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THE PARIS SKETCH BOOK
MR. M. A. TITMARSH
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY
ESTES AND LAURIAT, BOSTON
THE PARIS SKETCH BOOK.
An Invasion of France
A Caution to Travellers
The Fêtes of July
On the French School of Painting
The Painter’s Bargain
On some French Fashionable Novels
A Gambler’s Death
Napoleon and his System
The Story of Mary Ancel
Caricatures and Lithography in Paris
The Devil’s Wager
Madame Sand and the new Apocalypse
The Case of Peytel
Four Imitations of Béranger
French Dramas and Melodramas
Meditations at Versailles
M. ARETZ, TAILOR, ETC.
27, RUE RICHELIEU, PARIS.
SIR,–It becomes every man in his station to acknowledge and praise virtue wheresoever he may find it, and to point it out for the admiration and example of his fellow-men.
Some months since, when you presented to the writer of these pages a small account for coats and pantaloons manufactured by you, and when you were met by a statement from your creditor, that an immediate settlement of your bill would be extremely inconvenient to him; your reply was, “Mon Dieu, Sir, let not that annoy you; if you want money, as a gentleman often does in a strange country, I have a thousand-franc note at my house which is quite at your service.”
History or experience, Sir, makes us acquainted with so few actions that can be compared to yours,–an offer like this from a stranger and a tailor seems to me so astonishing,–that you must pardon me for thus making your virtue public, and acquainting the English nation with your merit and your name. Let me add, Sir, that you live on the first floor; that your clothes and fit are excellent, and your charges moderate and just; and, as a humble tribute of my admiration, permit me to lay these volumes at your feet.
Your obliged, faithful servant,
M. A. TITMARSH.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION.
About half of the sketches in these volumes have already appeared in print, in various periodical works. A part of the text of one tale, and the plots of two others, have been borrowed from French originals; the other stories, which are, in the main, true, have been written upon facts and characters that came within the Author’s observation during a residence in Paris.
As the remaining papers relate to public events which occurred during the same period, or to Parisian Art and Literature, he has ventured to give his publication the title which it bears.
LONDON, July 1, 1840.
AN INVASION OF FRANCE.
Caesar venit in Galliam summâ diligentiâ.”
About twelve o’clock, just as the bell of the packet is tolling a farewell to London Bridge, and warning off the blackguard-boys with the newspapers, who have been shoving Times, Herald, Penny Paul- Pry, Penny Satirist, Flare-up, and other abominations, into your face–just as the bell has tolled, and the Jews, strangers, people- taking-leave-of-their-families, and blackguard-boys aforesaid, are making a rush for the narrow plank which conducts from the paddle- box of the “Emerald” steamboat unto the quay–you perceive, staggering down Thames Street, those two hackney-coaches, for the arrival of which you have been praying, trembling, hoping, despairing, swearing–sw–, I beg your pardon, I believe the word is not used in polite company–and transpiring, for the last half- hour. Yes, at last, the two coaches draw near, and from thence an awful number of trunks, children, carpet-bags, nursery-maids, hat- boxes, band-boxes, bonnet-boxes, desks, cloaks, and an affectionate wife, are discharged on the quay.
“Elizabeth, take care of Miss Jane,” screams that worthy woman, who has been for a fortnight employed in getting this tremendous body of troops and baggage into marching order. “Hicks! Hicks! for heaven’s sake mind the babies!”–“George–Edward, sir, if you go near that porter with the trunk, he will tumble down and kill you, you naughty boy!–My love, DO take the cloaks and umbrellas, and give a hand to Fanny and Lucy; and I wish you would speak to the hackney-coachmen, dear, they want fifteen shillings, and count the packages, love–twenty-seven packages,–and bring little Flo; where’s little Flo?–Flo! Flo!”–(Flo comes sneaking in; she has been speaking a few parting words to a one-eyed terrier, that sneaks off similarly, landward.)
As when the hawk menaces the hen-roost, in like manner, when such a danger as a voyage menaces a mother, she becomes suddenly endowed with a ferocious presence of mind, and bristling up and screaming in the front of her brood, and in the face of circumstances, succeeds, by her courage, in putting her enemy to flight; in like manner you will always, I think, find your wife (if that lady be good for twopence) shrill, eager, and ill-humored, before, and during a great family move of this nature. Well, the swindling hackney-coachmen are paid, the mother leading on her regiment of little ones, and supported by her auxiliary nurse-maids, are safe in the cabin;–you have counted twenty-six of the twenty-seven parcels, and have them on board, and that horrid man on the paddle- box, who, for twenty minutes past, has been roaring out, NOW, SIR!– says, NOW, SIR, no more.
I never yet knew how a steamer began to move, being always too busy among the trunks and children, for the first half-hour, to mark any of the movements of the vessel. When these private arrangements are made, you find yourself opposite Greenwich (farewell, sweet, sweet whitebait!), and quiet begins to enter your soul. Your wife smiles for the first time these ten days; you pass by plantations of ship-masts, and forests of steam-chimneys; the sailors are singing on board the ships, the bargees salute you with oaths, grins, and phrases facetious and familiar; the man on the paddle- box roars, “Ease her, stop her!” which mysterious words a shrill voice from below repeats, and pipes out, “Ease her, stop her!” in echo; the deck is crowded with groups of figures, and the sun shines over all.
The sun shines over all, and the steward comes up to say, “Lunch, ladies and gentlemen! Will any lady or gentleman please to take anythink?” About a dozen do: boiled beef and pickles, and great red raw Cheshire cheese, tempt the epicure: little dumpy bottles of stout are produced, and fizz and bang about with a spirit one would never have looked for in individuals of their size and stature.
The decks have a strange, look; the people on them, that is. Wives, elderly stout husbands, nurse-maids, and children predominate, of course, in English steamboats. Such may be considered as the distinctive marks of the English gentleman at three or four and forty: two or three of such groups have pitched their camps on the deck. Then there are a number of young men, of whom three or four have allowed their moustaches to BEGIN to grow since last Friday; for they are going “on the Continent,” and they look, therefore, as if their upper lips were smeared with snuff.
A danseuse from the opera is on her way to Paris. Followed by her bonne and her little dog, she paces the deck, stepping out, in the real dancer fashion, and ogling all around. How happy the two young Englishmen are, who can speak French, and make up to her: and how all criticise her points and paces! Yonder is a group of young ladies, who are going to Paris to learn how to be governesses: those two splendidly dressed ladies are milliners from the Rue Richelieu, who have just brought over, and disposed of, their cargo of Summer fashions. Here sits the Rev. Mr. Snodgrass with his pupils, whom he is conducting to his establishment, near Boulogne, where, in addition to a classical and mathematical education (washing included), the young gentlemen have the benefit of learning French among THE FRENCH THEMSELVES. Accordingly, the young gentlemen are locked up in a great rickety house, two miles from Boulogne and never see a soul, except the French usher and the cook.
Some few French people are there already, preparing to be ill–(I never shall forget a dreadful sight I once had in the little dark, dirty, six-foot cabin of a Dover steamer. Four gaunt Frenchmen, but for their pantaloons, in the costume of Adam in Paradise, solemnly anointing themselves with some charm against sea- sickness!)–a few Frenchmen are there, but these, for the most part, and with a proper philosophy, go to the fore-cabin of the ship, and you see them on the fore-deck (is that the name for that part of the vessel which is in the region of the bowsprit?) lowering in huge cloaks and caps; snuffy, wretched, pale, and wet; and not jabbering now, as their wont is on shore. I never could fancy the Mounseers formidable at sea.
There are, of course, many Jews on board. Who ever travelled by steamboat, coach, diligence, eilwagen, vetturino, mule-back, or sledge, without meeting some of the wandering race?
By the time these remarks have been made the steward is on the deck again, and dinner is ready: and about two hours after dinner comes tea; and then there is brandy-and-water, which he eagerly presses as a preventive against what may happen; and about this time you pass the Foreland, the wind blowing pretty fresh; and the groups on deck disappear, and your wife, giving you an alarmed look, descends, with her little ones, to the ladies’ cabin, and you see the steward and his boys issuing from their den under the paddle- box, with each a heap of round tin vases, like those which are called, I believe, in America, expectoratoons, only these are larger.
. . . . . .
The wind blows, the water looks greener and more beautiful than ever–ridge by ridge of long white rock passes away. “That’s Ramsgit,” says the man at the helm; and, presently, “That there’s Deal–it’s dreadful fallen off since the war;” and “That’s Dover, round that there pint, only you can’t see it.” And, in the meantime, the sun has plumped his hot face into the water, and the moon has shown hers as soon as ever his back is turned, and Mrs.– (the wife in general,) has brought up her children and self from the horrid cabin, in which she says it is impossible to breathe; and the poor little wretches are, by the officious stewardess and smart steward (expectoratoonifer), accommodated with a heap of blankets, pillows, and mattresses, in the midst of which they crawl, as best they may, and from the heaving heap of which are, during the rest of the voyage, heard occasional faint cries, and sounds of puking woe!
Dear, dear Maria! Is this the woman who, anon, braved the jeers and brutal wrath of swindling hackney-coachmen; who repelled the insolence of haggling porters, with a scorn that brought down their demands at least eighteenpence? Is this the woman at whose voice servants tremble; at the sound of whose steps the nursery, ay, and mayhap the parlor, is in order? Look at her now, prostrate, prostrate–no strength has she to speak, scarce power to push to her youngest one–her suffering, struggling Rosa,–to push to her the–the instrumentoon!
In the midst of all these throes and agonies, at which all the passengers, who have their own woes (you yourself–for how can you help THEM?–you are on your back on a bench, and if you move all is up with you,) are looking on indifferent–one man there is who has been watching you with the utmost care, and bestowing on your helpless family the tenderness that a father denies them. He is a foreigner, and you have been conversing with him, in the course of the morning, in French–which, he says, you speak remarkably well, like a native in fact, and then in English (which, after all, you find is more convenient). What can express your gratitude to this gentleman for all his goodness towards your family and yourself– you talk to him, he has served under the Emperor, and is, for all that, sensible, modest, and well-informed. He speaks, indeed, of his countrymen almost with contempt, and readily admits the superiority of a Briton, on the seas and elsewhere. One loves to meet with such genuine liberality in a foreigner, and respects the man who can sacrifice vanity to truth. This distinguished foreigner has travelled much; he asks whither you are going?–where you stop? if you have a great quantity of luggage on board?–and laughs when he hears of the twenty-seven packages, and hopes you have some friend at the custom-house, who can spare you the monstrous trouble of unpacking that which has taken you weeks to put up. Nine, ten, eleven, the distinguished foreigner is ever at your side; you find him now, perhaps, (with characteristic ingratitude,) something of a bore, but, at least, he has been most tender to the children and their mamma. At last a Boulogne light comes in sight, (you see it over the bows of the vessel, when, having bobbed violently upwards, it sinks swiftly down,) Boulogne harbor is in sight, and the foreigner says,–
The distinguished foreigner says, says he–“Sare, eef you af no ‘otel, I sall recommend you, milor, to ze ‘Otel Betfort, in ze Quay, sare, close to the bathing-machines and custom-ha-oose. Good bets and fine garten, sare; table-d’hôte, sare, à cinq heures; breakfast, sare, in French or English style;–I am the commissionaire, sare, and vill see to your loggish.”
