The Memoirs of Victor Hugo
Part 2 out of 6
at the Vaudeville. He makes fun of his ugliness, of his
age, of the fact that he is pitted with small-pox--laughs
at all those things that prevented him from pleasing the
woman he loved, and makes the public laugh--and his
heart is broken. Poor red queue! What eternal and
incurable sorrows there be in the gaiety of a buffoon! What
a lugubrious business is that of laughter!
October, 23, 1867.
Mlle. George came to see me to-day. She was sad, and
elegantly dressed in a blue dress with white stripes. She
said: "I am weary and disgusted. I asked for Mars' reversion.
They granted me a pension of two thousand
francs which they do not pay. Just a mouthful of bread,
and even that I do not get a chance to eat! They wanted
to engage me at the Historique (at the Théâtre Historique).
I refused. What could I do there among
those transparencies! A stout woman like me! Besides,
where are the authors? Where are the pieces? Where
are the roles? As to the provinces, I tried touring last
year, but it is impossible without Harel.* I don't know
how to manage actors. How do you think I can get on
with these evil doers? I was to have finished the 24th.
I paid them on the 20th, and fled. I returned to Paris to
visit poor Harel's tomb. It is frightful, a tomb! It is
horrible to see his name there on the stone! Yet I did
not weep. I was dry-eyed and cold. What a strange
thing is life! To think that this man who was so clever,
so witty, should die an idiot! He passed his days doing
like this with his fingers. Not a spark of reason remained.
It is all over. I shall have Rachel at my benefit; I shall
play with her that chestnut "Iphigênie". We shall make
money, but I don't care. Besides, I'm sure she wouldn't
play Rodogune! I will also play, if you will permit me,
an act of "Lucrèce Borgia". You see, I am for Rachel;
she is an artful one, if you like. See how she checkmates
those rascally French actors! She renews her engagements,
assures for herself pyrotechnics, vacations, heaps
of gold. When the contract is signed she says: "By the
bye, I forgot to tell you that I have been enceinte for
four months; it will be five months before I am able to
play." She does well. If I had done the same thing I
shouldn't have to die like a dog on a litter of straw.
Tragedians, you see, are comedians after all. That poor
Dorval, what has become of her, do you know? There
is one to be pitied, if you like! She is playing I know not
where, at Toulouse, at Carpentras, in barns, to earn her
living! She is reduced like me to showing her bald head
and dragging her poor old carcass on badly planed boards
behind footlights of four tallow candles, among strolling
actors who have been to the galleys, or who ought to be
there! Ah! Monsieur Hugo, all this is nothing to you
who are in good health and well off, but we are poor
* M. Harel was manager of the Porte St. Martin Theatre. Mlle.
Georges lived with him.
In the year 1846 there was a spectacle that caused a
furore in Paris. It was that afforded by women attired
only in pink tights and a gauze skirt executing poses
that were called ~tableaux vivants~, with a few men to
complete the groups. This show was given at the Porte Saint
Martin and at the Cirque. I had the curiosity one night
to go and see the women behind the scenes. I went to the
Porte Saint Martin, where, I may add in parentheses, they
were going to revive "Lucrêce Borgia". Villemot, the stage
manager, who was of poor appearance but intelligent,
said: "I will take you into the gynecium."
A score of men were there--authors, actors, firemen,
lamp lighters, scene shifters--who came, went, worked or
looked on, and in the midst of them seven or eight women,
practically nude, walked about with an air of the most
naïve tranquillity. The pink tights that covered them
from the feet to the neck were so thin and transparent that
one could see not only the toes, the navel, and the breasts,
but also the veins and the colour of the least mark on the
skin on all parts of their bodies. Towards the abdomen,
however, the tights became thicker and only the form was
distinguishable. The men who assisted them were similarly
arranged. All these people were English.
At intervals of five minutes the curtain parted and
they executed a ~tableau~. For this they were posed
in immobile attitudes upon a large wooden disc which
revolved upon a pivot. It was worked by a child
of fourteen who reclined on a mattress beneath it. Men
and women were dressed up in chiffons of gauze or merino
that were very ugly at a distance and very ignoble ~de prês~.
They were pink statues. When the disc had revolved
once and shown the statues on every side to the public
crowded in the darkened theatre, the curtain closed again,
another tableau was arranged, and the performance
recommenced a moment later.
Two of these women were very pretty. One resembled
Mme. Rey, who played the Queen in "Ruy Blas" in 1840;
it was this one who represented Venus. She was
admirably shaped. Another was more than pretty: she
was handsome and superb. Nothing more magnificent
could be seen than her black, sad eyes, her disdainful
mouth, her smile at once bewitching and haughty. She
was called Maria, I believe. In a tableau which
represented "A Slave Market," she displayed the imperial
despair and the stoical dejection of a nude queen offered
for sale to the first bidder. Her tights, which were torn
at the hip, disclosed her firm white flesh. They were,
however only poor girls of London. All had dirty finger nails.
When they returned to the green room they laughed
as freely with the scene shifters as with the authors, and
talked broken French while they adjusted all kinds of
frightful rags upon their charming visages. Their smile
was the calm smile of perfect innocence or of complete
AT THE ACADEMY.
AT THE ACADEMY.
Session of November 23, 1843.
CHARLES NODIER.--The Academy, yielding to custom,
has suppressed universally the double consonant in verbs
where this consonant supplanted euphoniously the ~d~ of the
MYSELF.--I avow my profound ignorance. I had no
idea that custom had effected this suppression and that
the Academy had sanctioned it. Thus one should no
longer write ~atteindre, approuver, appeler, apprehender~,
etc., but ~ateindre, aprouver, apeler, apréhender~?
M. VICTOR COUSIN.--I desire to point out to M. Hugo
that the alterations of which he complains come from the
movement of the language, which is nothing else than decadence.
MYSELF.--M. Cousin having addressed a personal observation
to me, I beg to point out to him in turn that
his opinion is, in my estimation, merely an opinion and
nothing more. I may add that, as I view it, "movement
of the language" and decadence have nothing in common.
Nothing could be more distinct than these two things.
Movement in no way proves decadence. The language
has been moving since the first day of its formation; can
it be said to be deteriorating? Movement is life; decadence
M. COUSIN.--The decadence of the French language began in 1789.
MYSELF.--At what hour, if you please?
October 8, 1844.
This is what was told to me at to-day's session:
Salvandy recently dined with Villemain. The repast
over, they adjourned to the drawing-room, and conversed.
As the clock struck eight Villemain's three little daughters
entered to kiss their father good night. The youngest is
named Lucette; her birth cost her mother her reason; she
is a sweet and charming child of five years.
"Well, Lucette, dear child," said her father, "won't
you recite one of Lafontaine's fables before you go to
"Here," observed M. de Salvandy, "is a little person
who to-day recites fables and who one of these days will
Lucette did not understand. She merely gazed with
her big wondering eyes at Salvandy who was lolling in his
chair with an air of benevolent condescension.
"Well, Lucette." he went on, "will you not recite a
fable for us?"
The child required no urging, and began in her naïve
little voice, her fine, frank, sweet eyes still fixed upon
One easily believes one's self to be somebody in France.
During the run of M. Ponsard's "Lucrece", I had the
following dialogue with M. Viennet at a meeting of the
M. VIENNET.--Have you seen the "Lucrece" that is being
played at the Odéon?
M. VIENNET.--It is very good.
MYSELF.--Really, is it good?
M. VIENNET.--It is more than good, it is fine.
MYSELF.--Really, is it fine?
M. VIENNET.--It is more than fine, it is magnificent.
MYSELF.--Really, now, magnificent?
M. VIENNET.--Oh! magnificent!
MYSELF.--Come, now, is it as good as "Zaire"?
M. VIENNET.--Oh! no! Oh! you are going too far,
you know. Gracious! "Zaire"! No, it is not as good as
MYSELF.--Well, you see, "Zaire" is a very poor piece indeed!
AN ELECTION SESSION.
February 11, 1847.
Thirty-one Academicians present. Sixteen votes are
Emile Deschamps 2 votes.
