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the Rue de la Paix or on the Boulevard des Capucines.
My friend's old-fashioned garnets and Honiton lace
proved a welcome relief ; her female guests reminded me
of the showroom at Worth's or Pingat's, with this dif-
ference that the essayeuse never wears a low dress, and
that they, the guests, were sufficiently d^collet^es to damn
a dozen Tartuffes. It was an absolute case of " neck or
nothing," as the Anglo-Egyptian in the Said Pasha time

My Paris Note-Book. 151

termed it in 1867 at the Tuileries. " Cela sent la par-
venue, ' ' said Madame de Coislin to Madame de Chateau-
briand nearly a hundred years before that at a similar
exhibition in the salo?is of Madame de Stael and Madame
Suard. ** Nous autres, femmes de la cour, nous n'avions
que deux chemises ; on les renouvelait quand elles 6taient
usees ; nous etions vetues de robes de sole et nous
n'avions pas I'air de grisettes comma ces demoiselles de
maintenant. ' '

I may admit that the display of diamonds fairly sur-
prised me, and after a few moments I remarked upon
them in an undertone to my hostess. *' Most of them
are heirlooms," she replied with a significant smile ; ''at
any rate, that's what I am told." My friend's smile re-
called to my mind a conversation I had one day with the
late M. Emile Perrin of the Comedie-Fran9aise, whose
portrait I intend to give before the end of these pages.
In days gone by, the Comedians, male and female, had
to provide everything in the way of dresses for them-
selves, which made Augustine Brohan say one day, " On
nous mettait sur la scene toutes nues, il est vrai nous
Etions assez jolies pour 5a." When the clever artist
launched that epigram, many things were already paid
for by the treasury. At present the management pro-
vides even the boots, hats, and bonnets of the actresses
in modern as well as costume plays ; nay, a laundress —
une blanchisseuse de Jin, s'entend — is attached to the
establishment. And everything is of the very best, and
thoroughly genuine, with the exception of the paste that
still does duty for diamonds. Talking about the latter
on a certain occasion, the late Administrator- General
blinked his eyes, as was his habit when he felt in a
jocular mood, which by-the-bye was not often.

" It does not matter," he said, '* seeing that from one

152 My Paris Note-Book.

year's end to another the stage jewellery is never used.
It is surprising, ' ' he added, ' * how many heirlooms of
jewellery there seem to be in actresses' families, for
every remark upon the subject invariably elicits the
same reply — ' Oh, my mother had them long before her
marriage. ' And yet, to look at these mothers one would
hardly think so."

Balzac was right ; the whole of the world' s stories are
founded upon seven originals. If that adventure of
Judah with Tamar, as related in Genesis, had not been
productive of such a terrible esclandre, she would have
afterwards averred that that tell-tale ring was an heir-

I must remind the reader that this particular visit to
Paris occurred at the time when the Panama scandals
were reaching the acute stage, when initials, which but
too thinly disguised names, freely appeared in almost
every newspaper in connection with true or fictitious
stories attributing rightly or wrongly a good deal of the
spoil to certain women, the * ' friends' ' of this or that
minister, of this or that highly placed personage. By
my hostess' own admission, I was in the society of
women who pretended with more or less reason — I dis-
covered that it was with less reason — ^^ defaire la pluie
et le beau temps^ ' in the affairs of State, and I naturally
concluded that they would be somewhat reluctant to
discuss the articles, paragraphs, and apologues in ques-
tion, which, if they did not aim at them, aimed, at any
rate, at those with whom they were known ' ' to row in
the same boat." In less than five minutes after my
arrival I was thoroughly undeceived on that point, for
there was not the slightest reticence on the subject. But
a still greater surprise was in store for me. I expected
that every one would pretend ignorance with regard to

My Paris Note-Book. 153

the originals of some of these cleverly drawn portraits,
for I had read two or three, and they were decidedly
cleverly drawn in spite, or perhaps because, of their want
of resemblance ; or, in default of the confidence or tact
to plead such ignorance, would tax others with being the
involuntary models. Not at all. The following scrap
of conversation will afford the reader an idea of my
second surprise.

"You know," said a piquante brunette of about
thirty to the handsomest woman in the room — ''you
know for whom that portrait in Le Gaulois was meant ?
And you know whose salon they wanted to depict ?' '

' ' I have got a faint suspicion to that effect, ' ' was the
answer, with a magnificent, semi-supercilious smile, show-
ing a splendid set of teeth. ' ' I fancy I have got a
faint suspicion to that effect."

