Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 Chapter I
 Chapter II
 Chapter III
 Chapter IV
 Chapter V
 Chapter VI
 Chapter VII
 Chapter VIII
 Chapter IX
 Chapter X
 Chapter XI
 Chapter XII
 Chapter XIII
 Chapter XIV
 Chapter XV

Group Title: History of theatrical art in ancient and modern times
Title: A history of theatrical art in ancient and modern times ; Volume IV : Moliere and his times, the theatre in France in the 17th century
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00076221/00002
 Material Information
Title: A history of theatrical art in ancient and modern times ; Volume IV : Moliere and his times, the theatre in France in the 17th century
Series Title: A history of theatrical art in ancient and modern times
Uniform Title: Skuespilkunstens historie ..
Physical Description: 6 v. : fronts., plates (part double) ports., plans, facsims. ; 25 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Mantzius, Karl, 1860-1921
Cossel, Louise von ( Translator )
Archer, Charles, 1861-1941 ( tr )
Publisher: Peter Smith
Place of Publication: New York
Manufacturer: Polygraphic Company of America
Publication Date: 1937
Subject: Theater -- History   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by Karl Mantzius; with an introduction by William Archer. Authorised translation by Louise von Cossell ...
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
General Note: Vol. 6 translated by C. Archer.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00076221
Volume ID: VID00002
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 01241039
lccn - a 37000379

Table of Contents
    Half Title
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
    List of Illustrations
        Page xi
        Page xii
    Chapter I
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 6a
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 8a
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    Chapter II
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 32a
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 34a
        Page 35
    Chapter III
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 40a
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 42a
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 48a
    Chapter IV
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
    Chapter V
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 78a
    Chapter VI
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 88a
        Page 89
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        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
    Chapter VII
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 102a
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 104a
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
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        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
    Chapter VIII
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
    Chapter IX
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
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        Page 152
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        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 156a
        Page 157
    Chapter X
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 164a
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
    Chapter XI
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
    Chapter XII
        Page 180
        Page 180a
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
    Chapter XIII
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 196a
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 202a
        Page 203
    Chapter XIV
        Page 204
        Page 204a
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
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        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 222a
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 224a
        Page 225
    Chapter XV
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
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Full Text


Portrait of Moliere as a young man.


Fig. 12.

-r dLI '~I C' -'
- c.,.-.~

A History of Theatrical Art

In Ancient and Modern Times by

Karl Mantzius

Authorised Translation by
Louise von Cossel

Volume IV

Moliere and his Times

The Theatre in France in the I7th Century

... ..

* *.*

* *

New York
Peter Smith










'_ .,..
'. "
' "

* *
*s *


THOUGH the book which is here presented to English
readers chiefly deals with Moliere, and includes a sketch
of the life of the great dramatist, the author does not
wish it to be considered as a biography properly so
called. It is at the same time something more and a
good deal less. It supplies more of the background of
theatrical history and of the milieu in which the great
actor-manager lived than is found in the ordinary
biographies of Moliere; whereas the reader who looks
for detailed information about Moliere as a poet, and
desires an aesthetic appreciation of his works, will not
find what he seeks in these chapters.


I. State of Theatrical Affairs in Paris about the Year 16oo-The
Privileged Passion-Brothers and the Old H6tel de
Bourgogne Jugglers of the Fairs Poverty and ,
Degradation of Actors- Mondory and his Company-
Ddbut of Corneille-The Marais Theatre is Built I

II. Two Styles in Dramatic Art-Bellerose and Mondory-
First Performance of the Cid-Richelieu and the Theatre
-Mirame on the Stage of the Cardinal 17

III. First Steps of Molibre in his Theatrical Career-The Bdjart
Family and the Illustrious Theatre-Moliere's Family
and Education-The Struggle to conquer Paris-Failure
of the Company-Moliere and the Bejart Family go to
the Provinces .36

IV. Moliere's Years of Wandering-New Adversities and Trials-
Fortune Smiles-First Comedies of Moliere and Sojourn
of the Company in the South of France-Actresses of
the Troupe and Moliere's Relations with them 49

V. Return to Paris-Moliere acts before Louis XIV.-The First
Signal Victory is won with Les Prcieuses Ridicules-
Prosperity of the Petit Bourbon Theatre-Additional
Members-Monsieur de la Grange, Moliere's Right
Hand 64

VI. Material Conditions of Parisian Theatres-The Republican
System-Income of"he Actors-Origin ofithe Feu-
i ExpensivBeess of Costumes-Theatrical F'nctionaries-
The Orator" and his Duties-Moliere anotther Actors
as Orators-Disturbances and Scandals in the Play-
houses- Subordinate Theatrical Functionaries The
Prompter and the Memory of the Actors. 79


SVII. Arrangement of the Theatre-Spectators -on the Stage- PA
Their rude Behaviour and Molibre's Anger The
"Standing" Pit and its Public-Days and Hours of
Performance-Social and Financial Relations between
Authors and Actors-Moliere's Large Income-Diffi-
culties in Distribution of Parts to Actresses-Rehearsals
-Moliere as Stage Manager 100

VIII. Beginning of Hostilities between the Company of Molibre
and the Royal Actors-Leading Actors of the H6tel de
Bourgogne-Montfleury and his Art-Poisson, the Comic
Actor, and his Crispin-Floridor and the Actresses of
the H6tel 123

IX. The Great Theatrical Controversy between Moliere and the
H6tel de Bourgogne-The Moliere Company moves to
the Palais Royal-Don Garce de Navarre and its Failure
-L'Ecole des Maris and Les Fdcheux-L'Ecole des 4-1
Femmes, its Extraordinary Success and the Conse-\.)
quences Polemics from the Stage Boursault and \
Moliere 136

X. Marriage of Moliere-Armande Bdjart as Woman and as
Actress-Continuation of the Theatrical Controversy-
Moliere as Tragic Actor-End of the Controversy-
Tact shown by Louis XIV. 58

XI. Popularity of the Theatre in Paris The Troupe of
Mademoiselle-The Little Actors of the Dauphin-The
Story of Raisin's Spinet-Baron as a Child-Poetical
Development of Moliere-His Circle of Friends -
Disloyalty of Racine 170

XII. Tartufe-The Object of its Satire-Cabal of the Bigots-
Obstinate Struggle over Tartufe-Don Juan-Courage
of Moliere in the Face of the Bigots 8. .

XIII. Molibre's Power of Work-His Matrimonial Troubles-
Le Misanthrope-George Dandin-The Resistance of
the Cabal is overcome, and Tartufe appears on the
Stage Composition of the Companies Ddbut of
Baron on the Stage of Molibre 193


XIV. Lulli and Moliere-Court-Entertainments and Farces-Les
Femmes Savantes and the Personal Attacks contained in
it-Last Play of Moliere- His Death and the Behaviour
of the Clergy at his Burial 204

XV. Difficulties of the Company after the Death of Moliere-
Business Abilities of La Grange-The Remains of the
Marais Troupe join the Company of Moliere-The New
Theatre-Baron becomes a Member of the H6tel de
Bourgogne-His Style of Acting as a Young and as an
Old Man-His Character-Mademoiselle Champmesl6,
the Leading Tragic Actress of her Time-Fusion-"6f the
H6tel de Bourgogne and of the Old Company of Molire
into the single Comndie-Franaise" 226


Portrait of Moliere as a young man (from a picture by P.
Mignard). Figure 12 Frontispiece
FIG. Facingfagi
r. Situation of the H6tel de Bourgogne Theatre (from an old map
of Paris) 6
2. The Fair of Saint Laurent (from Germain Bapst: Essai sur
IHistoire du Thdtre) 8
3. Guillot Gorju (from a print by Huret, Royal Collection of Prints,
Copenhagen) 6
4. Situation of the Marais Theatre (from an old map of Paris) 18
5. Portrait of Pierre Corneille 18
6. Jodelet (from a print by Huret, Royal Library, Copenhagen) 32
7. Stage of Richelieu, third act of Mirame (from a print by della
Bella, Royal Collection of Prints, Copenhagen) 32
8. Louis XIII. and Richelieu in the Petit Bourbon Theatre (after
a print by van Lochum, entitled le Soir; from J. J.
Jusserand : Shakespeare in France) 34
9. Madeleine Bdjart (from Hillemacher's Troupe de Moliere) 40
Io. The house where Moliere was born (from ke Molidriste) 40
II. Booth of the Quack called the Orvietan" (from Ch. Reynaud's
Muske Ritrospectif) 40
13. Moliere taking a lesson from Scaramuccia. Title-page of
Elomire Hypocondre (from Schweitzer's Molire-Museum) 42
14. The Moat near the Tour de Nesle, where Moliere's first theatre
was situated (from an etching by Jacques Callot, Royal
Collection of Prints, Copenhagen) 48
I5. Joseph Bdjart (from Hillemacher's Troupe de Moliere) 48
16. Gros Rend : the actor Rend Berthelot, also called Duparc (Ibid.) 48
17. A company of actors visiting a country seat (from a print
of the beginning of the seventeenth century by Jacob
Maytham, Royal Collection of Prints, Copenhagen) 54
18. Mlle. de Brie (after Hillemacher's Troupe de Moliere) . 54
19. Mlle. Duparc (Ibidem) 54
20. Moliere as Mascarille and Sganarelle (title vignette of the
original edition of the works of Moli6re) 70
21. La Grange (from a print by Jean Sauvd: from Hillemacher's
Troupe de Moliere) 78
22. Costume d la Romaine (after an original drawing in the library
of the Opera in Paris: from Ch. Reynaud'sMusie Rtrospectif) 78
23. Turkish costume (from a drawing by Bdrain. Ibidem) 78


FIG Facingfagt
24. Old play-bill of the Marais Theatre (Ibidem) 88
25. Moliere as "Orator" in the costume of Sganarelle (after an
original drawing in the National Library, Paris: from G.
Bapst : Essai sur l'Histoire du TAhdtre) 88
26. Petit Maitre on the stage (after a print by St Jean: from J. J.
Jusserand's Shakespeare in France) 102
27. The interior of the ThdAtre frangais in 1726 (from a print by
CoypeL Ibidem) 2
28. Plan of the Thditre franqais in 1752, with seats for spectators
on the stage (from Jullien's Les Spectateurs sur le TAhdtre) 104
29. Raymond Poisson as Crispin (from a print by Edelinck, Royal
Library, Copenhagen) 56
30. Scene of L'Ecole des Femmes. Frontispiece of the original
edition (Moliere and Mile. de Brie) 56
31. Armande Bdjart, Molibre's wife (from Hillemacher's print in
La Troupe de Moliere) 156
32. Moliere as Caesar in La Mort de Pomple (from a picture
by Mignard, Collection of the Thdetre Francais) 164
33. Jean Racine (from a print by Edelinck) o
34. Scenes from La Princesse d'Elide (from a series of costume
drawings by Engelbrecht, Royal Collection of Prints,
Copenhagen) 180
35. La Thorilliere (from Hillemacher's Troupe de Moliere) 180
36. Moliere in mature age (after a picture by Mignard (?) in the
picture gallery of the Duke d'Aumale at Chantilly: from
Monval's Chronologie Molidresque) 196
37. Scenes from George Dandin (from a print by Engelbrecht, Royal
Collection of Prints, Copenhagen) 96
38. Michel Baron (from a print by J. Daull, Royal Library,
Copenhagen) 202
39. Mile. Beauval (from Hillemacher's Troupe de Moliere) 204
40. Jean Baptiste Lulli (from a print by Roullet, Royal Library,
Copenhagen) 204
41. A court performance at Versailles (from a series of prints in
memory of Fites des plaisirs de 'ile enchant/e, after Israel
Sylvestre, Royal Collection of Prints, Copenhagen) 210
42. Scenes from Le Malade Imaginaire (from a print by Engelbrecht,
Royal Collection of Prints, Copenhagen) 224
43. A page of La Grange's Registre, with the entry of the death
of Moliere (after a photograph of the original MS., which
belongs to the Comedie Franqaise) 222
44. Michel Baron in his last period (from Hillemacher's Troupe de
Moliere) 224

State of Theatrical Affairs in Paris about the year i6oo-The Privileged
Passion-Brothers and the old H6tel de Bourgogne-Jugglers of the
Fairs-Poverty and Degradation of Actors-Mondory and his
Company--Dbut of Corneille-The Marais Theatre is built.

