Part 5 out of 14
with stained glass of the first epoch of the invention of that art.
We now come to the
HALL OF THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY.
This hall shews us the light, yet splendid architecture of the Arabs,
introduced into France in consequence of the Crusades. Here are the
statues of the kings that successively appeared in this age down to
king JOHN, who was taken prisoner by Edward, the black prince, at the
battle of Poietiers. They are clad after the manner of their time,
and lying at length on a stylobate, strewn with flower-de-luces.
Twenty-two knights, each mounted on lions, armed cap-a-pie,
represented of the natural size, and coloured, fill ogive niches
ornamented with Mosaic designs, relieved with gold, red, and blue.
The tombs of CHARLES V, surnamed the _Wise_, and of the worthy
constable, DU GUESCLIN, together with that of SANCERRE, his faithful
friend, rise in the middle of this apartment; which presents to the
eye all the magnificence of a Turkish mosque. After having quitted
it, what a striking contrast do we not remark on entering the
HALL OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY!
Columns, arabesque ceilings charged with gilding, light pieces of
sculpture applied on blue and violet grounds, imitating cameo, china,
or enamel; every thing excites astonishment, and concurs in calling
to mind the first epoch of the regeneration of the arts in this
The ideas of the amateur are enlivened in this brilliant apartment:
they prepare him for the gratification which he is going to
experience at the sight of the beautiful monuments produced by the
age, so renowned of Francis I. There, architecture predominates over
sculpture; here, sculpture over architecture.
The genius of RAPHAEL paved the way to this impulse of regeneration:
he had recently produced the decorations of the Vatican; and the
admirable effect of these master-pieces of art, kindled an enthusiasm
in the mind of the artists, who travelled. On their return to France,
they endeavoured to imitate them: in this attempt, JEAN JUSTE, a
sculptor sent to Rome, at the expense of the Cardinal D'AMBOISE, was
the most succcessful.
First, we behold the mausoleum of LOUIS D'ORLEANS, victim of the
faction of the Duke of Burgundy, and that of his brother CHARLES, the
poet. Near them is that of VALENTINE DE MILAN, the inconsolable wife
of the former, who died through grief the year after she lost her
husband. As an emblem of her affliction, she took for her device a
watering-pot stooped, whence drops kept trickling in the form of
tears. Let it not be imagined, however, that it was on account of his
constancy that this affectionate woman thus bewailed him till she
fell a victim to her sorrow.
LOUIS D'ORLEANS was a great seducer of ladies of the court, and of
the highest rank too, says Brantome. Indeed, historians concur in
stating that to a brilliant understanding, he joined the most
captivating person. We accordingly find that the Dutchess of Burgundy
and several others were by no means cruel to him; and he had been
supping tete-a-tete with Queen Isabeau de Baviere, when, in returning
home, he was assassinated on the twenty-third of November 1407. His
amorous intrigues at last proved fatal to the English, as you will
learn from the following story, related by the same author.
One morning, M. d'Orleans having in bed with him a woman of quality,
whose husband came to pay him an early visit, he concealed the lady's
head, while he exhibited the rest of her person to the contemplation
of the unsuspecting intruder, at the same time forbidding him, as he
valued his life, to remove the sheet from her face. Now, the cream of
the jest was, that, on the following night, the good soul of a
husband, as he lay beside his dear, boasted to her that the Duke of
Orleans had shewn him the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen:
but that for her face he could not tell what to say of it, as it was
concealed under the sheet. "From this little intrigue," adds
Brantome, "sprang that brave and valiant bastard of Orleans, Count
Dunois, the pillar of France, and the scourge of the English."
Here we see the statues of CHARLES VI, and of JANE of Burgundy. The
former being struck by a _coup de soleil_, became deranged in his
intellects and imbecile, after having displayed great genius; he is
represented with a pack of cards in his hand to denote that they were
first invented for that prince's diversion. The latter was Dutchess
of BEAUFORT, wife to the Duke, who commanded the English army against
Charles VII, and as brother to our Henry IV, was appointed regent of
France, during the minority of his nephew, Henry V.
Next come those of RENEE D'ORLEANS, grand-daughter of the intrepid
Dunois; and of PHILIPPE DE COMMINES, celebrated by his memoirs of the
tyrant, LEWIS XI, whose statue faces that of CHARLES VII, his father.
The image of JOAN OF ARC, whom that king had the baseness to suffer
to perish, after she had maintained him on the throne, also figures
in this hall with that of ISABEAU DE BAVIERE. The shameful death of
the Maid of Orleans, who, as every one knows, was, at the instigation
of the English, condemned as a witch, and burnt alive at Rouen on the
30th of May 1430, must inspire with indignation every honest
Englishman who reflects on this event, which will ever be a blot in
the page of our history. Isabeau affords a striking example of the
influence of a queen's morals on the affections of the people. On her
first arrival in Paris, she was crowned by angels, and received from
the burghers the most magnificent and costly presents. At her death,
she was so detested by the nation, that in order to convey her body
privately to St. Denis, it was embarked in a little skiff at
_Port-Landri_, with directions to the waterman to deliver it to the
The superb tomb of LEWIS XII, placed in the middle of this apartment,
displays great magnificence; and his statue, lying at length, which
represents him in a state of death, recalls to mind that moment so
grievous to the French people, who exclaimed, in following his
funeral procession to St. Denis, "Our good king Lewis XII is dead,
and we have lost our father."
The historian delights to record a noble trait of that prince's
character. Lewis XII had been taken prisoner at the battle of St.
Aubin by Louis de la Trimouille, who, fearing the resentment of the
new king, and wishing to excuse himself for his conduct, received
this magnanimous reply: "It is not for the king of France to revenge
the quarrels of the duke of Orleans."
The statue of PIERRE DE NAVARRE, son of Charles the _Bad_, seems
placed here to form in the mind of the spectator a contrast between
his father and Lewis XII. The tragical end of Charles is of a nature
to fix attention, and affords an excellent subject for a pencil like
that of Fuseli.
Charles the _Bad_, having fallen into such a state of decay that he
could not make use of his limbs, consulted his physician, who ordered
him to be wrapped up from head to foot, in a linen cloth impregnated
with brandy, so that he might be inclosed in it to the very neck as
in a sack. It was night when this remedy was administered. One of the
female attendants of the palace, charged to sew up the cloth that
contained the patient, having come to the neck, the fixed point where
she was to finish her seam, made a knot according to custom; but as
there was still remaining an end of thread, instead of cutting it as
usual with scissars, she had recourse to the candle, which
immediately set fire to the whole cloth. Being terrified, she ran
away, and abandoned the king, who was thus burnt alive in his own
What a picture for the moralist is this assemblage of persons,
celebrated either for their errors, crimes, talents, or virtues!
_Paris, November 28, 1801_.
Conceiving how interested you (who are not only a connoisseur, but an
F.A.S.) must feel in contemplating the only repository in the world,
I believe, which contains such a chronological history of the art of
sculpture, I lose no time in conducting you to complete our survey of
the MUSEUM OF FRENCH MONUMENTS in the _Rue des Petits Augustins_.
Having examined those of the fifteenth century, during our former
visit, we are at length arrived at the age of the Fine Arts in
France, and now enter the
HALL OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
"But see! each muse in LEO'S golden days,
Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays;
Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its ruins spread,
Shakes off the dust, and rears his reverend head;
Then Sculpture and her sister arts revive,
Stones leap'd to form, and rocks began to live."
These beautiful lines of Pope immediately occur to the mind, on
considering that, in Italy, the Great LEO, by the encouragement which
he gave to men of talents, had considerably increased the number of
master-pieces; when the taste for the Fine Arts, after their previous
revival by the Medici, having spread throughout that country, began
to dawn in France about the end of the fifteenth century. By
progressive steps, the efforts made by the French artists to emulate
their masters, attained, towards the middle of the sixteenth century,
a perfection which has since fixed the attention of Europe.
On entering this hall, which is consecrated to that period, the
amateur finds his genius inflamed. What a deep impression does not
the perfection of the numerous monuments which it has produced make
on his imagination! First, he admires the beautiful tomb erected to
the memory of FRANCIS I, the restorer of literature and the arts;
who, by inviting to his court LEONARDO DA VINCI and PRIMATICCIO, and
establishing schools and manufactories, consolidated the great work
of their regeneration.
"Curse the monks!" exclaimed I, on surveying this magnificent
monument, constructed in 1550, from the designs of the celebrated
PHILIBERT DE L'ORME. "Who cannot but regret," continued I to myself,
"that so gallant a knight as Francis I. should fall a victim to that
baneful disease which strikes at the very sources of generation? Who
cannot but feel indignant that so generous a prince, whose first
maxim was, that _true magnanimity consisted in the forgiveness of
injuries, and pusillanimity in the prosecution of revenge_, should
owe his death to the diabolical machinations of a filthy friar?" Yet,
so it was; the circumstances are as follows:
Francis I. was smitten by the charms of the wife of one Lunel, a
dealer in iron. A Spanish chaplain, belonging to the army of the
Emperor Charles V, passing through Paris in order to repair to
Flayers, threw himself in this man's way, and worked on his mind till
he had made him a complete fanatic: "Your king," said the friar,
"protects Lutheranism in Germany, and will soon introduce it into
France. Be revenged on him and your wife, by serving religion.
Communicate to him that disease for which no certain remedy is yet
known."--"And how am I to give it to him?" replied Lunel; "neither I
nor my wife have it."--"But I have," rejoined the monk: "I hold up my
hand and swear it. Introduce me only for one half-hour by night, into
your place, by the side of your faithless fair, and I will answer for
The priest having prevailed on Lunel to consent to his scheme, went
to a place where he was sure to catch the infection, and, by means of
Lunel's wife, he communicated it to the king. Being previously in
possession of a secret remedy, the monk cured himself in a short
time; the poor woman died at the expiration of a month; and Francis
I, after having languished for three or four years, at length, in
1547, sunk under the weight of a disorder then generally considered
The tomb of the VALOIS, erected in honour of that family, by
Catherine de Medicis, soon after the death of Henry II, is one of the
masterpieces of GERMAIN PILON. In the execution of this beautiful
monument, that famous artist has found means to combine the
correctness of style of Michael Angelo with the grace of Primaticcio.
To the countenance of HENRY and CATHERINE, who are represented in a
state of death, lying as on a bed, he has imparted an expression of
sensibility truly affecting.
Next comes the tomb of DIANE DE POITIERS, that celebrated beauty, who
displayed equal judgment in the management of State affairs and in
the delicacy of her attachments; who at the age of 40, captivated
king Henry II, when only 18; and, who, though near 60 at the death of
that prince, had never ceased to preserve the same empire over his
heart. At the age of fourteen, she was married to Louis de Breze,
grand seneschal of Normandy, and died in April 1506, aged 66.
Brantome, who saw her not long before her death, when she had just
recovered from the confinement of a broken leg, and had experienced
troubles sufficient to lessen her charms, thus expresses himself:
"Six months ago, when I met her, she was still so beautiful that I
know not any heart of adamant which would not have been moved at the
sight of her."--To give you a perfect idea of her person, take this
laconic description, which is not one of fancy, but collected from
the best historians.
Her jet black hair formed a striking contrast to her lily complexion.
On her cheeks faintly blushed the budding rose. Her teeth vied with
ivory itself in whiteness: in a word, her form was as elegant as her
deportment was graceful.
By way of lesson to the belles of the present day, let them be told
that DIANE DE POITIERS was never ill, nor affected indisposition. In
the severity of the winter, she daily washed her face with
spring-water, and never had recourse to cosmetics.----"What pity,"
says Brantome, "that earth should cover so beautiful a woman!"
No man, indeed, who sympathizes with the foibles of human nature, can
contemplate the tomb of DIANE DE POITIERS, and reflect on her
numerous virtues and attractions, without adopting the sentiments of
Brantome, and feeling his breast glow with admiration.
This extraordinary woman afforded the most signal protection to
literati and men of genius, and was, in fact, no less distinguished
for the qualities of her heart than for the beauty of her person.
"She was extremely good-humoured, charitable, and humane," continues
Brantome "The people of France ought to pray to God that the female
favourite of every chief magistrate of their country may resemble
this amiable frail one."
As a proof of the elevation of her sentiments, I shall conclude by
quoting to you the spirited reply DIANE made to Henry II, who, by
dint of royal authority, wished to legitimate a daughter he had by
her: "I am of a birth," said she, "to have had lawful children by
you. I have been your mistress, because I loved you. I will never
suffer a decree to declare me your concubine."
The beautiful group of the modest Graces, and that representing
Diana, accompanied by her dogs Procion and Syrius, sculptured by Jean
Gougeon, to serve as the decoration of a fountain in the park of
DIANE DE POITIERS at Anet, attracts the attention of the connoisseur.
The tomb of GOUGEON, composed of his own works, and erected to the
memory of that great artist, through gratitude, is, undoubtedly, a
homage which he justly deserved. This French Phidias was a Calvinist,
and one of the numerous victims of St. Bartholomew's day, being shot
on his scaffold, as he was at work on the _Louvre_, the 24th of
August 1572. Here too we behold the statues of BIRAGUE and of the
GONDI, those atrocious wretches who, together with Catherine de
Medicis, plotted that infamous massacre; while CHARLES IX, no less
criminal, here exhibits on his features the stings of a guilty
The man that has a taste for learning, gladly turns his eye from this
horde of miscreants, to fix it on the statue of CLAUDE-CATHERINE DE
CLERMONT-TONNERRE, who was so conversant in the dead languages as to
bear away the palm from Birague and Chiveray, in a speech which she
composed and spoke in Latin, at twenty-four hours' notice, in answer
to the ambassadors who tendered the crown of Poland to Charles IX.
If the friend of the arts examine the beautiful portico erected by
Philibert de l'Orme, on the banks of the Eure, for Diane de Poitiers,
composed of the three orders of architecture, placed the one above
the other, and forming altogether an elevation of sixty feet, he will
be amazed to learn that this superb monument constructed at Anet,
twenty leagues distant from Paris, was removed thence, and
re-established in this Museum, by the indefatigable conservator,
On leaving the apartment containing the master-pieces brought to
light by Francis I, the next we reach is the
HALL OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
What a crowd of celebrated men contained in the temple consecrated to
virtue, courage, and talents!
There, I behold TURENNE, CONDE, MONTAUSIER, COLBERT, MOLIERE,
CORNEILLE, LA FONTAINE, RACINE, FENELON, and BOILEAU. The great LEWIS
XIV, placed in the middle of this hall, seems to become still greater
near those immortal geniuses.
Farther on, we see the statue of the implacable RICHELIEU,
represented expiring in the arms of Religion, while Science is
weeping at his feet. Ye Gods! what a prostitution of talent! This is
the master-piece of GIRARDON; but, in point of execution, many
connoisseurs prefer the mausoleum of the crafty MAZARIN, whom
COYZEVOX has pourtrayed in a supplicating posture.
LEWIS XIII, surnamed the _Just_, less great than his illustrious
subject, DE THOU, casts down his eyes in the presence of his
The mausolea of LE BRUN, LULLI, and JEROME BIGNON, the honour, the
love, and the example of his age, terminate the series of monuments
of that epoch, still more remarkable for its literati than its
artists. We at last come to the
HALL OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
Here we admire the statues of MONTESQUIEU, FONTENELLE, VOLTAIRE,
ROUSSEAU, HELVETIUS, CREBILLON, PIRON, &c. &c. The tombs of the
learned MAUPERTUIS and CAYLUS, and also that of Marshal D'HARCOURT,
give a perfect idea of the state of degradation into which the art of
design had fallen at the beginning of this century; but the new
productions which decorate the extremity of this spacious hall are
sufficient to prove to what degree the absolute will of a great
genius can influence the progress of the arts, as well as of the
sciences. VIEN and DAVID appeared, and the art was regenerated.
Here, too, we find a statue, as large as life, representing Christ
leaning on a pillar, executed by MICHAEL ANGELO STODTZ. I notice
this statue merely to observe, that the original, from which it is
taken, is to be seen at Rome, in the _Chiesa della Minerva_ where it
is held in such extraordinary veneration, that the great toe-nail of
the right foot having been entirely worn away by the repeated kisses
of the faithful, one of silver had been substituted. At length this
second nail having been likewise worn away, a third was placed, of
copper, which is already somewhat worn. It was sculptured by MICHAEL
We experience an emotion of regret at the aspect of the handsome
monument by MICHALLON, on learning that it was erected to the memory
of young DROUAIS, a skilful and amiable artist, stopped by death, in
1788, during his brilliant career, at the early age of 24. He has
left behind him three historical pictures, which are so many
The beautiful statue of the youthful Cyparissus, by CHAUDET, the most
eminent French sculptor, reminds us of the full and elegant form of
the fine Greek Bacchus, which decorates the peristyle of the
antichamber or Hall of Introduction.
Thus the amateur and the student will find, in this Museum, an
uninterrupted chronology of monuments, both antique and modern,
beginning by those of ancient Greece, whose date goes back to two
thousand five hundred years before our era, to examine those of the
Romans, of the Lower Empire, of the Gauls, and thence pass to the
first epoch of the French monarchy, and at length follow all the
gradations through which the art has passed from its cradle to its
decrepitude. The whole of this grand establishment is terminated by a
spacious garden, which is converted into an
There, on a verdant lawn, amid firs, cypresses, poplars, and weeping
willows, repose the ashes of the illustrious poets, MOLIERE, LA
FONTAINE, BOILEAU, &c.; of the learned DESCARTES, MABILLON,
MONTFAUCON, &c., inclosed in sarcophagi; there, they still receive
the homage which mankind owe to talents and virtue.
But hold! mark the sepulchre of the learned and tender HELOISE. Her
remains, though formerly conjoined to those of her lover, were
subsequently separated, and after a lapse of three hundred years,
they are now reassembled.
Here one kind grave unites their hapless name,
And grafts her love immortal on his fame.
With a smile seated on her lips, HELOISE seems to be sighing for the
object of her glowing affection: while the unfortunate ABELARD,
coldly reclined, is still commenting on the Trinity. The _Paraclete_,
having been sold and demolished, LENOIR, with all the sensibility of
an admirer of genius, withdrew the bones of ABELARD and HELOISE from
that monastery, and placed them here in a sepulchral chapel, partly
constructed from the remains of their ancient habitation.
Such is the MUSEUM OF FRENCH MONUMENTS. When completed, for some
valuable specimens of the arts slill remain to be added, it will be
one of the most interesting establishments in Paris, and perhaps in
Europe, especially if considered in regard to the improvement of
modern sculpture, and, I may add, architecture. No building can be
better adapted than a monastery for an establishment of this nature.
The solemn gloom of cloisters suits the temper of the mind, when we
reflect on the mortality incident to a succession of ages, and the
melancholy which it inspires, is in perfect unison with our feelings,
when we contemplate the sepulchral monuments that recall to our
memory the actions of the illustrious departed.
This Museum is very extensive, the three courts and large garden,
which at present compose the whole of its premises, occupying a space
of three thousand seven hundred and sixty-two toises. LENOIR,
however, has recently presented to the First Consul a plan for
enlarging it, without any additional expense of building, by adding
to it the neighbouring _Hotel de Bouillon_. He proposes that there
should be a new entrance by the quay, exhibiting a spacious court,
decorated with statues, erected in regular order; and that the
apartments on the ground-floor should be appropriated as follows:
1. To a collection of portraits of all the celebrated men of France.
2. To a chronological series of armour of all ages.
3. To a complete collection of French medals.
4. To a library, solely formed of the books necessary for obtaining a
knowledge of the monuments contained in this Museum.
When I consider the mutilated state in which most of these monuments
were found at the first formation of this interesting establishment,
and view the perfection in which they now appear; when I remark the
taste and judgment displayed in the distribution and interior
arrangement of the different apartments of this rich museum; when I
learn, from the printed documents on the subject, the strict economy
which has been observed in the acquisition or restoration of a great
number of monuments, the more valuable as they illustrate the history
of the arts; I confess that I find myself at a loss which most to
admire in the Conservator, his courage, zeal, perseverance, or
discrimination. Indeed, nothing but an assemblage of those qualities
could have overcome the difficulties and obstacles which he has
I shall add that LENOIR'S obliging disposition and amenity of manners
equally entitle him to the gratitude and esteem of the connoisseur,
the student, or the inquisitive stranger.
_Paris, December 1, 1801_.
I was highly gratified the other day on finding myself in company
with some of those men whom (to borrow Lord Thurlow's expression, in
speaking of Warren Hastings,) I have known only as I know Alexander,
by the greatness of their exploits; men whose names will be
transmitted to posterity, and shine with distinguished lustre in the
military annals of France.
General A----y had already invited me to dine with him, in order to
meet General B----r; but, on the day fixed, the latter, as minister
for the war department, being under the necessity of entertaining
Lord Cornwallis, the party was postponed till the 8th of Frimaire,
(20th of November), when, in addition to General B----r, General
A----y had assembled at his table several men of note. Among others,
were General M----rd, who commanded the right wing of the army of
Naples under Macdonald, in which he distinguished himself as a brave
soldier; and D----ttes, physician in chief to the army of the East.
This officer of health, as medical men are here denominated, is
lately returned from Egypt, where his skill and attention to his
professional duties gained him universal admiration.
