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The Memoirs of Victor Hugo by Victor Hugo

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AT RHEIMS, 1825-1838

I. The Execution of Louis XVI.
II. The Arrival of Napoleon I. in Paris in 1815.

I. The Hovel.
II. Pillage.
III. A Dream.
IV. The Panel with the Coat of Arms.
V. The Easter Daisy.

I. Joanny.
II. Mademoiselle Mars.
III. Frédérick Lemaitre.
IV. The Comiques.
V. Mademoiselle Georges.
VI. Tableaux Vivants.



AT THE TUILERIES, 1844-1848:
I. The King.
II. The Duchess d'Orleans.
III. The Princes.


I. The Days of February.
II. Expulsions and Evasions.
III. Louis Philippe in Exile.
IV. King Jerome.
V. The Days of June.
VI. Chateaubriand.
VII. Debates on the Days of June.

I. The Jardin d'Hiver.
II. General Bréa's Murderers.
III. The Suicide of Antonin Moyne.
IV. A Visit to the Old Chamber of Peers.

I. Odilon Barrot.
II. Monsieur Thiers.
III. Dufaure.
IV. Changarnier.
V. Lagrange.
VI. Prudhon.
VII. Blanqui.
VIII. Larmartine.
IX. Boulay de la Meurthe.
X. Dupin.

I. His Debuts.
II. His Elevation to the Presidency.
III. His First Official Dinner.
IV. The First Month.
V. Feeling His Way.




This volume of memoirs has a double character--historical and
intimate. The life of a period, the XIX Century, is bound up in
the life of a man, VICTOR HUGO. As we follow the events set
forth we get the impression they made upon the mind of the
extraordinary man who recounts them; and of all the personages
he brings before us he himself is assuredly not the least
interesting. In portraits from the brushes of Rembrandts there
are always two portraits, that of the model and that of the

This is not a diary of events arranged in chronological
order, nor is it a continuous autobiography. It is less and
it is more, or rather, it is better than these. It is a sort of
haphazard ~chronique~ in which only striking incidents and
occurrences are brought out, and lengthy and wearisome details
are avoided. VICTOR HUGO'S long and chequered life was filled
with experiences of the most diverse character--literature and
politics, the court and the street, parliament and the theatre,
labour, struggles, disappointments, exile and triumphs. Hence
we get a series of pictures of infinite variety.

Let us pass the gallery rapidly in review.

It opens in 1825, at Rheims, during the coronation of CHARLES X,
with an amusing ~causerie~ on the manners and customs of the
Restoration. The splendour of this coronation ceremony was
singularly spoiled by the pitiable taste of those who had
charge of it. These worthies took upon themselves to mutilate
the sculpture work on the marvellous façade and to "embellish"
the austere cathedral with Gothic decorations of cardboard.
The century, like the author, was young, and in some things
both were incredibly ignorant; the masterpieces of literature
were then unknown to the most learned ~littérateurs~: CHARLES
NODIER had never read the "Romancero", and VICTOR HUGO knew little
or nothing about Shakespeare.

At the outset the poet dominates in VICTOR HUGO; he belongs
wholly to his creative imagination and to his literary work.
It is the theatre; it is his "Cid", and "Hernani", with its stormy
performances; it is the group of his actors, Mlle. MARS, Mlle.
GEORGES, FREDERICK LEMAITRE, the French KEAN, with more genius;
it is the Academy, with its different kind of coteries.

About this time VICTOR HUGO questions, anxiously and not in
vain, a passer-by who witnessed the execution of LOUIS XVI, and
an officer who escorted Napoleon to Paris on his return from the
Island of Elba.

Next, under the title, "Visions of the Real", come some sketches
in the master's best style, of things seen "in the mind's eye,"
as Hamlet says. Among them "The Hovel" will attract attention.
This sketch resembles a page from EDGAR POE, although it was
written long before POE's works were introduced into France.

With "Love in Prison" VICTOR HUGO deals with social questions,
in which he was more interested than in political questions.
And yet, in entering the Chamber of Peers he enters public life.
His sphere is enlarged, he becomes one of the familiars of the
Tuileries. LOUIS PHILIPPE, verbose and full of recollections
that he is fond of imparting to others, seeks the company and
appreciation of this listener of note, and makes all sorts of
confidences to him. The King with his very haughty bonhomie
and his somewhat infatuated wisdom; the grave and sweet DUCHESS
D'ORLEANS, the boisterous and amiable princes--the whole
commonplace and home-like court--are depicted with kindliness
but sincerity.

The horizon, however, grows dark, and from 1846 the new peer of
France notes the gradual tottering of the edifice of royalty.
The revolution of 1848 bursts out. Nothing could be more
thrilling than the account, hour by hour, of the events of the
three days of February. VICTOR HUGO is not merely a spectator
of this great drama, he is an actor in it. He is in the
streets, he makes speeches to the people, he seeks to restrain
them; he believes, with too good reason, that the Republic is
premature, and, in the Place de la Bastille, before the
evolutionary Faubourg Saint Antoine, he dares to proclaim the

Four months later distress provokes the formidable insurrection
of June, which is fatal to the Republic.

The year 1848 is the stormy year. The atmosphere is fiery, men
are violent, events are tragical. Battles in the streets are
followed by fierce debates in the Assembly. VICTOR HUGO takes
part in the mêlée. We witness the scenes with him; he points
out the chief actors to us. His "Sketches" made in the National
Assembly are "sketched from life" in the fullest acceptation of
the term. Twenty lines suffice. ODILON BARROT and CHANGARNIER,
PRUDHON and BLANQUI, LAMARTINE and "Monsieur THIERS" come, go,
speak--veritable living figures.

The most curious of the figures is LOUIS BONAPARTE when he
arrived in Paris and when he assumed the Presidency of the
Republic. He is gauche, affected, somewhat ridiculous,
distrusted by the Republicans, and scoffed at by the Royalists.
Nothing could be more suggestive or more piquant than the
inauguration dinner at the Elysee, at which VICTOR HUGO was one
of the guests, and the first and courteous relations between the
author of "Napoleon the Little" and the future Emperor who was
to inflict twenty years of exile upon him.

But now we come to the year which VICTOR HUGO has designated
"The Terrible Year," the war, and the siege of Paris. This part
of the volume is made up of extracts from note-books, private
and personal notes, dotted down from day to day. Which is to
say that they do not constitute an account of the oft-related
episodes of the siege, but tell something new, the little side
of great events, the little incidents of everyday life, the
number of shells fired into the city and what they cost, the
degrees of cold, the price of provisions, what is being said,
sung, and eaten, and at the same time give the psychology of the
great city, its illusions, revolts, wrath, anguish, and also its
gaiety; for during these long months Paris never gave up hope
and preserved an heroic cheerfulness.

On the other hand a painful note runs through the diary kept
during the meeting of the Assembly at Bordeaux. France is not
only vanquished, she is mutilated. The conqueror demands a
ransom of milliards--it is his right, the right of the
strongest; but he tears from her two provinces, with their
inhabitants devoted to France; it is a return towards barbarism.
VICTOR HUGO withdraws indignantly from the Assembly which has
agreed to endorse the Treaty of Frankfort. And three days after
his resignation he sees CHARLES HUGO, his eldest son, die a
victim to the privations of the siege. He is stricken at once
in his love of country and in his paternal love, and one can say
that in these painful pages, more than in any of the others, the
book is history that has been lived.


Paris, Sept. 15, 1899.





It was at Rheims that I heard the name of Shakespeare for the
first time. It was pronounced by Charles Nodier. That was in
1825, during the coronation of Charles X.

No one at that time spoke of Shakespeare quite seriously.
Voltaire's ridicule of him was law. Mme. de Staël had adopted
Germany, the great land of Kant, of Schiller, and of Beethoven.
Ducis was at the height of his triumph; he and Delille were
seated side by side in academic glory, which is not unlike
theatrical glory. Ducis had succeeded in doing something with
Shakespeare; he had made him possible; he had extracted some
"tragedies" from him; Ducis impressed one as being a man who
could chisel an Apollo out of Moloch. It was the time when Iago
was called Pezare; Horatio, Norceste; and Desdemona, Hedelmone.
A charming and very witty woman, the Duchess de Duras, used to
say: "Desdemona, what an ugly name! Fie!" Talma, Prince of
Denmark, in a tunic of lilac satin trimmed with fur, used to
exclaim: "Avaunt! Dread spectre!" The poor spectre, in fact,
was only tolerated behind the scenes. If it had ventured to put
in the slightest appearance M. Evariste Dumoulin would have
given it a severe talking to. Some Génin or other would have
hurled at it the first cobble-stone he could lay his hand on--a
line from Boileau: ~L'esprit n'est point ému de ce qu'il ne croit
pas~. It was replaced on the stage by an "urn" that Talma
carried under his arm. A spectre is ridiculous; "ashes," that's
the style! Are not the "ashes" of Napoleon still spoken of? Is
not the translation of the coffin from St. Helena to the
Invalides alluded to as "the return of the ashes"? As to the
witches of Macbeth, they were rigorously barred. The
hall-porter of the Théâtre-Français had his orders. They would
have been received with their own brooms.

