The titles of some of his prominent works in this field are 'Les Derniers Montagnards ; Histoire de la Revolution de second edition, , 5 vols.
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Les Femmes de la Revolution ' contains a great number of portraits, studies, and criticisms, partly belonging to political, partly to literary, history. Carpeaux ; L'Art et les Artistes Contemporains ', and others. Quite different from the above, and in another phase of thought, are: 'Voyages d'un Parisien ; Journees de Voyage en Espagne et France ; Journees de Vacances '; and others. It is, however, as a novelist that the fame of Claretie will endure.
He has followed the footsteps of George Sand and of Balzac. He belongs to the school of "Impressionists," and, although he has a liking for exceptional situations, wherefrom humanity does not always issue without serious blotches, he yet is free from pessimism. He has no nervous disorder, no "brain fag," he is no pagan, not even a nonbeliever, and has happily preserved his wholesomeness of thought; he is averse to exotic ideas, extravagant depiction, and inflammatory language.
His novels and tales contain the essential qualities which attract and retain the reader. Some of his works in chronological order, omitting two or three novels, written when only twenty or twenty-one years old, are: 'Pierrille, Histoire de Village ; Mademoiselle Cachemire ; Un Assassin, also known under the title Robert Burat ; Madeleine Bertin, replete with moderated sentiment, tender passion, and exquisite scenes of social life ; Les Muscadins , 2 vols. It is, perhaps, interesting to know that after the flight of the Imperial family from the Tuileries, Jules Claretie was appointed to put into order the various papers, documents, and letters left behind in great chaos, and to publish them, if advisable.
Very numerous and brilliant have also been the incursions of Jules Claretie into the theatrical domain, though he is a better novelist than playwright.
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He was appointed director of the Comedie Francaise in Some of them, as will be noticed, are adapted to the stage from his novels. In Le Regiment de Champagne, at least, he has written a little melodramatically. But thanks to the battles, fumes of powder, muskets, and cannons upon the stage the descendants of Jean Chauvin accept it with frenetic applause. In most of the plays, however, he exhibits a rather nervous talent, rich imagination, and uses very scintillating and picturesque language, if he is inclined to do so--and he is very often inclined.
Despite our unlimited admiration for Claretie the journalist, Claretie the historian, Claretie the dramatist, and Claretie the art- critic, we think his novels conserve a precious and inexhaustible mine for the Faguets and Lansons of the twentieth century, who, while frequently utilizing him for the exemplification of the art of fiction, will salute him as "Le Roi de la Romance.
When he had filled, in his running hand, a leaf of the book, the little man tore it hastily off, and extended it to a boy in dark blue livery with silver buttons, bearing the initial of the newspaper, L'Actualite; and then, still continuing to write, he replied: "Prince Andras Zilah is giving a fete on board one of the boats belonging to the Compagnie de la Seine. And who does Prince Andras Zil--" "Zilah! He is a Hungarian, Monsieur. I am going on board, and I will send you the rest of the list of guests by a sailor. They can prepare the article from what you have, and set it up in advance, and I will come myself to the office this evening and make the necessary additions.
I never lose anything! Prince Andras, a Hungarian, is about to be married. Prince Andras Zilah!
A fete on board a steamer! What a droll idea!
The boat was ready to start, its decks were waxed, its benches covered with brilliant stuffs, and great masses of azaleas and roses gave it the appearance of a garden or conservatory. There was something highly attractive to the loungers on the quay in the gayly decorated steamer, sending forth long puffs of white smoke along the bank. A band of dark- complexioned musicians, clad in red trousers, black waistcoats heavily embroidered in sombre colors, and round fur caps, played odd airs upon the deck; while bevies of laughing women, almost all pretty in their light summer gowns, alighted from coupes and barouches, descended the flight of steps leading to the river, and crossed the plank to the boat, with little coquettish graces and studied raising of the skirts, allowing ravishing glimpses of pretty feet and ankles.
The defile of merry, witty Parisiennes, with their attendant cavaliers, while the orchestra played the passionate notes of the Hungarian czardas, resembled some vision of a painter, some embarkation for the dreamed-of Cythera, realized by the fancy of an artist, a poet, or a great lord, here in nineteenth century Paris, close to the bridge, across which streamed, like a living antithesis, the realism of crowded cabs, full omnibuses, and hurrying foot-passengers. Prince Andras Zilah had invited his friends, this July morning, to a breakfast in the open air, before the moving panorama of the banks of the Seine.
Very well known in Parisian society, which he had sought eagerly with an evident desire to be diverted, like a man who wishes to forget, the former defender of Hungarian independence, the son of old Prince Zilah Sandor, who was the last, in , to hold erect the tattered standard of his country, had been prodigal of his invitations, summoning to his side his few intimate friends, the sharers of his solitude and his privacy, and also the greater part of those chance fugitive acquaintances which the life of Paris inevitably gives, and which are blown away as lightly as they appeared, in a breath of air or a whirlwind.
Count Yanski Varhely, the oldest, strongest, and most devoted friend of all those who surrounded the Prince, knew very well why this fanciful idea had come to Andras.
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At forty-four, the Prince was bidding farewell to his bachelor life: it was no folly, and Yanski saw with delight that the ancient race of the Zilahs, from time immemorial servants of patriotism and the right, was not to be extinct with Prince Andras. Hungary, whose future seemed brightening; needed the Zilahs in the future as she had needed them in the past.
When very young, Andras Zilah had cared for scarcely anything but his country; and, far from her, in the bitterness of exile, he had returned to the passion of his youth, living in Paris only upon memories of his Hungary. He had allowed year after year to roll by, without thinking of establishing a home of his own by marriage.
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A little late, but with heart still warm, his spirit young and ardent, and his body strengthened rather than worn out by life, Prince Andras gave to a woman's keeping his whole being, his soul with his name, the one as great as the other. He was about to marry a girl of his own choice, whom he loved romantically; and he wished to give a surrounding of poetic gayety to this farewell to the past, this greeting to the future.
The men of his race, in days gone by, had always displayed a gorgeous, almost Oriental originality: the generous eccentricities of one of Prince Andras's ancestors, the old Magyar Zilah, were often cited; he it was who made this answer to his stewards, when, figures in hand, they proved to him, that, if he would farm out to some English or German company the cultivation of his wheat, corn, and oats, he would increase his revenue by about six hundred thousand francs a year: "But shall I make these six hundred thousand francs from the nourishment of our laborers, farmers, sowers, and gleaners?
No, certainly not; I would no more take that money from the poor fellows than I would take the scattered grains from the birds of the air.
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The fortune of the Zilahs was then on a par with the almost fabulous, incalculable wealth of the Esterhazys and Batthyanyis. Prince Paul Esterhazy alone possessed three hundred and fifty square leagues of territory in Hungary. The Zichys, the Karolyis and the Szchenyis, poorer, had but two hundred at this time, when only six hundred families were proprietors of six thousand acres of Hungarian soil, the nobles of Great Britain possessing not more than five thousand in England.
The Prince of Lichtenstein entertained for a week the Emperor of Austria, his staff and his army. Old Ferency Zilah would have done as much if he had not always cherished a profound, glowing, militant hatred of Austria: never had the family of the magnate submitted to Germany, become the master, any more than it had bent the knee in former times to the conquering Turk. From his ancestors Prince Andras inherited, therefore, superb liberality, with a fortune greatly diminished by all sorts of losses and misfortunes --half of it confiscated by Austria in , and enormous sums expended for the national cause, Hungarian emigrants and proscribed compatriots.
Zilah nevertheless remained very rich, and was an imposing figure in Paris, where, some years before, after long journeyings, he had taken up his abode. The little fete given for his friends on board the Parisian steamer was a trifling matter to the descendant of the magnificent Magyars; but still there was a certain charm about the affair, and it was a pleasure for the Prince to see upon the garden-like deck the amusing, frivolous, elegant society, which was the one he mingled with, but which he towered above from the height of his great intelligence, his conscience, and his convictions.
It was a mixed and bizarre society, of different nationalities; an assemblage of exotic personages, such as are met with only in Paris in certain peculiar places where aristocracy touches Bohemianism, and nobles mingle with quasi-adventurers; a kaleidoscopic society, grafting its vices upon Parisian follies, coming to inhale the aroma and absorb the poison of Paris, adding thereto strange intoxications, and forming, in the immense agglomeration of the old French city, a sort of peculiar syndicate, an odd colony, which belongs to Paris, but which, however, has nothing of Paris about it except its eccentricities, which drive post-haste through life, fill the little journals with its great follies, is found and found again wherever Paris overflows--at Dieppe, Trouville, Vichy, Cauteret, upon the sands of Etretat, under the orange-trees of Nice, or about the gaming tables of Monaco, according to the hour, season, and fashion.
This was the sort of assemblage which, powdered, perfumed, exquisitely dressed, invaded, with gay laughter and nervous desire to be amused, the boat chartered by the Prince. Above, pencil in hand, the little dark man with the keen eyes, black, pointed beard and waxed moustache, continued to take down, as the cortege defiled before him, the list of the invited guests: and upon the leaves fell, briskly traced, names printed a hundred times a day in Parisian chronicles among the reports of the races of first representations at the theatres; names with Slav, Latin, or Saxon terminations; Italian names, Spanish, Hungarian, American names; each of which represented fortune, glory, power, sometimes scandal--one of those imported scandals which break out in Paris as the trichinae of foreign goods are hatched there.
The reporter wrote on, wrote ever, tearing off and handing to the page attached to 'L'Actualite' the last leaves of his list, whereon figured Yankee generals of the War of the Rebellion, Italian princesses, American girls flirting with everything that wore trousers; ladies who, rivals of Prince Zilah in wealth, owned whole counties somewhere in England; great Cuban lords, compromised in the latest insurrections and condemned to death in Spain; Peruvian statesmen, publicists, and military chiefs at once, masters of the tongue, the pen, and the revolver; a crowd of originals, even a Japanese, an elegant young man, dressed in the latest fashion, with a heavy sombrero which rested upon his straight, inky-black hair, and which every minute or two he took off and placed under his left arm, to salute the people of his acquaintance with low bows in the most approved French manner.
All these odd people, astonishing a little and interesting greatly the groups of Parisians gathered above on the sidewalks, crossed the gangway leading to the boat, and, spreading about on the deck, gazed at the banks and the houses, or listened to the czardas which the Hungarian musicians were playing with a sort of savage frenzy beneath the French tricolor united to the three colors of their own country. The Tzigani thus saluted the embarkation of the guests; and the clear, bright sunshine enveloped the whole boat with a golden aureole, joyously illuminating the scene of feverish gayety and childish laughter.
He had a pleasant word for each one as they came on board, happy and smiling at the idea of a breakfast on the deck of a steamer, a novel amusement which made these insatiable pleasure-seekers forget the fashionable restaurants and the conventional receptions of every day.
His usual expression was rather sad, and a trifle haughty. His forehead was broad and high, the forehead of a thinker and a student rather than that of a soldier; his eyes were of a deep, clear blue, looking directly at everything; his nose was straight and regular, and his beard and moustache were blond, slightly gray at the corners of the mouth and the chin. His whole appearance, suggesting, as it did, reserved strength and controlled passion, pleased all the more because, while commanding respect, it attracted sympathy beneath the powerful exterior, you felt there was a tender kindliness of heart.
There was no need for the name of Prince Andras Zilah--or, as they say in Hungary, Zilah Andras--to have been written in characters of blood in the history of his country, for one to divine the hero in him: his erect figure, the carriage of his head, braving life as it had defied the bullets of the enemy, the strange brilliance of his gaze, the sweet inflections of his voice accustomed to command, and the almost caressing gestures of his hand used to the sword--all showed the good man under the brave, and, beneath the indomitable soldier, the true gentleman.
When they had shaken the hand of their host, the guests advanced to the bow of the boat to salute a young girl, an exquisite, pale brunette, with great, sad eyes, and a smile of infinite charm, who was half-extended in a low armchair beneath masses of brilliant parti-colored flowers.
A stout man, of the Russian type, with heavy reddish moustaches streaked with gray, and an apoplectic neck, stood by her side, buttoned up in his frock-coat as in a military uniform. Every now and then, leaning over and brushing with his moustaches her delicate white ear, he would ask: "Are you happy, Marsa?
With a plump, dimpled hand, she held before her myopic eyes a pair of gold-mounted glasses; and she was speaking to a man of rather stern aspect, with a Slav physiognomy, a large head, crowned with a mass of crinkly hair as white as lamb's wool, a long, white moustache, and shoulders as broad as an ox; a man already old, but with the robust strength of an oak. He was dressed neither well nor ill, lacking distinction, but without vulgarity.
I am enjoying myself excessively already, and I intend to enjoy myself still more. Do you know, this scheme of a breakfast on the water is simply delightful! Don't you find it so? He glanced alternately at the little woman who addressed him, and at Marsa, two very different types of beauty: Andras's fiancee, slender and pale as a beautiful lily, and the little Baroness Dinati, round and rosy as a ripe peach.
And he was decidedly pleased with this Marsa Laszlo, against whom he had instinctively felt some prejudice when Zilah spoke to him for the first time of marrying her. The brave old soldier had never understood much of the fantastic caprices of passion, and Andras seemed to him in this, as in all other things, just a little romantic.
But, after all, the Prince was his own master, and whatever a Zilah did was well done. So, after reflection, Zilah's marriage became a joy to Varhely, as he had just been declaring to the fiancee's uncle, General Vogotzine. Baroness Dinati was therefore wrong to suspect old Yanski Varhely of any 'arriere-pensee'. How was it possible for him not to be enchanted, when he saw Andras absolutely beaming with happiness? They were now about to depart, to raise the anchor and glide down the river along the quays. Already Paul Jacquemin, casting his last leaves to the page of L'Actualite, was quickly descending the gangplank.
Zilah scarcely noticed him, for he uttered a veritable cry of delight as he perceived behind the reporter a young man whom he had not expected.
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