In society so agreeable, time passed away rapidly till General B----r
arrived. It was late, that is about seven o'clock, though the
invitation expressed five precisely, as the hour of dinner. But, in
Paris, a minister is always supposed to be detained on official
business of a nature paramount to every other consideraton. On my
being introduced to General B----r, he immediately entered into
conversation with me concerning Lord Cornwallis, whom he had known in
the American war, having served in the staff of Rochambeau at the
siege of Yorktown. As far back as that period B----r signalized
himself by his skill in military science. It was impossible to
contemplate these distinguished officers without calling to mind how
greatly their country was indebted to the exertion of their talents
on various important occasions. These recollections led me to admire
that wisdom which had placed them in stations for which they had
proved themselves so eminently qualified. In England, places are
generally sought for men; in France, men are sought for places.
At seven, dinner was announced, and an excellent one it was, both in
quality and quantity. _Presto_ was the word, and all the guests
seemed habituated to expedition. The difference between the duration
of such a repast at this day, and what it was before the revolution,
shews how constantly men become the slaves of fashion. Had BONAPARTE
resembled Lucullus in being addicted to the pleasures of the festive
board, I make no doubt that it would have been the height of _ton_ to
sit quietly two or three hours after dinner. But the Chief Consul is
said to be temperate, almost to abstemiousness; he rises from table
in less than half an hour; and that mode is now almost universal in
Paris, especially among the great men in office. Two elegant courses
and a desert were presently dispatched; the whole time employed in
eating I know not how many good dishes, and drinking a variety of
choice wines, not exceeding thirty-five minutes. At the end of the
repast, coffee was presented to the company in an adjoining room,
after which the opera of _Tarare_ was the attraction of the evening.
I have already mentioned to you that General A----y had put into my
hand _L'Histoire du Canal du Midi_, written by himself. From a
perusal of this interesting work, it appears that one of his
ancestors was the first who conceived the idea of that canal,
which was not only planned by him, but entirely completed under his
immediate direction. Having communicated his plan to Riquet, the
latter submited it to Colbert, and, on its being approved by Lewis
XIV, became _contractor_ for all the works of that celebrated
undertaking, which he did not live to see finished. Riquet, however,
not content with having derived from the undertaking every advantage
of honour and emolument, greedily snatched from the original
projector the meed of fame, so dearly earned by the unremitting
labour of thirty successive years. These facts are set forth in the
clearest light in the above-mentioned work, in which I was carefully
examining General A----y's plans for the improvement of this famous
canal, when I was most agreeably interrupted.
I had expressed to the General a wish to know the nature of the
establishment of which he is the director, at the same time apprizing
him that this wish did not extend to any thing that could not with
propriety be made public. He obligingly promised that I should be
gratified, and this morning I received ftom him a very friendly
letter, accompanied by the following account of the
DEPOT DE LA GUERRE.
The general _Depot_ or repository of maps and plans of war, &c, &c,
was established by LOUVOIS, in 1688. This was the celebrated period
when France, having attained the highest degree of splendour, secured
her glory by the results of an administration enlightened in all its
At the beginning of its institution, the _Depot de la guerre_ was no
more than archives, where were collected, and preserved with order,
the memoirs of the generals, their correspondence, the accounts yet
imperfect, and the traces of anterior military operations.
The numerous resources afforded by this collection alone, the
assistance and advantages derived from it on every occasion, when it
was necessary to investigate a military system, or determine an
important operation, suggested the idea of assembling it under a form
and classification more methodical. Greater attention and exactness
were exerted in enriching the _Depot_ with every thing that might
complete the theoretical works and practical elucidations of all the
branches of the military art,
Marshal DE MAILLEBOIS, who was appointed director of this
establishment in 1730, was one of the first authors of the present
existing order. The classification at first consisted only in forming
registers of the correspondence of the generals, according to date,
distinguishing it by _different wars_. It was divided into two parts,
the former containing the letters of the generals; and the latter,
the minutes or originals of the answers of the king and his
ministers. To each volume was added a summary of the contents, and,
in regular succession, the journal of the military operations of the
year. These volumes, to the number of upwards of two thousand seven
hundred, contain documents from the eleventh century to the close of
the last American war; but the series is perfect only from the year
1631. This was a valuable mine for a historiographer to explore; and,
indeed, it is well known that the _Memoirs of Turenne and of Conde_,
the _History of the war of 1741_, and part of the fragments of the
_Essay on the Manners and History of Nations_, by Voltaire, were
compiled and digested from the original letters and memoirs preserved
in the _Depot de la guerre_.
Geographical engineers did not then exist as a corps. Topography was
practised by insulated officers, impelled thereto by the rather
superficial study of the mathematics and a taste for drawing; because
it was for them a mean of obtaining more advantageous employments in
the staffs of the armies: but the want of a central point, the
difference of systems and methods, not admitting of directing the
operations to one same principle, as well as to one same object,
topography, little encouraged, was making but a slow progress, when
M. DE CHOISEUIL established, as a particular corps, the officers who
had applied themselves to the practice of that science. The _Depot_
was charged to direct and assemble the labours of the new corps. This
authority doubled the utility of the _Depot_: its results had the
most powerful influence during the war from 1757 to 1763.
Lieutenant-General De VAULT, who had succeeded Marshal De MAILLEBOIS
as director of the _Depot de la guerre_, conceived, and executed a
plan, destined to render still more familiar and secure the numerous
documents collected in this establishment. He first retrenched from
the _Military Correspondences and Memoirs_ all tedious repetitions
and unnecessary details; he then classed the remainder under the head
of a different army or operation, without subjecting himself to any
other order than a simple chronology; but he caused each volume to be
preceded by a very succinct, historical summary, in order to enable
the reader to seize the essence of the original memoirs and
documents, the text of which was faithfully copied in the body of
each volume, In this manner did he arrange all the military events
from the German war in 1677 to the peace of 1763. This analysis forms
one hundred and twenty five volumes.
It is easy to conceive how much more interesting these historical
volumes became by the addition, which took place about the same
epoch, of the labours of the geographical engineers employed in the
armies. The military men having it at the same time in his power to
follow the combinations of the generals with the execution of their
plans, imbibes, without difficulty, the principles followed by great
captains, or improves himself from the exact account of the errors
and faults which it is so natural to commit on critical occasions.
When all the establishments of the old _regime_ were tottering, or
threatened by the revolutionary storm, measures were suggested for
preserving the _Depot de la guerre_, and, towards the end of 1791, it
was transferred from Versailles to Paris. Presently the new system of
government, the war declared against the emperor, and the foreseen
conflagration of Europe, concurred to give a new importance to this
establishment. Alone, amidst the general overthrow, it had preserved
a valuable collection of the military and topographical labours of
the monarchy, of manuscripts of the greatest importance, and a body
of information of every kind respecting the resources, and the
country, of the powers already hostile, or on the point of becoming
so. All the utility which might result from the _Depot_ was then
felt, and it was thought necessary to give it a new organization.
The _Depot de la guerre_, however, would have attained but
imperfectly the object of its institution, had there not been added
to its topographical treasure, the richest, as well as the finest,
collection in Europe of every geographical work held in any
estimation. The first epochs of the revolution greatly facilitated
the increase of its riches of that description. The general impulse,
imprinted on the mind of the French nation, prompted every will
towards useful sacrifices. Private cabinets in possession of the
scarcest maps, gave them up to the government, The suppression of the
monasteries and abbeys caused to flow to the centre the geographical
riches which they preserved in an obscurity hurtful to the progress
of that important science: and thus the _Depot de la guerre_ obtained
one of the richest collections in Europe. The government, besides,
completed it by the delivery of the great map of France by CASSINI,
begun in 1750, together with all the materials forming the elements
of that grand work. It is painful to add that not long before that
period (in 1791) the corps of geographical engineers, which alone
could give utility to such valuable materials had been suppressed.
In the mean time, the sudden changes in the administrative system had
dispersed the learned societies employed in astronomy, or the
mathematical sciences. The _National Observatory_ was disused. The
celebrated astronomers attached to it had no rallying point: they
could not devote themselves to their labours but amidst the greatest
difficulties; the salary allowed to them was not paid; the numerous
observations, continued for two centuries, were on the point of being
The _Depot de la guerre_ then became the asylum of those estimable
men. This establishment excited and obtained the reverification of
the measure of an arc of the meridian, in order to serve as a basis
for the uniformity of the weights and measures which the government
wished to establish.
MECHAIN, DELAMBRE, NOUET, TRANCHOT, and PERNY were dispatched to
different places from Barcelona to Dunkirk. After having established
at each extremity of this line a base, measured with the greatest
exactness, they were afterwards to advance their triangles, in order
to ascend to the middle point of the line. This operation, which has
served for rectifying a few errors that the want of perfection in the
instruments had occasioned to be introduced into the measure of the
meridian of CASSINI, may be reckoned one of the most celebrated works
which have distinguished the close of the eighteenth century.
The establishment of the system of administration conformably to the
constitution of the year III (1795) separated the various elements
which the _Depot de la guerre_ had found means to preserve. The
_Board of Longitude_ was established; the _National Institute_ was
formed to supply the place of the _Academy of Sciences_, &c. The
_Depot de la guerre_ was restored solely to its ancient prerogatives.
Two years before, it had been under the necessity of forming new
geographical engineers and it succeeded in carrying the number
sufficiently high to suffice for the wants of the fourteen armies
which France had afterwards on foot. These officers being employed
in the service of the staffs, no important work was undertaken. But,
since the 18th of Brumaire, year VIII, (9th of November, 1799) the
Consuls of the Republic have bestowed particular attention on
geographical and topographical operations. The new limits of the
French territory require that the map of it should be continued; and
the new political system, resulting from the general pacification,
renders necessary the exact knowledge of the states of the allies of
The _Depot de la guerre_ forms various sections of geographers, who
are at present employed in constructing accurate maps of the four
united departments. Piedmont, Savoy, Helvetia, and the part of Italy
comprised between the Adige and the Adda. One section, in conjunction
with the Bavarian engineers, is constructing a topographical map of
Bavaria: another section is carrying into execution the military
surveys, and other topographical labours, ordered by General MOREAU
for the purpose of forming a map of Suabia.
The _Depot_ has just published an excellent map of the Tyrol, reduced
from that of PAYSAN, and to which have been added the observations
made by Chevaliers DUPAY and LA LUCERNE. It has caused to be resumed
the continuation of the superb map of the environs of Versailles,
called _La carte des chasses_, a master-piece of topography and
execution in all the arts relating to that science. Since the year V
(1795), it has also formed a library composed of upwards of eight
thousand volumes or manuscripts, the most rare, as well as the most
esteemed, respecting every branch of the military art in general.
Although, in the preceding account, General A----y, with that modesty
which is the characteristic of a superior mind, has been totally
silent respecting his own indefatigable exertions, I have learned
from the best authority, that France is soon likely to derive very
considerable advantages from the activity and talent introduced by
him, as director, into every branch of the _Depot de la guerre_, and
of which he has afforded in his own person an illustrious example.
In giving an impulse to the interior labours of the _Depot_, the sole
object of General A----y is to make this establishment lose its
_paralyzing_ destination of archives, in which, from time to time,
literati might come to collect information concerning some periods of
national or foreign history. He is of opinion that these materials
ought to be drawn from oblivion, and brought into action by those
very persons who, having the experience of war, are better enabled
than any others to arrange its elements. Instruction and method being
the foundations of a good administration, of the application of an
art and of a science, as well as of their improvement, he has
conceived the idea of uniting in a classical work the exposition of
the knowledge necessary for the direction of the _Depot_, for
geographical engineers, staff-officers, military men in general, and
historians. This, then, is the object of the _Memomorial du Depot de
la guerre_, a periodical work, now in hand, which will become the
guide of every establishment of this nature, by directing with
method the various labours used in the application of mathematical
and physical sciences to topography, and to that art which, of all
others, has the greatest influence on the destiny of empires: I mean
the art military. The improvements of which it is still susceptible
will be pointed out in the _Memorial_, and every new idea proposed on
the subject will there be critically investigated.
In transcribing General A----y's sketch of this extremely-interesting
establishment, I cannot but reflect on the striking contrast that it
presents, in point of geographical riches, even half a century ago,
to the disgraceful poverty, in that line, which, about the same
period, prevailed in England, and was severely felt in the planning
of our military expeditions.
I remember to have been told by the late Lord Howe, that, when he was
captain of the Magnanime at Plymouth, and was sent for express to
London, in the year 1757, in order to command the naval part of an
expedition to the coast of France, George II, and the whole cabinet
council, seemed very much astonished at his requiring the production
of a map of that part of the enemy's coast against which the
expedition was intended. Neither in the apartment where the council
sat, nor in any adjoining one, was any such document; even in the
Admiralty-office no other than an indifferent map of the coast could
be found: as for the adjacent country, it was so little known in
England, that, when the British troops landed, their commander was
ignorant of the distance of the neighbouring villages.
Of late years, indeed, we have ordered these matters better; but, to
judge from circumstances, it should seem that we are still extremely
deficient in geographical and topographical knowledge; though we are
not quite so ill informed as in the time of a certain duke, who, when
First Lord of the Treasury, asked in what part of Germany was the
P.S. In order to give you, at one view, a complete idea of the
collections of the _Depot de la guerre_, and of what they have
furnished during the war for the service of the government and of the
armies, I shall end my letter by stating that, independently of eight
thousand chosen volumes, among which is a valuable collection of
atlases, of two thousand seven hundred volumes of old archives, and
of upwards of nine hundred _cartons_ or pasteboard boxes of modern
original documents, the _Depot_ possesses one hundred and thirty-one
volumes and seventy-eight _cartons_ of descriptive memoirs, composed
at least of fifty memoirs each, four thousand seven hundred engraved
maps, of each of which there are from two to twenty-five copies,
exclusively of those printed at the _Depot_, and upwards of seven
thousand four hundred valuable manuscript maps, plans, or drawings of
marches, battles, sieges, &c.
By order of the government, it has furnished, in the course of the
war, seven thousand two hundred and seventy-eight engraved maps, two
hundred and seven manuscript maps or plans, sixty-one atlases of
various parts of the globe, and upwards of six hundred descriptive
[Footnote 1: FRANCOIS ANDREOSSY; who was the great great grandfather
of the present French ambassador at our court.]
[Footnote 2: On the 25th of April, 1792, was published a regulation,
decreed by the king, respecting the general direction of the _Depot
de la guerre_. The annual expense of the establishment, at that time
amounted to 68,000 francs, but the geographical and historical
departments were not filled. _Note of the Author._]
[Footnote 3: An _Agence des cartes_ was appointed, by the National
Assembly, to class these materials, and arrange them in useful
[Footnote 4: At the juncture alluded to (1793), the want of
geographical engineers having been felt as soon as the armies took
the field, three brigades were formed, each consisting of twelve
persons. The composition of the _Depot de la guerre_, was increased
in proportion to its importance: intelligent officers were placed
there; and no less than thirty-eight persons were employed in the
interior labour, that is, in drawing plans of campaigns, sieges, &c.
_Note of the Author_.]
[Footnote 5: That tempestuous period having dispersed the then
director and his assistants, the _Depot de la guerre_ remained, for
some time, without officers capable of conducting it in a manner
useful to the country. In the mean while, wants were increasing, and
military operations daily becoming more important, when, in 1793,
CARNOT, then a member of the Committee of Public Welfare, formed a
private cabinet of topography, the elements of which he drew from the
_Depot de la guerre_. This was a first impulse given to these
valuable collections. _Note of the Author_.]
[Footnote 6: Prince Charles is employed at Vienna in forming a
collection of books, maps, and military memoirs for the purpose of
establishing a _Depot_ for the instruction of the staff-officers of
the Austrian army. Spain has also begun to organize a system of
military topography in imitation of that of France. Portugal follows
the example. What are we doing in England?]
_Paris, December 3, 1801_.
In this season, when the blasts of November have entirely stripped
the trees of their few remaining leaves, and Winter has assumed his
hoary reign, the garden of the _Tuileries_, loses much of the gaiety
of its attractions. Besides, to frequent that walk, at present, is
like visiting daily one of our theatres, you meet the same faces so
often, that the scene soon becomes monotonous. As well for the sake
of variety as exercise, I therefore now and then direct my steps
This is the name given to the promenades with which Paris is, in
part, surrounded for an extent of six thousand and eighty-four
They are distinguished by the names of the _Old_ and the _New_. The
_Old_, or _North Boulevards_, commonly called the _Grands
Boulevards_, were begun in 1536, and, when faced with ditches, which
were to have been dug, they were intended to serve as fortifications
against the English who were ravaging Picardy, and threatening the
capital. Thence, probably, the etymology of their name; _Boulevard_
signifying, as every one knows, a bulwark.
However this may be, the extent of these _Old_ Boulevards is two
thousand four hundred toises from the _Rue de la Concorde_ to the
_Place de la Liberte_, formerly the site of the Bastille. They were
first planted in 1660, and are formed into three alleys by four rows
of trees: the middle alley is appropriated to carriages and persons
on horseback, and the two lateral ones are for foot-passengers.
Here, on each side, is assembled every thing that ingenuity can
imagine for the diversion of the idle stroller, or the recreation of
the man of business. Places of public entertainment, ambulating
musicians, exhibitions of different kinds, temples consecrated to
love or pleasure, Vauxhalls, ball-rooms, magnificent hotels, and
other tasteful buildings, &c. Even the coffee-houses and taverns here
have their shady bowers, and an agreeable orchestra. Thus, you may
always dine in Paris with a band of music to entertain you, without
The _New_ Boulevards, situated to the south, were finished in 1761.
They are three thousand six hundred and eighty-three toises in extent
from the _Observatoire_ to the _Hotel des Invalides_. Although laid
out much in the same manner as the _Old_, there is little resemblance
between them; each having a very distinct appearance.
On the _New Boulevards_, the alleys are both longer and wider, and
the trees are likewise of better growth. There, the prospect is
rural; and the air pure; while cultivated fields, with growing corn,
present themselves to the eye. Towards the town, however, stand
several pretty houses; little theatres even were built, but did not
succeed. This was not their latitude. But some skittle-grounds and
tea-gardens, lately opened, and provided with swings, &c. have
attracted much company of a certain class in the summer.
In this quarter, you seldom meet with a carriage, scarcely ever with
persons sprucely dressed, but frequently with honest citizens,
accompanied by their whole family, as plain in their garb as in their
manners. Lovers too with their mistresses, who seek solitude, visit
this retired walk; and now and then a poor poet comes hither, not to
sharpen his appetite, but to arrange his numbers.
Before, the revolution, the _Old_ Boulevards, from the _Porte St.
Martin_ to the _Theatre Favart_, was the rendezvous of the
_elegantes_, who, on Sundays and Thursdays, used to parade there
slowly, backward and forward, in their carriages, as our belles do in
Hyde Park; with this difference, that, if their admirers did not
accompany them, they generally followed them to interchange
significant glances, or indulge in amorous parley. I understand that
the summer lounge of the modern _elegantes_ has, of late years, been
from the corner of the _Rue Grange Bateliere_ to that of the _Rue
Mont-Blanc_, where the ladies took their seats. This attracting the
_muscadins_ in great numbers, not long since obtained for that part
of the Boulevard the appellation of _Petit Coblentz_.
Nearly about the middle of the North Boulevard stand two edifices,
which owe their erection to the vanity of Lewis XIV. In the
gratification of that passion did the _Grand Monarque_ console
himself for his numerous defeats and disappointments; and the age in
which he lived being fertile in great men, owing, undoubtedly, to the
encouragement he afforded them, his display of it was well seconded
by their superior talents. Previously to his reign, Paris had several
gates, but some of these being taken down, arcs of triumph, in
imitation of those of the Romans, were erected in their stead by
_Louis le Grand_, in commemoration of his exploits. And this too, at
a time when the allies might, in good earnest, have marched to Paris,
had they not, by delay, given Marshal Villars an opportunity of
turning the tide of their victories on the plain of Denain. Such was
the origin of the
PORTE SAINT DENIS.
The magnificence of its architecture classes it among the first
public monuments in Paris. It consists of a triumphal arch, insulated
in the manner of those of the ancients: it is seventy-two feet in
diameter as well as in elevation, and was executed in 1672, by BULLET
from the designs of BLONDEL.
On each side of the principal entrance rise two sculptured pyramids,
charged with trophies of arms, both towards the faubourg, and towards
the city. Underneath each of these pyramids is a small collateral
passage for persons on foot. The arch is ornamented with two
bas-reliefs: the one facing the city represents the passage of
the Rhine; and the other, the capture of Maestricht.
On the frieze on both sides LUDOVICO MAGNO was formerly to be read,
in large characters of gilt bronze. This inscription is removed, and
to it are substituted the word _Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite_.
On arriving from Calais, you enter Paris by the _Porte St. Denis_. It
was also by the _Porte St. Denis_ that kings and queens made their
public entry. On these occasions, the houses in all the streets
through which they passed, were decorated with silk hangings and
tapestry, as far as the cathedral of _Notre-Dame_. Scented waters
perfumed the air in the form of _jets d'eau_; while wine and milk
flowed from the different public fountains.
Froissard relates that, on the entrance of Isabeau de Baviere, there
was in the _Rue St. Denis_ a representation of a clouded heaven,
thickly sown with stars, whence descended two angels who gently
placed on her head a very rich crown of gold, set with precious
stones, at the same time singing verses in her praise.
It was on this occasion that Charles VI, anxious for a sight of his
intended bride, took a fancy to mix in the crowd, mounted on
horseback behind Savoisi, his favourite. Pushing forward in order to
approach her, he received from the serjeants posted to keep off the
populace several sharp blows on the shoulders, which occasioned great
mirth in the evening, when the circumstance was related before the
queen and her ladies.
Proceeding along the Boulevard towards the east, at a short distance
from the _Porte St. Denis_, you arrive at the
PORTE SAINT MARTIN.
Although this triumphal arch cannot be compared to the preceding in
magnificence, it was nevertheless executed by the same artists,
having been erected in 1674. It is pierced with three openings, the
centre one of which is eighteen feet wide, and the two others nine.
The whole structure, which is fifty-four feet both in height and
breadth, is rusticated, and in the spandles of the arch are four
bas-reliefs; the two towards the city represent the capture of
Besancon, and the rupture of the triple alliance; and those towards
the faubourg, the capture of Lomberg, and the defeat of the Germans
under the emblem of an eagle repulsed by the god of war. These
bas-reliefs are crowned by an entablature of the Doric order,
surmounted by an attic. The _Porte St. Martin_ is the grand
entrance into Paris from all parts of Flanders.
At the west extremity of this _North_ Boulevard, facing the _Rue de
la Concorde_, stands an unfinished church, called _La Magdeleine_,
whose cemetery received not only the bodies of Lewis XVI, his
consort, and his sister, but of the greater part of the victims that
perished by guillotine.
In the space comprised between _La Magdeleine_ and the _Vieille Rue
du Temple_, I speak within compass when I say that there are
sometimes to be seen fifty ambulating conjurers of both sexes. They
all vary the form of their art. Some have tables, surmounted by
flags, bearing mysterious devices; some have wheels, with
compartments adapted to every age and profession--One has a robe
charged with hieroglyphics, and tells you your fortune through a long
tube which conveys the sound to your ear; the other makes you choose
in a parcel, a square piece of white paper, which becomes covered
with characters at the moment when it is thrown into a jug that
appears empty. The secret of this is as follows:
The jug contains a little sulphuret of potash, and the words are
written with acetite of lead. The action of the exterior air, on, the
sulphuret of potash, disengages from it sulphurated hydrogen gas,
which, acting on the oxyd of lead, brings to view the characters that
before were invislble.
Here, the philosophic Parisians stop before the movable stall of an
astrologer, who has surmounted it with an owl, as an emblem of his
magic wisdom. Many of them take this animal for a curiosity imported
from foreign countries; for they are seldom able to distinguish a bat
from a swallow.
"Does that bird come from China, my dear?" says a lusty dame to her
elderly husband, a shopkeeper of the _Rue St. Denis_.--"I don't know,
my love," replies the other.--"What eyes it has got," continues she;
"it must see a great deal better than we." "No;" cries a countryman
standing by; "though its eyes are so big, it can't, in broad day,
tell a cow from a calf."
The lady continues her survey of the scientific repository; and the
conjurer, with an air of importance, proposes to her to draw, for two
_sous_, a motto from Merlin's wheel. "Take one, my dear," says the
husband; "I wish to know whether you love me." The wife blushes and
hesitates; the husband insists; she refuses, and is desirous of
continuing her walk, saying that it is all foolishness.--"What if it
is?" rejoins the husband, "I've paid, so take a motto to please me."
For this once, the lady is quite at a nonplus; she at last consents,
and, with a trembling hand, draws a card from the magic wheel: the
husband unrolls it with eagerness and confidence, and reads these
words: "_My young lover is and will be constant_."--"What the devil
does this mean?" exclaims the old husband; quite disconcerted.
--"'Tis a mistake," says the conjurer; "the lady put her hand into
the wrong box; she drew the motto from the wheel for _young girls_,
instead of that for _married women_. Let _Madame_ draw again, she
shall pay nothing more."--"No, Mr. Conjurer," replies the shopkeeper,
"that's enough. I've no faith in such nonsense; but another time,
madam, take care that you don't put your hand into the wrong box."
The fat lady, with her face as red as fire, follows her husband, who
walks off grumbling, and it is easy to see, by their gestures, that
the fatal motto has sown discord in the family, and confirmed the
Independently of these divers into futurity, the corners of streets
and walls of public squares, are covered with hand-bills announcing
books containing secrets, sympathetic calculations of numbers in the
lottery, the explanation of dreams in regard to those numbers,
together with the different manners of telling fortunes, and
At all times, the marvellous has prevailed over simple truth, and the
Cumaean Sibyl attracted the inquisitive in greater crowds than
Socrates, Plato, or any philosopher, had pupils in the whole course
of their existence.
In Paris, the sciences are really making a rapid progress,
notwithstanding the fooleries of the pseudo-philosophers, who parade
the streets, and here, on the _Boulevards_, as well as in other parts
of the town, exhibit lessons of physics.
One has an electrifying machine, and phials filled with phosphorus:
for two _sous_, he gives you a slight shock, and makes you a present
of a small phial.
Farther on, you meet with a _camera obscura_, whose effect surprises
the spectators the more, as the objects represented within it have
the motion which they do not find in common optics.
There, you see a double refracting telescope: for two _sous_, you
enjoy its effect. At either end, you place any object whatever, and
though a hat, a board, or a child be introduced between the two
glasses, the object placed appears not, on that account, the less
clear and distinct to the eye of the person looking through the
opposite glass. _Pierre_ has seen, and cannot believe his eyes:
_Jacques_ wishes to see, and, on seeing, is in ecstacy: next comes
_Fanchon_, who remains stupified. Enthusiasm becomes general, and the
witnesses of their delirium are ready to go mad at not having two
_sous_ in their pocket.
Another fellow, in short, has a microscope, of which he extols the
beauty, and, above all, the effects: he will not describe the causes
which produce them, because he is unacquainted with them; but,
provided he adapts his lessons to the understanding of those who
listen to him, this is all he wants. Sometimes he may be heard to say
to the people about him: "Gentlemen, give me a creeping insect, and
for one _sou_, I will shew it to you as big as my fist." Sometimes
too, unfortunately for him, the insect which he requires is more
easily found among part of his auditors, than the money.
P.S. For the preceding account of the Parisian conjurers I am
indebted to M. Pujoulx.
_Paris, December 4, 1802_.
In one of your former letters you questioned me on a subject, which,
though it had not escaped my notice, I was desirous to avoid, till I
should be able to obtain on it some precise information. This I have
done; and I hasten to present you with the following sketch, which
will afford you a tolerably-correct idea of the
FRENCH FUNDS, AND NATIONAL DEBT.
The booked or consolidated debt is called
from its being the consolidated third of the national debt, of which
the remaining two-thirds were reimbursed in _Bons de deux Tiers_ in
1797 and 98. It bears interest at five per Cent. payable half yearly
at the _Banque de France_. The payment of the interest is at present
six months in arrear. But the intention of the government is, by
paying off in specie the interest of one whole year, to pay in future
as soon as due.
The days of payment are the 1st of Germinal (23d of March) and the
1st of Vendemiaire (23d of September).
This stock purchased at the present price of from 55 to 60 would
produce from eight to nine per cent. The general opinion is, that it
will rise to 80; and as it is the chief stock, and the standard of
the national credit, it is the interest, and must be the constant
object of the government to keep up its price.
There is a _Caisse d'amortissement_ or Sinking Fund, for the special
purpose of paying off this stock, the effect of which, though not
exactly known, must shortly be very considerable. The _Tiers
Consolide_ is saleable and transferable at a moment's warning, and at
a trifling expense. It is not subject to taxation, nor open to
attachments, either on the principal or interest.
For purchasing, no sort of formality is required; but for receiving
interest, or selling, it is necessary to produce a power of attorney.
An established rule is, that the seller always retains his right to
half a year's interest at the succeeding stated period of payment, so
that he who purchases in the interval between March and September, is
entitled to the interest commencing from the 23d of the latter month
only; and he who buys between September and March, receives not his
first dividend till the 23d of the following September.
This is the debt, yet unbooked, which is composed of the provisional
claims of the creditors of the emigrants, the contractors, and
various other holders of claims on the government.
The _Tiers Provisoire_ is to be booked before the 1st of Vendemiaire,
year XII of the Republic (23d of September, 1803), and will from that
day bear interest of five per cent; so that, setting aside the danger
of any retrospect in the interval, and that of any other change, it
is at the present price, of from 15 to 50, cheaper than the _Tiers
Consolide_ to which, in about eighteen months, it will, in every
respect, be assimilated.
BONS DE DEUX TIERS,
Is paper issued for the purpose of reimbursing the reduced two-thirds
of the National Debt, and in the origin rendered applicable to the
purchase of national houses and estates in the French Colonies, since
ordered to be funded at five per cent; so that the price of this
species of paper is entirely subordinate to that of the _Tiers
Consolide_ and supposing that to be 60 francs per cent, the _Bon de
deux Tiers_ would be worth 3 francs. There are no hopes, however
distant, that the government will ever restore the _Bons de deux
Tiers_ to their original value.
BONS DE TROIS QUARTS,
So called from having been issued for the purpose of reimbursing the
three-fourths of the interest of the fifth and sixth years of the
Republic (1797 to 1798). They are, in all respects, assimilated to
the preceding stock.
COUPONS D'EMPRUNT FORCE.
These are the receipts given by the government to the persons who
contributed to the various forced loans. This paper is likewise
assimilated to the two last-mentioned species, with this difference,
that it is generally considered as a less sacred claim, and is
therefore liquidated with greater difficulty. The holders of these
three claims are hastening the liquidation and consolidation of them,
and they are evidently right in so doing.
QUARTS AU NOM ET QUART NUMERAIRE.
This paper is thus denominated from its having been issued for the
purpose of reimbursing the fourth of the dividend of the fifth and
sixth years of the Republic (1797 to 1798). It is generally thought
that this very sacred claim on the government will be funded _in
RACHATS DE RENTE,
Is the name given to the redemption of perpetual annuities due by
individuals to the government, on a privileged mortgage on landed
estates; the said annuities having been issued by the government in
times of great distress, for the purpose of supplying immediate and
This paper is not only a mere government security, but is also
specially mortgaged on the estates of the person who owes the annuity
to the government, and who is, at any time, at liberty to redeem it
at from twenty to twenty-five years purchase. Claims of this
description, mortgaged on most desirable estates near the metropolis,
might be obtained for less than 60 per cent; which, at the interest
of five per cent, and with the additional advantage, in some
instances, of the arrears of one or two years, would produce between
eight and nine per cent.
Next to the _Tiers Consolide_, _Rachats de Rente_ are particularly
worthy of attention; indeed, this debt is of so secure and sacred a
nature, that the government has appropriated a considerable part of
it to the special purpose and service of the hospitals and schools;
two species of institutions which ought ever to be sheltered from all
vicissitudes, and which, whatever may be the form or character of the
government, must be supported and respected.
ACTIONS DE LA BANQUE DE FRANCE.
These are shares in the National Bank of France, which are limited to
the number of thirty thousand, and were originally worth one thousand
francs each; they therefore form a capital of 30,000,000 francs, or
L1,250,000 sterling, and afford as follows:
1. A dividend which at present, and since the foundation, has
averaged from eight to ten per cent, arising from the profits on
2. A profit of from four to five per cent more on the discount of
paper, which every holder of an _action_ or share effects at the
Bank, at the rate of one-half per cent per month, or six per cent for
the whole year.
The present price of an _action_ is about twelve hundred francs,
which may be considered as producing:
80 francs; dividend paid by the Bank on each share.
30 francs; certain profits according to the present discount of
110 francs; per share 10-10/11 per cent.
_Actions de la Banque de France_, though subject, in common with all
stocks, to the influence of the government, are, however, far more
independent of it than any other, and are the more secure, as the
National Bank is not only composed of all the first bankers, but also
supported by the principal merchants in the country. This investment
is at present very beneficial, and certainly promises great eventual
advantages. The dividends are paid in two half-yearly instalments.
ACTIONS DE LA CAISSE DE COMMERCE,
ACTIONS DU COMPTOIR COMMERCIAL.
The _Caisse de Commerce_ and the _Comptoir Commercial_ are two
establishments on the same plan, and affording, as nearly as
possible, the same advantages as the _Banque de France_: the
only difference is as follows:
1. These last two are, as far as any commercial establishment can be,
independent of the government, and are more so than the _Banque de
France_, as the _actions_ or shares are not considered as being a
2. The _Actions de la Caisse de Commerce_ limited in number to two
thousand four hundred, originally cost 5000 francs, and are now worth
6000. The holder of each _action_ moreover, signs circulating notes
to the amount of five thousand francs, which form the paper currency
of the Bank, and for the payment of which the said holder would be
responsible, were the Bank to stop payment.
3. The _Actions du Comptoir Commercial_ are still issued by the
administrators of the establishment. The number of _actions_ is not
as yet limited: the price of each _action_ is fifteen hundred francs
(_circa_ L60 sterling), and the plan and advantages are almost
entirely similar to those of the two last-mentioned institutions.
The _Banque de France_ the _Caisse de Commerce_, and the _Comptoir
Commercial_, discount three times a week. The first, the paper of the
banking-houses and the principal commercial houses holding
bank-stock; the second, the paper of the wholesale merchants of every
class; and the third, the paper of retailers of all descriptions; and
in a circulation which amounts to 100 millions of francs (_circa_ 4
millions sterling) per month, there have not, it is said, been seen,
in the course of the last month, protests to the amount of 20,000
BONS DE L'AN VII ET DE L'AN VIII.
Is a denomination applied to paper, issued for the purpose of paying
the dividend of the debt during the seventh and eighth years of the
These _Bons_ are no further deserving of notice than as they still
form a part of the floating debt, and are an article of the supposed
liquidation at the conclusion of the present summary. It is therefore
unnecessary to say more of them.
ARRERAGES DES ANNEES V ET VI.
These are the arrears due to such holders of stock as, during the
fifth and sixth years of the Republic, had not their dividend paid in
_Bons de trois Quarts_ and _Quart Numeraire_, mentioned in Art. IV
and VI of this sketch. I also notice them as forming an essential
part of the above-mentioned supposed liquidation, at the end of the
sketch, and shall only add that it is the general opinion that they
will be funded.
To the preceding principal investments and claims on the government,
might be added the following:
_Coupes de Bois.
Rescriptions de Domaines Nationaux.
Actions de la Caisse des Rentiers.
Actions des Indes.
Bons de Moines et Religieuses.
Obligations de Receveur._
However, they are almost entirely unworthy of attention, and afford
but occasionally openings for speculation. Of the last, (_Obligations
de Receveur_) it may be necessary to observe that they are monthy
acceptances issued by the Receivers-General of all the departments,
which the government has given to the five bankers, charged with
supplying money for the current service, as security for their
advances, and which are commonly discounted at from 7/8 to one per
cent per month.
I shall terminate this concise, though accurate sketch of the French
funds by a general statement of the National Debt, and by an account
of an annuity supposed to be held by a foreigner before the
revolution, and which, to become _Tiers Consolide_, must undergo the
regular process of reduction and liquidation.
Consolidated Stock (_Tiers Consolide_) 38,750,000
Floating Debt, to be consolidated, about 23,000,000
Life Annuities 20,000,000
Ecclesiastical, Military, and other Pensions 19,000,000
The value of a _franc_ is something more
than 10_d_. English money: according to
which calculation, the National Debt of
France is in round numbers no more than L4,000,000
Supposed liquidation of an annuity of L100. sterling, or 2,400
_livres tournois_ held by a foreigner before the war and yet
Original Annuity 2,400
Bons de deux Tiers_ 2,400
The actual value of the whole, including the arreared dividends up to
the present day is as follows:
_Tiers Consolide_ as above,
800 francs sold at 60 francs 9,600
_Bons de deux Tiers_, ditto
1600 francs sold at 3 francs 48
Arrears from the first year of the Republic to the fifth ditto (23d
of September, 1792 to the 23d of September, 1797) are to be paid in
Assignats, and are of no value.
Arrears of the fifth and sixth years supposed to
be liquidated so as to afford 25 per cent of
their nominal value, about 600
Arrears in _Bons_ for the year VII, valued at 50
per cent loss 400
Arrears of the year VIII, due in _Bons_, valued
at 25 per cent loss 600
Arrears of the year IX, due in specie 600
Arrears of the year X, of which three months
are nearly elapsed 200
Total of the principal and interest of an original
annuity of 2,400 livres, reduced (according
to law) to 800 12,248
Or in sterling, _circa_ L500
I had almost forgot that you have asked me more than once for an
explanation of the exact value of a modern franc. The following you
may depend on as correct.
The _unite monetaire_ is a piece of silver of the weight of five
_grammes_, containing a tenth of alloy and nine tenths of pure
silver. It is called _Franc_, and is subdivided into _Decimes_, and
_Centimes_: its value is to that of the old _livre tournois_ in the
proportion of 81 to 80.
_Value in livres tournois._
liv. sous. deniers.
Franc 1 0 3
Decime 2 0.3
_Paris, December 7, 1801_.
At the grand monthly parade of the 15th of last Brumaire, I had seen
the First Consul chiefly on horseback: on which account, I determined
to avail myself of that of the 15th of the present month of Frimaire,
in order to obtain a nearer view of his person. On these occasions,
none but officers in complete uniform are admitted into the palace of
the _Tuileries_, unless provided with tickets, which are distributed
to a certain number at the discretion of the governor. General A----y
sent me tickets by ten o'clock this morning, and about half after
eleven, I repaired to the palace.
On reaching the vestibule from the garden of the _Tuileries_, you
ascend the grand stair-case to the left, which conducts you to the
guard-room above it in the centre pavilion. Hence you enter the
apartments of the Chief Consul.
On the days of the grand parade, the first room is destined for
officers as low as the rank of captain, and persons admitted with
tickets; the second, for field-officers; the third, for generals; and
the fourth, for councellors of state, and the diplomatic corps. To
the east, the windows of these apartments command the court-yard
where the troops are assembled; while to the west, they afford a fine
view of the garden of the _Tuileries_ and the avenue leading to the
_Barriere de Chaillot_. In the first-room, those windows which
overlook the parade were occupied by persons standing five or six in
depth, some of whom, as I was informed, had been patient enough to
retain their places for the space of two or three hours, and among
them were a few ladies. Here, a sort of lane was formed from door to
door by some grenadiers of the consular guard. I found both sides of
this lane so much crowded, that I readily accepted the invitation of
a _chef de brigade_ of my acquaintance to accompany him into the
second room; this, he observed, was no more than a privilege to which
I was entitled. This room was also crowded; but it exhibited a most
brilliant _coup d'oeil_ from the great variety and richness of the
uniforms of the field-officers here assembled, by which mine was
entirely eclipsed. The lace or embroidery is not merely confined to
the coats, jackets, and pantaloons, but extends to the sword belts,
and even to the boots, which are universally worn by the military.
Indeed, all the foreign ambassadors admit that none of the levees of
the European courts can vie in splendour with those of the Chief
My first care on entering this room, was to place myself in a
situation which might afford me an uninterrupted view of BONAPARTE.
About twenty-five minutes past twelve, his sortie was announced by a
_huissier_. Immediately after, he came out of the inner apartment,
attended by several officers of rank, and, traversing all the other
rooms with a quick step, proceeded, uncovered, to the parade, the
order of which I have described to you in a former letter. On the
present occasion, however, it lasted longer on account of the
distribution of arms of honour, which the First Consul presents with
his own hand to those heroes who have signalized themselves in
fighting their country's battles.
This part of the ceremony, which was all that I saw of the parade
yesterday, naturally revived in my mind the following question, so
often agitated: "Are the military successes of the French the
consequences of a new system of operations and new tactics, or merely
the effect of the blind courage of a mass of men, led on by chiefs
whose resolutions were decided by presence of mind alone and
The latter method of explaining their victories has been frequently
adopted, and the French generals have been reproached with lavishing
the lives of thousands for the sake of gaining unimportant
advantages, or repairing inconsiderable faults.
Sometimes, indeed, it should seem that a murderous obstinacy has
obtained them successes to which prudence had not paved the way; but,
certainly, the French can boast, too, of memorable days when talent
had traced the road to courage, when vast plans combined with
judgment, have been followed with perseverance, when resources have
been found in those awful moments in which Victory, hovering over a
field of carnage, leaves the issue of the conflict doubtful, till a
sudden thought, a ray of genius, inclines her in favour of the
general, thus inspired, and then art may be said to triumph over art,
and valour over valour.
And whence came most of these generals who have shewn this
inspiration, if I may so term it? Some, as is well known, emerged
from the schools of jurisprudence; some, from the studies of the
arts; and others, from the counting-houses of commerce, as well as
from the lowest ranks of the army. Previously to the revolution it
was not admitted, in this country at least, that such sources could
furnish men fit to be one day the arbiters of battles and of the fate
of empires. Till that period, all those Frenchmen who had
distinguished themselves in the field, had devoted themselves from
their infancy to the profession of arms, were born near the throne of
which they constituted the lustre, or in that cast who arrogated to
themselves the exclusive right of defending their country. The glory
of the soldier was not considered; and a private must have been more
than a hero to be as much remarked as a second lieutenant.
Men of reflection, seeing the old tactics fail against successful
essays, against enthusiasm whose effects are incalculable, studied
whether new ideas did not direct some new means; for it would have
been no less absurd to grant all to valour than to attribute all to
art. But to return to the main subject of my letter.
In about three quarters of an hour, BONAPARTE came back from the
parade, with the same suite as before, that is, preceded by his
aides-de-camp, and followed by the generals and field-officers of the
consular guard, the governor of the palace, the general commanding
the first military division, and him at the head of the garrison of
Paris. For my part, I scarcely saw any one but himself; BONAPARTE
alone absorbed my whole attention.
A circumstance occurred which gave me an opportunity of observing the
Chief Consul with critical minuteness. I had left the second room,
and taken my station in front of the row of gazers, close to the
folding-doors which opened into the first room, in order to see him
receive petitions and memorials. There was no occasion for BONAPARTE
to cast his eyes from side to side, like the _Grand Monarque_ coming
from mass, by way of inviting petitioners to approach him. They
presented themselves in such numbers that, after he put his hat under
his arm, both his hands were full in a moment. To enable him to
receive other petitions, he was under the necessity of delivering the
first two handfuls to his aides-de-camp. I should like to learn what
becomes of all these papers, and whether he locks them up in a little
desk of which he alone has the key, as was the practice of Lewis XIV.
When BONAPARTE approached the door of the second room, he was
effectually impeded in his progress by a lady, dressed in white, who,
throwing herself at his feet, gracefully presented to him a memorial,
which he received with much apparent courtesy; but still seemed, by
his manner, desirous to pass forward. However, the crowd was so
considerable and so intent on viewing this scene, that the
grenadiers, posted near the spot where it took place, were obliged to
use some degree of violence before they could succeed in clearing a
Of all the portraits which you and I have seen of BONAPARTE in
England, that painted by Masquerier, and exhibited in Piccadilly,
presents the greatest resemblance. But for his side-face, you may,
for twelve _sous_, here procure a perfect likeness of it at almost
every stall in the street. In short, his features are such as may, in
my opinion, be easily copied by any artist of moderate abilities.
However incompetent I may be to the task, I shall, as you desire it,
attempt to _sketch_ his person; though I doubt not that any French
_commis_, in the habit of describing people by words, might do it
BONAPARTE is rather below the middle size, somewhat inclined to
stoop, and thin in person; but, though of a slight make, he appears
to be muscular, and capable of fatigue; his forehead is broad, and
shaded by dark brown hair, which is cut short behind; his eyes, of
the same colour, are full, quick, and prominent; his nose is
aquiline; his chin, protuberant and pointed; his complexion, of a
yellow hue; and his cheeks, hollow. His countenance, which is of a
melancholy cast, expresses much sagacity and reflection: his manner
is grave and deliberate, but at the same time open. On the whole, his
aspect announces him to be of a temperate and phlegmatic disposition;
but warm and tenacious in the pursuit of his object, and impatient of
contradiction. Such, at least, is the judgment which I should form of
BONAPARTE from his external appearance.
While I was surveying this man of universal talent, my fancy was not
idle. First, I beheld him, flushed with ardour, directing the assault
of the _tete-de-pont_ at _Lodi_; next dictating a proclamation to the
Beys at _Cairo_, and styling himself the friend of the faithful; then
combating the ebullition of his rage on being foiled in the storming
of _Acre_ I afterwards imagined I saw him like another CROMWELL,
expelling the Council of Five Hundred at _St. Cloud_, and seizing on
the reins of government: when established in power, I viewed him,
like HANNIBAL, crossing the _Alps_, and forcing victory to yield to
him the hard-contested palm at _Marengo_; lastly, he appeared to my
imagination in the act of giving the fraternal embrace to Caprara,
the Pope's legate, and at the same time holding out to the see of
Rome the re-establishment of catholicism in France.
Voltaire says that "no man ever was a hero in the eyes of his
_valet-de-chambre_." I am curious to know whether the valet of the
First Consul be an exception to this maxim. As to BONAPARTE'S public
character, numerous, indeed, are the constructions put on it by the
voice of rumour: some ascribe to him one great man of antiquity as a
model; some, another; but many compare him, in certain respects, to
JULIUS CAESAR, as imitators generally succeed better in copying the
failings than the good qualities of their archetypes, let us hope,
supposing this comparison to be a just one, that the Chief Consul
will, in one particular, never lose sight of the generous clemency of
that illustrious Roman--who, if any spoke bitterly against him,
deemed it sufficient to complain of the circumstance publicly, in
order to prevent them from persevering in the use of such language.
"_Acerbe loquentibus satis habuit pro concione denunciare, ne
"The character of a great man," says a French political writer, who
denies the justness of this comparison, "like the celebrated picture
of Zeuxis, can be formed only of a multitude of imitations, and it is
as little possible for the observer to find for him a single model in
history, as it was for the painter of Heraclea to discover in nature
that of the ideal beauty he was desirous of representing."--"The
French revolution," observes the same author, a little farther on,
"has, perhaps, produced more than one CAESAR, or one CROMWELL; but
they have disappeared before they have had it in their power to give
full scope to their ambition." Time will decide on the truth and
impartiality of these observations of M. HAUTERIVE.
As at the last monthly parade, BONAPARTE was habited in the consular
dress, that is, a coat of scarlet velvet, embroidered with gold: he
wore jockey boots, carelessly drawn over white cotton pantaloons, and
held in his hand a cocked hat, with the national cockade only. I say
only, because all the generals wear hats trimmed with a splendid
lace, and decorated with a large, branching, tricoloured feather.
After the parade, the following, I understand, is the _etiquette_
usually observed in the palace. The Chief Consul first gives audience
to the general-officers, next to the field-officers, to those
belonging to the garrison, and to a few petitioners. He then returns
to the fourth apartment, where the counsellors of state assemble.
Being arrived there, notice is sent to the diplomatic corps, who meet
in a room on the ground-floor of the palace, called _La Salle des
Ambassadeurs_. They immediately repair to the levee-room, and, after
paying their personal respects to the First Consul, they each
introduce to him such persons, belonging to their respective nations,
as they may think proper. Several were this day presented by the
Imperial, Russian, and Danish ambassadors: the British minister, Mr.
Jackson, has not yet presented any of his countrymen nor will he, in
all probability, as he is merely a _locum tenens_. After the levee,
the Chief Consul generally gives a dinner of from one hundred and
fifty to two hundred covers, to which all those who have received
arms of honour, are invited.
Before I left the palace, I observed the lady above-mentioned, who
had presented the memorial, seated in one corner of the room, all in
tears, and betraying every mark of anxious grief: she was pale, and
with her hair dishevelled; but, though by no means handsome, her
distressed situation excited a lively interest in her favour. On
inquiry, I was informed that it was Madame Bourmont, the wife of a
Vendean chief, condemned to perpetual imprisonment for a breach of
the convention into which he had jointly entered with the agents of
the French government.
Having now accomplished my object, when the crowd was somewhat
dispersed, I retired to enjoy the fine weather by a walk in the
After traversing the garden of the _Tuileries_ and the _Place de la
Concorde_, from east to west, you arrive at this fashionable summer
promenade. It is planted with trees in quincunx; and although, in
particular points of view, this gives it a symmetrical air; yet, in
others, the hand of art is sufficiently concealed to deceive the eye
by a representation of the irregular beauties of nature. The French,
in general, admire the plan of the garden of the _Tuileries_, and
think the distribution tasteful; but, when the trees are in leaf, all
prefer the _Champs Elysees_, as being more rural and more inviting.
This spot, which is very extensive, as you may see by the Plan of
Paris, has frequently been chosen for the scene of national fetes,
for which it is, in many respects, better calculated than the _Champ
de Mars_. However, from its proximity to the great road, the foliage
is imbrowned by the dust, and an idea of aridity intrudes itself on
the imagination from the total absence of water. The sight of that
refreshing element recreates the mind, and communicates a powerful
attraction even to a wilderness.
In fact, at this season of the year, the _Champs Elysees_ resemble a
desert; but, in summer, they present one of the most agreeable scenes
that can be imagined. In temporary buildings, of a tasteful
construction, you then find here _restaurateurs_, &c, where all sorts
of refreshments may be procured, and rooms where "the merry dance" is
kept up with no common spirit. Swings and roundabouts are also
erected, as well as different machines for exercising the address of
those who are fond of running at a ring, and other sports. Between
the road leading to _l'Etoile_, the _Bois de Boulogne_, &c, and that
which skirts the Seine, formerly called the _Cours de la Reine_, is a
large piece of turf, where, in fine weather, and especially on
Sundays, the Parisian youths amuse themselves at foot-ball,
prison-bars, and long tennis. Here, too, boys and girls assemble,
and improve their growth and vigour by dancing, and a variety of
healthful diversions; while their relations and friends, seated on
the grass, enjoy this interesting sight, and form around each group a
circle which is presently increased by numbers of admiring
Under the shade of the trees, on the right hand, as you face the
west, an immense concourse of both sexes and all ages is at the same
time collected. Those who prefer sitting to walking occupy three long
rows of chairs, set out for hire, three deep on each side, and
forming a lane through which the great body of walkers parade. This
promenade may then be said to deserve the appellation of _Elysian
Fields_, from the number of handsome women who resort hither. The
variety of their dresses and figures, the satisfaction which they
express in seeing and being seen, their anxious desire to please,
which constitutes their happiness and that of our sex, the triumph
which animates the countenance of those who eclipse their rivals; all
this forms a diversified and amusing picture, which fixes attention,
and gives birth to a thousand ideas respecting the art and coquetry
of women, as well as what beauty loses or gains by adopting the
ever-varying caprices of fashion. Here, on a fine summer's evening,
are now to be seen, I am told, females displaying almost as much
luxury of dress as used to be exhibited in the days of the monarchy.
The essential difference is that the road in the centre is not now,
as in those times, covered with brilliant equipages; though every day
seems to produce an augmentation of the number of private carriages.
At the entrance of the _Champs Elysees_ are placed the famous groups
of Numidian horses, held in by their vigorous and masterly conductors,
two _chefs d'oeuvre_ of modern art, copied from the group of
_Monte-Cavallo_ at Rome. By order of the Directory, these statues were
brought from _Marly_, where they ornamented the terrace. They are
each of them cut out of a block of the most faultless Carrara marble.
On the pedestal on which they stood at that once-royal residence, was
engraved the name of COSTOU, 1745, without any Christian name: but,
as there were two brothers of that name, Nicolas and Guillaume,
natives of Lyons, and both excellent sculptors, it is become a matter
of doubt by which of them these master-pieces were executed; though
the one died in 1733, and the other in 1746. It is conjectured,
however, that fraternal friendship induced them to share the fame
arising from these capital productions, and that they worked at them
in common till death left the survivor the task of finishing their
To whichever of the two the merit of the execution may be due, it is
certain that the fiery, ungovernable spirit of the horses, as well as
the exertion of vigour, and the triumph of strength in their
conductors, is very happily expressed. The subject has frequently
afforded a comparison to politicians. "These statues," say some
observers, "appear to be the emblem of the French people, over whom
it is necessary to keep a tight hand."--"It is to be apprehended,"
add others, "that the reins, which the conductors hold with so
powerful an arm, are too weak to check these ungovernable animals."
[Footnote 1: _De l'Etat de la France, a la fin de l'an VIII._ page
[Footnote 2: Ibid. page 274.]
_Paris, Dccemler 8, 1801_.
You desire that I will favour you with a particular account of the
means employed to transfer from pannel to canvas those celebrated
pictures which I mentioned in my letter of the 13th ult deg.. Like many
other, things that appear simple on being known, so is this process;
but it is not, on that account, the less ingenious and difficult in
Such is the great disadvantage of the art of painting that, while
other productions of genius may survive the revolution of ages, the
creations of the pencil are intrusted to perishable wood or canvas.
From the effect of heat, humidity, various exhalations to which they
may be carelessly exposed, and even an unperceived neglect in the
priming of the pannel or cloth, master-pieces are in danger of
disappearing for ever. Happy, then, is it for the arts that this
invaluable discovery has been lately brought to so great a degree of
perfection, and that the restoration of several capital pictures
having been confided to men no less skilful than enlightened, they
have thus succeeded in rescuing them from approaching and inevitable
Of all the fruits of the French conquests, not a painting was brought
from Lombardy, Rome, Florence, or Venice, that was not covered with
an accumulation of filth, occasioned by the smoke of the wax-tapers
and incense used in the ceremonies of the catholic religion. It was
therefore necessary to clean and repair them; for to bring them to
France, without rendering them fit to be exhibited, would have
answered no better purpose than to have left them in Italy. One of
those which particularly fixed the attention of the Administration of
the CENTRAL MUSEUM OF THE ARTS, was the famous picture by RAPHAEL,
taken from the _Chiesa delle Contesse_ at Foligno, and thence
distinguished by the appellation of
MADONNA DI FOLIGNO.
This _chef d'oeuvre_ was in such a lamentable state of decay, that
the French commissioners who selected it, wereunder the necessity of
pasting paper over it in order to prevent the scales, which curled up
on many parts of its surface, from falling off during its conveyance
to to Paris. In short, had not the saving hand of art interposed,
this, and other monuments of the transcendent powers of the Italian
school, marked by the corroding tooth of Time, would soon have
As this picture could not be exhibited in its injured state, the
Administration of the Museum determined that it should be repaired.
They accordingly requested the Minister of the Interior to cause this
important operation to be attended by Commissioners chosen from the
National Institute. The Class of Physical and Mathematical Sciences
of that learned Society appointed to this task, GUYTON and
BERTHOLLET, chymists, and the Class of Literature and Fine Arts named
VINCENT and TAUNAY, painters.
These Commissioners, in concert with the Administration, having
ascertained the state of the picture, it was unanimously agreed that
the only mean of saving it would be to remove it from the worm-eaten
pannel on which it was painted. It was, besides, necessary to
ascertain the safety of the process, in order that, without, exciting
the apprehensions of the lovers of the arts, it might be applied to
other pictures which required it.
The Report of the four Commissioners before named, respecting the
restoration of the _Madonna di Foligno_, has been adopted by the
Classes to which they respectively belong, and is to be made to the
National Institute at their next public sitting on the 15th of Nivose
(5th of January, 1802).
In order to make you perfectly acquainted with the whole of the
process, I shall transcribe, for your satisfaction, that part of the
Report immediately connected with the art of restoring damaged or
decayed paintings. This labour, and the success by which it was
attended, are really a memorial of what the genius and industry of
the French can achieve. To all those who, like you, possess valuable
collections, such information cannot but be particularly interesting.
"The desire of repairing the outrages of time has unfortunately
accelerated the decay of several pictures by coarse repainting and
bad varnish, by which much of the original work has been covered.
Other motives, too, have conspired against the purity of the most
beautiful compositions: a prelate has been seen to cause a discordant
head of hair to conceal the charms of a Magdalen."
"Nevertheless, efficacious means of restoration have been discovered:
a painting, the convass of which is decayed, or the pannel
worm-eaten, is transferred to a fresh cloth; the profane touches
of a foreign pencil are made to disappear; the effaced strokes are
reinserted with scrupulous nicety; and life is restored to a picture
which was disfigured, or drawing near to its end. This art has made
great progress, especially in Paris, and experienced recent
improvement under the superintendance of the Administration of the
Museum; but it is only with a religious respect that any one can
venture on an operation which may always give rise to a fear of some
change in the drawing or colouring, above all when the question is to
restore a picture by RAPHAEL."
"The restoration may be divided into two parts; the one, which is
composed of mechanical operations, whose object is to detach the
painting from the ground on which it is fixed, in order to transfer
it to a fresh one; the other, which consists in cleaning the surface
of the painting from every thing that can tarnish it, in restoring
the true colour of the picture, and in repairing the parts destroyed,
by tints skilfully blended with the primitive touches. Thence the
distinctive division of the mechanical operations, and of the art of
painting, which will be the object of the two parts of this Report.
The former particularly engaged the attention of the Commissioners of
the _Class of Sciences_; and the latter, which required the habit of
handling a scientific pencil, fell to the share of the Commissioners
of the _Class of Fine Arts_"
"Although the mechanical labour is subdivided into several
operations, it was wholly intrusted to Citizen HACQUINS, on whose
intelligence, address, and skill, it is our duty to bestow every
"The picture represents the Virgin Mary, the infant Jesus, St. John,
and several other figures of different sizes. It was painted on a
pannel of 1-1/2 inches in thickness: a crack extended from its
circumference to the left foot of the infant Jesus: it was 4-1/2
lines wide at its upper part, and diminished progressively to the
under: from this crack to the right hand border, the surface formed a
curve whose greatest bend was 2 inches 5-1/2 lines, and from the
crack to the other border, another curve bending 2 inches. The
picture was scaling off in several places, and a great number of
scales had already detached themselves; the painting was, besides,
worm-eaten in many parts."
"It was first necessary to render the surface even: to effect this, a
gauze was pasted on the painting, and the picture was turned on its
face. After that, Citizen HACQUINS made, in the thickness of the
wood, several grooves at some distance from each other, and extending
from the upper extremity of the bend to the place where the pannel
presented a more level surface. Into these grooves he introduced
little wooden wedges; he then covered the whole surface with wet
cloths, which he took care to remoisten. The action of the wedges,
which swelled by the moisture against the softened pannel, compelled
the latter to resume its primitive form: both edges of the crack
before-mentioned being brought together, the artist had recourse to
glue, in order to unite the two separated parts. During the
desiccation, he laid oak bars across the picture, for the purpose of
keeping the pannel in the form which he wished it to assume."
"The desiccation being effected slowly, the artist applied a second
gauze on the first, then successively two thicknesses of grey
"This preparation (which the French artists call _cartonnage_) being
dry, he laid the picture with its face downward on a table, to which
he carefully confined it; he next proceeded to the separation of the
wood on which the painting was fixed."
"The first operation was executed by means of two saws, one of which
acted perpendicularly; and the other, horizontally: the work of the
two saws being terminated, the pannel was found to be reduced to the
thickness of 4-1/2 lines. The artist then made use of a plane of a
convex form on its breadth: with this instrument he planed the pannel
in an oblique direction, in order to take off very short shavings,
and to avoid the grain of the wood: by these means he reduced the
pannel to 2/3 of a line in thickness. He then took a flat plane with
a toothed iron, whose effect is much like that of a rasp which
reduces wood into dust: in this manner he contrived to leave the
pannel no thicker than a sheet of paper."
"In that state, the wood was successively moistened with clear water,
in small compartments, which disposed it to detach itself: then the
artist separated it with the rounded point of a knife-blade."
"The picture, thus deprived of all the wood, presented to the eye
every symptom of the injury which it had sustained. It had formerly
been repaired; and, in order to fasten again the parts which
threatened to fall off, recourse had been had to oils and varnishes.
But those ingredients passing through the intervals left by such
parts of the picture as were reduced to curling scales, had been
extended in the impression to the paste, on which the painting
rested, and had rendered the real restoration more difficult, without
producing the advantageous effect which had thence been expected."
"The same process would not serve for separating the parts of the
impression which had been indurated by varnishes, and those where the
paste had remained unmixed: it was necessary to moisten the former
for some time in small compartments: when they were become
sufficiently softened, the artist separated them with the blade of
his knife: the others were more easily separated by moistening them
with a flannel, and rubbing them slightly. It required all the
address and patience of Citizen HACQUINS to leave nothing foreign to
the work of the original painter: at length the outline of RAPHAEL
was wholly exposed to view, and left by itself."
"In order to restore a little suppleness to the painting, which was
too much dried, it was rubbed all over with carded cotton imbibed
with oil, and wiped with old muslin: then white lead, ground with
oil, was substituted in the room of the impression made by paste, and
fixed by means of a soft brush."
"After being left to dry for three months, a gauze was glued on the
impression made by oil; and on the latter, a fine canvas."
"When this canvas was dry, the picture was detached from the table,
and turned, in order to remove the _cartonnage_ from it with water;
this operation being effected, the next proceeding was to get rid of
the appearance of the inequalities of the surface arising from the
curling up of its parts: for that purpose, the artist successively
applied on the inequalities, flour-paste diluted. Then having put a
greasy paper on the moistened part, he laid a hot iron on the parts
curled up, which became level: but it was not till after he had
employed the most unequivocal signs to ascertan the suitable degree
of heat, that he ventured to come near the painting with the iron."
"It has been seen that the painting, disengaged from its impression
made by paste and from every foreign substance, had been fixed on an
impression made by oil, and that a level form had been given to the
uneven parts of its surface. This master-piece was still to be
solidly applied on a new ground: for that, it was necessary to paste
paper over it again, detach it from the temporary gauze which had
been put on the impression, add a new coat of oxyde of lead and oil,
apply to it a gauze rendered very supple, and on the latter, in like
manner done over with a preparation of lead, a raw cloth, woven all
in one piece, and impregnated, on its exterior surface, with a
resinous substance, which was to confine it to a similar canvass
fixed on the stretching-frame. This last operation required that the
body of the picture, disengaged from its _cartonnage_, or paper
facing, and furnished with a new ground, should be exactly applied to
the cloth done over with resinous substances, at the same time
avoiding every thing that might hurt it by a too strong or unequal
extension, and yet compelling every part of its vast extent to adhere
to the cloth strained on the stretching-frame. It is by all these
proceedings that the picture has been incorporated with a ground more
durable than the original one, and guarded against the accidents
which had produced the injuries. It was then subjected to
restoration, which is the object of the second part of this Report."
"We have been obliged to confine ourselves to pointing out the
successive operations, the numerous details of which we have
attended; we have endeavoured to give an idea of this interesting
art, by which the productions of the pencil may be indefinitely
perpetuated, in order only to state the grounds of the confidence
that it has appeared to us to merit."
"After having given an account of the mechanical operations, employed
with so much success in the first part of the restoration of the
picture by RAPHAEL, it remains for us to speak of the second, the
restoration of the painting, termed by the French artists