Posts Tagged ‘Gallic spirit’

In order to understand the life of Sarah Bernhardt it may be relevant to touch upon the historical role of demimondaine in national life of France. Gallic spirit is quite unique that can be explained by the absence of it in such countries as UK or in the USA. The Profumo scandal in England and the recent John Edward’s trial in the USA come to mind.

The Americans pride themselves that many instances the rags to riches of people as proof of the merit in their way of life. But for women France shows by their customs and panache as the right place a woman with wit and originality can, despite starting life from the streets, end up as national treasure as Sarah Bernhardt and Edith Piaf. They are the embodiment of Gallic spirit. So was Mme du Barry one such. Who shall surpass Ninon de Lenclos in her ability to be her own and be independent at a time the Establishment was as stern as represented in the person of Cardinal Richelieu? Ninon who treasured her independence joined the convent with the sole reason of being just independent and not marry for money or power. Yet she had both aplenty.
Like Germaine de Staël she became a popular figure in the salons, and her own drawing room became a centre for the discussion and consumption of the literary arts. In her early thirties she was responsible for encouraging the young Molière, and when she died she left money for the son of her accountant, a nine-year old named François Marie Arouet, later to become better known as Voltaire, so he could buy books. In a manner of speaking she was the power in making encyclopedia movement in France reach to its full flowering. I cannot resist an anecdote about this remarkable woman.
Cardinal Richelieu offered fifty thousand crowns for a night in her bed. Ninon took the money, and sent a friend instead. “Ninon made friends among the great in every walk of life, had wit and intelligence enough to keep them, and, what is more, to keep them friendly with one another.” (Saint-Simon).
Ninon de l’Enclos is a relatively obscure figure in the English-speaking world, but is much better known in France where her name is synonymous with wit and beauty as our subject ‘the divine Sarah.’

Sarah Bernhardt(1844-1923)
She was born in Paris as Henriette Rosine Bernard, the eldest surviving illegitimate daughter of Judith van Hard, a Dutch Jewish courtesan known as “Youle.” Her father was reportedly Edouard Bernard, a French lawyer, and she was educated in French Catholic convents. To support herself, she combined the career of an actress with that of a courtesan – at the time, the two were considered scandalous to a roughly equal degree. she was encouraged to pursue a theatrical career by one of her mother’s lovers, the duke de Morny(1859). After a brief appearance at the Comdie-Franaise (1862-63), she joined the Odeon theatre (1866-72), where she acted in Kean by Alexandre Dumas Sr. and Ruy Blas by Victor Hugo, charming audiences with her golden voice. Returning to the Comdie-Franaise (187280), she starred in Phèdre to great acclaim in Paris and London. She formed her own company in 1880 and toured the world in The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils, Adrienne Lecouvreur by Eugne Scribe, four plays written for her by Victorien Sardou, and The Eaglet by Edmond Rostand. After an injury to her leg forced its amputation (1915), she strapped on a wooden leg and chose roles she could play largely seated. One of the best-known figures in the history of the stage, she was made a member of France’s Legion of Honour in 1914.
On one occasion the actress Madge Kendall, congratulating the ‘divine Sarah’ on her performance, added that it was a pity her plays dealt with passion that she could not take her daughters to them. Sarah retorted thus, ”Ah Madame, you should remember that were it not for passion you would have no daughters to bring.”

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PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Monday that the Islamic burqa is not welcome in France, branding the face-covering, body-length gown as a symbol of subservience that suppresses women’s identities and turns them into “prisoners behind a screen.” I have no problem with such a ban since each country has its own rules on which it tries to create a common basis where ethnic groups may interface with the rest: culture of the host country is to absorb the minorities and not other way round.
Think of nation as a family each member being part of the whole and with duties and rights. Most important is that each works for the common good. If we are visiting a family we don’t arm-twist our hosts to serve our whims and fancies. Politeness is the duty of a guest that he doesn’t throw the routine of the family for his indulgence but conform to the general since he is there at the permission of the host. If religion has not taught him to simple courtesies of human beings he had better migrate to some wilderness and learn from the beasts. Perhaps he may improve and so will his religion in practice. Animals kill for their food and not for a dry as dust idea.
France has a long tradition and their culture is second to none. They cannot dilute their values for the few. How minorities may want to practice their own identities in the privacy of their homes is largely left to each.
Culture is not imposed from outside but subject to natural processes evolved over centuries. Strength of France derives from that.

Of course French are not angels or supernatural beings.
Islam has glorious Koran given to them, so the Moslems pride themselves.   Islam however glorious cannot replace what was true to the French soil on which it grew as natural. Remember religion of the Semitic races, Judaism and Islam are given from above by an outside agency, and not something natural . So any nation being not supernatural but only subject to weak natures of humans would wish to keep its culture natural it is its rightful privilege.