AT the close of the sixteenth century theatrical affairs
in France were still on a very low level. While, about
the year 600o, London possessed no less than six large
permanent theatres, a class of uncommonly efficient and
generally esteemed professional actors, and a dramatic
literature which has never yet been equalled in power
and splendour; while Italy was sending forth its brilliant,
well-trained companies to all civilised countries; Paris as
yet possessed but one poor play-house, with a class of
actors hardly superior to common jugglers, and a
repertoire of scarcely any literary value.
It is not difficult to find the reason of this poverty in
a nation otherwise endowed with great dramatic talent.
In Paris, which was then, as now, the heart of France,
all theatrical business was by royal privilege in the
hands of a dramatic society of artisans, called the
"Passion-Brothers," who had the power of preventing
all theatrical performances of which they did not reap
the profits "in the city of Paris as well as in its suburbs
and the surrounding country."
The first privilege of the Passion-Brothers dated from
I402, the last-which was confirmed by all the kings


successively, and was still in force at the beginning of
the seventeenth century-was granted in 1548. As the
Brothers were at the same time forbidden to perform
Passion-plays and Mysteries, and as, moreover, they no
longer appeared on the boards in person, it might be
thought that the privilege had lasted long enough, and
that there would have been good reason for intimating
to the dramatic artisans that in future they had better
content themselves with keeping to their professions.
Privileges, however, as we know, are an obstinate
evil, and the France of the seventeenth century
offered a particularly favourable soil for this parasite.
So the Brothers did not actually lose their old pre-
rogative till 1677, though, indeed, their monopoly had
been violated many times in the interval, and though
their connection with theatrical art during this period
had been limited to constant litigation with the actors
with whom they had had to deal. To these lawsuits,
however, posterity owes some obligation, inasmuch as
they present a few points of support to the historians
of this otherwise obscure period.
As it was, at the beginning of the seventeenth
century the Fraternity was in possession of the only
established theatre in Paris, and no company was allowed
to act in any other place. This theatre was called The
H6tel de Bourgogne," as it was built on a site on
which in former times the Dukes of Burgundy had
had their castle, and which had been acquired by the
Brothers in 1548 with the purpose of building their play-
1 For its earlier merits and other details of its work, see vol. ii., Middle
Ages and Renaissance, pp. 13-118.


house there. The H6tel de Bourgogne theatre was
situated at the corner of the Rue Mauconseil and the
Rue Franqaise in the Saint Denis quarter, not far from
the present Halles Centrales.
We have no detailed description of the outward
appearance of this theatre. Originally it was destined
for the performance of Mysteries, for the decree which
forbade this kind of plays was not issued till after the
house had been built, and in spite of the prohibitions, the
old ecclesiastical plays, disguised as tragedies or historical
plays, were performed throughout the whole of the six-
teenth century. In accordance with its original purpose,
the stage, no doubt, consisted of the usual large platform
or tribune extending towards the auditorium, and affording
sufficient space for the multitude of decorations required.
The auditorium was long, narrow and low, with two galleries
running along the walls. So far as can be judged from
the scanty contemporary evidence, the H6tel de Bour-
gogne was a rather gloomy and not very festive spot,
and during the first period of its existence the public
which visited it was on a level with the place-a gang
of idlers who met in the theatre before the beginning of
the entertainment to drink, gamble, and fight, and to
whom the play only offered additional opportunities for
quarrels and disturbances, so that the enemies of the
theatre had indeed some justification for calling it "a
den of iniquity and a house of Satan, named the H6tel
de Bourgogne.'"
But times changed and so did the theatres. The
Italian and Spanish companies, which from the close of
the sixteenth century frequently visited France, brought


lessons of other styles of theatrical art very superior to
the dramatic entertainments that had hitherto satisfied
the Parisians. The Italians in particular introduced a
perfectly developed theatrical technique, a refined and
formally complete style of acting and a peculiar and varied
repertoire which, notwithstanding the foreign speech of
the performers, enchanted the French public. The
Spaniards, it is true, offered plays of much higher value
than the Italians, but the Spanish language was much
less known to the public than the Italian, and the
Spaniards could not compensate for this drawback by the
brilliant and expressive gesticulation and the vivid facial
play, in which the Italians were, and are, unsurpassed.
The clumsy amateur art of the old artisans had
become a laughing stock. It became evident now that
they could neither speak nor move properly, and though,
no doubt, it was hard for them to give up their pre-
tentions to being artists, they had to submit to the
irresistible demands of their age.
As early as 1578 they had let their theatre to
professional actors, and these formed the first French
company which acted in Paris under the management
of Agnan Sarat, "the first," says a somewhat later
author, "who won fame in Paris." How he did so,
what his repertoire was, and what his style, we are
absolutely ignorant. A remarkably dense obscurity
prevails with regard to all French actors at the close
of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth
centuries, and this proves more conclusively than any-
thing else that the national art was still of very slight
SLes historiettes de Tallemant des Rlaux, vii. 170.


importance, and its effect quite insignificant compared
with that of contemporary art in other civilised nations.
During the later decades of the century, the H6tel
de Bourgogne was used for performances by French,
Italian, and English companies in turn. Now and then
the Passion-Brothers themselves mounted the boards,
and it was not till the new century that they definitely
gave up acting, and contented themselves with being
present at the performance and criticising the foreign
companies from the two principal boxes close to the
stage, which they continued to claim for themselves,
besides a very considerable rent.
Henceforth the H6tel de Bourgogne was a real
theatre, managed and let by the Passion-Brothers, some-
thing in the manner of a company of privileged share-
holders, who interfered each time any company except
the one renting their play-house attempted theatrical
performances in Paris.
As yet this single Parisian theatre was not per-
manently occupied by one established company; it
was used in turn by the best provincial troupes and
by foreigners. In the spring of 1599 two companies
arrived in Paris, one French, under the leadership of
Valleran Lecomte, and one Italian. Both these troupes
acted at the Court of Henry IV., which, of course, the
Brothers could not forbid; but when they attempted
to give performances in the town, in some tennis-court
or other suitable place, the Passion-Brothers at once
stepped in with their privilege, and both troupes were
compelled to hire the H6tel de Bourgogne, where for
a short while they played alternately. Valleran Lecomte


called his company "The French Actors in Ordinary
to the King," a title which was afterwards transferred to
the company of the H6tel de Bourgogne.
But neither of these companies remained for long.
The French troupe could not stand against the competi-
tion of the Italians, and had to retire. Then the Italians
left. A new French company arrived, under the leader-
ship of the celebrated fat comedian, Robert Gu6rin,
nicknamed Gros Guillaume; after remaining there for
some years, it was succeeded by a third troupe, the
distinguished Italian company i Gelosi, with Francesco
Andreini and his beautiful wife Isabella as the most
prominent elements, who acted for some months in the
year 1604, just before the death of Isabella.1 Then
Valleran Lecomte returned. In short, there was per-
petual restlessness and change, with no sign of order
and stability in theatrical matters.
About ten years of the seventeenth century have to
pass before at last we find a stationary company at the
H6tel de Bourgogne. This company was Valleran
Lecomte's. Its performances took hold of the Parisian
public; its actors became popular ; the ensemble of the
three comic actors, Gros Guillaume, Gaultier Garguille,
and Turlupin,2 was the standing wonder to be seen by
1 On this company see vol. ii. Middle Ages and Renaiss., p. 281 ff. I
take this opportunity of correcting a mistake. The statement on p. 284 that
"after a sojourn of three years in Paris" Isabella was to return to Italy,should
read three months. The performances of the company began in December
1603 and ended in March or April 1604.
2 These early actors of the H6tel de Bourgogne have also been mentioned
in some detail in vol. ii. Middle Ages and Renaissance, and I again take
the opportunity of correcting some of my statements. Opposite p. 194 is an
illustration, which had hitherto escaped the attention of historians of the
French theatre. It shows, among other things, a hitherto unnoticed actor


I-Situation of the IItel de Bourgogne.
3-Guillot Gorju.


everybody; the repertoire, provided by permanently
engaged authors, mostly by Alexandre Hardy, hit the
general taste; in short, the proper conditions for the
success of a theatre in the modern sense of the word
were now at hand.
It is obvious, however, that this one little theatre
could not supply the needs of so large a city, or of the
numerous actors then in France. In the provinces

named Michau, whom I supposed to have been a forerunner of Gaultier
Garguille. However, Professor Eugene Rigal, the greatest modern expert on
the theatre of this period, has convinced me that he was more likely a suc-
cessor of that comic actor, whose costume he wears ; and both of us have come
to the conclusion that he may possibly have been identical with Jacquemin
Jadot, who also appears in the costume of Gaultier Garguille. In that case
Jadot-like Garguille and others-would have borne three names : Jacquemin
Jadot in private life, La France as a tragedian, and Michau as a farce-player.
(Comp. Rigal: Le Thidtre franfais avant la firiode classique, p. 330 ff.).
Moreover, since I published the volume containing this portrait, I have seen
this same Michau mentioned in a way which proves that he belonged to the
company of the H6tel de Bourgogne. On the occasion of the sojourn in
Paris of Christina, Queen of Sweden, Loret, the chronicler of the time, writes
in his Muse historique for March 2nd, 1658:-
S. .La dite Majest6
A, trois ou quatre fois, 6td
Au fameux H6tel-de-Bourgogne;
Non pas pour voir Dame Gigogne,
Turlupin, Garguille ou Michaud;
De telles gens il ne lui chaud,
Ains plut6t les mdprise, parce
Qu' elle n'aime farceur ni farce;
Le comique ne lui plait pas . .
Mais elle aime la tragddie.
(Her said Majesty has been three or four times to the famous H6tel
de Bourgogne; not to see Dame Gigogne, Turlupin, Garguille, or Michaud;
for such folks she does not care; nay, rather she dislikes them, because she
loves neither farce-player nor farce. The comic she does not like . but
she loves tragedy.)
In 1658 Gaultier Garguille was dead, but his name lived, and its being
mentioned here in connection with that of Michau shows us the right
chronological relation between' them, at the same time proving beyond
doubt that in 1658 Michau was a farce-player at the H6tel de Bourgogne


several smaller companies were travelling about, longing
to go to the capital, but unable to satisfy their desire
except at the times of the fairs; for, in spite of all their
resistance, the Passion-Brothers had not been able to
drive away the actors from the large fairs of Saint Ger-
main and St Laurent.
King Henry IV., who was very fond of visiting the
fairs, where he gambled and amused himself in different
ways, granted a special license for the performance of
plays there, of which the actors were not loth to avail
Some of them were engaged by the great travelling
quacks, who used them to advertise their remedies. We
must not understand by this that one or another of them
was paid to play the mountebank, to beat a drum and
shout witticisms from a platform. Far from it; the quack
doctors were great and mighty people, who grudged
no expense in advertising. Here is a contemporary
description of their proceedings: They are wont to
parade through the streets on horseback in superb and
magnificent raiment; from their necks hang gold chains,
which have, perhaps, been borrowed from some goldsmith.
They are well mounted on Spanish jennets, Neapolitan
palfreys or German hacks, followed by a large train
and caravan of hangers-on, idlers, jugglers, actors, farce-
players, and harlequins. Thus, in gorgeous procession,
they visit the cross-roads and public places of towns and
villages, where they set up their platforms or theatres,
from which their buffoons and cunning rogues amuse
the people with a thousand tumblings, buffooneries,
and conjuring tricks, while they advertise and sell

._ .-----

..- --- -

2-The Fair of St Laurent.


their goods, or rather, their quack remedies, to the
These quacks would engage whole companies of
actors, even of the better sort. Thus, for instance, the
"miracle-doctor," Franqois Braquette, hired the dis-
tinguished Italian troupe, i Gelosi, to give performances
for him in Lyons. Several of the H6tel de Bourgogne
actors are said to have won their spurs on the improvised
stages at the fairs, in the service of so-called "operators";
Jean Farine, for instance, who is supposed to have been
a travelling doctor himself, but who afterwards mounted
the boards of the H6tel de Bourgogne in Gros-Guillaume's
branch of the art; Deslauriers, surnamed Bruscambille,
who gained fame by his comic prologues, which he com-
posed for himself; and Bertrand Hardouin, whose name
as a farce-player was Guillot-Gorju, and who ridiculed
professional physicians in the character of the pedant,
which was his class of part.2
Others never rose to be more than mountebanks; such
was Jean Salomon, whose theatrical name, Tabarin, was
as well known as the Pont-Neuf, where he played his
farces for the benefit of the pills and ointments of the
quack Mondor.
How close was the connection between the jugglers
and the actors properly so called, may be seen, for one
thing, from the fact that a daughter of Tabarin was
married to Gaultier Garguille, one of the leading actors
of the H6tel de Bourgogne. It may be supposed, on the

I Satyre centre les charlatans et fseudo-midecins empyriques.-Paris,
161o, quoted by E. Rigal: Le Thidtre franfais, p. 19, n. 2.
2 Vol. ii., Middle Ages and Renaissance, pp. 206, 207.


whole, that neither the public nor the actors of the time
made any distinction between the art of the fair and that
of the theatre. And, indeed, the only difference lay in
the localities; the repertoires and the style of acting
were the same, for even at the fairs plays of a higher
order might be seen, like those which :formed the
repertoire of the H6tel de Bourgogne, together with
the farces..
The theatre in France was still very far from occupy-
ing the central position in literature and society which
it was to acquire under Louis XIV., when actors of
independent means and fashionable actresses vied in
gorgeousness with their aristocratic public of nobles,
wits, and great ladies. Under Henry IV. the theatre
was nothing but a very popular place of amusement,
and the actors a flock of impecunious jugglers, who
lived by their wits, and had to pocket the insults of the
nobles, together with the few sous charged for admission-
sometimes even the former without the latter. This, at
least, seems not unfrequently to have been the case.
We can imagine how exceedingly humble were the
arrangements of the theatre, when we hear that the
manager himself stood at the door with his cash-box,
and received the admission fee. To what insults this
function might expose him may be seen from the
following little story, which relates to Battistino, an
Italian actor.
In the year I608, when in Paris with his company,
he was standing one day at the door of his theatre
receiving the money for admission, when a nobleman of
high rank stopped and gave him, not money, but a


blow, then pushed him aside and entered the theatre.
Battistino followed him, complaining of the insult to
which he had been subjected, and repeating his request
for the fee. The nobleman replied: I have paid you
in the coin you deserve." Upon which, the Italian flew
into a rage, and answered : If that is so, I will certainly
pay you back your due," and, so saying, he struck him a
violent blow straight in the face, which made his blue
blood stream freely from his nose. The nobleman then
drew his sword against the actor, and some of his friends
did the same; but by the assistance of some of his
countrymen the Italian succeeded in escaping. A few
days later, however, the nobleman came back with a
band of armed attendants, and killed poor Battistino.
If the Italians, who enjoyed especial favour in France,
and were patronised by the Court with Marie de Medici
at its head, could be treated in this way, we can scarcely
doubt that their French colleagues, who were held in
very low esteem, had to accept a blow as an honour.
Their morals, of course, were on a par with the treat-
ment they received. "They were nearly all rascals,"
we read in a contemporary author, who knew a good
deal about theatrical affairs,' and their women lived in
the greatest licentiousness; they were common property,
even among the members of the company to which they
did not belong."
These are hard words and perhaps unjust, but the
accusation seems to have been common, since the
actors frequently defend themselves against it. Thus
in Scud6ry's La Comddie des Comddiens, Mile Beausoleil
I Tallemant des Rdaux: Historiettes, vii. 170.


says, in speaking of the importunate admirers who crowd
in the wings: They think the farce is a picture of our
life, and that we act on the stage only what we do off it;
they think the married women amongst us must needs
belong to the whole company, and as they imagine that
we are common property like the sun and the elements,
there is not one of them who does not fancy that he has
a right to annoy us with his importunities." 1
Slander may to some extent have exaggerated the
facts, but it was seldom through virtue that French
actresses won their fame. This, at least, is certain, that
during this period the men and women had their tiring-
room in common, and also received visitors in it, an
arrangement which neither was a sign of rigid morals,
nor tended to produce them.
However, though the progress was slow, time im-
proved matters for the actors in this as in other respects.
The reign of Henry IV. was in so far propitious to the
theatre, as the country found leisure and means for
amusement. The popular Vert-Galant himself did not
despise the pleasures of life, but to actors he was not
liberal in money matters, and though the company of
Valleran Lecomte called themselves "The King's
Players," this title did nothing to swell their purses. It
was, as a nobleman says in the play quoted above, on
reading the play-bill of the H6tel de Bourgogne: The
King's Players! Ho! I understand. This rank and
the title of Gentleman-in-Waiting are cheap nowadays,
but then the salary is not large either." 2
1 Scuddry : La Com/die des Comidiens, i. 3.
SLa Comrdie des Com/diens, i. 5.


