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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsSunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 30
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Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 30 Post by :ow24160 Category :Nonfictions Author :Harriet Beecher Stowe Date :May 2012 Read :2867

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Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 30


LONDON, June 3.


According to request I will endeavor to keep you informed of all our goings on after you left, up to the time of our departure for Paris.

We have borne in mind your advice to hasten away to the continent. C. wrote, a day or two since, to Mrs. C. at Paris, to secure very private lodgings, and by no means let any one know that we were coming. She has replied, urging us to come to her house, and promising entire seclusion and rest. So, since you departed, we have been passing with a kind of comprehensive skip and jump over remaining engagements. And first, the evening after you left, came off the presentation of the inkstand by the ladies of Surrey Chapel.

Our kind Mr. Sherman showed great taste as well as energy in the arrangements. The lecture room of the chapel was prettily adorned with flowers. Lord Shaftesbury was in the chair, and the Duchess of Argyle and the Marquis of Stafford were there. Miss Greenfield sang some songs, and there were speeches in which each speaker said all the obliging things he could think of to the rest. Rev. Mr. Binney complimented the nobility, and Lord Shaftesbury complimented the people, and all were but too kind in what they said to me--in fact, there was general good humor in the whole scene.

The inkstand is a beautiful specimen of silverwork. It is eighteen inches long, with a group of silver figures on it, representing Religion with the Bible in her hand, giving liberty to the slave. The slave is a masterly piece of work. He stands with his hands clasped, looking up to heaven, while a white man is knocking the shackles from his feet. But the prettiest part of the scene was the presentation of a _gold pen_, by a band of beautiful children, one of whom made a very pretty speech. I called the little things to come and stand around me, and talked with them a few minutes, and this was all the speaking that fell to my share. Now this, really, was too kind of these ladies, and of our brotherly friend Mr. S., and I was quite touched with it; especially as I have been able myself to do so very little, socially, for any body's pleasure. Mr. Sherman still has continued to be as thoughtful and careful as a brother could be; and his daughter, Mrs. B., I fear, has robbed her own family to give us the additional pleasure of her society. We rode out with her one day into the country, and saw her home and little family. Saturday morning we breakfasted at Stafford House, I wish you could have been there. All was as cool, and quiet, and still there, as in some retreat deep in the country. We went first into the duchess's boudoir,--you remember,--where is that beautiful crayon sketch of Lady Constance. The duchess was dressed in pale blue. We talked with her some time, before any one came in, about Miss Greenfield. I showed her a simple note to her grace in which Miss G. tried to express her gratitude, and which she had sent to me to _correct for her. The duchess said, "0, give it me! it is a great deal better as it is. I like it just as she wrote it."

People always like simplicity and truth better than finish. After entering the breakfast room the Duke and Duchess of Argyle, and Lord Carlisle appeared, and soon after Lord Shaftesbury. We breakfasted in that beautiful green room which has the two statues, the Eve of Thorwaldsen and the Venus of Canova. The view of the gardens and trees from the window gave one a sense of seclusion and security, and made me forget that we were in great, crowded London. A pleasant talk we had. Among other things they proposed various inquiries respecting affairs in America, particularly as to the difference between Presbyterians and Congregationalists, the influence of the Assembly's Catechism, and the peculiarities of the other religious denominations.

The Duke of Argyle, who is a Presbyterian, seemed to feel an interest in those points. He said it indicated great power in the Assembly's Catechism that it could hold such ascendency in such a free country.

In the course of the conversation it was asked if there was really danger that the antislavery spirit of England would excite ill feeling between the two countries.

I said, were it possible that America were always to tolerate and defend slavery, this might be. But this would be self-destruction. It cannot, must not, will not be. We shall struggle, and shall overcome; and when the victory has been gained we shall love England all the more for her noble stand in the conflict. As I said this I happened to turn to the duchess, and her beautiful face was lighted with such a strong, inspired, noble expression, as set its seal at once in my heart.

Lord Carlisle is going to Constantinople to-morrow, or next day, to be gone perhaps a year. The eastern question is much talked of now, and the chances of war between Russia and Turkey.

Lord Shaftesbury is now all-engaged upon the _fete of the seven thousand charity children, which is to come off at St. Paul's next Thursday.

The Duchesses of Sutherland and Argyle were to have attended, but the queen has just come to town, and the first drawing room will be held on Thursday, so that they will be unable. His lordship had previously invited me, and this morning renewed the invitation. Our time to leave London is fixed for Friday; but, as I am told, there is no sight more peculiar and beautiful than this _fete_, and I think I can manage both to go there and be forward with my preparations.

In the afternoon of this day I went with Lord Shaftesbury over the model lodging houses, which I have described very particularly in a letter to Mr. C. L. B.

On Thursday, at five P. M., we drove to Stafford House, to go with her grace to the House of Parliament. What a magnificent building! I say so, in contempt of all criticism. I hear that all sorts of things are said against it. For my part, I consider that no place is so utterly hopeless as that of a modern architect intrusted with a great public building. It is not his fault that he is modern, but his misfortune. Things which in old buildings are sanctioned by time he may not attempt; and if he strikes out _new things, that is still worse. He is fair game for every body's criticism. He builds too high for one, too low for another; is too ornate for this, too plain for that; he sacrifices utility to aesthetics, or aesthetics to utility, and somebody is displeased either way. The duchess has been a sympathizing friend of the architect through this arduous ordeal. She took pleasure and pride in his work, and showed it to me as something in which she felt an almost personal interest.

For my part, I freely confess that, viewed as a national monument, it seems to me a grand one. What a splendid historic corridor is old Westminster Hall, with its ancient oaken roof! I seemed to see all that brilliant scene when Burke spoke there amid the nobility, wealth, and fashion of all England, in the Warren Hastings trial. That speech always makes me shudder. I think there never was any thing more powerful than its conclusion. Then the corridor that is to be lined with statues of the great men of England will be a noble affair. The statue of Hampden is grand. Will they leave out Cromwell? There is less need of a monument to him, it is true, than to most of them. We went into the House of Lords. The Earl of Carlisle made a speech on the Cuban question, in the course of which he alluded very gracefully to a petition from certain ladies that England should enforce the treaties for the prevention of the slave trade there; and spoke very feelingly on the reasons why woman should manifest a particular interest for the oppressed. The Duke of Argyle and the Bishop of Oxford came over to the place where we were sitting. Her grace intimated to the bishop a desire to hear from him on the question, and in the course of a few moments after returning to his place, he arose and spoke. He has a fine voice, and speaks very elegantly.

At last I saw Lord Aberdeen. He looks like some of our Presbyterian elders; a plain, grave old man, with a bald head, and dressed in black; by the by, I believe I have heard that he is an elder in the National kirk; I am told he is a very good man. You don't know how strangely and dreamily this House of Lords, as _seen to-day, mixed itself up with my historic recollections of by-gone days. It had a very sheltered, comfortable parlor-like air. The lords in their cushioned seats seemed like men that had met, in a social way, to talk over public affairs; it was not at all that roomy, vast, declamatory national hall I had imagined.

Then we went into the House of Commons. There is a kind of latticed gallery to which ladies are admitted--a charming little oriental rookery. There we found the Duchess of Argyle and others. Lord Carlisle afterwards joined us, and we went all over the house, examining the frescoes, looking into closets, tea rooms, libraries, smoking rooms, committee rooms, and all, till I was thoroughly initiated. The terrace that skirts the Thames is magnificent. I inquired if any but members might enjoy it. No; it was only for statesmen; our short promenade there was, therefore, an act of grace.

On the whole, when this Parliament House shall have gathered the dust of two hundred years,--when Victoria's reign is among the myths,--future generations will then venerate this building as one of the rare creations of old masters, and declare that no modern structure can ever equal it.

The next day, at three o'clock, I went to Miss Greenfield's first public morning concert, a bill of which I send you. She comes out under the patronage of all the great names, you observe. Lady Hatherton was there, and the Duchess of Sutherland, with all her daughters.

Miss Greenfield did very well, and was heard with indulgence, though surrounded by artists who had enjoyed what she had not--a life's training. I could not but think what a loss to art is the enslaving of a race which might produce so much musical talent. Had she had culture equal to her voice and ear, _no singer of any country could have surpassed her. There could even be associations of poetry thrown around the dusky hue of her brow were it associated with the triumphs of art.

After concert, the Duchess of S. invited Lady H. and myself to Stafford House. We took tea in the green library. Lady C. Campbell was there, and her Grace of Argyle. After tea I saw the Duchess of S. a little while alone in her boudoir, and took my leave then and there of one as good and true-hearted as beautiful and noble.

The next day I lunched with Mrs. Malcolm, daughter-in-law of your favorite traveller, Sir John Malcolm, of Persian memory. You should have been there. The house is a cabinet of Persian curiosities. There was the original of the picture of the King of Persia in Ker Porter's Travels. It was given to Sir John by the monarch himself. There were also two daggers which the king presented with his own hand. I think Sir John must somehow have mesmerized him. Then Captain M. showed me sketches of his father's country house in the Himalaya Mountains: think of that! The Alps are commonplace; but a country seat in the Himalaya Mountains is something worth speaking of. There were two bricks from Babylon, and other curiosities innumerable.

Mrs. M. went with me to call on Lady Carlisle. She spoke much of the beauty and worth of her character, and said that though educated in the gayest circles of court, she had always preserved the same unworldly purity. Mrs. M. has visited Dunrobin and seen the Sutherland estates, and spoke much of the Duke's character as a landlord, and his efforts for the improvement of his tenantry.

Lady Carlisle was very affectionate, and invited me to visit Castle Howard on my return to England.

Thursday I went with Lord Shaftesbury to see the charity children. What a sight! The whole central part of the cathedral was converted into an amphitheatre, and the children with white caps, white handkerchiefs, and white aprons, looked like a wide flower bed. The rustling, when they all rose up to prayer, was like the rise of a flock of doves, and when they chanted the church service, it was the warble of a thousand little brooks. As Spenser says,--

"The angelical, soft, trembling voices made
Unto the instruments respondence meet."

During the course of the services, when any little one was overcome with sleep or fatigue, he was carefully handed down, and conveyed in a man's arms to a refreshment room.

There was a sermon by the Bishop of Chester, very evangelical and practical. On the whole, a more peculiar or more lovely scene I never saw. The elegant arches of St. Paul's could have no more beautiful adornment than those immortal flowers.

After service we lunched with a large party, with Mrs. Milman, at the deanery near by. Mrs. Jameson was there, and Mrs. Gaskell, authoress of Mary Barton and Ruth. She has a very lovely, gentle face, and looks capable of all the pathos that her writings show. I promised her a visit when I go to Manchester. Thackeray was there with his fine figure, and frank, cheerful bearing. He spoke in a noble and brotherly way of America, and seemed to have highly enjoyed his visit in our country.

After this we made a farewell call at the lord mayor's. We found the lady mayoress returned from the queen's drawing room. From her accounts I should judge the ceremonial rather fatiguing. Mrs. M. asked me yesterday if I had any curiosity to see one. I confessed I had not. Merely to see public people in public places, in the way of parade and ceremony, was never interesting to me. I have seen very little of ceremony or show in England. Well, now, I have brought you down to this time. I have omitted, however, that I went with Lady Hatherton to call on Mr. and Mrs. Dickens, and was sorry to find him too unwell to be able to see us. Mrs. Dickens, who was busy in attending him, also excused herself, and we saw his sister.

To-morrow we go--go to quiet, to obscurity, to peace; to Paris--to Switzerland: there we shall find the loneliest glen, and, as the Bible says, "fall on sleep." For our adventures on the way, meanwhile, I refer you to C.'s journal.


June 4, 1853. Bade adieu with regret to dear Surrey parsonage, and drove to the great south-western station house.

"Paris?" said an official at our cab door. "Paris, by Folkestone and Boulogne," was our answer. And in a few moments, without any inconvenience, we were off. Reached Folkestone at nine, and enjoyed a smooth passage across the dreaded channel. The steward's bowls were paraded in vain. At Boulogne came the long-feared and abhorred ordeal of passports and police. It was nothing. We slipped through quite easily. A narrow ladder, the quay, gens-d'armes, a hall, a crowd, three whiskers, a glance at the passport, the unbuckling of a bundle, _voila tout_. The moment we issued forth, however, upon the quay again, there was a discharge of forty voices shouting in French. For a moment, completely stunned, I forgot where we were, which way going, and what we wanted. Up jumped a lively little _gamin_.

"_Monsieur veut aller a Pan's, n'est ce pas?_" "Going to Paris, are you not, sir?"


"Is monsieur's baggage registered?"


"Does monsieur's wish to go to the station house?"

"Can one find any thing there to eat?"

"Yes, just as at a hotel."

We yielded at discretion, and _garcon took possession of us.

"English?" said _garcon_, as we enjoyed the pleasant walk on the sunny quay.

"No. American," we replied.

"Ah!" (his face brightening up, and speaking confidentially,) "you have a republic there."

We gave the lad a franc, dined, and were off for Paris. The ride was delightful. Cars seating eight; clean, soft-cushioned, _nice_. The face of the country, though not striking, was pleasing. There were many poplars, with their silvery shafts, and a mingling of trees of various kinds. The foliage has an airy grace--a certain _spirituelle expression--as if the trees knew they were growing in _la belle France_, and must be refined. Then the air is so different from the fog and smoke of London. There is more oxygen in the atmosphere. A pall is lifted. We are led out into sunshine. Fields are red with a scarlet white-edged poppy, or blue with a flower like larkspur. Wheat fields half covered with this unthrifty beauty! But alas! the elasticity is in Nature's works only. The works of man breathe over us a dismal, sepulchral, stand-still feeling. The villages have the nightmare, and men wear wooden shoes. The day's ride, however, was memorable with novelty; and when we saw Mont Martre, and its moth-like windmills, telling us we were coming to Paris, it was almost with regret at the swiftness of the hours. We left the cars, and flowed with the tide into the Salle d'Attente, to wait till the baggage was sorted. Then came the famous ceremony of unlocking. The officer took my carpet bag first, and poked his hand down deep in one end.

"What is this?"

"That is my collar box."

"_Ah, ca_" And he put it back hastily, and felt of my travelling gown. "What is this?"

"Only a wrapping gown."

"_Ah, ca_" After fumbling a little more, he took sister H.'s bag, gave a dive here, a poke there, and a kind of promiscuous rake with his five fingers, and turned to the trunk. There he seemed somewhat dubious. Eying the fine silk and lace dresses,--first one, then the other,--"Ah, ah!" said he, and snuffed a little. Then he peeped under this corner, and cocked his eye under that corner; then, all at once, plunged his arm down at one end of the trunk, and brought up a little square box. "What's that?" said he. He unrolled and was about to open it, when suddenly he seemed to be seized with an emotion of confidence. "_Non, non_" said he, frankly, and rolled it up, shoved it back, stuffed the things down, smoothed all over, signed my ticket, and passed on. We locked up, gave the baggage to porters, and called a fiacre. As we left the station two ladies met us.

"Is there any one here expecting to see Mrs. C.?" said one of them.

"Yes, madam," said I; "_we do."

"God bless you," said she, fervently, and seized me by the hand. It was Mrs. C. and her sister. I gave He into their possession.

Our troubles were over. We were at home. We rode through streets whose names were familiar, crossed the Carrousel, passed the Seine, and stopped before an ancient mansion in the Hue de Verneuil, belonging to M. le Marquis de Brige. This Faubourg St. Germain is the part of Paris where the ancient nobility lived, and the houses exhibit marks of former splendor. The marquis is one of those chivalrous legitimists who uphold the claims of Henri VI. He lives in the country, and rents this hotel. Mrs. C. occupies the suite of rooms on the lower floor. We entered by a ponderous old gateway, opened by the _concierge_, passed through a large paved quadrangle, traversed a short hall, and found ourselves in a large, cheerful parlor, looking out into a small flower garden. There was no carpet, but what is called here a parquet floor, or mosaic of oak blocks, waxed and highly polished. The sofas and chairs were covered with a light chintz, and the whole air of the apartment shady and cool as a grotto. A jardiniere filled with flowers stood in the centre of the room, and around it a group of living flowers--mother, sisters, and daughters--scarcely less beautiful. In five minutes we were at home. French life is different from any other. Elsewhere you do as the world pleases; here you do as you please yourself. My spirits always rise when I get among the French.

Sabbath, June 5. Headache all the forenoon. In the afternoon we walked to the Madeleine, and heard a sermon on charity; listened to the chanting, and gazed at the fantastic ceremonial of the altar. I had anticipated so much from Henry's description of the organs, that I was disappointed. The music was fine; but our ideal had outstripped the real. The strangest part of the performance was the censer swinging at the altar. It was done in certain parts of the chant, with rhythmic sweep, and glitter, and vapor wreath, that produced a striking effect. There was an immense audience--quiet, orderly, and to all appearance devout. This was the first Romish service I ever attended. It ought to be impressive here, if any where. Yet I cannot say I was moved by it Rome-ward. Indeed, I felt a kind of Puritan tremor of conscience at witnessing such a theatrical pageant on the Sabbath. We soon saw, however, as we walked home, across the gardens of the Tuileries, that there is no Sabbath in Paris, according to our ideas of the day.

