PREFACE

Although the number of books on Bohemian life of Paris is practically legion, I feel that I owe no apology for venturing to add to the list with my own humble effort; inasmuch as what I have attempted to narrate pertains entirely to my own individual experience during the years I spent as a student in the Ville Lumiere. Qui s'excuse s'accuse — is undoubtedly a true axiom, but in this instance my plea will, I hope, be accepted, if only on this ground. In this volume I have recorded the lighter side of the life of a student in Paris in the 'eighties, as I knew it; and although I cannot lay claim to have made any special discoveries or new features I feel that perhaps by reason of my souvenirs being almost entirely personal they may therefore present, now and again, novel aspects of the life in the Quartier. The student world of Paris has always exercised a curious fascination in the imagination of even the most staid of writers. This charm would be inexplicable were it not for the knowledge that, underlying its most tempestuous moods, there exists a substratum of genuine human nature that effaces, to a great extent, the impression conveyed by its outward free-and-easy characteristics. Behind all the frivolity and levity of the étudiant in Paris there is a camaraderie and esprit de corps which goes far, not only towards inducing enthusiasm for one's work, but also in bringing out the best qualities of manhood. More water has passed under the bridges than I care to realize since as a student I entered the atelier of Gérome, but the memory of those halcyon days still remains: when one's whole life was summed up in a determination to do one's utmost to achieve fame, coincident with a deep affection for one's Alma Mater. Men may come and men may go but the Quartier Latin goes on almost unchanged outwardly, for most of the old landmarks still exist — in fact, one fancies that one sees the same faces, so much does each generation of students resemble the preceding one. The old well-known cafés are still crowded of an evening, and life goes on, year in, year out, in the same happy state of insouciance as it did in days gone by. It is with mixed feelings of pleasure and sadness that one revisits the haunts of one's youth. One is concerned at the thought of how many of those gay, light hearted boys whom one knew in the atelier have fallen on the road, or gone under in the struggle for existence in the most precarious and fickle of all the professions.

Although outwardly the École presents the same appearance, one finds that a great innovation has come about, for female students are now admitted, and a special atelier has been opened and reserved for their sole use. This is a great concession, and one of the surest signs of the advance of the times. At present there are fewer English and American students in the painter's studios than formerly, this being in all probability due to the fact that the two most popular maîtres, Gérome and Cabanal, have passed away. Moreover, of late years, many other public studios, under the direction of celebrated men, have been opened in different parts of Paris. At most of these a fee is made for attendance, but this is generally almost nominal. Many foreign students, therefore, already well grounded in the initial stage of their art, prefer to go direct to one of these private ateliers to waiting for admission to the École itself. In spite, however, of these changes, the routine remains practically identical with what it was in my days; for there is no suspicion of rivalry between the studios beyond the kudos of producing the most successful pupils. The unaffected Bohemianism which so helped to enthuse one for one's work still exists as it did then. Class prejudice, and the " cuffs-and-collar brigade," are still unknown, for the "conventional" has no attraction for the student of the Quartier, where high spirits and even eccentricity in every form are winked at benevolently by the authorities. I had a particularly pleasing instance of this not so long ago, which is perhaps worth recounting. I was piloting a friend who, as an architect, is naturally interested in all matters pertaining to Art, around the artistic haunts in the vicinity of the Rue Bonaparte, when I bethought me to show him a well-known atelier in the Rue du Dragon, where many of the advanced students of the École paint from the life during the afternoon, and where I had myself worked. Not without some little difficulty, as I learned that a nude female model was posing, and only after assuring the door-keeper that I was an old student, were we permitted to enter. Knowing what pranks might be played on two foreigners by a crowd of lively French students in a studio, I impressed on my friend the importance of appearing as unconcerned as possible. As we strolled round, looking at the amusing cartoons and the clever studies with which the walls were thickly covered, there was a dead silence, although it had been pretty noisy before we entered, and we realized that we were being taken stock of by the twenty odd students working round the model. After a few minutes, someone remarked loudly to his neighbor, and referring to us, of course:

"I think the tall one is the father." To which the other replied: " No, I think the shorter man is the other one's uncle." And then there ensued a mock conversation, amusing enough in the humorous way in which the simplicity of an "Ollendorf" exercise was sustained.

We continued to walk round as unconcernedly as possible under the fire of badinage. At last the man who had started the chaff said:

"Well, have it which way you please, but I don't think it's good form coming in here with collars and cuffs on this warm afternoon, when we're all so hot and thirsty."

Naturally, I lost no time in taking up this cue, and so, addressing the nearest man to me — a tall, bearded fellow — I asked for the Massier, as the leader of a French atelier is called. This gentleman, upon hearing himself alluded to, came forward, and bowing low with great obsequiousness, inquired in what way he could be of service to our "highnesses." I then explained that I was an old student, and was visiting the studio for the first time after many years. I added that in old times it was customary to "wet" such occasions, and it would give me very much pleasure if I could be permitted to do the same thing now. The Massier replied that my reasoning sounded good, so he asked the students what they thought of it. Their reply was quick and to the point. They immediately voted, amidst much merriment, that the séance should be suspended, whereupon they all rose, and after forming themselves into a sort of procession, we adjourned to a small café close by, whilst the model, who had slipped on a long coat over her nude form, and had donned a pair of slippers, came along also. All were brimming over with fun and good fellowship. As soon as the drinks were handed round — and it will be of interest to mention that all had asked for black coffee — one of the men, who was evidently the orator of the studio, rose to his feet, and called out to his companions: "Gentlemen, let us drink to the health of His Most Gracious Majesty, the King of England." A toast to which they all responded most heartily. Then someone cried out: "And to the entente cordiale also." Then followed a most charming and unaffected chat, all being much interested in what I, as an ancien, had been doing since I left Paris. Half an hour passed thus, as delightfully as possible, and then someone humorously suggested that the model would catch cold if she stayed out too long, and then they wouldn't be able to finish their painting. I strongly advised them not to run such a risk, so out we all trooped again, and shook hands all round on parting at the entrance of the studio.

This impromptu glimpse of the camaraderie of the Latin Quarter impressed my friend immensely. As he expressed it, it was a revelation to him, and I could well understand it, for nothing of the sort could possibly exist in London.

It is working under such conditions, and in this atmosphere of unaffected simplicity, that makes the life of the student in Paris so fascinating, and which has provided the theme for so many books on the subject.

In the following reminiscences I have not attempted to gloss over or palliate any of my little indiscretions and "aventures." They are part and parcel of the life of the student in Paris; to have omitted recounting them would be like Hamlet without the ghost, therefore I can lay claim to no monopoly in this respect. My experiences were probably but the counterpart of those of many other students, as there is a terrible lack of originality in all "aventures " where the fair sex is concerned. I can only venture to hope that in my case they may present some new version of an old topic. That the personal pronoun is so much in evidence throughout my narrative is unfortunately inevitable, but I trust any shortcoming in this respect may be forgiven, if only by reason of the fact that in reminiscences of this description it is impossible to write in the third person. I recollect once reading a comic autobiography in which there was a footnote, by the printer, to the effect that he had exhausted all the capital I's, and that he was obliged to use X's instead.

I have done my best to avoid so dire a calamity.
                                        J. M. P.



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