*' I am told it is meant for Madame R. . . ."

* * For Madame R. . . . ? I can assure you that it is
not meant for Madame R. . . ."

"Well, I have been positively assured it is."

"You have been thoroughly misinformed, and you
may contradict the rumour on my authority. I am
furthermore certain that it is Madame R. . . . herself
who spreads these rumours. But it cannot be meant
for her, seeing that "

"Seeing that "

"Seeing that it is meant for me."

"For you?" This in a tone of astonishment and
vexation impossible to convey.

* ' For me. I feel perfectly certain of it, for I happen
to know the writer of the article very well."

I repeat, I had read two or three of these articles,
and at the time of reading them felt that if any woman
in whom I took ever so slight an interest had been held

154 My Paris Note-Book.

up to obloquy — although exceedingly witty obloquy —
in that way, I should have horsewhipped the writer
within an inch of his life, or risked being horsewhipped
by him. The original of that particular portrait not
only felt evidently flattered, but I discovered afterwards
that all the others shared the feeling, and that those
who had been left in the "satirical cold" could
scarcely disguise their disappointment. The greatest
injury that could be done to them had been inflicted :
they had been passed over in silence. In the course of
the evening, it became clear to me that one might say
almost anything of them, provided it was said in print
and in a paper that could command a wide circulation.
I doubt whether, with the exception of my hostess, one
of the women I met that night could have given even a
moderately intelligible account of Mme. Roland, Mme.
de Sainte-Amaranthe, let alone of Mme. Necker, Mme.
de Beauharnais, or Mme. de Genlis. They were un-
questionably familiar with the names of Pompadour and
Du Barry, with the name of the first in connection with
dress fashions and silk stuff's, with that of the second in
connection with a certain shade of porcelain ; beyond
that they knew nothing of their doings or their lives ;
as for her who for good or evil influenced the latter
years of the reign of Louis XIV. , she who was mainly
responsible for the revocation of the Edict of Nantes,
but to whom France also owed the foundation of the
*'Maison de St. Cyr," her name was probably as a
Greek word to them. And yet every one of these
women, who were and are only the samples of perhaps
three or four hundred others, aspired and still aspires to
play a role similar to that played by the women of brain
of the eighteenth century. Their failure has been most
flagrant, for even Gambetta, the most susceptible to

My Paris Note-Book. 155

woman's charms and wiles, of all those who have lorded
it over France for the last twenty-three years, was de-
termined to conduct ''politics without petticoats." In
his case the tussle was perhaps harder than in that of
any other leader or subordinate, for reasons which will
become sufficiently apparent when I come to deal more
fully with him. At present, I may be permitted to
"open a parenthesis," anglic^, to digress for a while,
and to draw upon my earlier recollection, aided, may
be, by a little historical knowledge, in order to show
what ' ' la politique sans les femmes ' ' really means to

156 My Paris Note-Book.


Politics without petticoats— Marshal Mac-Mahon and the Duchesse
de Magenta — The "friends" of the Republican bigwigs — Mme.
Thiers and Mile. Dosne— Their influence over Theirs— A letter
from Mile. Dosne— Mme. Grevy— Mme. Daniel Wilson,n^e Grevy
—Jules Grevy and Mesdames de Rainneville and d'Harcourt—
—Mme. Ferry — Mme. de Freycinet and Mile, de Freycinet —
Boulanger and Mme. de Bonnemain — Women who influenced
kings — Mme. Edmond Adam and Louise Michel — Political salons
of former days — More conversation at the dinner-party — My
friend's husband on the situation — The reason of the dislike to
woman's influence — Corbiere's mother and Gambetta's father — ■
Skobelefl" and the Jewish soldier — A short retrospect — The mod-
ern politician's love-affairs and his way of conducting them.

Never, in the history of France, have her public men
been exposed to such merciless scrutiny as within the
last twenty-three years. Their integrity in political as
well as in money matters has been frequently and not
altogether unjustly assailed, but no one has ever said or
written of them — ' ' This or that one is under the thumb or
in the power of a woman whom he cannot or dare not
disobey ; it is in this or that alcdve that he finds or looks
for his inspirations." No one has ever been able to say
— ''France is governed by a ballet-dancer, or by a
duchess ;' ' though in one instance a duchess tried for a
very, very little while to get the upper hand. She failed
utterly, mainly, perhaps, because the man was too hon-
est, also, probably, because they had been married many,
many years, and though the affection subsisting between
them was rare and sweet indeed, the glamour of passion

My Paris Note-Book. 157

had departed ; it was the influence of the spouse, but,
to use a French expression, of "r6pouse mtirie, ayant
laiss6 son sexe aux asp6rites des ann^es ; de I'epouse
austere, demi-confesseur, demi-belle-mere." I need not
mince matters ; neither the dead husband nor the Hving
wife have aught to be ashamed of in that episode in
their Hves. I am alluding to the late Marshal Mac-
Mahon and the Duchesse de Magenta.

Of course, there are women who have substantially-
benefited by their relations, more or less avowable,
with the men in power : they have had the first news
of important events, which has enabled them to gam-
ble on the Stock Exchange ; they have received pots-
de-vin for securing ministerial influence for a new pat-
ent or a new joint-stock company ; they have placed
their husbands, fathers, and brothers in snug berths ;
but of political influence they have wielded none —
always with the exception of the Duchesse de Magenta
just named. They have been on the pirate ship and
shared in the spoils and booty ; but they had to keep
their hands off the helm ; they have not been allowed to
shape its course. When Mme. Thiers died, an ama-
teur, who was curious in such matters, offered a com-
paratively large sum for one of her autograph letters, or
for one of her sister. Mile. Dosne, written during the
life of Adolphe Thiers. His main object was to discover
whether the wife or the sister-in-law, his almost insep-
arable companions, had ever influenced his political
actions in the slightest degree. Naturally, the dealers,
having been put on their mettle, began their hunt, and
after a fortnight our amateur received a visit from one
of them, who informed him in a very important man-
ner that he had discovered one of the desired docu-
ments, which had already been sold during the states-


158 My Paris Note-Book.

man's life to another amateur, who was, however, will-
ing to part with it for a consideration. The dealer,
though, was unable to enlighten him as to the nature of
the epistle, but volunteered to put him in communica-
tion with its owner. So said, so done. The latter re-
plied most courteously to the request of the intending
purchaser, and sent a copy of the note, which consisted
of two Hues from Mile. Dosne to the baker : ' ' Monsieur,
je vous prie de tenir dorenavant le pain que vous nous
fournissez un peu plus cuit." I will return to Madame
Thiers and Mile. Dosne by-and-bye, but I may state
that the amateur never had a second offer of any kind.
Madame Mac-Mahon had her moment of victory when
she led the conjugal horse to the water — read the Elys6e
— but she failed to make him drink out of the Legiti-
mist pond. Of Madame Jules Grevy, it would be
simply ridiculous to speak in connection with political
influence ; and Grevy' s ' ' bosom friend' ' of many years'
standing even before he was President of the Republic,
if ever she had the slightest ambition to have a finger in
the political pie, saw the futility of such an attempt so
clearly that in sheer despair she arranged the marriage
of her brother, Daniel Wilson, with Mile. Alice Gr€vy.
The result of that union is written in letters, the reverse
of gold, in the annals of the Third Republic (anno
1887). And though Jules Gravy's eyes sparkled at the
charm and fascination of the delighted Madame de
Rainneville and the equally fascinating Comtesse d' Har-
court, though he put his hand familiarly and even caress-
ingly on their arms, and called them ''7nes belles en-
fants,^^ '^ mes toules-delles,'^ and so forth, neither their
charm nor their fascination had sufficient power over
him to make him hold his hand when the decree expell-
ing the Orleans princes had to be signed.

My Paris Note-Book. 159

Madame Jules Ferry, who is a mild Protestant, and a
nice, liberal-minded woman, was unable to prevent her
husband from framing and launching the edict against
the religious congregations, which edict is better known
to the general reader as 'T Article 7." Madame de
Freycinet, more austere in her Protestantism, and per-
haps not quite so nice, but sensible withal, failed to per-
suade her spouse not to lend himself to proscription of
any kind ; all she could accomplish was to extract a
promise from him that he would confine his measure to
the Jesuits only ; but when he proclaimed that decision
at a political meeting at Montauban, the radical mob was
nigh tearing him to pieces, and in spite of his wife im-
ploring him to hold firm, to ''enact the man," to leave
the Jesuits alone as well as the rest, he resigned and
gave M. Ferry a free hand. Mile, de Freycinet, a
most accomplished girl, who was for some years her
father's private secretary, had become very intimate at
the Prince von Hohenlohe's, and sincerely attached to
Fraulein von Hohenlohe, the ambassador's daughter.
It was even whispered — with how much truth I am not
in a position to say — that a marriage was contemplated
between the minister's daughter and the ambassador's
son. That was enough for a good many of M. de Frey-
cinet' s colleagues and their henchmen. They began to
throw out hints that all this aristocratic commerce was
foreign to the spirit of true Republicanism ; that if
parents were bent upon patrician husbands or wives for
their children, they should not accept dignities and
emoluments in a democracy, and so forth. I have
already said that the rumours with regard to the alliance
may have been utterly without foundation ; the friendship
between the two young girls was, however, an ascer-
tained fact, and what was perhaps more to the point, M.

i6o My Paris Note-Book.

de Freycinet was at the time the only Republican min-
ister who, by his courtesy and distinguished manners,
had become an unquestionable favourite with the corps
diplomatique. M. Flourens has been one of his worthy
successors in that respect. I know — not from hearsay —
that Mgr. de Rende, the present Bishop of Perugia, and
perhaps the coming Pope, devoted an hour weekly to a
mere friendly call on M. de Freycinet, and that Prince
von Hohenlohe paid him frequent visits. I know, fur-
thermore, that in consequence of the cordial relations
between the two fathers, if not between the two daugh-
ters, some difficult negotiations had been carried on in
Berlin with satisfactory results to both Governments.
Well, this very fact was made a weapon against M. de
Freycinet, and especially against the rumoured marriage
which, I repeat once more, may have been at the outset
a pure invention on the part of some more than usually
imaginative gossiper. Anyhow, the mere rumour was
treated as an almost accomplished fact, and produced a
formidable, albeit carefully hidden, ferment within min-
isterial circles. The mildest adjective flung at it in
serious comment was that it was ' ' unpatriotic. ' ' Less
responsible critics went much further. They declared
nearly openly that it should be prevented by all means,
''because" — I heard the words myself—" Mile, de Frey-
cinet, as the private secretary of her father, was in pos-
session of secrets, notably relating to the plan for mobil-
ising the French army, which in the flush of her first
happiness she might voluntarily impart to her husband,
or which the latter, in default of such voluntary state-
ment, might succeed in 'worming' out of her." I
hasten to add that the speaker was officially irresponsi-
ble, but he was hand-in- glove with a half-dozen actual
and past ministers, and I feel confident that the sentence

My Paris Note-Book. i6i

and the dastardly suspicion it implied were not of his own

The project, if it had any existence at all, came to
nought, and the relations between Germany and France
towards the latter end of Prince von Hohenlohe's stay
in Paris became much more strained than they had been
during the previous two or three years ; nor was M. de
Freycinet's altogether the same towards Germany. In
fact, the change was so apparent to me that I pointed it
out in the columns of the paper I had the honour to
represent at that period, saying, that * * la souris blanche' '
— the sobriquet generally applied to M. de Freycinet —
* ' had become la souris rouge, ' ' The change may have
commended itself to M. de Freycinet in order to disarm
all further comment and distrust.

I fancy I was right in saying that under the Third
Republic the influence of woman in the affairs of State
is nil. A Fillon under the Third Republic may organise
a traffic in decorations and orders which will develop
eventually into a * ' Caflarel scandal, ' ' and have its
denouement in the Assize Courts ; she cannot raise a
Dubois to an archbishopric ; there is no room for a
Madame de Prie, a Madame de Chateauroux, or a
Madame de Pompadour, least of all for a Madame de
Polignac. If Boulanger had lived and undertaken the
dreamt~of ''^revanche campaign" against Germany,^ we
may be certain that no Madame de Bonnemain would
have been allowed to send a map to his headquarters
with the strategical positions marked by patches taken
from her patch-box, as did Madame de Pompadour on
one occasion.

But in this witty France, where, in spite of the Salic
law, woman has reigned and governed more efl"ectually

» I will refer to this more fully by-and-bye.
/ 14*

1 62 My Paris Note-Book.

than in any country with the exception of England —
where her sex could hold the sceptre legally ; in this
witty France, the history of which is studded with the
clever doings of those exquisite drdlesses who henpecked
kings, as with sparkling diamonds ; in this witty France,
which has coined the proverb — " Ce que femme veuty
Dieu le veut ;'' in this witty France, which can boast of
a Joan d' Arc who led armies to victory, as well as con-
demn an empress who impelled them to their ruin ; in
this witty France, which numbers among her daughters
a Marguerite de Valois as well as a Madame de Main-
tenon, an Adelaide d' Orleans as well as a Du Barry, and
among her adopted daughters a Catherine de M^dicis and
a Duchesse de Berri — I am putting the good and evil
geniuses together ; in this witty France, where, to say
no more than that woman, until recently, enacted the
part of the cotton-wool in a case of porcelain, that is,
prevented the contents from being smashed ; in this
witty France, woman, even the least intellectual, is re-
luctant to abdicate voluntarily her sway. But when the
most intellectual — and I have no hesitation in counting
Madame Edmond Adam and even Louise Michel,
fanatic and dHraquee as she may be, among the number
— see that power dwindling to nothing, it is not very
surprising that their less gifted sisters should fashion
themselves a semblance of it, and cling to it desperately.
With this preface, for which I heartily beg to apologise,
I resume for a little while my observations at my friend's

In the latter part of the eighteenth century a salon
was, before everything, literary. Madame Geoifrin,
that charming bourgeoise who did not believe in ghosts,
but was afraid of them — the reverse of Dr. Johnson,
who believed in the ghost of Cock Lane, but was not

My Paris Note-Book. 163

afraid of it — Madame Geoffrin, that charming bour-
geoise who corresponded with most of the sovereigns
of Europe, cared for nothing but Hterature, and hers is
in reahty the most perfect salon on record, not even
excluding that of the Hotel de Rambouillet. To Mad-
ame Necker, that very unpleasant, politically pedantic
Genevese woman, whom Carlyle has so skilfully drawn
with a few words, belongs the credit — if credit it be — •
of having invented the political salon^ for the women
whom I mentioned but a few moments ago exercised
their power without pretending to establish headquar-
ters whence to issue instructions. Madame Necker had
many imitators, notably Madame de Genlis, who ostra-
cised Bernardin de Saint- Pierre to make room for Bris-
sot and his friends. Brissot was one of the honest
Republicans of 1789, and an able man besides, but just
imagme putting the author of ' ' Paul et Virginie' ' out in
the cold to make room for the originator of the Radical
or Socialist dogma — " The possession of property means
the commission of theft on the part of the proprietor
thereof," for there is no doubt that Proudhon was in-
spired by Brissot when he wrote that famous sentence.

I soon discovered that my female fellow-guests had
not an ounce of the brain of Mme. de Stael's mother,
or of the former governess of Louis Philippe, but that,
nevertheless, they each kept a salon whence everything
but politics was banished, and where at critical political
periods there was a kind of attempt at computing the
number of * ' ayes' ' and ' ' noes' ' the bill of the hour
was likely to obtain. That, it appears, was the chief
raison (T etre of these salo?is. But they arrogated to
themselves a rigorous control over the consciences of
deputies. When one of these became lukewarm, or
was suspected of a tendency that way, his entrance into

i64 My Paris Note-BooK.

the apartment was marked by a general and pettily or-
ganised silence, accompanied by frowns on the part of
the ladies — of which frowns I had a good sample pour
rire. In the course of the conversation I made a re-
mark to my neighbour at the table-r-the handsome
woman — about the prettiness of one of the two sisters
afore-mentioned. ''Yes, she is very pretty, but she
can be very stern and forbidding when she is annoyed, ' '
was the answer. ' ' I should not have thought that so
pretty a woman could look anything but pretty and
sweet under no matter what circumstances," I pro-
tested mildly, half in earnest, half in fun. ' ' Would
you like a proof of what I say?" she asked. " I don't
mind," I answered, for, after all, the good or bad
temper of the lady in question was a matter of pro-
found indifference to me, though on principle, perhaps,
I would have done nothing to arouse the latter.
"Well, then, listen and watch," she said. As a
matter of course, there was no need to tell me twice,
and after a few moments my neighbour raised her voice
sufficiently to be heard across the table, and for that
matter by every one present. *' Ma chere," she began,
addressmg her vis-a-vis, "perhaps you, who know M.
D. . . . better than most of us, will be able to tell us
why he and M. Edouard Herv6 have met so often for
the last week ?' ' That was all that was said ; but the
lady thus addressed looked up, and the scowl on her

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