The Resources of Quinola by Honoré de Balzac


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Page 1

The second observation relates to the strange manner in which almost
all the critics have mistaken the character of Lavradi, one of the
personages in this comedy, which they have stigmatized as a hideous
creation. Any one who reads the piece, of which no critic has given an
exact analysis, will see that Lavradi, sentenced to be transported for
ten years to the _presides_, comes to ask pardon of the king. Every
one knows how freely the severest penalties were in the sixteenth
century measured out for the lightest offences, and how warmly valets
in a predicament such as Quinola's, were welcomed by the spectators in
the antique theatres.

Many volumes might be filled with the laments of feuilletonists, who
for nearly twenty years have called for comedies in the Italian,
Spanish or English style. An attempt has been made to produce one, and
the critics would rather eat their own words than miss the opportunity
of choking off the man who has been bold enough to venture upon a
pathway of such fertile promise, whose very antiquity lends to it in
these days the charm of novelty.

Nor must we forget to mention, to the disgrace of our age, the howl of
disapprobation which greeted the title "Duke of Neptunado," selected
by Philip II. for the inventor, a howl in which educated readers will
refuse to join, but which was so overwhelming at the presentation of
the piece that after its first utterance the actors omitted the term
during the remainder of the evening. This howl was raised by an
audience of spectators who read in the newspapers every morning the
title of the Duke of Vittoria, given to Espartero, and who must have
heard of the title Prince of Paz, given to the last favorite of the
last but one of the kings of Spain. How could such ignorance as this
have been anticipated? Who does not know that the majority of Spanish
titles, especially in the time of Charles V. and Philip II. refer to
circumstances under which they were originally granted?

An admiral took that of _Transport-Real_, from the fact that the
dauphin sailed with him to Italy.

Navarro was given the title _La Vittoria_ after the sea-fight of
Toulon, though the issue of the conflict was indecisive.

These examples, and as many others, are outdone by that of the famous
finance minister, a parvenu broker, who chose to be entitled the
Marquis Insignificant (l'Ensenada).

In producing a work, constructed with all the dramatic irregularity of
the early French and Spanish stage, the author has made an experiment
which had been called for by the suffrages of more than one "organ of
public opinion," as well as of all the "first-nighters" of Paris. He
wished to meet the genuine public and to have his piece represented in
a house filled with a paying audience. The unsatisfactory result of
this ordeal was so plainly pointed out by the whole press, that the
indispensability of _claqueurs_ has been now forever established.

The author had been confronted by the following dilemma, as stated by
those experienced in such matters. If he introduced into the theatre
twelve hundred "dead heads," the success secured by their applause
would undoubtedly be questioned. If twelve hundred paying spectators
were present, the success of the piece was almost out of the question.
The author chose to run the risk of the latter alternative. Such is
the history of this first representation, where so many people
appeared to be made so uncomfortable by their elevation to the dignity
of independent judges.

The author intends therefore to return to the beaten track, base and
ignoble though it be, which prejudice has laid out as the only avenue
to dramatic success; but it may not be unprofitable to state here,
that the first representation of _The Resources of Quinola_ actually
redounded to the advantage of the _claqueurs_, the only persons who
enjoyed any triumph in an evening entertainment from which their
presence was debarred!

Some idea of the criticism uttered on this comedy may be gained from
the fact that out of the fifty newspapers, all of which for the last
twenty years have uttered over the unsuccessful playwright the
hackneyed phrase, "the play is the work of a clever man who will some
day take his revenge," not one employed it in speaking of _The
Resources of Quinola_, which they were unanimous in consigning to
oblivion. This result has settled the ambition of the author.

Certain persons, whose good auguries the author had done nothing to
call forth, encouraged from the outset this dramatic venture, and thus
showed themselves less critical than unkind; but the author counts
such miscalculations as blessings in disguise, for the loss of false
friends is the best school of experience. Nor is it less a pleasure
than a duty thus publicly to thank the friends, like M. Leon Gozlan,
who have remained faithful, towards whom the author has contracted a
debt of gratitude; like M. Victor Hugo, who protested, so to speak,
against the public verdict at the first representation, by returning
to witness the second; like M. de Lamartine and Madame de Girardin,
who stuck to their first opinion, in spite of the general public
reprobation of the piece. The approval of such persons as these would
be consoling in any disaster.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Thu 21st Feb 2019, 1:57