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thousands of Frenchmen, laymen as well as priests, and
that there are thousands of Frenchmen now, who would
have tolerated, and would still tolerate, a Delille who
never questioned the truth of the Christian dogma, a
Delille with the niece, but who would not tolerate a
Renan with a wife. ' ' Le malheur de M. Renan est
d' avoir conserve du pretre la chastet6 et non la foi.
J'eusse prefere le contraire pour lui" — thus wrote an in-
fluential French journalist a few years ago in the most
widely-read French newspaper. I do not know whether
Renan saw the article, but a couple of weeks later that
journalist had his answer, though indirectly. Speaking



124 My Paris Note-Book.

of the criticisms in general which a new book had
brought forth, Renan said, "Je ne m'etonne plus de
rien, en fait d'ex6gese, Gavroche a la pretention d'en
savoir plus que moi, ' '

And when Renan had uttered the word " Gavroche,"
he had practically exhausted his vocabulary of contempt.
For, unlike Victor Hugo, he refused to look upon Gav-
roche as a hero ; he had seen him at work in '48, on
the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th December 1851, and on several
minor occasions. His " Caliban," which is worth study-
ing as well as reading, is only another kind of Gavroche.
If Renan had lived long enough, we might have had
' ' The Book of Gavroches, " as we have ' ' The Book
of Snobs," for the Pressenses and Peyrats, and others
whom it would take too long to name here, were just
as many Gavroches to him as If their nether garments
had not held together, and their chief claim to fame had
consisted of a performance on a barricade with a rusty
rifle. * ' II y a des gens qui font de Dieu leur raison
sociale, comme 11 y a des courtiers marrons, qui cher-
chent dans ' Hozier, ' des noms titres pour les niettre a
leurs en-t^te. Avec ces gens la on ne discute pas ;
autant vaut payer son avocat pour poursulvre I'homme
d'affaires vereux qui vous a vole." This was the bit-
terest expression I have ever heard him use. That was
Renan at his worst ; to see him at his best, one had to
see him after a good dinner — for Renan was somewhat
of 2, gourmand as well as gourmet — talking to a pretty
woman in the cozy nook of a drawing-room, his left
hand travelling slowly every now and then to his chin,
his eyes partly closed, and listening with the gravity of
a diredeur — not of a confessor, for there Is a wide differ-
ence between the two — to the semi-sentimental, semi-
worldly confidences of his fair Interlocutor. I have got



My Paris Note-Book. 125

an idea that Renan guessed more secrets than were ever
confided to half-a-dozen of the most worldly /r|/"^/^ de
police during the most ' ' festive' ' days of the Second
Empire, which is not saying little. I am speaking of
the days before *' 1' Abbesse de Jouarre."

Lamartine's niece, the clever Madame de Pierreclos,
said one day of Littre, * ' G' est un saint qui ne croit pas
en Dieu." A woman might even write such a sentence,
a man may scarcely say it. But, truth to tell, I never
troubled much about Renan' s belief, for it would have
made no difference to mine. I have often heard him
talk of life, and of the mysteries surrounding death, and
am bound to confess that after each conversation I was
as much at sea as ever with regard to Renan' s view of
that one secret we all would like to fathom ; but I did
not trouble. I remembered the story of that successor
of Quasimodo who shows the towers of Notre-Dame to
strangers. One day he invited one of his friends to sup
with him on the topmost landing. The host talked and
ate a good deal ; his guest felt his head whirling round,
and could not swallow a morsel. "A bon entendeur,
salut."

Among the many celebrities who were on intimate
terms with my uncles was Paul de Kock, the real
French Dickens, though he fell short of the genius of
the Englishman. He was virtually, though not nomi-
nally, a countryman of theirs, and their admiration of
him was distinctly influenced by the fact. For though
my uncles were capable judges in literary matters, they
could see no faults in their friend's works. Every new
volume that appeared was carefully bound and added to
their collection. But though these books were within
my reach, and I was never forbidden to read them, I
was at least sixteen or seventeen before I thought of



126 My Paris Note-Book.

doing so, and then only In consequence of an accidental
conversation with a lad of my own age. He was the
cousin to a young Dutch girl who was within an ace of
becoming the wife of Theodore Barriere, about whom I
shall probably have to say something by and by. For
once, in a way, my gossip, if it be not amusing, may be
instructive, that is, if by chatting about one of the best
play- Wrights France has produced during the nineteenth
century, I can induce English adapters to try their hand
at some of his pieces.