Victor Leclerc 14 "
Empis 15 "
Lamartine and M. Ballanche arrive at the end of the first
ballot. M. Thiers arrives at the commencement of the
second; which makes 34.
The director asks M. Thiers whether he has promised
his vote. He laughingly replies: "No," and adds: "I
have offered it." (Laughter.)
M. Cousin, to M. Lebrun, director: "You did not employ
the sacramental expression. One does not ask an
Academician whether he has *promised* his vote, but
whether he has *pledged* it."
Emile Deschamps 2 votes.
Empis 18 "
Victor Leclerc 14 "
M. Empis is elected. The election was decided by
Lamartine and M. Ballanche.
On my way out I meet Leon Gozlan, who says to me:
I reply: "There has been an election. It is Empis."
"How do you look at it?" he asks.
"In both ways."
"And ~tant pis~!"
March 16, 1847.
At the Academy to-day, while listening to the poems,
bad to the point of grotesqueness, that have been sent for
the competition of 1847, M. de Barante remarked:
"Really, in these times, we no longer know how to make
Great praise of the poetical and literary excellence of
these times, although M. de Barante was not conscious of it.
April 22, 1847.
Election of M. Ampere. This is an improvement upon
the last. A slow improvement. But Academies, like old
people, go slowly.
During the session and after the election Lamartine sent
to me by an usher the following lines:
C'est un état peu prospere
D'aller d'Empis en Ampere.
I replied to him by the same usher:
Toutefois ce serait pis
D'aller d'Ampere en Empis.
October 4, 1847.
I have just heard M. Viennet say: "I think in bronze."
December 29, 1848. Friday.
Yesterday, Thursday, I had two duties to attend to at
one and the same time, the Assembly and the Academy;
the salt question on the one hand, on the other the much
smaller question of two vacant seats. Yet I gave the
preference to the latter. This is why: At the Palais
Bourbon the Cavaignac party had to be prevented from
killing the new Cabinet; at the Palais Mazarin the
Academy had to be prevented from offending the memory
of Chateaubriand. There are cases in which the dead
count for more than the living; I went to the Academy.
The Academy last Thursday had suddenly decided, at
the opening of the session, at a time when nobody had yet
put in an appearance, when there were only four or five
round the green table, that on January 11 (that is to say,
in three weeks) it would fill the two seats left vacant by
MM. de Chateaubriand and Vatout. This strange
alliance, I do not say of names, but of words,--"replace
MM. de Chateaubriand and Vatout,"--did not stop it for
one minute. The Academy is thus made; its wit and
that wisdom which produces so many follies, are composed
of extreme lightness combined with extreme heaviness.
Hence a good deal of foolishness and a good many foolish
Beneath this lightness, however, there was an intention.
This giddiness was fraught with deep meaning. The brave
party that leads the Academy, for there are parties
everywhere, even at the Academy, hoped, public attention being
directed elsewhere, politics absorbing everything, to
juggle the seat of Chateaubriand pell-mell with the seat
of M. Vatout; two peas in the same goblet. In this way
the astonished public would turn round one fine morning
and simply see M. de Noailles in Chateaubriand's seat:
a small matter, a great lord in the place of a great writer!
Then, after a roar of laughter, everybody would go
about his business again, distractions would speedily come,
thanks to the veering of politics, and, as to the Academy,
oh! a duke and peer the more in it, a little more ridicule
upon it, what would that matter? It would go on just the
Besides, M. de Noailles is a considerable personage.
Bearing a great name, being lofty of manner, enjoying
an immense fortune, of certain political weight under
Louis Philippe, accepted by the Conservatives although,
or because, a Legitimist, reading speeches that were
listened to, he occupied an important place in the Chamber
of Peers; which proves that the Chamber of Peers occupied
an unimportant place in the country.
Chateaubriand, who hated all that could replace him
and smiled at all that could make him regretted, had had
the kindness to tell him sometimes, by Mme. Récamier's
fireside, "that he hoped he would be his successor;" which
prompted M. de Noailles to dash off a big book in two
volumes about Mme. de Maintenon, at the commencement of
which, on the first page of the preface, I was stopped by a
lordly breach of grammar.
This was the state of things when I concluded to go to
The session which was announced to begin at two
o'clock, as usual, opened, as usual, at a quarter past three.
And at half past three--
At half past three the candidacy of Monsieur the Duke
do Noailles, *replacing* Chateaubriand, was irresistibly
Decidedly, I ought to have gone to the Assembly.
March 26, 1850. Tuesday.
I had arrived early, at noon.
I was warming myself, for it is very cold, and the ground
is covered with snow, which is not good for the apricot
trees. M. Guizot, leaning against the mantelpiece, was
saying to me:
"As a member of the dramatic prize committee, I read
yesterday, in a single day, mind you, no fewer than six
"That," I responded, "was to punish you for not having
seen one acted in eighteen years."
At this moment M. Thiers came up and the two men
exchanged greetings. This is how they did it:
M. THIERS: Good afternoon, Guizot.
M. GUIZOT: Good afternoon, Monsieur.
AN ELECTION SESSION.
March 28, 1850.
M. Guizot presided. At the roll call, when M. Pasquier's
name was reached he said: "Monsieur the Chancellor--"
When he got to that of M. Dupin, President of the
National Assembly, he called: "Monsieur Dupin."
Alfred de Musset 5 votes.
M. Nisard 23 "
M. Nisard is elected.
To-day, September 12, the Academy worked at the dictionary.
A propos of the word "increase," this example,
taken from the works of Mme. de Staël, was proposed:
"Poverty increases ignorance, and ignorance poverty."
Three objections were immediately raised:
2. Contemporary writer.
3. Dangerous thing to say.
The Academy rejected the example.
LOVE IN PRISON.
LOVE IN PRISON.
BESIDES misdeeds, robberies, the division of spoils after
an ambuscade, and the twilight exploitation of the barriers
of Paris, footpads, burglars, and gaol-birds generally have
another industry: they have ideal loves.
This requires explanation.
The trade in negro slaves moves us, and with good reason;
we examine this social sore, and we do well. But let
us also learn to lay bare another ulcer, which is more
painful, perhaps: the traffic in white women.
Here is one of the singular things connected with and
characteristic of this poignant disorder of our civilization:
Every gaol contains a prisoner who is known as the "artist."
All kinds of trades and professions peculiar to prisons
develop behind the bars. There is the vendor of
liquorice-water, the vendor of scarfs, the writer, the advocate, the
usurer, the hut-maker, and the barker. The artist takes
rank among these local and peculiar professions between
the writer and the advocate.
To be an artist is it necessary to know how to draw? By
no means. A bit of a bench to sit upon, a wall to lean
against, a lead pencil, a bit of pasteboard, a needle stuck
in a handle made out of a piece of wood, a little Indian
ink or sepia, a little Prussian blue, and a little vermilion in
three cracked beechwood spoons,--this is all that is
requisite; a knowledge of drawing is superfluous. Thieves are
as fond of colouring as children are, and as fond of tattooing
as are savages. The artist by means of his three spoons
satisfies the first of these needs, and by means of his needle
the second. His remuneration is a "nip" of wine.
The result is this:
Some prisoners, say, lack everything, or are simply
desirous of living more comfortably. They combine, wait
upon the artist, offer him their glasses of wine or their bowls
of soup, hand him a sheet of paper and order of him a
bouquet. In the bouquet there must be as many flowers
as there are prisoners in the group. If there be three
prisoners, there must be three flowers. Each flower bears
a figure, or, if preferred, a number, which number is that
of the prisoner.
The bouquet when painted is sent, through the mysterious
means of communication between the various prisons that
the police are powerless to prevent, to Saint Lazare. Saint
Lazare is the women's prison, and where there are women
there also is pity. The bouquet circulates from hand to
hand among the unfortunate creatures that the police
detain administratively at Saint Lazare; and in a few days
the infallible secret post apprises those who sent the
bouquet that Palmyre has chosen the tuberose, that Fanny
prefers the azalea, and that Seraphine has adopted the
geranium. Never is this lugubrious handkerchief thrown
into the seraglio without being picked up.
Thenceforward the three bandits have three servants
whose names are Palmyre, Fanny, and Seraphine.
Administrative detentions are relatively of short duration.
These women are released from prison before the men.
And what do they do? They support them. In elegant
phraseology they are providences; in plain language they
Pity has been transformed into love. The heart of woman
is susceptible of such sombre graftings. These women say:
"I am married." They are married indeed. By whom?
By the flower. With whom? With the abyss. They are
fiancées of the unknown. Enraptured and enthusiastic
fiancées. Pale Sulamites of fancy and fog. When the
known is so odious, how can they help loving the unknown?
In these nocturnal regions and with the winds of
dispersion that blow, meetings are almost impossible. The
lovers see each other in dreams. In all probability the
woman will never set eyes on the man. Is he young? Is
he old? Is he handsome? Is he ugly? She does not
know; she knows nothing about him. She adores him.
And it is because she does not know him that she loves
him. Idolatry is born of mystery.
This woman, drifting aimlessly on life's tide, yearns for
something to cling to, a tie to bind her, a duty to perform.
The pit from amid its scum throws it to her; she accepts
it and devotes herself to it. This mysterious bandit,
transformed into heliotrope or iris, becomes a religion to her.
She espouses him in the presence of night. She has a
thousand little wifely attentions for him; poor for herself,
she is rich for him; she whelms this manure with her delicate
solicitude. She is faithful to him with all the fidelity
of which she is still capable; the incorruptible emanates
from the corruptible. Never does this woman betray her
love. It is an immaterial, pure, ethereal love, subtile as the
breath of spring, solid as brass.
A flower has done all this. What a well is the human
heart, and how giddy it makes one to peer into it! Lo!
the cloaca. Of what is it thinking? Of perfume. A
prostitute loves a thief through a lily. What plunger into
human thought could reach the bottom of this? Who shall
fathom this immense yearning for flowers that springs from
mud? In the secret self of these hapless women is a
strange equilibrium that consoles and reassures them. A
rose counterbalances an act of shame.
Hence these amours based on and sustained by illusion.
This thief is idolized by this girl. She has not seen his face,
she does not know his name; she sees him in visions induced
by the perfume of jessamine or of pinks. Henceforward
flower-gardens, the May sunshine, the birds in their nests,
exquisite tints, radiant blossoms, boxes of orange trees and
daphne odora, velvet petals upon which golden bees alight,
the sacred odours of spring-tide, balms, incense, purling
brooks, and soft green grass are associated with this bandit.
The divine smile of nature penetrates and illumines him.
This desperate aspiring to paradise lost, this deformed
dream of the beautiful, is not less tenacious on the part of
the man. He turns towards the woman; and this preoccupation,
become insensate, persists even when the dreadful
shadow of the two red posts of the guillotine is thrown
upon the window of his cell. The day before his execution
Delaporte, chief of the Trappes band, who was wearing
the strait-jacket, asked of the convict Cogniard, whom,
through the grating in the door of the condemned cell,
he saw passing by: "Are there any pretty women in the
visitors' parlor this morning?" Another condemned man,
Avril (what a name!), in this same cell, bequeathed all
that he possessed--five francs--to a female prisoner whom
he had seen at a distance in the women's yard, "in order
that she may buy herself a fichu a la mode."
Between the male and female wretch dreams build a
Bridge of Sighs, as it were. The mire of the gutter
dallies with the door of a prison cell. The Aspasia of the
street-corner aspires and respires with the heart of the
Alcibiades who waylays the passer-by at the corner of a wood.
You laugh? You should not. It is a terrible thing.
The murderer is a flower for the courtesan. The prostitute
is the Clytia of the assassin sun. The eye of the woman
damned languourously seeks Satan among the myrtles.
What is this phenomenon? It is the need of the ideal.
A sublime and awful need.
A terrible thing, I say.
Is it a disease? Is it a remedy? Both. This noble
yearning is at the same time and for the same beings a
chastisement and a reward; a voluptuousness full of
expiation; a chastisement for faults committed, a recompense
for sorrows borne! None may escape it. It is a hunger of
angels felt by demons. Saint Theresa experiences it,
Messalina also. This need of the immaterial is the most deeply
rooted of all needs. One must have bread; but before
bread, one must have the ideal. One is a thief, one is a
street-walker--all the more reason. The more one drinks
of the darkness of night the more is one thirsty for the
light of dawn. Schinderhannes becomes a cornflower,
Poulailler a violet. Hence these sinisterly ideal weddings.
And then, what happens?
What I have just said.
Cloaca, but abyss. Here the human heart opens partly,
disclosing unimaginable depths. Astarte becomes platonic.
The miracle of the transformation of monsters by love is
being accomplished. Hell is being gilded. The vulture
is being metamorphosed into a bluebird. Horror ends in the
pastoral. You think you are at Vouglans's and
Parent-Duchâtelet's; you are at Longus's. Another step and you
will stumble into Berquin's. Strange indeed is it to
encounter Daphnis and Chloe in the Forest of Bondy!
The dark Saint Martin Canal, into which the footpad
pushes the passer-by with his elbow as he snatches his
victim's watch, traverses the Tender and empties itself into
the Lignon. Poulmann begs a ribbon bow; one is tempted
to present a shepherdess's crook to Papavoine. Through
the straw of the sabot one sees gossamer wings appearing
on horrible heels. The miracle of the roses is performed
for Goton. All fatalities combined have for result a flower.
A vague Rambouillet Palace is superposed upon the forbidding
silhouette of the Salpêtrière. The leprous wall of
evil, suddenly covered with blossoms, affords a pendant to
the wreath of Juliet. The sonnets of Petrarch, that flight
of the ideal which soars in the shadow of souls, venture
through the twilight towards this abjection and suffering,
attracted by one knows not what obscure affinity, even as
a swarm of bees is sometimes seen humming over a dungheap
from which arises, perceptible to the bees alone and
mingling with the miasms, the perfume of a hidden flower.
The gemoniae are Elysian. The chimerical thread of celestial
unions floats 'neath the darkest vault of the human
Erebus and binds despairing hearts to hearts that are
monstrous. Manon through the infinite sends to Cartouche a
smile ineffable as that with which Everallin entranced Fingal.
From one pole of misery to the other, from one gehenna to
another, from the galleys to the brothel, tenebrous
mouths wildly exchange the kiss of azure.
It is night. The monstrous ditch of Clamart opens.
From it arises a miasm, a phosphorescent glow. It shines
and flickers in two separate tarts; it takes shape, the
head rejoins the body, it is a phantom; the phantom
gazes into the darkness with wild, baleful eyes, rises, grows
bigger and blue, hovers for an instant and then speeds away
to the zenith to open the door of the palace of the sun
where butterflies flit from flower to flower and angels
flit from star to star.
In all these strange, concordant phenomena appears the
inadmissibility of the principle that is all of man. The
mysterious marriage which we have just related, marriage
of servitude with captivity, exaggerates the ideal from the
very fact that it is weighed down by all the most hideous
burdens of destiny. A frightful combination! It is the
From it rises a miasm, a phosphorescent glow. It shines
meeting of these two redoubtable words in which human
existence is summed up: enjoy and suffer.
Alas! And how can we prevent this cry from escaping
us? For these hapless ones, enjoy, laugh, sing, please, and
love exist, persist; but there is a death-rattle in sing, a
grating sound in laugh, putrefaction in enjoy, there are
ashes in please, there is night in love. All these joys are
attached to their destiny by coffin-nails.
What does that matter? They thirst for these lugubrious,
chimerical glimpses of light that are full of dreams.
What is tobacco, that is so precious and so dear to the
prisoner? It is a dream. "Put me in the dungeon," said
a convict, "but give me some tobacco." In other words:
"Throw me into a pit, but give me a palace." Press the
prostitute and the bandit, mix Tartarus and Avernus, stir
the fatal vat of social mire, pile all the deformities of
matter together, and what issues therefrom? The immaterial.
The ideal is the Greek fire of the gutter. It burns there.
