Part 6 out of 7
know exactly what to think, and where to think it. My expectations had
been so often disappointed, that my pulse was somewhat calmer.
Nevertheless, the glowing eulogiums of these celebrated artists could
not but stimulate anticipation. We made our way, therefore, first to
the _salon_ devoted to the works of Raphael and Correggio, and
soon found ourselves before the grand painting. Trembling with
eagerness, I looked up. Was that the picture? W. whispered to me, "I
think we have mistaken the painting."
"No, we have not," said I, struggling to overcome the disappointment
which I found creeping over me. The source of this disappointment was
the thin and faded appearance of the coloring, which at first
suggested to me the idea of a water-colored sketch. It had evidently
suffered barbarously in the process of cleaning, a fact of which I had
been forewarned. This circumstance has a particularly unfavorable
effect on a picture of Raphael's, because his coloring, at best, is
delicate and reserved, and, as compared with, that of Rubens,
approaches to poverty; so that he can ill afford to lose any thing in
Then as to conception and arrangement, there was much which annoyed
me. The Virgin and Child in the centre are represented as rising in
the air; on one side below them is the kneeling figure of Pope Sixtus;
and on the other, that of St. Barbara. Now this Pope Sixtus is, in my
eyes, a very homely old man, and as I think no better of homely old
men for being popes, his presence in the picture is an annoyance. St.
Barbara, on the other side, has the most beautiful head and face that
could be represented; but then she is kneeling on a cloud with such a
judicious and coquettish arrangement of her neck, shoulders, and face,
to show every fine point in them, as makes one feel that no saint
(unless with a Parisian education) could ever have dropped into such a
position in the _abandon_ of holy rapture. In short, she looks
like a theatrical actress; without any sympathy with the solemnity of
the religious conception, who is there merely because a beautiful
woman was wanted to fill up the picture.
Then that old, faded green curtain, which is painted as hanging down
on either side of the picture, is, to my eye, a nuisance. The whole
interest, therefore, of the piece concentrates in the centre figures,
the Madonna and Child, and two angel children gazing up from the foot
of the picture. These angel children were the first point on which my
mind rested, in its struggle to overcome its disappointment, and bring
itself _en rapport_ with the artist. In order fully to appreciate
their spiritual beauty, one must have seen an assortment of those
things called angels, which occur in the works of the old masters.
Generally speaking, I know of nothing more calculated to moderate any
undue eagerness to go to heaven than the common run of canvas angels.
Far the greater part are roistering, able-bodied fellows with wings,
giving indisputable signs of good living, and of a coarseness slightly
suggestive of blackguardism. Far otherwise with _these_ fair
creatures, with their rainbow-colored wings, and their serene,
upturned eyes of thought baptized with emotion. They are the first
things I have seen worthy of my ideas of Raphael.
As to the Madonna, I think that, when Wilkie says she is "nearer the
perfection of female elegance and grace than any thing in painting,"
he does not speak with discrimination. Mere physical beauty and grace
are not _the_ characteristics of the figure: many more perfect
forms can be found, both on canvas and in marble. But the merits of
the figure, to my mind, are, first, its historic accuracy in
representing the dark-eyed Jewish maiden; second, the wonderful
fulness and depth of expression thrown into the face; and third, the
mysterious resemblance and sympathy between the face of the mother and
that of the divine child. To my eye, this picture has precisely that
which Murillo's Assumption in the Louvre wants: it has an unfathomable
depth of earnestness. The Murillo is its superior in coloring and
grace of arrangement. At first sight of the Murillo every one exclaims
at once, "Plow beautiful!"--at sight of this they are silent. Many are
at first disappointed; but the picture fastens the attention, and
grows upon the thoughts; while that of Murillo is dismissed with the
words of admiration on the lips.
This picture excited my ponderings and inquiries. There was a conflict
of emotion in that mother's face, and shadowed mysteriously in the
child's, of which I queried, "Was it fear? was it sorrow? was it
adoration and faith? was it a presage of the hour when a sword should
pierce through her own soul? Yet, with this, was there not a solemn
triumph in the thought that she alone, of all women, had been called
to that baptism of anguish? And in that infant face there seemed a
foreshadowing of the spirit which said, "Now is my soul troubled; and
what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause
came I unto this hour."
The deep-feeling soul which conceived this picture has spread over the
whole divine group a tender and transparent shadow of sorrow. It is
this idea of sorrow in heaven--sorrow, for the lost, in the heart of
God himself--which forms the most sacred mystery of Christianity; and
into this innermost temple of sorrow had Raphael penetrated. He is a
sacred poet, and his poetry has precisely that trait which Milton
lacks--tenderness and sympathy. This picture, so unattractive to the
fancy in merely physical recommendations, has formed a deeper part of
my inner consciousness than any I have yet seen. I can recall it with
perfect distinctness, and often return to ponder it in my heart.
In this room there was also the _chef-d'luvre_ of Correggio--his
celebrated Notte, or the Nativity of Jesus; and, that you may know
what I ought to have thought, I will quote you a sentence from Wilkie.
"All the powers of art are here united to make a perfect work. Here
the simplicity of the drawing of the Virgin and Child is shown in
contrast with the foreshortening of the group of angels--the strongest
unity of effect with the most perfect system of intricacy. The
emitting the light from the body of the child, though a supernatural
illusion, is eminently successful. The matchless beauty of the Virgin
and Child, the group of angels overhead, the daybreak in the sky, and
the whole arrangement of light and shadow, give it a right to be
considered, in conception at least, the greatest of his works."
I said before that light and shadow were Correggio's gods--that the
great purpose for which he lived, moved, and had his being, was to
show up light and shadow. Now, so long as he paints only indifferent
objects,--Nymphs, and Fauns, and mythologic divinities,--I had no
objection. Light and shadow are beautiful things, capable of a
thousand blendings, softenings, and harmonizings, which one loves to
have represented: the great Artist of all loves light and shadow; why
else does he play such a magical succession of changes upon them
through all creation? But for an artist to make the most solemn
mystery of religion a mere tributary to the exhibition of a trick of
art, is a piece of profanity. What was in this man's head when he
painted this representation of the hour when his Maker was made flesh
that he might redeem a world? Nothing but _chiaro-scuro_ and
foreshortening. This overwhelming scene would give him a fine chance
to do two things: first, to represent a phosphorescent light from the
body of the child; and second, to show off some foreshortened angels.
Now, as to these angels, I have simply to remark that I should prefer
a seraph's head to his heels; and that a group of archangels, kicking
from the canvas with such alarming vigor, however much it may
illustrate foreshortening, does not illustrate either glory to God in
the highest, or peace on earth and good will to men. Therefore I have
quarrelled with Correggio, as I always expected to do if he profaned
the divine mysteries. How could any one, who had a soul to understand
that most noble creation of Raphael, turn, the next moment, to admire
Here also are six others of Correggio's most celebrated paintings.
They are all mere representations of the physical, with little of the
moral. His picture of the Virgin and Child represents simply a very
graceful, beautiful woman, holding a fine little child. His peculiar
excellences in the management of his lights and shades appear in all.
In one of the halls we found a Magdalen by Battoni, which gave me more
pleasure, on first sight, than any picture in the gallery. It is a
life-sized figure of the Magdalen stretched upon the ground, reading
an open Bible. I like it, first, because the figure is every way
beautiful and well proportioned; second, on account of an elevated
simplicity hi the arrangement and general effect. The dark, rocky
background throws out distinctly the beautiful figure, raised on one
elbow, her long, golden hair floating loosely down, as she bends
forward over her book with parted lips, slightly flushed cheek, and an
air of rapt and pleased attention. Though the neck and bosom are
exposed, yet there is an angelic seriousness and gravity in the
conception of the piece which would check an earthly thought. The
woman is of that high class about whom there might seem to be a
hovering angelic presence--the perfection of beauty and symmetry,
without a tinge of sensual attraction.
All these rooms are full of artists copying different paintings,--some
upon slabs of Dresden china,--producing pictures of exquisite, finish,
and very pretty as boudoir ornaments.
After exhausting this first room, we walked through the galleries,
which I will name, to give you some idea of their extent.
Two rooms, of old German and Dutch masters, are curious,--as
exhibiting the upward struggles of art. Many of the pictures are hard
as a tavern sign, and as ill drawn; but they mark the era of dawning
Then a long corridor of Dutch paintings, in which Rubens figures
conspicuously, displaying, as usual, all manner of scarlet
abominations, mixed with most triumphant successes. He has a boar hunt
here, which is absolutely terrific. Rubens has a power peculiar to
himself of throwing into the eyes of animals the phosphorescent
magnetic gleam of life and passion. Here also was a sketch of his for
a large picture at Munich of the Last Judgment, in which the idea of
physical torture is enlarged upon with a most revolting vigor of
Then a small room devoted to the Spanish and Italian schools,
containing pictures by Murillo and Velasquez. Then the French hall,
where were two magnificent Claudes, the finest I had yet seen. They
were covered with glass, (a bad arrangement,) which rendered one of
them almost entirely _unseeable_. I studied these long, with much
interest. The combinations were poetical, the foregrounds minutely
finished, even to the painting of flowers, and the fine invisible veil
of ether that covers the natural landscape given as I have never
before seen it. The peculiarity of these pieces is, that they are
painted in _green_--a most common arrangement in God's landscapes,
but very uncommon in those of great masters. Painters give us trees
and grounds, brown, yellow, red, chocolate, any color, in short, but
green. The reason of this is, that green is an exceedingly difficult color
to manage. I have seen, sometimes, in spring, set against a deep-blue
sky, an array of greens, from lightest yellow to deepest blue of the
pines, tipped and glittering with the afternoon's sun, yet so swathed in
some invisible, harmonizing medium, that the strong contrasts of color
jarred upon no sense. All seemed to be bound by the invisible cestus
of some celestial Venus. Yet what painter would dare attempt the same?
Herein lies the particular triumph of Claude. It is said that he took his
brush and canvas into the fields, and there studied, hour after hour, into
the mysteries of that airy medium which lies between the eye and the
landscape, as also between the foreground and the background. Hence
he, more than others, succeeds in giving the green landscape and the
blue sky the same effect that God gives them. If, then, other artists
would attain a like result, let them not copy Claude, but Claude's Master.
Would that our American artists would remember that God's pictures are
nearer than Italy. To them it might be said, (as to the Christian,) "The
word is nigh thee." When we shall see a New England artist, with his
easel, in the fields, seeking, hour after hour, to reproduce on the canvas
the magnificent glories of an elm, with its firmament of boughs and
branches,--when he has learned that there is in it what is worth a
thousand Claudes--then the morning star of art will have risen on our
hills. God send us an artist with a heart to reverence his own native
mountains and fields, and to veil his face in awe when the great
Master walks before his cottage door. When shall arise the artist
whose inspiration shall be in prayer and in communion with God?--whose
eye, unsealed to behold his beauty in the natural world, shall offer
up, on canvas, landscapes which shall be hymns and ascriptions?
By a strange perversity, people seem to think that the Author of
nature cannot or will not inspire art; but "He that formed the eye,
shall he not see? he that planted the ear, shall he not hear?" Are not
God's works the great models, and is not sympathy of spirit with the
Master necessary to the understanding of the models?
But to continue our walk. We entered another Dutch apartment,
embellished with works by Dietrich, prettily colored, and laboriously
minute; then into a corridor devoted chiefly to the works of Rembrandt
and scholars. In this also were a number of those minute culinary
paintings, in which cabbages, brass kettles, onions, potatoes, &c.,
are reproduced with praiseworthy industry. Many people are enraptured
with these; but for my part I have but a very little more pleasure in
a turnip, onion, or potato in a picture than out, and always wish that
the industry and richness of color had been bestowed upon things in
themselves beautiful. The great Master, it is true, gives these
models, but he gives them not to be looked at, but eaten. If painters
could only contrive to paint vegetables (cheaply) so that they could
be eaten, I would be willing.
