"'Lower than that,' said the mask.
"'Some nobleman then—a count or baron.'
"'Lower than that.'
"'Perhaps with a knight.'
"'With an esquire?'
"'Less than that.'
"'You have not guessed it—lower still.'
"The emperor flushed crimson with anger.
"'A groom?' "'If that were all!' answered the unknown with a strange laugh.
"'But who is it then?' cried the emperor.
"'Tear off his mask and you will see.'
"The emperor approached the sable cavalier, and tore off his mask. It was the headsman.
"'Miscreant!' shouted the emperor, as his sword flashed from the scabbard, 'commend thy soul to God before thou diest.'
"'Sire!' replied the headsman, falling on his knees, 'you may kill me if you will; but the empress has not the less danced with me, and the dishonour, if dishonour there be, is already incurred. Do better than that: knight me; and if any one dares to speak evil of her majesty, the same sword that executes justice shall vindicate her fame.'
"The emperor reflected for a moment.
"'The advice is good,' said he at last. 'Henceforward you shall no longer be called the headsman, but the last of the judges.' Then, giving him three blows on the shoulder with his sword flat,
"'Rise!' he continued; 'from this hour you are the lowest among nobles, and the first amongst burghers.'
"And accordingly since that day, in all public processions and ceremonies, the executioner walks by himself, in rear of the nobles and in front of the commoners."
Truly a most fantastical history, and one which leaves us in some doubt whether it be a genuine legend of Heidelberg, or one of M. Dumas's dreams in the diligence after dining upon pig and cherry sauce. At any rate, if not true it is ben trovato.
Heidelberg, whither M. Dumas next proceeds, is to our mind one of the pleasantest places near the Rhine, from which river it is now, thanks to the railroad, within half an hour's journey. The country around is delightful, and the town itself, owing to its possessing an university, and to the vast number of strangers who visit and pass through it during the summer months, is far more lively than most small German towns. The kind of liveliness, however, caused by the presence of seven or eight hundred students, is not always of the most agreeable character. It has been the fashion in England to talk and write a vast deal about German universities; and sundry well filled, or at least bulky tomes have been devoted to accounts of the students' mode of life, their duels and drinkings, and peculiarities of all kinds. Friend Howitt favoured us a year or two ago with a corpulent volume—translated in part from the MSS. of some studiosus emeritus—a sort of life in Heidelberg, entering into great detail concerning university doings, and with illustrations of a very sportive description; wherein mustached and bespurred cavaliers are slashing at each other with broad swords, or cantering over the country mounted upon gallant steeds, and looking something between Dick Turpins and field-marshals in muftee. 'Tis a sad thing to have too much imagination—it tempts a man to mislead his neighbours; and no one who has read friend William's picturesque descriptions of Student Leben, but would feel grievously disappointed when he came to investigate the subject for himself. Nothing can be more puerile and absurd, and in many instances disgusting, than the habitual pastimes and amusements of the students; or at least of that large majority of them who attend no lectures and study, nothing that they can possibly avoid, but look upon their residence at the university as three or four years to be devoted to smoking, beer-drinking, and scratching one another's faces in duels. These duels, by the by, are pieces of the most intense humbug that can be imagined. They take place now in the large room of the inn at Ziegelhausen, a village on the banks of the Neckar, about two miles from Heidelberg, and are fought with straight swords, square but sharp at the extremity, and having guards as big as a soup-plate.
Before the fight begins, the combatants don their defensive arms, consisting of a strong and broad-brimmed hat protecting the head and eyes, an immense leathern breastplate defending the chest and stomach, a padded case, also of leather, which shields the arm from wrist to shoulder, and an impenetrable cravat which protects the neck up to the ears. The nose, and a bit of each cheek, is all that can be possibly wounded. Thus equipped the heroes set to work, slashing away at each other, (it is forbidden to thrust,) shaving off pieces of their padded armour, and looking exceeding fierce and valiant the while; until, after a greater or less time, according as the combatants are equal in skill or not, one of them gets a scratch across the nose, or small eyelet hole in the cheek, which terminates this caricature of a duel. Since "young Germany" finds amusement in so harmless a practice, it might very well be allowed them; provided they afterwards, like good boys, took their books and learned their lessons. But such a proceeding would be by no means consistent with the Burschen-Freiheit—the academic freedom of which these hopeful youths make their boast. To celebrate the valour of the victory, and show sympathy with the sufferings of the vanquished—whose wound is by this time dressed with an inch of sticking plaster—the party repairs to a tavern to breakfast; and there the morning is killed over beer and Rhine wine till one o'clock, by which time some of them are usually more than half tipsy. They then repair to the table-d'hote, dine, drink more, and finally stagger home to sleep off their libations. We have more than once, in German university towns, seen students reeling-drunk at four in the afternoon.
About seven in the evening, the kneipes or drinking-houses begin to fill. In all of these there are rooms set apart for the different clubs of students to assemble in; and in those sanctuaries they put on the caps and colours of their communities, which they have of late years been forbidden to wear in public. On the ribands which they wear round their necks, are inscribed the date of their various duels. A barrel of beer is now broached, pipes are loaded and lighted, and they sit the whole evening, sotting, smoking, and singing songs about the Rhine, liberty, and fatherland, with ear-splitting and interminable choruses of Viva lera lera. A German student's song generally consists of couplets of two lines, with a chorus that lasts a quarter of an hour.
The quantity of beer consumed by some of these heroes is almost incredible. They become actually bloated with it. One of the most important and respected persons at a German university is the Beer King, who ought to be able to drink, not any given quantity, but an unlimited one; to be perpetually drinking, in short. M. Dumas tells us, that the reigning monarch of malt at Heidelberg is able to absorb twelve schoppens of beer, or six of wine, while the clock strikes twelve. A Heidelberg schoppen is very nearly an English bottle. This is rather hard to swallow, M. Dumas. Either the drinker is very fast, or the clock very slow. We can vouch, however, for the scarcely less astonishing fact, of there being drinkers at the universities who will imbibe twenty-five bottles of beer at a sitting. The German beer is, of course, not of a very intoxicating nature.
From beer to tobacco the transition is natural enough; and we cannot conclude our gossip about the Rhine without a word or two as to the frightful abuse made by the Germans of the Indian weed. We are not of the number of those who condemn the moderate use of tobacco, but, on the contrary, know right well how to appreciate its soothing and cheering effects; but the difference is wide between a limited enjoyment of the habit, and the stupefying, besotting excess to which it is carried by the Germans. The dirty way, too, in which they smoke, renders the custom as annoying to those who live amongst them, as it must be unwholesome and detrimental to themselves. It is possible to smoke much, and yet cleanly: take the Spaniard for instance—unquestionably a great smoker; yet the difference between smoking on the Rhine or Elbe, and on the Manzanares or Ebro, is immense—the one the gluttony and abuse, the other the refinement of the practice. While Don Espanol, with his fragrant puro, or straw or paper covered cigarrito, smoketh cleanly, spitteth not, uses his tobacco, as he uses most things, like a gentleman; the werther Deutscher takes his huge pipe, rarely cleaned and with the essence of tobacco oozing from every joint, and filling it from a bag, or rather sack, of coarse and vile-smelling tobacco, puffs forth volumes of smoke, expectorating ad nauseam at intervals of a minute or less. No considerations of place or person hinder him from indulging in his favourite pastime. In steam-boats, in diligences, in the public walks and promenades, into the dining-rooms of hotels, every where does the pipe intrude itself; carried as habitually as a walking-cane; and even when not in actual use, emitting the most evil odour from the bowl and tube, saturated as they are with tobacco juice.
However unpleasant all this may be to foreigners, especially to English ladies accustomed to the more cleanly habits of their own countrymen, the German dames are perfectly reconciled to it. Had we to draw a picture of domestic felicity on the Rhine, we would sketch it thus:—a summer evening—a flower garden—a table with tea or coffee—a dozen chairs occupied by persons of both sexes—the women big-feeted, blue-eyed, placid creatures, knitting stockings—the men heavy and awkward, each with a monstrous signet-ring on the dirty forefinger of his right hand, smoking unceasingly, and puffing the vapour into the faces of their better halves, who heed it not, and occasionally may even be seen replenishing with their own delicate digits the enormous porcelain or meerschaum bowls of the pipes. If you doubt the accuracy of our description, reader, go and judge for yourself. The distance is short, and summer is at hand. Put yourself on board a steamboat, whisk over to Ostend or Antwerp, and thence rail and rattle it down to the Rhine. You shall not be three days on German soil without encountering a score such groups as the one we have just sketched.
THE MONSTER-MISERY OF LITERATURE.
BY A MOUSE BORN OF THE MOUNTAIN.
Be under no apprehension, gentle public, that you are about to be kept in suspense touching the moral of our argumentation, as too often in the pamphlets addressed in Johnsonian English to Thompsonian understandings, wherein a pennyworth of matter is set forth by a monstrous quantity of phrase. We mean to speak to the point; we mean to enlighten your understanding as by the smiting of a lucifer-match. Refrain, therefore, from running your eye impatiently along the page, as you are doing at this moment, in hopes of discovering, italicized, the secret of the enigma; for we have no intention of keeping you another moment ignorant that the monster-misery of literature is—guess! Which of you hath hit it? The monster-misery of literature is—THE CIRCULATING LIBRARY!
In this devout conviction, devote we to the infernal gods the memory of the Athenian republic—the first keeper of a circulating library. Every tyro is aware that this Sams or Ebers of antiquity lent out to Ptolemy of Egypt, for a first-rate subscription of fifteen talents, the works of Euripides, Eschylus, and Sophocles; thereby affording a precedent for the abominable practice, fatal to bookmakers and booksellers, which has converted the waters of Castalia into their present disgraceful puddle!
