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of the minor churches, and the pyramids of pavilion tops, seemed
struggling to rear their heads from out the plain of edifices. A better
idea of the vastness of the principal structures was obtained here in
one hour, than could be got from the streets in a twelvemonth. Taking
the roofs of the palace, for instance, the eye followed its field of
slate and lead through a parallelogram for quite a mile. The sheet of
the French opera resembled a blue pond, and the aisles of Notre Dame and
St. Eustache, with their slender ribs and massive buttresses, towered so
much above the lofty houses around them, as to seem to stand on their
ridges. The church of St. Geneviève, the Pantheon of the revolution,
faced us on the swelling land of the opposite side of the town, but
surrounded still with crowded lines of dwellings; the Observatory
limiting equally the view, and the vast field of houses in that
direction.

Owing to the state of the atmosphere, and the varying light, the picture
before us was not that simply of a town, but, from the multiplicity and
variety of its objects, it was a vast and magnificent view. I have
frequently looked at Paris since from the same spot, or from its church
towers, when the strong sunlight reduced it to the appearance of confused
glittering piles, on which the eye almost refused to dwell; but, in a
clouded day, all the peculiarities stand out sombre and distinct,
resembling the grey accessories of the ordinary French landscape.

From the town we turned to the heights which surround it. East and
south-east, after crossing the Seine, the country lay in the waste-like
unfenced fields which characterize the scenery of this part of Europe.
Roads stretched away in the direction of Orleans, marked by the usual
lines of clipped and branchless trees. More to the west commence the
abrupt heights, which, washed by the river, enclose nearly half the wide
plain, like an amphitheatre. This has been the favourite region of the
kings of France, from the time of Louis XIII. down to the present day.
The palaces of Versailles, St. Germain, St. Cloud, and Meudon, all lie
in this direction, within short distances of the capital; and the royal
forests, avenues, and chases intersect it in every direction, as
mentioned before.

Farther north, the hills rise to be low mountains, though a wide and
perfectly level plain spreads itself between the town and their bases,
varying in breadth from two to four leagues. On the whole of this
expanse of cultivated fields, there was hardly such a thing as an
isolated house. Though not literally true, this fact was so nearly so as
to render the effect oddly peculiar, when one stood on the eastern
extremity of Montmartre, where, by turning southward, he looked down
upon the affluence and heard the din of a vast capital, and by turning
northward, he beheld a country with all the appliances of rural life,
and dotted by grey villages. Two places, however, were in sight, in this
direction, that might aspire to be termed towns. One was St. Denis, from
time immemorial the burying-place of the French kings; and the other was
Montmorency, the _bourg_ which gives its name to, or receives it from,
the illustrious family that is so styled; for I am unable to say which
is the fact. The church spire of the former is one of the most beautiful
objects in view from Montmartre, the church itself, which was desecrated
in the revolution, having been restored by Napoleon. St. Denis is
celebrated, in the Catholic annals, by the fact of the martyr, from whom
the name is derived, having walked after decapitation, with his head
under his arm, all the way from Paris to this very spot.

Montmorency is a town of no great size or importance, but lying on the
side of a respectable mountain, in a way to give the spectator more than
a profile, it appears to be larger than it actually is. This place is
scarcely distinguishable from Paris, under the ordinary light; but on a
day like that which we had chosen, it stood out in fine relief from the
surrounding fields, even the grey mass of its church being plainly
visible. If Paris is so beautiful and striking when seen from the
surrounding heights, there are many singularly fine pictures in the
bosom of the place itself. We rarely crossed the Pont Royal, during the
first month or two of our residence, without stopping the carriage to
gaze at the two remarkable views it offers. One is up the reach of the
Seine which stretches through the heart of the town, separated by the
island; and the other, in an opposite direction, looks down the reach by
which the stream flows into the meadows, on its way to the sea. The
first is a look into the avenues of a large town, the eye resting on the
quaint outlines and endless mazes of walls, towers, and roofs; while the
last is a prospect, in which the front of the picture is a collection of
some of the finest objects of a high state of civilization, and the
background a beautiful termination of wooded and decorated heights.

