Part 8 out of 14
strong, and, besides singing through his nose, he screams loud enough
to split one's ears. I have already observed that the ears of a
tasteful amateur would sometimes be shocked at this theatre. The
same remark, no doubt, was equally just some time ago; for J. J.
ROUSSEAU, when he was told that it was intended to restore to him
the free admission which he had enjoyed at the opera, replied that
this was unnecessary, because he had at the door of his
country-residence the screech owls of the forest of Montmorency.
Those who are partial to LAINEZ think him an excellent actor. This
means that he has some warmth, and bestirs himself like a demoniac.
When the heroes of the opera wore hair-powder, nothing was more
comic than to see him shake his head, which was instantly enveloped
in a cloud of dust. At this signal the plaudits burst forth with
great violence, and the would-be singer, screaming with still
greater loudness, seemed on the point of bursting a blood-vessel.
It is reported that, not long since, a great personage having sent
for the _artists_ belonging to the opera, said to them, addressing
himself to LAINEZ, "Gentlemen, do you intend to keep long your old
singers?" The same personage then turning round to the dancers
added, "As for you, gentlemen of the dance, none but compliments can
be paid to you."
LAFORET who (as the French express it), _doubles_ LAINEZ, that is,
performs the same characters in his absence, has little more to
recommend him than his zeal. His voice is tolerably agreeable, but
not strong enough for so large a house. As an actor he is cold and
Next comes CHERON: he sings bass. His voice is strong, and the tone
of it sonorous and clear. However, it is thought to be weakened, and
although this singer sometimes throws out fine tones, he is
reproached with a want of taste and method. He is a sorry actor.
Indeed, he very seldom makes his appearance, which some attribute to
idleness; and others, to his state of health. The latter is likely to
be occasionally deranged, as in point of epicurism, he has as great a
reputation as our celebrated Quin.
ADRIEN, who _doubles_ CHERON, is an excellent actor; but his means do
not equal his intelligence. He presents himself wonderfully well; all
his movements, all his gestures have dignity, grace, and ease. There
are, for the same employment, other secondary singers, some of whom
are by no means backward in exertion, particularly DUFRESNE; but an
impartial observer can say nothing more in their commendation.
Let us now examine the qualifications of _Mesdames les cantatrices_.
The first female singer at the opera is Mademoiselle MAILLARD. By
means of a rather pretty face, a clear voice, and a cabal of
malcontents (for there are some every where and in every line), she
obtained loud applause, when she first appeared some years ago as the
rival of the charming ST. HUBERTI. Since the revolution, France has
lost this celebrated actress, and probably for ever. She emigrated,
and has since married the _ci-devant_ Comte d'Antraigues. Although
she had not a powerful voice, she sang with the greatest perfection;
and her impressive and dignified style of acting was at least equal
to her singing.
At the present day, Mademoiselle MAILLARD has succeeded Madame ST.
HUBERTI, and is, as I have said, the first singer, in point of rank.
She is become enormous in bulk, and as the Italians express it,
_canta a salti_. Her powerful voice fills the house, but she is not
unfrequently out of tune: her declamation is noisy; while her
masculine person gives her in all her motions the air of a Bacchante.
These qualities, no doubt, recommended her to the notice of
CHAUMETTE, the proclaimer of atheism, under whose auspices she more
than once figured as the goddess of reason. She has, nevertheless,
occasionally distinguished herself as an actress; and those who love
noise, admire the effect of her transitions. But I give the
preference to Mademoiselle LATOUR, who has a melodious pipe, which
you will probably hear, as it is said that she has not retired from
the stage, where she frequently reminded the public of the
fascinating ST. HUBERTI, particularly in the character of _Didon_.
Since the prolonged absence of Mademoiselle LATOUR, Madame BRANCHU
_doubles_ Mademoiselle MAILLARD. She is of much promise both as a
singer and actress. Her voice is agreeable, but not extensive.
Mademoiselle ARMAND is another most promising singer, who has a more
powerful organ than Madame BRANCHU, and when she has perfectly
acquired the art of modulating it, will, doubtless, prove a very
valuable acquisition to this theatre. Her voice has much sweetness,
and sometimes conveys to the ear the most flattering sounds, as its
low tones are grave without being harsh, and its high ones sonorous
without being sharp. She seems to execute the most difficult pieces
of music with considerable ease; but she is deficient in action.
Mademoiselle HENRY is strong as to method, but weak as to means, in
singing. There are several other female singers; but, in my opinion,
their merits do not entitle them to particular mention.
Twelve or fourteen years ago, the opera was much better provided with
singers than it is at the present moment. Their voices, in every line
of this department, were well-toned and powerful. They easily reached
the highest notes according to the tone given by the diapason. Since
then, the powers of most of the singers who still remain on the stage
have diminished, and those called in to supply the place of such as
are dead or have retired, are not near so rich in voice as their
predecessors. The diapason, however, has remained the same: to this,
in a great measure, may be attributed those shrieks and efforts which
disgust foreigners, unaccustomed to the French method. At the
Parisian comic opera, in consequence of a remonstrance from the
principal singers, their diapason has been lowered half a tone; and
it seems necessary to examine whether the same rule be not applicable
to this theatre.
The choruses, notwithstanding, are now given here with more effect
and precision than I ever remember at any former period. In these,
the ear is no longer offended by exaggerated extensions of the voice,
and, on the whole, they are sung in a grand and graceful style.
The orchestra, which is ably led by REY, has also experienced a
manifest improvement. The principal musicians, I understand, have
been recently changed; and the first artists are engaged for the
execution of the solos, and nothing can now be wished for, either as
to the spirit and correctness of the overtures, or to the melody and
taste of the accompaniments.
The Chief Consul is said to be particularly partial to Italian music.
In consequence, KREUTZER, a capital violin, and also a celebrated
composer, has been dispatched to Italy by the French government, for
the express purpose of selecting and purchasing the finest musical
compositions which can be procured in that land of harmony. Thus, the
advice given by ROUSSEAU, in his _Dictionnaire de Musique_, has at
length been followed.
So much for the singing department of the opera, which, as you see,
with some exceptions, is but indifferent: in my next, I shall speak
of the dancing.
[Footnote 1: Since the above letter was written, this Lyric theatre
has changed its name for that of _Theatre de l'Opera_. This seems
like one of the minor modifications, announcing the general
retrograde current setting towards the readoption of old habits; for
the denomination of _Theatre des Arts_ was certainly unobjectionable,
as poetry, music, dancing, painting, and mechanics, concurred in
rendering more pompous and more surprising the effects which a
fertile genius, when governed by reason, might assemble here for the
gratification of the public. The addition of the words _et de la
Republique_ was probably given to it from patriotic zeal, at the time
when the _Royal Academy of Music_ was abolished by the decree which
annihilated all similar monarchical institutions.]
[Footnote 2: It appears that, from pique, this old opera-singer
refused to sing on Easter-Sunday last, (1802) at the cathedral of
_Paris, December 30, 1801_.
Dancing, like the other arts in France, has, during the revolution,
experienced the vicissitudes of this new order of things; but also,
like the other arts, it has made a progress equally astonishing and
rapid. However, it must not thence be inferred that dancing,
particularly theatrical, had not attained a certain degree of
superiority long before the revolution; yet a most evident
improvement has been made in it, not only by the old-established
dancers, who then seemed almost to have done their best, but by the
numerous competitors who have since made their appearance.
It is not in the power of words to convey an adequate idea of the
effect produced on the senses by some of the ballets. In lieu of
those whimsical capers, forced attitudes, vague and undefined
gestures of a set of dancers whose movements had no signification,
dancing now forms an animated, graceful, and diversified picture, in
which all the human passions are feelingly pourtrayed. Their language
is the more expressive from its being more refined and concentrated.
In the silence of pantomime, recourse is had to every ingenious
gesture, in order to impart to them greater force and energy; and, in
this mute play, restraint seems to kindle eloquence. Every motion has
its meaning; the foot speaks as well as the eye, and the sensations
of the mind are expressed by the attitudes of the body. A delicate
sentiment is rendered with the rapidity of lightning. Love, fear,
hope, and despair, change countenances, and say every thing that they
wish to say, void of deceit, as if falsehood no longer existed as
soon as the mouth ceased to open.
It should not be forgotten that it was NOVERRE who first brought
about in France this reform in what were till then called ballets,
without deserving the title. He banished wigs, hoop-petticoats, and
other preposterous habiliments, and, by dint of superior genius,
seconded by taste and perseverance, introduced those historical
pictures, replete with grace, expression, and sentiment, in the room
of the flat, insipid, and lifeless caricatures, which had hitherto
But, though NOVERRE, and, after him, the GARDELS, introduced on the
Parisian stage the pantomimic art in all the lustre in which it
flourished on the theatres of Greece and Rome, yet they had been
anticipated by HILWERDING in Germany, and ANGIOLINI in Italy, two
celebrated men, who, in a distinguished manner, laid the foundations
of a species of modern entertainment, before known only by the annals
of ancient history. Those who have trod in their steps have
infinitely surpassed them in attractions, and, by their scientific
compositions, acquired a justly-merited reputation.
GARDEL, who, for the last fifteen years, has been the first dancer at
the opera, shews himself but seldom. After having, during that long
period, received the warmest and best deserved applause, either in
the execution of the noble style of dancing, or in the composition of
ballets, he seems now to have devoted himself almost exclusively to
the last-mentioned branch of his art, and the perfection to which he
daily carries it, may well compensate the public for the privation of
his talents in the line of execution.
The most famous pantomimical ballets or _ballets d'action_ (as they
are styled) now represented here, are _Psyche_, _Telemaque_, _Le
Jugement de Paris_, _Mirza_, and _la Dansomanie_. The impression to
which I have before alluded, is particularly observable during the
representation of the first three (composed by GARDEL), the charm of
which would be weakened by any attempt at description. No spectator,
be his disposition ever so cold and indifferent, can behold them
unmoved. Every effort of human skill and invention is exerted to
excite astonishment and admiration. The _ensemble_ of the _spectacle_
and decorations correspond to the fertile genius of the author. It is
the triumph of the art, and there may be fixed the limits of
pantomime, embellished by dancing. Nothing more perfect than the
rapid change of scenery. Meteors, apparitions, divinities borne on
clusters of clouds or in cars, appear and disappear, as if by
enchantment, exhibiting situations the most picturesque and striking.
BOULAY, the principal machinist, is, perhaps, the first in his line
in Europe. In the opera of _Armide_, I have seen him raise into the
air nearly one half of the theatre. He executes whatever is proposed
to him, no matter how difficult, and he is well seconded by the
painters and draughtsmen. The new decorations display much taste, and
produce an effect truly wonderful.
Had I not already made the remark, you might have concluded from the
general tenour of my observations, that the dancing forms the most
brilliant part, of the _spectacle_ at this theatre, or, in other
words, that the accessory prevails over the main subject. It is no
longer, as heretofore, a few capital dancers of both sexes who form
the ornament of the opera. Almost all the competitors in this line
are so many _virtuosi_ who deserve and equally participate the
plaudits of the public. There is not among them any mediocrity. The
establishment of the _ecole de la danse_ is for this theatre a
nursery, where Terpsichore finds, in great numbers, the most
promising plants for the decoration of her temple. It is saying
little to affirm that nothing equals the superiority of talents of
this description which the opera comprehends at the present moment.
