This eBook was produced by Anne Soulard, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
[Illustration: MADAME CHARLES MOULTON]
IN THE COURTS OF MEMORY
FROM CONTEMPORARY LETTERS
L. DE HEGERMANN-LINDENCRONE
MADAME CHARLES MOULTON
THE FAY HOUSE, CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS EMPEROR NAPOLEON III
DANIEL FRANÇOIS ESPRIT AUBER
FACSIMILE OF LETTER FROM THE DUKE DE MORNY JENNY LIND
THE MAIN FAÇADE–CHÂTEAU DE COMPIÈGNE SALLE DES FÊTES–CHÂTEAU DE COMPIÈGNE
CHÂTEAU DE PIERREFONDS
THE MUSIC HALL–CHÂTEAU DE COMPIÈGNE FACSIMILE OF LETTER FROM JENNY LIND
FACSIMILE OF LISZT LETTER
MÉRIMÉE’S SIGNATURE AND ANSWERS TO MADAME MOULTON’S QUESTIONS LA SALLE DES PREUX–CHÂTEAU DE PIERREFONDS…. PRINCE METTERNICH’S SIGNATURE AND ANSWERS TO MADAME MOULTON’S QUESTIONS NAPOLEON’S SIGNATURE AND ANSWERS TO MADAME MOULTON’S QUESTIONS EMPRESS EUGÉNIE’S SIGNATURE AND ANSWERS TO MADAME MOULTON’S QUESTIONS ELIHU WASHBURN
RUE DE RIVOLI, WHERE THE HÔTEL CONTINENTAL NOW STANDS RAOUL RIGAULT
FACSIMILE OF PASSPORT ISSUED TO MADAME MOULTON DURING THE COMMUNE FACSIMILE OF THE GOVERNMENT PERMIT TO KEEP COWS PLACE VENDÔME AFTER THE FALL OF THE COLUMN FACSIMILE OF TICKET TO PLACE VENDÔME
FACSIMILE OF ENVELOPE ADDRESSED BY THE EMPRESS EUGÉNIE TO PRINCE METTERNICH
These letters, written by me in my younger days to a dear and indulgent mother and aunt, were returned to me after their death. In writing them I allowed myself to go into the smallest details, even the most insignificant ones, as I was sure that they would be welcome and appreciated by those to whom they were addressed. They were certainly not intended to be made public.
If I have decided, after much hesitation, to publish these letters, it is because many of my friends, having read them, have urged me to do so, thinking that they might be of interest, inasmuch as they refer to some important events of the past, and especially to people of the musical world whose names and renown are not yet forgotten.
LILLIE DE HEGERMANN-LINDENCRONE. BERLIN, _July, 1912._
Madame de Hegermann-Lindencrone, the writer of these letters, which give so vivid a picture of the brilliant court of the last Napoleon, is the wife of the present Danish Minister to Germany. She was formerly Miss Lillie Greenough, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she lived with her grandfather, Judge Fay, in the fine old Fay mansion, now the property of Radcliffe College.
As a child Miss Greenough developed the remarkable voice which later was to make her well known, and when only fifteen years of age her mother took her to London to study under Garcia. Two years later Miss Greenough became the wife of Charles Moulton, the son of a well-known American banker, who had been a resident in Paris since the days of Louis Philippe. As Madame Charles Moulton, the charming American became an appreciated guest at the court of Napoleon III. The Paris papers of the days of the Second Empire are filled with the praises of her personal attractions and exquisite singing.
After nine years of gaiety in the gayest city in the world came the war of 1870 and the Commune. Upon the fall of the Empire, Mrs. Moulton returned to America, where Mr. Moulton died, and a few years afterward she married M. de Hegermann-Lindencrone, at that time Danish Minister to the United States, and later successively his country’s representative at Stockholm, Rome, and Paris.
Few persons of her day have known so many of those whom the world has counted great. Among her friends have been not only the ruling monarchs of several countries, and the most distinguished men and women of their courts, but almost all the really important figures in the world of music of the past half-century, among them Wagner, Liszt, Auber, Gounod, and Rossini. And of many of these great men the letters give us glimpses of the most fascinatingly intimate sort.
IN THE COURTS OF MEMORY
DEAR M.,–You say in your last letter, “Do tell me something about your school.” If I only had the time, I could write volumes about my school, and especially about my teachers.
To begin with, Professor Agassiz gives us lectures on zoölogy, geology, and all other ologies, and draws pictures on the blackboard of trilobites and different fossils, which is very amusing. We call him “Father Nature,” and we all adore him and try to imitate his funny Swiss accent.
Professor Pierce, who is, you know, the greatest mathematician in the world, teaches us mathematics and has an awful time of it; we must be very stupid, for the more he explains, the less we seem to understand, and when he gets on the rule of three we almost faint from dizziness. If he would only explain the rule of one! The Harvard students say that his book on mathematics is so intricate that not one of them can solve the problems.
We learn history and mythology from Professor Felton, who is very near- sighted, wears broad-brimmed spectacles, and shakes his curly locks at us when he thinks we are frivolous. He was rather nonplussed the other day, when Louise Child read out loud in the mythology lesson something about “Jupiter and ten.” “What,” cried Mr. Felton, “what are you reading? You mean ‘Jupiter and Io,’ don’t you?” “It says ten here,” she answered.
Young Mr. Agassiz teaches us German and French; we read Balzac’s _Les Chouans_ and Schiller’s _Wallenstein_.
Our Italian teacher, Luigi Monti, is a refugee from Italy, and has a sad and mysterious look in his black eyes; he can hardly speak English, so we have things pretty much our own way during the lessons, for he cannot correct us. One of the girls, translating _capelli neri_, said “black hats,” and he never saw the mistake, though we were all dying of laughter.
No one takes lessons in Greek from long-bearded, fierce-eyed Professor Evangelinus Apostolides Sophocles, so he is left in peace. He does not come more than once a week anyway, and then only to say it is no use his coming at all.
Cousin James Lowell replaces Mr. Longfellow the days he can’t come. He reads selections of “literary treasures,” as he calls them, and on which he discourses at length. He seems very dull and solemn when he is in school; not at all as he is at home. When he comes in of an afternoon and reads his poems to aunty and to an admiring circle of cousins and sisters- in-law, they all roar with laughter, particularly when he reads them with a Yankee accent. He has such a rippling little giggle while reading, that it is impossible not to laugh.
The other day he said to me, “Cousin Lillie, I will take you out for a walk in recess.” I said, “Nothing I should like better, but I can’t go.” “Why not?” said he. “Because I must go and be a beggar.” “What do you mean?” he asked. “I mean that there is a duet that Mrs. Agassiz favors just now, from Meyerbeer’s ‘Le Prophète,’ where she is beggar number one and I am beggar number two.” He laughed. “You are a lucky little beggar, anyway. I envy you.” “Envy me? I thought you would pity me,” I said. “No, I do not pity you, I envy you being a beggar with a voice!”
I consider myself a victim. In recess, when the other girls walk in Quincy Street and eat their apples, Mrs. Agassiz lures me into the parlor and makes me sing duets with her and her sister, Miss Carey. I hear the girls filing out of the door, while I am caged behind the piano, singing, “Hear Me, Norma,” wishing Norma and her twins in Jericho.
There are about fourteen pupils now; we go every morning at nine o’clock and stay till two o’clock. We climb up the three stories in the Agassiz house and wait for our teachers, who never are on time. Sometimes school does not begin for half an hour.
Mrs. Agassiz comes in, and we all get up to say good morning to her. As there is nothing else left for her to teach, she teaches us manners. She looks us over, and holds up a warning finger smilingly. She is so sweet and gentle.
I don’t wonder that you think it extraordinary that all these fine teachers, who are the best in Harvard College, should teach us; but the reason is, that the Agassiz’s have built a new house and find it difficult to pay for it, so their friends have promised to help them to start this school, and by lending their names they have put it on its legs, so to speak.
The other day I was awfully mortified. Mr. Longfellow, who teaches us literature, explained all about rhythm, measures, and the feet used in poetry. The idea of poetry having feet seemed so ridiculous that I thought out a beautiful joke, which I expected would amuse the school immensely; so when he said to me in the lesson, “Miss Greenough, can you tell me what blank verse is?” I answered promptly and boldly, “Blank verse is like a blank-book; there is nothing in it, not even feet,” and looked around for admiration, but only saw disapproval written everywhere, and Mr. Longfellow, looking very grave, passed on to the next girl. I never felt so ashamed in my life.
Mr. Longfellow, on passing our house, told aunty that he was coming in the afternoon, to speak to me; aunty was worried and so was I, but when he came I happened to be singing Schubert’s “Dein ist mein Herz,” one of aunty’s songs, and he said, “Go on. Please don’t stop.” When I had finished he said:
“I came to scold you for your flippancy this morning, but you have only to sing to take the words out of my mouth, and to be forgiven.”
“And I hope you will forget,” I said, penitently.
“I have already forgotten,” he answered, affectionately. “How can one be angry with a dear little bird? But don’t try again to be so witty.”
“Never again, I promise you.”
“That’s the dear girl you are, and ‘Dein ist mein Herz’!” He stooped down and kissed me.
I burst into tears, and kissed his hand. This is to show you what a dear, kind man Mr. Longfellow is.
[Illustration: THE FAY HOUSE, CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS]
CAMBRIDGE, _June, 1857._
If you were here, dear mama, I would sing, “Oh, Wake and Call Me Early, Call Me Early, Mother Dear,” for I am to dance the quadrille on the “Green” on Class Day. To be asked by a Harvard graduate to be one of the four girls to dance is a great compliment. All the college windows are full of people gazing at you, and just think of the other girls, who are filled with envy fuller than the windows!
Aunty is “pestered” (as she calls it) to death by people wanting me to sing for their charities. Every one has a pet charity, which it seems must be attended to just at this time, and they clamor for help from me, and aunty has not the courage to say “no.” Therefore, about once a week I am dressed in the white muslin and the black shoes, which is my gala get-up, and a carriage is sent for me. Then aunty and I are driven to the Concert Hall, where, when my turn comes, I go on the platform and sing, “Casta Diva,” “Ah, non Credea,” etc., and if I am encored then I sing, “Coming Thro’ the Rye.”
I am sure every one says that it is a shame to make me sing, but they make me sing, all the same. I enjoy the applause and the excitement–who would not? What I do _not_ enjoy is being obliged to sing in church every Sunday. Dr. Hoppin has persuaded aunty to let me help in the choir; that is, to sing the Anthem and the “Te Deum,” but it amounts to my doing about all the singing. Don’t you think this is cruel? However, there is one hymn I love to sing, and that is, “Shout the Glad Tidings, Exultingly Sing.” I put my whole heart and soul in this, and soon find myself shouting the “glad tidings” all alone, my companions having left me in the lurch.
We laughed very much at aunty’s efforts in the Anti-slavery movement (just now at its height), when all Massachusetts has risen up with a bound in order to prove that the blacks are as good as the whites (if not better), and should have all their privileges. She, wishing to demonstrate this point, introduced Joshua Green, a little colored boy (the washerwoman’s son), into the Sunday-school class. The general indignation among the white boys did not dismay her, as she hoped that Joshua would come up to the mark. The answer to the first question in the catechism (what is your name?), he knew, and answered boldly, “Joshua Green.” But the second question, “Who made you?” was the stumbling-block. He sometimes answered, “Father,” and sometimes, “Mother.” Aunty, being afraid that he would answer, “Miss Fay,” had him come to the house during the week, where she could din into him that it was God who made him and all creation. “Now, Joshua, when Dr. Hoppin says to you, ‘Who made you?’ you must answer, ‘God, who made everything on earth and in heaven’–you understand?” “Yes, ma’am,” and repeated the phrase until aunty thought him ripe to appear at Sunday-school, which he did on the following Sunday. You may imagine aunty’s consternation when Dr. Hoppin asked Joshua, “Who made you?” and Joshua looked at aunty with a broad grin, showing all his teeth, and said, “Lor’, Miss Fay, I forget who you said it was.” This was aunty’s last effort to teach the blacks. She repeated this episode to Mr. Phillips Brooks, who, in return, told her an amusing story of a colored man who had been converted to the Catholic religion, and went one day to confession (he seems not to have been very sure about this function). The priest said to him, “Israel, what have you to confess? Have you been perfectly honest since the last time? No thefts?”
“None at all? Stolen no chickens?”
“No, sir; not one.”
Then the priest gave absolution. Outside the church Israel found the companions whom he had left waiting for him.
“Well, how did you get on?” they asked.
“Bully!” answered Israel. “But if he’d said ducks he’d have got me.”
Cousin James Lowell said: “See how a negro appreciates the advantages of the confession.”
DEAR L.,–A family council was held yesterday, and it is now quite decided that mama is to take me to Europe, and that I shall study singing with the best masters. We will first go to New York for a visit of ten days with Mr. and Mrs. Cooley. I shall see New York and hear a little music; and then we start for Europe on the 17th in the _Commodore Vanderbilt_.
DEAR AUNT,–We have now been here a week, and I feel ashamed that I have not written to you before, but I have been doing a great deal. The Cooleys have a gorgeous house in Fifth Avenue, furnished with every luxury one can imagine. The sitting-room, dining-room, library, and a conservatory next to the billiard-room, are down-stairs; up-stairs are the drawing-rooms (first, second, and third), which open into a marble-floored Pompeian room, with a fountain. Then comes mama’s and my bed-room, with bath-room attached. On the third floor the family have their apartment. We have been many times to the opera, and heard an Italian tenor, called Brignoli, whom people are crazy over. He has a lovely voice and sings in “Trovatore.” Last night, when he sang “Di quella pira,” people’s enthusiasm knew no bounds. They stood up and shouted, and ladies waved their handkerchiefs; he had to repeat it three times, and each time people got wilder. Nina and I clapped till our gloves were in pieces and our arms actually ached.
A Frenchman by the name of Musard has brought over a French orchestra, and is playing French music at the opera-house. People are wild over him also. Madame La Grange, who they say is a fine lady in her own country, is singing in “The Huguenots.” She has rather a thin voice, but vocalizes beautifully. Nina and I weep over the hard fate of Valentine, who has to be present when her husband is conspiring against the Huguenots, knowing that her lover is listening behind the curtain and can’t get away. The priests come in and bless the conspiracy, all the conspirators holding their swords forward to be blessed. This music is really too splendid for words, and we enjoy it intensely.
Mr. Bancroft, the celebrated historian, invited us to dinner, and after dinner they asked me to sing. I had to accompany myself. Every one pretended that they were enchanted. Just for fun, at the end I sang, “Three Little Kittens Took Off Their Mittens, to Eat a Christmas Pie,” and one lady (would you believe it?) said she wept tears of joy, and had cold shivers down her back. When I sang, “For We Have Found Our Mittens,” there was, she said, such a jubilant ring in my voice that her heart leaped for joy.
Mr. Bancroft sent me the next day a volume of Bryant’s poems, with the dedication, “To Miss Lillie Greenough, in souvenir of a never-forgetable evening.” I made so many acquaintances, and received so many invitations, that if we should stay much longer here there would be nothing left of me to take to Europe.
I will write as soon as we arrive on the other side. On whatever side I am, I am always your loving niece, who thinks that there is no one in the wide world to compare to you, that no one is as clever as you, that no one can sing like you, and that there never was any one who can hold a candle to you. There!
BREMEN, _August, 1859._
DEAR AUNT,–At last we have arrived at our journey’s end, and we are happy to have got out of and away from the steamer, where we have been cooped up for the last weeks. However, we had a very gay time during those weeks, and some very sprightly companions. Among them a runaway couple; he was a Mr. Aulick Palmer, but I don’t know who she was. One could have learned it easily enough for the asking, as they were delighted to talk about themselves and their elopement, and how they did it. It was their favorite topic of conversation. I was intensely interested in them; I had never been so near a romance in my life. They had been married one hour when they came on board; she told her parents that she was going out shopping, and then, after the marriage, wrote a note to them to say that she was married and off to Europe, adding that she was not sorry for what she had done. He is a handsome man, tall and dark; she is a jolly, buxom blonde, with a charming smile which shows all her thirty and something teeth, and makes her red, thick lips uncurl. I thought, for such a newly married couple, they were not at all sentimental, which I should have supposed natural. She became sea-sick directly, and he called attention to her as she lay stretched out on a bench looking dreadfully green in the face: “We are a sick couple–home-sick, love-sick, and sea-sick.”
The captain, who thought himself a wag but who forgot every morning what he had wagged about the day before, would say for his daily greeting, “Wie [as the Germans say] befinden sie sich?” He thought the pun on sea-sick was awfully funny, and would laugh uproariously. He said to Mr. Palmer, “Why are you not like a melon?” We all guessed. One person said, “Because he was not meloncholic [Aulick].” But all the guesses were wrong. “No,” said the captain, “it is because the melon can’t elope, and you can.” He thought himself very funny, and was rather put out that we did not think him so, and went on repeating the joke to every one on the boat _ad nauseam_.
DEAREST A.,–We arrived here, as we intended, on the 27th…. We easily found Garcia’s address, and drove there without delay. I was very anxious to see the “greatest singing master in the world,” and there he was standing before me, looking very much as I had imagined him; but not like any one I had ever seen before. He has grayish hair and a black mustache, expressive big eyes, and such a fascinating smile! Mama said, having heard of his great reputation, she wished that he would consent to give me a _few_ lessons. He smiled, and answered that, if I would kindly sing something for him, he could better judge how much teaching I required. I replied–I was so sure of myself–that, if he would accompany “Qui la voce,” I would sing that. “Ha, ha!” he cried, with a certain sarcasm. “By all means let us have that,” and sat down before the piano while I spread out the music before him. I sang, and thought I sang very well; but he just looked up into my face with a very quizzical expression, and said, “How long have you been singing, Mademoiselle?” Mama answered for me before I could speak. “She has sung, Monsieur, since she was a very small child.”
He was not at all impressed by this, but said, “I thought so.” Then he continued. “You say you would like to take some lessons of me?” I was becoming very humble, and said, meekly, that I hoped he would give me some. “Well, Mademoiselle, you have a very wonderful voice, but you have not the remotest idea how to sing.” What a come-down! I, who thought I had only to open my mouth to be admired, and only needed a _few_ finishing touches to make me perfect, to be told that I had “not the remotest idea how to sing”!
Mama and I both gasped for breath, and I could have cried for disappointment as well as mortification. However, I felt he was right, and, strange to say, mama felt so too. He said, “Take six months’ rest and don’t sing a single note, then come back to me.” When he saw the crestfallen look on my face, he added, kindly, “Then we shall see something wonderful.”
We leave for Dresden this evening…. Love to all.
LONDON, _May, 1860._
DEAR A.,–I have not written since we left the kind V. Rensselaers in Dresden. Mama must have given you all the details of our life there…. I hope, now that I have studied French, German, and Italian like a good little girl for six months and not “sung a single note,” that I may venture to present myself before the great Garcia again.
I can’t imagine that I am the same person who has (it seems to me years ago) sung before large, distinguished, and enthusiastic audiences, has been a little belle, in a way, in Cambridge, has had serenades from the Harvard Glee Club (poor aunty! routed out of your sleep in the middle of the night to listen to them), inspired poetry, and danced on “the Green” on Class Day. I felt as if I ought to put on pantalettes and wear my hair down my back. I look now upon myself as a real _Backfisch_, as the Germans call very young girls, and that is simply what I am; and I feel that I ought never to have been allowed to sport about in those fascinating clear waters which reflected no shadows, now that I must go back to the millpond and learn to swim.
I have been already three weeks studying hard with Garcia, who is not only a wonderful teacher, but is a wonderful personality. I simply worship him, though he is very severe and pulls me up directly I “slipshod,” as he calls it; and so far I have literally sung nothing but scales. He says that a scale must be like a beautiful row of pearls: each note like a pearl, perfect in roundness and color.
This is so easy to say, but very difficult to accomplish. Stone-breaking on the highroad is nothing to it. I come home tired out from my lessons, only to begin singing scales again. I tell mama I feel like a fish with the scales being taken off him.
Four hours by myself and two lessons a week will soon reduce your poor niece to _a scaleton_. Ah! please forgive this….
No question of a song yet. “Qui la voce” seems way back in the Middle Ages. Garcia says, “If, when your voice is well oiled [that is what he calls the scaling process], you are not intelligent enough to sing a song by yourself, then you had better knit stockings for the poor.”
“Then,” I answered, “I had better begin at once to learn to knit stockings.”
“Not quite yet!” he laughed. “Wait till I have finished with you.” More than once he has said, “Your voice reminds me of my sister Marie’s [meaning Malibran]; but she had no brains to speak of, whereas you have, and you ought to be thankful for it.”
I murmured that I was glad he thought so, and, if I really had some brains, I should be thankful; but I was not quite sure that I had. “Trust me to tell you if you have not,” said he.
I trusted him, indeed, for I knew very well that he would not let the occasion slip had he anything of that sort to say.
LONDON, _July, 1860._
DEAR A.,–Still hard at work. I wonder at mama’s patience and endurance. To hear scales, cadenzas, and trills from morning till night must be terribly wearing on the nerves. I said as much to the master, and he consented to give me “Bel raggio,” of “Semiramide.” It is as good as an exercise, anyway, because it is nothing but cadenzas. Then he allowed me to sing “Una voce poco fa.” I told him that mama had put on a pound of flesh since I was permitted to roam in these fresh pastures. This made him laugh. After he had seen that I had “brains enough” to sing these songs according to his august liking, he said, “Now we will try ‘Voi che sapete,’ of Mozart.”
Garcia has not the ghost of a voice; but he has the most enchanting way of singing mezzo-voce, and occasionally says, “Sing this so,” and sings the phrase for me. It sounds delightfully when he does it; but I do not think he would have liked me to “sing it so” and would probably swear a gentle little Spanish swear under his garlicky breath, because (I say it, though I hate to) the dear master eats garlic–pounds of it, I fear–and his voice is highly scented when it cracks, which it often does.
He once said, “You may imitate my way of singing, but don’t imitate my crack.”
“Oh,” I said, “I love to hear you sing. I don’t even hear the crack.”
“Ah,” he sighed, “if it had not been for that crack I should be in the opera now.”
“I am glad,” I answered, “that you are not there; for then you would not be here, teaching me.” I think this pleased him.
Sometimes he is very nervous. Once, when I was singing “Voi che sapete,” the tears rolled down his cheeks, and another time, when he was showing me how to sing it “so,” I burst into tears, and the poor man had to order his servant to bring me some sherry to restore my nerves. There is one phrase in this song which I never can hear sung, or never can sing myself, without emotion.
The season is getting so late mama thinks we ought to leave London, especially as Garcia is taking his vacation, and we are going in a few days to Paris.
