The Project Gutenberg eBook of Old and New Paris: Its History, Its People, and Its Places, v. 1

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Title: Old and New Paris: Its History, Its People, and Its Places, v. 1

Author: H. Sutherland Edwards

Release date: February 28, 2013 [eBook #42231]
Most recently updated: January 25, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Chuck Greif and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images available at The Internet Archive)





Its History, its People, and its Places








Lutetia—La Cité—Lutetia taken by Labienus—The Visit of Julian the Apostate—Besieged by the Franks—The Norman Invasion—Gradual Expansion from the Île de la Cité to the Outer Boulevards—M. Thiers’s Line of Outworks


Paris and London—The Rive Gauche—The Quartier Latin—The Pantheon—The Luxemburg—The School of Medicine—The School of Fine Arts—The Bohemia of Paris—The Rive Droite—Paris Proper—The “West End”


The Cathedral of Notre Dame, a Temple to Jupiter—Cæsar and Napoleon—Relics in Notre Dame—Its History—Curious Legends—The “New Church”—Remarkable Religious Ceremonies—The Place de Grève—The Days of Sorcery—“Monsieur de Paris”—Dramatic Entertainments—Coronation of Napoleon


The Massacre of St. Bartholomew—The Events that preceded it—Catherine de Medicis—Admiral Coligny—“The King-Slayer”—The Signal for the Massacre—Marriage of the Duc de Joyeuse and Marguerite of Lorraine


The Oldest Bridge in Paris—Henri IV.—His Assassination by Ravaillac—Marguerite of Valois—The Statue of Henri IV.—The Institute—The Place de Grève


From the Bastille to the Madeleine—Boulevard Beaumarchais—Beaumarchais—The Marriage of Figaro—The Bastille—The Drama in Paris—Adrienne Lecouvreur—Vincennes—The Duc d’Enghien—Duelling—Louis XVI

THE BOULEVARDS (continued).

Hôtel Carnavalet—Hôtel Lamoignon—Place Royale—Boulevard du Temple—The Temple—Louis XVII—The Theatres—Astley’s Circus—Attempted Assassination of Louis Philippe—Trial of Fieschi—The Café Turc—The Cafés—The Folies Dramatiques—Louis XVI. and the Opera—Murder of the Duke of Berri

THE BOULEVARDS (continued).

The Porte Saint-Martin—Porte Saint-Denis—The Burial Place of the French Kings—Funeral of Louis XV.—Funeral of the Count de Chambord—Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle—Boulevard Poissonnière—Boulevard Montmartre—Frascati


The Café Littéraire—Café Procope—Café Foy—Bohemian Cafés—Café Momus—Death of Molière—New Year’s Gifts

THE BOULEVARDS (continued).

The Opéra Comique of Paris—I Gelosi—The Don Juan of Molière—Madame Favart—The Saint-Simonians

THE BOULEVARDS (continued).

La Maison Dorée—Librairie Nouvelle—Catherine II. and the Encyclopædia—The House of Madeleine Guimard


Its History—Louis XV.—Fireworks—The Catastrophe in 1770—Place de la Révolution—Louis XVI.—The Directory


The Column of Austerlitz—The Various Statues of Napoleon Taken Down—The Church of Saint-Roch—Mlle. Raucourt—Joan of Arc


The Jacobins—Chateaubriand’s Opinion of Them—Arthur Young’s Descriptions—The New Club


Richelieu’s Palace—The Regent of Orleans—The Duke of Orleans—Dissipation in the Palais Royal—The Palais National—The Birthplace of Revolutions


Its History—The Roman Comique—Under Louis XV.—During the Revolution—Hernani


The “King’s Library”—Francis I. and the Censorship—The Imperial Library—The Bourse


The Louvre—Origin of the Name—The Castle—Francis I.—Catherine de Medicis—The Queen’s Apartments—Louis XIV. and the Louvre—The Museum of the Louvre—The Picture Galleries—The Tuileries—The National Assembly—Marie Antoinette—The Palace of Napoleon III.—“Petite Provence”


The Champs Élysées—The Élysée Palace—Longchamps—The Bois de Boulogne—The Château de Madrid—The Château de la Muette—The Place de l’Étoile


The Royal Military School of Louis XV.—The National Assembly—The Patriotic Altar—The Festival of the Supreme Being—Other Festivals—Industrial Exhibitions—The Eiffel Tower—The Trocadéro


The Hôtel de Ville—Its History—In 1848—The Communards


The Palais de Justice—Its Historical Associations—Disturbances in Paris—Successive Fires—During the Revolution—The Administration of Justice—The Sainte-Chapelle


The Sapeurs-pompiers—The Prefect of Police—The Garde Républicaine—The Spy System


The Place du Parvis—The Parvis of Notre Dame—The Hôtel-Dieu—Mercier’s Criticisms


The Hôtel de Ville—Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie—Rue Saint-Antoine—The Reformation

CENTRAL PARIS (continued).

Rue de Venise—Rachel—St.-Nicholas-in-the-Fields—The Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers—The Gaieté—Rue des Archives—The Mont de Piété—The National Printing Office—The Hôtel Lamoignon

CENTRAL PARIS (continued).

The Rue Saint-Denis—Saint-Leu-Saint-Gilles—George Cadoudal—Saint-Eustache—The Central Markets—The General Post Office


The Rue de l’Arbre Sec—Dr. Guillotin—Dr. Louis—The Guillotine—The First Political Execution


The Executioner—His Taxes and Privileges—Monsieur de Paris—Victor of Nîmes


The Cemeteries of Clamart and Picpus—Père-Lachaise—La Villette and Chaumont—The Conservatoire—Rue Laffitte—The Rothschilds—Montmartre—Clichy


The Legal Institution of the Duel—The Congé de la Bataille—In the Sixteenth Century—Jarnac—Famous Duels


Paris Students—Their Character—In the Middle Ages—At the Revolution—Under the Directory—In 1814—In 1819—Lallemand—In the Revolution of 1830


The Chiffonier or Rag-picker—His Methods and Hours of Work—His Character—A Diogenes—The Chiffonier de Paris


Béranger’s Bohemians—Balzac’s Definition—Two Generations—Henri Mürger


The Garçon—The Development of the Type—The Garçon’s Daily Routine—His Ambitions and Reverses


Brillat Savarin on the Art of Cooking—The Cook and the Roaster—Cooking in the Seventeenth Century—Louis XV.—Mme. de Maintenon



[Illustrations have been moved from within paragraphs for ease of reading.
(note of e-text transcriber.)]

Boulevard des Italiens


Place de la Concorde


The Left Bank of the Seine, from Notre Dame


Right Bank of the Seine, from Notre Dame


On the Boulevards—Corner of Place de l’Opéra


Théâtre Français


A Street Scene


Notre Dame


The Choir Stalls, Notre Dame


Rue du Cloitre


Apsis of Notre Dame


The Leaden Spire, Notre Dame


Gargoyles in the Sacristy, Notre Dame


Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois


(Map) Principal Streets of Paris


Scene during the Massacre of St. Bartholomew


The Pont-Neuf and the Louvre, from the Quai des Augustins


By the Pont-Neuf


Seine Fishers


View from the Pavilion de Flore

facing 33

The Pont-Neuf and the Mint


Statue of Henri IV. on the Pont-Neuf


The Institute


The Pont-Neuf from the Island


View from the Western Point of the Île de la Cité


Place de la Bastille and Column of July


Junction of Grands Boulevards and Rue and Faubourg Montmartre


The Bastille


The Conquerors of the Bastille


À la Robespierre


A Lady of 1793


A Tricoteuse


Map showing the Extension of Paris


Adrienne Lecouvreur


A Duel in the Bois de Boulogne


The Seine from Notre Dame

facing 65



Hôtel Carnavalet


Hôtel Lamoignon


Statue of Louis XIII. in the Place des Vosges


The Place des Vosges, formerly Place Royale


The Arcade in the Place des Vosges


The Winter Circus in the Boulevard des Filles de Calvaire


Louis Philippe


Attempted Assassination of Louis Philippe


A Parisian Café


Place de la République


Frédéric Lemaître


Porte Saint-Martin and the Renaissance Theatre


Church of Saint-Méry, Rue Saint-Martin


Apsis of Church of Saint-Méry, Rue Brisemiche


Notre Dame

facing 97

Entrance to the Faubourg Saint-Denis


Boulevard and Porte Saint-Denis


Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle and the Gymnase Theatre


The Boulevard Montmartre


Entrance to the Théâtre des Variétés, Boulevard Montmartre


Cafés on the Boulevard Montmartre




Street Coffee Stall


Boulevard des Italiens


The 6th of June; the Last of the Insurrection




Paris in the Seventeenth Century


Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin


View from the Roof of the Opera House

facing 129

Mlle. Clairon


View from the Balcony of the Opera


Avenue de l’Opéra


One of the Domes of the Opera House


Eastern Pavilion, Opera House


The Public Foyer, Opera House


Western Pavilion, Opera House


The Staircase of the Opera House


The Madeleine


Interior of the Madeleine


Place de la Concorde


Place de la Concorde, from the Terrace of the Tuileries


Trial of Louis XVI


Top of the Vendôme Column


The Place Vendôme


Rue Castiglione


A First Night at the Comédie Française—The Foyer

facing 161





The Palais Royal


Gardens of the Palais Royal


The Palais Royal after the Siege


The Montpensier Gallery, Palais Royal


Entrance to the Comédie Française


The Public Foyer, Comédie Française


The Green Room, Comédie Française








The Committee of the Comédie Française: Alexandre Dumas (the younger) Reading a Play


Behind the Scenes, Comédie Française


Entrance to the National Library in the Rue des Petits Champs


The Bourse


The Apollo Gallery—The Louvre

facing 193

The Louvre, from the Place du Carrousel


The Old Louvre (Pierre Lescot’s Façade)


The Colonnade of the Louvre


Portion of the Façade of Henri IV.’s Gallery, Louvre


Top of the Marsan Pavilion, Louvre


The Marsan and Flora Pavilions, Louvre, from the Pont-Royal


The Richelieu Pavilion


The Tuileries in the Eighteenth Century


The Terrace, Tuileries Gardens


The Tuileries Gardens


Lion in the Tuileries Gardens


The Chestnuts of the Tuileries


Louis XVI. Stopped at Varennes by Drouet


The Royal Family at Varennes


Monument to Gambetta, Place du Carrousel


The Horses of Marly, Champs Élysées


The Elysée


Saint-Philippe du Roule


The Great Lake, Bois de Boulogne


Avenue du Bois de Boulogne


Arc de Triomphe

facing 225

Avenue des Champs Élysées


Avenue Marigny, Champs Élysées


Fountain in the Champs Élysées


The Champ de Mars, 1889


The Military School, Champ de Mars


General La Fayette


The Palais de l’Industrie, Champs Élysées


View Showing Exhibition of 1889


View from the First Platform of the Eiffel Tower


The Trocadéro


Hôtel de Ville in the Fifteenth Century


Attack on the Hôtel de Ville, 1830


Statue of Étienne Marcel on the Quai Hôtel de Ville


The Municipal Council Chamber, Hôtel de Ville


Île St. Louis


The Quai de l’Horloge


Pont au Change and Palais de Justice


The Clock of the Palais de Justice


Entrance to the Court of Assize


The Palais de Justice

facing 257

The Palais de Justice and Sainte-Chapelle


The Façade of the Old Palais de Justice


The Salle des Pas Perdus


Police Carriages


The Conciergerie, Palais de Justice


The Sainte-Chapelle


The Lower Chapel of the Sainte-Chapelle


The Upper Chapel of the Sainte-Chapelle


The Tribunal of Commerce


A Pompier


A Guardian of the Peace


An Orderly of the Garde de Paris


A Gendarme


Principal Court of the Hôtel-Dieu


Rue de Rivoli


Façade of the Church of St. Gervais and St. Protais; and the Apsis, from the Rue des Barres


Tower of Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie


Hôtel de Beauvais


Church of St. Louis and St. Paul


Rue de Rivoli and Hôtel de Ville

facing 289

Rue Grenier-sur-l’eau


The Pont-Marie


Rue Saint Louis-en-l’Île


Pont au Change, Place du Châtelet, and Boulevard de Sebastopol


The Palmier Fountain, Place du Châtelet


Rue de Venise


St. Nicholas-in-the-Fields


The Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers


The Vertbois Tower and Fountain


The Gaieté Theatre


In the Temple Market


The Temple Market


Sixteenth Century Cloisters, Rue des Billettes


Palace of the National Archives


Hôtel de Hollande


Turret at Corner of Rues Vieille du Temple and Francs Bourgeois


Rue de Birague, leading to the Place des Vosges


Fountain of the Innocents




A Market Scene


An Auction Sale of Poultry in the Central Market


Rue Rambuteau in the Early Morning


On the Way to the Central Markets


The Fish Market


Interior of the Mont de Piété, Rue Capron

facing 321

The General Post Office


The Poste Restante


The Public Hall, General Post Office


The Telephone Room at the General Post Office


Place des Victoires


Rue de la Vrillière


In Père-Lachaise


Parc des Buttes Chaumont




The Synagogue in the Rue de la Victoire


St. Peter’s Church, Montmartre


The Bells of St. Peter’s


The New Municipal Reservoir and the Church of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre


The Caulaincourt Bridge, Montmartre


In the Parc Monceau


Diana of Poitiers


Marshal Ney


The Race-course, Longchamps

facing 353

Camille Desmoulins


The Polytechnic School


Notre Dame from the Pont Saint-Louis


A Rag-picker


A Rag-picker


The Boulevard Poissonière


Selling Goats


The Bird Market


Madame de Maintenon


{Page 1}





“PARIS,” said Heinrich Heine, “is not simply the capital of France, but of the whole civilised world, and the rendezvous of its most brilliant intellects.” The art and literature of Europe were at that time represented in Paris by such men as Ary Scheffer, the Dutch painter, Rossini, the Italian composer, the cosmopolitan Meyerbeer, and Heine himself. Towards the close of the eighteenth century most of the European Courts, with those of Catherine II. and Frederick the Great prominent among them, were regularly supplied with letters on Parisian affairs by Grimm, Diderot, and other writers of the first distinction, who, in their serious moments, contributed articles to the Encyclopédie. At a much remoter period Paris was already one of the most famous literary capitals of Europe; nor was it renowned for its literature alone. Its art, pictorial and sculptural, was also celebrated, and still more so its art manufactures; while of recent years the country of Auber and Gounod, of Bizet, Massenet and Saint-Saëns, has played a leading part in the world of music. Paris, too, has from the earliest times been a centre of science and philosophy. Here Abélard lectured, and here the first hospitals were established. Then, again, Paris has a military history of singular interest and variety. It has been oftener torn within its walls by civic conflicts, and attacked from without by the invader, than any other European city; while none has undergone so many regular sieges as the capital of the country of which Frederick the Great used to say that, if he ruled it, not a shot should be fired in Europe without his permission.

Paris is at once the most ancient and the most modern capital in Europe. Great are the changes it has undergone since it first took form, eighteen centuries ago, as a fortress or walled town on an island in the middle of the Seine; and at every period of its history we find some chronicler dwelling on the disappearance of ancient landmarks. Whole quarters are known to have been pulled down and rebuilt under the second Empire. But ever since the Revolution of 1789, under each successive form of government and in almost every district, straggling lanes have been giving way gradually to wide streets and stately boulevards, and suburb after suburb has been merged into the great city.

The Chaussée d’Antin was at the end of the last century a chaussée in fact as well as in name: a mere high-road, that is to say; and there were people living under the government of Louis-Philippe who claimed to have shot rabbits on the now densely populated Boulevard Montmartre.

The greatest changes, however, in the general physiognomy of Paris date from the Revolution, when, in the first place, as if by way of symbol, the hated fortress was demolished in which so many victims of despotism had languished. “Athens,” says Victor Hugo, “built the Parthenon, but Paris destroyed the Bastille.” In the days when the great State {2} prison was still standing, the broad, well-built Rue Saint-Antoine, in its immediate neighbourhood, used to be pointed to by antiquarians as covering the ground where King Henry II. was mortally wounded in a tournament by Montgomery, an officer in the Scottish Guard. It was there, too, that, after the death of their protector, the “minions” of Henry II. slaughtered one another.

The now thickly inhabited Place des Victoires, where stands the statue of Louis XIV., lasting monument of kingly pride and popular adulation, was at one time the most dangerous part of the capital. In the open space now enclosed by lordly mansions and commodious warehouses thieves and murderers held their nightly assemblies, or even in the face of day committed depredations on the passers-by. “Could a better site have been chosen,” asks an historian of the last century, “for the effigy of that royal robber, born for the ruin of his subjects and the disturbance of Europe: who aimed at universal monarchy and sacrificed the wealth and happiness of a whole kingdom to pursue an empty shadow; who lived a tyrant and died an idiot?”

Not far distant, the Halles, or general markets, stand on the spot where Charles V. made a famous speech against Charles, surnamed the Mischievous, King of Navarre; when the former was hissed and hooted by the mob because he had neither the good looks, the eloquence, nor the reasoning power of his antagonist. It was here, too, that the first dramas were acted in France; and here, significantly enough, that Molière was born.

At the Butte Saint-Roch, now remembered chiefly by the church of the same name, the Maid of Orleans was wounded during the siege of Paris, then in the hands of the English. Joan of Arc was not at this time—not, at least, with the Parisians—the popular heroine she has since become. Detesting Charles VII. and all his supporters, they could not love the inspired girl whose example had restored the courage of the king’s troops. A Parisian of that day, who had witnessed the siege, describes her as a “fiend in woman’s guise.”

The bell may still be heard of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois; the very bell, it is asserted, that called the faithful to the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Near the church from which the tragic signal rang forth stands the palace from whose windows Charles IX. fired upon the unhappy Huguenots as they sought safety by swimming across the Seine; and close at hand used to be pointed out another window from which money was thrown to an agitated crowd in order to keep it from attending Molière’s funeral, at which the mob proposed, not to honour the remains of the illustrious dramatist, but to insult them.

It was in the old Rue du Temple that the Duke of Burgundy fell by the hand of his assassin, the Duke of Orleans, only brother of Charles VI., who, though a madman and an idiot, was suffered to remain on the throne; and it was in this same Rue du Temple that Louis XVI. and Marie-Antoinette were confined before being taken to the guillotine. What scenes has not the Place de Grève witnessed! from the burning of witches to the torture of Damiens, and from the atrocious cruelties inflicted upon this would-be regicide to the first executions under the Revolution, when the cry of “A la lanterne!” (to the lamp-post, that is to say, of the Place de Grève) was so frequently heard.

But the most revolutionary spot in this, the most revolutionary capital in the world, is to be found in the gardens of the Palais Royal; those gardens from whose trees Camille Desmoulins plucked the leaves which the besiegers of the Bastille were to have worn in their hats as rallying signals. Here, too, assembled the journeymen printers, who, their newspapers having been suppressed by Charles X., determined, under the guidance of the journalists—their natural leaders on such an occasion—to reply by force to the armed censorship of the Government. Again, in 1848, the Palais Royal Gardens witnessed the first manifestations of discontent, though it was a pistol-shot fired on a fashionable part of the boulevard that precipitated the collision between the insurgents and the troops. The next morning, at breakfast, Louis-Philippe was told that he had better abdicate; and an hour afterwards an old gentleman, with a portfolio under his arm, was {3} seen to take a cab on the Place de la Concorde, and drive off in the direction of Saint-Cloud, whence he reached the coast of Normandy, and in due time the shores of England.

Paris possesses one of the most ancient and one of the most characteristically modern churches in Europe—the venerable Notre-Dame, and in sharp contrast, the fashionable Madeleine, celebrated for the splendour of its essentially mundane architecture, the luxurious attire of its female frequenters, the beauty of its music, and the eloquence of its preachers. The first stone of Notre-Dame was laid, as Victor Hugo puts it, by Tiberius, who, recognising the site of the future cathedral as well-fitted for a temple, began by erecting an altar “to the god Cerennos and to the bull Esus.” In like manner, on the hill of Sainte-Geneviève, where now stands the edifice known as the Pantheon, Mercury was at one time worshipped.

So rich is Paris in historical associations that often the same street, the same spot, recalls two widely different events. Thus the statue of Henri IV. on the Pont-Neuf commemorates the glory of the best and greatest of the French kings, and at the same time marks the very ground where, in the fourteenth century, Jacques de Molay, the Templar, was infamously burned. At No. 14 in the Rue de Béthisy Admiral Coligny died and Sophie Arnould was born. At a house in the Rue des Marais Racine wrote “Bajazet” and “Britannicus” in the room where, fifty years later, the Duchess de Bouillon is said to have poisoned Adrienne Lecouvreur. There was a time when, at the corner of the Rue du Marché des Innocents, a marble slab, inscribed with letters of gold, associated the important year of 1685 with three notable events: the arrival of an embassy from Siam, a visit from the Doge of Genoa, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. This strange record has disappeared, together with many other interesting memorials of various shapes and kinds: such, for example, as the iron cauldron in the Cour des Miracles, where, in the name of a whole series of kings who had played tricks with the national currency, and more than once produced national bankruptcy, coiners used to be boiled alive.

As we go further back in the history of Paris, lawlessness on the part of the inhabitants, and cruelty on that of the rulers, seem constantly to increase. Until the reign of Louis XI., Paris was without police, though laws were nominally in force, especially against stealing. Theft was punished much on the principle laid down in the inscription of the sixth century which adorned one of the walls of Lutetia, the Paris of the Romans: “If a thief is caught in the act he must, in the case of a noble, be brought to trial; in the case of a peasant, be hanged on the spot.” The capitular of Charlemagne forbade ecclesiastics to take human life: which did not prevent the abbés of different monasteries from besieging one another or crossing swords when, with their followers, they chanced to meet outside the fortified monasterial walls, whether in the plain or in the public street. The right of private warfare existed in France until 1235.

Paris has undergone atrocious sufferings through war, famine, pestilence, and calamities of all kinds. The Normans, after burning one half of Paris, allowed the remainder to be ransomed with an enormous sum of money. In one of the famines by which Paris in its early days was so often visited, people cast lots as to which should be eaten. The taxes were so excessive that many pretended to be lepers, in order to profit by the exemption accorded in such cases. But it was sometimes not well to be a leper, real or pretended; for it was proclaimed one day to the sound of horn and trumpet that lepers throughout the kingdom should be exterminated: “in consequence of a mixture of herbs and human blood, with which, rolling it up in a linen cloth and tying it to a stone, they poison the wells and rivers.”

How terrible, and often how ridiculous, were the proclamations issued in those days! In front of the Grand-Châtelet six heralds of France, clothed in white velvet, and rod in hand, were wont to announce after a plague, a war, or a famine that there was nothing more to be feared, and that the king would be graciously pleased to receive taxes as before. In the centre of the so-called “town”—Paris in general, that is to say, as distinct from the city—was “la Maubuée” (derived, according to Victor Hugo, from mauvaise fumée), where Jews innumerable were roasted over fires of pitch and green wood to punish what a chronicler of the time terms their “anthropomancy”; and what the Counsellor de l’Ancre further describes as “the marvellous cruelty they have always shown towards Christians, their mode of life, their synagogue, so displeasing to God, their uncleanliness, and their stench.” The unhappy Jews, however, were not the only victims. Close by, at the corner of the Rue du Gros-Chenet, was the place where sorcerers used to be burned. Torture, moreover, in {4} its most hideous forms was practised upon criminals even until the time of the Revolution; which, while introducing the guillotine, abolished, in addition to a variety of other torments, breaking on the wheel, and the beating of criminals to death with the iron bar.

Many of the names, still extant, of the old Paris streets recall the ferocity and the superstition of past times. The Rue de l’Arbre Sec was the Street of the Gibbet, with “Dry Tree” as its familiar name. The Rue d’Enfer, or Hell Street, was so called from a belief that this thoroughfare on the outskirts of Paris, just beyond the Luxemburg Gardens, was haunted by the fiend. In order to put an end to the scandal by which the whole neighbourhood was alarmed, it occurred to the authorities to make over the street to the Order of Capuchins who, they thought, would know how to deal with their inveterate enemy. The Capuchins accepted, with gratitude, the valuable trust; and thenceforth, whether as the result of some exorcising process or because public confidence had been restored, no more was heard of the visitor from below.


To get a complete idea of the vastness and variety of Paris, it should be seen from the towers of Notre-Dame, the Pantheon, the July Column of the Place de la Bastille, the tower of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, the Vendôme Column, the Triumphal Arch, and, finally, the Eiffel Tower. From these different points panoramic views may be obtained which together would form a complete picture of Paris.

The shape of Paris is oval. The longest diameter—east to west—would be drawn from the Gate of Vincennes to the Gate of Auteuil; and the shorter—north to south—from the Gate of Clignancourt to the Gate of Italy.

Paris is divided longitudinally by the course of the Seine, whose windings are scarcely noticed by the observer taking a bird’s-eye view. The river looks like a silver thread between two borders of green. These are the plantations of the quays, whose trees, during the last five-and-twenty years, have become as remarkable for their luxuriant growth as for their beauty of form. From the height of our observatory we see the Island of the City, looking like a ship at anchor, with its prow towards the west.

On all sides the summits of religious edifices present themselves: the towers of Notre-Dame, the dome of the Pantheon, the turrets of Saint-Sulpice, the steeple of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the gilded cupola of the Invalides, and the lofty isolated belfry of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie.

Following the course of the Seine with careful eye, one may see its {5} twenty-one “ports”—eleven on the right bank, and ten on the left—from Bercy to the Tuileries; also, like slender bars thrown across the river, the twenty-seven bridges connecting the two banks, from the Pont-National to the viaduct of the Point du Jour.

The double line of quays—quadruple, where the islands of St. Louis and of the City divide the river in two—presents an incomparable series of stately structures; such as the Hôtel de Ville, the Palais de Justice, the Louvre, the Mint, the Institute, the Palais Bourbon, and a number of magnificent private mansions.


From the Gothic steeple of the Sainte Chapelle the eye wanders to innumerable domes, built under the influence of the Renaissance; for while the domes have endured, the steeples, so numerous in ancient Paris, have, for the most part, succumbed either to fire or to the vandalism of the renovating architect. It must be remembered, too, that under the reign of Louis XIV. Gothic architecture was proscribed, as recalling “the age of barbarism.” Every new edifice was constructed in the Italian or Italo-Byzantine style. The finest, if not the most ancient, dome that Paris could ever boast was the one which crowned the central pavilion of the Tuileries Palace. The cupola of St. Peter’s was the model adopted in the early part of the sixteenth century by all French architects who had studied in Italy, or Italian architects who had settled in France; and the masterpiece of Michael Angelo at Rome was not yet finished when the first stone of the impressive and picturesque Church of Saint-Eustace was laid in 1532 at Paris. Only a few years afterwards the French architect, Philibert de l’Orme, attached to the service of Pope Paul III., returned to Paris, and, beneath the delighted eyes of Queen Catherine de Medicis, worked out the designs which he had formed under the inspiration of Michael Angelo and of Bramante. The dome, however, of Philibert de l’Orme was destined to lose its beauty through the additions made to it by other architects.

Of late years it has been the rule in Paris not to destroy but to preserve the ancient architecture of the city. “Demolish the tower of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie?” asked Victor Hugo, when, during the reconstruction and prolongation of the Rue Rivoli, the question of keeping it standing or pulling it down was under general discussion: “Demolish the tower of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie? No! Demolish the architect who suggests such a thing? Yes!” {6}



Lutetia—La Cité—Lutetia taken by Labienus—The Visit of Julian the Apostate—Besieged by the Franks—The Norman Invasion—Gradual Expansion from the Ile de la Cité to the Outer Boulevards—M. Thiers’s Line of Outworks.

LUTETIA, the ancient Paris, or Lutetia Parisiorum, as it was called by the Romans, stood in the midst of marshes. The name, derived, suggestively enough, from lutum, the Latin for mud, has been invested with a peculiar significance by those stern moralists who see in Paris nothing but a sink of iniquity. Balzac called it a “wen”; and Blucher, when some ferocious member of his staff suggested the destruction of Paris, exclaimed: “Leave it alone; Paris will destroy all France!” By a critic of less severe temperament Paris has been contemptuously described as “the tavern of Europe”—le cabaret de l’Europe. Lutetia, however, can afford to smile alike at the slurs of moralists and the sneers of cynics; and the etymology of her name need by no means alarm those of her admirers who will reflect that lilies may spring from mud, and that the richest corn is produced from the blackest soil.

The development of the Lutetia of Cæsar’s time into the Paris of our own has occupied many eventful centuries; and the centre of the development may still be seen in that little island of the so-called City—l’Ile de la Cité—once known as the Island of Lutetia. As to the dimensions of the ancient Lutetia, neither historians nor geographers are wholly agreed. The germ of Paris is, in any case, to be found in that part of the French capital which has long been known as la Cité, and which is the dullest and sleepiest part of Paris, just as inversely our “city,” distinctively so called, is the most active and energetic part of London.

The Parisians have always been given to insurrection; and their first rising was made against a ruler who was likely enough to put it down—Julius Cæsar, that is to say. Finding his power defied, Cæsar sent against the Parisians a body of troops, under the command of Labienus, who crushed the rebels in the first battle. Historians give different versions of the engagement, but modern writers are content for the most part to rely on a tradition related by an author of the fourteenth century, Raoul de Presles, who published a French version of Cæsar’s account of the Battle of Paris, enriched by notes and comments from his own pen. Labienus, according to Cæsar and Raoul de Presles, was arrested in his first attack by an impassable marsh. Then, simulating a retreat along the left bank of the Seine, he was pursued by the Gauls, in spite of Camulogenes, their cautious leader; who, unable to restrain them, fell with them at last into an ambuscade, in which chief and followers all perished.

Raoul de Presles gives some interesting details about the marsh which Labienus, on making his advance against Paris, was unable to cross. Some identify it with the Marshes of the Temple, which formed, on the north of Paris, a continuous semicircle; but Raoul de Presles seems to hold that the marsh which stopped the advance of Labienus protected Lutetia itself: that Lutetia of the Island which sprang from the mud as Venus sprang from the sea. The city of Lutetia was at that time so strong, so entirely shut in by water, that Julius Cæsar himself speaks of the difficulty of reaching it. “But since then,” says Raoul de Presles, “there has been much solidification through gravel, sand, and all kinds of rubbish being cast into it.”

After the victory of Labienus, Lutetia, which the conqueror had destroyed, was quickly re-built; and it was then governed as a Roman town. This, however, was in Cæsar’s time; and the first description of Lutetia as a city was given by Strabo some fifty years later. Thus it may safely be said that of the original Lutetia nothing whatever is known.

It is certain, nevertheless, that in the new Lutetia, built by the Romans, the most important edifices stood at the western end of the island, including a palace, on whose site was afterwards to be erected the Palace of the French Kings; while at the eastern end the most striking object was a Temple to Jupiter, in due time to be replaced by the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.

As early as the fourth century Lutetia found favour in the eyes of illustrious visitors; and the Emperor Julian, known as the “Apostate,” when, after defeating seven German kings near Strasburg, he retired to Lutetia for winter quarters, spoke of it, then and for ever afterwards, {7} as his “dear Lutetia.”

“Lutetia lætitia!”—Paris is my joy!—he might, with a certain modern writer, have exclaimed.

Julian is not the only man who, going to Paris for a few months, has stayed there several years; and Julian’s winter quarters of the year 355 so much pleased him that he remained in them until 360. Encouraged, no doubt, by what Julian, in his enthusiasm, told them about the already attractive capital of Gaul, a whole series of Roman emperors visited the city, including Valentinian I., Valentinian II., and Gratian, who left Paris in 379, never to return.

From this date Paris ceased practically to form part of the Roman Empire.

More than a century before (in 245) St. Denis had undergone martyrdom on the banks of the Seine, walking about after decapitation with his head under his arm. This strange tradition had probably its origin in a picture by some simple-minded painter, who had represented St. Denis carrying his own head like a parcel, because he could think of no more ingenious way of indicating the fate that had befallen the first apostle of Christianity in Gaul; just as St. Bartholomew has often been painted with his skin hanging across his arm like a loose overcoat.

After the defeat and death of Gratian, the government of Lutetia passed into the hands of her bishops, who often defended the city against the incursions of the barbarians.

In 476 Lutetia was besieged by the Franks, when Childeric gained possession of it, and destroyed for ever all traces of the Roman power. It now became a Frank or French town; and, “Lutetia Parisiorum” being too long a name for the unlettered Goths, was shortened by them first into “Parisius,” and ultimately, by the suppression of the two last syllables, into “Paris.”

In the ninth century Paris underwent the usual Norman invasion, by which so many European countries, from Russia to England, and from England to Sicily—not to speak of the Norman or Varangian Guard of Constantinople—were sooner or later to be visited. The “hardy Norsemen”—or Norman pirates, as the unhappy Parisians doubtless called them—started from the island of Oissel, near Rouen, where they had established themselves in force; and, moving with a numerous fleet towards Paris, laid siege to it, and, on its surrender, first pillaged it and then burnt it to the ground. Three churches alone—those of Saint-Étienne, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and Saint-Denis, near Paris—were saved, through the payment of a heavy ransom. Sixteen years later, after a sufficient interval to allow of a reconstruction, the Normans again returned, when once more the unhappy city was plundered and burnt. For twenty successive years Paris was the constant prey of the Norman pirates who held beneath their power the whole course of the Seine.

At last, however, a powerful fleet, led by a chief whom the French call “Siegfroi,” but whose real name was doubtless “Siegfried,” sustained a crushing defeat; and, simultaneously with the Norman invaders, the Carlovingian Dynasty passed away.

With the advent of the Capet Dynasty a continuous history began for Paris—in due time to become the capital of all France. Ancient Paris was three times burnt to the ground: the Paris which dates from the ninth century has often been conquered, but never burnt.

Ancient Paris, the Lutetia of the Romans, was an island enclosed between two branches of the Seine. But the river overflowed north and south, and it became necessary to construct large ditches or moats, which at once widened the boundaries of the “city.” Gradually the population spread out in every direction; and when, under Louis XIV., the line of boulevards was traced, the extreme limits of the capital were marked by this new enclosure. Then under Louis XVI., the Farmers-General, levying dues (the so-called octroi) on imports into the town, established for their own convenience certain “barriers,” at which persons bringing in food or drink were stopped until they had acquitted themselves of the appointed tax; and, connecting these “barriers,” they thus formed the line of outer boulevards.

Paris extended in time even to these outer boulevards. Then, under Louis-Philippe, at the instigation of his Minister, M. Thiers, a line of fortifications was constructed around Paris; which, proving insufficient in 1870 and 1871 to save the capital from bombardment, has in its turn been surrounded by a circle of outlying detached forts intercommunicating with one another.

The fortifications of Paris have had a strange history. At the time of their being planned, opinions in France were divided as to whether they were intended to oppose a foreign invasion or to control an internal revolt. In all probability they were meant, according to the occasion, to serve either purpose. They were not only designed by M. Thiers, but executed under his orders; and this statesman, who had made a careful {8} study of military science, lived to see them powerless against the German army of investment, and successful against the Paris Commune.


Paris had been invaded and occupied in 1814, and again in 1815. On the other hand, domestic government had been upset in 1830 by a popular insurrection, which, with adequate military force to oppose it, might at once have been suppressed. Was it as patriot, people asked, or as minister of a would-be despotic king, that M. Thiers proposed to raise around Paris a new and formidable wall?

M. Thiers’s circular line of outworks played no part in connection with the successful insurrection of February, 1848, nor with the unsuccessful one of June in the same year. Nor was a single shot fired from the fortifications in connection with the coup d’État of 1851. They did not in 1871 prevent the French capital from falling into the hands of the Germans: but they delayed for a considerable time the fatal moment of surrender; and if the army of Metz could have held out a few weeks longer—if, above all, the inhabitants of the inactive south, who practically took no part in the war, had been prepared, to fight with something like the energy displayed by the Confederates against the Federals during the American Civil War—then the fortifications would have justified the views of those who had chiefly regarded them as a valuable defence against foreign invasion.

The fortifications erected by M. Thiers have since been pulled down: partly because the constantly expanding city wanted fresh building ground, partly because, in view of new plans of defence, and of the new artillery of offence, it was considered desirable to protect Paris by a system of outlying but inter-protecting forts, at a sufficient distance from the houses of the capital to render reduction by what is called “simple bombardment” impossible. In time Lutetia, with fresh developments, may require yet another new girdle. {9}



Paris and London—The Rive Gauche—The Quartier Latin—The Pantheon—The Luxemburg—The School of Medicine—The School of Fine Arts—The Bohemia of Paris—The Rive Droite—Paris Proper—“The West End.”

AN effective contrast might be drawn between London and Paris. But, unlike as they are in so many features, physical, moral, and historical, they differ most widely, perhaps, by the relative parts they have played in the history of their respective countries.

The history of Paris is the history of France itself. The decisive battles which brought the great civil and religious wars of the country to an end were fought outside or in the very streets of Paris. It was in Paris that the massacre of St. Bartholomew—darkest blot on the French annals—was perpetrated. The Revolution of 1789, again, was prepared and accomplished in the French capital; and, thenceforth, all those revolutions and coups d’état by which the government of the country was periodically to be changed had Paris for their scene. In England, on the other hand, London had little or nothing to do with the battles of the great Rebellion, the Revolution, or the two insurrections by which the Revolution was followed.


But the English visitor to Paris is in the first place struck by external points of dissimilarity. As regards the difference in the structural physiognomy of the two great capitals (less pronounced now than at one time, though Paris is still loftily, and London for the most part dwarfishly, built), it was ingeniously remarked, some fifty years ago, that the architecture of one city seemed vertical, of the other horizontal.

To pass from the houses to their inhabitants, the population of Paris is as remarkable for variety as that of London for uniformity of costume. For in Paris almost every class has its own distinctive dress. In England, and especially in London, the employer and his workmen, the millionaire and the crossing-sweeper, wear coats of the same pattern. In London, again, every work-girl, every market-woman, wears a bonnet imitated more or less perfectly from those worn by ladies of fashion.

When Gavarni first visited London, he was astonished and amused to see an old woman in a bonnet carrying a flower-pot on her head, and {10} made this grotesque figure the subject of a humorous design, with the following inscription beneath it: “On porte cette année beaucoup de fleurs sur les chapeaux.

Shop-girls and work-girls in Paris wear neat white caps instead of ill-made, or, it may be, dilapidated bonnets; though the more aspiring among them reserve the right of appearing in a bonnet on Sundays and holidays. The French workman wears a blouse and a cap, and looks upon the hat as a sign, if not of superiority, at least of pretension.

“Car moi j’ai payé ma casquette,
Et toi, tu n’as pas payé ton chapeau!”

was the burden of a song very popular with the working classes during the revolutionary days of 1848 to 1851.

Owing to the varieties of dress already touched upon, a crowd in Paris presents a less gloomy, less monotonous appearance than the black-coated mobs of London; and in harmony with the greater relief afforded by the different colours of the costumes are the animated gestures of the persons composing the crowd. Observe, indeed, a mere group of persons conversing on no matter what commonplace subject, or idly chatting as they sip their coffee together on the boulevards, and they appear to be engaged in some violent dispute.

To mention yet another point on which Paris differs from London: the most interesting part of Paris lies on the right bank of the Seine, whereas all that is interesting in London lies on the left bank of the Thames.

The left bank of the Seine possesses, however, buildings and streets of historical interest. Here, too, is the quarter of the schools: the Quartier Latin, as it is still called, not by reason of its Roman antiquities, which, except at the Hotel Cluny, would be sought for in vain, but because, in the mediæval period whence the schools for the most part date, even to comparatively modern times, Latin was the language of the student. On the “left bank,” moreover, stand the Institute, the Pantheon or Church of Ste. Geneviève, as, according to the predominance of religion or irreligion, it is alternately called; the Ste. Geneviève Library, the Luxemburg Palace, with its magnificent picture gallery, the School of Medicine, and the School of Fine Arts. Many of the great painters, too, have their studios—often little academies in themselves—on the left bank of the river; while among the famous streets on the “left bank” is that Rue du Bac so often referred to in the chronicles and memoirs of the eighteenth century. The famous Café Procope, again, literary headquarters of the encyclopædists, stands on what is now considered the wrong side of the water. So too does the Odéon Theatre, once the Théàtre Français, where, in modern as well as ancient times, so many dramatic masterpieces have been produced.

On the other hand, there is scarcely on the left bank one good hotel: certainly not one that could put forward the slightest pretension to being fashionable. Nor, except in the case of professional men connected with the hospitals or the schools, would anyone mixing in fashionable society care to give his address anywhere on the left bank.

Jules Janin, one of the most distinguished writers of his time, and one of the most popular men in the great world of Paris from the reign of Louis Philippe until that of Napoleon III., did, it is true, live for years in a house close to the Luxemburg Gardens. But Janin possessed a certain originality, and thought more of what suited himself than of what pleased others. On one occasion, having engaged to fight a duel, he failed to put in an appearance by reason of the inclemency of the weather and his disinclination to get out of bed at the early hour for which the meeting had been fixed. Such a man would not be ashamed to live on the left bank if he happened to have found a place there which harmonised with his tastes.

Apart, however, from all question of inclination and fashion, it is really inconvenient to anyone who mingles in Parisian life to live on the left bank of the Seine, remote as it is from the boulevards, the Champs Élysées, the best hotels, the best restaurants, the best cafés, and the best theatres.

At the same time, no sort of comparison can be established between the transpontine districts of Paris and those of London. In London, no one who is anyone would dream of living “on the other side of the water,” where neither picture galleries, nor public gardens, nor artists’ studios, nor famous streets, nor great houses of business, nor even magnificent shops are to be met with. Even Jules Janin, had he been an Englishman, would have declined to live in the region of Blackfriars or the Waterloo Road.

On the right bank of the Seine—the Paris West End, and something more—we find much greater concentration than in the West End of {11} London. Here, indeed, all that is most important in the artistic, financial, and fashionable life of the capital may be found within a small compass.

The Théàtre Français is close to the Bourse, and the Bourse to the Boulevard des Italiens, which leads to the Opera by a line along which stand the finest hotels, the best restaurants in Paris. From the Opera it is no far cry to the Champs Élysées, the Hyde Park of Paris; while, going along the boulevards in the opposite direction, one comes step by step to a seemingly endless series of famous theatres. All the best clubs, too, all the best book-shops and music-shops, are to be found on the most fashionable part of the boulevard, extending from the Boulevard des Italiens, past the Opera House, to the adjacent Church of the Madeleine: architecturally a repetition of the Bourse, as though commerce and religion demanded temples of the same character.





The Cathedral of Notre Dame, a Temple to Jupiter—Cæsar and Napoleon—Relics in Notre Dame—Its History—Curious Legends—“The New Church”—Remarkable Religious Ceremonies—The Place de Grève—The Days of Sorcery—Monsieur de Paris—Dramatic Entertainments—Coronation of Napoleon

THERE is no monument of ancient Paris so interesting, by its architecture and its historical associations, as the Cathedral of Notre Dame; which, standing on the site of a Temple to Jupiter, carries us back to the time of the Roman domination and of Julius Cæsar. Here, eighteen centuries later, took place the most magnificent ceremony ever seen within the walls of the actual edifice: the coronation, that is to say, of the modern Cæsar, the conqueror who ascended the Imperial throne of France on the 2nd of December, 1804.

Meanwhile, the strangest as well as the most significant things have been witnessed inside the ancient metropolitan church of Paris.

Among the curious objects deposited from time to time on the altar of Notre Dame may be mentioned a wand which Louis VII. inscribed with the confession of a fault he was alleged to have committed against the Church. Journeying towards Paris, the king had been surprised by the darkness of night, and had supped and slept at Créteil, on the invitation of the inhabitants. The village, inhabitants and all, belonged to the Chapter of Notre Dame; and the canons were much irritated at the king’s having presumed to accept hospitality indirectly at their cost. When, next day, Louis, arriving at Paris, went, after his custom, to the cathedral in order to render thanks for his safe journey, he was astonished to find the gates of Notre Dame closed. He asked for an explanation, whereupon the canons informed him that {13} since, in defiance of the privileges and sacred traditions of the Church, he had dared at Créteil to sup, free of cost to himself and at the expense of the flock of Notre Dame, he must now consider himself outside the pale of Christianity. At this terrible announcement the king groaned, sighed, wept, and begged forgiveness, humbly protesting that but for the gloom of night and the spontaneous hospitality of the inhabitants—so courteous that a refusal on his part would have been most uncivil—he would never have touched that fatal supper. In vain did the bishop intercede on his behalf, offering to guarantee to the canons the execution of any promise which the king might make in expiation of his crime; it was not until the prelate placed in their hands a couple of silver candlesticks as a pledge of the monarch’s sincerity that they would open to him the cathedral doors; and even then his Majesty had to pay the cost of his supper at Créteil, and by way of confession, to deposit on the altar of Notre Dame the now historical wand.

Louis XI., more devout even than the devout Louis VII., was equally unable to inspire his clergy with confidence. Before the discovery of printing, in 1421, manuscript books at Paris, as elsewhere, were so rare and so dear that students had much trouble in procuring even those which were absolutely necessary for their instruction. Accordingly, when Louis XI. wished to borrow from the Faculty of Medicine the writings of Rhases, an Arabian physician, he was required, before taking the book away, to deposit a considerable quantity of plate, besides the signature of a powerful nobleman, who bound himself to see that his Majesty restored the volume.


Among the many legends told in connection with Notre Dame is a peculiarly fantastic one, according to which the funeral service of a canon named Raimond Diocre, famed for his sanctity, was being celebrated by St. Bruno, when, at a point where the clergy chanted the words: Responde mihi quantas habes iniquitates? the dead man raised his head in the coffin, and replied: Justo Dei judicio accusatus sum. At this utterance all present took flight, and the ceremony was not resumed till the next day, when for the second time the clergy chanted forth: {14} Responde mihi, etc., on which the corpse again raised its head, and this time answered: Justo Dei judicio judicatus sum. Once more there was a panic and general flight. The scene, with yet another variation, was repeated on the third day, when the dead, who had already declared himself to have been “accused” and “judged” by Heaven, announced that he had been condemned: Justo Dei judicio condamnatus sum. Witness of this terrible scene, St. Bruno renounced the world, did penance, became a monk, and founded the Order of Les Chartreux.

The incident has been depicted by Lesueur, who received a commission to record on canvas the principal events in the life of the saint.

It is looked upon as certain by the historians of Paris that the Cathedral of Notre Dame stands on the site formerly occupied by a heathen temple. But how and when the transformation took place is not known, though the period is marked more or less precisely by the date of the introduction of Christianity into France. Little confidence, however, is to be placed in those authors who declare that the Paris cathedral was founded in the middle of the third century by St. Denis, the first apostle of Christianity in France; for at the very time when St. Denis was preaching the Gospel to the Parisians the severest edicts were still in force against Christians. It cannot, then, be supposed that the officials of the Roman Empire would have tolerated the erection of a Christian church. It can be shown, however, that under the episcopacy of Bishop Marcellus, about the year 375, there already existed a Christian church in the city of Paris, on the borders of the Seine and on the eastern point of the island, where a Roman temple had formerly stood. Towards the end of the sixth century the cathedral was composed of two edifices, close together, but quite distinct. One of these was dedicated to the Virgin, the other to St. Stephen the Martyr. Gradually, however, the Church of our Lady was extended and developed until it touched and embraced the Church of St. Stephen. The Church of St. Mary, as many called it, was the admiration of its time. Its vaulted roofs were supported by columns of marble, and Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers, declares that this was the first church which received the rays of the sun through glass windows. More than once it is said to have been burnt during the incursions of the Normans. But this is a matter of mere tradition, and the destruction of the cathedral by fire, whether it ever occurred or not, is held in any case to have been only partial.

In the twelfth century Notre Dame was, it is true, known as the “New Church.” This appellation, however, served only to distinguish it from the smaller Church of St. Stephen (St. Etienne), which had been left in its original state, without addition or renovation.

The plan of the cathedral has, like that of other cathedrals, been changed from century to century; but in spite of innumerable modifications, the original plan asserts itself. From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century the Church of Notre Dame was left nearly untouched. Then, however, in obedience to the wishes of Louis XIII., it was subjected to a whole series of pretended embellishments, for which “mutilations” would be a fitter word. In the eighteenth century, between the years 1773 and 1787, damaging “improvements,” and “restorations” of the most destructive kind, were introduced; until at the time of the Revolution the idea was entertained of depriving the venerable edifice altogether of its religious character. The outside statues were first threatened, but Chaumette saved them by dwelling upon their supposed astronomical and mythological importance. He declared before the Council of the Commune that the astronomer Dupuis (author of “L’origine de tous les Cultes”) had founded his planetary system on the figures adorning one of the lateral doors of the church. In conformity with Chaumette’s representations, the Commune spared all those images to which a symbolic significance might be attached, but pulled down and condemned the statues of the French kings which ornamented the gallery and the principal façade. The cathedral at the same time lost its name. Temple of Reason it was now, until the re-establishment of public worship, to be called. Then new mutilations were constantly perpetrated, until at last, in 1845, the work of restoring the cathedral was placed in competent hands, when, thanks to the learning, the labour, and the taste of MM. Lassus and Viollet-Leduc, Notre Dame was made what it still remains—one of the most magnificent specimens of mediæval architecture to be found in Europe. Why describe the ancient monument, when it is so much simpler to represent through drawings and engravings its most characteristic features?

Some of the most interesting, most curious facts of its history may, however, be appropriately related. The Count of Toulouse, Raymond VII., accused of having supported the Albigenses by his arms and of sharing {15} their errors, was absolved in Notre Dame from the crime of heresy after he had formally done penance in his shirt, with naked arms and feet, before the altar.

An attempt was made by a thief to steal from the altar of Notre Dame its candlesticks. After concealing himself in the roof, the man, aided by other members of his band, let down ropes, and, encircling the silver ornaments, drew them upwards to his hiding-place. In performing this exploit, however, he set fire to the hangings of the church, by which much damage was caused.

The interior of Notre Dame has in different centuries been turned to the most diverse purposes. Here at one time, in view of Church festivals, vendors of fruits and flowers held market. At other times religious mysteries, and even mundane plays, have been performed; while in the thirteenth century the Paris cathedral was the recognised asylum of all who suffered in mind or body.

A particular part of the building was reserved for patients, who were attended by physicians in holy orders. It was provided by a special edict that this hospital within a church should be kept lighted at night by ten lamps. All attempts, however, to keep order were in vain; and in consequence of the noise made by the invalids while religious service was going on, they were, one and all, excluded from the cathedral.

During the troubles caused by the captivity of King John the citizens of Paris made a vow to offer every year to Our Lady a wax candle as long as the boundary-line of the city. Every year the municipal body carried the winding taper, with much pomp, to the Church of Notre Dame, where it was received by the bishop and the canons in solemn assembly. The pious vow was kept for five hundred and fifty years, but ceased to be fulfilled at the time of the religious wars and of the League. In 1603 Paris had gained such dimensions that the ancient vow could scarcely be renewed, and in place of it, François Miron, the celebrated Provost of the Merchants, offered a silver lamp, made in the form of a ship (principal object in the arms of Paris), which he pledged himself to keep burning night and day. In Notre Dame, too, were suspended the principal flags taken from the enemy, though it was only during war time that they were thus exhibited. When peace returned, the flags were put carefully out of sight. Notre Dame, while honouring peace, was itself the scene of frequent disturbances, caused by quarrels between high religious functionaries on questions of precedence. These disputes often occurred when the representatives of foreign Powers wished to take a higher position than in the opinion of their hosts was due to them. It must be noted, too, that at Notre Dame King Henry VI. of England, then ten years old, was crowned King of France.

Under the Regency the cathedral of Paris was the scene of one of the most daring exploits performed by Cartouche’s too audacious band. A number of the robbers had entered the church in the early morning, and had succeeded in climbing up and concealing themselves behind the tapestry of the roof. Their pockets were filled with stones, and at a pre-concerted signal, just as the priest began to read the first verse of the second Psalm in the service of Vespers, they shouted in a loud voice, threw their missiles among the congregation, and cried out that the roof was falling in. A frightful panic ensued, during which the confederates of the thieves overhead helped themselves to watches, purses, and whatever valuables they could find on the persons of the terrified worshippers.

It was at Notre Dame, on the 10th of November, 1793, that the Feast of Reason was celebrated, the Goddess of Reason being impersonated by a well-known actress, the beautiful Mlle. Maillard.

The space in front of Notre Dame was at one time the scene of as many executions as the Place de Grève, which afterwards became and for some centuries remained the recognised execution ground of the French capital.

It was on the Place de Grève that Victor Hugo’s heroine, the charming Esmeralda, suffered death, while the odious monk, Claude Frollo, gazed upon her with cruel delight, till the bell-ringer, Quasimodo, who, in his own humbler and purer way, loved the unhappy gipsy girl, seized him with his powerful arms, and flung him down headlong to the flags at the foot of the cathedral.

In 1587, under the reign of Henry IV., Dominique Miraille, an Italian, and a lady of Étampes, his mother-in-law, were condemned to be hanged and afterwards burnt in front of Notre Dame for the crime of magic. The Parisians were astonished at the execution: “for,” says L’Étoile, in his Journal, “this sort of vermin have always remained free and without punishment, especially at the Court, where those who dabble in magic are called philosophers and astrologers.” With such impunity was the black art practised at this period, that Paris contained in 1572, according {16} to the confession of their chief, some 30,000 magicians.


The popularity of sorcery in Paris towards the end of the sixteenth century is easily accounted for by the fact that kings, queens, and nobles habitually consulted astrologers. Catherine de Medicis was one of the chief believers in all kinds of superstitious practices; and a column used to be shown in the flower-market from which she observed at night the course of the stars. This credulous and cruel queen wore round her waist a skin of vellum, or, as some maintained, the skin of a child, inscribed with figures, letters, and other characters in different colours, as well as a talisman, prepared for her by the astrologer Regnier, an engraving of which may be found in the Journal of Henry III. By this talisman, composed as it was of human blood, goats’ blood, and several kinds of metals melted and mixed together, under certain constellations associated with her birth, Catherine imagined that she could rule the present and foresee the future.

Magic was employed not only for self-preservation, but with the most murderous intentions. When it was used to destroy an enemy, his effigy was prepared in wax; and the thrusts and stabs inflicted upon the figure were supposed to be felt by the original. A gentleman named Lamalle, having been executed on the Place de Grève in 1574, and a wax image, made by the magician Cosmo Ruggieri, having been found upon him, Catherine de Medicis, who patronised this charlatan, feared that the wax figure might have been designed against the life of Charles IX., and that Ruggieri would therefore be condemned to death. Lamalle had maintained that the figure was meant to represent the “Great Princess”: Queen Marguerite, that is to say. But Cosmo Ruggieri was condemned, all the same, to the galleys; though his sentence—thanks, no doubt, to the personal influence of Catherine de Medicis—was never executed. Nicholas Pasquier, who gives a long account of Ruggieri in his Public Letters, declares that he died “a very wicked man, an atheist, and a great magician,” adding that he made another wax figure, on which he poured all kinds of venoms and poisons in order to bring about the death of “our great Henry.” But he was unable to attain his end; and the king, “in his sweet clemency, forgave him.”

When, after the Barricades, Henry III. left Paris, the priests of the League erased his name from the prayers of the Church, and framed new prayers for those princes who had become chiefs of the League. They prepared at the same time images of wax, which they placed on many of the altars of Paris, and then celebrated forty masses during forty hours. At each successive mass the priest, uttering certain mystic words, pricked the wax image, until finally, at the fortieth mass, he {17} pierced it to the heart, in order to bring about the death of the king. Thirteen years later, under the reign of Henry IV., the Duke de Biron, who had his head cut off in the Bastille, publicly accused Laffin, his confidant and denunciator, of being in league with the devil, and of possessing wax figures which spoke. Marie de Medicis employed, even whilst in exile, a magician named Fabroni, much hated by Richelieu, for whom Fabroni had predicted a speedy death.

It was in front of Notre Dame that by order of the princes, dukes, peers, and marshals of France, assembled in the Grand Chamber of Parliament, Damiens was condemned to do penance before being tortured and torn to pieces. He was to be tormented, by methods no matter how barbarous, until he revealed his accomplices, and was also required to make the amende honorable before the principal door of Notre Dame. Thither, in his shirt, he was conveyed on a sledge, with a lighted wax candle in his hand weighing two pounds; and there he went down on his knees, and confessed that “wickedly and traitorously he had perpetrated the most detestable act of wounding the king in the right side with the stab of a knife”; that he repented of the deed, and asked pardon for it of God, of the king, and of justice. After this he was to be carried on the sledge to the Place de Grève, where, on the scaffold, he was to undergo a variety of tortures, copied from those appointed for the punishment of Ravaillac. Finally, his goods were to be confiscated, the house where he was born pulled down, and his name stigmatised as infamous, and for ever forbidden thenceforth, under the severest penalties, to be borne by any French subject.


Damiens had been educated far above his rank. His moral character, however, was peculiarly bad. His life had been one perpetual {18} oscillation between debauchery and fanaticism. His changeableness of disposition was noticed during his imprisonment at Versailles. Sometimes he seemed thoroughly composed, as though he had suffered nothing and had nothing to suffer; at other times he burst into sudden and vehement passions, and attempted to kill himself against the walls of his dungeon or with the chains on his feet. As in one of his furious fits he had tried to bite off his tongue, his teeth were all drawn, in accordance with an official order.

When the sentence was read to him, Damiens simply remarked, “La journée sera rude.” Every kind of torture was applied to him to extort confessions. His guards remained at his side night and day, taking note of the cries and exclamations which escaped him in the midst of his sufferings. But Damiens had nothing to confess, and on the 28th of January he was carried, with his flesh lacerated and charred by fire, his bones broken, to the place of execution.

Immediately after his self-accusation in front of Notre Dame he was taken to the Place de Grève, where the hand which had held the knife was burnt with the flames of sulphur. Then he was torn with pincers in the arms and legs, the thighs and the breast, and into his wounds were poured red hot lead and boiling oil, with pitch, wax, and sulphur melted and mixed. The sufferer endured these tortures with surprising energy. He cried out from time to time, “Lord, give me patience and strength.” “But he did not blaspheme,” says Barbier, in his narrative of the scene, “nor mention any names.”

The end of the hideous tragedy was the dismemberment. The four traditional horses were not enough. Two more were added, and still the operation did not advance. Then the executioner, filled with horror, went to the neighbouring Hôtel de Ville to ask permission to use “the axe at the joints.” He was, according to Barbier, sharply rebuked by the king’s attendants, though in an account of the tragedy contributed at the time to the Gentleman’s Magazine (and derived from the gazettes published in Holland, where there was no censorship), the executioner was blamed for having delayed the employment of the axe so long.

There are conflicting accounts, too, as to the burning of the prisoner’s calves. It was said on the one hand that the garde des sceaux, Machault, caused red hot pincers to be applied in his presence to Damiens’ legs at the preliminary examination; but another version declares this to be a mistake, and ascribes the burning of his legs to the king’s attendants, who, seeing their master stabbed, are represented as punishing the assassin by the unlikely method of applying torches to his calves.

The torture of Damiens lasted many hours, and it was not till midnight, when both his legs and one of his arms had been torn off, that his remaining arm was dragged from the socket. The life of the poor wretch could scarcely have lasted so long as did the execution of the sentence passed upon him. A report of the trial was published by the Registrar of the Parliament; but the original record being destroyed, it is impossible to test the authenticity of this report. It fills four small volumes, and is entitled “Pièces Originales et Procèdures du Procès fait à Robert François Damiens, Paris, 1757.”

Ivan the Terrible, when his digestion was out of order, and he felt unequal to the effort of breakfasting, used to revive his jaded appetite by visiting the prisons and seeing criminals tortured. George Selwyn claimed to have made amends for his want of feeling in attending to see Lord Lovat’s head cut off by going to the undertaker’s to see it sewn on again, when, in presence of the decapitated corpse, he exclaimed with strange humour, and in imitation of the voice and manner of the Lord Chancellor at the trial:—“My Lord Lovat, your lordship may rise.” This dilettante in the sufferings of others is known to have paid a visit to Paris for the express purpose of seeing Damiens torn in pieces. On the day of the execution, according to Mr. Jesse (“George Augustus Selwyn and his contemporaries”), “he mingled with the crowd in a plain undress and bob wig,” when a French nobleman, observing the deep interest he took in the scene, and supposing from the simplicity of his attire that he was a person of the humbler ranks in life, chose to imagine that the stranger must infallibly be an executioner. “Eh, bien, monsieur,” he said, “êtes-vous arrivé pour voir ce spectacle?” “Oui, monsieur.” “Vous êtes bourreau?” “Non, non, monsieur, je n’ai pas cet honneur; je ne suis qu’un amateur.”

Wraxall tells the story somewhat differently. “Selwyn’s nervous irritability,” he says, “and anxious curiosity to observe the effect of dissolution on men, exposed him to much ridicule, not unaccompanied with censure. He was accused of attending all executions, disguised sometimes, to elude notice, in female attire. I have been assured that in 1756 (or 1757) he went over to Paris expressly for the purpose of witnessing the last moments of Damiens, who expired in the most acute {19} tortures for having attempted the life of Louis XV. Being among the crowd, and attempting to approach too near the scaffold, he was at first repulsed by one of the executioners, but having explained that he had made the journey from London solely with a view to be present at the punishment and death of Damiens, the man immediately caused the people to make way, exclaiming at the same time:—‘Faites place pour monsieur; c’est un Anglais et un amateur.’”

According to yet another story on this doleful subject, for which Horace Walpole is answerable, the Paris executioner, styled “Monsieur de Paris,” was surrounded by a number of provincial executioners, “Monsieur de Rouen,” “Monsieur de Bordeaux,” and so on. Selwyn joined the group, and on explaining to the Paris functionary that he was from London, was saluted with the exclamation, “Ah, monsieur de Londres!”

Among the minor celebrations of which the interior of Notre Dame has been the scene may be mentioned a mass said some twenty years before the Revolution for the broken arm of the famous dancer, Madeleine Guimard. One evening, when the fascinating Madeleine was performing in Les fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour, a heavy cloud fell from the theatrical heavens upon one of her slender arms and broke it. Then it was that the services of the Church were invoked on behalf of the popular ballerina.

The interesting and graceful, though far from beautiful, Madeleine, was justly esteemed by the clergy; for during the severe winter of 1768 she had given to every destitute family in her neighbourhood enough to live on for a year, at the same time paying personal visits to each of them. “Not yet Magdalen repentant, but already Magdalen charitable!” exclaimed a famous preacher, in reference to Madeleine Guimard’s good action. “The hand,” he added, “which knows so well how to give alms will not be rejected by St. Peter when it knocks at the gate of Paradise.”

The Paris Cathedral has, strangely enough, been the scene, both in ancient and modern times, of dramatic performances. There, in the olden days, “Mysteries” were represented; and there, in 1790, a melodrama was played, entitled “The Taking of the Bastille,” and described as “specially written for Notre Dame.” This performance was followed by a grand Te Deum, sung by members of the Opera, though one of the first effects of the Revolution was to drive the best singers away from Paris. Soon afterwards, music, history, and religion were once more to be intermingled. This was in August, 1792. when the last day of the French Monarchy (August 10) was at hand.

The most imposing ceremony ever witnessed within the walls of Notre Dame was, as before said, the Coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte, at the hands of the Pope, on Sunday, the 2nd December, 1804. The Holy Father set out with his retinue at ten o’clock in the morning, and much earlier than the Emperor, in order that the ecclesiastical and royal processions should not clash. He was accompanied by a numerous body of clergy, gorgeously attired and resplendently ornamented, whilst his escort consisted of detachments of the Imperial Guard. A richly decorated portico had been erected all around the Place Notre Dame to receive on their descent from the royal carriages the sovereigns and princes who were to proceed to the ancient basilica. Already, when the Pope entered the church, there were assembled within it the deputies of the towns, the representatives of the magistracy and the army, the sixty bishops, with their clergy, the Senate, the Legislative Body, the Council of State, the Princes of Nassau, Hesse, and Baden, the Arch-Chancellor of the Germanic Empire, and the ministers of the different European Powers. The great door of Notre Dame had been closed, because the back of the Imperial throne was placed against it. The church, therefore, was entered by the side doors, situated at the two extremities of the transept. When the Pope, preceded by the cross and by the insignia of his office, appeared, the whole assembly rose from their seats, and a body of five hundred instrumentalists and vocalists gave forth with sublime effect the sacred chant, Tu es Petrus. The Pope walked slowly towards the altar, before which he knelt, and then took his place on a throne that had been prepared for him to the right of the altar. The sixty prelates of the French Church presented themselves in succession to salute him, and the arrival of the Imperial family was now awaited.

The cathedral had been magnificently adorned. Hangings of velvet, sprinkled with golden bees, descended from roof to pavement. At the foot of the altar stood two plain arm-chairs which the Emperor and Empress were to occupy before the ceremony of crowning. At the western extremity of the church, and just opposite the altar, raised upon a staircase of twenty-four steps and placed between imposing columns, stood an immense {20} throne—an edifice within an edifice—on which the Emperor and Empress were to seat themselves when crowned.


The Emperor did not arrive until considerably after the hour appointed, and the position of the Pope was a painful one during this long delay, which was due to the excessive precautions taken to prevent the two processions from getting mixed. The Emperor set out from the Tuileries in a carriage which seemed entirely made of glass, and which was surmounted by gilt genii bearing a crown. He was attired in a costume designed expressly for the occasion, in the style of the sixteenth century. He wore a plumed hat and a short mantle. He was not to assume the Imperial robes until he had entered the cathedral. Escorted by his marshals on horseback, he advanced slowly along the Rue St. Honoré, the Quays of the Seine, and the Place Notre Dame, amidst the acclamations of immense crowds, delighted to see their favourite general at last invested with Imperial power. On reaching the portico, already spoken of, Napoleon alighted from his carriage and walked towards the cathedral. Beside him was borne the grand crown, in the form of a tiara, modelled after that of Charlemagne. Up to this point Napoleon had worn only the crown of the Cæsars: a simple golden laurel. Having entered the church to the sound of solemn music, he knelt, and then passed on to the chair which he was to occupy before taking possession of the throne.

The ceremony then began. The sceptre, the sword, and the Imperial robe had been placed on the altar. The Pope anointed the Emperor on the forehead, the arms, and the hands; then blessed the sword, with which he girded him, and the sceptre, which he placed in his hand; and finally proposed to take up the crown. Napoleon, however, saved him all possible trouble in the matter by crowning himself.

“This action,” says M. Thiers, in his description of the ceremony, “was perfectly appreciated by all present, and produced an indescribable effect,” though it may be doubted whether in crowning himself Napoleon departed from the traditional practice at Imperial coronations. We have at all events in our own time seen, at several coronations, emperors, and even kings, assert the autocratic principle by taking the crown {21} from the hands of the officiating prelate to place it on their own head without his aid.

Napoleon, taking the crown of the Empress, now approached Josephine, and as she knelt before him, placed it with visible tenderness upon her head, whereupon she burst into tears.

He next proceeded towards the grand throne, and, as he ascended it, was followed by his brothers, bearing the train of his robe. Then the Pope, according to custom, advanced to the foot of the throne to bless the new sovereign, and to chant the very words which greeted Charlemagne in the basilica of St. Peter, when the Roman clergy suddenly proclaimed him Emperor of the West: “Vivat in æternum semper Augustus!” At this chant shouts of “Vive l’Empereur!” resounded through the arches of Notre Dame, while the thunder of cannon announced to all Paris the solemn moment of Napoleon’s consecration.

The coronation of Napoleon has been made the subject of a masterpiece by David, whose work may be seen, and with interest studied, in the galleries of Versailles. The moment chosen by the painter is that at which the Emperor, after crowning himself with his own hands, is about to place the crown on the head of Josephine, in presence of the Pope, the cardinals, the prelates, the princes, the princesses, and the great dignitaries of the Empire. There are no less than 150 figures in this composition, and the portraits, conscientiously painted, are, for the most part, very like. The two principal figures occupy the centre of the picture. Napoleon is standing up on one of the steps of the altar, clad in a long tunic of white satin and a heavy cloak of crimson velvet sprinkled with golden bees. His hands are raised in the air, holding the crown which he is about to place on the head of the Empress. Josephine is kneeling on a cushion of violet velvet, attired in a white dress, above which she wears a crimson cloak sprinkled with bees, held up by Mme. de la Rochefoucauld, and Mme. de Lavalette, both in white dresses. Behind the Emperor is the Pope, seated in an arm-chair and holding up his right hand in sign of blessing.

David had originally represented Pius VII. with his hands on his knees, as if taking no part in the solemn scene. Napoleon, however, insisted on the painter giving him the attitude just described. “I did not bring him here from such a distance to do nothing!” he exclaimed.


“In his picture of the coronation,” says M. Arsène Houssaye, “David, carried away by his enthusiasm, has reached the inaccessible summits of the ideal. His Napoleon is radiant with health, strength, and genius. The face of Josephine beams with conjugal tenderness and exquisite grace. The group formed by the Pope and the clergy is exceedingly fine.”

The execution of this picture occupied David four years. When it was finished Napoleon went to see it, not, by any means, for the first time, and said to the painter: “Very good; very good indeed, David. You have exactly seized my idea. You have made me a French knight. I am obliged to you for transmitting to future ages the proof of an affection I wished to give to her who shares with me the responsibilities of government.”

When the picture was exhibited a friendly critic pointed out to the painter that he had made the Empress younger and prettier than she really was. “Go and tell her so!” was the reply. {22}



The Massacre of St. Bartholomew—The Events that preceded it—Catherine de Medicis—Admiral Coligny—“The King-Slayer”—The Signal for the Massacre—Marriage of the Duc de Joyeuse and Marguerite of Lorraine.

ONE of the oldest and most interesting churches in Paris is that of St. Germain l’Auxerrois, which, dating from the last days of Lutetia, before the name of Parisius, or Paris, had been finally adopted for the gradually expanding city, is closely associated with the most terrible event in French history. Still, at the present time, in a perfect state of preservation, it was built about the year 572; and just one thousand years afterwards, in 1572, the signal for the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day was sounded from its belfry. Philip II., King of Spain, Pope Pius IV., and the Guises, especially Cardinal de Lorraine, were the authors of the massacre. Catherine de Medicis and her son Charles IX., King of France, were but accomplices and executants in the atrocious plot. Before speaking of the principal incidents of this ghastly day, a glance is necessary at the events which preceded it. Charles IX. and his sister Elizabeth, wife of Philip II., had brought together at Bayonne, in 1565, all the most distinguished members of the French Court. But the dominating figure of the assembly was the too famous Duke of Alva, worthy confidant and adviser of Philip II. Catherine de Medicis had frequent conferences with the duke, and in spite of the secrecy with which they were conducted, certain words reached the ear of the Prince of Béarn, afterwards Henry IV., whose extreme youth disarmed all suspicion, but who perceived, nevertheless, that the object of these conversations was to determine the best method of destroying the Protestants in France. The young prince hastened to tell the Queen of Navarre, his mother, and she informed the Prince de Condé and Admiral de Coligny, chiefs of the Protestant party, who at once took counsel as to how the blow with which they were threatened could be averted.

The next year, in 1566, the assembly at Moulins furnished an opportunity for bringing about a reconciliation between the Catholic house of Guise and the Protestant house of Châtillon. But so little sincerity was there in the compact of peace, that just after the assembly had broken up Coligny was apprised that a plot had been formed for his assassination. He complained to the king, and was now more than ever on his guard.

The whole of the Protestant party became filled with mistrust; and observing this, Catherine de Medicis determined to strike her blow at once. It was difficult, of course, to raise troops without alarming the Huguenots. But it so chanced that an army sent by the King of Spain to the Low Countries was then marching along the French frontiers. As if apprehensive for the safety of her dominions, Catherine raised 6,000 Swiss troops, and after the Spaniards had passed towards their destination, marched them to the centre of the kingdom. Everything seemed to favour Catherine’s designs. But someone having informed the Calvinists of the peril which threatened them, they assembled in the house of the admiral at Châtillon, and there resolved to seize upon the Court, which was enjoying the fine weather at Monceau, in Brie, without the least precaution for its own safety; as though it had nothing to fear from that body of men whose destruction it notoriously meditated. The design of the Protestants was to drive away the Guises, and place the king and queen at the head of their own party. The attempt, however, failed through the firm attitude of the Swiss troops, who repulsed the attack of Andelot and La Rochefoucauld, and brought the king from Meaux to Paris surrounded by a strong battalion.

The war began again, and the Calvinists, commanded by the Prince de Condé, were defeated, the prince himself being slain, or rather assassinated, during the conflict. He had just surrendered to Dargence, when Montesquieu, captain of the Duke of Anjou’s guard, on learning who he was, shot him in the head, exclaiming, “Tuez! Tuez, Mordieu!”

The Prince of Béarn now became the chief of the Protestant party, and as such, directed their forces at the Battle of Jarnac, with Coligny as second in command. The result of this engagement was a temporary peace, by which certain privileges were granted to the Protestants: not to be enjoyed, but simply to inspire a false confidence. It was not so easy to deceive Admiral Coligny, who, observing that the Guises had lost nothing of the influence they exercised over the king and queen, resolved to remain still upon his guard. At last, however, Catherine {23} de Medicis succeeded in enticing him to the Court, and with him the Queen of Navarre, the Prince of Béarn, and the foremost chiefs of the Protestant party. Catherine spoke in a confiding tone to the old admiral about the war she pretended to contemplate against Flanders, and the king said to him, with a familiar slap on the shoulder: “I have you now, and don’t intend to let you go.” Flattered by these attentions, he felt secure, though many of his friends still doubted the sincerity of the king and queen. Their suspicions were confirmed by the sudden death of the Queen of Navarre, which was attributed to poison. Vainly, however, did they attempt to awaken the brave old admiral to his danger. He had, by express permission of the king, made a journey to Châtillon, and many of the Protestant chiefs warned and entreated him on no account to return to the Court. One of them, Langoiran by name, asked the admiral’s permission to quit his service. “Why?” said Coligny, in astonishment. “Because,” replied Langoiran, “they are loading us with caresses, and I would rather fly like a dog than die like a dupe.” Nothing, however, could disturb the confidence of the admiral, who returned to Paris only to throw himself into the arms of his assassins.

The young King of Navarre, the future Henry IV., was about to be married to the sister of the King of France, and the ceremony was to be made the occasion of all kinds of entertainments and festivities. The enemies of the Protestants were meanwhile preparing their massacre; and in the first place the death of Coligny was resolved upon.

When Richard III., in Shakespeare’s play, says to one of his pages, “Know’st thou a murderer?” the ingenuous youth replies—

“I know a ruined gentleman
Whose humble means match not his haughty tastes.”

A gentleman of this sort (and it was precisely from such material during the Renaissance that murderers were formed) presented himself in La Brie, the favourite country of witchery and bedevilment. He was called Maurevel, and surnamed, for no obvious reason, “the King-slayer.” Hired for the purpose, he concealed himself in a house in the Rue des Fossés Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, whence, just as Coligny passed by, on his way from the Louvre to dine at his house in Rue Béthizi, he fired at him with an arquebus, wounding him severely in the left arm and cutting off the forefinger of his left hand. Without showing much emotion, Coligny pointed to the house from which the shots had proceeded (the arquebus was loaded with several bullets), and tried to get the assassin arrested; but he had already fled. Then, leaning on his servants, he finished the journey to his own house on foot.

The king was playing at tennis when the news of the infamous act was brought to him. “Shall I never have any peace?” he exclaimed, as he threw down his racquet. The admiral’s friends resolved to complain at once to the king, and to demand justice. For this purpose Henry, King of Navarre, accompanied by the Prince de Condé, went to the palace, when Charles replied, with an oath, that he would inflict punishment. It was evident, he added, that a crime of this kind was a threat against the life of the king himself, and that no one would henceforth be safe if it were left unavenged.

The king, profanely as he spoke, was sincere; nor had the remotest thought of a massacre yet entered his head. The very day of the attack on Coligny he paid a visit of sympathy to the wounded admiral, accompanied by his mother, the Duke of Anjou, and a brilliant suite. He called him the bravest general in the kingdom, and assured him that his assailant should be terribly punished, and the edict in favour of Protestants in France absolutely obeyed.

Hitherto the queen had not dared to breathe to the king a word of her murderous designs, fearing an explosion of indignation on his part; and Charles’s first bursts of passion were always terrible. But as they were returning to the Louvre from their visit to the admiral she succeeded in frightening her royal son by hinting at the dark and foul projects which she attributed to the admiral. So enraged was the king that she could now fearlessly own to him that everything had taken place by her orders and those of the Dukes of Anjou and Guise.

The too credulous Charles vowed that in face of such nefarious plots on the part of the Protestants, Coligny should die, and the Huguenots be put wholesale to the sword, so that not one should survive to reproach him with the act.

The massacre being thus decided upon, it now only remained to put the infamous project into execution. In a conference at the Tuileries between the king, the Duke of Anjou, the Duke of Nevers, the Count of Angoulême, illegitimate brother of the king, the keeper of the seals, Birague, Marshal de Tavanne and Count de Retz, the slaughter was fixed for Sunday, August 24th, 1572, the day of the Feast of St. Bartholomew. {24} There was a difference of opinion as to whether the King of Navarre, the Prince de Condé, and the Montmorencys should be included in the massacre. Then Tavanne summoned Jean Charron, provost of the merchants, and in the king’s presence ordered him to arm the Citizen Companies, and to march them at midnight to the Hôtel de Ville for active service.


The ferocious impatience of the Duke of Guise, who had undertaken the murder of Coligny, did not allow him to await the signal agreed upon for the massacre. He hurried, at two o’clock in the morning, to the house of the admiral, and ordered the gates to be opened in the name of the king. An officer, commanding the guard stationed in the court-yard to protect the admiral’s person, turned traitor, and admitted the assassins with a deferential salute. Three colonels in the French army, Petrucci, Siennois, and Besme; a German, a native of Picardy named Attin, Sarlaboux, and a few other gentlemen, rushed up the staircase, shouting, “Death to him!” At these words Coligny, understanding that his life was as good as lost, got up, and leaning against the wall, was saying his prayers, when the assassins broke into his room. Besme advanced towards him. “Are you Coligny?” he asked, with the point of his sword at the old man’s throat. “I am,” he replied with calmness; “but will you not respect my age?” Besme plunged his sword into the admiral’s body, drew it out smoking, and then struck his victim several times in the face. The admiral fell, and Besme, hastening to the window, cried out to the Catholic noblemen who were waiting in the court-yard, “It is done!” “M. d’Angoulême will not believe it till he sees the corpse at his feet,” replied the Duke of Guise. Sarlaboux and Besme seized the body and threw it into the court-yard. The Duke of Angoulême wiped the admiral’s face with his handkerchief; Guise said, “It is really he”; and both of them, after kicking the body with ferocious delight, leaped on horseback, and exclaimed, “Courage, soldiers! we have begun well; let us now see to {25} the others. By order of the King!”



This crime had scarcely been consummated when the great bell of St.-Germain-l’Auxerrois gave the signal for the massacre, which soon became general. At the cries and shrieks raised round them, the Calvinists came out of their houses, half-naked and without arms, to be slain by the troops of the Duke of Guise, who himself ran along the streets, shouting “To arms!” and inciting the people to massacre. The butchery was universal and indiscriminate, without distinction of age or sex. The air resounded with the yells of the assassins and the groans of their victims. When daylight broke upon the hideous picture, bodies bathed in gore were everywhere to be seen. Dead and dying were collected, and thrown promiscuously into the Seine. Within the precincts of the palace, the royal guards, drawn up in two lines, killed with battle-axes unhappy wretches who were brought to them unarmed and thrust beneath their very weapons. Some fell without a murmur; others protested with their last breath against the treachery of the king, who had sworn to defend them. At daybreak the king went to the window of his bedroom, and seeing some unfortunate Protestants making a frantic attempt to escape by swimming across the river, seized an arquebus and fired upon them, exclaiming, “Die, you wretches!”

Marsillac, Count de la Rochefoucauld, one of the king’s favourites, had passed a portion of the night with him, when Charles, who had some thought of saving his life, advised him to sleep in the Louvre. But he at last let him go, and Marsillac was stabbed as he went out.

Antoine of Clermont Renel, running away in his shirt, was massacred by his cousin, Bussy d’Amboise. Count Teligni, who, ten months before, had married Admiral de Coligny’s daughter, possessed such an agreeable countenance and such gentle manners that the first assassins who entered his house could not make up their minds to strike him. But they were followed by others less scrupulous, who at once put the young man to death. An advocate named Taverny, assisted by one servant, resisted at his house a siege which lasted nine hours; though, after exhausting every means of defence, he was at last slain. Several noblemen attached to the King of Navarre were assassinated in his abode. The prince himself and Condé, his cousin, were arrested, and threatened with death. Charles IX., however, spared them on their abjuring Calvinism.

A few days before the massacre Caumont de la Force had bought some horses of a dealer, who, chancing to be in the immediate neighbourhood when Admiral de Coligny was assassinated, hastened to inform his customer, well known as one of the Protestant leaders, of what had taken place. This nobleman and his two sons lived in the Faubourg St.-Germain, which was not yet connected with the right bank by any bridge. The horse-dealer, therefore, swam across the Seine to warn La Force, who, however, had already effected his escape. But as his children were not following him, he returned to save them, and had scarcely set foot in his house when the assassins were upon him. Their leader, a man named Martin, entered his room, disarmed both father and sons, and told them they must die. La Force offered the would-be murderers a ransom of 2,000 crowns, payable in two days. The chief accepted, and told La Force and his children to place in their hats paper crosses, and to turn back their right sleeves to the shoulder: such being the signs of immunity among the slaughterers. Thus prepared, Martin conveyed them to his house in the Rue des Petits Champs, and made La Force swear that neither he nor his children would leave the place until the 2,000 crowns were paid. For additional security, he placed some Swiss soldiers on guard, when one of them, touched with compassion, offered to let the prisoners escape. La Force, however, refused, preferring, he said, to die rather than fail in his word. An aunt of La Force’s furnished him with the 2,000 crowns, and he was about to count them out to Martin, when a French nobleman came to inform La Force that the Duke of Anjou wished to speak to him. On this pretext the emissary conducted both father and sons from the house without their caps: with nothing, that is to say, to distinguish them from the victims of assassination. They were at once set upon. La Force’s eldest son fell, crying out “Je suis mort.” The father, pierced to the heart, uttered a similar exclamation; on which the youngest La Force had the presence of mind to throw himself to the ground as if dead. Supposed to be a corpse, he was gradually stripped of his clothes, until a man who intended to steal from him a pair of woollen stockings, of which he had not yet been divested, could not restrain, as he looked upon the boy’s pallid face, some expression of sympathy. Seeing that the stranger had taken pity on him, young La Force whispered that he was not dead. He was told to keep quiet; and the man with a taste for woollen stockings wrapped him up in his cloak and {27} carried him away. “What have you there?” asked an assassin. “My nephew,” replied the man. “He went out last night and got dead drunk, and I mean, as soon as I get him home, to give him a good thrashing.” Young La Force made his preserver a present of thirty crowns, and had himself conveyed in safety to the Arsenal, of which his uncle, Marshal de Biron, was governor.

The most famous, or rather infamous, of those who took part in the massacre as leaders or principal agents were Jean Férier, an advocate, and at that time captain of his quarter, Peyou, a butcher, and Curcé, a goldsmith, who, with upturned sleeves and bloody arms, boasted that 400 Huguenots had died beneath his blade. The massacre lasted in Paris with diminishing fury for a whole month. It was enacted, moreover, in nearly all the large towns; though in some few the governors refused to execute the orders transmitted to them. At Lyons 4,000 were killed. Here the governor, Mandelot by name, finding after several days’ massacre that there were still a number of Huguenots to slay, ordered the executioner to despatch them; on which that functionary replied that it was his duty to execute criminals convicted of violating the laws of State, but that he was not an assassin, and would not do assassins’ work. This spirited reply recalls Joseph de Maistre’s celebrated paradox about the executioner and the soldier: the former putting to death only the worst offenders in virtue of a legal mandate, yet universally loathed; the latter plunging his sword into the body of anyone he is told to slay, yet universally honoured. The explanation of the ingenious paradox is, after all, simple enough. The executioner kills in cold blood, without danger to himself; the soldier risks his life in the performance of his duty.

A Lyons butcher, less scrupulous than the executioner, killed so many Huguenots that, according to Dulaure, in his Singularités Historiques, he was invited to dinner by the Pope’s Legate, passing through Lyons on his way to Paris. The number of Huguenots massacred throughout France was estimated at 60,000. Though the murders were generally due to fanaticism, many persons were put to death for purely private reasons. Heirs killed those from whom they expected to inherit, lovers their rivals, candidates for public offices those whom they wished to replace. On the third day of the massacre Charles IX. went to Parliament, and avowed that the slaughter of the Huguenots had taken place by his command, and in order to anticipate an intended Huguenot rising organised by Coligny. The Parliament accepted this announcement with approval; and despite the absence of all evidence against the admiral, it was decreed that his body should be dragged through the streets on a hurdle, then exhibited in the Place de Grève, and ultimately hung by the heels on a gibbet at Montfaucon. His house was at the same time to be destroyed, the trees in his garden cut down, and the members of his family reduced to the condition of plebeians, or roturiers, and declared unable to hold any public office; which, however, did not prevent Coligny’s daughter from becoming soon afterwards the wife of the Prince of Orange.

Not many years after the massacre of St. Bartholomew, the Church of St.-Germain-l’Auxerrois, in September, 1581, was the starting-point of a very different series of performances. “On Monday, September 18th,” says the writer of a contemporary account, “the Duc de Joyeuse (Henry III.’s favourite ‘minion’) and Marguerite of Lorraine, daughter of Nicholas de Vaudemont, and sister of the queen, were betrothed in the Queen’s Chamber, and the following Sunday were married at three o’clock in the afternoon at the parish church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. The king led the bride, followed by the queen, the princesses, and other ladies in such superb attire that no one recollects to have seen anything like it in France so rich and so sumptuous. The dresses of the king and of the bridegroom were the same, and were so covered with embroidery, pearls, and precious stones, that it was impossible to estimate their value. Such an accoutrement had, for instance, cost ten thousand crowns in the making; and at the seventeen feasts which were now from day to day given by the king to the princes and lords related to the bride, and by other great persons of the Court, the guests appeared each time in some new costume, gorgeous with embroidery, gold, silver, and diamonds. The expense was so great, what with tournaments, masquerades, presents, devices, music, and liveries, that it was said the king would not be quit for twelve hundred thousand crowns. On Tuesday, October 16th, the Cardinal de Bourbon gave his feast in the palace attached to his abbey, St.-Germain-des-Prés, and caused to be constructed on the Seine a superb barque in the form of a triumphal car, which was to convey the king, princes, princesses, and the newly married pair from the Louvre to the Pré-aux-Clercs in solemn pomp. This stately vehicle {28} was to be drawn on the water by smaller boats disguised as sea-horses, Tritons, dolphins, whales, and other marine monsters, to the number of twenty-four. In front, concealed in the belly of the said monsters, were a number of skilled musicians, with trumpets, clarions, cornets, violins, and hautboys, besides even some firework-makers, who, at dusk, were to afford pastime not only to the king, but to fifty thousand persons on the banks.” The piece, however, was not well played, and it was impossible to make the animals advance as was intended, so that the king, after having from four o’clock in the afternoon till seven watched at the Tuileries the movements and workings of these animals without perceiving any effect, said sarcastically, “Ce sont des bêtes qui commandent a d’autres bêtes,” and drove away with the queen in his coach, to be present at the cardinal’s feast, which was the most magnificent of all. Among other entertainments, his Eminence gave that of an artificial garden, luxuriant with growing flowers and fruits, as if it had been May or August.


