"The Lemoine Affair" by Sainte-Beuve

   M. Delécluze who had been firmly initiated into that small world of "mysteries" and employments at Abbaye-au-Bois, told me to take it from the original that things did not happen like that at all. It was actually Chateaubriand, already ambassador to King Charles X of France, as he never stopped telling us, as if in truth there had ever been any other than he, who had seen there or thought he had seen a means of making his fortune with that same carelessness let us speak plainly with that foolhardiness that he practised up till the end. M. Molé who in this at least and in the reports of the private and most honourable man was far superior to him, had fruitlessly warned him as he had later just as fruitlessly with respect to Lemoine. The other had promised, and broken his word, for the tenth and twentieth time, we can be sure on that. What is astonishing here is less the desire however vile it is to us of a man who unceasingly poses as a paladin of olden times, to remake a fortune that depended on him alone to procure, on the naivety of the provincial yes of the native of Combourg and Quimper. Caumartin believed in all seriousness in a similar swindle. "There is something of the low Breton in Chateaubriand", so said M. Ballanche, and, added the Duc de Laval "yes the low corrupt Breton". And once we have checked and rechecked the testimonies on the man like this, that is no obstacle to recognizing and saluting the powerful writer, to submit to the enchantment as M. Joubert said. There is some hobgoblin behind all that. Except that when the enchantment ceases we see that the whole time we have been carried on the path to the truth. Oh! how much easier we are with the true geniuses, with the Terences, the Addisons, the Racines, the Vauvenargues, and to pull the golden chain closer to home, the Xavier de Maistres and the Gasparins.*
   "Lamartine's Les Girondins", said a man well able to be the judge, M. Duchatel, "is a second edition of the Mystères de Paris." And I myself might add: a dishonest and tedious second edition which the first was not; Sue at least never sought to deceive anybody and was pleasing, and in art that is still quite something. With Lamartine it always had to come back to Elvira's lover, to the star that still shone chastely in the penumbra and sweetness; but this here Lamartine, Olympio has so much eclipsed him that he is almost effaced. Because at the self-same hour of the dawning of first light and gentle enchantment, he had precious little outline. "Lamartine", said another man who excels in discernment and imputing a little harshly his literary kindred: "it's all from Parny", and he happily repeated it at Mme de Boigne's, when there were very few people, Mme de Récamier, the Chancellor who was a man to raise the stakes. One day when M. Royer-Collard was there he seemed to hesitate and finally venture a similarity between Joceylin and Parny. At which M. Royer-Collard, in a tone that struck all present declared: "Without the vivacity, Sir, without the vivacity." And now I think I have said everything there is about Chateaubriand and Lamartine, shown the bottom of the barrel, forgetting nothing from the pick of the basket.

* If you had known after having exhaled your last Harmonies, you had known to fly off to the Sky, and reign therein and to paint your serene constellations, like Cygnus, the most astonishing let's use the word, the most charlatan of men, Lamartine, perhaps you would be of those. But with Lamartine just as with Chateaubriand the man has always wronged the poet and Lamartine atoned for it.


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