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should magnetise it, and the child would recover. Nothing of the sort
had occurred. No one of the family had been ill, I had not attempted to
magnetise any one, or even dreamed of it, and, of course, the whole
prediction was a complete failure.

To do M. C - - justice, when he heard the result, he manifested surprise
rather than any less confident feeling. I was closely questioned, first,
as to whether either of the family had not been ill, and secondly,
whether I had not felt a secret desire to magnetise any one of them. To
all these interrogatories, truth compelled me to give unqualified
negatives. I had hardly thought of the subject during the whole time. As
this interview took place at my own house, politeness compelled me to
pass the matter off as lightly as possible. There happened to be several
ladies present, however, the evening M. C - - called, and, thinking the
occasion a good one for him to try his powers on some one besides his
regular _somnambules_, I invited him to magnetise any one of the party
who might be disposed to submit to the process. To this he made no
difficulty, choosing an English female friend as the subject of the
experiment. The lady in question raised no objection, and the doctor
commenced with great zeal, and with every appearance of faith in his own
powers. No effect, however, was produced on this lady, or on one or two
more of the party, all of whom obstinately refused even to gape. M.
C - - gave the matter up, and soon after took his leave, and thus closed
my personal connexion with animal magnetism.

If you ask me for the conclusions I have drawn from these facts, I shall
be obliged to tell you, that I am in doubt how far the parties concerned
deceived others, and how far they deceived themselves. It is difficult
to discredit entirely all the testimony that has been adduced in behalf
of this power; and one is consequently obliged to refer all the
established facts to the influence of the imagination. Then testimony
itself is but a precarious thing, different eyes seeing the same objects
in different lights.

Let us take ventriloquism as a parallel case to that of animal
magnetism. Ventriloquism is neither more nor less than imitation; and
yet, aided by the imagination, perhaps a majority of those who know
anything about it, are inclined to believe there is really such a
faculty as that which is vulgarly attributed to ventriloquism. The whole
art of the ventriloquist consists in making such sounds as would be
produced by a person, or thing, that should be actually in the
circumstances that he wishes to represent. Let there be, for instance,
five or six sitting around a table, in a room with a single door; a
ventriloquist among them wishes to mislead his companions, by making
them believe that another is applying for admission. All he has to do,
is to make a sound similar to that which a person on the outside would
make, in applying for admission. "Open the door, and let me in," uttered
in such a manner, would deceive any one who was not prepared for the
experiment, simply because men do not ordinarily make such sounds when
sitting near each other, because the words themselves would draw the
attention to the door, and because the sounds would be suited to the
fictitious application. If there were _two_ doors, the person first
moving his head towards one of them, would probably give a direction to
the imaginations of all the others; unless, indeed, the ventriloquist
himself, by his words, or his own movements, as is usually the case,
should assume the initiative. Every ventriloquist takes especial care to
_direct_ the imagination of his listener to the desired point, either by
what he says, by some gesture, or by some movement. Such, undeniably, is
the fact in regard to ventriloquism; for we know enough of the
philosophy of sound, to be certain it can he nothing else. One of the
best ventriloquists of this age, after affecting to resist this
explanation of his mystery, candidly admitted to me, on finding that I
stuck to the principles of reason, that all his art consisted of no more
than a power to control the imagination by imitation supported
occasionally by acting. And yet I once saw this man literally turn a
whole family out of doors, in a storm, by an exercise of his art. On
that occasion, so complete was the delusion, that the good people of the
house actually fancied sounds which came from the ventriloquist, came
from a point considerably beyond the place where they stood, and on the
side _opposite_ to that occupied by the speaker, although they stood at
the top of a flight of steps, and he stood at the bottom. All this time,
the sounds appeared to me to come from the place whence, by the laws of
sound, except in cases of reverberation, and of the influence of the
imagination, they only could appear to come; or, in other words, from
the mouth of the ventriloquist himself. Now, if the imagination can
effect so much, even in crowded assemblies, composed of people of all
degrees of credulity, intelligence, and strength of mind, and when all
are prepared, in part at least, for the delusion, what may it not be
expected to produce on minds peculiarly suited to yield to its
influence, and this, too, when the prodigy takes the captivating form of
mysticism and miracles!

In the case of the patient of M. Cloquet, we are reduced to the
alternatives of denying the testimony, of believing that recourse was
had to drugs, of referring all to the force of the imagination, or of
admitting the truth of the doctrine of animal magnetism. The character
of M. Cloquet, and the motiveless folly of such a course, compel us to
reject the first; the second can hardly be believed, as the patient had
not the appearance of being drugged, and the possession of such a secret
would be almost as valuable as the art in question itself. The doctrine
of animal magnetism we cannot receive, on account of the want of
uniformity and exactitude in the experiments; and I think, we are fairly
driven to take refuge in the force of the imagination. Before doing
this, however, we ought to make considerable allowances for
exaggerations, colouring, and the different manner in which men are apt
to regard the same thing. My young American friend, who _did_ believe in
animal magnetism, viewed several of the facts I have related with eyes
more favourable than mine, although even he was compelled to allow that
M. C - - had much greater success with himself, than with your humble
servant.




LETTER XXIII.


Preparations for Departure. - My Consulate. - Leave
Paris. - Picardy. - Cressy. - Montreuil. - Gate of Calais. - Port of
Calais. - Magical Words.


To R. COOPER, ESQ., COOPERSTOWN.

We entered France in July, 1826, and having remained in and about the
French capital until February, 1828, we thought it time to change the
scene. Paris is effectually the centre of Europe, and a residence in it
is the best training an American can have, previously to visiting the
other parts of that quarter of the world. Its civilisation, usages, and
facilities take the edge off our provincial admiration, remove
prejudices, and prepare the mind to receive new impressions, with more
discrimination and tact. I would advise all our travellers to make this
their first stage, and then to visit the North of Europe, before
crossing the Alps or the Pyrenees. Most people, however, hurry into the
South, with a view to obtain the best as soon as possible; but it is
with this, as in most of our enjoyments, a too eager indulgence defeats
its own aim.

We had decided to visit London, where the season, _or winter_, would
soon commence. The necessary arrangements were made, and we sent round
our cards of p.p.c. and obtained passports. On the very day we were to
quit Paris, an American friend wrote me a note to say that a young
connexion of his was desirous of going to London, and begged a place for
her in my carriage. It is, I believe, a peculiar and a respectable trait
in the national character, that we so seldom hesitate about asking, or
acceding to, favours of this sort. Whenever woman is concerned, our own
sex yield, and usually without murmuring. At all events, it was so with
W - - , who cheerfully gave up his seat in the carriage to Miss - - , in
order to take one in the _coupé_ of the diligence. The notice was so
short, and the hour so late, that there was no time to get a passport
for him, and, as he was included in mine, I was compelled to run the
risk of sending him to the frontiers without one. I was a consul at the
time, - a titular one as to duties, but in reality as much of a consul as
if I had ever visited my consulate.[34] The only official paper I
possessed, in connexion with the office, the commission and _exequatur_
excepted, was a letter from the Préfet of the Rhône, acknowledging the
receipt of the latter. As this was strictly a French document, I gave it
to W - - as proof of my identity, accompanied by a brief statement of
the reasons why he was without a passport, begging the authorities at
Need to let him pass as far as the frontier, where I should be in season
to prove his character. This statement I signed as consul, instructing
W - - to show it, if applied to for a passport; and if the gendarmes
disavowed me, to show the letter, by way of proving who I was. The
expedient was clumsy enough, but it was the best that offered.

[Footnote 34: There being so strong a propensity to cavil at American
facts, lest this book might fall into European hands, it may be well to
explain a little. The consulate of the writer was given to him solely to
avoid the appearance of going over to the enemy, during his residence
abroad. The situation conferred neither honour nor profit, there being
no salary, and, in his case, not fees enough to meet the expense of the
office opened by a deputy. The writer suspects he was much too true to
the character and principles of his native country, to be voluntarily
selected by its Government as the object of its honours or rewards, and
it is certain he never solicited either. There are favours, it would
seem, that are reserved, in America, for those who most serve the
interests of her enemies! A day of retribution will come.]

This arrangement settled, we got into the carriage, and took our leave
of Paris. Before quitting the town, however, I drove round to the Rue
d'Anjou, to take my leave of General Lafayette. This illustrious man had
been seriously ill for some weeks, and I had many doubts of my ever
seeing him again. He did not conceive himself to be in any danger,
however; but spoke of his speedy recovery as a matter of course, and
made an engagement with me for the ensuing summer. I bade him adieu,
with a melancholy apprehension that I should never see him again.

