April 21 1815: Hobhouse, Adams and Napoleon at the Theatre


“I dined at Beauvillier’s and went to the Française, where Hector and Le Lys were acted, and where Napoleon came, about the third scene. The house was crammed full, and previously to the curtain rising the air of La Victoire and the Marsellaise were called for, and performed amidst thunders of applause. A performer of the Feydeau said he would sing the Marseillaise from the balcon, which he did, and was joined at the chorus, “Ran tam plan – lambru battant!” by all the house. The enthusiasm of the military was at the pitch “Vive l’Empereur!” was a thousand times repeated when Napoleon appeared. I recollect the Princes going to the Theatre this time last year – certainly the Bourbon exultation was not half so great. I was in Lady Kinnaird’s box and went over to Madame Souza, who was in Monsieur Montero’s just opposite the Emperor – Napoleon’s face appeared new to me – so difficult is it to fix it decidedly in your mind, as the painters have found. He was sitting down, and his officers standing.

Flahaut, I think, was behind his chair. He was very attentive, and whilst I saw him, spoke to no-one. The audience applied all the speeches, both concerning Hector and Achilles, to him – enfin il reparoit and c’étoit lui – Achille drew down unnumbered “Vives!” Talma was very great in Hector. Andromache gave us the translation of Homer, also in good style.

Napoleon’s hair is very thin – he had long white shirt wrists. He played with his nose, as before. He went away suddenly at the end of the play, and had a short shout.

I went to Madame Tennier, and was disgusted –”

— John Cam Hobhouse, Paris, writes in his diary for April 21 1815. #centjours

“21st. Mr. Crawford told us that he heard the Emperor was going this evening to the French Theatre. I went with Mrs. Adams. The Emperor was there, but we could get seats only in a box on the same side of the theatre as he was seated, and we could not see him. The house was so crowded that the musicians of the orchestra were driven from their seats, and the music was heard only from behind the scenes. The airs of “La Victoire,” “Veillons au Salut de l’Empire,” and “La Marseillaise” were called for, and played repeatedly. A gentleman in one of the balconies was called upon to sing some couplets now in circulation. He said that he did not know them, but if they were furnished him he would sing them with pleasure. They were immediately passed to him, and he sang them amidst loud and continued shouts of “Vive l’Empereur!” the parterre joining in the chorus. The couplets were indifferent. The performances were the tragedy of “Hector” and “Le Legs.” Talma and Mademoiselle Duchesnois had just finished the first scene when the Emperor came in. He was received with redoubled and long-continued shouts of “Vive l’Empereur!” after which there was a cry from the parterre, “Recommencez.” Accordingly, they began the play again. In all the intervals between the acts the shouts of “Vive l’Empereur!” were renewed, and one or two persons in the pit having put on their hats, as is usual between the acts, there was an immediate cry of “Chapeaux bas!” At the end of the tragedy the Emperor went away. In the after-piece, Mademoiselle Mars and Fleury were excellent, as Talma and Mdlle. Duchesnois had been in the tragedy.”

— John Quincy Adams, Paris, writes in his diary for April 21 1815.

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