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bably on his authority that he relates the following characteristic anecdote of the youth of his brother romancer in his “Causeries :"
The labour of making anatomical preparations seemed dull enough to our young men, the more so as there was in the same room two great cabinets full of wine, compared with which the nectar of the gods was only as blanquette de Limoux.
These wines were presents made by the allied sovereigns to Dr. Sue after the invasion of 1815. There were wines of Tokay, given by the Emperor of Austria ; wines of the Rhine, given by the King of Prussia ; Johannisberg, given by M. de Metternich ; and lastly, a hundred bottles or so of Alicante, given by Madame de Morville, and which bore a more than respectable-a venerabledate, viz. 1750.
A variety of means had been tried to penetrate into the interior of the cabinets, but they had virtuously resisted all attempts at persuasion or force. All hopes of ever making acquaintance with the Alicante of Madame de Morville, the Johannisberg of M. de Metternich, the Liebfraumilch of the King of Prussia, and the Tokay of the Emperor of Austria, save by specimens which Dr. Sue poured out by thimblefuls at his great dinners, had been given up, when one day Eugène Sue, exploring by chance the cranium of a skeleton, found a bunch of keys. They were the keys of the cabinets !
very first day violent hands were laid upon a bottle of Tokay with the imperial seal, and it was emptied to the last drop; the bottle being afterwards made away
with. The next day the Johannisberg had its turn, the day after the Liebfraumilch, and then the Alicante. The same thing was done with the three bottles as had been done with the first.
But James Rousseau, who was the oldest, and who had in consequence a knowledge of the world superior to that of his young friends, who were only just Venturing their first steps on the slippery sois of society-James Rousseau judiciously observed, that at the rate they were going at a gulf would be rapidly effected, that Dr. Sue's eye would plunge into this gulf, and that he would find the truth there.
He then made the ingenious proposition that they should only drink a third of each bottle, and that it should be refilled with a chemical composition, which should resemble as much as possible the wine imbibed that day, should be artistically sealed, and put back in its place.
Ferdinand Langlé supported the proposition, and in his quality of vaudevilliste added an amendment, which was, that they should proceed to the opening of the cabinets, after the fashion of the ancients—that is to say, with the accompaniment of a chorus.
The two propositions passed unanimously, and the same day the cabinet was opened with a chorus, imitated from the “Leçon de Botanique.” The coryphæus sang :
Que l'amour et la botanique
A boire le vin des parents.”
Buvons le vin des grands parents !" And then example was added to precept. Once launched in the sea of poetry, the preparators composed a second chorus to lighten their work. This work consisted mainly in stuffing sundry magnificent birds which they received from the four quarters of the globe. Here is the chorus of the workmen :
“Goûtons le sort que le ciel nous destine ;
par le vin égayons nos travaux.” Upon which each in succession took a pull at the bottle, till it was no longer one-third, but half empty. It was then time to follow out the orders of James Rousseau, and to fill it up again.
This was the business of the chemical committee, composed of Ferdinand Langlé, Eugène Sue, and Delattre. Romieu was subsequently added to the number.
The chemical committee made a frightful mixture of liquorice and burnt sugar, replaced the wine drunk by this extemporised mixture, corked the bottle as neatly as they could, and put it back in its place. When the wine was white, the mixture was clarified with the white of eggs beaten up. It was natural that all this must end with a catastrophe.
One day that the doctor was gone to the country and not expected home, the chemical committee had dinner served in the garden, and they were gaily washing it down with Tokay and Johannisberg , when the gate of the garden opened, and the Commander appeared. The Commander was Doctor Sue. His irritation may be imagined at seeing the empty bottles of Tokay, Johannisberg, and Alicante lying on the greensward. The terror of the young men alone equalled it. Eight days afterwards Eugène Sue was sent away to Spain to act as sub-assistant-surgeon during the campaign of 1823. He was at that time twenty years of age. He did not return to Paris till the summer of 1824. The fire of Trocadero had developed his hirsute appendages, and he came home a handsome young
At this epoch Ferdinand Langlé, who was some five-and-twenty years of age, had just entered upon his career as vaudevilliste, and having established an intimacy with an actress of the Gymnase, Fleuriet by name, he seldom returned at night to his apartment at Dr. Sue's, notwithstanding which his kind mother always had supper laid out for him in case he should come home late, and Ferdinand, knowing this to be the case, used to send any one of his friends, who happened to be in want of the accommodation, to his supper and bed. This asylum became so well known, that at last it sometimes happened that one would follow a first, under which circumstances he would eat the remainder of the fowl, drink the remainder of the wine-if there was any—and then, lifting up the bedclothes, he would creep in beneath. At other times a third, and even a fourth would arrive, in which case they would find no supper, and have to sleep on the sofa, or they would draw a mattress from beneath the bed and sleep on the ground. One night Rousseau arrived the last; the light had gone out, he felt fourteen legs before he found a place to lay down in!
In the midst of this Bohemian life, Eugène Sue took the fancy to have a horse, a cab, and a groom. In order to gratify this wish he applied to two well-known money-lenders. They offered to sell him a stock of admirable wine for fifteen thousand francs, which would fetch one hundred per cent. profit. Eight days afterwards Eugène sold his bargain back to the capitalists-who held his bond for fifteen thousand francs—for fifteen hundred francs ready money. A cab was purchased,
and five hundred francs paid on account; a horse was procured by similar means, and the other five hundred served to dress a groom from head to foot. This magnificent result was arrived at in the winter of 1824 to 1825.
The cab lasted the whole winter. Unfortunately, one morning it was exchanged for horse-riding. Eugène Sue, accompanied by his friend Desforges, and followed by his groom, took an airing in the Champs Elysées. They had got nearly half way up the avenue, saluting the men and smiling at the ladies, when they saw a head issue from the window of a green brougham, and look at them with astonishment. This head almost affected the young men as much as if it had been that of Medusa, only instead of petrifying them it gave them wings, and they bolted off at a gallop. The head belonged to Dr. Sue.
However, they must return home. True, that they did not do so till the next day, but even then justice awaited them at the threshold in the person of the worthy doctor. It was necessary to avow all, and lucky it was so, for the usurers had begun to give trouble about the bond. They were, however, induced to give it up for two thousand francs ; a little affair before the correctional police, in which they were compromised, had made them more amenable than usual at that moment.
But Eugène Sue was sent off to the military hospital of Toulon, and Desforges, being master of his own 'actions, accompanied him in his exile. The last night was devoted to a farewell party. The enthusiasm attained such a pitch on that occasion, that Romieu and Mira resolved to accompany the diligence. Eugène Sue and Desforges were in the coupé, Romieu and Mira galloped on either side. Romieu galloped as far as Fontainebleau, but there he was obliged to get off his horse. Mira, in his obstinacy, made three leagues more, and was then obliged to stop. The diligence continued its way majestically, leaving the disabled behind. Romieu had to be taken back to the capital on a litter. Mira preferred waiting where he was till convalescent; he did not return to Paris for a fortnight, and then it was in the diligence.
Arrived at Toulon, Damon and Pythias started upon the relies of their Parisian splendour. These relics, faded as they were, passed for luxury at Toulon. The Toulonnais did not like the pretensions of the new-comers, and nicknamed Eugène le beau Sue (le bossu). The irritation of the townsfolk was still further increased by the young men presuming to pay attention to Mademoiselle Florival, première amoureuse at the provincial theatre, and who was protected by the sous-préfet. It was an insult to the authorities. They did not succeed, however, in gaining admission behind the scenes, although Desforges urged his claims as author of two or three vaudevilles. The consecration of Charles X. came to their aid. Desforges suggested an à propos to Eugène Sue. The latter indited one, and it was received with enthusiastic applause.
In the month of June, 1825, Damon and Pythias separated. Eugène Sue remained in possession of his entrées to the theatre and at Mademoiselle Florival's; Desforges started for Bordeaux, where he founded Le Kaleidoscope. Ferdinand Langlé had at or about the same time founded La Nouveauté at Paris. "Eugène Sue returned from Toulon towards the end of the year, and found all his old chums of the Rue du Rempart engaged on the new periodical. Desforges had abandoned his
provincial speculation and joined the band. Eugène Sue had penned an à propos, so he was also asked to contribute to La Nouveauté. He wrote “ L'Homme-Mouche,” which appeared in four papers. It was the first production of the author of " Mathilde" and of the Mystères de Paris."
In the mean time, it can be easily understood that La Nouveauté did not pay its numerous contributors in gold. Dr. Sue also continued to be inflexible; he had still on his heart not only the wine drunk, but the wine spoilt. There was also the wine bought! Only one resource remained. It was a watch of the time of Louis XVI., with an enamel back, surrounded by brilliants, a gift of his godmother, the Empress Joséphine. The watch was only parted with in extreme cases; it was then taken to the mont-de-piété, where fifty francs were obtained upon it. This occasion presented itself on the Mardi-Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, of 1826, but when the proceeds had been devoured, no alternative remained but to go to the country, and the young men went to Bouqueval, Dr. Sue's country seat. A festival was proclaimed here for Easter. Each guest was to contribute to it-one a fowl, another a lobster, a third a pasty. Now it so happened that each reckoning upon his neighbour, and all alike being in want of money, nobody brought anything. Still a dinner must be obtained somehow or other, so, there being no other alternative, they cut the throat of one of the doctor's sheep. Unfortunately it was a beautiful merino that the doctor kept as a specimen. It was cut up, roasted, and devoured to the last chop. When the doctor heard of this last prank his anger knew no bounds. A commission of sub-assistant surgeon in the navy was obtained for Eugène, and he was sent off to the West Indies.
It was there that he acquired the materials for his “ Atar Gull,” with its magnificent landscapes, which seem like fairy dreams. On his return to France a decisive engagement was being prepared against the Turks. Eugène Sue embarked as aide-major on board the Breslau, Captain la Bretonnière, and was present at the battle of Navarino. He brought back with him as spoils a magnificent Turkish costume, which was soon devoured, gold lace, embroidery and all. At the same time that he was eating the Turkish costume, he was busy with Desforges bringing out “ Monsieur le Marquis.” His taste for literature appears to have developed itself at this epoch, for he began at the same time his “Plick et Plock” in the periodical called La Mode. This was his starting point as
Just at this crisis his maternal grandfather died, leaving him about 80,000 fr. This was an inexhaustible fortune. The
young author, at that time about twenty-four years of age, resolved upon this accession of means to give up his profession and to devote himself to the fine arts, for which he thought he had a vocation, and with this view he furnished a home to himself, which he filled with curiosities and objects of virtù. In order the better to study his new profession, he also placed himself under the marine painter, Gudin, who was scarcely thirty years of age, but whose reputation was already made.
The youth of the parties caused the studies to be frequently interrupted by those pranks which seem to have been an essential part of Eugène Sue's life and career. Among others, he represented his master at a rendezvous, and which, when returned by a visit to Gudin's own house, he disconcerted by assuming the garb of the artist's valet! Another was
the persecution of an unfortunate porter, of whom Russian princesses, German baronesses, and Italian marchionesses were always asking for a lock of hair, whilst an invisible chorus sang,
Portier, je veux
De tes cheveux ! The joke assumed a practical character on one occasion, when five or six servants came to the aid of the porter, and the troubadours, obliged to convert their musical instruments into defensive arms, only got out of the scrape with the handles of their guitars in their hands. So pertinaciously was the persecution continued, however, that the unfortunate porter is said to have perished delirious in an hospital. This is the origin of Pipelet in the “Mystères de Paris,” and Eugène Sue has depicted himself in the rapin Cabrion.
The campaign of Algiers having in the mean time been inaugurated, Gudin started for Africa, and Eugène Sue, left to himself, once more laid aside the pencil and took up the pen. " Atar Gull,” one of his most complete romances, was begun at this period.
Then came the revolution of July. Eugène Sue associated himself with Desforges to produce the comedy entitled “Le Fils de l'Homme.” The predilections of the romancer were manifest. He did not forget that he was the godson of Joséphine, and that his name was Eugène. The comedy written, it remained in that condition ; the Orleanist reaction anticipated the authors. One of the criminals, too-Desforges-had become secretary to Marshal Soult. Now it was not to be expected that, as the Duke of Ragusa owed everything to Napoleon, he would like to see a play performed in honour of his son. An author's vanity is, however, a frailty that leads to many acts of imprudence. Desforges was one day induced to read the play to Volnys, a general of the Empire, who had not been made marshal, and who therefore held its memory
in reverence. Volnys was delighted, and asked for a loan of the manuscript. Six weeks had elapsed when a rumour became current that some great event was preparing at the Vaudeville. That theatre was at that time under the management of Bossange, himself a joint author, French fashion, with Soulie, and he was backed by Déjazet. The two together were supposed to be capable of anything.
One evening, Desforges, anxious to know what was this literary event anticipated at the Vaudeville, made his way behind the scenes.
Here he fell in with Bossange, and tried to obtain some information from him.
But Bossange was in too great a hurry.
“Ah! mon cher," he exclaimed, “ I cannot listen to you now; only imagine Armand has been taken ill and cannot come, so that we are obliged to exchange the piece in which he was to appear for one that has only, just been rehearsed, and is not yet known. Come, monsieur le régisseur, is Déjazet ready?”
“Yes, Monsieur Bossange.”
The three knocks were given. “Place on the stage !" was shouted out, and Desforges was obliged to take place with the rest behind the scenes.
The régisseur, in white cravat and black coat, advanced to the footlights, and, making the stereotyped bows,
“ Gentlemen,” he said, one of our artists having been taken ill at the moment for raising the curtain, we are obliged to give you, in place of the second piece,