THE SECOND FUNERAL OF NAPOLEON
by William Makepeace Thackeray
AKA Michael Angelo Titmarch.
I. On the Disinterment of Napoleon at St. Helena
II. On the Voyage from St. Helena to Paris
III. On the Funeral Ceremony
I.—ON THE DISINTERMENT OF NAPOLEON AT ST. HELENA.
MY DEAR ——,—It is no en the Voyage from St. Helena asy task in this world to distinguish between what is great in it, and what is mean; and many and many is the puzzle that I have had in reading History (or the works of fiction which go by that name), to know whether I should laud up to the skies, and endeavor, to the best of my small capabilities, to imitate the remarkable character about whom I was reading, or whether I should fling aside the book and the hero of it, as things altogether base, unworthy, laughable, and get a novel, or a game of billiards, or a pipe of tobacco, or the report of the last debate in the House, or any other employment which would leave the mind in a state of easy vacuity, rather than pester it with a vain set of dates relating to actions which are in themselves not worth a fig, or with a parcel of names of people whom it can do one no earthly good to remember.
It is more than probable, my love, that you are acquainted with what is called Grecian and Roman history, chiefly from perusing, in very early youth, the little sheepskin-bound volumes of the ingenious Dr. Goldsmith, and have been indebted for your knowledge of the English annals to a subsequent study of the more voluminous works of Hume and Smollett. The first and the last-named authors, dear Miss Smith, have written each an admirable history,—that of the Reverend Dr. Primrose, Vicar of Wakefield, and that of Mr. Robert Bramble, of Bramble Hall—in both of which works you will find true and instructive pictures of human life, and which you may always think over with advantage. But let me caution you against putting any considerable trust in the other works of these authors, which were placed in your hands at school and afterwards, and in which you were taught to believe. Modern historians, for the most part, know very little, and, secondly, only tell a little of what they know.
As for those Greeks and Romans whom you have read of in "sheepskin," were you to know really what those monsters were, you would blush all over as red as a hollyhock, and put down the history-book in a fury. Many of our English worthies are no better. You are not in a situation to know the real characters of any one of them. They appear before you in their public capacities, but the individuals you know not. Suppose, for instance, your mamma had purchased her tea in the Borough from a grocer living there by the name of Greenacre: suppose you had been asked out to dinner, and the gentleman of the house had said: "Ho! Francois! a glass of champagne for Miss Smith;"—Courvoisier would have served you just as any other footman would; you would never have known that there was anything extraordinary in these individuals, but would have thought of them only in their respective public characters of Grocer and Footman. This, Madam, is History, in which a man always appears dealing with the world in his apron, or his laced livery, but which has not the power or the leisure, or, perhaps, is too high and mighty to condescend to follow and study him in his privacy. Ah, my dear, when big and little men come to be measured rightly, and great and small actions to be weighed properly, and people to be stripped of their royal robes, beggars' rags, generals' uniforms, seedy out-at-elbowed coats, and the like—or the contrary say, when souls come to be stripped of their wicked deceiving bodies, and turned out stark naked as they were before they were born—what a strange startling sight shall we see, and what a pretty figure shall some of us cut! Fancy how we shall see Pride, with his Stultz clothes and padding pulled off, and dwindled down to a forked radish! Fancy some Angelic Virtue, whose white raiment is suddenly whisked over his head, showing us cloven feet and a tail! Fancy Humility, eased of its sad load of cares and want and scorn, walking up to the very highest place of all, and blushing as he takes it! Fancy,—but we must not fancy such a scene at all, which would be an outrage on public decency. Should we be any better than our neighbors? No, certainly. And as we can't be virtuous, let us be decent. Figleaves are a very decent, becoming wear, and have been now in fashion for four thousand years. And so, my dear, history is written on fig-leaves. Would you have anything further? O fie!
Yes, four thousand years ago that famous tree was planted. At their very first lie, our first parents made for it, and there it is still the great Humbug Plant, stretching its wide arms, and sheltering beneath its leaves, as broad and green as ever, all the generations of men. Thus, my dear, coquettes of your fascinating sex cover their persons with figgery, fantastically arranged, and call their masquerading, modesty. Cowards fig themselves out fiercely as "salvage men," and make us believe that they are warriors. Fools look very solemnly out from the dusk of the leaves, and we fancy in the gloom that they are sages. And many a man sets a great wreath about his pate and struts abroad a hero, whose claims we would all of us laugh at, could we but remove the ornament and see his numskull bare.
And such—(excuse my sermonizing)—such is the constitution of mankind, that men have, as it were, entered into a compact among themselves to pursue the fig-leaf system a l'outrance, and to cry down all who oppose it. Humbug they will have. Humbugs themselves, they will respect humbugs. Their daily victuals of life must be seasoned with humbug. Certain things are there in the world that they will not allow to be called by their right names, and will insist upon our admiring, whether we will or no. Woe be to the man who would enter too far into the recesses of that magnificent temple where our Goddess is enshrined, peep through the vast embroidered curtains indiscreetly, penetrate the secret of secrets, and expose the Gammon of Gammons! And as you must not peer too curiously within, so neither must you remain scornfully without. Humbug-worshippers, let us come into our great temple regularly and decently: take our seats, and settle our clothes decently; open our books, and go through the service with decent gravity; listen, and be decently affected by the expositions of the decent priest of the place; and if by chance some straggling vagabond, loitering in the sunshine out of doors, dares to laugh or to sing, and disturb the sanctified dulness of the faithful;—quick! a couple of big beadles rush out and belabor the wretch, and his yells make our devotions more comfortable.
Some magnificent religious ceremonies of this nature are at present taking place in France; and thinking that you might perhaps while away some long winter evening with an account of them, I have compiled the following pages for your use. Newspapers have been filled, for some days past, with details regarding the St. Helena expedition, many pamphlets have been published, men go about crying little books and broadsheets filled with real or sham particulars; and from these scarce and valuable documents the following pages are chiefly compiled.
We must begin at the beginning; premising, in the first place, that Monsieur Guizot, when French Ambassador at London, waited upon Lord Palmerston with a request that the body of the Emperor Napoleon should be given up to the French nation, in order that it might find a final resting-place in French earth. To this demand the English Government gave a ready assent; nor was there any particular explosion of sentiment upon either side, only some pretty cordial expressions of mutual good-will. Orders were sent out to St. Helena that the corpse should be disinterred in due time, when the French expedition had arrived in search of it, and that every respect and attention should be paid to those who came to carry back to their country the body of the famous dead warrior and sovereign.
This matter being arranged in very few words (as in England, upon most points, is the laudable fashion), the French Chambers began to debate about the place in which they should bury the body when they got it; and numberless pamphlets and newspapers out of doors joined in the talk. Some people there were who had fought and conquered and been beaten with the great Napoleon, and loved him and his memory. Many more were there who, because of his great genius and valor, felt excessively proud in their own particular persons, and clamored for the return of their hero. And if there were some few individuals in this great hot-headed, gallant, boasting, sublime, absurd French nation, who had taken a cool view of the dead Emperor's character; if, perhaps, such men as Louis Philippe, and Monsieur A. Thiers, Minister and Deputy, and Monsieur Francois Guizot, Deputy and Excellency, had, from interest or conviction, opinions at all differing from those of the majority; why, they knew what was what, and kept their opinions to themselves, coming with a tolerably good grace and flinging a few handfuls of incense upon the altar of the popular idol.
In the succeeding debates, then, various opinions were given with regard to the place to be selected for the Emperor's sepulture. "Some demanded," says an eloquent anonymous Captain in the Navy who has written an "Itinerary from Toulon to St. Helena," "that the coffin should be deposited under the bronze taken from the enemy by the French army—under the Column of the Place Vendome. The idea was a fine one. This is the most glorious monument that was ever raised in a conqueror's honor. This column has been melted out of foreign cannon. These same cannons have furrowed the bosoms of our braves with noble cicatrices; and this metal—conquered by the soldier first, by the artist afterwards—has allowed to be imprinted on its front its own defeat and our glory. Napoleon might sleep in peace under this audacious trophy. But, would his ashes find a shelter sufficiently vast beneath this pedestal? And his puissant statue dominating Paris, beams with sufficient grandeur on this place: whereas the wheels of carriages and the feet of passengers would profane the funereal sanctity of the spot in trampling on the soil so near his head."
You must not take this description, dearest Amelia, "at the foot of the letter," as the French phrase it, but you will here have a masterly exposition of the arguments for and against the burial of the Emperor under the Column of the Place Vendome. The idea was a fine one, granted; but, like all other ideas, it was open to objections. You must not fancy that the cannon, or rather the cannon-balls, were in the habit of furrowing the bosoms of French braves, or any other braves, with cicatrices: on the contrary, it is a known fact that cannon-balls make wounds, and not cicatrices (which, my dear, are wounds partially healed); nay, that a man generally dies after receiving one such projectile on his chest, much more after having his bosom furrowed by a score of them. No, my love; no bosom, however heroic, can stand such applications, and the author only means that the French soldiers faced the cannon and took them. Nor, my love, must you suppose that the column was melted: it was the cannon was melted, not the column; but such phrases are often used by orators when they wish to give a particular force and emphasis to their opinions.