I am mistaken, however, in saying that I did not know
Shakespeare. I knew him as everybody else did, not having read
him, and having treated him with ridicule. My childhood began,
as everybody's childhood begins, with prejudices. Man finds
prejudices beside his cradle, puts them from him a little in the
course of his career, and often, alas! takes to them again in
his old age.

During this journey in 1825 Charles Nodier and I passed our time
recounting to each other the Gothic tales and romances that have
taken root in Rheims. Our memories and sometimes our
imaginations, clubbed together. Each of us furnished his
legend. Rheims is one of the most impossible towns in the
geography of story. Pagan lords have lived there, one of whom
gave as a dower to his daughter the strips of land in
Borysthenes called the "race-courses of Achilles." The Duke de
Guyenne, in the fabliaux, passes through Rheims on his way to
besiege Babylon; Babylon, moreover, which is very worthy of
Rheims, is the capital of the Admiral Gaudissius. It is at
Rheims that the deputation sent by the Locri Ozolae to
Apollonius of Tyana, "high priest of Bellona," "disembarks."
While discussing this disembarkation we argued concerning the
Locri Ozolae. These people, according to Nodier, were called
the Fetidae because they were half monkeys; according to myself,
because they inhabited the marshes of Phocis. We reconstructed
on the spot the tradition of St. Remigius and his adventures
with the fairy Mazelane. The Champagne country is rich in
tales. Nearly all the old Gaulish fables had their origin in
this province. Rheims is the land of chimeras. It is perhaps
for this reason that kings were crowned there.

Legends are so natural to this place, are in such good soil,
that they immediately began to germinate upon the coronation of
Charles X. itself. The Duke of Northumberland, the
representative of England at the coronation ceremonies, was
reputed fabulously wealthy. Wealthy and English, how could he
be otherwise than ~a la mode~? The English, at that period, were
very popular in French society, although not among the people.
They were liked in certain salons because of Waterloo, which was
still fairly recent, and to Anglicize the French language was a
recommendation in ultra-fashionable society. Lord
Northumberland, therefore, long before his arrival, was popular
and legendary in Rheims. A coronation was a godsend to Rheims.
A flood of opulent people inundated the city. It was the Nile
that was passing. Landlords rubbed their hands with glee.

There was in Rheims in those days, and there probably
is to-day, at the corner of a street giving on to the square,
a rather large house with a carriage-entrance and a balcony,
built of stone in the royal style of Louis XIV., and facing the
cathedral. About this house and Lord Northumberland the
following was related:

In January, 1825, the balcony of the house bore the notice:
"House for Sale." All at once the "Moniteur" announced that the
coronation of Charles X. would take place at Rheims in the
spring. There was great rejoicing in the city. Notices of
rooms to let were immediately hung out everywhere. The meanest
room was to bring in at least sixty francs a day. One morning a
man of irreproachable appearance, dressed in black, with a white
cravat, an Englishman who spoke broken French, presented himself
at the house in the square. He saw the proprietor, who eyed him

"You wish to sell your house?" queried the Englishman.

"How much?"

"Ten thousand francs."

"But I don't want to buy it."

"What do you want, then?"

"Only to hire it."

"That's different. For a year?"

"For six months?"

"No. I want to hire it for three days."

"How much will you charge?"

"Thirty thousand francs."

The gentleman was Lord Northumberland's steward, who was looking
for a lodging for his master for the coronation ceremonies. The
proprietor had smelled the Englishman and guessed the steward.
The house was satisfactory, and the proprietor held out for his
price; the Englishman, being only a Norman, gave way to the
Champenois; the duke paid the 30,000 francs, and spent three
days in the house, at the rate of 400 francs an hour.

Nodier and I were two explorers. When we travelled together, as
we occasionally did, we went on voyages of discovery, he in
search of rare books, I in search of ruins. He would go into
ecstasies over a _Cymbalum Mound_ with margins, and I over a
defaced portal. We had given each other a devil. He said to
me: "You are possessed of the demon Ogive." "And you," I
answered, "of the demon Elzevir."

At Soissons, while I was exploring Saint Jean-des-Vignes, he had
discovered, in a suburb, a ragpicker. The ragpicker's basket is
the hyphen between rags and paper, and the ragpicker is the
hyphen between the beggar and the philosopher. Nodier who gave
to the poor, and sometimes to philosophers, had entered the
ragpicker's abode. The ragpicker turned out to be a book
dealer. Among the books Nodier noticed a rather thick volume
of six or eight hundred pages, printed in Spanish, two columns
to a page, badly damaged by worms, and the binding missing from
the back. The ragpicker, asked what he wanted for it, replied,
trembling lest the price should be refused: "Five francs," which
Nodier paid, also trembling, but with joy. This book was the
_Romancero_ complete. There are only three complete copies of
this edition now in existence. One of these a few years ago
sold for 7,500 francs. Moreover, worms are vying with each
other in eating up these three remaining copies. The peoples,
feeders of princes, have something else to do than spend their
money to preserve for new editions the legacies of human
intellect, and the _Romancero_, being merely an Iliad, has not
been reprinted.

During the three days of the coronation there were great
crowds in the streets of Rheims, at the Archbishop's palace,
and on the promenades along the Vesdre, eager to catch a glimpse
of Charles X. I said to Charles Nodier: "Let us go and see his
majesty the cathedral."

Rheims is a proverb in Gothic Christian art. One speaks of the
"nave of Amiens, the bell towers of Chartres, the façade of
Rheims." A month before the coronation of Charles X a swarm of
masons, perched on ladders and clinging to knotted ropes, spent
a week smashing with hammers every bit of jutting sculpture on
the façade, for fear a stone might become detached from one of
these reliefs and fall on the King's head. The debris littered
the pavement and was swept away. For a long time I had in my
possession a head of Christ that fell in this way. It was
stolen from me in 1851. This head was unfortunate; broken by a
king, it was lost by an exile.

Nodier was an admirable antiquary, and we explored the cathedral
from top to bottom, encumbered though it was with scaffolding,
painted scenery, and stage side lights. The nave being only of
stone, they had hidden it by an edifice of cardboard, doubtless
because the latter bore a greater resemblance to the monarchy of
that period. For the coronation of the King of France they had
transformed a church into a theatres and it has since been
related, with perfect accuracy, that on arriving at the entrance
I asked of the bodyguard on duty: "Where is my box?"

This cathedral of Rheims is beautiful above all cathedrals. On
the façade are kings; on the absis, people being put to the
torture by executioners. Coronation of kings with an
accompaniment of victims. The façade is one of the most
magnificent symphonies ever sung by that music, architecture.
One dreams for a long time before this oratorio. Looking up
from the square you see at a giddy height, at the base of the
two towers, a row of gigantic statues representing kings of
France. In their hands they hold the sceptre, the sword, the
hand of justice, and the globe, and on their heads are antique
open crowns with bulging gems. It is superb and grim. You push
open the bell-ringer's door, climb the winding staircase, "the
screw of St. Giles," to the towers, to the high regions of
prayer; you look down and the statues are below you. The row of
kings is plunging into the abysm. You hear the whispering of
the enormous bells, which vibrate at the kiss of vague zephyrs
from the sky.

One day I gazed down from the top of the tower through
an embrasure. The entire façade sheered straight below
me. I perceived in the depth, on top of a long stone
support that extended down the wall directly beneath me
to the escarpment, so that its form was lost, a sort of
round basin. Rain-water had collected there and formed
a narrow mirror at the bottom; there were also a tuft
of grass with flowers in it, and a swallow's nest. Thus
in a space only two feet in diameter were a lake, a
garden and a habitation--a birds' paradise. As I gazed
the swallow was giving water to her brood. Round the
upper edge of the basin were what looked like crenelles,
and between these the swallow had built her nest. I
examined these crenelles. They had the form of
fleurs-de-lys. The support was a statue. This happy little
world was the stone crown of an old king. And if God were asked:
"Of what use was this Lothario, this Philip, this Charles,
this Louis, this emperor, this king?" God peradventure
would reply: "He had this statue made and lodged a swallow."

The coronation occurred. This is not the place to describe
it. Besides my recollections of the ceremony of May
27, 1825, have been recounted elsewhere by another, more
ably than I could set them forth.

Suffice it to say that it was a radiant day. God seemed
to have given his assent to the fête. The long clear
windows--for there are no more stained-glass windows at
Rheims--let in bright daylight; all the light of May was
in the church. The Archbishop was covered with gilding
and the altar with rays. Marshal de Lauriston, Minister of
the King's Household, rejoiced at the sunshine. He came
and went, as busy as could be, and conversed in low tones
with Lecointe and Hittorf, the architects. The fine morning
afforded the occasion to say, "the sun of the coronation,"
as one used to say "the sun of Austerlitz." And in the
resplendent light a profusion of lamps and tapers found
means to beam.

At one moment Charles X., attired in a cherry-coloured
simar striped with gold, lay at full length at the
Archbishop's feet. The peers of France on the right,
embroidered with gold, beplumed in the Henri IV. style, and
wearing long mantles of velvet and ermine, and the Deputies
on the left, in dress-coats of blue cloth with silver
fleurs-de-lys on the collars, looked on.

About all the forms of chance were represented there:
the Papal benediction by the cardinals, some of whom had
witnessed the coronation of Napoleon; victory by the marshals;
heredity by the Duke d'Angoulême, dauphin; happiness
by M. de Talleyrand, lame but able to get about;
the rising and falling of stocks by M. de Villèle; joy by
the birds that were released and flew away, and the knaves
in a pack of playing-cards by the four heralds.

A vast carpet embroidered with fleurs-de-lys, made expressly
for the occasion, and called the "coronation carpet,"
covered the old flagstones from one end of the cathedral
to the other and concealed the tombstones in the pavement.
Thick, luminous smoke of incense filled the nave.
The birds that had been set at liberty flew wildly about in
this cloud.

The King changed his costume six or seven times. The
first prince of the blood, Louis Philippe, Duke d'Orleans,
aided him. The Duke de Bordeaux, who was five years
old, was in a gallery.

The pew in which Nodier and I were seated adjoined those
of the Deputies. In the middle of the
ceremony, just before the King prostrated himself at the
feet of the Archbishop, a Deputy for the Doubs department,
named M. Hémonin, turned towards Nodier, who was close to
him, and with his finger on his lips, as a sign that he
did not wish to disturb the Archbishop's orisons by
speaking, slipped something into my friend's hand. This
something was a book. Nodier took it and glanced over it.

"What is it?" I whispered.

"Nothing very precious," he replied. "An odd volume
of Shakespeare, Glasgow edition."

One of the tapestries from the treasure of the church
hanging exactly opposite to us represented a not very
historical interview between John Lackland and Philip
Augustus. Nodier turned over the leaves of the book for a
few minutes, then pointed to the tapestry.

"You see that tapestry?"


"Do you know what it represents?"


"John Lackland."

"Well, what of it?"

"John Lackland is also in this book."

The volume, which was in sheep binding and worn at
the corners, was indeed a copy of _King John_.

M. Hémonin turned to Nodier and said: "I paid six
sous for it."

In the evening the Duke of Northumberland gave a
ball. It was a magnificent, fairylike spectacle. This
Arabian Nights ambassador brought one of these nights
to Rheims. Every woman found a diamond in her bouquet.

I could not dance. Nodier had not danced since he was
sixteen years of age, when a great aunt went into ecstasies
over his terpsichorean efforts and congratulated him in the
following terms: "~Tu est charmant, tu danses comme rim
chou~!" We did not go to Lord Northumberland's ball.

"What shall we do tonight?" said I to Nodier.
He held up his odd volume and answered:

"Let us read this."

We read.

That is to say, Nodier read. He knew English (without
being able to speak it, I believe) enough to make it out.
He read aloud, and translated as he read. At intervals,
while he rested, I took the book bought from the ragpicker
of Soissons, and read passages from the _Romancero_. Like
Nodier, I translated as I read. We compared the English
with the Castilian book; we confronted the dramatic with
the epic. Nodier stood up for Shakespeare, whom he could
read in English, and I for the _Romancero_, which I could
read in Spanish. We brought face to face, he the bastard
Faulconbridge, I the bastard Mudarra. And little by little
in contradicting we convinced each other, and Nodier became
filled with enthusiasm for the _Romancero_, and I with
admiration for Shakespeare.

Listeners arrived. One passes the evening as best one
can in a provincial town on a coronation day when one
doesn't go to the ball. We formed quite a little club. There
was an academician, M. Roger; a man of letters, M. d'Eckstein;
M. de Marcellus, friend and country neighbour of
my father, who poked fun at his royalism and mine; good
old Marquis d'Herbouville, and M. Hémonin, donor of the
book that cost six sous.

"It isn't worth the money!" exclaimed M. Roger.

The conversation developed into a debate. Judgment
was passed upon _King John_. M. de Marcellus declared
that the assassination of Arthur was an improbable incident.
It was pointed out to him that it was a matter of history.
It was with difficulty that he became reconciled to it. For
kings to kill each other was impossible. To M. de
Marcellus's mind the murdering of kings began on January 21.
Regicide was synonymous with '93. To kill a king was
an unheard-of thing that the "populace" alone were capable
of doing. No king except Louis XVI. had ever been
violently put to death. He, however, reluctantly admitted
the case of Charles I. In his death also he saw the
hand of the populace. All the rest was demagogic lying
and calumny.

Although as good a royalist as he, I ventured to insinuate
that the sixteenth century had existed, and that it was the
period when the Jesuits had clearly propounded the question
of "bleeding the basilic vein," that is to say of cases
in which the king ought to be slain; a question which,
once brought forward, met with such success that it resulted
in two kings, Henry III. and Henry IV., being stabbed,
and a Jesuit, Father Guignard, being hanged.

Then we passed to the details of the drama, situations,
scenes, and personages. Nodier pointed out that
Faulconbridge is the same person spoken of by Mathieu Paris as
Falcasius de Trente, bastard of Richard Coeur de Lion.
Baron d'Eckstein, in support of this, reminded his hearers
that, according to Hollinshed, Faulconbridge, or Falcasius,
slew the Viscount de Limoges to avenge his father Richard,
who had been wounded unto death at the siege of Chaluz;
and that this castle of Chaluz, being the property of the
Viscount de Limoges, it was only right that the Viscount,
although absent, should be made to answer with his head
for the falling of an arrow or a stone from the castle upon
the King. M. Roger laughed at the cry of "Austria
Limoges" in the play and at Shakespeare's confounding
the Viscount de Limoges with the Duke of Austria. M.
Roger scored the success of the evening and his laughter
settled the matter.

The discussion having taken this turn I said nothing
further. This revelation of Shakespeare had moved me. His
grandeur impressed me. _King John_ is not a masterpiece,
but certain scenes are lofty and powerful, and in the
motherhood of Constance there are bursts of genius.

The two books, open and reversed, remained lying upon
the table. The company had ceased to read in order to
laugh. Nodier at length became silent like myself. We
were beaten. The gathering broke up with a laugh, and
our visitors went away. Nodier and I remained alone and
pensive, thinking of the great works that are unappreciated,
and amazed that the intellectual education of the
civilized peoples, and even our own, his and mine, had
advanced no further than this.

At last Nodier broke the silence. I can see his smile now
as he said:

"They know nothing about the Romancero!"

I replied:

"And they deride Shakespeare!"

Thirteen years later chance took me to Rheims again.

It was on August 28, 1838. It will be seen further on
why this date impressed itself on my memory.

I was returning from Vouziers, and seeing the two towers
of Rheims in the distance, was seized with a desire to
visit the cathedral again. I therefore went to Rheims.

On arriving in the cathedral square I saw a gun drawn
up near the portal and beside it gunners with lighted fuses
in their hands. As I had seen artillery there on May 27,
1825, I supposed it was customary to keep a cannon in the
square, and paid little attention to it. I passed on and
entered the church.

A beadle in violet sleeves, a sort of priest, took me in
charge and conducted me all over the church. The stones
were dark, the statues dismal, the altar mysterious. No
lamps competed with the sun. The latter threw upon the
sepulchral stones in the pavement the long white silhouettes
of the windows, which through the melancholy obscurity
of the rest of the church looked like phantoms lying
upon these tombs. No one was in the church. Not a
whisper, not a footfall could be heard.

This solitude saddened the heart and enraptured the soul.
There were in it abandonment, neglect, oblivion, exile, and
sublimity. Gone the whirl of 1825. The church had resumed
its dignity and its calmness. Not a piece of finery,
not a vestment, not anything. It was bare and beautiful.
The lofty vault no longer supported a canopy. Ceremonies
of the palace arc not suited to these severe places; a
coronation ceremony is merely tolerated; these noble ruins are
not made to be courtiers. To rid it of the throne and
withdraw the king from the presence of God increases the
majesty of a temple. Louis XIV. hides Jehovah from sight.

Withdraw the priest as well. All that eclipsed it having
been taken away, you will see the light of day direct.
Orisons, rites, bibles, formulas, refract and decompose the
sacred light. A dogma is a dark chamber. Through a
religion you see the solar spectre of God, but not God.
Desuetude and crumbling enhance the grandeur of a temple.
As human religion retires from this mysterious and
jealous edifice, divine religion enters it. Let solitude reign
in it and you will feel heaven there. A sanctuary deserted
and in ruins, like Jumièges, like St. Bertin, like Villers,
like Holyrood, like Montrose Abbey, like the temple of
Paestum, like the hypogeum of Thebes, becomes almost an
element, and possesses the virginal and religious grandeur
of a savannah or of a forest. There something of the real
Presence is to be found.

Such places are truly holy; man has meditated and
communed with himself therein. What they contained of
truth has remained and become greater. The ~à-pcu-prês~
has no longer any voice. Extinct dogmas have not left their
ashes; the prayer of the past has left its perfume. There
is something of the absolute in prayer, and because of this,
that which was a synagogue, that which was a mosque, that
which was a pagoda, is venerable. A stone on which that
great anxiety that is called prayer has left its impress is
never treated with ridicule by the thinker. The trace left
by those who have bowed down before the infinite is always

In strolling about the cathedral I had climbed to the
triforium, then under the arched buttresses, then to the top
of the edifice. The timber-work under the pointed roof is
admirable; but less remarkable than the "forest" of
Amiens. It is of chestnut-wood.

These cathedral attics are of grim appearance. One
could almost lose one's self in the labyrinths of rafters,
squares, traverse beams, superposed joists, traves,
architraves, girders, madriers, and tangled lines and curves. One
might imagine one's self to be in the skeleton of Babel.
The place is as bare as a garret and as wild as a cavern.
The wind whistles mournfully through it. Rats are at home
there. The spiders, driven from the timber by the odour
of chestnut, make their home in the stone of the basement
where the church ends and the roof begins, and
low down in the obscurity spin their webs in which you
catch your face. One respires a mysterious dust, and the
centuries seem to mingle with one's breath. The dust of
churches is not like the dust of houses; it reminds one of
the tomb, it is composed of ashes.

The flooring of these colossal garrets has crevices in it
through which one can look down into the abysm, the
church, below. In the corners that one cannot explore are
pools of shadow, as it were. Birds of prey enter through
one window and go out through the other. Lightning is
also familiar with these high, mysterious regions. Sometimes
it ventures too near, and then it causes the conflagration
of Rouen, of Chartres, or of St. Paul's, London.

My guide the beadle preceded me. He looked at the
dung on the floor, and tossed his head. He knew the bird
by its manure, and growled between his teeth:

"This is a rook; this is a hawk; this is an owl."

"You ought to study the human heart," said I.

A frightened bat flew before us.

While walking almost at hazard, following this bat, looking
at this manure of the birds, respiring this dust, in this
obscurity among the cobwebs and scampering rats, we came
to a dark corner in which, on a big wheelbarrow, I could
just distinguish a long package tied with string and that
looked like a piece of rolled up cloth.

"What is that?" I asked the beadle.

"That," said he, "is Charles X.'s coronation carpet."

I stood gazing at the thing, and as I did so--I am telling
truthfully what occurred--there was a deafening report
that sounded like a thunder-clap, only it came from below.
It shook the timber-work and echoed and re-echoed through
the church. It was succeeded by a second roar, then a third,
at regular intervals. I recognised the thunder of the cannon,
and remembered the gun I had seen in the square.

I turned to my guide:

"What is that noise?"

"The telegraph has been at work and the cannon has
been fired."

"What does it mean?" I continued.

"It means," said the beadle, "that a grandson has just
been born to Louis Philippe."

The cannon announced the birth of the Count de Paris.

These are my recollections of Rheims.




There were certain characteristic details connected with
the execution of Louis XVI. that are not recorded in history.
They were recounted to me by an eye-witness* and
are here published for the first time.

* This eye witness was one Leboucher, who arrived in Paris from
Bourges in December, 1792, and was present at the execution of Louis
XVI. In 1840 he recounted to Victor Hugo most of these details
which, as can easily be imagined, had impressed themselves deeply
upon his mind.

The scaffold was not, as is generally believed, erected
in the very centre of the Place, on the spot where the
obelisk now stands, but on a spot which the decree of
the Provisional Executive Council designates in these
precise terms: "between the pied d'estal and the

What was this pedestal? Present generations who
have seen so many things happen, so many statues crumble
and so many pedestals overthrown do not quite know what
meaning to give to this very vague designation, and would
be embarrassed to tell for what monument the mysterious
stone which the Executive Council of the Revolution
laconically calls the "pied d'estal" served as a base. This
stone had borne the statue of Louis XV.

Let it be noted ~en passant~ that this strange Place which
had been called successively the Place Louis XV., Place
de la Revolution, Place de la Concorde, Place Louis XVI.,
Place du Garde-Meuble and Place des Champs-Elysées,
and which could not retain any name, could not keep any
monument either. It has had the statue of Louis XV.,
which disappeared; an expiatory fountain which was to
have laved the bloody centre of the Place was projected,
but not even the first stone was laid; a rough model of a
monument to the Charter was made: we have never seen
anything but the socle of this monument. Just when a
bronze figure representing the Charter of 1814 was about
to be erected, the Revolution of July arrived with the
Charter of 1830. The pedestal of Louis XVIII. vanished,
as fell the pedestal of Louis XV. Now on this
same spot we have placed the obelisk of Sesostris. It
required thirty centuries for the great Desert to engulf half
of it; how many years will the Place de la Revolution
require to swallow it up altogether?

In the Year II of the Republic, what the Executive
Council called the "pied d'estal" was nought but a
shapeless and hideous block. It was a sort of sinister symbol
of the royalty itself. Its ornaments of marble and bronze
had been wrenched off, the bare stone was everywhere split
and cracked. On the four sides were large square gaps
showing the places where the destroyed bas reliefs
had been. Scarcely could a remnant of the entablature
still be distinguished at the summit of the
pedestal, and beneath the cornice a string of ovolos,
defaced and worn, was surmounted by what architects call
a "chaplet of paternosters." On the table of the
pedestal one could perceive a heap of debris of all kinds,
in which tufts of grass were growing here and there. This
pile of nameless things had replaced the royal statue.

The scaffold was raised a few steps distant from this
ruin, a little in rear of it. It was covered with long
planks, laid transversely, that masked the framework. A
ladder without banisters or balustrade was at the back, and
what they venture to call the head of this horrible
construction was turned towards the Garde-Meuble. A
basket of cylindrical shape, covered with leather, was
placed at the spot where the head of the King was to fall,
to receive it; and at one of the angles of the entablature,
to the right of the ladder, could be discerned a long wicker
basket prepared for the body, and on which one of the
executioners, while waiting for the King, had laid his hat.

Imagine, now, in the middle of the Place, these two
lugubrious things, a few paces from each other: the
pedestal of Louis XV. and the scaffold of Louis XVI.; that is
to say, the ruins of royalty dead and the martyrdom of
royalty living; around these two things four formidable
lines of armed men, preserving a great empty square in
the midst of an immense crowd; to the left of the scaffold,
the Champs-Elysees, to the right the Tuileries, which,
neglected and left at the mercy of the public had become
an unsightly waste of dirt heaps and trenches; and
over these melancholy edifices, over these black, leafless
trees, over this gloomy multitude, the bleak, sombre sky
of a winter morning, and one will have an idea of the
aspect which the Place de la Revolution presented at the
moment when Louis XVI., in the carriage of the Mayor
of Paris, dressed in white, the Book of Psalms clasped in
his hands, arrived there to die at a few minutes after ten
o'clock on January 21, 1793.

Strange excess of abasement and misery: the son of so
many kings, bound and sacred like the kings of Egypt,
was to be consumed between two layers of quicklime,
and to this French royalty, which at Versailles had
had a throne of gold and at St. Denis sixty sarcophagi
of granite, there remained but a platform of pine and a
wicker coffin.

Here are some unknown details. The executioners numbered
four; two only performed the execution; the third
stayed at the foot of the ladder, and the fourth was on the
waggon which was to convey the King's body to the Madeleine
Cemetery and which was waiting a few feet from the

The executioners wore breeches, coats in the French
style as the Revolution had modified it, and three-cornered
hats with enormous tri-colour cockades.

They executed the King with their hats on, and it was
without taking his hat off that Samson, seizing by the hair
the severed head of Louis XVI., showed it to the people,
and for a few moments let the blood from it trickle upon
the scaffold.

At the same time his valet or assistant undid what
were called "les sangles" (straps); and, while the crowd
gazed alternately upon the King's body, dressed entirely
in white, as I have said, and still attached, with the hands
bound behind the back, to the swing board, and upon that
head whose kind and gentle profile stood out against the
misty, sombre trees of the Tuileries, two priests,
commissaries of the Commune, instructed to be present, as
Municipal officials, at the execution of the King, sat in the
Mayor's carriage, laughing and conversing in loud tones.
One of them, Jacques Roux, derisively drew the other's
attention to Capet's fat calves and abdomen.

The armed men who surrounded the scaffold had only
swords and pikes; there were very few muskets. Most of
them wore large round hats or red caps. A few platoons
of mounted dragoons in uniform were mingled with these
troops at intervals. A whole squadron of dragoons was
ranged in battle array beneath the terraces of the
Tuileries. What was called the Battalion of Marseilles
formed one of the sides of the square.

The guillotine--it is always with repugnance that one
writes this hideous word--would appear to the craftsmen
of to-day to be very badly constructed. The knife was
simply suspended to a pulley fixed in the centre of the
upper beam. This pulley and a rope the thickness of a
man's thumb constituted the whole apparatus. The
knife, which was not very heavily weighted, was of small
dimensions and had a curved edge, which gave it the form
of a reversed Phrygian cap. No hood was placed to shelter
the King's head and at the same time to hide and circumscribe
its fall. All that crowd could see the head of
Louis XVI. drop, and it was thanks to chance, thanks perhaps to
the smallness of the knife which diminished the
violence of the shock, that it did not bound beyond the
basket to the pavement. Terrible incident, which often
occurred at executions during the Terror. Nowadays
assassins and poisoners are decapitated more decently.
Many improvements in the guillotine have been made.

At the spot where the King's head fell, a long rivulet
of blood streamed down the planks of the scaffold to the
pavement. When the execution was over, Samson threw
to the people the King's coat, which was of white molleton,
and in an instant it disappeared, torn by a thousand hands.

At the moment when the head of Louis XVI. fell, the
Abbé Edgeworth was still near the King. The blood
spirted upon him. He hastily donned a brown overcoat,
descended from the scaffold and was lost in the crowd.
The first row of spectators opened before him with a sort
of wonder mingled with respect; but after he had gone a
few steps, the attention of everybody was still so
concentrated upon the centre of the Place where the event had
just been accomplished, that nobody took any further notice
of Abbé Edgeworth.

The poor priest, enveloped in his thick coat which concealed
the blood with which he was covered, fled in bewilderment,
walking as one in a dream and scarcely knowing
where he was going. However, with that sort of instinct
which preserves somnambulists he crossed the river,
took the Rue du Bac, then the Rue du Regard and thus
managed to reach the house of Mme. de Lézardière, near
the Barrière du Maine.

Arrived there he divested himself of his soiled clothing
and remained for several hours, in a state of collapse, without
being able to collect a thought or utter a word.

Some Royalists who rejoined him, and who had witnessed
the execution, surrounded the Abbé Edgeworth
and reminded him of the adieu he had addressed to the
King: "Son of St. Louis, ascend to heaven!" These words,
however, memorable though they were, had left no trace
on the mind of him who had uttered them. "We heard
them," said the witnesses of the catastrophe, still moved
and thrilled. "It is possible," he replied, "but I do not
remember having said such a thing."

Abbé Edgeworth lived a long life without ever being
able to remember whether he really did pronounce these

Mme. de Lézardière, who had been seriously ill for more
than a month, was unable to support the shock of the death
of Louis XVI. She died on the very night of January 21.


March 20, 1815.

History and contemporaneous memoirs have truncated,
or badly related, or even omitted altogether, certain details
of the arrival of the Emperor in Paris on March 20, 1815.
But living witnesses are to be met with who saw them and
who rectify or complete them.

During the night of the 19th, the Emperor left Sens.
He arrived at three o'clock in the morning at Fontainebleau.
Towards five o'clock, as day was breaking, he
reviewed the few troops he had taken with him and those
who had rallied to him at Fontainebleau itself. They
were of every corps, of every regiment, of all arms, a little
of the Grand Army, a little of the Guard. At six o'clock,
the review being over, one hundred and twenty lancers
mounted their horses and went on ahead to wait for him
at Essonnes. These lancers were commanded by Colonel
Galbois, now lieutenant general, and who has recently
distinguished himself at Constantine.

They had been at Essonnes scarcely three-quarters of
an hour, resting their horses, when the carriage of the
Emperor arrived. The escort of lancers were in their
saddles in the twinkling of an eye and surrounded the
carriage, which immediately started off again without having
changed horses. The Emperor stopped on the way at the
large villages to receive petitions from the inhabitants and
the submission of the authorities, and sometimes to listen
to harangues. He was on the rear seat of the carriage,
with General Bertrand in full uniform seated on his left.
Colonel Galbois galloped beside the door on the Emperor's
side; the door on Bertrand's side was guarded by a
quartermaster of lancers named Ferrès, to-day a wineshop
keeper at Puteaux, a former and very brave hussar whom
the Emperor knew personally and addressed by name.
No one on the road approached the Emperor. Everything
that was intended for him passed through General
Bertrand's hands.

Three or four leagues beyond Essonnes the imperial
cortege found the road suddenly barred by General
Colbert, at the head of two squadrons and three regiments
echelonned towards Paris.

General Colbert had been the colonel of the regiment
of lancers from which the detachment that escorted
the Emperor had been drawn. He recognised his lancers
and his lancers recognised him. They cried: "General,
come over to us!" The General answered: "My children,
do your duty, I am doing mine." Then he turned
rein and went off to the right across country with a few
mounted men who followed him. He could not have
resisted; the regiments behind him were shouting: "Long
live the Emperor!"

This meeting only delayed Napoleon a few minutes.
He continued on his way. The Emperor, surrounded only
by his one hundred and twenty lancers, thus reached Paris.
He entered by the Barrière de Fontainebleau, took the
large avenue of trees which is on the left, the Boulevard
dim Mont-Parnasse, the other boulevards to the Invalides,
then the Pont do la Concorde, the quay along the river
and the gate of the Louvre.

At a quarter past eight o'clock in the evening he was at
the Tuileries.



You want a description of this hovel? I hesitated to
inflict it upon you. But you want it. I' faith, here it is!
You will only have yourself to blame, it is your fault.

"Pshaw!" you say, "I know what it is. A bleared,
bandy ruin. Some old house!"

In the first place it is not an old house, it is very much
worse, it is a new house.

Really, now, an old house! You counted upon an old
house and turned up your nose at it in advance. Ah! yes,
old houses; don't you wish you may get them! A
dilapidated, tumble-down cottage! Why, don't you know
that a dilapidated, tumble-down cottage is simply charming,
a thing of beauty? The wall is of beautiful, warm and strong
colour, with moth holes, birds' nests, old nails on which the
spider hangs his rose-window web, a thousand amusing
things that break its evenness. The window is only a
dormer, but from it protrude long poles on which all sorts
of clothing, of all sorts of colours, hang and dry in the
wind-white tatters, red rags, flags of poverty that give to
the hut an air of gaiety and are resplendent in the sunshine.
The door is cracked and black, but approach and examine
it; you will without doubt find upon it a bit of antique
ironwork of the time of Louis XIII., cut out like a piece
of guipure. The roof is full of crevices, but in each crevice
there is a convolvulus that will blossom in the spring, or a
daisy that will bloom in the autumn. The tiles are patched
with thatch. Of course they are, I should say so! It affords
the occasion to have on one's roof a colony of pink
dragon flowers and wild marsh-mallow. A fine green grass
carpets the foot of this decrepit wall, the ivy climbs
joyously up it and cloaks its bareness--its wounds and its
leprosy mayhap; moss covers with green velvet the stone
seat at the door. All nature takes pity upon this
degraded and charming thing that you call a hovel, and
welcomes it. 0 hovel! honest and peaceful old dwelling,
sweet and good to see! rejuvenated every year by April
and May! perfumed by the wallflower and inhabited by
the swallow!

No, it is not of this that I write, it is not, I repeat, of
an old house, it is of a new house,--of a new hovel, if you

This thing has not been built longer than two years. The
wall has that hideous and glacial whiteness of fresh plaster.
The whole is wretched, mean, high, triangular, and has the
shape of a piece of Gruyère cheese cut for a miser a
dessert. There are new doors that do not shut properly,
window frames with white panes that are already spangled
here and there with paper stars. These stars are cut
coquettishly and pasted on with care. There is a frightful
bogus sumptuousness about the place that causes a painful
impression--balconies of hollow iron badly fixed to the
wall; trumpery locks, already rotten round the fastenings,
upon which vacillate, on three nails, horrible ornaments
of embossed brass that are becoming covered with
verdigris; shutters painted grey that are getting out of
joint, not because they are worm-eaten, but because they
were made of green wood by a thieving cabinet maker.

A chilly feeling comes over you as you look at the house.
On entering it you shiver. A greenish humidity leaks at
the foot of the wall. This building of yesterday is already
a ruin; it is more than a ruin, it is a disaster; one feels
that the proprietor is bankrupt and that the contractor has

In rear of the house, a wall white and new like the rest,
encloses a space in which a drum major could not lie at
full length. This is called the garden. Issuing shiveringly
from the earth is a little tree, long, spare and sickly,
which seems always to be in winter, for it has not a single
leaf. This broom is called a poplar. The remainder of the
garden is strewn with old potsherds and bottoms of bottles.
Among them one notices two or three list slippers. In a
corner on top of a heap of oyster shells is an old tin
watering can, painted green, dented, rusty and cracked,
inhabited by slugs which silver it with their trails of slime.

Let us enter the hovel. In the other you will find perhaps
a ladder "rickety," as Regnier says, "from the top
to the bottom." Here you will find a staircase.

This staircase, "ornamented" with brass-knobbed banisters,
has fifteen or twenty wooden steps, high, narrow,
with sharp angles, which rise perpendicularly to
the first floor and turn upon themselves in a spiral of about
eighteen inches in diameter. Would you not be inclined
to ask for a ladder?

At the top of these stairs, if you get there, is the room.

To give an idea of this room is difficult. It is the "new
hovel" in all its abominable reality. Wretchedness is
everywhere; a new wretchedness, which has no past, no
future, and which cannot take root anywhere. One divines
that the lodger moved in yesterday and will move out
tomorrow. That he arrived without saying whence he came,
and that he will put the key under the door when he goes

The wall is "ornamented" with dark blue paper with
yellow flowers, the window is "ornamented" with a curtain
of red calico in which holes take the place of flowers.
There is in front of the window a rush-bottom chair with
the bottom worn out; near the chair a stove; on the stove a
stewpot; near the stewpot a flowerpot turned upside down
with a tallow candle stuck in the hole; near the flowerpot
a basketful of coal which evokes thoughts of suicide and
asphyxiation; above the basket a shelf encumbered with
nameless objects, distinguishable among which are a worn
broom and an old toy representing a green rider on a
crimson horse. The mantelpiece, mean and narrow, is of
blackish marble with a thousand little white blotches. It
is covered with broken glasses and unwashed cups. Into
one of these cups a pair of tin rimmed spectacles is plunging.
A nail lies on the floor. In the fireplace a dishcloth
is hanging on one of the fire-iron holders. No fire either
in the fireplace or in the stove. A heap of frightful
sweepings replaces the heaps of cinders. No looking glass on the
mantelpiece, but a picture of varnished canvas representing
a nude negro at the knees of a white woman in a decolletée
ball dress in an arbour. Opposite the mantelpiece, a man's
cap and a woman's bonnet hang from nails on either side
of a cracked mirror.

At the end of the room is a bed. That is to say, a mattress
laid on two planks that rest upon a couple of trestles. Over
the bed, other boards, with openings between them, support
an undesirable heap of linen, clothes and rags. An
imitation cashmere, called "French cashmere," protrudes
between the boards and hangs over the pallet.

Mingled with the hideous litter of all these things are
dirtiness, a disgusting odour, spots of oil and tallow, and
dust everywhere. In the corner near the bed stands an
enormous sack of shavings, and on a chair beside the sack
lies an old newspaper. I am moved by curiosity to look at
the title and the date. It is the "Constitutionnel" of April 25,

And now what can I add? I have not told the most
horrible thing about the place. The house is odious, the
room is abominable, the pallet is hideous; but all that is

When I entered a woman was sleeping on the bed--a
woman old, short, thickset, red, bloated, oily, tumefied, fat,
dreadful, enormous. Her frightful bonnet, which was
awry, disclosed the side of her head, which was grizzled,
pink and bald.

She was fully dressed. She wore a yellowish fichu, a
brown skirt, a jacket, all this on her monstrous abdomen;
and a vast soiled apron like the linen trousers of a convict.

At the noise I made in entering she moved, sat up,
showed her fat legs, that were covered with unqualifiable
blue stockings, and with a yawn stretched her brawny arms,
which terminated with fists that resembled those of a

I perceived that the old woman was robust and formidable.

She turned towards me and opened her eyes. I could
not see them.

"Monsieur," she said, in a very gentle voice, "what do
you want?"

When about to speak to this being I experienced the
sensation one would feel in presence of a sow to which it
behoved one to say: "Madam."

I did not quite know what to reply, and thought for a
moment. Just then my gaze, wandering towards the window,
fell upon a sort of picture that hung outside like a
sign. It was a sign, as a matter of fact, a picture of a
young and pretty woman, decolletée, wearing an enormous
beplumed hat and carrying an infant in her arms;
the whole in the style of the chimney boards of the time of
Louis XVIII. Above the picture stood out this inscription
in big letters:




"Madam," said I, "I want to see Mme. Bécoeur."

The sow metamorphosed into a woman replied with an
amiable smile:

"I am Mme. Bécoeur, Monsieur."



I thought that I must be dreaming. None who did not
witness the sight could form any idea of it. I will, however,
endeavour to depict something of it. I will simply recount
what I saw with my own eyes. This small portion of
a great scene minutely reproduced will enable you to form
some notion as to the general aspect of the town during the
three days of pillage. Multiply these details ~ad libitum~
and you will get the ensemble.

I had taken refuge by the gate of the town, a puny barrier
made of long laths painted yellow, nailed to cross laths
and sharpened at the top. Near by was a kind of shed in
which some hapless colonists, who had been driven from
their homes, had sought shelter. They were silent and
seemed to be petrified in all the attitudes of despair. Just
outside of the shed an old man, weeping, was seated on the
trunk of a mahogany tree which was lying on the ground
and looked like the shaft of a column. Another vainly
sought to restrain a white woman who, wild with fright,
was trying to flee, without knowing where she was going,
through the crowd of furious, ragged, howling negroes.

The negroes, however, free, victorious, drunk, mad, paid
not the slightest attention to this miserable, forlorn group
of whites. A short distance from us two of them, with
their knives between their teeth, were slaughtering an ox,
upon which they were kneeling with their feet in its blood.
A little further on two hideous negresses, dressed as
marchionesses, covered with ribbons and pompons, their
breasts bare, and their heads encumbered with feathers and
laces, were quarrelling over a magnificent dress of Chinese
satin, which one of them had grasped with her nails while
the other hung on to it with her teeth. At their feet a
number of little blacks were ransacking a broken trunk
from which the dress had been taken.

The rest was incredible to see and impossible to describe.
It was a crowd, a mob, a masquerade, a revel, a hell, a
terrible buffoonery. Negroes, negresses and mulattoes, in
every posture, in all manner of disguises, displayed all sorts
of costumes, and what was worse, their nudity.

Here was a pot-bellied, ugly mulatto, of furious mien,
attired like the planters, in a waistcoat and trousers of
white material, but with a bishop's mitre on his head and a
crosier in his hand. Elsewhere three or four negroes with
three-cornered hats stuck on their heads and wearing red
or blue military coats with the shoulder belts crossed upon
their black skin, were harassing an unfortunate militiaman
they had captured, and who, with his hands tied behind his
back, was being dragged through the town. With
loud bursts of laughter they slapped his powdered hair
and pulled his long pigtail. Now and then they would
stop and force the prisoner to kneel and by signs give him
to understand that they were going to shoot him there.
Then prodding him with the butts of their rifles they
would make him get up again, and go through the same
performance further on.

A number of old mulattresses had formed a ring and
were skipping round in the midst of the mob. They were
dressed in the nattiest costumes of our youngest and
prettiest white women, and in dancing raised their skirts
so as to show their lean, shrivelled legs and yellow thighs.
Nothing queerer could be imagined than all these charming
fashions and finery of the frivolous century of Louis
XV., these Watteau shepherdess costumes, furbelows,
plumes and laces, upon these black, ugly-faced, flat-nosed,
woolly-headed, frightful people. Thus decked out they
were no longer even negroes and negresses; they were apes
and monkeys.

Add to all this a deafening uproar. Every mouth that
was not making a contortion was emitting yells.

I have not finished; you must accept the picture complete
to its minutest detail.

Twenty paces from me was an inn, a frightful hovel,
whose sign was a wreath of dried herbs hung upon a pickaxe.
Nothing but a roof window and three-legged tables.
A low ale-house, rickety tables. Negroes and mulattoes
were drinking there, intoxicating and besotting themselves,
and fraternising. One has to have seen these things to
depict them. In front of the tables of the drunkards a
fairly young negress was displaying herself. She was
dressed in a man's waistcoat, unbuttoned, and a woman's
skirt loosely attached. She wore no chemise and her
abdomen was bare. On her head was a magistrate's wig. On
one shoulder she carried a parasol, and on the other a rifle
with bayonet fixed.

A few whites, stark naked, ran about miserably in the
midst of this pandemonium. On a litter was being borne
the nude body of a stout man, in whose breast a dagger
was sticking as a cross is stuck in the ground.

On every hand were gnomes bronze-coloured, red, black,
kneeling, sitting, squatting, heaped together, opening
trunks, forcing locks, trying on bracelets, clasping
necklaces about their necks, donning coats or dresses, breaking,
ripping, tearing. Two blacks were trying to get into the
same coat; each had got an arm on, and they were belabouring
each other with their disengaged fists. It was the second
stage of a sacked town. Robbery and joy had succeeded
rage. In a few corners some were still engaged in killing,
but the great majority were pillaging. All were carrying
off their booty, some in their arms, some in baskets on their
backs, some in wheelbarrows.

The strangest thing about it all was that in the midst of
the incredible, tumultuous mob, an interminable file of
pillagers who were rich and fortunate enough to possess
horses and vehicles, marched and deployed, in order and
with the solemn gravity of a procession. This was quite a
different kind of a medley!

Imagine carts of all kinds with loads of every description:
a four-horse carriage full of broken crockery and
kitchen utensils, with two or three dressed-up and beplumed
negroes on each horse; a big wagon drawn by oxen
and loaded with bales carefully corded and packed, damask
armchairs, frying pans and pitchforks, and on top of this
pyramid a negress wearing a necklace and with a feather
stuck in her hair; an old country coach drawn by a
single mule and with a load of ten trunks and, ten negroes,
three of whom were upon the animal's back. Mingle with
all this bath chairs, litters and sedan chairs piled high with
loot of all kinds, precious articles of furniture with the
most sordid objects. It was the hut and the drawing-room
pitched together pell-mell into a cart, an immense removal
by madmen defiling through the town.

What was incomprehensible was the equanimity with
which the petty robbers regarded the wholesale robbers.
The pillagers afoot stepped aside to let the pillagers in
carriages pass.

There were, it is true, a few patrols, if a squad of five or
six monkeys disguised as soldiers and each beating at his
own sweet will on a drum can be called a patrol.

Near the gate of the town, through which this immense
stream of vehicles was issuing, pranced a mulatto, a tall,
lean, yellow rascal, rigged out in a judge's gown and white
tie, with his sleeves rolled up, a sword in his hand, and his
legs bare. He was digging his heels into a fat-bellied horse
that pawed about in the crowd. He was the magistrate
charged with the duty of preserving order at the gate.

A little further on galloped another group. A negro in
a red coat with a blue sash, a general's epaulettes and an
immense hat surcharged with tri-colour feathers, was
forcing his way through the rabble. He was preceded by
a horrible, helmetted negro boy beating upon a drum, and
followed by two mulattoes, one in a colonel's coat, the other
dressed as a Turk with a hideous Mardi Gras turban on
his ugly Chinese-like head.

Out on the plain I could see battalions of ragged soldiers
drawn up round a big house, on which was a crowded balcony
draped with a tri-colour flag. It had all the appearance
of a balcony from which a speech was being delivered.

Beyond these battalions, this balcony, this flag and this
speech was a calm, magnificent prospect-trees green and
charming, mountains of superb shape, a cloudless sky, the
ocean without a ripple.

Strange and sad it is to see the grimace of man made
with such effrontery in presence of the face of God!


September 6, 1847.

Last night I dreamed this--we had been talking all the
evening about riots, a propos of the troubles in the Rue
Saint Honoré:

I entered an obscure passage way. Men passed and elbowed
me in the shadow. I issued from the passage. I
was in a large square, which was longer than it was wide,
and surrounded by a sort of vast wall, or high edifice that
resembled a wall, which enclosed it on all four sides. There
were neither doors nor windows in this wall; just a few
holes here and there. At certain spots it appeared to have
been riddled with shot; at others it was cracked and hanging
over as though it had been shaken by an earthquake.
It had the bare, crumbling and desolate aspect of places in
Oriental cities.

No one was in sight. Day was breaking. The stone was
grey, the sky also. At the extremity of the place I perceived
four obscure objects that looked liked cannon levelled
ready for firing.

A great crowd of ragged men and children rushed by me
with gestures of terror.

"Save us!" cried one of them. "The grape shot is

"Where are we?" I asked. "What is this place?"'

"What! do you not belong to Paris?" responded the
man. "This is the Palais-Royal."

I gazed about me and, in effect, recognised in this frightful,
devastated square in ruins a sort of spectre of the

The fleeing men had vanished, I knew not whither.

I also would have fled. I could not. In the twilight I
saw a light moving about the cannon.

The square was deserted. I could hear cries of: "Run!
they are going to shoot!" but I could not see those who
uttered them.

A woman passed by. She was in tatters and carried a
child on her back. She did not run. She walked slowly.
She was young, cold, pale, terrible.

As she passed me she said: "It is hard lines! Bread is
at thirty-four sous, and even at that the cheating bakers
do not give full weight."

I saw the light at the end of the square flare up and
heard the roar of the cannon. I awoke.

Somebody had just slammed the front door.


The panel which was opposite the bed had been so
blackened by time and effaced by dust that at first he
could distinguish only confused lines and undecipherable
contours; but the while he was thinking of other things
his eyes continually wandered back to it with that
mysterious and mechanical persistence which the gaze
sometimes has. Singular details began to detach themselves
from the confused and obscure whole. His curiosity was
roused. When the attention becomes fixed it is like a
light; and the tapestry growing gradually less cloudy
finally appeared to him in its entirety, and stood out
distinctly against the sombre wall, as though vaguely

It was only a panel with a coat of arms upon it, the
blazon, no doubt, of former owners of the château; but
this blazon was a strange one.

The escutcheon was at the foot of the panel, and it was
not this that first attracted attention. It was of the bizarre
shape of German escutcheons of the fifteenth century. It
was perpendicular and rested, although rounded at the base,
upon a worn, moss covered stone. Of the two upper angles,
one bent to the left and curled back upon itself like the
turned down corner of a page of an old book; the other,
which curled upward, bore at its extremity an immense
and magnificent morion in profile, the chinpiece of which
protruded further than the visor, making the helm
look like a horrible head of a fish. The crest was
formed of two great spreading wings of an eagle, one
black, the other red, and amid the feathers of these wings
were the membranous, twisted and almost living branches
of a huge seaweed which bore more resemblance to a
polypus than to a plume. From the middle of the plume
rose a buckled strap, which reached to the angle of a rough
wooden pitchfork, the handle of which was stuck in the
ground, and from there descended to a hand, which held it.

To the left of the escutcheon was the figure of a woman,
standing. It was an enchanting vision. She was tall and
slim, and wore a robe of brocade which fell in ample folds
about her feet, a ruff of many pleats and a necklace of
large gems. On her head was an enormous and superb turban
of blond hair on which rested a crown of filigree that
was not round, and that followed all the undulations of the
hair. The face, although somewhat too round and large,
was exquisite. The eyes were those of an angel, the mouth
was that of a virgin; but in those heavenly eyes there was
a terrestrial look and on that virginal mouth was the smile
of a woman. In that place, at that hour, on that tapestry,
this mingling of divine ecstasy and human voluptuousness
had something at once charming and awful about it.

Behind the woman, bending towards her as though whispering
in her ear, appeared a man.

Was he a man? All that could be seen of his body--legs,
arms and chest--was as hairy as the skin of an ape;
his hands and feet were crooked, like the claws of a tiger.
As to his visage, nothing more fantastic and frightful could
be imagined. Amid a thick, bristling beard, a nose like an
owl's beak and a mouth whose corners were drawn by a
wild-beast-like rictus were just discernible. The eyes
were half hidden by his thick, bushy, curly hair. Each
curl ended in a spiral, pointed and twisted like a gimlet,
and on peering at them closely it could be seen that each
of these gimlets was a little viper.

The man was smiling at the woman. It was disquieting
and sinister, the contact of these two equally chimerical
beings, the one almost an angel, the other almost a monster;
a revolting clash of the two extremes of the ideal. The
man held the pitchfork, the woman grasped the strap with
her delicate pink fingers.

As to the escutcheon itself, it was sable, that is to say,
black, and in the middle of it appeared, with the vague
whiteness of silver, a fleshless, deformed thing, which, like
the rest, at length became distinct. It was a death's head.
The nose was lacking, the orbits of the eyes were hollow
and deep, the cavity of the ear could be seen on the right
side, all the seams of the cranium could be traced, and
there only remained two teeth in the jaws.

But this black escutcheon, this livid death's head,
designed with such minuteness of detail that it seemed to
stand out from the tapestry, was less lugubrious than the
two personages who held up the hideous blazon and who
seemed to be whispering to each other in the shadow.

At the bottom of the panel in a corner was the date:


May 29, 1841.

A few days ago I was passing along the Rue de
Chartres.* A palisade of boards, which linked two islands
of high six-story houses, attracted my attention. It threw
upon the pavement a shadow which the sunshine, penetrating
between the badly joined boards, striped with beautiful
parallel streaks of gold, such as one sees on the fine black
satins of the Renaissance. I strolled over to it and peered
through the cracks.

* The little Rue de Chartres was situated on the site now occupied
by the Pavilion de Rohan. It extended from the open ground of the
Carrousel to the Place du Palais-Royal. The old Vaudeville Theatre
was situated in it.

This palisade encloses the site on which was built the
Vaudeville Theatre, that was destroyed by fire two years
ago, in June, 1839.

It was two o'clock in the afternoon, the sun shone hotly,
the street was deserted.

A sort of house door, painted grey, still ornamented with
rococo carving and which a hundred years ago probably
was the entrance to the boudoir of some little mistress, had
been adjusted to the palisade. There was only a latch to
raise, and I entered the enclosure.

Nothing could be sadder or more desolate. A chalky
soil. Here and there blocks of stone that the masons had
begun to work upon, but had abandoned, and which were
at once white as the stones of sepulchres and mouldy as
the stones of ruins. No one in the enclosure. On the walls
of the neighbouring houses traces of flame and smoke still

However, since the catastrophe two successive springtides
had softened the ground, and in a corner of the
trapezium, behind an enormous stone that was becoming
tinted with the green of moss, and beneath which were
haunts of woodlice, millepeds, and other insects, a little
patch of grass had grown in the shadow.

I sat on the stone and bent over the grass.

Oh! my goodness! there was the prettiest little Easter
daisy in the world, and flitting about it was a charming
microscopical gnat.

This flower of the fields was growing peaceably and in
accordance with the sweet law of nature, in the open, in the
centre of Paris, between a couple of streets, two paces from
the Palais-Royal, four paces from the Carrousel, amid
passers-by, omnibuses and the King's carriages.

This wild flower, neighbour of the pavement, opened up
a wide field of thought. Who could have foreseen, two
years ago, that a daisy would be growing on this spot! If, as
on the ground adjoining, there had never been anything but
houses, that is to say, proprietors, tenants, and hail porters,
careful residents extinguishing candle and fire at night
before going to sleep, never would there have been a wild
flower here.

How many things, how many plays that failed or were
applauded, how many ruined families, how many incidents,
how many adventures, how many catastrophes were
summed up in this flower! To all those who lived upon the
crowd that was nightly summoned here, what a spectre
this flower would have been had it appeared to them two
years ago! What a labyrinth is destiny and what
mysterious combinations there were that led up to the advent
of this enchanting little yellow sun with its white rays.
It required a theatre and a conflagration, which are the
gaiety and the terror of a city, one of the most joyous
inventions of man and one of the most terrible visitations of
God, bursts of laughter for thirty years and whirlwinds of
flame for thirty horn's to produce this Easter daisy, the de-
light of a gnat.





March 7, 1830, Midnight.

They have been playing "Hernani" at the Théâtre-Français
since February 25. The receipts for each performance
have been five thousand francs. The public
every night hisses all the verses. It is a rare uproar. The
parterre hoots, the boxes burst with laughter. The actors
are abashed and hostile; most of them ridicule what they
have to say. The press has been practically unanimous
every morning in making fun of the piece and the author.
If I enter a reading room I cannot pick up a paper without
seeing: "Absurd as "Hernani"; silly, false, bombastic,
pretentious, extravagant and nonsensical as "Hernani"." If I
venture into the corridors of the theatre while
the performance is in progress I see spectators issue from their
boxes and slam the doors indignantly. Mlle. Mars
plays her part honestly and faithfully, but laughs at it,
even in my presence. Michelot plays his resignedly and
laughs at it behind my back. There is not a scene shifter,
not a super, not a lamp lighter but points his finger at me.

To-day I dined with Joanny, who had invited me.
Joanny plays Ruy Gomez. He lives at No. 1 Rue du
Jardinet, with a young seminarist, his nephew. The
dinner party was sober and cordial. There were some
journalists there, among others M. Merle, the husband of Mme.
Dorval. After dinner, Joanny, who has the most beautiful
white hair in the world, rose, filled his glass, turned
towards me. I was on his right hand. Here literally is
what he said to me; I have just returned home and
I write his words:

"Monsieur Victor Hugo, the old man, now unknown,
who two hundred years ago filled the role of Don Diègue
in "Le Cid" was not more penetrated with respect and
admiration in presence of the great Corneille than the old
man who plays Don Buy Gomez is to-day in your presence."


In her last illness Mlle. Mars was often delirious. One
evening the doctor arrived. She was in the throes of a
high fever, and her mind was wandering. She prattled
about the theatre, her mother, her daughter, her niece
Georgina, about all that she held dear; she laughed, wept,
screamed, sighed deeply.

The doctor approached her bed and said to her: "Dear
lady, calm yourself, it is I." She did not recognise him
and her mind continued to wander. He went on: "Come,
show me your tongue, open your mouth." Mlle. Mars
gazed at him, opened her mouth and said: "Here, look.
Oh! all my teeth are my very own!"

Célimène still lived.


Frédérick Lemaitre is cross, morose and kind. He lives
in retirement with his children and his mistress, who at
present is Mlle. Clarisse Miroy.

Frédérick likes the table. He never invites anybody to
dinner except Porcher, the chief of the claque.*
Fredérick and Porcher "thee-thou" each other. Porcher
has common sense, good manners, and plenty of money,
which he lends gallantly to authors whose rent is due.
Porcher is the man of whom Harel said: "He likes,
protects and disdains Literary men."

* A band of men and boys who are paid to applaud a piece or a
certain actor or actress at a given signal. The applause contractor, or
~chef de claque~, is an important factor in French theatrical affairs.

Frédérick has never less than fifteen dishes at his table.
When the servant brings them in he looks at them and
judges them without tasting them. Often he says:

"That is bad."

"Have you eaten of it?"

"No, God forbid!"

"But taste it."

"It is detestable."

"I will taste it," says Clarisse.

"It is execrable. I forbid you to do so."

"But let me try it."

"Take that dish away! It is filthy!" And he sends
for his cook and rates her soundly.

He is greatly feared by all his household. His domestics
live in a state of terror. At table, if he does not speak,
no one utters a word. Who would dare to break the
silence when he is mute? One would think it was a dinner
of dumb people, or a supper of Trappists, except for
the good cheer. He likes to wind up the repast with fish.
If there is turbot he has it served after the creams. He
drinks, when dining, a bottle and a half of Bordeaux wine.
Then, after dinner, he lights his cigar, and while smoking
drinks two other bottles of wine.

For all that he is a comedian of genius and a very good
fellow. He is easily moved to tears, which start to his
eyes at a word said to him angrily or reproachfully.

This dates back to 1840. Mlle. Atala Beaudouin (the
actress who under the name of Louise Beaudouin created
the role of the Queen in Ruy Bias) had left Frédérick
Lemaître, the great and marvellous comedian. Frédérick
adored her and was inconsolable.

Mlle. Atala's mother had strongly advised her daughter
on this occasion. Frédérick was occasionally violent,
notwithstanding that he was very amorous; and, besides, a
Russian prince had presented himself. In short, Mlle.
Atala persisted in her determination and positively refused
to see Frederick.

Frederick made frightful threats, especially against the
mother. One morning there was a violent ringing at Mlle.
Atala's bell. Her mother opened the door and recoiled in
terror. It was Frédérick. He entered, dropped into the
chair that was handiest to him, and said to the old woman:

"Don't be afraid, I haven't come to kick your--,
I have come to weep."


September, 1846

Potier, having grown old, played at the Porte Saint
Martin towards the close of his life. He was the same in
the street as he was on the stage. Little boys would
follow him, saying: "There is Potier!" He had a small
cottage near Paris and used to come to rehearsals mounted
on a small horse, his long thin legs dangling nearly to the

Tiercelin was a Hellenist. Odry is a connoisseur of
chinaware. The elephantine Lepeintre junior runs into
debt and lives the life of a ~coquin de neuveu~.

Alcide Tousez, Sainville and Ravel carry on in the
green room just as they do on the stage, inventing
cock-and-bull yarns and cracking jokes.

Arnal composes classic verse, admires Samson, waxes
wrath because the cross has not been conferred upon him.
And, in the green room, with rouge on his nose and cheeks
and a wig on his head, talks, between two slaps in the face
given or received, about Guizot's last speech, free trade
and Sir Robert Peel; he interrupts himself, makes his
entry upon the stage, plays his part, returns and gravely
resumes: "I was saying that Robert Peel----"

Poor Arnal recently was driven almost insane. He had
a mistress whom he adored. This woman fleeced him.
Having become rich enough she said to him: "Our position
is an immoral one and an end must be put to it. An
honest man has offered me his name and I am going to get
married." Arnal was disconsolate. "I give you the
preference," said the belle, "marry me." Arnal is married.
The woman left him and has become a bourgeoise.
Arnal nearly lost his reason through grief. This does
not prevent him from playing his pasquinades every night

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