Every scribbler of the day who has a Perryian pen in hand, is pleased to exercise it on the decline of the drama; one of the legitimate targets of penny-a-liners. But how inadequately are the goose quills, and ostrich quills, phoenix quills, and roc quills, of the few standard critics of the age, directed towards the monstrous abuse of public patience which will render the Victorian age the sad antithesis of the Elizabethan, in the literary history of the land! Content so long as they can get a new work, tale quale, as a peg whereon to hang the rusty garments of their erudition, not a straw care they for the miserable decline and fall of the great empire of letters; an empire overrun by what Goths—what Huns—what Vandals!—by the iniquitous and barbarous hosts of circulating libraries!
It has been agreed for some centuries past, that the only modern Maecenas is the publisher. The days of patrons are past; and the author is forced to look for the reward of his labour to the man who, by selling the greatest number of copies to the public, can bestow the greatest number of pounds upon his pains. In order to augment this amount, the bibliopole naturally consults the taste of his customers; and nearly the sole remaining customers of the modern bookseller are—the circulating libraries. For what man in his senses who, for an annual mulct of half-a-dozen sovereigns, commands the whole range of modern literature, would waste his substance in loading his house with books of doubtful interest? Who that, by a message of his servant into Bond Street, procures the last new novel cut and dry, instead of wet from the press, and demanding the labour of the paper-knife, would proceed to the extremity of a purchase? And the result is, that Messrs Folio and Duodecimo, in order to procure satisfactory orders from the circulating libraries of the multitudinous cities of this deluded empire, issue orders to their helots, Mr Scribblescrawl and Mrs Wiredrawn, requiring them to produce per annum so many sets of three volumes, adapted to the atmosphere wherein they are fated to flourish.
It is an avowed fact, that the publishers of the day will purchase the copyrights of only such works as "the libraries will take;" which libraries, besotted by the mystic charm of three volumes, immutable as the sacred triad of the Graces or Destinies, would negative without a division such a work as the "Vicar of Wakefield" were it now to undergo probation. "Robinson Crusoe" or "Paul and Virginia" would be returned unread to their authors, with a civil note of "extremely sorry to decline," &c. "The Man of Feeling" would be made to feel his insignificance. "Thinks I to Myself" might think in vain; and the "Cottagers of Glenburnie" retain their rural obscurity. So much for the measure of the maw of the circulating library. Of its taste and palate it is difficult to speak with moderation; for those of Caffraria or Otaheite might be put to the blush.
The result, however, of this fatal ascendancy is, that not a publisher who has the fear of the Gazette before his eyes, presumes to hazard a guinea on speculations in the belles-lettres. Poetry is seldom, if ever, published except at the cost of the poet; and the foreman of one of the leading London houses is deputed to apprize aspiring rhymesters, that "his firm considers poetry a mild species of insanity"—Anglice, that it does not suit the appetite of the circulating library! For behold! this despot of bookmakers must have length, breadth, and thickness, to fill the book boxes dispatched to its subscribers in the country, as well as satisfy in town the demands of its charming subscriber, Lady Sylvester Daggerwood, and all her daughters.
It happens that the said Lady Sylvester does not like Travels, unless "nice little ladylike books of travels," such as the Quarterly informed us last year, in a fit of fribbledom, were worthy the neat little crowquills of lady-authors. Nor will she hear of Memoirs, unless light, sparkling, and scandalous, as nearly resembling those of Grammont as decency will allow. Essays she abominates; nor can she exactly understand the use of quartoes, unless, as Swift describes the merit of
"A Chrysostom to smooth his band in"—
to serve for flattening between the leaves her rumpled embroidery or netting!
Now you are simply and respectfully asked, beloved public, what must be the feelings of a man of genius, or of any sensible scholarly individual, when, after devoting years of his life to a work of standard excellence—a work such as in France would obtain him access to the Academy, or in Russia or Prussia a pension and an order of merit—he is told by the publisher, who in Great Britain supplies the place of these fountains of honour and reward, that "the public of the present day has no taste for serious reading;" for Messrs Folio and Duodecimo cannot, of course, afford to regard a few dons of the universities, or a few county bookclubs, parsonically presided, as representatives of the public! What the disappointed man, thus enlightened, must think of "glorious Apollo" when he goes to bed that night, we should be sorry to conjecture!
"The public of the present day"—Ang. the subscribers to the circulating libraries—constitute, to his cultivated mind, a world unknown. The public he has been wasting his life to address, is such a public as was addressed by Addison, by Swift, by Steele, or by the greater writers of the days of Elizabeth. "Bless his fine wits," we could laugh at his misconception, were we not rather inclined to cry! In instances easy to be cited, (but that there were miching malecho in the deed,) insult has been added to injury, and the anguish depicted in the face of the mortified man of letters been assuaged by friendly advice to "try his hand at something more saleable—something in the style of Harrison Ainsworth or Peter Priggins!"
O ye Athenians! to what base uses have we come, by the influence of your malpractices of old!
But all this is far from the blackest side of the picture. You have seen only the fortunes of the rejected of the circulating libraries; wait till you have studied the fate of their favourites—victims whom, like the pet-dogs of children, the publishers force to stand on their hind-legs, and be bedizened in their finery; or pet pussy-cats, whom they fondle into wearing spectacles and feeding on macaroones, instead of pursuing their avocations as honest mousers. The favourite author of the circulating libraries has a great deal to envy in the treadmill!
In the days when there existed a reading, in place of a skimming public—in the days when circulating libraries were not—the writer who followed his own devices in the choice of the subject, plot, title, treatment, and extent of his book, and made his labour a labour of love, had some chance of being cherished as the favourite of the fireside; installed on the shelf, and taken down, like Goldsmith or Defoe or Bunyan, for an hour's gossip; cried over by the young girl of the family, diverting the holiday of the schoolboy, and exercising the eyesight of the good old grandmother. But how is this ever to be achieved nowadays? Who will be ever thumbed over and spelled over as these have been?
"Invent another Vicar or another Crusoe," say the critics, "and you will see."
We should NOT see! No bookseller would publish them, because "no circulating library would take them;" for these bibliopoles know to a page what will be taken. Several of them have got, and several others have had, the conduct of a circulating library on their hands; and so far from venturing to present a single-volumed or double-volumed work to their subscribers, they would insist upon the dilution of the genius of Oliver or Daniel into the adequate number of pages ere they risked paper and print. O public! O dear, ingenuous public! Think how you might have ceased to delight in even the cosmogony-man, if his part had been a hundred times rehearsed in your ears; or what the matchless Lady Blarney and the incomparable Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs (I love, as old Primrose says, to repeat the whole name) might have become, as the "light conversationists" of three octavo volumes! Shakspeare was forced to kill Mercutio early in the play, lest Mercutio should kill him. We feel a devout conviction that Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs would have burked Goldsmith!
And then the incomparable Robinson! Conceive the interlarding of a funny Mrs Friday to eke out the matter, with a comical king of the Cannibal islands "to lighten the story"—according to circulating library demand! Unhappy Defoe! thy standing in the pillory had been as nothing compared with such a condemnation!
We beseech you, therefore, deluded public, when assured by critical misleadment that such writers no longer exist, do, as you are often requested to do by letters in the newspapers—from parties remanded by the police-offices for some hanging matter—"suspend your judgment," or you will deserve credit for very little. We promise you that there are giants on the earth in these days, ay, and famous giants of their cubits! But when a giant is made to drivel, his drivelings are very little better than those of a pigmy. And we swear to you, (under correction from the parish vestry, which is entitled to half-a-crown an oath,) that the circulating libraries would make a driveler of Seneca! Under the circulating library tyranny, Johnson himself would have been forced to break up his long words into smaller pieces, to supply due volume for three volumes.
Above all, we have no hesitation in declaring that the circulating libraries are indictable for manslaughter, in the matter of the death of Scott. They killed him, body and soul! In better times, when books were bought, not hired, the sale of the first half dozen of his mighty novels would have sufficed both the public and the author for thrice as many years. They would have been purchased by all people of good condition, as the works of Richardson were purchased, and read, and conned, and got by heart. But behold! the circulating libraries "wanted novelty." It suited them better to invest their capital in half a dozen new and trashy books—such as extend their catalogue from No. 2470 to 2500—instead of half a dozen copies of the one sterling work, which increases their stock in trade and diminishes their stock in consols, but leaves the catalogue, which is the advertisement of their perfections, halting at No. 2470.
Now, as it happened that the same boss of constructiveness which has endowed our language with such a world of creations from the pen of Scott, betrayed him also into inventiveness per force of brick and mortar—just as the same bent of genius which created the Castle of Otranto, created also that other colossus of lath and plaster, Strawberry Hill—the author of the Scotch novels was fain to sacrifice to the evil genius of the times; and behold! as the assiduous slave of the circulating libraries, he extinguished one of the greatest spirits of Great Britain. But for the hateful factory system of the twice three volumes per annum, he would have been still alive among us—happy and happy-making, in a green old age—watching over the maturity of his grandchildren, and waited upon by the worship of the land.
Therefore again we say, as we said a short time ago,—O ye Athenians! what have ye not to answer for in the consequence of your malpractices of old!
