Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsSunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 48
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 48 Post by :simkl Category :Nonfictions Author :Harriet Beecher Stowe Date :May 2012 Read :1455

Click below to download : Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 48 (Format : PDF)

Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 48

LETTER XLVIII

PARIS, Saturday, August 20.

MY DEAR:--

I am seated in my snug little room at M. Belloc's. The weather is overpoweringly hot, but these Parisian houses seem to have seized and imprisoned coolness. French household ways are delightful. I like their seclusion from the street, by these deep-paved quadrangles. I like these cool, smooth, waxed floors so much that I one day queried with my friends, the C.'s, whether we could not introduce them into America. L., who is a Yankee housekeeper, answered, with spirit, "No, indeed; not while the mistress of the house has every thing to do, as in America; I think I see myself, in addition to all my cares, on my knees, waxing up one of these floors."

"Ah," says Caroline, "the thing is managed better in Paris; the _frotteur comes in before we are up in the morning, shod with great brushes, and dances over the floors till they shine."

"I am sure," said I, "here is Fourrier's system in one particular. We enjoy the floors, and the man enjoys the dancing."

Madame Belloc had fitted up my room with the most thoughtful care. A large bouquet adorns the table; fancy writing materials are displayed; and a waiter, with sirups and an extempore soda fount, one of Parisian household refinements, stands just at my elbow. Above all, my walls are hung with beautiful engravings from Claude and Zuccarelli.

This house pertains to the government, and is held by M. Belloc in virtue of his situation as director of the Imperial School of Design, to which institution about one half of it is devoted. A public examination is at hand, in preparing for which M. Belloc is heart and soul engaged. This school is a government provision for the gratuitous instruction of the working classes in art. I went into the rooms where the works of the scholars are arranged for the inspection of the judges. The course of instruction is excellent--commencing with the study of nature. Around the room various plants are growing, which serve for models, interspersed with imitations in drawing or modelling, by the pupils. I noticed a hollyhock and thistle, modelled with singular accuracy. As some pupils can come only at evening, M. Belloc has prepared a set of casts of plants, which he says are plaster daguerreotypes. By pouring warm gelatine upon a leaf, a delicate mould is made, from which these casts are taken. He showed me bunches of leaves, and branches of the vine, executed by them, which were beautiful. In like manner the pupil commences the study of the human figure, with the skeleton, which he copies bone by bone. Gutta percha muscles are added in succession, till finally he has the whole form. Besides, each student has particular objects given him to study for a certain period, after which he copies them from memory. The same course is pursued with prints and engravings.

When an accurate knowledge of forms is gained, the pupil receives lessons in combination. Such subjects as these are given: a vase of flowers, a mediaeval or classic vase, shields, Helmets, escutcheons, &c., of different styles. The first prize composition was a hunting frieze, modelled, in which were introduced fanciful combinations of leaf and scroll work, dogs, hunters, and children. Figures of almost every animal and plant were modelled; the drawings and modellings from memory were wonderful, and showed, in their combination, great richness of fancy. Scattered about the room were casts of the best classic figures of the Louvre, placed there, as M. Belloc gracefully remarked, not as models, but as inspirations, to cultivate the sense of beauty.

I was shown, moreover, their books of mathematical studies, which looked intricate and learned, but of which I appreciated only the delicate chirography. "And where," said I, "are these young mechanics taught to read and write?" "In the brothers' schools," he said. Paris is divided into regular parishes, centring round different churches, and connected with each church is a parochial school, for boys and girls, taught by ecclesiastics and nuns.

With such thorough training of the sense of beauty, it may be easily seen that the facility of French enthusiasm in aesthetics is not, as often imagined, superficial pretence. The nerves of beauty are so exquisitely tuned and strung that they must thrill at every touch.

One sees this, in French life, to the very foundation of society. A poor family will give, cheerfully, a part of their bread money to buy a flower. The idea of artistic symmetry pervades every thing, from the arrangement of the simplest room to the composition of a picture. At the chateau of Madame V. the whiteheaded butler begged madame to apologize for the central flower basket on the table. He "had not had time to study the composition."

The English and Americans, seeing the French so serious and intent on matters of beauty, fancy it to be mere affectation. To be serious on a barrel of flour, or a bushel of potatoes, we can well understand; but to be equally earnest in the adorning of a room or the "composition" of a bouquet seems ridiculous. But did not He who made the appetite for food make also that for beauty? and while the former will perish with the body, is not the latter immortal? With all New England's earnestness and practical efficiency, there is a long withering of the soul's more ethereal part,--a crushing out of the beautiful,--which is horrible. Children are born there with a sense of beauty equally delicate with any in the world, in whom it dies a lingering death of smothered desire and pining, weary starvation. I know, because I have felt it.--One in whom this sense has long been repressed, in coming into Paris, feels a rustling and a waking within him, as if the soul were trying to unfold her wings, long unused and mildewed. Instead of scorning, then, the lighthearted, _mobile_, beauty-loving French, would that we might exchange instructions with them--imparting our severer discipline in religious lore, accepting their thorough methods in art; and, teaching and taught, study together under the great Master of all.

I went with M. Belloc into the gallery of antique sculpture. How wonderful these old Greeks I What set them out on such a course, I wonder--anymore, for instance, than the Sandwich Islanders? This reminds me to tell you that in the Berlin Museum, which the King of Prussia is now finishing in high style, I saw what is said to be the most complete Egyptian collection in the world; a whole Egyptian temple, word for word--pillars, paintings, and all; numberless sarcophagi, and mummies _ad nauseam! They are no more fragrant than the eleven thousand virgins, these mummies! and my stomach revolts equally from the odor of sanctity and of science.

I saw there a mummy of a little baby; and though it was black as my shoe, and a disgusting, dry thing, nevertheless the little head was covered with fine, soft, auburn hair. Four thousand years ago, some mother thought the poor little thing a beauty. Also I saw mummies of cats, crocodiles, the ibis, and all the other religious _bijouterie of Egypt, with many cases of their domestic utensils, ornaments, &c.

