PARIS FIVE-AND-THIRTY YEARS SINCE
BY THE LATE
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY
Not Included in his Collected Writings
WITH ORIGINAL COLOURED ILLUSTBATIONS
JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN, PICCADILLY.
Printed By SPOTTISWOODE AMD CO., KEW-STREKT SQUARE AND PARLIAMENT STREET
chapters on French Life, Literature, and Art,
comprised in this volume, were written by the late
Mr. Thackekay during his residence in Paris in the
years 1839-40. They were originally addressed to a
friend, the editor of a foreign journal, in whose
publication they first appeared. A small portion was
included by the author, in 1840, in his ' Paris
Sketch Book.' The remainder have, it is believed,
never appeared in this country in any shape. The
whole contents of the volume may, therefore, be
assumed to be unknown to English readers.
reason for omitting these sketches from the edition
of his miscellanies was, probably, the temporary
character of some of the subjects discussed. But the
sketches abound in indications of that genius which
was destined to delight so many thousands of
readers: and as the earliest of the literary efforts
of their illustrious author, they cannot fail to be
welcomed to his admirers. The criticisms on the
French school of painting will be found peculiarly
interesting, containing, as they do, passages
unsurpassed for beauty of style by anything in the
author's later writings. As the impressions of the
young Englishman of the scenes around him in those
early days of student life in Paris, which he has so
admirably described in one of the letters, they will
be read with interest, while to those who desire to
trace the gradual development of the style of this
great English classic, they will form a necessary
supplement to his collected works.
J. C. H.
Off to France . . . . . . . . . 17
A Week Of Fêtes . . . . . . . . . 43
French Fiction . . . . . . . . . 63
The Story of Spiridion . . . . . . . . 85
More Aspects of Paris Life . . . . . . . 113
A French Jack Sheppard . . . . . . . 133
A Ramble in the Picture-Galleries . . . . . . 160
Another Ramble In The Picture Galleries . . . . . 183
THE STUDENTS' QUARTER
OFF TO FRANCESteam-packet Experiences - Frenchmen at Sea - Boulogne Hotels- The Mysterious Touter - Life in a French Watering Place - The Journey in the Old Diligence - Inside and Outside Passengers - Parallel between the Parliamentary Orator and the French Diligence - Paris Streets - The Faubourg St. Denis - The Prison of St. Lazare - The Courtyard of the Parisian Hotel - Concluding Apostrophe to the Editor and ssreaders of the Bungay Beacon.
About twelve o'clock, just as tte bell of the packet is tolling a farewell to London Bridge, and warning off the blackguard boys with the newspapers, who have been shoving ' Times,' 'Herald,' 'Penny Paul Pry,' 'Penny Satirist,' 'Flare-up' and other abominations, into your face - just as the bell has tolled, and the foregners, strangers, people taking leave of their families and blackguard boys afore-said, are making a rush for the narrow plank which conducts from the paddle-box of the 'Emerald' steam-boat unto the quay - you perceive staggering down Thames Street those two hackney-coaches, for the arrival of which you have been praying, trembling, hoping, despairing, swearing, sw--- , (I beg your pardon, I believe the word is not used in good society,) - and transpiring, for the last half-hour. Yes, at last the two coaches draw near, and from thence an awful number of trunks, children, carpet-bags, nursery-maids, hat-boxes, band-boxes, bonnet-boxes, desks, cloaks and an affectionate wife, are dis-charged on the quay.
'Elizabeth, take care of Miss Jane,' screams that worthy woman, who has been for a fortnight employed in getting this tremendous body of troops and baggage into marching order.
' Hicks! Hicks! for heaven's sake mind the babies!'
'George-Edward, sir, if you go near that porter with that trunk, he will tumble down and kill you, you naughty boy!'
'My love, do take the cloaks and umbrellas and give a hand to Fanny and Lucy - and I wish you would speak to the hackney-coachmen, dear; they want fifteen shillings, and count t-he packages, love twenty-seven packages, and bring little Flo - where's little Flo? - Flo! Flo!' - (Flo comes sneaking in; she has been speaking a few parting words to a one-eyed terrier, that sneaks off similarly, landward).
As when the hawk menaces the hen-roost, in like manner, when such a danger as a voyage menaces a mother, she becomes suddenly endowed with a ferocious presence of mind, and bristling up and screaming in the front of her brood, and in the face of circumstances, succeeds, by her courage, in putting her enemy to flight. You will always, I think, find your wife (if that lady be good for twopence) shrill, eager and ill-humoured, before and during a great family move of this nature.
Well, the swindling hackney-coachmen are paid, the mother, leading on her regiment of little ones, and supported by her auxiliary nurse-maids, are safe in the cabin;- you have counted twenty-six of the twenty-seven parcels, and have them on board, and the horrid man on the paddle-box, who for twenty minutes past has been roaring out, 'Now, sir!' says, 'now, sir!' no more.
I never yet knew how a steamer began to move, being always too busy among the trunks and children, for the first half hour, to mark any of the movements of the vessel. When these private arrangements are made, you find yourself opposite Greenwich, (Farewell, sweet, sweet whitebait!) and quiet begins to enter into your soul.
Your wife (I don't speak of Lady Yellowplush, or Mrs. Gahagan, but of wives in general) smiles for the first time these ten days; you pass by plantations of ship-masts, and forests of steam chimneys; the sailors are singing on board the ships, the barges salute you with oaths, grins, and phrases facetious and familiar, the man on the paddle-box roars, 'ease her, stop her,' which mysterious words a shrill voice from below repeats, and pipes out, 'ease her, stop her,' in echo, the deck is crowded with groups of figures, and the sun shines over all.
The sun shines over all, and the steward comes up to say, 'Lunch, ladies and gentlemen! Will any lady or gentleman please to take anything? 'About a dozen do: boiled beef and pickles, and great red raw Cheshire cheese, tempt the epicure : little dumpy bottles of stout are produced, and fiz and bang about with a spirit one would never have looked for in individuals of their size and stature.
The decks have a strange look: the people on them, that is. Wives, elderly stout husbands, nurse-maids and children predominate of course, in English steam-boats. Such may be considered as the distinctive marks of the English gentleman at three and four and forty: two or three of such groups have pitched their camps on the deck. Then there are a number of young men, of whom three or four have allowed their moustaches to begin to grow since last Friday: for they are going 'on the Continent,' and they look therefore as if their upper-lips were smeared with snuff.
A danseuse from the opera is on her way to Paris.- Followed by her bonne and her little dog, she paces the deck stepping out in the real dancer fashion, and ogling all aroundl How happy the two young Englishmen are who can speak French and make up to her!- and how all criticize her points and paces!
Yonder is a group of young ladies who are going to Paris to learn how to be Grovemesses; those two splendidly-dressed ladies are milliners from the Eue Eichelieu, who have just brought over, and disposed of their cargo of summer fashions. Here sits the Rev. Snodgrass with his pupils, whom he is conducting to his establishment near Boulogne, where, in addition to a classical and mathematical education (washing included) the young gentlemen have the benefit of learning French among the French themselves. Accordingly, the young gentlemen are locked up in a great ricketty house two miles from Boulogne, and never see a soul except the French usher and the cook.
Some few French people are there already preparing to be ill - (I never shall forget the dreadful sight I once had in the little, dark, dirty, six-foot cabin of a Dover steamer. Four gaunt Frenchmen, but for their pantaloons in the costume of Adam in Paradise, solemnly anointing themselves with some charm against sea-sickness!) - a few Frenchmen are there, but these, for the most part, and with a proper philosophy, go to the fore-cabin of the ship, and you see them on the fore-deck (is that the name for that part of the vessel which is in the region of the bowsprit?) lowering in huge cloaks and caps, snuffy, wretched, pale, and wet, and not jabbering now, as their wont is on shore.- I never could fancy the Mounseers formidable at sea.
There are, of course, many strange people on board: who ever travelled by steamboat, coach, diligence, eilwagen, vetturino, mule-back or sledge, without meeting some of the wandering race?
By the time these remarks have been made the steward is on deck again, and dinner is ready: and about two hours after dinner comes tea, and then there is brandy and water, which he eagerly presses as a preventive against what may happen; and about this time you pass the Foreland, the wind blowing pretty fresh; and the groups descending, disappear, and your wife giving you an alarmed look, descends with her little ones to the lady's cabin, and you see the steward and his boys issuing from their den under the paddle-box, with each a heap of round tin vases, like those which I believe are styled in America expedoratoons, only these are larger.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The wind blows, the water looks greener and more beautiful than ever - ridge by ridge of long white rock passes away. 'That's Ramsgit,' says the man at the helm; and presently '- that there's Deal - it's dreadful fallen off since the war;' and 'that's Dover round that there pint, only you can't see it;' and in the meantime the sun has plumped his hot face into the water, and the moon has shown hers as soon as ever his back is turned, and Mrs. Y. Gr., (Mistress Yellowplush Gahagan) as the wife in general, has brought up her children and self from the horrid cabin, in which she says it is impossible to breathe; and the poor little wretches are, by the officious stewardess, and smart steward (expectoratoonifer) accommodated with a heap of blankets, pillows, and mattresses, in the midst of which they crawl, as best they may, and from the heaving heap of which are, during the rest of the voyage, heard occasional faint cries, and sounds of puking woe!
Dear, dear Maria! Is this the woman who braved the jeers and brutal wrath of swindling hackney coachmen;- who repelled the insolence of haggling porters with a scorn that brought down their demands at least eighteenpence? Is this the woman at whose voice servants tremble, at the sound of whose steps the nursery, aye, and perhaps the parlour, is in order? Look at her now, prostrate, prostrate - no strength has she to speak, scarce power to push to her youngest one - her suffering, struggling Rosa - to push to her the- instrumentoon!
In the midst of all these throes and agonies, at which all the passengers (who have their own woes), you yourself (for how can you help them,- you are on your back on a bench, and if you move all is up with you;) are looking on indififerent - one man there is who has been watching you with the utmost care, and bestowing on your helpless family the tenderness that a father denies them. He is a foreigner, and you have been conversing with him in the course of the morning in French, which he says you speak remarkably well, like a native, in fact, - and then in English (which, after all, you find, is more convenient). What can express your gratitude to this gentleman for all his goodness towards your family and yourself - you talk to him, he has served under the Emperor, and is for all that, sensible, modest and well-informed. He speaks indeed of his countrymen almost with contempt, and readily admits the superiority of a Briton on the seas and elsewhere. One loves to meet with such genuine liberality in a foreigner, and respects the man who can sacrifice vanity to truth. This distinguished foreigner has travelled much, he asks whither you are going, where you stop?- if you have a great quantity of luggage on board?- and laughs when he hears of the twenty-seven packages, and hopes you have some friend at the Custom-house who can spare you the monstrous trouble of unpacking that which has taken you weeks to put up.
Nine, ten, eleven, the distinguished foreigner is ever at your side, you find him now, perhaps, (with characteristic ingratitude) something of a bore, but at least he has been most tender to the children, and their mamma.
At last a Boulogne light comes in sight (you see it over the bows of the vessel, when having bobbed violently upwards, it sinks swiftly down). Boulogne harbour is in sight, and the foreigner says -
The distinguished foreigner says - says he - 'Sare, eef you af no 'otel, I sail reccommend you, milor, to ze 'Otel Betfort, in ze Quay, sare, close to ze bathing machines and Custom Ha-oose. Goot bets and fine garten, sare, table d'hôte, sare, à cinq-heures; breakfast,- sare, in French or English style, I am the commissionnaire, sare, and vill see to your loggish.'
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The morning comes: I don't know a pleasanter feeling than waking with the sun shining on objects quite new (and although you may have made the voyage a dozen times), quite strange. Mrs. X -- and you occupy a very light bed, which has a tall canopy of red 'percale;' the windows are smartly draped with cheap gaudy calicoes and muslins; there are little mean strips of carpet about the tiled floor of the room, and yet all seems as pleasant and as comfortable as may be: the shines brighter than you have seen it for a year; the sky is a thousand times bluer, and what a cheery clatter of shrill, quick, French voices come up from the courtyard under the windows! Bells are jangling; a family, mayhap, is going to Paris, en poste, and wondrous is the jabber of the courier, the postilion, the inn-waiters, and the lookers-on. The landlord calls out for 'Quatre bifteks aux pommes, pour le Trente-trois.'
(0h, my countrymen, I love your tastes and your ways!) - the chambermaid is laughing, and says, 'finissez donc, Monsieur Pierre!' (what can they be about!) - a fat Englishman has opened his window violently, and says, 'Dee dong, garsong, vooly voo me donny lo sho, ou vooly voo pah!' He has been ringing for half an hour - the last energetic appeal succeeds, and shortly he is enabled to descend to the coffee-room, where, with three hot rolls, grilled ham, cold fowl and four boiled eggs, he makes what he calls his first French breakfast.
It is a strange, mongrel, merry place, this town of Boulogne; the little French fishermen's children are beautiful, and the little French soldiers, four feet high, red-breeched, with huge pompons on their caps, and brown faces, and clear sharp eyes, look, for all their littleness, far more military and' more intelligent than the heavy louts one has seen swaggering about the garrison towns in England.
Yonder go a crowd of bare-legged fishermen; there is the town idiot, mocking a woman who is screaming 'Fleur du Tage' at an inn-window to a harp, and there are the little gamins mocking him. Lo! those seven young ladies with red hair and green veils, they are from neighbouring Albion, and going to bathe.
Here come three Englishmen, habitués evidently of the place - dandy specimens of our countrymen: one has got a marine dress, another has a shooting dress, a third has a blouse and a pair of giltless spurs; all have as much hair on the face as nature or art can supply, and all wear their hats very much on one side. Believe me, there is on the face of this world no scamp like an English one, no blackguard like one of these half-gentlemen, so mean, so low, so vulgar, so ludicrously ignorant and conceited, so desperately heartless and depraved.
But why, my dear sir, get into a passion? Take things coolly. As the poet has observed, 'Those only is gentlemen who behave as sich. With such, then, consort, be they cobblers or dukes.' 'Don't give me,' cries young Shambles, 'any abuse of my fellow-countrymen, but rather continue in that good-humored, facetious, descriptive style with which your letter has commenced.
Your remark, my good friend, is perfectly just, and does honor to your head and excellent heart.
There is little need to give a description of the good town of Boulogne, which, haute and basse, with a new lighthouse, and the new harbour, and the gas lamps the manufactories the convent the number of English and French residents, and the pillar erected in honour of the Grande Armée d' Angleterre, so called because it didn't go to England, have all been excellently described by the facetious Coghlan, the learned Dr. Millingar, and by innumerable guide-books besides.
A fine thing it is to hear the stout old Frenchmen of Napoleon's time, argue how that audacious Corsican would have marched to London, after swallowing Nelson and all his gun-boats, but for cette malheureuse guerre d'Espagne, and cette glorieuse campagne d'Autriche, which the gold of Pitt caused to be raised up at the Emperor's tail, in order to call him off from the helpless country in his front. Some Frenchmen go farther still, and vow that, in Spain, they were never beaten at all; indeed, if you read in the 'Biographie des hommes du Jour,' article 'Soult,' you will find that, with the exception of the disaster at Vittoria, the campaigns in Spain and Portugal were a series of triumphs: only, by looking at a map, it is observable that Vimiera is a mortal long way from Toulouse, where, at the end of certain years of victories, we somehow find the honest Marshal. And what then? He went to Toulouse for the purpose of beating the English there, to be sure. A known fact, on which comment would be superfluous.
However, we shall never get to Paris at this rate; let us break off farther palaver, and away at once.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
(During this pause, the ingenious reader is kindly requested to pay his bill at the hotel at Boulogne, to mount the diligence of Lafitte, Caillard and Company, and to travel for twenty-five hours, amidst much jingling of harness-bells and screaming of postilions.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The French milliner, who occupies one of the corners, begins to remove the little greasy pieces of paper which have enveloped her locks during the journey. She withdraws the 'Madras' of dubious hue which has bound her head for the last five-and-twenty hours, and replaces it by the black velvet bonnet, which, bobbing against your nose, has hung from the diligence roof since your departure from Boulogne.
The old lady in the opposite corner, who has been sucking bonbons, and smells dreadfully of anisette, arranges her little parcels in that immense basket of abominations, which all old women carry in their laps. She rubs her mouth and eyes with her dusty cambric handkerchief, she ties up her nightcap into a little bundle, and replaces it by a more becoming headpiece, covered with withered artificial flowers and crumpled tags of ribbon, she looks wistfully at the company for an instant, and then places her handkerchief before her mouth; her eyes roll strangely about for an instant, and you hear a faint clattering noise; the old lady has been getting ready her teeth, which had lain in her basket among the bonbons, pins, oranges, pomatum, bits of cake, lozenges, prayer-books, peppermint-water, copper money and false hair stowed away there during the voyage.
The Jewish gentleman who has been so attentive to the milliner during the voyage, and is a traveller and bagman by profession, gathers together his various goods.
The sallow-faced English lad who has been drunk ever since we left Boulogne yesterday, and is coming to Paris to pursue the study of medicine, swears that he rejoices to leave the cursed diligence, is sick of the infernal journey, and damned d glad that the damned d voyage is nearly over.
'Enfin!' says your neighbor, yawning, and inserting an elbow in the mouth of his right and left companion, 'Nous voilàl'
NOUS VOILÀ! We are at Paris! This must account for the removal of the milliner's curl papers, and the fixing of the old lady's teeth. Since the last relais, the diligence has been travelling with extraordinary speed. The postilion cracks his terrible whip, and screams shrilly. The conductor blows incessantly on his horn; the bells of the harness, the bumping and ringing of the wheels and chains, and the clatter of the great hoofs of the heavy snorting Norman stallions, have wondrously increased within this, the last ten minutes; and the diligence, which has been proceeding hitherto at the rate of a league in an hour, now dashes gallantly forward, as if it traversed at least six miles in the same space of time.
Thus it is, when Sir Robert maketh a speech at Saint Stephen's, he uses his strength at the beginning only, and the end. He gallops at the commencement; in the middle he lingers; at the close again, he rouses the House, which has fallen asleep; he cracks the whip of his satire; he shouts the shout of his patriotism; and urging his eloquence to its roughest canter, awakens the sleepers, and inspires the weary, until men say, What a wondrous orator! What a capital coach! We will ride henceforth in it, and no other!
But behold us at Paris! The diligence has reached a rude-looking gate or grille, flanked by two lodges; the French kings of old made their entry by this gate; some of the hottest battles of the late revolution were fought before it. At present, it is blocked by carts and peasants, and a busy crowd of men in green, examining the packages before they enter, probing the straw with long needles. It is the Barrière of St. Denis, and the green men are the Customs' men of the city of Paris.
If you are a countryman, who would introduce a cow into the Metropolis, the city demands twenty-four francs for such a privilege: if you have a hundredweight of tallow candles, you must previously disburse three francs: if a drove of hogs, nine francs per whole hog; but upon these subjects, Mr. Bulwer, Mrs. TroUope, and other writers, have already enlightened the public. In the present instance, after a momentary pause, one of the men in green mounts by the side of the conductor, and the ponderous vehicle pursues its journey.
The street which we enter, that of the Faubourg St. Denis, presents a strange contrast to the dull uniformity of a London street, where everything, in the dingy and smoky atmosphere, looks as though it were painted in India-ink - black houses, black passengers and black sky.
Here, on the contrary, is a thousand times more life and colors. Before you, shining in the sun, is a long glistening line of gutter, not a very pleasing object in a city, but in a picture invaluable. On each side are houses of all dimensions and hues; some, but of one story; some, as high as the Tower of Babel. From these the haberdashers (and this is their favourite street) flaunt long strips of gaudy calicoes, which give a strange air of rude gaiety to the looks. Milkwomen, with a little crowd of gossips round each, are, at this early hour of morning, selling the chief material of the Parisian café-au-lait. Beautiful wine-shops, painted red, and smartly decorated with vines and gilded railings, are filled with workmen taking their morning's draught.
That gloomy-looking prison on your right, is a prison for women; once it was a convent for Lazarists; a thousand unfortunate individuals of the softer sex now occupy that mansion: they bake, as we find in the guide-books, the bread of all the other prisons; they mend and wash the shirts and stockings of all the other prisoners ; they make hooks and eyes and phosphorus boxes, and they attend chapel every Sunday: if occupation can help them, sure they have enough of it.
Was it not a great stroke of the Legislature to superintend the morals and linen at once, and thus keep these poor creatures continually mending? But we have passed the prison long ago, and are at the Porte SL Denis itself.
There is only time to take a hasty glance as we pass; it commemorates some of the wonderful feats of arms of Ludovicus Magnus; and abounds in ponderous allegories, nymphs and river-gods, and pyramids crowned with fleur-de- lis; Louis passing over the Rhine in triumph, and the Dutch lion giving up the ghost in the year of our Lord 1672. The Dutch lion revived, and overcame the man sometime afterwards; but of this fact, singularly enough, the inscriptions make no mention.
Passing, then, round the gate, and not xmder it (after the general custom, and in respect of triumphal arches), you cross the boulevard, which gives a glimpse of trees and sunshine, and gleaming white buildings; then, dashing down the Rue de Bourbon Villeneuve, a dirty street, which seems interminable, and the Eue St. Eustache, the conductor gives a last blast on his horn, and the great vehicle clatters into the courtyard, where its journey is destined to conclude.
If there was a noise before of screaming postilions and cracked horns, it was nothing to the Babel-like clatter which greets us now.
We are in a great court, which Hajji Baba would call the Father of Diligences - half a dozen other coaches arrive at the same minute; no light affairs, like your English vehicles, but ponderous machines, containing fifteen pas- sengers inside, more in the cabriolet, and vast towers of luggage on the roof - others are loading; the yard is filled with passengers coming or departing -bustling porters, and screaming commissionnaires. These latter seize you as you descend from your place - twenty cards are thrust into your hand, and as many voices, jabbering with inconceivable swiftness, shriek into your ear, 'Dis way, sare; are you for ze Otel of Ehin? Hôtel de l'Amiraute! - Hôtel Bristol, sare! Monsieur, l'Hôtel de Lille? Sacr-rrré nom de Dieu, laissez passer ce petit, Monsieur! Ow mosh loggish ave you, sare?'
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Here, as we are fairly arrived, and the paper is covered to the very last corner, this letter had perhaps better end. There would have been a good opportunity, too, for a little egotistical speech, and an address of thanks and compliments on this first occasion before a new audience. But tempting as the occasion is, it had better be passed over, for in sooth, Oh Editor of the Bungay! I believe that your public is too wise to care much for us poor devils, and our personal vanities and foolishness - only too good is it to receive, with some show of kindness, the works which we from time to time, and urged by the lack of coin and pressure of butchers' bills, are constrained to send abroad. What feelings we may have in finding good friends and listeners among strangers, far, far away - in receiving beyond seas kind crumbs of comfort for our hungry vanities, which at home, God wot, get little of this delightful food - in gaining fresh courage and hope, for pursuing a calling of which the future is dreary, and the present but hard. All these things, Oh Editor! Had better be meditated, by the author in private, than, as the fashion is now-a-days, poured over yards of paper, in fluent streams of ink. With which, farewell. I hear the dinner-bell ringing, and lo! white-aproned scullions bear smoking soups across the court.
July 25, 1839.
Character of tlie French People - A Task for Dickens or Theodore Hook - Abolition of 'la Peine de Mort' - Trial of a French Conspirator - Victor Hugo and Louis Philippe - Poetry and Criminal Justice - Frenchmen's Holiday-Making - The Government of July - Jules Janin - Frédéric Soulié - French Literary Men - Arnal - Bouffé - Madlle - Mars and Rachel - The End of the Fêtes.
We have arrived here just in time for the fêtes of July. You have read, no doubt, of that glorious revolution which took place here nine years ago, and which is now commemorated annually in a pretty facetious manner, by gun-firing, student processions, pole-climbing for silver spoons, gold watches, legs of mutton, monarchial orations and what not, and sanctioned, moreover, by the Chamber of Deputies, with a grant of a couple of hundred francs to defray the expenses of all the crackers, gun-firings, and legs of mutton aforesaid. There is a new fountain in the Place Louis Quinze, otherwise called the Place Louis Seize, or else the Place de la Révolution, or else the Place de la Concorde, (who can say why?) which I am told is to run bad wine during certain hours tomorrow, and there would have been a review of National Guards and the Line, only since the Fieschi business reviews are no joke, and so this latter part of the festivity has been discontinued.
Do you not laugh - oh, intelligent editor that you are - at the continuance of a humbug such as this! - at the humbugging anniversary of a humbug!
The King of the Barricades is, next to the Emperor Nicholas, the most absolute sovereign in Europe - there is not in the whole of this fair kingdom of France a single man who cares sixpence about him or his dynasty, except, mayhap, a few hangers-on at the Chateau, who eat his dinners, and put their hands in his purse. The feeling of loyalty is as dead as old Charles the Tenth; the Chambers have been laughed at, the country has been laughed at, all the successive ministries have been laughed at (and you know who is the wag that has amused himself with them all), and behold, here come three days at the end of July, and cannons think it necessary to fire off, squibs and crackers to blaze and fiz, fountains to run wine, kings to make speeches, and subjects to crawl up greasy mâts-de-cocagne in token of gratitude, and réjouissance publique.
My dear sir, in their aptitude to swallow, to utter, to enact humbugs, these French people, from Majesty downwards, beat all the other nations of this earth. In looking at these men, their manners, dresses, opinions, politics, actions, and history, it is impossible to preserve a grave countenance - instead of having Carlyle to write a history of the French Revolution, I often think it should be handed over to Dickens, or Theodore Hook; and oh, where is the Rabelais to be the faithful historian of the last phase of the Revolution - the last glorious nine years of which we are now commemorating - the last glorious three days?
I had made a vow not to say a syllable on the subject, although I have seen with my neighbors all the gingerbread stalls down the Champs-Elysées, and some of the 'catafalques' erected to the memory of the heroes of July, where the students and others not connected personally with the victims, and not having in the least profited by their deaths, come and weep - but the grief shown on the first day is quite as absurd and fictitious as the joy exhibited on the last subject is one which admits of much wholesome reflection, and food for mirth, and besides is so richly treated by the French themselves, that it would be a sin and a shame to pass it over. Allow me to have the honour of translating, for your edification, an account of the first day's proceedings - it is mighty amusing, to my thinking.
CELEBRATION OF THE DAYS OF JULY
'Today (Saturday), funeral ceremonies in honor of the victims of July were held in the various edifices consecrated to public worship. These edifices, with the exception of some churches (especially that of the Petits-Pères), uniformly hung with black on the outside; the hangings bore only this inscription: 27, 28, 29 July 1830, surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves.
In the interior of the Catholic churches, it had only been thought proper to dress little catafalques, as for burials of the third and fourth class. Very few clergy attended; but a considerable number of the National Guard.
The synagogue of the Israelites was entirely hung with black; and a great concourse of people attended. The service was performed with the greatest pomp.
In the Protestant temples there was likewise a full attendance; apologetical discourses on the Revolution of July were pronounced by the pastors.
The absence of M. de Quélen (Archbishop of Paris), and of many members of the superior clergy, was remarked at Notre-Dame.
The civil authorities attended the service in their several districts. The poles ornamented with tri-colored ilags, which formerly were placed on Notre-Dame, were, it was remarked, suppressed. The flags on the Pont Neuf were, during the ceremony, only half-mast high, and povered with crape, & c. & c.
The tombs of the Louvre were covered with black hangings, and adorned with tri-colored flags. In front and in the middle was erected an expiatory monument of a pyramidical shape, and surmounted by a funeral vase.
These tombs were guarded by the Municipal Guard, the troops of the Line, the Sergents de Ville (town patrol), and a brigade of agents of police in plain clothes, under the orders of peace-officer Vassal.
Between 11 and 12 o'clock some young men, to the number of 400 or 500, assembled on the Place de la Bourse, one of them bearing a tri-colored banner, with an inscription, "To the Manes of July;" arranging themselves in order, they marched five abreast of the Marché des Innocens. On their arrival, the Municipal Guards of the Halle-aux-Draps, where the post had been doubled, issued out without arms, and the town sergents placed themselves before the market to prevent the entry of the procession. The young men passed in perfect order and without saying a word, only lifting their hats as they defiled before the tombs. When they arrived at the Louvre, they found the gates shut, and the garden evacuated. The troops were under arms, and formed in battalion.
'After the passage of the procession, the garden was again open to the public.'
And the evening and the morning were the first day.
There is nothing serious in mortality - is there from the beginning of this account to the end thereof, but sheer, open, monstrous, undisguised humbug? I said before, that you should have a history of these people by Dickens, or Theodore Hook, but there is little need of professed wags - do not the men write their own tale with an admirable Sancho-like gravity and naiveté, which one could not desire improved? How good is that touch of sly indignation about the 'little catafalques?' How rich the contrast presented by the splendid disregard of expense exhibited by the devout Jews; and how touching the 'Apologetical Discourses on the Eevolution,' delivered by the Protestant pastors! Fancy the profound affliction of the gardes municipaux, the sergents de ville, the police agents in plain clothes and the troops with fixed bayonets sobbing round the expiatory monuments of a pyramidical shape, surmounted by funeral vases, and compelled by sad duty to fire into the public who might wish to indulge in the same woe! Oh, 'Manes of July!' (the phrase is pretty and grammatical), why did you with sharp bullets break those Louvre windows? Why did you bayonet red-coated Swiss behind that fair white façade, and braving cannon, musket, sabre, perspective guillotine, burst yonder bronze gates, rush through that peaceful picture-gallery, and hurl royalty, loyalty and a thousand years of kings, head over heels out of yonder Tuileries windows?
It is, you will allow, a little difficult to say; there is, however, one benefit that the country has gained (as for liberty of press or person, diminished taxation, a juster representation, who ever thinks of them?). One benefit they have gained, or nearly - abolition de la peme de mort, namely, pour delit politique - no more wicked guillotining for revolutions. A Frenchman must have his revolution - it is his nature to knock down omnibuses in the street, and across them to fire at troops of the line - it is a sin to balk it - did not the King send off revolutionary Prince Napoleon in a coach and four? Did not the jury before the face of God and justice proclaim revolutionary Colonel Vaudrey nob guilty? One may hope soon, that if a man shows decent courage and energy in half-a-dozen émeutes, he will get a promotion and a premium.
I do not (although perhaps partial to the subject) want to talk more nonsense than the occasion warrants and will pray you to cast your eyes ever the following anecdote, that is now going the round of the papers, and respects the commutation of the punishment of that wretched foolhardy Barbès, who on his trial seemed to invite the penalty which has just been remitted to him. You recollect the braggart's speech: 'When the Indian falls into the power of the enemy, he knows the fate that awaits him, and submits his head to the knife.- I am the Indian!'
'Well – '
'M. Victor Hugo was at the Opera on the night when the sentence of the Court of Peers, condemning Barbès to death, was published; the great poet composed the following verses: -
Par votre ange envolée ainsi qu'une colombe,
Par le royal enfant, doux et frêle roseau,
Grâce encore une foie! Grâce au nom de la tombe,
Grâce an nom du berceau!*
*Translated for the benefit of country gentlemen:-
By your angel flown away just like a dove,
By the royal infant, that frail and tender reed,
Pardon yet once more! Pardon in the name of the tomb,
Pardon in the name of the cradle! - Note to original.
'M. Victor Hugo wrote the lines out instantly on a sheet of paper, which he folded, and simply dispatched them to the King of the French by the penny post.
That truly is a noble voice which can at all hours thus speak to the throne. Poetry in old days was called the language of the gods - it is better named now, it is the language of kings.
'But the clemency of the King had anticipated the letter of the Poet. The pen of His Majesty had signed the commutation of Barbès, while that of the poet was still writing.
Louis Philippe replied to the author of "Ruy Bias " most graciously, that he had already subscribed to 'a wish so noble, and that the verses had only confirmed his previous dispositions to mercy.'
Now in countries where fools most abound, did one ever read of more monstrous, palpable folly? in your country or mine, would a poet who chose to write four crack-brained verses, comparing an angel to a dove, and a little boy to a reed, and calling upon the chief magistrate in the name of the angel or dove (the Princess Mary) in her tomb, and the little infant in his cradle, to spare a criminal, have received a 'gracious answer' to his nonsense, would he have ever dispatched the nonsense? And would any journalist have been silly enough to talk of 'the noble voice that could thus speak to the throne,' and the noble throne that could return such a noble answer to the noble voice? You get nothing done here gravely and decently. Tawdry stage tricks are played, and braggadocio claptraps uttered, on every occasion, however sacred or solemn, in face of death as by Barbès with his hideous Indian metaphor, in the teeth of reason as by M. Victor Hugo with his two-penny-post poetry', and of justice, as by the King's absurd reply to this absurd demand? Suppose the Count of Paris to be twenty times a reed, and the Princess Mary a host of angels, is that any reason why the law should not have its course?
Justice is the God of our lower world, our great omnipresent guardian - as such it moves, or should move on, majestic, awful, irresistible, having no passions - like a God: but in the very midst of the path across which it is to pass - lo! M. Victor Hugo trips forward smirking, and says: 'Oh Divine Justice, I will trouble you to listen to the following trifling effusion of mine:-
Par votre ange envolée ainsi qu'une, &c.
Awful Justice stops, and bowing gravely, listens to M. Hugo's verses, and with true French politeness, says: 'Mon cher Monsieur, these verses are charming, ravissans, délicieux, and coming from such a célébrité littéraire as yourself, shall meet with every possible attention; in fact, had I required anything to confirm my own previous opinions, this charming poem would have done so. Bon jour, mon cher Monsieur Hugo; au revoir;' - and they part, Justice taking off hat and bowing, and the author of 'Ruy Bias,' quite convinced that he has been treating with him d'égal à égal. I can hardly bring my mind to fancy that anything is serious in France, it seems to be all rant, tinsel and stage-play. Sham liberty, sham monarchy, sham glory, sham justice:- où diable donc la vérité est-elle allée se nicker?
The last rocket of the fête of July has just mounted, exploded, made a portentous bang, and emitted a gorgeous show of blue lights and then (like many reputations) disappeared totally: the hundredth gun on the Invalids-terrace has uttered its last roar - and a great comfort it is for eyes and ears that the festival is over. We shall be able to go about our every-day business again, and not be hustled by the gendarmes or the crowd.
The sight which I have just come away from is as brilliant, happy and beautiful as can be conceived; and if you want to see French people to the greatest advantage, you should go to a festival like this, where their manners and innocent happiness show a very pleasing contrast to the coarse and vulgar hilarity which the same class would exhibit in our own country - at Epsom race course, for instance, or Greenwich Fair. The greatest noise I heard was that of a company of jolly villagers from a place in the neighborhood of Paris, who, as soon as the fireworks were over, formed themselves into a line of three or four abreast, and marched singing home. As for the fireworks, squibs and crackers are very hard to describe, and very little was to be seen of them; to me, the prettiest sight was the vast, orderly, happy crowd, the number of children and the extraordinary care and kindness of the parents towards these little creatures. It does one good to see honest, heavy épiciers, fathers of families, playing with them in the Tuileries, or as toniglit bearing them stoutly on their shoulders, through many long hours, in order that the little ones too may have their share of the fun. John Bull, I fear, is more selfish; he does not take Mrs. Bull to the public-house, but leaves her for the most part to take care of the children at home.
The fête then is over, the pompous black pyramid at the Louvre is only a skeleton now, all the flags have been miraculously whisked away during the night, and the fine chandeliers which glittered down the Champs Elysees for almost a half mile, have been consigned to their dens and darkness. Will they ever be reproduced for other celebrations of the glorious 29th of July? I think not; the Government which vowed that there should be no more persecutions of the press was on that very 29th seizing a Legitimist paper, for some real or fancied offence against it: it had seized, and was seizing daily, numbers of persons merely suspected of being disaffected - (and you may fancy how liberty is understood, when some of these prisoners the other day on coming to trial, were found guilty and sentenced to one day's imprisonment after thirty-six days' detention on suspicion). I think the government which follows such a system, cannot be very anxious about any further revolutionary fêtes, and that the Chamber may reasonably refuse to vote more money for them. Why should men be so mighty proud of having on a certain day cut a certain number of their fellow-countrymen's throats? The Guard and the Line employed this time nine years, did no more than those who cannonaded the starving Lyonese, or bayoneted the luckless inhabitants of the Rue Transnonain - they did but fulfil the soldier's honourable duty - his superiors bid him kill and he killeth - perhaps had he gone to his work with a little more heart, the result would have been different; and then, would the conquering party have been justified in annually rejoicing over the conquered? Would we have thought Charles X. justified in causing fireworks to be blazed, and concerts to be sung, and speeches to be spouted in commemoration of his victory over his slaughtered countrymen ? I wish, for my part, they would allow the people to go about their business as on the other 362 days of the year, and leave the Champs Élysées free for the omnibuses to run, and the Tuileries in quiet, so that the nursemaids might come as usual, and the newspapers be read for a half-penny apiece.
Shall I trouble you with an account of the speculations of these latter, and the state of the parties which they represent? - The complication is not a little curious, and may form, perhaps, the subject of future letters.
The July fêtes occupy, as you may imagine, a considerable part of the columns of the newspapers just now, and it is amusing to follow them, one by one - to read Tweedledum's praise, and Tweedledee's indignation - to read in the 'Débats' how the King was received with shouts and loyal vivats - in the 'National' how not a tongue was wagged in his praise, but, on the instant of his departure, how the people called for the 'Marseillaise,' and applauded that. But best say no more about the fête.
The Legitimists were always indignant at it. The high Phihppist party sneers at and despises it. The Republicans hate it - it seems a mighty joke against them. Why continue it? If I may hazard prophecies like the mighty O.P.Q., who has always in England and America shown a wondrous talent for vaticination, I should like you to print in the largest capitals: 'The fêtes of July are past.' This time next year the world will have forgotten the prophecy, nor will the prophet remind them of it unless perchance it should come true.
With respect to literary news, there is, for the present, none. Since that dreadful day when Jules Janin, Soulié, and a host of other literary geniuses went to visit the ravages of a great late hailstorm at a village in the environs of Paris - since that dreadful day when the mayor of the commune, seeing a number of suspicious-looking characters with beards, with moustaches, with ringlets, with brutuses, with stays, blouses, velvet coats, frogged surtouts and all the last abominations of Parisian fashion, instantly took them for republicans, and so clapped into prison some of the sublimest spirits of France - a sort of awful panic seems to reign among the literary men, and most of the confrérie have fled the capital.
The theaters, too, languish, but these are always pleasant, - only the pleasanter in this hot weather, because people prefer to sit out-of-doors. Regarding these, however, and many other subjects of vast importance, I shall be able to give you better information later, when, if you are anxious to know, you shall hear of the very precise spot where the great Arnal is at present, where Bouffé is starring, where Mademoiselle Mairs intends to pass her holidays, and in what happy provinces the fair Jewess, Mademoiselle Rachel, proposes to teach the true manner of declaiming Racine and Corneille.
By the way, what a noble subject for a tragedy is that conspiracy of the three hundred Jews to put down the piece at the London theatre about Gold Dust! The French would have made a dozen vaudevilles of it before this.
PS. - I break open my letter to say that the fountain on the Place de la Concorde did not run wine, and that, with regard to the Eastern question, there is not a syllable of news.
Change in French Habits and Fashions - The Catholic Reaction - Scene in a Church - Transcendentalism - Literature and Religion - Madame Sand - The Romance of 'Spiridion' - Henri Heine -- Professor Quinet Religion and Philosophy in Novels - Madame Sand Again - Account Of One Of Her Most Famous Novels.
I don't know an impression more curious than that which is formed in a foreigner's mind, who has been absent from this place for two or three years, returns to it, and beholds the change which has taken place in the meantime in French fashions and ways of thinking. Two years ago, for instance, when I left the capital, I left the young gentlemen of France with their hair brushed en towpet in front, and the toes of their boots round. Now the boot-toes are pointed, and the hair, combed flat and parted in the middle, falls in ringlets on the fashionable shoulders; and, in like manner with books as with boots, the fashion has changed considerably, and it is not a little curious to contrast the old modes with the new. Absurd as was the literary dandyism of those days, it is not a whit less absurd now; only the manner is changed, and our versatile Frenchmen have passed from one caricature to another.
The Revolution may be called a caricature of freedom, as the Empire was of glory; and what they borrow from foreigners undergoes the same process. They take top-boots and macintoshes from across the water, and caricature our fashions; they read a little, very little Shak speare, and caricature our poetry; and while in David's time art and religion were only a caricature of heathenism, now, on the contrary, these two commodities are imported from Germany, and distorted caricatures originally are still further distorted on passing the frontier.
I trust in heaven that German art and religion will take no hold in this country (where there is a fund of roast beef that will expel any such humbug in the end); but these sprightly Frenchmen have relished the mystical doctrines mightily; and having watched the Germans, with their sanctified looks, and quaint imitations of the old times, and mysterious transcendental talk, are aping many of their fashions, as well and as solemnly as they can; not very solemnly, God wot, for I think one should always prepare to grin when a Frenchman looks particularly grave, being sure that there is something false and ridiculous lurking under that owl-like solemnity.
"When last in Paris, we were in the midst of what was called a Catholic reaction. Artists talked of faith in poems and pictures; churches were built here and there; old missals were copied and purchased; and numberless portraits of saints, with as much gilding about them as ever was used in the fifteenth century, appeared in churches, ladies' boudoirs, and picture-shops. One or two fashionable preachers rose, and were eagerly followed; the very youth of the schools gave up their pipes and billiards for some time, and flocked in crowds to Notre Dame, to sit under the feet of Lacordaire. I went to visit 66 the church of Notre Dame de Lorette yesterday, which was finished in the heat of this Catholic rage, and was not a little struck by the similarity of the place to the worship celebrated in it, and the admirable manner in which the architect has caused his work to express the public feeling of the moment. It is a pretty little bijou of a church: it is supported by sham marble pillars; it has a gaudy ceiling of blue and gold, which will look very well for some time, and is filled with gaudy pictures and carvings in the very pink of the mode. The con gregation did not offer a bad illustration of the present state of Catholic reaction. Two or three stray people were at prayers; there was no service; a few countrymen and idlers were staring about at the pictures; and the Swiss, the paid guardian of the place, was comfortably and appropriately asleep on his bench at the door.
I am inclined to think the famous reaction is over; the students have taken to their Sunday pipes and billiards again; and one or two cafés have been established within the last year, that are ten times handsomer than Notre Dame de Lorette.
However, if the immortal Grorres and the Grerman mystics have had their day, there is the immortal Goethe, and the Pantheists; and I incline to think that the fashion has set very strongly in their favor. Voltaire and the Encyclopsedians are voted, now, barbares, and there is no term of reprobation strong enough for heartless Humes and Helvetiuses, who lived but to destroy, and who only thought to doubt. Wretched as Voltaire's sneers and puns are, I think there is something more manly and earnest even in them than in the present muddy French transcendentalism.
Pantheism is the word now; one and all have begun to érprouver le besoin of a religious sentiment; and we are deluged with a host of gods accordingly. Monsieur de Balzac feels himself to be inspired, Victor Hugo is a god, Madame Sand is a god; that tawdry man of justice, Jules Janin, who writes theatrical reviews for the 'Debats,' has divine intimations; and there is scarce a beggarly beardless scribbler of poems and prose but tells you in his preface of the sainteté of the sacerdoce littéraire, or a dirty student, sucking tobacco and beer, and reeling home with a grisette from the Chaumière, who is not convinced of the necessity of a new 'Messianism,' and will hiccup, to such as will listen, chapters of his own drunken Apocalypse. Surely, the negatives of the old days were far less dangerous than the assertions of the present, and you may fancy what a religion that must be which has such high priests.
There is no reason to trouble the reader with details of many of the lives of many of these prophets and expounders of new revelations. Madame Sand, for instance, I do not know personally, and can only speak of her from report. True or false, the history, at any rate, is not very edifying, and so may be passed over: but as a certain great philosopher told us in very humble and simple words, that we are not to expect to gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles, we may at least demand in all persons assuming the character of moralist or philosopher, order, soberness and regularity of life; for we are apt to distrust the intellect that we fancy can be swayed by circumstance or passion, and we know how circumstance and passion will sway the intellect, how mortified vanity will form excuses for itself, and how temper turns angrily upon conscience that reproves it.
How often have we called our judge our enemy, because he has given sentence against us! How often have we called the right wrong, because the right condemns us! And in the lives of many of the bitter foes of the Christian doctrine can we find no personal reason for their hostility? The men in Athens said it was out of regard for religion that they murdered Socrates; but we have had time since then to reconsider the verdict, and Socrates' character is pretty pure now, in spite of the sentence and the jury of those days.
The last work of Madame Sand, who is the most elegant writer, I think, that her sex ever produced, and the best writer of her day now in France, is a little novel called 'Spiridion,' in which this extraordinary woman asserts openly her nantheistical doctrine, and attacks the religion which she is pleased to think so faulty. She declares it to be useless now, and unfitted to the exigencies and the degree of culture of the actual world; and though it would be hardly worth while to combat her opinions in due form, it is at least worth while to notice them, not merely from the extraordinary eloquence and genius of the woman herself, but because they express the opinions of a great number of people besides; for she not only produces her own thoughts, but imitates those of others very eagerly; and one finds in her writings so much similarity with others, or in others so much resemblance to her, that the book before us may pass for the expression of the sentiments of a certain French party.
'Dieu est mort,' says another writer of the same class, and of great genius, too; 'Dieu est mort,' writes Mr. Henry Heine, speaking of the Christian God; and he adds, in a darling figure of speech - 'N'entendez-vous pas sonner la clochette? - On porte les sacremens à un Dieu qui se meurt!'
Another of the pantheist poetical philosophers, Mr. Edgar Quinet, has a poem in which Christ and the Virgin Mary are made to die similarly, and the former is classed with Prometheus. This book of 'Spiridion' is a continuation of the theme, and perhaps you will listen to some of the author's expositions of it.
It must be confessed that the controversialists of the present day have an eminent advantage over their predecessors in the days of folios - it required some learning then to write a book, and some time at least, for the very labor of writing out a thousand such vast pages would demand a considerable period; but now, in the age of duodecimos, the system is reformed altogether; a male or female controversialist draws upon his imagination and- not his learning - makes a story instead of an argument, and, in the course of a hundred and fifty pages (where the preacher has it all his own way), will prove or disprove you anything.
And to our great shame be it said, we Protestants have set the example of this kind of proselytism - those detestable mixtures of truth, lies, false sentiment, false reasoning, bad grammar, correct and genuine philosophy and piety - I mean our religious tracts, which any woman or man, be he ever so silly, can take upon himself to write and sell for a penny, as if religious instruction were the easiest thing in the world. We, I say, have set the example in this kind of composition, and all the sects of the earth will doubtless speedily follow it. I can point you out blasphemies in famous pious tracts, that are as dreadful as those above-mentioned, but that this is no place for such discussions, and we had better return to Madame Sand.
As Mrs. Sherwood expounds by means of many touching histories and anecdotes of little boys and girls, her notions of Church history, Church Catechism-, Church doctrine as the author of 'Father Clement, a Eoman Catholic Story,' demolishes the stately structure of eighteen centuries, the mighty and beautiful Roman Catholic faith, in whose bosom repose so many saints and sages, by the means of a three-and-sixpenny duodecimo volume, which tumbles over the vast fabric as David's pebble-stone did Goliath - as again the Roman Catholic author of 'Eveline' falls foul of Luther and Calvin, and drowns the awful echoes of their tremendous protest by the sounds of her little half-crown trumpet - in like manner, by means of pretty sentimental tales and cheap apologies, Mrs. Sand proclaims her truth: that we need a new Messiah, and that the Christian religion is no more!
Oh awful, awful name of God! Light unbearable! Mystery unfathomable! Vastness immeasurable! Who are these who come forward to explain the mystery, and gaze unblinking into the depths of the light, and measure the im- measurable vastness to a hair? Oh name that God's people of old did fear to utter! Oh light that God's prophet would have perished had he seen! Who are these that are now so familiar with it? Women, truly, for the most part weak women - weak in intellect, weak mayhap in spelling and grammar, but marvellously strong in faith - Women who step down to the people with stately step and voice of authority, and deliver their twopenny, tablets, as if there were some Divine authority for the wretched nonsense recorded there!
With regard to the spelling and grammar, our Parisian pythoness stands in the goodly fellowship, remarkable. Her style is a noble, and as far as a foreigner can judge, a strange tongue, and beautifully rich and pure. She has a very exube rant imagination, and with it a very chaste style of expression. She never scarcely indulges in declamation, as other modern prophets do, and yet her sentences are exquisitely melodious and full. She seldom runs a thought to death (after the manner of some prophets, who, when they catch a little one, toy with it until they kill it), but she leaves you at the end of one of her brief, rich, melancholy sentences, with plenty of food for future cogitation.
I can't express to you the charm of them; they seem to me like the sound of country bells, provoking I don't know what vein of musing and meditation, and falling sweetly and sadly on the ear.
This wonderful power of language must have been felt by most people who read Madame Sand's first books, 'Valentine' and 'Indiana.' In Spiridion it is greater, I think, than ever; and for those who are not afraid of the matter of the novel, the manner will be found most delightful. I doubt not but that it has found many readers among you ere now.
The author's intention, I presume, is to describe in a parable her notions of the downfall of the Catholic Church, and, indeed, of the whole Christian scheme; and she places her hero in a monastery in Italy, where, among the characters about him, and the events which occur, the particular tenets of Madame Dudevant's doctrine are not inaptly laid down.
Innocent, faithful, tender-hearted, Spiridion finds himself, when he has pronounced his vows, an object of aversion and hatred to the godly men whose lives he so much respects, and whose love he would make any sacrifice to win. After enduring much, he flings himself at the feet of his confessor, and begs for his sympathy and counsel; but the confessor spurns him away, and accuses him fiercely of some unknown and terrible crime - bids him never return to the confessional until contrition has touched his heart, and the stains which sully his spirit are by sincere repentance washed away.
'Thus speaking (says Spiridion), Father Hegesippes tore away his robe, which I was holding in my supplicating hands. In a sort of wildness I still grasped it tighter; he pushed me fiercely from him, and I fell with my face towards the ground. He quitted me, closing violently after him the door of the sacristy, in which this scene had passed.
'I was left alone in the darkness.
'Whether from the violence of my fall, or the excess of my grief, a vein had burst in my throat and hemorrhage ensued. I had not the force to rise, I felt my senses rapidly sinking, and pre sently I lay stretched on the pavement, unconscious, and bathed in my blood.'
[Now the wonderful part of the story begins.]
'I know not how much time I passed in this way. As I came to myself, I felt an agreeable coolness. It seemed as if some harmonious air was playing round about me, stirring gently in my hair, and drying the drops of perspiration on my brow. It seemed to approach, and then again to withdraw, breathing now softly and sweetly in the distance, and now returning as if to give me strength and courage to rise.
'I would not, however, do so as yet; for I felt myself as I lay under the influence of a pleasure quite new to me, and listened in a kind of peaceful aberration to the gentle murmurs of the summer wind as it breathed on me through the closed window blinds above me.
'Then I fancied I heard a voice that spoke to me from the end of the sacristy. It whispered so low that I could not catch the words. I remained motionless, and gave it my whole attention. At last I heard distinctly the followmg sentence: - "Spirit of Truth, raise up these victims of ignorance and imposture!"
' "Father Hegesippes," said I, in a weak voice, "is that you who are returning to me?" But no one answered. I lifted myself on my hands and knees, I listened again, but I heard nothing. I got up completely, and looked about me; I had fallen so near to the only door in this little room, that none after the departure of the confessor could have entered it without passing over me; besides, the door was shut, and only opened from the inside by a strong lock of the ancient shape. I touched it and assured myself that it was closed. I was seized with terror, and for some moments did not dare to move. Leaning against the door, I looked round, and endeavoured to see into the misty gloom in which the angles of the room were enveloped.
'A pale light, which came from an upper window half closed, was to be seen trembling in the midst of the apartment. The wind beat the shutter to and fro, and enlarged a diminished space through which the light entered. The objects which were in this half light, the praying-desk surmounted by its skull - a few books lying on the benches - a surplice hanging against the wall - seemed to move with the shadow of the foliage that the air agitated behind the window.
When I thought I was alone, I felt ashamed of my former timidity; I made the sign of the cross, and was about to move forward in order to open the shutter altogether; but a deep sigh came from the praying-desk, and kept me nailed to my place. And yet I saw the desk distinctly enough to be sure that no person was near it.
'Then I had an idea which gave me courage. Some person, I thought, is behind the shutter, and has been saying his prayers outside without thinking of me. But who would be so bold as to express such wishes, and utter such a prayer as I had just heard?
'Curiosity, the only passion and amusement permitted in a cloister, now entirely possessed me, and I advanced towards the window. But I had not made a step when a black shadow, as it seemed to me, detaching itself from the praying-desk, traversed the room, directing itself towards the window, and passed swiftly by me. The movement was so rapid that I had not time to avoid what seemed a body advancing toward me, and my fright was so great, that I thought I should faint a second time. But I felt nothing, and as if the shadow had passed through me. I saw it suddenly disappear to my left.
'I rushed to the window, I pushed back the blind with precipitation, and looked round the sacristy; I was there entirely alone. I looked into the garden; it was deserted, and the mid-day wind was wandering among the flowers. I took courage; I examined all the corners of the room; I looked behind the praying-desk, which was very large, and I shook all the sacerdotal vestments which were hanging on the walls; everything was in its natural condition, and could give me no explanation of what had just occurred.
'The sight of all the blood I had lost led me to fancy that my brain had probably been weakened by the hemorrhage, and that I had been a prey to some delusion. I retired to my cell, and remained shut up there until the next day.
'I don't know whether the reader has been as much struck with the above mysterious scene as the writer has, but the fancy of it strikes me as very fine, and the natural supernaturalness is kept up in the best style. The shutter swaying to and fro, the fitful light appearing over the furniture of the room, and giving it an air of strange motion, the awful shadow which passed through the body of the timid young novice, are surely very finely painted. 'I rushed to the shutter and flung it back. There was no one in the sacristy. I looked into the garden; it was deserted, and the mid-day wind was roaming among the flowers.'
The dreariness is wonderfully described, - only the poor pale boy looking eagerly out from the window of the sacristy, and the hot mid-day wind walking in the solitary garden. How skilfully is each of these little strokes dashed in, and how well do all together combine to make a picture! But we must have a little more about Spiridion's wonderful visitant.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
'As I entered the garden, I stepped a little on one side to make way for a person whom I saw before me. He was a young man of surprising beauty, and attired in a foreign costume. Although dressed in the large black robes which the superiors of our order wear, he had underneath a short jacket of fine cloth, fastened round the waist by a leathern belt, and a buckle of silver, after the manner of the old German students. Like them he wore, instead of the sandals of our monks, short tight boots, and over the collar of his shirt, which fell on his shoulders, and was as white as snow, hung in rich golden curls the most beautiful hair I ever saw. He was tall, and his elegant posture seemed to reveal to me that he was in the habit of commanding. Struck with respect, and yet uncertain, I half saluted him. He did not return my salute, but he smiled on me with so benevolent an air, and at the same time his eyes, severe and blue, looked towards me with an expression of such compassionate tenderness, that his features have never since then passed away from my recollection. I stopped, hoping he would speak to me, and persuading myself, from the majesty of his aspect, that he had the power to protect me; but the monk who was walking behind me, and who did not seem to remark him in the least, forced him brutally to step aside from the walk, and pushed me so rudely as almost to cause me to fall.
'Not wishing to engage in a quarrel with this coarse monk, I moved away; but after having taken a few steps in the garden, I looked back, and saw the unknown still gazing on me with looks of the tenderest solicitude. The sun shone full upon him, and made his hair look radiant. He sighed, and lifted his fine eyes to Heaven, as if to invoke its justice in my favor, and to call it to bear witness to my misery; he turned slowly towards the sanctuary, entered into the quire, and was lost presently in the shade.'
I longed to return, in spite of the monk, to follow this noble stranger, and to tell him my afflictions; but who was he that I imagined he would listen to them, and cause them to cease?
'I felt, even while his softness drew me towards him, that he still inspired me with a kind of fear, for I saw in his physiognomy as much, austerity as sweetness.'
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Who was he ? My paper is just at an end, and we will have more about him in our next number. He was somebody, very mysterious indeed, but our author has taken care, after the manner of her sex, to make a very pretty fellow of him, and to dress him in the most becoming costume possible.
THE STORY OF 'SPIRIDION'
The Church in Newman Street, London Puseyism - Madame Dudevant - A warning against Religious Speculation - The Moral of Spiridion - Spiridion's Manuscript - The Intoxication of the Parisian Atmosphere -Byronic Sentimentalism.
The individual in tight boots and a rolling collar, with the copious golden locks, and the solemn blue eyes, who had just gazed on Spiridion, and inspired him with such a feeling of tender awe, is a much more important personage than the reader might suppose at first sight. This beautiful mysterious dandy ghost, whose costume, with a true woman's coquetry, Madame Dudevant has so rejoiced to describe, is her religious type, a mystical representation of faith, struggling up towards truth, through superstition, doubt, fear, reason, in tight inexpressibles, with a 'belt such as is worn by the old German students.' You will pardon me for treating such an awful person as this somewhat lightly; but there is always, I think, such a dash of the ridiculous in the French sublime, that the critic should try and do justice to both, or he may fail in giving a fair account of either.
This character of Hebronius (the type of Mrs. Sand's convictions, if convictions they may be called, or at least the allegory under which her doubts are represented) is in parts very finely drawn, contains many passages of truth very deep and touching, by the side of others so entirely absurd and unreasonable, that the reader's feelings are continually swaying between admiration and something very like contempt, always in a kind of wonder at the strange mixture before him; but let us hear Madame Sand.
