John Frederick Macdonald.

Paris of the Parisians online

. (page 1 of 9)
Online LibraryJohn Frederick MacdonaldParis of the Parisians → online text (page 1 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook






All books are subject to recall after two weeks
Olin/Kroch Library


■ 1 '•. "***




3 Lv


^ LUOf

- lihirfaoi


^^^■11IIIm>..:: " *«f^^^^H






I Cornell University Library

i DC 715.M13

Paris of the Parisians.

3 1924 028 134 751


The original of this book is in
the Cornell University Library.

There are no known copyright restrictions in
the United States on the use of the text.






' Les maisons font la ville, mais les citoyens font la cite '

Jean Jacques Rousseau


Philadelphia: J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPy


2, O. / O Cy








Several of these sketches appeared originally in
The Saturday Review and are reproduced by kind
permission of the Editor ; while the chapters on
"The Garden of the Luxembourg/' "Spring in
Montparnasse," and "Jean Severe'' are by Miss
Katie Winifred Macdonald.


The purpose of these sketches is not political nor
yet didactic. No charge is laid upon me to teach
the French nation its duties, to reprove it for its
follies. Nor yet is it my design to hold up Paris
of the Parisians as an example of naughtiness, nor
even of virtue, to English readers. A student of
human life still in my humanities, my purpose is
purely interpretative. I would endeavour to trans-
late into English some Paris scenes, in such a way
as to give a true impression of the movement,
personages, sounds, colours, and atmosphere per-
vaded with joy of living which belongs to them.
These impressions which I have myself received,
and now desire to communicate, are not the result
of a general survey of Paris taken from some lofty
summit. I have not looked down upon the capital
of France from the top of the Eiffel Tower ; nor
yet from the terrace of the Sacre Cceur ; nor yet
from the balcony among the chimeres of Notre


X Paris of the Parisians

Dame ; nor yet from Napoleon's column on the
Place Vendome ; nor yet from the Revolution's
monument that celebrates the taking of the Bastille.
No doubt from these exalted places the town
affords an amazing spectacle. Domes rise in the
distance, and steeples. Chimneys smoke ; clouds
hurry. Up there the spectator has not only a
fine bird's-eye view of beautiful Paris : he has a
good throne for historical recollections, for philo-
sophical reveries, for the development of political
and scientific theories also. But for the student
of to-day's life, whose interest turns less to monu-
ments than to men, there is this drawback — seen
from this point of view the inhabitants of Paris
look pigmies. Far below him they pass and
repass : the bourgeois, the bohemian, the boule-
vardier, all small, all restless, all active, all so
remote that one is not to be distinguished from
the other. Coming down from his tower, the
philosopher may explore Paris from the tombs at
St. Denis to the crypts of the Pantheon, from the
galleries of the Louvre to the shops in the Rue de
Rivoli, from the Opera and Odeon to the Moulin
Rouge and sham horrors of the cabarets of Mont-
martre, — leaving Paris from the Gare du Nord,
he may look back at the white city under the blue
sky with mingled regret and satisfaction — regret



for the instructive days he has spent with her,
satisfaction in that he knows her every stone ; and
yet, when some hours later in mid-channel the
coasts of France grow dim, he may leave behind
him an undiscovered Paris — not monumental Paris,
not political Paris, not Baedeker's Paris, not pro-
fligate Paris, not fashionable cosmopolitan Paris of
the Right Bank, not Bohemian Anglo-American
Paris of the Left Bank, but Paris as she knows
herself — Paris of the Parisians.

Not only conscientious foreign explorers ignore
this Paris ; cosmopolitan residents are often un-
acquainted with her true characteristics. Both are
given to keeping to themselves ; and Parisians must
be approached and not waited for ; and soothed at
first, and even flattered a little. And then all
overtures must be made in French — for Parisians
abhor foreign tongues. And all reflections on
London Sundays, London fogs, London smoke, how-
ever exaggerated, must be accepted mildly — for
Parisians cannot bear to be contradicted. And all
reference to Mdlle. Larive's famous song, " Voila
les Englisch," must be welcomed with a smile,
— for Parisians hate the over-sensitive. Finally,
it would be fatal to resent the compassion bestowed
upon you because you happen not to have been
born in Paris. Humour them so far, and they