Two small saloons are next devoted to the modern Dutch and German
school. In these is Denner's head of an old woman, which Cowper
celebrates in a pretty poem--a marvel of faithful reproduction. One
would think the old lady must have sat at least a year, till he had
daguerreotyped every wrinkle and twinkle. How much better all this
labor spent on the head of a good old woman than on the head of a
And now come a set of Italian rooms, in which we have some curious
specimens of the Romish development in religion; as, for instance, the
fathers Gregory, Augustine, and Jerome, meditating on the immaculate
conception of the Virgin. Think of a painter employing all his powers
in representing such a fog bank!
Next comes a room dedicated to the works of Titian, in which two nude
Venuses, of a very different character from the de Milon, are too
conspicuous. Titian is sensuous; a Greek, but not of the highest
The next room is devoted to Paul Veronese. This Paul has quite a
character of his own--a grand old Venetian, with his head full of
stateliness, and court ceremony, and gorgeous conventionality, half
Oriental in his passion for gold, and gems, and incense. As a specimen
of the subjects in which his soul delights, take the following, which
he has wrought up into a mammoth picture: Faith, Love, and Hope,
presenting to the Virgin Mary a member of the old Venetian family of
Concina, who, after having listened to the doctrines of the
reformation, had become reconciled to the church. Here is Paul's
piety, naively displayed by giving to the Virgin all the courtly
graces of a high-born signorina. He paints, too, the Adoration of the
Magi, because it gives such a good opportunity to deal with camels,
jewels, turbans, and all the trappings of Oriental royalty. The Virgin
and Child are a small part of the affair. I like Paul because he is so
innocently unconscious of any thing _deep_ to be expressed; so
honestly intent on clothes, jewels, and colors. He is a magnificent
master of ceremonies, and ought to have been kept by some king
desirous of going down to posterity, to celebrate his royal praise and
Another room is devoted to the works of Guido. One or two of the Ecce
Homo are much admired. To me they are, as compared with my conceptions
of Jesus, more than inadequate. It seems to me that, if Jesus Christ
should come again on earth, and walk through a gallery of paintings,
and see the representations of sacred subjects, he would say again, as
he did of old in the temple, "Take these things hence!"
How could men who bowed down before art as an idol, and worshipped it
as an ultimate end, and thus sensualized it, represent these holy
mysteries, into which angels desired to look?
There are many representations of Christ here, set forth in the guide
book as full of grace and majesty, which, any soul who has ever felt
his infinite beauty would reject as a libel. And as to the Virgin
Mother, one's eye becomes wearied in following the countless catalogue
of the effeminate inane representations.
There is more pathos and beauty in those few words of the Scripture,
"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother," than in all these
galleries put together. The soul that has learned to know her from the
Bible, loving without idolizing, hoping for blest communion with her
beyond the veil, seeking to imitate only the devotion which stood by
the cross in the deepest hour of desertion, cannot be satisfied with
Only once or twice have I seen any thing like an approach towards the
representations of the _scriptural_ idea. One is this painting by
Raphael. Another is by him, and is called Madonna Maison d'Alba: of
this I have seen only a copy; it might have been painted on the words,
"Now Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." The
figure is that of a young Jewess, between girl and womanhood, in whose
air and eye are expressed at once the princess of the house of David,
the poetess, and the thoughtful sequestered maiden. She is sitting on
the ground, the book of the prophets in one hand, lying listless at
her side; the other hand is placed beneath the chin of her infant son,
who looks inquiringly into her face. She does not see him--her eye has
a sorrowful, far-darting look, as if beyond this flowery childhood she
saw the dim image of a cross and a sepulchre. This was Mary, I have
often thought that, in the reaction from the idolatry of Romanism, we
Protestants were in danger of forgetting the treasures of religious
sweetness, which the Bible has given us in her brief history.
It seems to me the time demands the forming of a new school of art
based upon Protestant principles. For whatever vigor and originality
there might once be in art, based on Romanism, it has certainly been
worn threadbare by repetition.
Apropos to this. During the time I was in Paris, I formed the
acquaintance of Schoeffer, whose _Christus Consolator_ and
Remumrator and other works, have made him known in America. I went
with a lady who has for many years been an intimate friend, and whose
head has been introduced into several of his paintings. On the way she
gave me some interesting particulars of him and his family. His mother
was an artist--a woman of singularly ethereal and religious character.
There are three brothers devoted to art; of these Ary is the one best
known in America, and the most distinguished. For some time, while
they were studying, they were obliged to be separated, and the mother,
to keep up the sympathy between them, used to copy the design of the
one with whom she resided for the other two. A singular strength of
attachment unites the family.
We found Schoeffer in retired lodgings in the outskirts of Paris, and
were presented to his very pretty and agreeable English wife. In his
studio we saw a picture of his mother, a most lovely and delicate
woman, dressed in white, like one of the saints in the Revelation.
Then we saw his celebrated picture, Francisca Rimini, representing a
cloudy, dark, infernal region, in which two hapless lovers are whirled
round and round in mazes of never-ending wrath and anguish. _His_
face is hid from view; his attitude expresses the extreme of despair.
But she clinging to his bosom--what words can tell the depths of love,
of an anguish, and of endurance unconquerable, written in her pale
sweet face! The picture smote to my heart like a dagger thrust; I felt
its mournful, exquisite beauty as a libel on my Father in heaven.
No. It is _not_ God who eternally pursues undying, patient love
with storms of vindictive wrath. Alas! well said Jesus, "O righteous
Father, the world hath not known thee." The day will come when it will
appear that in earth's history the sorrowing, invincible tenderness
has been all on his part and that the strange word, _long-suffering_,
means just what it says.
Nevertheless, the power and pathos of this picture cannot be too much
praised. The coloring is beautiful, and though it pained me so much, I
felt that it was one of the most striking works of art I had seen.
Schoeffer showed us a large picture, about half finished, in which he
represents the gradual rise of the soul through the sorrows of earth
to heaven. It consisted of figures grouped together, those nearest
earth bowed down and overwhelmed with the most crushing and hopeless
sorrow; above them are those who are beginning to look upward, and the
sorrow in their faces is subsiding into anxious inquiry; still above
them are those who, having caught a gleam of the sources of
consolation, express in their faces a solemn calmness; and still
higher, rising in the air, figures with clasped hands, and absorbed,
upward gaze, to whose eye the mystery has been unveiled, the enigma
solved, and sorrow glorified. One among these, higher than the rest,
with a face of rapt adoration, seems entering the very gate of heaven.
He also showed us an unfinished picture of the Temptation of Christ.
Upon a clear aerial mountain top, Satan, a thunder-scarred, unearthly
figure, kneeling, points earnestly to the distant view of the kingdoms
of this world. There is a furtive and peculiar expression of eager
anxiety betrayed in his face, as if the bitterness of his own blasted
eternity could find a momentary consolation in this success. It is the
expression of a general, who has staked all his fortune on one die. Of
the figure of Jesus I could not judge, in its unfinished state.
Whether the artist will solve the problem of uniting energy with
sweetness, the Godhead with the manhood, remains to be seen.
The paintings of Jesus are generally unsatisfactory; but Schoefier has
approached nearer towards expressing my idea than any artist I have
The knowing ones are much divided about Schoeffer. Some say he is no
painter. Nothing seems to me so utterly without rule or compass as
this world of art Divided into little cliques, each with his
shibboleth, artists excommunicate each other as heartily as
theologians, and a neophyte who should attempt to make up a judgment
by their help would be obliged to shift opinions with every circle.
I therefore look with my own eyes, for if not the best that might be,
they are the best that God has given me.
Schoeffer is certainly a poet of a high order. His ideas are beautiful
and religious, and his power of expression quite equal to that of many
old masters, who had nothing very particular to express.
I should think his chief danger lay in falling into mannerism, and too
often repeating the same idea. He has a theory of coloring which is in
danger of running out into coldness and poverty of effect. His idea
seems to be, that in the representation of spiritual subjects the
artist should avoid the sensualism of color, and give only the most
chaste and severe tone. Hence he makes much use of white, pale blue,
and cloudy grays, avoiding the gorgeousness of the old masters. But it
seems probable that in the celestial regions there is more, rather
than less, of brilliant coloring than on earth. What can be more
brilliant than the rainbow, yet what more perfectly free from earthly
grossness? Nevertheless, in looking at the pictures of Schoeffer there
is such a serene and spiritual charm spread over them, that one is
little inclined to wish them other than they are. No artist that I
have ever seen, not even Raphael, has more power of glorifying the
human face by an exalted and unearthly expression. His head of Joan of
Arc, at Versailles, is a remarkable example. It is a commentary on
that scripture--"And they beheld his face, as it were the face of an
Schoeffer is fully possessed with the idea of which I have spoken, of
raising Protestant art above the wearisome imitations of Romanism. The
object is noble and important. I feel that he must succeed.
His best award is in the judgments of the unsophisticated heart. A
painter who does not burn incense to his palette and worship his
brushes, who reverences ideas above mechanism, will have all manner of
evil spoken against him by artists, but the human heart will always
BERLIN, August 10.
Here we are in Berlin--a beautiful city. These places that kings
build, have of course, more general uniformity and consistency of
style than those that grow up by chance. The prevalence of the Greek
style of architecture, the regularity and breadth of the streets, the
fine trees, especially in the Unter den Linden, on which are our
rooms, struck me more than any thing I have seen since Paris. Why
Paris charms me so much more than other cities of similar
recommendations, I cannot say, any more than a man can tell why he is
fascinated by a lady love no fairer to his reason than a thousand
others. Perhaps it is the reflected charm of the people I knew there,
that makes it seem so sunny.
This afternoon we took a guide, and went first through the royal
palace. The new chapel, which is being built by the present prince, is
circular in form, with a dome one hundred and thirty feet high. The
space between the doors is occupied by three circular recesses, with
figures of prophets and apostles in fresco. Over one door is the
Nativity,--over the other, the Resurrection,--also in fresco. On the
walls around were pictures somewhat miscellaneous, I thought; for
example, John Huss, St. Cecilia, Melanchthon, Luther, several women,
saints, apostles, and evangelists. These paintings are all by the
first German artists. The floor is a splendid mosaic, and the top of
the dome is richly adorned with frescoes.
Still, though beautiful, the chapel seemed to me deficient in unity of
effect. One admires the details too much to appreciate it as a whole.
We passed through the palace rooms. Its paintings are far inferior to
those of Windsor. The finest royal paintings have gone to adorn the
walls of the Museum. There was one magnificent Vandyke, into which he
has introduced a large dog--some relief from his eternal horses. There
was David's picture of Bonaparte crossing the Alps, of which Mrs. P.
has the engraving, and you can tell her that it is much more
impressive than the painting. Opposite to this picture hangs Blucher,
looking about as amiable as one might suppose a captain of a regiment
of mastiffs. Our guide, pointing to the portrait of Napoleon, with
evident pride, said, "Blucher brought that from Paris. He said
Napoleon had carried so many pictures from other countries to Paris,
that now he should be carried away himself."
There were portraits of Queen Louisa, very beautiful; of Queen
Victoria, a present; one of the Empress of Russia; also a statue of
the latter. The ball room contained a statue of Victory, by Ranch, a
beautiful female figure, the model of which, we were told, is his own
daughter. He had the grace to allow her some clothing, which was
fatherly, for an artist. The palace rooms were very magnificent. The
walls were covered with a damask of silk and gold, into which was
inwrought the Prussian eagle. In the crowning room was an immense
quantity of plate, in solid gold and silver. The guide seemed not a
little proud of _our_ king, princes, and palace. Men will attach
themselves to power and splendor as naturally as moss will grow on a
rock. There is, perhaps, a foundation for this in human nature--
witness the Israelites of old, who could not rest till they obtained a
king. The Guide told us there were nine hundred rooms in the palace,
but that he should only take us through the best. We were duly
sensible of the mercy.
Then we drove to Charlottenburg to see the Mausoleum. I know not when
I have been more deeply affected than there; and yet, not so much by
the sweet, lifelike statue of the queen as by that of the king, her
husband, executed by the same hand. Such an expression of long-desired
rest, after suffering and toil, is shed over the face!--so sweet, so
heavenly! There, where he has prayed year after year,--hoping,
yearning, longing,--there, at last, he rests, life's long anguish
over! My heart melted as I looked at these two, so long divided,--he
so long a mourner, she so long mourned,--now calmly resting side by
side in a sleep so tranquil.
We went through the palace. We saw the present king's writing desk and
table in his study, just as he left them. His writing establishment is
about as plain as yours. Men who really mean to do any thing do not
use fancy tools. His bed room, also, is in a style of severe
simplicity. There were several engravings fastened against the wall;
and in the anteroom a bust and medallion of the Empress Eugenie--a
thing which I should not exactly have expected in a born king's
palace; but beauty is sacred, and kings cannot call it _parvenu_.
Then we went into the queen's bed room, finished in green, and then
through the rooms of Queen Louisa. Those marks of her presence, which
you saw during the old king's lifetime, are now removed: we saw no
traces of her dresses, gloves, or books. In one room, draped in white
muslin over pink, we were informed the Empress of Russia was born.
In going out to Charlottenburg, we rode through the Thiergarten, the
Tuileries of Berlin. In one of the most quiet and sequestered spots is
the monument erected by the people of Berlin to their old king. The
pedestal is Carrara marble, sculptured with beautiful scenes called
garden pleasures--children in all manner of out-door sports, and
parents fondly looking on. It is graceful, and peculiarly appropriate
to those grounds where parents and children are constantly
congregating. The whole is surmounted by a statue of the king, in
white marble--the finest representation of him I have ever seen.
Thoughtful, yet benign, the old king seems like a good father keeping
a grave and affectionate watch over the pleasures of his children in
their garden frolics. There was something about these moss-grown
gardens that seemed so rural and pastoral, that I at once preferred
them to all I had seen in Europe. Choice flowers are planted in knots,
here and there, in sheltered nooks, as if they had grown by accident;
and an air of sweet, natural wildness is left amid the most careful
cultivation. The people seemed to be enjoying themselves less
demonstratively and with less vivacity than in France, but with a calm
inwardness. Each nation has its own way of being happy, and the style
of life in each bears a certain relation of appropriateness to
character. The trim, gay, dressy, animated air of the Tuileries suits
admirably with the mobile, sprightly vivacity of society there. Both,
in their way, are beautiful; but this seems less formal, and more
according to nature.
As we were riding home, our guide, who was a full feathered
monarchist, told us, with some satisfaction, the number of palaces in
Prussia. Suddenly, to my astonishment, "Young America" struck into the
conversation in the person of little G.
"We do things more economically in America. Our president don't have
sixty palaces; he has to be satisfied with one White House."
The guide entered into an animated defence of king and country. These
palaces--did not the king keep them for the people? did he not bear
all the expense of caring for them, that they might furnish public
pleasure grounds and exhibition rooms? Had we not seen the people
walking about in them, and enjoying themselves?
This was all true enough, and we assented. The guide continued, Did
not the king take the public money to make beautiful museums for the
people, where they could study the fine arts?--and did our government
do any such thing?
I thought of our surplus revenue, and laid my hand on my mouth. But
yet there is a progress of democratic principle indicated by this very
understanding that the king is to hold things for the benefit of the
people. Times are altered since Louis XIV. was instructed by his
tutor, as he looked out on a crowd of people, "These are all yours;"
and since he said, "_L'élot, c'est moi_"
Our guide seemed to feel bound, however, to exhaust himself in
comparison of our defects with their excellences.
"Some Prussians went over to America to live," he said, "and had to
come back again; they could not live there."
"Why not?" said I.
"O, they said there was nothing done there but working and going to
"That's a fact," said W., with considerable earnestness.
"Yes," said our guide; "they said we have but one life to live, and we
want to have some comfort in it."
It is a curious fact, that just in proportion as a country is free and
self-governed it has fewer public amusements. America and Scotland
have the fewest of any, and Italy the most. Nevertheless, I am far
from thinking that this is either necessary or desirable: the subject
of providing innocent public amusements for the masses is one that we
ought seriously to consider. In Berlin, and in all other German
cities, there are gardens and public grounds in which there are daily
concerts of a high order, and various attractions, to which people can
gain admittance for a very trifling sum. These refine the feelings,
and cultivate the taste; they would be particularly useful in America
in counteracting that tendency to a sordid materialism, which is one
of our great national dangers.
We went over the Berlin Museum. In general style Greek--but Greek
vitalized by the infusion of the German mind. In its general
arrangements one of the most gorgeous and impressive combinations of
art which I have seen. Here are the great frescoes of Kaulbach,
Cornelius, and other German artists, who have so grafted Grecian ideas
into the German stock that the growth has the foliage and coloring of
a new plant. One set of frescoes, representing the climate and scenery
of Greece, had on me a peculiar and magical effect. Alas! there never
has been the Greece that we conceive; we see it under the soft, purple
veil of distance, like an Alpine valley embraced by cloudy mountains;
but there was the same coarse dust and _débris_ of ordinary life
there as with us. The true Arcadia lies beyond the grave. The
collection of pictures is rich in historic curiosities--valuable as
marking the progress of art. One Claude Lorraine here was a matchless
specimen--a perfect victory over all the difficulties of green
I am here in the station house at Wittenberg. I have been seeing and
hearing to-day for you, and now sit down to put on paper the results
of my morning. "What make you from Wittenberg?" Wittenberg! name of
the dreamy past; dimly associated with Hamlet, Denmark, the moonlight
terrace, and the Baltic Sea, by one line of Shakspeare; but made more
living by those who have thought, loved, and died here; nay, by those
who cannot die, and whose life has been life to all coming ages.
How naturally, on reaching a place long heard of and pondered, do we
look round for something uncommon, quaint, and striking! Nothing of
the kind was here; only the dead flat of this most level scenery, with
its dreary prairie-like sameness. Certainly it was not this scenery
that stirred up a soul in Luther, and made him nail up his theses on
the Wittenberg church door.
"But, at any rate, let us go to Wittenberg," said I; "get a guide, a
carriage, cannot you?" as I walked to one window of the station house
and another, and looked out to see something wonderful. Nothing was in
sight, however; and after the usual sputter of gutturals which
precedes any arrangement in this country, we were mounted in a high,
awkward carriage, and rode to the town. Two ancient round tower and a
wall first met my eye; then a drawbridge, arched passage, and
portcullis. Under this passage we passed, and at our right hand was
the church, where once was laid the worn form that had stood so many
whirlwinds--where, in short, Luther was buried. But this we did not
then know; so we drove by, and went to a hotel. Talked English and got
German; talked French with no better success. At last, between W., G.,
and the dictionary, managed to make it understood that we wanted a
guide to the Luther relics. A guide was after a time forthcoming, in
the person of a little woman who spoke no English, whom, guide book in
hand, we followed.
The church is ancient, and, externally, impressive enough; inside it
is wide, cold, whitewashed, prosaic; whoever gets up feeling does it
against wind and tide, so far as appearances are concerned. We advance
to the spot in the floor where our guide raises a trap door, and shows
us underneath the plate inscribed with the name of Luther, and by it
the plate recording the resting-place of his well-beloved Philip
Melanchthon; then to the grave of the Elector of Saxony, and John the
Steadfast; on one side a full length of Luther, by Lucas Cranach; on
the other, one of Melanchthon, by the same hand. Well, we have seen;
this is all; "He is not here, he is risen." "Is this all?" "All," says
our guide, and we go out. I look curiously at the old door where
Luther nailed up his theses; but even this is not the identical door;
that was destroyed by the French. Still, under that arched doorway he
stood, hammer and nails in hand; he held up his paper, he fitted it
straight; rap, rap,--there, one nail--another--it is up, and he
stands looking at it. These very stones were over that head that are
now over mine, this very ground beneath his feet. As I turned away I
gave an earnest look at the old church. Grass is growing on its
buttresses; it has a desolate look, though strong and well kept. The
party pass on, and I make haste to overtake them.
Down we go, doing penance over the round paving stones; and our next
halt is momentary. In the market-place, before the town house, (a
huge, three-gabled building, like a beast of three horns,) stands
Luther's bronze monument; apple women and pear women, onion and beet
women, are thickly congregated around, selling as best they may. There
stands Luther, looking benignantly, holding and pointing to the open
Bible; the women, meanwhile, thinking we want fruit, hold up their
wares and talk German. But our conductress has a regular guide's trot,
inexorable as fate; so on we go.
Wittenberg is now a mean little town; all looks poor and low; yet it
seems like a place that has seen better days. Houses, now used as
paltry shops, have, some of them, carved oaken doors, with antic
freaks of architecture, which seem to signify that their former owners
were able to make a figure in the world. In fact, the houses seem a
sort of phantasmagoria of decayed gentlefolk, in the faded, tarnished,
old-fashioned finery of the past. Our guide halts her trot suddenly
before a house, which she announces as that of Louis Cranach; then on
she goes. Louis is dead, and Magdalen, his wife, also; so there is no
one there to welcome us; on we go also. Once Louis was a man of more
Now we come to Luther's house--a part of the old convent. Wide yawns
the stone doorway of the court; a grinning masque grotesquely looks
down from its centre, and odd carvings from the sides. A colony of
swallows have established their nests among the queer old carvings and
gnome-like faces, and are twittering in and out, superintending their
domestic arrangements. We enter a court surrounded with buildings;
then ascend, through a strange doorway, a winding staircase, passing
small, lozenge-shaped window. Up these stairs _he_ oft trod, in
all the moods of that manifold and wonderful nature--gay, joyous,
jocose, fervent, defiant, imploring; and up these stairs have trod
wondering visitors, thronging from all parts of the world, to see the
man of the age. Up these stairs come Philip Melanchthon, Lucas
Cranach, and their wives, to see how fares Luther after some short
journey, or some new movement. Now, all past, all solitary; the stairs
dirty, the windows dim.
[Illustration: _of Luther's room._]
And this is Luther's room. It was a fine one in its day, that is
plain. The arched recesses of the windows; the roof, divided in
squares, and, like the walls and cornice, painted in fresco; the
windows, with their quaint, round panes,--all, though now so soiled
and dim, speak plainly of a time when life was here, and all things
wore a rich and joyous glow. In this room that great heart rejoiced in
the blessedness of domestic life, and poured forth some of those
exulting strains, glorifying the family state, which yet remain. Here
his little Magdalen, his little Jacky, and the rest made joyous
There stands his writing table, a heavy mass of wood; clumsy as the
time and its absurdities, rougher now than ever, in its squalid old
age, and partly chipped away by relic seekers. Here he sat; here lay
his paper; over this table was bent that head whose brain power was
the earthquake of Europe. Here he wrote books which he says were
rained, hailed, and snowed from the press in every language and
tongue. Kings and emperors could not bind the influence from this
writing table; and yet here, doubtless, he wrestled, struggled,
prayed, and such tears as only he could shed fell upon it. Nothing of
all this says the table. It only stands a poor, ungainly relic of the
past; the inspiring angel is gone upward.
Catharine's nicely-carved cabinet, with its huge bunches of oaken
flowers hanging down between its glass panels, shows Luther's drinking
cup. There is also his embroidered portrait, on which, doubtless, she
expended much thought, as she evidently has much gold thread. I seem
to see her conceiving the bold design--she will work the doctor's
likeness. She asks Magdalen Cranach's opinion, and Magdalen asks
Lucas's, and there is a deal of discussion, and Lucas makes wise
suggestions. In the course of many fireside chats, the thing grows.
Philip and his Kate, dropping in, are shown it. Little Jacky and
Magdalen, looking shyly over their mother's shoulder, are wonderfully
impressed with the likeness, and think their mother a great woman.
Luther takes it in hand, and passes some jests upon it, which make
them laugh all round, and so at last it grows to be a veritable
likeness. Poor, faded, tarnished thing! it looks like a ghost now.
In one corner is a work of art by Luther--no less than a stove planned
after his own pattern. It is a high, black, iron pyramid, panelled,
each panel presenting in relief some Scripture subject. Considering
the remote times, this stove is quite an affair; the figures are, some
of them, spirited and well conceived, though now its lustre, like all
else here, is obscured by dust and dirt. Why do the Germans leave this
place so dirty? The rooms of Shakspeare are kept clean and in repair;
the Catholics enshrine in gold and silver the relics of their saints,
but this Protestant Mecca is left literally to the moles and the bats.
I slipped aside a panel in the curious old windows, and looked down
into the court surrounded by the university buildings. I fancied the
old times when students, with their scholastic caps and books, were
momently passing and repassing. I thought of the stir there was here
when the pope's bull against Luther came out, and of the pattering of
feet and commotion there were in this court, when Luther sallied out
to burn the pope's bull under the oak, just beyond the city wall near
by. The students thought it good fun; students are always progressive;
they admired the old boy for his spirit; they threw up caps and
shouted, and went out to see the ceremony with a will. Philip
Melanchthon wondered if brother Martin was not going a little too
fast, but hoped it would be overruled, and that all would be for the
best! So, coming out, I looked longingly beyond the city gate, and
wanted to go to the place of the oak tree, where the ceremony was
performed, but the party had gone on.
[Illustration: _of Melanchthon's house._]
Coming back, I made a pause opposite the house on which is seen the
inscription, "Here Melanchthon lived, labored, and died." A very good
house it was, too, in its day; in architecture it was not unlike this.
I went across the street to take a good look at it; then I came over,
and as the great arched door stood open, I took the liberty of walking
in. Like other continental houses, this had an arched passage running
through to a back court and a side door. A stone stairway led up from
this into the house, and a small square window, with little round
panes, looked through into the passage. A young child was toddling
about there, and I spoke to it; a man came out, and looked as if he
rather wondered what I might be about; so I retreated. Then I threaded
my way past queer peaked-roofed buildings to a paved court, where
stood the old church--something like that in Halle, a great Gothic
structure, with two high towers connected by a gallery. I entered.
Like the other church it has been whitewashed, and has few
architectural attractions. It is very large, with two galleries, one
over the other, and might hold, I should think, five thousand people.
Here Luther preached. These walls, now so silent, rung to the rare
melody of that voice, to which the Roman Catholic writers attributed
some unearthly enchantment, so did it sway all who listened. Here,
clustering round these pillars, standing on these flags, were myriads
of human beings; and what heart-beatings, what surgings of thought,
what tempests of feeling, what aspirations, what strivings, what
conflicts shook that multitude, and possessed them as he spoke! "I
preach," he said, "not for professor this or that, nor for the elector
or prince, but for poor Jack behind the door;" and so, striking only
on the chords common to all hearts, he bowed all, for he who can
inspire the illiterate and poor, callous with ignorance and toil, can
move also the better informed. Here, also, that voice of his, which
rose above the choir and organ, sang the alto in those chorals which
he gave to the world. Monmouth, sung in this great church by five
thousand voices, must needs have a magnificent sound.
The altar-piece is a Lord's Supper, by Louis Cranach, who appears in
the foreground as a servant. On each side are the pictures of the
Sacraments. In baptism, Melanchthon stands by a laver, holding a
dripping baby, whom he has just immersed, one of Luther's children, I
suppose, for he is standing by; a venerable personage in a long beard
holds the towel to receive the little neophyte. From all I know of
babies, I should think this form of baptism liable to inconvenient
accessories and consequences. On the other side, Luther is preaching,
and opposite, foremost of his audience are, Catharine and her little
son. Every thing shows how strictly intimate were Luther, Melanchthon,
and Cranach; good sociable times they had together. A slab elaborately
carved, in the side of the church, marks the last rest of Lucas and
I passed out of the church, and walked slowly down to the hotel,
purchasing by the way, at a mean little shop, some tolerable
engravings of Luther's room, the church, &c. To show how immutable
every thing has been in Wittenberg since Luther died, let me mention
that on coming back through the market-place, we found spread out for
sale upon a cloth about a dozen pairs of shoes of the precise pattern
of those belonging to Luther, which we had seen in Frankfort--clumsy,
rude, and heelless. I have heard that Swedenborg said, that in his
visit to the invisible world, he encountered a class of spirits who
had been there fifty years, and had not yet found out that they were
dead. These Wittenbergers, I think, must be of the same conservative
turn of mind.
Failing to get a carriage to the station, we started to walk. I paused
a moment before the church, to make some little corrections and
emendations in my engravings, and thought, as I was doing so, of that
quite other scene years ago, when the body of Luther was borne through
this gate by a concourse of weeping thousands. These stones, on which
I was standing, then echoed all night to the tread of a closely-packed
multitude--a muffled sound, like the patter of rain among leaves.
There rose through the long, dark hours, alternately, the unrestrained
sobbings of the throng, and the grand choral of Luther's psalms, words
and music of his own. Never since the world began was so strange a
scene as that. I felt a kind of shadow from it, as I walked homeward
gazing on the flat, dreamy distance. A great windmill was creaking its
sombre, lazy vanes round and round,--strange, goblin things, these
windmills,--and I thought of one of Luther's sayings. "The heart of a
human creature is like the millstones: if corn be shaken thereon, it
grindeth the corn, and maketh good meal; but if no corn be there, then
it grindeth away itself." Luther tried the latter process all the
first part of his life; but he got the corn at last, and a magnificent
grist he made.
Arrived at the station, we found we must wait till half past five in
the afternoon for the train. This would have been an intolerable doom
in the disconsolate precincts of an English or American station, but
not in a German one. As usual, this had a charming garden, laid out
with exquisite taste, and all glowing and fragrant with plats of
verbena, fuschias, heliotropes, mignonette, pansies, while rows of
hothouse flowers, set under the shelter of neatly trimmed hedges, gave
brightness to the scene. Among all these pretty grounds were seats and
walks, and a gardener, with his dear pipe in his mouth, was moving
about, watering his dear flowers, thus combining the two delights of a
German, flowers and smoke. These Germans seem an odd race, a mixture
of clay and spirit--what with their beer drinking and smoking, and
their slow, stolid ways, you would think them perfectly earthly; but
an ethereal fire is all the while working in them, and bursting out in
most unexpected little jets of poetry and sentiment, like blossoms on
The station room was an agreeable one, painted prettily in frescoes,
with two sofas. So we arranged ourselves in a party. S. and I betook
ourselves to our embroidery, and C. read aloud to us, or tried the
Amati, and when we were tired of reading and music we strolled in the
garden, and I wrote to you.
I wonder why we Anglo-Saxons cannot imitate the liberality of the
continent in the matter of railroad stations, and give the traveller
something more agreeable than the grim, bare, forbidding places, which
now obtain in England and America. This Wittenberg is but a paltry
town; and yet how much care is spent to make the station house
comfortable and comely! I may here say that nowhere in Europe is
railway travelling so entirely convenient as in Germany, particularly
in Prussia. All is systematic and orderly; no hurrying or shoving, or
disagreeable fuss at stations. The second class cars are, in most
points, as good as the first class in England; the conductors are
dignified and gentlemanly; you roll on at a most agreeable pace from
one handsome station house to another, finding yourself disposed to be
pleased with every thing.
There is but one drawback to all this, and that is the smoking.
Mythologically represented, these Germans might be considered as a
race born of chimneys, with a necessity for smoking in their very
nature. A German walking without his pipe is only a dormant volcano;
it is in him to smoke all the while; you may be sure the crater will
begin to fume before long. Smoking is such an acknowledged attribute
of manhood, that the gentler sex seem to have given in to it as one of
the immutable things of nature; consequently all the public places
where both sexes meet are redolent of tobacco! You see a gentleman
doing the agreeable to a lady, cigar in mouth, treating her
alternately to an observation and a whiff, both of which seem to her
equally matters of course. In the cars some attempt at regulation
subsists; there are cars marked "_Nich rauchen_" into which
_we_ were always very careful to get; but even in these it is not
always possible to make a German suspend an operation which is to him
about the same as breathing.
On our way from Frankfort to Halle, in a "_nich rauchen_" car,
too, a jolly old gentleman, whose joyous and abundant German sounded
to me like the clatter of a thousand of brick, wound up a kind of
promiscuous avalanche of declamation by pulling a matchbox from his
pocket, and proceeding deliberately to light his pipe. The tobacco was
detestable. Now, if a man _must_ smoke, I think he is under moral
obligation to have decent tobacco. I began to turn ill, and C.
attacked the offender in French; not a word did he understand, and
puffed on tranquil and happy. The idea that any body did not like
smoke was probably the last that could ever be made to enter his head,
even in a language that he did understand. C. then enlisted the next
neighbor, who understood French, and got him to interpret that smoke
made the lady ill. The chimney-descended man now took his pipe out,
and gazed at it and me alternately, with an air of wondering
incredulity, and seemed trying to realize some vast conception, but
failing in the effort, put his pipe back, and smoked as before! Some
old ladies now amiably offered to change places with me, evidently
regarding me as the victim of some singular idiosyncrasy. As I
changed, a light seemed to dawn on the old chimney's mind--a
good-natured one he was; he looked hard at me, and his whiffs became
fainter till at last they ceased, and he never smoked more till I was
safe out of the cars.
ERFURT, Saturday Evening.
I have just been to Luther's cell in the old Augustine Convent, and if
my pilgrimage at Wittenberg was less interesting by the dirt and
discomfort of the actual present, here were surroundings less
calculated to jar on the frame the scene should inspire. It was about
sunset,--a very golden and beautiful one, and C. and I drove through
various streets of this old town. I believe I am peculiarly alive to
architectural excitements, for these old houses, with their strange
windows, odd chimneys, and quaint carvings, delight me wonderfully.
Many of them are almost gnome-like in their uncouthness; they please
me none the less for that.
We drove first to the cathedral, which, with an old deserted church,
seemingly part of itself, forms a pile of Gothic architecture, a
wilderness of spires, minarets, arches, and what not, more picturesque
than any cathedral I have seen. It stands high on a sort of platform
overlooking a military parade ground, and reached by a long flight of
The choir is very beautiful. I cannot describe how these lofty arches,
with their stained glass windows, touch my heart. Architecture never
can, and never will, produce their like again. They give us aspiration
in its highest form and noblest symbol, and wonderful was that mind
which conceived them. This choir so darkly bright, its stalls and
seats carved in black oak, its flame-like arches, gorgeous with
evening light, were a preparation and excitement of mind. Yet it's
remarkable about these old-time cathedrals, that while their is every
grand and solemn effect of architecture, there is also always an
abundance of subordinate parts, mean, tawdry, revolting, just like the
whole system they represent. Out of this beautiful choir I wanted to
tear all the tinsel fixtures on its altar, except two very good
pictures, and leave it in it noble simplicity.
I remarked here a black oak chandelier, which the guide said was taken
from the cathedral of Cologne. It was the very perfection of Gothic
carving, and resembled frostwork in its lightness. The floor of the
cathedral was covered with effigies in stone, trod smooth by the feet
of worshippers; so we living ones are ever walking above the dead,
though we do not always, as here, see the outward sign thereof.
From the cathedral we passed out, and stopped a moment to examine the
adjoining church, now deserted, but whose three graceful spires have a
peculiar beauty. After a turn upon the platform we descended, and
drove to the Augustine Convent, now used as an orphan asylum. We
ascended through a court yard, full of little children, by some steps
into a gallery, where a woman came out with her keys. We passed first
into a great hall, the walls of which were adorned with Holbein's
Dance of Death.
From this hall we passed into Luther's room--a little cell, ten feet
square; the walls covered with inscriptions from his writings. There
we saw his inkstand, his pocket Testament, a copy of the Bible that
was presented to him, (by whom I could not understand,) splendidly
bound and illuminated. But it was the cell itself which affected me,
the windows looking out into what were the cloisters of the monastery.
Here was that struggle--that mortal agony--that giant soul convulsing
and wearing down that strong frame. These walls! to what groans, to
what prayers had they listened! Could we suppose a living human form
imperishable, capable of struggling and suffering, but not of dying,
buried beneath the whole weight of one of these gloomy cathedrals,
suffocating in mortal agony, hearing above the tramp of footsteps, the
peal of organs, the triumphant surge of chants, and vainly striving to
send up its cries under all this load,--such, it would seem, was the
suffering of this mighty soul. The whole pomp and splendor of this
gorgeous prison house was piled up on his breast, and _his_
struggles rent the prison for the world!
On a piece of parchment which is here kept framed is inscribed in
Luther's handwriting, in Latin, "Death is swallowed up in Victory!"
Nothing better could be written on the walls of this cell.
This afternoon I walked out a little to observe the German Sabbath.
Not like the buoyant, voluble, social Sunday of Paris, though still
consecrated to leisure and family enjoyment more than to religious
exercises. As I walked down the streets, the doors were standing open,
men smoking their pipes, women knitting, and children playing. One
place of resort was the graveyard of an antiquated church. A graveyard
here is quite different from the solitary, dismal place where we lay
our friends, as if to signify that all intercourse with them is at an
end. Each grave was trimmed and garlanded with flowers, fastened with
long strings of black or white ribbon. Around and among the graves
men, women, and children were walking, the men smoking and chatting,
not noisily, but in a cheerful, earnest way. It seems to me that this
way of treating the dead might lessen the sense of separation. I
believe it is generally customary to attend some religious exercise
once on Sunday, and after that the rest of the day is devoted to this
sort of enjoyment.
[Illustration: _of the Wartburg._]
The morning we started for Eisenach was foggy and rainy. This was
unfortunate, as we were changing from a dead level country to one of
extreme beauty. The Thuringian Forest, with its high, wooded points
crowned here and there with many a castle and many a ruin, loomed up
finely through the mist, and several times I exclaimed, "There is the
Wartburg," or "That must be the Wartburg," long before we were near
it. It was raining hard when we reached Eisenach station, and engaged
a carriage to take us to the Wartburg. The mist, which wreathed
thickly around, showed us only glimpses as we wound slowly up the
castle hill--enough, however, to pique the imagination, and show how
beautiful it might be in fair weather.
The grounds are finely kept: winding paths invite to many a charming
stroll. When about half way up, as the rain had partially subsided, I
left the carriage, and toiled up the laborious steep on foot, that I
might observe better. You approach the castle by a path cut through
the rock for about thirty or forty feet. At last I stood under a low
archway of solid stone masonry, about twenty feet thick. There had
evidently been three successive doors; the outer one was gone, and the
two inner were wonderfully massive, braced with iron, and having each
a smaller wicket door swung back on its hinges.
As my party were a little behind, I had time to stop and meditate. I
fancied a dark, misty night, and the tramp of a party of horsemen
coming up the rocky path to the gateway; the parley at the wicket; the
unbarred doors, creaking on their rusty hinges,--one, two, three,--are
opened; in clatters the cavalcade. In the midst of armed men with
visors down, a monk in cowl and gown, and with that firm look about
the lips which is so characteristic in Luther's portraits. But here
our party came up, and the vision was dispelled. As none of us knew a
word of German, we stood rather irresolutely looking at the buildings
which, in all shapes and varieties, surround the court. I went into
one room--it was a pantry; into another--it was a wash room; into a
third--it was a sitting room, garnished with antlers, and hung round
with hard old portraits of princes and electors, and occupied by
Germans smoking and drinking beer. One is sure that in this respect
one cannot fail of seeing the place as it was in Luther's time. If
they were Germans, of course they drank beer out of tall, narrow beer
glasses; that is as immutable a fact as the old stones of the
"H.," said C., "did the Germans use to smoke in Luther's day?"
"0, nothing. Only, what could they do with themselves?"
"I do not know, unless they drank the more beer."
"But what could they do with their chimney-hood?"
So saying, the saucy fellow prowled about promiscuously a while,
assailing one and another in French, to about as much purpose as one
might have tried to storm the walls with discharges of thistle down;
all smoked and drank as before. But as several other visitors arrived,
and it became evident that if we did not come to see the castle, it
was not likely we came for any thing else, a man was fished up from
some depths unknown, with a promising bunch of keys. He sallied forth
to that part of the castle which is undergoing repairs.
Passing through bricks and mortar, under scaffolds, &c., we came to
the armory, full of old knights and steeds in complete armor; that is
to say, the armor was there, and, without peeping between the
crevices, one could hardly tell that their owners were not at home in
their iron houses. There sat the Elector of Saxony, in full armor, on
his horse, which was likewise cased in steel. There was the suit of
armor in which Constable Bourbon fell under the walls of Rome, and
other celebrated suits, some covered with fine engraved work, and some
gilded. A quantity of banners literally hung in tatters, dropping to
pieces with age. Here were the middle ages all standing.
Then we passed up to a grand hall, which is now being restored with
great taste after the style of that day--a long, lofty room, with an
arched roof, and a gallery on one side, and beyond, a row of
Romanesque arched windows, commanding a view of the country around.
Having finished the tour of this part, we went back, ascended an old,
rude staircase, and were ushered into Luther's Patmos, about ten or
twelve feet square. The window looked down the rocky sides into an
ocean of seething mist. I opened it, but could see nothing of all
those scenes he describes so graphically from this spot. I thought of
his playful letter on the "Diet of the Rooks," but there was not a
rook at hand to illustrate antiquity. There was his bedstead and
footstool, a mammoth vertebra, and his writing table. A sculptured
chair, the back of which is carved into a cherub's head, bending
forward and shadowing with its wings the head of the sitter, was said
to be of the time of Luther, but not _his_ chair. There were some
of his books, and a rude, iron-studded clothes press.
Thus ended for me the Lutheran pilgrimage. I had now been
perseveringly to all the shrines, and often inquired of myself whether
our conceptions are helped by such visitations. I decided the question
in the affirmative; that they are, if from the dust of the present we
can recreate the past, and bring again before us the forms as they
then lived, moved, and had their being. For me, I seem to have seen
Luther, Cranach, Melanchthon, and all the rest of them--to have talked
with them. By the by, I forgot to mention the portraits of Luther's
father and mother, which are in his cell. They show that his
_mother_ was no common woman. She puts me in mind of the mother
of Samuel J. Mills--a strong, shrewd, bright, New England character.
I must not forget to notice, too, a little glitter of effect--a
little, shadowy, fanciful phase of feeling--that came over me when in
Luther's cell at Erfurt. The time, as I told you, was golden twilight,
and little birds were twittering and chirping around the casement, and
I thought how he might have sat there, in some golden evening, sad and
dreamy, hearing the birds chirp, and wondering why he alone of all
creation should be so sad. I have not a doubt he has done that very
thing in this very spot.
Monday, August 15. From Eisenach, where we dined cozily in the
railroad station house, we took the cars for Cassel. After we had
established ourselves comfortably in a _nich rauchen_ car, a
gentleman, followed by a friend, came to the door with a cigar in his
mouth. Seeing ladies, he inquired if he could smoke. Comprehending his
look and gesture, we said, "No." But as we spoke very gently, he
misunderstood us, and entered. Seeing by our looks that something was
amiss, he repeated the question more emphatically in German: "Can I
smoke? Yes, or no." "No," we answered in full chorus. Discomfited, he
retired with rather a flushed cheek. We saw him prospecting up and
down the train, hunting for a seat, followed by his _fidus
Achates_. Finally, a guard took him in tow, and after navigating a
while brought him to our door; but the gentleman recoiled, said
something in German, and passed on. Again they made the whole circuit
of the train, and then we saw the guard coming, with rather a fierce,
determined air, straight to our door. He opened it very decidedly, and
ordered the gentleman to enter. He entered, cigar and all. His friend
"Well," said H., in English, "I suppose he must either smoke or die."
"Ah, yes," I replied, "for the sake of saving his life we will even
let him smoke."
"Hope the tobacco is good," added H.; and we went on reading our
"Villette," which was very amusing just then. The gentleman had his
match already lighted, and was just in the act of puffing
preliminarily when H. first spoke. I thought I saw a peculiar
expression on his friend's face. He dropped a word or two in German,
as if quite incidentally, and I soon observed that the smoking made
small progress. Pie kept the cigar in his mouth, it is true, for a
while, just to show he would smoke if he chose; but his whiffs were
fewer and fainter every minute; and after reading several chapters,
happening to cast my eye that way, the cigar had disappeared. Not long
after the friend, sitting opposite me, addressed W. in _good
English_, and they were soon well agoing in a friendly discussion
of our route. The winged word had hit the mark that time.
We passed the night in an agreeable hotel, Roi de Prusse, at Cassel.
By the way, it occurred to us that this was where the Hessians came
from in the old revolutionary times.
Tuesday, August 16. A long, dull ride from Cassel to Dusseldorf.
Wednesday, August 17. Whittridge came at breakfast. The same mellow,
friendly, good-humored voice, and genial soul, I had loved years ago
in the heart of Indiana. We had a brief festival of talk about old
times, art, artists, and friends, and the tide of time rolled in and
swept us asunder. Success to his pencil in the enchanted glades of
Germany! America will yet be proud of his landscapes, as Italy of
Claude, or England of Turner.
Ho for Anvers! (Antwerp.) Through Aix-la-Chapelle, Liége, Malines,
till nine at night.
Thursday, August 18. What gnome's cave is this Antwerp, where I have
been hearing such strange harmonies in the air all night? We drive to
the cathedral, whose tower reminded Napoleon of Mechlin lace. What a
shower of sprinkling music drops comes from the sky above us! We must
go up and see about this. We spiralize through a tubular stairway to
an immense height--a tube of stone, like a Titanic organ pipe, filled
with waves of sound pouring down like a deluge. Undulations
tremendous, yet not intolerable: we soon learned their origin.
Reaching a small door, I turned aside, and came where the great bell
was hung, which twenty men were engaged in ringing. It was a
_fête_ day. I crept inside the frame, and stood actually under
the colossal mass, as it swung like a world in its spheric chime. A
new sense was developed, such as I had heard of the deaf possessing. I
seemed existing in a new medium. I _felt_ the sound in my lungs,
in my bones, on all my nerves to the minutest fibre, and yet it did
not stupefy nor stun me with a harsh clangor. It was _deep_,
DEEP. It was an abyss, gorgeously illuminated of velvet softness, in
which I floated. The sound was fluid like water about me. I closed my
eyes. Where was I? Had some prodigious monster swallowed me, and, like
another Jonah, had I "gone down beneath the bottoms of the mountains"?
I escaped from that perilous womb of sound, and ascended still higher.
There was the mystery of that nocturnal minstrelsy. Seventy-three
bells in chromatic diapason--with their tinkling, ringing, tolling,
knolling peal! Was not that a chime? a chime of chimes? And all these
goblin hammers, like hands and feet of sprites, rising and falling, by
magic, by hidden mechanism.
Of all German cactus blossoms this is the most ethereal. What head
conceived those harmonies, so ghostlike? Every ten minutes, if you lie
wakeful, they wind you up in a net of silver wirework, and swing you
in the clouds; and the next time they swing you higher, and the next
higher, and when the round hour is full the giant bell strikes at the
gate of heaven to bring you home!
But this is dreaming. Fie, fie! Let us come down to pictures, masses,
and common sense. We came down. We entered the room, and sat before
the Descent from the Cross, where the dead body of Jesus seems an
actual reality before you. The waves of the high mass came rolling in,
muffled by intervening walls, columns, corridors, in a low, mysterious
murmur. Then organ, orchestra, and choir, with rising voices urged the
mighty acclaim, till the waves seemed beating down the barriers upon
us. The combined excitement of the chimes, the painting, the music,
was too much. I seemed to breathe ether. Treading on clouds, as it
were, I entered the cathedral, and the illusion vanished.
Friday, August 19. Antwerp to Paris.
Saturday, August 20. H. and I take up our abode at the house of M.
Belloc, where we find every thing so pleasant, that we sigh to think
how soon we must leave these dear friends. The rest of our party are
at the Hotel Bedford.
Of all quaint places this is one of the most charming. I have been
rather troubled that antiquity has fled before me where I have gone.
It is a fatality of travelling that the sense of novelty dies away, so
that we do not realize that we are seeing any thing extraordinary. I
wanted to see something as quaint as Nuremberg in Longfellow's poem,
and have but just found it. These high-gabled old Flemish houses, nine
steps to each gable! The cathedral, too, affects me more in externals
than any yet. And the spire looks as I expected that of Strasbourg
would. As to the grammarye of bells and chimes, I deliver that over to
Charlie. But--I have seen Rubens's painting! Before I came to Europe,
Longfellow said to me, "You must go to Antwerp, to see Rubens."
"I do not think I shall like Rubens," was my reply.
"But you will, though. Yet never judge till you have been to Antwerp."
So, during our various meanders, I kept my eye with a steady resolve
on this place. I confess I went out to see the painting without much
enthusiasm. My experience with Correggio's Notte, and some of the
celebrities of Dresden, was not encouraging. I was weary, too, with
sightseeing. I expected to find an old, dim picture, half spoiled by
cleaning, which I should be required to look into shape, by an
exercise of my jaded imagination.
Alter coming down from hearing the chimes, we went into a side room,
and sat down before the painting. My first sensation was of
astonishment, blank, absolute, overwhelming. After all that I had
seen, I had no idea of a painting like this. I was lifted off my feet,
as much as by Cologne cathedral, or Niagara Falls, so that I could
neither reason nor think whether I was pleased or not. It is
difficult, even now, to analyze the sources of this wonderful power.
The excellence of this picture does not lie, like Raphael's, in a
certain ideal spirituality, by which the scene is raised above earth
to the heavenly sphere; but rather in a power, strong, human, almost
homely, by which, not an ideal, but the real scene is forced home upon
_Christ is dead_,--dead to your eye as he was to the eye of Mary
and of John. Death absolute, hopeless, is written in the faded majesty
of that face, peaceful and weary; death in every relaxed muscle. And,
surely, in painting this form, some sentiment of reverence and
devotion softened into awestruck tenderness that hand commonly so
vigorous; for, instead of the almost coarse vitality which usually
pervades his manly figures, there is shed over this a spiritualized
refinement, not less, but more than human, as if some heavenly voice
whispered, "This is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world!"
The figures of the disciples are real and individual in expression.
The sorrow is homely, earnest, unpicturesque, and grievously heart
broken. The cheek of the kneeling Mary at his feet is wet with tears.
You cannot ask yourself whether she is beautiful or not. You only see
and sympathize with her sorrow. But the apostle John, who receives
into his arms the descending form, is the most wonderful of all.
Painters that I have seen represent him too effeminately. They forget
the ardent soul whom Jesus rebuked for wishing to bring down fire from
heaven on his enemies; they forget that it was John who was called the
son of thunder, and that his emblem in the early church was the eagle.
From the spiritualized softness of his writings we have formed another
picture, forgetting that these are the writings of an aged man, in
whom the ardor of existence has been softened by long experience of
suffering, and habits of friendship with a suffering Lord.
Rubens's conception of John is that of a vigorous and plenary manhood,
whose rush is like that of a torrent, in the very moment when his
great heart is breaking. He had loved his Master with a love like an
eternity; he had believed him; heart and soul, mind and strength--all
had he given to that kingdom which he was to set up; and he had seen
him die--die by lingering torture. And at this moment he feels it all.
There is no Christ, no kingdom--nothing! All is over. "We
_trusted_ it had been he who should have redeemed Israel." With
that miraculous, lifelike power that only Rubens has, he shows him to
us in this moment of suppressed agony; the blood choking his heart,
the veins swollen, and every muscle quivering with the grief to which
he will not give way. O, for this wonderful and deep conception, this
almost divine insight into the mysteries of that hour, one might love
Rubens. This picture cannot be engraved. No engraving is more than a
diagram, to show the places of the figures. For, besides its mesmeric
life, which no artist can reproduce, there is a balancing of colors, a
gorgeousness about it, as if he had learned coloring from the great
Master himself. Even in the overpowering human effect of this piece,
it is impossible not to perceive that every difficulty which artists
vaunt themselves on vanquishing has in this piece been conquered with
apparently instinctive ease, simply because it was habitual to do so,
and without in the least distracting the attention from the great
moral. Magical foreshortenings and wonderful effects of color appear
to be purely incidental to the expression of a great idea. I left this
painting as one should leave the work of a great religious master--
thinking more of Jesus and of John than of Rubens.
After this we went through many galleries and churches devoted to his
works; for Antwerp is Rubens's shrine. None of them impressed me, as
compared with this. One of his Madonnas, however, I must not forget to
describe, it was a conceit so just like him. Instead of the pale,
downcast, or upturned faces, which form the general types of Madonna,
he gives her to us, in one painting, as a gorgeous Oriental sultana,
leaning over a balcony, with full, dark eye and jewelled turban, and
rounded outlines, sustaining on her hand a brilliant paroquet.
Ludicrous as this conception appears in a scriptural point of view, I
liked it because there was life in it; because he had painted it from
an internal sympathy, not from a chalky, second-hand tradition.
And now, farewell to Antwerp. Art has satisfied me at last. I have
been conquered, and that is enough.
To-morrow for Paris. Adieu.
PARIS, Saturday, August 20.
I am seated in my snug little room at M. Belloc's. The weather is
overpoweringly hot, but these Parisian houses seem to have seized and
imprisoned coolness. French household ways are delightful. I like
their seclusion from the street, by these deep-paved quadrangles. I
like these cool, smooth, waxed floors so much that I one day queried
with my friends, the C.'s, whether we could not introduce them into
America. L., who is a Yankee housekeeper, answered, with spirit, "No,
indeed; not while the mistress of the house has every thing to do, as
in America; I think I see myself, in addition to all my cares, on my
knees, waxing up one of these floors."
"Ah," says Caroline, "the thing is managed better in Paris; the
_frotteur_ comes in before we are up in the morning, shod with
great brushes, and dances over the floors till they shine."
"I am sure," said I, "here is Fourrier's system in one particular. We
enjoy the floors, and the man enjoys the dancing."
Madame Belloc had fitted up my room with the most thoughtful care. A
large bouquet adorns the table; fancy writing materials are displayed;
and a waiter, with sirups and an extempore soda fount, one of Parisian
household refinements, stands just at my elbow. Above all, my walls
are hung with beautiful engravings from Claude and Zuccarelli.
This house pertains to the government, and is held by M. Belloc in
virtue of his situation as director of the Imperial School of Design,
to which institution about one half of it is devoted. A public
examination is at hand, in preparing for which M. Belloc is heart and
soul engaged. This school is a government provision for the gratuitous
instruction of the working classes in art. I went into the rooms where
the works of the scholars are arranged for the inspection of the
judges. The course of instruction is excellent--commencing with the
study of nature. Around the room various plants are growing, which
serve for models, interspersed with imitations in drawing or
modelling, by the pupils. I noticed a hollyhock and thistle, modelled
with singular accuracy. As some pupils can come only at evening, M.
Belloc has prepared a set of casts of plants, which he says are
plaster daguerreotypes. By pouring warm gelatine upon a leaf, a
delicate mould is made, from which these casts are taken. He showed me
bunches of leaves, and branches of the vine, executed by them, which
were beautiful. In like manner the pupil commences the study of the
human figure, with the skeleton, which he copies bone by bone. Gutta
percha muscles are added in succession, till finally he has the whole
form. Besides, each student has particular objects given him to study
for a certain period, after which he copies them from memory. The same
course is pursued with prints and engravings.
When an accurate knowledge of forms is gained, the pupil receives
lessons in combination. Such subjects as these are given: a vase of
flowers, a mediæval or classic vase, shields, Helmets, escutcheons,
&c., of different styles. The first prize composition was a hunting
frieze, modelled, in which were introduced fanciful combinations of
leaf and scroll work, dogs, hunters, and children. Figures of almost
every animal and plant were modelled; the drawings and modellings from
memory were wonderful, and showed, in their combination, great
richness of fancy. Scattered about the room were casts of the best
classic figures of the Louvre, placed there, as M. Belloc gracefully
remarked, not as models, but as inspirations, to cultivate the sense
I was shown, moreover, their books of mathematical studies, which
looked intricate and learned, but of which I appreciated only the
delicate chirography. "And where," said I, "are these young mechanics
taught to read and write?" "In the brothers' schools," he said. Paris
is divided into regular parishes, centring round different churches,
and connected with each church is a parochial school, for boys and
girls, taught by ecclesiastics and nuns.
With such thorough training of the sense of beauty, it may be easily
seen that the facility of French enthusiasm in aesthetics is not, as
often imagined, superficial pretence. The nerves of beauty are so
exquisitely tuned and strung that they must thrill at every touch.
One sees this, in French life, to the very foundation of society. A
poor family will give, cheerfully, a part of their bread money to buy
a flower. The idea of artistic symmetry pervades every thing, from the
arrangement of the simplest room to the composition of a picture. At
the chateau of Madame V. the whiteheaded butler begged madame to
apologize for the central flower basket on the table. He "had not had
time to study the composition."
The English and Americans, seeing the French so serious and intent on
matters of beauty, fancy it to be mere affectation. To be serious on a
barrel of flour, or a bushel of potatoes, we can well understand; but
to be equally earnest in the adorning of a room or the "composition"
of a bouquet seems ridiculous. But did not He who made the appetite
for food make also that for beauty? and while the former will perish
with the body, is not the latter immortal? With all New England's
earnestness and practical efficiency, there is a long withering of the
soul's more ethereal part,--a crushing out of the beautiful,--which is
horrible. Children are born there with a sense of beauty equally
delicate with any in the world, in whom it dies a lingering death of
smothered desire and pining, weary starvation. I know, because I have
felt it.--One in whom this sense has long been repressed, in coming
into Paris, feels a rustling and a waking within him, as if the soul
were trying to unfold her wings, long unused and mildewed. Instead of
scorning, then, the lighthearted, _mobile_, beauty-loving French,
would that we might exchange instructions with them--imparting our
severer discipline in religious lore, accepting their thorough methods
in art; and, teaching and taught, study together under the great
Master of all.
I went with M. Belloc into the gallery of antique sculpture. How
wonderful these old Greeks I What set them out on such a course, I
wonder--anymore, for instance, than the Sandwich Islanders? This
reminds me to tell you that in the Berlin Museum, which the King of
Prussia is now finishing in high style, I saw what is said to be the
most complete Egyptian collection in the world; a whole Egyptian
temple, word for word--pillars, paintings, and all; numberless
sarcophagi, and mummies _ad nauseam!_ They are no more fragrant
than the eleven thousand virgins, these mummies! and my stomach
revolts equally from the odor of sanctity and of science.