'Peter Hebronius,' says our author, 'was not originally so named. His real name was Samuel. He was a Jew, and born in a little village in the neighbouhood of Innspruck. His family, which possessed a considerable fortune, left him in his early youth completely free to his own pursuits - from infancy he had shown that these were serious. He loved to be alone, and passed his days, and sometimes his nights, wandering among the mountains and valleys in the neighborhood of his birthplace. He would often sit by the brink of torrents, listening to the voice of their waters, and endeavoring to penetrate the meaning which Nature had hidden in those sounds.
'As he advanced in years his inquiries became more curious and more grave. It was necessary that he should receive a solid education, and his parents sent him to study in the German Universities.
'Luther had been dead only a century, and his words and his memory still lived in the enthusiasm of his disciples. The new faith was strengthening the conquests it had made; the Reformers were as ardent as in the first days, but their ardour was more enlightened and more measured.
'Proselytism was still carried on with great zeal, and new converts were made every day.
In listening to the morality and to the dogmas which Lutheranism had taken from Catholicism, Samuel was filled with admiration. His bold and sincere spirit instantly compared the doctrines which were now submitted to him, with those in the belief of which he had been bred, and enlightened by the comparison, was not slow to acknowledge the inferiority of Judaism. He said to himself, that a religion made for a single people, to the exclusion of all others, which only ofifered a barbarous justice for rule of conduct, which neither rendered the present intelligible or satisfactory, and left the future uncertain could not, be that of noble souls and lofty intellects, and that He could not be the God of truth who had dictated in the midst of thunder His vacillating will, and had called to the performance of His narrow wishes the miserable slaves of a vulgar terror.
'Always conversant with himself, Samuel, who had spoken what he thought, now performed what he had spoken, and a year after his arrival in Grermany solemnly abjured Judaism, and entered into the bosum of the reformed church. As he did not wish to do things by halves, and desired as much as was in him to put off the old man and lead a new life, he changed his name of Samuel to that of Peter.
'Some time passed, during which he strengthened and instructed himself in his new re ligion.
'Very soon he arrives at the point of searching for objections to refute, and adversaries to overthrow. Bold and enterprising, he went at once to the strongest, and Bossuet was the first Catholic author that he set himself to read.
'He commenced with a kind of disdain, believing that the faith which he had just embraced contained the pure truth; he despised all the attacks which could be made against it, and laughed already at the irresistible argu ments which he was to find in the works of the Eagle of Meaux. But his mistrust and irony soon gave place to wonder first, and then to admiration; he thought that the cause pleaded by such an advocate must at least be respectable, and by a natural transition came to think that great geniuses would only devote themselves to that which was great.
'He then studied Catholicism with the same ardour and impartiality which he had bestowed on Lutheranism. He went into France to gain instruction from the professors of the mother church, as he had from the doctors of the reformed creed in Germany. He saw Arnauld, Fenelon, that second Gregory of Nazianzen, and Bossuet himself.
'Guided by these masters, whose virtues made him appreciate their talents the more, he rapidly penetrated to the depths of the mysteries of the Catholic doctrine and morality. He found in this religion all that had for him constituted the grandeur and beauty of Protestantism, the dogmas of the unity and eternity of God which the two religions had borrowed from Judaism, and what seemed the natural consequence of the last doctrine, a doctrine, however, to which the Jews had not arrived - the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, free will in this life, in the next recompense for the good and punishment for the evil. He found more pure perhaps, and more elevated in Catholicism than in Protestantism, that sublime morality which preaches equality to man - fraternity, love, charity, renouncement of self, devotion to your neighbor.
'Catholicism, in a word, seemed to possess that vast formula and that vigorous unity which Lutheranism lacked. The latter had indeed, in its favor, the liberty of inquiry, which is also a need of the human mind, and had proclaimed the authority of individual reason; but it had so lost that which is the necessary basis and vital condition of all revealed religion - the principle of infallibility; because nothing can live except in virtue of the laws that presided at its birth, and in consequence one revelation cannot be continued and confirmed without another. Now, infallibility is nothing but revelation continued by Grod, or the Word in the person of His vicars.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
'At last, after much reflection, Hebronius acknowledged himself entirely and sincerely con vinced, and received baptism from the hands of Bossuet. He added the name of Spiridion to that of Peter, to signify that he had been twice enlightened by the Spirit. Resolved thenceforward to consecrate his life to the worship of the new Grod who had called him to Him, and to the study of His doctrines, he passed into Italy, and with the aid of a large fortune, which one of his uncles, a Catholic like himself, had left to him, he built this convent where we now are.'
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A friend cf mine who has just come from Italy, says that he has left Messrs. Sp___r, P___l, and W. Dr___d, who were the lights of the great church in Newman Street (that you possibly have heard of), who were themselves apostles, and declared and believed that every word of non sense which fell from their lips was a direct Spiritual Intervention; these gentlemen have become Puseyites already, and are, my friend states, in the highway to Catholicism.
Madame Sand herself was a Catholic some time since, having been converted to that faith along with M. N___ of the Academy of Music, Mr. L___ the pianoforte player, and one or two other chosen individuals, by the famous Abbé de la M___. Abbé de la M___ (so told me in the diligence, a priest who read his breviary and gossiped alternately very curiously and pleasantly) is himself an âme perdue; the man spoke of his brother clergyman with actual horror; and it certainly appears that the Abbé's works of conversion have not prospered, for Madame Sand having brought her hero (and herself, as we may presume) to the point of Catholicism, proceeds directly to dispose of that as she has done of Judaism and Protestantism, and will not leave of the whole fabric of Christianity a single stone standing.
I think the fate of our English Newman Street apostles, and of M. de la M___, the mad priest and his congregation of mad converts, should be a warning to such of us as are inclined to dabble in religious speculations; for in them, as in all others, our flighty brains soon lose themselves, and we find our reason speedily lying prostrate at the throne of our passions; and I think that Madame Sand's novel of 'Spiridion' may do a vast deal of good, and bears a good moral with it, though not such an one perhaps as our fair philosopher intended - for anything he learned of Samuel, Peter, Spiridion, Hebronius might have remained a Jew from the beginning to the end.
Why be in such a hurry to set up new faiths? Why, Madame Sand, try and be so preternaturally wise? Why be so eager to jump out of one religion, for the purpose of jumping into another? See what good this philosophical friskiness has done you, and on what sort of ground you are come at last.
You are so wonderfully sagacious, that you flounder in mud at every step; so amazingly clear-sighted that your eyes cannot see an inch before you, having put out with that extinguishing genius of yours every one of the lights that are sufficient for the conduct of common men. And for what? Let our friend Spiridion speak for himself.
'After setting up his convent, and filling it with pious monks, who entertain an immense respect for his wealth and genius, Father Hebronius, unanimously elected Prior, gives himself up to further studies, and leaves his monks to themselves. Industrious and sober as they were originally, they grow quickly intemperate and idle; and Hebronius, who does not appear among his flock until he has freed himself of the Catholic religion, as he has of the Jewish and the Protestant, sees with dismay the evil condition of his disciples, and regrets too late the precipitancy by which he renounced, then and for ever, Christianity.
'But as he had no new religion to adopt in its place, and as he had grown more prudent and calm, he did not wish to accuse himself unnecessarily once more of inconstancy and apostasy; he still maintained all the exterior forms of worship which inwardly he had abjured. But it was not enough for him to have quitted error, it was necessary to discover truth. But Hebronius had well looked round to discover it; - he could not find anything that resembled it.
'Then commenced for him a series of sufferings unknown and terrible. Placed face to face with doubt, this sincere and religious spirit was frightened at its own solitude, and as it had no other desire or aim on earth than truth, and nothing else here below interested it, he lived absorbed in his own sad contemplations, looking ceaselessly into the vague that surrounded him, like an ocean without bounds, and seeing the horizon retreat and retreat when ever he wished to near it.
'Lost in this immense uncertainty, he felt as if attacked by vertigo, and his thoughts whirled within his brain. Then, fatigued with his vain toils and hopeless endeavors, he would sink down depressed, unmanned, life-wearied, only living in the sensation of that silent grief which he felt and could not comprehend.'
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It is a pity that this hapless Spiridion, so eager in his passage from one creed to another, and so loud in his profession of the truth wherever he fancied that he had found it, had not waited a little before he avowed himself either Catholic or Protestant, and implicated others in errors and follies which might at least have been confined to his own bosom, and there have lain comparatively harmless.
In what a pretty state, for instance, will Messrs. Dr___d and P___l have left their Newman Street congregation, who are still plunged in their old superstitions, from which their spiritual pastors and masters have been set free! In what a state, too, do Mrs. Sand, and her brother and sister philosophers, Templars, Saint Simonians, Tournierites, Lerouxites, or whatever the sect may be, leave the unfortunate people who have listened to their doctrines, and who have not the opportunity, or the fiery versatility of belief, which carries their teachers from one creed to another, leaving only exploded lies and useless recantations behind them!
I wish the State would only make a law that one individual should not be allowed to preach more than one doctrine in his life, or at any rate should be soundly corrected for every change of creed: how many charlatans would have been silenced, how much conceit would have been kept within bounds, how many fools who are dazzled by fine sentences, and made drunk by declamation, would have remained quiet and sober, in that quiet and sober way of faith which their fathers held before them!
However, the reader will be glad to learn that, after all his doubts and sorrows, Spiridion does discover the truth, (the truth, what a wise Spiridion!) and some discretion with it; for, having found among his monks, who are dissolute, superstitious, and all hate him, one only being, Fulgentius, who is loving, candid and pious, says to him, 'If you were like myself, if the first want of your nature were like mine, to know, I would, without hesitation, lay bare to you my entire thoughts, I would make you drink the ciip of truth, which I myself have filled with so many tears, at the risk of intoxicating you with the draught. But it is not so, alas! You are made to love, rather than to know, and your heart is stronger than, your intellect.
'You are attached to Catholicism - I believe so, at least - by bonds of sentiment which you could not break without pain, and which if you were to break, the truth which I could lay bare to you in return would not repay you for what you had sacrificed. Instead of exalting, it would crush you, very likely. It is food too strong for ordinary men, and which, when it does not revivify, smothers.
'I will not, then, reveal to you this doctrine, which is the triumph of my life, and the consolation of my last days, because it might, perhaps, be for you only a cause of mourning and despair.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Of all the works which my long studies have produced, there is one alone which is not given to the flames; for it alone is complete. In that you will find me entire, and there lies the truth. And as the sage has said, you must not bury your treasures in a well, I will not confide mine to the brutal stupidity of these monks. But as this volume should only pass into hands worthy to touch it, and be laid open for eyes that are capable of comprehending its mysteries, I shall exact from the reader one condition, which at the same time shall be a proof; I shall carry it with me to the tomb, in order that he who one day shall read it, may have courage enough to brave the vain terrors of the grave, in searching for it amid the dust of my sepulchre. As soon as I am dead, therefore, place this writing on my breast.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Ah! When the time comes for reading it, I think my withered heart will spring up again, as the frozen grass at the return of the sun, and that, from the midst of its infinite trans formations, my spirit will enter into immediate communication with thine!'
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Does not the reader long to be at this precious manuscript which contains the truth, and ought he not to be very much obliged to Mrs. Sand for being so good as to print it for him? We leave all the story aside, how Fulgentius had not the spirit to read the manuscript, but left the secret to Alexis; how Alexis, a stern old philosophical unbelieving monk as ever was, tried in vain to lift the gravestone, but was taken with fever and obliged to forego the discovery; and how finally, Angel, his disciple, a youth amiable and innocent as his name, was the destined person who brought the long-buried treasure to lighL Trembling and delighted, the pair read this tremendous
MANUSCRIPT OF SPIEIDION
Will it be believed that of all the dull, vague, windy documents that mortals ever set eyes on, this is the dullest? If this is absolute truth, à quoi bon search for it since we have long, long had the jewel in our possession, or since, at least, it has been held up as such by every sham philosopher who has had a mind to pass off his wares on the public?
Hear Spiridion -
'How much have I wept, how much have I suffered, how much have I prayed, how much have I labored, before I understood the cause and the aim of my passage on this earth? After many incertitudes, after much remorse, after many scruples, I have comprehended that I was a martyr! But why my martyrdom, said I - what crime did I commit before I was born, thus to be condemned to labor, and groaning from the hour when I first saw the day, up to that when I am about to enter into the night of the tomb?
'At last, by dint of imploring God: by dint of inquiry into the history of man, a ray of the truth has descended on my brow, and the shadows of the past have melted before my eyes. I have lifted a corner of the curtain: I have seen enough to know that my life, like that of the rest of the human race, has been a series of necessary errors, yet, to speak more correctly, of incomplete truths, conducting more or less slowly and directly to absolute truth and ideal perfection. But when will they rise on the face of the earth - when will they issue from the bosom of the Divinity - those generations who shall salute the august countenance of truth, and proclaim the reign of the ideal on earth?
'I see well how humanity marches, but I neither can see its cradle nor its apotheosis. Man seems to me a transitory race, between the beast and the angel; but I know not how many centuries have been required that he might pass from the state of brute to the state of man, and I cannot tell how many ages are necessary that he may pass from the state of man to the state of angel!
'Yet I hope, and I feel within me at the approach of death, that which warns me that great destinies await humanity,' &c. &c.
The rest of the book of Spiridion (it consists but of seven pages) is made up of the history of the rise, progress, and (what our philosopher is pleased to call) decay of Christianity; of an assertion that the 'Doctrine of Christ is incomplete,' that 'Christ may nevertheless take His place in the Pantheon of divine men!' And of a long, disgusting, absurd and impious vision, in which the Saviour, Moses, David and Elijah are represented, and in which Christ is made to say - 'We are all Messiahs, when we wish to bring the reign of truth upon earth; we are all Christs when we suffer for it!'
And this is the ultimatum, the supreme secret, the absolute truth, and it has been published by Mrs. Sand for so many napoleons per sheet, in the 'Revue des Deux Mondes;' and the Deux Mondes are to abide by it for the future. After having attained it, are you of the second world, or are we of the first, a whit wiser? 'Man is between an angel and a beast; I don't know how long it is since he was a brute - I can't say how long it will be before he is an angel.' Think of people living by their wits, and living by such a wit as this! Think of the state of mental debauchery and disease which must have been passed through, ere such words could be written and could be popular!
When a man leaves our dismal smoky London atmosphere, and breathes, instead of coal-smoke and yellow fog, this bright clear French air, he is quite intoxicated by it at first, and feels a glow in his blood and a joy in his spirits, which scarcely thrice in a year, and then only at a distance from London, he can attain in England.
Is the intoxication, I wonder, permanent among the natives, and may we account for the ten thousand frantic freaks of these people, by the peculiar influence of French air and sun? The philosophers are from night to morning drunk, the politicians are drunk, the literary men reel and stagger from one absurdity to another, and how shall we understand their vagaries?
Let us suppose charitably that Madame Sand has inhaled a more than ordinary quantity of this laughing gas, when she wrote for us the precious manuscript of Spiridion, That great destinies are in prospect for the human race, we may fancy, without her ladyship's word for it; but more liberal than she, and having a little re trospective charity, as well as that easy prospective benevolence which Mrs. Sand adopts, let us try and think there is some hope for our fathers (who were nearer brutality than ourselves, according to the Sandean creed), or else there is a very poor chance for us, who, great philosophers as we are, are yet, alas, far removed from that angelic consummation which, for all who must wish for so devoutly. She cannot say - is it not extraordinary? How many centuries have been necessary before man could pass from the brutal state to his present condition, or how many ages will be required ere we may pass from the state of man to the state of angel!
What the deuce is the use of chronology or philosophy?
We were beasts, and we can't tell when our tails dropped off: we shall be angels, but when our wings are to begin to sprout, who knows?
In the meantime, Oh man of genius, follow our counsel: lead an easy life, don't stick at trifles; never mind about duty, it is only made for slaves; if the world reproaches you, reproach the world in return, you have a good loud tongue in your head; if your strait-laced morals injure your mental respiration, fling off the old-fashioned stays, and leave your free limbs to rise and fall as nature pleases; and when you have grown tired of your liberty, and yet unfit to return to restraint - curse the world and scorn it, and be miserable, like my Lord Byron and other philosophers of his like; or else mount a step higher, and with conceit still more monstrous, and mental vision still more wretchedly debauched and weak, begin suddenly to find yourself afilicted with a maudlin compassion for the human race, and a desire to set them right after your own fashion.
There is the quarrelsome stage of drunkenness, when a man can as yet walk and speak, when he can call names and fling plates and wine-glasses at his neighbor's head with a good aim. After this comes the pathetic stage, when the patient becomes wondrous philanthropic, and weeps wildly as he lies in the gutter, and fancies he is at home in bed - where he ought to be; but this is an allegory.
I don't wish to carry this any further, or to say a word in defence of the doctrine which Mrs. Dudevant has found 'incomplete;' here at least is not the place for discussing its merits any more than was Mrs. Sand's book the place for exposing, forsooth, its errors; our business is only with the day and the new novels, and the clever or silly people who write them. Oh, if they but knew their places and would keep to them, and drop their absurd philosophical jargon! Not all the big words in the world can make Mrs. Sand talk like a philosopher. When will she go back to her old trade, of which she was the very ablest practitioner in France?
I should have been glad to give some extracts from the dramatic and descriptive parts of the novel, that cannot, in point of style and beauty, be praised too highly. One must suffice - it is the descent of Alexis to seek that unlucky manuscript of Spiridion.
' It seemed to me,' he begins, 'that the descent was eternal, and that I was burying myself in the depths of Erebus; at last I reached a level place, and I heard a mournful voice deliver these words, as it were, to the secret center of the earth: - "He will mount that ascent no more!" Immediately I heard arise towards me, from the depth of invisible abysses, a myriad of formidable voices united in a strange chant - " Let us destroy him! Let him be destroyed! What does he do here among the dead? Let him be delivered back to torture! Let him be given again to life!"
'Then a feeble light began to pierce the darkness, and I perceived that I stood on the lowest step of a staircase, vast as the foot of a mountain! Behind me were thousands of steps of lurid iron, before me nothing but a void, an abyss, and æther; the blue gloom of midnight beneath my feet, as above my head. I became delirious, and quitting that staircase, which, methought, it was impossible for me to reascend, I sprung forth into the void with an execration. But, immediately, when I had uttered the curse, the void began to be filled with forms and colors, and I presently perceived that I was in a vast gallery, along which I advanced, trembling. There was still darkness around me, but the hollows of the vaults gleamed with a red light, and showed me the strange and hideous forms of their building.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
'I did not distinguish the nearest objects; but those towards which I advanced assumed an appearance more and more ominous, and my terror increased with every step I took. The enormous pillars which supported the vault, and the tracery thereof itself, were figures of men of supernatural stature, delivered to tortures without a name. Some hung by their feet, and, locked in the coils pf monstrous serpents, clenched their teeth in the marble of the pavement; others, fastened by their waists, were dragged upwards, these by their feet, those by their heads, towards capitals where other figures stooped towards them, eager to torment them.
'Other pillars again represented a struggling mass of figures devouring one another; each of which only offered a trunk severed to the knees or to the shoulders, the fierce heads whereof retained life enough to seize and devour that which was near them.
