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bilities of writers of genius, capable of exerting so powerful an influence upon masses. The thirst for light reading is fed and not quenched by being gratified. One romance begets others, and evil is more certain to produce evil than is good to originate good. The hand that unveils society may chance to disclose a secret deformity, as well as a hidden grace.

We have selected for examination, the last work that has reached us from the pen of a French romancer of celebrity, to whose productions our countrymen are comparatively strangers. He is a striking illustration of a literary artist, and powerfully controls his public. With talent, style, fertility, and success to recommend him, the scenes, the manners, and the personages he depicts, will bear comparison with their originals- the popula tion of the saloons and garrets of the narrow streets and spacious squares of Paris. In the modern classic metropolis of letters and of art, where taste is entertained by the incessant revival of ancient and mediæval forms of beauty, and science is recognised even by philosophy, and where the highest dignities of the state are not more reputable than the vocation of letters, M. de Balzac is surrounded by the noblest monuments of the age. In the midst of enlightened theorists and brilliant wits, and of the indescribable peculiarities of this city—historical, without a ruin to throw a gloom over its past-he mingles with the tumultuous crowd engaged in the endless carnival of life, and wreathing the brow of death with flowers as if the chaplet could survive the marble! Must his not be true eloquence, at the sound of which all these murmurs cease, and an assembly, well nigh Athenian, listen to his tale?

We mean not to follow our reckless author, wherever curiosity or love of art may lead him. A piercing eye and resolute devotion to his art have enabled M. de Balzac to discover, in that unconscious throng, materials such as fiction has rarely dealt in. He has no retrospective glance. To him the past is nothing. He claims to-day, and its sunshine illumines the mutable traits his pencil has arrested. It is as if yesterday were not, and tomorrow was not to be. If Scott resuscitates the brave, the beautiful, the famous, and swiftly bears us back through time, de Balzac transports us to the midst of that variegated masquerade, and places in our hand a magic glass, by which we penetrate not the masks only, but the hearts around us. We have lit upon a happy comparison. A circle of specific personages pervade the entire range of his romances. The individual work may be an individual portraiture but the same group of vis

ages is to be recognised throughout the series. And the interest becomes thrilling, when the reader finds himself among a world of human hearts, linked together by an invisible chain, a mystery half palpable, half volatile, of which the enigma is the author's secret.

Before noticing some of the scenes and events, so faithfully delineated, we would mention one obstacle to proper criticism. Not only our author's works, but those of his literary contemporaries, are sealed to a majority of our readers in consequence of their extremely small circulation here. Nor are we desirous they should be generally known. The pictures of morals in many of these productions, are as little illustrative of the true condition of Parisian society, as the pathological exhibitions of the Hotel Dieu would be of the city's Hygiene. But this forbids discussion, and deprives us of one element indispensable to the just appreciation of literary abilities, their admeasurement with contemporary talent. Let us therefore confine ourselves to the aesthetical view of the artist; the imitative power of the painter-his models, the colors he employs, and his skill in mixing them— premising that we shall here and there be compelled to re-produce a portrait, for the sake of exemplifying the rule of art it illustrates. On many a page may be seen, not only scene, tint, and feature, but the novelist himself, calm, assiduous, observant-the courtier of characters, attuning the chords of his heart to every emotion he discerns, and invoking the aid of art to re-produce it. He is, as it were, possessed of his personages.

The life and fortunes of Cæsar Birotteau, furnish the materials for two admirable volumes. The hero bears the stamp of the inhabitant of the city par excellence of perfumers and of chevaliers de la légion d'honneur, as well as of enduring monuments and fleeting pleasures. There have been ten thousand Cæsar Birotteaus in Paris-yet the genus is now for the first time described. The story conveys a charming allegory — it is a new canto in the endless epic of the human heart. The plot of most romances is purposely veiled, their d ́nouement attended with something of the clap-trap of the modern drama. But here the incidents and accidents are enunciated, the alpha and omega of the tale proclaimed on the title page; and under these circumstances, it seems to us a merit of no ordinary degree to fulfil the prescribed conditions.

Enterprise brought Cæsar Birotteau from Tours to Paris; chance guided him to the Magasin of M. Ragon the perfumer; industry won him the esteem, and honesty, the confidence of his

employers; a lucrative custom among the ancienne noblesse tinged them with royalism-which he, in humble imitation, wore like a court patch upon his ingenuous cheek; time, bringing prosperity, the reward of labor, disposed them to retire from business, and, on their withdrawal, he became their successor; Providence illumined his prospective with the bright eyes of Constance Pillerault, and devoted love gained her smile and hand; fortune prospered their frugal life, and its thrift secured the benefits of successful undertakings; accident threw before Cæsar the recipe of an oriental cosmetic, which, when his skill had perfected it, his good sense led him to exhibit to Vauquelin the great chemist, who imparted his science and counsel to the grateful perfumer; the pâte des sultanes and eau carminative, approved by M. Vauquelin, member of the institute, soon softened the hands and smoothed the wrinkles of all Europe; meanwhile Cæsar received a bullet on the steps of St. Roch in Vindémaire, and was baptised in legitimacy with his own blood; the Bourbons returning, his high credit, loyalty, and experience, rendered him conspicuous and serviceable; he is named adjunct mayor of his arrondissement, and the curtain of M. de Balzac's romance unfolds him to us within a step of the pinnacle of glory; he is to be created chevalier de la légion d'honneur. Was ever perfumer so exalted?

These bright results of a life, in which his naïve self complacency discovers no other agent than his own sagacity, inspire Cæsar with higher aims, and swell his breast with ambitious hopes. This prepares us for the ebb of the tide, he had taken at its flood. And this is natural. And this is natural. He aspires to increase his ample independence to opulence, by a mighty speculation, and to commemorate by a festive ball his admission to the privileges and honors of the "red riband." Against the sage and womanly instincts of his wife, whose prudence, until now, had gently swayed the hand with which he grasped the rudder, the intoxicated perfumer has his apartment enlarged, furnished, and decorated for the ball, at an immense expense, and risks his all in a purchase of lots, which is to ruin him. It requires twenty days to transform into a little fairy land the modest abode where Cæsar and Constance and their daughter Césarine had so long been happy. Such enchantment can only be effected in Paris. It needs but a single night to ruin Birotteau. The notary to whom his funds had been entrusted absconds; an ancient clerk of the perfumer's, into whose bands the blind goddess had cast propitious dice to be revenged on the master, who in

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former days detected him in a theft and forgave him-succeeds in seducing to his purposes the already corrupt functionary.

There is a grand pause as we reach this point d'orgue in the symphony of incidents. The first volume is the natural effluence of these events, linked by a master hand. We mingle with Birotteau and his intimates, admirable types of the honest Parisian Bourgeoisie; we assist at their reunions, and visit them separately; we see Madame Cæsar from behind her counter, dispensing with that winning sweetness which seems the appanage of her race and sex, the fragrant luxuries of civilization and fashion; we are present when the architect, a premier prix, of the school of fine arts, just returned from Rome, comes with his artistic prestige to take the apartment's measure; with Birotteau and his family, we ascend the new staircase on the night of the " rehearsal," when they are suffered, after twenty impatient days, to enter their metamorphosed abode; and we admire the taste, and richness, and beauty, and recherche, the artist has displayed, ever and anon turning round to familiarize ourselves with the living and expressive countenances of our new friends.

Those of our readers who are familiar with the glowing pages of Buffon, or Wilson, or Audubon, must remember in them the retentive powers of observation, which recognise in the bird or the animal, not an isolated variety, but the prominent personage in a scene adorned or bared by nature in the verdant glade or on the bleak hill side. With the ornithologist, especially, one threads the brake, sharing all his emotions of hope and fear; lured through the morass by the magical note, yet conscious the poison snake may lie in the path. Similar keenness and comprehensiveness characterize M. de Balzac's studies "after nature," and if the very language of the ornithologist is redolent of the grace and freshness of the wood and streamlet, his diction is impressed with the colors, shades, and outlines of actuality.

To return to Cæsar in misfortune, in the second volume, which is the history of the dramatic, even as the first was that of the poetic cycle of his existence. Amidst the weeds of vanity and weakness, sown by pride, in the soil which judicious labor once turned to such rich produce, a good seed-early planted and half forgottenis destined to spring up and bear fruit that shall redeem the glebe usurped by tares. A sane project was conceived and executed, among the many follies that signalized the finale of the perfumer's prosperity. In a moment of professional ambition, he was inspired with the idea of rivalling and subduing, by a new hair oil, that

foe to French coiffeurs, the irresistible and redoubtable Macassar, more fatal to all the antique and modern oils of France, than Wellington was to her armies. Thus Birotteau is at heart still a perfumer; and returns, maugre honors and anticipated grandeeism, to his first love, his primitive ambition, and sees more glory in encountering an invention of superlative but successful quackery, than in his promised elevation to the dignities of the higher citizenship.

"The Macassar oil," he said, in his happier days, "was no despicable enemy. A skilful conception, it had been ably carried out. The square phials had originality of form. His, he first designed making triangular; but, upon mature reflection, preferred delicate flori-form bottles of thin glass; they would have a mysterious air, and the consumer likes to be intrigued. But the Macassar will defend itself it is specious and has a seducing name. It is, has been, skilfully advertised, and circulates all over the world."

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"I have invented an oil to excite the growth and preserve the color of the hair, by reviving the head's cutaneous activity. This essence will have no less success than my pâtes de sultanes, and my famous wash. It is to be called Comagêne, because I am told coma is the Latin for hair, and in Racine's Berenice, a king, enamored of the flowing tresses of a lovely queen, gives, doubtless on their account, the title Comagêne to his kingdom."

ture.

"M. Vauquelin has been recently analyzing the composition of the hair, and has investigated its coloring matter and contexWe will call on him to-morrow. His disinterestedness, which has long given me pain, I have at length an opportunity of repaying. A few days since, I received from Dresden a rare and precious engraving of the Virgin, which he has desired for many years. This he cannot refuse to accept, and it may remind him of our gratitude. Plunged in science, the savants forget wives, friends, debtors, all. Our moderate intelligence leaves us, poor folks, warm hearts; and this consoles us for not being great men. But those gentlemen of the Institute, you will find, are all brains. You never see them in church. M. Vauquelin is always in his closet or his laboratory; I trust he sometimes thinks of the Creator, while analyzing His works."

Is not this portrait of the perfumer's mind half shrewd, half simple, always naïve, and always grateful, comparable to any study of La Bruyère's?

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