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We are in Paris still, and do not depart till to-morrow, dedicating this day in company with the Murrays to St. Denis and Malmaison, and then I think we shall have seen everything worth seeing in or near this queer metropolis. One day last week we went to our old friend, L'abbe Sicard, and attended a lecture in which about 20 of his young scholars exhibited their powers. The poor Abbe was, as usual, dreadfully prolix, and occupied an hour in words which might have been condensed within the compa.s.s of a Minute, and poor Ma.s.suer yawned and shut his eyes ever and anon. Clair was not there, and as we were under the necessity of going away before the Lecture was closed, we could not renew our acquaintance. Since last year he has taught his pupils to speak, and two dumb boys talked to each other with great success. I will show you the mode when we meet, but as you are not dumb it will be a mere gratification of Curiosity. Our a.s.signation which called us from the Lecture was to meet the Sothebys and Murrays and many others at the Buvin d'Enfer, near which is the descent to the Catacombs, where upwards of 3 million of Skulls are arranged in tasty grimaces thro' Streets of Bones, but my Sketch Book has long given an idea of these ossifatory Exhibitions. Only think, a cousin of Donald's and a very great friend of mine, a Capt. McDonald, whom you would all be in love with, he is so handsome and interesting, was shut up there a short time ago by accident, and if the Keeper had not luckily recollected the number of persons who descended and discovered one was missing, he would very soon have joined the bone party. There is another Cimetiere called that of Pere la Chaise, of a very different description, and infinitely more interesting. It is the grand burial-place of Paris; all who choose may purchase little plots of ground, from a square foot to an acre, for the deposition of themselves and their families. Its extent is about 84 French acres, and upon no spot in the world is the French character so perfectly portrayed. Each individual encloses his plot and ornaments it as he chooses, and the variety is quite astonishing. It appears like a large Shop full of toys, work-baskets, Columns, little Cottages, pyramids, mounts--in short, what is there in the form of a Monument which may not there be found? A pert little Column with a fanciful top, crowned by a smart wire basket filled with roses, marked the grave, I concluded, of some beautiful young girl of 15 or 16. Lo and behold! it was placed there to commemorate "un ancien Magistrat de France," aged 62. The most interesting are Ney's and Labedoyere's, the former, a solid tomb of marble, simply tells that Marshal Ney, Prince of La Moskowa, is below. Both were rather profusely decorated with wreaths of flowers, it being the custom for the friends of the deceased to strew from time to time the graves with flowers, or decorate them with garlands. Soldiers have been often seen weeping over these graves, and it is by them these wreaths were placed. Ney's had just received its tribute of a beautiful garland of blue cornflowers: and the other a Chaplet of Honeysuckle. By both graves were weeping willows. Mr.
Sotheby's friend, the poet Delille, sleeps beneath a c.u.mbrous ma.s.s of marble, within which his wife immerses herself once a week, to manifest sorrow for one whose incessant tormentor I am told she was during his life. The inscriptions were for the most part commonplace. I copied out a few of the best. I was sorry to observe not one in 20 had the slightest allusion to Religion. There was one offering which particularly attracted my attention and admiration. Over a simple mound, the resting-place of a little child, were scattered white flowers, and amongst them a bunch of cherries, evidently the tribute from some other little child who had thus offered up that which to him appeared most valuable. The exclusion of the selfish principle in this display of sentiment and feeling quite delighted me.
[Ill.u.s.tration: PARISIAN RAT-CATCHER AND ITINERANT VENDORS.
_To face page 300._]
The day after we visited the Louvre it was closed, and none have been admitted since. I believe they are scratching out some N's or Eagles. I should conceive these to be the last of their species, for the activity and extent of this effacement of emblems related to Napoleon is past all belief. In a picture of Boulogne in the Luxembourg, amongst the figures in the foreground was a little Buonaparte, about two inches high, reviewing some troops. They have actually changed his features and figure, and, if I recollect rightly, altered his c.o.c.kade and Uniform....