The Parisian actors were constantly quarrelling with
the proprietors of the theatre, the Passion-Brothers,
whom they wanted to give up their claim to receive rent
for the use of it; they seemed to think that having acted
in it for so many years, they might now have acquired
the right to consider it as their own property, and be
dispensed from paying rent. They sent in one petition
after another to the Government, but Parliament could
not adopt their views, which, it must be admitted, were
anything but businesslike, and the Brothers continued to
enjoy their rent.
The company, moreover, was divided by internal
quarrels. In 1607 a leading actor, Mathieu le Febvre,
called Laporte, separated from the royal troupe, and
with his wife, Marie Venier or Vernier, went elsewhere,
probably to the provinces; nothing certain is known
about it. She-as Mile Laporte-was the first French
actress who may be said to have won a name. A few
years later Laporte succeeded in gaining permission to
act in a house called the H6tel d'Argent," which was
situated close to the old Place de la Greve, the present
Place de l'H6tel de Ville.' But he had to pay a tribute
of sixty sous a day to the Passion-Brothers; and if it
had been his intention to establish another permanent
theatre in opposition to the H6tel de Bourgogne, this
plan, at any rate, failed, for we find that only in the
1 Not in the Marais quarter. So the H6tel d'Argent is not the same as
the Marais theatre, as all earlier historians of the theatre have supposed.
It is Prof. Rigal who, in the book quoted above, has cleared up these
hitherto very obscure matters with admirable sagacity and thoroughness.
He has proved, in particular, that the Marais theatre, the existence of
which all earlier authors had dated from the year i60o, belongs to a much
later period.


following year the Laporte family and their company
left the H6tel d'Argent, and the Brothers remained in
unshaken possession of their privilege.
For some years the relations between the Royal
Company and the Passion-Brotherhood seem to have
been tolerably peaceful; the H6tel de Bourgogne theatre
gained a firm footing in the favour of the public, and in
the eyes of the Parisians became a feature of their town.
But the quarrels about the theatrical prerogative broke
out afresh, and in 1622 the relations became so strained
that a rupture was inevitable. The Royal Actors left
the H6tel de Bourgogne, and shortly after left Paris
altogether; the Brothers then made a venture with
another company, but without success. That troupe
also went to the provinces, and for more than a year
Paris was left entirely without theatrical entertainment.
Tout divertissement nous manque;
Tabarin ne va plus en banque,
L'H6tel de Bourgogne est desert,'
writes a chronicler about the year 1622.
At last the Italians, under the leadership of Giam-
battista Andreini,2 brought comfort to the Parisians; but it
was not till 1625 that a French company again made its
appearance at the Hotel de Bourgogne-not the old Royal
Actors, however, who continued to be constantly at war
with the Brothers-but a new company calling itself
" The Players of the Prince of Orange," which was then
probably already under the management of the actor
1 We have no amusements left us: Tabarin no longer plays the fool, an<
the H6tel de Bourgogne is deserted.
2 Comp. vol. ii., Middle Ages and Renaissance, p. 284.


Lenoir, and included as its foremost actor Mondory
(Guillaume Desgilberts). This company seems to have
been able to compete with the Royal Players; the
latter, at any rate, became uneasy, and tried to injure
their rivals as much as possible; so much so that
the magistrates had to interfere and to forbid them
to disturb the company of the Prince of Orange, or
to act near the H6tel de Bourgogne.
The new company included, besides Mondory, who
played the heroes, a number of comic actors, who became
very popular, such as Jacquemin Jadot (under his stage
names La France and Michau), a successful imitator of
Gaultier Garguille; Alizon, who represented comic old
women, and above all, Jodelet (Julien Geoffrin), whose
nasal twang and performance of the typical cunning
servant became immensely popular.
For the first time after a long period we can speak of
an actual competition with the Royal Company, and the
establishment of another permanent theatre in Paris
becomes possible. It was soon to become a reality.
In 1628 the contract between the Passion-Brothers
and the Prince of Orange's Players expired, and the
Royal Actors made haste to return to their old theatre,
where they now settled down for a long period.
However, the Prince of Orange's Players had gained
too great favour with the Parisians to lose their hold of
them so soon. It seems that they parted in peace and
friendship from the Brothers, and began acting on their
own account in the tennis-court of Berthault (Rue
Berthault, formerly Rue des Anglais, not far from Porte
St Martin).


The company was most fortunate in being able to
begin their performances with a new play by a new
author, which became an extraordinary success. On its
journeys through the provinces the troupe had visited
Rouen, and there its leading actor, Mondory, had made
the acquaintance of young Pierre Corneille, who had
given him his comedy, Mlite, to be performed by the
company. Now, when they were going to make a fresh
start in Paris, under the official leadership of Lenoir,
they chose for their first appearance this work by a
beginner, and its performance actually became a turning-
point in theatrical history.
Milite took the Parisian public completely by
surprise, but in a peculiar and quiet manner. Nobody
knew its author, and no noisy advertisements had paved
its way. I wonder to think," Corneille himself ex-
claims, "of the slight sensation it produced in Paris,
coming from an unknown author,-so unknown, that it
was an advantage to keep his name secret; I wonder to
think, I say, that the three first performances put together
did not draw so large an audience as the least profitable
of those which followed in the winter of the same year."
The fact was, that Mdlite did not afford the kind of
farcical amusement to which people had been accustomed.
It had none of the stock characters of farce, such as the
foolish servant, no Gaultier Garguille or Gros-Guillaume;
and at first people were rather puzzled. Soon, however,
the wiser judgment of the few was accepted by the many,
and the rush to see the play became enormous. Its
success," Corneille goes on, was startling. It established
a new company of actors in Paris, in spite of the merits


of that which had hitherto maintained itself there
Corneille's Melite was performed in 1629, and thence-
forward the company of Lenoir and Mondory never
more left Paris, though they changed their quarters
several times. In 1632 we find them acting in the
Fontaine tennis-court, Rue Michel-le-Comte, also in
the Quartier Saint-Martin; but the actors were driven
thence by the inhabitants, who complained that the
working of a theatre caused too much disturbance in
such narrow and inconvenient streets. Finally, two
years later, the company settled down definitely in the
Marais tennis-court, which stood in the Rue Vieille du
Temple, between the Rue de la Perle and the Rue des
Coutures St Gervais (fig. 4). The play-house adopted the
name of the tennis-court, and called itself the Marais

Two Styles in Dramatic Art-Bellerose and Mondory-First Performance
of Le Cid-Richelieu and the Theatre-Mirame on the stage of the

IN 1634, therefore, Paris possessed two permanent
theatres, the H6tel de Bourgogne and the Marais, each
with its fixed company: the Royal Players, who now,
under Louis XIII., found some protection and support
in the King, and the Marais company, the leadership of
which had naturally by degrees passed into the hands of
its leading actor, Mondory, a man of exceptional ability
both on and off the stage.


The management of the Royal company was no longer
in the hands of Valleran Lecomte. At the close of
the twenties a new man had joined the troupe; Pierre
le Messier, surnamed Bellerose. Hitherto the H6tel de
Bourgogne had excelled in the old, coarse farce and in the
popular plays of Alexandre Hardy, but the taste of the
time began to require something more refined; the
Court, and consequently the people, demanded a more
polished style and a more careful delivery, and Bellerose,
according to the very scanty information we possess,
seems to have been the very man for his time. Good-
looking, rather affected and insipid, but impudent and
bold, he became the gallant lover and hero, whom the
public wanted, and whom the average woman admired.'
With good reason the title-r6le in Corneille's Le Menteur
is specially associated with his name, for in this part his
very faults must have been advantages. Otherwise it
was as a tragedian that he won his greatest fame through
the sentimental style of his acting, and the position he
acquired through his talent, combined with his rhetorical
gifts, naturally assigned him the leadership.
His style of art contrasted strongly with that of
Mondory, the manager of the Marais theatre, and un-
doubtedly each of these two artistic individualities
impressed his own particular stamp on the style of
acting of the two theatres, at all events in tragedy.
Mondory, too, was a tragedian, but his manner was as

1 Evidently he was not equally seductive to all women, for we are told
in the Memoirs of Cardinal Retz that Mme. de Montbazon could not fall
in love with la Rochefoucauld because he resembled Bellerose, who was too
vapid for her taste. Mbnoires du Cardinal de Retz (Les grands Ecrivains
de la France), ii. 485.

4-Situation of the Marais Theatre.
5-Pierre Corneille.


Mondory himself, in a letter written shortly after the
first performance, gives a vivid description of the
success which this masterpiece of Corneille's gained for
his theatre; "It is so fine," he says, "that it has
inspired even the coldest ladies with love, so that their
passion has sometimes broken out in the public theatre.
People have been seen in the boxes, who seldom leave
their gilded halls and fleur-de-lis covered arm-chairs.
There has been such a rush at our doors, and our space
has proved so small, that the remotest corners of our
theatre, which usually serve as resorts for the pages,
have been converted into places of honour for the
Knights of the Holy Ghost, and every day the stage has
been adorned with the crosses of these knights."
We find an even more convincing proof of the
enormous success of this wonderfully fresh and
powerful play in the jealousy of the other dramatic
authors. The petty wits of course found that, in our
modern, critical jargon, it was not "literary." It was a
success, of course; that, unfortunately, could not be
denied; but its success was due solely to the excellent
acting. The piece was absolutely not worth reading.
A kind-hearted colleague, whose name nowadays is
known only to historians of literature and of the theatre,
suggested to Corneille, that if he decided to have Le Cid
printed at all, he should try to find means to represent in
print the gestures, expressive tones, good looks and fine
clothes of the performers as well. Another writes:
" You must remember that . the skill and good-will
of the actors both in playing well and in setting off the
play to advantage by inventions of their own, an art in


which M. de Mondory is no less experienced than in his
profession, have been the chief ornaments of Le Cid and
the principal cause of its undeserved reputation."
In short the poetasters were furious, and the public
enthusiastic. But the fury of the former and the
enthusiasm of the latter served to spread the fame of
the theatre and the actors: the poets exalted the
performers in order to lower the merits of Corneille, and
the public gave them their due in acknowledging their
share in the work which had called forth such raptures
of delight.
It is difficult to say what position the Marais
company might have won in the history of the French
Theatre, whether the energy of Mondory and the
support of Corneille, combined with the patronage of
Richelieu, would have raised it to a similar importance
to that which the company of Moliere was destined to
enjoy at a later period, if after the success of Le Cid
another momentous event had not deprived the infant
stage of its chief strength and the real instrument of its
It is evident that during the few years he had been
acting in Paris with his company, Mondory had staked
an extraordinary amount of energy and hard work on
raising his theatre to honour and dignity in the eyes of
the Parisians. Of course he did not limit himself
exclusively to the plays of Corneille; others were pro-
duced as well. Thus at the beginning of the year 1636
he had had a great success with Tristan's Mariamne, in
which he himself played the part of Herod with the
untamed violence which was the most prominent feature


of his acting, and which carried away the public to
frantic enthusiasm.
But the excessive strain of his double work, as
manager and as actor, had probably undermined his
constitution, for one day while exerting himself to the
utmost in the part of Herod in that play, his strength
failed, and he was seized by an apoplectic fit, which
paralysed his tongue in particular. After some months'
rest he seemed to have partially recovered his strength,
enough, at least, to believe himself able to appear at
a great entertainment given by Richelieu in his palace,
on February 22nd, 1637, to which the Royal family
and a brilliant circle of princes and nobles had been
invited. A new play was performed: The Blind Man
of Smyrna, written, by order of the Cardinal, by a
company of five poets, and it is not improbable that
this performance was intended by Richelieu to eclipse Le
Cid of Corneille, whose glorious success had been a thorn
in the flesh to the vain statesman. The play was to be
acted by select members of both the Parisian companies,
and the Cardinal particularly wished his favourite actor
to appear in it.
Mondory complied with the desire of his patron, but
the effort proved too much for him. He had barely
succeeded in getting through the second act, when
another fit came on, and this was his last appearance on
the stage, though he lived till 1651.
It must be added that Richelieu did not abandon his
favourite, but at once allowed him a pension of 2000
francs, an example which was followed by several other
great persons, so that Mondory at all events had the


satisfaction of possessing, so long as he lived, an income
of from 800ooo to io,ooo francs, which would correspond
to the value of about five times that sum nowadays.
But to the Marais theatre the loss of Mondory meant
the loss of the reputation it had acquired during the last
few years. Nothing shows more clearly the great im-
portance of this man, than the helpless decline of his
theatre when he became an invalid. Under his manage-
ment it had become the central and most interesting
stage in the city of Paris, on which Tristan l'Hermitte
and Pierre Corneille had won their first laurels and their
sensational victories; it now sank down into sad obscurity
and inferiority, and the H6tel de Bourgogne took the
Probably soon after the collapse of Mondory, three
of the best actors left the Marais and joined the Royal
company: Baron senior, an excellent actor, both in
tragedy, in which he played kings, and in comedy, in
which peasants were his speciality, and the two Devilliers,
of whom the husband, besides being a useful actor-his
name as farce-player was Philippin-possessed some
small talent as an author, while his wife had become
popular, especially as fellow-player to Mondory. Mon-
dory's own parts and his function as "Orator"-a very
important one, which consisted in making all direct
communications to the public-were undertaken by
d'Orgemont, and after his death a little later by the
excellent Floridor. Floridor might have supplied the
place of the old star" at the Marais theatre; he was,
in fact, a much finer actor than Mondory; but he soon
tired of working in conjunction with the old, bad players,


and he too joined the H6tel de Bourgogne. In short,
the rats left the sinking ship, and soon, as we read in
Tallemant,' "the Marais theatre did not possess a
single good actor or a single good actress."
The theatre, moreover, was situated in a remote
quarter of Paris, in that part of the present Rue Vieille
du Temple which in those times belonged to the out-
skirts of the city, and in a narrow and dirty street-none
of which was calculated to attract people, "especially,"
as Chappuzeau says, "in winter, and before the estab-
lishment of the fine institution of having the streets well
lighted till midnight, and of cleansing them everywhere
from dirt and villains." 2
As long as Mondory was on the stage, people forgot
the long way and the dirty, dark and dangerous streets,
in their eagerness to see his acting and the splendid
new plays he produced. But after his retirement they
noticed at once that the place was remote and gloomy.
The patronage of Richelieu vanished together with
Mondory; Corneille went to the H6tel de Bourgogne
with his plays; and the Marais theatre took up -the old-
fashioned popular farces, which were no longer appreci-
ated by the more refined public, and which had to wait
for Moliere to be raised to a new sphere of honour and
The H6tel de Bourgogne, on the contrary, now
took up tragedy. The three old farce-players, Gros-
Guillaume, Gaultier Garguille and Turlupin, were dead,3
and though, as we have mentioned, they had found
1 Tallemant des Reaux : Historiettes, vii. 178.
2 Chappuzeau: Le ThIdtre Franfois, Brussels, 1867, p. Ioo.
i Gros-Guillaume in 1634, Gaudtier in 1633.and Turlupin in 1637.
....... ..... .......

