Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

than under the first managers. This is nearly sufficient to account for the non-success of M. Pillet, but there were other reasons for M. Roqueplan's failure. He is said to have been a witty man, but that is not the quality most useful for a man of business, though it may be particularly pleasant after dinner at the dessert, or in a drawing-room with his back to the fireplace. Another accusation has been brought against him of dressing too well, and spending the time requisite for conducting his affairs in adorning his person. His white morning cravat, or choker, as we call it in this country, was somewhat conspicuous for its neatness and singularity in France, where black is the couleur de rigueur of the ante-meridian neck-cloth. But why should not a man dress himself neatly and respectably, and use whatever style of clothes he may wish, without incurring the censure of the public, and losing his money in a bad speculation? Foolish public; not to know the worth of a man with a perfumed beard, embroidered shirt, and white cravat!

Is M. Crosnier in a proper condition to succeed as manager? He has not done much in the last two years, notwithstanding his experience at the Porte Saint Martin and the Opéra Comique. His 30,000 francs appeared to satisfy his ambition, and the public did not expect so much from him as from a private speculator, whom they always suspect of sacrificing the interests of the theatre and of art to his own private gains. Such is the advantage of the government management of a theatre which may be called strictly national, as opposed to others in which a foreign language and foreign artistes are almost exclusively employed. Then there is the large, almost unlimited, support by the state, and the responsibility of the manager to the Ministry of the Interior. A great change has also been effected in the manner of pensioning off the used up materials of the chorus and dancing room. The musicians may be still of great use in the orchestra, even after thirty years of service, so that their pay is not in any manner thrown away. But the old choristers and coryphées, whose hoarseness or spindles would completely ruin the best presented piece, cannot be retained on the effective staff, they must be paid off in some manner, especially the former, whose services and old age deserve some consideration. The latter, however, usually pass their youth in that state of luxury and dissipation incidental to their position. Their salaries of perhaps 1,000

or 1,500 francs are given up to their femmes de chambre, claqueurs and other parasites, and yet they are often seen to possess vehicles, horses, country houses, and to spend on their toilets perhaps 20,000 francs in a single year. This blaze of expensive luxury lasts only for a few seasons; the effects of dissipation and increasing age carry off the charms, and scatter the admirers, never to return; the danseuse then sinks to that position, which she at first despised, of dependance on the pension allowed her by the Opera. She becomes lazy, idle, sickly, a burthen on the management and a source of annoyance to the director.

The greatest source of expense to the theatrical chest is the enormous sums paid to stars, particularly those of the first magnitude. The manager must wait on them at their leisure, ask their terms, perhaps 100,000 francs, and pay them without wincing. The state requires a drawback of ten per cent. on all salaries paid by the opera, but stars never subunit to this; they must have a certain sum net, and the administrator is obliged to charge this percentage to the funds of the theatre. When the short engagement of the star has expired, he or she flies off to other climes, and leaves the unfortunate manager to the pleasant task of hunting up another to replace this shooting meteor, and but too happy to give almost any price for a substitute. Such are some of the evils of all directorships, and they apply with much greater force to that of the Académie de Musique at Paris, which requires a particular class of French singers, whose number is very limited, and no choice left or competition to be dreaded. The Italian Opera is not so much subject to this inconvenience, because its artistes may be recruited from these numerous roving bands drilled on the four-and-twenty Italian stages, and afterwards spreading themselves with rival locust powers over the surface of Europe to the confines of Asia, the North of Africa, and even some parts of America and Australia.

M. Crosnier did not remain long administrator general of the opera, whether the Minister of the Interior was not well satisfied with him, or he was not content with his salary, but in November last M. Alphonse Roger, formerly manager at the Odéon, was put in his place. This gentleman is a distinguished literary man, somewhat of the old school, and has not been a complete stranger to the Académie de Musique, having formerly brought out there La Favorite with great success. Time only

can tell whether the choice of the Government be such as to insure success to the National Theatre under his administration.