On Sunday, the 15th, the queen gave her feast at the Louvre, and after the feast the ballet of “Circe and her Nymphs.” This work, otherwise entitled “Ballet Comique de la Reine,” was represented in the large Salle de Bourbon by the queen, the princes, the princesses, and the great nobles of the Court. It began at ten o’clock in the evening, and did not finish till three the next morning. The queen and the princesses, who represented the Naiads and the Nereids, terminated the ballet by a distribution of presents to the princes and nobles, who, in the shape of Tritons, had danced with them. For each Triton there was a gold medal with a suitable inscription; and the composer, Baltazarini—or Beaujoyeux, as he was now called—received flattering compliments at the end of the representation from the whole Court. His genius was extolled and his glory celebrated in verses which hailed him as one who “from the ashes of Greece had revived a new art,” who with “divine wit” had composed a ballet, and who had so placed it on the stage that he surpassed himself in the character of “inventive geometrician.”{29}

On the evening of Monday, the 16th, at eight o’clock, the garden of the Louvre was the scene of a torch-lit combat between Fourteen Whites and Fourteen Yellows. On Tuesday, the 17th, there were conflicts with the pike, the sword, and the butt end of the lance, on foot and on horseback. On Thursday, the 19th, took place the Ballet of the Horses, in which Spanish steeds, race-horses, and others met in hostile fashion, retired, and turned round to the sound of trumpets and clarions, having been trained to it five months beforehand. “All this,” says the chronicler, “was beautiful and agreeable, but the finest feature of Tuesday and Thursday was the music of voices and instruments, being the most harmonious and most delicate that was ever heard. There were also fireworks, which sparkled and burst, to the fright and joy of everyone, and without injury to any.”

It was in the Church of St.-Germain-l’Auxerrois, too, three centuries earlier, that a priest astonished his congregation—and afterwards, when the incident was reported, the whole of Europe—by his mode of pronouncing the excommunication decreed by Pope Innocent IV. against the Emperor Frederick II. “Hearken to me, my brethren,” he said. “I am ordered to pronounce a terrible anathema against the Emperor Frederick to the accompaniment of bells and lighted candles. I am ignorant of the reasons on which this judgment is based. All I know is that discord and hatred exist between the Pope and the Emperor, and that they are accustomed to overwhelm each other with insults. Therefore I excommunicate, as far as lies in my power, the oppressor, and I absolve the one who is suffering a persecution so pernicious to the Christian religion.” It has been said that a report of this strange excommunication found its way all over Europe. The priest, as might have been expected, was rewarded by the Emperor and punished by the Pope.

Nearly two centuries later, in 1744, the celebrated actress and singer, Sophie Arnould, came into the world in the very room in which Admiral de Coligny was assassinated. Sophie Arnould, of whose operatic career mention is made elsewhere, was the only French actress of whom Garrick, in narrating his experiences of Parisian theatrical life, could speak with enthusiasm. As a singer she does not seem to have possessed much power, for she writes in the fragment of her “Memoirs” which has come down to us: “Nature had seconded my taste for music with a tolerably agreeable voice, weak but sonorous, though not extremely so. It was, however, sound and well balanced, so that, with a good enunciation, and without any noticeable effort, not a word of what I sang was lost even in the most spacious buildings.” With regard to her personal appearance, Sophie writes: “My figure is slender and regular, though I must admit that I am not tall. I have a graceful frame, and my movements are easy. I possess a well-formed leg and a pretty foot, with hands and arms like a model, eyes well set and an open countenance, lively and attractive.” Collé, in his “Journal and Memoirs,” declares that soon after her début Sophie was the recognised “Queen of the Opera,” and he adds: “I have never yet seen united in the same actress more grace, more truthfulness of sentiment, nobility of expression, intelligence, and fire, never beheld more touching pathos. Her physiognomy represents every kind of grief, and while depicting horror her countenance does not lose one feature of its beauty.”{30}




The Oldest Bridge in Paris—Henri IV.—His Assassination by Ravaillac.—Marguerite de Valois—The Statue of Henri IV.—The Institute—The Place de Grève.

PARIS in 1886 contained, according to the census of that year, 2,344,550 inhabitants, of whom 1,714,956 (or 73.15 per cent.) lived on the right bank of the Seine. So much more important indeed by the number of its population as well as by its manifestations of life in every form is the right bank than the left, that a man might live all his life in the former division of Paris and, without ever having crossed the Seine, be held to know the French capital thoroughly. One may indeed be a thorough Parisian without ever having quitted the Boulevards.

Ancient Paris, as represented by the “Cité” of to-day, the Paris of the left bank, and the Paris of the right bank are bound together by the Pont-Neuf: the one structure which they have all three in common. The Pont-Neuf may, therefore, be made a convenient starting-point from which to approach the right bank, the left bank, and finally the “City.”

The Pont-Neuf is, in spite of its name, the oldest bridge in Paris; and it is almost the only one which retains without alteration its original form. From time to time it has been partially repaired, but the lines on which it was originally constructed were never changed. Parisians have for the last three centuries regarded the Pont-Neuf as the type of solidity; and a Parisian who does not aspire to originality in conversation will not hesitate, even to this day, when asked how he is, to reply that he is “as strong as the Pont-Neuf.” The first stone of the bridge was laid on Saturday, May 31, 1578, by King Henri III., in presence of his mother, Queen Catherine de Medicis, his wife, Queen Louise, and the principal officials of the kingdom. As the king had just been assisting at the obsequies of his favourites, Quélus and Maugiron, killed in a duel, he was very melancholy, and the bridge acquired everywhere the name of the Bridge of Tears. The idea of connecting the left bank with the island and the island with the right bank had been entertained by King Henri II. Henri III. undertook to defray the cost of construction. But this he did only in a theoretical way; for three years after his death, in 1592, the chief builder of the bridge, Guillaume Marchand, was still unpaid. The work, meanwhile, was far from complete, {31} interrupted as it had been by the troubles of the League; and it was not until Henri IV. had established his power at Paris and throughout France that, in May, 1598, it was resumed. Three arches of the principal arm had yet to be reared, and it was only in 1603 that the king was able to perform the ceremony of crossing the bridge from left bank to right; part of the journey even then having to be made on a temporary plank, so insecurely fixed that it was by a mere piece of royal luck that the venturesome monarch did not go over into the Seine. In undertaking the hazardous passage, he indicated to the friends who tried to dissuade him his belief in the “divinity that doth hedge a king;” and he, in any case, failed on this perilous occasion either to break his neck or drown. The builder of the Pont-Neuf, Guillaume Marchand, was also its architect: so, at least, asserts his epitaph in the Church of St. Gervais: “The celebrated architect,” he is called, “who created two admirable works: the Royal Castle of St. Germain and the Pont-Neuf of Paris.” Marchand, however, died in 1604, so that although the bridge may have been originally planned by him, it is quite possible that the design may have been completed by another hand, and that the official title of “architect to the bridge” may have belonged to Baptiste du Cerceau, for whom it is often claimed.

What is called the Pont-Neuf consists really of two bridges: one connecting the left bank with the island, the other stretching from the opposite side of the island shore to the right bank. According to its original plan, the Pont-Neuf, like all the old Paris bridges, was to support a number of houses for which cellars had been constructed beforehand among the piles on which the bridge rested. Henri IV., however, refused to allow the intended houses to be built, determined not to spoil the view of the Louvre, which he had just constructed. Many years afterwards, however, in the reign of Louis XV., a number of little shops were raised on the Pont-Neuf, occupied by match-sellers, sellers of hot and cold drinks, dog-shearers, second-hand booksellers, chestnut-roasters, makers of pancakes and apple fritters, shoeblacks, quacks, and musicians more or less blind. These shops and stalls were maintained until the first days of the Second Empire, when they disappeared.

Henri IV. was determined to proclaim to future ages his connection with the bridge of which he considered himself in some sense the author; and on its completion he adorned it with an equestrian statue of himself in bronze which is almost as celebrated as the bridge itself. The statue stands on the promontory of the island between the two spans of the structure; and from this point a magnificent view may be obtained of the course of the Seine above and below bridge. The original statue was the work of Jean de Bologne, and of his pupil, Pierre Tacca. It was unveiled on August 23rd, 1613, at which time the corners of the pedestal were adorned by four slaves, since removed, but still preserved in the museum of the Louvre. Three years later the populace dragged to the Pont-Neuf the maimed and lacerated body of Marshal d’Ancre, and having cut it into pieces, burnt it before the statue. The so-called Marshal d’Ancre—Concini, by his family name—had come to Paris in the suite of Marie de Medicis, wife of Henri IV. He married one of the queen’s attendants, and by intrigues and speculations of every kind succeeded in gaining a position of great influence, together with enormous wealth. He was known to be guilty of all sorts of abuses, and was suspected of having been privy to some of the attempts made upon the life of Henri IV. On the accession of Louis XIII., after the assassination of Henri IV. by Ravaillac, an ambush, not without the knowledge of Louis XIII., was laid for the marshal; and, to the delight of the people of Paris, he fell into it. According to a legend of the period, his heart, after he had been slain, was cut out, roasted, and eaten!

Henri IV., the first of the royal house of Bourbon, was the greatest of all the French kings, and at least the best of the kings of the Bourbon line. Such faults as undoubtedly belonged to him seem to have had no effect but to increase his popularity; perhaps because, in a degree, they belonged also to the great mass of his subjects.

This doubtful husband, good friend, and excellent ruler, beloved with warmth by his subjects, was nevertheless made the object of numerous attempts at assassination, the last of which proved fatal. His would-be murderers were for the most part religious fanatics—as dangerous in that day as the fanatics of revolution in ours; and to this class belonged Ravaillac, at whose hands Henri was destined to perish.

Francis Ravaillac, the son of an advocate, was born and educated at Angoulême. When very young, he lived with one Rosières, also a lawyer, whom he served as clerk and valet. He afterwards lived with other legal practitioners, and at length, on the death of his last master, {32} conducted lawsuits for himself. This profession he continued for several years, but to such small advantage that he finally quitted it, and gained his living by teaching. At this time his father and mother lived apart, and were so indigent that both subsisted chiefly on alms. Ravaillac, now thirty years old, and unmarried, lodged with his mother, and, becoming insolvent, was thrown into prison for debt.


He was naturally of a gloomy disposition, and while under the depression of trouble was subject to the strangest hallucinations. In prison he often believed himself surrounded with fire, sulphur, and incense; and such fancies continued after he was released. He asserted that on the Saturday night after Christmas, 1609, having made his meditations, as he was wont, in bed, with his hands clasped and his feet crossed, he felt his mouth and face covered by some invisible agent, and was at the same time urged by an irresistible impulse to sing the Psalms of David. He therefore chanted the psalms “Dixit Dominus,” “Miserere,” and “De profundis” quite through, and declared that he seemed to have a trumpet in his mouth, which made his voice as shrill and loud as that instrument in war.

Whilst his mind was thus unhinged by fanaticism, he often reflected on the king’s breach of promise in not compelling the Huguenots to return to the Catholic Church, and determined to go to Paris to admonish him to neglect this duty no longer. Arrived at Paris, he went frequently to the Louvre, and in vain begged many persons to introduce him to his Majesty. One of those applied to was Father Daubigny, a Jesuit, whom he informed not only of his desire to speak to the king, but of his wish to join the famous Order. Daubigny advised him to dismiss all these thoughts from his mind and to confine himself to bead-telling and prayer; but Ravaillac profited little by the counsel, and, under the conviction that Henri ought to make war on the Huguenots, took to loitering {33} constantly about the Court, in hope of a chance interview with his Majesty.


Some days later he happened to meet the king driving in a coach near St. Innocents’ Church. His desire to speak to him grew more ardent at the prospect of success, and he ran up to the coach, exclaiming, “Sire, I address you in the name of our Lord Jesus and of the Blessed Virgin.” But the king put him back with his stick, and would not hear him. After this repulse, despairing of being able to influence his Majesty by admonition, he determined to kill him. But he could come to no decision as to the mode of executing his design, and after a time returned to Angoulême.


He continued in a state of intense anxiety, sometimes considering his project of assassination as praiseworthy, sometimes as unlawful. Shortly afterwards he attended Mass in the monastery of the Franciscan Friars at Angoulême, and going afterwards to confession, admitted, among other things, an intention to murder, though without saying that Henri was the proposed victim. Nor did the confessor inquire as to the details of the crime. Still restless and disturbed, Ravaillac went back to Paris, and on entering the city, found his desire to kill the king intensified. He took lodgings close to the Louvre: but not liking his rooms, went to an inn in the neighbourhood to see if accommodation could be had there. The inn was full; but whilst Ravaillac conversed with the landlord, his eye happened to be attracted by a knife, sharp-pointed and double-edged, that lay on the table; and it occurred to him that here was a fit instrument for his purpose. He accordingly took occasion to convey it away under his doublet, and having had a new handle made for it, carried it about in his pocket.

But he faltered in his resolution, and abandoning it once more, set out on his way home. As he went along he somehow broke the point of his knife. At an inn where he stopped for refreshment he heard some soldiers talking about a design on the part of the king to make war against the Pope, and to transfer the Holy See to Paris. On this, his determination returned strong upon him and going out of the inn, he gave his knife a fresh point by rubbing it against a stone, and then turned his face towards Paris.

Arrived at the capital a third time, he felt an inclination to make a full confession of his design to a priest; and would have done so had he not been aware that the Church is obliged to divulge any secrets which concern the State.

Henceforth he never once relinquished his purpose. But he still felt such doubts as to whether it were not sinful that he would no longer receive the Sacrament, lest, harbouring his project all the while, he should unworthily eat.{34}

Without hope of gaining admission to the king in his palace, he now waited for him with unwearied assiduity at the gates. At last, on the 17th of May, 1610, he saw him come out in a coach, and followed him for some distance, until the vehicle was stopped by two carts, which happened to get in the way. Here, as the king was leaning his head to speak to M. d’Epernon, who sat beside him, Ravaillac, in a frenzy, fancied he heard a voice say to him, “Now is the time; hasten, or it will be too late!” Instantly he rushed up to the coach, and standing on a spoke of the wheel, drew his knife and struck the king in the side. Finding, however, the knife impeded by one of the king’s ribs, he gave him another—and this time a fatal—blow near the same place.

The king cried out that he was slain, and Ravaillac was seized by a retired soldier of the guard. When searched, he was found to have upon him a paper painted with the arms of France, and with a lion on each side, one holding a key, the other a sword. Above he had written these words: “The name of God shall not be profaned in my presence.” There was also discovered a rosary and a piece of a certain root in the shape of a heart, which he had obtained as a charm against fever from the Capuchins, who assured him that it had inside it a piece of the real cross of the Saviour. “This, however,” says an ingenuous chronicler, “when the heart was broken, proved to be false.”

Ravaillac was first examined by the President of the Parliament and several commissioners as to his motives for committing the crime, and as to whether he had accomplices. During the interrogation he often wept, and said that though at the time he believed the assassination to be a meritorious action, he now felt convinced that this was a delusion into which he had been suffered to fall as a punishment for his sins. He expressed the deepest contrition for his offence, and implored the Almighty to give him grace to continue till death in firm faith, lively hope, and perfect charity.

He denied that he had any confederate, and on being requested to say at whose instigation he did the deed, replied indignantly that it originated entirely with himself, and that for no reward would he have slain his king. He answered all other questions with great calmness and humility, and when he signed his confession, wrote beneath the signature these lines:—

“Que toujours en mon cœur
Jésus soit le vainqueur.”

In spite, however, of Ravaillac’s protests, at this and at a subsequent examination, that he was quite without advisers, abettors, or accomplices, the examiners would not believe him, and he was ordered to be put to the torture of the brodequin, or boot. This instrument, like its English counterpart, was a strong wooden box, made in the form of a boot, just big enough to contain both the legs of the criminal. When his legs had been enclosed, a wedge was driven in with a mallet between the knees; and after this had been forced quite through, a second, and even a third wedge was employed in the same way.

Ravaillac, having been sworn, was placed on a wooden bench, when the brodequin was fitted to his legs. On the first wedge being driven in, he cried out: “God have mercy upon my soul and pardon the crime I have committed; I never disclosed my intention to anyone.” When the second wedge was applied he uttered horrid cries and shrieks, and exclaimed: “I am a sinner: I know no more than I have declared. I beseech the Court not to drive my soul to despair. Oh God! accept these torments in satisfaction for my sins.” A third wedge was then driven in lower, near his feet, on which his whole body broke into a sweat. Being now quite speechless, he was released, water was thrown in his face, and wine forced down his throat. He soon recovered by these means, and was then conducted to chapel by the executioner. But religious exhortation only caused him to repeat once more that he had no associate of any kind in connection with his crime.

At three in the afternoon of the 27th of May, 1610, he was brought from the chapel and put into a tumbril, the crowd in all directions being so great that it was with the utmost difficulty that the archers forced a passage. As soon as the prisoner appeared before the public gaze he was loaded with execrations from every side.

After he had ascended the scaffold he was urged by two spiritual advisers to think of his salvation while there was time, and to confess all he knew; but he answered precisely as before. As there seemed to be a prospect of the murderer getting absolution from the Church, a great outcry was raised, and many persons cried out that he belonged to the tribe of Judas, and must not be forgiven either in this world or the next. Ravaillac argued the point thus raised, maintaining that having made his confession he was entitled to absolution, and that the priest was bound by his office to give it. The priest replied that the confession had been incomplete, and, therefore, insincere, and that {35} absolution must be refused until Ravaillac named his accomplices. The criminal declared once more that he had no accomplices; and it was at last arranged that he should be absolved on certain conditions.

“Give me absolution,” he said: “at least conditionally, in case what I say should be true.”

“I will,” replied the confessor, “on this stipulation: that in case it is not true your soul, on quitting this life—as it must shortly do—goes straight to hell and the devil, which I announce to you on the part of God as certain and infallible.”

“I accept and believe it,” he said, “on that condition.”

Fire and brimstone were then applied to his right hand, in which he had held the knife used for the assassination, and at the same time his breast and other fleshy parts of his body were torn by red-hot pincers. Afterwards, at intervals, melted lead and scalding oil were poured into his wounds. During the whole time he uttered piteous cries and prayers.

Finally, he was pulled in different directions for half-an-hour by four horses, though without being dismembered. The multitude, impatient to see the murderer in pieces, threw themselves upon him, and with swords, knives, sticks, and other weapons, tore, mangled, and finally severed his limbs, which they dragged through the streets, and then burned in different parts of the city. Some of these wretches went so far as to cut off portions of the flesh, which they took home to burn quietly by their firesides.

Apart from his own violent death, more than one tragic story is connected with the memory of Henri IV. Close to the Hôtel de Ville stands the Hôtel de Sens, where, in December, 1605, lived Marguerite de Valois, the divorced wife of Henri IV. Already in her fifty-fifth year, this lady had by no means abandoned the levity of her youth. She had two lovers, both of whom were infatuated with her. The one she preferred, Saint-Julien by name, had a rival in the person of a mere boy of eighteen, named Vermond, who had been brought up beneath the queen’s eyes. On the 5th of April, 1606, Marguerite, returning from Mass, drove up to the Hôtel de Sens at the very moment when Vermond and Saint-Julien were quarrelling about her. Saint-Julien rushed to open the carriage door, when Vermond drew a pistol and shot him dead. The queen “roared,” according to a contemporary account, “like a lioness.” “Kill him!” she cried. “If you have no arms, take my garter and strangle him.” The people whom her Majesty was addressing contented themselves with pinioning the young man. The next morning a scaffold was raised before the Hôtel de Sens, and Vermond had his head cut off in the presence of Marguerite, who, from one of the windows of her mansion, looked on at the execution. Then her strength gave way, and she fainted. The same evening she quitted the Hôtel de Sens, never to return to it.

At the time of the Revolution the mob attacked the statue of Henri IV. on the Pont-Neuf, overturned it from its pedestal, and virtually destroyed it. The present monument was erected by public subscription after the Restoration in 1814, and on the 25th of August, 1818, was inaugurated by Louis XVIII. In the pedestal is enclosed a magnificent copy of Voltaire’s epic “La Henriade.” The low reliefs which adorn the pedestal of this admirable equestrian statue represent, on the southern side, Henri IV. distributing provisions in the besieged city of Paris; on the northern side, the victorious king proclaiming peace from the steps of Notre-Dame.

It has been said that the Pont-Neuf is traditionally famous for its solidity. In spite of this doubtless well-deserved reputation, the ancient bridge seemed, in 1805, on the point of giving way. Changes in the bed of the river had led to a partial subsidence of two of the arches supporting the smaller arm of the bridge. The necessary repairs, however, were executed, and the bridge’s reputation for strength permanently restored.

Among the many interesting stories told in connection with the Pont-Neuf may be mentioned one in which a famous actress of the early part of this century, Mlle. Contat, plays a part. She happened to be out in her carriage, and after a fashion then prevalent among the ladies of Paris, was driving herself, when, holding the reins with more grace than skill, she nearly ran over a pedestrian who was crossing the bridge at the same time as herself. In those days, when side-walks for pedestrians were unknown, the whole of the street being given up to people with carriages, it was easy enough to get run over; and Mercier, in his “Tableau de Paris,” speaks again and again of the accidents that occurred through the haughty negligence and recklessness of carriage folk, and even of hirers of hackney coaches. A sufferer in these rather one-sided collisions was generally held to be in the wrong, and Mlle. Contat reproached her victim with having deliberately attempted to throw himself under her horses’ feet. The pedestrian took the blame gallantly {36} upon himself, bowed to the ground, offered the lady an apology, paid her a graceful compliment, and disappeared. Scarcely had he done so when the actress felt convinced, from his courtly manners and distinguished air, that she must have been on the point of mangling some personage of high rank, and for a long time she felt extremely curious to know who he could be. One night, about a month after the incident, when she was at the theatre, a letter from the gentleman whom she had accused of getting in the way of her horses was delivered to her. He proved to be not merely a person of high quality, as she had guessed, but a real live prince: Prince Henry, brother of the King of Prussia. He was a friend, moreover, of the drama; and he had written to beg “the modern Athalie” to do him the honour to preside at the rehearsal of a new piece in which he was interested. Partly for the sake of the piece, but principally for that of the man whom she was so near running over, Mlle. Contat complied with the prince’s request. The piece was a comedy, with airs written by Baron Ernest von Manteuffel, and set to music by a composer of the day. The subject was extremely interesting, and Mlle. Contat saw that this musical comedy might prove an immense success at the Théâtre Français, where, being duly produced, it fully realised the actress’s anticipations. “Les deux Pages” it was called; and the author, Prussian as he was, had written it in the French language, with which at that time the Court and aristocracy of Prussia were more familiar than with their own tongue. It will be remembered that Frederick the Great (who, by the way, was the leading personage in “Les deux Pages”) wrote the whole of his very voluminous works in French.


Mercier, in his “Tableau de Paris,” published at London in 1780 (its publication would not have been permitted at Paris), gives an interesting account of the Pont-Neuf as it existed in his time. “This,” he says, “is the greatest thoroughfare in Paris. If you are in quest of anyone, native or foreigner, there is a moral certainty of your meeting with him there in the space of two hours, at the outside. The police-runners are convinced of this truth; here they lurk for their prey, and if, after a few days’ look-out, they do not find it, they conclude with a certainty nearly equal to evidence that the bird is flown. The most remarkable monument of popular gratitude may be seen on this bridge—the statue of Henri IV. And if the French cannot boast of having in reality a good prince, they may comfort themselves in contemplating the effigy of a monarch whose like they will never see again. At the foot of the bridge, a large phalanx of crimps—commonly called dealers in human flesh—have established their quarters, recruiting for their colonels, who sell the victims wholesale to the king. They formerly had recourse to violent means, but are now only permitted to use a little artifice, such as the employment of soldiers’ trulls for their decoy-ducks, and plying with liquors those youngsters who are fond of the juice of the grape. Sometimes, especially at {37} Martinmas and on Shrove Tuesday, which are sacred in a peculiar manner to gluttony and drunkenness, they parade about the avenues leading to the bridge, some with long strings of partridges, hares, etc.; others jingling sacks full of half-crowns to tickle the ears of the gaping multitude; the poor dupes are ensnared, and, under the delusion that they are going to sit down to a sumptuous dinner, are in reality hastening to the slaughter-house. Such are the heroes picked out to be the support and pillars of the State; and these future great men—a world of conquerors in embryo—are purchased at the trifling price of five crowns a head.”

Among the remarkable incidents which the Pont-Neuf has witnessed during its three centuries of existence must be mentioned certain amateur robberies, committed by gentlemen of the highest position. The Duke of Orleans is said to have set the fashion, which, one stormy night, after prolonged libations, was imitated by the Chevalier de Rieux, the Count de Rochefort, and a number of friends more unscrupulous than themselves. The count and the chevalier, though the only ones of the party who got arrested, played the mild part of lookers-on, taking their seats on Henri IV.’s bronze horse, while the actual work of highway robbery was being done by their companions. In due time, however, after several of the passers-by had been plundered of their cloaks, the watch was called, when the active robbers took to flight, whereas their passive accomplices, unable to get down all at once from the back of the bronze horse, were made prisoners, and kept for some time in confinement. Mazarin, indeed, was so glad to have his enemy, the Count de Rochefort, in his power, that he could scarcely be prevailed upon to let him out at all.


On the left bank of the Seine, at the very foot of the Pont-Neuf, stands the Institute of France, with its various academies, of which the most famous is that devoted to literature, the Académie Française, where, said Piron, “there are forty members who have as much learning as four.” “This establishment,” writes Mercier somewhat bitterly, but with much truth, “was set on foot by Richelieu, whose every undertaking constantly tended to despotism. Nor has he in this institution deviated from the rule, for the Academy is manifestly a monarchical establishment. Men of letters have been enticed to the capital like the grandees, and with the same object: namely, to keep a better watch over them. The consequence is fatal to the progress of knowledge, because every writer aspiring to a seat in that modern Areopagus knows that his success depends on Court favour, and therefore does everything to merit this by sacrificing to the Goddess of Flattery, and preferring mean adulation that brings him academical honours to the useful, manly, and legitimate employment of his talents in the instruction of mankind. Hence the Academy {38} enjoys no manner of consideration either at home or abroad. Paris is the only place where it can support any kind of dignity, though it is even there sorely badgered by the wits of the capital, who, expecting from it neither favour nor friendship, point all their epigrammatical batteries against its members. There is, in fact, but too much room for pleasantry and keen sarcasm. Is it not extremely ridiculous that forty men, two-thirds of whom owe their admission to intrigue or fawning, should be by patent created arbiters of taste in literature, and enjoy the exclusive privilege of judging for the rest of their countrymen? But their principal function has been to circulate and suppress new-coined words; regulating the pronunciation, orthography, and idioms of the French language. Is this a service or injury to the language? I should think the latter.

“Instead of becoming, as they ought to do, the oracle of the age and their nation, our men of letters content themselves with being the echo of that dread tribunal; hence the abject state of literature in the capital. We have some, however, who boldly think for themselves, trust to the judgment of the public, and laugh at the award of the Academy. Nothing can better mark the contempt in which a few spirited writers hold the decrees of the forty forestallers of French wit and refinement than the following epitaph which the author above cited, the terror of Voltaire, the scourge of witlings, Piron, ordered to be engraved on his tombstone:—

“‘Cy gît Piron, qui ne fut rien,
Pas même Académicien.’”

Many very distinguished writers have, in every generation since the birth of the Academy, been included among its members. Very few, however, of the forty members have at any one time been men of genuine literary distinction; a duke who has written a pamphlet, an ambassador who has published a volume, having always had a better chance of election than a popular novelist or dramatist. M. Arsène Houssaye has written a book entitled “The Forty-first Chair,” which is intended to show, and does show, that the greatest writer of each successive period, from Molière to Balzac, has always been left out of the Academy: has occupied, that is to say, “the forty-first chair.” M. Alphonse Daudet, to judge by his brilliant novel “L’Immortel,” has no better opinion of the French Academy than had Arsène Houssaye some forty years ago, when his ingenious indirect attack upon the Academy was first published.

The Pont-Neuf was, for a considerable time after its first construction, the most important highway in Paris. It connected Paris of the left bank with Paris of the right, and old Paris, the so-called Cité, with both. It was the only bridge of importance; and what is now the greatest thoroughfare of Paris—the line of boulevards—was not yet in existence. The Pont-Neuf dates from the reign of Henri IV.; the boulevards from that of Louis XIV. Long, moreover, after it had ceased to be fashionable, the Pont-Neuf remained popular by reason of the vast stream of passengers perpetually crossing it in either direction. It was much in favour with itinerant dealers of all kinds, and equally so with beggars. Even in our own time it was on the Pont-Neuf that Les deux Aveugles of Offenbach deceived the public and exchanged confidences with one another. The plague of beggars is nothing, however, in these days, compared with what it was before the Revolution. “Who,” asks a writer of the latter part of the eighteenth century, “seeing the populace of Paris ever merry, and the rich glittering in all the gaudy pomp of luxury, would believe that the streets of the metropolis are infested with swarms of beggars, were not the eye at every turn of the street shocked with some distressing spectacle, truly disgusting to the sight of every stranger who is not lost to all sense of humanity? Nothing has yet been done to remove this evil, and the methods hitherto practised have proved to be remedies worse than the disease. Amongst the ancients there was a class of people that might be called poor, but none reduced to absolute indigence. The very slaves were clothed, fed, had their friends; nor does any historian say that the towns and streets were full of those wretched, disgusting objects which either excite pity or freeze charity itself: wretches covered with vermin did not then go about the streets uttering groans that reach the very heart, and exhibiting wounds that frighten the eye of every passenger.

“This abuse springs from the nature of the legislation itself—more ready to preserve large fortunes than small. Let our new schemers say what they will, great proprietors are a nuisance in the State. They cover the lands with forests and stock them with fawns and deer; they lay out pleasure-gardens; and thus the oppression and luxury of the great is daily crushing the most unfortunate part of the community. In the year 1769 not only beggars, but even the poorer class of citizens were treated with much savage barbarity by secret orders from the {39} Government. In the very dead of night old men, women, and children were suddenly seized upon, deprived of their liberty, and thrown into loathsome gaols, without the assignment of any cause for so cruel a treatment. The pretence was that indigence is the parent of crimes, that seditions generally begin among that class of people who, having nothing to lose, have nought to fear. The ministers who then wished to establish the corn-law dreaded the effect it would have on that world of indigent wretches, driven to despair, as they would be, by the advanced price of bread which was then to be imposed. Their oppressors said: ‘They must be smothered;’ and they were. As this was the most effectual method of silencing them, the Government never took the trouble to devise any other. When we cast an eye abroad, it is then we are convinced of the forlorn condition in which our lower sort of people drag out their miserable life. The Spaniard can cheaply provide himself with food and raiment. Wrapped up in his cloak, the earth is his bed; he sleeps soundly, and wakes without anxiety for his next meal. The Italians work little, and are in no want of the necessaries, or even luxuries, of life. The English, well fed, strong and hale, happy and free, reap and enjoy undisturbed the fruits of their industry. The Swede is content with his glass of brandy. The Russian, whom no foresight disturbs, finds abundance in the bosom of slavery; but the Parisians, poor and helpless, sinking under the burden of unremitting toils and fatigue, ever at the mercy of the great, who crush them like vile insects whenever they attempt to raise their voice, earn, at the sweat of their brow, a scanty subsistence, which only serves to lengthen their lives, without leaving them anything to look forward to in their old age but indigence, or, what is worse, part of a bed in the hospital.”

The Pont-Neuf was always crowded when anything was coming off on the neighbouring Place de Grève, where Ravaillac was tortured and torn to pieces, and where, in the next century, like horrors were perpetrated upon the body of Damiens, who had attacked Louis XV. with a pen-knife and inflicted upon him a slight scratch. The Place de Grève has now lost its old historic name, and is called the Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville. In the open space where Ravaillac and Damiens were subjected to such abominable cruelty, and where so many criminals of various kinds and classes were afterwards to be broken and beaten to death, the guillotine was at a later date set up.

“The executioner in Paris,” says Mercier (writing just before the Revolution of 1789), “enjoys a revenue of no less than 18,000 livres (£720). His figure is perfectly well known to the populace; he is for them the greatest tragedian. Whenever he exhibits they crowd round his temporary stage: our very women, even those whom rank and education should inspire with the mildest sentiments, are not the last to share in the horrid spectacles he provides. I have seen some of these delicate creatures, whose fibres are so tender, so easily shaken, who faint at the sight of a spider, look unconcerned upon the execution of Damiens, being the last to avert their eyes from the most dreadful punishment that ever was devised to avenge an offended monarch. The bourreau, although his employment brands him with infamy, has no badge to distinguish him from the rest of the citizens; and this is a great mistake on the part of the Government, particularly noticeable when he executes the dreadful commands of the law. It is not only ridiculous: it is shocking in the extreme, to see him ascend the ladder, his head dressed and profusely powdered; with a laced coat, silk stockings, and a pair of as elegant pumps as ever set off the foot of the most refined petit-maître. Should he not be clad in garments more suitable to the minister of death? What is the consequence of so gross an absurdity? A populace not overburdened with the sense of sympathy are all taken up with admiration for the handsome clothes and person of our Breakbones. Their attention is engrossed by the elegant behaviour and appearance of this deputy of the King of Terrors; they have hardly a thought to bestow upon the malefactor, and not one on his sufferings. Of course, then, the intention of the law is frustrated. The dreadful example meant to frighten vice from its criminal course has no effect on the mind of the spectator, much more attentive to the point ruffles and the rich clothes of the man whose appearance should concur in adding to the solemnity than to the awful memento set up by a dire necessity to enforce the practice of virtue by showing that he who lives in crime must die in infamy. The executioner, from the stigma inherent to his profession, and of course to himself, cannot hope to form alliances among the other ranks of citizens. The very populace, though as well versed in the history of the hangman and the malefactors as the upper classes are in that of the sovereigns of Europe and their ministers, would think {40} it a disgrace to intermarry with his family to the latest generation. It is not many years since the Bourreau of Paris publicly advertised that he was ready to bestow the hand of his daughter, with a portion of one hundred thousand crowns, on any native Frenchman who would accept it, and agree to succeed him in business. The latter clause would have staggered avarice itself; but the executioner of Paris was obliged to follow the practice of his predecessors in office, and marry his heiress to a provincial executioner. These gentlemen, in humble imitation of our bishops, take their surnames from the cities where they are settled, and among themselves it is ‘Monsieur de Paris,’ ‘Monsieur de Rouen,’ etc. etc.”


Besides breaking the bones of the criminals entrusted to his charge, torturing them in various ways, and ultimately putting them to death, the executioner, under the old régime, had sometimes to perform upon books, which he solemnly burnt on the Place de Grève. Russia, Turkey, and the Roman Court are now the only Powers in Europe which maintain a censorship over books. But the custom of burning objectionable volumes, instead of simply pronouncing against them and forbidding their circulation, belongs altogether to the past. Plenty of books were forbidden in France under the First and Second Empire; and when the infamous Marquis de Sade sent Napoleon one of his disgraceful works, the emperor replied by ordering the man to be arrested and confined in a lunatic asylum. Under the Restoration many a volume was proscribed; but since the great Revolution of 1789 no Government in France has ventured to restore the custom of having a condemned book burnt by the executioner. When, in connection with the contest on the subject of the Church’s relationship with the stage, a very able pamphlet was published, proving by the laws of France that the excommunication levelled against the stage was an illegal and scandalous imposition, it got condemned to be burnt in the Place de Grève by the executioner. Whereupon Voltaire, indignant at the barbarity of such a punishment, brought out, anonymously, another pamphlet in defence of the cremated one, when this, in its turn, was sentenced to the flames. Doubtless the writer foresaw the fate of his little volume, for the tract in question contained the suggestive remark that, “if the executioner were presented with a complimentary copy of every work he was ordered to burn, he would soon possess a handsome and very valuable library.”

“Monsieur de Paris” was accustomed in his best days to burn live witches as well as newly-published books; and the cremation of these unhappy wretches gave him at times much occupation.



Without by any means introducing magic into France, Catherine de Medicis {42} did her best to encourage magical practices; and in succeeding reigns the very people who, under her auspices, had cultivated relations with the fiend were punished for their tamperings with the supernatural. Catherine patronised astrologers and sorcerers of all kinds; and she was accused of holding in the woods levées of magicians, who arrived at the place of meeting on flying goats, winged horses, or even simple broomsticks. The assembly, according to popular rumour, began at night, and ended with cock-crow. The place selected for the “Sabbath” was lighted by a single lamp, which cast a melancholy light, and intensified rather than dispelled the prevailing darkness. The president of the “Sabbath” was the fiend in person, who took his seat on a high throne, clad with the skin of a goat or of an immense black poodle. On his right was the solitary lamp, on his left a man or woman who had charge of the powders or ointments which it was customary to distribute among those present. The ointments were supposed to enable the members of these strange associations to recognise one another by the smell. But there is so much that is evidently false and so little that is apparently true in the accounts transmitted to us of these witches’ Sabbaths, that the only thing worth noting in connection with them is that they possessed the privilege of interesting Catherine de Medicis. The secret meetings of the Templars, the Anabaptists, and the Albigenses have all been represented as assemblies of sorcerers. In the “History of Artois,” by Dom de Vienne, it is said that the Inquisition established in the province caused many unfortunate Waldenses to be burnt alive in consequence of diabolical practices, “to which,” as the Inquisition declared, “they themselves confessed.”

It may well be that the severity of the tortures inflicted on the accused, and the promise held out to them of forgiveness in case of avowal, induced many of them to admit the truth of charges without basis. The province of La Brie would seem during the magical times of Catherine de Medicis to have been inhabited almost entirely by sorcerers—by people, that is to say, who either considered themselves such or were so considered. The shepherds and herdsmen of the province possessed, it was said, the power of putting to death the sheep and cattle of their neighbours by burying various kinds of enchantments beneath the paths along which the animals were sure to pass. Some of these wonder-working shepherds were taken and prosecuted, when they confessed in many cases that they had exercised various kinds of bedevilments on the beasts of certain farmers. They made known the composition of their infernal preparations, but refused to state where they were buried, declaring that if they were dug up the person who had deposited them would immediately die. Whether the reputed sorcerers possessed the secret of some chemical mixtures which had really an injurious effect on cattle, or whether they were merely actuated by vain fancies, it would be impossible at the present time to say. But many shepherds and herdsmen of La Brie were, towards the end of the seventeenth century, condemned and executed for magical practices. Thus two shepherds, named Biaule and Lavaux, were sentenced by the same judge to be hanged and burnt; and the sentence, after being confirmed by the Parliament of Paris, was put into effect on the 18th of December, 1691.

Magical practices have been denounced by more than one Church council; nor were incantations and witchcraft supposed by any means to be confined to the ignorant classes. Pharamond passed for the son of an incubus; and the mother of Clovis for a witch. Frédégonde accused Clovis, son of her husband Chilpéric and a former wife, of sorcery; and it was not until the reign of Charlemagne that any endeavour was made to destroy the popular belief in magic. After Charlemagne’s death witchcraft took a greater hold on the public mind than ever; and ridiculous historians wrote that Queen Berthe had given birth to a gosling and that Bertrade was a witch. Philip the Bold consulted a sorceress. The madness of Charles VI. and the influence exercised upon him by Valentine of Milan were ascribed to magic; and it was as a witch that the Maid of Orleans was burnt. {43}



From the Bastille to the Madeleine—Boulevard Beaumarchais—Beaumarchais—The Marriage of Figaro—The Bastille—The Drama in Paris—Adrienne Lecouvreur—Vincennes—The Duc d’Enghien—Duelling—Louis XVI.

THE most important, the most interesting, the most absorbing thoroughfare on the right bank of the Seine, and, therefore, in Paris generally is that of the boulevards, in which the whole of the gay capital may be said to be concentrated. Numbers of Parisians pass almost the whole of their life on the Boulevard des Italiens; or between the Boulevard Montmartre to the east, and the Boulevard de la Madeleine to the west of what, to the fashionable Parisian, is the central boulevard. Nothing can be easier than to breakfast and dine on the boulevards; and it is along their length or in their immediate neighbourhood that not only the best restaurants, but the finest theatres are to be found. Stroll about the boulevards for a few hours—an occupation of which the true boulevardier seems never to get tired—and you will meet everyone you know in Paris.

If, moreover, the upper boulevards, those of the Madeleine, the Capucines, and the Italiens, represent fashionable Paris, the lower boulevards, from the Boulevard Montmartre to the Boulevard Beaumarchais, represent the Paris of commerce and of industry; so that the line of boulevards, as a whole, from the Madeleine to the Bastille, gives a fair epitome of the French capital.

The poorest of the boulevards are at the eastern end of the line, and the richest at the western; and the difference in character between the inhabitants of these opposite extremes is shown by a military regulation instituted under the Second Empire. Neither the district inhabited by the needy workmen of the east nor the western district, where dwelt the richest class of shop-keepers, was allowed to furnish the usual contingent of National Guards. The artisans were too turbulent to be entrusted with arms, while the tradespeople were equally unreliable, because from timidity they allowed their arms to be taken from them.

Beginning at what most visitors to Paris will consider the wrong end of the line of boulevards, we find that on the Boulevard Beaumarchais Paris has a very different physiognomy from that which she presents on the Boulevard de la Madeleine, which the visitor may reach by omnibus, though it is more interesting to travel in some hired vehicle which may now and then be stopped, and more interesting still to make the whole of the three-mile journey on foot.

At either end of the line of boulevards is a Place, or open space, which, for want of a better word, may be called a square: Place de la Bastille to the east, Place de la Madeleine to the west. The omnibuses which ply between the two extremities bear the inscription “Madeleine—Bastille”; and, beginning at the Bastille, the traveller passes eleven different boulevards, or, rather, one boulevard bearing in succession eleven different names: Beaumarchais, des Filles du Calvaire, du Temple, Saint-Martin, Saint-Denis, Bonne-Nouvelle, Poissonnière, Montmartre, des Italiens, des Capucines, and de la Madeleine.

Advancing from the Bastille to the Madeleine, we find the appearance of the shops constantly improving, until, from poor at one end, they become magnificent at the other. What the military authorities of Germany call “necessary luxuries” (such as coffee, tea, and sugar), as well as luxuries in a more absolute sense (such as costly articles of attire, sweetmeats, and champagne), are sold all along the line. But at the Bastille end one notices here and there a little sacrifice to the useful and the indispensable. Indeed, on the lower boulevards grocers’ shops are to be found, though nothing so commonplace offends the eye on the boulevards to which the name of “upper” is given.

In like manner, the importance of the theatres increases as you proceed from the Bastille westward. Nearly half the playhouses of Paris are on the boulevards: ten on the north side, and three on the south. Many other theatres, if not entered direct from the boulevards, are in their close vicinity. The theatre nearest the Madeleine is the new Opera House; that nearest the Place de la Bastille is the Théâtre Beaumarchais. The Boulevard Beaumarchais owes its name to the brilliant dramatist who, among other works, wrote the Barber of Seville and {44} the Marriage of Figaro, still familiar to all Europe in their musical form. From 1760 to 1831 what is now called the Boulevard Beaumarchais was known as the Boulevard St.-Antoine. In the last-named year, however, under the government of Louis Philippe, it was determined to render homage to the author of the best comedies in the French language after those of Molière by naming a boulevard after him.

The Marriage of Figaro was played in public for the first time on April 27th, 1784. “The description of the first performance is,” says M. de Loménie, “in every history of the period”; for which insufficient reason M. de Loménie omits it in his own history of “Beaumarchais and his Times.” For at least two years before the Marriage of Figaro was played in public the work must have been well known in the aristocratic and literary circles of Paris. The brilliant comedy, which was not to be brought out until April, 1784, had been accepted at the Théâtre Français in October, 1781. “As soon as the actors,” writes Beaumarchais, “had received, by acclamation, my poor Marriage, which has since had so many opponents, I begged M. Lenoir (the Lieutenant of Police) to appoint a censor; at the same time asking him, as a special favour, that the piece might be examined by no one else: which he readily promised; assuring me that neither secretary nor clerk should touch the manuscript, and that the play should be read in his own cabinet. It was so read by M. Coqueley, advocate, and I begged M. Lenoir to notify what he retrenched, objected to, or approved. Six weeks afterwards I learnt in society that my piece had been read at all the soirées of Versailles, and I was in despair at this complaisance—perhaps forced—of the magistrate in regard to a work which still belonged to me; for such was certainly not the austere, discreet, and loyal course which belongs to the serious duty of a censor. Well or ill read—perhaps maliciously mutilated—the piece was pronounced detestable; and not knowing in what respect I had sinned (for according to custom nothing was specified), I stood before the inquisition obliged to guess my crimes, but aware, nevertheless, that I was already tacitly proscribed. As, however, this proscription by the court only irritated the curiosity of the town, I was condemned to readings without number. Whenever one party was discovered, another would immediately be formed.”

At the beginning of 1782 it was already a question who could obtain the privilege of hearing the play read by Beaumarchais—an admirable reciter—whether at his own house or in some brilliant salon. “Every day,” writes Madame Campan, “persons were heard to say: ‘I was present, or I shall be present, at a reading of Beaumarchais’s piece.’”

The first performance of the Marriage of Figaro was thus described by a competent judge. “Never,” says Grimm, in one of the letters addressed by him and by Diderot to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Gotha, “never did a piece attract such crowds to the Théâtre Français. All Paris wished to see this famous ‘marriage,’ and the house was crammed almost the very moment the doors were opened to the public. Scarcely half of those who had besieged the doors since eight in the morning succeeded in finding places. Most persons got in by force or by throwing money to the porters. It is impossible to be more humble, more audacious, more eager in view of obtaining a favour from the Court than were all our young lords to ensure themselves a place at the first representation of Figaro. More than one duchess considered herself too happy that day to find in the balconies, where ladies are seldom seen, a wretched stool side by side with Madame Duthé, Carline, and company.”

Ladies of the highest rank dined in the actresses’ rooms, in order to be sure of places. “Cordons bleus,” says Bachaumont, “mixed up in the crowd, elbowing with Savoyards—the guard being dispersed, and the iron gates broken by the efforts of the assailants.” La Harpe, in one of his series of letters to the Grand Duke Paul of Russia and Count Schouvaloff, declares that three porters were killed; being “one more than were killed at the production of Scudéry’s last piece.” “On the stage, when the curtain was raised, there was seen,” says De Loménie, “perhaps the most splendid assemblage of talent that was ever contained within the walls of the Théâtre Français, employed in promoting the success of a comedy which sparkled with wit, which carried the audience along by its dramatic movement and audacity, and which, if it shocked or startled some of the private boxes, excited and enchanted, inflamed and electrified the pit.”

All the parts were entrusted to performers of the first merit. Mademoiselle Sainval, who was the tragic actress then in vogue, had, at the urgent request of Beaumarchais, accepted the part of the Countess Almaviva, in which she displayed a talent the more striking from being quite unexpected. Mademoiselle Contat enchanted the public in the {45} character of Susanna by her grace, the refinement of her acting, and the charms of her beauty and her voice. A very young and pretty actress, destined soon afterwards, at the age of eighteen, to be nipped in the bud by death—Mademoiselle Olivier, whose talent, says a contemporary, “was as naïve and fresh as her face”—lent her naïveté and her freshness to the seemingly ingenuous character of Cherubino. Molè acted the part of Count Almaviva with the elegance and dignity which distinguished him. Dazincourt represented Figaro with all his wit, and relieved the character from any appearance of vulgarity. Old Préville, who was not less successful in the part of Bridoison, gave it up after a few days to Dugazon, who interpreted it with more power and equal intelligence. Delessarts, with his rich humour, gave relief to the personage of Bartholo, which is thrown somewhat into the background. The secondary parts of Basil and Antonio were equally well played by Vanhove and Bellemont. Finally, through a singular caprice, a somewhat celebrated tragedian, Larive, not wishing tragedy to be represented in the piece by Mademoiselle Sainval alone, asked for the insignificant little part of Grippe-soleil.


“The success of this Aristophanic comedy,” writes De Loménie, “while it filled some persons with anxiety and alarm, naturally roused the curious crowd, who are never wanting, particularly when a successful person takes a pleasure in spreading his fame abroad—and this foible of Beaumarchais is well known. It was in the midst of a fire of epigrams in prose and verse that the author of the Marriage of Figaro pursued his career, pouring out on his enemies not torrents of fire and light, but torrents of liveliness and fun.”

Beaumarchais, on the famous first night, sat in a loge grillée—a private box, that is to say, with lattice-work in front—between two abbés, with whom he had been dining, and whose presence seemed indispensable to him, in order, as he said, that they might administer to him des secours très spirituels in case of death.{46}

The Marriage of Figaro was represented sixty-eight times in succession, and each time with the greatest possible success. In eight months, from April 27th, 1784, till January 10th, 1785, the piece brought the Théâtre Français, without counting the fiftieth representation (which, at Beaumarchais’s request, was given for the poor), no less than 346,197 livres or francs; an immense sum for that period. When all expenses had been paid, there remained a profit of 293,755 livres for division amongst the actors, after the deduction from it of Beaumarchais’s share as author, amounting to 41,469 livres.

All sorts of anecdotes were told in connection with the success of the work. A gentleman—whom gossip transformed into a duke—wrote to Beaumarchais, asking for a loge grillée for himself and two ladies who wished to see the piece without being seen. Beaumarchais replied that he had no sympathy with persons who wished to combine “the honours of virtue with the pleasures of vice”; and, moreover, that his comedy was not a work which honourable persons need be ashamed to see.

The Boulevard Beaumarchais of the present day was (as already mentioned) called, until some fifty years after the Revolution, Boulevard St.-Antoine; where, until 1789, the year of its destruction, stood the celebrated fortress and prison of the Bastille. The destruction of the Bastille was the first event in the French Revolution; and many have asked why the fury of the crowd was particularly directed against a building which, monument of tyranny though it was, had never been employed against the people at large, but almost always against members of the aristocracy, on whose behalf the Revolutionists were certainly not fighting. But although the dungeons of the Bastille were for the most part filled with political offenders, persons of every station in life did, from time to time, find themselves enclosed within its walls.

The too celebrated fortress was originally built to protect the east of Paris, as the Louvre was constructed to guard the west. It stood on the south side of the boulevard now known by the name of Beaumarchais, and consisted of eight towers, four of which looked towards the town—that is to say, the Rue St.-Antoine—and four towards the country—that is to say, the Faubourg St.-Antoine.

Above the shop of the wine-seller who inhabits No. 232 in the Rue St.-Antoine, at the corner of the newly-built Rue Jacques-Cœur, a marble tablet sets forth that the house in question occupies the site of the outlying building into which the assailants, on the 14th of July, 1789, made their way before storming the fortress itself. The café which stands at the corner of the street and of the square bears for its sign, “The Cannon of the Bastille.”

It was less as a fortress than as a State prison that the Bastille was known, and by the nation at large execrated. Prisoners were taken to the Bastille on a simple lettre de cachet: a sealed order or warrant, which was sometimes given out blank, so that the favoured recipient might make whatever use of it he pleased, against no matter whom. The victims were introduced secretly into the fortress; and the soldiers on guard had instructions to turn aside when any prisoner was being brought in, so that they might not afterwards recognise him. Once inside the dungeon, he was liable to undergo frequent interrogations without even knowing on what charge, or even suspicion, he had been arrested. The treatment in prison depended absolutely on the will of the governor. Those under detention were kept in solitary confinement, without anyone outside being able to obtain news as to whether they even existed. They were not allowed to receive letters from their family or friends. The internal regulations of the Bastille are sufficiently well known to us by the numerous chronicles and memoirs published in connection with it, including, in particular, those of Linguet. “During the seven years that I passed in the Bastille,” says M. Pelissery, quoted by Linguet, “I had no air even in fine weather, and in winter they gave me nothing in the way of fuel except wood just taken from the river. My bed was intolerable, and the bedclothes dirty and worm-eaten. I drank, or rather poisoned myself with, foul stagnant water. What food they brought me! Famished dogs would not have touched it. Accordingly, my body was soon covered with pustules, my legs gave way beneath me, I spat blood, and became scorbutic. The dungeons received neither light nor air, except by one narrow window pierced in a wall nearly five metres thick, and traversed by a triple row of bars, between which there were intervals of only five centimetres. Even on the most beautiful days the prisoners received but feeble rays of light. In the winter these fatal caves resembled ice-houses, being sufficiently raised for the cold to penetrate; while in summer they were like damp stoves, in {47} which it was difficult not to be stifled, since the walls are so thick as to keep out the heat necessary for drying the interior. There are some rooms—and mine was one of them—which look out directly upon the moat into which flows the great sewer of the Rue St.-Antoine. Thence ascends a pestilential exhalation, which, when once it has entered these rooms, can only with much difficulty be got out again. It is in such an atmosphere that the prisoner has to breathe. There, not to be absolutely stifled, he is obliged to pass his nights and days glued to the inside bars of the little window in the door, through which a glimmer of light and a breath of air may reach him.”

“The history of the Bastille as a State prison,” says Mongin, “might almost be said to include everything intellectual and political in France. Into its dungeons were thrown, one after the other, Hugues; Aubriot, who himself founded the Bastille, and who expiated by perpetual imprisonment his alleged heresy and his love relations with a Jewess; Jacques d’Armagnac, Duke of Nemours, in 1475; with many high and powerful noblemen in the time of Louis XI. and Richelieu. Here also were confined Marshal de Biron and Fouquet, the Superintendent of Finances, besides more than one officer of distinction under Louis XIV.”

When the Bastille had done its work on the last remains of feudalism and on the Court aristocracy, the turn came of the people—the precursors of the Republic, the martyrs of the Revolution. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the Bastille was filled with Protestants. Here were shut up the Jansenists and the fanatics known as the Convulsionnaires. Here, too, suffered, until he was taken to the scaffold, the brave Governor of India under the French domination, Lally, who had given offence to the Court rather than to the sovereign. Voltaire, Mirabeau, Linguet (who, after making his escape, published in London his eloquent account of the cruelties to which prisoners in the Bastille were subjected), Latude, and numberless other men distinguished in different walks of life.

The 14th of July, 1789, saw the first blow struck by the Revolutionists against that monument which, to them, symbolised all that was hateful in the ancient monarchy. War had already virtually been declared between the two sides. Everything seemed in favour of the king, the Court, the nobility, and the monarchical party generally. “If Paris must be burnt,” one of the Ministers had said, “we will burn it.”

Paris was, indeed, surrounded with foreign troops; and whatever might be the attitude of the French regiments, commanded by officers some of whom were Royalists and others Republicans, it was certain that the popular movement would have to count with the Swiss, Austrian, and German troops stationed at Charenton, Sèvres, Versailles, at the Military School, and elsewhere in the immediate neighbourhood of the capital.

On the 8th of July the National Assembly had, on the motion of Mirabeau, demanded from the king the removal of the foreign troops. The king’s only reply, a few days afterwards, was to dismiss Necker, the popular Minister. The news of this tyrannical step fell upon Paris on Sunday, July 12th, like a spark on a barrel of gunpowder. The Palais Royal, which might be regarded as the head-quarters of the Revolution, became violently agitated. It was twelve o’clock on a hot summer’s day when suddenly the midday cannon, with its lens above the touch-hole, was fired by the blazing sun.

A superstitious importance was attached to the familiar incident; and the Revolutionists, with the people around them, saw in the ordinary explosion of a midday gun, intended only to interest the public by marking the time, the signal for an uprising against the ancient monarchy. A young man of twenty, then absolutely unknown, but who was afterwards to be remembered as Camille Desmoulins, rushed out of the Café Foy, sprang upon a table just outside, and in impassioned language addressed the crowd. “Citizens,” he cried, “there is not a moment to lose! I have just come from Versailles. Necker is dismissed, and his dismissal is the signal for a new massacre of St. Bartholomew. This evening all the Swiss and German battalions will march from the Champ-de-Mars to put to death every patriot. We have but one resource: to rise to arms, after assuming cockades by which we may recognise each other. What colours do you prefer—green, the colour of hope, or the blue of Cincinnatus, the colour of American liberty and of democracy?”

“Green, green!” cried the crowd.

“Friends,” continued the young man, in a sonorous voice, “the signal is already given. I see staring me in the face the spies and satellites of the police. But I will not fall alive into their hands. Let every citizen follow my example.” He waved in the air two pistols, fastened a green ribbon to his hat, and descending from his chair, urged those {48} present to take, as signs of recognition, leaves from the trees around them. Soon the trees of the Palais Royal garden were stripped. The excitement and enthusiasm spread in every direction. Arms were seized wherever they could be found. The busts of Necker and of the Duke of Orleans, idols of the moment, were carried through the streets veiled with black crape. More than one detachment of the French Guards joined the crowd. In the Tuileries Gardens several persons were killed by a cavalry charge under the command of Prince de Lambesc, of which the chief effect was to exasperate the insurgents to the utmost. Partial engagements now took place at various points. At the gates of Paris, the barriers where a tax was levied on provisions brought into the city were set in flames. Towards evening committees were formed in all the districts of the capital “for preventing tumult.” The shops were now everywhere closed, and the theatres gave no performances. During the night the district assemblies held a general meeting, at which it was resolved to urge all who possessed arms to bring them to district head-quarters, that militia companies, to be promptly formed for the occasion, might be furnished therewith in a regular manner. These militia bands were intended to act on behalf of the nation; if necessary, against the populace. But the general excitement was too great to allow of such formal measures being taken as the well-to-do citizens of the hurriedly constituted district assemblies thought advisable. To all recommendations of prudence there was but one reply: “To Arms!” The Provost of the Paris merchants, De Flesselles by name, who had been elected president of the district assemblies, endeavoured to stay the spirit of revolution, now spreading so widely; but to no purpose. The Hôtel de Ville, from which he held forth, was now occupied in every corner by armed men, who had no intention of giving their weapons up for the equipment of any imaginary militia company; and as yet these companies were unformed. An order to evacuate the Hôtel de Ville met with no attention, and deliberations were now carried on beneath the eyes and under the pressure of the enraged mob.


In place of the green colour adopted in the first instance by the insurgents of the Palais Royal, which the day afterwards was rejected as the family colour of the Counts of Artois, the tricolour had now been assumed: blue, in the new flag, being held to signify hope; red, the blood of sacrifice; and white, the ancient monarchy, against which {49} war had not yet been declared. It was against the abuses of the ancient system, and in view of a thorough reform, that the people were rising.


Camille Desmoulins had begun the Revolution on Sunday, the 12th of July, at noon. On the morning of Monday, July 13th, the alarm bell was rung in every church, and the drum beaten in every street. Bands were now formed, without much system, under the names of Volunteers of the Palais Royal, of the Tuileries, etc. Women were everywhere making blue and red cockades—the white was not absolutely essential; the blacksmiths were forging arms; and it has been calculated that in thirty-six hours fifty thousand pikes were made. Tumultuous meetings were held in the churches, with a view to some regular organisation of the movement. A Government dépôt of arms was invaded, and plundered of its contents. The Place de la Grève became an important centre to which arms taken from gunsmiths’ shops or from Government stores, sacks of wheat and flour (stopped at the barriers), and even herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, were brought. Paris was being turned into a camp. The citizens of the district assemblies, carried away by the ardour of the people whose impetuosity they had sought to restrain, the students of the various schools, the clerks of the public offices, the workmen of the faubourgs: all hurried to the Hôtel de Ville, swearing to conquer or to die. The fact that Paris was threatened by Swiss, German, and various kinds of Austrian troops could not but awaken the patriotism of Frenchmen generally. The first enemy to be fought was the army of foreigners waiting to swoop down on the city. An important collection of arms, formed by those who had obeyed the first recommendations of the district assemblies, was reported to exist at the Invalides; and an enormous quantity of powder which was being sent out of Paris by way of the River Seine, apparently under the orders of the timid citizens composing the aforesaid assemblies, was seized, carried to the Hôtel de Ville, and {50} partially distributed.

No movement, meanwhile, had been made by the foreign troops, who were for the most part encamped or quartered in the École Militaire; the inaction being attributable to divided counsels among the king’s ministers, and to hesitation on the part of the king himself. The one thing decided upon was to stop the entrance of provisions into Paris: a sure means, it was thought, of reducing the tumult, which at the outset was scarcely looked upon as serious. The National Assembly was behaving, meanwhile, in the most heroic manner. Threatened with dissolution and arrest, and quite at the mercy of the foreign troops, it voted an expression of regret at the dismissal of Necker, a demand that the foreign troops be forthwith sent away from Paris, and a declaration that the king’s ministers, whatever their rank, would be held personally responsible for any misfortunes that might result from the present condition of things.

On the morning of the 14th of July Paris was surrounded at all points by foreign troops, and was at the same time threatened with famine. But one course was open to the insurgents: that of immediate action. There was a general feeling that an attack must be made, and the object unanimously chosen for the first assault was the Bastille: symbol of everything hateful in the government it was proposed to overturn. “A la Bastille!” was now the universal cry. But a dearth of muskets retarded the impulse, and it was determined in the first instance to attack the Hôtel des Invalides, where arms in large numbers were known to be stored away. Thirty thousand men hurried to the asylum of aged soldiers; when, without much time being wasted in parleying with the governor, the sentinels were seized and the place entered by force. In the cellars twenty-eight thousand muskets were discovered concealed beneath hay and straw; and with these the invaders, whose numbers had gradually increased, hastened to arm themselves. Five years before, the king, on consenting to the liberation of Latude, had promised that henceforth no one should be sent to the Bastille except for a definite period, and after formal conviction on a positive charge. But this engagement had not been kept; people had been arrested, and incarcerated (as at the present time in Russia) on the simple denunciation of police officers and spies; sometimes on mere suspicion, at others without even suspicion, and simply for the gratification of private malice. The terrible lettre de cachet, on the strength of which arrests were made without further explanation, had indeed become a purchasable thing, with a fixed price, like any other article of commerce. It was doubtless, however, the memory of a long course of ancient wrongs that, above all, animated the people in their rage against the Bastille. There was, moreover, however, a strategical reason. As a fortress, the Bastille commanded the Rue St.-Antoine and the adjoining faubourg, and indeed dominated all Paris. To destroy it, therefore, was considered at once a good moral and a good military act.

The governor, De Launay, had already prepared his defence; and in addition to the guns of position in the towers, he had placed a number in the interior courtyard. The gates and the outer walls had been loopholed and armed with wall-pieces, and a quantity of paving-stones, cannon-balls, and lumps of iron had been carried up to the towers, in order to be hurled down upon the heads of the expected assailants.

The garrison consisted only of 114 men, 32 of whom were Swiss, while the other 82 were old pensioners. The defenders, indeed, were nearly all of them aged, but experienced, soldiers. Their material appliances and the strength of their position were such that the governor looked upon the fortress as impregnable against a mob of people who had neither the art nor the time to undertake regular siege operations. With his powerful batteries, De Launay could lay the whole quarter in ruins; and foreseeing this possibility, the committee of the Hôtel de Ville sent a deputation to the governor, promising not to attack him if he would withdraw the cannon, and promise not on his side to begin hostilities. A man of more energy, Thuriot de la Rozière, called, in the name of his district, upon the governor, and demanded the surrender of the fortress. His account of what was taking place in Paris astonished De Launay, and gained the sympathy of the French portion of the garrison. His final demand was that the Bastille should be occupied by some of the newly-formed bands conjointly with troops of the regular army. But this proposition, though more advanced than the feeble one made by the committee of the Hôtel de Ville, was by no means on a level with popular demands; and Thuriot, on leaving the Bastille, was threatened by the armed bands assembled outside, who demanded, not the occupation of the Bastille, but its destruction.

A few brave men got into the outer yard through the roof of the {51} guard-house, and at once destroyed with hatchets the chains of the drawbridge leading to the inner yard. They were followed by others, and soon the outer gates were forced. A terrible fire had been opened on the crowd of assailants, and it was resolved once more to approach De Launay by means of a deputation, which, however, was unable to reach him. At this moment the besiegers set fire to several carts of hay and manure, in order to burn the buildings which masked the fortress and to smoke out the defenders. At the same time, a constant fire was kept up from the windows and roofs of the neighbouring houses. All this, however, had but little effect on the garrison. A new deputation was now sent forward, bearing a white flag. A white flag was displayed in reply from the Bastille, and the soldiers reversed their muskets. An officer of the Swiss troops passed forward a note, by means of a crane, with these words: “We have twenty thousand pounds of powder, and we will blow up the fortress and the whole of the neighbourhood unless you accept a capitulation.”

The Commissaries of the Hôtel de Ville, believing in the pacific demonstrations of the garrison, were already urging the people to retire, when suddenly there was a discharge of musketry from the fortress, which laid low a good number of the insurgents. It was apparently the Swiss who had fired, heedless of the conciliatory attitude assumed by the French portion of the defending force. The whole garrison was held responsible for this act of treachery. The exasperation of the people had now gone beyond all bounds, and there was but one cry heard: “Down with the Bastille!” A number of the French guards seized five of the guns which had been brought from the Invalides, and pointed them at the fortress. The fire of the artillery proved more effective than that of the musketry, and the drawbridge was now swept by cannon-balls.

Meanwhile, the garrison was divided against itself. The pensioners wished the contest, of which the end could now be foreseen, to cease, whereas the Swiss mercenaries, careless about the effusion of French blood (and, it must be admitted, full of a more youthful courage), were determined to resist to the last.

There was another reason which made it unadvisable to prolong the defence. The fortress contained abundance of ammunition, but little or no food; and the numbers, constantly increasing, of the besiegers rendered it impossible to renew the supply. It was evident that all Paris demanded the fall of the Bastille. The Swiss, however, would hear of no surrender. As for De Launay, he felt that he was personally detested, not only for the blood he was uselessly shedding, but even more for his persecution of the prisoners under his charge. The Memoirs of Linguet and other revelations had made his name odious throughout Europe. Thus the vengeful cries of the people seemed directed against himself personally. Wild with terror, he seized a match, and was about to explode his powder magazine, when two non-commissioned officers drove him back at point of bayonet. Outside, a sort of organisation had now established itself. Many bands of volunteers had been moving together since the first uprising, with the volunteers of the Palais Royal, under Camille Desmoulins, among them. These bands were under the command of officers of the French Guards, or of energetic men who were afterwards to distinguish themselves in the military career.

According to some accounts, the surrender of the fortress took place immediately after the episode of the note thrust forward on a crane, or, according to another version, pushed through a loophole. The moment in any case arrived when, promised by some of the French Guards that their lives should be spared, the garrison agreed formally to surrender. The drawbridges were now lowered, and the Bastille was occupied in force. On being recognised, De Launay was arrested and led off towards the Hôtel de Ville. Hulin, afterwards one of Napoleon’s generals and nobles, took charge of the prisoner, and, forming an escort, did his best to convey him safely through the infuriated mob, which, with execrations, pressed towards him from all sides. More than once De Launay was thrown down. Having lost his hat, he was now an easier mark than ever for the assaults of the crowd. That he might not so readily be distinguished, Hulin gave him his own hat, thus running the risk of being himself mistaken for the odious governor. At last Hulin and several members of the escort were thrown together to the ground; and when Hulin managed to rise, the head of the hated governor was being carried aloft on the point of a pike.

Within the Bastille the invaders were, meanwhile, breaking open the dungeons. Only seven prisoners, however, were found, two of whom had become insane. One of the latter had a long white beard falling to his waist, and fancied himself still under the reign of Louis {52} XV., who had been dead fifteen years. Instruments of torture were discovered. Shocking as this detail may be to a reader of the present day, it should be remembered that under the old monarchy torture was constantly employed in criminal process. It is only just to add that it was formally abolished a few years before the Revolution, and not afterwards, as is generally supposed.

The archives of the prison were in part destroyed. All that was preserved of them was afterwards published, in order once more to throw light on the iniquity of the system under which such an institution as the Bastille could exist.

The taking of the Bastille cost the assailants eighty-three killed on the spot, and fifteen who died from their injuries, besides sixty-three wounded. The garrison, on their side, protected by the walls of the fortress, lost but one killed and one wounded during a struggle which lasted five hours.

The major of the garrison, De Losme, shared the fate of the governor, except that, instead of being put to death summarily by an enraged mob, he was taken deliberately to the famous lanterne, or lamp of the Place de la Grève, and hanged. Two of the pensioners, accused, like the major, of having pointed the guns of the fortress against the people, were also strung up. These were the first victims of the cry “À la lanterne!” afterwards to be heard so often in the streets of Paris. The lanterne in question was attached to an iron gibbet; and it was on this gibbet that the victims of popular fury were hoisted aloft.

The lives of all the other defenders were spared. They were set at liberty and a subscription opened for them, as they had now no means of earning an honest penny.

The news of the capture of the Bastille caused great excitement at Versailles, where Louis XVI., in his habitual state of indecision, seemed unable to give an order of any kind. He had gone to bed at his usual hour, but was awakened early the next morning by the Duke de Liancourt, who enjoyed the privilege of entering the royal bedchamber at any time. The Duke informed his sovereign of what was taking place at Paris, and impressed upon him the necessity of putting himself in accord with the nation and with the Assembly.

“Is it a revolt, then?” asked Louis XVI., with his eyes half open. “No, Sire,” replied the duke; “it is a revolution.” In these words, destined to become celebrated, the astonished king was informed that the ancient monarchy was at an end.

The Bastille was now pulled down: partly in the natural course of things, partly in virtue of a formal resolution. The stones were broken up into little pieces, and worn by ladies as jewellery; ornaments and playthings were also made from the remains of the detested edifice.

The conquerors of the Bastille formed a special corps, which had its recognised place in all public ceremonies. A medal was struck in their honour, and each of them was commissioned with an office. During the Revolution the ground on which the Bastille stood became a favourite place for public meetings. The Bronze Column which now lifts its head in the Place de la Bastille was erected under the reign of Louis Philippe, in memory of the Revolution of 1789 and of the lesser revolt of 1830.

Although the Revolution began in Paris, the revolutionary spirit spread rapidly to the provinces. This is clearly set forth in Arthur Young’s account of what took place at Strasburg, where he had just arrived when news of the Revolution reached him.


THE CONQUERORS OF THE BASTILLE.  (From the Painting by François Flaming.)
(From the Painting by François Flaming.)

“I arrived there,” he writes, “at a critical moment, which I thought would have broken my neck: a detachment of horse, with their trumpets, on one side, a party of infantry, with their drums beating, on the other, and a great mob hallooing, frightened my French mare, and I could scarcely keep her from trampling on Messrs. the tiers état. On arriving at the inn, one heard the interesting news of the revolt of Paris; the Garde Française joining the people; the unreliability of the rest of the troops; the taking of the Bastille; and the institution of the milice bourgeoise—in a word, the absolute overthrow of the old government. Everything being now decided, and the kingdom absolutely in the hands of the Assembly, they have the power to make a new constitution such as they think proper; and it will be a spectacle for the world to view in this enlightened age the representatives of twenty-five millions of people sitting on the construction of a new and better fabric of liberty than Europe has yet offered. It will now be seen whether they will copy the constitution of England, freed from its faults, or attempt from theory to frame something absolutely speculative. In the former case they will prove a blessing to their country; in the latter they will probably involve it in inextricable confusion and civil wars: perhaps not immediately, but certainly {54} in the future. I hear nothing of their removing from Versailles. If they stay there under the control of an armed mob, they must make a government that will please the mob; but they will, I suppose, be wise enough to move to some central town—Tours, Blois, or Orleans, where their deliberations may be free. But the Parisian spirit of commotion spreads rapidly; it is here; the troops that were near breaking my neck are employed to keep an eye on the people who show signs of an intended revolt. They have broken the windows of some magistrates who are no favourites; and a great mob of them is at this moment assembled, demanding clamorously to have meat at five sous a pound. They have a cry among them that will conduct them to good lengths: ‘Point d’impôt et vivent les états!’ I have spent some time at the Cabinet Littéraire reading the gazettes and journals that give an account of the transactions at Paris; and I have had some conversation with several sensible and intelligent men in the present revolution. The spirit of revolt is gone forth into various parts of the kingdom; the price of bread has prepared the populace everywhere for all sorts of violence; at Lyons there have been commotions as furious as at Paris, and likewise at a great many other places. Dauphiné is in arms, and Bretagne in absolute rebellion. The idea is that hunger will drive the people to revolt, and that when once they find any other means of subsistence than honest labour everything will have to be feared. Of such consequence it is to a country to have a policy on the subject of corn: one that shall, by securing a high price to the farmer, encourage his culture sufficiently to secure the people from famine. I have been witness to a scene curious to a foreigner, but dreadful to those Frenchmen who consider. Passing through the square of the Hôtel de Ville, the mob were breaking the windows with stones, notwithstanding that an officer and a detachment of horse were on the spot. Observing not only that their numbers increased, but that they grew bolder and bolder every moment, I thought it worth staying to see how the thing would end, and clambered on to the roof of a row of low stalls opposite the building against which their malice was directed. Here I could view the whole scene. Perceiving that the troops would not attack them except in words and menaces, they grew more violent, and furiously attempted to beat the door in pieces with iron crows, placing ladders to the windows. In about a quarter of an hour, which gave time for the assembled magistrates to escape by a back door, they burst everything open, and entered like a torrent, amid a universal shout of triumph. From that minute a medley of casements, sashes, shutters, chairs, tables, sofas, books, papers, pictures, etc., rained down incessantly from all the windows of the house, which is seventy or eighty feet long; this being succeeded by a shower of tiles, skirting-boards, banisters, framework, and whatever parts of the building force could detach. The troops, both horse and foot, were quiet spectators. They were at first too few to interpose, and when they became more numerous the mischief was too far advanced to admit of any other course than that of guarding every avenue around, permitting no fresh arrivals on the scene of action, but letting everyone that pleased retire with his plunder; guards at the same time being placed at the doors of the churches and all public buildings. I was for two hours a spectator of this scene: secure myself from the falling furniture, but near enough to see a fine lad of about fourteen crushed to death by some object as he was handing plunder to a woman—I suppose his mother, from the horror pictured in her countenance. I remarked several common soldiers with their white cockades among the plunderers, and instigating the mob even in sight of the officers of the detachment. Mixed in the crowd, there were people so decently dressed that I regarded them with no small surprise. The public archives were destroyed, and the streets for some way around strewed with papers. This was a wanton mischief, for it will be the ruin of many families unconnected with the magistrates.”

Although at the critical moment the first object of the revolutionists’ attack was the Bastille, that hateful building did not, according to Mercier, inspire the common people with any peculiar indignation. It will be seen from his own words that he was in this particular a less keen-sighted observer than he is generally reputed to have been. Writing just before the Revolution, Mercier saw well that his fellow-countrymen were oppressed, but believed they were too much inured to this oppression ever to rise against it.

“I have already observed,” he writes, “that the Parisians in general are totally indifferent as to their political interest; nor is this to be wondered at in a place where a man is hardly allowed to think for himself. A coercive silence, imposed upon every Frenchman from the hour of his birth on whatever regards the affairs of government, grows with him into a habit which the fear of the Bastille and his natural {55} indolence daily strengthen, till the man is totally lost in the slave. Kingly prerogative knows no bounds, because no one ever dared to resist the monarch’s despotic commands. It is true that at times, in the words of the proverb, the galled horse has winced. The Parisians have at times attempted to withstand tyranny; but popular commotions amongst them have had very much the air of a boyish mutiny at school; a rod with the latter, the butt end of a firelock with the former, quiets all, because neither act with the spirit and resolution of men who assert their natural rights. What would cost the minister his life in those unhappy countries where self-denial and passive obedience are unknown is done off in Paris by a witty epigram, a smart song, etc.; the authors of which, however, take the greatest care to remain concealed, having continually the fear of ministerial runners before their eyes; nor has a bon mot unfrequently occasioned the captivity of its author.”

Mercier at the same time points out that never since the days of Henri IV. had France been so mildly governed as under Louis XVI. One of the last acts of Louis XV. had been to cast into the Bastille all the volumes of the Encyclopædia. One of the first acts of Louis XVI. was to liberate from the Bastille all prisoners who had not been guilty of serious, recognisable offences.

“At the accession of his present Majesty,” writes Mercier, “his new ministers, actuated by humanity, signalised the beginning of their administration with an act of justice and mercy, ordering the registers of the Bastille to be laid before them, when a great number of prisoners were set at large.” Among those liberated was a man of whom Mercier tells the same story that was afterwards to be told of one of the seven prisoners who were freed at the taking of the Bastille.

“Their number included a venerable old man, who for forty-seven years had remained shut up between four walls. Hardened by adversity, which steels the heart when it does not break it, he had supported his long and tedious captivity with unexampled constancy and fortitude; and he thought no more of liberty. The day is come. The door of his tomb turns upon its rusty hinges, it opens not ajar, as usual, but wide, for liberty, and an unknown voice acquaints him that he may now depart. He thinks himself in a dream; he hesitates, and at last ventures out with trembling steps; wonders at everything; thinks to have travelled a great way before he reaches the outward gate. Here he stops a while; his feeble eyes, long deprived of the sun’s cheering beams, can hardly support its first light. A coach waits for him in the streets; he gets into it, desires to be carried to a certain street, but unable to support the motion of the coach, he is set down, and by the assistance of two men at length he reaches the quarter where he formerly dwelt; but the spot is altered, and his house is no more. His wandering eye seems to interrogate every passenger, saying with heartrending accents of despondency: ‘Where shall I find my wife? Where are my children?’ All in vain; the oldest man hardly remembers to have heard his name. At last a poor old decrepit porter is brought to him. This man had served in his family, but knew him not. Questioned by the late prisoner, he replied, with all the indifference which accompanies the recollection of events long passed, that his wife had died above thirty years before in the utmost misery, and that his children were gone into foreign countries, nothing having been heard of them for many years. Struck with grief and astonishment, the old gentleman, his eyes riveted to the ground, remains for some time motionless; a few tears would have eased his deeply wounded heart, but he could not weep. At last, recovering from his trance, he hastens to the minister to whose humanity he was indebted for a liberty now grown burdensome. ‘Sir,’ he says to him, ‘send me back to my dungeon! Who is it that can survive his friends, his relations, nay, a whole generation? Who can hear of the death of all he held dear and precious, and not wish to die? All these losses, which happen to other men by gradation, and one by one, have fallen upon me in an instant. Ah, sir! it is not dreadful to die; but it is to be last survivor.’ The minister sympathised with this truly unfortunate man. Care was taken of him, and the old porter assigned to him for his servant, as he could speak with this man of his wife and children: the only comfort now left for the aged son of sorrow, who lived some time retired, though in the midst of the noise and confusion of the capital. Nothing, however, could reconcile him to a world quite new for him, and to which he resolved to remain a perfect stranger; and friendly death at last came to his relief and closed his eyes in peace.”

Although, as frigid historians have pointed out, the Bastille never did any harm to the common people, it was sometimes made use of to {56} punish actresses who were much admired by the populace. Mlle. Clairon, a distinguished actress and excellent woman, on quitting the stage from religious scruples—or rather because, contrary to her own views on the subject, she found the profession of actress condemned absolutely by the Church—was sent to the Bastille on the ground that, being a paid servant of the king, she refused to do her duty. “The case of this lady,” said a writer of the time, “is indeed hard. The king sends her to prison if she does not act, and the Church sends her to perdition if she does.” Mlle. Clairon was much troubled at the view taken of her profession by the clergy; and after consulting her confessor, she came to the conclusion that so long as she remained on the stage she could have no hope of salvation. It was then that she refused any longer to act, and determined to retire altogether from the stage. So indignant had Mlle. Clairon become on learning for the first time under what severe condemnation the stage lay, that she raised a strong party with the view of removing so great a scandal. Much was written and said in favour of the comedians, but all to no purpose. The priests stood firm to their text, and, in the words of a French writer, would by no means give up “their ancient and pious privilege of consigning to eternal punishment everyone who had anything to do with the stage.”


A LADY OF 1793.
A LADY OF 1793.

Mlle. Clairon’s retirement threw her manager into the greatest confusion. She was by far the best actress of the day, and such a favourite that it was almost impossible to do without her. The theatre was soon deserted by the public, and still Mlle. Clairon refused to act. Then it was that by royal mandate she was imprisoned. She had not, however, been long in the Bastille, when an order came from the Court for the players to go to Versailles to perform before the king. Mlle. Clairon was released, and commanded to make her appearance with the rest of the company. Being already very tired of the Bastille, she decided to obey, and performing at Court with immense success, and finding that all attempts to gain even the toleration of the Church were in vain, she resigned herself to her fate and went on acting as usual. Some years previously, Mlle. Clairon, accused of organising a cabal against a rival, had been sent to another State prison, Fort l’Évêque, where, instead of pining, as at the Bastille, she held high court, receiving visits from all kinds of illustrious people, whose carriages are said to have made the approach to the prison impassable.



Besides the Bastille and Fort l’Évêque, there was yet another prison, La Force, to which recalcitrant actresses used to be sent in the {58} strange days of the ancient régime. Thus Mlle. Gavaudin, a singer at the Opera, having refused the part assigned to her in a piece called the “Golden Fleece,” was sent to La Force, where she enjoyed herself so much, that she was warned as to the possibility of her being punished by solitary confinement in a genuine dungeon. On this, she agreed to appear in the character which she had at first rejected. When, however, an official came to the prison to set her at liberty, in order that she might play her part that very evening, she told him that for the present she would remain where she was, that she had ordered an excellent dinner, and meant to eat it. The official charged with her liberation insisted, however, on setting her free, telling her that after he had once got her into the street she might go wherever she chose. She simply returned to the prison, where she dined copiously, with a due allowance of wine. “Then,” says a narrator of these incidents, “she went to the Opera, had a furious scene with the stage-manager, who, during her imprisonment, had given her dressing-room to another singer, and after a quarter of an hour of violent language calmed down, dressed herself for the part of Calliope, and sang very charmingly.” It may be mentioned that before she was consigned to the Bastille, Mlle. Clairon’s case interested greatly some of the best writers of the day, including Voltaire, who published an eloquent defence of the stage against the overbearing pretensions of the Church.

It seems strange that in France, where the drama is cultivated with more interest and with more success than in any other country, actors and actresses should so long have been regarded as beyond the pale of Christianity. Happily, this is no longer the case. But the traditional view of the French Church in regard to actors and actresses was, until within a comparatively recent time, that they were, by the mere fact of exercising their profession, in the position of excommunicated persons. This is sufficiently shown not only by the case of Mlle. Clairon in connection with the Bastille, but also by the circumstances attending the burial of Molière in the seventeenth, of Adrienne Lecouvreur in the eighteenth, and of Mlle. Raucourt in the nineteenth century. Acting in Le Malade Imaginaire, Molière broke a blood-vessel, and was carried home to die. He was attended in his last moments by a priest of his acquaintance; he expired in presence of two nuns whom he frequently entertained, and who had come to visit him on that very day. Funeral rites were denied him, all the same, by the Archbishop of Paris; and when Mme. Molière appealed in person to Louis XIV., the king took offence at her audacious mode of address, and threw the whole responsibility on the Archbishop of Paris—to whom, nevertheless, he sent a private message. As a result of the king’s interference—not a very authoritative one—a priest was allowed to accompany Molière’s body to its otherwise unhonoured grave. The great comedy-writer was buried at midnight in unconsecrated ground; and of course, therefore, without any religious service.

Adrienne Lecouvreur, who, more than a century after her death, was to be made the heroine of Scribe and Legouve’s famous drama, is known to all playgoers as the life-long friend of Marshal Saxe, whom she furnished with money for his famous expedition to Courland. Voltaire entertained the greatest regard for her, and was never so happy as when he had persuaded her to undertake a part in one of his plays. Adrienne died in Voltaire’s arms, and no sooner was she dead than public opinion accused her rival, the Duchess de Bouillon, of having poisoned her from jealousy and hatred; for the duchess had conceived a passion for Marshal Saxe to which that gallant warrior could not bring himself to respond. The clergy refused to bury Adrienne, as in the previous century they had refused to bury Molière. Her body was taken possession of by the police, who buried it at midnight, without witnesses, on the banks of the Seine. “In France,” said Voltaire, “actresses are adored when they are beautiful, and thrown into the gutter when they are dead.”

Nearly a hundred years after the death of Adrienne Lecouvreur died another great actress, Mlle. Raucourt, who, like Adrienne Lecouvreur and like Molière, was refused Christian burial. This was in 1815, just after the Restoration, at a time when the clergy, so long deprived of power, were beginning once more to exercise it in earnest. The Curé of St.-Roch refused to admit the body of the actress into his church. An indignant crowd assembled, and became so riotous that the troops had to be called out. At last King Louis XVIII. ordered the church doors to be opened, and with the tact which distinguished him, commissioned his private chaplain to perform the service. In such horror was the stage held by the French clergy (if not by the Catholic clergy throughout Europe) so late as the beginning of the present century, that money offered to {59} the Church by actors and actresses for charitable purposes, although accepted, was at the same time looked upon as contaminating. Thus, when Mlle. Contat gave performances for the starving poor of Paris, and handed the proceeds to the clergy of her parish for distribution, they refused to touch the money until it had been “purified” by passing through the hands of the police, to whom it was paid in by the stage, and by whom it was afterwards paid out to the Church.


The Place de la Bastille was formed in virtue of a decree of the First Consul, but it was not completed until after the establishment of the Empire. The principal ornament of the square was to be a triumphal arch to the glory of the Grand Army. But after taking the opinion of the Academy of Fine Arts, the emperor altered his views; and the triumphal arch was reserved for the place it now occupies at the top of the Champs Élysées. Oddly enough, too, a massive object, intended originally for the spot now occupied by the Arc de l’Étoile, was carried to the Bastille in the form of an elephant, whose trunk, according to the fantastic design, was to give forth a column of water large enough to feed a triumphal fountain, which was inaugurated December 2nd, 1808. The wooden model of the elephant, covered with plaster, was seventeen metres long and fifteen metres high, counting the tower which the animal bore on its back. Set up for a time on the western bank of the Canal de l’Ourcq, the plastered elephant was afterwards abandoned, like the project in which it played a preliminary part, and its wooden carcase became a refuge for innumerable rats. The remains of the elephant were not removed until just before the completion of the bronze column which now stands in the centre of the Place de la Bastille, in memory of the victims of the Revolutions of 1789 and 1830.

The first stone of this monument was laid by King Louis Philippe on the 27th of July, 1831. It was finished at the beginning of 1843; and on the 28th of July of that year were placed, in the vaults constructed beneath the column for their reception, the remains of the insurgents of 1830, which for ten years had been lying buried in all parts of Paris, but particularly in the neighbourhood of the markets and at the foot of the Colonnade of the Louvre, where the relics reposed side by side with those of the Swiss soldiers who had died in protecting the palace. The figure lightly poised on the ball at the top of the column represents the Genius of Liberty.

At a short distance from the Place de la Bastille, and easily accessible by train, is Vincennes: known by its wood, at one time the favourite resort of duellists; by its military establishment, to which the famous Chasseurs de Vincennes owed their name when, after the downfall of Louis Philippe, it was thought desirable to get rid of their former designation—that of Chasseurs d’Orléans; and for its castle, in whose ditch the ill-fated Duke d’Enghien was shot, after a mock trial, on an all but groundless accusation.

The Duke d’Enghien, who, according to one of his biographers, had no fault but the one common to all the Bourbons—that of being “too easily influenced by beautiful eyes”—was living on the German side of the Rhine, nearly opposite Strasburg, with his wife, a Princess de Rohan-Rochefort, to whom he had been secretly married. As a royalist and a member of the royal family, he was naturally the enemy of Napoleon and the Napoleonic régime. But he had taken no part in any conspiracy, unless the League of Sovereigns and States formed against Napoleon could be so considered. The duke frequently crossed over from the right or German bank, especially at Binfelden, where the Prince de Rohan-Rochefort, his wife’s father, had taken apartments at the local inn. It became known, moreover, to the French authorities that the Prefect of Strasburg had for some time past been sending various agents to the German side. The princess received at this time from an officer of the Strasburg garrison, who had been formerly attached to the Rohan family, secret intelligence that inquiries were being made in regard to the Duke d’Enghien. Soon afterwards a small body of troops crossed the Rhine, surrounded the little castle or Gothic villa where the duke was living at Ettenheim, seized him, and brought him over to Strasburg. He was permitted to write, and lost no time in sending a note to the princess, who, from the windows of the house, had followed in painful anxiety all the events of the alarming drama acted before her eyes.

“They have promised me,” wrote the duke from the citadel of Strasburg, “that this letter shall be delivered to you intact. This is the first opportunity I have had of reassuring you as to my present condition, and I do so now without losing a moment. Will you, in your turn, reassure those who are attached to me in your neighbourhood? My own fear is that {60} this letter may find you no longer at Ettenheim, but on the way to this place. The pleasure of seeing you, however, would not be nearly so great as the fear I should have of your sharing my fate.... You know, from the number of men employed, that all resistance would have been useless. There was nothing to be done against such overpowering forces.