Well, again, although Napoleon might have slept in peace under "this audacious trophy," how could he do so and carriages go rattling by all night, and people with great iron heels to their boots pass clattering over the stones? Nor indeed could it be expected that a man whose reputation stretches from the Pyramids to the Kremlin, should find a column of which the base is only five-and-twenty feet square, a shelter vast enough for his bones. In a word, then, although the proposal to bury Napoleon under the column was ingenious, it was found not to suit; whereupon somebody else proposed the Madelaine.
"It was proposed," says the before-quoted author with his usual felicity, "to consecrate the Madelaine to his exiled manes"—that is, to his bones when they were not in exile any longer. "He ought to have, it was said, a temple entire. His glory fills the world. His bones could not contain themselves in the coffin of a man—in the tomb of a king!" In this case what was Mary Magdalen to do? "This proposition, I am happy to say, was rejected, and a new one—that of the President of the Council adopted. Napoleon and his braves ought not to quit each other. Under the immense gilded dome of the Invalides he would find a sanctuary worthy of himself. A dome imitates the vault of heaven, and that vault alone" (meaning of course the other vault) "should dominate above his head. His old mutilated Guard shall watch around him: the last veteran, as he has shed his blood in his combats, shall breathe his last sigh near his tomb, and all these tombs shall sleep under the tattered standards that have been won from all the nations of Europe."
The original words are "sous les lambeaux cribles des drapeaux cueillis chez toutes les nations;" in English, "under the riddled rags of the flags that have been culled or plucked" (like roses or buttercups) "in all the nations." Sweet, innocent flowers of victory! there they are, my dear, sure enough, and a pretty considerable hortus siccus may any man examine who chooses to walk to the Invalides. The burial-place being thus agreed on, the expedition was prepared, and on the 7th July the "Belle Poule" frigate, in company with "La Favorite" corvette, quitted Toulon harbor. A couple of steamers, the "Trident" and the "Ocean," escorted the ships as far as Gibraltar, and there left them to pursue their voyage.
The two ships quitted the harbor in the sight of a vast concourse of people, and in the midst of a great roaring of cannons. Previous to the departure of the "Belle Poule," the Bishop of Frejus went on board, and gave to the cenotaph, in which the Emperor's remains were to be deposited, his episcopal benediction. Napoleon's old friends and followers, the two Bertrands, Gourgaud, Emanuel Las Cases, "companions in exile, or sons of the companions in exile of the prisoner of the infame Hudson," says a French writer, were passengers on board the frigate. Marchand, Denis, Pierret, Novaret, his old and faithful servants, were likewise in the vessel. It was commanded by his Royal Highness Francis Ferdinand Philip Louis Marie d'Orleans, Prince de Joinville, a young prince two-and-twenty years of age, who was already distinguished in the service of his country and king.
On the 8th of October, after a voyage of six-and-sixty days, the "Belle Poule" arrived in James Town harbor; and on its arrival, as on its departure from France, a great firing of guns took place. First, the "Oreste" French brig-of-war began roaring out a salutation to the frigate; then the "Dolphin" English schooner gave her one-and-twenty guns; then the frigate returned the compliment of the "Dolphin" schooner; then she blazed out with one-and-twenty guns more, as a mark of particular politeness to the shore—which kindness the forts acknowledged by similar detonations.
These little compliments concluded on both sides, Lieutenant Middlemore, son and aide-de-camp of the Governor of St. Helena, came on board the French frigate, and brought his father's best respects to his Royal Highness. The Governor was at home ill, and forced to keep his room; but he had made his house at James Town ready for Captain Joinville and his suite, and begged that they would make use of it during their stay.
On the 9th, H. R. H. the Prince of Joinville put on his full uniform and landed, in company with Generals Bertrand and Gourgaud, Baron Las Cases, M. Marchand, M. Coquereau, the chaplain of the expedition, and M. de Rohan Chabot, who acted as chief mourner. All the garrison were under arms to receive the illustrious Prince and the other members of the expedition—who forthwith repaired to Plantation House, and had a conference with the Governor regarding their mission.
On the 10th, 11th, 12th, these conferences continued: the crews of the French ships were permitted to come on shore and see the tomb of Napoleon. Bertrand, Gourgaud, Las Cases wandered about the island and revisited the spots to which they had been partial in the lifetime of the Emperor.
The 15th October was fixed on for the day of the exhumation: that day five-and twenty years, the Emperor Napoleon first set his foot upon the island.
On the day previous all things had been made ready: the grand coffins and ornaments brought from France, and the articles necessary for the operation were carried to the valley of the Tomb.
The operations commenced at midnight. The well-known friends of Napoleon before named and some other attendants of his, the chaplain and his acolytes, the doctor of the "Belle Poule," the captains of the French ships, and Captain Alexander of the Engineers, the English Commissioner, attended the disinterment. His Royal highness Prince de Joinville could not be present because the workmen were under English command.
The men worked for nine hours incessantly, when at length the earth was entirely removed from the vault, all the horizontal strata of masonry demolished, and the large slab which covered the place where the stone sarcophagus lay, removed by a crane. This outer coffin of stone was perfect, and could scarcely be said to be damp.
"As soon as the Abbe Coquereau had recited the prayers, the coffin was removed with the greatest care, and carried by the engineer-soldiers, bareheaded, into a tent that had been prepared for the purpose. After the religious ceremonies, the inner coffins were opened. The outermost coffin was slightly injured: then came, one of lead, which was in good condition, and enclosed two others—one of tin and one of wood. The last coffin was lined inside with white satin, which, having become detached by the effect of time, had fallen upon the body and enveloped it like a winding-sheet, and had become slightly attached to it.
"It is difficult to describe with what anxiety and emotion those who were present waited for the moment which was to expose to them all that death had left of Napoleon. Notwithstanding the singular state of preservation of the tomb and coffins, we could scarcely hope to find anything but some misshapen remains of the least perishable part of the costume to evidence the identity of the body. But when Doctor Guillard raised the sheet of satin, an indescribable feeling of surprise and affection was expressed by the spectators, many of whom burst into tears. The Emperor was himself before their eyes! The features of the face, though changed, were perfectly recognized; the hands extremely beautiful; his well-known costume had suffered but little, and the colors were easily distinguished. The attitude itself was full of ease, and but for the fragments of the satin lining which covered, as with a fine gauze, several parts of the uniform, we might have believed we still saw Napoleon before us lying on his bed of state. General Bertrand and M. Marchand, who were both present at the interment, quickly pointed out the different articles which each had deposited in the coffin, and remained in the precise position in which they had previously described them to be.
"The two inner coffins were carefully closed again; the old leaden coffin was strongly blocked up with wedges of wood, and both were once more soldered up with the most minute precautions, under the direction of Dr. Guillard. These different operations being terminated, the ebony sarcophagus was closed as well as its oak case. On delivering the key of the ebony sarcophagus to Count de Chabot, the King's Commissioner, Captain Alexander declared to him, in the name of the Governor, that this coffin, containing the mortal remains of the Emperor Napoleon, was considered as at the disposal of the French Government from that day, and from the moment at which it should arrive at the place of embarkation, towards which it was about to be sent under the orders of General Middlemore. The King's Commissioner replied that he was charged by his Government, and in its name, to accept the coffin from the hands of the British authorities, and that he and the other persons composing the French mission were ready to follow it to James Town, where the Prince de Joinville, superior commandant of the expedition, would be ready to receive it and conduct it on board his frigate. A car drawn by four horses, decked with funereal emblems, had been prepared before the arrival of the expedition, to receive the coffin, as well as a pall, and all the other suitable trappings of mourning. When the sarcophagus was placed on the car, the whole was covered with a magnificent imperial mantle brought from Paris, the four corners of which were borne by Generals Bertrand and Gourgaud, Baron Las Cases and M. Marchand. At half-past three o'clock the funeral car began to move, preceded by a chorister bearing the cross, and by the Abbe Coquereau. M. de Chabot acted as chief mourner. All the authorities of the island, all the principal inhabitants, and the whole of the garrison, followed in procession from the tomb to the quay. But with the exception of the artillerymen necessary to lead the horses, and occasionally support the car when descending some steep parts of the way, the places nearest the coffin were reserved for the French mission. General Middlemore, although in a weak state of health, persisted in following the whole way on foot, together with General Churchill, chief of the staff in India, who had arrived only two days before from Bombay. The immense weight of the coffins, and the unevenness of the road, rendered the utmost carefulness necessary throughout the whole distance. Colonel Trelawney commanded in person the small detachment of artillerymen who conducted the car, and, thanks to his great care, not the slightest accident took place. From the moment of departure to the arrival at the quay, the cannons of the forts and the 'Belle Poule' fired minute-guns. After an hour's march the rain ceased for the first time since the commencement of the operations, and on arriving in sight of the town we found a brilliant sky and beautiful weather. From the morning the three French vessels of war had assumed the usual signs of deep mourning: their yards crossed and their flags lowered. Two French merchantmen, 'Bonne Amie' and 'Indien,' which had been in the roads for two days, had put themselves under the Prince's orders, and followed during the ceremony all the manoeuvers of the 'Belle Poule.' The forts of the town, and the houses of the consuls, had also their flags half-mast high.
