Literary Life in Paris: The Garret
WOULD you know something of the way in which men live in Paris ? Would you penetrate a little beneath the brilliant, glossy epidermis of the French capital ? Would you know other shadows and other sights than those you find in “ Galignani’s Messenger ” under the rubric, “ Stranger’s Diary ” ? Listen to us. We hope to be brief. We hope to succeed in tangling your interest. We don’t hope to make you merry, — oh, no, no, no! we don’t hope that! Life is n’t a merry thing anywhere, — least of all in Paris ; for, look you, in modern Babylon there are so many calls for money, (which Southey called "a huge evil ” everywhere,) there are so many temptations to expense, one has to keep a most cool head and a most silent heart to live in Paris and to avoid debt. Few are able successfully to achieve this charmed life. The Duke of Wellington, who was in debt but twice in his life,—first, when he became of age, and, like all young men, felt his name by indorsing it on negotiable paper, and placing it in a tradesman’s book; secondly, when he lived in Paris, master of all France by consent of Europe,— the Duke of Wellington involved himself in debt in Paris to the amount of a million of dollars. Blucher actually ruined himself in the city he conquered. The last heir to the glorious name and princely estates of Von Kaunitz lost everything he possessed, even his dignity, in a few years of life in Paris. Judge of the resistless force and fury of the great maelstrom !
And I hope, after you have measured some degree of its force and of its fury by these illustrious examples, that you may be softened into something like pity and terror, when I tell you how a poor fellow, who had no name but that he made with his pen, who commanded no money save only that he obtained by transmuting ink and paper into gold, strove against it with various success, and often was vanquished. You will not judge him too harshly, will you ? You will not be the first to throw a stone at him, neither will you add your stone to those that may be thrown at him: hands enough are raised against him ! We do not altogether absolve him for many a shortcoming ; but we crave permission to keep our censure and our sighs for our study. Permit us to forbear arraigning him at the public bar. He is dead, — and everybody respects the dead, except profligate editors, prostitutes, and political clergymen. Besides, his life was such a hard one, — so full of clouds, with so few gleams of sunshine, — so agitated by storms, — so bereaved of halcyon days,— ’t would be most cruel to deny him the grave’s dearest privilege, peace and quiet. Amen ! Amen ! with all my heart to thy benediction and prayer, O priest! as, aspersing his lifeless remains with holy-water, thou sayest, Requiescat! So mote it be ! Requiescat ! Requiescat. ! Requiescat in pace !
Approach, then, reader, with softest step, and we will, in lowest whispers, pour into your ear the story of the battle of life as ’t is fought in Paris. We will show you the fever and the heartache, the corroding care and the panting labor which oppress life in Paris. Then will you say, No wonder they all die of a shattered heart or consumed brain at Paris! No wonder De Balzac died of heart-disease ! No wonder Frederic Soulie’s heart burst! No wonder Bruffault went crazy, and Eugene Sue’s heart collapsed, and Malitourne lives at the mad-house ! It is killing !
We will show you this life, not by didactic description, but by example, by telling you the story of one who lived this life. He was born in the lowest social station, he battled against every disadvantage, the hospital was his sickchamber, his funeral was at the Government’s expense, and everybody eminent in literature and art followed his remains to the grave, over which, after a proper interval of time, a monument was erected by public subscription to his memory. His father was a porter at the door of one of the houses in the Rue des Trois Frères. He added the tailor’s trade to his poorly paid occupation. A native of Savoy, he possessed the mountaineer’s taciturnity and love of home. War carried him to Paris. The rigors of conscription threw him into the ranks of the army; and when the first Empire fell, the child of Savoy made Paris his home, married a young seamstress, and obtained the lodge of house No. 5 Rue des Trois Freres. This marriage gave to French letters Henry Murger. It had no other issue.
Henry Merger was born March 24th, 1822. His earlier years seemed likely to be his last; he was never well; his mother gave many a tear and many a vigil to the sickly child she thought every week she must lose. To guard his days, she placed him, to gratify a Romish superstition, under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin, and in accordance with custom clad him in the Madonna’s livery of blue. His costume of a blue smock, blue pantaloons, and a blue cap procured for him the name of Bleuet, or, as we should perhaps say, Blueling, if indeed we may coin for the occasion one of those familiar, affectionate diminutives, so common in the Italian, rarer in the French, and almost unknown in our masculine tongue. An only child, and an invalid, poor Bleuet was of course a spoiled child, his mother’s darling and pet. His wishes, his sick-child’s caprices were her law, and she gratified them at the cost of many a secret privation. She seemed to know — maternal love hath often the faculty of second-sight — that her poor boy, though only the child of the humblest parentage, was destined to rise one day far above the station in which he was born. She attired him better than children of his class commonly dressed. She polished his manners as much as she could,—and ’t was much, for women, even of the lowest classes, have gentle tastes and delicacy. She could not bear to think that her darling should one day sit cross-legged on the paternal bench, and ply needle and scissors. She breathed her own aspirations into the boy’s ears, and filled his mind with them. O mothers, ye do make us what ye please ! Your tears and caresses are the rain and the sun that mature the seed which time and the accidents of life sow in our tender minds! She filled him with pride, — which is a cardinal virtue, let theologians say what they will, — and kept him aloof from the little blackguards who toss and tumble over the curb-stones, losing that dignity which is man’s chastity, and removing one barrier between them and crime.
He was, even in his earlier years, exquisitely sensitive. La Blache, the famous singer, occupied a suite of rooms in the house of which his father was porter. One day La Blache's daughter, (now Madame Thalberg,) who was confined to her rooms by a fall which had dislocated her ankle, sent for the sprightly lad. He was in love with her, just as boys will adore a pretty lace without counting years or differences of position (at that happy age a statesman and a stage-driver seem equal, — if, indeed, the latter does not appear to occupy the more enviable position in life). He dressed himself with all the elegance he could command, and obeyed Mademoiselle La Blache’s summons, building all sorts of castles in the air as he arranged his toilet and while he was climbing the staircase. His affected airs were so laughable, she told him in a mock-heroic manner what she wished of him, and probably with something of that paternal talent which had shaken so many opera-houses with applause: — “I have sent for you to teach me the song I hear you sing every day.” This downfall from his castles in the air, and her manner, brought blushes to his cheek and flames to his eyes, which amused her all the more; so she went on,— “ Oh, don’t be afraid ! I will pay — two ginger-cakes a lesson.” So sensitive was the child's nature, this innocent pleasantry ’wounded him with such pain, that he fell on the carpet sobbing and with nerves all jangled. How the pangs poverty attracts must have wrung him ! — But let us not anticipate the course of events.
