the brilliant spiritualist theories of


;

Hegel, whose fervent disciple he was


the author of the "

but

the humanitarian and socialistic proje6ls of

Pomes

virils "

found a

somewhat unfriendly auditor in Villiers. His mind and soul soared too far above realities
to preoccupy themselves about the sufferings

of humanity or the miseries of real

life.

On

the other hand, the Titanic poetry, the breadth

and splendour of the views of the German thinker, filled him with the greatest enthusiasm. He began to put forward the theories
of the speculative philosophy in the curious
tale of
*'

Claire Lenoir," which


of.

have already
in

spoken
novel, "

Some
first

years

later,

1862,

he

published the
I

volume of a mysterious

sis,"

the continuation of which never

appeared, in which the Hegelian principles

and system are developed and carried out

to

If
their tFieir

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


extremest
limit.

63

This

first

volume,

entitled " Tullia Fabriana,"

my

father.

It

gained for

was dedicated to its author some


Baudelaire,
excessive.

expressions of admiration from

which

at this date

may seem
The
in

In truth, this novel contains more faults

than good

qualities.

passion for roman-

ticism of which Villiers never could rid himself,

here breaks out

gloomy, improbable,

melodramatic adventures, worked out with


all

the inexperience of a

young hand.

An

overflowing wealth of imagination does not


suffice to conceal the inherent vices of the

work.

When

the writer's talent had ripened,

and when time had calmed down the exuberance of his fancy, he himself recognized all the imperfelions of his early efforts, and
" I sis,"

which was originally to consist of six


In the preface

volumes, was not continued.


to
" Tullia

Fabriana " the author thus ex"'Isis'


is

presses himself:
collelion of works,

the

title
I

of

which
it is

will appear,

hope,

at short intervals
for

the colle61;ive formula

a series of philosophical novels, the


;

of a problem of the Ideal

it

is

the great

64

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


:

unknown once own definition."

finished, the

work

will

be

its

The
to
" Isis "

absolute need for oddity which seems


in
Villiers,
is

be inherent
in

betrayed in

very evident manner.

The
jests

eccentricities of its style attracted in the smaller papers.

many

Already, at the appearin

ance of "Claire
Fantaisiste,"
satirical

Lenoir"
"

the
"

"Revue
of

the

Tintamarre

and other

sheets had

made copious game

by the young writer. One sentence especially had become celebrated. It had been placed by the author in the lips of Dr. Bonhomet himself, " Je lui fus grat de cette injure." Villiers
the

strange

expressions employed

claimed

that, as ingrat is the qualifying ad-

jelive derived from the

noun

ingratitude, so

the adje6live derived from gratitude must be


grat.

was on his side, but he doubtless forgot that the French language
Logically, reason

laughs at logic.

This name of Bonhomet, coming back to

my
tion,

pen, reminds

me

that this bold concepVilliers'

which haunted
is

brain until his

death,

not purely imaginary.

The Htel

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

65

d'Orlans possessed at that time, as physician


in ordinary,

a certain Dr.

who had
possible

the most ill-favoured countenance


to imagine.

it is

For the rest, he was an excellent man, of a most charitable nature, and a very But his gloomy face, distinguished savant.
a certain

mode

of expressing himself at once

whimsical and pompous, his positivism, his


disdainful scorn for

any manifestation of

art,

the extraordinary shape of his hats and cut of


his clothes,

heated the poet's imagination.


all

Thenceforward,
Dr.

unconscious, the worthy

became a sort of dummy, on whose frame Villiers hung, from day to day, all the
wily sophisms,
terrible or
all

the strange fancies,

all

the

grotesque fads, which

make

the
in

savant Triboulat

Bonhomet a unique type

modern

literature.
first

The

years in Paris (1859- 1863) were

a most prolific period.

Besides

" Claire

Le-

noir" and

" Isis," the writer


full

gave the public

two dramas

were never a6led

of

gloomy splendour, which " Ellen" and " Morgane."


**

There
I

is

fine sentence in

Morgane," which
it

desire to quote here, because

seems to

me

66

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


style,
I'lsle

admirably chara6leristic not only of the


but of the turn of mind of Villiers de

Adam
"
I

at this

epoch

drink to thee,
!

O
!

forest,

thou giver of
!

oblivion

To

you, dew-laden grasses

To

you, too,

wild roses

growing beneath the

oaks, intoxicated

by the moisture dripping


!

from their heavy foliage

And

to you,

ye

wild sea-shores, where hover at eventide the


salt

odours of the star-refle6ling waves, and


stretch away, like
"
!

who

myself, in pride

and

solitude

The
had
this

author of
" I

"

L'Eve Future

"

always

sense of being alone in the midst of

the world.

have always," he wrote

to

me

a few years before his death,

" felt alone,

even

when
friend

beside a

nay,

woman
even
in

loved, or with a
enthusiastically

the

affedlionate

circle

of

my own

immediate

family."

While the son thus took his place in the sunshine of literature, what became of the
proud marquis, the gentle
whirl of
Parisian
saintly marquise,
all

the good aunt Kerinou, amidst


life ?

the noisy
still

The

marquis,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

67

possessed by his visions of wealth, had once

more taken up his lucrative speculations. He was surrounded by a flight of birds of prey,
business agents, and such
lean appearance,
like,

of strange and

who were engaged in sharing amongst themselves the last remnants of his
patrimony.

He

had established on
fine,

his

own

account a

sort of branch of the

Record
air,

Office, where,

with a

self-sufficient

he gave out

brevets of nobility.

Unfortunately his choice

of the persons he ennobled


judicious
;

and thus
trial

it

was not always came about that in the


for that do6lor,

course of the
la

of the poisoner, Courty de

Pommerais, the counsel


the
tribunal

criminal enough, although a

homopath,

laid

before

a pompous

certificate

signed by the Marquis Joseph de Villiers de


risle

Adam, Dean of the Order of the Knights


fa6l

of Malta, and attesting the

that the

accused, being of noble birth, had an incontestable right to bear the title of

"comte"

(which

title

he had assumed
!).

in

order to im-

pose upon his clients

Towards the end of

1863,

somewhere about

68

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Year's Day,

New
first

my

father took me, for the

time, to visit the old


I'lsle

Marquis and Mar-

quise de Villiers de

taken apartments
close to the Place

in

the

Adam. They had Rue St. Honor,

Vendme, in the house now occupied, I believe, by the photographer, M. Lejeune. I remember the drawing-room was very large, very high up, with very little furniture, and on that dark December
day
it

made one

rather shivery.

The mar;

quise appeared to

me like

a shadow

she was

dressed in black, pale, sad, and distinguishedlooking.

When my father
She

spoke of Matthias,
at his business.

her face beamed.

told us with a faint

smile that the marquis

was

She added

that her aunt Kerinou

was

ill

in

bed, but that she

would

like to see us.


I

In a
little

great old-fashioned bed,


old lady,

perceived a

framed in an was all that could be seen of her. She had a long, mobile nose, and small bright eyes, and talked a great Certain phrases which fell perpetually deal.
doll-like face,

whose
frilled

immense

cap,

from her

lips struck

me, because they made


of himself.

my

father laugh in spite

Her

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


intonation rests within
this

69 at

my

memory, and
little

moment
is

can hear the

clear tremu-

lous voice repeating,

Matthias
to

have a

"You know, Hyacinthe, Matthias is going man The emperor is going decoration.
a famous
!

to decorate Matthias.

Matthias
it

will

be de-

corated."
I

need hardly add that

was

all

a dream

of the old lady's.

Nobody thought then, no " since, of giving the " Croix has thought one
Villiers

to the author of "Axel."

de

I'lsle

Adam was one of those men whom no government


decorates.

CHAPTER
The legend of
the
to the throne of Greece

V.

hoaxer hoaxed

The

succession

Villiers

de ITsle

Adam

candidate for the throne"

Le Lion de Numidie"
imperial

"The Moor
audience

of Venice"

The

NemesisAn

Marquis and Baron Rothschild

The Due de Bassano and Villiers de ITsle Adam The last a6l of the comedy A poet's conclusion
Death of Aunt Kerinou

Separation.

HERE
the

is

concerning this epoch in


of Villiers a wonderful

life

legend which has remained celebrated in the literary world


in passing from mouth to mouth
it
;

but

has gone
so

through so
far

many transformations, and fallen


truth, that
it is

from the
it

necessary to re-esta-

blish

in its pristine simplicity.

My readers

will perceive that the vis comica of the terrible

joke of which the young writer was a vi6lim

had no need of graces and embellishments.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

71

Here some words of preamble are needed, and my frivolous pen must needs make an
excursion into the grave and wearisome realm
of contemporary political
assured,
history.

Be

re-

my reader

it

shall

be but a short one.

In the year of grace, 1863, then, a time


at

which the
its

imperial

government shone

with

brightest radiance, the Hellenic nation


to

happened

be

in

want of a king.

The
little
life,

great powers

who

prote6led the heroic

nation to which Byron had sacrificed his


^,

France, Russia, and England, looked about


constitutional tyrant
\\\.\r protge.

nfer a young
had
at that

whom

they

might confer on
council,

Napoleon HI.
in the

epoch the casting vote

and men were asking themselves

anxiously whether he would put forward a

and whether that candidate would be a Frenchman. Briefly, the newspapers were full of stories about, and comments on
candidate,
this

absorbing subjedl: the Greek question

was the question of the hour. mongers could fearlessly give


seemed
to

The newsfree

rein

to

their imagination, for whilst the other nations

have fixed their

definite choice

on


72

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

the son of the

so justly

King of Denmark, the emperor named "the taciturn prince " by the
I

friend of his dark days, Charles Dickens

the emperor,
his decision

say, held his peace,


for.

and

let

be waited

Thus matters stood, when one morning early in March the tall marquis burst like a
whirlwind into the dreary drawing-room
in the

Rue
in

St.

Honor brandishing a newspaper, and

an indescribable state of excitement, soon

by all his family. This was the strange news registered that day in the
to be shared

columns
"

of several

Parisian

newspapers

good authority that a new candidature has just been announced for the
learn on

We

throne of Greece.
is

The

candidate this time


all

a French grand seigneur well known


Paris

over

de

Villiers

Comte de I'lsle Adam,

the

Philippe
last

Auguste

descendant of

the august line which has produced the heroic

defender of Rhodes and the


of the Knights of Malta.
last

first

Grand Master
the emperor's
his intimates

At

private reception,

one of

having inquired concerning the probability of


this candidate's success,

his majesty smiled

VILLIERS DE LISLE ADAM.


enigmatically.

73

The new

aspirant to kingly

honours has our best wishes."

Those who have followed me so


easily imagine the effel

far will

produced on imagi-

nations like those of the Villiers family

by

such a perusal.

Already they beheld their


in

Matthias entering Athens, dressed


velvet, proudly seated

black

on a white charger,
very

surrounded by his splendid Palikares !

As

for

Matthias himself, he took

it all

seriously,

though
"

he

doubted of ultimate

success.
" Sire
!

said the old marquis gravely, as


his coat,

worn white money is the one thing you want Your majesty's father will see you get it
he majestically buttoned
with wear, "
!
!

Farewell

am

going to see Rothschild

"
!

He
But

went, and was seen no more for a week.


let

me

quickly explain the origin of


It

this extraordinary adventure.

might truly

be called the hoaxer hoaxed, with the qualification,

however, that

the
all.

hoaxee would

never believe in a hoax at


In the days
figure of the

when

Villiers

was the

chief

little

circle at the

Rue de Douai

74

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


literary caboulets (as

and of some
he had a

called certain cafs


rival,

were then where writers congregated),

a splendid fellow with pale

skin, eagle eyes,

and a thick black head of hair, whom the Parnassians nicknamed " Le Lion de Numidie," although he only hailed
I

from Montpellier.

will call

him by no other
lion has clipped

name, for since those days the


his

mane, cut his claws, and done public


!

penance to society

Gifted with a wonderful

and good temper, with a much-dreaded shrewdness and surprising powers of observation, this jolly
constitution, with delightful spirits

Colossus would have been invulnerable, had

he not been
as
it

affli6led

with a vanity as strange

was unwarrantable.
lion

had pretensions to being an admirable a6lor, and never lost an


opportunity of showing
off his

The Numidian

talent

for

mimicry and
Villiers,
rible, cold,

his

powers
irony,

of

declamation.

who had

already pra6lised that ter-

and serious

which makes
its

all

the weaknesses of

human

nature

target,

soon perceived the weak place

in his jolly

boon companion's armour.

He

longed for a

VILLI ERS

DE LISLE ADAM.

75

joke, insinuated himself into the lion's


graces,

good

and by degrees succeeded


friends of his

in putting

him
that

off his guard.

He then explained to him


were desirous of
stage hired

some

playing

the "

Moor of Venice " on a

for that purpose,

but that they could find no

one capable of undertaking the part of Othello,

and the more so as it was absolutely necessary, to keep the local colour, that the alor
should stain his face and arms black.
let that
" I "

Don't
;

hinder you," cried his friend boldly


;

your man here is my hand on it!" With astonishing patience and gravity, Villiers
helped his friend to rehearse, and told him

am

where

to

get

"made
called,

up."
to

Then a

dress

rehearsal

was

take place at the


I

usual trysting-place of the band of poets.

need not say there never had been a question


of playing Shakespeare's
all

masterpiece,

but,

the same, Villiers had "horse,


foot,

summoned

all

the

poets,

and dragoon."

When

and face as black as those of the King of Dahomey, made his entrance, a general shout went up at the sight of the Numidian lion, who richly

Othello, in his splendid dress, his hands

76

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM,


title.

justified his

The
took
it

Provenal was too

sharp not to perceive at once that he had

been duped.
first

He

well,

and was the

to laugh at his

own

strange get-up, but

anyone who intercepted the look with which


he favoured the descendant of the Grand

Master of the Order of Malta could have


foretold his speedy revenge.
Villiers' friend,

He

remained

and

in

his

turn discovered

the defedl in his coat of mail.

Then

it

was

that he laid a snare for his vanity, his patrician


pride,
his
foolish

family

pretensions,

which almost betokened genius.


the treasure-seeker

The son

of

was to be seduced by the mirage of the throne and royal crown then
sparkling on the horizon
!

The

perpetrator of

the hoax had

made

his calculations

admirably

the candidature of Villiers de

I'lsle

Adam

could not seem anything abnormal to the


public.

The name was


;

illustrious

and hightherefore,

sounding

it

was not impossible,

that the sovereign, desirous of placing on the

Greek throne a monarch who owed everything to him, might choose amongst the flower of the French nobility a person on

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

77

whom

he designed to bestow a crown.

The

thing only

became improbable, laughable, and grotesque, when one knew the two chief personages, the king, and the king's

father.

Many

people were taken

in,

and the ex-

pe6lant king soon received the usual avalanche

of begging

letters.

Our Matthias did


glistened

not remain

idle,

nor dally

with his golden dream.


with

This throne which


precious stones

gems and

through the blue smoke-clouds of his cigarette,

tempted him
friends,

much more than he


Instigated
at

acknowledged to

himself.

good
ence,

who were laughing


it

by his him in

their sleeves,

he drew up a request for an audito the Tuileries.

and sent

Some days
drew up Honor, and

afterwards, a magnificent estafette

before the house in the

Rue

St.

gave to the astonished concierge a letter sealed with the imperial arms, and addressed to the

Comte

Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam;

the audience

was granted, and fixed for an early date. For the first and only time in his life, the He poet found a tailor who gave him credit.

78

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


all its

ordered a sumptuous evening coat, with

appendages, and then he shut himself up in


his

own room,

to study before the glass his

entry, his gestures,

and the speech which he

would address

to the sovereign.

On his

side,

the terrible Southern, in whose

ear Nemesis ceaselessly whispered, did not


lose his time.

Every day one or two newsIt

papers contained some paragraph concerning


the " French candidate."
that the
it

was announced
to receive

emperor was about

him

was related that his father, the marquis, had had a long and cordial interview with Baron Rothschild. But where the Numidian lion really showed the wisdom of the serpent, was in his manner of preparing his vi6lim for the impending audience. The writer, who was then in the throes of his novel, " Isis," had his imagination filled with those gloomy adventures which give such a romantic and
mysterious colour to the history of Italian
principalities in the sixteenth century.

He

dreamt of nothing but palaces full of murderous


snares,

whose walls opened, whose ceilings descended, whose floors gaped, to stifle or en-

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

79

tomb the imprudent mortals who allowed


themselves to be allured into the luxurious

and

fatal

dwellings of tyrants and princes.

The

contriver of the trick took admirable


;

advantage of the predisposition of his vi6lim

he reminded him that the

familiars of the
;

Tuileries were not over-scrupulous

he told

him a heap of tragic anecdotes relating to the morrow of the second of December, and having as their scene this palace, which, according to him, was as
operatic stage.
full

of trap-doors as an

Many

people, he insinuated,

who had
;

entered that

little

door on the Place

du Carrousel have never been seen to come out so let Villiers beware, for if any favourite had an interest in his disappearance, a trapdoor, a dungeon, might open suddenly under
his feet.

Above all, he must

absolutely refuse

to explain himself to

any but the emperor

himself!

At
thias,

last the great

day came, and poor Matand drove


he

very pale and agitated in his brand-new

clothes, got into a hired carriage,

away made

to

the

Tuileries

before starting,
to

his will,

and sent

it

my

father.

8o

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


It is difficult to tell exally

what passed
is

at

the Tuileries

Villiers'
it is

version

so impressed

with romance that

not easy to disentangle

the real from the imaginary.


certain
is

What seems

that the poet

was received by the


at that time fulfilled

Due de
Palace.
to

Bassano,

who

the funlions of

Grand Chamberlain of the


intentions

Doubtless the old diplomatist tried

fathom Matthias's

by clever

questioning, but he found himself confronted

by a personage unlike any he had ever met in his long and adventurous career. As for
the poet, his already heated imagination soon
carried

him

into oblivion of his present where-

abouts, to believe himself the hero of one of

those dark and mysterious court intrigues, the

dramatic histories of which he had lately been


perusing.

He refused to utter, would scarcely


down without insulting precautions,
inter-

put his foot

responded coldly to the advances of his


locutor,

upon

whom he cast glances and


and

deeply

significant smiles

which were quite unintelfinally stated,

ligible to the chamberlain,

courteously but firmly, that he was resolved


to speak to

nobody but the emperor himself

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


"I

8i

must ask you,

then, to take the trouble of

coming another time, count," said the duke, rising; "his majesty is engaged, and commissioned

me
is

to receive you."

There
took the
spite "

no doubt that the chamberlain


of genius for a lunatic, and, in

man

of

my

admiration for the author of


I

L'Eve Future,"

cannot wonder at

it.

Vil-

liers

used to relate that he was escorted

through the apartments to the staircase by

two muscular and threatening fellows dressed in black, and that he expeled every moment
to be cast into a

dungeon.
I

" For,"

he would

add, "

saw, the instant

entered, that Bas-

sano had been gained over to the son of the

King of Denmark, and that his obje6l in summoning me to the Tuileries was to get rid of an
inconvenient and dangerous rival; but
ness,

my cold-

tion of
Sbirri,

my dignity, the good style and moderamy words, doubtless impressed the
and
I

was allowed to depart in peace." The claimant went home with hanging

head, in great terror of the secret police,

fancying he was going to be arrested, thrown


into prison,

and perhaps put

to death.

II

82

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

He
never

barricaded himself into his room, and


left it for

a week.

At

last the

news-

papers put an end to his anxieties and his


ambitious
hopes,

by announcing the
rival,

final

nomination of his fortunate


the throne of Greece

the second

son of King Christian IX.,

who ascended
title

under the

of

George

I.

The

last a6l

of the
fell,

comedy had been played


but the principal alor
it

out, the curtain

never would believe that

mere fancy. He never doubted but that he had had the most serious chance of success and to the
was
all
;

last

day of

his life

he would describe,

in his

piluresque and glowing conversation, the


splendid things that he would have accomplished,
if

fortune had favoured him, and he

had become king.


Reader, you

may

laugh

but yet, would


?

much harm have been done


Greeks have been
less

would the

happy,

if

a gentle poet

had borne the sceptre of the country which saw Aphrodite's immortal beauty rise from
the sparkling,

foam-crested sea-waves

the

country of Homer, of yEschylus, of Anacreon,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


of Aristophanes
?

83

Doubtless,

the

reign

of

Matthias would not have resembled that of

our late highly-respelable Louis

Philippe,

but perhaps, fired by his genius, the Greece


of Miltiades and Themistocles, of Marathon

and Salamis, might have


stir

felt

her ancient soul

within her
!

The

poet's

alas

of this world, and his

kingdom is not crown is a thorny


a throne that
?
it

one.

And

what, indeed,

is

should be so eagerly desired


this
tiful

The hero

of

adventure has told us


lines
:

in

some very beau-

let

them form the conclusion of

this

veracious history.
" Un trne pour celui qui rve, Un trne est bien sombre aujourd'hui.
Fate des vanits humaines,

t
^

ses pieds saignent bien des haines,


il

Souvent

voile bien des peines


:

La
Il

foule obscure reste au seuil

Sapin couvert d'hermines blanches.


a sceptre et lauriers pour branches
;

Il est

form de quatre planches


!

Absolument comme un cercueil


'

"

To him whose
throne
is

life is full

of dreams

now

a dreary seat.
vanity,
girt about,

Summit of earthly By bloody hatreds

84

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

The

old aunt, Mdlle. Kerinou, never rose


in

from the great canopied bed

which

saw

her at the end of that memorable year, for the


first

and only time


escorted by

in

my

life.

Her pure and


illusions.

simple soul took wing to the gardens of Paradise,


all

her hopes and

The departure
rible

of the good old lady was a terI'lsle


it

event for the Villiers de

family;

up

to

now, thanks to her income,

had been
life

possible to pursue the jog-trot journey of

without too
for the

many jolts,
in

but her fortune, being

most part

an annuity, necessarily

died with her, and at her death these poor


Bretons, exiled in cruel, terrible Paris, saw

the ghost

of penury rise up before them.

The

dwelling in the

Rue

St.

Honor was

given up, and the furniture sold.

The mar-

quise went back to the country, in the hope


of raising

some funds

the marquis was a quia.

He

had

(in

connection with a wild society for

It cloaks full oft the bitterest griefs,

Unrecked of by the common herd. It's like some ermine-covered pine. Whose branches crown and sceptre make,

And

coffin-like, the thing is built.


"
!

Hollow, and formed of planks of wood

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

85

working some problematic bitumen lakes)

made acquaintance with


hasten to add that he

the police court.

left it

with head ere6l

and clean hands, but


empty.

his pockets

were

utterly-

Father and son separated, and

Villiers

went

to live alone, to

begin that sad pilgrimage

through Parisian lodging-houses, which lasted


all

his

life,

and closed in the Rue Oudinot, under


left

theroof of the Brotherhood of St. Jean de Dieu.

Soon
Rollin,

after,

Paris

and the Collge

where

had completed

my

studies, to

enter an English university.

the battle of

life

was beginning.

For me, too, Thence-

forward
time.
to
I

only heard of Villiers from time to

used to read his books, which he sent

my

father,

and often the newspapers


that interior stage

re-

ported his eccentricities and his deep sayings


to me.

On

which we
call

all

bear within

us,

and which men

memory,

he appeared
full

to

me

as a legendary personage,
I

of strange attradlion, and


father
tell

liked to

make

my
.

me

every story he

knew about

our cousin Matthias.


Certainly
I

little

thought then, that these

recollerions and anecdotes would help

me

in

86

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


riper age to call

my

up and bring

to life the

genial figure of the great Breton artist.

Neither did

suspel that, some years

later,

this great artist

would become

my own
it

most

revered teacher,

my

surest,

most

faithful,

and

most precious
lived side

friend.

But so

was

to be.

During three years, from 1877

to

1880,

we

by

side in an absolute

and constant

intelledlual intimacy.

And

if,

even now, the

love of the ideal and of the imperishably


beautiful consoles

me for much that is horrible,


much
that
is

much

that

is

wretched,

mediocre

and unworthy, it is to Villiers de I'lsle Adam that I owe it he it is, who, on those dark
;

nights,

when our

feet trod the

mud

of Lutetia,

eloquently pointed out to

me

the starry way.


it

In order then to conclude these notes,

remains for
life

me
I

to relate that part of the poet's

of which

was the almost

daily witness.

My

CHAPTER VI. return to Paris The Htel d'Orlans My search Our reunion The stages of lawsuit The drama of "Perrinet Leclerc Paul Clves, dire6lor of the Porte Martin Theatre The Marchal Jean de ITsle
for
Villiers

earlier

his

historical

"

St.

Adam, according

to Messrs.
fury

Lockroy and Anicet


to

Letters the press memorandum Intervention of M. de Provocation A du arranged Settlement on the ground Result of the action Biographer's reservations Documentary evidence. OWARDS the autumn of 1876, at
summons A
Bourgeois
Villiers
Villiers'
el

the close of a long journey


Switzerland,
I

in

returned to Paris,
dazzled

my

eyes

still

by the

glamour of virgin snows, inaccessible peaks,


glistening glaciers,

and the great blue lake


its

wherein melancholy Chillon reflects


keep.

gloomy
fir-

Through

that land of mountain,

88

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


spirit of

wood, and torrent, the

my

father,

whose death

yet mourned, had been with

me

everywhere, teaching

me

the better to

appreciate and admire the sublimity of those landscapes for which he had always had a sort

of passionate fondness.

My entry into

France

was

still

haunted by the paternal presence,

and I hurried to the old Htel d'Orlans, where we had spent so many years together, while I, alas was too young and frivolous to profit by the counsels of that wise and gene!

rous mind.

Whether
I

it

was by chance, or by
but

a delicate attention on the part of the old host


of the inn,
father's

know

not,

was given
past.

my

old room, and

my

first

night was

haunted by the shadows of the


those silent watches
I

During

lived through

episode of my schoolboy days again, and


familiar faces passed before
faintly

many an many
some

my

eyes,

looming

in the

shadow and
these

as quickly

disappearing, others clearly outlined and constantly recurring.

Amongst
de

last,

the
con-

big

fair

head of

Villiers

I'lsle

Adam
me
with

stantly reappeared, his eyes

seeming to gaze

on

me

intently,

and

to reproach

my

VILLIERS DE LISLE ADAM.


long neglect.
forgotten him.
ries of life

89

Ah, no

had

not, indeed,

But the adventures and worto this prevented

had up

me from

seeking him out, and, since the childish days


already referred
to,
I

had never beheld him.

But

resolved not to leave Paris this time

without finding him, and binding our


selves together with
affe6lionate as those

two

bonds as strong and as


which had once united

him and

my

father.

The
I

next evening, before the dinner hour,

sought him along the boulevard.

Every
la

habitu,

every lounger, from the Caf de

Paix to the Caf de Madrid, knew Villiers de


risle

Adam, but nobody knew where he


tell

lived,

nor could

where he might be found.

He

was, so they said, peculiarly a night-bird, and

almost

all

those

who mentioned him


at

to

me had
of this

made
in

his acquaintance

unearthly hours,

out-of-the-way brasseries.

None

information was of much service to me, and I was beginning rather to despair, when a sud-

den downpour of rain drove


in the entry

me to

take refuge
I

of the Passage Gouffroy.

mechanically watching the play of light

was and

90

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

shade caused by the shower, when suddenly,

and without an instant s

hesitation, in spite of

the lapse of years, in spite of the change which the fight for existence had wrought in his

appearance,

recognized

him

There are
care,

some strong
changeable.

individualities
alter.

which age,

even sickness, cannot

They

are un-

And

Villiers

was one of these.


from the

He
rear,

was coming

into the passage

a big bundle of manuscript under his


I

arm, with that elastic yet hesitating tread

so well remembered, taking quick, short steps,

looking preoccupied and flurried at once, as

he passed through the throng.

Poor great poet judging by


!

his hat,

which
the

was worn red with age, the frock-coat which concealed


jade,

thin threadbare
his
shirt,

trousers with their frayed hem. Fortune, that

What
his

had treated him with condign scorn. matter! As he came towards me, I

read neither discouragement nor despair upon

ageing features.

uncertain blue eye,

There was the same pale lost in its dream, and


at

beneath the
grey, the full

fair

moustache, already turning

mouth smiled as

some

secret

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


vision.

91

He was, in good sooth,

far

from earth

at that

moment, and there seemed

to

me some-

thing proud and noble, amidst that jostling,

pushing crowd of wet, muddy, common-looking passers-by, in the scornful indifference of


the great thinker to the

human
tale.

rabble through

which he passed,

all

unseeing, like the sleep-

walker of some oriental

As he drew
first

near to me, the

memory

of our

meeting in the dining-room of the old


addressed him

house at Fougres came back to me, and


touching his shoulder gently,
I

with a slight variation of the words he used

when he found me,

a child in disgrace, eating

my

solitary breakfast at the deserted family


:

board

"

Good morning,
I

cousin

you don't
"
!

know me.
sleep,

am

your cousin Robert

He started like a man


and raised

suddenly roused from

his eyes to mine.


;

His usually
into

lustreless glance brightened

we fell

each

other's arms,

and embraced shamelessly coram

populo.
union,

Doubtless Heaven smiled on our refor the setting sun

wet pavements and roofs


in

was making the shine again, as arm

arm we went out upon the boulevards.

92
It

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

was during that first evening's converse, which cemented the friendship of our manhood's years, that Villiers de
I'lsle

Adam
of the

recounted to

me

the

earlier stages

strange alion which he was about to bring


against the Lockroy family and the heirs of

the melodramatic playwright, Anicet Bourgeois

most

fantastic

lawsuit,

which

amused and interested all Paris for several months, and of which I desire now to relate
the apparently improbable incidents.
It

happened, then, one winter evening in

1876, that

my

cousin Matthias

was dreaming

along the Boulevard du Crime, when, as he

passed before the Porte


its

St.
it

Martin Theatre,
usually

faade, lighted

up as

was on

important occasions, attraled his attention.

He

drew near

to the advertisement boards,

and started on

seeing,

below the

title

of the

play of which a reprodu6lion was to be given


that night, " Perrinet Leclerc," an historical

drama

in five acts,

by Messrs. Lockroy and

Anicet Bourgeois, the name of his


trious ancestor, the

own
by

illus-

Marshal Jean de
line

Villiers
itself.

de risle Adam, occupying a

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


"

93

What

"
!

roared the poet, " they have put

the glorious marshal on the stage


to

me? Ha!
The

ha!

unknown We'll have some fun!"


box
office.

and he hastened
Porte St.

to the

Martin Theatre was at that


of Paul Clves,

time under the management of a very worthy


fellow of the

name

who had
full

been

in

his time

a good alor, and who,


himself,

though

not

literary

was

of

respectful admiration for the literary merits

of others.

He

had a reverence not unmixed

with

awe

for the eccentric genius of Villiers,

and the moment he saw him he hurried with outstretched hands to meet him and place
him
in the

managerial box, so that he might

not lose a word nor a gesture of the alor


personifying that famous warrior whose de-

scendant the poet was.


act,

But, after the second

Villiers

reappeared in the unfortunate


pale,
"
!

Clves' private room,


bristling with fury.

trembling,

and

" Sir

he

cried,

with a

tragic gesture,

"two ignorant and conceited


illus-

clowns,

Lockroy and Bourgeois, have enwarriors


of the

deavoured to degrade one of the most


trious

fourteenth

century,

94

VILLIERS

DE

L'ISLE

ADAM.

whose name it is my glory to bear, and whose reputation it is my duty to defend


!

You have allowed


mitted,

this

infamy to be comsir,

and

call

upon you,

to

withdraw
"
!

the play to-morrow."


" But,

my

dear

Villiers, it is

impossible

cried Clves,

when he had recovered from


" consider
!

his

profound astonishment,

it

would be
!

my my
are

ruin.

It

would be certain bankruptcy


"

engagements
nothing
to

" Ruin, bankruptcy,

engagements

These
have
non-

me.

You

should
this

warned me before you accepted


sensical stuff."
"
I

never accepted

it.

It
.

has been in the

repertory since 1834 !"


"

Enough,
I

sir.

understand you to refuse


apply to the authors
are the authors
"
?

Very good,
authors,
"
I

shall

the
left

say.

Where

They

are dead!"
for

"Well
children,

them! But they must have


representatives.
is

heirs,

That

cur,

that Simon,

whose name

not even Lockroy,


stir

has a descendant who has made


this third

enough

in

Republic of yours

Well,

we

shall

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


see
to
!

95

For the

last time, Clves,


"
?

do you refuse

withdraw the play

The unlucky manager had become speechless, but he made a sign with his head which
seemed
to signify that
it

was impossible
the
poet,

to

grant such a request.

"Very

well,

then," said

"you

and your accomplices

shall hear

from

me

"
!

And

he went out

in

a fury.

Those who can recollect Villiers de I'lsle Adam's idolatrous worship for the memory of
his ancestors will

understand this outbreak of

rage

when

state that this unlucky so-called

historical

drama by Messrs. Lockroy and


I'lsle

Bourgeois represented the Marchal de

Adam

as a disloyal

nobleman and an abomi-

nable traitor

traitor, not in favour of the Duke


Duke
of Orleans,

of Burgundy, nor of the

but traitor to his

own

country, to his poor

mad

king, delivering both over to the English

power, and aiding Henry V. to place upon his

own head

the crown torn from that of the All this was absolutely

rightful sovereign.

contrary to the truth.

Jean de

I'lsle

the friend and right-hand

man

of

Adam, the Duke

96

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


it is

of Burgundy, was,

true, the

most ardent

partisan of John the Bold,

and took possession


to the English,
offers of

of Paris in his name.

As

Jean refused the splendid

Henry

V.,

who

him only emerged


cast

into the
after

Bastille,

whence he
death.

that

prince's

Thenceforward he warred ceaselessly against the British, from whom he recaptured Pontoise in 1435.

of the case.

Such are the historical facts But the authors of " Perrinet
little

Leclerc" cared

for

that.

To

those

makers of melodramas, history was but a

mine
tion,

to supply their

own

lack of imagina-

and

its

personages

merely

obliging

dummies,

to

be dressed
a

up

in

glory

or

infamy, according to the needs of their case.

and they simply took in all good faith, never dreaming that there would appear, five
traitor,

They wanted
de

Villiers

I'lsle

Adam,

hundred years

after

the

fulfilment

of the

events they were putting on the stage, in this


fin-de-siecle

and gaping Paris of


to

ours, a poet

who was ready


ancestor
!

make himself the champion


his outraged

and the vigorous defender of

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

97

Never did
this business.

Villiers

show such

alivity,

such

physical and moral energy, as in the course of

For

my own

part,

my know-

ledge of him leads


spite of all

me

to the opinion that, in

his indignation,

he rather enjoyed

the adventure.
cial

The
the

excitement of the judi-

struggle,

newspaper polemics, the

ransacking of libraries both far and near, put


a

and freed his mind for a while from the dreams which so incessantly haunted it. And that arch-scoffer must

new

interest into his

life,

have

felt

a curious
that

secret

amusement

in

obliging

all

army of

solicitors, barristers,

judges, and their deputies, to occupy themselves with the affairs of an illustrious old

gentleman who had been dead for four hundred and


fifty

years, to decipher the quaint

and

incomprehensible

manuscripts

of the

thirteenth century,

and to busy themselves,


of

under

the

reign

Grvy,

Wilson, and
the

Co., with the concerns of Charles VI.

Bienaim, of John the Bold, and of the fatally


fascinating Isabeau of Bavaria.

But

to begin at the beginning.


after that

The very

morning

memorable performance,

98

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


appeared
in

there

several
letter

daily

papers

haughty and indignant


the

from the

last of

De

Tlsle

Adams,

in

which he

brilliantly

vindicated his right to defend his illustrious


relative

from opprobrium.

He blasted in a few
literary

scorching phrases, conceived in ineffable scorn


for all dealers in such

second-hand

wares, the
tors
;

work of the two unlucky


finally

collabora-

and he

declared

that

he was
their

about to appeal to the laws of the country to


obtain for

them the chastisement of

crime of treason against the national glory.

There was much giggling along the boulevards at the poet's

new

freak.

The collateral
"

heirs of the adling rights of the play turned a

deaf ear to his threat, and " Perrinet Leclerc


still

held the
this

bills, its

success

much

increased
then,

by

fresh

puff.

Forward,

the
all

officers,

the formalities, the dusty papers,


!

the creaking machinery of the law

A clever

and

intelligent

young

barrister,

an acquain-

tance of Villiers, eagerly seized on this opportunity of distinguishing himself; for this alion

was

to stir both the

law courts and the bouleto

vards,

and those who had

do with

it

soon

became famous.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

99

The
the

representatives

of Lockroy and of
file

Anicet Bourgeois had to

their

answer to

summons duly served upon them a summons praying that they might be forbidden to

continue the performances of a play wherein

they libelled and calumniated the direl ancestor of the plaintiff, " the said Philippe

Auguste

Matthias de Villiers de
letters,

I'lsle

Adam, man of
Here-

which summons has been personally


etc., etc., etc.

delivered at the defendants' house.

with a copy, whereof the price,"

The defendants' answer was rather clever. They asked the tribunal to rule that the
was inadmissible firstly, because he offered no proof of his boasted direl
plaintiff's plea
:

descent from the illustrious house of Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam

secondly, because the chro-

nicles of the time,

and notably that of the

Monk

of St. Denis, authorized the writers of " Perrinet Leclerc " in presenting the condu6l of

the Marshal de

I'lsle

Adam

during the
in

civil

wars of the reign of Charles VI.


favourable light
;

an un-

thirdly,

because the said


being an historical

Marshal de

I'lsle

Adam

personage, any writer might criticise or praise

loo

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


according
to

him,

conscience

or

personal

opinion, without being Hable to

any a6lion on

that score.

Thus the fight began. And how, for some weeks, Matthias was

undiscoverable.
libraries

He

buried himself in the

and the archives, amongst which his clear mind called up all that gloomy and romantic period which began at the infancy
of Charles VI. and ended on the day

when
the

Jeanne d'Arc led the weak-kneed Charles VI I.


to Rheims, to be anointed king.

When

lawsuit began, nothing remained to Villiers

of the family inheritance.


father

Pressed by poverty,
;

and son had parted with everything


still

but they
archives,

preserved the precious family

and the poet possessed irrefragable


sufficiently studied

proof of his descent.

When, therefore, he had


the ten years of
civil

the formidable heap of documents bearing on

war which stained the


request
"
:

close of the reign of Charles VI., he prayed

leave

to

support

his

against
firstly,

the

authors

of " Perrinet

Leclerc

by the
his de-

proof, resting

on authentic records, of
I'lsle

scent from that Marshal de

Adam whose

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


honour he claimed
proving that
to

loi

by no contemporary chronicler gave


defend
;

secondly,

to his ancestor that odious charaler

which

Messrs. Lockroy and Bourgeois had dared to

make him

play in the history of his time.


if it

was true that the so-called Chronicle of the Monk of St. Denis did contain a sentence which permitted any doubt on
that score,
it

And, he added,

was

established,

on the other

hand, that these memoirs had no chara6ler


for authenticity, that they

were held

in sus-

and that, in any case, it was sufficient to read the manuscript to be convinced that it was a partial work, and that its author belonged to that falion which was hostile to the Duke of Burgundy, the friend of De I'lsle Adam.
picion
all

by

competent

historians,

To

this

second appeal Villiers added a long

memorandum, addressed to the judges. I do not know what has become of this manuscript.
I

hope that those persons who have under-

taken, with so

much

zeal

and devotion, the


in their pos-

posthumous publication of the works of the


author of
session.
"

Axel,"
it

may have

it

In

the great writer appears in a

I02

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


light.

new

This sketch of the


I'lsle

life

of the

Marshal de

Adam

is

a masterpiece of

clearness and style, a gifted

and magnificent

word-pi6lure of the end of the thirteenth century, a strong

and closely-reasoned piece of

work, in which the fervent eloquence of his


pleading for the thesis he defends never fetters
the
critical

and investigating
I

faculty of

its

author.

Thus matters stood when


in Paris.

joined Villiers

The

adversaries were

armed

at all

points,

and only waited the close of the vaca-

tion to

go before the

courts.

All at once, an unexpedled event, a tragi-

comic incident, gave a fresh interest to the


affair.
I

have

related, in the early

pages of these

name shown no proof of diredl descent from the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, had been authorized, at the time of the return of the Bourbons, to add the
recolle6lions,

how a

family bearing the

of Villiers, but which had

name
tent,

of L'Isle

Adam
pie,

to

its

own

patronymic.

Just as our Villiers was emerging from his

armed cap

and lance

in rest, to

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

103

defend his ancestral glory and good fame


against the calumnies of two playwrights, the representative of this other family, a
officer,

young
bore,

very proud of the great


it

name he

and exceedingly ignorant, as

seems, of his

real origin, returned from Africa.

Honestly
of

believing himself the scion of those heroes

who had shed


Adam,
his

glory on the

name

De

I'lsle

rage and

stupefalion

may be
him
the

imagined when, hardly had he arrived home,


ere his friends and relations placed before

various newspapers, which reported with

much

comment, and wit seasoned with Attic


particulars of the adlion brought

salt,

by the highit

born poet against the guilty authors of " Perrinet

Leclerc."

Incredible as

seems

in

these days,

when

the press penetrates every-

where, the young warrior appears to have


iornored
till

then the existence of one of the


literary
*'

best-known

men in

Paris.

He fancied

the author of

Isis " to

be some scribbling
believed to be ex-

adventurer who had picked up for himself, out


of history, a
tin6l.

name which he

In the heat of his indignation, he wrote

a letter to a great daily paper, and as the

I04
officer

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

knew more about


than about
the

the cavalry sword-

exercise
beautiful

amenities
his

of our

French language,

communication

was
sive,

at once plain-spoken, rude,

and aggres-

claiming his right to bear the

name

of

Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam, and avowing


calling

that

any other person

himself by that

name usurped
appeared, and

it.

This warlike missive soon


all

forthwith
all

the

venomous
talent

small fry of the press,


blers,
all

the envious scribVilliers'

the failures

had overshadowed, had wounded, pounced upon


fall.

whom and whom

his bitter jests

this lucky

wind-

leine

Along the boulevards, from the Madeto the Gymnase, at the hour of the
little

absinthe queen, their

poisonous speeches
:

were

to
!

be heard on every side


Don't you
!

"

That poor

Villiers

Adam

at all

It
!

know ? Not De I'lsle was a name he took


!

always thought so

It

seems he

is

really the

son of a small grocer at Guingamp."

Ah why
!

cannot we sear the


?

lips

of slan-

derers with a red-hot iron

Shame on

those

dastards
to pierce

for this time at least they

managed
All those

my friend

to the heart.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

105

who knew him


Villiers

well,

knew

that beneath his

strange exterior and his cold

mask

of scorn

had a noble ardent


stings which

soul,

which must

have suffered cruelly under the thousand

anonymous
pride.

were

inflicted

on

his

But the blood of the marshal and the


in his veins,
officer

grand master boiled

and on the

very day of the insult the

was waited

upon by two poet-friends of the writer, who came from the Comte Philippe Auguste de
Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam
was
the
;

to

demand
to
their

reparation
principal.

for

the outrage

offered

The

adversary
flinching

brave,

and

accepted

without

meeting which

was

proposed to him
conferred,
it

and the seconds having


that
all

was arranged
little

should go,

armed with swords, the day


following,

after the next

on a

expedition to the neigh-

bourhood of Vsinet.

Meanwhile, one of the

seconds of Matthias, a sensible man, though

a violent Parnassian, struck by the exceedingly corre6l

demeanour of the other

party,

thought

it

might not be altogether useless to


proofs

submit to him certain genealogical

which would demonstrate to him that right

io6

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


his side, as

was not altogether on

he fancied.

After a severe struggle he induced Villiers to

lend him those famous and precious family-

documents

for the space of twenty-four hours,


to the cavalry lieutenant with

and sent them

an urgent request that he would read them


before the hour fixed for the meeting.
result

The

was a loyal, good-hearted, and very chivalrous man. He appeared on the ground at the appointed
Villiers

was amazing.

M. de

hour, advanced towards the real Villiers de


risle

Adam, made him a bow, and

offered

him the most courteous apology, adding that it was only on the preceding evening that he had learnt the truth. It was worth hearing Villiers, with his tragic gestures, and the perpetual wagging of his front fair lock, retail
the incidents of this coup de thtre.
" Sir

"
!

he would
hand,
his brave

cry, "
I

my

sword dropped from


face, tell

my

when

heard this pale young man, with


me, with an

and resigned

evident

effort, that,

French
for a
I

officer as

he was,
fight
I

he would rather pass


in support of a
lie.

coward than

opened
I

my

arms.

folded him to

my

heart.

told

him he was

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


worthy to be
allied with the illustrious
;

107

dead

and in my whose representative I was father's name and my own, I authorized, nay, I besought him to continue to bear the name
of Villiers de I'lsle

Adam
fine in

"
!

But everything, even


to

lawsuits,

must come

an end

and one

morning the judges


the

gave

their

decision

extraordinary

case of " L'Isle

Adam

versus Simon, alias

Lockroy, and Anicet


reader will be prepared

Bourgeois."

As my
it

to learn, the tribunal

refused the poor poet's appeal, deeming

inadmissible

because, as

the

marshal was

historical property,

every author had a right

to

show him
;

in

whatever light suited him


his

best

especially

when he based

judgment,

as in the case of the


Leclerc,"

writers of "Perrinet

on the evidence of contemporary


of St. Denis. had.

documents and memoirs, such as the Chronicle


of the
lation

Monk
Villiers

But one consoof the

The preamble

judgment established those diredl ties of descent which made him the last representative of that famous and heroic warrior who

was the

friend of the great

Duke of Burgundy.

io8

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


I

When
lips,

learnt these events from the poet's

they were already in the limbo of the

past.

Were

not possessed with an instin6live

and not altogether unreasonable horror of foot-notes, I would infli6l one on my readers, propos to this trial, to state that I have
related the
recollecflion

whole of

it

from recollelion

graven upon

pi6luresque recitals of
regretted cousin.

my memory by the my gifted and much


summing
up, with-

In thus

out a6lually vouching for the fa6ls of the


story,
I

trust

have not trangressed

in

any

particular against the truth.


I

But

in

any case

shall

be very glad to accept any verification

which
I

may be

kindly submitted to me.


I

think further, that

shall

do no prejuif I

dice to the

memory
I

of Villiers,

frankly

confess that

entertain

some

serious doubt

concerning the alleged handsome retraction

made by
the

his

opponent
duel.

on the scene
poet was in

of
the

intended

The
all

habit of dramatizing
daily
life

the incidents of his


stories.

into

enchanting

Their
but

groundwork

was generally

true,

he

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


would arrange the scene, invent

109

incidents,

and create personages,


rently
to
his aesthetic

in

obedience appaor perhaps

instinl,

rather to his wild innate longing to mystify


his

audience.
is

In this particular case

my

suspicion
cin6l

supported by the following sucletter,

and nobly-expressed
his adversary,

addressed to
necessarily,
all

him by
this

and which,

put an end to their difference.

At

events
in

document proves that our author was


" Paris,

the right.

^'February i6th, 1877.

"Sir,
"
I

can only

bow

before the incontest-

ably authentic title-deeds which you

have

been so good as to communicate to me, and

which indeed establish unanswerably your


descent from that family of Villiers de
I'lsle

Adam whose name


in

is

written in such glorious

chara6lers upon the pages of our history, and

whose ranks

figures the

Marshal Jean,

whose memory, in spite of what anyone may say, remains above all suspicion.
"

This does

not,

however, alter the fa6l that

no

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


7,

a royal ordinance, dated September

181 5,

and inserted
rizes

in the

'

Bulletin des Lois,' autho-

my grandfather, Vicomte Joseph-Gabriel,


le

son of Franois- Ignace de Villiers des Champs,

and of Dame Dsher


his wife, to

Borgue de Villement,
of Villiers that of

add

to his

name

De
"

risle

Adam.
to

There appears

me

to

be no objel to

be gained by going into the genealogy of


family,

my
and

which has given knights and comto

manders
Rohans,
"

the

Order of

St.
is

Louis

marshals to France,
etc., etc.

which
if,

allied to the

And,

in

conclusion,

contrary to

my

expelations,
this letter

the explanations contained in


suffice,

do not appear to you to


I

pray be assured that


at your disposal.

hold myself entirely

(Signed) " G. Villiers de l'Isle Adam."

While

am

about quoting the documents


should conclude by giving

bearing on this curious business, the reader

may be
by

glad that

the principal passages of the fine letter written


Villiers to the

newspapers of the day,

in

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


answer to the mean and

in

spiteful attacks of

which he was then the objedl.

"Paris (undated, prdhably January, 1877).

"

To
"

the Editor of

"Sir,

This

is

my

answer to the

article

you

have published concerning me. I desire that it may suffice for all those of your colleagues
of the press,

who have been good enough

to

devote their precious time to me, and busy


themselves with

my

name, during the past

week.

"It has been claimed that


in

my
was

sole obje6l

bringing an a6lion against the proprietors


*

of the play

Perrinet Leclerc,'

to establish

the genealogical succession of

my own

family.

Now
years

may remark

that for eight-and-thirty

committed the grave indiscretion of

never giving that question a thought, believing


it

(with others
it)

whose duty

calls

them
I

to

consider

so clearly established that

could

afford to smile at
jel.
I

any discussion of the subit

may

further remark that

was only

112

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


request of counsel

the

on the other side

which obhged
at
all.

It

produce any such proofs seems strange, then, that this reto

me

proach should be made to


adversaries

the

who attacked moment when I myself was about


from the struggle.
is

me by the very me on this point at


to

desist

"It has been asserted that there


the sequence of

a gap in

my

family genealogy.

Now
In
it

genealogy

is

an exaft science, which no more

admits of a mistake than does algebra.


'

five centuries

'

mean

nothing.
'

They should

have been described as twelve generations.'


"

The

records of the Order of Malta, in

which the whole nobility of France and of

Europe are concerned, are indisputable evidence all over the world, and that Order would
not give a careless decision concerning the

descendants of a Grand Master such as the

one whose name

bear.

"That a
and that

clerk should write a 3 instead of a


title

9 on the hasty copy of a


(in spite of

of the order,

the opportunities given

by me

during two years for free and open

investigation) such an error should be quoted

VILLIERS DE D'ISLE ADAM.


against the absolute authoritativeness of
title-deeds,
is,

113

my
cal-

repeat,

merely a matter
In any case,
I

culated to raise a smile.

shall

bring the fa6ls


Ofhce.
" I

before the French Record

descend from Jean de


and,
I

I'lsle

Adam

as

diredlly as

any of you gentlemen descends


;

from his own father


'

in spite of the

Chronique de
"

St. Denis,'
fa6l.

have some reason

to

be proud of the
I

am

asked what interest

had

in

vexing

my
that
so.

soul concerning a play which outrages his

pure and sacred


I

memory

and

it is

affirmed

simply desired to puff myself by doing

A man is but that which his own thoughts


him.

make

And

for

my
it

only answer,
this

would beg those who have had


concerning me, to guard
are quite worthy of
to claim either their
"
it,

thought

preciously.

They
.

and I shall never care sympathy or esteem.


.
.

There
in

is

as

much

truth in this assertion

as in that which claims to have discovered a

gap

the direl succession of


It is

my

family

about the year 1535.


to note

a wonderful thing

how

lightheartedly a lawyer will cast


I

114

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

doubt on the records of the Order of Malta,

which are an

article of faith to the nobility of


;

the whole world

on the signed attestations


family

whereby provincial bishops have recognized


three
rights

centuries of publicly-admitted
;

on the signatures of ambassadors and and on consuls, both French and English
;

that of the Minister of Justice himself!


"
I

have no right to submit myself to any


on
this head.

legal investigation

An

inves-

tigation of

what
?

Of my

claims to

be of
left to

noble descent

But the only course

the law courts themselves must be to

bow

to

those claims, which are established by the

only tribunal to which

can in honour appeal.

One

alone,

among

the signatures with which


suffices
*

these parchments swarm,

to

prove

my
*

contention.

The

text of the
'

Declaration
as follows
:

of the Order of Malta

runs

Notum

facimus et in verbo veritatis attesin judicio


.

tamur ut
"

pleno ac indubia fides

adhibeatur.
'

We declare under our seal and that of the


Armand
this

Papal Bull published this day, that

de risle Adam, admitted a knight of

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Order, has proved his
*"

"S
in

quarterings

the

most indisputable manner.

We, Caumartin, Intendant de Chamof, etc., etc., etc.

pagne, bear witness to the correlness of the

genealogy

*"We, Bishop
with the

of St. Brieuc, ourselves con-

ne6led through the family of

De

Verdalle

Knights

of

Malta,

bear witness
it

that for the last three hundred years

has
etc.,

been matter of public notoriety


etc.,

that,

etc'

"

How

can you expe<5l any law court to


for or against, in such a matter
?

pronounce

How
late.

can any newspaper chatter affel

it ?

Centuries have rolled by.

You come
fadls
"
!

in too

These are accomplished

CHAPTER
Le Pin
Galant,

VIL

" The New World The American centenary competition The charadler of Mistress Andrews The legend of Ralph Evandale.
with his play
"

near

Bordeaux

Arrivai

of

Villiers

H LE
I

Villiers

was thus struggling


Paris law courts,

with the gentlemen of the wig and

gown

in the

followed his

movements from
In

afar

with considerable anxiety.


in

my

retirement

one of those pretty one-storied houses


trembled as
Paris paper

near Bordeaux which the people in the south


poetically term a " Chartreuse,"
I
I

tore asunder the wrapper of


lest I

my

every morning,
liers,

should learn that Vil-

whose

fearfully over-excited condition

was well known to me, had given way to some eccentricity or some dangerous al of violence. I kept on writing to beseech him

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


to leave Paris,
solitude,

117

and

to

come and share

my

redolent of

the healthy odour of

the pine forests, enlivened

rush of the great river


fluttering sails,

by the impetuous dotted with white and


its

and

ideal with

spreading

horizons bathed in the purple and gold of the


exquisite southern sunsets.
But,
alas
!

he

heartening silence,

wrapped himself and his shadow

in
fell

dis-

not

on the snow-white steps which led


Pin Galant, as
called.

to the

my

temporary dwelling was


"

One
a
letter

day, however, the " Figaro

brought

me news

of his speedy arrival, in the form of


its first

published on
I

page, and bearthis


it

ing his signature. before me, but


I

have not
that in

document
fresh per-

know

he refuted,

in his usual sarcastic style,

some

fidious insinuation concerning the imperfe6l

authenticity
last

of the

name he
letter,

bore.

The

sentence of the

however, which
is
it,

gave me a lively thrill of joy, graven on my memory. I quote


exceedingly chara6leristic.
point of
starting
for
"
I

for ever

as being

am on

the

Pin Galant,

not far

ii8

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


frontier.

from the Spanish

Lovers of another
silent than that of

style of conversation,

more

human
faa."

tongues, are requested to note this

He duly appeared
It

a few days

later,

without

having otherwise announced himself.

was on one of those

torrid afternoons

known only
bouring

to the inhabitants of the south,

that Villiers arrived on foot from the neighvillage,

whither the omnibus from

Bordeaux had brought him. dressed, in black kerseymere

He

was simply
a loose

trousers,
(
!

grey overcoat trimmed with fur

),

and a
In his

well-worn but shiny chimneypot hat.

hand he vi6loriously flourished a huge walking-stick.

The

big pockets of his unseason-

ably thick overcoat bulged in a manner which

alarmed

me

for their solidity.

At

first

thought he was using them as a carpet-bag, for he brought no sign of any other luggage But my mistake only lasted a few with him. Hardly had he entered, when, minutes. after the first cordial greetings, he pulled out
of his vast pockets five thick

manuscript

pamphlets, piling them one upon the other,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


and
his white, prelatical

119

hand waving with


Like Columbus at
feet of
"
!

the air of a bishop a sort of benedilory


gesture,

he exclaimed,

"

the feet of his Spanish sovereign, even so lay


I

the

'New World'

at the

your

majesty and
contained, in

my good

cousin

The books

his magnificent

good the manuscript of drama in five a6ls, entitled ** Le Nouveau Monde," which had gained the first place, the year before, in the comtruth,

petition instituted in
States,

honour of the United


not yet found an

but which had

opening on the Parisian stage.


Before relating the adventures of Villiers

and
will

his

manuscript at Bordeaux,
if I

think

it

be of interest to scholars

give some

explanation of the origin

of this dramatic
qualities,

work, which, in spite of


is

its

admirable

almost unknown at this present time.


Villiers

In

1880

de

I'lsle

Adam
it

found a pub-

lisher bold

enough

to issue
to

at his

own

risk,

and

his

name deserves

be recorded.

It

was M. Richard,

printer

and

publisher, of
is

the Passage de l'Opra.

The pamphlet
Villiers

now almost

out of print.

had pre-

I20

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


his

ceded

play

by an "Address
I

to

the
in

Reader,"
its

to

which

shall

return later,

proper time and place, and by a very


I

short preface, which

quote

in its entirety,

because

it

explains

far better

than

could

the peculiar circumstances which gave birth


to the work.

"In 1875 a dramatic competition was announced by the theatrical press of Paris. A medal of honour, even a sum of 10,000 francs, and other temptations, were offered to the French dramatic author who should most
powerfully
recall, in

a work of four or five a6ls,

the episode of the proclamation of the inde-

pendence of the United


anniversary of which
"

States, the

hundredth

fell

on July 4th, 1876.

The two examining juries were thus composed. The first, of the principal critics of The second, of the French theatrical press.
M. Vi6lor Hugo, honorary
Emile Augier, 06lave
president, Messrs.
Feuillet,

and Ernest
"

Legouv, members of the French Academy,

Mr. Grenville Murray, representing the

New

York Herald," and M.

Perrin, administrator-

general of the Thtre Franais.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


"

121

The

preliminary jury were to sele6l five


;

manuscripts

the final jury, to class

these

manuscripts in what
tellelual order.
"

may be

called their in-

Six months were allowed for writing the

works, and about a hundred plays, signed

with mottoes only, were forwarded to the


ternational agency of

in-

M. Thodore

Michalis,

the inaugurator of the competition.


"

More than a year elapsed while the gentleof the theatrical press were examining

men
"

the dramas.

The titles of the sele6led works were published, and among them appeared that of
the
"

Nouveau Monde.' Two more months passed


*

by.

At
an

last,

on the 22nd of January,


notice signed

1876,

official

me
the

that the

'

by the superior jury informed Nouveau Monde,' had of all


works,

competing

passed

with

most

honour through the double ordeal."

The
author.

attralions

of

the

programme had

been well arranged to tempt any dramatic

was not the medal of honour, nor even the dream of the ten thousand
it

Yet

122

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


which induced the creator of Bonhomet
all,

francs,

to compete.

above
ment.

was the proposed subje6l the conditions imposed for its treatIt

From

the theatrical

point of view,

had always dreamt of being an innovator in historical drama. His idea was that
Villiers

the charaleristics of the nation, or the event

which was to be portrayed, should be imported into the framework of some personal
intrigue,
in

which each individual

of

the

dramatis person should personify

in his lan-

guage, attitude, or a6tions, some one of the

numerous elements produced by the


of the incidents of the story.

frilion

And

in

the

very terms of the programme by which the


competitors were bound, he found the oppor-

For the rules of the competition dilated, amongst other obligations, that the work must be
tunity for realizing this conception.

written

with special reference to July 4th,

1776; at the same time requiring a drame


intime, in

was only

which the event of the 4th July to be superadded to the story.

In the author's mind, then, "

Le Nouveau

Monde"

is,

before

all else,

a symbolic drama,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

123

and each of

its

personages admirably reprethe mouthpiece.

sents the idea, the principle, the nation, of

which he or she

is

Thus, in

Lord Raleigh
the principle

Cecil the author has incarnated

of

royalism,
typified

as

in

Stephen
of

Ashwell
liberty.

he has
"

the

principle

In

my

play," writes Villiers in his

preface, "
totally

Lord

Cecil,

under a

veil of

almost

imaginary circumstances, replaces and

sums up Lord Percy, General Howe, and

many
King
It

others.

He

is,

as

it

were, the golden


effigy of the

sovereign,

stamped with the

of England."
is

hardly

my

place,

in these personal

recollelions, to

endeavour to heighten the


Villiers.

merits of this

work of

But

may

be permitted to lay stress on some


an original produ6lion, so
literary public,
tion.
little

details of

known
its

to the

and yet so worthy of

atten-

To

those of us

who

are not yet emas-

by the terrible invasion of commonplace ideas, " Le Nouveau Monde" remains one of the best constru6led, deepest, and most
culated

passionate dramas of the present day.

It

has had the great honour of being sneered at

124

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

by M. Francisque Sarcey, who has besprinkled

Andrews with the salt of his Attic wit. To some superficial minds this character may seem impressed with romantic exaggeration. Yet it has been
the chara6ler of Mistress
learnedly imagined and laboriously premeditated

by a
it

writer

who was

neither a novice
Villiers fore-

nor a simpleton

in literature.

saw
jests

that

would be exposed
self-important

to the

cheap
the

of

those

gentry,

critics

of the weekly papers.

In his "Address

to the
his

Reader " he has taken pains to explain conception, and this page of his, full of
cannot
to
fail

an intense personality, so wonderfully and


rhythmically written,
to
it

my

readers.

It

seems

me

charm must

make every true artist " Nouveau Monde " so


feuilletonists.

desire to read that


lately cut
:

up by the

"

Mistress

of that

Here it is Andrews is the sombre refle6lion feudalism of which Lord Cecil represide,

sents the brighter

and

find

myself

obliged to say a few words in explanation of

the almost fantastic charaler with which she


is

endued.

This woman's

personality

is


VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.
formed by the cohesion of
intelledlual
125

and

sensitive elements of far too high an order to

be

strilly

human.

Some

pecuHarities of the

charaler seem to be ultra-feminine.


fore,

There-

in
I

order to legitimatize them in her

case,

have had
halo,

to

surround her with a

legendary

to

make her a
It

sort

of

American Melusina.
even the
possibility,

has appeared to

me
to

to be logically indispensable to the vitality,

of

the

charafter,

endow her with a mysterious mark,


imprinted in her
shall
flesh,

alually

a gory impress which

appear only at the hour of death,


fa6l,

a sign, in
centuries,

the heritage of the curse of

with the extraordinary horror of

which popular tradition surrounds her name.


I

have desired thus to create the type of a

strange, stormy, embittered soul

the daughter
silence,

of a race haunted

by melancholy, by

and by

fate.

thousand shattered splen-

dours appear athwart this gloomy chara6ler,

even as mirrors and goblets would shiver, and daggers flash, against the arras of an
ancient palace wherein

been

held.

This having been

some ducal orgy had said, some excla-

126

VILLI ERS

DE

L'ISLE

ADAM.

mations in the part, antiquated ones, perhaps,


explain

and

make themselves

acceptable,

pronounced as they are by a being of so


peculiar a nature."

But what
this

was

that

"mysterious

mark

alually impressed

gory print

upon this woman's flesh," which was only to appear


?

at the death hour

What

"

the legendary

halo" which surrounds the terrible Mistress

Andrews
describes

? it

An

old

woman, Mistress

Noella,

by the

light of a camp-fire, in

the

midst of the virgin forest of the

New

World. The splendidly-related legend, which

was almost
less

entirely suppressed in the shapethis fine

performance of

play at the

Thtre des Nations, must be inserted here,


for several

good reasons
it

first,

for the sake

of the curious, for


lished
;

is

as

good as unpub-

further,

it

is

an admirable prose-

poem, whose place


logies of

is

the future;

marked in the anthoand finally, it is a

wonderful example of the peculiar genius of


Villiers

Adam. The few friends who have heard him


de
I'lsle

recite

it,

pale,

trembling,

and haggard, under the

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


light of the

127

midnight lamp

terrifying,
story

and
and

terrified himself

by

his

own

will recall

as they
infedlious

read these

lines

the

tragic

dread which he

threw into his

declamation.
"

One evening

the knight Ralph Evandale,

returning to his castle from the

Wars

of the

Roses, heard on the mountain the sound of


singing in his ancestral
halls.

In coat of

mail and with lowered vizor he climbed the

stone

staircase,

marvelling

at

the

festive

sounds.
guests.

A
His

thousand lamps shone on the


father,

Fungh Evandale, was


marriage,
sitting

celebrating

his

second

and

the

neighbouring

barons,

round

him,

pledged each other

in friendly healths.

From
and
in

the threshold Ralph beheld the newly-wedded


wife, white as her coronet of pearls
;

the bride he recognized the pale girl

whom

he had long loved born feeling rose


closed the
door,

in his secret soul.

hell-

in his heart.

Silently he

and disappeared.

Mean-

while the songs had ceased. Leaning thoughtfully

on her elbow, on the nuptial couch, the

young chtelaine watched her lord.

The noble

128

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

thane unbuckled his sword before the great

hanging mirror, when suddenly the

tapestry-

was pushed back by a gauntletted hand. It was Ralph this time, with vizor raised.

Fungh

turned, and, recognizing him, joyfully

stretched out his arms.

But the cruel son,

impelled by some foul demon, started for-

ward,

fell

traitorously

on

his

father,

and
in-

plunged his dagger


cross-hilt.

in his throat,

up to the
death,
;

Fungh, stricken

to

stin6lively put his

hand on the wound

then,

with a maledi6lory gesture, he laid his gory


fingers

on the face of the unnatural son who

gazed unmoved upon his agony.

Ralph drew
blood.

himself up, his heart sullied by his crime,

and

his face

branded with his father s


in his

Then, bruising
wrists

mailed hands the two


bride,

of

the

widowed

he dragged

her, half-naked, dishevelled, her

knees shaking

with terror, into the adjacent oratory, and

would have constrained the chaplain of the


old

manor

to bless, in that very hour, their

sacrilegious

union.

Terrified

though

he

was, the priest gathered courage before the


altar,

and would only

utter a well-deserved

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


anathema.

129

solemnized.
race
!

Thus was the guilty marriage And the shadow fell upon their They gave life to a posterity of
line

demons, an accursed

of wicked men,
illustrious

who have rendered themselves


amours.

on
girl

the earth by their crimes and their

gloomy

Now

the race

is

extinl.

One
fled

only survives, and she destroyed her property

and burnt her dwelling before she


country.

her
tell
!

Where

is

she

Nobody can

Nevertheless, she will be recognized in her


last hour, for, since the

terrible night

when

their

young ancestress beheld the bloody


Evan-

hand on the face of the parricide, that accusing


hand-print, graven on the flesh of the
dales, has perpetuated itself

from generation

to generation.

They

are conceived with that


!

impress

It is

the law of their birth

And

whenever death strikes one of them, the sinister hand appears upon the brow of the

unhappy being, a ghostly, shining hand, which the everlasting night alone can efface
!

Pray then

for

Edith

E vandale,
"
!

the last of

her race, unknown, forgotten

This Edith Evandale,

it

will

have been

I30

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


is

understood,

she

who now

conceals herself

under th^ name of Mistress Andrews.


the old

As
and

woman
are
still

concludes her

story,

while

all

bending forward

in silent

and breathless
moonlight

attention, the

unhappy woman
the
" Yes," "
!

herself appears
falling

standing

among them,

on her alone.

she

says in a low despairing voice, " pray

ir
Villiers'

CHAPTER
members
Vi(5lor

VIII.
of the jury

rage against the

scene at the house of


Paris

Hugo

The
Y

Dramatic

Villiers leaves

of the Thtre Franais

Little

Godefrin, dire6lor An extraordinary reading Mdlle. Aime Madame Aime Tessandier.


Bordeaux theatres

quotations have carried


far

me away,
arrived,

and we are

from Bordeaux!

To

return.

When Villiers

he was more furious than ever


with Paris and the Parisians in general, and with literary committees and theatrical managers
in particular. This time it was no longer " Perrinet Leclerc," nor the loss of his

lawsuit,

which excited
"

his rage,

but the suc**

cession of injustices of which the

Nouveau

Monde

and

its

author had been the vi6lims.

He

had, indeed, received the official notice,

signed by the superior jury, and announcing

132

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

that his

drama had taken the highest and


in

most honourable place


twofold ordeal.
It

passing through the

had received the praises of Vilor Hugo, of Emile Augier and 06lave Feuillet, of Ernest Legouv even and that was all. No medal of honour, much less the
!

ten thousand francs!

He

was,

it is

true, too
life

well acquainted with the side-scenes of


this

at

end of the century

to feel

much

surprised

at seeing the gold turn into

dead

leaves, but

he had hoped that those who had instituted the


competition would, at
all

events, have

made
stage.

some

effort to

have the play of

their choice

performed

on some great

Parisian

Nothing of the kind.

flood of benignant

commonplace was the only answer to his inquiries and his imperious demands, and the gifted author of the "Nouveau Monde" had to undergo the humiliation (surely, in another
life, it

shall

be reckoned

in his

favour

!)

of see-

ing the second-rate play of one of his fellowcompetitors,

M. Armand

d'Artois,

performed

on the Paris boards, while his own slumbered


in the

manuscript boxes of the manager of

the Porte St. Martin Theatre.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


It

133

would have been too much even for a being gifted with more patience than my poor
Villiers possessed.

As
Hugo,

first

step the poet

scandal

at the
in

went and made a Olympian abode of Vilor


Clichy.

the

Avenue de

In the

presence of the usual body-guard, Vacquerie,

Lockroy, Catulle Mends, and


rable compatriot,

my

late

vene-

he dared to accuse
the promises

the honorary president of the superior jury of

having been the

first to

break

all

signed with his august name.


the demigod's age to him, and

He mentioned
made some
allu,

sion to literary integrity in general.

L
to

who
never
"

usually sat silent in these gatherings,

opening
"
!

his

mouth
to

except

cry
fury,

Sabaoth

unable

contain

his

angrily advanced towards the intruder, and

indignantly shaking the beautiful white curls

which framed his blasphemer


this

pallid face,

he shot at the

eloquent apostrophe, which


" Integrity, sir, is

Homer

or Henri Monnier might have been


:

glad to take a note of

not un-

a question of age
certain glance,

"
!

Slowly, with

his

Villiers

scanned the worthy

134

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

elder from head to foot, then gently answered,


"

No,

sir,

nor

folly either

"
!

Then, leaving
unlimited

the startled

coterie^ horrified at his

audacity, he hurried to the Porte St. Martin,

snatched his manuscript from the secretary's


claws,

and

at

dawn next

day, laden with the


his five
a<5ls,

five thick

copybooks containing
for

and without vulgar care


Bordeaux.
"

such a

trivial

thing as luggage, he took the through train to

Then

at once,"

he

said, as

he brought the

story of the adventures of his play to a close,


"
I

bethought
I

me

of you, of the provinces, of

vengeance.
lization
!

dreamt of murder, of decentrasee

Don't you
is

chance there

here for

what a splendid the manager of

some provincial theatre, to be first to accept and mount and play a piece by the Comte Villiers de I'lsle Adam, which has been crowned by the approbation of a committee
counting

among

its

members those
of literature,
?

idols of

middle-class

lovers

Legouv,
first
"
?

Feuillet, Augier,

and Hugo
a
I

But, in the
in
**

place,
"

is

there

theatre
replied,

Bordeaux

There are

three,"

without count-

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


ing the
fal,

135

strollers' booths."

Bordeaux

did, in

possess in those days three important


:

theatres

the

Grand Theatre, which was dehad no particular


line,

voted to operatic performances, the Thtre


Louit, which

and the

Thtre Franais, which was entirely given

up

to

comedy and drama.

The then manager


artiste,

of the latter was a Parisian


a6lor,

a good

and an excellent administrator, pos-

sessed of great boldness,

much

insight,

and
in

most

reliable

good

taste.

He has since made


de Sude, and

himself a

name

at the Caf

the theatrical world,

as a

most successful
called

organizer of provincial and dramatic tours.

He

was

then,

and presumably

is still,

Godefrin.

We had had some casual


new projel
to me,
I

relations

with each other, and as soon as Villiers imparted his

bethought

me

of the direlor of the Thtre Franais of Bor-

deaux.

wrote to him, therefore, making


idea and asking for an early interhad not long to wait. The answer

known our
view.

We

came, overflowing with enthusiasm for Villiers

and

full

of gratitude to myself, and the very


in the

next evening found us sitting

managerial

136

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Villiers

apartment.

had been

to the barber

his well-curled
air,

moustache had a conquering

and he marched vi6loriously through the streets of Bordeaux with his manuscript under
his arm.

But, as the sequel will show, this

pretence of assurance concealed a horrible


state of nervousness;

he was,

in reality,

as

agitated as a dbutante

who
time.

hears the

call-

boy's bell for the

first

And

yet there

was nothing

inaccessible in the
!

demeanour of
young, free

the impresario

He

was

still

from any professional


affable.

swagger,

and very and


slight

He

received Villiers with admiring

deference.

young woman,

tall

and
feet

pale, dressed in

dark colours, rose to her


Villiers "

on our entrance, and surveyed


Mdlle. Aime,
;

with curiously brilliant eyes.


introduce you to
pensionnaire^'
little

Allow me

to

my
is

best

said Godefrin

"

she

con-

sumed with a
I

desire to play a tragic part,


;

and
!

believe she will succeed

ay,

and
in

brilliantly

Perhaps, dear sir," turning to Villiers, "


will

you
"
?

be able to find her a part

your play

There was no answer from Villiers. All out of curl already, he had retired into a corner,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

137

whence he watched us with


rette
"

his suspicious, de-

je6led, startled gaze, nervously rolling a ciga-

between
let

his fingers.
!

Well,

us begin to read

" said

at last,

to

break a silence which was becoming em-

barrassing.

We seated ourselves
at

the poet at

the table,

we

random on the

seats scattered

about the room.


I

And
life,

the reading began.


in

have witnessed many strange scenes

the course of
I

my

but never,

think,

was

present at anything so fantastically, irresis-

tibly

funny as that sight of

Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam

reading the sheets of his drama to

Godefrin the manager.


things went fairly well.
self,

At

the beginning

Villiers seated

him-

coughed, moistened his

lips in the glass

of water before him, tossed back, with his


usual gesture, the long fair lock which, in spite

of

its

recent curling, would keep falling over

and then, with a searching glance all round, he opened the manuscript and began
his eyes,
"

A61 the first

tableau the
"

first

Swinmore

the great saloon of

Swinmore manor-house,

near Auckland, in the county of Cumberland.

At

the rear


"

138

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


himself, rose

Here he interrupted
chair, and,
fittings

from his

with the obje6l of explaining the

of the scene to Godefrin, began to

jump about
dragging

the room, knocking over seats,


about,

armchairs

unhooking the

arms on a small trophy which hung upon


the wall, and accompanying his erratic be-

haviour with

inconsequent
:

sentences

and

incomprehensible words
"

night

The balcony of wrought a moon stars there, in

iron-work
the distance,

thy silver streak,

sea!

Ha
is

gold enrichments
!

ha

ha

they come, the voices


!

the

distant

and prophetic voices

voices!

Ahoy!
!

the

departing

ahoy! from the boat

here
is
! ! !

Ruth, the sad lady of the castle

the smiling

Mary

voices approach

here the the voices die away


!

the

voices again

Suddenly he perceived the piano, threw himself upon the keyboard, and striking some
melancholy chords, he sang
voice,
^^

in

a plaintive

Adieu, prairie / Adieu, berceau! Adieu,


!
''

tombeau! Adieu, patrie

then,

still

accom-

panying himself, recited


" Farewell, old

in sepulchral accents,
in

house

which

have never


VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.
given happiness, nor enjoyed
it
!

139

the duty for


all

which
yes

forsake thee

is

the most sacred of


shall

duties in
!

my

eyes

God
!
"

be

my judge
the corre6l

Adieu, tombeaic

Startled

and

terror-stricken,

frock-coated manager, pale and with com-

pressed

lips,

had taken refuge

in a corner,

whence
a6lress

his wild southern eyes every

then shot imploring glances at

now and me. The

had buried her head

in her hands,

and
in a

could see her pretty shoulders shaking

tempest of convulsive laughter.

Meandis-

while, Villiers, with bristling


trustful eyes,

locks and

had

left

the piano, and, standing Godefrin, he de-

with folded arms before

manded, ''Well,
this

sir,

have you understood


?

mysterious
is

symbolism
:

Everything,

everything

in that

the parting from the

old country, the uprooting of the

young
fruit,

tree

which

is

to bear

the foliage, the

the
in

perfume of the corrupt

Old World

newer and purer one.


of the idea of
is it

That, the exposition

my

play, is clearly established,

not ?"

In spite of his astonishment, poor

Godefrin found breath to answer, " Doubtless,

I40

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


sir,

dear

your idea
it

is

wonderful, but

must

humbly admit
beg of you
symbolism
?

has not evolved

itself to

intelligence from

what

have heard.

my May I

to read
"

me

your piece quietly,

without thinking about the scenery^ a6lion, or


Villiers shrugged his shoulders, his whole physiognomy expressing ineffable scorn and disdain. He turned to me Are you com" ing ? he said then taking up his hat and cane, and his manuscript " Madam sir I
**
:

wish you good morning

"

and he moved

towards the door.

We surrounded him.
and made him
sit

dragged him back,


listen to

down and
?"
I

me.

"Are you
prophet,

stark

mad

cried, sternly;

"

and
is

do you suppose the manager of a theatre

who

can penetrate the mysteries of a

poet's brain,

and discover what


prose

his ideas are

before he condescends to put them into good,


plain, intelligible
is
?

Deuce take

it

It

not by pushing about chairs,

upsetting

furniture,
will

and bawling
to

to the piano, that

you

manage

your play.

make Godefrin understand Take my advice give me your


;

yiLLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


manuscript
"
"

141

(and

took

it

out of his hand)

go and

sit

down

in that farthest corner,

and

let

me
As
I

give a complete, ordinary,

commonhe retired
in that

place reading of your piece."

spoke

his face

darkened

into a recess,
his eyes

and

rolling his eternal cigarette,

on the ground, he answered

hollow voice which he always used when he


desired to personify Dolor Triboulat Bon-

homet,

"

be

it

"
!

Very good a family reading So " Bravo " cried Godefrin, " now we
!
! !

shall

be able to understand what


in proportion."

we are
I

about,

and admire

But

must draw
I

my

story to a close.

For two hours


a6ls.

read

without stopping, except to rest for a few

minutes between the


eyes,
I

If

raised

my

saw Godefrin
and

listening with an air of

authority,

Villiers lost in distant dreams,

while

little

Mdlle. Aime's keen, ardent, conI

centrated gaze was rivetted on myself.

felt

and understood that she drank


I

in

every word
it

pronounced, and that every charadler, as


itself

shaped

before her mental vision, became


life,

instinl with

movement, and

suffering

and when

reached the foot of the

last page,

142
it

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

was her that


risen,

my

eyes instinftively sought.

She had

quivering with excitement, and

hastening to VilHers, she seized both his hands,


exclaiming,
let
"

Oh,

sir,

dear

sir,

beg you

to
"
!

me

play the part of Mistress

Andrews

" It is

an admirable play," said the impresario,

on

his side, "

and

am

ready to make any

sacrifice in

order to mount such a fine piece

of work in a

way worthy
!

of

its

own and
knew

its

author's merits."

Alas, poor Godefrin


poetic

He

little

the

temperament, more

capricious

than

April sunshine, more changeable than the


sea.

The " Nouveau Monde" was never to be

played at Bordeaux.
scene
I

few months after the


Villiers

have just described,


back

de

I'lsle

Adam was
fair

in Paris, and,

seduced by the

promises of Chabrillat, at that time re-

organizing the Ambigu, he withdrew his piece

from the dire6lor of the Bordeaux theatre,


to confide
it

to this suddenly-arisen literary

Barnum.

It is greatly to

be regretted that
first

Bordeaux should not have had the


formance of
that Villiers'
this fine play.
I

per-

am

convinced

work would there have achieved

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


the enthusiastic success which
it

143

merits,

and

everyone
stage

will

agree with

me

that no Parisian

could have furnished an artist more

capable of interpreting the gloomy rle of the


heroine than
little

pensionnaire ; for
of the
justly,

M. Godefrin's Madame Aime Tessandier,


Mdlle. Aime,
Franaise,
is

gifted

and considered one of our finest and most tragic alresses, and Godefrin was a
now,
her

Comdie

true

prophet when he prediled that

success would be great.


Little Mdlle.
If

Aime of those bygone days


for a

chance should bring these lines before your

eyes,

you may perhaps forget

moment
!

your recent glories in the house of Molire,

and give a thought


beautiful creation,

to the distant past

That

part of Mistress Andrews,

madame, was a very

and one which might well


in

inspire such an artistic individuality as yours.


It

might have marked an important stage


;

your triumphal march


did you choose to take
the
life,

it

might, even now,


it

it

back and play


pearl
in

to

become the

fairest
!

your

diadem as a

tragic alress

CHAPTER IX. Restful days The and the sexTalks about bygone days Charles Baude His true natureHis strange home-life Jeanne Duval Edgar Poe Richard Wagner "Axel" The Cabala and the occult sciences sentiments Quotations " L'Eve
real
Villiers

Villiers

fair

laire

Villiers' religious

Future."

^^^^^^HOSE
far
life,

days spent with

my
me

friend
city

from the cares and noise of

have remained with

as one

of

my

pleasantest memories.

For

us they were days of delicious and beneficial


repose.

In that quiet sunny southern spot

where we spent some weeks together, the mantle of bitter scorn and scepticism in which
he wrapped himself on the boulevards seemed
to

drop from his shoulders.

penetrated far
to

into his inner nature,

and he allowed me

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

145

perceive the ideal and beautiful personality

which he so jealously concealed


of his soul.
Villiers

in the

depths

Thus
I'lsle

came
but

to

know

at last a

de

Adam

little

resembling
nightly

the

one who used to delight the


his wit, his strange imaginings,

frequenters of the brasseries at Montmartre

by

and

his

disconnected manner of life.

This was the real

man, the dreamer, the philosopher, the poet,


the true lover, incarnated in the superhuman
character of Axel, and concealed beneath the

cloak of irony in which


folded.

all

his

work

is

en-

On

those cloudless balmy nights at Bor-

deaux, as

we wandered

in close converse along

the banks of the great river, under the graceful arches of the pine-trees, through which the
pale

and

mysterious

moonbeams

slanted,

while above us rose the hill-slopes covered

with the heavy purple and golden bunches of


the ripening grapes, he would go back over
his past
life,

and would recount to

me and

to

himself his intelle6lual and sentimental history.

poet's

life ?

Did woman play a great part in the I think so, though he had few
L

146

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

adventures and fewer passionate attachments.


But, like that

much misunderstood

personage,

Don
once,

Juan, Villiers was continually seeking

that divine emotion which he never felt but

and that

in his early youth, during the


first

short existence of that

and purest love of

which the green Breton


catch
sight

fields

were the

cradle,

the setting, and the grave, /if he chanced to


of one of those celestial faces

which make one believe that angels

may

come down
with his

to earth,

he would

fall

in love

own ideal. But proached a woman more


spirit of analysis laid

as soon as he apclosely, his pitiless


all

bare

the moral ugli-

nesses and littlenesses veiled by her physical


beauty.

The

angel disappeared, and brutal

reality clipped the

wings of his dream.


sort,

After

a disappointment of this

he would throw

himself with a sort of frenzy into the wildest


orgies of midnight debauchery.
his sarcasms about love

At such

times
like

and women burnt


all

a redhot

iron,

but beneath

his imprecations

one felt that there lay the despair of a

man

who

has held for one short

moment the key of


has been snatched

Eden, and from

whom

it

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


before

147

he

could
art,

open the sacred


his

portal.

Happily

his

love

for

it,

and

his

consciousness

of his

own

genius,

consoled

him

for his

many
in

mortifications.

He
the

loved,

these

intimate

and

often

retrospe6live conversations, to go back over


first

happy years of
all

his residence in Paris,

to his friendly relations with

my

father,

and

above

to

Charles

Baudelaire,

whose

memory haunted him like had made acquaintance at


"

a ghost. the
ofifice

They
of the
"

Revue

Fantaisiste," whither,

from time to

time,

the author of the


his

" Fleurs

would bring some of

du Mal original and ex-

Pomes en Prose." Baudelaire and Villiers had too much in common not to be quickly drawn together.
quisitely-polished " Petits

From

the date of their


in

first

meeting they

were frequently
Villiers

each other's company, and

was one of the few friends who were present at the poet's terrible death. For my

own

part,

while greatly admiring Baudelaire


I

as a poetical craftsman,

did not like his

chara6ler as an individual.

From

all

had

heard

(for

never knew him personally), he

148

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


to

seemed
to

me

to

be wanting

in sincerity,

and

be eternally posing, not only before the public, but before the little circle over which
he habitually presided.
Villiers
this in

would leap with rage


presence.

if I

expressed
I

his

He

declared that
;

swam
I

in a sea of stupid prejudice

that

what
that

took for affe6lation in Baudelaire was really


;

the essence of his extraordinary nature

he could not be nor behave otherwise.


he would try to explain

And
it

this strange, terribly

complicated chara6ler to me, diabolical as

was
the

in

some ways,
that

exquisitely

good

in others.

Would

my impotent

pen could reproduce

fire,

the eagerness, and the brilliancy of

Villiers'

speeches in defence of his departed


Baudelaire had condescended to exhimself,
it,

friend
plain

and analyze
"

to lay bare his

heart, as

he expressed

before this privi-

ledged associate.
liers, "

In his youth," said Vil-

he halted between two ambitions.

To

be the greatest a6tor

in the world, or else to

be

the Pope."

Although he had shouldered


in

a musket and worn the workman's blouse

1848, he gave himself out as a Catholic and a

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


supporter of constituted authority.
lic

149

"

A Catho-

possessed by a devil," Villiers would add, and a supporter of authority who admitted none but his own, and that of his vices, which he cherished as works of art, and of which he
"

was inordinately proud." Nothing could have been more strikingly curious than the description given

by the author of "Axel" of the

poet's home-life.

He

lived near Neuilly, in


full

an apartment with large high rooms,


oddly-shaped
Indian
furniture,

of

Chinese

monsters,
frightful

idols, fantastic

and generally

carvings of animals, the walls of which were

hung with dark and revolting


torture scenes, painted

pilures of the

Spanish School, mutilations, executions, and

by the horror-loving
In the midst of this

Ribeira and his pupils.

nightmare
about,

scene

Baudelaire

moved

slowly

cold,

silent,

and

pale,

himself half-

frightened,

like

one who walks through a

hideous

dream.

And
girl,

as

mistress of this

strange dwelling, there was a creature stranger


still

a coloured
silks,

almost a negress,

named

Jeanne Duval, always shivering, and wrapped


in

gaudy

past her youth, thin, cringing,

I50

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

and without any charm but that of her glowing


eyes.
faithful,

Violent, bad-tempered, untruthful, un-

greedy, intemperate, and depraved,


in the

she died a drunkard's death

Maison
gasp
sup-

Dubois, idolized and petted to her

last
I

by Baudelaire, who loved her deeply,


pose for the sake of her
It

many

perversities.

was to Charles Baudelaire that Villiers owed one of his greatest artistic enjoyments, his acquaintance with the works of Edgar Poe. He was a very bad English scholar, and
without his friend's wonderful translations,

and

his enthusiastic talk

on the subjel of the


the

great American story-teller, he would never,

probably, have

made acquaintance with

"Strange Tales," nor with that wonderful

poem,
in

"

The Raven," which he used

to recite

was the will of fate that he should owe yet more to Baudelaire. It was in his house that he saw
such a striking manner.
it

And

for the first time the only

human genius

before

whom

he ever completely and unreservedly

bowed down, Richard Wagner. This meeting,


the most important event, according to Villiers,
in his intellelual life,

took place in the month of

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

151

May, 1 86 1

The wizard of music had called to


fine,

thank Baudelaire for a


published in the
entitled "
"

and, for those days,

very courageous study of himself and his work,

Revue Europenne," and

Richard

Wagner and Tannhauser."

This was the beginning of one of those beautiful

alas

and noble artistic friendships of which, so few examples exist, and the bond of
In a
shall

which was only to be severed by death.


future chapter of these recollerions,
I

speak more

fully,

as

is fitting,

of the intimacy

between these two highly-gifted beings, so well


formed
for

mutual understanding, the creator

of Eisa and the creator of Axel.

Already, at the time of his sojourn in the


south of France, Villiers was at work on that
great philosophical

only appeared after

drama of " Axel," which he was dead.

One

of the most wonderful scenes in the

work (Part II., " Le Monde Tragique," scene 8), was entirely written at Bordeaux. For the purposes of this play Villiers had profoundly studied the Cabala and the occult Yet his sciences, both past and present. mind was too powerful and too analytical to

152

VILLIERS de L'ISLE ADAM.

be profoundly smitten by such theories.


merely saw
in

He

them a phase of the philosophical evolution of centuries, and he also found in them dramatic elements of the highest order. But I venture to assert, from what I have known of him, that it would be a mistake
to reckon the author of the

"Nouveau Monde"
and higher
far

among contemporary
His

cabalists.

ideal soared further

than the magic art cultivated so assiduously,

and not altogether unremuneratively, by that long-haired young sar, Josphin Pladan.

Though

the occult sciences

may overwhelm
at the

and infatuate the

intelligence of Pladan at the

close of this century,

and Rohan

dawn
I'lsle

of the Revolution, to such vigorous geniuses


as

Goethe
in

in

Germany and

Villiers

de

Adam
truth.

France they are but a step to be

boldly taken in the approach towards divine

And

should like to say here, to the honour

of the great writer whose

work and

characfter

have been so much misunderstood, that Villiers


de risle
fervent

Adam was all his life a convinced and


Roman
Catholic.

The

study of the

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


philosophy of
all

153

times and every country, the


the study of
faith.

study of the
nature,
all

human mind, and

only strengthened his

He

firmly believed that

God was

good, and that

the Devil
in Hell.

was wicked, in Heaven, in Purgatory, Through all those hours of physical


suffering

agony and moral


the source of
all

which he endured
all his

before his soul escaped to Paradise, he found


his

hope and
life,

consola-

tion in prayer.

His

indeed, like the lives


full

of most great
failures,

artists,

was

of faults and

but whenever he had a chance of

fighting the

good

fight in the cause of reliit

gion and of our divine ideal, he did

with a

fervour and an enthusiasm which proved the


sincerity of his convi6lions.

And

doubtless

God
ness.

will

count that to him for righteous-

"One
Villiers'

of the most deeply-rooted feelings in


soul,"

wrote M. G.

Guiches, very

truly, the

day
18,

after the poet's death (" Figaro,"

August
his eyes

1889),

"was the

strong, honest,

tender, religious sentiment


fill

which would make

with tears whenever the divine

mysteries were spoken of in his presence.

154

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


life,

Neither the promiscuous caf

throughout

which he always preserved his haughty inde-

pendence of heart and mind, nor

his copious

and inventive flow of banter, ever touched


with the faintest stain the royal ermine of his
faith.

On

those loose sheets on which, like

Baudelaire, he

was

in

the

habit of noting

down memoranda

his thoughts, side

of daily

life,

by side with prosaic and naive resolutions,


a sin to

such as 'not to smoke so much,' phrases like


the following occur
:

It is

mourn
its

for

a dead child.

It

has entered into

glory.'

Among
God
!

these fragments, too, are touching

litanies to the

Virgin

thou,

my

Mother of the good Mother thou who


*
!

intercedest, sure that thou shalt

be heard

Thou who
pent
of
!

standest on Calvary
!

Thou who
ser!

canst pardon

Heel that crushest the

Whiteness of the eternal dawn


!

Glory
!

human tears Light of the eastern star Thou soul of chastity Thou resignation of
!

the poor!'

etc., etc., etc.

"To
book,

an author who told him the


title

atro-

ciously cynical

of his

lately-published

he answered boldly:

'Such things

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


should never be written.
that will

155

Those are words

come back
in

to

you on your deathwill cite

bed.'"

As

am

a vein of quotation,

one more charming anecdote on the same


subjeft, related in the "

Revue Blanc" by M.
" receiving a visit
I

Henri Laujol, one of Villiers' earliest comrades.


"
I

remember," he says,
Villiers
*

from

one day, while

was reading
I

Hckel's History of the Creation.'

can see

him now, turning over the


hand,

leaves, looking at

the woodcuts, and weighing the book in his

asked

with much pantomimic alarm. how much that grand book had
told

He
cost,

and
sous

him the
*

price,

somewhere about

ten francs.
'
!

The

catechism costs only two


It

was

his reply.

try parson's

remark.

was a regular counBut Villiers was so


it
it

delighted at having

made

that he spent his


to

whole afternoon repeating


out in every sort of key,

me, droning

it

now falsetto, now


;

bass,

and then again


ing himself, of his voice.

in

a Tyrolese jodel

interrupt-

now and
I

then, to laugh at the top

could get nothing else out of

him the whole of that day."

156

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


I

But

must turn from our bygone


an incident of
his hfe

talks to

register here

on the
eventhat

boulevards, which he related to


ing,

me one
birth to

and which was


"

to give

famous novel,
this

L'Eve Future," which apit

peared long afterwards at Brunhoff's, with

motto attached to

" Transitoriis

qure

CHAPTER
of the newspaper,

X.

Ametamorphosis An ambitious pastry-cookAppearance

"La Croix et l'Epe" Its


figure

political,

artistic,

Lord E W A nolurnal His strange suicide The wax conversation The American engineer and conception of " L'Eve Future" master, Edison de ITsle Adam and Thomas Alva Edison.
and literary programme
First
Villiers

his

OT long before the famous Lockroy


lawsuit, Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam,

for

the

first

time

in his Hfe,

had found

himself in a regularly established


position.

He

had given the frequenters of

the boulevards and of the newspaper offices the unwonted spelacle of a Villiers in brand-

new

clothes

and a

brilliantly

smart

silk

hat

a Villiers with a grave face and a well-filled


pocket-book, whose fingers rattled keys and
five-franc pieces together in his pockets

iS8

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

Villiers, in fine,

who

breakfasted at the Caf


table

Riche,

and had
in

his

every night at

Brbant's (that restaurant so dear to literary

men),

the celebrated

first-floor

room so

graphically described in the journals of the

De Concourt.
change
in
in

The

reason of this ephemeral


life is

the poet's

worthy of a place

the "Arabian Nights."

retired

con-

fe6lioner,

devoured by

political

and

literary

ambition, and convinced, doubtless, that his


success in

making fancy

biscuits

gave him a

right to put his fingers into the great political


pie,

desired to found a newspaper to be the


This, in
itself, is

organ of his opinions.


ordinary
fa6l,

a very

not particularly worthy of note.


is

Many

an ambitious vulgarian

not content

without a newspaper slavishly devoted to his


interests.

But

this pastry-cook,

who

shall

be

nameless, became absolutely heroic, and un-

doubtedly worthy to be mentioned to posterity

when, out of

all

the starving writers

who

trod the cruel and horrible Paris pavescoffer, Villiers

ments, he chose that unmerciful

del Isle Adam,


ego.

as his representative and a/^er

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

159

play or a story might be written about

downs of the astounding newspaper which was the outcome of this strange union. I have only time to throw some hasty
the ups and

touches on the canvas.


Villiers

was

chief editor, reporter,

critic,

and

article-writer at

one and the same time.

The

confelioner was diredlor, manager, and cashier.

He gave the poet five hundred francs a month,


and
left

him absolutely
and

free to express his

own
"

political, artistic,

literary opinions, exaling

two things only

firstly,

that " his

newspaper
"

should mention him, individually, every day

and

secondly, that " his

newspaper

should

make
"

stir in

the capital.
!

His desire was


Cross and Sword

more than

gratified

La Croix

et l'Epe," the
title
!),

(high-sounding

claimed, in matters of

religion, the right of

every soldier to swear


;

round oaths and go to mass


throne of France
bolist painters

politically,

it

supported the claim of the Naundorffs to the


;

artistically, it
;

put the sympoetically,


it

above Raphael

proclaimed Stphane Mallarm the prince of

rhyme, and defended the School of the Incom-

i6o

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


;

prehensibles and musically, it was belligerently

and exclusively Wagnerian. At the end of six months the newspaper disappeared, the confe6lioner went back to his province, and
Villiers

found himself back on the boulevards,


still

poorer than ever in pocket, but rich


splendid
critical

in

hopes,

and answering the hypo" Yes,

condolences of his fellow-journalists


yes
!

with his usual phrase,

thanks

But
"
!

all is

not lost!

Next

winter,

Many we

shall see
It

was during

this period of relative pros-

perity that he caught a glimpse of the in-

dividual
novel, "

who gave him

the

first

idea for his

L'Eve Future." One evening he saw coming

into Brbant's,

arm-in-arm with one of the attachs of the


British

Embassy, a young Englishman whose


both handsome and sad-looking,"
tell

singular face aroused his imagination.


**

He was
"

Villiers

used to
I

me, in his enthusiastic


in the

way,
his

and

saw

at

once

expression of

eyes that grave and scornful look of

melancholy which always betokens a hidden


despair."

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


This young man's name
initials)
(I

i6i

only give the


.

was Lord

His

tragic

end attracted attention

in Paris for

some time.

He

destroyed himself, very deliberately, some

days after Villiers met him.

Stretched beside

him, in a magnificent dress, bespattered with


his blood,
figure,

was found an admirably-made lay representing a young woman, whose


face,

waxen

modelled by a great

artist,

was
in

the portrait of a young lady well

known

London

for her brilliant beauty,

and who had

been engaged to be married to the eccentric

young nobleman.

Was
afflil

this suicide

merely the result of one


hereditary

of those strange

manias which
English aristo-

some
?

families of the

cracy

Or was
in the

the mysterious catastrophe


affair

of
to

some dramatic and passionate love


be read on the young man's deathbed
?

presence of the wonderful

doll

The

young attach

inclined to this latter opinion.

According to his view, Lord

had been the vidlim of an extraordinary


fatality.

He

adored the physical loveliness


;

of the young girl

he was perpetually haunted

1 62

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


;

by her magnificent beauty but he held her mind and soul, and everything in her that was not material, in the deepest abhorrence. Hence arose the slowly-developed madness which ended in his death. These things were related one night at the restaurant, before Villiers and a small circle of habitus. An American engineer an electrician, as they call them over there rose from his seat, and quietly said, " I am sorry your

friend did not apply to

cured him."
Scott
!

me I might have "You! how?" "How! Great


;
!

would have given his doll life, soul, movement, love " The assembled company,
I

being sceptical as to miracles, burst out laughing, all

but

Villiers,

in rolling his cigarette.

who seemed to be absorbed "You may laugh,

stranger," said the

picked up his
will

American gravely, as he hat and stick, "but the time


master, Edison, will
is

come when my great

teach you that

elelricity

an almighty

power," and with that he went out.

These fa6ls and this no6lurnal conversation gave birth to " L'Eve Future," one of the most original works of this end of the century.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

163

Those who have perused this masterpiece of eloquent raillery, by the poet who, to use M. Henri Laujol's happy expression, "had vowed a monkish hatred against modern science, that handmaid of utilitarianism," will doubtless recollel that the general notion and argument of the story follow almost identically
the
fa(5ls
I

have just

related.

But

Villiers

was not one of those


the

half-artists

who
it

are

satisfied with their first idea,

and work
it
it

out

moment chance has presented


It

to their
in his

brain.

was only

after revolving

mind, pondering and brooding over

it,

that

he began to write his novel, the


ful

first

wonder-

pages of which, with their description of

Menloe Park and its terrifying proprietor, Thomas Alva Edison, he read to me in 1879. When the great inventor himself came to Paris in 1889 to see our exhibition, somebody sent him De I'lsle Adam's book. He read it through without putting it down, and said to one of his intimates, " That man is greater
than
I.

can only invent.

He creates!" He
fell

desired to
alas
!

make the author's acquaintance, but,


Villiers,

poor

already stricken by the

i64

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

disease of which he died, could not respond


to Edison's invitation.

This

is

deeply to be
curious and

regretted.

Can anything more

more
sation

interesting be imagined than a conver-

between the progenitor of Dr. Triboulat

Bonhomet and the father of the phonograph ? Soon after he had related the curious origin of his contemplated work to me, my eccentric
friend suddenly disappeared from

my

sight.

Villiers'

CHAPTER XI. absent-mindedness His carelessness His departure from Bordeaux Godefrin's despair A year Bohemian poverty A Want of money His pride His conscientiousness Drumont's book and the young Jew A good answer manner of His midnight wanderings His
terrible
later

justification

Villiers' difficulties

artistic

Villiers

Villiers'

life

dis-

like

of daylightVilliers and Anatole France.

MOST
Villiers,

disconcerting thing about

which used to exasperate


till

his best friends

his

dying day,

was
ness,

his perpetual

absent-minded-

which led him to forget the most imporappointments,


to
his

tant

break

off,

for

long
daily

months
relations,

on

end,

most

intimate
to

and only occasionally

fulfil

the

engagements he might make with editors of


reviews or publishers.
his

The

uncertainty of

movements kept one

continually on the

i66 alert;

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

you could never tell when he would come or when he would go. I have described
his

sudden apparition

in

my

house at Bor-

deaux.

His departure was just as unexpe6led.


;

We
rose

had talked the whole night long


I
it
;

at early
I

dawn

went

to get a little rest,

and when

Villiers

was already late. I inquired after he had gone out, and hours passed
In vain
I

without his return.

sought him.

Without beat of drum he had disappeared,


melted away like a shadow.

A
long

few days after


face.

met Godefrin with a


just

He

had

received a letter

from the inconstant

writer,

dated from Paris,

demanding the immediate return of the manuscript of the " Nouveau Monde." His conversation was one flood of recriminations. For my own part, inured long since as I was to the poet's offhand ways, I was only halfsurprised, and I did my best to console the unhappy direlor, whom I have not had the good fortune to meet since that interview. Towards me Villiers preserved an unbroken
silence.

Indeed,

might have thought


if

him dead, and myself forgotten,

the post had

VILLIERS DE L'lSLE ADAM.


not brought
tales,

167
articles,

me

packets containing

or fanciful conceits of his, cut out of

newspapers and magazines, and which, addressed as they were by his


that he

own

hand, proved
I'lsle

was not "the


I

late

De

Adam,"

and that
It

still

lived in his

memory.

to

was difftcult, after all was said and done, bear him a grudge because of his exaspera-

ting carelessness, for

when you next met him,


months, he
left
if

after a disappearance of five or six

would address you as


the night before.
If

he had only

you

you reproached him, he

would gaze
puzzled
sin
;

at

you with an innocent and


particular

air,

seemingly quite unconscious of his

and then he had such a

exclaiming,

"What! I did that! impossible you must be chaffing me " that nobody could keep their countenance nor their bad temper long. Personally I was not to see him for two years. Alas when we met again in Paris in 1879, 1 saw that poverty was slowly accomplishing its destru6live work. Never had the Bohemian life which he so courageously accepted, seemed more utterly dreary. He needed all his power of hopefulness to
! !

way of oh, come, come


I

i68

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


it.

endure

But though

his heart

his imagination as brilliant, his

was as stout, mind as a6live


to tire

as ever, the bodily frame

was beginning and the


air of

and

its

machinery to break down, thanks to

bad

food,

want of

care,

late

hours
life.

and noxious tobacco-laden


Living as
I
I

tavern

did in Paris the whole of that year,


little

contrived to withdraw him a

from the
his
life.

infernal

round which was destroying


I

was only a respite, and that he would always have a longing for that eccentric and feverish existence which devoured him body and soul and
I

But

never deceived myself.

felt it

hastened his end.

This year of grace 1879 was the


spent together, and
it

last

we

was the time of our closest intimacy. Before reviving some memories of
it,

desire to defend Villiers against an


is

unjust accusation, which


against him.

frequently brought
in life

He has been accused, both


low company.
It

and

after death, of

being a dissipated tavernhas been

bird, a lover of

asserted that his want of success arose principally from his

own bad

condu6l, his want of

moral sense, his indolence, and the doubtful

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

169

company he frequented. To those who only knew him casually these accusations bear an appearance of truth fatal to the poet's good
name.
the hard

But we who were acquainted with


life,

his inner

and have watched him through


of his laborious existence,

trials

know

how

little

he deserved the reproaches of these

wiseacres.

We knew the nobility of his nature,

the innate delicacy of his tastes, his passion


for work, his scorn of material enjoyments.

And we know

how,

little

by

little,

this gifted

being was driven by evil fortune to live in an

atmosphere unworthy of him, and how,


little

too,

by

little,

and
to

after
it.

many

a revolt, he

grew accustomed

May

be permitted, then, within the space

of a few lines, to attempt the justification of

the slipshod and


Villiers

Bohemian manner of

life

of

de

I'lsle

Adam.

It will

give

me

an

opportunity of showing the original and complex chara6ler of the artist in a

new

light.

The

faithful

autobiography of a

writer

living in Paris during the last twenty years,

without any other means of support than his

own

talents,

would be a gloomier and a sadder

I70

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


" Inferno."

book than Dante's


sort

But

it

would

likewise be a healthy

and instructive one, a of warning beacon which should save


a young- and promising
life

many

from

ruin,

shame, and death.

Though

there are

some

indomitable natures which rise higher and

gain in strength through the struggle with


misfortune, there are
gifted

many more, and


are

highly

ones

too,

which

lowered

and

crushed

down by
bread.

despicable cares, grinding

poverty, and anxiety concerning the earning of daily

True as

it

may be
I

that

energy, moral strength, and artistic convi6lion

form a solid suit of armour, yet


thinnest silver cuirass
is

hold that the

more

useful for win-

ning the

final vilory.

And
all

that which hin-

dered Villiers from climbing to the highest

eminence was above

things his want of

money.
This condition of penury must have been
all

the more prejudicial and painful to him,

because the dbut of his career was so successful as to

be almost an apotheosis.

Excessively proud, and with a lively sentiment for the illustrious

name he

bore, he

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

171

would never, when poverty came upon him,


undertake any of those lucrative,
jobs,
if

ignoble

which

in these

days are always to be


world.

had about the


for his ancestry, his

literary

He

carried

his respeft for his calling as far as his respe(fl

and no matter how pressing need was, he would never send a hastilypage,

finished
printer.
first

nor even
read

sentence,

to

the

He

and re-read everything,


finally,

low,

then loud, and

when

the

whole was weeded and correled, he would


declaim
it

in that clear

sonorous voice which


reciting
his

he

always

used

when
is

own

writings.

According

to him, the worst crime

a writer can commit


in this connelion
I

to sell himself.

And

will

record an authen-

ticated anecdote

which ends with a remark

by the author of "L'Eve Future" which


almost touches the sublime.

Immediately after the appearance of

"

La
in

France Juive," the

Jewish

community

Paris looked about for a writer equal to the

task of returning the murderous

blows of the terrible


suggested Villiers de

knockdown Drumont. Somebody

I'lsle

Adam.

noble

172

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


brilliant
talent,

name, a
poverty
nice

and

in

straits
!

of

probably

to

be had very cheap

little

glossy well-combed Jew,


still

who then

looked, perhaps

looks, after the censor-

ship in the back office of a fashionable publisher,

was sent

to call

upon him.

Villiers,

struggling

with the

direst

poverty,

often

was living in a big, bare, dark, cold room, somewhere on the heights of Montmartre, where he
without half a franc
in his pocket,
still

possessed an old easy-chair, a ricketty

table,^

and a poor asthmatic piano, which the

bailiffs

had despised.
last

found the
ter of the

Here the young Jew descendant of the Grand MasSt.

Order of
servile,

John of Jerusalem.

Unluously

and with an exaggerated

show of respe6l, the messenger of the synagogue explained its desire, concluding by
saying that there could be no bargaining
with a writer of such distinlion, and that the

Comte Villiers de I'lsle Adam had only to name his own price. Then he waited in silence for the answer of Villiers, who had
listened without interrupting, rolling a cigarette in his white fingers, his absent glance half

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


hidden by the thick lock that
brow.
fell

173

over his

When
clear

his

interlocutor

speaking, he raised his

had ceased head, and fixing on


filled

him

his

blue

eyes,

now
a

with

sudden
voice,
"

flame,

he answered
?

in

ringing

My
"
!

price, sir

It

has not altered


!

since the days of our Saviour

Thirty pieces

of

silver

Then,

rising

and

wrapping

around him his tattered old dressing-gown,


he pointed to the door with a gesture that
the illustrious marshal,
his ancestor,
*'

might
"
!

have envied, and added,


But
I
I

Begone,

sir

have wandered from


Villiers

my

subjel.

was saying that poverty had been a hard


de
I'lsle

stepmother to

Adam,

forcing
life

him from
the
life,

his

youth up to shape his


habits of a

to

Bohemian
and

vagabond Parisian
well-established

to such habits

he gradually became

accustomed.

Serious and

people, as well as self-important

and overfed

middle-class folk, used to reproach


terly

him
all,

bit-

with the carelessness of his existence,


with

with his slipshod behaviour, above

his assiduous frquentation of those no6lurnal

places

of entertainment,

which,

under the

174

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


of wine-shops, brasseries, and
artists'

name

taverns,

swarm between

the Faubourg Mont-

martre and the Boulevard de Clichy.

Yet

how many good


so-called
life

excuses there were for this

of idleness

and debauchery
being
if

If Villiers, without

rich,

had pos-

sessed a few pounds a year,

he could have

made for himself, somewhere in the formidable


city,

ever so small a corner where he might


his brilliant beautiful dreams,

have dreamed

and
his

written,

and thought, without anxiety

concerning his daily pittance,


friend,
will

I,

who was
and

affirm

that the witty

"Chat Noir" would have known him less, and, what is more to the purpose, less intimately. But driven by dire necessity to pitch his tent in some empty lodging or
eloquent frequenters of the

and the " Rat Mort

"

dreary hotel room, he had such a horror,


aristocratic
artist

being,

dainty

poet,

charming

as he was, of the

hideous dwellings

into

which

his

evil

fate

had penned him,

that he fled from them, preferring to


all

make
words

Paris his home,

and to

say, in the

of Bruant's working man, " T'es dans la rue,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


va, t'es chez toi
"
!

175
?

"
!

You're in the gutter


"

then you are at


It

home

was walking the pavements, on the terraces of cafs, and with his elbow on the
stained tavern tables, that he imagined, discussed,

and partly wrote, some of

his finest

works.

Every imaginative
and

being, moreover,

wants some nervous excitement to quicken


his brain process,

Villiers

more

especially

was the vi6lim of


evolve his
to his

this need.

He

could not
clearly

ideas

and present them

own mind without


somebody
If prosperity

discussion,
to discuss

and

therefore without
with.

them

had been granted

to him,

he might have found


at

all this in artistic circles,

his

own

fireside,

in friendly gatherings,

perhaps in the drawing-room of some


of fashion.

woman
his

Poor as he was, and driven into


life,

Bohemian

he had to

fall

back on
the

wild nolurnal habits, and on


of the tavern, where ideas

hubbub and words meet


and the

and clash

noisily

through clouds of tobacco


rattle of glasses

smoke, amidst the

noisy laughter of loose


I

women.
to truth to say that

owe

it,

however,

176
Villiers'

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


love of late hours was not altogether

the result of circumstances.


tially

He was

essen-

a night-bird.

He

hated the daylight,

and always

called the sun a hideous planet,

which, he declared, lighted nature up badly,

and spoiled her beauty.


days,
his

Even
the

in his

best
until

he never became quite himself


little

kindly

friends

stars

blinked

down at him out The brilliant


Anatole France,
dedicated to the
that,

of the sky.
critic

of the

"Temps," M.
I'lsle

tells us, in

a kindly sketch

memory

of

De

Adam,
literary

being in want of exa6l information con-

cerning the poet's ancestors for

some

work on which he was engaged, he went one day to look him up at his lodgings at Montmartre. He was received smilingly, announced the obje6l of his he but when
visit,

the master of the house looked perdoubtful,

plexed,

and troubled.
at last,

He

began
he
to

to stammer,

and
"

almost in

tears,

exclaimed
talk to

How

can you expedl

me

you about my ancestors, the illustrious grand master and the famous marshal, in
bright sunshine like
this,

at ten

o'clock in

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


the morning ?"

177

was in utter dismay, and the witty critic had to exert himself to the utmost to restore him to his equareally

He

nimity and obtain the necessary information

from him.

CHAPTER
1879

XII.

the The Boulevard Montmartre Nodlurnal declamations a composer Two operas, " Esmeralda and " Prometheus Melomania a musical performer The Lon
poet's

The Rue des Martyrs and the Rue Rochechouart


room His extraordinary indifference Dierx La Dvoue " Strange habits

*'

Villiers in

street

Villiers as

"

"

Villiers

as

strange couple.

1879

Villiers inhabited
in

a room

in a furnished hotel

the

Rue

des Martyrs, nearly at the corner


of the

Rue

Clauzel.
I

Chance had
living at the

made

us neighbours, for

was

corner of the

Rue Rochechouart and


flats,

the

Rue
I

de Maubeuge, at the very top of an enormous


house
room,
let

out in
all

and from

my balcony

could see
it

over Paris.
just as

As

to the poet's

was

commonplace
in

as might

have been expeled


lodging-house.

a tenth-rate furnished
bed, chair, and

mahogany

uiiMiiiiiiiniK

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

179

chest of drawers, an imitation Wilton carpet,

and the inevitable wardrobe with a lookingglass in


it.

Should

this last

happen

to

gape

open, one perceived on every shelf, not linen,

nor clothes of any description, but piles of


manuscript, books, newspapers, and magazines.

The extreme
assisted
I

indifference

of the
life

great

writer to the material comforts of

greatly

him
in

in

bearing the pangs of poverty.


take thought
for

never

knew him
the

the

morrow,

literal

sense of the term,

though he thought and talked a great deal


about the future in general.

But he never
not been for the
I

troubled his head as to whether he had a


shirt to his

back

and had

it

care of

some devoted

friends,

really believe

he would have ended by going out-of-doors


half-dressed, or
in

by spending several months


clothes.

bed

for

want of

Luckily, a sort

of earthly providence seemed to watch over

him, and supply his

most pressing needs.


faithful friends,

One of his best loved and most


Lon Dierx,
for Villiers

lived in the

same house, and


so,

looked after him without seeming to do

was as touchy as he was

careless.

i8o

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


all

But, above

others, there

woman, a

retired

was a worthy midwife, who had attached

herself to the poet with a canine devotion

which used to bring the tears to


jests,
idol,

my eyes. The
She treated

the snubbing, even the furies of her

could not dishearten her.


delicate

him with a

tenderness which the

most passionately devoted mistress might have envied. The great writer, with the Bohemian
indifference of the

man who owns


in at

nothing,

used,

when he came

dawn, worn out

with holding forth and discussing, to leave


his

door unlocked, and the key in

it.

This

excellent soul

would

seize her opportunity,

come
could,

in

on

tiptoe,

take his poor, stained,

shabby garments, mend them as best she

and then restore them

to their place.
shirt,

Often she would bring a clean


it

and lay

it

on the foot of the bed. WhenVilliers took into his head to get up and go out, about
he would put on the
first

the time the gas was being lighted in the


streets,

thing that

came under his hand, without ever noticing


the changes in and additions to his wardrobe

made by

this

admirable woman,

whom we

'MiiiiimMiiiMiMinMMiniiiiiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiMMii

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


had nicknamed
one."
I

i8i

"

La Dvoue,"
of her.

" the

devoted

When

became the

poet's neighbour,

often

made use
and
I

coats

and trousers of
;

She would put mine beside him while


saw

he slept

often

had a struggle to keep


I

my

countenance when
in

my friend dressed
for while
I

my cast-off clothes, up him a most peculiar appearance,

which used to give

was long and thin, he was short and broad. But he went on unmoved, and never suspe6led
anything.

The
coached.

waiter of the hotel had also been

He

used to enter Villiers room,

every day towards noon, carrying a large

bowl of soup, been cut up.


awake,
"

into

which a penny

roll

had

Should the poet be asleep, he


If Villiers

took care not to rouse him.

was

he

would
" ?

call

out

threateningly,
"
!

What's that

" Breakfast, sir

said the

waiter,

and

hastily putting the

bowl down,

he departed.

Mechanically Villiers would

swallow bread and soup, and think no more


of the almost daily recurring incident.

He

never had any other meal before his evening one.

82
I

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


got into the habit of going to see him
in the after-

between three and four o'clock I generally found him noons.

sitting

up

in

bed, supported by several pillows, hard at work,

and only stopping


rette,

his writing to roll a cigalight.

which, as often as not, he did not


quilt,

Lying on the eiderdown


his knees,

which covered

was a pouchful of his favourite Maryland tobacco, books of cigarette papers, and piles of sheets covered with his fine and
delicately-formed

handwriting.

He

never

wrote with anything but pencil, which made


the compositors' work very
difficult,

especially

as in reading his work over he would generally alter

one word out of


as he

five.
I

As soon
in front of

saw me (sometimes

stood

him

for ten

minutes before he was

aware of

my

presence, so completely did his


start,

work absorb him), he would


.'*

and exclaim,

"What, is that you, cousin? What o'clock The window, the window " and before is it
!

could do anything to stop him, he would


of bed, and, regardless of weather or

jump out

temperature, throw the

window wide open.

Then he would

get back into bed, put his

niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiiiimiiiiiiiiniiiiJMriiiiiiiiiiiui

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

183

hand through

his

heavy

forelock, look at

me
had
if

in a confused sort of way, and end by burst-

ing out laughing.

These

antics usually

the result of sending tobacco, cigarettes, and


sheets of paper flying across the room, and,

there was any wind, whirling round the table.


I

used to rush to the rescue of the precious

prose,

and when
I

had colle6led and put the


I

scattered manuscript in order as well as


could,

would
talks

sit

down

in the only armchair,

and our

would begin.

At

last,

towards

and by dint of persecution, I contrived to drag him from between the sheets, and out we went into the streets.
six o'clock,

The street Ah when one walked


!

it

arm-in-

arm with
place and

Villiers,

it

was no longer a commonsymmetrical assemblage

more or

less

of paving-stones, asphalte side-walks, road-

ways, shops, and houses.

It

became a strange

entity, with a million different living existences

a hybrid, complex,
of treading
root in
it,

contradi6lory being, by

turns mysterious, terrible, cynical, innocent,


cruel, loving, tragic, or grotesque.
it

By

dint

for so

many

years,

he had taken

and was, so

to speak,

one of the

84

VILLIERS DE

I.'ISLE

ADAM.

Strangest produ6ls, the most striking types, of


that world, at once so great

and so

limited, in

which certain figures stand out with such


clearness from the

moving mass,

that,

once

seen, they can never be forgotten.

Amongst
and which

those physiognomies which seem to form an


integral part of the street crowd,

one misses there when death removes them,

some are dramatic, some comic, some hideous. Some are sad, some poetic, others mad but
;

all attral

your attention, and even obtrude

themselves on your notice, by some personal


originality of appearance.

And
de

in

no case

more so than

in that of Villiers

I'lsle

Adam,
his

with his supple and yet uncertain

gait,

immeasurable scorn of the laws of fashion, and


that sleep-walking look which the cruel

and

much dreaded speech and laughter belied. He knew all the secrets, all the hidden
irony of his
sores, all the grandeur, of the merciless streets

of Paris.

In the course of our perambula-

tions together,

he would point out to

me

houses of whose secret dramas, comedies, or


idylls,

he knew every

detail.

He

would ex-

plain,

with that sort of stammer which added

IIIMIIIIIIIIIIIIirilMMMIIIIimiMIIIIIIIMIIJMIIIIMii

185

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


to the

charm of

his talk,

that the exterior


their
interior

of houses generally

matched

history

that there were

murderous ones,
;

broken-hearted ones, gay ones

that

some

were passionate, some sepulchral, some voluptuous, ay,

and some haunted even.

For he

averred, and quoted

many

a strange story in

support of his opinion, that there were more

haunted houses

in Paris

than

in

any other

town

in

Europe.

Several of them he had

inhabited himself.

And

the recent events in

the house on the Quai Voltaire would have

him with delight. I make no doubt whatever he would have liked to live there. But it was especially when we reached the Boulevard Montmartre " l'heure de l'absinthe," that Villiers became my most invaluable guide and cicerone. All that population of charlatans which swarms before the cafs, money-lenders, money-getters, and rogues sham litterateurs and sham artists jourfilled

nalists, venal, if

not already bought, scandalin

mongers, masters
stealers

the

art of blackmail,

of other men's ideas, well-dressed

blackguards, elegantly apparelled demi-mon-

i86

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

daines, swindlers, rastaquoueres, he

unmasked
in the

them

all

in short, sharp,

vengeful sentences,

burning with implacable scorn.


very bitterness of his
satire,

And
one

felt

how

these beasts of prey must have devoured his


flesh

and

his substance.

They meanwhile

pretended to respe6l, while hating and fearing


him.

They dreaded

those terrible sarcasms,

which the next day's papers would noise


abroad, as the galley-slave dreads the brand-

So they bowed themselves down before him, and as soon as he was past they stabbed him in the back. After these walks, Villiers often came and
ing iron.

shared the simple dinner which

my

Breton

cook used to prepare

for

me

and

this

made

a change for him from the indescribable and

poisonous eating-house stews on which he

was in the habit of feeding. There were two things besides the fa6l of our friendship which had the precious gift of
retaining
Villiers
:

in

my

house during the

evening hours

my

balcony, and an excellent

piano by Pleyel, which was the chief adorn-

ment of the

little

sitting-room.

PIMIIIIIIIIIIimillinillllMIMIIIIIIimillllllllllllllllllllMIHIIIIMh

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

187

On
much

soft

clear nights

we used

to

spend

of our time leaning over the balcony,

smoking

and letting our dreamy thoughts, grave or gay, wander across


almost
silently,

the great tumultuous-looking sea

of roofs,
to lose

whose dark, motionless waves seemed


themselves in the mists of the horizon.

Now

and then
erel

Villiers

would draw himself up,

and stretching out his white hand, as though to claim the attention
and very
pale,

of the night, he would recite in a ringing

some passage out of whatever work he might be engaged upon. His memory was so good that he knew by heart almost everything he had ever written. In such surroundings the effel was profoundly impressive. High over our heads the twinkling stars; at our feet the huge city, its continuous roar
voice
rising towards us
;

while from the lips of the


fell

poet the harmoniously balanced periods


in even,

eloquent flow,

clear,

sonorous, and

strangely melodious.
self

He

would work him-

up

at the

sound of

his

own

voice, and,

his eyes fixed in a sort of ecstasy

gestures raised to

and his God, he seemed no longer

88

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

to belong to earth.

with admiration.

ceased to speak,

it

And I listened, dumb And when at last he seemed to me that a lamp


that the world
Villiers

had suddenly gone out, and was darkened around me.


recited to

thus

me

all
I

the finest passages of "


vividly

L'Eve
state

Future," and

remember the

we were both put by the chapter headed "The Puppet addresses


of wild delight into which

the Night."

We would re-enter the drawingVilliers,


still

room, and

shivering with the

excitement of inspiration, would rush to the


piano,

and, striking

some powerful
full

chords,

would begin with the


voice the
the
first

strength of his

magnificent choral invocation in


"

a6l of " Lohengrin "

Dieu du
to music,

Ciel en qui

f ai foi !

"

If Villiers

had applied himself

instead of choosing literature as his profession,


I

believe he might have been as remarkable

and original a composer as he was a writer. Music is, of all the arts, the one which requires the greatest number of innate and,
^

In the

final

edition

this

chapter bears

the

title

"God."

mtlllllMIIMIIMIIHIMIMIIMnHIIMIIIIIII

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

189

SO to speak, instin6live qualities, and these


natural gifts he possessed to an extraordinary-

degree.

feeling for
ear,

his

his earliest youth he had a rhythm and time, a correlness of and a musical memory, which astonished teachers. Yet he was never a good

From

pupil,

because in

this,

as in everything else,

he loathed routine, and would not submit to


a

humdrum

daily

task.

But,

though

he

journeyed into the domain of


qualities as
thither,

literature, his

a gifted musician followed him


his

and

very prose
life

is

musical.

In the course of his

he composed or
of

improvised
melodies,

goodly

number

strange
unfor-

songs,

melopia,

which
colledled.

tunately have never been


best known, which
all his

The
re-

friends
I

have heard

him

sing,

and

to

which

have already

ferred,

interprets that wonderful


:

poem by

Charles Baudelaire

Nous aurons des lits pleins d'odeurs lgres, Des divans profonds comme des tombeaux.
Our beds shall be scented with sweetest perfume, Our divans be as cool and as dark as the tomb.

igo
I

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

remember two other compositions of his on lines by the author of the " Fleurs du Mal." One, " Le Vin de l'Assassin," is the
song of a man who has
killed his wife,

and

every verse ends with this exclamation by


the murderer, to which the music gives an

unspeakable and indescribable horror


l'oublierai

'*
:

si

je

le

puis."

Je

*'

will

forget
entitled

her!

if

can!"
(**

In

the

other,
"),

"Recueillement"

Meditation

he had which he

obtained a striking effel with the lingering

and mysterious accompaniment


had
set

to

that beautiful line

"

Entends,

ma
"
!

chre, entends la douce

nuit qui

marche

" List, oh,

my

dear

list

to the night's soft

step!"
I

remember,

too,

though somewhat vaguely,

some warlike
Villiers

ironico-popular songs

which

used to declaim with incomparable

power.
in

He

had composed them

in

1870,

collaboration with

some other

artists in

the same corps of francs-tireurs,

to while
;

away

the long night-watches of the siege

so that the noise of the Prussian artillery,

answering our own, was their

first

accompani-

uiiiuuuiHiMiMiiiiiiiiiiiuii:!:

iiiiiiiMimimiimmiiiiiiiMiiiiiniiiiimmiiiwiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

niMiiiiiiiMmiiiiiiiiiiniiiiir

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


ment.
If
I

191

add to these short-lived works a sort of comic opera, which never had a definite title, but whose chief and veryludicrous charalers were a king, Paf, and
his

prime minister, Toe, and the chief joke

in

which was a serenade beginning with the

words

Si

ma

prire criminelle
les

Pouvait toucher
If then

dieux retors

my

criminal appeal
for once, the wily

Should touch,

gods

^Bl
the
to the

shall, I
list

think,

have pretty well exhausted


in

of the poet's compositions

the

lighter class of music.

more

serious

He was no stranger style. He carried in his


scores,
for

head

(I

do not believe he ever noted down


life)

an air in his
choruses,
scenery,

two complete opera


and

orchestration,

dire6lions

etc., etc., etc.

One was composed on


"

the subje6l of the

Esmeralda" of Vi6lor Hugo, so murderously handled by Mdlle. Bertin, the other on the
"

Prometheus Unbound

"

of ^schylus, put

into verse

by

my

father.

Those few

privi-

192

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

leged persons who, like myself, had the good


luck to hear Villiers interpret the principal

scenes of these two operas on


will, I

the piano,
in declaring

am

sure, willingly join

me

that he affeled

most unexpe6led manner, and revealed, rising above numerous

them

in a

gross faults and signs of musical inexperience,

many a

flash of

genius and beauties of the

highest order.
slightest artistic

Anybody

susceptible of the

emotion could hardly help


brilliant intro-

being

stirred,

when, after a

du6lion, in which the tinkling of glasses, the


clash of swords, the whirl of the dance,

and
a

the shouts of the revellers were

all

cunningly

mingled

in

seeming disorder,
"

Villiers, in

strident beggar's voice, began the wild open-

ing chorus of his

Esmeralda."

Vive Clopin, Roi de Thune Vivent les gueux de Paris


!

Faisons nos coups

la

brune

Heure o tous les chats sont gris. Narguons Pape et bulle Dansons
!

Et

raillons

nous dans nos peaux

Qu'Avril mouille ou que Juin brle

La plume de nos chapeaux

uiimnmniiiiuii';

iHiiiiiiMimimMiimiMiiimiininiMiMiniiuiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinii'

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

193

Now
To

a merry health we bring

Paris beggars

and

their

king
!

Now we'll pradlise all our wiles On our sport old Bacchus smiles
Merry fingers dancing snap At Pope or bull, nor care a rap
!

Let April soak or June embrown The shabby plumes we've worn so long, We'll gaze on them without a frown,

And

turn our sorrows to a song

Laughing at your sorry plight, Shabby plumes we've worn so long Soaked by April's showers light, Burnt by June's relentless sun
!

Claude Frollo's
horror

air,

with an accompaniment

of Satanic laughter,
:

made one

shiver with

Eh

bien, oui

qu'importe

Le destin m'emporte, La main est trop forte,


Je cde sa
loi
!

Dmon
Si tu

qui m'enivres
livres.

Qu'voquent mes
Je

me la livres me livre toi


O

194

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Reois sous ton
aile
!

Le

prtre infidle

L'enfer avec elle


C'est

mon

ciel

moi

For good then, or


'Tis Destiny's will

ill,

In
I

terrified

awe
law
!

bow

to

its

Friend raised in

my

heart
!

By
I'll

magic's black art

If thou grant her to me,

yield

me

to thee

Receive 'neath thy wing


This priest
full

of sin

All the heaven I desire


Is her kiss, in hell fire
!

Having accentuated
furious energy, Villiers
seat, in

this last phrase with

would spring from

his

an indescribable state of excitement,

raised

and walk up and down the room, his hands to heaven, and his eyes flashing,
:

repeating in every sort of tone


L'enfer avec elle
C'est

mon

ciel

moi

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

195

Very
audience

different

were the sensations of the

when

the poet, Hghtly touching the

notes with his deHcate hands, began the slow,

melancholy rhythm of the admirable chorus of


the Oceanides in the " Prometheus Unbound,"

with

its

arpeggio accompaniment like the beat-

ing of distant wings.

(Having calmed the paternal

fears)

Je t'aime, apaise ton effroi, Sur les vents aux rapides ailes
J'arrive

de loin jusqu'

toi.

peine ai-je entendu dans notre grotte obscure

Le marteau sur le fer, que mon cur s'est troubl. J'ai mont sur ce char ail Dans mon empressement oubliant ma chaussure,
Et
la

pudeur au sein

voil.

Oh, corps dessch sur


Oh, meurtrissures
et

la pierre
!

douleurs

Un

nuage effrayant de pleurs

S'appesantit sur

ma

paupire

I love thee

Prithee calm thy fear

The

fleet-winged winds have brought

me
!

here.

Hastening thy trembling heart to cheer

196

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Scarce did I hear the

hammer

fall,

With

iron clang, in our dark grot,


terror-struck, forgetting all

Than
In

my

wild haste, and recking not with close-veiled breast-

Of modesty,
With
I sprang,

feet unsandalled,

bosom

bare,

obeying love's behest.


car,

Upon my

and clove the

air.

Oh, wasted body on the stones

Oh, cruel

bruises, bitterest pain


spirit groans,

My

sorrow-laden

And from my

eyes the teardrops rain

have said enough,

think, about the


I'lsle

compositions of Villiers de

Adam

to

make musicians
brier

regret that his friend Chapoet's

would never take seriously the

desire that he should endeavour to note

down

some of
But
of their

his beautiful inspirations in writing.

in all times musicians


art,

have been jealous and are loath to admit that an outfugue and counterpoint, can
to.

sider, ignorant of

do any work worth listening


rule they

As

a general

may be

right.

But
it is

Villiers

was an

exception to

all rules,

and

a pity that the

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


composer of
"

197

Gwendoline

"

did not recognize

that fal.

The

passion for melody used to


in

come upon
to

Villiers

regular crises, attacks of music

madness which lasted from a fortnight


three weeks.
lived for counterpoint.
for him,

During these periods he only

The

only great men,

were Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and


Everything he wrote referred to

Wagner.
music.

Everything he did had music for

its

end and aim.


his

Every piano he came across in nightly wanderings served him to express

his devotion to the art.

He

only associated
!

with musicians

and such musicians

Oh, ye

gods

My

evenings at

home were turned


which he was

into real splendid concerts, at

at

one and the same time conduior, orchestra,


soloist,

accompanist,

and

critic

As

a pianist

he was
fingering
singer,

far

from attaining perfelion

his

and time were both bad.


voice

As

his
;

was unsteady, and often


in

broke

but there was such fervour and fiery


his

enthusiasm and convi6lion

delivery

and declamation, that


felions
;

in spite of his imper-

it

was a deep delight

to listen to him.

198
It

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.'

was during one of these fits of music madness that he brought me a very odd couple of musicians, brother and sister Cor-

sicans, called,

think,

Olivetti.

The man

was a

sort of a thin sunburnt giant, with a

black stubbly beard, long negleled hair falling

over his shoulders, and the eyes of an incendiary.

My

Breton servant always locked


as

up the plate-box as soon

he

arrived.

He was

invariably dressed in velvet, brown,


;

ribbed velvet, very threadbare


scarf was rolled round

a huge red
his neck,

silk

and round

and

he wore a
head.

soft

grey

felt hat,

with an immense

brim, vi6loriously cocked on one side of his

Although a charming

pianist,

he was
of the

almost starving.
" Internationale,"

He was

member

and had been

in trouble

with

the Italian, Russian, and French police.

He

had also been compromised during the Commune, and was forced to hide and to live from

hand

to

mouth on a few ill-paid

lessons

and the

poor salary of an accompanist to the singers


in tenth-rate tea-gardens.

His

sister, Giulia,
;

a pretty soprano

was a handsome soft-eyed Italian she had voice and some musical

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


knowledge.
Villiers

199

made her
it

sing

Wagner,

which she hated, and


to see

and hear

his

was irresistibly funny bounds of rage, and angry


would persist in
airs.

shouts of indignation, when she

warbling her Italian

Fortune has smiled few months after


I

on the pretty Giulia.

made her acquaintance she


married a Chicago gentleman
a considerable pile of dollars
salting,

captivated and

who had made

and

selling pigs.

by cutting up, She now lives in

America.
her,

and

She took her brother there with have no doubt that he is not quite

such an energetic Socialist


in his pocket.

now he

has

money

Fortunately
did not
all

Villiers'

musical acquaintances

possess such a startlingly Bohe-

mian

flavour.

He owed

to

music a friend-

ship and an admiration which brightened the

whole of

his intellelual

life.

His intimacy
enjoyment to

with Richard
of consolation

Wagner was
and

not only a source

intellelual

him,

it

inspired

some of
finest

his noblest thoughts

and some of the

pages he ever wrote.

The example

of that marvellous

and mighty
to his

genius, insulted, opposed,

and scorned

200

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


without this flood of hatred and

latest hour,

injustice ever
faith in his

being able to break down his


prodigious powers, helped

own

Villiers to endure,

on

his part, the disdainful

smiles and indifference of his contemporaries,

strengthened him in his lofty disdain of those


well-beaten paths wherein mediocre
intelli-

gences gather their quickly-fading


fixed

laurels,

and and

him immovably

in his convilions

his artistic faith.

Though

in

my

relation of
I I

some

fals concerning this friendship

speak
can no

with veneration of Richard Wagner,

longer hope to receive any blows in the good


cause.
is

The

author of "Tristan and Isolt"

hallowed by fashion, and politicians no

longer dare to bring the ridiculous accusation of


lack of patriotism against his admirers.

But

twenty years ago, and


the correl thing to run

less, it

was considered
it

down Wagner's music


or not.

whether you were acquainted with

Nowadays no woman
self

of fashion thinks herfall

complete

if

she does not


in "

into ecstasies

over the right places


"

Lohengrin" and

Tannhauser."

Every

self-respe6ling pianist

thumps the master's

overtures,

and

all

our

i
young

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


girls

20I

study Eisa, and try to ape her

drooping and mystic postures.


of yesterday
is

The
!

outcast

the idol of to-day

Well,

God

be praised

It is

but the

way

of the world.

CHAPTER
First introdution of

XIII.
Villiers at the

Wagner and
in

house of
at

Failure of "Tannhauser" the Paris Opera 1861 Portrait and chara6ler of Richard Wagner His friends and champions His intimacy with Reminiscences of youth and early poverty Augusta Holmes
Charles
Baudelaire
Villiers

his

Villiers' visit

to

Triebchen The"Rheingold"
artistic

at

Munich Villiers
faith.

de risle Adam's

confession of

T was, as I think
at the

have already said,


in 1861,
first

house of Baudelaire

that Villiers de I'lsle

Adam

met Richard Wagner. This meeting marks the date of what was, perhaps, the
bitterest

moment

in the

stormy

life

of the

great composer.

He

secretly nursed a ran-

corous

memory

of these sufferings, and, after

the war, his unworthy and undignified abuse


of Paris betrayed
the feeling.

By

dint of

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

203

hard work and patience, combined with his


genius, he

had forced Germany to receive


in his genera-

and recognize him as a master


tion.

But he was determined to have the


also,

approval of Paris
hauser
" to the

and

offered "

Tann-

Imperial

Academy

of Music.

The
to

history of his failure, complete, crushing,


is

almost unique in theatrical history,


all.

known
in-

Wagner's was one of those strange


which nobody could be
he must rouse either blind admira-

individualities to
different
;

tion or violent hatred,

and he roused,

alas

more hatred than devotion. The chorus of evil-speaking, abuse, and scorn, which rose
from every side after the performance of his

work
other

in Paris,
;

would have broken down any


others, the great

man but, unlike most German master was never


in

so

much
It

in

his

element as

a desperate

fight.

seemed to

endow him with


scorn,

fresh strength

and redoubled
to each torrent

and he generally replied

of abuse by

some proud

defiance thrown in

the teeth of the tastes, the conventionality,


the prejudices, and the jealousies of the day.