We drove through the gates of Paris, amid the dreariness of a winter's
evening. You are to understand that everybody quits London and Paris
just as night sets in. I cannot tell you whether this is caprice, or
whether it is a usage that has arisen from a wish to have the day in
town, and a desire to relieve the monotony of roads so often travelled,
by sleep; but so it is. We did not fall into the fashion simply because
it is a fashion, but the days are so short in February in these high
latitudes, that we could not make our preparations earlier.

I have little agreeable to say concerning the first forty miles of the
journey. It rained; and the roads were, as usual, slippery with mud, and
full of holes. The old _pavés_ are beginning to give way, however, and
we actually got a bit of _terre_ within six posts of Paris. This may be
considered a triumph of modern civilisation; for, whatever may be said
and sung in favour of Appian ways and Roman magnificence, a more cruel
invention for travellers and carriage-wheels, than these _pavés_, was
never invented. A real Paris winter's day is the most uncomfortable of
all weather. If you walk, no device of leather will prevent the moisture
from penetrating to your heart; if you ride, it is but an affair of mud
and _gras de Paris_. We enjoyed all this until nine at night, by which
time we had got enough of it; and in Beauvais, instead of giving the
order _à la poste_, the postilion was told to go to an inn. A warm
supper and good beds put us all in good-humour again.

In putting into the mouth of Falstaff the words, "Shall I not take mine
ease in mine inn?" Shakspeare may have meant no more than the drowsy
indolence of a glutton; but they recur to me with peculiar satisfaction
whenever I get unbooted, and with a full stomach before the warm fire of
an hotel, after a fatiguing and chilling day's work. If any man doubt
whether Providence has not dealt justly by all of us in rendering our
enjoyments dependent on comparative rather than on positive benefits,
let him travel through a dreary day, and take his comfort at night in a
house where everything is far below his usual habits, and learn to
appreciate the truth. The sweetest sleep I have ever had has been caught
on deck, in the middle watch, under a wet pee-jacket, and with a coil of
rope for a pillow.

Our next day's work carried us as far as Abbeville, in Picardy. Here we
had a capital supper of game, in a room that set us all shivering with
good honest cold. The beds, as usual, were excellent. The country
throughout all this part of France, is tame and monotonous, with wide
reaches of grain-lands that are now brown and dreary, here and there a
wood, and the usual villages of dirty stonehouses. We passed a few
hamlets, however, that were more than commonly rustic and picturesque,
and in which the dwellings seemed to be of mud, and were thatched. As
they were mostly very irregular in form, the street winding through them
quite prettily, they would have been good in their way, had there been
any of the simple expedients of taste to relieve their poverty. But the
French peasants of this province appear to think of little else but
their wants. There was occasionally a venerable and generous old vine
clinging about the door, however, to raise some faint impressions of
happiness.

We passed through, or near, the field of Cressy. By the aid of the
books, we fancied we could trace the positions of the two armies; but it
was little more than very vague conjecture. There was a mead, a breadth
of field well adapted to cavalry, and a wood. The river is a mere brook,
and could have offered but little protection, or resistance, to the
passage of any species of troops. I saw no village, and we may not have
been within a mile of the real field, after all. Quite likely; no one
knows where it is. It is very natural that the precise sites of great
events should be lost, though our own history is so fresh and full, that
to us it is apt to appear extraordinary. In a conversation with a
gentleman of the Stanley family, lately, I asked him if Latham-House, so
celebrated for its siege in the civil wars, was still in the possession
of its ancient proprietors. I was told it no longer existed, and that,
until quite recently, its positive site was a disputed point, and one
which had only been settled by the discovery of a hole in a rock, in
which shot had been cast during the siege, and which hole was known to
have formerly been in a court. It is no wonder that doubts exist as to
the identity of Homer, or the position of Troy.

We have anglicised the word Cressy, which the French term Crécy, or, to
give it a true Picard orthography, Créci. Most of the names that have
this termination are said to be derived from this province. Many of them
have become English, and have undergone several changes in the spelling.
Tracy, or Tracey; de Courcy, or de Courcey; Montmorency; and Lacy, or
Lacey, were once "Traci," "Courci," "Montmorenci," and "Laci." [35] The
French get over the disgrace of their ancient defeats very ingeniously,
by asserting that the English armies of old were principally composed of
Norman soldiers, and that the chivalrous nobility which performed such
wonders were of purely Norman blood. The latter was probably more true
than the former.

[Footnote 35: The celebrated Sir William Draper was once present when the
subject turned on the descent of families, and the changes that names
underwent. "Now my own is a proof of what I say," he continued, with the
intention to put an end to a discourse that was getting to savour of
family pride; "my family being directly derived from King Pepin." "How
do you make that out, Sir William?" "By self-evident orthographical
testimony, as you may see, - Pepin, Pipkin, Napkin, Diaper, Draper."]

As we drew nearer to the coast, the country became more varied.
Montreuil and Samer are both fortified; and one of these places,
standing on an abrupt, rocky eminence, is quite picturesque and quaint.
But we did not stop to look at anything very minutely, pushing forward,
as fast as three horses could draw us, for the end of our journey. A
league or two from Boulogne we were met by a half-dozen mounted runners
from the different inns, each inviting us to give our custom to his
particular employer. These fellows reminded me of the wheat-runners on
the hill at Albany; though they were as much more clamorous and earnest,
as a noisy protestation-making Frenchman is more obtrusive, than a
shrewd, quiet, calculating Yankee. We did not stop in Boulogne to try
how true were the voluble representations of these gentry, but, changing
horses at the post, went our way. The town seemed full of English; and
we gazed about us, with some curiosity, at a place that has become so
celebrated by the great demonstration of Napoleon. There is a high
monument standing at no great distance from the town, to commemorate one
of his military parades. The port is small and crowded, like most of the
harbours on both sides of the Channel.

We had rain, and chills, and darkness, for the three or four posts that
succeeded. The country grew more and more tame, until, after crossing an
extensive plain of moist meadow-land, we passed through the gate of
Calais. I know no place that will give you a more accurate notion of
this celebrated port than Powles Hook. It is, however, necessary to
enlarge the scale greatly, for Calais is a town of some size, and the
hommock on which it stands, and the low land by which it is environed,
are much more considerable in extent than the spot just named.

We drove to the inn that Sterne has immortalised, or one at least that
bears the same name, and found English comfort united with French
cookery and French taste. After all, I do not know why I may not say
French comforts too; for in many respects they surpass their island
neighbours even in this feature of domestic comfort. It is a comfort to
have a napkin even when eating a muffin; to see one's self entire in a
mirror, instead of _edging_ the form into it, or out of it, sideways; to
drink good coffee; to eat good _côtelettes;_ and to be able to wear the
same linen for a day, without having it soiled. The Bible says, "Comfort
me with flagons, or apples," I really forget which, - and if either of
these is to be taken as authority, a _côtelette_ may surely be admitted
into the _carte de conforts_.

We found Calais a clear town, and pressing a certain medium aspect, that
was as much English as French. The position is strong, though I was not
much struck with the strength of the works. England has no motive to
wish to possess it, now that conquest on the Continent is neither
expedient nor possible. The port is good for nothing, in a warlike
sense, except to protect a privateer or two; though the use of steam
will probably make it of more importance in any future war, than it has
been for the last two centuries.

We found W - - safely arrived. At one of the frontier towns he had been
asked for his passport, and in his fright he gave the letter of the
Préfet of the Rhône, instead of the explanation I had so cleverly
devised. This letter commenced with the words "Monsieur le Consul" in
large letters, and occupying, according to French etiquette, nearly half
of the first page. The gendarme, a _vieux moustache_, held his lantern
up to read it, and seeing this ominous title, it would seem that
Napoleon, and Marengo, and all the glories of the Consulate, arose in
his imagination. He got no further than those three words, which he
pronounced aloud; and then folding the letter, he returned it with a
profound bow, asking no further questions. As the diligence drove on,
W - - heard him say, "Apparemment vous avez un homme très-considérable
là-dedans, Monsieur le Conducteur." So much for our fears, for
passports, and for gendarmes!

We went to bed, with the intention of embarking for England in the
morning.

THE END









Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperRecollections of Europe → online text (page 29 of 29)