The whole view impressed me with quite an idea of barbarism; much more so than the Assyrian collection. About the winged bulls there is a solemn and imposing grandeur; they have a mountainous and majestic nature. These Egyptian things give one an idea of inexpressible ungainliness. They had a clumsy, elephantine character of mind, these Egyptians. There was not wanting grace, but they seemed to pick it up accidentally; because among all possible forms some must be graceful. They had a kind of grand, mammoth civilization, gloomy and goblin. They seem to have floundered up out of Nile mud, like that old, slimy, pre-Adamite brood, the what's-their-name--_megalosaurus, ichthyosaurus, pterodactyle, iguanodon_, and other misshapen abominations, with now and then wreaths of lotus and water lilies round their tusks.

The human face, as represented in Assyrian sculptures, is a higher type of face than even the Greek: it is noble and princely; the Egyptian faces are broad, flat, and clumsy. If Egypt gave birth to Greece, with her beautiful arts, then truly this immense, clumsy roc's egg hatched a miraculous nest of loves and graces.

Among the antiques here, my two favorites are Venus de Milon, which I have described to you, and the Diane Chasseresse: this goddess is represented by the side of a stag; and so completely is the marble made alive, that one seems to perceive that a tread so airy would not bend a flower. Every side of the statue is almost equally graceful. The small, proud head is thrown back with the freedom of a stag; there is a gay, haughty self-reliance, an airy defiance, a rejoicing fulness of health and immortal youth in the whole figure. You see before you the whole Greek conception of an immortal--a creature full of intellect, full of the sparkle and elixir of existence, in whom the principle of life seems to be crystallized and concentrated with a dazzling abundance; light, airy, incapable alike of love and of sympathy; living for self, and self only. Alas for poor souls, who, in the heavy anguish of life, had only such goddesses to go to! How far in advance is even the idolatry of Christianity! how different the idea of Mary from the Diana!

Yet, as I walked up and down among these remains of Greek art, I could not but wonder at the spectacle of their civilization: no modern development reproduces it, nor ever can or will. It is well to cherish and make much of that ethereal past, as a specimen of one phase of humanity, for it is past _forever_. Those isles of Greece, with their gold and purple haze of light and shadow, their exquisite, half-spiritual, half-bodily formation--islands where flesh and blood became semi-spiritual, and where the sense of beauty was an existence--have passed as a vision of glory, never to return. One scarcely realizes how full of poetry was their mythology; all successive ages have drawn on it for images of beauty without exhausting it; and painters and artists, to this day, are fettered and repressed by vain efforts to reproduce it. But as a religion for the soul and the heart, all this is vain and void; all powerless to give repose or comfort. One who should seek repose on the bosom of such a mythology is as one who seeks to pillow himself on the many-tinted clouds of evening; soft and beautiful as they are, there is nothing real to them but their dampness and coldness.

Here M. and Madame Belloc entered, and as he wanted my opinion of the Diane, I let her read this part of the letter to him in French. You ought to have seen M. Belloc, with tears in his eyes, defending the old Greeks, and expounding to me, with all manner of rainbow illustrations, the religious meanings of Greek mythology, and the _morale of Greek tragedy. Such a whole souled devotion to a nation dead and gone could never be found but in France.

Madame Belloc was the translator of Maria Edgeworth by that lady's desire; corresponded with her for years, and still has many of her letters. Her translation of Uncle Tom has to me all the merit and all the interest of an original composition. In perusing it I enjoy the pleasure of reading the story with scarce any consciousness of its ever having been mine. In the evening Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall called. They are admirably matched--he artist, she author. The one writes stories, the other illustrates them. Madame M. also called. English by birth, she is a true _Parisienne, or, rather, seems to have both minds, as she speaks both languages, perfectly. Her husband being a learned Oriental scholar, she, like some other women enjoying similar privileges, has picked up a deal of information, which she tosses about in conversation, in a gay, piquant manner, much as a kitten plays with a pin ball.

Madame remembers Mesdames Recamier and De Stael, and told me several funny anecdotes of the former. Madame R., she said, was always coquetting with her own funeral; conversed with different artists on the arrangements of its details, and tempting now one, now another, with the brilliant hope of the "composition" of the scene. Madame M. offered me her services as _cicerone to Paris, and so to-day out we went--first to the Pantheon, of which, in her gay and piquant style, she gave me the history.

Begun first in the time of Louis XVI. as a church, in the revolution its destination was altered, and it was to be a temple to the manes of great men, and accordingly Rousseau, Voltaire, and many more are buried here. Well, after the revolution, the Bourbons said it should not be a temple for great men, it should be a church. The next popular upset tipped it back to the great men again; and it staid under their jurisdiction until Louis Napoleon, who is very pious, restored it to the church. It is not possible to say how much further this very characteristic rivalry between great men and their Creator is going to extend. All I have to say is, that I should not think the church much of an acquisition to either party. He that sitteth in the heavens must laugh sometimes at what man calls worship. This Pantheon is, as one might suppose from its history, a hybrid between a church and a theatre, and of course good for neither--purposeless and aimless. The Madeleine is another of these hybrid churches, begun by D'Ivry as a church, completed as a temple to victory by Napoleon, and on second thoughts, re-dedicated to God.

After strolling about a while, the sexton, or some official of the church, asked us if we did not want to go down into the vaults below. As a large party seemed to be going to do the same, I said, "0, yes, by all means; let us see it out." Our guide, with his cocked hat and lantern, walked ahead, apparently in a now of excellent spirits. These caverns and tombs appeared to be his particular forte, and he magnified his office in showing them. Down stairs we went, none of us knowing what we wanted to see, or why. Our guide steps forth, unlocks the gate? of Hades, and we enter a dark vault with a particularly earthy smell. Bang! he shuts the door after him. Clash! he locks it; now we are in for it! and elevating his lantern, he commences a deafening proclamation of some general fact concerning the very unsavory place in which we find ourselves. Of said proclamation I hear only the thundering _"Voila" at the commencement. Next he proceeds to open the doors of certain stone vaulted chambers, where the great men are buried, between whose claims and their Creator's there seems to be such an uncertainty in France. Well, here they were, sure enough, maintaining their claim by right of possession.

_"Voila le tombeau de Rousseau!" says the guide. All walked in piously, and stood to see a wooden tomb painted red. At one end the tomb is made in the likeness of little doors, which stand half open, and a hand is coming out of them holding a flambeau, by which it is intimated, I suppose, that Rousseau in his grave is enlightening the world. After a short proclamation here, we were shown into another stone chamber with _"Voila le tombeau de Voltaire!" This was of wood also, very nicely speckled and painted to resemble some kind of marble. Each corner of the tomb had a tragic mask on it, with that captivating expression of countenance which belongs to the tragic masks generally. There was in the room a marble statue of Voltaire, with that wiry, sharp, keen, yet somewhat spiteful expression which his busts commonly have.

But our guide has finished his prelection here, and is striding off in the plenitude of his wisdom. Now we are shown a long set of stone apartments, provided for future great men. Considering the general scarcity of the article in most countries, these sleeping accommodations are remarkably ample. Nobody need be discouraged in his attempts at greatness in Paris, for fear at last there won't be room to bury him. After this we were marched to a place where our guide made a long speech about a stone in the floor--very instructive, doubtless, if I had known what it was: my Parisian friend said he spoke with such a German accent she could not understand; so we humbly took the stone _on trust, though it looked to the eye of sense quite like any other.

Then we were marched into a part of the vault celebrated for its echo. Our guide here outdid himself; first we were commanded to form a line _en militaire with our backs to the wall. Well, we did form _en militaire. I did it in the innocence of my heart, entirely ignorant of what was to come next. Our guide, departing from that heroic grandeur of manner which had hitherto distinguished him, suddenly commenced screaming and hooting in a most unparalleled style. The echo was enough to deafen one, to be sure, and the first blast of it made us all jump. I could think of nothing but Apollyon amusing himself at the expense of the poor pilgrims in the valley of the shadow of death; for the exhibition was persisted in with a pertinacity inscrutable to any wisdom except his own. It ended by a brace of thumps on the wall, each of which produced a report equal to a cannon; and with this salvo of artillery the exhibition finished.

This worthy guide is truly a sublime character. Long may he live to show the Pantheon; and when he dies, if so disagreeable an event must be contemplated, may he have the whole of one of these stone chambers to himself; for nothing less could possibly contain him. He regretted exceedingly that we could not go up into the dome; but I had had enough of stair climbing at Strasbourg, Antwerp, and Cologne, and not even the prospect of enjoying his instructions could tempt me.

Now this Pantheon seems to me a monument of the faults and the weakness of this very agreeable nation. Its history shows their enthusiasm, their hero worship, and the want of stable religious convictions. Nowhere has there been such a want of reverence for the Creator, unless in the American Congress. The great men of France have always seemed to be in confusion as to whether they made God or he made them. There is a great resemblance in some points between the French and the ancient Athenians: there was the same excitability; the same keen outward life; the same passion for ideas; the same spending of life in hearing or telling some new thing; the same acuteness of philosophical research. The old Athenians first worshipped, and then banished their great men,--buried them and pulled them up, and did generally a variety of things which we Anglo-Saxons should call fantastic. There is this difference, that the Athenians had the advantage of coming first. The French nation, born after this development, are exposed by their very similarity of conformation, and their consequent sympathy with the old classic style of feeling, to become imitators. This betrays itself in their painters and sculptors, and it is a constant impulse to a kind of idolatry, which is not in keeping with this age, and necessarily seems absurd. When the Greeks built altars to Force, Beauty, Victory, and other abstract ideas, they were doing an original thing. When the French do it, they imitate the Greeks. Apotheosis and hero worship in the old times had a freshness to it; it was one of the picturesque effects of the dim and purple shadows of an early dawning, when objects imperfectly seen are magnified in their dimensions; but the apotheosis, in modern times, of a man who has worn a dress coat, wig, and shoes is quite another affair.

I do not mean either to say, as some do, that the French mind has very little of the religious element. The very sweetest and softest, as well as the most austere and rigid type of piety has been given by the French mind; witness Fenelon and John Calvin--Fenelon standing as the type of the mystic, and Calvin of the rationalistic style of religion. Fenelon, with his heart so sweet, so childlike, so simple and tender, was yet essentially French in his nature, and represented one part of French mind; and what English devotional writer is at all like him? John Newton had his simplicity and lovingness, but wanted that element of gracefulness and classic sweetness which gave so high a tone to the writings of Fenelon. As to Calvin, his crystalline clearness of mind, his calm, cold logic, his severe vehemence are French, also. To this day, a French system of theology is the strongest and most coercive over the strongest of countries--Scotland and America; and yet shallow thinkers flippantly say the French are incapable of religious ideas.

After Madame M. and I had finished the Pantheon we drove to the Conciergerie; for I wanted to see the prison of the hapless Marie Antoinette. That restless architectural mania, which never lets any thing alone here, is rapidly modernizing it; the scaffoldings are up, and workmen busy in making it as little historical as possible. Nevertheless, the old, gloomy arched gateway, and the characteristic peaked Norman towers, still remain; and we stopped our carriage the other side of the Seine, to get a good look at it. We drove to the door, and tried to go in, but were told that we could not without an order from somebody or other. (I forget who;) so we were obliged to content ourselves with an outside view.

So we went to take another view of Notre Dame; the very same Notre Dame whose bells in the good old days could be rung by the waving of Michael Scott's wand:--

"Him listed but his wand to wave
The bells should ring in Notre Dame."

