Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Atlantic Monthly, Volume 2, Issue 10, August, 1858 by Various

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

as scarce, at last, as vacant lots in Paradise.

LES SALONS DE PARIS.[1]

The title is an ambitious one, for the _salons_ of Paris are
Paris itself; and, from the days of the Fronde and of the Hotel
Rambouillet down to our own, you may judge pretty accurately of what
is going on upon the great political stage of France by what is
observable in those green-rooms and _coulisses_ called the
Parisian drawing-rooms, and where, more or less, the actors of all
parties may be seen, either rehearsing their parts before the
performance, or seeking, after the performance is over, the several
private echoes of the general public sentiment that has burst forth
before the light of the foot-lamps. Shakspeare's declaration, that
"all the world's a stage," is nowhere so true as in the capital of
Gaul. There, most truly may it be said, are

----"All the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts."

Therefore might a profound and comprehensive study of the
drawing-rooms of Paris be in a manner a history of France in our own
times.

Madame Ancelot's little volume does not aim so high; nor, had it done
so, would its author have possessed the talent requisite for carrying
out such a design. Madame Ancelot is a writer of essentially
second-rate and subordinate capacity, and consequently her account of
those _salons de Paris_ that she has seen (and she by no means
saw them all) derives no charm from the point of view she takes. To
say the truth, she has no "point of view" of her own; she tells what
she saw, and (thus far we must praise her) she tells it very
conscientiously. Having waited in every instance till the people she
has to speak of were dead, Mme. Ancelot has a pretty fair field before
her for the display of her sincerity, and we, the public, who are
neither kith nor kin of the deceased, are the gainers thereby.

So interesting and so amusing is the subject Madame Ancelot has
chosen, that, in spite of her decided want of originality or even
talent in treating it, her book is both an amusing and an interesting
one. It is even more than that; for those who wish to have a correct
notion of certain epochs of the social civilization of modern France,
and of certain predominant types in French society during the
last forty years, Madame Ancelot's little volume is full of
instruction. Perhaps in no society, so much as in that of France, have
the political convulsions of the state reacted so forcibly upon the
relations of man to man, revolutionizing the homes of private persons,
even as the government and the monarchy were revolutionized. In
England, nothing of this kind is to be observed; and if you study
English society ten years, or twenty years, or fifty years after the
fall of Charles I., after the establishment of the Commonwealth, or
after the restoration of Charles II., the definitive exile of the
Stuarts, and the advent of a foreign dynasty to the throne, you find
everywhere its constitutive elements the same,--modified only by such
changes of time, circumstance, and fashion, as naturally, in every
country, modify the superficial aspect of all society. But in France,
it is the very _substratum_ of the social soil that is overturned, it
is the constitutive elements of society that are displaced; and the
consequence is a general derangement of all relative positions.

In what is still termed _la vieille societe Francaise_, little or
nothing was left to chance, and one of its great characteristics was
order and the perfectly regular play of its machinery. Everything was
set down, _noted_, as it were, beforehand,--as strictly so as the
ceremonies of a grand diplomatic ceremony, after some treaty, or
marriage, or other occasion of solemn conference. Under this
_regime_, which endured till the Revolution of '93, (and even,
strangely enough, _beyond_ that period,) politeness was, of
course, the one chief quality of whosoever was well brought
up,--urbanity was the first sign of good company,--and for the simple
reason, that no one sought to infringe. There was no cause for
insolence, or for what in England is called "exclusiveness," because
there was no necessity to repel any disposition to encroach. No one
dreamed of the possibility of encroaching upon his neighbor's grounds,
or of taking, in the slightest degree, his neighbor's place.

The first French Revolution caused no such sudden and total disruption
of the old social traditions as has been generally supposed; and as
far as mere social intercourse and social conventionalities were
concerned, there was, even amongst the terrible popular dictators of
1793, more of the _tone_ of the _ci-devant_ good company
than could possibly be imagined. In later times, every one who knew
Fouche remembers that he was constantly in the habit of expressing his
indignation at the want of good-breeding of the young exquisites of
the Empire, and used perpetually to exclaim, "In _my time_" this
or that "would not have been allowed," or, "In _my_ time we were
accustomed to do" so and so. Now Fouche's "time" was that which is
regarded as the period of universal beheading and levelling.

It is certain, that, under the _regime_ of the Revolution itself,
bitter class-hatreds did not at first show themselves in the peaceful
atmosphere of society,--and that for more than one reason. First of
all, in a certain sense, "society," it may be said, was
_not_. Next, what subsisted of society was fragmentary, and was
formed by small isolated groups or coteries, pretty homogeneously
composed, or, when not so as to rank and station, rendered homogeneous
by community of suffering. It must not be imagined that only the
highest class in France paid for its opinions or its vanities with
loss of life and fortune. The victims were everywhere; for the changes
in the governing forces were so perpetual, that, more or less, every
particular form of envy and hatred had its day of power, and levelled
its blows at the objects of its special antipathy. In this way, the
aristocracy and the _bourgeoisie_ were often brought into
contact; marriages even were contracted, whether during imprisonment
or under the pressure of poverty, that never would have been dreamt of
in a normal state of things; and whilst parents of opposite conditions
shook hands in the scaffold-surveying _charrettes_, the children
either drew near to each other, in a mutual helpfulness, the principle
whereof was Christian charity, or met together to partake of
amusements, the aim whereof was oblivion. For several years, the turn
of every individual for execution might come, and therefore it was
difficult, on the other hand, to see who might also _not_ be a
friend.

This began to be modified under the Empire, but in a shape not
hitherto foreseen. Military glory began to long for what the genuine
Revolutionists termed "feudal distinctions." Napoleon was desirous of
a court and of an aristocracy; he set to work to create a
_noblesse_, and dukes and counts were fabricated by the
dozen. Very soon the strong love of depreciation, that is inherent in
every Frenchman, seized upon even the higher plebeian classes, and,
discontented as they were at seeing the liberties of the movement of
'89 utterly confiscated by a military chief, and antipathetic as they
have been, time out of mind, to what are called _les traineurs de
sabre_, the civilians of France, her _bourgeois_, who were to
have their day,--but with very different feelings in 1830,--joined
with the genuine Pre-Revolutionary aristocrats, and the _noblesse de
l'Empire_ was laughed at and taken _en grippe_. Here was, in
reality, the first wide breach made in France in the edifice of
good-breeding and good-manners; and those who have been eye-witnesses
to the metamorphosis will admit that the guillotine of Danton and
Robespierre did even less to destroy _le bon ton_ of the
_ancien regime_ than was achieved by the guard-room habits and
morals of Bonaparte's glorious troopers, rushing, as they did, booted
and spurred, into the emblazoned sanctuary of heraldic distinctions,
and taking, as it were, _la societe_ by storm.

But soon another alliance and other enmities were to be formed. The
Empire fell; the Bourbons returned to France; Louis XVIII. recognized
the _noblesse_ of the Imperial government, and the constitution of
society as it had been battled for by the Revolution. At the same time
his court was filled with all the great historic names of the country,
who returned, no longer avowedly the first in authority, and therefore
prompt to condescend, but the first in presumption, and therefore
prompt to take offence. The new alliance that was formed was that of
the plebeian caste with the _noblesse de l'Empire_, against which it
had been previously so incensed. Notwithstanding all the efforts
sincerely made by Louis XVIII. to establish a constitutional
government and to promote a genuine constitutional feeling throughout
France, class-hatreds rose gradually to so violent a height that the
king's only occupation soon grew to be the balancing of expediencies.
He was forever obliged to reflect upon the choices he could make
around him, since each choice made from one party insured him a
hundred enemies in the party opposed. This, which was the political
part of the drama,--that which regarded the scenes played upon the
public stage,--had its instantaneous reflex, as we have already said
in the commencement of these pages, in the _salons_, which were the
green-rooms and _coulisses_. Urbanity, amenity of language, the bland
demeanor hitherto characterized as _la grace Francaise_, all these
were at an end. Society in France, such as it had been once, the
far-famed model for all Europe, had ceased to exist. The ambition
which had once been identified with the cares of office or the dangers
of war now found sufficient food in the bickerings of party-spirit,
and revenged itself by _salon_ jokes and _salon_ impertinence for the
loss of a lead it either could not or would not take in
Parliament. The descendants of those very fathers and mothers who had,
in many cases, suffered incarceration, and death even, together, set
to hating each other cordially, because these would not abdicate what
those would not condescend to compete for. The _noblesse_ cried out,
that the _bourgeoisie_ was usurping all its privileges; and the
_bourgeoisie_ retorted, that the time for privilege was past. The two
classes could no longer meet together in the world, but formed utterly
different sets and _cliques_; and it must be avowed that neither of
the two gained in good-manners, or what may be called drawing-room
distinction.

From 1815 to 1830, the _noblesse_ had officially the
advantage. From 1830 to 1848, the _bourgeoisie_ ruled over the
land. But now was to be remarked another social phenomenon, that
complicated _salon_ life more than ever. The middle classes, we
say, were in power; they were in all the centres of political
life,--in the Chambers, in the ministries, in the king's councils, in
diplomacy; and with them had risen to importance the Imperial
aristocracy, whose representatives were to be found in every
department of the public service. All this while, the old families of
the _ancien regime_ shut themselves up among themselves entirely,
constituted what is now termed the _Faubourg St. Germain_, which
never was so exclusive or so powerful (socially speaking) as under
Louis Philippe, and a tacit combat between envy and disdain was
carried on, such as perhaps no modern civilization ever witnessed. The
Faubourg St. Germain arrogated to itself the privilege of exclusively
representing _la societe Francaise_, and it must be confessed
that the behavior of its adversaries went far to substantiate its
claims.

Our purpose in these pages is not to touch upon anything connected
with politics, or we could show, that, whilst apparently severed from
all activity upon the more conspicuous field of the capital, the
ancient French families were employed in reestablishing their
influence in the rural provincial centres; the result of which was the
extraordinary influx of Legitimist members into the Chamber formed by
the first Republican elections in 1848. But this is foreign to our
present aim. As to what regards French _society_, properly so
called, it was, from 1804, after the proclamation of the Empire, till
1848, after the fall of Louis Philippe, in gradual but incessant
course of sub-division into separate cliques, each more or less
bitterly disposed towards the others. From the moment when this began
to be the case, the edifice of French society could no longer be
studied as a whole, and it only remained to examine its component
parts as evidences of the tendencies of various classes in the nation.
In this assuredly not uninteresting study, Mme. Ancelot's book is of
much service; for a certain number of the different _salons_ she
names are, as it were, types of the different stages civilization has
attained to in the city which chooses to style itself "the brain of
Europe."

The description, given in the little book before us, of what in Paris
constitutes a genuine _salon_, is a tolerably correct one. "A
_salon_," says Mme. Ancelot, "is not in the least like one of
those places in a populous town, where people gather together a crowd
of individuals unknown to each other, who never enter into
communication, and who are where they are, momentarily, either because
they expect to dance, or to hear music, or to show off the
magnificence of their dress. This is not what can ever be called a
_salon_. A _salon_ is an intimate and periodical meeting of
persons who for several years have been in the habit of frequenting
the same house, who enjoy each other's society, and who have some
reason, as they imagine, to be happy when they are brought in
contact. The persons who receive, form a link between the various
persons they invite, and this link binds the _habitues_ more
closely to one another, if, as is commonly the case, it is a woman of
superior mind who forms the point of union. A _salon_, to be
homogeneous, and to endure, requires that its _habitues_ should
have similar opinions and tastes, and, above all, enough of the
urbanity of bygone days to enable its frequenters to feel _at
home_. with every one in it, without the necessity of a formal
introduction. Formerly, this practice of speaking to persons you had
not been presented to was a proof of good-breeding; for it was well
known that in no house of any distinction would there be found a guest
who was not worthy to be the associate of whoever was noblest and
best. These habits of social intercourse gave a value to the
intellectual and moral qualities of the individual, quite independent
of his fortune or his rank; and in these little republics the real
sovereign was _merit_."

Madame Ancelot is right here, and there were in Paris several of these
_salons_, which served as the models for those of all the rest of
Europe. Under the Restoration, two illustrious ladies tried to recall
to the generation that had sprung from the Empire or from emigration
what the famous _salons_ of old had once been, and the Duchesse
de Duras and the Marquise de Montcalm (sister to the then minister,
the Duc de Richelieu) drew around them all that was in any way
distinguished in France. But the many causes we have noted above made
the enterprise a difficult one, and the various divergences of
society, politically speaking, rendered the task of the mistress of a
house one of surpassing arduousness. Mme. de Stael, who, by her very
superiority perhaps,--certainly by her vehemence,--was prevented from
ever being a perfect example of what was necessary in this respect,
acquired the nickname of _Presidente de Salons_; and it would
appear, that, with her resolute air, her loud voice, and her violent
opinions, she really did seem like a kind of speaker of some House of
Commons disguised as a woman. That the management of a _salon_
was no easy affair the following anecdote will prove. The Duchesse de
Duras one day asked M. de Talleyrand what he thought of the evening
_reunions_ at her house, and after a few words of praise, he
added: "But you are too vivacious as yet, too young. Ten years hence
you will know better how to manage it all." Mme. de Duvas was then
somewhere about fifty-four or five! We perceive, therefore, that,
according to M. de Talleyrand, the proper manner of receiving a
certain circle of _habitues_ was likely to be the study of a
whole life.

We select from Mme. Ancelot's book sketches of the following
_maitresses de maison_, because they seem to us the types of the
periods of transformation to which they correspond in the order of
date:--Mme. Lebrun, Mme. Gerard, Mme. d'Abrantes, Mme. Recamier, Mme.
Nodier. Mme. Lebrun corresponds to the period when Pre-Revolutionary
traditions were still in force, and when the remembrance yet
subsisted of a society that had been a real and not a fictive
unity. Mme. Gerard--or we should rather say her husband, for she
occupied herself little with her guests, whom the illustrious painter
entertained--represents the period of the Empire, prolonging itself
into the Restoration, and seeking by the immunities of talent and
intelligence to bring the two _regimes_ to meet upon what might be
termed neutral ground. Mme. d'Abrantes is the type of that last
remnant of the half-heroic, half-sentimental epoch which tried to
endure even after the first days of 1830, and of which certain verses
of Delphine Gay, certain impossible portraits of invincible colonels,
certain parts played by the celebrated Elleviou, and the
Troubadourish "_Partant pour la Syrie_" of Queen Hortense, are
emblematical. Mme. Recamier, although in date all but the contemporary
of Mme. Lebrun, is, in her position of mistress of a _salon_,
essentially the impersonation of a foible peculiar to the present day;
she typifies the class of women who, in Paris, are absolutely absorbed
by the thought of their _salons_, for whom to receive is to live, and
who are ready to expire at the notion of any celebrity not being a
frequenter of their tea-table. Mme. Nodier's and here, as with Mme.
Gerard, we must substitute the husband for the wife, and say Charles
Nodier's--_salon_ was the menagerie whither thronged all the strange
beings who, after the Revolution of July, fancied they had some
special and extraordinary "call" in the world of Art. Nodier's
receptions at the Arsenal represent the literary and artistic movement
of 1830.

To begin, then, with Mme. Lebrun. This lady was precisely one of
those individualities who, since the days of Louis XIV., had found it
easy to take their place in French society, who, under the ancien
_regime_, were the equals of the whole world, and who, since
"Equality" has been so formally decreed by the laws of the land, would
have found it impossible, under the Citizen King, Louis Philippe, or
under the so-called "Democratic Empire" of Louis Napoleon, to surround
themselves with any society save that of a perfectly inferior
description.

Mme. Lebrun was the daughter of a very second-rate painter of the name
of Vigee, the sister of a poet of some talent of the same name, and
was married young to a picture-dealer of large fortune and most
expensive and dissipated, not to say dissolute habits, M. Lebrun. She
was young,--and, like Mme. Recamier and a few others, remained
youthful to a very late term of her existence,--remarkably beautiful,
full of talent, grace, and _esprit_, and possessed of the magnificent
acquirements as a portrait-painter that have made her productions to
this day valuable throughout the galleries of Europe. She was very
soon so brilliantly in fashion, that there was not a _grand seigneur_
of the court, a _grande dame_ of the queen's intimacy, a rich
_fermier-general_, or a famous writer, artist, or _savant_, who did
not petition to be admitted to her soirees; and in her small
apartment, in the Rue de Clery, were held probably the last of those
intimate and charmingly unceremonious reunions which so especially
characterized the manners of the high society of France when all
question of etiquette was set aside. The witty Prince de Ligne, the
handsome Comte de Vaudreuil, the clever M. de Boufflers, and his
step-son, M. de Sabran, with such men as Diderot, d'Alembert,
Marmontel, and Laharpe, were the original _habitues_ of Mme. Lebrun's
drawing-room. At the same time used to visit her the bitter, bilious,
discontented David, the painter, who, though very young, was annoyed
at a woman having such incontestable proficiency in his own art, and
whose democratic ideas were hurt at her receiving such a number of
what he styled "great people." Madame Lebrun, one day,--little
dreaming that she was addressing a future _coupe-tete_ of the most
violent species, (perhaps the only genuine admirer of Marat,)--said,
smilingly, to the future painter of _Les Sabines_, "David, you are
wretched because you are neither Duke nor Marquis. I, to whom all such
titles are absolutely indifferent, I receive with sincere pleasure all
who make themselves agreeable." The apostrophe apparently hit home,
for David never returned to Mme. Lebrun's house, and was no
well-wisher of hers in later times. But on this occasion she had not
only told the truth to an individual, she had touched upon the secret
sore of the nation and the time; and vast classes were already
brooding in silence over the absurd, vain, and empty regret at being
"neither Duke nor Marquis." The Revolution was at hand, and the days
rapidly approaching when all such pleasant assemblies as those held by
Mme. Lebrun would become forever impossible. At some of these, the
crowd of intimates, and of persons all acquainted with each other, was
so great, that the highest dignitaries of the realm had to content
themselves with sitting down upon the floor; and on one occasion, the
Marechal de Noailles, who was of exceedingly large build, had to
request the assistance of several of his neighbors before he could be
brought from his squatting attitude to his feet again.

Mme. Lebrun emigrated, like the majority of her associates,--going to
Russia, to Italy, to Germany, to England, and everywhere increasing
the number of her friends, besides preserving all those of former
times, whom she sedulously sought out in their voluntary exile, and to
whom, in many cases, she even proved an invaluable friend. In the
commencement of the Restoration, Mme. Lebrun returned to France, and
established herself definitively at Paris, and at Louveciennes near
Marly, where she had a delightful summer residence. Here, as in her
salons in the metropolis, she tried to bring back the tone of French
society to what it had been before the Revolution, and to show the
younger generations what had been the gayety, the grace, the
affability, the exquisite good-breeding of those who had preceded
them. The men and women of her own standing seconded her, but the
younger ones were not to be drawn into high-heartedness; and an
observer might have had before him the somewhat strange spectacle of
old age gay, gentle, unobservant of any stiff formality, and of youth
preoccupied and grave, and, instead of being refined in manners,
pedantic. "The younger frequenters of Mme. Lebrun's salon" says
Mme. Ancelot, "were strangers to the world into which they found
themselves raised; those who surrounded them were of an anterior
civilization; they could not grow to be identified with a past which
was unknown to them, or known only through recitals that disfigured
it.... Amidst the remnants of a society that had been historical,
there was, as it were, the breath of a spirit born of our days; new
ideas, new opinions, new hopes, nay, even new recollections, were
evident all around, and served to render social unity impossible; but,
above all, what failed in this one particular centre was youth,--there
were few or no young people." This was perfectly true; and
Mme. Lebrun's _salon_ is interesting only from the fact of its
being the last, perhaps, in which French people of our day can have
acquired a complete notion of what the Pre-Revolutionary _salons_
of France were.

The evening _reunions_ at the house of Gerard, the celebrated
painter, were among the most famous features of the society of the
Restoration. The gatherings at Mmes. de Duras's and de Montcalm's
splendid hotels were all but exclusively political and diplomatic;
whereas at Gerard's there was a mixture of these with the purely
mundane and artistic elements, and, above all, there was a portion of
Imperialist fame blended with all the rest, that was hard to be found
anywhere else. Gerard, too, had painted the portraits of so many
crowned heads, and been so much admitted into the intimacy of his
royal models, that, whenever a foreigner of any note visited Paris, he
almost immediately asked to be put in a way to be invited to the
celebrated artist's Wednesday receptions. This was, to a certain
degree, an innovation in regular French society; the French being most
truly, as has been said, the "Chinese of Europe," and liking nothing
less than the intermixture with themselves of anything foreign. But
Gerard was one of those essentially superior men who are able to
influence those around them, and bring them to much whereto no one
else could have persuaded them. Gerard, like many celebrated persons,
was infinitely superior to what he _did_. As far as what he
_did_ was concerned, Gerard, though a painter of great merit, was
far inferior to two or three of whom France has since been justly
proud; but in regard to what he _was_, Gerard was a man of
genius, who had in many ways few superiors. Few men, even in France,
have so highly deserved the reputation of _un homme d'esprit_. He
was as _spirituel_ as Talleyrand himself, and almost as
clear-sighted and profound. Add to this that nothing could surpass the
impression made by Gerard at first sight. He was strikingly like the
first Napoleon, but handsomer; with the same purity of outline, the
same dazzlingly lustrous eyes, full of penetration and thought, but
with a certain _sympathetic_ charm about his whole person that
the glorious conqueror of Marengo and Dictator of Gaul never
possessed.

Gerard was not entirely French; born in Rome in 1770, his father only
was a native of France, his mother was an Italian; and from her he
inherited a certain combination of qualities and peculiarities that at
once distinguished him from the majority of his countrymen. Full of
poetic fire and inspiration, there was in Gerard at the same time a
strong critical propensity, that showed itself in his caustic wit and,
sometimes, not unmalicious remarks. There was also a perpetual
struggle in his character between reflection and the first impulse,
and sometimes the _etourderie_, of the French nature was suddenly
checked by the caution of the Italian; but, take him as he was, he was
a man in a thousand, and those who were in the habit of constantly
frequenting his house affirm loudly and with the deepest regret, that
they shall never "look upon his like again."

Gerard had built for himself a house in the Rue des Augustins, near
the ancient church of St. Germain des Pres; and there, every Wednesday
evening, summer and winter, he received whatever was in any way
illustrious in France, or whatever the other capitals of Europe sent
to Paris, _en passant_. "Four small rooms," says Mme. Ancelot,
"and a very small antechamber, composed the whole apartment. At twelve
o'clock tea was served, with eternally the same cakes, over which a
pupil of Gerard's, Mlle. Godefroy, presided. Gerard himself talked;
his wife remained nailed to a whist-table, attending to nothing and to
nobody. Evening once closed in, cards were the only occupation of
Mme. Gerard."

From Mme. de Stael down to Mlle. Mars, from Talleyrand and Pozzo di
Borgo down to M. Thiers, there were no celebrities, male or female,
that, during thirty years, (from 1805 to 1835,) did not flock to
Gerard's house, and all, how different soever might be their character
or position, agreed in the same opinion of their host; and those who
survive say of him to this day,--"Nothing in his _salons_
announced that you were received by a great _Artist_, but before
half an hour had elapsed you felt you were the guest of a
distinguished Man; you had seen by a glance at Gerard's whole person
and air that he was something apart from others,--that the sacred fire
burned there!"

The regret felt for Gerard's loss by all who ever knew him is not to
be told, and speaks as highly for those who cherished as for him who
inspired it. His, again, was one of the _salons_ (impossible now
in France) where genius and social superiority, whether of birth or
position, met together on equal terms. Without having, perhaps, as
large a proportion of the old _noblesse de cour_ at his house as
had Mme. Lebrun, Gerard received full as many of those eminent
personages whose political occupations would have seemed to estrange
them from the world of mixed society and the Arts. This is a
_nuance_ to be observed. Under the Empire, hard and despotic as
was the rule of Bonaparte, and anxious even as he was to draw round
him all the aristocratic names that would consent to serve his
government, there was--owing to the mere force of events and the
elective origin of the throne--a strong and necessary democratic
feeling, that assigned importance to each man according to his
works. Besides this, let it be well observed, the first Empire had a
strong tendency to protect and exalt the Arts, from its own very
ardent desire to be made glorious in the eyes of posterity. Napoleon
I. was, in his way, a consummate artist, a prodigiously intelligent
_metteur en scene_ of his own exploits, and he valued full as
much the man who delineated or sang his deeds, as the minister who
helped him to legislate, or the diplomatist who drew up protocols and
treaties. The Emperor was a lover of noise and show, and his time was
a showy and a noisy one. Bonaparte had, in this respect, little enough
of the genuine Tyrant nature. Unlike his nephew, he loved neither
silence nor darkness; he loved the reflection of his form in the broad
noon of publicity, and the echo of his tread upon the sounding soil of
popular renown. Could he have been sure that all free men would have
united their voices in chanting his exploits, he would have made the
citizens of France the freest in the whole world. Compression with him
was either a mere preventive against or vengeance for detraction.

Now this publicity-loving nature was, we repeat, as much served by Art
and artists as by politicians; nay, perhaps more; and for this reason
artists stood high during the period of the Empire. Talma held a
social rank that under no other circumstances could have been his, and
a painter like Gerard could welcome to his house statesmen such as
Talleyrand or Daru, or marshals of France, and princes even. We shall
show, by-and-by, how this grew to be impossible later. At present we
will recur to Mme. Ancelot for a really very true description of two
persons who were among the _habitues_ of the closing years of
Gerard's weekly receptions, and one of whom was destined to universal
celebrity: we allude to Mme. Gay, and her daughter, Delphine,--later,
Mme. Girardin. Of these two, the mother, famous as Sophie Gay, was as
thorough a remnant of the exaggerations and bad taste of the Empire as
were the straight, stiff, mock-classical articles of furniture of the
Imperialist hotels, or the _or-moulu_ clocks so ridiculed by
Balzac, on which turbaned Mamelukes mourned their expiring steeds. All
the false-heroics of the literature of the Empire found their
representative (their last one, perhaps) in Mme. Sophie Gay, and it
has not been sufficiently remarked that she even transmitted a shade
of all this to her daughter, in other respects one of the most
sagacious spirits and one of the most essentially unconventional of
our own day. A certain something that was not in harmony with the tone
of contemporary writers here and there surprised you in Delphine de
Girardin's productions, and, as Jules Janin once said, "One would
think the variegated plumes of Murat's fantastic hat[2] were sweeping
through her brains!" This was her mother's doing. Delphine, who had
never lived during one hour of the glory of the Empire, had, through
the medium of her mother, acquired a slight tinge of its
_boursouflure_; and had it not been for her own personal good
taste, she would have been misled precisely by her strong lyrical
aptitudes. Madame Gay found in Gerard's _salon_ all the people
she had best known in her youth, and she was delighted to have her
early years recalled to her. Mme. Ancelot, who, like many of her
country women, felt a marked antipathy for Madame Gay, has given a
very true portrait of both mother and daughter.

"Many years after," she writes, "when these ladies were (through M. de
Girardin) at the head of one of the chief organs of the Paris press,
they were much flattered and courted; at the period I speak of" (about
1817-1825) "their position was far from brilliant, and Mme. Gay was
far from popular. Every word that fell from her mouth, uttered in a
sharp tone, and full of bitterness and envy, went to speak ill of
others and prodigiously well of herself. She had a mania for titles
and tuft-hunting, and could speak of no one under a marquis, a count,
or a baron. Her daughter's beauty and talents caused her afterwards to
be more generally admitted into society; but at this period she was
avoided by most people."

Her daughter's beauty was certainly marvellous, and when, under the
reign of Louis Philippe, American society had in Paris more than one
brilliant representative and more than one splendid centre of
hospitality, where all that was illustrious in the society of France
perpetually flocked, we make no doubt many of our countrymen noticed,
whether at theatre or concert or ball, the really queenlike air of
Mme. de Girardin, and the exquisitely classic profile, which,
enframed, as it were, by the capricious spirals of the lightest,
fairest flaxen hair, resembled the outline of some antique statue of a
Muse.

Delphine Gay and her mother were more the ornaments of the
_salon_ of the Duchesse d'Abrantes, perhaps, than of that of
Gerard; and as the former continued open long after the latter was
closed by death, not only the young girl, whose verses were so
immensely in fashion during the Restoration, was one of the constant
guests of Junot's widow, but she continued to be so as the wife of
Emile de Girardin, the intelligent and enterprising founder of the
newspaper "La Presse."

The _salon_ of the Duchess d'Abrantes was one of the first of a
species which has since then found imitators by scores and hundreds
throughout France. It was the _salon_ of a person not in herself
sufficiently superior or even celebrated to attract the genuine
superiorities of the country without the accessory attractions of
luxury, and not sufficiently wealthy to draw around her by her
splendid style of receiving, and to disdain the bait held out to those
she invited by the presence of great "lions." Gerard gave to his
guests, at twelve o'clock at night, a cup of tea and "eternally the
same cakes" all the year round; but Gerard was the type of the great
honors rendered, as we have observed, to Art under the Empire, and to
his house men went as equals, whose daily occupations made them the
associates of kings. This was not the case with the Duchesse
d'Abrantes. She had notoriety, not fame. Her "Memoires" had been read
all through Europe, but it is to be questioned whether anything beyond
curiosity was satisfied by the book, and it certainly brought to its
author little or none of that which in France stands in lieu even of
fortune, but which is not easy to obtain, namely,--_consideration_.

The Duchesse d'Abrantes was rather popular than otherwise; she was
even beloved by a certain number of persons; but she never was what is
termed _consideree_,--and this gave to her _salon_ a different aspect
from that of the others we have spoken of. A dozen names could be
mentioned, whose wearers, without any means of "entertaining" their
friends, or giving them more than a glass of _eau sucree_, were yet
surrounded by everything highest and best in the land, simply because
they were _gens considerables_, as the phrase went; but
Mme. d'Abrantes, who more or less received all that mixed population
known by the name of _tout Paris_, never was, we repeat, _consideree_.

The way in which Mme. Ancelot introduces her "friend," the poor
Duchesse d'Abrantes, on the scene, is exceedingly amusing and natural;
and we have here at once the opportunity of applying the remark we
made in commencing these pages, upon Mme. Ancelot's truthfulness. She
is the _habituee_ of the house of Mme. d'Abrantes; she professes
herself attached to the Duchess; yet she does not scruple to tell
everything as it really is, nor, out of any of the usual little
weaknesses of friendship, does she omit any one single detail that
proves the strange and indeed somewhat "Bohemian" manner of life of
her patroness. We, the readers of her book, are obviously obliged to
her for her indiscretions; with those who object to them from other
motives we have nothing to do.

Here, then, is the fashion in which we are introduced to Mme. la
Duchesse d'Abrantes, widow of Marshal Junot, and a born descendant of
the Comneni, Emperors of Byzantium.

Mme. Ancelot is sitting quietly by her fireside, one evening in
October, (some short time after the establishment of the monarchy of
July,) waiting to hear the result of a representation at the Theatre
Francais, where a piece of her own is for the first time being
performed. All at once, she hears several carriages stop at her door,
a number of persons rush up the stairs, and she finds herself in the
arms of the Duchesse d'Abrantes, who was resolved, as she says, to be
the first to congratulate her on her success. The hour is a late one;
supper is served, and conversation is prolonged into the "small
hours." All at once Mme. d'Abrantes exclaims, with an explosion of
delight,--"Ah! what a charming time is the night! one is so
deliciously off for talking! so safe! so secure! safe from bores and
from duns!" (_on ne craint ni les ennuyeux ni les creanciers_.')

Madame Ancelot affirms that this speech made a tremendous effect, and
that her guests looked at each other in astonishment. If this really
was the case, we can only observe that it speaks well for the
Parisians of the epoch at which it occurred; for, assuredly, at the
present day, no announcement of the kind would astonish or scandalize
any one. People in "good society," nowadays, in France, have got into
a habit of living from hand to mouth, and of living by expedients,
simply because they have not the strength of mind to live _out_
of society, and because the life of "the world" forces them to
expenses utterly beyond what they have any means of providing
for. However, we are inclined to believe that some five-and-twenty
years ago this was in no degree a general case, and that Mme.
d'Abrantes might perfectly well have been the first _maitresse de
maison_ to whom it happened.

"Alas!" sighs Mme. Ancelot, commenting upon her excellent friend's
strange confidence,--"it was the secret of her whole life that she
thus revealed to us in a moment of _abandon_,--the secret of an
existence that tried still to reflect the splendors of the Imperial
epoch, and that was at the same time perplexed and tormented by all
the thousand small miseries of pecuniary embarrassment. There were the
two extremes of a life that to the end excited my surprise. Grandeur!
want!--between those two opposites oscillated every day of the last
years of the Duchesse d'Abrantes; the exterior and visible portion of
that life arranged itself well or ill, as it best could, in the
middle,--now apparently colored by splendor, and now degraded by
distress; but at bottom the existence was unvaryingly what I state."

Madame d'Abrantes, at the period of her greatest notoriety, occupied
the ground-floor of a hotel in the Rue Rochechouart, with a garden,
where dancing was often introduced upon the lawn. Some remnants of
the glories of Imperialism were collected there, but the principal
_habitues_ were men of letters, artists, and young men who danced
well! (_les jeunes beaux qui dansaient bien!_) That one phrase
characterizes at once the ex-_belle_ of the Empire, the
contemporary of the sentimental Hortense de Beauharnais, and of the
more than _legere_ Pauline Borghese.

To the "new society of July" Mme. d'Abrantes was an object of great
curiosity. "I dote on seeing that woman!" said Balzac, one evening,
to Mme. Ancelot. "Only fancy! she saw Napoleon Bonaparte as a mere
boy,--knew him well,--knew him as a young man, unknown,--saw him
occupied, like anybody else, with the ordinary occurrences of
every-day life; then she saw him grow, and grow, and rise, and throw
the shadow of his name over the world. She seems to me somewhat like a
canonized creature who should all at once come and recount to me the
glories of paradise."

Balzac, it must be premised, was bitten just at this period by the
Napoleon mania, and this transformed his inquisitive attachment for
Mme. d'Abrantes into a kind of passion. It was at this period that he
chose to set up in his habitation in the Rue Cassini a sort of altar,
on which he placed a small statue of the Emperor, with these words
engraved upon the pedestal:--

"Ce qu'il avait commence par l'epee,
Je l'acheveral par la plume!"

What particular part of the Imperial work this was that Balzac was to
"complete by the pen" was never rightly discovered,--but for a time he
had a sun-stroke for Napoleon, and his attachment for Mme. d'Abrantes
partook of this influence.

One anecdote told by Mme. Ancelot proves to what a degree the union of
"grandeur" and "want" she has alluded to went. "Mme. d'Abrantes," says
her biographer of the moment, "was always absorbed by the present
impression, whatever that might happen to be; she passed from joy to
despair like a child, and I never knew any house that was either so
melancholy or so gay." One evening, however, it would seem that the
Hotel d'Abrantes was gayer than usual. Laughter rang loud through the
rooms, the company was numerous, and the mistress of the house in
unparalleled high spirits. If the tide of conversation seemed to
slacken, quickly Madame la Duchesse had some inimitable story of the
_ridicules_ of the ladies of the Imperial court, and the whole
circle was soon convulsed at her stories, and at her way of telling
them. The tea-table was forgotten. Generally, tea at her house was
taken at eleven o'clock; but on this occasion, midnight was long past
before it was announced, and before her guests assembled round the
table. If our readers are curious to know why, here was the reason:
All that remained of the plate had that very morning been put in pawn,
and when tea should have been served it was found that tea-spoons were
wanting! Whilst these were being sent for to the house of a friend
who lent them, Madame la Duchesse took charge of her guests, and
drowned their impatience in their hilarity.

It must be allowed that this lady was worthy to be the mother of the
young man who, one day, pointing to a sheet of stamped paper, on which
a bill of exchange might be drawn, said: "You see that; it is worth
five sous now; but if I sign my name to it, it will be worth nothing!"
This was a speech made by Junot's eldest son, known in Paris as the
Duc d'Abrantes, and as the intimate friend of Victor Hugo, from whom
at one time he was almost inseparable.

The eccentric personage we have just spoken of--the Duchesse
d'Abrantes--died in the year 1838, in a garret, upon a truckle-bed,
provided for her by the charity of a friend. The royal family paid the
expenses of her funeral, and Chateaubriand, accompanied by nearly
every celebrity of the literary world, followed on foot behind her
coffin, from the church to the burying-ground.

Madame d'Abrantes may be considered as the inventor, in France, of
what has since become so widely spread under the name of _les salons
picaresques_, and of what, at the present day, is famous under the
appellation of the _demi-monde_. Her example has been followed
by numberless imitators, and now, instead of presuming (as was the
habit formerly) that those only receive who are rich enough to do so,
it is constantly inquired, when any one in Paris opens his or her
house, whether he or she is ruined, and whether the _soirees_
given are meant merely to throw dust into people's eyes. The history
of the tea-spoons--so singular at the moment of its occurrence--has
since been parodied a hundred times over, and sometimes by mistresses
of houses whose fortune was supposed to put them far above all such
expedients. Madame d'Abrantes, we again say, was the founder of a
_genre_ in Paris society, and as such is well worth studying. The
_genre_ is by no means the most honorable, but it is one too
frequently found now in the social centres of the French capital for
the essayist on Paris _salons_ to pass it over unnoticed.

The _salon_ of Mme. Recamier is one of a totally different order,
and the world-wide renown of which may make it interesting to the
reader of whatever country. As far as age was concerned, Mme.
Recamier was the contemporary of Mme. d'Abrantes, of Gerard, nay,
almost of Mme. Lebrun; for the renown of her beauty dates from the
time of the French Revolution, and her early friendships associate her
with persons who even had time to die out under the first Empire; but
the _salon_ of Madame Recamier was among the exclusively modern
ones, and enjoyed all its lustre and its influence only after
1830. The cause of this is obvious: the circumstance that attracted
society to Mme. Recamier's house was no other than the certainty of
finding there M. de Chateaubriand. He was the divinity of the temple,
and the votaries flocked around his shrine. Before 1830 the temple had
been elsewhere, and, until her death, Mme. la Duchesse de Duras was
the high-priestess of the sanctuary, where a few privileged mortals
only were admitted to bow down before the idol. It is inconceivable
how easy a certain degree of renown finds it in Paris to establish one
of these undisputed sovereignties, before which the most important,
highest, most considerable individualities abdicate their own merit,
and prostrate themselves in the dust. M. de Chateaubriand in no way
justified the kind of worship that was paid him, nor did he even
obtain it so long as he was in a way actively to justify it. It was
when he grew old and produced nothing, and was hourly more and more
rusted over by selfishness, churlishness, and an exorbitant adoration
of his own genius, that the society of his country fell down upon its
knees before him, and was ready to make any sacrifice to insure to
itself the honor of one of his smiles or one of his looks. In this
disposition, Madame Recamier speedily obtained a leading influence
over Paris society, and when it was notorious that from four to six
every day the "Divinity" would be visible in her _salons_, her
_salons_ became the place of pilgrimage for all Paris. As with
those of Mme. d'Abrantes, there was a certain mixture amongst the
guests, because, without that, the _notoriety_, which neither
Chateaubriand nor Mme. Recamier disliked, would have been less easily
secured; but the tone of the _reunions_ was vastly different, and
at the celebrated receptions of the Abbaye aux Bois (where
Mme. Recamier spent her last quarter of a century) the somewhat
austere deportment of the _siecle de Louis XIV._ was in
vogue. All the amusements were in their nature grave. Mlle. Rachel
recited a scene from "Polyeucte" for the author of "Les Martyrs," and
for archbishops and cardinals; the Duc de Noailles read a chapter from
his history of Mme. de Maintenon; some performance of strictly
classical music was to be heard; or, upon state occasions,
Chateaubriand himself vouchsafed to impart to a chosen few a few pages
of the "Memoires d'Outre-Tombe."

In her youth Mme. Recamier had been reputed beautiful, and her sole
occupation then was to do the honors of her beauty. She did not dream
of ever being anything else; and as she remained young marvellously
long,--as her beauty, or the charm, whatever it was, that
distinguished her, endured until a very late epoch of her life,--she
was far advanced in years before the idea of becoming famous through
any other medium save that of her exterior advantages ever struck
her. Madame Recamier had no intellectual superiority, but,
paraphrasing in action Moliere's witty sentence, that "silence, well
employed, may go far to establish a man's capacity," she resolved to
employ well the talent she possessed of making other people believe
themselves clever. Mme. Ancelot, whose "good friend" she is supposed
to have been, and who treats her with the same sincerity she applies
to Mme. d'Abrantes, has a very ingenious and, we have reason to fancy,
a very true parallel, for Mme. Recamier. She compares her to the
mendicant described by Sterne, (or Swift,) who always obtained alms
even from those who never gave to any other, and whose secret lay in
the adroit flatteries with which he seasoned all his beggings. The
best passages in Mme. Ancelot's whole Volume are those where she
paints Mme. Recamier, and we will therefore quote them.

"The Recluse of the Abbaye aux Bois," she says, "had either read the
story of the beggar, or her instinct had persuaded her that vanity and
pride are the surest vulnerable points by which to attack and subject
the human heart. From the first to the last of all the orators,
writers, artists, or celebrities of no matter what species, that were
invited to Mme. Recamier's house, _all_ heard from her lips the
same admiring phrases, the first time they were presented to her. With
a trembling voice she used to say: 'The emotion I feel in the presence
of a superior being does not permit me to express, as I should wish to
do, all my admiration, all my sympathy;--but you can divine,--you can
understand;--my emotion tells the rest!' This eulogistic sentence, a
well-studied hesitation, words interrupted, and looks of the most
perfect enthusiasm, produced in the person thus received a far more
genuine emotion than that with which he was met. It was no other than
the artifice of wholesale, universal flattery,--always and invariably
the same,--with which Mme. Recamier achieved her greatest conquests,
and continued to draw around her almost all the eminent men of our
epoch. All this was murmured in soft, low tones, so that he only to
whom she spoke tasted the honey poured into his ear. Her grace of
manner all the while was infinite; for though she had no talent for
conversation, she had, in the highest degree, the ability which
enables one to succeed in certain little combinations, and when she
had determined that such or such a great man should become her
_habitue_, the web she spun round him on all sides was composed
of threads so imperceptibly fine and so innumerable, that those who
escaped were few, and gifted with marvellous address."

Mme. Ancelot confesses to having "studied narrowly" all
Mme. Recamier's manoeuvres, and to having watched all the thousand
little traps she laid for social "lions"; but we are rather astonished
herein at Mme. Ancelot's astonishment, for, with more or less talent
and grace, these are the devices resorted to in Paris by a whole class
of _maitresses de maison_, of whom Mme. Recamier is simply the
most perfect type.

But the most amusing part of all, and one that will be above all
highly relished by any one who has ever seen the same game carried on,
is the account of Mme. Recamier's campaign against M. Guizot, which
signally failed, all her small webs having been coldly brushed away by
the intensely vainglorious individual who knew he should not be placed
above Chateaubriand, and who would for no consideration under heaven
have been placed beneath him. The spectacle of this small and delicate
vanity doing battle against this vanity so infinitely hard and robust
is exquisitely diverting. Mme. Recamier put herself so prodigiously
out of her way; she who was indolent became active; she who was
utterly insensible to children became maternal; she who was of
delicate health underwent what only a vigorous constitution would
undertake. But all in vain; she either did not or would not see that
M. Guizot would not be _second_ where M. de Chateaubriand was
_first_. Besides, she split against another rock, that she had
either chosen to overlook, or the importance of which she had
undervalued. If Mme. Recamier had for the idol of her shrine at the
Abbaye aux Bois M. de Chateaubriand, M. Guizot had also _his_
Madame Recamier, the "Egeria" of the Hotel Talleyrand,--the Princess
Lieven. The latter would have resisted to the death any attempt to
carry off "her Minister" from the _salons_ where his presence was
the "attraction" reckoned upon daily, nay, almost hourly; and against
such a rival as the venerable Princess Lieven, Mme. Recamier, spite of
all her arts and wiles, had no possible chance. However, she left
nothing untried, and when M. Guizot took a villa at Auteuil, whither
to repair of an evening and breathe the freshness of the half-country
air after the stormy debates of the Chambers, she also established
herself close by, and opened her attack on the enemy's outposts by a
request to be allowed to walk in the Minister's grounds, her own
garden being ridiculously small! This was followed by no end of
attentions directed towards Mme. de Meulan, M. Guizot's sister-in-law,
who saw through the whole, and laughed over it with her friends; no
end of little dancing _matinees_ were got up for the Minister's
young daughters, and no end even of sweet biscuits were perpetually
provided for a certain lapdog belonging to the family! All in vain!
We may judge, too, what transports of enthusiasm were enacted when the
Minister himself was _by chance (!)_ encountered in the alleys of
the park, and with what outpourings of admiration he was greeted, by
the very person who, of all others, was so anxious to become one of
his votaries. But, as we again repeat, it was of no use. M. Guizot
never consented to be one of the _habitues_ of the _salon_
of the Abbaye aux Bois. It should be remarked, also, that M. Guizot
cared little for anything out of the immediate sphere of politics, and
of the politics of the moment; he took small interest in what went on
in Art, and none whatever in what went on in the so-called "world"; so
that where a _salon_ was not predominantly political, there was
small chance of presenting Louis Philippe's Prime-Minister with any
real attraction. For this reason he was now and then to be met at the
house of Mme. de Chatenay, often at that of Mme. de Boigne, but
_never_ in any of the receptions of the ordinary run of men and
women of the world. _His own salon_, we again say,--the
_salon_ where he was what Chateaubriand was at the Abbaye aux
Bois,--was the _salon_ of the Princess Lieven; and to have ever
thought she could induce M. Guizot to be in the slightest degree
faithless to this _habit_ argues, on the part of Mme. Recamier,
either a vanity more egregious than we had even supposed, or an
ignorance of what she had to combat that seems impossible. To have
imagined for a moment that she could induce M. Guizot to frequent her
_reunions_ shows that she appreciated neither Mme. de Lieven, nor
M. Guizot, nor, we may say, herself, in the light of the
high-priestess of Chateaubriand's temple.

However, what Mme. Recamier went through with regard to the arrogant
President du Conseil of the Orleans dynasty, more than one of her
imitators are at this hour enduring for some "lion" infinitely
illustrious. This kind of hunt after celebrated persons is a feature
of French civilization, and a feature peculiarly characteristic of the
French women who take a pride in their receptions. A genuine
_maitresse de maison_ in Paris has no affections, no ties, save
those of her _salon_. She is wholly absorbed in thinking how she
shall render this more attractive than the _salon_ of some other
lady, who is her intimate friend, but whose sudden disappearance from
the social scene, by any catastrophe, death even, would not leave her
inconsolable. She has neither husband, children, relatives, nor
friends (in the genuine acceptation of the word);--she has, above all,
before all, always and invariably, her _salon_. This race of
women, who date undoubtedly from the famous Marquise de Rambouillet in
the time of the Fronde, are now dying out, and are infinitely less
numerous than they were even twenty years ago in Paris; but a few of
them still exist, and in these few the ardor we allude to, and which
would lead them, following in Mme. Recamier's track, to embark for the
North Cape in search of some great celebrity, is in no degree
abated. Madame Recamier is curious as the arch-type of this race, so
purely, thoroughly, exclusively Parisian.

Perhaps to a foreigner, however, no _salon_ was more amusing than
that of Charles Nodier; but this was of an utterly different
description, and all but strictly confined to the world of Literature
and Art. Nodier himself occupied a prominent place in the literature
that was so much talked of during the last years of the Restoration
and the first years of the Monarchy of July, and his house was the
rendezvous for all the combatants of both sides, who at that period
were engaged in the famous Classico-Romantic struggle. Nodier was the
Head Librarian of the Arsenal, and it was in the _salons_ of this
historic palace that he held his weekly gatherings. He himself was
scarcely to be reputed exclusively of either party; he enjoyed the
favors of the Monarchy, and the sympathies of the Opposition; the
"Classics" elected him a member of the Academie Francaise, and the
"Romantics" were perpetually in his intimacy. The fact was, that
Nodier at heart believed in neither Classics nor Romantics, laughed at
both in his sleeve, and only cared to procure to himself the most
agreeable house, the greatest number of comforts, and the largest sums
of money possible.

"By degrees," says Mme. Ancelot, "as Nodier cared less for other
people, he praised them more, probably in order to compensate them in
words for the less he gave them in affection. Besides this, he was
resolved not to be disturbed in his own vanities, and for this he knew
there was one only way, which was to foster the vanities of everybody
else. Never did eulogium take such varied forms to laud and exalt the
most mediocre things. Nowhere were so many geniuses whom the public
never guessed at raised to the rank of _divinities_ as in the
_salons_ of Charles Nodier."

The description contained in the little volume before us, the manner
in which every petty scribbler of fiftieth-rate talent was transformed
into a giant in the society of Nodier, is extremely curious and
amusing, and the more so that it is strictly true, and tallies
perfectly with the recollections of the individuals who, at the period
mentioned, were admitted to the _reunions_ of the Arsenal.

Every form of praise having been expended upon persons of infinitely
small merit, what was to be done when those of real superiority
entered upon the scene? It was impossible to apply to them the forms
of laudation adapted to their inferiors. Well, then, a species of
slang was invented, by which it was thought practicable to make the
genuine great men conceive they had passed into the condition of
demigods. A language was devised that was to express the fervor of the
adorers who were suddenly allowed to penetrate into Olympus, and the
strange, misapplied terms whereof seemed to the uninitiated the
language of insanity. For instance, if, after a dozen little unshaved,
unkempt poetasters had been called "sublime," Victor Hugo vouchsafed
to recite one of his really best Odes, what was the eulogistic form to
be adopted? Mme. Ancelot will tell us.

"A pause would ensue, and at the end of a silence of some minutes,
when the echo of Hugo's sonorous voice had subsided, one after another
of the _elect_ would rise, go up to the poet, take his hand with
solemn emotion, and raise to the ceiling eyes full of mute enthusiasm.
The crowd of bystanders would listen all agape. Then, to the surprise,
almost to the consternation, of the uninitiated, one word only would
be spoken,--loudly, distinctly, and with strong, deep emphasis spoken;
that word would be:

"_Cathedral!!!_

"The first orator, after this effort, would return to the place whence
he had come, and another, succeeding to him, after repeating the same
pantomime as the former, would exclaim:

"_Ogive!!!_

"Then a third would come forward, and, after looking all around, would
risk the word:

"_Pyramid-of-Egypt!!!_

"And thereat the whole assembly would start off into frenzies of
applause, and fifty or sixty voices would repeat in chorus the
sacramental words that had just been pronounced separately."

The degree of absurdity to which a portion of society must have
attained before such scenes as the above could become possible may
serve as a commentary and an explanation to half the literature which
flooded the stage and the press in France for the first six or eight
years after the Revolution of 1830. However, to be just, we must, in
extenuation of all these absurdities, cite one passage more from
Mme. Ancelot's book, in which, in one respect, at all events, the
youth of twenty years ago in Paris are shown to have been superior to
the youth of the present day.

"Nodier's parties were extremely amusing," says our authoress; "his
charming daughter was the life of the whole; she drew around her young
girls of her own age; poets, musicians, painters, young and joyous as
these, were their partners in the dance, and every one was
full of hope and dreaming of glory. But what brought all the
light-heartedness, all the enthusiasm, all the exultation to its
utmost height was, that, in all that youth, so trusting and so
hopeful, _no one gave a single thought to money!_"

Assuredly, it would be impossible to say as much nowadays.

Taken as a whole, Mme. Ancelot's little volume is, as we said, an
amusing and an instructive one. It is not so from any portion of her
own individuality she has infused into it, but, on the contrary, from
the entire sincerity with which it mirrors other people. We recommend
it to our readers, for it is a record of Paris society in its
successive transformations from 1789 to 1848, and paints a class of
people and a situation of things, equally true types whereof may
possibly not be observable in future times.

Footnote 1: _Les Salons de Paris.--Foyers Eteints_. Par
Mme. Ancelot. 12mo. Paris.

Footnote 2: It will be remembered that on field-days Murat had
adopted a hat and feathers of a most ridiculous kind, and that have
become proverbial.

THE DISCOVERER OF THE NORTH CAPE.

A LEAF FROM KING ALFRED'S "OROSIUS."

Othere, the old sea-captain,
Who dwelt in Helgoland,
To Alfred, the Lover of Truth,
Brought a snow-white walrus-tooth,
Which he held in his brown right-hand.

His figure was tall and stately;
Like a boy's his eye appeared;
His hair was yellow as hay,
But threads of a silvery gray
Gleamed in his tawny beard.

Hearty and hale was Othere,
His cheek had the color of oak;
With a kind of laugh in his speech,
Like the sea-tide on a beach,
As unto the King he spoke.

And Alfred, King of the Saxons,
Had a book upon his knees,
And wrote down the wondrous tale
Of him who was first to sail
Into the Arctic seas.

"So far I live to the northward,
No man lives north of me;
To the east are wild mountain-chains,
And beyond them meres and plains;
To the westward all is sea.

"So far I live to the northward,
From the harbor of Skeringes-hale,
If you only sailed by day,
With a fair wind all the way,
More than a month would you sail.

"I own six hundred reindeer,
With sheep and swine beside;
I have tribute from the Fins,--
Whalebone, and reindeer-skins,
And ropes of walrus-hide.

"I ploughed the land with horses,
But my heart was ill at ease,
For the old seafaring men
Came to me now and then
With their sagas of the seas,--

"Of Iceland, and of Greenland,
And the stormy Hebrides,
And the undiscovered deep;--
I could not eat nor sleep
For thinking of those seas.

"To the northward stretched the desert,--
How far I fain would know;
So at last I sallied forth,
And three days sailed due north,
As far as the whale-ships go.

"To the west of me was the ocean,--
To the right the desolate shore;
But I did not slacken sail
For the walrus or the whale,
Till after three days more.

"The days grew longer and longer,
Till they became as one;
And southward through the haze
I saw the sullen blaze
Of the red midnight sun.

"And then uprose before me,
Upon the water's edge,
The huge and haggard shape
Of that unknown North Cape,
Whose form is like a wedge.

"The sea was rough and stormy,
The tempest howled and wailed,
And the sea-fog, like a ghost,
Haunted that dreary coast,--
But onward still I sailed.

"Four days I steered to eastward,
Four days without a night:
Bound in a fiery ring
Went the great sun, O King,
With red and lurid light."

Here Alfred, King of the Saxons,
Ceased writing for a while;
And raised his eyes from his book,
With a strange and puzzled look,
And an incredulous smile.

But Othere, the old sea-captain,
He neither paused nor stirred;
And the King listened, and then
Once more took up his pen,
And wrote down every word.

"And now the land," said Othere,
"Bent southward suddenly,
And I followed the curving shore
And ever southward bore
Into a nameless sea.

"And there we hunted the walrus,
The narwhale, and the seal:
Ha! 'twas a noble game,
And like the lightning's flame
Flew our harpoons of steel!

"There were six of us altogether,
Norsemen of Helgoland;
In two days and no more
We killed of them threescore,
And dragged them to the strand!"

Here Alfred the Truth-Teller
Suddenly closed his book,
And lifted his blue eyes
With doubt and strange surmise
Depicted in their look.

And Othere, the old sea-captain,
Stared at him wild and weird,
Then smiled, till his shining teeth
Gleamed white from underneath
His tawny, quivering beard.

And to the King of the Saxons,
In witness of the truth,
Raising his noble head,
He stretched his brown hand, and said.
"Behold this walrus-tooth!"

THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.

EVERY MAN HIS OWN BOSWELL.

[The schoolmistress came down with a rose in her hair,--a fresh June
rose. She has been walking early; she has brought back two
others,--one on each cheek.

I told her so, in some such pretty phrase as I could muster for the
occasion. Those two blush-roses I just spoke of turned into a couple
of damasks. I suppose all this went through my mind, for this was what
I went on to say:--]

I love the damask rose best of all. The flowers our mothers and
sisters used to love and cherish, those which grow beneath our eaves
and by our doorstep, are the ones we always love best. If the
Houyhnhnms should ever catch me, and, finding me particularly vicious
and unmanageable, send a man-tamer to Rareyfy me, I'll tell you what
drugs he would have to take and how he would have to use them. Imagine
yourself reading a number of the Houyhnhnms Gazette, giving an account
of such an experiment.

"MAN-TAMING EXTRAORDINARY.

"The soft-hoofed semi-quadruped recently captured was subjected to the
art of our distinguished man-tamer in presence of a numerous
assembly. The animal was led in by two stout ponies, closely confined
by straps to prevent his sudden and dangerous tricks of
shoulder-hitting and foot-striking. His countenance expressed the
utmost degree of ferocity and cunning.

"The operator took a handful of _budding lilac-leaves_, and
crushing them slightly between his hoofs, so as to bring out their
peculiar fragrance, fastened them to the end of a long pole and held
them towards the creature. Its expression changed in an instant,--it
drew in their fragrance eagerly, and attempted to seize them with its
soft split hoofs. Having thus quieted his suspicious subject, the
operator proceeded to tie a _blue hyacinth_ to the end of the
pole and held it out towards the wild animal. The effect was
magical. Its eyes filled as if with raindrops, and its lips trembled
as it pressed them to the flower. After this it was perfectly quiet,
and brought a measure of corn to the man-tamer, without showing the
least disposition to strike with the feet or hit from the shoulder."

That will do for the Houyhnhnms Gazette.--Do you ever wonder why poets
talk so much about flowers? Did you ever hear of a poet who did not
talk about them? Don't you think a poem, which, for the sake of being
original, should leave them out, would be like those verses where the
letter _a_ or _e_ or some other is omitted? No,--they will
bloom over and over again in poems as in the summer fields, to the end
of time, always old and always new. Why should we be more shy of
repeating ourselves than the spring be tired of blossoms or the night
of stars? Look at Nature. She never wearies of saying over her floral
pater-noster. In the crevices of Cyclopean walls,--in the dust where
men lie, dust also,--on the mounds that bury huge cities, the Birs
Nemroud and the Babel-heap,--still that same sweet prayer and
benediction. The Amen! of Nature is always a flower.

Are you tired of my trivial personalities,--those splashes and streaks
of sentiment, sometimes perhaps of sentimentality, which you may see
when I show you my heart's corolla as if it were a tulip? Pray, do
not give yourself the trouble to fancy me an idiot whose conceit it is
to treat himself as an exceptional being. It is because you are just
like me that I talk and know that you will listen. We are all
splashed and streaked with sentiments,--not with precisely the same
tints, or in exactly the same patterns, but by the same hand and from
the same palette.

I don't believe any of you happen to have just the same passion for
the blue hyacinth which I have,--very certainly not for the crushed
lilac-leaf-buds; many of you do not know how sweet they are. You love
the smell of the sweet-fern and the bayberry-leaves, I don't doubt;
but I hardly think that the last bewitches you with young memories as
it does me. For the same reason I come back to damask roses, after
having raised a good many of the rarer varieties. I like to go to
operas and concerts, but there are queer little old homely sounds that
are better than music to me. However, I suppose it's foolish to tell
such things.

----It is pleasant to be foolish at the right time,--said the
divinity-student;--saying it, however, in one of the dead languages,
which I think are unpopular for summer-reading, and therefore do not
bear quotation as such.

Well, now,--said I,--suppose a good, clean, wholesome-looking
countryman's cart stops opposite my door.--Do I want any
huckleberries?--If I do not, there are those that do. Thereupon my
soft-voiced handmaid bears out a large tin pan, and then the wholesome
countryman, heaping the peck-measure, spreads his broad hands around
its lower arc to confine the wild and frisky berries, and so they run
nimbly along the narrowing channel until they tumble rustling down in
a black cascade and tinkle on the resounding metal beneath.--I won't
say that this rushing huckleberry hail-storm has not more music for me
than the "Anvil Chorus."

----I wonder how my great trees are coming on this summer.

----Where are your great trees, Sir? said the divinity-student.

Oh, all round about New England. I call all trees mine that I have put
my wedding-ring on, and I have as many tree-wives as Brigham Young has
human ones.

----One set's as green as the other,--exclaimed a boarder, who has
never been identified.

They're all Bloomers,--said the young fellow called John.

[I should have rebuked this trifling with language, if our landlady's
daughter had not asked me just then what I meant by putting my
wedding-ring on a tree.]

Why, measuring it with my thirty-foot tape, my dear,--said I.--I have
worn a tape almost out on the rough barks of our old New England elms
and other big trees.--Don't you want to hear me talk trees a little
now? That is one of my specialties.

[So they all agreed that they should like to hear me talk about
trees.]

I want you to understand, in the first place, that I have a most
intense, passionate fondness for trees in general, and have had
several romantic attachments to certain trees in particular. Now, if
you expect me to hold forth in a "scientific" way about my
tree-loves,--to talk, for instance, of the Ulmus Americana, and
describe the ciliated edges of its samara, and all that,--you are an
anserine individual, and I must refer you to a dull friend who will
discourse to you of such matters. What should you think of a lover who
should describe the idol of his heart in the language of science,
thus: Class, Mammalia; Order, Primates; Genus, Homo; Species,
Europeus; Variety, Brown; Individual, Ann Eliza; Dental Formula

2-2 1-1 2-2 3-3
i--- c--- p--- m----,
2-2 1-1 2-2 3-3

and so on?

No, my friends, I shall speak of trees as we see them, love them,
adore them in the fields, where they are alive, holding their green
sun-shades over our heads, talking to us with their hundred thousand
whispering tongues, looking down on us with that sweet meekness which
belongs to huge, but limited organisms,--which one sees in the brown
eyes of oxen, but most in the patient posture, the outstretched arms,
and the heavy-drooping robes of these vast beings endowed with life,
but not with soul,--which outgrow us and outlive us, but stand
helpless,--poor things!--while Nature dresses and undresses them, like
so many full-sized, but underwitted children.

Did you ever read old Daddy Gilpin? Slowest of men, even of English
men; yet delicious in his slowness, as is the light of a sleepy eye in
woman. I always supposed "Dr. Syntax" was written to make fun of
him. I have a whole set of his works, and am very proud of it, with
its gray paper, and open type, and long ff, and orange-juice
landscapes. The _Pere_ Gilpin had the kind of science I like in
the study of Nature,--a little less observation than White of
Selborne, but a little more poetry.--Just think of applying the
Linnaean system to an elm! Who cares how many stamens or pistils that
little brown flower, which comes out before the leaf, may have to
classify it by? What we want is the meaning, the character, the
expression of a tree, as a kind and as an individual.

There is a mother-idea in each particular kind of tree, which, if well
marked, is probably embodied in the poetry of every language. Take the
oak, for instance, and we find it always standing as a type of
strength and endurance. I wonder if you ever thought of the single
mark of supremacy which distinguishes this tree from all our other
forest-trees? All the rest of them shirk the work of resisting
gravity; the oak alone defies it. It chooses the horizontal direction
for its limbs, so that their whole weight may tell,--and then
stretches them out fifty or sixty feet, so that the strain may be
mighty enough to be worth resisting. You will find, that, in passing
from the extreme downward droop of the branches of the weeping-willow
to the extreme upward inclination of those of the poplar, they sweep
nearly half a circle. At 90 deg. the oak stops short; to slant upward
another degree would mark infirmity of purpose; to bend downwards,
weakness of organization. The American elm betrays something of both;
yet sometimes, as we shall see, puts on a certain resemblance to its
sturdier neighbor.

It won't do to be exclusive in our taste about trees. There is hardly
one of them which has not peculiar beauties in some fitting place for
it. I remember a tall poplar of monumental proportions and aspect, a
vast pillar of glossy green, placed on the summit of a lofty hill, and
a beacon to all the country round. A native of that region saw fit to
build his house very near it, and, having a fancy that it might blow
down some time or other, and exterminate himself and any incidental
relatives who might be "stopping" or "tarrying" with him,--also
laboring under the delusion that human life is under all circumstances
to be preferred to vegetable existence,--had the great poplar cut
down. It is so easy to say, "It is only a poplar!" and so much harder
to replace its living cone than to build a granite obelisk!

I must tell you about some of my tree-wives. I was at one period of my
life much devoted to the young lady-population of Rhode Island, a
small, but delightful State in the neighborhood of Pawtucket. The
number of inhabitants being not very large, I had leisure, during my
visits to the Providence Plantations, to inspect the face of the
country in the intervals of more fascinating studies of physiognomy. I
heard some talk of a great elm a short distance from the locality just
mentioned. "Let us see the great elm,"--I said, and proceeded to find
it,--knowing that it was on a certain farm in a place called Johnston,
if I remember rightly. I shall never forget my ride and my
introduction to the great Johnston elm.

I always tremble for a celebrated tree when I approach it for the
first time. Provincialism has no _scale_ of excellence in man or
vegetable; it never knows a first-rate article of either kind when it
has it, and is constantly taking second and third rate ones for
Nature's best. I have often fancied the tree was afraid of me, and
that a sort of shiver came over it as over a betrothed maiden when she
first stands before the unknown to whom she has been plighted. Before
the measuring-tape the proudest tree of them all quails and shrinks
into itself. All those stories of four or five men stretching their
arms around it and not touching each other's fingers, of one's pacing
the shadow at noon and making it so many hundred feet, die upon its
leafy lips in the presence of the awful ribbon which has strangled so
many false pretensions.

As I rode along the pleasant way, watching eagerly for the object of
my journey, the rounded tops of the elms rose from time to time at the
road-side. Wherever one looked taller and fuller than the rest, I
asked myself,--"Is this it?" But as I drew nearer, they grew
smaller,--or it proved, perhaps, that two standing in a line had
looked like one, and so deceived me. At last, all at once, when I was
not thinking of it,--I declare to you it makes my flesh creep when I
think of it now,--all at once I saw a great, green cloud swelling in
the horizon, so vast, so symmetrical, of such Olympian majesty and
imperial supremacy among the lesser forest-growths, that my heart
stopped short, then jumped at my ribs as a hunter springs at a
five-barred gate, and I felt all through me, without need of uttering
the words,--"This is it!"

You will find this tree described, with many others, in the excellent
Report upon the Trees and Shrubs of Massachusetts. The author has
given my friend the Professor credit for some of his measurements, but
measured this tree himself, carefully. It is a grand elm for size of
trunk, spread of limbs, and muscular development,--one of the first,
perhaps the first, of the first class of New England elms.

The largest actual girth I have ever found at five feet from the
ground is in the great elm lying a stone's throw or two north of the
main road (if my points of compass are right) in Springfield. But
this has much the appearance of having been formed by the union of two
trunks growing side by side.

The West-Springfield elm and one upon Northampton meadows belong also
to the first class of trees.

There is a noble old wreck of an elm at Hatfield, which used to spread
its claws out over a circumference of thirty-five feet or more before
they covered the foot of its bole up with earth. This is the American
elm most like an oak of any I have ever seen.

The Sheffield elm is equally remarkable for size and perfection of
form. I have seen nothing that comes near it in Berkshire County, and
few to compare with it anywhere. I am not sure that I remember any
other first-class elms in New England, but there may be many.

----What makes a first-class elm?--Why, size, in the first place, and
chiefly. Anything over twenty feet of clear girth, five feet above
the ground; and with a spread of branches a hundred feet across, may
claim that title, according to my scale. All of them, with the
questionable exception of the Springfield tree above referred to,
stop, so far as my experience goes, at about twenty-two or
twenty-three feet of girth and a hundred and twenty of spread.

Elms of the second class, generally ranging from fourteen to eighteen
feet, are comparatively common. The queen of them all is that glorious
tree near one of the churches in Springfield. Beautiful and stately
she is beyond all praise. The "great tree" on Boston Common comes in
the second rank, as does the one at Cohasset, which used to have, and
probably has still, a head as round as an apple-tree, and that at
Newburyport, with scores of others which might be mentioned. These
last two have perhaps been over-celebrated. Both, however, are
pleasing vegetables. The poor old Pittsfield elm lives on its past
reputation. A wig of false leaves is indispensable to make it
presentable.

[I don't doubt there may be some monster-elm or other, vegetating
green, but inglorious, in some remote New England village, which only
wants a sacred singer to make it celebrated. Send us your
measurements,--(certified by the postmaster, to avoid possible
imposition,)--circumference five feet from soil, length of line from
bough-end to bough-end, and we will see what can be done for you.]

--I wish somebody would get us up the following work:--

SYLVA NOVANGLICA.

Photographs of New England Elms and other Trees, taken upon the Same
Scale of Magnitude. With Letter-Press Descriptions, by a Distinguished
Literary Gentleman. Boston: ---- ---- & Co. 185..

The same camera should be used,--so far as possible,--at a fixed
distance. Our friend, who is giving us so many interesting figures in
his "Trees of America," must not think this Prospectus invades his
province; a dozen portraits, with lively descriptions, would be a
pretty complement to his larger work, which, so far as published, I
find excellent. If my plan were carried out, and another series of a
dozen English trees photographed on the same scale, the comparison
would be charming.

It has always been a favorite idea of mine to bring the life of the
Old and the New World face to face, by an accurate comparison of their
various types of organization. We should begin with man, of course;
institute a large and exact comparison between the development of
_la pianta umana_, as Alfieri called it, in different sections of
each country, in the different callings, at different ages, estimating
height, weight, force by the dynamometer and the spirometer, and
finishing off with a series of typical photographs, giving the
principal national physiognomies. Mr. Hutchinson has given us some
excellent English data to begin with.

Then I would follow this up by contrasting the various parallel forms
of life in the two continents. Our naturalists have often referred to
this incidentally or expressly; but the _animus_ of Nature in the
two half-globes of the planet is so momentous a point of interest to
our race, that it should be made a subject of express and elaborate
study. Go out with me into that walk which we call _the Mall_,
and look at the English and American elms. The American elm is tall,
graceful, slender-sprayed, and drooping as if from languor. The
English elm is compact, robust, holds its branches up, and carries its
leaves for weeks longer than our own native tree.

Is this typical of the creative force on the two sides of the ocean,
or not? Nothing but a careful comparison through the whole realm of
life can answer this question.

There is a parallelism without identity in the animal and vegetable
life of the two continents, which favors the task of comparison in an
extraordinary manner. Just as we have two trees alike in many ways,
yet not the same, both elms, yet easily distinguishable, just so we
have a complete flora and a fauna, which, parting from the same ideal,
embody it with various modifications. Inventive power is the only
quality of which the Creative Intelligence seems to be economical;
just as with our largest human minds, that is the divinest of
faculties, and the one that most exhausts the mind which exercises it.
As the same patterns have very commonly been followed, we can see
which is worked out in the largest spirit, and determine the exact
limitations under which the Creator places the movement of life in all
its manifestations in either locality. We should find ourselves in a
very false position, if it should prove that Anglo-Saxons can't live
here, but die out, if not kept up by fresh supplies, as Dr. Knox and
other more or less wise persons have maintained. It may turn out the
other way, as I have heard one of our literary celebrities argue,--and
though I took the other side, I liked his best,--that the American is
the Englishman reinforced.

--Will you walk out and look at those elms with me after breakfast?--I
said to the schoolmistress.

[I am not going to tell lies about it, and say that she blushed,--as I
suppose she ought to have done, at such a tremendous piece of
gallantry as that was for our boarding-house. On the contrary, she
turned a little pale,--but smiled brightly and said,--Yes, with
pleasure, but she must walk towards her school.--She went for her
bonnet.--The old gentleman opposite followed her with his eyes, and
said he wished he was a young fellow. Presently she came down,
looking very pretty in her half-mourning bonnet, and carrying a
school-book in her hand.]

MY FIRST WALK WITH THE SCHOOLMISTRESS.

This is the shortest way,--she said, as we came to a corner.--Then we
won't take it,--said I.--The schoolmistress laughed a little, and said
she was ten minutes early, so she could go round.

We walked under Mr. Paddock's row of English elms. The gray squirrels
were out looking for their breakfasts, and one of them came toward us
in light, soft, intermittent leaps, until he was close to the rail of
the burial-ground. He was on a grave with a broad blue-slate-stone at
its head, and a shrub growing on it. The stone said this was the
grave of a young man who was the son of an Honorable gentleman, and
who died a hundred years ago and more.--Oh, yes, _died_,--with a
small triangular mark in one breast, and another smaller opposite, in
his back, where another young man's rapier had slid through his body;
and so he lay down out there on the Common, and was found cold the
next morning, with the night-dews and the death-dews mingled on his
forehead.

Let us have one look at poor Benjamin's grave,--said I.--His bones lie
where his body was laid so long ago, and where the stone says they
lie,--which is more than can be said of most of the tenants of this
and several other burial-grounds.

[The most accursed act of Vandalism ever committed within my knowledge
was the uprooting of the ancient gravestones in three at least of our
city burial-grounds, and one at least just outside the city, and
planting them in rows to suit the taste for symmetry of the
perpetrators. Many years ago, when this disgraceful process was going
on under my eyes, I addressed an indignant remonstrance to a leading
journal. I suppose it was deficient in literary elegance, or too warm
in its language; for no notice was taken of it, and the hyena-horror
was allowed to complete itself in the face of daylight. I have never
got over it. The bones of my own ancestors, being entombed, lie
beneath their own tablet; but the upright stones have been shuffled
about like chessmen, and nothing short of the Day of Judgment will
tell whose dust lies beneath any of those records, meant by affection
to mark one small spot as sacred to some cherished memory. Shame!
shame! shame!--that is all I can say. It was on public thoroughfares,
under the eye of authority, that this infamy was enacted. The red
Indians would have known better; the selectmen of an African
kraal-village would have had more respect for their ancestors. I
should like to see the gravestones which have been disturbed all
removed, and the ground levelled, leaving the fiat tombstones;
epitaphs were never famous for truth, but the old reproach of "Here
lies" never had such a wholesale illustration as in these outraged
burial-places, where the stone does lie above, and the bones do not
lie beneath.]

Stop before we turn away, and breathe a woman's sigh over poor
Benjamin's dust. Love killed him, I think. Twenty years old, and out
there fighting another young fellow on the Common, in the cool of that
old July evening;--yes, there must have been love at the bottom of it.

The schoolmistress dropped a rosebud she had in her hand, through the
rails, upon the grave of Benjamin Woodbridge. That was all her
comment upon what I told her.--How women love Love! said I;--but she
did not speak.

We came opposite the head of a place or court running eastward from
the main street.--Look down there,--I said.--My friend the Professor
lived in that house at the left hand, next the further corner, for
years and years. He died out of it, the other day.--Died?--said the
schoolmistress.--Certainly,--said I.--We die out of houses, just as we
die out of our bodies. A commercial smash kills a hundred men's
houses for them, as a railroad crash kills their mortal frames and
drives out the immortal tenants. Men sicken of houses until at last
they quit them, as the soul leaves its body when it is tired of its
infirmities. The body has been called "the house we live in"; the
house is quite as much the body we live in. Shall I tell you some
things the Professor said the other day?--Do!--said the
schoolmistress.

A man's body,--said the Professor,--is whatever is occupied by his
will and his sensibility. The small room down there, where I wrote
those papers you remember reading, was much more a portion of my body
than a paralytic's senseless and motionless arm or leg is of his.

The soul of a man has a series of concentric envelopes round it, like
the core of an onion, or the innermost of a nest of boxes. First he
has his natural garment of flesh and blood. Then, his artificial
integuments, with their true skin of solid stuffs, their cuticle of
lighter tissues, and their variously-tinted pigments. Thirdly, his
domicile, be it a single chamber or a stately mansion. And then, the
whole visible world, in which Time buttons him up as in a loose
outside wrapper.

You shall observe,--the Professor said,--for, like Mr. John Hunter and
other great men, he brings in that _shall_ with great effect
sometimes,--you shall observe that a man's clothing or series of
envelopes do after a certain time mould themselves upon his individual
nature. We know this of our hats, and are always reminded of it when
we happen to put them on wrong side foremost. We soon find that the
beaver is a hollow cast of the skull, with all its irregular bumps and
depressions. Just so all that clothes a man, even to the blue sky
which caps his head,--a little loosely,--shapes itself to fit each
particular being beneath it. Farmers, sailors, astronomers, poets,
lovers, condemned criminals, all find it different, according to the
eyes with which they severally look.

But our houses shape themselves palpably on our inner and outer
natures. See a householder breaking up and you will be sure of
it. There is a shell-fish which builds all manner of smaller shells
into the walls of its own. A house is never a home until we have
crusted it with the spoils of a hundred lives besides those of our own
past. See what these are, and you can tell what the occupant is.

I had no idea,--said the Professor,--until I pulled up my domestic
establishment the other day, what an enormous quantity of roots I had
been making during the years I was planted there. Why, there wasn't a
nook or a corner that some fibre had not worked its way into; and when
I gave the last wrench, each of them seemed to shriek like a mandrake,
as it broke its hold and came away.

There is nothing that happens, you know, which must not inevitably,
and which does not actually, photograph itself in every conceivable
aspect and in all dimensions. The infinite galleries of the Past await
but one brief process and all their pictures will be called out and
fixed forever. We had a curious illustration of the great fact on a
very humble scale. When a certain bookcase, long standing in one
place, for which it was built, was removed, there was the exact image
on the wall of the whole, and of many of its portions. But in the
midst of this picture was another,--the precise outline of a map
which had hung on the wall before the bookcase was built. We had all
forgotten everything about the map until we saw its photograph on the
wait. Then we remembered it, as some day or other we may remember a
sin which has been built over and covered up, when this lower universe
is pulled away from before the wall of Infinity, where the wrongdoing
stands self-recorded.

The Professor lived in that house a long time,--not twenty years, but
pretty near it. When he entered that door, two shadows glided over the
threshold; five lingered in the doorway when he passed through it for
the last time,--and one of the shadows was claimed by its owner to be
longer than his own. What changes he saw in that quiet place! Death
rained through every roof but his; children came into life, grew to
maturity, wedded, faded away, threw themselves away; the whole drama
of life was played in that stock-company's theatre of a dozen houses,
one of which was his, and no deep sorrow or severe calamity ever
entered his dwelling. Peace be to those walls, forever,--the Professor
said,--for the many pleasant years he has passed within them!

The Professor has a friend, now living at a distance, who has been
with him in many of his changes of place, and who follows him in
imagination with tender interest wherever he goes.--In that little
court, where he lived in gay loneliness so long,--

--in his autumnal sojourn by the Connecticut, where it comes loitering
down from its mountain fastnesses like a great lord, swallowing up the
small proprietary rivulets very quietly as it goes, until it gets
proud and swollen and wantons in huge luxurious oxbows about the fair
Northampton meadows, and at last overflows the oldest inhabitant's
memory in profligate freshets at Hartford and all along its lower
shores,--up in that caravansary on the banks of the stream where
Ledyard launched his log canoe, and the jovial old Colonel used to
lead the Commencement processions,--where blue Ascutney looked down
from the far distance, and the hills of Beulah, as the Professor
always called them, rolled up the opposite horizon in soft climbing
masses, so suggestive of the Pilgrim's Heavenward Path that he used to
look through his old "Dollond" to see if the Shining Ones were not
within range of sight,--sweet visions, sweetest in those Sunday walks
that carried them by the peaceful common, through the solemn village
lying in cataleptic stillness under the shadow of the rod of Moses, to
the terminus of their harmless stroll,--the patulous fage, in the
Professor's classic dialect,--the spreading beech, in more familiar
phrase,--[stop and breathe here a moment, for the sentence is not done
yet, and we have another long journey before us,]--

--and again once more up among those other hills that shut in the
amber-flowing Housatonic,--dark stream, but clear, like the lucid orbs
that shine beneath the lids of auburn-haired, sherry-wine-eyed
demi-blondes,--in the home overlooking the winding stream and the
smooth, flat meadow; looked down upon by wild hills, where the tracks
of bears and catamounts may yet sometimes be seen upon the winter
snow; facing the twin summits which rise in the far North, the highest
waves of the great land-storm in all this billowy region,--suggestive
to mad fancies of the breasts of a half-buried Titaness, stretched out
by a stray thunderbolt, and hastily hidden away beneath the leaves of
the forest,--in that home where seven blessed summers were passed,
which stand in memory like the seven golden candlesticks in the
beatific vision of the holy dreamer,--

--in that modest dwelling we were just looking at, not glorious, yet
not unlovely in the youth of its drab and mahogany,--full of great and
little boys' playthings from top to bottom,--in all these summer or
winter nests he was always at home and always welcome.

This long articulated sigh of reminiscences,--this calenture which
shows me the maple-shadowed plains of Berkshire and the
mountain-circled green of Grafton beneath the salt waves that come
feeling their way along the wall at my feet, restless and
soft-touching as blind men's busy fingers,--is for that friend of mine
who looks into the waters of the Patapsco and sees beneath them the
same visions that paint themselves for me in the green depths of the
Charles.

----Did I talk all this off to the schoolmistress?--Why, no,--of course
not. I have been talking with you, the reader, for the last ten
minutes. You don't think I should expect any woman to listen to such a
sentence as that long one, without giving her a chance to put in a
word?

----What did I say to the schoolmistress?--Permit me one moment. I don't
doubt your delicacy and good-breeding; but in this particular case, as
I was allowed the privilege of walking alone with a very interesting
young woman, you must allow me to remark, in the classic version of a
familiar phrase, used by our Master Benjamin Franklin, it is _nullum
tui negotii_.

When the schoolmistress and I reached the school-room door, the damask
roses I spoke of were so much heightened in color by exercise that I
felt sure it would be useful to her to take a stroll like this every
morning, and made up my mind I would ask her to let me join her again.

EXTRACT FROM MY PRIVATE JOURNAL.

(_To be burned unread._)

I am afraid I have been a fool; for I have told as much of myself to
this young person as if she were of that ripe and discreet age which
invites confidence and expansive utterance. I have been low-spirited
and listless, lately,--it is coffee, I think,--(I observe that which
is bought _ready-ground_ never affects the head,)--and I notice
that I tell my secrets too easily when I am downhearted.

There are inscriptions on our hearts, which, like that on Dighton
Rock, are never to be seen except at dead-low tide.

There is a woman's footstep on the sand at the side of my deepest
ocean-buried inscription!

----Oh, no, no, no! a thousand times, no!--Yet what is this which has
been shaping itself in my soul?--Is it a thought?--is it a dream?--is
it a _passion_?--Then I know what comes next.

----The Asylum stands on a bright and breezy hill; those glazed
corridors are pleasant to walk in, in bad weather. But there are iron
bars to all the windows. When it is fair, some of us can stroll
outside that very high fence. But I never see much life in those
groups I sometimes meet;--and then the careful man watches them so
closely! How I remember that sad company I used to pass on fine
mornings, when I was a schoolboy!--B., with his arms full of yellow
weeds,--ore from the gold mines which he discovered long before we
heard of California,--Y., born to millions, crazed by too much
plum-cake, (the boys said,) dogged, explosive,--made a Polyphemus of
my weak-eyed schoolmaster, by a vicious flirt with a stick,--(the
multi-millionnaires sent him a trifle, it was said, to buy another eye
with; but boys are jealous of rich folks,--and I don't doubt the good
people made him easy for life,)--how I remember them all!

I recollect, as all do, the story of the Hall of Eblis, in "Vathek,"
and how each shape, as it lifted its hand from its breast, showed its
heart,--a burning coal. The real Hall of Eblis stands on yonder
summit. Go there on the next visiting-day, and ask that figure
crouched in the corner, huddled up like those Indian mummies and
skeletons found buried in the sitting posture, to lift its hand,--look
upon its heart, and behold, not fire, but ashes.--No, I must not think
of such an ending! Dying would be a much more gentlemanly way of
meeting the difficulty. Make a will and leave her a house or two and
some stocks, and other little financial conveniences, to take away her
necessity for keeping school.--I wonder what nice young man's feet
would be in my French slippers before six months were over! Well,
what then? If a man really loves a woman, of course he wouldn't marry
her for the world, if he were not quite sure that he was the best
person she could by any possibility marry.

----It is odd enough to read over what I have just been writing.--It
is the merest fancy that ever was in the world. I shall never be
married. She will; and if she is as pleasant as she has been so far, I
will give her a silver tea-set, and go and take tea with her and her
husband, sometimes. No coffee, I hope, though,--it depresses me
sadly. I feel very miserably;--they must have been grinding it at
home.--Another morning walk will be good for me, and I don't doubt the
schoolmistress will be glad of a little fresh air before school.

* * * * *

----The throbbing flushes of the poetical intermittent have been
coming over me from time to time of late. Did you ever see that
electrical experiment which consists in passing a flash through
letters of gold-leaf in a darkened room, whereupon some name or legend
springs out of the darkness in characters of fire?

There are songs all written out in my soul, which I could read, if the
flash might but pass through them,--but the fire must come down from
heaven. Ah! but what if the stormy _nimbus_ of youthful passion
has blown by, and one asks for lightning from the ragged _cirrus_
of dissolving aspirations, or the silvered _cumulus_ of sluggish
satiety? I will call on her whom the dead poets believed in, whom
living ones no longer worship,--the immortal maid, who, name her what
you will,--Goddess, Muse, Spirit of Beauty,--sits by the pillow of
every youthful poet, and bends over his pale forehead until her
tresses lie upon his cheek and rain their gold into his dreams.

MUSA.

O my lost Beauty!--hast thou folded quite
Thy wings of morning light
Beyond those iron gates
Where Life crowds hurrying to the haggard Fates,
And Age upon his mound of ashes waits
To chill our fiery dreams,
Hot from the heart of youth plunged in his icy streams?

Leave me not fading in these weeds of care,
Whose flowers are silvered hair!--
Have I not loved thee long,
Though my young lips have often done thee wrong
And vexed thy heaven-tuned ear with careless song?
Ah, wilt thou yet return,
Bearing thy rose-hued torch, and bid thine altar burn?

Come to me!--I will flood thy silent shrine
With my soul's sacred wine,
And heap thy marble floors
As the wild spice-trees waste their fragrant stores
In leafy islands walled with madrepores
And lapped in Orient seas,
When all their feathery palms toss, plume-like, in the breeze.

Come to me!--thou shalt feed on honeyed words,
Sweeter than song of birds;--
No wailing bulbul's throat,
No melting dulcimer's melodious note,
When o'er the midnight wave its murmurs float,
Thy ravished sense might soothe
With flow so liquid-soft, with strain so velvet-smooth.

Thou shalt be decked with jewels, like a queen,
Sought in those bowers of green
Where loop the clustered vines
And the close-clinging dulcamara twines,--
Pure pearls of Maydew where the moonlight shines,
And Summer's fruited gems,
And coral pendants shorn from Autumn's herried stems.

Sit by me drifting on the sleepy waves,--
Or stretched by grass-grown graves,
Whose gray, high-shouldered stones,
Carved with old names Life's time-worn roll disowns,
Lean, lichen-spotted, o'er the crumbled bones
Still slumbering where they lay
While the sad Pilgrim watched to scare the wolf away!

Spread o'er my couch thy visionary wing!
Still let me dream and sing,--
Dream of that winding shore
Where scarlet cardinals bloom,--for me no more,--
The stream with heaven beneath its liquid floor,
And clustering nenuphars
Sprinkling its mirrored blue like golden-chaliced stars!

Come while their balms the linden-blossoms shed!--
Come while the rose is red,--
While blue-eyed Summer smiles
O'er the green ripples round yon sunken piles
Washed by the moon-wave warm from Indian isles,
And on the sultry air
The chestnuts spread their palms like holy men in prayer!

Oh, for thy burning lips to fire my brain
With thrills of wild sweet pain!--
On life's autumnal blast,
Like shrivelled leaves, youth's passion-flowers are cast,--
Once loving thee, we love thee to the last!--
Behold thy new-decked shrine,
And hear once more the voice that breathed "Forever thine!"

THE TRUSTEE'S LAMENT.

_Per aspera ad astra._

(SCENE.--Outside the gate of the Astronomical Observatory at Albany.)

There was a time when I was blest;
The stars might rise in East or West
With all their sines and wonders;
I cared for neither great nor small,
As pointedly unmoved by all
As, on the top of steeple tall,
A lightning-rod at thunders.

What did I care for Science then?
I was a man with fellow-men,
And called the Bear the Dipper;
Segment meant piece of pie,--no more;
Cosine, the parallelogram that bore
JOHN SMITH & CO. above a door;
Are, what called Noah skipper.

No axes weighed upon my mind,
(Unless I had a few to grind.)
And as for my astronomy,
Had Hedgecock's quadrant then been known,
I might a lamp-post's height have shown
By gas-tronomic skill,--if none
Find fault with the metonymy.

O hours of innocence! O ways
How far from these unhappy days
When all is vicy-versy!
No flower more peaceful took its due
Than I, who then no difference knew
'Twixt Ursy Major and my true
Old crony, Major Hersey.

Now in long broils and feuds we roast,
Like Strasburg geese that living toast
To make a liver-_pate_,--
And all because we fondly strove
To set the city of our love
In scientific fame above
Her sister Cincinnati!

We built our tower and furnished it
With everything folks said was fit,
From coping-stone to grounsel;
And then, to give a knowing air,
Just nominally assigned its care
To that unmanageable affair,
A Scientific Council.

We built it, not that one or two
Astronomers the stars might view
And count the comets' hair-roots,
But that it might by all be said

Book of the day: