Within the last six months we have seen three accounts of an exchange of parts, between the two sexes: one, of a young man who lived out at service in one of the towns of France in woman’s attire, and went by the name of the handsome Catherine. Catherine had, on the score of beauty and graceful, modest manners, many admirers, who could not believe their ears versus their eyes, when she was at last found out and denounced by the Police as a man and a notorious offender against justice.
The second is of a Mr. Douglass, who had long lived in Paris. It was known that he had been married and that his wife had deserted him for another without his ever prosecuting her or her accomplice. The mildness of disposition evinced by him in this instance and many others, his riches, and generosity in spending them, had drawn to him many friends and acquaintance. On preparing the body for burial, it was discovered that this discreet and generous gentleman was—a very woman. Now we read the following notice of one who acted the man’s part openly and with the assent, sometimes the approbation, of the rest of the world:
“In Ghent has lately died a woman who served for 17 years as a soldier and went out in all the campaigns of the empire. Maria Schellynk, born at Ghent, was inscribed as soldier in a regiment of the line; she was present in 12 battles, received at Jemappes six sabre-cuts, and was taken prisoner in Italy. Passing the bridge of Arcola, she received a shot in the leg, and was, although her sex was known, raised by Napoleon to the rank of sub-lieutenant. After the battle of Jena she was decorated with the cross of the Legion of Honor, and received a pension of 700 francs. The Emperor, in giving her the cross, said ‘Receive from my hands the cross of the valiant, which you have deserved so well. Then, turning to his officers, he added—‘Greet this noble woman; she is one of the glorious of the Empire.’ The Philanthropic Society of the Brothers in Arms of the Empire at Ghent have inscribed the name of Maria Schellynk on their catalogue as an honorary member, to show their respect for her memory.”
In Germany an immense hospital has been founded, where nurses may receive thorough preparation for their important calling, and where it is hoped young ladies and women of all classes will volunteer and learn, while discharging a charity under the direction of experienced persons who will see that the objects of their care do not suffer to afford them the means of learning the profession of nurse, one common to all the sex and in which it is their privilege to excel the other and thereby requite to them much ruder service. We wish there were some such institution here; as a novitiate in it would save young wives and mothers sad perplexities and sadder mistakes.
The infection of crime is well known; and that it will often seem as if a certain number of persons stood ready at any one time to enact certain deeds, if one will but suggest the idea. Throwing vitriol in the face of the person one wishes to punish is a mode of torture reserved, we believe, for our day to discover. We have heard, of late, of several instances where the seducer was so punished, as is represented to be the case in Mrs. Mowatt’s novel, and, in these instances, there was a barbarous justice in the act which we knew not how to hate.—But, in Paris lately, certain elderly sisters thus punish a rich old bachelor who cannot be induced to offer marriage to either of them!! and we begin to fear the use of this portable fire will spread as that of Taffana’s drops did in an earlier age.
Some philanthropists have of late turned their attention to see whether there is not danger of persons being buried alive under the usual degree of want of care, and find, it is said, a frightful number of instances in which this can be proved to be the case. The use of temporary receiving-houses is proposed for the body, wherein good air, the coffin-lid open, and a bell within reach, recovery would surely be made known to those who could aid. This plan is adopted in some parts of Germany.
In Paris we see vast plans broached as to newspapers. ‘The Epoch,’ ‘The Universal,’ are names not too grand for these publications, should their prospectuses be carried into effect.
The Newspaper promises to become daily of more importance, and if the increase of size be managed with equal discretion, to draw within itself the substance of all other literature of the day. France, England and America, are the three fields in which the modern development can show its powers and tendency freely. The lightest leaf of Germany shows the high culture which pervades that country, and her gazettes are a great class-book for the People, but owing to the circumstances of Government, they can only partially represent the popular mind in its present life. In France and England there is an approximation to representing both in the journals of the day—especially in France, where not only men of the greatest practical ability and tact, but of correspondent literary attainments, are engaged in the conduct of these journals. But America will excel them all, when the character of her People shall have ripened and her Journals propose to themselves, not merely a great temporary circulation, but a long life of honor and truth. They will then be, indeed, the servants of the People—their best servants, because their candid and well instructed teachers. Such a time may come when through London, Paris and New-York—each the heart of its respective world—shall pour in pure and equal motion the best blood of the lives they animate.
