Walter F Lonergan.

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was given to the utterly obscure General Ferron, and
M. Flourens, who had been with M. Goblet, was
retained at the Foreign Office.

Then followed the systematic and elaborately-
planned crushing and obliterating of the common
danger, Boulanger. In my experience in France I
never saw anything so resolutely, and it may be


said so ruthlessly, carried out as that, except the
campaign conducted by M. Combes against the
religious orders and congregations. I had no con-
ception before the Boulangist time that Republicans
could so resolutely throttle their Frankensteins.

When Boulanger was ejected from the Cabinet, he
was sent to a command at Clermont-Ferrand. I took
a very active part in the demonstration in his favour
at the Gare de Lyon on that occasion, and he
remembered it afterwards. Thousands followed him
into the station and wanted him to return to Paris
and to march on the Elysee. I was foremost in a
gang that tried to prevent him entering his carriage,
and the circumstance caused me to be subsequently
well watched and shadowed by the police. In fact,
I had good reason to know that I was classed, if
not as what is nowadays termed an "undesirable,"
at least as a dano;erous foreig-n resident.

In my excitement at the time of Boulanger's
departure I overlooked my work, and was guilty
of one of the worst crimes that a journalist can
commit. After I joined the crowd engaged in trying
to get the General to return, I found with the others
that he had disappeared in some mysterious manner.
He had, in fact, what is familiarly called "given us
the slip." Taking it for granted that the General
had gone off in the train at the Gare de Lyon, I
returned to town and wrote a despatch very late
at night. In this I stated that General Boulanger,
after a tremendous demonstration from his followers,
had gone off to Clermont-Ferrand from the Lyons

To my horror and consternation, I found on taking


up the newspapers next morning that Boulanger
had gone along the Hne as far as Charenton on the
engine of the train. At Charenton he entered the
carriage provided for him. The General was sub-
sequently referred to by M. Mermeix, a follower of
Boulanger to whom the name of Judas was applied
after he wrote about the ephemeral hero for the
Figaro, as the ** locomotive des d^cav^s." That engine
trip of Boulanger's caused immense trepidation in
the offices of the English newspapers on the night
that it took place. There was notably great trouble
and anxiety at the Standard office, where Mr. Hely
Bowes and Mr. Farman were awaiting for long hours
definite information as to whether Boulanger had
gone to Clermont-Ferrand or remained hiding with
Madame de Bonnemain in Paris.

On the following day, a Saturday, I went out to
lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Campbell Clarke, as they
were then. They were staying in the well-known
Pavilion Henri Quatre at Saint Germain-en- Laye.
In the same hotel were at the time M. de Blowitz,
M. Meilhac, the dramatist, and Albert Wolff, the
once celebrated chronicler of the Figaro, a German
born, who had a thorough mastery of the French
language and wrote like a Parisian. M. de Blowitz
was tremendously anxious to know all about Boulanger's
departure from one who had been at the Gare de
Lyon. I narrated to him what I had seen, and
notably described an appeal for a drink made by
the General as he was being mobbed by his followers.
I said: *'// demandait a boire" and M. de Blowitz,
who always wanted to utter something sprightly,
remarked : ** Oui, tout comme Jisus Christ ^

General Boulanger.

To face p. 87.


I did not smile at the joke, and I think that the
great Httle man did not forgive me for my solemnity
of countenance when he had condescended to provide
me with a mot intended to promote jocularity.

The next episode in Boulanger's career was his
coming up to Paris clandestinely, and wearing goggles
to throw the "shadowers" off the scent. This was
an utterly foolish proceeding, for the make-up was
easily seen through. After that the damaged hero
made his entry into Parliament, but did not succeed
there ; the old parliamentary hands were too much
for him. Later on Jules Ferry tried to throw ridicule
on him by calling him a "caf6 concert or music-hall
Saint-Arnaud," and Boulanger had a duel with
M. Floquet, which would have been one of the most
hilarity-provoking events of the kind on record had
he not, in his precipitate haste and inexplicable
inexperience, allowed himself to be caught in the
neck by the rapier of his adversary while the latter
was actually sitting on some shrubs whereon he had
fallen, and looking like a helpless porpoise.

Boulanger's election as a deputy for Paris in
January, 1889, was a very memorable affair. The
Government backed M. Jacques, a distiller, and all the
opponents of the General were in a condition of great
anxiety. His followers held a meeting at Durand's,
near the Madeleine, but nothing came of it. The
General had not the least desire to march on the
Elysde and to get locked up with his friends Paul
D^roulede, Rochefort, Nacquet, and Laguerre. I
had seen the General on the day before his election
at his house in the Rue Dumont d'Urville. There
was an enormous crowd of people waiting to mob


him. He ordered that I was to be shown into his
salon by his page-boy Joseph at once. He said :
" You may telegraph to London that I am going to
beat Jacques." I expressed some surprise at his
resolute manner of uttering a prediction which might
not be realised. " You need not fear," he said ; " I
am going to have a total of 100,000, from which
the Government will knock off 20,000 votes." I sent
this to the Observer, and that paper, then edited by
Mr. Dicey, published the prediction on Sunday,
January 27, 1889. On the evening of that day
the prediction was realised, Boulanger receiving
nearly 82,000 votes. His popularity increased for a
time, but the Government engaged that specially
strong man, M. Constans, to crush him, and Boulanger
fled to Brussels with Madame de Bonnemain. His
party was financed by Commandant Heriot, of the
Louvre shops, and also for a time by the Duchesse
d'Uzes and other Royalists, although Boulanger was
instrumental in having the Due d'Aumale and the
Princes expelled from the army in 1886. The Duke
retorted at the time by publishing a letter in which
Boulanger had written years before : " Blessed be the
day that sees me under your orders." This was when
the Duke had a command in Algeria. The letter
was used by the General's adversaries, who were
wont to call the Boulangists satirically the " Bdnis-
soit-lejour," or " Blessed be the day boys."

The flight to Brussels which finished Boulanger's
career reminds me of a remarkable man who died
only very recently. That was Charles Chincholle,
the " roi des reporters." Reams and reams have
been written concerning Boulanger and the promi-


nent Republicans to whom I have been referring
in the preceding pages, but little has been printed
about the marvellous Chlncholle. Let me say some-
thing about him for the benefit of generations yet

On the day of Boulanger's flight to Brussels my
colleague, Mr. J. W. Ozanne, of the Daily Telegraph,
and I were lunching at Bignon's, in the Avenue de
rOp^ra, with Lord Burnham, then Mr. Edward
Lawson, and with his daughter, now the Hon. Lady
Hulse, and her husband. That was in April, 1889.
Conversation at luncheon turned chiefly on Boulanger,
and the Universal Exhibition of that year was also dis-
cussed. It was arranged that Mr. Ozanne should call
on General Boulanger and try to find out what he was
going to do in view of the action taken by M. Constans,
the strong man of the Government. I had to go on
the same day to watch a case at the Palais de Justice.
Mr. Ozanne saw the General, who blandly told him
that he intended to remain in Paris and to await
events. This was telegraphed to London, but in the
meantime Boulanger had done what persons in
difficulties in Paris are said to do when they vanish,
that is, filer sur Bruxelles. Mr. Ozanne was thus
baffled, but in the same boat with him was Charles
Chincholle, who, as representative of the Figaro, had
been the trusted confidant and the faithful Boswell of
Boulanger. Chincholle was in trouble at the Figaro
over that, I but he came up beaming again and resumed
his position as the roi des reporters and the most

^ Chincholle wrote in the Figaro that he was lunching with
Boulanger at the time when, unknown to him, the brav^
General was across the frontier, and in Belgium.


potent pressman in Paris. He was notably so in the
days of Felix Faure and Emile Loubet.

I was present with him once at a meeting of
Boulangists at Saint-Mand6 while the General was
laid up after his duel with M. Floquet. I had reason
to remember that meeting, for on returning from it in
a fly with a wonderful journalist named Negrau,
known as the "little Portuguese" or the "little
Lusitanian," who was always with me during the
Boulangist period, I had a narrow escape from being
clubbed to death by some of the secret service men,
or moMckards, of M. Constans. Negrau said that the
mouchards must have taken me for Boulanger, whom
I remotely resembled then. My impression was that
they recognised me as one of the people who tried to
prevent Boulanger from leaving the Gare de Lyon,
and that they resolved to "go " for me. Fortunately,
the horse harnessed to the fly was a good one, and
the driver soon had Negrau and myself out of the
dangerous "sphere of influence" of the secret service
men. One of these fellows levelled a blow at me
which, if it had touched me, would have smashed
my skull. The club fell on the back part, or rather
the folded cover, of the fly, and I escaped.

I heard afterwards that Chincholle had also some
trouble with the mouchards, but they certainly could
not have taken him for Boulanger. The last time I
saw him was at Dunkirk, when the Tsar and the
Tsaritsa landed there in September, 1901. He was
then writing columns of copy for the Figaro. His
death was very sudden. He rose up one morning
complaining that he could not lift his right hand. In
the evening he was a corpse, and the once powerful


roi des reporters, who knew everybody and who
went everywhere, was no more. He had killed
himself by sheer writing, for he was not only an
active journalist on daily work, but was the author
of twenty-five novels.

To see Chincolle at work for the Figaro, one would
think that he was as enthusiastic as the youngest
journalist just admitted to a profession which, in
France as well as in England, is, notwithstanding
what Mr. George Meredith says about *' Egyptian
bondage," the goal of many a man's ambition. As
a matter of fact, Chincholle writhed and suffered
under his daily task. This is proved by what is
recorded by M. Adolphe Brisson, son-in-law of
Francisque Sarcey, in one of the newspapers for
which he writes.

M. Brisson met Chincholle at a place in the South
where the fetes of the cadets of Gascony were taking
place. It was only a few months before Chincholle's
death. The two journalists were lunching with
M. Mounet Sully, of the Com^die Frangaise, at the
principal hotel in the place, and in the course of the
meal M. Brisson, who had recently depreciated a
novel by Chincholle, praised his letters in the Figaro
about the fetes. To his intense astonishment,
Chincholle turned round sharply and blurted out :
" I don't want your compliments." Then the man
arose, struck the table with his fist, and roared : " I
am not a journalist ; I'm a novelist." M. Brisson
and the tragedian, more surprised than ever, looked
up at Chincholle, who denounced those who objected
to accord him a place with the most famous fictionists.
" I am an artist," he shouted, ''with the imagination


of Dumas and the power of Balzac. I combine the
observation of Flaubert with the colour and the
movement of Eugene Sue. Journalism ! What is
journalism? The hulks, the prison, the factory,
where you earn your bread by mercenary labour.
Journalism is the lowest degradation, the ignoble
trade which one works at while despising it."

Chincholle then rushed out of the place, shouting
still that he was an artist and misunderstood. The
unlucky man had obviously been taking more wine
than was good for him under the sun of the South.
M. Brisson's story was a revelation to all who had
looked upon Chincholle as the most influential press-
man of the time — the happy man who was received
everywhere, and one who gloried in his profession.

Once Chincholle was a candidate for the Municipal
Council. His address was as follows : " Electors of
the Tenth Arrondissement ! I am not going to make
any promises. I am known. I have lived publicly
for twenty-five years. I have been described as a
worker, a zealous person, a bon enfant ! I propose to
try to deserve these qualifications — particularly the
last of them. I thank in advance those who shall
vote for me, and the others will not be regarded by
me as enemies." Then followed his signature and
his titles as president and vice-president of various
associations. The electors, however, rejected the
journalist, who had been quite confident of success.

Raoul Ponchon, the funniest versifier in Paris, who
puts into the most entertaining rhyme ever printed
events of the time, and the people connected with
them, only saw in Chincholle the successful reporter
who accompanied Presidents on their journeys. He


referred to the great journalist's death in the following
sly couplets : —

Aujourd'hui, c'est ChinclioUe,
Notre phenomenal

Disons : national.

Nous I'entendons encore
Du reportage tri-

Pousser le premier cri.

Plus que le Protocole
Necessaire a I'Etat

Devint un potentat.

II promena sa pause

Au moins pendant trente ans,

En France
Sous divers Presidents.

Historien modeste,
II racontait le fait

Et geste
Du President Loubet.

This was the comic poet's epitaph for the departed
pressman. Charles Chincholle was not sixty when
he died. His closing years were embittered, not
only by the balked ambition to which M. Brisson
refers, but by domestic calamity, which tells on some
men more than on others. He had a son on whom
he doted, and who died while serving in the
army. I saw the boy once in the uniform of a
Cuirassier. He was with his father at a public
function, and Chincholle introduced the young soldier
to friends with great exultation. This youth, full


of promise, died, and Chincholle was never the same
again. There was another man in Paris who suffered
a loss of the same sort. It was M. Charpentier,
the publisher, who issued Zola's novels. M. Char-
pentier also lost a son who contracted typhoid fever
while serving as a soldier in a Northern garrison.
After the boy's death the publisher retired from

Those were stirring times for Paris Correspondents,
the brave days of Boulanger. Nothing since has
been so exciting. The sudden passing away of two
Presidents ; the *' decoration " scandals ; the Panama
bubble, ending in the death of Count Ferdinand de
Lesseps, a most courteous gentleman to the last ;
the Dreyfus Case ; the desperate struggle between
Church and State, including the frantic but futile
efforts of the Catholics to oppose the Government
and its police — all these events and crises were
less sensational than those of the Boulangist period.
It was a time when nobody knew what would happen
next. Boulanger nearly brought France to the
brink of war with Germany. He filled the hearts
of the revanchards with hopes, and at one time
he seemed tola, to
whom I had not referred at all. I happen to have
in my possession a letter from Madame Zola, written
to me after her husband's death, and in which she
accorded me full liberty to publish a special portrait
of him, and also drawings of the property at Mddan,
in an American publication.

After having seen Zola on the question raised by
Mrs. Caird, I went to Alexandre Dumas fils. He
was then at Le Puys, near Dieppe, in the little villa
where his father had died. Dumas also received me
very courteously, but he did not go out of his way
as Zola did to make himself agreeable.

Next, I went out to Marly in order to see Victorien
Sardou. That cunning forger of popular plays and
ad captandum dramas was too busy to receive me.
He had an appointment with an American impresario,
and as I was pressing for a few moments of conversa-
tion only, he rushed out of his room and almost spat
at me. We both lost our tempers on this occasion,
and behaved badly. He called me a "hack," and
I retorted with the old-time retort that he was no
gentleman, and that, at any rate, I was a better
specimen of a gentleman than he. And all this
was over a trivial matter. I believed at the time
that M. Sardou was angry at the question "Is
Marriage a Failure ? " He took it too seriously, un-
like Zola, Dumas, Ludovic Hal6vy, and the others,


even including Abbe Le Rebours, Vicar of the
Madeleine, whom I had seen on the subject. I think
M. Sardou, however, had no reason to think marriage
a failure in his own case. He has had a Qrood deal of
agreeable experience of the matrimonial life. Hard
work, current events, and a little philosophy soon
made me forget this disastrous meeting with Sardou,
which was mentioned, but with caution, in one
newspaper published in Paris. I learned after-
wards that Sardou had many quarrels of the sort,
and that he usually made a peace-offering in the
shape of an invitation to luncheon. He did not
invite me to luncheon, but he sent me, some years
after our tempestuous meeting, an invitation in his
own handwriting to attend the dress rehearsal of
his play '' Madame Sans-Gene," at the Vaudeville.
This was a great honour coming from the dis-
tinguished dramatist, who, as I was told not very
long ago, regretted that there was a misunderstanding
between us when I tried to see him at Marly in
August, 1888.

Alexandre Dumas fils, whom I saw at Dieppe,
as already related, sent me a four-page letter on the
subject of " Marriage a Failure." It was full of
his worldly-wise philosophy, and was eminently
characteristic of the man who was the most
infinitely painstaking celebrity ever known. Not-
withstanding his work for the stage, over which he
"bled himself white," he was always writing prefaces
for the books of other people, or letters to those who
harassed him for introductions to publishers, to
managers of theatres, and to editors of newspapers.
One thinor could be said of Dumas — he was not


jealous of those who succeeded in his own line.
Moreover, he had helped many a dramatist to a
first hearing-. He was fond of saying sharp things
about people, and his mots often stung. But he was
full of the milk of human kindness, and would never
deliberately injure anybody. In the matter of
jealousy, so common among dramatists, novelists,
and journalists, the younger Dumas resembled a
man of a different literary type — Georges Ohnet,
the prolific novelist. M. Ohnet has made a good
deal of money by his books. He has been in the
front rank of "popular" authors for over a quarter
of a century, and still commands an audience. He,
too, has helped many a struggler, and remarked
some years ago, when he was asked about a rising
author, that he would stand in nobody's way,
although in doing so he might have to tirer contre
ma propre troupe.

M. Ludovic Halevy wrote me also a very charac-
teristic letter on the " Marriage a Failure " question,
and as it was not published, I give it here as a
thoroughly original document. The dramatist, as
will be seen, is facetious, as becomes one who wrote
in collaboration with Henri Meilhac : —

"Dieppe, Se'^t. 3, 1888.

"■ Cher Monsieur, — Permettez moi de me recuser.
Ce sont la pour moi de trop s^rieuses et trop
redoutables questions. Mais pourquoi ne vous etes
vous pas adresse tout d'abord au mari de Madame
Mona Caird.^ Aucun t^moignage n'aurait et6 plus
pr^cieux a recueillir.

" Veuillez agreer, Cher Monsieur, I'expression
de mes meilleurs sentiments,

•' Ludovic Halevy."


Taking a little freedom with the name of the
gentleman alluded to in M. Halevy's letter, for
which I hope forgiveness in the circumstances of
the case, I wrote back to the dramatist : —

"Cher et Illustre Maitre, — Je suis infiniment
reconnaissant de votre lettre dont le contenu a 6t6
communique au R6dacteur-en-chef du Daily Tele-

" II parait que I'article de Madame Caird a etd
imprim6 avec I'approbation de son mari lui-meme. . . .

" Veuillez agreer cher et illustre Maitre, I'assurance
de ma plus haute consideration," &c.

Ernest Renan, who was still alive in 1888, was
also to be sounded on the subject of " Marriage
a Failure," but he was down at his little place with
the unpronounceable name, in the depths of Brittany,
and I had to abandon the hope of seeing him in
time. The Church people whom I approached
naturally refused to say anything, as for them
marriage is a sacrament and holy. Abbe Le
Rebours, then vicar of the Madeleine, a very aristo-
cratic ecclesiastic, as became one in his position at
the head of a fashionable parish, gleamed blandly
at me through his spectacles when I saw him at his
residence in the Rue Ville I'Eveque, and said : "My
dear sir, we can have no opinions of that sort
discussed." " I thought so — in fact, I knew it,
Monsieur I'Abbe," I replied; "but I have to do my
duty, and ask you what you think of the con-
troversy ."^ " "It is one," he said, "in which neither
myself, nor anybody of my cloth, can join. In fact,
the very heading of it, the question itself, repels us.
Marriage is a Divine institution, and those whom




To face page lOi^.


God joins, you know, let no man put asunder." And
the urbane Abbe, still gleaming blandly at me
through his spectacles, bowed me out with the
final reminder that the Catholic Church does not
tolerate divorce.

During this year, 1888, memorable to me by reason
of my meetings with the French celebrities whom I
have mentioned, there were still clouds in the region
of la haute politique. The spectre of war with
Germany was ever present, and although Boulanger
was down, the patriots were as effervescent as they
had been at the time of the Schncebele incident.

The useful Hohenlohe memoirs again bring out the
tension between France and Germany at this time
\fery clearly. In May, 1888, Prince Hohenlohe
strongly protested against the vexatious passport
system for Frenchmen visiting the conquered provinces,
devised by Bismarck. He was afraid that the system
would lead to war, but Bismarck ruled him out on
grounds of high policy. Prince Hohenlohe had a
strange story from the Grand Duke of Baden in
partial explanation of Bismarck's attitude. The story
is obviously of the scare order, and the passages in it
about the temporal power of the Pope furnish matter
for jocular comment when read in the light of these
days of strenuous and aggressive anti-clericalism.
The story was to the effect that a Russo- French plot
was hatched. France was to get to grips with Italy,
and Germany would have to deal with Russia. The
Italians would be compelled by the French to give back
part of the old Papal States to the Pontiff. This would
put Austria on the side of France, and German
Catholics would also favour that country. In the


meantime the English fleet would bombard Toulon,
if France took Spezia. These wild rumours were
brought to Berlin by Mgr., afterwards Cardinal,

Later on, Prince Hohenlohe says that he saw the
Crown Prince William, now Emperor, who held that
the passport regulation was necessary, and said that
he agreed with the military men who insisted on the
advisability of bullying the French. The words
quoted are : " Dass man den Franzosen iibles ziifugen
miisse." Prince Hohenlohe says here : '* I did not
enter into that point, but remarked merely that the
French nation was afraid of war."

This was monumentally true. The French Govern-
ment had trampled the panache underfoot when
Boulanger was put down. The destruction of what
the Germans themselves knew as " Boulanglsmus "

Online LibraryWalter F LonerganForty years of Paris → online text (page 7 of 25)