"On arriving at the entrance of the town, the troops of the garrison and the militia formed in two lines as far as the extremity of the quay. According to the order for mourning prescribed for the English army, the men had their arms reversed and the officers had crape on their arms, with their swords reversed. All the inhabitants had been kept away from the line of march, but they lined the terraces, commanding the town, and the streets were occupied only by the troops, the 91st Regiment being on the right and the militia on the left. The cortege advanced slowly between two ranks of soldiers to the sound of a funeral march, while the cannons of the forts were fired, as well as those of the 'Belle Poule' and the 'Dolphin;' the echoes being repeated a thousand times by the rocks above James Town. After two hours' march the cortege stopped at the end of the quay, where the Prince de Joinville had stationed himself at the head of the officers of the three French ships of war. The greatest official honors had been rendered by the English authorities to the memory of the Emperor—the most striking testimonials of respect had marked the adieu given by St. Helena to his coffin; and from this moment the mortal remains of the Emperor were about to belong to France. When the funeral-car stopped, the Prince de Joinville advanced alone, and in presence of all around, who stood with their heads uncovered, received, in a solemn manner, the imperial coffin from the hands of General Middlemore. His Royal Highness then thanked the Governor, in the name of France, for all the testimonials of sympathy and respect with which the authorities and inhabitants of St. Helena had surrounded the memorable ceremonial. A cutter had been expressly prepared to receive the coffin. During the embarkation, which the Prince directed himself, the bands played funeral airs, and all the boats were stationed round with their oars shipped. The moment the sarcophagus touched the cutter, a magnificent royal flag, which the ladies of James Town had embroidered for the occasion, was unfurled, and the 'Belle Poule' immediately squared her masts and unfurled her colors. All the manoeuvers of the frigate were immediately followed by the other vessels. Our mourning had ceased with the exile of Napoleon, and the French naval division dressed itself out in all its festal ornaments to receive the imperial coffin under the French flag. The sarcophagus was covered in the cutter with the imperial mantle. The Prince de Joinville placed himself at the rudder, Commandant Guyet at the head of the boat; Generals Bertrand and Gourgaud, Baron Las Cases, M. Marchand, and the Abbe Coquereau occupied the same places as during the march. Count Chabot and Commandant Hernoux were astern, a little in advance of the Prince. As soon as the cutter had pushed off from the quay, the batteries ashore fired a salute of twenty-one guns, and our ships returned the salute with all their artillery. Two other salutes were fired during the passage from the quay to the frigate; the cutter advancing very slowly, and surrounded by the other boats. At half-past six o'clock it reached the 'Belle Poule,' all the men being on the yards with their hats in their hands. The Prince had had arranged on the deck a chapel, decked with flags and trophies of arms, the altar being placed at the foot of the mizzen-mast. The coffin, carried by our sailors, passed between two ranks of officers with drawn swords, and was placed on the quarter-deck. The absolution was pronounced by the Abbe Coquereau the same evening. Next day, at ten o'clock, a solemn mass was celebrated on the deck, in presence of the officers and part of the crews of the ships. His Royal Highness stood at the foot of the coffin. The cannon of the 'Favorite' and 'Oreste' fired minute-guns during this ceremony, which terminated by a solemn absolution; and the Prince de Joinville, the gentlemen of the mission, the officers, and the premiers maitres of the ship, sprinkled holy water on the coffin. At eleven, all the ceremonies of the church were accomplished, all the honors done to a sovereign had been paid to the mortal remains of Napoleon. The coffin was carefully lowered between decks, and placed in the chapelle ardente which had been prepared at Toulon for its reception. At this moment, the vessels fired a last salute with all their artillery, and the frigate took in her flags, keeping up only her flag at the stern and the royal standard at the maintopgallant-mast. On Sunday, the 18th, at eight in the morning, the 'Belle Poule' quitted St. Helena with her precious deposit on board.
"During the whole time that the mission remained at James Town, the best understanding never ceased to exist between the population of the island and the French. The Prince de Joinville and his companions met in all quarters and at all times with the greatest good-will and the warmest testimonials of sympathy. The authorities and the inhabitants must have felt, no doubt, great regret at seeing taken away from their island the coffin that had rendered it so celebrated; but they repressed their feelings with a courtesy that does honor to the frankness of their character."
II.—ON THE VOYAGE FROM ST. HELENA TO PARIS.
On the 18th October the French frigate quitted the island with its precious burden on board.
His Royal Highness the Captain acknowledged cordially the kindness and attention which he and his crew had received from the English authorities and the inhabitants of the Island of St. Helena; nay, promised a pension to an old soldier who had been for many years the guardian of the imperial tomb, and went so far as to take into consideration the petition of a certain lodging-house keeper, who prayed for a compensation for the loss which the removal of the Emperor's body would occasion to her. And although it was not to be expected that the great French nation should forego its natural desire of recovering the remains of a hero so dear to it for the sake of the individual interest of the landlady in question, it must have been satisfactory to her to find, that the peculiarity of her position was so delicately appreciated by the august Prince who commanded the expedition, and carried away with him animae dimidium suae—the half of the genteel independence which she derived from the situation of her hotel. In a word, politeness and friendship could not be carried farther. The Prince's realm and the landlady's were bound together by the closest ties of amity. M. Thiers was Minister of France, the great patron of the English alliance. At London M. Guizot was the worthy representative of the French good-will towards the British people; and the remark frequently made by our orators at public dinners, that "France and England, while united, might defy the world," was considered as likely to hold good for many years to come,—the union that is. As for defying the world, that was neither here nor there; nor did English politicians ever dream of doing any such thing, except perhaps at the tenth glass of port at "Freemason's Tavern."
Little, however, did Mrs. Corbett, the St. Helena landlady, little did his Royal Highness Prince Ferdinand Philip Marie de Joinville know what was going on in Europe all this time (when I say in Europe, I mean in Turkey, Syria, and Egypt); how clouds, in fact, were gathering upon what you call the political horizon; and how tempests were rising that were to blow to pieces our Anglo-Gallic temple of friendship. Oh, but it is sad to think that a single wicked old Turk should be the means of setting our two Christian nations by the ears!
Yes, my love, this disreputable old man had been for some time past the object of the disinterested attention of the great sovereigns of Europe. The Emperor Nicolas (a moral character, though following the Greek superstition, and adored for his mildness and benevolence of disposition), the Emperor Ferdinand, the King of Prussia, and our own gracious Queen, had taken such just offence at his conduct and disobedience towards a young and interesting sovereign, whose authority he had disregarded, whose fleet he had kidnapped, whose fair provinces he had pounced upon, that they determined to come to the aid of Abdul Medjid the First, Emperor of the Turks, and bring his rebellious vassal to reason. In this project the French nation was invited to join; but they refused the invitation, saying, that it was necessary for the maintenance of the balance of power in Europe that his Highness Mehemet Ali should keep possession of what by hook or by crook he had gotten, and that they would have no hand in injuring him. But why continue this argument, which you have read in the newspapers for many months past? You, my dear, must know as well as I, that the balance of power in Europe could not possibly be maintained in any such way; and though, to be sure, for the last fifteen years, the progress of the old robber has not made much difference to us in the neighborhood of Russell Square, and the battle of Nezib did not in the least affect our taxes, our homes, our institutions, or the price of butcher's meat, yet there is no knowing what MIGHT have happened had Mehemet Ali been allowed to remain quietly as he was: and the balance of power in Europe might have been—the deuce knows where.
Here, then, in a nutshell, you have the whole matter in dispute. While Mrs. Corbett and the Prince de Joinville were innocently interchanging compliments at St. Helena,—bang! bang! Commodore Napier was pouring broadsides into Tyre and Sidon; our gallant navy was storming breaches and routing armies; Colonel Hodges had seized upon the green standard of Ibrahim Pacha; and the powder-magazine of St. John of Acre was blown up sky-high, with eighteen hundred Egyptian soldiers in company with it. The French said that l'or Anglais had achieved all these successes, and no doubt believed that the poor fellows at Acre were bribed to a man.
It must have been particularly unpleasant to a high-minded nation like the French—at the very moment when the Egyptian affair and the balance of Europe had been settled in this abrupt way—to find out all of a sudden that the Pasha of Egypt was their dearest friend and ally. They had suffered in the person of their friend; and though, seeing that the dispute was ended, and the territory out of his hand, they could not hope to get it back for him, or to aid him in any substantial way, yet Monsieur Thiers determined, just as a mark of politeness to the Pasha, to fight all Europe for maltreating him,—all Europe, England included. He was bent on war, and an immense majority of the nation went with him. He called for a million of soldiers, and would have had them too, had not the King been against the project and delayed the completion of it at least for a time.
Of these great European disputes Captain Joinville received a notification while he was at sea on board his frigate: as we find by the official account which has been published of his mission.
"Some days after quitting St. Helena," says that document, "the expedition fell in with a ship coming from Europe, and was thus made acquainted with the warlike rumors then afloat, by which a collision with the English marine was rendered possible. The Prince de Joinville immediately assembled the officers of the 'Belle Poule,' to deliberate on an event so unexpected and important.
"The council of war having expressed its opinion that it was necessary at all events to prepare for an energetic defence, preparations were made to place in battery all the guns that the frigate could bring to bear against the enemy. The provisional cabins that had been fitted up in the battery were demolished, the partitions removed, and, with all the elegant furniture of the cabins, flung into the sea. The Prince de Joinville was the first 'to execute himself,' and the frigate soon found itself armed with six or eight more guns.
"That part of the ship where these cabins had previously been, went by the name of Lacedaemon; everything luxurious being banished to make way for what was useful.
