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one accord re-echoed, better or worse, what the king had just said in favour of the piece. The fellow is inimitable,' said this same Duke of . --- There is a vis comica in all he does, which the ancients never succeeded in hitting upon as happily as he does.' This is the account of Grimarest, and it is given for what it is worth. It is not without a painful interest. It is rather sad to think of the great poet harassed by 'a cloud of poisonous flies' and dependent on the judgment of one man for success and happiness.
Molière's 'Collaborateur.'--Molière's 'collaborateur' in the piece was Jean Baptiste Lulli. He not only composed the music of the Bourgeois Gentilhomme, but also acted the part of the Muphti. And thereby hangs a tale. It seems that Lulli (not quite unlike poor M. Jourdain) wanted to become a 'gentilhomme.' He did not care, however, to accept a patent in the ordinary way, but wished to acquire the status ex officio by becoming one of the king's secretaries. Whereupon that eminent and most respectable body were most indignant. Lulli one evening played his part of the Muphti with such spirit and success that the king was delighted. Seizing the happy moment, the musician expressed a regret that his zeal to amuse the king had carried him too far. 'Why so ?' "Sire, I had intended to become king's secretary : your Majesty's secretaries will no longer consent to receive me. Not consent to receive you !' replied the monarch ; 'it will be a great honour for them. Go and see my lord chancellor.' Of course the secretaries were furious, and the great M. de Louvois himself took their part, and rated Lulli soundly. “It is like your impudence,' he said, 'to aim at an honourable office ; you whose only recommendation, whose only services are that you have made the king laugh.'-
Why, zounds ! you would do so too, if you only could,' was Lulli's retort. However, a word from the king appeased the whole storm, and Lulli, admitted to the dignities and privileges of the king's secretaries, took his now reconciled colleagues to the opera, and gave them free passes to the front seats.
III. - THE CHARACTERS.
M. Jourdain.--The central figure of the play is, of course, M. Jourdain. Every incident, every piece of by-play, is devised to bring him into prominence. A retired tradesman, comfortably off, not to say wealthy, he wishes to sever all connection with the quiet, respectable class to which he belongs by birth. To this ambition is due the eventful period which enlivens the latter years of a busy, humdrum life. It is an old saw that no man is content
with his lot in life—seu ratio dederit, seu fors objecerit.' For years, no doubt, M. Jourdain had watched from the recesses of his
Magasin de Nouveautés,' and with a soul fretting at its sordid surroundings, the gallant bearing, the cultured conversation, the easy insolence of his aristocratic customers. To be all that which in those days was connoted by the term 'gentilhomme,' to purge away all stains of the ' bourgeois,' is henceforth his ambition. This, then, is the predominant note in his character—a foolish longing to be something else than what he really is. And this aim becomes eventually a kind of monomania. And yet, with exquisite tact, Molière has never allowed him to degenerate into a raving fool. There is a kind of method in his madness. He always awakens an amused interest. Like the maiden in the old fairy tale, every time he opens his mouth there drop from it jewels-of naïve humour. He has all the weakness and hesitation of a 'parvenu.' The tradesmen bully and impose upon him. The artistic parasites despise him while they cringe to him. He is to the end the 'bon bourgeois ridicule, for whom no mystification is too absurd, no disguise too obvious. Yet it is impossible to be angry with him ; there is a vein of goodhumour running through his character. What becomes of him eventually is left to conjecture. It is to be hoped that he is brought to his senses, and that not too roughly. We can be indulgent to him. He has made us laugh so much.
Madame Jourdain.-- Madame Jourdain is a good type of the 'bourgeoise.' In point of education and intellect she is not much superior to her servant Nicole. A good, shrewd housewife, she is indignant at her husband's folly, and sees through the rascals who are plundering him. Her tirade on ill-assorted marriages is a model of good sense. With all this, she is devoid of tact and quickness of apprehension, and the racy vigour of her repartees makes one suspect that M. Jourdain's married experience has not perhaps been most comfortable. Hence, perhaps, his parting bequest.
Lucile.—Their daughter Lucile is a fresh, high-spirited, quickwitted girl, and probably deserves all that her lover says for her.
Cléonte.—Cléonte, the 'jeune premier,' is a manly, sensible, independent young fellow. To this day his speech in reply to M. Jourdain's question—'Etes-vous gentilhomme ?' is received with loud applause. He is ‘Nature's gentleman'as compared with M. Jourdain and Dorante.
Nicole.—Nicole is one of the servants of the old school (like Martine of the Femmes Savantes), whom Molière delighted in drawing, and for whom he had in his own housekeeper, La Forêt, such an excellent model. She represents the common sense of the people, rough and ready, but thoroughly sound and vigorous. She is a child of Nature.
Covielle.---Covielle is a quick-witted, unscrupulous rascal of the Scapin type, devoting to the cause of his master's love an inventive genius of infinite depth and variety.
Dorante.—Deeply versed in the mysteries of heraldry and gastronomy, on which latter subject he waxes most eloquent, Dorante is a type of that class of luxurious idlers of polished manners and superficial culture, who sunned themselves like gaudy butterflies in the smile of the Grand Monarque—the ‘Roi-Soleil.' Glib of tongue and full of resource, he lives upon the vanity and vices of others. At bottom he is good-natured enough, and probably, like an unfortunate nobleman’ of our own day, considers that those who have money and no brains are made for those who have brains and no money.'
Dorimène.—Dorimène is a very difficult character to analyse, or indeed to apprehend correctly. One cannot help thinking that Molière introduced her rather as a dramatic necessity than as a fully - thought-out conception. That she is entirely ignorant of Dorante's true character and circumstances, as she seems to be, and of his relation to M. Jourdain, is hard to believe, and her reappearance at the end of the play is difficult to reconcile with preceding events. In any case, it is a somewhat unsatisfactory puzzle.
