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Cyrano de Bergerac

 

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 CYRANO DE BERGERAC (poet, swordsman, musician)

MILADY (The Real Evil Agent of the Cardinal from the pages of History)

GATIEN DE COURTILZ DE SANDRAS (Author of the Memoirs of D'Artagnan)

RALPH NEVILL (English Translator of the Memoirs of D'Artagnan)

ACTUAL MUSKETEER LETTERS (A rare look into the Musketeer past)

DONAREE THE MUSKETEER (New Musketeer Novel by Ted Anthony Roberts)

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Cyrano de Bergerac

 

 

A

VOYAGE

TO THE MOON

BY

MONSIEUR CYRANO DE BERGERAC

Translated 1899

 

 

PREFACE

by CURTIS HIDDEN PAGE

on the life of the real Cyrano de Bergerac

 

Savinien-Hercule de Cyrano Bergerac, swashbuckler, hero, poet, and philosopher, came of an old and noble family, richer in titles than in estates. His grandfather still kept most of the titles, and was called Savinien de Cyrano Mauvieres Bergerac Saint - Laurent. He was secretary to the King in 1571, and held other important offices. Since there was no absolute right of primogeniture in those matters, the names, as well as what was left of the properties they had represented, were distributed among his descendants. Our hero seems to have received a fair share of the titles ; but of the property, nothing. He was the fifth among seven children, and was born on the 6th of March, 1619; not in 1620, as has been usually stated. He was born, moreover, at Paris, not in Gascony ; we must, alas, admit that he was not a Gascon. He ought to have been one, he certainly deserved to be one. But Fortune, who seems to have taken pleasure in always making him just miss his destiny, began by doing him this first and greatest wrong of not letting him be born a Gascon. The family was not even of distant Gascon origin, but was Perigourdin ; Bergerac itself is a small town near Perigueux. Cyrano, however, did his best to repair this as well as the other wrongs of Destiny; he acquired the Gascon accent, and often made himself pass for a Gascon. The fortune of his early education made him fall into the hands of a country curate, who was an insufferable pedant (the species seems to have been common at that time), and who had no real scholarship (the two things are by no means contradictory). Cyrano dubbed his master an "Aristotelic Ass," and wrote to his father that he preferred Paris.

This period of exile had one very im portant result, however: the formation of his first and most lasting friendship, that with Lebret, who shared in the instruction of the country curate, but with a more docile acceptance of his teachings. Here again Fortune seems to have played tricks with Cyrano, in giving him by accident for life-long friend one who just missed being what a real friend should be; who was true and loyal, but who was always seeking to reform Cyrano or to push him forward in the world; who admired him, who loved him, but who was of such opposite nature that he understood him not at all. Back at Paris, Cyrano was sent to the College de Beauvais afterward Racine's college where he completed the course, under the principalship of another pedant named Grangier, who was a little more scholarly, but no less ridiculous than the first, and who figures in the leading role of Cyrano's comedy Le Pedant joue. He lived the Paris student's life, burning honest trades men's signs and "doing other crazy things," as his contemporary Tallemant des Reaux tells us. On leaving college he started upon a downward track, according to Lebret; "on which," says the same good Lebret, "I dare to boast that I stopped him ... by compelling him to enter the company of the Guards with me." It may be doubted whether a temporary suspension of the paternal allowance had nothing to do with the matter; and whether, after all, Cyrano felt so much repugnance to entering this company of the Guards.

For this company was the famous regiment of the "garde-nobles," commanded by Carbon de Castel-Jaloux, a "triple Gascon " and a "triple brave." And his men were hardly a step behind him, all of them nobles that was an essential condition of entrance and almost all of them Gascons. Cyrano, at first in the position rather of the Christian than of the Cyrano of M. Rostand's play, by his gallantry and wit compelled them to accept him, and even won among these "braves" the title of "demon de la bravoure." Unable to be the most Gascon of the Gascons, he made it up by being more Gascon than the Gascons.

Among his exploits the most famous is that of the fight with the hundred ruffians; for this appears to be not a dramatic creation or a legend, but history. One of his poet-friends, Liniere (the name is sometimes spelt Ligniere) a writer of epigram and contributor to the "Recueils" or "Keepsakes" of the epoch, had wounded the susceptibilities of a certain "grand seigneur," who planned to avenge himself by the same method which another noble lord, in the eighteenth century, actually used against Voltaire. He posted his hundred men at the Porte de Nesle, to waylay Liniere. Liniere, hearing of it, came to take refuge with Cyrano for the night. But Cyrano would not receive him. "No, you shall sleep at home," said he. "Here, take this lantern" (this is M. Brun's version), "walk behind me and hold the light, and I'll make bed-quilts of them for you!" And the next morning there were found scattered about the Porte de Nesle two dead men, seven wounded, and many hats, sticks, and pikes. According to Lebret's account, the battle took place in broad daylight, and had several witnesses. For the rest, his story coincides with that above. And all versions agree in saying that M. de Cuigy and M. de Brissailles both men of the time fairly well known: one the son of an Advocate of the Parliament of Paris, the other Mestre de Camp of the Prince de Conti's regiment bore witness to the facts; and that the story became generally known, and was never denied. Perhaps it will not be well to guarantee the exactness of the number one hundred; but the story must be for the most part true.

Another exploit, less magnificent, but perhaps as characteristic of the wild a sortie, Cyrano was seriously wounded, a musket-ball passing through his body. Hardly recovered from his wound, he rejoined the army at the siege of Arras, in 1640; unfortunately for the story, he was probably no longer with the cadets there, but in the regiment of the Prince de Conti. Again he was wounded, this time even more seriously, with a swordcut in the throat. And compelled to abandon the military career, he returned to Paris and took up his studies and his writing.

For he had always been a student and a poet. It is probable that the Pedant joue was in part composed during his college days. Lebret pictures him to us as studying between two duels, and working at an Elegy in. all the noise of the regimental barracks, "as undistractedly as if he had been in a quiet study." He now joined a group of independents in thought and life, naturalists in ethics and empiricists in philosophy, and forced his way into a private class of the philosopher Gas sendi, where he had for fellow-students Hesnaut, Chapelle, Bernier, and almost certainly a young Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, who was very soon to take the name of Moliere, found the "Illustre Theatre," and after its failure start on a fifteen years' tour of the provinces.

Cyrano was an earnest and capable student of philosophy, and came to it with the fresh interest not only of his own personality, but of a young man of barely twenty-two ; he naturally imposed himself as a sort of leader in the group of young "libertins" or freethinkers, just as he had done among the Guards. He knew well not only Gassendi, but also Campanella, and of course Descartes, in his works at least. He even seems to have read widely among the half-philosophers, half-occultists of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, such as Cornelius Agrippa, Jerome Cardan, Abbot Tritheim, Cesar de Nostradamus, etc. Among the ancients, his first favorites were Lucretius and Pyrrho : Pyrrho whom he especially admired, "because he was so nobly free, that no thinker of his age had been able to enslave his opinions; and so modest, that he would never give final decision on any point.” There is much of Cyrano in this phrase, both in the half-bold modesty and in the half-timid fierceness of independence. Cyrano shuddered at the thought of having even a single one of his ideas enslaved to those of another thinker. Just as he had refused the Marechal de Gassion for patron when he was in the Guards, so he would accept no one's magister dixit, no patron of his thought, not even the Aristotle of the Schools.

The period of his life from 1643 to 1653 is a very obscure one. Yet probably almost all of his works were composed during this time. He may have travelled ; there are traditions and suggestions that he visited England, Italy, even Poland. He probably stood in danger of persecution from the Jesuits on account of his philosophical ideas, and may have suffered it, as did his contemporaries Campanella and Galileo, or, to mention a French poet only a little older than he, Thtophile de Viau, who was even condemned to death for less independence than Cyrano's; though the sentence was fortunately commuted. He probably mingled somewhat in the society of the "Precieuses" of the time as- well as in that of the "libertins"; for he has left a series of " Love-Letters " which must almost exactly have suited the taste of those who prepared Discourses on the Tender Passion. He probably had many duels still, for Lebret tells us that he served a hundred times as second the round number is to be taken as such and any one acquainted with the epoch, or with the Three Musketeers of Dumas, knows that the seconds fought as well as the principals. Lebret adds, to be sure, that he never had a quarrel on his own account, but we may perhaps take this as a bit of the conscientious "white-washing" which Lebret could not refrain from in speaking of his friend's reputation; for we know enough of his character even from Lebret, and of his life from other sources, to make a gentle peacefuiness, so out of keeping with the epoch, somewhat doubtful; and then there was his nose.