To return to my theme. Paul de Kock came to my
uncles' two or three times a week. They had known
his father's brother, who was some time Minister of the
Interior in Holland. Paul de Kock's father perished
on the scaffold during the Reign of Terror, the wealthy
Dutch banker having been denounced as a foreign spy
and an agent of Pitt. One day my young friend en-
tered our apartment as the novelist was leaving it. De
Kock was very fond of young people, and he bowed to
my visitor with that old-fashioned, high-bred, grave
courtesy that belonged formerly to the French middle
classes, as well as to the French aristocracy, but the
traces of which it is very difficult to find among the
bourgeoisie of the Third Republic. Flattered by the
dapper, well-dressed gentleman's notice — for Paul de
Kock was scarcely above the middle height, and always
looked as neat as a new pin — my young comrade, with
the curiosity of a somewhat precocious stripling, asked me
his name. ' ' That, ' ' I answered, ' ' is M. Paul de Kock. ' '
"The father of the clever novelist of that name?" re-
marked my companion interrogatively. ''No," I said ;
''his son's name is Henri de Kock, he is a novelist,
too' ' "I know that, and the gentleman who went out
just now is his grandfather," persisted my interlocutor.



My Paris Note-Book. 127

* ' Not at all ; the gentleman who went out just now is
M. Paul de Kock, the novelist. His father's name was
Conrad de Kock, and he was beheaded during the First
Revolution." "Do you mean to say that the nice,
elderly looking gentleman whom I met at your door is
the writer of all these funny stories ?" **I don't know
about the stories being funny ; I have never read them,
but if they are funny, he is the man who wrote them."
''Well, then, all I can say is this, he must have got some
one to write them for him, for he does not look as if he
had an ounce of fun or humour in him."

Such was the first impression M. Paul de Kock inva-
riably produced upon people much older and much
more observant than my companion. Only those who
knew De Kock intimately ever caught a glimpse of that
vis comica which set, and still sets, thousands of readers
throughout the civilized world screaming with laughter.
It need not be said that a lad of my age could not have
been very intimate with a sexagenarian not belonging
to his family, and who was, moreover, very reserved in
ordinary company. That was the reason why his books
had had no attraction for me. I judged very much by the
outside of men and things then. Alfred de Musset,
whom I saw at my uncles' once ; Maris, who was a con-
stant visitor when in Paris ; Theodore Barriere, whom
we met at the Cafe des Vari6tes — for my uncles took me
thither with them in the daytime ; Alexandre Dumas
the elder, who appeared and disappeared like a meteor —
these were my heroes ; while Joseph Mery, of whom
Englishmen have scarcely heard, but whose every line
should be translated for them, was my "jester in ordi-
nary." Paul de Kock was simply a kind, elderly gen-
tleman — for he was kindness itself, and the constant
purveyor of seats for the theatres, big and small, whom



128 My Paris Note-Book.

I liked very much, but who in no way struck me as the
ideal romancier^ as I conceived the romancier then.
Faultlessly dressed, generally in a cafe-au-lait overcoat
and light trousers, dazzlingly white Hnen and blue bird's-
eye cravat, his hair and narrow side-whiskers carefully
trimmed — I have a suspicion the latter were curled —
somewhat corpulent and by no means tall, there was a
difficulty of picturing that man's "eye in fine frenzy
rolling ;" in fact, I feel convinced it never did roll in that
manner, though later on in life I have often seen it dance
with mirth. But even in his most expansive moments
there was a tinge of sadness in his smiles. People said
that it was the recollection of his father's terrible death
that ever and anon obtruded itself upon his thoughts,
but I fancy this was a mere theory. In spite of his
great success, nay, because of that great success, Paul
de Kock, from the moment I was capable of forming an
opinion on such matters, seemed to me a disappointed
man. The silence of the critics must have been a bitter
drop in his brimful cup of happiness. His first book
was written when he was barely seventeen, and was,
from the publisher's view, a success. Next to the elder
Dumas, he was the most voluminous writer of fiction
France has had during the nineteenth century, not a
single book of his ever proved a financial failure ; but
" criticism" passed superciliously by, disdaining to
blame or to praise. At a rough guess, I should compute
Paul de Kock's Hterary baggage at over four hundred
plays and novels, exclusive of the short stories. For
over fifty-five years he kept the whole of France in a
constant roar of laughter ; a protracted and laborious
search might unearth about a dozen criticisms worthy of
the name. That, in my opinion, was the principal cause
of Paul de Kock's carefully suppressed melancholy.



