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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Henri Murger (1822–1861)

An Evening Reception

From “Bohemian Life”

TOWARD the end of the month of December the messengers of Bidault’s agency received for distribution about a hundred copies of a circular of which we certify the following to be a true and genuine copy:

Messieurs Rodolphe and Marcel request the honor of your company at a reception, on Christmas Eve, Saturday next. There is going to be some fun.

P. S. We only live once!


7 P.M. The rooms will open: lively and animated conversation.

8 P.M. The ingenious authors of The Mountain in Labor, a comedy rejected by the Odéon, will take a turn round the rooms.

8.30 P.M. M. Alexandre Schaunard, the distinguished artist, will execute his Imitative Symphony for the piano, called The Influence of Blue in Art.

9 P.M. First reading of a memoir on the abolition of the penalty of tragedy.

9.30 P.M. M. Gustave Colline, hyperphysical philosopher, and M. Schaunard will commence a debate on comparative philosophy and metapolitics. In order to prevent any possible collision, the two disputants will be tied together.

10 P.M. M. Tristan, a literary man, will relate the story of his first love. M. Alexandre Schaunard will play a pianoforte accompaniment.

10.30 P.M. Second reading of the memoir on the abolition of the penalty of tragedy.

11 P.M. The Story of a Cassowary Hunt, by a foreign prince.

At midnight M. Marcel, historical painter, will make a white chalk drawing, with his eyes bandaged. Subject: The interview between Napoleon and Voltaire in the Champs Élysées. At the same time M. Rodolphe will improvise a parallel between the author of Zaïre and the author of The Battle of Austerlitz.

12.30 A.M. M. Gustave Colline, in modest undress, will give a revival of the athletic sports of the Fourth Olympiad.

1 A.M. Third reading of the memoir on the abolition of the penalty of tragedy, followed by a collection in aid of authors of tragedies likely to be thrown out of employment.

2 A.M. Sports and quadrilles, which will be kept up till morning.

6 A.M. Rise of the sun upon the scene. Final chorus.

The ventilators will be open during the whole of the reception.

N. B. Any person attempting to read or recite poetry will be immediately ejected from the rooms and taken into custody; you are also requested not to take away candle-ends.


As the clock struck six the friends went out for a hasty dinner, and then came back to light up. They were themselves dazzled by the result. At seven o’clock Schaunard arrived with three ladies, who had left their diamonds and their hats at home. One of them wore a red shawl with black spots on it. Schaunard particularly called Rodolphe’s attention to this person.

“She comes of a very good family,” he explained. “She is an Englishwoman. The fall of the Stuarts compelled her to take refuge in exile, and she now lives very quietly, giving English lessons. I understand from her that her father was lord chancellor under Cromwell. She must be treated politely; do not be too free-and-easy with her.”

The sound of many footsteps came up from the staircase. The guests were arriving, and saw, to their astonishment, that a fire was burning in the stove.

Rodolphe’s black dress coat was well to the fore. He kissed the hands of the ladies as they entered with all the grace of the bygone days of the Regency. When a score or so of visitors had arrived, Schaunard asked whether refreshments were not going to be handed round.

“Yes, in a moment,” said Marcel; “we are awaiting the arrival of the influential critic before warming the punch.”

At eight o’clock the room was full, and the program was proceeded with. Refreshments of some kind (what they were nobody ever knew precisely) were handed round during every interval. It was nearly ten o’clock before the white waistcoat of the influential critic appeared upon the scene, but he only stayed an hour, and was very moderate in his potations.

At midnight, as all the firewood was burnt up, and the temperature was very low, those of the guests who had chairs drew lots as to who should convert his seat into fuel.

At one o’clock everybody was standing.

The evening passed off without regrettable incidents of any kind, unless we except a rent made in the foreign-language pocket of Colline’s coat, and a box on the ear administered by Schaunard to the daughter of Cromwell’s chancellor.

This memorable reception was the talk of the Quarter for a week afterward, and Phémie Teinturière, the queen of the evening, used to say, when she told her friends about it, “It was tremendously grand; such a lighting up of candles as we had, my dear!”