“I am treated with attention and politeness. I may say, except as regards my liberty (for I am not allowed to leave my room), that I am as well off as could be. If some of the officers sleep in my chamber, that is because I desired it. We occupy one of the commandant’s apartments, but another room is being prepared for me, which I am to take possession of to-morrow, and where I shall be better off still. The papers found on me, and which were sealed at once with my seal, are to be examined this morning in my presence.”

The first letters written by the young man from Strasburg to his wife (they are still preserved in the French Archives) showed no apprehension of danger; nothing could be proved against him except what was known beforehand, that he was a Bourbon and an enemy of Napoleon. “As far as I remember,” wrote the duke to his wife, “they will find letters from my relations and from the king, together with copies of some of mine. In all these, as you know, there is nothing that can compromise me, any more than my name and mode of thinking would have done during the whole course of the Revolution. All the papers will, I believe, be sent to Paris, and it is thought, according to what I hear, that in a short time I shall be free; God grant it! They were looking for Dumouriez, who was thought to be in our neighbourhood. It seems to have been supposed that we had had conferences together, and apparently he is implicated in the conspiracy against the life of the First Consul. My ignorance of this makes me hope that I shall obtain my liberty, but we must not flatter ourselves too soon. The attachment of my people draws tears from my eyes at every moment. They might have escaped; no one forced them to follow me. They came of their own accord.... I have seen nobody this morning except the commandant, who seems to me an honest, kind-hearted man, but at the same time strict in the fulfilment of his duty. I am expecting the colonel of gendarmes who arrested me, and who is to open my papers before me.”

Transferred to Vincennes, the duke was tried summarily by court-martial, sentenced to death, and shot in the moat of the fortress on the 21st of March, 1804. Immediately before the execution he asked for a pair of scissors, cut off a lock of his hair, wrapped it up in a piece of paper, with a gold ring and a letter, and gave the packet to Lieut. Noirot, begging him to send it to the Princess Charlotte de Rohan-Rochefort. Lieut. Noirot forwarded the packet to General Hulin, who transmitted it to an official named Réal, together with the following letter:—

“Paris, 30th Ventôse, Year 12 of the French Republic.—P. Hulin, General of Brigade commanding the Grenadiers on Foot of the Consular Guard, to Citizen Réal, Councillor of State charged with the conduct of affairs relating to the internal tranquillity and security of the Republic. I have the honour, Councillor of State, to address you a packet found on the former Duke d’Enghien. I have the honour to salute you. (Signed) P. HULIN.”

The receipt of the package was thus acknowledged by Citizen Réal:—

“Paris, 2 Germinal, Year 12 of the Republic.—The Councillor of State, especially charged with the conduct of all affairs relating to the internal tranquillity and security of the Republic, has received from the General of Brigade, Hulin, commanding the Grenadiers on Foot of the Guard, a small packet, containing hair, a gold ring, and a letter; this small packet bearing the following inscription: ‘To be forwarded to the Princess de Rohan from the former Duke d’Enghien.’

“(Signed) RÉAL.”

The last wishes of the unfortunate duke were not carried out. The packet was never forwarded to his wife. She may have received the letter, but the ring, the lock of hair, and some fifteen epistles, written in German, from the princess to the duke, and found upon him after his death, remained, without the duke’s letter, in the Archives of the Prefecture of Police. A fortnight after the duke’s execution, his widow addressed from Ettenheim, on the 16th of July, 1804, the following letter to the Countess d’Ecquevilly:—

“Since I still exist, dear Countess, it is certain that grief does not kill. Great God! for what frightful calamity was I reserved? In the most cruel torments, the most painful anxiety, never once did the horrible fear present itself to my mind that they might take his life. But, alas! it is only too true that the unhappy man has been made their victim: that this unjust sentence, this atrocious sentence, to which my whole being refused to lend credence, was pronounced and thereupon executed. I have not the courage to enter into details of this frightful event; but there is not one of them which is not heartrending, not one that would not paralyze with terror—I do not say every kind-hearted person, but anyone who has not lost all feeling of humanity. Alone, without support, without succour, without defence, oppressed with anxiety, worn out with fatigue, denied one moment of the repose demanded by Nature after his painful journey, he heard his death-sentence hurriedly pronounced, during which the unhappy man sank four{61} times into unconsciousness. What barbarity! Great God! And when the end came he was abandoned on all sides, without sympathy or consolation, without one affectionate hand to wipe away his tears or close his eyelids.

“Ah! I have not the cruel reproach to make to myself of not having done everything to follow him. Heaven knows that I would have risked my life with joy, I do not say to save him, but to soften the last moments of his life. Alas! they envied me this sad delight. Prayers, entreaties, were all in vain; I could not share his fate. They preferred to leave me to this wretched existence, condemned to eternal regret, eternal sorrow.”

Princess Charlotte died at Paris in 1841; and quite recently a note on the subject of her last wishes appeared in the Paris Intermédiaire, the French equivalent of our Notes and Queries. It was as follows:—“After the death of the Princess Charlotte, there was found among her papers a sealed packet, of which the superscription directed that it should be opened by the President of the Tribunal—at that time M. de Balli. This magistrate opened the packet and examined its contents. He found the whole correspondence of Bonaparte’s victim with ‘his friend,’ as the worthy magistrate put it: avec son amie. The president gave the packet to the family notary after re-closing it, saying that the letters were very touching, very interesting, but that they must be burnt; which was in fact done.”

ADRIENNE LECOUVREUR.  (From the Bust by Courtet in the Comédie Française.)
ADRIENNE LECOUVREUR. (From the Bust by Courtet in the Comédie Française.)

The marriage of the Duke d’Enghien to the Princess de Rohan had been informal; the informality consisting solely in its having been celebrated without some necessary sanction: probably that of the king, Louis XVI. The ceremony was performed by Cardinal de Rohan, the bride’s uncle; and it is evident from her first letters that she was regarded by her nearest friends and relatives as the duke’s lawful wife.

Let us now, passing from political to private executions, say a few words about some of the famous duels of which Vincennes, or rather the wood of Vincennes, has from time to time been the scene.

Duels in France are generally fought with swords; and as it depends upon the combatants to strike or not to strike at a mortal part, a hostile meeting is by no means always attended with serious consequences. It is a mistake, however, to assume, as Englishmen frequently do, that a duel in France fought for grave reasons is not itself a grave affair. Plenty of sword duels have placed the worsted combatant in imminent danger of his life; though it is undeniable that the pistol, being a more hazardous weapon, proves, as a rule, deadlier than the sword. When M. Paolo Fiorentino, blackballed at the Society of Men of Letters, on the ground that he had accepted bribes, undertook to fight every member of the association, beginning with M. Amédée Achard, whose name, thanks to its two A’s, headed the alphabetical list, the Italian critic and bravo ran his first opponent through the body, and all but killed him. M. Henri de Pène received like treatment at the hands of an officer by reason of his having described the unseemly conduct of officers generally, as shown at a ball of which the École Militaire was the scene. Both Achard and Pène, however, recovered. Not so the unfortunate {62} Armand Carrel, one of the boldest and most brilliant writers that the Republican Press of France possessed. Armand Carrel and his antagonist, Émile de Girardin, another famous journalist of Louis Philippe’s reign, fought with pistols in that Bois de Vincennes whose name at once suggests crossed rapiers or whizzing bullets.

M. de Girardin was the inventor of the cheap press, not only in France, but in Europe. To reduce the price of the newspaper, and thus increase the number of subscribers, while covering any possible loss on the sale by the enlarged revenue from advertisements, which would flow in more and more rapidly as the circulation widened: such was Girardin’s plan. According, however, to his enemies, he proposed to “enlarge the portion hitherto allotted in newspapers to mendacious announcements to the self-commendations of quackery and imposture, at the sacrifice of space which should be devoted to philosophy, history, literature, the arts, and whatever else elevates or delights the mind of man.”

The proposed change was really one which Democrats and Republicans should have hailed with delight; for it promised to extend a knowledge of public affairs to readers who had hitherto been prevented from becoming acquainted with them by the high price of the newspapers, which, apart from their own articles on political affairs, published long accounts of the debates in the Chamber.

M. de Girardin, however, found his innovation attacked as the device of a charlatan. He was accused of converting journalism into the most sordid of trades: of making it “a speaking-trumpet of the money-grabber and the speculator.” Some of M. de Girardin’s opponents went so far as to hint that he was not working in good faith, and that the losses to which the diminution of price must expose his journal were to be made good by a secret subsidy. Armand Carrel, as editor of the National, entered into the quarrel, and took part against Girardin, who, on his side, wrote a bitter attack upon Carrel. No sooner had Carrel read the scathing article than he called upon its author, demanding either retractation or personal satisfaction. He entered Girardin’s room, accompanied by M. Adolphe Thibaudeau, holding open in his hand the journal which contained the offensive lines. Girardin asked Carrel to wait until he also could have a friend present. M. Lautour-Mézeray was sent for; but pending that gentleman’s arrival some sharp words were interchanged.

Armand Carrel conceived that he was justified in regarding the course adopted by M. de Girardin as indicating an intention to bring the matter to a duel, and on his suggesting as much, M. de Girardin replied, “A duel with such a man as you, sir, would be quite a bonne fortune.” “Sir,” replied Carrel, “I can never regard a duel as a bonne fortune.” A few moments afterwards M. Lautour-Mézeray arrived. His presence served to give the discussion a more conciliatory tone, and it was ultimately agreed that a few words of explanation should be published in both journals. On M. de Girardin’s proposing to draw up the note at once, “You may rely upon me, sir,” said Armand Carrel, with dignity. The quarrel seemed almost at an end; but an incident reanimated it. M. de Girardin required that the publication of the note should take place simultaneously in the two journals. Carrel, on the contrary, held that it ought to appear first in the Presse, Girardin’s paper; but he experienced on this point the most determined resistance. It was then that, carried away with indignation, wounded to the quick, utterly unable to adhere any longer to the moderation which, by a determined effort, he had hitherto enforced upon himself, Carrel rose and exclaimed, “I am the offended person; I choose the pistol!”

It was early on the morning of Friday, July 22, 1836, that Armand Carrel and M. de Girardin found themselves face to face in the Bois de Vincennes.

While the pistols were being loaded, Carrel said to M. de Girardin, “Should chance be against me and you should afterwards write my life, you will, in all honour, adhere strictly and simply to the facts?” “Rest assured,” replied his adversary. The seconds had measured a distance of forty paces; the combatants were to advance within twenty of each other. Armand Carrel immediately took his place and advanced, presenting, despite the urgent entreaties of M. Ambert that he would show less front, the whole breadth of his person to his adversary’s aim. M. de Girardin having also advanced some paces, both parties fired nearly at the same instant, and both fell wounded, the one in the leg, the other in the groin.

“I saw him,” wrote Louis Blanc some time afterwards, “as he lay; his pale features expressing passion in repose. His attitude was firm, inflexible, martial, like that of a soldier who slumbers on the eve of battle.”{63}

M. de Girardin was profoundly grieved at the result of the duel, and he made a vow never to fight again. Many years afterwards, under the Republic of 1848, he visited the grave of the man he had killed, to express his regret and ask for pardon in the name of the form of Government to which he had now become a convert, and which Carrel had always placed above every other.

The duelling chronicles of the Bois de Vincennes would lead us far away from the Paris of to-day. It may be mentioned, however, that in this wood Alexandre Dumas the elder fought his famous duel with a collaborateur, who claimed to have written the whole of the Tour de Nesle and who, undoubtedly, supplied to the skilful dramatist the framework of the piece.

Dumas was in all truth a skilful dramatist, though one may hesitate to give him the title of dramatic poet, which he loved to claim. “What are you?” said the judge of the Rouen Tribunal to the author of so many clever pieces, who had to give evidence in a certain case. “If I were not in the city of Corneille,” answered Alexander the Great, “I should call myself a dramatic poet.” “There are degrees in everything,” replied the judge. Alexandre Dumas was, all the same, a great inventor, and he possessed an extraordinary talent for putting dramatic things into shape. When, therefore, the future editor of the Courier des États-Unis claimed to have written all that was important in the Tour de Nesle, he doubtless declared what from a literary point of view was false. Dumas not only rejected his contention, but declined to allow his own name to appear in the bill side by side with that of his collaborateur. Hence angry words and a duel: once more a serious one, and with pistols, not swords.

With a calm desire to kill his man, of which, were he not his own accuser, one would refuse to suspect him, Dumas tells us, in his Memoirs, how, when he appeared on the ground, he examined his adversary’s costume, and, while thinking it excellent as a “make-up,” was sorry to find that it offered no salient mark for a pistol-shot. M. Gaillardet was dressed entirely in black; his trousers, his buttoned-up coat, his cravat were all as inky as Hamlet’s cloak, and according to the Parisian fashion of the time, he wore no shirt-collar. “Impossible to see the man,” said Dumas to himself; “there is no point about him to aim at.” He at the same time made a mental note of the costume, which he afterwards reproduced in the duel scene of the “Corsican Brothers.” At last he noticed a little speck of white in his adversary’s ear: simply a small piece of cotton-wool. “I will hit him in the ear,” said Dumas to himself; and on his confiding the amiable intention to one of his seconds, the latter promised to watch carefully the effect of the shot, inasmuch as he was anxious to see whether a man hit with a bullet through the head turned round a little before falling or fell straight to the ground. Dumas’s pistol, however, missed fire. The delightful experiment contemplated could not, therefore, be tried; and the encounter was bloodless.


At Vincennes was confined for a few days, just before his expulsion from France, the Young Pretender, or “Charles Edward,” as the French called him. The Duke de Biron had been ordered to see to his arrest; and one evening when it was known that he intended to visit the Opera, Biron surrounded the building with twelve hundred guards as soon as the prince had entered it. He was arrested, taken to Vincennes, and kept there four days; then to be liberated and expelled from France, in accordance with the treaty of 1748, so humiliating to the French arms. The servants of the Young Pretender, and with them one of the retinue of the Princess de Talmont, whose antiquated charms had detained him at Paris, were conveyed to the Bastille; upon which the princess wrote the following letter to M. de Maurepas, the minister: “The king, sir, has just covered himself with immortal glory by arresting Prince Edward. I have no doubt but that his Majesty will order a Te Deum to be sung to thank God for so brilliant a victory. But as Placide, my lacquey, taken captive in this memorable expedition, can add nothing to his Majesty’s laurels, I beg you to send him back to me.” “The only Englishman the regiment of French guards has taken throughout the war!” exclaimed the Princess de Conti, when she heard of the arrest.

“Besides the Bastille and the Castle of Vincennes, which are the privileged places of confinement for State prisoners, there are others,” says an old chronicler, “which may be called the last strongholds of tyranny. The minister by his private lettre de cachet sends an objectionable individual to Bicêtre or Charenton. The latter place, indeed, is for lunatics; but a minister who deprives a citizen of his liberty because he so wills it may make him pass for what he pleases; and if the person taken up is not at that time, he will in a few months be, entirely out of his senses, so that at worst it is only a kind of {64} ministerial anticipation. Upon any complaint laid by the parents or other relations, a young man is sent to St.-Lazare, where sometimes he will remain till the death of the complainants; and Heaven knows how fervently this is prayed for by the captive!”

Under the reign of Charles VII. there stood in the Wood of Vincennes a castle which the King named Château de Beauté, and presented to Agnes Sorel. Of this abode the royal favourite duly took possession. Charles was by no means popular with his subjects, whom he taxed severely; and they were scandalised by the way in which Agnes Sorel squandered money, by her undisguised relations with the king, and by the kindness with which she was apparently treated even by the queen. Far, then, from rendering honours to “the beautiful Agnes,” the Parisians murmured at her prodigality and arrogance; and the favourite, indignant to find herself so ill received in Paris, departed, saying that the Parisians were churls, and that if she had suspected they would render her such insufficient honour she would never have set foot in their city: “which,” says a contemporary writer, “would have been a pity, but not a great one.”


After saying so much against Agnes Sorel, it is only fair to add that, according to many historians, it was she who roused Charles VII. from his habitual lethargy, and inspired him with the idea of driving the English out of France.


Vincennes is a military station, where a considerable body of troops is maintained. Hence, as already mentioned, the once famous Chasseurs derived their name. Each division has now its own battalion of Chasseurs. It may be added that special corps of infantry, such as Chasseurs de Vincennes, Zouaves, Turcos, together with the Chasseurs d’Afrique and other kinds of ornamental cavalry, have been abolished: to the detriment of the picturesqueness, if not the practical {65} efficiency, of the French army.


The infantry regiments are all armed and dressed absolutely alike, with the exception of the battalions of “chasseurs” (corresponding to the “schützen” battalions of the German Army), whose tunics are of a lighter blue than those of the line regiments. The Germans, by the way, have only one battalion of sharpshooters to each army corps, whereas the French have two, one to each division. As the French are adopting as much as possible the principle of uniformity in their army, it seems strange that they should have made any distinction between chasseurs and infantry of the line; that, in short, they should have retained chasseurs in their army at all. Formerly sharp-shooters carried rifles and were supposed to be particularly good shots; whereas infantry of the line were armed with smooth-bore muskets, and if they could pull the trigger, could certainly not aim straight. Now every infantry soldier is supposed, more or less correctly, to be a good marksman; and linesmen and chasseurs are armed alike.


Lancers exist no more; and the French cavalry, but for differences of uniform, would all be of the same medium pattern, neither “light” nor “heavy,” but presumably fit for duties of all kinds. Some cavalry regiments are uniformed as dragoons, some as chasseurs, some as hussars; and every army corps has attached to it, or rather included in its integral force, four cavalry regiments of one of these three descriptions.

The Recruitment Bill of 1872 and the Organisation Bill of 1873 form a net which, with the additions since made to them, takes at one sweep everybody whom the military authorities can possibly want. Even seminarists and students of theology are no longer exempted.

Postmen, policemen of all kinds, workmen in Government factories, students of a certain age in Government schools and in all educational establishments private or public, members of the custom house and {66} octroi service, firemen, Government engineers, clerks and workmen in the Department of Woods, Bridges, and Mines, scavengers, lighthouse-keepers, coast-guardsmen, engine-drivers, stokers, guards, pointsmen, station-masters, signalmen and clerks of the railway service, all persons employed in the telegraph service, all seamen not already on the lists of the navy, and generally all members of bodies having some recognised constitution in time of peace, may in time of war be formed into special corps in order to serve either with the active army or with the “territorial army”—as the French equivalent to the German Landwehr is called. “The formation of these special corps,” says the text of the Law on the General Organisation of the French Army, “is authorised by decree. They are subject to all the obligations of military service, enjoy all the rights of belligerents, and are bound by the rules of the law of nations.”

For private gentlemen going out in plain clothes to shoot at invaders from behind hedges no provision is made; and such persons, whether called “francs-tireurs” or by any other name, would, if caught by the enemy, evidently be left to their fate. The franc-tireur, in fact, though still popular with the sort of people who delight in stories of brigands and highwaymen, is not looked back to with admiration even by his own Government. “These articles,” says the report on the Law of Military Organisation in reference to the clause above cited, “are introduced in order to prevent the return of such unhappy misunderstandings as occurred in the last war, during which it is said that National Guards and francs-tireurs were shot by the enemy because our military laws had not given them the rights of belligerents.” The rules under which these bodies of armed civilians, temporarily endowed with the military character, may be organised are strictly defined, so that the country may at no future time be troubled by “the formation of bands of foreign adventurers who have during all the worst epochs of our history fallen upon France, and, under pretext of defending her, have often subjected her to devastation and pillage.” This is, of course, meant for the bands of Garibaldians. They were, nevertheless, regularly organised under officers bearing commissions from the Minister of War, and, apart from the question of “devastation and pillage,” were the only bodies of partisans who showed any aptitude for guerilla warfare.



THE BOULEVARDS (continued).

Hôtel Carnavalet.—Hôtel Lamoignon.—Place Royale.—Boulevard du Temple.—The Temple.—Louis XVII.—The Theatres.—Astley’s Circus.—Attempted Assassination of Louis Philippe.—Trial of Fieschi.—The Café Turc.—The Cafés.-The Folies Dramatiques.—Louis XVI. and the Opera.—Murder of the Duke of Berri.

LET us return now from Vincennes to the Place de la Bastille and the Boulevard Beaumarchais.

Perhaps the most interesting house on this boulevard is number twenty-three, which was built by Mansard, the famous architect, for his own occupation. One set of rooms in the house was occupied by the celebrated Ninon de Lenclos, who died there October 17, 1703, at the age of eighty-nine, preserving, according to tradition, her remarkable beauty to the very last. Here Voltaire, then in his twelfth year, was presented to her; nor did she forget to assign to him in her will 2,000 francs for the purchase of books.

Next door to the house of Mansard and Ninon de Lenclos is the little Beaumarchais theatre, which, constructed in forty-three days, was opened on the 3rd of December, 1835, under the style of Théâtre de la Porte St.-Antoine. In 1842 it was re-named Théâtre Beaumarchais. Then at different periods it bore the titles of Opéra Bouffe Français, and Fantaisies Parisiennes, until at length, in 1888, when it was entirely rebuilt, it became once more the Théâtre Beaumarchais.

The Government of 1830 did right in giving the name of Beaumarchais to the boulevard on which he at one time lived, and where he possessed a certain amount of property. During the stormy years that immediately preceded the Revolution of 1789 Beaumarchais was an important figure; and the effect of the “Marriage of Figaro” on the public mind was in a good measure to prepare it for the general overthrow then imminent. The King, the Queen, the Ministers, were all, in the first instance, afraid of the “Marriage of Figaro”; and we have seen that to get it produced Beaumarchais displayed as much diplomacy and energy as would suffice in the present day to upset a Cabinet.

While living at his mansion near the Porte St.-Antoine, Beaumarchais built close at hand the Théâtre du Marais, where, after letting it to a manager, he brought out, in 1792, his “Mère Coupable”—the third part of his Figaro Trilogy, in which the Count and Countess Almaviva, Figaro and Susannah, are shown in their old age. The “guilty mother” is the Countess herself; the charming and, as one had hoped, innocent Rosina of the “Barber of Seville.” The male offender is Chérubin, better known under his operatic name of Cherubino, who after saying in the French comedy, with a mixture of timidity and audacity, “Si j’osais oser!” ends by daring too much. “La Mère Coupable” obtained but little success, and deserved none. Closed by Imperial order in 1807, the Théâtre du Marais existed only for fifteen years. It must not be confounded with the ancient theatre of the same name where in 1636 Corneille produced his famous tragedy “Le Cid.”

The Marais or marsh, whose name recalls the early history of Paris, when Lutetia was defended by marshes as by a broad impassable moat, has long been known as the favourite abode of small pensioners and fundholders, who in this remote quarter found food and shelter at inexpensive rates.

The Marais, however, has had, like most other parts of Paris, its illustrious residents; and when about the middle of the eighteenth century the immortal actress Mlle. Clairon lived there she was the third famous inmate of the tenement in which she had taken up her abode. “I was told of a small house in the Rue du Marais,” she writes in her memoirs, “which I could have for two hundred francs, where Racine was said to have lived forty years with his family. I was informed that it was there he had composed his imperishable works and there that he died; and that afterwards it had been occupied by the tender Lecouvreur, who had ended her days in it. ‘The walls of the house,’ I reflected, ‘will be alone sufficient to make me feel the sublimity of the author and develop the talents of the actress. In this sanctuary then I will live and die!’”

Close to the Rue du Marais, in the Rue de Sévigné, stands the Musée Carnavalet, established in the former Hôtel Carnavalet, where Mme. de Sévigné, author of the famous Letters, lived from 1677 to 1698. It was restored in 1867 by Baron Haussmann, who converted it into a museum for preserving various monuments, statues, inscriptions, tombstones, ornaments, and objects of various kinds, proceeding from the wholesale {68} demolition to which sundry streets and even whole quarters of Paris were at that time being subjected, under the orders of Baron Haussmann himself in his capacity of Prefect of the Seine.

Another remarkable mansion in the same street is the Hôtel Lamoignon, now occupied by different manufacturers, especially of chemical products, but which, in its earliest days, had highly aristocratic and even royal occupants. Begun by Diana of France, legitimatised daughter of Henri II., the Hôtel Lamoignon was bought and finished in 1581 for Charles de Valois, Duke of Angoulême, natural son of Charles IX., who, according to Tallemant des Réaux, would have been “the best fellow in the world if he could only have got rid of his swindling propensities.” When his servants asked him for money, he would reply to them: “My house has three outlets into the street; take whichever of them you like best.” The architecture of the Hôtel Lamoignon is that of an ancient fortress, though its walls and façades are ornamented with crescents, hunting horns, and the heads of stags and dogs; the whole in allusion to the Diana for whom the building was originally planned.


Having once left the upper boulevard to enter the adjacent Marais, we cannot but go on towards the Place des Vosges, better known as the Place Royale, where, in 1559, Henri II. took a fancy one day for trying his powers at tilting against Montgomery, captain in the Scotch Guard; when the shock was so violent that a splinter from Montgomery’s lance penetrated the king’s eye through the broken visor of his helmet. The king was carried to the Hôtel des Tournelles, where, without having regained consciousness, he died on the 15th of July, 1559. The hotel or palace where the king breathed his last was thenceforth abandoned as a fatal and accursed place. In the course of four years it fell into a ruinous condition, and Charles IX. ordered it to be pulled down. The {69} park belonging to the old palace was turned into a horse market, which was the scene in 1578 of the famous encounter between the favourite courtiers of Henri III. known as the Mignons and the partisans of the Duke of Guise. Four combatants, Maugiron, Schomberg, Riberac, and Quélus, lost their lives in this affair. The horse market, or Place Royale as it afterwards became, witnessed many sanguinary duels, until at last Richelieu determined to put an end to a fashion which was depriving France of some of her bravest men. With this view he cut off the head of Montmorency-Bouteville and of Count des Chapelles, his second in the duel which cost Bussy d’Amboise his life. In 1613 the Cardinal erected in the centre of the Place Royale an equestrian statue of his royal master Louis XIII. The Place Royale was at that time the favourite quarter of the French nobility, and the rendezvous of all that was witty, gallant, and distinguished in France.


The house number six on the Place Royale is particularly interesting as having been inhabited in Richelieu’s time by the brilliant and too celebrated Marion de Lorme, and two centuries later by Victor Hugo, who, in the very room that Marion de Lorme had occupied, wrote, at the age of twenty-five, the splendid tragedy of which she is the heroine.{70}

The statue of Louis XIII. which Richelieu had raised was overturned and broken to pieces in 1792, when the most critical period of the Revolution was at hand. It was replaced after the Restoration, under the reign of Charles X., by the present statue.

The Boulevard du Temple owes its name to a building which was first occupied by the Order of Templars, and which, towards the close of the last century, enjoyed a sad celebrity as the prison where Louis XVI., Marie Antoinette, and the young Dauphin were confined.

No less than forty-eight works are said to have been written on the imprisonment of Louis XVII., and matters connected with it, including the histories of some dozen “claimants,” asserting, in his name, their right to the French throne. Most of these pretenders, with Naundorff—who had been the Dauphin’s valet in the Temple—prominent among them, had no difficulty in finding enthusiasts and dupes to further their designs; and even in France one of them caused himself to be described on his tombstone as “Louis de France.” The Emperor Napoleon III. took, however, the liberty of ordering the inscription to be effaced.

Soon after the death of the Count de Chambord, M. de Chantelauze published in the Illustration an account of Louis XVII.’s life in the Temple, and of his last illness, death, and post-mortem examination, together with certificates which leave no doubt as to the young prince having really died in his prison. Simon, the gaoler, according to M. de Chantelauze’s view, was, like so many other bad men, not wholly bad; while his wife was for the most part good, the appearance of badness or roughness which she manifested when the child confided to her care was visited by members of the Commune being assumed in order to inspire her employers with confidence. The task assigned to Simon was not, as has often been supposed, to reduce the young prince, by ill-treatment, to such a point that he would at last be attacked by illness and carried off, but simply to get from him evidence against his mother, the Queen, with respect to her complicity in the Varennes plot, and the various plans formed for effecting the escape of the child. The evidence having been obtained by the simple process of first putting it into the child’s mouth, and afterwards taking it out, the special work assigned to the Simons was at an end, and the young prince experienced from them nothing but kindness. If he ultimately fell ill and died, his confinement and the bad air he breathed may well have been the cause.

The life of Louis XVII., from the departure of the Simons until his death, can be made out continuously; and the evidence of his having died in the Temple is quite conclusive. Nevertheless, Louis XVIII., in view of the pretension constantly springing up, instituted for his own satisfaction an inquiry into the whole matter; and the proofs adduced in the course of it as to the identity of the “child in the Temple” with the son of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette seem decisive.

M. Nauroy, however, author of “Les Secrets des Bourbons,” is convinced that the true Louis XVII. was carried out of the Temple in a bundle of linen, and that by like means the child who ultimately died there was substituted for him. M. Nauroy finds in support of his belief abundant evidence, positive and negative, which he derives from a variety of sources, and sometimes discovers in the most unexpected places.

The appearance of a long succession of impostors claiming to be Louis XVII. proves nothing, and will pass for what it is worth in the native land of Arthur Orton. It is remarkable, however, that Royalists and Republicans, including eminent personages on both sides, have agreed in maintaining that the child who died in the Temple was not Louis XVII. Louis Blanc favours this view in his “History of the Revolution.” Nor does he do so without taking a calm, judicial survey of all the evidence in the case. He may consciously or unconsciously have been influenced by party spirit; and the moral he draws from the whole matter is that there is danger in the principle of “divine right” when, through a variety of accidents, it may be impossible to show on whom this questionable right has devolved.

Those Royalists who deny that Louis XVII. died in the Temple, explain the announcement of his death and the proclamation of Louis XVIII. in the Royalist camp, first, by the inconvenience of bringing forward as King of France a child of tender years; secondly, by the difficulty of producing this child; and, thirdly, by the danger, when Louis XVIII. had once gained acceptance with the party, of dividing it by a revelation of the fact that his nephew, son of Louis XVI., was still alive.

M. Nauroy, as already hinted, sees proofs of his favourite theory where no one else would perceive them. When, for instance, the Duke of Berri, dying from the stroke of an assassin, had some final words to whisper {71} to his brother, the Duke of Angoulême—“What,” asks M. Nauroy, “could this have been but the truth in regard to Louis XVII.?” When, again, one of the doctors who made the post-mortem examination of the supposed Louis XVII. offered to Louis XVIII. the heart which he had concealed and preserved, and the king declined the present—“Why,” asks M. Nauroy, “should he have accepted the heart which he knew was not that of Louis XVII., but that of the child by whom the young prince was replaced in his prison?”

Meanwhile, that some of the great Royalist families believed Louis XVII. to have been replaced in the Temple by another child and himself carried to La Vendée is beyond doubt; and a letter on the subject, addressed, December 4, 1838, to the Times, shows that this view of the matter was held by at least a section (probably a very small one) of the Royalist party.

On January 19th the cobbler Simon ceased to do duty as gaoler. At that time there were, as M. Nauroy sets forth, only four persons in the Temple—the Dauphin, Simon, his wife, and the Princess Elizabeth, afterwards Duchess of Angoulême. Simon died on the scaffold six months afterwards, on the 28th of July. The Princess Elizabeth, confined in a room apart from her brother, never saw him again, and consequently knew nothing of him except by hearsay. From January 19th to July 28th there was no warder at the Temple. The child was watched by Commissaries, who were relieved from day to day, and of whom not one could establish his identity. When regular gaolers were appointed, not one of them had ever seen the Dauphin. If, then, after the departure of Simon, another child could have been substituted for Louis XVII., there was no one to notice the change when it had once been accomplished. The Dauphin was in perfect health at the time when Simon and his wife left him. But the child in the Temple fell ill immediately afterwards; and on the 6th of May, 1795, Dr. Desault, summoned to attend the “Dauphin,” declared his little patient to be some other child. He had visited the Dauphin’s brother in 1789, and on that occasion had seen the Dauphin himself at the Tuileries. If, as M. Nauroy asserts, Dr. Desault drew up a report on the subject, that report has disappeared. Indirect evidence, however, as to Dr. Desault’s conviction that the child he attended in the Temple could not be the Dauphin, was given fifty years afterwards in a letter written and signed by the widow of P. A. Thouvenin, Dr. Desault’s nephew, who claimed to remember what his uncle had frequently said on the subject.


Whether or not Louis XVII. escaped to La Vendée to be cherished by the Vendean chiefs even when, in the Royalist army which was invading France from Germany, Louis XVIII. had been proclaimed, he is now in any case no more. The eighteenth Louis was ten years old when the child of the Temple is supposed to have died in prison; and according to the most convinced, not to say credulous, of those writers who maintain that Louis XVII. escaped, to live for years afterwards, he breathed his last in 1872 at Saveney (Loire Inférieure), under the name of Laroche, at the age of eighty-seven. The numerous impostors who with more or less success personated the unhappy prince had died much earlier. But the descendants of Naundorff, his valet, the most famous of all these pretenders, claim still to be of the blood royal, and on the occasion of the Count de Chambord’s death they displayed a proud consciousness of their rights by publishing somewhere in Holland a manifesto asserting gravely the title of the chief of the family to the throne of France.


Another prisoner in the Temple of whom mention must be made is Sir {72} Sidney Smith, whose friends were making every effort for his liberation, when a Royalist officer in the French army, named Boisgerard (who under the Revolution had quitted military life to become ballet-master at the Opera), effected his escape. With this view he had obtained an impression of the seal of the Directorial Government, which he affixed to an order, forged by his own hand, for the delivery of Sir Sidney Smith into his care. Accompanied by a friend, disguised, like himself, in the uniform of an officer of the revolutionary army, he did not scruple personally to present the fictitious document to the keeper of the Temple, who, opening a small closet, took thence some original document, with the writing and seal of which he carefully compared the forged order. Desiring the adventurers to wait a few minutes, he then withdrew and locked the door after him. Giving themselves up for lost, the confederates determined to resist, sword in hand, any attempt made to secure them. Highly interesting is Boisgerard’s own description of the period of horrible suspense he now passed through. Under the dread that each successive moment might be attended by a discovery involving the safety of his life, the acuteness of his organs of sense was heightened to painfulness; the least noise thrilled through his brain, and the gloomy apartment in which he sat seemed filled with strange images. Both he and his companion, however, retained self-possession, and after the lapse of a few minutes their anxiety was terminated by the re-appearance of the gaoler, with his captive, who was delivered to Boisgerard. But here a new and unexpected difficulty occurred. Sir Sidney Smith, not knowing Boisgerard, refused for some time to quit {73} the prison; and considerable address was required on the part of his deliverers to overcome his scruples. At last the precincts of the Temple were cleared. The fugitives rode a short distance in a fiacre, then walked, then entered another carriage, and in this way so successfully baffled pursuit that they ultimately got to Havre, where Sir Sidney was put on board an English vessel. Boisgerard, on his return to Paris, was a thousand times in dread of detection and had a succession of narrow escapes until his visit to England, which took place after the peace of Amiens. A pension had been granted to Sir Sidney Smith by the English Government for his meritorious services; and on Boisgerard’s arrival here a reward of a similar nature was bestowed on him through the influence of Sir Sidney, who took every opportunity of testifying his gratitude.


If the prison of the unfortunate king and queen who were to suffer for the sins of their predecessors was at the eastern end of the line of boulevards, as marked by the Boulevard du Temple, their place of execution on the Place Louis XV., now known as Place de la Concorde, was at the western extremity, which in due time we shall explore.

Meanwhile from one end of the boulevards to the other, from the tiny Théâtre Beaumarchais to the magnificent Opéra, there is a long series of playhouses. Close to the Beaumarchais Theatre stands the Cirque d’Hiver, opened in 1852 under the title of Cirque Napoléon, which seats 3,800 persons. It occupies the site of the first circus that was ever established in Paris. In 1785 the Astleys, father and son, came to Paris and there opened a circus exactly like the one they had just founded in London. Under their direction this theatre, situated at number twenty-four Rue du Faubourg du Temple, and measuring twenty metres in diameter, was lighted by 2,000 lamps and furnished with two rows of boxes. The price of the seats varied from twelve sous to three francs. Astley junior is said to have possessed a remarkably fine figure; and, in the words of a contemporary writer, “his beauty was sculptural.” {74} Bachaumont, in his memoirs of the time, speaks of the numerous passions inspired by the young equestrian in too susceptible feminine hearts. The tricks of the circus, now so familiar, that in England, at least, no one cares to see them, were at that time new, and the sight of a man attitudinising on the back of a horse at full gallop excited the greatest wonder.

Astley’s Circus in Paris possessed, as so many operatic theatres have done, a sort of international character. Engagements were made for it by diplomatists abroad. It can be shown, indeed, that diplomatists have long and almost from time immemorial been in the habit of doing agency work for artists and managers of good position. Operatic celebrities have been particularly favoured in this respect. A great Minister of State, Cardinal Mazarin, introduced, or aided powerfully in introducing, opera into France. The engagement of Cambert as director of music at the Court of Charles II. was effected by diplomatic means. Gluck, more than a century later, was induced to visit Paris through the representations of a secretary of the French Embassy at Vienna—that M. du Rollet who arranged for Gluck, on the basis of Racine’s Iphigénie, the libretto of Iphigénie en Aulide; and Piccini, at the instigation of Madame du Barry, was secured at Paris as opposition composer through the instrumentality of Baron de Breteuil, French Ambassador at Rome, working in co-operation with the Marquis Carraccioli, Neapolitan Ambassador at Paris.

The great Montesquieu, moreover, when he was in England, had not thought it unbecoming to interest himself in the welfare of the French artists who occasionally arrived in England with recommendations addressed to him. Nor did the illustrious Locke occupy himself so exclusively with the “human understanding” as to have no time to bestow on the material interests of foreign danseuses. Locke was not indeed one of those practically Epicurean philosophers of whom M. Arsène Houssaye discourses so agreeably in his “Philosophes et Comédiennes.” He had no general taste either for the public performances or for the private society of ballerines; but a certain Mlle. Subligny having come to him with a letter of introduction from the Abbé Dubois, he is known to have made himself useful, and therefore, no doubt, agreeable, to her during her stay in England.

Locke, it is true, was a metaphysician, and had nothing whatever to do with diplomacy. But his friend Montesquieu was a personage of political importance, and in his anxiety to assist French artists in London he even went so far as to bring to their performances as many of the English nobility as were willing to attend. About the same time, at the suggestion of the Regent of Orleans, a Minister of State, M. de Maurepas, made overtures to Handel concerning a series of representations which it was proposed that his celebrated company should give at the Académie Royale of Paris. M. de Maurepas wished, like Mr. Washburne at a later day, to secure for Paris the best available talent; and he looked to Handel’s opera-house for singers, as Mr. Washburne looked to the circuses of the United States for “bare-back riders.”

On this subject Ebers’s “Seven Years of the King’s Theatre” shows that immediately after the peace of 1815 all the offers of engagements to artists of the Paris opera were made through the medium of the English Embassy to the Court of France, or by special missions with which diplomatists of distinction were glad to be entrusted. The committee of noblemen who aided Ebers in his management treated, through the English Ambassador at Paris, with the Director of the Academy, or with the Minister of Fine Arts; though, as a matter of fact, they failed to secure by these elaborate means the services of artists who, in the present day, would be engaged through an exchange of telegrams.

The outbreak of the Revolution was the signal for the Astleys and their company to recross the Channel, and the Astley Circus remained unoccupied until 1791. Then a company calling themselves “The Comedians without a Title” (Les Comédiens sans titre) opened it as a theatre on Thursday, March 20th, and closed it on the 23rd. Finally Franconi took it over, and achieved a triumphal success, his management being destined to last many years. In 1801 he moved his enterprise to the Garden of the Capucines, which had become a public promenade in the heart of Paris, subsequently transferring it to the theatre in the Rue du Mont-Thabor. In 1819 he returned with his company to the circus of the Faubourg du Temple, reconstructed by the architect Dubois, but doomed, on the night of March 15th, 1826, to be burnt to the ground. The destruction of the circus by fire excited much sympathy. Public subscriptions were opened, and public representations given for the benefit of the sufferers, the {75} result being so satisfactory that the theatre was at once reconstructed, this time on the Boulevard du Temple, with a magnificent façade, and Franconi once more threw open his doors, about a year after the fire, on the 31st of March, 1827. The stage, which in the old building was an accessory, became in the new one of the first importance. It was now possible to perform military manœuvres on a large scale. At the restored circus was represented during the last years of the reign of Charles X. the Siege of Saragossa; and under Louis Philippe a number of military pieces founded on incidents in the history of the Republic and the Empire.

Every Government in France since the first Napoleon has had victories of its own, important or unimportant, to celebrate. The martial triumphs of Louis XIV. seem, by common consent, to have been forgotten, either because French history dates for the immense majority of the population from the time of the Revolution, or because the battles won under the old Monarchy are now too remote to stir the national pride. The reign of Napoleon I., however, was a series of brilliant victories. Under the Restoration a campaign was undertaken in Spain, the incidents of which so lent themselves to dramatic treatment that playwrights reproduced them on the stage and in the arena of the circus. The reign of Louis Philippe, too, had its military glories; first in Belgium, in connection with the War of Independence undertaken in 1830 by the Belgians, with the assistance of France and England, against the Dutch. It was in Africa, however, and in the neighbourhood of Algiers, that Louis Philippe’s army played for many years so active a part. The war against the Dey of Algiers was begun by Charles X., whose consul had been insulted by that potentate; Louis Philippe continued it, chiefly, it was thought, in order to keep open for discontented spirits a field of activity at a safe distance from France. Many restless adventurers sought distinction and found it in the Algerian campaigns; and Algeria was the principal training-ground for those generals who were afterwards to aid Prince Louis Napoleon in executing his coup d’État. It was under Louis Philippe that those picturesque troops, the Chasseurs d’Orléans and Chasseurs d’Afrique, were created, not to mention the Zouaves and the Spahis.

According to the criticisms of German officers, the laxity of discipline in the Algerian campaigns had a considerable effect in producing, or at least hastening, the long series of military defeats to which France was subjected in the war of 1870. The news of victories gained in Africa was, all the same, constantly reaching France; and each successive triumph was made the subject of a new dramatic spectacle at the circus or hippodrome. Abd-el-Kader became a familiar theatrical figure, and his famous interview with General Bugeaud was represented in more than one equestrian piece.

Abd-el-Kader had by the most violent means been prevailed upon to make peace; and an interview was arranged at which the Arab chief and Bugeaud, the French commander, were to ratify it by a personal interchange of promises. Abd-el-Kader did not, however, keep his appointment, and seems, indeed, to have studiously missed it. The French general, in a fit of impatience, left his room, and went forward with a small escort, military and civil, towards the quarters of the unpunctual Arab chief, in order to stir him up. On reaching the advanced posts, the French general called a chieftain of one of the tribes, who pointed out to him the hill-side where the emir lay encamped. “It is unbecoming of your chief,” said Bugeaud to this Arab, “to bring me so far, and then make me wait so long;” whereupon he continued resolutely to advance. The emir’s escort now appeared. The Arab chieftains, most of them young and handsome, were magnificently mounted, and made a gallant display of their finery. Presently from their ranks a horseman advanced dressed in a coarse burnoose, with a camel-hair cord, and without any outward sign of distinction, except that his black horse, which he sat most elegantly, was surrounded by Arabs holding the bridle and the stirrups. This was Abd-el-Kader. The French general held out his hand; the other grasped it twice, then threw himself quickly from his horse, and sat down. General Bugeaud took his place beside him, and the conversation began. The emir was of small stature; his face serious and pale, with delicate features slightly marked by time, and a keen sparkling eye. His hands, which were beautifully formed, played with a chaplet that hung round his neck. He spoke gently, but there was on his lips and in the expression of countenance a certain affectation of disdain. The conversation turned, of course, upon the peace which had just been concluded, and Abd-el-Kader spoke of the cessation of hostilities with elaborate and feigned indifference. When the French general, after {76} pointing out to him that the treaty could not be put into force until it was ratified, observed that the truce, meanwhile, was favourable to the Arabs, since it would save their crops from destruction so long as it lasted, the chief replied: “You may destroy the crops this moment, and I will give you a written authority to do so, if you like. The Arabs are not in want of corn.”

The conversation at an end, General Bugeaud stood up, and the emir remained seated; whereupon the former, stung to the quick, seized the emir’s hand and jerked it, saying “Come, get up.” The French were delighted at this characteristic act of an imperious and intrepid nature, and the Arabs could not conceal their astonishment. As for the emir, seized with an involuntary confusion, he turned round without uttering a word, sprang on his horse and rode back to his own people; his return being a signal for enthusiastic cries of “God preserve the Sultan!” which echoed from hill to hill. A violent thunder-burst added to the effect of this strange scene, and the Arabs vanished among the mountain gorges.

Until 1860 the Boulevard du Temple was noted for a number of little theatres, where marionettes might be seen dancing on the tight-rope, or where pantomimes in the Italian style were performed. Then there was the cabinet of wax figures, together with other little shows, difficult to class: all destined in that year to disappear. The reconstruction of this portion of Paris caused the removal of many theatres, which were built again at other points. The site of the former circus was now occupied by the Imperial Theatre of the Châtelet. The circus reappeared, for winter performances, in the Boulevard des Filles de Calvaire, for the summer season in the Champs Élysées. In connection with the winter circus the Popular Concerts started by the late Pasdeloup must not be forgotten. Here the finest symphonic music of the French and other composers, chiefly modern, was performed in admirable style. Here the French public were familiarised with the works of Berlioz, and, in spite of a certain opposition at the outset, with selections from some of the operas of Wagner. Pasdeloup, who after thirty years’ unremitting work died in poverty, used to find worthy imitators and successors in M. Colonne and M. Lamoureux, both renowned among the musical conductors of the period.

Number forty-two of the Boulevard du Temple marks the house, formerly number fifty, whence the notorious Fieschi, on the 28th of July, 1835, exploded his infernal machine which was intended to kill Louis Philippe and his sons, and which, in fact, struck down by their side one of the veterans of the Empire, Marshal Mortier, Duc de Trévise, and several other superior officers.

Not even in Russia have so many sovereigns been assailed by their subjects as in France. Since, indeed, the murder of Henri III. by Jacques Clément, it has been the rule, rather than the exception, with royal personages in France to be struck by the assassin or the executioner; or, if spared in body, to be brought all the same to some tragic end. Henri IV. fell by the hand of Ravaillac. No such fate awaited Louis XIII., Henri IV.’s immediate successor; but Louis XV. was stabbed by Damiens, Louis XVI. was guillotined, Louis XVII., imprisoned in the Temple, died one scarcely knows how or where. The Duke of Enghien was shot by order of Napoleon. Louis XVIII. had to fly from Paris at the approach of Napoleon returning from Elba; the Duke of Berri was assassinated by Louvel; Charles X. lost his crown by the Revolution which brought Louis Philippe to the throne; and Louis Philippe, who was ultimately to disappear in a hackney cab before the popular rising which led to the establishment of the Second Republic, and soon afterwards of the Second Empire, was meanwhile made the object of some half-dozen murderous attacks, the most formidable being the one planned and executed by Fieschi, otherwise Gérard. What, it may be asked, had a quiet, peaceful, and eminently respectable monarch like Louis Philippe done to provoke repeated attempts upon his life? The explanation is simple. Charles X. had been driven away in 1830 by the Republicans, not that another king might be appointed in his stead, but that the Republic might be established. Louis Philippe was, from their point of view, an interloper who must, at all hazards, be removed.


Fieschi’s experiment with his infernal machine created a sensation all over Europe; and the papers for some time afterwards were full of particulars, more or less authentic, of the diabolical attempt upon King Louis Philippe’s life. The Revolutionists, whose action against Charles X. had led to the establishment, not of a Republic, but of a Monarchy—hateful to them in whatever form—had evidently sworn that he should die. It was ascertained by M. Thiers, the First Minister, {77} that on the occasion of a journey which the King intended to make from Neuilly to Paris certain conspirators had arranged to throw a lighted projectile into the royal carriage; and His Majesty, therefore, was requested to let the royal carriage proceed on its way, at the appointed time, without him, and occupied simply by his aides-de-camp, no previous announcement being made as to the absence of the King. Louis Philippe having protested against this suggestion as unfair to the aides-de-camp: “Sire,” replied M. Thiers, “it is their duty to expose themselves for the safety of your person, and they surely will not complain when they find the Minister of the Interior by their side in the threatened carriage.” The King, however, rejected this proposition, declaring that he had resolved on the journey, and, hazardous as it might be, would undertake it. His resolution having been combated in vain by M. Thiers, the preparations for departure were ordered. Just as the King was about to get into the carriage, the Queen and the princesses suddenly presented themselves in an agony of terror and of tears. “It is impossible,” says M. Louis Blanc, “to say whether a skilful indiscretion on the part of the Minister had initiated them into the secret of what had taken place, or whether they had received no other intimation than that supplied by the instincts of the heart.” However this may have been, the Queen, finding that Louis Philippe would not abandon his intention, insisted on accompanying him, and it was quite impossible to prevent her from doing so. M. Thiers then begged the honour of a seat in the threatened carriage, and the journey was risked. The attack apprehended was not, however, on this occasion to be made; and it was as long afterwards as the 28th of July, 1835, on the occasion when Louis Philippe drove through Paris in memory of the “Three Days” of July, 1830, that Fieschi put his murderous project into execution. “On the 28th of July,” says M. Louis Blanc, “the sun rose upon the city, {78} already perplexed with fears and doubts. The drum which summoned the National Guards early in the morning beat for some time in vain: a heavy apathy, in which there mingled a sort of morbid distrust, weighed upon everyone. At ten o’clock, however, the legions of the Garde Nationale stretched in an immense line along the boulevards, facing 40,000 of the regular troops, horse and foot. The Boulevard du Temple having been pointed out by rumour as the scene of the contemplated crime, the police had orders to parade it with particular watchfulness, and to keep a close eye upon the windows.” On the previous evening M. Thiers had a number of houses in this quarter searched. But the remonstrances of the inhabitants became so violent, that his original intention of examining every building on the boulevard had to be abandoned.

The clock of the château was striking ten when the King issued from the Tuileries on horseback. He was accompanied by his sons, the Dukes of Orleans, Nemours, and Joinville; by Marshals Mortier and Lobau; by his ministers; and by a numerous body of generals and other superior officers and high functionaries. Along the whole line which he traversed there prevailed a dead silence, broken only at intervals by the ex officio acclamations of the soldiers. At a few minutes past twelve the royal cortège arrived in front of the Eighth Legion, which was stationed along the Boulevard du Temple. Here, near the end of the Jardin Turc, as the King was leaning forward to receive a petition from the hands of a National Guardsman, a sound was heard like the fire of a well-sustained platoon. In an instant the ground was strewn with the dead and dying. Marshal Mortier and General Lachasse de Verigny, wounded in the head, fell bathed in their blood. A young captain of Artillery, M. de Villaté, slid from his horse, his arms extended at full length, as though they had been nailed to a cross; he had been shot in the head, and expired ere he touched the ground. Among the other victims were the colonel of gendarmerie, Raffé; M. Rieussec, lieutenant-colonel of the Eighth Legion; the National Guardsmen Prudhomme, Benetter, Ricard, and Léger; an old man upwards of seventy years of age, M. Lebrouste; a poor fringe-maker named Langeray; and a girl of scarcely fourteen, Sophie Remy. The king was not wounded, but in the confusion his horse reared and he sustained a violent shock in the left arm. The Duke of Orleans had a slight contusion on the thigh. A ball grazed the croup of the Duke of Joinville’s horse.

Thus the odious attempt failed in its object; the royal family was saved. No language can express the utter horror which this frightful and cowardly attack created in the minds of the assembled multitudes. An aide-de-camp immediately galloped off to reassure the Queen, and the King continued his progress amidst manifestations of the deepest sympathy and the most enthusiastic loyalty.

As a striking exemplification of the sang-froid of Louis Philippe it has been gravely related, on the alleged authority of Marshal Maison, that immediately after the fatal occurrence, and while all around were overwhelmed with dismay and grief, the King’s mind rapidly glanced over all the possible advantages which might be drawn from the event, and that he exclaimed, “Ah, now we are sure to get the appanages!” But this anecdote, in itself improbable, must be received with more than the usual grain of salt.

Meantime, at the moment of the explosion, clouds of smoke were seen to issue from a window on the third floor of the house number fifty. A man got out of this window, and seizing a double rope which was fastened inside, slid down it on to the roof of a lower building. He was but half-dressed, and his face streamed with blood. A flower-pot which was caught in the movement of the rope after he quitted hold of it fell to the pavement, and the noise attracted the attention of an agent of police who had been posted in the courtyard of the house. “There is the assassin escaping on the roof!” he exclaimed; and one of the National Guards at once called upon the fugitive to surrender, threatening to fire if he refused. But the man, wiping away with his hand the veil of blood which obscured his sight, dashed on and made his way through an open window into an adjoining house. A track of blood indicated his route, as though his own crime pursued him. He reached the courtyard too late to escape unobserved, and was at once taken into custody.

In the room whence he had fled were found the smoking remains of his death-dealing machine. It was raised upon a sort of scaffolding on four square legs connected together by strong oak cross-pieces. Twenty-five musket barrels were fastened by the breech upon the cross-piece at the back, which was higher than the front traverse by about eight inches. The ends of the barrels rested in notches cut in the lower {79} traverse. The touch-holes were exactly in a line, so as to take fire simultaneously by means of a long train of gunpowder. The guns had been placed so as to receive the procession slantingly, embracing a large range, and rising from the legs of the horses to the heads of the riders. The charge in each barrel was a quadruple one. Fortunately, the calculations of the assassin were frustrated. Two of the barrels did not go off, four of them burst; and to these chances the King doubtless owed his life.

Fieschi was found, on inquiry, to have lodged in the house for several months. He stated himself to be a machinist. The porter had never been inside Fieschi’s room since he had occupied it. There had been but one man to see Fieschi, whom he represented as his uncle, and three women, who, he said, were his mistresses. On the morning of the 28th he had been noticed to go in and out, up and down, in a visible state of agitation, and once, though habitually abstemious, he went into a neighbouring cafe to drink a glass of brandy. At the military post where he was taken upon his arrest, a National Guard having asked him who he was, “What’s that to you?” he replied, “I shall answer such questions when they are put by the proper people.” Some gunpowder having been found upon his person, he was asked what it was for. “For glory!” he exclaimed.

The trial of Fieschi and his accomplices took place on the 30th of January, 1836, before the Court of Peers assembled in the palace of the Luxembourg. In the body of the court, in front of the clerk’s table, were displayed, among other proofs against the prisoners, a machine supporting a number of guns in an inclined position, an extinguished firebrand, a dagger, a shot belt with a quantity of bullets in it, an iron gauntlet, and a bloodstained rope.

Fieschi, the chief conspirator, is described by Louis Blanc as “endowed with an energy and shrewdness which merely served to promote the aims of an inveterate and grovelling turpitude. Vain to a degree which almost approached insanity, this man had stained his life with every infamy. A Corsican by birth, he had fought bravely in the service of Napoleon. After the peace, however, he had launched upon a career of vice and crime. He had invented the so-called infernal machine (which was simply a battery of guns so arranged that they could be discharged from a window), not from any political or personal hatred of Louis Philippe, but simply as the hireling of a band of Republican and Revolutionary conspirators.”

Fieschi and his accomplices were duly guillotined. Other attempts had been made and were still to be made on the life of Louis Philippe. The ferocious exploit, however, of Fieschi remains the most notorious one of this reign. At last the Citizen King lost his nerve; and in February, 1848, disappeared in face of a danger not more formidable, if firmly met at the outset, than the one which he had despised thirteen years previously, in 1835.

Fieschi was simply guillotined; and he was the first regicide or would-be regicide in France who escaped torture. The horrible cruelties inflicted on the assassins of French kings may make many persons less sensitive than they otherwise would be to the misfortunes reserved for the successors of these princes. The only possible excuse for the diabolical punishments devised for regicides under the old French Monarchy is that such barbarity was of the age. The torture of Damiens was imitated in every detail from the torture of Ravaillac, which had for precedent the torture of Gérard, the assassin of the Prince of Orange. An ingenious French writer attempted to decide whether Ravaillac’s torments were greater than those of Gérard. It is certain in any case that the latter suffered with much greater constancy. Ravaillac shrieked out in a terrible manner, whereas Balthasar Gérard never uttered a groan.

In this connection it is curious that, from the middle of the eighteenth century until the time of the French Revolution, the name of Damiens, or Damian, at present venerated throughout the civilised world, was in France, its country of origin, one of such opprobrium that nobody ventured to bear it. No Frenchman, indeed, would have dared to do so; for after the attempt upon the life of Louis XV. the name of Damiens, or D’Amiens, his would-be murderer, with all names of similar sound or spelling were, by a special edict, absolutely proscribed. To go by the name of D’Amiens, Damiens, or Damian, was to proclaim oneself affiliated nearly or remotely to the unspeakable being—the regicide, the parricide—who had lifted his hand against the Lord’s anointed. Time has its revenges. The name associated a century and a half ago with villainy and crime is now suggestive only of heroism and virtue. Everyone knows by what glorious acts of self-sacrifice Damien, enthusiast and martyr, {80} has brought honour to a once unutterable name.


The French Revolution, which was separated from the torture of Damiens by only thirty-eight years, is associated with a number of sanguinary deeds. But it at least put an end to torture. No such horrors as had been perpetrated under the French Monarchy were ever to take place under the French Republic. Even in the case of ordinary criminals not specially condemned to torture, death, under the old Monarchy, was inflicted in the cruellest fashion. “After a prisoner has seen death under so many forms,” says a writer of the time of Louis XVI., “when his soul is in a manner withered, his spirit exhausted, and life is grown a burthen, the sentence that ends his sufferings should be welcome to him—and it would be so were not our laws more calculated to torture the body than simply to punish the criminal. A man who pays the forfeit of his life to the injured laws of his country has, in the eyes of reason, more than sufficiently atoned for his crime; but here industrious cruelty has devised the most barbarous means of avenging the wrongs done to society; and the breaking the bones of a wretch on a cross, twisting his mangled body round the circumference of a wheel, are inventions worthy of the fertile brains of a Phalaris, and show to the utmost that such inhuman laws were more levelled against the man than the crime for which he is doomed to suffer.”


Opposite the house on the Boulevard du Temple associated with the outrage of Fieschi stood formerly the Café Turc, which offered to the generation of its day a shady retreat and varied amusements. Here the celebrated Jullien, better known in London than even in Paris, gave in the early years of Louis Philippe’s reign orchestral pieces of his own composition adorned with fireworks and emphasized by the booming of cannon. Little by little the Café Turc was to disappear; and now repeated alterations have reduced it to a beer-house, or brasserie.

The Café Turc was the first of the French cafés-concerts or music halls; for, like so many of our dramatic entertainments, the music hall is an adaptation from the French. The English music hall differs, however, from the French café-concert about as much as an English farce differs from a French vaudeville. The café-concert may be looked upon either as a café at which there is singing, or as a concert where refreshments are served between the pieces and “consumed” during the performance. But whether you enter the place for the sake of art or with the view of sustaining nature, it is equally necessary that you should “consume”; and that there may be no mistake on this point, a curtain is at some establishments let down from time to time with “On est prié de renouveler sa consommation,” and, at the side, in English, “One is prayed to renew his consumption,” inscribed on it. The renewal of one’s consumption is often a very costly proceeding.

To avoid being classed with theatres, and, as a legal consequence, taxed for the benefit of the poor, no charge for admission is made at the doors of the café-concert. But at those where such stars as the once celebrated Thérèse are engaged, the proprietor finds it necessary to attach extravagant prices to refreshments of the most ordinary kind, so that a bottle of lemonade may be quoted in the tariff at three francs, a cup of coffee at a franc and a half, and even the humble glass of water at fifty centimes. In England the music hall proprietor would be often glad to obtain a dramatic licence. He has no fear of the poor before his eyes, and would be only too happy to combine with the profits of musical publican those of the regular theatrical manager. Why he should or should not be so favoured has been argued at length before {82} the magistrates and duly reported in the columns of the newspapers. The result has been that, as a rule, the London music hall proprietor does not give theatrical performances, though he often ventures upon duologues and sometimes risks a dramatic trio. The argument of London managers against music hall proprietors may thus concisely be stated: the manager cannot by the terms of his licence allow the audience to smoke and drink in presence of a dramatic performance; and, correlatively, the music hall proprietor ought not to be allowed to give dramatic performances while smoking and drinking are going on.



Paris is celebrated above all the capitals of Europe for its cafés; and the beverage which gives its name to these establishments seems to have been known earlier in France than in any other European country. Coffee was introduced into central Europe in 1683, the year of the battle of Vienna; and from the Austrian capital the use of coffee spread rapidly to all parts of Germany. The circumstances under which the Austrians first became acquainted with it were somewhat curious.

The Turks had brought with them to Vienna an imposing siege train. No European power possessed such formidable artillery; and their stone balls of sixty pounds each were not only the largest projectiles ever fired, but were regarded as the largest which by any possible means could be fired. According to the ingenious, but incorrect, view of one of Sobieski’s biographers (the Abbé Coyer), the amount of powder requisite for the discharge of a missile of greater weight would be so enormous as not to give time for the whole of it to become ignited before the ball left the cannon.

Kara Mustapha, the Turkish general, had also brought with him a number of archers; and when a letter from Sobieski to the Duke of Lorraine was intercepted by a Turkish patrol, the document was attached to an arrow and shot into the town, accompanied by a note in the Latin language to the effect that all further resistance was out of the question, and that the Vienna garrison had now nothing to do but accept its fate. The Turks, moreover, brought to Vienna an immense number of women, whose throats, when the Turkish army was forced to retire in headlong flight, they unscrupulously cut. The stone cannon balls of prodigious weight, the arrows, and the women could all be accounted for. But the Turks left behind them a large number of bags containing white berries, of which nothing could be made. Of these berries, however, after duly roasting and pounding them, an Austrian soldier, who had been a prisoner in Turkey, made coffee; and as he had distinguished himself during the battle, the Emperor granted him permission to open a shop in Vienna for the sale of the Turkish beverage which he had learned under such interesting circumstances to prepare.

According to another less authentic anecdote, the use of the mysterious white berries found among the stores of the defeated Turks was first pointed out by a Turkish soldier who had been working in the trenches before the besieged city, and had so fatigued himself by his ceaseless toil, that he fell asleep and slumbered on throughout the whole of the battle, undisturbed by the cavalry charges, the musketry fire, and the explosions of the artillery with its terrible sixty-pounders. When at last, after sleep had done its restorative work, the exhausted soldier woke up to find himself in the hands of the Christians, he was terribly alarmed. But his life was spared, and in return for this clemency on the part of his enemies he taught them how to make coffee.

Parisians, however, pride themselves on having known coffee fourteen years earlier than the Viennese. It is said, indeed, that an enterprising Levantine started a coffee-house at Paris in the very middle of the seventeenth century, and not later than the year 1650. The name of the stimulating beverage that he offered for sale was, as he wrote it, cahoue. But the unhappy man had not taken the necessary steps for getting his new importation spoken of beforehand in good society; and, no one knowing what to make of the strange liquor he wished to dispense—hot, black, and bitter—the founder of the first coffee-house or café became bankrupt.

The French, however, during, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were sworn friends of the Turks, whose power they played off on every occasion against that of the hated Empire. Vienna might, indeed, on two occasions have been captured, plundered, and burnt by the infidels for all France cared to do towards saving it. France, on her side, was viewed with favour by the Turks; and in 1669 an ambassador, Soliman Aga by name, was sent by the Porte on a mission to Louis XIV., at whose court he made known the virtues of the berry which long previously the {83} Arabs had introduced throughout the East.

Properly presented, coffee met in Paris with a success which elsewhere it had failed to attain, and before long it became the rage in fashionable society. When it was at the height of its first popularity, however, Madame de Sévigné condemned it, saying that the taste for coffee, like the taste for Racine, would pass away. Racine, in spite of the beauty of his at once tender and epigrammatic lines, is not much read in the present day, and is scarcely ever acted. Coffee, on the other hand, is as popular now as in the days when Pope wrote his couplet on

“Coffee, which makes the politician wise,
And see through all things with his half-shut eyes.”

“There are in this capital,” wrote the author of the “Tableau de Paris” more than a hundred years ago, “between six and seven hundred coffee-houses, the common refuge of idleness and poverty, where the latter is warmed without any expense for fuel, and the former entertained by a view of the crowds who make their entrance and exit by turns. In other countries, where liberty is more than an empty name, a coffee-house is the rendez-vous of politicians who freely canvass the conduct of the Minister, or debate on matters of State. Not so here! I have already given a very good reason why the Parisians are sparing of their political reflections. If they speak at all on State matters it is to extol the power of their sovereign, and the wisdom of his counsellors. A half-starved author, with all his wardrobe and movables on his back, dining at these restaurants on a dish of coffee and a halfpenny roll, talks big of the immense resources of France, and the abundance she offers of every necessary of life; whilst his only supper is the steam arising from the rich man’s kitchen, as he returns to his empty garret.”

The writer goes on to show that the coffee-houses were haunted by cliques of critics, literary and artistic, and his description sometimes reminds one of Button’s, in the days of Addison and Steele. “Those,” he says, “who have just entered the lists of literature stand in dread of this awful tribunal, where a dozen of grim-looking judges, whilst they sip and sip, deal out reputation by wholesale. Woe to the young poet, to the new actor or actress! They are often sentenced here without trial. Catcalls, destined to grate their affrighted ears, are here manufactured over a dish of coffee.”

The writer then proceeds to lament the absence of sociability at the coffee-house, and the gloomy countenances of its frequenters, as contrasted with the convivial faces of those “brave ancestors” of his generation who used to pass their leisure, not at coffee-houses, but at taverns. One cause of the difference he finds in the change of beverage. “Our forefathers,” he explains, “drank that mirth-inspiring liquor with which Burgundy and Champaign supplied them. This gave life to their meetings. Ours are more sober, no doubt, but is this sobriety the companion of health? By no means. For generous wine we have substituted a black beverage, bad in itself, but worse by the manner in which it is made in all the coffee-houses of this fashionable metropolis. The good Parisians, however, are very careless in the matter; they drink off whatever is put before them, and swallow this baneful wash, which in its turn is driven down by more deadly poisons, mistakenly called cordials.”

Since the above was written, coffee, far from dying out, has become more and more popular, and musical cafés, theatrical cafés, and literary cafés have been everywhere established in Paris. There are financial cafés, too, chiefly, of course, in the region of the Bourse; and among the cafés by which the Bourse is partly surrounded used to be one which owed its notoriety to the fact that Fieschi’s mistress—in the character of “dame du comptoir”—was exhibited there to the public.

Two days after the execution of the would-be regicide and actual maker of the famous infernal machine, a crowd of people might have been seen struggling towards the doors of a café on the Place de la Bourse, which was already as full as it could hold. “Those,” says an eye-witness, “who performed the feat of gaining admission, saw, gravely seated at a counter, adorned with costly draperies, an ordinary-looking woman, blind of one eye, and possessing in fact no external merit but that of youth: It was Nina Sassave. There she was, her forehead radiant, her lip quivering with delight, her whole expression that of unmingled pride and pleasure at the eager homage thus offered to her celebrity. A circumstance eminently characteristic of the epoch! Here had a creature, only known to the world as a base and treacherous informer, as the mistress of an assassin, been caught up for a show by a shrewd speculator. And what is more remarkably characteristic still, the public took it all as a perfect matter of course, and amply justified the {84} speculator in his calculations.”

On the same side as the Café Turc, but further on towards the Rue du Temple, stood the tennis ground of the Count d’Artois (afterwards Charles X.), built by the architect Belanger, one of the most intimate and faithful friends of the famous Sophie Arnould.


On the site of the Count d’Artois’ tennis ground was erected, at the beginning of the Second Empire, a theatre, called in the first instance Folies-Meyer, but which, after various changes of title, became at last the Théâtre Déjazet, under the direction of the celebrated actress of that name, already seventy years of age, or nearly so, but still lively and graceful. For this theatre in 1860 Victorien Sardou wrote his first successful piece, “M. Garat,” in which Déjazet herself played the principal part, supported by Dupuis, who was afterwards to become famous in opera-bouffe as the associate of Mademoiselle Schneider.

The line of boulevards here presents an enormous gap, in the centre of which, between two fountains, stands a monument to the glory of the Republic. The rest of the open space serves twice a week as a flower market, the largest in Paris. At the beginning of the century La Place du Château d’Eau, as the open space in question is called, did not exist. The fountain which gave its name to the Place was constructed under the First Napoleon in the year 1811, but this fountain was replaced in 1869 by a finer one inaugurated by Napoleon III. The later fountain was itself, however, to disappear, soon afterwards to be replaced by the aforesaid monument to the Republic. Behind one of the large depots on the north side of the Place du Château d’Eau, looking out upon the Rue de Malte, was constructed in 1866 the Circus of the {85} Prince Imperial, afterwards called the Theatre of the Château d’Eau, where at one time dramas, at another operas, have been given, never with success. Ill-luck seems to hang over the establishment, which, with its 2,400 seats, must be reckoned among the largest theatres in Paris. In Paris, however, as in London, theatres have often the reputation of being unlucky when, to succeed, all they require is a good piece with good actors to play in it.


The Boulevard du Temple had at one time its famous restaurants, like other boulevards in the present day. Here stood the celebrated Cadran Bleu and the equally celebrated Banquet d’Anacréon. The last of the great restaurants on this boulevard was the one kept by Bonvalet, who, during the siege of Paris, was generous enough to supply additional provisions to unfortunate actors and actresses who found themselves reduced to the limited rations distributed by the Municipal Council.

The Rue de Bondi, running out of the Boulevard Saint-Martin, brings us once more to a group of theatres. The Folies Dramatiques stands at number forty. This theatre was started in 1830 by M. Alaux, previously manager of the Dramatic Parnassus on the Boulevard du Temple. It was opened on January 22nd, 1831, under the direction of M. Léopold, who produced at this house a long series of successful pieces. Among these may be mentioned “Robert Macaire” with Frédéric Lemaître in the leading part. When, amidst demolitions and reconstructions, the original Folies Dramatiques came down, the company was transferred to the new building which now stands in the Rue de Bondi. Here were brought out Hervé’s “Œil Crevé” and “Petit Faust,” Lecoq’s “Fille de Madame Angot,” Planquette’s “Cloches de Corneville,” and other works which were soon to become known all over Europe. Vaudevilles are now played at this theatre alternately with operettas. The house contains 1,600 seats. {86} The Ambigu-Comique, built on a sort of promontory which dominates the Boulevard Saint-Martin and the Rue de Bondi, was opened in 1829, in place of the original Ambigu, burnt to the ground two years previously. The new house, which contains 1,600 seats, was inaugurated in presence of the Duchess of Berri, widow of the unhappy nobleman who a few years before was stabbed by Louvois on the steps of the Opera House. In 1837 this theatre was entirely rebuilt under the direction of M. Rochart. Untrue, like so many theatres, to its original name, the Ambigu-Comique was to become associated with nothing in the way of ambiguity, nothing in the way of comedy, but with melodramas, often of a most blood-curdling kind. Here, it is true, was produced the “Auberge des Adrêts,” which, in the hands of Frédéric Lemaître, was to be transformed from a serious drama into a wild piece of buffoonery; so that the author of the work, too nervous to attend the performance himself, was almost driven mad when his trusted servant returned home and reported to him the bursts of laughter with which the work had been received. At the Ambigu were brought out some of the best pieces of Alexandre Dumas the elder, Frédéric Soulié, Adolphe Dennery, and Paul Feval.

Immediately adjacent to the Ambigu stand the Porte Saint-Martin and Renaissance Theatres, covering the triangle formed by the Boulevard Saint-Martin, the Rue de Bondi, and the Place de la Porte Saint-Martin. The Porte Saint-Martin Theatre has a long and interesting history, dating from June 8, 1781, when it was opened as an Opera House after the destruction by fire of the one in the Rue Saint-Honoré. A performance was going on at the time, and the singers had to fly in their operatic dresses from the stage to the street. In the midst of the general consternation, the musical director, Rey by name, whose “Coronis” was the opera of the night, startled those around him, already sufficiently terrified, by exclaiming, “Save my child! Oh, Heaven, save my child!” As Rey was not known in the character of a family man, his friends thought he had gone mad. But it was the creature of his brain that was troubling him; and after heroic struggles, the score of “Coronis” was rescued from the flames. The fascinating Madeleine Guiniard had on this occasion a narrow escape of her life. She was in her dressing-room, and had just divested herself of her costume when inquiries were made for her, and it was found that, like Brunhilda in the legend, she was enveloped on all sides by flames. A Siegfried, however, was found in the person of a stage carpenter, who, making his way through the ring of fire, reached the unhappy valkyrie, wrapped her up in a blanket, and brought her out in safety, though he himself, in his second passage through the flames, was somewhat scorched.

The new house established in the Porte Saint-Martin was opened 109 days after the destruction of the Opera House in the Rue Saint-Honoré. Here were brought out the “OEdipus Coloneus” of Sacchini, the “Daniades” and other works of Salieri, the “Demophon” of Cherubini, the “Re Teodoro” of Paisiello, and a French version of Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.” Many of the operas of Sacchini, Salieri, and Cherubini were composed specially for the French theatre. Paisiello’s and Mozart’s works were, of course, produced in translations. Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” was brought out in the middle of the Reign of Terror, March 20, 1793.

Meanwhile, doubts had always been entertained as to the solidity of the theatre, which had been run up in from fifteen to sixteen weeks; and on April 14, 1794, the Committee of Public Safety ordered the transfer of the opera from the Porte Saint-Martin to the Salle Montansier, in the Rue Richelieu. M. Castil Blaze, excellent writer, but by no means free from prejudices, insists, in his “History of the Royal Academy of Music,” that in the removal of the Opera to the Rue Richelieu there was a determination on the part of the Committee of Public Safety to burn down the National Library, opposite which the Opera was now installed. “How was it,” he asks, “that the Opera was moved to a building exactly opposite the National Library—so precious and so combustible a repository of human knowledge? The two establishments were only separated by a street very much too narrow; if the theatre caught fire, was it not sure to burn the Library? That is what a great many persons still ask; this question has been reproduced a hundred times in our journals. Go back to the time when the house was built by Mademoiselle Montansier; read the Moniteur Universel, and you will see that it was precisely in order to expose this same Library to the happy chances of a fire that the great lyrical entertainment was transferred to its neighbourhood. The Opera hung over it, and threatened it constantly. At this time enlightenment abounded to such a point that the judicious {87} Henriot, convinced in his innermost conscience that all reading was henceforth useless, had made a motion to burn the Library. To shift the Opera to the Rue Richelieu—that Opera which twice in eighteen years had been a prey to the flames—to place it exactly opposite our literary treasures was to multiply to infinity the chances of their being burnt.” Mercier, in reference to the literary views of the Committee of Public Safety, writes in the Nouveau Paris thus:—“The language of Omar about the Koran was not more terrible than that by the members of the Committee of Public Safety, when they carried this resolution:—‘Yes, we will burn all the libraries, for nothing will be needed but the history of the Revolution and its laws.’” If the motion of Henriot had been put into effect, David, the great Conventional painter, was ready to propose that the same service should be rendered to the masterpieces in the Louvre as to the literary wealth of the National Library. Republican subjects, according to David, were alone worthy of representation.

The Opera in the Rue Richelieu was, however, to be destroyed, as will afterwards be seen, not by fire, but in deliberate process of dilapidation.

Meanwhile, Louis XVI. and his family had fled from Paris on the 28th of June, 1791. The next day, and before the king was brought back to the Tuileries, the title of the chief lyric theatre was changed from Académie Royale to simply the Opera. At the same time, the custom was introduced of announcing the performers’ names, which was evidently an advantage to the public, and which was also not without its benefit for the inferior singers and dancers, who, when they unexpectedly appeared in order to replace their betters, used often to get hissed to a handsomer degree than they ever could in their usual parts.

By an order of the Committee of Public Safety, dated the 16th of the following September, the title of the Opera was again changed to Académie Royale de Musique. This was intended as a compliment to the king, who had signed the Constitution on the 14th, and who was to go to the Opera six days afterwards. On the 20th the royal visit took place. “‘Castor and Pollux’ was played,” says M. Castil Blaze, “and not ‘Iphigénie en Aulide,’ as is asserted by some ill-informed historians, who even go so far as to pretend that the chorus ‘Chantons, célébrons notre reine’ was hailed with transports of enthusiasm, and that the public called for it a second time.” The house was well filled, but not crammed, as we see by the receipts, which amounted to 6,636 livres 15 sous. The same opera of Rameau’s, vamped by Candeille, had produced 6,857 livres on the 14th of the preceding June. On the night previous to the royal representation a gratuitous performance of “Castor and Pollux” had been given to the public in honour of the Constitution. The royalists were present in great numbers on the night of state, and some lines which could be applied to the queen were loudly applauded. Marie Antoinette was delighted, and said to the ladies who accompanied her, “You see that the people are really good, and wish only to love us.” Encouraged by so flattering a reception, she determined to go the next night to the Opéra Comique, but the king refused to accompany her. The piece performed was “Les Événements imprévus.” In the duet of the second act, before singing the words “Ah! comme j’aime ma maîtresse,” Mdme. Dugazon looked towards the queen, when a number of voices cried out from the pit, “Plus de Maîtresse!” “Plus de Maître!” “Vive la Liberté!” This cry was answered from the boxes with “Vive la reine! Vive le roi!” Sabres and swordsticks were drawn, and a battle began. The queen escaped from the theatre in the midst of the tumult. Cries of “A bas la reine!” followed her to her carriage, which went off at a gallop, with mud and stones thrown after it. Marie Antoinette returned to the Tuileries in despair. On the 1st of October, fourteen days afterwards, the title of Opéra National was substituted for that of Académie Royale de Musique. The Constitution being signed, there was no longer any reason for being civil to Louis XVI. This was the third change of title in less than four months.

To conclude the list of musical performances which have derived a gloomy celebrity from their connection with the last days of Louis XVI., we may reproduce the programme issued by the directors of the Opéra National on the first anniversary of his execution, 1724. It ran thus:—“On behalf of and for the people gratis. In joyful commemoration of the death of the tyrant, the National Opera will give to-day, 6 Pluviose, year 2 of the Republic, ‘Miltiades at Marathon,’ ‘The Siege of Thionville,’ ‘The Offering to Liberty.’”

The Opera under the Republic was directed until 1792 by four {88} distinguished sans-culottes—Henriot, Chaumette, Le Roux, and Hébert, the last named of whom had once been check-taker of the Académie. The others knew nothing whatever of operatic affairs. The management at the theatre was afterwards transferred to Francœur, one of the former directors associated with Cellérier, an architect; but the dethroned impresarios, accompanied by Danton and other Republican amateurs, constantly made their appearance behind the scenes, and very frequently did the chief members of the company the honour of supping with them. In these cases the invitations, as under the ancient régime, proceeded, not from the artists, but from the artists’ patrons; with this difference, however, that under the Republic the latter never paid the bill.

“The chiefs of the Republic,” says M. Castil Blaze, “were very fond of moistening their throats. Henriot, Danton, Hébert, Le Roux, Chaumette, had hardly taken a turn in the coulisses or in the foyer before they said to such an actor or actress, ‘We are going to your room. See that we are properly received.’ A superb collation was brought in. When the repast was finished and the bottles were empty, the National Convention, the Commune of Paris, beat a retreat without troubling itself about the expense. You think, perhaps, that the dancer or the singer paid for the representatives of the people? Not at all; honest Maugin, who kept the refreshment room of the theatre, knew perfectly well that the actors of the Opera were not paid, that they had no sort of money, not even a rag of an assignat; he made a sacrifice: from delicacy he did not ask from the artists what he would not have dared to claim from the sans-culottes, for fear of the guillotine.”

Sometimes the executioner, who, as a public official, was entitled to certain entrées, made his appearance behind the scenes, and it is said that, in a facetious mood, he would sometimes express his opinion about the “execution” of the music.

Operatic kings and queens were suppressed by the Republic. Not only were they forbidden to appear on the stage, but even their names were not to be pronounced behind the scenes, and the expressions côté du roi, côté de la reine, were changed into côté jardin, côté cour, which, at the Theatre of the Tuileries, indicated respectively the left and right of the stage, from the stage point of view. But although, at first, all pieces in which kings and queens figured were prohibited, the dramas of sans-culotte origin were so stupid and disgusting that the Republic was absolutely obliged to return to the old monarchical repertory. The kings, however, were turned into chiefs; princes and dukes became representatives of the people; seigneurs subsided into mayors; and substitutes more or less synonymous were found for such offensive words as crown, throne, sceptre, etc. In a new Republican version of “Le Déserteur,” as represented at the Opera Comique, le roi, in one well-known line, was replaced by la loi, and the vocalist had to declaim “La loi passait, et le tambour battait aux champs!” A certain voluble executant, however, is said to have preferred the following emendation: “Le pouvoir exécutif passait, et le tambour battait aux champs!” The scenes of most of the new operas were laid in Italy, Prussia, Portugal—anywhere but in France, where it would have been indispensable from a political, and impossible from a poetical, point of view to make the lovers address one another as citoyen, citoyenne. On the 19th of June, 1793, the directors of the Opera having objected to give a gratuitous performance of the “Siege of Thionville,” the Commune of Paris issued the following edict:—“Considering that for a long time past the aristocracy has taken refuge in the administration of various theatres; considering that these gentlemen corrupt the public mind by the pieces they represent; considering that they exercise a fatal influence on the revolution: it is decreed that the ‘Siege of Thionville’ shall be represented gratis, and solely for the amusement of the sans-culottes, who, to this moment, have been the true defenders of liberty and supporters of democracy.” Soon afterwards it was proposed to shut up the Opera, but Hébert—the ferocious Hébert, better known as Le père Duchesne—undertook its defence, on the ground that it procured subsistence for a number of families, and “caused the agreeable arts to flourish.”

Whatever the Opera may have been under the Reign of Terror, it was conducted infinitely better in one important respect than under the ancient régime.


In the days of the old monarchy, as we learn from Bachaumont, a girl once inscribed on the books of the Opera was released from all control on the part of her parents. She might present herself for engagement of her own accord, or her name might be entered on the list by anyone who had succeeded in leading her away from her parents. In neither case {89} had her family any further power over her. Lettres de cachet were issued, commanding the person named in the order to join the Opera, and many young girls were thus victimised. It can scarcely be supposed that the privileges granted to the Opera were intended, in the first instance, to be turned to such evil account as they afterwards were. Indeed, young men equally with young women could be seized and committed to operatic control wherever they were found. “We wish, and it pleases us,” says King Louis XIV., in the letters-patent granted to the Abbé Perrin, first director of the Académie Royale de Musique (1669), “that gentlemen (gentilshommes) and ladies may sing in the said pieces and representations of our Royal Academy without being considered, for that reason, to derogate from their titles of nobility, or from their rights and immunities.” Many aristocrats of both sexes profited by this permission to appear either as singers or as dancers at the Opera. Young girls, amateurs, male and female, whose voices had been remarked, could be arrested and forced to perform at the Opera; and in the case of young girls it was evidently to the interest of the Académie Royale de Musique that it should be able to profit by their talents without interference on the part of parents, who might well object to see their children condemned to such service. Besides being liberated from all parental restraint, the pupils and associates of the Academy enjoyed the right of setting creditors at defiance. The salaries of singers, dancers, and musicians belonging to the Opera were explicitly liberated from all liability to seizure for debt. Of the freedom conferred by an engagement at the Opera, the young woman who enjoyed it would probably have been the last to complain; for, side by side with operatic conscription, a system of operatic privileges was in force. It was not the custom for young ladies in good society to visit the Opera before their marriage; but a brevet de dame could be obtained, and the fortunate holder of such a document could without infringing any law of etiquette, {90} attend all operatic performances. “The number of these brevets,” says Bachaumont, in his Mémoires Secrets, “increased prodigiously under Louis XVI., and very young persons have been known to obtain them. Thus relieved from the modesty and retirement of the virginal state, they gave themselves up with impunity to all sorts of scandals. Such disorder has opened the eyes of the Government, and it is now only by the greatest favour that one of these brevets can be obtained.”

It has been seen that, according to Mercier and, after him, Castil Blaze, the extreme revolutionists among the Terrorist party desired that the Opera House in the Rue Richelieu might meet with the ordinary fate of theatres, in the hope that flames or flaming embers blown from the conflagration might reach the National Library, just opposite. This does not accord with the fact that the Convention did its utmost to encourage learning, literature, and art. The free system of the University, the College or Gymnasium at from eight to ten francs a month, and the Conservatoire de Musique, with its endowments, its scholarships, and its free tuition, all date from the first days of the Republic of 1789. As to the formal demolition of the Opera House, whose destiny was supposed to be fire, it happened in this way:—

On the 13th February, 1820, which was the last Sunday of the Carnival, an unusually brilliant audience had assembled at the Opera House, or Académie Royale, as it now once more was called. The Duke and Duchess of Berri were present; and before the performance had been brought to an end, the duke, struck by an assassin, was a dead man.

The circumstances of the murder were very dramatic, not only by their theatrical surroundings (for the performance still went on while the duke was expiring in the manager’s private apartments), but also by the remarkable way in which his whole life—with his double marriage and his two families—reproduced itself in the last few hours of his existence. The opera or operetta of the evening was at an end, and a portion of the ballet had been played, when the duke accompanied the duchess to her carriage, intending to return to his box to see the remainder of the performance. Then it was that the assassin grappled with him and pierced him to the heart. The duke was carried to the director’s room, and in accordance with the practice of the day, was at once bled in both arms. The internal hemorrhage was still so great, that it was thought necessary to widen the orifice.

“There,” says a contemporary writer, “lay the unhappy prince on a bed hastily arranged, and already soaked with blood, surrounded by his father, brother, sister, and wife, whose poignant anguish was from time to time relieved by some faint ray of hope, destined soon to be dispelled. When Dupuytren, accompanied by four of his most eminent colleagues, arrived, it was thought for a moment that the duke might yet be saved. But it soon became evident that the case was hopeless. The duke’s daughter had now been brought to him, and after embracing her several times, he expressed a desire to see the king, Louis XVIII. Then arrived two other daughters, the children of the union he had contracted in England. The duchess, seeing them now for the first time, received them with the greatest kindness, and said to them: ‘Soon you will have no father, and I shall have three daughters.’ In a neighbouring room the assassin was being interrogated by the Ministers Decaze and Pasquier, with the bloody dagger on the table before them; while on the stage the ballet of ‘Don Quixote’ was being performed in presence of an enthusiastic public. In the course of the night the king arrived, and his nephew expired in his arms at half-past six the next morning, begging that his murderer might be forgiven, and entreating the duchess not to give way to despair.”

The theatre on whose steps the crime had been committed was now demolished. The other Paris theatres were not indeed pulled down, but they were shut up for ten days, and there was general mourning in France, not only because a prince of the blood had been murdered, but also because the direct line of succession had to all appearance been brought to an end. It was not until more than seven months after the tragic scene at the Opera that the prince who was to have saved France, the “Enfant du Miracle,” was born.

The arrival of the two daughters born and brought up in England has been differently regarded by writers of different political views. Alexandre Dumas, in his Memoirs, and Castil Blaze, in his Histoire de l’Académie de Musique, represent the incident as a purely domestic one. M. Mauroy, in his recently published works, Les Secrets des Bourbons and Les derniers Bourbons, lays stress on the fact that these children were treated with a consideration not shown to other {91} children of the duke’s, who were certainly born out of wedlock, and thus derives an argument in support of his proposition that the Duke of Berri contracted in England with the mother of these girls a regular marriage, invalid only in so far as it had never been sanctioned by the head of his house. Chateaubriand, as a royalist, would not allow the character of legitimate children to the two girls brought to the bedside of their dying father, and entrusted by him to the care of his wife, the duchess.

“The Duke of Berri,” writes Chateaubriand, in the Mémoires d’outre-Tombe, “had had one of those liaisons which religion reproves, but which human frailty excuses. It may be said of him as the historian has said of Henri IV.: ‘He was often weak, but always faithful, and his passions never seemed to have enfeebled his religion.’ The Duke of Berri, seeking vainly in his conscience for something very guilty, and finding only a few weaknesses, wished, so to say, to collect them around his death-bed, to prove to the world the greatness of his contrition and the severity of his penance. He had a sufficiently just opinion of the virtue of his wife to confess to her his faults, and to fulfil, beneath her eyes, his desire to embrace those two innocent creatures, the daughters of his long exile. ‘Let them be sent for,’ cried the young princess; ‘they are my children also.’ When the Viscountess de Gontaut, who had not been told beforehand, seemed astonished, Madame (i.e. the Countess of Artois) noticed it, and said to her: ‘She knows everything; she has been sublime!’”

The rest of Chateaubriand’s narrative, especially as regards the Duke of Berri’s two daughters, corresponds closely enough with the one left by Dupuytren, whose style, somewhat expressive, somewhat emphatic for a man of science, is less copious, and also less magniloquent than that of the marvellous author of Le Gênie du Christianisme and of the Mémoires d’outre-Tombe.

What the prince chiefly thought of in his last moments was his murderer, Louvel. “Twenty times in the course of the fatal night,” says Dupuytren, the famous physician, whose account of the scene was published not many years ago, “he cried out, ‘Have I not injured this man? had he not some personal vengeance to exercise against me?’ In vain did Monsieur repeat to him, with tears in his eyes: ‘No, my son, you never injured, you never saw this man; he had no personal animosity against you.’ The prince returned incessantly to this groundless idea, and, without being conscious of it, furnished by his public and repeated inquiries the best proof that he had not provoked the frightful calamity which had befallen him. With this first idea he constantly associated another—that of obtaining pardon for his assassin. During his long and painful agony the prince begged for it at least a hundred times, and did so more earnestly in proportion as he felt his end approaching. Thus, when the increasing gravity of the symptoms made him fear that he would not live long enough to see the king, he called out piteously, ‘Ah! the king will not arrive. I shall not be able to ask him to forgive the man.’ Soon afterwards he appealed turn by turn to Monsieur and to the Duke of Augoulême, saying to them, ‘Promise me, father, promise me, brother, that you will ask the king to spare the man’s life.’ But when at last the king arrived, he no sooner saw his Majesty than, summoning all his strength, he cried out, ‘Spare his life, sir! spare the man’s life!’ ‘My nephew,’ the king replied, ‘you are not so ill as you think, and we shall have time to think of your request when you have recovered.’ Yet the prince continued as before, the king being still on his guard not to grant a pardon which was equally repugnant to the laws of nature and to those of society. Then this generous prince exclaimed in a tone of deep regret: ‘Ah, sir! you do not say “yes,”’ adding shortly afterwards: ‘If the man’s life were spared, the bitterness of my last moments would be softened.’ As his end drew near, pursuing the same idea, he expressed in a low voice, broken by grief, and with long intervals between each word, the following thought: ‘Ah!... if only ... I could carry away ... the idea ... that the blood of a man ... would not flow on my account ... after my death....’ This noble prayer was the last he uttered. His constantly increasing and now atrocious pain absorbed from this moment all his faculties.”

The heroism of the Duke of Berri and his dying prayer for the pardon of his murderer may be contrasted with the cowardice of his grandfather, Louis XV., taking the last sacrament twice over when he had only been scratched; and the cruelty with which he caused his assailant, who, murderously disposed, no doubt, had nevertheless scarcely injured him, to be subjected to the most frightful tortures, and finally torn to pieces by four horses.{92}


Let us now return to the Porte Saint-Martin Theatre, which, abandoned by the Opera, remained deserted for eight years, from 1794 to 1802. On September 30th of this year it was re-opened under the direction of the author and actor Du Maniaut, who brought out operas, melodramas, comedies, and pantomimes until the publication, in 1806, of the decree which put an end to the liberty of the stage. He afterwards, however, obtained permission to represent pantomimes and prologues, or vaudevilles, on condition that in each of these little pieces not more than two actors were employed. In September, 1810, Du Maniaut produced “The Man of Destiny”—a title indicating the Emperor Napoleon, whose victories were represented in a series of historical and allegorical pictures in honour of his marriage with Marie Louise. The music was by the celebrated Piccini, attached to the private staff of his Majesty the Emperor. The Man of Destiny was impersonated by a dancer and mimic named Chevalier, and his career, begun in Egypt, was continued up to the triumphal entry of the French troops into Berlin. After remaining closed for several years, the Porte Saint-Martin Theatre was re-opened in 1814, and thenceforward played a very important part in connection with the dramatic literature of the country. Here Mlle. Georges, Mme. Dorval, Frédéric Lemaître, and many other famous artistes, appeared. Here, too, were produced with enormous success “Marion Delorme,” “Lucrèce Borgia,” and “Marie Tudor,” from Victor Hugo’s pen; all the dramas of Alexandre Dumas, including “Antoine,” “Angèle,” “Richard Darlington,” and “La Tour de Nesle”: “The Mysteries of Paris” and “Mathilde” of Eugène Sue, “The Two Locksmiths” of Félix Pyat, the “Dame de Saint-Tropez” and “Don César de Bazan” of Adolphe d’Ennery. Here, too, the “Vautrin” of Balzac was brought out—to be stopped, after sixteen representations, by Government order, on the ground that Frédéric Lemaître’s make-up in the part of the hero was intended to throw ridicule on the person of King Louis Philippe. The house built by Le Noir, which the Committee of Public Safety had looked upon as of doubtful solidity, enjoyed a life of ninety years, and might have been in existence still; but on the 24th of May, 1871, without any apparent motive for so useless and stupid an act, {93} the Communists set fire to it. The old theatre was burnt to the ground, together with an adjoining building, which, in the days of the Republic of Vienna, had belonged to the Venetian Ambassador.


Rebuilt on the same site, but after a different plan, the Porte St.-Martin Theatre was re-opened in the autumn of 1873, when Victor Hugo’s “Marie Tudor” was revived. To this succeeded a couple of great successes—“The Two Orphans” and “Round the World,” the former written by that fertile inventor of new plots, M. Adolphe d’Ennery, and the latter adapted by him from Jules Verne’s famous novel.

Close to this famous playhouse is the new Renaissance Theatre, which first opened its doors on the 8th of March, 1873. The Porte Saint-Martin contains 1,800 seats, the Renaissance only 1,200. Started as a dramatic theatre, with Belot’s “Femme de Feu” and Zola’s “Thérèse Raquin” in the bill, it was destined to obtain its chief success as an operetta theatre with the charming works of Charles Lecoq, including ”La petite Mariée,” “Le petit Duc,” etc. In these works Mesdames Théo, Jeanne Granier, and Zulma Bouffar first appeared.

At the point where the Boulevards St.-Martin and St.-Denis meet stands the Triumphal Arch known as the Porte St.-Martin, which Louis XIV. erected in 1674 on the site of the previous Gate, which dated from the minority of Louis XIII. The Porte St.-Martin faces on the one side the Rue St.-Martin, and on the other the Faubourg St.-Martin: that is to say, south and north. The low reliefs decorating the arch on all sides represent the taking of Besançon, the taking of Limburg, and the defeat of the Germans, in the form of an eagle repulsed by Mars. The pedestal bears a Latin inscription, which in English would run thus:—“To Louis the Great, for having twice taken Besançon and Franche-Comté, and for having crushed the German, Spanish, and Dutch armies. The Provost of the Merchants and the Citizens of Paris, 1674.”

At the end of the Rue St.-Martin, leading out of the boulevard of that name, stands the Church of St. Méry, near which a most determined struggle took place in that insurrection of the 6th of June, 1832, which was one of the numerous Republican movements directed against Louis Philippe by the disappointed revolutionists of 1830, who, aiming at a Republic, had brought about the re-establishment of a Monarchy. The Republicans received powerful aid from the Bonapartists: these two parties being at this, as on so many other occasions, ready to unite against royalty, while reserving to themselves the ultimate decision of {94} the question whether the Empire or the Republic should be re-established.

The occasion chosen for the outbreak was the funeral of General Lamarque—equally popular with Bonapartists and Republicans. A number of enthusiastic young men drew the funeral car, which was followed by exiles from all parts of Europe. Among the pall-bearers were General Lafayette, Marshal Clausel, and M. Laffitte. Of the insurgents, some took part in the procession, while others looked on in expectation of events that were inevitable. The crowd broke into several gunsmiths’ shops, and finally into the arsenal. Many, too, had brought arms with them; and after a few hours’ fighting the insurgents had gained several important positions, and determined to attack the bank, the post-office, and some neighbouring barracks. Their chief object at this moment was to render inaccessible the Rue Saint-Martin and the surrounding streets. Here they intended to establish the head-quarters of their insurrection, without having the slightest notion that at that very instant M.M. Thiers, Miguet, and other members of the Government were dining together at the Rocher de Cancale, fifty yards only from the camp wherein the Republicans were fortifying themselves with the firm resolution of proclaiming a Republic or dying in the attempt. A remarkable example was given towards the evening of this day of what M. Louis Blanc calls the sympathy of the Paris National Guard for heroism, though most persons would regard it as a proof of incapacity and cowardice.

Eight insurgents, returning from the Place Maubert, presented themselves towards the decline of day at one of the bridges of the city which was occupied by a battalion of the National Guard. They authoritatively claimed their right to go over and join their friends who were fighting on the other side of the river, and as the guards hesitated to let them pass, they advanced resolutely towards the bridge at half charge, with fixed bayonets. The soldiers instantly ranged themselves on either side, and gave unimpeded passage to these eight men, whose infatuated heroism they at once admired and, reflecting upon its inevitable result, deplored.

The enthusiasm of the insurgents at this period is shown by many a curious incident, such as that of their moulding bullets from lead stripped off the roofs of houses; whilst boys, too young to bear weapons, loaded the guns, using for wadding the police notices they had torn off the walls, or, when that resource failed, taking the shirts off their own backs to tear to shreds for the purpose. It was all, however, a forlorn hope; and the rising was destined to be crushed by superior force.

More than one reference to the defence of the Cloître St.-Méry will be found in the novels of Balzac, and a dramatic description of it occurs in the memoirs of Alexandre Dumas.



THE BOULEVARDS (continued).

The Porte St.-Martin—Porte St.-Denis—The Burial Place of the French Kings—Funeral of Louis XV.—Funeral of the Count de Chambord—Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle—Boulevard Poissonnière—Boulevard Montmartre—Frascati.

JUST beyond the Porte Saint-Martin the Boulevard Saint-Denis crosses the great thoroughfare, which is called on one side Boulevard de Sébastopol, on the other, Boulevard de Strasbourg. The Boulevard de Strasbourg was so designated (long before the Franco-German war, which suggests quite another origin for the name) in honour of the city where Prince Louis Napoleon made his first attempt to restore the Empire in France. The circumstances of the rash enterprise, represented at the time by the Government newspapers as merely ridiculous, were sufficiently romantic to deserve a few words of mention. Quitting his mother, with whom he had been living at the Castle of Arenberg, in Switzerland, he went as if to take the waters at Baden-Baden, a place he found suitable to his purpose from its vicinity to Alsace, and from the opportunity it afforded him of covering his ambitious views under the mask of pleasure. It was there that the prince gained the co-operation of Colonel Vaudrey, who commanded the 4th regiment of artillery at Strasburg, in which frontier city the prince had resolved to proclaim the restoration of the Empire before marching towards the capital. The Alsacian democrats were to be gained over by holding out to them a prospect of a fair representation of the people, while the garrison of Strasburg was to be captivated by the cry of “Vive l’Empereur!” The citizens were to be summoned to liberty, and the young men of the schools to arms. The ramparts were then to be entrusted to the keeping of the national guards, and the prince was to march to Paris at the head of the troops. “And then,” says Louis Blanc, in his sketch of the project, “the pictures that naturally presented themselves to the mind of Louis Napoleon were towns surprised, garrisons carried away by the movement, young men eagerly enlisting among his adventurous followers, old soldiers quitting the plough from all quarters to salute the eagle borne aloft, amidst acclamations, caught up by echo after echo along the roads; bitter recollections of the invasion, proud memories of the great wars, reviving, meanwhile, in every part of the Vosges, Lorraine, and Champagne.” The ardour of the conspirators steadily increased, and had they not possessed resolution and daring of their own, there was a woman in their midst who would have set them a bold example. Madame Gordon, the daughter of a captain of the Imperial Guard, had been initiated at Lille into the projects of Louis Napoleon without the knowledge of the prince himself, and entering impetuously into the conspiracy, she hastened to Strasburg, or rather to Baden-Baden in the immediate neighbourhood, and, appearing there as a professional singer, gave a series of concerts. Prince Louis was charmed with the lady’s talents, and, on expressing his admiration, was astonished to find that she had come to Baden-Baden with no object but to help him in the attempt he was about to make on the other side of the Rhine.

The Strasburg expedition having failed, it pleased the enemies of the prince to cast ridicule upon it; and he was accused of having exhibited himself in his uncle’s boots, just as some years afterwards, in connection with the Boulogne expedition, he was said to have carried with him a trained eagle which at a given moment was to fly to the top of the Boulogne Column in memory of the Great Army. Both at Boulogne, however, and at Strasburg the prince had considerable chances of success: a fact sufficiently proved (apart from any demonstration in detail) by the popularity he was seen to possess when, in 1848, he appeared as candidate for the Presidency of the French Republic. At Strasburg, as afterwards at Boulogne, he did not make his attack until after he had had the ground thoroughly reconnoitred, and had ascertained that the troops before whom he was about to present himself were largely composed of his partisans.

The soldiers of the 4th regiment of artillery were waiting, drawn up face to face in two lines, with their eyes fixed on Colonel Vaudrey, who stood alone in the centre of the yard. Suddenly the prince appeared in the uniform of an artillery officer, and hurried up to the colonel, who introduced him to the troops, crying out: “Soldiers, a great revolution begins at this moment. The nephew of the Emperor stands before you. He comes to place himself at your head. He is here on French soil to restore to France her glory and her liberty. He is here to conquer {96} or to die for a great cause—the cause of the people. Soldiers of the 4th regiment of artillery, may the Emperor’s nephew reckon on you?” At these words an indescribable transport seized the troops. As one man they cried, “Vive l’Empereur!” and brandished their arms amid shouts of enthusiasm. Louis Napoleon, deeply affected, made signs that he wished to speak. “It was in your regiment,” he said, “that the Emperor Napoleon, my uncle, first saw service; with you he distinguished himself at the siege of Toulon; it was your brave regiment that opened the gates of Grenoble to him on his return from the island of Elba. Soldiers, new destinies are reserved for you!” And, taking the Eagle from an officer who carried it, “Here,” he said, “is the symbol of French glory, which must henceforth be also the symbol of liberty.” The shouts were redoubled, they mingled with the strains of martial music, and the regiment prepared to march.



The excitement went on increasing, and cries of “Vive l’Empereur!” filled the air, when suddenly a strange rumour began to spread. It was said that the self-proclaimed nephew of the emperor was in reality the nephew of Colonel Vaudrey. The enthusiasts of a second before, lending ear to the idle whisper, now hesitated; and in revolts the man who hesitates or meets with hesitation is lost. The people of Strasburg had shown numerous marks of sympathy for the heir of the first {97} Napoleon, and many officers and soldiers had espoused his cause. But the first impulse had received a check, and the power of discipline and routine soon asserted itself. The question now was, how the heir of the first Napoleon might escape from the mass of troops by which he was surrounded. Two of his adherents offered to cut a way for him, sword in hand; but this wild proposal was naturally rejected, and the prince had to surrender himself prisoner.


What to do with him, however, was for some time a difficult problem to the authorities. To try the Prince by an ordinary jury would be awkward, inasmuch as there was a considerable chance of his acquittal; while it was already known that if he were brought before the Chamber of Peers, many members of that august body had declared their resolution not to sit in judgment upon him. At last it was resolved to send him into exile. He was not allowed to go back to Switzerland, where he had been living for some years, and he was ultimately ordered to make America his destination. It was said that he promised to remain there for not less than ten years. But there is no proof of any such compact having been {98} entered into, and the prince was soon to be heard of again in London.

Formerly associated solely with the first attempt of Prince Louis Napoleon to place himself on the throne of France, the Boulevard of Strasburg now seems to mark the fact that the Alsatian city, so thoroughly French in feeling, has been made the capital of a province of the German Empire.

It has been said that the Boulevard Saint-Denis crosses the Boulevard de Strasbourg; and it terminates at the Porte Saint-Denis, erected two years earlier than the Porte Saint-Martin, to which it is superior both by the boldness of its architecture and by the magnificence of its ornamentation.

The Porte Saint-Denis was constructed in 1672 by the order and at the expense of the City of Paris, to celebrate the success of that astonishing campaign in which, during less than sixty days, forty strongholds and three provinces fell before the armies of the victorious monarch. The town side of the arch bears, on the left, a colossal figure of Holland, on the right, another of the Rhine: two masterpieces, due to the chisel of the Auguier Brothers. At the top of the arch is a frieze representing in low relief the famous passage of the Rhine under the orders of Louis XIV. On the Faubourg side the low relief at the top of the arch represents the taking of Maestricht. The Porte Saint-Denis bears this simple inscription: “Ludovico Magno”—“To Louis the Great.”

At the end of the Rue Faubourg Saint-Denis is the necropolis of Saint-Denis—the burial-place of the French kings.

The obsequies of French kings have from the earliest times been attended with as much pomp and show as their coronations. It was not enough to embalm the body, place it in several coffins, and finally carry it to the royal burial place at Saint-Denis—to observe an elaborate ceremonial, which the Court functionaries and the officials of State followed out to the minutest detail; the effigy of the dead king was exposed for forty days in the palace, stretched on a State bed, clothed in royal garments, the crown on the head, the sceptre in the right hand, and the brand of justice on the left, with a crucifix, a vessel of holy water, and two golden censers at the foot of the couch. The officers of the palace, meanwhile, continued their duties as usual, and even went so far as to serve the king’s meals as though he were still living. The embalmed body was afterwards transported to the Abbey of Saint-Denis, with the innumerable formalities laid down beforehand; while at the interment so many honours were paid to it that to enumerate them would be to fill a small volume. The details of the ceremony were so minute and fastidious that battles of etiquette constantly took place among the exalted persons figuring in the assembly.

At the burial of Philip Augustus, the Papal Legate and the Archbishop of Rheims disputed for precedence; and as neither would give way, they performed service at the same time in the same church, but at different altars. A like scandal occurred at the funeral of St. Louis. When his successor, Philip III., wished to enter the Abbey of Saint-Denis at the head of the procession, the doors were closed in his face. The abbot objected to the presence, not of the king, his master, but of the Bishop of Paris and the Archbishop of Sens, whom he had observed among the officiating clergy, and who, according to his view, had no right to perform service in the Abbey of Saint-Denis, where he alone was chief. The difference was arranged by the archbishop and bishop stripping themselves of their pontifical garments, and acknowledging the supremacy of the abbot in his own sanctuary.

At the death of Charles VI. it was found necessary to consult the Duke of Bedford as to the conduct of the funeral ceremony, and under the direction of the foreigner it was performed with great magnificence. The duke observed as nearly as possible the ancient ceremonial, the only important variation being that (possibly in his character of Englishman) he ordered the interment to be followed by a grand dinner. Even at the dinner—where, at least, concord might have been expected—there were absurd wranglings on points of etiquette between the State officials.

These royal funerals naturally cost enormous sums of money, which were charged partly to the Crown, partly to the City of Paris. The obsequies of Francis I. took five hundred thousand livres from the purse of his successor, without counting the contribution, probably of equal amount, from the town. The effigies of his two sons who had died before him were carried with his own relics to Saint-Denis. Thus there were three coffins in the procession. By the observance of a similar custom, there were in the funeral procession of St. Louis no fewer than five.

At the interments of the old kings genuine grief was often exhibited by the people. Such, however, was not the case at the obsequies of {99} Louis XIV. The Duke de Saint-Simon, in his Memoirs, speaks of this funeral as a very poor affair, remarkable only for the confused style in which it was conducted. The king had left no directions in regard to his burial; and partly for the sake of economy, partly to save trouble, it was decided to regulate the ceremonies by those observed at the interment of Louis XIII., who, in his will, had ordered that they should be as simple as possible. “His modesty and humility, like the other Christian and heroic qualities he possessed, had not,” says Saint-Simon, “descended to his son. But the funeral of Louis XIII. was accepted as a precedent, and no one saw the slightest objection to it, attachment and gratitude being virtues which had ceased to exist.” Nor did the Duke of Orleans pay a flattering tribute to the royal memory, when, regent though he had only just become, he absented himself from the ceremony of carrying the king’s heart to the Grand Jesuits: “that heart,” says Saint-Simon, “which loved no one, and which excited so little love.”

In addition to the usual distribution of alms, the Regent of Orleans associated the funeral of Louis XIV. with an exceptional act of mercy. A number of persons had been arbitrarily imprisoned on lettres de cachet and otherwise, some for Jansenism and various religious and political offences, others for reasons known only to the king or his former ministers. The regent ordered all the captives to be set at liberty, with the exception of a few who had been duly convicted of serious political or criminal misdeeds. Among the prisoners liberated from the Bastille was an Italian whose confinement had lasted thirty-five years, and who had been arrested the very day of his arrival at Paris, which he had come to see simply as a traveller. “No one ever knew why,” says Saint-Simon; “nor, like most of the others, had he ever been interrogated. It was thought to be a mistake. When his liberty was announced to him, he asked sadly of what use it was to him. He said that he had not a child, that he knew no one at Paris, nor even the name of a street, that his relations in Italy were probably dead, and that his property must have been divided among his heirs, on the supposition that he was dead. He asked to be allowed to remain at the Bastille for the rest of his life, with board and lodging. This was granted to him, with liberty to go out when he pleased. As for the prisoners released from the dungeons into which the hatred of the Ministers and that of the Jesuits had thrown them, the horrible condition in which they appeared inspired horror, and rendered credible all the cruelties they related when they were in full liberty.” The story of the Italian prisoner who declined to leave the Bastille is interesting from its having anticipated—perhaps it suggested—the one told by another prisoner on the occasion of the Bastille being taken by the Revolutionists in 1789.

The funeral of Louis XV. was a very hurried affair. The king died on the 10th of May, at twenty minutes past three. The whole Court instantly took flight, and there only remained with the body a few persons required for the care of it. The utmost precipitation was used in removing it from Versailles. None of the usual formalities were observed. Everyone was afraid to go near the body—undertakers, like the rest, feared the small-pox, of which the king had died—and the corpse was carried to Saint-Denis in an ordinary travelling carriage, under the care of forty members of the body-guard and a few pages. The escort hurried on the dead man in the most indecent manner, and all along the road the greatest levity was shown by the spectators. The public-houses were filled with uproarious guests; and it is said that when the landlord of one of them tried to silence a troublesome customer by reminding him that the king was about to pass, the man replied: “The rogue starved us in his lifetime. Does he want us to perish of thirst now that he is dead?” A jest different in style, but showing equally in what esteem Louis XV. was held by his subjects, is attributed to the Abbé of Sainte-Geneviève. Being taunted with the powerlessness of his saint and the little effect which the opening of his shrine, formerly so efficacious, had produced, he replied: “What, gentlemen, have you to complain of? Is he not dead?”

The last of the Bourbons buried at Saint-Denis was Louis XVIII., whose obsequies were conducted as nearly as possible on the ancient regal pattern. The exhibition of the king’s effigy in wax had in Louis XVIII.’s time been out of fashion for more than a century. But the customs observed in connection with the lying-in-state of Louis XIV. were for the most part revived. The king, who died on the 16th of September, 1824, was embalmed, and on the 18th his body was exposed on a State bed in the hall of the throne. His bowels and heart had been enclosed in caskets of enamel. The exhibition of the body lasted six {100} days, during which it was constantly surrounded by the officers of the Crown and the superior clergy. The translation of the remains to St.-Denis took place on the 23rd, in the midst of an imposing civil and military procession. The princes of the blood and grand officers of State occupied fourteen mourning coaches, each with eight horses, and the tail of the procession was formed by 400 poor men and women bearing torches. Received at the entrance to the church by the Dean of the Royal Chapter and the Grand Almoner of France, the body was placed on trestles in the chancel, while prayers were recited by the clergy. It was afterwards removed to an illuminated chapel, where it lay exposed for a whole month, the chapter performing services night and day. The interment took place on the 25th of October. The grand almoner celebrated a solemn mass; and after the Gospel a funeral oration was pronounced by the Bishop of Hermopolis. Then four bishops uttered a benediction over the body, and absolution was pronounced; twelve of the body-guard thereupon carrying the coffin down to the royal vault, where the grand almoner cast a shovelful of earth on it, and blessed it, saying: “Requiescat in pace.” The king-at-arms approached the open vault, threw into it his wand, helmet, and coat-of-arms, ordered the other heralds to imitate him, and calling up the grand officers of the Crown, told them to bring the insignia of the authority they held from the defunct king. Each came in succession with the object entrusted to his care: such as the banner of the royal guard, the flags of the body-guard, the spurs, the gauntlets, the shield, the coat-of-arms, the helm, the pennon, the brand of justice, the sceptre, and the crown. The royal sword and banner were only presented at the mouth of the vault. The Grand Master of France now inclined the end of his staff towards the coffin, and cried in a loud voice: “The king is dead!” The king-at-arms, taking three steps backwards, repeated in the same tone: “The king is dead; the king is dead!” Then, turning towards the persons assembled, he added: “Let us now pray to God for the repose of his soul.” The clergy and all present fell on their knees, prayed, and then stood up. The grand master next drew back his staff, raised it in the air, and exclaimed: “Long live the king!” The king-at-arms repeated: “Long live the king! Long live the king! Long live King Charles, the tenth of the name, by the grace of God King of France and of Navarre; very Christian, very august, very powerful; our honoured lord and master, to whom may God grant a life long and happy. Cry all ‘Long live the king! Long live Charles X.!’” The tomb was closed, and the ceremony was at an end.

At the funeral of the Count de Chambord the hearse was surmounted by a dome, on which rested four crowns. It was not explained what kingdoms these crowns were intended to represent. As the head of the House of France, the right of the count, heraldically speaking, to wear the French crown would scarcely be disputed. The four symbolical crowns on the count’s hearse were possibly, then, meant to be simple reminders that the Bourbons claimed sovereign rights over four different countries; and in the days of Louis Philippe they indeed reigned in France, Spain, Naples, and Parma. But the Revolution of 1848 in France and the war of 1859 in Italy cleared three thrones of their Bourbon occupants, and the last of the reigning Bourbons disappeared when, in 1868, Isabella of Spain fled from Madrid. Thus, in the course of twenty years the four Bourbon crowns lost all real significance; and the Bourbon sovereigns had simply increased the numbers of those “kings in exile,” so much more plentiful during the period of M. Alphonse Daudet than at that of Voltaire, who first observed them, in Candide, as a separate species.

Now that the Comte de Chambord reposes by the side of his grandfather, Charles X., there are as many of the Bourbons buried at Göritz as at Saint-Denis, where, in the burial-place of the French kings, the only really authentic bodies are those of the Duke of Berri, the Count of Chambord’s father, and Louis XVIII., his great-uncle. In regard to the later occupants of the French throne, it is at least certain where they are interred; Napoleon I. at the Invalides, Louis Philippe at Claremont, Napoleon III. at Chiselhurst, and the last two representatives of the Bourbons at Göritz. The first of the Bourbons, Henri IV., as likewise his successors, Louis XIII., Louis XIV., and Louis XV., were buried at Saint-Denis, in the vault known as that of the Bourbons; and to the coffins still supposed to contain their remains were added, after the Restoration, two more, reputed—without adequate foundation for the belief—to hold the bodies of Louis XVI. and of the child who died in the Temple—the so-called Louis XVII. The body of the Duke of Berri was laid in the vault of the Bourbons a few days after his assassination in 1820; and that of Louis XVIII. was consigned to the same resting-place in 1824. But in 1793 the tombs of the French kings had been dismantled, and their contents re-interred promiscuously in two large graves, {101} hastily dug for the purpose; and the identity of the bones asserted to be those of Louis XVI. and Louis XVII., which were not placed in the Bourbon vault of the Saint-Denis church until 1815, could scarcely be demonstrated.


“To celebrate the 10th of August, which marks the downfall of the French Throne, we must, on its anniversary,” said Barrère, in his report addressed to the French Convention, “destroy the splendid mausoleums at Saint-Denis. Under the monarchy the very tombs had learned to flatter the kings. Their haughtiness, their love of display, could not be subdued even on the theatre of death; and the sceptre-bearers who have {102} done so much harm to France and to humanity seem even in the grave to be proud of their vanished greatness. The powerful hand of the Republic must efface without pity those arrogant epitaphs and demolish those mausoleums which would revive the frightful recollections of the kings.”

The proposition of Barrère was adopted, and the National Assembly decreed “that the tombs and mausoleums of the former kings in the Church of Saint-Denis should be destroyed.” The execution of the decree was undertaken on the 6th of August, and three days afterwards thirty-one tombs had been swept away. Not the least remarkable of these tombs was the earliest, erected by St. Louis in honour of “Le Roi Dagobert,” of facetious memory, famed in song for having put on his breeches “à l’envers.” It is one of the most curious monuments of the thirteenth century, and at least as interesting for its subject as for its architecture. On three zones, superposed one upon the other, is represented the legend of Dagobert’s death. On the lowest zone we see St. Denis revealing to a sleeping anchorite, named Jean, that King Dagobert is suffering torments; and close by, the soul of Dagobert, represented by a naked child bearing a crown, is being maltreated by demons, frightfully ugly, who hold their prey in a boat. In the middle zone, the same demons are running precipitately from the boat, in the most grotesque attitudes, at the approach of the three saints, Denis, Martin, and Maurice, who have come to rescue the soul of King Dagobert. In the highest of the bas-reliefs the soul of King Dagobert is free. The naked child is now standing in a winding-sheet, of which the two ends are held by St. Denis and St. Martin; and angels are awaiting him in heaven, whither he is about to ascend. The commission appointed by the Convention did not destroy this tomb. They had it transported, with many other objects of artistic and intrinsic value, to Paris.

The last King of France and of Navarre died on the 6th of July, 1836, and it was not until nine days afterwards that the fact was made known to the French public through the columns of the Gazette de France. The heart of Charles X. was, according to royal custom, separated from the body; though, instead of being preserved apart, as in the case of former French kings, it was enclosed in a box of enamel, and fastened with screws to the top of the coffin. The Comte de Chambord, on the other hand, was buried in the ordinary manner, and not, like Charles X., with his heart on the coffin lid; nor, like Louis XVIII., with his heart in one place and his body in another. The dead, according to the German ballad, “ride fast.” But the living move still faster; and in France, almost as much as in England, the separation of a heart from the body, to be kept permanently as a relic, is in the present day a process which seems to savour of ancient times, though, as a matter of fact, it was common enough among the French at the end of the last century. In our own country the discontinuance of what was at one time as much a custom in England as in France, or any other continental land, is probably due to the influence of the Reformation, which, condemning absolutely the adoration of the relics of saints, did not favour the respectful preservation of relics of any kind. Great was the astonishment caused in England when in the last generation it was found that Daniel O’Connell had by will ordered his heart to be sent to Rome. The injunction was made at the time the subject of an epigram, intended to be offensive, but which would probably have been regarded by O’Connell himself as flattering: setting forth, as it did, that the heart which was to be forwarded to Rome had never in fact been anywhere else. The reasons for which in the Middle Ages hearts were enclosed in precious urns may have been very practical. Sometimes the owner of the heart had died far from home, and in accordance with his last wishes, the organ associated with all his noblest emotions was sent across the seas to his living friends. Such may well have been the case when, after the death of St. Louis at Tunis, the heart of the pious king was transmitted to France, where it was preserved for centuries—perhaps even until our own time—in La Sainte Chapelle. In the year 1798, while some masons were engaged in repairing the building which had been converted into a depôt for State archives, they came across a heart-shaped casket in lead, containing what was described as “the remains of a human heart.” The custodians of the archives drew up a formal report on the discovery, and enclosing it in the casket with the relics, replaced the casket beneath the flagstones whence it had been disinterred. In 1843, when the chapel was restored, the leaden heart-shaped receptacle was found anew, and a commission was appointed to decide as to the genuineness of the remains, believed to be those of St. Louis. An adverse decision was pronounced, the reasons for discrediting the legend on the subject being fully set {103} forth by M. Letrenne, the secretary of the commission.


The Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, which comes next to the Boulevard Saint-Denis, is bounded on the right by the Faubourg Poissonnière, and on the left by the Butte aux Gravois, on which was built in the seventeenth century the quarter named, after its parochial church, Notre-Dame de Bonne Nouvelle. The Bonne Nouvelle Bazaar, constructed in the reign of Louis Philippe, contained, in the basement, a sort of theatre of considerable size, where, in 1848, several political clubs and other conventions were established. Here on one particular day, arriving together by opposite staircases, Victor Hugo and Frédéric Lemaître would present themselves at the speaker’s desk erected for political orators. Ultimately, but not without some hesitation, the interpreter of Ruy Blas gave way to the creator of the part. The object of the assembly was to constitute in a permanent way a club for Parisian writers and artists of the dramatic and other schools. Close by, at No. 26, is the Viennese beer-house, established on the site of the theatre opened in 1838, where the company of the old Vaudeville Theatre took refuge when, on the 18th of July in that year, they were burnt out.

There is now but one theatre on the Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle—that of the Gymnase, opened on the 20th of December, 1820, under the patronage of the Duchess of Berri, who four years afterwards allowed it to take the title of “Théâtre de Madame,” which it retained until the Revolution of 1830. It was then entitled the “Gymnase Théâtre Dramatique,” afterwards to be known simply as the Gymnase. For the last seventy years the Gymnase has been one of the very best theatres of the second order, ranking immediately after the theatres subventioned by the State. It was at the Gymnase that Scribe made his brilliant reputation with a long succession of little masterpieces, until at length he was followed by Alexandre Dumas the younger, who here produced “Le Demi-Monde,” “Diane de Lys,” and many other pieces less imposing, perhaps, but more thoughtful and more powerfully written than those of his predecessor. It was at the Gymnase, too, that Sardou brought out many of his best pieces, such as “Les Ganaches,” “La Perle noire,” “Nos bons Villageois,” and “Fernande.” This theatre, moreover, was the birthplace of Meilhac and Halévy’s “Frou-Frou.”

The first house on the Boulevard Poissonnière, at the corner of the street of that name, bears an inscription which fixes at this point the boundary of Paris in 1726, though by some authorities 1726 is said to have been substituted for the true year in which the boundaries of Paris were marked—namely, 1702.

With the last house on the Boulevard Poissonnière, at the corner of the Faubourg Montmartre, begins a whole series of celebrated restaurants. As the origin of this familiar word is not universally known, it may here be mentioned that it originated with an eating-house keeper, who inscribed above his establishment in large letters the following passage from the Gospel: “Venite ad me et ego ‘Restorabo’ vos.” This restaurateur, or restaurant-keeper, had imitators, and the name which his quotation had suggested was applied to all of them. Paul Brébant, known as the restaurateur des lettres, has fed more than one generation of authors and journalists, who have not neglected him on becoming senators or ministers. A great number of monthly entertainments are given at this restaurant. Here dine together the Society of Men of Letters, the Dramatic Critics’ Club, the Parisians, the Spartans, etc. Passing on, we next reach the ancient café of the Porte Montmartre, installed in the house which once belonged to the Marchioness de Genlis, sister-in-law of the authoress who superintended the education of the Orleans princes.

Close by is the bazaar or arcade known as the Passage des Panoramas, which owes its name to a series of panoramas representing Paris, Lyons, London, and Naples, established here, under special privilege, by Robert Fulton, the inventor of steamers. The money which he made by exhibiting the panoramas enabled him to continue his experiments in marine locomotion. To the left of the Passage des Panoramas was a strip of land, on which, in 1806, the Théâtre des Variétés was built. This little theatre, which, under the name of Variétés Montansier, occupied the site where now stands the Théâtre du Palais Royal, had committed the offence of attracting the public and filling its coffers with gold, while the Comédie Française, close to it, had scarcely been able to make both ends meet. The famous theatre where, at that time, the principal actor was Talma and the principal actress Mlle. Mars, uttered a formal complaint; and the liberty of the stage being then at an end, the Théâtre des Variétés was expelled from the Palais Royal, but allowed to take refuge in a new house built especially for it on the before-mentioned strip of {104} land.

For many years the Théâtre des Variétés undertook to amuse the public with the lightest comedies, in which such actors as Brunet, Potier, Vernet, and Odry, such actresses as Flore and Jenny Vertpré appeared. After the Revolution of July, 1830, it made experiments in a more serious style, producing, for instance, the “Kean” of Dumas the elder, with Frédéric Lemaître in the principal character, and Bressant in the part of the Prince of Wales. Under the Second Empire the Variétés returned to its old trade, besides adopting an entirely new one—that of opera-bouffe, as cultivated by Offenbach. Here the earliest and best works of this master, such as “La belle Hélène” and the “Grand Duchess of Gerolstein,” were first performed, with Schneider and Dupuis in the principal parts. Here, too, some of the best comedies of Meilhac, Halévy, and Labiche were brought out.

The Boulevard Montmartre, in front of the Variétés, is the most animated part of the whole line of boulevards. The late Henri Dupin, the famous boulevardier, who died a centenarian, used to pretend that he had shot rabbits between the Rue Montmartre and the adjoining Rue Richelieu. This was doubtless an exaggeration. But a representation of this part of Paris, painted in the days of the First Empire, shows that at the point in question there were ditches intersecting a road lined with trees. The Boulevard Montmartre combines some of the features of the upper and of the lower boulevard, the shops which here abound offering for sale objects of use and of ornament, of interest and of luxury: clothes, bonnets, books, chocolate, bonbons, and music.


At the corner of the Boulevard Montmartre and the Rue Vivienne stood the famous public gambling-house of Frascati, where, until the reign of Louis Philippe, as at a similar establishment in the Palais Royal, games of hazard were publicly played. These gambling-houses bore an important, and often, no doubt, disastrous part in the social life of the French capital, and innumerable anecdotes have been told of the sums lost and won within their walls.

Both comedy and tragedy bore a part in the scenes produced by the fascinating cards. Materials for a farce might be found in one scene, in which Mlle. Contat, the famous actress, figured. She was far too beautiful to want, even from her girlhood, a host of admirers. Her first love affair was sufficiently unfortunate. The successful suitor was a certain M. de Lubsac, an officer in the king’s household. He was a man of inferior birth, with an empty purse; but he was as handsome as Apollo, and a wit into the bargain. He laid such persistent siege to the actress that she at length yielded in sheer weakness to his importunity. De Lubsac was distinguished by two vices: he loved wine and cards. His passion for play was so reckless that one night he staked his beautiful mistress, or at least put to hazard the whole of her diamonds and trinkets. He lost; and the next day, just as Mlle. Contat was about to {105} attend a fête, she looked for her jewellery in vain. The caskets were all empty; a clean sweep had been made of everything. She set up a cry of “Thieves!” and called in the police. De Lubsac thought it discreet to silence her by a free confession of his “fault.” He admitted that he had pledged the whole of the missing property. She was furious, and De Lubsac expressed the deepest contrition. “Ah!” he cried, wringing his hands, “if I only had a few louis at this moment I could repair everything!” “How?” cried Mlle. Contat, with a sudden gleam of hope. “Why, to-night,” replied Lubsac, “I feel that my luck is in. I should win everything back. But I have not a solitary sou.” The repentance of the criminal was so comic that it touched the actress’s heart. Presently she smiled, then she laughed outright. In the end she lent the gambler a couple of louis, the last she had in the world, and he hurried off to the gaming-table. In less than an hour he returned triumphant. He had won. He brought back the whole of the jewellery, which he had taken out of pawn, and he had a few louis in his pocket besides. It was impossible to be too severe with such a man. The actress, however, could not put up with him many months. He at length proved such a desperate rake that she dismissed him in disgust.


Every reader of Balzac’s invaluable novels will remember one or more scenes in which some public gambling establishment is introduced. At the Frascati people lost their money according to rule, and under the superintendence of the police. Nor did the spendthrifts who haunted it cease to play even when ruin began to stare them in the face, for an occasional piece of luck would always revive the delusion that one day the goddess Fortune would return them the sums they had squandered in wooing her. Attached to the Frascati gambling-house were illuminated {106} gardens, imitated from those of the Italian Ridotto, and largely resorted to, under the Directory and the Consulate, by fashionable citizens. The original proprietor of the Frascati establishment, Garchi by name, died insolvent. The place was seized, and in 1799 passed into the hands of one Perrin, whom Fouché, the celebrated minister of police, appointed Farmer-General of Games. Public gambling-houses were kept up in Paris until the year 1836, when, under Louis Philippe, the “Citizen King,” they were brought to an end.

With the Frascati Gardens disappeared the charming villa built by Brongniart, with its Italian roof, its portico, and its statues. It was replaced by a house which was to enjoy a celebrity of its own. On the ground-floor it was occupied by Jannisset, the fashionable jeweller; on the first floor by Buisson the tailor, who had the honour of dressing Balzac, the greatest novelist that France, if not the world, has produced. Balzac had inspired the man with the same sort of admiration that a certain wine-merchant felt for the unfortunate Haydon. “Ought a man who can paint like that to be in want of a glass of sherry?” said Haydon to the art loving vintner who had come to ask for a settlement of his bill. “Indeed, no,” replied the wine-merchant, who not only went away without asking even for a trifle on account, but hastened to forward several dozen of sherry for Haydon’s encouragement and stimulation.

Buisson was treated by Balzac on the most friendly footing. Not only did the great novelist allow the fashionable tailor to dress him for nothing, but he also paid him long visits, and used a special set of apartments assigned to him in a lofty region of Buisson’s house, where in the midst of the workshops he was beyond the reach of troublesome creditors. Far from being ungrateful to his benefactor, Balzac has rendered him immortal by naming him again and again in his works. Buisson will, thanks to Honoré de Balzac, be always known as the fashionable tailor of Louis Philippe’s reign.

The name of Frascati at one time belonged to the present Boulevard Montmartre. It is still retained by the pastrycook who sells ices and tarts in his shop at the corner of the boulevard. It should be mentioned that this pastrycook’s shop was preceded by the Café Frascati, which owed its success entirely to the beauty of the lady who presided at the counter. When the dame du comptoir disappeared the café became deserted, and had to close its doors.




The Café Littéraire—Café Procope—Café Foy—Bohemian Cafés—Café Momus—The Death of Molière—New Year’s Gifts.

THE history of France is in a large degree the history of its cafés; and the French might well retort that the history of England is to be read in its tavern signs. On the connection between our tavern signs and our naval and military heroes it would be superfluous to insist. We have, it is true, our Dogs and Ducks, our Geese and Gridirons, our Bells and Horns, but we have also our Admiral Keppels, our Wellington Arms, our Napier’s Heads; and taking them altogether, the names of our hostelries indicate the various epochs of their origin in a remarkable manner. Another characteristic of the British tavern sign as compared with the French enseigne, whether of the café, the restaurant, or the tobacco-shop, is the permanency of the former. Who ever heard of the “Earl of Chatham” being converted into the “Sir Robert Peel,” or of “Lord Nelson” turning into “Sir Charles Napier”? Just the contrary takes place in France, where all the cafés, tobacco-shops, theatres, steamers, and even omnibuses that rejoice in what may be called representative titles, change their signs and their appellations with each successive dynasty.

But it is above all in the cafés proper that the history of France is to be read; and not the political history alone, for it can be shown that they also reflect every social, literary, and commercial change that takes place in the French metropolis. The demoiselle du comptoir in the more popular quarters of Paris is herself an important historical figure, appearing as she did during the African war as an Algérienne, in the days of the Second Republic as a priestess of Liberty, and during the siege of Sebastopol as a Tartar girl of the Crimea. But she is a political rather than a social index. Such also were the United Cooks, whose miserable gargotes flourished during the Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity period, with their bœuf à la République, their agneau à la Robespierre, their veau à la baïonnette, and their mouton à la sauce rouge. It would be difficult to say which of these was the most economical, or, above all, the most indigestible.

Far different were the restaurants and cafés whose titles and interior arrangements might be looked upon as indicative of the social and intellectual movement of the nation. Of these, the most remarkable have, at various periods, been the huge Literary Café on the Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, the Electric Cafés—of which there were at one time several—between the Porte Saint-Martin and the Théâtre Lyrique, and the Café Oriental, near the Boulevard du Temple. Most provincial Frenchmen and foreigners who have visited Paris in the character of sight-seers have been conducted to the dreary Café des Aveugles, and probably to the absurd Café des Singes; but it is only those who have wandered idly about the boulevards, careless how they might be devoured, that can have found their way to the Literary, the Electric, or the Oriental Café.

The Café Littéraire (to go back to some ancient notes made on the subject by the present writer) “was a building of which it would be little to say that it was more magnificent than an English palace. Above the portico the title of the establishment, in gigantic letters and in striking relief, was conspicuous. The stone staircase which led to the entrance was so imposing that as you ascended it you instinctively put your hand in your pocket to assure yourself that you had a respectable number of francs at your disposal. In the vestibule stood two officials; one the under-waiter, the other the sub-editor of the establishment. ‘Does monsieur wish to eat?’ ‘Does monsieur wish to read?’ said the two functionaries at the same moment. Anxious to offend neither, and not possessing the art of eating and reading simultaneously, we replied that we wished to play billiards. ‘You will find the professor and tables in abundance on the first floor,’ said the under-waiter. ‘Allow me to present you with the carte of my department;’ and he handed me an ordinary carte du jour. ‘Here is the carte of the department with which I have the honour to be connected,’ said the sub-editor, giving me at the same time an astounding unheard-of literary bill of fare, with poetic dishes by Lamartine and Victor Hugo, and prose entrées {108} by the elder Dumas, Soulié, and George Sand. At the foot of the menu were printed the following General Rules:—Every customer spending a franc in this establishment is entitled to one volume of any work, to be selected at will from our vast collection; or in that proportion up to the largest sum he may expend. N.B.—To avoid delay, gentleman consumers who may require an entire romance are requested to name their author with the soup.’ After dining we repaired to the billiard-room and played a couple of games, for which two francs and a half were charged. Having paid the debt, and received a voucher for the sum, we were waited on by the editor-in-chief. In strict justice, the voucher entitled us to two volumes and a half, but the editor assured us that it was contrary to the rules of the establishment to serve less than an entire livraison. To ask for half a livraison, he said, was like ordering half a mutton-chop or half a lemonade.”

The establishment of the Café Littéraire was contemporaneous with the first issue, on a large scale, of three-franc volumes and four-sou livraisons, with liberty of the Press, open discussion, and the ascendency of literary men in connection with politics. As a natural consequence of this general intellectual activity, a taste for popular science arose, which the astronomer on the Pont-Neuf, with his long telescope and his interminable orations, was unable to satisfy.

The electric cafés instituted at this period were sufficiently curious establishments. A thirsty Parisian entering one of them for the first time in his life, found himself in a place which resembled a buffet more than a café, and in which the most remarkable object was an enormous metal counter. Having swallowed his beverage, he proceeded to place his piece of money on the counter, when, to his astonishment, he received a violent shock in the right arm, which probably caused him to drop the coin as if it were red-hot. “I have had an electric shock!” he would exclaim to some frequenter lounging near him. “Impossible!” would be the reply. “You must have knocked your funny-bone against the edge of the counter.” Protesting that he had received a galvanic shock, the victim was assured by the lounger, who had been lying in wait for his joke, that he had simply been electrified by the charms of the young lady behind the counter, just as a theatrical audience is said to be electrified by an actress or prima donna. Again, however, on receiving his change the new customer experienced a sharp shock, being the more astonished inasmuch as the habitués present put down and took up their money evidently without feeling the electric current. Then he went away mystified, to return, perhaps, later in the evening with an inexperienced friend, whom, partly from curiosity, partly in a spirit of mischief, he led up to the counter. His friend no sooner touched it than he started back electrified, but he himself found that he could this time touch it with impunity. He had now obviously been admitted amongst the initiated; and when he had gone on drinking and spending enough to entitle him to confidence, the beautiful demoiselle du comptoir condescended to explain to him the entire mystery. At the foot of the metal counter was a piece of strip iron connected with one of the wires of a galvanic battery, the other wire communicating with the counter itself. When any of the initiated touched the counter the presiding goddess stopped the current, which only novices were intended to feel. The whole device was simply employed to amuse customers. The electric counters became very popular, and had rapidly spread all over Paris, when the Government, thinking probably that such practical jokes might sometimes be carried too far, absolutely suppressed the cafés électriques.

A whole chapter might be devoted to the literary cafés of Paris, much more numerous than ever were the literary coffee-houses of London in the last century. The first Paris café destined to identify itself with literature was the Café Procope, so called from the name of its founder, Procopio Cultelli, who, in the earliest days of coffee-drinking among the French and among Europeans generally, installed himself at No. 13, Rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain, opposite the Comédie Française. The wily Sicilian had evidently opened his coffee-house in view of the French actors. But it was the authors who became its principal frequenters; first the dramatists connected with the Comédie Française, and afterwards authors of all kinds. In France, however, there are scarcely any authors who do not at least try their hand at dramatic writing. Neither Crébillon, with his Catalina, nor Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, with Jason, nor Piron, with Fernand Cortez, nor Diderot, with Le Fils naturel, nor Voltaire, with so many celebrated plays, can be regarded solely or specially as dramatists; yet all of them contributed to the French theatre, and all are remembered among the frequenters of the {109} Café Procope.

The Café Procope was still at the height of its reputation when, in 1784, Beaumarchais’ Marriage of Figaro was produced; and it was the scene of a great literary gathering immediately before the representation of that famous comedy. After the Revolution, however, it gradually lost its character as a literary centre.


And now the Comédie Française crossed the water—an unmistakable sign that the left bank no longer possessed its ancient importance, and that everything not already to be found on the right bank was gradually moving to that favoured shore. The Café Procope still exists, but it has quite lost its old literary character; nor is it much frequented even by the students, who on the left bank form so important a part of the community.

The Café de la Régence owes its name to the period in which it was established. Haunted as it was by chess-players, it was nevertheless the resort of distinguished writers, with Voltaire, d’Alembert, and Marmontel amongst them. Here Diderot sat side by side with the Emperor Joseph II. Robespierre looked in now and then to have a game of chess, and among other occasional visitors of distinction was the youthful General Bonaparte. Nor, from the list of the modern frequenters of the Café de la Régence, must Méry or Alfred de Musset be omitted.

Close to the Café de la Régence stood the Café Foy, celebrated under the Regency for its beautiful dame du comptoir, of whom the Duke of Orleans became desperately enamoured. It was from this cafe that Camille Desmoulins, on the 12th of July, 1789, marched forth to begin the attack which ended in the overthrow of the ancient régime. Until its demolition, not many years ago, the Café Foy was known as one of the very few cafés in Paris where smoking was not allowed. In ancient days cafés were broadly divided into cafés simply so called {110} and cafés-estaminets; and in the latter only, as in a beer-house, could the customer smoke. The Café Foy was at one time greatly in favour with old gentlemen, dating from a now remote period, when the smoking of tobacco was considered not altogether (in Byronic language) a “gentlemanly vice.” The Café Foy was known, moreover, by a certain swallow painted on the ceiling by Carle Vernet (father of the more celebrated Horace Vernet). He was lunching there one day with a joyous party of friends, when a bottle of champagne was opened, of which the cork struck the ceiling and left a mark there. To compensate for this mishap, the famous painter ordered a ladder to be brought in, and hurriedly, but with consummate art, painted a swallow where the cork had struck. Years passed, and still the swallow remained fresh. The form and colour of the bird were renewed from time to time by other painters; but to the sight-seer, as informed by the waiters of the café, it was always the very swallow that had been painted in the midst of a champagne luncheon by Carle Vernet. It was as clear and bright as ever when at last it disappeared with the ceiling it had so long adorned.

Close to the Café Foy stood the Café des Aveugles, with an orchestra of blind men as its distinctive feature. It seems at that period to have been thought strange that blind men should be able to perform on musical instruments. In the present day no virtuoso of any pretension plays with notes; though those, no doubt, are the least blind who do not pride themselves on disregarding what may well be a valuable, if not indispensable, aid to memory. A traditional figure associated with the orchestra of blind musicians was a so-called “savage”: some personage, that is to say, from one of the Paris faubourgs, disguised with feathers, paint, and tattooing.

After the Revolution the cafés became more and more political. Under the Republic, as in a less degree under the Empire, there had been no opposition cafés. But with the Restoration some freedom of thought returned. Imperialism had its head-quarters at the Café Leinblin, where the officers of the Grande Armée exchanged ideas on the subject of the humiliations undergone by France now that the great Napoleon was an exile, and that power was vested in the hands, not of a military dictator, but of a mere Parliament, with a constitutional king as figure-head. At the Café Foy congregated the Liberals of the new régime; at the Café Valois came together the Royalists, who believed in nothing but the throne and the altar as maintained under the ancient monarchy.

The café, in spite of the number of new clubs established in Paris, continues to be one of the most popular and most flourishing institutions of the French capital. Numbers of Parisians are not rich enough to belong to clubs, but can well afford from day to day the expenditure of fivepence or sixpence on a cup of coffee and a petit verre.

Of Bohemian cafés—those frequented, that is to say, by the gipsies of literature and art—the most celebrated is, or was in the time of Henri Murger, the brilliant author of “La Vie de Bohême,” the Café Momus. Here it was that poets, painters, and musicians of the future, blessed for the present with more genius than halfpence, waited until some comparatively wealthy lover of art and literature came to their relief, or until, by their noisy and reckless talk, they forced the alarmed proprietor to beg them to retire, and come in some other day to pay for their refreshment. Champfleury, gleaning here and there after Murger’s abundant harvest, has told us how, armed with one cup of coffee and a small glass of brandy, half-a-dozen Bohemians would take absolute possession of the first floor of this establishment.

Sometimes a Bohemian, not absolutely destitute, would order a cup of coffee and petit verre, and go upstairs. Soon afterwards a second Bohemian would come in, ask if the first Bohemian were in the café, and go upstairs to join him. A third would ask for the second, a fourth for the third, and so on, until around the solitary cup of coffee and the unique glass of liqueur a party of six had assembled. The proud paymaster, after sipping a little of the coffee, would pass it to a friend, who, having helped himself, would hand the remainder to some other member of the party. The cognac was in like manner shared, and the last served came in for the sugar, with which he would sweeten a glass of water. The Bohemian frequenters of the Café Momus were more liberal in giving their orders when one of them had sold a picture or a piece of music, a book or a play; and they would afterwards order on credit as long as credit could be obtained. A story is told of one Bohemian who persisted in ordering after his credit had been stopped, and who, having told the waiter repeatedly, but in vain, to bring him a cup of coffee, went himself to the counter, and said in a stern voice, “I have ordered a cup of coffee half-a-dozen times; either serve it at once or lend me {111} five sous, and I’ll go and get it elsewhere.”

It must be supposed that it somehow suited the proprietor of the Café Momus to encourage, or at least tolerate, his Bohemian visitors; otherwise he would have taken steps to exclude them permanently. Occasionally, it is said, they would barricade themselves in their favourite room on the first floor, and refuse absolutely to give up possession. The probability is that when they were in funds they spent their money lavishly; and they undoubtedly gave a certain reputation to the Café Momus, which became known throughout Paris as the café of literary aspirants, and attracted on that ground a certain number of sympathisers and admirers.

The house formerly occupied by the Frascati establishment bears on the Rue Richelieu side a medallion with an inscription to the memory of Cardinal de Richelieu, put up by Antoine Elwart, professor of composition at the Conservatoire. The other side of the Boulevard Montmartre, whence springs the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, is no less animated than the theatre side. Here, too, cafés abound, each of which, in theatrical phrase, is “full to overflowing”; for numbers of customers sit out in the street at the little tables in front of the café. The arcade on this side of the boulevard is known as the Passage Jouffroi. It runs through what was once the ground-floor of the house which, under the Restoration, was inhabited by three distinguished composers: Rossini, Carafa, and Boieldieu. A little further on, always in the direction of the Madeleine, stands an important club, called officially Le Grand Cercle, familiarly, Le Cercle des Ganaches. It is composed chiefly of commercial men and civil servants. It is considered old-fashioned, and the dinner-hour there is six o’clock, as it was in most Paris houses fifty years ago.

At the right corner of the Rue Grange Batelière stands an immense house, on a site occupied, until a few years ago, by the mansion built in the eighteenth century, by two well-known farmers-general, the Brothers Lunge, which from 1836 to 1847 was the haunt of the Jockey Club, the best-known and most fashionable club in Paris, now installed further to the west, but still in the line of boulevards.

Ask any Parisian in the present day for “the house of Molière,” and he will tell you that La Maison de Molière is only another name for the Théâtre Français. The house, however, where Molière lived is situated at the corner of a little street off the Boulevard Montmartre; and here it was that he breathed his last.

On the 10th of February, 1673, the “Malade Imaginaire” was performed for the first time. The curtain rose at four o’clock, and a few minutes afterwards Molière was on the stage, and acting with his accustomed humour. Everyone was laughing and applauding. None of the audience suspected that the actor who was throwing all his energy into the part he had himself created was now on the point of death. In the burlesque ceremony, just as Argan has to utter the word “Juro,” a convulsion seized him, which he disguised beneath a forced laugh. But it was now necessary to carry him home. The performance went on, though without Molière, who meanwhile had been taken to his house in the Rue Richelieu. It had been found impossible to get his clothes off. The dying man was still wearing the dressing-gown of the “Imaginary Invalid.” He was presently attacked with a violent fit of coughing, in the course of which he burst a blood-vessel and threw up a quantity of blood. A few minutes later he expired, surrounded by the members of his family, and supported by two nuns to whom he was in the habit of offering hospitality when they visited Paris. In his dying moments he had asked for religious consolation; but the priest of St.-Eustache rejected his prayer. Now that he was dead, Christian burial was denied to him: a piece of intolerance due to the Archbishop of Paris, Harley de Champvalon. So soon as Molière’s wife heard of the archbishop’s refusal, she exclaimed with indignation: “They refuse to bury a man to whom, in Greece, altars would have been erected.” Then calling for a carriage, and taking with her the Curé of Auteuil, who was far from sharing the views of his ecclesiastical superior, she hurried to Versailles, threw herself at the king’s feet, and demanded justice. “If,” she exclaimed, losing all self-control—“if my husband was a criminal, his crimes were sanctioned by your Majesty in person.” At these words the king frowned, and the Curé of Auteuil is said to have found the moment opportune for introducing a theological discussion, in the course of which he sought to disculpate himself from an accusation of Jansenism. But Louis XIV. had been affronted, and he told both actress and curé that the matter concerned the archbishop alone. He sent secret orders, however, to the churlish prelate, the result of which was a compromise. The body was refused entrance into the church, but two priests were allowed to {112} accompany it to the cemetery. The archbishop’s concession seemed to some bigots out of place: a proof that the ecclesiastical authorities were not alone in their wish to have Molière interred without Christian rites. They could not now prevent his being buried in sacred ground. But on the day of his funeral they organised a riot in front of his house, which Mme. Molière, frightened by the cries and menaces of the crowd, could only appease by throwing money out of the window, to the amount of about a thousand francs. It was on the 21st of February, 1673, that the remains of the great man were borne to their resting-place, without pomp, without ceremony, at night, and almost furtively, as though he had been a criminal. Molière was buried in the Cemetery of Saint Joseph, Rue Montmartre. His widow placed above the grave a great slab of stone, which was still to be seen in the early part of the eighteenth century, when the brothers Parfait published their Histoire du Théâtre Français. “This stone,” writes M. du Tillet, “is cracked down the middle: which was caused by a very noble and very remarkable action on the part of the widow. Two or three years after Molière’s death a very cold winter set in, and she had a hundred loads of wood conveyed to the cemetery, and burned on the tomb of her husband, to warm all the poor people of the quarter, when the great heat of the fire caused the stone to split in two.”


The Church of Rome has pronounced again and again at councils, and through the mouths of distinguished prelates, against the abomination that maketh not “desolate,” but joyful. In the fifth century it excommunicated stage-players, and the order of excommunication, though practically it may have ceased to be effective, has never been rescinded. In France up to the time of the Restoration (1814), or at least during the Restoration, it was in full force, so that the history of the relations between Church and stage in that theatre-loving country has been the history of the refusal of Christian burial in successive centuries to stage-players. Happily, for many years past theory and practice have been at variance in France with regard to the excommunicated position of actors and actresses. The Church, however much it may stand above society, cannot but reflect in some measure the views of society at large; and, if only from policy, it cannot permit itself to outrage a universal feeling. Accordingly, since the doors of Saint-Roch were closed, in 1817, against the body of the famous actress, Mlle. Raucourt—an incident which was followed by a popular outbreak, the calling out of the troops, and ultimately interference on the {113} part of Louis XVIII., who ordered that the religious service should be performed by his own chaplain: since those days there have been few examples in France, and none in Paris, of any actor or actress being treated as beyond the pale of the Church.

MOLIÈRE.  (From the Painting by Coypel in the Comédie Française.)
(From the Painting by Coypel in the Comédie Française.)

To be seen in all its glory, the Boulevard Montmartre—perhaps the most crowded of all the boulevards, especially by business people—should be traversed at the beginning of the New Year, when in the booths which line the great thoroughfare nearly along its whole length all kinds of objects supposed to be suitable as New Year’s gifts are offered for sale.

In England, the custom of making Christmas presents and New Year’s gifts had, except among relatives, died out, when a few years ago some apparently childish, but in reality very ingenious, person invented Christmas cards. The invention was not successful at first; and the strange practice of exchanging pieces of cardboard adorned with commonplace pictorial designs, and inscribed with conventional expressions of goodwill, was, for a time, confined to the sort of persons who might be suspected of sending valentines. Eventually, however, it spread. The initiative in this matter seems to have been taken by enterprising young ladies, whose attentions it was impossible to leave unrecognised; and endeavours were naturally made to return them cards of superior value to those which they had themselves despatched. Thus a noble spirit of emulation was generated, which the designers, manufacturers, and vendors of Christmas cards did their best to gratify and stimulate; so that, latterly, there has been a marked rise in these products as regards price, and even quality. Many of them possess undeniable artistic merit, and during the last few years some very beautiful varieties of the Christmas card have been brought out at Paris. These pictorial adaptations from the English are at least more graceful and more original than the great majority of our own dramatic adaptations from the French.

If, as everyone knows, the sending of Christmas cards is a custom of but a few years’ standing, New Year’s gifts are by no means of recent invention; and under the Roman Empire, as now in Russia, presents used, as a matter of course, to be made on the first day of the New Year to the magistrates and high officials. In the end, the practice of making New Year’s gifts grew so popular that every Roman at the opening of a new year presented the reigning emperor with a certain amount of money, proportionate to his means; and what had, in the first instance, been among ordinary individuals but a token of esteem, was now, in regard to the sovereign, an assurance of loyalty, besides being a tolerable source of income. The barbaric nations, with simpler habits, had simpler ceremonies in connection with the New Year; and the Gauls were content to present one another at this season with sprigs of mistletoe plucked from the sacred groves.

Coming to much more recent times, we find the custom of giving New Year’s presents in full force at the Court of Louis XIV., when, on the 1st of January, ladies received tokens from their lovers, and gave tokens in return.{114}

The custom of making New Year’s gifts became at length so general that servants murmured if their masters neglected them in this respect; and an amusing story is told of the stingy Cardinal Dubois, who, on his major-domo asking for his étrennes, replied, “Well, you may keep what you have stolen from me during the last twelvemonth.” This, however, occurred a long time ago; and had the cardinal lived in the present century, he would scarcely have dared to make such an answer. The Frenchman who nowadays ventures to refuse to his servants, or to any other dependants, the expected annual gifts must be prepared to bear the bitterest sarcasm, which will possibly not cease to assail him even beyond the grave; for it may be his fate to have inscribed on his tomb some such epitaph as the following quite authentic one:—

“Ci-gît, dessous ce marbre blanc,
L’homme le plus avare de Rennes;
S’il est mort la veille de l’an
C’est pour ne pas donner d’étrennes,”

which may be roughly rendered in English thus:—

“Here lies, beneath this marble white,
The miserliest man in Rennes;
If New Year’s Eve he chose for flight,
‘Twas that he need not give étrennes.”

Towards the end of the eighteenth century an edict was published in France forbidding New Year’s gifts; but without avail. The étrennes only became more numerous and more costly as the greed of the recipients grew more and more insatiable; and in the present day the meaning of the word étrenne will be only too well understood by any Englishman who, in Paris at the time of the New Year, may venture to have dealings with the waiters at the cafés, with hair-dressers, drivers, or any other set of men who delight in certain traditional customs.



THE BOULEVARDS (continued).

The Opéra Comique of Paris—I Gelosi—The Don Juan of Molière—Madame Favart—The Saint-Simonians.

THE Boulevard des Italiens derives its name from the so-called Comédie Italienne, the original Opéra Comique of Paris, which owes its existence to letters patent granted to it as far back as 1676. One of the most celebrated establishments on this boulevard is the Café Cardinal, at the corner of the Rue Richelieu. It justifies its title by exhibiting the bust of the famous political prelate, concerning whom the great Corneille, after receiving, first benefits, then injuries, at his hands, wrote these lines:—

“Qu’on parle mal ou bien du fameux cardinal,
Ni ma prose, ni mes vers n’en diront jamais rien.
Il m’a fait trop de bien pour en dire du mal,
Il m’a fait trop de mal pour en dire du bien.”[A]

[A] “Whether good or evil be spoken of the famous Cardinal, neither my prose nor my verse shall say a word of him. He has done too well by me for me to speak ill of him; he has done too ill by me for me to speak well of him.”

Formerly known as the Café Dangest, the title it now bears has belonged to it only since the year 1830. Just round the corner stands the house of the well-known music publishers, Messrs. Brandus and Co., founded by Moritz Schlesinger, who, as a young man, brought out many of Beethoven’s works, and was indeed one of Beethoven’s first appreciators. During the coup d’État of 1851 M. Brandus’s hospitable residence was the scene of an outrage which threatened to become a tragedy on a large scale. He was entertaining a party of friends, among whom were M. Adolphe Saxe, the inventor of saxophones, and the eminent musical critic of the Times, the late Mr. J. W. Davison. The boulevards and many of the streets leading out of them were full of troops, for the most part in a state of great excitement, and some infantry soldiers at the corner of the Boulevard des Italiens and the Rue Richelieu believed, or affected to believe, that shots had been fired at them from M. Brandus’s windows. Possibly some bullets discharged by the soldiers themselves had glanced back from the house or one of the neighbouring houses, and fallen into the street. The troops, in any case, forced M. Brandus’s door, and his servant, who went downstairs to remonstrate with the invaders, was at once shot dead. The soldiers then made their way into the room where M. Brandus and his guests were at table, arrested them, and brought them down to the boulevard with the intention of shooting them in a formal manner, as if by way of example. Fortunately, the general in command was an amateur of music and a personal friend of Adolphe Saxe: whom he particularly remembered, moreover, as having fought with courage against the insurgents during the sanguinary days of June, 1848. Saxe at once declared that the accusation made by the soldiers was entirely without basis, and the general did not hesitate to accept his assurance. He enjoined him, however, to hurry away as quickly as possible from the boulevard, which was about to be “swept” by a fusillade. Saxe and his friends managed narrowly to escape.

The Opéra Comique Theatre, or Comédie Italienne, as it was more generally called, was founded originally in the Hôtel de Bourgogne; and it was only in 1783 that it was re-established on the boulevard to which the Comédie Italienne was to give its name.

The Opéra Comique of France descends indeed in a straight line from the most ancient dramatic entertainments given in that country. These were introduced in the sixteenth century by natives of the land to which the French owe nearly all the lighter and more ornamental part of their civilisation, from opera and the drama to ices and confectionery: from architecture, pictures, and statues, to gloves, fans, gambling-houses, and masked balls.

In 1576 Henri III. invited from Venice to Paris a company known as “I Gelosi.” The actors were “jealous” or “zealous” to please; and a contemporary writer informs us that after playing at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, where everyone was charged four sous for admission, they took possession of the Hôtel du Petit Bourbon, where such crowds assembled that “the four best preachers in Paris could not together have collected such a congregation.” The same writer adds that on the 26th of June following the Parliament forbade “I Gelosi” to play their comedies any {116} longer, as they taught “nothing but impropriety.” The Italian actors, however, resisted the Parliamentary decree, and they obtained from the king letters patent permitting them to continue their performances, “consisting,” says Mézerai, “of pieces of intrigue, amourettes, and agreeable inventions for awakening and exciting the softest passions.”

The Italian actors presented these letters patent to the Parliament the month following, when the letters were rejected, and they themselves forbidden to present to the Court such documents, under a penalty of ten thousand Paris livres. The Italians, however, appealed once more to the king, when Henri III. granted express permission, in virtue of which they re-opened their theatre in December, 1577. As, however, the country was now agitated by political troubles, “I Gelosi” discreetly returned to their native land. A few years afterwards a second troop of “Gelosi,” and then a third, came to Paris; and later on Henri IV. brought from Pavia a new company, which stayed in Paris for two years.


Cardinal Mazarin (or Mazarini) did much to familiarise Parisians both with Italian operas and Italian plays; and about 1660 one of several Italian companies which had recently visited Paris obtained permission to play at the Hôtel de Bourgogne alternately with the French actors.

But at last, in their love of satire, the Italian actors forgot themselves so far as to turn into ridicule no less a personage than Mme. de Maintenon. “The king,” says the Duke de Saint-Simon, writing {117} on this very subject, “drove out very precipitately the whole troop of Italian actors, and would suffer no others in their place. As long as they restricted themselves to indecency, or even impiety, nothing but laughter was excited.” But they took the liberty of playing a piece called The False Prude, in which Mme. de Maintenon was easily recognised. Accordingly, everyone went to see it; but after three or four representations, the actors were ordered to close their theatre and quit the kingdom within a month.

This caused a great noise; and if the actors lost their establishment by their boldness and folly, the Government which drove them out did not gain by the freedom with which the ridiculous incident was criticised. The Lieutenant of Police, accompanied by an army of commissaries, sergeants, and constables, had invaded and seized the manuscript of The False Prude. Jherardi, the harlequin of the troupe, hurried to Versailles, where he begged and entreated, but without being able to move Louis XIV., who had so many times protected the Italian comedians. “You came to France on foot,” said the king, “and you have gained enough here to go back in carriages.”

During their stay in Paris the Italian actors expelled by Louis XIV. had accustomed themselves to play in French, and the celebrated comedy writer, Regnard, had entrusted them with several of his pieces. This rendered them more than ever disliked by the French actors, with whom they were always in rivalry. The pieces performed by the Italian actors consisted for the most part, and always when they confined themselves to their own language, of mere dramatic sketches, for which dialogue was supplied by the actors themselves.

It was not until 1716 that the Italian actors re-appeared in France, and they now played at a theatre in the Palais Royal, occupied alternately by them and by the company of the Grand Opera. In time the Italian company varied their pieces, and even introduced songs in the midst of the dialogue. This at once exposed them to attacks from the Opéra, or Académie Royale de Musique, as it was called; and in conformity with the privileges secured to the Opéra, the Italians were forbidden to sing. Soon afterwards they produced a piece in which a donkey was brought on to the stage and made to bray, whereupon one of the actors cried out to the animal, “Silence! singing is forbidden on these boards.” Ultimately, as the result of much opposition and many minatory decrees, an arrangement was made between the Italian actors and a company of French actors and singers which led to the establishment of the French Opéra Comique.

At last the Italian and the French actors played together; but French wit and Italian wit were said not to harmonise, and in order to simplify matters, the Italians, with the exception of one or two who had adopted the French language, were sent out of the country. The theatre now given up to French comic opera continued, however, to be called the Théâtre Italien, to receive afterwards, in memory of Mme. Favart and her husband, the title of Salle Favart, and at a later period, under the Republic, that of Opéra Comique.

The performances of the Italians came permanently to an end in 1783. In spite of the jealousy with which they were regarded by the great bulk of the theatrical profession, the Italian actors had an excellent effect on the development of the French stage, which, when the first troupe of Gelosi arrived in Paris, had no substantial existence. Molière profited much by their performances and borrowed freely from their productions, taking from them, according to his well-known saying, “his property” (that is to say, all that naturally belonged to him through affinity and sympathy) wherever “he found it.” Apart from many other subjects and scenes, Molière borrowed his version of Don Juan from the Italians. Much of it, including most of its philosophy and wit, belongs in the very fullest sense to the great comic dramatist of France. But the very title, Festin de Pierre—an incorrect and, indeed, unintelligible translation of Il Convitato de Pietra—is enough to show the origin of Molière’s admirable work.

The new establishment had been only ten years on the Boulevard des Italiens when its name was altered definitely from Comédie Italienne to Opéra Comique. A few years later the establishment was moved to the Rue Feydeau, where it was destined to enjoy a long life and a merry one. Meanwhile, the house which had given its ancient name to the Italian boulevard remained unoccupied—or but rarely occupied—for some considerable time, until, in 1815, the celebrated Catalani opened it for serious Italian opera.

The Théâtre des Italiens now became the most fashionable theatre in Paris. Here Madames Pasta, Malibran, Grisi, Persiani, MM. Rubini, Tamburini, Lablache, etc., were heard. Here, too, Rossini for a time acted as musical director.{118}

This theatre, like all others, was soon destined to perish by fire; and Italian opera has of late years led a somewhat wandering life in France, to find itself ultimately without any home at all.

The early history of the Opéra Comique, from the middle of the eighteenth until the first days of the nineteenth century, is sufficiently represented by the lives of two of its most distinguished ornaments: Mme. Favart and her successor in parts of the same kind, Mme. Dugazon. Mme. Favart—Duronceray by her maiden name—was the wife of Charles Simon Favart, the well-known dramatist, who for many years supplied the Opéra Comique with all its good pieces. The marriage took place in 1745, and immediately afterwards the Opéra Comique, as an establishment recognised and subventioned by the State, was suppressed. Favart had some time before made the acquaintance of Marshal Saxe, who may be said to have played almost as great a part in connection with the stage as with the camp; and he was now invited by the famous commander to organise a company for giving performances at the head-quarters, and for the entertainment of the army in Flanders generally. Favart hurried to Brussels, where Marshal Saxe was about to arrive; and on reaching the head-quarters, the commander-in-chief gave an entertainment to the ladies whose husbands were serving on his staff, and to the wives generally of the officers. The performance consisted of national dances by the Highland contingent, whose scanty costumes are said to have at once amused and scandalised the ladies. Then a piece of Favart’s was played; and with so much success, that it became the fashion to attend Favart representations as often as they were given. Marshal Saxe told Favart that it was part of his policy to give theatrical entertainments, and the manager soon saw that his musical comedies interested the officers sufficiently to take them away from cards and dice, to which previously they had given themselves up with only too much devotion. The marshal pointed out to Favart, moreover, that a lively couplet, a few happy lines, would have more effect on French soldiers than the most eloquent harangues. Besides amusing his own people and keeping them out of mischief, Marshal Saxe found Favart’s Comic Opera Company useful in promoting his negotiations with the enemy. Having heard of the Favart performances, the enemy desired much to see them; and the representations given in the enemy’s camp had no slight effect in facilitating peace arrangements. Mme. Favart—Mlle. Chantilly, to describe her by her stage name—was a member of the operatic company engaged by the marshal to follow the army of Flanders; and the commander-in-chief—as, with a man of his well-known temperament, was sure to happen—fell in love with the charming prima donna. Mme. Favart was at last obliged to make her escape, and, forsaking the camp, returned to the capital. Here she appeared at the so-called Italian Theatre, which was really the Opéra Comique under another name.

That Mme. Favart was greater as an actress than as a vocalist (which may be said of so many singers who have distinguished themselves at the Opéra Comique of Paris) is beyond doubt. “She is not a singer,” said Grétry, the composer; “she is an actress who speaks song with the truest and most passionate accent.” “What a wonderful woman!” exclaimed Boieldieu, after a representation of his Caliph of Bagdad. “They say she does not know music; yet I never heard anyone sing with such taste and expression, such nature and fidelity.”

Boieldieu, through Auber, his successor, brings us to modern times. With Ambroise Thomas, the composer of Mignon, and Bizet, the composer of Carmen, the Opéra Comique has always been the most French of all the French musical theatres. At the Grand Opéra, or Académie, nearly all the successful works have been composed by foreigners: by Lulli, Gluck, Piccinni, Spontini, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Donizetti, and Verdi. The most popular works at the Opéra Comique have, on the other hand, been composed by Frenchmen. La Dame Blanche, for instance, of Boieldieu; the Fra Diavolo, The Black Domino, The Crown Diamonds of Auber; the Mignon of Ambroise Thomas, and the Carmen of Bizet, have all been due to the genius of Frenchmen.

The Opéra Comique, since its formal separation from all connection with Italy, has itself had strange and tragic adventures. The last of these was its destruction by a terrible fire, in which more than one hundred lives were lost. Since this catastrophe, which took place on the 22nd of May, 1887, the Opéra Comique has been provisionally established in the Place du Châtelet.

To make an inevitable excursion which here presents itself, the Rue Monsigny, deriving its name from one of the most famous composers connected with the Opéra Comique, will always be remembered as the head-quarters of the Saint-Simonians during the first meeting of that {119} strange association, founded by Saint-Simon, lineal descendant of the duke who wrote the famous Memoirs. The aims of the Saint-Simonians, visionary as they may have been, were at least noble; and the society numbered among its members some of the most able and high-minded young men of the day. The truth of this latter assertion is proved by the distinguished part played by many of the Saint-Simonians in very different spheres after the society had come to an end. Michel Chevalier, the political economist, Duveyrier, the dramatist, and Félicien David, the composer, may be mentioned among those Saint-Simonians whose names will be familiar to many Englishmen.

Saint-Simon, founder of the sect named after him, began his self-imposed career with a sufficiently large fortune to enable him to test various modes of existence. His purpose was, after studying society, to reform it. He had resolved to study it thoroughly in all its phases: all those, at least, which offered any special intellectual or physical character. Without apparently having conceived any system beforehand, he was constantly working towards one, making observations and writing down notes. That he might waste no time from sluggishness or sloth, he ordered his servant to wake him every morning with these significant words: “Rise, Count; you have great things to do.” (Levez-vous, Monsieur le Comte, vous avez de grandes choses à faire.) The great political principle that he ultimately adopted was that “all legislation should be for the benefit of the poorest and most numerous class,” which was little more than a variation of Jeremy Bentham’s “greatest good of the greatest number.”

He lived in aristocratic society a life of pleasure, studied science among scientific men, and finally, occupying himself with books and newspapers, made himself the centre of all kinds of literary gatherings. When, however, he had, according to his own previously formed conception, completed his knowledge of life, he had exhausted his means of living, and was quite unable to turn to account his accumulated experience. The descendant of the proud duke could only keep himself alive by copying manuscripts and by doing clerk’s work in the Government Pawn Office, or Mont-de-Piété. At last his misfortunes were too great for him, and he endeavoured to commit suicide. But the bullet with which he had intended to blow his brains out glanced along the frontal bone and destroyed one of his eyes, without inflicting any mortal wound. The unhappy experimentalist had now had a bitter experience of poverty, which may or may not have been in his general programme. His enthusiasm ended in any case by inspiring a few rich men who possessed the money necessary for carrying out his ideas.

Saint-Simon’s mantle fell upon Le Père Enfantin, who presided over the Saint-Simonian family in the Rue Monsigny, until pecuniary embarrassments caused the learned and venerable father to give up the publication of the admirably written Saint-Simonian journal, The Globe, and to retire from a house for which, unhappily, rent had to be paid, to a house and garden of his own at Ménilmontant. Here he collected around him forty disciples, determined to work together under Le Père Enfantin’s direction. “Poets, musicians, artists, engineers, civil and military,” says a writer, fully in sympathy with the Saint-Simonians, even if he was not himself a member of their body, “applied themselves by turns to the hardest and rudest labours.

“They repaired the house, regularly swept and kept in order the rooms, offices, and courtyard, cultivated the grounds, covered the walks with gravel, which they procured from a pit they had themselves with much toil opened, and so on. To prove that their ideas upon the nature of marriage and the emancipation of women were not founded upon the calculations of a voluptuous selfishness, they imposed upon themselves the law of strict celibacy. Every morning and evening they refreshed their minds with the discourses of Le Père Enfantin, or sought in the life of one of the Christian saints, read aloud by one of them to the rest, examples, precepts, encouragement. Hymns, the music to which had been composed by one of their number, M. Félicien David, served to exalt their souls, while soothing their labour. At five o’clock the horn announced dinner. The workmen then piled their tools, ranged the wheelbarrows round the garden, and took their places, after having chanted in chorus the prayer before meat. All this the public were admitted to see: a spectacle in which a sneering, jesting nation only marked the singular features, by turns simple and sublime, but which was assuredly deficient in neither broad aim nor in abstract grandeur. For in this practice of theirs the apostles of Ménilmontant went far beyond their own theories, and were sowing around them unconsciously the seeds of doctrine which were destined one day to throw their own into oblivion.”

It was on the 6th of June, amidst the roar of the cannon in the Rue {120} Saint-Méry, and not far from the bloody theatre whence arose the cries of the combatants—it was on this very 6th of June that for the first time since they had entered it, the Saint-Simonian family threw open the doors of their retreat. “At half-past one,” writes M. Louis Blanc, “they were assembled, standing in a circle in front of the house, while outside a second circle, formed of those whom the inmates of Ménilmontant termed the exterior family, was a small group of spectators, attracted by the curiosity of the thing.”

No sooner had the Government suppressed the formidable insurrection, which was finally stamped out in its last retreat at the corner of the Rue Saint-Méry, than, as if to assert the authority it had gained, it commenced proceedings against the Saint-Simonians, a noble-minded, highly moral body of men, who were accused, nevertheless, of spreading immoral doctrines. In his defence, Le Père Enfantin admitted, while rejecting with indignation the charge of immoral teaching, that one of the main objects of Saint-Simonianism was the reorganisation of property. “The misery,” he said, “of the working classes and the wealth of idle men are the main causes of the evils we seek to remedy. But when we say that there ought to be an end to that hereditary misery and hereditary idleness which are the results of the existing constitution of property, founded, as it is, on the right of birth, our opponents charge us with an intention of overturning the State.

“It is of no use for us to urge that this transformation of property can only be effected progressively, pacifically, voluntarily: that it can be effected much better than was the destruction of feudal rights, with every imaginable system of indemnity, and with even greater deliberation than you apply to the expropriations which you now effect for purposes of public utility: we are not listened to; we are condemned off-hand as reckless disturbers of order. Unweariedly we seek to show you that this transformation is called for by all the present and future wants of society: that its actual progress is marked out in the most palpable manner by the creation of the code of commerce, by all the habits of industry which have sprung up on every side, encouraging the mobilisation of property, its transference from the idle and incapable to the laborious and capable hand; we show you all this, but still you cry out, shutting your eyes, ‘Your association is dangerous!’”

In the end Enfantin, Duveyrier, and Michel Chevalier were condemned to a year’s imprisonment and a fine of a hundred francs each, other less prominent members being let off with smaller degrees of punishment. Simonianism, as an organised thing, was now extinct, but its principles did not die with the organisation, and in the best forms of socialism and of democracy were soon to show themselves anew.

The Rue Marivaux, another of the most interesting outlets from this part of the Boulevards, commemorates the witty and agreeable comedy writer who invented the half bantering, half complimentary style of dialogue to which the name of “marivaudage” is given.





THE BOULEVARDS (continued).

La Maison Dorée—Librairie Nouvelle—Catherine II. and the Encyclopædia—The House of Madeleine Guimard.

AT the corner of the Rue Marivaux stands the Café Anglais, now the only one remaining of the historical Paris restaurants, which for the most part date their reputation from the years 1814 and 1815, when the European Allies had their head-quarters in the French capital. The invasions which restored the French Monarchy, and which had been undertaken with no other object, brought defeat, but at the same time prosperity and gaiety to Paris; whereas the invasion of 1870 and 1871 caused nothing but misery to the vanquished. During the early days of the Restoration such houses as Les Trois Frères Provençaux, in the Palais Royal, La Maison Dorée, the Café Riche, and the still extant Café Anglais, did a magnificent trade, thanks to the number of Prussian, Russian, Austrian, and English officers who frequented them, and who, after the toils of war, abandoned themselves willingly to some of the joys of peace.

Most of these famous restaurants sprang from wine-shops; for it is a fact that every celebrated dining-place in Paris has owed its reputation primarily to the quality of its wine. The three brothers from Provence who started the restaurant known under their name were simply three young men who, having vineyards of their own and a connection with other wine-growers, maintained an excellent cellar. But when people came in to taste its contents it was absolutely necessary, in order to render appreciable the flavour of the wine, to give them something to eat. Then, as they spent their money freely, it was found possible and even desirable to engage a first-rate cook; until at last the reputation of the cellar was equalled by that of the kitchen.

Who has not read of Les Trois Frères Provençaux in Balzac’s “Scenes from Paris Life”? It was in one of their upstairs rooms, moreover, facing the garden of the Palais Royal, that the hero of Alfred de Musset’s “Enfant du Siècle” had his last sad interview, his last sad meal, with the young woman from whom he was about to separate for ever.

La Maison Dorée, too, was a famous house. The scene of many an orgie, it kept its doors open continuously. Here it was that M. de Camors, in Octave Feuillet’s novel of that name, at the end of an extremely late supper threw a gold piece into the mud and told a ragpicker who happened to be passing that if he would pull it out with his teeth he could have it for himself; and who does not remember how, so soon as the chiffonnier had performed this feat, the dissipated but not altogether degraded gentleman begged the poor man to knock him down in return for the insult offered to him.

La Maison Dorée used to be kept by a proprietor named Hardy, and the fact that the neighbouring café and restaurant, of almost equal celebrity and dearness, belonged to a Monsieur Riche, whose name it bore, gave rise to the saying that a man must be “très riche pour dîner chez Hardy, et très hardi pour dîner chez Riche.”

The Café Riche used to be the favourite dining place of Jules Janin on evenings of first performances. Here on these interesting occasions he was always to be seen; and the usual genial tone of his criticisms was possibly attributable to the excellence of M. Riche’s chef. Not, however, that Janin wrote his notices of new plays the same night. He published them week by week in the feuilleton of the Journal des Débats, afterwards to be corrected and published under the title of “Questionable History of Dramatic Literature.”

The Café Riche was never such a late house as La Maison Dorée, which went on day by day and year by year, never closing, regardless of the clock. Thus it was at once the earliest and the latest of Paris taverns; and if it was possible to get supper there at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning after a dull evening party, a traveller was equally sure that the place would be open when, arriving at Paris by train at, say, 6 in the morning, the vacuum in his stomach demanded an immediate breakfast.

A story is told of a gentleman who, living immediately opposite the side entrance of La Maison Dorée, dedicated to this famous hostelry all the time he did not spend in bed. Rising extremely late, he turned into {123} the Maison Dorée towards four in the afternoon to look at the papers, converse with some of the frequenters, take a preparatory glass of absinthe, and finally dine—this being, of course, the great event of his well-spent day. His dinner began at an advanced hour of the evening, and lasted well into the night. Then he was joined by friends from the theatre bent on supping; and it was not till towards sunrise that he returned to his apartments over the way.

Unlike the Temple of Janus, which was never shut in time of war, the Maison Dorée could only keep its doors open in time of peace. Such war, at all events, as the Prussians brought to the gates of Paris and to Paris itself in 1870 and 1871 was fatal to its existence. Since those terrible years Paris has lost something of its gaiety and frivolity. The Café Anglais still exists; but even at this celebrated supping-place of former years supper is now an unknown meal. Nothing is served in the Café Anglais after nine o’clock. This café, oddly enough, seems to have been named after a nation which in the year 1815 can scarcely have been popular among the French. Its origin, or at least its name, dates from the year of the Waterloo campaign, and, strangely enough, it is the only great restaurant of that period which to this day survives. Possibly the establishment was not called Café Anglais merely by way of invitation to the English portion of the occupying forces. The title may have been meant to indicate that the service of the table was conducted after the English rather than the French fashion. The French, it must be admitted, preceded us in the matter of napkins, and also, if their boast on the subject can be admitted, in the earlier use of four-pronged forks, made by preference of silver. But in the year 1815 the French knew nothing of salt-spoons; and though plates were changed frequently enough, the same knife and fork served throughout the various courses, the diner cleaning on a piece of bread a knife which did duty for every dish which came on the table. It replaced the salt-spoon, and was frequently used for conveying food to the mouth. Not only English dining-places, but English hotels were highly esteemed in 1815; and Dr. Véron, in his “Mémoires d’un Bourgeois de Paris,” speaks of cleanliness as an English invention unknown to the French until the peace which followed the Napoleonic wars.

In the art of living the French have generally been considered by the rest of Europe to have reached the greatest proficiency; and their methods and customs have accordingly been more imitated than those of any other nation. Of their cookery there is but one opinion; for every man in Europe who can afford a great table keeps either a French cook or a cook educated in the French school. The variety given by French cooks to the very simplest dish is too well known to require emphasis; and even Macaulay quotes the story of that Parisian chef who could make twelve different dishes out of a poppy-head.

In the matter of table as of drawing-room etiquette the French in Arthur Young’s time seem to have been both superior and inferior to the English. It is true that the French artisan would not dine without a clean napkin on his knee; but it is equally true that the French aristocrat would sometimes spit about the floor in presence of a duchess with a freedom which would be resented in any English tap-room.

If Paris be really “the Tavern of Europe,” the Café Anglais is at this moment the Tavern of Paris. Scarcely any foreigner of distinction visits the French capital without dining, perhaps even by special arrangement supping, at the Café Anglais, which is now under the management, not of an enterprising landlord, but of a well-regulated Limited Liability Company.


At the corner of the Rue de Grammont, separated from the Café Anglais by the Theatrical Bureau, or “Office de Théâtre,” which supplies tickets for every playhouse in Paris, is the Librairie Nouvelle, where, exhibited for sale, may be seen all the latest novels in vogue and most of the standard works which, in spite of, or perhaps in consequence of, their ancient fame, still find readers. Books are published at much lower prices in Paris than in London. Lending libraries are now quite out of date in the French capital, and persons really interested in a new work do not get it to read at so much a volume or a subscription of so much a year, but buy it once and for all. Forty or fifty years ago the circulating library system had been pushed further in Paris than any point it has yet reached in London. Novels by popular authors were issued in six or eight volumes with from eighty to one hundred words in each page; a sore temptation to the Belgian pirates, who, in the days before International Copyright Conventions, vexed the soul of every French author by reproducing his works at so low a price that he had no more chance of selling his editions in Belgium than has an English {124} author of to-day of vending his in the United States. Instead, however, of being separated from France as America is from England by thousands of miles of sea, Belgium was conterminous with the country it loved to despoil. It was impossible to prevent the fraudulent imitations of Belgium entering France; and to put an end at once to Belgian piracy and to the absurd circulating library system, a spirited and intelligent Paris publisher, Charpentier by name, introduced the novel at three and a half francs—a price which, as originally fixed, or at a reduction of half a franc, is still maintained. Copyright affairs between France and Belgium are now regulated under the clauses of the same International Convention which binds all other countries, with the exception of Russia and Holland on one side of the Atlantic, and the United States of America on the other.

MARIVAUX.  (From the Bust by Mlle. Dubois-Davesne in the Comédie Française.)
(From the Bust by Mlle. Dubois-Davesne in the Comédie Française.)

To offer new books for sale in London at the strangely high prices fixed for the benefit of the circulating libraries would be out of the question; but at the Librairie Nouvelle all the latest works produced in Paris may be seen, partially read, and finally, if such be the desire of the reader, purchased. Many a Parisian, however, or visitor to Paris, whether from love of literature or merely to pass the time, strolls into the Librairie Nouvelle and looks through book after book without buying a single volume. Some day such an institution as this will possibly exist in London; not, however, until the prices of our new books are considerably lowered. But although the frequenters of the Librairie Nouvelle are not called upon, or even expected, to make purchases, only a small fraction of them leave the establishment without doing so; and it is as astonishing as it is interesting to see with what rapidity copies of a new novel of genuine popularity will sometimes go off.

No trade has made such progress in France since the Great Revolution as that of bookselling. This result is due alike to the increase in the number of readers through cheap, gratuitous, and obligatory education, and to the liberty of the Press enjoyed by the French, with some interruptions (as under the First Empire and a few years of the Restoration), for an entire century. “How I should like to have Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot writing for me in one of my garrets,” a French bookseller is represented as saying in Mercier’s “Tableau de Paris,” published only a few years before the Revolution. “I would feed them well, but, by Heaven, I would make them work! Why is one of them too rich, and the others too independent to write at so much per sheet?”

It is noticeable that not one of these three authors whose works sold {125} so largely was able to publish in France everything he wrote. Even the volume in which the above story is told was published in London. Many of Voltaire’s works were brought out in London or Amsterdam. More than one of Rousseau’s books were prohibited in France; and the publication of the “Encyclopédie,” to which Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot all contributed, was not only prohibited, but cast materially into the Bastille, where the volumes were found on the destruction of the building; which gave the despotic, but in regard to literature, liberal-minded Catherine II. an opportunity of offering to continue the publication of the work in Russia.


Until the time of the Revolution nearly the whole of the book trade was in the hands of hawkers. “The business of these people,” says a writer of the 18th century, “is to be the itinerant beasts of burden of literature, as the booksellers are its caterpillars. Illiterate, and hardly able to read, the hawkers may be said to deal in a ware as perfectly foreign to them as the business of mixing up colours would be to the blind. They only know the price of each book they offer for sale. They are haunted everywhere by police-runners, and such is their apprehension of falling under the censure of the despotic magistrate, and, altogether, their ignorance, that some sell even prayer-books under the cloak with as much care and circumspection as if it were an immoral or political pamphlet. These poor harmless hawkers, who give circulation to the clandestine works of the writers of every denomination without being able to read a single line; who, though far from suspecting it, are the asserters of public freedom, and with no other view than to procure to themselves a scanty subsistence—these are the first to feel the resentment of the offended great. It would be, perhaps, if not dangerous, at least impolitic, to attack the author himself; but a hawker sent to the Bastille or fastened in the public market by an iron {126} carcanet is a matter of too little importance to be noticed by the public.”

The very method employed to prevent the spread of ideas amongst the French people helped to overthrow the despotism by which it had been devised. This is well shown by Arthur Young, writing about the same time as the author whose account of the persecution in France of literature in all its forms has just been quoted. Such ignorance in Young’s time was imposed on the French nation by a tyrannical censorship that, for aught the country knew to the contrary, their representatives were in the Bastille; and the mob was accustomed to pillage, burn, and destroy from sheer want of knowledge. Even in the large provincial towns Young could not see a newspaper. At the cafés there was nothing to read but the Gazette de France, a sheet in which the professed “news” was so dished up that “no man of common-sense” would attempt to digest it. The consequence was that the frequenters of cafés and restaurants could be heard gravely discussing news a fortnight old.

On the first floor of the house of which the ground-floor is occupied by the Librairie Nouvelle, we find the Club of the Two Worlds, or “Cercle des Deux Mondes,” established in an abode which was occupied for some time by the Jockey Club, until this latter, after deserting the mansion built by the Farmer-General de Lange on the Boulevard Montmartre, continued its western progress, to reach ultimately the domicile it at present inhabits on the Boulevard des Capucines.

At the corner of the Rue de Choiseul is the well-known establishment of Potel and Chabot, who keep what, in London—for want of a better name, and probably in virtue of some tradition on the subject—is called an “Italian warehouse.” This firm, however, does not confine itself to the lighter description of comestibles and dainties. In these it deals largely enough; and among the tempting delicacies offered to the passer-by are early vegetables, fruit, olives, ham, sausages of rare manufacture, and game pies. But besides selling stray articles to the chance epicure, the house of Potel and Chabot undertakes the supply of dinners on a very large scale, and employs a number of chefs, sous-chefs, scullions, roasters, pastry-cooks, and other functionaries of the kitchen. It was the firm of Potel and Chabot which, in July, 1888, supplied in the Champ de Mars the banquet offered to 10,000 mayors from all parts of France, furnishing it hot, so that many of the guests declared they had never before been anywhere so well served. The dinner was simple, but it is said to have been excellent. The ten thousand guests had one glass and two plates apiece; 500 waiters flitted about with the wines and the dishes.

The end of the Boulevard des Italiens is marked by a circular pavilion, which has lost something of its original shape through the repairs necessitated by the ravages of time; though it still bears a number of sculptural ornaments which are much admired, including certain masks, reputed to be masterpieces. It is called the Pavilion of Hanover, and is so named from having been erected and adorned by the architect Cheveautel for the Duc de Richelieu at the end of the garden attached to his mansion, after the campaign of Hanover, in 1757, which he terminated by securing the capitulation of Closterseven. Under the Directory and the Consulate, in the first years of the Empire, the Pavilion of Hanover and a portion of the grounds belonging formerly to the Duc de Richelieu were the scene of public assemblies, balls, and concerts; and it was here that Tortoni established his famous ice-shop and café in partnership with another Italian, named Velloni. The latter is now forgotten; but Tortoni, who continued the business on his own account, is, in the world of cafés, an historical figure.

Let us not hurry past the former Hôtel Choiseul, where, during the Reign of Terror, Pace, Minister of War, resided; where, under the Directory, the staff of the Army of Paris was established; and where Murat afterwards lived in the capacity of Governor. When the Restoration came to pass it was turned into the headquarters of the National Guard. Finally it was put up for sale, when, after the assassination of the Duc of Berri on the steps of the Opera House in the Rue Richelieu, it was determined to pull down the lyric temple and erect another on the site occupied by the Hôtel Choiseul. We shall see in the proper place that the demolition of the Opera House of the Rue Richelieu was due to the representations of the Archbishop of Paris, who refused to allow the last sacrament to be administered to the dying prince unless he received a promise that the profane building, in which so holy an act had to be performed, should immediately afterwards be destroyed. The Hôtel Choiseul was bought by the City of Paris, and close to what remained of the ancient mansion rose the new Opera House, opening on to the Rue Le Pelletier, where, between the years 1821 and 1823, so many great works were brought out, including Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, Auber’s {127} Masaniello, as it is called in England, Donizetti’s Favorite, Verdi’s Vêpres Siciliennes, and Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable, Prophète, and Africaine. On the night of Tuesday, October 20, 1873, the eve of the hundredth representation of Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet, flames burst out in the wardrobe, and the next day the Opera House was a heap of ruins.

It is a curious fact, not hitherto noticed, that the destruction by fire of the Opera House in the Rue Le Pelletier took place precisely two hundred years after the production of Lulli’s earliest opera, the first lyrical piece ever performed in Paris under the royal patent which authorised the establishment of a regular opera house. Lulli has been represented, in a famous picture, receiving his “privilege” from the hands of Louis XIV. as a reward and encouragement for services rendered. It can scarcely be said, however, that Lulli, though he established opera in Paris, was the first to introduce it. Cardinal Mazarin brought Italian opera to Paris in 1645, when Lulli was but a child; and the French opera named Akébar, Roi de Mogol, written and composed by the Abbé Mailly, was represented the year afterwards in the episcopal palace of Carpentras under the direction of Cardinal Bichi. A public performance, moreover, was given of Pomone, words by Perrin, music by Cambert, in 1671; but though Pomone was the first French opera offered in Paris to a general audience, Lulli’s Cadmée was the first of that long series of lyrical productions given at the State Opera House which extended, with but two short breaks, from 1673 to 1873.

The new Opera House, which was to replace the one burnt down in 1873, had already, on a scale of unprecedented magnificence, been designed, constructed, and all but finished under Napoleon III. But 1873, scarcely more than two years after the disasters of the siege and Commune, was not the time at which to complete and inaugurate a sumptuous Opera House; and it was not until 1875 that the famous edifice, which may challenge comparison with any other of the kind in Europe, threw its doors open to the public.

Another celebrated building in this neighbourhood, at the corner of the Rue Taitbout, is the former Hôtel de Brancas, built by the architect Bélanger, a devoted friend of the famous Sophie Arnould, to whom he was faithfully attached until her death. His endeavours to obtain for her, in default of a pension that was never paid, a portion of the large sum due to her from the directors of the Théâtre Français show him to have been a man of energy as well as heart. It was in the character of architect that Bélanger first became acquainted with the brilliant and witty actress; and when he made her an offer of marriage, which she did not accept, she at once observed that no one was better fitted than an architect to build up her damaged reputation. From the family of Brancas the mansion erected by Bélanger passed to the wife of General Rapp, then to the Marchioness of Hertford, to her son Lord Seymour, and to Sir Richard Wallace. Under Napoleon III. magnificent entertainments were given there by the late Khalil Pasha. On the ground-floor of the edifice appeared and disappeared the Café de Paris, celebrated in the reign of Louis Philippe, and for some years afterwards, as the rendez-vous of celebrities in literature, art, and the world of fashion. It was in time to be followed by other excellent restaurants, now vanished, but not forgotten.

The last house on the Boulevard des Italiens, at the corner of the Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, occupies the site of the old Military School, founded, for 200 officers’ sons, under the name of Dépôt des Gardes Français; where for twenty years of his life Rossini lived on the first floor, and whence he moved to the villa at Passy offered to him by the City of Paris. It was in this retreat that he ended his days.


The Chaussée d’Antin, formerly a high road leading from the boulevards into the open country, is full of interesting associations. In the Chaussée d’Antin, or close to that thoroughfare in its present form, stood the celebrated Temple of Terpsichore built for Madeleine Guimard, the dancer; which so excited the jealousy of Sophie Arnould, the vocalist, that she insisted on having a mansion of equal magnificence side by side with that of her operatic friend and rival. Madeleine Guimard, according to one of her biographers, excited as much admiration and scattered as many fortunes as any woman that ever appeared on the stage. She was, nevertheless, ugly, thin, of sallow complexion, and marked with the small-pox. She is said to have preserved, in a marvellous manner, her youth and a certain indescribable charm which constituted her chief attractions. She possessed, moreover, such a perfect acquaintance with all the mysteries of the toilet that by the arts of dress and adornment alone she could still make herself look young when age had crept upon her. Queen Marie Antoinette would often {128} consult her about matters of dress, and especially the arrangement of her hair; and once when, for her rebellious attitude at the theatre, she had, in accordance with the strange customs of the times, been ordered to prison, she is reported to have said to her maid: “Never mind, I have sent a letter to the queen telling her that I have discovered a new way of doing the hair. We shall be out before the evening.” But to return to the Temple of Terpsichore, which, built in the finest architectural style, and magnificently furnished, was decorated internally by Fragonard, one of the most famous painters of that day. In his wall-pictures he never failed to introduce the face and figure of the light-footed divinity of the place: until at last he became enamoured of his model, and, presuming on one occasion to show signs of jealousy, was promptly discharged, to be replaced by the most unsuitable artist that can be conceived—by David, the painter of heroic figures, of Republican subjects, and of Napoleon in all his glory. The celebrated painter of the Consulate and the Empire was, in Madeleine Guimard’s time, a very young man—a mere student, in fact. But he was a stern {129} Republican, and when the luxurious but sympathetic dancer saw that the work of decorating her voluptuous palace did not accord with his lofty aspirations, she gave him the sum he was to have received for covering her walls with fantastic designs, in order that he might continue his studies in the style which best suited him.

Mont Valérien and the Arc de Triomphe.—Church of St. Augustine.  VIEW FROM THE ROOF OF THE OPERA HOUSE.
Mont Valérien and the Arc de Triomphe.———Church of St. Augustine.

The house built by Sophie Arnould next door to Madeleine Guimard’s Temple of Terpsichore bore no distinctive name. But it was of the same size as the “Temple,” and on the portico, which was supported by two Doric columns, could be seen the figure of Euterpe with the features of Sophie Arnould. The first floor contained the reception rooms, with spacious ante-chambers for the servants. On the second floor were the bedrooms of the children, who, at a later period, were acknowledged by their father, Count Brancas de Lauragais, and bore his name. In the National Library of Paris several drawings and plates are exhibited of the different portions of Sophie Arnould’s house; and the representation of the façade bears this inscription:—“Façade of a projected house for Mlle. Arnould in the Chaussée d’Antin. To be constructed side by side with that of Mlle. Guimard, and of the same dimensions.—Bélanger.”


So much care did the amorous architect of the new house bestow on his work, and so agreeable did he make himself to the lady for whom it was being built, that he was asked to share it with the owner; and there was at one time a serious prospect of Sophie Arnould becoming Mme. Bélanger. To serve some purpose of her own she spread the report that she was married to the architect, who showed himself quite disposed to give reality to the fiction. He was a merry man, and pleased Sophie as much by his ready wit as by his agreeable manners. After a time she got tired of him, and having formed an attachment for the actor Florence, wrote Bélanger a letter of dismissal, at the same time addressing to Florence an avowal of her love. Bélanger, however, found an opportunity of changing the envelopes, so that Florence the actor received the letter intended for Bélanger the architect. The next time Florence saw Sophie he was naturally somewhat cold in his demeanour towards her, and this coldness was naturally resented by Sophie, who had written to him with much warmth. Bélanger triumphed, and his triumph was of long duration; Sophie, indeed, remained attached to him throughout her life. Of all her former friends the only ones who showed genuine solicitude for her in her latter days of poverty and sickness were Bélanger and Lauragais.

Many years afterwards, in the gloomiest and most sanguinary days of the Revolution, when Bélanger was poor and Sophie Arnould still poorer, the architect begged the actress and singer to accept, as from an old friend, a piece of two louis which he at the same time forwarded to her. Sophie replied that she did not desire his money, but that she was deeply obliged to him for such thoughtfulness, and in memory thereof would wear the gold piece next her heart. When she was on her death-bed, the famous architect, himself without means, wrote to the Minister of Fine Arts a letter in which he reminded him that a considerable sum of money was due to Mlle. Arnould from the Opera; of which, now that she was in the greatest distress, it was impossible for her to obtain payment, even to the extent of a few louis. “This unhappy woman,” he continued, “of whom Gluck said, ‘Without the charm of the accent and declamation of Mlle. Arnould my Iphigenia would never have been accepted in France,’ finds herself without even the means of prolonging her life.”

In October, 1802, Sophie Arnould died, after receiving absolution from the curé of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, the parish in which she was born.

Another remarkable personage who lived in, or rather close to, the Chaussée d’Antin, was that devoted lover of Mdlle. Clairon, Monsieur de S——, who succeeded in inspiring the famous actress with esteem, but not with any warmer feeling; and who, according to her belief, as {130} well as that of several of her friends, paid her visits of complaint and menace after his death. “His humour,” writes Mlle. Clairon, in her “Memoirs,” “was gloomy and melancholy. ‘He was too well acquainted with men,’ he would say, ‘not to despise and shun them.’ His desire was to live only for me, and that I should live only for him. This last idea particularly displeased me. I might have been content to be restrained by a garland of flowers, but could not bear to be confined by a chain. I saw from that moment the necessity of destroying the flattering hope which nourishes attachment and of disallowing his frequent visits. This determination, which I persisted in, caused him a serious indisposition, during which I paid him every possible attention; but my constant refusal to indulge the passion he entertained for me made the wound still deeper.”

Afterwards, when the young man had partly recovered, Mlle. Clairon, convinced that his absence from her would be to his advantage, constantly refused his letters and his visits. “Two years and a half,” continues Mlle. Clairon, “passed between our first acquaintance and his death. He entreated me to assuage the last moments of his life by repairing to his bed-side. My engagement prevented me from complying with this request, and he expired in the presence of his domestics and an old lady whom he had alone for some time suffered.”

The house in which M. de S—— died was the one previously referred to in the Chaussée d’Antin; and at eleven o’clock the same night Mlle. Clairon, who was living far off in the Rue de Bussy, near the Rue de Seine, was startled—as were also, she declares, several friends in company with her at the time—by “the most piercing cry” she had ever heard. “Its long continuance and piteous sound,” she continues, “astonished everyone. I fainted away, and was nearly a quarter of an hour insensible.” Every night at the same hour Mlle. Clairon heard the same bitter wail. “All of us in the house,” she writes, “my friends, my neighbours, the police even, have heard this very cry repeated under my windows at the same hour, and appearing to proceed from the air.” She was recommended by an incredulous acquaintance to invoke the phantom the next time it announced its presence. She did so, when “the same cry was uttered thrice in succession, with a degree of rapidity and shrillness terrible beyond expression.” Poor Mlle. Clairon was persecuted in this manner at an hour before midnight for days at a stretch; until, at length, in lieu of a piercing cry, she heard every night, and always at eleven o’clock, the explosion of a gun. Fearing there might be some design upon her life, she communicated with the Lieutenant of Police, who, accompanied by proper officers, carefully examined the house next door, but without discovering any ground for suspicion. “The following day,” says Clairon, “the street was narrowly watched; the officers of police had their eyes upon every house; but, notwithstanding all their vigilance, there occurred the same discharge, at the same hour, and against the same frame of glass for three whole months, though no one could ever discover from whence it proceeded.” “This fact,” she adds, “is attested by all the registers of police.”

One day a lady called on Mlle. Clairon and made herself known as the best friend of the late Monsieur de S——, and the only person he had suffered to be with him during the last moments of his life.

“To condemn you,” she said, “would be unjust ... but his passion for you overcame him, and your last refusal hastened his end. He counted every minute till half-past ten, when his servant positively informed him that you would not come to him. After a moment he took my hand in a paroxysm of despair which terrified me, and exclaimed, ‘Cruel woman! but she shall gain nothing. I will pursue her as much after my death as I have during my life.’ I endeavoured to calm him, but he was no more.”

The words had a terrible effect on the unhappy Mlle. Clairon; and the cries and threats from her distressed lover gradually ceased to afflict her, and in time this excellent woman—who could scarcely be expected to love by order—became pacified.

The first building on the Boulevard des Capucines at the opposite corner of the Chaussée d’Antin is the Vaudeville Theatre, built to replace the old playhouse on the Place de la Bourse, and opened to the public on the 1st of October, 1867. Anciently this theatre seemed to be placed beneath the auspices of Collé des Augiers and Scribe, whose names mark different phases of the Vaudeville style, once exclusively cultivated by this theatre. Of later years, however, especially since the production of the younger Dumas’ Dame aux Camélias, some forty years ago, it has often thrown gaiety on one side for the pathetic and dramatic. The Vaudeville, like all the Paris theatres, has frequently changed its habitation, though it has always retained its original name. Founded in 1792, when {131} the Revolution was approaching the Terrorist period, at a building in the Rue de Chartres, between the Place du Carrousel and the Palais Royal (since pulled down), the Vaudeville was, after a life of half a century, driven from its first abode by the usual fire. In 1838, the year of the conflagration, it sought a temporary refuge on the Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, to move in 1840 to the Place de la Bourse, where it took possession of the house previously occupied by the Opéra Comique. Here, where it remained from 1840 to 1867, it changed its style, and instead of comedies and comediettas interspersed with songs, produced with immense success a series of dramas of the most moving kind, such as the already named Dame aux Camélias, Octave Feuillet’s Dalila and Roman d’un jeune Homme pauvre, Barrière’s Filles de Marbre, Sardou’s Nos Intimes and Maison neuve. It is not indeed at the Théâtre Français, but at the Vaudeville and the Gymnase, that in modern times the masterpieces of French dramatic literature have been produced. The first representation of La Dame aux Camélias forms a turning point in the history of the Vaudeville Theatre. The play—which was soon to become celebrated throughout France, and in its operatic form, set to music by Verdi, throughout Europe—was not produced without serious objections on the part of the censorship; and it was only through the intercession of the Duke de Morny, Napoleon III.’s unacknowledged brother and chief adviser, that permission to represent the piece was obtained. When the performance at last took place, the success of the drama, owing a good deal to the pathetic acting of Mme. Doche in the part of the heroine, was marvellous; and it was made the occasion of innumerable articles in all the French journals at this period, not only on the play and on the novel from the same pen whence the play was derived, but on the unhappy young woman whose life and death the author had more or less faithfully depicted in the leading character. To show that light-minded Frenchmen were not alone capable of being moved by the tragic end of the fascinating Marie Duplessis, it may be mentioned that our own Charles Dickens was as much touched by it as the numerous French writers, who, more or less perfectly, have put their feelings on the subject into literary form. “Not many days after I left,” writes Mr. Forster, in his “Life of Dickens,” under date of 1847, “all Paris was crowding to the sale of a lady of the demi-monde, Marie Duplessis, who had led the most brilliant and abandoned of lives, and left behind her the most exquisite furniture and the most voluptuous and sumptuous bijouterie. Dickens wished at one time to have pointed the moral of this life and death, of which there was great talk in Paris while we were together. The disease of satiety, which, only less often than hunger, passes for a broken heart, had killed her. ‘What do you want?’ asked the most famous of the Paris physicians, at a loss for her exact complaint. At last she answered, ‘To see my mother.’ She was sent for, and there came a simple Breton peasant woman, clad in the quaint garb of her province, who prayed by her bed until she died.”

The Dame aux Camélias called into existence a whole series of pieces, produced either at the Vaudeville or at the Gymnase, in which the true character of women in certain difficult positions was treated controversially, with examples in support of arguments; and at this moment the last kind of play one would expect to see at the Vaudeville is precisely that to which the theatre owes its name. The situation of this theatre in the most fashionable, most frequented part of the boulevard renders it, apart from its own special attractions, the favourite resort of foreigners living at the excellent hotels in this neighbourhood. The house, with its 1,300 seats, is only of moderate size, but it is much more commodious than the old theatre of the Place de la Bourse.

The theatres of Paris, generally, are, indeed, far less commodious than those of London. The Parisians will go anywhere and submit to any discomfort in order to see good acting and a good play. In England we are much more particular; and the narrow ill-ventilated theatres of Paris would certainly be objected to by English audiences. The Paris theatres, however, are steadily improving, as one by one they get burnt down; and the new ones springing from the ashes of the old are often attractive without and convenient within. In the ancient days before the Great Revolution, the Parisians were as passionately fond of the theatre as they are now, but their playhouses, according to the author of “Le nouveau Paris,” were abominable.

“I shall say nothing of the nastiness,” he writes, “that distinguishes these places of general resort, because I would not wish to injure the property of the comedians; nor shall I inveigh against the insolence of the box-keepers, and other servants of our theatres, as it would give {132} to the world a bad opinion of the proprietors themselves, to whom some censorious readers might apply the proverb, ‘Like master like man,’ and think it a truism. I intend to confine myself to those points that more materially concern the spectator when he has once got in and has the good fortune to procure a clean seat. First let us survey the pit. Here everybody stands. You will imagine that its inhabitants are the formidable umpires of taste and dramatic productions; this may or may not be, just as it suits the caprices of the police, or the Lords of the Bedchamber, who, from making the master’s bed, have raised themselves by degrees to judge of things which they hardly understand. Hence an actress is palmed upon the public. Whether she is good or bad is not the question, but whether she has had the good fortune to please one or the whole of those gentlemen; and everyone knows what price she has paid for her admission. Not a play is represented here without a guard of thirty men with a few rounds each to quiet the spectators. This internal guard keeps the frequenters of the pit in a kind of passive condition; and whether you are tired, crowded, or bruised, beware of giving any sign of uneasiness or discontent. Yet the unfortunate public pays to take, not what they desire, but what is given them. Surrounded with armed men, they must neither laugh too loud at a comedy nor express their feelings at a tragedy in too pointed a manner. Hence the pit, except in some fits of a transient excitement, is mournfully dull. If you venture to give any sign of your existence, you are collared by one of the guards and carried pro formâ before a Commissionaire. I say for form sake, because everyone in the play-house is really under martial law; the civil magistrate is only there to hear and approve the sentence passed upon the culprit by the officer of the guard; who upon the report, seldom exact, but often groundless, of the soldier, orders the accused party to prison; and the Commissionaire, without inquiring into the merit of the charge, or so much as daring to hint at the least objection, signs the mittimus.”

Entrance to Rue du Quatre-Septembre.—Avenue de l’Opéra.—Entrance to Rue de la Paix.  VIEW FROM THE BALCONY OF THE OPERA.
Entrance to Rue du Quatre-Septembre.——Avenue de l’Opéra.——Entrance to Rue de la Paix.

The Boulevard des Capucines seems on both sides entirely new; its houses are white, bright, and in perfect condition. If the crowd one sees on the Boulevard Montmartre is a Parisian crowd, that which animates the Boulevard des Capucines is a cosmopolitan one. It touches what in the artistic, if not in the general, sense must be looked upon as the heart of Paris—the New Opera, that is to say, standing in the centre of the place which bears its name and the streets called after those operatic {133} celebrities, Scribe, Auber, Halévy, and Meyerbeer; one librettist and three composers.

The Place de l’Opéra is, indeed, the heart of Paris, communicating by great arteries with all the most important organs of Parisian life. The magnificent Avenue of the Opera leads straight to the Louvre; in another direction the Rue du Quatre-Septembre goes to the Place de la Bourse. Look along the Rue de la Paix; at the end you will see La Place Vendôme, with its column in memory of the Grand Army standing out in its dark bronze against the fresh green of the Tuileries Gardens. Here all that is most Parisian in Paris may be seen: the finest shops, the most brilliant equipages, with all the glitter of fashionable life. The expensive jeweller and the exorbitant milliner here have their establishments side by side with hotels, restaurants, cafés, and clubs.


The Opera in France had much to go through before it attained its present artistic development, or, as regards the French form of grand opera, found its present capacious and splendid home. It is the proud boast of Frenchmen that Le Nouvel Opéra—as the existing Grand Opéra in Paris has been called for the last sixteen years, and as it will probably be called for a long while to come—covers thirteen times as much ground as the Royal Opera House of Berlin. It is, indeed, superior by its commodiousness as well as its magnificence to every other opera house in Europe; though what above all distinguishes it is its admirable site, and the wide open space in which it stands. In many capitals the theatres, even the finest, are only portions of a street. At Moscow, it is true, the Great Theatre stands by itself in a vast square—a square which, compared with the Place de l’Opéra, is a desert space. From its very origin the Opera in France has always been regarded as an institution of the first importance. It enjoyed special privileges from the Crown, it was managed like a department of the State, and an attack {134} upon the Opera was punished like a treasonable offence.

“Before I tell you,” wrote Rousseau towards the end of the eighteenth century, “what I think of this famous theatre, I will state what is said about it. The judgment of connoisseurs may correct mine if I am wrong. The Opera of Paris passes in the capital for the most pompous, the most voluptuous, the most admirable spectacle that human art has ever invented. Its admirers declare it to be the most superb monument of the magnificence of Louis XIV., and one is not so free as you may think to express an opinion on such an important subject. Here you may dispute about everything except music and the Opera; on these topics alone it is dangerous not to dissemble. French music is defended, too, by a very rigorous inquisition, and the first thing intimated as a warning to strangers who visit this country is that all foreigners admit there is nothing in this world so fine as the Opera of Paris. The fact is, discreet people hold their tongues, and dare only laugh in their sleeves.”

Rousseau then, speaking in the person of St. Preuz, the hero of “La nouvelle Héloise,” describes the performance as it took place at the Opera. “Imagine,” he says, “an enclosure fifteen feet broad, and long in proportion; this enclosure is the theatre. On its two sides are placed at intervals screens, which are crudely painted with the objects which the scene is about to represent. At the back of the enclosure hangs a great curtain, painted in like manner and nearly always pierced and torn that it may represent at a little distance gulfs on the earth or holes in the sky. Everyone who passes behind this stage or touches the curtain produces a sort of earthquake which has a double effect. The sky is made of certain bluish rags suspended from poles or cords, as linen may be seen hung out to dry in any washerwoman’s yard. The sun, which is here sometimes seen, is a lighted torch in a lantern. The cars of the gods and goddesses are composed of four rafters squared and hung on a thick rope in the form of a swing or see-saw; between the rafters is a cross plank on which the god sits down, and in front hangs a piece of coarse cloth, well dirtied, which acts the part of clouds for the magnificent car. One may see, towards the bottom of the machine, two or three stinking candles, badly snuffed, which, while the great personage dementedly presents himself swinging in his see-saw, fumigate him with an incense worthy of his dignity. The agitated sea is composed of long angular arrangements of cloth and blue pasteboard strung on parallel spits, which are turned by little blackguard boys. The thunder is a heavy cart rolled over an arch, and is not the least agreeable instrument one hears. The flashes of lightning are made of pinches of resin thrown on a flame; and the thunder is a cracker at the end of a fusee.

“The theatre is, moreover, furnished with little square traps, which, opening at need, announce that the demons are about to issue from their cave. When they have to rise into the air little imps of stuffed brown cloth are substituted for them, or sometimes real chimney sweeps, who swing about suspended on ropes till they are majestically lost in the rags of which I have spoken. The accidents, however, which not unfrequently happen are sometimes as tragic as farcical. When the ropes break, the infernal spirits and immortal gods fall together, and lame or occasionally kill one another. Add to all this the monsters which render some scenes very pathetic, such as dragons, lizards, tortoises, crocodiles, and large toads, who promenade the theatre with a menacing air, and display at the Opera all the temptations of St. Anthony. Each of these figures is animated by a lout of a Savoyard who has not even intelligence enough to play the beast.

“Such, my cousin, is the august machinery of the Opera, as I have observed it from the pit, with the aid of my glass, for you must not imagine that all this apparatus is hidden, and produces an imposing effect. I have only described what I have seen myself, and what any other spectator may see. I am assured, however, that there are a prodigious number of machines employed to put the whole spectacle in motion, and I have been invited several times to examine them; but I have never been curious to learn how little things are performed by great means.”

When our musical historian, Dr. Burney, visited Paris and heard at the Opera the works of Rameau, successor to Lulli, under whose direction the French Opera was founded, he found the music monotonous in the extreme, and without either rhythm or expression. He could admire nothing at the French Opera except the dancing and the decorations; and these alone, he says, seemed to give pleasure to the audience. It was not, at that time, the custom in France to name the singers in the programme; and throughout the eighteenth century no singer in France attained such eminence as was reached by numbers in Italy, and by not {135} a few in England, some of Italian, some of English birth. Naturally, then, in the eighteenth century French Opera singers were not well paid; and chroniclers relate that a Mlle. Aubry and a Mlle. Verdier, being engaged in the same line of stage business, had to live in the same room and sleep in the same bed. Apart from the obscurity naturally resulting from the suppression of the names, inconvenience was caused by the uncertainty in which the public found itself of knowing which singer, on any particular evening, would appear. Shortly before the establishment of the Republic, when, for the first time, the names of singers were printed in the bills, an habitué rushed out of the theatre in a high state of indignation, and began to beat one of the money-takers in the lobby. The poor man at once understood the reason of his aggressor’s wrath. “How was I to know,” he exclaimed, “that they would let Le Ponthieu sing to-night!”

The initial step towards high melody at the French Opera was taken when, some fifteen years before the Revolution, first Gluck, then Piccini, were invited to Paris to produce adaptations of former successes, or original works, fitted in either case to French libretti. While praising the melody of the Italians as much as he condemns the solemnity of the French, Rousseau expresses the highest admiration for the genius of Gluck, the great reformer of the French operatic stage. After the arrival of Gluck in Paris Rousseau is said never to have missed a representation of Orphée. He said, moreover, in reference to the gratification which that work had afforded him, that “after all there was something in life worth living for, since in two hours so much genuine pleasure could be obtained.”

The next great assistance to the French Opera, and this a permanent one, was given by the Republic, through the establishment of a large music-school, known as the Conservatoire, where a course of gratuitous instruction is given to all comers capable at the stipulated age of passing the indispensable test examination. Before, however, the Conservatoire, destined to produce so many excellent vocalists, instrumentalists, and composers, had time to bear fruit, Napoleon had done much to encourage and develop French musical art. Napoleon, as a young man, was one of the first admirers of the afterwards famous Mme. St. Huberti; and when Mme. Mara refused an engagement pressed upon her at the time of the Empire, Napoleon would have arrested her and forced her to accept it had she not fled from Paris. Then, another cause of improvement at the French Opera was the frequent visits paid, early in this century, and especially since the Peace of 1815, by foreign artists to the capital which, in former days, had set its face both against vocalists and composers from abroad. Lulli, the founder of opera in France, was an Italian by birth, though after his naturalisation he got to be looked upon as a Frenchman. His successor, Rameau, was no doubt a Frenchman. But the French tradition was so completely broken by the advent of Gluck and Piccini that the French have never since exhibited any of their ancient prejudice against foreign composers; and it is to these that for the last seventy or eighty years the Grand Opera of Paris has owed most of its success, that is to say, to Spontini, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, and, above all, Meyerbeer.


A highly interesting account of the rehearsals of Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable—one of the typical works of the modern repertoire of grand opera—is given, in his “Mémoires d’un Bourgeois de Paris,” by Dr. Véron, for some time manager of the Opera House. “It was not,” he {136} tells us, “until after four months of orchestral and other rehearsals that the general rehearsals were reached. These latter,” he continues, “caused great fatigue and great excitement to everyone; to the composer, the singers, the chiefs of department, and the manager. When a general rehearsal takes place, with choruses, principal singers, and full orchestra, but without scenery, without costumes, and without full light, the musical execution gains much and produces always a great effect. In the darkness and silence of the empty and more sonorous house, without any distraction for the other senses, one is, so to say, all ears; nothing is lost of the fine shades of expression in the singing, of the delicate embroideries of the orchestration. But at the first representation the disappointment is great. In the immense, splendidly lighted theatre, filled with an excited crowd, all the rich and elegant details of the score will be lost through the stuff of the women’s dresses and the diminished sonority of a building crowded in pit, boxes, and gallery. Great musical ideas, grand orchestral effects, will now alone produce an impression. Thus it happened that at the first representation of Robert the Devil, the public, after applauding the first two acts, was only impressed and deeply moved by the chorus of demons.”



After describing the anxieties and perplexities which throughout the long series of rehearsals harass the unfortunate director, Dr. Véron proceeds to tell us how this gentleman’s last and worst experience was this inevitable final conference, held in his own private room, at which the author of the words and the composer of the music had to be prevailed upon to accept some necessary “cuts.”


“The librettist maintains that to take away one phrase, one word, is to render the work unintelligible, so cunningly is it constructed. The composer resists with no less obstinacy. His score, he says, cannot be broken up into fragments. It is all combined and prepared in such a manner as to form a perfect whole. One piece serves as indispensable contrast to another. A chorus which it has perhaps been suggested to leave out is essential for the effect of the succeeding air. The discussions on such points are interminable. I had ended by showing myself impassible in presence of the storms and tempests that were {138} raging around me; and I devoted the time during which these quarrels lasted to a polite and engaging correspondence with all the newspaper editors. I was still labouring for the success of the work. At last a conclusion was arrived at, and a general understanding established. The chief copyist was making the necessary changes and suppressions in the score; and the public at least never found fault with the words and music that were now suppressed. But when a director has prepared, like a good general, everything necessary for the success of the work on the stage, his troubles begin with the front of the house. Everyone wants something from him on the occasion of a first representation; and that of Robert le Diable was exciting public interest to the highest degree. Everything and everyone must be thought of. It is necessary, in assigning places, to displease no one, and above all to avoid exciting jealousies, so as to have no irritated enemies in the house. Such and such a journalist will never pardon you for having given his fellow-journalist a better place than himself. The author and composer, the leading artists, the claqueurs must be satisfied. The care, the foresight, the conferences, the instructions, indispensable to secure the efficient working of the claque at each representation, and particularly on great critical occasions, will be dealt with elsewhere. One must remember, too, the number of the box that Madame—— would like to have, the number of the stall preferred by the friend of a minister or of the editor of some great journal. One must respect, moreover, the omnipotence of the unknown journalist, as of the journalist in vogue; and on the critical day the existence is revealed of a crowd of newspapers not previously heard of.”

It was in the old theatre of the Rue Le Pelletier that Rossini’s William Tell and Meyerbeer’s great works were brought out. Gounod, Saint-Saëns, and Massenet, have all written for the New Opera, though it cannot be said that any of them has yet produced on its boards a work of the highest merit.

Opened under the Third Republic in 1875, the New Opera House must be acknowledged to owe its existence to the Emperor Napoleon III., whose Minister of Fine Arts opened a competition for architectural designs in view of a new lyrical theatre as long ago as 1860, thirteen years before the old Opera House was burnt down, and fifteen years before the new one was completed and thrown open to the public. The successful competitor is known to have been Charles Garnier, who was almost unheard of at the time when, with rare unanimity, his design was accepted by the Commission, and approved with enthusiasm by the Press. The building of the Opera cost, from first to last, some 36,000,000 francs (nearly a million and a half sterling), 675,295 work days having been furnished, during its construction, to masons, bricklayers, carpenters, etc. The manager of the Opera House receives from the State the free use of the building together with a subsidy of 800,000 francs (£32,000) voted annually by the Chamber. Employed at the Opera are some five hundred persons, among whom may, in particular, be mentioned twelve in the administration, in connection with the archives, the library, the secretarial department, and the treasury; three orchestral conductors, four directors of singing, two directors and one assistant-director of the chorus; forty-five vocalists; and one hundred orchestral musicians. There are about one hundred men and women in the chorus, and the same number in the various divisions of the ballet. Scene-painters, scene-shifters (or “carpenters,” as they are technically called), dressers, call-boys, box-openers, and so on, form another hundred. The inauguration of the New Opera took place on the 5th of January, 1875, in the presence of Marshal Macmahon, Duke of Magenta, at that time President of the Republic. All the great officers of State were present, besides a number of foreign notabilities, among whom may be mentioned Queen Isabella of Spain and the young King of Spain, Alphonso II. It is remembered, too, with satisfaction, that the Lord Mayor of London, accompanied by his mace-bearers, trumpeters, and powdered footmen, gave dignity to the occasion.

One of the most interesting parts of the New Opera is the foyer, corresponding more or less to the refreshment room of our operatic theatres, but quite incomparable in the way of elegance and splendour. In the accompanying illustration the artist has made a point of introducing, amid well-dressed persons in evening clothes, an English lady in a morning gown and a sea-side hat, accompanied by two of her countrymen in shooting coats and pot hats. It is, indeed, a standing grievance with the Parisians that, whereas at our opera house no one is admitted to the boxes or stalls unless in evening dress, we ourselves, when we visit the Paris Opera, think any description of garment good enough to wear. One of the characteristic sights of Paris has, for nearly two centuries past, been the Masked Ball of the Opera, which, {139} though it has doubtless lost much of its gaiety since the days when it inspired Gavarni with so many subjects for his witty pencil, is still worth seeing, simply as a picturesque display. No one any longer dances there unless paid to do so. It was, in fact, the introduction of hired dancers when the public were just beginning to show a disinclination to take an active part in the revels that put an end to spontaneous dancing altogether. The antics of some of the hired dancers may interest for a time; and the music of the large orchestra, conducted successively by Musard, Tolbecque, Strauss, Métra, and Arban, has always merited a hearing. Throughout the Carnival—that is to say, from Christmas until Lent—a masked and fancy dress ball (the wearing both of masks and fancy dress being optional) is given every week at the Opera, where the great ball of the year takes place on the night of Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding Lent. One other ball of the same kind is given in the middle of Lent—la Mi-carême as it is called—and thenceforward there is no dancing at the Opera until Christmas has once more come and gone.

The Opera Ball dates, like the Opera itself, from the reign of Louis XIV. But the license for musico-dramatic performances had been issued forty years before it occurred to the Chevalier de Bouillon to apply to the King for permission to give masked balls. The King hastened to grant the Chevalier’s request; and was indeed so pleased with it that he assigned to him a pension of 6,000 livres (francs) for the idea, which had simply been borrowed. What is still more remarkable is the fact that an Augustine monk, Nicholas Bourgeois, invented the mechanism by which, in half an hour, the floor of the auditorium could be raised to the level of the stage boards. Although the privilege or patent was given to the Chevalier de Bouillon at the beginning of January, 1713, it was not until January, 1716, that the first opera ball took place. From that year until 1830 no masked or fancy dress ball could be given at any other theatre. On the accession, however, of Louis Philippe, the Opera lost its dancing monopoly, and there are now numbers of Paris theatres at which, during the Carnival, masked balls occur. The receipts at an Opera Ball are said to average 50,000 francs (£2,000).

Close to the Opera lie all the fashionable clubs of Paris, beginning with the Jockey Club at the corner of the Boulevard de La Madeleine. The English Jockey Club is known to be an association of horse-owners and others interested in racing, who frame regulations and decide cases in connection with the Turf. The Jockey Club of Paris, while founded on much the same basis as the English institution of the same name, is also a club in the ordinary sense of the word, and an exceedingly good one. The Jockey Club, which boasts of numbering on its books members of all the reigning families of Europe, is, by its formal title, a “Society of Encouragement for the Amelioration of Breeds of Horses in France.” It was originated in 1833, under the auspices of the Duke of Orleans, eldest son of Louis Philippe, in order to popularise racing, regulate it, and obtain for it subsidies from the State and the Municipalities. A committee of thirteen members is exclusively entrusted with the organisation and superintendence of races. The code of the Jockey Club is adopted as a basis of regulations by nearly all the other racing societies of France. The Jockey Club itself directs the racing of only three courses, those of the Bois de Boulogne, Fontainebleau, and Chantilly. This club, first established at the corner of the Rue du Helder, and then transferred to the Hôtel de Lange on the Boulevard Montmartre, moved in 1857 to the corner of the Rue de Grammont, where the Cercle des Deux Mondes now has its headquarters, and finally, in 1860, to its present abode, for which it pays an annual rental of 100,000 francs. Not one of the Paris clubs seems, like the principal London clubs, to possess its own house. As a rule the annual subscription to the Paris club is high, amounting in some cases to 500 francs. On the other hand, the large sums charged for entrance to the London clubs, ranging from 30 to 40 guineas, are unknown at the clubs of Paris, which consequently find themselves without much available capital.

Close to the Opera, on the Boulevard des Italiens, at the corner of the Rue de Grammont, is Le Cercle des Deux Mondes; at the corner of the Rue de la Michodière, the Railway Club, or Cercle des Chemins de Fer; on the Boulevard des Capucines, at the corner of the Rue Louis le Grand, the Yacht Club. Just opposite the Yacht Club “Le Cercle de la Presse,” celebrated for its literary and artistic evenings, suggests in the first place that no like institution exists in England, where the newspaper world, though less sharply broken up by political and personal animosities than that of France, is bound together by no such esprit de corps as that which animates the authors and journalists of France. In England not only are we without a Press Club worthy of the {140} name; we have no Société des Gens de Lettres, or Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques. Close to the Cercle de la Presse is the Sporting Club, with its English name. On the Place de l’Opéra is the Franco-American Club called the Washington Club, or Cercle Washington, and at the other corner of the square, the Cercle des Éclaireurs, or Scouts’ Club, a survival from the war of 1870. On the Place de l’Opéra are the offices (as staring titles sufficiently proclaim) of the Daily Telegraph, the Daily News, and the New York Herald. The corner house, separating the Avenue of the Opera from the Rue de la Paix, has been occupied since 1886 by the Naval and Military Club, known as the Cercle des Armées de Terre et de Mer, and founded under the auspices of General Boulanger in the days when he was War Minister, with the eyes of all Europe upon him. Advancing towards the Madeleine, we come first to the Racing Club (Salon des Courses), then to the Union Club (Cercle de l’Union), the most artistic and most exclusive of all these institutions. Close by is the new Cercle de la Rue Royale, formerly known under the familiar name of “Cercle des Moutards;” whilst a little further on we find the Cercle des Mirlitons and Cercle Impérial, now combined, and the Cercle Artistique et Littéraire.



More recently established than the best London clubs, the clubs of Paris possess some slight advantages over ours. There is but one London club {141} at which a member can get shaved or have his hair cut, but at many of the fashionable Paris clubs the hair-cutter and barber play as important a part as at an American hotel. The best Paris clubs have private carriages always in readiness. At a London club members who have not their own private carriage content themselves with a hansom, or, if infirm, with a humble four-wheeler. The Paris clubs, moreover, are in constant communication with the theatres; and each club can command so many tickets for a first representation, which are distributed among the members according to the order of application. Some of the Paris clubs, too, have a box at the Opera or at the Comédie Française. One strange characteristic of the Paris clubs—strange at least to Englishmen—is {142} that every member is supposed to know, more or less intimately, every other member. In Paris the newly-elected member of a club is formally introduced to the other members by his proposer and seconder. Nothing of the kind takes place in London; though a new member of a London club is allowed, if not expected, to invite his proposer and seconder with a few friends to dinner. Though there are still famous restaurants in Paris, dining-houses and cafés have alike suffered by the introduction of clubs, which, though fewer as yet than in London, are yearly increasing their number.

The last of the boulevards on the western side is that of the Madeleine, with the Church of the Madeleine as its principal edifice. The Place de la Madeleine, in the centre of which stands the beautiful but most unecclesiastical church, becomes twice every week, on Tuesday and Friday, a large flower-market, the finest in Paris. Standing by itself in the place named after it, is the beautiful Greek temple, of which the first stone was laid, in one of his pious moods, by Louis XV. in 1764. But the building was not proceeded with until after a delay of some years. It was begun in its present form only twelve years before the Revolution; and when Napoleon became emperor it was still unfinished. Judging, no doubt, from the character of the architecture, that the edifice could scarcely have been intended for a place of Christian worship, Napoleon had it finished as a Temple of Glory under the direction of the celebrated architect Pierre Vignon. Like the Pantheon, however, which has sometimes been thus named, and at other times called the Church of Sainte-Geneviève, Napoleon’s Temple of Glory was only for a time to be known in that character. Under the Restoration, in 1814, Louis XVIII. determined to restore the building to the Church; and, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, it was duly consecrated. La Madeleine, as it is called, was, however, still uncompleted when, in 1830, Louis Philippe came to the throne; and it was under his reign that, in 1842, it was opened for public worship in the precise form and with the elaborate ornamentation now belonging to it. The architecture of the Madeleine is partly Roman, partly Greek; or rather it is Greek with Roman adaptations. It is surrounded by Corinthian columns, of which there are eighteen on each side. Sixteen, moreover, enclose the southern portion, and eight the northern. The building is without windows, and is entirely of stone. The niches in the colonnade are occupied by thirty-four statues representing the most venerated martyrs and saints. On the principal façade will be remarked a high-relief of huge dimensions by Lemaire, representing our Lord as Judge of the world. The figure of the Saviour is seventeen feet high. On His right are the Angel of Salvation and the saved; on His left the Angel of Punishment and the condemned, with Mary Magdalene interceding on their behalf. The interior is brilliant with gold and colour. The sanctuary, with its vaulted roof, exhibits a vast fresco by Zugler, representing the history of Christianity. Mary Magdalene, receiving Christ’s forgiveness, is surrounded by the Apostles and Evangelists; and among the illustrious men who in successive ages have protected the Christian Church may be recognised Constantine, Godefroi de Bouillon, Clovis, Joan of Arc, Dante, and Napoleon. The principal altar supports an enormous group in white marble, generally known as the Assumption, though the central figure is that of Mary Magdalene. The Assumption in this case is that of Mary Magdalene into Paradise, whither she is being borne by two angels. Under the organ is the Chapelle des Mariages, with a marble group by Pradier, representing the marriage of the Virgin; and the Chapelle des Fonts, with a group by Rude, the subject being the Baptism of Christ. To the right of the altar we see illustrated the spread of Christianity in the East during the early centuries and the Crusades; and again, in modern times, through the uprising of the Greeks against the Turks. As leading Crusaders, Richard Cœur-de-Lion and Godefroi de Bouillon occupy places. The personages exhibited as having greatly contributed towards the progress of Christianity in the West are the early martyrs, Charlemagne, Pope Alexander III., Joan of Arc, Raphael, Michael Angelo, and Dante. In the centre of the picture stands Henri IV., who, after uttering his celebrated exclamation, “Paris is well worth a mass,” goes over to the dominant religion. Then come Louis XIII., Richelieu, and finally Napoleon I., who not only was crowned by Pope Pius VII. in Notre-Dame, but really deserves credit for having restored Christian worship in France.

In the first chapel, on the right as one enters the church, is a pillar bearing an inscription to the memory of the Abbé du Guerry, curé of the Madeleine, a man of remarkable piety and benevolence, who, with other hostages taken by the Communists, was shot on the 24th of May, 1871, in {143} retaliation for the execution of Communist prisoners by the troops of Versailles.

The Church of the Madeleine is famous for the eloquence of its preachers, the taste in dress of the fashionable ladies whom these preachers attract, and the excellence of the music. At the organ of the Madeleine a sound musician and a perfect player is always to be found.



Its History—Louis XV.—Fireworks—The Catastrophe in 1770—Place de la Révolution—Louis XVI.—The Directory.

THE Rue Royale, a continuation of the Boulevard de la Madeleine, leading to the Place de la Concorde, was the scene of some of the most violent outrages on the part of the Communists in May, 1871. Here, as in the neighbouring Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, a number of houses were deliberately set on fire, when some thirty persons perished in the flames. It was said, at the time, that the firemen employed to extinguish the conflagration were bribed by members of the Commune to replace the water in their pumps by petroleum.

The Place de la Concorde, the finest of the many fine squares and open spaces in Paris, covers an area of 400 yards in length, by 235 yards in width. It is bounded on the south by the Seine, on the west by the Champs Élysées, on the north by the Rue de Rivoli (at right angles with the Rue Royale), and on the east by the Tuileries Gardens. From the centre of the Place may be seen the Madeleine at the further end of the Rue Royale; the Palace of the Chamber of Deputies just across the river, which is here traversed by the Pont de la Concorde; the Louvre on the one hand, and on the other, at the end of the Champs Élysées, the Triumphal Arch (Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile).

At night the views from the Place de la Concorde are more striking even than by day; the Avenue of the Champs Élysées, more than a mile in length, leading in a straight line from the Place de la Concorde to the Triumphal Arch, presenting, with its seemingly interminable rows of lamps, a fairy-like spectacle.

The history of the Place de la Concorde is quite modern. Its present name dates only from the Revolution; its creation from no further back than the year 1748.

Louis XV., called le bien-aimé, had fallen ill at Metz, and the people regarding him, after the ruinously extravagant reign of his predecessor, Louis XIV., as a merciful sovereign, hurried in crowds to the churches, imploring heaven for the King’s recovery. “What have I done to be thus beloved?” asked the young monarch, with astonishment; and his eyes moistened with tears—“the only ones,” says an apparently well-informed historian, “he ever let fall.”

Louis XV. recovered and came back to Paris; and it was then that the Town Council voted with enthusiasm an equestrian statue to the sovereign whom it had pleased heaven to spare. The King, on his side, presented to the city a large open piece of ground at the end of the Tuileries Gardens, and in the centre of this plain the first stone was laid of the monument which was to celebrate the virtues of Louis the Well-beloved. This statue, according to the fashion of the time, represented the King in Roman costume with a crown of laurels on his head; and, among other devices, personifications of Strength, Wisdom, Justice, and Peace were made to figure at the corners of the pedestal, which gave rise to the following epigram:—

“Oh! la belle statue! oh! le beau piédestal!
Les vertus sont à pied, le vice est à cheval;”

which may be thus turned into English:—

“Fit statue, fitter pedestal! with laughter burst your sides,
The virtues all below on foot, while vice triumphant rides!”

Another satirist wrote:—

“Il est ici comme à Versailles;
Il est sans cœur et sans entrailles.”

or, to give something like an equivalent in English:—

“Here have set up the builders with their trowels
A King of brass who’s neither heart nor bowels.”


A philosopher who seems to have foreseen what he fancied was by no means apparent to Louis XV.—that the ancient régime was coming to an end—placed a bandage round the eyes of the statue with these words inscribed on it:—

“Have pity on a poor blind man!”

This, however, is inconsistent with the tradition which attributes to him the saying, more generally believed to have been Metternich’s, “Après moi le déluge!”



The open space was now to be marked in by ornamental limits; and the architects were working at the railings and walls, when, on the night of the 30th of May, 1770, a frightful catastrophe took place. To celebrate the marriage of the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XVI., with the Archduchess Marie Antoinette of Austria, the town of Paris had prepared a magnificent fête, of which the principal attraction was to be a display of fireworks under the direction of the famous Italian pyrotechnist, Ruggieri, perfecter of an art first introduced into France (like so many others) by his ingenious countrymen. Three centuries earlier, in 1465, it should be said, when fireworks were for the first time seen in France, much excitement and some accidents, though no fatal ones, were in like manner caused. After the battle of Montléhry, when the troops of Louis XI. retired to Corbeil, and the great noblemen who had been leagued against him to Étampes, the Duke of Berri and the Comte de Charolais took their places at the window of a house in the last-named town and looked out together on the soldiers and the mob who filled the streets. Suddenly a dart of fire was seen flashing and curling in the air, which, taking the direction of the window where the prince and the count were seated, struck against it with a violent explosion. The two noblemen were filled with alarm, and the Comte de {145} Charolais in his fright ordered the Seigneur Contay to call out all the troops of the household, the archers of his body-guard, and others. The Duke of Berri gave like orders to all the troops under his command; and in a few minutes two or three bodies of armed men, with a great number of archers, were seen in front of the residence, making every endeavour to find out whence the marvellous and terrible apparition of fire could have proceeded. It was regarded as a diabolical device magically directed against the persons of the Comte de Charolais and the Duke of Berri. After close investigation it was discovered that the author of the marvel productive of so much alarm was a Breton known as {146} Jean Boute-Feu, otherwise Jean des Serpents, so called from his having invented the kind of firework which still bears the name of “serpent.” Jean threw himself at the feet of the princes, confessed to them that he had indeed fired rockets into the air, but added that his intention had been to amuse, not injure, them. Then, to prove that his fireworks were harmless, he let off three or four of them in presence of the princes, which quite destroyed the suspicions formed against him. Everyone now began to laugh. Much trepidation had meanwhile been caused by a very trifling incident.

But let us return to the year 1770 and the fête on the Place Louis XV. All was going well, when suddenly a gust of wind blew down among the crowd some rockets only partially exploded. Fireworks, like so many inventions of Italian origin, were still, to the mass of the French public, a comparative novelty; and this, together with the positive inconvenience and even danger of a fall of blazing missiles in the midst of thousands of excited and closely-packed spectators, was quite enough to account for the terrible confusion, resulting in many hundreds of fatal accidents, which now ensued.

There was, in the first place, a general rush towards the Rue Royale, far too narrow to receive such an invasion; and in the crush numbers of women fainted, fell, and were trampled to death. To make matters worse the stream of persons pressing into the Rue Royale was met by a counter-stream, advancing, in ignorance of what had taken place, to the Place de la Concorde. Even these, who were not in imminent peril, were now affected by a panic which soon became universal. In the midst of shrieks and groans some desperate men drew their swords and endeavoured to cut for themselves a passage through the dense mass by which they were surrounded. “I know many persons,” says Mercier, in his “Tableau de Paris,” “who thirty months after these frightful scenes still bore the marks of objects which had been crushed into them. Some lingered on for ten years and then died. I may say without exaggeration that in the general panic and crush more than twelve hundred unfortunate persons lost their lives. One entire family disappeared; and there was scarcely a household which had not to lament the death of a relative or friend.” On the other hand the official returns put down the deaths at 133, already an immense number.

Seven years later, in 1777, the Place Louis XV. was the scene of a further mishap. Certain strolling players, jugglers, and other mountebanks had established in the open space an annual fair known as the Fair of St. Ovid, which became such a nuisance to the aristocratic residents in the neighbourhood that a petition was presented to the Government for its suppression; when suddenly one evening the booths and theatres took fire. The conflagration became general, and the Fair of St. Ovid perished in the flames.

The next incident of importance which took place on the great Place was important indeed. It was nothing less than the destruction of Louis XV.’s statue, which on the 11th of August, 1792, the day after the capture of the Tuileries, was removed by order of the Legislative Assembly, melted down, and converted into pieces of two sous. The statue of the king was replaced by a statue of Liberty, which, being made in terra-cotta, was called by the anti-Revolutionists the “Liberty of Mud.” The Place was now named Place de la Révolution. Place de la Guillotine it might more fitly have been called, for it was here that the instrument of punishment, of vengeance, and often of simple hatred, was erected, to begin its horrid work, on the 21st of January, 1793, by the decapitation of Louis XVI.

The unhappy monarch had been brought along the whole line of boulevards from the prison of the Temple, close to the Place de la Bastille, at one extremity, to the Place de la Révolution at the other. These two opposite points mark in a certain way the beginning and the end of the Revolution. Its first heroic act was the taking of the Bastille; the cruel deeds which marked its close had for their scene the former Place Louis XV., which the Revolution had now named after itself.

The last moments of Louis XVI. have often been described, but never in so simple, touching, and direct a manner as by the Abbé Edgeworth, who accompanied the king to the scaffold, and at the fatal moment was by his side. He afterwards wrote in the French language an account of what he had witnessed, from which some of the most striking passages may here be reproduced.

“The fate of the king,” he says, “was as yet undecided, when M. de Malesherbes, to whom I had not the honour of being personally known and who could neither ask me to his house nor come to mine, requested me to meet him at Mme. de Senosan’s house, where I accordingly waited on {147} him. There M. de Malesherbes delivered to me a message from the king signifying the wish of that unfortunate monarch that I should attend him in his last moments, if the atrocity of his subjects should be contented with nothing less than his death. This message was conveyed in terms which I should have thought it my duty to suppress if they did not demonstrate the excellence of the prince whose end I am going to relate. He carried the delicacy of his expressions so far as to ask as a favour the services he had a right to demand from me as a duty. He claimed them as the last proof of my attachment. He hoped that I would not refuse him. He added that if the danger to which I must be exposed should appear to me too great he would beg me to name another clergyman. This was not to be thought of, and on being admitted to the prison I fell at the king’s feet without the power of utterance. The king was much moved, but soon began to answer my tears with his own.”

A high official from whom the Abbé Edgeworth had requested permission to administer the Sacrament replied that he deemed the request of the Abbé and that of Louis Capet conformable to the law, which declared all forms of worship to be free. “Nevertheless,” added the official, “there are two conditions. The first is that you draw up instantly an address containing your demand signed by yourself; the second, that your religious ceremonies be concluded by 7 o’clock to-morrow at latest, for at 8 precisely Louis Capet must set out for the place of execution.”

“These last words,” writes the Abbé, “were said, like all the rest, with a degree of cold-blooded indifference which characterised an atrocious mind. I put my request in writing and left it on the table. They re-conducted me to the King, who awaited with anxiety the conclusion of this affair. The summary account which I gave him, in which I suppressed all particulars, pleased him extremely. It was now past ten o’clock, and I remained with the King till the night was far advanced, when, perceiving he was fatigued, I requested him to take some repose. He replied with his accustomed kindness, and charged me to lie down also. I went, by his desire, into a little closet which Cléry occupied, and which was separated from the King’s chamber only by a thin partition; and while I was occupied with the most overwhelming thoughts I heard the King tranquilly giving directions for the next day, after which he lay down on his bed. At five o’clock he rose and dressed as usual. Soon afterwards he sent for me, and I attended him for nearly an hour in the cabinet, where he had received me the evening before. I found an altar completely prepared in the King’s apartment. The commissaries had executed to the letter everything that I had required of them. They had even done more than I had asked, I having only demanded what was indispensable. The King heard Mass. He knelt on the ground without cushion or desk. He then received the Sacrament, after which ceremony I left him for a short time at his prayers. He soon sent for me again, and I found him seated near his stove, where he could scarcely warm himself. ‘My God,’ said he, ‘how happy I am in the possession of my religious principles! Without them what should I now be? But with them how sweet death appears to me! Yes, there dwells on high an uncorruptible Judge from Whom I shall receive the justice refused to me on earth!’ The sacred offices I performed at this time prevent my relating more than a few sentences out of many interesting conversations which the King held with me during the last sixteen hours of his life; but by the little that I have told it may be seen how much might be added if it were consistent with my duty to say more. Day began to dawn, and the drums sounded in all the quarters of Paris. An extraordinary movement was heard in the tower—it seemed to freeze the blood in my veins. But the King, more calm than I was, after listening to it for a moment, said to me without emotion: ‘It is probably the National Guard beginning to assemble.’ In a short time detachments of cavalry entered the court of the Temple, and the voices of officers and the trampling of horses were distinctly heard. The King listened again and said to me with the same composure: ‘They seem to be approaching.’ On taking leave of the Queen the evening before he had promised to see her again next day, and he wished earnestly to keep his word; but I entreated him not to put the Queen to a trial under which she must sink. He hesitated a moment, and then, with an expression of profound grief, said: ‘You are right, sir, it would kill her. I must deprive myself of this melancholy consolation and let her indulge in hope a few moments longer.’ From seven o’clock till eight various persons came frequently, under different pretences, to knock at the door of the cabinet, and each time I trembled lest it should be the last. But the King, with more firmness, rose without {148} emotion, went to the door and quietly answered the people who thus interrupted us. I do not know who these men were; but amongst them was one of the greatest monsters that the Revolution had produced. I heard him say to his King, in a tone of mockery, I know not on what subject: ‘Oh, that was very well once, but you are not on the throne now.’ His Majesty did not answer a word, but returned to me, contenting himself with saying, ‘See how these people treat me. But I know how to endure everything.’ Another time, after having answered one of the commissaries who came to interrupt us, he returned and said, with a smile, ‘These people see poignards and poison everywhere; they fear that I shall destroy myself. Alas! they little know me. To kill myself would indeed be weakness. No, since it is necessary, I know how I ought to die!’ We heard another knock at the door—destined to be the last. It was Santerre and his crew. The King opened the door as usual. They announced to him (I could not hear in what terms) that he must prepare for death. ‘I am occupied,’ said he, with an air of authority. ‘Wait for me. In a few minutes I will return to you.’ Then, having shut the door, he knelt at my feet. ‘It is finished, sir,’ he said. ‘Give me your last benediction, and pray that it may please God to support me to the end.’ He soon arose, and, leaving the cabinet, advanced towards the wretches who were in his bedchamber. Their countenances were embarrassed, yet their hats were not taken off. And the King, perceiving it, asked for his own. Whilst Cléry, bathed in tears, ran for it, the King said, ‘Are there amongst you any members of the Commune? I charge them to take care of this paper.’ It was his will. One of the party took it from the King. ‘I recommend also to the Commune Cléry my valet. I can only congratulate myself on having had his services. Give him my watch and clothes, not only these I have here, but those that have been deposited at the Commune. I also desire that, in return for the attachment he has shown me, he may be allowed to enter into the Queen’s—into my wife’s service.’ He used both expressions. The King then cried out in a firm tone: ‘Let us proceed.’ At these words they all moved on. The King crossed the first court, formerly the garden, on foot. He turned back once or twice towards the tower as if to bid adieu to all most dear to him on earth; and by his gestures it was plain that he was then trying to summon his utmost strength and firmness. At the entrance to the second court a carriage waited. Two gendarmes stood at the door. On the King’s approach one of these men entered the carriage, and took up his position in front. The King followed and placed me by his side. Then the other gendarme jumped in and shut the door. It is said that one of these men was a priest in disguise. For the honour of religion I hope this may be false. It is also said that they had orders to assassinate the King on the smallest murmurs from the people. I do not know whether this might have been their design, but it seems to me that unless they possessed different arms than those that appeared it would have been difficult to accomplish their purpose, for their muskets only were visible, which it would have been impossible for them to have used. These apprehended murmurs were not imaginary. A great number of people devoted to the King had resolved on tearing him from the hands of his guards, or, at least, of making the attempt. Two of the principal actors, young men whose names are well known, found means to inform me, the night before, of their intentions; and though my hopes were not sanguine, I yet did not despair of rescue even at the foot of the scaffold. I have since heard that the orders for this dreadful morning had been planned with so much art, and executed with so much precision, that, of four or five hundred people thus devoted to their prince twenty-five only succeeded in reaching the appointed rendezvous. In consequence of the measures taken before daybreak in all the streets of Paris, none of the rest were able to get out of their houses. The King, finding himself seated in a carriage where he could neither speak to me nor be spoken to without witness, kept a profound silence. I presented him with my breviary, the only book I had with me, and he seemed to accept it with pleasure. He appeared anxious that I should point out to him the psalms that were best suited to his situation, and he recited them attentively with me. The gendarmes, without speaking, seemed astonished and confounded at the tranquil piety of their monarch, to whom, doubtless, they had never before approached so near. The procession lasted almost two hours. The streets were lined with citizens, all armed, some with pikes and some with guns, and the carriage was surrounded by a body of troops formed from the most desperate people of Paris. As another precaution, they had placed before the horses a great number of drums intended to drown any noise {149} or murmurs in favour of the King. But how could such demonstrations be heard, since nobody appeared either at the doors or windows, and in the street nothing was to be seen but armed citizens—citizens all rushing to the commission of a crime which, perhaps, they detested in their hearts. The carriage proceeded thus in silence to the Place Louis XV., and stopped in a large space that had been left round the scaffold. This space was protected on all sides with cannon, and, beyond, an armed multitude extended as far as the eye could reach. As soon as the King perceived that the carriage was stopping, he turned and whispered to me: ‘We have arrived, if I mistake not.’ My silence answered that we had. One of the guards came to open the carriage door, and the gendarmes would have jumped out; but the King stopped them, and laying his hand on my knee, said to them in a tone of majesty: ‘Gentlemen, I recommend to you this good man. Take care that after my death no insult be offered to him. I charge you to prevent it.’ The two men answered not a word. The King was continuing in a louder tone, but one of them stopped him, saying: ‘Yes, yes, we will see to it; leave him to us;’ and I ought to add that these words were spoken in a tone which would have frozen me if at such a moment it had been possible for me to have thought of myself. As soon as the King had left the carriage, three guards surrounded him and would have taken off his garments, but he repelled them haughtily. He undressed himself, untied his neckcloth, opened his shirt and arranged it himself. The guards, whom the determined countenance of the King had for a moment disconcerted, seemed to recover their audacity. They surrounded him again, and would have seized his hands. ‘What are you attempting?’ said the King, drawing back his hands. ‘To bind you,’ answered the wretches. ‘To bind me?’ said the King with an indignant air. ‘No, I shall never consent to that. Do what you have been ordered; but you shall never bind me.’ The guards insisted; they raised their {150} voices, and seemed to wish to call on others to aid them.


“Perhaps this was the most terrible moment of the direful morning; another instant and the best of kings would have received from his rebellious subjects indignities too horrid to mention—indignities that would have been to him more insupportable than death. Such was the feeling expressed on his countenance. Turning towards me, he looked at me steadily, as if to ask my advice. Alas! it was impossible for me to give any, and I only answered by silence; but as he continued this fixed look of inquiry I replied, ‘Sir, in this new insult I only see another trait of resemblance between your Majesty and the Saviour who is about to recompense you.’ At these words he raised his eyes to heaven with an expression that can never be described. ‘You are right,’ he said, ‘nothing less than His example should make me submit to such a degradation.’ Then, turning to the guards, he added: ‘Do what you will. I will drink of the cup even to the dregs.’ The path leading to the scaffold was extremely rough and difficult to pass. The king was obliged to lean on my arm, and from the slowness with which he proceeded I feared for a moment that his courage might fail; so that my astonishment was extreme when, arrived at the last step, he suddenly let go my arm and I saw him cross with a firm foot the breadth of the whole scaffold; silence, by his look alone, fifteen or twenty drums that were placed opposite to him; and in a voice so loud, that it must have been heard at the Pont Tournant, pronounce distinctly these memorable words: ‘I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I pardon those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to God that the blood you are now going to shed may never be visited on France.’ He was proceeding, when a man on horseback, in the national uniform, waved his sword, and with a ferocious cry ordered the drums to beat. Many voices were at the same time heard encouraging the executioners. They seemed to have re-animated themselves, and seizing with violence the most virtuous of kings, they dragged him under the axe of the guillotine, which with one stroke severed his head from his body. All this passed in a moment. The youngest of the guards, who seemed about eighteen, immediately seized the head and showed it to the people, as he walked round the scaffold. He accompanied this monstrous ceremony with the most atrocious and indecent gestures. At first an awful silence prevailed; at length some cries of ‘Vive la République!’ were heard. By degrees the voices multiplied, and in less than ten minutes this cry, a thousand times repeated, became the universal shout of the multitude, and every hat was in the air.”

“It is remarkable,” writes Mr. Sneyd Edgeworth, the Abbé’s brother, “that in this account of the last moments of Louis XVI., the Abbé Edgeworth has omitted to relate that fine apostrophe, which everyone has heard, and which everyone believes that he addressed to his king at the moment of execution—

“‘Fils de St. Louis, montez au ciel!’

“The Abbé Edgeworth has been asked if he recollected to have made this exclamation. He replied that he could neither deny nor affirm that he had spoken the words. It was possible, he added, that he might have pronounced them without afterwards recollecting the fact, for that he retained no memory of anything which happened relative to himself at that awful instant. His not recollecting or recording the words is perhaps the best proof that they were spoken from the impulse of the moment.”

The Reign of Terror had now begun. Foreign armies were marching towards Paris in order to liberate the King from prison and replace him on his throne. The Republican Government replied by removing the head of the monarch whom it was prepared to restore.

During the Reign of Terror the Place de la Concorde, as it was afterwards to be called, might fitly have been named, not merely the Place of the Revolution, the title it bore, but the Place of Blood. In the terrible year of 1793 Charlotte Corday was guillotined on the 17th of July; Brissot, leader of the Girondists, with twenty-one of his followers, on the 2nd of October; Queen Marie Antoinette on the 16th of October; and Philippe Égalité, Duke of Orleans (father of Louis Philippe), on the 14th of November. Among the victims of the year 1794 may be mentioned Madame Élizabeth, sister of Louis XVI., who was guillotined on the 12th of May; Hébert and several of his most bloodthirsty associates, who, at the instigation of Robespierre and Danton, lost their heads on the 14th of March; Marat and members of his party, who followed a few days afterwards; Danton himself and a number of his adherents, with the heroic Camille Desmoulins among them, on the 8th of April; Chaumette and Anacharsis Cloots, together with the wives of some previous victims on April 16th; Robespierre, Saint-Just, and {151} other members of the Committee of Public Safety, on July 28th; seventy members of the Commune who had acted under Robespierre’s direction on July 29th; and twelve other members of the same body the day afterwards.

One of the most eminent figures in the Girondist party, Lasource, exclaimed to his sanguinary judges, on receiving his sentence: “I die at a moment when the people have lost their reason; you will die the day they regain it.”

In reference to Saint-Just’s arrogance, Camille Desmoulins had said: “He carries his head with as much veneration as though he were bearing the Church Sacrament on his shoulders;” to which Saint-Just playfully replied: “And I will make him carry his head as St. Denis carried his.” St. Denis, the martyr, it will be remembered, is said, after decapitation, to have marched some distance with his head under his arm.

In the course of the two years over which the Reign of Terror extended (though its duration is variously estimated according to the political principles of the calculator) nearly 3,000 persons are declared to have perished on the Place de la Révolution; though this estimate would certainly be regarded by some as excessive, by others as inadequate.

In reference to the Reign of Terror, Victor Hugo calls upon the world “not to criticise too closely the bursting of the thunder-cloud which had been slowly gathering for eighteen centuries;” as though, from the earliest period, France had always been grossly misgoverned, to be suddenly governed in perfection from the time of the Revolution. It is the simple truth, however, that the Reign of Terror was the result, not of the natural development of the Revolutionary forces, but of threats from abroad, the presence, real and imaginary, of foreign agents in Paris, and the advance of the German armies with a view to the liberation of the king and the suppression of the Republic. It ought also in fairness to be remembered that if the Revolutionists made a free use of the guillotine, they abolished torture and the cruel methods of executions (such as beating to death with an iron bar) in use under the ancient monarchy until the moment of the outbreak. Nor can it be forgotten that at various periods of French history (the Massacre of St. Bartholomew is an instance) life has been sacrificed more copiously, more recklessly, and more wantonly, than during the worst excesses of the French Revolution. When many years afterwards it was proposed to erect a fountain on the spot where the scaffold of Louis XVI. had stood, Chateaubriand declared that all the water in the world would not suffice to remove the blood-stains which had sullied the Place.

Of those who suffered under the Revolution, many, such as Robespierre, Danton, and Marat, well deserved their fate, and none more so than the infamous Philippe Égalité, who, after playing the part of a democrat, and democratically voting for the death of his cousin the king, was himself, on democratic grounds, brought to the guillotine.

Writing in the Revue des Deux Mondes four years after Louis Philippe’s election to the throne, Chateaubriand reproached the reigning king with being the son of a regicide. Arguing that since the execution of Louis XVI., and as a punishment for that crime, it had become impossible to establish monarchy in France, Chateaubriand added: “Napoleon saw the diadem fall from his brow in spite of his victories; Charles X. in spite of his piety. To discredit the crown finally in the eyes of the nations, it has been permitted to the son of the regicide to be for one moment in the blood-stained bed of the murderer.” That Louis Philippe suffered this outburst to be published unchallenged has been regarded as a proof of his extreme tolerance in press matters.

Probably, however, he thought it prudent not to invite general attention to words which by a large portion of his subjects would have been accepted as true. It has been said by the defenders of the “regicide” that Philippe Égalité did his best not to be present at the sitting of the Convention when sentence had to be passed on the unfortunate king; and that he was threatened by his friends of the Left with assassination unless he voted with them for the “death of the tyrant.” However that may be, he took his seat among the judges by whom the fate of his royal kinsman was to be decided; and when it came to his turn to deliver his opinion, he did so in these words: “Occupied solely with my duty, convinced that all those who have attacked or might afterwards attack the sovereignty of the people deserve death, I pronounce the death of Louis.” Philippe Égalité had looked for general approval, and had voted in fear of that death which awaited him nevertheless, and which came to him in the very form in which a few months before it had been inflicted on the unhappy Louis. When his vote was made known, cries of indignation from all sides warned him that he had transgressed one of the great {152} moral laws which are observed even by men who violate all others. A former soldier of the king’s body-guard, hearing of Philippe Égalité’s unnatural offence, resolved to kill him; but not being able to find him, killed another less guilty “regicide” in his place.

Very different was the feeling excited by the conduct of Philippe Égalité in the breast of the king himself. “I don’t know by what chance,” says the Abbé Edgeworth in his “Relation sur les derniers Moments du Roi,” “the conversation fell upon Philippe. The king seemed to be well acquainted with his intrigues, and with the horrid part he had taken at the Convention. But he spoke of him without any bitterness, and with pity rather than anger. ‘What have I done to my cousin,’ he exclaimed, ‘that he should so persecute me? What object could he have? Oh, he is more to be pitied than I am. My lot is melancholy, no doubt, but his is much more so.’”

Under the Directory, when the worst period of the Revolution was at an end, and the Republic itself was disappearing, the Place de la Révolution was called Place de la Concorde, and this name was preserved under the Consulate and the Empire.


At the time of the Restoration, when endeavours were made to revive in every form the associations of the old French monarchy, the name of Place de la Concorde was set aside for the original one of Place Louis XV., which, however, in obvious reference to the execution of Louis XV’s successor, was changed in 1826 to Place Louis XVI. It was at the same time decreed that a monument should be erected to the memory of the unfortunate monarch, but the decree was never acted upon.

Soon afterwards, in 1828, an order signed by Charles X. gave the place of many names to the town of Paris on condition that it should spend within five years, in completing the architectural and other decorations of the square, a sum of at least 2,230,000 francs.


After the Revolution of 1830 the name of Place de la Concorde was re-adopted; and the Municipality was proceeding as rapidly as possible with the works ordered under the previous reign, when the cholera broke out, causing to the town an expenditure which rendered it necessary to {154} stop the completion of the improvements.


The sum to be applied to the purpose was afterwards reduced to 1,500,000 francs; and this sum was conscientiously spent, but without by any means finishing the design contemplated by the architects.

The fountains, with the Naiads and Tritons, and the eight statues representing in personification the principal sights of Paris, had been duly placed; and in 1836 the Obelisk of Luxor, a present from the Pasha of Egypt, was made the central ornament on the spot which had been successively occupied by the statue of Louis XVI. and the figure of Liberty.

It was not until 1852, under the Empire, that the objects which still on one side mark the limits of the Place were set up. A large number of bronze candelabra which were at the same time fixed in various parts of the square greatly increased at night its picturesqueness and its beauty. For the last forty years the Place de la Concorde has remained as it was under the Empire. The Republic of 1871 could scarcely think it necessary to return to the truly Republican name of Place de la Révolution, which had been preserved for some two or three years during the worst period of the Revolution; and to the embellishment of the Place there was nothing to add. It remains what our Trafalgar Square was once, with or without reason, declared to be—“the finest site in Europe;” less admirable, however, as a mere site, than for the admirable views of such varied kinds that it commands in every direction.

The history of the Place de la Concorde would not be complete without a record of the fact that it has been successively occupied by Russian and Prussian troops (1814); by English troops (1815); and again by Prussian troops (1871). It was the scene, too, in 1871 of a desperate struggle between the Communards and the troops advancing against them from Versailles.




The Column of Austerlitz—The Various Statues of Napoleon Taken Down—The Church of St.-Roch—Mlle. Raucourt—Joan of Arc.

AT the point where the long line of boulevards, extending for three miles from the Place de la Bastille to the Madeleine, comes to an end the road bifurcates. The Rue Royale leads in one direction towards the Place de la Concorde, the Rue Castiglione in another towards the Place Vendôme, a square, or rather an octagon, in the middle of which stands the famous column at which the typical French patriot, Le Colonel Chauvin, used to gaze with such enthusiastic admiration.


The Place was constructed by the celebrated architect Mansard. In 1686, on the proposition of Louis XIV.’s minister, Louvois, the formation of the Place in the Faubourg Saint-Honoré was decreed “alike for the decoration of Paris and for facilitating communications in this quarter.” Louvois, in the first place, purchased the Hôtel de Vendôme in the Rue Saint-Honoré, at the end of the Rue Castiglione, which, together with an adjacent convent, was pulled down. The open space thus obtained was for some time left unoccupied, the king’s government being more concerned with works of war than of peace. It was originally intended to give the Place Vendôme the form of a square, with the king’s library on one side, and various Government offices, together with mansions for the reception of special envoys, on the other. In carrying out his work Mansard made eight façades instead of the four first contemplated, and in the middle of the octagon he placed an equestrian statue of Louis XIV., twenty-one feet high. The Grand Monarch was attired, according to the sculptural fashion of the time, in Roman costume; and on the pedestal of the statue, which was in white marble, might be read pompous inscriptions in honour of his Majesty’s victories.

This statue remained on its pedestal for nearly a century. But on the 10th of August, 1792, when the Revolutionary fury was reaching its acute stage, the effigy was overturned by the people, and the name of Place Vendôme changed to Place des Piques. This eminently anarchical title was preserved until the establishment of the Empire, when Napoleon conceived the idea of the column to which the Place Vendôme now owes its chief importance.

The true name of the column in question is the Column of Austerlitz. So, at least, it was designated by Napoleon; though the French people have persisted in calling it after the place in which it stands. It is a reproduction, as regards form, of the Trajan Column, which, however, is in marble, whereas the Column of the Place Vendôme is in stone covered with bronze castings. The column astonishes by its height, and excites admiration by its harmonious proportions. Few, however, notice the perfection of its details. The stone, of which the monument substantially consists, is covered by 378 sheets of bronze, so perfectly adjusted that the column appears to be one mass of solid metal. On an interminable spiral of low reliefs, the soldiers of the Empire are represented with the uniforms they wore, and the arms they carried. The principal personages are portraits, and the scenes represented are all from the campaign of 1805. The scrolls of bronze on which figure the actors and incidents of the Austerlitz campaign would measure, in one continuous line, more than 260 metres. The column is surmounted by the statue of the man who, in his own honour, erected it, and the base of the statue bears an inscription in these terms:—



The base of the column bears this legend:—


which may be translated as follows:—

“Napoleon, august Emperor, dedicates to the glory of the Grand Army this monument made of bronze taken from the enemy, 1805, in the German War, terminated in three months under his command.”

This other very different translation from the same obscure original was suggested by Alexandre Dumas the elder: “Nearchus Polion, General of Augustus, dedicated this war tomb of Germanicus to the glory of the Army of Maximus, in the year 1805, with the money stolen from the vanquished, thanks to his conduct, during the space of three months.”

The sheets of bronze employed in the construction of the column would, it has been calculated, weigh 2,000,000 kilogrammes, about 4,000,000 pounds; and the metal was all obtained from the guns of the defeated armies. In 1814, the day after the entry of the allied troops into Paris, it was proposed to pull down the statue of Napoleon, costumed and crowned like a Roman emperor, from its proud position at the top of the Austerlitz Column; and with this view a cable was thrown round the Emperor’s neck, the lower part of his legs having been previously sawn through so that he might fall with ease. The statue, however, stood firm. The angle at which the engineers were operating did not enable them to pull the statue sufficiently forward; and to tug at the cable was only to hold it faster to its base.

A zealous royalist now came forward in the person of M. de Montbadon, chief of staff to the Paris garrison. Empowered by MM. Polignac and Semallé, commissaries of the Count of Artois, to take whatever measures he might think necessary, M. de Montbadon applied to Launay, who had made the castings for the column and had cast the statue itself. He who had made could also unmake, argued M. de Montbadon. But he had reckoned without Launay himself, who refused indignantly to do the work required of him. Thereupon he was taken to the headquarters, where an order was served upon him in these terms: “We command the said M. Launay, under pain of military execution, to proceed at once to the operation in question, which must be terminated by midnight on Wednesday, April 6th.” This order, according to the well-informed Larousse, is dated April 4th, and signed Rochechouard, colonel aide-de-camp of H.M. the Emperor of Russia commanding the garrison. M. Pasquier, Prefect of Police, wrote on the document, “to be executed immediately.” The National Guard was at that time on duty around the monument. Whether from a feeling of shame or of mistrust, the French National Guards were replaced by Russian troops. Launay now raised the statue by means of wedges, and let it down with pulleys. No sooner had the bronze figure touched the ground than it was replaced on the summit of the column by the white flag of the old monarchy. “Then,” says Launay in an account he has left of the affair, “cries were heard of ‘Long live the King!’ ‘ Long live Louis XVIII.!’” This was on April 8th, at six in the evening, the operation having lasted four days, at an expense to the nation of only 4,815 francs 46 centimes. Launay obtained permission to take away the statue and keep it in his workshop as security for the payment of 80,000 francs still due to him from the Government as founder of the column. On the return of Napoleon from Elba Launay was forced by the Imperial police to give up the statue; and when, after the Hundred Days, the monarchy was a second time restored, the statue, a masterpiece of Chaudet, was melted down, and the metal used by Lemot for a new equestrian statue of Henri IV.

Soon after the accession of Louis Philippe—a more popular sovereign than the legitimate King Charles X., whom, at the end of the Revolution of 1830, he succeeded—the Chambers passed a resolution for crowning the Vendôme Column once more with a statue of Napoleon. A competition was opened, and the model of a statue by M. Seurre was selected from a great number sent in. It was cast in bronze, and inaugurated with great show on the 28th of July, 1833, during the annual festivities in celebration of the Revolution of 1830. The Army and the National Guard were represented in force on this solemn occasion; and Louis Philippe, on horseback, in the midst of his staff, removed with his own hands the veil which concealed the statue from the eyes of the crowd. He then saluted, in this bronze effigy, the conqueror of Continental Europe; who, thanks in a great measure to the revived worship of Bonapartism, {157} was in less than twenty years to be succeeded by a new emperor of the same dynasty.

The Napoleon who now took his place at the top of the column was more in harmony with the details of the structure representing French generals and French soldiers than the Roman Emperor so rudely dethroned in 1814 had been. The new Napoleon was the Napoleon of real life and of Béranger’s songs, the Petit Caporal wearing his redingote grise, and standing in a characteristic attitude, with one of his hands behind his back. Instead of the laurel wreath he wore on his head the traditional petit chapeau.


It seemed, however, to Napoleon III. that his uncle’s own design ought to be respected; and in 1864 the statue of Napoleon “in his habit as he lived” was replaced by a statue after the model of the original one, representing the conqueror of Austerlitz in the conventional garb of a Roman emperor. The more realistic statue was placed in the middle of the rond-point of Courbevoie.

Under the Commune the statue and the column itself were pulled down. The eminent painter, Courbet, had formed a project for replacing the column, which was only a monument of the victories gained by France at the expense of her plundered and humiliated neighbours, by one made out of French and German cannon in honour of the Federation of Nations and the Universal Republic. Courbet is said to have invited the Prussians to join him in carrying out this idea, which could not in any respect have suited their views. No period of French history, however, has been more diversely narrated than that of the Commune. One thing is certain; that the column fell, and in its descent went to pieces. The statue, too, suffered greatly by the fall. One of the legs was broken, and the head got separated from the body. A speech in honour of the Commune’s mechanical triumph over the Imperial “idea” was pronounced by General Bergeret.

After the suppression of the Commune the Assembly of Versailles ordered the re-establishment of the Vendôme column, which was duly set up in 1875. The interior construction of stone was entirely new. So also, as regards form, was the bronze plating, the scrolls being recast from the moulds preserved since the time of the first Empire. It had been decreed that the column should be surmounted by a statue of France. But this idea was not carried out, and, in conformity with another decree, Dumont’s statue, as set up by Napoleon III. in 1864, was, after being {158} repaired, put back in its former position.

The pedestal at the top of the column has turn by turn been surmounted by the statue of Napoleon disguised as a Roman emperor; by the white flag of the ancient monarchy; by the statue of Napoleon in his ordinary military garb; by the statue of Napoleon once more costumed as a Roman Emperor; by the red flag of the Commune; and finally once again by the most recent statue in classic garb.

The French seem at last to understand as a nation that, apart from all question of politics, the Napoleonic period was one of the most glorious of their history.

At the corner of the Rue Castiglione stands the magnificent Hôtel Continental; which, independently of its positive attractions, possesses interest as occupying the site on which once stood the Ministry of Finance—burnt to the ground under the Commune in obedience to the famous, or infamous, telegraphic order: “Flambez Finances.”

On the west side of the Place Vendôme is the Ministry of Justice. The Hôtel du Rhin on the south side was the residence of Napoleon III. when he was a member of the National Assembly in 1848, before his election to the post of President, followed by his self-appointment (1851) to the dignity, first of President for ten years and a year afterwards of Emperor. In one of his letters of the 1848 period, inviting a friend to dinner at the Hôtel du Rhin, he apologised for proposing to entertain him at a “cabaret,” a pleasantly contemptuous designation which the commodious and well-appointed Hôtel du Rhin scarcely deserved.

The Hôtel du Rhin played a certain strategic part towards the end of May, 1871, when on the 23rd the Versailles troops passed through the hotel, and, attacking the insurgents in the rear, captured one of their principal barricades. The proprietor of the hotel, M. Maréchal, is said, on the occasion of the Vendôme column being threatened by the Communists, to have offered them 500,000 francs if they would spare it. “Give us a million and we will see!” was the answer; but the patriotic hotel-keeper, though he had the misfortune to see the column knocked down, lived to behold its restoration.

The Rue Castiglione, which on the other side of the Place Vendôme continues southward towards the Rue de Rivoli and the Tuileries Gardens under the name of Rue de la Paix, is crossed, at the point where it changes its title, by the Rue Saint-Honoré. Here, close to the Place Vendôme, stands the ancient and interesting Church of Saint-Roch.

The origin of this church was a chapel dedicated to the five wounds of Jesus, which, in 1577, was rebuilt on a much larger scale under the name of Saint-Roch, to be made, in 1633, the parochial church of the western part of Paris. The building in its present form dates from 1653, and it was not finished until 1736. Right and left of the principal entrance will be observed two statues, representing the two St. Rochs: one of them the pilgrim from Languedoc who cured the plague, accompanied by his legendary dog; the other the Bishop of Autun, mitre on head and staff in hand.

Saint-Roch has been described as “the first parish church in France.” It contains a number of statues and pictures by famous artists, such as Falconnet, Pradier, and Constan; Vien, Doyen, Deveria, Boulanger, and Abel de Pujol; also many interesting tombs, including that of the great Corneille, who died on the 1st of October, 1684, in the Rue d’Argenteuil at a house which not long ago was pulled down.

On the 1st of October, 1884, the Curé of Saint-Roch performed a funeral service to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the poet’s death; to which were invited the managers and the whole company of the Comédie Française. What a change did this mark in the views and feelings of the French clergy since the time, scarcely more than fifty years distant, when the Curé of Saint-Roch refused Christian burial to a celebrated actress who had relinquished her profession, and since her retirement had made abundant gifts through the clergy of Saint-Roch to the poor of the parish.

“Mlle. Raucourt,” says a writer on this subject, “had a better opinion of the Restoration than had the Restoration of Mlle. Raucourt. The clergy of the restored dynasty had shown itself in many ways intolerant; and Mlle. Raucourt’s funeral was the occasion of a riot which threatened at one time to become formidable. The Curé of St.-Roch would not allow the body to be brought into his church, though he is said to have received again and again gifts from the actress, either for the church or for the poor of his parish. Only a few days beforehand, on the first day of the year, she had sent him an offering of five hundred francs. Representations were made to the clergy, but without avail. At last an indignant crowd broke open the church doors. Meanwhile, Louis XVIII., {159} informed of what was taking place, had ordered one of his chaplains to go to Saint-Roch, and there, replacing the Curé, perform the funeral service. The soldiers had been called out, but they were judiciously withdrawn: they were kept, that is to say, in an attitude only of observation, while a crowd that was constantly increasing followed the corpse of Mlle. Raucourt to the cemetery of Père-la-Chaise.” While the public excitement was at its height, one of the deceased actress’s friends remarked: “If poor Raucourt could only see from her heavenly home what a scandal she is causing, how delighted she would be!”

Among the various illustrious persons buried at Saint-Roch may be mentioned Diderot, to whose interment in 1784, five years before the Revolution, the clergy seem to have made no objection. The statue of Mary Magdalene in the Calvary sculpture reproduces the features of the Countess de Feuquières, cut in white marble by Lemoine. This figure originally formed part of the tomb of the Countess’s father, Mignard, the celebrated painter, whose bust by Desjardins is preserved at Saint-Roch. Here may also be seen medallions of Marshal d’Asfeld, of the Duke de Les Aiguières and of Count d’Harcourt; the statue of the Duke de Créqui, and the monuments of Maupertuis, the philosopher, and of the benevolent Abbé de l’Épée.

On the high ground, at some little distance from the Church of Saint-Roch, is the Butte Saint-Roch, already referred to as the camping-ground of the Maid of Orleans when the king’s army was besieging Paris. Since Joan of Arc has been sung by great poets, impersonated by great actresses, and set to music by great composers, with Gounod and Verdi among them, all France has admired the warlike heroine; but while the Maid of Orleans was striving against the enemies of her country, the Parisians preferred the government of the English king to that of the lawful inheritor of the French Crown. Hating all the partisans of Charles VII., they detested Joan of Arc, who had restored the courage of his followers, and was in consequence looked upon in Paris as a doubtful sort of witch, whose prophecies were so many deceptions.

A Parisian writer quoted by Dulaure says, in relating the incidents of his time, that Joan of Arc was a vicious creature in the form of a woman; “called,” he ironically adds, “a maid, as she doubtless was.”

On the day of the Nativity of the Virgin, 1429, the Maid of Orleans and the king’s troops lay siege to Paris. The assault commenced at eleven o’clock in the day, between the gate of Saint-Honoré and that of Saint-Denis. The Maid advanced, planted her standard on the edge of the moat, and addressed these words to the Parisians: “Surrender in the name of Jesus; for if you do not give in before night we will enter by force whether you like it or not, and you will all be put to death without mercy.”

Insulting names were applied to her by one of the besieged, who at the same time fired an arrow which pierced her leg. Thereupon she took to flight, when her standard-bearer was also wounded in the leg. He stopped and raised the visor of his helmet in order to pull out the arrow. A second one was now shot at him, which struck him between the eyes and killed him. The prediction of the Maid was not fulfilled on this occasion, for Paris did not surrender.

Some time afterwards two women were arrested at Corbeil and thrown into prison at Paris. They were accused of believing and saying to everyone that the Maid of Orleans was sent from God; that Jesus often appeared to her, and that the last time she had seen Him He was clothed in a long white robe with a scarlet cloak above it. The elder of the two women refused to retract, and was consequently, on the 3rd of September, 1430, burnt alive.

Some time after the burning of the Maid herself at Rouen, an inquisitor of the Jacobin order, master in theology, preached at Paris in the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields; and his sermon was nothing less than a violent satire against the courageous girl. He said in the pulpit that from the age of fourteen she had been in the habit of wearing men’s clothes; that her parents would have killed her had they not been afraid of wounding their conscience; that she quitted her family accompanied by the devil, and became a slayer of Christians; and that since that time she had committed an infinity of murders; that in prison she caused herself to be waited on like a lady, and the devils came to her in the form of St. Catherine, St. Marguerite, and St. Michael. He added that, having been frightened into quitting her man’s apparel to dress like a woman, the devil made her resume her customary dress, though he did not come to her succour at her execution as she had expected.

This monk said moreover in this remarkable sermon that there were four Maids: namely, the two taken at Corbeil, one of whom was burnt at Paris; Jeanne d’Arc, burnt at Rouen; and the fourth, called Cathérine de la {160} Rochelle, who followed the army of Charles VII., and who had visions like Joan of Arc.

Ten years after the execution of Joan of Arc another Maid appeared, and the people firmly believed that this was the same one who had been burnt at Rouen, and who had miraculously risen from the dead. Another version was that someone had been executed in her place.


“What appears strange,” says Dulaure in the “Singularités Historiques,” “and what perhaps suggested the idea put forth in our century that Joan of Arc was not burnt, and that she even left descendants, is that the inhabitants of Orleans who saw this Maid took her for Joan of Arc, and in consequence paid her much honour.”

The University and the Parliament of Paris, who ten years before had condemned the veritable Maid, wished now to deceive the people. They brought the false Maid by force to Paris, exhibited her publicly in the principal court of the Palace of Justice, and made her stand up on the famous marble slab and there pronounce a biographical confession, in which she declared that she was not a Maid; that she had been married to a knight by whom she had had two sons; that in a moment of anger against one of her neighbours, instead of striking one of the women she quarrelled with she struck her mother who was holding her back; that she had also struck priests or clerks in defence of her own honour, and that to obtain absolution for her crime she had been to Rome, and in order to make the journey in safety had put on man’s clothes; finally, that she had served as a soldier in the army of the Pope, and while so serving had committed two homicides. The speech and the ceremony being finished, the Maid left Paris and returned to the war.




The Jacobins—Chateaubriand’s Opinion of Them—Arthur Young’s Descriptions—The New Club.

BETWEEN the Church of St. Roch and the Place Vendôme is the Rue du Marché and the Marché, or market, itself; chiefly interesting at the present day as occupying the ground on which stood the ancient Monastery of the Jacobins, where from 1791 to 1794—from before the beginning until the very end of the Reign of Terror—the meetings of the famous Jacobin Club were held.


The name of Jacobin soon became familiar in England, and, as in France itself when the fury of the Revolution was quite at an end, was often applied as a term of reproach to all persons of Liberal ideas. The word, however, is now chiefly known among us from the Anti-Jacobin of Canning and Frere, and latterly from the excellent, but short-lived, weekly newspaper of the same name edited by Mr. Frederick Greenwood.

Under the Restoration, everyone in France who was not an ardent {162} supporter of the ancient monarchy was called a Jacobin. But though towards the end of the Revolution Jacobinism became something hateful indeed, the principles which first brought the Jacobins together were such as neither lovers of liberty nor lovers of order could object to.

In 1789 a number of popular associations were rapidly organised; this being the natural result of the reactionary feeling against a system which had subjected books, newspapers, and even conversation in public places (such as cafés) to a rigid censorship supported by officials and by spies. A passion suddenly arose throughout France for public speaking, and in a thousand different assemblies orators were formed. The States-General had just met; and, not content with the formal sittings, the deputies loved to address in a direct manner the outside public. With this view, the deputies from Brittany established a club called the Breton Club, which was joined by other deputies, and which presently changed its title to “Society of the Friends of the Constitution.” This association included men of all shades of politics, who were afterwards to make war upon one another. Among the most famous may be mentioned Sieyès, Volney, Barnave, Pétion, Barrère, Lameth, Robespierre, the Duke of Orleans (Philippe Égalité), the Duke de La Rochefoucauld, Boissy d’Anglas, Talleyrand, La Fayette, and Mirabeau. The Society had its head-quarters at Versailles, in a building called Le Reposoir, which, later on, became a Protestant church.

After the days of October the Assembly followed the King to Paris; and the famous club was established, first in a large hall which served as library to the Dominican monks at the convent of the Rue Saint-Honoré, and afterwards, when this order had been dissolved, in the Convent Church. As the Dominicans were more generally spoken of as the Jacobins, the latter name was soon applied to the Friends of the Constitution, who willingly adopted it. The same thing, strangely enough, happened to the Cordeliers and the Feuillants; so that the principal Revolutionary parties got to be known throughout Europe by appellations formerly monastic.

What is still more curious is that the last of the Jacobin monks (in 1789 and 1790) took part in the meetings of which their convent was the scene, as, in like manner, did the last members of the Order of Cordeliers. The Jacobin Club possessed a large staff of officers, including a president, vice-president, four secretaries, twelve inspectors, four censors, eight commissaries, treasurer, and librarian, all appointed at quarterly elections. The privilege of membership was only granted under very strict conditions, and every newly-elected Jacobin had, before being formally admitted, to take the following oath:—

“I swear to live free or die; to remain faithful to the principles of the Constitution; to obey the laws; to cause them to be respected; to help with all my might to make them perfect; and to conform to the customs and regulations of the society.”

The sittings were held, first three, then four times a week. Little by little, however, the usual course in such assemblies was drifted into. The leaders went to extremes, and soon the most extravagant of them obtained the largest following. Then the moderate members retired to form counter-associations, until in time the hostile organisations made war upon one another, with the guillotine as their final weapon.

“The Jacobins,” says Michelet, “by their esprit de corps, which went on constantly increasing, by their hardened, uncompromising faith, by their harsh, inquisitorial ways, had something of a priestly character. They formed a sort of revolutionary clergy.”

Another great admirer of the Revolution, and especially of Robespierre, in whom the principle of Jacobinism was incarnate, sums up the Jacobin spirit in the following words:—

“Hatred of the conventional inequalities of former times, of unalterable beliefs, a sort of methodical fanaticism, intolerance of all that interfered with the development of the most daring innovations, and, fundamentally, a passion for regular forms; these, whatever may be said on the subject, were the components of the Jacobin spirit. The true Jacobin had something about him at once powerful, original and sombre. He stood midway between the agitator and the statesman; between the Protestant and the Monk; between the inquisitor and the tribune. Hence that ferocious vigilance transformed into a virtue: that spy system raised to the rank of a patriotic organisation: and that mania for denunciation, which made people at first laugh, and at last tremble.”

France, like England soon afterwards, had its Anti-Jacobin. Les Sabbats Jacobites was the title of the French publication, and the Jacobin “mania for denunciation” was thus satirised in its columns:—{163}

Je dénonce l’Allemagne,
Le Portugal et l’Espagne,
Le Mexique et la Champagne,
La Sardaigne et le Pérou.
Je dénonce l’ltalie,
L’Afrique et la Barbarie,
L’Angleterre et la Russie
Sans même excepter Moscou.

In spite of these attacks and a thousand others, the importance of the Jacobin Club went on constantly increasing; and at the funeral of Mirabeau, who died in the first year of the Revolution, the President of the Jacobin Club marched side by side with the President of the National Assembly, and had precedence of the Ministers. After the death of Mirabeau the influence of the Lameths, the Duports, the Barnaves, etc., gave way to that of Robespierre, in whom, says Louis Blanc, “Jacobinism in its extremest points was personified.”

Chateaubriand, the Royalist, ought, however, to be heard on this subject as well as Louis Blanc, the Republican; and this is what the former writes in his “Essay on Revolutions,” published in 1797:—

“Much has been said about the Jacobins, but few people have known them. Nearly everyone rushes into declamations, and publishes the crimes of this society without enlightening us as to the general principle which directed its views. This principle consisted in a system of perfection towards which the first step to take was to restore the laws of Lycurgus. If, moreover, it be considered that France is indebted to the Jacobins for its numerous armies, courageous and disciplined; that it was the Jacobins who found the means of paying them, and of victualling a country without resources and surrounded by enemies; that it was they who created a navy as if by miracle, and who, through intrigues and money, ensured the neutrality of some of the powers; that under their reign the greatest discoveries in natural history were made, and great generals formed; that, in a word, they gave vigour to a warlike body, and, so to say, organised anarchy; one must then of necessity admit that these monsters, escaped from hell, had infernal talents.”

In 1791 the Jacobins were still Royalists, not from attachment to the Monarchy, but from a scrupulous regard for Constitutional legality. Nevertheless, after the flight to Varennes they departed from their former principles so far as to demand the abdication of the king. The next day, however, on the proposition of Robespierre, they returned to their customary prudence, pronounced against the Republic, and sent commissaries to the Champ de Mars to take back their demand.

In connection with most of the great revolutionary events their conduct was the same, though the aristocratic Jacobins of 1789 had now quitted the society, to be replaced by men of extreme views—journalists, orators, and members of the National Assembly, who desired to place themselves in direct contact with the outside world.

Among the questions put to candidates for election to the Jacobin Club were the following: “What were you in 1789? What have you done since? What was your fortune until 1789, and what is it now?” Every candidate was bound to answer all questions addressed to him, and he was to do this publicly in a loud voice. Anyone rejected by the Jacobin Club became at once an object of suspicion; and to be denounced by the Jacobin leaders was to receive a sentence of death. In this way perished the unfortunate Anacharsis Clootz, Fabre d’Églantine, and many others.

At the critical moment the Jacobins remained faithful to the fortune of their chief. On the news of his arrest they ordered permanent sittings and voted unanimously their approval of the insurrectionary attitude of the Paris Commune. They spoke of resistance. But, though men of action abounded in the Jacobin Club, the members, as a body, were pusillanimous and could do nothing.

Arthur Young in his “Travels in France” gives an interesting account of a meeting, which he attended, of the Jacobin Club at the time of the Revolution:—

“At night,” he says, writing in diary form, “M. Decretot and M. Blin carried me to the revolutionary club of the Jacobins; the room where they assemble is that in which the famous league was signed. There were above one hundred deputies present, with a president in the chair; I was handed to him and announced as the author of the Arithmétique Politique. The President, standing up, repeated my name to the company and demanded if there were any objections. None; and this was all the ceremony, not merely of an introduction, but election; for I was told that now I was free to be present when I pleased, being a foreigner. Ten or a dozen other elections were made. In this Club the business that is to be brought into the National Assembly is regularly debated; the motions are read that are intended to be made there, and rejected, or corrected and approved. When these have been fully agreed to, the whole party are engaged to support them. Plans of conduct are here determined; proper persons nominated to act on committees and as presidents of the Assembly named. And I may add that such is the majority of members that whatever passes in this Club is almost sure to pass in the Assembly.”

Arthur Young also gives a description of a debate in the National Assembly on the subject of the conduct of the Chamber of Vacation in the Parliament of Rennes.


M. l’Abbé Maury, a zealous royalist, “made a long and eloquent speech, which he delivered with great fluency and precision and without any {164} notes, in defence of the Parliament; he replied to what had been urged by the Count de Mirabeau on a former day, and strongly censured his unjustifiable call on the people of Bretagne to a redoutable dénombrement. He said that it would better become the members of such an assembly to count their own principles and duties and the fruits of their attention to the privileges of the subject than to call for a dénombrement that would fill a province with fire and bloodshed. He was interrupted by the noise and confusion of the Assembly and of the audience six several times, but it had no effect on him; he waited calmly till it subsided, and then proceeded as if no interruption had occurred. The speech was a very able one and much relished by the Royalists; but the enragés condemned it as good for nothing. No other person spoke without notes; the Count de Clermont read a speech that had some brilliant passages, but was by no means an answer to the Abbé Maury, as, indeed, it would have been wonderful if it were, being prepared before he heard the Abbé’s oration.... Disorder and every kind of confusion prevails now almost as much as when the Assembly sat at Versailles. The interruptions are frequent and long, and speakers who have no right by the rules to speak will attempt to hold forth. The Count de Mirabeau pressed to deliver his opinion after the Abbé Maury; the president put it to the vote whether he should be allowed to speak a second time, and the whole house rose up to negative it, so that the first orator of the Assembly has not the influence even to be heard to explain. We have no conception of such rules, and yet their great {165} numbers must make this necessary. I forgot to observe that there is a gallery at each end of the saloon which is open to all the world, and side ones for admission of the friends of the members by tickets. The audience in these galleries are very noisy; they clap when anything pleases them, and they have been known to hiss, an indecorum which is utterly destructive of freedom of debate.”


With Robespierre the grand period of the Jacobins came to an end, and nearly a hundred and twenty of them perished on the scaffold. Their hall was now closed and the club forbidden to meet except as a “regenerated society.” At last the Committees of Public Safety and of General Security issued a decree which put an end to the Society of Jacobins.

In the year 1796 a new Jacobin club was formed in the Riding School of the Tuileries, which soon afterwards moved to the church in the Rue du Bac, and boldly announced that it meant to revive the Jacobin traditions. “Jacobins of the Riding School” this society was called, and, after some ridicule (for the French public had grown sick of the Revolution), it was suppressed by an order from the Directory (1799).

The Jacobin Club, however, as Arthur Young knew and described it, not only dictated the proceedings of the National Assembly, using this body as a sort of tool or cat’s-paw by which it practically governed France, but exerted such an influence on Parisian society that enthusiasm for Liberal ideas took possession even of the fair sex. “The present devotion to liberty,” he writes, “is a sort of rage. It absorbs every other passion and permits no other object to remain in view than what promises to confirm it. Dine with a large party at the Duke de La Rochefoucauld’s, ladies and gentlemen are all equally politicians.” Young adds, however, that one effect of the Revolution was to lessen the enormous influence of the gentler sex. Previously they had “mixed themselves in everything in order to govern everything,” and the men of the kingdom had been mere “puppets moved by their wives.” But now, “instead of giving the ton to questions of national debate, they {166} must receive it and be content to move in the political sphere of some celebrated leader.” They were thus sinking into the position which, as Young considered, Nature had intended for them; and he maintained that the daughters of France would now become “more amiable and the nation better governed.”



Richelieu’s Palace—The Regent of Orleans—The Duke of Orleans—Dissipation in the Palais Royal—The Palais National—The Birthplace of Revolutions.

THE whole history of Paris may be read along the line of the Boulevards, and the whole life of the capital observed there in concentrated form. The Palais Royal, however, with its theatres, its restaurants, its shops of all kinds, its galleries, and its gardens, is in scarcely a less degree an epitome of Paris. It was formerly known as the Palais Cardinal, in memory of Richelieu, by whom, in its original shape, it was constructed. Richelieu afterwards made such frequent additions to the building that it lost all symmetry. In one of the wings a theatre was constructed; though it was not here, but in a large drawing-room, that the Cardinal’s tragedies, Eutrope and Mirame, were played. The palace, with its lateral developments, assumed at last the form of a quadrangle with a large garden in the interior. It suffered from the irremediable fault of not having been constructed from the first on a definite plan. But the garden, the fountain, the jewellers’ shops, the booksellers’ stalls, give the place a physiognomy of its own, and cause the beholder to overlook all architectural defects.

Having completed his palace, and convinced himself that he had constructed an edifice worthy the acceptance of his sovereign, Richelieu presented it to Louis XIII. (1636), afterwards confirming the gift in his will (1642). Corneille, the recipient now of favours, now of slights from the great Cardinal, wrote, in an admiring mood, of the Cardinal’s palace the following lines:—

“Non, l’univers entier ne peut rien voir d’égal
Aux superbes dehors du Palais-Cardinal.
Toute une ville entière, avec pompe bâtie,
Semble d’un vieux fossé par miracle sortie,
Et nous fait présumer, à ses superbes toits,
Que tous ses habitants sont des dieux ou des rois.”[B]

[B] “No, the entire universe can behold nothing equal to the superb exterior of the Palais-Cardinal. The whole town, splendidly built, seems to have sprung by a miracle out of an old ditch, making one fancy from its magnificent roofs that all its inhabitants must be gods or kings.”

In spite of Corneille’s praise, Louis XIII. seems to have thought but little of his minister’s gift. Nor could he in any case have turned it to much account, for he did not survive the astute counsellor for more than a year.

Louis XIV. passed some years of his childhood at the Palais-Cardinal, to which the name of Palais Royal was now given. Here the minister Mazarini, or Mazarin, resided during the troubles of the Fronde, and here it was that he heard the populace sing couplets about the Facchino Italiano. “They sing; they shall pay!” murmured the minister. But he was obliged all the same to take flight; and with the queen regent and the infant king he sought refuge at Saint-Germain. Never afterwards would the proud monarch inhabit the Palais Royal, which he assigned as a place of residence to Henrietta of France, Queen of England, and widow of Charles I. Afterwards, in 1692, Louis XIV. gave the Palais Royal as an absolute gift to his nephew, Philip of Orleans, Duke of Chartres, on the occasion of that prince’s marriage. The Palace had now been increased by the addition of the Hôtel Dauville in the adjacent Rue Richelieu, and of a gallery constructed by the celebrated architect Mansard.

The Regent of Orleans turned the theatre of Richelieu into an opera house, where he gave a number of masked balls which are remembered in history. Nor is the profligate life of which the Palais Royal now became the scene by any means forgotten. The theatre having been burnt down, the regent insisted on its being restored at the expense of the town; which was accordingly done. But the theatre was again destroyed by fire in 1781; and the Duke of Chartres, afterwards known during the Revolution as Philippe Égalité, the father of King Louis Philippe, instead of rebuilding it, constructed the three galleries surrounding the garden which still exist. The idea of three such galleries, {167} communicating with the body of the palace, is said to have been entertained by Richelieu himself.

As prodigal as his grandfather, the regent, the Duke of Orleans, was obliged to have recourse to various expedients for replenishing his exhausted exchequer. It occurred to him to turn the galleries of the Palais Royal into long lines of shops. This involved the expenditure of a considerable sum of money, but the result was most remunerative. The new Palais Royal became a centre of attraction to all Paris. Around the garden the three galleries, together with the one still known as the Galerie d’Orléans, formed a sort of bazaar, where jewellery, fans, and ornaments of all kinds were offered for sale. The shops were varied by cafés and restaurants. In the garden the Café de la Régence was established, and the Richelieu Theatre being once more rebuilt, now formed the home of the Comédie Française. Towards the end of the Monarchical period the Palais Royal became a recognised place of dissipation. In contrast with the loose morality of the locality was the rigid exactitude with which, every day at noon, a cannon in the centre of the garden, fired by the rays of the sun through a powerful lens, announced the hour; and crowds of people used to assemble round it, watch in hand, towards twelve o’clock. Walking through the Palais Royal one day with the Duke of Orleans, the Abbé Delille was requested by the Prince to sum up in a few words his ideas of the place, and did so in the following quatrain:—

“Dans ce jardin tout se rencontre,
Excepté l’ombrage et les fleurs.
Si l’on y dérègle ses mœurs,
Du moins on y règle sa montre.”[C]

[C] “In this garden one may meet with everything, except shade and flowers. In it, if one’s morals go wrong, at least one’s watch may be set right.”

After the execution of the Duke of Orleans, who, having had the infamy to vote for the death of his blameless relative Louis XVI., was himself, by a mild retribution, to perish on the scaffold, the Palais Royal was appropriated by the State, and the place was now invaded by all the ruffians and reprobates of Paris. Let us on this subject hear Mercier in his “Tableau de Paris.” “The Athenians,” he writes, “raised temples to their Phrynes; curs find them in this enclosure already built. Speculators and their correlatives go three times a day to the Palais Royal, the centre of political and every other kind of debauchery. Some are occupied with the rise and fall of the funds. Gaming-tables are kept in every café, and it is a sight to see the sudden change in the expression of the players’ faces as they lose or win. The Palais Royal is an elegant box of Pandora, beautifully carved, delicately worked, but containing what everyone knows it contains. All these followers of Sardanapalus or of Lucullus inhabit the Palais Royal, in apartments which the King of Assyria and the Roman Emperors would have envied.” Under the Directory the number of gambling houses was limited, first to four, afterwards to eight; and it was not until the reign of Louis Philippe that they were finally suppressed. The gambling house at Number 113 figures in the “Peau de Chagrin” of Balzac; also in Dumas’ “Femme au Collier de Velours.”

As for the “Palace”—the mansion inhabited by Mazarin and the infant Louis XIV., afterwards by Henrietta of England, and then by various members of the Orleans family—Napoleon established public offices in it. During the Hundred Days the palace was occupied by Lucien Bonaparte, and on the restoration of the Monarchy the whole place was bought back from the Government by the then Duke of Orleans, afterwards Louis Philippe. Some changes were made in the direction of the galleries, the popularity of which remained as great as ever. Nor was this diminished by the foreign occupation, for the Palais Royal was thronged day and night by officers of the Allied Army. It was now that the Café Lemblin became the head-quarters of Bonapartist officers on half-pay, and the Café des Mille Colonnes that of the officers serving in the newly organised Royalist army; and between the two bodies of officers numerous duels were fought. An ingenious rhymed description of the Palais Royal in its best and worst days has been left by Désaugiers, the celebrated songwriter of the period before Béranger, of which we may quote the concluding lines, telling how the resort, from being the scene of political storms, came to be the general rendez-vous of pleasure-seekers of every kind and every nationality, from the Fleming to the Turk, and from the genius to the fool:—{168}

“Si de maint politique orage
Le Palais Royal
Devint le théâtre infernal,
Du gai carnaval
Il est aujourd’hui l’héritage:
Jeu, spectacle, bal
Y sont dans leur pays natal,
Flamand, Provençal,
Turc, Africain, Chinois, sauvage,
Au moindre signal
Tout se trouve au Palais Royal.
Bref, séjour banal,
Du grand, du sot, du fou, du sage,
Le Palais Royal
Est le rendez-vous général.”


Reformed in so many respects under the reign of Louis Philippe, the Palais Royal was destined at the same time to be overshadowed by the increasing importance of the Boulevards.

After the Revolution of 1848 the Palais Royal, now styled Palais National, was once more treated as State property. Under the Second Empire it became the residence of Prince Jerome, succeeded by his son, Prince Napoleon. On the ornamentation of the portico, some fleurs de lis dating from the time of Richelieu, which the Revolutionists of 1789 and of 1848 had forgotten to scrape off, were erased and replaced by Imperial eagles, themselves destined to disappear in the revolution of the 4th of September, 1871, when, at the same time, the Republican motto, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” was restored. Meanwhile, on the 23rd of May, 1871, while the expiring Commune was still struggling against the army of Versailles, the palace was invaded by the Communards and set in flames. The whole of the left wing, with part of the central pavilion, was burnt down. In the midst of the general incendiarism, the Théâtre Français, which may be regarded as an annexe of the Palais Royal, though it is entered from the Rue Richelieu, had itself a narrow escape from fire.

The Palais Royal was destined to be the birthplace of more than one revolution. It was here that the great movement of 1789, and the minor one of July, 1830, began. The revolution of July seems, in the first instance, to have been intended simply as a protest, an act of resistance against arbitrary measures—and in particular against the {169} muzzling of the Press to such an extent as to render it impossible under modern conditions to publish a newspaper. The celebrated ordonnances had the immediate effect of throwing a multitude of journeyman printers out of work, and it was by these men that in one part of the city the insurrection was commenced. With them the question was not a political one in theory alone; it was a question whether they should get the hateful ordonnances repealed or remain without work: that is to say, starve.


The 26th of July passed off very calmly in Paris as a whole. At the Palais Royal, however, some young men were seen mounting chairs, as formerly Camille Desmoulins had done. “They read the Moniteur aloud,” says a witness of the scene, “appealed to the people against the infraction of the charter, and endeavoured by violent gesticulation and inflammatory harangues to excite in their hearers and in themselves a vague appetite for agitation. But dancing was going on in the environs of the capital; the people were engaged in labour or amusement. The bourgeoisie alone gave evidence of consternation. The ordonnances had dealt it a twofold blow: they had struck at its political power in the persons of its legislators, and at its moral power in those of its writers.”

At first there was nothing to be seen throughout the whole bourgeois portion of the population but one dull, uniform stupor. Bankers, traders, manufacturers, printers, lawyers, and journalists accosted each other with scared and astounded looks. There was in this sudden muzzling of the Press a sort of arrogant challenge that stunned men’s faculties. So much daring inferred proportionate strength.

The most active section of the bourgeoisie went to work on the 27th, {170} and nothing was left undone to stir up the people. The Gazette, the Quotidienne, and the Universel had submitted to the ordonnances from conviction or from party spirit; the Journal des Débats and the Constitutionnel from fear and mercantile policy. The Globe, the National, and the Temps, which defiantly continued to appear, were profusely circulated. The police order of the preceding day, forbidding their publication, only served to stimulate curiosity. Copies were disposed of by hundreds in the cafés, the reading-rooms, and the restaurants. Journalists hurried from manufactory to manufactory, and from shop to shop, to read the articles aloud and comment upon them. Individuals in the dress, and with the manners and appearance of men of fashion, were seen mounting on stone posts and holding forth as professors of insurrection; whilst students paraded the streets, armed with canes, waving their hats and crying “Vive la Charte!

The ordinary demagogues, cast into the midst of a movement they could not comprehend, looked on with surprise at all these things; but, gradually yielding to the contagion of the hour, they imitated the bourgeoisie, and running about with bewildered countenances, shouted like others for the charter.

Begun in the Palais Royal, this revolution was continued and virtually concluded at the neighbouring Tuileries, where the Swiss Guard, fighting as faithfully for the restored monarchy as they had fought for the monarchy of Louis XVI., perished at the hands of the insurgents. The great Danish sculptor, Thorvaldsen, had already commemorated the heroism of Louis the Sixteenth’s Swiss Guard in a magnificent figure of a wounded, expiring, but still undaunted lion, carved on a cliff or mountainside close to the town of Lucerne. The loyal mercenaries of Charles X. showed the same lionlike courage that those of Louis XVI. had displayed.


There can be no doubt that the sight of the Swiss uniforms—scarlet, like that of the Household troops of most sovereigns—irritated greatly the people of Paris, who looked upon the revolution now taking place as a national movement under the tricolour flag against the monarchy, restored by foreign power after the defeat of Napoleon, with the white flag as its emblem. “The sight of those red uniforms,” wrote an eye-witness of many of the scenes that took place during the three days of July, “redoubled the fury of the insurgents; fresh combatants rushed forth from every alley, and a barricade was manned and seized by the people. The Swiss sustained this attack with vigour; the guards advanced to support them, and the Parisians were beginning to give way, when a young man advanced to rally and cheer them on, waving a tricolour flag at the end of a lance, and shouting, ‘I will show you how to die!’ He fell, pierced with balls, within ten paces of the guards. This engagement was terrible; the Swiss left many of their numbers stretched on the pavement.”

The fighting, all over Paris, abounded in scenes which were either fantastic, heroic, or lamentable. The Marquis d’Antichamp had taken up his post, seated on a chair under the colonnade of the Louvre, opposite Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. Bent under the burden of his years, and hardly able to sustain his tottering frame, he encouraged the Swiss to the fight by his presence, and sat with folded arms gazing on the terrible spectacle before him with stoical insensibility. A band of insurgents attacked the powder magazine at Ivry on the Boulevard de l’Hôpital, broke the gate in with hatchets and pole-axes, rushed into the courtyard, and obliged the people of the place to throw them packages of powder out of the windows. The insurgents, with all the hot-headed recklessness of the moment, continued with their pipes in their mouths to catch the packages as they fell, and carried them off in their arms. The debtors confined in Sainte-Pélagie, using a beam for a battering-ram, burst the gates, and then went and joined the guards on duty outside to prevent the escape of the criminal prisoners. A {171} sanguinary encounter took place in the Rue de Prouvaires, and exhibited the spectacle, common enough in civil wars, of brothers fighting in opposite ranks. Throughout the whole city a sort of moral intoxication beyond all description had seized upon the inhabitants. Amidst the noise of musketry, the rolling of the drums, the cries and groans of the combatants, a thousand strange reports prevailed and added to the universal bewilderment. A hat and feathers were carried about in some parts of the town, said to be those of the Duke of Ragusa, whose death was reported. The audacity of some of the combatants was incredible. A workman, seeing a company of the 5th regiment of the line advancing upon the Place de la Bourse, ran straight up to the captain and struck him a blow on the head with an iron bar. He reeled, and his face was bathed in blood; but he had still strength enough left to throw up his soldiers’ bayonets with his sword as they were about to fire on the aggressor. The leaders of the people added the most perfect self-denial to their intrepidity; and they ranged themselves by preference under the orders of those combatants whose dress proclaimed that they belonged to the more favoured classes of society. Furthermore, the young men found at every step guides for their inexperience in the persons of old soldiers who had survived the battles of the Empire—a warlike generation whom the Bourbons had for ever incensed in 1815.





Its History—The Roman Comique—Under Louis XV.—During the Revolution—Hernani.

LET us now return to the Palais Royal, and to the theatre which adjoins it. The Comédie Française, or Théâtre Français, as it is also called, was never, as the first of these names might suggest, devoted exclusively to comedy. The word “comedy” was used in France in the early days of its stage to denote any kind of theatrical entertainment. The famous “Ballet Comique de la Reine,” produced towards the end of the 16th century, was, in fact, a dramatic entertainment with singing and dancing, strongly resembling what would now be called an opera; and the author of the work explains, in his preface, that he calls it “ballet comique,” instead of “ballet” alone, because it possesses a dramatic character. Volumes innumerable have been written on the origin of the French theatre, which had as humble a beginning as the theatre in all other European countries; with the exception, however, of opera, which in the earliest days of the musical drama enjoyed the special patronage of kings, princes, cardinals, and great noblemen.

In Italy, during the Renaissance period, the musical drama was invented by popes, cardinals, and other illustrious personages bent on restoring in modern form the ancient drama of the Greeks. The spoken drama of France, as of other European countries, had humbler beginnings, and the first regular troop of the Comédie Française had its origin in a combination of wandering companies.

At the end of the sixteenth, and during the early part of the seventeenth century, the English stage, with Marlowe, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and other dramatic poets of the Elizabethan period, was far superior to the stage of France, which scarcely indeed existed at the time. But towards the end of the seventeenth century the French theatre enjoyed the supreme advantage of possessing simultaneously the three greatest dramatists that France even to this day has produced: Corneille, Molière, and Racine.


It is a little more than two centuries ago, in the year 1689, that the theatre where “the comedians of the king” habitually performed received the title of Comédie Française; though its constitution dates from 1680, when, by order of Louis XIV., the company of the Hôtel de Bourgogne was united to that of the Théâtre Guénégaud in the Rue Mazarin. The history of the Comédie Française cannot well be separated from that of Corneille and of Molière, its greatest writers; though Molière, who died in 1673, and Corneille, who died in 1684, produced their works long before the Théâtre Français was officially constituted. Perhaps the most interesting account of the origin of the French {173} theatre is to be found in the “Roman Comique” of Scarron, in which one of the leading personages is Madeleine Béjard, elder sister of the charming but unfaithful Armande Béjard, known to everyone as Molière’s wife. Possibly, as in the case of the “Ballet Comique de la Reine,” the adjective in the title of Scarron’s work is used to signify, not “comic,” but “dramatic,” or “theatrical.” Scarron in any case shows us how Molière (introduced under another name) joined a strolling company when he had just finished his studies as a law student. The incident might have been borrowed from Cervantes’ “Gipsy of Madrid,” wherein an infatuated young man throws in his lot with a troop of gipsies. But it {174} is beyond doubt that the youth, “not brought up to the profession,” who becomes a member of a wandering troop involved in the adventures and humours so graphically described by Scarron was no other than Molière himself, or Poquelin, to give him his proper family designation, as distinguished from his more euphonious theatrical name.

One of the most interesting members of this celebrated company was Mdlle. du Parc, for whom is claimed the unique honour of having been passionately beloved by the three greatest dramatists of France: Corneille, Molière, and Racine. Having to choose between three writers, of whom the first was old, the second middle-aged, and the third young, Mdlle. du Parc was eccentric enough to select the last; a preference which left Molière silent, but which provoked from Corneille some verses so admirable that one cannot but forgive the lady who, by her heartless conduct, called forth such lines. Corneille and Molière had at this time separate companies, and Mdlle. du Parc appears to have acted in both. Corneille in any case endeavoured to persuade Mdlle. du Parc to pass from Molière’s company to his own, pointing out to her that the troop of his friend Molière “was very inferior in tragedy, so that she would always be sacrificed, since she excelled above all in the tragic style.” Racine employed the same kind of argument as Corneille, and ultimately succeeded in taking away the much-admired actress from Molière’s company in order to attach her to his theatre of the Hôtel de Bourgogne, where tragedies from his pen were habitually produced. Mdlle. du Parc, who had previously caused an estrangement between Corneille and Molière, now brought about a complete rupture between Molière and Racine.

The story of Mdlle. du Parc, with the intrigues of which she was made the object, brings out clearly the fact that in the early days of the French stage there was not one theatre, but three; Corneille, Molière, and Racine having each his separate company. In the present day the Théâtre Français comprises in its repertory all the masterpieces of France’s three greatest dramatists; and many imagine that for this famous establishment may be claimed the honour of having first produced them. But the finest tragedies and comedies that France possesses were written for theatres of little or no standing; and not, as just pointed out, for one, but for three different theatres. An actress celebrated in her time, Mdlle. Beaupré, made some celebrated remarks on the subject of French dramatic literature, which give a good idea of the esteem in which the art of playwriting must have been held in France immediately before the advent of Molière. “M. de Corneille,” she said, “has done the greatest harm to the dramatic profession. Before his time we had very good pieces which were written for us in a night for three crowns. Now M. de Corneille charges large sums for his plays and we earn scarcely anything.”

Even in these early days Louis XIV. took the greatest interest in theatrical representations, especially those given by Molière’s company. Perhaps the very best period of the French stage was between the years 1645, when Molière abandoned the law courts to join a troop of wandering players, and 1680, when the two most important companies of the day were combined; at which time Molière had been dead seven years, while Corneille was on the point of dying.

The Comédie Française was formed in the most arbitrary manner. It has been said that the company which had been in the habit of playing at the Hôtel de Bourgogne was joined to that of the Théâtre Guénégaud in the Rue Mazarin. But there was at that day a third theatre in Paris, the Théâtre du Marais; and in order that everything dramatic might be concentrated at the one establishment, this unhappy house was simply suppressed. By Royal decree the number of actors and actresses connected with the Comédie Française was fixed at twenty-seven. A year later the establishment received for the first time an annual subvention, to the amount of 12,000 livres or francs. At the same time the French comedians were authorised, in lieu of previous arrangements, to deduct the full expenses of the theatre before paying anything to the authors.

The company had scarcely taken possession of the Théâtre de Guénégaud when they were obliged to leave it for another and more commodious building in the Rue des Fossés, Saint-Germain-des-Prés; and it was here that the name of Comédie Française was first adopted. Hence the name of the Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, in which street, newly baptised, the Comédie Française was for so many years installed.

The Comédie Française had everything to itself until the year 1699, when much alarm and indignation was caused in the ranks of the company by the establishment of an opposition theatre, the Comédie Italienne. The French comedians were ready to do anything in order to keep their monopoly. In a formal petition they represented to the king that they {175} were twenty-six in number (the principal actress had died) and capable, if necessary, of amusing His Majesty at two different theatres. They thought it hard, however, that after quitting, by His Majesty’s orders, first the Hôtel de Bourgogne, then the Théâtre Guénégaud, they should now be threatened in their new abode, which had cost them 200,000 francs to construct.

The king paid no attention to these representations, and the Comédie Italienne soon became the home of French comic opera, doing a flourishing business according to the tariff of those days, when a place in the pit cost five sous, and a seat in the boxes ten.

The Comédie Française did not in the long run suffer from the popularity of the opposition theatre, and perhaps profited by it. But soon the Comédie Française was to be subjected to a new inconvenience, and in the very year which had witnessed the invasion of the Comédie Italienne a tax was imposed on theatres generally for the benefit of the poor—“taxe des pauvres”—which exists even to the present day. The members of the Comédie Française endeavoured to meet the difficulty by raising the prices on the occasion of first representations.

After the death of Louis XIV. the Comédie Française remained, as before, under the supreme government of the king, his ministers, and the gentlemen of the chamber. The new sovereign showed himself as munificent in the matter of the subvention as his predecessor, and the theatre was once more guaranteed an annual grant of 12,000 francs. A custom was now for the first time introduced, which has since become universal—that of playing a first piece in one act before the principal play of the evening.

Under Louis XV. the Comédie Française was directed, in the matter of engagements and general administration, by the Duc de Richelieu, to whom were submitted the petitions intended for the king. The members of the Comédie Française kept a careful watch over the privileges conferred upon them, and we find them complaining whenever there are any signs of these privileges being interfered with by a rival establishment. Every booth opened at a temporary fair excited the suspicion of the comedians; and they at last succeeded in procuring an order by which the directors of the much-hated Comédie Italienne, now known as the Opéra Comique, were prevented from playing comedies, especially those which had been written expressly for the Comédie Française.

In 1770 the famous company again changed their domicile, and, by the king’s special permission, took possession of the theatre built in 1671 at the palace of the Tuileries. Here they remained twelve years, until 1782, when they left the palace of the kings of France and installed themselves in the house afterwards to become known as the Odéon, on the left bank of the Seine, close to the Luxemburg Palace. According to Fréron, the daring satirist who was in no way afraid to take even Voltaire for his mark, the dramatic literature of France had now fallen to a very low point, by reason of the worldly success of its authors. “The gay life of most of our authors helps,” wrote Fréron, “to keep them within the bounds of mediocrity. Love of pleasure, the attractions of society that luxury which had so long kept them at a respectful distance, now enervate their souls. They are men of society, men of fashion, runners after women, and themselves much run after. They are at every party, every entertainment; no supper is complete without them; they are sumptuously dressed, and have luxuriously furnished rooms. It was not by supping out every night in society that the Corneilles, the Molières, the La Fontaines, and the Boileaus composed those masterpieces which will constitute for ever their glory and the glory of France. They were simply lodged and simply clothed; a large flat cap covered the sublime head of the great Corneille, but all the assembly rose before him when he made his appearance at the play.” Since the days of Fréron the incomes and the luxury of French dramatic authors have greatly increased; a result mainly due to the exertions of Beaumarchais, whose Marriage of Figaro was produced at the Comédie Française two years after its installation at the Odéon in 1784. It was Beaumarchais who secured for French dramatic authors a fixed proportion of the receipts, and caused this equitable arrangement, previously unknown, to be perpetuated.

Under the Revolution, precisely five years after the production of The Marriage of Figaro, the spirit and tone of which seemed to the king himself prophetic of the approaching catastrophe, the Comédie Française assumed the title of “Théâtre de la Nation, Comédiens ordinaires du Roi,” a compromise between loyalty to the old state of things and adhesion to the new of which the members of the company were afterwards bitterly to repent. Dissensions now sprang up between the different members of the company, some royalists, others republicans. On the whole, however, the actors and actresses showed a certain aptitude for {176} placing themselves on good terms with the executive power of the moment. In 1792, on the eve of the Reign of Terror, the players were formally obliged to replace such words as “Seigneur” and “Monsieur” by “Citoyen,” even when the piece was written in verse. In the classical tragedies of Racine the word “Seigneur” constantly occurs, as, for instance, where Agamemnon addresses Achilles, or Achilles Agamemnon. The heroes of the Iliad and of the history of Rome had now to be “Citoyens;” which, apart from the intrinsic absurdity of the thing, could not but spoil the metre.


One effect of the Revolution was to deprive the Comédie Française of the privilege it had so long and so unjustly enjoyed of incorporating in its company any actor or actress whom it might choose to detach from some other troop, not only at Paris, but in any other part of France. It at the same time also lost its monopoly. A split having taken place in the company, a second Comédie Française was started in the Palais Royal with the celebrated Talma, and with Grandmesnil, Dugazon, and Mme. Vestris among its artists. Meanwhile, notwithstanding the loss of Talma, the Comédie Française kept up against all disadvantages. There was, however, too much sense of art, of dramatic propriety among the members to permit the replacement of the word “Seigneur” by “Citoyen,” and as a punishment for neglecting the Governmental order on the subject the whole of the company of the Comédie Française was arrested one night and thrown into prison, with the exception only of Molé, who was apparently looked upon as a good Republican, and some other actor who was away from the capital. The piece performed on the night of the arrest had {177} been a dramatic version of Richardson’s Pamela, or, Virtue Rewarded, which, according to the judgment of the Republican Censors, was “full of reactionary feeling.” Possibly the nameless hero, Mr. B——, was addressed from time to time not as “Citoyen,” but as “Monsieur.”

MOLIÈRE.  (From the bust by Houdon in the Comédie Française)
(From the bust by Houdon in the Comédie Française)

Not only were the actors and actresses of the Comédie Française imprisoned, but also the dramatists in the habit of writing for the theatre, with Alexander Duval, author of Les Héritiers and other amusing comedies, and Laya, who had dramatised “Pamela,” among them. One of the members of the Committee of Public Safety, the ferocious Collot d’Herbois, is reported to have said that “the head of the Comédie Française should be guillotined, and the rest sent out of the country.” The famous actor, Fleury, sets forth in his “Memoirs” that on the margin of the depositions in the case of Mdlle. Raucourt, who had been arrested with the other members of the company, the said Collot d’Herbois had written with his own hand, in red, an enormous G. {178} This was a death sentence without appeal, G standing for guillotine. “Arrested in 1793 with most of the principal actors and actresses, she was,” says Fleury, “as a first step, imprisoned at Sainte-Pélagie; but already she was marked down for the scaffold. The Queen had protected her; she had received numerous benefits from the Royal Family; and she was suspected of gratitude for so many favours.” In common with all her colleagues of the Comédie Française, who like herself had been arrested, Fleury among the number, Mdlle. Raucourt owed her life to the courage and ingenuity of a clerk in the employment of the Committee of Public Safety, who destroyed the Acts of Accusation drawn up by Collot d’Herbois for presentation to Fouquier-Tinville. Considerable delay was thus caused, during which the anger entertained against the theatrical troop gradually evaporated, though some of the players remained in prison until the fall of Robespierre. It was understood meanwhile that no such words as “king” or “queen,” “lord” or “lady,” were to be used on the stage, and the members of the Comédie Française had received a sufficiently severe lesson to render them disinclined for the future to set at naught the edict on the subject.

As soon as she had regained her liberty, Mdlle. Raucourt tried to form a company for herself, and, succeeding, took a theatre, which was soon, however, closed by order of the Government, some allusion to its severity having been discovered in one of the pieces represented. Mdlle. Raucourt thenceforward made no secret of her hostility to the Directory, which, now that the Reign of Terror was at an end, could be attacked, indirectly at least, without too much danger. Fleury tells us that Mdlle. Raucourt’s costume was a constant protest against the existing order of things; which, from a feeling of gratitude towards the Royal Family, her constant patrons, and from painful feelings in connection with that guillotine beneath whose shadow she had passed, she could not but hate. “She wore on her spenser,” says Fleury, “eighteen buttons in allusion to Louis XVIII., while her fan was one of those weeping-willow fans, the folds of which formed the face of Marie Antoinette.” Fleury speaks, moreover, of a certain shawl worn by Mdlle. Raucourt, of which the pattern, once explained, traced to the eyes of the initiated the portraits of Louis, the Queen, and the Dauphin. One day he accompanied her to a fortune-teller who had been expected to predict the restoration of the monarchy, but who foretold instead the revival of the Comédie Française. “The woman,” says Fleury, “had read the cards aright, for in 1799 an order from the First Consul re-assembled in a new association the remains of the company dispersed at the time of the Revolution.” But now the theatre was burnt down; and though the Comédie Française existed as an institution, and received in 1802 a special subsidy of 100,000 francs, it was not until 1803 that, in conformity with an order from the First Consul, it took possession of the building in the Rue Richelieu, close to the Palais Royal, where it has ever since remained.

As under Louis XIV., so under Napoleon, the Comédie Française followed the sovereign to his palatial residence wherever it might be; to Saint-Cloud, to Fontainebleau, to Trianon, to Compiègne, to Malmaison, and even to Erfurt and Dresden, where Talma is known to have performed before a “pit of kings.” Nor did Napoleon forget the Comédie Française when he was at Moscow, during the temporary occupation and just before the fatal retreat; though it may well have been from a feeling of pride, and a desire to show how capable he was at such a critical moment of occupying himself with comparatively unimportant things, that he dated from the Kremlin his celebrated decree regulating the affairs of the principal theatre in France.

It has been the destiny of the Comédie Française during the past hundred years to salute a number of different governments and dynasties. That they conscientiously kicked against the Republic in its most aggravated form has already been shown. They had no reason for being dissatisfied with Napoleon; and after the destruction of the Imperial power it was perfectly natural that they should do homage to that house of Bourbon under which they had first been established, and which for so long a period had kept them beneath its peculiar patronage. They now resumed their ancient title of “Comédiens Ordinaires du Roi,” and the direction of the establishment was handed over to the Intendant of the Royal Theatres.

The Comédie Française has often been charged with too strict an adherence to classical ideas. Yet it was at this theatre that a dramatic work by Victor Hugo, round which rallied the whole of the so-called romantic school, was first placed before the public.

The two most interesting events in the history of the Comédie Française are the first production of The Marriage of Figaro in 1784, of which {179} an account has already been given in connection with Beaumarchais and his residence on the boulevard bearing his name, and the first production of Hernani forty-six years afterwards.

Hernani was the third play that Victor Hugo had written, but the first that was represented. There seems never to have been any intention of bringing out Cromwell, published in 1827, and known to this day chiefly by its preface. Marion Delorme, Victor Hugo’s second dramatic work, was submitted to the Théâtre Français, but rejected, not by the management, but by the Censorship, and, indeed, by Charles X. himself, with whom Victor Hugo had a personal interview on the subject. “The picture of Louis XIII.’s reign,” says a writer on this subject, “was not agreeable to his descendant; and the last of the Bourbon kings is said to have been particularly annoyed at the omnipotent part assigned in Victor Hugo’s drama to the great Cardinal de Richelieu.”

But Victor Hugo had the persistency of genius, and though both his first efforts had miscarried, he was ready soon after the rejection of Marion Delorme with another piece—that spirited, poetical work Hernani, which is usually regarded as his finest dramatic effort. Hernani, like Marion Delorme, was condemned by the Censorship; being objected to not on political, but on literary, moral, and general grounds. The report of the Committee of Censorship, scarcely less ironical than severe, concluded in these remarkable terms: “However much we might extend our analysis, it could only give an imperfect idea of Hernani, of the eccentricity of its conception, and the faults of its execution. It seems to us a tissue of extravagances to which the author has vainly endeavoured to give a character of elevation, but which are always trivial and often vulgar. The piece abounds in unbecoming thoughts of every kind. The king expresses himself like a bandit; the bandit treats the king like a brigand. The daughter of a grandee of Spain is a shameless woman without dignity or modesty. Nevertheless, in spite of so many capital faults, we are of opinion that not only would there be nothing injudicious in authorising the representation of the piece, but that it would be wise policy not to cut out a single word. It is well that the public should see what point of wildness the human mind may reach when it is freed from all rules of propriety.”

When at last the play was produced there was such a scene in the Comédie Française as has never been witnessed before or since. At two o’clock, when the doors were opened, a band of romanticists entered the theatre and forthwith searched it in view of any hostile classicists who might be lying hid in dark corners, ready to rise and hiss as soon as the curtain should go up. No classicists, however, were discovered; the band of romanticists was under the direction of Gérard de Nerval, author of the delightful “Voyage en Orient,” translator of “Faust” in the early days when he called himself simply Gérard, and Heine’s collaborator in the French prose translation of the “Buch der Lieder.” On the eve of the battle, Gérard de Nerval, as Théophile Gautier has told us in one of many accounts he wrote of the famous representation, visited the officers who were to act under him; their number, according to one account, including Balzac, first of French novelists, if not first novelist of the world; that Wagner of the past, Hector Berlioz; Auguste Maquet, the dramatist; and Joseph Bouchardy, the melodramatist, together with Alexander Dumas, historian (in his “Memoirs”) of the rehearsals of Hernani, and Théophile Gautier, chronicler in more than one place of its first representation.

Victor Hugo had originally intended to call his play Three to One; which to the modern mind would have suggested a sporting drama. Castilian Honour—excellent title!—had also been suggested; but the general opinion of Victor Hugo’s friends was in favour of Hernani, the musical and sonorous name of the hero; and under that title the piece was produced.

It has been said that the supporters of Victor Hugo took possession of a certain portion of the theatre as early as two in the afternoon. They had brought with them hams, tongues, and bottles of wine; and they had what the Americans call a “good time” during the interval that passed before the public was admitted—eating, drinking, singing songs, and discussing the beauties of the piece they had come to applaud. “As soon as the doors of the theatre were opened the band of romanticists,” says Théophile Gautier, “turned their eyes towards the incomers, and if among them a pretty woman appeared her arrival was greeted with a burst of applause. These marks of approbation were not bestowed on rich toilettes and dazzling jewellery, they were reserved for beauty in its simplest manifestations. Thus no one was received with so much enthusiasm as Mdlle. Delphine Gay, afterwards Mme. de Girardin, who, in a white muslin dress relieved by a blue scarf, wore no ornaments whatever. Mdlle. Gay {180} assured the Duke de Montmorency the morning after the representation, that she had not spent on her dress more than twenty-eight francs.”

CORNEILLE.  (From the bust in the Comédie Française)
(From the bust in the Comédie Française)

The Hugoites did not form a compact body, but occupied different parts of the pit and stalls in groups. They are said to have been easily recognisable by their sometimes picturesque, sometimes grotesque costumes, and by their defiant air. The combatants on either side applauded and counter-applauded, cried “Bravo!” and hissed without much reference to the merits of the piece, and often in attack or defence of supposed words which the piece did not contain. Thus (to quote once more from Théophile Gautier) in the scene where Ruy Gomez, on the point of marrying Doña Sol, entrusts her to Don Carlos, Hernani exclaims to the former, “Vieillard stupide! il l’aime.” M. Parseval de Grandmaison, a rigid classicist, but rather hard of hearing, thought Hernani had said, “Vieil as de pique! il l’aime.” “This is too much,” groaned M. {181} Parseval de Grandmaison. “What do you say?” replied Lassailly, who was sitting next him in the stalls, and who had only heard his neighbour’s interruption. “I say, sir, that it is not permissible to call a venerable old man like Ruy Gomez de Silva ‘old ace of spades.’” “He has a perfect right to do so,” replied Lassailly. “Cards were invented under Charles VI. Bravo for ‘Vieil as de pique!’ Bravo, Hugo!

Théophile Gautier declares that Mdlle. Mars could only lend to the proud and passionate Doña Sol a “sober and refined talent,” as she was pre-occupied with considerations of propriety more suited to comedy than to drama. Victor Hugo himself was, on the other hand, delighted with the performance of the principal actress; and one cannot but accept him as the best judge in the case. It would be impossible, in Victor Hugo’s own words, without having seen her, to form an idea of the effect produced by the great actress in the part of Doña Sol, to which she gave “an immense development,” going in a few minutes through the whole gamut of her talent, from the graceful to the pathetic, and from the pathetic to the sublime.

The success of Hernani corresponded closely enough with the triumph of the Revolution of July, which brought Louis Philippe to the throne; and under the new and more liberal form of monarchy it seemed as though the rising poet and dramatist, who was soon to establish an undisputed supremacy, would have his own way at the Comédie Française as elsewhere. But his next work, Le Roi s’amuse, found no more favour in the eyes of M. Thiers than Marion Delorme had done in those of Charles X.’s ministers, and of Charles himself. Le Roi s’amuse (of which the subject is better known in England by Verdi’s opera of Rigoletto than by the drama on which Rigoletto is based) was played but once, and was not revived until some forty years afterwards, when it was produced under the Government of the Third Republic without much success. Victor Hugo’s dramas have not, except to the reading public, displaced the tragedies of Corneille and Racine. Rachel as Chimène, Sarah Bernhardt as Phèdre are to this day better remembered by the old habitués of the Comédie Française than any actors in any of Victor Hugo’s parts. That Victor Hugo is one of the greatest poets of the century can scarcely be denied; but his genius is more lyrical than dramatic.

VOLTAIRE.  (From the statue by Houdon in the Comédie Française.)
(From the statue by Houdon in the Comédie Française.)

To show by yet another example that the Comédie Française has not been so much opposed as is often asserted to novelty in the dramatic art, it may be mentioned that at this theatre the wildly melodramatic and strikingly original Antony of Alexander Dumas was first produced. This work, written, not, like Victor Hugo’s plays, in verse, but in vigorous prose, has been no more fortunate than other masterpieces of {182} the romantic drama in keeping the stage. The great success it met with at the time of its first production was due in a great measure to the powerful acting of Mme. Dorval. The basis of Antony, and, as Alexander Dumas tells us himself in his “Memoirs,” its very germ, is a deeply compromising situation in which the hero finds himself with the heroine. They are on the point of being discovered when, to save the honour of his mistress, Antony (without consulting her on the subject) takes her life. Having stabbed her he exclaims to the persons who now enter the room, “That woman was resisting me; I have assassinated her.” This outrageous piece had the same fate as Victor Hugo’s admirably written and truly dramatic play, Le Roi s’amuse, in so far that it was, after a very few representations, forbidden by the Censorship.

In the year 1833 a private person was for the first time named Director of the Comédie Française. Jouslin de La Salle was his name, and he was succeeded, first by M. Vedel, in 1837, and afterwards by M. Buloz, Director of the Revue des Deux Mondes. In 1852 the affairs of the theatre were entrusted to a committee of six members of the Comédie Française under the direction of an “administrator”; the first administrator being M. Arsène Houssaye, the well-known author and journalist. M. Houssaye was replaced in 1856 by M. Empis, and M. Empis in 1860 by M. Édouard Thierry, a dramatist. The present director is M. Perrin. The subvention paid by the Government to the Comédie Française was fixed definitively in 1856 at 240,000 francs a year. Among the actors and actresses who have appeared at this famous establishment, often pleasantly described as La Maison de Molière (though Molière, as already seen, never set foot in it), may be mentioned Adrienne Lecouvreur, Mdlle. Mars, Mdlle. Clairon, Mdlle. Contat, Mdlle. Raucourt, Talma, Rachel, Sarah Bernhardt, not to name many excellent comedians who in the present day are almost as well known in London as in Paris.

In the immediate neighbourhood of the Comédie Française was born Adrienne Lecouvreur. Less perhaps from the influence of the genius loci than from a desire to imitate the actors and actresses whom, from day to day, she must have seen passing her door, little Adrienne accustomed herself at an early age to act plays and scenes from plays with her young companions. Adrienne’s talent was soon noticed by an inferior actor named Legrand, who, after teaching her some of the tricks of his trade, procured an engagement for her somewhere in Alsace. It was in the provinces that she formed her style; and for so long a time did she wander about from theatre to theatre that she was already twenty-seven years of age when an engagement was offered her at the Comédie Française. Here she was equally successful in tragedy and in comedy, though in the latter line her impersonations seem to have been chiefly confined to high comedy. Thus one of her best parts was that of Célimène in the Misanthrope. Adrienne was well acquainted with Voltaire when Count Maurice de Saxe, one of the innumerable natural children of Augustus II., King of Poland—Carlyle’s Augustus the Strong—came to try his fortune in Paris. This was in the year 1720. In the first instance he met with no luck; and he had to wait a considerable time before he could get a simple regiment together. “Although he was scarcely twenty-four years of age,” says a remarkable writer of the time, “Maurice had already made eleven campaigns and repudiated one wife. He joined,” continues this unconscious humourist, “to the strength of his father the uncultured youth and fiery disposition of a sort of nomad, somewhat like our Du Guesclin, whom ladies used to call the wild boar. Under the guise of a Sarmatian, Adrienne discovered the hero, and undertook to polish the soldier. She was then thirty years of age, and had gained the experience and the passion which render a woman alike skilful to please and prompt to love.”

Adrienne Lecouvreur was carried off, after a short and somewhat mysterious illness, on the 20th of March, 1730. So sudden was her death that the public, who adored her, would not believe that it arose from natural causes; and the Duchess de Bouillon, known to be her rival and her implacable enemy, was declared by everyone to be her murderess. According to the story current at the time she owed her death to a box of poisoned sweetmeats, treacherously presented to her, though Scribe and Legouvé, in their well-known play, make her die from the effect of a poisoned bouquet given to her by the duchess, in feigned admiration of her genius. All that is really known on the subject is to be found in the “Memoirs” of the Abbé Annillon, the “Letters” of Mdlle. Aïssé, and a note appended to one of these letters by Voltaire himself.

The popular version of the incidents of Adrienne’s death was as follows. One night, when she was playing the part of Phèdre, she saw in a box close to the stage the Duchess de Bouillon, who, she knew, was endeavouring to replace her in the affections of Count de Saxe; and {183} the sight of this woman made her deliver with exceptional energy these indignant lines:—

“Je sais mes perfidies,
Œnone, et ne suis pas de ces femmes hardies
Qui, goûtant dans le crime une tranquille paix,
Ont su se faire un front qui ne rougit jamais.”

As the Duchess de Bouillon, according to Mdlle. Aïssé, was capricious, violent, impulsive, and much addicted to love affairs, she might well be considered one of those “brazen women who, finding an untroubled calm in crime, succeed in acquiring a brow that knows no blush.” It may readily be believed, too, that Adrienne made every point tell, so that the duchess, brazen-faced as she might be, would feel wounded to the quick. So appropriate were the verses and so clear was the intention of the much-loved actress in applying them, that the audience, in full sympathy with her, applauded to the point of wild enthusiasm.

Voltaire, on the other hand, wrote in a manuscript note appended to Mdlle. Aïssé’s narrative: “She died in my arms of inflammation of the bowels, and it was I who caused the body to be opened. All that Mdlle. Aïssé says on the subject is mere popular rumour without any foundation.”

If the French clergy objected usually to bury actors and actresses with religious rites, they were scarcely likely to make an exception in favour of an actress who had died in the arms of Voltaire. Her body, then, was thrown “à la voirie,” as the author of Candide puts it, or, to be exact, was buried somewhere on the banks of the Seine, in the neighbourhood of a wharf, the interment being made secretly and at midnight, as though poor Adrienne had been a criminal. The Abbé Languet, Curé of Saint-Sulpice, the parish to which Adrienne Lecouvreur belonged, after taking the orders of the Archbishop, had refused to admit her body to the cemetery, and all hope of a Christian burial was then abandoned. The intolerance of the archbishop and of the priest provoked from Voltaire some indignant verses, beginning as follows:—

“Ah, verrai-je toujours ma faible nation,
Incertaine en ses vœux, flétrir ce qu’elle admire;
Nos mœurs avec nos lois toujours se contredire;
Et le Français volage endormi sous l’empire
De la superstition?”[D]

[D] Voltaire’s lines do not lend themselves easily to translation:—“Ah, must I ever see my weakly nation, inconstant in its loves, degrade that which it admires;—our morals ever at variance with our laws;—the quick-witted Frenchman drugged by superstition?”

Voltaire, in writing the poem from which the above stanza is quoted, had simply obeyed his own natural impulse. His verses were not intended for publication, for he knew that if they were seen by the clergy they might get him into trouble. He simply sent a copy of the poem to his friend Thiériot, and perhaps to others, with a strong recommendation to keep it secret. The first thing, however, that Thiériot seems to have done was to take Voltaire’s verses with him into society, where he was always received in the character of “Voltaire’s friend.” The poet had probably exaggerated the danger. The clergy could have no wish to re-awaken the scandal caused by the circumstances of Adrienne Lecouvreur’s burial, and though Voltaire left Paris when he found that his poem on the death of Adrienne was being circulated everywhere in manuscript, there does not seem to have been any necessity for this species of flight. The place of Adrienne’s burial, which long remained unknown, was discovered years afterwards, during some work of excavation and demolition. Voltaire and Maurice de Saxe were both dead; but an old friend of hers, named D’Argental, was still living, and he hastened to mark the spot by a tablet to her memory.

The Comédie Française, beneath whose shadow Adrienne Lecouvreur was brought up, is not the only theatre connected with the Palais Royal. The Théâtre du Palais Royal forms part of the spacious construction from which it derives its name, and is entered from the Palais Royal itself. Standing at the northern extremity of the Galerie de Beaujolais, it was constructed in 1783 by Louis, architect to the Duke of Orleans. Its original name was Théâtre Beaujolais, and its original occupant the manager of a company of marionettes. The marionettes were replaced by children playing exclusively in pantomimes. But in 1790 Mdlle. Montansier, who had formerly directed the Royal Theatre of Versailles, and who had followed the king and queen, took possession of the little theatre in the Palais Royal, and opened it under the title of Théâtre des Variétés. Every kind of play was presented, and it was here that the directress brought out as a child the afterwards famous Mdlle. Mars. In time, under the Empire, the company of the Palais Royal left it to take possession of the theatre on the Boulevard Montmartre, to which the name of Théâtre des Variétés was thereupon transferred. The Palais Royal Theatre now passed into the hands of a succession of managers, who relied, one on tight-rope dancers, another on marionettes, and a third on learned dogs. “These animals,” says Brazier in his “Petits Théâtres {184} de Paris,” “played their parts with an intelligence not often met with among bipeds. The company was completed with its light and low comedian, its walking gentleman, its heavy father, its chambermaid, its leading actor and actress, and so on. For the four-footed artists was arranged a melodrama which was scarcely worse than many others I have seen. Many private persons took their dogs to this theatre to act as ‘supers.’ Nothing droller can be imagined than these performances.”

From 1814 to 1818 the theatre was changed into a café-concert, inappropriately entitled Café de la Paix. This establishment became famous during the Hundred Days. Men of different periods met there as on some appointed fighting-ground; and as a result of many violent scenes the house had to be closed.

After the Revolution of 1830 the theatre, still associated with the name of Mdlle. Montansier, was restored to its original purpose. Entirely reconstructed, it was opened to the public in June, 1831, under the title of Théâtre du Palais Royal. A company of excellent comedians had been engaged, many of whom, such as Alcide, Tousez, Achard, Levassor (who loved to impersonate eccentric Englishmen), Grassot, Ravel, and the fascinating Virginie Déjazet, were to attain European fame. Here were produced a number of highly diverting pieces, several of which have become known in translated or adapted form at our London theatres; for example, Indiana et Charlemagne (Antony and Cleopatra); Le Chapeau de Paille d’Italie (A Wedding March); La Chambre aux deux Lits (The Double-Bedded Room); Grassot embêté par Ravel (Seeing Wright); Un Garçon de chez Véry (Whitebait at Greenwich); with many others.

The liveliest and most risky pieces of the French stage have for the most part seen the light at the Palais Royal Theatre. These productions were, not without reason, considered in a general way unfit for the ears of young girls; and it became one of the recognised privileges of the married woman to be able in her new state to witness a Palais Royal farce. Even wives, however, in many cases thought it as well, while seeing, not to be seen at the Palais Royal; and for the benefit of such ladies were provided an extra number of loges grillées—those loges grillées, otherwise petites loges, one of which a certain abbé wished to have for the first performance of The Marriage of Figaro, when the author declined, declaring with indignant satire that he had “no sympathy with those who wished to unite the honours of virtue with the pleasures of vice.”

The petite loge of France, like the private box of England, is comparatively a modern invention. In neither country were such things known till the end of the last century; and it is probable that, like most other theatrical novelties, they were imported, not from England into France, but from France into England. Even thirty or forty years ago private boxes were much less numerous at our English theatres than they have since become. They have increased in proportion as the pit has diminished, and, in some theatres, entirely disappeared. On their first introduction they were unpopular in both countries.

“This is a modern refinement,” writes Mercier, just before the Revolution of 1789, “or rather a public and very indecent nuisance introduced to please the humour of a few hundreds of our women of fashion. These boxes are held by subscription from year to year; nay, from mother to daughter, as part of her inheritance. Nothing could ever be devised better calculated to favour the impertinent pride and idleness of a first-rate actor, who, being paid handsomely by his share of the subscription, even before the beginning of the season, takes no trouble about getting up new parts, but solicits, under some pretence or another, leave of absence, and receives annually some 18,000 livres from the inhabitants of the capital, whilst he is holding forth at Brussels. Another objection against these hired boxes is that the comedians have constantly refused to admit the authors of new plays to a share in the subscription money; and they are so sensible to this advantage that they are daily improving it by throwing part of the pit into this kind of boxes. Whilst the public complain loudly of such encroachments on the liberty of the playhouses, hear the apology set up by our belles: ‘What! will you, then, to oblige the canaille, compel me to hear out a whole play, when I am rich enough to see only the last scene? This is a downright tyranny! I protest! There is no police in France nowadays. Since I cannot have the comedians come to my own house, I will have the liberty to come in my plain deshabille, enjoy my arm-chair, receive the homage of my humble suitors, and leave the place before I am tired. It would be monstrous to deprive me of all these indulgences, and positively encroach upon the prerogatives of wealth and bon ton.’ A lady therefore, to be in fashion, must have her petite loge, her {186} lap-dog, etc.; but above all, a man-puppy who stands, glass in hand, to tell her ladyship who comes in and goes out, name the actors and so forth, whilst the lady herself displays a fan, which, by a modern contrivance, answers all the purpose of an opera-glass, with this advantage, that she may see without being seen. Meanwhile the honest citizen, who, like a tasteless plebeian, imagines that play-houses are opened for entertainment, cannot get in for his money, because part of the house is let by the year, though empty for the best part of it, so that he is obliged to put up, instead of rational amusement, with the low, indecent farces acted on the booth of the boulevards.”


(From the painting of Laissement in the Comédie Française.)





The “King’s Library”—Francis I. and the Censorship—The Imperial Library—The Bourse.

THE most interesting edifice in the Rue Richelieu is the Library, called, according to the existing form of Government, Royal, National, or Imperial. Its original title was King’s Library (Bibliothèque du Roi), and it has been suggested that, to avoid the frequent changes of name to which the instability of things in France seems to expose this valuable institution, it should be called, once for all, Bibliothèque de France. The nucleus of the National Library, with its innumerable volumes, was formed by Charles V., and received considerable additions, considerable at least for the time, when books were scarce, from Louis XI. Under the reign of the latter sovereign so much value was attached to books of a rare character that, to obtain the loan of a certain volume written by the Arabian physician Rhazes, the king had to furnish security, and bind himself by the most solemn obligations to return it. According to Dulaure, this pious monarch had but a poor reputation for returning books, combined with an eagerness for getting them into his possession. “In 1472,” says the author of “The History of Paris” and of the “Singularités Historiques,” “Hermann Von Stathoen came from Mayence to Paris entrusted by the famous printers Scheffer and Hanequis to sell a certain number of printed books. While at Paris he was attacked by fever and died. In virtue of the droit d’aubain the king’s officers took possession of the books and money of the defunct, sending the latter to the king’s exchequer and the former to the king’s library. This proceeding was by no means to the taste of Scheffer and Hanequis, who complained to the emperor, and obtained from him letters addressed to Louis XI. in which the French king was invited to restore both books and money. Louis XI. admitted the justice of the claim, and on the twenty-first of April, 1475, issued Letters Patent in these terms: ‘Desiring to treat favourably the subjects (Scheffer and Hanequis) of the Archbishop of Mayence, and having regard to the trouble and labour which the persons in question have had in connection with the art and craft of printing, and to the profit and utility derived from it, both for the public good and for the increase of learning; and considering that the value and estimation of the said books and other property which have come to our knowledge do not amount to more than 2,425 crowns and three sous, at which the claimants have valued them, we have for the above considerations and others liberally condescended to cause the said sum of 2,425 crowns and three sous to be restored to the said Conrad Hanequis.’” Dulaure, after citing this letter, adds that the restitution was made in such a manner that the printers received every year from the King’s Treasury a mere driblet of 800 livres, or francs, until the entire sum had been repaid.

Louis XII. had formed a library of his own at Blois, to which he added those collected by his predecessors. Francis I., called the Father of Letters, honoured writers, and had a particular taste for manuscripts; but he detested printed books, and, like the reactionists of the period, deplored the invention of printing, which the previous occupants of his throne had looked upon as of the greatest benefit to mankind. On the 13th of June, 1535, he ordered all the printing offices in the kingdom to be closed, and prohibited, under the severest penalties, the printing of any fresh books. Some have supposed that the king’s sole object was, by preventing the reproduction of books, to keep up the value of the manuscripts which he so much prized. Against this view, however, must be placed the fact that when, in reply to remonstrances from various deputations, he rescinded his order against the printing offices a month after its issue, he at the same time limited the number of printing offices to twelve, which were only allowed to print books approved beforehand and deemed absolutely necessary. Thus Francis I. must be regarded as the inventor of that nefarious institution, the Censorship, which followed the invention of printing as shadow follows light. After the lapse of a century or two, the Censorship was destined to do harm to France, even in a commercial sense; for numbers of books which the Censor would never have allowed to be brought out in France were printed and sold in England, Holland, and Germany.


“Whoever opposes the freedom of the Press,” wrote Mercier on this subject two centuries and a half after Francis I.’s institution of the Censorship, “is a professed foe to improvement, and, of course, to {188} mankind. But the very obstacles which are laid in an author’s way are an inducement to break through all restrictions. ‘It is in man’s nature,’ observes Juvenal, ‘to wish for those things which are prohibited merely because they are so.’ Were we permitted to enjoy even a moderate freedom authors would seldom fall into licentiousness. It may be set down as an axiom that the civil liberty of any nation may be estimated by the liberty of its Press. If so, we daily take new strides towards slavery, since the ministers are every day forging new fetters for the Press. What is the consequence of this unnatural restraint? All books published here on the history, political interests, and even manners of foreign nations are the most incomplete and despicable productions that ever disgraced a country. If despotism could, as it were, murder our thoughts in their impenetrable sanctuary, it would do so; but as it is beyond its power to pluck out the tongue of the true philosopher, or deprive him of the use of his instructive hand, other means are employed—a State inquisition is set on foot, and the boundaries of literature and all its avenues are blocked up by a world of satellites who endeavour to interrupt the slightest correspondence between truth and mankind. Fruitless endeavours! So preposterous an attempt against our natural and civil rights serves only to expose to public hatred the wretches who dare thus far to encroach on man’s first privilege, that of thinking for himself. Reason daily gets ground, its powerful light shines to every eye, and all the witchcraft of tyranny cannot plunge it into utter darkness. In vain will despotism dread or persecute men of genius; all its efforts cannot put out the light of truth; and the sentence it awards against the injustice of men in power shall be confirmed by indignant posterity. You brave inhabitants of Great Britain! ye are strangers to our shameful slavery. Never, ah, never {189} give up the freedom of the Press; it is the pledge of your liberty. It may be truly said that you are the only representatives of mankind. You alone have hitherto supported its dignity, and human reason, expelled from the Continent, has found a safer asylum in your fortunate island, whence it spreads its rays all over the world. We are so insignificant when compared with you, that you could hardly comprehend the excess of our humiliation.” After this apostrophe, Mercier continues:—“If we next weigh the restraint laid on the Press in the scale of commercial interest, we shall find it greatly preponderate against the trade of this metropolis. The graphomania is not without its absurdities and disadvantages, but it is the chief support of different tradesmen. The Montagne Sainte-Geneviève is peopled by hawkers, bookbinders, etc., who must starve if not permitted to carry on the only business to which they were brought up. Meanwhile, as the desire of publishing their thoughts is common to all men, the money which would be laid out amongst our own countrymen is paid to the printers of Holland, Flanders, and Germany.”


While discouraging the multiplication of printed books, Francis I. formed a valuable collection of manuscripts, many of which were copies made by his orders in Italy. He brought together some 450 manuscripts of various kinds, part of them original, the rest transcribed from the Greek (the king’s favourite language), or from Eastern and other tongues. French literature was represented in the library of Francis I. by the works of Louise de Savoie and her sister Marguerite.

Simple as was his collection of manuscripts and printed books, Francis I. found it necessary to place them in the charge of an official bearing the title of Master of the King’s Library.

The library of Francis was at Fontainebleau, whence Henri IV. removed it to the College of Clermont at Paris. Catherine de Medicis formed a collection of books, including eight hundred Greek and Latin manuscripts, which she added to those already preserved at the College {190} of Clermont, the former habitation of the Jesuits, which, after their expulsion, was taken possession of by the Crown. When the Jesuits returned the books had to be removed, and they found a new abode in the house of the Cordeliers, on the site at present occupied by the School of Medicine. Under Louis XIII. the books were placed by the Cordeliers in the house belonging to the Order, but not occupied by it, in the Rue de la Harpe, and from the Rue de la Harpe they were, at the direction of the Minister Colbert, carried across the river to a house in the Rue Vivienne. The private library of the Count de Béthune, containing numerous works on the history of France, was next added to the Royal collection; and after the death of Cardinal Mazarin, his library was purchased from the heirs by Louis XV. and joined to the king’s library, now of considerable value and importance. It has been seen that the library, justly called royal, was founded and constantly increased by the kings of France; and during the long and glorious reign of Louis XIV. the number of books on its shelves was raised from five thousand to seventy thousand.

A decree of Henri II. had ordered all booksellers to send copies of whatever works they produced to the king’s library; and this was renewed and made thoroughly effective by the Great Monarch.

In 1697 the Mission of Father Bouvet brought back from China sixty-two volumes in the Chinese language and presented them to the Royal library. These books formed the nucleus of a collection which since that time has gone on constantly augmenting. In 1700 the Archbishop of Rheims presented to the Royal library five hundred Hebrew, Greek, and Latin manuscripts; and it received in the same year two manuscripts from Spanvenfeld, master of the ceremonies at the Court of Stockholm. In this year, too, a number of Latin manuscripts, including the works of Catullus, Propertius, and Tibullus, were bought at Rome for the French library.

In 1706 an ingenious theft was committed at this library by an apostate priest named Aymon. Wishing, as he said, to consult certain works in order to demonstrate the errors of heretics, he asked for a number of manuscripts, and, carrying them off, sold them at large prices in Holland.

After the Revolution, the Republican Government threw open to all comers a library which had previously been reserved for the use of a privileged few; and for many years the libraries of the French capital (for others in addition to the library founded by the French kings had now been formed) were the only ones in Europe which could be entered by the public at large. This fact scarcely harmonises with the assertion made by many writers, and insisted upon by M. Castil Blaze, that the Grand Opéra was installed by the Republican Government in a house just opposite the famous library in order that when the Opera House met with the usual fate of theatres the library facing it might at the same time be burnt. A few members of the Commune of Paris may have been wild enough to declaim against all literature produced before the Revolution, on the supposition that it must of necessity be impregnated with feudal, monarchical, and generally anti-Liberal ideas. But the Republic as a whole proved in many ways its love of enlightenment. It was the Republic which established all over France colleges and gymnasiums at fees of a few shillings a month; which called, free of cost, to the lectures of the College of France or la Sorbonne all who wished to hear them, and fixed at a nominal sum the examination fee for students desiring to receive degrees in arts or sciences from the University of Paris.

During the Napoleonic period the Imperial Library, as it was now called, was enriched with numerous acquisitions from the countries invaded and conquered by the French army; and indignation is expressed even now by French writers at the spoils of war having been given back by the Allies, in their turn victorious, to the rightful owners. “The foreign powers,” writes on this subject an eminent French publicist, “profited by their position after the fall of the Empire to claim all that had been carried away from their libraries at the time of our victories, now as trophies, now in virtue of formal stipulations in the treaties of peace. Austria was the first to demand restitution, and all that was taken from Vienna in 1809 had been given back when the return of Napoleon from Elba put an end to any further dealings in such matters. In 1815, after the Waterloo Campaign, Austria demanded for the Italian provinces annexed to her empire, and for Italy generally, all the works of literature and art that our armies had taken from the Italians; and on the 4th of October, 1815, we were deprived of a magnificent artistic monument acquired through the bravery of our soldiers.”

Mention has already been made of a theft of manuscripts—not a wholesale robbery of works of art such as the Allies, in restoring certain {191} statues to their rightful owners, were accused of committing; and on various occasions, manuscripts, books, and models have been purloined by visitors to the library of the Rue Richelieu. The last misdeed of this kind occurred in 1848, when a member of the Institute, M. Libri, was charged with stealing a book. Not caring to meet the accusation, he quitted the country, and in his absence was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.

If anyone, Frenchman or foreigner, enters a public library in Paris to look at any particular book he cannot, as at the British Museum Library, consult the catalogue himself; one of the librarians will do this for him, and do it in effect as well as such a thing can be done. But the reader must know beforehand what book, or, at least, what kind of book he wants. However learned and however attentive a librarian may be, he is not likely to make his researches with the same assiduity and care as the earnest student occupied with one sole object. On the other hand, the librarian, as a man of learning, will know the literature of any one subject better than the ordinary student, and much better than the casual reader.

Besides the National Library of the Rue Richelieu, Paris possesses the Mazarin Library, the Library of the Arsenal, of Sainte-Geneviève, of the Institute, of the Town, of the Louvre, of the National Assembly, of the Senate, and of a number of museums and learned societies.

As for the readers, they are as varied in character and often as original as those of our own British Museum. In the French, as in the English, reading-room one sees, side by side with writers of distinction, unhappy scribblers, who, in London, when the Museum closes at night, look at the thermometer and weathercock to see if Hyde Park or the casual ward be the wiser dormitory. It is merely to avoid ennui that many readers resort alike to the Bibliothèque Nationale and to our own Museum. Men of private means, at once with and without resources, can there escape from their own society, and, whatever their taste in literature, find relief in some book. Noise is carefully prevented, and there are even readers who volunteer active aid in maintaining silence. If anyone, for instance, speaks above a whisper, they hiss at him like serpents, or, wheeling round in their chairs, fold their arms and glare at him until he desists and leaves them once more to their sepulchral pursuits.

Both in France and in England the public libraries have two other classes of readers. First, there is the somnolent reader, who stares for a few minutes vacantly at a book, drops, nods, and finally collapses with a snore. The music of the nose, however, is against the rules, and promptly brings down an “attendant.” On the other hand—though, fortunately, as a rare specimen—we find the particularly wakeful reader, who in his neighbour’s absence makes a clean sweep of that gentleman’s property, and who is apt to attire himself in the wrong hat and overcoat, and to walk off with an innocent and even injured air.


The most important edifice in the Rue Vivienne—or, rather, in the open space which a portion of the Rue Vivienne faces—is the Bourse, or Exchange, of which the architecture so closely resembles that of the Madeleine. Yet there is nothing in the Bourse to suggest a house of prayer. At the entrance of the St. Petersburg Bourse stands a chapel, in which the operator for the rise or for the fall may invoke the protection of Heaven for the success of his own particular speculation. The noise of the dealers crying out prices and shouting offers and acceptances is far less suggestive of the “House of God” than of a “den of thieves,” to which, it must be feared, it presents in many respects a considerable likeness.

The origin of the word “Bourse,” which has been adopted by almost every country in Europe, with the striking exception of England, seems evident enough, though it would be a mistake to suppose that it is derived from bourse, a purse. According to the best etymologist, the name of Bourse comes from the Exchange established in the sixteenth century at Bruges in the house of one Van der Bourse, who, in the well-known punning spirit of heraldry, had adopted for his arms three bourses or purses.

The most ancient Bourse in France is said to be that of Lyons; and the next ancient that of Toulouse, which dates from 1549. The Bourse of Rouen was established a few years later, while that of Paris was not legally constituted until 1724.

Paris, nevertheless, has possessed since the sixteenth century several places of exchange: now on the Pont au Change, now in the courtyard of the Palais de Justice, and then for a considerable time at the Hôtel de Soissons, in the Rue Quincampoix, which was the scene of the wild speculations in connection with Law’s Mississipi scheme. In 1720 the Hôtel de Soissons was closed by the Government, and the formation of an {192} institution to be called the Bourse was at the same time decreed.

The Bourse was at first installed in the Hôtel de Nevers, in the Rue Richelieu, where the National Library is now established. After the Revolution, the Bourse was for a time closed by the Convention. But it was soon re-opened, and under the Directory was located in the Church of the Petits Pères. Under the Consulate and the Empire the Bourse was held in the Palais Royal. The Restoration moved it to the Rue Feydau, and it there remained until in 1826 it was definitively fixed in the palatial abode which it now occupies.

The cost of building the Bourse as it now exists was defrayed by a subscription among the merchants of Paris, assisted by a grant from the State and from the city. Until Napoleon’s time, or, at least, from the period of the Revolution to that of the Empire, the occupation of stockbroker or agent de change was free to all who chose to take out a licence. Napoleon, however, limited the number of agents de change, or, as it turned out, the number of their firms, for it soon became the practice for several persons to club together in order to buy the necessary licence and to deposit the caution money.

The Bourse, in marked opposition to the rigid rule observed at our own Stock Exchange, was open to everyone until 1856, when the price of admission was fixed at one franc to the financial, and half a franc to the commercial department. An annual ticket of admission could be obtained for 150 francs to the financial side, and seventy-eight francs to the commercial. This species of tax was imposed with the view of restraining the passion for speculation which had sprung up among the lower classes, but it was abolished by M. Achille Fould, Napoleon III.’s able Finance Minister, in 1862.

The hours of the Bourse, as fixed by law, not being sufficiently long for the tastes or necessities of speculators, supplementary bourses under the name of Petite Bourse, have from time to time been held in the Passage de l’Opéra and on the Boulevard des Italiens. These informal assemblies are sometimes tolerated, sometimes repressed, by the Government.

Ponsard, in one of his versified comedies, describes the Paris Bourse as (to translate the poet freely)—

“A market where all merchandise is keenly bought and sold;
A genuine field of battle where instead of blood flows gold.”






The Louvre—Origin of the Name—The Castle—Francis I.—Catherine de Medicis—The Queen’s Apartments—Louis XIV. and the Louvre—The “Museum of the Louvre”—The Picture Galleries—The Tuileries—The National Assembly—Marie Antoinette—The Palace of Napoleon III.—Petite Provence.

THE origin of the Louvre is remote and the etymology of the word obscure. In the absence of any more probable derivation, philologists have fixed upon that of lupus, or rather in the Latin of the lower empire, lupara. According to this view, the ancient palace of the French kings was originally looked upon as a wolf’s den, or it may be as a hunting-box from which to chase the wolf. The word “louvre” is said at one time to have been used as the equivalent of a royal palace or castle, and in support of this view the following lines are quoted from La Fontaine’s fable of “The Lion, the King of Beasts,” in which the monarch of the forest is represented as inviting the other animals to his “louvre.”

This, however, only proves that the name of a French palace which had existed since the beginning of the thirteenth century could be used in La Fontaine’s time as a name for the palace of any king. “According to some,” says M. Vitet, “the Louvre was founded by Childebert; according to others, by Louis Le Gros. It was either a place from which to hunt the wolf, a ‘louveterie’ (lupara), or, according to another view, a fortress commanding the river in front of the city. It seems probable that before the time of Philip Augustus there was a fortified castle where now stands the Louvre, and that this king simply altered it, and indeed reconstructed it, but was not its founder. The historians of the time speak frequently of the great tower built in 1204 by this prince, to which the name of New Tower was given; an evident sign of the existence of some other more ancient tower. It was not in any case until 1204 that, for the first time, the name of Louvre was officially pronounced. Until then the field is open to conjectures.”

It appears certain that the ground on which the palace stands was called Louvre before anything was built upon it. A chart of the year 1215, referred to by Sanval, shows that Henri, Archbishop of Rheims, built a {194} chapel at Paris in a place called the Louvre. Whence the name? it may once more be asked. One facetious historian declares that the castle of the Louvre was one of the finest edifices that France possessed, and that Philip Augustus “called it, in the language of the time, Louvre, that is to say, l’œuvre in the sense of chef-d’œuvre.” According to another far-fetched derivation the word “Louvre” comes from rouvre, which is traced to robur, an oak, because the Louvre stood in the midst of a forest, which may have been a forest of oaks!

Whatever meaning was attached to the word, it is certain that when in 1204 Philip Augustus built or reconstructed the Louvre he gave it the form, the defences, and the armament of a fortress. It was the strong point in the line of fortifications with which this monarch surrounded Paris.

The first existing document in which the Louvre is mentioned by name is an account of the year 1205 for provisions and wine consumed by citizens who in the Louvre had done military duty.

The castle was at that time in the form of a large square, in the midst of which was a big tower, with its own independent system of defence. The tower was 144 feet in circumference, and 96 feet in height. Its walls were 13 feet thick near the basement, and 12 feet in the upper part. A gallery at the top put it in communication with the buildings of the first enclosure, and it served at once as treasury and as prison. Here Ferrand, Count of Flanders, was confined by Philip Augustus in 1214, after the victory of Bouvines. John IV., Duke of Brittany, Charles II., King of Navarre, and John II., Duke of Alençon, were among many other illustrious prisoners shut up in the Big Tower or donjon of the ancient Louvre.

Louis IX. arranged in the west wing of the Louvre a large hall, which was long known as the Chamber of St. Louis. Charles V. enlarged and embellished the Louvre. He added to it another storey, and did all in his power to change what had hitherto been a purely military building into a convenient and agreeable place of abode. The architecture of the building, originally constructed for use, not show, was in many respects improved, and the gates were surmounted with ornaments and pieces of sculpture. The reception rooms were away from the river, and looked out upon a street long since disappeared, called La Rue Froidmanteaux. The apartments of the king and queen looked out upon the river.

Each of the towers was designated by a particular name, according to its history, or the purpose it was intended to serve. The Big Tower was also called the Ferrand Tower, from the Count of Flanders having been confined in it; and there were also the Library Tower, where Charles V. had brought together 959 volumes, which formed the nucleus of the National Library; the Clock Tower, the Horseshoe Tower, the Artillery Tower, the Sluice Tower, the Falcon Tower, the Hatchet Tower, the tower of the Great Chapel, the tower of the Little Chapel, the Tournament Tower (where the king took up his position to see tournaments and jousts), besides others. Charles V. added to the Louvre a number of buildings for tradespeople and domestics, whose services had to be dispensed with when the Louvre was purely a military building. Such names as pantry, pastry, saucery, butlery, were given to the different buildings and departments by the bakers, the pastry-cooks, the makers of sauces, and the keepers of the wine.

The gardens of the Louvre, though not very extensive, were greatly admired. Here were to be seen aviaries, a menagerie of wild beasts, and lists for different kinds of sports and combats. Charles VI., who lived by preference at the Hôtel St. Pol, increased the fortifications of the Louvre, and sacrificed to that end the gardens of the king and queen on the side of the river. The succeeding kings until the time of Francis I. occupied themselves very little with the Louvre, and scarcely ever resided there.

During this first period of its history, from Philip Augustus until Francis I., the Louvre was the scene of numerous historical events. In 1358, during the captivity of King John in England, the citizens of Paris, in support of the deputies of the communes in the States-General, besieged and took the Louvre, driving away the governor, and carrying off to the Hôtel de Ville all the arms and ammunition they could find in the arsenal of the fortress. Soon afterwards the governor, Pierre Gaillard, was decapitated by order of the Dauphin Regent for making so poor a defence. It was at the Louvre, moreover, in 1377, that the Emperor of Germany, Charles IV., allied himself with Charles V. of France, to make war upon England.

Under the reign of Charles VI., in 1382, while the king was engaged in suppressing an insurrection in Flanders, the Parisians, in their turn, revolted, and proposed to destroy alike the fortress of the Louvre, and {195} that other fortress, destined five centuries later to fall beneath the first blows of the Revolution. They were counselled, however, by one of their leaders to spare both prison and palace; and the advice was sound, for after quieting the turbulent Flemings, the king returned to Paris more powerful than ever.

In 1399, Andronicus, and in 1400, Manuel Palæologus, both Emperors of Constantinople, were entertained at the Louvre, as were also, in 1415, Sigismund, Emperor of Germany, and, in 1422, the King and Queen of England.

When Francis I. ascended the throne, the Louvre regained all its importance as a royal residence. The king began by pulling down the Big Tower, constructed by Philip Augustus, which cast its shadow over the whole of the palace, and gave it the look of a prison. Twelve years later (1539), when the Emperor Charles V. visited Paris, Francis I. determined to receive him, not in the Hôtel des Tournelles, where he was living at the time, but in the old palace of the French kings. He undertook various repairs, and covered the crumbling walls with paintings and tapestry. Everything, too, was regilt, “even,” says a chronicler, “to the weather-cocks.” Finally the space comprised between the river and the moat of the castle was laid out in lists for tournaments.


After spending large sums of money in repairing the Louvre, Francis I. decided to reconstruct it on a new plan, so as to get rid altogether of the irregularity of the old buildings, with their Gothic architecture. The work of reconstructing the Louvre was entrusted to the Italian architect Serlio. But his plan was laid aside in favour of one presented by Pierre Lescot, who, in spite of his French name, was, like Serlio, of Italian origin. He belonged to the Alessi family; and Serlio was so pleased with his designs that he at once pressed the king to accept them. Lescot associated with himself the graceful, ingenious sculptor Jean Goujon, who, like every French artist of the time, had formed his style in Italy; and the Italian sculptor Trebatti, a pupil of Michel Angelo, who possessed more force than belonged to Jean Goujon. To these illustrious men is due the admirable façade of the west in the courtyard of the Louvre.

Great progress was made with the reconstruction of the Louvre under the reign of Henri II., who, while the works were going on at the ancient palace, lived at the Hôtel des Tournelles. It was to this residence that he was carried home to die after being mortally wounded by Montgomery, of the Scottish guard, in the fatal tournament of the Place Royale. Henri’s successor, Francis II., would not live in a place associated with such a tragic incident, and took up his residence at the Louvre.

The power of Catherine de Médicis was now beginning to assert itself, and she had the bad taste to interrupt the plans of Pierre Lescot, and to order new constructions of her own designing to be carried out by her own Italian architects. The Louvre was carried forward to the bank of the river; and the Italian painter Romanelli was employed to decorate a new suite of rooms, which became known as the apartments of the queen. The new work, while possessing a beauty of its own, was {196} quite out of harmony with the severer style followed by Pierre Lescot in connection with the old Louvre. At the southern extremity of the wing built by Catherine de Médicis looks out upon the Seine a window of noble construction, from which, according to popular tradition, Charles IX. amused himself during the massacre of St. Bartholomew by firing on the unhappy Huguenots who were swimming to the other side of the river. Modern historians have, of course, discovered that the window in question did not exist at the time; also that Charles IX. on the day of the massacre was not at the Louvre, but at the Hôtel de Bourbon close by. It was possibly from one of the windows of the Hôtel de Bourbon that he fired. Henri IV. inhabited the Louvre; and it was there that he expired, mortally wounded by the dagger of Ravaillac. This sovereign had added a new gallery to the wing built by Catherine de Médicis, and had filled it with paintings by the most celebrated artists of the time. It perished, however, in a fire; and it was to replace it that Louis XIV. constructed what is now known as the Apollo Gallery. Henri IV. was the first moreover to connect the Tuileries with the Louvre, or, at least, to prolong the Tuileries along the Seine in the direction of the Louvre without completing the junction. The son of Henri IV., Louis XIII., continued the work left unfinished by Pierre Lescot; though, as happens with so many architectural continuations, he departed greatly from the original plan.


The “queen’s apartments,” constructed by Catherine de Médicis, were successively occupied by Marie de Médicis and Anne of Austria; and under each reign new decorations and new pictures were added. Particularly admirable was a series of portraits of Queens of France ending with Marie de Médicis, whose likeness by Porbus was said to be a masterpiece.

Nothing, according to an historian of the time, was spared to make the work perfect; and “although blue was then exceedingly dear, the painter {197} nevertheless spread it over his canvas with so much prodigality that the cost of the colour came to six twenty-crown pieces.” In front of the “apartments of the queen,” which were furnished with every luxury, was a tastefully laid-out garden which, completely transformed, exists to this day. The “Garden of the Infanta” it is called, in memory of the poor little Infanta of Spain brought to France at the age of four to become the wife of Louis XV. Restricted for some years to the garden in question and the apartments adjoining it, she was afterwards sent back to Spain with a doll worth 20,000 francs, given to her by her late fiancé. The apartments of the queen consisted, according to Sanval, of a guard-room, a large ante-chamber, a sitting-room communicating with two galleries, a reception-room, and a boudoir.


While occupying himself chiefly with Versailles, his own personal creation, Louis XIV. did not forget Paris and the Louvre. It has been said that he reconstructed the gallery built by Henri IV., which, after the death of that monarch, was destroyed in a fire. The work of {198} reconstruction was entrusted to Louis XIV.’s favourite painter, Lebrun; and the Apollo Gallery, which owes its name to the principal subject of the painter’s art, is perhaps the most complete, most perfect monument of the style which prevailed under the “Grand Monarque”; a style which may be wanting in purity of taste, but which, in a decorative point of view, is magnificent.

Colbert, appointed superintendent of royal buildings, was now ordered to complete the Louvre. The first thing to do was to add a façade on the east; by an idea which has since become commonplace, but which was strikingly original at the time, the Minister opened a competition for the best design. The one most admired was the work not of an architect, but of a doctor, Claude Perrault by name. Colbert was delighted with it, but before coming to a decision about a matter of so much importance, he sent to Nicolas Poussin, then at Rome, the designs of all the competitors except Perrault. Poussin sent back all the drawings with severe criticisms, and submitted a plan of his own, which satisfied neither Colbert nor the king. Things had reached this point, and Colbert was about to take upon himself the responsibility of adopting Perrault’s design, when he was urged by the Abbé Benedetti and Cardinal Chigi, afterwards Pope Alexander VII., to have recourse to the services of the celebrated Bernini, whose reputation was at that time universal. Thus pressed, Colbert addressed himself to the Duke de Créquy, French ambassador at the Pontifical Court, and begged him to see Bernini on the subject. Louis XIV., moreover, wrote himself to Bernini a letter, which made him resolve to visit France.

On his arrival at Paris, Bernini submitted to the king a project which is said to have been “full of grandeur,” but which was not put into execution. He was now in delicate health, and the annoyance caused to him by the jealousy of the French artists, vexed at seeing the plans of a foreigner preferred to their own, made him solicit the king’s permission to go back to Rome. Louis XIV. gave his consent, and at the same time granted Bernini a pension. Bernini having left Paris, Colbert hesitated no longer. He summoned Claude Perrault and ordered him to begin work at once. The first stone was laid by Louis XIV. with great ceremony, October 17, 1665; and, thanks to the activity of Colbert, the new façade was finished by 1670. This façade, known as the Colonnade of the Louvre, is upwards of 170 metres long, and more than 27 metres high. It may at once be objected to the new façade that, with all its magnificence, it is quite out of harmony with the style adopted in the four façades which form the admirable quadrangle of the Louvre. But whatever may be said against it, Perrault’s colonnade is one of the most remarkable conceptions of modern architecture. When first erected, it was looked upon as an unapproachable masterpiece; and it exercised on architecture abroad, as well as at home, a considerable influence which still lasts.

After finishing his colonnade, Perrault tried to bring it into harmony with the earlier portions of the building. But from the year 1680 Louis XIV. occupied himself no more with the Louvre. He thought of nothing but Versailles, which absorbed all, and more than all, the money he had to spare for building purposes. In 1688 Perrault died, and the Louvre was now not only neglected, but forgotten. Then it was remembered only to be turned to base uses. Stables were established in the ancient palace; though, by way of compensation, it must be added that a number of artists and men of learning had lodgings assigned to them in apartments formerly regarded as royal.

Among Louis XIV.’s favourite lodgers may be mentioned the sculptors Girardon, Couston, Stoltz, and Legros; Cornu and Renaudin, famous for their marble vases; the medallist, Du Vivier; the painters Rigaud, Desportes, Coypel, and Claudine Stella; the two Baileys, father and son, keepers of the king’s pictures; Bain, celebrated painter in enamel; the engraver Sylvestre, the decorators Lemoine and Meissonnier, who made nearly all the drawings for the festivals and ceremonies of the court; Bérin, celebrated for his theatrical costumes and scenes; the geographer Sanson, the engineer d’Hermand, goldsmiths Balin, Germain, Benier, and Mellin; the clockmakers Turet and Martinot, the gunmakers Renier and Piraube, the metal-worker Revoir, and finally (without mentioning many other men of science, art, and art work) Boule, the world-famed maker of the inlaid furniture invented by him.

This furniture, known in France as meubles de Boule, has, by the way, in some inexplicable manner, got to be known in England as “buhl,” and even “bühl” furniture, though Boule was born at Paris in 1642, and died there in 1732, without apparently having ever lived in Germany. In assigning to Boule a set of apartments in the Louvre, Louis XIV. at the same time appointed him engraver in ordinary of the royal seals. {199} Boule, moreover, was honoured on this occasion with a diploma which gave him the titles of “architect, painter, sculptor in mosaic, artist in furniture, carver, decorator, and inventor of cyphers.” In his furniture, Boule employed with great effect woods of different colours, while for his inlaid work he used mother-of-pearl, ivory, gold, brass, bronze, and mosaic. He imitated on his furniture all kinds of animals, flowers, and fruits. He even represented landscapes, hunting scenes, battles, and historical subjects. Besides furniture, Boule applied his art to clocks, casquets, inkstands, and all kinds of arms. He worked much for Versailles and the other royal residences, and received frequent orders from foreign sovereigns.

The meaning, however, of Louis XIV.’s apparent liberality was, from a Versailles point of view, that the Louvre was not worth living in. To provide furnished apartments for the recipients of the king’s bounty, it was unfortunately necessary to put up partitions so as to divide and sub-divide the majestic halls of the palace into little sitting-rooms and bed-rooms. The Louvre was now an hotel, or rather a caravanserai, in which everyone made his bed as best pleased him. Worse still, traders were allowed to erect shops and booths in front of the palace, these improvised constructions resting, indeed, on the palace walls. In 1754, under the reign of Louis XV., Marigny, superintendent of fine arts, undertook to remedy this state of things. He succeeded in interesting the king, who not only ordered the space in front of the Louvre to be cleared, but empowered the architect, Gabriel, to complete the edifice. Gabriel continued the unfinished façade, but had made but little progress when Louis XV. died.

When Louis XVI. ascended the throne in 1774 the Louvre was far from being finished; and the first step taken by the new monarch in connection with the old palace was to have the interior quadrangle cleared of the heaps of sand and dust which had accumulated there, some of these heaps forming little mountains which reached the first floor of the building. Louis XVI., after the first years of his reign, had more pressing matters to attend to than the completion of the ancient palace of the Kings of France. His own throne was menaced, and the history of the Louvre as a royal residence was now at an end.

More than one sovereign has left his mark on the walls of the Louvre. The western wing bears the monogram of Louis XIII. and Anne of Austria; also of Louis XIV. and Marie Thérèse. In the north wing, the letters L. B. are to be seen, signifying Louis de Bourbon, an extremely rare form of the name of Louis XIV. On the south wing, several K’s are to be seen, standing for “Karolous,” or Charles IX. Look to the east, and the Napoleonic empire is symbolised by several eagles.

The Louvre, as we know it, with its magnificent gallery of pictures open to the whole world, dates only from the Revolution. There were from the time of Francis I. pictures in the old palace, and the collection was constantly increased under his successors. But the galleries were private. They were reserved for the delectation of the sovereign and his court. At the very beginning, however, of the Revolution, the Louvre was literally invaded, and some of the unfinished portions were finished in an unexpected manner by being converted into private dwelling houses. But the Republican Government soon put an end to this; and it was under the Convention that the picture gallery of the Louvre, increased by works of art from other palaces, was for the first time thrown open to the public.

To speak only of the building, it was continued by the Republic, and all but completed by Napoleon, who, after appointing a committee of artists, and receiving from them a report in favour of Pierre Lescot’s design, determined, on his own responsibility, to finish the Louvre according to the later design of Claude Perrault.

Napoleon wished, moreover, to join the Louvre to the Tuileries, so as to make of the two palaces one immense palace. Two architects, Percier and Fontaine, were ordered to put this project into form, and they presented their plans to the Minister of Fine Arts in 1813. But the Imperial Government was now near its fall, and it was not during the calamitous retreat from Moscow that architectural projects of any kind could be entertained.

Under the reigns of Louis XVIII. and Charles X. the halls of the Louvre were redecorated. When Louis Philippe came to the throne, M. Thiers, his Minister, laid before the Chambers a proposition for joining the Louvre to the Tuileries at a cost of fourteen million francs. But the Bill was thrown out, and a similar one presented to the Chamber ten years later, in 1843, met with the same fate.

Liberal and even prodigal as the kings of France have often shown themselves in connection with art, they have never given it such {200} effective encouragement as it has received from France’s Republican Governments. After the Revolution of 1848, the Provisional Government had not been more than four days in power when, February 28th, it issued a decree ordering the completion of the Louvre under the name of “The People’s Palace.” A Bill was afterwards passed, on the proposition of the President, General Cavaignac, for restoring the two principal halls of the Louvre, together with the Apollo Gallery. A design from the hand of M. Visconti, in conformity with the decree of February 28th, was now adopted, and this was the one ultimately carried out. But the Assembly hesitated for a time before the expenditure which the execution of the plan would necessarily entail; and its deliberations were put an end to by the coup d’état of 1851. Then came the Empire; and in 1854 Napoleon III. ordered the completion of the Louvre, and its junction with the Tuileries. The plan of M. Visconti, adopted by the Republican Government in 1848, was now carried out, and the palace begun by Francis I. was at last, after three centuries, completed by Napoleon III.


Apart from certain incongruities between the different styles adopted, far less apparent to the general public than to the critical architectural eye, and from which no ancient building that has ever been repaired is entirely free, a magnificent line of palaces and gardens now extended for some three-quarters of a mile along the course of the Seine from St. Germain l’Auxerrois to the Place de la Concorde. But the Louvre and the Tuileries now, after so many ineffectual attempts, joined together, were not destined to remain together very long. The Emperor Napoleon was, after the catastrophe of Sedan, to be replaced by the Republican Government of the 4th of September, which was soon to give way to the Commune, under whose abominable rule so many fine buildings, with the Palace of the Tuileries among them, were wantonly sacrificed, and in a spirit of blind hatred burnt down. The conflagration lighted by the Communists had left standing and comparatively uninjured the outer walls, and therefore the general outline of the palace. But these were calmly pulled down by the “moderate” Republicans, less through considerations of art than from political prejudice.

The Louvre subsists in its entirety, and in virtue of its magnificent collection of pictures, constantly enriched through sums voted during the last hundred years by National Assemblies, it has come to be looked upon as public property. The Tuileries, however, was a palace to the last; and the destruction of this palace, which the communards had only partially accomplished, was effectually completed by the “moderate” Republic established on the ruins of its immediate predecessor.

Interesting as the Louvre may be by its ancient history, the old palace is above all famous in the present day for its admirable picture {201} gallery, first thrown open to the public in the darkest, most sanguinary days of the French Revolution. The modern collection was formed by Francis I., who, during his Italian campaigns, had acquired a taste for Italian art, and who not only invited celebrated Italian artists to his court, but gave princely orders to those who, like Raphael and Michel Angelo, were unable to visit France in person. He collected not only pictures, but art works, and especially antiquities of all kinds—statues, bronzes, medals, cameos, vases, and cups. Primatice alone brought to him from Italy 124 ancient statues and a large number of busts. These treasures were collected at Fontainebleau, and a description of them was published long afterwards by Father Dan, who, in his “Wonders of Fontainebleau” (1692), names forty-seven pictures by the greatest masters, nearly all of which had been acquired by Francis I. It was not, indeed, until the reign of Louis XIII. that any important additions were made to Francis I.’s original collection. Among the pictures cited by Father Dan may in particular be mentioned two by Andrea del Sarto, one by Fra Bartolommeo, one by Bordone, four by Leonardo da Vinci, one by Michel Angelo (the Leda, afterwards destroyed), three by Perugino, two by Primatice, four by Raphael, three by Sebastian del Piombo, and one by Titian.


The royal gallery was considerably augmented under the reign of Louis XIV. At his accession it included only 200 pictures. At his death the number had been increased to 2,000. Most of the new acquisitions were due to the Minister Colbert, who spared neither money nor pains to enrich the royal gallery, the direction and preservation of which was entrusted to the painter Lebrun.

A banker, Jabach of Cologne, resident at Paris, had purchased a large portion of art treasures collected by King Charles I., and brought them over to Paris. He had bought many pictures, moreover, in various parts of the Continent. Ruined at last by his passion for the fine arts, he sold a portion of his collection to Cardinal Mazarin, and another portion, composed chiefly of drawings, to the king. On Mazarin’s death, Colbert bought for Louis XIV. all the works of art left by that Minister, including 546 original pictures, 92 copies, 130 statues, and 196 busts. Louis XIV. placed his collection in the Louvre, and his first visit to the palace after the installation of the pictures is thus described in Le Mercure Galant of December, 1681:—

“On Friday, the 5th day of the month, the king came to the Louvre to see his collection of pictures, which have been placed in a new series {202} of rooms by the side of the superb gallery known as the Apollo Gallery. The gold which glitters on all sides is the least brilliant of its adornments. What is called ‘the cabinet of his Majesty’s pictures’ occupies seven large and lofty halls, some of which are more than 50 feet long. There are, moreover, four additional rooms for the collection in the old Hôtel de Grammont adjoining the Louvre. So many pictures in so many rooms make the entire number appear almost infinite. The walls of the highest rooms are covered with pictures up to the ceiling. The following will give some idea of the number of pictures, by the greatest masters, contained in the eleven rooms:—There are sixteen by Raphael, six by Correggio, five by Giulio Romano, ten by Leonardo da Vinci, eight by Giorgione, twenty-three by Titian, sixteen by Carraccio, eight by Domenichino, twelve by Guido, six by Tintoretto, eighteen by Paul Veronese, fourteen by Van Dyck, seventeen by Poussin, and six by M. Lebrun, among whose works there are some (the battles of Alexander) which are 40 feet long. Besides these pictures there are a quantity of others by Rubens, Albano, Antonio Moro, and other masters of equal renown. Apart from the pictures, there are in the old Hôtel de Grammont many groups of figures and low reliefs in bronze and ivory.”

The royal visit, as described by the writer in La Mercure Galant, was followed by the dispersion of the collection. Louis XIV. was so pleased by the wonderful sight that he ordered a number of the pictures to be removed to Versailles, where, according to the Mercure, there were already twenty-six pictures by the first masters; and so long as Versailles was the royal residence the greater part of the king’s collection was lost to the public, and served only to furnish the rooms, except, indeed, when the pictures had fallen to the ground and lay there covered with dust. Under the reign of Louis XIV. a critic whose name is worth preserving, Lafont de St. Yenne, complained that so many beautiful works were allowed to lie heaped up together and buried in “the obscure prison of Versailles,” and demanded that all these treasures, “immense but unknown,” should be “arranged in becoming order and preserved in the best condition” in a gallery built expressly for their reception in the Louvre, where they would be “exhibited to the admiration and joy of the French or the curiosity of foreigners, or finally to the study and emulation of our young scholars.”

The author of these judicious suggestions got into trouble as a pamphleteer; but four years afterwards, in 1750, Louis XIV. allowed the masterpieces previously stowed away in the apartments of the household at Versailles to be taken to Paris and submitted to the admiration of painters and lovers of painting. The Marquis de Marigny, Director of Royal Buildings, ordered Bailly, keeper of the king’s pictures, to arrange the collection in the apartments which had been occupied at the Luxembourg by the Queen of Spain. The “cabinet,” composed of 110 pictures, was opened for the first time October 14th, 1750, and the public was admitted twice every week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The pictures dedicated by Rubens to Marie de Médicis were on view the same days, and during the same hours.

Until the reign of Louis XVI. the royal pictures, the number of which had been increased by the purchase of many examples of the Flemish school, continued to be divided into two principal sections, one placed in the Luxembourg, and visible twice a week to the public, the other kept out of sight in the palace of Versailles. The Louvre contained the “king’s cabinet of drawings,” to the number of about 10,000. The Apollo Gallery, which served as studio to six students patronised by the king, contained “The Battles of Alexander,” and some other pictures by Lebrun, Mignard, and Rigaud.

In 1775, under Louis XVI., Count d’Angiviller succeeded the Marquis de Marigny, and going a step beyond him, formed the project of collecting everything of value that the Crown possessed in the way of painting and sculpture. Contemporary writers applauded this idea, which was attributed by some to M. de la Condamine. All, however, that came of the new proposal was that instead of pictures being brought from Versailles to Paris, the Louvre collection was transferred to Versailles.

“It was necessary,” writes M. Viardot, “that a new sovereign—the nation—should come into power for all these immortal works rescued from the royal catacombs to be restored to daylight and to life. Who could believe, without authentic proofs, without official documents, at what epoch this great sanctuary, this pantheon, this universal temple consecrated to all the gods of art, was thrown open to the public? It was in the middle of one of the crises of the Revolution in that dreadful year 1793, so full of agitation, suffering, and horror, when France was struggling with the last energy of despair against her enemies within and without; it was at this supreme moment that the {203} National Convention, founding on the ruins of the country a new and rejuvenated land, ordered the formation of a national art collection.”

A step in this direction had already been taken in 1791, when it was decreed that the artistic treasures of the nation should be brought together at the Louvre. The year following, August 14th, 1792, the Legislative Assembly appointed a commission for collecting the statues and pictures distributed among the various royal residences; and on the 18th of October in the same year, Roland, Minister of the Interior, wrote to the celebrated painter David, who was a member of the Convention, to communicate to him the plan of the new establishment. Finally, a decree of July 27th, 1793, ordered the opening of the “Museum of the Republic,” and at the same time set forth that the “marble statues, vases, and valuable pieces of furniture placed in the houses formerly known as royal, shall be transported to the Louvre, and that the sum of 100,000 francs shall be placed annually at the disposition of the Minister of the Interior to purchase at private sales such pictures and statues as it becomes the Republic not to let pass into foreign hands, and which will be placed in the Museum of the Louvre.” It should not be forgotten that France was then at war with all the German Powers, and threatened by all the Powers of Europe. Crushed by military expenditure, the Republic had yet money to spare for the purchase of works of art.

The French Museum, as the Louvre collection was first called, received afterwards the name of Central Museum of the Arts; and it was first opened to the public on the 8th of November, 1793. The next decree in connection with the fine arts ordered that a number of pictures and statues formerly belonging to the palace of Versailles, and which the inhabitants of Versailles were detaining as their property, should be placed in the Louvre. The old palace was still inhabited by a number of artists and their families. David had his studio there, and most of the painters who had made for themselves a tolerable reputation had apartments in the Louvre. It was reserved for Napoleon to turn them all out, and to give to the Louvre the character which it has since preserved—that of a national palace of art treasures.

The galleries of the Louvre profited greatly by the Napoleonic wars. All continental Europe was laid under contribution by the victorious French armies, but especially Italy and Spain.

The stolen pictures formed the best part of what was now called the Musée Napoléon. Though not surreptitiously obtained they had been acquired in virtue of conventions imposed on a conquered people. Thus pictures from the galleries of Parma, Piacenza, Milan, Cremona, Modena, and Bologna, were made over to France by the armistices of Parma, Bologna, and Tolentino. The public was admitted to view the conquered treasures on the 6th of February, 1798. Some months afterwards masterpieces from Verona, Mantua, Pesaro, Loretto, and Rome were added to the marvellous collections; which on the 19th of March, 1800, was further augmented by drafts of pictures from Florence and Turin. In 1807 France received the artistic spoils of Germany and Holland.

Among the famous works of art which France at this time possessed, and which were all on exhibition at the Louvre, may be mentioned “The Belvedere Apollo,” “The Laocoon,” “The Medicean Venus,” “The Wrestlers,” “The Transformation” and “The Spasimo”; Domenichino’s “Communion of St. Jerome,” Tintoretto’s “Miracle of St. Mark,” Paul Veronese’s four “Last Suppers,” and Titian’s “Assumption”; Correggio’s “St. Jerome” and Guercino’s “St. Petronilla”; “The Lances” of Velasquez, and the “St. Elizabeth” of Murillo; Rubens’ “Descent from the Cross,” and Rembrandt’s “Night Patrol.”

The French say with some justice that many of these works by being sent to the Louvre were saved from destruction. Many of them, too, though falling into decay, were restored with the greatest care; and some were transferred with success from worm-eaten panels to canvas, thus receiving new brilliancy and a new life. When Paris was occupied by the allies in 1814, the art treasures of which so many European countries had been despoiled were left in the possession of the French, who may be said on this occasion to have been magnanimously treated. The object, indeed, of the allies was not to weaken nor to humiliate France as a nation, but simply to restore Louis XVIII. to the throne of his ancestors.

In 1815, after the return from Elba and the Waterloo campaign, it was determined to treat France with a certain severity. She was deprived of the Rhine provinces for the benefit of Prussia, while Milan and Venice were placed in the hands of Austria, so that both from the Italian and from the German side France might be held in check. The artistic plunder which France had collected from so many quarters was at the same time {204} given back to the countries from which it had been taken.

French statesmen protested that the pictures and statues brought to Paris from so many foreign picture galleries belonged to France in virtue of formal treaties and conventions; Louis XVIII. himself declined to sanction the restoration of the captured pictures and statues. Denon, Director-General of Museums, resisted even when threatened with imprisonment in a Prussian fortress; and he made the foreign commissaries sign a declaration to the effect that in giving up the works claimed he yielded only to force.

The so-called spoliation of the Louvre was at last effected. The pictures and statues, that is to say, which had been seized by victorious France, were from vanquished France taken back and replaced in the museums to which they had originally belonged.

Since the fall of the First Empire the Louvre has acquired but few masterpieces from abroad. Italy now guards her art treasures with a jealous hand; and there are few countries where the masterpieces of antiquity can be purchased except when some private gallery is broken up through the bankruptcy or death of the owner. Under the new monarchy the beautiful though armless Venus of Milo was brought to France; and under the Second Empire “The Conception” of Murillo was purchased for 615,000 francs. The Third Republic, under the presidency of M. Thiers, spite of its difficulties in connection with the crushing war indemnity, paid 206,000 francs for a fresco by Raphael. The regular annual allowance to the Minister of Fine Arts for the purchase of pictures is now 100,000 francs a year. Meanwhile, the Louvre collection has been constantly augmented by pictures transferred to the more classical museum from the gallery of pictures by living artists in the Luxembourg.

The pictures exhibited at the Louvre are arranged on a system which leaves nothing to be desired. The supreme masterpieces of the collection are all together, without reference to school, nationality, or period, in a large square room known as the Salon Carré. In the other rooms the pictures are arranged historically.

The principal entrance to the picture galleries of the Louvre is in the Pavilion Molière, opposite the square of the Carrousel. After passing a spacious vestibule, where mouldings of Trajan’s Column and a fine collection of antique busts may be seen, the visitor ascends a staircase adorned with Etruscan works in terra-cotta and reaches the round hall or cupola of the magnificent Apollo Gallery, decorated with wall paintings and painted ceilings by the courtly Lebrun of Louis XIV.’s time and the vigorous imaginative Eugène Delacroix of our own. What can be more admirable than Delacroix’s “Nymph,” at whose feet crouches a panther? “Behold this work,” writes Théophile Gautier, “and you will see that for colour France has no longer any reason for envying Italy, Flanders, or Spain. Delacroix, in this great page, in which the energy of his talent is freely displayed, shows a knowledge of decorative art which has never been surpassed. Impossible while never departing from his own genius to be more in harmony with the style of the gallery and of the epoch. One might here call him a florid romantic Lebrun.”

The Apollo Gallery leads to the before-mentioned Salon Carré, where Paul Veronese’s “Marriage of Cana” at once attracts attention, not only by its immense proportions, but also and above all by the richness of the colouring and the beauty of the composition. Here, too, is the portrait by Leonardo da Vinci, known in France as “La Joconde”; “a miracle of painting,” says Gautier, who has made it the subject of one of his most remarkable criticisms. “‘La Joconde,’ sphinx of beauty,” he exclaims, “smiling so mysteriously in the frame of Leonardo da Vinci, and apparently proposing to the admiration of centuries an enigma which they have not yet solved, an invincible attraction still brings me back towards you. Who, indeed, has not remained for long hours before that head, bathed in the half-tones of twilight, enveloped in transparency; whose features, melodiously drowned in a violet vapour, seem the creation of some dream through the black gauze of sleep? From what planet has fallen in the midst of an azure landscape this strange being whose gaze promises unheard-of delights, whose experience is so divinely ironical? Leonardo impresses on his faces such a stamp of superiority that one feels troubled in their presence. The partial shadow of their deep eyes hides secrets forbidden to the profane; and the inflexions of their mocking lips are worthy of gods who know everything and calmly despise the vulgarities of man. What disturbing fixity, what superhuman sardonicism in these sombre pupils, in these lips undulating like the bow of Love after he has shot his dart. La Joconde would seem to be the Isis of some cryptic religion, who, thinking herself alone, draws aside {205} the folds of her veil, even though the imprudent man who might surprise her should go mad and die. Never did feminine ideal clothe itself in more irresistibly seductive forms. Be sure that if Don Juan had met Monna Lisa he would have spared himself the trouble of writing in his catalogue the names of 3,000 women. He would have embraced one, and the wings of his desire would have refused to carry him further. They would have melted and lost their feathers beneath the black sun of these {206} eyes.”


Leonardo da Vinci is said to have been four years painting this portrait, which he could not make up his mind to leave and which he never looked upon as finished. During the sittings musicians played choice pieces in order to entertain the beautiful model, and to prevent her charming features from assuming an expression of wearisomeness or fatigue.

Raphael is represented in the Salon Carré by “St. Michael and the Demon,” painted on a panel framed in ebony. This admirable work is signed not in the corner of the picture, but on the edge of the archangel’s dress. “Raphaël Urbinas pingebat, M.D. XVIII.” runs the inscription, which Raphael seems to have wished to make inseparable from the work. Among the other pictures of Raphael chosen for places of honour in the Square Room are “The Holy Family,” which originally belonged to Francis I., and the virgin known as “La Belle Jardinière. Among the other masterpieces contained in the Salon Carré may be mentioned Correggio’s “Antiope,” Titian’s “Christ in the Tomb,” Giorgione’s “Country Concert,” Guido’s “Rape of Dejanira,” Rembrandt’s “Carpenter’s Family,” Van Ostade’s “Schoolmaster,” Gerard Douw’s “Dropsical Woman,” Rubens’ Portrait of his Wife, a “Charles I.” by Van Dyck, and Murillo’s “Conception of the Virgin.” This last-named work, as already mentioned, was purchased under the Second Empire for upwards of 600,000 francs. It formed part of a valuable collection of Spanish pictures belonging to Marshal Soult, and had been acquired by that commander under peculiar circumstances during the Peninsular War. A certain monk had been sentenced to death as a spy. Two monks from the same monastery waited upon the marshal to solicit their brother’s forgiveness. Soult was obdurate, until at last Murillo’s wonderful picture was placed before him. The picture was forwarded to France, and the too patriotic monk set free. Among the selected works by Italian, Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish painters are to be found a few by French artists—for example, the “Diogenes” of Poussin and the “Richelieu” of Philippe de Champagne; but not one work by an English hand. Nor in the famous Salon Carré of the Louvre is a single landscape to be found.


The Tuileries, before incendiarism under the Commune rendered it a very imperfect building, had as a palace led a very imperfect life. Catherine de Médicis had ordered the destruction of the Palais des Tournelles, where, by a fatal accident Montgomery had pierced the eye and brain of Henri II. in the celebrated tournament, and had gone to live with her children at the Louvre. These children were Francis II., the husband of Marie Stuart; Charles IX., whose memory, like that of his mother, is indelibly associated with the massacre of St. Bartholomew; Henri III., who for his sins was elected King of Poland; and Francis d’Anjou, who gained the famous battle of Jarnac, and who on his death was succeeded by Henri IV., first King of France and of Navarre. The ancient fortress of the Louvre was not suited to the pomp of a Médicis, and Catherine ordered a new palace to be built for her own special convenience in the Tuileries, or tile yards, where the mother of Francis I. had bought a country house, but where Francis I. would never reside, preferring to his Parisian residence the castles of Fontainebleau, Amboise, and Chambord.

According to the plan of Philibert Delorme, the new Palace of the Tuileries was to be a true palace of the French kings, with a royal façade, the most beautiful gardens, and the most magnificent courtyards. Philibert Delorme never got beyond the façade, which, however, was enough to stamp him as an architect of the first order. Henri IV.—or rather Androuet Ducerceaux acting upon his orders—continued the work of Philibert Delorme. Ducerceaux made many changes, and among others constructed a dome where Philibert Delorme had meant only to build a cupola.

Who, meanwhile, was to live at the Tuileries? It was a royal palace, but not the palace of the French kings. Valois did not live there, Catherine de Médicis gave magnificent entertainments at the Tuileries, but held her Court at the Louvre. Nor did Henri IV. reside at the Tuileries. His private apartments, decorated by the genius of Pierre Lescot, were at the Louvre, from which Paris could be better observed. Henri’s widow, Marie de Médicis, mourned for her generally excellent though not too faithful husband in the Luxembourg Palace. When Richelieu came to power and worked out the problem of the unity of France, he built the Palais Cardinal, but took no thought of the Tuileries. His eyes were fixed on the Louvre, where Louis XIII. was domiciled. Louis XIV. passed no more time at the Tuileries than any of his predecessors. His mother, Anne of Austria, established her regency at the Palais Cardinal, soon to {207} become the Palais Royal; and all idea of completing the Tuileries seemed to have been given up, when in 1660, under Louis XIV., then twenty-two years of age, the architects Levan and Dorbay were ordered to resume the work of Philibert Delorme and Ducerceaux—the work begun by Catherine, continued by Louis XIV.’s grandfather, Henri IV., and abandoned by his father, Louis XIII. The Palace of the Tuileries having at last been completed, it became the residence simply of Mlle. de Montpensier. From time to time Louis XIV. visited the place, but only to make it the scene of some occasional entertainment. His favourite abode was always Versailles.

While the Regent was at the Palais Royal, the youthful Louis XV. lived at the Tuileries. But as soon as he could walk alone, Louis le bien aimé, as he was afterwards to be called, hastened to Versailles; and the Tuileries Palace of strange destinies was now occupied by the French Opera Company. It became the Paris Opera House, the Académie Royale de Musique—to give the establishment its official title—whose theatre at the Palais Royal had been burnt down. In 1720 the Opera was replaced at the Tuileries by the Comédie Française. To Lulli succeeded Corneille and to Rameau Voltaire.

One of the most interesting celebrations ever witnessed at the Tuileries was the crowning of Voltaire on the 30th of March, 1778, after a representation of his tragedy Irène. “Never,” wrote Grimm, the chronicler, in reference to this performance, “was a piece worse acted, more applauded, and less listened to. The entire audience was absorbed in the contemplation of Voltaire, the representative man of the eighteenth century; philosopher of the people, who could justly say, ‘J’ai fait plus dans mon temps que Luther et Calvin.’” Voltaire had but recently left Ferney to return to France, which he had not seen for twenty-seven years. Deputations from the Academy and from the Théâtre Français were sent to receive him, and on his arrival he was waited upon by men and women of the highest distinction, whether by birth or by talent. After the performance of Irène, he was carried home in triumph.

“You are smothering me with roses,” cried the old poet, intoxicated with his own glory. The emotion, the fatigue, caused by the interesting ceremony, had indeed an injurious effect upon his health, and hastened his death, concerning which so many contradictory stories have been told. That he begged the curé of St. Sulpice to let him “die in peace” is beyond doubt; and that he died unreconciled to the Church, whose bigotry and persecution he had so persistently attacked, is sufficiently shown by the fact that, equally with Molière (though the great comedy writer had in his last moments demanded and received religious consolation), he was refused Christian burial. His nephew, the Abbé Mignot, had the corpse carried to his abbey of Scellières, where it remained until, under the Revolution, it was borne in triumph to the Panthéon.

Eleven years after the crowning of Voltaire at the Tuileries, Louis XVI. arrived there from Versailles, where he had fraternised with the people, only to find that he was no longer a king. On the 19th of October, 1789, three months after the taking of the Bastille, the National Assembly had waited in a body upon the king and queen, when the president, still loyal, said to Marie Antoinette: “The National Assembly, madame, would feel genuine satisfaction could it see for one moment in your arms the illustrious child whom the inhabitants of the capital will henceforth regard as their fellow-citizen, the offshoot of so many princes tenderly beloved by their people, the heir of Louis IX., of Henri IV., and of him whose virtues constitute the hope of France.” The queen replied, “Here is my son;” and Marie Antoinette, taking the young Louis in her arms, carried him into the room occupied by the Assembly.

On the 26th of May, 1791, Barrère said to this same Assembly: “The first things to be reserved for the king are the Louvre and the Tuileries, monuments of grandeur and of indigence, whose plan, whose façades, are due to the genius of art, but whose completion has been neglected or rather forgotten by the wasteful carelessness of a few kings. Each generation expected to see this monument, worthy of Athens and of Rome, at last finished; but our kings, fearing the gaze of the people, went far from the capital to surround themselves with luxury, courtiers, and soldiers. It is characteristic of despotism to shut itself up in the midst of Asiatic luxury, as formerly divinities were placed in the depths of temples and of forests, in order to strike more surely the imagination of men. A great revolution was needed to bring back the people to liberty, and kings to the midst of their people. This revolution has been accomplished, and the King of the French will henceforth have his constant abode in the capital of the empire. This is our project. The Tuileries and the Louvre shall together form the {208} National Palace destined for the habitation of the king.”

Thereupon the Assembly decreed: “The Louvre and the Tuileries joined together shall be the National Palace destined for the habitation of the king, and for the collection of all our monuments of science and art, and for the principal establishments of public instruction.”


The position of the king at this time is well described by Arthur Young:—

“After breakfast,” he writes in diary form, “walk in the gardens of the Tuileries, where there is the most extraordinary sight that either French or English eyes could ever behold at Paris. The king, walking with six Grenadiers of the milice bourgeoise, with an officer or two of his household, and a page. The doors of the gardens are kept shut in respect to him in order to exclude everybody but deputies or those who have admission tickets. When he entered the palace, the doors of the gardens were thrown open for all without distinction, though the queen was still walking with a lady of her court. She also was attended so closely by the gardes bourgeoises that she could not speak but in a low voice without being heard by them. A mob followed her, talking very loud, and paying no other apparent respect than that of taking off their hats whenever she passed, which was, indeed, more than I expected. Her Majesty does not appear to be in health; she seems to be much affected and shows it in her face; but the king is as plump as ease can render him. By his orders there is a little garden railed off for the Dauphin to amuse himself in and a small room is built in it to retire to in case of rain; here he was at work with his little hoe and rake, but not without a guard of two Grenadiers. He is a very pretty, good-natured looking boy, five or six years old, with an agreeable countenance; wherever he goes all hats are taken off to him, which I was glad to observe. All the family being thus kept close prisoners (for such they are in effect) afford at first view a shocking spectacle, and is really so if the act were not absolutely necessary to effect the revolution. This I conceive to be impossible; but if it were necessary no one can blame the people for taking every measure possible to secure that liberty they had seized in the violence of a revolution. At such a moment nothing is to be condemned but what endangers the national {209} freedom. I must, however, freely own that I have my doubts whether this treatment of the royal family can be justly esteemed any security to liberty; or on the contrary, whether it was not a very dangerous step that exposes to hazard whatever had been gained.


I have spoken with several persons to-day and started objections to the present system, stronger even than they appear to me, in order to learn their sentiments, and it is evident they are at the present moment under an apprehension of an attempt toward a counter revolution. The danger of it very much, if not absolutely, results from the violence which has been used towards the royal family. The National Assembly was before that period answerable only for the permanent constitutional laws passed for the future; since that moment it is equally answerable for the whole conduct of the government of the State, executive as well as legislative. This critical situation has made a constant spirit of exertion necessary amongst the Paris militia. The great object of M. La Fayette and the other military leaders is to improve their discipline and to bring them into such a form as to allow a rational dependence on them in case of their being wanted in the field; but such is the spirit of freedom that even in the military, there is so little subordination that a man is an officer to-day and in the ranks to-morrow; a mode of proceeding that makes it the more difficult to bring them to the point their leaders see necessary. Eight thousand men in Paris may be called the standing army, paid every day 15 fr. a man; in which number is {210} included the corps of the French Guards from Versailles that deserted to the people; they have also 800 horses at an expense each of 1,500 livres a year, and the officers have double the pay of those in the army.”

If the people and the popular leaders were in constant fear of a counter revolution, the king on his side had had enough of royalty, and on the first opportunity fled from his subjects. The flight of the royal family, as is plainly shown by the correspondence of Marie Antoinette and by other authentic documents, had been concerted beforehand with the foreign Powers. This course was dictated by the most obvious considerations of personal safety. But all idea of an understanding with the “foreigner” was repudiated in the most solemn manner by the king. What the revolutionary Government resented was less the king’s desire to escape from a country where he had not only ceased to rule, but where his position was getting from day to day more precarious, than his apparent intention of making himself as soon as he had crossed the frontier the centre and support of a counter revolution.

As the moment of departure approached, the king and queen renewed with increased energy protestations of their adhesion to the Constitution. At the same time the queen was writing to her brother Leopold, May 22nd, 1791: “We are to start for Montmédy. M. de Bouillé will see to the ammunition and troops which are to be collected at this place, but he earnestly desires that you will order a body of troops of from 8,000 to 10,000 to be ready at Luxembourg and at our orders (it being quite understood that they will not be wanted until we are in a position of safety) to enter France both to serve as example to our troops and if necessary to restrain them.”

On the 1st of June, after reiterating her demand for 8,000 or 10,000 troops at Luxembourg, close to the French frontier, she added: “The king as soon as he is safe and free will see with gratitude and joy the union of the Powers to assert the justice of his cause.” The plan, concerted with the Austrian ambassador at Paris, who had been the queen’s adviser, was first to place the royal family in safety beyond the French frontier, and then to act against France with an army of invasion aided within the country by a Royalist insurrection.

It was at the same time understood that the Austrian Emperor and the German princes were not to give their aid gratuitously. They were to be recompensed by a “rectification” of the northern and eastern frontiers of France to their advantage. Troops were promised to Marie Antoinette by her brother Leopold, not only from Austria and various German States but also from Sardinia, Switzerland, and even Prussia.

It was the popular belief at the time that Queen Marie Antoinette had determined to do some dreadful injury to Paris and other French cities; to blow them up, for instance, with gunpowder or by some secret means. At a village near Clermont in the Puy de Dôme, Arthur Young wished to see some famous springs; and the guide he had engaged being unable to render him useful assistance he took a woman to conduct him, when she was arrested by the garde bourgeoise for having without permission become the guide of a stranger.

“She was conducted,” writes Young, “to a heap of stones they call the Château. They told me they had nothing to do with me; but as to the woman, she should be taught more prudence for the future. As the poor devil was in jeopardy on my account, I determined at once to accompany them for the chance of getting her cleared by attesting her innocence. We were followed by a mob of all the village with the woman’s children crying bitterly for fear their mother should be imprisoned. At the castle we waited some time, and we were then shown into another apartment, where the town committee was assembled; the accusation was heard, and it was wisely remarked by all that in such dangerous times as these, when all the world knew that so great and powerful a person as the queen was conspiring against France in the most alarming manner, for a woman to become the conductor of a stranger, and of a stranger who had been making so many suspicious inquiries as I had, was a high offence. It was immediately agreed that she ought to be imprisoned. I assured them she was perfectly innocent; for it was impossible that any guilty motive should be her inducement. Finding me curious to see the springs, having viewed the lower ones, and wanting a guide for seeing those higher in the mountains, she offered herself; that she certainly had no other than the industrious view of getting a few sous for her poor family. They then turned their inquiries against myself—that, if I wanted to see springs only, what induced me to ask a multitude of questions concerning the price, value, and product of the land? What had such inquiries to do with springs and volcanoes? I told them that cultivating some land in England rendered such things interesting to me {211} personally; and lastly, that if they would send to Clermont they might know from several respectable persons the truth of all I asserted; and, therefore, I hoped, as it was the woman’s first indiscretion, for I could not call it offence, they would dismiss her. This was refused at first, and assented to at last, on my declaring that if they imprisoned her they should do the same by me and answer it as they could. They consented to let her go with a reprimand, and I started—not marvelling, for I have done with that—at their ignorance in imagining that the queen should conspire so dangerously against their rocks and mountains. I found my guide in the midst of the mob, who had been very busy in putting so many questions about me as I had done about their crops.”

Such indeed was the general feeling against the king and queen, that, apart from other powerful motives, they had soon no alternative but to seek safety in flight. One of the principal agents in their escape was Count de Fersen, formerly colonel of the regiment of Royal Suédois. He was to drive the coach containing the king and queen. Marie Antoinette was to play the part of a governess, Mme. Rochet, in the service of an imaginary Russian lady, Baroness de Korff, impersonated by Mme. de Tourzel, actually governess to Marie Antoinette’s children. As for the king, disguised in livery, he was to pass as the Russian lady’s valet. The royal family was at this time confined more or less strictly to the Tuileries; and La Fayette, under whose command the troops on guard at the palace had been placed, had probably eyed with suspicion certain preparations made by the queen as if in view of a speedy departure.


M. de Bouillé, who commanded at Metz, had orders to occupy the high road with detachments of troops as far as Châlons. During the night of the 20th of June, 1791, the royal family escaped from the Tuileries, reached La Villette, where Colonel de Fersen with a travelling carriage awaited them, and drove off towards Bondy, whence they were to make first for Châlons, and then for Montmédy, a frontier town. The next morning Paris woke up without a king. La Fayette, who had been wanting in vigilance, defended himself as best he could. An alarm gun was fired from the Pont Neuf to warn the citizens that the country was in the greatest danger, for it was quite understood that the passage of the frontier by the king and queen would be the signal for a foreign invasion. The National {212} Assembly met, and at once took into its hands the supreme direction of affairs.

“This is our king!” said the Republicans; and Louis, by his flight, had in fact ceased to reign. Before leaving the Tuileries Louis XVI. had placed in the hands of La Porte, intendant of the civil list, a protest against the manner in which he had been treated, which was duly laid before the Assembly. Meanwhile, he had arrived at St. Ménéhould without accident, where he found himself protected by a detachment of dragoons which had arrived the night before. Here, however, his misfortunes began, for he was at once recognised by Drouet, a retired soldier now acting as postmaster. Called upon for horses, the young man could have no doubt but that the royal personages who required them were bound for the frontier, and he resolved to prevent their escape from France. With the dragoons in occupation of the village he could not refuse to supply horses; and the carriage which bore Louis and his fortunes, now approaching the end of its critical journey, went off in an easterly direction. Scarcely had the post chaise departed when Drouet, aided by a friend named Guillaume, also a retired soldier, called out by beat of drum the local national guard, and ordered it to prevent the dragoons from leaving the village. He then, together with Guillaume, galloped after the royal carriage, followed by a sub-officer of dragoons named Lagache, who, escaping from St. Ménéhould, had resolved to catch them up, and, if possible, kill them. Riding along, Drouet learned that the carriage had taken the road to Varennes, a town which has twice played an important part in the history of France, for it was here, seventy-nine years later, that the King of Prussia established his head-quarters on the eve of the battle of Sedan.



By crossing a wood Drouet and Guillaume succeeded in getting to Varennes a trifle sooner than the royal carriage. Passing, at no great pace, the lumbering vehicle just as it was approaching the town, they at once made for the bridge on the other side of Varennes, which, as old soldiers, they saw the necessity of blocking, for beyond it, on the other side of the river Aire, they had discovered the presence of a detachment of cavalry under the command of a German officer, who, losing his head, took to flight. The energetic Drouet had already waked up the town, and, in particular, the principal officials, such as the Mayor, the {214} Procureur of the Commune, &c. The population answered to Drouet’s call, and soon a small body of armed men was on foot.


The fugitives were bound for the Hôtel du Grand Monarque. At this hotel a tradition is preserved which was communicated to the present writer by the proprietress, Mme. Gauthier, just before the battle of Sedan. Dinner was prepared there for Louis XVI. eight days running; from which it would appear that he was trying to escape from the Tuileries for eight days before he at last succeeded in getting away unobserved. The eighth, like all the preceding dinners cooked for the unfortunate king at the Hôtel du Grand Monarque, was destined to remain uneaten. It was now late at night, and when the royal carriage entered the town, it was surrounded in the darkness by a number of armed men, who asked for passports, and showed by their attitude that they had no intention of allowing the occupants of the vehicle to proceed any further. Emissaries from Varennes had been despatched in all haste to the surrounding villages and nearest towns to call out the national guard. The son of M. de Bouillé had meantime quitted the cavalry outside Varennes, and ridden towards Metz to inform the governor, his father, of the arrival of the fugitives. But when the commandant arrived outside Varennes with an entire regiment of cavalry, the town was occupied by 10,000 infantry, and all the approaches guarded in such a manner that it was impossible for de Bouillé’s regiment to act.

The Procureur, to whose house the royal family had been taken, informed the king in the early morning that he was recognised. A crowd, which had gathered before the house, called for him by name, and when Louis showed himself at the window he understood from the attitude of the mob that though he was saluted here and there with cries of “Vive le Roi!” there was an end to his project of reaching the frontier. At six o’clock couriers arrived from Paris with a decree from the Assembly ordering the king’s arrest; and at eight o’clock on the morning of the 22nd of June, 1791, the royal family started under escort for the capital. They were surrounded at the moment of departure by an immense mob, a portion of which followed them for some distance along the road. At Epernay the commissaries appointed by the Assembly, MM. Pétion and Barnave, were waiting to take the direction of the cortege. On being questioned the king declared that he had never intended to leave the kingdom, and that his object in retiring to Montmédy had been to study the new Constitution at his ease, so that, with a clear conscience, he might be able to accept it. Barnave and Pétion got into the royal carriage as if to prevent all possibility of escape. Louis was treated with all the respect due to a royal captive, but his position was that of a prisoner. Reaching Paris three days after his departure from Varennes, he was received by the people with the greatest coldness. On the walls of the streets through which he passed, these words had been inscribed: “Whoever applauds Louis XVI. will be beaten; whoever insults him will be hanged.” To avoid the popular thoroughfares, the Tuileries was approached by way of the Champs Élysées, and once more Louis took up his abode in the ancient palace of the French kings.

Differences between Louis XVI. and the Assembly, which, from “Constituent” had become “Legislative,” now suddenly occurred; and at the beginning of 1792 the Jacobin Rhul complained from the tribune that the king had treated with disrespect certain commissaries of the Assembly who had waited upon him. On the 25th of July of the same year the king was accused in the Chamber of collecting arms at the Tuileries. National guards, it was said, went in armed and came out unarmed; and it was declared to be unsafe for the National Assembly to have an arsenal of this kind in its immediate neighbourhood. Accordingly, the Assembly decreed that the terrace of the Tuileries gardens must be regarded as its property, and be placed beneath the care of the Assembly’s own police. The king objected, naturally enough, to the gardens of his palace being thus interfered with. “The nation,” said one of the deputies, “lodges the king at the Palace of the Tuileries, but I read nowhere that it has given him the exclusive enjoyment of the gardens.” Some days afterwards the same deputy, Kersaint by name, said from the tribune: “The Assembly having thrown open one of the terraces of the Tuileries gardens, the king, who does not think fit to render the rest of the gardens accessible to the public, has lined the terrace with a hedge of grenadiers.”

Chabot called the garden of the Tuileries “a second Coblentz,” in reference to the German fortified town where the allied sovereigns, who were plotting against the Revolution, had their head-quarters. On the 19th of August a journeyman painter named Bougneux sent word to {215} the Assembly that there had recently been constructed in the Palace of the Tuileries several masked cupboards. Three months afterwards Roland brought to the Convention the papers of the famous iron cupboard. “They were concealed,” he said, “in such a place, in such a manner, that unless the only person in Paris who knew the secret had given information it would have been impossible to discover them. They were behind a panel,” he continued, “let into the wall and closed in by an iron door.” The members of the Mountain, as the extreme party occupying the highest seats in the legislative chamber were called, accused Roland of having opened the metallic cupboard in order to make away with the papers of a compromising character for his friends the Girondists. In revolutionary times a good action may be as compromising as a bad one. Brissot proposed about this time that the meetings of the Convention should be held at the Tuileries. Vergniaud had preferred the Madeleine. “Not,” he said, “in either case, that liberty has need of luxury. Sparta will live as long as Athens in the memory of nations; the tennis court as long as the palaces of Versailles and of the Tuileries. The external architecture of the Madeleine is most imposing. It may be looked upon as a monument worthy of liberty, and of the French nation.” It need scarcely be explained that at the jeu de paume, or tennis court, the first revolutionary meetings were held.

“At the Tuileries,” said Brussonnet, “there is a finer hall; and the greater the questions which the National Assembly will have to treat the greater must be the number of hearers and spectators.” It was at last decreed that the Minister of the Interior should order the preparation at the Tuileries of a suitable hall for the debates of the National Convention; and with that object a sum of 300,000 francs was voted.

On the 4th of September, 1793, Chaumette, in the name of the Paris commune, appeared at the bar of the Convention, then presided over by Robespierre, and spoke as follows: “We demand that all the public gardens be cultivated in a useful manner. We beg you to look for a moment at the immense garden of the Tuileries. The eyes of republicans will rest with more pleasure on this former domain of the crown when it is turned to some good account. Would it not be better to grow plants in view of the hospitals, than to let the grounds be filled with statues, fleurs de lis, and other objects which serve no purpose but to minister to the luxury and the pride of kings?” Dussaulx added with a smile: “I demand that the Champs Élysées be given up at the same time as the gardens of the Tuileries to useful cultivation.” It was at the Tuileries that the Committee of Public Safety held its meetings: that irresponsible body which struck so many and such sanguinary blows at the accomplices, real or imaginary, of invasion from abroad, and of insurrection at home. In the Tuileries gardens took place the festival of the Supreme Being, when proclamation was solemnly made, under the authority of Robespierre, that the French people believed in God and the immortality of the soul. “People of France,” cried Robespierre, between two executions, “let us to-day give ourselves up to the transports of pure unmingled joy. To-morrow we must return to our progress against tyranny and crime.” To Robespierre’s passionate declamation succeeded solemn music, composed by Méhul. Soon afterwards Tallien, inspired to an act of daring by the news that the woman he loved and afterwards married had been condemned to death, denounced Robespierre; and it was at the Tuileries that the Reign of Terror, like so many other reigns, came to an end.

On the 1st of February, 1800, Bonaparte took possession of the Tuileries, with his wife Joséphine. In 1814 he quitted the ancient palace with Marie Louise. The Tuileries was now on the point of being occupied by foreigners. “When I returned to Paris,” writes Mme. de Staël, “Germans, Russians, Cossacks, Baskirs, were to be seen on all sides. Was I in Germany or in Russia? Had Paris been destroyed and something like it raised up with a new population? I was all confusion. In spite of the pain I felt I was grateful to the foreigners for having shaken off our yoke. But to see them in possession of Paris! to see them occupying the Tuileries!”

Louis XVIII. and Charles X. both reigned at the Tuileries. But in July, 1830, the Revolution once more took possession of the palace; and in 1848, after the flight of Louis Philippe, the mob again ruled for a time in the home of the French kings. In 1848 the Provisional Government converted the Tuileries into an asylum for civilians. But the conversion was made only on paper, and in 1852 the Tuileries became for the second time an imperial palace—the palace of Napoleon III. The fate of the historical structure was, as everyone knows, to be burnt by the Communards. It was on the 24th of May, 1871, when the Versailles {216} troops were already in the Champs Élysées, that the central dome of the palace, the wings, the whole building in short, was seen to be in flames. The new portions of the palace alone refused to burn. Then, in their rage, the incendiaries had recourse to gunpowder, and during the night a formidable explosion was heard. The troops of the Commune, commanded by the well-known General Bergeret, had retired some hours before. Bergeret, however, was not responsible for the incendiarism; and the person afterwards tried for it and condemned to hard labour for life (in commutation of the death punishment to which he was first sentenced) was a certain Benoit, formerly a private in the line, then, during the siege, a lieutenant in the National Guard, and finally colonel under the Commune.


The gardens of the Tuileries are now more than ever open to the reproach brought against them by the men of the Revolution, who objected to statues adorning its terraces and walls, and wished its works of art to be replaced by lettuces and cabbages. All the greatest sculptors of France are represented in the Tuileries gardens, which also contain many admirable reproductions of ancient statues and groups.

There is one interesting walk in the Tuileries gardens which is the favourite resort of children. Here it was, in the so-called petite Provence, that the children’s stamp exchange was established, against which the authorities found it necessary to take severe steps. The young people have since contented themselves with balls, balloons, and other innocent amusements. There is a Théâtre Guignol, moreover, a sort of Punch and Judy, in the middle of the old gardens; and from the {217} beginning of April to the middle of October a military band plays every day. It is impossible to leave the Tuileries gardens without mentioning its famous chestnut tree—the chestnut tree, as it is called, “of the 20th of March,” because in 1814 it blossomed on that very day as if to celebrate Napoleon’s return from Elba. But the old chestnut tree had a reputation of its own long before the imperial era. More than a hundred years ago the painter Vien, at that time pupil of the French School, was accused of having assassinated a rival who had competed with him for a prize. He was about to be arrested when he proved that at the very hour when the crime must have been committed he was tranquilly seated beneath the future “chestnut tree of the 20th of March,” which was distinguished just then from all the other trees in the garden by being alone in flower. This picturesque alibi saved his life.


Outside the remains of the Tuileries was erected, on the Place du Carrousel, in 1888, a monument to Gambetta. The design as a whole has been unfavourably criticised, but the figure of the orator himself, represented in the act of declamation, is bold and striking, and full of character.




The Champs Élysées—The Élysée Palace—Longchamp—The Bois de Boulogne—The Château de Madrid—The Château de la Muette—The Place de l’Étoile.

BEFORE entering the Champs Élysées, the greatest pleasure thoroughfare in Paris, next to, if not before, the line of boulevards, a brief examination of the frontiers, as approached from the Place de la Concorde, may be advisable. This region of the capital was for a long time one of those marshes by which ancient Paris, the Lutetia of the Romans, was enclosed like a fortress. Then it became cultivable land and passed into the hands of market gardeners, who grew their vegetables in fields by no means “elysian,” until the latter part of the reign of Louis XV.

The ancient marsh was bounded on one side by the Seine, on the other by the Faubourg St. Honoré, which in the eighteenth century was already a favourite locality for mansions of the nobility. The market gardens, more fertile, perhaps, by reason of their marshy origin, were traversed by the Chemin du Roule—so named from the slope called rotulus, in the days of Lutetia, of which the culminating point is now marked by the Triumphal Arch.

At the entrance to the Champs Élysées stands the celebrated marble group known as the Horses of Marly; and close to the entrance is the garden of the Élysée Palace (Élysée Bourbon, to call it by its historical name), whose principal gates open into the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré. Built in 1718 by the architect Mollet on a portion of the St. Honoré marshes which had been given by the Regent to Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne, Count of Evreux, the Élysée Palace passed in 1745 from the count’s heirs to Madame de Pompadour. Her brother, the Marquis de Marigny, inherited it from her, and, holding the appointment of Inspector and Director of Royal Buildings, he embellished the palace and made great improvements in that portion of the neighbourhood known to-day as the Champs Élysées. It was now only that the mansion, called successively Hôtel d’Evreux, Hôtel de Pompadour, and Hôtel de Marigny, received the name of Élysée.

Towards the period of the Revolution, in 1786, the Élysée Palace was purchased by the king, and, according to the terms of a royal decree, was to be reserved for the use of princes and princesses visiting the French capital as well as ambassadors charged with special missions. Almost immediately afterwards, however, the structure was bought by the Duchess of Bourbon, when Élysée Bourbon became its recognised name.

This very appellation was enough to condemn it in the days of the Revolution; and the Duchess of Bourbon having migrated, her property was seized and confiscated. Sold by auction, it was acquired by Mlle. Hovyn, who seven years later ceded it to Murat; and Murat, on leaving Paris to assume the crown of Naples, presented it to the emperor.

Napoleon accepted the gift and took a fancy to his new edifice. He often resided there; and after the defeat of Waterloo it was at the Élysée that he signed his abdication in favour of his son.

In 1814 and 1815 the Élysée was temporarily occupied by Alexander I. of Russia. At the Restoration, the Duchess of Bourbon, returning to France, claimed her property. Her rights were recognised, but she was prevailed upon to accept, in lieu of the Élysée, the Hôtel de Monaco in the Rue de Varennes, which she left by will to the Princess Adelaide of Orleans, sister of Louis Philippe.

Under the Restoration, it was at the Élysée, now called once more Élysée Bourbon, that the Duke and Duchess of Berry resided until 1820, when, after the assassination of the duke, the duchess felt unable to live there any longer.

The duke and duchess were the last permanent tenants of the Élysée, which under the reign of Louis Philippe was utilised, in accordance with the intentions of Louis XVI., as a resting-place for royal guests, or guests of the first importance. In its new character it received Mahomet Ali Pasha of Egypt, and Queen Christina of Spain.

After the 10th of December, 1848, Prince Louis Napoleon, elected President of the Republic, had the Élysée assigned to him as his official place of residence. It was here that the coup d’état of the 2nd of December, 1851, was planned and plotted by the Prince-President, {219} and the Count de Morny, his minister, confidant, and guide, General St. Arnaud, and other accomplices. On proclaiming himself Emperor, Napoleon III. gave up possession of the Élysée, and removed to the more regal, more imperial palace of the Tuileries; the Élysée, being now once more set apart for foreign potentates and other grandees visiting Paris. Under the Second Empire Queen Victoria, the Sultan Abdul Aziz, and the Emperor Alexander II. of Russia, were successively received there.

Since the establishment of the Third Republic the Élysée has been made the official residence of the President; and it has been inhabited, one after the other, by M. Thiers, Marshal MacMahon, M. Grévy, and M. Carnot.

It has been said that the Élysée Palace stands between the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré and the Champs Élysées, with its principal entrance in the street. Between these two thoroughfares stood the ancient Village du Roule, which possessed, as far back as the thirteenth century, an asylum for lepers with a chapel attached to it. This chapel was in 1699 elevated to the rank of parish church, under the invocation of St. Philip. Being now too small it was pulled down; and in place of it was built the present church of St. Philippe du Roule, which underwent a partial transformation in 1845 and 1846.

The principal avenue of the Champs Élysées was planted with trees in 1723; but it was not until the reign of Louis XVI. that the Champs Élysées, or rather that portion of the avenue known as Longchamp, became a haunt of fashion.

The so-called promenade of Longchamp was, towards the end of the eighteenth century, frequented by the most aristocratic society. Gradually after the Revolution it got to be a more miscellaneous resort, to become ultimately, in modern times, a sort of show ground for fashionable milliners and dressmakers, hatters and tailors. The Abbey of Longchamp, whence the promenade derived its name, was founded as a convent in the thirteenth century by Isabelle of France, sister of Louis IX., and pulled down at the time of the Revolution. It was situated close to the Bois de Boulogne, near the village of that name.

“I wish to ensure my salvation,” wrote the Princess Isabelle to Hémeric, Chancellor of the university, “by some pious foundation. King Louis IX., my brother, grants me 30,000 Paris livres, and the question is, shall I found a convent or a hospital?” The Chancellor’s advice was to establish an asylum for the nuns of the order of St. Clara.

In 1260 Isabelle built the church, the dormitories, and the cluster of the Humility of Our Lady; and according to Agnes d’Harcourt, who has written her life, the whole of the 30,000 livres was consumed. The year afterwards, on the 23rd of June, the nuns of the rule of St. Francis took possession of the abbey in presence of Louis IX. and all the Court. The king gave considerable property to the nuns, whom he often visited, and, by his will, dated February, 1269, this sovereign, on the point of undertaking his last expedition to Palestine, left a legacy to the Abbey of Our Lady. Isabelle in this very year ended her days within its walls.

The royal origin and associations of the house which the princess had founded ensured for it the patronage of successive French sovereigns—Marguerite and Jeanne de Brabant, Blanche de France, Jeanne de Navarre, and twelve other princesses, taking the veil there; and it is recorded that Philippe le Long died in it with his daughter Blanche by his side on the 2nd of December, 1321, of complicated dysentery and quartan fever. When he was approaching his end the abbé and monks of St. Denis came in procession to his aid, bringing with them a piece of the True Cross, a nail that had been used at the Crucifixion, and one of the arms of St. Simon. The exhibition and application of these pious relics gained for the king enough time to make his will, after which he expired.

Longchamp had no fewer than forty nuns in residence. Its proximity to Paris, its illustrious origin, its not less illustrious visitors, its aristocratic inhabitants, its vicissitudes during the sanguinary civil wars of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, its decline, and, ultimately, its ruin, invested it with extraordinary interest. As regards the history of the abbey, it must be mentioned that, as with all other convents, its discipline gradually became relaxed until at last purity gave way to licence. Henri IV. took from Longchamp one of his mistresses, Catherine de Verdun, a young nun of twenty-two, to whom he gave the priory of St. Louis de Vernon, and whose brother, Nicholas de Verdun, became first President of the Parliament of Paris.

“It is certain,” wrote St. Vincent de Paul, on the 25th of October, 1652, to Cardinal Mazarin, “that for the last 200 years this convent has been gradually getting demoralised until now there is less discipline there than depravity. Its reception rooms are open to anyone who comes, {220} even to young men without relations at the convent. The order of friars (Cordeliers) under whose direction it is placed, do nothing to stop the evil. The nuns wear immodest garments and carry gold watches. When, war compelled them to take refuge in the town the majority of them gave themselves up to all kinds of scandals, going alone and in secret to the men they desired to visit.”

It is evident from this letter that there were intimate relations between the Abbey of Longchamp and Paris. It had been the custom, moreover, since the fifteenth century, to go to Longchamp to hear the friars of the order of Cordeliers preach during Lent.

“In 1420,” says the journal of Charles VII., “Brother Richard, a Cordelier, lately returned from Jerusalem, preached such a fine sermon that the people from Paris who had been to hear it made more than one hundred fires on their return—the men burning tables, cards, billiard-tables, billiard-balls, and bowls; while the women sacrificed head-dresses, and all kinds of body ornaments, with pieces of leather and pieces of whalebone, their horns and their tails.”

A great many miracles were said to take place through invocations addressed to the Princess Isabelle, whom Pope Leo X., by a bull dated January 3, 1521, had canonised; while he, at the same time, granted to the nuns of Longchamp the privilege of celebrating annually, in her honour, a solemn service on the last day of August. From the early days of the reign of Louis XV. date those regular pilgrimages to Longchamp during Holy Week, which were soon to degenerate into mundane promenades.


At one time the singing of the nuns had been found attractive. In 1729 a vocalist from the Opera, Mlle. Lemaure, sang with the choir, and “all Paris” went to hear her. The nuns profiting by her lessons, and studying her style, sang the “Tenebræ” during Holy Week with so much success that in order to make the choir perfect the abbess applied to the Opera for some additional voices. The abbey was now more than ever besieged. People crowded round the walls, filled the churchyard, and, according {221} to one writer, stood on the tombstones. If the chorus-singers from the Opera were not converted to piety by the nuns, the nuns underwent the influence of the professional vocalists. At last, one Wednesday in Holy Week, a brilliant gathering of fashionable people arrived at the church of Longchamp only to find it closed. The Archbishop of Paris had ordered the doors to be locked.


The original object of the Longchamp promenade was now at an end. But the promenade continued all the same; and it was at Longchamp every Holy Week that the first spring fashions were to be seen. This lasted for many years, until at last, as already set forth, the Longchamp Promenade became a medium for the exhibition of such articles of dress as the leading dressmakers, milliners, and tailors wished to see adopted during the approaching season.

Meanwhile, at the time of the Revolution, the old convent of Longchamp was brought to the hammer, and not only knocked down but pulled down. The tombs in the church were broken up, and the ashes of the pious founder, Jeanne de Bourgogne, wife of Philippe le Long, of Jean de Navarre, and of Jean II., Count of Dreux, were dispersed. Of Longchamp nothing remained but the name.

To many the Champs Élysées are chiefly interesting as leading to the Bois de Boulogne with its picturesque scenery and its romantic lake, suggestive, in a small way, of the beautiful Loch Katrine. The Bois de Boulogne owes its name to the church of Notre Dame de Boulogne, built in the year 1319, under Philip, surnamed the Long. He gave permission to the citizens of his good town of Paris who had been on a pilgrimage {222} to visit the Church of Nostre Dame de Boulogne-sur-le-mer, to build and construct a church, and there to institute a religious community. The new church became itself an object of pilgrimage, like the original church of Notre Dame at Boulogne-sur-mer, founded, according to the legend, in memory of the landing on the coast of the Holy Virgin accompanied by two angels.

Up to the time of the Revolution the Bois de Boulogne was little more than a wilderness. Napoleon I. cut walks and avenues through it, and caused trees to be planted, so that it was already one of the most agreeable places in the neighbourhood, when, in 1815, after the Waterloo campaign, the soldiers of the Duke of Wellington and of the Emperor Alexander I. encamped beneath its groves; which they are said to have mutilated and ravaged.

The Bois de Boulogne was considerably diminished when, in 1840, the fortifications of Paris were being constructed, the wood being traversed by the lines of brickwork. Soon afterwards, in 1852, under the Second Empire, it was made over to the town of Paris, and converted by the municipality into a park after the English model, with all the agreeable delightful features it now possesses.

The first improvement introduced was the river with its picturesque islands and the lake with its wooded banks and its Swiss cottages. The waterfalls or “cascades” give their name to the celebrated restaurant and café constructed by their side; and for the last thirty or forty years the Bois de Boulogne has possessed spacious avenues, with grass borders and endless rows of lamps. The grass plots in every direction, and here and there wide lawns, give a softness to the general picture which has not its equal in any European capital.

In the Bois de Boulogne stood formerly the Château de Madrid, said to have been erected by King Francis I. in memory and on the pattern of the one where, after the defeat of Pavia, Charles V. had held him captive. In spite of the recollections which it must have evoked, and which it is said to have been intended to evoke, Francis I. often visited his castle in the wood. It was turned to questionable use by various kings of France, and Henry III. varied the diversions of which it was so often the scene by introducing combats between wild beasts and bulls. One night, however, this depraved and sanguinary monarch dreamt that his animals wished to devour him, and the next morning he gave orders that they should all be killed and replaced by packs of little dogs. What remains of the ancient château is now a fashionable restaurant. Close by is the delightful Bagatelle, built in sixty-four days by the Count of Artois, and called at one time Folie d’Artois. Above the principal entrance the Count (afterwards Charles X.) had inscribed the words, Parva sed apta. Under the Revolution this “small but suitable” structure was used for public festivals; and it was here, at the time of the Restoration, that the Duke of Bordeaux, posthumous son of the Duke of Berry, was brought up.

The Duke of Bordeaux (who afterwards took the title of Count of Chambord) was the last representative of the elder branch of the Bourbons, a house which is said to have produced since the fourteenth century some six hundred remarkable men, chiefly soldiers, and which, apart from their feats of war, founded thrones in all the Latin countries of Europe—in France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. It has been said that the duke was brought up as a child at Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne; and many were the speculations and suspicions of which he was at that time the subject. When, indeed, after the Revolution of 1830 Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans, assumed the crown, and was thereupon accused by the partisans of the dethroned Charles X. of violating his promise to act as Regent until the majority of the Duke of Bordeaux, a paper was issued, apparently by the Orleanists, denying that the Duke of Bordeaux was the legitimate son of the assassinated Duke of Berry, eldest son of Charles X. The Courrier Français, a journal devoted to the new dynasty, now published a letter which had first appeared ten years before in the Morning Chronicle of London, asserting the illegitimacy of the Count of Chambord.

“The proposals,” said the Courrier Français, “which the Duke of Mortemart has just made to the Chamber of Peers in favour of the Duke of Bordeaux will naturally recall attention to a subject which at last may be freely examined and discussed. We shall confine ourselves to publishing a document inserted in the English papers of the time, and which has never appeared in France. Its publication is perfectly opportune; it completes the parallel that has been drawn until now between the Stuart and the Capet families.” The Courrier Français then reproduced a document entitled “Protest of the Duke of Orleans,” which ran as follows: “His Royal Highness declares by these presents that he {223} protests formally against the procès-verbal dated 29th September last, which document professes to establish the fact that the child named Charles Ferdinand Dieudonné is the legitimate son of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Berry. The Duke of Orleans will produce in fit time and place witnesses who will make known the origin of the child and of its mother, and he will point out the authors of the machination of which that very weak princess has been the instrument.”

The Morning Chronicle, in publishing the document about six weeks after the Count’s birth, denied its authenticity, adding, however, that it was being industriously circulated in every part of France, and that a copy of it had been addressed to the ambassador of every Power represented at Paris. It was not, of course, under Charles X. published in any Paris newspaper; and when at last, in Louis Philippe’s reign, it found its way into the columns of the Courrier Français it was impossible not to notice that the journal which first printed it was one devoted to the interests of the new king.


The Château de la Muette, another of the remarkable edifices in the Bois de Boulogne, was originally a hunting-box where Charles IX., the hero of the St. Bartholomew Massacre, used to shoot stags and boars from a box before giving himself the royal pleasure of shooting Huguenots from the balcony of the Louvre.

The Avenue Marigny has a greater number of frequenters among the Parisian public than the more distant Bois de Boulogne.

It dates from the reign of Louis XV., until which time it formed part of the historic marsh, and it owes its name to its designer. After the cession of the Champs Élysées to the town of Paris in 1828, the Avenue Marigny became the scene of the fêtes given every year in honour of the successor of the monarch who made the cession. On the 27th, 28th, and 29th of July, the anniversaries of the Revolutionary days of 1830, two theatres were put up in the Avenue Marigny, on whose boards military spectacles were represented, while their orchestras played dance music for the exhilaration and physical recreation of the general public. Booths for acrobats and tight-rope dancers were also established; wild beasts were shown, and wrestling matches took place. One of the first acts of the Emperor Napoleon III. in 1852 was to change all this. The town of Paris gave back to the State, by a perpetual lease, the whole of the Champs Élysées, where it had been determined to construct an edifice which should serve for national exhibitions, and other civil and military festivals, the building to be after the model of the English Crystal Palace. In two years the Palace of Industry was finished; and in 1855 it became the scene of a universal exhibition opened in the course {224} of the Crimean War, and honoured by the visit of Queen Victoria. The second and third universal exhibitions at Paris were held in a larger building constructed for the purpose, and the fourth (1889) in a larger building still. The Palais de l’Industrie of 1855 is now used for annual exhibitions of agriculture, horticulture, horses and fat cattle; also for the annual exhibition of painting, sculpture, and engraving.

The Champs Élysées form a pleasure resort for all classes of the Parisian population; and the number of lightly constructed booths for the sale of cakes and toys show that among the frequenters of the Avenue Marigny there are a good number of children, many of whom may be seen driving about in little goat-chaises.

The Avenue Marigny, with its interminable files, at every hour of the day, of horsemen, horse-women, and carriages, leads directly to the Triumphal Arch, known as the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, from which a magnificent view may be obtained of the whole line of the Champs Élysées from its commencement as marked by the Obelisk of the Place de la Concorde.


The Place de l’Étoile, in which stands the arch of the same name, is so called from the star of avenues of which it forms the centre. The idea of a monument on this spot dates from the reign of Louis XV., when it was proposed to place on the present site of the arch a colossal elephant. The animal in question found for a time a resting place not on the Place de l’Étoile but on that of the Bastille. At last, in 1806, Napoleon determined to erect on the spot once threatened with an elephant the triumphal arch in commemoration of victories gained under his command, of which the first stone was laid on the 15th of August, the Emperor’s birthday.

By the year 1810 the cornice of the first storey had been reached. Then Chalgrin, the original architect of the construction, died, to be replaced by his inspector, Goust; and the work was continued until 1814, when, Napoleon having been defeated and sent to Elba, all question of completing a monument in honour of his victories was at an end.


Under the Restoration, when endeavours were being made by official {225} historians to suppress the Napoleonic period, or, at least, to represent it as a natural link of connection between the old monarchy and the monarchy now re-established, the Triumphal Arch was gone on with and dedicated to the glory of the Duke of Angoulême, who had intervened at the head of a large army in the affairs of Spain. Finally King Louis Philippe, who claimed to represent, not only the ancient monarchy, but also in some measure the Revolution and the Empire, restored the arch to its original purpose. The works were hurried to completion, and on the 29th of July, 1836, it was formally inaugurated. The dimensions of the arch, twice as large as those of the Porte St. Denis, may be called colossal. The frieze around the four sides (which are themselves arched) represents the departure and the return of the French armies. Comparatively small as the figures in the frieze appear, they are scarcely less than six feet high. On either side of the different arches the capture of Aboukir, the funeral of Marceau, the battle of Austerlitz, the capture of Alexandria, the bridge of Arcola, and the battle of Jemappes, are shown in low relief. The names of French victories are engraved all over the interior surfaces of the large and small arches, these inscriptions being completed and illustrated by allegorical figures. Nothing, however, is finer in the ornamentation of the arch than the four immense groups on the external sides of the two great façades. On the eastern side, looking towards Paris, one sees to the right the departure of the troops in 1792 beneath the Genius of War, which, with outstretched wings and open mouth, seems to protect and inspire them. On the left side, looking towards the south, is the apotheosis of the Emperor, in which Napoleon, attired in a chlamys, is being crowned by Victory, while Renown proclaims his lofty exploits, and History engraves them on her tablets.


The two groups towards the west represent, on the right, Resistance to Invasion, and, on the left, Peace crowned by the figure of Minerva. Broad staircases lead to a higher platform which commands a magnificent view of central Paris.

In 1854, two years after the proclamation of the Second Empire, a “place” was designed around the arch, which now forms the centre of twelve avenues, darting out from the Arc de l’Étoile like the rays of a star. {226} The open-air entertainments of which the Champs Élysées and Bois de Boulogne are the scene possess as much importance as the entertainments taking place within the walls of the innumerable Paris theatres. Of the races which find so much favour in France the most celebrated is that of the Grand Prix, run on the course of Longchamp early in June, just after the English Derby, and the second Sunday after the so-called Derby of Chantilly. It was founded only in 1863 (until 1856 the racing ground of the Parisians had, for twenty-five years previously, been the Champ de Mars) though it has long been regarded as one of the national institutions of the country.

The prize is of the value of 100,000 francs, of which half is furnished by the Town of Paris and half by the five great railway companies of the North, the West, Lyons, Orleans, and the South. The sight, as one approaches the course, suggests Ascot and Goodwood rather than Epsom; and the great majority of the sightseers seem to take more interest in the carriages and the costumes than in the racing, or even the betting, though the betting plague has settled upon Paris, where it replaces the lotteries and the gambling-houses suppressed by law. In a publicly organised form, betting is illegal, but the evil is a difficult one to deal with, and it is now tolerated in France, if not formally permitted. Every now and then an example is made of some unhappy offender; but these rare instances serve simply to excite the spirit of betting already so wide-spread amongst the community at large.

The amusements of the Champs Élysées, although of a much more trifling kind than that royal one of racing reserved for the Bois de Boulogne, have from the earliest times been as remarkable for their variety as for their originality. The Parisians were always great lovers of public amusements, even from the days of Charles V. and Charles VI., when tight-rope dancers, whom it would be difficult to equal in the present day, walked down a rope stretched from the towers of Notre Dame to the Palais de Justice. One acrobat who excelled in performing this feat was so agile and so rapid that he seemed to fly, and was called the “flying man.” One day he stretched a rope from the summit of one of the towers of Notre Dame to a house on the Exchange Bridge, danced as he came down it, holding, meanwhile, in one hand a flaming torch, and in the other a wreath, which, just as Queen Isabeau de Bavière passed across the bridge, in making her entry into Paris, he placed on her head, and immediately afterwards re-ascended to the point whence he had started.

Another tight-rope dancer, named Georges Menustre, performed similar feats under the reign of Louis XII.

The most popular entertainments of those days were representations of mysteries. These religious dramas were played when the king entered Paris, and on other joyful occasions. Some of the subjects were taken from the Old, some from the New Testament, others from the Lives of the Saints. They were treated either in prose, in verse, or even occasionally in pantomime.

In the year 1425 the game of climbing the greasy pole is said to have been for the first time introduced. On St. Giles’s Day inhabitants of the parish under the invocation of that saint invented “a new diversion.” They planted a long pole perpendicularly in the Rue aux Ours opposite the Rue Quincampoix. They fastened to the top of the pole a basket containing a fat goose and six small coins. Then they oiled the pole, and promised goose, money, basket, and pole itself, to anyone skilful enough to climb to the top. But the most vigorous were unable to complete so slippery an ascent; and at last, after a succession of ludicrous failures, the goose was given to the one who had got the highest; though he received neither the pole, the money, nor the basket. The same year the Parisians invented a still more remarkable entertainment. They formed at the Hôtel d’Armagnac in the Rue St. Honoré an enclosure into which they introduced a pig and four blind men, each of them armed with a stick. The pig was promised to whichever of the four could beat it to death. The enclosure was surrounded by numerous spectators impatient to see the conclusion of this “comedy,” as Dulaure calls it, though the pig might have described it by a different name. The blind men all rushed towards the spot where the animal, by its cries, proclaimed itself to be, and then struck away with their sticks, hitting, as a rule, one another, and not the pig; which, says a contemporary writer, caused infinite mirth to the assembly. They renewed the attack again and again, but never with any success; and although they were covered with armour from head to foot, they exchanged amongst themselves blows so severe that, despairing at last of the pig, they retired from a game which was pleasant only to the spectators.

In the early days of Paris the churches were at Christmas-time made the scene of ceremonies and diversions recalling the Saturnalia of the Romans, from whom such civilisation as the French then possessed {227} was for the most part inherited. Clerks and members of the inferior clergy took the place in churches and cathedrals of high ecclesiastical dignitaries when services were performed in which, with religious ceremonies, acts of buffoonery and even indecency were mingled. The Festival of the Fools, the Festival of the Ass, the Festival of the Innocents and of the Sub-deacons, were some of the names of these burlesque celebrations. At Paris, in the church of Notre Dame, the Festival of the Sub-deacons was also called the Festival of the Drunken Deacons. Begun on Christmas Day, it was kept up until Twelfth Day, the chief celebration being reserved for New Year’s Day.


In the first place, from among the sub-deacons of the cathedral a bishop, archbishop, and sometimes a pope was elected. The mitre, the crook, and the cross, were carried before the mock pontiff, and he was then required to give his solemn blessing to the people. The entry of the pope, archbishop, or bishop into the church was announced by the ringing of the bells. Then the sham prelate was placed in the episcopal chair, and mass was begun. All the clergy who took part in the mass had their faces painted black, or wore hideous and ridiculous masks. They were dressed as acrobats or as women, danced in the middle of the choir, and sang improper songs. Then the deacons and sub-deacons advanced to the altar and ate black puddings and sausages before the celebrant. They played at cards or at dice, and placed in the incense box pieces of old shoes, the odour of which was by no means agreeable. When the mass was at an end the sub-deacons, in their madness or their intoxication, profaned the church still more, running, dancing, and leaping like lunatics, exciting one another to new extravagances, singing the most dissolute songs, and sometimes stripping themselves of their clothes.

The Church as a body was far from approving these shameful practices, and it condemned them in several Councils; but for a considerable time the spirit of insubordination, together with the dissolute tendencies of a section of the priesthood, rendered all such condemnations nugatory. The clerical Saturnalia were continued up to the middle {228} of the fifteenth century. Forbidden by the Pope’s Legate at Paris, and by the Archbishop of Paris, they remained popular until 1445, in which year a letter was addressed by the Theological Faculty of Paris to all the prelates and chapters exhorting them to abolish customs so unworthy of religion. Sixteen years afterwards, in 1460, these burlesque celebrations were still spoken of at the Council of Sens as an abuse which must be destroyed. So difficult are popular customs to extirpate!





The Royal Military School of Louis XV.—The National Assembly—The Patriotic Altar—The Festival of the Supreme Being—Other Festivals—Industrial Exhibitions—The Eiffel Tower—The Trocadéro.

A WHOLE chapter might be devoted to the café concerts, the swings, the merry-go-rounds, and other entertainments of a constantly varying kind, which are to be witnessed and, according to taste, enjoyed from morning to night in the Champs Élysées. But against the frivolity of these popular diversions may well be placed the great international exhibitions of which the Champs Élysées have from time to time during the last thirty-six years been the scene.


With each of the exhibitions of 1867, 1878, and 1889 the Champ de Mars has been connected; and its permanent association with these peaceful celebrations is now marked by the famous Eiffel Tower, which stands in the warlike field.

Although it lies on the south side of the river, the Champ de Mars is so closely connected with the Champs Élysées that it may almost be regarded as belonging thereto.

If the universal exhibitions of Paris were held in the Elysian Fields, they have, on each of the last three occasions, had an annex in the field of Mars. It is by the way of the Champs Élysées, moreover, that the troops march when the army of Paris is exercised and inspected in the great review-ground.

The Champ de Mars was originally a simple field of exercise for the pupils of the Royal Military School. Established by Louis XV. in 1751 for five hundred sons of officers, this school came into existence half a century before the Polytechnic School and the School of St. Cyr, and formed, during the last years of the Monarchy, a great number of excellent officers, the most celebrated of all being Napoleon Bonaparte, who on the 22nd of October, 1784, entered the company of {230} gentlemen cadets. On the 1st of the following September, having come out brilliantly in an examination, he was appointed second lieutenant in the artillery regiment of La Fayette. He had then passed by only fourteen days his sixteenth birthday. The School of Gentlemen Cadets, the military cradle of the future Emperor, was not precisely the school which Louis XV. had founded. His grandson had perceived that to admit, as a matter of right, children from eight to thirteen years of age would fill the military school with youths who had no fitness for the military career. He solved the problem by establishing in various country towns twelve colleges, where those qualified for admission could study up to the age of fifteen, after which a selection was made with a view to the Military School of Paris. One of these colleges was at Brienne, where the young Napoleon studied before being passed for the Military School.

Until 1789 no one was admitted to the Military School but sons of officers and noblemen. In the first year of the Revolution the Constitutional Ministers of Louis XVI. procured a decree from the Council which abolished the qualification of nobility. This was not so great an innovation as it may appear, since Louis XV. had by a decree of the year 1750 granted privileges of nobility to officers; the children, therefore, of all officers were admissible to the Military School. The institution was all the same of doubtful origin; and not knowing what else to do with it the Convention abolished it in June, 1793, took possession of its funds, and changed the building into a flour magazine and a cavalry depôt.

Soon afterwards, with a mutability characteristic of the time, the Revolutionary Government came to the conclusion that a Royal Military School, however detestable as of royal origin, would become admirable if the title of Republican were applied to it. It was accordingly decided in June, 1794, that each district of the Republic should send to Paris “six young citizens under the name of pupils of the School of Mars, aged from sixteen to seventeen years, in order to receive a Revolutionary education with all the knowledge, sentiments, and ideas of a Republican soldier.” The project was voted for on a report of Barère, who had drawn a droll parallel between the students of the Royal Military School (descended from “some feudal brigand, some privileged rogue, some ridiculous marquis, some modern baron, or some court flunkey”) and what the students of the School of Mars would be—“the offspring of Republican families, of parents of restricted means, or of useful inhabitants of the country. What,” Barère went on to say, “has ever come out of the Military School? What has this brilliant college produced? No able officer, not a general, not an administrator, not one celebrated warrior.”

It had produced, all the same, General Bonaparte, who was even then preparing the plans of his Italian campaign. The very next year the young cadet of the Royal Military School reentered the École Militaire to establish his headquarters there as general commanding in chief the army of Paris. When he became emperor he inscribed on the portico of the school these words: “Napoleon’s headquarters”; which only disappeared in 1815, when a regiment of the Imperial Guard was replaced in the building by the Royal Guard.

Since it has ceased to be a school the so-called École Militaire has been used as a cavalry and artillery barrack.

The Champ de Mars, in front of the École Militaire, has a very varied history. Here in the ninth century the Normans were defeated by Eudes, son of Robert the Strong, Count of Paris; who called the scene of his exploit, not Champ de Mars, but more explicitly, Champ de la Victoire. Then for many centuries the Field of Victory, or of Mars, seems to have witnessed nothing in particular until, at last, under the reign of Louis XV., it became the scene of a grand review in which the students of the Royal Military School took part. While the review was going on a young officer, nephew of Orry, controller of finance, who had suffered from the persecution of the king’s favourite, was brought before a court-martial on an accusation of treason, suggested by the defeat of the French army in Germany. He was about to be condemned, when the king was informed by express, that not only was young Orry no traitor, but that the whole army, compromised by a serious mistake on the part of its commander, Marshal Maillebois, owed its safety to Orry’s presence of mind, and to a vigorous charge of cavalry directed by him. Louis XV. gave the young man a new commission, thus marking the opening of the Champ de Mars by an act of justice.

During the early days of the Revolution the Champ de Mars played an important part; and through the course of the Revolution it was the scene of all the most important national celebrations. Nor under the Empire did it lose the character it had thus acquired. In July, 1790, {231} the year after the taking of the Bastille, the general federation of the nation was celebrated; and a quarter of a century later, after Napoleon’s return from Elba, and immediately before the Waterloo campaign, the emperor assembled in the Champ de Mars the authorities and representative bodies of the country in order to swear fidelity to the new Constitution which he had just promulgated, even as Louis XVI. had sworn fidelity to the Constitution adopted by the National Assembly.

On the 5th of June all military and naval bodies, national or foreign, were invited to send a number of delegates, according to the forces represented, to an assembly which was to be held in the Champ de Mars on the 14th of the month following. The details of the celebration were regulated by special decree; and artists of all kinds were invited to make suggestions towards the arrangement and decoration of the plain. It was determined in the first instance to convert this plain into a sort of basin or amphitheatre with sloping sides and a hollow in the middle. Many thousands of labourers were employed in this work, and they were ultimately joined by the whole population of Paris, just as two years afterwards all classes and conditions of people took part in the preparations for the festival of the Altar to the Country.

On the day appointed deputations arrived from all parts of France, the visitors being hospitably entertained by private citizens, or received by innkeepers at reduced charges. Special seats were reserved for them at the meeting of the National Assembly; and they, in their turn, were full of enthusiasm for the Assembly, for the people of Paris, but above all for King Louis XVI. On the 13th, the day before the festival, the king reviewed the troops, the deputations, and a good portion of the Paris National Guard, on the Place Louis XV., and in the Champs Élysées.

At five o’clock in the morning the National Guard and the entire population were on foot. Many had passed the night in the Champs Élysées, and several regiments of National Guards had marched there at midnight in order to be in good time for the approaching celebration. The deputies from the provinces assembled at the Bastille, where eighty-three white flags bearing the names of their respective departments were distributed among them. At seven o’clock the march began, headed by a body of cavalry belonging to the National Guard of Paris, which was followed by a body of infantry, the electors of Paris, the Paris Commune, and the National Assembly, preceded by a regiment of children, and followed by a regiment of old men with the flags of the sixty battalions of Paris around them. Then came the representatives of the federated departments, preceded by two marshals of France with a numerous staff, and followed by a number of officers of various corps, including the King’s Body Guard. The procession passed through the town amid the acclamations of the people and to the sound of artillery, approaching the Champ de Mars by way of the Champs Élysées, and crossing the river by a bridge of boats constructed the night before just opposite the village of Chaillot.

At the entrance to the Champ de Mars, now transformed into a vast circus, had been raised a triumphal arch bearing a number of inscriptions, among which may be cited the following:—

The rights of man were ignored for centuries; they have been re-established for the whole of humanity.

You love that liberty which you now possess; prove your gratitude by preserving it.

In the Champ de Mars 300,000 persons had assembled, men, women, and children, on the slopes of the newly-made amphitheatre, all wearing the national colours. The hillsides of Chaillot and of Passy were equally filled; as further on were the amphitheatres of Meudon and St. Cloud, of Mont Valérien and Montmartre. In front of the Military School were ascending rows of seats, covered with blue and gold drapery, for the king, the court, the National Assembly, the various constituted bodies and the most distinguished guests. In the centre of the Champ de Mars, on a raised piece of ground, was a monumental altar to the country with four immense staircases on the four sides. This altar was itself two years later made the object of a festival.

The king had for this day only been named Chief of the National Guards of France. He appointed La Fayette to perform the duties of the post.

Pending the commencement of the ceremony, 1,200 musicians played various pieces of music, including the national dances of Brittany, Auvergne, and Provence. French music of this period was, with the notable exceptions of the “Marseillaise” and of the “Chant du Départ,” by no means impressive in itself, though hymns that are sung by thousands of voices can scarcely fail, from the volume of sound and the unanimity of {232} feeling, to produce a certain effect. Patriotic hymns were in any case sung, and they excited general enthusiasm.

At half-past three a salvo of artillery announced the beginning of the festival. The king was seated in his tribune, having on his right the President of the National Assembly at the same level as himself. La Fayette came forward to take the king’s orders, and the ceremony commenced with a solemn mass, celebrated, according to general tradition, by Talleyrand, Bishop of Autun, afterwards to be known under every kind of government in France, including the Empire, the Restoration, and the Monarchy of Louis Philippe, as Talleyrand the Minister. According, however, to credible accounts, it was not Talleyrand, Bishop of Autun, but Montmorency, Grand Almoner of France, who performed mass on this solemn occasion. The prelate was in any case assisted by two hundred priests, who, wearing tricolour sashes, surrounded the altar; then the oriflamme symbol of the federation was blessed, together with the banners given to the deputations from the provinces. Finally La Fayette ascended the staircase, radiant, but full of emotion, and placing the point of his sword on the Altar of the Country, pronounced in a loud firm voice this sacred oath: “We swear to be for ever faithful to the nation, to the law, and to the king; to maintain with all our power the Constitution decreed by the National Assembly and accepted by the king; to protect the persons and property of all, and to remain united to all Frenchmen by the indissoluble bonds of fraternity.”


The general excitement seemed now to have reached its highest pitch. But it was raised still higher when the king in his turn swore fidelity to the Constitution. Many, however, complained at the time that he took the oath, not from the altar, but from the tribune, where he was sitting; and this was generally looked upon as of bad augury. From that time, throughout the Revolution, the Champ de Mars was known as the Champ de la Fédération, and the anniversary of the 14th of July was celebrated until the time of the Consulate.

Some two years later the altar on which the Mass of the Federation had been celebrated was itself to be made the object of a festival. Enlarged and newly decorated, it became the Altar of Patriotism or autel à la patrie, and once more the whole population took part in the preparations, when, to judge by a letter on the subject left by an actress of the Théâtre Français, the work of the day was varied by a certain amount of pleasantry. “Every gentleman,” says the actress, “chose a lady to whom he offered a very light spade decorated with ribands; then, headed by a band, the lovers of liberty hastened to the general rendezvous.”

In the centre of the Champ de Mars was at last constructed a colossal altar, at which the deputies from the National Guards of France and from the various army corps assembled, and swore allegiance to the Republic. Patriotic altars or autels à la patrie had already been raised in various parts of France, when, by a decree of July, 1792, it was ordered that in every commune a patriotic altar should be erected, to which {233} children should be brought, where young people should get married, and on which should be registered births, marriages, and deaths. Above all it was thought necessary that round the altars solemn deliberations should be held concerning the fate of the country, which was threatened by the whole continent of Europe.


After the flight of the king a petition was laid on the patriotic altar of the Champ de Mars demanding the monarch’s formal dethronement. At the Jacobin Club the question of the fall of the monarchy had been boldly put forward; and after a long debate the petition just referred to was drawn up and forwarded for general acceptation to the patriotic altar of the Champ de Mars. The document set forth that the nation would no more acknowledge Louis XVI. or any other king. That very evening, however, the Jacobins were themselves alarmed by the revolutionary turn of affairs, and withdrew their petition, declaring it to be illegal in form.

General La Fayette, at the head of the army and the National Guards, was meanwhile determined under all circumstances to keep order, and it soon became necessary for his troops to act. Two wretched men had concealed themselves beneath the staircase of the patriotic altar; and some insults said to have been addressed by them to women ascending the stairs led to their being attacked—trivial origin of a sanguinary massacre—by a number of washerwomen from the neighbourhood. The practical jokers in hiding beneath the staircase had with them a barrel of water, which popular indignation converted into a barrel of gunpowder intended to blow up the altar, together with the faithful assembled on its steps. The patriotic altar was at that time an object of religious {234} veneration, and the conduct of the two men beneath the staircase was looked upon as nothing less than sacrilegious. Some fanatics fell upon them and put them to death; and the incident, commented upon from the most different points of view, was in the end represented as an onslaught by reactionists on the sworn friends of liberty.

Meanwhile the crowd in the Champ de Mars was constantly increasing; and soon it was summoned by beat of drum, and with all the usual formalities, to disperse. Nothing came of this demand except a shower of stones hurled at the National Guard. The regular troops, composed principally of Royal Guards, replied by firing wildly at all around them. The patriotic altar was soon covered with blood and surrounded by corpses.

The crowd fled as rapidly as its numbers would permit, but it was now charged by cavalry, and afterwards fired into by artillery. To stop the carnage La Fayette rode up to the guns, himself exposed to their shots. The number of persons killed has, of course, been differently—very differently—estimated; but according to a moderate computation, at least 1,500 persons were slain.

General La Fayette, and Bailly, Mayor of Paris, had given a general order to repel force by force, and the responsibility of the massacre was accepted by Bailly. It was for this reason, indeed, that in November, 1793, he was sentenced to death, his execution taking place on the very scene of the massacre.

When armies were being hastily formed for repelling the invasion of the German sovereigns the recruiting office was in the Champ de Mars, where amphitheatres were erected with flags bearing this inscription, “Our country is in danger.” On a table, supported by two drums, the officers of the Municipality inscribed the names of those who wished to enlist, and the enthusiasm, now wide-spreading, gave to France fourteen armies, which, untrained as bodies, (though they contained numbers of trained men disbanded from the royal army) proved themselves valiant, and indeed invincible, in the field.

The next great festival which was held in the Champ de Mars was that of the Supreme Being. All that was done during the Revolution against religion was aimed particularly at the clergy and the monks, the Inquisition and the stake. The celebration of the Festival of the Supreme Being had been fixed, according to the Revolutionary calendar, for the 20th Prairial, and the famous painter David had been charged with the elaboration of the programme. The day which Robespierre had chosen for the celebration coincided precisely this year with one of the great Catholic festivals—that of Whitsuntide.

Robespierre had been elected President of the Assembly. At eight o’clock in the morning the beginning of the Festival was announced by a discharge of artillery from the Tuileries. Flowers had been brought to Paris from thirty miles round, and every house in the City had its garland, while all the women carried bouquets and all the men branches of oak. A vast amphitheatre constructed in the National Garden (the garden of the Tuileries, that is to say) held the members of the Convention, each of whom carried in his hand a bouquet of flowers and of ears of corn.

Robespierre, detained by his duties at the Revolutionary Tribunal, arrived late, at which there was some amusement. Dressed in the blue coat worn by the representatives of the people, and holding in his hand a bouquet of flowers and wheat, he exclaimed: “O Nature, how delightful, how sublime is thy power! How tyrants must tremble and grow pale at the idea of such a Festival!”

After the founder of the new religion had, in accordance with the programme, delivered his discourse, whence a few words have been cited, he walked down from the amphitheatre in company with his fellow-members of the Convention. At the entrance to the Palace had been erected a pyramid consisting of dolls representing atheism, ambition, egotism, and false simplicity; then came the rags of misery, through which could be seen the decorations and splendour of the slaves of Royalty. Robespierre went forward with a torch and set fire to these impostures. When wretchedness and vice had been consumed, the statue of Wisdom was discovered unfortunately a little scorched by the flames in which its opposites had perished.

The whole procession next moved towards the Champ de la Réunion, as the Champ de Mars was now called. The Convention marched in a body surrounded by a tricolour ribbon, which was carried by children, young men, middle-aged men, and old men, all crowned with oak and myrtle. No arms were worn, but every deputy exhibited in token of his mission a tricolour sash, and carried a feather in his hat. In the centre of the procession eight oxen with gilded horns drew an antique car bearing, as {235} tributes, instruments of art. When the Convention established itself on a symbolical mountain, it was surrounded by the fathers and mothers sent officially by the sections; also by their young daughters, crowned with roses, and older children adorned with violets. Everyone, moreover, in the procession wore national colours.

Then there was a fresh discourse from Robespierre, after which hymns by Chénier and Désorgues, with music by Gaveaux, were sung. The music of the hymns, from one or two specimens preserved, seems to have been poor, but given forth by thousands of voices it was doubtless impressive. After an invocation to the Eternal, the young girls strewed their flowers on the ground, mothers raised their children in their arms, and old men stretched out their hands to bless the young ones, who swore to die for their country and their liberty. Revolutionary in its origin, the Festival of the Supreme Being, celebrated throughout France, helped everywhere to raise the Catholic party; which was not precisely what its founders had aimed at.

Another solemn festival was held in the Champ de Mars, to celebrate the capture of Toulon from the English, as brought about by a young artillery officer named Bonaparte, whose name was being repeated from mouth to mouth by admirers as yet unable to foresee that the object of their admiration would before many years be the ruler of France; for, “born of the Republic,” he was, in the energetic words of Chateaubriand, “to kill his own mother.”

On the 3rd of December, 1804, the day after the coronation of the Emperor at Notre-Dame, the Champ de Mars was to be the scene of yet another festival—the distribution of eagles among the different regiments of the French Army.

It was in the Champ de Mars that Napoleon, after his return from Elba, gave a banquet to some 15,000 soldiers and National Guards; and again in the Champ de Mars that he assembled deputations from all the army-corps and all the State bodies convoked to hear the promulgation of the “additional Act” which gave new character to the old Napoleonic Constitution. This was the assembly known as that of the Champ de Mai, so called from the month in which it was held.

Under the Restoration the Champ de Mars became the scene of a military representation in which the Duke of Angoulême, at the head of the army which had fought, or rather had executed a military promenade, in Spain, attacked some battalions playing the part of the Spanish army, which at the proper moment retreated. Then the high ground since known as the Trocadéro was stormed, as the Trocadéro of Spain had been stormed in the war just terminated; and it was now that the idea was conceived of treating the Arc de Triomphe as a triumphal arch erected to the glory of the army of Louis XVIII.

Under the reign of Louis Philippe, the military representation of which under Louis XVIII.’s reign the Trocadéro had been made the scene was repeated, with the replacement of the Trocadéro by Antwerp. This display, on a very grand scale, was attended with a crush, a panic, and almost as many accidents as were caused by the celebrated fireworks on the Place Louis XV., on the occasion of Marie Antoinette’s marriage.

It was under the Restoration that the Champ de Mars was used as a course for the first races, or at least the first races of a popular character, established in France. They were, after some years, as already mentioned, transferred to Longchamps. Under the Second Empire, or rather when the Second Empire was about to be proclaimed, the Champ de Mars witnessed a magnificent review and distribution of eagles—the prelude, in fact, to the establishment of the imperial form of government. “Take back these eagles,” said the prince president on this occasion, “not as a symbol of threats against the foreigner, but as a recollection of an heroic epoch, as a sign of nobility for each regiment in the service. Take back these eagles which so often led your fathers to victory, and swear, if necessary, to die in their defence.” This was the last of the many political scenes of which the Champ de Mars has been the theatre. In 1867 it furnished a site for the annex or supplementary building where, in connection with the Universal Exhibition of that year, the machinery was displayed.

If the Champs Élysées became during the first half of the century a portion of Paris, this was also to happen during the second half to the more distant Bois de Boulogne; and as Paris is still constantly growing the time may come when Sèvres and Saint-Cloud, whither the Bois de Boulogne leads, will no longer be regarded as suburbs, but as integral parts of the French metropolis, from which they are now distant {236} (counting from the Place de la Concorde) some six miles.


No account, whether of the Champs Élysées or of the Champ de Mars, would be complete without some mention of the Universal Exhibitions of which the Elysian Fields and the Field of Mars have both been the scene. The first Universal Exhibition was held in England during the summer of 1851, but the first Industrial Exhibition on a large scale, without assistance or competition from the foreigner, took place in France immediately after the Revolution, of which it was one of the natural consequences.


Before 1789 the industrial system of France, as of other countries, was made up of corporations and guilds rigidly bound by rules and traditions; and many industrial processes were so many secrets into which apprentices, duly articled, were initiated, but which were jealously guarded from the knowledge of the outer world. A general exhibition of arts, manufactures, and machinery would, under the ancient régime, have been in direct opposition to the spirit of the time; it would have been impossible, that is to say.

When, however, guilds and corporations were broken up and labour was throughout the country rendered free, the desirability soon became apparent of familiarising workmen with the best methods of work; and manufacturers of all kinds were brought together and invited to send specimens of their handicraft to a great Exhibition, of which Paris was to be the scene. The idea was conceived under the Directory, six years after the Revolution; and with a rapidity characteristic of the period it was at once carried out. Of some hundred exhibitors, nearly all belonged to Paris. But at a second exhibition held three years afterwards, thirty-eight departments, including some of the most distant ones, sent examples of their industry. These exhibitions were to be triennial; though their recurrence at fixed intervals was sometimes interfered with by political or military events.

The Industrial Exhibitions of France, however, increased in importance until, under the reign of Louis Philippe, they took a prodigious development. After the Revolution of 1848 workmen as well as manufacturers were for the first time encouraged to exhibit, and many of them gained prizes. Now, too, an exhibition was held at which agriculture as well as industry was represented, and among the products and manufactures were a good number sent from the newly-acquired Algeria. Then came the English Universal Exhibition of 1851, held in Hyde Park; adorned for the occasion with a building of new {237} architecture, to which Douglas Jerrold, writing in Punch, gave the name of “Crystal Palace.”

In 1855 France, not to be outshone by England, opened in her turn a Universal Exhibition in the Champs Élysées, imitated in part from the glass structure designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, but less fairylike though, it may be, more substantial. Sixty years have passed since the opening of France’s first Industrial Exhibition; held at a time when, before the introduction of steamboats and railways, it would have been difficult, even if it had been thought desirable, for foreign manufacturers to compete with the manufacturers of France. The French Exhibition was held at the very height of the Crimean war; a sad reply to those who in the Universal Exhibition of 1851 saw a promise, if not a guarantee, of perpetual peace. Once more in 1867 the illusory nature of the belief that international commerce must put an end to international war was at least indicated by the important part played in the midst of the steel manufactures by Herr Krupp’s breech-loading cannons, which were seen to do such dreadful work in the campaign of 1870. Even while the Exhibition was being held the Luxemburg difficulty seemed on the point of bringing France and Prussia into the field.

The building erected for the first of France’s International Exhibitions having been found too small, the second and third, in 1867 and 1878, took new territory in the Champ de Mars; and in addition to the principal building a number of so-called annexes or supplementary buildings were established, chiefly for the display of machinery; while, besides the Champ de Mars, the fourth, held in 1889, took in the Avenue Suffren, the Quai d’Orsay, the terrace of the Invalides, the banks of the Seine, and the Garden of the Trocadéro.


The Champ de Mars in its old character had now entirely disappeared. The Minister of War had strongly objected to its utilisation for peace purposes when it was first proposed that a temporary building for machinery in connection with the Exhibition of 1867 should be erected on a plain which had hitherto been reserved for military exercises and manœuvres. Once invaded, the Champ de Mars was soon to be fully {238} occupied, and the last and greatest of the Paris Universal Exhibitions swallowed up the Champ de Mars without even finding its vast space sufficient. The desert of former days had become the most frequented place in the world. More than that, it was now a spot where the whole world was represented—Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australasia, with their different human types, their animals, their plants, their minerals, their natural products, their industries, their sciences, and their fine arts. An immense number of buildings in every form, in every style, and of every period had been erected. Domes, steeples, towers, cupolas, minarets, and factory chimneys stood out against the clear sky of Paris; and in the midst of this confused architecture were seen the large green masses of the winter gardens.

The whole, beheld from afar in a bird’s-eye view, formed an enormous ellipsis, with the marvellous Eiffel Tower in the centre. M. Eiffel, a French engineer, whose name would seem to denote a German origin, proposed the tower with which his name is now for ever associated five years before the date fixed for the Universal Exhibition. He was already known by some important works, such as the great iron bridge at Bordeaux, and several other bridges in the south of France; also by the Douro Viaduct, and by the bridge over the Szegedin Road, in Hungary. He had been employed in connection with the Universal Exhibition of 1867, where he had charge of the machinery annex.

The Americans had proposed to commemorate the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1875 by a tower one thousand feet in height, equal to about 305 French metres. But they abandoned the project, which was to be realised by M. Eiffel, whose tower is within five metres of the height contemplated by the architects and engineers of Philadelphia. The calculations for the Eiffel Tower, formed entirely of iron trellis work, had been so carefully made that when the component parts, prepared separately, were brought to the workshops of the Champ de Mars to be verified and adjusted, they fitted to the greatest perfection. To give an idea of the dimensions of the Eiffel Tower it may be mentioned that the towers of Notre-Dame rise to a height of sixty-six metres above the level of the soil, while the Cathedral of Cologne, the loftiest in the world, does not exceed 159 metres. To go back to the remotest antiquity, the Eiffel Tower is half as high again as the notorious Tower of Babel, of which the altitude was 625 feet, otherwise 208 metres and a few centimetres. At its base the tower measures, on each of its four sides, 100 metres, and it slopes up to a platform at the summit which measures, on each side, ten metres.

The first platform, with immense rooms for different purposes, is sixty-six metres above the level of the soil; just eight metres less than the towers of Notre-Dame, and it presents a surface of 5,000 square metres. It may be reached either by a staircase of 350 steps, or by a lift. The second platform stands 115 metres above the level of the soil, and measures thirty metres on each side, the area of the floor being 1,400 square metres. Here the Paris Figaro established a printing office, whence issued the special edition of the Eiffel Figaro, in which were printed the names of all the visitors. The third platform, 276 metres in height, can only be reached by lift. It is surmounted by a campanile, or bell tower, in the Italian style, twenty-four metres in height, which is divided into apartments for scientific experiments, and which includes M. Eiffel’s reception rooms. At the very top of the structure is a light, of the power employed in the great French lighthouses. The view from the Eiffel Tower becomes naturally more and more vast as one ascends; and M. Eiffel has had maps drawn showing the points visible from the third, or highest platform, to the ordinary sight. This map is exhibited on the third platform.

On the north may be distinguished two villages in the department of the Somme, seventy kilometres from Paris (four kilometres = two-and-a-half miles); on the north-east the forest of Hallatte, at the back of Cenlis, distant seventy-five kilometres; on the east two hills in the direction of Château Thierry, eighty-two kilometres; on the south-east the environs of La Ferté-Bernard, in the department of the Marne, eighty-two kilometres; on the south, the other side of Étampes, sixty-two kilometres; on the south-west the Cathedral of Chartres and a hill at the back, eighty-three kilometres; on the west the Château of Versailles, the chapel of Dreux, and the environs of Dourdan, at a distance of fifty kilometres; and finally on the north-west the forest of Lyons, ninety kilometres.

Telescopic distances have not been published. It can be seen, however, that this loftiest of observatories would be of immense use to Paris in {239} case of her being again approached by invading armies.

The Eiffel Tower was one of the greatest attractions of the Exhibition of 1889; and it remains a lasting memorial of that greatest of great exhibitions, which, on certain Sundays and holidays, attracted as many as 400,000 visitors. It has been calculated that it received altogether twenty-five million visitors—or, what is not quite the same thing, twenty-five million visits—which gives an average of 139,000 daily. Apart from the rich and varied interest belonging to the manufactures, the works of art, the products of all kinds, natural and artificial, that were on view, the Exhibition possessed a high significance in a political sense. It showed to Europe and to the world that France had more than recovered from the calamities of the war, and that she was once more in the very foremost rank of civilised powers. As in all exhibitions, the scientific departments attracted less attention, and were less frequented than the restaurants and the refreshment rooms; though here, also, there were opportunities for study, especially for those interested in ethnology.

Universal exhibitions have been compared to small towns, but they bear a greater resemblance to small worlds; and this was particularly the case with the Paris Exhibition of 1889, which was a microcosm on rather a large scale. There was no part of the world unrepresented in its varied departments, especially in the departments consecrated to eating and drinking, where national dishes and beverages were served by attendants in national costume. Here, side by side with an Algerian or Turkish coffee-house, where Mocha of guaranteed authenticity was provided, with narghilis, chiboucks, and Oriental cigarettes as appropriate accompaniments, stood a Dutch tavern purveying genuine curaçoa, or a Bavarian beerhouse. Vienna was in evidence by its so-called “cutlets” of chopped meat, and Austria generally, together with Hungary, by rare and characteristic wines. The Spanish Café was as remarkable for the black mantillas, with eyes to match, of the waitresses, as for its Malaga and its Xeres. The Danish Café was distinguished by its kümmel, and the Swedish Café by its punch, made in the Swedish style, and handed to the customer (also in the Swedish fashion) by fair-haired, fresh-complexioned Swedish maidens. The Russian traktir, taken in connection with specimens of Russian village huts, formed a compendium of Russian popular life, in a country where the popular and the aristocratic, often strangely opposed, are sometimes strangely intermingled. The wooden isbas, with their high roofs, curiously surmounted by semblances of horses’ heads, which have not only a picturesque, but a mystical significance—true examples of Russian rural architecture—showed such artistic carving above the portico, and at other points, that many a dull cynic declined to regard them as authentic, and held them to be mere fabrications, intended to astonish and delude the foreigner, even as Catherine II. is supposed to have been deluded by the village panoramas got up for her benefit in desert tracts by the ingenious Potemkin.

In England and other countries which are supposed to have attained the highest point of civilisation, the humbler classes know nothing of art work in connection with their daily life. But the Russian peasant, poor and uneducated, tasting meat once, perhaps, in a month, and living principally on black bread, salt cucumbers, dried mushrooms, and porridge, wears a costume full of colour, a red shirt, or a blue kaftan with a scarlet sash; and he adorns in his own rough but picturesque fashion the house he lives in, and every article of its modest furniture. The Russian peasant, like the peasant in other countries, makes none too frequent a use of the towel; but every towel that he possesses is ornamented with an embroidered fringe, worked by women who have never studied in any sort of art school, but who have acquired certain arts by tradition, and possibly through inherited aptitude. The Russian peasantry are still, for the most part, ignorant of reading and writing. But when the whole population of the Russian Empire is sent to school its native artistic faculties will, it is to be feared, disappear. At present the brain of the poor moujik must somehow occupy itself during his periods of leisure; and it works for the most part—and exclusively when he happens to be quite unlettered—through eye and hand.

At the Russian restaurant, or traktir, such national delicacies as caviar, dried salmon, pickled cucumbers, salt mushrooms, the ordinary components of the Russian zakouska or præprandium, were tasted by the visitor to the great Exhibition with less avidity than curiosity. These excellent comestibles (only one has got to know them first) were, if the Russian mode was followed, washed down with a glass of vodka; not, it must be admitted, the ordinary vodka of the Russian rural districts, but vodka of a more refined description, as swallowed (at least by the men) at the simple preparatory lunches given immediately before {240} dinner at the houses of the great.


Those were wrong who, at the Russian restaurants of the Exhibition, confined themselves to making the acquaintance of the strange preparations offered at every well-ordered zakouska; for Russia has a cuisine of her own well worthy of practical study—a cuisine which, like Russian civilisation, consists partly of what is truly Russian, but largely of what has been adapted or simply borrowed from various foreign nations. The stchee, or cabbage soup, the borsch, or beetroot soup, the oukha, or fish soup, and the batvinia, or iced soup of Russia, are thoroughly national, and, except that the Poles have also an iced soup called cholodiec, are not to be found in any other country. The Russians have many solid dishes, too (such as boiled sucking-pig with horse-radish sauce) which are quite peculiar to Russia; but, on the other hand, they have adopted all kinds of entrées from the French, together with various dishes of German and of Viennese origin; while they have likewise, in the art of cookery, taken lessons from their eastern neighbours.

Roumania, Servia, and what remains of Turkey were represented by dishes, drinks, and graceful female figures, all intensely national. Even such unpicturesque countries as England and America had their characteristic refreshment places. The English bars, served by much admired English barmaids, practised in the wiles and stratagems of casual flirtation, had many frequenters; while the American bars, typical of a country where women and liquor are becomingly kept apart, attracted amateurs {241} of all classes and from all countries. Nor must Italy be forgotten; the land which gave to France not only its music and its drama, but also its ices and its pastry. It is believed that in some of the cafés whose appearance was most strikingly foreign, France was secretly represented; for numbers of young women attired in garments of Oriental make, while perfectly ignorant of Eastern languages, talked fluently, and often very agreeably, in French.


“Trocadéro” is the name of one of the forts which the army of the Duke of Angoulême, operating in Spain, found it necessary to take before advancing upon Cadiz. The stronghold in question was constructed on an island of the same name, which, apart from walls, bastions, and batteries, was defended against assailants by a broad canal, in which, even at low tide, the water was four feet deep. The French approached the Trocadéro by regular siege works, and, after completing their second parallel, prepared to take the place by assault. The attack was made on the 15th of August, 1823, at three o’clock in the morning, just before daybreak, that is to say, when the Spanish garrison, trusting overmuch to the supposed efficiency of the water defences, were by no means on the alert. The French troops passed the water without firing a shot, scaled the walls, turned the guns and wall-pieces against the Spaniards, and, acting with great rapidity, were soon in possession of the fort. {242}



The Hôtel de Ville—Its History—In 1848—The Communards.

IF the Place de la Concorde, with the line of the Champs Élysées leading from it in one direction, and that of the Rue Royale and the line of boulevards in another, may be regarded as one of the most central points of Paris, the administrative centre is to be found in the Hôtel de Ville on the east side of that Place de l’Hôtel de Ville which was the heart of ancient Paris, or at least of so much of ancient Paris as stood on the right bank of the Seine.

The Hôtel de Ville, burnt by the Communards in 1871 as part of their general plan of incendiarism, was historically, as well as architecturally, one of the most interesting buildings in Paris. In spite of the modifications and restorations which it had undergone during the last two centuries of its existence, it never lost its original character. The Hôtel de Ville was the palace of the burgesses and merchants of the city, and there was a certain significance in its situation, just opposite the palace of the kings, with whom the representatives of the city were often, so far as they dared, in conflict. It had witnessed, moreover, many interesting scenes. It was always the head-quarters of insurrection so long as the struggle took place only between the monarchy and the middle classes. It perished in a struggle between the middle classes and the working men.

The first important part played by the Hôtel de Ville in its communal character dates from the time of Étienne Marcel—most ambitious of Paris mayors—in the fourteenth century. Long, however, before the pretensions of Étienne Marcel, under the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, privileged corporations existed in Paris under the name of Nautæ Parisiaci, who did a nautical business on the banks of the Seine. The Maison aux Piliers, where Étienne Marcel presided over the Municipality of the period, stood on the site afterwards occupied by the Hôtel de Ville, of which the first stone was laid by Francis I. on the 15th of July, 1533. “While the stone was being laid,” says the annalist Du Breuil, “fifes, drums, trumpets, and clarions were sounded, together with artillery and fifty sack-butts of the town of Paris. At the same time were rung the chimes of Saint-Jean-en-Grève, of Saint-Esprit, and of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie. In the middle of the Grève wine was running, and tables were furnished with bread and wine for all comers, while cries were uttered in a loud voice by the common people: ‘Vive le Roy et messieurs de la ville!’” An account of the before-mentioned ceremony has been left by Boccadoro.

In spite of the pompous proceedings by which the laying of the foundation-stone was accompanied, the building of the Hôtel de Ville was proceeded with very slowly, and during various foreign and civil wars interrupted altogether. The south wing had been erected under Henri II. The north wing was not completed until the reign of Louis XIII. The building was finished during the reign of Henri IV., whose equestrian statue by Pierre Biard marked, until the Revolution, the principal entrance. After suffering various injuries during the wars of the Fronde, the figure of the once popular king was, in 1793, overturned and destroyed, to be afterwards replaced by a statue in bronze.

Early in the eighteenth century the Hôtel de Ville had been found too small; and in 1749 it was proposed to reconstruct it on the other side of the Seine, on the site of the Hôtel Conti, where now stands the Mint. This project, however, met with a lively opposition on the part of Parisians generally; and in 1770 it was decided to enlarge the existing structure. Funds, however, were not forthcoming; and when, nineteen years afterwards, the Revolution broke out, the Hospital, or rather Hospice of the Holy Ghost, and the Church of Saint-Jean, suppressed as religious establishments, were, as buildings, annexed to the Hôtel de Ville, which they adjoined.

After the Hôtel de Ville had been destroyed in 1871 by the incendiaries of the Commune, the statues of Charlemagne, of Francis I., and of Louis XIV. were found in the ashes. They had shared the fate of the equestrian figure of Henri IV. at the time of the Revolution; and they were afterwards replaced by groups of sculpture which have no sort of {243} connection with the building.

The Hôtel de Ville has an interesting history of its own. In 1411 Charles VI. restored to the Paris municipality, in acknowledgment of the courage shown by the Parisians against the English, several privileges which had been abolished or had fallen into abeyance. Then, during the troubles of the Armagnacs and the Burgundians, the Paris Municipality broke into two hostile factions; but at length, from hatred of the Armagnac party, the municipality accepted the English domination. After the return, however, of Charles VII. and during the whole of the second half of the fifteenth century the magistrates of the capital showed themselves thoroughly loyal and absolutely devoted to the interests of the monarchy.

Louis XII. and Francis I. respected and even augmented the privileges of the Hôtel de Ville. But during the religious wars the municipality again split up into two factions. It took part, as a whole, in the massacre of St. Bartholomew, believing that it was thus helping to suppress conspiracy directed against the life of the king; but it made every effort to stop bloodshed when it understood the true character of the infamous attack upon the Huguenots. Towards the end of the sixteenth century the municipal officers were chosen from among the most determined supporters of the Catholic League; in spite of which the Hôtel de Ville made every effort to bring Henri IV. to Paris. In his gratitude, this monarch made lavish promises to the burgesses; and he kept them. In 1589 Henri III. had revoked all the privileges granted by his predecessors to the burgesses of Paris. The day after his entry into the capital Henri IV. re-established the municipal body, and gave back to it the whole of its ancient liberties. Then it was that the municipality resolved to place the king’s statue before the principal gate of the Hôtel de Ville.

During the reign of Louis XIII. Richelieu abolished the principle of election which constituted the very basis of the municipal authority of Paris. Various important offices, instead of being elective, were now made permanent appointments under the control of the king; and from this epoch dates the decline of the Paris municipal body. Under the ancient régime Louis XIV. deprived the Town Council of all power; and communal liberty had disappeared in Paris when the great Revolution broke out. Then, however, the Hôtel de Ville became once more a centre of political activity; and it was at the Hôtel de Ville, on the eve of the taking of the Bastille, that the discussions were held which led immediately to the attack on the fortress-prison. The so-called “electors” of Paris, themselves chosen the moment before from among the Paris population, had assembled under the presidency of M. de Flesselles, provost of the merchants, when a report was spread that he had concealed several barrels of gunpowder in the cellars of the Hôtel de Ville. This was looked upon as a reactionary measure intended to prevent the meditated attack on the hated stronghold; and people rushed to the Hôtel de Ville to distribute the powder at once and with their own hands. The Bastille had scarcely been taken when the captors, returning to the Hôtel de Ville, called out, “Down with De Flesselles,” who, attacked in the Hall of Assembly, escaped by a convenient door. He had scarcely, however, got outside when he was recognised and shot dead. With the death of the Provost de Flesselles the ancient corporation of the burgesses of Paris, with their privileges of holding courts, commercial, civil, and even criminal, came to an end. On its ruins was raised the Commune of Paris, which played so terrible a part in the Revolution, and especially during the Reign of Terror. The Hôtel de Ville has been called the “palace of revolution,” and during the last hundred years, ever since the era of revolutions set in, it has well deserved its name. The Hôtel de Ville served as headquarters to the Commune of Paris, and to the Committee of Public Safety. The registers of the Commune are still preserved in the Archives, and furnish the only authentic materials relating to the history of the most sanguinary period of the French Revolution. Under the Consulate and the Empire the municipal power, like the legislative power, was abolished; and the Hôtel de Ville was now only known as the scene from time to time of public entertainments. Crowds were in the habit of assembling before the Hôtel de Ville to hear the victories of Napoleon proclaimed. On the occasion of the Emperor’s marriage to Marie Louise the City of Paris revived the entertainments which it had been in the habit of giving to the ancient kings. Napoleon expressed a desire to present his wife to the burgesses of Paris assembled in the rooms of the Hôtel de Ville, which from this time, as long as the Empire lasted, gave an annual ball on the 15th of August.

The Restoration did nothing for the Hôtel de Ville. In 1830, during the Revolution which placed Louis Philippe on the throne in lieu of {244} Charles X., the Hôtel de Ville was the chief object of contention between the two parties; and it was in the Place de Grève, or Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, as it was afterwards to be called, that the most terrible conflict of the “three days” occurred. Taken and re-taken, the Hôtel de Ville at last remained in the power of the insurgents; and the tricolour flag, which for the previous fifteen years had been looked upon as an emblem of sedition, now floated once more above its walls. The provisional government, established there under the inspiration of La Fayette, offered a crown to Louis Philippe. “A throne surrounded by Republican institutions,” such, in a few words, was the celebrated “programme of the Hôtel de Ville.” The throne remained, but the Republican institutions disappeared; and Louis Philippe made no step towards re-establishing the very institution—the Municipal Council—which had made him king.

HÔTEL DE VILLE IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.  (From an Engraving by Rigaud.)
(From an Engraving by Rigaud.)

Eighteen years later another revolution was to take place; and after the flight of Louis Philippe a provisional government was again proclaimed—proclaimed itself, that is to say. Lamartine was at the head of it, and without showing any aptitude for exercising power, the celebrated writer, whose popularity had been much increased by his recently published “History of the Girondists,” delivered a number of remarkable speeches at the Hôtel de Ville. Hating all government, a portion of the populace forced its way into the passages and approached the room where Lamartine was engaged with laws and proclamations, when the hero of the hour laid down his pen, rushed towards the invading crowd and called upon it to retire. No less than seven times did he repeat his adjurations to the mob, till, at last, some “man of the people,” foreseeing that the republic about to be established would not be of the “red” hue desired by the extreme Revolutionists, called him a traitor and demanded his head.



“My head!” replied Lamartine. “Would to heaven that every one of you had it on his shoulders. You would then be calmer and more reasonable, {246} and the Revolution would be accomplished with less difficulty.” The day had been won, but the battle was to begin again on the morrow; and now once more Lamartine stilled the troubled waters by a few eloquent phrases. The question had been raised whether the tricolour flag, or the red flag of the Reign of Terror, should be adopted. Lamartine traced the history of both; and the crowd, carried away by the warmth of his oratory, decided with acclamation that the flag of the new republic must be the flag of the early days of the great Revolution, the flag under which the great battles of the Consulate and the Empire had been gained. It will be remembered that when, in 1789, a leaf torn from a tree of the Palais Royal by Camille Desmoulins was made a sign of recognition, green was on the point of being adopted for the new national flag. It was rejected, however, when someone pointed out that green was the colour of the Artois family; and thereupon blue and red, the colours of the town of Paris, were assumed, to which, out of compliment to the monarchy, favourable in the first instance to the claims of the people, white, the colour of the French kings, was added. Thus the tricolour flag became the flag of the Revolution, as, during successive changes of government, it was equally the flag of the Consulate and the Empire. At the Restoration the Monarchy committed the grave fault of re-introducing the white flag of the ancient régime, which Louis Philippe had the good sense to replace by the Republican and Imperial tricolour.


When in June, 1848, the insurrection of unemployed workmen broke out, demanding, in the words of certain insurgents at Lyons, “bread or bullets,” the Hôtel de Ville became once more an object of contest between the opposing forces; but the supporters of the Democratic and Socialistic Republic were to be defeated, and the Hôtel de Ville did not, during the terrible days of June, change hands. As long as the Republic lasted—less than four years—the municipal institutions showed signs of vitality, which, however, were to disappear on the coup d’état of December 2nd, 1851; and throughout the second Empire the Hôtel de Ville was occupied, in lieu of an independent Municipal Council, by a sort of consultative commission without mandate and without authority, attached to the Prefect in order to verify his accounts with closed eyes. By way of compensation, however, the Hôtel {247} de Ville was encouraged to give balls, to which the chief of the State accorded his gracious patronage. It was at the Hôtel de Ville that the Prefect of the Seine, M. Berger, entertained Queen Victoria, and that his successor, Baron Haussman, received in like manner the Emperor of Russia, while proposing to extend his hospitality to the Sultan. The reception of the Emperor Alexander II. did not pass off without an incident which caused a very painful impression at the time, and which the French would, now more than ever, gladly forget; for as the Tsar was about to enter the Hôtel de Ville he was saluted with cries of “Vive la Pologne!”

If the ball given in honour of the Emperor Alexander was marred by a mere exclamation, the one which it had been proposed to offer to the Sultan of Turkey was stopped by a tragic event. News had suddenly arrived of the execution of the Emperor Maximilian. Thus was marked the failure of the Emperor Napoleon’s Mexican policy; and thus disappeared for ever his fantastic dreams of a confederation of Latin, or Latinised, or Latin-influenced nations, under the patronage of France. Up to this time Napoleon III. had been marching from one success to another. The turning point in his career had been reached, and the failure in Mexico was to be followed by failures in every direction. The ball in honour of the Sultan having been abandoned, it was nevertheless thought necessary to give him some idea of what it would have been had it really taken place. Accordingly the Hôtel de Ville was lighted up, and the Commander of the Faithful was escorted through the deserted ball-rooms and saloons, the officer appointed to accompany him explaining, as he passed from one apartment to another, “Here you would have seen the high functionaries of State in their uniforms with full decorations; here most of the dancing would have taken place, and you would have been enraptured by the sight of beautiful women in the most charming dresses; here would have been the orchestra, the best in Paris, and probably in the whole world.” This strange jest must have reminded the Sultan of one of the most famous books in the Mahometan world, that “Thousand and One Nights,” with its tale of an honoured guest to whom a dinner without viands was offered.

Some months later the Hôtel de Ville was the scene of a grand dinner given in honour of the Emperor of Austria, brother of the unfortunate Maximilian. Here, for the first time in modern history, privileged guests were admitted by invitation cards to galleries, from which the spectacle of two sovereigns dining together could be enjoyed. Burton, in his “Anatomy of Melancholy,” recommends the sight of two kings engaged in single combat as a cure for atrabiliousness. It was probably as an improvement on Burton’s remedy, so difficult to procure, that a private view of two Emperors sitting together at table was offered to a favoured few.

After the breakdown of the Second Empire and the flight of the Empress from Paris, the Government of National Defence, consisting of all the Paris Deputies, had its head-quarters at the Hôtel de Ville; and here, when the so-called government had given place to the Central Committee, and the Central Committee to the Commune, the last-named body held its deliberations. In 1875 the Hôtel de Ville was reconstructed, with certain modifications and amplifications, on the lines of the ancient one, burned down by the Communards. The new edifice contains either in niches, or on external pinnacles, rather more than 100 statues, reproducing the features of all kinds of celebrities, the whole of them belonging to France, with the single exception of Cortone, born in Italy. The collection includes the architects of the original building, some of the most famous merchant-provosts, mayors of Paris, prefects of the Seine, and municipal councillors, among whom may be mentioned Michel Lallier, who delivered Paris from the English, François Miron, and Pierre Viole. Literature, the stage, and music are largely represented in the effigies of Beaumarchais, Béranger, Boileau, F. Halévy, Hérold, Marivaux, Molière, Picard, Alfred de Musset, Charles Perrault, Quinault, Regnard, George Sand, Scribe, etc.; nor have architecture, sculpture, painting, and the industrial arts been forgotten in this spacious Walhalla, where are found the statues of Boucher, Boulle (known among Englishmen, in connection with various kinds of inlaid work, as “Bühl,”) Chardin, Corot, Daubigny, Louis David, Eugène Delacroix, Decamps, Firmin Didot, the well-known printer, Jean Goujon, Gros, Lancret, Le Brun, Le Nôtre, Pierre Lescot, Lesueur, Mansard, Germain Pilon, Henri Regnault, Théodore Rousseau, Horace Vernet, etc. Mingled with the writers, composers, painters, sculptors, and architects, are statesmen and historians such as Cardinal de Richelieu, the Marquis d’Argenson, {248} the Duke de Saint-Simon, De Thou, Pierre de l’Estoile, and Michelet. Two illustrious tragedians figure in this chosen company, Lekain and Talma.

The new Hôtel de Ville has been furnished with magnificence and good taste. The staircases are very fine, but the essentially modern character of the internal arrangements is sufficiently shown by the lifts which work between the basement and the upper storeys.


On the side of the Hôtel de Ville looking towards the river are the private apartments of the Prefect of the Seine, who performs the functions of Mayor of Paris. In the left wing sit the clerks, engaged in duties as complicated as those of a Ministerial bureau, and here also is the hall in which the sittings of the Municipal Council are held. The prefectorial functions are divided between two prefects: the Prefect of the Seine, whose duties are exclusively administrative; and the Prefect of Police, who attends not only to the Police of Paris, but, in a general way, to Police matters throughout the country. The finances of the city or town of Paris (“ville de Paris” is its traditional, historic name) are regulated, under the authority of the Prefect of the Seine, by a Municipal Council composed of eighty members elected on universal suffrage, four members for each arrondissement, or one for each quartier. These eighty councillors form the Council-General of the Seine, whose principal duty it is to prepare the budget of the department. They are forbidden to occupy themselves in any manner with politics. Though the prefects of the various departments are not supposed in France to exercise political functions, they are really political officers—that is to say, they are appointed by the Central {249} Government, and frequently, though in many cases secretly, do the work of political agents. During the invasion of 1870 they were regarded as political officers, and everywhere retired as the invaders advanced; the mayors meanwhile, as municipal officers, everywhere remaining. It has been said that the duties of the Prefecture of Paris are shared by the Prefect of the Seine and the Prefect of Police, and that the former conducts his business at the Hôtel de Ville. His associate, though connected with the Hôtel de Ville, has his establishment, with its various bureaux, at the Palais de Justice in the “Cité.”

The island of the Cité, the ancient Lutetia, the cradle of modern Paris, has possessed from time immemorial, and certainly from the first years of the Roman conquest, a religious edifice, first a Pagan temple and afterwards a Christian church, on the western extremity of the Parisian island; while the eastern extremity has been always occupied by a palace reserved for the Government, and for the administration of justice.





The Palais de Justice—Its Historical Associations—Disturbances in Paris—Successive Fires—During the Revolution—The Administration of Justice—The Sainte-Chapelle.

NEXT to Notre-Dame the most interesting edifice in the island of the City, at the corner of the Quai de l’Horloge, is the Palais de Justice, which dates from the time of the Romans. So much at least has been inferred, apart from the tradition on the subject, from the fact that when some years ago the building was reconstructed, Roman remains were discovered in the foundations. All, however, that can be affirmed with historical certainty as to the origin of the Palace is that towards the end of the ninth century it existed in the form of a fortress, and was the residence of the Frankish kings of the second race. It played an important part in the defence of Paris against the Normans invading the city by water from Rouen and the lower Seine. At the Palais de Justice lived the Counts of Paris, and afterwards the kings of the line which came to an end with the unfortunate “Louis Capet” (as in Revolutionary parlance he was called) who lost his head beneath the guillotine.

Louis le Gros, the protector of the Communes, died at the Palace in 1137. Philip Augustus, while undertaking the entire reconstruction of the Château du Louvre, made the Palace his habitual residence, and it was there that he married Ingelburga, sister of Canute, King of Denmark. Under the reign of this monarch, the court or tribunal of the King received for the first time the name of Parliament, its functions being to discuss and decide questions submitted to it by the Sovereign, and to pronounce on the illegality or legality of certain acts. In these days the royal residence was not luxuriously furnished, hay doing duty for carpet during the winter, and a matting of weeds during the summer. These primitive coverings of the palatial floors were given by Philip Augustus to the hospital known as the Hôtel-Dieu whenever the Court left Paris.

The King’s Palace was called the Palace of Justice from the fact that here the Sovereign held Court, and decided the cases submitted to him by his subjects, sometimes with, sometimes without, the assistance of the before-mentioned Parliament. Here, too, St. Louis formed in a hall adjoining the Holy Chapel a library, in which he collected copies of all valuable manuscripts placed at his disposal. This library was open to learned and studious men, with whom the king loved to converse.

Philip the Fair enlarged the Palace; and under his reign the Parliament, formerly styled “ambulatory,” became sedentary: it no longer, that is to say, followed the king in his journeys from one residence to another. The members of Parliament had lodgings assigned to them in that part of the building now occupied by the prison of the Conciergerie. Under the reign of Charles V. the first great clock that had ever been seen in France was placed in a square tower on the quay; whence the name “Quai de l’Horloge.”

It was in the Palais de Justice that Charles VI. received the Greek Emperor, Manuel Palæologus, and the Emperor Sigismund, King of Hungary. A strange incident happened in connection with the visit of the latter sovereign. He had expressed a desire to witness the pleading of a case before the Parliament, and at the beginning of the process astonished everyone by taking the seat reserved for the King of France. One of the parties to the suit was about to lose his action on the ground that he was not a nobleman, whereupon, in a spirit of equity and chivalry, not appreciated by the assembly, Sigismund rose from his seat, and calling to him the pleader, who, from no fault of his own, was getting defeated, made him a knight; which completely changed the aspect of affairs, and enabled the man who was in the right to gain his case.

It was at the Palace of Justice that the marriage of Henry V. of England with Catherine of France, daughter of Charles VI., was celebrated. Here, too, Henry VI., King of England, resided at the time of his coronation as King of France. Under the reign of Charles VII. certain clerks, “les clercs de la basoche,” obtained permission to represent “farces and moralities” in the great banqueting hall, an immense marble table at one of the extremities of the hall serving as stage. According to a writer of the time, this table was “so long, so broad, and so thick, {251} that no sheet of marble so thick, so broad, and so long was ever known elsewhere.” The morality of the so-called “moralities” seems to have been more than doubtful; for after a time they were stopped by reason of their alleged impropriety. This was in 1476.

Soon, however, the clerks attached to the Palace of Justice reappeared on the marble table; when they again got themselves into trouble by satirising the Government of Charles VIII., and even Charles himself. Several of the authors and actors concerned in the piece were imprisoned, and were only liberated at the instance of the Bishop of Paris, who claimed for them “benefit of clergy.”

The clerks of the tribunals and the students of the university were, in those days, troublesome folk. The students have always formed an exceptional class in Paris. Unlike the university students in England, they live in the capital, are exposed to its temptations, and take part in its struggles.

During the present century in commotions and insurrections they have always been on the popular side. In former times, however, they formed a party in themselves; and the students of Paris would engage with the citizens in formidable contests, which, with exaggerated features, resembled the “town and gown” rows of which our own universities have so often been the scene.

“In the year 1200,” says the author of “Singularités Historiques,” “a German gentleman studying at Paris sent his servant to a tavern to buy some wine. The servant was maltreated, whereupon the German students came to the aid of their fellow-countryman, and served the wine-dealer so roughly that they left him nearly dead. The townspeople now came to avenge the tavern-keeper; and, taking up arms, attacked the house of the German gentleman and his fellow-countrymen. There was great excitement throughout the town. The German gentleman and five students of his nation were killed. The Provost of Paris, Thomas by name, had been at the head of the Parisians in this onslaught; and the heads of the schools made a complaint on the subject to King Philip, who, without waiting for any further information, arrested the provost and several of his adherents, demolished their houses, tore up their vines and their fruit-trees, and fearing lest all the foreign students should desert Paris, issued a decree for the protection of the schools and those who frequented them. Thomas, for having incited instead of preventing disorder, was condemned to perpetual imprisonment.”

In 1221 the students of the university, encouraged by the privileges granted to them by Philip Augustus, gave themselves up to all kinds of excesses, carrying away women and committing outrages, thefts, and murders; whereupon Bishop Guillaume pronounced excommunication against all who went about by night or day with arms. As the decree of excommunication produced little effect, the bishop caused the most seditious to be put in prison, and drove the others out of the town, thus re-establishing tranquillity.

In 1223 a violent quarrel and disturbance broke out between the scholars and the inhabitants. Three hundred and twenty students were killed and thrown into the Seine. Several professors went to the Pope to complain of so cruel a persecution; and some of them withdrew, with their students, from the capital. Paris was interdicted; and its schools, so superior to those of the other towns of France, remained without professors or scholars, and were closed.

During the thirteenth century there was as much credulity and fanaticism as there was anarchy in Paris. This was fully shown when a new sect, composed entirely of priests, declared itself. Its members denied the Real Presence, looked upon most of the ceremonies of the Church as useless, and ridiculed the worship of saints and relics. They addressed themselves particularly to women, persuading them that nothing they did was sinful so long as it was done from charity.

An ecclesiastic named Amaury, the chief of this sect, set forth his doctrine to the Pope, who condemned it. Amaury, it is said, died of grief, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Nicholas-in-the-Fields. The disciples he left behind him were nearly all ecclesiastics, or professors of the University of Paris. There was, however, one goldsmith among them, who, we are assured, uttered prophecies.

To discover the members of this sect a stratagem was employed. Raoul de Nemours and another priest pretended to share the opinions of the heretics, that they might afterwards denounce them. The offenders were then arrested and taken to the Place des Champeaux, when three bishops and doctors in theology deprived them of their degrees, and condemned them to be burnt alive. Fourteen of the unhappy men underwent this {252} frightful punishment and supported it with courage. Four were excepted and condemned to perpetual imprisonment. The execution took place on the 21st of October, 1210.


The bishops and doctors, assembled in council to pronounce judgment, condemned at the same time two books of Aristotle on metaphysics; and after delivering them over to the flames forbade all persons to transcribe them, read them, or “retain the contents in their memory” under pain of excommunication.

Under Louis XII. the irrepressible clerks of the Basoche ridiculed the sovereign as the personification of Avarice. The king was urged to treat the presumptuous young men as his predecessors had often done. “Let them play in all freedom,” he replied. “Let them speak as they will of me and my Court. If they notice abuses why should they not point them out, when so many persons, reputed sage, are unwilling to do so?”

After the death of Louis XII. the representations of the clerks were subjected to a more and more severe censorship; and towards the end of the sixteenth century the Theatre of the Marble Table was given up altogether.

To pass to the reign of Francis I., it was at the Palais de Justice that this monarch received the challenge from the Emperor Charles V. His successors took up their residence in the Louvre, abandoning altogether the ancient palace, which was now occupied exclusively by the Law Courts. In 1618 a great portion of the building was destroyed by fire; and it was only by incurring great personal risk that the Registrar succeeded in saving the records of the Parliament. The fire {253} was generally attributed to accomplices, real or supposed, of Ravaillac, the assassin of Henri IV. Although Ravaillac had declared himself solely responsible for the murder, and had received absolution only on condition of his swearing solemnly to the truth of his declaration, the police seemed resolved to implicate a number of other persons; and when a certain amount of evidence had been collected against them the suspected ones thought it judicious (so the story ran) to destroy all that had been written down against them. All the most characteristic, the most picturesque part of the building was destroyed, including the large hall lighted solely through windows of coloured glass, in which stood the statues of the Kings of France. Charles VII. had cut, with a chisel, the English King’s face; and it was only by these mutilations that the statue of Henry VI. was recognised among the ruins. The famous marble table at the western extremity of the hall had been damaged beyond remedy by the flames. At the eastern extremity, the Chapel of Louis XI., in which that devout but treacherous monarch was represented kneeling to the Virgin, had been entirely destroyed.


Nearly all that remained of the ancient palace was the prison or “conciergerie,” where Montgomery, who by mishap had slain his king in a tournament, and, at a later period, Damiens of the Four Horses had been confined. The tower of the conciergerie was for a long time called the Montgomery Tower.

Besides the conciergerie, the hall known as the Salle des Pas Perdus and the so-called “Kitchen of Saint-Louis,” with an immense chimney-piece in each of the four corners, formed part of the ancient building.

In 1776 the Palais de Justice again took fire, and again was in great part reconstructed. In 1835, under Louis Philippe, the Town of Paris decided to enlarge it, and the plan by M. Huyot, the architect, was adopted by the Municipal Council in 1840. The royal sanction was then obtained; but Louis Philippe did not remain long enough on the throne to see the work of construction terminated. The Republican Government of 1848 stopped the building; and it was only under the Second Empire in 1854 that it was resumed, to be completed in 1868. More important by far than the re-alterations, additions, and reconstructions of which the Palais de Justice has in successive centuries been made the subject have been the changes in the French law, and in various matters connected with its administration. Up to the time of the Revolution citizens were {254} arrested in the most arbitrary manner on mere suspicion, and imprisoned for an indefinite time without being able to demand justice in any form. Some half a dozen years before the uprising of 1789 the king had decreed that no one should be arrested except on a definite accusation; but the order was habitually set at nought.

The Palais de Justice of the present day occupies about one third of the total surface of the Cité. Enclosed on the east by the Boulevard du Palais, on the west by the Rue de Harlay, on the north by the Quai de l’Horloge, and on the south by the Quai des Orfèvres, it forms a quadrilateral mass in which all styles are opposed and confused, from the feudal towers of the Quai de l’Horloge to the new buildings begun in Napoleon III.’s reign, but never completed. To the left of this strange agglomeration the air is pierced by the graceful spire of the Sainte-Chapelle, admirable monument of the piety and of the art of the middle ages.

Some portions of the ancient Palace of Justice are preserved in the modern edifice, but only the substructures, as, for instance, in the northern buildings facing the Seine. The principal gate, and the central pavilion with its admirable façade at the bottom of the courtyard opening on to the Boulevard du Palais, were constructed under the reign of Louis XVI. The northern portion, from the clock tower, at the corner of the quay, to the third tower behind, has been restored or rebuilt in the course of the last thirty years. All the rest of the building is absolutely new.

The clock tower, a fine specimen of the military architecture of the fourteenth century, was furnished in 1370 by order of Charles V. with the first large clock that had been seen in Paris, the work of a German, called in France Henri de Vic. To this clock the northern quay owes its name of “Quai de l’Horloge du Palais” or “Quai de l’Horloge.” The bell suspended in the upper part of the tower is said to have sounded the signal for the massacre of the Protestants on the eve of St. Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, 1572; a doubtful honour, which is also claimed for the bell of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois.

The Palais de Justice, as it now exists, possesses a threefold character—legal, administrative, and punitive. Here cases are tried, here the Prefect of Police performs the multifarious duties of his office, and here criminals are imprisoned. Of the various law courts the Palais de Justice contains five: the Court of Cassation, in which appeal cases are finally heard on questions of form, but of form only; the Court of Appeal, the Court of Assizes, the Tribunal of First Instance, and the Tribunal of Police. These fill the halls of the immense building.

The Court of Cassation, divided into three chambers, counts forty-eight counsellors, a first president, three presidents of chamber, a procurator-general, six advocates-general, a registrar-in-chief, four ordinary registrars, three secretaries of the court, a librarian, eight ushers, and a receiver of registrations and fines; altogether seventy-seven persons. The Court of Appeal, divided into seven chambers, is composed of a first president, seven presidents of chamber, sixty-four counsellors, a procurator-general, seven advocates-general, eleven substitutes attached to the court, a registrar-in-chief, and fourteen ordinary registrars; altogether 106 persons. The number of officials and clerks employed in the Tribunal of First Instance is still greater. Divided into eleven chambers, the tribunal comprises one president, eleven vice-presidents, sixty-two judges, and fifteen supplementary judges, a public prosecutor, twenty-six substitutes, a registrar-in-chief, and forty-five clerks of registration. As for the Police Court, it is presided over in turn by each of the twenty magistrates of Paris, two Commissaries of Police doing duty as assessors. With the addition of two registrars and a secretary the entire establishment consists of six persons. The entire number of judges, magistrates, registrars, and secretaries employed at the Palais de Justice amounts to 351; without counting a floating body of some hundreds of barristers, solicitors, ushers, and clerks, thronging like a swarm of black ants a labyrinth of staircases, corridors, and passages. Yet the Palais de Justice, constantly growing, is still insufficient for the multiplicity of demands made upon it.

The history of the Palais de Justice is marked by the fires in which it has from time to time been burned down. The first of these broke out on the night of the 5th of March, 1618, when the principal hall and most of the buildings adjoining it were destroyed. The second, which took place on the 27th of October, 1737, consumed the buildings forming the Chamber of Accounts, situated at the bottom of the courtyard of the Sainte-Chapelle—an edifice of surpassing beauty, constructed in the fifteenth century by Jean Joconde, a monk of the Order of Saint Dominic. {255} The third fire declared itself during the night of January 10, 1776, in the hall known as the Prisoners’ Gallery, from which it spread to all the central buildings. In this conflagration perished the old Montgomery Tower. The last of the fires in which so many portions of the Palais de Justice have turn by turn succumbed, was lighted by order of the insurgent Commune on the 24th of May, 1871, when the troops from Versailles were entering Paris. The principal hall, the prison, the old towers with all the civil and criminal archives (in the destruction of the latter the insurgents may have been specially interested) were all consumed.

These repeated catastrophes, together with numerous restorations, have left standing but very little of the ancient Palais de Justice. The central pavilion, reconstructed under Louis XVI. in accordance with the plans of the architect Desmaisons, is connected with two galleries of historical interest, on one side with the Galerie Mercière, on the other with the Galerie Marchande. The names of “Mercière” and “Marchande” recall the time when the galleries so named, as well as the principal hall and the outer walls of the palace, were occupied by stalls and booths in which young and pretty shop-girls sold all sorts of fashionable and frivolous trifles, such as ribbons, bows, and embroideries. Here, too, new books were offered for sale. Here Claude Barbin and his rivals sold to the patrons and patronesses of the stage the latest works of Corneille, Molière, and Racine. Here appointments of various kinds were made, but especially of one kind.

The Palace Gallery, or Galerie du Palais, was the great meeting-place for the fashionable world until only a few years before the great Revolution, when it was deserted for the Palais Royal. Some of its little shops continued to live a meagre life until the reign of Louis Philippe. Now everything of the kind has disappeared, with the exception of two privileged establishments where “toques” and togas—in plain English, caps and gowns—can be bought, or even hired, by barristers attending the “palace.”

The entrance to the central building is from the Galerie Mercière, through a portico supported by Ionic columns, and surmounted by the arms of France. The visitor reaches a broad, well-lighted staircase, where, half-way up, stands in a niche an impressive statue of Law, the work of Gois, bearing in one hand a sceptre, and in the other the Book of the Law, inscribed with the legend “In legibus salus.”


The grand staircase of the Palais leads through a waiting-room, which serves also as a library, to the three first chambers of the Court of Appeal. The rooms are of a becomingly severe aspect. The walls are painted a greenish grey, of one uniform tint. The tribunal is sometimes oblong, sometimes in horse-shoe form. On the right sits the assessor representing the Minister of Justice, on the left the registrar on duty. In the “parquet,” or enclosure beneath the tribunal, is the table of the usher, who calls the next case, executes the president’s behests, and maintains order in the court, exclaiming “Silence, gentlemen,” with the traditional voice and accent.

The “parquet” is shut in by a balustrade technically known as the bar, on which lean the advocates as they deliver their speeches. The space {256} furnished with benches which is reserved for them, and where plaintiff and defendant may also sit, is enclosed by a second bar, designed to keep off the public properly so-called, and prevent it from pressing too closely upon the court. There is no witness-box in a French court. The witness stands in the middle of the court and recites, often in a speech that has evidently been prepared beforehand, all he knows about the case under trial.


Such is the general disposition of all the assize chambers in the Palais de Justice. Some, however, present features of their own. The first chamber, for instance, contains a magnificent Calvary, by Van Eyck; one of the rare objects of art which survive from the ancient ornamentation of the palace. On the centre of the picture, rising like a dome between two side panels, is the Saviour on the Cross. On His right is the Virgin supported by two holy women, by Saint John the Baptist and by Saint Louis, graced with the exact features of King Charles VII., under whose reign this masterpiece was executed. On the left are Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Denis, and Saint Charlemagne. Above the head of our Lord are the Holy Ghost and the Eternal Father surrounded by angels, while the background is occupied by a landscape less real than curious; for it represents the City of Jerusalem, the Tower of Nesle, the Louvre, and the Gothic buildings of the Palais de Justice. This work, by the great painter of Bruges, executed in the early part of the fifteenth century, was formerly in the Principal Hall of the Parliament, beneath the portrait of Louis XII., which the people (whose “father” he claimed to be) destroyed in 1793. The portion of the building which contains the three first chambers of the court—behind the portico opening on to the Galerie Mercière—escaped the fire of 1776. Its lateral and southern {257} façade, turned towards the courtyard of the Sainte-Chapelle, is pierced with lofty windows, sculptured in the Renaissance style. It must have been constructed under the Valois, or under the reign of Henri IV. But it is difficult to ascertain its early history, for but few writers have given much attention to the subject.




The fifth, sixth, and seventh chambers of the Court of Appeal are all entered from the Galerie Marchande; while the fourth chamber stands in the north-east corner of the said gallery. On the left of the Galerie Mercière is the famous Salle des Pas Perdus, seventy-four metres long and twenty-eight broad. This is the great entrance hall to the courts generally. Why it should be called “Salle des Pas Perdus” is not evident, though the name may be due either to the “lost steps” of litigants bringing or defending actions without result, or, more probably, to the “lost steps” of those who walk wearily to and fro for an indefinite time, vainly expecting their case to be called on. Whatever the derivation of its name, the Salle des Pas Perdus is considered one of the finest halls in Europe. Twice has it been destroyed by fire and twice rebuilt. The first large hall of the palace, as it was at that time called, was built under Philip the Fair and finished towards 1313. It was adorned successively with the statues of the kings of France from Pharamond to Francis I.; the successful ones being represented with their hands raised to heaven in token of thanksgiving, the unfortunate ones with head and hands lowered towards the ground. The most celebrated ornament of the large hall was the immense marble table of which ample mention has already been made.

After the fire of 1618 (in which the table split into several pieces, still preserved in the vaults of the palace) a new hall on the same site, and of the same dimensions as the old one, was built by Jacques Desbrosses, which was burnt in 1871 by the Commune, to be promptly rebuilt by MM. Duc Dommey and Daumet.

The seven civil chambers of the tribunal are entered through the Salle des Pas Perdus, either from the ground floor or from the upper storey, which is reached by two staircases. This portion of the palace was partly reconstructed in 1853 under the reign of Napoleon III., Baron Haussmann being Prefect of the Seine. The fact is recorded on a marble slab let into one of the walls. In the middle of the south part of the Salle des Pas Perdus, a marble monument was raised in 1821 to Malesherbes, the courageous advocate who defended Louis XVI. at the bar of the Convention. The monument comprises the statue of Malesherbes with figures of France and Fidelity by his side. On the pedestal are low reliefs, representing the different phases of the memorable trial. The statues are by Cortot, the illustrative details by Bosio. The Latin inscription engraved on the pedestal was composed by Louis XVIII., in whose reign the monument was executed and placed in its present position. This king, who translated Horace and otherwise distinguished himself as a Latinist, is the author of more than one historical inscription in the Latin language, and he commemorated by this means, not only the heroism of Malesherbes, who defended Louis XVI. at the trial, but also the piety of the Abbé Edgeworth, who accompanied him to the scaffold.

Towards the end of the hall, on the other side, is the statue of Berryer, which, according to M. Vitu, is “the homage paid to eloquence considered as the auxiliary of justice.” In the north-east corner of the Hall of Lost Steps, to the left of Berryer’s monument, is the entrance to the first chamber, once the bed-chamber of Saint Louis, and which, reconstructed with great magnificence by Louis XII. for his marriage with Mary of England, daughter of King Henry VII., took the name of the Golden Room. It afterwards played an important part in the annals of the Parliament of Paris. Here Marshal de Biron was condemned to death on the 28th of July, 1602. Here a like sentence was pronounced against Marshal d’Ancre on the 8th of July, 1617. Here the kings of France held their Bed of Justice, solidly built up at the bottom of the hall in the right corner, and composed of a lofty pile of cushions, covered with blue velvet, in which golden fleurs de lis were worked. Here, finally, on the 3rd of May, 1788, the Marquis d’Agoult, commanding three detachments of French Guards, Swiss Guards, Sappers, and Cavalry, entered to arrest Counsellors d’Épréménil and Goislard, when the president, surrounded by 150 magistrates and seventeen peers of France, every one wearing the insignia of his dignity, called upon him to point out the two inculpated members, and exclaimed: “We are all d’Épréménil and Goislard! What crime have they committed?”

A resolution had been obtained from the Parliament declaring that the nation alone had the right to impose taxes through the States-General. This resolution and the scene which followed were the prelude to the French Revolution. Four years later there was no longer either monarch or parliament, French Guards or Swiss Guards. The great chamber of the palace had become the “Hall of Equality,” where, on the 17th of April, 1792, was established the first Revolutionary Tribunal, to be replaced {259} on the 10th of May, 1793, by the criminal tribunal extraordinary; which was reorganised on the 26th of September by a decree which contained this phrase, still more extraordinary than the tribunal itself: “A defender is granted by law to calumniated patriots, but refused to conspirators.” Here were arraigned—one cannot say tried—that same d’Épréménil who had proclaimed the rights of the nation, and Barnave, the Girondists, the Queen of France, Mme. Élizabeth, Danton, Camille Desmoulins, Chaumette, Hébert, and Fabre d’Églantine; then, one after the other, the Robespierres, with Couthon, Collot d’Herbois, Saint-Just, Henriot, and Fouquier-Tinville—altogether 2,742 victims, whose 2,742 heads fell into the red basket either on the former Place Louis XV., which had become the Place de la Révolution and was afterwards to be known as the Place de la Concorde, or on the Place du Trône. The numbered list, which used to be sent out, like a newspaper, to subscribers, has been preserved. It began with the slaughter of the 26th of August, 1792, in which La Porte, intendant of the civil list, the journalist Durozoi, and the venerable Jacques Cazotte, author of “Le Diable Amoureux,” lost their heads.

Cazotte had kept up a long correspondence with Ponteaux, secretary of the civil list, and had sent him several plans for the escape of the Royal Family, together with suggestions, from his point of view invaluable, for crushing the revolution. The letters were seized at the house of the intendant of the civil list, the before-mentioned La Porte; and thereupon Cazotte was arrested. His daughter Elizabeth followed him to prison; and they were both at the Abbaye during the atrocious massacres of September. The unhappy young girl had been separated from her father since the beginning of the executions, and she now thought only of rejoining him either to save his life or to die with him. Suddenly she heard him call out, and then hurried down a staircase in the midst of a jingle of arms. Before there was time to arrest him she rushed towards him, reached him, threw her arms around him, and so moved the terrible judges by her daughterly affection that they were completely disarmed. Not only was the old man spared, but he and his heroic daughter were sent back with a guard of honour to their home. Soon afterwards, however, the father was again arrested, and brought before the revolutionary tribunal. On the advice of the counsel defending him, he denied the competence of the court on the plea of autrefois acquit. It was ruled, however, that the court was dealing with new facts, and the judges had indeed simply to apply the decree pronounced against those who had taken part in preparing the repression of the 10th of August. The evidence against Cazotte was only too clear, and he was condemned to death; which suggested the epigram that “Judges struck where executioners had spared.”

But these very judges, bound by inflexible laws, could not refuse the expression of their pity and esteem to the unhappy old man. While condemning him to death they rendered homage to his honesty and his courage. “Why,” exclaimed the public accuser, “after a virtuous life of seventy-two years, must you now be declared guilty? Because it is not sufficient to be a good husband and a good father; because one must also be a good citizen.” The President of the Court, in pronouncing sentence, said with gravity and emotion: “Old man, regard the approach of death without fear. It has no power to alarm you. It can have no terrors for such a man as you.”

Cazotte ascended with fortitude the steps of the scaffold, and exclaimed, before lowering his head: “I die as I have lived, faithful to my God and to my king.” The last victim of the 2,472 was Coffinhal, vice-president of the Revolutionary Tribunal, and member of the Council-General of the Paris Commune.

No show of equity, no imitation even of judicial forms, gave colour to these bloody sacrifices. Most of the victims, condemned beforehand, were brought to the prison of the Conciergerie at eight in the morning, led before the tribunal at two, and executed at four. A printing office established in a room adjoining the court was connected with the latter by an opening in the wall, through which notes and documents relating to the case before the tribunal were passed; and often the sentence was composed, printed, and hawked for sale in the streets before being read to the victims.

“You disgrace the guillotine!” said Robespierre one day to Fouquier-Tinville, the public accuser.

Of this historic hall nothing now remains but the four walls. Still, however, may be seen the little door of the staircase which Marie Antoinette ascended to appear before the revolutionary jury, and which she afterwards descended on the way to her dungeon.

The Galerie Saint-Louis is the name given to the ancient gallery {260} connected with the Galerie Marchande, its name being justified by the various forms in which incidents from the life of Saint Louis are represented on its walls. Here, in sculptured and coloured wood, is the effigy of Saint Louis, close to the open space where, when centuries ago it was a garden, the pious king was wont to imitate, and sometimes to render, justice beneath the spreading trees. One of the bureaux in the Palais de Justice contains an alphabetical list of all the sentences passed, by no matter what court, against any person born in one of the districts of Paris or of the department of the Seine. This record, contemplated by Napoleon I., was established in 1851 by M. Rouher, at that time Minister of Justice. The list is kept strictly secret; nor is any extract permitted except on the requisition of a magistrate, or on the application of one of the persons sentenced, requiring it in his own interest.


The Bureau of “Judicial Assistance,” dating from 1851, enables any indigent person to plead in formâ pauperis, whether as plaintiff or defendant. Nor is he obliged to plead in person. Not only stamped paper, but solicitors, barristers, and every legal luxury are supplied to him gratuitously. It is at the expense of the lawyers that the pauper litigant is relieved.

Two curious bureaux connected with the Palais de Justice are those in which are kept, sealed up and divided into series indicated by different colours, objects of special value taken from persons brought before the court, or voluntarily deposited by them; together with sums of money which, in like manner, have passed into the hands of legal authorities. Still more curious is the collection of articles of all kinds stored in a sort of museum, which presents the aspect at once of a bazaar and of a pawnbroker’s shop. Here, in striking confusion, are seen boots and shoes, clothes, wigs, rags, and a variety of things seized and condemned as fraudulent imitations; likewise instruments of fraud, such as false scales. Here, too, in abundance are murderous arms—knives, daggers, and revolvers. Singularly interesting is the collection of burglarious instruments of the most different patterns, from the enormous lump of iron, which might be used as a battering ram, to the most delicately-made skeleton key, feeble enough in appearance, but sufficiently strong to force the lock of an iron safe. There is now scarcely room for the constantly increasing collection of objects at the service of fraud and crime.

Beneath this strange exhibition, rendered still more sinister by the method and order with which it is arranged, are disposed in two storeys the four chambers which together constitute the civil tribunal. {261} Connected with the criminal tribunal, their duty is to try offences punishable by a scale of sentences, with five years’ imprisonment as the maximum. According to one of the last legislative enactments of the Second Empire, persons brought before a police-court remained provisionally at liberty except under grave circumstances. Cases, moreover, in which the offender has been taken in flagrante delicto are decided in three days. “This is a sign of progress,” says M. Vitu; “but Paris still needs an institution of which London is justly proud, that of district magistrates, something like our juges de paix, deciding police cases forthwith. The principal merit of this institution is that it prevents arbitrary detention and serious mistakes such as unfortunately are only too frequent with us. Instances have occurred, and will occur again, in which an inoffensive man, arrested by mistake, in virtue of a regular warrant intended for another of the same name, is sent straight to the criminal prison of Mazas. It will then take him a week to get set at liberty. In London he would have been taken at once to the magistrate of the district, who would have proceeded without delay to the verification of his identity. It would have been the affair of two hours at most, thanks to the service of constables at the disposal, day and night, of the English magistrate.”


The police-courts have sometimes to deal with remarkable cases, but as a rule their duties are of a somewhat trivial character. Adventurers of a low order, swindlers on a petty scale, and street thieves who have been caught with their hands in the pocket of a gentleman or the muff of a lady, are the sort of persons they usually deal with. To these may be added vendors of pretended theatrical admissions, hawkers of forbidden books, and a few drunkards. From morning till night the police are constantly bringing in poor wretches of both sexes; the men for the most part in blouses, the women in rags. They arrive in “cellular” {262} carriages, vulgarly called “salad baskets”; and leaving the vehicle they are kept together by a long cord attached to the wrist of each prisoner. The place of confinement where they remain pending the trial is called the “mouse-trap”: two rows, placed one above the other, each of twenty-five cells, containing one prisoner apiece. Every cell is closed in front by an iron grating, in the centre of which is a small aperture—a little square window looking into the corridor. Through this window, which can be opened and shut, but which is almost invariably kept open, the prisoner sees all that takes place in the passage, and the occasional arrival of privileged visitors helps to break the monotony of his day. The wire cages in which the prisoners are detained suggest those of the Zoological Gardens; and the character of the wild beast is too often imprinted on the vicious criminal features of the incarcerated ones.

Disputes with cab-drivers and hackney coachmen generally are, as a rule, settled by the commissary of the district or the quartier. But serious complaints have now and then to be brought before the Tribunal of Police. In former times the hackney coaches of Paris were at once the disgrace and the terror of the town. “Nothing,” writes Mercier, “can more offend the eye of a stranger than the shabby appearance of these vehicles, especially if he has ever seen the hackney coaches of London and Brussels. Yet the aspect of the drivers is still more shocking than that of the carriages, or of the skinny hacks that drag those frightful machines. Some have but half a coat on, others none at all; they are uniform in one point only, that is extreme wretchedness and insolence. You may observe the following gradation in the conduct of these brutes in human shape. Before breakfast they are pretty tractable, they grow restive towards noon, but in the evening they are not to be borne. The commissaries or justices of the peace are the only umpires between the driver and the drivee; and, right or wrong, their award is in favour of the former, who are generally taken from the honourable body of police greyhounds, and are of course allied to the formidable phalanx of justices of the peace. However, if you would roll on at a reasonable pace, be sure you take a hackney coachman half-seas-over. Nothing is more common than to see the traces giving way, or the wheels flying off at a tangent. You find yourself with a broken shin or a bloody nose; but then, for your comfort, you have nothing to pay for the fare. Some years ago a report prevailed that some alterations were to take place in the regulation of hackney coaches; the Parisian phaetons took the alarm and drove to Choisy, where the King was at that time. The least appearance of a commotion strikes terror to the heart of a despot. The sight of 1,800 empty coaches frightened the monarch; but his apprehensions were soon removed by the vigilance of his guard and courtiers. Four representatives of the phaetonic body were clapped into prison and the speaker sent to Bicêtre, to deliver his harangue before the motley inhabitants of that dreary mansion. The safety of the inhabitants doubtless requires the attention of the Government, in providing carriages hung on better springs and generally more cleanly; but the scarcity of hay and straw, not to mention the heavy impost of twenty sols per day for the privilege of rattling over the pavement of Paris, when for the value of an English shilling you may go from one end of the town to the other, prevents the introduction of so desirable a reformation.”

In another part of his always interesting “Picture of Paris,” Mercier becomes quite tragic on the subject of Paris coaches and Paris coachmen. “Look to the right,” he says, “and see the end of all public rejoicings in Paris; see that score of unfortunate men, some of them with broken legs and arms, some already dead or expiring. Most of them are parents of families, who by this catastrophe must be reduced to the most horrible misery. I had foretold this accident as the consequence of that file of coaches which passed us before. The police take so little notice of these chance medleys that it is simply a wonder such accidents, already too frequent, are not still more numerous. The threatening wheel which runs along with such rapidity carries an obdurate man in power, who has not leisure, or indeed cares not, to observe that the blood of his fellow-subjects is yet fresh on the stones over which his magnificent chariot rattles so swiftly. They talk of a reformation, but when is it to take place? All those who have any share in the administration keep carriages, and what care they for the pedestrian traveller? Jean Jacques Rousseau, in the year 1776, on the road to Mesnil-Montant, was knocked down by a large Lapland dog and remained on the spot, whilst the master, secure in his berl