Its brightness in the impure water dazzles the thinker
and touches his heart. Nini Lassive stirs and brightens
with Fiesehi's bilets-doux that sombre lamp of Vesta which
is in the heart of every woman, and which is as
inextinguishable in that of the courtesan as in that of the
Carmelite. This is what explains the word "virgin," accorded
by the Bible equally to the foolish virgin and to the wise
That was so yesterday, it is so to-day. Here again the
surface has changed, the bottom remains the same. The
frank harshness of the Middle Ages has been somewhat
softened in our times. Ribald is pronounced light o' love;
Toinon answers to the name of Olympia or Imperia;
Thomasse-la-Maraude is called Mme. de Saint Alphonse.
The caterpillar was real, the butterfly is false; that is the
only change. Clout has become chiffon.
Regnier used to say "sows "; we say "fillies."
Other fashions; same manners.
The foolish virgin is lugubriously immutable.
Whosoever witnesses this kind of anguish witnesses the
extreme of human misfortune.
Dark zones are these. Baleful night bursts and spreads
o'er them. Evil accumulated dissolves in misfortune upon
them, they are swept with blasts of despair by the tempest
of fatalities, there a downpour of trials and sorrows streams
upon dishevelled heads in the darkness; squalls, hail, a
hurricane of distress, swirl and whirl back and forth
athwart them; it rains, rains without cease: it rains
horror, it rains vice, it rains crime, it rains the blackness of
night; yet we must explore this obscurity, and in the
sombre storm the mind essays a difficult flight, the flight of
a wet bird, as it were.
There is always a vague, spectral dread in these low
regions where hell penetrates; they are so little in the
human order and so disproportionate that they create
phantoms. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that a legend
should be connected with this sinister bouquet offered by
Bicêtre to La Salpêtrière or by La Force to Saint Lazare;
it is related at night in the cells and wards after the
keepers have gone their rounds.
It was shortly after the murder of the money-changer
Joseph. A bouquet was sent from La Force to a woman's
prison, Saint Lazare or the Madelonnettes. In this
bouquet was a sprig of white lilac which one of the women
A month or two elapsed; the woman was released from
prison. She was extremely enamoured, through the white
lilac, of the unknown master she had given to herself. She
began to perform for him her strange function of sister,
mother, and mystic spouse, ignorant of his name, knowing
only his prison number. All her miserable savings,
religiously deposited with the clerk of the prison, went to
this man. In order the better to affiance herself to him,
she took advantage of the advent of spring to cull a sprig
of real lilac in the fields. This sprig of lilac, attached by
a piece of sky-blue ribbon to the head of his bed, formed
a pendant to a sprig of consecrated box, an ornament which
these poor desolate alcoves never lack. The lilac withered
This woman, like all Paris, had heard of the affair of
the Palais-Royal and of the two Italians, Malagutti and
Ratta, arrested for the murder of the money-changer.
She thought little about the tragedy, which did not concern
her, and lived only in her white lilac. This lilac was
all in all to her; she thought only of doing her "duty"
One bright, sunny day she was seated in her room, sewing
some garment or other for her sorry evening toilet.
Now and then she looked up from her work at the lilac
that hung at the head of the bed. At one of these
moments while her gaze was fixed upon the sprig of faded
flower the clock struck four.
Then she fancied she saw an extraordinary thing.
A sort of crimson pearl oozed from the extremity of the
stalk of the flower, grew larger, and dripped on to the
white sheet of the bed.
It was a spot of blood.
That day, at that very hour, Ratta and Malagutti were
It was evident that the white lilac was one of these two.
But which one?
The hapless girl became insane and had to be confined
in La Salpêtrière. She died there. From morn to night,
and from night to morn, she would gibber: "I am Mme.
Thus are these sombre hearts.
Prostitution is an Isis whose final veil none has raised.
There is a sphinx in this gloomy odalisk of the frightful
Sultan Everybody. None has solved its enigma. It is
Nakedness masked. A terrible spectacle!
Alas! in all that we have just recounted man is abominable,
woman is touching.
How many hapless ones have been driven to their fall!
The abyss is the friend of dreams. Fallen, as we have
said, their lamentable hearts have no other resource than
What caused their ruin was another dream, the dreadful
dream of riches; nightmare of glory, of azure, and ecstasy
which weighs upon the chest of the poor; flourish of
trumpets heard in the gehenna, with the triumph of the
fortunate appearing resplendent in the immense night;
prodigious overture full of dawn! Carriages roll, gold falls
in showers, laces rustle.
Why should I not have this, too? Formidable thought!
This gleam from the sinister vent-hole dazzled them; this
puff of the sombre vapour inebriated them, and they were
lost, and they were rich.
Wealth is a fatal distant light; woman flies frantically
towards it. This mirror catches this lark.
Wherefore they have been rich. They, too, have had
their day of enchantment, their minute of fête, their
They have had that fever which is fatal to modesty.
They have drained the sonorous cup that is full of
nothingness. They have drunk of the madness of forgetfulness.
What a flattering hope! What temptation! To do nothing
and have everything; a]as! and also to have nothing,
not even one's own self. To be slave-flesh, to be beauty
for sale, a woman fallen to a thing! They have dreamed
and they have had--which is the same thing, complete
possession being but a dream--mansions, carriages, servants in
livery, suppers joyous with laughter, the house of gold,
silk, velvet, diamonds, pearls, life giddy with
Oh! how much better is the innocence of those poor little
barefooted ones on the shore of the sea, who hear at
nightfall the tinkling of the cracked bells of the goats on the
There was a disastrous morrow to these brief, perfidious
joys that they had savoured. The word love signified
hatred. The invisible doubles the visible, and it is
lugubrious. Those who shared their raptures, those to whom
they gave all, received all and accepted nothing. They--the
fallen ones--sowed their seed in ashes. They were
deserted even as they were being embraced. Abandonment
sniggered behind the mask of the kiss.
And now, what are they to do? They must perforce
continue to love.
Oh! if they could, the unhappy creatures, if they could
put from them their hearts, their dreams, harden themselves
with a hardness that could not be softened, be forever cold
and passionless, tear out their entrails, and, since they are
filth, become monsters! If they could no longer think! If
they could ignore the flower, efface the star, stop up the
mouth of the pit, close heaven! They would at least no
longer suffer. But no. They have a right to marriage, they
have a right to the heart, they have a right to torture, they
have a right to the ideal. No chilling of their hearts can put
out the internal fire. However cold they may be they burn.
This, we have said, is at once their misery and their crown.
This sublimeness combines with their abjection to overwhelm
them and raise them up. Whether they will or not,
the inextinguishable does not become extinguished. Illusion
is untamable. Nothing is more invincible than
dreams, and man is almost made up of dreams. Nature
will not agree to be insolvable. One must contemplate,
aspire, love. If need be marble will set the example. The
statue becomes a woman rather than the woman a statue.
The sewer is a sanctuary in spite of itself. It is
unhealthy, there is vitiated air in it, but the irresistible
phenomenon is none the less accomplished; all the holy
generosities bloom livid in this cave. Cynicism and the
secret despair of pity are driven back by ecstasy, the
magnificences of kindness shine through infamy; this orphan
creature feels herself to be wife, sister, mother; and this
fraternity which has no family, and this maternity which
has no children, and this adoration which has no altar, she
casts into the outer darkness. Some one marries her.
Who? The man in the gloom. She sees on her finger the
ring made of the mysterious gold of dreams. And she
sobs. Torrents of tears well from her eyes. Sombre delights!
And at the same time, let us repeat it, she suffers
unheard-of tortures. She does not belong to him to whom
she has given herself. Everybody takes her away again.
The brutal public hand holds the wretched creature and
will not let her go. She fain would flee. Flee whither?
From whom? From you, herself, above all from him whom
she loves, the funereal ideal man. She cannot.
Thus, and these are extreme afflictions, this hapless
wight expiates, and her expiation is brought upon her by
her grandeur. Whatever she may do, she has to love. She
is condemned to the light. She has to condole, she has to
succour, she has to devote herself, she has to be kind. A
woman who has lost her modesty, fain would know love
no more; impossible. The refluxes of the heart are as
inevitable as those of the sea; the lights of the heart are as
fixed as those of the night.
