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of the battle of Magenta, but the victor himself stub-
bornly refused to be drawn out. ' ' What is the use of
asking for particulars of Mac-Mahon's career?" wrote
one of those journalists almost immediately after the
engagement ; * ' what is the use of asking us, when Mac-
Mahon himself refuses to enlighten us on that and other
points, and simply says that he has done exactly what
every other general has done and would do under simi-
lar circumstances ?' '

* * Without the faintest prestige, ' ' said Pelletan ; by
which he meant ''the faintest political prestige," for it
flattered and still flatters French pride to think or to
delude itself into the belief that, but for the accident that
befell Mac-Mahon on that ill-fated morning of Sedan, he
would have been able to stop the advance of the Ger-
mans for good.

One may well doubt whether that delusion was ever
shared to any appreciable extent by the honest, valiant
soldier himself To have imagined such a reversal of
misfortune would have argued the possession on his
part of a sanguineness of disposition, a buoyancy of tem-
perament, and a vividness of imagination, all of which
were absolutely lacking. Of all the qualities that seem,
as it were, to be the moral and mental appanage of the
race whence he sprang, Mac-Mahon had only preserved
one — his reckless daring ; the rest had in the course of
r 22*



258 My Paris Note-Book.

several generations entirely vanished, and been replaced
by a sound but exceedingly restricted common-sense
which forbade even the faintest dream of his attejnptifig
the retrieval of France's disasters by force of arms.
Whether his faith in the recuperative power of his
country in military matters was sufficiently strong to in-
spire him with something more than hope for the future,
it would be difficult to say, for Mac-Mahon was a reti-
cent man. This reticence may have been due, first, to
that sound common-sense ; secondly, to a faint con-
sciousness of his being a rare and curious specimen of
the happy man sans le vouloir, and that therefore his
lack of active will-power was no drawback to him. I am
by no means convinced that he had even that faint con-
sciousness, for I strongly suspect the late Marshal — and
I had many opportunities of observing him — of having
been not only a happy man sans le vouloir, but a happy
man sans le savoir.

After the peace of Utrecht, Marshal Villars sent a
deputation to Marlborough to compliment him on his
victories in Flanders. "The secret of my success,"
said Churchill modestly, * ' means simply this — I made a
hundred blunders, my adversaries made a hundred and
one." It would be more than unjust to depreciate the
military talents — as distinct from the strategical and tac-
tical — of a soldier like Mac-Mahon, who, if the whole
truth were known, never laid much stress upon the pos-
session of either ; but the student of history cannot but
be aware that this hundred-and-first blunder which
would have reduced Mac-Mahon in the estimation of
his countrymen to the level of a Wimpffen, a Trochu,
a Ducrot, and even of a Bourbaki, though perhaps not
to that of a Bazaine, was mercifully averted from him
by chance in the shape of the spHnter of a shell early



My Paris Note-Book. 259

in the morning of September ist, 1870. In a German
adaptation of Lord Lytton's ''Night and Morning,"
by Charlotte Birch Pfeiffer — not to be confounded with
Ida Pfeiffer — Lord Lilburne, the aristocratic villain of
the play, Hmps in at the very moment that Beaufort has
been killed by a fall from off his horse. ' ' He could
not have broken his neck at a more favourable oppor-
tunity," he chuckles. The same might be said with
regard to Mac-Mahon's mishap. He could not have
been wounded at an opportunity more favourable to
himself; for it saved him the humiliation of putting his
signature to the capitulation of Sedan ; it left his coun-
trymen under the pleasing delusion that he might have
retrieved his crushing defeat at Reichshofen by a signal
victory on the banks of the Meuse. The halo of Ma-
genta was dimmed — not destroyed. That's why I
called him the happy man sans le vouloir, and perhaps
sans le savoir. His common-sense lay In not jeopard-
ising this goodwill of his countrymen towards him by a
show of individuality, except once, and this was un-
doubtedly the mistake of his life. That he repented of
it, I have good reason to believe ; the pity of it is, that
this repentance bred an indifference almost bordering
upon stolidity, from which he never departed until the
day of his death. I need scarcely say that I mean a
stolidity with regard to public affairs. In private life he
was amiable to a degree, though not demonstrative.
His modesty, both in public and private life, I have
already touched upon ; it was utterly unaffected, as the
following story will show. In 1884 ^ friend of mine
went for a fortnight's stay to Jersey and Guernsey. It
appears that a firm of excursion agents, in addition to
the brakes provided for the accommodation of their
patrons, had secured the services of a photographer