'There were some who, half hanging down, agonized themselves by attempting with theif upper limbs to flay the lower moiety of their bodies, which drooped from the columns, or were attached to the pedestals; and others, who in their fight with each other were dragged along by morsels of flesh - grasping which they clung to each other with a countenance of unspeakabble hate and agony.
'Along, or rather in place of, the frieze, there were on either side a range of unclean beings, wearing the human form, but of a loathsome ugliness, busied in tearing human corpses to pieces, in feasting upon their limbs and entrails. From the vault, instead of bosses and pendants, hung the crushed and wounded forms of children; as if to escape these eaters of man's flesh, they would throw themselves downwards and be dashed to pieces on the pavement.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
'The silence and motionlessness of the whole added to its awfulness. I became so faint with terror that I stopped, and would fain have returned. But at that moment I heard from the depths of the gloom through which I had passed confused noises like those of a multitude on its march. And the sounds soon became more distinct, and the clamor fiercer, and the steps came hurrying on tumultiiously, at every new burst nearer, more violent, more threatening. I thought that I was pursued by this disorderly crowd, and I strove to advance, hurrying into the midst of those dismal sepulchres.
'Then it seemed clearly as if those figures began to heave, and to sweat blood, and their beady eyes to move in their sockets. At once I beheld that they were all looking upon me, and they were all leaning towards me, some with frightful derision, others with furious aversion. Every arm was raised against me, and they made as though they would crush me with the quivering limbs they had torn one from the other.'
Paris: August 16, 1829
An Oratorio in a Prison - Fair Hair and Musical Devotion - The fas-hionable Oratorio The Madeleine - Architecture and Religion - The great Paris Library - King Clovis's Armchair - The Arabian Nights - A French Museum - Versailles - Mr. Leitch Ritchi-e - Fontainebleau Anecdote of Louis Philippe and M. Fortoul - The Gobelins Tapestiy - The Museum of Artillery - The Drachenfels - Sensual Enjoyments - A Dinner at Véry's with Father Prout - French Singers and Comedians - Madame Anna Thillon - French Farces and the Legitimate Drama
A LADY who takes lessons of the famous Italian singing-master. Monsieur M____, invited us to be present at a concert or oratorio given by a hundred of his pupils, whom he has instructed for the last three months, and who live together at a place where I fancy pious hymns have not been often sung since the monks inhabited it - the women's prison of Saint Lazare, in the Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis.
Mass, you must know, is performed here at eight o'clock in the morning, and we found the clock striking, and the Maître de Chapelle at the gate, just as we for a wonder reached it. 'This is one of my bonnes ceuvres,' said Monsieur M____ (who does not receive precisely a napoleon lesson from each of his élèves in this establishment) - a bonne ceuvre which very few were willing to imitate, or even come and see; for our guide told us that he had expected une société, of which, however, none made their appearance but ourselves. We may set it down as a rule that good works in Paris do not begin at seven o'clock in the morning, and before breakfast.
We went through three or four little quadrangles, clean, dismal and deserted, with a very bright sky lighting them up, and making the thousand little ghastly barred windows look only more dark; and passing through an ante-room - where, on a great board of five feet by seven, was chalked the music which Monsieur M____'s poor scholars had been practicing, and were about to sing - went into the gallery of the chapel, and took our places alongside of a number of the inhabitants of the place.
The service had already begun. The candles were lighted over the shabby little altar, and shone upon a few pictures which were hung about it, a crucifix, two Magdalens and an odious head of Saint Vincent de Paul, before which an old priest was quavering out the service, followed hither and thither by a little boy in white, walking up the altar steps, and down again, and round about them; and kneeling down, and bobbing his little shorn head and swinging to and fro a great clattering gilt incense-pot, as his Church ordains.
An old, shrivelled, bustling lady, with a bunch of proper prison-like keys at her waist, made way for us, and gave us seats, and robbing another, I suppose inferior turnkey, of a wicker chair at which she was kneeling, handed it over to one of the ladies of our party, who was very much puzzled to know what to do with more than one; so as soon as the head gaoleress had retreated to her seat, we gave back the chair to its former possessor, who did not seem to know how to pursue her devotions without it.
It was the first time that I had ever been in such distinguished female society, and I looked at the faces of the poor girls about me with no ordinary curiosity. On a former occasion at Bicêtre, I saw the mad hospital there, and marvelled how sober all the people looked, and visiting afterwards the convicts' prison (which then formed part of the establishment - It is now transferred to the Ru de la Roquette), I thought that the men who came out to undergo the now abolished operation of the ferrement, seemed an honest, hearty, jovial-looking set; but at Saint Lazare, the ladies looked certainly as wretched as you could expect or desire; among the two or three hundred whom I could see, there were not above four that were even tolerably good-looking.
One was regularly beautiful, but with a tremendous development of the back head, which would frighten a phrenologist; some were so characteristically hideous, that Hogarth or Cruik-shank could wish no better model; and whether by mere chance I know not, but I remarked that a very small portion of the women, not half a dozen, perhaps, were fair-haired. I do not recollect to have seen in the common population of the town and streets, this vast majority of the dark over the fair, and must leave to physiologists to determine if there be any special virtue in the skin.
Monsieur M____ declared that his pupils were among the best subjects of the prison, and as far as outward appearance went, his words were certainly borne out; there was a decided superiority in the looks and expression of the women and children gathered round his instrument, to those who were seated near us. As the music went on (a smart young lady from the town, in white and red ribands, singing much out of tune, sang the solo) we observed a little girl close to us, who seemed affected by it, and began to weep. Her two companions would not allow her to remain in any such fit of repentance, and speedily sneered her out of it. The mirth of these women was not a little curious to behold; they were perpetually nodding, smiling, winking to other comrades in distant parts of the chapel; you saw all sorts of wild signs going on amongst them, and mysterious communications made with the fingers, and hurried off as one has seen the deaf-and-dumb pupils perform them.
What a strange activity is this of a prison! What a dreadful merriment! What a wild, reckless, glancing, uneasy spirit, seems to urge them on - a perpetual gnawing of the chain and dashing against the bars!
The musicians, however, appeared to be pretty tranquil - they pursue their study with vast industry, we were told, and give up the two or three hours of sunshine and exercise allotted to them, in order to practice these hymns and choruses. I think the prettiest sight I saw in the place was a pair of prisoners, a grown woman with a placid face, who had her arm around the neck of a young girl; they were both singing together off the same music-book, and in the intervals seemed to be fond and affectionate towards each other. Poor things, poor things! What was their history? I wonder whether you or I, Madame, are a whit better than this couple of choristers in their dingy prison dresses; or whether, when we, at church, out of gilt prayer-books with gold clasps, follow the clerk and sing the Old Hundredth very gingerly and genteely - I wonder, I say, whose music is, in reality, the best? But the music has stopped: hark! There is a great jingling of a bell, and straightway all the prisoners fall on their knees, and you see all of a sudden five hundred heads bow down, and as many hands make the sign of the cross; presently afterwards the old priest, followed by the dapper little boy in white ascends the stairs, the boy swings about the shabby incense-pot. His reverence marches in front, holding and waving right and left, a very old brush that seems worn down to the stumps; seeing us in purple and fine linen, he makes for us and offers the brush, from which, being Protestants, and dreadfully frightened at being obliged to show that we don't know what to do with the brush when we get it, we shrinkingly withdraw. Some of the prisoners begin to giggle, the old woman who yielded up her praying-chair reaches forward and clutches hold, for an instant, of the blessed brush. Down below at the altar, you see a dirty extinguisher on a pole, rising, quivering for a moment over each of the lights, and popping them out one by one; his reverence gives his blessing, the active old turnkeys bustle about, and mustering their bands of prisoners into squads, march with them out of the building. The smart little incense-boy has put away his white surplice and pot, and comes out of the chapel pulling up his shirt collar; he has brushed some hair over the little bald place on his head, and tries to look like a man of the world. We pass through the quadrangles again; all the prisoners have been consigned to their respective quarters by this time, and the courts are as deserted as before.
Half an hour spent in this prison has made us weary of it, and the motion and gaiety of the street strikes one most welcomely, as the porter closes the guichet behind us, and shuts in the five hundred poor women whom we have just seen, to work out their term of slavery and fulfil their bairgain with the State.
A short time afterwards, and at the proper orthodox hour, we went to an exhibition somewhat different in its details, but similar in its purpose, and took our places along with a crowd of fashionable miserable sinners at the Episcopal Church, near the British Embassy, where we had no mummery of clanking incense-pots, and meager consumptive wax candles, but a bishop, with plenty of white sleeves, and a portly beadle with a silver-knobbed stick, as the Christian religion ordains.
We all agreed in pitying the poor benighted Catholic creatures, whose strange rites we had just witnessed - and as for the organ, it beat Monsieur M____'s cracked harmonicon, or whatever the instrument may be called (it sounds like the music which we perform in child hood by the aid of a piece of paper and a comb), as for the organ, I say, it beat Monsieur M____'s harmonicon out of the field; and as for the company, it was the very pink of the fashion in Paris, I can assure you.
Well, let us be thankful that we have beeu brought up not as our neighbors are: miserable sinners we are, it is true, but then there are sinners and sinners' degrees, look you, and differences. I wonder what the differences are; and whether with her ease, her com forts, her education, such as it is, her freedom from temptation, her ladyship in satin will weigh much lighter than yonder poor girl, whose birthright has been want and crime; and who, so far as regards the breakage of the eighth and one or two other commandments, has never known the meaning of repentance. There are those poor devils - the grown sinner and the little one - embracing each other, smiling on each other, and singing hymns out of the same book. I don't know where I have seen anything more touching or beautiful; there is a sort of homeiy sublimity about them: it is more beautiful, yea, than my Lady Ambassadress in her pew, surrounded by a whole body of diplomatists, more sublime than the bishop himself, and the beadle stalking before him.
I have beea to Paris once a year for these last ten years, but was never inveigled into sight-seeing until the other day, with a party of newly arrived English, who issued out of Meurice's into a glass coach, and took several hours of intolerable pleasure.
We went to the Madeleine (the walk round it under the magnificent Corinthian columns is one of the noblest things possible), and entered the gorgeous hall of white marble and gold, with its inner roof of three circular domes ranging the length of the building, with a semi-dome covering the northern end over the altar, and a circular vault covering the vestibule. Galignani's guide-book (one of the best, most learned, and most amusing books of the kind that have been published) will give you a full account of the place, as of all others that sightseers frequent. It is as fine, certainly, as fine can be in its details, and vast and liberal in its proportions. Well, fancy a beautiful, gorgeous, elegant Brobdignac café, or banqueting room, and the Madeleine will answer completely. It does not seem to contain a single spark of religion - no edifice built in the Greek fashion ever did. Why should we be prejudiced in favor of the Grothic? Why should pointed arches, and tall steeples, and grey buttressed walls built cross-wise, seem to express - to be, as it were - the translation into architecture of our religion? Is it true, or is it only an association of ideas? You, who have been born since Grothic architecture was dead, can best answer the query. I suspect the voluntary system would be puzzled to redeem itself into a regular formula of brick and mortar, as the Catholic Church did of old.
From the Madeleine we were carried to the Bibliothèque du Roi, where it was a show-day, and where we saw long tables, with gentlemen reading at them: some very fine prints in the little print room, if one had but the time to examine them, and some extraordinary beautiful knick-knacks in the shape of canoes, guns, and medals. There was Clevis's arm-chair, and one of the chessmen sent by Haroun Alraschid to Charlemagne! What a relic! It is about the size of half a tea- caddy - a royal chessman truly, think of Charlemagne solemnly lifting it and crying 'Check!' to Orlando! - Think of the palace of pictures - Zobeide has just been making a sherbet - Haroun and the Grand Vizier are at tables there by the fountain - the Commander of the Faithful looks thoughtful, and shakes his mighty beard - Giaffour looks pleased, although he is losing. 'Your Majesty always wins,' says he, as he allows his last piece to be taken. And lo! Yonder comes Mesnour, chief of the eunuchs; he has a bundle under his arm. 'Sire,' pipes he in a cracked voice, 'it is sunset; here are the disguises; your Majesty is to go to the ropemaker's tonight. If Sinbad should call, I will get him a jar of wine, and place him in the pavilion yonder by the Tigris.'
Of the rest of the collection it is best to say nothing: there is a most beautiful, tender, innocent-looking head of young - Nero! - a pretty parcel of trinkets that belonged to Louis XV's Sultanas (they may have been wicked, but they were mighty agreeable, surely) - a picture of Louis Quatorze, all wig and red-heeled pumps; another of Louis XVIIL, who, in the midst of his fat, looks like a gentleman and a man of sense, and that odious, inevitable, sickening, smirking countenance of Louis Philippe, which stares at you wherever you turn. At Bicêtre, for instance, there was a bust of the King, with an inscription, 'Au roi les détenus reconnoissans.' - 'To the King, the rogues' remembrance.'
At Versailles, in the picture gallery, there is King Charles reviewing his troops; near the King a stout dragoon in white looks over his shoulder, and grins at the spectator; it is Louis Philippe; there again is King Charles crowned at Rheims - by his side stands the first Prince of the blood, looking over his shoulder, and smirking as ever - Louis Philippe, of course. I wonder the man, considering the circumstances, has let these pictures remain.
Talking of Versailles and the King, let me tell you a story. Last year a book was published about Versailles, with numerous engravings in the keepsake fashion. Mr. Leitch Ritchie did the book in English - a very clever writer, as you know, and an admirer, it appears, of the French, whom, in his work, he took occasion to compliment warmly. The P'rench version, or rather the French original, was by M. Hippolite Fortoul, who has no such admiration for the King, and scarcely mentioned his existence. Well, Fortoul was this year to write a description of Fontainebleau, as he had done of Versailles. The King, on hearing this, actually sent down to the bookseller and offered him a book gratis if he would give up Fortoul. Is not this a fine homage to the Press; and is it not a fine action for a King?
From the Bibliothèque we rattled off to the Gobelins, at which the ladies were highly amused. You have seen ladies at work at a frame in the midst of a great skurry and labyrinth of worsted-balls, making slipper-tops, kettle-holders, foot-stool covers, wall carpets and other nonsense. Fancy one of these frames six feet high by seven, and when you have fancied this, fancy several long rooms full of them, and fancy the stitches infimitely smaller and neater, the needles, shuttles, worsted and other traps more curiously arranged, men with whiskers and moustachios seated behind the frames, instead of idle ladies in caps and morning dresses, and you have a pretty good idea of the Gobelins. It is all very pretty, but tailoring is a far more noble, useful, ornamental and agreeable profession, to my mind.
Hence with inconceivable swiftness we were transported to the Musée d'Artillerie, and for a description of this again you must be referred to your guide-book. What can one say of the immense figure of Francis I, but wonder that a man six feet six inches in height should have such spindle shanks? They are a miracle of thinness. What can one say of Joan of Arc's armor, but that it is an evident imposture? There is Ravaillac's dagger, and yonder Henry IV's embossed and ornamented suit of steel. There is Francis's sword which he lost (with everything except honor) at the fight of Pavia. Yonder are a couple of the absurd, hideous, useless weapons, covered with red baize and ornamented with paltry tin, which David the painter invented at the time of the classical rage, and on the Roman model. If you choose to examine further, every variety of weapon, from today to the time of the crusades, is exhibited for your notice. There are models of all sorts of guns, possible and impossible; and the impression of the whole upon the ignorant spectator who has been to this and the half-dozen other sights above named, and has come home after walking over some miles of wooden planks - the impression I think is rather a humiliating one. You have spent a guinea in a coach hire; you did not have your breakfast comfortably; you have been whirling from gallery to gallery; your eyes are weak, your brain is mystified, your back and limbs ache, you are thoroughly bored.
No reasonable niian should see more than one or two sights in a month - the digestion wont stand it; and to have the mens sana, you know, the corpus sanum is absolutely requisite. My dear sir, I once went up the Drachenfels before breakfast, and descended a wiser and a better man. I arrived at the top, and could only see clouds; I came down and brought back with me a headache and a fever, and I vowed never to go up a mountain again of my own free will, that is, in like manner with sights. To a well-regulated, easy-going, comfort-loving man, what sight after all is equal to a pretty white tablecloth, in a cabinet at the Trois-Frères or the Rocher; a bottle of Champagne ('vides ut altâ stet nive candidum!') is on the side-table, and yonder comes François the waiter with two plates containing just four dozen Ostenders, to give an appetite for dinner! Cry out as you will, and swear that such vulgar tastes degrade humanity - fiddlestick! I say that Shakspeare or Raphael never invented anything that on a hot day at half-past five o'clock is equal to Aÿ and oysters; to enjoy them you can't enjoy many other sights in the day, and must come to them as you would to every other sensual enjoyment (all enjoyments are sensual enjoyments, the Pons Asinorum, the Greek masters, Dr. Snorter's sermon, Taglioni dancing the Mazurka K.T.Q.). You must come to them as to every other sensual enjoyment - calm, cool, quiet, the mind at ease.
Now I will give you a proof of this. After I had gone to see all these sights, I went to Véry's to dine; there appeared, as if dropped from the clouds, that celebrated wandering, philosopher Father Prout. (Mr. Mahoney, the well known editor of Fraser's Magazine). We dined; he had been quiet all day, and what was the consequence? He beat your humble servant by twelve oysters and a beefsteak au beurre d'anchois. This remarkable fact (connected with the literature of our country) will show you what it is to hurry too much over sight-seeing, and to disturb the powers of that 'magister artis, igenenîque largitor,' which in some society, I fancy, is never mentioned.
I am keeping a little note of dinners, which, when they are swelled out to a sufficient length, shall be sent to you. Of theaters the same thing. There are no actors of any particular note now in Paris, except Mademoiselle Rachel, whom it is almost impossible to see, because so many people flock after her. There is a charming Englishwoman, Madame Thillon, singing at the Renaissance, the best actress and the best educated English singer now on the stage; but the comedians are absent, chiefly the immortal Amal, that sublime buffoon; Bouffé, that wonderful actor; Vernet, Lepeintre, impudent little Dejazet and the rest, who make a French farce the most sparkling, joyous, delightful thing in the world. How I love the old airs and the new jokes to them, and the fat old propriétaires who marry the young people at the end, and the saucy soubrettes, and the niais, on whom all the tricks are played, and the heroine, and the little insignificant hero himself, a lad of eighteen generally, with a pinched waist and budding moustachios, who has his hair curled at the expense of the theater, and a salary of thirty pounds a year, maybe. All these one must love, with their merriment and their wit, and their follies, and their delightful absurd affectation; whereas, Bajazet is only a bawling bore (let it be said in confidence); Athalie a great imperious spouting Mademoiselle Georges of a woman; the Cid himself, the largest and noblest figure of French tragedy, would talk more nobly still, if he would but talk in prose, and get rid of that odious jingling rhyme.
The famous Cartouche - Adventure w-ith the Nightcaps The Honey-pots - The avaricious Jesuit - A curious hiding place - The Penalties of Sinning - The Highwayman and the Washerwoman - Joins a Gang - Cartouche and his lovely Sister - The Bridegroom's money chest - A Marriage Episode - St. Lazare - A Hint not thrown away - The Melun Packet-boat - Monsieur de la Reynie - The lovely "Widow - A pretty little Scene
The lives of great men can never be too much studied, and in consequence can never be out of place. Having no better news for the moment, I will take the liberty of confiding to you the biography of a celebrated individual, whose history I have been studying for the last two or three days.