These advantages, I understand, are chiefly due to GARDEL. He has
given the example and the precept, and, through his guidance, the art
of dancing is become doubly captivating.
After having supplied most of the principal cities in Europe with
capital dancers, this theatre, far from being impoverished, is still
in possession of a numerous train of first-rate _artists_ of both
sexes in every style of dancing. The men are GARDEL, MILON, ST.
AMAND, DESHAIES, GOYON, BEAUPRE, BRANCHU, BEAULIEU, AUMER, LEON,
TAGLIONI, DUPORT, and VESTRIS.
It is unnecessary to speak of the talents of VESTRIS, as they are as
well known in London as in Paris. I shall therefore content myself
with remarking that he delights in exhibiting feats of agility; but
as his age increases, connoisseurs think that he declines a little.
Nevertheless, he is still, in reality, the first dancer at the opera.
It is said that his son, ARMAND VESTRIS, will, in time, be able to
supply his place; in the mean while, DUPORT bids fair to fill it, in
case the "_Dieu de la danse_" should retire; not to mention DESHAIES,
who has lately met with an accident which has disabled him for the
present; but who, when on the stage in the presence of Vestris, has
shewn that he could also astonish and delight the spectators. Without
having the boldness of his rival, he exhibits more certainty and
_a-plomb_. In the character of _Telemaque_, he appears with all the
grace of Apollo. If excellence in dancing be allowed to consist less
in the efforts of the dancer, than in the ease and gracefulness of
his attitudes, and the lightness and precision of his steps, DESHAIES
may he classed in the first rank of his profession.
In this exercise, as in every thing else, there is a just medium, and
this is more particularly observed by the principal female dancers.
The names of these are GARDEL, CLOTILDE, CHEVIGNY, PERIGNON, COLLOMB,
CHAMEROI, SAULNIER, VESTRIS, DELISLE, MILLIERE, LOUISE, FELICITE,
DUPORT, TAGLIONI, ALINE, ETIENNE, JACOTOT, FLORINE, ADELE, to whom
may be added two most promising _debutantes_, LA NEUVILLE and
BIGOTINI, whose first appearance I witnessed.
Though Madame GARDEL, wife of the principal ballet-master, shines in
_demi-caractere_, her talents, in the different parts in which she is
placed, are above all panegyric. As NOVERRE has said somewhere of a
famous dancer, "she is always tender, always graceful, sometimes a
butterfly, sometimes a zephyr, at one moment inconstant, at another
faithful; always animated by a new sentiment, she represents with
voluptuousness all the shades of love." To sum up her merits, she is
really in her art the female Proteus of the lyric scene. Mademoiselle
CLOTILDE is a tall, elegant woman, who dances in the serious style.
All her movements, made with precision, exhibit the beautiful
proportion of her finely-modelled figure; but, owing to her stature,
she appears to most advantage in pantomime, particularly in the
character of _Calypso_ in the ballet of _Telemaque_. In the same
ballet, MILLIERE, in the part of _Eucharis_, displays her playful
graces and engaging mien. CHEVIGNY is full of expression in
pantomime, and dances in great perfection, notwithstanding her
_embonpoint_. PERIGNON and COLLOMB are superior in the comic style,
and all the others are not without some peculiar exellence.
I should never finish, were I to attempt to particularize the merits
of all these fascinating women, who, as well as the men, have, of
late, alternately interchanged the characters they performed in the
ballets of action. Even those introduced occasionally in the fetes
given and received by the heroes in the different operas, present a
real contest, in which the first-rate dancers of both sexes exert
themselves to snatch the palm from their rivals. When a theatre
possesses such a richness, variety, and assemblage of talents in the
same art, it may boldly stylo itself the first in Europe. But I must
confess that an innovation has been introduced here which detracts
much from what has always been considered as fine dancing. I mean the
mania of _pirouettes_. This, however, seems less to be attributed to
a decided _penchant_ of the dancers than to that of a new public, not
yet familiarized to what constitutes true taste.
During a revolution, every thing changes, every thing assumes a new
face. What was entitled to please yesterday in times of tranquillity,
is to-day, during the jar of public opinion, and will be to-morrow
subject to all the variations of caprice. The marvellous and gigantic
usurp the place of the natural, and claim alone the right to
entertain. True it is that the dancers have found means to render
this new manner interesting, while they have enjoyed the sweets of
it. The pleasure of being applauded is so great, that it is no easy
matter to withstand the powerful allurement of the plaudits of a
numerous audience. Boileau has said, "_Aimez-vous la muscade? On en a
mis par tout_." The French dancers, following his example, have said,
"_Aimez-vous les pirouettes?_" The public have answered _oui_; and
_pirouettes_ are all the rage.
When a certain king of Bisnagar sneezes, the court, the town, the
provinces, all the subjects of his empire, in short, sneeze in
imitation of their monarch. Without departing from my subject, I
shall only observe that _pirouettes_, like this sneezing, have found
their way from the opera-stage into the circles of every class of
society in Paris. There lies the absurdity. The young Frenchmen have
been emulous to dance like dancers by profession; the women have had
the same ambition; and both men and women have, above all, been
desirous to shine like them in _pirouettes_. Thence most of the
dances, formerly practised in society, in which simple and natural
grace was combined with a certain facility and nobleness of
execution, have been entirely laid aside. It must be acknowledged,
that, among the dancers in private company, there are many, indeed,
who, by dint of imitation and study, have attained a great degree of
perfection. But I now perceive that people here no longer dance for
their amusement; they dance to gratify their vanity, and many a
person who has not practised some hours in the morning under the
tuition of his master, excuses himself in the evening, pretends to be
lame, and declines dancing.
The taste and elegance of the dresses of the opera-dancers, like
those of the heroes and heroines of the sock and buskin, leave
nothing to be wished for. In lieu of drawers, which all women,
without exception, were formerly obliged to wear on the stage,
those who dance have now substituted silk pantaloons, woven with
feet, in order to serve also as stockings. In some particular
characters, they wear these of flesh colour, and it is not then easy,
at first sight, to distinguish whether it be or be not the clothing
The French opera having been long considered as the grand national
theatre, it has ever been the pride of the government, whether
monarchical or republican, to support it in a manner worthy of the
nation. In fact, the disbursements are so great, that it would be
impossible for the receipts to cover them, though the performances
are seldom suspended for more than two days in the week, and the
house is generally crowded. This theatre is managed by the
government, and on its account. The Minister of the Interior appoints
a commissioner to superintend its operations, and managers to conduct
them. During the old _regime_, the opera cost the crown annually from
one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand livres. What the
extraordinary expenses of this house are, under the present
government, is not so easily ascertained; but, from the best
information that I have been able to procure, their amount is from
three to four hundred thousand francs a year. Here is a considerable
increase; but it must be remembered that the price of several
articles is now greatly augmented, if not doubled.
The receipt of the opera, on an average, used to be from twelve to
fifteen thousand livres a night; what it is at this day, is not
positively known. Formerly, the produce of the boxes, let by the
year, was such, that nine thousand livres were paid, in a manner,
before the doors were thrown open. That resource is almost void at
present; nevertheless, this house being more spacious than the old
one, the prices of admission higher, and the performance, perhaps,
more constantly attended, the money taken at the door cannot well be
less than it was formerly. It then cost much less than it does now to
bring out a new piece. Thirty or forty thousand livres were
sufficient for the production of the most magnificent opera; while
the disbursements to be made for _Tamerlan_ will, it is thought,
amount to upwards of eighty thousand francs. At this rate, the first
representation of the _Mysteres d'Isis_, of which so much has been
said, must have been attended with an expense of more than a hundred
thousand. Scandal whispers, that the managers of the opera are rather
partial to expensive pieces; but as they are accountable for their
conduct to the Minister of the Interior, I should presume that they
must act as honourable men.
The salaries are not considerable at this theatre. The first
performers have not more than twelve thousand francs a year,
exclusively of the _feux_, which is the sum given to each of them,
when they perform. This, I understand, does not exceed a louis a
night. Those who have a name, indemnify themselves by going, from
time to time, to play in the great commercial towns of the
departments, such as Bordeaux, Lyons, Marseilles, &c. where they
generally collect a rich harvest. It is said that VESTRIS has
received from the government a gratification to prevent him from
visiting the British metropolis; and it is also reported that DIDELOT
and LABORIE have made vain efforts to return to the Parisian opera;
but that the managers, faithful to their instructions, refuse to
readmit such of the old performers as have voluntarily quitted it.
What attaches performers to the opera-house is the _pension de
retraite._ They all eventually obtain it, even the chorus-singers.
The remuneration of authors, that is, of the poet and composer of the
music, is to each three hundred francs for every representation, when
the piece is not less than three acts. This is the most common
division. I know of no operas in one act; those in two are paid in
the above proportion.
[Footnote 1: GARDEL has lately added another sprig of laurel to his
brow, by the production of a new pantomimical ballet, called _Daphnis
et Pandrose, ou la vengeance de l'amour_. He has borrowed the subject
from a story of Madame DE GENLIS, who took it from fable. Every
resource of his inexhaustible genius has been employed to give the
happiest effect to this charming work, to enumerate the beauties of
which is, by general report, beyond the powers of language. All the
first-rate dancers of both sexes are placed in the most advantageous
point of view throughout this ballet. Madame GARDEL performs in it
the part of Cupid, with all the charms, wiles, and graces which poets
ascribe to the roguish deity. The other characters are represented in
a manner no less interesting. In short, music, dancing, pantomime,
dress, decoration, every thing in this piece, concurs to stamp it as
one of the most wonderful productions of the kind ever exhibited to
the admiration of the public.]
[Footnote 2: In a preceding note, VESTRIS has been mentioned as the
reputed lover of Mademoiselle CHAMEROI, and from this instance of
illicit intercourse, it might, perhaps, be erroneously inferred that
most of the Parisian female opera-dancers had overleaped the pale of
virtue. Without pretending to enter the lists as the champion of
their character, though I admire their talents as warmly as any
amateur, truth induces me to observe that many of these ladies enjoy
an unblemished reputation. Madame VESTRIS, in particular, is
universally represented as a young and pretty woman, much attached to
her faithless husband, and, notwithstanding his improper example, a
constant observer of the most exemplary conduct.]
[Footnote 3: Many years ago, a Parisian actress, coming on the stage
in the part of _Merope_, in the tragedy of that name, her petticoats
somehow happened to catch in the side-scene, and, in her hasty
endeavours to disentangle them, she exhibited to the audience the
hind part of her person. In consequence of this accident, a _sentence
de police_ enjoined every woman, whether actress or dancer, not to
appear on the boards of any theatre, without drawers.]
[Footnote 4: The refusal made by the Rector of St. Roch to admit into
that church the corpse of Mademoiselle CHAMEROI, has informed us in
England of the loss which this theatre has sustained in that young
and accomplished dancer. She died, generally regretted, in
consequence of being delivered of a child of which VESTRIS considered
himself as the real father. However, M. DE MARKOFF, the Russian
ambassador at Paris, stood sponsor to the infant, and, according to
the scandalous chronicle, was not contented with being only a
spiritual father. The Parisian public have consoled themselves for
this loss by talking a great deal about the scene to which it gave
rise. It seems that the Rector was decidedly in the wrong, the
dancers of the opera never having been comprised in the papal
excommunication which involved players. The persons composing the
funeral procession were also in the wrong to go to St. Roch, since
the Rector had positively declared that the corpse of Mademoiselle
CHAMEROI should not enter the church.]
