PASSAGES FROM THE FRENCH AND ITALIAN NOTE-BOOKS
PASSAGES FROM HAWTHORNE'S NOTE-BOOKS IN FRANCE AND ITALY.
Hotel de Louvre, January 6th, 1858.—On Tuesday morning, our dozen trunks and half-dozen carpet-bags being already packed and labelled, we began to prepare for our journey two or three hours before light. Two cabs were at the door by half past six, and at seven we set out for the London Bridge station, while it was still dark and bitterly cold. There were already many people in the streets, growing more numerous as we drove city-ward; and, in Newgate Street, there was such a number of market-carts, that we almost came to a dead lock with some of them. At the station we found several persons who were apparently going in the same train with us, sitting round the fire of the waiting-room. Since I came to England there has hardly been a morning when I should have less willingly bestirred myself before daylight; so sharp and inclement was the atmosphere. We started at half past eight, having taken through tickets to Paris by way of Folkestone and Boulogne. A foot-warmer (a long, flat tin utensil, full of hot water) was put into the carriage just before we started; but it did not make us more than half comfortable, and the frost soon began to cloud the windows, and shut out the prospect, so that we could only glance at the green fields—immortally green, whatever winter can do against them—and at, here and there, a stream or pool with the ice forming on its borders. It was the first cold weather of a very mild season. The snow began to fall in scattered and almost invisible flakes; and it seemed as if we had stayed our English welcome out, and were to find nothing genial and hospitable there any more.
At Folkestone, we were deposited at a railway station close upon a shingly beach, on which the sea broke in foam, and which J——- reported as strewn with shells and star-fish; behind was the town, with an old church in the midst; and, close, at hand, the pier, where lay the steamer in which we were to embark. But the air was so wintry, that I had no heart to explore the town, or pick up shells with J——- on the beach; so we kept within doors during the two hours of our stay, now and then looking out of the windows at a fishing-boat or two, as they pitched and rolled with an ugly and irregular motion, such as the British Channel generally communicates to the craft that navigate it.
At about one o'clock we went on board, and were soon under steam, at a rate that quickly showed a long line of the white cliffs of Albion behind us. It is a very dusky white, by the by, and the cliffs themselves do not seem, at a distance, to be of imposing height, and have too even an outline to be picturesque.
As we increased our distance from England, the French coast came more and more distinctly in sight, with a low, wavy outline, not very well worth looking at, except because it was the coast of France. Indeed, I looked at it but little; for the wind was bleak and boisterous, and I went down into the cabin, where I found the fire very comfortable, and several people were stretched on sofas in a state of placid wretchedness. . . . . I have never suffered from sea-sickness, but had been somewhat apprehensive of this rough strait between England and France, which seems to have more potency over people's stomachs than ten times the extent of sea in other quarters. Our passage was of two hours, at the end of which we landed on French soil, and found ourselves immediately in the clutches of the custom-house officers, who, however, merely made a momentary examination of my passport, and allowed us to pass without opening even one of our carpet-bags. The great bulk of our luggage had been registered through to Paris, for examination after our arrival there.
We left Boulogne in about an hour after our arrival, when it was already a darkening twilight. The weather had grown colder than ever, since our arrival in sunny France, and the night was now setting in, wickedly black and dreary. The frost hardened upon the carriage windows in such thickness that I could scarcely scratch a peep-hole through it; but, from such glimpses as I could catch, the aspect of the country seemed pretty much to resemble the December aspect of my dear native land,—broad, bare, brown fields, with streaks of snow at the foot of ridges, and along fences, or in the furrows of ploughed soil. There was ice wherever there happened to be water to form it.
We had feet-warmers in the carriage, but the cold crept in nevertheless; and I do not remember hardly in my life a more disagreeable short journey than this, my first advance into French territory. My impression of France will always be that it is an Arctic region. At any season of the year, the tract over which we passed yesterday must be an uninteresting one as regards its natural features; and the only adornment, as far as I could observe, which art has given it, consists in straight rows of very stiff-looking and slender-stemmed trees. In the dusk they resembled poplar-trees.
Weary and frost-bitten,—morally, if not physically,—we reached Amiens in three or four hours, and here I underwent much annoyance from the French railway officials and attendants, who, I believe, did not mean to incommode me, but rather to forward my purposes as far as they well could. If they would speak slowly and distinctly I might understand them well enough, being perfectly familiar with the written language, and knowing the principles of its pronunciation; but, in their customary rapid utterance, it sounds like a string of mere gabble. When left to myself, therefore, I got into great difficulties. . . . . It gives a taciturn personage like myself a new conception as to the value of speech, even to him, when he finds himself unable either to speak or understand.
Finally, being advised on all hands to go to the Hotel du Rhin, we were carried thither in an omnibus, rattling over a rough pavement, through an invisible and frozen town; and, on our arrival, were ushered into a handsome salon, as chill as a tomb. They made a little bit of a wood-fire for us in a low and deep chimney-hole, which let a hundred times more heat escape up the flue than it sent into the room.
In the morning we sallied forth to see the cathedral.
The aspect of the old French town was very different from anything English; whiter, infinitely cleaner; higher and narrower houses, the entrance to most of which seeming to be through a great gateway, affording admission into a central court-yard; a public square, with a statue in the middle, and another statue in a neighboring street. We met priests in three-cornered hats, long frock-coats, and knee-breeches; also soldiers and gendarmes, and peasants and children, clattering over the pavements in wooden shoes.
It makes a great impression of outlandishness to see the signs over the shop doors in a foreign tongue. If the cold had not been such as to dull my sense of novelty, and make all my perceptions torpid, I should have taken in a set of new impressions, and enjoyed them very much. As it was, I cared little for what I saw, but yet had life enough left to enjoy the cathedral of Amiens, which has many features unlike those of English cathedrals.
It stands in the midst of the cold, white town, and has a high-shouldered look to a spectator accustomed to the minsters of England, which cover a great space of ground in proportion to their height. The impression the latter gives is of magnitude and mass; this French cathedral strikes one as lofty. The exterior is venerable, though but little time-worn by the action of the atmosphere; and statues still keep their places in numerous niches, almost as perfect as when first placed there in the thirteenth century. The principal doors are deep, elaborately wrought, pointed arches; and the interior seemed to us, at the moment, as grand as any that we had seen, and to afford as vast an idea of included space; it being of such an airy height, and with no screen between the chancel and nave, as in all the English cathedrals. We saw the differences, too, betwixt a church in which the same form of worship for which it was originally built is still kept up, and those of England, where it has been superseded for centuries; for here, in the recess of every arch of the side aisles, beneath each lofty window, there was a chapel dedicated to some Saint, and adorned with great marble sculptures of the crucifixion, and with pictures, execrably bad, in all cases, and various kinds of gilding and ornamentation. Immensely tall wax candles stand upon the altars of these chapels, and before one sat a woman, with a great supply of tapers, one of which was burning. I suppose these were to be lighted as offerings to the saints, by the true believers. Artificial flowers were hung at some of the shrines, or placed under glass. In every chapel, moreover, there was a confessional,—a little oaken structure, about as big as a sentry-box, with a closed part for the priest to sit in, and an open one for the penitent to kneel at, and speak, through the open-work of the priest's closet. Monuments, mural and others, to long-departed worthies, and images of the Saviour, the Virgin, and saints, were numerous everywhere about the church; and in the chancel there was a great deal of quaint and curious sculpture, fencing in the Holy of Holies, where the High Altar stands. There is not much painted glass; one or two very rich and beautiful rose-windows, however, that looked antique; and the great eastern window which, I think, is modern. The pavement has, probably, never been renewed, as one piece of work, since the structure was erected, and is foot-worn by the successive generations, though still in excellent repair. I saw one of the small, square stones in it, bearing the date of 1597, and no doubt there are a thousand older ones. It was gratifying to find the cathedral in such good condition, without any traces of recent repair; and it is perhaps a mark of difference between French and English character, that the Revolution in the former country, though all religious worship disappears before it, does not seem to have caused such violence to ecclesiastical monuments, as the Reformation and the reign of Puritanism in the latter. I did not see a mutilated shrine, or even a broken-nosed image, in the whole cathedral. But, probably, the very rage of the English fanatics against idolatrous tokens, and their smashing blows at them, were symptoms of sincerer religious faith than the French were capable of. These last did not care enough about their Saviour to beat down his crucified image; and they preserved the works of sacred art, for the sake only of what beauty there was in them.
While we were in the cathedral, we saw several persons kneeling at their devotions on the steps of the chancel and elsewhere. One dipped his fingers in the holy water at the entrance: by the by, I looked into the stone basin that held it, and saw it full of ice. Could not all that sanctity at least keep it thawed? Priests—jolly, fat, mean-looking fellows, in white robes—went hither and thither, but did not interrupt or accost us.
There were other peculiarities, which I suppose I shall see more of in my visits to other churches, but now we were all glad to make our stay as brief as possible, the atmosphere of the cathedral being so bleak, and its stone pavement so icy cold beneath our feet. We returned to the hotel, and the chambermaid brought me a book, in which she asked me to inscribe my name, age, profession, country, destination, and the authorization under which I travelled. After the freedom of an English hotel, so much greater than even that of an American one, where they make you disclose your name, this is not so pleasant.
We left Amiens at half past one; and I can tell as little of the country between that place and Paris, as between Boulogne and Amiens. The windows of our railway carriage were already frosted with French breath when we got into it, and the ice grew thicker and thicker continually. I tried, at various times, to rub a peep-hole through, as before; but the ice immediately shot its crystallized tracery over it again; and, indeed, there was little or nothing to make it worth while to look out, so bleak was the scene. Now and then a chateau, too far off for its characteristics to be discerned; now and then a church, with a tall gray tower, and a little peak atop; here and there a village or a town, which we could not well see. At sunset there was just that clear, cold, wintry sky which I remember so well in America, but have never seen in England.
At five we reached Paris, and were suffered to take a carriage to the hotel de Louvre, without any examination of the little luggage we had with us. Arriving, we took a suite of apartments, and the waiter immediately lighted a wax candle in each separate room.
We might have dined at the table d'hote, but preferred the restaurant connected with and within the hotel. All the dishes were very delicate, and a vast change from the simple English system, with its joints, shoulders, beefsteaks, and chops; but I doubt whether English cookery, for the very reason that it is so simple, is not better for men's moral and spiritual nature than French. In the former case, you know that you are gratifying your animal needs and propensities, and are duly ashamed of it; but, in dealing with these French delicacies, you delude yourself into the idea that you are cultivating your taste while satisfying your appetite. This last, however, it requires a good deal of perseverance to accomplish.
In the cathedral at Amiens there were printed lists of acts of devotion posted on the columns, such as prayers at the shrines of certain saints, whereby plenary indulgences might be gained. It is to be observed, however, that all these external forms were necessarily accompanied with true penitence and religious devotion.
Hotel de Louvre, January 8th.—It was so fearfully cold this morning that I really felt little or no curiosity to see the city. . . . . Until after one o'clock, therefore, I knew nothing of Paris except the lights which I had seen beneath our window the evening before, far, far downward, in the narrow Rue St. Honore, and the rumble of the wheels, which continued later than I was awake to hear it, and began again before dawn. I could see, too, tall houses, that seemed to be occupied in every story, and that had windows on the steep roofs. One of these houses is six stories high. This Rue St. Honore is one of the old streets in Paris, and is that in which Henry IV. was assassinated; but it has not, in this part of it, the aspect of antiquity.
After one o'clock we all went out and walked along the Rue de Rivoli. . . . . We are here, right in the midst of Paris, and close to whatever is best known to those who hear or read about it,—the Louvre being across the street, the Palais Royal but a little way off, the Tuileries joining to the Louvre, the Place de la Concorde just beyond, verging on which is the Champs Elysees. We looked about us for a suitable place to dine, and soon found the Restaurant des Echelles, where we entered at a venture, and were courteously received. It has a handsomely furnished saloon, much set off with gilding and mirrors; and appears to be frequented by English and Americans; its carte, a bound volume, being printed in English as well as French. . . . .
It was now nearly four o'clock, and too late to visit the galleries of the Louvre, or to do anything else but walk a little way along the street. The splendor of Paris, so far as I have seen, takes me altogether by surprise: such stately edifices, prolonging themselves in unwearying magnificence and beauty, and, ever and anon, a long vista of a street, with a column rising at the end of it, or a triumphal arch, wrought in memory of some grand event. The light stone or stucco, wholly untarnished by smoke and soot, puts London to the blush, if a blush could be seen on its dingy face; but, indeed, London is not to be mentioned, nor compared even, with Paris. I never knew what a palace was till I had a glimpse of the Louvre and the Tuileries; never had my idea of a city been gratified till I trod these stately streets. The life of the scene, too, is infinitely more picturesque than that of London, with its monstrous throng of grave faces and black coats; whereas, here, you see soldiers and priests, policemen in cocked hats, Zonaves with turbans, long mantles, and bronzed, half-Moorish faces; and a great many people whom you perceive to be outside of your experience, and know them ugly to look at, and fancy them villanous. Truly, I have no sympathies towards the French people; their eyes do not win me, nor do their glances melt and mingle with mine. But they do grand and beautiful things in the architectural way; and I am grateful for it. The Place de la Concorde is a most splendid square, large enough for a nation to erect trophies in of all its triumphs; and on one side of it is the Tuileries, on the opposite side the Champs Elysees, and, on a third, the Seine, adown which we saw large cakes of ice floating, beneath the arches of a bridge. The Champs Elysees, so far as I saw it, had not a grassy soil beneath its trees, but the bare earth, white and dusty. The very dust, if I saw nothing else, would assure me that I was out of England.
We had time only to take this little walk, when it began to grow dusk; and, being so pitilessly cold, we hurried back to our hotel. Thus far, I think, what I have seen of Paris is wholly unlike what I expected; but very like an imaginary picture which I had conceived of St. Petersburg,— new, bright, magnificent, and desperately cold.
A great part of this architectural splendor is due to the present Emperor, who has wrought a great change in the aspect of the city within a very few years. A traveller, if he looks at the thing selfishly, ought to wish him a long reign and arbitrary power, since he makes it his policy to illustrate his capital with palatial edifices, which are, however, better for a stranger to look at, than for his own people to pay for.
We have spent to-day chiefly in seeing some of the galleries of the Louvre. I must confess that the vast and beautiful edifice struck me far more than the pictures, sculpture, and curiosities which it contains,— the shell more than the kernel inside; such noble suites of rooms and halls were those through which we first passed, containing Egyptian, and, farther onward, Greek and Roman antiquities; the walls cased in variegated marbles; the ceilings glowing with beautiful frescos; the whole extended into infinite vistas by mirrors that seemed like vacancy, and multiplied everything forever. The picture-rooms are not so brilliant, and the pictures themselves did not greatly win upon me in this one day. Many artists were employed in copying them, especially in the rooms hung with the productions of French painters. Not a few of these copyists were females; most of them were young men, picturesquely mustached and bearded; but some were elderly, who, it was pitiful to think, had passed through life without so much success as now to paint pictures of their own.
From the pictures we went into a suite of rooms where are preserved many relics of the ancient and later kings of France; more relics of the elder ones, indeed, than I supposed had remained extant through the Revolution. The French seem to like to keep memorials of whatever they do, and of whatever their forefathers have done, even if it be ever so little to their credit; and perhaps they do not take matters sufficiently to heart to detest anything that has ever happened. What surprised me most were the golden sceptre and the magnificent sword and other gorgeous relics of Charlemagne,—a person whom I had always associated with a sheepskin cloak. There were suits of armor and weapons that had been worn and handled by a great many of the French kings; and a religious book that had belonged to St. Louis; a dressing-glass, most richly set with precious stones, which formerly stood on the toilet-table of Catherine de' Medici, and in which I saw my own face where hers had been. And there were a thousand other treasures, just as well worth mentioning as these. If each monarch could have been summoned from Hades to claim his own relics, we should have had the halls full of the old Childerics, Charleses, Bourbons and Capets, Henrys and Louises, snatching with ghostly hands at sceptres, swords, armor, and mantles; and Napoleon would have seen, apparently, almost everything that personally belonged to him,—his coat, his cocked hats, his camp-desk, his field-bed, his knives, forks, and plates, and even a lock of his hair. I must let it all go. These things cannot be reproduced by pen and ink.
Hotel de Louvre, January 9th.—. . . . Last evening Mr. Fezaudie called. He spoke very freely respecting the Emperor and the hatred entertained against him in France; but said that he is more powerful, that is, more firmly fixed as a ruler, than ever the first Napoleon was. We, who look back upon the first Napoleon as one of the eternal facts of the past, a great bowlder in history, cannot well estimate how momentary and insubstantial the great Captain may have appeared to those who beheld his rise out of obscurity. They never, perhaps, took the reality of his career fairly into their minds, before it was over. The present Emperor, I believe, has already been as long in possession of the supreme power as his uncle was. I should like to see him, and may, perhaps, do—so, as he is our neighbor, across the way.