I saw there a mummy of a little baby; and though it was black as my
shoe, and a disgusting, dry thing, nevertheless the little head was
covered with fine, soft, auburn hair. Four thousand years ago, some
mother thought the poor little thing a beauty. Also I saw mummies of
cats, crocodiles, the ibis, and all the other religious
_bijouterie_ of Egypt, with many cases of their domestic
utensils, ornaments, &c.
The whole view impressed me with quite an idea of barbarism; much more
so than the Assyrian collection. About the winged bulls there is a
solemn and imposing grandeur; they have a mountainous and majestic
nature. These Egyptian things give one an idea of inexpressible
ungainliness. They had a clumsy, elephantine character of mind, these
Egyptians. There was not wanting grace, but they seemed to pick it up
accidentally; because among all possible forms some must be graceful.
They had a kind of grand, mammoth civilization, gloomy and goblin.
They seem to have floundered up out of Nile mud, like that old, slimy,
pre-Adamite brood, the what's-their-name--_megalosaurus,
ichthyosaurus, pterodactyle, iguanodon_, and other misshapen
abominations, with now and then wreaths of lotus and water lilies
round their tusks.
The human face, as represented in Assyrian sculptures, is a higher
type of face than even the Greek: it is noble and princely; the
Egyptian faces are broad, flat, and clumsy. If Egypt gave birth to
Greece, with her beautiful arts, then truly this immense, clumsy roc's
egg hatched a miraculous nest of loves and graces.
Among the antiques here, my two favorites are Venus de Milon, which I
have described to you, and the Diane Chasseresse: this goddess is
represented by the side of a stag; and so completely is the marble
made alive, that one seems to perceive that a tread so airy would not
bend a flower. Every side of the statue is almost equally graceful.
The small, proud head is thrown back with the freedom of a stag; there
is a gay, haughty self-reliance, an airy defiance, a rejoicing fulness
of health and immortal youth in the whole figure. You see before you
the whole Greek conception of an immortal--a creature full of
intellect, full of the sparkle and elixir of existence, in whom the
principle of life seems to be crystallized and concentrated with a
dazzling abundance; light, airy, incapable alike of love and of
sympathy; living for self, and self only. Alas for poor souls, who, in
the heavy anguish of life, had only such goddesses to go to! How far
in advance is even the idolatry of Christianity! how different the
idea of Mary from the Diana!
Yet, as I walked up and down among these remains of Greek art, I could
not but wonder at the spectacle of their civilization: no modern
development reproduces it, nor ever can or will. It is well to cherish
and make much of that ethereal past, as a specimen of one phase of
humanity, for it is past _forever_. Those isles of Greece, with
their gold and purple haze of light and shadow, their exquisite,
half-spiritual, half-bodily formation--islands where flesh and blood became
semi-spiritual, and where the sense of beauty was an existence--have
passed as a vision of glory, never to return. One scarcely realizes
how full of poetry was their mythology; all successive ages have drawn
on it for images of beauty without exhausting it; and painters and
artists, to this day, are fettered and repressed by vain efforts to
reproduce it. But as a religion for the soul and the heart, all this
is vain and void; all powerless to give repose or comfort. One who
should seek repose on the bosom of such a mythology is as one who
seeks to pillow himself on the many-tinted clouds of evening; soft and
beautiful as they are, there is nothing real to them but their
dampness and coldness.
Here M. and Madame Belloc entered, and as he wanted my opinion of the
Diane, I let her read this part of the letter to him in French. You
ought to have seen M. Belloc, with tears in his eyes, defending the
old Greeks, and expounding to me, with all manner of rainbow
illustrations, the religious meanings of Greek mythology, and the
_morale_ of Greek tragedy. Such a whole souled devotion to a
nation dead and gone could never be found but in France.
Madame Belloc was the translator of Maria Edgeworth by that lady's
desire; corresponded with her for years, and still has many of her
letters. Her translation of Uncle Tom has to me all the merit and all
the interest of an original composition. In perusing it I enjoy the
pleasure of reading the story with scarce any consciousness of its
ever having been mine. In the evening Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall called.
They are admirably matched--he artist, she author. The one writes
stories, the other illustrates them. Madame M. also called. English by
birth, she is a true _Parisienne,_ or, rather, seems to have both
minds, as she speaks both languages, perfectly. Her husband being a
learned Oriental scholar, she, like some other women enjoying similar
privileges, has picked up a deal of information, which she tosses
about in conversation, in a gay, piquant manner, much as a kitten
plays with a pin ball.
Madame remembers Mesdames Recamier and De Stael, and told me several
funny anecdotes of the former. Madame R., she said, was always
coquetting with her own funeral; conversed with different artists on
the arrangements of its details, and tempting now one, now another,
with the brilliant hope of the "composition" of the scene. Madame M.
offered me her services as _cicerone_ to Paris, and so to-day out
we went--first to the Pantheon, of which, in her gay and piquant
style, she gave me the history.
Begun first in the time of Louis XVI. as a church, in the revolution
its destination was altered, and it was to be a temple to the manes of
great men, and accordingly Rousseau, Voltaire, and many more are
buried here. Well, after the revolution, the Bourbons said it should
not be a temple for great men, it should be a church. The next popular
upset tipped it back to the great men again; and it staid under their
jurisdiction until Louis Napoleon, who is very pious, restored it to
the church. It is not possible to say how much further this very
characteristic rivalry between great men and their Creator is going to
extend. All I have to say is, that I should not think the church much
of an acquisition to either party. He that sitteth in the heavens must
laugh sometimes at what man calls worship. This Pantheon is, as one
might suppose from its history, a hybrid between a church and a
theatre, and of course good for neither--purposeless and aimless. The
Madeleine is another of these hybrid churches, begun by D'Ivry as a
church, completed as a temple to victory by Napoleon, and on second
thoughts, re-dedicated to God.
After strolling about a while, the sexton, or some official of the
church, asked us if we did not want to go down into the vaults below.
As a large party seemed to be going to do the same, I said, "0, yes,
by all means; let us see it out." Our guide, with his cocked hat and
lantern, walked ahead, apparently in a now of excellent spirits. These
caverns and tombs appeared to be his particular forte, and he
magnified his office in showing them. Down stairs we went, none of us
knowing what we wanted to see, or why. Our guide steps forth, unlocks
the gate? of Hades, and we enter a dark vault with a particularly
earthy smell. Bang! he shuts the door after him. Clash! he locks it;
now we are in for it! and elevating his lantern, he commences a
deafening proclamation of some general fact concerning the very
unsavory place in which we find ourselves. Of said proclamation I hear
only the thundering _"Voilà"_ at the commencement. Next he
proceeds to open the doors of certain stone vaulted chambers, where
the great men are buried, between whose claims and their Creator's
there seems to be such an uncertainty in France. Well, here they were,
sure enough, maintaining their claim by right of possession.
_"Voilà le tombeau de Rousseau!"_ says the guide. All walked in
piously, and stood to see a wooden tomb painted red. At one end the
tomb is made in the likeness of little doors, which stand half open,
and a hand is coming out of them holding a flambeau, by which it is
intimated, I suppose, that Rousseau in his grave is enlightening the
world. After a short proclamation here, we were shown into another
stone chamber with _"Voilà le tombeau de Voltaire!"_ This was of
wood also, very nicely speckled and painted to resemble some kind of
marble. Each corner of the tomb had a tragic mask on it, with that
captivating expression of countenance which belongs to the tragic
masks generally. There was in the room a marble statue of Voltaire,
with that wiry, sharp, keen, yet somewhat spiteful expression which
his busts commonly have.
But our guide has finished his prelection here, and is striding off in
the plenitude of his wisdom. Now we are shown a long set of stone
apartments, provided for future great men. Considering the general
scarcity of the article in most countries, these sleeping
accommodations are remarkably ample. Nobody need be discouraged in his
attempts at greatness in Paris, for fear at last there won't be room
to bury him. After this we were marched to a place where our guide
made a long speech about a stone in the floor--very instructive,
doubtless, if I had known what it was: my Parisian friend said he
spoke with such a German accent she could not understand; so we humbly
took the stone _on trust,_ though it looked to the eye of sense
quite like any other.
Then we were marched into a part of the vault celebrated for its echo.
Our guide here outdid himself; first we were commanded to form a line
_en militaire_ with our backs to the wall. Well, we did form
_en militaire._ I did it in the innocence of my heart, entirely
ignorant of what was to come next. Our guide, departing from that
heroic grandeur of manner which had hitherto distinguished him,
suddenly commenced screaming and hooting in a most unparalleled style.
The echo was enough to deafen one, to be sure, and the first blast of
it made us all jump. I could think of nothing but Apollyon amusing
himself at the expense of the poor pilgrims in the valley of the
shadow of death; for the exhibition was persisted in with a
pertinacity inscrutable to any wisdom except his own. It ended by a
brace of thumps on the wall, each of which produced a report equal to
a cannon; and with this salvo of artillery the exhibition finished.
This worthy guide is truly a sublime character. Long may he live to
show the Pantheon; and when he dies, if so disagreeable an event must
be contemplated, may he have the whole of one of these stone chambers
to himself; for nothing less could possibly contain him. He regretted
exceedingly that we could not go up into the dome; but I had had
enough of stair climbing at Strasbourg, Antwerp, and Cologne, and not
even the prospect of enjoying his instructions could tempt me.
Now this Pantheon seems to me a monument of the faults and the
weakness of this very agreeable nation. Its history shows their
enthusiasm, their hero worship, and the want of stable religious
convictions. Nowhere has there been such a want of reverence for the
Creator, unless in the American Congress. The great men of France have
always seemed to be in confusion as to whether they made God or he
made them. There is a great resemblance in some points between the
French and the ancient Athenians: there was the same excitability; the
same keen outward life; the same passion for ideas; the same spending
of life in hearing or telling some new thing; the same acuteness of
philosophical research. The old Athenians first worshipped, and then
banished their great men,--buried them and pulled them up, and did
generally a variety of things which we Anglo-Saxons should call
fantastic. There is this difference, that the Athenians had the
advantage of coming first. The French nation, born after this
development, are exposed by their very similarity of conformation, and
their consequent sympathy with the old classic style of feeling, to
become imitators. This betrays itself in their painters and sculptors,
and it is a constant impulse to a kind of idolatry, which is not in
keeping with this age, and necessarily seems absurd. When the Greeks
built altars to Force, Beauty, Victory, and other abstract ideas, they
were doing an original thing. When the French do it, they imitate the
Greeks. Apotheosis and hero worship in the old times had a freshness
to it; it was one of the picturesque effects of the dim and purple
shadows of an early dawning, when objects imperfectly seen are
magnified in their dimensions; but the apotheosis, in modern times, of
a man who has worn a dress coat, wig, and shoes is quite another
I do not mean either to say, as some do, that the French mind has very
little of the religious element. The very sweetest and softest, as
well as the most austere and rigid type of piety has been given by the
French mind; witness Fénélon and John Calvin--Fénélon standing as the
type of the mystic, and Calvin of the rationalistic style of religion.
Fénélon, with his heart so sweet, so childlike, so simple and tender,
was yet essentially French in his nature, and represented one part of
French mind; and what English devotional writer is at all like him?
John Newton had his simplicity and lovingness, but wanted that element
of gracefulness and classic sweetness which gave so high a tone to the
writings of Fénélon. As to Calvin, his crystalline clearness of mind,
his calm, cold logic, his severe vehemence are French, also. To this
day, a French system of theology is the strongest and most coercive
over the strongest of countries--Scotland and America; and yet shallow
thinkers flippantly say the French are incapable of religious ideas.
After Madame M. and I had finished the Pantheon we drove to the
Conciergerie; for I wanted to see the prison of the hapless Marie
Antoinette. That restless architectural mania, which never lets any
thing alone here, is rapidly modernizing it; the scaffoldings are up,
and workmen busy in making it as little historical as possible.
