Journal in Paris (1827)
( To Clementina - his sister) You ask about my Journal. It has now swelled out to about thirty close-written sheets, containing a great deal of nonsense and a great deal of sense, a great deal of what may be trifling, and a great deal of what is important - in which everything is put down, good, bad, and indifferent, for my own amusement and instruction afterwards, but principally for yours at home.
This Journal Dr. Guthrie himself supposed to have been
lost, and more than once, in writing his Autobiography, expressed regret that
it no longer existed to refresh his memory. Hidden among a mass of valueless
papers in Brechin, it only came to light the other day. It was written without
the remotest thought of its ever being printed, and bears scarce any evidence
of correction; but it must have been composed, as our readers will see for
themselves, with studied care; and it is not unlikely that its production may
have been used by Mr. Guthrie as a means of practising composition and
improving his style. As one of the comparatively few productions of his early
manhood which we now possess, and as containing much, - not only interesting in
itself, but characteristic of its author, we give longer extracts from it than
we should in other circumstances have done
On Wednesday, 6th December, 1826, I planted my foot for the first time on the soil of France, and I could not forget (who that loves the privileges that Great Britain enjoys, or reveres the memory of the brave and good men who fell fighting in their defence, could forget!) that the soil on which I now stood had witnessed, more than any other, the triumphant force of British arms.
In a small town, on our way to Paris, I met a priest who was, without exception, the most reverend-looking figure I ever saw. He was feeble and bent with the weight of years, and, when he walked, tottered slightly. He was attired all in white, excepting a black tippet on his shoulders, over which fell and curled, from beneath his black skull-cap, in rich profusion, locks of snowy whiteness. The old man had a noble brow, and there was much benevolence expressed in the look which he lifted up his bowed head to cast upon us as we passed. He was preceded by a boy, carrying a large, richly-chased silver cross, elevated on a long pole; and, as it was the first living exhibition of Roman Catholicism I had seen here, I looked on the scene with no little interest.
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Paris - 3O, Rue Cassette. 1826. 16th December.
I went on Sunday, through streets where almost every shop was open, to another church, called St. Etienne. I had no sooner entered its vestibule, than I heard a voice which made every arch and aisle of the mighty building sound back its tones of sorrow and of earnest pleading. Passing in, I found myself in the midst of a large assembly, who were listening with the most profound attention to a monk, who, attired in his wide black robes, with his cowl thrown back off his head, addressed the people from a pulpit placed in front of one of the pillars. His gesticulation partook of extreme violence ; at one time, he spread forth his hands to the multitudes, as if appealing to them; at another, he lifted them up to heaven, as if appealing to God; while the clenched fist and sparkling eye showed now and then that from the throne of St. Peter still thundered forth the anathemas of the Church of Rome.
In returning home I passed one of the oldest Roman Catholic ehurches in Paris. I entered, and it was a scene of magnificent splendour It was impossible not to admire it as a piece of show; but, as the worship of the true God, it was impossible not to abhor it.
Its effects were strikingly and appallingly illustrated on my return home. Almost close by the door of the church sat a juggler; around whom an immense crowd was collected. The streets were crowded with people amusing themselves; the shops were brilliantly lighted up ; the doors of the theatre were already thrown open; the noise of business and mirth was heard in every quarter; the servants when I returned were gaily singing songs. All Paris was in arms against its God.
In walking through the streets I have been astonished by the enormous size of the dogs in Paris. The largest dogs are a species of mastiff, and, absolutely, many of them are almost the height of calves. They are much used for drawing small vans, and I have seen many of them pulling a prodigious weight. You see also dogs of the smallest size. I saw one in the Luxembourg one day - and an old, cankered-looking wretch, too, it was at least one-half less than the smallest I ever saw in Britain; a cominon sized rat would have drubbed it in a jiffey! We used to speculate at Keithock upon my bringing home a dog; and, had I been returning some weeks ego, I believe I should have bought one on the Pont Neuf. There are vast numbers of them in cages on the Pont Neuf snd those which struck my fancy were four little puppies that were suckled by a cat. I used often to stand and observe them; the little rascals were sometimes disposed to be troublesome to their more than natural mother, by sporting with her tail and biting her ears. Puss bore this patiently when she was not oppressed with sleep; but frequently, a proper blow on the aide of the head with her paw made some of the little rascals whine- for daring to disturb her slumbers. They seemed, however, to be very fond of each other; and, considering the character of their wet-nurse, I should have liked one of them very much.
1827. 1st January.
Yesterday I set off from Rue Cassette for the Church of Ste. Genevieve, to witness the splendid caremonies of the day of the saint. The church, splendid of itself, was this day magnificently decorated. . . . Every sense was gratified by the exhibition. Banners from whose golden tops I large white ostrich feathers floated, crosses of prodigious value, dresses of amazing richness, the multitude of priests, the Archbishop with his lofty bearing, the rich tapestry, the profusion of light, and the noble building, afforded to the eye ten thousand gratifications. The silver censers diffused their aromatic fragrance; while the music now rolled like thunder, now fell upon the ear sweet and soft as an angel's song.
These gratified the senses; but, alas! there was nothing to satisfy the longings of a famished soul, or to save it from destruction. In place of bread, it was a painted stone; in place of fish, it was a poisoned serpent. Cruel fathers, and traitorous shepherds, and guilty deceivers that these priests are! Pity for the people made me burn with indignation against them ; - and when I turned my eyes from a woman who knelt upon the cold stone, heaved audible and heavy sighs, shed tears in profusion from her eyes, that were mournfully fixed upon the figure of our Saviour, and who finished her prayers and the telling of her heads by kissing the marble that was wet with the tokens of her sorrow, - when I looked from this deluded but interesting victim, to the proud Archbishop, bearing himself as high, dispensing pardon as freely, and receiving bonours as great as if he were a god, I almost felt that I could, like another Melville, seize the trappings of Popery and curse them before his eyes; or, like more than another Melville, hurl the mitre from his head and trample it beneath my feet.
Close by my boarding-house is a large building, with a beautiful garden attached to it, belonging to the Carmelite nuns, and night and day are they ringing to prayers, to my great disturbance. Farther on, you reach the gate, near which the gallant Ney was shot for treachery, of which almost every man in France was guilty. He was brought out from the Chamber of Peers, and, almost secretly, led to this spot. No monument marks the place where the brave soldier fell, but there is not a Frenchman in Paris but knows it well. He stood on one side of the road, with his back to the wall of the Luxembourg garden, while the soldiers pointed from its other side their murderous guns at his undaunted breast. The French, for long after, wrote upon the wall at the dead of night epitaphs to his memory, and then deep curses against the Bourbon family. These, every morning, were carefully erased; and now, all that points out this spot, consecrated in every Frenchman's eyes, is a long black line drawn upon the wall.
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My teacher, old Count Robiano, was here to-day, bowing and scraping as usual. He began by asking me if I was to go to Mademoiselle Lafond's soire? I soon satisfied him upon that subject; and began another with him, which he loved much less, - questioning him regarding difficulties in the French language. And I did torment the old rascal with amusing satisfaction! I abhor the old wretch on account of his vicious character; and he abhors me on account of my questioning one. Of this he has complained to one of my acquaintances, telling him that I was a terrible fellow. He is, I suppose, near seventy; a little man, with the long, sharp, half-Roman nose of a Frenchman; with grey hairs, feeble and bent body - acquired partly by his dissipated habits, partly by old age, and partly by the length of time he has practised the bowing and bending manners of a Frenchman.
The other night we had tea in Heddle's room. Heddle told an anecdote so creditable to the Duke of Kent that I resolved to record it. There can be no doubt of its truth, as he is acquainted with the person concerned, and also with his friends.
There lived in Orkney a minister who had two sons; and to procure a church for one of them was the utmost he could do. The other thought of entering the army; but then he had not one friend in the world to procure him a commission. The case was desperate, and it forced him to a desperate remedy. He brined the bold and original resolution of addressing himself to the Duke of Kent. He penned a letter to the Duke, which must, from the happy result of it, have no doubt been nobly written. It was posted silently and secretly; and in a short time the postman brought a letter to him written by the Duke's secretary, saying that he was commanded by the Duke to desire him immediately to come up to him. - In doing so he lest no time; and at last found himself in the room where the Duke's secretary was sitting. He had sent in his card to the Duke; and, when commanded to appear before him, he passed the secretary, who said to him, "If the Duke ask you what regiment you would prefer, say that you would prefer his own." The young Orcadian at last stood in the presence of Kent, who took him by the hand and received him in that kind, frank, and protecting manner which he says he will never forget. The Duke then asked him in what regiment he would like to be. Like a canny Scotchman, he took care to profit by the hint of the secretary; and in a few days received an appointment in the Duke's Own.
Peace, peace to the manes of Kent! an act like this of secret, private feeling, and honourable generosity, does more honour to his memory, than though the names of a thousand victorious fields were inscribed upon his tomb.
Morning and evening I work. Instead of sitting up late at night, I now labour in the morning, as less injurious to health - so, at least, people say. But I have another and a stronger reason, - it saves wood. I go to bed about twelve; and by means of a fumarde (for which I paid ten sous, and should only have paid eight), I light my candle, and read and write in my bed, until I can do so by the daylight. I thus save two hours of fire; for I determine not to sleep above six hours - in fact, I frequently have not above five.
As to French, I find myself making considerable progress ; but in understanding the professors, I am still far behind. Of many whole sentences I can only form a very imperfect idea; while it is only now and then (and by such attention as a company assembled after a funeral to hear the will read, give to the lawyer when he unfolds its interesting details) that I can follow them.
I sometimes almost despair; and am like a shipwrecked sailor who is buffeting the roaring waves, and would cease to struggle with the danger did he look only at the distance he is still from the blessed shore, and did he not turn his head to mark, with gladsome heart and brighter hopes, the progress already made from the wreck of the fated vessel.
The weather very changeable - slight frosts frequently in the morning, a fine clear forenoon, and slight rain at night. I yesterday expected, and to my great pleasure received, when at breakfast, a letter from Clementina. When I had finished reading it I departed for the French Protestant Church, where I met Everett.
After the precentor or clerk, who by-the-bye wears bands, had read two chapters and sung as many psalms (a custom which, I think, was at one time common in the Church of Scotland), the minister appeared. He was an old, dark-complexioned, sour-lookng man, with a white powdered wig upon his head. The worship was conducted in a way very similar to ours. I had heard him once before, and I was sorry to find that I had no reason to change the opinion which I then formed of him. His prayers were grievously dry, and, being so, agreeably short. As to his sermon, it was quite in the style of Blair and the Church of England orations, - an attack upon the riches and honours of the world; while the old man, at the same time, took the best of all care in the arrangement of his gown, to show to me and others that he was decorated with the Cross of St. Louis. This little inconsistency I could, however, have passed over if the sermon had been evangelical; but it was not. The way of redemption was hardly noticed; the name of Jesus Christ he did not mention throughout his discourse.
Still, a few traits of the piety and purity of the original Church were to be seen; they stood like the ruins of once noble building - a few melancholy pillars which had survived the general wreck, monuments of the dead. I allude, among other things, to the admirable, and profitable, and serious-like custom of reading and singing while the congregation collecting, and to the preface which both precentor and minister employed before beginning the different: parts of the work: "Give your devout and religious attention," etc.
The French are fond of acting or spouting their sermons, - shutting their eyes, turning them up to heaven, and - cutting such capers with their hands, and throwing such tones into their voice as an actor does on the stage. I have now heard two Protestant French ministers, but none of them can, in point of touching fervour, and real unfeigned, enthusiasm, compare with the cowled monk I heard in St. Etienne.
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Everett is the only one among the young fellows here who seems to have any religious principle; and he appears, from his conversation, to have read and pondered seriously many religious books.I intend to cultivate his acquaintance, for it is a great but a rare pleasure here to meet a person who wears even the semblance of religious principle.
Most of the English leave all their profession of religion and the great body of the French are avowed infidels, believing in no God except some Being of their own fancy's creation, for whom, at any rate, they have neither love nor fear . They feel no shame, but glory to declare this; and who, asked what religion they profess, they will say "Oh, we are Roman Catholics to appearance. If, however, we saw any necessity for changing (which we do not, as it is all the same to us, we would become Protestants."
They never live for tomorrow, and think that a day spent without amusement is a day lost. Those of them who have been in London complain that it is insufferably dull. Almost every evening, Madame -St. Marc and the ladies, along with even the French fellows who profess to be students, spend either at the-card table or theatre. They would soon measure the depth of the Seine if doomed to the intolerable fate of spending the forenight [evening] in quietly and tranquilly reading a book in thier own rooms.