xii Paris of the Parisians

will bid you not be cast down. Thank them for
their compassion, and they, in their turn, will
boast that after awhile they will make a perfect
Parisian of you, and inspire you with so profound
a love for them and their surroundings that you
will weep as you take your homeward ticket at
the Gare du Nord ; and tremble in the train ; and
sigh not only on account of sickness in the
Channel ; and groan in the Strand ; and recall the
past by your fireside ; and go to bed melancholy
with memories ; and dream fondly until dawn of
Paris, Paris, Paris. All this they prophesy
amiably ; then taking you at once in hand, intro-
duce you to their friends. These also receive you
pleasantly, and soon you are surprised at the
number of genial Parisians with whom you have
shaken hands and to whom you have said,
" Charme, monsieur, de faire votre connaissance."
Time, moreover, does not dispel the impression
made upon you by their amiability and kindness.
You are '' mon cher " soon, then " mon vieux." You
share their secrets before long. You must take their
arm. You are as good as naturalised. You are
"one of them." You are **chez vous," "chezeux."
Virtues of which the spectator has no notion
are to be found in Paris of the Parisians. And
the Parisian does not conceal them through



mauvalse honte. Love of Nature, love of children,
both absorb him : how regularly does he hurry
into the country to sprawl on the grass, lunch by
a lake, stare at the sunset, the stars, and the moon ;
how frequently he admires the view from his
window, the Jardin du Luxembourg, and the
Seine ; how invariably he spoils his gosse or
another*s gosse, anybody^s gosse, infant, boy,
or girl ! He will go to the Luxembourg
merely to watch them. He likes to see them dig,
and make queer patterns in the dust. He loves
to hear them laugh at guignol, and is officiously
careful to see that they are securely strapped on
to the wooden horses. He does not mind their
hoops, and does not care a jot if their balls knock
his best hat off. He walks proudly behind Jeanne
and Edouard, on the day of their first Communion,
all over Paris ; laughing as Jeanne lifts her snow-
white skirt and when Edouard, stat. lo, salutes a
friend ; and he worships Jeanne, and thinks that
there is no better son in the world than Edouard,
and he will tell you so candidly and with earnest-
ness over and over again. " Ma fiUe Jeanne,''
*' Mon fils Edouard," " Mes deux gosses,'' is his
favourite way of introducing the joy of his heart
and the light of his home. And then he knows
how to live amiably, and how to amuse himself

xiv Paris of the Parisians

pleasantly, and how to put poorer people at their
ease, as on fete days. He will go to a State
theatre on 14th July (when the performance is
free), and joke with the crowd that waits patiently
before its doors, and never push, and never com-
plain, and never think of elbowing his way forward
at the critical moment to get in. He will admire
the fireworks and illuminations after ; and dance at
street corners without ever uttering a word that is
rude or making a gesture that is rough. He will
trifle with confetti on Mardi Gras, and throw
coloured rolls of paper on to the boulevard trees.
And he will laugh all the time and joke all the
time, and make Jeanne happy and Edouard happy,
and be happy himself, until it is time to abandon
the boulevards and go home. " La joie de vivre ! "
Verily, the Parisian studies, knows, and appreciates it.
There is something else he appreciates also,
and reveres. And here especially we find that his
paternal affection for all children, his courtesy and
good-fellowship with all classes, his sense of pro-
prietorship and delight and pride in public gardens
do not indicate only a happy and amiable disposi-
tion, but spring from a deeper sentiment. He
is sauntering on the boulevards, it may be, with
Edouard. The time is summer — there is sunshine
everywhere ; the trees are in bloom, the streets are



full of movement and noise, fiacres rattle, tram-horns
sound, camelots cry, gamins whistle. Suddenly
there is a temporary lull. A slow procession
passes, a hearse buried in flowers ; mourners on
foot follow, the near relatives, bare-headed, walk-
ing two by two ; after them come, it may be, a
long line of carriages ; it may be, one forlorn fiacre.
It does not matter. For the Parisian, a rich
funeral or a poor one is never an indifferent
spectacle ; never simply an unavoidable, disagree-
able interruption of traffic, to be got out of sight,
and out of the way of the busy world as quickly
as possible. Here is one of those ordinary cir-
cumstances when the Parisian's attention to the
courtesies of social life is the outward and visible
sign of his self-respecting humanity and fraternal
sympathy. His hat is off, and held off — so is
Edouard's cap, so are the caps of even younger
children, for from the age of four upwards each
gosse knows what is due from him on such an
occasion. Cochers are bare-headed, boulevard
loafers also ; the bourgeois stops stirring his
absinthe to salute ; many a woman crosses herself
and mutters a prayer. '' Farewell ! " *' God bless
thee ! " The kind and pious leave-taking of the
Parisian enjoying to-day's sunshine to the Parisian
of yesterday whose place to-morrow will know

XVI Paris of the Parisians

him no more, accompanies the procession step by
step on its way to the cemetery of Pere Lachaise
or Montparnasse.

■ • • ■ • •

A kind critic of some of these sketches here
reproduced from The Saturday Review has said of
them that their tendency is to " counteract the
wrong-headed reports of French and English
antipathies by which two sympathetic neighbour-
peoples are being estranged and exasperated." If
this be true — and to some extent I hope it may
be — the result is surely all the more gratifying
because it does not proceed from any deliberate
effort on my part to serve that end, but, as I
have said, from my endeavour to convey to others
the impressions I have received. The immortal
Chadband may be said to have established the
proposition that if a householder having upon his
rambles seen an eel, were to return home and say
to the wife of his bosom, " Rejoice with me, I have
seen an elephant,'' it would not be truth. It would
not be truth were I to say of the Jeunesse of the
Latin Quarter that it is callous and corrupt, or to
deny that beneath the madcap frolicsome temper
of the hour can be felt the justness of mind and
openness to great ideas that will put a curb on
extravagance and give safe guidance by and by.



And again of Paul and Pierre's little lady friends,
Mimi and Musette, mirth -loving, dance -loving
daughters of Murger — it would not be truth
were I to report them in any sense wicked girls,
or to deny that taking them where they stand
their ways of feeling are straight though, no
doubt, their way of life may go a little zig-
zag. And of Montmartre and her cabarets and
chansonniers — it would not be truth were I to
say that only madness and perversion reign in
her cabarets, or to deny that true poets and
genuine artists may be found amidst the false and
hectic glitter of the " Butte." And of the man
in the street who is neither poet nor student, the
average Parisian of simply every -day life — it
would not be truth were I to repeat the hackneyed
phrase that he would overthrow the Republican
Government to reinstate a Monarchy, being a
Royalist at heart. True, storms rage about him ;
scandals break out beside him ; ministries fall ;
presidents pass — did these storms and scandals
represent Republican principles it might be said
with truth that he paid them little heed. What is
true, however, is that the qualities and principles
he takes his stand by do not change or fall with
ministries or pass with presidents : cultivating still
the art of living amiably, rejoicing still over the

xviii Paris of the Parisians

beauties of his town, and not merely rejoicing
over them, but respecting and protecting them,
believing still, and with reason, in the greatness of
his country, he succeeds where his rulers often fail
not merely in professing but in practising the
doctrine of liberty, equality, fraternity. And in
connection with the prevailing sympathy in Paris
of the man in the street for " les Boeres," and his
belief that he knows England's interests and
proper behaviour better than she herself — it would
not be truth were I to affirm that these opinions
in their assumption of competency to manage
other people's business for them are any more
exasperating than authoritative views expressed by
the London man in the street during the progress
of the Dreyfus affair. Finally, with regard to the
alleged Anglophobia of the average Parisian — it
would not be truth were I to say that it re-
presented a deep-rooted, incorrigible animosity
towards the English nation founded on anything
more than temporary irritation and misunder-


Paris, April 1900.



La Rive Gauche ....


Daughters of Murger ....


BiBI LA PUR^E ......

• 25

"N'enParlons Plus" ....

. 35

" NouvELLE Affaire ! " .

. 45

In THE Garden of the Luxembourg

• 55

Colonists in Bohemia

. 71

Spring in Montparnasse ....


Pierrot Passes . . . .

• 93

Jean Severe ......

• 99

Street Balls

. 117

By the Side of the Seine

. 127

" Incendie ! " . . .

. 135

The Bun Abroad

• 143

Some Night Faces .


LX-Haut ......

• 159

The Tragedies of Montmartre


Pre Catelan .


*' L'Exposition ! " .





Boxes of books line either side of the Seine, and
stooping figures hover about them ; but the Rive
Droite and the Rive Gauche have little in common.
The first is blase, or it is bourgeois. It does
nothing, or it bawls at the Bourse. It is pre-
maturely old, or it totters on a stick. It is pale,
and must use rouge. It has tasted every joy;
strained every nerve ; exhausted every sense.
Youth possesses the other side. Blithe figures
caper about. Upon this Jeunesse, Notre Dame
casts her shadow ; the dome of the Pantheon rises
proudly above it. Faces are fresh, voices gay ; no
one mumbles about his liver, or is conscious of
having one. Dissipations, too, are different.
Theatres stop glittering before you have crossed
the bridge ; the Noctambules and Soleil d'Or,
artistic cabarets, begin. No one draws on white
gloves ; no one sits in a stall before a ballet.
Toasts and blessings are delivered in the Cafe

4 Paris of the Parisians

Harcourt, mad measures performed at BuUier's :
Paul and Pierre, wild lights of the Latin Quarter,
rejoice. Both love to clothe themselves in
corduroys, and wear capes and ties that fly. Both
are given to dancing down the street, arm-in-arm,
linked to Gaston and Georges, an amazing row.
Both prefer song to study, bocks to books, pipes
to pens, and night to day.

Some trials, nevertheless, torment the Latin
Quarter : four of them, quarterly events, when
landlords come out. They arrive at mid-day ;
and find Paul in bed. He is polite. He is pale.
He is sorry, and — forth comes his plea, harrowing
but simple, full of promise, of infinite hope. It
is cursed and refuted ; it grows in melancholy.
It soothes ; it moves ; a final vow : it wins !
Touched by this mercy, Paul immediately starts a
hoard. He lays a foundation sou. He is proud
of his thrift. He tells his friends. For days he
nurses his store : but no sooner is it one franc old
than he covets and falls. He confesses his crime
to Gaston, and Gaston grins, and shows him nine
sous, and says he has had them as many months :
and secretes them again before Paul can see that
they are Argentine and English, worthless and worn.
Or, Paul buys an account book. He carries it
with him. He forgets its existence. He is sur-
prised to find it a week later, and fills it in a night
with card scores and character sketches. Next
quarter, Paul's circumstances require a change of

La Rive Gauche 5

landlords : he is seen " moving/' A seedy man
with a seedier truck takes his goods : pathetic
rubbish, wanting in varnish and legs. It is escorted
through the streets by Paul and friends. Passing
students salute the cortege. Sad song is chanted
over it. In a side street, at a poor little wine-shop,
it stops, and Paul and friends toast and christen
and cheer it. A modest room, near the Seine, is
its new home, conveniently close to Pere Pognon's,
whose meals, popular in the Quarter, cost, with
a bottle of wine, one franc. Wonderful stews and
the queerest curries appear twice a week ; both
are pronounced epatant. Paul and Pierre have a
slate that records their week's eatings. Every
Saturday they give the sleeveless gar^on half a
franc. A rival establishment stands next door,
emblazoned Cremerie, hung with portraits and
sketches left by needy artists in exchange for a
steak. Other treasures are held in pawn : poems,
the first act of a tremendous tragedy intended for
the Odeon, a pair of bursting boxing-gloves, a
meerschaum pipe. On a grander scale is the
" Diner des Princes," equipped with thinner glasses,
a table-cloth, and napkins. This feast costs one
franc fifty ; and includes a variety of dishes, far
from plain, steeped in sauces, magnificently named.
Each has its surprises. None are natural. Even
your beef has been tampered with. You meet
amazing trifles wherever you stab.

Other feasts occur from time to time, royally

6 Paris of the Parisians

conducted in a cafe or private abode. Feasts in
honour of an inheritance, or of a triumph, or —
grandest event of all — in honour of a departure.
Gaston was the last to give one : Gaston aetat.
twenty-five, summoned home to Rouen to com-
mence his professional career. He calls meetings.
He concocts menus. He consults wine lists. The
Quarter starts hoards that do not dissolve prema-
turely, and makes Gaston gifts. He accepts them
with emotion. He feels very sad. He issues
invitations to a supper, at which every guest's arm
must be bound with crape. Of all ceremonies this
is the saddest. By it you bury your youth, your
past, and your follies. You are old when it is
over. It is the last mad moment of your career.
Memories haunt the room in which you sup. It
has heard you sing ; it has felt you dance. What
grim change has come over it ! How transformed
it is ! Festoons of flowers have given place to
cords of crape. The mirror is draped with it ;
the chandelier shrouded in it. Knots and bows
are about, all black. Gaston enters, thick in crape.
The mourners follow, armed with crape. And
waiters appear, with bows of crape. Every
mustard-pot wears mourning, every menu a black
rosette. There are sombre threads round every
spoon and fork. Soup is served from a vessel
grimly adorned. Bottles arrive ; alas, their
slender necks bear further symbols of Gaston's
fleeting youth. No one has much to say. Laughs

La Rive Gauche 7

are faint ; jokes rare. Each new dish is clothed
in crape. As the bottles circulate, Paul revives.
He wins the first laugh ; he begins to smile. He
calls Gaston " mon vieux/' meaningly; and Gaston
sighs. Bold voices refer to Rouen as a place in
which no one capers. Its cafes are dim ; its
people glum. More bottles appear ; behold, their
once golden stems have gone black : they are
labelled Carte Noir. Coffee comes, then char-
treuse. Every one whispers, watches, waits ; and
Paul, drawing on a pair of black gloves, rises, calls
for silence, proposes the first toast. A tribute to
old age is his topic, coupled with the name of the
venerable form who sits at the top of the table.

" Gaston," he says, " your eye is dim, your frame
feeble, your voice weak : you will rejoice no more.
Rouen claims you ; carefully clothed and combed,
you will practise law, take a wife, and conduct a
home. Alas, poor Gaston, we, the Jeunesse of
the Latin Quarter, lament your transition to bour-
geois spheres, grieve over the putting-away of your
corduroys, and pray you leave them and your tie
behind you as relics of your brilliant youth, now
dead. Think of us, Gaston, as your fire burns
and your respectable clock ticks, as you lay your
head on your pillow at the worthy hour of ten :
pray for us, Gaston, and we will pray for you.*'

Gaston replies, and with emotion. He thanks
the Jeunesse, he envies the Jeunesse, of whom
he is now doyen. He will scatter his raiment

8 Paris of the Parisians

among them ; each shall have his share. He
mourns his youth ; spent, he admits, wildly, but
free of stains and scars. Looking back on the
five years he has spent in the Latin Quarter, he
remembers no mean or dishonourable action com-
mitted by either his friends or himself, and he is
proud of this and thankful for it, and thinks that
principles and honour are more at home with the
Jeunesse of the Rive Gauche than with the rakes
and bourgeois of the other side. He drinks to
this Jeunesse, to the Quarter, to the Sorbonne, to
the Pantheon, and to Notre Dame.

Every one rises for the toast, drinks it in
silence. And one by one the students pass by
Gaston, wring his hand, and say something affec-
tionate in a husky voice, then collect their hats
and capes, and go out into the night, noisy again,
an amazing row.

Dawn breaks over the Latin Quarter, and
policemen yawn. " Ce sont les etudiants," they
growl when voices ring out. Good-hearted bour-
geois are disturbed : " La Jeunesse qui s'amuse,'*
they say. And the students dance on. Down
the BouF Mich' they go, to sip hot coffee at
Madame Bertrand's. She serves it herself, a
motherly soul. She lectures Paul if he reels a
little ; reproves Pierre for being out if he has an
examination to undergo ; when they have gossiped
themselves hoarse, she tells them to seek their
homes. And the students dance out. Arms join

La Rive Gauche 9

again, legs go, stopping only on the bridge.
Notre Dame, great and gray, stands to the right of
this Jeunesse, and it is to her that Paul and Pierre
and Gaston lift their hats, to her towers, over
which a cloudy sky is breaking. Hat in hand,
they linger, dishevelled dreamers. Gaston sighs ;
every one sighs. Gaston takes a last look at the
towers he loves. And the students dance home.



Nine out of ten of the little ladies who live in
the Latin Quarter bear the name Mimi, the tenth
is Musette, or Margot, or Miette. All have
an after -name with the prefix *' de " as well.
Paul, for instance, will introduce you to " Made-
moiselle Mimi de Montespan," but as the evening
wears on, observes, '^ You may call her Mimi."
And she, smiling, remarks, " Both Paul and I
give you permission to call me Mimi." Nor are
you "Monsieur" any longer. You have become
" mon cher." You may offer roses. You may
buy nougat. You may constitute yourself host
of a luncheon party in the country. Sometimes,
in thoughtful moods, Mimi will review her past —
" quand j'avais quatorze ans." She was a modiste,
or engaged already in a shop. She abhorred the
life, but put up with it for three years. She then
took to rejoicing in the BouF Mich', and met
Paul. They danced together at Bullier's often ;
they sipped bocks side by side at the Taverne

14 Paris of the Parisians

Lorraine ; they exchanged vows ; they walked
off arm-in-arm, Mimi and Paul, Paul and Mimi,
children of Murger.

It is usual for Paul to make an appointment

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryJohn Frederick MacdonaldParis of the Parisians → online text (page 1 of 9)