Garcia has given us a letter to his sister, Madame Viardot (of whom he said she had brains but no voice). He wrote: “I send you my pupil. Do all you can to persuade her to go on the stage. She has it in her.”
But Madame Viardot may “do all she can”; I will never go on the stage.
If “it” is in me, it must work out some other way.
PARIS, _May, 1861._
DEAR A.,–Mother will have written to you of my engagement to Charles Moulton. I wish you would come and see me married, and that I could present all my future family to the most lovable of aunts.
I think I shall have everything to make me happy. In the first place, my fiancé is very musical, composes charming things, and plays delightfully on the piano; my future mother-in-law is a dear old lady, musical and universally talented; my future father-in-law is a _bona-fide_ American, a dear quixotic old gentleman who speaks the most awful French. Although he has lived in Paris for forty years, he has never conquered the pronunciation of the French language, but has invented a unique dialect of his own. Every word that can be pronounced in English he pronounces in English, as well as all numbers. For instance, a phrase such as _La guerre de mille huit cent quinze était une démonstration de la liberté nationale_ would sound like this: “La gur de 1815 (in English) était une demonstration (in English) de la liberty national.” It is almost impossible to understand him; but he will read for hours unabashed, not only to us, the drowsy and inattentive members of his family, but to the most fastidious and illustrious Frenchmen. There are two brothers and a sweet little sister. I shall have a beautiful home, or rather homes, because they have not only a handsome hotel in Paris, but an ideal country place (Petit Val) and a villa in Dinard.
Good-by. Greet all the united family from me, and tell them not to worry over my future, as you wrote they were doing. I have renounced forever the pomps and allurements of the stage, and I trust the leaves on the genealogical tree will cease their trembling, and that the Fays, my ancestors, will not trouble themselves to turn in their graves, as you threatened they would if I did anything to disgrace them.
CHÂTEAU DE PETIT VAL, _June, 1862._
DEAREST A.,–I wish I could give you an idea of Petit Val and our life as lived by me. Petit Val is about twelve miles from Paris, and was built for the Marquis de Marigny, whose portrait still hangs in the salon–the brother of Madame de Pompadour–by the same architect who built and laid out the park of Petit Trianon.
There is an avenue of tall poplar-trees leading from Petit Val straight to Choisy-le-Roi, where Madame de Pompadour lived, a distance of ten miles.
Like Petit Trianon, Petit Val has little lakes with shady trees bordering them; it has grottos, waterfalls, winding paths, magnificent greenhouses, fountains, a _rivière_, pavilions, aviaries, terraces, _charmilles_, _berceaux_, _enfin tout!_ One feels like saying, “Mein Liebchen, was willst du mehr?” as the poet Heine says. The park is surrounded by a _saut de loup_ (a sunken wall about twenty feet high like “la Muette” in Paris). There is no need of putting up sign-boards with “No trespassing here” as no one could scale the walls of the _saut de loup_, so we feel very safe, especially when the five iron gates are locked. Beyond the park are the _chasse_, the farm, the vineyards, and the _potager_. We are so near Paris that we have many visitors. The drive out here is a pleasant one, going through Vincennes, Charenton, Alfort, etc., and one can get here in about an hour. Duke de Morny, the Duke de Persigny and the Rothschild family, Prince de Sagan, and different diplomats, not to speak of our numerous American friends who are thankful for a breath of fresh air, are frequent guests. The nearest chateau to us is Montalon, where Madame de Sévigné used to live, and from which she wrote some of her letters. If she ever wrote a tiresome one, it must surely have been from here, as the damp and moldy house, covered with creeping vines and overgrown with ivy, surrounded by melancholy cypress and poplar trees, which shut out the view, could scarcely have inspired her with brilliant ideas.
Petit Val’s _potager_ is known far and wide for the best peaches and pears in France, and the gardener takes all the prizes in the shows: if the prizes are in money, he pockets them; if they are diplomas, he allows us to keep them. He is a rare old scamp.
When Mr. Moulton bought the place he had the right to call himself “De Petit Val,” and he could have–if he had wished to–been “Moulton de Petit Val.” But he turned up his American nose at such cheap nobility as this; still he was obliged, much against his will, to conform to the obligations which belonged to the estate. For instance, he had to give so many bushels of potatoes to the curé, so many bushels of grain to the doctor, so many bushels of vegetables to the postmaster, and to them all so many casks of the awful wine we produce on the estate, known in the vernacular as “_le petit bleu_.”
When this sour wine is in the golden period of effervescing, any sick child in the village ticketed by the doctor can be brought to the wine- presses and dipped in. If labeled “_très malade_,” he is dipped in twice. Don’t you think that this is a dreadful custom? I think that it is awful to put such an article as this on the market; but then we know that if a person has tasted it once they never do it again. We try to grow green corn here; but it degenerates unless the seed is brought every year from America. This year, not having been renewed, the corn is a failure; but the American melons ripen here in perfection, and rivalize successfully with the big French melons. The other day an ambassador ate so many of them that he begged us to let him stay all night. We were quite anxious about him, as he had an audience with the Emperor the next morning; but he managed it somehow.
An important member of the family I must not forget! the governess, Mademoiselle Wissembourg, who is very much of a personage. After she has given my sister-in-law and myself our French lessons (for I still go on studying), she gives the cook his orders, gives out the linen, writes the letters, smooths away all annoyances, pays the bills, and keeps the accounts, which she does in an oriental sort of way, with such fantastic summings-up that my poor father-in-law is often on the verge of distraction.
Our stables are well garnished; there are eleven horses (my pair included), fourteen carriages, three coachmen, and no end of stable-boys. My coachman, who was one of the “anciens zouaves”–so renowned for their bravery–generally has cramps when he is told that I am going to drive myself to Paris. And when I drive those twelve miles I do it in double- quick time with Medjé and Hilda, my two “limousin” horses. No wonder Louis offers up a prayer to the saints before starting, and sits, holding with both hands on to his little seat back of me, with an expression on his face of “O Lord, what is going to happen?”
PARIS, _January, 1863._
DEAREST MAMA,–I have been expecting letters from you and home for a long time, but nothing has come yet.
The coldest day that Paris has ever known, since goodness knows when, has suddenly burst upon us, and skating is just dawning on the Parisians.
The ice on the little lake of Suresnes has frozen _d’emblée_, and I was crazy to go there and skate. We had stayed late in the country, having spent Christmas _en famille_, and only returned to Paris a few days ago. I had just received the skates you sent me for my Christmas present, and I was wild to try them. What beauties they are! My old ones, with their screws and their innumerable straps, seem horribly complicated and clumsy. As you advised, I had very tight-fitting boots with low heels made for them. I drove out to the Bois with baby and his _nounou_, and to gain time put on my skates in the carriage, and when I arrived, I walked down to the lake. I never saw such splendid ice (and I have seen many ices). No tardy layers, no treacherous holes, just one even mirror of marble. Imagine my surprise at not seeing a person on the ice; but there were masses of spectators gathered on the edge of the lake looking at it. The Emperor and the Empress were there. I knew them by sight; but the only one I knew personally was Prince Joachim Murat, our neighbor in the country. He married Elizabeth Wagram, and they lived with her parents at Gros-Bois, near Petit Val.
Therefore, I stood unknown and unnoticed. I ventured one foot on the indiscreet, reflecting surface, then the other; and while the assembled crowd gazed at me in amazement, I made the tour of the lake on my skates.
My experience of seven years on Fresh Pond did not fail me, and I skimmed over the flawless ice on the outer edge, like a bird with close-fitting wings; indeed, I felt like one. The ice was so clear that one could see the grass and stones at the bottom.
This was an exhilarating moment!
When I returned to the starting-place I saw that no one had dared to follow my example, and as an act of (I hardly dare to write it) silly _bravoura_ I took baby out of the nurse’s arms, and with him gurgling and chuckling with delight, his little head on my shoulder, I skated around with him. _Only once!_ Don’t scold me! I felt directly what a wicked thing I was doing, for, if there had been a stone or a branch frozen in the ice, I might have fallen, and then–what might not have happened! But as long as I was alone and sure of my skates I was not afraid. I saw some of the more courageous skaters beginning to invade the ice, and I flew back, thoroughly ashamed of myself, and delivered my rosy burden into the arms of its nurse, who stood aghast, like a frozen Niobe, with wide eyes, watching me, the foolish mother. I sent them back to Paris in the coupé, begging my husband to come and fetch me. I was vain enough to wish him to see me in my glory.
Prince Murat came up to speak to me. As we saw the Emperor, who was on skates, coming toward us, Prince Murat said, “Here comes the Emperor to speak to you.” I felt dreadfully frightened, for I was not sure–it being the first time I had ever spoken to a sovereign–what was the proper manner to address him. I knew I must say “Sire,” and “votre Majesté”; but when and how often I did not know. His Majesty held in his hand a short stick with an iron point, such as are used in climbing the Alps, and managed to propel himself forward by little right-legged shunts, his left leg not daring to do anything but slide, and stopped like an engine nearing a station, puffing and out of breath. Prince Murat moved aside, and his Majesty looked at me, then at Prince Murat, who, in an introductory manner, said “This is Madame Moulton, your Majesty, the daughter-in-law of our neighbor, whom you know.” “Ah!” said the Emperor, and, turning to me, he said, “How beautifully you skate, Madame; it is wonderful to look at you!”
[Illustration: EMPEROR NAPOLEON III]
I (frightened out of my wits) murmured that I had skated since I was eight years old. “One can only skate like that when one learns young,” the Emperor said. And while I was wondering when I should say “Votre Majesté,” he said, “Oserai-je demander à une patineuse si parfaite de patiner avec un humble patineur (Dare I ask such a perfect skater as you to skate with so humble a skater as myself)?”
He was a humble skater indeed! I answered that it would be a great honor to me. He then stretched out his hands, and I took them very much as I would have taken any one else’s hands, and we ambled forth, I supporting and upholding the tottering steps of the monarch of the French nation. I felt that the eye of the nation was on me, and, indeed, it was, as much of the nation as happened to be there; but, proud as I was, I wished that some one would relieve me of this responsibility. Suppose his Majesty should fall!… Dreadful thought! The Emperor skated on silently, intent on balancing himself, and I, you may be sure, was intent on keeping him intent. He stumbled at every stroke; but as I was on his left side–the weak one–we got along very nicely, and we felt that we were being admired –_patineusement_. His hat fell off once (he skated in a tall hat), and I had to pick it up for him while he clung to my hand and lifted his other hand to put the hat on his head. In our course we came upon the Empress, and we slowed down neatly. She was being supported by two very “trembling” chamberlains, who almost knocked us down in their efforts to keep their balance. When we had come to anchor the Emperor said to the Empress, “This is Madame Moulton! Does she not skate beautifully?” I ought to have made a courtesy, but how could I–on skates?
The Empress was dressed in a more suitable style than the other ladies, who evidently were going on to some reception (the idea of combining visiting and skating!), and had rather long dresses, high heels and hats. The Empress, though crinolined and high-heeled, had a short skirt. I had a short cloth dress bordered with fur and a little fur toque. The Empress looked very kindly at me and said something to the Emperor which escaped me. When–oh, when–should I say “Your Majesty”? But I forgot everything, gazing at the Empress, who appeared as a vision of beauty, with a bright color in her cheeks, her eyes sparkling with animation. The Emperor said to her, “Tu devrais patiner avec Madame (You ought to skate with Madame),” letting go my hands. With the sweetest smile she said to me, “Will _you_ skate with _me_?” Of course I was only too enchanted. Could I uphold the throne in which her Majesty was strapped? I took her two hands, and we sped on our way as best we could. I had sometimes to dig my skates in the ice to prevent too much speed, and to keep us both on our legs, one pair of which were Imperial. “How strange!” said her Majesty, in a moment of breath-taking, “that I should have never seen you before, and yet, as the Emperor says, you live in Paris!”
I replied: “Your Majesty [at last I said it], I spent last winter in the country taking care of my health, and last summer I was in Dinard.”
“Ah, je comprends,” with a lovely smile, “and now?”
“Now, your Majesty [I was getting on nicely], I am going to be presented to society in due form by my mother-in-law.”
“You will then come to the Tuileries?”
“Of course, your Majesty [now I had complete court manners], I shall come there first. My mother-in law will take the necessary steps.”
“But you will not need to go through all those steps,” she said, smilingly, “now that we know you”; and added, most kindly, “To-morrow you must come and skate with us again.”
After this little breathing spell we went off on another tour, and as all is well that ends better than you expect, I was thankful to bring her Majesty back safely. We were hailed with enthusiasm. Charles, coming back with the coupé, was duly complimented by both their Majesties on the prowess of his spouse. And so we drove home.
Here endeth the first chapter and my first appearance in Parisian society.
DEAR M.,–We received the invitation for the first ball at the Tuileries before my mother-in-law had presented me to the Grande Maîtresse Duchesse de Bassano; but her reception-day being on the same day as the ball I was able, fortunately, to go there and to be presented to her. Mrs. M— preferred to make the “preliminary steps” with me in her wake.
My wedding-dress, trimmed with the beautiful lace (which came in my _corbeille_), seemed the proper thing to wear. The gentlemen’s costumes are “_culottes courtes blanches_, white silk stockings, and a dress-coat with gold buttons.” My mother-in-law had been under the coiffeur’s tongs for hours, and when she reappeared, frizzled and curled, she looked so unnatural that we hardly recognized her. My father-in-law refused point blank to go with us. When asked, “Don’t you want to see Lillie’s first appearance?” he answered, “I shall see her before she goes. It is not likely I shall see much of her when she is once there.” Which would probably have been the case.
Mrs. Moulton, wishing to go in style, ordered the gala Cinderella coach which served at my wedding. It used to take my parents-in-law to and from the Tuileries in the time of Louis Philippe. One can see the like in Versailles, all glass in front, white satin inside, with steps to let down, and swung on eight undulating springs. Charles went in our coupé, and I must say I envied him.
It is a long drive from the Rue de Courcelles to the Tuileries, and it takes a long time, especially when the _queue_ commences at the Place de la Concorde. I was almost dizzy as we advanced step by step, pulling up at every moment, rocking and swaying like a row-boat in a gentle swell, and when we got a chance to go faster the carriage rocked from side to side, all the fringe on the coachman’s box waving about. The coachman was a study in himself, with his white wig and silk stockings, ensconced like a hen on her nest. The valet, with powdered hair, white silk stockings, and plush breeches, stood on his little platform behind the carriage, holding on to the two cords on the side. I felt very fine, but not fine enough to prevent my feeling a little sea-sick, and I could not help thinking that it was a great pity to put on such style at night, when no one could see us. I would have liked better to have been seen in the daytime in this pomp and glory.
When at last we did arrive my mother-in-law’s feathers were somewhat awry. We mounted the stately staircase, lined on both sides by the superb Cent Gardes, standing like statues on each step.
Many chamberlains were waiting, and we were conducted to the Grand Maître de Cérémonie, who passed us on to a less grand Maître de Cérémonie, who showed us to the place where we were to stand in the ballroom. It was a magnificent sight, and as long as I live I shall never forget it.
The beautifully dressed ladies were covered with jewels, and the gentlemen in their showy uniforms were covered with decorations. Each lady showed to great advantage, as, on account of the width of their crinolines, they had to stand very far apart.
The entire ballroom was lighted with wax candles, and was really a fairy scene. At the end of the ballroom was the platform on which stood the throne of their Majesties, a row of red-velvet gilded fauteuils placed behind them for the Imperial family. The hangings over the throne, which were of heavy red velvet with the Napoleonic eagle in gold, fell in great folds down to the floor.
It was not long before the doors were thrown open, and every one who had been limp and lax while waiting, chatting with his neighbor, straightened himself up and bowed to the ground, as the Emperor and the Empress walked in. Their Majesties stood for a moment at the door, and then went immediately to the throne.
A few moments later the _quadrille d’honneur_ was danced by the eight most princely of the guests. The Emperor danced with the Princess of Wales, who has the prettiest and sweetest face one can imagine. The Empress danced with the King of Saxony; the Prince of Wales with the Princess Mathilde, cousin of the Emperor; the Grand Duke of Russia with the Princess Clothilde.
Every one stood during the whole quadrille. After that was finished their Majesties circulated among us, talking to different people. Later on the Empress, when she had returned to the throne, sent a message to me by Prince Murat, that she wished me to come to her.
I was frightened to death to have to cross the ballroom, feeling as if all eyes were on me, and tripped along so quickly that Prince Murat, at my side, said, “Don’t hurry so; I can’t keep up with you.”
While I stood before the steps of the throne the Empress came toward me, and with her exquisite smile, and with the peculiar charm she has when speaking, said, “I am so glad to see you here, Madame Moulton.” “And I am so glad to be here, your Majesty; but I went through all the preliminary steps all the same,” I said, “because _ma belle-mère_ insisted upon it.”
This seemed to amuse her, and after a few gracious words she left me.
As this was the first time I had seen her in evening dress, I was completely dazed by her loveliness and beauty. I can’t imagine a more beautiful apparition than she was. Her delicate coloring, the pose of her head, her hair, her expressive mouth, her beautiful shoulders, and wonderful grace make a perfect ensemble.
[Illustration: EMPRESS EUGÉNIE]
She wore a white tulle dress trimmed with red velvet bows and gold fringes; her crown of diamonds and pearls and her necklace were magnificent.
On her breast shone the great diamond (the Regent) which belongs to the Crown.
When I gazed on her in all her glory and prestige I could hardly believe that we had been such chums a few days before, when skating, and that I had held her hands clasped in mine, and had kept her from falling.
Countess Castellane gave a beautiful costume ball the other evening, which I must tell you about, because it was so original. The stables were connected with the salons by a long, carpeted gallery, at the end of which was a huge fresco on the walls, representing a horse-race in a very lifelike manner. Through a large plate-glass window one could see the whole stable, which was, as you may imagine, in spick-and-span order; and Count Castellane’s favorite horse was saddled and bridled, a groom in full livery standing by its side. It was amusing to see ladies in their ball dresses walking about in the stables, where the astonished horses were blinking in the gas-light.
In one of the quadrilles the ladies and gentlemen were dressed as children, in short socks and frocks with enormous sashes.
Princess Metternich was costumed as a milkmaid; she had real silver pails hung over her shoulders. Duchesse de Persigny was a _chiffonnière_ with a _hotte_ on her back and a gray dress very much looped up, showing far above her wooden shoes.
DEAR M.,–The ice in the Bois continues very good; I am skating every day. I have commenced to teach the little Prince Imperial. He is very sweet, and talks very intelligently for his age. The other day, when I was skating with the Empress, a gentleman (I think he was an American), skating backward, knocked against us with such force that the Empress and I both fell. I tried with all my might to keep her from falling, but it was impossible. Her first words, when we were helped on our feet again, were, “Don’t tell the Emperor; I think he did not see us.”
That same evening there was a ball at the Tuileries, and when the Empress came to speak to me she said: “How are you? I can hardly stand up.” I answered, “I am worse off, your Majesty; I can stand up, but I cannot sit down.”
Yesterday, when I came home from my singing lesson with Delle Sedie, I found the family quite excited. The Empress’s chamberlain had just been here to say that the Empress desired that we would come to the Tuileries next Monday, and expressed the wish that I should bring some music. I wrote to Delle Sedie and begged him to advise me what I should sing; he answered that he would come himself and talk it over with me, and Monsieur Planté, a young, budding pianist, who was ordered from the Tuileries to accompany my songs, was sent for, and Delle Sedie came at the same time.
Delle Sedie thought that I should begin with “Tre Giorni son che Nina,” of Pergolesi, and then the air from “Lucia,” and if I were asked to sing again the “Valse de Venzano.”
On these occasions gentlemen wear the _pantalon collant_, which is a most unbecoming and trying costume, being of black cloth fitting very tight and tapering down to the ankle, where it finishes abruptly with a button. Any one with a protruding ankle and thin legs cannot escape criticism.
_Le petit lundi_ of the Empress was not so _petit_ as I expected; there were at least four or five hundred people present.
I was presented to the Princess Mathilde (the cousin of the Emperor), a very handsome and distinguished-looking lady, who is married to and separated from Prince Demidoff. Her palace is directly opposite our hotel. I was also presented to the Princess Clothilde, and many others. I was very nervous before singing, but after my first song I did very well.
There was dancing, and everything was very unceremonious and easy. I think (I will just say it to you, dear mama) that I had a success. Their Majesties were very kind, and thanked me many times, and the Duke de Morny said that he was very proud of his protégée, for it was he who had suggested to the Empress that I should sing for them. It was a delightful evening, and I enjoyed myself and my little triumph immensely. I made the acquaintance of the Austrian ambassador and the Princess Metternich. She seemed very pleasant, and put me directly at my ease. She is far from being handsome, but dresses better than any woman in Paris, and has more _chic_. In fact, she sets the fashion as much as the Empress does.
The Emperor, at the instigation of the Duke de Morny, has given orders for the construction of a bridge over the Marne near Petit Val, a thing we needed greatly. When you were here, if you remember, one had to walk from the station to the river, about a little quarter of a mile. Once there you had to wave and shout for the ferryman, who, before allowing you to get on the boat, would attend to what cattle or merchandise were waiting there for transport. I do not think the bridge would have been built had not the Duke de Morny come out by train to Petit Val to avoid the long drive of twelve miles from Paris, and had been bored by this primitive means of transporting his august person. He said he was astonished and mortified that such a state of things should exist so near Paris. So was every one else. Otherwise the “bac” would have gone on forever.
The Carnival has never been so whirlwindy as it has been this year; and I don’t know how the purses of our lords and masters are going to hold out; and while the poor, “whom we have always with us,” are getting rich, the rich, whom we don’t always have, alas! are getting poor. For the private fancy-dress ball at the Tuileries last Monday, to which the guests were invited by the Empress, Worth alone made costumes to the tune of two hundred thousand dollars, and yet there were not four hundred ladies invited.
To begin at the top, the Empress was dressed as the wife of a doge of Venice of the sixteenth century. She wore all the crown jewels and many others. She was literally _cuirassée_ in diamonds, and glittered like a sun-goddess. Her skirt of black velvet over a robe of scarlet satin was caught up by clusters of diamond brooches. The Prince Imperial was allowed to be present; he was dressed in a black-velvet costume and knee breeches; his little, thin legs black-stockinged, and a _manteau Vénitien_ over his shoulders. He danced twice, once with Mademoiselle de Châteaubourg, and then with his cousin, Princess Anna Murat, who, being made on Junoesque lines, and dressed as a Dutch peasant with enormous gold ornaments over her ears, and a flowing white lace cap, towered above her youthful partner. He is only seven years old, and rather small for his age, which made the contrast between him and his colossal partner very striking. Princess Mathilde looked superb as Holbein’s Anne of Clèves. She wore her famous collection of emeralds, which are world-known.
Princess Clothilde had also copied a picture from the Louvre; but her robe of silver brocade, standing out in great folds about her waist, was anything but becoming to her style of figure. Princess Augustine Bonaparte (Gabrielli) was in a gorgeous costume of something or other; one had not time to find out exactly what she was intended to represent; she was covered with jewelry (some people pretended it was false, but it did not look less brilliant, for that). A fancy ball is an occasion which allows and excuses any extravagance in jewelry; whereas, at an ordinary ball it is considered not in good taste to wear too much. I just mention this casually, in case you should want to make a display when you lunch at Miss Bryant’s some Sunday.
Countess Walewski had powdered her hair and wore a Louis XV. amazon costume, a most unbecoming yellow satin gown with masses of gold buttons sewed on in every direction. This was not very successful.
Marquise de Gallifet, as the Angel Gabriel, with enormous real swan’s wings suspended from her shoulders, looked the part to perfection, and most angelic with her lovely smile, blond hair, and graceful figure.
Princess Metternich was dressed as Night, in dark-blue tulle covered with diamond stars. Her husband said to me, “Don’t you think that Pauline looks well in her nightgown?”
Countess Castiglione, the famous beauty, was dressed as Salammbô in a costume remarkable for its lack of stuff, the idea taken from the new Carthaginian novel of Gustave Flaubert. The whole dress was of black satin, the waist without any sleeves, showing more than an usual amount of bare arms and shoulders; the train was open to the waist, disclosing the countess’s noble leg as far up as it went incased in black-silk tights.
The young Count de Choiseul, who had blackened his face to represent an Egyptian page, not only carried her train, but held over the head of the daughter of Hamilcar an umbrella of Robinson Crusoe dimensions. Her gold crown fell off once while walking about, and Choiseul made every one laugh when he picked it up and put it on his own black locks. She walked on all unconscious, and wondered why people laughed.
My costume was that of a Spanish dancer. Worth told me that he had put his whole mind upon it; it did not feel much heavier for that: a banal yellow satin skirt, with black lace over it, the traditional red rose in my hair, red boots and a bolero embroidered in steel beads, and small steel balls dangling all over me. Some com-pliments were paid to me, but unfortunately not enough to pay the bill; if compliments would only do that sometimes, how gladly we would receive them! But they are, as it is, a drug in the market.
The Emperor was in domino–his favorite disguise–which is no disguise at all, for every one recognizes him.
[Illustration: DANIEL FRANÇOIS ESPRIT AUBER]
I met the famous Auber at the Tuileries ball. The Duke de Persigny brought him and introduced him to me, not because Auber asked to be presented, but because I was most anxious to make his acquaintance, and begged the duke to bring him. He is a short, dapper little man, with such a refined and clever face.
Wit and repartee sparkle in his keen eyes. His music is being very much played now–“Fra Diavolo” and “Dieu et la Bayadère,” and others of his operas. His music is like himself–fine and dainty, and full of _esprit_; his name is Daniel François Esprit. M. de Persigny said, “Madame Moulton desires to know you, Monsieur Auber.” I said, “I hope you will not think me indiscreet, but I did want to see you and know the most-talked- about person in Paris.” In reply he said: “You have the advantage over me, Madame. I have never heard myself talked about.” Then the Duke de Persigny said something about my voice. Auber turned to me, and said, “May I not also have the privilege of hearing you?” Of course I was tremendously pleased, and we fixed a day and hour then and there for his visit.
Prince Jérome, who is a cousin of the Emperor (people call him Plon-Plon), is not popular; in fact, he is just the contrary. But his wife, the Princess Clothilde, would be exceedingly popular if she gave the Parisians a chance to see her oftener. She is so shy, so young, and the least pretentious of princesses, hates society, and never goes out if she can avoid it. Prince Jérome is, of all the Napoleonic family, the one who most resembles Napoleon I. in appearance, but not in character. There is nothing of the hero about him. Since he had the misfortune to be suddenly indisposed the night before the battle of Solferino, and did not appear, they call him “craint-plomb.” _Sé non è vero è ben trovato._
The stories people tell of the Prince are awful; but one is not obliged to believe them if one does not want to.
There was such an amusing _soirée_ at the Duke de Morny’s in honor of the Duchess’s birthday. They gave a play called “Monsieur Choufleuri restera chez lui le…….,” which the Duke wrote himself, and for which Offenbach composed the music inspired by the Duke, who vowed that he “really did make the most of it.” But, his conscience pricking him, he added, “At least some!” which I think was nearer the truth.
It was a great success, whether by the Duke de Morny or by Offenbach, and was the funniest thing I ever saw. Every one was roaring with laughter, and when the delighted audience called for “l’auteur,” the Duke came out leading Offenbach, each waving his hand toward the other, as if success belonged to him alone, and went off bowing their thanks together. Apropos of the Duke de Morny, he said of himself: “I am a very complicated person. _Je suis le fils d’une reine, frère d’un Empereur et gendre d’un Empereur, et tous sont illégitimes_.” It does sound queer! But he really is the son of Queen Hortense (his father being Count Flahaut); he is in this way an illegitimate brother of Napoleon III., and his wife is the daughter of the Emperor Nicholas of Russia. There you have a complicated case. My young sister-in-law has just married Count Hatzfeldt, of the German Embassy (second secretary). He is very good-looking without being handsome, and belongs to one of the most distinguished families in Germany. Countess Mercy-Argenteau appeared, comet-like, in Paris, and although she is a very beautiful woman, full of musical talent, and calls herself _une femme politique_, she is not a success. The gentlemen say she lacks charm. At any rate, none of the _élégantes_ are jealous of her, which speaks for itself. She is not as beautiful as Madame de Gallifet, nor as _élégante_ as Countess Pourtales, nor as clever as Princess Metternich.
Madame Musard, a beautiful American, has a friendship (_en tout déshonneur_) with a foreign royalty who made her a present of some– what he thought valueless–shares of a petroleum company in America. These shares turned into gold in her hands.
The royal gentleman gnashes his false teeth in vain, and has scene after scene with the royal son, who, green with rage, reproaches him for having parted with these treasures. But the shares are safely in the clutches of papa in New York, far away, and furnishing the wherewithal to provide his daughter with the most wonderful horses and equipages in Paris. She pays as much for one horse as her husband gains by his music in a year, and as for the poor prodigal prince, who is overrun with debts, he would be thankful to have even a widowed papa’s mite of her vast wealth. Another lady, whose virtue is some one else’s reward, has a magnificent and much- talked-of hotel in the Champs Élysées, where there is a staircase worth a million francs, made of real alabaster. Prosper Mérimée said: “C’est par là qu’on monte à la vertu.”
Her salons are filled every evening with cultured men of the world, and they say that the most refined tone reigns supreme–that is more than one can say of every salon in Paris.
I am taking lessons of Delle Sedie. He is a delightful teacher; he is so intelligent and has such beautiful theories, and so many of them, that he takes up about half the time of my lesson talking them over.
This is one of the things he says: “Take your breath from your boots.” It sounds better said in French: _Prenez votre respiration dans vos bottines._ I don’t think he realizes what he says or what he wants me to do. When I told him that I had sung somewhere unwillingly, having been much teased, he said: “You must not be too amiable. You must not sing when and what one asks. There is nothing like being begged. You are not a hand- organ, _pardieu_, that any one can play when they like.” And this sort of talk alternates with my songs until time is up, when off I run or go, feeling that I have learned little but talked much. However, sometimes I do feel compensated; for when, to demonstrate a point, he will sing a whole song, I console myself by thinking that I have been to one of his concerts and paid for my ticket.
Yesterday I received the inclosed letter from the Duke de Morny, inviting us to go with him in his loge to see a new play called “Le déluge.” It was not much of a play; but it was awfully amusing to see. Noah and his three sons and his three daughters-in-law marched into the ark dragging after them some wiry, emaciated débris of the Jardin des Plantes, which looked as if they had not eaten for a week. The amount of whipping and poking with sticks which was necessary to get them up the plank was amazing; I think they had had either too few or too many rehearsals. But they were all finally pushed in. Then commenced the rain–a real pouring cats-and- dogs kind of rain, with thunder and lightning and the stage pitch-dark. The whole populace climbed up on the rocks and crawled about, drenched to the skin, and little by little disappeared. Then, when one saw nothing but “water, water everywhere,” the ark suddenly loomed out on top of the rocks (how could they get it up there?), and the whole Noah family stepped out in a pink-and-yellow sunset, and a dear little dove flew up to Noah’s hand and delivered the olive branch to him. The dove was better trained than the animals, and had learned his rôle very well.
On coming out of the theater, we found, instead of the fine weather we had left outside, a pouring rain which was a very good imitation of the deluge inside. And none of us had an umbrella!
You see what the Duke de Morny writes: “I am making a collection of photographs of the young and elegant ladies of Paris. I think that you ought to figure among them, and though it is not an equal exchange, I am going to ask you to accept mine and give me yours.” And he brought it to me last night.
An invitation for the ball at St. Cloud for the King of Spain, who is now in Paris to inaugurate the new rail road to Madrid, and another ball at the Tuileries will keep us busy this week.
PETIT VAL, _June 17th._ We have been here a week, rejoicing in the lilacs and roses and all the spring delights. The nightingales are more delightful than ever. There is one charmer in particular, who warbles most enchantingly in the cedar-tree in front of my window. He has a lady-love somewhere, and he must be desperately in love, for he sings his little heart out on his skylarking tours to attract her attention. I try hard (naïve that I am) to imitate his song, especially the trill and the long, sad note. I wonder if either of them is deceived: whether she thinks that she has two lovers (one worse than the other), or, if _he_ thinks he has a poor rival who can’t hold a candle to him.
Auber wrote a cadenza for the “Rossignol” of Alabieff, which he thought might be in nightingale style. But how can any one imitate a nightingale? Auber, in one of his letters, asked me: “Chantez-vous toujours des duos avec votre maître de… champs?”
[Illustration: À MADAME LILLIE MOULTON]
PARIS, _January, 1864._
The Princess Beauvau is a born actress, and nothing she loves better than arranging theatricals and acting herself. She rooted up some charity as an excuse for giving a theatrical performance, and obtained the theater of the Conservatoire and the promise of the Empress’s presence. She chose two plays, one of Musset and the other, “l’Esclave,” of Molière–and asked me to take part in this last one.
“Oh,” I said, “I cannot appear in a French play; I would not dare to.” But the Princess argued that, as there were only four words to say, she thought I could do it, and in order to entice me to accept, she proposed introducing a song; and, moreover, said that she would beg Auber to furnish a few members of the Conservatoire orchestra to accompany me. This was very tempting, and I fell readily into the trap she laid for me.
I consulted Auber about my song, and we decided on Alabieff’s “Rossignol,” for which he had written the cadenza. He composed a chorus for a few amateurs and all the orchestral parts.
I was to be a Greek slave; my dress was of white, flimsy, spangled gauze, with a white-satin embroidered bolero, a turban of tulle, with all sorts of dangly things hanging over my ears. I wore baggy trousers and _babouches_. You may notice that I did not copy Power’s Greek slave in the way of dress.
I was completely covered with a white tulle veil, and led in by my fellow- slaves, who were also in baggy trousers and _babouches_. There could be no doubt that we were slaves, for we were overloaded with chains on arms, ankles, and waist. I found circulation a very difficult matter shuffling about in _babouches_, which are the most awkward things to walk in. One risks falling forward at every step.
When they got me in front of the orchestra the slaves drew off my veil and there I stood. The chorus retired, and I began my song. I had had only one rehearsal with the orchestra, the day before; but the humming accompaniment to my solo, that the unmusical slaves had to learn, had taken a week to teach.
