The Paris Sketch Book
William Makepeace Thackeray
Part 1 out of 7
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THE PARIS SKETCH BOOK
MR. M. A. TITMARSH
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY
ESTES AND LAURIAT, BOSTON
THE PARIS SKETCH BOOK.
An Invasion of France
A Caution to Travellers
The Fêtes of July
On the French School of Painting
The Painter's Bargain
On some French Fashionable Novels
A Gambler's Death
Napoleon and his System
The Story of Mary Ancel
Caricatures and Lithography in Paris
The Devil's Wager
Madame Sand and the new Apocalypse
The Case of Peytel
Four Imitations of Béranger
French Dramas and Melodramas
Meditations at Versailles
M. ARETZ, TAILOR, ETC.
27, RUE RICHELIEU, PARIS.
SIR,--It becomes every man in his station to acknowledge and praise
virtue wheresoever he may find it, and to point it out for the
admiration and example of his fellow-men.
Some months since, when you presented to the writer of these pages
a small account for coats and pantaloons manufactured by you, and
when you were met by a statement from your creditor, that an
immediate settlement of your bill would be extremely inconvenient
to him; your reply was, "Mon Dieu, Sir, let not that annoy you; if
you want money, as a gentleman often does in a strange country, I
have a thousand-franc note at my house which is quite at your
History or experience, Sir, makes us acquainted with so few actions
that can be compared to yours,--an offer like this from a stranger
and a tailor seems to me so astonishing,--that you must pardon me
for thus making your virtue public, and acquainting the English
nation with your merit and your name. Let me add, Sir, that you
live on the first floor; that your clothes and fit are excellent,
and your charges moderate and just; and, as a humble tribute of my
admiration, permit me to lay these volumes at your feet.
Your obliged, faithful servant,
M. A. TITMARSH.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION.
About half of the sketches in these volumes have already appeared
in print, in various periodical works. A part of the text of one
tale, and the plots of two others, have been borrowed from French
originals; the other stories, which are, in the main, true, have
been written upon facts and characters that came within the
Author's observation during a residence in Paris.
As the remaining papers relate to public events which occurred
during the same period, or to Parisian Art and Literature, he has
ventured to give his publication the title which it bears.
LONDON, July 1, 1840.
AN INVASION OF FRANCE.
Caesar venit in Galliam summâ diligentiâ."
About twelve o'clock, just as the 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 Jews, strangers, people-
taking-leave-of-their-families, and blackguard-boys aforesaid, are
making a rush for the narrow plank which conducts from the paddle-
box of the "Emerald" steamboat 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 polite company--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 discharged 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 the 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 the
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; in like
manner you will always, I think, find your wife (if that lady be
good for twopence) shrill, eager, and ill-humored, 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 that 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 your soul. Your wife
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 bargees 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
anythink?" 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 fizz 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 steamboats. Such may be
considered as the distinctive marks of the English gentleman at
three or 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 around. How happy the two
young Englishmen are, who can speak French, and make up to her: and
how all criticise her points and paces! Yonder is a group of young
ladies, who are going to Paris to learn how to be governesses:
those two splendidly dressed ladies are milliners from the Rue
Richelieu, who have just brought over, and disposed of, their cargo
of Summer fashions. Here sits the Rev. Mr. 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 rickety house, two miles
from Boulogne and never see a soul, except the French usher and the
Some few French people are there already, preparing to be ill--(I
never shall forget a 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 Jews 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 the 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
on deck disappear, and your wife, giving you an alarmed look,
descends, with her little ones, to the ladies' 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 are
called, I believe, in America, expectoratoons, only these are
. . . . . .
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.--
(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, anon, 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, ay, and
mayhap the parlor, 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
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 indifferent--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
harbor is in sight, and the foreigner says,--
The distinguished foreigner says, says he--"Sare, eef you af no
'otel, I sall recommend you, milor, to ze 'Otel Betfort, in ze
Quay, sare, close to the bathing-machines and custom-ha-oose. Good
bets and fine garten, sare; table-d'hôte, sare, à cinq heures;
breakfast, sare, in French or English style;--I am the
commissionaire, sare, and vill see to your loggish."
. . . Curse the fellow, for an impudent, swindling, sneaking French
humbug!--Your tone instantly changes, and you tell him to go about
his business: but at twelve o'clock at night, when the voyage is
over, and the custom-house business done, knowing not whither to
go, with a wife and fourteen exhausted children, scarce able to
stand, and longing for bed, you find yourself, somehow, in the
Hôtel Bedford (and you can't be better), and smiling chambermaids
carry off your children to snug beds; while smart waiters produce
for your honor--a cold fowl, say, and a salad, and a bottle of
Bordeaux and Seltzer-water.
. . . . . .
The morning comes--I don't know a pleasanter feeling than that of
waking with the sun shining on objects quite new, and (although you
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 gay and as comfortable as
may be--the sun 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 comes up from the court-yard 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 biftecks aux pommes pour le trente-trois,"--(O 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
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 "Fleuve du Tage," at
an inn-window, to a harp, and there are the little gamins mocking
HIM. Lo! these seven young ladies, with red hair and green veils,
they are from neighboring Albion, and going to bathe. Here comes
three Englishmen, habitués evidently of the place,--dandy specimens
of our countrymen: one wears a marine dress, another has a shooting
dress, a third has a blouse and a pair of guiltless 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 us, cries the patriotic reader, any abuse of our fellow-
countrymen (anybody else can do that), but rather continue in that
good-humored, facetious, descriptive style with which your letter
has commenced.--Your remark, sir, 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 the new light-house and the
new harbor, and the gas-lamps, and the manufactures, and the
convents, and the number of English and French residents, and the
pillar erected in honor of the grand Armée d'Angleterre, so called
because it DIDN'T go to England, have all been excellently
described by the facetious Coglan, the learned Dr. Millingen, 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 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 fancy 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 Vimeiro
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 further 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
Laffitte, Caillard and Company, and to travel for twenty-five
hours, amidst much jingling of harness-bells and screaming of
. . . . . .
The French milliner, who occupies one of the corners, begins to
remove the 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 head-piece, 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 journey, 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 d--d glad that the
d--d voyage is so nearly over. "Enfin!" says your neighbor,
yawning, and inserting an elbow into the mouth of his right and
left hand companion, "nous voilà."
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 would traverse at least six miles in the same space of
time. Thus it is, when Sir Robert maketh a speech at Saint
Stephen's--he useth his strength at the beginning, only, and the
end. He gallopeth at the commencement; in the middle he lingers;
at the close, again, he rouses the House, which has fallen asleep;
he cracketh 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 in 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 Barrier 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. Trollope, 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 dark 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 color. 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 favorite street)
flaunt long strips of gaudy calicoes, which give a strange air of
rude gayety to the street. Milk-women, 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. Gay 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 St. 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 fleurs-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 some years afterwards; but of this fact, singularly enough,
the inscriptions make no mention. Passing, then, round the gate,
and not under it (after the general custom, 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 Rue St. Eustache, the conductor gives a last blast on his
horn, and the great vehicle clatters into the court- yard, where the
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 passengers 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 commissionaires. 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 Rhin?' 'Hôtel de l'Amirauté!'--'Hotel Bristol,' sare!--
Monsieur, 'l'Hôtel de Lille?' Sacr-rrré 'nom de Dieu, laissez
passer ce petit, monsieur! Ow mosh loggish ave you, sare?"
And now, if you are a stranger in Paris, listen to the words of
Titmarsh.--If you cannot speak a syllable of French, and love
English comfort, clean rooms, breakfasts, and waiters; if you would
have plentiful dinners, and are not particular (as how should you
be?) concerning wine; if, in this foreign country, you WILL have
your English companions, your porter, your friend, and your brandy-
and-water--do not listen to any of these commissioner fellows, but
with your best English accent, shout out boldly, "MEURICE!" and
straightway a man will step forward to conduct you to the Rue de
Here you will find apartments at any price: a very neat room, for
instance, for three francs daily; an English breakfast of eternal
boiled eggs, or grilled ham; a nondescript dinner, profuse but
cold; and a society which will rejoice your heart. Here are young
gentlemen from the universities; young merchants on a lark; large
families of nine daughters, with fat father and mother; officers of
dragoons, and lawyers' clerks. The last time we dined at
"Meurice's" we hobbed and nobbed with no less a person than Mr.
Moses, the celebrated bailiff of Chancery Lane; Lord Brougham was
on his right, and a clergyman's lady, with a train of white-haired
girls, sat on his left, wonderfully taken with the diamond rings of
the fascinating stranger!
It is, as you will perceive, an admirable way to see Paris,
especially if you spend your days reading the English papers at
Galignani's, as many of our foreign tourists do.
But all this is promiscuous, and not to the purpose. If,--to
continue on the subject of hotel choosing,--if you love quiet,
heavy bills, and the best table-d'hôte in the city, go, O stranger!
to the "Hôtel des Princes;" it is close to the Boulevard, and
convenient for Frascati's. The "Hôtel Mirabeau" possesses scarcely
less attraction; but of this you will find, in Mr. Bulwer's
"Autobiography of Pelham," a faithful and complete account.
"Lawson's Hotel" has likewise its merits, as also the "Hôtel de
Lille," which may be described as a "second chop" Meurice.
If you are a poor student come to study the humanities, or the
pleasant art of amputation, cross the water forthwith, and proceed
to the "Hôtel Corneille," near the Odéon, or others of its species;
there are many where you can live royally (until you economize by
going into lodgings) on four francs a day; and where, if by any
strange chance you are desirous for a while to get rid of your
countrymen, you will find that they scarcely ever penetrate.
But above all, O my countrymen! shun boarding-houses, especially if
you have ladies in your train; or ponder well, and examine the
characters of the keepers thereof, before you lead your innocent
daughters, and their mamma, into places so dangerous. In the first
place, you have bad dinners; and, secondly, bad company. If you
play cards, you are very likely playing with a swindler; if you
dance, you dance with a ---- person with whom you had better have
nothing to do.
Note (which ladies are requested not to read).--In one of these
establishments, daily advertised as most eligible for English, a
friend of the writer lived. A lady, who had passed for some time
as the wife of one of the inmates, suddenly changed her husband and
name, her original husband remaining in the house, and saluting her
by her new title.
A CAUTION TO TRAVELLERS.
A million dangers and snares await the traveller, as soon as he
issues out of that vast messagerie which we have just quitted: and
as each man cannot do better than relate such events as have
happened in the course of his own experience, and may keep the
unwary from the path of danger, let us take this, the very earliest
opportunity, of imparting to the public a little of the wisdom
which we painfully have acquired.
And first, then, with regard to the city of Paris, it is to be
remarked, that in that metropolis flourish a greater number of
native and exotic swindlers than are to be found in any other
European nursery. What young Englishman that visits it, but has
not determined, in his heart, to have a little share of the
gayeties that go on--just for once, just to see what they are like?
How many, when the horrible gambling dens were open, did resist a
sight of them?--nay, was not a young fellow rather flattered by a
dinner invitation from the Salon, whither he went, fondly
pretending that he should see "French society," in the persons of
certain Dukes and Counts who used to frequent the place?
My friend Pogson is a young fellow, not much worse, although
perhaps a little weaker and simpler than his neighbors; and coming
to Paris with exactly the same notions that bring many others of
the British youth to that capital, events befell him there, last
winter, which are strictly true, and shall here be narrated, by way
of warning to all.
Pog, it must be premised, is a city man, who travels in drugs for a
couple of the best London houses, blows the flute, has an album,
drives his own gig, and is considered, both on the road and in the
metropolis, a remarkably nice, intelligent, thriving young man.
Pogson's only fault is too great an attachment to the fair:--"the
sex," as he says often "will be his ruin:" the fact is, that Pog
never travels without a "Don Juan" under his driving-cushion, and
is a pretty-looking young fellow enough.
Sam Pogson had occasion to visit Paris, last October; and it was in
that city that his love of the sex had liked to have cost him dear.
He worked his way down to Dover; placing, right and left, at the
towns on his route, rhubarb, sodas, and other such delectable wares
as his masters dealt in ("the sweetest sample of castor oil, smelt
like a nosegay--went off like wildfire--hogshead and a half at
Rochester, eight-and twenty gallons at Canterbury," and so on), and
crossed to Calais, and thence voyaged to Paris in the coupé of the
Diligence. He paid for two places, too, although a single man, and
the reason shall now be made known.
Dining at the table-d'hôte at "Quillacq's"--it is the best inn on
the Continent of Europe--our little traveller had the happiness to
be placed next to a lady, who was, he saw at a glance, one of the
extreme pink of the nobility. A large lady, in black satin, with
eyes and hair as black as sloes, with gold chains, scent-bottles,
sable tippet, worked pocket-handkerchief, and four twinkling rings
on each of her plump white fingers. Her cheeks were as pink as the
finest Chinese rouge could make them. Pog knew the article: he
travelled in it. Her lips were as red as the ruby lip salve: she
used the very best, that was clear.
She was a fine-looking woman, certainly (holding down her eyes, and
talking perpetually of "mes trente-deux ans"); and Pogson, the
wicked young dog, who professed not to care for young misses,
saying they smelt so of bread-and-butter, declared, at once, that
the lady was one of HIS beauties; in fact, when he spoke to us
about her, he said, "She's a slap-up thing, I tell you; a reg'lar
good one; ONE OF MY SORT!" And such was Pogson's credit in all
commercial rooms, that one of HIS sort was considered to surpass
all other sorts.
During dinner-time, Mr. Pogson was profoundly polite and attentive
to the lady at his side, and kindly communicated to her, as is the
way with the best-bred English on their first arrival "on the
Continent," all his impressions regarding the sights and persons he
had seen. Such remarks having been made during half an hour's
ramble about the ramparts and town, and in the course of a walk
down to the custom-house, and a confidential communication with the
commissionaire, must be, doubtless, very valuable to Frenchmen in
their own country; and the lady listened to Pogson's opinions: not
only with benevolent attention, but actually, she said, with
pleasure and delight. Mr. Pogson said that there was no such thing
as good meat in France, and that's why they cooked their victuals
in this queer way; he had seen many soldiers parading about the
place, and expressed a true Englishman's abhorrence of an armed
force; not that he feared such fellows as these--little whipper-
snappers--our men would eat them. Hereupon the lady admitted that
our Guards were angels, but that Monsieur must not be too hard upon
the French; "her father was a General of the Emperor."
Pogson felt a tremendous respect for himself at the notion that he
was dining with a General's daughter, and instantly ordered a
bottle of champagne to keep up his consequence.
"Mrs. Bironn, ma'am," said he, for he had heard the waiter call her
by some such name, "if you WILL accept a glass of champagne, ma'am,
you'll do me, I'm sure, great honor: they say it's very good, and a
precious sight cheaper than it is on our side of the way, too--not
that I care for money. Mrs. Bironn, ma'am, your health, ma'am."
The lady smiled very graciously, and drank the wine.
"Har you any relation, ma'am, if I may make so bold; har you
anyways connected with the family of our immortal bard?"
"Sir, I beg your pardon."
"Don't mention it, ma'am: but BiRONN and BYron are hevidently the
same names, only you pronounce in the French way; and I thought you
might be related to his lordship: his horigin, ma'am, was of French
extraction:" and here Pogson began to repeat,--
"Hare thy heyes like thy mother's, my fair child,
Hada! sole daughter of my 'ouse and 'art?"
"Oh!" said the lady, laughing, "you speak of LOR Byron?
"Hauthor of 'Don Juan,' 'Child 'Arold,' and 'Cain, a Mystery,'"
said Pogson:--"I do; and hearing the waiter calling you Madam la
Bironn, took the liberty of hasking whether you were connected with
his lordship; that's hall:" and my friend here grew dreadfully red,
and began twiddling his long ringlets in his fingers, and examining
very eagerly the contents of his plate.
"Oh, no: Madame la Baronne means Mistress Baroness; my husband was
Baron, and I am Baroness."
"What! 'ave I the honor--I beg your pardon, ma'am--is your ladyship
a Baroness, and I not know it? pray excuse me for calling you
The Baroness smiled most graciously--with such a look as Juno cast
upon unfortunate Jupiter when she wished to gain her wicked ends
upon him--the Baroness smiled; and, stealing her hand into a black
velvet bag, drew from it an ivory card-case, and from the ivory
card-case extracted a glazed card, printed in gold; on it was
engraved a coronet, and under the coronet the words
BARONNE DE FLORVAL-DELVAL,
NÉE DE MELVAL-NORVAL.
The grand Pitt diamond--the Queen's own star of the garter--a
sample of otto-of-roses at a guinea a drop, would not be handled
more curiously, or more respectfully, than this porcelain card of
the Baroness. Trembling he put it into his little Russia-leather
pocket-book: and when he ventured to look up, and saw the eyes of
the Baroness de Florval-Delval, née de Melval-Norval, gazing upon
him with friendly and serene glances, a thrill of pride tingled
through Pogson's blood: he felt himself to be the very happiest
fellow "on the Continent."
But Pogson did not, for some time, venture to resume that sprightly
and elegant familiarity which generally forms the great charm of
his conversation: he was too much frightened at the presence he
was in, and contented himself by graceful and solemn bows, deep
attention, and ejaculations of "Yes, my lady," and "No, your
ladyship," for some minutes after the discovery had been made.
Pogson piqued himself on his breeding: "I hate the aristocracy,"
he said, "but that's no reason why I shouldn't behave like a
A surly, silent little gentleman, who had been the third at the
ordinary, and would take no part either in the conversation or in
Pogson's champagne, now took up his hat, and, grunting, left the
room, when the happy bagman had the delight of a tête-à-tête. The
Baroness did not appear inclined to move: it was cold; a fire was
comfortable, and she had ordered none in her apartment. Might
Pogson give her one more glass of champagne, or would her ladyship
prefer "something hot." Her ladyship gravely said, she never took
ANYTHING hot. "Some champagne, then; a leetle drop?" She would!
she would! O gods! how Pogson's hand shook as he filled and
offered her the glass!
What took place during the rest of the evening had better be
described by Mr. Pogson himself, who has given us permission to
publish his letter.
"QUILLACQ'S HOTEL (pronounced KILLYAX), CALAIS.
"DEAR TIT,--I arrived at Cally, as they call it, this day, or,
rather, yesterday; for it is past midnight, as I sit thinking of a
wonderful adventure that has just befallen me. A woman in course;
that's always the case with ME, you know: but oh, Tit! if you COULD
but see her! Of the first family in France, the Florval-Delvals,
beautiful as an angel, and no more caring for money than I do for
"I'll tell you how it occurred. Everybody in France, you know,
dines at the ordinary--it's quite distangy to do so. There was
only three of us to-day, however,--the Baroness, me, and a gent,
who never spoke a word; and we didn't want him to, neither: do you
"You know my way with the women: champagne's the thing; make 'em
drink, make 'em talk;--make 'em talk, make 'em do anything. So I
orders a bottle, as if for myself; and, 'Ma'am,' says I, 'will you
take a glass of Sham--just one?' Take it she did--for you know
it's quite distangy here: everybody dines at the table de hôte, and
everybody accepts everybody's wine. Bob Irons, who travels in
linen on our circuit, told me that he had made some slap-up
acquaintances among the genteelest people at Paris, nothing but by
offering them Sham.
"Well, my Baroness takes one glass, two glasses, three glasses--the
old fellow goes--we have a deal of chat (she took me for a military
man, she said: is it not singular that so many people should?), and
by ten o'clock we had grown so intimate, that I had from her her
whole history, knew where she came from, and where she was going.
Leave me alone with 'em: I can find out any woman's history in half
"And where do you think she IS going? to Paris to be sure: she has
her seat in what they call the coopy (though you're not near so
cooped in it as in our coaches. I've been to the office and seen
one of 'em). She has her place in the coopy, and the coopy holds
THREE; so what does Sam Pogson do?--he goes and takes the other
two. Ain't I up to a thing or two? Oh, no, not the least; but I
shall have her to myself the whole of the way.
"We shall be in the French metropolis the day after this reaches
you: please look out for a handsome lodging for me, and never mind
the expense. And I say, if you could, in her hearing, when you
came down to the coach, call me Captain Pogson, I wish you would--
it sounds well travelling, you know; and when she asked me if I was
not an officer, I couldn't say no. Adieu, then, my dear fellow,
till Monday, and vive le joy, as they say. The Baroness says I
speak French charmingly, she talks English as well as you or I.
"Your affectionate friend,
This letter reached us duly, in our garrets, and we engaged such an
apartment for Mr. Pogson, as beseemed a gentleman of his rank in
the world and the army. At the appointed hour, too, we repaired to
the Diligence office, and there beheld the arrival of the machine
which contained him and his lovely Baroness.
Those who have much frequented the society of gentlemen of his
profession (and what more delightful?) must be aware, that, when
all the rest of mankind look hideous, dirty, peevish, wretched,
after a forty hours' coach-journey, a bagman appears as gay and
spruce as when he started; having within himself a thousand little
conveniences for the voyage, which common travellers neglect.
Pogson had a little portable toilet, of which he had not failed to
take advantage, and with his long, curling, flaxen hair, flowing
under a seal-skin cap, with a gold tassel, with a blue and gold
satin handkerchief, a crimson velvet waistcoat, a light green cut-
away coat, a pair of barred brickdust-colored pantaloons, and a
neat mackintosh, presented, altogether, as elegant and distingué an
appearance as any one could desire. He had put on a clean collar
at breakfast, and a pair of white kids as he entered the barrier,
and looked, as he rushed into my arms, more like a man stepping out
of a band-box, than one descending from a vehicle that has just
performed one of the laziest, dullest, flattest, stalest, dirtiest
journeys in Europe.
To my surprise, there were TWO ladies in the coach with my friend,
and not ONE, as I had expected. One of these, a stout female,
carrying sundry baskets, bags, umbrellas, and woman's wraps, was
evidently a maid-servant: the other, in black, was Pogson's fair
one, evidently. I could see a gleam of curl-papers over a sallow
face,--of a dusky nightcap flapping over the curl-papers,--but
these were hidden by a lace veil and a huge velvet bonnet, of which
the crowning birds-of-paradise were evidently in a moulting state.
She was encased in many shawls and wrappers; she put, hesitatingly,
a pretty little foot out of the carriage--Pogson was by her side in
an instant, and, gallantly putting one of his white kids round her
waist, aided this interesting creature to descend. I saw, by her
walk, that she was five-and-forty, and that my little Pogson was a
After some brief parley between them--in which it was charming to
hear how my friend Samuel WOULD speak, what he called French, to a
lady who could not understand one syllable of his jargon--the
mutual hackney-coaches drew up; Madame la Baronne waved to the
Captain a graceful French curtsy. "Adyou!" said Samuel, and waved
his lily hand. "Adyou-addimang."
A brisk little gentleman, who had made the journey in the same
coach with Pogson, but had more modestly taken a seat in the
Imperial, here passed us, and greeted me with a "How d'ye do?" He
had shouldered his own little valise, and was trudging off,
scattering a cloud of commissionaires, who would fain have spared
him the trouble.
"Do you know that chap?" says Pogson; "surly fellow, ain't he?"
"The kindest man in existence," answered I; "all the world knows
little Major British."
"He's a Major, is he?--why, that's the fellow that dined with us at
Killyax's; it's lucky I did not call myself Captain before him, he
mightn't have liked it, you know:" and then Sam fell into a
reverie;--what was the subject of his thoughts soon appeared.
"Did you ever SEE such a foot and ankle?" said Sam, after sitting
for some time, regardless of the novelty of the scene, his hands in
his pockets, plunged in the deepest thought.
"ISN'T she a slap-up woman, eh, now?" pursued he; and began
enumerating her attractions, as a horse-jockey would the points of
a favorite animal.
"You seem to have gone a pretty length already," said I, "by
promising to visit her to-morrow."
"A good length?--I believe you. Leave ME alone for that."
"But I thought you were only to be two in the coupé, you wicked
"Two in the coopy? Oh! ah! yes, you know--why, that is, I didn't
know she had her maid with her (what an ass I was to think of a
noblewoman travelling without one!) and couldn't, in course,
refuse, when she asked me to let the maid in."
"Of course not."
"Couldn't, you know, as a man of honor; but I made up for all
that," said Pogson, winking slyly, and putting his hand to his
little bunch of a nose, in a very knowing way.
"You did, and how?"
"Why, you dog, I sat next to her; sat in the middle the whole way,
and my back's half broke, I can tell you:" and thus, having
depicted his happiness, we soon reached the inn where this back-
broken young man was to lodge during his stay in Paris.
The next day at five we met; Mr. Pogson had seen his Baroness, and
described her lodgings, in his own expressive way, as "slap-up."
She had received him quite like an old friend; treated him to eau
sucrée, of which beverage he expressed himself a great admirer; and
actually asked him to dine the next day. But there was a cloud
over the ingenuous youth's brow, and I inquired still farther.
"Why," said he, with a sigh, "I thought she was a widow; and, hang
it! who should come in but her husband the Baron: a big fellow,
sir, with a blue coat, a red ribbing, and SUCH a pair of mustachios!"
"Well," said I, "he didn't turn you out, I suppose?"
"Oh, no! on the contrary, as kind as possible; his lordship said
that he respected the English army; asked me what corps I was in,--
said he had fought in Spain against us,--and made me welcome."
"What could you want more?"
Mr. Pogson at this only whistled; and if some very profound
observer of human nature had been there to read into this little
bagman's heart, it would, perhaps, have been manifest, that the
appearance of a whiskered soldier of a husband had counteracted
some plans that the young scoundrel was concocting.
I live up a hundred and thirty-seven steps in the remote quarter
of the Luxembourg, and it is not to be expected that such a
fashionable fellow as Sam Pogson, with his pockets full of money,
and a new city to see, should be always wandering to my dull
quarters; so that, although he did not make his appearance for some
time, he must not be accused of any luke-warmness of friendship on
He was out, too, when I called at his hotel; but once, I had the
good fortune to see him, with his hat curiously on one side,
looking as pleased as Punch, and being driven, in an open cab, in
the Champs Elysées. "That's ANOTHER tip-top chap," said he, when
we met, at length. "What do you think of an Earl's son, my boy?
Honorable Tom Ringwood, son of the Earl of Cinqbars: what do you
think of that, eh?"
I thought he was getting into very good society. Sam was a dashing
fellow, and was always above his own line of life; he had met Mr.
Ringwood at the Baron's, and they'd been to the play together; and
the honorable gent, as Sam called him, had joked with him about
being well to do IN A CERTAIN QUARTER; and he had had a game of
billiards with the Baron, at the Estaminy, "a very distangy place,
where you smoke," said Sam; "quite select, and frequented by the
tip-top nobility;" and they were as thick as peas in a shell; and
they were to dine that day at Ringwood's, and sup, the next night,
with the Baroness.
"I think the chaps down the road will stare," said Sam, "when they
hear how I've been coming it." And stare, no doubt, they would;
for it is certain that very few commercial gentlemen have had Mr.
The next morning we had made an arrangement to go out shopping
together, and to purchase some articles of female gear, that Sam
intended to bestow on his relations when he returned. Seven
needle-books, for his sisters; a gilt buckle, for his mamma; a
handsome French cashmere shawl and bonnet, for his aunt (the old
lady keeps an inn in the Borough, and has plenty of money, and no
heirs); and a toothpick case, for his father. Sam is a good fellow
to all his relations, and as for his aunt, he adores her. Well, we
were to go and make these purchases, and I arrived punctually at my
time; but Sam was stretched on a sofa, very pale and dismal.
I saw how it had been.--"A little too much of Mr. Ringwood's
claret, I suppose?"
He only gave a sickly stare.
"Where does the Honorable Tom live?" says I.
"HONORABLE!" says Sam, with a hollow, horrid laugh; "I tell you,
Tit, he's no more Honorable than you are."
"What, an impostor?"
"No, no; not that. He is a real Honorable, only--"
"Oh, ho! I smell a rat--a little jealous, eh?"
"Jealousy be hanged! I tell you he's a thief; and the Baron's a
thief; and, hang me, if I think his wife is any better. Eight-and-
thirty pounds he won of me before supper; and made me drunk, and
sent me home:--is THAT honorable? How can I afford to lose forty
pounds? It's took me two years to save it up--if my old aunt gets
wind of it, she'll cut me off with a shilling: hang me!"--and here
Sam, in an agony, tore his fair hair.
While bewailing his lot in this lamentable strain, his bell was
rung, which signal being answered by a surly "Come in," a tall,
very fashionable gentleman, with a fur coat, and a fierce tuft to
his chin, entered the room. "Pogson my buck, how goes it?" said
he, familiarly, and gave a stare at me: I was making for my hat.
"Don't go," said Sam, rather eagerly; and I sat down again.
The Honorable Mr. Ringwood hummed and ha'd: and, at last, said he
wished to speak to Mr. Pogson on business, in private, if possible.
"There's no secrets betwixt me and my friend," cried Sam.
Mr. Ringwood paused a little:--"An awkward business that of last
night," at length exclaimed he.
"I believe it WAS an awkward business," said Sam, dryly.
"I really am very sorry for your losses."
"Thank you: and so am I, I can tell you," said Sam.
"You must mind, my good fellow, and not drink; for, when you drink,
you WILL play high: by Gad, you led US in, and not we you."
"I dare say," answered Sam, with something of peevishness; "losses
is losses: there's no use talking about 'em when they're over and
"And paid?" here wonderingly spoke Mr. Ringwood; "why, my dear fel--
what the deuce--has Florval been with you?"
"D--- Florval!" growled Sam, "I've never set eyes on his face since
last night; and never wish to see him again."
"Come, come, enough of this talk; how do you intend to settle the
bills which you gave him last night?"
"Bills I what do you mean?"
"I mean, sir, these bills," said the Honorable Tom, producing two
out of his pocket-book, and looking as stern as a lion. "'I
promise to pay, on demand, to the Baron de Florval, the sum of four
hundred pounds. October 20, 1838.' 'Ten days after date I promise
to pay the Baron de et caetera et caetera, one hundred and ninety-
eight pounds. Samuel Pogson.' You didn't say what regiment you
"WHAT!" shouted poor Sam, as from a dream, starting up and looking
preternaturally pale and hideous.
"D--- it, sir, you don't affect ignorance: you don't pretend not to
remember that you signed these bills, for money lost in my rooms:
money LENT to you, by Madame de Florval, at your own request, and
lost to her husband? You don't suppose, sir, that I shall be such
an infernal idiot as to believe you, or such a coward as to put up
with a mean subterfuge of this sort. Will you, or will you not,
pay the money, sir?"
"I will not," said Sam, stoutly; "it's a d----d swin--"
Here Mr. Ringwood sprung up, clenching his riding-whip, and looking
so fierce that Sam and I bounded back to the other end of the room.
"Utter that word again, and, by heaven, I'll murder you!" shouted
Mr. Ringwood, and looked as if he would, too: "once more, will you,
or will you not, pay this money?"
"I can't," said Sam faintly.
"I'll call again, Captain Pogson," said Mr. Ringwood, "I'll call
again in one hour; and, unless you come to some arrangement, you
must meet my friend, the Baron de Florval, or I'll post you for a
swindler and a coward." With this he went out: the door thundered
to after him, and when the clink of his steps departing had
subsided, I was enabled to look round at Pog. The poor little man
had his elbows on the marble table, his head between his hands, and
looked, as one has seen gentlemen look over a steam-vessel off
Ramsgate, the wind blowing remarkably fresh: at last he fairly
burst out crying.
"If Mrs. Pogson heard of this," said I, "what would become of the
'Three Tuns?'" (for I wished to give him a lesson). "If your Ma,
who took you every Sunday to meeting, should know that her boy was
paying attention to married women;--if Drench, Glauber and Co.,
your employers, were to know that their confidential agent was a
gambler, and unfit to be trusted with their money, how long do you
think your connection would last with them, and who would
afterwards employ you?"
To this poor Pog had not a word of answer; but sat on his sofa
whimpering so bitterly, that the sternest of moralists would have
relented towards him, and would have been touched by the little
wretch's tears. Everything, too, must be pleaded in excuse for
this unfortunate bagman: who, if he wished to pass for a captain,
had only done so because he had an intense respect and longing for
rank: if he had made love to the Baroness, had only done so because
he was given to understand by Lord Byron's "Don Juan" that making
love was a very correct, natty thing: and if he had gambled, had
only been induced to do so by the bright eyes and example of the
Baron and the Baroness. O ye Barons and Baronesses of England! if
ye knew what a number of small commoners are daily occupied in
studying your lives, and imitating your aristocratic ways, how
careful would ye be of your morals, manners, and conversation!
My soul was filled, then, with a gentle yearning pity for Pogson,
and revolved many plans for his rescue: none of these seeming to
be practicable, at last we hit on the very wisest of all, and
determined to apply for counsel to no less a person than Major
A blessing it is to be acquainted with my worthy friend, little
Major British; and heaven, sure, it was that put the Major into my
head, when I heard of this awkward scrape of poor Fog's. The Major
is on half-pay, and occupies a modest apartment au quatrième, in
the very hotel which Pogson had patronized at my suggestion;
indeed, I had chosen it from Major British's own peculiar
There is no better guide to follow than such a character as the
honest Major, of whom there are many likenesses now scattered over
the Continent of Europe: men who love to live well, and are forced
to live cheaply, and who find the English abroad a thousand times
easier, merrier, and more hospitable than the same persons at home.
I, for my part, never landed on Calais pier without feeling that a
load of sorrows was left on the other side of the water; and have
always fancied that black care stepped on board the steamer, along
with the custom-house officers at Gravesend, and accompanied one to
yonder black louring towers of London--so busy, so dismal, and so
British would have cut any foreigner's throat who ventured to say
so much, but entertained, no doubt, private sentiments of this
nature; for he passed eight months of the year, regularly, abroad,
with headquarters at Paris (the garrets before alluded to), and
only went to England for the month's shooting, on the grounds of
his old colonel, now an old lord, of whose acquaintance the Major
was passably inclined to boast.
He loved and respected, like a good staunch Tory as he is, every
one of the English nobility; gave himself certain little airs of
a man of fashion, that were by no means disagreeable; and was,
indeed, kindly regarded by such English aristocracy as he met, in
his little annual tours among the German courts, in Italy or in
Paris, where he never missed an ambassador's night: he retailed to
us, who didn't go, but were delighted to know all that had taken
place, accurate accounts of the dishes, the dresses, and the
scandal which had there fallen under his observation.
He is, moreover, one of the most useful persons in society that can
possibly be; for besides being incorrigibly duelsome on his own
account, he is, for others, the most acute and peaceable counsellor
in the world, and has carried more friends through scrapes and
prevented more deaths than any member of the Humane Society.
British never bought a single step in the army, as is well known.
In '14 he killed a celebrated French fire-eater,, who had slain a
young friend of his, and living, as he does, a great deal with
young men of pleasure, and good old sober family people, he is
loved by them both and has as welcome a place made for him at a
roaring bachelor's supper at the "Café Anglais," as at a staid
dowager's dinner-table in the Faubourg St. Honoré. Such pleasant
old boys are very profitable acquaintances, let me tell you; and
lucky is the young man who has one or two such friends in his list.
Hurrying on Fogson in his dress, I conducted him, panting, up to
the Major's quatrième, where we were cheerfully bidden to come in.
The little gentleman was in his travelling jacket, and occupied in
painting, elegantly, one of those natty pairs of boots in which he
daily promenaded the Boulevards. A couple of pairs of tough buff
gloves had been undergoing some pipe-claying operation under his
hands; no man stepped out so spick and span, with a hat so nicely
brushed, with a stiff cravat tied so neatly under a fat little red
face, with a blue frock-coat so scrupulously fitted to a punchy
little person, as Major British, about whom we have written these
two pages. He stared rather hardly at my companion, but gave me a
kind shake of the hand, and we proceeded at once to business.
"Major British," said I, "we want your advice in regard to an
unpleasant affair which has just occurred to my friend Pogson."
"Pogson, take a chair."
"You must know, sir, that Mr. Pogson, coming from Calais the other
day, encountered, in the diligence, a very handsome woman."
British winked at Pogson, who, wretched as he was, could not help
"Mr. Pogson was not more pleased with this lovely creature than was
she with him; for, it appears, she gave him her card, invited him
to her house, where he has been constantly, and has been received
with much kindness."
"I see," says British.
"Her husband the Baron--"
"NOW it's coming," said the Major, with a grin: "her husband is
jealous, I suppose, and there is a talk of the Bois de Boulogne: my
dear sir, you can't refuse--can't refuse."
"It's not that," said Pogson, wagging his head passionately.
"Her husband the Baron seemed quite as much taken with Pogson as
his lady was, and has introduced him to some very distingué friends
of his own set. Last night one of the Baron's friends gave a party
in honor of my friend Pogson, who lost forty-eight pounds at cards
BEFORE he was made drunk, and heaven knows how much after."
"Not a shilling, by sacred heaven!--not a shilling!" yelled out
Pogson. "After the supper I 'ad such an 'eadach', I couldn't do
anything but fall asleep on the sofa."
"You 'ad such an 'eadach', sir," says British, sternly, who piques
himself on his grammar and pronunciation, and scorns a cockney.
Such a H-eadache, sir," replied Pogson, with much meekness.
"The unfortunate man is brought home at two o'clock, as tipsy as
possible, dragged up stairs, senseless, to bed, and, on waking,
receives a visit from his entertainer of the night before--a lord's
son, Major, a tip-top fellow,--who brings a couple of bills that my
friend Pogson is said to have signed."
"Well, my dear fellow, the thing's quite simple,--he must pay
"I can't pay them."
"He can't pay them," said we both in a breath: "Pogson is a
commercial traveller, with thirty shillings a week, and how the
deuce is he to pay five hundred pounds?"
"A bagman, sir! and what right has a bagman to gamble? Gentlemen
gamble, sir; tradesmen, sir, have no business with the amusements
of the gentry. What business had you with barons and lords' sons,
sir?--serve you right, sir."
"Sir," says Pogson, with some dignity, "merit, and not birth, is
the criterion of a man: I despise an hereditary aristocracy, and
admire only Nature's gentlemen. For my part, I think that a
"Hold your tongue, sir," bounced out the Major, "and don't lecture
me; don't come to me, sir, with your slang about Nature's
gentlemen--Nature's tomfools, sir! Did Nature open a cash account
for you at a banker's, sir? Did Nature give you an education, sir?
What do you mean by competing with people to whom Nature has given
all these things? Stick to your bags, Mr. Pogson, and your bagmen,
and leave barons and their like to their own ways."
"Yes, but, Major," here cried that faithful friend, who has always
stood by Pogson; "they won't leave him alone."
"The honorable gent says I must fight if I don't pay," whimpered
"What! fight YOU? Do you mean that the honorable gent, as you call
him, will go out with a bagman?"
"He doesn't know I'm a--I'm a commercial man," blushingly said Sam:
"he fancies I'm a military gent."
The Major's gravity was quite upset at this absurd notion; and he
laughed outrageously. "Why, the fact is, sir," said I, "that my
friend Pogson, knowing the value of the title of Captain, and being
complimented by the Baroness on his warlike appearance, said,
boldly, he was in the army. He only assumed the rank in order to
dazzle her weak imagination, never fancying that there was a
husband, and a circle of friends, with whom he was afterwards to
make an acquaintance; and then, you know, it was too late to
"A pretty pickle you have put yourself in, Mr. Pogson, by making
love to other men's wives, and calling yourself names," said the
Major, who was restored to good humor. "And pray, who is the
"The Earl of Cinqbars' son," says Pogson, "the Honorable Tom
"I thought it was some such character; and the Baron is the Baron
"The very same."
"And his wife a black-haired woman, with a pretty foot and ankle;
calls herself Athenais; and is always talking about her trente-deux
ans? Why, sir, that woman was an actress on the Boulevard, when we
were here in '15. She's no more his wife than I am. Delval's name
is Chicot. The woman is always travelling between London and
Paris: I saw she was hooking you at Calais; she has hooked ten men,
in the course of the last two years, in this very way. She lent
you money, didn't she?" "Yes." "And she leans on your shoulder,
and whispers, 'Play half for me,' and somebody wins it, and the
poor thing is as sorry as you are, and her husband storms and
rages, and insists on double stakes; and she leans over your
shoulder again, and tells every card in your hand to your
adversary, and that's the way it's done, Mr. Pogson."
"I've been 'AD, I see I 'ave," said Pogson, very humbly.
"Well, sir," said the Major, "in consideration, not of you, sir--
for, give me leave to tell you, Mr. Pogson, that you are a pitiful
little scoundrel--in consideration for my Lord Cinqbars, sir, with
whom, I am proud to say, I am intimate," (the Major dearly loved a
lord, and was, by his own showing, acquainted with half the
peerage,) "I will aid you in this affair. Your cursed vanity, sir,
and want of principle, has set you, in the first place, intriguing
with other men's wives; and if you had been shot for your pains, a
bullet would have only served you right, sir. You must go about as
an impostor, sir, in society; and you pay richly for your swindling,
sir, by being swindled yourself: but, as I think your punishment has
been already pretty severe, I shall do my best, out of regard for my
friend, Lord Cinqbars, to prevent the matter going any farther; and
I recommend you to leave Paris without delay. Now let me wish you a
good morning."--Wherewith British made a majestic bow, and began
giving the last touch to his varnished boots.
We departed: poor Sam perfectly silent and chapfallen; and I
meditating on the wisdom of the half-pay philosopher, and wondering
what means he would employ to rescue Pogson from his fate.
What these means were I know not; but Mr. Ringwood did NOT make his
appearance at six; and, at eight, a letter arrived for "Mr. Pogson,
commercial traveller," &c. &c. It was blank inside, but contained
his two bills. Mr. Ringwood left town, almost immediately, for
Vienna; nor did the Major explain the circumstances which caused
his departure; but he muttered something about "knew some of his
old tricks," "threatened police, and made him disgorge directly."
Mr. Ringwood is, as yet, young at his trade; and I have often
thought it was very green of him to give up the bills to the Major,
who, certainly, would never have pressed the matter before the
police, out of respect for his friend, Lord Cinqbars.
THE FÊTES OF JULY.
IN A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE "BUNGAY BEACON."
PARIS, July 30th, 1839.
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 and legs-of-mutton,
monarchical orations, and what not, and sanctioned, moreover, by
Chamber-of-Deputies, with a grant of a couple of hundred thousand
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 to-morrow, and there WOULD have been a review of the National
Guards and the Line--only, since the Fieschi business, reviews are
no joke, and so this latter part of the festivity has been
Do you not laugh, O Pharos of Bungay, 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; yet 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
Château, 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 fizz, 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, 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. The 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 honor 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.
"To-day (Saturday), funeral ceremonies, in honor of the victims of
July, were held in the various edifices consecrated to public
"These edifices, with the exception of some churches (especially
that of the Petits-Pères), were 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 very 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 service in their several districts.
"The poles, ornamented with tri-colored flags, 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 covered with crape."
Et caetera, et caetera, et caetera.
"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 SERGENS DE VILLE (town patrol), AND A BRIGADE OF AGENTS
OF POLICE IN PLAIN CLOTHES, under the orders of peace-officer
"Between eleven and twelve 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:' ranging themselves in order, they marched five abreast to
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-sergeants 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
And the evening and the morning were the first day.
There's nothing serious in mortality: is there, from the beginning
of this account to the end thereof, aught 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 naïveté, 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 economy of the Catholics to the splendid disregard
of expense exhibited by the devout Jews! and how touching the
"APOLOGETICAL DISCOURSES on the Revolution," delivered by the
Protestant pastors! Fancy the profound affliction of the Gardes
Municipaux, the Sergens 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! O "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'
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 peine-de-mort pour délit 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 not guilty?--One may hope, soon, that
if a man shows decent courage and energy in half a dozen émeutes, he
will get 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 over the following anecdote, that is now going the round
of the papers, and respects the commutation of the punishment of
that wretched, fool-hardy Barbés, 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!"
"M. Hugo was at the Opera on the night the sentence of the Court of
Peers, condemning Barbés 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,
Grace encore une fois! Grace au nom de la tombe!
Grace au nom du berçeau!'*
"M. Victor Hugo wrote the lines out instantly on a sheet of paper,
which he folded, and simply despatched 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 the Kings.
"But the clemency of the King had anticipated the letter of the
Poet. His Majesty had signed the commutation of Barbés, while the
poet was still writing.
"Louis Philippe replied to the author of 'Ruy Blas' most
graciously, that he had already subscribed to a wish so noble, and
that the verses had only confirmed his previous disposition to
* 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!"
Now in countries where fools most abound, did one ever read of more
monstrous, palpable folly? In any country, save this, 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 despatched 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
the face of death, as by Barbés with his hideous Indian metaphor;
in the teeth of reason, as by M. Victor Hugo with his twopenny-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,
O 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 his hat and bowing, and the author of "Ruy Blas" quite
convinced that he has been treating with him d'égal en 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
va-t-elle se nicher?
. . . . . .
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 Invalid 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 everyday 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 gayety, show a very
pleasing contrast to the coarse and vulgar hilarity which the same
class would exhibit in our own country--at Epsom racecourse, for
instance, or Greenwich Fair. The greatest noise that 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, three or four abreast, and so
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 to-night, 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 Elysées for full half a 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 farther
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 Guards and the Line employed this time
nine years did no more than those who cannonaded the starving
Lyonnese, or bayoneted the luckless inhabitants of the Rue
Transnounain:--they did but fulfil the soldier's honorable 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 Elysées free for
the omnibuses to run, and the Tuileries' in quiet, so that the
nurse-maids might come as usual, and the newspapers be read for a
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, a
subject of graver disquisition. The July fêtes occupy, as you may
imagine, a considerable part of their columns 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 Nation, 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 Philippist party
sneers at and despises it; the Republicans hate it: it seems a joke
against THEM. Why continue it?--If there be anything sacred in the
name and idea of loyalty, why renew this fête? It only shows how a
rightful monarch was hurled from his throne, and a dexterous
usurper stole his precious diadem. If there be anything noble in
the memory of a day, when citizens, unused to war, rose against
practised veterans, and, armed with the strength of their cause,
overthrew them, why speak of it now? or renew the bitter
recollections of the bootless struggle and victory? O Lafayette!
O hero of two worlds! O accomplished Cromwell Grandison! you have
to answer for more than any mortal man who has played a part in
history: two republics and one monarchy does the world owe to you;
and especially grateful should your country be to you. Did you
not, in '90, make clear the path for honest Robespierre, and in
'30, prepare the way for--
. . . . . .
[The Editor of the Bungay Beacon would insert no more of this
letter, which is, therefore, for ever lost to the public.]
ON THE FRENCH SCHOOL OF PAINTING:
WITH APPROPRIATE ANECDOTES, ILLUSTRATIONS, AND PHILOSOPHICAL
IN A LETTER TO MR. MACGILP, OF LONDON.
The three collections of pictures at the Louvre, the Luxembourg,
and the Ecole 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 the school. The
French list of painters contains some very good names--no very
great ones, except Poussin (unless the admirers of Claude choose to
rank him among great painters),--and I think the school was never
in so flourishing a condition as it is at the present day. They
say there are three thousand artists in this town alone: of these 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
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 than with us.
There are a dozen excellent schools which a lad may enter here,
and, under the eye of a practised 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 accessory instruction, models, &c.; and has
further, and for nothing, numberless incitements to study his
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, concert-rooms
are covered with pictures: Nature itself is 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 much 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
The life of the young artist here is the easiest, merriest,
dirtiest existence possible. He comes to Paris, probably 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 quarter 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 favorite
tobacco-pipe; and the pictures are painted in the midst of a 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 who has not been present
at such an assembly.
You see here 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 toupets 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. As for the beards, there is no end of
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, as you
may see by the following specimen. Fancy these heads and beards
under all sorts of caps--Chinese caps, Mandarin caps, Greek skull-
caps, English jockey-caps, Russian 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 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, at what
theatres, at what guinguettes, in company with what seducing little
milliner, there is no need to say; but I knew one who pawned his
coat to go to a 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 citizen 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 misalliance by marrying a
painter, and where a literary man (in spite of all we can say
against it) ranks below that 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 Rev. 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 horrified! "a literary man!
I thought he had been a gentleman!"
Another instance: M. Guizot, when he was Minister here, had the
grand hotel of the Ministry, and gave entertainments to all the
great de par le monde, as Brantôme 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 M. Guizot was
Minister no longer; having given up his portfolio, and his grand
hotel, to retire into private life, and to occupy his humble
apartments in the 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, where 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 surely the paradise of
painters and penny-a-liners; and when one reads of M. Horace Vernet
at Rome, exceeding ambassadors at Rome by his magnificence, and
leading such a life as Rubens or Titian did of old; when one sees
M. Thiers's grand villa in the Rue St. George (a dozen years ago he
was not even a penny-a-liner: no such luck); when one contemplates,
in imagination, M. Gudin, the marine painter, too lame to walk
through the picture-gallery of the Louvre, accommodated, therefore,
with a wheel-chair, a privilege of princes only, and accompanied--
nay, for what I know, actually 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 Anacharsis Clootz? Noble people! they made Tom Paine
a deputy; and as for Tom Macaulay, they would make a DYNASTY of
Well, this being the case, no wonder there are so many painters in
France; and here, at least, we are back to them. At the Ecole
Royale des Beaux Arts, you see two or three hundred specimens of
their performances; all the prize-men, since 1750, I think, being
bound to leave 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 of Furies; numbers of
little wolf-sucking Romuluses; Hectors and Andromaches in a
complication of parting embraces, and so forth; for it was the
absurd maxim of our forefathers, that because these subjects had
been the fashion twenty centuries ago, they must remain so in
saecula saeculorum; because to these lofty heights giants had scaled,
behold the race of pigmies must get upon stilts and jump at them
likewise! and on the canvas, and in the theatre, the French frogs
(excuse the pleasantry) were instructed to swell out and roar as
much as possible like bulls.
What was the consequence, my dear friend? 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 nation; and you may see, in this gallery of
the Beaux Arts, seventy years' specimens of the dulness which it
Now, as Nature made every man with a nose and eyes of his own, she
gave him a character of his own too; and yet we, O 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 the silly
animal is never content; is ever trying 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 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 artists, as they now
are 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 scarce one of the classical
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 was. In every picture, there
are, of course, white mantles, white urns, white columns, white
statues--those obligé accomplishments 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 revelations of beauty, issued by supreme
authority, from which there was no appeal? Why is the classical
reign to endure? Why is yonder simpering Venus de' 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 [Greek text omitted] to eternity: and there
is a classical quotation, which you may have occasionally heard,
beginning Vixere fortes, &c., which, as it avers that there were a
great number 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 moulded 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 the 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 Michel 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 almost 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.
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