I was once disposed, to think the French an honest people; but since they heve played some of their swindling tricks upon myself, I have widely changed my opinion.... I could relate e multitude of such cases, but it would be a useless waste of paper to insert them; and so I shall conclude this subject by remarking, that I neither like French weather nor French ways, French men nor French manners.
The interesting episode of Mr. Guthrie's acquaintance with a Jesuit seminarist is alluded to in the Autobiography. He mentions him for the first time in a letter to his sister Clementina;, dated 17th January, 1827, where he says
But I hasten to introduce to your notice Monsieur Fevrier.He is my principal companion, and generally spends the whole forenight in my room. You are doubtless anxious to know what he is - well, I will tell you. My chief companion is neither more nor less than a Jesuit! Tell John Mill that, and his eyes will start out of his head; and Meggy Stewart will take another pinch of the brown snuff, and say, she does not believe it! It is, however, true. He is not exactly a priest, though he was educated amongst them, and tells me that he has preached; and I assure you he does not disgrace the Jesuits. He is a very clever, and, what is better, a very good man. If you knew Fevrier, Jesuit as he is, you would esteem him highly, and see in him ten thousand points of admiration. He is a lad of most rigid principle, and condemns loudly the vices of the French - and that, everywhere, without fear. Roman Catholic as he is, would to God that all Protestants were like him.
He has come from Lyons, for the purpose of obtaining a situation as Latin teacher - a language which he speaks with ease. He is very poor, I fear; and his wasted hands, and the flushing of his pale countenance look as if he were fast sinking into consumption. I feel sorry to think that Fevrier should be a Catholic, and have repeatedly attempted, to bring him to a conversation upon the merits of his Church; and almost as repeatedly he has eluded me. He seems to be quite restless - when I direct the conversation in that channel; looks at me sometimes when I am drawing to the point with a countenance in which suspicion is strongly marked; his dark face expresses extreme anxiety, and I see fear evidently lurking in the sidelong looks with which be casts his black eyes upon me. I am thus obliged to act with extreme caution; otherwise, I doubt not, Fevrier would at once dissolve acquaintanceship. The difficulty is, to get the subject introduced apparently without intention.
Such an opportunity occurred three days later; for we find Mr. Guthrie thus writing in the Journal, which we now resume
1827. 2lst January. Lastnight, about half-past nine, Fevrier entered my room and took his usual seat close by the stove, with a foot on each side of it and his body inclining above, while his hands were placed upon its top. He began to tell me of some conversation which had been carried on in the lodge, which somehow or other led me to remark that Thuophilus did not seem to hold confession in much respect. This led me to ask how often it was necessary to make confession; until the conversation at last gave me an opportunity of denying the necessity or propriety of Roman Catholic confession, which was answered on Fevrier's part by a scowl of horror, an expression of surprise at my ignorance, and a load and violent asseveration of its pre-eminent necessity. I told him calmly that his asseveration (any more than the asseverations of his priests) was not suffioient, and that he must prove it. He then began some rigmarole story about Mother Church, to which I replied that I did not give a fig for the opinions of Mother Church, nor of any body of fallible men and that my only authority was "that book " (giving a slap on the boards of the French Bible which I taken up from the table). Holding out the Bible to him, "Prove, said I, "the doctrine from the words of Divine Revelation, and I will believe it." I maintained that I was as well able as the priests to declare, that, if he believed in Christ, his sins would be forgiven; and that the priests, in this respect, were on a level with myself - fallible, as he could not deny that they were, and sinners, as he could not deny that they were. I dared him to prove that they were, in any one respect, more warranted to make such a declaration than myself.
At this, Pevrier's passion (which had been awakened shortly - after the commencement, and increased as the discussion progressed, became perfectly ungovernable. Every limb of his body shook with rage; he foamed at the mouth, and, with eyes full of fury, be clenched his fiat, and, extending his arm, thrust it almost into my face, while he forced out from his choking throat and set teeth something about me (by comparing myself with the priests) having committed an act of high and impious presumption.
It was now half-past twelve, and the whole house was buried in sleep; while I sat alone in a room, the object of a Roman Catholic's and a Jesuit's fury, who glared upon me as if he could have thrust a dagger in my heart. The idea of danger rushed upon my mind; for, more than once, Fevrier looked as if ready to deal out to me something harder than his arguments. But, secure in the consciousness of my own personal strength, I knew I could easily master him; and, wrapped in my cloak, I lay back in my chair, coolly watching his motions, and calmly eyeing him during this violent burst of rage.
When he seemed to have exhausted himself, and sat frowning like a demon upon me, I, with a calmness and self-possession which astonished myself, sat up erect on my seat, and, taking the Bible in my hand, held it up, while I fixed my eye steadily upon him, said, "Behold, Monsieur, the only authority which I acknowledge, the only authority which, independent of the whole Roman Catholic Church, you ought to acknowledge. That book claims a divine origin; and I defy all the priests on earth to prove that, to use its own language, it is not all profitable for doctrine, for reproof; for correction, for instruction in righteousness. "
He, in a few minutes, again renewed the combat, by quoting a Latin passage, and calling upon me to reply to it. I said I should willingly do so when he showed me the impression in the sacred writings; and, putting the Bible in his hands," Show me it, said I, "Monsieur." He sat at least a quarter of an hour silently looking for it, during which I sat looking him in the face; and observing his strongly-marked chagrin upon not finding it, I at last said to him, "You need look no longer, it is not there; and though it were, depend upon it you give a false meaning to it, because we never read of a single case where the Apostles took upon them to say that they forgave sins. And besides," said I, "Monsieur, I dare you to show me one single, one solitary passage from this - " (striking the one side of the Bible) "of tho word of God, to that" (giving the other side a sounding blow), "where confession to priests, penance, or anything of the kind, is inculcated, or in the slightest degree acknowledged;" and putting the Bible in his hands again, I said, "One passage, Monsieur, one solitary passage, I defy you to produce." In a short time he gave a loud and scornful laugh of triumph, and I wondered what upon earth the fellow could have stumbled upon. With an air of as much joy and pride as if he had just returned to this earth, and brought with him from heaven a charter constituting the Pope and his councils the true representatives of God upon earth, he pointed to a chapter in Matthew, and read aloud a verse where Christ promises to give to his disciples the power of casting out devils. I could not resist asking, with a stare in which irony and astonishment were blended, "What of that? It is true; but what has that do with the matter?" . . - Having the Bible in his hand, he began again to fumble in it for his priest-born quotation; and after another quarter, with as little success as formerly, I told him again that it was not there, and that he must seek for it somewhere else; and that, moreover, as it was now well on - to two in the morning, he must defer his search to another opportunity.
Shortly after this we bade each other bonsoir; and I went to my bed, hoping that the discussion might, through God's blessing, prove of some benefit to him, well pleased that I had maintained throughout such command of my feelings (never having, for four or five hours close debate, lost temper but once, and that only for a moment), and grateful to Dr. Chalmers for having aided me effectually in finding apt quotations by his book of references.
22nd Jenuary. -
Yesterday mowing I was engaged with my coffee in the salle a manger, when Fevrier entered. He bowed rather coldly to me, and the cloud was on his brow. I was pleased to see that he felt chagrined at the result of last night's discussion; and in proof that his belief in the infallibility of the Roman Catholic dogmas was rather shaken, he had no sooner entered than he told Madame of the debate (she, by the bye, cares no more for the differences between Roman Catholic and Protestant, than she does about those which doubtless subsist amongst the inhabitants of the moon), and, apparently not confirmed in the belief of his own opinions, asked her if she thought he was right.
I then set off for Mark Wilks service, which is held in a part of the Oratoire. The preacher was a Mr. Hodge, an American professor, who had come to Europe for the purpose of studying the Oriental languages. He intended to do so in Germany, but was at present studying French in Paris, as a medium of communication with the Germans. He was a young-like, intelligent, fair, good-looking, thin, and rather little man; and gave us a capital sermon from the 19th verse of the fifth chapter of 1 John. The singing was very beautiful. The English sounded most sweetly and pleasantly to my ear. It brought vividly before my mind's eye memories of my native land; while the smallness of the numbers, the upper room in which we were met, the irreligious and idolatrous country in which we were maintaining the pious worship of God, reminded me of the infant state of the Christian Church.
On returning to Rue Cassette, and entering the porter's lodge, I was well pleased to see Fevrier sitting with a New Testament in his hand, searching for his mighty passage; it showed that he doubted. After dinner, I went for my candle, when Fevrier came in; we had no opportunity of speaking since the debate. I asked him some question. He came up, took me affectionately by the hand, and clapping me on the shoulder, called me "bon enfant " (an expression of kindness among the French). I asked him to come up at night, which he did. He never spoke of Saturday night's discussion, neither did I, intending to wait a day or two for precaution's sake. He is off to-day to visit his friend, the head of the La Charite nuns; and I am expecting that he will come with her explanation of the difficulty. WELL, LET THEM ALL COME ON!
Some days ago we had the "Jour des Rois " - the day of the kings. Who these kings were I could not possibly divine; until told by Fevrier (with astonishment on his part at my ignorance, and amazement on mine at his credulity) that these kings were the Magi, who came from the East to worship our God. "Kings " I could not help saying, "kings, Monsieur! Who made them kings? I am pretty sure that, in the only book which gives us any account of them, we hear nothing of their Royal Majesties." Monsieur Fevrier had nothing to say; and so the subject dropped. I do believe that if the Council of Trent had declared that the Apostle Peter was Khan of Tartary or Bey of Algiers, the people would have swallowed the camel-sized, the mountainous falsehood without a single strain. It would have slid down their throats as smoothly as an oyster!
But I forgot to mention the custom prevalent through all France, which alone induced me to notice this day of Roman Catholic kings. At dinner, in the middle of the table, there was placed a large cake or gateau, as they call it. Inside this is placed a nut or kernel. The cake is cut into as many pieces as there are people at table. Every person must take a piece; and he in whose piece the nut is found is constituted king of the company. He must choose from the ladies a queen, and present the company with a repast. I was informed of all this before the cake was sent round ;and I resolved to be out of the scrape, and accordingly arranged with Heddle that, if the stone fell to the share of either of us, we would swallow it! Heddle and I having calmed our anxieties with this magnanimous resolution, we began to speculate upon the fun we would enjoy if it fell to the lot of Boots and, strange to say (to our loud laughter and unbounded joy), it did! I could hardly regain my gravity, and, as the laughter grew louder, Boots appeared, from his looks, to be in a perfect perplexity whether to laugh to get angry, or to become abashed. He at last decided for the second, and childishly angry he became, and his nose, ay, to its very point, grew furiously red - like some strange and portentous meteor in the heavens, that bodes ill to man. Fierce grew his face, and bright was the fire of his dark rolling ee, when I said that had I had the happiness to have been elected king, I would have done what I would advise him now to do - to choose no other than Mademoiselle Hiver herself, - ay, none else than the lantern-jawed, gaunt, and bony (not bonny) Mademoiselle Hiver - aged, I suppose, about fifty! Boots would not choose: though we got him at last convinced that he must give a supper, and he growled like a bear over the anticipated loss of his forty francs.
I have seen and conversed with a number of old soldiers, and, in fact, every man almost in France seems to have been a soldier; and it is really laughable to a person who knows anything about the history of the last twenty years, to hear them still ranting about their invincible prowess, and their glorious immortality. One would believe, from their conversation, that the King of France was sole emperor of the earth, not even excepting the dominions of the late Pomare of Otaheite; and that the honour of France, instead of having been torn to tatters by the Lion of Britain, ay, on every soil, had waved triumphant over us, the "proud islanders," as we are called.
A friend of Adolphe St. Marc's and I had a regular set-to for at least an hour and a half upon these subjects. I stood stoutly up for my country against them both; though I did not go so far as Richie Moniplies, in thinking that a lie, though bad enough in other cases, redounded much to one's credit when told in praise of one's native land. Still, I do not wonder much that Richie, blessed with no very acute moral sensibilities, should have held and acted upon: this maxim. I never felt more national pride, or more mental gratification, than when I have stood amongst a band of Frenchmen, and, in rep]y to their weak attacks upon my country, bade them look to our character, - to our riches, to the extent of our dominions, to our navy riding triumphant on the waves of every sea, to our ensigns planted in every quarter of the globe, to the history of the last twenty-six years, filled with a series of our own past successful battles, terminated on the land by Waterloo, and on the sea by Trafalgar.