Every one said the scene was very pretty. My song was quite a success; I had to sing it over again. Then I sang the waltz of Chopin, to which I had put words and transposed two tones lower. I saw Delle Sedie in the audience, with his mouth wide open, trying to breathe for me. It has sixteen bars which must be sung in one breath, and has a compass from D on the upper line to A on the lower line. Applause and flowers were showered on me, and I was rather proud of myself. I felt like Patti when I picked up my bouquets!
Later on in the play I had to say my “four words,” which turned out to be six words: _On ne peut être plus joli_. Though I was frightened out of my wits, I managed not to disgrace myself; but I doubt if any one heard one of the six words I said. The Empress sent me a little bunch of violets, which I thought was very gracious of her, and I was immensely flattered, for I think she took it from her corsage. I had noticed it there at the beginning of the evening.
One of the bouquets bore the card of Dr. Evans, the American dentist. It was very nice of him to remember me and send me such beautiful flowers. Dr. Evans is so clever and entertaining. Every one likes him, and every door as well as every jaw is open to him. At the Tuileries they look on him not only as a good dentist, but as a good friend; and, as some clever person said, “Though reticent to others, their Majesties had to open their mouths to him.”
The other day we had a children’s party. Auber came, pretending that he had been invited as one of the children. When he heard them all chattering in French, English, and German, he said, “Cela me fait honte, moi qui ne parle que le français.” He was most delighted to see the children, and seated himself at the piano and played some sweet little old-fashioned polkas and waltzes, to which the children danced.
I said to them: “Children, remember that to-day you have danced to the playing of Monsieur Auber, the most celebrated composer in France. Such a thing is an event, and you must remember it and tell it to your children.”
Miss Adelaide Philips is here singing, but, alas! without the success she deserves. She appeared at Les Italiens twice; once as Azucena in “Trovatore,” and then as the page in “Lucrezia Borgia.” If it had not been for her clothes, I think that her efforts would have been more appreciated. The moment she appeared as the page in “Lucrezia” there was a general titter in the audience. Her make-up was so extraordinary, Parisian taste rose up in arms. And as for the Borgias, they would have poisoned her on the spot had they seen her! Her extraordinarily fat legs (whether padded or not, I don’t know) were covered with black-velvet trousers, ending at the knee and trimmed with lace.
She wore a short-waisted jacket with a short skirt attached and a voluminous lace ruffle, a curly wig too long for a man and too short for a woman, upon which sat jauntily a Faust-like hat with a long, sweeping plume. This was her idea of a medieval Maffeo Orsini. As Azucena, the mother of a forty-year-old troubadour, she got herself up as a damsel of sixteen, with a much too short dress and a red bandana around her head, from which dangled a mass of sequins which she shook coquettishly at the prompter. The audience did not make any demonstration; they remained indifferent and tolerant, and there was not a breath of applause. The only criticism that appeared in the papers was: “Madame Philips, une Américaine, a fait son apparence dans ‘Trovatore.’ Elle joue assez bien, et si sa voix avait l’importance de ses jambes elle aurait eu sans doute du succès, car elle peut presque chanter.” Poor Miss Philips! I felt so sorry for her. I thought of when I had seen her in America, where she had such success in the same rôles. But why did she get herself up so? There is nothing like ridicule for killing an artist in France, and any one who knew the French could have foreseen what her success would be the moment she came on the stage. She became ill after these two performances and left Paris.
PARIS, _May 7, 1863._
DEAR M.,–Auber procured us tickets for Meyerbeer’s funeral, which took place to-day; it was a most splendid affair. Auber, who was one of the pall-bearers, looked very small and much agitated. The music of the church was magnificent. Auber himself had written an organ voluntary and Jules Cohen played it. Auber said, on going to the cemetery: “La prochaine fois sera pour mon propre compte.”
We went to a dinner at Mr. William Gudin’s (he is the celebrated painter) last night. There were the Prince and Princess Metternich, old Monsieur Dupin, Duke de Bassano, Monsieur Rouher, Baron Rothschild, and many other people. The gallery was lit up after dinner, and they smoked there (as a great exception). Smoking is against Madame Gudin’s principles, but not against his, as the huge table covered with every kind of cigars and cigarettes could bear witness. Collecting cigarettes is a sort of hobby of Gudin’s; he gets them from every one. The Emperor of Russia, the Chinese, the Turkish, and Japanese sovereigns, all send him cigarettes, even the Emperor. These last are steeped in a sort of liquid which is good for asthma. Every one who could boast of asthma got one to try. I must say they smelled rather uninvitingly. The Emperor loves Gudin dearly, and orders picture after picture from him, mostly commemorative of some fine event of which the Emperor is, of course, the principal figure, and destined for Versailles later. Gudin has a beautiful hotel and garden near us in the Rue Beaujon. The garden used to be square; but now it is a triangle, as a new boulevard has taken a part of it. Gudin talked much about his debts, as if they were feathers in his cap, and as for his law- suits, they are jewels in his crown!
His famous picture of the Emperor’s visit to Venice, now in the Luxembourg, is an enormous canvas, rather _à la Turner_, with intense blue sky deepening into a green sunset, pink and purple waves lashing the sides of the fantastic vessel in which the Emperor stands in an opalescent coloring. Some black slaves are swimming about, their bodies half-way out of the water, holding up their enormous black arms loaded with chains, each link of which would sink an ordinary giant.
Baroness Alphonse Rothschild has one desire, which, in spite of a fathomless purse, seemed difficult at first to fulfil. What she wants is to play a sonata with the orchestra of the Conservatoire, _rien de moins_! She begged me to ask Auber how much it would cost. After due reflection he answered, twelve hundred francs. She was quite surprised at this modest sum; she had thought it would be so many thousands. Therefore she decided to convoke the orchestra, and has been studying her sonata with all zeal and with a Danish coach. I don’t mean a carriage, but a man who can coach, after the English school system.
She asked me to keep her in countenance, and wished me to sing something with the orchestra; but what should I sing? Auber could think of nothing better than “Voi che sapete,” as the orchestra would have the music for it, and for frivolity he proposed “La Mandolinata,” of Paladilhe. He said, “Il faut avoir de tout dans sa poche;” and the dear old master transcribed it all himself, writing it out for the different instruments. I shall always keep these ten pages of his fine writing as one of my most precious autographs.
On account of his _concours_ Auber was asked to be present, as well as the Danish coach, whose occupation was to turn the leaves, and if necessary to help in critical moments. No one else was to be in the audience, not even our husbands. Well! the concert came off. We were four hours about it! It was a funny experience, when one thinks of it, and only Baroness Rothschild could have ever imagined such a thing or carried it through. In her enormous ballroom we two amateurs were performing with the most celebrated orchestra in the world–eighty picked musicians, all perfect artists–with no one to hear us. Auber professed politely to be delighted with all he heard, and clamored for more. The orchestra looked resignedly bored.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Marquis Drouyn de l’Huys, gave a costume ball which was even finer than the last. Worth, Laferrières, and Félix outdid themselves. The Empress had a magnificent dress–_une ancienne dame Bavaroise_. She looked superb, actually covered and blazing with jewels.
The Comtesse de Castiglione had imagined a costume as “La Vérité.” She was dressed entirely in white, looking severe and classically beautiful, cold as a winter day. She held in her hand a fan made of white feathers which had a mirror in the center. It must be amusing to be a professional beauty. When she goes to a ball, which she never does before midnight, she does not take the trouble to speak to any one; she walks into the ballroom and just stands in the middle of it to be looked at; people all make a circle around her and glare. A gentleman will go and speak with her, and they stand like two trees on an island, he doing the talking, and she gazing around her to see what effect she is producing.
The Emperor made a bet that he would make her speak three words, and he won it, because she answered a question of his by saying, “Pas beaucoup, Sire.” She lives at Passy, and calls herself _la recluse de Passy_; others call her _la recluse du Passé_. I do not admire her beauty half as much as I do the Empress’s.
Countess Walewski was dressed like a fiery Vénitienne, all yellow and gold. She looked dazzling and like a thorough Italian, which was not difficult for her, as she is one.
The Duchesse de Mouchy’s costume was a Louis XV. marquise, which did not suit her at all; neither did the powdered wig nor the black patches on her face become her.
I must tell you about my dress. It was really one of the prettiest there. Worth said that he had put his whole soul on it. I thought that he had put a pretty good round price on his soul. A skirt of gold tissue, round the bottom of which was a band of silver, with all sorts of fantastic figures, such as dragons, owls, and so forth, embroidered in different colors under a skirt of white tulle with silver and gold spangles. The waist was a mass of spangles and false stones on a gold stuff; gold-embroidered bands came from the waist and fell in points over the skirt. I had wings of spangled silvery material, with great glass-colored beads sewed all over them. But the _chef-d’oeuvre_ was the head-dress, which was a sort of helmet with gauze wings and the jewels of the family (Mrs. M.’s and mine) fastened on it. From the helmet flowed a mane of gold tinsel, which I curled in with my hair. The effect was very original, for it looked as though my head was on fire; in fact, I looked as if I was all on fire. Before I left home all the servants came to see me, and their _magnifique_, and _superbe_, and _étonnant_ quite turned my head, even with the helmet on.
The Emperor and the Duke de Persigny went about in dominos, and flattered themselves that no one recognized them; but every one did. Who could have mistaken the broad back and the slow, undulating gait of the Emperor? And though he changed his domino every little while from blue to pink, and from white to black, there never was any doubt as to where he was in the room, and every eye followed him. I was quite agitated when I saw his unmistakable figure approaching me, and when he began, in a high, squeaky voice (such as is adopted by masked people) to compliment me on my toilette, it was all I could do not to make a courtesy. I answered him, feeling very shy about tutoying him, as is the custom when addressing a mask.
“Cela te plaît, beau masque (Do I please thee, handsome mask)?” I said.
“Beaucoup, belle dame, mais dis-moi ce que tu es (Very much, beautiful lady, but what are you supposed to be?).”
“Je suis une salamandre; je peux traverser le feu et les flammes sans le moindre danger (I am a salamander; I can go through fire and flame without the slightest danger).”
“Oses-tu traverser le feu de mes yeux (Dost thou dare to brave the fire of my eyes)?”
“Je ne vois pas tes yeux à travers ton masque, mon gentilhomme (I cannot see thy eyes through thy mask, my gallant gentleman).”
“Oserais-tu traverser la flamme de mon coeur (Wouldst thou dare to go through the flame of my heart)?”
“Je suis sûre que j’oserais. Si la flamme est si dangereuse, prends garde que ton beau domino ne brûle pas (I am sure that I would dare. If the flame is so dangerous take care your beautiful domino does not burn).” Such silly talk! But he seemed amused, as he probably thought that I had no idea to whom I was talking.
Taking a red counter out of his pocket and handing it to me he said, “Will you take supper with me?”
“Not alone,” I answered. “You are too dangerous.”
He laughed and said, “I shall not be alone, my pretty lady.” Then, giving me another counter, he said: “This is for your husband. If you will be at two o’clock at that door”–pointing to it–“it will be opened for you.”
At two o’clock we presented ourselves at the door of the said salon, which was immediately opened on our showing the _jetons_, and we found ourselves, as I thought we should, in the salon where their Majesties were to sup. There were already many people assembled: the Metternichs, the Persignys, the Gallifets, the Count and Countess Pourtales, etc.–I should say, twenty-five in all. There was a magnificent display of flowers and fruit on the table. The Emperor came in with the Empress, not looking in the least Cæsar-like, with his hair matted down on his forehead and his mustaches all unwaxed and drooping; but he soon twisted them up into their usual stiffness. I noticed that people looked at me persistently, and I fancied all sorts of awful things, and felt dreadfully embarrassed.