Madame de Sévigné has given a very lively account of the exploits of Monsieur Louis Dominique Cartouche, and in many other contemporary records his name is mentioned with applause: in the present rage for Jack Sheppards, Oliver Twists, and Newgate literature in general, it is pleasant to look abroad for histories of a similar tendency, and find that virtue is cosmopolite, and exists among wooden-shoed Papists, as well as honest Church-of-England men.
Louis Dominique was horn in a quartier of Paris called the Courtille, says one historian whose work lies before me; born in the Courtille, and in the year 1693. Another biographer asserts that he was bom two years later, and in the Marais; - of respectable parents, of course. Think of the talent that our two countries produced about this time! Marlborough, Villars, Marroquin, Turpin, Boileau, Dryden, Swift, Addison, Molière, Racine, Jack Sheppard and Louis Cartouche, all famous within the same twenty years, and fighting, writing, robbing, à l'envi!
Well, Marlborough was no chicken when he began to show his genius; Swift was but a dull, idle, college-lad; but if we read the histories of some other great men mentioned in the above list - I mean the thieves especially - we shall find that they all commenced very early; they showed a passion for their art, as little Raphael did, or little Mozart; and the history of Cartouche's knaveries begins almost with his breeches.
Dominique's parents sent him to school at the College of Clermont (now Louis le Grand); and although it has never been discovered that the Jesuits, who directed that seminary, advanced him much in classical or theological knowledge, Cartouche, in revenge, showed by repeated instances his own natural bent and genius, which no difficulties were strong enough to overcome.
His first great action on record, although not successful in the end, and tinctured with the innocence of youth, is yet highly creditable to him. He made a general swoop of one hundred and twenty nightcaps belonging to his companions, and disposed of them to his satisfaction; but it was discovered that of all the youths in Clermont College, he only was the possessor of a cap to sleep in. Suspicion, which, alas, was confirmed, immediately fell upon him; and by this little piece of youthful naïveté, a scheme, prettily conceived and smartly performed, was rendered nought.
Cartouche had a wonderful love for good eating, and put all the apple-women and cooks, who came to supply the little students, under contribution. Not always, however, desirous of robbing these, he used to deal with them occasionally on honest principles of barter; that is whenever he could get hold of his schoolfellows' knives, books, rulers or playthings, which he used fairly to exchange for tarts and gingerbread.
It seemed as if the Presiding Genius of Evil was determined to patronize this young man; for before he had been long at college, and soon after he had, with the greatest difficulty, escaped from the nightcap scrape, an opportunity occurred by which he was enabled to gratify both bis propensities at once, and not only to steal, but to steal sweetmeats. It happened that the Principal of the college received some pots of Narbonne honey, which came under the eye of Cartouche, and in which that young gentleman, as soon as ever he saw them, determined to put his fingers. The President of the college put aside his honey-pots in an apartment of his own; and to which, except by the one door which led into the room which his reverence usually occupied, there was no outlet. There was ho chimney in the room; the windows looked into the court, too, where there was a porter at night, and where people passed by day. What was Cartouche to do? He felt he must have have honey.
Over the chamber which contained what his soul longed after, and over the President's rooms, there ran a set of unoccupied garrets, into which the dexterous Cartouche penetrated, and which were divided from the rooms below, according to the fashion of those days, by a set of large beams, which reached across the whole building, and across which rude planks were laid, which formed the ceiling of the lower story and the floor of the upper. Cartouche moved some of these planks; and having descended by means of a rope, tied a couple of others to the necks of the honey-pots, climbed back again, and drew up his prey in safety. He then cunningly fixed the planks again in their old places, and retired to gorge himself upon his booty.
And now for the punishment of avarice! Everybody knows that the brethren of the Order of Jesus are bound by a vow to have no more than a certain small sum of money in their possession. The Principal of the College of Clermont had amassed a godly sum in defiance of this rule; and where do you think the old gentleman had hidden it? In the honey-pots. As Cartouche dug his spoon into one of them, he brought up, besides a quantity of golden honey, a couple of golden Louis, which, with ninety-eight more of their fellows, were comfortably hidden in the pots. Little Dominique, who before had cut quite a poor figure among his fellow students, now appeared in as fine clothes as any of them could boast of, and when asked by his parents, on going home, how he came by them, said that a young nobleman, one of his schoolfellows, had taken a violent fancy to him, and made him a present of a couple of his suits. Cartouche the elder, good man, went to thank the young nobleman; but no such person could be found, and young Cartouche disdained to give any explanation of his manner of gaining the money.
Here, again, we have to regret and remark the inadvertence of youth. Cartouche lost a hundred Louis - for what? For a pot of honey not worth a couple of shillings. Had he fished out the pieces, and replaced the pots and the honey, he might have been safe, and a respectable citizen all his life after. The Principal would not have dared to confess the loss of his money, and did not speak; but he vowed vengeance against the stealer of his sweetmeat, and a rigid search was made, and Cartouche, as usual, was fixed upon; - and in the ticking of his bed, lo, there were found a couple of empty honey-pots!
From this scrape there is no knowing how he would have escaped, had not the President himself been a little anxious to hush it up; and accordingly, young Cartouche was made to disgorge the residue of his ill-gotten gold pieces. Old Cartouche made up the deficiency, and his son was allowed to remain unpunished - until the next time.
This you may fancy was not very long in coming, and though history has not made us acquainted with the exact crime which Louis Dominique next committed, it must have been a serious one; for Cartouche, who had borne philo sophically all the whippings and punishments which were administered to him at college, did not dare to face that one which his indignant father had in pickle for him. As he was coming home from school on the first day after his crime when he received permission to go abroad, one of his brothers, who was on the look-out for him, met him at a short distance from home, and told him what was in preparation, which so frightened the young thief that he declined returning home altogether, and set out upon the wide world to shift for himself as he could.
Undoubted as his genius was, he had not arrived at the full exercise of it, and his gains were by no means equal to his appetite. In whatever profession he tried - whether he joined the gipsies, which he did, whether he picked pockets on the Pont Neuf, which occupation history - attributes to him Cartouche was always hungry. Hungry and ragged, he wandered from one place and profession to another, and regretted the honey-pots at Clermont, and the comfortable soup and bouilli at home.
Cartouche had an uncle, a kind man, who was a merchant, and had dealings at Rouen. One day, walking on the quays of that city, this gentleman saw a very miserable, dirty, starving lad, who had just made a pounce upon some bones and turnip-peelings that had been flung out on the quay, and was eating them as greedily as if they had been turkeys and truffles. The worthy man examined the lad a little closer. Oh heavens! It was their runaway prodigal, it was little Louis Dominique! The merchant was touched by his case, and forgetting the nightcaps, the honey-pots, and the rags and dirt of little Louis, took him to his arms, and kissed and hugged him with the tenderest affection. Louis kissed and hugged him too, and blubbered a great deal - he was very repentant, as a man often is when he is hungry, and he went home with his uncle, and his peace was made; and his mother got him new clothes, and filled his belly, and for a while Louis was as good a son as might be.
But why attempt to balk the progress of genius? Louis's was not to be kept down. He was sixteen years of age by this time - a smart, hardy young fellow and, what is more, desperately enamored of a lovely young washerwoman. To be successful in your love, as Louis knew, you must have something more than mere flames and sentiment; a washer, or any other woman, cannot live upon sighs only, but must have new gowns and caps, and a necklace every now and then, and a fine handkerchief, and silk stockings, and a treat into the country or to the play - how are all these to be had without money? Cartouche saw at once that it was impossible, and as his father would give him none, he was obliged to look for it elsewhere. He took to his old courses, and lifted a purse here and a watch there, and found, moreover, an accommodating gentleman who took the wares off his hands.
This gentleman introducesd him into a very elect and agreeable society, in which Cartouche's merits began speedily to be recognized, and in which he learned how pleasant it is in life to have friends to assist one, and how much may be done by a proper division of labor. M. Cartouche, in fact, formed part of a regular company, or gang of gentlemen, who were associated together for the purpose of making war on the public and the law.
Cartouche had a lovely young sister who was to be married to a rich young gentleman from the provinces: as is the fashion in France, the parents had arranged the match among themselves, and the young people had never met until just before the time appointed for the marriage, when the bridegroom came up to Paris with his title-deeds, settlements and money. Now, there can hardly be found in history a finer instance of devotion than Cartouche now exhibited. He went to his captain, explained the matter to him, and actually, for the good of his country as it were (the thieves might be called his country), sacrificed his sister's husband's property. Infomation was taken, the house of the bridegroom was reconnoitred, and one. night Cartouche, in company with some chosen friends, made his first visit to his brother-in-law's house. As the people were gone to bed, and, therefore, for fear of disturbing the porter, Cartouche and his companions spared him the trouble of opening the door, by ascending quietly at the window. They arrived at the room where the bridegroom kept his great chest, and set industriously to work, filing and picking the locks which defended the treasure.
The bridegroom slept in the next room, but however tenderly Cartouche and his workmen handled their tools, from fear of disturbiag his slumbers, their benevolent design was disappointed, for awaken him they did; and gently slipping out of bed, he came to a place where he had a complete view of all that was going on. He did not cry out or frighten himself sillily, but on the contrary, contented himself with watching the countenances of the robbers, so that he might recognize them on another occasion, and, though an avaricious man, did not feel the slightest anxiety about his money-chest; for the fact is, he had removed the cash and papers the day before.
As soon, however, as they had broken all the locks, and found the nothing which lay at the bottom of the chest, he shouted with such a loud voice,
'Keep the gate!'
'Fire at the rascals!'
That they, in continently taking fright, skipped nimbly out of window, and left the house free.
Cartouche, after this, did not care to meet his brother-in-law, but eschewed all such occasions in which the latter was to be present at his father's house. The evening before the marriage came, and then his father insisted upon his appearance among the other relatives of the bride's and bridegroom's family, who were all to assemble and make merry. Cartouche was obliged to yield, and brought with him one or two of his companions, who had been, by the way, present in the affair of the empty money-boxes.
Cartouche never fancied that there was any danger in meeting his brother-in-law, for he had no idea that he had been seen on the night of the attack, but with a natural modesty which did him really credit, he kept out of the young bride-groom's way as much as he could, and showed no desire to be presented to him. At supper, however, as he was sneaking stealthily down to a side-table, his father shouted after him, 'Ho, Dominique, come hither, and sit opposite your brother-in-law!' which Dominique did, his friends following. The bridegroom pledged him very gracefully in a bumper, and was in the act of making him a pretty speech, on the honor of an alliance with such a family, and on the pleasures of brother-in-lawship in general, when, looking in his face - ye Gods, - he saw the very man who had been filing at his money-chest a few nights ago! By his side, too, sat a couple more of the gang - the poor fellow turned deadly pale and sick, and, setting his glass down, ran out of the room, for he thought he was in company of a whole gang of robbers. And when he got home, he wrote a letter to the elder Cartouche himself, humbly declining any connection with his family.
Cartouche the elder, of course, angrily asked the reason of such an abrupt dissolution of the engagement; and, much to his horror, he heard of his eldest son's doings.
'You would not have me marry into such a family?' said the ex-bridegroom.
And old Cartouche, an honest old citizen, confessed, with a heavy heart, that he would not.
What was he to do with the lad? He did not like to ask for a lettre-de-cachet, and shut him up in the Bastille - he determined to give him a year's discipline at the Monastery of St. Lazare.
But how to catch the young gentleman? Old Cartouche knew that, were he to tell his son of the scheme, the latter would never obey, and, therefore, he determined to be very cunning. He told Dominique that he was about to make a heavy bargain with the Fathers, and should require a witness, so they stepped into a carriage together, and drove unsuspectingly to the Rue Saint Denis; but, when they arrived near the convent. Cartouche saw several ominous figures gathering round the coach, and felt that his doom was sealed. However, he acted as if he knew nothing of the conspiracy, and the carriage drew up and his father descended; and, bidding him wait for a minute in the coach, promised to return to him - Cartouche looked out - on the other side of the way half-a-dozen men were posted, evidently with the intention of arresting him.
Cartouche now performed a great and celebrated stroke of genius, which if he had not been professionally employed in the morning, he never could have executed. He had in his pocket a piece of linen, which he had laid hold of at the door of some shop, and from which he quickly tore three suitable strips - one he tied round his head, after the fashion of a nightcap, a second round his waist like an apron, and with the third he covered his hat, a round one, with a large brim. His coat and his periwig he left behind him in the carriage, and when he stepped out from it (which he did without asking the coachman to let down the steps), he bore exactly the appearance of a cook's boy carrying a dish and with this he passed through the exempts quite unsuspected, and bade adieu to the Lazarists and his honest father, who came out speedily to seek him, and was not a little annoyed to find only his coat and wig.
With that coat and wig, Cartouche left home, father, friends, conscience, remorse and society behind him. He discovered (like a great number of other philosophers and poets, when they have committed rascally actions) that the world was all going wrong, and he quarrelled with it outright. One of the first stories told of the illustrious Cartouche, when he became professionally and openly a robber, redounds highly to his credit, and shows that he knew how to take advantage of the occasion, and how much he had improved in the course of a very few years' experience. His courage and ingenuity were vastly admired by his friends, so much so that one day the captain of the band thought fit to compliment him, and vowed that when he (the captain) died. Cartouche would infallibly be called to the command-in- chief.
This conversation, so flattering to Cartouche, was carried on between the two gentlemen as they were walking, one night, on the quay by the side of the Seine. Cartouche, when the captain made the last remark, blushingly protested against it, and pleaded his extreme youth as a reason why his comrades could never put entire trust in him.
'Psha, man,' said the captain, 'thy youth is in thy favor; thou wilt live only the longer to lead thy troops to victory. As for strength, bravery and cunning, wert thou as old as Methuselah, thou couldst not be better provided than thou art now, at eighteen.'
What was the reply of Mons. Cartouche?
He answered not by words, but by actions. Drawing his knife from his girdle, he instantly dug it into his captain's left side, as near his heart as possible, and then, seizing that im prudent commander, precipitated him violently into the waters of the Seine, to keep company with gudgeons and river-gods.
When he returned to the band, and recounted how the captain had basely attempted to assassinate him, and how he, on the contrary, had by exertion of superior skill overcome the captain, not one of the society believed a word of his story, but they elected him captain forth-with.
I think his Excellency Don Rafael Maroto, the pacificator of Spain, is an amiable character, for whom history has not been written in vain.
Being arrived at this exalted position, there is no end of the feats which Cartouche performed, and his band reached to such a pitch of glory, that if there had been a hundred thousand, instead of a hundred of them, who knows but that a new and popular dynasty might next have been founded, and Louis Dominique, Premier Empereur des Français, might have performed innumerable glorious actions, and fixed himself in the hearts of his people, just as other monarchs have done, a hundred years after Cartouche's death?
A similar story to the above, and equally moral, is that of Cartouche, who, in company with two other gentlemen, robbed the coche, or packet-boat, from Melun, where they took a great quantity of booty, making the passengers lie down on the decks, and rifling them at leisure.
'This money will be but a very little among three,' whispered Cartouche to his neighbor, as the three conquerors were making merry over their gains. 'If you were but to pull the trigger of your pistol in the neighborhood of your comrade's ear, perhaps it might go off, and then there would be but two of us to share.'
Strangely enough, as Cartouche said, the pistol did go off, and number three perished.
'Grve him another ball,' said Cartouche, and another was fired into him.
But no sooner had Cartouche's comrade discharged both his pistols, than Cartouche him self, seized with a furious indignation, drew his.
'Learn, monster,' cried he, 'not to be so greedy of gold; and perish, the victim of thy disloyalty and avarice.' So Cartouche slew the second robber, and there is no man in Europe who can say that the latter did not merit well his punishment.
I could fill volumes, and not mere sheets of paper, with the tales of the triumphs of Cartouche and his band; how he robbed the Countess of O. going to Dijon in her coach, and how the Countess fell in love with him, and was faithful to him ever after; how, when the Lieutenant of Police offered a reward of a hundred pistoles to any man who would bring Cartouche before him, a noble Marquis in a coach and six drove up to the hotel of the police; and the noble Marquis, desiring to see Monsieur de la Reynie on matters of the highest moment alone, the latter introduced him into his private cabinet: and how, when there, the Marquis drew from his pocket a long, curiously-shaped dagger. 'Look at this. Monsieur de la Reynie,' said he, this dagger is poisoned!
'Is it possible ?' said M. de la Reynie.
'A prick of it would do for any man,' said the Marquis.
'You don t say so,' said M. de la Reynie.
'I do, though, and, what is more,' said the Marquis, in a terrible voice, 'If you do not instantly lay yourself flat on the ground, with your face towards it, and your hands crossed over your back, or if you make the slightest noise or cry, I will stick this poisoned dagger between your ribs, as sure as my name is Cartouche!!'
At the sound of this dreadful name, M. de la Reynie sunk incontinently down on his stomach, and submitted to be carefully gagged and corded; after which, Monsieur Cartouche laid his hands upon all the money which was left in the Lieutenant's cabinet. Alas and alas! Many a stout bailiff, and many an honest fellow of a spy, went for that day without his pay and his victuals!
There is a story that Cartouche once took the diligence to Lille, and found in it a certain Abbé Potter, who was full of indignation against this monster of a Cartouche, and said that when he went back to Paris, which he proposed to do in about a fortnight, he should give the Lieutenant of Police some information which would infallibly lead to the scoundrel's capture. But poor Potter was disappointed in his designs, for, before he could fulfil them, he was made the victim of Cartouche's cruelty.
A letter came to the Lieutenant of Police, to state that Cartouche had travelled to Lille, in company with the Abbé Potter of that town: that, on the reverend gentleman's return towards Paris, Cartouche had waylaid him, rnurdered him, taken his papers and would come to Paris himself bearing the name and clothes of the unfortunate Abbé, by the Lille coach, on such a day. The Lille coach arrived, and was surrounded by police agents; the monster Cartouche was there sure enough in the Abbé's guise. He was seized, bound, flung into prison, brought out to be examined, and on examination found to be no other than the Abbé de Potter himself! It is pleasant to read thus of the relaxations of great men, and find them condescending to joke like the meanest of us.
Another diligence adventure is recounted of this famous Cartouche. It happened that he met in the coach a young and lovely lady, clad in widow's weeds, and bound to Paris, with a couple of servants. The poof thing was the widow of a rich old gentleman of Marseilles, and was going to the capital to arrange with her lawyers to settle her husband's will. The Count de Grinche (for so her fellow passenger was called) was quite as candid as the pretty widow had been, and stated that he was a captain in the regiment of Nivemois, that he was going to Paris to buy a colonelcy, which his relatives, the Duke de Bouillon, the Prince de Montmorenci, the Commandeur de la Trémouille, with all their interest at Court, could not fail to procure for him.
To be short, in the course of a few days' journey, the Count Louis Dominique de Grinche played his cards so well, that the poor little widow half forgot her late husband, and her eyes glistened with tears as the count kissed her hand at parting - at parting, he hoped, only for a few hours.
Day and night the insinuating Count followed her; and when, at the end of a fortnight, and in the midst of a tête-à-tête, when they were alone, he plumped suddenly on his knees, and said, 'Leonora, do you love me?' The poor thing heaved the gentlest, tenderest, sweetest sigh in the world, and, sinhking her blushing ead on his shoulder, whispered,
'Oh Dominique, je t'aime! Ah,' said she. 'How noble it is of my Dominique to take me with the little I have, and he so rich a nobleman!'
