HotFreeBooks.com
Delsarte System of Oratory
Author: Various
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

His mode of singing pleased the skilled public, and the special abilities of this strong artistic organism—as I have already observed—did not pass unnoted.

A dilettante, to whom I mentioned Delsarte long after this time, said: "What you tell me does not surprise me, I heard him at his first appearance, and he has lingered in my memory as an artist of the greatest promise. He was more than a singer; he had that nameless quality, which is not taught in any school and which marks a personality; a tone of which nothing, before or since, has given me the least idea."

The tenor, from the Comic Opera, went to the Ambigu Theatre, and thence to the Varietes, where an attempt was being made to introduce lyric works. Francois Delsarte's dramatic career did not, however, last more than two years. During these various changes—I cannot give the exact dates—this artist, on his way to glory, was forced to gain a living by the least aristocratic of occupations. If he did not go so far as Shakespeare in humility of profession (the English poet was a butcher's boy), he strangely stooped from that native nobility—great capacity,—which must yet have claimed, in his secret soul, its imprescriptible rights.

If this was one more suffering, added to all the rest, it had its good side. It was, perhaps, the source of the artist's never failing kindness, of that gracious reception which he never hesitated to bestow on anyone—from the Princess de Chimay and many other titled lords and ladies, down to Mother Chorre, the neighboring milk-woman, whom he held, he said, "in great esteem and friendship."

I return to his teaching. His lectures were given in Rue Lamartine and Rue de la Pepiniere. There was always—aside from the school—an audience made up of certain never failing followers and of a floating population. The birds of passage sometimes came with a very distinct intention to criticise; but if they did not readily understand the learned deductions, they went away fascinated by what the professor had shown them of his brilliant changes into every type of the repertory which he held up as a model. Enthusiasm soon triumphed over prejudice. Envy, alone, persisted in hostility.

These meetings were genuine artistic feasts. They were held at night, at the same hour as the theatres, and no play was preferable to them in the eyes of the truly initiated. They were a transcendent manifestation of all that is most elevated, which art can produce.

Here is an extract from a newspaper, which I find among the notes sent me:

"I heard him repeat, one evening, 'Iphigenia's Dream,' at the request of his audience. All were held trembling, breathless by that worn and yet sovereign voice. We were amazed to find ourselves yielding to such a spell; there was no splendor and no theatric illusion. Iphigenia was a teacher in a black frock coat; the orchestra was a piano striking, here and there, an unexpected modulation; this was all the illusion—and the hall was silent, every heart throbbed, tears flowed from every eye. And then, when the tale was told, cries of enthusiasm arose, as if Iphigenia, in person, had told us her terrors."

These lines are signed "Laurentius." I am very glad to come across them just as I am giving vent to my own feelings. I also find that Adolphe Gueroult, in his paper, the "Press," calls Delsarte the matchless artist, and recognizes a law in his aesthetic discoveries. I shall have occasion to set down, as opportunity offers, a string of testimonies no less flattering and no less sincere; but I hasten to produce these specimens, lest the suspicion of infatuation follow me.

How was it that amidst such warm plaudits, Delsarte failed to win that popularity which, after all, is the supreme sanction? It must be acknowledged that he took no great pains to gain the place which was his due. If he loved glory like the true artist that he was, "he never tired himself in its pursuit." Perhaps he had an instinctive feeling that it would come to him some day unsought.

He might, in this regard, be reproached for the tardiness of his successes; he himself made difficulties and obstacles which might be considered as the effects of extreme pride.

Halevy once suggested his singing at the Tuilleries before King Louis Philippe and his family.

"I only sing to my friends," replied the artist.

"That is strange," said the author of "The Jewess," "Lablache and Duprez go whenever they are asked."

"Delsarte does not."

"But consider! This is to be a party given by the Crown Prince to his father."

This last consideration touched the obstinate heart.

"Well! I will go," he said, "but it is only on three conditions: I must be the only singer; I am to have the chorus from the Opera to accompany me; and I am not to be paid."

"You will establish a dangerous precedent."

"Those are my irrevocable terms."

All were granted.

From his youth up Delsarte manifested this, perhaps excessive, contempt for money. On one occasion it was quite justifiable. Father Bambini had taken him to a party where he was to sing on very advantageous terms. The scholar was treated with deference; but the teacher who had neither a fine face nor the claims of youth to shield him against aristocratic prejudice, was received much as a servant would have been who had made a mistake in the door.

The young singer felt the blood mantle his brow, and his heart rebelled.

"Take your hat and let us go!" he said to his old master.

"But why?" replied the good man. He had heeded nothing but his pupil's success.

Delsarte dragged him away in spite of his protests, and lost by his abrupt departure the profits of the evening.



Chapter XI.

Delsarte's Family.



Delsarte married, in 1833, Miss Rosina Andrien. The young husband felt a high esteem for his father-in-law (primo basso cantante at the Opera); but we must not suppose that this consideration influenced his choice. He made a love marriage such as one makes at the age of twenty-two, with such a nature as his. Moreover, reason was never in closer accord with love.

Miss Andrien was remarkably beautiful. She was fifteen; her talent as a pianist had already won her a first prize at the Conservatory. She was just the companion, wise and devoted, to counterbalance the flights of imagination and the momentary transports inherent in the temperament of many artists.

I pause, fearing to wound a modesty which I know to be very sensitive: the living cannot bear praise with the indifference of the dead; but I must be allowed to insist upon the valuable assistance which the young wife lent her husband in his professional duties; this is a special part of my subject.

Mme. Delsarte started with a genuine talent. The situation in which she was placed, soon made her a perfect accompanist. Never was there more perfect harmony between singer and player. Amid the incessant interruptions necessary to a lesson, the piano never lagged a second either in stopping or in going on again. The note fell promptly, identical with the first note of the piece under study. To attain to this obedient precision, one must possess indomitable patience, must be willing to be utterly effaced. Delsarte appreciated this self-denial in proportion to the merit of her who practiced it.

In everything that concerned him, he relied especially upon the opinion of his accompanist; he felt her to be an abler and more serious judge than the most of those around him. But—with the shy reserve of merit unacknowledged even to itself,—the young woman shrank from expressing her impressions. If I may judge by the anecdote which follows, the artist was at times distressed by this.

One day Delsarte, granting one of those favors of which he was never lavish, consented to sing a composition of which he was particularly fond, to a few friends. It was the air from Mehul's "Joseph:" "Vainly doth Pharaoh ..."

Mme. Delsarte, always ready at the first call, took her seat at the piano.

The master was in the mood—that is, in full possession of all his powers. His pathos was heartrending.

"You won a great triumph," I said to him; "I saw tears in Mme. Delsarte's eyes."

"My wife's eyes," he cried as if struck by surprise, "are you quite sure?"

"Perfectly," I replied.

He seemed greatly pleased. Putting aside all other feeling, it was no slight triumph to move to such a point one who assisted at and sat through his daily lessons for hours at a time.

A few years sufficed to form a family around this very young couple. It was soon a charming accessory to see children fluttering about the house; slipping in among the scholars; showing a furtive head—dark or light—at one of the doors of the lecture-room. Let me recall their names: The eldest were Henri, Gustave, Adrien, Xavier, Marie; then came after a long interval, Andre and Madeleine.

Delsarte loved them madly; for their future he dreamed all the dreams of the Arabian Nights. Meantime, he played with them so happily that he seemed to take a personal delight in it.

He gave them all the joys of this life that were within his reach, and it was well that he did so! Alas! of the dreams of glory cherished for these beloved beings, some few were realized, but many faded promptly with the existence of those who called them forth.

But we must not anticipate. At the time of which I speak the children were growing and developing, each according to its nature, in full freedom. Those who felt a vocation seized on the wing—rather than they received from irregular lessons—some fragments of that great art which was taught in the school.

Marie learned while very young to reproduce with marvelous skill what were called the attitudes and the physiognomic changes. Madeleine delighted in making caricatures which showed great talent. The features of certain pupils and frequenters of the lectures were plainly recognizable in these sketches made by a childish hand.

Gustave was a child of an open face and broad shoulders. One incident will show his originality.

A strange lady came to the master's house one day either to ask a hearing or offer a pupil. She met this charming boy.

"M. Delsarte?" she asked.

"I am he, madam!" replied Gustave without flinching.

"Very good," said his questioner, laughing, "but I wish to speak to your father."

This same Gustave who, to a certain degree, followed in his father's footsteps, was struck down a few years after him, at the age of forty-two.

What a striking application of Victor Hugo's lines:

"And both are dead.... Oh Lord, all powerful is thy right hand!"

Gustave's career seemed to open readily and smoothly. Not that he could approach his father from a dramatic point of view; he had not his absolute synthesis of talents, and his figure was not suited to the theatre; as a singer, his voice was weak, but what a charm and what a style he had! Although his voice was not adapted to every part, although he had not that range of the vocal scale which permits one to attack any and every composition, still, its sympathetic, tender and penetrating quality did ample justice to all that is most exquisite in romance. When you had once heard that voice, guided by the force of his father's grand method, you never forgot its sincerity and melancholy; it haunted you and left you impatient to hear it again.

As a concert-singer and teacher, Gustave Delsarte might have won high rank. An ill-assorted marriage and his misanthropic character prevented. As a composer, he left some few songs, masses and religious fragments which are not without merit. When he was to produce any of his sacred works, the composer-singer never took a part; but he would lead the orchestra. If he came to a rehearsal and the performers appeared weak, a holy wrath would seize upon Gustave. Then he flung a firm, incisive, accentuated note into the midst of the choir, vivid as a spark bursting from a fire covered with ashes. He would accompany it with a glance which seemed to flash from his father's eye; at such moments, he resembled him; but this transformation never lasted more than a second; the fictitious power disappeared as all which was Gustave Delsarte was doomed to disappear.