The Nose is authentic also. It appears in all the portraits, of which there are four. And in all of these it is the same: not a little ugly nose, flat at the top and projecting at the bottom in a little long gable turned up at the end; but a large, generous, well-shaped nose, hooked rather than retrousse, and planted squarely in the symmetrical middle of the face; not ridiculous, but monumental! The anecdotes of the duels it caused are so many, that one comes in spite of oneself to believe some of them. It is said that this nose brought death upon more than ten persons; that one could not look upon it, but he must unsheathe; if one looked away, it was worse; and as for speaking of Noses, that was a subject which Cyrano reserved for himself, to do it fitting honor. Listen to his treatment of it in the Pedant joue: “This veridic nose arrives everywhere a quarter of an hour before its master. Ten shoemakers, good round fat ones too, go and sit down to work under it out of the rain." As for defending large noses, as the index of valor, intelligence, and all high qualities, it will appear in the Voyage to the Moon that he could do it as well with his pen as with his sword.

The end of his life was difficult and sad. He was finally compelled to accept the patronage of the Due d'Arpajon, for no man could live or even exist by literature at that period, except as literature brought patronage or pensions. The great Corneille himself, than whom no one could be more simply sturdy and high of character, wrote begging letters to the great minister who controlled the pensions of literature. Cyrano dedicated the edition of his "Miscellaneous Works" in 1654 to the Due d'Arpajon, in an epistle which fulfils, but with dignity and independence, the laws of the genre, and accompanied it with a sonnet addressed to the Duke's daughter, which is in the taste of the time, yet considerably better than the taste of the time. Things went well till Agrippine appeared, which had a "succes de scandale"; but its "belles impietes," as the happy book-seller called them, seem to have pleased the timidly orthodox Duke less. In the meantime Cyrano had received a wound from a falling beam whether by mere accident or not, will never be known; but Cyrano had many enemies, and it has generally been thought that there was purpose behind the accident. For whatever reason, the Due d'Arpajon seems to have advised Cyrano to leave him, and Cyrano was received by Regnault des Bois-Clairs, a friend of Lebret. There he was kindly cared for and lectured on the evil of his past life by Lebret and three women of the Convent of the Daughters of the Cross: Soeur Hyacinthe, an aunt of Cyrano himself; Mere Marguerite, the superior of the convent; and the Baronne de Neuvillette, a cousin of Cyrano, who was Madeleine Robineau, and had married the Baron Christophe de Neuvillette, killed at the siege of Arras in 1640. The three women persuaded themselves that they had converted Cyrano to the true Church. This is doubtful, since he dragged himself away to the country to die, at the house of the cousin whom he speaks of at the end of the Voyage to the Moon. In any case, Mere Marguerite reclaimed his body, and he was buried in holy ground at the convent.

The Voyage to the Moon was not published till 1656, the year after Cyrano's death. It was certainly written as early as 1650, probably in 1649. It had been circulated widely in manuscript, and possibly a few copies had been printed, before the author's death. The Voyage to the Sun, or, to give the title more accurately, the " Comic History of the States and Empires of the Sun," was probably written immediately after the Voyage to the Moon, but was not published till 1662. The History of the Spark has never been found, unless that be the sub-title of a part of the Voyage to the Sun, as seems fairly probable. The Letters of Cyrano are, in part at least, his earliest work. They were probably scattered over a considerable period in point of composition, but most of them were published in 1654. It is to be remembered that like all the letters of that epoch which we have, they were meant to be read in company, in the salons, or sometimes (like that "Against Dassoucy"), in the taverns, corresponding to the modern cafes, where men of letters gathered. They were written not for the postman, but for the parlor ; and not so much for the parlor as for the printer. But even with the artificiality of this method, and with the burlesque or precieuse expression that was obligatory in Letters at that time, there are touches of real sincerity and passion constantly breaking through. The Pedant joue is a prose-comedy in five acts, made almost entirely on the model of the Italian "commedia dell' arte," a form in which Moliere's early work is written, and which was practically the only form known at the time when Cyrano wrote for the play is certainly anterior to Corneille's Menteur. We have the almost obligatory two pairs of young lovers; the old father who is tyrannical but easily deceived in this particular case combined with the pedant-doctor type; the valet who does the deceiving, in the service of the young lovers; and the terrible captain, who takes flight at the shadow of danger. Cyrano has, however, introduced one new type a peasant with his dialect and local characteristics: a type that Moliere used to great advantage later, but hardly so very much better than Cyrano uses it here; witness the fact that a number of this peasant's phrases have become proverbs. The famous scene of "qu'allait-il faire dans cette galere" (despairingly repeated by the father who is compelled to give up his cherished money for the ransom of a son held in captivity supposedly on a Turkish galley) is exceedingly well imagined, and Moliere did well to use it, sixteen years after Cyrano's death, for the two best scenes of his Fourberies de Scapin. It is not a matter to reproach Moliere with, but it is a case in which Cyrano should receive due credit. The only serious poetical work of Cyrano is his tragedy of Agrippine, veuve de Germanicus, written at some time in the forties, played in 1653, and published in 1654. The statement, repeated categorically by Mr. Sidney Lee in his recent Life of Shakespeare, that "Cyrano de Bergerac plagiarized Cymbeline, Hamlet,  and 'The Merchant of Venice' in his 'Agrippina,'" has not the slightest foundation. There are no resemblances, either superficial or essential, on which to base it, and it is altogether improbable that Cyrano even knew of Shakespeare's existence. The subject of Agrippine is similar to that of Corneille 's Cinna a conspiracy under the Roman Empire. There are no resemblances to Corneille's work in the details of the plot, but in general spirit the play is what we call Cornelian, partly because Corneille was the only one who possessed this spirit of the epoch with sufficient creative and individual power to compel the attention of posterity. Cyrano, once more, just missed this. But his play is worthy not only to be ranked with the best dramas of any of his contemporaries except Corneille, but even to be at least compared with Corneille's better work (except perhaps the Cid and Polyeucte). The play is not thoroughly well constructed, and so misses something of dramatic effectiveness, though by no means missing it entirely; but it is as well constructed as Corneille 's Cinna, and better than his Horace to take examples only among his greatest plays. It has no scene to compare with that of the clemency of Augustus in Cinna, no character-study so fine as that of the different sentiments of Augustus. But it approaches, though it does not quite attain, the heroics of Horace. It is full of exaggeration so is Corneille; and of an exaggeration that sometimes becomes burlesque as in Corneille; but it is an exaggeration that is high and heroic, like Corneille 's. And the high and heroic sometimes as in a line like this: Et puis, mourir n'est rien ; c'est achever de naitre sometimes, but too rarely, drops its exaggeration to become simple as simple as real heroism, which is the simplest thing in the world. Except real genius. Real genius is, finally, the essential thing, which Cyrano once more just missed attaining missed just by the lack of that simplicity, perhaps. But exaggeration, sometimes carried to the burlesque, is the essential trait which makes him what he is ; and we cannot wish it away.

