Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 734, January 19, 1878 online

. (page 1 of 5)
Online LibraryVariousChambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 734, January 19, 1878 → online text (page 1 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Susan Skinner and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at





Fourth Series


NO. 734. SATURDAY, JANUARY 19, 1878. PRICE 1½_d._]


In a densely populated street of the quaint sea-port of Marseilles
there dwelt a poor locksmith and his family, who were so hard pressed
by the dearness of provisions and the general hardness of the times,
that the rent and taxes for the wretched tenement which they called
a home had been allowed to fall many weeks into arrear. But the good
people struggled on against their poverty; and the locksmith (who
was the son of a ruined cloth-merchant), though fallen to the humble
position of a dock-porter, still managed to wade through life as if
he had been born to opulence. This poor labourer’s name was Thiers,
and his wife was a descendant of the poet Chenier; the two being
destined to become the parents of Louis Adolphe Thiers, one of the most
remarkable men that ever lived.

The hero of our story was at his birth mentally consigned to oblivion
by his parents, while the neighbours laughed at the ungainly child,
and prognosticated for him all kinds of evil in the future. And it is
more than probable that these evil auguries would have been fulfilled
had it not been for the extraordinary care bestowed upon him by his
grandmother. But for her, perhaps our story had never been written.

Under her fostering care the child survived all those diseases which
were, according to the gossips, to prove fatal to him; but while his
limbs remained almost stationary, his head and chest grew larger, until
he became a veritable dwarf. By his mother’s influence with the family
of André Chenier, the lad was enabled to enter the Marseilles Lyceum
at the age of nine; and here the remarkable head and chest kept the
promise they made in his infancy, and soon fulfilled Madame Thiers’

Louis Adolphe Thiers was a brilliant though somewhat erratic pupil. He
was noted for his practical jokes, his restlessness, and the ready and
ingenious manner in which he always extricated himself from any scrapes
into which his bold and restless disposition had led him. Thus the
child in this case would appear to have been ‘father to the man,’ by
the manner in which he afterwards released his beloved country from one
of the greatest ‘scrapes’ she ever experienced.

On leaving school Thiers studied for the law, and was eventually called
to the bar, though he never practised as a lawyer. He became instead
a local politician; and so well did the rôle suit him, that he soon
evinced a strong desire to try his fortune in Paris itself. He swayed
his auditory, when speaking, in spite of his diminutive stature,
Punch-like physiognomy, and shrill piping speech; and shout and yell
as his adversaries might, they could not drown his voice, for it arose
clear and distinct above all the hubbub around him. While the studious
youth was thus making himself a name in his native town, he was ever on
the watch for an opportunity to transfer his fortunes to the capital.
His almost penniless condition, however, precluded him from carrying
out his design without extraneous assistance of some kind or other;
but when such a stupendous ambition as that of governing one of the
greatest nations of the earth filled the breast of the Marseilles
student, it was not likely that the opportunity he was seeking would be
long in coming.

The Academy of Aix offered a prize of a few hundred francs for a
eulogium on _Vauvenargues_, and here was the opportunity which Louis
Adolphe Thiers required. He determined to compete for the prize,
and wrote out two copies of his essay, one of which he sent to the
Academy’s Secretary, and the other he submitted to the judgment of
his friends. This latter indiscretion, however, would appear to have
been the cause of his name being mentioned to the Academicians as a
competitor; and as they had a spite against him, and disapproved of his
opinions, they decided to reject any essay which he might submit to

On the day of the competition they were as good as their word, and
Thiers received back his essay with only an ‘honourable mention’
attached to it. The votes, however, had been equally divided, and the
principal prize could not be adjudged until the next session. The
future statesman and brilliant journalist was not, however, to be cast
aside in this contemptuous manner, and he accordingly adopted a _ruse
de guerre_, which was perfectly justifiable under the circumstances. He
sent back his first essay for the second competition with his own name
attached thereto, and at the same time transmitted another essay, by
means of a friend, through the Paris post-office. This paper was signed
‘Louis Duval;’ and as M. Thiers knew that they had resolved to reject
his essay and accept the next best on the list, he made it as near as
possible equal to the other in point of merit.

The Academicians were thoroughly out-generalled by this clever
artifice, and the prize was awarded to the essay signed ‘Louis Duval;’
but the chagrin of the dons when the envelope was opened and the name
of Louis Adolphe Thiers was read out, can be better imagined than
described. The prize, which amounted to about twenty pounds, was
added to another sum of forty pounds gained by his friend Mignet for
essay-writing; and with this modest amount, the two friends set out
on their journey to Paris. On their arrival there, both of them were
at once engaged as writers on the _Globe_ newspaper, and M. Thiers’
articles soon attracted such attention that the highest political
destinies were predicted for their author.

Alluding to the small stature of our hero, Prince Talleyrand once
said: ‘_Il est petit, mais il grandira!_’ (He is little, but he will
be great!) Meanwhile, the young adventurer, as we may call him, was
engaged on general literary work for the press, writing political
leaders one day, art-criticisms the next, and so on, until a publisher
asked him to write the _History of the French Revolution_. He accepted;
and when published, the work met with so great a success that it placed
him in the front rank of literature, and gained for him the proud title
of ‘National Historian.’ After this the two friends published the
_National_ newspaper, an undertaking which we are told was conceived
in Talleyrand’s house, and was largely subscribed to by the Duke
of Orleans, afterwards King Louis-Philippe. M. Thiers disliked the
Bourbons; and when, in 1829, Charles X. dissolved a liberal parliament,
he took the lead in agitating for the reinstating of the people’s
rights. The king having determined to reply to the re-election of the
‘221’ by a _coup d’état_, the nature of which was secretly communicated
to M. Thiers, the latter hastened to the office of the _National_
and drew up the celebrated Protest of the Journalists, which before
noon was signed by every writer on the liberal side. As M. Thiers was
leaving the office, a servant of Prince Talleyrand placed in his hand a
note, which simply bore the words, ‘Go and gather cherries.’ This was a
hint that danger was near the young patriot, and that he should repair
to the house of one of the Prince’s friends at Montmorency - a place
famous for its cherries - and there lie hidden until the storm had blown

M. Thiers did not immediately accept the hint, but remained in the
capital during the day, to watch the course of events and endeavour to
prevent his friends from doing anything rash. He energetically sought
to dissuade those who were for resisting the king’s decree by force of
arms; but did not succeed. When the barricades were raised, he left
Paris, because he thought that the people were doing an unwise thing,
which would lead to a fearful slaughter, and perhaps result in himself
and friends being shot.

When, however, the battle between the army and the people had really
begun, the indomitable little man returned to Paris, and heedless of
the bullets that were flying about, he ran here and there trying to
collect adherents for the Duke of Orleans. He also had a proclamation
of the Duke, as king, printed, rushed out with it, damp as it was from
the press, and distributed copies to the victorious insurgents; but
this operation nearly cost him his life, for the crowds on the Place
de la Bourse were shouting for a republic, and a cry was immediately
raised to lynch M. Thiers. He only escaped by dashing into a
pastry-cook’s shop, and taking a header down the open cellar which led
to the kitchen.

Nothing daunted by this _contretemps_, however, he sought out M.
Scheffer, an intimate friend of the Duke of Orleans, and started off
for Neuilly with him (without consulting anybody else), to offer the
crown of France to the Duke. When they found the Duke, he despatched
M. Thiers to Prince Talleyrand to ask his advice on the subject; and
the latter, who was in bed at the time, said: ‘Let him accept;’ but
positively refused to put this advice in writing. Thus the Duke of
Orleans became King of the French under the name of Louis-Philippe, and
the Marseilles student found himself a step nearer the accomplishment
of his aim. The poor locksmith’s son had overthrown one king and
established another!

It was M. Thiers who caused the remains of Napoleon to be removed from
the gloomy resting-place in St Helena to the church of the Invalides in
Paris, where they were re-interred amid great pomp and circumstance.
He it was who also invented or gave currency to the now well-known
constitutional maxim, ‘The king reigns, but does not govern.’

In this reign M. Thiers commenced his great work on the _Consulate and
the Empire_, in which he so eulogised the First Napoleon and flattered
the military fame of France, that he unwittingly paved the way for the
advent of the second Empire.

The revolution of 1848, which led to the abdication of Louis-Philippe,
found Thiers but a simple soldier in the National Guard, and parading
the streets with a musket on his shoulder, despite his diminutive
stature. A man of his transcendent ability, however, could not be left
long in so humble a position, and we therefore find the newly elected
sovereign Louis Napoleon trying hard to win over to his side this
unique citizen. But Thiers declined the honour, and remained a thorn in
Napoleon’s side during the whole period of his reign. When the _coup
d’état_ of 1851 was struck he was one of the leading statesmen whose
arrest was ordered and carried out. The patriot was seized and forcibly
taken out of his bed at an early hour in the morning, and imprisoned at
Mazas for several days. He was then escorted out of the country, and
became an exile from the land he loved so well.

While the excitement in Paris, which culminated in the outbreak of the
war with Germany, was at its height, and the whole nation was singing
the _Marseillaise_ and shouting ‘à Berlin,’ M. Thiers’ voice was the
only one raised to protest against France precipitating herself into an
unjust and unnecessary war. He was unheeded at the moment; but a few
weeks sufficed to prove the soundness of his reasoning; and when the
Germans were marching on Paris, it was to the locksmith’s son that the
whole nation turned in its distress.

The Napoleonic dynasty was deposed, and at the elections for the
National Assembly which afterwards took place, M. Thiers was elected
for twenty-six Departments - a splendid national testimony to his
patriotism and ability. As soon as the Assembly met he was at once
appointed ‘Chief of the Executive Power’ of the French Republic.
Thus the poor student of the Marseilles Academy had become, almost
without any effort of his own, the governor of his country; and how he
acquitted himself of the onerous and self-sacrificing task, let the
living grief of Frenchmen for his loss at this moment proudly attest.

Previous to this appointment, however, and while the German army was
thundering at the gates of Paris, the brave old statesman had, in
his seventy-fourth year, shewn his unalterable devotion to France by
the famous journey he made to all the European courts to endeavour
to obtain assistance. Failing in this, he came back, and being made
President, as above mentioned, he made peace with the Germans on the
best terms he could get, turned round and beat the Communists in the
streets of Paris; and within three short years he had not only paid the
heaviest war indemnity ever known, but had cleared his country of the
Germans, consolidated her resources, and reorganised her army.

On the morning of the 4th September last, France was suddenly plunged
into the deepest grief and dismay by the announcement that her greatest
citizen had been taken from her by death on the previous evening, at a
time when the whole nation was looking to him as the one man who could
save it from the dangerous crisis through which it was at that moment

The funeral was a magnificent one, and though a wet day, there was not
a citizen in Paris that did not join the throng, which lined the whole
of the way to the cemetery. As the body of the great patriot was borne
along every hat was raised, and many among the crowd shed tears. A riot
was expected on the occasion, but the people behaved admirably and with
great forbearance; the greatest tribute of respect which they could
have shewn to the memory of one who had done so much for his country.

The modesty of this great citizen was in perfect accordance with his
republican principles; for while President of the French Republic, his
card never bore anything more on it than the simple ‘Monsieur Thiers;’
nor did he wear any uniform or decoration other than that one which is
so dear to the heart and eye of every true Frenchman, ‘the Legion of
Honour.’ Surely never did a worthier breast bear that famous Cross than
that of the man who, despite every obstacle both physical and moral,
and despite evil prognostications, bitter taunts, and the crushing hand
of poverty, rose by the grand yet simple force of his own indomitable
will from the position of a labourer’s son to that of the ruler of a
mighty nation. But even greater than all this was the fact, that having
attained to this grand position, he was ready, at what he believed
to be the call of duty, to lay aside his dignity, to step from his
proud position, and once more to assume the humbler rôle of a private
citizen. Such a sublime act of self-abnegation was sufficient to assure
to him the enthusiastic love and respect of an intelligent people,
and the esteem of the whole world, which may be said to have joined
with France in weaving a chaplet of immortelles to place upon the tomb
of one whose memory will be revered by all who respect indomitable
perseverance and true nobility of character.



When Sir Sykes, left alone, addressed himself to the perusal of the
crumpled letter which he had hitherto crushed in his clenched hand,
it was with no light repugnance that he applied himself to the task.
Slowly, and with shaking fingers, he unfolded and smoothed the ruffled
paper, spread it on the table before him, and not hastily, but with a
deliberate care that was evidently painful to him, read as follows:
‘Although a stranger to you, Sir Sykes Denzil, Baronet, I am no
stranger to what took place on March 24, 18 - . Should you wish this
matter to remain, as it has hitherto done, untalked of by the world,
I must request that you will meet me this evening at _The Traveller’s
Rest_, by the cross-roads. I shall wait there for you until ten o’clock
to-night, and will then name the terms on which alone you can reckon on
my future silence. - Inquire for yours respectfully, DICK HOLD, staying
at _The Traveller’s Rest_.’

The baronet read and re-read this letter with the patient endurance of
a sufferer under the surgeon’s knife. Nothing but his labouring breath
and the deepening of the lines around his mouth and the furrows on his
high forehead, betrayed the pain that this precious document, indited
in a large sprawling hand, occasioned him. When he had gone through
it for the second time, he rose, and filling a glass with water from
a bottle that stood on a side-table, he drank a deep draught, and
then paced to and fro with hasty irregular steps, as some men do when
suddenly called upon for earnest thought and prompt decision.

‘I will not go!’ he said authoritatively, but in a low voice - ‘I will
not go.’

Such a peremptory summons as that which he had received implied more
than it stated. It was couched in terms which were sufficiently civil;
but the tone was still that of command, not of entreaty or persuasion.
Most gentlemen of the degree of Sir Sykes would have treated such a
demand either as a piece of insufferable insolence or as the freak
of a madman. The baronet knew well enough what sort of reception
his neighbours, Lord Wolverhampton, Carew of Carew, or Fulford of
Carstennis, would have given to a request so impudent. He was, as they
were, a justice of the peace and deputy-lieutenant, owner of a fine
estate, one whose name was mentioned with respect wherever men did

The meekest of us all are apt to rebel against unwarranted dictation.
And Sir Sykes was not meek. His friends and his servants - lynx-eyed
as we are apt to be to the foibles of others - knew that he was in
his unobtrusive way a proud man. The stronger, therefore, must have
been the influence that drew him, as the magnet draws iron to itself,
towards that unsavoury house of entertainment whence his unknown
correspondent had dated his missive. The first dressing-bell clanged
out its call unheeded, and it was only when the second bell rang that
Sir Sykes recalled his wandering thoughts sufficiently to remember that
it was time for him to dress, and that whatever cares might be busy
at his heart, he must yet wear his mask decorously before the world.
Dinner on that day at Carbery Court was not a peculiarly genial meal.
The baronet had taken, with his accustomed regularity, his place at
the table; but he was pale, and looked older by some years than he had
done a few hours since. Yet he resented Lucy’s half-timid inquiry: ‘You
are not ill, papa, I hope?’ and quietly declared that he was perfectly
well. The domestic relations differ so much in varying conditions of
life, that there are parents whose every thought and deed appear to
be the common property of the home circle, and others who sanction no
trespass on the inner self, the _to auton_ of the Greeks, which each of
us carries in the recesses of his own heart.

Sir Sykes Denzil was one of those men who, as husband and father, never
carry their confidences beyond a certain convenient limit. He was no
tyrant, and his daughters, who fondly loved him and who believed in his
love for them, looked with regret on the cloud that so often rested
on his yet handsome features. But he had known how to preserve his
jealously guarded individuality from the encroachments of affectionate
interference, so that it was but very rarely that his actions were
the theme of open comment. Blanche and Lucy, therefore, though with
feminine nicety of observation they noted that their father could not
eat, but that he emptied his glass again and again, said nothing;
while Jasper, as he watched Sir Sykes with a stealthy inquisitiveness,
made the mental reflection that ‘the governor must be hard hit, very
hard indeed;’ and secretly determined to turn the occasion to his own
peculiar profit.

‘Jasper!’ said Lucy anxiously, some time after the dinner had come to
an end; ‘what is the matter with papa? Do you know if he is really
unwell, or if anything has gone wrong? I waited here for you, in case
you might know what is amiss.’

Jasper, who had been intercepted as he was leaving the house for his
customary twilight stroll, with a cigar between his lips, turned lazily
round. ‘How can I tell, Lucy?’ he returned indifferently. ‘I’m not the
keeper of my father’s conscience, as the Lord Chancellor, by a polite
fiction, is supposed to be of the king’s.’

‘I only meant, has anything occurred, to your knowledge,’ pleaded Miss
Denzil, ‘calculated to annoy or distress him? Anything, for instance,
about you?’

‘How about me!’ demanded Jasper with a slight start and a slight frown.

‘Don’t be angry, brother; I only meant, dear, about your - debts,’
answered the girl, laying her hand on Jasper’s arm.

‘Has he been talking to you on that delightful subject?’ retorted the
brother, almost roughly. ‘No; I see that he has not; at least not very
lately. One would think, to hear that eternal refrain of debts, debts,
debts for ever jangling in my ears, that I was the first fellow who
ever overran the constable. Surely I’m punished enough, if I _did_
owe a trifle, by being caged up in this wearisome old Bastille of a
house, and - - There, there; Lucy, don’t cry. I’ll not say a word more
against Carbery, and you may set your mind at rest. If the governor has
anything to vex him, be assured that it is not in the least connected
with so insignificant a person as myself.’ And, as though weary of the
subject, he sauntered off.

It was Sir Sykes’s habit on most evenings to spend a short time, half
an hour or so, in the drawing-room. He liked music; and Blanche, his
younger daughter, who had been gifted with the sweet voice and delicate
sense of harmony which are often found in conjunction with frail
health, knew the airs and the songs that best suited him. He never,
under any circumstances, remained long in company with his daughters,
being one of those men to whom the society of women is in itself
uncongenial; but on this particular evening he went straight from the
dining-room to the library, and sipped his coffee there, while the
twilight deepened into the gloom of night.

The day had been fine enough, but the sun had sunk in a cloud-bank of
black and orange, and there were not wanting signs that a change of
weather was at hand. The wind had risen, and the clouds gathered as
the sun went down, and it seemed as though the proverbial fickleness
of our climate would soon be illustrated. But Sir Sykes, as he went
forth shortly after the clock on the turret had struck nine, paid no
heed to the weather, save that once or twice he glanced upwards with
a sort of half-conscious satisfaction at the darkling sky. The night,
with its friendly shadows and its threats of a coming storm, suited far
better with his purpose than cloudless azure and bright moonlight would
have done. The moon, not as yet long risen, was young and wan, and her
feeble lustre fell but at rare intervals through the wrack of hurrying
clouds. The larches in the plantations quivered and the aspens by the
trout-stream trembled as the gusts of wailing wind went by; while the
giant trees in the park, each one a citadel of refuge to squirrel and
song-bird, sent down a rustling sound, as though every one out of their
million leaves had found a tiny voice of its own to give warning of
the approaching gale. Sir Sykes skirted the lawn, passed through the
shrubbery, and struck into a path seldom trodden except by the feet of
his keepers, which led northwards through the park.

There is something ignominious in the very fact that the master of
any dwelling, howsoever humble, should steal away from it with as
earnest a desire to elude observation as though he had been a robber
of hen-roosts or a purloiner of spoons. And perhaps such a proceeding
appeared still more so in the case of the owner of so stately a place
as Carbery. Sir Sykes felt as he glided, unseen as he hoped, past
paling and thicket, at once angry and ashamed. So repugnant to him was
the errand on which his mind was bent, that on reaching a private door
in the northern wall of the park he came to a halt, and held as it were
parley with himself before proceeding on the quest of the writer of the

‘I do not know this fellow,’ he muttered wrathfully: ‘the man’s very
name is strange to me. But the twenty-fourth of March - _that_ can be no
mistake, no coincidence. That fatal date has burned itself too deeply
into my brain for me to disregard or to forget it. Yes, I must go; I
suppose that I must go.’

And with a heavy sigh, the master of that fair demesne and of many a

1 3 4 5

Online LibraryVariousChambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 734, January 19, 1878 → online text (page 1 of 5)