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The Galaxy, April, 1877 Vol. XXIII.—April, 1877.—No. 4.   By:

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THE GALAXY.

VOL. XXIII. APRIL, 1877. No. 4.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1877, by SHELDON & CO., in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

THE THÉÂTRE FRANÇAIS.

M. Francisque Sarcey, the dramatic critic of the Paris "Temps," and the gentleman who, of the whole journalistic fraternity, holds the fortune of a play in the hollow of his hand, has been publishing during the last year a series of biographical notices of the chief actors and actresses of the first theatre in the world. "Comédiens et Comédiennes: la Comédie Française" such is the title of this publication, which appears in monthly numbers of the Librairie des Bibliophiles, and is ornamented on each occasion with a very prettily etched portrait, by M. Gaucherel, of the artist to whom the number is devoted. By lovers of the stage in general, and of the Théâtre Français in particular, the series will be found most interesting; and I welcome the pretext for saying a few words about an institution which if such language be not hyperbolical I passionately admire. I must add that the portrait is incomplete, though for the present occasion it is more than sufficient. The list of M. Sarcey's biographies is not yet filled up; three or four, those of Mme. Favart and of MM. Fèbvre and Delaunay, are still wanting. Nine numbers, however, have appeared the first being entitled "La Maison de Molière," and devoted to a general account of the great theatre; and the others treating of its principal sociétaires and pensionnaires in the following order:

Regnier, Got, Sophie Croizette, Sarah Bernhardt, Coquelin, Madeleine Brohan, Bressant, Mme. Plessy.

(This order, by the way, is purely accidental; it is not that of age or of merit.) It is always entertaining to encounter M. Francisque Sarcey, and the reader who, during a Paris winter, has been in the habit, of a Sunday evening, of unfolding his "Temps" immediately after unfolding his napkin, and glancing down first of all to see what this sturdy feuilletoniste has found to his hand such a reader will find him in great force in the pages before us. It is true that, though I myself confess to being such a reader, there are moments when I grow rather weary of M. Sarcey, who has in an eminent degree both the virtues and the defects which attach to the great French characteristic the habit of taking terribly au sérieux anything that you may set about doing. Of this habit of abounding in one's own cause, of expatiating, elaborating, reiterating, refining, as if for the hour the fate of mankind were bound up with one's particular topic, M. Sarcey is a capital and at times an almost comical representative. He talks about the theatre once a week as if honestly, between himself and his reader the theatre were the only thing in this frivolous world that is worth seriously talking about. He has a religious respect for his theme, and he holds that if a thing is to be done at all, it must be done in detail as well as in the gross.

It is to this serious way of taking the matter, to his thoroughly businesslike and professional attitude, to his unwearying attention to detail, that the critic of the "Temps" owes his enviable influence and the weight of his words. Add to this that he is sternly incorruptible. He has his admirations, but they are honest and discriminating; and whom he loveth he very often chasteneth. He is not ashamed to commend Mlle. X., who has only had a curtsey to make, if her curtsey has been the curtsey of the situation; and he is not afraid to overhaul M. A., who has delivered the tirade of the play, if M. A. has failed to hit the mark. Of course his judgment is good; when I have had occasion to measure it, I have usually found it excellent. He has the scenic sense the theatrical eye. He knows at a glance what will do, and what won't do. He is shrewd and sagacious and almost tiresomely in earnest, but this closes the list of his attractions... Continue reading book >>


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