This morning Miss ———, the celebrated astronomical lady, called. She had brought a letter of introduction to me, while consul; and her purpose now was to see if we could take her as one of our party to Rome, whither she likewise is bound. We readily consented, for she seems to be a simple, strong, healthy-humored woman, who will not fling herself as a burden on our shoulders; and my only wonder is that a person evidently so able to take care of herself should wish to have an escort.
We issued forth at about eleven, and went down the Rue St. Honore, which is narrow, and has houses of five or six stories on either side, between which run the streets like a gully in a rock. One face of our hotel borders and looks on this street. After going a good way, we came to an intersection with another street, the name of which I forget; but, at this point, Ravaillac sprang at the carriage of Henry IV. and plunged his dagger into him. As we went down the Rue St. Honore, it grew more and more thronged, and with a meaner class of people. The houses still were high, and without the shabbiness of exterior that distinguishes the old part of London, being of light-colored stone; but I never saw anything that so much came up to my idea of a swarming city as this narrow, crowded, and rambling street.
Thence we turned into the Rue St. Denis, which is one of the oldest streets in Paris, and is said to have been first marked out by the track of the saint's footsteps, where, after his martyrdom, he walked along it, with his head under his arm, in quest of a burial-place. This legend may account for any crookedness of the street; for it could not reasonably be asked of a headless man that he should walk straight.
Through some other indirections we at last found the Rue Bergere, down which I went with J——- in quest of Hottinguer et Co., the bankers, while the rest of us went along the Boulevards, towards the Church of the Madeleine. . . . . This business accomplished, J——- and I threaded our way back, and overtook the rest of the party, still a good distance from the Madeleine. I know not why the Boulevards are called so. They are a succession of broad walks through broad streets, and were much thronged with people, most of whom appeared to be bent more on pleasure than business. The sun, long before this, had come out brightly, and gave us the first genial and comfortable sensations which we have had in Paris.
Approaching the Madeleine, we found it a most beautiful church, that might have been adapted from Heathenism to Catholicism; for on each side there is a range of magnificent pillars, unequalled, except by those of the Parthenon. A mourning-coach, arrayed in black and silver, was drawn up at the steps, and the front of the church was hung with black cloth, which covered the whole entrance. However, seeing the people going in, we entered along with them. Glorious and gorgeous is the Madeleine. The entrance to the nave is beneath a most stately arch; and three arches of equal height open from the nave to the side aisles; and at the end of the nave is another great arch, rising, with a vaulted half-dome, over the high altar. The pillars supporting these arches are Corinthian, with richly sculptured capitals; and wherever gilding might adorn the church, it is lavished like sunshine; and within the sweeps of the arches there are fresco paintings of sacred subjects, and a beautiful picture covers the hollow of the vault over the altar; all this, besides much sculpture; and especially a group above and around the high altar, representing the Magdalen smiling down upon angels and archangels, some of whom are kneeling, and shadowing themselves with their heavy marble wings. There is no such thing as making my page glow with the most distant idea of the magnificence of this church, in its details and in its whole. It was founded a hundred or two hundred years ago; then Bonaparte contemplated transforming it into a Temple of Victory, or building it anew as one. The restored Bourbons remade it into a church; but it still has a heathenish look, and will never lose it.
When we entered we saw a crowd of people, all pressing forward towards the high altar, before which burned a hundred wax lights, some of which were six or seven feet high; and, altogether, they shone like a galaxy of stars. In the middle of the nave, moreover, there was another galaxy of wax candles burning around an immense pall of black velvet, embroidered with silver, which seemed to cover, not only a coffin, but a sarcophagus, or something still more huge. The organ was rumbling forth a deep, lugubrious bass, accompanied with heavy chanting of priests, out of which sometimes rose the clear, young voices of choristers, like light flashing out of the gloom. The church, between the arches, along the nave, and round the altar, was hung with broad expanses of black cloth; and all the priests had their sacred vestments covered with black. They looked exceedingly well; I never saw anything half so well got up on the stage. Some of these ecclesiastical figures were very stately and noble, and knelt and bowed, and bore aloft the cross, and swung the censers in a way that I liked to see. The ceremonies of the Catholic Church were a superb work of art, or perhaps a true growth of man's religious nature; and so long as men felt their original meaning, they must have been full of awe and glory. Being of another parish, I looked on coldly, but not irreverently, and was glad to see the funeral service so well performed, and very glad when it was over. What struck me as singular, the person who performed the part usually performed by a verger, keeping order among the audience, wore a gold-embroidered scarf, a cocked hat, and, I believe, a sword, and had the air of a military man.
Before the close of the service a contribution-box—or, rather, a black velvet bag—was handed about by this military verger; and I gave J——- a franc to put in, though I did not in the least know for what.
Issuing from the church, we inquired of two or three persons who was the distinguished defunct at whose obsequies we had been assisting, for we had some hope that it might be Rachel, who died last week, and is still above ground. But it proved to be only a Madame Mentel, or some such name, whom nobody had ever before heard of. I forgot to say that her coffin was taken from beneath the illuminated pall, and carried out of the church before us.
When we left the Madeleine we took our way to the Place de la Concorde, and thence through the Elysian Fields (which, I suppose, are the French idea of heaven) to Bonaparte's triumphal arch. The Champs Elysees may look pretty in summer; though I suspect they must be somewhat dry and artificial at whatever season,—the trees being slender and scraggy, and requiring to be renewed every few years. The soil is not genial to them. The strangest peculiarity of this place, however, to eyes fresh from moist and verdant England, is, that there is not one blade of grass in all the Elysian Fields, nothing but hard clay, now covered with white dust. It gives the whole scene the air of being a contrivance of man, in which Nature has either not been invited to take any part, or has declined to do so. There were merry-go-rounds, wooden horses, and other provision for children's amusements among the trees; and booths, and tables of cakes, and candy-women; and restaurants on the borders of the wood; but very few people there; and doubtless we can form no idea of what the scene might become when alive with French gayety and vivacity.
As we walked onward the Triumphal Arch began to loom up in the distance, looking huge and massive, though still a long way off. It was not, however, till we stood almost beneath it that we really felt the grandeur of this great arch, including so large a space of the blue sky in its airy sweep. At a distance it impresses the spectator with its solidity; nearer, with the lofty vacancy beneath it. There is a spiral staircase within one of its immense limbs; and, climbing steadily upward, lighted by a lantern which the doorkeeper's wife gave us, we had a bird's-eye view of Paris, much obscured by smoke or mist. Several interminable avenues shoot with painful directness right towards it.
On our way homeward we visited the Place Vendome, in the centre of which is a tall column, sculptured from top to bottom, all over the pedestal, and all over the shaft, and with Napoleon himself on the summit. The shaft is wreathed round and roundabout with representations of what, as far as I could distinguish, seemed to be the Emperor's victories. It has a very rich effect. At the foot of the column we saw wreaths of artificial flowers, suspended there, no doubt, by some admirer of Napoleon, still ardent enough to expend a franc or two in this way.
Hotel de Louvre, January 10th.—We had purposed going to the Cathedral of Notre Dame to-day, but the weather and walking were too unfavorable for a distant expedition; so we merely went across the street to the Louvre. . . . . .
Our principal object this morning was to see the pencil drawings by eminent artists. Of these the Louvre has a very rich collection, occupying many apartments, and comprising sketches by Annibale Caracci, Claude, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Michel Angelo, Rubens, Rembrandt, and almost all the other great masters, whether French, Italian, Dutch, or whatever else; the earliest drawings of their great pictures, when they had the glory of their pristine idea directly before their minds' eye,— that idea which inevitably became overlaid with their own handling of it in the finished painting. No doubt the painters themselves had often a happiness in these rude, off-hand sketches, which they never felt again in the same work, and which resulted in disappointment, after they had done their best. To an artist, the collection must be most deeply interesting: to myself, it was merely curious, and soon grew wearisome.
In the same suite of apartments, there is a collection of miniatures, some of them very exquisite, and absolutely lifelike, on their small scale. I observed two of Franklin, both good and picturesque, one of them especially so, with its cloud-like white hair. I do not think we have produced a man so interesting to contemplate, in many points of view, as he. Most of our great men are of a character that I find it impossible to warm into life by thought, or by lavishing any amount of sympathy upon them. Not so Franklin, who had a great deal of common and uncommon human nature in him.