The only great success of the day in works of fiction, (for the laurels of Bulwer have been spindled among the rest by the factitious atmosphere of the circulating libraries), is that of Boz. And we attribute, in a great measure, the enormous circulation of his early works, to their having set at defiance the paralysing influence of the monster-misery. Shilling numbers were as the dragon's teeth. They rose up like armed men, and slew the circulating librarians. People were forced to buy them if they wanted to read them; and they were bought. Those who desired to read "Night and Morning," were not forced to purchase it, and it was not bought; and the circulation of the two works consequently remains as 2000 to 35,000 copies.
The state and prospects of authors, however, concerns you less, dear public, than the state and prospects of literature. You are a contemplative body of men, and can see into a millstone as far as most nations. You make leagues and anti-leagues for the sake of your morsel of bread; and teach the million to sing to your own tune; and, weary of keeping your heads above water, tunnel your way below it; nor will you allow the suffering shirtmakers of your metropolis to be put upon, nor Don Carlos, nor Queen Pomare, nor any other victim of oppression. You applauded Alice Lowe, and shook hands with Courvoisier at the gallows; and it is clear you stand no nonsense, and bear no malice.
Be so good, therefore, as seriously to consider what sort of figure you will cut in the eyes of posterity, if this kind of thing is suffered to go on.
There is not one publisher in the three kingdoms (we throw down the gauntlet) who would give an adequate sum of money for any new historical work. There is not one publisher in the three kingdoms who would give even a moderate sum for a poem. We state the case liberally; for our conviction is, that they would refuse one poor half-crown. So much for the prospects; for, without a premium production is null.
As regards the state of literature, take out your pencils, (you all carry pencils, to calculate either the long odds or the odds on 'Change,) and make out a list of the works published during the last five years, likely to be known, even by name, a hundred years hence! It is some comfort to feel, that by sight they cannot be known—that few of them will survive to disgrace us—that the circulating libraries possess the one merit of wear and tear for the destruction of their filthy generation, like Saturn of old; for it would grieve us to think of even the trunks of the two thousandth century being lined with what lines the brains of our contemporaries. So that in the year of grace two thousand and forty-four, we shall have the Lady Blarney of Kilburn Square (the Grosvenor Square of that epoch,) enquiring of the Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs of Croydon Place (the Belgium Square)—"My dear soul, what could those poor people do to amuse themselves? They had positively no books! After Scott's time till the middle of the nineteenth century not a single novelist; after the death of Byron, not a poet! I believe there was an historian of the name of Hallam, not much heard of; and the other day, at a book-stall, I picked up an odd volume of an odd writer named Carlyle. But it is really curious to consider how utterly the belles-lettres were in abeyance."
To which, of course, Miss C. W. A. S.—(even Dr Panurge could not get through the whole name again!)—"My dear love! they had Blackwood's Magazine, which, like the Koran after the burning of the Alexandrian library, supplied the place of ten millions of volumes!"
But, alas! some Burchell may be sitting by, to exclaim "FUDGE!" Some groper into archives will bring forth one of those never-to-be-sufficiently-abominated catalogues of Bond and other streets, showing that, on a moderate calculation, twenty books were published per diem, which, at the end of three months, possessed the value of so many bushels of oyster-shells!
And then, pray, what will you have to say for yourselves, O public! from your tombs in Westminster Abbey or your catacombs at Kensal Green? Which among you will dare come forward, with blue lights in his hand and accompanied by a trombone, like the ghost of Ninus in Semiramide, and say—"We warned these people to write for immortality. We told them it was their duty to stick in a few oaks for posterity, as well as their Canada poplars and Scotch firs. It was not our fault that they chose to grow nothing but underwood. It was the fault of the circulating libraries, which, instead of allowing the milk of human genius to set for cream, diluted it with malice prepense, and drenched us with milk and water even to loathing!"
No, dear public! you will put your hand in your breeches' pocket like a crocodile, as you do now, and say nothing. Yon are fully aware how much of the fault is your own; but you are stultified and hardened to shame. With the disgrace of your National Gallery, and National Regency Buildings, and Pimlico Palace, and all your other vulgarisms and trivialities on your shoulders, you bully your way out of your disgrace of duncehood, like Mike Lambourne on forgetting his part in the Kenilworth pageant. "For your part, you can do very well without book-learning. You've got Shakspeare, and if with that a nation can't face the literature of Europe, the deuce is in it! With Cocker's arithmetic and Shakspeare, any public that knows what it's about, may snap its fingers at the world!"
Such, such are the demoralizing results of the ascendancy of the circulating libraries! Such is the monster-misery of literature!
Again, therefore, we say, confound those fifteen talents! What have ye not to answer for, O ye Athenians! in the consequences of your malpractices of old!
MARSTON; OR, THE MEMOIRS OF A STATESMAN.
"Have I not in my time heard lions roar? Have I not heard the sea, puft up with wind, Rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat? Have I not heard great ordnance in the field, And Heavens artillery thunder in the skies? Have I not in the pitched battle heard Loud 'larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets clang?"
Our procession had more than the usual object of those dreadful displays: it was at once an act of revenge and an act of policy. During the period while the gates of the convent shut out the living world from us, a desperate struggle had been going on between the two ruling factions. In this contest for life and death, the more furious, of course, triumphed; such is the history of rabble revolution in all ages. The Girondist with his eloquence naturally fell before the Jacobin with his libel; the Girondist, affecting a deference for law, was trampled by the Jacobin, who valued nothing but force; the tongue and the pen were extinguished by the dagger; and this day was the consummation. A debate in the Convention, of singular talent and unexampled ferocity, had finished by the impeachment of the principal Girondists. Justice here knew nothing of the "law's delay;" and the fallen orators now headed our melancholy line, bound, bareheaded, half naked, and more than half dead with weariness, shame, and the sense of ruin;—there could scarcely be more in the blow which put an end to all their perturbations on this side of the grave.
We had frequent halts, and I had full leisure to gaze around; for, rapidly as the guillotine performed its terrible task, our procession had been extended by some additional victims from every prison which we passed; and we passed so many that I began to think the city one vast dungeon. What strange curiosity is it that could collect such myriads to look upon us? Every street was crowded with a living mass; every casement was filled; every roof presented a line of eyes straining for a glance below. Instead of the crowd of a populous city, I could have believed that I saw the population of a kingdom poured in and compressed into the narrow streets through which we wound our slow way. From time to time a shout arose, as some conspicuous member of the Convention made his appearance in the vehicle of death: then execrations, scoffs, and insults, of every bitterness, were poured upon the unfortunate being; who seldom attempted to retaliate, or make any other return but a gesture of despair, or a supplication to be suffered to die in peace. Yet all was not cruelty nor insensibility. I saw instances, where friends, bold enough to brave the vengeance of the government, rushed forward to take a last grasp of the hand that must so soon be cold; and my heart was wrung by partings between still dearer objects and the condemned;—wives rushing forward through the multitude; children held up to their father's arms; beautiful and graceful young women, forcing their wild way through the line of troops, to take a last look, and exchange a last word, with those whom they would have rejoicingly followed to the tomb.
Our progress lasted half the day, and the sun was already near its setting, when the waggon in which I sat turned into the Place de Greve. But I must, I dare, describe no more. I shall not say what I saw in that general receptacle of the day of horror—the range of low biers which lay surrounding the scaffold, now the last resting-place of men who had but a few hours before flourished in the full possession of every faculty of our being; and, still more, with all those faculties in the full ardour of public life—with brilliant ambition to stimulate, with prospects of boundless power to reward, and with that most exhilarating and tempting spell of human existence, popular acclamation, resounding in their ears. I had known some of them, I had seen then all; and now I saw those highly gifted, vigorously practised, and fiery-souled men, shaken down in an instant like a shock of corn; swept to death as if they were but so many weeds; extinguished in a moment, and in another moment flung aside, a heap of clay, to make room for other dead. And this was Republicanism—this the reign of knowledge, the triumph of freedom, the glory of political regeneration! Even in that most trying moment, when I saw the waggon, in which I remained the last survivor but one, give up my unfortunate companion to the executioner, my parting words to him, as I shook his cold hand, were—"Better the forest and the savage than republicanism! Doubly cursed be murder, when it takes the name of freedom!"
I then resolved to see and hear no more; gave a brief and still a fond recollection to England; and, committing my spirit to a still higher care, I bowed my forehead on my hands, like one laying down his head for the final blow!
But while I was still thus absorbed I heard a sudden shout, the trampling of cavalry, and the sound of trumpets. I again raised my eyes. A strong body of French troopers, covered with the dust of the high-road, and evidently exhausted by a long journey, were passing along the quai which bordered the scene of execution. In the midst of these squadrons were seen Austrian standards surmounted by the tricolor, and evidently carried as trophies. The rumour now ran quickly through the spectators, that Flanders had been entered, that the enemy had been routed, and that a column of Austrian prisoners was passing through the streets, of which those squadrons formed the escort.
What could now detain the multitude? The public curiosity would probably have defied grape-shot; with one burst they poured from the square. When the populace went, why should the National Guard stay behind?—were they not as much entitled to satisfy their curiosity? Three-fourths of the guard instantly piled their muskets, leaving them in care of their less zealous or more lazy fellow warriors, and ran after the multitude. The executioners were like other men; equally touched by their "country's glory," and fond of a spectacle. They dropped by twos and threes quietly from the sides of the scaffold, and made their way to the quai. In the mean time I was left disregarded; but I was still fettered, or I should have jumped from the waggon, and taken my chance for escape. All had evidently come to a full stop, and even that horrible machine, above my head, had ceased to clank and crush; for what is a spectacle in France without an audience? The chief headsman, with two or three of his assistants, true to their post, alone remained—waiting for the return of the people; yet even they cast many a lingering glance towards the pageant, whose plumes, flags, and kettledrums, passing across the entrance of the square, made their patriotism more difficult from minute to minute. At length the trumpets died away, and, to my renewed despondency, I saw the crowd again thicken towards me and the few remaining vehicles, which that day, now sinking into twilight, was to empty of their victims.
But I was again respited. While I awaited the summons to mount the fatal steps, a party of dragoons rode into the square, seized every waggon without a moment's delay, and ordered the whole to be driven out for the reception of a column of wounded, both French and Austrians; who, having been brought to the city gates, now waited the means of transport to the great military hospital at Vincennes.
In this country of expedients, the first suggestion is always the best. The colonel of dragoons in charge of the column, had applied to the government for the means of carriage; they referred him to the municipality, who referred him to the staff of the National Guard; who referred him to the subprefect; who referred him to his subordinate functionaries; who knew nothing on the subject; until the colonel, indignant at the impertinences of office, accidentally heard that the requisite conveyances were to be seen in front of the Hotel de Ville. Regarding it as the natural right of the soldier to be first served in all cases, he sent off a squadron at full speed to make his seizure. Nothing could be more complete. The affair was settled at once. The remonstrances of the civil officers against our being thus withdrawn from their grasp, were answered by bursts of laughter at their impudence, and blows with the flat of the sabre for their presumption; for, next to the open reprobation of the army for the civic cruelties, was their scorn of the civic functionaries. The National Guard made some feeble display of resistance, but soon showed that they had no wish to try their bayonets against those expert handlers of the sword; and the event was, that the whole train of fifty or sixty waggons, of which about a tenth remained full, were hurried away at full gallop down to the Boulevard, leaving the scaffold a sinecure. At the barrier a new arrangement took place; the wounded were piled into the carriages along with us, and the whole were marched under escort to the grand depot of the garrison of Paris.
I had seen Vincennes before, and under trying circumstances; its frowning physiognomy had not been altered, nor, as a prison, was it more congenial to my feelings than before. Yet, on hearing the hollow tread of our horses' feet over its drawbridge, and seeing myself actually within its massive walls, I experienced a feeling of satisfaction which I had never expected to enjoy within bolts and bars. In this world contrast is every thing. I had been so fevered with alternate peril and escape, so sick of doubt, and so perplexed with the thousand miseries of flight; that, to find myself secure from casualty for the next twenty-four hours, and relieved from the trouble of thinking for myself, or thinking of any thing, was a relief which amounted almost to a pleasure. I never laid myself down to sleep with greater thankfulness, than when, stretched on the wooden guard-bed of the barrack-room, where the whole crowd of prisoners were packed together, I listened to the beat of the night-drum and the changing of the guard. They told me that, for once at least, I might sleep without a police-officer, to bid me, like Master Barnardine, "arise and be hanged."
Time in a garrison is the most lingering of all conceivable things, except time in a prison. I had it, loaded with the double weight. There was no resource to be found in the fractured and bandaged portion of human nature round me. The Austrians were brave boors, who spoke nothing but Styrian or Carinthian, or some border dialect, which nothing but barbarism had ever heard of, and which nothing but Austrian organs could have ever pronounced. The French recruits were from provinces which had their own "beloved patois," and which, to the Parisian, held nearly the same rank of civilized respect as the Kingdom of Ashantee. Besides, it was to be remembered, that all round me was a scene of suffering—the dismal epilogue of a field of battle; or rather the dropping of the curtain on the royal stage, when the glitter and the noise were gone by, and the actors reduced from their pomps and vanities, and sent home to the shivering necessities of poor human existence.
Life to me was now as stagnant as the ditch round the fortress; all feeling was as languid as the heavy air of our casemates. The mind lost all curiosity relative to the external world; and, beyond the casual knowledge which dropped, with all official mystery, from the lips of our worthy governor, and which told us that the war still continued, and that the armies of the Republic were "invincible beyond all power of human resistance;" we could not have been much more separated from sympathy, even with the capital itself, if we had been transported to one of the belts of Jupiter.
But a new alarm now seized me. The extreme indifference with which I had begun to regard all things, at length struck the eye of one of the military surgeons, who had been sent from Paris in consequence of the influx of prisoners. He seemed to take some interest in my consumptive visage and lack-lustre eye; asked me whether "some of my family had not died early in life," and offered to dictate my pursuits and regimen. The French are by nature a kindly people, with this one proviso, that, though every Frenchman on earth is more or less a persifleur, you must never practise the art upon himself. M. Rossignol Perigord Pantoufle would have been an incomparable subject for the exercise, for he was eccentricity from top to toe. But the state of my spirits prevented my taking any share in the burlesque which too frequently befell this worthy person; and he attached himself to me as a sort of refuge from the sly, but stinging, persecution of his fellow-officers. When the hen-wife plucks the goose's bosom it makes her nestle more closely to her goslings. It was the calamity of my friend Pantoufle to be born with what the novelists call a "too feeling heart;" he was always in love with some one or another, and always jilted. But misfortune was thrown away upon him; he was still a complete sensitive plant, shivering and shrinking at every new touch: a dish of blancmange could not have shaken with a slighter impulse, nor a shape of jelly more easily dissolved. He was now past fifty; and, never much indebted to nature in his youth, time, the foe to beauty, had been more than a foe to the doctor. I never recollect to have seen a figure or physiognomy less fitted to disturb the female soul. But he made me the confidant of his woes; and if I did not, like Desdemona, "to him seriously incline," at least I never laughed, amusing as were his agonies, and diverting as was his despair. I had either the presence of mind, or the feebleness of pulse, to look and listen;—the art has succeeded in higher places than prisons.
Yet all was not sentimentality with him. He was an honest and high-spirited man in the main. He questioned me—and no question could then be a bolder one at the time—in what manner he could best serve me. My answer was immediate—"Find out the commercial house of Elnathan, and tell the head of the family that I am here." The service was done, and I received for answer, on my friend's return from his ride to the Rue Vivienne—"That the firm kept no account with any person of my name; and that they had no desire to have any further application on the subject." The doctor, too, had been received with such gathering of black brows, and such murmurs between indignation and astonishment; that if Rabbi Elnathan had not been deemed altogether beneath the vengeance of "an officer in the service of the Republic," the consequence would have been a proposal to choose his own time to be run through the body in the Champs Elysees.
It was late when my ambassador had returned, and I had begun to feel some alarm for his peril by other than the shafts of Cupid in the rashness of exposing him to the jealous eye of his government, or perhaps to the denunciation of the Jewish firm, who, to screen themselves, might hasten with the intelligence to the first police-office. And I had an uneasy walk of a couple of hours, gazing from the ramparts, for every movement in the direction of the capital. The night was calm, and the glow of the lamps in the streets strikingly marked their outline; when on a sudden the sky was filled with flame of every colour, shot up in all directions, the cannon round the barriers began to roar, and Montmartre was in a perpetual blaze. It was plain that some extraordinary event had occurred; but whether this were the fall of the triumvirate or of their enemies, a new revolution or a new monarch, was beyond our knowledge; we were all hermetically sealed up in Vincennes; and if Paris had been buried in its own catacombs at the moment, the news would have been doled out to us only in the segments which suited the dignity of the governor.
But Pantoufle for once was popular in the fortress. If he had brought nothing to raise my spirits, his tidings threw the garrison into ecstasy. The Republic "had gained a great victory," whose value was enhanced by the previous disasters of the campaign. The favourite of the French armies, too, had gained that victory. This was another feature of the rejoicing. Dumourier was one of the people; "no noble, no aristocrat, no son of landed wealth, no lord of forests and feeder on privileges." He had been a simple captain of engineers; he was now conqueror of those Austrian provinces on which France had cast an eager eye for centuries. That prize, which all the monarchs of France, with all their titled marshals, had never been able to seize, "the Republic, with a republican army and a republican general, had won in the first month of her first invasion."
The garrison, of course, had its fireworks, its salute from the ramparts, and its feu de joie. But, in the midst of the festivity, I observed Pantoufle's countenance loaded with some mighty secret. He broke it to me with the air of a man revealing a conspiracy. Taking me on one side, while the ramparts were blazing with blue-lights, and every man, woman, and child of the garrison were chattering, huzzaing, and waltzing round us; he communicated to me the solemn fact, that his heart had been pierced again. This execution had been done while he was waiting in Elnathan's counting-house: a young Rachel or Rebecca had accidentally glanced across his sight, with such inimitable eyes, that his fate was decided for life. The world was valueless without her; and my particular advice was requested as to the way in which he was to make his approaches. I advised a sonnet. He smiled, and acknowledged that he had anticipated my advice, and had spent an hour of that twilight, dear to love and the muses, during which he had kept me in all the discomforts of suspense, devoting all the energies of his soul to the composition of a song to the beauties of the irresistible Israelite. Boileau has told the world, that a poet once insisted on his listening to an ode of his composition, while they were kneeling together at high mass. Our situation might not be quite as solemn, but the doctor was quite as pressing; and seated on the corner of a bastion, while the guns were roaring above our heads, I listened to an effusion in the most established style of sexagenarian poetry.
"Rachel est sans desirs, C'est un bouton de rose, Que la nature arrose, Et dispose a s'ouvrir.
Dans son cour sans detour, Il n'est pas jour encore; Il attend pour eclore Un rayon de l'amour!"
I listened without a laugh, and won the eternal gratitude of the writer. Nothing could be clearer than that, whatever the effusion might owe to the inspiration of Cupid, Apollo had no share in its charm. On my part, it would probably have been an act of the truest friendship, to have bid him burn his tablets, forswear poetry for ever, and regard himself as forbidden the temptations of the maids of Parnassus. But I should have broken his heart. I took the simpler but more effectual cure—I bade him find out this idol, and marry her. Before I forget him and his sorrows, let me mention, that he took my advice, and that, on my return to the Continent some years after, I found the poet transferred into the benedict, with a pretty wife at his side, and a circle of lively children at his knee—an active, thriving, and rational member of the community. I always quote the doctor, for the superiority of the soothing system. The vinegar of criticism would have festered the wounds of his vanity; the art of (must I call it) flattery healed them. It left a scar, I acknowledge; for the doctor still wrote verses, and still had a lurking propensity for climbing the slippery slope of poetic renown. But the realities of life are fortunate correctives to this passion, and, like Piron, luckily
"Il ne fut rien Pas meme academician."
But on this night our "intercourse of souls" was interrupted by one of those painful evidences of the renewal of hostilities which shows war in its truest aspect. A long column of vehicles, which we had seen moving for some time across the plain, and whose movement, by the torches of the escort, looked from the ramparts like the trailing of an immense phosphoric serpent, approached the gates. The announcement was soon made that it was a large detachment of prisoners and wounded, who had arrived from the desperate but decisive battle in Flanders. All the medical officers of the garrison were immediately in requisition; and the sights which I saw, even when standing at the gate, as the carts and cars rolled over the drawbridge, were sufficient to startle feelings more used to such terrible demonstrations of the folly or the frenzy of the world. But this was no time to indulge indolent sensibilities. Of course, I have no desire to enter into the startling details of that spectacle. But mastering myself so far, as to volunteer my attendance for the time in the hospital, the thought often occurred to me, that there could be no better lesson for the love of conquest than a walk through a military hospital after the first battle.
This anxious service lasted during the greater part of the night; for the wounded amounted to little less than a thousand, both French and foreign. But as I was returning to my mattress, I recollected the countenance of a prisoner standing at the door of one of the chambers set apart for officers of the higher rank. The man put his hand to his shako, and addressed me in German;—he was one of the squadron of Hulans whom I had commanded in the Prussian retreat, and who had rejoined his regiment after the skirmish with the French dragoons. He expressed great delight in finding that I was a survivor. But "on whom was he now in attendance?" "On Major-General Count Varnhorst." He told me that the general had volunteered to join the Austrian army in the Netherlands, and taking the Hulan with him, had been wounded in covering the retreat, been found on the field, and was now in the hands of the surgeons in that chamber!
I pass briefly over this scene. I found my brave friend apparently at the point of death; he had been wounded by the sabre, trampled under horses' hoofs, and crushed in every imaginable way, in the course of the desperate defence which he made against an overwhelming force of the enemy's cavalry. The officers of the escort were loud in reports of his almost frantic gallantry; but he was now so exhausted by the length of the march as to be almost insensible: he knew no one; and his case, after a day or two, was pronounced beyond all cure. It was then that I obtained permission to watch over him, and at least provide that he should not be disturbed in his closing hours. Care is often more than science, and care succeeded in this instance, against all the ominous looks of the medical staff. I so much delighted Pantoufle, by having thus overthrown the authority of a pragmatical confrere, who had been peculiarly stern in his prognostics; that he made the proposal to me of joining him in the chances of his profession. "I shall fix myself in Paris," said he; "fame will be the inevitable consequence, and fortune will follow; here you shall be my successor." I fought off the prospect as well as I could, and pleaded my want of professional knowledge. His countenance, at the words, would have been an incomparable study of mingled burlesque and scorn. He instanced a whole crowd of leading men, whom he unceremoniously designated as having made fortunes, not by knowledge, but simply by its absence. "Their ignorance," said he, "gives them effrontery, and effrontery is the grand secret of fame. You are an Englishman and a philosopher,"—the latter expression uttered with a curl of the lip and an elevation of the brow, which evidently translated the word, a fool. "You take things circuitously, while success lies in the straight line; thus you fail, we triumph."
I admitted the rapidity of his countrymen.
"In France," said he, or rather exclaimed, "two things conduct to renown; and but two—to stop at nothing, and never to admit ignorance in any thing; in medicine, to cure or kill without delay; in surgery, to operate at all risks. If the patient dies, there are fifty reasons for it; if the surgeon hesitates, the public will allow of but one. Politics are not within my line, and the subject is just now a delicate one; but you see that the secret of renown is, to run on the edge of the scaffold. In soldiership the principle is the same—always to fight, whenever you can find any body to fight with; you will deserve to be famous, or deserve to be guillotined.'
"Perhaps both," I remarked.
"Nothing more probable. But still something is done; inaction does nothing. Look at Dumourier; he has had no more necessity for fighting this battle, than for jumping from the parapet of Notre-Dame. But he has fought, he has conquered; and, instead of throwing himself from the parapet of Notre-Dame, which he probably would have done in the next fortnight's ennui in Paris, all Paris is placarded with his bulletins."
"But he might have been beaten; he might have been ruined, or brought to trial for rashness; or to an Austrian prison, like La Fayette."
"Of course he might. But the question is of the fact—let prophets deal with the future. He has beaten the Austrians; he has conquered Flanders; he has made himself the first man of France by the act, for which, if he had been an Austrian general, he would have been brought to a court-martial, his victory pronounced contrary to rule, his bravery a breach of etiquette, and the rest of his days, if he was not shot on the ramparts of Vienna, spent in a dungeon in Prague. Take my advice; dash at every thing; risk is the grand talent—adventure, the philosopher's stone. So, listen to me; you shall be admitted to the Hotel Dieu as an eleve; become my assistant, and make your fortune."
I stared at this sudden explosion of the doctor's rhetoric; but I should have remembered, that he was under the double inspiration of new-born love and reluctant rhyme.
Varnhorst at length attempted to walk as far as the ramparts, and I was enjoying the pride of being able to exhibit my patient to the garrison; when, just as we were issuing from the long and chill corridors into the fresh air and sunshine, I observed the commandant coming towards me with a peculiar air of gravity, attended by several of his officers. Bowing to Varnhorst with military etiquette, he took him aside and communicated to him a few words, which made his pale countenance look paler still. "My friend is brave," was the Prussian's reply, turning a glance to where I stood. "I have seen him in the field. I am satisfied that, wherever he is, he will do his duty."
The commandant now walked up to me, and with an air of embarrassment put a sealed letter into my hands. It was from the minister of foreign affairs, and was marked secret and immediate. I opened it, and I shall not say with what feelings I saw—an order for my attendance at the office of the minister, signed ROBESPIERRE.
If the grim majesty of death had put his signature in person to this order, it would not have borne a more mortal aspect. It was a pang! yet the pang did not continue long. Inevitable things are not the hardest to be borne. At all events, there was no time for pondering on the subject. The carriage which had brought the order and the government huissier, was at the gate. Varnhorst gave me one grasp of his honest hand as I left him; the commandant wished me "good fortune." I hurried into the carriage, and we flew on the road to Paris.
On reaching the barrier, we turned off to the quarter of the Luxembourg, and stopped at the gate of a moderate-sized house, where my conductor and I entered. I was shown into a small and simple room; where I found a man advanced in years, and of a striking aspect. He said not a word; I had no inclination to speak. The one or two hesitating syllables which I addressed to him were answered only by a bow and a look, as if he did not understand the language; and I awaited the approach of the terror of France, the horror of Europe, during half an hour, which seemed to me interminable. The door at last opened, a valet came in, and the name of "Robespierre" thrilled through every fibre; but, instead of the frowning giant to which my fancy had involuntarily attached the name, I saw a slight figure, highly dressed, and even with the air of a fop on the stage. Holding a perfumed handkerchief in one hand, which he waved towards his face like one indulging in the fragrance, and a diamond snuff-box in the other, he advanced with a sliding step; and after a sallow smile to me, and a solemn bow to the old man, congratulated himself on the "honour of the acquaintance, which he had been indebted to his friend Elnathan for making, in my person." I was all astonishment: I had come in expectation of receiving my death-warrant—I had a reception like an ambassador. I now perplexed myself with the idea, that I had been mistaken for some stranger in the foreign diplomacy; but I was instantly set right by his pronouncing my name, and making some allusions to "the influence of my family in the British Parliament."
Yet, I was still in the tiger's den, and I expected to feel the talons. I was happily disappointed; the claw was sheathed in velvet. A slight refection was brought in by an embroidered domestic, and it was evidently the wish of this tremendous demagogue to appear the man of refinement, at least in my instance.
"My friend Elnathan," said he, "has informed me that you wish to return to England?"
This was pronounced in the meekest tone of interrogatory; and, with eyes scarcely raised to either of us, he awaited my confirmation of his idea.
It was given unhesitatingly; and my glance at the countenance of the old man was answered by another, which told me that I saw the correspondent of my friend Mordecai.
"The circumstances are simply these," said the dictator in the same delicate tone; "the government has occasion to arrange some matters of importance with the British cabinet. The successes of the Republic have raised jealousies, which it is for the advantage of human nature that we should reconcile if possible. France and England are the only free countries: their hostility can only be injurious to freedom."
He paused, and his cold grey eye, after traversing the floor, was slowly raised to me.
I admitted my perfect agreement in the opinion, that "wherever national conflict could be avoided, it was the business of all rational men to maintain peace." I saw a grim smile pass over his sallow features, probably at having found another dupe. Elnathan sat in profound silence, without a muscle moved.
Robespierre, rising, took from a portfolio a letter, and put it into the Jew's hand. He now had got over that strange embarrassment with which his habitual nervousness had marked his first address, and spoke largely, and with a considerable expression of authority.
"The English government," said he, "have expressed some unnecessary uneasiness at the progress of opinion in Europe. The late victory, which has decided the fate of the Austrian Netherlands, will probably increase that uneasiness. Communications through the usual channels are slow, imperfect, and open to espionage on all sides. I have, therefore, applied to my friend Elnathan to point out some individual in whom he has perfect confidence, and through whom the communication can be made. He has named you."
Elnathan, with his huge hands clasped on his breast, and his bushy brows drawn deep over his eyes, bent forward with almost oriental affirmation.
"When will you be ready to set out for Calais?"
"This moment," was my willing answer.
"No, we are not quite prepared." He walked for a while about the room, pondering on the subject; then, turning to Elnathan, he directed the Jew to get ready some papers connected with the financial dealings which his English brethren were then beginning to carry on extensively throughout Europe. Those were to be arranged by next day, and for those I must wait.
"You shall be under the care of Elnathan," said the master of my fate. "He will obtain your passports from the Foreign Office, and you will leave Paris to-morrow evening at furthest. We must avoid all suspicion, Elnathan," said he, turning to the Jew. "Paris is a hot-bed of spies. Apropos, where do you propose to spend the evening?"
My mind glanced at Vincennes, and his eye, cold as it was, caught my startled conception.
"No, your return to-night to the fortress would only set all the tongues of Paris in motion to-morrow. You must be seen in public to-night, at the opera, the theatre, or where you will. You must figure as an Englishman travelling at his pleasure and his leisure—a Milor."
"Madame Roland gives a soiree to-night," humbly interposed the Jew.
"Ha!—that is the best of all. You must go there. You will be seen by all the world. Elnathan will introduce you to the 'philosophic lady' of the circle." He then resumed his pacing round the room. I could observe the vulpine expression of his visage, the twitching of his hands, the keen sidelong look of a man living in perpetual alarm. We prepared to take our leave; but he now suddenly resumed the petit-maitre, flourished his perfumed handkerchief again, gave a passing smile at the mirror, and offered me the honours of his snuff-box with the affectation of the stage. But, as we reached the door of the apartment, he made a long, single stride, which brought him up close to me. "Remember, sir," said he, in a stern voice, wholly unlike the past—"You have it in charge from me to inform the government of your country of the actual feeling of France. It is true that there are madmen among us—Brissotins, Girondists, and other enthusiasts—who talk of war. I tell you that they are madmen, and that I will have no war.—There may be conspirators, who think to shake the existing regime of the republic, and look to war as the means of raising themselves on its ruins.—I tell you, and you may tell your cabinet, that they will not accomplish their objects here; and that, if they accomplish them, it will be the fault and the folly alone of England. Impress those truths on the minds of your countrymen: the Republic desires no war; her principle is peace, her purpose is peace, her prosperity is peace. There will be, there shall be, there can be, no war." He folded his arms, and stood like a pillar till we withdrew.
I happened to ascertain shortly afterwards, that on this very day Robespierre had presided at a council which has sent off orders to Dumourier to open the Scheldt, the notorious and direct preliminary to war with England. Such is the sincerity of diplomacy!
I remained during the rest of the day with Elnathan. His hotel was splendid, and all that surrounded him gave the impression of great opulence; but it was obvious that he lived like a man in a gunpowder magazine. He had several sons and daughters, whom, in the terrors of the time, he had contrived to send among his connexions in Germany; and he now lived alone, his wife having been dead for some years. All his wealth could not console him for the anxiety of his position; and doubtless he would have perished long before, in the general massacre of the opulent, except for the circumstance of being the chief channel of moneyed communication between the government and Germany. In the course of our lonely but most recherche dinner, he explained to me slightly the means of my recent preservation. The police-officer had acquainted him with my being the bearer of a letter from Mordecai. The intelligence reached him just in time to save me, by a daring claim of my person as an agent of the English ministry. He had then lost sight of me, and began to think that I had perished; when the application of my friend the doctor told him where I was to be found. The message of the head of the Republic, requiring a confidential bearer of documents, struck him as affording an opportunity of my liberation; and though the palpable absurdity of my worthy friend Pantoufle prevented any communication with him, no time was lost in proposing my name to authority.
"And now," said my entertainer, after drinking my safe arrival in a bumper of imperial tokay, "En avance, for Madame Roland."
We drove to a splendid mansion in the Rue de la Revolution. The street in front was crowded with equipages, and it was with some difficulty that we could make our way through the long and stately suite of rooms. The house had belonged to the Austrian ambassador; and on the declaration of war it had been taken possession of by the Republic without ceremony.
I observed to Elnathan, that "to judge from the pomp of the furniture, republicanism was not republican every where."
"Nowhere but in the streets, or the prisons," was his reply in a whisper. "Since the Austrian left it, the whole hotel has been furnished anew at the most profuse expense, which I had the honour of supplying. Roland is a great personage, an honest nobody, a mill-horse at the wheel of office. He is probably drudging over his desk at this moment; but Madame is of another mould. "La voila!" He turned suddenly, and made a profound bow to a very showy female, who had advanced from a group for the purpose of receiving the Jew and the stranger. I had now, for the first time, the honour of seeing this remarkable personage. Her figure was certainly striking, and her physiognomy conveyed a great deal of her character for intelligence and decision. She had evidently dressed herself on the model of the classique; and though not handsome enough for a Venus, nor light enough for a nymph, she might have made a tolerable Minerva. She had probably some thoughts of the kind; for before we had time to make our bows, she threw herself into an attitude of the Galerie des Antiques, and, with her eyes fixed profoundly on the ground, awaited our incense. But when this part was played, the idol condescended to become human, and she spoke with that torrent of language which her clever countrywomen have at unrivaled command. She was "delighted, charmed, enchanted, to make my acquaintance. She had owed many marks of friendship to M. Elnathan; but this surpassed them all—she admired the English—they were always the friends of liberty—France was now beginning a race in the arena of freedom. The rivalry was brilliant, the prize was inestimable." I could only bow. Again, "she was enraptured to see an Englishman; the countryman of Milton and Wilkes, of Charles Fox and William Tell—she had been lately studying English history, and had wept floods of tears over the execution of William III.—Enfin, she hoped that Shakspeare, 'ce beau, ce superbe Shakspeare,' was in good health, and meant to give the world many, many more charming tragedies."
She had now discharged her first volley, and she wheeled back upon a group of members of the Convention, grim and sullen-looking sages, with wild hair hanging over their shoulders, and the genuine Carmagnole physiognomy. With those men she was evidently plunged in vehement discussion, and her whole volume of politics was flung at their heads with as little mercy as her literary stores had been poured upon me.
But the crowd pressed towards another object of curiosity, and I followed it, under the guidance of my Asmodeus, to a music room, splendidly fitted up, and filled with the most select orchestra of the capital. But it was an amateur that was there to attract all eyes and ears. "Madame de Fontenai," whispered the Jew, as he glanced towards a woman of a remarkably expressive countenance and statue-like form, half sitting, half reposing, on a sofa—surrounded by a group soliciting her for a "few notes, a suspiration, a soupcon"—of, as Elnathan observed, "one of the most delicious voices which had ever crossed the Pyrenees," and the Jew had all the habitual connoisseurship of his nation. At last the siren consented, and a harp was brought and placed before her, with the same homage which might have attended an offering to the Queen of Cyprus, in her own island, three thousand years ago; and rather letting her hand drop among the strings, than striking them, and rather breathing out her feelings, than performing any music of mortal composition, she sang one of the fantastic, but deep, reveries of passion of "the sweet south."
"Tus ojos y los mios Se miran y hablan. Pero los Corazones No se declaran. Mas te prevengo Que si tu no te explicas, Yo no te entiendo.
"Las dudas de un amante No han de saberse, Que al decirlas se sabe. Que desmerecen. No—en el silencio No son pensamientos D'el mas aprecio."
The song closed in a burst of plaudits, as general and marked as if they had been given to a prima donna in a theater, and she received them as if she was in a theatre.
"You should be presented to Madame de Fontenai," was my guide's suggestion. "She is our reigning celebrite at present, as Madame Roland is our publicite. You see we are nice in our distinctions.—I shall probably to-night show you another, a very handsome creature indeed, without half the talents of either, but with more admirers than both; who has obtained the title of our felicite."
"I shall be delighted to be made known to her, but give me the carte du pays. Who or what is she?"
"The daughter of Cabarus, the Spanish ambassador here some years ago. She is now a widow, rich, giving the most recherche suppers, followed by all the world, and, as she declares, persecuted by M. Tallien; who, as perseverance is nine-tenths of success in every thing, will probably succeed in making her Madame Tallien."
I had now the honor of being presented, and was received with very flattering attention. This I probably owed to the Jew, who seemed to have the key to every one's smiles, as he had to most of their escrutoires. She was certainly a person of most distinguished appearance. Not handsome, so far as beauty depends on feature; for she had the olive tinge of her country, Spain, and she had the not Spanish "petit nez retrousse." She required distance for fascination. But her figure was fine, and never was any costume more studied to exhibit it in all its graces. Accustomed as I had become to foreign life, I must acknowledge that I was a little surprised at the unhesitatingly classical development of her form;—arms naked to the shoulder, or clasped only with golden serpents; a robe a la Diane, and succinct as ever huntress wore; silver sandals, a jeweled cestus, and a tunic of white satin deeply embroidered with gold, depending simply to the knee! But when she placed me on the sofa beside her, and entered into conversation, every thing was forgotten but her incomparable elegance of manner. She had singular brilliancy of eye; it almost spoke, it perpetually flashed, and it filled up the pauses when she ceased to speak, with a meaning absolutely mental. Her language was animated and intelligent; sometimes in a tone of gentle and touching confidence, which made the hearer almost think that he was looking at her soul through her vivid countenance. Before a few minutes had elapsed, I could fully comprehend her title to the renown of the most captivating conversationist of Paris.
As I at length relinquished this enviable and envied position, to give way to the crowd who brought their tribute to the fateuil, or rather the shrine, of this dazzling woman—"You have still," said my companion, "to see another of our sovereigns; for, as we have a triumvirate in the Tuileries, the world of taste is ruled by three rivals; and they are curiously characteristic of the classes from which they have sprung. The lady of the mansion, you must have perceived to be republican in every sense of the word—clever undoubtedly, but as undoubtedly bourgeoise; intelligent in no slight degree, but too much in earnest for elegance; perpetually taking the lead on those desperate subjects, in which women can only be, and ought to be, smatterers; and all this to the infinite amusement of her hearers, and the unbounded terror of her meek and very helpless husband."
I remarked, "that she had, at least, the important merit of giving very splendid entertainments."
"Yes, and of also possessing as honest a heart as she possesses a rash brain. She is kind, generous, and even rational, where she has not a revolution to make or to ruin. But, suffer her to touch on politics, and you might as well bring a lunatic into the full moon."
"But that singular being, to whom we have just been listening, and whose song I shall hear to-night in my dreams—can she be a politician, a republican? I have never seen a countenance more likely to be contemptuous of the canaille!"
"You are perfectly in the right. She has a sphere of her own, which has no more to do with our world than if she lived in the evening-star. She exists simply to enjoy homage, and to reward it, as you have seen, by a song or a smile; yet she has been on the verge of the scaffold. Some of our most powerful political characters are contending for her influence, her fortune, or her hand; and whether the contest will end in raising M. Tallien to the head of the Republic, or extinguishing him within the week, is a question which chance alone can decide.—She may yet be a queen."
"She seems fitter to be a Circe, or a Calypso. Or if a queen, she would be a Cleopatra."
"No," said Elnathan, with the only laugh which I had seen on his solemn visage during the night. "She has known too much of courts to endure royalty. She reigns as the widow of M. de Fontenai. If Tallien falls, she will have the power of choosing from all his successors. When old age comes at last, and conquests are hopeless, she will turn devote, fly to her native Spain, abjure the face of man, spend her money on wax-dolls and cockle-shells; and after being worshipped by the multitude as a saint, and panegyrized by the monks as a miracle, will die with her face turned to Paris after all, as good Mussulmen send their last breath in the direction of Mecca."
We now plunged into the centre of a circle of men in military costume, full of the war, and criticising Dumourier's campaign with the utmost severity. As I listened; with some surprise at the multiplicity of errors which the most successful general of France had contrived to squeeze into a single month of operations, I observed a man, of a pale thin visage, like one suffering from ill health or excessive mental toil, but of a singularly intellectual expression; standing at a slight distance from the group of tacticians with a quiet smile.
"Let me have the honour of presenting M. Marston to the minister at war," was my introduction to the celebrated Carnot; with whom Elnathan seemed to be on peculiar terms of intimacy. The minister entered at once, and good-humouredly, into conversation.
"You must not think our favourite general," said he, "altogether the military novice which those gentlemen of the National Guard have decided him to be. I feel an additional interest in the question, because I had a little official battle to fight to place him at the head of the army of Flanders. But I saw that he had military talent, and that, with a republic, cancels all sins."
I made some passing remark on the idleness of disputing the ability of an officer who answered cavils by conquest, observing, that the only rational altar raised by the Romans, a people of warriors, was to "Good Fortune."
"Ah yes, you think, in the Choiseul style, that the first question to be asked in choosing a general was, 'is he lucky?' I must own, notwithstanding, that our city warriors have been of the opinion"—and a slight movement curled his lip—"that General Dumourier has fought his battle against principle. But they do not perceive, that there lies the very merit for which the Republic must uphold him. His troops were in an exhausted country; they had but provisions for two days. He must fight at once or retreat. Another general might have retreated; and made his apology by the state of his haversacks. Dumourier took the other alternative: he fought; and the general who fights is the only general who gains victories."
One of the tacticians at whom he had indulged in a sneer, Santerre, the commandant of the city horse, a huge and heavy hero with enormous jackboots and a clattering sabre, now strode up to us, and pronounced that the campaign had been hitherto "against all rule."
"You mistake, my good friend," said the now half-angry minister—"you mistake acting above rule for acting against rule. Our war is new, our force is new, our position is new; and we must meet the struggle by new means every where. Follow the routine, and all is lost. Invent, act, hazard, strike, and we shall triumph as Dumourier has done—France is surrounded with enemies. To conquer, we must astonish. If we wait to be attacked, we must feel the weakness of defence—the spirit of the French soldier is attack. Within the frontier he is a bird in a cage; beyond it he is a bird in the air. Why has France always triumphed in the beginning of a war? because she has always invaded. The French soldier must march, he must fight, he must feel that he hazards every thing, before he rises to that pitch of daring, that ardour, that elan, by which he gains every thing. Let him, like the Greek, burn his ships behind him, and from that moment he is invincible."
I listened with speechless interest to this development of the principles on which the great war of Europe was to be sustained. The speaker uttered his oracular sentences with a glow, which left his hearers almost as breathless as himself. I could imagine that I saw before me the living genius of French victory.
While we were standing, silenced by this burst; an incident occurred, as if to give demonstration to his theory; an aide-de-camp entered the room, bringing despatches from the army of Flanders. He had but just arrived in Paris, and not finding the war-minister at his bureau, had followed him here. Of course, the strongest conceivable curiosity existed; but not a syllable was to be learned from the official mystery of the aide-de-camp. He made his advance to the minister, deposited the despatch in his hands, and then drew up his stately figure, impervious to all questioning. Carnot retired to an alcove to read the missive, and in the mean time the general anxiety was an absolute fever. The dance ceased, the tables of loto and faro were deserted, the whole business of life was broken up, and five hundred of the handsomest, the most brilliant, and the best dressed of the earth, were standing on tiptoe in an agony of suspense. It would have justified a counter-revolution.
At length Carnot, probably wholly forgetting the scene of suffering which he had left behind, came forward with the important despatch open in his hand. When he read the date, and pronounced the words "Headquarters, Brussels," all was known, and all was rapture. The French deserve good news beyond all other people of the globe, for none ever enjoy it so much. I thought that they would have embraced the little minister to death; no living man certainly was ever nearer being pressed into Elysium. Absolute shouts of Vive la Republique! and plaudits from innumerable pairs of the most delicate hands, echoed through the whole suite of salons. Madame, the lady of the mansion, made a set speech to him, at the conclusion of which she rushed on him with open arms, and kissed him on both cheeks, "Au nom de la Republique." Even the ethereal Madame de Fontenai condescended so far to stoop to human feelings, as to move from her couch, advance, drooping her fine eyes, and, with her hand on her bosom, like a sultana bend her magnificent head in silent homage before him. I watched the pantomime of this matchless creature, with a full acknowledgment of its beauty. A single word would have impaired it; but she did not utter a syllable. On retiring, she slowly raised her expressive countenance, fixing her eyes above, as if she thanked some visionary protector of France for this crowning triumph; and then, with hands clasped, and step by step, sank back into the crowd.
Supper was announced, and we were led into a new suite of rooms, filled with all the luxuries and hospitalities of a most sumptuous entertainment. Carnot, now doubly popular, was surrounded by the elite of name and beauty. But, whether from the politeness with which even the Republicans of former rank were desirous of distinguishing themselves from the roturier, or for the purpose of making his opinions known in that country which had been always the great tribunal of European opinion, and always will be; he made me sit down at his side.
He now talked largely of continental interest, and continually reverted to the advantages of a closer alliance of England with France. "The two countries," said he, "are made for combination; combined, they could conquer the globe; France for the empire of the land, England for the empire of the sea. Nature has divided between them the sceptre of the world."
I observed that, when the conquest was achieved, the victors, like Augustus and Antony, might quarrel at last.
"Well, then, even if they did, the combat would finish in a day what it would have taken centuries of the tardy wars of old times to decide. Six hours at Pharsalia settled the civil wars of Rome, and pacified the world for five hundred years."
"But which side would be content to be the beaten one?" I asked.
"Neither," replied a restless, but remarkably broad-foreheaded and deep-browed personage at the opposite side of the table. "The combat would be eternal, or must end in mutual ruin. An universal empire would be beyond the government of man by law, or his control by the sword. I prefer enlightening the people until they shall want no control."
"But will they buy your lamp?" said Carnot, with a smile.
"At least they have done so pretty extensively, if I am to believe the public. It was but this day, that I received a notice that there had been sent forth the hundred thousandth copy of my 'Qu'est ce que le Tiers Etat.'"
"That was not a lamp, but a firebrand," said a hollow voice at a distance down the table; which reminded me of the extraordinary orator whom I had heard in the Jacobin Club. Carnot looked round to discover this strange accuser, and added, in a loud and stern tone—
"Whether lamp or firebrand, I pronounce to all good Frenchmen that it was a great gift to France. It was the grammar of a new language, the language of liberty! It was the sound of a trumpet, the trumpet of revolution! Still M. de Sieyes," said he, turning to the author of this celebrated performance, "all things have their time, and yours is not yet come. I cannot give up the soldier. I am for no tardy movement, when the country is in peril; the field must be cleared before it can be cultivated. You must sweep war from your gates, and faction from your streets, before you can sit down to teach a people. Even then the task is not easy. To know nothing, or to know something badly, are two kinds of ignorance which will always tempt the majority of mankind."
"Is there not a third kind of ignorance more dangerous still—that of knowing more than one ought to know?" interposed another speaker, whose countenance had already struck me as one of the most problematical that I had ever seen. His composed yet keen physiognomy, strongly reminded me of the portraits of the Italian Conclave—some of the cardinals of Giorgione and Titian; at once subtle and dignified.
Carnot smiled, and said to me in a low tone, "That is a touch at Sieyes. Those two men never meet without a fencing-match. One of them has been a bishop, and cannot forgive the loss of his mitre. Sieyes has been nothing, but intends to be more than a bishop yet—if he can. Talleyrand and he hate each other with the hatred of rival beauties."
It was evident that Sieyes was stung, though I could not tell how. I saw his powerful countenance flush to the forehead. But he merely said—"Pray, Monsieur, what is a vizard?"
All eyes were now directed to the combatants, and a faint laugh ran round the table. But there was not the slightest appearance of perturbation in the manner or look of his antagonist, as he answered—
"Monsieur, I shall have the honour to inform you. A vizard is a contrivance for concealment, whether in silk and pasteboard or in an inflexible visage—whether in a woman who wants to disguise her features, or in a man who wants to hide his heart—whether in a masquerader or an assassin. For example, when I hear a hypocrite talk of his honesty, an intriguer of his conscience, a renegade of his candour, and a pensioner of his patriotism, I do not require to look at him—I say at once, that man wears a vizard." He paused a moment. "This," said he, "is the vizard in public life. In private, it is the impartiality of authors to their own performances, the justice of partizans, the originality of plagiaries, and the principle of pamphleteers."
This daring delivery of sentiment hit so many, that it could be resented by none; for no one could have assailed it without making himself responsible to the charge. Silence fell upon the table. However, lapses of this order are not fatal in France, and the topic of the war was too recent not to press still. Various anecdotes of the gallantry of the troops were detailed, and the conversation was once more led by the minister. "These instances of heroism," said he, "show us the spirit which war, and war alone, can kindle in a people. In peace, the lower qualities take the lead; in war, the higher—intrepidity, perseverance, talent, and contempt of difficulties. The man must then be shown—deception can have no place there. All the stronger qualities of our nature are called into exercise; the mind grows muscular like the frame; the spirit glows with the blood; a nobler career of eminence spreads before the nation, cheered by rewards, at once of a more splendid rank, and distributed on a loftier principle. We shall no more have a Pompadour, or a Du Barry, giving governments and marshals' batons. The character of the nation will become, like its swords, at once bright, sharp, and solid; the reign of corruption is gone already, the reign of dupery cannot long survive. France will set an example which the world will be proud to imitate, or must be forced to follow."
"You remind me, Monsieur le Ministre, of the Spartans, who, when they returned from beating the enemy, found their slaves in possession of their households. You conquer Prussians and Austrians on the frontier, and leave monks at home. But, as long as you spare the spiders, you must not complain of cobwebs. Crush intriguers, an you will put an end to intrigue," said the bold ex-bishop.
"The man insults the Republic who charges her citizens with intrigue," was the whispered, and very formidable, menace of Sieyes. "Monsieur, you have yet to learn what is a constitution."
The Abbe had incurred some ridicule by his readiness in proposing constitutions. His antagonist, like a hornet, instantly fixed his sting upon the naked spot.
"No, Monsieur, I perfectly know what is a modern constitution—it is the credit of a charlatan—it is the stock of a political pedlar, made only for sale to simpletons—it is an umbrella, to be taken down when it rains—it is a surtout in summer, and nakedness in winter. It is, in short, a contrivance, to make a reputation for a sciolist, and to govern mankind on the principles of a reverie."
"This is the language of faction," exclaimed Sieyes, indignantly rising.
"Pardon me," said his imperturbable antagonist; "the language of faction is the language of quacks to dupes; it is the language learned in the clubs and taught in the streets—the language which takes it for granted, that the hearer is as destitute of brains, as the speaker is of principle." All eyes were turned on the parties.
But his hearer simply said, yet with a glance of fire—
"Monseigneur, you should remember, that you are not in our diocese, haranguing your chaplains. You forget also, that in France the age of quackery is over. There are no more dupes—have you your passports ready?"
This produced not even a sneer on the marble countenance of the adversary.
"Monsieur de Sieyes," was the ready reply, "let me not hear you talk of despair. Quackery will never be at an end in France. The true quack is a polypus; cut him into a thousand pieces, he only grows the faster;—he is a fungus, give him only a stone to cling to, and he covers it;—he is the viper, even while he hides in his hole, he is only preparing to bite in the sunshine; and when all the world think him frozen for life, he is only concocting venom for his summer exploits. Quacks will live, as long as there are dupes—as leeches will live, as long as there are asses' heels to hang on." He then rose, making a profound bow, with "Bon soir, Monsieur l'Abbe—never fear—dupes will be eternal."
This produced some confusion and consternation among the friends of Sieyes. But a new scene of the night was announced, and all flowed towards the private theatre.
I was yet to see more of this daring talker; but I was not surprised to hear next day, that he had left Paris at midnight, and was gone, no one knew whither. The capital might have been hazardous for him. Sieyes was probably above revenge; but there were those who would have readily taken the part upon themselves, and a cidevant bishop would have made a showy victim. How he escaped even so far, is among the wonders of a life of wonder. I afterwards saw the fugitive, at the head of European councils, a prince and a prime minister; the restorer of the dynasty under which he fell, the overthrower of the dynasty under which he rose; bearing a charmed life, and passing among the havoc of factions, and even escaping from the wrecks of empire, more like an impalpable spirit than a man.
But the change of his style was scarcely less remarkable than the change of his fortunes. He was then no longer the hot and heady satirist; he had become the sly and subtle scorner. No man said so many cutting things, yet so few of which any one could take advantage: he anatomized human character without the appearance of inflicting a wound; he had all the pungency of wit without its peril, and reigned supreme by a terror which every one pretended not to feel. The change, after all, was only one of weapons; in the first period it was the knife, in the second the razor—and perhaps the latter was the more deadly of the two.
The theatre was fitted up with the taste of a people more essentially theatrical than any other in the world. For not merely the eye, but the tongue, is theatrical; and not merely the stage, but every portion of private life. Every sentiment, every sound, is theatrical; and the stage itself is the only natural thing in the country, from Calais to Bayonne.
As we took our seats in the little gilded box, which was made only for two; though probably for tete-a-tetes of a more romantic order than ours, Elnathan observed to me, "You will now see two of the most remarkable artistes in France—Talma, beyond all comparison our first actor; and another, an amateur, whom I think altogether one of the finest women in existence. You may pronounce, that she ought to be younger for perfection; but there is beauty in the fruit as well as in the flower, and not the less beautiful though it is of a different kind. But you shall see."
The curtain now drew up, and we saw the commencement of the little drame of Paul et Virginie. St Pierre's charming story has since been worn out on all the boards of Europe; but it was then new to the stage, and the audience gazed and listened, smiled and wept, with all the freshness of delicious novelty. All the earlier portions of the performance were what we have since so repeatedly seen them; we had the scenery of the Mauritius, painted with habitual French skill, the luxuriant vegetation, the rosy sky, and the deep purple of the ocean. The negro-dances were exhibited, by ballerine from the opera; and all was in suspense for the appearance of the two stars of the night. Paul's entre was received with unbounded plaudits; he was so simply dressed, and looked so completely the young wanderer of the groves, that I could not conceive him to be the grand pillar of tragedy in France. He was incomparably the handsome peasant of the tropics; yet, as his part advanced, I could discover in his deep eye and powerful tone, the actor capable of reaching the heights of dramatic passion. He was scarcely above the middle size, with features whose magic consisted in neither their strength nor beauty, but in their flexibility. I had never seen a countenance so capable of change, and in which the change was so instantaneous and so total. From the most sportive openness, a word threw it into the most indignant storm, or the most incurable despair. From wild joy, it was suddenly clouded with a weight of sorrow that "refused to be comforted." His accents were singularly sweet, yet clear; and, like his change of countenance, capable of the most rapid change from cheerfulness to the agonies of a breaking heart. His charm was reality; the power to carry away the audience with him into the scene of the moment. I had not been five minutes looking at him, when I was as completely in the Mauritius, as if I had been basking in its golden sunshine, and imbibing the breeze from fair palms.
But his fascination and ours was complete when Virginie appeared. Nothing could be less artificial than her costume; the simple dress of Bengalese blue cloth, a few cowrie shells round her neck, and a shell comb fastening up the braids of profusion of raven hair. She came floating rather than walking down the mountain path; and her first few words, when Paul rushed forward and knelt to kiss her feet, and the half playful, half fond air with which she repelled him, seemed to me the most exquisite of all performances. I observed, too, that her style had more nature in it than that of Talma. I had till then forgotten that he was an actor; but, placed beside her, I could have almost instinctively pronounced that Paul was a Frenchman and Virginie a Creole. I whispered the remark to Elnathan, who answered, "that I was right in point of fact; for the representative of Virginie, though not a native of the Mauritius, was of tropical birth, the widow of a French noble, who had married her in the colonies and who had been one of the victims of the Revolution."