~ CURTIS HIDDEN PAGE

 

 

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Product Details (From Amazon.com)

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (November 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1449913172
  • ISBN-13: 978-1449913175
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds

 

READ WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT DONAREE:

"Nicely done. I really enjoyed the history in the introduction and the duel is well written. Best of luck with the novel!" ~ Author David Lee Summers, author of five books: Vampires of the Scarlet Order, The Solar Sea, and the "Old Star" science fiction series: The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. www.davidleesummers.com

"Very exciting read! Felt like I was there witnessing the action!" ~ Candle Artist Jfay,
www.studio3bonline.com

"I really enjoyed the humour and really laughed, not at Monsieur de la Donaree but with Monsieur de la Donaree! I dont know if you wrote it in this spirit but if you had a bit of Molière in you, I would not be surprised! He knew how to study people and would turn situations into a comic play! I laughed out loud, this is a gem! Not only de la Donaree is a fine sword, he has also a fine nose when it comes to pinpoint personalities, I'm talking about the Inkeeper and his situation with the wife here!! The second part is indeed in pure swashbuckling spirit, in rhythm and enthusiasm! And the end is a cliff-hanger! The beginning is "cocasse" (funny) as they might have said then in Gascony, and witty! Indeed Alexandre Dumas had a sense of humour too and satirically created at least one of his character ( in another book) to a character made up by Molière in one of his comic play. And Molière also took his inspiration from Dumas' s Musketeers and "The Man in the Iron Mask." I liked it! I had fun while reading this chapter about Monsieur de la Donaree, as while following the spirit of the Musketeers you gave a contemporary touch to the text!" ~ Artist Nicole Marques,
www.myspace.com/nicolemarques

"Hurrah, Ted! I gleefully await the next installment! LOVE the romantic stuff! Bring it on! There are few things in this world I like better than a hot Viscount. Keep going, Ted! Bravo! Keep writing! I can't wait to read more! But it is par for the course as I am also a writer. Keep in touch!" ~ Author Genella de Grey, author of "Remember Me."
www.genelladegrey.com

"Wow - What a wonderful beginning. As a whole, you have a unique way of writing & you captivated me by a few sentences peaking my interest to continue. For instance: ...hazed by the early morning mist...I love it! I look forward to reading the next chapter. You've gained my interest. That was impresive & informative. You've still got the hook in & I'm dangling to hear more. Thanks for the sneak peak." ~ Aspiring Author R.F.Taylor: Rianna

"Well done. Chapter One entices the reader craving more. I will look for The Adventures of Monsieur de La Donaree the Musketeer on the web. Keep up the excellent writing..." ~
Ferf