My Paris Note-Book. 129

And yet, those who watched the man and who, to
use the French expression, ''know their Paris" — I am
putting the verb in the present tense purposely, for the
Paris of which Paul de Kock treated has to a consider-
able extent remained stationary, morally and mentally,
though not materially — I repeat, those who watched
the man and had the opportunity of comparing his por-
traits and groups with the originals must have surely
come to the conclusion that it required no small amount
of skill to paint those petits bourgeois and bourgeoises in
their habit as they lived. Whenever I think of the in-
justice done to Paul de Kock by those who, from a cre-
ative, if not from a literary point of view, were not fit to
stand in his shadow, I am always reminded of two an-
ecdotes, one of which may not be absolutely new to
English readers, but both of which will bear repeating
for the sake of the admirable lesson they convey.

The first sight of Mount Lebanon produced such an
effect on Lamartine that there and then he improvised
an admirable description of the scene, face to face with
the scene itself. One of his companions, a young offi-
cer, could not help remarking : * ' But, Monsieur de
Lamartine, where do you see all you describe ? I fail
to perceive a single thing of what you describe." ''I
can understand that, ' ' was the answer ; ' ' I look with
the eyes of a poet, you with the eyes of a staff-ofiicer."

When Turner had finished his picture of ' ' Covent
Garden," he invited a friend of his, a lady, to come
and see it. ''It's no doubt very fine, Mr. Turner,"
was the comment, after a little while, ' ' I also have
been to Covent Garden, but I am unable to see it in
that light." "Don't you wish you could. Madam?"
growled the painter with a savage smile.

Although Paul de Kock liked the country, he was as



I30 My Paris Note-Book.

often in Paris as at Romainville, where he had bought a
modest estate, which on the first day of the week during
the summer months became the rendezvous of many-
sincere friends, the ' ' bigwigs of criticism' ' being, how-
ever, conspicuous by their absence. I doubt whether
it would have been possible to dislike the popular nov-
elist as a man, or the man as a novelist ; but it was,
perhaps, equally impossible to enjoy the hospitality of
the one without noticing the works of the other ; and as
these high and mighty critics were determined to ignore
the books, they were perforce compelled to abstain from
visiting their author. I fancy they would have done
the same with Jan Steen, Adriaan Brouwer, Franz
Hals, Gerard Douw, and Van Ostade, if they had
happened to wield the pen in the days of those worthies.
On the other hand, Paul de Kock, after a certain time,
probably ceased to invite them, lest his invitation should
be construed into a bribe. The critics were the losers,
for apart from the thoroughly pleasant entertainment
provided by the host and hostess, they might have
witnessed the ' ' genesis' ' of a couple of amusing chap-
ters, nay, of the whole of a novel when, after dinner,
Paul de Kock took his guests to one of the open-air
balls in the neighbourhood. The novelist had, more-
over, built a small theatre, on which he tried his pieces
before submitting them to theatrical ^managers.

Towards the latter end of his life, when I was no
longer a thoughtless lad, I often witnessed a "genesis"
of that kind when standing by his side at the window
of the small apartment he occupied for more than forty
years on the Boulevard Saint-Martin, a few doors from
the theatre of that name. He would stand motionless
for a long while, steadfastly looking at the busy scene
below, through his old-fashioned, pearl-handled lorgnon^



My Paris Note-Book. 131

without uttering a syllable ; then would turn round and
say, '' 5^ y ^st> j'ai ce qu'il me faut." As a matter of
course, I had seen nothing remarkable about the chaffer-
ing noisy crowd, and would tell him so. *' C'est bien
probable, mais vous ne voyez pas comme moi ;" he
replied one day. '^Un Bichat ou un Cuvier ne voit
dans un Napoleon ou un Cromwell qu'un animal ver-
tebre, le romancier ou I'historien y trouve ou un heros
ou un grand criminel ; 1' inexperience a aussi ses Bichats
et ses Cuviers." It was on that day that I told him the
story of Turner, and he in his turn told me the well-
known story of Lamartine. He wound up by paying
me a compliment : " D'apres ce que vous m'avez dit,
mon ami, vous y verrez clair assez tot pour votre bon-
heur." He stopped for a moment, then clenched the
whole. *' Apres tout," he sighed ; '' il n'y a que deux
manieres d' envisager le monde ; c' est de le traiter en
asperge ou en artichaut, de chercher la t^te ou le coeur
des gens. Moi je cherche le coeur." I do not think
that the critics who ignored him so persistently could
have formulated a better philosophy in fewer words.

