- Critique théâtrale. Tome III (1841-1842)
The Champion edition of Théophile Gautier's theatre criticism represents an important resource for Gautier scholars as the first collection containing Gautier's theatre writings as originally published, with only minor changes such as the correction of typographical errors (12). The new third volume contains primarily the weekly feuilletons that Gautier published in La Presse between 1841 and 1842. The only other articles included in the volume are his biography of Carlotta Grisi, the dancer best known for her role in Gautier's ballet Giselle ou les Wilis, originally published in the Galerie des artistes dramatiques de Paris, and his "Shakespeare aux Funambules," which praises pantomime performed at a popular theatre considered too lowly for most critics, published in the Revue de Paris (9).
Patrick Berthier's introduction to the new volume provides a useful overview of the criticism included in it. He highlights particularly important feuilletons published in La Presse, including the open letter that Gautier wrote to Heinrich Heine on the performance of Giselle ou les Wilis, which he conceived after reading Heine; his first extended discussion of the actress Rachel; and his review of Carlotta Grisi (9). He also discusses Gautier's publication of non-theatre writings of this period in other journals (10). Finally, he notes the beginnings of an approach to criticism that Gautier adopts more regularly in later periods: his use of digressions, as in his review of the vaudeville La Fille du menuisier, which he curtails in order to discuss Ingres's La Vierge à l'hostie (10-11).
Berthier's illuminating notes reflect his expertise in nineteenth-century theatre history and the literary press of the July monarchy as well as his extensive research on [End Page 184] Gautier. The notes provide an invaluable context for understanding Gautier's theatre criticism: they not only elucidate his references, but also identify patterns in the expression of his tastes and values and cross-reference reviews dealing with the same topic. For example, he highlights Gautier's repeated criticisms of cross-dressing in the theatre, which are especially intriguing given his treatment of cross-dressing in Mademoiselle de Maupin (154), and he calls attention to several reviews dealing with basbleus (343). He also addresses connections between Gautier's reviews and his other writings, such as when he discusses the significance of his reference to "l'art pour l'art" as a Romantic motto (405). His notes enhance the relevance of Gautier's theatre criticism to a broad range of scholars.
To supplement the notes, the volume contains useful appendices, including a "Répertoire des noms les plus souvent cités" and a "Répertoire des titres d'œuvres le plus souvent cités," which describe the people and works listed. Finally, the volume contains an "Index des noms de personnes," an "Index des titres d'œuvres de Théophile Gautier," an "Index des titres d'œuvres scéniques," an "Index des titres de périodiques," an "Index des titres d'autres œuvres," and a bibliography. The volume thus represents a valuable reference for research not only on Gautier, but also on nineteenth-century French theatre history.