As he advanced in life he outgrew his disease, and became a chubby - cheeked boy, health’s own picture. He was the favorite of the neighborhood, his mother’s pride, and the source of many a heartache to her; for, as he grew towards manhood, his father insisted every day more strenuously that he should learn some trade. His poor mother obstinately opposed this scheme. Many were the boisterous quarrels on this subject the boy witnessed, sobbing between his parents; for his father was a rough, ill-bred mountaineer, who had reached Paris through the barrack and the battle-field, neither of which tends to smooth the asperities of character. The woman was tenacious; for what will not a mother’s heart brave ? what will it not endure ? Those natures which are gentle as water are yet deep and changeless as the ocean. Of course the wife carried her point. Who can resist a mother struggling for her son ? The boy was placed as copying-clerk in an attorney’s office. All the world over, the law is the highway to literature. The lad, however, was uneducated; he wrote well, and this was enough to enable him to copy the law-papers of the office, but he was ignorant of the first elements of grammar, and his language, although far better than that of the lads of his class in life, was shocking to polite ears. It could not well be otherwise, as his only school was a petty public primary school, and he was but fourteen years old when his father ordered him to begin to earn his daily bread. But he was not only endowed with a literary instinct, he had, too, that obstinate perseverance which would, as one of his friends said of him, ‘‘ have enabled him to learn to read by looking at the signs in the streets, and to cipher by glancing at the numbers on the houses.”
Murger always attributed a great deal of influence upon his life to the accident which had given his father artists for tenants. Not only La Blache, but Garcia and his incomparable daughters, Marie Malibran and Pauline Viardot, and, after they left, Baroilhet, the opera-singer, had rooms in the house. The handsome boy was constantly with them, and this early and long and intimate association with Art gave him elegance and grace and vivacity. The seeds sown during such intercourse may for years lie buried beneath the cares and thoughts of a laborious life, and yet grow and bring forth fruit as soon as a more propitious atmosphere environs them. Comrades in the office where he wrote likewise had influence upon his career. He found among the clerks two brothers, Pierre and Emile Bisson, gentlemen who have now attained reputation by their admirable photographic landscapes, especially of Alpine scenery. They were then as poor and as uneducated as Henry Murger. They lived in a house inhabited by several painters, from whom they caught a love and some knowledge of Art. They communicated the contagion to their new comrade, and the moment office-hours were over all three hastened, as fast as they could go, to the nearest public drawing-school. All three aspired to the fame of Rubens and of Paul Veronese. Murger had no talent for painting. One day, after he had been guilty of some pictures which are said to be — for they are still in existence — enough to make the hair of a connoisseur of painting stand on end, Pierre Bisson said to him, “Throw away the pencil, Murger; you will never make a painter.” Murger accepted the decree without appeal. He felt that painting was not in him.1 He took up the pen and wrote poetry. There is nothing equal to the foolhardiness of youth. It grapples with the most difficult subjects, and knows it can master them. As all of Murger’s friends were painters, except his father and mother, and they were illiterate, his insane prose seemed as fine poetry as was ever written, because it turned somersets on feet. Nobody noticed whether it was on five or six or fifteen feet. His father, however, had heard what a dangerous disease of the purse poetry was, and forbade his son from trying to catch it, — vowing, that, if he heard again of its continued pursuit, he would immediately make a tailor of him. Of course, the threat did not deter Murger from the chase ; but instead of pursuing it openly, he pursued it by stealth. The sportsman became a poacher. Pierre and Emile Bisson quitted the attorney’s office and opened a studio : they were painters now. Henry Murger managed to filch an hour every day from the time allotted to the errands of the office about Paris to spend in the studio of his friends, where he would write his poetry and hide his manuscripts. Here he made the acquaintance of artists and literary young men as unfledged as himself, but who possessed the advantages of a regular scholastic education. They taught him the rules of prosody and the exercises proper to overcome the mere mechanical difficulties of versification. This society made Murger more than ever ambitious ; a secret instinct told him that the pen was the arm with which he would win fame and fortune. He determined to abandon the law-office.
His father was furious enough at this resolution, and more than one painful scene took place between them. The boy was within an ace of being kicked out of doors, when his troubles reached the ears of a literary tenant of the house : this was no other than Monsieur de Jouy, a member of the French Academy, and quite famous in his day for “L’Ermite de la Chaussee d’Antin,” and a tragedy, “ Sylla,” which Talma’s genius threw such beams upon as made it radiant, and for an imprisonment for political offences, a condiment without which French reputations seem to lack savor. Heaven knows what would have become of the poor boy but for this intervention, as his mother was dead and he was all friendless. Monsieur de Jouy procured him the place of private secretary to Count Tolstoy, a Russian nobleman established by the Czar in Paris as his political correspondent. The salary given was meagre enough, but in this world all things have a relative as well as an intrinsic value, and eight dollars a month seemed to the poor lad, who had never yet earned a cent, a fragment of El Dorado or of Peru. It gave him independence. His contemporaries have described him as gay, free, easy, and happy at this period. He had ceased to be dependent upon anybody; he lived upon his own earnings ; he was in the full bloom of health and youth ; and the horizon before him, even though clouded, wore all the colors of the rainbow. His father gave him a garret in the house, and continued to allow him a seat at the table, but he made young Murger give him six of the eight dollars earned. The rest of his salary was spent among the boxes of books which line the parapet of the Paris quays, —a sort of literary Morgue or dead-house, where the still-born and deceased children of the press are exhibited, to challenge the pity of passers-by, and so escape the corner grocer and the neighboring trunk-maker. Here Murger purchased all the volumes of new poems he could discover. When his friends jested him upon his wasteful extravagance in buying verse good for nothing but to cheapen the value of the paper on which it was printed, he replied, that a poet should keep himself informed of the progress of Art. He has since confessed that his object in buying this trash was simply to compare his efforts with those which had been deemed worthy to see print. His ambition then was to be pale, consumptive, to drink the dregs of poverty’s poisoned chalice, and to toss on a hospital-bed. He found it hard work to gratify these desires. His plethoric person, his rubicund cheeks and high health, gave him much more the appearance of a jovial monk of Bolton Abbey than of a Werther or a Chatterton or a Lara. But as he was determined to look the poet of the Byron school, for a fortnight he followed a regimen “ which would have given phthisis to Mount Atlas ” ; he studied in some medical treatise the symptoms of the consumption, and, after wading through thirty miles of the mud and mire to be found in the environs of Paris, drenched to the skin by an autumnal rain, he went to the hospital and was admitted. He was delighted. He instantly wrote an ode to “ Hallowed Misery,” dated from the “ House of Woe,” sent it off to the Atlantic Monthly of Paris, and lay in bed dreaming he should find himself famous next morning, and receive the visits of all Paris, from Monsieur Guizot, then Prime-Minister, to the most callous poetaster of the Latin Quarter, and be besieged by every publisher, armed with bags full of money. He woke the next morning to find himself in perfect health, and to hear the physician order him to clear out of the hospital. He had no news from the magazine nor from Monsieur Guizot.