. . . Curse the fellow, for an impudent, swindling, sneaking French humbug!–Your tone instantly changes, and you tell him to go about his business: but at twelve o’clock at night, when the voyage is over, and the custom-house business done, knowing not whither to go, with a wife and fourteen exhausted children, scarce able to stand, and longing for bed, you find yourself, somehow, in the Hôtel Bedford (and you can’t be better), and smiling chambermaids carry off your children to snug beds; while smart waiters produce for your honor–a cold fowl, say, and a salad, and a bottle of Bordeaux and Seltzer-water.
. . . . . .
The morning comes–I don’t know a pleasanter feeling than that of waking with the sun shining on objects quite new, and (although you have made the voyage a dozen times,) quite strange. Mrs. X. and you occupy a very light bed, which has a tall canopy of red “percale;” the windows are smartly draped with cheap gaudy calicoes and muslins; there are little mean strips of carpet about the tiled floor of the room, and yet all seems as gay and as comfortable as may be–the sun shines brighter than you have seen it for a year, the sky is a thousand times bluer, and what a cheery clatter of shrill quick French voices comes up from the court-yard under the windows! Bells are jangling; a family, mayhap, is going to Paris, en poste, and wondrous is the jabber of the courier, the postilion, the inn-waiters, and the lookers-on. The landlord calls out for “Quatre biftecks aux pommes pour le trente-trois,”–(O my countrymen, I love your tastes and your ways!)–the chambermaid is laughing and says, “Finissez donc, Monsieur Pierre!” (what can they be about?)–a fat Englishman has opened his window violently, and says, “Dee dong, garsong, vooly voo me donny lo sho, ou vooly voo pah?” He has been ringing for half an hour–the last energetic appeal succeeds, and shortly he is enabled to descend to the coffee-room, where, with three hot rolls, grilled ham, cold fowl, and four boiled eggs, he makes what he calls his first FRENCH breakfast.
It is a strange, mongrel, merry place, this town of Boulogne; the little French fishermen’s children are beautiful, and the little French soldiers, four feet high, red-breeched, with huge pompons on their caps, and brown faces, and clear sharp eyes, look, for all their littleness, far more military and more intelligent than the heavy louts one has seen swaggering about the garrison towns in England. Yonder go a crowd of bare-legged fishermen; there is the town idiot, mocking a woman who is screaming “Fleuve du Tage,” at an inn-window, to a harp, and there are the little gamins mocking HIM. Lo! these seven young ladies, with red hair and green veils, they are from neighboring Albion, and going to bathe. Here comes three Englishmen, habitués evidently of the place,–dandy specimens of our countrymen: one wears a marine dress, another has a shooting dress, a third has a blouse and a pair of guiltless spurs–all have as much hair on the face as nature or art can supply, and all wear their hats very much on one side. Believe me, there is on the face of this world no scamp like an English one, no blackguard like one of these half-gentlemen, so mean, so low, so vulgar,–so ludicrously ignorant and conceited, so desperately heartless and depraved.
But why, my dear sir, get into a passion?–Take things coolly. As the poet has observed, “Those only is gentlemen who behave as sich;” with such, then, consort, be they cobblers or dukes. Don’t give us, cries the patriotic reader, any abuse of our fellow- countrymen (anybody else can do that), but rather continue in that good-humored, facetious, descriptive style with which your letter has commenced.–Your remark, sir, is perfectly just, and does honor to your head and excellent heart.
There is little need to give a description of the good town of Boulogne, which, haute and basse, with the new light-house and the new harbor, and the gas-lamps, and the manufactures, and the convents, and the number of English and French residents, and the pillar erected in honor of the grand Armée d’Angleterre, so called because it DIDN’T go to England, have all been excellently described by the facetious Coglan, the learned Dr. Millingen, and by innumerable guide-books besides. A fine thing it is to hear the stout old Frenchmen of Napoleon’s time argue how that audacious Corsican WOULD have marched to London, after swallowing Nelson and all his gun-boats, but for cette malheureuse guerre d’Espagne and cette glorieuse campagne d’Autriche, which the gold of Pitt caused to be raised at the Emperor’s tail, in order to call him off from the helpless country in his front. Some Frenchmen go farther still, and vow that in Spain they were never beaten at all; indeed, if you read in the Biographie des Hommes du Jour, article “Soult,” you will fancy that, with the exception of the disaster at Vittoria, the campaigns in Spain and Portugal were a series of triumphs. Only, by looking at a map, it is observable that Vimeiro is a mortal long way from Toulouse, where, at the end of certain years of victories, we somehow find the honest Marshal. And what then?–he went to Toulouse for the purpose of beating the English there, to be sure;–a known fact, on which comment would be superfluous. However, we shall never get to Paris at this rate; let us break off further palaver, and away at once. . . .
(During this pause, the ingenious reader is kindly requested to pay his bill at the Hotel at Boulogne, to mount the Diligence of Laffitte, Caillard and Company, and to travel for twenty-five hours, amidst much jingling of harness-bells and screaming of postilions.)
. . . . . .
The French milliner, who occupies one of the corners, begins to remove the greasy pieces of paper which have enveloped her locks during the journey. She withdraws the “Madras” of dubious hue which has bound her head for the last five-and-twenty hours, and replaces it by the black velvet bonnet, which, bobbing against your nose, has hung from the Diligence roof since your departure from Boulogne. The old lady in the opposite corner, who has been sucking bonbons, and smells dreadfully of anisette, arranges her little parcels in that immense basket of abominations which all old women carry in their laps. She rubs her mouth and eyes with her dusty cambric handkerchief, she ties up her nightcap into a little bundle, and replaces it by a more becoming head-piece, covered with withered artificial flowers, and crumpled tags of ribbon; she looks wistfully at the company for an instant, and then places her handkerchief before her mouth:–her eyes roll strangely about for an instant, and you hear a faint clattering noise: the old lady has been getting ready her teeth, which had lain in her basket among the bonbons, pins, oranges, pomatum, bits of cake, lozenges, prayer-books, peppermint-water, copper money, and false hair– stowed away there during the voyage. The Jewish gentleman, who has been so attentive to the milliner during the journey, and is a traveller and bagman by profession, gathers together his various goods. The sallow-faced English lad, who has been drunk ever since we left Boulogne yesterday, and is coming to Paris to pursue the study of medicine, swears that he rejoices to leave the cursed Diligence, is sick of the infernal journey, and d–d glad that the d–d voyage is so nearly over. “Enfin!” says your neighbor, yawning, and inserting an elbow into the mouth of his right and left hand companion, “nous voilà.”
NOUS VOILÀ!–We are at Paris! This must account for the removal of the milliner’s curl-papers, and the fixing of the old lady’s teeth.–Since the last relais, the Diligence has been travelling with extraordinary speed. The postilion cracks his terrible whip, and screams shrilly. The conductor blows incessantly on his horn, the bells of the harness, the bumping and ringing of the wheels and chains, and the clatter of the great hoofs of the heavy snorting Norman stallions, have wondrously increased within this, the last ten minutes; and the Diligence, which has been proceeding hitherto at the rate of a league in an hour, now dashes gallantly forward, as if it would traverse at least six miles in the same space of time. Thus it is, when Sir Robert maketh a speech at Saint Stephen’s–he useth his strength at the beginning, only, and the end. He gallopeth at the commencement; in the middle he lingers; at the close, again, he rouses the House, which has fallen asleep; he cracketh the whip of his satire; he shouts the shout of his patriotism; and, urging his eloquence to its roughest canter, awakens the sleepers, and inspires the weary, until men say, What a wondrous orator! What a capital coach! We will ride henceforth in it, and in no other!
But, behold us at Paris! The Diligence has reached a rude-looking gate, or grille, flanked by two lodges; the French Kings of old made their entry by this gate; some of the hottest battles of the late revolution were fought before it. At present, it is blocked by carts and peasants, and a busy crowd of men, in green, examining the packages before they enter, probing the straw with long needles. It is the Barrier of St. Denis, and the green men are the customs’-men of the city of Paris. If you are a countryman, who would introduce a cow into the metropolis, the city demands twenty- four francs for such a privilege: if you have a hundredweight of tallow-candles, you must, previously, disburse three francs: if a drove of hogs, nine francs per whole hog: but upon these subjects Mr. Bulwer, Mrs. Trollope, and other writers, have already enlightened the public. In the present instance, after a momentary pause, one of the men in green mounts by the side of the conductor, and the ponderous vehicle pursues its journey.
The street which we enter, that of the Faubourg St. Denis, presents a strange contrast to the dark uniformity of a London street, where everything, in the dingy and smoky atmosphere, looks as though it were painted in India-ink–black houses, black passengers, and black sky. Here, on the contrary, is a thousand times more life and color. Before you, shining in the sun, is a long glistening line of GUTTER,–not a very pleasing object in a city, but in a picture invaluable. On each side are houses of all dimensions and hues; some but of one story; some as high as the tower of Babel. From these the haberdashers (and this is their favorite street) flaunt long strips of gaudy calicoes, which give a strange air of rude gayety to the street. Milk-women, with a little crowd of gossips round each, are, at this early hour of morning, selling the chief material of the Parisian café-au-lait. Gay wine-shops, painted red, and smartly decorated with vines and gilded railings, are filled with workmen taking their morning’s draught. That gloomy-looking prison on your right is a prison for women; once it was a convent for Lazarists: a thousand unfortunate individuals of the softer sex now occupy that mansion: they bake, as we find in the guide-books, the bread of all the other prisons; they mend and wash the shirts and stockings of all the other prisoners; they make hooks-and-eyes and phosphorus-boxes, and they attend chapel every Sunday:–if occupation can help them, sure they have enough of it. Was it not a great stroke of the legislature to superintend the morals and linen at once, and thus keep these poor creatures continually mending?–But we have passed the prison long ago, and are at the Porte St. Denis itself.
