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Vautrin   By: (1799-1850)

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Presented for the first time at the Porte Saint Martin Theatre, Paris March 14, 1840


It is difficult for the playwright to put himself, five days after the first presentation of his piece, in the situation in which he felt himself on the morning after the event; but it is still more difficult to write a preface to Vautrin , to which every one has written his own. The single utterance of the author will infallibly prove inferior to so vast a number of divergent expressions. The report of a cannon is never so effective as a display of fireworks.

Must the author explain his work? Its only possible commentator is M. Frederick Lemaitre.

Must he complain of the injunction which delayed the presentation of his play? That would be to betray ignorance of his time and country. Petty tyranny is the besetting sin of constitutional governments; it is thus they are disloyal to themselves, and on the other hand, who are so cruel as the weak? The present government is a spoilt child, and does what it likes, excepting that it fails to secure the public weal or the public vote.

Must he proceed to prove that Vautrin is as innocent a work as a drama of Berquin's? To inquire into the morality or immorality of the stage would imply servile submission to the stupid Prudhommes who bring the matter in question.

Shall he attack the newspapers? He could do no more than declare that they have verified by their conduct all he ever said about them.

Yet in the midst of the disaster which the energy of government has caused, but which the slightest sagacity in the world might have prevented, the author has found some compensation in the testimony of public sympathy which has been given him. M. Victor Hugo, among others, has shown himself as steadfast in friendship as he is pre eminent in poetry; and the present writer has the greater happiness in publishing the good will of M. Hugo, inasmuch as the enemies of that distinguished man have no hesitation in blackening his character.

Let me conclude by saying that Vautrin is two months old, and in the rush of Parisian life a novelty of two months has survived a couple of centuries. The real preface to Vautrin will be found in the play, Richard Coeur d'Eponge ,[] which the administration permits to be acted in order to save the prolific stage of Porte Saint Martin from being overrun by children.

[] A play never enacted or printed.

PARIS, May 1, 1840.


Jacques Collin, known as Vautrin The Duc de Montsorel The Marquis Albert de Montsorel, son to Montsorel Raoul de Frascas Charles Blondet, known as the Chevalier de Saint Charles Francois Cadet, known as the Philosopher Fil de Soie Buteux Philippe Boulard, known as Lafouraille A Police Officer Joseph Bonnet, footman to the Duchesse de Montsorel The Duchesse de Montsorel (Louise de Vaudrey) Mademoiselle de Vaudrey, aunt to the Duchesse de Montsorel The Duchesse de Christoval Inez de Christoval, Princesse D'Arjos Felicite, maid to the Duchesse de Montsorel Servants, Gendarmes, Detectives, and others

SCENE: Paris

TIME: 1816, after the second return of the Bourbons.



SCENE FIRST. (A room in the house of the Duc de Montsorel.) The Duchesse de Montsorel and Mademoiselle de Vaudrey.

The Duchess Ah! So you have been waiting for me! How very good of you!

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey What is the matter, Louise? This is the first time in the twelve years of our mutual mourning, that I have seen you cheerful. Knowing you as I do, it makes me alarmed... Continue reading book >>

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