“ It will never do, Sheridan; you had better give it up.”
“ Never, by G—d!” replied Sheridan; “ it is in me, and it shall come out.”
’T is ill playing with edge-tools! The hospital is not to be coquetted with. There is no such thing as romping with misery. One might as well amuse himself toying with the rattlesnake or playing with fluoric acid. Wait a moment, and the hospital will reappear in the story of this life, sombre, pitiless, fatal, as it is in reality. A little patience, and misery will come, in its gaunt, wolf-like shape, to harry and to harass. Play not with fire !
Distress soon came. The young poet fell into bad company. He came home late one night. His father scolded: ’t is a porter’s infirmity to fret at late-comers. Another night he came home later. The scolding became a philippic. Again he did not come home at all. His father ordered him never more to darken his doors. Murger took him at his word, and went to share a friend’s bed in another garret. The friend was little better off in worldly goods ; he lived in a chamber for which he paid twenty dollars a year, and which was furnished “ with one of those lots of furniture which are the terror of landlords, especially when quarter-day comes.” Murger now began to know what it was to be poor, to go to bed without having tasted a morsel of food the whole day, to be dressed ludicrously shabby. He had never before known these horrors of poverty; for under his father’s roof the meals, though humble, were always regularly served, and quarter-day never came. As eight dollars, — less by a great deal than an ordinary servant earns by sweeping rooms and washing dishes, besides being fed and lodged, — which Count Tolstoy gave his secretary, was not enough to enable Murger to live, he tried to add something to his income by his pen. He wrote petty tales for children’s magazines, and exerted himself to gain admission into other and more profitable periodicals, but for a long time without success. Many and many a sheet must be blotted before the apprentice-writer can merit even the lowest honors of print: can it be called an honor to see printed lines forgotten before the book is closed ? Yet even this dubious honor cannot be won until after days and nights have been given to literary composition.
Murger was for some time uncertain what course to adopt. His father sent him word that the best thing he could do would be to get the place of bodyservant to some gentleman or of waiter in some cafe! He himself half determined, in his hours of depression, when despair was his only hope, to ship as a sailor on board some man-of-war. He would at other times return to his first love, and vow he would be a painter; then music would solicit him ; medicine next, and then surgery would tangle his eyes. These excursions, which commonly lasted three months each, were not fruitless; they increased his stock of information, and supplied him with some of his most striking images. He became joyous about this period, and his hilarity broke out all at once. One night Count Tolstoy had ordered Murger to color several thousand strategic maps, and, after he had postponed the labor repeatedly, he asked several of his friends to aid him. They sat up all night. He suddenly became very gay, and told story after story in a most vivid and humorous manner. His friends roared with laughter, and one of them begged him to abandon poetry and become a prose-writer, predicting for him a most brilliant career. But poetry has its peculiar fascinations, and is not relinquished without painful throes. Murger refused to cease versifying.
He had pernicious habits of labor. He never rose until three o’clock in the afternoon, and never began to write until after the lamp was lighted. He wrote until daybreak. If sleep came, if inspiration lagged, he would resort to coffee, and drink it in enormous quantities. One may turn night into day without great danger, upon condition of leading a temperate and regular life ; for Nature has wonderful power of adapting herself to all circumstances, upon condition that irregularity itself be regular in its irregularity. He fell into this habit from poverty. He was too poor to buy fuel and comfortable clothes, so he lay in bed to keep warm; he worked in bed, — reading, writing, correcting, buried under the comfortable bedclothes. He would sometimes drink “ as many as six ounces of coffee.” “ I am literally killing myself,” he said. “You must cure me of drinking coffee; I reckon upon you.” His room-mate suggested to him that they should close the windows, draw the curtains, and light the lamp in the daytime, to deceive habit by counterfeiting night. They made the attempt in vain. The roar of a great city penetrates through wall and curtain. They could not work. Inspiration ceased to flow. Murger returned to his protracted vigils, and to the stimulus of coffee, and never more attempted to break away from them. This sort of life, his frequent privations, his innumerable disappointments, drove him in good earnest to the hospital. He announces it in this way to a friend: —
“Hospital Saint Louis, 23 May, 1842.
“ MY DEAR FRIEND,—Here I am again at the hospital. Two days after I sent you my last letter I woke up feeling aS if my whole body were on fire. 1 felt as if I were enveloped in flames. I was literally burning. I lighted my candle, and was alarmed by the spectacle my poor self presented. I was red from my feet to my head, — as red as a boiled lobster, neither more nor less. So I went to the hospital this morning, as early as I could go, and here I am, — Henry IV.’s ward, bed No. 10. The doctors were astonished at my case; they say it is purpura. I should say it was! The purple of the Roman emperors was not, I am very sure, as purple as my envelope. .... My disease is now in a stage of reaction, and the doctors do not know what to do. I cannot walk thirty paces without stumbling. I have thousands of trumpets blowing flourishes in my ears. I have been bled, re-bled, mustard-plastered, all in vain. I have swallowed down my poor throat more arsenic than any three melodramatists of the Boulevards. I do not know how all this is going to end. The physician tells me that he will cure me, but that it will take time. To-day they are going to put all sorts of thing on my body, and among them leeches to remove my giddiness. I am greatly fatigued by my life here, and I pass some very gloomy days,— and they are the gloomier, because there is not a single day but I see in the ward next to mine men die thick as flies. A hospital may be very poetical, but it is, too, a sad, sad place.”
Many and many a time afterwards did he return to the hospital, all sad as it was. His garret was sadder in purpura's hour. Want had taken up its abode with him. He wanted bread often. His clothes went and came with painful regularity from his back to the pawnbroker’s. His father refused to do anything for him. “ He saw me without bread to put in my mouth, and offered me not a crumb, although he had money belonging to me in his hands. He saw me in boots full of boles, and gave me to understand that I was not to come to see him in such plight.” Such was the poor fellow’s distress, that he was almost glad when the purpura, with its intolerable pains, returned, that he might crawl to the hospital, where he could say, that, " bad as the hospital-fare is, it is at least certain, and is, after all, ten times better than that I am able to earn. I can eat as many as two or three plates of soup, but then I am obliged to change my costume to do so, for it is only by cheating that one can get it.” But all the time he was in the hospital he was tormented by the fear that he would lose during his absence his wretched place as Count Tolstoy’s secretary, and which, wretched as it was, nevertheless was something, — was as a plank in the great ocean to one who, it gone, saw nothing but water around him, and he no swimmer. He did lose the situation, because one day be stayed at home to finish a poem, instead of appearing at his desk. The misfortune came at the worst possible time. It came when he owed two quarters’ rent, fifteen dollars, to his landlord, and ten dollars to other people. “ I am half dead of hunger. I am at the end of the rope. I must get a place somewhere, or blow my brains out.” The mental anguish and physical privation brought back the purpura. He went to the hospital, —for the fifth time in eleven months and seven days,—all his furniture was sold for rent, and he knew not where he was to go when he quitted the hospital. Yet he did not give up in despair. “ Notwithstanding all this, I declare to you, my dear friend,” he wrote, “ that, when I feel somewhat satisfied with what I have written, I am ready to clap my hands at life. .... Everything is against me, and yet I shall none the less remain in the arena. The wild beasts may devour me : so be it! ”
After leaving the hospital, he formed the acquaintance of Monsieur Jules Fleury, or, as he is better known to the world of letters, Monsieur Champfleury,— for, with that license the French take with their names, so this rising novelist styles himself. This acquaintance was of great advantage to Henry Murger. Monsieur Champfleury was a young man of energy and will, who took a practical view of life, and believed that a pen could in good hands earn bread as well as a yardstick, and command, what the latter cannot hope, fame. He believed that independence was the first duty of a literary man, and that true dignity consists in diligent labor rather than in indolent railing at fate and the scoffings of “ uncomprehended ” genius. Monsieur Champfleury was no poet. He detested poetry, and his accurate perception of the world showed him that poetry is a good deal like paper money, which depends for its current value rather upon the credit possessed by the issuer than upon its own intrinsic value. He pressed Murger to abandon poetry and take to prose. He was successful, and Murger labored to acquire bread and reputation by his prose-compositions. He practised his hand in writing vaudevilles, dramas, tales, and novels, and abandoned poetry until better days, when his life should have a little more silk and a little more gold woven into its woof. But the hours of literary apprenticeship even of prose-writers are long and arduous, especially to those whose only patrimony is their shadow in the sun. Monsieur Champfleury has given in one of his works an interesting picture of their life in common. We translate the painful narration : —
“ T’ other evening I was sitting in my chimney-corner looking over a mountain of papers, notes, unfinished articles, and fine novels begun, but which will never have an end. I discovered amid my landlords’ receipts for house-rent (all of which I keep with great care, just to prove to myself that they are really and truly paid) a little copy-book, which was narrow and long, like some mediæval piece of sculpture. I opened this little blue-backed copy-book; it bore the title, ACCOUNT-BOOK. How many memories were contained in this little copybook ! What a happy life is literary life, seen after a lapse of five or six years ! I could not sleep for thinking of that little copy-book, so I rose and sat down at my table to discharge on these sheets all the delightful blue-backed copy-book memories which haunted my head. Were any stranger to pick up this little copy-book in the street, he would think it belonged to some poor, honest family. I dare say you have forgotten the little copy-book, although three-fourths of its manuscript is in your hand-writing. I am going to recall its origin to you.
“ Nine years ago we lived together, and we possessed between us fourteen dollars a month. Full of confidence in the future, we rented two rooms in the Rue de Vaugirard for sixty dollars a year. Youth reckons not. You spoke to the porter’s wife of such a sumptuous set of furniture that she let the rooms to you on your honest face without asking references. Poor woman, what thrills of horror ran through her when she saw our furniture set down before her door ! You had six plates, three of which were of porcelain, a Shakspeare, the works of Victor Hugo, a chest of drawers in its dotage, and a Phrygian cap. By some extraordinary chance, I had two mattresses, a hundred and fifty volumes, an arm-chair, two plain chairs, a table, and a skull. The idea of making a grand sofa belongs to you, I confess ; but it was a deplorable idea. We sawed off the four feet of a cot-bedstead and made it rest on the floor; the consequence of which was, that the cot-bedstead proved to be utterly worthless. The porter’s wife took pity upon us, and lent us a second cot-bedstead, which ‘furnished’ your chamber, which was likewise adorned with several dusty souvenirs you hung on the wall, such as a woman’s glove, a velvet mask, and various other objects which love had hallowed.
“ The first week passed away in the most delightful manner. We stayed at home, we worked hard, we smoked a great deal. I have found among this mountain of papers a blank sheet on which is written.— This sheet was torn out of an enormous blank copy-book ; for you were guilty of the execrable habit of using all our paper to write nothing else but titles of dramas; you wrote ‘ Played ’ as seriously as could be, just to see what effect the title-page would produce. Our paper disappeared too fast in this way. Luckily, when all of it had disappeared, you discovered, Heaven knows where or how, some old atlas of geography whose alternate leaves were blank, — a discovery which enabled us to do without the stationer.
A Drama in Five Acts,
By HENRY Murger,
Played at the Theatre on the day of 18 .
“ Hard times began to press after the first week flew away. We had a long discussion, in which each hurled at the Other reproaches on the spendthrift prodigality with which we threw away our money. The discussion ended in our agreeing, that, the moment the next instalment of our income should he received, I should keep a severe account of our expenses, in order that no more quarrels should disturb the harmony of our household, each of us taking care every day to examine the accounts. This is the little book I have found. How simple, how touching, how laconic, how full of souvenirs it is !
