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or even homage by his “Annonce faite à Marie,' his mystery-play with its action laid in the days when Joan of Arc was already listening to her voices. Here was rhythmical prose; poetry, as it were, unbound. And a little later in 'La Brébis égarée,' M. Francis Jammes could mingle the divine and the human, the inward and the outward life, in wistful simplicity. But, once more, we may not linger outside the range of that Comedy of Manners which engrosses the general attention of the French public, and our own for the moment. For the same reason, the briefest mention of the whole drama in verse during the period must suffice. Such drama, of course, it is quite open to regard as of equal or superior importance. But it cannot be said to come closely home to the present business and bosoms' of men, French or other. The French public will listen to the pulse and cadence of the Alexandrine by way of relief and change, not unwilling to credit itself for the decent taste and tincture in letters. Moreover, Théodore de Banville and his successors can amuse, and titillate the ear with rich and humorous and tight-rope' rhyming. Coppée's Pour la Couronne,' or Richepin's 'Chemineau,' may win their fair recognition. But a single fact tells the whole tale. Twice only, in the period, and with an interval of twenty-two years, has triumph accrued to the drama in verse, in the cases of Henri de Bornier's • Fille de Roland' and Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. And the critics must exercise all their ingenuity, after the event, in discovering the reasons for such unexpected triumph.

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Returning to the broad current of dramatic comedy, to the Comedy of Manners, the group of more recent and contemporary playwrights at once engages us. And, however reduced by regretful omission of the less prominent and typical, it is no small group.

M. Maurice Donnay may claim early mention. He has all the esprit—that brilliant expression of intelligence and feeling—which stamps the Frenchman. And he is Parisian as well as French, blending irony and sentiment in his own graceful and subtle way. Perchance, in his case, it is sentiment that dominates, a tenderness that borders upon voluptuousness, and may pass at times into the region of the lawless or even the

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perverse. The contents of his whole work might well be covered by the titles of two of the most characteristic : ‘Amants' and 'La Douloureuse (The Reckoning). To

Το love, according to him, is to fall into mistakes and incur an inevitable penalty. Sooner or later, the primrose path leads to a tragic expiation; or at best we turn aside in such gentle melancholy and discreet resignation as befits the consciousness of a fleeting world. M. Donnay is a moralist, after the full French tradition; but he is lenient to the extreme, or beyond it. He has the large indulgence of the aged Renan for human weakness, for the pretty follies of either sex. He is Meilhac and Halévy over again, with added elegance and charm. Even the background is made an accomplice. And, as for the irresponsible natures of his women, their obedience to impulse and caprice, one may recall that Réjane long served him for model and ideal. In any case, he has the

. supreme gift of creating characters that live.

With such a gift, it barely matters that his native avoidance of effort extends to the composition of his plays, and that he proves more the delicate psychologist than the logical dramatist. It is sometimes said that art consists in making something out of nothing. That is the praise of a Racine, and also of M. Donnay in his degree. Or should he be rather likened to a Marivaux dealing with sentimental complications of the latest and most intimate pattern ? But nonchalant, or amused, or saddened spectator of the world's comedy, he is still the moralist, for all the smiling nihilism evident in his • Education de Prince.' His characters, unlike those set forth by certain of the younger dramatists, have still their scruples ; tradition still weighs with them. But the morals which he observes are relaxed, hedonistic rather than stoical. And he would seem to say throughout that easy obedience to instinct is to be expected; that no large requirements should be urged on human weakness.

With M. Donnay may be associated M. Henri Lavedan, if only because the play of the moment is apt to be written by the one or the other. The first impression might even confuse them; but it is difference rather than resemblance which emerges upon close acquaintance. They observe, indeed much the same world—the viveurs, the fêtards, the leisured and moneyed folk whose sole

Vol. 237,-No. 471.

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endeavour is to consort with fashion and follow their every impulse. His early dialogues, after the pattern of 'Gyp,' may be said to have ended for a time that form of literature, so utterly vacuous and vapid was the precisely reported conversation of these pleasure-seekers. And onward, throughout his work, he submits the like folk to pitiless, if laughing, irony. The line of the Nouveau Jeu' and the Vieux Marcheur' is continued in Le Marquis de Priola'--that figure of Don Juan no longer exalted, as by the Romantic school, but shown base, abject, and of to-day in his corruption, possibly of tomorrow if not of to-day in his perversity. The Prince d'Aurec' is also, or of course, one of the confraternity ; and hereupon M. Lavedan encountered his storm of protest and obloquy. The play, with its sequel les Deux Noblesses '-Augier's question of actual and ideal aristocracy put again after years of change-seemed to indict a whole class as lost and contemptible in its slackness and inefficiency. But it should have been remembered that M. Lavedan, ironical as M. Donnay, easily passes from irony to satire; and that satire is nothing if not wholesale and exaggerated. Alternatively, or almost simultaneously, he is the disillusioned spectator of manners and morals that obviously are mauvaises mours, and the moralist who is moved to explosive indignation. He but seeks and seizes upon the high subject for comedy. Through him speaks tradition in honourable protest against modernity. He is Augier renewed, robustly convinced that he has right and reason upon his side ; able also to put forth a Critique du Prince d'Aurec' as Molière put forth his Critique de l'École des Femmes.'