Nevertheless, the old, gloomy arched gateway, and the characteristic
peaked Norman towers, still remain; and we stopped our carriage the
other side of the Seine, to get a good look at it. We drove to the
door, and tried to go in, but were told that we could not without an
order from somebody or other. (I forget who;) so we were obliged to
content ourselves with an outside view.
So we went to take another view of Notre Dame; the very same Notre
Dame whose bells in the good old days could be rung by the waving of
Michael Scott's wand:--
"Him listed but his wand to wave
The bells should ring in Notre Dame."
I had been over it once before with Mrs. C., and sitting in a dark
corner, with my head against a cold, stone pillar, had heard vespers,
all in the most approved style of the poetic. I went back to it now to
see how it looked after the cathedrals of Germany. The churches of
France have suffered dreadfully by the whirlwind spirit of its
revolutions. At different times the painted glass of this church has
been shattered, and replaced by common, till now there is too much
light in it, though there are exquisite windows yet remaining. These
cathedrals _must_ have painted glass; it is essential; the want
of it is terrible; the dim, religious light is necessary to keep you
from seeing the dirty floors, hanging cobwebs, stacks of little, old
rush-bottomed chairs, and the prints where dirty heads and hands have
approached too near the stone pillars. As I sat hearing vespers in
Notre Dame the first time, seeing these all too plainly, may I be
forgiven, but I could not help thinking of Lucifer's soliloquy in a
cathedral in the Golden Legend:--
"What a darksome and dismal place!
I wonder that any man has the face
To call such a hole the house of the Lord
And the gate of heaven--yet such is the word.
Ceiling, and walls, and windows old,
Covered with cobwebs, blackened with mould;
Dust on the pulpit, dust on the stairs,
Dust on the benches, and stalls, and chairs."
* * * * *
However, Notre Dame is a beautiful church; but I wish it was under as
good care as Cologne Cathedral, and that instead of building
Madeleines and Pantheons, France would restore and preserve her
cathedrals--those grand memorials of the past. I consider the King of
Prussia as not only a national benefactor, but the benefactor of the
world. Cologne, when finished, will be the great epic of architecture,
and belong, like all great epics, to all mankind.
Well, Madame M. and I wandered up and down the vast aisles, she with
her lively, fanciful remarks, to which there was never wanting a vein
both of shrewdness and good sense.
When we came out of Notre Dame, she chattered about the place. "There
used to be an archbishop's palace back of the church in that garden,
but one day the people took it into their heads to pull it down. I saw
the silk-bottomed chairs floating down the Seine. They say that
somebody came and told Thiers, 'Do you know the people are rummaging
the archbishop's palace?' and he shrugged his shoulders and said, 'Let
'em work.' That's the say, you know; mind, I don't say it is true!
Well, he got enough of it at last. The fact is, that with, the French,
destructiveness is as much developed as constructiveness, and they are
as good at one as the other."
As we were passing over one of the bridges, we saw a flower market, a
gay show of flowers of all hues, and a very brisk trade going on about
them. Madame told me that there was a flower market every day in the
week, in different parts of the city. The flower trade was more than
usually animated to-day, because it is a saint's _fête,_ the
_fête_ of St. Louis, the patron of Paris.
The streets every where showed men, women, and children, carrying
their pots of blooming flowers. Every person in Paris named Louis or
Louise, after this saint, has received this day little tokens of
affection from their friends, generally bouquets or flowers. Madame
Belloc is named Louise, and her different friends and children called
and brought flowers, and a beautiful India China vase.
The life of Paris, indeed of the continent, is floral, to an extent of
which the people in the United States can form no conception. Flowers
are a part of all their lives. The churches are dressed with flowers,
and on _fête_ days are fragrant with them. A _jardinière_
forms a part of the furniture of every parlor; a _jardinière_ is
a receptacle made in various fanciful forms for holding pots of
flowers. These pots are bought at the daily flower market for a
trifle, in full bloom and high condition; they are placed in the
_jardinière,_ the spaces around them filled with sand and covered
Again, there are little hanging baskets suspended from the ceilings,
and filled with flowers. These things give a graceful and festive air
to apartments. When the plants are out of bloom, the porter of the
house takes them, waters, prunes, and tends them, then sells them
again: meanwhile the parlor is ornamented with fresh ones. Along the
streets on saints' days are little booths, where small vases of
artificial flowers are sold to dress the altars. I stopped to look at
one of these stalls, all brilliant with cheaply-made, showy vases of
flowers, that sell for one or two sous.
We went also to the National Academy of Fine Arts, a government school
for the gratuitous instruction of artists, a Grecian building, with a
row of all the distinguished painters in front.
In the doorway, as we came in, was an antique, headless statue of
Minerva; literally it was Minerva's _gown_ standing up--a pillar
of drapery, nothing more, and drapery soiled, tattered, and battered;
but then it was an antique, and that is enough. Now, when antique
things are ugly, I do not like them any better for being antique, and
I should rather have a modern statue than Minerva's old gown. We went
through all the galleries in this school, in one of which the prize
pieces of scholars are placed. Whoever gets one of these prizes is
sent to study in Rome at the expense of the government. We passed
through the hall where the judges sit to decide upon pictures, and
through various others that I cannot remember. I was particularly
interested in the apartment devoted to the casts from the statuary in
the Louvre and in other palaces. These casts are taken with
mathematical exactness, and subjected to the inspection of a
committee, who order any that are defective to be broken. Proof casts
of all the best works, ancient and modern, are thus furnished at a
small price, and so brought within the reach of the most moderate
This morning M. and Madame Belloc took me with them to call on
Béranger, the poet. He is a charming old man, very animated, with a
face full of feeling and benevolence, and with that agreeable
simplicity and vivacity of manner which is peculiarly French. It was
eleven o'clock, but he had not yet breakfasted; we entreated him to
waive ceremony, and so his maid brought in his chop and coffee, and we
all plunged into an animated conversation. Béranger went on conversing
with shrewdness mingled with childlike simplicity, a blending of the
comic, the earnest, and the complimentary. Conversation in a French
circle seems to me like the gambols of a thistle down, or the rainbow
changes in soap bubbles. One laughs with tears in one's eyes. One
moment confounded with the absolute childhood of the simplicity, in
the next one is a little afraid of the keen edge of the shrewdness.
This call gave me an insight into a French circle which both amused
and delighted me. Coming home, M. Belloc enlarged upon Beranger's
benevolence and kindness of heart. "No man," he said, "is more
universally popular with the common people. He has exerted himself
much for the families of the unfortunate deportes to Cayenne." Then he
added, laughing, "A mechanic, one of my model sitters, was dilating
upon his goodness--'What a man! what sublime virtue! how is he
beloved! Could I live to see his funeral! _Quelle spectacle! Quelle
At tea, Madame M. commented on the manners of a certain English lady
of our acquaintance.
"She's an actress; she's too affected!"
Madame Belloc and I defended her.
"Ah," said M. Belloc, "you cannot judge; the French are never natural
in England, nor the English in France. Frenchmen in England are stupid
and cross, trying to be dignified; and when the English come to
France, it's all guitar playing and capering, in trying to have
But it is hard to give a conversation in which the salient points are
made by a rapid pantomime, which effervesces like champagne.
Madame Belloc and Madame M. agree that the old French _salon_ is
no more; that none in the present iron age can give the faintest idea
of the brilliancy of the institution in its palmiest days. The horrors
and reverses of successive revolutions, have thrown a pall over the
I have been now, in all, about a month in this gay and flowery city,
seeing the French people, not in hotels and _cafes,_ but in the
seclusion of domestic life; received, when introduced, not with
ceremonious distance, as a stranger, but with confidence and
affection, as a friend.
Though, according to the showing of my friends, Paris is empty of many
of her most brilliant ornaments, yet I have been so fortunate as to
make the acquaintance of many noble and justly celebrated people, and
to feel as if I had gained a real insight into the French heart.
I liked the English and the Scotch as well as I could like any thing.
And now, I equally like the French. Exact opposites, you will say. For
that reason all the more charming. The goodness and beauty of the
divine mind is no less shown in the traits of different races than of
different tribes of fruits and flowers. And because things are exact
opposites, is no reason why we should not like both. The eye is not
like the hand, nor the ear like the foot; yet who condemns any of them
for the difference? So I regard nations as parts of a great common
body, and national differences as necessary to a common humanity.
I thought, when in English society, that it was as perfect and
delightful as it could be. There was worth of character, strength of
principle, true sincerity, and friendship, charmingly expressed. I
have found all these, too, among the French, and besides them,
something which charms me the more, because it is peculiar to the
French, and of a kind wholly different from any I have ever had an
experience of before. There is an iris-like variety and versatility of
nature, a quickness in catching and reflecting the various shades of
emotion or fancy, a readiness in seizing upon one's own half-expressed
thoughts, and running them out in a thousand graceful little tendrils,
which is very captivating.
I know a general prejudice has gone forth, that the French are all
mere outside, without any deep reflection or emotion. This may be true
of many. No doubt that the strength of that outward life, that
acuteness of the mere perceptive organization, and that tendency to
social exhilaration, which prevail, will incline to such a fault in
many cases. An English reserve inclines to moroseness, and Scotch
perseverance to obstinacy; so this aerial French nature may become
levity and insincerity; but then it is neither the sullen Englishman,
the dogged Scotchman, nor the shallow Frenchman that we are to take as
the national ideal. In each country we are to take the very best as
Now, it is true that, here in France, one can find people as
judicious, quiet, discreet, and religious, as any where in the world;
with views of life as serious, and as earnest, not living for pretence
or show, but for the most rational and religious ends. Now, when all
this goodness is silvered over, as it were, reflecting like mother-of-pearl
or opal, a thousand fanciful shades and changes, is not the result
beautiful? Some families into which I have entered, some persons with
whom I have talked, have left a most delightful impression upon my mind;
and I have talked, by means of imperfect English, French, and
interpretations, with a good many. They have made my heart bleed over
the history of this most beautiful country. It is truly mournful that a people
with so many fine impulses, so much genius, appreciation, and effective
power, should, by the influence of historical events quite beyond the
control of the masses, so often have been thrown into a false position
before the world, and been subjected to such a series of agonizing
revulsions and revolutions.
"O, the French are half tiger, half monkey!" said a cultivated
American to me the other day. Such remarks cut me to the heart, as if
they had been spoken of a brother. And when they come from the mouth
of an American, the very shade of Lafayette, it would seem, might rise
and say, "_Et tu, Brute!_"
It is true, it is a sarcasm of Voltaire's; but Voltaire, though born a
Frenchman, neither imbodied nor was capable of understanding the true
French ideal. The French _head_ he had, but not the French heart.
And from his bitter judgment we might appeal to a thousand noble
names. The generous Henri IV., the noble Sully, and Bayard the knight
_sans peur et sans reproche_, were these half tiger and half
monkey? Were John Calvin and Fénélon half tiger and half monkey?
Laplace, Geoffroy St. Hilaire, Cuvier, Des Cartes, Malebranche,
Arago--what were they? The tree of history is enriched with no nobler
and fairer boughs and blossoms than have grown from the French stock.
It seems a most mysterious providence that some nations, without being
wickeder than others, should have a more unfortunate and disastrous
The woes of France have sprung from the fact that a Jezebel de Medici
succeeded in exterminating from the nation that portion of the people
corresponding to the Puritans of Scotland, England, and Germany. The
series of persecutions which culminated in the massacre of St.
Bartholomew, and ended with the dragonades under Louis XIV., drained
France of her lifeblood. Other nations have profited by the treasures
then cast out of her, and she has remained poor for want of them. Some
of the best blood in America is of the old Huguenot stock. Huguenots
carried arts and manufactures into England. An expelled French refugee
became the theological leader of Puritanism in England, Scotland, and
America; and wherever John Calvin's system of theology has gone, civil
liberty has gone with it; so that we might almost say of France, as
the apostle said of Israel, "If the fall of them be the riches of the
world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how
much more their fulness!"