On looking back over this short sketch of the history of the French Opera, it is astonishing to consider the perseverance with which the original ideas of its founders have been carried out and perpetuated. There is in fact nothing in these our own countries to be compared to it, the rage for Italian music being here so exclusive as to crush at once and level with the dust all attempts to set up rival in the national manner. Fashion has a great deal to do with this, but still more is this result brought about by a complete absence of proper academical education in the Orphean Art. We are accustomed to regard French music and singing as something not to be compared with the Italian, but that arises principally from the difference of the two languages in natural melody, the rotundity and fulness of the latter being more suited to our ears. The English tongue is much more capable than French of being blended into harmony, and yet what futile attempts have been made, at great loss to speculators, to lay a foundation for national operatic performances. The Germans, on the other hand, whose language is more nearly allied to, and perhaps less harmonious than our own, have completely succeeded in establishing amongst them a rival worthy of the Italian music, and a peculiar style of their own more scientific and profound in artistic study, if not so full of flowing melody. The German composers have for many years divided the spoils with those of the Peninsula, Meyerbeer and Beethoven marching arm in arm with Rossini, Donizetti, and Verdi, from stage to stage and clime to clime. All this is due to the improved system of musical instruction instituted in the Fatherland, where the principles of the humanizing art are considered as necessary a portion of public learning, as the classics have been hitherto in these Islands.

ART. VI.-MACAULAY A HISTORIAN.-HOW

NOT TO DO IT.

The History of England from the Accession of James the II., By Thomas Babington Macaulay.-Vols. I. to IV. London: Longmans.

In our early youth we read, as doubtless have many of our friends, the adventures of Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday. Charmed by the beauty and apparent consistency of the tale, we believed it true; but time, the disenchanter, has robbed us of our greatest pleasure by destroying our conviction of its veracity. So it is with the volumes now before us, for as Time in the former, so Knowledge in the latter case, has rudely raised the veil by which the fables of the narrator were concealed, and has displayed in their true colour the false foundations upon which these pleasing superstructures have been built up. On our first hasty perusal we confess we were fascinated by the picturesqueness of the narrative now under consideration, but on reperusal and reflection, were reluctantly compelled to admit that it lacks the chief ingredient, without which history becomes a romanceTruth. Full of political prejudice and partisan advocacy, it renders the facts of English history as fabulous as the fictions of Roman tradition, and we feel bound to say that no amount of eloquent antithesis, classical terseness or vivid portraiture, can compensate for this most substantial defect. We do not wish to be hypercritical, neither shall we take exception to an exordium equally if not more applicable to other countries, nor join issue with Mr. Macaulay as to whether Procopius' description applied to Brittia orto Britain; we have not time for such trifles, and we think such a course would argue rather the anxious craving of a partizan to magnify the trifling errors of a political opponent, than the earnest wish of an impartial critic to discover and bring to light the material misstatements of a historian. Style is so various that it is invidious to cavil at particular modes of expression, unless they clearly violate some well-established canon. And this is the case especially in considering a historical performance, where what is told is much more essential than how it is related, and therefore we shall direct our attention rather to the facts stated, than to the manner in which they are narrated In truth, so anxious have we been to be above suspicion and to act with even-handed justice, that we have refrained till the present from commenting upon these volumes, in the hope that those

grave errors which deprive them of all claim to rank with the historical literature of the country, would when pointed out have been expunged from future editions. But in this, our expectations have been disappointed. For, notwithstanding the clearness with which many of these mistakes have been corrected, notwithstanding the weight of evidence which has been brought forward to refute the charges therein contained, they are still persisted in, and edition after edition has passed through the press without withdrawal or explanation. Therefore we consider it a duty we owe our readers to direct their attention to some of those errors which appear to us most to need exposure. The man who discovers a danger, and yet himself incurs it, surely deserves to be the object of our scorn and contempt. Yet, Mr. Macaulay, who, in his review of Mackintosh, admits that all the distinguished writers of English history are advocates, and in his own history assigns the cause, is not himself certainly free from the reproach. Formerly history was considered to be a truthful narrative of facts, a dispassionate summary of the evidence adduced in support of the statements advanced, a faithworthy index of authorities, which sustained the views they were quoted to confirm, and the test of its value was its conformity to this standard; but Mr. Macaulay would teach a different lesson. In his vocabulary, history is defined as the medium for the misrepresentation of facts, the misstatement or suppression of evidence, an index of authorities which satisfactorily refute the statements in proof of which they are adduced, and in accordance with this high standard of historical excellence, the test of its value is the success with which the student, bewitched by oratorical sorcery, is made to oscillate between facts which every one knows, and consequences no body can admit, until, completely mesmerised by ingenious manipulation, his reason succumbs to the power of the operator. The errors and falsehoods of these volumes are so numerous that it is no easy task to extract particular passages as striking proofs of this accusation. In ordinary writers there are usually some salient points, which may be referred to by the critic, but here hardly a page can be pointed to in which evidence of bad taste, bad feeling and (we regret to add,) bad faith, cannot be discovered.

"Every one," says Archdeacon Paley, "who knowingly excites expectation in another thereby tacitly promises to fulfil it." Now a writer who undertakes a history of any country or any period, pledges himself to the public to furnish an impartial

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »