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Chapter 10


AT THE ACADEMY.

Session of November 23, 1843.

CHARLES NODIER.--The Academy, yielding to custom,
has suppressed universally the double consonant in verbs
where this consonant supplanted euphoniously the ~d~ of the
radical ~ad~.

MYSELF.--I avow my profound ignorance. I had no
idea that custom had effected this suppression and that
the Academy had sanctioned it. Thus one should no
longer write ~atteindre, approuver, appeler, apprehender~,
etc., but ~ateindre, aprouver, apeler, apréhender~?

M. VICTOR COUSIN.--I desire to point out to M. Hugo
that the alterations of which he complains come from the
movement of the language, which is nothing else than decadence.

MYSELF.--M. Cousin having addressed a personal observation
to me, I beg to point out to him in turn that
his opinion is, in my estimation, merely an opinion and
nothing more. I may add that, as I view it, "movement
of the language" and decadence have nothing in common.
Nothing could be more distinct than these two things.
Movement in no way proves decadence. The language
has been moving since the first day of its formation; can
it be said to be deteriorating? Movement is life; decadence
is death.

M. COUSIN.--The decadence of the French language began in 1789.

MYSELF.--At what hour, if you please?


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October 8, 1844.

This is what was told to me at to-day's session:

Salvandy recently dined with Villemain. The repast
over, they adjourned to the drawing-room, and conversed.
As the clock struck eight Villemain's three little daughters
entered to kiss their father good night. The youngest is
named Lucette; her birth cost her mother her reason; she
is a sweet and charming child of five years.

"Well, Lucette, dear child," said her father, "won't
you recite one of Lafontaine's fables before you go to
bed?"

"Here," observed M. de Salvandy, "is a little person
who to-day recites fables and who one of these days will
inspire romances."

Lucette did not understand. She merely gazed with
her big wondering eyes at Salvandy who was lolling in his
chair with an air of benevolent condescension.

"Well, Lucette." he went on, "will you not recite a
fable for us?"

The child required no urging, and began in her naïve
little voice, her fine, frank, sweet eyes still fixed upon
Salvandy:

One easily believes one's self to be somebody in France.

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1845.

During the run of M. Ponsard's "Lucrece", I had the
following dialogue with M. Viennet at a meeting of the
Academy:

M. VIENNET.--Have you seen the "Lucrece" that is being
played at the Odéon?

MYSELF.--NO.

M. VIENNET.--It is very good.

MYSELF.--Really, is it good?

M. VIENNET.--It is more than good, it is fine.

MYSELF.--Really, is it fine?

M. VIENNET.--It is more than fine, it is magnificent.

MYSELF.--Really, now, magnificent?

M. VIENNET.--Oh! magnificent!

MYSELF.--Come, now, is it as good as "Zaire"?

M. VIENNET.--Oh! no! Oh! you are going too far,
you know. Gracious! "Zaire"! No, it is not as good as
"Zaire".

MYSELF.--Well, you see, "Zaire" is a very poor piece indeed!

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AN ELECTION SESSION.

February 11, 1847.

Thirty-one Academicians present. Sixteen votes are
necessary.

First ballot.

Emile Deschamps 2 votes.
Victor Leclerc 14 "
Empis 15 "

Lamartine and M. Ballanche arrive at the end of the first
ballot. M. Thiers arrives at the commencement of the
second; which makes 34.

The director asks M. Thiers whether he has promised
his vote. He laughingly replies: "No," and adds: "I
have offered it." (Laughter.)

M. Cousin, to M. Lebrun, director: "You did not employ
the sacramental expression. One does not ask an
Academician whether he has *promised* his vote, but
whether he has *pledged* it."


Second ballot.

Emile Deschamps 2 votes.
Empis 18 "
Victor Leclerc 14 "


M. Empis is elected. The election was decided by
Lamartine and M. Ballanche.

On my way out I meet Leon Gozlan, who says to me:
"Well?"

I reply: "There has been an election. It is Empis."

"How do you look at it?" he asks.

"In both ways."

"Empis?---"

"And ~tant pis~!"

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March 16, 1847.

At the Academy to-day, while listening to the poems,
bad to the point of grotesqueness, that have been sent for
the competition of 1847, M. de Barante remarked:
"Really, in these times, we no longer know how to make
mediocre verses."

Great praise of the poetical and literary excellence of
these times, although M. de Barante was not conscious of it.

April 22, 1847.

Election of M. Ampere. This is an improvement upon
the last. A slow improvement. But Academies, like old
people, go slowly.

