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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Sunday, 2 December 2012

Being 'in it' or 'out of it'

Wednesday, December 2nd., Paris.

It snowed all yesterday morning. I walked out three miles in it to make purchases; amongst other things the Mercure de France where I found 3 pages concerning myself by Davray, - all that was most amiable and appreciative, and yet sober too.


I dined with C.L. at Maire's, corner of Boul de Strasbourg, and really enjoyed myself. The place is very chic, and I hit on a Burgundy at 3.50 which was really fine. Naturally, I drank too much of it. I finished the dinner with 'fruits refraichis', refreshed, that is, with abundant liqueurs such as Kirsch; I also had a little cognac. The consequence was that I was extremely unwell in the night. However, the attack, which in other days would have lasted 48 hours, cleared away this morning, and I was able to go out and buy a closed French stove - 45 francs, second hand, a bargain. I now hope to get, and keep, the appartement warm.

After the dinner, Antoine's. And I saw for the first time, Henri Becque's famous "La Parisienne".

Henry François Becque (9 April 1837 – May 1899), French dramatist, was born in Lille. In 1867, he wrote, in imitation of Lord Byron, the libretto for Victorin de Joncières's opera Sardanapale, but his first important work, Michel Pauper, appeared in 1870. The importance of this sombre drama was first realized when it was revived at the Odéon in 1886. Les Corbeaux (1882) established Becque's position as an innovator, and in 1885 he produced his most successful play, La Parisienne. Becque produced little during the last years of his life, but his disciples carried on the tradition he had created.

Suzanne Devoyod 1867-1954

A play perfectly simple, but exquisitely constructed. Only one important character - played really with genius by Mme Devoyod. Yes, genius. The play is well entitled. This is the Parisienne, even the woman. And it is human nature with all its sins presented without the slightest ethical or didactic tendency - with an absolute detachment from morals. It is certainly one of the great plays of the period. I learnt a lot from it, not only in technique, but in the matter of fundamental attitude towards life.

"La Parisienne," which had its first performance in 1885, was a bitter pill to the public. Nobody questioned its wit. It was admitted that the diabolically clever dialogue of the first scene, leading up to the thunderbolt discovery that Lafont is not Clotilde's husband, but her lover, was alone worth the price of admission. But the critics, most of them, thought that Becque had slandered the Parisian woman. Someone said that the title of the play should be changed from "La Parisienne" to "Une Parisienne"; but what the temper of the time could not forgive was the ruthlessness with which Henry Becque tore the veil of romance from illicit love--from adultery, if you please--and put it on the prosaic basis of every-day marriage. That was too much. However, the conventional naughty triangle of the French theatre, after the presentation of "La Parisienne," was done forever.

I have spent a good part of today in staring at my new stove.

I hate, now, having any evenings quite free, with no society. It is on these evenings, although I amuse myself with writing letters and reading, that I feel 'out of it'. And that phrase expresses the whole thing. 'Out of it.' What it is I don't exactly know.

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