The Paris Sketch Book
William Makepeace Thackeray

Part 7 out of 7

This piece was acted at Franconi's, where, for once, an angel-ship
was introduced in place of the usual horsemanship.

One must not forget to mention here, how the English nation is
satirized by our neighbors; who have some droll traditions
regarding us. In one of the little Christmas pieces produced at
the Palais Royal (satires upon the follies of the past twelve
months, on which all the small theatres exhaust their wit), the
celebrated flight of Messrs. Green and Monck Mason was parodied,
and created a good deal of laughter at the expense of John Bull.
Two English noblemen, Milor Cricri and Milor Hanneton, appear as
descending from a balloon, and one of them communicates to the
public the philosophic observations which were made in the course
of his aërial tour.

"On leaving Vauxhall," says his lordship, "we drank a bottle of
Madeira, as a health to the friends from whom we parted, and
crunched a few biscuits to support nature during the hours before
lunch. In two hours we arrived at Canterbury, enveloped in clouds:
lunch, bottled porter: at Dover, carried several miles in a tide of
air, bitter cold, cherry-brandy; crossed over the Channel safely,
and thought with pity of the poor people who were sickening in the
steamboats below: more bottled porter: over Calais, dinner, roast-
beef of Old England; near Dunkirk,--night falling, lunar rainbow,
brandy-and-water; night confoundedly thick; supper, nightcap of
rum-punch, and so to bed. The sun broke beautifully through the
morning mist, as we boiled the kettle and took our breakfast over
Cologne. In a few more hours we concluded this memorable voyage,
and landed safely at Weilburg, in good time for dinner."

The joke here is smart enough; but our honest neighbors make many
better, when they are quite unconscious of the fun. Let us leave
plays, for a moment, for poetry, and take an instance of French
criticism, concerning England, from the works of a famous French
exquisite and man of letters. The hero of the poem addresses his

Londres, tu le sais trop, en fait de capitale,
Est-ce que fit le ciel de plus froid et plus pâle,
C'est la ville du gaz, des marins, du brouillard;
On s'y couche à minuit, et l'on s'y lève tard;
Ses raouts tant vantés ne sont qu'une boxade,
Sur ses grands quais jamais échelle ou sérénade,
Mais de volumineux bourgeois pris de porter
Qui passent sans lever le front à Westminster;
Et n'était sa forêt de mâts perçant la brume,
Sa tour dont à minuit le vieil oeil s'allume,
Et tes deux yeux, Zerline, illuminés bien plus,
Je dirais que, ma foi, des romans que j'ai lus,
Il n'en est pas un seul, plus lourd, plus léthargique
Que cette nation qu'on nomme Britannique!

The writer of the above lines (which let any man who can translate)
is Monsieur Roger de Beauvoir, a gentleman who actually lived many
months in England, as an attaché to the embassy of M. de Polignac.
He places the heroine of his tale in a petit réduit près le Strand,
"with a green and fresh jalousie, and a large blind, let down all
day; you fancied you were entering a bath of Asia, as soon as you
had passed the perfumed threshold of this charming retreat!" He
next places her--

Dans un square écarté, morne et couverte de givre,
Où se cache un hôtel, aux vieux lions de cuivre;

and the hero of the tale, a young French poet, who is in London, is
truly unhappy in that village.

Arthur dessèche et meurt. Dans la ville de Sterne,
Rien qu'en voyant le peuple il a le mal de mer
Il n'aime ni le Parc, gai comme une citerne,
Ni le tir au pigeon, ni le soda-water.

Liston ne le fait plus sourciller! Il rumine
Sur les trottoirs du Strand, droit comme un échiquier,
Contre le peuple anglais, les nègres, la vermine,
Et les mille cokneys du peuple boutiquier,

Contre tous les bas-bleus, contre les pâtissières,
Les parieurs d'Epsom, le gin, le parlement,
La quaterly, le roi, la pluie et les libraires,
Dont il ne touche plus, hélas! un sou d'argent!

Et chaque gentleman lui dit: L'heureux poète!

"L'heureux poète" indeed! I question if a poet in this wide world
is so happy as M. de Beauvoir, or has made such wonderful
discoveries. "The bath of Asia, with green jalousies," in which
the lady dwells; "the old hotel, with copper lions, in a lonely
square;"--were ever such things heard of, or imagined, but by a
Frenchman? The sailors, the negroes, the vermin, whom he meets in
the street,--how great and happy are all these discoveries! Liston
no longer makes the happy poet frown; and "gin," "cokneys," and the
"quaterly" have not the least effect upon him! And this gentleman
has lived many months amongst us; admires Williams Shakspear, the
"grave et vieux prophète," as he calls him, and never, for an
instant, doubts that his description contains anything absurd!

I don't know whether the great Dumas has passed any time in
England; but his plays show a similar intimate knowledge of our
habits. Thus in Kean, the stage-manager is made to come forward
and address the pit, with a speech beginning, "My Lords and
Gentlemen;" and a company of Englishwomen are introduced (at the
memorable "Coal hole"), and they all wear PINAFORES; as if the
British female were in the invariable habit of wearing this outer
garment, or slobbering her gown without it. There was another
celebrated piece, enacted some years since, upon the subject of
Queen Caroline, where our late adored sovereign, George, was made
to play a most despicable part; and where Signor Bergami fought a
duel with Lord Londonderry. In the last act of this play, the
House of Lords was represented, and Sir Brougham made an eloquent
speech in the Queen's favor. Presently the shouts of the mob were
heard without; from shouting they proceeded to pelting; and
pasteboard-brickbats and cabbages came flying among the
representatives of our hereditary legislature. At this unpleasant
juncture, SIR HARDINGE, the Secretary-at-War, rises and calls in
the military; the act ends in a general row, and the ignominious
fall of Lord Liverpool, laid low by a brickbat from the mob!

The description of these scenes is, of course, quite incapable of
conveying any notion of their general effect. You must have the
solemnity of the actors, as they Meess and Milor one another, and
the perfect gravity and good faith with which the audience listen
to them. Our stage Frenchman is the old Marquis, with sword, and
pigtail, and spangled court coat. The Englishman of the French
theatre has, invariably, a red wig, and almost always leather
gaiters, and a long white upper Benjamin: he remains as he was
represented in the old caricatures after the peace, when Vernet
designed him.

And to conclude this catalogue of blunders: in the famous piece of
the "Naufrage de la Meduse," the first act is laid on board an
English ship-of-war, all the officers of which appeared in light
blue or green coats (the lamp-light prevented our distinguishing
the color accurately), and TOP-BOOTS!

Let us not attempt to deaden the force of this tremendous blow by
any more remarks. The force of blundering can go no further.
Would a Chinese playwright or painter have stranger notions about
the barbarians than our neighbors, who are separated from us but by
two hours of salt water?


The palace of Versailles has been turned into a bricabrac shop of
late years, and its time-honored walls have been covered with many
thousand yards of the worst pictures that eye ever looked on. I
don't know how many leagues of battles and sieges the unhappy
visitor is now obliged to march through, amidst a crowd of
chattering Paris cockneys, who are never tired of looking at the
glories of the Grenadier Français; to the chronicling of whose
deeds this old palace of the old kings is now altogether devoted.
A whizzing, screaming steam-engine rushes hither from Paris,
bringing shoals of badauds in its wake. The old coucous are all
gone, and their place knows them no longer. Smooth asphaltum
terraces, tawdry lamps, and great hideous Egyptian obelisks, have
frightened them away from the pleasant station they used to occupy
under the trees of the Champs Elysées; and though the old coucous
were just the most uncomfortable vehicles that human ingenuity ever
constructed, one can't help looking back to the days of their
existence with a tender regret; for there was pleasure then in the
little trip of three leagues: and who ever had pleasure in a
railway journey? Does any reader of this venture to say that, on
such a voyage, he ever dared to be pleasant? Do the most hardened
stokers joke with one another? I don't believe it. Look into
every single car of the train, and you will see that every single
face is solemn. They take their seats gravely, and are silent, for
the most part, during the journey; they dare not look out of
window, for fear of being blinded by the smoke that comes whizzing
by, or of losing their heads in one of the windows of the down
train; they ride for miles in utter damp and darkness: through
awful pipes of brick, that have been run pitilessly through the
bowels of gentle mother earth, the cast-iron Frankenstein of an
engine gallops on, puffing and screaming. Does any man pretend to
say that he ENJOYS the journey?--he might as well say that he
enjoyed having his hair cut; he bears it, but that is all: he will
not allow the world to laugh at him, for any exhibition of slavish
fear; and pretends, therefore, to be at his ease; but he IS afraid:
nay, ought to be, under the circumstances. I am sure Hannibal or
Napoleon would, were they locked suddenly into a car; there kept
close prisoners for a certain number of hours, and whirled along at
this dizzy pace. You can't stop, if you would:--you may die, but
you can't stop; the engine may explode upon the road, and up you go
along with it; or, may be a bolter and take a fancy to go down a
hill, or into a river: all this you must bear, for the privilege of
travelling twenty miles an hour.

This little journey, then, from Paris to Versailles, that used to
be so merry of old, has lost its pleasures since the disappearance
of the coucous; and I would as lief have for companions the statues
that lately took a coach from the bridge opposite the Chamber of
Deputies, and stepped out in the court of Versailles, as the most
part of the people who now travel on the railroad. The stone
figures are not a whit more cold and silent than these persons, who
used to be, in the old coucous, so talkative and merry. The
prattling grisette and her swain from the Ecole de Droit; the huge
Alsacian carabineer, grimly smiling under his sandy moustaches and
glittering brass helmet; the jolly nurse, in red calico, who had
been to Paris to show mamma her darling Lolo, or Auguste;--what
merry companions used one to find squeezed into the crazy old
vehicles that formerly performed the journey! But the age of
horseflesh is gone--that of engineers, economists, and calculators
has succeeded; and the pleasure of coucoudom is extinguished for
ever. Why not mourn over it, as Mr. Burke did over his cheap
defence of nations and unbought grace of life; that age of
chivalry, which he lamented, àpropos of a trip to Versailles, some
half a century back?

Without stopping to discuss (as might be done, in rather a neat and
successful manner) whether the age of chivalry was cheap or dear,
and whether, in the time of the unbought grace of life, there was
not more bribery, robbery, villainy, tyranny, and corruption, than
exists even in our own happy days,--let us make a few moral and
historical remarks upon the town of Versailles; where, between
railroad and coucou, we are surely arrived by this time.

The town is, certainly, the most moral of towns. You pass from the
railroad station through a long, lonely suburb, with dusty rows of
stunted trees on either side, and some few miserable beggars, idle
boys, and ragged old women under them. Behind the trees are gaunt,
mouldy houses; palaces once, where (in the days of the unbought
grace of life) the cheap defence of nations gambled, ogled,
swindled, intrigued; whence high-born duchesses used to issue, in
old times, to act as chambermaids to lovely Du Barri; and mighty
princes rolled away, in gilt caroches, hot for the honor of
lighting his Majesty to bed, or of presenting his stockings when he
rose, or of holding his napkin when he dined. Tailors, chandlers,
tinmen, wretched hucksters, and greengrocers, are now established
in the mansions of the old peers; small children are yelling at the
doors, with mouths besmeared with bread and treacle; damp rags are
hanging out of every one of the windows, steaming in the sun;
oyster-shells, cabbage-stalks, broken crockery, old papers, lie
basking in the same cheerful light. A solitary water-cart goes
jingling down the wide pavement, and spirts a feeble refreshment
over the dusty, thirsty stones.

After pacing for some time through such dismal streets, we
deboucher on the grande place; and before us lies the palace
dedicated to all the glories of France. In the midst of the great
lonely plain this famous residence of King Louis looks low and
mean.--Honored pile! Time was when tall musketeers and gilded
body-guards allowed none to pass the gate. Fifty years ago, ten
thousand drunken women from Paris broke through the charm; and now
a tattered commissioner will conduct you through it for a penny,
and lead you up to the sacred entrance of the palace.

We will not examine all the glories of France, as here they are
portrayed in pictures and marble: catalogues are written about
these miles of canvas, representing all the revolutionary battles,
from Valmy to Waterloo,--all the triumphs of Louis XIV.--all the
mistresses of his successor--and all the great men who have
flourished since the French empire began. Military heroes are
most of these--fierce constables in shining steel, marshals in
voluminous wigs, and brave grenadiers in bearskin caps; some dozens
of whom gained crowns, principalities, dukedoms; some hundreds,
plunder and epaulets; some millions, death in African sands, or in
icy Russian plains, under the guidance, and for the good, of that
arch-hero, Napoleon. By far the greater part of "all the glories"
of France (as of most other countries) is made up of these military
men: and a fine satire it is on the cowardice of mankind, that they
pay such an extraordinary homage to the virtue called courage;
filling their history-books with tales about it, and nothing but

Let them disguise the place, however, as they will, and plaster the
walls with bad pictures as they please, it will be hard to think of
any family but one, as one traverses this vast gloomy edifice. It
has not been humbled to the ground, as a certain palace of Babel
was of yore; but it is a monument of fallen pride, not less awful,
and would afford matter for a whole library of sermons. The cheap
defence of nations expended a thousand millions in the erection of
this magnificent dwelling-place. Armies were employed, in the
intervals of their warlike labors, to level hills, or pile them up;
to turn rivers, and to build aqueducts, and transplant woods, and
construct smooth terraces, and long canals. A vast garden grew up
in a wilderness, and a stupendous palace in the garden, and a
stately city round the palace: the city was peopled with parasites,
who daily came to do worship before the creator of these wonders--
the Great King. "Dieu seul est grand," said courtly Massillon; but
next to him, as the prelate thought, was certainly Louis, his
vicegerent here upon earth--God's lieutenant-governor of the
world,--before whom courtiers used to fall on their knees, and
shade their eyes, as if the light of his countenance, like the sun,
which shone supreme in heaven, the type of him, was too dazzling to

Did ever the sun shine upon such a king before, in such a palace?--
or, rather, did such a king ever shine upon the sun? When Majesty
came out of his chamber, in the midst of his superhuman splendors,
viz, in his cinnamon-colored coat, embroidered with diamonds; his
pyramid of a wig,* his red-heeled shoes, that lifted him four inches
from the ground, "that he scarcely seemed to touch;" when he came
out, blazing upon the dukes and duchesses that waited his rising,--
what could the latter do, but cover their eyes, and wink, and
tremble? And did he not himself believe, as he stood there, on his
high heels, under his ambrosial periwig, that there was something
in him more than man--something above Fate?

* It is fine to think that, in the days of his youth, his Majesty

This, doubtless, was he fain to believe; and if, on very fine days,
from his terrace before his gloomy palace of Saint Germains, he
could catch a glimpse, in the distance, of a certain white spire
of St. Denis, where his race lay buried, he would say to his
courtiers, with a sublime condescension, "Gentlemen, you must
remember that I, too, am mortal." Surely the lords in waiting
could hardly think him serious, and vowed that his Majesty always
loved a joke. However, mortal or not, the sight of that sharp
spire wounded his Majesty's eyes; and is said, by the legend, to
have caused the building of the palace of Babel-Versailles.

In the year 1681, then, the great king, with bag and baggage,--with
guards, cooks, chamberlains, mistresses, Jesuits, gentlemen,
lackeys, Fénélons, Molières, Lauzuns, Bossuets, Villars, Villeroys,
Louvois, Colberts,--transported himself to his new palace: the old
one being left for James of England and Jaquette his wife, when
their time should come. And when the time did come, and James
sought his brother's kingdom, it is on record that Louis hastened
to receive and console him, and promised to restore, incontinently,
those islands from which the canaille had turned him. Between
brothers such a gift was a trifle; and the courtiers said to one
another reverently:* "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my
right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." There was
no blasphemy in the speech: on the contrary, it was gravely said,
by a faithful believing man, who thought it no shame to the latter,
to compare his Majesty with God Almighty. Indeed, the books of the
time will give one a strong idea how general was this Louis-
worship. I have just been looking at one, which was written by an
honest Jesuit and Protégé of Père la Chaise, who dedicates a book
of medals to the august Infants of France, which does, indeed, go
almost as far in print. He calls our famous monarch "Louis le
Grand:--1, l'invincible; 2, le sage; 3, le conquérant; 4, la
merveille de son siècle; 5, la terreur de ses ennemis; 6, l'amour
de ses peuples; 7, l'arbitre de la paix et de la guerre; 8,
l'admiration de l'univers; 9, et digne d'en être le maître; 10, le
modèle d'un héros achevé; 11, digne de l'immortalité, et de la
vénération de tous les siècles!"

* I think it is in the amusing "Memoirs of Madame de Crequi" (a
forgery, but a work remarkable for its learning and accuracy) that
the above anecdote is related.

A pretty Jesuit declaration, truly, and a good honest judgment upon
the great king! In thirty years more--1. The invincible had been
beaten a vast number of times. 2. The sage was the puppet of an
artful old woman, who was the puppet of more artful priests.
3. The conqueror had quite forgotten his early knack of conquering.
5. The terror of his enemies (for 4, the marvel of his age, we
pretermit, it being a loose term, that may apply to any person or
thing) was now terrified by his enemies in turn. 6. The love of
his people was as heartily detested by them as scarcely any other
monarch, not even his great-grandson, has been, before or since.
7. The arbiter of peace and war was fain to send superb
ambassadors to kick their heels in Dutch shopkeepers' ante-
chambers. 8, is again a general term. 9. The man fit to be
master of the universe, was scarcely master of his own kingdom.
10. The finished hero was all but finished, in a very commonplace
and vulgar way. And 11. The man worthy of immortality was just at
the point of death, without a friend to soothe or deplore him; only
withered old Maintenon to utter prayers at his bedside, and
croaking Jesuits to prepare him,* with heaven knows what wretched
tricks and mummeries, for his appearance in that Great Republic
that lies on the other side of the grave. In the course of his
fourscore splendid miserable years, he never had but one friend,
and he ruined and left her. Poor La Vallière, what a sad tale is
yours! "Look at this Galerie des Glaces," cries Monsieur Vatout,
staggering with surprise at the appearance of the room, two hundred
and forty-two feet long, and forty high. "Here it was that Louis
displayed all the grandeur of royalty; and such was the splendor of
his court, and the luxury of the times, that this immense room
could hardly contain the crowd of courtiers that pressed around the
monarch." Wonderful! wonderful! Eight thousand four hundred and
sixty square feet of courtiers! Give a square yard to each, and
you have a matter of three thousand of them. Think of three
thousand courtiers per day, and all the chopping and changing of
them for near forty years: some of them dying, some getting their
wishes, and retiring to their provinces to enjoy their plunder;
some disgraced, and going home to pine away out of the light of the
sun;** new ones perpetually arriving,--pushing, squeezing, for
their place, in the crowded Galerie des Glaces. A quarter of a
million of noble countenances, at the very least, must those
glasses have reflected. Rouge, diamonds, ribbons, patches, upon
the faces of smiling ladies: towering periwigs, sleek shaven
crowns, tufted moustaches, scars, and grizzled whiskers, worn by
ministers, priests, dandies, and grim old commanders.--So many
faces, O ye gods! and every one of them lies! So many tongues,
vowing devotion and respectful love to the great king in his six-
inch wig; and only poor La Vallière's amongst them all which had a
word of truth for the dull ears of Louis of Bourbon.

* They made a Jesuit of him on his death-bed.

** Saint Simon's account of Lauzun, in disgrace, is admirably
facetious and pathetic; Lauzun's regrets are as monstrous as those
of Raleigh when deprived of the sight of his adorable Queen and
Mistress, Elizabeth.

"Quand j'aurai de la peine aux Carmélites," says unhappy Louise,
about to retire from these magnificent courtiers and their grand
Galerie des Glaces, "je me souviendrai de ce que ces gens là m'ont
fait souffrir!"--A troop of Bossuets inveighing against the
vanities of courts could not preach such an affecting sermon. What
years of anguish and wrong had the poor thing suffered, before
these sad words came from her gentle lips! How these courtiers
have bowed and flattered, kissed the ground on which she trod,
fought to have the honor of riding by her carriage, written
sonnets, and called her goddess; who, in the days of her prosperity,
was kind and beneficent, gentle and compassionate to all; then (on a
certain day, when it is whispered that his Majesty hath cast the
eyes of his gracious affection upon another) behold three thousand
courtiers are at the feet of the new divinity.--"O divine Athenais!
what blockheads have we been to worship any but you.--THAT a
goddess?--a pretty goddess forsooth;--a witch, rather, who, for a
while, kept our gracious monarch blind! Look at her: the woman
limps as she walks; and, by sacred Venus, her mouth stretches almost
to her diamond ear-rings?"* The same tale may be told of many more
deserted mistresses; and fair Athenais de Montespan was to hear it
of herself one day. Meantime, while La Vallière's heart is
breaking, the model of a finished hero is yawning; as, on such
paltry occasions, a finished hero should. LET her heart break: a
plague upon her tears and repentance; what right has she to repent?
Away with her to her convent. She goes, and the finished hero never
sheds a tear. What a noble pitch of stoicism to have reached! Our
Louis was so great, that the little woes of mean people were beyond
him: his friends died, his mistresses left him; his children, one by
one, were cut off before his eyes, and great Louis is not moved in
the slightest degree! As how, indeed, should a god be moved?

* A pair of diamond ear-rings, given by the King to La Vallière,
caused much scandal; and some lampoons are extant, which impugn the
taste of Louis XIV. for loving a lady with such an enormous mouth.

I have often liked to think about this strange character in the
world, who moved in it, bearing about a full belief in his own
infallibility; teaching his generals the art of war, his ministers
the science of government, his wits taste, his courtiers dress;
ordering deserts to become gardens, turning villages into palaces
at a breath; and indeed the august figure of the man, as he towers
upon his throne, cannot fail to inspire one with respect and awe:--
how grand those flowing locks appear; how awful that sceptre; how
magnificent those flowing robes! In Louis, surely, if in any one,
the majesty of kinghood is represented.

But a king is not every inch a king, for all the poet may say; and
it is curious to see how much precise majesty there is in that
majestic figure of Ludovicus Rex. In the Frontispiece, we have
endeavored to make the exact calculation. The idea of kingly
dignity is equally strong in the two outer figures; and you see, at
once, that majesty is made out of the wig, the high-heeled shoes,
and cloak, all fleurs-de-lis bespangled. As for the little lean,
shrivelled, paunchy old man, of five feet two, in a jacket and
breeches, there is no majesty in HIM at any rate; and yet he has
just stepped out of that very suit of clothes. Put the wig and
shoes on him, and he is six feet high;--the other fripperies, and
he stands before you majestic, imperial, and heroic! Thus do
barbers and cobblers make the gods that we worship: for do we not
all worship him? Yes; though we all know him to be stupid,
heartless, short, of doubtful personal courage, worship and admire
him we must; and have set up, in our hearts, a grand image of him,
endowed with wit, magnanimity, valor, and enormous heroical

And what magnanimous acts are attributed to him! or, rather, how
differently do we view the actions of heroes and common men, and
find that the same thing shall be a wonderful virtue in the former,
which, in the latter, is only an ordinary act of duty. Look at
yonder window of the king's chamber;--one morning a royal cane was
seen whirling out of it, and plumped among the courtiers and guard
of honor below. King Louis had absolutely, and with his own hand,
flung his own cane out of the window, "because," said he, "I won't
demean myself by striking a gentleman!" O miracle of magnanimity!
Lauzun was not caned, because he besought majesty to keep his
promise,--only imprisoned for ten years in Pignerol, along with
banished Fouquet;--and a pretty story is Fouquet's too.

Out of the window the king's august head was one day thrust, when
old Condé was painfully toiling up the steps of the court below.
"Don't hurry yourself, my cousin," cries magnanimity, "one who has
to carry so many laurels cannot walk fast." At which all the
courtiers, lackeys, mistresses, chamberlains, Jesuits, and
scullions, clasp their hands and burst into tears. Men are
affected by the tale to this very day. For a century and three-
quarters, have not all the books that speak of Versailles, or Louis
Quatorze, told the story?--"Don't hurry yourself, my cousin!" O
admirable king and Christian! what a pitch of condescension is
here, that the greatest king of all the world should go for to say
anything so kind, and really tell a tottering old gentleman, worn
out with gout, age, and wounds, not to walk too fast!

What a proper fund of slavishness is there in the composition of
mankind, that histories like these should be found to interest and
awe them. Till the world's end, most likely, this story will have
its place in the history-books; and unborn generations will read
it, and tenderly be moved by it. I am sure that Magnanimity went
to bed that night, pleased and happy, intimately convinced that he
had done an action of sublime virtue, and had easy slumbers and
sweet dreams,--especially if he had taken a light supper, and not
too vehemently attacked his en cas de nuit.

That famous adventure, in which the en cas de nuit was brought into
use, for the sake of one Poquelin alias Molière;--how often has it
been described and admired? This Poquelin, though king's valet-de-
chambre, was by profession a vagrant; and as such, looked coldly on
by the great lords of the palace, who refused to eat with him.
Majesty hearing of this, ordered his en cas de nuit to be placed on
the table, and positively cut off a wing with his own knife and
fork for Poquelin's use. O thrice happy Jean Baptiste! The king
has actually sat down with him cheek by jowl, had the liver-wing of
a fowl, and given Molière the gizzard; put his imperial legs under
the same mahogany (sub iisdem trabibus). A man, after such an
honor, can look for little else in this world: he has tasted the
utmost conceivable earthly happiness, and has nothing to do now but
to fold his arms, look up to heaven, and sing "Nunc dimittis" and

Do not let us abuse poor old Louis on account of this monstrous
pride; but only lay it to the charge of the fools who believed and
worshipped it. If, honest man, he believed himself to be almost a
god, it was only because thousands of people had told him so--
people only half liars, too; who did, in the depths of their
slavish respect, admire the man almost as much as they said they
did. If, when he appeared in his five-hundred-million coat, as he
is said to have done, before the Siamese ambassadors, the courtiers
began to shade their eyes and long for parasols, as if this
Bourbonic sun was too hot for them; indeed, it is no wonder that he
should believe that there was something dazzling about his person:
he had half a million of eager testimonies to this idea. Who was
to tell him the truth?--Only in the last years of his life did
trembling courtiers dare whisper to him, after much circumlocution,
that a certain battle had been fought at a place called Blenheim,
and that Eugene and Marlborough had stopped his long career of

"On n'est plus heureux à notre âge," says the old man, to one of
his old generals, welcoming Tallard after his defeat; and he
rewards him with honors, as if he had come from a victory. There
is, if you will, something magnanimous in this welcome to his
conquered general, this stout protest against Fate. Disaster
succeeds disaster; armies after armies march out to meet fiery
Eugene and that dogged, fatal Englishman, and disappear in the
smoke of the enemies' cannon. Even at Versailles you may almost
hear it roaring at last; but when courtiers, who have forgotten
their god, now talk of quitting this grand temple of his, old Louis
plucks up heart and will never hear of surrender. All the gold and
silver at Versailles he melts, to find bread for his armies: all
the jewels on his five-hundred-million coat he pawns resolutely;
and, bidding Villars go and make the last struggle but one,
promises, if his general is defeated, to place himself at the head
of his nobles, and die King of France. Indeed, after a man, for
sixty years, has been performing the part of a hero, some of the
real heroic stuff must have entered into his composition, whether
he would or not. When the great Elliston was enacting the part of
King George the Fourth, in the play of "The Coronation," at Drury
Lane, the galleries applauded very loudly his suavity and majestic
demeanor, at which Elliston, inflamed by the popular loyalty (and
by some fermented liquor in which, it is said, he was in the habit
of indulging), burst into tears, and spreading out his arms,
exclaimed: "Bless ye, bless ye, my people!" Don't let us laugh at
his Ellistonian majesty, nor at the people who clapped hands and
yelled "bravo!" in praise of him. The tipsy old manager did really
feel that he was a hero at that moment; and the people, wild with
delight and attachment for a magnificent coat and breeches, surely
were uttering the true sentiments of loyalty: which consists in
reverencing these and other articles of costume. In this fifth
act, then, of his long royal drama, old Louis performed his part
excellently; and when the curtain drops upon him, he lies, dressed
majestically, in a becoming kingly attitude, as a king should.

The king his successor has not left, at Versailles, half so much
occasion for moralizing; perhaps the neighboring Parc aux Cerfs
would afford better illustrations of his reign. The life of his
great grandsire, the Grand Llama of France, seems to have
frightened Louis the well-beloved; who understood that loneliness
is one of the necessary conditions of divinity, and being of a
jovial, companionable turn, aspired not beyond manhood. Only in
the matter of ladies did he surpass his predecessor, as Solomon did
David. War he eschewed, as his grandfather bade him; and his
simple taste found little in this world to enjoy beyond the mulling
of chocolate and the frying of pancakes. Look, here is the room
called Laboratoire du Roi, where, with his own hands, he made his
mistress's breakfast:--here is the little door through which, from
her apartments in the upper story, the chaste Du Barri came
stealing down to the arms of the weary, feeble, gloomy old man.
But of women he was tired long since, and even pancake-frying had
palled upon him. What had he to do, after forty years of reign;--
after having exhausted everything? Every pleasure that Dubois
could invent for his hot youth, or cunning Lebel could minister to
his old age, was flat and stale; used up to the very dregs: every
shilling in the national purse had been squeezed out, by Pompadour
and Du Barri and such brilliant ministers of state. He had found
out the vanity of pleasure, as his ancestor had discovered the
vanity of glory: indeed it was high time that he should die. And
die he did; and round his tomb, as round that of his grandfather
before him, the starving people sang a dreadful chorus of curses,
which were the only epitaphs for good or for evil that were raised
to his memory.

