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- Vautrin - 1/27 -

Etext prepared by Dagny, and John Bickers,

VAUTRIN By Honore de Balzac




Presented for the first time at the Porte-Saint-Martin Theatre, Paris, March 14, 1840.


It is difficult for the playwright to put himself, five days after the first presentation of his piece, in the situation in which he felt himself on the morning after the event; but it is still more difficult to write a preface to /Vautrin/, to which every one has written his own. The single utterance of the author will infallibly prove inferior to so vast a number of divergent expressions. The report of a cannon is never so effective as a display of fireworks.

Must the author explain his work? Its only possible commentator is M. Frederick Lemaitre.

Must he complain of the injunction which delayed the presentation of his play? That would be to betray ignorance of his time and country. Petty tyranny is the besetting sin of constitutional governments; it is thus they are disloyal to themselves, and on the other hand, who are so cruel as the weak? The present government is a spoilt child, and does what it likes, excepting that it fails to secure the public weal or the public vote.

Must he proceed to prove that /Vautrin/ is as innocent a work as a drama of Berquin's? To inquire into the morality or immorality of the stage would imply servile submission to the stupid Prudhommes who bring the matter in question.

Shall he attack the newspapers? He could do no more than declare that they have verified by their conduct all he ever said about them.

Yet in the midst of the disaster which the energy of government has caused, but which the slightest sagacity in the world might have prevented, the author has found some compensation in the testimony of public sympathy which has been given him. M. Victor Hugo, among others, has shown himself as steadfast in friendship as he is pre-eminent in poetry; and the present writer has the greater happiness in publishing the good will of M. Hugo, inasmuch as the enemies of that distinguished man have no hesitation in blackening his character.

Let me conclude by saying that /Vautrin/ is two months old, and in the rush of Parisian life a novelty of two months has survived a couple of centuries. The real preface to /Vautrin/ will be found in the play, /Richard-Coeur-d'Eponge/,[*] which the administration permits to be acted in order to save the prolific stage of Porte-Saint-Martin from being overrun by children.

[*] A play never enacted or printed.

PARIS, May 1, 1840.


Jacques Collin, known as Vautrin The Duc de Montsorel The Marquis Albert de Montsorel, son to Montsorel Raoul de Frascas Charles Blondet, known as the Chevalier de Saint-Charles Francois Cadet, known as the Philosopher Fil-de-Soie Buteux Philippe Boulard, known as Lafouraille A Police Officer Joseph Bonnet, footman to the Duchesse de Montsorel The Duchesse de Montsorel (Louise de Vaudrey) Mademoiselle de Vaudrey, aunt to the Duchesse de Montsorel The Duchesse de Christoval Inez de Christoval, Princesse D'Arjos Felicite, maid to the Duchesse de Montsorel Servants, Gendarmes, Detectives, and others

SCENE: Paris

TIME: 1816, after the second return of the Bourbons.



SCENE FIRST. (A room in the house of the Duc de Montsorel.) The Duchesse de Montsorel and Mademoiselle de Vaudrey.

The Duchess Ah! So you have been waiting for me! How very good of you!

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey What is the matter, Louise? This is the first time in the twelve years of our mutual mourning, that I have seen you cheerful. Knowing you as I do, it makes me alarmed.

The Duchess I cannot help showing my unhappiness, and you, who have shared all my sorrows, alone can understand my rapture at the faintest gleam of hope.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Have you come upon any traces of your lost son?

The Duchess He is found!

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Impossible! When you find out your error it will add to your anguish.

The Duchess A child who is dead has but a tomb in the heart of his mother; but the child who has been stolen, is still living in that heart, dear aunt.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Suppose you were overheard!

The Duchess I should not care. I am setting out on a new life, and I feel strong enough to resist even the tyranny of De Montsorel.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey After twenty-two years of mourning, what possible occurrence can give you ground for hope?

The Duchess I have much more than hope! After the king's reception, I went to the Spanish ambassador's, where I was introduced to Madame de Christoval. There I saw a young man who resembled me, and had my voice. Do you see what I mean? If I came home late it was because I remained spellbound in the room, and could not leave until he had gone.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Yet what slight warrant you had for your elation!

The Duchess Is not a revelation such as that more than sufficient warrant for the rapture of a mother's heart? At the sight of that young stranger a flame seemed to dart before my yes; his glance gave me new life; I felt happy once more. If he were not my son, my feelings would be quite unaccountable.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey You must have betrayed yourself!

The Duchess Yes, perhaps I did! People doubtless noticed us; but I was carried away by an uncontrollable impulse; I saw no one but him, I wished to hear him talk, and he talked with me, and told me his age. He is twenty-three, the same age as Fernand!

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey And was the duke present?

The Duchess Could I give a thought to my husband? I listened only to this young man, who was talking with Inez. I believe they are in love with each other.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Inez, who is engaged to your son, the marquis? And do you think the warm reception given by her to his son's rival could escape the duke's notice?

The Duchess Of course not, and I quite see the dangers to which Fernand is exposed. But I must not detain you longer; I could talk to you about him till morning. You shall see him. I have told him to come at the

Vautrin - 1/27

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