Much of the time, while my wife was looking at the drawings, I sat observing the crowd of Sunday visitors. They were generally of a lower class than those of week-days; private soldiers in a variety of uniforms, and, for the most part, ugly little men, but decorous and well behaved. I saw medals on many of their breasts, denoting Crimean service; some wore the English medal, with Queen Victoria's head upon it. A blue coat, with red baggy trousers, was the most usual uniform. Some had short-breasted coats, made in the same style as those of the first Napoleon, which we had seen in the preceding rooms. The policemen, distributed pretty abundantly about the rooms, themselves looked military, wearing cocked hats and swords. There were many women of the middling classes; some, evidently, of the lowest, but clean and decent, in colored gowns and caps; and laboring men, citizens, Sunday gentlemen, young artists, too, no doubt looking with educated eyes at these art-treasures, and I think, as a general thing, each man was mated with a woman. The soldiers, however, came in pairs or little squads, accompanied by women. I did not much like any of the French faces, and yet I am not sure that there is not more resemblance between them and the American physiognomy, than between the latter and the English. The women are not pretty, but in all ranks above the lowest they have a trained expression that supplies the place of beauty.
I was wearied to death with the drawings, and began to have that dreary and desperate feeling which has often come upon me when the sights last longer than my capacity for receiving them. As our time in Paris, however, is brief and precious, we next inquired our way to the galleries of sculpture, and these alone are of astounding extent, reaching, I should think, all round one quadrangle of the Louvre, on the basement floor. Hall after hall opened interminably before us, and on either side of us, paved and incrusted with variegated and beautifully polished marble, relieved against which stand the antique statues and groups, interspersed with great urns and vases, sarcophagi, altars, tablets, busts of historic personages, and all manner of shapes of marble which consummate art has transmuted into precious stones. Not that I really did feel much impressed by any of this sculpture then, nor saw more than two or three things which I thought very beautiful; but whether it be good or no, I suppose the world has nothing better, unless it be a few world-renowned statues in Italy. I was even more struck by the skill and ingenuity of the French in arranging these sculptural remains, than by the value of the sculptures themselves. The galleries, I should judge, have been recently prepared, and on a magnificent system,—the adornments being yet by no means completed,—for besides the floor and wall-casings of rich, polished marble, the vaulted ceilings of some of the apartments are painted in fresco, causing them to glow as if the sky were opened. It must be owned, however, that the statuary, often time-worn and darkened from its original brilliancy by weather-stains, does not suit well as furniture for such splendid rooms. When we see a perfection of modern finish around them, we recognize that most of these statues have been thrown down from their pedestals, hundreds of years ago, and have been battered and externally degraded; and though whatever spiritual beauty they ever had may still remain, yet this is not made more apparent by the contrast betwixt the new gloss of modern upholstery, and their tarnished, even if immortal grace. I rather think the English have given really the more hospitable reception to the maimed Theseus, and his broken-nosed, broken-legged, headless companions, because flouting them with no gorgeous fittings up.
By this time poor J——- (who, with his taste for art yet undeveloped, is the companion of all our visits to sculpture and picture galleries) was wofully hungry, and for bread we had given him a stone,—not one stone, but a thousand. We returned to the hotel, and it being too damp and raw to go to our Restaurant des Echelles, we dined at the hotel. In my opinion it would require less time to cultivate our gastronomic taste than taste of any other kind; and, on the whole, I am not sure that a man would not be wise to afford himself a little discipline in this line. It is certainly throwing away the bounties of Providence, to treat them as the English do, producing from better materials than the French have to work upon nothing but sirloins, joints, joints, steaks, steaks, steaks, chops, chops, chops, chops! We had a soup to-day, in which twenty kinds of vegetables were represented, and manifested each its own aroma; a fillet of stewed beef, and a fowl, in some sort of delicate fricassee. We had a bottle of Chablis, and renewed ourselves, at the close of the banquet, with a plate of Chateaubriand ice. It was all very good, and we respected ourselves far more than if we had eaten a quantity of red roast beef; but I am not quite sure that we were right. . . . .
Among the relics of kings and princes, I do not know that there was anything more interesting than a little brass cannon, two or three inches long, which had been a toy of the unfortunate Dauphin, son of Louis XVI. There was a map,—a hemisphere of the world,—which his father had drawn for this poor boy; very neatly done, too. The sword of Louis XVI., a magnificent rapier, with a beautifully damasked blade, and a jewelled scabbard, but without a hilt, is likewise preserved, as is the hilt of Henry IV.'s sword. But it is useless to begin a catalogue of these things. What a collection it is, including Charlemagne's sword and sceptre, and the last Dauphin's little toy cannon, and so much between the two!
Hotel de Louvre, January 11th.—This was another chill, raw day, characterized by a spitefulness of atmosphere which I do not remember ever to have experienced in my own dear country. We meant to have visited the Hotel des Invalides, but J——- and I walked to the Tivoli, the Place de la Concorde, the Champs Elysees, and to the Place de Beaujou, and to the residence of the American minister, where I wished to arrange about my passport. After speaking with the Secretary of Legation, we were ushered into the minister's private room, where he received me with great kindness. Mr. ——— is an old gentleman with a white head, and a large, florid face, which has an expression of amiability, not unmingled with a certain dignity. He did not rise from his arm-chair to greet me,—a lack of ceremony which I imputed to the gout, feeling it impossible that he should have willingly failed in courtesy to one of his twenty-five million sovereigns. In response to some remark of mine about the shabby way in which our government treats its officials pecuniarily, he gave a detailed account of his own troubles on that score; then expressed a hope that I had made a good thing out of my consulate, and inquired whether I had received a hint to resign; to which I replied that, for various reasons, I had resigned of my own accord, and before Mr. Buchanan's inauguration. We agreed, however, in disapproving the system of periodical change in our foreign officials; and I remarked that a consul or an ambassador ought to be a citizen both of his native country and of the one in which he resided; and that his possibility of beneficent influence depended largely on his being so. Apropos to which Mr. ——— said that he had once asked a diplomatic friend of long experience, what was the first duty of a minister. "To love his own country, and to watch over its interests," answered the diplomatist. "And his second duty?" asked Mr. ———. "To love and to promote the interests of the country to which he is accredited," said his friend. This is a very Christian and sensible view of the matter; but it can scarcely have happened once in our whole diplomatic history, that a minister can have had time to overcome his first rude and ignorant prejudice against the country of his mission; and if there were any suspicion of his having done so, it would be held abundantly sufficient ground for his recall. I like Mr. ———, a good-hearted, sensible old man.
J——- and I returned along the Champs Elysees, and, crossing the Seine, kept on our way by the river's brink, looking at the titles of books on the long lines of stalls that extend between the bridges. Novels, fairy-tales, dream books, treatises of behavior and etiquette, collections of bon-mots and of songs, were interspersed with volumes in the old style of calf and gilt binding, the works of the classics of French literature. A good many persons, of the poor classes, and of those apparently well to do, stopped transitorily to look at these books. On the other side of the street was a range of tall edifices with shops beneath, and the quick stir of French life hurrying, and babbling, and swarming along the sidewalk. We passed two or three bridges, occurring at short intervals, and at last we recrossed the Seine by a bridge which oversteps the river, from a point near the National Institute, and reaches the other side, not far from the Louvre. . . . .
Though the day was so disagreeable, we thought it best not to lose the remainder of it, and therefore set out to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We took a fiacre in the Place de Carousel, and drove to the door. On entering, we found the interior miserably shut off from view by the stagings erected for the purpose of repairs. Penetrating from the nave towards the chancel, an official personage signified to us that we must first purchase a ticket for each grown person, at the price of half a franc each. This expenditure admitted us into the sacristy, where we were taken in charge by a guide, who came down upon us with an avalanche or cataract of French, descriptive of a great many treasures reposited in this chapel. I understood hardly more than one word in ten, but gathered doubtfully that a bullet which was shown us was the one that killed the late Archbishop of Paris, on the floor of the cathedral. [But this was a mistake. It was the archbishop who was killed in the insurrection of 1848. Two joints of his backbone were also shown.] Also, that some gorgeously embroidered vestments, which he drew forth, had been used at the coronation of Napoleon I. There were two large, full-length portraits hanging aloft in the sacristy, and a gold or silver gilt, or, at all events, gilt image of the Virgin, as large as life, standing on a pedestal. The guide had much to say about these, but, understanding him so imperfectly, I have nothing to record.
The guide's supervision of us seemed not to extend beyond this sacristy, on quitting which he gave us permission to go where we pleased, only intimating a hope that we would not forget him; so I gave him half a franc, though thereby violating an inhibition on the printed ticket of entrance.
We had been much disappointed at first by the apparently narrow limits of the interior of this famous church; but now, as we made our way round the choir, gazing into chapel after chapel, each with its painted window, its crucifix, its pictures, its confessional, and afterwards came back into the nave, where arch rises above arch to the lofty roof, we came to the conclusion that it was very sumptuous. It is the greatest of pities that its grandeur and solemnity should just now be so infinitely marred by the workmen's boards, timber, and ladders occupying the whole centre of the edifice, and screening all its best effects. It seems to have been already most richly ornamented, its roof being painted, and the capitals of the pillars gilded, and their shafts illuminated in fresco; and no doubt it will shine out gorgeously when all the repairs and adornments shall be completed. Even now it gave to my actual sight what I have often tried to imagine in my visits to the English cathedrals,— the pristine glory of those edifices, when they stood glowing with gold and picture, fresh from the architects' and adorners' hands.
The interior loftiness of Notre Dame, moreover, gives it a sublimity which would swallow up anything that might look gewgawy in its ornamentation, were we to consider it window by window, or pillar by pillar. It is an advantage of these vast edifices, rising over us and spreading about us in such a firmamental way, that we cannot spoil them by any pettiness of our own, but that they receive (or absorb) our pettiness into their own immensity. Every little fantasy finds its place and propriety in them, like a flower on the earth's broad bosom.
When we emerged from the cathedral, we found it beginning to rain or snow, or both; and, as we had dismissed our fiacre at the door, and could find no other, we were at a loss what to do. We stood a few moments on the steps of the Hotel Dieu, looking up at the front of Notre Dame, with its twin towers, and its three deep-pointed arches, piercing through a great thickness of stone, and throwing a cavern-like gloom around these entrances. The front is very rich. Though so huge, and all of gray stone, it is carved and fretted with statues and innumerable devices, as cunningly as any ivory casket in which relics are kept; but its size did not so much impress me. . . . .
Hotel de Louvre, January 12th.—This has been a bright day as regards weather; but I have done little or nothing worth recording. After breakfast, I set out in quest of the consul, and found him up a court, at 51 Rue Caumartin, in an office rather smaller, I think, than mine at Liverpool; but, to say the truth, a little better furnished. I was received in the outer apartment by an elderly, brisk-looking man, in whose air, respectful and subservient, and yet with a kind of authority in it, I recognized the vice-consul. He introduced me to Mr. ———, who sat writing in an inner room; a very gentlemanly, courteous, cool man of the world, whom I should take to be an excellent person for consul at Paris. He tells me that he has resided here some years, although his occupancy of the consulate dates only from November last. Consulting him respecting my passport, he gave me what appear good reasons why I should get all the necessary vises here; for example, that the vise of a minister carries more weight than that of a consul; and especially that an Austrian consul will never vise a passport unless he sees his minister's name upon it. Mr. ——— has travelled much in Italy, and ought to be able to give me sound advice. His opinion was, that at this season of the year I had better go by steamer to Civita Veechia, instead of landing at Leghorn, and thence journeying to Rome. On this point I shall decide when the time comes. As I left the office the vice-consul informed me that there was a charge of five francs and some sous for the consul's vise, a tax which surprised me,—the whole business of passports having been taken from consuls before I quitted office, and the consular fee having been annulled even earlier. However, no doubt Mr. ——— had a fair claim to my five francs; but, really, it is not half so pleasant to pay a consular fee as it used to be to receive it.
Afterwards I walked to Notre Dame, the rich front of which I viewed with more attention than yesterday. There are whole histories, carved in stone figures, within the vaulted arches of the three entrances in this west front, and twelve apostles in a row above, and as much other sculpture as would take a month to see. We then walked quite round it, but I had no sense of immensity from it, not even that of great height, as from many of the cathedrals in England. It stands very near the Seine; indeed, if I mistake not, it is on an island formed by two branches of the river. Behind it, is what seems to be a small public ground (or garden, if a space entirely denuded of grass or other green thing, except a few trees, can be called so), with benches, and a monument in the midst. This quarter of the city looks old, and appears to be inhabited by poor people, and to be busied about small and petty affairs; the most picturesque business that I saw being that of the old woman who sells crucifixes of pearl and of wood at the cathedral door. We bought two of these yesterday.
I must again speak of the horrible muddiness, not only of this part of the city, but of all Paris, so far as I have traversed it to-day. My ways, since I came to Europe, have often lain through nastiness, but I never before saw a pavement so universally overspread with mud-padding as that of Paris. It is difficult to imagine where so much filth can come from.
After dinner I walked through the gardens of the Tuileries; but as dusk was coming on, and as I was afraid of being shut up within the iron railing, I did not have time to examine them particularly. There are wide, intersecting walks, fountains, broad basins, and many statues; but almost the whole surface of the gardens is barren earth, instead of the verdure that would beautify an English pleasure-ground of this sort. In the summer it has doubtless an agreeable shade; but at this season the naked branches look meagre, and sprout from slender trunks. Like the trees in the Champs Elysees, those, I presume, in the gardens of the Tuileries need renewing every few years. The same is true of the human race,—families becoming extinct after a generation or two of residence in Paris. Nothing really thrives here; man and vegetables have but an artificial life, like flowers stuck in a little mould, but never taking root. I am quite tired of Paris, and long for a home more than ever.
Hotel d'Angleterre, January 15th.—On Tuesday morning, (12th) we took our departure from the Hotel de Louvre. It is a most excellent and perfectly ordered hotel, and I have not seen a more magnificent hall, in any palace, than the dining-saloon, with its profuse gilding, and its ceiling, painted in compartments; so that when the chandeliers are all alight, it looks a fit place for princes to banquet in, and not very fit for the few Americans whom I saw scattered at its long tables.
By the by, as we drove to the railway, we passed through the public square, where the Bastille formerly stood; and in the centre of it now stands a column, surmounted by a golden figure of Mercury (I think), which seems to be just on the point of casting itself from a gilt ball into the air. This statue is so buoyant, that the spectator feels quite willing to trust it to the viewless element, being as sure that it would be borne up as that a bird would fly.
Our first day's journey was wholly without interest, through a country entirely flat, and looking wretchedly brown and barren. There were rows of trees, very slender, very prim and formal; there was ice wherever there happened to be any water to form it; there were occasional villages, compact little streets, or masses of stone or plastered cottages, very dirty and with gable ends and earthen roofs; and a succession of this same landscape was all that we saw, whenever we rubbed away the congelation of our breath from the carriage windows. Thus we rode on, all day long, from eleven o'clock, with hardly a five minutes' stop, till long after dark, when we came to Dijon, where there was a halt of twenty-five minutes for dinner. Then we set forth again, and rumbled forward, through cold and darkness without, until we reached Lyons at about ten o'clock. We left our luggage at the railway station, and took an omnibus for the Hotel de Provence, which we chose at a venture, among a score of other hotels.
As this hotel was a little off the direct route of the omnibus, the driver set us down at the corner of a street, and pointed to some lights, which he said designated the Hotel do Provence; and thither we proceeded, all seven of us, taking along a few carpet-bags and shawls, our equipage for the night. The porter of the hotel met us near its doorway, and ushered us through an arch, into the inner quadrangle, and then up some old and worn steps,—very broad, and appearing to be the principal staircase. At the first landing-place, an old woman and a waiter or two received us; and we went up two or three more flights of the same broad and worn stone staircases. What we could see of the house looked very old, and had the musty odor with which I first became acquainted at Chester.
After ascending to the proper level, we were conducted along a corridor, paved with octagonal earthen tiles; on one side were windows, looking into the courtyard, on the other doors opening into the sleeping-chambers. The corridor was of immense length, and seemed still to lengthen itself before us, as the glimmer of our conductor's candle went farther and farther into the obscurity. Our own chamber was at a vast distance along this passage; those of the rest of the party were on the hither side; but all this immense suite of rooms appeared to communicate by doors from one to another, like the chambers through which the reader wanders at midnight, in Mrs. Radcliffe's romances. And they were really splendid rooms, though of an old fashion, lofty, spacious, with floors of oak or other wood, inlaid in squares and crosses, and waxed till they were slippery, but without carpets. Our own sleeping-room had a deep fireplace, in which we ordered a fire, and asked if there were not some saloon already warmed, where we could get a cup of tea.
Hereupon the waiter led us back along the endless corridor, and down the old stone staircases, and out into the quadrangle, and journeyed with us along an exterior arcade, and finally threw open the door of the salle a manger, which proved to be a room of lofty height, with a vaulted roof, a stone floor, and interior spaciousness sufficient for a baronial hall, the whole bearing the same aspect of times gone by, that characterized the rest of the house. There were two or three tables covered with white cloth, and we sat down at one of them and had our tea. Finally we wended back to our sleeping-rooms,—a considerable journey, so endless seemed the ancient hotel. I should like to know its history.
The fire made our great chamber look comfortable, and the fireplace threw out the heat better than the little square hole over which we cowered in our saloon at the Hotel de Louvre. . . . .
In the morning we began our preparations for starting at ten. Issuing into the corridor, I found a soldier of the line, pacing to and fro there as sentinel. Another was posted in another corridor, into which I wandered by mistake; another stood in the inner court-yard, and another at the porte-cochere. They were not there the night before, and I know not whence nor why they came, unless that some officer of rank may have taken up his quarters at the hotel. Miss M——— says she heard at Paris, that a considerable number of troops had recently been drawn together at Lyons, in consequence of symptoms of disaffection that have recently shown themselves here.
Before breakfast I went out to catch a momentary glimpse of the city. The street in which our hotel stands is near a large public square; in the centre is a bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIV.; and the square itself is called the Place de Louis le Grand. I wonder where this statue hid itself while the Revolution was raging in Lyons, and when the guillotine, perhaps, stood on that very spot.
The square was surrounded by stately buildings, but had what seemed to be barracks for soldiers,—at any rate, mean little huts, deforming its ample space; and a soldier was on guard before the statue of Louis le Grand. It was a cold, misty morning, and a fog lay throughout the area, so that I could scarcely see from one side of it to the other.
Returning towards our hotel, I saw that it had an immense front, along which ran, in gigantic letters, its title,—
HOTEL DE PROVENCE ET DES AMBASSADEURS.
The excellence of the hotel lay rather in the faded pomp of its sleeping-rooms, and the vastness of its salle a manger, than in anything very good to eat or drink.
We left it, after a poor breakfast, and went to the railway station. Looking at the mountainous heap of our luggage the night before, we had missed a great carpet-bag; and we now found that Miss M———'s trunk had been substituted for it, and, there being the proper number of packages as registered, it was impossible to convince the officials that anything was wrong. We, of course, began to generalize forthwith, and pronounce the incident to be characteristic of French morality. They love a certain system and external correctness, but do not trouble themselves to be deeply in the right; and Miss M——— suggested that there used to be parallel cases in the French Revolution, when, so long as the assigned number were sent out of prison to be guillotined, the jailer did not much care whether they were the persons designated by the tribunal or not. At all events, we could get no satisfaction about the carpet-bag, and shall very probably be compelled to leave Marseilles without it.
This day's ride was through a far more picturesque country than that we saw yesterday. Heights began to rise imminent above our way, with sometimes a ruined castle wall upon them; on our left, the rail-track kept close to the hills; on the other side there was the level bottom of a valley, with heights descending upon it a mile or a few miles away. Farther off we could see blue hills, shouldering high above the intermediate ones, and themselves worthy to be called mountains. These hills arranged themselves in beautiful groups, affording openings between them, and vistas of what lay beyond, and gorges which I suppose held a great deal of romantic scenery. By and by a river made its appearance, flowing swiftly in the same direction that we were travelling,—a beautiful and cleanly river, with white pebbly shores, and itself of a peculiar blue. It rushed along very fast, sometimes whitening over shallow descents, and even in its calmer intervals its surface was all covered with whirls and eddies, indicating that it dashed onward in haste. I do not now know the name of this river, but have set it down as the "arrowy Rhone." It kept us company a long while, and I think we did not part with it as long as daylight remained. I have seldom seen hill-scenery that struck me more than some that we saw to-day, and the old feudal towers and old villages at their feet; and the old churches, with spires shaped just like extinguishers, gave it an interest accumulating from many centuries past.
Still going southward, the vineyards began to border our track, together with what I at first took to be orchards, but soon found were plantations of olive-trees, which grow to a much larger size than I supposed, and look almost exactly like very crabbed and eccentric apple-trees. Neither they nor the vineyards add anything to the picturesqueness of the landscape.
On the whole, I should have been delighted with all this scenery if it had not looked so bleak, barren, brown, and bare; so like the wintry New England before the snow has fallen. It was very cold, too; ice along the borders of streams, even among the vineyards and olives. The houses are of rather a different shape here than, farther northward, their roofs being not nearly so sloping. They are almost invariably covered with white plaster; the farm-houses have their outbuildings in connection with the dwelling,—the whole surrounding three sides of a quadrangle.
We travelled far into the night, swallowed a cold and hasty dinner at Avignon, and reached Marseilles sorely wearied, at about eleven o'clock. We took a cab to the Hotel d'Angleterre (two cabs, to be quite accurate), and find it a very poor place.
To go back a little, as the sun went down, we looked out of the window of our railway carriage, and saw a sky that reminded us of what we used to see day after day in America, and what we have not seen since; and, after sunset, the horizon burned and glowed with rich crimson and orange lustre, looking at once warm and cold. After it grew dark, the stars brightened, and Miss M——— from her window pointed out some of the planets to the children, she being as familiar with them as a gardener with his flowers. They were as bright as diamonds.
We had a wretched breakfast, and J——- and I then went to the railway station to see about our luggage. On our walk back we went astray, passing by a triumphal arch, erected by the Marseillais, in honor of Louis Napoleon; but we inquired our way of old women and soldiers, who were very kind and courteous,—especially the latter,—and were directed aright. We came to a large, oblong, public place, set with trees, but devoid of grass, like all public places in France. In the middle of it was a bronze statue of an ecclesiastical personage, stretching forth his hands in the attitude of addressing the people or of throwing a benediction over them. It was some archbishop, who had distinguished himself by his humanity and devotedness during the plague of 1720. At the moment of our arrival the piazza was quite thronged with people, who seemed to be talking amongst themselves with considerable earnestness, although without any actual excitement. They were smoking cigars; and we judged that they were only loitering here for the sake of the sunshine, having no fires at home, and nothing to do. Some looked like gentlemen, others like peasants; most of them I should have taken for the lazzaroni of this Southern city,—men with cloth caps, like the classic liberty-cap, or with wide-awake hats. There were one or two women of the lower classes, without bonnets, the elder ones with white caps, the younger bareheaded. I have hardly seen a lady in Marseilles; and I suspect, it being a commercial city, and dirty to the last degree, ill-built, narrow-streeted, and sometimes pestilential, there are few or no families of gentility resident here.
Returning to the hotel, we found the rest of the party ready to go out; so we all issued forth in a body, and inquired our way to the telegraph-office, in order to send my message about the carpet-bag. In a street through which we had to pass (and which seemed to be the Exchange, or its precincts), there was a crowd even denser, yes, much denser, than that which we saw in the square of the archbishop's statue; and each man was talking to his neighbor in a vivid, animated way, as if business were very brisk to-day.
At the telegraph-office, we discovered the cause that had brought out these many people. There had been attempts on the Emperor's life,— unsuccessful, as they seem fated to be, though some mischief was done to those near him. I rather think the good people of Marseilles were glad of the attempt, as an item of news and gossip, and did not very greatly care whether it were successful or no. It seemed to have roused their vivacity rather than their interest. The only account I have seen of it was in the brief public despatch from the Syndic (or whatever he be) of Paris to the chief authority of Marseilles, which was printed and posted in various conspicuous places. The only chance of knowing the truth with any fulness of detail would be to come across an English paper. We have had a banner hoisted half-mast in front of our hotel to-day as a token, the head-waiter tells me, of sympathy and sorrow for the General and other persons who were slain by this treasonable attempt.
J——- and I now wandered by ourselves along a circular line of quays, having, on one side of us, a thick forest of masts, while, on the other, was a sweep of shops, bookstalls, sailors' restaurants and drinking-houses, fruit-sellers, candy-women, and all manner of open-air dealers and pedlers; little children playing, and jumping the rope, and such a babble and bustle as I never saw or heard before; the sun lying along the whole sweep, very hot, and evidently very grateful to those who basked in it. Whenever I passed into the shade, immediately from too warm I became too cold. The sunshine was like hot air; the shade, like the touch of cold steel,—sharp, hard, yet exhilarating. From the broad street of the quays, narrow, thread-like lanes pierced up between the edifices, calling themselves streets, yet so narrow, that a person in the middle could almost touch the houses on either hand. They ascended steeply, bordered on each side by long, contiguous walls of high houses, and from the time of their first being built, could never have had a gleam of sunshine in them,—always in shadow, always unutterably nasty, and often pestiferous. The nastiness which I saw in Marseilles exceeds my heretofore experience. There is dirt in the hotel, and everywhere else; and it evidently troubles nobody,—no more than if all the people were pigs in a pigsty. . . . .
Passing by all this sweep of quays, J——- and I ascended to an elevated walk, overlooking the harbor, and far beyond it; for here we had our first view of the Mediterranean, blue as heaven, and bright with sunshine. It was a bay, widening forth into the open deep, and bordered with heights, and bold, picturesque headlands, some of which had either fortresses or convents on them. Several boats and one brig were under sail, making their way towards the port. I have never seen a finer sea-view. Behind the town, there seemed to be a mountainous landscape, imperfectly visible, in consequence of the intervening edifices.
THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA.
Steamer Calabrese, January 17th.—If I had remained at Marseilles, I might have found many peculiarities and characteristics of that Southern city to notice; but I fear that these will not be recorded if I leave them till I touch the soil of Italy. Indeed, I doubt whether there be anything really worth recording in the little distinctions between one nation and another; at any rate, after the first novelty is over, new things seem equally commonplace with the old. There is but one little interval when the mind is in such a state that it can catch the fleeting aroma of a new scene. And it is always so much pleasanter to enjoy this delicious newness than to attempt arresting it, that it requires great force of will to insist with one's self upon sitting down to write. I can do nothing with Marseilles, especially here on the Mediterranean, long after nightfall, and when the steamer is pitching in a pretty lively way.
(Later.)—I walked out with J——- yesterday morning, and reached the outskirts of the city, whence we could see the bold and picturesque heights that surround Marseilles as with a semicircular wall. They rise into peaks, and the town, being on their lower slope, descends from them towards the sea with a gradual sweep. Adown the streets that descend these declivities come little rivulets, running along over the pavement, close to the sidewalks, as over a pebbly bed; and though they look vastly like kennels, I saw women washing linen in these streams, and others dipping up the water for household purposes. The women appear very much in public at Marseilles. In the squares and places you see half a dozen of them together, sitting in a social circle on the bottoms of upturned baskets, knitting, talking, and enjoying the public sunshine, as if it were their own household fire. Not one in a thousand of them, probably, ever has a household fire for the purpose of keeping themselves warm, but only to do their little cookery; and when there is sunshine they take advantage of it, and in the short season of rain and frost they shrug their shoulders, put on what warm garments they have, and get through the winter somewhat as grasshoppers and butterflies do,—being summer insects like then. This certainly is a very keen and cutting air, sharp as a razor, and I saw ice along the borders of the little rivulets almost at noonday. To be sure, it is midwinter, and yet in the sunshine I found myself uncomfortably warm, but in the shade the air was like the touch of death itself. I do not like the climate.
There are a great number of public places in Marseilles, several of which are adorned with statues or fountains, or triumphal arches or columns, and set out with trees, and otherwise furnished as a kind of drawing-rooms, where the populace may meet together and gossip. I never before heard from human lips anything like this bustle and babble, this thousand-fold talk which you hear all round about you in the crowd of a public square; so entirely different is it from the dulness of a crowd in England, where, as a rule, everybody is silent, and hardly half a dozen monosyllables will come from the lips of a thousand people. In Marseilles, on the contrary, a stream of unbroken talk seems to bubble from the lips of every individual. A great many interesting scenes take place in these squares. From the window of our hotel (which looked into the Place Royale) I saw a juggler displaying his art to a crowd, who stood in a regular square about him, none pretending to press nearer than the prescribed limit. While the juggler wrought his miracles his wife supplied him with his magic materials out of a box; and when the exhibition was over she packed up the white cloth with which his table was covered, together with cups, cards, balls, and whatever else, and they took their departure.
I have been struck with the idle curiosity, and, at the same time, the courtesy and kindness of the populace of Marseilles, and I meant to exemplify it by recording how Miss S——— and I attracted their notice, and became the centre of a crowd of at least fifty of them while doing no more remarkable thing than settling with a cab-driver. But really this pitch and swell is getting too bad, and I shall go to bed, as the best chance of keeping myself in an equable state.
37 Palazzo Larazani, Via Porta Pinciana, January 24th.—We left Marseilles in the Neapolitan steamer Calabrese, as noticed above, a week ago this morning. There was no fault to be found with the steamer, which was very clean and comfortable, contrary to what we had understood beforehand; except for the coolness of the air (and I know not that this was greater than that of the Atlantic in July), our voyage would have been very pleasant; but for myself, I enjoyed nothing, having a cold upon me, or a low fever, or something else that took the light and warmth out of everything.
I went to bed immediately after my last record, and was rocked to sleep pleasantly enough by the billows of the Mediterranean; and, coming on deck about sunrise next morning, found the steamer approaching Genoa. We saw the city, lying at the foot of a range of hills, and stretching a little way up their slopes, the hills sweeping round it in the segment of a circle, and looking like an island rising abruptly out of the sea; for no connection with the mainland was visible on either side. There was snow scattered on their summits and streaking their sides a good way down. They looked bold, and barren, and brown, except where the snow whitened them. The city did not impress me with much expectation of size or splendor. Shortly after coming into the port our whole party landed, and we found ourselves at once in the midst of a crowd of cab-drivers, hotel-runnets, and coin missionaires, who assaulted us with a volley of French, Italian, and broken English, which beat pitilessly about our ears; for really it seemed as if all the dictionaries in the world had been torn to pieces, and blown around us by a hurricane. Such a pother! We took a commissionaire, a respectable-looking man, in a cloak, who said his name was Salvator Rosa; and he engaged to show us whatever was interesting in Genoa.
In the first place, he took us through narrow streets to an old church, the name of which I have forgotten, and, indeed, its peculiar features; but I know that I found it pre-eminently magnificent,—its whole interior being incased in polished marble, of various kinds and colors, its ceiling painted, and its chapels adorned with pictures. However, this church was dazzled out of sight by the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, to which we were afterwards conducted, whose exterior front is covered with alternate slabs of black and white marble, which were brought, either in whole or in part, from Jerusalem. Within, there was a prodigious richness of precious marbles, and a pillar, if I mistake not, from Solomon's Temple; and a picture of the Virgin by St. Luke; and others (rather more intrinsically valuable, I imagine), by old masters, set in superb marble frames, within the arches of the chapels. I used to try to imagine how the English cathedrals must have looked in their primeval glory, before the Reformation, and before the whitewash of Cromwell's time had overlaid their marble pillars; but I never imagined anything at all approaching what my eyes now beheld: this sheen of polished and variegated marble covering every inch of its walls; this glow of brilliant frescos all over the roof, and up within the domes; these beautiful pictures by great masters, painted for the places which they now occupied, and making an actual portion of the edifice; this wealth of silver, gold, and gems, that adorned the shrines of the saints, before which wax candles burned, and were kept burning, I suppose, from year's end to year's end; in short, there is no imagining nor remembering a hundredth part of the rich details. And even the cathedral (though I give it up as indescribable) was nothing at all in comparison with a church to which the commissionaire afterwards led us; a church that had been built four or five hundred years ago, by a pirate, in expiation of his sins, and out of the profit of his rapine. This last edifice, in its interior, absolutely shone with burnished gold, and glowed with pictures; its walls were a quarry of precious stones, so valuable were the marbles out of which they were wrought; its columns and pillars were of inconceivable costliness; its pavement was a mosaic of wonderful beauty, and there were four twisted pillars made out of stalactites. Perhaps the best way to form some dim conception of it is to fancy a little casket, inlaid inside with precious stones, so that there shall not a hair's-breadth be left unprecious-stoned, and then to conceive this little bit of a casket iucreased to the magnitude of a great church, without losing anything of the excessive glory that was compressed into its original small compass, but all its pretty lustre made sublime by the consequent immensity. At any rate, nobody who has not seen a church like this can imagine what a gorgeous religion it was that reared it.
In the cathedral, and in all the churches, we saw priests and many persons kneeling at their devotions; and our Salvator Rosa, whenever we passed a chapel or shrine, failed not to touch the pavement with one knee, crossing himself the while; and once, when a priest was going through some form of devotion, he stopped a few moments to share in it.
He conducted us, too, to the Balbi Palace, the stateliest and most sumptuous residence, but not more so than another which he afterwards showed us, nor perhaps than many others which exist in Genoa, THE SUPERB. The painted ceilings in these palaces are a glorious adornment; the walls of the saloons, incrusted with various-colored marbles, give an idea of splendor which I never gained from anything else. The floors, laid in mosaic, seem too precious to tread upon. In the royal palace, many of the floors were of various woods, inlaid by an English artist, and they looked like a magnification of some exquisite piece of Tunbridge ware; but, in all respects, this palace was inferior to others which we saw. I say nothing of the immense pictorial treasures which hung upon the walls of all the rooms through which we passed; for I soon grew so weary of admirable things, that I could neither enjoy nor understand them. My receptive faculty is very limited, and when the utmost of its small capacity is full, I become perfectly miserable, and the more so the better worth seeing are the things I am forced to reject. I do not know a greater misery; to see sights, after such repletion, is to the mind what it would be to the body to have dainties forced down the throat long after the appetite was satiated.
All this while, whenever we emerged into the vaultlike streets, we were wretchedly cold. The commissionaire took us to a sort of pleasure-garden, occupying the ascent of a hill, and presenting seven different views of the city, from as many stations. One of the objects pointed out to us was a large yellow house, on a hillside, in the outskirts of Genoa, which was formerly inhabited for six months by Charles Dickens. Looking down from the elevated part of the pleasure-gardens, we saw orange-trees beneath us, with the golden fruit hanging upon them, though their trunks were muffled in straw; and, still lower down, there was ice and snow.
Gladly (so far as I myself was concerned) we dismissed the commissionaire, after he had brought us to the hotel of the Cross of Malta, where we dined; needlessly, as it proved, for another dinner awaited us, after our return on board the boat.
We set sail for Leghorn before dark, and I retired early, feeling still more ill from my cold than the night before. The next morning we were in the crowded port of Leghorn. We all went ashore, with some idea of taking the rail for Pisa, which is within an hour's distance, and might have been seen in time for our departure with the steamer. But a necessary visit to a banker's, and afterwards some unnecessary formalities about our passports, kept us wandering through the streets nearly all day; and we saw nothing in the slightest degree interesting, except the tomb of Smollett, in the burial-place attached to the English Chapel. It is surrounded by an iron railing, and marked by a slender obelisk of white marble, the pattern of which is many times repeated over surrounding graves.
We went into a Jewish synagogue,—the interior cased in marbles, and surrounded with galleries, resting upon arches above arches. There were lights burning at the altar, and it looked very like a Christian church; but it was dirty, and had an odor not of sanctity.
In Leghorn, as everywhere else, we were chilled to the heart, except when the sunshine fell directly upon us; and we returned to the steamer with a feeling as if we were getting back to our home; for this life of wandering makes a three days' residence in one place seem like home.
We found several new passengers on board, and among others a monk, in a long brown frock of woollen cloth, with an immense cape, and a little black covering over his tonsure. He was a tall figure, with a gray beard, and might have walked, just as he stood, out of a picture by one of the old masters. This holy person addressed me very affably in Italian; but we found it impossible to hold much conversation.
The evening was beautiful, with a bright young moonlight, not yet sufficiently powerful to overwhelm the stars, and as we walked the deck, Miss M——— showed the children the constellations, and told their names. J——- made a slight mistake as to one of them, pointing it out to me as "O'Brien's belt!"
Elba was presently in view, and we might have seen many other interesting points, had it not been for our steamer's practice of resting by day, and only pursuing its voyage by night. The next morning we found ourselves in the harbor of Civita Vecchia, and, going ashore with our luggage, went through a blind turmoil with custom-house officers, inspectors of passports, soldiers, and vetturino people. My wife and I strayed a little through Civita Vecchia, and found its streets narrow, like clefts in a rock (which seems to be the fashion of Italian towns), and smelling nastily. I had made a bargain with a vetturino to send us to Rome in a carriage, with four horses, in eight hours; and as soon as the custom-house and passport people would let us, we started, lumbering slowly along with our mountain of luggage. We had heard rumors of robberies lately committed on this route; especially of a Nova Scotia bishop, who was detained on the road an hour and a half, and utterly pillaged; and certainly there was not a single mile of the dreary and desolate country over which we passed, where we might not have been robbed and murdered with impunity. Now and then, at long distances, we came to a structure that was either a prison, a tavern, or a barn, but did not look very much like either, being strongly built of stone, with iron-grated windows, and of ancient and rusty aspect. We kept along by the seashore a great part of the way, and stopped to feed our horses at a village, the wretched street of which stands close along the shore of the Mediterranean, its loose, dark sand being made nasty by the vicinity. The vetturino cheated us, one of the horses giving out, as he must have known it would do, half-way on our journey; and we staggered on through cold and darkness, and peril, too, if the banditti were not a myth,— reaching Rome not much before midnight. I perpetrated unheard-of briberies on the custom-house officers at the gates, and was permitted to pass through and establish myself at Spillman's Hotel, the only one where we could gain admittance, and where we have been half frozen ever since.
And this is sunny Italy, and genial Rome!
Palazzo Larazani, Via Porta Pinciana, February 3d.—We have been in Rome a fortnight to-day, or rather at eleven o'clock to-night; and I have seldom or never spent so wretched a time anywhere. Our impressions were very unfortunate, arriving at midnight, half frozen in the wintry rain, and being received into a cold and cheerless hotel, where we shivered during two or three days; meanwhile seeking lodgings among the sunless, dreary alleys which are called streets in Rome. One cold, bright day after another has pierced me to the heart, and cut me in twain as with a sword, keen and sharp, and poisoned at point and edge. I did not think that cold weather could have made me so very miserable. Having caught a feverish influenza, I was really glad of being muffled up comfortably in the fever heat. The atmosphere certainly has a peculiar quality of malignity. After a day or two we settled ourselves in a suite of ten rooms, comprehending one flat, or what is called the second piano of this house. The rooms, thus far, have been very uncomfortable, it being impossible to warm them by means of the deep, old-fashioned, inartificial fireplaces, unless we had the great logs of a New England forest to burn in them; so I have sat in my corner by the fireside with more clothes on than I ever wore before, and my thickest great-coat over all. In the middle of the day I generally venture out for an hour or two, but have only once been warm enough even in the sunshine, and out of the sun never at any time. I understand now the force of that story of Diogenes when he asked the Conqueror, as the only favor he could do him, to stand out of his sunshine, there being such a difference in these Southern climes of Europe between sun and shade. If my wits had not been too much congealed, and my fingers too numb, I should like to have kept a minute journal of my feelings and impressions during the past fortnight. It would have shown modern Rome in an aspect in which it has never yet been depicted. But I have now grown somewhat acclimated, and the first freshness of my discomfort has worn off, so that I shall never be able to express how I dislike the place, and how wretched I have been in it; and soon, I suppose, warmer weather will come, and perhaps reconcile me to Rome against my will. Cold, narrow lanes, between tall, ugly, mean-looking whitewashed houses, sour bread, pavements most uncomfortable to the feet, enormous prices for poor living; beggars, pickpockets, ancient temples and broken monuments, and clothes hanging to dry about them; French soldiers, monks, and priests of every degree; a shabby population, smoking bad cigars,—these would have been some of the points of my description. Of course there are better and truer things to be said. . . . .
It would be idle for me to attempt any sketches of these famous sites and edifices,—St. Peter's, for example,—which have been described by a thousand people, though none of them have ever given me an idea of what sort of place Rome is. . . . .
The Coliseum was very much what I had preconceived it, though I was not prepared to find it turned into a sort of Christian church, with a pulpit on the verge of the open space. . . . . The French soldiers, who keep guard within it, as in other public places in Rome, have an excellent opportunity to secure the welfare of their souls.
February 7th.—I cannot get fairly into the current of my journal since we arrived, and already I perceive that the nice peculiarities of Roman life are passing from my notice before I have recorded them. It is a very great pity. During the past week I have plodded daily, for an hour or two, through the narrow, stony streets, that look worse than the worst backside lanes of any other city; indescribably ugly and disagreeable they are, . . . . without sidewalks, but provided with a line of larger square stones, set crosswise to each other, along which there is somewhat less uneasy walking. . . . . Ever and anon, even in the meanest streets, —though, generally speaking, one can hardly be called meaner than another,—we pass a palace, extending far along the narrow way on a line with the other houses, but distinguished by its architectural windows, iron-barred on the basement story, and by its portal arch, through which we have glimpses, sometimes of a dirty court-yard, or perhaps of a clean, ornamented one, with trees, a colonnade, a fountain, and a statue in the vista; though, more likely, it resembles the entrance to a stable, and may, perhaps, really be one. The lower regions of palaces come to strange uses in Rome. . . . . In the basement story of the Barberini Palace a regiment of French soldiers (or soldiers of some kind [we find them to be retainers of the Barberini family, not French]) seems to be quartered, while no doubt princes have magnificent domiciles above. Be it palace or whatever other dwelling, the inmates climb through rubbish often to the comforts, such as they may be, that await them above. I vainly try to get down upon paper the dreariness, the ugliness, shabbiness, un-home-likeness of a Roman street. It is also to be said that you cannot go far in any direction without coming to a piazza, which is sometimes little more than a widening and enlarging of the dingy street, with the lofty facade of a church or basilica on one side, and a fountain in the centre, where the water squirts out of some fantastic piece of sculpture into a great stone basin. These fountains are often of immense size and most elaborate design. . . . .