Albert D. (Albert Dresden) Vandam.

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face reminded me exactly of an ugly, badly-mended
fracture in a Dresden china figure. I frankly confess
that, easily "fetched" as I am by a pretty woman's
smile, and little afraid of an ugly or pretty woman's
sneers and superciHous stares, I should not have liked
to confront that one in her ' ' tantrums. ' '

"That's how they all are," said my host, when next

My Paris Note-Book. 165

day I gave him the key to the little incident. ' ' My
brother, who, you know from his past career, is by no
means a coward, avers seriously that he would far
sooner face a company of soldiers from the top of a
barricade than enter a drawing-room with a dozen of
those amiable creatures in it bent upon making him un-
comfortable. On the other hand, when they are pleased,
they are just as ready to show it. I have been at some
of their gatherings when there happened to be among
the guests a deputy who on that day or the day before
had made a clever speech — or to speak by the card, a
speech which the Republican papers had praised as
clever, for these would-be critics, I mean the women,
are absolutely incapable of discriminating between ster-
ling and hollow cleverness — or a newly appointed min-
ister or an ambassador. Well, my dear fellow, the
most loving husband of the most loving wife on their
honeymoon-trip is not so pampered or so idiotically
worshipped and ' coddled' as such a guest. They don't
take their eyes off him ; they arrange the pillows on
the sofa by their side for him, as if he were made of the
thinnest Venetian glass ; they offer him their scent-
bottles, and their gossamer handkerchiefs to brush the
moisture from his brow ; their fans are worked with the
regularity of a punkah ; I have expected every minute
that they would offer him a * shampoo' and a rub down
with a coarse bath-towel. 'Just shut that window,
please ; his Excellency is sitting in a draught. ' * Do
open that door a trifle, please, his Excellency will faint
with the heat.' In reality, they would not mind his
Excellency fainting in their rooms, for it would give
them a paragraph m the papers ; nay, the sudden death
of one of these great little men would suit their book
still better, for that would mean an article of at least a

i66 My Paris Note-Book.

column, and they would be less affected by the loss of
the man himself than by the loss of their pet canary or
pet dog. These women, my dear friend, never enter-
tain angels unawares.

* ' Of course, I need scarcely tell you, ' ' he went on,
' * that there are never sufficient ' big pots' at the same
time to go round, apart from the fact that some of the
' big pots' of the last twelve or fourteen years are social
savages, and absolutely refuse to be worried into being
amiable in or out of the Chamber. Equally, as a matter
of course, the greater the difficulty of catching such an
one, the greater the glory to the catcher. There is
only one exception in that respect ; he is never worried
or badgered into going to ' receptions ;' he is severely
left alone ; and that is Henri Brisson. One of these
women, somewhat more epigrammatic than the rest,
said that * receiving him' entailed too great an outlay of
fuel ; for he positively chills the whole of the house the
moment he sets his foot in it. The next * big catch'
used to be M. Dufaure, who, during his periods of
office, went to bed very late, got up at four, and worked
like a nigger. He came out of his shell now and then
— very rarely, though ; consequently his appearance in
a salon ranked as an event. The men most in demand
and cordially responsive to invitations are Edouard
Lockroy and Charles Floquet. Lockroy always was,
still is, and will probably remain to the end of his days,
a delightful companion. Success has smoothed many
of the angles of Floquet' s character; he can be most
amusing when he likes, and he generally does like. As
a rule, however, these hostesses have to be content with
the minor gods, and to fall back upon quantity rather
than quality."

All this was virtually a comment on the conversation

My Paris Note-Book. 167

of the previous night, which had nearly exclusively-
borne on the delight of the ladies at the presence of one
or more ministers at their dinner-table.

''What a pity, chere amie," said a comely woman,
who ought to have brought an action for libel against
her face, for she looked clever ; * ' what a pity you were
unable to dine with us, for we had the Ministre des
Beaux- Arts. He was positively charming. ' '

'* Really?" drawled another, and by her tone I con-
cluded that she had "something up her sleeve" — the
expression is figurative, for there was not sufficient
sleeve to conceal anything. ' ' Really ' '

* ' Yes, he was really charming. ' '

* ' I am not surprised, though ; he is nearly always
charming. He was very charming at our dinner on
Thursday ; but I could not pay him the attention I
ought to have paid, for we had the Ministre de I ' Inte-
rieur too." The blow had been admirably prepared
and was as admirably delivered, for though, as I have
said already, quantity has often to do duty for quality
in the enumeration of ' ' distinguished' ' guests, both the
quantity and quality enumerated by the last speaker
were superior to those of her interlocutor ; there being
ministers of the first and second water ; and in that
particular set of which I am treating, a Minister of the
Interior is to a Minister of Fine Arts, what in music a
semi-breve is to a crochet. I might go further still, and
say that to a hostess fond of social display, and bent
upon showing her importance to the outer world, a
Minister of the Interior is worth all the other ministers
put together ; for the nature of his duties compels him
to have * ' his finger on the pulse of France hourly, ' ' as
the late M. Beule, who was Minister of the Interior
himself, said one day. As a consequence, the telegrams

i68 My Paris Note-Book.

and reports from the provincial prefects and sub-prefects
to the Place Beauveau never cease, and increase as the
evening advances. They are, in the absence of the
minister from his official residence, despatched to him
by the mounted troopers of the municipal guard, and
"that is where the sensation comes in." The sight of
such a messenger outside a dwelling not only proclaims
urbi et orbi the fact that the great man is "at meat
within," but it secures the reverence of the concierge,
who, to most Parisians, but especially to that class, is
the " God Almighty viewing things from below," and
whose testimony to the grandeur of the tenants must be
as valuable to them as was the approval of that little
waitress at the Aerated Bread Shop at the corner of
Parliament Street, where canons and deans are wont to
forgather for mid-day refreshment. She had not the
remotest idea of their social status, but on my remark-
ing that there were a great many sable-coated gentlemen
in the place, she replied — " Oh, yes, they are very re-
spectable and civil ; they never make a noise as some
of the others do." "The others," I learnt subse-
quently, were the jaunty clerks of the parliamentary
agents and lawyers of the neighbourhood.

France is the most monarchical country in the world,
and now that her kings have disappeared, the people —
from the highest to the lowest — fashion for themselves
kinglets. Whether their names be Comte de Mun,
Comte de Douville-Maillefeu, Gambetta, Rochefort,
Boulanger, Paul Deroulede, Cllmenceau, or Blanqui,
their tenure of the tinsel crown and sceptre is very pre-
carious ; they are subject to proscription, obloquy, and
martyrdom, like real kings. Proscription is, after all,
the best thing that can happen to them, for it frequently
saves them from obloquy, which is sure to come to

My Paris Note-Book. 169

them, if they show a dislike to frequently recurring
martyrdom. ' ' Apres tout, papa ne pent pas se faire
coffrer a chaque instant pour plaire a Montmartre et
Belleville," said Rochefort's son one day a few years
before his sad death.

But for the time being the ' ' kinglet' ' is adulated as
was no king in the feudal age, as is no English lord at a
suburban dinner-party or ball. The lady who had ad-
ministered the telling blow to her would-be social rival,
sat still for a moment or so, then with a beaming face,
she followed up her advantage. * ' Oui, ' ' she remarked,
" nous avons eu M. le Ministre de I'lnterieur ; il a m^me
admirablement din6. II a repris deux fois de la bisque.
Deux fois, deux fois." Madame de S6vign6 chroni-
cling the gastronomic feats of " Le Roi-Soleil ;" Herr
Moritz Busch enumerating the viands despatched by
Bismarck, were lukewarm in their enthusiasm com-
pared to that lady. But the minister in question not
being, perhaps, such a formidable trencherman as the
great king or the great chancellor, the fact of taking
* ' bisque^ ' twice acquired additional importance.

These are some of the would-be imitators of the
woman who — excepting Louise Michel — is the only one
among those of the Third Republic worthy of serious
consideration — I mean from a political point of view.
It is an open secret, at any rate in France, that Gam-
betta, who intellectually towered a head and shoulders
above any of his successors, proved refractory to the
attempt to influence him, though the means employed
thereto are probably not so well known, even in France.
I may, if space permits, come back to the subject. I
intend to state facts, authenticated facts, and not to be
beguiled into comment. For the present, I will confine
myself to asking a simple question which may already

lyo My Paris Note-Book.

have presented itself to the reader's mind, and en-
deavour to supply its answer — of course, according to
my own lights.

This is probably the first time that we witness in
France the spectacle of politics without the influence of
woman. What is the cause of this new departure?
One is bound to admit that a monarchy, especially in
France, is more favourable than a republic to the influ-
ence of woman in the aflairs of State ; but the First
Repubhc had its remarkable women, not all as great as
Madame Roland, but remarkable, nevertheless, and
women with whom some of its leaders did not disdain
to confer. Then why this startling diflerence under the
Third Republic, though truth compels one to add that
the diflerence was already visible under the Second

The reason is simply this. The majority of the men
who have jumped or been pitch-forked into power by a
blatant democracy or by the pusillanimity of the bour-
geoisie, aided by the wilfully impotent recriminations of
a physically decadent and morally and mentally stagnant
aristocracy — these men, whether they like it or not, do
not belong to the class whence, in former days, minis-
ters, ambassadors, and dignitaries were recruited. They
may have received the same education, but their home
surroundings are diflerent. The lower middle class,
whence they sprang, is the least susceptible to the
refined fascination of woman's wit and charms. Of
course, there are exceptions in this case, just as there
were exceptions in the other — that is, all the ministers,
&c. , of the Third Republic do not necessarily belong to
the lower middle classes, any more than all the minis-
ters, &c. , of the First Empire, the Restoration, and
the monarchy of Louis Philippe sprang from the upper

My Paris Note-Book. 171

middle classes. For instance, Corbiere, who rose to
high dignities under the last two Bourbons, was the son
of a poor Breton peasant woman, but the feeling with
regard to the choice of ministers and leaders was such
that Corbiere' s mother, on receiving the tidings of his
nomination, exclaimed — *'My son a minister? Is the
Revolution not at an end, then?" As a contrast to
this I may recite the remark of Gambetta's father at the
period when his son was President of the Chamber, and
when he saw him pass between the two rows of soldiers,
who presented arms while the drums were beating.
' ' Tant mieux, ' ' said the old grocer from Cahors ; " it
appears that L^on has tumbled into a very good berth.
I trust he may keep it and save money." He had no
notion of the dignity of the position, he only saw the
material benefits accruing from it. He reminds me of
the Polish Jewish soldier to whom Skobeleff on the eve
of Plevna offered the choice between a hundred roubles
and the Cross of St. George for having saved his life.
' * The Cross of St. George, the Cross of St. George, ' '
said the young man; "what is it worth, the Cross of
St. George ?" * * My good fellow, it is not for the worth
of the thing, but for the honour, that I offer it to you.
The Cross itself is worth no more than five roubles."
*'In that case," came the answer, 'Til have the Cross
of St. George and ninety-five roubles."

Corbiere was, however, not the only one who from
lowly beginnings rose to eminence in the State during
the first six or seven decades of the century. The
Thouvenels, Billaults, Magnes, had no greater ad-
vantages at the outset of their lives than the other.
Magne, who was the son of poor artisans, won his pro-
motion as a statesman step by step ; his great capabili-
ties in financial matters were admitted even by his adver-

172 My Paris Note-Book.

sarles, his sterling honesty did the rest. When he had
reached the pinnacle of power he took a kind of pride
in showing his friends the rough-hewn stone table on
which, as a child, he had conned his lessons and writ-
ten his exercises. It is due to the memory of Napoleon
III. to say that he recognised merit, and enlisted it
wherever he found it. But, I repeat, all these men had
not only served their apprenticeship to the State in sub-
ordinate capacities, but that apprenticeship, with its con-
comitant contact with polite society, had transformed
them into * ' men of the world ' ' of refined habits and
manners ; it had, above all, taught them tact ; they
were more respectful in dealing with the leaders of the
Opposition than the present leaders are in dealing with
their own followers ; consequently, the Opposition was
prouder of the ministers it combated than is the present
majority of the ministers it supports. Their attitude
towards women was altogether different from what it
has become. There was far less empressement towards
them in public, but a more intelligent understanding of
the feeling that caused them to fill the galleries of the
Palais-Bourbon and the salle des stances over the Cour
de Caulaincourt — ^where the Imperial stables were situ-
ated — at the Tuileries. In one word, the politicians of
to-day do not look upon woman nor love her as did the
statesmen of old. They feel a certain restraint in her
society, and as a consequence, fail to please and amuse
her, even if they would take pains to that effect, which
they do not take. When one of my fellow-guests laid
such stress upon the fact of the Ministre des Beaux- Arts
having been so charming at her dinner-table, a more
logical mind than mine might have concluded that the
ministre was not amiable every day of the week or at
every entertainment, notwithstanding the testimony of

My Paris Note-Book. 173

the second speaker, to which, Hke Falstaff's tailor, he
might have required more unimpeachable guarantee. I
wish to point out that I am not deahng just now with
women who are on the fringe of RepubUcan society, but
with those who are, as it were, the ornamental pattern
interwoven with its fabric. To all intents and purposes
they are gra7ides dames de par le monde — le monde re-
publicain, if you will ; and whatsoever ' ' Brantom-
esque" traits they may be possessed of, they never
degenerate into '' Zolaesque," as far as the outer world
is enabled to judge. Their intellectual qualities are not
of a very high order, but as the Duchesse de Chev-
reuse said of her diamonds when Napoleon I. asked
her if they were all real — ''They are not, but they are
good enough for here. ' '

Well, with very few exceptions, the politicians of to-
day — it would be idle to call them statesmen — prefer
the ''Zolaesque." At the age when the young man,
however studious and hardworking, gives the greater
part of his thoughts and heart to a woman or to
women, the sprouting politician is compelled to reserve
his soul, his thoughts, his ardour, for the all-absorbing
career he pursues. He lives amidst a pushing, jostling,
and unscrupulous crowd, which frequently works and
vociferates itself into a semi-lunatic condition. Ever
and anon there is an almost literal interpretation of the
motto, * ' Each one for himself, and the devil take the
hindmost. ' ' At such times he is compelled to watch every
movement while carefully directing his own steps, lest
by slackening his pace he should become the prey of
the evil one, or by stumbling have the political life
trampled out of him. He must be for ever on the
alert ; he must not be diverted for a single moment
from the path along which he is tearing at a breakneck


174 ^Y Paris Note-Book.

speed ; least of all must he take his eyes off the goal— •
the winning-post from which is suspended a portfolio
with the figures " 60,000 francs " inscribed on it. Any-
body or anything calculated to obstruct his view of, or
his progress towards it, must be ruthlessly swept out of
the way, were it the handsomest and most seductive
woman ever created. Nay, he knows at the very out-
set that whatever consideration he may or would dis-
play to any other obstacle, human or otherwise, he
cannot or dare not display it to woman ; for to be
diverted from his pursuit by her means absolute perdi-
tion from his point of view. But as, notwithstanding
the hard and fast lines of his carefully drawn-up pro-
gramme, he is not altogether without a spark of chivalry
towards her, he warns her off the course to be traversed
beforehand ; she may stand at the ropes as a spectator
if she likes — that is a matter of supreme indifference to
him. ' ' And if I love thee, what is that to thee ?' '
says the King to Goethe's " Iphigenia." The politician
boldly reverses the line. ' * And if thou lovest me,
what is that to me?" he asks. He is not more chaste
than his fellow men, perhaps less. He has got all the
sexual appetite of the others, but he grudges himself
the time to sit down at the carefully appointed board
and to enjoy an artistically prepared menu. When his
hunger gets too much for him, he gorges, and in hot
haste too. He reminds one of the traveller who at each
stoppage of the express rushes to the refreshment bar
and devours any and everything that he can lay hold
of; flings down a gold piece at the very moment the
guard's whistle sounds, without being able to wait for
the change — for our politician pays heavily for those
hurried crammings ; risks a succession of fits of indi-
gestion ; and at the end of his journey is incapable of


My Paris Note-Book. 175

doing justice to the excellent fare prepared for him.
The latter of my poor metaphor is not so extravagant
as it may seem, for there comes a time and tide in the
affairs of the politician when he is accounted ' * a good
match," and, as such, introduced to a well-to-do and
important Republican family, ayant tine demoiselle a
marier^ a sweet and practically innocent girl, une bonne
botiche, fit for a king ; to whom, before marriage, he is
not unlike young Marlow to ' ' women of reputation and
virtue, ' ' while after marriage . . . well ; we all know
that Byron said — "What one man neglects, another
picks up," and need not insist upon the consequences.
If his health hold out, he may continue to be a gros
mangeur — au restaurant ; he'll noYQYhQd. Jin gourmet.
Gambetta had a notion of the fate in store for such men,
and persistently refused to marry. " Je ne tiens pas a
6cailler les huitres, pour les voir avalees pa les autres, ' '
he said on one occasion when hardly pressed to become
a Benedick. As for dwelling upon his own aspirations
with the goddess de rencontre, the passing caprice of a
more refined category, the mattresse en titre, the sweet
fiancee, or even the legitimate spouse, the politician
has no time for it. In his love afiairs (?) he has all the
brutality of the First Napoleon without his genius.

176 My Paris Note-Book.


Round about the Palais-Bourbon — The Salle des Pas-Perdus —
M. Adolphe Ranc — Actors and critics — The editor of Le Matin —
M. Arthur Meyer of Z^ Gaulois — M. Edouard Herve oi Le Soleil
— An anecdote of the Due de Noailles— M. Ribot— M. Clemenceau
— An anecdote of Gambetta in the heydey of his popularity — An
anecdote of King Christian IX.— M. Henri Brisson— M. Goblet-
Some late ambassadors — A hint to future historians— The Presi-
dent of the Chamber — The President's bell.

And now let us glance at some of these men enacting
the play — the farce, if you will — of shaping the destinies
of France, at the Palais-Bourbon, the erstwhile residence
of the illegitimate daughter of Louis XIV. and Madame
de Montespan, of the Mademoiselle de Nantes of Saint-
Simon' s ''Memoires," the widow of that mischievous
dwarf, Louis, third Due de Bourbon-Cond^, the small-
minded and small-bodied son of the great Cond^.

The prologue to the play, which is enacted in the
Salle des Pas-Perdus, officially the Salle de la Paix, is
often more amusing than the play itself, especially to
those on whom the strutting and posing of some of the
actors produces as much effect as would a Bramah latch-
key on the lock of a feudal castle ; so let us linger for a
little while in the Salle des Pas-Perdus.

Here is an actor who neither struts nor poses, but
who, without being a great man, according to the gospel
of greatness preached to-day, is profitable company, take
him whatever way you will — an actor who has stead-
fastly refused to assume a principal part — an actor who

My Paris Note-Book. 177

has never claimed more than the daily hire of which the
humblest labourer is said to be worthy — who has been
much maligned when the mere ''mummers" were ap-
plauded — who has never played for effect, though his
real patrons were always the ' ' gods' ' and the ' ' ground-
lings" — an actor with whose part I have no sympathy,
but whom I cannot help respecting for the unselfish
manner in which he conceived and rendered it. He is
not much to look at, this Adolphe Ranc, who said to
Mr. (afterwards Sir) Richard Wallace when the latter
handed him the first monthly instalment of 10,000 francs
for the poor of Paris during the siege — ''Monsieur, if
there were many aristocrats like you, there would be
need of fewer Republicans like myself." There is
nothing very remarkable about him except his some-
what careless dress ; the black beard, largely streaked
with grey, is allowed to run more or less wild ; there is
a noteworthy absence of that white shirt-front, the
presence of which always distinguishes the well-to-do
Frenchman ; and yet, in spite of all this, in spite of his
unbending radical opinions, of his share in the doings
of the Commune, or just because of them — for I do not
happen to get my opinions from the glib leader-writers
on one side or the other — I would sooner trust my honour
and my life in an emergency — property I have none ; if
I had, I would trust that, too — to Adolphe Ranc, than
to most of the men who profess to look upon him as a
firebrand. All the others, or nearly all, are actuated
by their wants and material appetites. I have known
Adolphe Ranc for nearly thirty years ; I caught my
first glimpse of him at the Caf6 de Madrid when I was
twenty ; and I feel confident that he has never com-
mitted a shabby or dishonourable act, politically or
otherwise ; and that he has never bartered his convic-

178 My Paris Note-Book.

tions for money or advancement, though he has been
tempted, not once, but a dozen times.

In this green-room, for the Salle des Pas-Perdus is
virtually that, the critics forgather in large numbers.
Some are critics and actors in one, like MM. Paul de
Cassagnac, Henri Maret, Georges Clemenceau, Joseph
Reinach, Camille Pelletan, and three or four others.
They are neither the worst critics nor the worst actors,
and preferable by far to the critics ' ' pure and simple' '
whether they are the editors of the papers they represent
or not. Here is one of the editor-critics, M. Edwards
of Le MatiUy a tall, stylish-looking man, whose semi-
English origin is mainly shown in his appearance, for he
rarely misses an opportunity of saying something dis-

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