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Sardou At Marly-Le-Roy
by [?]

Near the centre of that verdant triangle formed by Saint Cloud, Versailles, and Saint Germain lies the village of Marly-le-Roy, high up on a slope above the lazy Seine-an entrancing corner of the earth, much affected formerly by French crowned heads, and by the “Sun King” in particular, who in his old age grew tired of Versailles and built here one of his many villas (the rival in its day of the Trianons), and proceeded to amuse himself therein with the same solemnity which had already made vice at Versailles more boresome than virtue elsewhere.

Two centuries and four revolutions have swept away all trace of this kingly caprice and the art treasures it contained. Alone, the marble horses of Coustou, transported later to the Champs Elysées, remain to attest the splendor of the past.

The quaint village of Marly, clustered around its church, stands, however-with the faculty that insignificant things have of remaining unchanged-as it did when the most polished court of Europe rode through it to and from the hunt. On the outskirts of this village are now two forged and gilded gateways through which the passer-by can catch a glimpse of trim avenues, fountains, and well-kept lawns.

There seems a certain poetical justice in the fact that Alexandre Dumas fils and Victorien Sardou, the two giants of modern drama, should have divided between them the inheritance of Louis XIV., its greatest patron. One of the gates is closed and moss-grown. Its owner lies in Père-la-Chaise. At the other I ring, and am soon walking up the famous avenue bordered by colossal sphinxes presented to Sardou by the late Khedive. The big stone brutes, connected in one’s mind with heat and sandy wastes, look oddly out of place here in this green wilderness-a bite, as it were, out of the forest which, under different names, lies like a mantle over the country-side.

Five minutes later I am being shown through a suite of antique salons, in the last of which sits the great playwright. How striking the likeness is to Voltaire,-the same delicate face, lit by a half cordial, half mocking smile; the same fragile body and indomitable spirit. The illusion is enhanced by our surroundings, for the mellow splendor of the room where we stand might have served as a background for the Sage of Ferney.

Wherever one looks, works of eighteenth-century art meet the eye. The walls are hung with Gobelin tapestries that fairly take one’s breath away, so exquisite is their design and their preservation. They represent a marble colonnade, each column of which is wreathed with flowers and connected to its neighbor with garlands.

Between them are bits of delicate landscape, with here and there a group of figures dancing or picnicking in the shadow of tall trees or under fantastical porticos. The furniture of the room is no less marvellous than its hangings. One turns from a harpsichord of vernis-martin to the clock, a relic from Louis XIV.’s bedroom in Versailles; on to the bric-à-brac of old Saxe or Sèvres in admiring wonder. My host drifts into his showman manner, irresistibly comic in this writer.

The pleasures of the collector are apparently divided into three phases, without counting the rapture of the hunt. First, the delight a true amateur takes in living among rare and beautiful things. Second, the satisfaction of showing one’s treasures to less fortunate mortals, and last, but perhaps keenest of all, the pride which comes from the fact that one has been clever enough to acquire objects which other people want, at prices below their market value. Sardou evidently enjoys these three sensations vividly. That he lives with and loves his possessions is evident, and the smile with which he calls your attention to one piece after another, and mentions what they cost him, attests that the two other joys are not unknown to him. He is old enough to remember the golden age when really good things were to be picked up for modest sums, before every parvenu considered it necessary to turn his house into a museum, and factories existed for the production of “antiques” to be sold to innocent amateurs.