The fact is, the old Baron's titles and estates had passed away to his nephews; his dowager was only left with 300,000 livres, in rentes sur l'état - a handsome sum, but nothing to compare to the rent-roll of Count Dominique, Count de la Grinche, Seigneur de la Haute Pégre, Baron de la Bigorne - he had estates and wealth which might authorize him to aspire to the hand of a Duchess at least.
The unfortimate widow never for a moment suspected the cruel trick which was about to be played upon her, and, at the request of her affianced husband, sold out her money and realized it in gold, to be made over to him on the day when the contract was to be signed.
The day arrived, and, according to the custom in France, the relatives of both parties attended. The widow's relations, though respectable, were not of the first nobility, being persons chiefly of the finance and the robe: there was the President of the Court of Arras and his lady, a Farmer-General, a Judge of a Court of Paris and other such grave and respectable people.
As for Monsieur le Comte de la Grinche, he was not bound for names, and, having the whole peerage to choose from, brought a host of Montmorencies, Créquis, De la Tours, and Guises at his back. His homme d'affaires brought his papers in a sack, and displayed the plans of his estates, and the titles of his glorious ancestry. The widow's lawyers had her money in sacks, and between the gold on the one side and the parchments on the other lay the contract which was to make the widow's 300,000 francs the property of the Count de la Grinche.
The Count de la Grinche was just about to sign, when the Marshal de Villars, stepping up to him, said, 'Captain, do you know who the President of the Court of Arras yonder is? - It is old Manasseh, the Jew of Brussels. I pawned a gold watch to him, which I stole from Cadogan, when I was with Malbrook's army in Flanders.'
Here the Duc de la Roche Gruyon came forward, very much alarmed. 'Run me through the body!' said his Grace, 'but the Controller-General's lady there is no other than that old hag of a Margoton who keeps the ____.' Here the Due de la Roche Guyon's voice fell.
Cartouche smiled graciously, and walked up to the table; he took up one of the widow's fifteen thousand gold pieces - it was as pretty a bit of copper as you could wish to see.
'My dear,' said he politely, 'there is some mistake here, and this business had better stop.'
'Count! ' gasped the poor widow.
'Count be hanged!' said he. 'My name is. Caetouche.'
Comparison between French and English Art - Art-Student Life in France - Anecdote of an Art-Student in England - Anecdote of Guizot -The Paradise of Painters and Penny-a-Liners - M. Gudin - Tom Paine and Tom Macaulay - The Royal Academy - Dr. Dionysius Lardner - Lord Byron's Sentimentalism - The Classical School of Art - Michael Angelo - The School of Fine Arts - The Pictures at the Luxembourg - Love of Murder Scenes - Delacroix - Horace Venet - Delaroche
The three collections of pictures at the Louvre, the Luxembourg and the École des Beaux Arts contain a number of specimens of French Art, since its commencement almost, and give the stranger a pretty fair opportunity to study and appreciate it.
The French list of painters contains some very good names, - no very great ones except Poussin (unless the admirers of Claude choose to place him among great painters), and I think the school was never in so flourishing a condition French and English Art as it is at the present day. They say there are three thousand artists in this town alone, of them a handsome minority paint not merely tolerably, but well, understand their business, draw the figure accurately, sketch with cleverness and paint portraits, churches or restaurateurs' shops in a decent manner.
To account for a superiority over England, which I think, as regards Art, is incontestable, it must be remembered that the painter's trade in France is a very good one: better appreciated, better understood and generally far better paid. There are a dozen excellent schools in which a lad may enter here, and, under the eye of a practiced master, learn the apprenticeship of his art at an expense of about ten pounds a year. In England there is no school except the Academy, unless the student can afford to pay a very large sum, and place himself under the tuition of some particular artist. Here a young man for his ten pounds has all sorts of necessary instruction, models, &c.; he has further, and for nothing, numberless incitements to study the profession which are not to be found in England - the streets are filled with picture-shops; the people themselves are pictures, walking about: the churches, theatres, eating-houses, court-rooms are covered with pictures.
Nature itself seems inclined more kindly to him, for the sky is a thousand times more bright and beautiful, and the sun shines for the greater part of the year. Add to this, incitements more selfish, but quite as powerful; a French artist is paid very handsomely - for five hundred a year is rich where all are poor - and has a rank in society rather above his merits than below them, being caressed by hosts and hostesses, in places where titles are laughed at, and a baron is thought of no more account than a banker's clerk.
The life of the young artist here is the easiest, merriest, dirtiest existence possible. He arrives most likely at sixteen from his province, his parents settle forty pounds a year on him and pay his master; he establishes himself in the Pays Latin, or in the new Quartier of Notre Dame de Lorette, which is quite peopled with painters; he arrives at his atelier at a tolerably early hour and labors among a score of companions as merry and poor as himself, Each gentleman has his favourite tobacco pipe, and the pictures are painted in the midst of a dim cloud of smoke, and a din of puns and choice French slang, and a roar of choruses, of which no one can form an idea that has not been present at such an assembly.
As for their dress, you see among them every variety of coiffure that has ever been known. Some young men of genius have ringlets hanging over their shoulders - you may smell the tobacco with which they are scented across the street - some have straight locks, black, oily, and redundant - some have toupées in the famous Louis Philippe fashion - some are cropped close - some have adopted the present mode, which he who would follow must, in order to do so, part his hair in the middle, grease it with grease, and gum it with gum, and iron it flat down over his ears; when arrived at the ears, you take the tongs and make a couple of ranges of curls close round the whole head, such curls as you may see under a gilt three-cornered hat, and in Her Britannic Majesty's coachman's state wig. This is the last fashion. With respect of beards, there is no end to them; all my friends the artists have beards who can raise them; and Nature, though she has rather stinted the bodies and limbs of the French nation, has been very liberal to them of hair. Fancy these heads and beards under all sorts of caps, Chinese mandarin-caps, Greek skull-caps, English jockey-caps, Persian or Kuzzilbash-caps, middle-age caps (such as are called in heraldry 'caps of maintenance'), Spanish nets and striped worsted nightcaps. Fancy all the jackets you have ever seen, and you have before you, as well as the pen can describe, the costumes of these indescribable Frenchmen. In this company and costume, the French student of art passes his days and acquires knowledge: how he passes his evenings, in what theater, at what guinguettes, in company with what seducing little milliner, there is no need to say: I know one who pawned his coat to go to the Carnival Ball, and walked abroad very cheerfully in his blouse for six weeks, until he could redeem the absent garment.
These young men (together with the students of sciences) comport themselves towards the sober citizens pretty much as the German bursch towards the Philister, or as the military man during the Empire did to the pékin; from the height of their poverty they look down upon him with the greatest imaginable scorn - a scorn, I think, by which the citizen seems dazzled, for his respect for the Arts is intense.
The case is very different in England, where a grocer's daughter would think she made a mésalliance by marrying a painter, and where a literary man (in spite of all we can say against it) ranks below that dubious class of gentry composed of the Apothecary, the Attorney, the Wine Merchant, whose positions, in country towns at least, are so equivocal. As, for instance, my friend the Reverend James Asterisk, who has an undeniable pedigree, a paternal estate and a living to boot, once dined in Warwickshire in company with several squires and parsons of that enlightened county. Asterisk, as usual, made himself extraordinarily agreeable at dinner, and delighted all present with his learning and wit.
'Who is that monstrous pleasant fellow?' said one of the squires.
'Don't you know?' replied another. 'It's Asterisk, the author of so-and-so, and a famous contributor to such and such a magazine.'
'Good heavens!' said the squire, quite terrified. 'A literary man! I thought he had been a gentleman!'
Another instance, Monsieur Gruizot, when he was a minister here, had the grand hotel of the Ministry, and gave entertainments to all the great de par le monde, as Brantome says, and entertained them in a proper ministerial magnificence. The splendid and beautiful Duchess of Dash was at one of his ministerial parties, and went a fortnight afterwards, as in duty bound, to pay her respects to M. Guizot. But it happened in this fortnight that Monsieur Guizot was minister no longer, but gave up his portfolio and his grand hotel to retire into private life, and to occupy his humble apartments in a house which he possesses, and of which he lets the greater portion. A friend of mine was present at one of the ex-minister's soirées, when the Duchess of Dash made her appearance. He says the Duchess at her entrance seemed quite astounded, and examined the premises with a most curious wonder. Two or three shabby little rooms, with ordinary furniture, and a minister en retraite, who lives by letting lodgings! In our country was ever such a thing heard of? No, thank Heaven, and a Briton ought to be proud of the difference.
But to our muttons. This country is sure the paradise of painters and penny-a-liners, and when one reads of Monsieur Horace Vernet, at Rome, exceeding ambassadors by his magnificence, and leading such a life as Rubens or Titian did of old - when one sees Monsieur Thiers' grand villa in the Rue Saint George (a dozen years ago he was not even a penny-a-liner, no such luck) - when one contemplates in imagination Monsieur Gudin, the marine painter, too lame to walk through the picture gallery of the Louvre, accommodated therefore with a wheel chair, privilege of princes only, and accompanied, nay, for what I know, trundled down the gallery, by majesty itself, who does not long to make one of the great nation, exchange his native tongue for the melodious jabber of France, or at least adopt it for his native country, like Marshal Saxe, Napoleon and Anarcharsis Clootz?
Noble people! They made Tom Paine a deputy, and as for Tom Macaulay, they would make a dynasty of him.
Well, this being the case, no wonder there are so many painters in France - and here at last we are, back to them. At the École Royale des Beaux Arts you see two or three hundred specimens of their performances - all the prize-men since seventeen hundred and fifty, I think, being bound to leave there their prize sketch or picture.
Can anything good come out of the Royal Academy is a question which has been considerably mooted in England (in the neighborhood of Suffolk Street especially). The hundreds of French samples are, I think, not very satisfactory. The subjects are almost all what are called classical - Orestes pursued by every variety Furies - numbers of little wolf-sucking Romuluses - Hectors and Andromaches in a com plication of parting embraces, and so forth - for it was the absurd maxim of our forefathers, that because one or two giants could reach these lofty supports, the race of pigmies must get upon stilts and jump at them likewise; and on the canvass, and in the theater, the French frogs (excuse the pleasantry) were instructed to swell out and bellow as much as possible like bulls.
What was the consequence? As the Reverend Dionysius Lardner says with much propriety - in trying to make themselves into bulls, the frogs make themselves into jackasses - as might be expected.
For a hundred and ten years the classical humbug oppressed the nations; and you may see in this gallery of the Beaux Arts seventy years' specimens of the dullness which it engendered. As nature made every man with a nose and eyes of his own - she gave him a character of his own, too; and we, a foolish race, must try our very best to ape some one or two of our neighbors, whose ideas fit us no more than their breeches! It is the study of Nature, surely, that profits us, and not of these imitations of her. A man as a man, from a dustman up to Æschylus, is God's work, and good to read, as all works of nature are; but what a worthless creature it becomes when it tries to fit itself into another shape, wants to deny its own identity, and has not the courage to utter its own thoughts. Because Lord Byron was wicked, and quarrelled with the world, and found himself growing fat and quarrelled with his victuals, and thus naturally grew ill-humored, did not half Europe grow ill-humored too? Did not every poet feel his young affections withered, and despair and darkness cast upon his soul because his lordship was afraid of growing two or three stone heavier? Because certain mighty men of old could make heroical statues and plays, must we not be told that there is no other beauty but classical beauty? Must not every little whipster of a French poet chalk you out plays, Henriades, and such like, and vow that here was the real thing, the undeniable Kalon?
The undeniable fiddlestick! For a hundred years, my dear sir, the world was humbugged by the so-called classical art, as it is now by what is called the Christian art (of which, anon) - and it is curious to look at the pictorial traditions as here handed down. The consequence of them is, that not one of the pictures exhibited is worth much more than two-and-sixpence. Borrowed from statuary in the first place, the color of the paintings seems as much as possible to participate in it - they are mostly of a misty, stony, green, dismal hue, as if they had been painted in a world where no color existed. In every picture there are, of course, white mantles, white urns, white columns, white statues, those obligés accompaniments of the sublime. There are the endless straight noses, long eyes, round chins, short upper lips, just as they are ruled down for you in the drawing-books, as if the latter were the Revela tions of Beauty, issued by Supreme authority, and from which there was no appeal! Why is the classical reign to endure? Why is yonder simpering Venus of Medicis to be our standard of beauty, or the Greek tragedies to bound our notions of the sublime? There was no reason why Agamemnon should set the fashions, and remain ắvae ávðpŵv to eternity, and there is a classical quotation which you may have occasionally heard, beginning 'Vivere fortes,' &c., which, as it avers that there were a great numher of stout fellows before Agamemnon, may not unreasonably induce us to conclude that similar heroes were to succeed him. Shakspeare made a better man when his imagination molded the mighty figure of Macbeth; and if you will measure Satan by Prometheus, the blind old Puritan's work by that of the fiery Grecian poet, does not Milton's angel surpass Æschylus's - surpass him by 'many a rood'?
In this same school of the Beaux Arts, where are to be found such a number of pale imitations of the antique. Monsieur Thiers (and he ought to be thanked for it) has caused to be placed a full sized copy of the 'Last Judgment' of Michael Angelo, and a number of casts from statues by the same splendid hand. There is the sublime if you please - a new sublime, an original sublime, quite as sublime as the Greek sublime. See, yonder, in the midst of His angels, the Judge of the world descending in glory, and near Him, beautiful and gentle, and yet indescribably august and pure, the Virgin by His side. There is the Moses, the grandest figure that ever was carved in stone. It has about it something frightfully majestic, if one may so speak. In examining this, and the astonishing picture of the Judgment, or even a single figure of it, the spectator's sense amounts al most to pain. I would not like to be left in a room alone with the Moses. How did the artist live amongst them, and create them? How did he suffer the painful labor of invention? One fancies that he would have been scorched up like Semele, by sights too tremendous for his vision to bear; one cannot imagine him, with our small physical endowments and weaknesses, a man like ourselves.
As for the École Eoyale des Beaux Arts, then, and all the good its students have done - it is stark naught. There is only one picture among the many hundreds that has, to my thinking, much merit (a charming composition of Homer singing, signed Jourdy) - and the only good that the Academy has done by its pupils, was to send them to Rome where they might learn better things.
At home, where the intolerably stupid classicalities taught by men, who, belonging to the least erudite country in Europe, were themselves, from their profession, the least learned among their countrymen, only weighed the pupils down, and cramped their hands, their eyes and their imaginations, drove them away from natural beauty - which, thank God, is fresh and attainable by us all, today, and yesterday, and tomorrow - and sent them rambling after artificial grace, without the proper means of judging or attaining it.
A word for the building of the Palais des Beaux Arts: it is beautiful, and as well finished and convenient as beautiful; with its light and elegant fabric, its pretty fountains, its archway of the Renaissance, and fragments of sculpture, you can hardly see, on a fine day, a place more riant and pleasing.
Passing from thence up the picturesque Rue de la Seine, let us walk to the Luxembourg, where bonnes, students, grisettes and old gentlemen with pig-tails, love to wander in the melancholy quaint old gardens, where the peers have a new and comfortable court of justice to judge all the émeutes which are to take place, and where, as everybody knows, is the picture-gallery of modern French artists, whom government thinks worthy of patronage.
A very great proportion of these, as we see by the catalogue, are of the students whose works we have just been to visit at the Beaux Arts, and who, having performed their pilgrimage to Rome, have taken rank among the professors of the art. I dont know a more pleasing exhibition, for there are not a dozen really bad pictures in the collection, some very good, and the rest showing great skill and smartness of execution.
In the same way, however, that it has been supposed that no man could be a great poet unless he wrote a very big poem, the tradition is kept up among the painters, and we have here a vast number of large canvasses, with figures of the proper heroical length and nakedness. The Anticlassicists did not arise in France until about 1827, and, in consequence, there are at the Luxembourg plenty of specimens of the old classical faith in full vigor. There is Brutus, having chopped his son's head off, with all the agony of a father - and then calling for number two there is Æneas carry ing off old Anchises - there are Paris and Venus, as naked as two Hottentots, and many more such choice subjects from Lempriere.
But the chief samples of the sublime are in the way of murders, with which the catalogue swarms. Here are a few specimens: -
1. Beaume, Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur - The Grrand Dauphiness dying.
18. Blondel, Chevalier de la Lég - Zenobia found dead.
36. Debay, Chevalier - The Death of Lucretia.
38. Dejeune - The Death of Hector.
34. Court, Chevalier de la L. - The Death of Cæsar.
39, 40, 41. Delacroix, Chevalier - Dante and Virgil in -the Infernal Lake The Massacre of Scio - Medea going to Murder her Children.
43, 44. Delaroche, Chevalier - Joas taken from among the Dead - The Death of Queen Elizabeth.
45. Edward V. and his Brother (preparing for death).
50. Hecuba going to be sacrificed - Drolling, Chevalier.
51.Dubois. - Young Clovis found Dead.
56. Henry, Chevalier. - The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew.
75. Gruerin, Chevalier - Cain after the Death of Abel.
83. Jacquand - Death of Adelaide de Comminge.
88. The Death of Eudamydas.
93. The Death of Hynetho.
103. The Death of Philip of Austria.
And so on. You see what woeful subjects they take, and how profusely they are decorated with knighthood. They are like the Black Brunswickers, these painters, and ought to be called Chevaliers de la Mort. I don't know why the merriest people in the world should please themselves with such grim representations and varieties of murder, or why murder itself should be considered so eminently sublime and poetical. It is good at the end of a tragedy, but then it is good because it is the end, and because by the events foregone, the mind is prepared for it; - but these men will have nothing but fifth acts, and seem to skip as unworthy all the circumstances leading to them. This, however, is part of the scheme, the bloated, unnatural, stilted, spouting, sham sublime that our teachers have believed, and tried to pass off as real, and which your humble servant, and other Anti-humbuggists, should lustily, according to the strength that is in them, endeavor to pull down.
What, for instance, could Monsieur Lafond care about the death of Eudamydas? What was Hecuba to the Chevalier Drolling or Chevalier Drolling to Hecuba? I would lay a wager that neither of them ever conjugated rúrta, and that their school learning carried them not as far as the letter, but only to the game of taw. How were they to be inspired by such subjects? From having seen Talma and Mademoiselle Georges flaunting in sham Greek costumes, and having read up the articles Eudamydas, Hecuba, in the Mythological Dictionary.
What a classicism inspired by rouge, gas lamps and a few lines in Lempriere, and copied half from ancient statues, and half from a naked guardsman at one shilling and sixpence the hour!
Delacroix is a man of a very different genius, and his Medea is a genuine creation of a noble fancy - for most of the others, Mrs. Brownrigg and her two female apprentices would have done as well as the desperate Colchian with her tékva, øivrara. M. Delacroix has produced a great number of rude, barbarous pictures, but there is the stamp of genius on all of them; the great poetical intention which is worth all your execution.
Delaroche is another man of great merit, with not such a great heart, perhaps, as the other, but a fine and careful draughtsman, and an excellent arranger of his subject. The death of Elizabeth is a raw young performance seemingly, not at least to my taste: the Enfants d'lÉdouard is renowned over Europe, and has appeared in a hundred dififerent ways in print. It is properly pathethic and gloomy, and merits fully its high reputation. This painter rejoices in such subjects - in what Lord Portsmouth used to call 'black jobs.' He has killed Charles I, and Lady Jane Grey, and the Duke of Guise, and I don't know whom besides. He is at present occupied with a vast work at the Beaux Arts, where the writer of this had the honor of seeing him - a little keen-looking man, some five feet in height; he wore on this important occasion a bandana round his head, and was in the act of smoking a cigar.
Horace Vernet, whose beautiful daughter Delaroche married, is the king of French battle-painters, an amazingly rapid and dexterous draughtsman, who has Napoleon and all the campaigns by heart, and has painted the grenadier français under all sorts of attitudes. His pictures on such subjects are spirited, natural and excellent, and he is so clever a man that all he does is good to a certain degree. His Judith is somewhat violent, perhaps - his Rebecca most pleasing, and not the less so for a little pretty affectation of attitude and needless singularity of costume. Raphael and Michael Angelo is as clever a picture as can be - clever is just the word; the groups and drawing excellent, the coloring pleasantly bright and gaudy; and the students study it incessantly; there's a dozen who copy it for one who copies Delacroix. His little scraps of woodcuts in the newly published 'Life of Napoleon' are perfect gems in their way, and the noble price paid for them not a penny more than he merits.
The picture by Court, of the Death of Cæsar, is remarkable for effect and excellent workmanship; and the head of Brutus (who looks like Armand Carrel) is full of energy. There are some beautiful heads of women, and some very good color in the picture.
Jacquand's Death of Adelaide de Comminge is neither more nor less than beautiful. Adelaide had, it appears, a lover, who betook himself to a convent of Trappists; she followed him thither disguised as a man, took the vows, and was not discovered by him till on her deathbed. The painter has told this story in a most pleasing and affecting manner; - the picture is full of onction and melancholy grace. The objects, too, are capitally represented, and the tone and color very good.
Decaisne's Guardian Angel is not so good in color, but is equally beautiful in expres sion and grace. A little child and a nurse are asleep - an angel watches the infant. You see women look very wistfully at this sweet picture, and what triumph would a painter have more?
What more is to be observed concerning the Luxembourg shall be written in a succeeding letter, when I have a word or two to say about the Louvre.
The Louvre - The Pictures of M. Ingrès - The Chevalier Zieglep - French Sculpture - Touffley And Other Sculptors - David - Sir Walter Scott and Romanticism - Gericault's Picture of the Raft of the Medusa - Girodet's Deluge - Poussin - Carel - Dujardin - Watteau - Greuze - Lesueur's Crucifixion - Conclusion
One must not quit the Luxembourg without noticing the dashing sea-pieces of Gudin, and one or two landscapes of Giroux (the plain of Grasivaudan), and the 'Prometheus' of Aligny. This is an imitation, perhaps; as is a noble picture of 'Jesus Christ and the Children,' by Flandrin; but the artists are imitating better models, at any rate; and one begins to perceive that the odious classical dynasty is no more. Poussin's magnificent 'Polyphemus' (I only know a print of that marvellous composition) has perhaps suggested the first-named picture; and the latter has been inspired by a good enthusiastic study of the Roman schools.
Of this revolution. Monsieur Ingrès has been one of the chief instruments. He was, before Horace Vemet, president of the French Academy at Rome, and is famous as a chief of a school. When he broke up his atelier here, to set out for his presidency, many of his pupils attended him piously some way on his journey; and some, with scarce a penny in their pouches, walked through France, and across the Alps, in a pious pilgrimage to Rome, being determined not to forsake their old master.
Such an action was worthy of them, and of the high rank which their profession holds in France, where the honors to be acquired by art are only inferior to those which are gained in war. One reads of such peregrinations in old days, when the scholar of some great Italian painter followed him from Venice to Rome, or from Florence to Ferrara. In regard to Ingrès' individual merit as a painter, the writer of this is not a fair judge, having seen but three paintings - one being a plafond in the Louvre, which his disciples much admire.
Ingrès stands between the Imperial Davido-classical school of French art and the namby-pamby mystical German school, which is for carrying us back to Cranach and Durer, and which is making progress here.
Everything here finds imitation; the French have the genius of imitation and caricature. This absurd humbug, called the Christian or Catholic art, is sure to tickle our neighbors, and will be a favourite with them when better known. I do believe this to be a greater humbug than the humbug of David and Grirodet, inasmuch as the latter was founded on nature at least, whereas the former is made up of silly affectations and improvements upon Nature. Here, for instance, is Chevalier Ziegler's picture of 'St. Luke painting the Virgin.' St. Luke has a monk's dress on, embroidered, however, smartly round the sleeves. The Virgin sits in an immense yellow-ochre halo, with her son in her arms. She looks preternaturally solemn, as does St. Luke, who is eyeing his paint brush with an intense ominous mystical look.
They call this Catholic art. There is nothing, my dear friend, more easy in life. First, take your colors, and rub them down clean, - bright carmine, bright yellow, bright sienna, bright ultramarine, bright green. Make the costumes of your figures as much as possible like the costumes of the early part of the fifteenth century. Paint them in with the above colors; and if on a gold ground, the more 'Catholic' your art is. Dress your apostles like priests before the altar; and remember to have a good commodity of crosiers, censers and other such gimcracks, as you may see in the Catholic chapel in Sutton Street and elsewhere. Deal in Virgins, and dress them like a burgomaster's wife by Cranach or Van Eyck. Give them all long twisted tails to their gowns, and proper angular draperies. Place all their heads on one side, with their eyes shut, and the proper solemn simper. At the back of the head, draw and gild with gold-leaf a halo, or glory, of the exact shape of a cart-wheel; and you have the thing done. It is Catholic art tout craché, as Louis Philippe says.
We have it still in England, handed down to us for four centuries in the pictures on the cards as the redoubtable king and queen of clubs. Look at them, you will see that the costumes and attitudes are precisely similar to those which figure in the catholicities of the school of Overbeck and Cornelius.
Before you take your cane at the door, look for one instant at the statue-room. Yonder is Touffley's 'Jeune fille confiant son premier secret à Vénus.' Charming, charming! It is from the exhibition of this year only, and I think the best sculpture in the gallery - pretty, fanciful, naïf - admirable in workmanship and imitation of nature. I have seldom seen flesh better represented in marble. Examine also Jaley's 'Pudeur,' Jaequot's 'Nymph' and Rude's 'Boy with the Tortoise.' These are not very exalted subjects, or what are called exalted, and do not go beyond simple, smiling beauty and nature. But what then? Are we gods, Miltons, Michael Angelos, that can leave earth when we please, and soar away to heights immeasurable? No; but the fools of academicians would fain make us so.
Are you not, and half the painters in London, panting for an opportunity to show your genius in a great 'historical picture? Oh blind race! Have you wings? Not a feather; and yet you must be ever puffing, sweating up to the tops of rugged hills; and arrived there, clapping and shaking your ragged elbows, and making as if you would fly! Come down, silly Dædalus; come down to the lowly places in which nature ordered you to walk. The sweet flowers are springing there; the fat muttons are waiting there; the pleasant sun shines there; be content and humble, and take your share of the good cheer.
While we have been indulging in this discussion, the omnibus has gaily conducted us across the water; and 'La garde qui veille aux barrières du Louvre, ne défend pas' our entry.
What a paradise this gallery is for French students, or foreigners who sojoorn in the capital! It is hardly necessary to say that the brethren of the brush are not usually supplied by Fortune with any extraordinary wealth, or means of enjoying the luxuries with which Paris, more than any other city, abounds. But here they have a luxury which surpasses all others, and spend their days in a palace which all the money of all the Rothschilds could not buy. They sleep, perhaps, in a garret, and dine in a cellar; but no grandee in Europe has such a drawing room. Kings' houses have at best but damask hangings, and gilt cornices. What are these to a wall covered with a canvas by Paul Veronese, or a hundred yards of Rubens? Artists from England, who have a National Gallery that resembles a moderate sized gin-shop, who may not copy pictures except under particular restrictions, and, on rare and particular days, may revel here to their hearts' content. Here is a room half a mile long, with as many windows as Aladdin's palace, open from sunrise till evening, and free to all manners and all varieties of study: the only puzzle to the student is to select the one he shall begin upon, and keep his eyes away from the rest.
Fontaine's grand staircase, with its arches, and painted ceilings, and shining Doric columns, leads directly to the gallery; but it is thought too fine for working days, and is only opened for the public entrance on the Sabbath. A little back stair (leading from a court in which stand numerous bas-reliefs, and a solemn sphinx of polished granite) is the common entry for students and others who during the week enter the gallery.
Hither have lately been transported a number of the works of French artists, which formerly covered the walls of the Luxembourg (death only entitles the French painter to a place in the Louvre); and let us confine ourselves to the Frenchmen only for space of this letter.
I have seen, in a fine private collection at St. Germain, one or two admirable single figures of David, full of life, truth and gaiety. The color is not good, but all the rest excellent; and one of these so much lauded pictures is the portrait of a washerwoman du Le Pius' at the Louvre is as bad in color,and as remarkable for its vigor and look of life. The man had a genius for painting portraits and common life, but must attempt the heroic - failed signally; and, what is worse, carried a whole nation blundering after him. To have told a Frenchman so twenty years ago, he would have thrown the démenti in your teeth, or at least laughed at you in scornful incredulity. They say of us, that we don't know when we are beaten: they go a step further, and swear their defeats are victories. David was a part of the glory of the Empire, and one might as well have said, then that 'Romulus ' was a bad picture, as that Toulouse was a lost battle. Old-fashioned people who believe in the Emperor, believe in the Théâtre Français, and believe that Ducis improved upon Shakspeare, have the above opinion. Still it is curious to remark in this place how art and literature become party matters, and political sects have their favorite painters and authors.
Nevertheless, Jacques Louis David is dead. He died about a year after his bodily demise in 1825. The romanticism killed him. Walter Scott, from his castle of Abbotsford, sent out a troop of gallant young Scotch adventurers, merry outlaws, valiant knights and savage Highlanders, who, with trunk hosen and buff jerkins, fierce two-handed swords, and harnesses on their back, did challenge, combat and overcome the heroes and demigods of Greece and Rome. Notre Dame à la rescousse! Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert has borne Hector of Troy clear out of his saddle. Andromache may weep; but her spouse is beyond the reach of physic. See, Robin Hood twangs his bow, and the heathen gods fly howling. Montjoie Saint Denis! Down goes Ajax under the mace of Dunois; and yonder are Leonidas and Romulus begging their lives of Rob Roy Macgregor. Classicism is dead. Sir John Froissart has taken Dr. Lempriere by the nose, and reigns sovereign.
Of the great pictures of David the defunct, we need not, then, say much. Romulus is a mighty fine young fellow, no doubt; and if he has come out to battle stark-naked (except a very handsome helmet), it is because the costume became him, and shows off his figure to advantage. But was there ever anything so absurd as this passion for the nude, which was followed by all the painters of the Davidian epoch? And how are we to suppose yonder straddle to be the characteristic of the heroic and the sublime? Romulus stretches his legs as far as ever nature will allow; the Horatii, in receiving their swords, think proper to stretch their legs too, and to thrust forward their arms.
Romulus's is the exact action of a telegraph; and the Horatii are all in the position of the lunge. Is this the sublime? Mr. Angelo, of Bond Street, might admire the attitude; his namesake, Michael, I don't think would.
The little picture of 'Paris and Helen,' one of the toaster's earliest, I believe, is likewise one of his best; the details are exquisitely painted. Helen looks needlessly sheepish, and Paris has a most odious ogle; but the limbs of the male figure are beautifully designed, and have not the green tone which you see in the latter pictures of the master. What is the meaning of this green? Was it the fashion or the varnish? Girodet's pictures are green; Gros's emperors and grenadiers have universally the jaundice. Gerard's 'Psyche' has a most decided green sickness; and I am at a loss, I confess, to account for the enthusiasm which this performance inspired on its first appearance before the public.
In the same room with it is Girodet's ghastly 'Deluge,' and Gericault's dismal 'Medusa. Gericault died, they say, for want of fame. He was a man who possessed a fortune of his own; but pined because no one in his day would purchase his pictures, and so acknowledge his talent. At present, a scrawl from his pencil brings an enormous price. All his works have a grand cachet; he never did anything mean. When he painted the 'Raft of the Medusa,' it is said he lived for a long time among the corpses which he painted, and that his studio was a second Morgue. If you have not seen the picture, you are familiar, probably, with Reynolds' admirable engraving of it. A huge black sea - a raft beating upon it; a horrid company of men dead, half-dead, writhing and frantic with hideous hunger or hideous hope; and far away, black against a stormy sunset, a sail. The story is powerfully told, and has a legitimate tragic interest, so to speak, - deeper, because more natural, than Girodet's green 'Deluge,' for instance, or his livid 'Orestes,' or red-hot 'Clytemnestra.'
Seen from a distance, the latter's 'Deluge' has a certain awe inspiring air with it. A slimy green man stands on a green rock, and clutches hold of a tree. On the green man's shoulders is his old father, in a green old age; to him hangs his wife with a babe on her breast, and dangling at her hair another child. In the water floats a corpse (a beautiful head); and a green sea and atmosphere envelopes all this dismal group. The old father is represented with a bag of money in his hand; and the tree which the man catches is cracking, and just on the point of giving way. These two points were considered very fine by the critics; they are two such ghastly epigrams as continually disfigure French tragedy. For this reason I have never been able to read Racine with pleasure, - the dialogue is so crammed with these lugubrious good things – melancholy antitheses, - sparkling undertaker's wit; but this is heresy, and had better be spoken discreetly.
The gallery contains a vast ntmiber of Poussin's pictures; they put me in mind of the color of objects in dreams, - a strange, hazy, lurid hue. How noble are some of his landscapes! What a depth of solemn shadow is in yonder wood, near which, by the side of a black water, halts Diogenes: the air is thunder laden, and breathes heavily. You hear ominous whispers in the vast forest gloom.
Near it is a landscape, by Carel Dujardin, I believe, conceived in quite a different mood, but exquisitely poetical too. A horseman is riding up a hill, and giving money to a blowsy beggar wench. 'O matutini rores auræque salubres!' In what a wonderful way has the artist managed to create you out of a few bladders of paint and pots of varnish! You can see the matutinal dews twinkling in the grass, and feel the fresh salubrious airs ('the breath of Nature blowing free,' as the Corn-law man sings) blowing free over the heath; silvery vapors are rising up from the blue lowlands. You can tell the hour of the morning, and the time of the year; you can do anything but describe it in word.
As with regard to the Poussin above mentioned, one can never pass it without bearing away a certain pleasing dreamy feeling of awe and musing; the other landscape inspires the spectator infallibly with the most delightful briskness and cheerfulness of spirit. Herein lies the vast privilege of the landscape painter: he does not address you with one fixed particular subject or expression, but with a thousand never contemplated by himself, and which only arise out of occasion. You may always be looking at a natural landscape as at a fine pictorial imitation of one; it seems eternally producing new thought in your bosom, as it does fresh beauties from its own.
I cannot fancy more delightful, cheerful, silent companions for a gentleman than half-a-dozen landscapes hung round his study. Portraits, on the contrary, and large pieces of figures, have a painful, fixed, staring look, which must jar upon the mind in many of its moods. Fancy living in a room with David's sansculotte Leonidas staring perpetually in your face.
There is a little Watteau here, and a rare piece of fantastical brightness and gaiety it is; what a delightful affectation about yonder ladies flirting their fans, and trailing about in their long brocades; what splendid dandies are those, ever, smirking, turning out their toes, with broad blue ribbons to tie up their crooks and their pigtails, and wonderful gorgeous crimson satin breeches! Yonder, in the midst of a golden atmosphere, rise a bevy of little round Cupids, bubbling up in clusters as out of a champagne bottle, and melting away in air. There is, to be sure, a hidden analogy between liquors and pictures: the eye is deliciously tickled by these frisky Watteaus, and yields itself up to a light, smiling, gentleman like intoxication. Thus we were inclined to pursue further this mighty subject, yonder landscape of Claude, calm, fresh, delicate, yet full of flavor, should be likened to a bottle of Château-Margeaux. And what is the Poussin before spoken of but Romané-Gralé, - heavy, sluggish, - the luscious odor almost sickens you: a sultry sort of drink; your limbs sink under it, - you feel as if you had been drinking hot blood.
An ordinary man would be whirled away in a fever, or would hobble off this mortal stage in a premature gout fit, if he too easily or too often indulged in such tremendous drink. I think in my heart I am fonder of pretty third-rate pictures than of your great thundering first-rates. Confess, how many times you have read Béranger, and how many Milton? If you go to the Star and Garter, don't you grow sick of that vast luscious landscape, and long for the sight of a couple of cows, or a donkey, and a few yards of common? Donkeys, since we have come to this subject - say not so; Richmond Hill for them. Milton they never grow tired of; and are as familiar with Raphael, as Bottom with exquisite Titania.
Let us thank Heaven, my dear sir, for according to us the power to taste and appreciate the pleasure of mediocrity. I have never heard that we were great geniuses. Earthy are we, and of the earth; glimpses of the sublime are but rare to us; leave we them to great geniuses, and to the donkeys; and if nothing profits us, aërias tentasse domos along with them; let us thankfully remain below, being merry and humble.
I have now only to mention the charming 'Cruche Cassée' of Greuze, which all the young ladies delight to copy; and of which the color, a thought too blue, perhaps, is marvellously graceful and delicate. There are three more pictures by the artist, containing exquisite female heads and color; but they have charms for French critics, which are difficult to be discovered by English eyes; and the pictures seem weak to me.
A very fine picture by Bon Bollongue, 'Saint Benedict Resuscitating a Child,' deserves paticular attention, and is superb in vigor and richness of color.
You must look, too, at the large, noble, melancholy landscapes of Philippe de Champagne; and the two magnificent Italian pictures of Leopold Robert; they are, perhaps, the very finest pictures that the French school has produced - as deep as Poussin, of a better color, and of a wonderful minuteness and veracity in the representation of objects.
Every one of Lesueur's church pictures are worth examining and admiring; they are full of 'unction' and pious mystical grace. 'Saint Scholastica' is divine; and the 'Taking Down from the Cross' as noble a composition as ever was seen; I care not by whom the other may be. There is more beauty and less affectation about this picture than you will find in the performance of many Italian masters with high-sounding names (out with it, and say Raphael at once), I hate those simpering Madonnas. I declare that the Jardinière is a puking, smirking miss, with nothing heavenly about her. I vow that the 'Saint Elizabeth ' is a bad picture, a bad composition, badly drawn, badly colored, in a bad imitation of Titian - a piece of vile affectation. I say, that when Raphael painted this picture, two years before his death, the spirit of painting had gone from out of him; he was no longer inspired; it was time that he should die! There, - the murder is out! My paper is filled to the brim, and there is no time to speak of Lesueur's 'Crucifixion,' which is odiously colored, to be sure; but earnest, tender, simple, holy. But such things are most difficult to translate into words, - one lays down the pen and thinks and thinks. The figures appear, and take their places one by one, arranging themselves according to order, in light or in gloom, the colors are reflected duly in the camera obscura of the brain, and the whole picture lies there complete; but can you describe it? No, not if pens were fitch-brushes, and words were bladders of paint, with which, for the present, adieu.
M. A. T.*
*The concluding letter of the series is thus signed. The initials stand for 'Michael Angelo Titmarsh,' the author's favourite nom, de plume.
LONDON: PRINTED BY
SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
AND PARLIAMENT STREET