As for the courtiers--the knights and nobles, the unbought grace of
life--they, of course, forgot him in one minute after his death, as
the way is. When the king dies, the officer appointed opens his
chamber window, and calling out into the court below, Le Roi est
mort, breaks his cane, takes another and waves it, exclaiming, vive
le Roi! Straightway all the loyal nobles begin yelling vive le
Roi! and the officer goes round solemnly and sets yonder great
clock in the Cour de Marbre to the hour of the king's death. This
old Louis had solemnly ordained; but the Versailles clock was only
set twice: there was no shouting of Vive le Roi when the successor
of Louis XV. mounted to heaven to join his sainted family.

Strange stories of the deaths of kings have always been very
recreating and profitable to us: what a fine one is that of the
death of Louis XV., as Madame Campan tells it. One night the
gracious monarch came back ill from Trianon; the disease turned out
to be the small-pox; so violent that ten people of those who had to
enter his chamber caught the infection and died. The whole court
flies from him; only poor old fat Mesdames the King's daughters
persist in remaining at his bedside, and praying for his soul's

On the 10th May, 1774, the whole court had assembled at the
château; the oeil de Boeuf was full. The Dauphin had determined to
depart as soon as the king had breathed his last. And it was
agreed by the people of the stables, with those who watched in the
king's room, that a lighted candle should be placed in a window,
and should be extinguished as soon as he had ceased to live. The
candle was put out. At that signal, guards, pages, and squires
mounted on horseback, and everything was made ready for departure.
The Dauphin was with the Dauphiness, waiting together for the news
of the king's demise. AN IMMENSE NOISE, AS IF OF THUNDER, WAS
HEARD IN THE NEXT ROOM; it was the crowd of courtiers, who were
deserting the dead king's apartment, in order to pay their court to
the new power of Louis XVI. Madame de Noailles entered, and was
the first to salute the queen by her title of Queen of France, and
begged their Majesties to quit their apartments, to receive the
princes and great lords of the court desirous to pay their homage
to the new sovereigns. Leaning on her husband's arm, a handkerchief
to her eyes, in the most touching attitude, Marie Antoinette
received these first visits. On quitting the chamber where the dead
king lay, the Duc de Villequier bade M. Anderville, first surgeon of
the king, to open and embalm the body: it would have been certain
death to the surgeon. "I am ready, sir," said he; "but whilst I am
operating, you must hold the head of the corpse: your charge demands
it." The Duke went away without a word, and the body was neither
opened nor embalmed. A few humble domestics and poor workmen
watched by the remains, and performed the last offices to their
master. The surgeons ordered spirits of wine to be poured into the

They huddled the king's body into a post-chaise; and in this
deplorable equipage, with an escort of about forty men, Louis the
well-beloved was carried, in the dead of night, from Versailles to
St. Denis, and then thrown into the tomb of the kings of France!

If any man is curious, and can get permission, he may mount to the
roof of the palace, and see where Louis XVI. used royally to amuse
himself, by gazing upon the doings of all the townspeople below
with a telescope. Behold that balcony, where, one morning, he, his
queen, and the little Dauphin stood, with Cromwell Grandison
Lafayette by their side, who kissed her Majesty's hand, and
protected her; and then, lovingly surrounded by his people, the
king got into a coach and came to Paris: nor did his Majesty ride
much in coaches after that.

There is a portrait of the king, in the upper galleries, clothed in
red and gold, riding a fat horse, brandishing a sword, on which the
word "Justice" is inscribed, and looking remarkably stupid and
uncomfortable. You see that the horse will throw him at the very
first fling; and as for the sword, it never was made for such hands
as his, which were good at holding a corkscrew or a carving-knife,
but not clever at the management of weapons of war. Let those pity
him who will: call him saint and martyr if you please; but a martyr
to what principle was he? Did he frankly support either party in
his kingdom, or cheat and tamper with both? He might have escaped;
but he must have his supper: and so his family was butchered and
his kingdom lost, and he had his bottle of Burgundy in comfort at
Varennes. A single charge upon the fatal 10th of August, and the
monarchy might have been his once more; but he is so tender-
hearted, that he lets his friends be murdered before his eyes
almost: or, at least, when he has turned his back upon his duty and
his kingdom, and has skulked for safety into the reporters' box, at
the National Assembly. There were hundreds of brave men who died
that day, and were martyrs, if you will; poor neglected tenth-rate
courtiers, for the most part, who had forgotten old slights and
disappointments, and left their places of safety to come and die,
if need were, sharing in the supreme hour of the monarchy.
Monarchy was a great deal too humane to fight along with these, and
so left them to the pikes of Santerre and the mercy of the men of
the Sections. But we are wandering a good ten miles from
Versailles, and from the deeds which Louis XVI. performed there.

He is said to have been such a smart journeyman blacksmith, that he
might, if Fate had not perversely placed a crown on his head, have
earned a couple of louis every week by the making of locks and
keys. Those who will may see the workshop where he employed many
useful hours: Madame Elizabeth was at prayers meanwhile; the queen
was making pleasant parties with her ladies. Monsieur the Count
d'Artois was learning to dance on the tight-rope; and Monsieur de
Provence was cultivating l'eloquence du billet and studying his
favorite Horace. It is said that each member of the august family
succeeded remarkably well in his or her pursuits; big Monsieur's
little notes are still cited. At a minuet or syllabub, poor
Antoinette was unrivalled; and Charles, on the tight-rope, was so
graceful and so gentil, that Madame Saqui might envy him. The time
only was out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever such harmless
creatures as these were bidden to right it!

A walk to the little Trianon is both pleasing and moral: no doubt
the reader has seen the pretty fantastical gardens which environ
it; the groves and temples; the streams and caverns (whither, as
the guide tells you, during the heat of summer, it was the custom
of Marie Antoinette to retire, with her favorite, Madame de
Lamballe): the lake and Swiss village are pretty little toys,
moreover; and the cicerone of the place does not fail to point out
the different cottages which surround the piece of water, and tell
the names of the royal masqueraders who inhabited each. In the
long cottage, close upon the lake, dwelt the Seigneur du Village,
no less a personage than Louis XV.; Louis XVI., the Dauphin, was
the Bailli; near his cottage is that of Monseigneur the Count
d'Artois, who was the Miller; opposite lived the Prince de Condé,
who enacted the part of Gamekeeper (or, indeed, any other rôle, for
it does not signify much); near him was the Prince de Rohan, who
was the Aumônier; and yonder is the pretty little dairy, which was
under the charge of the fair Marie Antoinette herself.

I forget whether Monsieur the fat Count of Provence took any share
of this royal masquerading; but look at the names of the other six
actors of the comedy, and it will be hard to find any person for
whom Fate had such dreadful visitations in store. Fancy the party,
in the days of their prosperity, here gathered at Trianon, and
seated under the tall poplars by the lake, discoursing familiarly
together: suppose of a sudden some conjuring Cagliostro of the time
is introduced among them, and foretells to them the woes that are
about to come. "You, Monsieur l'Aumônier, the descendant of a long
line of princes, the passionate admirer of that fair queen who sits
by your side, shall be the cause of her ruin and your own,* and
shall die in disgrace and exile. You, son of the Condés, shall
live long enough to see your royal race overthrown, and shall die
by the hands of a hangman.** You, oldest son of Saint Louis, shall
perish by the executioner's axe; that beautiful head, O Antoinette,
the same ruthless blade shall sever." "They shall kill me first,"
says Lamballe, at the queen's side. "Yes, truly," replies the
soothsayer, "for Fate prescribes ruin for your mistress and all who
love her."*** "And," cries Monsieur d'Artois, "do I not love my
sister, too? I pray you not to omit me in your prophecies."

* In the diamond-necklace affair.

** He was found hanging in his own bedroom.

*** Among the many lovers that rumor gave to the queen, poor Ferscu
is the most remarkable. He seems to have entertained for her a
high and perfectly pure devotion. He was the chief agent in the
luckless escape to Varennes; was lurking in Paris during the time
of her captivity; and was concerned in the many fruitless plots
that were made for her rescue. Ferscu lived to be an old man, but
died a dreadful and violent death. He was dragged from his
carriage by the mob, in Stockholm, and murdered by them.

To whom Monsieur Cagliostro says, scornfully, "You may look forward
to fifty years of life, after most of these are laid in the grave.
You shall be a king, but not die one; and shall leave the crown
only; not the worthless head that shall wear it. Thrice shall you
go into exile: you shall fly from the people, first, who would have
no more of you and your race; and you shall return home over half a
million of human corpses, that have been made for the sake of you,
and of a tyrant as great as the greatest of your family. Again
driven away, your bitterest enemy shall bring you back. But the
strong limbs of France are not to be chained by such a paltry yoke
as you can put on her: you shall be a tyrant, but in will only; and
shall have a sceptre, but to see it robbed from your hand."

"And pray, Sir Conjurer, who shall be the robber?" asked Monsieur
the Count d'Artois.

This I cannot say, for here my dream ended. The fact is, I had
fallen asleep on one of the stone benches in the Avenue de Paris,
and at this instant was awakened by a whirling of carriages and a
great clattering of national guards, lancers and outriders, in red.
His MAJESTY LOUIS PHILIPPE was going to pay a visit to the palace;
which contains several pictures of his own glorious actions, and
which has been dedicated, by him, to all the glories of France.


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