At

this

moment,

then,

when Wagner was

204

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


all

shining with

the light of his indomitable

determination, Villiers,
as he was,

young and

enthusiastic

met him

for the first time.

This

interview never faded from his recolle6lion.

Richard Wagner, with his high, remarkable


forehead, almost terrifying in
his
its

development,
steady,

deep blue eyes, with

their slow,

magnetic glance, his


features,

thin,

strongly-marked

changing from one shade of pallor

to another, his imperious-looking

hooked nose,
ironical

his delicate,- thin-lipped, unsatisfied,

mouth, his exceedingly strong proje6ling and


pointed chin, seemed to the poet like the

archangel of celestial combat.


side, in those

And

on his

hours of bitterness, the soul of

the great musician must have been strongly

drawn towards those few


in spite

selel spirits,

who,

of adverse clamour, boldly took up

his quarrel

and defended and admired him. His strong friendship with Catulle Mends, Baudelaire, Villiers, and a few others, dated from this epoch but similarity of tastes, and a
;

way
and

of looking at dreams and reality,

men

things, identical with the other's, specially

attraled the

young poet and the already

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


grey-haired

205

musician
besides,

towards

each

other.

They

were,

united by a

common
about,

passion for midnight walks.

Wandering

careless of weather, hour, or locality, through

the mysterious sleeping streets of Paris, the

two friends seldom separated before the dawn. Once, as they went down a long dreary street
which ends
the
at the

Quai Saint Eustache, Wag-

ner suddenly pointed, with a tragic gesture, to

window

of a garret at the very top of a

high house.
despaired
;

There
there

it

was
had

that he

had

really

he

almost

died

of

hunger, had meditated suicide, and there, too,


in the

midst of the blackest poverty, he had

written one of his most powerful

and poetic
French
his

works.
stuffed

He
with

told

Villiers,

in

that

Teutonisms which
all

made

conversation so odd-sounding,

the extra:

ordinary adventures of his youth in Paris

how,

towards

1839,
left

impelled
in

by

destiny,

he suddenly

Riga,

the

theatre

of

which town he condu6led the orchestra, and embarked on a sailing-ship which was going to

London, intending
fearful

go thence to Paris. A storm wrecked the vessel on the Norto

2o6

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


;

wegian coast but Wagner did not lose courage,

and reached the end of his journey. Almost unknown as he was, and in a most precarious
pecuniary position, he saw the doors of the
Parisian theatres scornfully shut in his face.

Spurred by necessity, he tried to write ballads


for the concerts, but, alas
!

he was not the


hidden
lair,

man

to write

French romances, and

his efforts only


in that

aroused derision.

To

be

brief,

garret, like a fox buried in his

penniless,

starving, he was meditating suicide,

when

musical publisher came and proposed to him


to arrange

some

operatic airs for the cornet

piston; and so the cornet piston was the

instrument of Richard Wagner's salvation

Living with the utmost economy, he contrived,

by the end of a year of unexampled

privation, to get together the necessary


for hiring a piano.
" I

sum
ran

trembled in every

limb," he said to Villiers, "

when

first

my fingers over the keys, but I soon found, to my exquisite joy, that I was still a musician." And now the muse of inspiration poured
out upon him the fulness of her riches.

The

memory

of the shipwreck in which he had so

Il

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


lately shared, of the sea as

207
it

he had seen

under the awful flashes of the tempest, the

deep

fiords,

the bluff promontories, haunted


;

his imagination

then suddenly he saw, flying

across the foggy Scandinavian sea swift as an

arrow, illuminated by a dazzling lightning flash,

the dreary ship of that legendary hero, "

The

Flying Dutchman."

And

in the bare, cold,

Parisian garret, Richard

Wagner,

indifferent

now

to all physical suffering, alone with his

genius,

and with
*'

his shabby, hired piano,

com-

posed and wrote that splendid


he christened

But
ing

if I

lyric poem which Der Fliegende Hollander." was to give way to the temptation
all Villiers'

of recalling
his

conversations concernfriend,

great and

musically-gifted

another volume would have to be grafted on


to

this

one of

my

recolle6lions of himself.
"

Never, indeed, was the author of

Axel

"

more eloquent, and indeed prolix, than when his theme was Richard Wagner. One felt
that a part of the soul of the master
literally

had

and when he paraphrased in words some one of his works, he gave you, so to speak, an illusion of music.
entered
his
;

2o8

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

Mends has dedicated to the glory of the German maestro, he relates that Villiers had written down one
In the fine book which Catulle
of these paraphrases,
I

think the one of the


I

prelude to

"

Lohengrin."

do not think it has

ever been published


to "

have never been able

come upon it. If the former direlor of the Revue Fantaisiste " has the work of his late
in his possession,
it,

comrade
all

and can be induced

to publish

he

will

deserve the gratitude of

lovers of literature.

Such was Villiers' passionate cultus for Wagner, that, in spite of all his poverty, I
might say penury, he would contrive to make
long journeys into Switzerland and
in

Germany

order to enjoy the company, the conversa-

and the music of the author of " Tristan and Isolt." During one of these distant extion,

came upon a young girl whom he had already met in Paris, and whose splendid talents, now well known and uncontested, he had been among
peditions to Triebchen, near Lucerne, he

the

first

to recognize

and applaud

refer to

Mdlle. Augusta Holmes.

Villiers

was en-

raptured at once with this young and beautiful

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


artist,

209
fire,

admirably

gifted, filled
sacrifice

with sacred

ready to make any

on the

altar of art,

and making

light, in

her sturdy confidence, of

the thousand obstacles which bar a woman's

entrance into the road to glory.

Long

after-

wards, in 1885, the great writer, in a charming


article,

written

in

an enthusiastic and
his

stirring strain,

detailed

recollelions of

young musician. I I must premise quote two passages from it. that Villiers saw her for the first time at
his intercourse with the
Versailles,
in the

house of her

father,

Mr.

Dalkeith Holmes, in the


the grain, by

Rue de

l'Orangerie,

whither he had been carried off rather against

M. Camille Saint Saens, who


:

was
"

his

companion that day

That evening, we heard some

oriental

melodies, the earliest musical thoughts of the


future authoress of 'Les Argonautes,' 'Lutce,'
'

relande,'

and 'Pologne,' and which seemed


be already almost free from the

to

me
"

to

conventionalities of the old style of music.

Augusta Holmes had one of those


which can adapt
itself to

in-

telligent voices

any

register

and indicate the most

delicate shades

2IO

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


I

of a musical work.
to mistrust those

am

generally inclined

cleverly-managed organs,

which often
initiated

(to

the appreciation of an un-

audience) immensely heighten the

value of a commonplace composition.


in this case the air

But
accent,

was worthy of the


*

and
'

was enchanted with the Sirne,' the Chanson du Chamelier,' and the Pays
I
'

des

Rves,'

not

to

mention

the

Hymne
inter-

Irlandais,'

which the young composer


that

preted

so

pine-encircled

glades

and
It

distant heaths rose before our mind's eye.

was altogether a bright spot, musically speaking, pointing to an inevitably brilliant future. The evening ended with some passages from Wagner's Lohengrin,' lately published in
'

France, and to which Saint Saens introduced


us.

The young composer was


new
'

passionately

smitten with the

music, and her admira-

tion for the author of

Tristan and Isolt' has

never since belied

itself."

Here

is
:

the account of the meeting at


"

Triebchen

Two

months before the Ger-

met Mdlle. Holmes at Triebchen, near Lucerne, in Richard Wagner's own


I

man war


VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.
house
;

211

her father having,

in spite of his

great

age, decided to take the journey to


in

Munich,

order that the young composer might hear


first

the

part of the
Httle
!

NibelungenHed.'

"'A

less
'

sentiment for

my

wishes,

mademoiselle

said

Wagner,
the
of

after

he had

listened to her

with

clear-sighted
*I

and

prophetic

attention

genius.

do not

want

to be, to a creative genius like yours,


stifles all

the manchineel-tree whose shadow the birds that

come within
'

it.

word of
espe-

advice

Do

not belong to any school

cially not to
"

mine

Richard

Wagner did
at

not wish the Rhein'

gold' to be played

Munich.

Although

the score had been published, he obje6led to

the work being seen apart from the three


other portions of the
'

Nibelungenlied.'

His
four

great dream, ultimately realized at Bayreuth,

was

to

give a

representation
this,

lasting

successive evenings, of

the great
his

of his

life.

But the impatience of

work young
'

and

fanatical admirer, the


all

King
'

of Bavaria,

had broken

bounds, and the


*

Rheingold

was

to

be played by

royal

command.'

Wag-

212

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

ner,

who had

refused

all

participation

and

all

assistance, anxious
in

and saddened by the way


his great masterpiece

which the unity of

was about to be destroyed, had forbidden any friend of his to attend the performance.

And many
to

musicians and

men

of letters,
travelled

amongst them myself, who had twice

Germany to hear the master's music, hardly knew whether to obey his distressing
upon anybody who counas

injunlion or not. *" I shall look

tenances

that

massacre,

my

personal

enemy,' he said to us.


" Mdlle.

Holmes, although driven into sub!

mission by the threat, was reduced to despair


"

However, the
Richter,

letter

of

Kapellmeister
the
re-

Hans

who was conducing

orchestra at

Munich, having somewhat

assured Wagner, his resentment against the


passionate zealots of his music softened, and

we took advantage
to depart, almost
"
I

of the momentary calm


sly.
I

on the

have before

me

as

write a letter, and

rather a bitter

one,

which Wagner wrote


in

me

to Munich, and

which he

says,

'So

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


you have gone with your friends to see
people can toy with a serious work
well
!

213

how
!

well

count on some inexterminable pasit,

sages in

to atone

for
'
!

much

that might

appear incomprehensible
"

The
'

predi6lions of the master were


brilliant

falsi-

fied

by the

triumph of the
opera

Rhein-

gold

a triumph more foreseen than alually


for
this
is

apparent,
telligible

only fully

in-

when seen
it

in conjun6lion with the


*

three other portions of the

Nibelungenlied,'

of which

is

the key.

All his adherents

were present
his threats

at the performance, in spite of

and

prohibitions,

and
first

seeing that night, in


visitors' gallery,

the

remember row of the


I

Mdlle. Holmes, sitting next

to the

Abb

Liszt,

and following the renderorchestral score-

ing of

the opera in the

book belonging

to the illustrious

musician"

("Vie Moderne," Paris, 1885).


first

was one of the to hurry to Bayreuth in 1876, when, thanks to the sumptuous munifiI

Need

add that

Villiers

Frenchmen

cence of the King of Bavaria, Richard


ner was able at
last to realize his

Wag-

great dream.

214
I

VILLIERS DE UISLE ADAM.


should like to close this veracious chro-

nicle of the fraternal relations

which existed

between the great German master and the


great French thinker, by quoting a page or

two written by
nevertheless

Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam, which,
would

though almost unknown


be

to scholars,
in

worthy

every way to

become the
works.

fitting

preface of his colle6led

Villiers, in

a purely imaginary con-

mouth of the beloved master, has summed up all his own artistic and religious convi6lions. When we consider how hard and miserable was the life of him who poured out his soul
versation, put into the

and
read
"

his conscience in this magnificent con-

fession
it

of an

artist's

faith,

we can

hardly

without deep emotion.


twilight evening

One

we were

sitting in

the darkening

room looking over the garden,

the rare words

we

interchanged, with long

spaces of silence between them, scarcely disturbing our pleasing


meditations,

when

asked Wagner, without useless perambulation,

whether

it

was, so to speak, artificially

(by dint of science and intelle6lual power).

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


that he
*

215

had succeeded
'

in investing his works,


*

Rienzi,'

Tannhauser,'

Lohengrin,'
'

The
'

Flying Dutchman,' even the

Meistersinger

and

Parsifal,'

over which he was already

brooding, with that strongly mystic quality

which emanates from them


in short,

all ?

Whether,

he had been

sufficiently freethinking

and independent of conscience to be no more


of a Christian than the subje6l of these lyric

dramas demanded of him and, finally,whether


;

he looked at Christianity in the same light


as

that

in

which he viewed those Scandithe symbolism of which he

navian myths,

had so magnificently illustrated in the NibeThis question was almost lungen Ring.

by something which had struck me very much in one of his principal


authorized, indeed,
operas,
'

Tristan

and

Isolt,'

viz.,

that

in

that work, in

which the most intense pasis

sionate

love

scornfully ascribed

to

the

influence of a love philtre, the


is

name of God

never mentioned a single time.


" I shall

always remember the look

Wagsmile,

ner fixed on

me
*

out of the depths of his

wonderful eyes.

Why,' he said with a

2i6
*

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


I

if

did

not feel

in

my
my
in

inmost soul the


faith
all

living light

and love of that Christian


and
which

of which

you speak,
it,

works, which
I

bear witness to
corporated
the whole
all

have

in-

my mental powers, as well as of my lifetime, would be the works


!

of a

liar,

of an ape
to

How
I

could

be childish
a frenzy
to
;

enough

work myself up
?

into

about what at bottom

should

know
prayer

be

an imposture

My

art is

my

and,

believe me, no true artist can sing otherwise

than as he believes, speak but of what he


loves,

write

otherwise than as he
betray
it

thinks.

Those who
thenceforth
for

lie,

in their

work, which
valueless,

becomes

sterile

and

no true work of

art can

be accomplished

without disinterestedness and sincerity.


"
'

Yes he who
!

for the sake of

some low
tries to

interests, for success, or for

money,

make a
of
art,

fi6litious faith stir in

a so-called work

betrays himself, and only brings forth

a corpse.
the

Should such a

traitor

pronounce

name

of God, not only does that

not signify to the listener

name what he who promean, but being,

nounces

it

would have

it

i
as
it it is,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


a word, and therefore a living thing,

gives,

by

his

supreme profanation, the He


it.

to

him who

utters

No human

being can

be deceived by such a device, and the author


of
it

can only be valued at his proper worth


his

by those of his want of


selves.
"
is
*

own

genus,

who

recognize in

truth that

which they are them-

The

first

sign that

marks the

real artist
faith
;

a burning, precise, sacred, unalterable

for in

every

artistic

produlion worthy of

human

being, the artistic value

and the

living value are blended together, in the dual

unity of the

body and the


faith

soul.

The work
always lack
fills,

of a

man

without
artist,

can never be the


it

work of an
warms, and
be
like

because

will

that living flame which raises, enraptures,


fortifies

the soul.

It will
life

always

a corpse, galvanized into


machine.

by some
be

trivial

At

the

same time

let this

clearly understood:

if,

on the one hand. Know-

ledge alone can only produce clever amateurs,


great inventors of " methods," of
alion, of expressions,

modes of
consum-

more or

less

mately

skilful

in

the

manufa6lure of their

2i8

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

mosaics, and also shameless plagiarists, who,


to

put one

off

the scent,

will

assimilate

millions of incongruous sparks of intelligence,

which lose their brightness when they


minds,

re-

appear out of the tinselled emptiness of such

on

the other hand, Faith alone can

only produce and give vent to those sublime


cries of the soul which, because they cannot

p7'operly formulate themselves, appear, alas

to the vulgar, to be but incoherent clamour.

The true
together,

artist,

he who can
gifts

create,

and put
needs
united.

and transfigure
great
Faith.

his

ideas,

these two

indissolubly

Knowledge and

As

for myself, since

you ask me, above all things I am a Christian,

and the accents which touch you

in
"

my work

owe

their inspiration to that alone.'

CHAPTER
le

XIV.

marquis and the marquise


ness

contributions the press The La Rpublique des Lettres Catulle Mends K. Huysmans The Contes Cruels" Two quotations of high His A study by M. G. Guiches a and a mimic Some unpublished of Dr. Triboulat Bonhomet Bonhomet the commander-inchief Bonhomet the ermine-hunter Bonhomet the of the Scriptures Bonhomet's true adventures opinions of Bayreuth The de Adam An unexpeled A rupture.
the marquis " Figaro "
Villiers'

A monomania
'*

Villiers'

filial

tender-

for speculation

letter

from

to

"

*'

J.

Villiers'

spirits

loss

illusion

Villiers as
traits

talker

ful-

filling

letter

at

political

Vil-

liers

risle

toast

EANWHILE,

lost in

a poor and
leading
of privaold lady-

remote quarter of
a lonely existence
tion

Paris,

made up
a
frail

and

sacrifices,

lived on, supported

and consoled by her great


Yes, the old marquis
in

love for her Matthias.

and marquise were

still

the land of the

220
living.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Poverty, age, and suffering, cold and

hunger,

had not succeeded

in

putting out
I

their feeble lamp.


said,

The

marquise, as

have

only lived for and in her son, and she


trials,

bravely endured the cruellest buckler against


all
all ills

finding her
in

and her consolation

her sorrows in the worship and tenderness

of her boy.

son

he

Villiers was more than a good was an admirable son. I think he


all

poured out

the treasures of tenderness


in that great heart of his

which were garnered

upon

his

mother.
especially

When
of

he spoke of his
(he

parents,

her

never

did

mention them except to

his closest intimates,

and those gentlemen of the boulevards never heard him profane the sacred name of father
or of mother in their company), the tears

would come
off to the

into his eyes.


in

The moment

his

pen brought him

any money, he would tear


the old

Avenue Malakoff (where

people inhabited two modest rooms), to share


his

earnings with them, and would return


face.

from such expeditions with a radiant

Nevertheless, the marquis used to cause him

some considerable

trouble.

Time,

far

from

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

221

calming the old nobleman's mania for speculation,

had only

intensified

it.

Age and
alivity,
till

infir-

mity had not diminished his

and he

walked the

streets

from morning

night on

the look-out for wonderful opportunities.

Nohe

body, luckily, paid him

much

attention, but

would

try to insist

on whirling Matthias
he used

away

with him, and making him share in the execution of the extraordinary plans
to pro-

pound

daily.

Hence

arose occasional and


in a hearty

lively discussions,

which ended
part,

laugh on

Villiers'

and the indignant

retirement of his father,


" Well, in spite of all
will

who would

exclaim,
"
!

your talent, Matthias, you

never be anything but an empty dream


old marquis kept his dreams

The

and visions
year of his
letter,

as long as he lived.

The very

death he wrote his son the following

which depi6ls the extraordinary


astonishing visionary's
longest psychological study

state of this

mind better than the


:

" 2\thjuly, 1883.

"My
"

dear Matthias,

We

desire to

make known our good

22

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


I

fortune to you.

hereby introduce to you,


is

Mr.

who

at

this

moment

the

possessor of 25,000 francs, and who, at this

time of writing, owns a well-furnished dining-

room, and
tion

who

is

about to furnish his recepsatin curtains

rooms with splendid pink


I

(which

have had
he

in

my
and

hands), also a

good

piano, a superior sofa,

furniture to match.

Besides
place,

this,

will

have a beautiful country


residence
fields,

with

a magnificent feudal

with turrets, a park,


vineyards,

meadows, and
of
forest,

and

several

leagues

wherein

we

shall

be able to exercise our

prowess as sportsmen.
(in

And we

shall

own

a perfe6lly regular manner) some mines,


I

the riches of which

expert you to help

me to

work, with our

own capital. "Your father,

"Joseph de Villiers de l'Isle Adam."


This period of
Villiers'
life,

although the

necessary investigations for the writing of

"L'Eve Future" absorbed him very much, was


exceedingly produ6live, and his literary notoriety enabled

him

to place his

copy very

easily.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

223

He

contributed tales to several daily papers


literary

which piqued themselves on their


columns.

The

" Figaro," which, to its

honour

be

it

said,

always liked and appreciated him,

used to receive his work with deference.


his

But
to a

most alive collaboration was given


"

new magazine,

La Rpublique des
artistic to

Lettres,"

a publication too purely

have any

chance of longevity
century.

in

this

matter- of- fa6l

In the office of the " Rpublique

des Lettres " he found


his earlier days,

many of the friends of who had rallied round the


"

former direlor of the


Catulle Mends.

Revue

Fantaisiste,"
artists

Like himself these


in the

were

all

growing old and grey


life

heavy
but

harness of

and thought.

All of them had


all

lost the greater part of their illusions,

had preserved

intal their sacred

and coura-

geous love of the ideal and the


their indignant horror of

and empty platitudes. To this well-trained phalanx some youthful spirits had joined themselves, and here De
beautiful,

risle

Adam

laid the foundation of his friend-

ship with a
talent, J.

young

writer of special

and

original

K. Huysmans.

This acquaintance

224

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


to ripen,

was

tender,

some years manly affe6lion.

later,

into a deep,

Providence

had

marked out the now justly celebrated author "A Rebours," and so many other deep and clever works, to soften by his presence and his delicate strong-heartedness the cruel
of

death-agony of the poet.

shall return later

to the subje6l of this intimacy.


Villiers also

busied himself with

colle6l-

ing his scattered tales into a volume called


"

Contes Cruels," which, published the following


as

year by Calmann Levy, set the seal upon his


reputation
better

a great

artist.

This

work,

perhaps than any other, shows the

author's complex, original,


talent.
plified in

His symbolism
"

is

and many-sided magnificently exem-

such pieces of writing as " Impatience

de la Foule

and

"

Vox

Populi "his mysticism


;

shines brilliantly in

"Vera;"

his

deep and
produces

bitter sense of philosophical raillery

those strangely attra6live, almost prophetic


tales,

"

La Machine
L'Etna chez

Gloire," " L'Affichage


soi," to

Cleste," "

which

last

the

recent anarchical struggles in Paris give a


striking reality.

And

in those brilliant

pages

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


of
**

225

L'Annonciateur," which even one fresh


"

from the perusal of Gustave Flaubert's


rodias
tion,

Hemust needs read with profound emo"


all

the poet and the idealist pours forth

the overflowing wealth of his imagination.


It

was concerning
:

"

L'Annonciateur
I

"

that

its

author wrote

" If

think great thoughts,


I

people will say that what


ture
;

write

is

fine litera-

yet

it is

but the clear expression of


all
;

my

thought, and not literature at

for that has

no real existence, beyond being the clear expression of what


I

think."

He

has elsewhere described his

own

idio-

syncrasy, and his destiny as an artist and a


thinker, in these remarkable
bolic terms
:

and sadly sym-

"

Alas

we

are like

some mighty

crystal vase of Eastern story, filled with the

pure essence of dead roses, and hermetically

enveloped

in a triple

covering of wax, of gold,

and of parchment.

One

single drop of the

essence thus preserved within the precious

urn (the fortune of a whole race, handed

down by
to

inheritance

as

a sacred

charge,

hallowed by the ancestral blessings), suffices

perfume many vessels of pure water, which

2 26

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

in their turn will

embalm

the air of the


set, for

tomb

or dwelling wherein they are


year.

But (and herein

lies

our crime)
filled

many a we do

not resemble those other jars

with com-

moner perfume, scentless and melancholy phials not worth reclosing, whose virtue weakens and melts away under every passing breath." It would be wrong to imagine Villiers as a splenetic and silent person in everyday life, notwithstanding the bitterness of his irony and his immense range of thought. He was gifted,
on the contrary, with a robust cheerfulness,
never more
of his
Paris

apparent

than

when he was
rein,

struggling with difficulty.


life,

In the early days


in all

he had given
itself in his

companies, to that enjoyment of the fadl of


living

which expressed

case

by an

overflow of wit and humour.


perceived, alas
!

But he soon

that the raptures of his audi-

ence were not disinterested.


literary

When
I'lsle

these

good

fellows

saw

De
out

Adam
note-

coming, they

would get

their

books, and his sayings, his ideas for stories,


his

colle6led

humorous fancies, were all carefully by these skimmers of the literary

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


pot.

227

So

that the poor poet, opening a news-

paper or magazine at random, would find his

own

ideas and creations shamefully travestied

and mutilated, and impudently signed with names which bore no resemblance to his
own.

These underhand

thefts,

and many another

mean

treachery, poisoned a naturally sincere

and simple nature.

M. G. Guiches has very

happily reproduced the change which took


place in the poet's heart, alually affeling

even
in the
"

his physical appearance, in a

remark-

able study of Villiers de I'lsle

Adam, published
this

When

"Nouvelle Revue," May, 1890. he at last became aware of

pilfering," says

M. Guiches,

"

when he under-

stood the interested objel of the raptures

which used to encourage his ready tongue,


there was a sudden realion within him.
soul,

His

naturally as
itself,

open as the day, shrank


ingenuousness intrenched

within
itself

his

behind a distrust as excessive as his

simplicity

had once been.

His speech grew

hesitating, shorn of its

former frank uncon-

strainedness.

Sudden

flashes of suspicion filled


2 28

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


sudden shyness.
;

his eyes with

His hand was

no longer outstretched
disenchantment."

it

waited yours, and

was only offered with the indolence bred of


But when
vard,
far

Villiers

was

far

from the bouleliterary


in

from professional

men,

when he was warmed and revived

an atmo-

sphere of sincere friendship and admiration,

he became himself again, and his dazzling


gaiety poured itself forth in
all

sorts of un-

expe6led conceits.

It

was

like

a perpetual

show of
and

fireworks,

and the supply of squibs


lights

crackers,

Bengal

and

Roman

candles, used to

seem

inexhaustible.

was not only a good story-teller, he could mimic like a great and original alor,
and he thus gave the innumerable personages created by his imagination an air of genuine,
if

He

often

fantastic

reality,

simulating, as

he

would, their looks and voices, their gestures

and

their attitudes.

Amongst
if

all

these crea-

tions,

which seem as

they belong to the

dreams of Hoffman, Edgar Poe, or Dean


Swift, Villiers' favourite

was always the

illuslittle

trious Triboulat Bonhomet, " the son of

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


Dr.

229

Amour Bonhomet, who had


in the coal mines."

adventures

down

During many a dehghtful evening, and

in

the course of those long midnight rambles

through Paris which used to pass so quickly

away

in his

company,

have witnessed many

of the metamorphoses of that remarkable and


scientific individual.

For Bonhomet, accord-

ing to his creator's notion, was, while always

continuing the archetype of his century, to

be reincarnated
occupy.

in

every position a

man

could

He was
and

to be, turn about, professor,

minister of state, police agent, philosopher,


explorer,
lefturer.
I

remember some of

these transmigrations, which were never published,


Villiers

having been prevented by


a General Bonhomet,

death from putting them into circulation.


First of
all,

there

is

commanding-in- chief,

who

harangues

his

troops before the battle.

He

points out to

them

that the idea of glory

quite out of date, and calls

and patriotism is upon them to court

death in defence of agriculture, manufa6lures,

and commerce, the three sources of the prosperity of France.


" Soldiers
!

let

us have no

230

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


for hollow

more empty enthusiasm


ploded Utopias
!

and ex-

Fight, conquer, and die for


"
!

the safety of our railway system

Then, as a pendant to Bonhomet the slayer


of swans, there was Bonhomet the erminehunter, who, having read that one of these

immaculate creatures dies as soon as a stain

snowy whiteness, hides himself with a wonderful silent gun, charged with ink, and
marks
its

thus exterminates several dozen

But the boldest conception of all

is,

perhaps,

Bonhomet
After a

the religious man.


visit to

Patmos, the details of which

beggar
to
fulfil

all

description, the do6lor determines

the letter of the Scriptures, " that there

shall not

remain of Jerusalem one stone upon

another."

And having observed, as he passed


walls,

through the holy places, that arches,


houses were
still

and

standing, he returns to Jeru-

salem, accompanied by a contra6lor and an

army of workmen,
prophecy to the
its

to accomplish the scriptural

letter,
I

and leave no stone upon


final farewell

neighbour

must not bid a

to the do6lor without detailing an authentic

but

little

known

anecdote, in which he plays

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


the chief part.
Villiers

231

During the autumn of 1879,

de

I'lsle

Adam,

together with Judith

Gautier,

Catulle

Mends, and many other


assist

musical adepts, had gone to Bayreuth to see


the

divine

Wagner, and
of

at the per-

formance

"Parsifal"

and

the

"

Nibeall

lungenlied."

The

great master,

who was

powerful at the Bavarian Court, presented


Villiers to

the king and his august guests,

among whom was that Grand Duke who is now Czar of all the Russias. Wagner had talked so often about Triboulat Bonhomet
that, willy nilly,

the poet had to agree to give

a reading from his works.

For

this

purpose

the whole court was assembled.

From
stifled

the outset there was a

murmur of

laughter and a rustle of unfurling fans.

As

the reading proceeded, the gaiety of the

audience increased, growing quite noisy, and

unchecked by the presence of the king, who,


for that matter, laughed louder than the rest.
Villiers

was much astonished, and a


enough that
side,

little

un-

easy even, at this extraordinary

hilarity.

He

knew

well

his

Bonhomet had a

very comic

but he never expe6ted to

232

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


merriment among per-

raise such a gust of

sonages so grave and important.


reader ceased and cast a glance,
suspicion,

At
full

last the

tempest of laughter rose so high that the


of vague

round his audience.

The Grand

Duke

of Saxe-Weimar,

who

sat beside him,

touched his shoulder, and pointed to a person


sitting just opposite
little

them.

Villiers,

with a

sharp cry, dropped the manuscript from

his trembling fingers,

and gave evident signs


in front of him, sur-

of lively terror.

There,

rounded by a bevy of beautiful women, gazing


at

him with shining

eyes, his

enormous mouth huge hands


(principally

open

in stentorian laughter, his

leading the applause, was Dr. Triboulat Bon-

homet
bone!).

himself, in flesh
It

and bone

was Liszt! From the very first line of the manuscript, which minutely described the dolor, the whole audience had
been struck with the resemblance between
the great pianist and Triboulat

Bonhomet,
bore a

and as the description went on the likeness


increased

dress,

gestures, habits,

all

striking similarity.

One

person alone did not

perceive the identity, and he laughed louder


VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.
than the rest
233

Liszt himself.
the
fits

As the

situation

worked

itself out,

of laughter

became

almost convulsing, for Villiers read on with


the most imperturbable gravity.

After this

incident quelgiornopi nonsileggemmo avante !^


I

have spoken but


convi6lions

little,

up

till

now, of the
of the
that though

political

of the
truth

author
is,

" Contes Cruels."

The

he was Royalist by
lic

racial instinft

and Catho-

by convi6lion, he considered contemporary


the depth of his heart, as a low and

politics, in

vulgar science, the triumph of lying, hypocrisy

and

platitude,

and an end unworthy of the pur-

suit of

minds inspired by the divine breath.


Croix et l'Epe," he constituted him-

Nevertheless, during his short career as editor


of "

La

self the
dorffs.

champion of the cause of the NaunI

fancy that the strange mystery

which even now surrounds the origin of his


claim, fired the poet's imagination

more than

the personal qualities of the starveling pretender.

He
'

remained a Naundorffist even after he


further leaf we did uncover."

"That day no
V.

Inferno,

canto

234

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

was no longer at the head of the newspaper, and was convinced of the incontestabihty of the
claims of the future Charles XI. to the throne of France.
this

Let no one hastily conclude that


his fancy.

was nothing but

More
on
this

serious

persons than

Villiers, after

minute research,
head.
the pretensions of

have shared
Jules Favre,

his convilions

who defended

the Naundorffs before the French tribunals,

was persuaded of the rightfulness of


clients'

his

claim.

Since that time


light,

much

evi-

dence has come to

the authenticity of

which
in the

it

would be hard

to disprove,

showing

that at

all

events Louis

XVIL

did not die

Temple.

The Comte

d'Hrisson, in a

curious
called "

book published some years ago, and

Le Cabinet

Noir," has elucidated


clearly,
it is

all

this strange affair

very

and a perusal

of his work, supported as


evidence,
is

by documentary

calculated to inspire doubt as to

the rival pretensions of the two branches of

the Bourbon family in the most incredulous

and

sceptical minds.

^ Since the publication of the Comte d'Hrisson's book, another has appeared on this knotty point, " L'Enfant du


VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.
235
still,

However
dorffs,

that

may

be, Villiers

was

in

1879, an enthusiastic partisan of the Naun-

when an

incident which took place that

year completely separated them.

few

faithful followers of the

monarch

in

expelancy had joined together to give a


dinner in his honour.
silent

Villiers

was

sitting,

and absorbed, on the prince's


guests was the old
for

right.

Among the who F


,

Comte de

forty

years

had devoted

everything

intellel,

energy, time, and for-

tune

to the welfare and success of him whom


his legitimate sovereign.

he looked upon as

The august guest lost his temper (on what account I know not) with his old and faithful
servant, and, before
all

the assembled com-

pany, he so overwhelmed him with reproaches

and abuse that the poor old man burst


sobs.
fell

into

stupor of indignant astonishment


little

upon the

gathering; and in the

midst of the general silence, Villiers rose,


Temple," by the Baron de Gaugler, published by Savine.

An

authoritative work, proving the right of the Naundorffs

to style themselves the descendants of the

Dauphin of

France.

236

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


and turned towards the prince.
said,
"
I

glass in hand,
" Sire "
!

he

drink your majesty's

health.

Your

claims are certainly beyond


all

dispute.

You have

the ingratitude of a

king!"

CHAPTER

XV.

of a candidate the the Conseil Gnral Opinions of the press Meetings The plans of the future councillor My departure from Paris Our separation Descrip^Bi^ 1880 by G. Guiches. of
mystery
Villiers

Fragments of a journal kept in 1879 A woman of fashion bewitched Villiers and Mar' Yvonne

at

elecSlions

tion

Villiers in

UN TING
any traces

through old papers for


I

might possess of the


life
I
I

dear dead friend whose

am

endeavouring

to

relate,

have

come
about

across several sheets of notes, written


this

time,
is

towards the end of 1879.


full

This journal
I

of Villiers, with

whom

was living in almost daily intercourse, and though it may be devoid of any other
merit,
it

has at

all

events this one, that


life,

it

was drawn from the


reproduces

and that

it

faithfully

my

original impressions.

From

238
it,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


therefore,
I

cull the story of

one of the
life

last incidents in

the poet's Parisian

of

which

was a

witness.

The

reader

will, I

am
the
"

sure, forgive

monotony of

my endeavouring to vary my tale by the quotation


:

06lober, 1879.
for

Matthias has been back

from Bayreuth

some

days, and

gave

me

only yesterday an exemplification of the extra-

ordinary bewitching power of his conversation over every

human being who

hears

it.

A distant

relation of

my

own, young, charmfrivolous, is just

ing, elegant,

and deplorably

now passing through Paris. She has come to make some purchases, to buy a trousseau,
and
is
I

really believe her sole mission in life

to

match ribbons and

silks.

God

alone

knows what is inside the head of a young and fashionable woman coming to Paris, with
a pocketful of money, to
It
*

do her shopping
dressmakers,

' !

appears to

me

that nothing exists for her


lace

beyond shops,
however,
to

milliners,

vendors, jewellers, and so forth.

Yesterday,

Madame
to

de

come

my

house to

was good enough rest a moment, and


of the country.

talk

about our

own

part

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


But she had shown
ments, and

239

me

her

list

of engage-

made

her conditions beforehand.


clock, neither

Half an hour by the


less,

she was to spend with me.


is,

more nor Towards

half-past two, that

after the first quarter

of an hour, in

came Matthias, with whom she


. .

had not been previously acquainted. Well when Mar' Yvonne, my Breton servant,
.
!

brought

in

the

lamp
still

at

six

o'clock,

my
sofa,

charming cousin was


gazing admiringly at
in the

sitting

on the

Villiers,

who, standing

middle of the room, was demonstrating

to her, with unutterably

comic gestures,

how

the

how

King of Bavaria valsed! Who can tell the miracle was accomplished ? These
all

performances of his beggar

description

they must be seen to be realized.

During

yesterday afternoon Villiers played the piano,


sang,

and aled through the whole of the Nibetrilogy, interspersing his


stories,

lungen

performance
astonishing
imitated one

with queer
refle6lions,

vile

puns,

and

bitter jests.

He

after the other,

and with astonishing power, all the august, illustrious, and crackbrained people he had met at Bayreuth, from the

240

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

king and the princesses down to the crazylooking musical professors from the
universities.

German

He

gave us
in

magnificent

description of the

way

which the impetuous

and tyrannical maestro, Wagner, ruled the little court with his iron rod, and lorded it
over the king just as an usher in a school
will

lord

it

over a lower boy.

He

was, in

short, as

he can be now and then, inimitable


*

and
said,

irresistible.
*

Yes,'

my young
in

relative
!

am
is

furious

and delighted too


all

never was so much entertained


life
!

my

He
When

more amusing than

all

the Paris

theatres put together.'

came back I found him disputing He was with Mar' Yvonne in my bedroom.
I

"

turning over the contents of


to choose himself

my
;

wardrobe,
'

some white
want,'

cravats.
*

Ah,

these are what


ties,

he said

serious
'
!

very serious

ties,

most serious

ties

He

wrapped three up in an old newspaper, and was going away without speaking to me after
a hearty silent handshake.
tion
tal
I

tried to ques-

'Hush! a mystery! you shall know importance


him.
!

of
all

capi-

about

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


it

by-and-by

'
!

and he went

off bursting

with

laughter.
his

There was an alarming look in eyes which made me suspel some terrible
I
:

humbug. She said


Matthias

cross-questioned Mar* Yvonne.


'

am

sure,

sir,

that

Monsieur

is

plotting

something.

He

has

brought

said to me, "


that

me two shirts to iron, and he You understand, Mar' Yvonne,

they must be shiny


!

as
"

shiny as the

inside of your saucepans

What

can

it all
'

mean
"

Has he any matrimonial

projels

November, 1879. There were no matrimonial plans, and Villiers' new mad projel
surpasses for comicality the best conception

of the immortal Labiche.

He
1

has offered

himself as a candidate in the

7th Arrondisse-

ment

at the elelions to the Conseil

Gnral

of the

Seine, which

are to take place on


!

the loth of next January


the progenitor of

Nor
is

is this all

Bonhomet

supported by

the Royalist committee in Paris, which intro-

duces him, patronizes him, and pays


ele6lioneering

all

his

expenses.
still
it

It
is

seems utterly
per-

improbable, and

absolutely true.

He

has bewitched

the most solemn

242

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


stiffest

sonages, captivated the

dowagers, and

gained the enthusiastic support of the clergy


of his parish.

Those

shirts

and cravats were


appears he has

for his meetings, of

which

it

already held two, both brilliantly successful.


"

His adversary

is

the redoubtable negro,


all

Hrdia, a red Republican for


skin.

his black

All the newspapers to-day are talking

of this unexpeled candidature, and laughing


at
it.

The

'

Figaro

'

is,

as
it

always,

sym-

pathetic

to Villiers, but

looks

upon the

whole thing as somewhat of a poetic fancy.

Some

old Royalist papers, however, such as

the 'Gazette de France,' support the claims

of the great
phrases.
talk with
ness,

writer

with
I

many

laudatory

This very day

have had a long


that, in

my
I

cousin about the whole busi-

and

have convinced myself

spite of pleasantries at heart look

and banter, he does not

upon it as at all a matter of humbug. I am certain he has a secret hope and desire of success. How full of contradidlion
poet,
fall
is

the

this

human breast This admirable artist par excellence, has just let
!

to

me

this phrase,

incomprehensible as

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


coming from
his
lips
*
:

243
I

After

all,

hold

Bulwer's opinion that the really successful

man
this
is

should begin by literature, go on to


life,

public

and end
brain,

in

office.'

Fortunately
flitting

but a dream of ambition

across

his
it

mighty
himself

and he
has,

will

soon laugh at

He
me

moreover,

no chance

of being eleled, whatever his illusions


be.

may

He

told

himself that he had some-

what alarmed some worthy delegates who interviewed him, by stating that, if he was honoured by eledlion, he should demand,
from the aesthetic point of view, the demolition

of several monuments, such as the Opera House, the Church of St. Sulpice, and

the Panthon.

And

he also

desires, with the

object of providing a refuge for literary men,


to obtain the re-establishment of the Debtors'
"
!

Prison

Let

me add
article

to these fragments of

per-

sonal notes the following passage extraled

from an

have already mentioned,


Villiers

and which was dedicated by

de

I'lsle

Adam

to

the

glory

of

Mdlle.

Augusta

Holmes.

244
" I

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM. had been chosen as the candidate of

the RoyaHst committee at the ele6lions for


the Conseil Gnral of Paris, on the loth of

January,

1880.

If

my memory

serves me,

my

candidature was for the 17th Arrondisse-

ment, in opposition to that redoubtable revolutionist,

M. de Hrdia.

It

may be
being

added,

by the way,

that the results of these elelions,

within five-and-twenty votes,

nowaI

days perfe6lly well known beforehand,


of the honour of being beaten.
"
I

had

accepted the nomination solely for the sake

obtained, as

expe6led, the suffrages


;

of six hundred

eledlors

my

worthy anta-

gonist (whose touching fugitive poetry the


'

Figaro

'

was then publishing) obtained the


his

resulting majority of a thousand or twelve

hundred votes to which he owes

triumph

and thus both men of


"

letters

were content.
just
:

But with regard

to

what concerns us
is

now, the amusing part of the business

this

At

that time the projel of an

Academy

of

Lyric Composition for the town of Paris was


already

much

discussed,
I

and

one evening

before the great day

declared at a party.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


before

245

two of the most matter-of-fa6l and


if,

red

Republican of the councillors, that


all its

contrary to
elelion has

expe6lation (for after

all

the

whims),
first

was

successful in

this venture,

my

care,

when

the proper

moment

arrived,

would be

to point out to

the commission the pralical competence

and

usefulness of the eminent composer as a possible

member
is

of the

official

jury of this body.


self- satisfied

Then, with that gentle and which


individuals, those

smile

so eminently chara6leristic of such

two guileless ones called

me
So

a poet (which always entertains me), and

dismissed
I

my

projel to the limbo of space.

dubbed them prosy, in order to gratify their little vanity, and I was not at all surprised to hear that it was those two members
who,
if

report speaks truly, influenced the


in

commission the next year


musician,

favour of the

and had her placed upon the jury


majority.
"
!

by an

enthusiastic

What

poets

our municipal councillors are


I

did not see the end of this wonderful

adventure.

Important family events called

me

back into Brittany, at the end of 1879, as

246
I

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


visit
;

then thought for a short


I

but providence
in

ruled otherwise, and

have never been

Paris since, except as a casual visitor.

Thenceforward, in spite of
tion for Villiers,

my

deep

affec-

and our years of close intimacy, I only held rare communication with him, with here and there a hasty meeting
rarer
still.

Does
?

this

imply that he was


!

faith-

less-hearted
contrary,
gold.

No, indeed
is

He

had, on the

what

popularly called a heart of

But

in order to

demonstrate his

affec-

tion to you,

he needed your bodily presence.

He

lived so

much
if

in the

far-away land of

dreams, that
stantly

you did not remind him con-

and tangibly of your existence, you came little by little to hold a vague and shadowy place in his mind, like the sweet and far-off memory of some loved and longAnd this was my fate. New lost friend. elements, too, and more intimate affelions,
entered into his
life
;

his increasing literary

reputation brought

him new

friendships
into

and
His

new
last

admirers,

and forced him

more

regular and constant literary produlion.

years were certainly his

fullest.

Then

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

247

came

sickness, the hospital ward,


!

and death,
friendship.
if life

without, alas

our having met again and reof our


faith
is

knitted

the strands

old
his

What
is

matter
it is

my
!

hard,

at all

that events short and soon we

meet again Here then end my personal reminiscences. I owe my ability to add in one last chapter some details of the poet's later life to the numerous articles concerning him published immediately after his death. Amidst these
shall
articles, filled,

many
fix

of them, with inaccuracies


stories,

and absurd apocryphal


which should
It

there
all

is

one

the attention of

artists.

"

was published by M. G. Guiches in the Nouvelle Revue," and has already been
subtle author (whose psycho-

often referred to in the pages of this book.

The young and

logical researches

have not withered up his

heart) has succeeded perfe6lly in fathoming the

hidden depths of the nature of the author of


"Axel."

He

has shown

in

a strikingly true

and touching way the slow metamorphosis of


that ingenuous nature, in the midst of the hypocrisies,

the cruelties, and the villainies of

life,

248

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

and he has given the most admirable and


speaking word-portrait of the poet that
acquainted with.
I

reproduce
it,

it

here.

am When
I

the reader has perused

let

him turn back

to

the pilure at the beginning of this volume,

and the

Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam

of

1880,

resuscitated

by the magic of the pen and the


appear
his
lifelike

art of the graver's tool, will

before

him.

"

He

would

raise

head,

proudly tossing back his hair with a noble


gesture,

and you saw

his face in all its in-

telle6lual beauty.

The broad

forehead, lined

with parallel wrinkles, proclaimed the supreme

harmony of the mental powers which had


panded
it,

ex-

as

it

were, into a superb page in the

book of

art.

The deep

depressions on the

temples denoted the mathematical aptitude of

which he so often gave proof.


eyes

The

light blue

bore

all

the

external

chara6leristics

which betoken the possession of exceptional


powers of memory, and the prominent eye-

swimming in the light of his mystic visions, or dimmed with the tears which any
balls,

religious

emotion or deep

artistic feeling

would

bring to them,

made

his

glance strangely


VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.
luminous.
All the
life

249

of the countenance had

gathered towards and remained in the upper


part of the face
that
it

the lower part was so reduced


to disappear.

seemed

The

animal or

sensual chara6leristics of the face were ren-

dered invisible by the fa6l that the swelling


contour of the cheeks concealed the angle of
the jawbones, while the chin, hidden under a

Louis XIII. beard, betrayed by


his

its

smallness

want of decision

in pralical matters.

The
mous-

slight moustache, often twisted

up

la

quetaire,

was out of harmony with the expresfull

sion of the mouth,

of the anxiety of a

dreamer who scents danger from afar, pursued


into the excesses of his

dream by the torments


even
yet, the bitter-

of daily

life,

and

tasting,

ness and painful humiliation of the solicitations

which necessity had driven him to


"
ter,

utter.

mouth issued strange laughsometimes ingenuous, long and hearty,


that

From

sometimes short and jerky,


yet
shrill,

sometimes low,
of

some old savant, half-mad with learning, when he discovers the precious meaning of some
like

the laughter

ancient inscription,

or, again, like

the diabolic

250

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

gaiety of those old


in

gnomes who are described ancient German books as inhabiting the


belfry

moss-grown
land."

towers of the

Father-

"

"

CHAPTER XVI. widow Closing years Birth of a son father Success of the "Contes Totor and the Cruels Appearance of " L'Eve Future
Villiers'

Little

his

"

"

in

Moderne "The murderous treatment of the "Nouveau Monde" at the Thtre des Nations The deaths of the marquis and the marquise J.K.Huysmans "ARebours" His opinion " Triboulat Bonhomet " " Propos of Villiers' work d'au-del " Akdysseril ""L'Amour Supreme
'

Gaulois

"The

" Vie

"

Prosperity " Histoires Insolites " Nouveaux Contes Cruels" "Axel" Sickness Letter
Paris

"

L'Eve Future "

Lelures in Belgium

Return

to

from J. K. Huysmans, and the death of Villiers

detailing the last

moments

Conclusion.
in

f^^ss^^^HE most important event


part of Villiers'
life
is

this

obviously

the birth of his son.

The

entrance
of this
all

into his dreary existence


child,

upon

whom

he could pour out

the

252

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


till

tenderness of his heart,

now

jealously

treasured up, gave fresh energy and buoyancy


to the great

and unhappy poet, who had imaearthly happiness

gined that

was ended for him. It is worthy of remark how much Villiers' literary fertility gained in amount and
all

in regularity

from

this time.

Doubtless his

paternal responsibilities obliged


first

him
of

for the
in

time to face the

realities

life

pradlical fashion.
I

never was acquainted with the person


bears the
Villiers
brilliant, if
I'lsle

who now name of


that she

burdensome,
I

de

Adam.

know

was without any education, of the I am aware that the liaison gave rise to much calumny on the part of the poet's enemies, and much sadness and But I astonishment on that of his friends.
humblest extraction, and

know,

also, that for ten

years that

woman was

the brave and faithful companion of the great


artist
;

that she softened the closing bitterness


life

of his

by her

affe6lion

that she shared his


sickness,

and devotion poverty, nursed him in


;

and that

in

bearing him a son she

gave him the one pure happiness that he ever

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

253

knew

in this world.

And

know,

lastly,

that

Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam,

lying on his deathbed,

on the very brink of eternity, did not think this humble companion unworthy of that supreme a6l of self-sacrifice by which he gave
her the right to bear his

name

before

God
all

and men.

For

all

these reasons, the

widow

of Villiers has a right to the deference of

admirers and friends of her


I

late

husband, and

believe

shall best

show mine by wrapping


all

the story of this liaison, which after


cerns nobody but the a6lors in
silence.
it,

con-

in respelful

As soon

as

little

Vilor

("

Totor," as he

was called in the intimacy of his family circle) had left his first baby lispings behind him, and was able to toddle a little, he became the constant companion of his father's walks. In the daytime one was seldom to be met without the
other,

and there used

to

be something

at

once

comic and touching

in Villiers' delight, asto-

nishment, and admiration over the prattlings of


his little son.

The "Contes Cruels," published by Calmann


Levy, appeared
in 1881,

and

in spite of the in-

254

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

difference of the Parisian public to all really


artistic

work, the book was too powerful and

too original not to create a certain


sensation.

amount of

Some

of the chief critics scornfully

gave the work a few laudatory sentences, and


straightway the press followed like a flock of
sheep.
that

So great is the power of journalism a few weeks made Villiers famous. He

took advantage of this revival of popularity to


place his copy in various papers and magazines,

and thus earn a little money. Meanwhile " L'Eve Future" was nearly finished. Some
of his friends, knowing the writer's
difficulties,

proposed to occupy themselves with the en-

deavour to get
literary
life,

this,

the crowning effort of his


serial.

published as a

Although
Villiers

the idea of seeing his


to the public
in

work cut up and served

daily slices

made

shiver with horror, he accepted, driven by

hard necessity.

It

was the

"

Gaulois

"

which

had the idea of offering the profound and startling work of the gifted writer as intellectual food to its readers

all

of

them

habitual

admirers of Ohnet,

Tarb, and Montpin.


at the tenth

The

issue

had to be stopped

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


number,
for the

255
left

middle-class public

off

subscribing in swarms.

was not great to looked upon the appearance of " L'Eve Fu" ture " in the serial columns of the " Gaulois It was not till two as a sort of gigantic joke.
setting

The disappointment Villiers, who had always

years later (in 1884) that his book found a

worthy of

it

in the beautiful

and luxu-

riously got-up review, "

La Vie Moderne,"
Villiers even-

then published by Charpentier.


tually

became one of the most assiduous contri-

butors to this truly artistic publication,


I will only mention in the most summary manner the ridiculous performance of the " Nouveau Monde," which took place at the Thtre des Nations in 1883. There is no use now in raking up old quarrels but Villiers was cruelly played upon and shamefully de;

ceived on that occasion.

He

ought never to
a

have allowed

his play to see the footlights


its

under conditions which made


foregone conclusion.
I

failure

opening night.

was not present on the There were six performances.


I

Mdlle. Rousseil was simply grotesque, and

have been assured that she aled badly on

256

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

purpose.

One
at

one evening,

was the massacre, and he


of
brothers
in the

my

present,
told

me

that the hubbub

auditorium was deafen-

ing. VilHers led the clamour,

armed with ahuge


airs.

key, on which he whistled noisy Tyrolean

This remarkable
finest
still

historical

drama, perhaps the

ever written on that particular subjel,

awaits the good pleasure of


artistic

some

intelli-

gent and

manager.

But

hardly

know

whether that rare bird exists in France.

A
faith,

cruel

and twofold separation, rendered,

however,

less cruel by his strong religious was reserved to Villiers in the end of The two lights which had for so 1883.

many
his

years cast a ray of

warm

affe6lion over
out,

otherwise dreary

life,

went

almost

suddenly, one and the marquis died


interval in their

after the other.

The marquise
Avenue
to
till

quietly at a few months'

little

dwelling in the

Malakoff

Life

had not been unfriendly

them on the whole.


last

The marquis
brilliant

his

hour lived in his

dreams, deaf

and blind

to all reality, seeing each

day

in

some

fascinating mirage the fortune

and the

glory he was to attain

the next!

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

257

The
silent

illusions of the
all

marquise were more


concentrated as they

and tenderer,

were on her Matthias.


glory,

In her day-dreams

she saw him crowned with an aureole of

and the plaudits of the newspapers


were always concealed
tenderness) beguiled
heart
so absorbed
till

(their dagger-thrusts

from her by his


its

filial

last

throb
love.

that

by

maternal

Poor
the

Villiers

wept

sorely,

prayed devoutly at the bedside of


parents,

his

dead

spent

all

money he possessed
having them

(not

much, poor
buried,

fellow!), in

fittingly

and then went back with


little

a burst of passionate tenderness to his


"

Totor."
It

was

at this

moment

that he gave

up

living in furnished lodgings,

having inherited

from the old couple their simple furniture,

amongst which survived one or two remnants of former grandeur, a grand piano by

Pape,

and

Louis

XV.

table

with fine

copper mounts.
Providence owed Villiers some compensation for such bitter sorrows, borne with so

much

Christian resignation
s

and

if

the void

258

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

caused by the loss of his parents was never

some strong and considerate friendships, which surrounded him even on his deathbed, did much to lessen it. Among these friends, none was more useful and more congenial to him than M. J. K. Huysmans. Until the year 1884, the two writers had frequently met at close quarters without making acquaintance. Each was afraid of the other's exterior, and neither realized their great psychological and inentirely
filled,

yet

tellelual

resemblance.

This

resemblance

was, however, not identical.


liers

allowed his dreams to

For while Vileddy at the mercy

of contrary winds across the broad sphere of speculative thought,

of his

Huysmans, more master own thoughts, and holding the reins


its

of his imagination even in

wildest flights,

condensed

his

into

one of the strongest,


allude to

most

original, best

conceived and best exeI

cuted books of modern times.

"A

Rebours."
as
I

Knowing
from

did the innermost depths


I

of Villiers' nature,

can imagine, judging

my own

sensations,

what

exquisite

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


pleasure the perusal of this fascinating

259

book

must have given him.


eyes
fill

can see his blue

with tears as he turns over those


art.

pages instinl with living and immortal

Such emotions are amongst the noblest and


most beautiful
in life
!

But that which must


Villiers
is

have specially touched


tant
"

that

the

accomplished writer had devoted an imporpassage


in his

book

to the author of

L'Eve Future." I reproduce here, shortening it a little, Huysmans' opinion of the


works of
Villiers

de F Isle Adam.
it

But

should state that


publication of his
"

was formed before the two masterpieces, " L'Eve

Future

and

" Axel."

"He

then turned his attention to Villiers


in

whose scattered works he still noted some seditious passages, and in which some thrills of morbid emotion still
vibrated, but
least of
'

de risle Adam,

which,

with the exception at

Claire Lenoir,'

no longer shed such


horror

an overwhelming sense of
reader.

on the

was evidently inspired by those of Edgar Poe, whose love of


This
last

story

close discussion

and

taste for the horrible

it

26o

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

reproduces.
*

The same might be


was
later

said

of

L' Intersigne,' which


'

on inserted
tales of

in the

Contes Cruels,' a colle6lion of

indisputable talent, amongst which was one,


'

Vera,'

which Des Esseintes [the hero of


as a master-

Huysmans' book] looked upon


piece in miniature.

In this last the fancifulis

ness

of

the story

full

of an

exquisite

tenderness.

We

no longer have the gloomy

phantoms of the American author, but a warm, translucent, almost celestial vision, the opposite, though in an identical style, of Beatrice and Ligeia, those pallid spe6lres raised by the inexorable nightmare of the
opium-eater.

This story also treats of the

operation
to
its

of the

human

will,

but not as

weaknesses and

failures,

under the

influence of terror.
trary, its

It studies,

on the con-

excitement under the impulse of a

convi6lion, developing into a fixed idea,

and

demonstrates that power which succeeds even


in

pervading the very atmosphere, and imits will

posing

on intangible things."
" there exists
Villiers,

" But,"

he went on to say,

another side in the temperament of

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


far

261

of

more keen and clearly-defined a side gloomy jesting and cruel raillery. This
rise,

gives

not to the paradoxical mystifi-

cations of

Edgar Allan Poe, but

to that sad

banter of the heavy-hearted jester in which


Swift revelled.
"

One
de

series of short pieces,


Bienfilatre,'
'

Les Demoi-

selles
'

L'Affichage Cleste,'
*

La Machine

Gloire,'

Le

plus beau dner

du monde,' reveal a power of banter of a


singularly
bitter

and inventive

order.

All

the impurity of contemporary utilitarianism,


all

the ignominy of the century, are glorified

in these

works, whose pungent irony so deEsseintes."

lighted

Des

little

further on, in an anthology which

use

Des Esseintes has had


"

printed for his

own
its

little

chapel with Baudelaire as


the "

patron saint"
Villiers
:

we find
effigies

Vox

Populi" of
in

"

superb coin, struck

a golden

mould, with the

of Leconte de L'Isle

and of Flaubert."
This great book,
"

Rebours," was the

risle

bond which united Huysmans to Villiers de Adam in what was to prove a lasting

202

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


the

consideration and was most beneficial to the latter, softening to him many a blow, many a bitterness, and many a humiliation. If he had lived long enough it might have given him a taste for a regular, sober, retired and studious existence, and have drawn him away by degrees from the terrible manner of life which ended by consuming his strength. But it was too late. By the time Huysmans knew him, death had marked him for his
friendship,

tender

manly affelion of which

own

Villiers

de

I'lsle

Adam
'*

produced a great

deal between the publication of the "

Nouveau

L'Eve Future" (1883 came "Triboulat Bonhomet," the first volume of a long series he projected, which was to relate with minute detail all the adventures and discoveries
that of
to 1886).

Monde" and

First of

all

of the

worthy do6lor.
expresses

This

is

how

the

author

himself

on

the

subje6l

in the preface

placed at the head of this

work

"We

first

of

all,

in order to initiate the

public into the character of Do6lor Bonhomet,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

263

give three tales which illustrate in a general

manner
*'

his individual peculiarities.

Next,

the do(5lor himself takes up his


tells

parable and
story of
bility
'

us the

more than strange


heavy responsihis

Claire Lenoir,' the

for

which we leave entirely on


If,

shoulders.
fear, this
is

as

we have some
some

reason to

personage, whose atual existence


popularity,

incontestable, obtains

we

shall

soon publish, not without regret, certain


is

anecdotes of which he

the hero, and certain


the author."
Claire Lenoir," con-

aphorisms of which he

is
*'

This volume, besides

tains the admirable ironical allegory of

Bonhomet the swan-hunter, " The Paper of Dr. Triboulat Bonhomet on the Utilization of Earthquakes,' " and the " Banquet of the
'

Eventualists."

"Triboulat Bonhomet" was followed by

"Propos d'au-dela"
Brunhoff),

(i

vol.,

published prose

and

the

superb

by poem,

" Akedysseril,"

which reproduces in

realistic

fashion the dazzlingly splendid visions of the

East Indies.
with
"

Then, almost simultaneously

L'Eve Future," another dreamy work,

204
full

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


of dignity and sadness,

"L'Amour Supublishers,
in its
final

preme," appeared at the


and, in

same 1886, "L'Eve Future"

form appeared in the booksellers' shop-fronts


garbed
" in

a whimsical covering.
to this

Villiers

gave the key


it

book when he dedicated


scoffers."
Its

To

dreamers and to
lists in

pages

are indeed the


pions,

which those two chameternally

fancy and

irony, struggle

together without either coming out the vilor.

The
the

author wrote for this book, the most im-

portant
first

work of

his literary

life,

a long preface,
at

part of which only

was published
I

the beginning of the volume.


in the

M. G. Guiches,
have

remarkable study from which

already frequently quoted in the course of this

work, has reproduced the original text in


entirety.
I I

its

will

only

cite the following frag-

ment none
it

"

know no precedent
it,

for
it.

my

book,

like

nor analogous to

Whether
for-

arouses anger or merely meets with indiffeI

rence,

do not think
its
*

it

will

be utterly

gotten, for in truth


treat of the

famous
'

gloomy pages do not De omni re scibile,' but


"
aliis.'

rather of the

et

quibusdam

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

265

L'Eve Future" caused a sort of stupor of astonishment amongst the ranks of the critics. These gentlemen really It was not did not know what to say to it. like anything that was generally written, and, besides, Villiers' reputation made them Yet it was imposfear some mystification. sible to deny that this one book contained more imagination, more scientific knowledge, and more art than all the other works appearing at the same time put together. The re"

The appearance of

viewers, to get out of their difficulty, launched


into

vague praises or puerile

jests,
all
it,

diluted

with sugary compliments, and

of them,

without

much understanding

acclaimed

the "incontestable intellelual superiority of


this original conception."

Villiers
writer, his

was forthwith consecrated a great renown crossed the Channel, and

penetrated across the frontier, causing

much

preoccupation

in

Belgium, that

literature-

loving country, always on the watch for what-

ever succeeds

in

France.

The

following

year an association for providing courses of


ledlures on different subje6ls, having
its

head-

266

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

quarters at Brussels,

the author of

"

made lucrative L'Eve Future."

offers to
Villiers,

although he was already sorely stricken by


the malady which was eventually to
carry

him
art.

off,

gladly accepted this opportunity of

publicly enunciating his ideas on

men and
by

He

started,

and had not

occasion, like

Baudelaire, to complain of his reception

the worthy Belgians.


great.

His success was very

Some

hasty notes, written by him to

a friend, and published by


"

M. Guiches
I

in the

Nouvelle Revue," enable us to follow the


reproduce them
should add, to

course of his triumphs.


here.
I

that Villiers
that a
toires

had

left

make matters clear, Paris just at the moment


Les Hisat to

new

colle6lion of his tales, "

Insolites,"

was about

appear

Quantin's.
"

My

dear
"
I

M
*

write in great haste. Gil Bias


'

cannot
till

send to the

for the note


in

to-

morrow, as

have just come

from a le6lure,

and

am

very tired in spite of the astonishing


I

success

have had.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


"
I

267

beg of you
the

(in great haste,

post just

going)

to send out the presentation copies

with

publishers
absence.

compHments,
is

in

the

author's
I

This

constantly done.

can yet earn 800 francs by le6lures here,


I

so
will

cannot come back so soon.


give up
the whole of

But

to-morrow to
for the

drawing up notes and other matters


book.

And
least
in
I
I

have, besides,

all

the proofs

of another book to correl right


"

off.

At

500 copies have been sold

in

advance
at

Belgium through have read, or

my

le6tures,

which

am

about to read,

extrals. to

go on Tuesday to Lige, then Antwerp, Ghent, etc., and shall be in


Greetings
"
!

Paris in less than ten days.


"

My

dear M"

You send me no

books, and yet

you have no idea of the enthusiasm with which


I

am

received here, nor that two or three

hundred book-lovers are buying


been written solely to be used
fires.

my
for

works,

which, rightly or wrongly, do not seem to have


lighting

The newspapers say wonderful things

of

268

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


I

me, and

am

very much pleased

am

giving

Ie6lures in several towns,

and hope

to bring

back a
start

little

money.

shall not

be able to
It can-

back

till

Saturday or Sunday.
*

not be possible that the

Histoires Insolites*

are not even stitched yet.

Hearty greetings
"

ViLLIERS.

**

P.S.
!

"

have already caught the Belgian

accent
"

"

My

dear Friend,

Great haste, post just

off.

Huge
Three
I

success, five recalls, the queen, etc.

columns about
the

me

in

every paper.
147.

am

at

Grand Hotel, No.


"
"

Hasty greetings

ViLLIERS DE l'IsLE AdAM.

" P.S.

Send the

'

Histoires Insolites' for

lelure."

Thus did
upon him.

fortune, so long perverse towards

the poet, consent at last to shower her smiles

Alas

she only did

it

to

make

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


the final blows

269

she was preparing to deal


cruel
!

She hated this great gentleman, this poet, who had always borne with magnificent scorn the deepest wounds
him seem more
she gave him, scarce feeling them, indeed,

thanks to that sovereign balm of fancy which

had been given

to

him

at birth

by

his

god-

mother, the fairy queen of the

ideal.

And

now, to avenge herself for


she was about to
call

all

his disdain,

the forces of agonizing

physical suffering to her aid.

Everything smiled on
1888.

Villiers in that

year

was free from want; he had grown famous publishers received him with
;

He

a friendly smile
as "

he heard himself addressed


the evening parties at Char-

Master
;

" at

pentier s

the smaller fry of the literary world

buzzed
the

flatteringly

around him.

"

Axel

" (in

"Revue Indpendante") was making a


stir.

great
lites "

His books, the


"

" Histoires

Inso-

and the

Nouveaux Contes

Cruels,"

were being bought.


ness

He

himself was asto-

nished at the sudden realion.

And lo

sick-

came upon him like a terrible, implacable enemy, threw its arms about him, overthrew

2 70

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

him, cast him on his bed groaning, shivering,


lost

and convulsed

in

agonizing suffering.

short time before, the poor poet,

weary

of Paris, and longing for green


water,

woods and
;

had

retired

to

Nogent-sur-Marne

and

thither death sent his pale-faced emis-

saries to take possession of him.

Another pen, reader, more worthily than


mine, will
tell

you how he
last

left

Nogent

for

the house of the Brothers of St.

Jean de
there,

how and how he


Dieu
;

his

hours

passed

died, after accomplishing a final

sacrifice

worthy of

appealed to

For I have one who was the deeply-moved


all his
life.

witness and the chief support of Villiers' last

agony, the last to bid him farewell on the


shores of eternity,
to relate
in
all its

true

and heartbreaking
poet's end.

details the

story of the

M. Huysmans understood the motive of

my
its

request,

and he has consented,

in spite of

bitterness, to revive the

memory

of the

sad hours spent by that deathbed, for the

sake of paying a

last
is

homage

to his friend

and comrade.

Here

his letter:

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

271

"Paris, April 21, 1892,

Dear

Sir,
"

and Brother Writer,


are

I"

to me.
liers

in

'

by no means a stranger I have read your words about VilL'Hermine,' and several times, if
does not deceive me, our late

You

my memory
fore,

friend mentioned
that
I

you to me.
to

knew, there-

had

do with one whose out-

ward appearance only was unfamiliar, when Landry ^ spoke to me of the book you thought
of writing.
" Villiers

was very dear

to

me, and like


I

you (especially on evenings when


to

have had
I

endure some very empty chatter)

am

haunted by the presence of him

who certainly

may be
as the

bracketed with Barbey d'Aurevilly


.

two most astonishing conversationalists


I

of our day.

first

knew him many

years

ago

(in

1876) at the
*

house of Catulle Mends,

who managed the Rpublique des Lettres,' on which we were both writing. But our
^

M. G. Landry, head

clerk to

M.

seller,

whom

cannot
book.

sufficiently

Savine, the bookthank for the sym-

pathy, help, and information he has given


the writing of

me

during

my

272

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

friendships and our tastes alike differing,

we

soon drifted apart.


publication

We

of

'

met again after the Rebours,' and thence-

forward, far from the boulevards, our friendly


relations

recommenced.
and

He

used to come
occasions

on Sundays, with his


dine

child, little Totor, to

with me,

these

were

to those who met him. Susand justly on the defensive as he generally was when he met literary people,

memorable ones
picious,

the hesitating

mode

of expression in which

he usually took refuge the moment he felt he had let himself go too far, was laid aside
in the congenial

atmosphere of

faithful friend-

ship

and true admiration;

and, safe from

any

fear of plagiarism or treachery,

he would
life,

launch out and talk about his

own

in a

fashion at once poetic and realistic, ironical

and madly gay.


"
I

remember,
father

in

this

conne6lion,

one

14th of July,

when he came and dined with


Monthe sat down to the
Descaves, at

the

of Lucien

rouge.

After dinner,

piano, and, lost in a sort of dream, he sang,


in his

cracked and quavering voice, bits of

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

273

Wagner, mixed up with choruses of barrack


songs, and joining
all

together with strident

laughter, wild jokes,

and quaint rhymes.


talent for
into

" But
raising
far

nobody ever had such a


its

and transforming a joke

something

beyond

apparent scope, and even be-

yond the widest range of possibility. There was a punchbowl always flaming, as it were, in his brain. How often have I seen him in the
morning, just out of bed and hardly awake,
holding forth as brilliantly as

when

of an

evening he would
"

tell

us astounding anec!

dotes and inimitable stories over our coffee

But our meetings grew

rarer.

Sickness
in his bed.

prostrated him, laid

him shivering

Weary

of Paris, he settled at Nogent, and soon

grew worse. Dr. Robin recognized the symptoms of cancer, but disguised the truth, asserting that the malady was one of the digestive organs, and fortunately Villiers believed him.

One day

that he

was more
in.

suffering than
to

usual, the sick

man complained
It

me

about

the house he was


fat,

was, as a matter of

as cold as a cellar, sunless, almost rotted

with damp.

He

said he

would

like to leave

274
it,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


and added that he needed
skilful
I

nurses to

turn and

move him
in

in his bed.

mentioned

the Brothers of St. Jean de Dieu in the

Rue

Oudinot
letter

Paris,

and two days

later

had a

from him saying he was settled


of

in their

house, thanks to the mediation

with the direlor,

Coppe which obtained for him


of
admission.
I

exceptionally easy terms

found him there delighted with the change,

convinced of his
plans,

speedy recovery,
to give

full

of

amongst others

up going to the

brasseries

on the boulevards and to work

quietly in

some corner

far

from the buzz of

journalism.
"
all

He who had

been so unlucky and so poor


in

his life

was now

comparative affluence,

and no longer haunted by detestable pecuniary


anxieties.

Mallarm, a very sincere and

at-

tentive friend,
for him,

had
on

opened a secret subscription

and

I,

my part,

had

at

my disposal

a tolerable

sum which

the faithful Francis

Poilevin had confided to


obje6l.
" Villiers

me

with the same

began

at this time to talk

about

'Axel,' which

was then on the

stocks,

and

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


which
he
desired
it

275

to

remodel,

suppressing

some

theories in

which, from the CathoHc

point of view, he thought were unorthodox.

And
first

then suddenly he grew


life,

silent.

For the
the end-

time, perhaps, in his

that gift of fancy,


all

which had enabled him to forget


imagination, failed him.
really
is,

less sufferings of life in the fairyland of his

He

beheld

life

as

it

understood that cruel reality was

about to wreak her vengeance on him, and


then his long martyrdom began.
"

The digestive functions ceased to work,

his

became frightful. A sort of straw-coloured shadow crept over his features, and in the wasted face the eyes lived
strength failed, his emaciation
on,

seeming

to pierce the very soul of the on-

lookers with their terrifying glance.


of the efforts of
friend

In spite

Madame Mry

Laurent, a

who nursed him and

petted him, bring-

ing

him the most nourishing food and authentic

wines, he could not eat, and death approached

with rapid strides.


"

And

here must

of his marriage.

come in the sad episode For reasons which he did


hesitated,

not disclose,

Villiers

hung back,

276

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


to

would not answer when we spoke


timidly,
his little

him

and with much circumlocution, about


son,

and suggested that


he had long

in

order

to legitimize the child

he should marry the


lived.

mother, with
pelled

whom

Im-

by our argument,

that probably after

his death the Minister of Public Instrudlion

would grant a pension


his
it

to the child that bore

name, he at

last

consented.

But when
put us

came

to fixing the

day and getting the


he
off,

necessary papers
raised
objelions,

together,

and

finally

shut

himself
to

up
be

in

such obstinate silence that

we had

silent too.

The

friends

habit of visiting him,

who were in the Madame Mry Laurent,


Gustave

Stphane
wiles to

Mallarm, Lon Dierx,


I

Guiches, and

myself, did not


to induce

know what

employ

him

to yield.

He

was growing hourly weaker, and we began to fear he would die before we could get the
documents necessary
gether.
for

the
it

marriage

to-

Sick with anxiety,

occurred to

me

one morning to apply to the almoner of the


Brothers of St. Jean de Dieu, a Franciscan

from the Holy Land, the Rev. Pre Sylvestre.

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

277

was a gentle and compassionate monk, who had already helped Barbey d'Aurevilly
to die.
story,
I

He

reminded him of the lamentable


for Villiers

which he already knew,


his hand.

had

confessed to him and received the

communion

from
i

"He
for

simply answered:
there.
I

'Well, just wait


to

me

will

go up and say a word


later,

him.'

Five minutes

he

left

the sick-

room, and Villiers had consented to an immediate marriage.


"

Time

pressed,

and

it

was

difficult to

get

hold

of the certificates

which were scattered

about

in different registry offices.

Of

the few
(his

friends
caf

who

still

remained

faithful to

him

and newspaper acquaintances had of


left in
all

course long since abandoned him), the only

ones

Paris were

Lon Dierx, who was

shut up

day
It

in his office,

and myself.

Gustave Guiches, was summer-time. Mallarm


fled to the country.

was

ill,

and had
Laurent

Madame
waters.

Mry

was

away taking

There was a wild hunt after the necessary documents. Guiches and M. de Malherbe (a
clerk at Quantin's bookshop,

who was

to

be

278

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


wife's witnesses)

one of the
to
it,

devoted themselves
us,

and between the three of


at

with the

help of an employ
7th Arrondissement,

the

Mairie of the

admirer of
difficulties
at,

Villiers,

M. Raoul Denieau, an who smoothed down many

which we should have stumbled

we

contrived on the very day appointed

for the marriage to bring together the neces-

sary certificates.

The marriage

took place in

the sick-room.
to reveal the

And here
truth.

hesitate

somewhat
will

whole

But you

make
fals,

whatever use you think right of

this letter,

and you
all

will

judge whether, amongst the


true,

of

them absolutely

which

send you,

to strengthen the authoritative accuracy of your

book, these particular ones should be given to


the public.

On

the whole,

think myself that

they should
of such a
"

for the details of the suffering

man
it

as Villiers are worth learning.


to sign the re-

When

became necessary

gisters, the wife stated that

she did not

know

There was a terrible moment how of silence. Villiers lay in agony with his eyes Ah he was spared nothing. His closed.
to write.
!

cup overflowed with bitterness and humilia-

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


tion
!

279

And

while

we were

all

looking at each

other, almost broken-hearted, the wife


'

added

can

make make

a cross as

did for

my

first

marriage.'

And we

took her hand and helped


After the ceremony

her to

the mark.

the four witnesses, Mallarm, Dierx,

M. de

Malherbe, and

I,

tasted a

little

champagne
to us.

which

Villiers insisted

on offering

Then

the Rev. Pre Sylvestre


religious marriage.

came

to celebrate the
it

And

then

was

that

we
to

had an opportunity of realizing the


kindness of heart.
Villiers'

priest's

wife used

spend the day with him.

In spite of her

false position, the Brothers of St.

Jean shut

their eyes to this infringement of the letter of


their rules.

But of course her


;

visits

had

to

end with the day

she had to leave at twilight,

and

was a heartbreak to the unhappy man, who dreaded dying alone in the night.
this

When

he had pronounced the marriage beneRev. Pre Sylvestre said


in rather

dilion, the

a hurried voice, 'Although

women

are not
rule,

allowed to spend the night here as a


I

have obtained permission that now you are

married you shall not be separated again.'

28o

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


of giving this last
Villiers'

The monk had thought


filled

happiness to the dying man.


with tears
;

eyes
fell

he made a gesture, then

back exhausted, almost fainting from

fatigue,

and we
" I

left

him.
to see

went

him the next

day, and

all

the following days.

He

could no longer

speak, but would squeeze your hand gently,

and look

at

you with great sad patient eyes.


before his death he received

The evening
wan
I

the last sacrament, and lay half-conscious, his


face grown hollow

and

his throat rattling.

felt
I

the end was very near, but overwhelmed

as

late,

was I had to hurry away, for it was very and the convent was closing for the

night.
"

ring at the bell

early next
*

morning
His

made me jump
I

out of bed.

Villiers is dead,'

said to myself,

and
shall

it

was too
say
?

true.

wife sank sobbing into a chair in


*'

my

room.

What more

Better say

nothing of the literary vultures

on that corpse, of the reporters

who settled who used to


and place
to

come
their

daily to await his decease

wares,

who were now

able

draw

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


their pay,

281

and cease

their constant calls of

inquiry.
" Little

use either in telling you about the

funeral,

at

which the mourners, Mallarm,


I,

Dierx, and

sheltered the poor unconscious

orphan boy as best we could from the pelting


rain.

And

yet

will

say one other word

concerning that funeral ceremony, at which


the

Rev. Pre Sylvestre

pronounced the
St.

benedilion, in the

Church of

Franois

Xavier.

Our own
*

resources being exhausted,


I,

we

applied,

Gustave Guiches and


Figaro,'

to the

office

of the

and

M.
I

Magnard,
never can

with a kindly courtesy which


forget,

offered to place at our disposal the


to defray the

sum necessary
"

expenses of the
give you more
Villiers' life,

decent burial of our friend.


Others,

my

dear

sir,

will

complete information concerning

and

will furnish

you with the

details of that
forlorn,

extraordinary
penniless,

existence,

starving,

and clouded by troubles so great


his condition at times without
I

as to

make

parallel in its misery.


self to those

have confined my-

sad incidents which immediately

282

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

preceded his death, and, as you have narrated


the beginning of his
its close.
life,

so

relate to

you

"In
heart.

conclusion, dear

sir,
I

have
it

to wish
all

your book good luck, and

do

with

my

May

your work kindle some spark of

regret for

its

own

injustice

in

that

public

which so resolutely refused to acknowledge


the talent of Villiers before his death.

"Believe me,

etc.,

"J. K. HUYSMANS."

The

next day, Tuesday, 20th August, 1889,

a few hours before the burial,

M. Henri de
Villiers

Lavedan, a young writer


risle

whom

de

Adam

had inspired with one of those

enthusiastic attachments which he alone could


create,

asked permission to gaze once more


in the

on the features of the dead man who had


been so dear to him, and prayed long
quiet
little

room.

desire to place here, as


I

the conclusion of the work in which

have

endeavoured to outline the


believer

life

of that great
Philippe

and great

artist,

the

Comte
de

Auguste Matthias de

Villiers

I'lsle

Adam,

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


these lines instin6l with
feeling,

283

deep and sincere


after

which were written immediately


:

this farewell visit

"

On

an August morning, wet and dreary


evening,
in

as a

November

the house of

the Brothers of St. Jean de Dieu, which stands


in

the quiet quarter of the

Invalides,' the

brown-robed

monk
I

gently closed the door

saw before me Villiers de risle Adam lying on his deathbed. We are alone together, he and I. The little room is
behind me, and
very quiet, clean with the cleanliness of the
cloister

and the death-chamber

coldly calm.

On

the chimney-piece the flame of the candles

burns high and motionless, undisturbed by any


breath of air
gifted scoffer
;

and the half-closed eyes of the who shall scoff no more, gazing
coffin
it

lifelessly at the

waiting on the
as though
it

floor,

seem
on
died

to contemplate
I

were a

friend.

kneel on a prie-dieu,
I

and gaze

the

face of the master

have known

and loved.
is all

The narrow bed on which he


too wide for his poor body, emacruel suffering.

ciated

by long and

But the

284

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


fore-

proud and beautiful head, whose great

head seems
marbles,
Sightless

to

have been carved out by death

for posterity in the firmest

and whitest of
bereft
it

stands

out with a royal dignity.


it
is,

and voiceless as

of

thought, of everything that


that splendid head
It
still

made

glorious,

seems to
lived,

fill

the room.
Villiers

seems

to

be the head of him who

would have been, had he

and fought,
faith

and sung,
exile.
It

in

one of those ages of

which

he loved, and loved with the

bitter love of the

was as solemnly

beautiful under the

shadow of those cotton curtains, have been under a gold-fringed


could have fancied
I

as

it

would and
I

dais,

beheld the corpse of one


I'lsle

of his ancestors, a Villiers de

Adam

of

the crusading times, who, worn out by fever,


fatigue, long marches,

wounds, and

thirst,

had

at last,

on some burning shore of Palestine,

rendered up his gallant soul to


called
"
it.

God who

Visions and beliefs.


Villiers*

These were the

whole of

being.

As

looked at
in

him lying there with a poor rosary

his

folded hands, his whole frame stretched out

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.


with a tired air (betokening as
ness as resignation),
that he
I

285

much wearicould not but remember

was

a steadfast Christian, beHeving,

and pralising what he beHeved. It was his faith alone which kept him straight to the
end of the book of and
his
life,

to the last line,

to his last breath, without a blot

on the

escutcheon which descends to his son as stainless as


**

he inherited
I

it

from his own

father.

And
man

imagine that the severe and noble

expression on the calm features of this Christian

of letters comes of the joy of feeling

he

is

free,

delivered at last from this


folly,

life

of

emptiness, of

of

many

pangs, which
health,

brought him
"

nothing,

neither

nor

wealth, nor love, nor glory.

Death did not come upon Villiers unawares he watched its slow approach with
;

perfe6l calmness.

He bore the

Cross of Malta

he was well prepared to meet the King of


Terrors, and

when he drew near and stood


and a gentleman, hoping perhaps

before him, he received the accolade fearlessly,


like a soldier

that his reward


his

was beginning.

He

knew, in

humble

trust, that

the hour had

come

for

286

VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.

his

own judgment on

high, for that of his

work here below, and doubtless he repeated


mentally that motto of Hassan-ben-Sabbah

which he placed at the head of his own poem,


'

Azrael

'

Death
'
!

those

who are about to

live salute thee

"

FINIS.

C. WHITTINGHAM AND CO. CHISWICK PRESS TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE.


:

Sunlooha, London.

21

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December

w.c.
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A LIST OF

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REMBRANDT:
HIS LIFE, HIS

WORK, AND
BY

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EMILE MICHEL,
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TRANSLATED BY
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Boyhood and Youih, 1837-1845. 1824-1837. The Return to University Life and Travel in Europe, 1845-1848. America, 1848-1862. Life during the Civil War and its Sequence, Europe Revisited, 1862-1866. Life on the Press, 1866-1869. Englind, 1870. 1869-1870. TAe Times. From first to last a very entertaining book, full of good stories, adventures, curious experiences, and not inconsiderable achievements, strange instinct with the strong personality of the writer, and not unpleasantly tinged

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