After supper the Empress came up to me and said, “Where can one buy such lovely curls as you have, _chère Madame_?” I understood the reason now for the notice I was attracting. They had thought that the curls were false. I answered, hoping it would sound amusing, “Au Magasin du Bon-Dieu.”
The Empress smiled and replied; “Nous voudrions toutes acheter dans ce magasin-là; but tell me, are your curls real or false? You won’t mind telling me (and she hesitated a little). Some people have made bets about it. How can we know,” she said, “unless you tell us?” “My hair is all my own, your Majesty, and, if you wish to make sure, I am perfectly willing that you should see for yourself.” And, removing my helmet, I took out the comb and let my hair down. Every one crowded around me, and felt and pulled my hair about until I had to beg for mercy. The Emperor, looking on, cried out, “Bravo, Madame!” and, gathering some flowers off the table, handed them to me, saying: “Votre succès tenait à un cheveu, n’est-ce pas?”
Supposing the curls had been false, how I should have felt!
I put on my head-dress again with the flowing tinsel threads, and, some one sending for a brush, I completed this exhibition by showing them how I curled my hair around my fingers and made this coiffure. I inclose the article about this supper which came out in the _Figaro_ (copied into a New York paper).
The Emperor and Empress not unfrequently take a great liking to persons accidentally presented to them, invite them to their most select parties, make much of them, and sometimes rousing a little jealousy by so doing among the persons belonging to the Court. Of the ladies officially foremost, the reigning favorites are Princess Metternich, extremely clever and piquante, who invents the oddest toilettes, dances the oddest dances, and says the oddest things; the Marquise de Gallifet, whose past life is a romance, not altogether according to the French proverb (fitting school-girl reading), but who is very handsome, brilliant, merry, and audacious; and two others, the handsome and dashing wives of men high in the employment of the Emperor. These ladies spend enormous sums on their toilette, and are perpetually inventing some merry and brilliant nonsense for the amusement of the Empress. Among the persons from the “outside” most in favor just now, in the inner circle of the court, is a very handsome and accomplished American lady, the youthful wife of a millionaire, possessing a magnificent voice, a very amiable temper, and wonderfully splendid hair. After a very small and very merry party in the Empress’s private apartments a few nights ago, the Imperial hosts and their guests sat down to an exquisite “little supper,” this lady being one of the party. During the supper one of the Empress’s ladies began playfully to tease Mrs. —- about her hair, declaring that no human head could grow such a luxuriant mass of lustrous hair, and inviting her to confess to sporting certain skilfully contrived additions to the locks of nature’s bestowing. Mrs. —- modestly protested that her hair, such as it was, was really and truly her own; in right of growth, and not of purchase. All present speedily took part in the laughing dispute; some declaring for the opinion of the Lady of Honor, the others for that of Mrs. —-. The Emperor and Empress, greatly amused at the dispute, professed a strong desire to know the facts of the case; and the Emperor, declaring that it was clearly impossible to get at the truth in any other way, invited Mrs. M—- to settle the controversy by letting down her hair, and giving ocular demonstration of its being her own. The lady, whereupon, drew out the comb and the hairpins that held up her hair, and shook its heavy and shining masses all over her shoulders, thus giving conclusive proof of the tenure by which she held it. As Frenchwomen seldom have good heads of hair, it is probable that some little disappointment may have been caused to some of the ladies by this magnificent torrent of hair, displayed by Mrs. M—-, but the gentlemen were all in raptures at the really beautiful spectacle, the lady’s husband, who worships her, being as proud of her triumph as though his wife’s luxuriant locks were his own creation.
DEAR M.,–Auber, on hearing that the Empress had asked me to sing in the chapel of the Tuileries, offered to compose a _Benedictus_ for me. The orchestra of the Conservatoire was to accompany me, and Jules Cohen was to play the organ. I had several rehearsals with Auber and one on the preceding Saturday with the orchestra. The flute and I have a little ramble together which is very pretty. The loft where the organ is, and where I stood, was so high up that I could only see the people by straining my neck over the edge of it, and even then only saw the black veils of the ladies and the frequent bald heads of the gentlemen. The Empress remained on her knees during the whole mass. The Emperor seemed attentive; but stroked and pulled his mustaches all the time.
My _Benedictus_ went off very well. The chapel was very sonorous and I was in good voice. I was a little nervous at first, but after the first phrase I recovered confidence and did all that was expected of me. The Duke de Bassano came up to the loft and begged me to come down into the gallery, as their Majesties wished me and Charles to stay for breakfast. I was sorry Auber was not invited. We found every one assembled in the gallery outside the chapel. The Empress came straight toward me, thanked me, and said many gracious things, as did the Emperor. There were very, very few people at breakfast–only the household. I sat between the Emperor and the little Prince, who said, “I told mama I knew when you sang, for you said ‘_Benedictus_’; we say _benedicteus_.”
The Princess Metternich receives after midnight every evening. If one is in the theater or at a _soirée_ it is all right, but to sit up till twelve o’clock to go to her is very tiresome, though when you are once there you do not regret having gone. It is something to see her smoking her enormous cigars. The other night Richard Wagner, who had been to the theater with the Metternichs, was there. I was glad to see him, though he is so dreadfully severe, solemn, and satirical. He found fault with everything; he thought the theaters in Paris horribly dirty, _mal soignés_, bad style, bad actors, orchestra second-rate, singers worse, public ignorant, etc. He smiled once with such a conscious look and scanned people’s faces, as if to say, “I, Richard Wagner, have smiled!” But he can very well put on airs, for he is a genius. At Les Italiens, Patti, Mario, Alboni, and Delle Sedie are singing “Rigoletto.” They are all splendid. Alboni is immensely fat and round as a barrel–but what a voice! It simply rolls out in billows of melody. The “quartette” was magnificent, and was encored. Patti and Mario are at daggers drawn, and hate each other like poison, so their love-making is reduced to a minimum, and they make as little as possible. In their fondest embraces they hold each other at arm’s length and glare into each other’s eyes. Mario is such a splendid actor one would think he could conquer his dislike for her and play the lover better. The _Barbier de Séville_ is, I think, his best role; he acts with so much humor and sings so exquisitely and with such refinement. Even in the tipsy scene he is the fine gentleman. Patti sings in the singing lesson Venzano’s waltz and “Il Bacio.” Her execution is wonderful, faultless, and brilliant.
We went to a _soirée_ given by the Marquise de Boissy, better known as Byron’s Countess Guiccioli, who inspired so many of his beautiful poems; but when you see her dyed and painted you wonder how the _blasé_ Byron could have been all fire and flame for her. Fagnani, the painter, who did that awful simpering portrait of me, painted her, it being stipulated that he should make her look ten years younger than she is. He had a hard time of it! But now, being old and married to the senator, Marquis de Boissy, she has lost all claim to celebrity, and is reduced to giving forlorn _soirées_ with a meager buffet.
Beaumont is a charming painter, and a friend of Henry’s. When he comes here, as he does very often, he puts us all in a good-humor; even my father-in-law forgets to grumble at the reduced price of stocks and the increased rate of exchange. His picture of Circé charming the pigs is very pretty. Helen and I are both in it; he wanted her ear and hair and my eyes and hair. I am not Circé; I only stand in the background admiring a pig. To reward us he painted a fan for each: mine has arrows, doves, my initials, “Beware,” and cherubim all mixed up, making a lovely fan.
Baroness Alphonse Rothschild sent me her box for the opera, and I asked the Metternichs and Herr Wagner, the composer, who was dining at the Embassy, to go with me, and they accepted. The Rothschilds’ box is one of the largest in the opera-house. The Princess Metternich created a sensation when we entered–she always does–but Herr Wagner passed unnoticed. He sat behind and pretended to go to sleep. He thought everything most mediocre. The opera was “Faust,” which I thought was beautifully put on the stage, with Madame Miolan Carvalho as Marguerite and Faure as Mephistopheles. They both sang and acted to perfection; but Wagner pooh-poohed at them and everything else. _Abscheulich_ and _grässlich_ alternated in his condemning sentences. Nothing pleased him.
He fidgeted about and was very cross during the fifth act, where the ballet is danced.
“Why did Gounod insert that idiotic ballet? It is _banal_ and _de trop_.” (France is the only place where this fifth act is performed.)
“You must blame Goethe for that,” retorted the Princess Metternich. “Why did he make Faust go to the Champs Élysées if he did not want him to see any dancing?”
“Why, indeed?” grumbled Wagner. “Goethe had much better have let Marguerite die on her straw and not of send her up in clouds of glory like the Madonna to heaven, and with ballet music.”
“Well,” said the Princess, “I don’t see any difference between a ballet in heaven and a ballet in Venusberg.”
The Emperor has made a fine _coup de popularité_. He refused to have the new boulevard named after his mother, and cleverly proposed it to be called Richard Lenoir, the man who led his fellow-workmen in the Revolution.
We were invited to one of Rossini’s Saturday evenings. There was a queer mixture of people: some diplomats, and some well-known members of society, but I fancy that the guests were mostly artists; at least they looked so. The most celebrated ones were pointed out to me. There were Saint-Saëns, Prince Poniatowski, Gounod, and others. I wondered that Richard Wagner was not there; but I suppose that there is little sympathy between these two geniuses.
Prince Metternich told me that Rossini had once said to him that he wished people would not always feel obliged to sing his music when they sang at his house. “J’acclamerais avec délice ‘Au clair de la lune,’ même avec variations,” he said, in his comical way. Rossini’s wife’s name is Olga. Some one called her Vulgar, she is so ordinary and pretentious, and would make Rossini’s home and salon very commonplace if it were not that the master glorified all by his presence. I saw Rossini’s writing-table, which is a thing never to be forgotten: brushes, combs, toothpicks, nails, and all sorts of rubbish lying about pell-mell; and promiscuous among them was the tube that Rossini uses for his famous _macaroni à la Rossini_. Prince Metternich said that no power on earth would induce him to touch any food _à la Rossini_, especially the macaroni, which he said was stuffed with hash and all sorts of remnants of last week’s food and piled up on a dish like a log cabin. “J’ai des frissons chaque fois que j’y pense.”
Not long ago Baron James Rothschild sent Rossini some splendid grapes from his hothouse. Rossini, in thanking him, wrote, “Bien que vos raisins soient superbes, je n’aime pas mon vin en pillules.” This Baron Rothschild read as an invitation to send him some of his celebrated Château-Lafitte, which he proceeded to do, for “the joke of it,” he remarked. “It is so amusing to tell the story afterward.” Rossini does not dye his hair, but wears the most wiggy of wigs. When he goes to mass he puts one wig on top of the other, and if it is very cold he puts still a third one on, curlier than the others, for the sake of warmth. No coquetry about him!
Rossini asked me to sing.
“I will, with pleasure,” I said. “I only wish that I knew what to sing, I know that you do not like people to sing your music when they come to your house.”
“Not every one,” he said, beaming with a broad smile; “but I have heard that you have an unusually beautiful voice, and I am curious to hear you.”
“But,” I mischievously answered, “I do not know ‘Au clair de la lune,’ even with variations.”
“Oh! the naughty Prince,” said he, shaking his finger across to where Prince Metternich was standing. “He told you that. But tell me, what do you sing of mine?”