When some cry intolerance and Islamophobia are the Islamic countries free from what they accuse others of? In case of UAE will they allow other religions freely practice their faith or carry visible symbols of faith as freely as Moslems are allowed in most parts of Europe?
The number of churches being torched over a silly controversy in Malaysia is not as innocuous as it seems.
In  Modern Turkey secularism is established by the constitution but the present trend of women to express their religious identity aggressively cannot be by some curious accident. There is a groundswell of radicalization in which some misguided imams from pulpits of the mosque  are playing into the hands of terrorists who shall test the will and resolve of the secular government.


I suspect that there is an insidious move to wear out the Western ideals by imposing some primitive aspects of Sharia law.If a believer,because religion has taken over his body, mind and soul,cannot think of his world or enjoy the natural pleasures that such a world and its uses provide it is like playing one stringed music. It numbs the senses and wearies others.

One who cannot be human because some dogma has got into his eyes like a splinter, he is blind: he sees nothing but the splinter. He like Don Quixote sees a windmill of one who doesn’t pray as he does; and mistakes him for Iblis. Poor deluded creature! He needs cure. With such a mindset he sees his arid soul and thinks it is paradise.

World is not uniform anymore than human being are. For one who believes God as the creator  of peoples and the earth such a variety should mean something. Of course desert has its beauty but to deny the lush verdure of  one part the globe or craggy mountains and majestic peaks of another would mean one hasn’t grown enough to see it all as blessings that are only given to the living. This is what excess religion robs one. The west lived somewhat similar in the Middle Ages. There were rascals who were mistaken for saints and who, their filth and grime they extolled as fitting tribute to God. There are still some vestiges  of these in the Church of Rome.  Thank God the west, majority of the believers  have awakened from their drowsiness. If they do not share the craze of a Moslem believer  for religion he ought not hasten damn them to perdition.


In Islam it is forbidden for men or women wear the dress of opposite sex.  Yet such a garb is one means adopted by terrorists to commit acts of terrorism. As long as Islam as a religion has not effectively prevented  its followers from such acts in Europe especially in France the moral authority of Islam over secular non-believing countries must be considered as null and void.
Ok. One might say such misuse of burqa are isolated cases and not to be treated as general. Think of a plane  as a metaphor for nation. Passengers are citizens,migrant workers,aliens, believers and non believers. One underwear bomber or a shoe bomber could put the whole plane in jeopardy. If one shot could kill the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and start WWI so shall an isolated incident work far greater misery for all who trust in the nation. WWI didn’t end with one war. Nation’s future is not to be left to chance or to inherent lapses in security. If a government allows these breaches in national security to be left for nation’s enemies to do their dastardly crimes as they will, such government is enemy  to its citizens.


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Théophile  Gautier himself no mean writer has left this account of Balzac’s attempt to write a play. Hard pressed for cash the celebrated author Honoré de Balzac got the advance for a play, which was to be on Vautrin, a character from Père Goriot. Hartel, the manager of Porte-St.Martin Theatre, as luck would have it was in need of a play. Père Goriot was already a success and M. Hartel agreed. Frédérick Lemaitre(who figures in the film Les Enfants du Paradis-1945) was to play the title role. Gautier and a few others were roped in to hear the reading of the play.
At last they assembled on the premises of the tailor Buisson, in the rue de Richelieu where a room was furnished for the purpose.
‘So here is Théo at last!’  Balzac cried,’Lazy and late as ever. You should have been here an hour ago…I’ve got to read Hartel a five act play tomorrow.’
‘And you want our opinion?’ we asked setting ourselves in our armchairs with the air of men preparing for a long session.
Perceiving from our attitude Balzac said with perfect simplicity: ‘It isn’t written.’
‘For Heaven’s sake!’I exclaimed, ‘In that case you’ll have to postpone the reading for six weeks.’
‘Not a bit of it. We’re going to knock off this dramorama and raise the wind. Just now my arrears are pretty heavy.’
‘But we can’t do it between now and tomorrow. There won’t be time to copy it.’
‘This is how I arranged it. You’ll do one act, Ourliac another, Laurent- Jan the third, de Belloy the fourth and I’ll do the fifth-and I’ll read it by midday tomorrow as agreed. One act of play is only four or five hundred lines and anyone can write five hundred lines of dialogue in a day and night.’
‘Well, if you’ll tell me the subject and give me the scenario and let me know something about the characters, I’ll get to work,’ I said not a little alarmed.
‘Oh Lord,’ he cried, with a look of superb astonishment and magnificent scorn, ‘if I’ve got to tell you what it is all about we shall never get it done!’
Needless to say it was not done in time.
Compiler: benny(  Prometheus: the life of Balzac by André Maurois)

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