There is within us that which we can never lose. Abnegation,
sacrifice, tenderness, enthusiasm, all these rays
turn against the woman within her inmost self and attack
and burn her. All these virtues remain to avenge themselves
upon her. When she would have been a wife, she is
a slave. Hers is the hopeless, thankless task of lulling a
brigand in the blue nebulousness of her illusions and of
decking Mandrin with a starry rag. She is the sister of
charity of crime. She loves, alas! She endures her
inadmissible divinity; she is magnanimous and thrills at so
being. She is happy with a horrible happiness. She enters
backwards into indignant Eden.
We do not sufficiently reflect upon this that is within us
and cannot be lost.
Prostitution, vice, crime, what matters!
Night may become as black as it likes, the spark is still
there. However low you go there is light. Light in the
vagabond, light in the mendicant, light in the thief, light
in the street-walker. The deeper you go the more the
miraculous light persists in showing itself.
Every heart has its pearl, which is the same for the heart
gutter and the heart ocean--love.
No mire can dissolve this particle of God.
Wherefore, there, at the extreme of gloom, of despondency,
of chill-heartedness and abandonment; in this obscurity,
in this putrefaction, in these gaols, in these dark
paths, in this shipwreck; beneath the lowest layer of the
heap of miseries, under the bog of public disdain which
is ice and night; behind the eddying of those frightful
snowflakes the judges, the gendarmes, the warders and the
executioners for the bandit, the passers-by for the
prostitute, which cross each other, innumerable, in the dull grey
mist that for these wretches replace the sun; beneath these
pitiless fatalities; beneath this bewildering maze of vaults,
some of granite, the others of hatred; at the deepest depths
of horror; in the midst of asphyxiation; at the bottom of
the chaos of all possible blacknesses; under the frightful
thickness of a deluge composed of expectorations, there
where all is extinct, where all is dead, something moves
and shines. What is it? A flame.
And what flame?
O adorable prodigy!
Love, the ideal, is found even in the Pit.
AT THE TUILERIES.
I. THE KING.
II. THE DUCHESS D'ORLEANS.
III. THE PRINCES.
AT THE TUILERIES.
I. THE KING.*
June, 28, 1844.
* Louis Philippe.
The King told me that Talleyrand said to him one day:
"You will never be able to do anything with Thiers,
although he would make an excellent tool. He is one
of those men one cannot make use of unless one is able to
satisfy them. Now, he never will be satisfied. It is
unfortunate for him, as for you, that in our times, he cannot
be made a cardinal."
A propos of the fortifications of Paris, the King told me
how the Emperor Napoleon learned the news of the taking
of Paris by the allies.
The Emperor was marching upon Paris at the head of
his guard. Near Juvisy, at a place in the Forest of
Fontainebleau where there is an obelisk ("that I never see
without feeling heavy at heart," remarked the King), a
courier on his way to meet Napoleon brought him the news
of the capitulation of Paris. Paris had been taken. The
enemy had entered it. The Emperor turned pale. He
hid his face in his hands and remained thus, motionless,
for a quarter of an hour. Then, without saying a word,
he turned about and took the road back to Fontainebleau.
General Athalin witnessed this scene and recounted it
to the King.
A few days ago the King said to Marshal Soult (in
presence of others):
"Marshal, do you remember the siege of Cadiz?"
"Rather, sire, I should think so. I swore enough before
that cursed Cadiz. I invested the place and was forced to
go away as I had come."
"Marshal, while you were before it, I was inside it."
"I know, sire."
"The Cortes and the English Cabinet offered me the
command of the Spanish army."
"I remember it."
"The offer was a grave one. I hesitated long. Bear
arms against France! For my family, it is possible; but
against my country! I was greatly perplexed. At this
juncture you asked me, through a trusty person, for a
secret interview in a little house situated on the Cortadura,
between the city and your camp. Do you remember the
fact, Monsieur the Marshal?"
"Perfectly, sire; the day was fixed and the interview
"And I did not turn up."
"That is so."
"Do you know why?"
"I never knew."
"I will tell you. As I was preparing to go to meet you,
the commander of the English squadron, apprised of the
matter, I know not how, dropped upon me brusquely and
warned me that I was about to fall into a trap; that
Cadiz being impregnable, they despaired of seizing me,
but that at the Cortadura I should be arrested by you;
that the Emperor wished to make of the Duke d'Orleans
a second volume of the Duke d'Enghien, and that you
would have me shot immediately. There, really," added
the King with a smile, "your hand on your conscience,
were you going to shoot me?"
The Marshal remained silent for a moment, then replied,
with a smile not less inexpressible than that of the King:
"No, sire; I wanted to compromise you."
The subject of conversation was changed. A few
minutes later the Marshal took leave of the King, and the
King, as he watched him go, said with a smile to the person
who heard this conversation:
"Compromise! compromise! To-day it is called
compromise. In reality, he would have shot me!"
August 4, 1844.
Yesterday the King said to me:
"One of my embarrassments at present, in all this affair
of the University and the clergy, is M. Affre."*
* Archbishop Affre was shot and killed in the Faubourg Saint
Antoine on September 25, 1848, while trying to stop the fighting
between the troops and insurgents.
"Then why, sire," said I, "did you appoint him?"
"I made a mistake, I admit. I had at first appointed
to the archbishopric of Paris the Cardinal of Arras, M. de
la Tour d'Auvergne."
"It was a good choice," I observed.
"Yes, good. He is insignificant. An honest old man of
no account. An easy-going fellow. He was much sought
after by the Carlists. Greatly imposed upon. His whole
family hated me. He was induced to refuse. Not knowing
what to do, and being in haste, I named M. Affre. I
ought to have been suspicious of him. His countenance
is neither open nor frank. I took his underhand air for
a priestly air; I did wrong. And then, you know, it was
in 1840. Thiers proposed him to me, and urged me to
appoint him. Thiers is no judge of archbishops. I did
it without sufficient reflection. I ought to have
remembered what Talleyrand said to me one day: 'The
Archbishop of Paris must always be an old man. The see is
quieter and becomes vacant more frequently.' I appointed
M. Affre, who is young; it was a mistake. However, I
will re-establish the chapter of St. Denis and appoint
as primate of it the Cardinal de la Tour d'Auvergne.
The Papal Nuncio, to whom I spoke of my project just
now, laughed heartily at it, and said: 'The Abbé Affre
will commit some folly. Should he go to Rome the Pope
will receive him very badly. He has acted pusillanimously
and blunderingly on all occasions since he has
been an archbishop. An archbishop of Paris who has any
wit ought always to be on good terms with the King here
and the Pope yonder.'"
A month or two ago the King went to Dreux. It was
the anniversary of the death of the Duke d'Orleans. The
King had chosen this day to put the coffins of his relatives
in the family vault in order.
Among the number was a coffin that contained all the
bones of the princes of the House of Orleans that the
Duchess d'Orleans, mother of the King, had been able to
collect after the Revolution, when the sepulchre was
violated and they were dispersed. The coffin, placed in
a separate vault, had recently been smashed in by the fall
of an arch. The debris of the arch, stones and plaster,
had become mingled with the bones.
The King had the coffin brought and opened before him.
He was alone in the vault with the chaplain and two
aides-de-camp. Another coffin, larger and stronger, had been
prepared. The King himself, with his own hands, took,
one after the other, the bones of his ancestors from
the broken coffin and arranged them carefully in the new
one. He would not permit any one else to touch them.
From time to time he counted the skulls and said: "This
is Monsieur the Duke de Penthièvre. This is Monsieur
the Count de Beaujolais." Then to the best of his ability
and as far as he was able to he completed each group of
This ceremony lasted from nine o'clock in the morning
until seven o'clock in the evening without the King taking
either rest or nourishment.
Yesterday, the 15th, after having dined at M. Villemain's,
who lives in a country house near Neuilly, I called
upon the King.
