Page images
PDF
EPUB

which means a license to every man to put the lives and property of his neighbours in jeopardy?

Observing that M. Dallière's drama, "Napoleon and Josephine," was announced for representation at the Ambigu Comique, I thought I would stroll in, partly to see how the piece was placed on the stage, but chiefly to witness its effect on the audience. The main action of this bombastic absurdity was the divorce-which gave, of course, opportunity to Josephine to spout first as a wronged and insulted woman, and then as a highsouled generous martyr; while Napoleon was enabled to whine about this sacrifice of his heart's fond wishes to the policy of an empire. It was quite a "classical" affair, in rhyme, of course, and carefully preserving the unities. As usual on the French stage, the dresses were remarkably correct. Josephine, and her daughter Hortense, looked the originals of portraits taken at the commencement of the century; and Napoleon's green coat and white culottes were preserved to the life. All the accessories were in the same minute fidelity. But the characters, that of Napoleon especially, were ridiculous. To see the hero going about the stage weeping, almost blubbering-deploring this dreadful sacrifice, the word ringing to a rhyme every tenth line, as though he had been the most unselfish being in the world-was almost too good, even for French dramatic license; and the audience, it struck me, thought as much. Josephine's more just and natural indignation seemed to earn the most applause. If the production of this drama at this time were a "spec," in reference to the fancied Bonapartism of the fauxbourgs, it was surely an unhappy selection to take a piece illustrating, perhaps, the most heartless act of that heartless man's career.

Even those parts of his orations intended to be most telling were not generally applauded; but loudly by a few. It was no exception to this remark, when, pompously enumerating the results of his future policy, he adverted to that Albion who, like another Carthage, mistress of the seas, and with her Punic faith, was finally to succumb to the victorious arms of a rival. A few received this sort of thing very rapturously. A certain M. Mondidier figured as emperor; and has been praised by the journals for his representation; but assuredly he presented a very different man from my own humble conception of the great Corsican. He made himself up well enough as regards externals, considering that he had no natural resemblance to his original. His forehead appeared to be piled up with plaister, to give it the true Napoleonic elevation.

I was grieved, if only in the interest of the arts, .to see the equestrian statue of the Duke of Orleans taken away from the square of the Louvre. It struck me as a very beautiful work; a great contrast to that awful affair of our Duke at Hyde Park Corner. I do not know what can have possessed our artists both in the case of that work, and the statue facing the Exchange, to make the horses such star-gazers. One sees horses, no doubt, often so looking, but it is generally when they are going to give their sides a good shaking. There is no moral obligation on artists to act in a spirit of impartiality to Nature, and imitate her in all her moods and aspects. Better repeat the old, than seek for the new in the unsightly.

In a week I did not see in Paris but one carriage, an ambassador's; and perhaps about a score of shabby broughams.

I was struck with some excellently drawn lithographic pictures in the windows of the print-shops of one of Fourier's dreams-the Phalanstère. There it was, wearing a most seducing appearance, as a thing in real existence. A most imposing assemblage of buildings, of palace-like elevation and architecture, displayed itself in the mid-ground, such as might be contrived out of a dozen or two of Escurials. This was the residence of a community of happy "Socialists." Picturesque woods waved in the distance of the landscape, with roads radiating through them from the centre, nicely contrived for all the purposes of pleasure and of business. In the foreground are groups of equally improbable children, all happy and beautiful without exception. Here was a fraud, if ever there was one. How fascinating! Who would not wish to renounce his mud cabin in the country, or his garret in the filthy faubourgs, for that bright elysium, where all is joy, and plenty to eat and drink. The ignorant and the poor look, wish to believe, and are not long in believing, that society ought to be forthwith regenerated by Victor Considérant.

I believe, in matters of political economy, the French, as a nation, are behind all other people; for they have such conceit in their false systems, and have such an elaborate system of dogmatism with respect to them.

It seems likely, I think, and, indeed, I believe it to be the opinion, more or less openly expressed, of all parties, that France will settle down into a nominal republic, for a few years at all events. But it must reflect in some way or other the opinions of the more influential classes. It must be practically a Police-a power to preserve good order, and to protect property and industry. Duly to protect these is the only way to minimise destitution, and to attain a permanent fund for the support of the really destitute. But in a country so addicted to fêtes, to show, to pleasure-among so theatrical a people-the republic can never be a stern one. It must be a gay and gaudy one. Its ceremonies must be impressive and processional. Authority must continue to clothe itself in "uniform," and must not only exist, but be a thing ever present and visible. An old gentleman will no longer live at Neuilly, driving daily in the midst of guards to the Tuileries, and back again, and taking the first place in the ceremonial of government, but with that exception I doubt not we shall see things externally much as they were. The Guizots of the day will govern without a king reigning. Not insensible to the many merits of the French people, and fond of their country as I am, I returned to England after a week spent in Paris in September, 1848, well contented that I was an Englishman, and congratulating myself that we had, in the best spirit of civilisation, found out the method of effecting both organic and administrative reforms, without passing through the ordeal of sanguinary revolutions.

October, 1848.

KOL.

THE VISIT OF THE FRENCH NATIONAL GUARDS TO

LONDON.

BY MR. JOLLY GREEN.

[IT will, we are persuaded, be a satisfaction to the readers of the New Monthly Magazine to learn that our gallant countrymen, Mr. Green, has safely returned to England after the numerous perils and hardships which he lately encountered in Paris. We had already prepared for publication an account which Mr. Green was so kind as to forward to us, of his imprisonment in the Château de Vincennes, and his escape from that fortress, but the more recent visit of the French National Guards to London, under his care and pilotage, has induced us to postpone that narrative until next month, believing that the latest intelligence from so enterprising a traveller would be the most welcome. A few introductory words which Mr. Green has prefixed to the present paper, will sufficiently explain how it happened that he was in a position to assist in dispensing the hospitalities of the metropolis to our warlike and well-whiskered neighbours.

ED. N. M. M.]

An ancient Roman poet-Hesiod or Plato, I am not sure which,-has fancifully compared human life to a chess-board, the black and white squares by which it is equally divided bearing the same relative proportions to each other as the amount of good and evil which falls to our lot in this world. The illustration is, in my opinion, not an unhappy one, for whether we act from impulse, necessity, or design, we all have an equal share of both, just as the pieces on the board shift from black to white, and from white to black at every move. The sable hue has latterly predominated in my fortunes, but I am happy to say that their present aspect is as bright as heart can desire.

In explanation of this state of things, I shall briefly observe, that when General Cavaignac became aware that a mere escapade, a simple ebullition of youth and ardent spirits, had been magnified into a political crime, and that there was in reality nothing dangerous in me (I mean, of course, in a political sense), he at once, in the name of the French Republic, made me an ample apology for the privations and ill-treatment which I had undergone; and in a private interview conferred upon me the privilege of wearing the uniform of the National Guard, with the honorary rank of captain; with the distinct understanding, however, insisted upon on my part, that I should at no future period be expected to bear arms against my native country. On Podder, as the faithful companion of my misfortunes, a similar privilege was bestowed, with the inferior rank of private.

In consequence of this diplomatic appointment,-for so I think it may be considered, being one eminently calculated to establish a good understanding between France and England,-I'left the capital, accompanied by Podder, and proceeded to Boulogne, where I proposed remaining a short time to recruit my health and spirits. The pure sea air effectually established the former, and the agreeable society into which I was thrown

completely restored the latter, and led in some degree to the circumstances which form the subject of what I have now the honour to communicate.

I believe it is scarcely necessary for me to remiud my readers that while I have successfully cultivated the arts of peace, I have also always manifested a strong military tendency. With the quick eye of a consummate strategist, General Cavaignac detected this propensity in the course of the interview I have already adverted to, and this no doubt led him to make the offer I have described, as the one best calculated to be agreeable to my feelings. It would have been a sad want of politesse on my part, both towards him and the gallant nation he so wisely governs, had I not constantly worn the brilliant uniform of the National Guard during the period of my sojourn in France. There was, indeed, no occasion, public or private, on which I did not appear in it, and I obliged Podder, though a little against his will, to do the same. The secret of his unwillingness lay, I apprehend, in the fact that he knew he had not a good military figure; I was disturbed by no such scruples, and it would have been absurd to have entertained any, for every person I met at the table d'hôte, at the balls and everywhere else, actually went out of their way to inform me how well I looked in regimentals. And I have not the slightest doubt I did, or why should the men have stared and the women have smiled at me in the way they were in the habit of doing.

My means being tolerably ample, and money going further in France since the revolution of February than it did before that event, I lived in as good style as the place afforded. I went to every party, gave several myself, and, in short, became very popular. The English looked upon me without jealousy, and the French literally adored me, the National Guard especially, who hailed me as a brother-in-arms, and did nothing but fraternise with me. I never sat down to breakfast at the Hotel des Bains (where I was stopping) without being surrounded by ten or a dozen of these fine fellows, who, I must do them the justice to say, had capital appetites of their own. At dinner, too, it rarely happened that three or four of the most distingué amongst them were not my guests, and the night seldom passed without a party of us going to the theatre or some other place of amusement together. Never in my life have I met with merrier dogs; and so well disposed were they to enjoy themselves and entertain me, that let me say or do what I would, they were always ready to laugh. This is the real lightness of the French character, which to those who understand them as I do, makes them so agreeable. Podder, whose perceptions are not like mine, seemed less amused at their sallies. It made no difference to me, but the greater part of them knew English or spoke it, though in a broken sort of way, and were consequently better able, poor fellows, to understand my jokes than if they had been only uttered in French. There is nothing sets a man off so much in society as being a linguist, and for my own part, knowing the two languages so well as I do, I think I am fairly entitled to the appellation of a double entendre.

The officer whom I most distinguished from the rest, and with whom I soon became on terms of the closest intimacy, was Hyppolite Percale, a captain of the 7th Paris legion, at that time on leave of absence from the capital with a few other friends. He had a brother in the National Guard at Boulogne, and had come to pay him a visit, profiting by the occasion to take the nineteen dips which are the ultimatum of a

Frenchman's sea bathing for the season. Captain Percale was not an aristocrat by birth (though his sentiments were truly noble), and he had for some years conducted a linendraper's establishment in the Rue St. Denis, which, previous to the revolution, was a tolerably thriving concern. Had he depended upon his profits since that event, the sum he expended on his ménus-plaisirs would have been small enough, but luckily he had saved money, and was thus able to put a better face on matters than most of his neighbours. With military frankness he let me completely into the state of his affairs, and his confidence was not ill-bestowed, for, on various occasions, I managed so as to prevent his making unnecessary inroads into his slender capital, without appearing to perceive that a few hundred francs more or less could make any difference to him.

One evening, after a party at billiards at the Café Vermond, a knot of us, including Podder, Percale, Captain Froment, of the same legion, Lieutenant Haricôt, Brigadier Botargo, and a few others were enjoying ourselves drinking burning punch, in what the French call a particular cabinet, when a bright idea flashed across my brain.

"I say," I exclaimed, holding my cigar at arm's length as I spoke, "I say, what do you think?"

This truly British address roused the attention of my companions; they saw something was coming.

"How should you fellows," pursued I, "like to pay a visit to London ?"

"My God!" replied Captain Percale, "I should be ravished, enchanted, if I went there!"

"I have want to see him all my life," said Captain Froment; “but was never expect to be so very lucky."

"Sapristie!" exclaimed Lieutenant Haricôt.

"Diable!" ejaculated the brigadier.

"There would be no great difficulty about it," continued I,

were willing to go."

"if you

"London is a very expensive place," observed Captain Percale; "he must have a long purse what will go there."

"Et le mal de mer," added Lieutenant Haricôt.

say you

"As to the expense," returned I, "that I think could easily be arranged; and for sea-sickness, why it's all over in two hours; nine times out of ten the sea is as smooth as the basins in the Toolery Gardens. Just make up your minds, a lot of you, and will be of the party, -and I'll manage the affair to your satisfaction." "A tought have strike me," said Captain Percale; "England and France are two great nations. More and more zey should know each other. Ze Captain" (meaning me,-I was always called so by them,— just as people say "The Duke') "have confide himself to ze honor of our beautiful Paris, we will pay one visit to the hospitable shore of London. Ze National Guard of France shall fraternise wiz ze Anglish peoples."

"Good!" exclaimed I; " you shall go in your uniform, in full fig, hey? I'll wear mine. I'll take you everywhere. I know every body, -it shan't cost you a farthing. How they will stare at us. 'Pon my soul, it's delightful."

There was something infectious in the enthusiasm with which I spoke; every man now seemed charmed with the thoughts of the excursion.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »