Part 2 out of 7
As for the Ecole Royale des Beaux Arts, then, and all the good its
students have done, as students, it is stark naught. When the men
did anything, it was after they had left the academy, and began
thinking for themselves. There is only one picture among the many
hundreds that has, to my idea, much merit (a charming composition
of Homer singing, signed Jourdy); and the only good that the
Academy has done by its pupils was to send them to Rome, where they
might learn better things. At home, the intolerable, stupid
classicalities, taught by men who, belonging to the least erudite
country in Europe, were themselves, from their profession, the
least learned among their countrymen, only weighed the pupils down,
and cramped their hands, their eyes, and their imaginations; drove
them away from natural beauty, which, thank God, is fresh and
attainable by us all, to-day, and yesterday, and to-morrow; and
sent them rambling after artificial grace, without the proper means
of judging or attaining it.
A word for the building of the Palais des Beaux Arts. It is
beautiful, and as well finished and convenient as beautiful. With
its light and elegant fabric, its pretty fountain, its archway of
the Renaissance, and fragments of sculpture, you can hardly see, on
a fine day, a place more riant and pleasing.
Passing from thence up the picturesque Rue de Seine, let us walk to
the Luxembourg, where bonnes, students, grisettes, and old
gentlemen with pigtails, love to wander in the melancholy, quaint
old gardens; where the peers have a new and comfortable court of
justice, to judge all the émeutes which are to take place; and
where, as everybody knows, is the picture-gallery of modern French
artists, whom government thinks worthy of patronage.
A very great proportion of the pictures, as we see by the
catalogue, are by the students whose works we have just been to
visit at the Beaux Arts, and who, having performed their pilgrimage
to Rome, have taken rank among the professors of the art. I don't
know a more pleasing exhibition; for there are not a dozen really
bad pictures in the collection, some very good, and the rest
showing great skill and smartness of execution.
In the same way, however, that it has been supposed that no man
could be a great poet unless he wrote a very big poem, the
tradition is kept up among the painters, and we have here a vast
number of large canvases, with figures of the proper heroical
length and nakedness. The anticlassicists did not arise in France
until about 1827; and, in consequence, up to that period, we have
here the old classical faith in full vigor. There is Brutus,
having chopped his son's head off, with all the agony of a father,
and then, calling for number two; there is Æneas carrying off old
Anchises; there are Paris and Venus, as naked as two Hottentots,
and many more such choice subjects from Lemprière.
But the chief specimens of the sublime are in the way of murders,
with which the catalogue swarms. Here are a few extracts from it:--
7. Beaume, Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. "The Grand Dauphiness
18. Blondel, Chevalier de la, &c. "Zenobia found Dead."
36. Debay, Chevalier. "The Death of Lucretia."
38. Dejuinne. "The Death of Hector."
34. Court, Chevalier de la, &c. "The Death of Caesar."
39, 40, 41. Delacroix, Chevalier. "Dante and Virgil in the
Infernal Lake," "The Massacre of Scio," and "Medea going to
Murder her Children."
43. Delaroche, Chevalier. "Joas taken from among the Dead."
44. "The Death of Queen Elizabeth."
45. "Edward V. and his Brother" (preparing for death).
50. "Hecuba going to be Sacrificed." Drolling, Chevalier.
51. Dubois. "Young Clovis found Dead."
56. Henry, Chevalier. "The Massacre of St. Bartholomew."
75. Guérin, Chevalier. "Cain, after the Death of Abel."
83. Jacquand. "Death of Adelaide de Comminges."
88. "The Death of Eudamidas."
93. "The Death of Hymetto."
103. "The Death of Philip of Austria."--And so on.
You see what woful subjects they take, and how profusely they are
decorated with knighthood. They are like the Black Brunswickers,
these painters, and ought to be called Chevaliers de la Mort. I
don't know why the merriest people in the world should please
themselves with such grim representations and varieties of murder,
or why murder itself should be considered so eminently sublime and
poetical. It is good at the end of a tragedy; but, then, it is
good because it is the end, and because, by the events foregone,
the mind is prepared for it. But these men will have nothing but
fifth acts; and seem to skip, as unworthy, all the circumstances
leading to them. This, however, is part of the scheme--the
bloated, unnatural, stilted, spouting, sham sublime, that our
teachers have believed and tried to pass off as real, and which
your humble servant and other antihumbuggists should heartily,
according to the strength that is in them, endeavor to pull down.
What, for instance, could Monsieur Lafond care about the death of
Eudamidas? What was Hecuba to Chevalier Drolling, or Chevalier
Drolling to Hecuba? I would lay a wager that neither of them ever
conjugated [Greek text omitted], and that their school learning
carried them not as far as the letter, but only to the game of taw.
How were they to be inspired by such subjects? From having seen
Talma and Mademoiselle Georges flaunting in sham Greek costumes,
and having read up the articles Eudamidas, Hecuba, in the
"Mythological Dictionary." What a classicism, inspired by rouge,
gas-lamps, and a few lines in Lemprière, and copied, half from
ancient statues, and half from a naked guardsman at one shilling
and sixpence the hour!
Delacroix is a man of a very different genius, and his "Medea" is a
genuine creation of a noble fancy. For most of the others, Mrs.
Brownrigg, and her two female 'prentices, would have done as well
as the desperate Colchian with her [Greek text omitted]. M.
Delacroix has produced a number of rude, barbarous pictures; but
there is the stamp of genius on all of them,--the great poetical
INTENTION, which is worth all your execution. Delaroche is another
man of high merit; with not such a great HEART, perhaps, as the
other, but a fine and careful draughtsman, and an excellent
arranger of his subject. "The Death of Elizabeth" is a raw young
performance seemingly--not, at least, to my taste. The "Enfans
d'Edouard" is renowned over Europe, and has appeared in a hundred
different ways in print. It is properly pathetic and gloomy, and
merits fully its high reputation. This painter rejoices in such
subjects--in what Lord Portsmouth used to call "black jobs." He
has killed Charles I. and Lady Jane Grey, and the Dukes of Guise,
and I don't know whom besides. He is, at present, occupied with a
vast work at the Beaux Arts, where the writer of this had the honor
of seeing him,--a little, keen-looking man, some five feet in
height. He wore, on this important occasion, a bandanna round his
head, and was in the act of smoking a cigar.
Horace Vernet, whose beautiful daughter Delaroche married, is the
king of French battle-painters--an amazingly rapid and dexterous
draughtsman, who has Napoleon and all the campaigns by heart, and
has painted the Grenadier Français under all sorts of attitudes.
His pictures on such subjects are spirited, natural, and excellent;
and he is so clever a man, that all he does is good to a certain
degree. His "Judith" is somewhat violent, perhaps. His "Rebecca"
most pleasing; and not the less so for a little pretty affectation
of attitude and needless singularity of costume. "Raphael and
Michael Angelo" is as clever a picture as can be--clever is just
the word--the groups and drawing excellent, the coloring pleasantly
bright and gaudy; and the French students study it incessantly;
there are a dozen who copy it for one who copies Delacroix. His
little scraps of wood-cuts, in the now publishing "Life of
Napoleon," are perfect gems in their way, and the noble price paid
for them not a penny more than he merits.
The picture, by Court, of "The Death of Caesar," is remarkable for
effect and excellent workmanship: and the head of Brutus (who looks
like Armand Carrel) is full of energy. There are some beautiful
heads of women, and some very good color in the picture.
Jacquand's "Death of Adelaide de Comminges" is neither more nor
less than beautiful. Adelaide had, it appears, a lover, who betook
himself to a convent of Trappists. She followed him thither,
disguised as a man, took the vows, and was not discovered by him
till on her death-bed. The painter has told this story in a most
pleasing and affecting manner: the picture is full of onction and
melancholy grace. The objects, too, are capitally represented; and
the tone and color very good. Decaisne's "Guardian Angel" is not
so good in color, but is equally beautiful in expression and grace.
A little child and a nurse are asleep: an angel watches the infant.
You see women look very wistfully at this sweet picture; and what
triumph would a painter have more?
We must not quit the Luxembourg without noticing the dashing sea-
pieces of Gudin, and one or two landscapes by Giroux (the plain of
Grasivaudan), and "The Prometheus" of Aligny. This is an
imitation, perhaps; as is a noble picture of "Jesus Christ and the
Children," by Flandrin: but the artists are imitating better
models, at any rate; and one begins to perceive that the odious
classical dynasty is no more. Poussin's magnificent "Polyphemus"
(I only know a print of that marvellous composition) has, perhaps,
suggested the first-named picture; and the latter has been inspired
by a good enthusiastic study of the Roman schools.
Of this revolution, Monsieur Ingres has been one of the chief
instruments. He was, before Horace Vernet, president of the French
Academy at Rome, and is famous as a chief of a school. When he
broke up his atelier here, to set out for his presidency, many of
his pupils attended him faithfully some way on his journey; and
some, with scarcely a penny in their pouches, walked through France
and across the Alps, in a pious pilgrimage to Rome, being
determined not to forsake their old master. Such an action was
worthy of them, and of the high rank which their profession holds
in France, where the honors to be acquired by art are only inferior
to those which are gained in war. One reads of such peregrinations
in old days, when the scholars of some great Italian painter
followed him from Venice to Rome, or from Florence to Ferrara. In
regard of Ingres's individual merit as a painter, the writer of
this is not a fair judge, having seen but three pictures by him;
one being a plafond in the Louvre, which his disciples much admire.
Ingres stands between the Imperio-Davido-classical school of French
art, and the namby-pamby mystical German school, which is for
carrying us back to Cranach and Dürer, and which is making progress
For everything here finds imitation: the French have the genius of
imitation and caricature. This absurd humbug, called the Christian
or Catholic art, is sure to tickle our neighbors, and will be a
favorite with them, when better known. My dear MacGilp, I do
believe this to be a greater humbug than the humbug of David and
Girodet, inasmuch as the latter was founded on Nature at least;
whereas the former is made up of silly affectations, and
improvements upon Nature. Here, for instance, is Chevalier
Ziegler's picture of "St. Luke painting the Virgin." St. Luke has
a monk's dress on, embroidered, however, smartly round the sleeves.
The Virgin sits in an immense yellow-ochre halo, with her son in
her arms. She looks preternaturally solemn; as does St. Luke, who
is eying his paint-brush with an intense ominous mystical look.
They call this Catholic art. There is nothing, my dear friend,
more easy in life. First take your colors, and rub them down
clean,--bright carmine, bright yellow, bright sienna, bright
ultramarine, bright green. Make the costumes of your figures as
much as possible like the costumes of the early part of the
fifteenth century. Paint them in with the above colors; and if on
a gold ground, the more "Catholic" your art is. Dress your
apostles like priests before the altar; and remember to have a good
commodity of crosiers, censers, and other such gimcracks, as you
may see in the Catholic chapels, in Sutton Street and elsewhere.
Deal in Virgins, and dress them like a burgomaster's wife by
Cranach or Van Eyck. Give them all long twisted tails to their
gowns, and proper angular draperies. Place all their heads on one
side, with the eyes shut, and the proper solemn simper. At the
back of the head, draw, and gild with gold-leaf, a halo or glory,
of the exact shape of a cart-wheel: and you have the thing done.
It is Catholic art tout craché, as Louis Philippe says. We have it
still in England, handed down to us for four centuries, in the
pictures on the cards, as the redoubtable king and queen of clubs.
Look at them: you will see that the costumes and attitudes are
precisely similar to those which figure in the catholicities of the
school of Overbeck and Cornelius.
Before you take your cane at the door, look for one instant at the
statue-room. Yonder is Jouffley's "Jeune Fille confiant son
premier secret à Vénus." Charming, charming! It is from the
exhibition of this year only; and I think the best sculpture in the
gallery--pretty, fanciful, naïve; admirable in workmanship and
imitation of Nature. I have seldom seen flesh better represented
in marble. Examine, also, Jaley's "Pudeur," Jacquot's "Nymph," and
Rude's "Boy with the Tortoise." These are not very exalted
subjects, or what are called exalted, and do not go beyond simple,
smiling beauty and nature. But what then? Are we gods, Miltons,
Michel Angelos, that can leave earth when we please; and soar to
heights immeasurable? No, my dear MacGilp; but the fools of
academicians would fain make us so. Are you not, and half the
painters in London, panting for an opportunity to show your genius
in a great "historical picture?" O blind race! Have you wings?
Not a feather: and yet you must be ever puffing, sweating up to the
tops of rugged hills; and, arrived there, clapping and shaking your
ragged elbows, and making as if you would fly! Come down, silly
Daedalus; come down to the lowly places in which Nature ordered you
to walk. The sweet flowers are springing there; the fat muttons
are waiting there; the pleasant sun shines there; be content and
humble, and take your share of the good cheer.
While we have been indulging in this discussion, the omnibus has
gayly conducted us across the water; and le garde qui veille a la
porte du Louvre ne défend pas our entry.
What a paradise this gallery is for French students, or foreigners
who sojourn in the capital! It is hardly necessary to say that the
brethren of the brush are not usually supplied by Fortune with any
extraordinary wealth, or means of enjoying the luxuries with which
Paris, more than any other city, abounds. But here they have a
luxury which surpasses all others, and spend their days in a palace
which all the money of all the Rothschilds could not buy. They
sleep, perhaps, in a garret, and dine in a cellar; but no grandee
in Europe has such a drawing-room. Kings' houses have, at best,
but damask hangings, and gilt cornices. What are these to a wall
covered with canvas by Paul Veronese, or a hundred yards of Rubens?
Artists from England, who have a national gallery that resembles a
moderate-sized gin-shop, who may not copy pictures, except under
particular restrictions, and on rare and particular days, may revel
here to their hearts' content. Here is a room half a mile long,
with as many windows as Aladdin's palace, open from sunrise till
evening, and free to all manners and all varieties of study: the
only puzzle to the student is to select the one he shall begin
upon, and keep his eyes away from the rest.
Fontaine's grand staircase, with its arches, and painted ceilings
and shining Doric columns, leads directly to the gallery; but it
is thought too fine for working days, and is only opened for the
public entrance on Sabbath. A little back stair (leading from a
court, in which stand numerous bas-reliefs, and a solemn sphinx,
of polished granite,) is the common entry for students and others,
who, during the week, enter the gallery.
Hither have lately been transported a number of the works of French
artists, which formerly covered the walls of the Luxembourg (death
only entitles the French painter to a place in the Louvre); and let
us confine ourselves to the Frenchmen only, for the space of this
I have seen, in a fine private collection at St. Germain, one or
two admirable single figures of David, full of life, truth, and
gayety. The color is not good, but all the rest excellent; and one
of these so much-lauded pictures is the portrait of a washer-woman.
"Pope Pius," at the Louvre, is as bad in color as remarkable for
its vigor and look of life. The man had a genius for painting
portraits and common life, but must attempt the heroic;--failed
signally; and what is worse, carried a whole nation blundering
after him. Had you told a Frenchman so, twenty years ago, he would
have thrown the démenti in your teeth; or, at least, laughed at you
in scornful incredulity. They say of us that we don't know when we
are beaten: they go a step further, and swear their defeats are
victories. David was a part of the glory of the empire; and one
might as well have said then that "Romulus" was a bad picture, as
that Toulouse was a lost battle. Old-fashioned people, who believe
in the Emperor, believe in the Théâtre Français, and believe that
Ducis improved upon Shakspeare, have the above opinion. Still, it
is curious to remark, in this place, how art and literature become
party matters, and political sects have their favorite painters and
Nevertheless, Jacques Louis David is dead, he died about a year
after his bodily demise in 1825. The romanticism killed him.
Walter Scott, from his Castle of Abbotsford, sent out a troop of
gallant young Scotch adventurers, merry outlaws, valiant knights,
and savage Highlanders, who, with trunk hosen and buff jerkins,
fierce two-handed swords, and harness on their back, did challenge,
combat, and overcome the heroes and demigods of Greece and Rome.
Notre Dame à la rescousse! Sir Brian de Bois Guilbert has borne
Hector of Troy clear out of his saddle. Andromache may weep: but
her spouse is beyond the reach of physic. See! Robin Hood twangs
his bow, and the heathen gods fly, howling. Montjoie Saint Denis!
down goes Ajax under the mace of Dunois; and yonder are Leonidas
and Romulus begging their lives of Rob Roy Macgregor. Classicism
is dead. Sir John Froissart has taken Dr. Lemprière by the nose,
and reigns sovereign.
Of the great pictures of David the defunct, we need not, then, say
much. Romulus is a mighty fine young fellow, no doubt; and if he
has come out to battle stark naked (except a very handsome helmet),
it is because the costume became him, and shows off his figure to
advantage. But was there ever anything so absurd as this passion
for the nude, which was followed by all the painters of the
Davidian epoch? And how are we to suppose yonder straddle to be
the true characteristic of the heroic and the sublime? Romulus
stretches his legs as far as ever nature will allow; the Horatii,
in receiving their swords, think proper to stretch their legs too,
and to thrust forward their arms, thus,--
Romulus's is in the exact action of a telegraph; and the Horatii
are all in the position of the lunge. Is this the sublime? Mr.
Angelo, of Bond Street, might admire the attitude; his namesake,
Michel, I don't think would.
The little picture of "Paris and Helen," one of the master's
earliest, I believe, is likewise one of his best: the details are
exquisitely painted. Helen looks needlessly sheepish, and Paris
has a most odious ogle; but the limbs of the male figure are
beautifully designed, and have not the green tone which you see in
the later pictures of the master. What is the meaning of this
green? Was it the fashion, or the varnish? Girodet's pictures
are green; Gros's emperors and grenadiers have universally the
jaundice. Gerard's "Psyche" has a most decided green-sickness; and
I am at a loss, I confess, to account for the enthusiasm which this
performance inspired on its first appearance before the public.
In the same room with it is Girodet's ghastly "Deluge," and
Gericault's dismal "Medusa." Gericault died, they say, for want of
fame. He was a man who possessed a considerable fortune of his
own; but pined because no one in his day would purchase his
pictures, and so acknowledge his talent. At present, a scrawl from
his pencil brings an enormous price. All his works have a grand
cachet: he never did anything mean. When he painted the "Raft of
the Medusa," it is said he lived for a long time among the corpses
which he painted, and that his studio was a second Morgue. If you
have not seen the picture, you are familiar probably, with
Reynolds's admirable engraving of it. A huge black sea; a raft
beating upon it; a horrid company of men dead, half dead, writhing
and frantic with hideous hunger or hideous hope; and, far away,
black, against a stormy sunset, a sail. The story is powerfully
told, and has a legitimate tragic interest, so to speak,--deeper,
because more natural, than Girodet's green "Deluge," for instance:
or his livid "Orestes," or red-hot "Clytemnestra."
Seen from a distance the latter's "Deluge" has a certain awe-
inspiring air with it. A slimy green man stands on a green rock,
and clutches hold of a tree. On the green man's shoulders is his
old father, in a green old age; to him hangs his wife, with a babe
on her breast, and dangling at her hair, another child. In the
water floats a corpse (a beautiful head) and a green sea and
atmosphere envelops all this dismal group. The old father is
represented with a bag of money in his hand; and the tree, which
the man catches, is cracking, and just on the point of giving way.
These two points were considered very fine by the critics: they are
two such ghastly epigrams as continually disfigure French Tragedy.
For this reason I have never been able to read Racine with
pleasure,--the dialogue is so crammed with these lugubrious good
things--melancholy antitheses--sparkling undertakers' wit; but this
is heresy, and had better be spoken discreetly.
The gallery contains a vast number of Poussin's pictures; they put
me in mind of the color of objects in dreams,--a strange, hazy,
lurid hue. How noble are some of his landscapes! What a depth of
solemn shadow is in yonder wood, near which, by the side of a black
water, halts Diogenes. The air is thunder-laden, and breathes
heavily. You hear ominous whispers in the vast forest gloom.
Near it is a landscape, by Carel Dujardin, I believe, conceived in
quite a different mood, but exquisitely poetical too. A horseman
is riding up a hill, and giving money to a blowsy beggar-wench.
O matutini rores auraeque salubres! in what a wonderful way has the
artist managed to create you out of a few bladders of paint and
pots of varnish. You can see the matutinal dews twinkling in the
grass, and feel the fresh, salubrious airs ("the breath of Nature
blowing free," as the corn-law man sings) blowing free over the
heath; silvery vapors are rising up from the blue lowlands. You
can tell the hour of the morning and the time of the year: you can
do anything but describe it in words. As with regard to the
Poussin above mentioned, one can never pass it without bearing away
a certain pleasing, dreamy feeling of awe and musing; the other
landscape inspires the spectator infallibly with the most
delightful briskness and cheerfulness of spirit. Herein lies the
vast privilege of the landscape-painter: he does not address you
with one fixed particular subject or expression, but with a
thousand never contemplated by himself, and which only arise out of
occasion. You may always be looking at a natural landscape as at a
fine pictorial imitation of one; it seems eternally producing new
thoughts in your bosom, as it does fresh beauties from its own. I
cannot fancy more delightful, cheerful, silent companions for a man
than half a dozen landscapes hung round his study. Portraits, on
the contrary, and large pieces of figures, have a painful, fixed,
staring look, which must jar upon the mind in many of its moods.
Fancy living in a room with David's sans-culotte Leonidas staring
perpetually in your face!
There is a little Watteau here, and a rare piece of fantastical
brightness and gayety it is. What a delightful affectation about
yonder ladies flirting their fans, and trailing about in their long
brocades! What splendid dandies are those, ever-smirking, turning
out their toes, with broad blue ribbons to tie up their crooks and
their pigtails, and wonderful gorgeous crimson satin breeches!
Yonder, in the midst of a golden atmosphere, rises a bevy of little
round Cupids, bubbling up in clusters as out of a champagne-bottle,
and melting away in air. There is, to be sure, a hidden analogy
between liquors and pictures: the eye is deliciously tickled by
these frisky Watteaus, and yields itself up to a light, smiling,
gentlemanlike intoxication. Thus, were we inclined to pursue
further this mighty subject, yonder landscape of Claude,--calm,
fresh, delicate, yet full of flavor,--should be likened to a bottle
of Château Margaux. And what is the Poussin before spoken of but
Romanée Gelée?--heavy, sluggish,--the luscious odor almost sickens
you; a sultry sort of drink; your limbs sink under it; you feel as
if you had been drinking hot blood.
An ordinary man would be whirled away in a fever, or would hobble
off this mortal stage in a premature gout-fit, if he too early or
too often indulged in such tremendous drink. I think in my heart
I am fonder of pretty third-rate pictures than of your great
thundering first-rates. Confess how many times you have read
Béranger, and how many Milton? If you go to the "Star and Garter,"
don't you grow sick of that vast, luscious landscape, and long for
the sight of a couple of cows, or a donkey, and a few yards of
common? Donkeys, my dear MacGilp, since we have come to this
subject, say not so; Richmond Hill for them. Milton they never
grow tired of; and are as familiar with Raphael as Bottom with
exquisite Titania. Let us thank heaven, my dear sir, for according
to us the power to taste and appreciate the pleasures of
mediocrity. I have never heard that we were great geniuses.
Earthy are we, and of the earth; glimpses of the sublime are but
rare to us; leave we them to great geniuses, and to the donkeys;
and if it nothing profit us aërias tentâsse domos along with them,
let us thankfully remain below, being merry and humble.
I have now only to mention the charming "Cruche Cassée" of Greuze,
which all the young ladies delight to copy; and of which the color
(a thought too blue, perhaps) is marvellously graceful and
delicate. There are three more pictures by the artist, containing
exquisite female heads and color; but they have charms for French
critics which are difficult to be discovered by English eyes; and
the pictures seem weak to me. A very fine picture by Bon
Bollongue, "Saint Benedict resuscitating a Child," deserves
particular attention, and is superb in vigor and richness of color.
You must look, too, at the large, noble, melancholy landscapes of
Philippe de Champagne; and the two magnificent Italian pictures of
Léopold Robert: they are, perhaps, the very finest pictures that
the French school has produced,--as deep as Poussin, of a better
color, and of a wonderful minuteness and veracity in the
representation of objects.
Every one of Lesueur's church-pictures is worth examining and
admiring; they are full of "unction" and pious mystical grace.
"Saint Scholastica" is divine; and the "Taking down from the Cross"
as noble a composition as ever was seen; I care not by whom the
other may be. There is more beauty, and less affectation, about
this picture than you will find in the performances of many Italian
masters, with high-sounding names (out with it, and say RAPHAEL at
once). I hate those simpering Madonnas. I declare that the
"Jardinière" is a puking, smirking miss, with nothing heavenly
about her. I vow that the "Saint Elizabeth" is a bad picture,--a
bad composition, badly drawn, badly colored, in a bad imitation of
Titian,--a piece of vile affectation. I say, that when Raphael
painted this picture two years before his death, the spirit of
painting had gone from out of him; he was no longer inspired; IT
WAS TIME THAT HE SHOULD DIE!!
There,--the murder is out! My paper is filled to the brim, and
there is no time to speak of Lesueur's "Crucifixion," which is
odiously colored, to be sure; but earnest, tender, simple, holy.
But such things are most difficult to translate into words;--one
lays down the pen, and thinks and thinks. The figures appear, and
take their places one by one: ranging themselves according to
order, in light or in gloom, the colors are reflected duly in the
little camera obscura of the brain, and the whole picture lies
there complete; but can you describe it? No, not if pens were
fitch-brushes, and words were bladders of paint. With which, for
the present, adieu.
M. A. T.
To Mr. ROBERT MACGILP,
NEWMAN STREET, LONDON.
THE PAINTER'S BARGAIN.
Simon Gambouge was the son of Solomon Gambouge; and as all the
world knows, both father and son were astonishingly clever fellows
at their profession. Solomon painted landscapes, which nobody
bought; and Simon took a higher line, and painted portraits to
admiration, only nobody came to sit to him.
As he was not gaining five pounds a year by his profession, and had
arrived at the age of twenty, at least, Simon determined to better
himself by taking a wife,--a plan which a number of other wise men
adopt, in similar years and circumstances. So Simon prevailed upon
a butcher's daughter (to whom he owed considerably for cutlets) to
quit the meat-shop and follow him. Griskinissa--such was the fair
creature's name--"was as lovely a bit of mutton," her father said,
"as ever a man would wish to stick a knife into." She had sat to
the painter for all sorts of characters; and the curious who
possess any of Gambouge's pictures will see her as Venus, Minerva,
Madonna, and in numberless other characters: Portrait of a lady--
Griskinissa; Sleeping Nymph--Griskinissa, without a rag of clothes,
lying in a forest; Maternal Solicitude--Griskinissa again, with
young Master Gambouge, who was by this time the offspring of their
The lady brought the painter a handsome little fortune of a couple
of hundred pounds; and as long as this sum lasted no woman could be
more lovely or loving. But want began speedily to attack their
little household; bakers' bills were unpaid; rent was due, and the
reckless landlord gave no quarter; and, to crown the whole, her
father, unnatural butcher! suddenly stopped the supplies of mutton-
chops; and swore that his daughter, and the dauber; her husband,
should have no more of his wares. At first they embraced tenderly,
and, kissing and crying over their little infant, vowed to heaven
that they would do without: but in the course of the evening
Griskinissa grew peckish, and poor Simon pawned his best coat.
When this habit of pawning is discovered, it appears to the poor a
kind of Eldorado. Gambouge and his wife were so delighted, that
they, in the course of a month, made away with her gold chain, her
great warming-pan, his best crimson plush inexpressibles, two wigs,
a washhand basin and ewer, fire-irons, window-curtains, crockery,
and arm-chairs. Griskinissa said, smiling, that she had found a
second father in HER UNCLE,--a base pun, which showed that her
mind was corrupted, and that she was no longer the tender, simple
Griskinissa of other days.
I am sorry to say that she had taken to drinking; she swallowed the
warming-pan in the course of three days, and fuddled herself one
whole evening with the crimson plush breeches.
Drinking is the devil--the father, that is to say, of all vices.
Griskinissa's face and her mind grew ugly together; her good humor
changed to bilious, bitter discontent; her pretty, fond epithets,
to foul abuse and swearing; her tender blue eyes grew watery and
blear, and the peach-color on her cheeks fled from its old
habitation, and crowded up into her nose, where, with a number of
pimples, it stuck fast. Add to this a dirty, draggle-tailed
chintz; long, matted hair, wandering into her eyes, and over her
lean shoulders, which were once so snowy, and you have the picture
of drunkenness and Mrs. Simon Gambouge.
Poor Simon, who had been a gay, lively fellow enough in the days of
his better fortune, was completely cast down by his present ill
luck, and cowed by the ferocity of his wife. From morning till
night the neighbors could hear this woman's tongue, and understand
her doings; bellows went skimming across the room, chairs were
flumped down on the floor, and poor Gambouge's oil and varnish pots
went clattering through the windows, or down the stairs. The baby
roared all day; and Simon sat pale and idle in a corner, taking a
small sup at the brandy-bottle, when Mrs. Gambouge was out of the
One day, as he sat disconsolately at his easel, furbishing up a
picture of his wife, in the character of Peace, which he had
commenced a year before, he was more than ordinarily desperate, and
cursed and swore in the most pathetic manner. "O miserable fate of
genius!" cried he, "was I, a man of such commanding talents, born
for this? to be bullied by a fiend of a wife; to have my
masterpieces neglected by the world, or sold only for a few pieces?
Cursed be the love which has misled me; cursed, be the art which is
unworthy of me! Let me dig or steal, let me sell myself as a
soldier, or sell myself to the Devil, I should not be more wretched
than I am now!"
"Quite the contrary," cried a small, cheery voice.
"What!" exclaimed Gambouge, trembling and surprised. "Who's
there?--where are you?--who are you?"
"You were just speaking of me," said the voice.
Gambouge held, in his left hand, his palette; in his right, a
bladder of crimson lake, which he was about to squeeze out upon the
mahogany. "Where are you?" cried he again.
"S-q-u-e-e-z-e!" exclaimed the little voice.
Gambouge picked out the nail from the bladder, and gave a squeeze;
when, as sure as I am living, a little imp spurted out from the
hole upon the palette, and began laughing in the most singular and
When first born he was little bigger than a tadpole; then he grew
to be as big as a mouse; then he arrived at the size of a cat; and
then he jumped off the palette, and, turning head over heels, asked
the poor painter what he wanted with him.
The strange little animal twisted head over heels, and fixed
himself at last upon the top of Gambouge's easel,--smearing out,
with his heels, all the white and vermilion which had just been
laid on the allegoric portrait of Mrs. Gambouge.
"What!" exclaimed Simon, "is it the--"
"Exactly so; talk of me, you know, and I am always at hand:
besides, I am not half so black as I am painted, as you will see
when you know me a little better."
"Upon my word," said the painter, "it is a very singular surprise
which you have given me. To tell truth, I did not even believe in
The little imp put on a theatrical air, and, with one of Mr.
Macready's best looks, said,--
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Gambogio,
Than are dreamed of in your philosophy."
Gambouge, being a Frenchman, did not understand the quotation, but
felt somehow strangely and singularly interested in the conversation
of his new friend.
Diabolus continued: "You are a man of merit, and want money; you
will starve on your merit; you can only get money from me. Come,
my friend, how much is it? I ask the easiest interest in the
world: old Mordecai, the usurer, has made you pay twice as heavily
before now: nothing but the signature of a bond, which is a mere
ceremony, and the transfer of an article which, in itself, is a
supposition--a valueless, windy, uncertain property of yours,
called, by some poet of your own, I think, an animula, vagula,
blandula--bah! there is no use beating about the bush--I mean A
SOUL. Come, let me have it; you know you will sell it some other
way, and not get such good pay for your bargain!"--and, having made
this speech, the Devil pulled out from his fob a sheet as big as a
double Times, only there was a different STAMP in the corner.
It is useless and tedious to describe law documents: lawyers only
love to read them; and they have as good in Chitty as any that are
to be found in the Devil's own; so nobly have the apprentices
emulated the skill of the master. Suffice it to say, that poor
Gambouge read over the paper, and signed it. He was to have all he
wished for seven years, and at the end of that time was to become
the property of the -----; PROVIDED that, during the course of the
seven years, every single wish which he might form should be
gratified by the other of the contracting parties; otherwise the
deed became null and non-avenue, and Gambouge should be left "to go
to the ----- his own way."
"You will never see me again," said Diabolus, in shaking hands with
poor Simon, on whose fingers he left such a mark as is to be seen
at this day--"never, at least, unless you want me; for everything
you ask will be performed in the most quiet and every-day manner:
believe me, it is best and most gentlemanlike, and avoids anything
like scandal. But if you set me about anything which is
extraordinary, and out of the course of nature, as it were, come I
must, you know; and of this you are the best judge." So saying,
Diabolus disappeared; but whether up the chimney, through the
keyhole, or by any other aperture or contrivance, nobody knows.
Simon Gambouge was left in a fever of delight, as, heaven forgive
me! I believe many a worthy man would be, if he were allowed an
opportunity to make a similar bargain.
"Heigho!" said Simon. "I wonder whether this be a reality or a
dream.--I am sober, I know; for who will give me credit for the
means to be drunk? and as for sleeping, I'm too hungry for that. I
wish I could see a capon and a bottle of white wine."
"MONSIEUR SIMON!" cried a voice on the landing-place.
"C'est ici," quoth Gambouge, hastening to open the door. He did
so; and lo! there was a restaurateur's boy at the door, supporting
a tray, a tin-covered dish, and plates on the same; and, by its
side, a tall amber-colored flask of Sauterne.
"I am the new boy, sir," exclaimed this youth, on entering; "but I
believe this is the right door, and you asked for these things."
Simon grinned, and said, "Certainly, I did ASK FOR these things."
But such was the effect which his interview with the demon had had
on his innocent mind, that he took them, although he knew that they
were for old Simon, the Jew dandy, who was mad after an opera girl,
and lived on the floor beneath.
"Go, my boy," he said; "it is good: call in a couple of hours, and
remove the plates and glasses."
The little waiter trotted down stairs, and Simon sat greedily down
to discuss the capon and the white wine. He bolted the legs, he
devoured the wings, he cut every morsel of flesh from the breast;--
seasoning his repast with pleasant draughts of wine, and caring
nothing for the inevitable bill, which was to follow all.
"Ye gods!" said he, as he scraped away at the backbone, "what a
dinner! what wine!--and how gayly served up too!" There were
silver forks and spoons, and the remnants of the fowl were upon a
silver dish. "Why, the money for this dish and these spoons,"
cried Simon, "would keep me and Mrs. G. for a month! I WISH"--and
here Simon whistled, and turned round to see that nobody was
peeping--"I wish the plate were mine."
Oh, the horrid progress of the Devil! "Here they are," thought
Simon to himself; "why should not I TAKE THEM?" And take them he
did. "Detection," said he, "is not so bad as starvation; and I
would as soon live at the galleys as live with Madame Gambouge."
So Gambouge shovelled dish and spoons into the flap of his surtout,
and ran down stairs as if the Devil were behind him--as, indeed, he
He immediately made for the house of his old friend the pawnbroker--
that establishment which is called in France the Mont de Piété.
"I am obliged to come to you again, my old friend," said Simon,
"with some family plate, of which I beseech you to take care."
The pawnbroker smiled as he examined the goods. "I can give you
nothing upon them," said he.
"What!" cried Simon; "not even the worth of the silver?"
"No; I could buy them at that price at the 'Café Morisot,' Rue de
la Verrerie, where, I suppose, you got them a little cheaper."
And, so saying, he showed to the guilt-stricken Gambouge how the
name of that coffee-house was inscribed upon every one of the
articles which he had wished to pawn.
The effects of conscience are dreadful indeed. Oh! how fearful is
retribution, how deep is despair, how bitter is remorse for crime--
WHEN CRIME IS FOUND OUT!--otherwise, conscience takes matters much
more easily. Gambouge cursed his fate, and swore henceforth to be
"But, hark ye, my friend," continued the honest broker, "there is
no reason why, because I cannot lend upon these things, I should
not buy them: they will do to melt, if for no other purpose. Will
you have half the money?--speak, or I peach."
Simon's resolves about virtue were dissipated instantaneously.
"Give me half," he said, "and let me go.--What scoundrels are these
pawnbrokers!" ejaculated he, as he passed out of the accursed shop,
"seeking every wicked pretext to rob the poor man of his hard-won
When he had marched forwards for a street or two, Gambouge counted
the money which he had received, and found that he was in possession
of no less than a hundred francs. It was night, as he reckoned out
his equivocal gains, and he counted them at the light of a lamp. He
looked up at the lamp, in doubt as to the course he should next
pursue: upon it was inscribed the simple number, 152. "A
gambling-house," thought Gambouge. "I wish I had half the money
that is now on the table, up stairs."
He mounted, as many a rogue has done before him, and found half a
hundred persons busy at a table of rouge et noir. Gambouge's five
napoleons looked insignificant by the side of the heaps which were
around him; but the effects of the wine, of the theft, and of the
detection by the pawnbroker, were upon him, and he threw down his
capital stoutly upon the 0 0.
It is a dangerous spot that 0 0, or double zero; but to Simon it
was more lucky than to the rest of the world. The ball went
spinning round--in "its predestined circle rolled," as Shelley has
it, after Goethe--and plumped down at last in the double zero. One
hundred and thirty-five gold napoleons (louis they were then) were
counted out to the delighted painter. "Oh, Diabolus!" cried he,
"now it is that I begin to believe in thee! Don't talk about
merit," he cried; "talk about fortune. Tell me not about heroes
for the future--tell me of ZEROES." And down went twenty napoleons
more upon the 0.
The Devil was certainly in the ball: round it twirled, and dropped
into zero as naturally as a duck pops its head into a pond. Our
friend received five hundred pounds for his stake; and the
croupiers and lookers-on began to stare at him.
There were twelve thousand pounds on the table. Suffice it to say,
that Simon won half, and retired from the Palais Royal with a thick
bundle of bank-notes crammed into his dirty three-cornered hat. He
had been but half an hour in the place, and he had won the revenues
of a prince for half a year!
Gambouge, as soon as he felt that he was a capitalist, and that he
had a stake in the country, discovered that he was an altered man.
He repented of his foul deed, and his base purloining of the
restaurateur's plate. "O honesty!" he cried, "how unworthy is an
action like this of a man who has a property like mine!" So he
went back to the pawnbroker with the gloomiest face imaginable.
"My friend," said he, "I have sinned against all that I hold most
sacred: I have forgotten my family and my religion. Here is thy
money. In the name of heaven, restore me the plate which I have
wrongfully sold thee!"
But the pawnbroker grinned, and said, "Nay, Mr. Gambouge, I will
sell that plate for a thousand francs to you, or I never will sell
it at all."
"Well," cried Gambouge, "thou art an inexorable ruffian, Troisboules;
but I will give thee all I am worth." And here he produced a billet
of five hundred francs. "Look," said he, "this money is all I own;
it is the payment of two years' lodging. To raise it, I have toiled
for many months; and, failing, I have been a criminal. O heaven!
I STOLE that plate that I might pay my debt, and keep my dear wife
from wandering houseless. But I cannot bear this load of ignominy--
I cannot suffer the thought of this crime. I will go to the person
to whom I did wrong, I will starve, I will confess; but I will, I
WILL do right!"
The broker was alarmed. "Give me thy note," he cried; "here is the
"Give me an acquittal first," cried Simon, almost broken-hearted;
"sign me a paper, and the money is yours." So Troisboules wrote
according to Gambouge's dictation; "Received, for thirteen ounces
of plate, twenty pounds."
"Monster of iniquity!" cried the painter, "fiend of wickedness!
thou art caught in thine own snares. Hast thou not sold me five
pounds' worth of plate for twenty? Have I it not in my pocket?
Art thou not a convicted dealer in stolen goods? Yield, scoundrel,
yield thy money, or I will bring thee to justice!"
The frightened pawnbroker bullied and battled for a while; but he
gave up his money at last, and the dispute ended. Thus it will be
seen that Diabolus had rather a hard bargain in the wily Gambouge.
He had taken a victim prisoner, but he had assuredly caught a
Tartar. Simon now returned home, and, to do him justice, paid the
bill for his dinner, and restored the plate.
And now I may add (and the reader should ponder upon this, as a
profound picture of human life), that Gambouge, since he had grown
rich, grew likewise abundantly moral. He was a most exemplary
father. He fed the poor, and was loved by them. He scorned a
base action. And I have no doubt that Mr. Thurtell, or the late
lamented Mr. Greenacre, in similar circumstances, would have acted
like the worthy Simon Gambouge.
There was but one blot upon his character--he hated Mrs. Gam. worse
than ever. As he grew more benevolent, she grew more virulent:
when he went to plays, she went to Bible societies, and vice versâ:
in fact, she led him such a life as Xantippe led Socrates, or as a
dog leads a cat in the same kitchen. With all his fortune--for, as
may be supposed, Simon prospered in all worldly things--he was the
most miserable dog in the whole city of Paris. Only in the point
of drinking did he and Mrs. Simon agree; and for many years, and
during a considerable number of hours in each day, he thus
dissipated, partially, his domestic chagrin. O philosophy! we may
talk of thee: but, except at the bottom of the winecup, where thou
liest like truth in a well, where shall we find thee?
He lived so long, and in his worldly matters prospered so much,
there was so little sign of devilment in the accomplishment of his
wishes, and the increase of his prosperity, that Simon, at the end
of six years, began to doubt whether he had made any such bargain
at all, as that which we have described at the commencement of this
history. He had grown, as we said, very pious and moral. He went
regularly to mass, and had a confessor into the bargain. He
resolved, therefore, to consult that reverend gentleman, and to lay
before him the whole matter.
"I am inclined to think, holy sir," said Gambouge, after he had
concluded his history, and shown how, in some miraculous way, all
his desires were accomplished, "that, after all, this demon was no
other than the creation of my own brain, heated by the effects of
that bottle of wine, the cause of my crime and my prosperity."
The confessor agreed with him, and they walked out of church
comfortably together, and entered afterwards a café, where they sat
down to refresh themselves after the fatigues of their devotion.
A respectable old gentleman, with a number of orders at his
buttonhole, presently entered the room, and sauntered up to the
marble table, before which reposed Simon and his clerical friend.
"Excuse me, gentlemen," he said, as he took a place opposite them,
and began reading the papers of the day.
"Bah!" said he, at last,--"sont-ils grands ces journaux Anglais?
Look, sir," he said, handing over an immense sheet of The Times to
Mr. Gambouge, "was ever anything so monstrous?"
Gambouge smiled politely, and examined the proffered page. "It is
enormous" he said; "but I do not read English."
"Nay," said the man with the orders, "look closer at it, Signor
Gambouge; it is astonishing how easy the language is."
Wondering, Simon took a sheet of paper. He turned pale as he
looked at it, and began to curse the ices and the waiter. "Come,
M. l'Abbé," he said; "the heat and glare of this place are
The stranger rose with them. "Au plaisir de vous revoir, mon cher
monsieur," said he; "I do not mind speaking before the Abbé here,
who will be my very good friend one of these days: but I thought it
necessary to refresh your memory, concerning our little business
transaction six years since; and could not exactly talk of it AT
CHURCH, as you may fancy."
Simon Gambouge had seen, in the double-sheeted Times, the paper
signed by himself, which the little Devil had pulled out of his
There was no doubt on the subject; and Simon, who had but a year
to live, grew more pious, and more careful than ever. He had
consultations with all the doctors of the Sorbonne and all the
lawyers of the Palais. But his magnificence grew as wearisome to
him as his poverty had been before; and not one of the doctors whom
he consulted could give him a pennyworth of consolation.
Then he grew outrageous in his demands upon the Devil, and put him
to all sorts of absurd and ridiculous tasks; but they were all
punctually performed, until Simon could invent no new ones, and the
Devil sat all day with his hands in his pockets doing nothing.
One day, Simon's confessor came bounding into the room, with the
greatest glee. "My friend," said he, "I have it! Eureka!--I have
found it. Send the Pope a hundred thousand crowns, build a new
Jesuit college at Rome, give a hundred gold candlesticks to St.
Peter's; and tell his Holiness you will double all, if he will give
Gambouge caught at the notion, and hurried off a courier to Rome
ventre à terre. His Holiness agreed to the request of the
petition, and sent him an absolution, written out with his own
fist, and all in due form.
"Now," said he, "foul fiend, I defy you! arise, Diabolus! your
contract is not worth a jot: the Pope has absolved me, and I am
safe on the road to salvation." In a fervor of gratitude he
clasped the hand of his confessor, and embraced him: tears of joy
ran down the cheeks of these good men.
They heard an inordinate roar of laughter, and there was Diabolus
sitting opposite to them, holding his sides, and lashing his tail
about, as if he would have gone mad with glee.
"Why," said he, "what nonsense is this! do you suppose I care about
THAT?" and he tossed the Pope's missive into a corner. "M. l'Abbé
knows," he said, bowing and grinning, "that though the Pope's paper
may pass current HERE, it is not worth twopence in our country.
What do I care about the Pope's absolution? You might just as well
be absolved by your under butler."
"Egad," said the Abbé, "the rogue is right--I quite forgot the
fact, which he points out clearly enough."
"No, no, Gambouge," continued Diabolus, with horrid familiarity.
"go thy ways, old fellow, that COCK WON'T FIGHT." And he retired
up the chimney, chuckling at his wit and his triumph. Gambouge
heard his tail scuttling all the way up, as if he had been a
sweeper by profession.
Simon was left in that condition of grief in which, according to
the newspapers, cities and nations are found when a murder is
committed, or a lord ill of the gout--a situation, we say, more
easy to imagine than to describe.
To add to his woes, Mrs. Gambouge, who was now first made acquainted
with his compact, and its probable consequences, raised such a storm
about his ears, as made him wish almost that his seven years were
expired. She screamed, she scolded, she swore, she wept, she went
into such fits of hysterics, that poor Gambouge, who had completely
knocked under to her, was worn out of his life. He was allowed no
rest, night or day: he moped about his fine house, solitary and
wretched, and cursed his stars that he ever had married the
It wanted six months of the time.
A sudden and desperate resolution seemed all at once to have taken
possession of Simon Gambouge. He called his family and his friends
together--he gave one of the greatest feasts that ever was known in
the city of Paris--he gayly presided at one end of his table, while
Mrs. Gam., splendidly arrayed, gave herself airs at the other
After dinner, using the customary formula, he called upon Diabolus
to appear. The old ladies screamed, and hoped he would not appear
naked; the young ones tittered, and longed to see the monster:
everybody was pale with expectation and affright.
A very quiet, gentlemanly man, neatly dressed in black, made his
appearance, to the surprise of all present, and bowed all round to
the company. "I will not show my CREDENTIALS," he said, blushing,
and pointing to his hoofs, which were cleverly hidden by his pumps
and shoe-buckles, "unless the ladies absolutely wish it; but I am
the person you want, Mr. Gambouge; pray tell me what is your will."
"You know," said that gentleman, in a stately and determined voice,
"that you are bound to me, according to our agreement, for six
months to come."
"I am," replied the new comer.
"You are to do all that I ask, whatsoever it may be, or you forfeit
the bond which I gave you?"
"It is true."
"You declare this before the present company?"
"Upon my honor, as a gentleman," said Diabolus, bowing, and laying
his hand upon his waistcoat.
A whisper of applause ran round the room: all were charmed with the
bland manners of the fascinating stranger.
"My love," continued Gambouge, mildly addressing his lady, "will
you be so polite as to step this way? You know I must go soon, and
I am anxious, before this noble company, to make a provision for
one who, in sickness as in health, in poverty as in riches, has
been my truest and fondest companion."
Gambouge mopped his eyes with his handkerchief--all the company did
likewise. Diabolus sobbed audibly, and Mrs. Gambouge sidled up to
her husband's side, and took him tenderly by the hand. "Simon!"
said she, "is it true? and do you really love your Griskinissa?"
Simon continued solemnly: "Come hither, Diabolus; you are bound to
obey me in all things for the six months during which our contract
has to run; take, then, Griskinissa Gambouge, live alone with her
for half a year, never leave her from morning till night, obey all
her caprices, follow all her whims, and listen to all the abuse
which falls from her infernal tongue. Do this, and I ask no more
of you; I will deliver myself up at the appointed time."
Not Lord G---, when flogged by lord B---, in the House,--not Mr.
Cartlitch, of Astley's Amphitheatre, in his most pathetic passages,
could look more crestfallen, and howl more hideously, than Diabolus
did now. "Take another year, Gambouge," screamed he; "two more--
ten more--a century; roast me on Lawrence's gridiron, boil me in
holy water, but don't ask that: don't, don't bid me live with Mrs.
Simon smiled sternly. "I have said it," he cried; "do this, or our
contract is at an end."
The Devil, at this, grinned so horribly that every drop of beer in
the house turned sour: he gnashed his teeth so frightfully that
every person in the company wellnigh fainted with the cholic. He
slapped down the great parchment upon the floor, trampled upon
it madly, and lashed it with his hoofs and his tail: at last,
spreading out a mighty pair of wings as wide as from here to Regent
Street, he slapped Gambouge with his tail over one eye, and
vanished, abruptly, through the keyhole.
Gambouge screamed with pain and started up. "You drunken, lazy
scoundrel!" cried a shrill and well-known voice, "you have been
asleep these two hours:" and here he received another terrific box
on the ear.
It was too true, he had fallen asleep at his work; and the
beautiful vision had been dispelled by the thumps of the tipsy
Griskinissa. Nothing remained to corroborate his story, except the
bladder of lake, and this was spirted all over his waistcoat and
"I wish," said the poor fellow, rubbing his tingling cheeks, "that
dreams were true;" and he went to work again at his portrait.
My last accounts of Gambouge are, that he has left the arts, and is
footman in a small family. Mrs. Gam. takes in washing; and it is
said that, her continual dealings with soap-suds and hot water have
been the only things in life which have kept her from spontaneous
I have been much interested with an account of the exploits of
Monsieur Louis Dominic Cartouche, and as Newgate and the highways
are so much the fashion with us in England, we may be allowed to
look abroad for histories of a similar tendency. It is pleasant to
find that virtue is cosmopolite, and may exist among wooden-shoed
Papists as well as honest Church-of-England men.
Louis Dominic was born in a quarter of Paris called the Courtille,
says the historian whose work lies before me;--born in the
Courtille, and in the year 1693. Another biographer asserts that
he was born two years later, and in the Marais;--of respectable
parents, of course. Think of the talent that our two countries
produced about this time: Marlborough, Villars, Mandrin, Turpin,
Boileau, Dryden, Swift, Addison, Molière, Racine, Jack Sheppard,
and Louis Cartouche,--all famous within the same twenty years, and
fighting, writing, robbing à l'envi!
Well, Marlborough was no chicken when he began to show his genius;
Swift was but a dull, idle, college lad; but if we read the
histories of some other great men mentioned in the above list--
I mean the thieves, especially--we shall find that they all
commenced very early: they showed a passion for their art, as
little Raphael did, or little Mozart; and the history of Cartouche's
knaveries begins almost with his breeches.
Dominic's parents sent him to school at the college of Clermont
(now Louis le Grand); and although it has never been discovered
that the Jesuits, who directed that seminary, advanced him much in
classical or theological knowledge, Cartouche, in revenge, showed,
by repeated instances, his own natural bent and genius, which no
difficulties were strong enough to overcome. His first great
action on record, although not successful in the end, and tinctured
with the innocence of youth, is yet highly creditable to him. He
made a general swoop of a hundred and twenty nightcaps belonging to
his companions, and disposed of them to his satisfaction; but as it
was discovered that of all the youths in the college of Clermont,
he only was the possessor of a cap to sleep in, suspicion (which,
alas! was confirmed) immediately fell upon him: and by this little
piece of youthful naïveté, a scheme, prettily conceived and smartly
performed, was rendered naught.
Cartouche had a wonderful love for good eating, and put all the
apple-women and cooks, who came to supply the students, under
contribution. Not always, however, desirous of robbing these, he
used to deal with them, occasionally, on honest principles of
barter; that is, whenever he could get hold of his schoolfellows'
knives, books, rulers, or playthings, which he used fairly to
exchange for tarts and gingerbread.
It seemed as if the presiding genius of evil was determined to
patronize this young man; for before he had been long at college,
and soon after he had, with the greatest difficulty, escaped from
the nightcap scrape, an opportunity occurred by which he was
enabled to gratify both his propensities at once, and not only to
steal, but to steal sweetmeats. It happened that the principal of
the college received some pots of Narbonne honey, which came under
the eyes of Cartouche, and in which that young gentleman, as soon
as ever he saw them, determined to put his fingers. The president
of the college put aside his honey-pots in an apartment within his
own; to which, except by the one door which led into the room which
his reverence usually occupied, there was no outlet. There was no
chimney in the room; and the windows looked into the court, where
there was a porter at night, and where crowds passed by day. What
was Cartouche to do?--have the honey he must.
Over this chamber, which contained what his soul longed after, and
over the president's rooms, there ran a set of unoccupied garrets,
into which the dexterous Cartouche penetrated. These were divided
from the rooms below, according to the fashion of those days, by a
set of large beams, which reached across the whole building, and
across which rude planks were laid, which formed the ceiling of the
lower story and the floor of the upper. Some of these planks did
young Cartouche remove; and having descended by means of a rope,
tied a couple of others to the neck of the honey-pots, climbed back
again, and drew up his prey in safety. He then cunningly fixed the
planks again in their old places, and retired to gorge himself upon
his booty. And, now, see the punishment of avarice! Everybody
knows that the brethren of the order of Jesus are bound by a vow to
have no more than a certain small sum of money in their possession.
The principal of the college of Clermont had amassed a larger sum,
in defiance of this rule: and where do you think the old gentleman
had hidden it? In the honey-pots! As Cartouche dug his spoon into
one of them, he brought out, besides a quantity of golden honey, a
couple of golden louis, which, with ninety-eight more of their
fellows, were comfortably hidden in the pots. Little Dominic, who,
before, had cut rather a poor figure among his fellow-students, now
appeared in as fine clothes as any of them could boast of; and when
asked by his parents, on going home, how he came by them, said that
a young nobleman of his schoolfellows had taken a violent fancy to
him, and made him a present of a couple of his suits. Cartouche
the elder, good man, went to thank the young nobleman; but none
such could be found, and young Cartouche disdained to give any
explanation of his manner of gaining the money.
Here, again, we have to regret and remark the inadvertence of
youth. Cartouche lost a hundred louis--for what? For a pot of
honey not worth a couple of shillings. Had he fished out the
pieces, and replaced the pots and the honey, he might have been
safe, and a respectable citizen all his life after. The principal
would not have dared to confess the loss of his money, and did not,
openly; but he vowed vengeance against the stealer of his
sweetmeat, and a rigid search was made. Cartouche, as usual, was
fixed upon; and in the tick of his bed, lo! there were found a
couple of empty honey-pots! From this scrape there is no knowing
how he would have escaped, had not the president himself been a
little anxious to hush the matter up; and accordingly, young
Cartouche was made to disgorge the residue of his ill-gotten gold
pieces, old Cartouche made up the deficiency, and his son was
allowed to remain unpunished--until the next time.
This, you may fancy, was not very long in coming; and though
history has not made us acquainted with the exact crime which Louis
Dominic next committed, it must have been a serious one; for
Cartouche, who had borne philosophically all the whippings and
punishments which were administered to him at college, did not dare
to face that one which his indignant father had in pickle for him.
As he was coming home from school, on the first day after his
crime, when he received permission to go abroad, one of his
brothers, who was on the look-out for him, met him at a short
distance from home, and told him what was in preparation; which so
frightened this young thief, that he declined returning home
altogether, and set out upon the wide world to shift for himself
as he could.
Undoubted as his genius was, he had not arrived at the full
exercise of it, and his gains were by no means equal to his
appetite. In whatever professions he tried,--whether he joined the
gipsies, which he did,--whether he picked pockets on the Pont Neuf,
which occupation history attributes to him,--poor Cartouche was
always hungry. Hungry and ragged, he wandered from one place and
profession to another, and regretted the honey-pots at Clermont,
and the comfortable soup and bouilli at home.
Cartouche had an uncle, a kind man, who was a merchant, and had
dealings at Rouen. One day, walking on the quays of that city,
this gentleman saw a very miserable, dirty, starving lad, who had
just made a pounce upon some bones and turnip-peelings, that had
been flung out on the quay, and was eating them as greedily as if
they had been turkeys and truffles. The worthy man examined the
lad a little closer. O heavens! it was their runaway prodigal--it
was little Louis Dominic! The merchant was touched by his case;
and forgetting the nightcaps, the honey-pots, and the rags and dirt
of little Louis, took him to his arms, and kissed and hugged him
with the tenderest affection. Louis kissed and hugged too, and
blubbered a great deal: he was very repentant, as a man often is
when he is hungry; and he went home with his uncle, and his peace
was made; and his mother got him new clothes, and filled his belly,
and for a while Louis was as good a son as might be.
But why attempt to balk the progress of genius? Louis's was not to
be kept down. He was sixteen years of age by this time--a smart,
lively young fellow, and, what is more, desperately enamored of a
lovely washerwoman. To be successful in your love, as Louis knew,
you must have something more than mere flames and sentiment;--a
washer, or any other woman, cannot live upon sighs only; but must
have new gowns and caps, and a necklace every now and then, and a
few handkerchiefs and silk stockings, and a treat into the country
or to the play. Now, how are all these things to be had without
money? Cartouche saw at once that it was impossible; and as his
father would give him none, he was obliged to look for it
elsewhere. He took to his old courses, and lifted a purse here,
and a watch there; and found, moreover, an accommodating gentleman,
who took the wares off his hands.
This gentleman introduced him into a very select and agreeable
society, in which Cartouche's merit began speedily to be
recognized, and in which he learnt how pleasant it is in life to
have friends to assist one, and how much may be done by a proper
division of labor. M. Cartouche, in fact, formed part of a regular
company or gang of gentlemen, who were associated together for the
purpose of making war on the public and the law.
Cartouche had a lovely young sister, who was to be married to a
rich young gentleman from the provinces. As is the fashion in
France, the parents had arranged the match among themselves; and
the young people had never met until just before the time appointed
for the marriage, when the bridegroom came up to Paris with his
title-deeds, and settlements, and money. Now there can hardly be
found in history a finer instance of devotion than Cartouche now
exhibited. He went to his captain, explained the matter to him,
and actually, for the good of his country, as it were (the thieves
might be called his country), sacrificed his sister's husband's
property. Informations were taken, the house of the bridegroom was
reconnoitred, and, one night, Cartouche, in company with some
chosen friends, made his first visit to the house of his brother-
in-law. All the people were gone to bed; and, doubtless, for fear
of disturbing the porter, Cartouche and his companions spared him
the trouble of opening the door, by ascending quietly at the
window. They arrived at the room where the bridegroom kept his
great chest, and set industriously to work, filing and picking the
locks which defended the treasure.
The bridegroom slept in the next room; but however tenderly
Cartouche and his workmen handled their tools, from fear of
disturbing his slumbers, their benevolent design was disappointed,
for awaken him they did; and quietly slipping out of bed, he came
to a place where he had a complete view of all that was going on.
He did not cry out, or frighten himself sillily; but, on the
contrary, contented himself with watching the countenances of the
robbers, so that he might recognize them on another occasion; and,
though an avaricious man, he did not feel the slightest anxiety
about his money-chest; for the fact is, he had removed all the cash
and papers the day before.
As soon, however, as they had broken all the locks, and found the
nothing which lay at the bottom of the chest, he shouted with such
a loud voice, "Here, Thomas!--John!--officer!--keep the gate, fire
at the rascals!" that they, incontinently taking fright, skipped
nimbly out of window, and left the house free.
Cartouche, after this, did not care to meet his brother-in-law, but
eschewed all those occasions on which the latter was to be present
at his father's house. The evening before the marriage came; and
then his father insisted upon his appearance among the other
relatives of the bride's and bridegroom's families, who were all to
assemble and make merry. Cartouche was obliged to yield; and
brought with him one or two of his companions, who had been, by the
way, present in the affair of the empty money-boxes; and though he
never fancied that there was any danger in meeting his brother-in-
law, for he had no idea that he had been seen on the night of the
attack, with a natural modesty, which did him really credit, he
kept out of the young bridegroom's sight as much as he could, and
showed no desire to be presented to him. At supper, however, as he
was sneaking modestly down to a side-table, his father shouted
after him, "Ho, Dominic, come hither, and sit opposite to your
brother-in-law:" which Dominic did, his friends following. The
bridegroom pledged him very gracefully in a bumper; and was in the
act of making him a pretty speech, on the honor of an alliance with
such a family, and on the pleasures of brother-in-lawship in
general, when, looking in his face--ye gods! he saw the very man
who had been filing at his money-chest a few nights ago! By his
side, too, sat a couple more of the gang. The poor fellow turned
deadly pale and sick, and, setting his glass down, ran quickly out
of the room, for he thought he was in company of a whole gang of
robbers. And when he got home, he wrote a letter to the elder
Cartouche, humbly declining any connection with his family.
Cartouche the elder, of course, angrily asked the reason of such an
abrupt dissolution of the engagement; and then, much to his horror,
heard of his eldest son's doings. "You would not have me marry
into such a family?" said the ex-bridegroom. And old Cartouche, an
honest old citizen, confessed, with a heavy heart, that he would
not. What was he to do with the lad? He did not like to ask for a
lettre de cachet, and shut him up in the Bastile. He determined to
give him a year's discipline at the monastery of St. Lazare.
But how to catch the young gentleman? Old Cartouche knew that,
were he to tell his son of the scheme, the latter would never obey,
and, therefore, he determined to be very cunning. He told Dominic
that he was about to make a heavy bargain with the fathers, and
should require a witness; so they stepped into a carriage together,
and drove unsuspectingly to the Rue St. Denis. But, when they
arrived near the convent, Cartouche saw several ominous figures
gathering round the coach, and felt that his doom was sealed.
However, he made as if he knew nothing of the conspiracy; and the
carriage drew up, and his father, descended, and, bidding him wait
for a minute in the coach, promised to return to him. Cartouche
looked out; on the other side of the way half a dozen men were
posted, evidently with the intention of arresting him.
Cartouche now performed a great and celebrated stroke of genius,
which, if he had not been professionally employed in the morning,
he never could have executed. He had in his pocket a piece of
linen, which he had laid hold of at the door of some shop, and from
which he quickly tore three suitable stripes. One he tied round
his head, after the fashion of a nightcap; a second round his
waist, like an apron; and with the third he covered his hat, a
round one, with a large brim. His coat and his periwig lie left
behind him in the carriage; and when he stepped out from it (which
he did without asking the coachman to let down the steps), he bore
exactly the appearance of a cook's boy carrying a dish; and with
this he slipped through the exempts quite unsuspected, and bade
adieu to the Lazarists and his honest father, who came out speedily
to seek him, and was not a little annoyed to find only his coat and
With that coat and wig, Cartouche left home, father, friends,
conscience, remorse, society, behind him. He discovered (like a
great number of other philosophers and poets, when they have
committed rascally actions) that the world was all going wrong, and
he quarrelled with it outright. One of the first stories told of
the illustrious Cartouche, when he became professionally and openly
a robber, redounds highly to his credit, and shows that he knew how
to take advantage of the occasion, and how much he had improved in
the course of a very few years' experience. His courage and
ingenuity were vastly admired by his friends; so much so, that, one
day, the captain of the band thought fit to compliment him, and
vowed that when he (the captain) died, Cartouche should infallibly
be called to the command-in-chief. This conversation, so
flattering to Cartouche, was carried on between the two gentlemen,
as they were walking, one night, on the quays by the side of the
Seine. Cartouche, when the captain made the last remark,
blushingly protested against it, and pleaded his extreme youth as
a reason why his comrades could never put entire trust in him.
"Psha, man!" said the captain, "thy youth is in thy favor; thou
wilt live only the longer to lead thy troops to victory. As for
strength, bravery, and cunning, wert thou as old as Methuselah,
thou couldst not be better provided than thou art now, at
eighteen." What was the reply of Monsieur Cartouche? He answered,
not by words, but by actions. Drawing his knife from his girdle,
he instantly dug it into the captain's left side, as near his heart
as possible; and then, seizing that imprudent commander,
precipitated him violently into the waters of the Seine, to keep
company with the gudgeons and river-gods. When he returned to
the band, and recounted how the captain had basely attempted to
assassinate him, and how he, on the contrary, had, by exertion of
superior skill, overcome the captain, not one of the society
believed a word of his history; but they elected him captain
forthwith. I think his Excellency Don Rafael Maroto, the
pacificator of Spain, is an amiable character, for whom history
has not been written in vain.
Being arrived at this exalted position, there is no end of the
feats which Cartouche performed; and his band reached to such a
pitch of glory, that if there had been a hundred thousand, instead
of a hundred of them, who knows but that a new and popular dynasty
might not have been founded, and "Louis Dominic, premier Empereur
des Français," might have performed innumerable glorious actions,
and fixed himself in the hearts of his people, just as other
monarchs have done, a hundred years after Cartouche's death.
A story similar to the above, and equally moral, is that of
Cartouche, who, in company with two other gentlemen, robbed the
coche, or packet-boat, from Melun, where they took a good quantity
of booty,--making the passengers lie down on the decks, and rifling
them at leisure. "This money will be but very little among three,"
whispered Cartouche to his neighbor, as the three conquerors were
making merry over their gains; "if you were but to pull the trigger
of your pistol in the neighborhood of your comrade's ear, perhaps
it might go off, and then there would be but two of us to share."
Strangely enough, as Cartouche said, the pistol DID go off, and No.
3 perished. "Give him another ball," said Cartouche; and another
was fired into him. But no sooner had Cartouche's comrade
discharged both his pistols, than Cartouche himself, seized with a
furious indignation, drew his: "Learn, monster," cried he, "not to
be so greedy of gold, and perish, the victim of thy disloyalty and
avarice!" So Cartouche slew the second robber; and there is no man
in Europe who can say that the latter did not merit well his
I could fill volumes, and not mere sheets of paper, with tales of
the triumphs of Cartouche and his band; how he robbed the Countess
of O----, going to Dijon, in her coach, and how the Countess fell
in love with him, and was faithful to him ever after; how, when the
lieutenant of police offered a reward of a hundred pistoles to any
man who would bring Cartouche before him, a noble Marquess, in a
coach and six, drove up to the hotel of the police; and the noble
Marquess, desiring to see Monsieur de la Reynie, on matters of the
highest moment, alone, the latter introduced him into his private
cabinet; and how, when there, the Marquess drew from his pocket a
long, curiously shaped dagger: "Look at this, Monsieur de la
Reynie," said he; "this dagger is poisoned!"
"Is it possible?" said M. de la Reynie.
"A prick of it would do for any man," said the Marquess.
"You don't say so!" said M. de la Reynie.
"I do, though; and, what is more," says the Marquess, in a terrible
voice, "if you do not instantly lay yourself flat on the ground,
with your face towards it, and your hands crossed over your back,
or if you make the slightest noise or cry, I will stick this
poisoned dagger between your ribs, as sure as my name is Cartouche?"
At the sound of this dreadful name, M. de la Reynie sunk
incontinently down on his stomach, and submitted to be carefully
gagged and corded; after which Monsieur Cartouche laid his hands
upon all the money which was kept in the lieutenant's cabinet.
Alas! and alas! many a stout bailiff, and many an honest fellow of
a spy, went, for that day, without his pay and his victuals.
There is a story that Cartouche once took the diligence to Lille,
and found in it a certain Abbé Potter, who was full of indignation
against this monster of a Cartouche, and said that when he went
back to Paris, which he proposed to do in about a fortnight, he
should give the lieutenant of police some information, which would
infallibly lead to the scoundrel's capture. But poor Potter was
disappointed in his designs; for, before he could fulfil them, he
was made the victim of Cartouche's cruelty.
A letter came to the lieutenant of police, to state that Cartouche
had travelled to Lille, in company with the Abbé de Potter, of that
town; that, on the reverend gentleman's return towards Paris,
Cartouche had waylaid him, murdered him, taken his papers, and
would come to Paris himself, bearing the name and clothes of the
unfortunate Abbé, by the Lille coach, on such a day. The Lille
coach arrived, was surrounded by police agents; the monster
Cartouche was there, sure enough, in the Abbé's guise. He was
seized, bound, flung into prison, brought out to be examined, and,
on examination, found to be no other than the Abbé Potter himself!
It is pleasant to read thus of the relaxations of great men, and
find them condescending to joke like the meanest of us.
Another diligence adventure is recounted of the famous Cartouche.
It happened that he met, in the coach, a young and lovely lady,
clad in widow's weeds, and bound to Paris, with a couple of
servants. The poor thing was the widow of a rich old gentleman
of Marseilles, and was going to the capital to arrange with her
lawyers, and to settle her husband's will. The Count de Grinche
(for so her fellow-passenger was called) was quite as candid as the
pretty widow had been, and stated that he was a captain in the
regiment of Nivernois; that he was going to Paris to buy a
colonelcy, which his relatives, the Duke de Bouillon, the Prince
de Montmorency, the Commandeur de la Trémoille, with all their
interest at court, could not fail to procure for him. To be short,
in the course of the four days' journey, the Count Louis Dominic de
Grinche played his cards so well, that the poor little widow half
forgot her late husband; and her eyes glistened with tears as the
Count kissed her hand at parting--at parting, he hoped, only for a
Day and night the insinuating Count followed her; and when, at the
end of a fortnight, and in the midst of a tête-à-tête, he plunged,
one morning, suddenly on his knees, and said, Leonora, do you love
me?" the poor thing heaved the gentlest, tenderest, sweetest sigh
in the world; and sinking her blushing head on his shoulder,
whispered, "Oh, Dominic, je t'aime! Ah!" said she, "how noble is
it of my Dominic to take me with the little I have, and he so rich
a nobleman!" The fact is, the old Baron's titles and estates had
passed away to his nephews; his dowager was only left with three
hundred thousand livres, in rentes sur l'état--a handsome sum, but
nothing to compare to the rent-roll of Count Dominic, Count de la
Grinche, Seigneur de la Haute Pigre, Baron de la Bigorne; he had
estates and wealth which might authorize him to aspire to the hand
of a duchess, at least.
The unfortunate widow never for a moment suspected the cruel trick
that was about to be played on her; and, at the request of her
affianced husband, sold out her money, and realized it in gold, to
be made over to him on the day when the contract was to be signed.
The day arrived; and, according to the custom in France, the
relations of both parties attended. The widow's relatives, though
respectable, were not of the first nobility, being chiefly persons
of the finance or the robe: there was the president of the court of
Arras, and his lady; a farmer-general; a judge of a court of Paris;
and other such grave and respectable people. As for Monsieur le
Comte de la Grinche, he was not bound for names; and, having the
whole peerage to choose from, brought a host of Montmorencies,
Créquis, De la Tours, and Guises at his back. His homme d'affaires
brought his papers in a sack, and displayed the plans of his
estates, and the titles of his glorious ancestry. The widow's
lawyers had her money in sacks; and between the gold on the one
side, and the parchments on the other, lay the contract which was
to make the widow's three hundred thousand francs the property of
the Count de Grinche. The Count de la Grinche was just about to
sign; when the Marshal de Villars, stepping up to him, said,
"Captain, do you know who the president of the court of Arras,
yonder, is? It is old Manasseh, the fence, of Brussels. I pawned
a gold watch to him, which I stole from Cadogan, when I was with
Malbrook's army in Flanders."
Here the Duc de la Roche Guyon came forward, very much alarmed.
"Run me through the body!" said his Grace, "but the comptroller-
general's lady, there, is no other than that old hag of a Margoton
who keeps the ----" Here the Duc de la Roche Guyon's voice fell.
Cartouche smiled graciously, and walked up to the table. He took
up one of the widow's fifteen thousand gold pieces;--it was as
pretty a bit of copper as you could wish to see. "My dear," said
he politely, "there is some mistake here, and this business had
"Count!" gasped the poor widow.
"Count be hanged!" answered the bridegroom, sternly "my name is
ON SOME FRENCH FASHIONABLE NOVELS.
WITH A PLEA FOR ROMANCES IN GENERAL.
There is an old story of a Spanish court painter, who, being
pressed for money, and having received a piece of damask, which he
was to wear in a state procession, pawned the damask, and appeared,
at the show, dressed out in some very fine sheets of paper, which
he had painted so as exactly to resemble silk. Nay, his coat
looked so much richer than the doublets of all the rest, that the
Emperor Charles, in whose honor the procession was given, remarked
the painter, and so his deceit was found out.
I have often thought that, in respect of sham and real histories, a
similar fact may be noticed; the sham story appearing a great deal
more agreeable, life-like, and natural than the true one: and all
who, from laziness as well as principle, are inclined to follow the
easy and comfortable study of novels, may console themselves with
the notion that they are studying matters quite as important as
history, and that their favorite duodecimos are as instructive as
the biggest quartos in the world.
If then, ladies, the big-wigs begin to sneer at the course of our
studies, calling our darling romances foolish, trivial, noxious to
the mind, enervators of intellect, fathers of idleness, and what
not, let us at once take a high ground, and say,--Go you to your
own employments, and to such dull studies as you fancy; go and bob
for triangles, from the Pons Asinorum; go enjoy your dull black
draughts of metaphysics; go fumble over history books, and dissert
upon Herodotus and Livy; OUR histories are, perhaps, as true as
yours; our drink is the brisk sparkling champagne drink, from the
presses of Colburn, Bentley and Co.; our walks are over such
sunshiny pleasure-grounds as Scott and Shakspeare have laid out for
us; and if our dwellings are castles in the air, we find them
excessively splendid and commodious;--be not you envious because
you have no wings to fly thither. Let the big-wigs despise us;
such contempt of their neighbors is the custom of all barbarous
tribes;--witness, the learned Chinese: Tippoo Sultaun declared that
there were not in all Europe ten thousand men: the Sklavonic
hordes, it is said, so entitled themselves from a word in their
jargon, which signifies "to speak;" the ruffians imagining that
they had a monopoly of this agreeable faculty, and that all other
nations were dumb.
Not so: others may be DEAF; but the novelist has a loud, eloquent,
instructive language, though his enemies may despise or deny it
ever so much. What is more, one could, perhaps, meet the stoutest
historian on his own ground, and argue with him; showing that sham
histories were much truer than real histories; which are, in fact,
mere contemptible catalogues of names and places, that can have no
moral effect upon the reader.
Julius Caesar beat Pompey, at Pharsalia.
The Duke of Marlborough beat Marshal Tallard at Blenheim.
The Constable of Bourbon beat Francis the First, at Pavia.
And what have we here?--so many names, simply. Suppose Pharsalia
had been, at that mysterious period when names were given, called
Pavia; and that Julius Caesar's family name had been John
Churchill;--the fact would have stood in history, thus:--
"Pompey ran away from the Duke of Marlborough at Pavia."
And why not?--we should have been just as wise. Or it might be
"The tenth legion charged the French infantry at Blenheim; and
Caesar, writing home to his mamma, said, 'Madame, tout est perdu
What a contemptible science this is, then, about which quartos are
written, and sixty-volumed Biographies Universelles, and Lardner's
Cabinet Cyclopaedias, and the like! the facts are nothing in it, the
names everything and a gentleman might as well improve his mind by
learning Walker's "Gazetteer," or getting by heart a fifty-years-
old edition of the "Court Guide."
Having thus disposed of the historians, let us come to the point in
On the title-page of these volumes the reader has, doubtless,
remarked, that among the pieces introduced, some are announced as
"copies" and "compositions." Many of the histories have,
accordingly, been neatly stolen from the collections of French
authors (and mutilated, according to the old saying, so that their
owners should not know them) and, for compositions, we intend to
favor the public with some studies of French modern works, that
have not as yet, we believe, attracted the notice of the English
Of such works there appear many hundreds yearly, as may be seen by
the French catalogues; but the writer has not so much to do with
works political, philosophical, historical, metaphysical,
scientifical, theological, as with those for which he has been
putting forward a plea--novels, namely; on which he has expended a
great deal of time and study. And passing from novels in general
to French novels, let us confess, with much humiliation, that we
borrow from these stories a great deal more knowledge of French
society than from our own personal observation we ever can hope to
gain: for, let a gentleman who has dwelt two, four, or ten years in
Paris (and has not gone thither for the purpose of making a book,
when three weeks are sufficient--let an English gentleman say, at
the end of any given period, how much he knows of French society,
how many French houses he has entered, and how many French friends
he has made?--He has enjoyed, at the end of the year, say--
At the English Ambassador's, so many soirées.
At houses to which he has brought letters, so many tea-parties.
At Cafés, so many dinners.
At French private houses, say three dinners, and very lucky too.
He has, we say, seen an immense number of wax candles, cups of tea,
glasses of orgeat, and French people, in best clothes, enjoying the
same; but intimacy there is none; we see but the outsides of the
people. Year by year we live in France, and grow gray, and see no
more. We play écarté with Monsieur de Trêfle every night; but what
know we of the heart of the man--of the inward ways, thoughts, and
customs of Trêfle? If we have good legs, and love the amusement,
we dance with Countess Flicflac, Tuesday's and Thursdays, ever
since the Peace; and how far are we advanced in acquaintance with
her since we first twirled her round a room? We know her velvet
gown, and her diamonds (about three-fourths of them are sham, by
the way); we know her smiles, and her simpers, and her rouge--but
no more: she may turn into a kitchen wench at twelve on Thursday
night, for aught we know; her voiture, a pumpkin; and her gens, so
many rats: but the real, rougeless, intime Flicflac, we know not.
This privilege is granted to no Englishman: we may understand the
French language as well as Monsieur de Levizac, but never can
penetrate into Flicflac's confidence: our ways are not her ways;
our manners of thinking, not hers: when we say a good thing, in the
course of the night, we are wondrous lucky and pleased; Flicflac
will trill you off fifty in ten minutes, and wonder at the bêtise
of the Briton, who has never a word to say. We are married, and
have fourteen children, and would just as soon make love to the
Pope of Rome as to any one but our own wife. If you do not make
love to Flicflac, from the day after her marriage to the day she
reaches sixty, she thinks you a fool. We won't play at écarté with
Trêfle on Sunday nights; and are seen walking, about one o'clock
(accompanied by fourteen red-haired children, with fourteen
gleaming prayer-books), away from the church. "Grand Dieu!" cries
Trêfle, "is that man mad? He won't play at cards on a Sunday; he
goes to church on a Sunday: he has fourteen children!"
Was ever Frenchman known to do likewise? Pass we on to our
argument, which is, that with our English notions and moral and
physical constitution, it is quite impossible that we should become
intimate with our brisk neighbors; and when such authors as Lady
Morgan and Mrs. Trollope, having frequented a certain number of
tea-parties in the French capital, begin to prattle about French
manners and men,--with all respect for the talents of those ladies,
we do believe their information not to be worth a sixpence; they
speak to us not of men but of tea-parties. Tea-parties are the
same all the world over; with the exception that, with the French,
there are more lights and prettier dresses; and with us, a mighty
deal more tea in the pot.
There is, however, a cheap and delightful way of travelling, that a
man may perform in his easy-chair, without expense of passports or
post-boys. On the wings of a novel, from the next circulating
library, he sends his imagination a-gadding, and gains acquaintance
with people and manners whom he could not hope otherwise to know.
Twopence a volume bears us whithersoever we will;--back to Ivanhoe
and Coeur de Lion, or to Waverley and the Young Pretender, along
with Walter Scott; up the heights of fashion with the charming
enchanters of the silver-fork school; or, better still, to the snug
inn-parlor, or the jovial tap-room, with Mr. Pickwick and his
faithful Sancho Weller. I am sure that a man who, a hundred years
hence should sit down to write the history of our time, would do
wrong to put that great contemporary history of "Pickwick" aside as
a frivolous work. It contains true character under false names;
and, like "Roderick Random," an inferior work, and "Tom Jones" (one
that is immeasurably superior), gives us a better idea of the state
and ways of the people than one could gather from any more pompous
or authentic histories.
We have, therefore, introduced into these volumes one or two short
reviews of French fiction writers, of particular classes, whose
Paris sketches may give the reader some notion of manners in that
capital. If not original, at least the drawings are accurate; for,
as a Frenchman might have lived a thousand years in England, and
never could have written "Pickwick," an Englishman cannot hope to
give a good description of the inward thoughts and ways of his
To a person inclined to study these, in that light and amusing
fashion in which the novelist treats them, let us recommend the
works of a new writer, Monsieur de Bernard, who has painted actual
manners, without those monstrous and terrible exaggerations in
which late French writers have indulged; and who, if he
occasionally wounds the English sense of propriety (as what French
man or woman alive will not?) does so more by slighting than by
outraging it, as, with their labored descriptions of all sorts of
imaginable wickedness, some of his brethren of the press have done.
M. de Bernard's characters are men and women of genteel society--
rascals enough, but living in no state of convulsive crimes; and we
follow him in his lively, malicious account of their manners,
without risk of lighting upon any such horrors as Balzac or Dumas
has provided for us.
Let us give an instance:--it is from the amusing novel called "Les
Ailes d'Icare," and contains what is to us quite a new picture of a
French fashionable rogue. The fashions will change in a few years,
and the rogue, of course, with them. Let us catch this delightful
fellow ere he flies. It is impossible to sketch the character in a
more sparkling, gentlemanlike way than M. de Bernard's; but such
light things are very difficult of translation, and the sparkle
sadly evaporates during the process of DECANTING.
A FRENCH FASHIONABLE LETTER.
"MY DEAR VICTOR--It is six in the morning: I have just come from
the English Ambassador's ball, and as my plans, for the day do not
admit of my sleeping, I write you a line; for, at this moment,
saturated as I am with the enchantments of a fairy night, all other
pleasures would be too wearisome to keep me awake, except that of
conversing with you. Indeed, were I not to write to you now, when
should I find the possibility of doing so? Time flies here with
such a frightful rapidity, my pleasures and my affairs whirl
onwards together in such a torrentuous galopade, that I am
compelled to seize occasion by the forelock; for each moment has
its imperious employ. Do not then accuse me of negligence: if my
correspondence has not always that regularity which I would fain
give it, attribute the fault solely to the whirlwind in which I
live, and which carries me hither and thither at its will.
"However, you are not the only person with whom I am behindhand: I
assure you, on the contrary, that you are one of a very numerous
and fashionable company, to whom, towards the discharge of my
debts, I propose to consecrate four hours to-day. I give you the
preference to all the world, even to the lovely Duchess of San
Severino, a delicious Italian, whom, for my special happiness, I
met last summer at the Waters of Aix. I have also a most important
negotiation to conclude with one of our Princes of Finance: but
n'importe, I commence with thee: friendship before love or money--
friendship before everything. My despatches concluded, I am
engaged to ride with the Marquis de Grigneure, the Comte de
Castijars, and Lord Cobham, in order that we may recover, for a
breakfast at the Rocher de Cancale that Grigneure has lost, the
appetite which we all of us so cruelly abused last night at the
Ambassador's gala. On my honor, my dear fellow, everybody was of a
caprice prestigieux and a comfortable mirobolant. Fancy, for a
banquet-hall, a royal orangery hung with white damask; the boxes of
the shrubs transformed into so many sideboards; lights gleaming
through the foliage; and, for guests, the loveliest women and most
brilliant cavaliers of Paris. Orleans and Nemours were there,
dancing and eating like simple mortals. In a word, Albion did the
thing very handsomely, and I accord it my esteem.
"Here I pause, to call for my valet-de-chambre, and call for tea;
for my head is heavy, and I've no time for a headache. In serving
me, this rascal of a Frédéric has broken a cup, true Japan, upon my
honor--the rogue does nothing else. Yesterday, for instance, did
he not thump me prodigiously, by letting fall a goblet, after
Cellini, of which the carving alone cost me three hundred francs?
I must positively put the wretch out of doors, to ensure the safety
of my furniture; and in consequence of this, Eneas, an audacious
young negro, in whom wisdom hath not waited for years--Eneas, my
groom, I say, will probably be elevated to the post of valet-de-
chambre. But where was I? I think I was speaking to you of an
oyster breakfast, to which, on our return from the Park (du Bois), a
company of pleasant rakes are invited. After quitting Borel's, we
propose to adjourn to the Barrière du Combat, where Lord Cobham
proposes to try some bull-dogs, which he has brought over from
England--one of these, O'Connell (Lord Cobham is a Tory,) has a face
in which I place much confidence; I have a bet of ten louis with
Castijars on the strength of it. After the fight, we shall make our
accustomed appearance at the 'Cafe de Paris,' (the only place, by
the way, where a man who respects himself may be seen,)-- and then
away with frocks and spurs, and on with our dress-coats for the rest
of the evening. In the first place, I shall go doze for a couple of
hours at the Opera, where my presence is indispensable; for Coralie,
a charming creature, passes this evening from the rank of the RATS
to that of the TIGERS, in a pas-de-trois, and our box patronizes
her. After the Opera, I must show my face to two or three salons in
the Faubourg St. Honoré; and having thus performed my duties to the
world of fashion, I return to the exercise of my rights as a member
of the Carnival. At two o'clock all the world meets at the Théâtre
Ventadour: lions and tigers--the whole of our menagerie will be
present. Evoé! off we go! roaring and bounding Bacchanal and
Saturnal; 'tis agreed that we shall be everything that is low. To
conclude, we sup with Castijars, the most 'furiously dishevelled'
orgy that ever was known."
The rest of the letter is on matters of finance, equally curious
and instructive. But pause we for the present, to consider the
fashionable part: and caricature as it is, we have an accurate
picture of the actual French dandy. Bets, breakfasts, riding,
dinners at the "Café de Paris," and delirious Carnival balls: the
animal goes through all such frantic pleasures at the season that
precedes Lent. He has a wondrous respect for English "gentlemen-
sportsmen;" he imitates their clubs--their love of horse-flesh: he
calls his palefrenier a groom, wears blue birds's-eye neck-cloths,
sports his pink out hunting, rides steeple-chases, and has his
Jockey Club. The "tigers and lions" alluded to in the report have
been borrowed from our own country, and a great compliment is it to
Monsieur de Bernard, the writer of the above amusing sketch, that
he has such a knowledge of English names and things, as to give a
Tory lord the decent title of Lord Cobham, and to call his dog
O'Connell. Paul de Kock calls an English nobleman, in one of his
last novels, Lord Boulingrog, and appears vastly delighted at the
verisimilitude of the title.
For the "rugissements et bondissements, bacchanale et saturnale,
galop infernal, ronde du sabbat tout le tremblement," these words
give a most clear, untranslatable idea of the Carnival ball. A
sight more hideous can hardly strike a man's eye. I was present at
one where the four thousand guests whirled screaming, reeling,
roaring, out of the ball-room in the Rue St. Honoré, and tore down
to the column in the Place Vendôme, round which they went shrieking
their own music, twenty miles an hour, and so tore madly back
again. Let a man go alone to such a place of amusement, and the
sight for him is perfectly terrible: the horrid frantic gayety of
the place puts him in mind more of the merriment of demons than of
men: bang, bang, drums, trumpets, chairs, pistol-shots, pour out of
the orchestra, which seems as mad as the dancers; whiz, a whirlwind
of paint and patches, all the costumes under the sun, all the ranks
in the empire, all the he and she scoundrels of the capital,
writhed and twisted together, rush by you; if a man falls, woe be
to him: two thousand screaming menads go trampling over his
carcass: they have neither power nor will to stop.
A set of Malays drunk with bhang and running amuck, a company of
howling dervishes, may possibly, in our own day, go through similar
frantic vagaries; but I doubt if any civilized European people but
the French would permit and enjoy such scenes. Yet our neighbors
see little shame in them; and it is very true that men of all
classes, high and low, here congregate and give themselves up to
the disgusting worship of the genius of the place.--From the dandy
of the Boulevard and the "Café Anglais," let us turn to the dandy
of "Flicoteau's" and the Pays Latin--the Paris student, whose
exploits among the grisettes are so celebrated, and whose fierce
republicanism keeps gendarmes for ever on the alert. The following
is M. de Bernard's description of him:--
"I became acquainted with Dambergeac when we were students at the
Ecole de Droit; we lived in the same Hotel on the Place du
Panthéon. No doubt, madam, you have occasionally met little
children dedicated to the Virgin, and, to this end, clothed in
white raiment from head to foot: my friend, Dambergeac, had
received a different consecration. His father, a great patriot of
the Revolution, had determined that his son should bear into the
world a sign of indelible republicanism; so, to the great
displeasure of his godmother and the parish curate, Dambergeac was
christened by the pagan name of Harmodius. It was a kind of moral
tricolor-cockade, which the child was to bear through the
vicissitudes of all the revolutions to come. Under such
influences, my friend's character began to develop itself, and,
fired by the example of his father, and by the warm atmosphere of
his native place, Marseilles, he grew up to have an independent
spirit, and a grand liberality of politics, which were at their
height when first I made his acquaintance.
"He was then a young man of eighteen, with a tall, slim figure, a
broad chest, and a flaming black eye, out of all which personal
charms he knew how to draw the most advantage; and though his
costume was such as Staub might probably have criticised, he had,
nevertheless, a style peculiar to himself--to himself and the
students, among whom he was the leader of the fashion. A tight
black coat, buttoned up to the chin, across the chest, set off that
part of his person; a low-crowned hat, with a voluminous rim, cast
solemn shadows over a countenance bronzed by a southern sun: he
wore, at one time, enormous flowing black locks, which he sacrificed
pitilessly, however, and adopted a Brutus, as being more
revolutionary: finally, he carried an enormous club, that was his
code and digest: in like manner, De Retz used to carry a stiletto in
his pocket by way of a breviary.
"Although of different ways of thinking in politics, certain
sympathies of character and conduct united Dambergeac and myself,
and we speedily became close friends. I don't think, in the whole
course of his three years' residence, Dambergeac ever went through
a single course of lectures. For the examinations, he trusted to
luck, and to his own facility, which was prodigious: as for honors,
he never aimed at them, but was content to do exactly as little as
was necessary for him to gain his degree. In like manner he
sedulously avoided those horrible circulating libraries, where
daily are seen to congregate the 'reading men' of our schools.
But, in revenge, there was not a milliner's shop, or a lingère's,
in all our quartier Latin, which he did not industriously frequent,
and of which he was not the oracle. Nay, it was said that his
victories were not confined to the left bank of the Seine; reports
did occasionally come to us of fabulous adventures by him
accomplished in the far regions of the Rue de la Paix and the
Boulevard Poissonnière. Such recitals were, for us less favored
mortals, like tales of Bacchus conquering in the East; they excited
our ambition, but not our jealousy; for the superiority of
Harmodius was acknowledged by us all, and we never thought of a
rivalry with him. No man ever cantered a hack through the Champs
Elysées with such elegant assurance; no man ever made such a
massacre of dolls at the shooting-gallery; or won you a rubber at
billiards with more easy grace; or thundered out a couplet out of
Béranger with such a roaring melodious bass. He was the monarch of
the Prado in winter: in summer of the Chaumière and Mont Parnasse.