Title: My Memoirs, Vol. V, 1831 to 1832
Author: Alexandre Dumas
Translator: E. M. Waller
Release Date: December 25, 2015 [EBook #50768]
Produced by Laura NR & Marc D’Hooghe at http://www.freeliterature.org (Images generously made available by the Hathi Trust.)
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
The original file was provided by InternetArchive.
Benjamin Constant’s popularity was a strange one, and it would be hard to say upon what it was founded. He
was a Swiss Protestant, and had been brought up in England and Germany. He could speak English, German and French with equal ease; but he composed and wrote in French. He was young, good-looking, strong in body, but weak in character. From the time he set foot in France, Constant did nothing unless under the influence of women: they were his rulers in literature and his guides in politics. He was taken up by three of the most celebrated women of his time; by Madame Tallien, Madame de Beauharnais and Madame de Staël, and he was completely under their influence; the latter, especially, had an immense influence over his life.
Now, was Antony really as immoral a work as certain of the papers made out? No; for, in all things, says an old French proverb (and, since the days of Sancho Panza, we know that proverbs contain the wisdom of nations), we must see the end first before passing judgment. Now, this is how Antony ends. Antony is engaged in a guilty intrigue, is carried away by an adulterous passion, and kills his mistress to save her honour as a wife, and dies afterwards on the scaffold, or at least is sent to the galleys for the rest of his days. Very well, I ask you, are there many young society people who would be disposed to fling themselves into a sinful intrigue, to enter upon an adulterous passion,–to become, in short, Antonys and Adèles, with the prospect in view, at the end of their passion and romance, of death for the woman and of the galleys for the man?
People will answer me, that it is the form in which it is put that is dangerous, that Antony makes murder admirable, and Adèle justifies adultery.
“In the time of Molière, the word truffer was generally used for tromper (i.e. to deceive), from which the word truffe was taken, a word eminently suitable to the kind of eatable it describes, because of the difficulty there is in finding it. Now, it is quite certain that, formerly, people used the words truffe
and tartuffe indiscriminately, for we find it in an old French translation of the treatise by Platina, entitled De konestâ voluptate, printed in Paris in 1505, and quoted by le Duchat,
in his edition of Méntage’s Dictionnaire Étymologique. One of the chapters in Book IX. of this treatise is entitled, Des truffes ou tartuffes, and as le Duchat and other etymologists look upon the word truffe as derived from truffer, it is probable that people said tartuffe for truffe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, just as they could equally say tartuffer for truffer.”
Balzac had published the Peau de chagrin, one of his most irritating productions. Once for all, my estimation of Balzac, both as a man and as an author, is not to be relied upon: as a man, I knew him but little, and what I did know did not rouse in me the least sympathy; as regards his talent, his manner of composition, of creation, of production, were so different from mine, that I am a bad judge of him, and I condemn myself on this head, quite conscious that I can justly be called in question.