At least, his father did not live to mourn his loss. And yet he knew that worst of heart-suffering: the loss of a beloved child. Alas! In that radiant family, whose mirth, fresh faces and luxuriant health seemed to defy death, the implacable foe had already twice swept his scythe.

The first to go was Andre, one of the latest born. He was at the age when the child leaves no lasting memories behind; but we know the grace of innocence, the privilege of impeccability by which infancy atones for the lack of acquirements. Then these little creatures have the mysterious entrancing smiles, which mothers understand and adore—and Delsarte loved his children with a mother's heart.

Time lessens such pangs; but when a fresh sorrow re-opened the era of calamity, it seems as if the sad events trod upon each other's heels and the interval between seems to have been but one unmitigated agony.

The loss undergone in 1863 was even greater. Xavier Delsarte was a tall, handsome young man. The master was content with the profit which his son had derived from his tuition. He was successful as a singer and elocutionist. He was attacked by cholera during an epidemic. The night before he had taken several glasses of iced orgeat in the open air.

Xavier lived in the Rue des Batailles with his family, but not in the same apartment. This fact was fatal. Instead of calling help in the first stages—unwilling to disturb his relatives—the invalid wandered down stairs during the night, and into the court-yard. There he drank water from the pump. I can still recall the unhappy father's story of that cruel moment.

"It was scarcely day. I was waked by that unexpected, fatal ringing of the bell, which, at such an hour, always bodes misfortune. The maid heard it also, and opened the door. She uttered a cry of alarm. Almost instantly, my poor boy stood at my chamber door. He leaned against the frame of the door, his strength not allowing him to advance. From the change in his features, I understood all—he was hopelessly lost!"

Delsarte was sensitive and of a very loving nature; but he was endowed with great strength. Much absorbed, moreover, in his profession, his studies, his innovations, he often found in them a counterpoise to these rude blows of fate. So when the thoughts of his friends recur to these disasters, they feel that their greatest sympathy and commiseration are due to the mother who three times underwent this supreme martyrdom.

Two names remain to be mentioned in this family where artistic callings seemed a matter of course. The concerts of Madame Theresa Wartel—sister of Madame Delsarte—brought together the elite of Parisian virtuosi, and the brilliant pianist took her part in the quatuors in which Sauzay, Allard, Franchomme and other celebrities of the period figured.

George Bizet—author of the opera of "Carmen"—prematurely snatched from the arts, was the nephew of Francois Delsarte. This young man taught himself Sanscrit unaided; he inspired the greatest hopes.

Wartel, who gave Christine Nilsson her musical education, was not of the same blood, but we find certain points in his method which recall the processes of Delsarte's school.



Chapter XII.

Delsarte's Religion.



I now confront an important and very interesting subject; but one which is more difficult to handle than the most prickly briers. There has been a confusion, in regard to Delsarte, of two very distinct things: his practical devotion and his philosophy of art, which does indeed assume a religious character. He himself helped on this confusion. I am desirous of doing my best to put an end to it. I hope that, truth and sincerity aiding, I shall not find the task too great for me.

I must first grapple with those ill-informed persons who have denied the master his high intellectual faculties, and even his scientific discoveries, for the sole reason of the mystical side of his beliefs. I must also expose the error of those who supposed that to this mysticism were attributable the miracles accomplished by Delsarte in his career as artist and scholar.

I was the better able to understand these two opposing elements—religiousness and strength of understanding—because, if I gave in my entire adhesion to the innovator in the arts, he did not find me equally docile in what concerned the theosophic part of his doctrine. Hence, discussions which illustrated the subject. I speak in presence of his memory as I did before him, with perfect frankness and simplicity of heart; taking care not to offend the objects of his veneration, but examining without regard to his memory, as without prejudice, the influence which his convictions exerted upon his intellectual conceptions, his ideas, his character, his talent—in a word, his life, in so far as it may concern a sketch which lays no claim to be a complete biography.

Now, it is from the point of view of art itself that I ask the following questions: Was Delsarte a devout Catholic? Was he orthodox?

Devout? He gloried in it, he insisted on it; I will not say that he affected minute daily acts of devotion, for that word would not accord with the spontaneity of his nature; but he accented his demonstrations, he spoke constantly of his religion. Without any intention to wrong the serious side of his religious feelings, it seemed to be a bravado put on for the incredulous, a toy which he converted into a weapon.

Orthodox? He made it his boast, and he certainly intended to be so; he loved, in many circumstances, to show his humility of heart. His faith, he used to say, "was the charcoal-burner's faith."

And yet, the charcoal-burner would have been strangely puzzled if he had had to sustain the ceaseless contests which the artist accepted or provoked from philosophers and free-thinkers; and, perhaps, no less frequently, from his fellow-religionists, and the priests themselves.

With the former, it was a mere question of dogmatic forms or of the necessity for some form of religion; with the latter, he entered upon a more peculiarly theological order of ideas, such as the attributes proper to each of the three divine persons, and other mystical subjects.

Here, as elsewhere, Delsarte brought to bear his personality, his stamp, his breadth of comprehension.

I once asked him what some called Dominations might represent, in the celestial classification? He replied: "If any one or anything forces itself upon our mind, takes active possession of our soul, do we not feel that we are under a certain domination?"

He gave me several other explanations touching the angelic hierarchy. I considered them very poetic, very ingenious—but were they also orthodox? I am not competent to judge.

It was impossible to say at the first glance, how the influence of this theosophy made itself felt in this sensitive character, full as it was of surprises. Delsarte was born good, generous, above the petty tendencies which deform and degrade the human type. On these diverse points, religious faith could scarcely show its effect; but he also declared himself to be irritable and violent—he confessed to a dangerous fickleness—still, he would readily have slandered himself in the interests of his faith.

Whatever the cause of this acquired serenity, Delsarte did not always refuse to satisfy his native impulses. I have already alluded to cases in which these returns to impetuous vivacity occurred, and how he rose above these relapses. Whether his peaceful spirit arose from religious feeling, or whether it was the result of moral strength, it breathed the spirit of the gospel; but it must also be confessed that our artist mingled with it much worldly grace. What matters it? Uncertainty has no inconveniences in such a matter.

It was particularly on the occasion of those sudden fits of passion to which the human conscience does not always attach due weight, that Delsarte laid great stress upon supernatural intervention.

Oh! what would he have done without that powerful aid, with his lively sensibilities—with his too loving heart?

I have no opinion to offer in regard to the shield which efficacious grace and the palladium of the faith may form for dangerous tendencies; for Catholics, that is a matter for the casuist or the confessor to decide; but, as far as Delsarte is concerned, had he beaten down Satan in a way to rouse the jealousy of St. Michael, had he made the heathen Socrates give precedence to him in patience, wisdom and firmness, I should regard that victory as the triumph of the sacred principles of the eternal morality, of that which sums up, in a single group, all the supreme precepts of all religions and all philosophies, rather than as a result of external practices.

It is by placing myself at this culminating point, that I have succeeded in explaining to my own satisfaction the true stimulus of the artist-thinker, in spite of all appearances and all contradictions; and everything leads me to believe that the elevation of his mind and the inspiration of the art which he taught and practiced, would have sufficed, in equal proportion with his faith, "to deliver him from evil."

How could a man glide into the lower walks of life, whose mission it was to set forth the types of moral beauty by opposing them, to use his phrase, "to the hideousnesses of vice?"

Now, talent and faith meet face to face. We are to consider to what extent the one was dependent upon the other; and whether, in reality, the artist whom so many voices proclaimed "incomparable" owed his vast superiority to acts of religious devotion, to his adhesion to the dogmas of the church.

It is not arbitrarily that a transcendent intellect pointed out a difference between religion and religions: every mind devoted to philosophy must needs reach this distinction.

I shall keep strictly within the limits of that which concerns art, in a question so vast and of such great importance.

Religion is that need which all generations of men have felt for establishing a relationship between man and the supreme power or powers whence man supposes he proceeded. To some it is an outburst of gratitude and homage; to others, an instinct of terror which makes them fall prostrate before an unknown being upon whom they feel themselves dependent, although they cannot know him, still less define him.

Religions are all which men have established in answer to those aspirations of the conscience, to satisfy that intuition which forces itself upon our mind so long as sophistry has not warped it. It follows from this, that religions vary, are changed, and may be falsified until the primitive meaning is lost. But whatever may be the faith and the rites of religions—whether fanaticism disfigure them or fetichism make a caricature of them, whether politicians use them as an ally, or the traces of the apostolate fade beneath the materialism of speculation,—there will always remain at the bottom, religion: that is, the thought which keeps such or such a society alive for a variable time, and which, in periods of transition, seeks refuge in human consciences awaiting a fresh social upward flight.

Well! it was not the external part of his belief which inspired Delsarte, when—to use the expression of the poet Reboul—"he showed himself like unto a god!" It was not the long rosary with its large beads which often dangled at his side, that gave him the secret of heart-tortures and soul-aspirations! The charcoal-burner's faith would never have taught him that captivating grace, that supreme elegance of gesture and attitude, which made him matchless. Nor did theology and dogma teach him the moving effects which made people declare that he performed miracles, and led several writers (Henry de Riancey, Hervet) to say: "That man is not an artist, he is art itself!" And Fiorentino, a critic usually severe and exacting, wrote: "This master's sentiment is so true, his style so lofty, his passion so profound, that there is nothing in art so beautiful or so perfect!"

Profound passion, lofty style, art itself, these are not learned from any catechism. That chosen organism bore within its own breast the fountains of beauty. An artist, he derived thence an inward illumination, and, as it were, a clear vision of the Ideal. If religion was blended with it, it was that which speaks directly to the heart of all beings endowed with poetry, to those who are capable of vowing their love to the worship of sublime things.

What I have just said will become more comprehensible if I apply to Delsarte those more especially Christian words: The spirit and the letter.

Yes, in him there was the spiritual man and the literal man; and if either compromised the other, it was not in the eyes of persons who attended, regularly enough to understand them, the lectures and lessons of the brilliant professor.

This I have already said, and I shall dwell upon this point, hoping to establish some harmony between those who taxed Delsarte with madness on account of his positivism in the matter of faith, and those who strove to connect with his devotional habits everything exceptional which that great figure realized in his passage through this world.

In fact, it is only by separating the Delsarte of the spirit from him of the letter, that we can form any true idea of him.

And the letter, once again—was it not art and poetry that made worship so dear to him? The shadowy light of the churches, the stern majesty of the vaulted roof, contrasting with the radiant circle of light within which reposed the sacred wafer,—all this pomp, of heathen origin, warmed for him the severe simplicity and cold austerity of Christian sentiment; the chants and prayers uttered in common also stimulated the fervid impulses of his heart.

The spirit of proselytism took possession of him later in life. It was controversy under a new form, more attractive and more distracting. There was always some soul within reach to be won to the faith; some rebellious spirit to bend to the yoke of the official church,—proceeding, under due observance of ostensible forms, from the letter! Neophytes were very ready to listen. After all, it pledged them to nothing, and they talked of other things often enough to prevent the conversation from becoming too much of a sermon. Then, certain favors—all of a spiritual nature—were attached to this situation: a place nearer the master during lectures, a more affectionate greeting, a sweeter smile.

These attempts more than once resulted in disappointment to Delsarte. I will not enumerate them all. Often he was heard with increasing interest, it seemed as if resistance must yield, and that he might speedily plant his flag "in the salutary waters of grace," but at that very moment his opponent would become more refractory and more stubborn than ever.

Once, he had great hopes. Several young people seemed decided to enter into the paths of virtue. The master was radiant. "Take heed," said skeptic prudence, "perhaps it is only a means of stimulating your zeal, of profiting better by your disinterestedness."

He soon acknowledged the truth of these predictions; he confessed it in his moments of candor.

One of these feigned converts, especially, scandalized him. The story deserves repetition:

The church of the Petits-Peres had ordered the wax figure of a freshly canonized saint, from Rome. Delsarte mentioned it to the school, and several pupils went to see it.

"Ah, sir!" cried young D. on his return, "now, indeed, I am a Catholic! How lovely she is, how fresh and fair after lying underground so long!"

"Unhappy fellow!" said the disappointed artist, "he takes the image for the reality, and the beauty of a waxen St. Philomena has converted him."

The young man had heard that the preservation of the flesh, after a hundred years' burial, counted for much in canonization, if it did not suffice to justify it; and as the place where they had deposited the sacred image was dark, D. had taken for life itself the pink and white complexion common to such figures before time has yellowed them.

Delsarte ended by being amused at his credulity; he laughed readily and was not fond of sulking. Nor must we forget that this preeminent tragedian was a perfect comedian, and that this fact entitled him to true enjoyment of the humorous side of life. Have I not somewhere read: "Beware of those who never laugh!"

Delsarte's piety—I speak of that of the letter—was seldom morose. It did not forbid juvenile caprices; it overlooked venial sins.

One Sunday he took his scholars to Nanterre, some to perform, others to hear, a mass of his own composition. A few friends joined the party. The mass over, they wandered into the country in groups. Some walked; some sat upon the grassy turf. The air was pleasant, the conversation animated; time passed quickly.

Suddenly the vesper bell was heard. Some one drew Delsarte's attention to it—not without a tiny grain of malice.

"Master, what a pity—you must leave us."

He made no answer.

When the second summons sounded, the same voice continued:

"There's no help for it; for us poor sinners, it's no matter! But you, master, you cannot miss the mass!"

He put his hand to his head and considered.

"Bah!" he cried boldly, "I'll send my children."

Let me give another trait in illustration of the nature which from time to time pierced through and rent the flimsy fabric of his opinions. This anecdote is a political one.

Despite the precedent of an ultra democratic grandfather, and all his plebeian tendencies as a philanthropist and a Christian, his Catholic friends had inclined him toward monarchical ideas—although he never actually sided with the militant portion of the party.

On one occasion, it happened that the two wings of this politico-religious fusion disagreed. As at Nanterre, Delsarte acted independently, and on this occasion politics were the victim. It fell out as follows:

A claimant of the throne of France, still young, finding himself in the Eternal City, had not, to all appearance, fulfilled his duties to the Vatican promptly.

The first time that Delsarte encountered certain of those zealous legitimists, who are said to be "more royalist than the king," he launched this apostrophe at their heads:

"I hear that your young man was in no haste to pay his respects to His Holiness."

Thus, always free—even when he seemed to have forged chains for himself—he obeyed his impulse without counting the cost. Never mind! This childish outburst must have gladdened the manes of the ancestor who connected the syllables in the patronymic name of Delsarte!

I hope I shall not forget, as my pen moves along, any of these memories, insignificant to many minds, no doubt, but serving to distinguish this figure from the vast mass of creation. If, among my readers, some may say "pass on," others will enjoy these trifles, and will thank me for writing them.

Thus, Delsarte was always pleased to think he bore the name of Francois in memory of Francis of Assisi—not the Spaniard whom we know, but the great saint of the twelfth century; he who "appeased quarrels, settled differences, taught slaves and common men,—the poor man who was good to the poor."

"The fish, the rabbits and the hares," the legend says, "placed themselves in this fortunate man's hands." * * * * The birds were silent or sang at his command. "Be silent," said the saint to the swallows, "'tis my turn to talk now." And again: "My brothers, the birds, you have great cause to praise your Creator, who covered you with such fine feathers and gave you wings to fly through the clear, broad fields of air."

One need not be very devout to be attracted by such graceful simplicity.

Delsarte went farther. Whether he accepted this magnetic attraction as true or whether he regarded it as purely symbolic—for this kind of miracle is not dependent on faith,—he considered the monk of Assisi as a lover of nature, whose heart was big enough to love everything that lives, to suffer with all that suffers. He strove to comprehend him by placing him upon a pinnacle, well aware that the sublime often lurks between the trifling.

It was on such occasions that the man of intellect revived to ennoble and illumine everything. If, despite his magnificent rendering of them, Delsarte never called legendary fictions in question, let us not refuse him that privilege. In such cases the poetry became his accomplice, and—"Every poet is the toy of the gods," as Beranger says, a simple song-writer, as Delsarte was a simple singer.

There was in him whom Kreutzer called "the apostle of the grand dramatic style," a desire, I will not say for realism, but for realization, for action. Thus he once had a fancy to join the semi-clerical society of the third order; it was a way of keeping himself in practice, since there were various prescriptions, observances and interdictions attached to the office. One must repeat certain prayers every day, and submit to a certain severity of costume. No precious metal, not even a thread of gold or silver must be seen about one. In the first moments of fervor, a beautiful green velvet cap, beautifully embroidered in gold—the loving gift of some pupil or admirer,—was interdicted, that is to say, was shut up in a closet or reduced to the condition of a mere piece of bric-a-brac. Luckily, the association did not require eternal vows, and I think I saw the pretty article restored to its proper use later on.

Another attempt—and this was his own creation—tempted this inquiring mind; he wished to pay especial homage, under some novel form, to the Holy Trinity. The adepts were to be called the Trinitarians. In the founder's mind, this starting-point was to be the seed for a sort of confraternity with the mark of true friendship and unity of faith.

This dream was never realized, apparently, for it seems that the association could never number more than three members at a time: so that it was in number only that it justified its title. Delsarte was very fond of these few adherents. "The Trinitarians—where are the Trinitarians?" was sometimes the cry at a lecture. It was the voice of the master who had reserved a seat of honor for each of them. This is all I ever knew about this society, and I have reason to think that it never got beyond a few talks among the members upon the subject which united them.

It is not without reluctance that I expose his weaknesses; but timid as the steps must ever be which are taken upon historic ground, we must walk in daylight. No one, moreover, could regard this effervescence of a sentiment noble in its source, as a want of intellectual liberty. It was the affectionate side of his nature which at moments dimmed his reason, but never went so far as to put out its light. I need not attempt to defend on this point one, of whom Auguste Luchet wrote:

"It is by his soul and his science that he lifts you, transports you, strikes you, shatters you with terror, anguish and love!"

And Pierre Zaccone says:

"He is an artist, apart, exceptional, perhaps unique! with what finished art, what talent, what GENIUS, he uses the resources of his voice!"

That which best atoned in Delsarte for the grain of fanaticism with which he was reproached, was the tolerance which prevailed in every controversy, in every dissension. If he sometimes blamed free thought, he never showed ill will to free-thinkers. In the spirit of the gospel—so different from the spirit of the devout party—he was "all things to all men." He was on a very friendly footing with a priest whom, by his logic and his sincerity, he had prevailed upon to forsake the ecclesiastical calling.

In our discussions, which dealt with secondary subjects of various forms of belief—for I never denied God, or the soul and its immortality, or the freedom of the will which is the honor of the human race, or the power of charity, provided it become social and fraternal, instead of merely alms-giving as it has been,—in these debates, sometimes rather lively, I would end by saying to him: "You know that I love and seek truth; very well! if God wished me to join the ranks in which you serve, he would certainly give me a sign; but so long as I do not receive His summons, what have I to do with it?"

I spoke his own language, and he yielded to my reasoning. "Come," he would say, "I prefer your frankness to the pretenses of feigned piety;" and he would add sorrowfully: "Alas! I often encounter them!" So we always ended by agreeing, and this truce lasted—until our next meeting.

The words which I have just quoted prove that if Delsarte clung to the Catholic dogmas, he was particularly touched by the sincere piety and active charity of simple, evangelic hearts. I may give yet another proof of this.

To satisfy his sympathies as much as to rescue his clan, when attacked, he would always quote a father confessor, one Father Pricette—this name should be remembered in the present age—who, during the icy nights of December, slept in an arm-chair, because he had given his last mattress to some one poorer than himself.



Chapter XIII.

Delsarte's Friends.



Friendly relations—although disputes often arose—were established toward 1840 between Delsarte and Raymond Brucker (known to literature as Michel Raymond). Fortunately in spite of the influence of the author of "Mensonge," Delsarte's superior rank always prevailed in this intimacy.

Michel Raymond published several novels in the first half of this century. Later on, he took his place in the ranks of that militia of Neo-Catholics, the fruit of the Restoration. (I do not know whether I am justified in giving the name of Neo-Catholic to Brucker; perhaps, on the contrary, his dreams were all of the primitive church. But, in spite of his Jewish crudities, I suppose he would never have joined the followers of Father Loyson.) His keen, sharp and caustic spirit did not forsake him when he changed his principles; and never did the Christ—whose symbol is a lamb without a stain—have a sterner or more warlike zealot.

In appearance, Brucker had somewhat the look of a Mephistopheles—a demon then very much in vogue,—especially when he laughed, his laughter being full of sardonic reserves. If Delsarte's mode of proselyting was almost always gentle, affectionate, adapted to the spirit he aspired to conquer, that of Raymond Brucker had an aggressive fashion; he became brutal and cynical when discussion waxed warm.

Once, in reply to one of his vehement attacks against the age, in which he used very unparliamentary expressions, he drew upon himself the following answer from a woman: "But, sir, I should think that in the ardor of your recent convictions, your first act of faith should have been to make an auto-da-fe of all the books signed Michel Raymond."

I repeat, this writer, although of undoubted intellectual merit, could not annul Delsarte's native tendencies; he could never have led Delsarte into any camp which the latter had not already decided to join; but when they met on common ground, he influenced, excited and sometimes threw a shadow over him.

When they had fought together against the nearest rebel, long and lively discussions would often arise between them, but they always agreed in the end: the artist's good-nature so willed it.

If dissension continued, if the fiery friend had given cause for reproach, Delsarte merely said: "Poor Brucker!" But how much that brief phrase could be made to mean in the mouth of a man who taught an actor to say, "I hate you!" by uttering the words, "I love you," and who could ring as many changes on one sentence as the thought, the feeling, the occasion, could possibly require.

Do not suppose, however, that Delsarte abused his power. Contrary to many actors who carry their theatrical habits into their private life, he aimed at the most perfect simplicity outside of the roles which he interpreted. "I make myself as simple as possible," he would say, "to avoid all suspicion of posing." But still he could not entirely rid himself, in conversation, of those inflections which illuminate words and are the genuine manifestation of the inner meaning.

Be this as it may, the relation between our two converts assumed the proportions of friendship, doubtless in virtue of the mysterious law which makes contrast attractive.

Hegel says: "The identical and the non-identical are identical;" and this proposition passes for nonsense. Perhaps if he had said: "May become identical," it would be understood that he meant to speak, in general, of that reconciliation of contraries which united the calm genius of Delsarte and the bristling, prickly spirit of Raymond Brucker.

One motive particularly contributed to the union; Brucker was unfortunate in a worldly sense. Delsarte, improvident for the future and scorning money, still had, during the best years of his professorship, a relatively comfortable home. He loved to have his friend take advantage of it. Large rooms, well warmed in winter, a simple table, but one which lacked no essential article, were of no small importance to one whose scanty household had naught but sorrow and privation to offer.

How many evenings they spent together in dissertations which often ended in nothing—and how often the dawn surprised them before they were weary!

For Brucker it was a refuge, but for Delsarte, what a waste of time and strength taken from his real work! That wasted time might have sufficed to fix and produce certain special points in his method. Then, too, his health demanded greater care.

Take it for all in all, this intimacy was perhaps more harmful than helpful to Delsarte. Yet I have been told that Raymond Brucker urged the innovator to elaborate his discovery, and often reproached him with his negligence in pecuniary matters. It was he who said: "Francois Delsarte's system is an orthopedic machine to straighten crippled intellects."

I have also heard in favor of Raymond Brucker, that that mind so full of bitterness, that inquisitor in partibus, was most tender toward a child in his family, and that he bore his poverty bravely. I desire to note these eulogies side by side with the less favorable reflections which I considered it my duty to write down here. I recall a short anecdote which will serve to close the Brucker story.

As we have said, they were seldom parted. One day Delsarte had agreed to dine with the family of a pupil. As he was on his way thither, he met his inseparable friend. From that moment his only thought was to excuse himself from the dinner; but his hosts were reluctant to give up such a guest; they insisted"—they were offended.

"Pardon me," said Delsarte; "I really cannot stay! I had forgotten that Brucker was to dine with me."

"But that can be arranged! M. Brucker can join us. Suppose we send and ask him?"

"You need not," replied the master; "if you are willing, I will call him; he is waiting for me below at the corner."

They had acted as children do, when one says to the other on leaving school:

"Wait a minute for me, I'll ask mamma if you can come and dine with us."

Brucker, who after all knew how to be agreeable when he chose, took his place at the table, and all went well.

This proves yet once again the extent to which Delsarte possessed that charming simplicity so well suited to all distinction.

In the dissertations upon religious subjects incessantly renewed about Delsarte, it was sometimes declared that "great sinners were surer of salvation than the most perfect unbelievers in the world."

A young man, who doubtless felt himself to be in the first category, once said to the master:

"My friend, the good God has been too kind to me! I disobey him, I offend against his laws.... I repent, and he accepts my prayer! I relapse into sin—and he forgives me! Decidedly, the good God is a very poltroon!"

This seems to exceed the unrestrained ease and confidence usual toward an earthly father; but we must not forget that the inflection modifies the meaning of a phrase, and that poltroon may mean adorable.

This penitent, now famous, carried his provocation of the inexhaustible goodness very far. At one time in his life he tried to blow out his brains! By a mere chance—he probably said, by a miracle,—the wound was not mortal; but he always retained the accusing scar. I never knew whether this unpleasant adventure preceded or followed Mr. L.'s conversion, or whether it was coincident with one of the relapses of which that repentant sinner accused himself.

Another very religious friend was no less fragile in the observance of his firm vow. Becoming a widower, he swore eternal fidelity to the "departed angel." Soon after, he was seen with another wife on his arm!

"And your angel?" whispered a sceptic in his ear.

"Oh, my friend!" was the reply, "this one is an archangel."

Another figure haunted Delsarte and afforded yet another proof of his tolerance. The Italian, C——, shared neither his political ideas nor his religious beliefs; he was one of those refugees whom the defeats of the Carbonari have cast upon our soil, and whose necessities France—does our neighbor remember this?—for years supplied, as if they were her own children. However, she could offer them but a precarious living.

Signer C., to give some charm to his wretched existence, desired to add to his scanty budget a strong dose of hope and intellectual enjoyment: hope in—what came later—the independence and unity of Italy. By way of diversion, this stranger gratified himself by indulging in a whim; he had dreams of a panacea, a plant whose complex virtues should combat all the evils which fall to the lot of poor humanity; but this marvel must be sought in America. And how was he to get there, when he could barely scrape together the necessary five cents to ride in an omnibus! The Isabellas of our day do not build ships for every new Columbus who desires to endow the world with some wonderful treasure trove! And yet this man was not mad; he was one of those who prove how many insane ideas a brain may cherish, without being entitled to a cell in Bedlam or Charenton.

While awaiting the realization of his golden dreams, poor C. spent his time in perpetual adoration of the Talma of Music—for so Theophile Gautier styled Delsarte; he never missed a lecture; he took part in the talks which lengthened out the evening when the parlor was at last cleared of superfluous guests.

Among his many manias—how many people have this one in common with him!—the Italian cherished the idea that he was of exceptional ability, and that in more than one direction. He proclaimed that Delsarte went far beyond everything that he knew—equal to all that could be imagined or desired in regard to art—but as for himself, C., was he not from a land where art is hereditary, where it is breathed in at every pore, from birth? And more than the mass of his countrymen, did he not feel the volcanic heat of the sacred fire burning within him?

One evening, he made a bold venture. He had prepared a tirade written by some Italian poet. All that I remember of it is that it began with the words: "Trema—Trema!" [Tremble—Tremble!]

The impromptu tragedian recited several lines in a declamatory tone accompanied by gestures to match. Delsarte listened without a sign of praise or blame. Then he rose, struck an attitude appropriate to the text, but perfectly natural, and, in his quiet way, said:

"Might not you as well give it in this key?" Then, in a voice of repressed harshness, his gestures subdued but expressive of hatred, he repeated the two words: "Trema—Trema!"

The listeners shuddered. Delsarte had produced one of those effects which can never be forgotten. The smouldering ashes did not burn long; four syllables were enough to extinguish the flame.

Following, not the chronological order, but that of circumstances and incidents calculated to throw light on my subject, I must once more retrace the course of years.

C.'s persistency went on before and after 1848. During the second period, all minds were greatly agitated by the state of politics. C., in spite of his undoubted liberalism—he spent a great part of his leisure in making democratic constitutions—thought, like every other claimant, that he had duties to perform; and that he might as well, to facilitate his task, make an ally of the Emperor, without scruple; but access to royalty was no less impossible than landing on the American shore where his panacea grew. He hit upon the following plan:

A number of ladies were to go in a body and implore Napoleon III to pardon certain exiles: for the same calamities always follow civil war, and there are always women ready to beg for justice or mercy.

C., who knew their purpose, said to one of the petitioners: "How are you going to make the Emperor understand that I am the only man capable of saving the situation?"

The petition was not presented; and the world remains to be saved!

Our Italian had another specialty: he was perpetually in search of some notorious somnambulist. It is a well-known fact that the mental agitation caused by governmental crises is very favorable to these pythonesses of modern times. Each wishes to outrun the future and to afford himself at least an illusion of the triumph of his party. The oracles varied according to the opinion of the person who magnetized these ladies, and, often, according to the presumed desire of the audience.