During the session and after the election Lamartine sent
to me by an usher the following lines:

C'est un état peu prospere
D'aller d'Empis en Ampere.

I replied to him by the same usher:

Toutefois ce serait pis
D'aller d'Ampere en Empis.

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October 4, 1847.

I have just heard M. Viennet say: "I think in bronze."

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December 29, 1848. Friday.

Yesterday, Thursday, I had two duties to attend to at
one and the same time, the Assembly and the Academy;
the salt question on the one hand, on the other the much
smaller question of two vacant seats. Yet I gave the
preference to the latter. This is why: At the Palais
Bourbon the Cavaignac party had to be prevented from
killing the new Cabinet; at the Palais Mazarin the
Academy had to be prevented from offending the memory
of Chateaubriand. There are cases in which the dead
count for more than the living; I went to the Academy.

The Academy last Thursday had suddenly decided, at
the opening of the session, at a time when nobody had yet
put in an appearance, when there were only four or five
round the green table, that on January 11 (that is to say,
in three weeks) it would fill the two seats left vacant by
MM. de Chateaubriand and Vatout. This strange
alliance, I do not say of names, but of words,--"replace
MM. de Chateaubriand and Vatout,"--did not stop it for
one minute. The Academy is thus made; its wit and
that wisdom which produces so many follies, are composed
of extreme lightness combined with extreme heaviness.
Hence a good deal of foolishness and a good many foolish
acts.

Beneath this lightness, however, there was an intention.
This giddiness was fraught with deep meaning. The brave
party that leads the Academy, for there are parties
everywhere, even at the Academy, hoped, public attention being
directed elsewhere, politics absorbing everything, to
juggle the seat of Chateaubriand pell-mell with the seat
of M. Vatout; two peas in the same goblet. In this way
the astonished public would turn round one fine morning
and simply see M. de Noailles in Chateaubriand's seat:
a small matter, a great lord in the place of a great writer!

Then, after a roar of laughter, everybody would go
about his business again, distractions would speedily come,
thanks to the veering of politics, and, as to the Academy,
oh! a duke and peer the more in it, a little more ridicule
upon it, what would that matter? It would go on just the
same!

Besides, M. de Noailles is a considerable personage.
Bearing a great name, being lofty of manner, enjoying
an immense fortune, of certain political weight under
Louis Philippe, accepted by the Conservatives although,
or because, a Legitimist, reading speeches that were
listened to, he occupied an important place in the Chamber
of Peers; which proves that the Chamber of Peers occupied
an unimportant place in the country.

Chateaubriand, who hated all that could replace him
and smiled at all that could make him regretted, had had
the kindness to tell him sometimes, by Mme. Récamier's
fireside, "that he hoped he would be his successor;" which
prompted M. de Noailles to dash off a big book in two
volumes about Mme. de Maintenon, at the commencement of
which, on the first page of the preface, I was stopped by a
lordly breach of grammar.

This was the state of things when I concluded to go to
the Academy.

The session which was announced to begin at two
o'clock, as usual, opened, as usual, at a quarter past three.
And at half past three--

At half past three the candidacy of Monsieur the Duke
do Noailles, *replacing* Chateaubriand, was irresistibly
acclaimed.

Decidedly, I ought to have gone to the Assembly.

March 26, 1850. Tuesday.


I had arrived early, at noon.

I was warming myself, for it is very cold, and the ground
is covered with snow, which is not good for the apricot
trees. M. Guizot, leaning against the mantelpiece, was
saying to me:

"As a member of the dramatic prize committee, I read
yesterday, in a single day, mind you, no fewer than six
plays!"

"That," I responded, "was to punish you for not having
seen one acted in eighteen years."

At this moment M. Thiers came up and the two men
exchanged greetings. This is how they did it:

M. THIERS: Good afternoon, Guizot.

M. GUIZOT: Good afternoon, Monsieur.

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AN ELECTION SESSION.

March 28, 1850.

M. Guizot presided. At the roll call, when M. Pasquier's
name was reached he said: "Monsieur the Chancellor--"
When he got to that of M. Dupin, President of the
National Assembly, he called: "Monsieur Dupin."


First ballot.
Alfred de Musset 5 votes.
M. Nisard 23 "

M. Nisard is elected.

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To-day, September 12, the Academy worked at the dictionary.
A propos of the word "increase," this example,
taken from the works of Mme. de Staël, was proposed:

"Poverty increases ignorance, and ignorance poverty."

Three objections were immediately raised:

1. Antithesis.

2. Contemporary writer.

3. Dangerous thing to say.

The Academy rejected the example.

Victor Hugo