– Ah, monsieur, vous êtes bien jeune! –

In his recent days in Paris, RLS’s chivalrous feelings had been shocked by the scene in the Demi-Monde of Dumas fils, where Suzanne d’Ange is trapped by Olivier de Jalin. William Archer, the Scottish critic and writer, had asked RLS what exactly took place; then he included the anecdote in his article in The Critic of 5 Nov 1887.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1687.]

To William Archer [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 51-52]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, late August – early September 1886]

My dear Archer,

It happened thus. I came forth from that performance in a breathing heat of indignation. (Mind, at this distance of time and with my increased knowledge, I admit there is a problem in the piece; but I saw none then, except a problem in brutality; and I still consider the problem in that case not established.)

A. Dumas, Le Demi-monde, 1855.


On my way down the Français stairs,

E.-J. Dantan, First Night at the Comedie Francaise, 1885. Since 1799, the Comédie-Française has been housed in the salle Richelieu at 2, rue de Richelieu. This theatre was enlarged and modified in the 1800s, then rebuilt in 1900 after a severe fire [https://image.pbs.org]

I trod on an old gentleman’s toes, whereupon with that suavity that so well becomes me, I turned about to apologise, and on the instant, repenting me of that intention, stopped the apology midway, and added something in French to this effect: No, you are one of the lâches who have been applauding that piece. I retract my apology. Said the old Frenchman, laying his hand on my arm, and with a smile that was truly heavenly in ternperance, irony, good-nature, and knowledge of the world, ‘Ah, monsieur, vous êtes bien jeune!’ – Yours very truly,

Robert Louis Stevenson








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