Delsarte allowed himself to be drawn into these mysteries. He had time for everything. It afforded him relaxation, and a means of observation. On one occasion, he followed the refugee to a garden where a person of "perfect lucidity" prophesied. The sibyl was a believer as well as a seer and pretended to communicate with God in person. I do not know exactly what supernal secrets the woman revealed, while she slept, but the result was ridiculous.

They had forgotten to fix the hour for the next sitting: so, to repair the omission—by means of a few passes—the somnambulist was restored to sleep and lucidity. Then in a corner of the garden, in a familiar tone and—to use the popular expression—in which, as may well be imagined, the voice of Jehovah was not heard:

"My God, what day shall we return?"

"He says Wednesday," announced the lady.

"Thank you, God!"

If the Italian went into ecstasies over this irreverent trifling, Delsarte did not disdain to caricature it, and gave us a most comical little performance. Here again we see how he could transform everything, and make something out of nothing!

Among the frequenters of his lectures was an artist whom I would gladly mention for his talent if I did not fear to annoy him by connecting his name with an incident concerning him. I relate it in the hope of somewhat diverting my readers, to whom I must so often discourse of serious things.

Mr. P. painted a portrait of Delsarte as a young man. The features are exact, the pose firm and dignified, the eye proud. The painter and the model were on very good terms and sympathized in religious matters. It must have been the master who brought him over. He still burned with the zeal peculiar to recent converts; to such a point that even on a short excursion into the country, he could not await his return to Paris to approach the stool of repentance. This desire seemed easily satisfied; what village is without a father confessor!

So, one fine day, the artist rang at the first parsonage he could find. The priest's sister opened the door—offered him a seat—and told him that her brother was away. But, after these preliminaries, the lady seemed uneasy. She inquired what the stranger wanted.

"To speak with the priest."

What could this stranger have to say to him? Such was the question which floated in her eyes, amidst the confused phrases in which she strove to gain an explanation. Mr. P. finally told her that he had come to confess.

"My brother will not return till very late," said the poor girl, unable to disguise her distress.

"I will wait!" replied the traveler.

"Oh, sir, I hope you will not!"

He thought he heard her mutter: "We read such things in the papers!"

The visitor at last perceived that she took him for a thief, and he could not depart quickly enough.

One more anecdote:

Francois Delsarte called himself a bad citizen, because he disliked to undertake the duties entailed by reason of the national guard—a dignity long demanded by the advanced party of the day, but of which they soon wearied.

I think that the artist's infractions were often overlooked, and his reasons for exemption were never too closely scanned. And yet, the soldier-citizen was one day arraigned before a council of discipline, which, without regard for this representative of the highest personages of fiction, condemned him to three days' imprisonment.

It was as if they had imprisoned saltpetre in company with a bunch of matches—but he restrained his rebellious feelings; he would not give his judges the satisfaction of knowing his torment. He soon thought only of procuring consolation: he summoned his friends, who visited him in throngs. Then he made the acquaintance of his companions in misfortune. There was one especially, who, alone, would have made up to him for all the inconveniences of his forced arrest.

The first time that this prisoner entered the room where the other prisoners were assembled, he looked at them with the most solemn air, put his hand to his forehead, made a military salute, and in grave tones, as if beginning a harangue, he uttered these words:

"Captives—I salute you!"

It was strangely pertinent. Delsarte was not behindhand in comic gravity. This little scene enlivened him.

Another compensation fell to the lot of our captive. One of the prisoners sang him a song, one stanza of which lingered in his memory. I transcribe it:

"I was born in Finisterre, At Quimperlay I saw the light. The sweetest air is my native air, My parish church is painted white! Oh! so I sang, I sighed, I said,— How I love my native air, And parish church so bright!"

These lines, written by some Breton minstrel, inspired one of those sweet, plaintive airs which the drawling voice of the drovers sing as they return at nightfall; one of those airs which seem to follow the brook down the valleys, and which repeat the echoes of the mountains, in the far distance.

Oh! how Delsarte used to murmur it; it made one homesick for Brittany!



Chapter XIV.

Delsarte's Scholars.



To get one's bearings in that floating population (where persistency and fidelity are rare qualities) which haunts a singing-school, it is well to make classifications. In Delsarte's case, the novelty of his processes, his extraordinary reputation among the art-loving public, the length of time which he insisted was necessary for complete education, all combined to produce an incessant ebb and flow of pupils.

Therefore, I must distinguish.

First, there were those, brought by Delsarte's generosity, whose only resource was a vocation more or less favored by natural gifts. He would say: "Come one, come all." But, of course, many were called, and few were chosen, the majority only making a passing visit.

Then there were the finished artists. They took private lessons, coming to beg the master to put the finishing touch to their work, hoping to gain from him something of that spiritual flame which consecrates talent. I shall not undertake to speak of all, but I must quote a few names.

One winter day, says La Patrie for June 18, 1857, a woman, beautiful and still young, visited Delsarte, begging him to initiate her into the mysteries of Gluck's style:

"You are the greatest known singer," she said; "no one can enter into the work of the great masters and seize their most secret thought as you do; teach me!"

"Who are you?" asked Francois Delsarte.

"Henrietta Sontag," replied the stranger.

Madame Barbot had a moment of great triumph, and was summoned to Russia at the period of her success in Paris. She was perhaps the master's best imitator; she had somewhat of his tragic emotion, his style, his gesture; then what did she lack to equal him? She lacked that absolute sine qua non of art and poetry—personality. She added little of her own.

Even among those who could neither hear his lectures nor follow his lessons, Delsarte had disciples. A great singing-teacher, whom I knew at Florence, was eager to learn everything concerning the method. I often heard him ask a certain young girl, as he read a score: "You were Delsarte's pupil; tell me if he would have read this as I have done?"

Even the famous Jenny Lind made the journey from London to Paris, expressly to hear the great singer.

At his lectures were seen from time to time: M. and Mme. Amand Cheve, Mlle. Chaudesaigues, M. Mario Uchard—who, after his marriage, asked for elocution lessons for his wife (Madeleine Brohan),—Mlle. Rosalie Jacob, whose brilliant vocalization never won the renown which it deserved, Mme. Carvalho, who was not one of the regular attendants, but who trained her rare talent as a light singer, there, before the very eyes of her fellow pupils,—Geraldon, who was very successful in Italy, under the name of Geraldoni.

Then, there was Mme. de B——, who appeared at the opera under the name of Betty; a beauty with a fine voice. This artist did not perfect her talents, being in haste to join the theatre in Rue Lepelletier, under the shield of another master. Although well received by the public, she soon gave up the profession.

A memory haunts me, and I cannot deny it a few lines.

Mme. M. may have been eighteen when she began to study singing with Delsarte, together with her husband, who was destined for a similar career. She had an agreeable voice, but a particularly charming face, the freshness of a child in its cradle, a sweet expression of innocence. In figure she was tall and slender. The lovely creature always looked like a Bengal rose tossing upon its graceful stalk. These young students considered themselves finished and made an engagement with the manager of a theatre in Brazil.

"Don't do it," said Delsarte to the husband, knowing his suspicious nature, "that is a dangerous region; you will never bring your wife back alive."

He prophesied but too truthfully.

Soon after, we heard that the fair songstress had been shot dead by the hand of the husband who adored her. I like to think that she was innocent of more than imprudence. The story which reached us from that distant land was, that M. M. threatened to kill his wife if she continued to associate with a certain young man.

"You would never do it!" she said.

She did not reckon on the aberrations of jealousy. It was said, in excuse for the murderer, that she had defied him, saying:

"I love him, and I do not love you!"

After the catastrophe, the unfortunate husband gave himself up to justice. No case was found against him, but how he must have suffered when he had forever cut himself off from the sight of that enchanting creature!

Three figures stand preeminent in the crowd: Darcier, Giraudet, Madame Pasca.

I will proceed in order of seniority.

The first named did not attend the lectures when I did, but I often heard him mentioned in society where he attracted attention by his rendering of Delsarte's "Stanzas to Eternity," Pierre Dupont's "Hundred Louis d'or," and many other impressive or dramatic pieces. I know the master considered him possessed of much aptitude and feeling for art.

They met one evening at a large party given by a high official of the day. Darcier sang well, in Delsarte's opinion; but it was perhaps too well for a public made up of fashionables, not connoisseurs.

"It takes something more than talent to move them," thought the real judge, annoyed; and with that accent familiar to well-bred people, which transfigures a triviality, he said to the singer:

"Let them have the bread!"

He referred to a political song ending with these lines:

"Ye cannot hush the moan Of the people when they cry: 'We hunger ...' For it is the cry of nature, They want bread, bread, bread!"

The guests were forced to give the attention which it demanded to this cry which aroused the idea of recent seditions, and the performer came in for his share.

This artist may still be heard, but his talents are displayed in so narrow a circle that his reputation is a limited one. Yet it is said that his compositions and his mode of singing them attest to great vigor.

Darcier, it seems, always retained a strong feeling of devotion for his master. He has been heard to say: "I fear but two things—Delsarte and thunder."

Alfred Giraudet joined the grand opera as primo basso cantante. He was warmly received by the press, and had already won a name at the Opera Comique and at concerts. In this singer may be noted the firmness of accent and scholarly mode of phrasing, always in harmony with the prosody of the language, which are part of the tradition of the great school. He always bears himself well on the stage, and the sobriety of his gesture is a salutary example which some of his present colleagues would do well to imitate.

He, too, was a loyal soul; he always regarded it as an honor to bear the title of pupil of Delsarte, the latter always writing to him as my dear and last disciple. I owe many of the memories and documents used in this volume to his kindness.

