Now, are the writers of French literature of the{277} 분당오피 present day, whose names will at once present themselves to every reader’s mind, to be deemed superior to those of Louis Philippe, who “lent their voices to the cause of treason, regicide, rebellion, or obscenity,” and were unrestrained by either “decorum, principle, or taste”? For it is most assuredly no longer true that the writers in question are held to be a “pariah caste,” or that they are not known and sought by “society.” The facilis decensus progress of the half century that has elapsed since the cited passages were written, is certainly remarkable.

There is one name, however, which cannot be simply classed as one of the décousus. Victor Hugo had already at that day made an European reputation. But the following passage about him from my mother’s book on Paris and the Parisians is so curious, and to the present generation must appear so, one may almost say, monstrous, that it is well worth while to reproduce it.

“I have before stated,” she writes, “that I have uniformly heard the whole of the décousu school of authors spoken of with unmitigated contempt, and that not only by the venerable advocates for the bon vieux temps, but also, and equally, by the distinguished men of the present day—distinguished both by position and ability. Respecting Victor Hugo, the only one of the tribe to which I allude who has been sufficiently read in England to justify his being classed by us as a person of general celebrity, the feeling is more remarkable still. I have never{278} mentioned him or his works to any person of good moral feeling or cultivated mind who did not appear to shrink from according him even the degree of reputation that those who are received as authority among our own cities have been disposed to allow him. I might say that of him France seems to be ashamed.” (My italics.) “‘Permit me to assure you,’ said one gentleman gravely and earnestly, ‘that no idea was ever more entirely and altogether erroneous than that of supposing that Victor Hugo and his productions can be looked on as a sort of type or specimen of the literature of France at the present hour. He is the head of a sect, the high priest of a congregation who have abolished every law, moral and intellectual, by which the efforts of the human mind have hitherto been regulated. He has attained this pre-eminence, and I trust that no other will arise to dispute it with him. But Victor Hugo is NOT a popular French author.’”

My recollections of all that I heard in Paris, and my knowledge of the circles (more than one) in which my mother used to live, enable me to testify to the absolute truth of the above representation of the prevalent Parisian feeling at that day respecting Victor Hugo. Yet he had then published his Lyrics, Notre Dame de Paris, and the most notable of his dramas; and I think no such wonderful change of national opinion and sentiment as the change from the above estimate to that now universally recognised in France, can be met with in the records of European literary history. Is it not passing strange{279} that whole regions of Paris should have been but the other day turned, so to speak, into a vast mausoleum to this same “pariah,” and that I myself should have 분당오피 seen, as I did, the Pantheon not yet cleared from the wreck of garlands and inscriptions and scaffoldings for spectators, all of which had been prepared to do honour to his obsequies?

But it must be observed that the violent repulsion and reprobation with which he was in those days regarded by all his countrymen, save the extreme and restless spirits of the Republican party, cannot fairly be taken as the result and outcome of genuine literary criticism. All literary judgments in France were then subordinated to political party feeling, and that was intensified by the most fatal of all disqualifications for the formation of sound and equable estimates—by fear. All those well-to-do detesters of Victor Hugo and all his works, the “Quoique Bourbons” as well as the “Parceque Bourbons,” the prosperous supporters of the new régime as well as the regretful adherents of the old, lived in perpetual fear of the men whose corypheus and hierophant was Victor Hugo, and felt, not without reason, that the admittedly ricketty throne of the citizen king and those sleek and paunchy National Guardsmen alone stood between them and the loss of all they held dearest in the world. Nevertheless, the contrast between the judgments and the feeling of 1835 and those of fifty years later is sufficiently remarkable.

Much has been said, especially in England, of the{280} great writer’s historical inaccuracy in treating of English matters. But an anecdote which my mother gives in her book is worth reproducing for the sake of the evidence it gives that in truth Victor Hugo was equally ignorantly and carelessly inaccurate when speaking of home matters, on which, at least, it might have been thought that he would have been better informed.

“An able lawyer, and most accomplished gentleman and scholar, who holds a distinguished station in the cour royale” (in all probability Berryer), “took us to see the Palais de Justice. Having shown us the chamber where criminal trials are carried on, he observed that this was the room described by Victor Hugo in his romance, adding, ‘He was, however, mistaken here, as in most places where he affects a knowledge of the times of which he writes. In the reign of Louis XI. no criminal trials ever took place within the walls of this building, and all the ceremonies as described by him resemble much more a trial of yesterday than of the age at which he dates his tale.’”

Georges Sand, certainly upon the whole the most remarkable literary figure in the French world at the time of my visit to Paris, vidi tantum. That I had an opportunity of doing on various occasions. She was a person on whom, quite apart from her literary celebrity, the eye of any observer would have dwelt with some speculative curiosity. She was hardly to be called handsome, or even pretty, but was still decidedly attractive. The large eyes{281} à fleur de tête, and the mobile and remarkably expressive mouth rendered the face both attractive and stimulative of interest. The features were unmistakably refined in character and expression, and the mouth—the most trustworthy evidence-giving feature upon that point—was decidedly that of a high-bred woman.

She was at that period of her varied career acting as well as writing in a manner which attracted the attention of Louis Philippe’s very vigilant and abnormally suspicious police. She had recently left Paris for an excursion in the tête-à-tête company of the well known Abbé de Lamenais, who was at that time giving much trouble and disquietude to the official guardians of the altar and the throne. His comings and goings were the object of vigilant supervision on the part of the police authorities; and it so happened by a strange chance that the report of the official observers of this little excursion, which reached the official head-quarters, reached me also. And all the watchers had to tell was that the abbé and the lady his companion shared the same bedchamber at the end of their first day’s journey. Now the Abbé de Lamenais was an old, little, wizened, dried-up, dirty—very dirty—priest. It is possible, but I have reason to think highly improbable, that economy was the motive of this strange chamber comradeship. But I was then, and am still, very strongly convinced that the sole purpose of it was to outrage the lady’s (and the priest’s) censors,{282} to act differently from everybody else, and to give evidence of superiority to conventionality and “prejudice.”

I wrote very carefully and conscientiously some few years subsequently a long article on Georges Sand in the Foreign Quarterly which attracted some attention at the time. I should write in many respects differently now. The lady in subsequent years put a considerable quantity of “water into her wine”—and though not altogether in the same sense,—I have done so too.

To both Guizot and Thiers I had the honour of being introduced. If I were to say that neither of them seemed to me to have entirely the manners and bearing of a gentleman, I should probably be thought to be talking affected and offensive nonsense. And I do not mean to say so in the ordinary English every-day use of the term. What I mean is that they were both of them very far from possessing that grand seigneur manner, which as I have said so markedly distinguished Chateaubriand, and many another Frenchman whom I knew in those days; by no means all of them belonging to the aristocratic caste, party, or class. Guizot looked for all the world like a village schoolmaster, and seemed to me to have much the manner of one. He stooped a good deal, and poked his head forwards. I remember thinking that he was, in manner, more like an Englishman than a Frenchman; and that it was a matter of curious speculation to me at the time, whether this effect might have been{283} produced by the fact that he was a Protestant, and an earnest one, instead of being a Roman Catholic. Possibly my impression of his schoolmaster-like deportment may have been the result of his manner to me. I was but a boy, with no claim at all to the honour of being noticed by him in any way. But I remember being struck by the difference of the manner of Thiers in this respect.

All my prejudices and all that I knew of the two men disposed me to feel far the higher respect for Guizot. And my opinion still is that I judged rightly, whether in respect to character or intellectual capacity. Not but that I thought and think that Thiers was the brighter and in the ordinary sense of the term the cleverer man of the two. There was no brightness about the premier abord of Guizot, though doubtless a longer and more intimate acquaintance than was granted to me would have corrected this impression. But Thiers was, from the bow with which he first received you to the latest word you heard from him, all brightness. Of dignity he had nothing at all. If Guizot might have been taken for a schoolmaster, Thiers might have been mistaken for a stockbroker, say, a prosperous, busy, bustling, cheery stockbroker, or any such man of business. And if Guizot gave one the impression of being more English than French, his great rival was unmistakeably and intensely French. I have no recollection of having much enjoyed my interview with M. Guizot. But I was happy during more than one evening spent in Thiers’s house in Paris.{284}

Of Madame Récamier I should have said the few words I have to say about the impression so celebrated a woman produced upon me, when I was speaking of her salon in a previous page. But they may be just as well said here. Of the beauty for which she was famed throughout Europe, of course little remained, when I saw her in 1835. But the grace, which was in a far greater degree unique, remained in its entirety. I think she was the most gracefully moving woman I ever saw. The expression of her face had become perhaps a little sad, but it was sweet, attractive, full of the promise of all good things of heart and mind. If I were to say that her management of her salon might be compared in the perfection of its tactical success with that of a successful general on the field, it might give the idea that management and discipline were visible, which would be a very erroneous one. That the perfection of art lies in the concealment of it, was never more admirably evidenced than in her “administration” as a reine de salon. A close observer might perceive, or perhaps rather divine only, that all was marshalled, ordered, and designed. Yet all was, on the part at least of the guests, unconstrained ease and enjoyment. That much native talent, much knowledge of men and women, and exquisite tact must have been needed for this perfection in the art of tenir salon cannot be denied. Finally it may be said that a great variety of historiettes, old and new, left me with the unhesitating conviction that despite the unfailing tribute to{285} an éclat such as hers, of malicious insinuations (all already ancient history at the time of which I am writing), Madame Récamier was and had always been a truly good and virtuous Christian woman.

Miss Clarke, also, as has been said an inmate of 분당오피 the Abbaye-aux-Bois, and a close friend of her celebrated neighbour, I became intimate with. She was an eccentric little lady, very plain, brimfull of talent, who had achieved the wonderful triumph of living, in the midst of the choicest society of Paris, her own life after her own fashion, which was often in many respects a very different fashion from that of those around her, without incurring any of the ridicule or anathemas with which such society is wont to visit eccentricity. I remember a good-naturedly recounted legend to the effect, that she used to have her chemises, which were constructed after the manner of those worn by the grandmothers of the present generation, marked with her name in full on the front flap of them; and that this flap was often exhibited over the bosom of her dress in front! She too was a reine de salon after her fashion—a somewhat different one from that of her elegant neighbour. There was, at all events, a greater and more piquant variety to be found in it. All those to be found there were, however, worth seeing or hearing for one reason or another. Her method of ruling the frequenters of her receptions might be described as simply shaking the heterogeneous elements well together. But it answered so far as to make an evening at her house unfailingly amusing{286} and enjoyable. She was very, and I think I may say, universally popular. She subsequently married M. Mohl, the well-known Orientalist, whom I remember to have always found, when calling upon him on various occasions, sitting in a tiny cabinet so absolutely surrounded by books, built up into walls all round him, as to suggest almost inevitably the idea of a mouse in a cheese, eating out the hollow it lived in.

Referring to my mother’s book on Paris and the Parisians for those extracts from it which I have given in the preceding pages, I find the following passage, the singular forecast of which, and its bearing on the present state of things in France, tempts me to transcribe it. Speaking in 1835, and quoting the words of a high political authority, whom she had met “at the house of the beautiful Princess B——” (Belgiojoso), she writes: “‘You know,’ he said, ‘how devoted all France was to the Emperor, though the police was somewhat tight, and the conscriptions heavy. But he had saved us from a Republic, and we adored him. For a few days, or rather hours, we were threatened again five years ago by the same terrible apparition. The result is that four millions of armed men stand ready to protect the prince who chased it. Were it to appear a third time, which Heaven forbid! you may depend upon it, that the monarch who should next ascend the throne of France might play at “le jeu de quilles” with his subjects and no one be found to complain.’” (My italics.) On the margin of{287} the page on which this is printed, my mother has written in the copy of the book before me, “Vu et approuvé. Dec. 10th, 1853. F. T.”

The mention of the Princess Belgiojoso in the above passage reminds me of a memorable evening which I spent at her house, and of my witnessing there a singular scene, which at the present day may be worth recounting.

The amusement of the evening consisted in hearing Liszt and the princess play on two pianos the whole of the score of Mozart’s Don Giovanni! The treat was a delightful one; but I dare say that I should have forgotten it but for the finale of the performance. No sooner was the last note ended than the nervous musician swooned and slid from his seat, while the charming princess, in whom apparently matter was less under the dominion of mind, or at least of nerve, was as fresh as at the beginning!

My month at Paris, with its poor thirty times twenty-four hours, was all too short for half of what I strove to cram into it. And of course I could please myself with an infinitude of recollections of things and places, and occasions, and above all, persons, who doubtless contributed more to the making of that month one of the pleasantest I have to look back on, than any of the celebrities whom I had the good fortune to meet. But it may be doubted whether any such rambling reminiscences would be equally pleasing to my readers.

{288}

There is one anecdote, however, of a well remembered day, which I must tell, before bringing the record of my first visit to Paris to a conclusion.

A picnic party—rather a large one, and consisting of men and women of various nationalities—had been organised for a visit to the famous and historic woods of Montmorenci. We had a delightful day, and my memory is still, after half a century, crowded with very vivid remembrances of the places and persons, and things done and things said, which rendered it such. But as for the places, have they not been described and re-described in all the guide books that were ever written? And as for the persons, alas! the tongues that chattered so fast and so pleasantly are still for evermore, and the eyes that shone so brightly are dim, if not, as in most instances, closed in their last sleep! But it is only with an incident that formed the finale of our day there that I mean to trouble the reader.

Thackeray, then an unknown young man, with whom I that day became acquainted for the first time, was one of our party. Some half-dozen of us—the boys of the party—thinking that a day at Montmorenci could not be passed selon les prescriptions without a cavalcade on the famous donkeys, selected a number of them, and proceeded to urge the strongly conservative animals probably into places, and certainly into paces, for which their life-long training had in no wise prepared them. A variety of struggles between man and beast ensued with divers vicissitudes of victory, till at last {289}Thackeray’s donkey, which certainly must have been a plucky and vigorous beast, succeeded in tossing his rider clean over his long ears, and as ill luck would have it, depositing him on a heap of newly broken stones. The fall was really a severe one, and at first it was feared that our picnic would have a truly tragic conclusion. But it was soon ascertained that no serious mischief had been done, beyond that, the mark of which the victim of the accident bore on his face to his dying day.

I think that when I climbed to the banquette of the Lille diligence to leave Paris, on the morning of the 7th of June, 1835, it was the first time that the prospect of a journey failed in any way to compensate me for quitting what I was leaving behind.