Monday, June 6. This day was consecrated to knick-knacks. Accompanied by Mrs. C., whom years of residence have converted into a perfect _Parisienne_, we visited shop after shop, and store after store. The politeness of the shopkeepers is inexhaustible. I felt quite ashamed to spend a half hour looking at every thing, and then depart without buying; but the civil Frenchman bowed, and smiled, and thanked us for coming.

In the evening, we rode to L'Arc de Triomphe d'Etoile, an immense pile of massive masonry, from the top of which we enjoyed a brilliant panorama. Paris was beneath us, from the Louvre to the Bois de Boulogne, with its gardens, and moving myriads; its sports, and games, and light-hearted mirth--a vast Vanity Fair, blazing in the sunlight. A deep and strangely-blended impression of sadness and gayety sunk into our hearts as we gazed. All is vivacity, gracefulness, and sparkle, to the eye; but ah, what fires are smouldering below! Are not all these vines rooted in the lava and ashes of the volcano side?

Tuesday, June 7. _A la Louvre_! But first the ladies must "shop" a little. I sit by the counter and watch the pretty Parisian _shopocracy_. A lady presides at the desk. Trim little grisettes serve the customers so deftly, that we wonder why awkward men should ever attempt to do such things. Nay, they are so civil, so evidently disinterested and solicitous for your welfare, that to buy is the most natural thing imaginable.

But to the Louvre! Provided with catalogues, I abandoned the ladies, and strolled along to take a kind of cream-skimming look at the whole. I was highly elated with one thing. There were three Madonnas with dark hair and eyes: one by Murillo, another by Carracci, and another by Guido. It showed that painters were not so utterly hopeless as a class, and given over by common sense to blindness of mind, as I had supposed.

H. begins to recant her heresy in regard to Rubens. Here we find his largest pieces. Here we find the real originals of several real originals we saw in English galleries. It seems as though only upon a picture as large as the side of a parlor could his exuberant genius find scope fully to lay itself out.

When I met II. at last--after finishing the survey--her cheek was flushed, and her eye seemed to swim. "Well, H.," said I, "have you drank deep enough this time?"

"Yes," said she, "I have been _satisfied_, for the first time."

Wednesday, June 8. A day on foot in Paris. Surrendered H. to the care of our fair hostess. Attempted to hire a boat, at one of the great bathing establishments, for a pull on the Seine. Why not on the Seine, as well as on the Thames? But the old Triton demurred. The tide _marched too strong--"_Il marche trop fort._" Onward, then, along the quays; visiting the curious old book stalls, picture stands, and flower markets. Lean over the parapet, and gaze upon this modern Euphrates, rushing between solid walls of masonry through the heart of another Babylon. The river is the only thing not old. These waters are as turbid, tumultuous, unbridled, as when forests covered all these banks--fit symbol of peoples and nations in their mad career, generation after generation. Institutions, like hewn granite, may wall them in, and vast arches span their flow, and hierarchies domineer over the tide; but the scorning waters burst into life unchangeable, and sweep impetuous through the heart of Vanity Fair, and dash out again into the future, the same grand, ungovernable Euphrates stream. I do not wonder Egypt adored her Nile, and Rome her Tiber. Surely, the life artery of Paris is this Seine beneath my feet! And there is no scene like this, as I gaze upward and downward, comprehending, in a glance, the immense panorama of art and architecture--life, motion, enterprise, pleasure, pomp, and power. Beautiful Paris! What city in the world can compare with thee?

And is it not chiefly because, either by accident or by instinctive good taste, her treasures of beauty and art are so disposed along the Seine as to be visible at a glance to the best effect? As the instinct of the true Parisienne teaches her the mystery of setting off the graces of her person by the fascinations of dress, so the instinct of the nation to set off the city by the fascinations of architecture and embellishment. Hence a chief superiority of Paris to London. The Seine is straight, and its banks are laid out in broad terraces on either side, called _quais, lined with her stateliest palaces and gardens. The Thames forms an elbow, and is enveloped in dense smoke and fog. London lowers; the Seine sparkles; London shuts down upon the Thames, and there is no point of view for the whole river panorama. Paris rises amphitheatrically, on either side the Seine, and the eye from the Pont d'Austerlitz seems to fly through the immense reach like an arrow, casting its shadow on every thing of beauty or grandeur Paris possesses.

Rapidly now I sped onward, paying brief visits to the Palais de Justice, the Hotel de Ville, and spending a cool half hour in Notre Dame. I love to sit in these majestic fanes, abstracting them from the superstition which does but desecrate them, and gaze upward to their lofty, vaulted arches, to drink in the impression of architectual sublimity, which I can neither analyze nor express. Cathedrals do not seem to me to have been built. They seem, rather, stupendous growths of nature, like crystals, or cliffs of basalt. There is little ornament here. That roof looks plain and bare; yet I feel that the air is dense with sublimity. Onward I sped, crossing a bridge by the Hotel Dieu, and, leaving the river, plunged into narrow streets. Explored a quadrangular market; surveyed the old church of St Genevieve, and the new--now the Pantheon; went onward to the Jardin des Plantes, and explored its tropical bowers. Many things remind me to-day of New Orleans, and its levee, its Mississippi, its cathedral, and the luxuriant vegetation of the gulf. In fact, I seem to be walking in my sleep in a kind of glorified New Orleans, all the while. Yet I return to the gardens of the Tuileries and the Place Vendome, and in the shadow of Napoleon's Column the illusion vanishes. Hundreds of battles look down upon me from their blazonry.

In the evening I rested from the day's fatigue by an hour in the garden of the Palais Royal. I sat by one of the little tables, and called for an ice. There were hundreds of ladies and gentlemen eating ices, drinking wine, reading the papers, smoking, chatting; scores of pretty children were frolicking and enjoying the balmy evening. Here six or eight midgets were jumping the rope, while papa and mamma swung it for them. Pretty little things, with their flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes, how they did seem to enjoy themselves! What parent was ever far from home that did not espy in every group of children his own little ones--his Mary or his Nelly, his Henry or Charlie? So it was with me. There was a ring of twenty or thirty singing and dancing, with a smaller ring in the centre, while old folks and boys stood outside. But I heard not a single oath, nor saw a rough or rude action, during the whole time I was there. The boys standing by looked on quietly, like young gentlemen. The best finale of such a toilsome day of sightseeing was a warm bath in the Rue du Bac, for the trifling sum of fifteen sous. The cheapness and convenience of bathing here is a great recommendation of Paris life. They will bring you a hot bath at your house for twenty-five cents, and that without bustle or disorder. And nothing so effectually as an evening bath, as my experience testifies, cures fatigue and propitiates to dreamless slumber.

Thursday, June 9. At the Louvre. Studied three statues half an hour each--the Venus Victrix, Polyhymnia, and Gladiateur Combattant. The first is mutilated; but if _disarmed she conquers all hearts, what would she achieve in full panoply? As to the Gladiator, I noted as follows on my catalogue: A pugilist; antique, brown with age; attitude, leaning forward; left hand raised on guard, right hand thrown out back, ready to strike a side blow; right leg bent; straight line from the head to the toe of left foot; muscles and veins most vividly revealed in intense development; a wonderful _petrifaction, as if he had been smitten to stone at the instant of striking.

Here are antique mosaics, in which colored stones seem liquefied, realizing the most beautiful effects of painting--quadrigae, warriors, arms, armor, vases, streams, all lifelike. Ascending to the hall of French paintings I spent an hour in studying one picture--La Meduse, by Gericault. It is a shipwrecked crew upon a raft in mid ocean. I gazed until all surrounding objects disappeared, and I was alone upon the wide Atlantic. Those transparent emerald waves are no fiction; they leap madly, hungering for their prey. That distended sail is filled with the lurid air. That dead man's foot hangs off in the seething brine a stark reality. What a fixed gaze of despair in that father's stony eye! What a group of deathly living ones around that frail mast, while one with intense eagerness flutters a signal to some far-descried bark! Coleridge's Ancient Mariner has no colors more fearfully faithful to his theme. Heaven pities them not. Ocean is all in uproar against them. And there is no voice that can summon the distant, flying sail! So France appeared to that prophet painter's eye, in the subsiding tempests of the revolution. So men's hearts failed them for fear, and the dead lay stark and stiff among the living, amid the sea and the waves roaring; and so mute signals of distress were hung out in the lurid sky to nations afar.

For my part, I remain a heretic. Give to these French pictures the mellowing effects of age, impregnating not merely the picture, but the eye that gazes on it, with its subtle quality; let them be gazed at through the haze of two hundred years, and they will--or I cannot see why they will not--rival the productions of any past age. I do not believe that a more powerful piece ever was painted than yon raft by Gericault, nor any more beautiful than several in the Luxembourg; the "Decadence de Rome," for example, exhibiting the revels of the Romans during the decline of the empire. Let this Decadence unroll before the eyes of men the _cause_, that wreck by Gericault symbolize the _effect_, in the great career of nations, and the two are sublimely matched.

After visiting the Luxembourg, I resorted to the gardens of the Tuileries. The thermometer was at about eighty degrees in the shade. From the number of people assembled one would have thought, if it had been in the United States, that some great mass convention was coming off. Under the impenetrable screen of the trees, in the dark, cool, refreshing shade, are thousands of chairs, for which one pays two cents apiece. Whole families come, locking up their door, bringing the baby, work, dinner, or lunch, take a certain number of chairs, and spend the day. As far as eye can reach you see a multitude seated, as if in church, with other multitudes moving to and fro, while boys and girls without number are frolicking, racing, playing ball, driving hoop, &c., but contriving to do it without making a hideous racket. How French children are taught to play and enjoy themselves without disturbing every body else, is a mystery. "_C'est gentil_" seems to be a talismanic spell; and "_Ce n'est pas gentil ca_" is sufficient to check every rising irregularity. O that some _savant would write a book and tell us how it is done! I gazed for half an hour on the spectacle. A more charming sight my eyes never beheld. There were grayheaded old men, and women, and invalids; and there were beautiful demoiselles working worsted, embroidery, sewing; men reading papers; and, in fact, people doing every thing they would do in their own parlors. And all were graceful, kind, and obliging; not a word nor an act of impoliteness or indecency. No wonder the French adore Paris, thought I; in no other city in the world is a scene like this possible! No wonder that their hearts die within them at thoughts of exile in the fens of Cayenne!

But under all this there lie, as under the cultivated crust of this fair world, deep abysses of soul, where volcanic masses of molten lava surge and shake the tremulous earth. In the gay and bustling Boulevards, a friend, an old resident of Paris, poised out to me, as we rode, the bullet marks that scarred the houses--significant tokens of what seems, but is not, forgotten.

At sunset a military band of about seventy performers began playing in front of the Tuileries. They formed an immense circle, the leader in the centre. He played the octave flute, which also served as a baton for marking time. The music was characterized by delicacy, precision, suppression, and subjugation of rebellious material.

I imagined a congress of horns, clarinets, trumpets, &c., conversing in low tones on some important theme; nay, rather a conspiracy of instruments, mourning between whiles their subjugation, and ever and anon breaking out in a fierce _emeute_, then repressed, hushed, dying away; as if they had heard of Baron Munchausen's frozen horn, and had conceived the idea of yielding their harmonies without touch of human lips, yet were sighing and sobbing at their impotence. Perhaps I detected the pulses of a nation's palpitating heart, throbbing for liberty, but trodden down, and sobbing in despair.

In the evening Mrs. C. had her _salon_, a fashion of receiving one's friends on a particular night, that one wishes could be transplanted to American soil.

No invitations are given. It is simply understood that on such an evening, the season through, a lady _receives her friends. All come that please, without ceremony. A little table is set out with tea and a plate of cake. Behind it presides some fairy Emma or Elizabeth, dispensing tea and talk, bonbons and bon-mots, with equal grace. The guests enter, chat, walk about, spend as much time, or as little, as they choose, and retire. They come when they please, and go when they please, and there is no notice taken of entree or exit, no time wasted in formal greetings and leave takings.

Up to this hour we had conversed little in French. One is naturally diffident at first; for if one musters courage to commence a conversation with propriety, the problem is how to escape a Scylla in the second and a Charybdis in the third sentence. Said one of our fair entertainers, "When I first began I would think of some sentence till I could say it without stopping, and courageously deliver myself to some guest or acquaintance." But it was like pulling the string of a shower bath. Delighted at my correct sentence, and supposing me _au fait_, they poured upon me such a deluge of French that I held my breath in dismay. Considering, however, that nothing is to be gained by half-way measures, I resolved upon a desperate game. Launching in, I talked away right and left, up hill and down,--jumping over genders, cases, nouns, and adjectives, floundering through swamps and morasses, in a perfect steeple chase of words. Thanks to the proverbial politeness of my friends, I came off covered with glory; the more mistakes I made the more complacent they grew.

Nothing can surpass the ease, facility, and genial freedom of these _soirees_. Conceive of our excellent professor of Arabic and Sanscrit, Count M. fairly cornered by three wicked fairies, and laughing at their stories and swift witticisms till the tears roll down his cheeks. Behold yonder tall and scarred veteran, an old soldier of Napoleon, capitulating now before the witchery of genius and wit. Here the noble Russian exile forgets his sorrows in those smiles that, unlike the aurora, warm while they dazzle. And our celebrated composer is discomposed easily by alert and nimble-footed mischief. And our professor of Greek and Hebrew roots is rooted to the ground with astonishment at finding himself put through all the moods and tenses of fun in a twinkling. Ah, culpable sirens, if the pangs ye have inflicted were reckoned up unto you,--the heart aches and side aches,--how could ye repose o' nights?

Saturday, June 11. Versailles! When I have written that one word I have said all. I ought to stop. Description is out of the question. Describe nine miles of painting! Describe visions of splendor and gorgeousness that cannot be examined in months! Suffice it to say that we walked from hall to hall until there was no more soul left within us. Then, late in the afternoon we drove away, about three miles, to the villa of M. Belloc, _directeur de l'Ecole Imperials de Dessein_. Madame Belloc has produced, assisted by her friend, Mademoiselle Montgolfier, the best French translation of Uncle Tom's Cabin. At this little family party we enjoyed ourselves exceedingly, in the heart of genuine domestic life. Two beautiful married daughters were there, with their husbands, and the household seemed complete. Madame B. speaks English well; and thus, with our limited French, we got on delightfully together. I soon discovered that I had been sinning against all law in admiring any thing at Versailles. They were all bad paintings. There might be one or two good paintings at the Luxembourg, and one or two good modern paintings at the Louvre--the Meduse, by Gericault, for example: (How I rejoiced that I had admired it!) But all the rest of the modern paintings M. Belloc declared, with an inimitable shrug, are poor paintings. There is nothing safely admirable, I find, but the old masters. All those battles of all famous French generals, from Charles Hartel to Napoleon, and the battles in Algiers, by Horace Yernet, are wholly to be snuffed at. In painting, as in theology, age is the criterion of merit. Yet Vernet's paintings, though decried by M. le Directeur, I admired, and told him so. Said I, in French as lawless as the sentiment, "Monsieur, I do not know the rules of painting, nor whether the picture is according to them or not; I only know that I like it."

But who shall describe the social charms of our dinner? All wedged together, as we were, in the snuggest little pigeon hole of a dining room, pretty little chattering children and all, whom papa held upon his knee and fed with bonbons, all the while impressing upon them the absolute necessity of their leaving the table! There the salad was mixed by acclamation, each member of the party adding a word of advice, and each, gayly laughing at the advice of the other. There a gay, red lobster was pulled in pieces among us, with infinite gout; and Madame Belloc pathetically expressed her fears that we did not like French cooking. She might have saved herself the trouble; for we take to it as naturally as ducks take to the water. And then, when we returned to the parlor, we resolved ourselves into a committee of the whole on coffee, which was concocted in a trim little hydrostatic engine of latest modern invention, before the faces of all. And so we right merrily spent the evening. H. discussed poetry and art with our kind hosts to her heart's content, and at a late hour we drove to the railroad, and returned to Paris.

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Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 31 Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 31

Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 31
LETTER XXXIMY DEAR L.:--At last I have come into dreamland; into the lotus-eater's paradise; into the land where it is always afternoon. I am released from care; I am unknown, unknowing; I live in a house whose arrangements seem to me strange, old, and dreamy. In the heart of a great city I am as still as if in a convent; in the burning heats of summer our rooms are shadowy and cool as a cave. My time is all my own. I may at will lie on a sofa, and dreamily watch the play of the leaves and flowers, in

Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 29 Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 29

Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 29
LETTER XXIXDEAR FATHER:--I wish in this letter to give you a brief view of the movements in this country for the religious instruction and general education of the masses. If we compare the tone of feeling now prevalent with that existing but a few years back, we notice a striking change. No longer ago than in the time of Lady Huntington we find a lady of quality ingenuously confessing that her chief source of scepticism in regard to Christianity was, that it actually seemed to imply that the educated, the refined, the noble, must needs be saved by the same Savior