Auber had told me to take “Sombre Forêt,” of “William Tell,” in case I should be asked. Therefore I said that I had brought “Sombre Forêt,” and if he liked I would sing that.
“Bene! bene!” he replied. “I will accompany you.”
I was dreadfully nervous to sing before him, but when I had finished he stretched out both hands to me and said:
“Merci! C’est comme cela que ça doit être chanté. Votre voix est délicieuse, le timbre que j’aime–mezzo-soprano, avec ces notes hautes et claires.”
Auber came up flushed with delight at my success, and said to Rossini, “Did I say too much about Madame Moulton’s voice?”
“Not enough,” replied Rossini. “She has more than voice; she has intelligence and _le feu sacré–un rossignol doublé de velours_; and more than all, she sings my music as I have written it. Every one likes to add a little of their own. I said to Patti the other day: ‘a chère_ Adelina, when you sing the “Barbiere” do not make it too ‘_strakoschonée_’ [Strakosch is Patti’s brother-in-law, and makes all her cadenzas for her]. If I had wanted to make all those little things, don’t you think that I could have made them myself?'”
Auber asked me, “Do you know what Rossini said about me?”
“No,” I answered, “I know what he ought to have said. What did he say?”
“He said,” Auber replied, with a merry twinkle in his eye, ‘Auber est un grand musicien qui fait de la petite musique.'”
“That was pure envy,” I said. “I should like to know what you said about Rossini.”
“Well, I said,” and he hesitated before continuing, “I said that Rossini _est un très grand musicien et fait de la belle musique, mais une exécrable cuisine_.”
Rossini adores Alboni, but deplores her want of confidence in herself. She has such stage frights that she swears that she will have to leave the stage. He has written “La Messe solennelle” for her voice. The “Agnus Dei” is perfectly wonderful. She sang it after I had sung. If she had been first, I never should have had the courage to open my mouth.
Auber asked him how he had liked the representation of “Tannhäuser”? Rossini answered, with a satirical smile, “It is a music one must hear several times. I am not going again.”
Rossini said that neither Weber nor Wagner understood the voice. Wagner’s interminable dissonances were insupportable. That these two composers imagine that to sing is simply to _dégoiser_ the note; but the art of singing, or technic was considered by them to be secondary and insignificant Phrasing or any sort of _finesse_ was superfluous. The orchestra must be all powerful. “If Wagner gets the upper hand,” Rossini continued, “as he is sure to do, for people will run after the New, then what will become of the art of singing? No more _bel canto_, no more phrasing, no more enunciation! What is the use, when all that is required of you is to _beugler_ (bellow)? Any _cornet à piston_ is just as good as the best tenor, and better, for it can be heard over the orchestra. But the instrumentation is magnificent. There Wagner excels. The overture of Tannhäuser is a _chef-d’oeuvre;_ there is a swing, a sway, and a shush that carries you off your feet…. I wish I had composed it myself.”
Auber is a true Parisian, adores his Paris, and never leaves it even during the summer, when Paris is insufferable. He comes very often to see me, and we play duets. He loves Bach, and we play Mendelssohn overtures and Haydn symphonies when we are through with Bach. Auber always takes the second piano, or, if a four-handed piece, he takes the base. Sometimes he says, “Je vous donne rendez-vous en bas de la page. Si vous y arrivez la première, attendez-moi, et je ferai de même.” He is so clever and full of repartees.
I do not think I ever talked with a wittier person than he is. I always wish I could remember what he says; but, alas! when he goes my memory goes with him.
Though so old (he must be over eighty) he is always beautifully dressed in the latest fashion, trim and neat. He says that he has never heard his operas seated in the audience; it makes him too nervous. He has his seat every night in the parquet of all the theaters in Paris. He only has to choose where to go. He once said: “Je suis trop vieux; on ne devrait pas vieillir, mais que faire? c’est le seul moyen de devenir vieux. Un vieillard m’a toujours paru un personnage terrible et inutile, mais me voici un vieillard sans le savoir et je n’en suis pas triste.” He is not deaf, nor does he wear glasses except to “déchiffrer ma propre musique”– as he says. Another time he said: “I am glad that I never was married. My wife would now have been an old, wrinkled woman. I never would have had the courage to come home of an evening. Aussi j’aurais voulu avoir une fille (une fille comme vous), et elle m’aurait certainement donné un garçon.”
I quote the following from a Paris newspaper:
_Parmi les dames qu’on admire le plus, il convient de citer Mme Moulton.– C’est la première fois que nous revoyons Mme Moulton au théâtre depuis son retour d’Amérique.–Serait-elle revenue exprès pour la pièce d’Auber.–On dit, en effet, que dans tous ses opéras, Auber offre le principal rôle à Mme Moulton, qui possède une voix ravissante._
The Emperor once said to Auber: “Dites-moi, quel âge avez-vous? On dit que vous avez quatre-vingt ans.” “Sire,” answered Auber, “je n’ai pas quatre- vingt ans, mais quatre fois vingt ans.” Is he not clever? Some one was talking about the Marquise B—- and her friendship (_sic_) for Monsieur de M—-, and said, “On dit que ce n’est que l’amitié.” “Oh,” said Auber, “je connais ces amitiés-là; on dit que l’amour et l’amitié sont frère et soeur. Cela se peut, mais ils ne sont pas du même lit.”
And another time (I am remembering all his witty sayings while I can), Prince Metternich, who smokes one cigarette after the other, said to Auber, “Vous me permettez?” wanting to put his ashes in Auber’s tea- saucer. Auber said, “Certainement, mais j’aime mieux monter que descendre.” In other words, _J’aime mieux mon thé que des cendres_. How can people be so quick-witted?
Auber has given me all his operas, and I have gone through them all with him for his music. I sing the laughing song in “Manon Lescaut” and the bolero in “Diamants de la Couronne.” These two are my favorite songs and are very difficult. In the laughing song I either laugh too much or too little. To start laughing in cold blood is as difficult as to stop laughing when once started. The bolero is only a continuous display of musical fireworks.
NEW YORK, _May, 1864._
When we arrived in New York (we went to visit my sister and my mother) we were overwhelmed with invitations of all kinds.
I made a most (to me) interesting acquaintance at this _soirée_, a Mrs. Henry Fields, who I found out was the famous and much-talked-about “Lucie,” the governess in the trial of the Duc de Praslin. Every one was convinced of her innocence (she pleaded her own case, refusing the aid of a lawyer). Nevertheless, she was the cause of the death of the Duchess, as the Duke killed his wife because she refused to give “Lucie” a letter of recommendation, and he became so enraged at her refusal that he first tried to strangle her, and then shot her. I had heard so much about this murder (it was along ago), and knew all the details, and, what was more, I knew all the children of the unhappy woman whose only crime was to love her husband too much, and to resent “Lucie’s” taking away the love of her children from her! Warning to young women: Don’t love your husbands too much, or don’t engage a too attractive governess.
PHILADELPHIA, _July, 1864._
DEAR AUNTY,–We came from New York a few days ago, and are staying with mama’s friend, Mrs. M—-, who is a very (what shall I say?) fascinating but a very peculiar person. She is a curious mixture of a poetess and a society woman, very susceptible, and of such a sensitive nature that she seems always to be in the hottest of hot water, and at war with all her neighbors; but she routs all her enemies and manages everything with a high hand.
Her daughter is just engaged to a Swedish naval officer. To celebrate the engagement they gave a big dinner, and, as the Sanitary Fair is going on just now, President Lincoln is here, and Mrs. M—- had the courage to invite him, and he had the courage to accept. It is the first time that I have ever seen an American President, and I was most anxious to see him, particularly as he has, for the last years, been such a hero in my eyes. He might take the prize for ugliness anywhere; his face looked as if it was cut out of wood, and roughly cut at that, with deep furrows in his cheeks and a huge mouth; but he seemed so good and kind, and his eyes sparkled with so much humor and fun, that he became quite fascinating, especially when he smiled. I confess I lost my heart to him…. The dinner, I mean the food part of it, was a failure. It came from Baltimore, and everything was cold; the _pâté de foie gras_ never appeared at all! When Mrs. M—- mentioned the fact to Mr. Lincoln, pointing to the menu, he said “the _pâté_” (he pronounced it _patty_) has probably walked off by itself. Every one laughed, because he said it in such a comical, slow way.
After the gentlemen had smoked (I thought they were a long time at it) we were requested to go into the gallery, where all the gas-lights were turned up to the fullest and chairs placed in rows, and Professor Winter began to read a lecture on the brain–of all subjects! Who but Mrs. M—- would ever have arranged such an entertainment?
Professor Winter told us where our 50,000 ideas were laid up in our brains (I am sure that I have not 50,000 in mine). One might have deducted 49,999, and still, with that little one left, I was not able to understand the half of what he said.
Another wonderful thing he told us was, that there are five thousand million cells in our brain, and that it takes about ten thousand cells to furnish a well-lodged perception. How in the world can he know that? I think he must have examined his own ten thousand cells to have discovered all this exuberance of material. The President looked bored, and I am sure everybody else wished Professor Winter and his theories (because they can’t be facts) in the Red Sea…. After this _séance manquée_ I was asked to sing. Poor Mr. Lincoln! who I understood could not endure music. I pitied him.
“None of your foreign fireworks,” said Mr. Trott, in his graceful manner, as I passed him on my way to the piano. I answered, “Shall I sing ‘Three Little Kittens’? I think that is the least fireworky of my _répertoire_.” But I concluded that a simple little rocket like “Robin Adair” would kill nobody; therefor I sang that, and it had a success.
When the gaunt President shook my hand to thank me, he held it in a grip of iron, and when, to accentuate the compliment, meaning to give a little extra pressure, he put his left hand over his right, I felt as if my hand was shut in a waffle-iron and I should never straighten it out again.
“Music is not much in my line,” said the President; “but when you sing you warble yourself into a man’s heart. I’d like to hear you sing some more.”
What other mild cracker could I fire off? Then I thought of that lovely song, “Mary Was a Lassie,” which you like so much, so I sang that.
Mr. Lincoln said, “I think I might become a musician if I heard you often; but so far I only know two tunes.”
“‘Hail, Columbia’?” I asked. “You know that, I am sure!”
“Oh yes, I know that, for I have to stand up and take off my hat.”
“And the other one?”
“The other one! Oh, the other one is the other when I don’t stand up!” I am sorry not to have seen Mr. Lincoln again. There was something about him that was perfectly fascinating, but I think I have said this before.
NIAGARA, _August, 1864._
DEAR AUNTY,–My last letter, written from Philadelphia, told you of my having made Mr. Lincoln’s acquaintance. A few days after we left for Niagara, taking Rochester on our way. I had not seen Rochester since I was eleven years old, and mama and I both wanted to go there again.
We slept in Rochester that night. The next morning a deputation headed by the director of the penitentiary, flanked by a committee of benevolent ladies, called upon us to beg me to sing for the penitents at the penitentiary the next day, it being Sunday. They all said, in chorus, that it would be a great and noble act.
I did not (and I do not now) see why pickpockets and burglars should be entertained, and I could not grasp the greatness of the act, unless it was in the asking. However, mama urged me (she can never bear me to say no), and I accepted.
At the appointed time the director called for us in a landau, and we drove out to the penitentiary. As we entered the double courtyard, and drove through the much belocked gates, I felt very depressed, and not at all like bursting forth in song. Mama and I were led up, like lambs to the slaughter, on to a platform, passing the guilty ones seated in the pews, the men on one side, the women on the other, of the aisles, all dressed in