At present, French periodical literature like our own, is degraded, partial and insincere, principally in consequence of haste in writing prompted by the lust of gain. An immense fertility of talent has enabled her to keep up this game. There are in Paris alone, it is said, ten thousand writers, and a great proportion of them men of considerable talent, some of great talent. But they almost all abuse their minds, by selling the products in advance and draining them to the last drop for wit and words to exchange for money. They have no religion, no respect for the life of the soul. Such baseness, such blasphemous misuse of powers intrusted by Heaven for the benefit of their brothers and their own improvement to immortal ends, is always soon punished. As the unprincipled tenant exhausts the soil for his spendthrift landlord, so is the soil of their minds exhausted by their covetousness, and bad crops or none at all soon punish them. Such conduct has become a joke among literary men of France as among mere horse-jockeys or gamblers. Balzac, for a bet, writes and publishes a novel of two volumes in nineteen days. Balzac writes worse and worse, and his last novel is said to be very poor, though such materials as his did seem nearly inexhaustible. Similar conduct, in which the character of a literary blackleg seems carried to its utmost perfection, is related of Dumas in the following lively sketch from M. Gaillardet, the editor of the Courrier, now at Paris;—and Dumas, too, has his reward, for he writes worse and worse, though gleams of his original splendor still are found now and then in his writings:
“The intellectual noblesse as well as the other are at present almost all flown from Paris. Victor Hugo is in Spain; de Balzac gone again to Germany where he will finish his miserable romance of “Les Paysans,” Gauthier is in Algiers, with Marshal Bageaud, studying the Bedouins and the Kabyle; Henri Berthoud and his impressions of travel, which he was bringing back from the East, suffered shipwreck on board the Sphynx; the author was saved, but the manuscripts were lost, which gave occasion to a mischievous critic to say that if M. Berthoud owed one wax candle to Notre Dame de Bon-Secours, the public owned two; Mery awaits, at Mareilles, illustrious travelers; he is the chamberlain of literary celebrities; Madame Sand is absent, philosophizing with Leroux, studying music with Chapin; M. de La Martine is at Saint Point seeking the fifth act of his black tragedy, Toussaint L’Ouverture; Eugene Sue at St. Bris, in the valley of Montmerency, contriving the loves of Prince Djalma and Mlle. de Cardaville, to which the Constitutionnel promises an unexpected denouement; Eugene Scribe is in his chateau of Séricourt, which he enlarges every month, by means of some vaudeville or comic opera;—to embrace Frederic Soulie, I have been obliged to go to his villa of Bièvres, where he divides his time between the pleasures of gardening and those less innocent, of inventing some criminal drama. In fine, Alexander Dumas is finishing at St. Germain the 49th volume which he will have published this year. Through his pomp, his prodigality, his adventures of any kind he is the theme of every tongue. He is building a palace, and, beside all he spends himself, allows the ex-actress Ida, whom he married, and who is now living at Florence separate from him, 18,000 francs a year. ‘How,’ you will ask, ‘does he sustain such expense?’—Alexander Dumas makes 200,000 francs a year by the wonderful extent to which he can use his literary powers. But the market begins to be glutted; and two journals the Presse and the Constitutionnel have had the idea of monopolizing him and putting a limit to his manufacture, so that the article becoming more rare, may command a better price. A compact has been signed, by which Dumas engages to produce only 18 volumes a year (is not this agreement of an unique novelty?) and to divide them equally between the Presse and the Constitutionnel for the sum of 35,000 francs, to be paid him by each of these journals. Two publishers have offered him as much for the reprint of the 18 volumes, so that this writer has a certain income of 140,000 francs from his novels alone, and has beside what he can get from his theatrical pieces.
“Ah well! would you believe it, Dumas, not content with his magnificent compensation, no sooner signed the compact than he found out a most diabolical trick by which to evade it. The details of this transaction are known as yet only to the two men who confided it to me, under the rose, but they will soon be disclosed here and cause, no doubt, great fuss and scandal.
“You know there is a plan to found here a monster journal, called L’Epoque, under the direction of M. Granier de Cassagnac, Solar and Bohain. The speculation is from M. Bohain, formerly founder of Figaro, and present editor of the Courrier de l’Europe, a French journal published at London, which he is about to abandon, not being able to make it profitable, notwithstanding his inexhaustible spirit of resource; the thought is from Cassagnac and Solar, supported by the vengeance of the M. Griolet who advances 100,000 francs, because L’Epoque is likely so much to injure La Presse, which, in former days, made him ridiculous by exposing one of his mistakes in orthography. The Presse now defied to conflict, feels itself strong, thinking, ‘I have Dumas, whom you, friend Epoch, cannot get.’ But it reckons without its host. Dumas has bethought himself that he has a natural son of his own name and has concluded a bargain to furnish the Epoch also with sundry volumes under the name of A. Dumas’s Son.
“Thus, if the Presse and the Constitutionnel do not resist, Dumas will gather in more abundant harvest than ever; if they do, the Epoch has engaged to assume their bargain, so that, in any event the skillful writer falls upon his legs.”
The letter of M. Gaillardet, from which we have condensed this extract, is dated 15th August; so that by this time probably the play of the “enraged Editors” has begun, and the literary Scapin is enjoying the excitement produced by a trick so grandeine and so utterly unscrupulous. By this time, too, Sue is in England and the fate of Djalma and Mlle. de Cardoville is settled. When Richardson was publishing his Clarissa, which he did in separate columns, he received letters from all sorts of people entreating him “not to let Clarissa die; they could not bear it.” Were it not too late, we should address similar entreaties to Sue; surely he has let his black-frocks seize upon prey enough; he ought to spare us “the Generous” and Adrienne.*
“Items of Foreign Gossip.” New-York Daily Tribune, 24 September 1845, p. 1.