The work of Paul Hervieu, who died during the war, bears the impress of the tragic spirit. It is tragedy under modern conditions and within the elastic formula of the Comedy of Manners. His novels were already marked by a sombre austerity. The hostility of outward nature, and the grim borderland that parts reason from insanity, had engaged his attention. Thence he had passed to the exhibition of good society somewhat in the cold and detached manner of a Merimée, with such irony as allows the detail of horror in politest phrasing Society, he discovered, was held together by a framework of finance,

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as Balzac and Augier had discovered before him. Passion might wreck the individual; but society, the coalition of moneyed interests, continued its course, heedless as nature. And what was passion but savagery eruptive through the thin crust of simulated refinement? Love was counterfeit. Appetite, and the law of the stronger, prevailed. Passing from the novel to the drama, Hervieu adhered to his judgment of life, but found need to exchange a laboured and difficult style for that of Dumas fils. And if Dumas, finding marriage a main source of tragedy, demanded facilities for divorce, Hervieu would have these facilities still further expanded, that woman the weak might be less deplorably oppressed. In 'Les Tenailles' and La Loi de l'Homme, it is the Code that takes the part of an outward and malignant fatality. But in La Course du Flambeau' and Le Dédale,' the question of the child is paramount. Individuals must sacrifice themselves to the welfare of the next generation. And this necessity, more authoritative than written codes, being of such sort that it may freely be accepted, even welcomed in the interest of human dignity, may not Hervieu and his audience be said to have reached something like the high and religious sphere of tragedy? In any case, he is a master craftsman, baring his drama of all but its essentials, swiftly pressing to the logical issue of his characters and their initial situations in a way that recalls the classic models of the older French stage.

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The play with a thesis is continually exposed to the objection that it is an offence against art. It is evidently intended to prove something ; but the sole proof which it can possibly afford is that the playwright is ingenious in manipulating a special case chosen by him. The special case presented, though more or less typical, is but a special case. Yet art and morals, if not to be confused, are yet not contrary each to each. It is well within the range of art to suggest moral and social problems for further meditation, though it often happens that this meditation takes its readiest form in complaint that the author has dealt hardly with his characters, driving them as it were in spite of themselves to grievous ending. In any case, the problem-play is in the French tradition, and consonant with the French habit of intelligence. It comprises the main work of Dumas filsand of Molière himself. Convinced that society ails in this or that other part of its organism, how in the representation of it avoid discussing the problem of these maladies and their alleviations ?

M. Eugène Brieux is equally robust and convinced. He has not the tragic and concentrated vision of Hervieu. For him suffices the good common sense of the conscientious and generous bourgeois. Heredity, the results of ill-living, the ruin brought by gambling, the status of woman and her economical condition—these and other matters, large and small, urge him towards dramatic embodiment. Does his work lack style, or any claim to count as literature? This question at least troubles him little, provided each drama be a deed in words, widely reverberating. We may call his work 'morality-plays,' or so many anecdotes to illustrate copy-book headings and homespun commonplaces. But commonplaces, one might answer on his behalf, are not to be neglected with impunity. Perennial in their essence, they are freshly applied by M. Brieux as occasion requires. He does not, indeed, offer a panacea for social ills. Or even, he furnishes no single solution for any of the problems which he raises. Like the naturalistic playwrights of the Théâtre Libre (does he not belong to them at least in his beginnings?) he too readily shoulders the blame of individual error upon society at large, or destiny. Comedy in his hands becoming didactic, the play itself is apt to be lost amid the hubbub of partisanship or objection which it originates. But he has a vigilant eye for characteristic detail. He has written · La Robe rouge,' and 'Les Trois Filles de M. Dupont. Not to be Parisian in the least, to be almost unsophisticated, is to be original. His influence is almost wholly to the good; and he deserves respectful acknowledgment.

M. Brieux, intently watching the strife of social ideas, warns, advises, decides. It is otherwise with M. François de Curel, for whom social questions depend ultimately upon the individual. And the more complex the individual, the more problematic and incalculable; while again, being moved to action by ideas, he is the more dramatic, tragic, in proportion to the intensity

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