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Vautrin: A Drama in Five Acts

Vautrin: A Drama in Five Acts
Honoré Balzac

Honoré de Balzac

Vautrin: A Drama in Five Acts

AUTHOR'S PREFACE

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,[1 - A play never enacted or printed.] which the administration permits to be acted in order to save the prolific stage of Porte-Saint-Martin from being overrun by children.

PARIS, May 1, 1840.

PERSONS OF THE PLAY

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.

ACT I

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!
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