Adele has left this house from an unfortunate quarrel with Madame St. Marc, who is a heartless sinner, and was horribly harsh to her. Adele came in the other morning and said, "Ah! Monsieur Thomas, I have come to bid you adieu. I am only sorry to leave you, and Monsieur Heddle and Monsieur Fevrier. I do esteem you very highly. My countrymen are bad, very bad, using bad words and committing bad actions; but your conversation has always been good, and your conduct has been always well principled; though a stranger and a foreigner, you have been always very kind to me. When you return to your native land, you will sometimes remember Addle." And with the tears streaming from her eyes, she went out of the room, - and before she shut the door, again looked in and said, "Adieu, Monsieur Thomas, adieu." I have not felt so sorry this long, long time. It is no common pleasure to find one virtuous person with whom one can converse. We think little of virtue and principle in Britain, but here, where it is rarely to be found, one accounts it a brighter gem.
Paris is the best place in the world for pursuing any science, saving those of morality and religion. As to everything else, Paris possesses prodigious advantages. You have lectures on every subject, and that gratis - excepting in a few cases, when you have to pay a trifle of "Inscription," or "matriculation", which I think you have to do at the Ecole de Medecine. It amounts to about twenty shillings, or something of that kind.
While there are lectures on every subject, these are delivered by the first men. Their mode of election in Paris is admirable. The professors meet in a hall open to the public; and instead of examining the different candidates for a chair, they, the candidates, examine each other, and in Latin too, I think. The candidates will consequently take care, if they are blessed with the shadow of common sense, that such a thing as formal and superficial examinations shall be unknown in France (unless when the sounds of our Northern doings happen to come 80 far south), and the law of the land takes care that there shall be no such thing as closet or back-stairs transactions. Hereditary chairs are, consequently, unknown, unless the son can prove by the trial of a public examination, carried on by the merciless heads and hearts of his opponents, that he inherits his father's pre-eminent abilities. Such an animal as ? would astonish the French; and my friend Geoffroi St. Hilaire would, I suspect, find some difficulty in assigning him his proper place amongst human monsters!
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Hotel de l'Etoile du Nord. Quai St. Michel.
On Wednesday evening I dined for the last time in 80, Rue Cassette. Heddle and I rather mournfully shared our last bottle of wine; for, though I cared not a fig for the people, yet I had formed something like an attachment to the walls of my little room, to the humble stove which had so often warmed me with its heat, and once nearly killed me with its carbonic acid; and to the plain little oaken table, beside which I had passed many a happy, many a melancholy, and many a studious hour. There was also the sad idea of parting with Heddle, who was very kind to me when I arrived, a total stranger, in Paris; to whom Scotland was as dear to him as it was to me and with whom I had often indulged in sweet reminiscences of the virtue and the valour, the honesty and uprightness of my native land. And to Boots, also, I had to bid farewell, who had,afforded us such a fund of amusement, and who, with his many boyish faults, was yet a downright and good-hearted fellow...
I bade farewell to a house to which Bonaparte, at one time, had daily gone, and where many of the scenes of the Revolution were planned; to a street celebrated last autumn for the assassinations which were perpetrated within its bounds; and to the bell of the Carmelite convent whkh had so often, and so early, rung me to my books and studies, as it had the nuns, my next neighbours (whom, however, I had never the pleasure of seeing), to their penances and prayers.
I am now in the Hotel de l'Etoile du Nord, which is neither more nor less than a large lodging-house. In this one there are about thirty rooms, almost all full. Everett, a Frenchman, and I breakfast with the people of the house. The Frenchman is a very intelligent fellow, who, like all the Frenchmen I have seen, has read Walter Scott's novels in French, and has, moreover, read many English books in the English language. He writes for the periodicals, and is, according to Everett, an atheist; so that I expect before leaving Paris to have some tough battles with him. There is in the house a grandmother (to begin, like an Irishman, at the beginning); a father, who is an industrious old boy, that by his own economy and labour has built the hotel; a mother, who, like the father, is a very pleasant sort of person; then there comes a family of daughters, without one son, none of whom have any great claims, whatever their pretensions may be, to beauty. From what I have seen of them, and from Everett's report, they are very pleasant, modest, polite, well-behaved girls, who are, in fact, less Frenchified than any I of the inhabitants of Paris I have yet seen. The salle, where we breakfast, is on the ground floor, and there I sit and converse ordinarily an hour every morning. At night again, before lighting my fire, I spend another hour there. The girls are sewing; the mother, her oldest daughter (who is married), and old granny, are seated round the stove; papa, with his cap on his head, is pacing about the room; while, in one corner, two or three Italians are pouring forth the smooth and oily streams of eir native tongue; in another, two or three Frenchmen are debating upon the probability of a Revolution, and I am generally among these politicians; in another, a club of Englishmen are slurring over the rr's; while, above these motley sounds, rises the strong and musical voice of a Welshman, who had studied in Edinburgh, and who is making the room ring to the tune and words of "Will ye go, lassie, go to the braes o Balquidder "
11th February. -
This morning, about eleven, I left my lodgings for the Champs Elysees to hear Way, an English preacher, of whom Boots had spoken in high terms, - though, if I had been to judge from the effects it had upon Boots, I would have been led to form but a poor opinion of his talents; for Boots acknowledged that, after the worship was concluded, he treated himself with a sight of the bear and dog-baiting at the Place des Combats. . Having procured a seat with difficulty, I sat down beside my old friend Boots, who recognised me with a smile and a nod, and had hardly got myself arranged when I was struck with the preacher's loud defiance to all atheists, infidels, Socinians, and scoffers at the Gospel, to prove the contrary of what he maintained. I thought I had fallen on my feet now, and so set myself for profound attention, which was immediately fixed by the preacher declaring, - .in the tones of a man who is maintaining the truth, - the object be had always had in view in what he had preached, wrought, and written. Then, striking on the Bible which lay before him (for he had no paper), "I find these doctrines there;" and then, beating his breast, "I have felt them in my own heart!" Having, in proof of some position or another, referred to the case of Philip and the eunuch, he said, "Ay, it would be well that we followed the example of this eunuch - that, when travelling from one city to another, we employed ourselves in reading the Scriptures."
I was so well pleased with this touch, that I took out my box for a snuff, and made such a horrid noise (the people paying such profound attention) that I had three or four real British faces instantly fixed in wonderment on me. I, however, no ways abashed, took my pinch, quite delighted with my situation; and in a little time heard him declare that the end of all things was near at hand; that at present, as in the time I of righteous Noah, the world was lying in wickedness, and particularly the cities of continental Europe; that, as the antediluvian inhabitants asked where were the waters that were to float the mighty bark which was built on the dry and solid earth, so the scoffers and practical infidels of our day now ask, "Where is the promise of His coming?" Then, raising himself up, and, prophet-like, stretching out his arm, he declared, " He shall come like a thief in the night. The very waters which once rolled their mighty tide over this earth shall be decomposed, and shall thea roll over you, scoffers and worldly men and unbelievers, their flood of devouring fire!"
Way's sermon was most decidedly orthodox, and ably conceived and executed. He is rather eccentric in his manner of expressing himself, and too much given to fanciful speculations upon the prophecies of the Apocalypse, He seems to be infected with the same disease as Edward Irving - a mania of prophecy- interpreting, from which I cannot see the probability of any good results. In spite of these minor faults, Lewis Way occupies, with great glory to God and great honour to himself, this most important ground. To send such men as - here, is worse than an error. We must have such men as Chalmers, or Thomson, or Gordon - men not only sound in principle, but giants in intellect; none of your milk-and-water, commonplace, old-wife, drivelling fellows, who were fitted by nature to weave no web but an Osnaburg, to figure on no board but a tailor's; but men who, animated with divine enthusiasm, can grapple, by their talents, with the champions of infidelity, and rouse, by their stirring eloquence, the latent passions of the soul.
I entered one day the large and old church of St. Eustache; and there I saw for the first time the relics which the pretres pretend to hold, and the ignorant multitude do regard with much superstitious reverence. Had they been anywhere but where they were, I might have regarded them with hallowed reverence, - as having formed a part and portion of the men who shed the light of religion on earth, and have for ages, with the crown of martyrdom on their heads, shone on high as the stars in the firmament of heaven. But I knew that no dependence could he placed on these Roman Catholic legends; and that, moreover, these relics (though they had been collected from the ashes of the martyr at the foot of the stake) were now rendered by the priests subservient only to maintain the human mind in a . state of brutal ignorance, and thus to counteract the very object for which Eustache and his companions had gone joyfully to the death. And I knew that the martyrs, were they to rest for a moment on this earth, in passing on some message of heaven from one bright world to another, would be the first to cast their relics in the fire, and disperse the dust on the wings of the winds of heaven.
* * * *
The cat-like manner in which they bury the poor here, beats anything I ever saw; One day, when walking in the Boulevard, I followed the strange-looking hearse in which they are carried, not to their grave, but trench. It has a black-painted top, with black boards along the sides hardly high enough to keep the coffin in. On the dickey sits an old, wasted skeleton of a little figure, with a prodigious cocked hat upon his head, while his clothes, which had in ages past been black, have been bleached by the united efforts of many a sun and many a shower, into the less mourning colour of dirty grey. He, with the body and the hearse, are drawn by two miserable black nags, - the one probably blind in one eye, a defect, however, balanced, on the part of the other, by its being lamed in one leg. I followed this machine, immediately behind five or six women and two men who seemed to be mourners.
We at last arrived at the churchyard, about the middle of which the vehicle stopped, and two men coming up, out with the coffin upon their shoulders. Setting off at a round trot, they almost distanced me, who was looking for a moment at the spirit the old charioteer and his horses had plucked up; for no sooner had he got free of his load, than crack went the whip, and off went the horses through the churchyard in a style that bore some resemblance to a gallop.
I got to to the people with the coffin, just as they had arrived at the place where it was to be laid. This place was no other than a long trench or ditch of sufficient breadth to permit two coffins to lie across it. No sooner was the coffin laid in its place, than a new and affecting and more human-like scene presented itself. On the earth thrown out of the trench, on which I and the women stood, they all fell at once on their knees, and with eyes from some of which the big tears rolled, now directed down upon the poor and lowly coffin, now to the bright blue sky overhead, they remained for three or four minutes in prayer - offered in especial, doubtless, for the soul of the deceased. One by one they rose; and after one of them in particular had taken a long, last, sad, lingering look down into the trench, they slowly departed in a body.
The other Thursday, after many previous attempts to find Monsieur Jean-Baptiste Say, the great political-economist, I at last succeeded in seeing him. My letter of introduction was from Joseph Hume. . . . I went cheerily along, with the expectation of finding Monsieur Say in his study; and, as I knew he could speak English, jawing to him with ease in my native tongue. It will not be easy, then, to conceive my disappointment and my unmeasured amazement when the servant girl, opening the door, ushered me into a room, where Monsieur Say, Madame, and the two demoiselles were at breakfast. During the time I occupied in making a most polite bow to the company, - who had half-started from their chairs at my towering appearance, an(1 were gazing upon me in mute astonishment, - said I to myself; "This is a real ugly job: I have got into a pretty scrape." I had never attempted to murder the language of His Most Christian Majesty's dominions but in the easy presence of students, the vulgar presence of servants, and the ugly presence of Madame St. Marc. "But what now, Tom, art thou to do" thought I (as I sat down in the chair to which Monsieur Say pointed), "before these showy, polished, fine-looking demoiselles. To sit mute I must not, to speak good French I cannot. I am between the horns of a dilemma,, and upon the one or the other I must gore myself " While I sat, now surveying the lining of my hat, now giving it a rotatory motion upon my leg (as if employed in the process of hat-dressing), now regarding Monsieur Say reading the letter, now stealing a glance at the demoiselles whom my eye sometimes caught stealing a glance at me - and ruminating, amid the solemn silence, upon my most awkward situation, a ray of hope shot across the darkness. Thought I, "I'll make Monsieur Say speak English by doing so to him; and as to Madame, why, she may count her fingers; while, as to the young ladies, they and I will express our mutual friendship and admiration by the language of signs!"
So, seizing the moment when Monsieur had finished his perusal, I out with a good English sentence, in the shape of an apology for not delivering my letter sooner. The conversation had proceeded a little; and, though I saw Monsieur Say labouring under considerable difficulty in expressing himself, I had no pity for him, and had just begun to congratulate myself on my circumstances, when I was at once, and without any warning, obliged to shift for myself the best way I could, by Madame putting down her cup of tea, and, in French, asking me if I knew much of the language!
The cunning of Ulysses could not have helped him here; and so, resigning myself to my fate, I answered her in French. This produced another question on her part, and necessarily another answer on mine. Monsieur Say then joined the conversation, and Mademoiselle Say (for the other did not speak any) then used her pretty pipe; and, somehow or another, cheered and encouraged by her smiles, I succeeded in conversing with the fine-looking demoiselle with a comparative facility at which I myself was immeasurably astonished. Monsieur then went out of the room to write a letter of introduction for me to the Librarian of the "Institute," that I might be permitted to " assist" at its sittings, - not going there merely as a stranger, but to mix with its members. This, Brutin tells me, is a great and honourable advantage.
I was holding forth in an unabashed, amazingly good, but still blundering style, when Monsieur returned; and after being asked to attend the soirees (at which tea is given, and which are held every Wednesday night), I made my politest bows and withdrew; thanking Monsieur for his kindness, pleased with Madame, delighted with the demoiselle, and marvellously astonished at myself!
Having been accustomed to give in Edinburgh so much to the beggars, I resolved, when I came here, to resist, though much against my heart, every application of the kind; and have never broken my resolve, except in three cases. The first sou I threw in the cup of a blind man, which a dog, holding it in its teeth,, presented to me. The dog stood holding the cup so patiently, and looked up to me with such meek entreaty in his honest face, that my hand dived into my pocket, and the sou rattled in the cup before I was aware that I had transgteesed my law.
The third son was fairly charmed out of my pocket by the necromantic smiles of a Savoyard girl. The little elf might be about nine years of age. After I had passed, with a heart of stone, two or three of her mates who had arranged themselves along the street, it came to her turn to assail me. Instead of beginning the attack, as ours at home do, by a doleful groan and piteous face, she, as the boys and girls do here, said with a smile, which my weakness proved to be far more witching. "Ah, Monsieur, bon Monsieur, donnez- moi quelque chose " As I am irresistibly disposed to smile in return (the dangerous effects of which this case taught me), I now always make my heels my friend, and get out of the way of temptation as fast as possible. However, then, I unfortunately happened to smile in return. Seeing this, and judging that I was not altogether adamantine, she redoubled her battery; and smiling and laughing, she ran backwards before me along the street, until I at last gave in, giving her the son, and laughing at my own folly
* * * * *
Heard to-day another proof of the absolute and tyrannical character of the French Government. Improbable as it may appear to a freemen of Great Britain, not ~nore than twenty men, except when there are females also, dare to meet together to sit down to dinner!
At present the Bourbons may well tremble on the throne, unless they introduce a speedy and a radical change into their system of government. The people are as anxious for a revolution as the priests are opposed to it, and by their present measures paving the way for it. This bold attempt against the liberty of the subject, in the ministerial, or rather the priestly attacks upon the liberty of the press, has alienated almost every man from the present reigning family; and knowing, as the people do, that the priesthood is at the bottom of all these conspiracies against their privileges, they hate them from the heart; and do not hesitate to say (though they have no religion themselves, but in the knowledge that a religion will always subsist), "Ah, Britain is happy in having a Protestant religion; we wish we had the same."
Fevrier abhors the Bourbon Government, and dwells sweetly and sadly upon the memory, as they call him, of Napoleon the Great. I was walking with him to-day in the Luxembourg Gardens, and began, in too plain French, and in too loud a voice, such a hearty invective against the wretched Bourbons, that I forgot altogether where I was, until Fevrier, pointing to the soldiers who stood almost close by us, whispered in my ear something about " espions!" (spies.) I took the hint, and we immediately shifted ground.
A very melancholy circumstance lately occurred, which threw a gloom for some days over my acquaintance. Hay was not a personal acquaintance of mine; but I have frequently heard Heddle, Armstrong and Taylor (almost his only friends here) speak of him. He had a considerable property in Scotland; and, being of a peculiar disposition, had wandered almost alone for years upon the Continent, attended only by a Swiss servant.
Heddle, Armstrong, and Taylor called upon him on Sunday night; they found him in bed, complaining of his throat and a slight general illness. Though they counted it as nothing, still, as they knew that he was very careless of himself, two of them resolved to go and see him on Monday. Taylor and Armstrong called accordingly, were ushered into his room, and there lay poor Hay, - whom they had seen in almost perfect health the night before, and whom they expected to find completely recovered - stretched upon his bed speechless and motionless, and fast sinking into dissolution. The unexpected and appalling spectacle rivetted them for a moment on the threshold of the door, when Armstrong exclaimed, " Good God, Hay is gone!" and rushed forward to the bed where he lay. Hay turned his eyes upon them, and his look spoke more than a thousand tongues. Ho made an attempt to address them; but his lips refused their office, while the big tears chased each other down his pallid and sunken cheek, until the pillow below his head was soaked. Amid the ruins of his body his soul still evidently retained it throne, and when every other avenue of communication with this world was shut up, it threw an expression into his weeping eyes, which would have melted a heart of stone. He was evidently loth to leave this world; and I fear, from what I had heard of him, he had too much reason to be so. His situation was truly pitiable; and what was more so, it was past relief; his riches could not relieve it, the remembrance of the past could not, the friends who stood by him were ill-fitted to do so; and even though they had, he was out of hearing in the valley of death. Nature rapidly retreated; and on Monday night, by six o clock, Death was left alone with his prey.
Heddle, much affected, told me all this ; and he and Armstrong came to me the night before the funeral to beg of me to attend it. - Heddle, Armstrong, and I set off in a carriage, on the day of the funeral, to Hay's house.
There were no bustling servants, no gaping crowd, no weeping relatives; the stillness of death was in the house; none were there, but Taylor and the Swiss; and there was no living creature broke the silence of the dead man's dwelling, but a pretty little dog, of which Hay was very fond, and which, all unconscious of its loss, came amid its gambols to lick my hand and seek some attention.
When the English clergyman came, we entered the salle a manger, from which there was a door opened into the room where Hay lay. The light of day was almost excluded from the chamber; a dim and solitary lamp burned upon the chimneypiece, and its sepulchral light was reflected back from the gold border of the white satin mortcloth that covered the coffin, upon which was placed a crown and wreath of artificial flowers of the same colour. After two or three more of Hay's acquaintances and countrymen had entered, there was one - who had come with a letter of introduction to him two days before, and had found to his astonishment that he was dead - who asked Taylor if the "tomb" was screwed down. He was told it was. "Because," said he, with a broad Scotch accent, "it is a custom with us, you know, to take a last look of the deceased before the corpse is lifted." I was highly pleased with this specimen of nationality. His request was immediately granted. We entered the room, the mortcloth was removed, which displayed a coarse, unpainted, uncovered coffin. There was a lock upon it, which Taylor opened; the screws were taken out by the servant, and the whole top taken off. The body was only wrapped up in a long winding- sheet; this was tied at the head and feet, so that the face could not be seen until the knot was undone. The countenance was at last exposed; it was mild, like an infant's asleep; and, unless in the case of a fine-looking woman's, which I saw in the dissecting-room, I never saw features less marred by death. We looked for a few minutes on the shrouded body, and still and placid face of our countryman. If there was no tear shed, there was no word spoken. Absorbed in his own thoughts, each seemed to forget that he had any other there but the dead man before him. Taylor at last stepped forward, and tied again the knot that was never to be untied. The master of the ceremonies, dressed in a black cloak, with a cocked hat and mourning sword, now eame in to say that all was ready
In about two hours we reached Pere La Chaise. At the gate we came out of the mourning carriages, and, headed by the English clergyman, and like him, uncovered, we wended our way amid the tall and mournful cypresses, the tombs of marble where lie the mighty dead of France, the crosses and Virgins beneath whose protection the devotees repose, and the flowers and groves of laurel, up the mount at whose base Paris lay stretched out in the bright, unclouded sun. At the moment appointed in the service, the body was let down by the sextons, and, far from the place where his forefathers sleep, the earth of a strange land closed over our poor countryman.
Moore and I set off for Monsieur Jean-Alexandre Buchon, the editor of the Constitutionnel, - the first journal in point of talent in France.
We found Buchon sitting with a moustached Frenchman in his study. He was attired in a jacket, and a pair of worsted pantaloons that answered for stockings too. . (Mem. - To have, if possible, a pair of them.) He is a most acute and intellectual-looking fellow, with immense vivacity in his manner, and more of vigour than is usual among the French; such twisting of the body, such shrugging of the shoulders, such turning up of the eyebrows, such constant use of the hands, the staid inhabitants of Britain can form no idea of, far less practise. The principal subject of conversation was politics. Buchon appeared to me well entitled to that very first-rate estimation universally awarded to him. Many of his views, however, appeared without foundation; and I could observe in him, as in many others, a petty jealousy of the British nation, and a secret desire to detract from Mr. Canning's well - merited fame
Went the other day to call upon Monsieur Coquerel, the editor of the Protestant Review, a very pleasant young man, and intelligent also. He speaks English almost as well as he does French. We spoke of Presbyterianism, when he told me that the Protestants on the Continent were all with us in that respect - more even than their forms would indicate. I had just introduced the subject of the Apocrypha, when our conversation was interrupted by a gentlemen coming in, who was introduced to me as a Protestant clergyman near Paris, and to whom I was introduced as one "du Kirk," - the distinguishing title under which the Church of Scotland is recognised here.
He then asked me some questions about Chalmers, and told me that he was the only minister whose works were celebrated upon the Continent. I mentioned Robert Hall, but he had never heard of him.
Next day I went with the only remaining letter of Bowring's writing, more anxious to find the person to whom this was directed, than in tbe other cases. This arose from what Moore told me. Said he, "Have you any more letters?" "Yes," I replied; "I have one to a Monsieur Marc-Antoine Jnllien." "The villain," be replied; "I won't go near him; but go you, by all means." At this I was a little astonished, and asked for an explanation, when he told me a part of Jullien's history that makes me most anxious to see this human monster. I have called twice, but always failed; however, I yet hope to find him. He was no other than the secretary of Robespierre during the bloody times of the Revolution; travelled in this capacity about France, with a portable guillotine, and, in the execution of his most honourable and merciful office, is said to have been the means of chopping off the heads of at least twenty thousand individuals. I am determined to see and speak to this vampire.
I have spent many an hour in Notre Dame at these Conferences, with no small entertainment; and then repaired to the Chapel of the Virgin, to hear the last mass sung for the night. But I oftener withdrew to some dark, retired arch of the vast and magnificent pile, and enjoyed the solemn and sublime feelings which the scene before me was calculated to excite. The few candles that yet burned at some shrines offered barely to show long vistas of lofty pillars, amid which you could dimly descry a kneeling devotee, or the dark. figure of a cowled monk moving with slow and silent steps amongst them. The light from the eternal lamp shone faintly upon the golden crucifix and crosses and candlesticks that adorned the altar. The moonbeam was struggling through the lofty and richly-painted windows, to fall on the sad scene of our Saviour's or some martyr's death, represented by a master's hand; while the effect of all this was heightened, even to a feeling of awe, by the music that came softly swelling and rolling amid the mighty arches from the hidden shrine where the mass was sung. Sometimes the whole body of worshippers sang, and then the sound, though softened and blended by distance, was still strong and powerful. In a moment all was still as death, save the sounds that still faintly vibrated amid the lofty arches. Amid the oppressive and solemn silence the voices of the attendant boys rose shrill and clear, and during every pause they made, the choristers of heaven seemed answering to their song in the clear echo that prolonged the notes.
Quitted Paris for Brussels on Tuesday the 10th. Fevrier was in great distress about my leaving. On Monday afternoon found him waiting at the Hotel de l'Etoile in great tribulation; the Count, poor body, had also called repeatedly. Went with Fevrier to buy a present; he took a very cheap one, with which I was not pleased. He went off, more sorry to leave me than I ever saw any, not a relation. Set off next day for the Mont Royal with Heddle, Everett, and Geddes; embraced all the dames and demoiselles in the house, agreeably to French fashion. There was such a lot, I had a difficulty in finding if I had not missed any - a deadly offence. Wandered about for an hour. We all shook hands with real and mutual sorrow - mounted the banquette; turned about as I entered Montmartre to take a last view of them; took off my hat, and waved a signal of friendship; they were engaged in answering when the coach turned to hide me from them, and, as I thought at the time, it might be for ever.
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