“ We were wonderfully honest on the first of every month. I read at the date of November 1st, 1843, 'Paid Madame Bastien forty cents for tobacco due.’ We paid, too, the grocer, the restaurant, (I declare there is ‘restaurant’ on the book !) the coal - dealer, etc. The first day of this month was a merry day, I see: ‘Spent at the cafe seven cents’; a piece of extravagance for which I am sure you must have scolded me that evening. The same day you bought (the sight still makes me tremble!) thirteen cents’ worth of pipes. The second of November we bought twenty-two cents’ worth of ribbon : this enormous quantity of ribbon was purchased to give the last touches to our famous sofa. Our sofa’s history would fill volumes. It did us yeoman’s service. My pallet on the floor, formed of one single mattress and sheets without counterpane, made a poor show in our ‘ drawing-room,’ especially as a restaurant-keeper lived in our house, and you pretended, that, if we made him bring our meals up to our ‘ drawing-room,’ he would be so dazzled by our splendor he could not refuse us credit. I demurred, that the odd appearance of my pallet had nothing capable of fascinating a tradesman’s eye; whereupon we agreed that aye would spread over it a piece of violet silk which came, Heaven knows where from; but, unfortunately, the silk was not large enough by one-third. After long reflection we thought the library might be turned to some account: the quarto volumes of Shakspeare, thrown with cunning negligence on the pallet, hid the narrowness of the silk, and concealed the sheets from every eye. We managed in this way to contrive a sofa. I may add, that the keeper of the restaurant dedicated to the ‘ Guardian Angel,’ who had no customers except hack-drivers and bricklayers, was caught by our innocent intrigues. On this same second of November we paid an immense sum of money to the laundress, — one whole dollar. I crossed the Pont des Arts, proud as a member of the Institute, and entered with a stiff upper-lip the Cafe Momus. You remember this beneficent establishment, which we discovered, gave half a cup of coffee for five cents, until bread rose, when the price went up to six cents, a measure which so discontented many of the frequenters that they carried their custom elsewhere. I passed the evening at Laurent’s room. I must have been seized with vertigo, — for I actually lost ten cents at ecarte, ten cents which we had appropriated to the purchase of roasted chestnuts. Poor Laurent, who was such a democrat, who used to go ‘ at the head of the schools ’ to see Beranger, is dead and gone now ! His poems were too revolutionary for this world.
“ You resolved on the third of November that we would cook our own victuals as long as the fourteen dollars lasted ; so you bought a soup-pot which cost fifteen cents, some thyme and some laurel: being a poet, you had such a marked weak ness for laurel, you used to poison all the soup with it. We laid in a supply of potatoes, and constantly bought tobacco, coffee, and sugar. There was gnashing of teeth and curses when the expenses of the fourth of November were written. Why did you let me go out with my pockets so full of money ? And you went to Dagneaux’s and spent five cents. What in the name of Heaven could you have gotten at Dagneaux’s for five cents?2 Good me ! how expensive are the least pleasures ! Upon pretext of going with a free-ticket to see a drama by an inhabitant of Belleville, I bought two omnibustickets, one to go and the other to return. Two omnibus-tickets ! I was severely punished for this prodigality. Seventy-four cents ran away from me, making their escape through a hole in my pocket. How could I dare to return home and confront your wrath ? Two omnibus-tickets alone would have brought a severe admonition on my head; but seventy-four cents with them-! If I had not begun to disarm you by telling you the Belleville drama, I should have been a doomed man. Nevertheless, the next day, without thinking of these terrible losses, we lent Gmoney; he really seemed to look upon us as Messrs. Murger and Co., his bankers. I wonder by what insidious means this G-contrived to captivate our confidence, and the only solution I can discover is the inexperience of giddy youth; for two days afterwards Gwas audacious enough to reappear and to ask for another loan. Nothing new appears on the pages of the book, except fifteen cents for wine : this must have been one of your ideas : I do not mean to say that you were ever a wine-bibber, but we were so accustomed to water, we drank so much water without getting tired of it, that this item, 'wine' seems very extraordinary to me. We added up every page until the eighth of November, when the sum total reached eight dollars and twelve cents; here the additions ceased. We e doubtless were averse to trembling at the sight of the total. The tenth of November, you purchased a thimble : some men have skill enough to mend their clothes at their leisure moments. A few days ago I paid a visit to a charming literary man, who writes articles full of life and wit for the newspapers. I opened the door so suddenly, he blushed as he threw a pair of pantaloons into the corner. He had a thimble on his finger. Ah! wretched cits, who refuse to give your daughters in marriage to literary men, you would be full of admiration for them, could you see them mending their clothes! Smoking-tobacco absorbed more than one-third of our money ; we received too many friends, and then there was a celebrated artisan-poet who used to be brought to our rooms, and who used to bawl so many stanzas I would go to bed.
“ Monsieur Credit made his reappearance on the fourteenth of Novemher. He went to the grocer, to the tobacco-shop, to the fuel-dealer, and was received tolerably well; he was especially successful with the grocer’s daughter when he appeared in your likeness. Did Monsieur Credit die on the seventeenth of November ? I ask, because I see on the 'credit ’ side of our account-book, ‘Frockcoat, sixty cents.’ These sixty cents came from the pawnbroker’s. How his clerks humiliated us ! I could make a long and terrible history of our dealings with the pawnbroker; I shall make a short and simple story of it. When money failed us, you pointed out to me an old cashmere shawl which we used as a table-cover. I told you, ‘ They will give us nothing on that.’ You replied, ‘ Oh, yes, they will, if we add pantaloons and waistcoats to it.’ I added pantaloons and waistcoats to it, and you took the bundle and started for the den in Place de la Croix Rouge. You soon came back with the huge package, and you were sad enough as you said, 'They are disagreeable yonder; try in the Rue de Conde ; the clerks, who are accustomed to deal with students, are not so hard-hearted as they are in the Place de la Croix Rouge.’ I went to the Rue de Condá. The two pair of pantaloons, the famous shawl, and the waistcoats were closely examined ; even their pockets were searched. ‘ We cannot lend anything on that,’ said the pawnbroker’s clerk, disdainfully pushing the things away from him. You had the excellent habit of never despairing. You said, ‘We must wait until this evening; at night all clothes are new ; and to take every precaution, I shall go to the pawnbroker’s shop in the Rue du Fouare, where all the poor go; as they are accustomed there to see nothing pledged but rags and tatters, our clothes will glitter like barbaric pearl and gold.’ Alas ! the pawnbroker in the Rue du Fouare was as cruel as his brethren. So the next morning in sheer despair I went to pledge my only frock-coat, and I did this to lend half the sum to that incessant borrower, G-. Lastly, on the nineteenth of November, we sold some books. Fortune smiled on us; we had a chicken-soup with a superabundance of laurel. Do you remember an excellent shopkeeper of the Rue du Faubourg Saint Jacques, near the city-gate, who, we were told, not only sold thread, but kept a circulating library ? What a circulating library it was ! Plays, three odd volumes of Anne Radcliffe's novels,—and if the old lady had never made our acquaintance, the inhabitants of the Faubourg Saint Jacques would never have known of the existence of ' Letters upon Mythology’ and ‘De Profundis,’ two books I was heartless enough to sell, notwithstanding all their titles to my respect. The authors were born in the same neighborhood which gave me birth : one is Desmoustiers, the other Alfred Mousse. Maybe Arsene Houssaye would not be pleased, were I to remind him of one of the crimes of his youth, where one sees for a frontispiece skeletons — ’t was the heyday of the Romantic School — playing tenpins with skulls for balls! The sale of ‘ De Profundis ’ enabled us to visit Cafe Tabourey that evening. You sold soon afterwards eighty cents’ worth of books. Allow me to record that they came from your library ; my library remained constantly upon the shelves; notwithstanding all your appeals, I never sold any books, except the lamentable history of Alfred Mousse. Monsieur Credit contrived to go to the tradesmen’s with imperturbable coolness; he went everywhere until the first of December, when he paid every cent of debt. I have but one regret, and this is, that the little accountbook suddenly ceases after a month ; it contains only the month of November. This is not enough ! Had I continued it, its pages would have been so many mementos to recall my past life to me.”
Monsieur Champfleury introduced Henry Murger to Monsieur Arsene Houssaye, who was then chief editor of “ L’Artiste,” and it happened oddly enough that Murger wrote nothing but poetry for this journal. Monsieur Houssaye took a great fancy to Murger, and persuaded him, for the sake of “ effect ” on the titlepages of books and on the backs of magazines, to change Henri to Henry, and give Murger a German physiognomy by writing it Murger. As Frenchmen treat their names with as much freedom as we use towards old gloves, Murger instantly adopted Monsieur Houssaye’s suggestion, and clung as long as he lived to the new orthography of his name. He began to find it less difficult to procure each day his daily bread, but still the gaunt wolf, Poverty, continued to glare on him. “ Our existence,” he said, “is like a ballad which has several couplets ; sometimes all goes well, at other times all goes badly, then worse, next worst, and so on ; but the burden never changes; ’t is always the same,—Misery ! Misery ! Misery ! ” One day he became so absolutely and hopelessly poor, that he was undecided whether to enlist as a sailor or take a clerk’s place in the Messrs, de Rothschilds’ bankinghouse. He actually did make application to Madame de Rothschild. Here is the letter in which he records this application : — “ I am delighted to be at last able to write you without being obliged to describe wretchedness. Ill-fortune seems to begin to tire of pursuing me, and goodfortune appears about to make advances to me. Madame Rothschild, to whom I wrote begging her to get her husband to give me a situation, informed her correspondent of it, and told him to send for and talk with me. I could not obtain a place, but I was offered ten dollars rather delicately, and I took it. As soon as I received it, I went as fast as I could to put myself in condition to be able to go out in broad daylight.”
“ 15th August, 1844.
We scarcely know which is the saddest to see : Henry Murger accepting ten dollars from Madame de Rothschild’s generous privy purse, — for it is alms, soften it as you may, — or to observe the happiness this paltry sum gives him. How deeply he must have been steeped in poverty!
But now the very worst was over. In 1848 he sent a contribution to “ Le Corsaire,” a petty newspaper of odds and ends, of literature and of gossip. The contribution was published. He became attached to the paper. In 1849 he began the publication in “ Le Coraire" of the story which was to make him famous, “ La Vie de Bohême,” which was, like all his works, something in the nature of an autobiographical sketch. Its wit, its sprightly style, its odd images, its odd scenes, its strange mixture of gayety and sadness, attracted attention immediately. But who pays attention to newspaperarticles ? However brilliant and profound they may be, they are forgotten quite as soon as read. The best newspaper-writer on his most successful day can only hope to be remembered from one morning to another; if he commands attention for so long a period, his utmost ambition should consider itself satisfied.
It was not until Murger had rescued his book from the columns of the newspaper that he obtained reputation. He was indebted to Monsieur Jules Janin, the eminent theatrical reporter of the “ Journal des Debats,” for great assistance at this’critical hour of his life. One morning Henry Murger entered Monsieur Jules Janin’s study, carrying under his arm an immense bundle of old newspapers, secured by a piece of old twine. He asked Monsieur Jules Janin to read the story contained in the old newspapers, and to advise him if it was worth republication, and what form of publication was best suited to it. As soon as Murger retired, Monsieur Jules Janin took up the newspapers. Few bibliopoles in Paris are more delicate than Monsieur Janin ; it is positive pain to him to peruse any volume, unless the margin be broad, the type excellent, the printing executed by a famous printer, and the binding redolent of the rich perfume of Russian leather. These newspapers were torn and tattered, stained with wine and coffee and tobacco. They were not so much as in consecutive order. Conceive the irritation they must have produced on Monsieur Janin ! But when he once got fairly into the story he forgot all his delicacy, and when Henry Murger returned, two days afterwards, he said to him, — “ Sir, go home and write us a comedy with Rodolphe and Schaunard and Nini and Musette.3 It shall be played as soon as you have written it; in fourand-twenty hours it will be celebrated, and the dramatic reporters will see to the rest.” The magnificent promises to the poverty-racked man fevered him almost to madness; he took up the packet, (which Monsieur Janin had elegantly bound with a rose-colored ribbon,) and off he went, without even thinking to thank Monsieur Janin for his kindness, or to close the door. Murger carried his story to a friend, Theodore Barriere, (since famous as a play-writer,) and in three months’ time the piece was ready for the stage, was soon brought out at the “ Variátás,” and the names of Murger and Barriere were on every lip in Paris. We have nothing like the French stage in the suddenness and extensiveness of the popularity it gives men. We have no means by which a gifted man can suddenly acquire universal fame, — can “ go to bed unknown and wake famous.” The most brilliant speech at the bar is heard within a narrow horizon. The most brilliant novel is slow in making its way; and before its author is famous beyond the shadow of the publisher’s house, a later new novel pales the lustre of the rising star. The French stage occupies the position our Congress once held, when its halls were adorned by the great men, the Clays, Calhouns, Websters, of our fathers’ days, or the Supreme Court occupied, when Marshall sat in the chief seat on its bench, and William Pinckney brought to its bar his elaborate eloquence, and William Wirt his ornate and touching oratory. The stage is to France what Parliament is to England. It is more: it is the mirror and the fool: it glasses society’s form and pressure ; it criticizes folly. Murger’s success on the stage opened every door of publicity to him. His name was current, it had a known market-value. The success of the piece assured the success of the book. The “ Revue des Deux Mondes ” begged Murger to write for its pages. Murger’s fortune seemed assured.
There was but one croak heard in all the applause. It came from Murger’s father. He could not believe his eyes and his ears, when they avouched to him that his son’s name and praises filled every paper and every mouth. It utterly confounded him. The day of the second performance of the piece Murger went to see his father.
“ If you would like to see my piece again to-day, you may take these tickets.”
His father replied, —
“ Your piece ? What! you don’t mean to say that they are still playing it ? ”
He could not conceive it possible that his “ vagabond” son should interest anybody’s attention.
The very first use Murger made of his increased income was to fly Paris and to seek the country, — that rural life which Frenchmen abhor. Marlotte, a little village in the Forest of Fontainebleau, became his home; there he spent eight months of every year. Too poor, at first, to rent a cottage for himself, he lodged at the miserable village-inn, which, with its eccentric drunken landlord, he has sketched in one of his novels; and when fortune proved less unkind to him, he took a cottage which lay between the highway and the forest, and there the first happy years of his life were spent. They were few, and they were checkered. His chief petty annoyance was his want of skill as a sportsman. He could never bring down game with his gun, and he was passionately fond of shooting. On taking up his abode in the country, the first thing he had made was a full hunting-suit in the most approved fashion, and this costume he would wear upon all occasions, even when he came up to Paris. He never attained any nearer approximation to a sportsman’s character. One day he went out shooting with a friend. A flock of partridges rose at their feet.
“ Fire, Murger! fire ! ” exclaimed his friend.
“ Why, great heavens, man, I can’t shoot so ! Wait until they light on yon fence, and then I ’ll take a crack at them.”
He could no better shoot at stationary objects, however, than at game on the wing. Hard by his cottage a hare had burrowed in a potato-field. Every morning and every evening Murger fired at the hare, but with such little effect, that the hare soon took no notice either of Murger or his gun, and gambolled before them both as if they were simply a scarecrow. Murger bagged but one piece of game in the whole course of his life, and the way this was done happened in this wise. One day he was asleep at the foot of a tree in the Forest of Fontainebleau,— his gun by his side. He was suddenly awakened by the barking of a dog which he knew belonged to the most adroit poacher that levied illicit tribute on the imperial domain. The dog continued to bark and to look steadily up into the tree. Murger followed the dog’s eyes, but could discover nothing. The poacher ran up, saying, —
“Quick, Monsieur Murger! quick! Give me your gun. Don’t you see it ? ” Murger replied, —
“ See it ? See what ? ”
“ Why, a pheasant! a splendid cock ! There he is on the top limb ! ”
The poacher aimed and fired ; the pheasant fell at Murger's feet.
“ Take the bird and put it in your game-bag, Monsieur Murger, and tell everybody you killed it.”
Murger gratefully accepted the present ; and this was the first and only time that Murger ever bagged a bird.
But the cloud which darkened his skynow was the cloud which had lowered on all his life, — poverty. He was always fevered by the care and anxiety of procuring money. Life is expensive to a man occupying such a position as Murger filled, and French authors are ill paid. A French publisher thinks he has done wonders, if he sells all the copies of an edition of three thousand volumes; and if any work reaches a sale of sixteen or seventeen thousand volumes, the publisher is ready to cry, “ Miracle ! ” Further, men who lead intellectual lives are almost necessarily extravagant of money. They know not its value. They know, indeed, that ten mills make one cent, and that ten cents make one dime, and that ten dimes make one dollar; but they are ignorant of the practical value of these denominations of the great medium of exchange. They cannot “jew,” and know not that the slight percentage they would take off the price asked is a prize worth contending for. Again, the physical exhaustion or reaction which almost invariably follows mental exertion requires stimulants of some kind or other to remove the pain—it is an acute pain — which reaction brings upon the whole system. These stimulants, whether they be good dinners, or brilliant company, or generous wines, or parties of pleasure, are always costly. Besides, life in Paris is such an expensive mode of existence, the simplest pleasures there are so very costly, and there are so many microscopic issues through which money pours away in that undomestic life, in that career passed almost continually in public, that one must have a considerable fortune, or lead an extremely retired life. A fashionable author, whose books are in every book-shop window, and whose plays are posted for performance on every wall, cannot lead a secluded life; and all the circumstances we have hinted at conspire to make his life expensive. In vain Murger fled the great city. It pursued him even iu the country. Admirers and parasites sought him out even in his retreat, and forced their way to his table. There is another reason for Murger’s life-long poverty : he worked slowly, and this natural difficulty of intellectual travail was increased by his exquisite taste and desire of perfection. The novel was written and rewritten time and again. The plot was changed ; the characters were altered; each phrase was polished and repolished. Where ordinary writers threw off half a dozen volumes, Murger found it hard to fit a single volume for the press. Ordinary writers grew rich in writing speedily forgotten novels; he continued poor in writing novels which will live for many years. Then, Murger’s vein of talent made him work for theatres which gave more reputation than ready money. He was too delicate a writer to construct those profitable dramas which run a hundred or a hundred and fifty nights and place ten or twenty thousand dollars in the writer’s purse. His original poverty kept him poor. He could not afford to wait until the seed he had sown had grown and ripened for the sickle; so he fell into the hands of usurers, who purchased the crop while it was yet green, and made the harvest yield them profits of fifty or seventy-five per centum.
His distress during the last years of his life was as great as the distress of his youth. His published letters tell a sorrowful tale. They are filled with apprehensions of notes maturing only to be protested, or complaints of inability to go up to Paris one day because he has not a shirt to wear, another day because he cannot procure the seventy-five cents which are the railway-fare from Fontainebleau to Paris. Here is one of his letters, one of the gayest of them. It is charming, but sad : —
“ I send you my little stock. Carry it instantly to Monsieur Heugel, the musicpublisher in the Rue Vivienne, next door to Michel Levy’s. Go the day afterwards to Michel Levy’s for the answer. Read it, and if it shows that Monsieur Heugel buys my songs, go to him with the blank receipt, herein inclosed, which you will fill up as he will point out, according to the usual conditions. It is ten dollars a song; but as there is a poor song among them, and money I must have, take whatever he gives you; but you must pretend as if you expected ten dollars for each song. This money must be used to take up Saccault’s note, which is due the fifteenth. Take the address of the holder, and pay it before it is protested. You will be allowed till the next day to pay it. Be active in this matter, and let me hear how things turn out. I cannot, in reason, in my present situation, take a room at a rent of a hundred and twenty dollars a year.4 We have cares enough for the present; therefore let us not sow that seed of embarrassment which flowers every three months in the shape of quarterly rent. Do not give at the outside more than eighty dollars for the room, even though we be embarrassed by its smallness. I hope we may have means before long of being more delicate in our selection ; but at present put a leaf to your patience, for the horizon is black enough to make ink withal. However, the little dialogue (which has been quite successful) I have just had with the muses has given me better spirits. I have a fever of working which is high enough to give me a real fever. I have shaken the box, and see that it is not empty. But I stood in need of this evidence, for in my own eyes I had fallen as low as the Public Funds in 1848. Return here before the money Michel Levy gave you is exhausted, for I cannot get any more for you. I am working half the day and half the night. I feel that the great floodtide of ' copy ’ is at hand. My laundress and my pantaloons have both deserted me. I am obliged to use grape-vine leaves for my pocket-handkerchief. .... There is nothing new here. The dogs are in good health, but they do not look fat; I am afraid they have fasted sometimes. Our chimney is again inhabited by a family of swallows; they say that is a good sign : maybe it means that we shall have fire all the winter long.”
To this letter was added a postscript which one of the dogs was supposed to have written: —
“MY DEAR LADY, - They say here we are going to see mighty hard times. My master talks of suppressing my breakfast, and he wants to hire me to a shepherd in order that I may earn some money for a living. But as I have the reputation of loving muttonchops, nobody will hire me to keep sheep. If you see anywhere in Paris a pretty diamond collar which does not cost more than five - and - twenty cents, bring it to
“ DOG MIRZA.
“14th March, 1855.”
Hope dawned upon him in 1856. He was promised a pension of three hundred dollars from the Government out of the literary fund of the Minister of Public Instruction’s budget. It would have been, from its regularity of payment, a fortune to him. It would have saved him from the anxiety of quarter-day when rent fell due. But the pension never came. The Government gave him the decoration of the Legion of Honor, which certainly gratified him. But money for bread would have been of more service. When Rachel lay upon that invalid’s chair which she was never to quit except for her coffin, she gazed one morning upon the breakfast of delicacies spread before her to tempt the return of absent appetite. After some moments of silence, she took up a piece of bread as white as the driven snow, and, sighing, said in that whisper which was all that remained to her of voice,—“Ay, me ! Had the world given me a little more of this, and earlier in my life, I had not been here at three-and-thirty.” Those early years of want which sapped Rachel’s life undermined Murger’s constitution. His rustic life repaired some of the damage wrought, and would probably have entirely retrieved it, had his life then been freer from care, less visited by privation. Had the money the Government and his friends lavished on his corpse been bestowed on him living, he had probably still been numbered among the writers militant of France. Some obscure parasite got the pension. He continued to work on still hounded by debt. “ Five times a week,” he wrote in 1858, “I dine at twelve or one o’clock at night. One thing is certain : if I am not forced to stop writing for three or four days, I shall fall sick.” In 1860 we find him complaining that he is “sick in soul, and maybe in body too. I am, of a truth, fatigued, and a great deal more fatigued than people think me.” Death’s shadow was upon him. The world thought him in firmer health and in gayer spirits than ever. He knew better. He felt as the traveller feels towards the close of the day and the end of the journey. It was not strange that the world was deceived, for Murger's gayety had always been factitious. He often turned off grief with a smile, where other men relieve it with a tear. Sensitive natures shrink from letting the world see their exquisite sensibility. Besides, Murger’s gayety was intellectual rather than physical. It consisted almost entirely in bright gleams of repartee. It was quickness, ’t was not mirth. No wonder, then, that the world was deceived ; the mind retained its old activity amid all its fatigue ; and besides, the world sees men only in their hours of full-dress, when the will lights up the leaden eyes and wreathes the drawn countenance in smiles. Tears are for our midnight pillow, — the hand-burlid face for our solitary study.
* He was urged to rent a room in Paris as his lodgings when he came to town.
So when the rumor flew over Paris, Murger is sick! — Murger is dying! — Murger is dead ! it raised the greatest surprise. Everybody wondered how the stalwart man they saw yesterday could be brought low so soon. Where was his youth, that it came not to the rescue ? The reader can answer the question. Of a truth, the last act of the drama we have sketched in these pages moved rapidly to the catastrophe. He awoke in the middle of one night with a violent pain in the thigh, which ached as if a red-hot ball had passed through it. The pain momentarily increased in violence, and became intolerable. The nearest physician was summoned. After diagnosis, he declared the case too grave for action until after consultation. Another medical attendant was called in. After consultation they decided that the most eminent surgeons of Paris must be consulted. It was a decomposition of the whole body, attended with symptoms rarely observed. The princes of medical science in Paris met at the bedside. They all confessed that their art was impotent to alleviate, much less to cure, this dreadful disease. Murger’s hours were numbered. The doctors insisted upon his being transported to the hospital. To the hospital he went: ’t was not for the first,—’t was for the last time. His agonies were distressing. They wrung from him screams which could he heard from the fifth floor, where he lay, to the street. Death made his approaches like some skilful engineer against some impregnable fortress: fibre by fibre, vein by vein, atom by atom, was mastered and destroyed.
During one of the rare intervals of freedom from torture, he turned to the sick-nurse who kept watch by his pillow, and, after vacantly gazing on her buxom form and ruddy cheek, he significantly asked, — “ Mammy, do you find this world a happy place, and life an easy burden ? ” The well-fed woman understood not the bitterness of soul which prompted this question. “ Keep quiet, and sleep,” was her reply. He fell back upon his pillow, murmuring, “ I have n’t! I have n’t!” Yet he was only eight-and-thirty years old, and men’s sorrows commonly commence later in life. A friend came to see him. As the physicians had forbidden him all conversation, he wrote on a card this explanation of his situation: — “ Ricord and the other doctors were of opinion that I should come to Dubois’s Hospital. I should have preferred St. Louis’s Hospital. I feel more at home there. Enfin ! . . . .” Is there in the martyrology of poets any passage sadder than these lines? Just think of a man so bereft of home and family, so accustomed to the common cot of the hospital, so familiar to hospital sights and sounds and odors, that he can associate home with the public ward ! Poor Murger!
So lived and so died the poet of youth, and of ambitious, struggling, hopeful poverty. We describe not his funeral, nor the monument reared over his grave. Our heart fails us at sight of these sterile honors. They are ill-timed. What boot they, when he on whom they are bestowed is beyond the reach of earthly voices? The ancients crowned the live animal they selected as the sacrifice for their altars ; it saw the garlands of flowers which were laid on its head, and the stately procession which accompanied it, and heard the music which discoursed of its happiness.
- After Sheridan had made his maiden speech in the House of Commons, he went to the gallery where Whitbread was sitting and asked the latter’s opinion of his effort.↩
- Dagneaux’s is the most expensive restaurant of the Latin Quarter.↩
- These are characters in the novel, portraits from real life. Murger drew himself, and told his own history, when he sketched Rodolphe.↩