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who, however, was not the original Madame Sans-G^ne.



My Paris Note-Book. 271

She must be a Madame Sans-Gene ayant le mot pour
rire^ and not only 7iot ashamed of her humble origin,
but taking a profitable opportunity now and then of
actually boasting of it. Madame Grevy fulfilled, neither
of the conditions just named, she was essentially la tres
petite bourgeoise than which there is no more unsympa-
thetic woman when circumstances happen to raise her
out of the class whence she sprang. With reference to
the word mesalliayice I used just now, it might be objected
that at the time of his marriage M. Grevy did not fore-
see the high destiny in store for him. The objection
would absolutely hold good, but the union was, never-
theless, a mesalliance, for, to begin with, Jules Grevy
belonged to a superior section of the French bourgeoisie
than "Wi?, fiancee, who was the daughter of a tanner in an
exceedingly small way of business at Narbonne, and a
milliner by trade. Years ago I wrote in the preface to
a book of mine — "A writer who has time to explain
everything has not much time to write ; a reader who
cannot stop to ask himself * What does this mean ?'
ought not to read." Hence it is not my intention to
explain why U7ie demoiselle de bonne maison — read a
well-connected girl, by which I do not necessarily mean
a girl of aristocratic or even higher middle-class parent-
age — is NOT apprenticed to millinery or dressmaking.
There is a justified or unfounded prejudice among the
French middle bourgeoisie against these callings to-day ;
the prejudice was much stronger fifty and sixty years ago.
Parents will scrape, contrive, deny themselves the com-
forts of life, in order to do two things — to provide a dot,
however small, for their daughters, and to keep them
out of the real or supposed morally pestilential atmos-
phere of the workroom. Secondly, Jules Gr^vy, when
he met his future wife, was already in very fair practice.



272 My Paris Note-Book.

But that delectable habit of his to say " sweet nothings'*
with the gravest possible face to every pretty woman he
met, and which habit never forsook him till he was nearly
an octogenarian — that delectable habit proved too strong
for him on that particular occasion also, and what was
worse, the young woman, who was a provincial, and
probably not accustomed to flirtations, smif pour le bon
motif, took him au serieux ; what was worse still, her
brothers, who were his cUents, took him au grand se-
rieux ; there was probably no means of drawing back,
except at the risk of gravely compromising his profes-
sional reputation. M. Gr6vy had not made the acquaint-
ance, of the Narbonne milliner in the ordinary way ; she
came to him in his professional capacity, and the French
* ' order of barristers' ' exercises a more rigorous control
over its members with regard to their actions, even in
private life, than is generally known. Rather than incur
exposure, not to say interference, Jules Gr6vy resigned
himself to become a Benedick when he would have fain
remained a bachelor.

It is not my intention to follow the future President
of the Republic step by step, either in his forensic,
political, private, or amative vicissitudes. Sufficient be
it to say that in the opinion of those best qualified to
know, the marriage was considered as the first ''serious"
act of folly in M. Grevy's life. " Le mariage," says
Victor Hugo, ''est une grefle ; 9a prend bien ou 9a
prend mal." Whether Paley intended to have a man's
wisdom grafted on in that way it is impossible to say.
Nor can I assert with any degree of certainty that M.
Gravy's domestic life was an unhappy one. Equally
difficult is it to determine whether M. Gr6vy's second
act of folly was a consequence of the first, or entirely
separate. Certain is it, however, that while at Tours in



My Paris Note-Book. 273

1 87 1, he yielded to his fascination for a lady, but for
whose influence his public career would have terminated
differently. But for Mme. Pelouze, M. Gr6vy would
not have become father-in-law to M. Daniel Wilson,
Madame Pelouze' s brother. But for M. Daniel Wilson,
there would perhaps have been no ' ' Caffarel scandal, ' '
and if there had been, M. Grevy would not have been
affected by it.

This is not a mere sweeping assertion on my part. I
could give verse and chapter for what I state, and the
reader who has been kind enough to follow m.e through
these notes will scarcely suspect me of an unreasoning
sympathy either with the Republic or the men who have
lorded it over France for the last twenty-three years.
But if the late M. Grevy is to figure in these pages at
all, he should be represented in his true light ; this much
is due to his memory and to common fairness. He was
the typical French bourgeois of the higher — though per-
haps not of the highest — class. He had nearly all his
virtues, and only one or two of his defects. Apart from
his professional attainments, he had sterHng literary ca-
pacities which, had he chosen to exercise them, would
have probably carried him to the front ranks of author-
ship. His speech on the grave of Berryer was simply
a masterpiece of composition, style, and critical as well
as psychological acumen, enhanced by brilliant touches,
and would, if printed, have dwarfed every essay on the
illustrious orator and barrister. It lost much of its effect
in delivery, for Jules Gr6vy was not an orator in the
best sense of the word ; his delivery was marred by a
certain " flabbiness" of utterance, not of thought. He
had, moreover, an exceedingly great love of literature
and for litterateurs ; their weaknesses as well as their
genius appealed to him ; and a great deal of his liking



274 ^Y Paris Note-Book,

for the late M. Tirard sprang from the fact of the latter' s
resemblance to Alfred de Musset, in so far as a plain
man can resemble a very good-looking one. I remem-
ber hearing M. Gr^vy speak at the dinner on the occa-
sion of the reopening of the rebuilt Hotel de Ville on
the evening of the 13th July 1882. All the bigwigs had
been expatiating on the glories of a resuscitated repub-
lican France ; there had been an almost uninterrupted
flow of political platitudes. The President of the Re-
public scarcely dwelt upon republican France ; he gave
politics a wide berth, but he said a good deal worth
hearing about literary and artistic France, This love of
literature and art is not a common feature in the French
bourgeois^ except in one of the highest type, and yet I
have met many not belonging to the latter category who
were thus endowed.

I have virtually come to a standstill in my attempted
diagnosis, for I am practically confronted with an ap-
parent contradiction which defies explanation as far as I
know. I have referred once or twice to Jules Grevy's
indolence, which, according to those who knew him
best, almost amounted to laziness. It was decidedly
not the indolence which prompts the middle-class
Frenchman to retire from business at a comparatively
early age, and on a really modest competency, in order
to potter about his garden and villa, which he grandi-
loquently styles terres and chdteau. It was not that
kind of indolence, for up to his election as President of
the Republic, and during the whole of his tenure of the
chair at the Chamber, Jules Grevy continued to practise
in the Law Courts, and to give consultations. Nor was
it dislike to physical exertion, for he invariably walked
from his domicile in the Rue Volney to the Gare St.
Lazare and back, while the Chamber was still sitting at



My Paris Note-Book. 275

Versailles, and used the same mode of locomotion in the
erstwhile royal residence itself. True, these are not long
distances ; but, in addition to this, he was, almost up to
the last year of his life, an ardent and indefatigable
sportsman when in his native home in the Jura, and an
equally ardent and indefatigable billiard player. The
man who had all the best French, a good many of the
Latin, and not a few of the Greek classics literally * ' at
the tip of his tongue," could assuredly not be twitted
with mental inactivity ; not to mention his acknowledged
superiority at chess. And yet, I repeat, those who
knew him best, invariably spoke of him as being ' ' phe-
nomenally indolent."

Less open to doubt was Jules Gr6vy's greed of
money, the besetting sin of the whole of the French
bourgeoisie — one might say of almost the whole of the
French nation, were it not for certain exceptions among
the noblesse; which greed is productive of more tragedies
and crimes than all other causes combined ; which greed
is so often dignified by the name of ' ' frugality' ' by
writers who have no opportunities of seeing it at work
in all the natural and social relations of modern France
life, and who fancy that MM. Zola, Daudet, and the
late Guy de Maupassant have purposely exaggerated
this curse for the sake of literary and dramatic effect,
while, in reality, these authors have stopped short of
the truth.

It was this greed that made Jules Gr^vy at first the
laughing-stock of France, and subsequently the scape-
goat of the misdoings of others, for I positively assert
not only that not a cent of the proceeds of that ill-
savoured ' * traffic in decorations' ' found its way into his
pockets, but that he was completely ignorant of that
traffic being directed from under his roof. But the



276 My Paris Note-Book.

world refused to believe it. When a man In Grevy's
position demeans himself, for the sake of a few hundred
francs, to ask for free passes on a railway for his ser-
vants, it is not surprising that he should be thought
capable of selling his influence for several thousands of
francs ; and that request for free passes was not pre-
ferred once, but each time the President of the Republic
moved from the Elysee- Bourbon to Mont-sous- Vaudrey
and back again. It has been said that M. Grevy was
not responsible for this undignified step, that his evil
genius, who was always in want of money, penned those
requests in his name, appropriating the money the rail-
way tickets would have cost to his own use, for his net
was made of very small meshes, and everything was
fish that came to it. I have seen those letters, and they
bore the President's signature, though the body of them
was in a different handwriting. M. Gr^vy may possibly
have signed these letters among other documents ; there
ought not to have been such a possibility. Mac-Mahon,
who was undoubtedly Grevy's mental inferior, never
signed a document without acquainting himself with its
contents — when he did sign, which was not often the
case. He did not categorically refuse ; he kept the pe-
titioner for his signature in conversation for half-an-hour
or so, persistently going away from the subject, and
generally winding up with a "Je n'aime pas les pape-
rasses et je ne signerai pas."

But even if the excuse held good in that one instance,
it would fail in the two following stories, which, to my
knowledge, have never been published, and which, for
that reason, I select from among the hundred and odd
I have in my possession.

M. Gr6vy owned a house — on the Boulevard Males-
herbes, I think, but will not be certain — part of which



My Paris Note-Book. 277

had been taken on a very short agreement by M. Du-
clerc before he became Prime Minister. It so happened
that one or two days after his nomination the quarter-
day came round, on which he was to give notice of his
intention to quit or to remain. Having his hands very
full, the new Premier decided to stay. ' ' Very well, M.
le Ministre," said the concierge to whom the commu-
nication was made, ' ' but I am obliged to tell you that
the rent will be raised 2000 frs. per year, consequently
500 frs. per quarter." "In that case," replied M.
Duclerc, "I had better see your 'proprietor' first."
''That's impossible," was the answer, "our proprietor
sees no one, and his agent {son homme d' affaires) ^
foreseeing your objections, has told me that it will be
useless to appeal to him, as he received positive instruc-
tions to that effect. ' ' After a moment or so, the con-
cierge added something which was not on his part ' ' a
bit of gag," as actors would say : " Five hundred francs
a quarter won't make much difference to M. le Ministre
now. ' ' The man was probably repeating the words of
the agent, who in his turn had probably repeated the
words of the ' ' proprietor. ' ' M. Duclerc refused, how-
ever, to look at things in that way, and made inquiries
as to the name of his landlord, but in vain.* At the
end of a week, Grevy, at the conclusion of a Ministerial
Council, took him aside. "Don't trouble, my dear
Duclerc, about finding out the name of your landlord ;
I am your landlord, ' ' he said with a smile. ' ' I think it

* I may remark that in Paris it is no uncommon thing for a tenant
to be ignorant of the name of his landlord. He never sees him, all
the business being transacted by the concierge. A friend of mine
lived for five years in an apartment on the Boulevard Magenta,
and at the end of his tenancy discovered that the owner of
the house was Mile, de Rothschild, whom he frequently met in
society.

24



278 My Paris Note-Book.

is but right that you should share your good fortune
with some of your friends. I trust that you may re-
main in power for a long while, for I am determined
that on the day of your quitting office your rent shall
be reduced to the original figure." M. Duclerc's rent
was never reduced. The above would make a good
companion story to that of M. Thiers, who allowed his
mother 200 frs. per month when he was out of office,
and 250 frs. when he was in. If the fall of his Ministry
happened to take place in the current month, the de-
duction was made from the day of that fall ; if, on the
other hand, he happened to come into power during
the current month, the increase was reckoned from the
day of the announcement in Le Moniteur, by which
device **the great Thiers" managed to save a sum
varying from eight to nine francs, seeing that it must
have taken him the best part of a week to constitute his
Ministry. We have seen elsewhere that Thiers was not
quite so careful of the nation's money when providing
for his firiends and acquaintances. Truth compels one
to state, however, that on one occasion he tried to save
France a milliard of francs, only — France failed to ap-
preciate his intention. It was during the discussion of
the preliminaries to the peace of '71, when he coun-
selled the cession of Belfort, rather than the payment of
the milliard of francs Bismarck declared himself willing
to take instead of that city. ''Let us give him Bel-
fort," said Thiers; " a town you can always recover;
a milliard you can never recover."

Gravy's apparent solicitude for the Presidential bell,
when he occupied the chair at the Palais-Bourbon,
would have led one to expect equal care, on his part,
in the husbanding of the country's property in more
important matters, and he probably exercised such care



My Paris Note-Book. 279

— where his own interests were not opposed to it.
When there was a possible opportunity of shifting the
burden of some of his expenses on to the State, he did
not hesitate for a moment to follow his predecessor's
example. The reader may not be aware of the figura-
tive meaning of the word '' pot-de-vin^ Littrl tells us
that it is * ' a present over and above the agreed price of
a purchase or sale." Either the vendor or the pur-
chaser, or both, may make such a present to the party
who introduced them to one another ; but there is no
legal obligation to that effect— it is a purely voluntary
gift. Some years ago a friend of the then President of
the Republic was the intermediary in such a transaction ;
Gr6vy was the vendor, but I will not be certain. At
any rate, he offered the traditional '' pot-de-vin'' which
he, Gr6vy, estimated at 7000 or 8000 francs. The
friend, who was a neighbour of his in the Jura, declined
the gift. ** But I'll tell you what you may do with it,"
he said. * ' You may give it to our church, which is
sadly in want of repairs." Grevy professed himself
very pleased, and replied that he would look to the
matter at once.

And, in fact, in less than a fortnight, workmen ap-
peared on the spot, and the old church began to ring
with the sound of hammer and chisel, to the intense
delight of the cure^ who, as the work proceeded, went
almost ''off his head" with joy, for it was soon evi-
dent to him that the President— the President's friend
had, in spite of the President's request, divulged the
story to him under the seal of secrecy — not only meant
to be as good as his word, but better. It was idle to
speak of mere repairs in view of the money that was
spent so lavishly ; the President was simply ' ' restor-
ing" the mediaeval place of worship to its pristine



28o My Paris Note-Book.

beauty. The President's friend could scarcely conceal
his surprise and satisfaction, the latter sentiment not un-
mixed with a good deal of self-reproach, for, in spite of
his friendship for the President, he had always credited
him with being the reverse of liberal in money matters,
and here he was actually spending, at least, double the
amount of the ^^pot-de-vin.'^ The President's friend
promised himself to atone for his unjust estimate of the
President's character at the first possible opportunity,
and, as luck would have it, he had not long to wait.
Shortly after the completion of the works, he had busi-
ness to transact in Paris, and at a dinner-party hap-
pened to sit next to M. Jacquin, the permanent " Direc-
teur du Personnel" (read. Chief of the Staff) at the
Ministry of Public Worship — one might almost say,
the permanent Minister of Public Worship, for whoso-
ever went and came at the tomb-like edifice in the Place
Vendome, M. Jacquin remained. As a matter of
course, the President's friend, being "full to bursting"
of his subject, began to talk about it to his neighbour,
and trying to ascertain as to the real amount of money
expended. M. Jacquin, who may be alive for all I
know, was a dry, lank individual, without an ounce of
spare flesh on his bones, and considerably exercised by
the ambition of becoming a member of the Chamber of
Deputies ; serviceable withal, and not devoid of talent.
True to his promise, the President's friend had not
mentioned the President's name once. ''I think I
can tell you the amount," said M. Jacquin at last;
''for now that you speak of it, I remember some
of the fellows wondering what possessed Cazot to
go in for such an expense. Call to-morrow at the
Place Vendome." The amount spent was close
upon 25,000 francs, but it did not come out of Gravy's



My Paris Note-Book. 281

pocket ; the budget of Public Worship was charged
with It. The President had saved his own 7000 or
8000 francs.

M. Grevy was always very reluctant to tell his age,
and openly admitted that reluctance. At a dinner-party
given by one of his friends In 1872, the future President
of the Republic said with a smile, ' ' People may try as
much as they Hke, they will never know my real age. ' '
And, in fact, when M. Herold, who was some time a
minister of the Third Republic, endeavoured to obtain
definite particulars of M. Grevy' s age for a new edition
of "Vapereau," M. Grevy persistently refused to sup-
ply them. *' The archives of Mont-sous-Vaudrey were
burnt In 1831," he said, ''and you must do the best you
can. You'll get no Information from me." As a con-
sequence, all M. Grevy' s biographers give the year 18 13
as that of his birth, while In reality he was born In 1807.
An extract from the civil register of the commune of
Mont-sous-Vaudrey, which was found recently at the
civil tribunal of the arrondlssement of the Dole, depart-
ment of the Jura, puts an end to all doubt on the
matter.

M. Gr6vy's staunch Republicanism was a heirloom.
His grandfather accepted the function of Justice of the
Peace in 1790, after the Constituent Assembly had reor-
ganised the judiciary system of France. M. Gravy's
father took service as a volunteer In 1792, was elected a
mayor by his comrades, and only put down his arms after
the enemy, repulsed from French soil, and defeated on
his own territory, was compelled to sue for peace. Then
he returned to Mont-sous-Vaudrey and assumed the
management of the paternal estate, La Grangerie ; but
his occupation did not prevent him from bestowing a
great deal of care on the education of his three sons.

24*



282 My Paris Note-Book.

The Empire with all its glory, the Restoration with its
quasi-attempts at introducing liberal institutions, did
not for a moment succeed in modifying the Re-
publican opinion of Jules Grivy's father. The son, in
justice to his memory, be it said, was "a chip of the
old block."



My Paris Note-Book. 283



CHAPTER XII.

Round about the Elysee-Bourbon — What an invitation to the Tuil-
eries meant ; what an invitation to the Elysee means — My friend
on M. Mollard, the " Introducteur des Ambassadeurs" — M. Mol-
lard — His origin — His beginnings— How he became an employe
at " Le Protocole"— His duties there— His functions at the be-
ginning of the Third Repubhc — Some of his blunders — The menu
on the occasion of the dinner to Archduke Albrecht — A quadrille
d'honneur — A mot of Mac-Mahon — A/ete at Versailles — A recep-
tion at the Ministry of Finances — M. Mollard's portrait — The mas-
sacre of the hats — M. Mollard and M. Gr6vy — The Presidency
during Thiers' time— The Presidency during Mac-Mahon's time
— M. Grevy from a social point of view— Madame Gr^vy- Mad-
ame Wilson, nee Gr6vy — M. Daniel Wilson — M. Mollard and the
Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honour — M. Mollard and the
Sultan of Zanzibar's present— M. Mollard covets a horse — What
he does with it — The guests at the Elysee during the presidency
of M. Grevy — My barber at the Elysee — The story of 35,000
cigars.

Times were when the appearance at your front door
— I mean the door of the house, and not that of the
apartment — of a mounted trooper handing your con-
cierge an official-looking envelope, sealed with the Im-
perial arms, was calculated to enhance your credit with
the janitor. The wrapper was supposed to contain, and
often did contain, an invitation to a ball at the Tuiler-
ies, or for a five days' series at Compiegne or Fontaine-
bleau ; and, in spite of everything that has been said ta
the contrary, such an invitation gave a man, however
poor, a certain social standing with the middle bour-
geoisie^ and especially with his fellow-tenants, and more



284 My Paris Note-Book.

especially still with his landlord and the latter^ s locum
tenens, the Cerberus in the porter's lodge. If the re-
cipient of the invitation was practically solvent, punctual
with his rent, and not niggardly with the tithes of his
wood when it was stocked, and of his wine when it was
bottled,* such an invitation, it would be thought, could
scarcely raise him in the estimation of his landlord's
d,me damnee; yet it did. If, on the other hand, the
recipient was known or suspected to be impecunious,
and behindhand with his rent, if his wine was brought in
in small quantities from the spicier or mannezingue d^ en
face J and his wood from the charbonnier d' a cot^^ the
fact of the invitation was considered as the dawn of
a more prosperous era for him. He was somebody,
although only 3. poor somebody. The landlord was dis-
creetly advised to ''temporise ;" the janitor became lit-
erally "a friend in court," for she or he never allowed
importunate duns to get further than that courtyard ;
and though the landlord might be a direct descendant
of Dickens' Patriarch of Bleeding-Heart Yard, and the
creditors first-cousins to a Scotch tallyman, the poor
somebody enjoyed a comparative period of rest ; his en-
trances to, his exits from, his domicile were no longer
moments of moral martydom to him.

These times are gone, perhaps never to return. An
invitation to the mansion, originally built by the Comte
d'Evreux, who was a kind of eighteenth Q.^Ti\Mxy gendre
de M. Poirier ; to the mansion which was the residence
of Mme. Pompadour before it became a miniature Chan-
tilly, under the name of the Elys6e-Bourbon — such an
invitation no longer carries any social weight. It has

» The practice of presenting one's concierge with a certain quan-
tity of wood and wine, when these two commodities are stored, pre-
vails still, though not to the extent it did years ago.


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