At first, one who is accustomed to the forms and movements of a sea-port
feels a little disappointment at seeing a river that bears nothing but
dingy barges loaded with charcoal and wine-casks. The magnificence of
the quays seems disproportioned to the trifling character of the
commerce they are destined to receive. But familiarity with the town
soon changes all these notions, and while we admit that Paris is
altogether secondary, so far as trade is concerned, we come to feel the
magnificence of her public works, and to find something that is pleasing
and picturesque, even in her huge and unwieldy wood and coal barges.
Trade is a good thing in its way, but its agents rarely contribute to
the taste, learning, manners, or morals of a nation.

The sight of the different interesting objects that encircle Paris
stimulated our curiosity to nearer views, and we proceeded immediately
to visit the environs. These little excursions occupied more than a
month, and they not only made us familiar with the adjacent country,
but, by compelling us to pass out at nearly every one of the twenty or
thirty different gates or barriers, as they are called, with a large
portion of the town also. This capital has been too often described to
render any further account of the principal objects necessary, and in
speaking of it, I shall endeavour to confine my remarks to things that I
think may still interest you by their novelty.

The royal residences in Paris at this time are, strictly speaking, but
two, - the Tuileries and the Palais Royal. The Louvre is connected with
the first, and it has no finished apartments that are occupied by any of
princely rank, most of its better rooms being unfinished, and are
occupied as cabinets or museums. A small palace, called the Elysée
Bourbon, is fitted up as a residence for the heir presumptive, the Duc
de Bordeaux; but, though it contains his princely toys, such as
miniature batteries of artillery, etc., he is much too young to maintain
a separate establishment. This little scion of royalty only completed
his seventh year not long after our arrival in France; on which occasion
one of those silly ceremonies, which some of the present age appear to
think inseparable from sound principles, was observed. The child was
solemnly and formally transferred from the care of the women to that of
the men. Up to this period, Madame la Vicomtesse de Gontaut-Biron had
been his governess, and she now resigned her charge into the hands of
the Baron de Damas, who had lately been Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Madame de Gontaut was raised to the rank of Duchess on the occasion. The
boy himself is said to have passed from the hands of the one party to
those of the other, in presence of the whole court, _absolutely naked_.
Some such absurdity was observed at the reception of Marie Antoinette,
it being a part of regal etiquette that a royal bride, on entering
France, should leave her old wardrobe, even to the last garment, behind
her. You will be amused to hear that there are people in Europe who
still attach great importance to a rigid adherence to all the old
etiquette at similar ceremonies. These are the men who believe it to be
essential that judges and advocates should wear wigs, in an age when,
their use being rejected by the rest of the world, their presence cannot
fail, if it excite any feeling, to excite that of inconvenience and
absurdity. There is such a thing as leaving society too naked, I admit;
but a _chemise_, at least, could not have injured the little Duke of
Bordeaux at this ceremony. Whenever a usage that is poetical in itself,
and which awakens a sentiment without doing violence to decency, or
comfort, or common sense, can be preserved, I would rigidly adhere to
it, if it were only for antiquity's sake; but, surely, it would be far
more rational for judges to wear false beards, because formerly Bacon
and Coke did not shave their chins, than it is for a magistrate to
appear on the bench with a cumbrous, hot, and inconvenient cloud of
powdered flax, or whatever may be the material on his poll, because our
ancestors, a century or two since, were so silly as to violate nature in
the same extraordinary manner.

Speaking of the Duke of Bordeaux, reminds me of an odd, and, indeed, in
some degree a painful scene, of which I was accidentally a witness, a
short time before the ceremony just mentioned. The _émigrés_ have
brought back with them into France a taste for horse-racing, and,
supported by a few of the English who are here, there are regular races,
spring and autumn, in the Champs de Mars. The course is one of the
finest imaginable, being more than a mile in circumference, and
surrounded by mounds of earth, raised expressly with that object, which
permit the spectators to overlook the entire field. The result is a
species of amphitheatric arena, in which any of the dramatic
exhibitions, that are so pleasing to this spectacle-loving nation, may
be enacted. Pavilions are permanently erected at the starting-post, and
one or two of these are usually fitted up for the use of the court,
whenever it is the pleasure of the royal family to attend, as was the
case at the time the little occurrence I am about to relate took place.

On this occasion Charles X. came in royal state, from St. Cloud,
accompanied by detachments of his guards, many carriages, several of
which were drawn by eight horses, and a cloud of mounted footmen. Most
of the dignitaries of the kingdom were present, in the different
pavilions, or stands, and nearly or quite all the ministers, together
with the whole diplomatic corps. There could not have been less than a
hundred thousand spectators on the mounds.

The racing itself was no great matter, being neither within time nor
well contested. The horses were all French, the trial being intended for
the encouragement of the French breeders, and the sports were yet too
recent to have produced much influence on the stock of the country.
During the heats, accompanied by a young American friend, I had strolled
among the royal equipages, in order to examine their magnificence, and
returning towards the course, we came out unexpectedly at a little open
space, immediately at one end of the pavilion in which the royal family
was seated. There were not a dozen people near us, and one of these was
a sturdy Englishman, evidently a tradesman, who betrayed a keen and a
truly national desire to get a look at the king. The head of a little
girl was just visible above the side of the pavilion, and my companion,
who, by a singular accident, not long before, had been thrown into
company with _les enfans de France_, as the royal children are called,
informed me that it was Mademoiselle d'Artois, the sister of the heir
presumptive. He had given me a favourable account of the children, whom
he represented as both lively and intelligent, and I changed my position
a little, to get a better look of the face of this little personage, who
was not twenty feet from the spot where we stood. My movement attracted
her attention; and, after looking down a moment into the small area in
which we were enclosed, she disappeared. Presently a lady looked over
the balustrade, and our Englishman seemed to be on tenter-hooks. Some
thirty or forty French gathered round us immediately, and I presume it
was thought none but loyal subjects could manifest so much desire to
gaze at the family, especially as one or two of the French clapped the
little princess, whose head now appeared and disappeared again, as if
she were earnestly pressing something on the attention of those within
the pavilion. In a moment the form of a pale and sickly-looking boy was
seen, the little girl, who was a year or two older, keeping her place at
his side. The boy was raised on the knee of a melancholy-looking and
rather hard-featured female of fifty, who removed his straw hat in order
to salute us. "These are the Dauphine and the Duc de Bordeaux,"
whispered my companion, who knew the person of the former by sight. The
Dauphine looked anxiously, and I thought mournfully, at the little
cluster we formed directly before her, as if waiting to observe in what
manner her nephew would be received. Of course my friend and myself, who
were in the foreground, stood uncovered; as gentlemen we could not do
less, nor as _foreign_ gentlemen could we very well do more. Not a
Frenchman, however, even touched his hat! On the other hand, the
Englishman straddled his legs, gave a wide sweep with his beaver, and
uttered as hearty a hurrah as if he had been cheering a member of
parliament who gave gin in his beer. The effect of this single,
unaccompanied, unanswered cheer, was both ludicrous and painful. The
poor fellow himself seemed startled at hearing his own voice amid so
profound a stillness, and checking his zeal as unexpectedly as he had
commenced its exhibition, he looked furiously around him and walked
surlily away. The Dauphine followed him with her eyes. There was no
mistaking his gaitered limbs, dogged mien, and florid countenance; be
clearly was not French, and those that were, as clearly turned his
enthusiasm into ridicule. I felt sorry for her, as, with a saddened
face, she set down the boy, and withdrew her own head within the
covering of the pavilion. The little Mademoiselle d'Artois kept her
bright looks, in a sort of wonder, on us, until the circumspection of
those around her, gave her a hint to disappear.

This was the first direct and near view I got of the true state of
popular feeling in Paris towards the reigning family. According to the
journals in the interest of the court, enthusiasm was invariably
exhibited whenever any of their princes appeared in public; but the
journals in every country, our own dear and shrewd republic not
excepted, are very unsafe guides for those who desire truth.

I am told that the style of this court has been materially altered, and
perhaps improved, by the impetuous character of Napoleon. The king
rarely appears in public with less than eight horses, which are usually
in a foam. His liveries are not showy, neither are the carriages as neat
and elegant as one would expect. The former are blue and white, with a
few slight ornaments of white and red lace, and the vehicles are showy,
large and even magnificent, but, I think, without good taste. You will
be surprised to hear that he drives with what in America we call "Dutch
collars." Six of the horses are held in hand, and the leaders are
managed by a postilion. There is always one or more empty carriages,
according to the number of the royal personages present, equipped in
every respect like those which are filled, and which are held in reserve
against accidents; a provision, by the way, that is not at all
unreasonable in those who scamper over the broken pavements, in and
about Paris, as fast as leg can be put to the ground.

Notwithstanding the present magnificence of the court, royalty is shorn
of much of its splendour in France, since the days of Louis XVI. Then a
city of a hundred thousand souls (Versailles) was a mere dependant of
the crown; lodgings for many hundred _abbés_, it is said, were provided
in the palace alone, and a simple representation at the palace opera
cost a fortune.

It is not an easy matter to come at the real cost of the kingly office
in this country, all the expenditures of the European governments being
mystified in such a way, as to require a very intimate knowledge of the
details to give a perfectly clear account of them. But, so far as I have
been able to ascertain, the charges that arise from this feature of the
system do not fall much short, if indeed they do any, of eight millions
of dollars annually. Out of this sum, however, the king pays the extra
allowances of his guards, the war office taking the same view of all
classes of soldiers, after distinguishing between foot and cavalry. You
will get an idea of the luxury of royalty by a short account of the
_gardes du corps_. These troops are all officers, the privates having
the rank and receiving the pay of lieutenants. Their duty, as the name
implies, is to have the royal person in their especial care, and there
is always a guard of them in an ante-chamber of the royal apartments.
They are heavy cavalry, and when they mount guard in the palaces, their
arm is a carabine. A party of them always appear near the carriage of
the king, or indeed near that of any of the reigning branch of the
family. There are said to be four regiments or companies of them, of
four hundred men each; but it strikes me the number must be exaggerated.
I should think, however, that there are fully a thousand of them. In
addition to these selected troops, there are three hundred Swiss, of the
Swiss and royal guards; of the latter, including all arms, there must be
many thousands. These are the troops that usually mount guard in and
about all the palaces. The annual budget of France appears in the
estimates at about a _milliard_, or a thousand millions of francs; but
the usual mystifications are resorted to, and the truth will give the
annual central expenses of the country at not less, I think, than two
hundred millions of dollars. This sum, however, covers many items of
expenditure, that we are accustomed to consider purely local. The
clergy, for instance, are paid out of it, as is a portion of the cost of
maintaining the roads. On the other hand, much money is collected, as a
general regulation, that does not appear in the budget. Few or no
churches are built, and there are charges for masses, interments,
christenings, and fees for a hundred things, of which no account is
taken in making out the sum total of the cost of government.

It was the policy of Napoleon to create a system of centralization, that
should cause everything to emanate from himself. The whole organization
of government had this end in view, and all the details of the
departments have been framed expressly to further this object. The
prefects are no more than so many political _aides_, whose duty it is to
carry into effect the orders that emanate from the great head, and lines
of telegraphs are established all over France, in such a way that a
communication may be sent from the Tuileries, to the remotest corner of
the kingdom, in the course of a few hours. It has been said that one of
the first steps towards effecting a revolution, ought to be to seize the
telegraphs at Paris, by means of which such information and orders could
be sent into the provinces, as the emergency might seem to require.

This system of centralization has almost neutralized the advancement of
the nation, in a knowledge of the usages and objects of the political
liberty that the French have obtained, by bitter experience, from other
sources. It is the constant aim of that portion of the community which
understands the action of free institutions, to increase the powers of
the municipalities, and to lessen the functions of the central
government; but their efforts are resisted with a jealous distrust of
everything like popular dictation. Their municipal privileges are,
rightly enough, thought to be the entering wedges of real liberty. The
people ought to manage their own affairs, just as far as they can do so
without sacrificing their interests for want of a proper care, and here
is the starting point of representation. So far from France enjoying
such a system, however, half the time a bell cannot be hung in a parish
church, or a bridge repaired, without communications with and orders
from Paris.




LETTER VI.

Letters of Introduction. - European Etiquette. - Diplomatic Entertainments.
- Ladies in Coffee-houses. - French Hospitality. - Mr. Canning at Paris.
- Parisian Hotels. - French Lady at Washington. - Receptions in Paris
and in New York. - Mode of Announcement. - Republican Affectation.
- Hotel Monaco. - Dinner given to Mr. Canning. - Diplomatic Etiquette.
- European Ambassadors. - Prime Minister of France. - Mr. Canning.
- Count Pozzo di Borgo. - Precedency at Dinner. - American Etiquette.
- A French Dinner. - Servants. - Catholic Fasting. - Conversation with
Canning. - English Prejudice against Americans.


To MRS. POMEROY, COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK.

I quitted America with some twenty letters of introduction, that had
been pressed upon me by different friends, but which were carefully
locked up in a secretary, where they still remain, and are likely to
remain for ever, or until they are destroyed. As this may appear a
singular resolution for one who left his own country to be absent for
years, I shall endeavour to explain it. In the first place, I have a
strong repugnance to pushing myself on the acquaintance of any man: this
feeling may, in fact, proceed from pride, but I have a disposition to
believe that it proceeds, in part, also from a better motive. These
letters of introduction, like verbal introductions, are so much abused
in America, that the latter feeling, perhaps I might say both feelings,
are increased by the fact. Of all the people in the world we are the
most prodigal of these favours, when self-respect and propriety would
teach us we ought to be among the most reserved, simply because the
character of the nation is so low, that the European, more than half the
time, fancies he is condescending when he bestows attentions on our
people at all. Other travellers may give you a different account of the
matter, but let every one be responsible for his own opinions and facts.
Then a friend who, just as we left home, returned from Europe after an
absence of five years, assured me that he found his letters of but
little use; that nearly every agreeable acquaintance he made was the
result of accident, and that the Europeans in general were much more
cautious in giving and receiving letters of this nature than ourselves.

The usages of all Europe, those of the English excepted, differ from our
own on the subject of visits. There the stranger, or the latest arrival,
is expected to make the first visit, and an inquiry for your address is
always taken for an intimation that your acquaintance would be
acceptable. Many, perhaps most Americans, lose a great deal through
their provincial breeding, in this respect, in waiting for attentions
that it is their duty to invite, by putting themselves in the way of
receiving them. The European usage is not only the most rational, but it
is the most delicate. It is the most rational, as there is a manifest
absurdity in supposing, for instance, that the inhabitant of a town is
to know whenever a visitor from the country arrives; and it is the most
delicate, as it leaves the newcomer, who is supposed to know his own
wishes best, to decide for himself whether he wishes to make
acquaintances or not. In short, our own practices are provincial and
rustic, and cannot exist when the society of the country shall have
taken the usual phases of an advanced civilization. Even in England, in
the higher classes, the cases of distinguished men excepted, it is usual
for the stranger to seek the introduction.

Under such circumstances, coupled with the utter insignificance of an
ordinary individual in a town like Paris, you will easily understand
that we had the first months of our residence entirely to ourselves. As
a matter of course, we called on our own minister and his wife; and, as
a matter of course, we have been included in the dinners and parties
that they are accustomed to give at this season of the year. This,
however, has merely brought us in contact with a chance-medley of our
own countrymen, these diplomatic entertainments being quite obviously a
matter of accident, so far as the set is concerned. The dinners of your



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperRecollections of Europe → online text (page 8 of 29)