Prince Antoine Bibesco1

   In Parisian high society where alliances with the families of Montesquiou, Caraman-Chimay, Murat, Noailles make it the place of choice, it is very much sought after but even more so somewhat feared; it has inspired many a true admiration, for which those that experience them well know the just reasons, and a very much smaller number of friendships, the latter being ever anxious and they know full well why they are so. It is because its delightful character is cruel. This is certainly not a benevolence that will be performed this evening for the first time at L'Oeuvre theatre! But for all that Paris will be no less curious to go and hear it and no less generous by going to applaud it. They will be wishing to see the masters and the friends of the young author, who is admired by the ones or the others, the Paul Hervieus, the George de Porto-Riches, the Tristan Bernards, the Robert de Flers', the Henri Bernsteins, the Gaston de Caillavets, the Abel Hermants. Then the clamourings from the critics' preview that let it be understood that the piece was full of very striking but unflattering portraits - as one might have predicted! - of well-known personalities - the whispered name of a conspicuous artist who would, so they say, without so wishing - without even knowing - have posed for one of the lead female roles, which will only serve to provoke such snobbery and to sharpen such curiosity. But after having thus paid our very own tribute to human malevolence - to the legitimate malevolence that with prince Antoine Bibesco one may be certain of never being anything but a tardy and insufficient reciprocation - let us be quick to add that if the great stirring of curiosity that for some time already has manifested itself around Le Jaloux on purely aesthetic grounds, it is on the contrary on aesthetic grounds that Le Jaloux could rightly become a great event. A great psychological comedy in the style of "character" comedies of the XVIIIth century - and with an acuteness of observation, a rigour of expression, a truly delightful limpidity of style - it is all that at first sight. And, you say, that is a great deal. But that is not everything. All of a sudden, oh Cartesian miracle! the machine becomes a sentient being, infinitely suffering, loving and human, with the voice of yesterday, of today, the voice of all times - and above all the voice of tomorrow. Because the destiny of great works like Le Jaloux is firstly to be praised, and then copied.
   "You have been a lover of literature from your childhood. But where does this preference of yours for the dramatic arts come from?
   - From my love of life. I will not discuss the well or ill founded disdain that many literary men profess today for the theatrical arts - disdain that Goethe (the greatest dramatist of the XIXth century, be it said for your questionnaire by the way) and Dickens did not share. But in the end the fact remains that it is only in the theatre that the illusion of life is the most perfect. However moving a novel may be, one is never moved to tears reading in the same way that one can be moved to tears in the theatre. I have the greatest admiration for Tristan Bernard's very original novels. But I never laugh as much reading them as hearing one of those masterpieces into which he has managed to pour all his delightful wit being performed.
   - If you love the theatre to such a degree, you must love it not only by virtue of creator, but just as much as consumer of the genius of others. Who are, as they say in the questionnaires, your favorite dramatists of today?
   - There are two who, in my opinion, dominate the French stage today, one for his rigorous talent, for his Sophoclean Tragedy, Paul Hervieu, the other for his impassioned talent, for his Racinian Tragedy, Georges de Porto-Riche. I certainly would not have the boldness to say that I could be seen as their disciple. But whether they consent to it or not, those are my masters."
   I stop M. Antoine Bibesco at this point, because it seems to me that in his admirations he is deliberately more prolix than he is on himself and I insidiously guide him back to the subject of our interview.
   "But in any case tell us about Le Jaloux, and why you are having it premièred by L'Oeuvre?
   - Why L'Oeuvre? For psychological reasons. I met Ligné, I showed him my play. Two days later it was accepted. If I waited six months I would have been sure of it being performed in one of the Boulevard theatres. But there is no good fortune like immediate fortune. By waiting too long for the realization of a desire, you risk finding yourself in the realization of something you have ceased to desire. And the works themselves do not like to wait. They are not sufficiently certain of a long life not to be impatient of being born. As for Le Jaloux, that's what it is, but you will find out this evening. You will find scenes dominated by a sentiment that I feel very deeply about, the fear of judicial miscarriage. Here it is a case of a judicial miscarriage in affairs of the heart, the most difficult of all to put to right. "Nothing in the theatre is as tiresome as a jealous man", Guitry2 told me not long ago when I told him a little bit about my play. I confess that such a judgement delivered so flippantly by the eminent Director of La Renaissance has not discouraged me, because I remembered L'École des femmes3 and then thought of Othello. People can tell me this evening whether or not I was wrong. In any case, whether or not I have a successful première, I have had successful rehearsals, which keeps me happy. I do not know whether I am able to touch the public. But I have made my interpreters weep."

   A word about interpreters,
   A word about other plays.4


1. Autograph manuscript. Antoine Bibesco's comedy Le Jaloux was performed on 6 October 1904 at the Théâtre Marigny by the L'Oeuvre company. Proust did not publish these notes. Did he send them to the theatre correspondent Serge Basset? What is certain is that entire paragraphs appeared in the review of Le Jaloux published in Le Figaro on 8 April 1904 under the name of Serge Basset. See Un début au théâtre (Textes retrouvés).

2. From 1902 to 1909, Lucien Guitry (1860 - 1925), one of the greatest actors of his time, was director of the Théâtre de la Renaissance.

3. Comedy by Molière, 1662.

4. Apparently Proust intended to add some lines about the "interpreters" of Le Jaloux and on the "other plays" by Bibesco to this note.



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