The King was not in the salon, where there were only
the Queen, Madame Adelaide and a few ladies, among
them Mme. Firmin-Rogier, who is charming. There
were many visitors, among others the Duke de Brogue
and M. Rossi, who were of the dinner party at which I had
been present, M. de Lesseps, who lately distinguished
himself as consul at Barcelona, M. Firmin-Rogier and the
I bowed to the Queen, who spoke to me at length about
the Princess de Joinvile, who was delivered the day
before yesterday, and whose baby arrived on the very day the
news of the bombardment of Tangier by its father was
received. It is a little girl. The Princess de Joinvile
passes the whole day kissing her and saying: "How
pretty she is!" with that sweet southern accent which the
raillery of her brothers-in-law has not yet caused her to
While I was talking to the Queen, the Duchess d'Orleans,
dressed in black, came in and sat beside Madame
Adelaide, who said to her: "Good evening, dear Helene."
A moment afterwards, M. Guizot, in black, wearing
a chain of decorations, with a red ribbon in his buttonhole
and the badge of the Legion of Honour on his coat, and
looking pale and grave, crossed the salon. I grasped his
hand as he passed and he said:
"I have sought you vainly during the past few days.
Come and spend a day with me in the country. We have
a lot to talk about. I am at Auteuil, No. 4, Place
"Will the King come to-night?" I asked.
"I do not think so," he replied. "He is with Admiral
de Mackau. There is serious news. He will be occupied
all the evening."
Then M. Guizot went away.
It was nearly ten o'clock, and I also was about to take
my departure when one of Madame Adelaide's ladies of
honour, sent by the Princess, came and told me that the
King desired to speak with me and requested that I would
remain. I returned to the salon, which had become
A moment later, as ten o'clock was striking, the King
came in. He wore no decorations and had a preoccupied
air. As he passed by he said to me:
"Wait until I have gone my round; we shall have a
little more time when everybody has left. There are only
four persons here now and I have only four words to say
In truth, he only tarried a moment with the Prussian
Ambassador and M. de Lesseps, who had to communicate
to him a letter from Alexandria relative to the strange
abdication of the Pacha of Egypt.
Everybody took leave, and then the King came to me,
thrust his arm in mine and led me into the large
anteroom where he seated himself, and bade me be seated,
upon a red lounge which is between two doors opposite the
fireplace. Then he began to talk rapidly, energetically,
as though a weight were being lifted from his mind:
"Monsieur Hugo, I am pleased to see you. What do
you think of it all? All this is grave, yet it appears graver
than it really is. But in politics, I know, one has
sometimes to take as much into account that which appears
grave as that which is grave. We made a mistake in taking
this confounded protectorate.* We thought we were
doing something popular for France, and we have done
something embarrassing for the world. The popular effect
was mediocre; the embarrassing effect is enormous.
What did we want to hamper ourselves with Tahiti (the
King pronounced it Taëte) for? What to us was this pinch
of tobacco seeds in the middle of the ocean? What is the
use of lodging our honour four thousand leagues away in
the box of a sentry insulted by a savage and a madman?
Upon the whole there is something laughable about it.
When all is said and done it is a small matter and nothing
big will come of it. Sir Robert Peel has spoken
thoughtlessly. He has acted with schoolboy foolishness. He has
diminished his consideration in Europe. He is a serious
man, but capable of committing thoughtless acts. Then
he does not know any languages. Unless he be a genius
there are perforce gaps in the ideas of a man who is not
a linguist. Now, Sir Robert has no genius. Would you
believe it? He does not know French. Consequently
he does not understand anything about France. French
ideas pass before him like shadows. He is not malevolent,
no; he is not open, that is all. He has spoken without
reflection. I judged him to be what he is forty years ago.
It was, too, forty years ago that I saw him for the first
time. He was then a young man and secretary of the
Earl of--(I did not quite catch the name. The King
spoke quickly). I often visited that house. I was then
in England. When I saw young Peel I felt sure that he
would go a long way, but that he would stop. Was I
mistaken? There are Englishmen, and of the highest rank,
who do not understand Frenchmen a bit. Like that poor
Duke of Clarence, who afterwards was William IV. He
was but a sailor. One must beware of the sailor mind, as
I often say to my son Joinville. He who is only a sailor
is nothing on land. Well, this Duke of Clarence used to
say to me: 'Duke d'Orleans, a war between France and
England is necessary every twenty years. History shows
it.' I would reply: 'My dear duke, of what use are
people of intelligence if they allow mankind to do the same
foolish things over and over again?' The Duke of Clarence,
like Peel, did not know a word of French.
* The protectorate of Tahiti.
"What a difference between these men and Huskisson!
You know, Huskisson who was killed on a railway.
He was a masterly man, if you like. He knew
French and liked France. He had been my comrade at
the Jacobins' Club. I do not say this in bad part. He
understood everything. If there were in England now a
man like him, he and I would ensure the peace of the
world.--Monsieur Hugo, we will do it without him. I
will do it alone. Sir Robert Peel will reconsider what he
has said. Egad! he said that! Does he even know why
"Have you seen the English Parliament? You speak
from your place, standing, in the midst of your own party;
you are carried away; you say more often than not what
others think instead of what you think yourself. There is
a magnetic communication. You are subjected to it.
You rise (here the King rose and imitated the gesture of an
orator speaking in Parliament). The assembly ferments
all round and close to you; you let yourself go. On this
side somebody says: 'England has suffered a gross insult;'
and on that side: 'with gross indignity.' It is simply
applause that is sought on both sides. Nothing more.
But this is bad. It is dangerous. It is baleful. In
France our tribune which isolates the orator has many
"Of all the English statesmen, I have known only one
who was able to withstand this influence of assemblies.
He was M. Pitt. M. Pitt was a clever man, although he
was very tall. He had an air of awkwardness and spoke
hesitatingly. His lower jaw weighed a hundredweight.
Hence a certain slowness which forcibly brought prudence
into his speeches. Besides, what a statesman this Pitt
was! They will render justice to him one of these days,
even in France. Pitt and Coburg are still being harped
upon. But it is a childish foolishness that will pass. M.
Pitt knew French. To carry on politics properly we must
have Englishmen who know French and Frenchmen who
"Look here, I am going to England next month. I
shall be very well received: I speak English. And then,
Englishmen appreciate the fact that I have studied them
closely enough not to detest them. For one always begins
by detesting the English. This is an effect of the surface.
I esteem them, and pride myself upon the fact. Between
ourselves, there is one thing I apprehend in going to
England, and that is, a too warm welcome. I shall have to
elude an ovation. Popularity there would render me
unpopular here. But I must not get myself badly received
either. Badly received there, taunted here. Oh! it is
not easy to move when one is Louis Philippe, is it,
"However, I will endeavour to manage it better than
that big stupid the Emperor of Russia, who went riding
full gallop in search of a fall. There is an addle-pate for
you. What a simpleton! He is nothing but a Russian
corporal, occupied with a boot-heel and a gaiter button.
What an idea to arrive in London on the eve of the Polish
ball! Do you think I would go to England on the eve of
the anniversary of Waterloo? What is the use of running
deliberately into trouble? Nations do not derange their
ideas for us princes.
"Monsieur Hugo! Monsieur Hugo! intelligent princes
are very rare. Look at this Pacha of Egypt, who had a
bright mind and who abdicates, like Charles V., who,
although he was not without genius, committed the same
foolish action. Look at this idiotic King of Morocco!
What a job to govern amid this mob of bewildered
Kings. They won't force me into committing the great
mistake of going to war. I am being pushed, but they
won't push me over. Listen to this and remember it: the
secret of maintaining peace is to look at everything from
the good side and at nothing from the bad point of view.
Oh! Sir Robert Peel is a singular man to speak so wildly.
He does not know all our strength. He does not reflect!
"The Prince of Prussia made a very true remark to my
daughter at Brussels last winter: 'What we envy France,
is Algeria. Not on account of the territory, but on
account of the war. It is a great and rare good fortune for
France to have at her doors a war that does not trouble
Europe and which is making an army for her. We as yet
have only review and parade soldiers. When a collision
occurs we shall only have soldiers who have been made by
peace. France, thanks to Algiers, will have soldiers made
by war.' This is what the Prince of Prussia said, and it
"Meanwhile, we are making children, too. Last month
it was my daughter of Nemours, this month it is my
daughter of Joinville. She has given me a princess.
I would have preferred a prince. But, pish! in view
of the fact that they are trying to isolate my house
among the royal houses of Europe future alliances must
be thought of. Well, my grandchildren will marry
among themselves. This little one who was born
yesterday will not lack cousins, nor, consequently, a husband."
Here the King laughed, and I rose. He had spoken
almost without interruption for an hour and a quarter.
I had only said a few words here and there. During this
sort of long monologue Madame Adelaide passed as she
retired to her apartments. The King said to her: "I will
join you directly," and he continued his conversation with
me. It was nearly half-past eleven when I quitted the
It was during this conversation that the King said to
"Have you ever been to England?"
"Well, when you do go--for you will go--you will see
how strange it is. It resembles France in nothing. Over
there are order, arrangement, symmetry, cleanliness,
wellmown lawns, and profound silence in the streets. The
passers-by are as serious and mute as spectres. When,
being French and alive, you speak in the street, these spectres
look back at you and murmur with an inexpressible mixture
of gravity and disdain: 'French people!' When I
was in London I was walking arm-in-arm with my wife and
sister. We were conversing, not in a too loud tone of voice,
for we are well-bred persons, you know; yet all the
passers-by, bourgeois and men of the people, turned to gaze at us
and we could hear them growling behind us: 'French
people! French people!'"
September 5, 1844.
The King rose, paced to and fro for a few moments, as
though violently agitated, then came and sat beside me
"Look here, you made a remark to Villemain that he
repeated to me. You said to him:
"'The trouble between France and England a propos
of Tahiti and Pritchard reminds me of a quarrel in a café
between a couple of sub-lieutenants, one of whom has
looked at the other in a way the latter does not like. A
duel to the death is the result. But two great nations
ought not to act like a couple of musketeers. Besides, in
a duel to the death between two nations like England and
France, it is civilization that would be slain.'
"This is really what you said, is it not?"
"I was greatly struck by your observation, and this very
evening I reproduced it in a letter to a crowned head, for
I frequently write all night long. I pass many a night
doing over again what others have undone. I do not say
anything about it. So far from being grateful to me they
would only abuse me for it. Oh! yes, mine is hard work
indeed. At my age, with my seventy-one years, I do not
get an instant of real repose either by day or by night. I
am always unquiet, and how can it be otherwise when
I feel that I am the pivot upon which Europe revolves?"
September 6, 1844.
The King said to me yesterday:
"What makes the maintenance of peace so difficult is
that there are two things in Europe that Europe detests,
France and myself--myself even more than France. I
am talking to you in all frankness. They hate me because
I am Orleans; they hate me because I am myself. As
for France, they dislike her, but would tolerate her in other
hands. Napoleon was a burden to them; they overthrew
him by egging him on to war of which he was so fond.
I am a burden to them; they would like to throw me down
by forcing me to break that peace which I love."
Then he covered his eyes with his hands, and leaning
his head back upon the cushions of the sofa, remained thus
for a space pensive, and as though crushed.
September 6, 1844.
"I only met Robespierre in society once," said the
King to me. "It was at a place called Mignot, near Poissy,
which still exists. It belonged to a wealthy cloth
manufacturer of Louviers, named M. Decréteau. It was in
ninety-one or two. M. Decréteau one day invited me to
dinner at Mignot. I went. When the time came we took
our places at table. The other guests were Robespierre
and Pétion, but I had never before seen Robespierre.
Mirabeau aptly traced his portrait in a word when he said
that his face was suggestive of that of 'a cat drinking
vinegar.' He was very gloomy, and hardly spoke. When he did
let drop a word from time to time, it was uttered sourly and
with reluctance. He seemed to be vexed at having come,
and because I was there.
"In the middle of the dinner, Pétion, addressing M.
Decréteau, exclaimed: 'My dear host, you must get this
buck married!' He pointed to Robespierre.
"'What do you mean, Pétion?' retorted Robespierre.
"'Mean,' said Pétion, 'why, that you must get married.
I insist upon marrying you. You are full of sourness,
hypochondria, gall, bad humour, biliousness and
atrabiliousness I am fearful of all this on our account. What you
want is a woman to sweeten this sourness and transform
you into an easy-going old fogey.'
"Robespierre tossed his head and tried to smile, but
only succeeded in making a grimace. It was the only
time," repeated the King, "that I met Robespierre in
society. After that I saw him in the tribune of the
Convention. He was wearisome to a supreme degree, spoke
slowly, heavily and at length, and was more sour, more
gloomy, more bitter than ever. It was easy to see that
Pétion had not married him."
September 7, 1844.
Said the King to me last Thursday:
"M. Guizot has great qualities and immense defects.
(Queerly enough, M. Guizot on Tuesday had made
precisely the same remark to me about the King, beginning
with the defects.) M. Guizot has in the highest degree,
and I esteem him for it profoundly, the courage of his
unpopularity among his adversaries; among his friends he
lacks it. He does not know how to quarrel momentarily
with his partisans, which was Pitt's great art. In the
affair of Tahiti, as in that of the right of search, M. Guizot
is not afraid of the Opposition, nor of the press, nor of the
Radicals, nor of the Carlists, nor of the Legitimists, nor of
the hundred thousand howlers in the hundred thousand
public squares of France; he is afraid of Jacques Lefebvre.
What will Jacques Lefebvre say? And Jacques Lefebvre
is afraid of the Twelfth Arrondissement.* What
will the Twelfth Arrondissement say? The Twelfth
Arrondissement does not like the English: we must stand firm
against the English; but it does not like war: we must
give way to the English. Stand firm and give way.
Reconcile that. The Twelfth Arrondissement governs
Jacques Lefebvre, Jacques ]Lefebvre governs Guizot; a
little more and the Twelfth Arrondissement will govern
France. I say to Guizot: 'What are you afraid of?
Have a little pluck. Have an opinion.' But there they
all stand, pale and motionless and make no reply. Oh!
fear! Monsieur Hugo, it is a strange thing, this fear of
the hubbub that will be raised outside! It seizes upon
this one, then that one, then that one, and it goes the
round of the table. I am not a Minister, but if I were,
it seems to me that I should not be afraid. I should see
the right and go straight towards it. And what greater
aim could there be than civilization through peace?"
* Twelfth District of Paris.
The Duke d'Orleans, a few years ago, recounted to me
that during the period which followed immediately upon
the revolution of July, the King gave him a seat at his
council table. The young Prince took part in the
deliberations of the Ministers. One day M. Merilhou, who
was Minister of Justice, fell asleep while the King was
"Chartres," said the King to his son, "wake up Monsieur
the Keeper of the Seals."
The Duke d'Orleans obeyed. He was seated next to
M. Merilhou, and nudged him gently with his elbow.
The Minister was sleeping soundly; the Prince recommenced,
but the Minister slept on. Finally the Prince
laid his hand upon M. Merilhou's knee. The Minister
awoke with a start and exclaimed:
"Leave off, Sophie, you are tickling me!"
This is how the word "subject" came to be eliminated
from the preamble of laws and ordinances.
M. Dupont de l'Eure, in 1830, was Minister of Justice.
On August 7, the very day the Duke d'Orleans took the
oath as King, M. Dupont de l'Eure laid before him a law
to sign. The preamble read: "Be it known and decreed
to all our subjects," etc. The clerk who was instructed to
copy the law, a hot-headed young fellow, objected to the
word "subjects," and did not copy it.
The Minister of Justice arrived. The young man was
employed in his office.
"Well," said the Minister, "is the copy ready to be
taken to the King for signature?"
"No, Monsieur the Minister," replied the clerk.
Explanations. M. Dupont de l'Eure listened, then
pinching the young man's ear said, half smilingly, half
"Nonsense, Monsieur the Republican, you just copy it
The clerk hung his head, like a clerk that he was, and
M. Dupont, however, laughingly told the King about it.
The King did not laugh. Everything appeared to be a
serious matter at that time. M. Dupin senior, Minister
without a portfolio, had entered the council chamber. He
avoided the use of the word and got round the obstacle. He
proposed this wording, which was agreed to and has always
been used since: "Be it known and decreed to all."
The State carriage of Louis Philippe was a big blue
coach drawn by eight horses. The interior was of gold
coloured damask. On the doors was the King's monogram
surmounted by a crown, and on the panels were royal
crowns. The roof was bordered by eight little silver
crowns. There was a gigantic coachman on the box and
three lackeys behind. All wore silk stockings and the
tri-colour livery of the d'Orleans.
The King would enter the carriage first and seat himself
in the right hand corner. Then the Duke de
Nemours would take his place beside the King. The
three other princes would follow and seat themselves, M.
de Joinville opposite the King, M. de Montpensier
opposite M. de Nemours, and M. d'Aumale in the middle.
The day the King attended Parliament, the grand
deputations from both Houses, twelve peers and twenty-five
deputies chosen by lot, awaited him on the grand staircase
of the Palais Bourbon. As the sessions were nearly
always held in winter, it was very cold on the stairs, a
biting wind made all these old men shiver, and there are
old generals of the Empire who did not die as the result
of having been at Austerlitz, at Friedland, at the cemetery
at Eylau, at the storming of the grand redoubt at Moskowa
and under the fire of the Scottish squares at
Waterloo, but of having waited in the cold upon these
The peers stood to the right and the deputies to the
left, leaving the middle of the stairs clear. The staircase
was partitioned off with hangings of white drill with blue
stripes, which was a poor protection against draughts.
Where are the good and magnificent tapestries of Louis
XIV.? They were indeed royal; wherefore they were
taken down. Drill is a common material and more pleasing
to the deputies. It charms and it freezes them.
The Queen arrived first with the princesses, but without
the Duchess d'Orleans, who came separately with the
Count de Paris. These ladies walked quickly upstairs,
bowing to right and left, without speaking, but graciously,
followed by a swarm of aides-de-camp and grim turbaned
old women whom M. de Joinville called "the Queen's
Turks"--Mmes. de Dolokieu, de Chanaleilles, etc.
At the royal session of 1847, the Queen gave her arm to
the Duchess de Montpensier. The princess was muffled up
on account of the cold. I could see only a big red nose.
The three other princesses walked behind, chatting and
laughing. M. Anatole de Montesquiou came next in the
much worn uniform of a major-general.
The King arrived about five minutes after the Queen;
he walked upstairs even more quickly than she had done,
followed by the princes running like schoolboys, and bowed
to the peers on the right and the deputies on the left. He
tarried a moment in the throne-room and exchanged a few
greetings with the members of the two deputations. Then
he entered the large hall.
The speech from the throne was written on parchment,
on both sides of the sheet, and usually filled four pages.
The King read it in a firm, well modulated voice.
Marshal Soult was present, resplendent with decorations,
sashes, and gold lace, and complaining of his rheumatism.
M. Pasquier, the Chancellor, did not put in an appearance.
He had excused himself on the plea of the cold and of his
eighty years. He had been present the year before. It
was the last time.
In 1847 I was a member of the grand deputation. While
I strolled about the waiting room, conversing with M.
Villemain about Cracow, the Vienna treaties and the
frontier of the Rhine, I could hear the buzzing of the groups
around me, and scraps of conversation reached my ears.
COUNT DE LAGRANGE.--Ah! here comes the Marshal (Soult).
BARON PEDRE LACAZE.--He is getting old.
VISCOUNT CAVAIGNAC.--Sixty-nine years!
MARQUIS DR RAIGECOURT.--Who is the dean of the
Chamber of Peers at present?
DUKE DE TREVISE.--M. de Pontecoulant, is he not?
MARQUIS DE LAPLACE.--NO, President Boyer. He is
PRESIDENT BARTHE.--He is older than that.
BARON D'OBERLIN.--He no longer comes to the Chamber.
M. VIENNET.--They say that M. Rossi is returning from Rome.
DUKE DE FESENZAC.--Well, I pity him for quitting
Rome. It is the finest and most amiable city in the world.
I hope to end my days there.
COUNT DE MONTALEMBERT.--And Naples!
BARON THENARD.--I prefer Naples.
M. FULCHIRON.--Yes, Naples, that's the place. By the
by, I was there when poor Nourrit killed himself. I was
staying in the house next to his.
BARON CHARLES DUPIN.--He took his life? It was not
M. FULCHIRON.--Oh! it was a case of suicide, sure
enough. He had been hissed the previous day. He could
not stand that. It was in an opera composed expressly for
him--"Polyceucte." He threw himself from a height of sixty
feet. His voice did not please that particular public.
Nourrit was too much accustomed to sing Glück and
Mozart. The Neapolitans said of him: "Vecchico canto."
BARON DUPIN.--Poor Nourrit! why did he not wait!
Duprez has lost his voice. Eleven years ago Duprez
demolished Nourrit; to-day Nourrit would demolish Duprez.
MARQUIS DE BOISSY.--How cold it is on this staircase.
COUNT PHILIPPE DE SEGUR.--It was even colder at the
Academy the other day. That poor Dupaty is a good man,
but he made a bad speech.
BARON FEUTRIER.--I am trying to warm myself. What
a frightful draught! It is enough to drive one away.
BARON CHARLES DUPIN.--M. Français de Nantes had
conceived this expedient to rid himself of those who came
to solicit favours and abridge their solicitations: he was
given to receiving people between two doors.
M. Thiers at this time had a veritable court of deputies
about him. After the session he walked out in front of me.
A gigantic deputy, whose back only I could see, stepped
aside, saying: "Make way for historical men!" And the
big man let the little man pass.
Historical? May be. In what way?
II. THE DUCHESS D'ORLEANS.
Madame the Duchess d'Orleans is a rare woman, of
great wit and common sense. I do not think that she is
fully appreciated at the Tuileries. The King, though,
holds her in high esteem and often engages in long
conversations with her. Frequently he gives her his arm to
escort her from the family drawing-room to her
apartments. The royal daughters-in-law do not always appear
to act as kindly towards her.
February 26, 1844.
Yesterday the Duchess d'Orleans said to me:
"My son is not what one would call an amiable child.
He is not one of those pretty little prodigies who are an
honour to their mothers, and of whom people say: 'What
a clever child! What wit! What grace!' He has a kind
heart, I know; he has wit, I believe; but nobody knows and
believes this save myself. He is timid, wild, uncommunicative,
easily scared. What will he become? I have no
idea. Often at his age a child in his position understands
that he must make himself agreeable, and, little as he is,
sets himself to play his role. Mine hides himself in his
mother's skirt and lowers his eyes. But I love him, just
as he is. I even prefer him this way. I like a savage
better than a comedian."
The Count de Paris has signed the birth certificate of
the Princess Françoise de Joinville. It was the first time
that the little prince had signed his name. He did not
know what was wanted of him, and when the King handed
him the certificate and said "Paris, sign your name," the
child refused. The Duchess d'Orleans took him on her
knee and whispered something to him. Then the child
took the pen, and at the dictation of his grandfather wrote
upon the certificate L. P. d. O. He made the O much too
large and wrote the other letters awkwardly, and was very
much embarrassed and shy.
He is charming, though, and adores his mother, but he
hardly knows that his name is Louis Philippe d'Orleans.
He writes to his comrades, to his tutor, and to his mother,
but he signs his little missives "Paris." It is the only name
he knows himself by.
This evening the King sent for M. Regnier, the prince's
tutor, and gave him orders to teach the Count de Paris to
sign his name.
The Count de Paris is of a grave and sweet disposition;
he learns well. He is imbued with a natural tenderness,
and is kind to those who suffer.
His young cousin of Wurtemberg, who is two months
older, is jealous of him; as his mother, the Princess Marie,
was jealous of the mother of the Count de Paris. During
the lifetime of the Duke d'Orleans little Wurtemberg was
long the object of the Queen's preferences, and, in the little
court of the corridors and bedchambers, it was the custom
to flatter the Queen by comparisons between the one and
the other that were always favourable to Wurtemberg.
To-day that inequality has ceased. The Queen, by a touching
sentiment, inclined towards little Wurtemberg because
he had lost his mother; now there is no reason why she
should not lean towards the Count de Paris, seeing that he
has lost his father.
Little Michel Ney plays with the two princes every
Sunday. He is eleven years old, and the son of the Duke
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