Those who are familiar with the novelist's habits,
were enabled to guess without difficulty the mood that
would preside at the day's work by glancing at his at-
tire. The white-serge monk's frock of Balzac has be-
come legendary ; Alexandre Dumas the elder mostly
worked with his shirt-sleeves rolled up to the elbow,
and with the collar of that garment unfastened ; Auber
frequently composed with his baton ; Horace Vernet,
who looked like the trimmest of cavalry officers out-
doors and in society, would have willingly done with-
out clothing at all while painting, but, to use his own
words, '' donned a pair of trousers and shirt, as a con-
cession to decency." The famous battle painter, who



132 My Paris Note-Book.

was physical and moral courage and energy personified,
who read Nicholas I. one of the severest lessons a mon-
arch ever received from a humbler mortal, painted as he
would have fought ; consequently, after an hour or so,
the shirt became dripping wet. Eugene Delacroix, a
thorough man of the world, and exceedingly careful of
his appearance when abroad, was more than slovenly
when at home. An old jacket buttoned up to the chin,
a large muffler round his neck, a cloth cap pulled over
his ears, and a pair of thick felt slippers made up his
usual garb in his studio. A chronic affection of the
throat and an extreme sensitiveness to cold scarcely
justified this utter disregard of appearances ; in com-
mon fairness, however, it should be said that Delacroix
never professed ' ' to make a show, ' ' either of himself,
his work, or his studio. Though he was "at home"
from three till five to visitors of both sexes, it was dis-
tinctly understood that he would not interrupt his work,
or play the host in the sense of the popular painter of
to-day. Paul Delaroche wore a blouse when at work ;
and Ingres, until he became "a society man," which
was very late in life, always wore a dressing-gown.
Scribe, like Buffon, who sat down to his table in lace
ruffles and frilled shirt, dressed very carefully early in
the morning, and had only to take up his hat when his
self-allotted task was done. All these men, though,
and several others whom I could mention, never de-
parted from the custom once adopted : their dress did
not vary with the nature of their work. Whether the
subject they treated was a playful or a tragic, their
attire underwent no modification. Different was it with
Paul de Kock. When engaged upon a serious chapter
— I use the word serious in the comparative sense— he
never failed to ' ' get into ' ' a blue frock coat of military



My Paris Note-Book. 133

cut, and ornamented with frogs — a coat such as was still
worn within my recollection by some of the veterans of
the First Empire when in mufti. When the subject
had to be treated in the lighter vein, he wrapped him-
self in a blue flannel dressing-gown, and jauntily poised
an elaborately embroidered smoking-cap with a mar-
vellous golden tassel on his head. My uncles told me
that during the composition of ' * L' homme aux trois
Culottes " — the only political novel De Kock wrote — the
last mentioned articles entirely disappeared. A couple
of years since, while at Monte Carlo, I was reminded
of this attempt of the novelist to suit his attire to the
business in hand by the remark of an old acquaintance,
a former croupier^ who was then discharging the duties
of superintendent of the rooms. While we were chat-
ting together, an old gentleman, faultlessly dressed in
the fashion of a quarter of a century ago, made his
appearance. ' * Voici Monsieur qui va jouer, ' ' said my
interlocutor, glancing at the new-comer, whose name
I have suppressed purposely, seeing that it is an his-
toric one, and that the bearer of it may still be alive.

*' A quoi voyez-vous cela?" I asked, somewhat sur-
prised. ''Rien qu'a le voir, on dirait qu'il joue tous
les jours."

** Non pas," was the answer ; '* il ne joue pas t ous
les jours; il s'^coule meme des semaines sans qu'il
joue. ' '

* ' Done, je r^pete ma question : A quoi voyez-vous
qu'il va jouer aujourd'hui?"

* ' C est qu' il a mis son frac, sa belle cravate, ses bot-
tines vernies et tout le reste. II ne s'habille comme 5a
que quand il a de 1' argent pour jouer ; quand il est a
sec il vient en veston ou en jaquette. II vient a I'assaut
de la banque en grande tenue."



134 ^Y Paris Note-Book.