Alfred Giraudet always took his audience captive when he sang Malherbe's verses—music by Reber—of which each strophe ends with the following lines:

"Leave these vanities, put them far behind us, 'Tis God who gives us life, 'Tis God whom we should love."

The broad, sustained style, so appropriate to the words of the melody, finds a sympathetic interpreter in the young artist.

Delsarte gave this with great maestria. The finale, particularly, always transports the listeners.

If any one can revive the tradition of the master's teachings, it is certainly Giraudet, who understands the method and appreciates its high import.

Madame Pasca was one of the latest comers; her advent was an event. There were pupils in the school who were destined for the theatre, and there were women of society; the future artist of the Gymnase partook of both phases. She had the advantages of a vocation and of a careful education; her fortune allowed her to dress elegantly, with the picturesqueness imparted by artistic taste.

Chance, or a presentiment of speedy success, led her to take her place, on the first day, very near the master, in a peculiar seat—a sort of small, low easy chair which inspired one with a sense of nonchalance. She was in full sight. Her gaze, profound and sombre at times, roamed over the room with the natural air of a meditative queen. She inspired all beholders with curiosity and interest. The feeling which she aroused in her fellow-pupils was less distinct. Her rare advantages caused a vague fear in those who hitherto had securely held the foremost rank; her beauty created a sense of rivalry, unconscious for the most part, and yet betrayed by countless signs.

There was a flutter of excitement throughout the school. This increased when the young woman confirmed, by her first efforts, all that her agreeable appearance and fascinating voice had promised. She declaimed a fragment from Gluck's "Armida" which other pupils sang; a word sufficed to change interest to sympathy.

That accent touched all hearts. What visible grief and what a sense of suppressed tears when in her grave, slow tones she uttered the phrase:

"You leave me, Rinaldo! Oh, mortal pain!"

The master soon obtained from this marvellous aptness, what is rarely acquired, even after long years of study: dramatic effects free from all hint of charlatanism. The distinguishing point between Madame Pasca and Madame Barbot is, that the latter, while observing all the rules of the method avoided servile imitation.

Delsarte was all the more delighted at his success, because he had revealed to his scholar her true calling. Madame Pasca came to him for singing-lessons, but her large, strongly-marked voice had little range. She was directed toward the art which she afterward practiced, and began her studies with tragedy. Some idea of what she did in this field may be formed from the effect which she produced in pathetic scenes, where the comedy allowed her serious voice to show its power and penetrating tone.

I need not speak of Madame Pasca's success at the Gymnase and abroad. It is known and undoubted. Still she lacks the consecration of the stage where Mars and Rachel shone. When this artist left the school to enter upon her career, Delsarte said to her:

"My dear child, you will spend your life in atoning for the crime of being my pupil."

He was right, for Madame Pasca has no place at the Francais yet.

I can speak from hearsay merely, of the lessons in elocution and declamation intended for preachers—particularly for the fathers of the Oratory,—never having been present at them. I only know that Father Monsabre and other famous ecclesiastics took lessons from Francois Delsarte.



Chapter XV.

Delsarte's Musical Compositions.



Delsarte paid but little attention to musical composition; still his musical works prove that he would have succeeded here as elsewhere, had he devoted himself particularly to the task.

To say nothing of six fine vocal exercises and a number of songs which had their day, his "Stanzas to Eternity" were highly popular. A mass by him was performed in several churches; but his "Last Judgment," especially, ranks him among serious composers.

This setting of the Dies Irae is touching and severe; the melody is broad, sombre, threatening; the accompaniment reminds one of the dull rattling of the skeletons reassuming their original shape. One seems to hear the uneasy hum of voices roused from long sleep.

One incident showed the importance of this work. Various pieces of concerted music were being rehearsed one night at the church of St. Sulpice, for performance during the solemnity of "the work of St. Francis de Xavier." A close circle formed around the musicians; private conversation added a discordant note to the harmony; the church echoed back the footsteps of people walking to and fro.

The Dies Irae came! The music at first imitates the angel trumpets which, according to Christian belief, are to be heard when time shall end. The summons sounded four times.

This mournful chant of reawakening generations instantly silenced every voice and every step; all were motionless; and the solemn melody alone soared to the vaulted roof.

A touching story is told of this work. At a large and miscellaneous gathering, M. Donoso-Cortes, a well-known Spanish publicist, then ambassador to Paris, begged Delsarte to sing his Dies Irae. A space was cleared in the music-room.

The score of the symphony for voice and piano, made by Delsarte himself, retains all his intentions and effects, to which his striking voice added greatly.

Delsarte began:

"Dies irae, dies illa, Solvet saeclum in favilla, Teste David cum sybilla."

The whole assembly were taken captive. M. Donoso-Cortes was particularly moved. His eyes filled with tears. He was not quite well that night.

A week later the newspapers invited the friends of the illustrious stranger to meet at St. Philippe-du-Roule, to witness his funeral rites. Delsarte was present; the church was so hung with black that the choristers were alarmed for the effect of their motets.

The artist recalled the request made him the previous week by the Spanish ambassador. He felt as if that same voice came from the bier and begged him for one more hymn to the dead. In spite of his emotion, he offered to sing the Dies Irae.

To obviate the lack of resonance, Delsarte sang—according to his theory in regard to the laws of acoustics,—without expenditure of sound, almost mezza voce.

No one was prepared. The listeners were all the more overcome by those tones in which the friend's regrets pervaded, with their sweet unction, the masterly diction of the singer.

When his oldest daughter grew up, Delsarte seemed to take a fancy to a different style of composition. He would not give that young soul the regular repertory of his pupils, all passion and profane love. He wrote for Marie words and music—couplets which were neither romance nor song; nor were they quite canticles, although religion always lay at the base of them.

I know none but Madame Sand who can be compared to Delsarte in variety of feeling and simplicity even unto grandeur. I have often observed a likeness and, as it were, a kinship between these great minds. And yet these two great souls, these two great spirits, never exchanged ideas. The artist never received the plaudits of the distinguished writer. Both regretted it.

Delsarte said: "I lack that sanction," and Madame Sand wrote, when he had ceased to live: "I knew Delsarte's worth; I often intended to go and hear him, and some circumstance, beyond my control, always prevented."

The world owes a debt to Delsarte for collecting under the title "Archives of Song," the lyric gems of the XVI, XVII, and XVIII centuries. And also the songs of the Middle Ages, the prose hymns and anthems of the church, arranged conformably to the harmonic type consecrated by the oldest traditions.

"All these works," he wrote in his announcement of the work, "faithfully copied, arranged for the piano and transposed for concert performance, will finally be arranged and classified in separate volumes, to suit various voices, ages, styles, schools, etc., thus affording subject matter for a complete course of vocal studies."

I do not think that death allowed Delsarte to complete this vast plan, but it was partly finished. In the collection, we find the scattered treasures of an eminently French muse: old songs picked up in the provinces, in which wit and naive sentimentality dispute for precedence. All this still exists, but who can sing as he did the song beginning: "I was but fifteen," or "Lisette, my love, shall I forever languish?" and so many others!

To explain the inexpressible charm which distinguished Delsarte from all other singers, a songstress once said: "His singing contrives to give us the soul of the note. The others are artists, but he is the artist."



Chapter XVI.

Delsarte's Evening Lectures.



In Francois Delsarte's school there were morning classes and evening classes. The former were more especially devoted to the theory, to lessons. Those of which I shall speak might be compared to lectures, to dramatic and musical meetings. A choice public was always present. Among them were:

The composers Reber and Gounod;

Doctor Dailly, Madame de Meyendorf—a great Russian lady, the friend of art;

The Princess de Chimay and the Princess Czartoriska, who glided modestly in and took the humblest place;

Madame Blanchecotte, whose charming verses were crowned by the Academy;

Countess d'Haussonville, a familiar name;

M. Joly de Bammeville, one of the exhibitors at the Exhibition of Retrospective Arts, in 1878;

Doriot, the sculptor; Madame de Lamartine, Madame Laure de Leomenil, a well-known painter; Madame de Blocqueville, daughter of Marshal Davout, and author of his biography; a throng of artists, men of letters and scientists; certain original figures of the period.

On one occasion we were joined by a man of some celebrity—the chiromancist Desbarolles. Delsarte had the courtesy to base his theory lesson upon the latter's system; he pointed out its points of relation with the sum total of the constitution of the human being. It was a lesson full of spirit and piquant allusions; one of those charming impromptus in which Delsarte never failed.

From time to time certain persons in clerical robes appeared in the audience; the austerity of their habit contrasting somewhat strangely with the attire of the elegant women, men of fashion and young actors in their apprenticeship around them; but matters always settled themselves. One evening one of these priests was in a neighboring room, the doors of which were open into the drawing-room. If the songs seemed too profane, he kept out of sight; but so soon as the word God was pronounced or a religious thought was mingled with a romance, or operatic aria, the servant of the altar appeared boldly, rejoiced at these brief harvests which allowed him to enjoy the whole picture.

To give a correct idea of one of these evenings, I will copy an account which I have just written under the heading of "Recent Memories."

By half-past eight, almost all the guests have assembled. A stir is heard in the next room. "He is coming ... it is he!" is whispered on every hand. The master enters, followed by his pupils. Almost at the same instant a young woman glides up to the piano. She is to accompany the singers; she enters furtively, timidly, as if she were not the mistress of the house. She is beautiful, but she does not wish this to be noticed; she has much talent, but she disguises it by her calm and severe style of playing, which does not prevent critical ears from noting her exactitude and precision, combined with that rare spirit of abnegation which is the accompanist's supreme virtue.

Delsarte takes his place by the piano; his attentive gaze traverses the assembly; he exchanges a smile, a friendly gesture with certain of the audience who are always much envied. At this moment he is grave, serious, and as it were, penetrated by his responsibility to an audience who hang devoutly on his lips.

The professor begins by developing some point in his system; he gives the law of pose or of gesture; the reasons for accent, rhythm or some other detail connected with the synthesis which he has evolved. He questions his scholars.

The first notes of the piano serve to mark the change to practical instruction. The pupils sing in turn. The master listens with the concentrated attention peculiar to him; the expression of his face explains the nature of the remarks he is about to make, even before he utters them. He points out mistakes, he illustrates them.

Little by little, however, his dramatic genius is aroused. Achilles seems to seize his weapons or Agamemnon his sceptre. The scholar is pushed aside, Delsarte takes his place.

Then the artist is seen to the utmost advantage. There, dressed in the vast, shapeless coat which drapes itself about him as he gesticulates, his neck free from the cravat which puts modern Europeans in the pillory, and allowing himself greater space than at his concerts—there, and there alone, is Delsarte wholly himself.

The piano strikes the opening notes of the prelude, and before the artist has uttered a word, he is transfigured. If he is singing serious opera, the oval of his face lengthens, the lines become more fixed, his cheeks shrink, his forehead is lighted up and his eye flashes with inspiration; the pallor of profound emotion pervades his features, the somewhat gross proportions of his figure are disguised by the firmness of his pose and the juvenile precision of his gesture.

The part of Robert the Devil is one of those in which Delsarte best developed the resources and suppleness of his genius. Robert is the son of a demon, but his mother was a saint. He loves with sincere love; but even this love is subject to the influence of the evil spirit; hence, these outbursts followed by such tender remorse, that heart which melts into tears after a fit of rage. Robert is jealous, less so than Othello possibly, but Robert's jealousy is stimulated by infernal powers and must differ in its manifestation. It was in these shades of distinction that Delsarte's greatness was apparent to every eye.

Then came those indescribable inflections—words which pierced your heart, cold as a sword-blade: "Come, come!" says Robert, striving to drag Isabella away, ... and that simple word was made frantic, breathless, by the accent accompanying it. No one who has not heard Delsarte utter the word rival can conceive of all the mysteries of hate and pain contained in the word.

In the trio from "William Tell," after the words, "has cut an old man's thread of life," Arnold feels that Gessler has had his father murdered. A first and vague suspicion dawned on the artist's face. Little by little, the impression became more marked, a clearer idea of this misfortune was shown by pantomime; his eye was troubled, it kindled, every feature questioned both William and Walter; the actor's hand, trembling and contracted, was stretched toward them and implored them to speak more clearly. He was horror-stricken at the news he was to hear, but uncertainty was intolerable; and when, after these touching preparations, Arnold himself tore away the last shred of doubt, when he uttered the cry: "My father!" there was not a heart—were it bathed in the waters of the Styx—which did not melt from the counter shock of such violent despair.

The effects of rage, hate, irony, the terrors of remorse, the bitterness of disappointment, were not the only dramatic means in the possession of that artist whom Madame Sontag proclaimed as "the greatest known singer." None could express as did Delsarte, contemplation, serenity, tenderness—the dreams of a sweet and simple soul, and even the divine silliness of innocent beings. Wit and malice were equally easy for him to render.

In the duet from "Count Ory:"

"Once more I'll see the beauty whom I love,"

he was quite as apt at interpreting the hypocritical good-nature of the false hermit as the sentimental playfulness of the love-lorn page.

In his school the comic style bore an impress of propriety and distinction, because it resulted from intellectual perceptions rather than it expressed the vulgar sensations manifested by exaggerated caricature and grimace.

Delsarte thus put his stamp upon every style which he attempted; he renovated every part. He restored Gluck to life; he revealed Spontini to himself. The latter—the illustrious author of "Fernando Cortez"—was at a musical entertainment where Delsarte, whom he had never known, sang. He had drunk deep of the composer's inspiration: he showed this in the very first phrase of the great air:

"Whither do ye hasten? Oh, traitorous race!"

He sang with such vigorous accent, such great maestria, that—in the mouth of Montezuma—the words must have sufficed to rally the Mexican army from its rout. He gave the cantabile:

"Oh country, oh spot so full of charm!"

with indescribable sadness; desolation and despair seemed to fill his soul, and when the conquered man invoked the spirits of his ancestors:

"Shall I say to the shadows of my fathers, Arise—and leave your gloomy tomb!"

it seemed—so powerful was the adjuration—as if the audience must see the sepulchre open on the spot which the singer and actor indicated by his gesture and his gaze.

Such profound knowledge, sublime talent, terrifying effects and contrasts so skilfully managed, and yet so natural in their transition, strongly moved the composer.

"Do you know that you made me tremble?" Delsarte said to him after he had sang.

"Do you know that you made me weep?" replied Spontini, charmed to see his work raised to such proportions.

Delsarte was always master of himself, however impassioned he appeared.

Often, in his lessons, when every soul hung upon his accents, he would stop abruptly and restore the part to his pupil. Then, as if a magic wand had touched him, all the attributes of the personage who had lived in him, vanished. His face, his form, his bearing resumed their usual appearance. The artist disappeared, and the professor quietly resumed his place, without seeming to notice that the audience—still shaken by the emotions they had felt—blamed him for this too prompt metamorphosis.

Yet Delsarte was as agreeable a teacher as he was a marvelous artist. His instruction was enlivened by countless unexpected flashes; his sallies were as quick as gunpowder.

"I die!" languidly sang a tenor.

"You sleep!" said the master.

"Come, lady fair!" exclaimed another singer.

"If you call her in that voice, you may believe that she will never come!"

"Don't make a public-crier of your Achilles," said the master to some one with a rich organ, given over to its own uncultivated power.

All three smiled. The one tried to die more fitly; the other to call his lady fair in more seductive accents. The petulant outburst of the master taught them more than many a long dissertation.

Delsarte made great use of his power of imitating a defect; he even exaggerated it so that the scholar, seeing it reflected as in a magnifying-glass, more readily perceived his insufficiency or his exaggeration.

If this mode of procedure was somewhat trying to sensitive vanity, it was easy to see its advantages. The master's censure, moreover, was of that inoffensive and kindly character which is its own justification. It was a criticism governed by gaiety. Delsarte laughed at himself quite as readily as at the ridiculous performances which he caricatured, if opportunity offered. And if by chance any pupil less hardened to these assaults was intimidated or distressed, consolation was quick to follow.

I remember that a young girl gave rise to one of these striking imitations. Delsarte put such an irresistible comedy into it, that the audience was seized with an uncontrolable fit of mirth. The master's mimicry had far more to do with this than the poor girl's awkwardness. But she did not understand this. Her heart sank at this harsh merriment and tears rushed to her eyes.

"What is the matter," asked Delsarte; "why are you so disturbed? Among the persons whose laughter you hear, I do not think there is one who sings as well as you do! I exaggerated your mistake to make you aware of it; but you did your work in a way that was very satisfactory to all but your teacher."

Speaking of this irony tempered by mercy, I recollect that Delsarte, after a great success, was once complimented by the singer P., whose popularity far exceeded that of the "lyric Talma."

"And yet you have given me lessons," said Delsarte, emphasizing the word yet. Well! in such circumstances Delsarte showed neither the pride nor the malicious spirit which might be imputed to him; his mind seized a contrast which amused him, and his face interpreted it, but his voice remained soft and friendly; for, in spite of his biting wit and cutting phrases, his feelings were easily touched and his heart was truly rich in sympathy.

Delsarte sang a great deal during his lessons; and perhaps he gained, from the point of view of the voice, by confining himself to fragments; seizing the opportune moment, and his voice not having had time to be tired, he could give, for a relatively long space, the clear, ringing tones necessary for brilliant pieces. Then his vocalization—which has only a mechanical value with most singers—became sobs, satanic laughter, delirium, and terror.

Then, too, thanks to proximity, the most delicate tones could be heard to the extreme limits of the smorzando, still preserving that slightly veiled timbre unique in its charm, the mysterious interpreter of infinite sweetness and unspeakable tenderness.

One might perhaps have made a complete analysis of Delsarte from hearing him sing some dramatic song, but let him give Eleazar's air from "The Jewess:"

"Rachel, when the Lord,"

or that of Joseph:

"Paternal fields, Hebron, sweet vale,—"

let the artist give this in a quiet style, as putting a mute upon his voice, and the observer forgot his part; he followed the entrancing melody as far as it would lead him into the realms of the ineffable whence he returned with the fascination of memory and the sorrow of exile.

Let no one cry that this is hyperbole! One of the most remarkable accompanists in Paris, an attache of the Opera Comique, M. Bazile, was once so overcome by emotion in accompanying Delsarte that for some seconds the piano failed to do its duty.

I might recount numberless proofs of admiration equal to mine. One evening, at a lecture, the lesson turned upon a song from "William Tell:"

"Be motionless, and to the ground Incline a suppliant knee."

For stage effect, Delsarte called in one of his children, about eight or nine years old.

The subject is well known: William has been condemned to strike from a distance, with the tip of his arrow, an apple placed on the head of his child.

William bids the child pray to God, and implores him not to stir. Reversing the action of all actors whom we usually see, the artist recited the fragment in a wholly concentric fashion; he did not declaim; he made no gesture toward the audience; but what emotion in his voice, and how his gaze hovered over and around the dear creature who was perhaps to be forever lost to him! He called the child to him, he pressed him to his heart; he laid his hands on that young head. His caresses had the lingering slowness of supreme and final things, the solemnity of a last benediction.

"This point of steel may terrify thine eyes!"

says the text, and the tragedian, enlarging the meaning of the words by inflection and accent, showed that this precious life hung on a thread and depended on the firmness of his hand.

At the last phrase:

"Jemmy, Jemmy, think of thy mother, She who awaits us both at home!"

his voice became pathetic to such a degree that it was difficult to endure it. The child, who had restrained himself during the tirade, began to sob. All eyes were full of tears. One lady fainted.

