Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 131.djvu/708

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702
ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN.

east coast from Cape Bismarck to Beaumont's furthest, in order to ascertain the limit of the sea of ancient ice in that direction, and the causes which obstruct a freer flow of the ice which now, from want of an adequate outlet, continues to grow in thickness and ruggedness.

It was over this sea that Markham and Parr attempted to force their way; and by dint of perseverance they and their gallant followers, in spite of such difficulties as no other advancing sledge-party (except those of Collinson and Allen Young) ever before encountered, achieved a position which will make their journey memorable forever. Considering the character of the ice, the distance they made good was, as Captain Nares truly says, marvellous. They advanced the Union Jack and their own standards to a point north of which no human being has ever put his foot. Clements R. Markham.




From The Athenæum.

ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN.

The singular personage, whom the world knows under the name of Erckmann-Chatrian, is composed of two men, robust, sound in body, and vigorous in mind. They are, neither of them, Alsacians, although they have together created an Alsacian literature.

Emile Erckmann was born four and fifty years ago, in the little Lorraine town of Phalsbourg. To have an exact idea of what Phalsbourg was ten years back, picture to yourself a statue of Marshal Comte de Lobau, round the statue a place planted with old trees, round the place a row of very modest houses, round the houses a cluster of barracks and casemated magazines, round the barracks a rampart, round the rampart ditches, and round the ditches a plain, high, bare, and dry. An old legend, asserts that every house in Phalsbourg has produced, on an average, a sixth of a general, a colonel, two majors, ten captains, and lieutenants in proportion. In short it is a veritable cradle of soldiers, the look of which was dear to my old chauvinisme, and which I never saw without pleasure; I lived a long time near it. The little warlike town which the Germans dismantled in 1872 is five English miles from Schlittenbach, that dear house where four of the six children that I have the happiness to possess were born. Everything at Phalsbourg is military, and I once was acquainted with a lawyer, a simple notaire, who knew the Annuaire by heart, and could name all the colonels of all the regiments in France, and tell their depots, and where the regiments were stationed. Such was the singular atmosphere, one may almost call it absolutely unique, in which Emile Erckmann was born. His father, a small bookseller, who combined the selling of a few groceries with his book-selling, was neither rich nor poor. He sent his son to the college, and made him study law.

Chatrian, like Erckmann, is a native of Lorraine, but like him, and like me, alas! he is a native of the annexed portion. His native village is called Soldatenthal, the valley of the soldier, because it was founded, if the legend is to be trusted, by a Swedish soldier settled in France after the Thirty Years' War. The collaborator of Erckmann is a gentilhomme, by the same title as MM. Granier de Cassagnac, father and son. He is descended from a family of glass-blowers, and himself blew glass in his youth. But that trade not being to his liking, he preferred to re-enter, as maítre d'études, the little college of Phalsbourg, where he had been educated, and there formed his friendship with Erckmann.

Their beginnings in literature were far from successful. In 1848 they started at Strasbourg a republican journal called the Patriote du Rhin; and they brought out at the Strasbourg Theatre a grand drama, "L'Alsace en 1814," but at the second performance the piece was prohibited by the censorship, and the journal died for want of subscribers. They came to Paris and knocked, without success, at the doors of the publishers. Their first novel, "Les Brigands des Vosges," appeared in the Journal des Fails of the Abbé Migne, but it was not paid for; and the two friends might have died of starvation had not the one had some little means of his own, and the other a humble occupation. Chatrian earned one thousand five hundred francs in the office of the Chemin de Fer de l'Est. As far as I can remember, the first book of theirs that I read was a fantastic tale translated from Erckmann by Chatrian. Some periodicals more or less read, L'Artiste, La Revue de Paris, Le Constitutionel, opened their columns to them, not without difficulty, and for five or six years they found it much more difficult to get a single novel published than to write two.

Now they are almost rich. The journals compete for the privilege of printing their stories, and Hetzel, an excellent