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seen on the exterior of the palace, though additions that project from
the regular line of wall, obtrudes itself on the eye, more than a
verandah attached to a window, on one of our largest houses! In this
place the celebrated dinner was given to the officers of the guards.

The chapel is rich and beautiful. No catholic church has pews, or, at
all events they are very unusual, though the municipalities do sometimes
occupy them in France, and, of course, the area was vacant. We were most
struck with the paintings on the ceiling, in which the face of Louis
XIV. was strangely and mystically blended with that of God the Father!
Pictorial and carved representations of the Saviour and of the Virgin
abound in all catholic countries; nor do they much offend, unless when
the crucifixion is represented with bleeding wounds; for, as both are
known to have appeared in the human form, the mind is not shocked at
seeing them in the semblance of humanity. But this was the first attempt
to delineate the Deity we had yet seen; and it caused us all to shudder.
He is represented in the person of an old man looking from the clouds,
in the centre of the ceiling, and the King appears among the angels that
surround him. Flattery could not go much farther, without encroaching on
omnipotence itself.

In returning from Versailles, to a tithe of the magnificence of which I
have not alluded, I observed carts coming out of the side of a hill,
loaded with the whitish stone that composes the building material of
Paris. We stopped the carriage, and went into the passage, where we
found extensive excavations. A lane of fifteen or twenty feet was cut
through the stone, and the material was carted away in heavy square
blocks. Piers were left, at short intervals, to sustain the
superincumbent earth; and, in the end, the place gets to be a succession
of intricate passages, separated by these piers, which resemble so many
small masses of houses among the streets of a town. The entire region
around Paris lies on a substratum of this stone, which indurates by
exposure to the air, and the whole secret of the celebrated catacombs of
Paris is just the same as that of this quarry, with the difference that
this opens on a level with the upper world, lying in a hill, while one
is compelled to descend to get to the level of the others. But enormous
wheels, scattered about the fields in the vicinity of the town, show
where shafts descend to new quarries on the plains, which are precisely
the same as those under Paris. The history of these subterranean
passages is very simple. The stone beneath has been transferred to the
surface, as a building material; and the graves of the town, after
centuries, were emptied into the vaults below. Any apprehensions of the
caverns falling in, on a great scale, are absurd, as the constant
recurrence of the piers, which are the living rock, must prevent such a
calamity; though it is within the limits of possibility that a house or
two might disappear. Quite lately, it is said, a tree in the garden of
the Luxembourg fell through, owing to the water working a passage down
into the quarries, by following its roots. The top of the tree remained
above ground some distance; and to prevent unnecessary panic, the police
immediately caused the place to be concealed by a high and close board
fence. The tree was cut away in the night, the hole was filled up, and
few knew anything about it. But it is scarcely possible that any serious
accident should occur, even to a single house, without a previous and
gradual sinking of its walls giving notice of the event. The palace of
the Luxembourg, one of the largest and finest edifices of Paris, stands
quite near the spot where the tree fell through, and yet there is not
the smallest danger of the structure's disappearing some dark night, the
piers below always affording sufficient support. _Au reste_, the
catacombs lie under no other part of Paris than the Quartier St.
Jacques, not crossing the river, nor reaching even the Faubourg St.
Germain.

I have taken you so unceremoniously out of the chateau of Versailles to
put you into the catacombs, that some of the royal residences have not
received the attention I intended. We have visited Compiègne this
summer, including it in a little excursion of about a hundred miles,
that we made in the vicinity of the capital, though it scarcely offered
sufficient matter of interest to be the subject of an especial letter.
We found the forest deserving of its name, and some parts of it almost
as fine as an old American wood of the second class. We rode through it
five or six miles to see a celebrated ruin, called Pierre-fond, which
was one of those baronial holds, out of which noble robbers used to
issue, to plunder on the highway, and commit all sorts of acts of
genteel violence. The castle and the adjacent territory formed one of
the most ancient seigneuries of France. The place was often besieged and
taken. In the time of Henry IV. that monarch, finding the castle had
fallen into the hands of a set of desperadoes, who were ranked with the
Leaguers, sent the Duc d'Epernon against the place; but he was wounded,
and obliged to raise the siege. Marshal Biron was next despatched, with
all the heavy artillery that could be spared; but he met with little
better success. This roused Henry, who finally succeeded in getting
possession of the place. In the reign of his son, Louis XIII, the
robberies and excesses of those who occupied the castle became so
intolerable, that the government seized it again, and ordered it to be
destroyed. Now you will remember that this castle stood in the very
heart of France, within fifty miles of the capital, and but two leagues
from a royal residence, and all so lately as the year 1617; and that it
was found necessary to destroy it, on account of the irregularities of
its owners. What an opinion one is driven to form of the moral
civilization of Europe from a fact like this! Feudal grandeur loses
greatly in a comparison with modern law, and more humble honesty.

It was easier, however, to order the Chateau de Pierre-fond to be
destroyed, than to effect that desirable object. Little more was
achieved than to make cuts into the external parts of the towers and
walls, and to unroof the different buildings; and, although this was
done two hundred years since, time has made little impression on the
ruins. We were shown a place where there had been an attempt to break
into the walls for stones, but which had been abandoned, because it was
found easier to quarry them from the living rock. The principal towers
were more than a hundred feet high, and their angles and ornaments
seemed to be as sharp and solid as ever. This was much the noblest
French ruin we had seen, and it may be questioned if there are many
finer, out of Italy, in Europe.

The palace of Compiègne, after that of Versailles, hardly rewarded us
for the trouble of examining it. Still it is large and in perfect
repair: but the apartments are common-place, though there are a few that
are good. A prince, however, is as well lodged, even here, as is usual
in the north of Europe. The present king is fond of resorting to this
house, on account of the game of the neighbouring forest. We saw several
roebucks bounding among the trees, in our drive to Pierre-fond.[13]

[Footnote 13: Pierre-fond, or Pierre-font]

I have dwelt on the palaces and the court so much, because one cannot
get a correct idea of what France was, and perhaps I ought to say, of
what France, through the reaction, _will_ be, if this point were
overlooked. The monarch was all in all in the nation - the centre of
light, wealth, and honour; letters, the arts, and the sciences revolved
around him, as the planets revolve around the sun; and if there ever was
a civilized people whose example it would be fair to quote for or
against the effects of monarchy, I think it would be the people of
France. I was surprised at my own ignorance on the subject of the
magnificence of these kings, of which, indeed, it is not easy for an
untravelled American to form any just notion; and it has struck me you
might be glad to hear a little on these points.

After all I have said, I find I have entirely omitted the Orangery at
Versailles. But then I have said little or nothing of the canals, the
_jets d'eau_, of the great and little parks, which, united, are fifty
miles in circumference, and of a hundred other things. Still, as this
orangery is on a truly royal scale, it deserves a word of notice before
I close my letter. The trees are housed in winter in long vaulted
galleries, beneath the great terrace; and there is a sort of sub-court
in front of them, where they are put into the sun during the pleasant
season. This place is really an orange grove; and, although every tree
is in a box, and is nursed like a child, many of them are as large as it
is usual to find in the orange groves of low latitudes. Several are very
old, two or three dating from the fifteenth century, and one from the
early part of it. What notions do you get of the magnificence of the
place, when you are told, that a palace, subterraneous, it is true, is
devoted to this single luxury, and that acres are covered with trees in
boxes?




LETTER XI.

Laws of Intercourse. - Americans in Europe. - Americans and English.
- Visiting in America. - Etiquette of Visits. - Presentations at Foreign
Courts. - Royal Receptions. - American Pride. - Pay of the President.
- American Diplomatist.


To JAMES STEVENSON, ESQUIRE, ALBANY.