In the Musee des Arts and Metiers are some models of ships; even these were obliged to strike their Lilliputian tri-colours and hoist the white Ensign. And now Paris, fare thee well.... Thou art a mixture of strange ingredients. "Oh," said the Hairdresser who was cutting Kitty's hair yesterday, "had we your National spirit we should be a great people, mais c'est l'egoisme qui regne a Paris." Their manner is quite fascinating, so civil, so polished. The people are like the Town, and the Town is like a Frenchman's Chemise, a magnificent frill with fine lace and Embroidery, but the rest ragged. The frill of the Thuilleries and Champs Elysees are perfect fairylands, the streets all that is execrable. No wonder the cleaners of boots and shoes are in a state of perpetual requisition. In one shop I saw elevated benches, on which sat many gentry with their feet upon a level with the cleaners' noses, where they sat like Statues, and I was actually induced to go back to satisfy myself that they were real men. English notices are frequent in the streets, some not over correct in style; for example, over a Hairdresser's in the Palais Royal--"The Cabinet for the cut of the hairs."
_Mrs. E. Stanley to Lady Maria J. Stanley._
ST. GERMAIN, _July 16, 1816_.
Surely you must have forgot what it is to be divided by land and sea from what you love, or when you were abroad you left n.o.body behind whom you cared about, or you would not fancy that I should not find time or inclination to read as many trifles as you can find to send, or that they should not give me almost as much pleasure, and be read with as much interest, as if I were shut up in the next dungeon to Mr. Bruce at La Force.... While you were enjoying the view of Beeston Castle, we were eating strawberries and cream under the trees in the Jardin des Plantes on the only hot day we have had.... I am in no danger of forgetting you, and if I have not written oftener, it has only been because Edward got the start of me in beginning to write in detail, and he is so inimitable in description that I could not go over the same ground with him.... I do wish I could give you one of our day's amus.e.m.e.nt, and jump you over here in mind and body to leave all your cares behind you....
At last we have bid goodbye to Paris, but every day seemed to bring something fresh to see, and we stayed two or three days longer than we intended yesterday to see St. Denis. It is not so fine as most of the churches we saw in Holland, but the historical interest is so great and so curious that I would not have missed seeing it for the world. Over the door all the guillotined figures of the Revolution; in the church the repairs which were begun by Buonaparte, now finishing by Louis; every stone and step you go marked by some a.s.sociation of one or other of these periods. As Buonaparte's own power increased, his respect for crowned heads and authorities increased, I suppose, and so he had put up _Fleurs de Lys_ himself for the Bourbons in one part of the church, and he had prepared a vault for himself, decorated above with bees and statues of the six Kings of France who had the t.i.tle of Emperor. To this vault he had made two bronze doors with gold ornaments and gold lions'
heads, one of which flew back with a spring, and discovered three keyholes, to which there were three golden keys. The Sacristy he filled with chef d'uvres of the best French artists, representing those parts of the History of France connected with St. Denis and with his own views of Empire.
The beautiful white marble steps leading to the altar beneath which the seventh Emperor was to be laid were just finished when Louis XVIII. came to fill the tomb, which was just prepared, with the bones of Louis XVI., to depose the Emperor, to complete the marble pavement, and to extend the _fleurs de lys_ over the whole church.
And upon the stone which now conceals the entrance to the vault the d.u.c.h.esse d'Angouleme always kneels at the grave of her father, for the fine bronze doors are deposed also, only, I believe, because they were placed there by Buonaparte, and now they have to get into the Vault by taking up the stone. We got into the carriage full of Buonaparte, returned to Paris, and then got out again with the Murrays at Malmaison.
It is the only enviable French house I have seen, and deserves everything Edward said about it, even without the statues and half the pictures which are taken away.
We spent three or four hours in the Thuilleries Gardens on Sunday.
Buonaparte must have thought of gilding the dome of the Invalides when he was walking in the Jardin des Thuilleries, it suits the whole thing so exactly. A French crowd is so gay with the women's shawls and flowers that they a.s.similate well with the real flowers, and are almost as great an ornament to the Garden. A shower came on just as we were standing near the Palace, and at that moment the guards took their posts as a signal the King was going to Ma.s.s, so Edward and I followed the crowd to the Salle des Marechaux (they would not admit Donald because he had gaiters, and Edward had luckily trowsers), and there we saw Louis XVIII.
and the d.u.c.h.esse d'Angouleme and Monsieur much better than we had done the Sunday before, with all the trouble of getting a ticket for admission into the Chapel, and being squeezed to death into the bargain.
His Majesty is more like a Turtle than anything else, and shows external evidence of his great affection for Turtle soup. His walk is quite curious. One of his most intimate friends says that in spite of his devotion _Le Roi est un peu philosophe_. We staid on Monday to see a review. Donald introduced us to a Mr. and Mrs. Boyd, who have lived in France the last 14 years, and have a terrace that overlooks the Boulevards, so there we sat very commodiously and saw the King and the d.u.c.h.esses de Berri and Angouleme, in an open Caleche, pa.s.s through the double row of troops which lined the Boulevards from one end to the other, and a beautiful sight it was. Mr. Boyd invited me to a party at his house in the country, and in the hopes of seeing that _rara avis_, a French lady or gentleman, I said yes. So I sent for a hairdresser, who came post haste, and amused me with his _politesse_, and Edward with his _politique_. I was quite sorry I could not have him again.
We dined with the Murrays, and then went on to Mr. Boyd, where I found myself the only lady there dressed amongst about forty. That is to say, their heads and tails were all in morning costume and mine in evening....
I must go back one more day, and tell you how I went to be described for a pa.s.sport to La Force on Sat.u.r.day, and how I thought Mr. Bruce more of a hero young man than any I have ever seen. I recollect seeing him before, and thinking him a c.o.xcomb, but a few years have mellowed all that into a very fine young man.
Making every allowance for seeing him in his dungeon in La Force, I think you would be delighted with his countenance. He spoke his sentiments with manly freedom, and yet with the liberality of one who thinks it possible a man may differ from him without being a fool, or a rascal. Lucy and Louisa would certainly have fallen in love with his fine Roman head, which his prison costume of a great coat and no neckcloth showed to great advantage.
And now, adieu Paris! At 2 o'clock on Wednesday a green coach, which none of you could see without ten minutes' laughing at least--three horses and a postillion! (what would I give just to drive up to Winnington with the whole equipage!)--carried us to Versailles, and there I longed for Louis XIV. as much as for Buonaparte at St. Cloud; for one cannot fancy any one living in those rooms or walking in those gardens without hoops and Henri quatre plumes. If one could but people them properly for a couple of hours, what a delightful recollection it would be! Versailles ought to be seen last. It is so magnificent that every other thing of the sort is quite lost in the comparison. I am glad I saw Paris and the Tuilleries and St. Cloud first. We saw the Palace, and then we dined, and then we set out for the Trianon, and then we met with a guide who entertained us so much as to put Louis XIV. and all his court out of my head. Buonaparte never went to Versailles but once to look at it, but at the Trianon he and Josephine lived, and it is impossible, in seeing those places, not to feel the princ.i.p.al interest to be in the inquiry--where he lived? where he sat? where he walked?
where he slept?--so accordingly we asked our guide. "Monsieur, je ne connais point ce coquin la" soon told us what we were to expect from him, but his silence and his loyalty, and the combat between his hatred of the English and his hatred of Buonaparte was so amusing that we soon forgave him for not telling us anything about him. He said "Bony"
was only "fit to be hanged." "Why did you not hang him, then?" He could only shrug his shoulders. "We should have hung him for you if he had come to England." "Ma foi! Monsieur, je crois que non." He told us the stories of the rooms and the pictures with all the vivacity and rapidity of a Frenchman, and with pretty little turns of wit.... Donald asked him if a cabinet in one of the rooms had not been given by the Empress of Russia to Buonaparte? He instantly seized him by the b.u.t.ton with an air of triumph. "Tenez, Monsieur, quand l'Empereur de Russie etait ici, il a vu ce Cabinet et a dit; otez cette Volaille la" (pointing to the compartment in which the Imperial Eagles had been changed into Angels).
"Je l'ai donne aux Francais, et lui--il n'etait pas Francais."
[Ill.u.s.tration: The Great Green Coach.
_To face p. 306._]
In all the royal house the servants are equally impenetrable on the subject of Buonaparte. But sometimes it seems put on, sometimes they really do not know from having been only lately put there, but this man was a genuine Bourbonist and a genuine Frenchman.
We just got to St. Germain in time to walk on the Terrace before evening closed in over the beautiful view. The Palace and the Town put me quite in mind of the deserted court in the "Arabian Nights." ...
_Edward Stanley to his Nieces. Tuesday morning._
I could fill another letter with the interesting things we saw yesterday at St. Denis and Malmaison, but we are off in an hour, and it is possible you may hear no more from these
[Ill.u.s.tration: ALDERLEY RECTORY.]