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both of whom wore precipitated into a pit; then
"came wandering by," two princes who met
their death by assassination, vividly presented
their fate shared in the next scene by their
nearest relatives, the king and queen. The
martyrdom of a young female ensued, and the
punishment of an infidel Moor; and these
delectable entertainments closed by a scene of
madness enacted to the life. This was sport
for ladies in those pleasant times.

It was to that magnificent son of the
Church, Cardinal Richelieu, that our
play-loving neighbours, the French, owed their
first well-constructed theatre; but as this
theatre was exclusive, and destined to
be dedicated to his own glory as an
author, the minister lavished care and cost
without calculation on its erection and adornment.
He had written a play which his
flatterers told him was the perfection of art.
Resolved, in his own mind, that no. rude
truth should dispel the lofty dream he had
encouraged, he built a theatre, chose the
actors, and selected the public for it.

In that building which is nowor rather
wasthe Palais Royal, a new hall was
constructed, according to the designs of one of
the first architects of the period. All the
luxury of a sculptor's and decorator's
imagination was expended on the caprice of the
clerical egotist who prepared so gorgeous a
frame for his immortal Mirâmé, thus
characterised by Fontenelle:

Mirâmé is a princess of somewhat doubtful
principles: her father, the King of Bythinia,
is a stupid old fellow who cannot see that she
is desperately in love with Arimant, the
captain of the fleet of the King of Colchis; and
when, at length, he finds out the fact, exclaims
in the true spirit of Louis the Thirteenth,

                                             Let us be calm,
             Dissimulation is the lore of kings.

Although all in this play appears to have
been equally absurd, one scene will serve to
show the ingenuity employed to give it all
the effect possible.

The lovers are parting in the style of Romeo
and Juliet, and Arimant protests that the
sunlight which his lady love trembles to behold
is only the effect of her eyes; to render which
hyperbole the more obvious to the audience,
machinery was contrived which made the
sun rise suddenly from the floor of the stage
as the enamoured Turk exclamed,

  It is your eyes that make this brilliant light.

While the performance was going on, the
modest author did not conceal himself behind
a curtain, trembling and ashamed; on the
contrary, the cardinal applauded with all his might
every pet passage; sometimes he stood up in
his box, sometimes he leant forward, showing
himself to the assembly, craning forth
his neck and his body half over the side. His
friends, taking the cue from him, applauded
vehemently, and he became almost mad with
delight until, recollecting himself, he repressed
their enthusiasm, in order that they might not,
by their loud admiration, miss any of the fine

The cardinal was extremely particular in
the distribution of the tickets of admission to
this precious representation, and a list was
made out, excluding all but those of whom he
felt certain; but alas! it is impossible to
suppress that tenacious race, the critics, and one
has handed down to us the opinion which he
probably did not entertain alone:

"I had a good place; but, to tell the truth,
I did not think the play went on a bit the
better for all the fine machinery employed.
The eye soon got tired of that, and the mind
remained unsatisfied. The object of a play, it
appears to me, is the declamation of the
sentiments of a good author; the invention of a poet
and fine verses all besides is useless confusion."

No doubt the guests, royal and noble
for it was played before the king and queen,
and their courtwere not a little relieved,
when the Bishop of Chartres appeared at the
conclusion of the play, in a short robe, and
descended on the stage to present a collation
to the queen, followed by a train of attendants
carrying golden vases filled with sweet-meats
and fruit; after which the curtains of
the theatre were drawn back, and a grand
ball-room was exposed to view, glittering with
lights and resplendent with gilding. The
queen was conducted to her place on a high
dais, and his eminence took his station
immediately behind her, now dressed in a
long mantle of flame-coloured taffeta, and
an embroidered vest beneath.

The king, whose patience was probably
exhausted, retired directly the play was over.

Whether the guests, in the height of their
glee at having survived the representation of
this long-threatened drama, uttered their
opinions too unguardedly, or whether their
yawns and their indifference had told the tale
too plainly, certain it is that his eminence was
signally vexed at the result of the performance,
and, the moment the fete was ended,
ordered his horses, threw himself into his
carriage, and set out for his country house, having
sent for some confidential friends whom he
wished to consult.

"Well," cried he, "the French are a nation
entirely devoid of taste;—they have not
admired my play, after all."

One of his friends was unable to find a
word suitable to the occasion, but another
immediately poured forth the usual torrent
of abuse against the ignorance of the public,
the envy of the world, and the stupidity of

"Did you not observe," said he, " that in spite
of your express order, the Abbé Boisrobert had
introduced into the theatre two persons who
were not inscribed on the list? This was
done with intention, and explains the whole."

The cardinal at once caught at the idea,
and the unfortunate abbé was the first victim