I intend this letter to be useful rather than entertaining. Living, as we
Americans do, remote from the rest of the world, and possessing so many
practices peculiar to ourselves, at the same time that we are altogether
wanting in usages that are familiar to most other nations, it should not
be matter of surprise that we commit some mistakes on this side of the
water, in matters of taste and etiquette. A few words simply expressed,
and a few explanations plainly made, may serve to remove some errors, and
perhaps render your own contemplated visit to this part of the world more
agreeable.

There is no essential difference in the leading rules of ordinary
intercourse among the polished of all Christian nations. Though some of
these rules may appear arbitrary, it will be found, on examination, that
they are usually derived from very rational and sufficient motives. They
may vary, in immaterial points, but even these variations arise from
some valid circumstance.

The American towns are growing so rapidly, that they are getting to have
the population of capitals without enjoying their commonest facilities.
The exaggerated tone of our largest towns, for instance, forbids the
exchange of visits by means of servants. It may suit the habits of
provincial life to laugh at this as an absurdity, but it may be taken
pretty safely as a rule, that men and women of as much common sense as
the rest of their fellow-creatures, with the best opportunities of
cultivating all those tastes that are dependant on society, and with no
other possible motive than convenience, would not resort to such a
practice without a suitable inducement. No one who has not lived in a
large town that _does_ possess these facilities, can justly appreciate
their great advantages, or properly understand how much a place like New
York, with its three hundred thousand inhabitants, loses by not adopting
them. We have conventions for all sorts of things in America, some of
which do good and others harm, but I cannot imagine anything that would
contribute more to the comfort of society, than one which should settle
the laws of intercourse on principles better suited to the real
condition of the country than those which now exist. It is not unusual
to read descriptions deriding the forms of Europe, written by travelling
Americans; but I must think they have been the productions of very young
travellers, or, at least, of such as have not had the proper means of
appreciating the usages they ridicule Taking my own experience as a
guide, I have no hesitation in saying, that I know no people among whom
the ordinary social intercourse is as uncomfortable, and as little
likely to stand the test of a rational examination, as our own.

The first rule, all-important for an American to know, is, that the
latest arrival makes the first visit. England is, in some respects, an
exception to this practice, but I believe it prevails in all the rest of
Europe. I do not mean to say that departures are not made from this law,
in particular instances; but they should always be taken as exceptions,
and as pointed compliments. This rule has many conveniences, and I think
it also shows a more delicate attention to sentiment and feeling. While
the points of intrusion and of disagreeable acquaintances are left just
where they would be under our own rule, the stranger is made the judge
of his own wishes. It is, moreover, impossible, in a large town, to know
of every arrival. Many Americans, who come to Europe with every claim to
attention, pass through it nearly unnoticed, from a hesitation about
obtruding themselves on others, under the influence of the opinions in
which they have been educated. This for a long time was my own case, and
it was only when a more familiar acquaintance with the practices of this
part of the world made me acquainted with their advantages that I could
consent freely to put myself forward.

You are not to understand that any stranger arriving in a place like
Paris, or London, has a right to leave cards for whom he pleases. It is
not the custom, except for those who, by birth, or official station, or
a high reputation, may fairly deem themselves privileged, to assume this
liberty, and even then, it is always better to take some preliminary
step to assure one's self that the visit will be acceptable. The law of
salutes is very much the law of visits, in this part of the world. The
ship arriving sends an officer to know if his salute will be returned
gun for gun, and the whole affair, it is true, is conducted in rather a
categorical manner, but the governing principles are the same in both
cases, though more management may be required between two gentlemen than
between two men-of-war.

The Americans in Europe, on account of the country's having abjured all
the old feudal distinctions that still so generally prevail here, labour
under certain disadvantages, that require, on the one hand, much tact
and discretion to overcome, and, on the other, occasionally much
firmness and decision.

The rule I have adopted in my own case, is to defer to every usage, in
matters of etiquette, so far as I have understood them, that belongs to
the country in which I may happen to be. If, as has sometimes happened
(but not in a solitary instance in France), the claims of a stranger
have been overlooked, I have satisfied myself by remembering, that, in
this respect at least, the Americans are the superiors, for that is a
point in which we seldom fail; and if they are remembered, to accept of
just as much attention as shall be offered. In cases, in which those
arbitrary distinctions are set up, that, by the nature of our
institutions cannot, either in similar or in any parallel cases, exist
in America, and the party making the pretension is on neutral ground,
_if the claim be in any manner pressed_, I would say that it became an
American to resist it promptly; neither to go out of his way to meet it,
nor to defer to it when it crosses his path. In really good society
awkward cases of this nature are not very likely to occur; they are,
however, more likely to occur as between our own people and the English,
than between those of any other nation; for the latter, in mixed general
associations, have scarcely yet learned to look upon and treat us as the
possessors of an independent country. It requires perfect
self-possession, great tact, and some nerve, for an American, who is
brought much in contact with the English on the continent of Europe, to
avoid a querulous and ungentlemanlike disposition to raise objections on
these points, and at the same time to maintain the position, and command
the respect, with which he should never consent to dispense. From my own
little experience, I should say we are better treated, and have less to
overlook, in our intercourse with the higher than with the intermediate
classes of the English.

You will have very different accounts of these points, from some of our
travellers. I only give you the results of my own observation, under the
necessary limitations of my own opportunities. Still I must be permitted
to say that too many of our people, in their habitual deference to
England, mistake offensive condescension for civility. Of the two, I
will confess I would rather encounter direct arrogance, than the
assumption of a right to be affable. The first may at least be resisted.
Of all sorts of superiority, that of a condescending quality is the
least palatable.

I believe Washington is the only place in America where it is permitted
to send cards. In every other town, unless accompanied by an invitation,
and even then the card is supposed to be left, it would be viewed as
airs. It is even equivocal to leave a card in person, unless denied.
Nothing can be worse adapted to the wants of American society than this
rigid conformity to facts. Without porters; with dwellings in which the
kitchens and servants' halls are placed just as far from the
street-doors as dimensions of the houses will allow; with large
straggling towns that cover as much ground as the more populous capitals
of Europe, and these towns not properly divided into quarters; with a
society as ambitious of effect, in its way, as any I know; and with
people more than usually occupied with business and the family
cares, - one is expected to comply rigidly with the most formal rules of
village propriety. It is easy to trace these usages to their source,
provincial habits and rustic manners; but towns with three hundred
thousand inhabitants ought to be free from both. Such rigid conditions
cannot well be observed, and a consequence already to be traced is, that
those forms of society which tend to refine it, and to render it more
human and graceful, are neglected from sheer necessity. Carelessness in
the points of association connected with sentiment (and all personal
civilities and attention have this root) grows upon one like
carelessness in dress, until an entire community may get to be as
ungracious in deportment, as it is unattractive in attire.

The etiquette of visits, here, is reduced to a sort of science. A card
is sent by a servant, and returned by a servant. It is polite to return
it, next day, though three, I believe, is the lawful limits, and it is
politer still to return it the day it is received. There is no
affectation about sending the card, as it is not at all unusual to put
E.P. _(en personne)_ on it, by way of expressing a greater degree of
attention, even when the card is sent. When the call is really made in
person, though the visitor does not ask to be admitted, it is also
common to request the porter to say that the party was at the gate. All
these niceties may seem absurd and supererogatory, but depend on it they
have a direct and powerful agency in refining and polishing intercourse,
just as begging a man's pardon, when you tread on his toe, has an effect
to humanize, though the parties know no offence was intended.
Circumstances once rendered it proper that I should leave a card for a
Russian _diplomate_, an act that I took care he should know, indirectly,
I went out of my way to do, as an acknowledgment for the civilities his
countrymen showed to us Americans. My name was left at the gate of his
hotel (it was not in Paris), as I was taking a morning ride. On
returning home, after an absence of an hour, I found his card lying on
my table. Instead, however, of its containing the usual official titles,
it was simply Prince - . I was profoundly emerged in the study of this
new feature in the forms of etiquette, when the friend, who had prepared
the way for the visit, entered. I asked an explanation, and he told me
that I had received a higher compliment than could be conveyed by a
merely official card, this being a proffer of _personal_ attention. "You
will get an invitation to dinner soon;" and, sure enough, one came
before he had quitted the house. Now, here was a delicate and flattering
attention paid, and one that I felt, without trouble to either party;
one that the occupations of the _diplomate_ would scarcely permit him to
pay, except in extraordinary cases, under rules more rigid.

There is no obligation on a stranger to make the first visit, certainly;
but if he do not, he is not to be surprised if no one notices him. It is
a matter of delicacy to obtrude on the privacy of such a person, it
being presumed that he wishes to be retired. We have passed some time in
a village near Paris, which contains six or eight visitable families.
With one of these I had some acquaintance, and we exchanged civilities;
but wishing to be undisturbed, I extended my visit no farther, and I
never saw anything of the rest of my neighbours. They waited for me to
make the advances.

A person in society, here, who is desirous of relieving himself, for a
time, from the labour and care of maintaining the necessary intercourse,
can easily do it, by leaving cards of P.P.O. It might be awkward to
remain long in a place very publicly after such a step, but I ventured
on it once, to extricate myself from engagements that interfered with
more important pursuits, with entire success. I met several
acquaintances in the street, after the cards were sent, and we even
talked together, but I got no more visits or invitations. When ready _to
return to town_, all I had to do was to leave cards again, and things
went on as if nothing had happened. I parried one or two allusions to my
absence, and had no further difficulty. The only awkward part of it was,
that I accepted an invitation to dine _en famille_ with a literary
friend, and one of the guests, of whom there were but three, happened to
be a person whose invitation to dinner I had declined on account of
quitting town! As he was a sensible man, I told him the simple fact, and
we laughed at the _contretems_, and drank oar wine in peace.

The Americans who come abroad frequently complain of a want of
hospitality in the public agents. There is a strong disposition in every
man under institutions like our own, to mistake himself for a part of
the government, in matters with which he has no proper connexion, while
too many totally overlook those interests which it is their duty to
watch. In the first place, the people of the United Slates do not give
salaries to their ministers of sufficient amount to authorize them to
expect that any part of the money should be returned in the way of
personal civilities. Fifty thousand francs a year is the usual sum named
by the French, as the money necessary to maintain a genteel town
establishment, with moderate evening entertainments, and an occasional
dinner. This is three thousand francs more than the salary of the
minister, out of which he is moreover expected to maintain his regular
diplomatic intercourse. It is impossible for any one to do much in the
way of personal civilities, on such an allowance.

There is, moreover, on the part of too many of our people, an aptitude
to betray a jealous sensitiveness on the subject of being presented at
foreign courts. I have known some claim it _as a right_ when it is
yielded to the minister himself as an act of grace. The receptions of a
sovereign are merely his particular mode of receiving visits. No one
will pretend that the President of the United States is obliged to give
levees and dinners, nor is a king any more compelled to receive
strangers, or even his own subjects, unless it suit his policy and his
taste. His palace is his house, and he is the master of it, the same as
any other man is master of his own abode. It is true, the public expects
something of him, and his allowance is probably regulated by this
expectation, but the interference does not go so far as to point out his
company. Some kings pass years without holding a court at all; others
receive every week. The public obligation to open his door, is no more
than an obligation of expediency, of which he, and he only, can be the
judge. This being the rule, not only propriety, but fair dealing
requires that all who frequent a court should comply with the conditions
that are understood to be implied in the permission. While there exists



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