I have already said that Paul de Kock's apartment
in Paris was small to a degree — I might have said un-
comfortably small ; but in virtue of its situation, it con-
stituted an admirable watch-tower, for the Boulevard
St. Martin was to the Quartier du Marais what the
Boulevard des Italiens was, and to a certain extent still
is, to the Chaussee d'Antin and the Faubourg St.
Honor6 — its playground and promenade. That was
probably the reason of the novelist's remaining there to
the last. There were only two rooms looking on to the
street, the drawing-room and a small bedroom ; the
latter did duty at the same time as a study. A descrip-
tion of the drawing-room would baffle a more skilled
pen than mine, just because it was the absolute counter-
part of a hundred similar ones I saw in those days.
Mahogany chairs, upholstered in red material, arranged
methodically along the walls ; a couple of Voltaires (read,
easy chairs) standing sentry by the fireplace ; red cur-
tains at the windows ; a gilt clock and candelabra on
the mantel-shelf; a table standing in the centre of a
carpet — which gave one the impression of an oasis of
worsted in a wilderness of waxed flooring — on the table
a cellaret which would probably fetch a long price at
present, but the like of which in those days could be
bought by the dozen. A few engravings and two or
three pictures, by no means masterpieces, completed
the furniture.

More interesting was the study and bedroom in one.
If the drawing-room was like a hundred others, the
study was unlike that of any literary man I knew or
know. To begin with ; there was absolutely no litter,
and the mahogany writing-table, placed by the side of
the window, which was left free of access, was the
smallest I have seen under similar conditions. There



My Paris Note-Book. 135

were no stray papers, no dictionaries, nor books of
reference of any kind ; a large white earthenware ink-
stand — I have got its twin-brother, left to me by my
uncles ; a sous-viain^ which must not be confounded
with a modern blotter, for Paul de Kock clung to the
old-fashioned method of drying his manuscript with
sand, a capacious wooden bowl filled with which flanked
the inkstand ; a few steel pens in primitive holders ; a
quire or so of quarto paper ; and that was all. Paper-
weights, letter-clips, and the paraphernalia of the luxu-
riously appointed sanctum of the well-to-do author
were conspicuous by their absence.

The principal feature of the long and narrow room
was a set of book-shelves made of plain deal, that had
either been stained originally, or become darkened with
age. At a rough guess, they contained between 400 and
500 volumes, three-fourths of which were the author's
own works — of course, I mean the various editions of
his works, from the cheap piracies, printed in Belgium,
which drove him almost mad with grief on account of
their terrible printer's errors, to the magnificently bound
and handsomely illustrated Edition de luxe, which drove
him nearly crazy with delight, albeit that pecuniarily he
had suffered as much by the publication of the latter as
by the publication of the former. A simple walnut bed-
stead, hung with primitive chintz curtains, a tiny couch
and one arm-chair, both upholstered in green morocco,
and a washhand-stand completed the furniture of the
apartment in which one of the most laborious and useful
of lives was spent, for, in spite of all opinions to the
contrary, Paul de Kock's was a useful life, for he did for
his contemporaries, and to a certain extent for posterity,
what it is given to few men to do. He made them laugh,
and the laughter left no bitter after-taste. If proof of



136 My Paris Note-Book.

this were wanted, it would be found in the two following
facts.

In 1835, Emile de Girardin, in answer to an article by
Balzac, drew up a rough statement of the marketable
value of the then famous authors, whom he divided into
five categories. Victor Hugo stood at the head of the
list in company with Paul de Kock.

The only man who, besides the author himself, had a
complete edition of his works, was not only one of the
shrewdest judges of humanity, but one of the best critics
of the intrinsic — read, moral — value of books, as dis-
tinguished from their literary merits — I am alluding to
Giovanni-Maria Mastai-Ferretti, better known to the
world at large as Pope Pius IX.



My Paris Note-Book. 137



CHAPTER VI.

A view of French society under the Third Republic — Wanted
a Sebastien Mercier — In default of such an one, the author
attempts the task— The author's qualifications — The author's
knowledge of most of the present rulers of France — The author's
system of getting at the truth — Look for the woman — The absence
of the nice female element from the principal thoroughfares — The
author takes a walk with an English friend — The lady's ante-
cedents and present position — A remark of M. Edouard Herve
of Le So leil— The author's friend explains the situation— The
attitude of the Faubourgs Saint-Germain and Saint-Honor6
towards the Republican bigwigs— The women of the Chauss^e
d'Antin — A scene from Dumas' Etrangere in real life— The late
General Boulanger and his second daughter — Why the wives of
the Republican bigwigs shun the public thoroughfares — A minis-
ter's "lady" on the prevalence of Oflfenbachian music in the


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