At concerts his triumph was the same on a larger scale. I will give but one anecdote. A man of letters, who was also a skilled physician, said to Delsarte:

"Do you know, sir, that I made your acquaintance in a very strange way? I was at the Herz Hall, at your concert. Your voice and singing so agitated me that I was forced to leave the room, feeling oppressed and almost faint."

This impressionable listener referred to a day memorable in the annals of the master. Delsarte—he sang certain airs written for women in Gluck's operas—had selected Clytemnestra's song:

"A priest, encircled by a cruel throng, Shall on my daughter lay his guilty hand."

Just as this maternal despair reached its paroxysm, the artist raised both hands to his head and remained in the most striking attitude possible to overwhelming grief. Loud applause burst from every part of the hall; there was a frenzy, a delirium of enthusiasm. At the same time, a violent storm burst outside; the roaring thunder, the rain beating in floods upon the windows, the flashing lightning which turned the gas-lights pale, formed a tremendous orchestra for Gluck's music, and a fantastic frame for the sublime actor. Then, as if crushed by his glory, he prolonged that marvelous effect, and stood a moment as if annihilated by the frantic and tumultuous shouts of the audience.



Chapter XVII.

Delsarte's Inventions.



Delsarte always had his father's propensity to devote himself to mechanics that he might apply his knowledge of them to new things. When he felt his artistic abilities, not growing less, but their plastic expression becoming more difficult, owing to the cruel warnings of his departing youth, this tendency toward occupations more especially intellectual, became more marked.

It may be helpful here to note that a machine—that positive and most material of all things—is the thing whose creation requires force of understanding in the highest degree.

The brain, that living machine, lends its aid to the intellect; it represents the physical side; it is the spot where the work is carried on. Feeling has no part in the intellectual acts which work together in mechanical production,—mathematics playing the principal part,—it has no other share, I say, but to inspire certain persons with a passionate taste for abstract studies, which leads them toward useful and glorious discoveries.

Thus, this thought of Delsarte and Pierre Leroux seems to be justified: that, in no case, can man break his essential triplicity.

Delsarte, moreover, by changing the direction of his faculties, or rather by displacing the dominant, affirmed his freedom of will. If he did not always class himself with the strong, he still loved to reign over himself in the omnipotence of his will.

The artist became an inventor; he took out letters-patent for various discoveries, among others for an instrument of precision applicable to astronomical observations. Competent persons have recognized the great value of this invention, conceived without previous study, and which remains hidden among the papers of some official.

Only one of his mechanical conceptions was ever really put to practical use, that of the Guide-accord; it gained him a gold medal at the Exhibition of 1855; Dublin awarded it the same praise.

Berlioz wrote of this invention, in his book entitled, "A Travers Chants:"

"M. Delsarte has made piano tuning easier by means of an instrument which he calls the phonopticon. Any one who will take the trouble to use it will find that it produces such absolute correctness, that the most practiced ear could not attain to similar perfection. This Guide-accord cannot fail to gain speedy popularity."

On reading these lines, one is tempted to say: Here is an open-hearted writer; one likes this outburst in regard to a man who was in some sense his brother-artist. But what are we to think of this critic, when we reflect that in this same book, where he exalts the inventor, he never seems to remember Delsarte the revealer of a law, the creator of a science, the distinguished teacher, the famous artist. "He has rendered all pianists a great service by inventing this instrument," says the author of "A Travers Chants," and that is all. And he calls him Monsieur Delsarte, as if he were some unknown musical instrument maker or dealer! Had the author of "William Tell" or "Aida" vexed him, he would have spoken of them as M. Rossini, M. Verdi!

And yet he knew all about the man whom he seemed anxious to extinguish, for it was he who, in a musical criticism, wrote, among other praises: "It is impossible to imagine superior execution;" and elsewhere: "He renders the thoughts of the great masters with such brilliancy and strength, that their masterpieces are made accessible to the most stubborn intellect and the most hardened sensibilities are roused by his tones."

What had happened to make the author of the "Pilgrims' March" so oblivious of his own admiration? I have heard that the two musicians quarreled as to the interpretation of a passage by Gluck, and that a correspondence much resembling a literary warfare, followed. Could this justify defection? Perhaps a desire to stifle this glory, thereby to lend more lustre to some meteor or star, had some share in this supposed motive.

At any rate, the affair is not to the honor of Berlioz. We should never deny, whatever may happen, the just judgment which we have uttered. Direct or indirect, the rivalries of artists are to be regretted for the sake of art itself, which lives on noble sentiments and high thoughts. Although we may laugh at the inconsequence of a critic who extinguishes with one hand that which the other hand brought to light, we cannot repress a deep feeling of sadness when we see upon what reputation too often depends, and when we ask ourselves how much we are to believe of the opinions of certain chroniclers.

The fact which I have just quoted is the more surprising, inasmuch as Berlioz often drew his inspiration from the method of, and from certain modes of expression peculiar to Delsarte.



Chapter XVIII.

Delsarte before the Philotechnic Association.[8]



It was in 1865 that Delsarte was heard in public for the last time. The meeting took place at the Sorbonne where the lectures of the Philotechnic Society were then given.

I see him before me now with his strong personality, his captivating and persuasive speech, his mind with its incisive flashes; but a visible melancholy swayed him and was to follow him through the variety and contrasts of the subjects on his program.

And first, he takes pleasure in proclaiming to all the tale of his mistakes. Still young in heart and in mind, it seems as if in giving up hope on earth, he tolled the knell of all the enchantments that were passed and gone; that creative head fermenting with the ardor of discovery seems to doubt the future and bow beneath the burden of a sombre submission.

And yet he is surrounded by picked men who admire him, by women, young, beautiful, brilliant, eager to hear him, as of old; but he is not deceived by all this. A magic spell has vanished; sympathy is not denied him, but perhaps he feels it to be less tender, less affectionate than in the radiant days of his youth.

This explains how, in the course of that evening, a recrudescence of Christian feeling more than once tore him away from the undeniable assertions of science, not to drag him down to the puerilities of the letter, but to draw him up into the clouds of theology, whence hope of a future life, the consolation of farewell hours, smiled upon him.

But if Delsarte appeared depressed, he was not to be conquered. His restless spirit betrayed him to those whom his mystic fervor might have misled.

"Many persons," he said, "feel confident that they are to hear me recite or sing.

"Nothing of the sort, gentlemen; I shall not recite, and I shall not sing, because I desire less to show you what I can do, than to tell you what I know."

Soon a wonderful change passed over him. It seemed as if he had been covered with ashes for an instant, only to come forth in a more dazzling light. Hardly had his audience felt a slight sense of revolt at the words: "I shall not sing," than they found themselves in the presence of an orator not inferior to the greatest in the force of his images, and who, with all his serious and pathetic eloquence, never forgot the studied touches of the poet, or the dainty style of the artist.

But I will not delay my reader to listen to me! It is Delsarte himself who should be heard. I will give a few extracts:

"I count," he said, "on the novelty, the absolute novelty, of the things which I shall teach you: Art is the subject of this conversation.

"Art is divine in its principle, divine in its essence, divine in its action, divine in its aim.

"Ah! gentlemen, there are no pleasures at once more lasting, more noble and more sacred than those of Art.

"Let us glance around us: not a pleasure which is not followed by disappointment or satiety; not a joy which does not entail some trouble; not an affection which does not conceal some bitterness, some grief, and often some remorse!

"Everything is disappointing to man. Everything about him changes and passes away. Everything betrays him; even his senses, so closely allied to his being and to which he sacrifices everything, like faithless servants, betray him in their turn; and, to use an expression now but too familiar, they go on a strike, and from that strike, gentlemen, they never return.

* * * * *

"The constituent elements of the body sooner or later break into open rebellion, and tend to fly from each other as if filled with mutual horror.

"But under the ashes a youthful soul still lives, and one whose perpetual youth is torture; for that soul loves, in spite of the disappointments of its hard experience; it loves because it is young; it loves just because it is a soul and it is its natural condition to love.

"Such is the soul, gentlemen. Well! for this poor, solitary and desolate soul, there are still unutterable joys; joys not to be measured by all which this world can offer. These joys are the gift of Art. No one grows old in the realms of Art."

After a pungent criticism of the official teaching of art as hitherto practiced, Delsarte explained the chief elements of aesthetics. He said:

"AEsthetics, henceforth freed from all conjecture, will be truly established under the strict forms of a positive science."

But, as in the course of his lecture he had more than once touched the giddy regions of supernaturalism, this formula seemed a contradiction to certain minds, yet enthusiastic applause greeted the orator from all parts of the hall.

One paper, L'Union, said in this connection:

"M. Delsarte is a spontaneous soul, his mind is at once Christian and free, his only passion is the proselytism of the Beautiful, and this is the charm of his speech....I do not assert that everything in it should be of an absolute rigor of philosophy," etc.

The same paper says elsewhere:

"All these theories are new, original, ingenious, in a word, felicitous. Are they undeniably true? What I can affirm is that none doubt it who hear the master make various applications of them by examples. Delsarte is an irresistible enchanter."

The opposition of principles with which he is reproached, these doubts of the strength of his logic, will be greatly diminished if this point of view be taken: that Delsarte traced back an assured science, that he deduced from the faculties of man the hypothesis that these faculties are contained in essence and in the full power of their development, in an archetype which, to his mind, is no other than the Divine Trinity. Plato's ideal in aesthetics and in philosophy was similar although less precise.

There is a saying that Italians "have two souls." In Delsarte there were two distinct types, the theistic philosopher and the scientist.

Now, the philosopher could give himself up to the study of causes and their finality, that faculty being allotted to the mental activity; he could even, without giving the scientist cause for complaint, make, or admit, speculative theories regarding the end and aim of art, provided that the scientific part of the system was neither denied nor diminished thereby.

And is there not a certain kinship between science and hypothesis which admits of their walking abreast without conflicting?

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse