A play was written, some twenty years since, called the “Auberge des Adrets, ” in which the characters of two robbers escaped from the galleys were introduced —Robert Macaire, the clever rogue above mentioned, and Bertrand, the stupid rogue, his friend, accomplice, butt, and scapegoat, on all occasions of danger. It is needless to describe the play—a witless performance enough, of which the joke was Macaire’s exaggerated style of conversation, a farrago of all sorts of high-flown sentiments such as the French love to indulge incontrasted with his actions, which were philosophically unscrupulous, and his appearance, which was most picturesquely sordid. The play had been acted, we believe, and forgotten, when a very clever actor, M. Frederic Lemaitre, took upon himself the performance of the character of Robert Macaire, and looked, spoke, and acted it to such admirable perfection, that the whole town rung with applauses of the performance, and the caricaturists delighted to copy his singular figure and costume. M. Robert Macaire appears in a most picturesque green coat, with a variety of rents and patches, a pair of crimson pantaloons ornamented in the same way, enormous whiskers and ringlets, an enormous stock and shirt-frill, as dirty and ragged as stock and shirt-frill can be, the relic of a hat very gaily cocked over one eye, and a patch to take away somewhat from the brightness of the other—these are the principal pieces of his costume—a snuff-box like a creaking warming-pan, a handkerchief hanging together by a miracle, and a switch of about the thickness of a man’s thigh, formed the ornaments of this exquisite personage. He is a compound of Fielding’s “Blueskin” and Goldsmith’s “Beau Tibbs.” He has the dirt and dandyism of the one, with the ferocity of the other : sometimes he is made to swindle, but where he can get a shilling more, M. Macaire will murder without scruple : he performs one and the other act (or any in the scale between them) with a similar bland imperturbability, and ac-companies his actions with such philosophical remarks as may be expected from a person of his talents, his energies, his amiable life and character.
Bertrand is the simple recipient of Macaire’s jokes, and makes vicarious atonement for his crimes, acting, in fact, the part which pantaloon performs in the pantomime, who is entirely under the fatal influence of clown. He is quite as much a rogue as that gentleman, but he has not his genius and courage. So, in pantomimes (it may, doubtless, have been remarked by the reader), clown always leaps first, pantaloon following after, more clumsily and timidly than his bold and accomplished friend and guide. Whatever blows are destined for clown, fall, by some means of ill-luck, upon the pate of pantaloon; whenever the clown robs, the stolen articles are sure to be found in his companion’s pocket; and thus exactly Robert Macaire and his companion Bertrand are made to go through the world; both swindlers, but the one more accomplished than the other. Both robbing all the world, and Robert robbing his friend, and, in the event of danger, leaving him faithfully in the lurch. There is, in the two characters, some grotesque good for the spectator —a kind of “Beggars’ Opera” moral.
In speaking of M. Macaire and his adventures, we have managed so entirely to convince ourselves of the reality of the personage, that we have quite forgotten to speak of Messrs. Philipon and Daumier, who are, the one the inventor, the other the designer, of the Macaire Picture Gallery. As works of esprit, these drawings are not more remarkable than they are as works of art, and we never recollect to have seen a series of sketches possessing more extraordinary cleverness and variety. The countenance and figure of Macaire and the dear stupid Bertrand are preserved, of course, with great fidelity throughout; but the admirable way in which each fresh character is conceived, the grotesque appropriateness of Robert’s every successive attitude and gesticulation, and the variety of Bertrand’s postures of invariable repose, the exquisite fitness of all the other characters, who act their little part and disappear from the scene, cannot be described on paper, or too highly lauded. The figures are very carelessly drawn ; but, if the reader can understand us, all the attitudes and limbs are perfectly conceived, and wonderfully natural and various. After pondering over these drawings for some hours, as we have been while compiling this notice of them, we have grown to believe that the personages are real, and the scenes remain imprinted on the brain as if we had absolutely been present at their acting.