"Indeed, all persons who were on board agree in saying that Monseigneur the Prince de Joinville most worthily acquitted himself of the great and honorable mission which had been confided to him. All affirm not only that the commandant of the expedition did everything at St. Helena which as a Frenchman he was bound to do in order that the remains of the Emperor should receive all the honors due to them, but moreover that he accomplished his mission with all the measured solemnity, all the pious and severe dignity, that the son of the Emperor himself would have shown upon a like occasion. The commandant had also comprehended that the remains of the Emperor must never fall into the hands of the stranger, and being himself decided rather to sink his ship than to give up his precious deposit, he had inspired every one about him with the same energetic resolution that he had himself taken 'AGAINST AN EXTREME EVENTUALITY.'"
Monseigneur, my dear, is really one of the finest young fellows it is possible to see. A tall, broad-chested, slim-waisted, brown-faced, dark-eyed young prince, with a great beard (and other martial qualities no doubt) beyond his years. As he strode into the Chapel of the Invalides on Tuesday at the head of his men, he made no small impression, I can tell you, upon the ladies assembled to witness the ceremony. Nor are the crew of the "Belle Poule" less agreeable to look at than their commander. A more clean, smart, active, well-limbed set of lads never "did dance" upon the deck of the famed "Belle Poule" in the days of her memorable combat with the "Saucy Arethusa." "These five hundred sailors," says a French newspaper, speaking of them in the proper French way, "sword in hand, in the severe costume of board-ship (la severe tenue du bord), seemed proud of the mission that they had just accomplished. Their blue jackets, their red cravats, the turned-down collars of blue shirts edged with white, ABOVE ALL their resolute appearance and martial air, gave a favorable specimen of the present state of our marine—a marine of which so much might be expected and from which so little has been required."—Le Commerce: 16th December.
There they were, sure enough; a cutlass upon one hip, a pistol on the other—a gallant set of young men indeed. I doubt, to be sure, whether the severe tenue du bord requires that the seaman should be always furnished with those ferocious weapons, which in sundry maritime manoeuvers, such as going to sleep in your hammock for instance, or twinkling a binnacle, or luffing a marlinspike, or keelhauling a maintopgallant (all naval operations, my dear, which any seafaring novelist will explain to you)—I doubt, I say, whether these weapons are ALWAYS worn by sailors, and have heard that they are commonly and very sensibly too, locked up until they are wanted. Take another example: suppose artillerymen were incessantly compelled to walk about with a pyramid of twenty-four pound shot in one pocket, a lighted fuse and a few barrels of gunpowder in the other—these objects would, as you may imagine, greatly inconvenience the artilleryman in his peaceful state.
The newspaper writer is therefore most likely mistaken in saying that the seamen were in the severe tenue du bord, or by "bord" meaning "abordage"—which operation they were not, in a harmless church, hung round with velvet and wax-candles, and filled with ladies, surely called upon to perform. Nor indeed can it be reasonably supposed that the picked men of the crack frigate of the French navy are a "good specimen" of the rest of the French marine, any more than a cuirassed colossus at the gate of the Horse Guards can be considered a fair sample of the British soldier of the line. The sword and pistol, however, had no doubt their effect—the former was in its sheath, the latter not loaded, and I hear that the French ladies are quite in raptures with these charming loups-de-mer.
Let the warlike accoutrements then pass. It was necessary, perhaps, to strike the Parisians with awe, and therefore the crew was armed in this fierce fashion; but why should the captain begin to swagger as well as his men? and why did the Prince de Joinville lug out sword and pistol so early? or why, if he thought fit to make preparations, should the official journals brag of them afterwards as proofs of his extraordinary courage?
Here is the case. The English Government makes him a present of the bones of Napoleon: English workmen work for nine hours without ceasing, and dig the coffin out of the ground: the English Commissioner hands over the key of the box to the French representative, Monsieur Chabot: English horses carry the funeral car down to the sea-shore, accompanied by the English Governor, who has actually left his bed to walk in the procession and to do the French nation honor.
After receiving and acknowledging these politenesses, the French captain takes his charge on board, and the first thing we afterwards hear of him is the determination "qu'il a su faire passer" into all his crew, to sink rather than yield up the body of the Emperor aux mains de l'etranger—into the hands of the foreigner. My dear Monseigneur, is not this par trop fort? Suppose "the foreigner" had wanted the coffin, could he not have kept it? Why show this uncalled-for valor, this extraordinary alacrity at sinking? Sink or blow yourself up as much as you please, but your Royal Highness must see that the genteel thing would have been to wait until you were asked to do so, before you offended good-natured, honest people, who—heaven help them!—have never shown themselves at all murderously inclined towards you. A man knocks up his cabins forsooth, throws his tables and chairs overboard, runs guns into the portholes, and calls le quartier du bord ou existaient ces chambres, Lacedaemon. Lacedaemon! There is a province, O Prince, in your royal father's dominions, a fruitful parent of heroes in its time, which would have given a much better nickname to your quartier du bord: you should have called it Gascony.
"Sooner than strike we'll all ex-pi-er On board of the Bell-e Pou-le."
Such fanfaronading is very well on the part of Tom Dibdin, but a person of your Royal Highness's "pious and severe dignity" should have been above it. If you entertained an idea that war was imminent, would it not have been far better to have made your preparations in quiet, and when you found the war rumor blown over, to have said nothing about what you intended to do? Fie upon such cheap Lacedaemonianism! There is no poltroon in the world but can brag about what he WOULD have done: however, to do your Royal Highness's nation justice, they brag and fight too.
This narrative, my dear Miss Smith, as you will have remarked, is not a simple tale merely, but is accompanied by many moral and pithy remarks which form its chief value, in the writer's eyes at least, and the above account of the sham Lacedaemon on board the "Belle Poule" has a double-barrelled morality, as I conceive. Besides justly reprehending the French propensity towards braggadocio, it proves very strongly a point on which I am the only statesman in Europe who has strongly insisted. In the "Paris Sketch Book" it was stated that THE FRENCH HATE US. They hate us, my dear, profoundly and desperately, and there never was such a hollow humbug in the world as the French alliance. Men get a character for patriotism in France merely by hating England. Directly they go into strong opposition (where, you know, people are always more patriotic than on the ministerial side), they appeal to the people, and have their hold on the people by hating England in common with them. Why? It is a long story, and the hatred may be accounted for by many reasons both political and social. Any time these eight hundred years this ill-will has been going on, and has been transmitted on the French side from father to son. On the French side, not on ours: we have had no, or few, defeats to complain of, no invasions to make us angry; but you see that to discuss such a period of time would demand a considerable number of pages, and for the present we will avoid the examination of the question.
But they hate us, that is the long and short of it; and you see how this hatred has exploded just now, not upon a serious cause of difference, but upon an argument: for what is the Pasha of Egypt to us or them but a mere abstract opinion? For the same reason the Little-endians in Lilliput abhorred the Big-endians; and I beg you to remark how his Royal Highness Prince Ferdinand Mary, upon hearing that this argument was in the course of debate between us, straightway flung his furniture overboard and expressed a preference for sinking his ship rather than yielding it to the etranger. Nothing came of this wish of his, to be sure; but the intention is everything. Unlucky circumstances denied him the power, but he had the will.
Well, beyond this disappointment, the Prince de Joinville had nothing to complain of during the voyage, which terminated happily by the arrival of the "Belle Poule" at Cherbourg, on the 30th of November, at five o'clock in the morning. A telegraph made the glad news known at Paris, where the Minister of the Interior, Tanneguy-Duchatel (you will read the name, Madam, in the old Anglo-French wars), had already made "immense preparations" for receiving the body of Napoleon.
The entry was fixed for the 15th of December.
On the 8th of December at Cherbourg the body was transferred from the "Belle Poule" frigate to the "Normandie" steamer. On which occasion the mayor of Cherbourg deposited, in the name of his town, a gold laurel branch upon the coffin—which was saluted by the forts and dykes of the place with ONE THOUSAND GUNS! There was a treat for the inhabitants.
There was on board the steamer a splendid receptacle for the coffin: "a temple with twelve pillars and a dome to cover it from the wet and moisture, surrounded with velvet hangings and silver fringes. At the head was a gold cross, at the foot a gold lamp: other lamps were kept constantly burning within, and vases of burning incense were hung around. An altar, hung with velvet and silver, was at the mizzen-mast of the vessel, AND FOUR SILVER EAGLES AT EACH CORNER OF THE ALTAR." It was a compliment at once to Napoleon and—excuse me for saying so, but so the facts are—to Napoleon and to God Almighty.
Three steamers, the "Normandie," the "Veloce," and the "Courrier," formed the expedition from Cherbourg to Havre, at which place they arrived on the evening of the 9th of December, and where the "Veloce" was replaced by the Seine steamer, having in tow one of the state-coasters, which was to fire the salute at the moment when the body was transferred into one of the vessels belonging to the Seine.
The expedition passed Havre the same night, and came to anchor at Val de la Haye on the Seine, three leagues below Rouen.
Here the next morning (10th), it was met by the flotilla of steamboats of the Upper Seine, consisting of the three "Dorades," the three "Etoiles," the "Elbeuvien," the "Pansien," the "Parisienne," and the "Zampa." The Prince de Joinville, and the persons of the expedition, embarked immediately in the flotilla, which arrived the same day at Rouen.
At Rouen salutes were fired, the National Guard on both sides of the river paid military honors to the body; and over the middle of the suspension-bridge a magnificent cenotaph was erected, decorated with flags, fasces, violet hangings, and the imperial arms. Before the cenotaph the expedition stopped, and the absolution was given by the archbishop and the clergy. After a couple of hours' stay, the expedition proceeded to Pont de l'Arche. On the 11th it reached Vernon, on the 12th Mantes, on the 13th Maisons-sur-Seine.
