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passed among that author's papers, and it is to be hoped that this or some other authoritative record of what was not less than a crisis in French literary history will be given to the world. At present we have to fall back upon stray pieces of information, and anecdotes scattered hither and thither in letters and biographies. Louis Desnoyers was stung by personal suffering into forming a confederation for the rights of authors. He was the editor and proprietor under the Restoration of a sort of society-journal-a newspaper which defies bibliography under a variety of such names as Le Sylphe, Le Trilby, and Le Lutin. This ephemeral creation had the boldness, in 1830, to put forth claws and a beak, and to appear as L'Aigle. In the course of the autumn the criticisms of this audacious bird could no longer be endured by the Government, and L'Aigle was confiscated. Desnoyers, then a young man of twenty-eight, was not long in recovering from the effects of this blow, but anger rankled within him, and with characteristic persistence he did not cease to plan the liberation of the pen. He had what his biographer calls a monomania for starting things, and he was one of those men who are born to induce others to act in concert. He carried his passion so far as, through absence of mind, to pass his wedding-night in a printing-office, seeing his last new venture, the first number of Charivari, through the press.

Such a man was evidently marked from his cradle to be the founder of an incorporated society of authors, and the objections with which his earliest proposals in this direction were met fell but as so much fuel on the flame of his energy. He was already eager about it, when Louis Blanc magisterially announced that the idea was preposterous. This was quite enough for Desnoyers; from that time forward he was pushing the scheme through with unflagging zeal. He delivered lectures on the subject, he approached the masters of literature with his irresistible charm of persuasive enthusiasm, he set all the bells of the press ringing with his notions, and gradually resistance faded before him. It is not quite clear to me whether it was on December 10, 1837, that the first meeting of his committee took place, or whether a later and more final completion of the society is that which is to be celebrated this month. In any case, the earliest gathering seems to have been small but select; it consisted of nine persons, including Desnoyers, and among these nine were Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Thierry, Villemain, and Arago. Desnoyers was elected president, but with equal tact and foresight he insisted on withdrawing in favour of a more eminent man, and induced his colleagues to select the young but already distinguished historian and statesman, Villemain, for the presidency. At the second committee meeting, Balzac, Henri Martin, and George Sand were elected, and the Société des Gens de Lettres started with all sails set. The

original members were 234 in number, and contained, in addition to those already mentioned, the names of such illustrious persons as Théophile Gautier, Sandeau, Eugène Sue, and the bibliophile Jacob. Of these foundation-members there were but sixteen left last October, when Emmanuel Gonzalès died, and since that time more than one has passed away. No doubt a very special and pathetic note of welcome awaits those few survivors who are able to attend the meeting of the 10th of this month.

Those who are passing through the labour and heat of the day in England, however, need not suppose that the French Société des Gens de Lettres arrived by any primrose path at its final prosperity. The illustrious members of its first committee had to give a great deal of thought and time to the chase of that wild animal the five-pound note, and it was on the question of finance that the society was most nearly wrecked. Again and again the committee, in a fit of despair, was on the point of winding up the whole concern, and each time it was the enthusiasm and ardent hopefulness of Balzac which rallied the members once more around the council-table. The condition of copyright in France at that time laid the writers and editors of periodicals open to almost any predatory attacks from the provincial journals and magazines. The author's property in reproduced matter was nominally protected by the law, but the collection of what was due to him was in the highest degree difficult. A busy man had no time to spare in obliging piratical editors to disgorge, and the universal practice of the latter was not to pay unless they were forced to do so. This was the crying burden under which Parisian authorship groaned. Desnoyers, as a very popular journalist, had suffered from it personally and severely, and he made it the first business of the new society to create an agency which should be empowered to act on behalf of members, and which should in fact hold a power of attorney enabling its officers to collect the payments for right of reproduction. That this was no unimportant matter may be conceived from the fact that in the first thirty years of its existence the Société collected the sum of 1,243,000 francs, all but a small percentage of which went straight into the pockets of French authors. Not a penny of this would, in any probability, have been volunteered, and it may be therefore said that the professional authors of France were enriched during that time by more than 40,000 francs per annum. Since 1868 the gains of the Société have vastly increased, but the figures are not in my possession.

How uncertain the finances of the Société were in its earliest years may be illustrated by an anecdote. During our own recent conferences, a lady arose and sternly rebuked us for supposing that the business instincts of women required any protection. I fancy she was right. At all events, it is entertaining to find that the most perilous strait into which the young Société des Gens de Lettres fell was entirely owing


to the development of the business instinct in woman. Sand, although a member of the committee, was a perfect Shylock in demanding her last ounce of flesh. On one occasion, when funds were very low in the little office at the Rue de Provence, Desnoyers was appalled to receive a visit from the homme d'affaires of Madame Sand. The man claimed the dues of reproduction collected on behalf of that eminent novelist, and no consideration would induce him to allow the debt to stand over. Finally, in the name of his fair and resolute client, he put a distrainer on the furniture of the office of the Société. Desnoyers flew to throw himself at the feet of George Sand, but the fair one prided herself on her business instinct, and she hardened her heart like marble. At last it occurred to Desnoyers to point out to her that, as a member of the committee of the Société, she was co-proprietor of these tables and chairs which she was trying to seize. This was a fresh point of view; the lady saw the absurdity of distraining herself, and smiled. The Société des Gens de Lettres had survived its worst hour, yet in the face of this story it certainly does seem needless to be unduly solicitous about helping woman to protect the rights of her intellectual property.