There is only time to take a hasty glance as we pass: it commemorates some of the wonderful feats of arms of Ludovicus Magnus, and abounds in ponderous allegories–nymphs, and river- gods, and pyramids crowned with fleurs-de-lis; Louis passing over the Rhine in triumph, and the Dutch Lion giving up the ghost, in the year of our Lord 1672. The Dutch Lion revived, and overcame the man some years afterwards; but of this fact, singularly enough, the inscriptions make no mention. Passing, then, round the gate, and not under it (after the general custom, in respect of triumphal arches), you cross the boulevard, which gives a glimpse of trees and sunshine, and gleaming white buildings; then, dashing down the Rue de Bourbon Villeneuve, a dirty street, which seems interminable, and the Rue St. Eustache, the conductor gives a last blast on his horn, and the great vehicle clatters into the court- yard, where the journey is destined to conclude.
If there was a noise before of screaming postilions and cracked horns, it was nothing to the Babel-like clatter which greets us now. We are in a great court, which Hajji Baba would call the father of Diligences. Half a dozen other coaches arrive at the same minute–no light affairs, like your English vehicles, but ponderous machines, containing fifteen passengers inside, more in the cabriolet, and vast towers of luggage on the roof: others are loading: the yard is filled with passengers coming or departing;– bustling porters and screaming commissionaires. These latter seize you as you descend from your place,–twenty cards are thrust into your hand, and as many voices, jabbering with inconceivable swiftness, shriek into your ear, “Dis way, sare; are you for ze’ ‘Otel of Rhin?’ ‘Hôtel de l’Amirauté!’–‘Hotel Bristol,’ sare!– Monsieur, ‘l’Hôtel de Lille?’ Sacr-rrré ‘nom de Dieu, laissez passer ce petit, monsieur! Ow mosh loggish ave you, sare?”
And now, if you are a stranger in Paris, listen to the words of Titmarsh.–If you cannot speak a syllable of French, and love English comfort, clean rooms, breakfasts, and waiters; if you would have plentiful dinners, and are not particular (as how should you be?) concerning wine; if, in this foreign country, you WILL have your English companions, your porter, your friend, and your brandy- and-water–do not listen to any of these commissioner fellows, but with your best English accent, shout out boldly, “MEURICE!” and straightway a man will step forward to conduct you to the Rue de Rivoli.
Here you will find apartments at any price: a very neat room, for instance, for three francs daily; an English breakfast of eternal boiled eggs, or grilled ham; a nondescript dinner, profuse but cold; and a society which will rejoice your heart. Here are young gentlemen from the universities; young merchants on a lark; large families of nine daughters, with fat father and mother; officers of dragoons, and lawyers’ clerks. The last time we dined at “Meurice’s” we hobbed and nobbed with no less a person than Mr. Moses, the celebrated bailiff of Chancery Lane; Lord Brougham was on his right, and a clergyman’s lady, with a train of white-haired girls, sat on his left, wonderfully taken with the diamond rings of the fascinating stranger!
It is, as you will perceive, an admirable way to see Paris, especially if you spend your days reading the English papers at Galignani’s, as many of our foreign tourists do.
But all this is promiscuous, and not to the purpose. If,–to continue on the subject of hotel choosing,–if you love quiet, heavy bills, and the best table-d’hôte in the city, go, O stranger! to the “Hôtel des Princes;” it is close to the Boulevard, and convenient for Frascati’s. The “Hôtel Mirabeau” possesses scarcely less attraction; but of this you will find, in Mr. Bulwer’s “Autobiography of Pelham,” a faithful and complete account. “Lawson’s Hotel” has likewise its merits, as also the “Hôtel de Lille,” which may be described as a “second chop” Meurice.
If you are a poor student come to study the humanities, or the pleasant art of amputation, cross the water forthwith, and proceed to the “Hôtel Corneille,” near the Odéon, or others of its species; there are many where you can live royally (until you economize by going into lodgings) on four francs a day; and where, if by any strange chance you are desirous for a while to get rid of your countrymen, you will find that they scarcely ever penetrate.
But above all, O my countrymen! shun boarding-houses, especially if you have ladies in your train; or ponder well, and examine the characters of the keepers thereof, before you lead your innocent daughters, and their mamma, into places so dangerous. In the first place, you have bad dinners; and, secondly, bad company. If you play cards, you are very likely playing with a swindler; if you dance, you dance with a —- person with whom you had better have nothing to do.
Note (which ladies are requested not to read).–In one of these establishments, daily advertised as most eligible for English, a friend of the writer lived. A lady, who had passed for some time as the wife of one of the inmates, suddenly changed her husband and name, her original husband remaining in the house, and saluting her by her new title.
A CAUTION TO TRAVELLERS.
A million dangers and snares await the traveller, as soon as he issues out of that vast messagerie which we have just quitted: and as each man cannot do better than relate such events as have happened in the course of his own experience, and may keep the unwary from the path of danger, let us take this, the very earliest opportunity, of imparting to the public a little of the wisdom which we painfully have acquired.
And first, then, with regard to the city of Paris, it is to be remarked, that in that metropolis flourish a greater number of native and exotic swindlers than are to be found in any other European nursery. What young Englishman that visits it, but has not determined, in his heart, to have a little share of the gayeties that go on–just for once, just to see what they are like? How many, when the horrible gambling dens were open, did resist a sight of them?–nay, was not a young fellow rather flattered by a dinner invitation from the Salon, whither he went, fondly pretending that he should see “French society,” in the persons of certain Dukes and Counts who used to frequent the place?
My friend Pogson is a young fellow, not much worse, although perhaps a little weaker and simpler than his neighbors; and coming to Paris with exactly the same notions that bring many others of the British youth to that capital, events befell him there, last winter, which are strictly true, and shall here be narrated, by way of warning to all.
Pog, it must be premised, is a city man, who travels in drugs for a couple of the best London houses, blows the flute, has an album, drives his own gig, and is considered, both on the road and in the metropolis, a remarkably nice, intelligent, thriving young man. Pogson’s only fault is too great an attachment to the fair:–“the sex,” as he says often “will be his ruin:” the fact is, that Pog never travels without a “Don Juan” under his driving-cushion, and is a pretty-looking young fellow enough.
Sam Pogson had occasion to visit Paris, last October; and it was in that city that his love of the sex had liked to have cost him dear. He worked his way down to Dover; placing, right and left, at the towns on his route, rhubarb, sodas, and other such delectable wares as his masters dealt in (“the sweetest sample of castor oil, smelt like a nosegay–went off like wildfire–hogshead and a half at Rochester, eight-and twenty gallons at Canterbury,” and so on), and crossed to Calais, and thence voyaged to Paris in the coupé of the Diligence. He paid for two places, too, although a single man, and the reason shall now be made known.
Dining at the table-d’hôte at “Quillacq’s”–it is the best inn on the Continent of Europe–our little traveller had the happiness to be placed next to a lady, who was, he saw at a glance, one of the extreme pink of the nobility. A large lady, in black satin, with eyes and hair as black as sloes, with gold chains, scent-bottles, sable tippet, worked pocket-handkerchief, and four twinkling rings on each of her plump white fingers. Her cheeks were as pink as the finest Chinese rouge could make them. Pog knew the article: he travelled in it. Her lips were as red as the ruby lip salve: she used the very best, that was clear.
She was a fine-looking woman, certainly (holding down her eyes, and talking perpetually of “mes trente-deux ans”); and Pogson, the wicked young dog, who professed not to care for young misses, saying they smelt so of bread-and-butter, declared, at once, that the lady was one of HIS beauties; in fact, when he spoke to us about her, he said, “She’s a slap-up thing, I tell you; a reg’lar good one; ONE OF MY SORT!” And such was Pogson’s credit in all commercial rooms, that one of HIS sort was considered to surpass all other sorts.
During dinner-time, Mr. Pogson was profoundly polite and attentive to the lady at his side, and kindly communicated to her, as is the way with the best-bred English on their first arrival “on the Continent,” all his impressions regarding the sights and persons he had seen. Such remarks having been made during half an hour’s ramble about the ramparts and town, and in the course of a walk down to the custom-house, and a confidential communication with the commissionaire, must be, doubtless, very valuable to Frenchmen in their own country; and the lady listened to Pogson’s opinions: not only with benevolent attention, but actually, she said, with pleasure and delight. Mr. Pogson said that there was no such thing as good meat in France, and that’s why they cooked their victuals in this queer way; he had seen many soldiers parading about the place, and expressed a true Englishman’s abhorrence of an armed force; not that he feared such fellows as these–little whipper- snappers–our men would eat them. Hereupon the lady admitted that our Guards were angels, but that Monsieur must not be too hard upon the French; “her father was a General of the Emperor.”
Pogson felt a tremendous respect for himself at the notion that he was dining with a General’s daughter, and instantly ordered a bottle of champagne to keep up his consequence.
“Mrs. Bironn, ma’am,” said he, for he had heard the waiter call her by some such name, “if you WILL accept a glass of champagne, ma’am, you’ll do me, I’m sure, great honor: they say it’s very good, and a precious sight cheaper than it is on our side of the way, too–not that I care for money. Mrs. Bironn, ma’am, your health, ma’am.”
The lady smiled very graciously, and drank the wine.
“Har you any relation, ma’am, if I may make so bold; har you anyways connected with the family of our immortal bard?”
“Sir, I beg your pardon.”
“Don’t mention it, ma’am: but BiRONN and BYron are hevidently the same names, only you pronounce in the French way; and I thought you might be related to his lordship: his horigin, ma’am, was of French extraction:” and here Pogson began to repeat,–
“Hare thy heyes like thy mother’s, my fair child, Hada! sole daughter of my ‘ouse and ‘art?”
“Oh!” said the lady, laughing, “you speak of LOR Byron?
“Hauthor of ‘Don Juan,’ ‘Child ‘Arold,’ and ‘Cain, a Mystery,'” said Pogson:–“I do; and hearing the waiter calling you Madam la Bironn, took the liberty of hasking whether you were connected with his lordship; that’s hall:” and my friend here grew dreadfully red, and began twiddling his long ringlets in his fingers, and examining very eagerly the contents of his plate.
“Oh, no: Madame la Baronne means Mistress Baroness; my husband was Baron, and I am Baroness.”
“What! ‘ave I the honor–I beg your pardon, ma’am–is your ladyship a Baroness, and I not know it? pray excuse me for calling you ma’am.”
The Baroness smiled most graciously–with such a look as Juno cast upon unfortunate Jupiter when she wished to gain her wicked ends upon him–the Baroness smiled; and, stealing her hand into a black velvet bag, drew from it an ivory card-case, and from the ivory card-case extracted a glazed card, printed in gold; on it was engraved a coronet, and under the coronet the words
BARONNE DE FLORVAL-DELVAL,
NÉE DE MELVAL-NORVAL.
The grand Pitt diamond–the Queen’s own star of the garter–a sample of otto-of-roses at a guinea a drop, would not be handled more curiously, or more respectfully, than this porcelain card of the Baroness. Trembling he put it into his little Russia-leather pocket-book: and when he ventured to look up, and saw the eyes of the Baroness de Florval-Delval, née de Melval-Norval, gazing upon him with friendly and serene glances, a thrill of pride tingled through Pogson’s blood: he felt himself to be the very happiest fellow “on the Continent.”
But Pogson did not, for some time, venture to resume that sprightly and elegant familiarity which generally forms the great charm of his conversation: he was too much frightened at the presence he was in, and contented himself by graceful and solemn bows, deep attention, and ejaculations of “Yes, my lady,” and “No, your ladyship,” for some minutes after the discovery had been made. Pogson piqued himself on his breeding: “I hate the aristocracy,” he said, “but that’s no reason why I shouldn’t behave like a gentleman.”
A surly, silent little gentleman, who had been the third at the ordinary, and would take no part either in the conversation or in Pogson’s champagne, now took up his hat, and, grunting, left the room, when the happy bagman had the delight of a tête-à-tête. The Baroness did not appear inclined to move: it was cold; a fire was comfortable, and she had ordered none in her apartment. Might Pogson give her one more glass of champagne, or would her ladyship prefer “something hot.” Her ladyship gravely said, she never took ANYTHING hot. “Some champagne, then; a leetle drop?” She would! she would! O gods! how Pogson’s hand shook as he filled and offered her the glass!
What took place during the rest of the evening had better be described by Mr. Pogson himself, who has given us permission to publish his letter.
“QUILLACQ’S HOTEL (pronounced KILLYAX), CALAIS.
“DEAR TIT,–I arrived at Cally, as they call it, this day, or, rather, yesterday; for it is past midnight, as I sit thinking of a wonderful adventure that has just befallen me. A woman in course; that’s always the case with ME, you know: but oh, Tit! if you COULD but see her! Of the first family in France, the Florval-Delvals, beautiful as an angel, and no more caring for money than I do for split peas.
“I’ll tell you how it occurred. Everybody in France, you know, dines at the ordinary–it’s quite distangy to do so. There was only three of us to-day, however,–the Baroness, me, and a gent, who never spoke a word; and we didn’t want him to, neither: do you mark that?
“You know my way with the women: champagne’s the thing; make ’em drink, make ’em talk;–make ’em talk, make ’em do anything. So I orders a bottle, as if for myself; and, ‘Ma’am,’ says I, ‘will you take a glass of Sham–just one?’ Take it she did–for you know it’s quite distangy here: everybody dines at the table de hôte, and everybody accepts everybody’s wine. Bob Irons, who travels in linen on our circuit, told me that he had made some slap-up acquaintances among the genteelest people at Paris, nothing but by offering them Sham.
“Well, my Baroness takes one glass, two glasses, three glasses–the old fellow goes–we have a deal of chat (she took me for a military man, she said: is it not singular that so many people should?), and by ten o’clock we had grown so intimate, that I had from her her whole history, knew where she came from, and where she was going. Leave me alone with ’em: I can find out any woman’s history in half an hour.
“And where do you think she IS going? to Paris to be sure: she has her seat in what they call the coopy (though you’re not near so cooped in it as in our coaches. I’ve been to the office and seen one of ’em). She has her place in the coopy, and the coopy holds THREE; so what does Sam Pogson do?–he goes and takes the other two. Ain’t I up to a thing or two? Oh, no, not the least; but I shall have her to myself the whole of the way.
“We shall be in the French metropolis the day after this reaches you: please look out for a handsome lodging for me, and never mind the expense. And I say, if you could, in her hearing, when you came down to the coach, call me Captain Pogson, I wish you would– it sounds well travelling, you know; and when she asked me if I was not an officer, I couldn’t say no. Adieu, then, my dear fellow, till Monday, and vive le joy, as they say. The Baroness says I speak French charmingly, she talks English as well as you or I.
“Your affectionate friend,
This letter reached us duly, in our garrets, and we engaged such an apartment for Mr. Pogson, as beseemed a gentleman of his rank in the world and the army. At the appointed hour, too, we repaired to the Diligence office, and there beheld the arrival of the machine which contained him and his lovely Baroness.
Those who have much frequented the society of gentlemen of his profession (and what more delightful?) must be aware, that, when all the rest of mankind look hideous, dirty, peevish, wretched, after a forty hours’ coach-journey, a bagman appears as gay and spruce as when he started; having within himself a thousand little conveniences for the voyage, which common travellers neglect. Pogson had a little portable toilet, of which he had not failed to take advantage, and with his long, curling, flaxen hair, flowing under a seal-skin cap, with a gold tassel, with a blue and gold satin handkerchief, a crimson velvet waistcoat, a light green cut- away coat, a pair of barred brickdust-colored pantaloons, and a neat mackintosh, presented, altogether, as elegant and distingué an appearance as any one could desire. He had put on a clean collar at breakfast, and a pair of white kids as he entered the barrier, and looked, as he rushed into my arms, more like a man stepping out of a band-box, than one descending from a vehicle that has just performed one of the laziest, dullest, flattest, stalest, dirtiest journeys in Europe.
To my surprise, there were TWO ladies in the coach with my friend, and not ONE, as I had expected. One of these, a stout female, carrying sundry baskets, bags, umbrellas, and woman’s wraps, was evidently a maid-servant: the other, in black, was Pogson’s fair one, evidently. I could see a gleam of curl-papers over a sallow face,–of a dusky nightcap flapping over the curl-papers,–but these were hidden by a lace veil and a huge velvet bonnet, of which the crowning birds-of-paradise were evidently in a moulting state. She was encased in many shawls and wrappers; she put, hesitatingly, a pretty little foot out of the carriage–Pogson was by her side in an instant, and, gallantly putting one of his white kids round her waist, aided this interesting creature to descend. I saw, by her walk, that she was five-and-forty, and that my little Pogson was a lost man.
After some brief parley between them–in which it was charming to hear how my friend Samuel WOULD speak, what he called French, to a lady who could not understand one syllable of his jargon–the mutual hackney-coaches drew up; Madame la Baronne waved to the Captain a graceful French curtsy. “Adyou!” said Samuel, and waved his lily hand. “Adyou-addimang.”
A brisk little gentleman, who had made the journey in the same coach with Pogson, but had more modestly taken a seat in the Imperial, here passed us, and greeted me with a “How d’ye do?” He had shouldered his own little valise, and was trudging off, scattering a cloud of commissionaires, who would fain have spared him the trouble.
“Do you know that chap?” says Pogson; “surly fellow, ain’t he?”
“The kindest man in existence,” answered I; “all the world knows little Major British.”
“He’s a Major, is he?–why, that’s the fellow that dined with us at Killyax’s; it’s lucky I did not call myself Captain before him, he mightn’t have liked it, you know:” and then Sam fell into a reverie;–what was the subject of his thoughts soon appeared.
“Did you ever SEE such a foot and ankle?” said Sam, after sitting for some time, regardless of the novelty of the scene, his hands in his pockets, plunged in the deepest thought.
“ISN’T she a slap-up woman, eh, now?” pursued he; and began enumerating her attractions, as a horse-jockey would the points of a favorite animal.
“You seem to have gone a pretty length already,” said I, “by promising to visit her to-morrow.”
“A good length?–I believe you. Leave ME alone for that.”
“But I thought you were only to be two in the coupé, you wicked rogue.”
“Two in the coopy? Oh! ah! yes, you know–why, that is, I didn’t know she had her maid with her (what an ass I was to think of a noblewoman travelling without one!) and couldn’t, in course, refuse, when she asked me to let the maid in.”
“Of course not.”
“Couldn’t, you know, as a man of honor; but I made up for all that,” said Pogson, winking slyly, and putting his hand to his little bunch of a nose, in a very knowing way.
“You did, and how?”
“Why, you dog, I sat next to her; sat in the middle the whole way, and my back’s half broke, I can tell you:” and thus, having depicted his happiness, we soon reached the inn where this back- broken young man was to lodge during his stay in Paris.
The next day at five we met; Mr. Pogson had seen his Baroness, and described her lodgings, in his own expressive way, as “slap-up.” She had received him quite like an old friend; treated him to eau sucrée, of which beverage he expressed himself a great admirer; and actually asked him to dine the next day. But there was a cloud over the ingenuous youth’s brow, and I inquired still farther.
“Why,” said he, with a sigh, “I thought she was a widow; and, hang it! who should come in but her husband the Baron: a big fellow, sir, with a blue coat, a red ribbing, and SUCH a pair of mustachios!”
“Well,” said I, “he didn’t turn you out, I suppose?”
“Oh, no! on the contrary, as kind as possible; his lordship said that he respected the English army; asked me what corps I was in,– said he had fought in Spain against us,–and made me welcome.”
“What could you want more?”
Mr. Pogson at this only whistled; and if some very profound observer of human nature had been there to read into this little bagman’s heart, it would, perhaps, have been manifest, that the appearance of a whiskered soldier of a husband had counteracted some plans that the young scoundrel was concocting.
I live up a hundred and thirty-seven steps in the remote quarter of the Luxembourg, and it is not to be expected that such a fashionable fellow as Sam Pogson, with his pockets full of money, and a new city to see, should be always wandering to my dull quarters; so that, although he did not make his appearance for some time, he must not be accused of any luke-warmness of friendship on that score.
He was out, too, when I called at his hotel; but once, I had the good fortune to see him, with his hat curiously on one side, looking as pleased as Punch, and being driven, in an open cab, in the Champs Elysées. “That’s ANOTHER tip-top chap,” said he, when we met, at length. “What do you think of an Earl’s son, my boy? Honorable Tom Ringwood, son of the Earl of Cinqbars: what do you think of that, eh?”
I thought he was getting into very good society. Sam was a dashing fellow, and was always above his own line of life; he had met Mr. Ringwood at the Baron’s, and they’d been to the play together; and the honorable gent, as Sam called him, had joked with him about being well to do IN A CERTAIN QUARTER; and he had had a game of billiards with the Baron, at the Estaminy, “a very distangy place, where you smoke,” said Sam; “quite select, and frequented by the tip-top nobility;” and they were as thick as peas in a shell; and they were to dine that day at Ringwood’s, and sup, the next night, with the Baroness.
“I think the chaps down the road will stare,” said Sam, “when they hear how I’ve been coming it.” And stare, no doubt, they would; for it is certain that very few commercial gentlemen have had Mr. Pogson’s advantages.
The next morning we had made an arrangement to go out shopping together, and to purchase some articles of female gear, that Sam intended to bestow on his relations when he returned. Seven needle-books, for his sisters; a gilt buckle, for his mamma; a handsome French cashmere shawl and bonnet, for his aunt (the old lady keeps an inn in the Borough, and has plenty of money, and no heirs); and a toothpick case, for his father. Sam is a good fellow to all his relations, and as for his aunt, he adores her. Well, we were to go and make these purchases, and I arrived punctually at my time; but Sam was stretched on a sofa, very pale and dismal.
I saw how it had been.–“A little too much of Mr. Ringwood’s claret, I suppose?”
He only gave a sickly stare.
“Where does the Honorable Tom live?” says I.
“HONORABLE!” says Sam, with a hollow, horrid laugh; “I tell you, Tit, he’s no more Honorable than you are.”
“What, an impostor?”
“No, no; not that. He is a real Honorable, only–“
“Oh, ho! I smell a rat–a little jealous, eh?”
“Jealousy be hanged! I tell you he’s a thief; and the Baron’s a thief; and, hang me, if I think his wife is any better. Eight-and- thirty pounds he won of me before supper; and made me drunk, and sent me home:–is THAT honorable? How can I afford to lose forty pounds? It’s took me two years to save it up–if my old aunt gets wind of it, she’ll cut me off with a shilling: hang me!”–and here Sam, in an agony, tore his fair hair.
While bewailing his lot in this lamentable strain, his bell was rung, which signal being answered by a surly “Come in,” a tall, very fashionable gentleman, with a fur coat, and a fierce tuft to his chin, entered the room. “Pogson my buck, how goes it?” said he, familiarly, and gave a stare at me: I was making for my hat.
“Don’t go,” said Sam, rather eagerly; and I sat down again.
The Honorable Mr. Ringwood hummed and ha’d: and, at last, said he wished to speak to Mr. Pogson on business, in private, if possible.
“There’s no secrets betwixt me and my friend,” cried Sam.
Mr. Ringwood paused a little:–“An awkward business that of last night,” at length exclaimed he.
“I believe it WAS an awkward business,” said Sam, dryly.
“I really am very sorry for your losses.”
“Thank you: and so am I, I can tell you,” said Sam.
“You must mind, my good fellow, and not drink; for, when you drink, you WILL play high: by Gad, you led US in, and not we you.”
“I dare say,” answered Sam, with something of peevishness; “losses is losses: there’s no use talking about ’em when they’re over and paid.”
“And paid?” here wonderingly spoke Mr. Ringwood; “why, my dear fel– what the deuce–has Florval been with you?”
“D— Florval!” growled Sam, “I’ve never set eyes on his face since last night; and never wish to see him again.”
“Come, come, enough of this talk; how do you intend to settle the bills which you gave him last night?”
“Bills I what do you mean?”
“I mean, sir, these bills,” said the Honorable Tom, producing two out of his pocket-book, and looking as stern as a lion. “‘I promise to pay, on demand, to the Baron de Florval, the sum of four hundred pounds. October 20, 1838.’ ‘Ten days after date I promise to pay the Baron de et caetera et caetera, one hundred and ninety- eight pounds. Samuel Pogson.’ You didn’t say what regiment you were in.”
“WHAT!” shouted poor Sam, as from a dream, starting up and looking preternaturally pale and hideous.
“D— it, sir, you don’t affect ignorance: you don’t pretend not to remember that you signed these bills, for money lost in my rooms: money LENT to you, by Madame de Florval, at your own request, and lost to her husband? You don’t suppose, sir, that I shall be such an infernal idiot as to believe you, or such a coward as to put up with a mean subterfuge of this sort. Will you, or will you not, pay the money, sir?”
“I will not,” said Sam, stoutly; “it’s a d—-d swin–“
Here Mr. Ringwood sprung up, clenching his riding-whip, and looking so fierce that Sam and I bounded back to the other end of the room. “Utter that word again, and, by heaven, I’ll murder you!” shouted Mr. Ringwood, and looked as if he would, too: “once more, will you, or will you not, pay this money?”
“I can’t,” said Sam faintly.
“I’ll call again, Captain Pogson,” said Mr. Ringwood, “I’ll call again in one hour; and, unless you come to some arrangement, you must meet my friend, the Baron de Florval, or I’ll post you for a swindler and a coward.” With this he went out: the door thundered to after him, and when the clink of his steps departing had subsided, I was enabled to look round at Pog. The poor little man had his elbows on the marble table, his head between his hands, and looked, as one has seen gentlemen look over a steam-vessel off Ramsgate, the wind blowing remarkably fresh: at last he fairly burst out crying.
“If Mrs. Pogson heard of this,” said I, “what would become of the ‘Three Tuns?'” (for I wished to give him a lesson). “If your Ma, who took you every Sunday to meeting, should know that her boy was paying attention to married women;–if Drench, Glauber and Co., your employers, were to know that their confidential agent was a gambler, and unfit to be trusted with their money, how long do you think your connection would last with them, and who would afterwards employ you?”
To this poor Pog had not a word of answer; but sat on his sofa whimpering so bitterly, that the sternest of moralists would have relented towards him, and would have been touched by the little wretch’s tears. Everything, too, must be pleaded in excuse for this unfortunate bagman: who, if he wished to pass for a captain, had only done so because he had an intense respect and longing for rank: if he had made love to the Baroness, had only done so because he was given to understand by Lord Byron’s “Don Juan” that making love was a very correct, natty thing: and if he had gambled, had only been induced to do so by the bright eyes and example of the Baron and the Baroness. O ye Barons and Baronesses of England! if ye knew what a number of small commoners are daily occupied in studying your lives, and imitating your aristocratic ways, how careful would ye be of your morals, manners, and conversation!
My soul was filled, then, with a gentle yearning pity for Pogson, and revolved many plans for his rescue: none of these seeming to be practicable, at last we hit on the very wisest of all, and determined to apply for counsel to no less a person than Major British.
A blessing it is to be acquainted with my worthy friend, little Major British; and heaven, sure, it was that put the Major into my head, when I heard of this awkward scrape of poor Fog’s. The Major is on half-pay, and occupies a modest apartment au quatrième, in the very hotel which Pogson had patronized at my suggestion; indeed, I had chosen it from Major British’s own peculiar recommendation.
There is no better guide to follow than such a character as the honest Major, of whom there are many likenesses now scattered over the Continent of Europe: men who love to live well, and are forced to live cheaply, and who find the English abroad a thousand times easier, merrier, and more hospitable than the same persons at home. I, for my part, never landed on Calais pier without feeling that a load of sorrows was left on the other side of the water; and have always fancied that black care stepped on board the steamer, along with the custom-house officers at Gravesend, and accompanied one to yonder black louring towers of London–so busy, so dismal, and so vast.
British would have cut any foreigner’s throat who ventured to say so much, but entertained, no doubt, private sentiments of this nature; for he passed eight months of the year, regularly, abroad, with headquarters at Paris (the garrets before alluded to), and only went to England for the month’s shooting, on the grounds of his old colonel, now an old lord, of whose acquaintance the Major was passably inclined to boast.
He loved and respected, like a good staunch Tory as he is, every one of the English nobility; gave himself certain little airs of a man of fashion, that were by no means disagreeable; and was, indeed, kindly regarded by such English aristocracy as he met, in his little annual tours among the German courts, in Italy or in Paris, where he never missed an ambassador’s night: he retailed to us, who didn’t go, but were delighted to know all that had taken place, accurate accounts of the dishes, the dresses, and the scandal which had there fallen under his observation.
He is, moreover, one of the most useful persons in society that can possibly be; for besides being incorrigibly duelsome on his own account, he is, for others, the most acute and peaceable counsellor in the world, and has carried more friends through scrapes and prevented more deaths than any member of the Humane Society. British never bought a single step in the army, as is well known. In ’14 he killed a celebrated French fire-eater,, who had slain a young friend of his, and living, as he does, a great deal with young men of pleasure, and good old sober family people, he is loved by them both and has as welcome a place made for him at a roaring bachelor’s supper at the “Café Anglais,” as at a staid dowager’s dinner-table in the Faubourg St. Honoré. Such pleasant old boys are very profitable acquaintances, let me tell you; and lucky is the young man who has one or two such friends in his list.
Hurrying on Fogson in his dress, I conducted him, panting, up to the Major’s quatrième, where we were cheerfully bidden to come in. The little gentleman was in his travelling jacket, and occupied in painting, elegantly, one of those natty pairs of boots in which he daily promenaded the Boulevards. A couple of pairs of tough buff gloves had been undergoing some pipe-claying operation under his hands; no man stepped out so spick and span, with a hat so nicely brushed, with a stiff cravat tied so neatly under a fat little red face, with a blue frock-coat so scrupulously fitted to a punchy little person, as Major British, about whom we have written these two pages. He stared rather hardly at my companion, but gave me a kind shake of the hand, and we proceeded at once to business. “Major British,” said I, “we want your advice in regard to an unpleasant affair which has just occurred to my friend Pogson.”
“Pogson, take a chair.”
“You must know, sir, that Mr. Pogson, coming from Calais the other day, encountered, in the diligence, a very handsome woman.”
British winked at Pogson, who, wretched as he was, could not help feeling pleased.
“Mr. Pogson was not more pleased with this lovely creature than was she with him; for, it appears, she gave him her card, invited him to her house, where he has been constantly, and has been received with much kindness.”
“I see,” says British.
“Her husband the Baron–“
“NOW it’s coming,” said the Major, with a grin: “her husband is jealous, I suppose, and there is a talk of the Bois de Boulogne: my dear sir, you can’t refuse–can’t refuse.”
“It’s not that,” said Pogson, wagging his head passionately.
“Her husband the Baron seemed quite as much taken with Pogson as his lady was, and has introduced him to some very distingué friends of his own set. Last night one of the Baron’s friends gave a party in honor of my friend Pogson, who lost forty-eight pounds at cards BEFORE he was made drunk, and heaven knows how much after.”
“Not a shilling, by sacred heaven!–not a shilling!” yelled out Pogson. “After the supper I ‘ad such an ‘eadach’, I couldn’t do anything but fall asleep on the sofa.”
“You ‘ad such an ‘eadach’, sir,” says British, sternly, who piques himself on his grammar and pronunciation, and scorns a cockney.
Such a H-eadache, sir,” replied Pogson, with much meekness.
“The unfortunate man is brought home at two o’clock, as tipsy as possible, dragged up stairs, senseless, to bed, and, on waking, receives a visit from his entertainer of the night before–a lord’s son, Major, a tip-top fellow,–who brings a couple of bills that my friend Pogson is said to have signed.”
“Well, my dear fellow, the thing’s quite simple,–he must pay them.”
“I can’t pay them.”
“He can’t pay them,” said we both in a breath: “Pogson is a commercial traveller, with thirty shillings a week, and how the deuce is he to pay five hundred pounds?”
“A bagman, sir! and what right has a bagman to gamble? Gentlemen gamble, sir; tradesmen, sir, have no business with the amusements of the gentry. What business had you with barons and lords’ sons, sir?–serve you right, sir.”
“Sir,” says Pogson, with some dignity, “merit, and not birth, is the criterion of a man: I despise an hereditary aristocracy, and admire only Nature’s gentlemen. For my part, I think that a British merch–“
“Hold your tongue, sir,” bounced out the Major, “and don’t lecture me; don’t come to me, sir, with your slang about Nature’s gentlemen–Nature’s tomfools, sir! Did Nature open a cash account for you at a banker’s, sir? Did Nature give you an education, sir? What do you mean by competing with people to whom Nature has given all these things? Stick to your bags, Mr. Pogson, and your bagmen, and leave barons and their like to their own ways.”
“Yes, but, Major,” here cried that faithful friend, who has always stood by Pogson; “they won’t leave him alone.”
“The honorable gent says I must fight if I don’t pay,” whimpered Sam.
“What! fight YOU? Do you mean that the honorable gent, as you call him, will go out with a bagman?”
“He doesn’t know I’m a–I’m a commercial man,” blushingly said Sam: “he fancies I’m a military gent.”
The Major’s gravity was quite upset at this absurd notion; and he laughed outrageously. “Why, the fact is, sir,” said I, “that my friend Pogson, knowing the value of the title of Captain, and being complimented by the Baroness on his warlike appearance, said, boldly, he was in the army. He only assumed the rank in order to dazzle her weak imagination, never fancying that there was a husband, and a circle of friends, with whom he was afterwards to make an acquaintance; and then, you know, it was too late to withdraw.”
“A pretty pickle you have put yourself in, Mr. Pogson, by making love to other men’s wives, and calling yourself names,” said the Major, who was restored to good humor. “And pray, who is the honorable gent?”
“The Earl of Cinqbars’ son,” says Pogson, “the Honorable Tom Ringwood.”
“I thought it was some such character; and the Baron is the Baron de Florval-Delval?”
“The very same.”
“And his wife a black-haired woman, with a pretty foot and ankle; calls herself Athenais; and is always talking about her trente-deux ans? Why, sir, that woman was an actress on the Boulevard, when we were here in ’15. She’s no more his wife than I am. Delval’s name is Chicot. The woman is always travelling between London and Paris: I saw she was hooking you at Calais; she has hooked ten men, in the course of the last two years, in this very way. She lent you money, didn’t she?” “Yes.” “And she leans on your shoulder, and whispers, ‘Play half for me,’ and somebody wins it, and the poor thing is as sorry as you are, and her husband storms and rages, and insists on double stakes; and she leans over your shoulder again, and tells every card in your hand to your adversary, and that’s the way it’s done, Mr. Pogson.”
“I’ve been ‘AD, I see I ‘ave,” said Pogson, very humbly.
“Well, sir,” said the Major, “in consideration, not of you, sir– for, give me leave to tell you, Mr. Pogson, that you are a pitiful little scoundrel–in consideration for my Lord Cinqbars, sir, with whom, I am proud to say, I am intimate,” (the Major dearly loved a lord, and was, by his own showing, acquainted with half the peerage,) “I will aid you in this affair. Your cursed vanity, sir, and want of principle, has set you, in the first place, intriguing with other men’s wives; and if you had been shot for your pains, a bullet would have only served you right, sir. You must go about as an impostor, sir, in society; and you pay richly for your swindling, sir, by being swindled yourself: but, as I think your punishment has been already pretty severe, I shall do my best, out of regard for my friend, Lord Cinqbars, to prevent the matter going any farther; and I recommend you to leave Paris without delay. Now let me wish you a good morning.”–Wherewith British made a majestic bow, and began giving the last touch to his varnished boots.
We departed: poor Sam perfectly silent and chapfallen; and I meditating on the wisdom of the half-pay philosopher, and wondering what means he would employ to rescue Pogson from his fate.
What these means were I know not; but Mr. Ringwood did NOT make his appearance at six; and, at eight, a letter arrived for “Mr. Pogson, commercial traveller,” &c. &c. It was blank inside, but contained his two bills. Mr. Ringwood left town, almost immediately, for Vienna; nor did the Major explain the circumstances which caused his departure; but he muttered something about “knew some of his old tricks,” “threatened police, and made him disgorge directly.”
Mr. Ringwood is, as yet, young at his trade; and I have often thought it was very green of him to give up the bills to the Major, who, certainly, would never have pressed the matter before the police, out of respect for his friend, Lord Cinqbars.
THE FÊTES OF JULY.
IN A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE “BUNGAY BEACON.”
PARIS, July 30th, 1839.
We have arrived here just in time for the fêtes of July.–You have read, no doubt, of that glorious revolution which took place here nine years ago, and which is now commemorated annually, in a pretty facetious manner, by gun-firing, student-processions, pole- climbing-for-silver-spoons, gold-watches and legs-of-mutton, monarchical orations, and what not, and sanctioned, moreover, by Chamber-of-Deputies, with a grant of a couple of hundred thousand francs to defray the expenses of all the crackers, gun-firings, and legs-of-mutton aforesaid. There is a new fountain in the Place Louis Quinze, otherwise called the Place Louis Seize, or else the Place de la Révolution, or else the Place de la Concorde (who can say why?)–which, I am told, is to run bad wine during certain hours to-morrow, and there WOULD have been a review of the National Guards and the Line–only, since the Fieschi business, reviews are no joke, and so this latter part of the festivity has been discontinued.
Do you not laugh, O Pharos of Bungay, at the continuance of a humbug such as this?–at the humbugging anniversary of a humbug? The King of the Barricades is, next to the Emperor Nicholas, the most absolute Sovereign in Europe; yet there is not in the whole of this fair kingdom of France a single man who cares sixpence about him, or his dynasty: except, mayhap, a few hangers-on at the Château, who eat his dinners, and put their hands in his purse. The feeling of loyalty is as dead as old Charles the Tenth; the Chambers have been laughed at, the country has been laughed at, all the successive ministries have been laughed at (and you know who is the wag that has amused himself with them all); and, behold, here come three days at the end of July, and cannons think it necessary to fire off, squibs and crackers to blaze and fizz, fountains to run wine, kings to make speeches, and subjects to crawl up greasy mâts-de-cocagne in token of gratitude and réjouissance publique!– My dear sir, in their aptitude to swallow, to utter, to enact humbugs, these French people, from Majesty downwards, beat all the other nations of this earth. In looking at these men, their manners, dresses, opinions, politics, actions, history, it is impossible to preserve a grave countenance; instead of having Carlyle to write a History of the French Revolution, I often think it should be handed over to Dickens or Theodore Hook: and oh! where is the Rabelais to be the faithful historian of the last phase of the Revolution–the last glorious nine years of which we are now commemorating the last glorious three days?
I had made a vow not to say a syllable on the subject, although I have seen, with my neighbors, all the gingerbread stalls down the Champs Elysées, and some of the “catafalques” erected to the memory of the heroes of July, where the students and others, not connected personally with the victims, and not having in the least profited by their deaths, come and weep; but the grief shown on the first day is quite as absurd and fictitious as the joy exhibited on the last. The subject is one which admits of much wholesome reflection and food for mirth; and, besides, is so richly treated by the French themselves, that it would be a sin and a shame to pass it over. Allow me to have the honor of translating, for your edification, an account of the first day’s proceedings–it is mighty amusing, to my thinking.
“CELEBRATION OF THE DAYS OF JULY.
“To-day (Saturday), funeral ceremonies, in honor of the victims of July, were held in the various edifices consecrated to public worship.
“These edifices, with the exception of some churches (especially that of the Petits-Pères), were uniformly hung with black on the outside; the hangings bore only this inscription: 27, 28, 29 July, 1830–surrounded by a wreath of oak-leaves.
“In the interior of the Catholic churches, it had only been thought proper to dress LITTLE CATAFALQUES, as for burials of the third and fourth class. Very few clergy attended; but a considerable number of the National Guard.
“The Synagogue of the Israelites was entirely hung with black; and a great concourse of people attended. The service was performed with the greatest pomp.
“In the Protestant temples there was likewise a very full attendance: APOLOGETICAL DISCOURSES on the Revolution of July were pronounced by the pastors.
“The absence of M. de Quélen (Archbishop of Paris), and of many members of the superior clergy, was remarked at Notre Dame.
“The civil authorities attended service in their several districts.
“The poles, ornamented with tri-colored flags, which formerly were placed on Notre Dame, were, it was remarked, suppressed. The flags on the Pont Neuf were, during the ceremony, only half-mast high, and covered with crape.”
Et caetera, et caetera, et caetera.
“The tombs of the Louvre were covered with black hangings, and adorned with tri-colored flags. In front and in the middle was erected an expiatory monument of a pyramidical shape, and surmounted by a funeral vase.
“These tombs were guarded by the MUNICIPAL GUARD, THE TROOPS OF THE LINE, THE SERGENS DE VILLE (town patrol), AND A BRIGADE OF AGENTS OF POLICE IN PLAIN CLOTHES, under the orders of peace-officer Vassal.
“Between eleven and twelve o’clock, some young men, to the number of 400 or 500, assembled on the Place de la Bourse, one of them bearing a tri-colored banner with an inscription, ‘TO THE MANES OF JULY:’ ranging themselves in order, they marched five abreast to the Marché des Innocens. On their arrival, the Municipal Guards of the Halle aux Draps, where the post had been doubled, issued out without arms, and the town-sergeants placed themselves before the market to prevent the entry of the procession. The young men passed in perfect order, and without saying a word–only lifting their hats as they defiled before the tombs. When they arrived at the Louvre they found the gates shut, and the garden evacuated. The troops were under arms, and formed in battalion.
“After the passage of the procession, the Garden was again open to the public.”
And the evening and the morning were the first day.
There’s nothing serious in mortality: is there, from the beginning of this account to the end thereof, aught but sheer, open, monstrous, undisguised humbug? I said, before, that you should have a history of these people by Dickens or Theodore Hook, but there is little need of professed wags;–do not the men write their own tale with an admirable Sancho-like gravity and naïveté, which one could not desire improved? How good is that touch of sly indignation about the LITTLE CATAFALQUES! how rich the contrast presented by the economy of the Catholics to the splendid disregard of expense exhibited by the devout Jews! and how touching the “APOLOGETICAL DISCOURSES on the Revolution,” delivered by the Protestant pastors! Fancy the profound affliction of the Gardes Municipaux, the Sergens de Ville, the police agents in plain clothes, and the troops with fixed bayonets, sobbing round the “expiatory monuments of a pyramidical shape, surmounted by funeral vases,” and compelled, by sad duty, to fire into the public who might wish to indulge in the same woe! O “manes of July!” (the phrase is pretty and grammatical) why did you with sharp bullets break those Louvre windows? Why did you bayonet red-coated Swiss behind that fair white façade, and, braving cannon, musket, sabre, perspective guillotine, burst yonder bronze gates, rush through that peaceful picture-gallery, and hurl royalty, loyalty, and a thousand years of Kings, head-over-heels out of yonder Tuileries’ windows?
It is, you will allow, a little difficult to say:–there is, however, ONE benefit that the country has gained (as for liberty of press, or person, diminished taxation, a juster representation, who ever thinks of them?)–ONE benefit they have gained, or nearly– abolition de la peine-de-mort pour délit politique: no more wicked guillotining for revolutions. A Frenchman must have his revolution– it is his nature to knock down omnibuses in the street, and across them to fire at troops of the line–it is a sin to balk it. Did not the King send off Revolutionary Prince Napoleon in a coach-and-four? Did not the jury, before the face of God and Justice, proclaim Revolutionary Colonel Vaudrey not guilty?–One may hope, soon, that if a man shows decent courage and energy in half a dozen émeutes, he will get promotion and a premium.
I do not (although, perhaps, partial to the subject,) want to talk more nonsense than the occasion warrants, and will pray you to cast your eyes over the following anecdote, that is now going the round of the papers, and respects the commutation of the punishment of that wretched, fool-hardy Barbés, who, on his trial, seemed to invite the penalty which has just been remitted to him. You recollect the braggart’s speech: “When the Indian falls into the power of the enemy, he knows the fate that awaits him, and submits his head to the knife:–I am the Indian!”
“M. Hugo was at the Opera on the night the sentence of the Court of Peers, condemning Barbés to death, was published. The great poet composed the following verses:–
‘Par votre ange envolée, ainsi qu’une colombe, Par le royal enfant, doux et frêle roseau, Grace encore une fois! Grace au nom de la tombe! Grace au nom du berçeau!’*
“M. Victor Hugo wrote the lines out instantly on a sheet of paper, which he folded, and simply despatched them to the King of the French by the penny-post.
“That truly is a noble voice, which can at all hours thus speak to the throne. Poetry, in old days, was called the language of the Gods–it is better named now–it is the language of the Kings.
“But the clemency of the King had anticipated the letter of the Poet. His Majesty had signed the commutation of Barbés, while the poet was still writing.
“Louis Philippe replied to the author of ‘Ruy Blas’ most graciously, that he had already subscribed to a wish so noble, and that the verses had only confirmed his previous disposition to mercy.”
* Translated for the benefit of country gentlemen:–
“By your angel flown away just like a dove, By the royal infant, that frail and tender reed, Pardon yet once more! Pardon in the name of the tomb! Pardon in the name of the cradle!”
Now in countries where fools most abound, did one ever read of more monstrous, palpable folly? In any country, save this, would a poet who chose to write four crack-brained verses, comparing an angel to a dove, and a little boy to a reed, and calling upon the chief magistrate, in the name of the angel, or dove (the Princess Mary), in her tomb, and the little infant in his cradle, to spare a criminal, have received a “gracious answer” to his nonsense? Would he have ever despatched the nonsense? and would any journalist have been silly enough to talk of “the noble voice that could thus speak to the throne,” and the noble throne that could return such a noble answer to the noble voice? You get nothing done here gravely and decently. Tawdry stage tricks are played, and braggadocio claptraps uttered, on every occasion, however sacred or solemn: in the face of death, as by Barbés with his hideous Indian metaphor; in the teeth of reason, as by M. Victor Hugo with his twopenny-post poetry; and of justice, as by the King’s absurd reply to this absurd demand! Suppose the Count of Paris to be twenty times a reed, and the Princess Mary a host of angels, is that any reason why the law should not have its course? Justice is the God of our lower world, our great omnipresent guardian: as such it moves, or should move on majestic, awful, irresistible, having no passions– like a God: but, in the very midst of the path across which it is to pass, lo! M. Victor Hugo trips forward, smirking, and says, O divine Justice! I will trouble you to listen to the following trifling effusion of mine:–
Par votre ange envolée, ainsi qu’une,” &c.
Awful Justice stops, and, bowing gravely, listens to M. Hugo’s verses, and, with true French politeness, says, “Mon cher Monsieur, these verses are charming, ravissans, délicieux, and, coming from such a célébrité littéraire as yourself, shall meet with every possible attention–in fact, had I required anything to confirm my own previous opinions, this charming poem would have done so. Bon jour, mon cher Monsieur Hugo, au revoir!”–and they part:–Justice taking off his hat and bowing, and the author of “Ruy Blas” quite convinced that he has been treating with him d’égal en égal. I can hardly bring my mind to fancy that anything is serious in France– it seems to be all rant, tinsel, and stage-play. Sham liberty, sham monarchy, sham glory, sham justice,–où diable donc la vérité va-t-elle se nicher?
. . . . . .
The last rocket of the fête of July has just mounted, exploded, made a portentous bang, and emitted a gorgeous show of blue lights, and then (like many reputations) disappeared totally: the hundredth gun on the Invalid terrace has uttered its last roar–and a great comfort it is for eyes and ears that the festival is over. We shall be able to go about our everyday business again, and not be hustled by the gendarmes or the crowd.
The sight which I have just come away from is as brilliant, happy, and beautiful as can be conceived; and if you want to see French people to the greatest advantage, you should go to a festival like this, where their manners, and innocent gayety, show a very pleasing contrast to the coarse and vulgar hilarity which the same class would exhibit in our own country–at Epsom racecourse, for instance, or Greenwich Fair. The greatest noise that I heard was that of a company of jolly villagers from a place in the neighborhood of Paris, who, as soon as the fireworks were over, formed themselves into a line, three or four abreast, and so marched singing home. As for the fireworks, squibs and crackers are very hard to describe, and very little was to be seen of them: to me, the prettiest sight was the vast, orderly, happy crowd, the number of children, and the extraordinary care and kindness of the parents towards these little creatures. It does one good to see honest, heavy épiciers, fathers of families, playing with them in the Tuileries, or, as to-night, bearing them stoutly on their shoulders, through many long hours, in order that the little ones too may have their share of the fun. John Bull, I fear, is more selfish: he does not take Mrs. Bull to the public-house; but leaves her, for the most part, to take care of the children at home.
The fête, then, is over; the pompous black pyramid at the Louvre is only a skeleton now; all the flags have been miraculously whisked away during the night, and the fine chandeliers which glittered down the Champs Elysées for full half a mile, have been consigned to their dens and darkness. Will they ever be reproduced for other celebrations of the glorious 29th of July?–I think not; the Government which vowed that there should be no more persecutions of the press, was, on that very 29th, seizing a Legitimist paper, for some real or fancied offence against it: it had seized, and was seizing daily, numbers of persons merely suspected of being disaffected (and you may fancy how liberty is understood, when some of these prisoners, the other day, on coming to trial, were found guilty and sentenced to ONE day’s imprisonment, after THIRTY-SIX DAYS’ DETENTION ON SUSPICION). I think the Government which follows such a system, cannot be very anxious about any farther revolutionary fêtes, and that the Chamber may reasonably refuse to vote more money for them. Why should men be so mighty proud of having, on a certain day, cut a certain number of their fellow- countrymen’s throats? The Guards and the Line employed this time nine years did no more than those who cannonaded the starving Lyonnese, or bayoneted the luckless inhabitants of the Rue Transnounain:–they did but fulfil the soldier’s honorable duty:– his superiors bid him kill and he killeth:–perhaps, had he gone to his work with a little more heart, the result would have been different, and then–would the conquering party have been justified in annually rejoicing over the conquered? Would we have thought Charles X. justified in causing fireworks to be blazed, and concerts to be sung, and speeches to be spouted, in commemoration of his victory over his slaughtered countrymen?–I wish for my part they would allow the people to go about their business as on the other 362 days of the year, and leave the Champs Elysées free for the omnibuses to run, and the Tuileries’ in quiet, so that the nurse-maids might come as usual, and the newspapers be read for a halfpenny apiece.
Shall I trouble you with an account of the speculations of these latter, and the state of the parties which they represent? The complication is not a little curious, and may form, perhaps, a subject of graver disquisition. The July fêtes occupy, as you may imagine, a considerable part of their columns just now, and it is amusing to follow them one by one; to read Tweedledum’s praise, and Tweedledee’s indignation–to read, in the Débats how the King was received with shouts and loyal vivats–in the Nation, how not a tongue was wagged in his praise, but, on the instant of his departure, how the people called for the “Marseillaise” and applauded THAT.–But best say no more about the fête. The Legitimists were always indignant at it. The high Philippist party sneers at and despises it; the Republicans hate it: it seems a joke against THEM. Why continue it?–If there be anything sacred in the name and idea of loyalty, why renew this fête? It only shows how a rightful monarch was hurled from his throne, and a dexterous usurper stole his precious diadem. If there be anything noble in the memory of a day, when citizens, unused to war, rose against practised veterans, and, armed with the strength of their cause, overthrew them, why speak of it now? or renew the bitter recollections of the bootless struggle and victory? O Lafayette! O hero of two worlds! O accomplished Cromwell Grandison! you have to answer for more than any mortal man who has played a part in history: two republics and one monarchy does the world owe to you; and especially grateful should your country be to you. Did you not, in ’90, make clear the path for honest Robespierre, and in ’30, prepare the way for–
. . . . . .
[The Editor of the Bungay Beacon would insert no more of this letter, which is, therefore, for ever lost to the public.]
ON THE FRENCH SCHOOL OF PAINTING:
WITH APPROPRIATE ANECDOTES, ILLUSTRATIONS, AND PHILOSOPHICAL DISQUISITIONS.
IN A LETTER TO MR. MACGILP, OF LONDON.
The three collections of pictures at the Louvre, the Luxembourg, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts, contain a number of specimens of French art, since its commencement almost, and give the stranger a pretty fair opportunity to study and appreciate the school. The French list of painters contains some very good names–no very great ones, except Poussin (unless the admirers of Claude choose to rank him among great painters),–and I think the school was never in so flourishing a condition as it is at the present day. They say there are three thousand artists in this town alone: of these a handsome minority paint not merely tolerably, but well understand their business: draw the figure accurately; sketch with cleverness; and paint portraits, churches, or restaurateurs’ shops, in a decent manner.
To account for a superiority over England which, I think, as regards art, is incontestable–it must be remembered that the painter’s trade, in France, is a very good one; better appreciated, better understood, and, generally, far better paid than with us. There are a dozen excellent schools which a lad may enter here, and, under the eye of a practised master, learn the apprenticeship of his art at an expense of about ten pounds a year. In England there is no school except the Academy, unless the student can afford to pay a very large sum, and place himself under the tuition of some particular artist. Here, a young man, for his ten pounds, has all sorts of accessory instruction, models, &c.; and has further, and for nothing, numberless incitements to study his profession which are not to be found in England:–the streets are filled with picture-shops, the people themselves are pictures walking about; the churches, theatres, eating-houses, concert-rooms are covered with pictures: Nature itself is inclined more kindly to him, for the sky is a thousand times more bright and beautiful, and the sun shines for the greater part of the year. Add to this, incitements more selfish, but quite as powerful: a French artist is paid very handsomely; for five hundred a year is much where all are poor; and has a rank in society rather above his merits than below them, being caressed by hosts and hostesses in places where titles are laughed at and a baron is thought of no more account than a banker’s clerk.
The life of the young artist here is the easiest, merriest, dirtiest existence possible. He comes to Paris, probably at sixteen, from his province; his parents settle forty pounds a year on him, and pay his master; he establishes himself in the Pays Latin, or in the new quarter of Notre Dame de Lorette (which is quite peopled with painters); he arrives at his atelier at a tolerably early hour, and labors among a score of companions as merry and poor as himself. Each gentleman has his favorite tobacco-pipe; and the pictures are painted in the midst of a cloud of smoke, and a din of puns and choice French slang, and a roar of choruses, of which no one can form an idea who has not been present at such an assembly.
You see here every variety of coiffure that has ever been known. Some young men of genius have ringlets hanging over their shoulders–you may smell the tobacco with which they are scented across the street; some have straight locks, black, oily, and redundant; some have toupets in the famous Louis-Philippe fashion; some are cropped close; some have adopted the present mode–which he who would follow must, in order to do so, part his hair in the middle, grease it with grease, and gum it with gum, and iron it flat down over his ears; when arrived at the ears, you take the tongs and make a couple of ranges of curls close round the whole head,–such curls as you may see under a gilt three-cornered hat, and in her Britannic Majesty’s coachman’s state wig.
This is the last fashion. As for the beards, there is no end of them; all my friends the artists have beards who can raise them; and Nature, though she has rather stinted the bodies and limbs of the French nation, has been very liberal to them of hair, as you may see by the following specimen. Fancy these heads and beards under all sorts of caps–Chinese caps, Mandarin caps, Greek skull- caps, English jockey-caps, Russian or Kuzzilbash caps, Middle-age caps (such as are called, in heraldry, caps of maintenance), Spanish nets, and striped worsted nightcaps. Fancy all the jackets you have ever seen, and you have before you, as well as pen can describe, the costumes of these indescribable Frenchmen.
In this company and costume the French student of art passes his days and acquires knowledge; how he passes his evenings, at what theatres, at what guinguettes, in company with what seducing little milliner, there is no need to say; but I knew one who pawned his coat to go to a carnival ball, and walked abroad very cheerfully in his blouse for six weeks, until he could redeem the absent garment.
These young men (together with the students of sciences) comport themselves towards the sober citizen pretty much as the German bursch towards the philister, or as the military man, during the empire, did to the pékin:–from the height of their poverty they look down upon him with the greatest imaginable scorn–a scorn, I think, by which the citizen seems dazzled, for his respect for the arts is intense. The case is very different in England, where a grocer’s daughter would think she made a misalliance by marrying a painter, and where a literary man (in spite of all we can say against it) ranks below that class of gentry composed of the apothecary, the attorney, the wine-merchant, whose positions, in country towns at least, are so equivocal. As, for instance, my friend the Rev. James Asterisk, who has an undeniable pedigree, a paternal estate, and a living to boot, once dined in Warwickshire, in company with several squires and parsons of that enlightened county. Asterisk, as usual, made himself extraordinarily agreeable at dinner, and delighted all present with his learning and wit. “Who is that monstrous pleasant fellow?” said one of the squires. “Don’t you know?” replied another. “It’s Asterisk, the author of so-and-so, and a famous contributor to such and such a magazine.” “Good heavens!” said the squire, quite horrified! “a literary man! I thought he had been a gentleman!”
Another instance: M. Guizot, when he was Minister here, had the grand hotel of the Ministry, and gave entertainments to all the great de par le monde, as Brantôme says, and entertained them in a proper ministerial magnificence. The splendid and beautiful Duchess of Dash was at one of his ministerial parties; and went, a fortnight afterwards, as in duty bound, to pay her respects to M. Guizot. But it happened, in this fortnight, that M. Guizot was Minister no longer; having given up his portfolio, and his grand hotel, to retire into private life, and to occupy his humble apartments in the house which he possesses, and of which he lets the greater portion. A friend of mine was present at one of the ex-Minister’s soirées, where the Duchess of Dash made her appearance. He says the Duchess, at her entrance, seemed quite astounded, and examined the premises with a most curious wonder. Two or three shabby little rooms, with ordinary furniture, and a Minister en retraite, who lives by letting lodgings! In our country was ever such a thing heard of? No, thank heaven! and a Briton ought to be proud of the difference.
But to our muttons. This country is surely the paradise of painters and penny-a-liners; and when one reads of M. Horace Vernet at Rome, exceeding ambassadors at Rome by his magnificence, and leading such a life as Rubens or Titian did of old; when one sees M. Thiers’s grand villa in the Rue St. George (a dozen years ago he was not even a penny-a-liner: no such luck); when one contemplates, in imagination, M. Gudin, the marine painter, too lame to walk through the picture-gallery of the Louvre, accommodated, therefore, with a wheel-chair, a privilege of princes only, and accompanied– nay, for what I know, actually trundled–down the gallery by majesty itself–who does not long to make one of the great nation, exchange his native tongue for the melodious jabber of France; or, at least, adopt it for his native country, like Marshal Saxe, Napoleon, and Anacharsis Clootz? Noble people! they made Tom Paine a deputy; and as for Tom Macaulay, they would make a DYNASTY of him.
Well, this being the case, no wonder there are so many painters in France; and here, at least, we are back to them. At the Ecole Royale des Beaux Arts, you see two or three hundred specimens of their performances; all the prize-men, since 1750, I think, being bound to leave their prize sketch or picture. Can anything good come out of the Royal Academy? is a question which has been considerably mooted in England (in the neighborhood of Suffolk Street especially). The hundreds of French samples are, I think, not very satisfactory. The subjects are almost all what are called classical: Orestes pursued by every variety of Furies; numbers of little wolf-sucking Romuluses; Hectors and Andromaches in a complication of parting embraces, and so forth; for it was the absurd maxim of our forefathers, that because these subjects had been the fashion twenty centuries ago, they must remain so in saecula saeculorum; because to these lofty heights giants had scaled, behold the race of pigmies must get upon stilts and jump at them likewise! and on the canvas, and in the theatre, the French frogs (excuse the pleasantry) were instructed to swell out and roar as much as possible like bulls.
What was the consequence, my dear friend? In trying to make themselves into bulls, the frogs make themselves into jackasses, as might be expected. For a hundred and ten years the classical humbug oppressed the nation; and you may see, in this gallery of the Beaux Arts, seventy years’ specimens of the dulness which it engendered.
Now, as Nature made every man with a nose and eyes of his own, she gave him a character of his own too; and yet we, O foolish race! must try our very best to ape some one or two of our neighbors, whose ideas fit us no more than their breeches! It is the study of nature, surely, that profits us, and not of these imitations of her. A man, as a man, from a dustman up to Æschylus, is God’s work, and good to read, as all works of Nature are: but the silly animal is never content; is ever trying to fit itself into another shape; wants to deny its own identity, and has not the courage to utter its own thoughts. Because Lord Byron was wicked, and quarrelled with the world; and found himself growing fat, and quarrelled with his victuals, and thus, naturally, grew ill- humored, did not half Europe grow ill-humored too? Did not every poet feel his young affections withered, and despair and darkness cast upon his soul? Because certain mighty men of old could make heroical statues and plays, must we not be told that there is no other beauty but classical beauty?–must not every little whipster of a French poet chalk you out plays, “Henriades,” and such-like, and vow that here was the real thing, the undeniable Kalon?
The undeniable fiddlestick! For a hundred years, my dear sir, the world was humbugged by the so-called classical artists, as they now are by what is called the Christian art (of which anon); and it is curious to look at the pictorial traditions as here handed down. The consequence of them is, that scarce one of the classical pictures exhibited is worth much more than two-and-sixpence. Borrowed from statuary, in the first place, the color of the paintings seems, as much as possible, to participate in it; they are mostly of a misty, stony green, dismal hue, as if they had been painted in a world where no color was. In every picture, there are, of course, white mantles, white urns, white columns, white statues–those obligé accomplishments of the sublime. There are the endless straight noses, long eyes, round chins, short upper lips, just as they are ruled down for you in the drawing-books, as if the latter were the revelations of beauty, issued by supreme authority, from which there was no appeal? Why is the classical reign to endure? Why is yonder simpering Venus de’ Medicis to be our standard of beauty, or the Greek tragedies to bound our notions of the sublime? There was no reason why Agamemnon should set the fashions, and remain [Greek text omitted] to eternity: and there is a classical quotation, which you may have occasionally heard, beginning Vixere fortes, &c., which, as it avers that there were a great number of stout fellows before Agamemnon, may not unreasonably induce us to conclude that similar heroes were to succeed him. Shakspeare made a better man when his imagination moulded the mighty figure of Macbeth. And if you will measure Satan by Prometheus, the blind old Puritan’s work by that of the fiery Grecian poet, does not Milton’s angel surpass Æschylus’s–surpass him by “many a rood?”
In the same school of the Beaux Arts, where are to be found such a number of pale imitations of the antique, Monsieur Thiers (and he ought to be thanked for it) has caused to be placed a full-sized copy of “The Last Judgment” of Michel Angelo, and a number of casts from statues by the same splendid hand. There IS the sublime, if you please–a new sublime–an original sublime–quite as sublime as the Greek sublime. See yonder, in the midst of his angels, the Judge of the world descending in glory; and near him, beautiful and gentle, and yet indescribably august and pure, the Virgin by his side. There is the “Moses,” the grandest figure that ever was carved in stone. It has about it something frightfully majestic, if one may so speak. In examining this, and the astonishing picture of “The Judgment,” or even a single figure of it, the spectator’s sense amounts almost to pain. I would not like to be left in a room alone with the “Moses.” How did the artist live amongst them, and create them? How did he suffer the painful labor of invention? One fancies that he would have been scorched up, like Semele, by sights too tremendous for his vision to bear. One cannot imagine him, with our small physical endowments and weaknesses, a man like ourselves.