_Paris, January 1, 1802._
Fast locked in the arms of Morpheus, and not dreaming of what was to
happen, as Lord North said, when the king caused him to be awakened,
in the dead of the night, to deliver up the seals, so was I roused
this morning by a message from an amiable French lady of my
acquaintance, requesting me to send her some _bonbons_. "_Bonbons_!"
exclaimed I, "in the name of wonder, Rosalie, is your mistress so
childishly impatient as to send you trailing through the snow, on
purpose to remind me that I promised to replenish her
_bonbonniere_?"--"Not exactly so, Monsieur," replied the _femme de
chambre_, "Madame was willing to be the first to wish you a happy new
year."--"A new year!" said I, "by the republican calendar, I thought
that the new year began on the 1st of Vendemiaire."--"Very true,"
answered she; "but, in spite of new laws, people adhere to old
customs; wherefore we celebrate the first of January."--"As to
celebrating the first of January, _a la bonne heure_, Rosalie,"
rejoined I, "I have no sort of objection; but I wish you had adhered
to some of your other old customs, and, above all, to your old hours.
I was not in bed till past six o'clock this morning, and now, you
wake me at eight with your congratulations."--"Never mind, Monsieur,"
said she, "you will soon drop asleep again; but my mistress hopes
that you will not fail to make one of her party on the _Fete des
Rois_."--"Good heaven!" exclaimed I again, "what, is a
counterrevolution at hand, that the _Fete des Rois_ must also be
celebrated?"--"'Tis," interrupted Rosalie, "only for the pleasure of
drawing for king and queen."--"Tell Madame," added I, "that I will
accept her invitation."--Dismissing the _soubrette_ with this
assurance, at the same time not forgetting to present her with a new
year's gift, she at once revealed the secret of her early visit, by
hinting to me that, among intimate friends, it was customary to give
_etrennes_. This, in plain English, implies nothing more nor less
than that I must likewise make her mistress a present, on the
principle, I suppose, that _les petits cadeaux entretiennent
My reflection then turned on the instability of this people. After
establishing a new division of time, they return to the old one, and
celebrate, as formerly, the first of January. Now, it is evident that
the former accords better with the order of nature, and that autumn
was the first season which followed the creation. Why else should
apples of irresistible ripeness and beauty have presented themselves
to the eye of our first parents in the garden of Eden? This would not
have been the case, had the world commenced in winter.
Besides, a multitude of advantages would accrue to the French from an
adherence to the 1st of Vendemiaire, or 23d of September of the
Gregorian calendar, as the first day of the year. The weather, after
the autumnal equinox, is generally settled, in consequence of the air
having been purified by the pre-existing gales, the ordinary
forerunners of that period: and the Parisians would not be obliged to
brave the rain, the wind, the cold, the frost, the snow, &c. in going
to wish a happy new year to their fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts,
cousins, and other relations. For to all this are they now exposed,
unless they choose to ruin themselves in coach-hire. The consequence
is that they are wet, cold, and dirty for two or three successive
days, and are sure to suffer by a sore throat, rheumatism, or fever,
all which entail the expensive attendance of the faculty; whereas,
did they celebrate the 23d of September as new year's day, they
might, in a quiet, unassuming manner, pay all their visits on foot,
and, in that season, this exercise would neither be prejudicial to
their purse nor their health.
I do not immediately recollect whether I have spoken to you of the
long-expected account of the French expedition to Egypt, by DENON:
yet I ought not to have omitted to inform you that, upwards of two
months ago, I set down your name for a copy of this splendid work. It
will cost you 360 francs; but you will have one of the proof
impressions. I have seen a specimen of the letter-press, which is to
consist of a folio volume, printed by Didot. The plates, amounting to
upwards of one hundred and forty in number, are entirely engraved
from DENON'S original drawings, without any reduction or enlargement,
with the exception of that representing the Battle of the Pyramids,
the size of which has been increased at the express desire of
BONAPARTE. I have often amused myself on a morning in contemplating
these drawings; but the crowd of curious persons being generally
great, I determined to seize the opportunity of examining them more
at leisure to-day, when the French are entirely engaged in
interchanging the compliments of the season. I found DENON himself
diligently employed on some of the engravings; and so anxious is he
for the publication of the work, that he toils early and late to
forward its appearance.
Notwithstanding the anxiety he feels on that account, this estimable
artist takes a real pleasure in explaining the subject of his
drawings; and, by means of his obliging communications, I am now
become tolerably well acquainted with Egypt. What country, in fact,
has a better claim to fix attention than that which served as a
cradle to human knowledge, and the history of which goes back to the
first ages of the world; a country, where every thing seems to have
commenced? Laws, arts, sciences, and even fables, which derive their
origin from nature, whose attributes they immortalize, and which, at
a subsequent period, formed the ground-work of the ingenious fictions
What idea must we not conceive of the industry and civilization of a
people who erected those celebrated monuments, anterior to the annals
of history, to the accounts even of tradition, those pyramids which
have unalterably withstood all the ravages of time?
When we look back on the ancients, the Greeks and Romans almost
exclusively divide our attention. The former, it is true, carried
farther the love and the culture of the fine arts; while the latter
are more remarkable for the great traits of their character; though
both acquired that renown which mankind have so improperly attached
to the success of arms.
But, in allowing to Greece all the interest which she claims, in so
many respects, we cannot forget that she was originally peopled by
Egyptian colonies; that it was Egyptians who, in later times, carried
thither the knowledge of the arts, the most necessary and the most
indispensable to society; and that, at the epoch which preceded the
splendid days of Greece, it was also into Egypt that the sages went
to acquire that knowledge of a superior kind, which constituted their
glory, and rendered their country illustrious.
What keeps up a sort of rivalship between Greece and Egypt is that,
independently of the priority of knowledge, the former had the
eminent advantage of opening her arms to philosophy and the sciences,
which, forsaking their adoptive country, and not being able to
survive the loss of liberty, fled back to their natal soil, and
found, in the Museum of Alexandria, an asylum, which neither the
Lyceum, the Portico, nor the Academy, could longer afford them at
Athens. Thus, to the reign of the Ptolemies are we, unquestionably,
indebted for the preservation of the knowledge acquired by the
Apropos, I forgot to mention to you that BERTHOLET, a Senator and
Member of the Institute, communicated to that society, in one of its
sittings last month, a letter from FOURIER, the geometrician, and
member of the late Institute of Egypt. This _savant_, in the
researches he made in Upper Egypt, discovered and delineated several
zodiacs, which, he says, fully confirm the theory of DUPUIS,
respecting the origin and antiquity of the figures of the zodiac. As
far back as the year 1781, DUPUIS published a memoir, since reprinted
in his large work, entitled _De l'Origine des Cultes_, in which he
presumes that the zodiac, such as it has been transmitted to us by
the Greeks, is of Egyptian origin, and that it goes back to fifteen
thousand years, at least, before the era of the French revolution.
_Paris, January 3, 1802._
An almost uninterrupted succession of wet weather has, of late,
precluded me from the regular enjoyment of a morning walk. But, with
the new year, we had a heavy fall of snow, which has since been
succeeded by a severe frost. I gladly availed myself of this
opportunity of taking exercise, and yesterday, after viewing the
skaiters in that part of the _Champs Elysees_ which had been
inundated, and is now frozen, I immediately proceeded to the
HOTEL DES INVALIDES.
This majestic edifice was projected by Henry IV, and executed, by
order of Lewis XIV, after the designs of BRUANT, who laid the
foundation on the 30th of November, 1671. It is composed of five
courts, surrounded by buildings. The middle court is as large as all
the other four.
A spacious esplanade planted with trees, an outer court surrounded by
a wall newly-built, form the view towards the river, and lead to the
principal facade, which is twelve hundred feet in extent. This facade
has, within these few years, been entirely polished anew: the details
of sculpture have, perhaps, gained by the operation; but the
architecture has certainly lost that gloomy tint which gave to this
building a manly and respectable character. In the middle of this
facade, in the arched part above the great gate, was a bas-relief of
Lewis XIV on horseback.
This gate leads to the great court, which is decorated by two rows of
arcades, the one above the other, forming, on the two stories,
uniform galleries which give light to the apartments of the
circumference. The windows, which serve to light the upper apartments
of the facade, are remarkable from their being placed in cuirasses,
as those of the great court are in trophies of arms.
From this court, you enter the church, now called the _Temple of
Mars_. It is ornamented with the Corinthian order, and has the form
of a Greek cross. The pulpit no longer exists. The altar, which was
magnificently decorated, is likewise destroyed.
The chapels, to the number of six, were each ornamented by a cupola
painted in fresco, and statues in marble by the greatest masters,
which, after being left for some time exposed to the injuries of the
air in the court looking towards the country, are at length deposited
in the MUSEUM OF FRENCH MONUMENTS.
To the arches of this temple are suspended the standards and colours
taken from the enemy. Two British flags only contribute to augment
the number. The oldest of these trophies have been removed from
_Notre-Dame_. When they were formerly displayed in that cathedral, a
general, who was constantly victorious, was called by the people the
_upholsterer of Notre-Dame_; an energetic appellation which spoke
home to the feelings. But, however calculated these emblems of
victory may be to foster heroism in the mind of youth, and rekindle
valour in the heart of old age, what a subject of reflection do they
not afford to the philanthropist! How can he, in fact, contemplate
these different flags, without regretting the torrents of blood which
they have cost his fellow-creatures?
In this _Temple of Mars_ is erected the monument of TURENNE, whose
body, after various removals, was conveyed hither, in great pomp, on
the 1st of Vendemiaire, year IX (23d of September, 1800) conformably
to a decree of the Consuls, and immediately deposited in the inside
of this tomb.
The present government of France seems to have taken the hint from
St. Foix, who expresses his astonishment that Lewis XIV never
conceived the idea of erecting, in the _Hotel des Invalides_,
mausolea, with the statues of the generals who had led with the
greatest glory the armies of the nation. "Where could they be more
honourably interred," says he, "than amidst those old soldiers, the
companions of their fatigues, who, like themselves, had lavished
their blood for their country?"
At the age of sixty-four, TURENNE was killed by a cannon-ball, while
reconnoitring the enemy's batteries near the village of Salzbach in
Germany, on the 27th of July, 1675. No less esteemed for his virtues
as a man, than honoured for his talents as a general, he at last fell
a victim to his courage. His soldiers looked up to him as to a
father, and in his life-time always gave him that title. After his
death, when they saw the embarrassment in which it left the generals
who succeeded him in the command of the army: "_Let loose old
Piebald_," said they, "_he will guide us_." The same ball which
(to borrow a line from Pope) laid
"The _god-like_ TURENNE prostrate in the dust,"
likewise took off the arm of ST. HILAIRE, Lieutenant-general of
artillery: his son, who was beside him at the moment, uttered a cry
of grief. "_'Tis not me, my son, that you must bewail_," said ST.
HILAIRE; "_'tis that great man._"
The Marshal was as much lamented by the enemy as he was by his own
countrymen; and MONTECUCULLI, the general opposed to him, when he
learned the loss which France had sustained in the person of TURENNE,
exclaimed: "Then a man is dead who was an honour to human nature!"
The Germans, for several years, left untilled the field where he was
killed; and the inhabitants shewed it as a sacred spot. They
respected the old tree under which, he reposed a little time before
his death, and would not suffer it to be cut down. The tree perished
only, because soldiers of all nations carried away pieces of it out
of respect to his memory.
TURENNE had been interred in the abbey of St. Denis, and at the time
of the royal vaults being opened in 1793, by order of the National
Convention, the remains of that great captain were respected amid the
general destruction which ensued. From the eagerness of the workmen
to behold them, his tomb was the very first that was opened. When the
lid of the coffin was removed, the Marshal was found in such a state
of preservation that he was not at all disfigured: the features of
his face, far from being changed, were perfectly conformable to the
portraits and medallions of TURENNE in our possession.
This monument, now placed in the _Temple of Mars_, had been erected
to that warrior in the abbey of St. Denis, and was preserved through
the care of M. LENOIR; after being seen for five years in the MUSEUM
OF FRENCH MONUMENTS, of which he is the director, it was removed
hither by the before-mentioned decree of the Consuls. LE BRUN
furnished the designs from which it was executed. The group, composed
of TURENNE in the arms of Immortality, is by TUBY; the accessory
figures, the one representing Wisdom, and the other, Valour, are by
MARSY. The bas-relief in bronze in the middle of the cenotaph is
likewise by TURY, and represents TURENNE charging the enemy at the
battle of Turckheim, in 1675.
The dome forms a second church behind the large one, to which it
communicates. Its exterior, entirely covered with lead, is surrounded
by forty pillars of the Composite order, and ornamented with twelve
large gilt coats of mail, crowned with helmets, which serve as
skylights, and with a small lantern with pillars which support a
pyramid, surmounted by a large ball and a cross.
All the architecture of the dome, which is called the new church, is
from the design of MANSARD. Its elevation, from the ground-floor, is
three hundred feet; and its diameter, fifty. It has the character of
elegance. The beauty of its proportion, its decoration, and
especially all the parts which concur in forming the pyramid, render
it a master-piece of architecture. But nothing commands admiration
like the interior, though it may be said to be three-fourths damaged.
The twelve windows, by which it is lighted, but which the observer
below cannot perceive, are ornamented with coupled piasters, resting
on a continued pedestal. On the broad band, which was formerly
adorned with flower-de-luces, and at this day with emblems of
liberty, were the medallions of twelve of the most famous kings of
France: namely, Clovis, Dagobert, Childebert, Charlemagne, Lewis the
Debonair, Charles the Bald, Philip Augustus, St. Lewis, Lewis XII,
Henry IV, Lewis XIII, and Lewis XIV. The first arch, distributed into
twelve equal parts, presented the twelve apostles, painted in fresco
by JOUVENET. The second arch, painted by LA FOSSE, represented the
apotheosis of St. Lewis, offering to God his sword and crown. The
pavement, which alone has not suffered, is in compartments of
different marbles of great value.
The portal, which looks towards the country, is thirty toises in
extent. Of all the figures which decorated this facade, those of the
Four Virtues; namely, Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, and Prudence,
are the only ones that have been suffered to remain in their places.
They are by COYZEVOX.
The other objects most worthy of notice in this spacious, building,
which, together with its precincts, occupies seventeen _arpens_, are
the refectories and kitchens, which are very extensive. Formerly,
neither of these were kept in such high order as they are at present.
The tables of the private soldiers are now better supplied; sirloins
of beef and legs of mutton being no longer roasted for the officers
only. In the four refectories, where the soldiers dine, twelve in a
mess, they are regularly served with soup, bouilli, a plate of
vegetables, and a pint of unadulterated wine. When Peter the Great
visited this establishment, the Invalids happened to be at dinner,
the czar, on entering the first refectory, poured out a bumper of
wine, and drank it off in a military style to the health of the
veterans, whom he termed his comrades.
The halls are ornamented with paintings representing the conquests of
Lewis XIV. During the reign of terror the features of the _Grand
Monarque_, who made a conspicuous figure in these pictures, were
concealed by a coat of dark paint, which answered the purpose of a
mask. BONAPARTE has ordered this mask to be removed, so that the
ambitious monarch now reappears in all his former glory.
Whatever may be said in praise of establishments of this description,
for my part, I see nothing in them but the gratification of national
pride. The old soldiers, are, in a manner, without a comrade, though
living in the midst of their brother warriors. The good fellowship
which they have witnessed in camps no longer subsists. The danger of
battles, the weight of fatigues, and the participation of privations
and hardships, no longer form the tie of common interest, by which
they were once united. This, being dissolved, they seek in vain that
reciprocity of little kindnesses which they used to find in their own
regiments and armies. All hope of promotion or change being at an
end, their only consolation is to enjoy the present by indulging in
reveries concerning the past.
Instead of being doomed to end their days in this sort of stately
confinement, subject to restrictions which render life so dull and
monotonous, how different would these veterans feel, could they
retire to the bosom of their families and friends! Then, indeed,
would they dwell with delight on the battles and sieges in which they
had served, enumerating their many hair-breadth escapes, and
detailing the particulars of the fight in which they lost their
deficient leg or arm. After a pause, the sense of their country's
gratitude operating powerfully on their mind, would soothe every
painful recollection. Their auditors, impressed with admiration,
would listen in silence to the recital of the well-fought day, and,
roused by the call of national honour, cheerfully step forth to
emulate these mutilated heroes, provided they were sure of a _free_
asylum, when reduced to their helpless condition.
Whether I enter the _Hotel des Invalides_, or _Chelsea Hospital_,
such are the reflections which never fail to occur to me, when I
visit either of those establishments, and contemplate the dejected
countenances of the maimed beings that inhabit them.
Experience tells us that men dislike enjoyments, regularly prepared
for them, if under restraint, and prefer smaller gratifications, of
which they can partake without control. Policy, as well as prudence,
therefore dictates a departure from the present system of providing
for those maimed in fighting the battles of their nation.
In a word, I am fully persuaded that the sums expended in the
purchase of the ground and construction of this magnificent edifice,
together with the charges of maintaining the establishment, would
have formed a fund that might have enabled the government to allow
every wounded soldier a competent pension for life, in proportion to
the length of his services, and the injuries which he might have
suffered in defence of his country.
From the _Hotel des Invalides_ are avenues, planted with trees,
which, on one side, communicate to the _New Boulevards_, and, on the
other, to the
CHAMP DE MARS.
This extensive inclosure was originally intended for the exercises of
the _Ecole Militaire_, in front of which it is situated, as you will
perceive by referring to the Plan of Paris. Its form is a
parallelogram of four hundred and fifty toises in length by one
hundred and fifty in breadth. It is surrounded by ditches, faced with
masonry, which are bordered on each side by a double row of trees,
extending from the facade of the _ci-devant Ecole Militaire_ to the
banks of the Seine. That building, I shall observe _en passant_, was
founded in 1751, by Lewis XV, for the military education of five
hundred young gentlemen, destitute of fortune, whose fathers had died
in the service. It stands on the south side of the _Champ de Mars_,
and serves at present as barracks for the horse-grenadiers of the
consular guard. On the third story of one of the wings is a national
observatory, which was constructed at the instigation of Lalande, the
The various scenes of which the _Champ de Mars_ has successively been
the theatre, are too interesting to be passed over in silence.
Indeed, they exhibit the character of the nation in such striking
colours, that to omit them, would be like omitting some of the
principal features in the drawing of a portrait. Often have they been
mentioned, it is true; but subsequent events have so weakened the
remembrance of them, that they now present themselves to the mind
more like dreams than realities. However, I shall touch on the most
In 1790, a spacious arena, encompassed by a mound of earth, divided
into seats so as to accommodate three hundred thousand spectators,
was formed within this inclosure. To complete it speedily for the
ceremony of the first federation, required immense labour. The slow
progress of twenty-five thousand hired workmen could not keep pace
with the ardent wishes of the friends of liberty. But those were the
days of enthusiasm: concord and harmony then subsisted among the
great majority of the French people. What other sentiments, in fact,
could daily bring together, in the _Champ de Mars_, two hundred and
fifty thousand persons of every class, without distinction of age or
sex, to work at the necessary excavation? Thus, at the end of a week,
the amphitheatre was completed as if by enchantment.
Never, perhaps, since the time of the Spartans, was seen among any
people such an example of cordial union. It would be difficult for
the warmest imagination to conceive a picture so varied, so original,
so animated. Every corporation, every society was ambitious of the
honour of assisting in the erection of the altar of the country: all
wished to contribute, by individual labour, to the arrangement of the
place where they were to swear to defend the constitution. Not a man,
woman, or child remained an idle spectator. On this occasion, the
aged seemed to have recovered the vigour of youth, and women and
children to have acquired the strength of manhood. In a word, men of
all trades and professions were confounded, and cheerfully handled
the pickaxe and shovel: delicate females, sprucely dressed, were seen
here and there wheeling along barrows filled with earth; while long
strings of stout fellows dragged heavy loads in carts and waggons. As
the electric matter runs along the several links of an extensive
chain, so patriotism seemed to have electrified this whole mass of
people. The shock was universal, and every heart vibrated in unison.
The general good order which prevailed among this vast assemblage,
composed indiscriminately of persons of every rank and condition, was
truly surprising. No sort of improper discourse, no dispute of any
kind occurred. But what is still more singular and more worthy of
remark is, that the mutual confidence shewn by so many people,
strangers to each other, was in no one instance abused. Those who
threw off their coats and waistcoats, leaving them to the fate of
chance, during the time they were at work elsewhere, on their return
to the same spot found them untouched. Hence, as Paris is known to
abound with _filoux_, it may be inferred that the _amor patriae_ had
deadened in them the impulse of their ordinary vocation.
Franklin, when promoting the emancipation of America, during his
residence in Paris, probably did not foresee that the French would
soon borrow his favourite expression, and that it would become the
burden of a popular air. Yet so it happened; and even Lewis XVI
himself participated in the patriotic labours of the _Champ de Mars_,
while different bands of military music made the whole inclosure
resound with _ca ira_.
To these exhilarating scenes succeeded others of the most opposite
nature. Hither the guillotine was transported for the execution of
the greatest astronomer of the age, and this with no other view than
to prolong his punishment. Bailly, as every one knows, was the first
mayor of Paris after the revolution. Launched into the vortex of
politics, he became involved in the proscriptions which ensued during
the reign of terror, and was dragged from prison to the _Champ de
Mars_, where, though exposed to the most trying insults, he died,
like a philosopher, with Socratic calmness.
In no one of the numerous victims of the revolution was the
instability of popular favour more fully exemplified than in Bailly.
In this _Champ de Mars_, where he had published martial law in
consequence of a decree of the Convention, in the very place where he
had been directed by the representatives of the people to repel the
factions, he expired under the guillotine, loaded with the execration
of that same people of whom he had been the most venerated idol.
Since those sanguinary times, the _Champ de Mars_ has chiefly been
the site chosen for the celebration of national fetes, which, within
these few years, have assumed a character more distinguished than any
ever seen under the old _regime_. These modern Olympics consist of
chariot-races and wrestling, horse and foot races, ascensions of
balloons, carrying three or four persons, descents from them by means
of a parachute, mock-fights and aquatic tilting. After the sports of
the day, come splendid illuminations, grand fire-works, pantomimes
represented by two or three hundred performers, and concerts, which,
aided by splendid decorations, are not deficient in point of effect:
the evening concludes with dancing.
During the existence of the directorial government, the number of
national fetes had been considerably increased by the celebration of
party triumphs. They are at present reduced to the two great epochs
of the revolution, the taking of the Bastille on the 14th of July,
1789, and the foundation of the Republic on the 23d of September,
1792. On the anniversary of those days, the variety of the
exhibitions always attracted an immense concourse. The whole of this
mound, whose greatest diameter is upwards of eight hundred yards, was
then covered with spectators; but were the _Champ de Mars_ now used
on such occasions, they would be compelled to stand, there being no
longer any seats for their accommodation.
The subject of national fetes has, in this country, employed many
pens, and excited much discussion. Some say that they might be
rendered more interesting from the general arrangement; while others
affirm that they might be made to harmonize more with the affections
and habits of the people. In truth, this modern imitation of the
Greek festivals has fallen far short of those animating,
mirth-inspiring scenes, so ably described by the learned author of
Anacharsis, where, to use his own words, "every heart, eagerly bent
on pleasure, endeavoured to expand itself in a thousand different
ways, and communicated to others the impression which rendered it
happy." Whatever exertions have hitherto been made to augment the
splendour of these days of festivity, it seems not to admit of a
doubt that they are still susceptible of great improvement. If the
French have not the wine of _Naxos_, their goblets may at least
sparkle with _vin de Surenne_; the _Champs Elysees_ may supply the
place of the shady bowers of _Delos_; and, in lieu of the name of the
ill-fated NICIAS, the first promoter of the sports formerly
celebrated in that once-happy island, the air may be made to ring
with the name of the more fortunate BONAPARTE.
[Footnote 1: _Essais historiques sur Paris_.]
[Footnote 2: This was the name given by the soldiers to the Marshal's
_Paris, January 6, 1802._
In speaking of the interior of the _Louvre_, in one of my former
letters, I think I mentioned the various learned and scientific
societies, which, under the name of Academies, formerly held their
sittings in that palace. For the sake of facilitating a comparison
between the past and the present, it may be necessary to state the
professed object of those different institutions.
_French Academy_. The preservation of the purity of the French
language, its embellishment and augmentation.
_Academy of Sciences_. The progress of the sciences, the
encouragement of researches and discoveries, as well in physics,
geometry, and astronomy, as in those sciences which are applicable to
the daily wants of society.
_Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres_. The composition of
inscriptions, of the subjects of medals, and their mottos, the
research of the manners, habits, customs, and monuments of antiquity,
as well as all literature relating to history.
_Academy of Painting and Sculpture_.
_Academy of Architecture_.
The titles of these are a sufficient explanation.
All these academies were founded by Lewis XIV, at the instigation of
his minister Colbert; with the exception of the French Academy, which
owed its origin to Cardinal Richelieu. This was a misfortune for that
society; for custom had established it as a law that every new
member, on the day of his reception, should not only pronounce a
panegyric on him whom he succeeded, but also on the founder of the
institution. It certainly was not very philosophical for men of
enlightened understanding, and possessing even a common portion of
sensibility, to make an eulogium on a minister so cruel, a man of a
spirit so diabolically vindictive, that he even punished the innocent
to revenge himself on the guilty. De Thou, the celebrated author of
the _History of his own time_, had told some truths not very
favourable to the memory of the Cardinal's great uncle. In
consequence, the implacable minister, under false pretences, caused
the philosophic historian's eldest son to be condemned and
decapitated, saying: "De Thou, the father, has put my name into his
history, I will put the son into mine."
It is well known, from their memoirs, that these academies included
among their members men of eminent talents. The Academy of Sciences,
in particular, could boast of several first-rate geniuses in the
different branches which they respectively cultivated, and the
unremitting labours of some of them have, no doubt, greatly
contributed to enlarge the sphere of human knowledge. During the
early part of the revolution, all these monarchical institutions were
overthrown, and on their ruins rose the
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES.
This establishment was formed, agreeably to a decree of the National
Assembly passed on the 3d of Brumaire, year IV (25th of October,
1796). By that decree, it appears that the Institute belongs to the
whole Republic, though its point of union is fixed in Paris. Its
object is to extend the limits of the arts and sciences in general,
by an uninterrupted series of researches, by the publication of
discoveries, by a correspondence with the learned societies of
foreign countries, and by such scientific and literary labours as
tend to general utility and the glory of the Republic.
It is composed of one hundred and forty-four members, resident in
Paris, and of an equal number scattered over the departments. The
number of its foreign associates is twenty-four. It is divided into
three classes, and each class into several sections, namely:
Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
Moral and Political Sciences.
Literature and the Fine Arts.
The Mathematical Class is divided into ten sections; each of which
consists of six members. Of this class, there are sixty members in
Paris, and as many in the departments, where they are divided, in the
same manner, into ten sections, each of six members.
The first section comprehends Mathematics.
The second, Mechanical Arts.
The third, Astronomy.
The fourth, Experimental Physics.
The fifth, Chemistry.
The sixth, Natural History and Mineralogy.
The seventh, Botany and vegetable Physics.
The eighth, Anatomy and Zoology.
The ninth, Medicine and Surgery.
The tenth, Rural Economy and the Veterinary Art.
The Moral and Political Class is divided into six sections, each
consisting of six members, making in all thirty-six members in Paris,
and an equal number in the departments.
The first section comprises the Analysis of Sensations and Ideas.
The second, Morals.
The third, Social Science and Legislation.
The fourth, Political Economy.
The fifth, History.
The sixth, Geography.
The Class of Literature and Fine Arts is divided into eight sections,
each of six members, forty-eight of whom reside in Paris, and as many
in the departments.
The first section includes Grammar.
The second, Ancient Languages.
The third, Poetry.
The fourth, Antiquities and Monuments.
The fifth, Painting.
The sixth, Sculpture.
The seventh, Architecture.
The eighth, Music and Declamation.
Twice in every decade, each class holds a meeting: that of the first
class takes place on the first and sixth days; that of the second, on
the second and seventh days; and that of the third, on the third and
eighth days. Every six months each class elects its president and two
secretaries, who continue in office during that interval.
On the fifth day of the first decade of every month is held a general
meeting of the three classes, the purpose of which is to deliberate
on affairs, relating to the general interests of the Institute. The
chair is then taken by the oldest of the three presidents, who, at
these meetings, presides over the whole society.
The National Institute has four public quarterly meetings, on the
15th of the months of Vendemiaire, Nivose, Germinal, and Messidor.
Each class annually proposes two prize questions, and in the general
meetings, the answers are made public, and the premiums distributed.
The united sections of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture nominate
the pupils who are to visit Rome, and reside there in the national
palace, at the expense of the Republic, in order to study the Fine
Arts. Conformably to the decree by which the Institute was organised,
six of its members were to travel at the public charge, with a view
of collecting information, and acquiring experience in the different
sciences; and twenty young men too were to visit foreign countries
for the purpose of studying rural economy: but the expenses of the
war and other matters have occasioned such a scarcity of money as,
hitherto, to impede these undertakings.
The apartments of the Institute are on the first floor of the
_Louvre_, or, as it is now styled, the _Palais Nationial des Sciences
et des Arts_. These apartments, which were once inhabited by Henry
IV, are situated on the west side of that building. Before you arrive
at the hall of the Institute, you pass through a handsome
antichamber, in which are the statues of Moliere, Racine, Corneille,
La Fontaine, and Montesquieu. This hall, which is oblong and
spacious, formerly served for the meetings of the Academy of
Sciences. Its sides are adorned with colonnades, and the ceiling is
richly painted and decorated. In the intercolumniations are fourteen
marble statues (seven on each side) of some of the most celebrated
men that France has produced: namely, Conde, Tourville, Descartes,
Bayard, Sully, Turenne, Daguessau, Luxembourg, L'Hopital, Bossuet,
Duquesne, Catinat, Vauban, and Fenelon. Parallel to the walls, tables
are set, covered with green cloth, at which the members take their
At the upper end of the hall is the chair of the President, and on
each side below him are seated the two Secretaries. A little on one
side again is the tribune, from which the members who speak address
the assembly, after having asked leave of the President, who never
quits the chair during the whole meeting. The space appropriated to
the members is inclosed by a railing, between which and the walls,
the hall is surrounded by benches for the spectators, among whom
there are generally many of the fair sex.
The library of the Institute consists of three spacious apartments,
which are said to contain about sixteen thousand volumes. On one side
of the hall is an apartment, destined for the communications of
correspondents. There is also an apartment for the secretary and his
deputies, and a large room containing a collection of machines and
models, (among which are several of shipping), as well as every
apparatus necessary for chemical and physical experiments.
Although I have several times attended the private meetings of the
three classes, I have thought that the printed accounts of their
proceedings, which I subjoin, would be more satisfactory than a hasty
sketch from my pen. However, as I promised to describe to you one of
the public sittings of the Institute, I shall now inform you of what
passed at that held yesterday, the 15th of Nivose, year X, (5th of
January, 1802), at which I was present.
On this occasion, BIGOT-PREAMENEU, one of the members of the class of
Moral and Political Sciences, was the President. The sitting was
opened by proclaiming the nomination of three foreign associates,
elected by the Institute in its general sitting of the 5th of Nivose;
namely, Mr. JEFFERSON, Sir JOSEPH BANKS, and HAYDN, the celebrated
musical composer. A prize was then awarded to Citizen Framery, a
literary character residing in Paris, for having solved the following
question proposed by the class of Literature and Fine Arts. "To
analyze the relations existing between music and declamation, and
determine the means of applying declamation to music, without
detracting from the charms of melody."
DELAMBRE read an account of the life and works of Cousin.
DEGERANDO, an account of the education which the young savage of
Aveyron receives from Itard, physician to the Institution of the Deaf
PRONY, the result of observations made with a French instrument and
an English one, for the purpose of determining the relation between
the French metre and the English foot.
Next were heard notes, by CAMUS, on the public exhibitions of the
productions of French Industry, which took place in the years VI and
IX of the Republic.
Then, the report of the restoration of the famous picture known by
the name of the _Madonna di Foligno_, which I have already
communicated to you.
BUACHE, the celebrated geographer, read some observations on the
ancient map of the Romans, commonly called Peutinger's map, as well
as on the geography of the anonymous writer of Ravenna. The sitting
was terminated by an account of the life and works of Dumoustier,
read by COLIN D'HARLEVILLE.
The members of the Institute have a full-dress and a half-dress. The
former consists of a suit of black, embroidered in dark green silk,
with a cocked hat. The latter is the same, but the embroidery is
confined to the collar and cuffs of the coat, which is trimmed with a
P.S. Yesterday evening was married Mademoiselle Beauharnois,
daughter-in-law of the First Consul, to Louis Bonaparte, one of his
[Footnote 1: At the end of this volume will be found the new
organization of the Institute, conformably to a decree of the
government, dated the 3d of Pluviose, year XI.]
_Paris, January 7, 1802._
Knowing you to be an amateur of Italian music, I am persuaded that
you will wish to be made acquainted with the theatre where you may
enjoy it in full perfection. It is distinguished by the appellation
This establishment is not new in the French metropolis. In 1788,
Paris was in possession of an excellent company of Italian comedians,
who then performed in the _Theatre de Monsieur_, in the palace of the
_Tuileries_, which is now converted into a hall for the sittings of
the Council of State. The success of this company had a rapid
influence on the taste of the discerning part of the French public.
This was the less extraordinary as, perhaps, no Italian sovereign had
ever assembled one composed of so many capital performers. In Italy,
there are seldom more than two of that degree of merit in a company;
the rest are not attended to, because they are not worth the trouble:
but here every department was complete, and filled by persons
deservedly enjoying a high reputation in their own country; such as
MANDINI, RAFFANELLI, SIMONI, MENGOZZI, VIGANONI, ROVEDINO, and
Signoras MORICHELLI and BALETTI.
The events of 1792 banished from Paris this admired assemblage. A new
company of Italian comedians has been formed here within these few
months: they at first occupied a charming little theatre constructed
for the use of a society, called _La Loge Olympique_; but are lately
removed to the _Theatre Favart_, on the Boulevard. Before the
revolution, this was called _le Theatre Italien_. The facade is
decorated with eight very large Ionic pillars. The house is of an
oval form, and the interior distribution deserving of praise, in as
much as it is far more commodious than that of any other theatre in
Paris. The audience here too is generally of a more select
description. Among the female amateurs, Madame Tallien is one of its
most constant visiters, and, in point of grace and beauty, one of its
At the head of this new company, may be placed RAFFANELLI, the same
whom I have just mentioned. He is a consummate comedian, and more to
be commended in that point of view than as a singer. RAFFANELLI has a
countenance to which he gives any cast he pleases: his features, from
their wonderful pliability, receive every impression: his eye is
quick; his delivery, natural and correct; and his action, easy.
Sometimes he carries his buffooneries too far, merely to excite
laughter; but as he never fails in his object, this defect may be
overlooked. His best characters are _Taddeo_ in _Il Re Theodora_, _il
Governatore_ in _La Molinara_, the Father in _Furberia e Puntiglio_,
and the Deaf Man in _Il Matrimonio Secreto_. It is necessary to see
him in these different operas to form a just idea of the truth and
humour with which he represents them. Although he is but an
indifferent singer, his method is good, and he seizes the spirit of
the composer with perfect discrimination. In _morceaux d'ensemble_,
he is quite at home, and when he dialogues with the orchestra, he
shews much energy and feeling. Independently of these gifts, Nature
has granted to RAFFANELLI another most valuable privilege. She seems
to have exempted him from the impression of time. In 1788 and 89, I
saw him frequently, both on and off the stage; after a lapse of
upwards of twelve years, he appears again to my eyes exactly the same
man. I cannot perceive in him the smallest change.
The tenor of the new company is LAZZARINI. His method too is very
good; he sings with taste, expression, and feeling; but his voice is
extremely weak: his powers appear exhausted; and it is only by dint
of painful efforts that he succeeds in giving to his singing those
embellishments which his taste suggests, but which lose their grace
and charm when they are laboured. In short, LAZZARINI communicates to
the audience an unpleasant sensation in proving that he has real
Neither the same reproaches nor the same praises can be bestowed on
PARLAMAGNI. He is a good counter-tenor, but has a harshness in the
high tones, which he does not always reach with perfect justness. He
is also deficient in ease and grace. PARLAMAGNI, however, having an
advantageous person, and the air of a Frenchman, is a great favourite
with the Parisian _dilettanti_. He is a tolerably good comedian, and
in some scenes of buffoonery, his acting is natural, and his manner
free and unaffected.
The _prima donna_ of the Italian company is Signora STRINA-SACCHI.
She possesses a fine voice, and no small share of taste, joined to
great confidence and a perfect acquaintance with the stage. Sometimes
she is rather apt to fatigue the ear by sounds too shrill, and thus
breaks the charm produced by her singing. As for her acting, it is as
extraordinary as can well be imagined; for her vivacity knows no
bounds; and her passion, no restraint. She appears to conceive
justly, to feel very warmly, and she plays in the same manner. In
her, Nature commands every thing; Art, nothing. The parts in which
she shines most, are _La Molinara_ and _Gianina_; in these, she
literally follows the impulse given her by her situation, without
concerning herself in the least, whether it is _secundum artem_; but
certain that it is natural and conformable to the character and
habits of the personage she represents. _Anima in voce_ is the
characteristic of her singing: the same epithet may be applied to her
recitative and her acting: in these she displays no less spirit and
After Signora SACCHI, comes Signora PARLAMAGNI. She is a young, and
rather pretty woman, not unlike a French actress in her manner. Her
voice is free and clear, and her method by no means to be disdained.
She wants habit and confidence. This is evident in her performance of
a part new to her; for it is only after a few representations that
she feels herself at her ease. Then the public appreciate her powers,
which she exhibits to advantage; and her exertions are rewarded by
reiterated marks of their satisfaction.
Unfortunately it is the nature of an Italian opera-house to have its
shelf poorly furnished. It cannot, however, be denied that the
managers of the _Opera Buffa_ take every pains to vary and increase
their stock. The following are the pieces which I have seen at this
_Furberia e Puntiglio_, which is a second-hand imitation of GOLDONI.
The music, by Signor MARCELLO DI CAPUA, is agreeable, particularly a
quartetto and a cavatina. RAFFANELLI shines in this piece as a
_Il Matrimonio Secreto_, the chef-d'oeuvre of CIMAROSA, and of its
kind, perhaps, the most charming opera extant. Throughout it, the
composer has lavished beauties; there is not to be found in it an air
of inferior merit, or which, of itself alone, would not sustain the
reputation of a piece. What then can be said of a work in which they
are all united? Nothing can surpass the variety, spirit, grace, and
originality of the duos, terzettos, quartettos, &c. with which this
opera abounds. CIMAROSA has here combined the strength of German
harmony with the grace which constitutes the charm of Italian melody.
He is particularly famous for the brilliancy of his ideas, the
fecundity of his genius, the richness of his style, and, above all,
for the finish of his pictures.
The certain effect of such a production is to eclipse every thing put
in competition with it. This effect is particularly conspicuous at
the representation of other pieces, the music of which is by the same
_Gianina e Bernadone_, another of CIMAROSA'S productions, makes less
impression, though it is in the graceful style, what _Il Matrimonio
Secreto_ is in the serio-comic.
_La Molinara_, however, upholds the reputation of that celebrated
composer, PAESIELLO. This opera requires no eulogium. Selections from
it are daily repeated in the public and private concerts in Paris.
_Il Matrimonio Secreto_ is a masterpiece of spirit and originality,
while _La Molinara_ is a model of grace, melody, and simplicity.
To the great regret of the lovers of Italian music, CIMAROSA died not
long since, just as he was preparing to visit Paris. But his fame
will long survive, as his works bear the stamp of true genius,
combined with taste and judgment. His _Italiana in Londra_ is just
announced for representation.
_Il Matrimonio Inaspettato_, a composition of PAESIELLO, is likewise
in rehearsal, as well as _Le Nozze di Dorina_, by SARTI, and _La
Vilanella Rapita_, by BIANCHI. MOZART too will soon enter the lists;
his _Dom Giovanni_ is to be speedily brought forward.
The orchestra of the _Opera Buffa_, though far from numerous, is
extremely well-composed. It accompanies the singers with an
_ensemble_, a grace, and precision deserving of the highest encomium.
BRUNI, a distinguished Italian composer, is the leader of the band,
and PARENTI, a professor, known also by several admired productions,
presides at the piano-forte.
NEUVILLE, the manager of this theatre, is gone to Italy for the
purpose of completing the company by the addition of some eminent
performers. In its present state, the _Opera Buffa_ maintains its
ground. It is thought that the French government will assist it in
case of necessity, and even make it a national establishment; a
commissary or agent having been appointed to superintend its
[Footnote 1: The _Opera Buffa_, the constant object of the jealousy
of the other lyric theatres, because it constitutes the delight of
real amateurs of music, has, during the year 1802, acquired several
new performers. Two of these only, Madame BOLLA and MARTINELLI,
deserve particular mention. Madame BOLLA is a good figure on the
stage, and though her features are not regular, yet they are
susceptible of the most varied expression. Her voice, which is a
species of feminine _tenore_, astonishes by the purity and firmness
of its grave tones; while her brilliant and sure method easily
conceals its small extent in the higher notes. MARTINELLI is a
species of counter-tenor. His voice has already lost much of its
strength, and has not that clearness which serves as an excuse for
every thing; but connoisseurs find that he takes care to calculate
its effects so as to make amends, by the art of transitions, for that
firmness in which it is deficient. He is much applauded in the
_cantabile_, which he sings with uncommon precision, and he
particularly shines in the counter-parts which charm in the Italian
_finales_. As an actor, MARTINELLI, though inferior to RAFFANELLI, is
also remarkable. His manner is easy and natural, and his countenance
capable of assuming the most comic expression.]
_Paris, January 9, 1802._
The exaggerated accounts of the interior state of France which have
reached us, through various channels, during the late obstinate
struggle, have diffused so many contradictions, that it is by no
means surprising we still continue so ill-informed in England on many
points most intimately connected with the morals of the French
nation. Respecting none of these, have we been more essentially
mistaken than the
PRESENT STATE OF PUBLIC WORSHIP.
I am given to understand, from unquestionable authority, that there
are at this moment, and have been for the last four years, no less
than from thirty-five to forty thousand churches where divine service
has been regularly performed throughout the different departments of
the Republic. It is therefore a gross error to suppose that the
christian religion was extinguished in France. The recent
arrangements made between the French government and the See of Rome
will consolidate that religion, which was, in a great measure,
re-established long before his Holiness occupied the papal chair. I
shall illustrate this truth by a summary of the proceedings of the
The last general assembly of the clergy of France, held in 1789, the
account of which has never been printed, already presented facts
which announced that the necessity of reforming abuses was felt, and
the epoch when that reform would take place was foreseen. In this
assembly several bishops spoke with much force on the subject.
The disastrous state of the finances, brought about by the shameful
dilapidations of the court, occasioned a deficit which it was
necessary to make good. This consideration, joined to the spirit of
cupidity, jealous of the estates of the clergy, immediately caused
every eye to turn towards that mortmain property, in order to employ
it in the liquidation of the national debt.
In the _Moniteur_, and other journals of the time, may be seen what
successive steps gradually led to the abolition of tythes, and the
decision which placed the estates of the clergy at the disposal of
The civil constitution of the clergy was a severe check given to the
many existing abuses. It really brought back the Gallican church to
the discipline of the first ages. It snatched from the Pope the power
of giving the canonical institution to bishops. Those who have
thought proper to tax with novelty this constitution, have only to
look into history. They will see that, during twelve hundred years,
bishops received the canonical institution from the metropolitans,
and not from the Pope. Thus to tax with intrusion the constitutional
bishops, and condemn them because they have received that institution
from the metropolitans, is to condemn the first twelve centuries of
This civil constitution served as a pretext to the dignified clergy,
irritated at the loss of their estates, for concerting a combined
resistance to the new laws, in the hope that this resistance would
lead to a subversion which would restore to them their riches. Thence
the refusal of the oath "to be faithful to the nation, to the law,
and to the king, to guide faithfully the flock intrusted to their
care, and to maintain with all their power the constitution decreed
by the assembly, and sanctioned by the king." Thence the line of
division between the clergy who had taken the oath and those who had
The Constituent Assembly, who had decreed the above oath, declared,
that the refusal of giving this pledge of fidelity should be
considered as a voluntary resignation. The royal sanction had
rendered the above decree a law of the State. Almost the whole of the
bishops, a great number of rectors, and other ecclesiastics, refused
to take this oath, already taken by several among them who were
deputies to the assembly.
They were, in consequence, declared to have resigned; and measures
were taken for supplying their place. The people proceeded to effect
this by electors authorized by law. A respectable number of
ecclesiastics, who had already submitted to the law, accepted the
elections. These priests thought that obedience to the national
authority which respected and protected religion, was a catholic
dogma. What resistance could be made to legitimate power, which
neither attacked the dogma, nor morality, nor the interior and
essential discipline of the church? It was, say they, resisting God
himself. They thought that the pastor was chosen, and sent solely for
the care of the flock intrusted to him; that, when difficult
circumstances, flight, for instance, voluntary or forced, the
prohibition from all functions, pronounced by the civil power,
rendered the holy ministry impossible, or that the pastor could not
exericise it, without declaring himself in open insurrection, the
pretended unremoveable rights then ceased with the sacred duties
which they could not discharge, without being accused of rebellion.
The dissentient bishops drew many priests into their party. Most of
them spread themselves over Europe, where they calumniated at their
ease the patriotic clergy. Those of their adherents who had remained
in the interior of this country, kindled a civil war, tormented
people's consciences, and disturbed the peace of families, &c. This
conduct, which engendered the horrible scenes in La Vendee, provoked
repressive measures, emanated from legislative authority.
Enemies without and within, say the constitutional clergy, wished to
create a disgust to liberty, by substituting to it licentiousness.
And, indeed, the partisans of the dissentient clergy were seen to
coalesce with the unbelievers, in order to produce the sacrilegious
disorders which broke out every where in the year 1793.
The clergy who had taken the oath had organized the dioceses; the
bishops, in general, had bestowed great pains in spreading in every
parish the word of the gospel; for they preached themselves, and this
was more than was done by their predecessors, who, engaged only in
spending, frequently in a shameful manner, immense revenues, seldom
or never visited their dioceses. The constitutional clergy followed a
plan more conformable to the gospel, which gained them the affection
of the well-disposed part of the nation.
These priests were of opinion that the storm which threatened
religion, required imperiously the immediate presence of the pastor,
and that, in the day of battle, it was necessary to be in person at
the breach. They were of opinion that the omission or impossibility
of fulfilling minute and empty formalities, imposed by a Concordat,
rejected from the beginning by all the public bodies and the church
of France, and annihilated at the moment by the will of the
representatives of the nation, sanctioned by royal authority, could
not exempt them from accepting holy functions presented by all the
constituted authorities, and on which evidently depended the
preservation of religion, the salvation of the faithful, and the
peace of the State.
But, when persecution manifested itself, the clergy who had taken the
oath, became equally the victims of persecuting rage. Some failed in
this conjuncture; but the greater number remained intrepid in their
principles. Accordingly several constitutional bishops and priests
were dragged to the scaffold. If, on the one hand, the dastardly
GOBEL was guillotined, the same fate attended the respectable
EXPILLY, bishop of Quimper, AMOURETTE, bishop of Lyons, and GOUTTES,
bishop of Autun, &c.
The dissentient clergy reproach some constitutional priests with
having married, and even with having apostatized; but they say not
that, among the dissentient, there are some who; have done the same.
If the number of the latter is smaller, it is because the greater
part of them were out of France; but what would they have done, if,
like the constitutional clergy, they had either had the axe suspended
over their head, or the guillotine accompanying all their steps?
In England, where the French priests were not thus exposed, there are
some who have likewise married, and even some who have apostatized.
It is well known that, amidst the terrors of impiety, GREGOIRE,
bishop of Blois, declared that he braved them, and remained attached
to his principles and duties, as a christian and bishop. He firmly
believed that, in doing so, he was pronouncing his sentence of death,
and, for eighteen months, he was in expectation of ascending the
scaffold. The same courage animated the majority of the
constitutional bishops and priests. They exercised secretly their
ministry, and consoled the faithful. As soon as the rage for
persecution began to abate, GREGOIRE and some other bishops, who had
kept up a private correspondence with the clergy of various dioceses
for the purpose of encouraging them, concerted together in order to
reorganize worship. In Nivose year III (January 1795), GREGOIRE
demanded this liberty of worship of the National Convention. He was
very sure of meeting with outrages, and he experienced some; but to
speak in the tribune, was speaking to France and to all Europe, and,
in the then state of things, he was almost certain of staggering
public opinion, which would force the Convention to grant the free
exercise of religion. Accordingly, some time after having refused the
liberty of worship on the demand of GREGOIRE, that assembly granted
it, though with evident reluctance, on a Report of BOISSY D'ANGLAS,
which insulted every species of worship.
The constitutional bishops had already anticipated this moment by
their writings and their pastoral letters, &c. They then compiled two
works, entitled _Lettres Encycliques_, to which the bishops and
priests of the various dioceses adhered. The object of these works,
which are monuments of wisdom, piety, and courage, was to reorganize
public worship in all the dioceses, according to the principles of
the primitive church. They pronounced a formal exclusion from
ecclesiastical functions against all prevaricating priests or married
ones, as well as all those who had the cowardice to deliver up their
authority for preaching, and abdicate their functions. Some
interested persons thought this too severe. Those bishops persisted
in their decision, and, by way of answer, they reprinted a
translation of the celebrated treatise of St. Cyprian de Lapsis. On
all sides, they reanimated religions zeal, caused pastors for the
various sees to be elected by the people, and consecrated by the
metropolitan bishops. They held synods, the arts of which form a
valuable collection, equally honourable to their zeal and knowledge.
They did more.
For a long time past the custom of holding councils had fallen into
disuse. They convoked a national council, notwithstanding the
unfavourableness of a silent persecution; and, in spite of the penury
which afflicted the pastors, the latter had the courage to expose
themselves in order to concur in it. This council was opened with the
greatest solemnity on the 15th of August, 1797, the day of the
Assumption of the Virgin. It sat for three months. The canons and
decrees of this assembly, which have been translated into Italian and
German, have been printed in one volume.
This council was published in the different dioceses, and its
regulations were put into force. During this time, the government,
ever hostile to religion, had not abandoned the project of
persecuting and perhaps of destroying it. The voice of the public,
who called for this religion, and held in esteem the constitutional
clergy as religious and patriotic, checked, in some respects, the
hatred of the Directory and its agents. Then the spirit of
persecution took a circuitous way to gain its end: this was to cry
down religion and its ministers, to promote theophilanthropy, and
enforce the transferring of Sunday to the _decade_, or tenth day of
every republican month.
The bishops, assembled at Paris, again caused this project to
miscarry, and, in their name, GREGOIRE compiled two consultations
against the transferring of Sunday to the _decade_. The adhesion of
all the clergy was the fruit of his labour; but all this drew on him
numerous outrages, the indigence to which he was at that time
reduced, and multiplied threats of deportation. The functions which
he had discharged, and the esteem of the friends of religion, formed
around him a shelter of opinion that saved him from deportation, to
which were condemned so many unfortunate and virtuous constitutional
priests, who were crowded, with the refractory among others, into
vessels lying in the road of Rochefort.
GREGOIRE remonstrated against this grievance, and obtained an
alleviation for his brethren; but it is to be remarked that, in
giving an account of their enlargement, the dissentient priests have
taken good care not to mention to whom they were indebted for having
provoked in their behalf this act of humanity and justice.
The constitutional clergy continued their labours, struggling
incessantly against calumny and libels, either from their dissentient
brethren or from the agents of the directorial government. This
clergy convoked a second national council for the year 1801. It was
preceded by a vast number of synods, and by eight metropolitan
This second national council was opened at Paris on St. Peter's day
of the same year. Several decrees had already been carried, one of
which renewed, in the face of the whole church, the example of the
bishops of Africa, by a solemn invitation of the dissentients to
conferences for the grand affair which separated them from the
constitutional clergy. The different congregations were on the point
of presenting to the general meeting their labours on the dogma,
morality, and discipline. A report on the liturgy by GREGOIRE, bishop
of Blois and vice-president of the council; and a similar report on
the plan of education for ecclesiastics, occupied the members of this
assembly, when all at once the government manifested its wish to see
the council closed, on account of the Concordat which it had just
arranged with the Pope.
Notwithstanding this proceeding, which trenched on the rights of a
national church, the fathers of the council suspended their
remonstrances, in order not to afford any pretext to those who might
have wished to perpetuate religious troubles. Wherefore, after having
sat six weeks and pronounced the suspension of the national council,
&c. they separated quietly without quitting Paris.
Their presence was necessary for the execution of the decree of the
conferences. The eighteen members destined for that purpose by the
council, after having held several meetings, presented themselves at
the Cathedral of _Notre-Dame_, the place appointed and proclaimed by
the council throughout all the extent of France. For three successive
days, morning and evening, they there assembled. At the expiration of
that time, on seeing that the dissentient kept themselves concealed,
the members of the constitutional clergy took for witnesses of this
generous and open proceeding the vast body of people who had repaired
to _Notre-Dame_, and by two energetic and moving discourses,
delivered by BELMAY, bishop of Carcassonne, and GREGOIRE, bishop of
Blois, terminated the council after the accustomed prayers.
M. SPINA, archbishop of Corinth, charged by the court of Rome with
part of the affairs to be transacted with the First Consul, about the
middle of September, sent to the constitutional bishops a brief which
he announced to come from Pius VII, in order to induce them on the
part of the Pope to give up the episcopal sees they had occupied, and
return to unity. An invitation so insulting, received by all these
bishops, drew on M. SPINA energetic answers, which made the Pope and
himself sensible how wrong they were to accuse of intrusion and
schism bishops, whose canonical institution was conformable to that
of the bishops of the first twelve centuries, and who had always
professed the warmest love for catholic unity.
But as there was little good to be expected from M. SPINA, some
bishops made their complaints to the government in a spirited and
well-composed memorial, denouncing the Pope's brief as an attack on
the liberties of the Gallican church and the rights of the Republic.
This measure had its effect. The government passed a decree for
prohibiting the publication of the Rescripts of Rome, if they should
not be found conformable to the rules and usages observed in France.
During these transactions, the Cardinal Legate, CAPRARA, arrived in
Paris. The Concordat had just been signed. The constitutional
bishops, without remonstrating against it, no sooner learnt that the
government wished them to resign, than they hastened to do so, the
more willingly, as they had a thousand times made the promise
whenever the good of religion and of the country should require it. A
similar generosity was expected on the part of the emigrated bishops.
Have they been to blame in refusing? This question may, in a great
measure, depend on the arrangement of the Concordat, and the
imperious and menacing tone of the court of Rome which demanded of
them the resignation of their former sees.
[Footnote 1: For the gratification of the reader is here annexed an
account of the Pope's conduct in regard to the constitutional clergy,
since the promulgation of the Concordat.
At length the nominations took place. A small number of those
appointed to the sixty new dioceses, were taken from the
constitutional clergy. The others were taken from the mass of the
refractory and those who had retracted, and the greater number formed
the most eloquent apology of the constitutional bishops. They all
received the institution from the Pope, who announced it with an air
of triumph to the college of Cardinals, in his collocution of the
24th of May, 1802. He had good reason to congratulate himself at this
epoch, the more so as he had been made to believe that the re-elected
constitutional clergy had made a retraction, and received penitence
and absolution. The author of this calumny was BERNIER, who had been
charged by the Cardinal Legate with a step so worthy of his former
military exploits. It was solemnly contradicted. After the decree of
absolution which BERNIER had ventured to present to these bishops was
thrown with indignation into the fire of PORTALIS, the counsellor of
state charged by the government with religious affairs, who was
witness to the transaction. Indeed, he had in this encouraged the
bishops to imitate his own example in getting rid, by the same means,
of a brief which the Legate had transmitted to him in order to
absolve him from the guilt he might have incurred by taking part in
The government wished to pacify religious troubles; but the majority
of the dissentient bishops began to foment new disputes, by requiring
retractations from the constitutional clergy, who, for the most part,
have stood firm amidst privations of every description. However, the
mischief made not the progress which there was every reason to
apprehend: the government pronounced its opinion thereon by
prohibiting bishops from requiring any thing more than submission to
the Concordat, and obedience to the new bishops. Notwithstanding the
wise intentions of the government, sincerely desirous of peace and
concord, it is only in the dioceses fallen to the constitutional
bishops that a good understanding prevails. Most of the disentient
clergy continue to promote discord, and torment their constitutional
brethren. BOISCHOLLET, bishop of Seez, MONTAULT, bishop of Angers,
and some others, have been sent for to Paris, in order to be
reprimanded and cautioned to behave better.
It is proper to mention the documents which Cardinal CAPRARA has
distributed to all the bishops. They form a collection of thirteen
papers, which might not improperly be called an analysis of the
decretals of Isidorus. On these, no doubt, good canonists will debate
at some future day, in order to shame the court of Rome, by pointing
out its absurdities and blunders; and certainly the respect which
catholics owe to the Holy See ought not to prevent then from
resisting the pretensions of the Pope.]
_Paris, January 10, 1802._
Going the other day to call on M. S----i, I stopped by the way, to
examine an edifice which, when I first visited Paris in 1784, engaged
no small share of public attention. It was, at that time, one of the
principal objects pointed out to the curiosity of strangers. At one
period of the revolution, you will, doubtless, recollect the frequent
mention made of the
Conceive my surprise, on learning that this stately building, after
having employed the hands of so many men, for the best part of half a
century, was not only still unfinished; but had threatened
approaching ruin. Yes--like the Gothic abbey at Fonthill, it would,
by all accounts, have fallen to the ground, without the aid of
vandalism, had not prompt and efficacious measures been adopted, to
avert the impending mischief.
This monument, originally intended for the reception of the shrine of
St. Genevieve, once the patroness of the Parisians, is situated on an
eminence, formerly called _Mont St. Etienne_, to the left of the top
of the _Rue St. Jacques_, near the _Place de l'Estrapade_. It was
begun under the reign of Lewis XV, who laid the first stone on the
6th of September, 1764. During the American war, the works were
suspended; but, early in the year 1784, they were resumed with
increasing activity. The sculpture of this church already presented
many attributes analogous to its object, when, in 1793, it was
converted into a Pantheon.
The late M. SOUFFLOT furnished the plan for the church, which, in
point of magnificence, does honour both to the architect and to the
Its form is a Greek cross, three hundred and forty feet in length by
two hundred and fifty in breadth. The porch, which is an imitation of
that of the Pantheon at Rome, consists of a peristyle of twenty-two
pillars of the Corinthian order. Eighteen of these are insulated, and
are each five feet and a half in diameter by fifty-eight in height,
including their base and capital. They support a pediment, which
combines the boldness of the Gothic with the beauty of the Greek
style. This pediment bears the following inscription:
"AUX GRANDS HOMMES,
LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE."
In the delirium of the revolutionary fever, when great crimes
constituted great men, this sanctuary of national gratitude was
polluted. MARAT, that man of blood, was, to use the modern
phraseology, _pantheonized_, that is, interred in the Pantheon. When
the delirium had, in some measure, subsided, and reason began to
resume her empire, he was _dispantheonized_; and, by means of
quick-lime, his canonized bones were confounded with the dust.
This apotheosis will ever be a blot in the page of the history of
However, it operated as a check on the inconsiderate zeal of
hot-brained patriots in bestowing the honours of the Pantheon on
the undeserving. MIRABEAU was, consequently, _dispantheonized_; and,
in all probability, this temple will, in future, be reserved for the
ashes of men truly great; legislators whose eminent talents and
virtues have benefited their fellow-citizens, or warriors, who, by
distinguishing themselves in their country's cause, have really
merited that country's gratitude.
The interior of this temple consists of four naves, in whose centre
rises an elegant dome, which, it is said, is to be painted in fresco
by DAVID. The naves are decorated by one hundred and thirty fluted
pillars, also of the Corinthian order, supporting an entablature,
which serves as a base for lofty _tribunes_, bordered by stone
balustrades. These pillars are three feet and a half in diameter by
nearly twenty-eight feet in height.
The inside of the dome is incircled by sixteen Corinthian pillars,
standing at an equal distance, and lighted by glazed apertures in
part of the intercolumniations. They support a cupola, in the centre
of which is an opening, crowned by another cupola of much more
To survey the interior of the Pantheon, in its present state, is
rather a matter of eager curiosity than of pleasing enjoyment. The
precautions taken to prevent the fall of the whole building, which
was apprehended from the almost tottering state of the dome, have
necessitated the erection of such a quantity of scaffolding, that it
is no easy task to gain an uninterrupted view of its majestic
pillars, of the delicate and light foliage of its capitals, and of
its proud and triple canopy. I mounted the ladders, and braved the
dust of stone and plaster, amidst the echoing sound of saws, chisels,
and mallets, at work in different directions.
Mercier is said to have offended several of the partisans of Voltaire
by observing that, through a strange inconsistency, the constant
flatterer not only of royalty in general, but of kings in particular,
and of all the great men and vices of the age in which he lived, here
shares the gratitude of a republic with the _man of nature and
truth_, as Jean-Jacques is styled on his sepulchral monument. Thus,
in the first instance, says he, a temple, consecrated to stern
republican virtue, contains the remains of a great poet who could not
strike superstition, without wounding morals.--Unquestionably, the
_Pucelle_ is a work, which, like a blight on a promising crop, has
committed incalculable ravage among the rising generation.
Notwithstanding the numerous inscriptions which now adorn the tomb of
Voltaire, perhaps, at some future distant period, he may experience
the fate of Mirabeau, and be _dispantheonized_.
But why meddle with the cold remains of any great genius? Would it
not have been more rational to inscribe the name of Rousseau in this
national temple, and leave his corpse to rot undisturbed, in the _Ile
des Peupliers_, at Ermenonville.
Though circumstances prevented me from ascending to the dome, you
will, no doubt, expect me to say something of its exterior
architecture. It represents a circular temple, formed by thirty-four
pillars, like those of the interior, of the Corinthian order, and
each, base and capital included, thirty-four feet in height by three
feet and one third in diameter. This colonnade is supported by a
circular stylobate, which rests on an octagon base, and is surrounded
by a gallery, bordered by an iron balustrade. The cupola, rising
above the attic, would appear crushed, were not a stranger apprised
that the pedestal on the top is to be surmounted by a bronze figure
of Fame, twenty-eight feet in height, and weighing fifty-two thousand
pounds. The pedestal is encircled by a second gallery at an elevation
of one hundred and sixty-six feet, to reach which you ascend a flight
of four hundred and sixty stone steps. As the Pantheon itself stands
on a considerable eminence, the prospect from this gallery is
extensive and commanding.
This sumptuous edifice may truly be said to exhibit a monument of the
weakness of man. Like him, before arrived at maturity, it is attacked
by indisposition. The architects, like so many physicians, were not
for some time agreed as to the seat of the evil. Each proposed his
means of cure as the most infallible; But all coincided in one
opinion, that the danger was imminent. Their skill has been exerted,
and, no doubt, with effect; for all apprehension of further mischief
is now removed.
When I was taking a last look at this proud temple, I could not help
regretting that one half of the money already expended on it, had not
been appropriated to the erection of airy hospitals in the different
quarters of this populous city. Any one who had formerly visited the
_Hotel-Dieu_ in Paris would, I am confident, have participated in
What strange fatality impels men to persevere in such unprofitable
erections? This was the first question which suggested itself to me,
on getting fairly out of the Pantheon. Is it to gratify an excess of
national vanity, or create a superior degree of admiration in the
mind of foreigners? If so, the aim is missed: for, as majesty, fallen
from the pinnacle of power, becomes more interesting, so do ruins
inspire greater veneration than the most pompous structure, towering
in the splendour of its perfection. Experience tells us that every
truncated pillar, every remnant, in short, of past grandeur, rouses
attention, and speaks home to the contemplative mind; while these
modern edifices, however firmly erect on their base, excite,
comparatively speaking, but a feeble interest. In future ages,
perhaps, when the Pantheon of Paris shall be prostrate on the ground,
and the wreck of its stately dome be overrun with moss and ivy, it
may, probably, attract as much notice as the far-tamed temple of
P.S. On the evening of the 8th, BONAPARTE left Paris for Lyons, where
TALLEYRAND, Minister for foreign affairs, has been for some days
preparing for the great event which is expected to take place. When a
public measure is in agitation, the result is generally anticipated
by the eagerness of mankind; and whispers the least audible are
magnified into authentic information. Those even who may be presumed
to derive their intelligence from the best sources, not unfrequently
misconceive what they have heard, and consequently mislead others. I
will not, however, mislead you, by repeating any of the rumours in
circulation here: in a short time, the _Moniteur_ will, no doubt,
explain the real object of this journey.
_Paris, January 12,1802._
As no city in Europe presents so many advantages as this for the
cultivation of literature, arts, and sciences, it is not surprising
that it should contain great numbers of literati, artists, and men of
science, who form themselves into different associations.
Independently of the National Institute, Paris can boast of several
The following are the names of those held in most esteem.
SOCIETE LIBRE DES SCIENCES, LETTRES, ET ARTS.
ATHENEE (_ci-devant_ LYCEE) DES ARTS.
SOCIETE ACADEMIQUE DES SCIENCES.
SOCIETE DES BELLES-LETTRES.
ACADEMIE DE LEGISLATION.
OBSERVATEURS DE L'HOMME.
ATHENEE DE PARIS, _ci-devant_ LYCEE REPUBLICAIN.
Though, in all these societies, you may meet with a great number of
estimable men, many of whose names may be found in the major part of
them, yet that which holds the first rank in the public esteem, as
well from the respectability of the members of whom it is composed,
as from the proofs of talents which are necessary in order to be
admitted into it, is the
Indeed, almost all its members are men whose works hove rendered them