But when, on next Saturday week, the Société, some five hundred in number, with its president, M. Jules Clarétie, at its head, marches through Paris to inaugurate M. Crauk's statue of Edmond About, and, after a pilgrimage to the tomb of Louis Desnoyers, returns to a banquet at the Hôtel Continental, these dangers and terrors of the past will be entirely forgotten, or will reappear only to give the contrast of a pleasant bitterness to the full sweets of to-day. The Société des Gens de Lettres has enjoyed a complete success. It has revolutionised the professional life of the French writer. It has doubled the receipts of his labours, it has given repose to his anxieties, it has deprived him of the sense of nakedness and isolation. It is only right to acknowledge that in this country we have possessed, for nearly one hundred years, a wealthy institution which undertakes part of the duties which have made the Société justly popularnamely, the Royal Literary Fund. This institution is one which no man of letters should ever mention without recognition of its vast services to the profession. But the Société des Gens de Lettres, like our own Incorporated Society of Authors, was not started as a benevolent association of patrons, but as a guild of professional workers bound together for purposes of mutual protection. The distinction is a very important one. The creation of a fund out of which deserving literary merit in distress may receive confidential support has followed on the general success of the French society, but it was no part of its original design, nor, to the present day, is the administration of this fund more than a supplement to its activity. Enriched as it has been by gifts and bequests of large sums of money, the Société has so invested this wealth as to have at its command a con

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siderable pensioning-power, but it scarcely re
as a benevolent institution. In the recent pul
society, we have given a succinct account of t
des Gens de Lettres, and have suggested thos
we think specially applicable to English req
conditions of the law of this country. I need
are the most prominent of the advantages whic
author who joins that Société. The first, wh
others, is that it provides him, without expense
powerful machinery for obtaining all the right
which are legally his as a producer of literary p
improve his work, of course, or find a market fo
any way with the legitimate conditions of contra
accidental disadvantages of his poverty, his isol
perience, and puts him in a position to secure wh
gifts and energy have given him a legal right to
questions of litigation which he would be too
raising. It has a hundred agents, that serve as
piracies which he would never hear of. In short,
life of that element of anxiety and suspicion, tha
being cheated, which gives so unwholesome a fl
fessional literary atmosphere of England.

One of the most important functions which the
de Lettres is called to fill, and one that we should s
added to those of our English body, is that of arbitr
a species of family tribunal, before which disputes b
of the society can be brought and tried, without an
of dirty linen. The Société, as an unprejudiced frie
a quarrel between choleric French authors, and ami
lawsuit or a duel. I understand that it was Balzac
this happy notion to his colleagues, and it was tried
so much success, that since 1865 the committee has
larly recognised syndical chamber, with authority to a
The committee, it may be added, consists of twenty
elected at a general meeting, and on this board almos
ing writers of France, for the last fifty years, have a
another served.

In all this I hope the absence of any indignation
lishers will be noted. I am personally a little sorry
stances should have forced our own earliest manifestoe
much the appearance of polemics against a class. The
internecine struggle between publisher and author
public, and we must hope that from the sensational we
the normal and the peaceful. But I am sure that I spe
of more authority than myself, for my friend Mr. Walt
particular, when I say that we look upon a balancing of t

of author to publisher as very far from limiting the aims of our society. Our friends the outsiders are really too truculent. When, in our late conferences, I ventured to deprecate the mere Berserker attitude, a London newspaper reproved me because, 'with characteristic dislike of blood,' I waved a white flag. I fail to see why any reasonable person should desire carnage for its own sake. If all the streets ran purple with the blood of publishers, we should sell our books no better. The conditions under which the contract between publisher and writer is formed in England appear to require revision. Let them be revised, for the sake of the former no less than of the latter, but do not let us plunge into a professional vendetta. Above all, do not let us frighten decent people away from our body by a parade of indignation. I do not think we can hope to do better than put before the writers of England the benefits which accrue to Frenchmen of their class from the eminently successful society on which our own is based. If all the English writers of any position were banded together, without distinction of class or clique, on the mere common basis of their similarity of production, to help one another in protecting and developing their intellectual property, half the misery, half the heartburnings and jealousies which now distress the profession of letters would pass into the limbo of Alsatia and of Grub Street.


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