'** : et


imitators, these never rose as high in public favour as
the originals. It was necessary to retain the farce in
the repertoire, for the sake of the less select public;
but the taste of the leading spectators tended towards
tragedy and the higher comedy, and it was along the
line of tragedy, above all, that the H6tel de Bourgogne
specially developed. During the whole of this theatrical
period it maintained its superiority in the eyes of the
public as the tragic stage.
The staff was naturally constituted with this end in
view, and a tragic school was formed, after the model
of Bellerose, an artificial and thoroughly affected school,
which, however, suited the taste of the time and gained
great celebrity for its adherents. Of Bellerose, who was,
so to speak, the inventor of this sweetly sentimental
style, Tallemant says maliciously: "Bellerose was an
affected actor, who looked where he was putting his
hat for fear of spoiling the feathers. Sometimes, he
indeed succeeded in telling stories and reciting certain
love-passages well, but he did not in the least understand
what he was saying."
Montfleury, who was engaged about 1037, came from
the provinces and his fat body and bombastic delivery
occupied the stage of the H6tel de Bourgogne for many
years, to the horror of men like Moliere and Cyrano de
Bergerac, but to the admiration of a less critical public
and the delight of dramatic authors. Nobody equalled
him in calling forth rapturous applause at the close of a
scene-Moliere called it "brouhaha"-when he thundered
out the last verses without regard to their sense, and in a
STallemant des Raux : Historiettes, vii. 175.

.. .' .. . .
. . .. :.


voice that shook the theatre. We shall have an oppor-
tunity later of mentioning the relation of Moliere to the
art of Montfleury; that he was hated by Cyrano is a well-
known fact. Cyrano said of him: Because that rascal is
so fat that he cannot be thoroughly drubbed in one day,
he thinks he can give himself airs." It is well-known,
too, that once, after quarrelling with Montfleury, Cyrano
forbade him to appear on the stage for a month, saying
that if he did, he would make him pay for it. Two days
later Montfleury was seen acting again; but Cyrano, who
was in the theatre, cried to him from the pit to leave the
stage at once, and Montfleury obeyed.1
It was Bellerose and Montfleury who impressed their
stamp on the H6tel de Bourgogne; and to a certain
degree, in spite of all their absurdities, they raised the
theatre above the somewhat tainted atmosphere in which
the old farce-players had kept it, to a higher, if not
altogether a pure sphere. Even contemporaries saw
clearly that the theatre was beginning to rise to import-
ance. Thus Chappuzeau, the naif historian of the
seventeenth century theatre, who, by the bye, tells us
nothing about the characteristic features of these two
men, writes as follows: "They [the actors] only
began to obtain celebrity during the reign of Louis
XIII., when the great Cardinal Richelieu, patron of the
Muses, showed that he was fond of comedy, and when
one Pierre Corneille put his stately and tender verses
into the mouths of a Montfleury and a Bellerose, who
were finished actors."2
1 This actual occurrence has been used by E. Rostand in the introduction
of his celebrated play.
2 Chappuzeau: Le Tiddtre Franfois, 1867, p. 95.


To the same generation and the same school be-
longed Beauchateau and his wife, against whom also
Moliere had a grudge, but who were highly commended
by the writers of the time. Of the bewitching Beau-
chateau, or Franqois Chatelet, as his real name was,
whom no woman was able to resist, it was written,
though after his death:-
C'est en vain que Moliere tAcha jouer son r6le,
II irait longtemps a l'acole,
Avant que d'6galer un tel original.1
The lines allude to the fact that Moliere in his
Impromptu de Versailles had parodied the manner of
Beauchateau. Nor did he spare the wife. In the same
little satirical play he says of her acting: Don't you
see how natural and full of passion that is? Look what
a smiling face she keeps through her deepest afflictions." 2
She represented princesses in tragedy and love-parts in
comedy. Both husband and wife ranked for many
years among the pillars of the H6tel de Bourgogne, and
both won a considerable circle of admirers by their
sweetly affected manner of acting.
For the higher drama there were also Lenoir and his
wife, from Mondory's company; hut of these two we
hear nothing after their transfer to the H6tel de
Bourgogne. Very likely they had a difficulty in adopt-
ing the new tragic style and were gradually forgotten.

In vain did Moliere try to play his r61e. He might go to school for
ever without being able to equal such an original.
2 This and many other translations of passages from Moliere are taken
from The Plays of Molire in French, with a new translation and notes by
A. R. Waller (London 1902, etc.).


Among other actresses, by the bye, Mile. Bellerose,1
Mile. Beaupre and Mile. Valliot were the most distin-
Of the comic actors of the company we have less to
say, especially after Jodelet, the best of them all, had
left the H6tel" and returned to the Marais, which had
chosen farce as its chief line. There was Michau or
Jacquemin Jadot, but he was only an imitator of the
unique Gaultier Garguille; Dr Boniface, who copied the
Italian Dottore Boloardo, the comic woman, Alizon, and
the "Zanni," Philippin,2 but none of these seem to have
gained great popularity. They were eclipsed, apparently,
by their tragic brethren.
It was different at the Marais. Here Jodelet
became very popular, and authors like Scarron, d'Ouville
and Thomas Corneille, wrote a whole repertoire for him.
Tallemant was right in saying: "There is no longer
any farce except at the Marais, where they have Jodelet,
and it is due to him that it exists there at all."
With the increasing artistic importance of the theatres
their economical condition considerably improved.
When it had become fashionable in the higher classes
to go to the play, the actors could raise the admission
fee, spend more in the mounting and arrange the stage
according to the more modern principles which they
had learned from the Italians.3 The time seemed very
Bellerose's wife. Only ladies of quality were called madame, and
actresses were always mademoiselle, though they might be both married and
2 Comp. vol. ii., Middle Ages and Renaiss., facing pp. 194 and 196, two
prints representing these four farce-players.
3 For the development of the stage, see vol. ii., Middle Ages and
Renaiss., pp. 333-349.


far removed, when the manager stood at the door in
person and received the small coins which flowed
sparingly enough into his cash-box. The revenues had
now increased so as to allow of engaging a whole staff
of functionaries ofciers, as they were called-to
perform all the non-artistic work, among others an
armed door-keeper, whose difficult duty it was to stop
refractory play-goers who refused to pay, an office
which frequently cost that functionary his blood, and
sometimes his life.
Whereas hitherto both royalty and nobility had
been very liberal of promises, but sparing of money,
under L6uis XIII. the H6tel de Bourgogne, at any
rate, received a considerable subsidy. From 1641 it
was fixed at 12000 francs annually, and this pension
to the Royal French Actors was continued also under
Louis XIV. The Marais theatre does not seem to
have received any subvention; at least we have found
no definite information to this effect. It is true the
actors sometimes speak of themselves as "supported by
their Majesties," but it is not improbable that they had
to content themselves with the honour and prestige
which was then, as now, attached to the mere name of
royalty, without pecuniary gain in addition. The Italian
company continued to be the most favoured; it received
an annuity of no less than 5,000 francs out of the royal
exchequer, besides having the theatre for nothing, as
the King had granted it permission to use a hall in one
of the wings of the Louvre, called the Petit Bourbon,
for this purpose.
There can scarcely be a doubt, that this sudden and


abundant growth of the theatre in France, from the
vagrancy of a juggler with no artistic or material centre,
into a fixed indispensable institution with, at any rate,
promises of great artistic and literary value, was-
like all other development in France at this period-
essentially due to Richelieu. During the first twenty
years of the century, as a matter of fact, very little
happened in the theatrical world. Though we should
have supposed Henry IV. to be the very man to
promote national dramatic art, he did nothing for it.
The Queen, Marie de Medici, only interested herself
in the Italians; scarcely anything was too good for
them; and while the business of bringing them from their
own country to Paris, was a task of diplomacy treated
with as much care as the most important affairs of state,
their French colleagues stagnated, and nobody thought
of considering their plays as anything different from or
superior to the performances of rope-dancers or con-
jurors. The first actors of the time, Valleran Lecomte
and Laporte, are constantly mentioned in public docu-
ments as bateleurs (mountebanks).
But during the eighteen years which Richelieu spent
in making France an absolute monarchy, and himself
the absolute master of the monarch, this man of genius,
who seemed to find time for everything, managed also
to direct theatrical affairs into the right groove.
It is a well-known fact, that the Cardinal took a great
interest in literature, and that the drama in particular
had a strong attraction for him. He was fond of
suggesting ideas to dramatic authors; he even wrote
fragments of plays himself, and formed a kind of literary

staff, consisting of five poets, to work out his subjects.1
His lively interest in Mondory, who was probably the
most distinguished actor of his time, has been mentioned
before. In Richelieu's Palace-the present Palais
Royal-he had his own theatre which at first was
comparatively small, but during the last years of his
life was rebuilt most magnificently and at enormous
expense. "As to decorations and machines,'" says
Pellisson, the historian of the French Academy, he was
their sole inventor, and they cost him no less than
200,000 to 300,000 cus." 2 That no expense was spared,
we can well believe, when we hear that for the ceiling
the builder ordered eight oak beams of such colossal
dimensions, that the carpenters laughed on receiving
the measurements. The trunks, however, were furnished
by the royal forests of Moulins; the beams were hewn
on the spot, but each of them cost 8ooo francs in
It must not be concluded from these statements that
the theatre of the H6tel de Richelieu was of enormous
dimensions. This was by no means the case. Origin-
ally the hall had only room for six hundred people;
when rebuilt, it was certainly enlarged, but still did not
exceed medium size, and was considerably smaller than
the Marais theatre. But it was fitted out to fulfil
all modern exigencies in the way of machinery on the
stage and of comfort and elegance in the auditorium; it
became, so to speak, the first play-house in France which
approached the modern idea df a theatre.
1 These five poets were: Boisrobert, Corneille, Colletet, de 1'Etoile and
Rotrou, and sometimes Scud&ry and Claveret took part in the work.
2 Pellisson: Histoire de fAcadimiefranfaise. Paris 1729, i. 90.


7-Stage of Richelieu-Third Act of Mirame.


,.~ ta~ IcJri I~i

i -*- --- -- ,'srrUIIIILI
.sC------- `----~-~--~
~s*`----- '-- --- I---~
rr-------- ---- --


The hall was a long parallelogram, with the stage at
one end; the floor ascended gradually in the opposite
direction by means of twenty-seven low, broad stone
steps, on which stood wooden seats. The steps did not
curve, but crossed the whole breadth of the hall in a
straight line, and ran up to a kind of portico at the back
of the hall formed of three large arcades. Along each
side two gilded balconies ran from the portico to within a
short distance of the proscenium. The actual stage did
not occupy the whole breadth of the hall, but formed a
kind of large, flat arch (fig. 7) supported by two pillars of
masonry, which on the sides facing the audience were
decorated with Ionian pilasters, while the sides that
faced each other contained each two niches with
allegorical statues. From the stage six steps led down to
the seats on the floor, and at the top, in the middle of the
arch, was Richelieu's coat-of-arms.'
All that could possibly be contrived in the way of
machinery was of course introduced on this little model
stage, which none of the best Italian stages with all
their marvels-conjuring tricks, characters snatched from
the stage up into the air, flying dragons, gods in the skies.
and the rest of it-could excel. And indeed the theatre
of Richelieu inaugurated a new era in the history of
French theatrical art, by arousing a taste for the fpices
a machines, as they were called, spectacular plays, and
plays of magic. But his stage was not to become the
proper home of such performances; it was destined for a
more glorious fate. It was the Marais theatre, which
1 The hall of the King's private theatre in the Petit Bourbon palace was
arranged in a similar way, so tar as the stage was concerned, but not so
with the auditorium. (Comp. fig. 8.)

had long been struggling hard for the favour of the
public, that scored on this new speciality, for which its
spacious dimensions were particularly adapted, and which
set it on its feet again for a time.
Richelieu's theatre was opened with great solemnity
on January I4th, 1641, with a show-piece Mirame, to
which Desmarets had lent his name, and which Richelieu
himself had in part composed for the occasion. The
audience invited by the Cardinal was of course most
select, and had been chosen according to rank and
position with the minutest regard to etiquette. Every.
body wanted to see the magnificent new theatre and the
ingenious machinery; there were rumours afloat of a
sunset and a moon-rise, not to speak of a distant sea with
ships sailing on it. But it was exceedingly difficult to
gain admission. So strict were the regulations that the
Abb6 de Boisrobert, though on very familiar terms with
the Cardinal, was excluded because he had procured
admission for two ladies of doubtful reputation. The
King and Queen were present in the box nearest the
stage, and Richelieu himself followed the performance
with strained attention. According to a contemporary
report, when the audience applauded he was delighted
and would rise and lean forward from his box to show
himself to the assembly; at other moments he would
hush the spectators when they made a noise, and call
their attention to some particularly fine passage.
The play was neither better nor worse than the
majority of the serious plays of the time ; but in spite of all
that had been done to make its performance a glorious
event, it had no enthralling power, and the polite

8-Louis XIII. and Richelieu in the Petit Bourbon Theatre.


applause with which it was greeted was nothing in com-
parison with the roars of cheering that hailed-the pieces of
Corneille and others in the ordinary theatres. Richelieu
was aware of it, and it annoyed him. The author,
Desmarets, glibly put the blame on the actors; they had
all been tipsy, he declared, and had not studied their
parts properly. This accusation, however, is emphati-
cally contradicted by other witnesses, and one of them,
the Abb6 de Marolles, actually attributes his failure to
the very thing that had been counted on to secure success,
viz., the mounting, the machines," as it was called at the
time; it diverted the attention from the acting and the
words, which to the sensible Abb6 were the essential
things. All the rest of it," he says, is only a useless
hindrance, which gives false ideas by making people
look like giants, who by the laws of perspective ought to
look unnaturally small in the distance, in order to create
the right illusion."
Yet Mirame possessed only one piece of fixed scenery,
a colonnade and a terrace with a view over the sea. We
can imagine how modest the outfit of public theatres
must have been, if this one scenic picture, however
lavishly executed, could disturb the attention of the
At the subsequent performances of the play a
" Rhinoceros-ballet" was introduced, which had a greater
success than the Cardinal's verses. Still, it was not till
much later, that this theatre was destined to obtain real
importance in theatrical history. Richelieu had no
opportunity of continuing his experiments in dramatic
technique. He died the following year, and under his


will his palace, with the theatre and all that belonged to
it, passed into the possession of the King.
How it went on to become the stage of the most
glorious period of the whole history of French theatrical
art will be shown in the following chapters.