I had been over it once before with Mrs. C., and sitting in a dark corner, with my head against a cold, stone pillar, had heard vespers, all in the most approved style of the poetic. I went back to it now to see how it looked after the cathedrals of Germany. The churches of France have suffered dreadfully by the whirlwind spirit of its revolutions. At different times the painted glass of this church has been shattered, and replaced by common, till now there is too much light in it, though there are exquisite windows yet remaining. These cathedrals _must have painted glass; it is essential; the want of it is terrible; the dim, religious light is necessary to keep you from seeing the dirty floors, hanging cobwebs, stacks of little, old rush-bottomed chairs, and the prints where dirty heads and hands have approached too near the stone pillars. As I sat hearing vespers in Notre Dame the first time, seeing these all too plainly, may I be forgiven, but I could not help thinking of Lucifer's soliloquy in a cathedral in the Golden Legend:--

"What a darksome and dismal place!
I wonder that any man has the face
To call such a hole the house of the Lord
And the gate of heaven--yet such is the word.
Ceiling, and walls, and windows old,
Covered with cobwebs, blackened with mould;
Dust on the pulpit, dust on the stairs,
Dust on the benches, and stalls, and chairs."

* * * * *

However, Notre Dame is a beautiful church; but I wish it was under as good care as Cologne Cathedral, and that instead of building Madeleines and Pantheons, France would restore and preserve her cathedrals--those grand memorials of the past. I consider the King of Prussia as not only a national benefactor, but the benefactor of the world. Cologne, when finished, will be the great epic of architecture, and belong, like all great epics, to all mankind.

Well, Madame M. and I wandered up and down the vast aisles, she with her lively, fanciful remarks, to which there was never wanting a vein both of shrewdness and good sense.

When we came out of Notre Dame, she chattered about the place. "There used to be an archbishop's palace back of the church in that garden, but one day the people took it into their heads to pull it down. I saw the silk-bottomed chairs floating down the Seine. They say that somebody came and told Thiers, 'Do you know the people are rummaging the archbishop's palace?' and he shrugged his shoulders and said, 'Let 'em work.' That's the say, you know; mind, I don't say it is true! Well, he got enough of it at last. The fact is, that with, the French, destructiveness is as much developed as constructiveness, and they are as good at one as the other."

As we were passing over one of the bridges, we saw a flower market, a gay show of flowers of all hues, and a very brisk trade going on about them. Madame told me that there was a flower market every day in the week, in different parts of the city. The flower trade was more than usually animated to-day, because it is a saint's _fete, the _fete of St. Louis, the patron of Paris.

The streets every where showed men, women, and children, carrying their pots of blooming flowers. Every person in Paris named Louis or Louise, after this saint, has received this day little tokens of affection from their friends, generally bouquets or flowers. Madame Belloc is named Louise, and her different friends and children called and brought flowers, and a beautiful India China vase.

The life of Paris, indeed of the continent, is floral, to an extent of which the people in the United States can form no conception. Flowers are a part of all their lives. The churches are dressed with flowers, and on _fete days are fragrant with them. A _jardiniere forms a part of the furniture of every parlor; a _jardiniere is a receptacle made in various fanciful forms for holding pots of flowers. These pots are bought at the daily flower market for a trifle, in full bloom and high condition; they are placed in the _jardiniere, the spaces around them filled with sand and covered with moss.

Again, there are little hanging baskets suspended from the ceilings, and filled with flowers. These things give a graceful and festive air to apartments. When the plants are out of bloom, the porter of the house takes them, waters, prunes, and tends them, then sells them again: meanwhile the parlor is ornamented with fresh ones. Along the streets on saints' days are little booths, where small vases of artificial flowers are sold to dress the altars. I stopped to look at one of these stalls, all brilliant with cheaply-made, showy vases of flowers, that sell for one or two sous.

We went also to the National Academy of Fine Arts, a government school for the gratuitous instruction of artists, a Grecian building, with a row of all the distinguished painters in front.

In the doorway, as we came in, was an antique, headless statue of Minerva; literally it was Minerva's _gown standing up--a pillar of drapery, nothing more, and drapery soiled, tattered, and battered; but then it was an antique, and that is enough. Now, when antique things are ugly, I do not like them any better for being antique, and I should rather have a modern statue than Minerva's old gown. We went through all the galleries in this school, in one of which the prize pieces of scholars are placed. Whoever gets one of these prizes is sent to study in Rome at the expense of the government. We passed through the hall where the judges sit to decide upon pictures, and through various others that I cannot remember. I was particularly interested in the apartment devoted to the casts from the statuary in the Louvre and in other palaces. These casts are taken with mathematical exactness, and subjected to the inspection of a committee, who order any that are defective to be broken. Proof casts of all the best works, ancient and modern, are thus furnished at a small price, and so brought within the reach of the most moderate means.

This morning M. and Madame Belloc took me with them to call on Beranger, the poet. He is a charming old man, very animated, with a face full of feeling and benevolence, and with that agreeable simplicity and vivacity of manner which is peculiarly French. It was eleven o'clock, but he had not yet breakfasted; we entreated him to waive ceremony, and so his maid brought in his chop and coffee, and we all plunged into an animated conversation. Beranger went on conversing with shrewdness mingled with childlike simplicity, a blending of the comic, the earnest, and the complimentary. Conversation in a French circle seems to me like the gambols of a thistle down, or the rainbow changes in soap bubbles. One laughs with tears in one's eyes. One moment confounded with the absolute childhood of the simplicity, in the next one is a little afraid of the keen edge of the shrewdness. This call gave me an insight into a French circle which both amused and delighted me. Coming home, M. Belloc enlarged upon Beranger's benevolence and kindness of heart. "No man," he said, "is more universally popular with the common people. He has exerted himself much for the families of the unfortunate deportes to Cayenne." Then he added, laughing, "A mechanic, one of my model sitters, was dilating upon his goodness--'What a man! what sublime virtue! how is he beloved! Could I live to see his funeral! _Quelle spectacle! Quelle grande emotion!'"_

At tea, Madame M. commented on the manners of a certain English lady of our acquaintance.

"She's an actress; she's too affected!"

Madame Belloc and I defended her.

"Ah," said M. Belloc, "you cannot judge; the French are never natural in England, nor the English in France. Frenchmen in England are stupid and cross, trying to be dignified; and when the English come to France, it's all guitar playing and capering, in trying to have _esprit._"

But it is hard to give a conversation in which the salient points are made by a rapid pantomime, which effervesces like champagne.

Madame Belloc and Madame M. agree that the old French _salon is no more; that none in the present iron age can give the faintest idea of the brilliancy of the institution in its palmiest days. The horrors and reverses of successive revolutions, have thrown a pall over the French heart.

I have been now, in all, about a month in this gay and flowery city, seeing the French people, not in hotels and _cafes, but in the seclusion of domestic life; received, when introduced, not with ceremonious distance, as a stranger, but with confidence and affection, as a friend.

Though, according to the showing of my friends, Paris is empty of many of her most brilliant ornaments, yet I have been so fortunate as to make the acquaintance of many noble and justly celebrated people, and to feel as if I had gained a real insight into the French heart.

I liked the English and the Scotch as well as I could like any thing. And now, I equally like the French. Exact opposites, you will say. For that reason all the more charming. The goodness and beauty of the divine mind is no less shown in the traits of different races than of different tribes of fruits and flowers. And because things are exact opposites, is no reason why we should not like both. The eye is not like the hand, nor the ear like the foot; yet who condemns any of them for the difference? So I regard nations as parts of a great common body, and national differences as necessary to a common humanity.

I thought, when in English society, that it was as perfect and delightful as it could be. There was worth of character, strength of principle, true sincerity, and friendship, charmingly expressed. I have found all these, too, among the French, and besides them, something which charms me the more, because it is peculiar to the French, and of a kind wholly different from any I have ever had an experience of before. There is an iris-like variety and versatility of nature, a quickness in catching and reflecting the various shades of emotion or fancy, a readiness in seizing upon one's own half-expressed thoughts, and running them out in a thousand graceful little tendrils, which is very captivating.

I know a general prejudice has gone forth, that the French are all mere outside, without any deep reflection or emotion. This may be true of many. No doubt that the strength of that outward life, that acuteness of the mere perceptive organization, and that tendency to social exhilaration, which prevail, will incline to such a fault in many cases. An English reserve inclines to moroseness, and Scotch perseverance to obstinacy; so this aerial French nature may become levity and insincerity; but then it is neither the sullen Englishman, the dogged Scotchman, nor the shallow Frenchman that we are to take as the national ideal. In each country we are to take the very best as the specimen.

Now, it is true that, here in France, one can find people as judicious, quiet, discreet, and religious, as any where in the world; with views of life as serious, and as earnest, not living for pretence or show, but for the most rational and religious ends. Now, when all this goodness is silvered over, as it were, reflecting like mother-of-pearl or opal, a thousand fanciful shades and changes, is not the result beautiful? Some families into which I have entered, some persons with whom I have talked, have left a most delightful impression upon my mind; and I have talked, by means of imperfect English, French, and interpretations, with a good many. They have made my heart bleed over the history of this most beautiful country. It is truly mournful that a people with so many fine impulses, so much genius, appreciation, and effective power, should, by the influence of historical events quite beyond the control of the masses, so often have been thrown into a false position before the world, and been subjected to such a series of agonizing revulsions and revolutions.

"O, the French are half tiger, half monkey!" said a cultivated American to me the other day. Such remarks cut me to the heart, as if they had been spoken of a brother. And when they come from the mouth of an American, the very shade of Lafayette, it would seem, might rise and say, "_Et tu, Brute!_"

It is true, it is a sarcasm of Voltaire's; but Voltaire, though born a Frenchman, neither imbodied nor was capable of understanding the true French ideal. The French _head he had, but not the French heart. And from his bitter judgment we might appeal to a thousand noble names. The generous Henri IV., the noble Sully, and Bayard the knight _sans peur et sans reproche_, were these half tiger and half monkey? Were John Calvin and Fenelon half tiger and half monkey? Laplace, Geoffroy St. Hilaire, Cuvier, Des Cartes, Malebranche, Arago--what were they? The tree of history is enriched with no nobler and fairer boughs and blossoms than have grown from the French stock.

It seems a most mysterious providence that some nations, without being wickeder than others, should have a more unfortunate and disastrous history.

The woes of France have sprung from the fact that a Jezebel de Medici succeeded in exterminating from the nation that portion of the people corresponding to the Puritans of Scotland, England, and Germany. The series of persecutions which culminated in the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and ended with the dragonades under Louis XIV., drained France of her lifeblood. Other nations have profited by the treasures then cast out of her, and she has remained poor for want of them. Some of the best blood in America is of the old Huguenot stock. Huguenots carried arts and manufactures into England. An expelled French refugee became the theological leader of Puritanism in England, Scotland, and America; and wherever John Calvin's system of theology has gone, civil liberty has gone with it; so that we might almost say of France, as the apostle said of Israel, "If the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness!"

When the English and Americans sneer at the instability, turbulence, and convulsions of the French nation for the last century, let us ask ourselves what our history would have been had the "Gunpowder Plot" succeeded, and the whole element of the reformation been exterminated. It is true, vitality and reactive energy might have survived such a process; but that vitality would have shown itself just as it has in France--in struggles and convulsions. The frequent revolutions of France are not a thing to be sneered at; they are not evidences of fickleness, but of constancy; they are, in fact, a prolonged struggle for liberty, in which there occur periods of defeat, but in which, after every interval of repose, the strife is renewed. Their great difficulty has been, that the destruction of the reformed church in France took out of the country entirely that element of religious rationalism which is at once conservative and progressive.

There are three forces which operate in society: that of blind faith, of reverent religious freedom, and of irreverent scepticism. Now, since the human mind is so made that it must have religion, when this middle element of reasonable religious freedom is withdrawn, society vibrates, like a pendulum, between scepticism and superstition; the extreme of superstition reacting to scepticism, and then the barrenness of scepticism reacting again into superstition. When the persecutions in France had succeeded in extinguishing this middle element, then commenced a series of oscillations between religious despotism and atheistic license, which have continued ever since. The suppression of all reasonable religious inquiry, and the consequent corruption of the church, produced the school of Voltaire and his followers. The excesses of that school have made devout Catholics afraid of the very beginning of religious rationalism; and these causes act against each other to this day.

The revolution in England, under Cromwell, succeeded, because it had an open Bible and liberty of conscience for its foundation, and united both the elements of faith and of reason. The French revolution had, as Lamartine says, Plutarch's Lives for its Bible, and the great unchaining of human passion had no element of religious control. Plad France, in the time of her revolution, had leaders like Admiral Coligny, her revolution might have prospered as did England's under Cromwell. But these revolutions, needlessly terrible as they have been, still have accomplished something; without them France might have died away into what Spain is. As it is, progress has been made, though at a fearful sacrifice. No country has been swept cleaner of aristocratic institutions, and the old bastiles and prisons of a past tyranny. The aspiration for democratic freedom has been so thoroughly sown in France, that it never will be rooted up again. How to get it, and how to _keep it when it is got, they do not yet clearly see; but they will never rest till they learn. There is a liberty of thought and of speech in France which the tongue-tied state of the press cannot indicate. Could France receive the Bible--could it be put into the hands of all the common people--_that might help her. And France is receiving the Bible. Spite of all efforts to the contrary, the curiosity of the popular mind has been awakened; the yearnings of the popular heart are turning towards it; and therein lie my best hopes for France.

One thing more I would say. Since I have been here, I have made the French and continental mode of keeping Sunday a matter of calm, dispassionate inquiry and observation. I have tried to divest myself of the prejudices--if you so please to call them--of my New England education--to look at the matter sympathetically, in the French or continental point of view, and see whether I have any occasion to revise the opinions in which I had been educated. I fully appreciate all the agreeableness, the joyousness, and vivacity of a day of recreation and social freedom, spent in visiting picture galleries and public grounds, in social _reunions and rural excursions. I am far from judging harshly of the piety of those who have been educated in these views and practices. But, viewing the subject merely in relation to things of this life, I am met by one very striking fact: there is not a single nation, possessed of a popular form of government, which has not our Puritan theory of the Sabbath. Protestant Switzerland, England, Scotland, and America cover the whole ground of popular freedom; and in all these this idea of the Sabbath prevails with a distinctness about equal to the degree of liberty. Nor do I think this result an accidental one. If we notice that the Lutheran branch of the reformation did not have this element, and the Calvinistic branch, which spread over England and America, did have it, and compare the influence of these two in sustaining popular rights, we shall be struck with the obvious inference.

Now, there are things in our mode of keeping the Sabbath which have a direct tendency to sustain popular government; for the very element of a popular government must be self-control in the individual. There must be enough intensity of individual self-control to make up for the lack of an extraneous pressure from government. The idea of the Sabbath, as observed by the Puritans, is the voluntary dissevering of the thoughts and associations from the things of earth for one day in seen, and the concentrating of the mind on purely spiritual subjects. In all this there is a weekly recurring necessity for the greatest self-control. No way could be devised to educate a community to be thoughtful and reflective better than the weekly recurrence of a day when all stimulus, both of business and diversion, shall be withdrawn, and the mind turned in upon itself. The weekly necessity of bringing all business to a close tends to give habits of system and exactness. The assembling together for divine worship, and for instruction in the duties of Christianity, is a training of the highest and noblest energies of the soul. Even that style of abstract theologizing prevailing in New England and Scotland, which has grown out of Sabbath sermonizing, has been an incalculable addition to the strength and self-controlling power of the people.

Ride through France, you see the laborer in his wooden shoes, with scarce a thought beyond his daily toil. His Sunday is a _fete for dancing and recreation. Go through New England, and you will find the laborer, as he lays his stone fence, discussing the consistency of foreordination with free will, or perchance settling some more practical mooted point in politics. On Sunday this laborer gets up his wagon, and takes his wife and family to church, to hear two or three sermons, in each of which there are more elements of mental discipline than a French peasant gets in a whole lifetime. It is a shallow view of theological training to ask of what practical use are its metaphysical problems. Of what practical value to most students is geometry? On the whole, I think it is the Puritan idea of the Sabbath, as it prevails in New England, that is one great source of that individual strength and self-control which have supported so far our democratic institutions.

In regard to the present state of affairs here, it has been my lot to converse unreservedly with some of all parties sufficiently to find the key note of their thoughts. There are, first, the Bourbonists--mediaeval people--believers in the divine right of kings in general, and of the Bourbons in particular. There are many of them exceedingly interesting. There is something rather poetic and graceful about the antique cast of their ideas; their chivalrous loyalty to an exiled family, and their devout belief of the Catholic religion. These, for the most part, keep out of Paris, entirely ignore the present court, and remain in their chateaus in the country. A gentleman of this class, with whom I talked, thought the present emperor did very well in keeping other parties out till the time should come to strike a blow for the true king.

Then there are the partisans and friends of the Orleans family. I heard those who spoke, even with tears, of Louis Philippe and his dynasty. They were patrons of letters and of arts, they say, of virtue and of religion; and these good, faithful souls cling lovingly to their memory.

And then there are the republicans--men of the real olden time, capable of sacrificing every thing that heart holds dear for a principle; such republicans as were our fathers in all, save their religion, and because lacking that, losing the chief element of popular control. Nevertheless, grander men have never been than some of these modern republicans of France; Americans might learn many lessons from them.

Besides all these there is another class, comparatively small, having neither the prestige of fashion, rank, or wealth, but true, humble, evangelical Christians, in whom the simplicity and spirituality of the old Huguenot church seems revived. These men are laboring at the very foundation of things; laboring to bring back the forgotten Bible; beginning where Christ began, with preaching the gospel to the poor. If any would wish to see Christianity in its loveliest form, they would find it in some of these humble laborers. One, with whom I conversed, devotes his time to the _chiffoniers, (rag pickers.) He gave me an account of his labors, speaking with such tenderness and compassion, that it was quite touching. "My poor people," he said, "they are very ignorant, but they are not so very bad." And when I asked him, "Who supports you in your labors?" he looked upward, with one of those quick, involuntary glances by which the French express themselves without words. There was the same earnestness in him as in one of our city missionaries, but a touching grace peculiarly national. It was the piety of Fenelon and St. John. And I cannot believe that God, who loves all nations alike, and who knows how beautifully the French mind is capable of reflecting the image of Jesus, will not yet shine forth upon France, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Christ.

It was the testimony of all with whom I conversed, that the national mind had become more and more serious for many years past. Said a French gentleman to me one evening, "The old idea of _l'homme d'esprit of Louis XIV.'s time, the man of _bon-mots_, bows, and _salons_, is almost passed away; there is only now and then a specimen of it left. The French are becoming more earnest and more religious." In the Roman Catholic churches which I attended, I saw very full audiences, and great earnestness and solemnity. I have talked intimately, also, with Roman Catholics, in whom I felt that religion was a real and vital thing. One of them, a most lovely lady, presented me with the Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis, as a ground on which we could both unite.

I have also been interested to see in these French Catholics, in its most fervent form, the exhibition of that antislavery spirit which, in other ages, was the boast of that church. One charming friend took me to the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, pointing out with great interest the statues and pictures of saints who had been distinguished for their antislavery efforts in France. In a note expressing her warm interest in the cause of the African slave, she says, "It is a tradition of our church, that of the three kings which came to worship Jesus in Bethlehem, one was black; and if Christians would kneel oftener before the manger of Bethlehem they would think less of distinctions of caste and color."

Madame Belloc received, a day or two since, a letter from a lady in the old town of Orleans, which gave name to Joan of Arc, expressing the most earnest enthusiasm in the antislavery cause. Her prayers, she says, will ascend night and day for those brave souls in America who are conflicting with this mighty injustice.

A lady a few days since called on me, all whose property was lost in the insurrection at Hayti, but who is, nevertheless, a most earnest advocate of emancipation.

A Catholic lady, in a letter, inquired earnestly, why in my Key I had not included the Romish clergy of the United States among the friends of emancipation, as that, she said, had been always the boast of their church. I am sorry to be obliged to make the reply, that in America the Catholic clergy have never identified themselves with the antislavery cause, but in their influence have gone with the multitude.

I have received numerous calls from members of the Old French Abolition Society, which existed here for many years. Among these I met, with great interest, M. Dutrone, its president; also M. ----, who presented me with his very able ethnological work on the distinctive type of the negro race. One gentleman, greatly distressed in view of the sufferings of the negro race in America, said, naively enough, to Mrs. C., that he had heard that the negroes had great capability for music, dancing, and the fine arts, and inquired whether something could not be done to move sympathy in their behalf by training them to exhibit characteristic dances and pantomimes. Mrs. C. quoted to him the action of one of the great ecclesiastical bodies in America, in the same breath declining to condemn slavery, but denouncing dancing as so wholly of the world lying in wickedness as to require condign ecclesiastical censure. The poor man was wholly lost in amazement.

In this connection, I cannot but notice, to the credit of the French republican provisional government, how much more consistent they were in their attachment to the principles of liberty than ever our own has been. What do we see in our own history? Our northern free states denouncing slavery as a crime, confessedly inconsistent with their civil and religious principles, yet, for commercial and pecuniary considerations, deliberately entering into a compact with slaveholders tolerating a twenty years' perpetuation of the African slave trade, the rendition of fugitives, the suppression of servile insurrections, and allowing to the slaveholders a virtual property basis of representation. It should qualify the contempt which some Americans express of the French republic, that when the subject of the slave colonies was brought up, and it was seen that consistency demanded immediate emancipation, they immediately emancipated; and not only so, but conferred at once on the slaves the elective franchise.

This point strongly illustrates the difference, in one respect, between the French and the Anglo-Saxons. As a race the French are less commercial, more ideal, more capable of devotion to abstract principles, and of following them out consistently, irrespective of expediency.

There is one thing which cannot but make one indignant here in Paris, and which, I think, is keenly felt by some of the best among the French; and that is, the indifference of many Americans, while here, to their own national principles of liberty. They seem to come to Paris merely to be hangers on and applauders in the train of that tyrant who has overthrown the hopes of France. To all that cruelty and injustice by which thousands of hearts are now bleeding, they appear entirely insensible. They speak with heartless levity of the revolutions of France, as of a pantomime got up for their diversion. Their time and thoughts seem to be divided between defences of American slavery and efforts to attach themselves to the skirts of French tyranny. They are the parasites of parasites--delighted if they can but get to an imperial ball, and beside themselves if they can secure an introduction to the man who figured as a _roue_, in the streets of New York. Noble-minded men of all parties here, who have sacrificed all for principle, listen with suppressed indignation, while young America, fresh from the theatres and gambling saloons, declares, between the whiffs of his cigar, that the French are not capable of free institutions, and that the government of Louis Napoleon is the best thing France could have. Thus from the plague- spot at her heart has America become the propagandist of despotism in Europe. Nothing weighs so fearfully against the cause of the people of Europe as this kind of American influence. Through almost every city of Europe are men whose great glory it appears to be to proclaim that they worship the beast, and wear his name in their foreheads. I have seen sometimes, in the forests, a vigorous young sapling which had sprung up from the roots of an old, decaying tree. So, unless the course of things alters much in America, a purer civil liberty will spring up from her roots in Europe, while her national tree is blasted with despotism. It is most affecting, in moving through French circles, to see what sadness, what anguish of heart, lies under that surface which seems to a stranger so gay. Each revolution has cut its way through thousands of families, ruining fortunes, severing domestic ties, inflicting wounds that bleed, and will bleed for years. I once alluded rather gayly to the numerous upsets of the French government, in conversation with a lady, and she laughed at first, but in a moment her eyes filled with tears, and she said, "Ah, you have no idea what these things are among us." In conversation nothing was more common than the remark, "I shall do so and so, provided things hold out; but then there is no telling what will come next."

On the minds of some there lie deep dejection and discouragement. Some, surrounded by their growing families, though they abhor the tyranny of the government, acquiesce wearily, and even dread change lest something worse should arise.