"Everywhere," says the official account from which the above particulars are borrowed, "the authorities, the National Guard, and the people flocked to the passage of the flotilla, desirous to render the honors due to his glory, which is the glory of France. In seeing its hero return, the nation seemed to have found its Palladium again,—the sainted relics of victory."
At length, on the 14th, the coffin was transferred from the "Dorade" steamer on board the imperial vessel arrived from Paris. In the evening, the imperial vessel arrived at Courbevoie, which was the last stage of the journey.
Here it was that M. Guizot went to examine the vessel, and was very nearly flung into the Seine, as report goes, by the patriots assembled there. It is now lying on the river, near the Invalides, amidst the drifting ice, whither the people of Paris are flocking out to see it.
The vessel is of a very elegant antique form, and I can give you on the Thames no better idea of it than by requesting you to fancy an immense wherry, of which the stern has been cut straight off, and on which a temple on steps has been elevated. At the figure-head is an immense gold eagle, and at the stern is a little terrace, filled with evergreens and a profusion of banners. Upon pedestals along the sides of the vessel are tripods in which incense was burned, and underneath them are garlands of flowers called here "immortals." Four eagles surmount the temple, and a great scroll or garland, held in their beaks, surrounds it. It is hung with velvet and gold; four gold caryatides support the entry of it; and in the midst, upon a large platform hung with velvet, and bearing the imperial arms, stood the coffin. A steamboat, carrying two hundred musicians playing funereal marches and military symphonies, preceded this magnificent vessel to Courbevoie, where a funereal temple was erected, and "a statue of Notre Dame de Grace, before which the seamen of the 'Belle Poule' inclined themselves, in order to thank her for having granted them a noble and glorious voyage."
Early on the morning of the 15th December, amidst clouds of incense, and thunder of cannon, and innumerable shouts of people, the coffin was transferred from the barge, and carried by the seamen of the "Belle Poule" to the Imperial Car.
And, now having conducted our hero almost to the gates of Paris, I must tell you what preparations were made in the capital to receive him.
Ten days before the arrival of the body, as you walked across the Deputies' Bridge, or over the Esplanade of the Invalides, you saw on the bridge eight, on the esplanade thirty-two, mysterious boxes erected, wherein a couple of score of sculptors were at work night and day.
In the middle of the Invalid Avenue, there used to stand, on a kind of shabby fountain or pump, a bust of Lafayette, crowned with some dirty wreaths of "immortals," and looking down at the little streamlet which occasionally dribbled below him. The spot of ground was now clear, and Lafayette and the pump had been consigned to some cellar, to make way for the mighty procession that was to pass over the place of their habitation.
Strange coincidence! If I had been Mr. Victor Hugo, my dear, or a poet of any note, I would, in a few hours, have made an impromptu concerning that Lafayette-crowned pump, and compared its lot now to the fortune of its patron some fifty years back. From him then issued, as from his fountain now, a feeble dribble of pure words; then, as now, some faint circles of disciples were willing to admire him. Certainly in the midst of the war and storm without, this pure fount of eloquence went dribbling, dribbling on, till of a sudden the revolutionary workmen knocked down statue and fountain, and the gorgeous imperial cavalcade trampled over the spot where they stood.
As for the Champs Elysees, there was no end to the preparations; the first day you saw a couple of hundred scaffoldings erected at intervals between the handsome gilded gas-lamps that at present ornament that avenue; next day, all these scaffoldings were filled with brick and mortar. Presently, over the bricks and mortar rose pediments of statues, legs of urns, legs of goddesses, legs and bodies of goddesses, legs, bodies, and busts of goddesses. Finally, on the 13th December, goddesses complete. On the 14th they were painted marble-color; and the basements of wood and canvas on which they stood were made to resemble the same costly material. The funereal urns were ready to receive the frankincense and precious odors which were to burn in them. A vast number of white columns stretched down the avenue, each bearing a bronze buckler on which was written, in gold letters, one of the victories of the Emperor, and each decorated with enormous imperial flags. On these columns golden eagles were placed; and the newspapers did not fail to remark the ingenious position in which the royal birds had been set: for while those on the right-hand side of the way had their heads turned TOWARDS the procession, as if to watch its coming, those on the left were looking exactly the other way, as if to regard its progress. Do not fancy I am joking: this point was gravely and emphatically urged in many newspapers; and I do believe no mortal Frenchman ever thought it anything but sublime.
Do not interrupt me, sweet Miss Smith. I feel that you are angry. I can see from here the pouting of your lips, and know what you are going to say. You are going to say, "I will read no more of this Mr. Titmarsh; there is no subject, however solemn, but he treats it with flippant irreverence, and no character, however great, at whom he does not sneer."
Ah, my dear! you are young now and enthusiastic; and your Titmarsh is old, very old, sad, and gray-headed. I have seen a poor mother buy a halfpenny wreath at the gate of Montmartre burying-ground, and go with it to her little child's grave, and hang it there over the little humble stone; and if ever you saw me scorn the mean offering of the poor shabby creature, I will give you leave to be as angry as you will. They say that on the passage of Napoleon's coffin down the Seine, old soldiers and country people walked miles from their villages just to catch a sight of the boat which carried his body and to kneel down on the shore and pray for him. God forbid that we should quarrel with such prayers and sorrow, or question their sincerity. Something great and good must have been in this man, something loving and kindly, that has kept his name so cherished in the popular memory, and gained him such lasting reverence and affection.
But, Madam, one may respect the dead without feeling awe-stricken at the plumes of the hearse; and I see no reason why one should sympathize with the train of mutes and undertakers, however deep may be their mourning. Look, I pray you, at the manner in which the French nation has performed Napoleon's funeral. Time out of mind, nations have raised, in memory of their heroes, august mausoleums, grand pyramids, splendid statues of gold or marble, sacrificing whatever they had that was most costly and rare, or that was most beautiful in art, as tokens of their respect and love for the dead person. What a fine example of this sort of sacrifice is that (recorded in a book of which Simplicity is the great characteristic) of the poor woman who brought her pot of precious ointment—her all, and laid it at the feet of the Object which, upon earth, she most loved and respected. "Economists and calculators" there were even in those days who quarrelled with the manner in which the poor woman lavished so much "capital;" but you will remember how nobly and generously the sacrifice was appreciated, and how the economists were put to shame.
With regard to the funeral ceremony that has just been performed here, it is said that a famous public personage and statesman, Monsieur Thiers indeed, spoke with the bitterest indignation of the general style of the preparations, and of their mean and tawdry character. He would have had a pomp as magnificent, he said, as that of Rome at the triumph of Aurelian: he would have decorated the bridges and avenues through which the procession was to pass, with the costliest marbles and the finest works of art, and have had them to remain there for ever as monuments of the great funeral.
The economists and calculators might here interpose with a great deal of reason; for, indeed, there was no reason why a nation should impoverish itself to do honor to the memory of an individual for whom, after all, it can feel but a qualified enthusiasm: but it surely might have employed the large sum voted for the purpose more wisely and generously, and recorded its respect for Napoleon by some worthy and lasting memorial, rather than have erected yonder thousand vain heaps of tinsel, paint, and plaster, that are already cracking and crumbling in the frost, at three days old.
Scarcely one of the statues, indeed, deserves to last a month: some are odious distortions and caricatures, which never should have been allowed to stand for a moment. On the very day of the fete, the wind was shaking the canvas pedestals, and the flimsy wood-work had begun to gape and give way. At a little distance, to be sure, you could not see the cracks; and pedestals and statues LOOKED like marble. At some distance, you could not tell but that the wreaths and eagles were gold embroidery, and not gilt paper—the great tricolor flags damask, and not striped calico. One would think that these sham splendors betokened sham respect, if one had not known that the name of Napoleon is held in real reverence, and observed somewhat of the character of the nation. Real feelings they have, but they distort them by exaggeration; real courage, which they render ludicrous by intolerable braggadocio; and I think the above official account of the Prince de Joinville's proceedings, of the manner in which the Emperor's remains have been treated in their voyage to the capital, and of the preparations made to receive him in it, will give my dear Miss Smith some means of understanding the social and moral condition of this worthy people of France.
III.—ON THE FUNERAL CEREMONY.
Shall I tell you, my dear, that when Francois woke me at a very early hour on this eventful morning, while the keen stars were still glittering overhead, a half-moon, as sharp as a razor, beaming in the frosty sky, and a wicked north wind blowing, that blew the blood out of one's fingers and froze your leg as you put it out of bed;—shall I tell you, my dear, that when Francois called me, and said, "V'la vot' cafe, Monsieur Titemasse, buvez-le, tiens, il est tout chaud," I felt myself, after imbibing the hot breakfast, so comfortable under three blankets and a mackintosh, that for at least a quarter of an hour no man in Europe could say whether Titmarsh would or would not be present at the burial of the Emperor Napoleon.
Besides, my dear, the cold, there was another reason for doubting. Did the French nation, or did they not, intend to offer up some of us English over the imperial grave? And were the games to be concluded by a massacre? It was said in the newspapers that Lord Granville had despatched circulars to all the English resident in Paris, begging them to keep their homes. The French journals announced this news, and warned us charitably of the fate intended for us. Had Lord Granville written? Certainly not to me. Or had he written to all EXCEPT ME? And was I THE VICTIM—the doomed one?—to be seized directly I showed my face in the Champs Elysees, and torn in pieces by French Patriotism to the frantic chorus of the "Marseillaise?" Depend on it, Madam, that high and low in this city on Tuesday were not altogether at their ease, and that the bravest felt no small tremor! And be sure of this, that as his Majesty Louis Philippe took his nightcap off his royal head that morning, he prayed heartily that he might, at night, put it on in safety.
Well, as my companion and I came out of doors, being bound for the Church of the Invalides, for which a Deputy had kindly furnished us with tickets, we saw the very prettiest sight of the whole day, and I can't refrain from mentioning it to my dear, tender-hearted Miss Smith.
In the same house where I live (but about five stories nearer the ground) lodges an English family, consisting of—1. A great-grandmother, a hale, handsome old lady of seventy, the very best-dressed and neatest old lady in Paris. 2. A grandfather and grandmother, tolerably young to bear that title. 3. A daughter. And 4. Two little great-grand, or grandchildren, that may be of the age of three and one, and belong to a son and daughter who are in India. The grandfather, who is as proud of his wife as he was thirty years ago when he married, and pays her compliments still twice or thrice in a day, and when he leads her into a room looks round at the persons assembled, and says in his heart, "Here, gentlemen, here is my wife—show me such another woman in England,"—this gentleman had hired a room on the Champs Elysees, for he would not have his wife catch cold by exposing her to the balconies in the open air.
When I came to the street, I found the family assembled in the following order of march:—
—No. 1, the great-grandmother walking daintily along, supported by No. 3, her granddaughter.
—A nurse carrying No. 4 junior, who was sound asleep: and a huge basket containing saucepans, bottles of milk, parcels of infants' food, certain dimity napkins, a child's coral, and a little horse belonging to No. 4 senior.
—A servant bearing a basket of condiments.
—No. 2, grandfather, spick and span, clean shaved, hat brushed, white buckskin gloves, bamboo cane, brown great-coat, walking as upright and solemn as may be, having his lady on his arm.
—No. 4, senior, with mottled legs and a tartan costume, who was frisking about between his grandpapa's legs, who heartily wished him at home.
"My dear," his face seemed to say to his lady, "I think you might have left the little things in the nursery, for we shall have to squeeze through a terrible crowd in the Champs Elysees."
The lady was going out for a day's pleasure, and her face was full of care: she had to look first after her old mother who was walking ahead, then after No. 4 junior with the nurse—he might fall into all sorts of danger, wake up, cry, catch cold; nurse might slip down, or heaven knows what. Then she had to look her husband in the face, who had gone to such expense and been so kind for her sake, and make that gentleman believe she was thoroughly happy; and, finally, she had to keep an eye upon No. 4 senior, who, as she was perfectly certain, was about in two minutes to be lost for ever, or trampled to pieces in the crowd.
These events took place in a quiet little street leading into the Champs Elysees, the entry of which we had almost reached by this time. The four detachments above described, which had been straggling a little in their passage down the street, closed up at the end of it, and stood for a moment huddled together. No. 3, Miss X—, began speaking to her companion the great-grandmother.
"Hush, my dear," said that old lady, looking round alarmed at her daughter. "SPEAK FRENCH." And she straightway began nervously to make a speech which she supposed to be in that language, but which was as much like French as Iroquois. The whole secret was out: you could read it in the grandmother's face, who was doing all she could to keep from crying, and looked as frightened as she dared to look. The two elder ladies had settled between them that there was going to be a general English slaughter that day, and had brought the children with them, so that they might all be murdered in company.
God bless you, O women, moist-eyed and tender-hearted! In those gentle silly tears of yours there is something touches one, be they never so foolish. I don't think there were many such natural drops shed that day as those which just made their appearance in the grandmother's eyes, and then went back again as if they had been ashamed of themselves, while the good lady and her little troop walked across the road. Think how happy she will be when night comes, and there has been no murder of English, and the brood is all nestled under her wings sound asleep, and she is lying awake thanking God that the day and its pleasures and pains are over. Whilst we were considering these things, the grandfather had suddenly elevated No. 4 senior upon his left shoulder, and I saw the tartan hat of that young gentleman, and the bamboo cane which had been transferred to him, high over the heads of the crowd on the opposite side through which the party moved.
After this little procession had passed away—you may laugh at it, but upon my word and conscience, Miss Smith, I saw nothing in the course of the day which affected me more—after this little procession had passed away, the other came, accompanied by gun-banging, flag-waving, incense-burning, trumpets pealing, drums rolling, and at the close, received by the voice of six hundred choristers, sweetly modulated to the tones of fifteen score of fiddlers. Then you saw horse and foot, jack-boots and bear-skin, cuirass and bayonet, National Guard and Line, marshals and generals all over gold, smart aides-de-camp galloping about like mad, and high in the midst of all, riding on his golden buckler, Solomon in all his glory, forsooth—Imperial Caesar, with his crown over his head, laurels and standards waving about his gorgeous chariot, and a million of people looking on in wonder and awe.
His Majesty the Emperor and King reclined on his shield, with his head a little elevated. His Majesty's skull is voluminous, his forehead broad and large. We remarked that his Imperial Majesty's brow was of a yellowish color, which appearance was also visible about the orbits of the eyes. He kept his eyelids constantly closed, by which we had the opportunity of observing that the upper lids were garnished with eyelashes. Years and climate have effected upon the face of this great monarch only a trifling alteration; we may say, indeed, that Time has touched his Imperial and Royal Majesty with the lightest feather in his wing. In the nose of the Conqueror of Austerlitz we remarked very little alteration: it is of the beautiful shape which we remember it possessed five-and-twenty years since, ere unfortunate circumstances induced him to leave us for a while. The nostril and the tube of the nose appear to have undergone some slight alteration, but in examining a beloved object the eye of affection is perhaps too critical. Vive l'Empereur! the soldier of Marengo is among us again. His lips are thinner, perhaps, than they were before! how white his teeth are! you can just see three of them pressing his under lip; and pray remark the fulness of his cheeks and the round contour of his chin. Oh, those beautiful white hands! many a time have they patted the cheek of poor Josephine, and played with the black ringlets of her hair. She is dead now, and cold, poor creature; and so are Hortense and bold Eugene, than whom the world "never saw a curtier knight," as was said of King Arthur's Sir Lancelot. What a day would it have been for those three could they have lived until now, and seen their hero returning! Where's Ney? His wife sits looking out from M. Flahaut's window yonder, but the bravest of the brave is not with her. Murat too is absent: honest Joachim loves the Emperor at heart, and repents that he was not at Waterloo: who knows but that at the sight of the handsome swordsman those stubborn English "canaille" would have given way. A king, Sire, is, you know, the greatest of slaves—State affairs of consequence—his Majesty the King of Naples is detained no doubt. When we last saw the King, however, and his Highness the Prince of Elchingen, they looked to have as good health as ever they had in their lives, and we heard each of them calmly calling out "FIRE!" as they have done in numberless battles before.
Is it possible? can the Emperor forget? We don't like to break it to him, but has he forgotten all about the farm at Pizzo, and the garden of the Observatory? Yes, truly: there he lies on his golden shield, never stirring, never so much as lifting his eyelids, or opening his lips any wider.
O vanitas vanitatum! Here is our Sovereign in all his glory, and they fired a thousand guns at Cherbourg and never woke him!
However, we are advancing matters by several hours, and you must give just as much credence as you please to the subjoined remarks concerning the Procession, seeing that your humble servant could not possibly be present at it, being bound for the church elsewhere.
Programmes, however, have been published of the affair, and your vivid fancy will not fail to give life to them, and the whole magnificent train will pass before you.
Fancy then, that the guns are fired at Neuilly: the body landed at daybreak from the funereal barge, and transferred to the car; and fancy the car, a huge Juggernaut of a machine, rolling on four wheels of an antique shape, which supported a basement adorned with golden eagles, banners, laurels, and velvet hangings. Above the hangings stand twelve golden statues with raised arms supporting a huge shield, on which the coffin lay. On the coffin was the imperial crown, covered with violet velvet crape, and the whole vast machine was drawn by horses in superb housings, led by valets in the imperial livery.
Fancy at the head of the procession first of all—
The Gendarmerie of the Seine, with their trumpets and Colonel.
The Municipal Guard (horse), with their trumpets, standard, and Colonel.
Two squadrons of the 7th Lancers, with Colonel, standard, and music.
The Commandant of Paris and his Staff.
A battalion of Infantry of the Line, with their flag, sappers, drums, music, and Colonel.
The Municipal Guard (foot), with flag, drums, and Colonel.
The Sapper-pumpers, with ditto.
Then picture to yourself more squadrons of Lancers and Cuirassiers. The General of the Division and his Staff; all officers of all arms employed at Paris, and unattached; the Military School of Saint Cyr, the Polytechnic School, the School of the Etat-Major; and the Professors and Staff of each. Go on imagining more battalions of Infantry, of Artillery, companies of Engineers, squadrons of Cuirassiers, ditto of the Cavalry, of the National Guard, and the first and second legions of ditto.
Fancy a carriage, containing the Chaplain of the St. Helena expedition, the only clerical gentleman that formed a part of the procession.
Fancy you hear the funereal music, and then figure in your mind's eye—
THE EMPEROR'S CHARGER, that is, Napoleon's own saddle and bridle (when First Consul) upon a white horse. The saddle (which has been kept ever since in the Garde Meuble of the Crown) is of amaranth velvet, embroidered in gold: the holsters and housings are of the same rich material. On them you remark the attributes of War, Commerce, Science, and Art. The bits and stirrups are silver-gilt chased. Over the stirrups, two eagles were placed at the time of the empire. The horse was covered with a violet crape embroidered with golden bees.
After this came more Soldiers, General Officers, Sub-Officers, Marshals, and what was said to be the prettiest sight almost of the whole, the banners of the eighty-six Departments of France. These are due to the invention of M. Thiers, and were to have been accompanied by federates from each Department. But the government very wisely mistrusted this and some other projects of Monsieur Thiers; and as for a federation, my dear, IT HAS BEEN TRIED. Next comes—
His Royal Highness, the Prince de Joinville.
The 600 sailors of the "Belle Poule" marching in double file on each side of
[Hush! the enormous crowd thrills as it passes, and only some few voices cry Vive l'Empereur! Shining golden in the frosty sun—with hundreds of thousands of eyes upon it, from houses and housetops, from balconies, black, purple, and tricolor, from tops of leafless trees, from behind long lines of glittering bayonets under schakos and bear-skin caps, from behind the Line and the National Guard again, pushing, struggling, heaving, panting, eager, the heads of an enormous multitude stretching out to meet and follow it, amidst long avenues of columns and statues gleaming white, of standards rainbow-colored, of golden eagles, of pale funereal urns, of discharging odors amidst huge volumes of pitch-black smoke,
THE GREAT IMPERIAL CHARIOT ROLLS MAJESTICALLY ON.
The cords of the pall are held by two Marshals, an Admiral and General Bertrand; who are followed by—
The Prefects of the Seine and Police, &c.
The Mayors of Paris, &c.
The Members of the Old Guard, &c.
A Squadron of Light Dragoons, &c.
Lieutenant-General Schneider, &c.
More cavalry, more infantry, more artillery, more everybody; and as the procession passes, the Line and the National Guard forming line on each side of the road fall in and follow it, until it arrives at the Church of the Invalides, where the last honors are to be paid to it.]
Among the company assembled under the dome of that edifice, the casual observer would not perhaps have remarked a gentleman of the name of Michael Angelo Titmarsh, who nevertheless was there. But as, my dear Miss Smith, the descriptions in this letter, from the words in page 298, line 20—THE PARTY MOVED—up to the words PAID TO IT, on this page, have purely emanated from your obedient servant's fancy, and not from his personal observation (for no being on earth, except a newspaper reporter, can be in two places at once), permit me now to communicate to you what little circumstances fell under my own particular view on the day of the 15th of December.
As we came out, the air and the buildings round about were tinged with purple, and the clear sharp half-moon before-mentioned was still in the sky, where it seemed to be lingering as if it would catch a peep of the commencement of the famous procession. The Arc de Triomphe was shining in a keen frosty sunshine, and looking as clean and rosy as if it had just made its toilette. The canvas or pasteboard image of Napoleon, of which only the gilded legs had been erected the night previous, was now visible, body, head, crown, sceptre and all, and made an imposing show. Long gilt banners were flaunting about, with the imperial cipher and eagle, and the names of the battles and victories glittering in gold. The long avenues of the Champs Elysees had been covered with sand for the convenience of the great procession that was to tramp across it that day. Hundreds of people were marching to and fro, laughing, chattering, singing, gesticulating as happy Frenchmen do. There is no pleasanter sight than a French crowd on the alert for a festival, and nothing more catching than their good-humor. As for the notion which has been put forward by some of the opposition newspapers that the populace were on this occasion unusually solemn or sentimental, it would be paying a bad compliment to the natural gayety of the nation, to say that it was, on the morning at least of the 15th of December, affected in any such absurd way. Itinerant merchants were shouting out lustily their commodities of segars and brandy, and the weather was so bitter cold, that they could not fail to find plenty of customers. Carpenters and workmen were still making a huge banging and clattering among the sheds which were built for the accommodation of the visitors. Some of these sheds were hung with black, such as one sees before churches in funerals; some were robed in violet, in compliment to the Emperor whose mourning they put on. Most of them had fine tricolor hangings with appropriate inscriptions to the glory of the French arms.
All along the Champs Elysees were urns of plaster-of-Paris destined to contain funeral incense and flames; columns decorated with huge flags of blue, red, and white, embroidered with shining crowns, eagles, and N's in gilt paper, and statues of plaster representing Nymphs, Triumphs, Victories, or other female personages, painted in oil so as to represent marble. Real marble could have had no better effect, and the appearance of the whole was lively and picturesque in the extreme. On each pillar was a buckler, of the color of bronze, bearing the name and date of a battle in gilt letters: you had to walk through a mile-long avenue of these glorious reminiscences, telling of spots where, in the great imperial days, throats had been victoriously cut.
As we passed down the avenue, several troops of soldiers met us: the garde-muncipale a cheval, in brass helmets and shining jack-boots, noble-looking men, large, on large horses, the pick of the old army, as I have heard, and armed for the special occupation of peace-keeping: not the most glorious, but the best part of the soldier's duty, as I fancy. Then came a regiment of Carabineers, one of Infantry—little, alert, brown-faced, good-humored men, their band at their head playing sounding marches. These were followed by a regiment or detachment of the Municipals on foot—two or three inches taller than the men of the Line, and conspicuous for their neatness and discipline. By-and-by came a squadron or so of dragoons of the National Guards: they are covered with straps, buckles, aguillettes, and cartouche-boxes, and make under their tricolor cock's-plumes a show sufficiently warlike. The point which chiefly struck me on beholding these military men of the National Guard and the Line, was the admirable manner in which they bore a cold that seemed to me as sharp as the weather in the Russian retreat, through which cold the troops were trotting without trembling and in the utmost cheerfulness and good-humor. An aide-de-camp galloped past in white pantaloons. By heavens! it made me shudder to look at him.
With this profound reflection, we turned away to the right towards the hanging-bridge (where we met a detachment of young men of the Ecole de l'Etat Major, fine-looking lads, but sadly disfigured by the wearing of stays or belts, that make the waists of the French dandies of a most absurd tenuity), and speedily passed into the avenue of statues leading up to the Invalides. All these were statues of warriors from Ney to Charlemagne, modelled in clay for the nonce, and placed here to meet the corpse of the greatest warrior of all. Passing these, we had to walk to a little door at the back of the Invalides, where was a crowd of persons plunged in the deepest mourning, and pushing for places in the chapel within.
The chapel is spacious and of no great architectural pretensions, but was on this occasion gorgeously decorated in honor of the great person to whose body it was about to give shelter.
We had arrived at nine; the ceremony was not to begin, they said, till two: we had five hours before us to see all that from our places could be seen.
We saw that the roof, up to the first lines of architecture, was hung with violet; beyond this with black. We saw N's, eagles, bees, laurel wreaths, and other such imperial emblems, adorning every nook and corner of the edifice. Between the arches, on each side of the aisle, were painted trophies, on which were written the names of some of Napoleon's Generals and of their principal deeds of arms—and not their deeds of arms alone, pardi, but their coats of arms too. O stars and garters! but this is too much. What was Ney's paternal coat, prithee, or honest Junot's quarterings, or the venerable escutcheon of King Joachim's father, the innkeeper?
You and I, dear Miss Smith, know the exact value of heraldic bearings. We know that though the greatest pleasure of all is to ACT like a gentleman, it is a pleasure, nay a merit, to BE one—to come of an old stock, to have an honorable pedigree, to be able to say that centuries back our fathers had gentle blood, and to us transmitted the same. There IS a good in gentility: the man who questions it is envious, or a coarse dullard not able to perceive the difference between high breeding and low. One has in the same way heard a man brag that he did not know the difference between wines, not he—give him a good glass of port, and he would pitch all your claret to the deuce. My love, men often brag about their own dulness in this way.
In the matter of gentlemen, democrats cry, "Psha! Give us one of Nature's gentlemen, and hang your aristocrats." And so indeed Nature does make SOME gentlemen—a few here and there. But Art makes most. Good birth, that is, good handsome well-formed fathers and mothers, nice cleanly nursery-maids, good meals, good physicians, good education, few cares, pleasant easy habits of life, and luxuries not too great or enervating, but only refining—a course of these going on for a few generations are the best gentleman-makers in the world, and beat Nature hollow.
If, respected Madam, you say that there is something BETTER than gentility in this wicked world, and that honesty and personal wealth are more valuable than all the politeness and high-breeding that ever wore red-heeled pumps, knights' spurs, or Hoby's boots, Titmarsh for one is never going to say you nay. If you even go so far as to say that the very existence of this super-genteel society among us, from the slavish respect that we pay to it, from the dastardly manner in which we attempt to imitate its airs and ape its vices, goes far to destroy honesty of intercourse, to make us meanly ashamed of our natural affections and honest, harmless usages, and so does a great deal more harm than it is possible it can do good by its example—perhaps, Madam, you speak with some sort of reason. Potato myself, I can't help seeing that the tulip yonder has the best place in the garden, and the most sunshine, and the most water, and the best tending—and not liking him over well. But I can't help acknowledging that Nature has given him a much finer dress than ever I can hope to have, and of this, at least, must give him the benefit.
Or say, we are so many cocks and hens, my dear (sans arriere pensee), with our crops pretty full, our plumes pretty sleek, decent picking here and there in the straw-yard, and tolerable snug roosting in the barn: yonder on the terrace, in the sun, walks Peacock, stretching his proud neck, squealing every now and then in the most pert fashionable voice and flaunting his great supercilious dandified tail. Don't let us be too angry, my dear, with the useless, haughty, insolent creature, because he despises us. SOMETHING is there about Peacock that we don't possess. Strain your neck ever so, you can't make it as long or as blue as his—cock your tail as much as you please, and it will never be half so fine to look at. But the most absurd, disgusting, contemptible sight in the world would you and I be, leaving the barn-door for my lady's flower-garden, forsaking our natural sturdy walk for the peacock's genteel rickety stride, and adopting the squeak of his voice in the place of our gallant lusty cock-a-doodle-dooing.
Do you take the allegory? I love to speak in such, and the above types have been presented to my mind while sitting opposite a gimcrack coat-of-arms and coronet that are painted in the Invalides Church, and assigned to one of the Emperor's Generals.
Ventrebleu! Madam, what need have THEY of coats-of-arms and coronets, and wretched imitations of old exploded aristocratic gewgaws that they had flung out of the country—with the heads of the owners in them sometimes, for indeed they were not particular—a score of years before? What business, forsooth, had they to be meddling with gentility and aping its ways, who had courage, merit, daring, genius sometimes, and a pride of their own to support, if proud they were inclined to be? A clever young man (who was not of high family himself, but had been bred up genteelly at Eton and the university)—young Mr. George Canning, at the commencement of the French Revolution, sneered at "Roland the Just, with ribbons in his shoes," and the dandies, who then wore buckles, voted the sarcasm monstrous killing. It was a joke, my dear, worthy of a lackey, or of a silly smart parvenu, not knowing the society into which his luck had cast him (God help him! in later years, they taught him what they were!), and fancying in his silly intoxication that simplicity was ludicrous and fashion respectable. See, now, fifty years are gone, and where are shoebuckles? Extinct, defunct, kicked into the irrevocable past off the toes of all Europe!
How fatal to the parvenu, throughout history, has been this respect for shoebuckles. Where, for instance, would the Empire of Napoleon have been, if Ney and Lannes had never sported such a thing as a coat-of-arms, and had only written their simple names on their shields, after the fashion of Desaix's scutcheon yonder?—the bold Republican who led the crowning charge at Marengo, and sent the best blood of the Holy Roman Empire to the right-about, before the wretched misbegotten imperial heraldry was born, that was to prove so disastrous to the father of it. It has always been so. They won't amalgamate. A country must be governed by the one principle or the other. But give, in a republic, an aristocracy ever so little chance, and it works and plots and sneaks and bullies and sneers itself into place, and you find democracy out of doors. Is it good that the aristocracy should so triumph?—that is a question that you may settle according to your own notions and taste; and permit me to say, I do not care twopence how you settle it. Large books have been written upon the subject in a variety of languages, and coming to a variety of conclusions. Great statesmen are there in our country, from Lord Londonderry down to Mr. Vincent, each in his degree maintaining his different opinion. But here, in the matter of Napoleon, is a simple fact: he founded a great, glorious, strong, potent republic, able to cope with the best aristocracies in the world, and perhaps to beat them all; he converts his republic into a monarchy, and surrounds his monarchy with what he calls aristocratic institutions; and you know what becomes of him. The people estranged, the aristocracy faithless (when did they ever pardon one who was not of themselves?)—the imperial fabric tumbles to the ground. If it teaches nothing else, my dear, it teaches one a great point of policy—namely, to stick by one's party.
While these thoughts (and sundry others relative to the horrible cold of the place, the intense dulness of delay, the stupidity of leaving a warm bed and a breakfast in order to witness a procession that is much better performed at a theatre)—while these thoughts were passing in the mind, the church began to fill apace, and you saw that the hour of the ceremony was drawing near.
Imprimis, came men with lighted staves, and set fire to at least ten thousand wax-candles that were hanging in brilliant chandeliers in various parts of the chapel. Curtains were dropped over the upper windows as these illuminations were effected, and the church was left only to the funereal light of the spermaceti. To the right was the dome, round the cavity of which sparkling lamps were set, that designed the shape of it brilliantly against the darkness. In the midst, and where the altar used to stand, rose the catafalque. And why not? Who is God here but Napoleon? and in him the sceptics have already ceased to believe; but the people does still somewhat. He and Louis XIV. divide the worship of the place between them.
As for the catafalque, the best that I can say for it is that it is really a noble and imposing-looking edifice, with tall pillars supporting a grand dome, with innumerable escutcheons, standards, and allusions military and funereal. A great eagle of course tops the whole: tripods burning spirits of wine stand round this kind of dead man's throne, and as we saw it (by peering over the heads of our neighbors in the front rank), it looked, in the midst of the black concave, and under the effect of half a thousand flashing cross-lights, properly grand and tall. The effect of the whole chapel, however (to speak the jargon of the painting-room), was spoiled by being CUT UP: there were too many objects for the eye to rest upon: the ten thousand wax-candles, for instance, in their numberless twinkling chandeliers, the raw tranchant colors of the new banners, wreaths, bees, N's, and other emblems dotting the place all over, and incessantly puzzling, or rather BOTHERING the beholder.
High overhead, in a sort of mist, with the glare of their original colors worn down by dust and time, hung long rows of dim ghostly-looking standards, captured in old days from the enemy. They were, I thought, the best and most solemn part of the show.
To suppose that the people were bound to be solemn during the ceremony is to exact from them something quite needless and unnatural. The very fact of a squeeze dissipates all solemnity. One great crowd is always, as I imagine, pretty much like another. In the course of the last few years I have seen three: that attending the coronation of our present sovereign, that which went to see Courvoisier hanged, and this which witnessed the Napoleon ceremony. The people so assembled for hours together are jocular rather than solemn, seeking to pass away the weary time with the best amusements that will offer. There was, to be sure, in all the scenes above alluded to, just one moment—one particular moment—when the universal people feels a shock and is for that second serious.
But except for that second of time, I declare I saw no seriousness here beyond that of ennui. The church began to fill with personages of all ranks and conditions. First, opposite our seats came a company of fat grenadiers of the National Guard, who presently, at the word of command, put their muskets down against benches and wainscots, until the arrival of the procession. For seven hours these men formed the object of the most anxious solicitude of all the ladies and gentlemen seated on our benches: they began to stamp their feet, for the cold was atrocious, and we were frozen where we sat. Some of them fell to blowing their fingers; one executed a kind of dance, such as one sees often here in cold weather—the individual jumps repeatedly upon one leg, and kicks out the other violently, meanwhile his hands are flapping across his chest. Some fellows opened their cartouche-boxes, and from them drew eatables of various kinds. You can't think how anxious we were to know the qualities of the same. "Tiens, ce gros qui mange une cuisse de volaille!"—"Il a du jambon, celui-la." "I should like some, too," growls an Englishman, "for I hadn't a morsel of breakfast," and so on. This is the way, my dear, that we see Napoleon buried.
Did you ever see a chicken escape from clown in a pantomime, and hop over into the pit, or amongst the fiddlers? and have you not seen the shrieks of enthusiastic laughter that the wondrous incident occasions? We had our chicken, of course: there never was a public crowd without one. A poor unhappy woman in a greasy plaid cloak, with a battered rose-colored plush bonnet, was seen taking her place among the stalls allotted to the grandees. "Voyez donc l'Anglaise," said everybody, and it was too true. You could swear that the wretch was an Englishwoman: a bonnet was never made or worn so in any other country. Half an hour's delightful amusement did this lady give us all. She was whisked from seat to seat by the huissiers, and at every change of place woke a peal of laughter. I was glad, however, at the end of the day to see the old pink bonnet over a very comfortable seat, which somebody had not claimed and she had kept.
Are not these remarkable incidents? The next wonder we saw was the arrival of a set of tottering old Invalids, who took their places under us with drawn sabres. Then came a superb drum-major, a handsome smiling good-humored giant of a man, his breeches astonishingly embroidered with silver lace. Him a dozen little drummer-boys followed—"the little darlings!" all the ladies cried out in a breath: they were indeed pretty little fellows, and came and stood close under us: the huge drum-major smiled over his little red-capped flock, and for many hours in the most perfect contentment twiddled his moustaches and played with the tassels of his cane.
Now the company began to arrive thicker and thicker. A whole covey of Conseillers-d'Etat came in, in blue coats, embroidered with blue silk, then came a crowd of lawyers in toques and caps, among whom were sundry venerable Judges in scarlet, purple velvet, and ermine—a kind of Bajazet costume. Look there! there is the Turkish Ambassador in his red cap, turning his solemn brown face about and looking preternaturally wise. The Deputies walk in in a body. Guizot is not there: he passed by just now in full ministerial costume. Presently little Thiers saunters back: what a clear, broad sharp-eyed face the fellow has, with his gray hair cut down so demure! A servant passes, pushing through the crowd a shabby wheel-chair. It has just brought old Moncey the Governor of the Invalids, the honest old man who defended Paris so stoutly in 1814. He has been very ill, and is worn down almost by infirmities: but in his illness he was perpetually asking, "Doctor, shall I live till the 15th? Give me till then, and I die contented." One can't help believing that the old man's wish is honest, however one may doubt the piety of another illustrious Marshal, who once carried a candle before Charles X. in a procession, and has been this morning to Neuilly to kneel and pray at the foot of Napoleon's coffin. He might have said his prayers at home, to be sure; but don't let us ask too much: that kind of reserve is not a Frenchman's characteristic.