First Steps of Moliere in his Theatrical Career-The Bdjart Family and the
Illustrious Theatre-Moliere's Family and Education-The Struggle
to conquer Paris-Failure of the Company-Moliere and the B1jart
Family go to the Provinces.

ON June 30th, 1643, a small company, who had hither-
to been acting as semi-amateurs under the name of Les
Enfants de Famille, made a contract to maintain their
partnership, thus founding a new company, to which they
gave the pompous title of L'llustre Thkitre (The
Illustrious Theatre). The better class persons of whom
it was composed, were ten in number, and their names
are given in the contract in the following order:-
Denis Beysv
Germain Clerin
J. B. Poquelin -
Joseph Bejart v
Nicolas Bonenfant
Georges Pinel
Madeleine B1jart:.
Madeleine Malingre
Catherine Desurlis
Genevieve Bejart.


The little company hired a tennis-court which stood
in the old moat near the tower of the H6tel de Nesle-
where nowadays the Institut de France assembles the
celebrities of its country-and so speedily converted it
into a theatre that it could be opened on January Ist,
1644. They played under the patronage of Gaston,
brother of the late King Louis XIII., who had died
shortly before, and tragedy was their chief study.
Though the Illustrious Theatre" did not at once
correspond to its glorious name, some of the members of
this "band," as it was called at the time, deserve a
special mention.
The leader of the band" was Denis Beys, no doubt
an older and more experienced actor to whom the other
young "amateurs" had attached themselves when they
became professional actors. His task, doubtless, was to
be the solid support in business matters, of which the
young and inexperienced members stood in need. Of
his art as an actor we know nothing.
It will have been noticed that the name of B6jart is
represented by no less that three members of the small
company, two sisters, Madeleine and Genevieve, and one
brother, Joseph, and, no doubt, it was this family which
originated the plan of forming the company; the
contract indeed was signed in their house. The three
Bejarts were children of a recently deceased forest officer,
who was destined to enrich the French dramatic world
with altogether five members; a second son, Louis, and
a third daughter, the much discussed Armande, subse-
quently increased the number of the troupe.
The late B6jart and his wife Marie Herv6, lived in

poor circumstances and had many children-fifteen, it is
supposed. Of these, Joseph was the eldest, but Made-
leine the most distinguished. At the time when the
Illustrious Theatre was founded, she was twenty-five
years old, tall and robust, with red-gold hair, not actually
handsome, but lively and intelligent and very attractive
to men. In fact, her life had already had its adventures.
Seduced at twenty, she had given birth to a child, whose
father, a nobleman, M. de Modene, remained her friend
through all the vicissitudes of her life. She wrote verses,
and at a later period also plays, besides being a good
actress and having much practical sense, No wonder
that she was the main support and the chief organiser
of the company. In fact, we read in the contract
mentioned above that, whereas, as a rule, the author
of a new play has the exclusive right to distribute its
parts, and no member shall complain thereof, Madeleine
B6jart shall have the privilege of choosing any part she
To one member of the company, the one in whom we
are most interested, she became of great and lasting
importance. We are speaking of young Jean Baptiste
Poquelin. In his enumeration of the most distinguished
actors in Paris, old Tallemant des R6aux, whose lively,
though not always trustworthy information we frequently
quote, says of Madeleine B1jart: "She belongs to a
provincial company; she has acted in Paris, but with a
third troupe that remained there only for a time [the
Illustrious Theatre]. A youth, named Moliere, left the
benches of the Sorbonne to follow her. For a long
time he was in love with her, became the adviser of


the company, then a member of it, and at last married
her." 1
Our friend Tallemant is mistaken. Moliere never
married Madeleine, though she became his mistress, but,
much later, he married her little sister Armande, who, at
the time when the Illustre Thddtre was founded, was not
yet one year old.2
The youth Moliere was not born with that name at
all, but with that of Poquelin. He was of an old and
substantial family of citizens; his father, Jean Poquelin,
was an upholsterer, an industrious and enterprising man,
who knew how to increase his fortune in different ways.
That he was highly esteemed in his profession is
sufficiently proved by the fact that he was appointed
upholsterer to the King and Court, a much coveted and
lucrative position, which even entailed personal nobility.
But he does not seem to have been a very attractive
character. He is supposed to have conducted money
transactions not unlike those by which Harpagon enriched
himself, and of higher interests he possessed none. There
is good reason to assume on the other hand, that his
first wife, Marie Cress6, the mother of Moliere, was a
lady of taste, of some culture and of a certain tendency
to luxury, which her son inherited.
I Historiettes, vii. 177.
2 I will not here discuss the question whether Armande Bejart was a
sister or a daughter of Madeleine. This is not the place for an exhaustive
biography of Moliere. I myself think that there is no evidence against the
supposition, which is founded on official documents, that Molibre's wife was
the sister of Madeleine, and my opinion is supported by good authorities,
among others, L. Moland and G. Larroumet. I cannot deny, however, that
equally distinguished biographers of Moliere adhere to the other opinion.
The dispute will scarcely be settled, unless a certificate of the birth of
Armande is found some day.


The Poquelin family lived in the Rue Saint HonorS,
(fig. 10) close to the Pont Neuf, and here Jean, or Jean
Baptiste, as he was afterwards called, was born in January
1622.1 As eldest son-he was the firstborn of six children
of his father's first marriage-he was destined to follow his
father's profession and to inherit his business. He
became an apprentice in the upholsterer's shop, was
taught reading, writing and arithmetic, and not much
His mother, whose delicate health was inherited by
her children, died young, when little Jean Baptiste was
only eleven years old. And though the court upholsterer
soon took to himself a second wife, the children of his
first marriage were, no doubt, allowed, to a great extent,
to take care of themselves, for his second wife was quite
deficient in the domestic sense of order, for which the
first Mme. Poquelin had been distinguished; she died,
moreover, after three years' marriage.
The quarter in which the Poquelins lived and had
their business was one of the liveliest in Paris. The
Pont Neuf, in particular, was distinguished by a remark-
able and variegated life. There the great quacks set up
their shops and from their platforms attracted the public
by dramatic displays, in order to advertise their mira-
culous ointments. No doubt, little Jean Baptiste stood
many times on the bridge listening to the grotesque jokes
of the Italian mountebank, Christoforo Cantugi, also called
the Orvietan (fig 1 I), or watching all the tricks played by
his French colleague Bary, to make people buy his un-
SThe certificate of his baptism is dated January 15th; he may have
been born on the same day or the day before, for in those days children
were christened very soon after their birth.

9-Madeleine B6jart.

Io-The house where Moliere was born.
II-Booth of the Orvietan."


rivalled antidotes. At the same time he imbibed the
feverish passion for the theatre, of which no antidote-be
it ever so bitter-could cure him afterwards.
His theatrical inclinations seem to have revealed them-
selves early, and to have met with some encouragement
from his grandfather, who also loved the theatre and often
took the boy with him to the play.' He certainly can-
not have considered it any degradation for an upholsterer's
son to become an actor. Perhaps it was owing to this
" unreasonable grandfather that Jean Baptiste became
the poet and actor we know by the name of Moliere, and
not the respectable court upholsterer Poquelin that his
father would have liked him to become.
At any rate he is said to have helped his grandson,
of whom he was very fond, to obtain permission to leave
his father's business and attend a grammar school. At
the age of fourteen Jean Baptiste was placed in the
College of Clermont, an enormous school managed by
Jesuits and numbering about two thousand pupils; and
as this learned educational establishment was that most
in fashion, he there associated with many young men
belonging to the best society, and formed connections
which became useful to him in later life.
In five years he had finished his studies, and (in
1641) he left the school with the reputation of being a
very good humanist and even greater philosopher."
Among his school-fellows he had been specially attached
to two original whimsical poets, Chapelle and Cyrano de
So it was with a solid basis of scholarship and educa-
SGrimarest : La Vie de M. de Moliire, 1705, pp. 6, 7.

tion that young Poquelin started on his career in the
world. He then passed his examination as a lawyer,
which in those days was probably more of a formality
and a question of money than the result of long study,
and with this step the scholastic part of his career
His theatrical inclinations drew him away from
regular paths. In him the Italian Comedians del' arte
found an enthusiastic admirer, and his special ideal was
the burlesque actor, Tiberio Fiorilli (Scaramuccia) who,
it is said, even became his teacher and instructed him in
the technique of the Italian stage. The title-page of the
notorious libellous pamphlet Elomire hypocondre, which
we shall afterwards have an opportunity of mentioning
more in detail, gives a ludicrous picture of Moliere taking
a lesson of Scaramuccia, who, whip in hand, is forcing
him to mimic all his grimaces (fig. 13).
Nothing could quench the ardour of young Moliere.
His father made him try the effect of change of air, and
sent him as his own substitute to Languedoc, where his
services as court upholsterer and valet de chambre
tapissier were required. But Jean Baptiste returned
more unmanageable than ever. Then after making
acquaintance with the Bejart family, who were as
passionately fond of the stage as himself, he joined them
in founding the dramatic company called Les Enfants de
Famille, which shortly after obtained the position of a real
professional troupe. And thenceforth Jean Baptiste
never left the stage till death tore the bond asunder.
At last after a tedious time of waiting, while the work-
men were converting the old tennis-court close to the

la..' io e denma

13-Moli~re taking a lesson.


Tour de Nesle (fig. 14) into a play-house-an interval
spent by Moliere in a short excursion to Rouen, which
resulted in the engagement of a new actress, Catherine
Bourgeois-the little company was able to open its
" Illustrious Theatre on New Year's day 1644.
The actors, of course, were on tenter-hooks.
Would Paris be conquered ? that was the question.
Young Poquelin with his ardent nature by the
bye, on this solemn occasion he had thrown off his
commonplace name of Poquelin and adopted the more
sonorous "M. de Moliere"-must have trembled with
The Parisians also, it seems, had come with great
expectations and interest in the young company. Alas!
their anticipations were disappointed, and their interest
died away.
We possess but very scanty information about this
first attempt of Moliere in his dramatic career. And
even the best accounts hail from a very suspicious source.
Much later, when Moliere stood at the zenith of his fame,
and consequently had plenty of antagonists and enviers,
an otherwise unknown author (possibly a physician)
published a libellous pamphlet in dramatic form against
him, entitled Elomire hypocondre ou les Mddecins vengds
(1670). But though this play abounds in the meanest
slander, which fully justified Moliere in asking and
obtaining its suppression by legal authority, it contains
information about facts which the historian cannot pass
by with the contempt otherwise due to the ignoble spirit
of the work. We read, for instance, a description of the
struggle for existence in Paris carried on by the Illus-

trious Theatre," which is found nowhere else, but which
has an air of probability.
Elomire (i.e., Moliere) gives a brief outline of his
life, and says of the first steps in his theatrical career :
" I was now without a means of livelihood (having
given up the bar), and I was meditating how I might
best serve my country with the talents I possessed,
but I could think of nothing but the Drama, for which
I felt I had a marvellous genius; so I resolved to do
something in this profession, the like of which had never
been seen in a whole century : that is to say, in short,
the unheard of, wonderful things with which I am now
delighting people's eyes and ears. . Therefore, when
I had made up my mind to follow this career, I looked
round for other actors, who like myself might be able
to gain distinction in this important work. But as I
happened to be hissed by experts, and as I could not
succeed in forming a select company, I was obliged
to engage a band of wretches, the best looking of
whom stammered, were one-eyed, or lame. In the way
of ladies, I should have preferred the most beautiful
on earth, but meeting with refusals from dark and fair
alike, I fell back on the red, and she satisfied me in
spite of the smell of perspiration, which I remedied
with alum-powder. . Well, after my company had
thus been formed, I placed myself at the head of it;
and, if I remember right, we began on a holiday [it
was New Year's Day], for never has the pit echoed
with so many 'Oh! ohs !' at the most unsuitable places.
But the following days were neither Sundays nor holi-
days, and there was no money in our pockets to hurt


our hips, for except dins, relatives of the company,
or an occasional waterman, no living creature appeared
in our theatre, for which reason, as you know, we packed
up our bundles."
In spite of the malicious tone, we cannot help think-
ing that the facts are stated pretty correctly. In the first
place, the troupe was no doubt anything but select. It
consisted of young persons without experience, whose
enthusiasm had to make up for their artistic deficiency.
Young Moliere himself may still have been vacillating.
Very likely he yielded too much to his inclination for
tragedy, a tendency which never quite left him, but
which in maturer years he had the strength to keep
under. In the serious style fortune always forsook
him, even when he had gained practice and experi-
ence; how much more must he have suffered from
a merciless public during the first part of his career!
Even several years later, in the provinces, on one
occasion, when playing a tragic part, he had to leave
the stage because the spectators persisted in pelting
him with roasted apples which they had bought at
the entrance.
Equally it cannot be denied that one of the best
members of the company was a stammerer. It was
Joseph B1jart (fig. 15) who was afflicted with this defect,
unquestionably a great misfortune in an actor, and one
which, in the serious plays that were mostly acted by the
troupe, must have produced a somewhat misleading effect.
Otherwise, Joseph B1jart was by no means a "wretch,"
but an educated and most respectable man. He was
much liked by the company, to whom he was useful in


different ways-for one thing by publishing a large work
on heraldry, which reflected honour upon his companions
in the eyes of the nobility. He remained a member of
Moliere's company till his death in 1659.
The malicious libeller speaks of another member as
one-eyed and limping; and it must be confessed that
both these epithets applied to the younger brother, who
squinted and limped. In trying to prevent two of his
friends from fighting, he had hurt his foot; the wound was
badly dressed, and he remained lame for life. In 1644,
however, he was only thirteen years old, and not yet a
member of the company. Afterwards he became a great
favourite with the Parisians, and his lameness, far from
hindering his success-he mainly played the comic valets
-was copied by those who followed him. Moliere, on
whom no good opportunity was lost, in his L'Avare (the
Miser) has immortalised his brother-in-law and his lame-
ness, by making Harpagon say of La Fl&che: It does
annoy me to see that lame dog here!" As long as
Louis B6jart played La Fleche, these words called forth
loud applause from the pit, thus showing the popular
comedian that his misfortune made no difference in
their delight at seeing him.
As to the women alluded to by the libeller, the red-
haired lady whom he qualifies by a most unsavoury
epithet, is Madeleine Bejart. But the dark and the fair
ladies, who are said to have refused the offers of Moliere,
are Mlle. de Brie and Mlle. du Parc, who did not
belong to the company till later.
In spite of these little chronological inaccuracies, the
statement that the Illustrious Theatre had but poor


success in Paris is correct in the main. Probably they
did not understand what the public wanted. Young
Moliere had several friends among the authors of the
modern style, which was tragedy. The company even
engaged as member an actor, Nicolas Desfontaines, who
was also a fertile writer of tragedies, and he now provided
the new stage with a number of works from his pen,
among them Saint Alexis ou L'illustre Olympie,
L'illustre Comddien ou Le Martyre de Saint Genest,
and Perside ou La Suite d'Ibrakim Bassa. Magnon
and Tristan l'Hermitte, moreover, and other solemn
writers, whose names are now as forgotten as their
works, supplied the company with their productions.
All these "illustrious" works, however, were probably
too much for the Parisians, especially since they had
only to go to the H6tel de Bourgogne to see the master-
pieces of Corneille performed with an art, which to the
taste of those times was the model of perfection.
Moli&re himself does not seem as yet to have thought
of wielding his pen, but as an actor he probably revelled
in the solemn tragic style, though he was never able to
grasp it. No doubt, he was then already the leader and
financial guarantee of the company, a position of trust
which brought him more annoyance than advantage.
Only a year after its opening the theatre at the Tour
de Nesle had to be closed. But, as we read in Elomire
hypocondre, as the failure was attributed solely to the
place," they made a fresh start in another quarter of
Paris-in the tennis-court of the "Black Cross "-with
new courage, but with the old ill-luck. Things came to
such a pass that we find Moliere in a debtor's prison as

surety for his theatre. After a few days, however, he
was released on bail; but still the unhappy young actors
were living under a constant threat of bankruptcy. The
company gradually dissolved. The first to leave it were
Nicolas Bonenfant and Georges Pinel; shortly afterwards
their example was followed by Desfontaines, Catherine
Desurlis, Madeleine Malingre,and Denis Beys, the original
manager. But Moliere and the Bejart family did not
give up the fight just yet. A third place was tried-the
"White Cross" tennis-court-in vain Paris was more
obstinate than a mule, and refused to be persuaded that
their art was worth seeing.
Then at last the struggle must be considered
hopeless; and as none of our enthusiasts thought for a
moment of giving up their art, no resource was left but
to turn their backs on the ungrateful capital, and try
their luck with the more responsive and less exacting
public of the provinces. For some years Moliere, in
company with the Bejart family, had fought to win a
name; now he had to pack up his poor belongings,
his few scenes, and the costumes which had not been
pawned, and go out into the world, as unknown as
before, though wiser by the kind of experiences which
enlighten, but do not enrich. The struggle was to go on
for twelve years longer until, after traversing France in
all directions, he could return to Paris and bring it to
his feet.
Twelve years, indeed, of hard fighting, but not-we
may suppose-of the sour and bitter toil which hardens
the heart and paralyses thought. A free and merry battle
with the ups and downs of fortune, where defeat was

15 16

I4-The Moat near the Tour de Nesle.

IS-Joseph B6jart.

I6-Gros Ren&.


borne with good humour, and the good days were enjoyed
en grand seigneur, as a natural compensation. A wan-
dering existence, full of obscure adventures, which the
historian of the theatre and the biographer of Moliere
try in vain to unravel; a life full of work and excitement,
but pervaded also by an atmosphere of love and feminine
intrigues, which we suspect without being able to define.
In short, an existence which ripened in Moliere the man-
liness which, combined with his profound knowledge of
human nature and his disillusioned humour, renders him
so great in our eyes.


Moliere's Wanderings-New Adversities and Trials-Fortune smiles-
First Comedies of Moliere, and Sojourn of the Company in the South
of France-Actresses of the Troupe, and Moliere's relations with them.

THE nucleus of the little company which in 1646 started
on its adventurous tour with Moliere-a youth of twenty-
four-was, of course, the Bejart family, among the mem-
bers of which Madeleine was charged with the great
tragic female parts and the soubrettes, Genevieve, who
on the stage was called Mlle. Herv6 (her mother's maiden
name), with the second female lovers, and Catherine
Bourgeois, probably, with the other female parts. At
this time the company does not seem to have included
other actresses.
On the male staff Denis Beys had been replaced by
another man of theatrical experience, the former pro-
vincial manager, Charles Dufresne, who for some time


had lent his name to the company, while practically
Moliere continued to be its leader, and soon after under-
took the full responsibility of management. Dufresne,
of whom we know very little more than that he was the
son of a Court painter, played tragic parts of the second
rank and fathers in comedy. The heroes, properly
so called, were represented by Moliere himself, and
the lovers were performed by Joseph B1jart, who had
made a not entirely successful attempt to be cured of his
The company had acquired an excellent addition in
the comic actor Ren6 Berthelot, called Duparc. His
cheerful temperament and corpulent body naturally
qualified him for the post of jester in the company, and
for several years Gros Ren was the standing buffoon
in the comedies of Moliere (fig. 16).
Louis B1jart, who was still very young, had also
joined the ranks, and, as already mentioned, he under-
took the second comic valets. He went by the name of
I'Eguisg, The Sharp," on account of his shrewd tongue.
Besides these the company included a few members
of secondary importance, so that they numbered about
ten altogether, no more-the usual size of a provincial
Though much more than might have been expected
has come to light during the last few years concerning
the provincial wanderings of Moliere and his companions,
especially data fixing the principal places at which they
set up for a time, we are as uncertain as ever about our
I Ue] "suis homme fort rond de toutes les manieres," Moliere makes
him say of himself in Le D/Pit Amoureux, i. I.


most essential concerns: their private life, their r6per-
toire, and their style of acting. This, however, seems
certain-that, to begin with, things went as miserably as
in Paris. The magistrates and the clergy in the pro-
vincial towns looked askance at these strolling jugglers,
who carried off the citizens' money, and they put all
imaginable obstacles in their way. Frequently, when
attracted to some place by hearing of a festival, which
might afford opportunities of gaining money, they were
stopped by the brief and brusque announcement of the
magistrate, that a council must be summoned to consider
whether a licence to act could be granted. Sometimes
they obtained such a licence, but on condition that the
proceeds of the first-probably the best-day of per-
formance should go to a convent or poorhouse.
In the towns they acted in the tennis-court or the
town hall; but when the curiosity of the townspeople
was satisfied, the company did not disdain to visit the
villages, where a stage was erected in a large barn, and
tragedies were performed to the accompaniment of
lowing cattle and braying donkeys. We can imagine,
also, large country seats opening their gates to Moliere
and his waggons (Comp. fig. 17), and their halls
resounding with the sonorous Alexandrines of the great
Corneille and of the less distinguished Magnon, followed
by a merry little improvised farce, interlarded with spicy
jokes adapted to the rustic taste.
If Moliere and his actors had had the whole field to
themselves, very likely matters would have gone more
smoothly from the beginning, but this was far from being
the case. A number of companies traversed the country


in all directions,1 and these were by no means humble
bands beneath competition. Enthusiasm for the theatre
ran high in those times, and many a student, many a
young poet, many a nobleman even, preferring to culti-
vate the free and rising art of the actor to leading a life
of regular and time-honoured work, joined the strolling
If many of the French actors in those times bear
grand names, with the tempting little particle of nobility
attached to them, most of them-Moliere's among the
number-are fictitious; still, not a few were really entitled
to bear arms, and the fact that the dramatic profession
included many noblemen perhaps explains, to a certain
extent, why others who had no right to it adopted the
little handle to their name.
Gradually, however, the little company succeeded in
fighting its way to an honoured position, and overcame
the worst financial difficulties.
As long as they remained in the West of France
their struggles were severe enough. In Nantes there
was strong competition to overcome from the puppet
shows of the Venetian Segalla, which, at first, were much
more appreciated by the public than Moliere and his
plays. But when they arrived in the southern climes,
with their clear sky and merry population, fortune at
last began to smile on the sorely tried children of Thalia.
Moliere himself had now begun writing for the stage,
and his tragic inclinations seem to have vanished. His
first plays, some of which have been preserved, are mere

Chappuzeau in his time (circ. 1674) reckons fifteen ; but "the number
is unlimited," he adds. Le ThAdtre Francois, Brussels, 1867, p. 109.

7I--A Company visiting a country seat.
18-Mademoiselle de Brie. Ig-Mademoiselle du Parc.


membered, were also exceptionally talented, had to fight
so long to secure a position.
Now when the little company, who had stood so
faithfully by each other all the years of trials and
struggle, at last met with success and general recogni-
tion, they could afford to increase their undeniably small
staff of actors. And when good fortune comes to a theatre,
there are always plenty of aspirants who wish to share it.
When Moliere was in Lyons there was also a com-
pany there, under the leadership of a man named Mitalla.
His staff included two very fine and charming, but also
very different actresses, both of whom Moliere succeeded
in attaching to his company. One of them was the
gentle, graceful Mlle. de Brie, n6e Catherine Leclerc du
Rozet (fig. 18), the other the proud and magnificent
Marquise' Th6rese de Gorla, soon after married as
Mlle. du Parc (fig. 19); and both these women
became of great importance to Moliere-in his plays
as well as in his life. Mlle. de Brie was already
married when Moliere engaged her. Her husband,
Edme Villequin, Sieur de Brie, was a coarse, brutal
fellow-the r6les allotted to him by Moliere were the
fighters, such as Silvestre in Les Fourberies de Scapin
and the fencing-master in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme-
but as a husband he was very lenient indeed. As an
actor he could at most be called a "utility-man," and it
is evidently as an unavoidable appendix that he entered
into the bargain, when his wife was engaged. He was
what our modern [Danish] managers would call the
"Marquise" was Mile. du Parc's first name, not her title nor her sur-
name, as many have supposed. Marquise, or Marquise, is a Christian name
of frequent occurrence among old Gascon families.


"bone" which has to be bought, if we want the meat
that is attached to it. Moliere did not like him.
All the more did he value the wife. In a little
libellous pamphlet,' which long after the death of Moliere
was published against Mile. Moliere, we read how this
man, with his strong, amorous tendencies, first fell in
love with Mile. du Pare, "but their feelings did not
agree on this point, and this woman, who was justified
in aspiring to a more distinguished conquest, treated
Moliere with so much contempt that he was obliged to
direct his attentions to Mlle. de Brie, who received him
more favourably ; and her power over him became so
strong, that, feeling unable to part with her, he found
means to attach her to his company, together with Mlle.
du Pare. The B6jart was much annoyed at his liaison,
but on finding that there was no help for it, she had
common sense enough to seek consolation, preserving all
the time the influence over Moliere which she had once ac-
quired, and forcing him to conceal the relations which were
established between him and Mlle. de Brie. They went on
for some years living on these terms of understanding." 2
The story told in the pamphlet in all its unsenti-
mental brevity bears the stamp of truth; at any rate,
history has accepted it as authentic. Mile. de Brie
stands before us as the comforter of Moliere, the woman
who loves with resignation, to whom he, the passionate,
restless, nervous man, turns for consolation when the
others have torn his heart asunder. When Mlle. du Pare
I Lafameuse Comedienne ou Histoire de la Gurin au faravant femme et
veuve de Molire. A Francfort, 1688. The rare little book has been several
times reprinted. The edition used here is that of Jules Bonnassies, 1870.
2 Of. cit., pp. 7 f.


has turned him off, when his wife has brought ridicule on
him and fooled him, the gentle, affectionate Mile. de Brie
is always ready to heal his wounds and calm his mind.
Madeleine B&jart was the practical, clever, unsenti-
mental, but cheerful and good-looking woman of busi-
ness; Catherine de Brie the tender, gentle, languishing
woman, the delightful performer of Moliere's captivating
female characters and finally Mile. du Parc, the beauti-
ful, radiant, but unapproachable coquette, who captivated
the senses, but left the heart cold.,
Marquise Th6rese de G&rla, daughter of a well-
known quack-doctor of Lyons, became attached to the
company of Moliere by falling in love with the fat comic
actor Duparc, alias Gros Ren6. She must have possessed
a remarkable power of attraction, if her charm was not
due merely to her beauty and her reserve, for no less
than five of the great men of the century had sighed at
her feet; first of all Moliere, then both the brothers
Corneille, the great Pierre, whom she proudly rejected
on account of his white hair, and who for this reason
addressed a scathing poem to her,2 and the less eminent
I Mile. de Brie afterwards performed all the first female lovers in
Moliere's plays. She was Eliante in Le Misanthrope, Mariane in Tartufe
and L'Avare, and Armande in Les Femmes savantes. She created Agnes
in L'Ecole des Femmes, and won such favour in this part that, when at last
she gave it up and was to be replaced by a younger actress, the audience
was so ardent in its request to see her in it, that she had to be sent for ;
whereupon she came, and amid great enthusiasm acted the part in her
ordinary clothes.
2 It ends in the following self-satisfied and somewhat acrimonious lines :-
Chez cette race nouvelle,
Oi j'aurai quelque credit
Vous ne passerez pour belle
Qu' autant que je l'aurai dit.
(Among that coming race with whom I shall be of some credit you will only
pass for handsome just so much as I shall have declared you to be.)


Thomas; then Lafontaine, and at last Racine, the only
one who is supposed not to have sighed quite in vain.
That this proud, beautiful and coquettish woman gave
her heart to fat Rend, while so many great men of genius
courted her favour, is one more proof that genius does
not suffice to win a woman.
As an actress she became of great value to the com-
pany, though scarcely as much so as Mile. de Brie.
Besides her dramatic talent, which was evidently in
the tragic line, she was a clever and original dancer.
"She made some peculiar caprioles," an old chronicler
tells us,1 "for as her skirt was split down both sides,
her legs and part of her thighs could be seen, with
silk stockings, fastened at the top to short drawers."
So in addition to her other qualities Mlle. du
Parc had the merit of being the inventor of the ballet-
In addition to these two ladies the company acquired
a third, who deserves to be mentioned, because her name
is known in a twofold way in the history of the theatre.
Marie Ragueneau was the daughter of the well-known
Parisian pastry-cook and poet immortalised by Edmond
Rostand in his play Cyrano de Bergerac, and after-
wards wife of La Grange, the friend and companion of
Moliere, whom later we shall have an opportunity of
mentioning more in detail. She joined the company as
maid to Mlle. de Brie. Though she herself afterwards
became an actress, she never distinguished herself in
that capacity. Her father, the pastry-cook, was also of
1 Lettres sur la vie de Molikre et des comediens de son temps, in the Mercure
de France of May and June 1740. These letters are ascribed to Mile. Poisson,
daughter-in-law of the famous Crispin.


the party, and was employed by the troupe as super and
With a considerably reinforced company-it included
more members than are enumerated here-Moliere was
able to compete with all the other companies, and,
indeed, we soon find him eclipsing them and winning a
name as the first man of the theatrical world in the
He met with another piece of good luck in the coin-
cidence that his old school-fellow, the Prince of Conti,
was just then residing in Languedoc, acting as governor
of that province, in which one of his estates was situated.
The Prince, who, by the bye, afterwards became devout
and a hater of the theatre, at this moment took a warm
interest in the stage; and by an even more fortunate
chance, his secretary, Sarrazin, fell in love with the
bewitching Mlle. du Pare. By these means they
succeeded in ousting all their competitors. Moliere's
company received a "pension as the Prince of Conti's
own players, and continued to bear this name as long as
they acted in the provinces.
Henceforth we hear no.more of poverty and want, of
miserable performances in barns and stables, and of the
struggle for daily bread. Wherever they acted there
was a crowded audience, and even though the magis-
trates still interfered with the prices of admission, thereby
greatly diminishing the ordinary proceeds of the per-
formances, the patronage of the Prince of Conti helped
to obtain very considerable subsidies from the exchequer,
which was in his hands. We find the company receiving
the large extra subsidies of 5000 and 6000 lives (corre-


spending to five times as much nowadays) for its
The actors lived in wealth and luxury and wore
magnificent clothes. The table of the Moliere-B6jart
household was hospitably open to friends and acquaint-
ances, and the poor were not forgotten-but a short
while ago they had known poverty themselves.
One of the queer originals of the time, the strolling
singer and musician Charles d'Assoucy, who met the
company in 1655, and who, as an old acquaintance of
Moliere's, enjoyed his hospitality, gives us, in his
Aventures, a very vivid picture of the life of the com-
pany during its period of comfort, a picture, too, which
shows the invariable kindness of heart and the generous
mind of Moliere.
D'Assoucy wandered about France, lute in hand, and
always accompanied by two pages with whom he sang
his merry songs. He was dominated by one great
passion, gambling, which constantly threw him into
great distress, but he never learned wisdom from his
troubles. He tells us how he met Moliere and the
Bejarts in Lyons, and in their society forgot all his
grievances, among others that one of his pages had
left him. He embarked in a Rhone boat with the
company to go to Avignon, as he had been told that
a singer with an excellent voice was to be found in that
town; and on his arrival there, with forty pistoles in
his pocket, the remainder of his fortune, "inasmuch
as a gambler cannot live without cards, even as a sailor
cannot do without tobacco, the first thing I did was to
go to the 'academy"' (i.e. the gambling-house).


There, of course, he lost all he possessed to some
Jews, and had gradually to pledge most of his clothes,
so that at last he left the "academy" as naked as Adam
in Paradise. But," this genuine Bohemian continues,
" as a man is never poor so long as he has friends, and
as I am esteemed by Moliere and on friendly terms with
all the B6jarts, I felt, in spite of the devil, fate, and the
whole Hebrew people, richer and more contented than
ever. For these liberal folk were not satisfied with
helping me as a friend; they wanted to treat me as
a relative. As they were summoned to come to the
Chamber of Deputies, they took me with them to
P6zenas, and I cannot say how amiably I was treated
by the whole family. They say that the best brother
tires of giving to his brother after a month, but they
were more liberal than all the brothers in the world,
for they never tired of having me at their table for
a whole winter." 1
The enthusiasm of d'Assoucy breaks out into poetry
when he describes the excellent table of this house.
" Never was a beggar thus fattened," he exclaims in
And his words conjure up before our eyes the
picture of Madeleine B6jart, strong and well built,
with her bright, intelligent face, presiding over the
sumptuous table, where seven or eight courses were
the usual fare ; Moliere, with his large brown eyes
under the dark bushy brows and a humorous smile
about his full, sensitive mouth, watching the greedy,
Aventures de Charles Coipeau d'Assoucy, i. 309, quoted by Loiseleur,
op. cit., pp. 194 f


loquacious poet of the highroads, who is having an
argument with the sharp-tongued Louis B6jart, while
the quiet elder brother sits by and enjoys himself in
silence. But after the meal musical instruments are
brought out, the sparkling, ruby coloured muscat is
placed on the table, and merry songs and stories go
on, till Madeleine's authoritative voice gives the signal
to break up, and everyone goes about his business.
Moliere retires to work at a new five-act play in verse,
Joseph Bejart puts the last touch to his work on
heraldry,1 Madeleine goes to her accounts, while
d'Assoucy makes an effort to tear himself away from
the sweet muscat wine.
For this easy- going life by no means made the
leaders of the company forget their work. As early
as 1656 Moliere had finished Le Ddpit amoureux; it
was performed at B6ziers towards the end of the year,
and no doubt won as great favour with the public as
L'Etourdi; it is known, at least, that this second of
Moliere's regular comedies produced a great effect
and long maintained its place in the repertoire in
Paris. From an artistic point of view, the new piece
marked a great advance in its author. His first play
had been a fairly slavish imitation of his Italian model;
Le Ddpit amoureux shows a considerable emancipation.
T'he graceful love-scenes, in particular, and the charming
personality of Lucile are entirely his own, and may per-
haps have been inspired by the whirl of love-intrigues,
in which he himself seems to have been involved.
I Recueil des tires, qualits, blazons et armes des Seigneurs Barons
des Estats Gendraux de la Province de Languedoc tenus d PA/snas, 1654
(Lyons, 1655).


At the same time Madeleine B6jart was as watchful
for the material well-being of the company as was
Moliere for its artistic honour, and we see the energetic
woman claiming, with unbending perseverance, the pay-
ment of the promissory notes, which the accountants
of the Chamber of Deputies were quite willing to issue
but not very eager to redeem.
During all this time the thought of Paris probably
stood before Moliere's mind as the final goal of his long
Odyssey. He had not let the capital entirely out of his
sight. It was the custom for provincial troupes to spend
Lent in Paris, as at that time there was not much play-
going in the provinces. Lessons were then taken of the
great masters in the capital; the stage managers engaged
fresh actors, and the actors who could find employment
in Paris, after their apprenticeship in the provinces,
remained there.1
We know of at least one such visit of Moliere to
Paris (in 1651). While he was far down in the south
with his company, it may have been difficult enough for
him to pay visits to the capital. Now, however, he is
gradually approaching the great focus. In 1658 we find
him leaving Lyons with his company, going first to
Grenoble, then to Rouen, the town of the brothers Cor-
neille, where he acted in the tennis-court of The Two
Moors," and by that time he had evidently quite made
up his mind to attempt Paris. As early as July of the
same year Madeleine B1jart hired a tennis-court there
for eighteen months; Moliere made frequent journeys to
the capital; he was introduced to the young King Louis
Chappuzeau: of. cit. pp. Io9 f.


XIV. and to the Queen mother; in short, everything
was prepared for the great and daring stroke.

Return to Paris-MoliBre acts before Louis XIV.-The first signal success
is obtained with Les PrIcieuses ridicules-Prosperity of the Petit
Bourbon Theatre-Additional Members-M. de La Grange, Moliere's
right hand.
AT last the decisive day arrived. The company of
Moliere-probably through the patronage of the Prince
of Conti-was ordered to play before the King and
Court on October 24th, 1658. The performance was to
take place in the Salle des Gardes of the old Louvre,'
and the programme chosen by Moliere consisted of
Nicomede, a tragedy by Corneille, and a little farce of
his own composition, Le Mddecin amoureux, which is
no longer extant. The appearance of the new actors
seems to have roused some expectation in the theatrical
world, for the actors of the H6tel de Bourgogne were
present in a body, which, of course, was an additional
stimulus for the newcomers to exert themselves to the
utmost. The tragedy had a tolerable success, which was
especially due to the beautiful and talented actresses.
After this first part of the entertainment, Moliere
appeared alone on the stage, and in one of the little
harangues for which he was celebrated in the provinces,
and which he himself took pleasure in making,2 he
I Now the Salle des Cariatides in the Section of Antiquities.
2" He liked addressing the audience, and never neglected an opportunity
of doing so. He even went so far that when any servant at the theatre died,
he profited by the opportunity to make a speech on the next day of per-
formance." Grimarest: La Vie de M. de Moliere, Amsterdam, 1705.


modestly thanked his Majesty for the kindness with
which he had been pleased to excuse the shortcomings
of his company and himself, who had, not without
trembling, ventured to present themselves before such
an exalted assembly; "and," he continued, "their great
desire to have the honour of entertaining the greatest
King on earth had made them forget that his Majesty
had in his service most excellent models, of whom they
themselves were but faint imitators. But since the King
had been good enough to put up with their rustic
manners, he humbly begged of his Majesty to allow him
to present one of his little divertissementss,' by which
he had gained some reputation, and with which he
had been in the habit of entertaining the public in the
The tone of this speech appears nowadays too humble,
and not quite suitable for a man like Moliere. But it
must be borne in mind, in the first place, that the King
could hardly be addressed in any other tone; and
secondly, that Moliere was still far from being the
Moliere whom we admire. He was a modest provincial
manager, the author of half a score of light farces and of
two comedies, which were entirely unknown in Paris.
His veneration for his celebrated colleagues of the
H6tel de Bourgogne may have been genuine enough
at the time. Soon, it is true, he was to change his
On this occasion, at any rate, Moliere's modesty pro-
bably had its effect. If the tragedy had been received
with kindly respect, the farce, in which Moliere played
the principal part, quite took the public by storm. Louis


XIV., who, at any rate, in his youth, possessed a strong
sense of humour, evidently saw at once that Moliere was
a man after his own heart. After this trial performance
he allowed the company to settle in Paris, and even gave
it a stage in the old theatrical hall of the Petit Bourbon,1
for the use of which it was to pay 1500 livres a year to
the Commedia dell arte company, who had a previous
right to act there. The latter had the theatre on Tues-
days and Sundays, the former on Mondays, Wednesdays,
Thursday and Saturdays. The Duke of Orleans, brother
of the King, allowed the new actors to use his name, and
the company assumed the title of the Troupe de Monsieur.2
At the same time he allowed an annual pension of 300
livres to each of its members. In mentioning this last
favour, however, La Grange, the faithful recorder of all
the financial vicissitudes of the company, adds the follow-
ing laconic statement: Nota, the 300 livres were never
However, in spite of this little forgetfulness on the
part of the distinguished Duke, whose pockets were
always empty, Moliere and his company had obtained
more than they had dared to hope or to expect.
Installed, so to speak, in the Royal Palace itself
together with the popular Italians, noticed by the
Monarch, patronised by his brother-the only thing
that now remained to be desired was the favour
of the public, and for this they had not long to
On the 2nd of November in the same year the
1 Comp. above, p. 30 and fig. 8.
2 Monsieur (with a capital M) was the official title of the eldest of the
King's brothers.


company' for the first time appeared before a large
Parisian audience, and Moliere was wise enough to
introduce himself with one of his own plays: L'Etourdi,
which was a novelty in Paris, and gained immediate
He then ventured forth with a number of tragedies
by Corneille, but was violently hissed in Rodogune and
in La Mort de Pompde.2 The roasted apples with which
he had been pelted in the provinces, began to be his lot
again in Paris, but they never succeeded in driving him
from tragedy. He speedily made up for his failure by
his second comedy, Le Ddpit amoureux, and after all,
his first theatrical year in Paris ended with a good
The new company was already becoming fashionable.
A contemporary, but somewhat younger author, de Vise,
gives a description of their theatre in its first year, which,
for the very reason that he is unfavourably disposed
towards Moliere, gives us a much more vivid impression
of it than the commonplace outbursts of admiration, with
which later biographers fatigue the investigator. He
writes: As he was a sensible man and knew what was

1 After their arrival in Paris their number-perhaps for financial reasons
-was somewhat limited, and consisted of only ten persons in all, viz. :-
Actors- Actresses-
Moliere. Madeleine Bdjart.
Du Fresne. Mile. du Parc.
Du Parc. Mile. de Brie.
De Brie. Mile. Herv6.
Joseph Bejart.
Louis Bejart.
Croisac, gagiste (i.e., not a shareholder in the company).
2 It is in this last play that he was painted by his friend Mignard Compp.
fig. 32).


required to secure success, he did not open his theatre
till he had paid several visits and gained a number of
well-wishers. He was judged incapable of acting a
serious play, but the respect which he was beginning to
inspire caused him to be tolerated.
After having for some time performed old pieces,'
and gained a fairly firm footing in Paris, he played his
L'Etourdi and Le D/pfit amoureux, which won favour
quite as much through the interest he began to inspire
in the general public as through the approval of those
whom he had invited to come and see them.
"After the success of these two plays his theatre
gradually filled with people of rank, not so much owing
to the amusement which they found there (for only old
plays were performed), as because they had got into
the habit of going there, and because those who were
fond of society, as well as those who liked showing them-
selves off, found ample opportunity of satisfying their
inclination. In short, people went there from habit,
without intending to listen to the play, even without
knowing what was acted."2
This was written in 1663, and the few lines quoted
above seem to bring us into the time itself. There
is this danger connected with the study of the great
1 This is not correct. He began at once with L'Etourdi; unless, indeed
de Vise alludes to the court performance.
2 Nouvlles nouvelles, 3e parties, p. 2I7.-This book, which contains sharp
though cautious attacks on Moliere and Corneille, is ascribed to Jean
Donneau de Vise, the adroit founder of Le Mercure galant. Victor Fournel,
in his great compilation, Les Contemporains de Moliere, has attempted to
lay the authorship of the Nouvelles nouvelles, as well as that of Zclinde-a
play antagonistic to Moliere-to the charge of the actor de Villiers ; but later
investigators disagree with him, and the responsibility for the malicious
attacks on Moliere continues to rest with de Vise.

r1~ .s

20-Title of the original edition of Moliere.
(Moliere as Mascarille and Sganarelle.)


purging the French language, but which, with its extreme
affectation of refinement, threatened to convert the clear
French language into the most confused and absurd
tongue in the world. It is quite possible that Moliere
had borrowed his idea from the Italians, who had acted
a similar play.' But what gave importance to his play
was not the subject, but the wonderful humour and
inventive power with which the style of the Precieuses
was parodied, the mastery of language and the wit, which,
of course, the Italian play did not possess, and which, to
this day, make us enjoy this little literary satire on a
school which has long been extinct, almost as vividly
as those who saw it at the time when it was written.2
The best description of the effect of the play is given
by one of the "precious poets himself. The generous
and respected linguist and poet M6nage, who belonged
completely to the over-refined school, says, in speaking
of the first performance, I went to the first performance
of the Prdcieuses ridicules, by Moliere. Mile. de Ram-
bouillet3 was there, as well as Mme. de Grignan,4 the
whole 'H6tel de Rambouillet,' M. Chapelain,5 and several
others of my acquaintance. The play was acted to the

This, at all events, is asserted by de Vise in the Nouvelles nouvelles;
and the Dictionnaire des Thidtres of de LUris (Paris, 1763), mentions a play
by the Abbe de Pure, Les Pricieuses,. which is said to have been performed
circ. 1659.
2 Mascarille, we know, is one of the crowning parts of Coquelin aine,
with which he has made the tour of, so to speak, the whole civilised world.
3 Julie d'Angennes, daughter of the Marquise de Rambouillet, Catherine
de Vivonne, the originator of the "precious" fashion.
4 The beautiful but cold daughter of Mme. de Sevigne.
5 One of the staff of the H6tel de Rambouillet, an unimportant author who
acquired Herostratic fame by his attacks on Corneille, and by his bad
heroic poem, La Pucelle.


general applause, and for my own part I was so pleased
with it, that I at once saw the effect it would produce.
In leaving the theatre I shook hands with M. Chapelain,
and said to him, 'Monsieur, you and I have approved of
all the follies which have been ridiculed here with so
much delicacy and common sense. But, believe me, as
St R6mi said to Clovis: We must burn what we have
worshipped, and worship what we have burned.' So it
was done, and after this first performance we abandoned
that nonsensical and affected style." 1
The immense sensation created by this little play,
which constituted only a third part of the evening's
performance, is best shown by the following figures.
On the first evening-Nov. I8th, 1659-the proceeds
were 533 liv., but on the second they increased to 1400
liv., a very considerable amount for those days.
It was then that the new company arrived for the
first time at being mentioned by Loret, the only dramatic
chronicler of the time; in his Muse historique of Dec.
6th, 1659, he briefly states the event, though without
adding the name of Moliere. He speaks of the play as
insignificant, but so amusing that people of all classes
rush to see it, and says that no other piece, not even those
of du Ryer, Corneille, Boisrobert, Quinault, and many
others, has had such a run. "As to myself," he adds,
" I paid my 30 sous, but on hearing their fine witticisms,
I had more than Iopistoles' worth of laughter."
That the company itself was aware of the success
I Menagiana II. 22, dd. 1729.-Of course neither Menage nor the others
were thus cured of the "precious" style at one blow; and Moliere satirised
it again in Les Femmes savantes, where the comic pedant, Vadius, is a
caricature of Menage himself.


Moliere had procured for them is shown by the present
of 500 livres which they made him after the second
From the cast of Les Prdcieuses ridicules, by the
bye, we learn that the company had undergone some
alterations. The two lovers here are called La Grange
and du Croisy, but these two names indicate two new
actors, not the names of persons in the play. More-
over, one of the valets is named Jodelet, and was
no other than the well-known comic actor whom we have
mentioned above,' and who for several years had been
acting now at the H6tel de Bourgogne and now at
the Marais.
There had probably been some discord in the com-
pany, for, shortly after their arrival in Paris, M. and
Mme. du Parc-the first heroine and the first comic
actor next to Moliere-gave up their posts and went to
the Marais. Dufresne, Moliere's former fellow manager,
definitely retired.
At the same time Moliere engaged Jodelet and his
brother 1'Espy from the Marais theatre. Both, however,
were somewhat advanced in age. Jodelet, whose nasal
utterance and ludicrous face had afforded so much amuse-
ment to the Parisians, was evidently no longer at his
best. Perhaps he was also out of health. At all events
he died the following year. Not long after their arrival
in Paris, the company suffered a loss and a real sorrow
in the death of Joseph B1jart. That he was indeed
valued by his companions may be seen from the fact that
the theatre remained closed for a week after his burial.

' Comp pp. 15 and 29.

The "first lovers," which had been performed by
Joseph Bejart, now fell to the share of a young man who
had just been engaged, and who was to become of the
greatest importance to the company. His name was
Charles Varlet de la Grange (fig. 2 ). Born in I640 at
Amiens, he was scarcely twenty years old when, after play-
ing for some time in the provinces, he came to Moliere.
He was like clay in the hands of his master of thirty-seven,
who trained him to be a lover according to his own ideas
of perfection, not the empty-headed, blandly-smiling,
insipid doll, which had been the fashion hitherto, but the
" character lover, who is not always the same, but differs
according to circumstances, now representing the youthful,
trustful, open-hearted bourgeois (Horace, in L'Ecole des
Femmes), now the lively, impudent dandy (Clitandre in
George Dandin), or the kind-hearted, honest, sensible
youth (Valere in Tartufe), or, finally, the unscrupulous,
perverted, and cold-hearted Don Juan. He became the
prototype of such lovers as the nineteenth century
possessed in Bressant and Delaunay. Of medium height,
elegant and well made, with marked features and a
small, sarcastic mouth, fluent of tongue, and graceful of
movement-such was La Grange, and such was hence-
forth the model june premier of the French theatre,
equally far removed from the tall, sentimental, rather
slow and angular, English type, from our own (Danish),
ever-smiling, curly-headed wooer, and from the square
and burly lover who is the ideal of a German audience.
La Grange became the performer of all Moliere's
lovers, besides, of course, acting many and various parts
in other plays. By his refinement, his pleasant manners,


and his eloquence, he rose to great importance in the
company by degrees as he gained promotion. Moliere
charged him with the very important function of Orator,"
of which we shall have more to say on a later occasion,
and after the death of Moliere it was he who became the
mainstay of the company.
A man of most methodical mind, from the moment
when he joined the company he kept the minutest
accounts, and put down in his account-book every event
which occurred at the theatre. In this way he uninten-
tionally became the recorder of his company, since his
Rdgistre, as he terms it, has fortunately been preserved.
With its detailed accounts and miscellaneous remarks
about a variety of things, it affords the historian of the
theatre much curious and important information, which
otherwise he would have missed. The present company
of the Th6etre francais, who possessed this work in
MS., and were thoroughly aware of its importance to
theatrical history and to biographers of Moliere, had it
published in 1876 in an exceedingly fine edition, accom-
panied by notes and explanations from the hand of
Edouard Thierry, the principal keeper of the theatrical
La Grange afterwards married Marie Ragueneau, the
pastry-cook's daughter, who had formerly accompanied
the troupe as maid to Mile. de Brie, or rather, as a kind
of pupil, who in return for the instruction given her
waited upon the elder actress. She was without talent
for the stage, and seems to have been an ugly, coquettish
little woman, with a marked inclination to economy.
Perhaps it was the latter quality which attracted La


Grange, for if he sometimes appeared as a careless spend-
thrift on the boards, this was certainly not his nature in
real life. However, the two seem to have spent their
lives peacefully together, without being harassed by con-
flicting love affairs, which were otherwise of common
occurrence in the theatrical world.
Posterity owes a debt of gratitude to La Grange for
having published, with Vinot,' the first complete and
trustworthy edition of Moliere, which appeared after the
great author's death (fig. 20).
The second new man whose name we meet with in
v the cast of Les Prdcieuses ridicules was Du Croisy. He
too became one of the strongest pillars of the company,
though he did not gain the same importance as La
Grange, either as actor or as man of business. Philibert
Gassot du Croisy was about thirty when he joined
the Petit Bourbon Theatre. A young nobleman-he
was one of the actors who had a right to the particle
of nobility2-he had been driven by his theatrical
inclinations into a wandering life, and he had even
been the manager of a company. Now he sought a
harbour with Moliere, who employed him in many
comic parts, both of the finer and of the coarser sort.
He was the original Oronte in Le Misanthrope, Mer-
cury in Amphitryon, M. de Sotenville in George
Dandin, G&ronte in Les Fourberies de Scapin, and
Vadius in Les Femmes savantes. His most important
creation, however, was Tartufe, especially important
I Oeuvres de Moliere [by Vinot and La Grange], Paris, 1682,8 vols. 12mo.
2 This was not the case with La Grange. He called himself Sieur de la
Grange, but his real name was Varlet. La Grange was the family name
of his mother.


because it gives us an idea of the manner in which
Moliere himself wished this much-discussed character
of his to be represented.
Du Croisy was a handsome man, but very fat, and
comic parts were his proper branch. Now, at the
Th6atre frangais, as elsewhere, Tartufe is played by
the juvenile lead or the serious character-actor. We
know that Coquelin ain6, as long as he belonged
to the Th6atre franqais, was never allowed to carry
out his conception of this character. If Moliere
chose Du Croisy, the fat, good-looking man, whose
comedy was combined with a certain inborn refine-
ment, to represent his Tartufe, the reason was
that he had formed a certain idea of the character,
which he wanted to be distinctly individualised, not to
be generalised as the typical hypocrite with haggard
cheeks and shifty eyes, whom we are accustomed to
It is remarkable that while, after his Tartufe,
Moliere had so much to suffer from the fury of the
religious fanatics that they even refused to allow him
to be buried in consecrated ground, Du Croisy, the

1 It would be well, on the whole, to give up the tendency to generalisation
in dramatic art, by which Tartufe is made to represent the Roman Church
and its tyranny; Shylock, martyrised Judaism ; and Hamlet, restless, irreso-
lute melancholy. This kind of interpretation may be permissible in literary
criticism, but dramatic art can only express the general by means of the
individual. In the eyes of those, therefore, who do not wish scenic repre-
sentations to be merely declamatory and moralised guides to literature, but
a vivid and artistic picture of human character, it is a good thing that a
few modern actors have begun to break with the nineteenth century senti-
mental and philosophic generalisation, in order to restore the classic figures
to the less lofty but more human representation of character which were
usual during the lifetime of the poets who created them.

actor of Tartufe, lived in peace and friendship with
his parish priest, who even took his death so much
to heart that he had not the strength to throw earth
on his coffin, but asked a colleague to do it for
The wife of Du Croisy was also engaged as a
member of the company, but her position was as
inferior as that of Mme. La Grange. Moliere did not
like her. The only thing we know about her is the
little part which she played under her own name in
L'Impromptu de Versailles. There Moliere says to
her, in explaining their parts to the actors: "You
represent one of those people who are meekly charitable
to all the world, yet who always leave a little passing
sting with their tongues, and would be sorry to hear
their neighbours well spoken of. I believe you will
not acquit yourself badly in the part."
With these new additions, and with M. and Mlle.
du Parc--who, after a year's absence, returned from
the Marais to Moliere -the company may be said
on the whole to have been well equipped in most
branches. The exception was tragedy, which was
somewhat poorly provided for, as there was no tragic
hero besides Moliere himself, and he was not at all
popular in that genre.
However, after Les PrIcieuses ridicules, the company
was sure of general attention, and Paris possessed one
more permanent theatre.

22-Costume a la Romaine.

23-Turkish costume.

21-La Grange.



Material Conditions of Parisian Theatres--The Republican System-
Income of the Actors Origin of the Feu Expensiveness
of Costumes-Theatrical Functionaries-The "Orator" and his
Duties-Moliere and other Actors as Orators-Disturbances and
Scandals in the Playhouses-Subordinate Theatrical Functionaries-
The Prompter and the Memory of the Actors.

THOUGH the name of Moliere has been closely associ-
ated with that of Louis XIV. through anecdotes true
and fictitious, and though it is generally thought, and
not without reason, that he owed his position in Paris
to the favour of the Roi Soleil," it must not be
supposed that the company under his leadership was
financially the most favoured; far from it.
At the period we have now reached-about the year
I66o-Paris possessed four established companies. First,
the Italians; second, the company of Moliere-these two
acting in the Petit Bourbon; third, the Royal company
in the H6tel de Bourgogne; and fourth, the Marais com-
pany. Of these the Italians were the most favoured,
as they received a royal pension of i5,000 francs;
next came the Royal company with 12,000; the
Marais troupe probably received something, at any rate
Vtieystyled themselves "supported by His Majesty";
while M1oliere's troupe was absolutely without any sub-
Not till several years later--from August 1665
onwards-did the King, in a moment of especial delight
with Moliere, grant the company an annual pension of
6ooo francs, and this sum was not increased during the


life-time of Moliere. Its official support therefore only
amounted to half that of the H6tel de Bourgogne.
Apart from the royal subsidies, the material and
administrative conditions of the theatres were very much
alike, and it is interesting to know them, because they
form the basis of the almost unique position of the
Thletre franqais of the present day, where fraternal self-
government is still the ruling system.
Old Chappuzeau, whose little book on the French
theatre, which appeared a few years after the death of
Moliere, is one of the chief sources of information with
regard to the administrative condition of the companies,
makes the following very appropriate remark: No
people on earth appreciate monarchy more than actors,
profit more by it, or are more enthusiastic for its glory,
but within their own circle they hate it; they will have
no particular master, and would be frightened by the
shadow of one However, their system of government
is not quite democratic either; it has an aristocratic
element in it."
This must be understood to mean that, while in all
matters relating to their art the actors were obliged-
and apparently were quite willing-to submit to the
supremacy of a few distinguished men of their profession,
in practical matters of business they were co-ordinate and
managed their affairs in common and by vote. Not that
all French or Parisian actors formed one large profes-
sional alliance; each company was a little republic by
This is particularly emphasised by Chappuzeau.
"Of the acting companies," he says, neither the settled

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