26o My Paris Note-Book.

who presented each member of the party with a picture
of the group to which he or she happened to belong for
the time being. A young matron decHned to form part
of such a miscellaneous gathering. ' ' I am sorry,
madame, ' ' said the photographer, * ' for there are some
very eminent personages now and then in these groups.
Here is one I took a fortnight ago. Do you know that
old gentleman and the lady by his side ? It is the Duke
of Magenta and the Duchess. ' ' The artist had spoken
the truth. Two descendants of two of the noblest
families in Europe had cheerfully accepted a kind
attention from which the bourgeoise had shrunk.

When Mac-Mahon resigned the Presidentship, simpli-
city became the order of the day once more with him.
I have seen him, not once, but a score of times, early
in the morning in the Rue de la Paix, with his wife on
his arm, looking at the shops and pricing things like
the simplest couple of bourgeois. Both Mac-Mahon' s
predecessor and his immediate successor saved money
at the Elys^e. Mac-Mahon left it poorer than he en-
tered, and but for the Duchesse's rich relations, would
have left it in debt. We shall meet with Mac-Mahon
again at the Presidency.



My Paris Note-Book. 261



CHAPTER XI.

Three Presidents of the Republic (continued)— M. Jules Grevy—
His spotless political past— The truth about his famous amend-
ment — The origin of his fall as a President — M. Grevy's early
career — His acquaintance with Alfred de Musset — The love-letters
of Alfred de Musset to George Sand — My uncle at Musset's
funeral— My uncle's notes about Grevy — Theodore Barriere, the
famous playwright— M. Grevy's wonderful memory— M. Grevy's
fondness for women's society — Madame Grevy — Where she failed
— M. Grevy's mesalliance — The sequel to the mesalliance — M.
Grevy's literary attainments— His character a puzzle — M. Gr6vy's
love of money — Anecdotes to that eftect — A comparison between
his greed and that of Thiers — M. Grevy's real age — His gene-
alogy.

M. Jules Grevy was the first President of the Third
RepubHc who took possession of the Elysee-Bourbon
with a * * clean slate, ' ' from the Republicans' point of
view, and against whom no reactionary could prefer the
charge of having draped himself in the cast-off finery of
the vanished regimes. From the moment Gr6vy made
his appearance in the political arena (1848), nay, from
the very moment he forced himself into notice as the
legal defender of Philippet and Quignot, accused, like
Barbes and Martin Bernard, of complicity in the insur-
rection of '39, Grevy fought with uplifted visor for the
Republican cause. There was not a single political in-
consistency in his public career from the beginning to
the end, for even his opposition to the appointment of a
President of the Republic — with which opposition he
was so often twitted since his acceptance of the dignity



262 My Paris Note-Book.

— was not only perfectly logical at the time being, but
proved an almost inspired foresight into the immediate
future. Grevy was not opposed to a President of the
Republic, but to a President of the Republic raised to
the position by a plebiscite^ '' for," argued he, "such a
chief magistrate could, in the event of a conflict with
the Chamber, take his stand upon the fact of owing no
allegiance to the Chamber, seeing that the Chamber did
not elect him, and consequently, on the plea, real or
fictitious, of acting in the interest of the nation which
chose him, oppose that Chamber to the bitter end, nay,
dissolve it by force as an assembly of enemies of the
public weal." I am giving the spirit, though perhaps
not the letter, of his argument, for, as I have already
had occasion to remark more than once, I do not pro-
fess to write history. I repeat, there was not a single
political inconsistency in Grevy' s public career from
beginning to end, and when he fell, the fall was not due
to a political mistake or an unconstitutional encroach-
ment on his part, but to circumstances which had their
origin in his private life. There probably never was a
more glaringly ' * ridiculous want of proportion between
oflence and punishment" than in Gravy's ante-Presi-
dential peccadillo and its consequences, which culminated
in the ' * Caffarel scandal, ' ' and finally compelled him to
vacate the Presidential chair.

** A man who is not sometimes a fool is always one,'*
said Paley ; and if judged by that axiom, Grevy may
fairly be considered to have been a wise man. Unlike
Maltres Henri Brisson, Charles Floquet, L6on Gam-
betta, and a dozen others whose names have become
identified with the fortunes of the Third Republic,
Maitre Jules Gr^vy, though well known for his Repub-
lican opinions, did not attempt to make those opinions



My Paris Note-Book. 263

a stepping-stone to success in his profession. Tradition
credits him with being among the assailants of the bar-
racks in the Rue de Babylone during the Revolution of
1830, but one may well doubt this, seeing that, according
to those who knew him — and my uncles were among the
number of his acquaintances, though the acquaintance
seems never to have ripened into friendship — he was
always disinclined to physical exertion, unless it was
connected with sport. Notwithstanding this reputed
bodily indolence, and an almost insatiable craving for
sleep, he made his mark very soon after having been
called to the bar, mainly by the exercise of a truly
phenomenal memory, which stood him in excellent stead
till the very end of his life, and invested him with a
peculiar charm as a causeur. In his early manhood he
seems to have been what the French call ' ' un bon gar-
fon,^^ what we call "a good fellow," though not exactly
a jolly good fellow, for even at the age of thirty he was
very demure, not to say grave. A few hours before his
election as President of the Republic in January ' 79, M.
Edmond About said in my hearing, and in that of
several other journalists standing by — " Gr6vy is fond
of good wine, he has an eye for a good-looking woman,
and is sufficiently grave withal ; he is ' cut out' for a
President of the French Republic. (Gr6vy est buveur,
galant et grave, c'est le President qu'il faut aux Fran-
9ais.)" The future President was then in his seventy-
second year ; but the compliment, and it was intended
as such, was as deserved at that moment as it would
have been some thirty-five years before, at which period
the young barrister made the acquaintance of Alfred
de Musset at the Cafe de la R6gence, where he became
the poet's almost constant opponent at chess, previous
to his becoming the poet's confidant and legal adviser in



264 My Paris Note-Book.

a case which, had it been brought into Court, would
have probably proved the most interesting literary cause
celebre of the century. It was shortly after Musset's
rupture with George Sand, and his return heart-broken
from Venice. Musset, who knew George Sand's pecu-
liar tendency for turning every scrap of paper to account,
was anxious to have his love-letters back. He felt con-
vinced that sooner or later he would figure as the hero
of one of her books, that his letters would be utilised ;
he knew that he could prevent neither the one thing nor
the other — that even if George Sand returned the letters,
she would preserve copies of them ; nevertheless, he
wanted them back. Though Musset did not die until
twenty years after, he was already then on the down-
ward path, absinthe had begun to do its deadly work,
albeit that the intermittent flashes of lucidity were
marked by work which a uniformly sober life would
perhaps have failed to produce ; but he was obstinate to
a degree, whether sober or the reverse. All this I
learned many years after the event ; but it was on the
very day of Musset's funeral in '57 that I heard for the
first time the name of the man who was to be the third
President of the Third Republic. It happened in this
way. My uncles had known both the Mussets rather
intimately between the thirties and forties, but the
brothers' visits to our home, especially those of the
younger, had, in the latter years of his life, become very
rare. I remember, though, seeing him once during the
year and a half that elapsed between my arrival in Paris
and his death. I was too young then to appreciate the
privilege. At the time of his death I knew something
of his poems, not much, for my relatives were com-
mendably anxious that I should not know too much at
so early an age. The little I did know, however, made



My Paris Note-Book. 265

me very eager to see his funeral, for I felt convinced that
the whole of literary and artistic Paris would be there.
I had not read Carlyle's '^ Heroes and Hero-Worship"
at the time, but had come instinctively to the conclusion
that, * ' take them in whatever way you will, great men
are always profitable company. ' ' My elder grand-uncle
being confined to his room with a bad leg, I had to stay
at home to keep /inn company instead ; the younger
went alone.

*' Well, Mark," said his brother, when his junior re-
turned, " I suppose there was an enormous crowd?"

''Very enormous, brother," replied Mark bitterly.
"I counted them."

* ' How could you count such a crowd ?' '

' ' Very easily. Apart from his family and a few of
his friends, there were, when we left the house, exactly
seventeen persons at the door, whom I would be at a
loss to classify unless I called them spectators. Three
of these were very indifferent spectators, for they de-
serted us before we got half-a-mile on our way, for the
superior attraction of a regiment that went by with its
band at its head. The drum-major and the 'jingling
Jimmy' proved too much for them. I wotild rather say
no more about it."

They sat quite still for a little while ; then my elder
uncle asked — "Were any of his Cafe de la Regence
acquaintances there ?' '

"Yes," answered my uncle Mark, " M. Jules Gr6vy ;
no one else."

"Ah," was the other's comment, " M. Jules Grevy
is a downright good fellow ; his heart is in the right
place."

I had entirely forgotten the name of M. Jules Gr6vy
in connection with the above incident, when I was re-
al 23



266 My Paris Note-Book.

minded of it, after my uncles' death, by a note in the
younger' s handwriting. This was nearly two years
before the outbreak of the Franco- German War, when
no one dreamt of the honours in store for M. Grevy,
although he had risen to the top of his profession.
The note is far too long to be given in extensOy albeit
that it would be interesting enough, especially to stu-
dents of the French drama, seeing that it deals in reality
with an episode in the life of one of the foremost
French playwrights of the reigns of Louis Philippe and
Napoleon III. — Theodore Barriere, whom at one time
my uncles — they were inveterate matchmakers — tried to
marry to a wealthy Dutch girl living in Paris with her
family. The note throws, moreover, a curious light on
the French laws regulating the control of parents over
their children ; but, I repeat, I can only condense it.

It was well known that even at the outset of his dra-
matic career Theodore Barriere earned a fair amount of
money. As it was equally well known that Barriere
had no expensive tastes, save in the matter of cigars,
which he liked good and large, and of which he con-
sumed a great many in the course of each day, it sur-
prised those who knew him to see him turn every now
and then to one of his friends, and borrow a twenty franc
piece. Whither did the money go, then ? To his mother,
who was the most curious specimen of greed and im-
providence combined which it would be possible to find.
Barriere did not seem to mind it, for he was very fond of
her. He was not equally fond of his father, and of the
latter' s brother, both of whom pretended to look upon
the rising young playwright as a mere trifler, whose
works, compared to theirs, did not deserve a moment's
consideration. They would have fain compelled him
to remain bending over the engraver's bench — I think



My Paris Note-Book. 267

they, the father and the uncle, were engravers also, who
beguiled their leisure hours, the sire by versifying some
of Moliere's prose works, the sire's brother by convert-
ing into prose Le Misanthrope, Tartuffe, &c. They
would have fain prevented Barriere from writing * * the
rubbish" he wrote, the proceeds of which *' rubbish"
they, however, appropriated almost to a cent, and which
* ' rubbish' ' was the means of providing the whole of the
family with comforts they had not enjoyed before. Their
attempts to treat Barriere as a minor had hitherto
proved unsuccessful, notwithstanding the fact of Bar-
riere being under age at the date of the first attempt,
and albeit that even in the France of the present day a
man of forty or fifty may be so treated by his family if
they can obtain the necessary authority. My uncles
called the Conseil Judiciaire the " chapel of ease of the
madhouse." We may suppose, however, that even
among the lawyers consulted by the two elder Barrieres,
there was not one sufficiently daring to make an appli-
cation to a judge in the case of a young fellow who de-
lighted Paris audiences by his wit and pointed satire
when he was barely twenty, for Barriere had already
then obtained a certain measure of his success, though
his great popularity only began with La Vie de Boheme,
written in collaboration with Henri Murger. Then the
brothers thought their chance had come. Instead of
applying to this or that pettifogging lawyer, as they
had done hitherto, they consulted a member of the
French bar who had already won a reputation. They
intended to base their application upon the young play-
wright's association "with a notoriously immoral indi-
vidual," the said Henri Murger, the author of a scan-
dalously obscene novel, entitled ' * Scenes de la Vie de
Boheme." The barrister showed them the door.



268 My Paris Note-Book.

''They had appHed to him," says my uncle's note,
' ' because they had heard that he was shortly to figure
in the law-suit to be brought against George Sand by
Alfred de Musset for the restitution of the latter' s letters
to the former. But Musset dared not face the ordeal of
a" public trial, for both his constitution and his brain
were undermined by that pernicious mixture of beer,
absinthe^ and brandy, I believe, he was in the habit of
taking, and the barrister had, moreover, given him
plainly to understand that there would be ' a tremen-
dous scandal,' 'though,' he added, 'we will gain the
day. It's somewhat out of my ordinary line of prac-
tice, but I do not mind that. ' The barrister was M.
Jules Grevy, who during the Second RepubHc distin-
guished himself by his opposition to the appointment
of a President of the Republic.

" I have an idea," the note goes on, "that M. Grevy
would have been as good as his word, and gained the
day. I have not seen M. Gr^vy for a number of years.
I have heard that he has occupied the highest post of
honour his fellow-barristers could confer, and I am not
surprised, for even as a comparatively young man, he
struck me as being possessed not only of considerable
abilities, but of infinite tact. The fact of his having
succeeded in gaining the friendship and confidence of
Alfred de Musset, and of his having kept these for a
length of time, speaks volumes in his favour, for it is
not libelling the poet's memory to say that the path of
constant intercourse with him was beset with thorns —
nay, Dumas was not far wrong when he called Musset
himself * a large bundle of thorns. ' Musset was touchy
to a degree, and, what was worse, did not admit the
possibility of other people being at all susceptible to his
frequently rude behaviour. The most remarkable thing



My Paris Note-Book. 269

about M. Gr^vy was his memory. Paul de Musset told
me one day that he had tested it in various ways, and
never known it to faiL It was sufficient to give him a
Hne of a classic or modern masterpiece — provided, of
course, that he was acquainted with it, to have the rest
'reeled off' without a moment's break."

It would appear from the same note which I condense
still further, and which was evidently written in 1868,
or, at any rate, completed in that year, for it mentions
" M. Grevy's election to the Chamber" — it would ap-
pear, I say, that every one, except Paul de Musset, was
surprised at seeing the young and outwardly grave bar-
rister accept the obviously sensational case against
George Sand. But Alfred de Musset' s elder brother,
who, like M. Ernest Daudet in our own days, had to
bear the penalty of his junior's genius — the comparison
is only partially just, for Paul de Musset ranks higher
as a writer than M. Ernest Daudet — was, nevertheless,
an excellent reader of character, and the very sedate
demeanour of M. Grevy did not impose upon him.
* ' Paul de Musset told me, ' ' my uncle writes, ' * that M.
Grevy is not only very fond of women's society, but
that he is a great favourite with them, that he admirably
understands their tempers, their dispositions, and their
whims. He never htirries tnatters, least of all does he
pose as a lady-killer, or broken-hearted victim of un-
requited passion. He lays deliberate siege to their
hearts or imaginations, he does not attempt to take
them by storm, and in his own quiet way gives them to
understand that even in the event of surrender, they
will be allowed to retire eventually with the banners of
their fair fame flying, and the honours of war. ' '

I began this little dissertation on M. Grevy's private
character, by quoting Paley, to the effect that ' ' a man

23*



270



My Paris Note-Book.



who Is not sometimes a fool Is always one ;' ' and added,
that, judged by that axiom, Grevy was a wise man. I
doubt whether M. Grevy would have agreed with me
after December 1887, even if he agreed with me up to
that date, which is also not very probable. For long
before that he must have come to the conclusion that
there are acts of folly which no previous wisdom can
excuse, no subsequent wisdom can redeem, and that
among these a mesalliance is the most irretrievable of
all. Between the years 1 880-1 886, I saw Madame
Gr6vy on several public occasions, and, as far as I
could judge, she seemed a very worthy woman, albeit
Gambetta, whose opportunities of observing her were
denied to me, said, ''that, though belonging to Nar-
bonne, she was by no means all honey." But whether
honey or the reverse, she did not look the consort of a
President of the French Republic, be that Republic
never so democratic in theory. ' ' In order to govern
the French," remarked Gambetta on another occasion,
** one must be violent in speech and moderate In acts."
To Impress French Republicans socially and politically
as well, perhaps, the temporary mistress of the Elysee-
Bourbon should be known to have democratic opinions,
and be able to express them like the most elegant patri-
cian. She must be a Claude Vignon (the first Madame
Rouvier), an Olympe Audouard, a JuHette Lamber
(Mme. Edmond Adam), a Marie Deraismes (one of the
most charming champions of women's rights it has ever
been my lot to meet, and who died but very recently).
She may even be a Louise Michel with a good dress-
maker and corsetiere at her back, In default of which
she must be a Mar^chale Lefevre, in other words, a
"Madame Sans-G^ne," like the Duchesse de Dantzic,


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