Page images

with dark lines, even as the dewy surface of a bush is covered with the filiny threads of the creative spider, till the matter of the forty-eight pages rises round the poet in billowy sheets of foolscap.

Now with a sigh of relief he rises up, wipes his glowing brow, dons those envied garments the pride and despair of Bond-street, orders his cab to Marlborough-street before Me. Colburn's novel-raised temple, delights that great man by walking into his sanctuary, and condescending to receive at his hands a paltry check for £500 more or less, the guerdon of his three hours' labor, and again instals himself in his triumphal chariot, the cynosure of tigers, flaneurs, ladies' maids, and their mistresses. Pondering the sundry claims of the morning, he finally decides on rewarding the least selfish of his admirers, drives off to the splendid mansion of the lovely and titled Lady * *

* . (If our memory is not at fault, she was wearing weeds for her lost lord, now hunting chamois in the Tyrol); they bid the world (of London) farewell, and for three weeks, the Baronial mansion of * * jn Deronshire and its household ministers, are alone conscious of their dream-wrapped existence.

Oh youthful 'candidate for the privilege of delighting the readers of Blackwood or Frazer, month after month ; aspiring artist that never yet could secure a decent strip of exhibition wall for your picture ; composer of music, longing to hear your ideas issuing in soul-subduing melodies from the twisted brass tubes and elastic chords of a parterre of musicians, did not our heart glow as we called to mind the noble lot of our gifted Adonis of the olden time, and were about to project this article for your encouragement, to proceed confidently and hopefully through the picturesque and flowery pleasure grounds of literature and art !" And here, on opening this book of evil omen, are our hopes disappointed, our wishes thwarted, and our spirits dejected. For, if our author comes within any reasonable distance of the truth, the present lot of the aspirants to fame in art or letters in Paris, is no more like that of the corresponding class in the palmy days of the “ New Monthly,” than the plodding track of a dray horse, to the soaring course of Pegasus, when from the top of the cleft hill above Delphi, he springs above the clouds to meet bright Phæbus issuing from the glowing portals of the morning. This winged quadruped reminds us of Bellerophon and his fate; so we descend to talk of earthly things, and the prosaic every-day life of men who, despising the yard measure, the plough, or the chisel, wish to seize on the minds and souls of their fellow beings, and hold them in bondage, listening to the beautiful combination of sweet sounds, looking with enchanted eyes on all that is captivating in form and color, or lost in admiration while the mind's eye contemplates, and the soul glows at the pictures of nature, or of human affections and sufferings, drawn by the life-infusing pencil of genius.

We fear, that if the large proportion of civilized man, that having got a few hours holiday relaxation in the enchanted gardens of literature, are seized on with a longing to linger in the enchanted walks and bowers during the term of their inortal being, were to have their wishes gratified, and could ever enjoy the bright landscape, at the mere cost of training the luxuriant foliage, watering the flower beds, or acting as guides to the visitors of this paradise,- if all such were gratified with easy success. Ah! how few tillers of the outerworld would there be, what rapid successions of years of famine would ensue, and how ill-made would be our coats and shoes ! Though many an ill-starred youth mistaking will for power, and rejecting all wise counsels, rushes into the arena of literature and quickly perishes through want of ability, of force, or skill, we must strive to confort ourselves with the reflection, that the dismal fate of every one of these may deter a score, at least, of equally unfitted candidates, who will, in consequence, dis- . charge important duties in the great social household, by constructing chimnies not addicted to smoking, or fashioning garments warranted sound in the seams.

If our Author intended to warn individuals of this class, of the dangers and privations that beset the literary and artistic professions, he has only partially succeeded, for the individuals he selects as scare-crows could hardly succeed in any calling, so impatient are they of the possession of money for an hour. They have no more hold on the ordinary world about them, than gipsies have leases of the woods or heaths where they fix their temporary homes; hence he calls them Bohemians, but traces the family to a remote antiquity. Assuming, that all who have ever enjoyed the privilege of entertaining, interesting or profiting their fellow men by the productions of their brains, were first obliged to pass through this probationary state, he gladdens the living penny-a-liner, rapin or fiddler, by shewing him Moliere, Shakspere, Rabelais, Tasso, Milton, Ariosto, Lope de Vega, Virgil, Terence, Æschylus, and Homer, * each enduring the discomforts of his own bitter lot before the world had stamped his works with its enduring seal. Passing over the classification of his subjects into those whose genius is undoubted, but deprived of access to the scene where it might be manifest, and those who mistake their vocations, or are merely under the influence of indolence or dissipated habits, we get a glimpse of their ordinary characteristics.

" Their mere daily existence is a work of genius, a twenty-four hours' problem which they always succeed in solving by audacious calculations. These are the people who would induce Moliere's Harpagon to lend them money, and gather truffles on the raft of tbe Medusa. At need they can practise abstinence with the virtue of an anchorite ; but let a little money fall into their hands, and you will see them astride on the most ruinous fantasies, aspiring to the youngest and fairest, swallowing the richest wines, and finding the windows too small to throw their Napoleons through. Then, when their purse is dead and buried, they resume their meals at the “ table d'hote" of chance, where their cover is always laid, preceded by a train of wiles, poaching on all the occupations that pertain to art, and hunting from morn to eve that beast of chase, the five-franc piece.

The Bohemians know every thing and are seen every where, according as their boots are varnished or broken in the upper leathers. You find them to-day with their elbows on the chimney-pieces of fashionable salons, and the next, seated at the tables of guinguettes.

They cannot take ten steps on the boulevards without espying a friend, nor thirty steps any where without meeting a creditor.

The Bohemians, when together, speak a peculiar language, com. posed of the causeries of the atelier, the jargon of the coulisses, and the discussions of the editor's sanctum. All the eclecticisms of style give rendezvous to each other in this unknown tongue,' where the turn of apocalyptic expressions is found united with the homely style of the history of Puss in Boots'; where rusticity of diction doretails with the extravagance of the old stories of chivalry; and where the “paradox,' that spoiled child of modern literature, handles common sense as they treat Cassandra in the pantomimes; an argot understood by themselves, but unintelligible to those who have not the key : this Bohemian vocabulary is the hell of rhetoric and the paradise of neologism.".

As Sterne took his solitary prisoner apart from the common herd, we will look in on one of our Bohemians, a musical composer : he is awakened in his garret by a neighbouring

• If our Author was conversant with English literature, the omission of Our Oliver, the veriest Bohemian of them all, would be unpardonable.

cock, on the morning of the eighth of April, at an hour earlier than he approves.

“Sacrebleu,” cried he, my feathered clock is too fast.” Open. ing his window the sudden light made him wink, but did not convince him of the lateness of the hour. “ It really is the bright Aurora herself,” he continued ; "it is astonishing, but is there no mistake ?" Here he consulted a sheet almanac; there must be a blunder somewhere. Science has appointed the sun to rise at this season at half past five: it is hardly five at this moment, and yet he is up and stirring ; indiscreet haste; this star must be lowered a peg or two; I'll lodge a complaint at the Bureau of Longitudes. Oh, oh!" said he, looking at an ill-written scroll pinned to the wall; “this must be the 8th of April, unless time has gone back since yesterday, and at the hour of noon, I must find for my esteemed landlord sixty-six francs, and vacate my splendid abode. I had hoped to this, that the god of chance would take the trouble to settle the affair, but it appears be has not time. Courage! I have six hours before me ; perhaps in the interim I will find this confounded melody I've been chasing so long." (He seats himself at the piano) Do, sol, mi, do, la, si, do, re-boum, boum, Fa, re, mi, re, ach! this re is as false as Judas,” said Schaunard, striking with violence the restive bit of ivory. “Now for the minor key: it should nicely pourtray the grief of a young girl pulling off the leaves of a daisy in a blue lake. That's an idea not very new I ween; but as it is the mode, and you cannot get a music seller to publish a romantic ballad without a blue lake in it, we must conform to the fashion. Do, sol, mi, do la si, do, re; I protest that's not so bad ; it gives a good idea of a daisy, especially to such as are strong in botany: la, si, do, re; confound that rascal of a re! But now to bring the blue lake before the eyes of the audience. We must have combinations of notes that express moisture, sky blue, and moonshine ; the moon must not be left out: ah, ha, here it comes. Now for the swan, we must not forget the swan by any means ; fu, mi, la, sol,continued Schaunard, making the crystalline notes of the lower octave jingle. « Now for the adieu of the young girl who is going to plunge into the blue lake, to rejoin her lover that lies dead under the snow. This is interesting but difficult ; it requires tender melancholy notes ; delightful ! here they are: here is a dozen of measures that weep

like Magdalens : it is enough to break one's heart. I wish it could split that log so that I might have a fire, for I feel inspiration descending on me in an influenza. Come, come, let us get our young girl drowned;" and while his fingers punished the trembling okeys, Schaunard, with beaming eye and watchful ear, pursued his melody which, like a delusive sylph, floated through the sonorous fog that issued from the vibrations of the instrument, and filled the poorly furnished chamber.

He now examines the poetry to which he is wedding his rom tic melody, and is very indifferently pleased with the construction : the metre is something in this style :

• The fair young girl,

To the stormy sky,
(Laying down her cloak)

Casts a wearied eye.
In the azure lake,

With its silver waves.' Finding that the words and the air do not hang well together, he gets into a passion, and composes a trellis work to support the melody :* though not poetical, it had the merit of common sense, and expressed the uneasy sensations of the artist's mind, roused by the approaching mid-day hour.

Eight and eight are sixteen;
I put down sir and carry one ;
I'in sure my mind would be at ease,
If I could find a worthy man,
A poor and honest man,
To lend me thirty pounds,
Wherewith to pay my lawful debts,
When twelve o'Clock resounds.

And when that awful chime is heard,

A quarter unto noon,
With probity I'd pay my rent,

To the owner of the room.' " Oh confound it,” said he, inspecting noon and room, “here are verses that are not millionaires, but I have no tiene to make their fortune.'

In the middle of his delight at finding the melody answer his ideas, the dreaded hour arrives, but not the francs. He puts all he can into his capacious pockets, and walks past the porter's lodge, acquainting him that he has taken lodgings in the Rue de Rivoli, and will return to settle his rent, when he can get change of a large note.

While the porter is superintending the admission of the new lodger (a Bohemian painter by the way) who is destined to succeed our musician, a mounted orderly enters the yard with a government despatch for the proprietor of the house. The porter, after signing a receipt for the missive, carries it to his master who is shaving, and far from expecting the promotion announced by this instrument from the War department.

• What follows is a specimen of those unmeaning collections of words to which musicians, when they have not the poetry ready made, adapt their compositions, they call them monsters.

« PreviousContinue »