We know not in America how many atrocities and cruelties that attended the _coup d'etat have been buried in the grave which intombed the liberty of the press. I have talked with eye witnesses of those scenes, men who have been in the prisons, and heard the work of butchery going on in the prison yards in the night. While we have been here, a gentleman to whom I had been introduced was arrested, taken from bed by the police, and carried off, without knowing of what he was accused. His friends were denied access to him, and on making application to the authorities, the invariable reply was, "Be very quiet about it. If you make a commotion his doom is sealed." When his wife was begging permission for a short interview, the jailer, wearied with her importunities, at last exclaimed unguardedly, "Madam, there are two hundred here in the same position; what would you have me do?" (Footnote: That man has remained in prison to this day.)

At that very time an American traveller, calling on us, expatiated at length on the peaceful state of things in Paris--on the evident tranquillity and satisfaction universally manifest.


JOURNAL--(Continued.)

Saturday, August 27. Left Paris with H., the rest of our party having been detained. Reached Boulogne in safety, and in high spirits made our way on board the steamer, deposited our traps below, came on deck, and prepared for the ordeal. A high north-wester had been blowing all day, and as we ran along behind the breakwater, I could see over it the white and green waves fiendishly running, and showing their malign eyes sparkling with hungry expectation. "Come out, come out!" they seemed to say; "come out, you little black imp of a steamer; don't be hiding behind there like a coward. We dare you to come out here and give us a chance at you--we will eat you up, as so many bears would eat a lamb."

And sure enough, the moment her bows passed beyond the pier, the sea struck her, and tossed her like an eggshell, and the deck, from stem to stern, was drenched in a moment, and running with floods as if she had been under water. For a few moments H. and I both enjoyed the motion. We stood amidships, she in her shawl, I in a great tarpauling which I had borrowed of Jack, and every pitch sent the spray over us. We exulted that we were not going to be sick. Suddenly, however, so suddenly that it was quite mysterious, conscience smote me. A profound, a deep-seated remorse developed itself just exactly in the deepest centre of the pit of my stomach.

"H.," said I, with a decided, grave air, "I'm going to be seasick."

"So am I," said she, as if struck by the same convictions that had been impressed on me. We turned, and made our way along the leeward quarter, to a seat by the bulwarks. I stood holding on by the railrope, and every now and then addressing a few incoherent and rather guttural, not to say pectoral, remarks to the green and gloomy sea, as I leaned over the rail. After every paroxysm of communicativeness, (for in seasickness the organ of secretiveness gives way,) I regained my perpendicular, and faced the foe, with a determination that I would stand it through--that the grinning, howling brine should get no more secrets out of me. And, in fact, it did not.

Meanwhile, what horrors--what complicated horrors--did not that crowded deck present! Did the priestly miscreants of the middle ages ever represent among the torments of purgatory the deck of a channel steamer? If not, then they forgot the "lower deep," that Satan doubtless thought about, according to Milton.

There were men and women of every age and complexion, with faces of every possible shade of expression. Defiance, resolute and stern, desperate resolves never to give in, and that very same defiant determination sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought. A deep abyss of abdominal discontent, revealing afar the shadow, the penumbra, of the approaching retch. And there were _bouleversements, and hoarse confidences to the sea of every degree of misery. The wind was really risen quite to a gale, and the sea ran with fearful power. Two sailors, standing near, said, "I wouldn't say it only to you, Jack, but in all the time I've crossed this here channel, I've seen nothin' like this."

"Nor I neither," was the reply.

About mid channel a wave struck the windward quarter, just behind the wheel, with a stroke like a rock from a ballista, smashed in the bulwarks, stove the boat, which fell and hung in the water by one end, and sent the ladies, who were sitting there with boxes, baskets, shawls, hats, spectacles, umbrellas, cloaks, down to leeward, in a pond of water. One girl I saw with a bruise on her forehead as large as an egg, and the blood streaming from her nostrils. Shrieks resounded, and for a few moments, we had quite a tragic time.

About this time H. gave in, and descended to Tartarus, where the floor was compactly, densely stowed with one mass of heaving wretches, with nothing but washbowls to relieve the sombre mosaic. How H. fared there she may tell; I cannot. I stood by the bulwark with my boots full of water, my eyes full of salt spray, and my heart full of the most poignant regret that ever I was born. Alas! was that channel a channel at all? Had it two shores? Was England over there, where I saw nothing but monstrous, leaping, maddening billows, saying, "We are glad of it; we want you; come on here; we are waiting for you; we will serve you up"?

At last I seriously began to think of Tartarus myself, and of a calm repose flat on my back, such as H. told of in his memorable passage. But just then, dim and faint on the horizon, I thought I discerned the long line of a bank of land. It was. This was a channel; that was the shore. England had not sunk. I stood my ground; and in an hour we came running, bounding, and rolling towards the narrow mouth of the Folkstone pier heads.

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 49 Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 49

Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 49
LETTER XLIXLONDON.MY DEAR:--Our last letters from home changed all our plans. We concluded to hurry away by the next steamer, if at that late hour we could get passage. We were all in a bustle. The last shoppings for aunts, cousins, and little folks were to be done by us all. The Palais Royal was to be rummaged; bronzes, vases, statuettes, bonbons, playthings--all that the endless fertility of France could show--was to be looked over for the "folks at home."You ought to have seen our rooms at night, the last evening we spent in Paris. When the whole gleanings of a
PREVIOUS BOOKS

Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 47 Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 47

Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 2 - Letter 47
LETTER XLVIIAntwerp.MY DEAR:--Of all quaint places this is one of the most charming. I have been rather troubled that antiquity has fled before me where I have gone. It is a fatality of travelling that the sense of novelty dies away, so that we do not realize that we are seeing any thing extraordinary. I wanted to see something as quaint as Nuremberg in Longfellow's poem, and have but just found it. These high-gabled old Flemish houses, nine steps to each gable! The cathedral, too, affects me more in externals than any yet. And the spire looks as I expected that
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT