Paris: With Pen and Pencil eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 286 pages of information about Paris.
at the theater upon the stage of which Racine’s play was to be enacted, and leave them empty.  This incident shows us the fierceness of rivalry between authors at that time.  To such an extent was the quarrel carried by the friends of the respective authors, that Racine, who was a very sensitive man, resolved to renounce the drama.  His early religious education tended to strengthen his resolution.  He soon became a severe and stern religionist, undergoing penances to expiate the guilt incurred for his life of sin.  His confessor advised him to marry some woman of piety, to help him on in his good work, and he therefore married.  The woman was Catherine de Romenet.  She was of a higher position, and was wealthy.  She knew nothing of the drama, was not fond of poetry, and was a very strict religious woman.  She was sincere and affectionate, and wrought a wonderful change in Racine.  Under her quiet tuition he became very narrow in his religious convictions, but quite happy in his mind.  He brought up his children with the same views, and they all took monastic vows.  His daughters were, one after another, given to the convent.  He had seven children in all, and found it difficult to meet all his family expenses.

At this time he was made historiographer to the king, and witnessed many important battles.  His life at court was very pleasant to him, and though he was a little too much inclined to be servile, yet he was generally an upright man.  The story is told of him, that once when in the bosom of his little family, an attendant of the great duke came to invite him to dinner at the Hotel de Conde.

He sent back the reply, “I cannot go; I have returned to my family after an absence of eight days; they have got a fine carp for me, and would be much disappointed if I did not share it with them.”

Boileau and Racine were very intimate friends, and many anecdotes are related of them.  Boileau had wit—­Racine humor, and a natural turn for raillery.  The contests of the two were often amusing.  The king was much pleased with the dramatist, and gave him a suit of apartments in the palace, and the privilege of attending his parties.  Madame de Maintenon made a great favorite of him.  He could recite poetry freely, and was asked to declaim before a young princess.  He found that she had been learning some of his own plays.  One of the best of his plays was performed in the presence of Madame de Maintenon, who liked it so well that she beseeched him to write a play which should contain no offensive sentiments.  Racine was in agony, for he feared to injure his reputation.  His vow prevented his return to his old employment, yet he feared to refuse the request.  He compromised the matter by dramatising the touching bible history of Esther.  At court the play had a wonderful success, and the poet tried again upon the story of Atheliah of the house of Judah; and in “Athalie” we have the best of all his dramas.  Singular as it may seem, this play was not well received at court, and Racine felt mortified.  Boileau told him, however, that posterity would declare it the best of all his plays, and he was right.

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Paris: With Pen and Pencil from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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