In a dramatic review by M. Emile Faguet
The author of le Détour and le Marché - namely M. Henri Bernstein - has just had a play performed by the Gymnase company, or rather it is a mixture of tragedy and vaudeville, which is perhaps not his Athalie or his Andromaque, his l'Amour veille or his les Sentiers de la vertue, but rather is more like his Nicomède, which is in no way, as you may perhaps have heard through hearsay, an entirely contemptible play and is in no way the utter shame of the human spirit. So far does this play reach, I do not say above the clouds, but in short has reached to the clouds, that there is a little exaggeration, but of a justifiable success, M. Bernstein's piece is swarming with improbabilities, but with a foundation of truth. It is in this that l'Affaire Lemoine differs from la Rafale, and, generally, from M. Bernstein's tragedies, as it does from a good half of Euripides's comedies, which swarm with truths, but are built on a foundation of improbabilities. Moreover it is the first time that one of M. Bernstein's plays has involved actual people, whom he has avoided up until now. Consequently, that swindler Lemoine, wishing to perpetrate a dupe with his claim of having discovered the means to manufacture diamonds, appealed... to the biggest owner of diamond mines in the world. As improbabilities go you will tell me that this is one of the greatest. And that's the first. At the very least you would think that this potentate, who has had his mind on the most important business affairs in the world, would send Lemoine packing, like the prophet Nehemia, who proclaimed from the walls of Jerusalem to those below who were offering him a ladder for him to come down: Non possum descendere, magnum opus facio. Which would appear to seal the matter. Not at all, he was eager to take the ladder. The only difference being that instead of climbing down he climbed up it. A little bit green this Werner. This is not a role for the youthful M. Coquelin, it is a role for M. Brulé. And now the second. Notice that Lemoine did not make him a gift of this secret, which is of course nothing more than a quack recipe. He sold him two million and still made him think it was a gift:
Wonder at my benevolence and the little that you pay
The marvellous treasure that my hand bestows upon you.
Oh great power
Of the Orvietan!
That changes little, on the whole, for improbability number 1, but it does not omit to considerably aggravate improbability number 2. But in the end what does it matter! Good Lord, observe that up until now we have been following the author who, in short, is a good dramatist. We are told that Lemoine has discovered the secret of manufacturing diamonds. We know nothing about it, after all; we are told so, we accept it, we are taken in. Werner, the great diamond expert, was taken in, and Werner, the cunning financier, shelled out. We are taken in with him. A great English scholar, half natural philosopher, half great nobleman, an English lord, as the saying goes (no no, Madame, all lords are English, so to say an English lord is a pleonasm; don't start again, nobody is listening to you), swore that Lemoine had truly discovered the philosophers' stone. We can not go further that we have already. Bang! so now we see all the jewellers begin to recognize Lemoine's diamonds as stones which they themselves have sold and which came specifically from Werner's mine. A bit much that. The diamonds still bear the marks that the jewellers had made on them. Worse and worse:
On the diamond marks which emerge thus from the furnace,
I no longer recognize the author of le Détour.
Lemoine is arrested, Werner demands his money back, the English lord does not say a word; all at once we no longer go along with it, and as always, in such cases, we are furious that we did go along with it and we take out our ill temper on... By Jove! the author is there for some reason, I think. Werner immediately requests the judge to have the envelope containing the famous secret seized. The judge consents straight away. Nobody could be more amiable than this judge. But Lemoine's council challenge the judge that it would not be legal to do so. The judge surrenders immediately; nobody could be more versatile than this judge. As for Lemoine, he peremptorily requests that the judge, the councils, the experts etc. all to stroll off with him to Amiens, where his factory is situated, so that he can prove to them that he really does know how to manufacture diamonds. And each time that the amiable and versatile judge repeated that he had swindled Werner, Lemoine replied: "Let's leave this discourse and go on our stroll." To which the judge answered him: "To my taste a stroll is a dull thing." Nobody could be more well versed in the repertoire of Molière than this judge. Etc.
Article appeared in Le Figaro, 22 February 1908 and reprinted in Pastiches et Mélanges (Libraire Gallimard, 1919).
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