Minor Characters.-As regards the Minor Characters, they all have a definite part to play towards the general result, and all play it with point and vigour. What can be more humorous than the disinterestedness of the cultured' dancing - master, or the arrogant self-satisfaction of the man of foils, or the appearance of the philosopher, whether as a peacemaker or as a professor der allerlei Wissenschaft,' or the impudent roguery of the master tailor and his apprentices ?
Motives ascribed.-Great men and great works have never failed to meet with a host of commentators and critics to unfold every secret motive of the writer, to find for all he says a purpose and a scope of surprising magnitude. They are not unlike the Femmes Savantes
Ce quoi qu'on die en dit beaucoup plus qu'il ne semble;
Mais j'entends là-dessous un million de mots.' 1. By anecdote-mongers.-First come the anecdote-mongers, the lovers of personal gossip. According to them Molière intended in the Bourgeois Gentilhomme to 'hit-off' a certain extravagant
hatter, Gandoin by name. This is hardly worth discussing. The probability is that every spectator saw in M. Jourdain several of his own acquaintance. Another story is that the king requested Molière to satirise the Turkish ambassador, who had insulted him. It would seem that at the reception of an envoy of the Porte the king put on his finest clothes and most brilliant jewels in order to impress the barbarian. The stolid Oriental only remarked that the sultan's horses had more jewels on their trappings than his Majesty had on his coat. Hence the king's wrath. It is not unlikely that the Turkish ceremony may have been suggested to some extent by the visit of a Turkish envoy to Paris in the spring of 1670, but the novelty must have worn off by the autumn. One Turkish critic who saw the play only noticed that the bastinado should be applied to the soles of the feet and not to the back.
2. By philosophical critics. On the other hand, there are the philosophical critics, who see beneath everything a deliberate attack against some social evil or folly, or some bold attempt to reform institutions. That the effect of a good comedy must be, at all events, to open men's eyes to the ridiculous aspect of many things and institutions is, of course, undeniable. But on these grounds to represent the poet as a conscious moralist and crusader is hardly warrantable. To descend to details : Molière, say these critics, wrote the Bourgeois Gentilhomme, not only in order to cure his countrymen of what La Fontaine has called “le mal Français,' but also to reform education (witness the scene with the Maître de Philosophie), to further democratic ideas (witness the whole conception of Dorante's character); and some even seem to suggest that the Rabelaisian lampoon on the Mohammedan religion foreshadows, as it were, certain anti-religious tendencies of the present day in France.
Realities.-If we confine ourselves to realities we find that Molière's chief endeavour was to produce good work-work which would please his patrons, the king and the French public, on whose verdict, as actor and manager, he depended. The idea of a person breaking down in a ludicrous attempt to imitate splendours to which he was not born, and the comic contrast which results from that attempt, have been a fruitful source of amusement ever since the days when the animals spoke, and the jays fell upon their presumptuous comrade and stripped him of his peacock's feathers. Dorante is a scamp, no doubt, and is purposely represented as such. There is an added artistic effect in making the very man whom M. Jourdain wished to imitate a representative of the less reputable portion of his class, and a most undesirable model. But still his duplicity is not shown in a very odious light; it is clever and humorous, and tends eventually to good results. The virtuous
Cléonte enlists him as an ally, and we may suppose that he is forgiven, even by Madame Jourdain, when he has paid his debts with the marquise's money. It is very doubtful whether an audience of that time would have lent to a play democratic intentions coloured by the ideas of a later age. Dorimène is such an enigma that it would be hardly fair to see in such a character an attempt to scourge the vices of the upper classes. As for the Turkish ceremony it is a piece of mere buffoonery ; and though such would probably be considered bad taste in the England of the present day, one is not justified in ascribing to it any other aim than that of awaking laughter.
Characteristics of the play.--No, the Bourgeois Gentilhomme is not a Tendenz-Schrift. It was not written with any special view to social or political reforms. It is the happiest of pictures, painted by a master hand, of weaknesses and follies which are not peculiar to any age, and which, it need hardly be said, are as far from being cured as ever. We have a portrait of a 'bourgeois gentilhomme of the Roman Empire in that marvellous work of satiric humour, the Supper of Trimalchion. Molière's play is in keeping with the old French tradition, It has the Gallic salt of the Fabliaux, of Montaigne, and of Rabelais—a spirit which can be traced through the whole course of French literature.
Its everlasting freshness and truth. —- The Bourgeois Gentilhomme can never lose its freshness and its truth. Its characters are as living and as universal to-day as they were in the days of the Grand Monarque. The M. Jourdain of the nineteenth century may be met with any day in London. He has become Sir Gorgius Midas, and you will see his portrait most weeks in Punch. He patronises art, and gives grand dinners, and has tall footmen, and is a great personage in every way. As for humbler representatives of the Jourdain tribe, their name is legion. They are ashamed of the very name of trade. Their sons must be educated with the sons of the 'aristocracy.' Their daughters must marry some worthless loafer or some hungry subaltern-any one, provided they may claim to belong to the ‘upper circles.' Cléonte, fresh from his office or bank, needs all his eloquence and craft to win his love. He has not spent six years dans les armes,' but is a distinguished member of the Bloomsbury volunteers and a future vestryman. Dorante you will see any afternoon at his club window in Pall Mall or St. James' Street, well dressed, rosy, healthy, and goodhumoured, as one whom the world uses well, as of old. Nicole and Covielle have almost disappeared, as the old relations between master and servant vanish before the spread of democratic ideas. But the Maître de Philosophie and his colleagues,
• Ambubaiarum collegia, pharmacopolæ,