|European Letters, by T.W. Patton to
The Asheville Citizen:
Description of the Tour of the North Carolina Teachers, During the Summer of 1889
LE GRAND PARIS. [pages 54-64]
|*Note: Copy has been re-formatted. Original two column format has been abandoned and special fonts have been standardized.|
LA GRAND PARIS
PARIS, August 32, 1889.
dear citizkn:—-"Je desire que mes cindres reposent sur Ics bordes de la Seine, au melieu de ce peuple Francais que j'ai taut aime."
To-day we read these last wishes of one of the world's grandest men, as we stood within n few feet of his mortal remains, resting as he desired, on the banks of the beautiful Seine, and surrounded by every evidence that the. French people loved him whether his professed love for them was sincere or not.
The tomb of Napoleon is in all respects appropriate to be the resting place of the great general. Its brightly, gilded dome flashes in the sunlight, as though to commemorate the splendor of his wonderful achievements, while the somber colored marble of which the mausoleum is composed exemplifies the sad ending of a life, in exile, far away from his home and his people. .
We could not but ask ourselves, how many of the thousands who flock to this spot and gaze down at all that is left of Napoleon Bonaparte reflect that this is but a sermon on the text of King Solomon, "All is vanity."
For the past fortnight we have enjoyed the most marvelous works of God, as seen in the mighty snow capped Alps, overlooking the calm peaceful lakes at their feet. To-day we have been engaged in the consideration of the most beautiful works of man, as they .abound on all sides of this, the most beautiful city of the world.
Although we have all heard Paris so described again and again, it is impossible to realize its exquisite beauty short of a personal visit. One is impressed by this upon first arrival—there seem no "slums" to .greet the traveler, such as usually abound near the railroad stations. Even the older portions of the city are made of well built houses, while the newer parts we do not think can elsewhere be equaled.
We cannot tell the impression the Tuilleries might have made upon our mind could we have seen them, but what is left, the Louvre, in all of its mighty expanse of building, fills us with amazement nearly approaching a we and teaches us how little we knew when we used to think that our public buildings iri Washington were marvels in architecture..
For a description of this palace of marvelous beauty we are at a loss at what point to begin. Naturally we are disposed to enter into statistics, so many feet or meters, but that would never satisfy us, and how could it you ? While it is surely the largest building we ever saw, it size is a secondary thought. Its admirable proportions seem to draw every part near to the beholder, and the distant statuary seems just at hand, but when approached by many hundreds of paces, the perfections in detail of each piece are brought to view, one begins to realize the marvelous skill of the designer.
The beautiful gardens which now take the place of the Tuilleries, which the Commune destroyed, make a lovely foreground to the magnificent rectangle of which three sides remain perfect, and extend to Le Place de Concorde, once the site of the dreadful guillotine, of which the exact spot is marked by an Egyptian obelisk, not so large as ours in Central Park, but much better preserved, as to its hieroglyphics, and equally out of place, as we think, in its present position.
These works of antiquity would possess great interest, if restored to their original pedestals, .and would there be visited by scholars, who would appreciate them, but here as in New. York, a gaping crowd, of whom we: are one, surround them, and their, flimsy jokes seem almost sacrilege. Surely some more suitable work could be suggested to preserve the
spot on which the poor Queen Marie Antoinette was murdered.
It is curious what an effect is produced upon the imagination as one stands upon the very spot made famous by history nnd. fiction. Perhaps we had not thought of "The Tale of Two Cities" for months, and yet as we stood>at this place we fancied we could hear the roll -of tumbrills and see brave Carton descend, holding fast the hand of his poorlittlecompanion and offering her comfort to the very last, and then stepping forward to give his life for that of his sweetheart's husband, and Madame Befarge's companions counting the guillotine's fall as they did their knitting, "Twenty-one! twenty-two! twenty-three ! Vive la Republique !
These French are curious people. In the eyes of the women one can see the spirit which produced the Revolution and the horrible Commune, while acrovvd of urchins follow our carriage for squares crying aloud "Vivc L'Anfflais," in hopes that an American may reward their patriotism with a centime.
If the French people do not impress us favorably, we must accord them the just praise of having produced the most wonr derfully beautiful buildings. We have this moment emerged from Notre Dame and are full of its grandeur, so full is our weak brain, that we in vain try to write our thoughts. We can only say that we feel not the oppression which attended our visit to Westminster Abbey, but have sensations of delight, although inexplicable.
An ascent of the tower is made by climbing three hundred and seventy-eight steps of stone, and in places they are as dark as Egypt, but the view obtained from the top amply repays the fatigue. The most attractive to us is the graceful curve of the flying. buttresses, rising from cither side to support the ponderous roof of the nave. To see these to advantage one must look down from above, as otherwise only one side can be seen at a time, but from the tower both sides are taken in at a glance, and the tout ensemble is wonderfully, exquisitely beautiful.
The whole city, too, is spread out below us and we see no cause to climb the dizzy height of the Eiffel Tower, although it is indeed a wonderful exemplification of engineering skill. The panorama as we have just seen it.is truly lovely. The bright silvery waters of the Seine divide to take, as it were, this grand old church into its arms, and reunite above and below the island on which it is .located, while .beyond its line the Hotel de Ville is seen, around which we have just driven, amazed at its wondrous loveliness.
The number of statues, and
paintings is absolutely bewildering,
and not being educated in an admiration of high art
we must confess to feeling sometimes
an intense weariness. Thus
to-day we were glad to leave
the gallery of the Palace de
Luxembourg, where the highest art prevailed, adorned in all its
nakedness, and to revel in real enjoyment" in its lovely
garden, where sweet flowers seemed
Among the many fine buildings . we have seen two that are especially worthy of note are the church of St. Sulpice and the Pantheon. The latter contains the tomb of Victor, Hugo, and is said to be a good copy of the grand Pantheon in Rome. The interior comprising several domes, of which the centre seems equal to that of our national capitol, is especially impressive, while the church was most attractive, differing from any we have heretofore seen, all of its paintings being of a most rich, but sombre [sic] character. We especially note that of the blessed Virgin and child, its peculiar light making it. appear far, far distant in its softness. The bronzes of the stations, of the cross, were also most interesting and impressive (fourteen in number) nor can we neglect to mention the wall painting of the dread scene on Calvary "Jesus dit, tout est accompli."
What swarms of Americans on every hand. Is any one left at home ? On yesterday, we tried one of Cook's city tours, and in our carriage holding thirty-five people twenty-five were our countrymen.
This tour was well arranged and gave a good idea of the geography of the city, so that we can manage for ourselves in future. A competent guide accompanied the party, and among other points of interest, visited the old cemetery of Pere La Chaise, where we saw the tombs of many illustrious men.
As our attention was called to the sup- ...
... -posed burial place of Marshal Ney, we could not resist the temptation to tell these Frenchmen, that North Carolina h as the honor of being the last home of the great soldier, who lived there many years after haying given the famous command "soldiers at my heart, fire;" in obedience to which only a discharge of blank cartridges was made, and a bogus Ney being buried, the real one was safely transported across the Atlantic, to become an old school teacher in Rowan county. This un-poetical suggestion did not seem to find much favor among our audience, so we did not press our point, but left these Frenchers to their idols. Good bye.
paris, August 25, 1889.
Dear Citizen:—The weather has been most unlike what one would expect in sunny France—very variable, showers of rain, and uncomfortably cool. So when we, in company with ten thousand other idiots, on yesterday ascended the famous Eiffel Tower we were quite satisfied with our experiment upon Teaching the second Etngc, or about half way up, and found that it could rain there quite as hard as any place we ever saw, while the floor was so badly drained that the water stood two inches deep. Owing to the crowd we could neither go up nor down, and never remember to have passed a longer half hour than while a waiting our turn to descend.
This is indeed a most marvelous structure, and one appreciates its immensity best, at the first floor, probably 350 feet above the ground, where is found quite a little village, including a restaurant, while on the next, or 600 feet high, is a publishing house, and the Daily Figaro is regularly issued.
Under the circumstances attending our visit the view was by no means satisfactory, and we regretted having wavered in our original intention not to visit the Eiffel Tower.
A second day at the exposition grounds gives a much more favorable impression than was gained at first, but yet we think that in some respects it falls far short of that at Philadelphia. So far as we have been able to see the grounds do not at all compare in beauty with ours, nor do we like so well the general arrangement of
the buildings. Here they are too much sub-divided by small galleries, and we miss the grand view we had of the whole main building at the American Centennial.
The dome over the chief entrance comes nearest to it and is the most attractive portion, both on its own account and because ornamented with the wonderful tapestries that are made here. It is indeed hard to conceive how these can be the product of looms. They look so like the very best oil paintings. Even the perspective is admirably preserved, and landscapes, flowers, birds, animals, portraits and statuary are reproduced in a manner marvelously natural.
So far as we have yet extended our inspection, we give the palm to Russia as having the best exhibit, especially attractive in its assortment of silks, malachite and furs, the latter particularly comforting this cold day; while those from Norway are well selected and most tastefully arranged, comprising several grottoes, showing in natural size the various animals and birds of that northern clime.
France's exhibit, of course, is most extensive, and we note some wonderful productions of glass, especially a ball of material for watch crystals, as clear as a soap bubble, but six feet in diameter. Also a pane so absolutely transparent that we attempted to walk through it, measuring twenty-six feet high and fourteen feet wide and weighing about 2,000 pounds.
Outside of the mechanical department the United States seem very poorly represented. Mr. Edison and Thompson & Houston have marvels of electricity. The phonograph of the former and the welding machine of the latter are both miracles. We cannot yet see much practical good of the phonograph. Its sound, while distinct, is distinctly mechanical, with a brassy effect that is disagreeable. But the welding machine is destined to revolutionize mechanical works. Only reflect that we saw two pieces of iron two inches in diameter, in less than one minute welded as fast as if it had never been severed, and without the expenditure of a particle of heat or labor beyond what was, needed to place it in the machine.
Tiffany & Co. seem to have tried to redeem the character of America, and present a very creditable display in silverware and gems. Among the latter we were glad to see several specimens labeled as from North Carolina, and the counties of McDowell, Alexander, Mitchell, Ashe, Macon and Clay are conspicuously represented.
This is our first Sunday in Paris, and we decided to attend service at the Russian church, which proved most attractive, both from the novelty and the great solemnity which attended it throughout. It seemed very strange to be in a church without chairs or any kind of seats. The congregation stood during the service, which only extended over an hour's time. The singing was exquisitely sweet and the intoning of the gospel by the priest was exceedingly impressive. The congregation took no part in the service farther than by very frequent bowings and crossings on the breast. In fact, every one except ourselves seemed to be doing this almost continually. The vestments of the priests were extremely rich, being chiefly made of silk and gold. Altogether it was a service to be remembered for its impressiveness, although performed in a language of which we could not understand a single syllable.
Our next mortification of the spirit, is to visit the Louvre, and its stupendous galleries of paintings. Oh! how we long to be able to appreciate these things, but we cannot and it is useless to try any longer. If it were not for the high art we might stand it, and in time learn to enjoy it, but the naked men and women, which the lovers of art stand before in rapture, become to us perfectly, absolutely monotonous, wearisome and disgusting. We know this is heresy, but candor compels us to acknowledge it. So even the magnificent rooms of this grand palace are quickly left for more congenial scenes, which we find by a walk through the gardens of the Tuilleries, and passed the lovely fountains of the Place de Concorde. Thence a cab carries us along that truly royal drive, the Champs Elysees, which brings us to the arch of Triumph, which we stop to examine and to admire, commemorating as it does the wonderful victories of the first Napoleon. And so on we drive to and through the Bois de Bolougne.
In this latter we are somewhat disappointed ; while very beautiful in some respects, the trees and undergrowth are allowed to be too thick, keeping out the sunlight and giving to all a damp, dark appearance. On the whole we do not like it half so well as our Central Park.
The best part of the Bois de Bolougne, is Le Jardin d'Acclimation which is filled with most lovely bright flowers, among which ramble many excellent specimens of rare birds and animals. The flock of ostriches is the best we have ever seen, and one of them affords delight to the children by drawing them in a cart over the smooth walk.
We think these specimens far better than any we saw in the Bi-itish Zoological garden. In fact we find ourselves often comparing our impressions of London with those of Paris, and decide that in each and every respect the latter is by far the most attractive and agreeable city, although we wish they would adopt a different style of cooking and arrangement of meals. What they call un petit dejeuner would make about one mouthful for one of our robust mountaineers, and when we are so utterly exhausted as to seek a drirk of cognac, our host presents us a glass about the size of an infant's thimble, and would be utterly horrified if we fill it more than once, while the flavor of the liqueur is such as to impress upon us how absolute!}' absurd such a measure is, and to make us look forward anxiously to our return to America, and our friend Loughran and others.
The water of Paris is so horribly bad that no one pretends to touch it; but they drink wine instead, and that so terribly sour that our pigs would raise an uproar of squealing if compelled to taste it. Maybe we will come to like it after a while, but we scarcely think it will be worth the effort, therefore will not try any longer but stop right now.
paris, August 28,1889.
Dear Citizen:—We think the best way to enjoy a city like this is to ramble around its streets without having any plan marked out for one's movements.
Everything is strange and new, and objects of special interest arise unexpectedly at each step. Of course, to follow this suggestion one must be strong and well, and fond of walking, because the distances are immense.
A stroll on yesterday began at the Grand Opera house, well named even in the English sense of the word grand. In Paris everything is "grand." Our landlady advertises "Grand Apartments to Let," and yet when we asked the chambermaid for a match she replied with amazement, "Madamc ne fournis point Ics allumettes."
But the opera -house is grand in the strongest sense of the word, and such grand prices prevail that we can only speak of the exterior; but that is truly beautiful and located at the junction of several principal avenues, so astoappear to the very^ best advantage. A half hour is well spent in walking around and admiring it.
Friends, have you ever visited the New York Stock Exchange in the busiest sea" son ? We have, and the scenes there are as the stillness of the tomb compared to what prevailed in the Bourse. Ten thousand Frenchmen, chattering, screaming, pulling, yelling, gesticulating, as only a Frenchman can, made a bedlam that Old Nick himself might envy, but never equal. If the amount of money made corresponded with the fuss they must be rich indeed. There being no objection made to strangers entering the principal room we did so, and enjoyed for a few moments the tremendous turmoil all around us.
THE PALAIS ROYAL,
We are told, used to be the residence ot some one of the old kings, no doubt one of the Louis, whose name is legion, but now has degenerated into magnificent arcades of shops. The building comprises a rectangle, enclosing a space of probably ten acres, which is adorned with flowers and fountains, while surrounded by innumerable shops, principally devoted to the sale of jewelry. Their many windows fairly flash with diamonds.
Our aimless walk taking us past this glorious building, we stop again and again to gaze in wonder at the achieve-
ments of art which so beautify its exterior, and to wish again and again that a cut could be had to give your readers an idea of its appearance. Without taking measurements we would say that when the Tuilleries were here the buildingmust have extended well nigh a half mile from east to west, with an average breadth of 600 feet. These dimensions we intend to include the space enclosed within the buildings, probably amounting to thirty acres, which contain now among many statues one most remarkable to Gam-betta, and an arch, similar but smaller to Napoleon's "Arch de Triomphe," called "La Place de Carousel."
Remember that this space which we estimate roughly at thirty acres is inside of the buildings which formerly entirely surrounded it, but now, the Tuilleries being destroyed, only the three sides remain.
Both the inner walls, facing upon this enclosed space, and the outer, fronting the streets, are almost covered from end to end with statuary and carvings in stone, while the very rocks of which they are built are worked in delicate traceries from top to bottom, from end to end, from side to side. We wish we could imagine the cost of this work. If as a basis of calculation we take the foundation of our Episcopal church, your whole four pages would be covered with figures.
The interior is no less msirvelous than the outside, and one is wearied in walking up and down the tremendous galleries covered from floor to ceiling with paintings bv the most renowned masters, while others are devoted to historic specimens, among them several crowns blazing with jewels, and a sword the whole hilt of which is one mass of diamonds.
Passing once more through the beautiful gardens which are an appropriate monument to the grand palace of the Tuilleries, and looking again at the lovely fountains of the Place de Concorde, we find ourselves near the Church of St. Magdalene, and at its entrance have a pleasant greeting from Mrs. Frank Coxe and daughter, whom we last met in Queen Mary's chamber at Edinburg. How sweet it is to have such meetings with kind friends just as one is beginning to feel lonesome, as though he were the only person in this vast throng who ...
... knew or cared anything about far away Asheville and the dear people it contains. Refreshed by Mrs. Coxe's cordiality, we resume our ramble and enter the huge church of
Which covers as much ground space as from Patton avenue to the Episcopal church in length, by probably half as much in breadth. Its exterior is remarked by the arcades of huge columns of massive stone, which surround both the ends and sides. The interior is adorned with many beautiful paintings, but is not equal in sculptures to the church of
which we by accident find as we pass along and are tempted to enter, much to our delight.
As we opened the door our eye was caught by a most peculiar arrangement of the altar. Situated at the junction of the nave and transept, it is surmounted by a carving representing the Nativity. The virgin leaning over the infant, who lies upon a pillow, with one little hand upraised, and as your eye catches the small finger you see that it is pointing to a scene of the crucifixion, apparently in the far distance, and softened in its sadness by a wonderful gentle light, which shines barely enough to make it visible. We do not remember ever to have seen a design which we thought so beautiful, and so thoroughly well carried out.
THE PLACE VENDOME
Next arrests our steps, and we walk around once and again the column in its center, and are moved at the wondrous skill of its builders. The body of this column which is 150 feet high and fifteen in diameter, is made of stone, but this material is completely covered with wrought iron, composed it is said of the cannon captured by Napoleon. This iron is worked into designs representing the campaigns and battles of the French, which ascend in a spiral curve, extending from the bottom to the extreme top, so high that an opera glass is needed to see the delicate traceries, while a figure of Napoleon crowns the whole, composed of the same material, iron.
This ramble, which we fear has proven too long for your patience, stops at
THE PLACE DE VICTORIES
in the center of which we find a bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIX, and it is a charming piece of work, complete in every detail, and from it we go homeward pondering on the strange peculiarities of this people. To pass along the principal boulevards as we have done tonight and see them thronged with gay, thoughtless people, the wide sidewalks half obstructed by chairs and tables surrounded by men and women, drinking wine with their late dinner, we are inclined to call them frivolous, incapable of any deep sincerity of feeling or purpose; and yet these same people have produced this city, and although a few years ago utterly crushed by cruel war, have recovered to a degree of prosperity attained by but few other nations, and imbued with a love of their country such as we wish we could inculcate in our people.
This is pathetically illustrated in the Place de Concorde, where the statue of Strasburg is draped in mourning; and we are told that the young girls have formed a society to renew the flowers from time to time, until Strasburg again belongs to France.
To us who have just passed over powerful Germany, it seems that these young maidens will have many centuries to test their devotion, but who can tell what a day may bring to pass ?
Before closing this letter we must tell you of the wonderful system of cabs, which enable Parisians with ease to get from place to place over this large city. We have never seen any mode of transportation half so convenient. The number must reach into the hundreds of thousands. At least they seem to be myriads, at no hour day or night, at any point here do we meet with any difficulty in finding one ready at command, and anxious for a fare at two francs (40 cents) per hour, carrying from two to six people, their speed depending upon how they are taken; if by the course, i. e. for a certain drive they go like the wind, but if by the hour, they can as nearly equal the snail's progress as any vehicles we have seen.
The greatest nuisance connected with them, and all other things in Paris, is the "pour boire," which is demanded as freely as we Americans demand a con-
tract. "Poor boy," our friend Sluder calls it, and says he don't see what right the girls have to style themselves so, but they do all the same. To give you an idea, last night we accompanied a young lady to the hippodrome, and although we had secured our seats beforehand, the pretty girl who showed us to them deliberately demanded "a pour hoire" and much to our confusion, we had after a pretended search in our empty pocket, to borrow a franc from our companion, otherwise the French damsel would have stood by us all night, and have made our lives a torment, as only ladies know how to do. Good bye.
paris, August 30, 1889.
Dear Citizen :— To-day was devoted to working up the Exposition, so far as this could be done in five hours' steady walking. The conclusion arrived at by your correspondent is that these shows are tiresomely monotonous, and if one is attempted for America in 1892, let it be done on some new and more interesting plan.
We yet think that in very many respects this is not equal to that in Philadelphia. In the beauty of the grounds there can be no comparison. Ours was far superior, and the acres of cottons and silks, and bottles of wine and cakes of soap, and machines and feather work, and all that kind of thing are just the same as we have seen over and over again. So we suggest once more that Congress immediately appoint a commission to invent something better and fresher for '92, and let it be located near Washington, where ample space can be found, and no lack of skill or money to make the place the most attractive of the world.
Some one suggested that we should have an iron tower twice as high as this, but surely we can have some nobler ambition than merely to excel in constructing an absolutely useless building. Such, certainly, the Eiffel Tower is; nothing but a wonderful display of the skill of its designer, productive of no good, and not es|jecially ornamental. We have not again been tempted to pay five francs to ascend it, but have walked around its base and obtained a very fair idea of its marvelous size. You can conceive somewhat of this, when we say that our court
house could be placed under one of the arches that support the first floor, and its tower would lack much of reaching the top of the arch.
One great deficiency here is the want of uniformed officials. Much trouble is caused and unnecessary fatigue for want of some one to give information. We have not been able to find a single policeman. No doubt they are here, but not in uniform that a stranger can recognize ; and for the first time since reaching the Continent our questions have met with rude answers. So, straggling aimlessly around, we may perhaps have lost much that was good and well worth seeing.
We met a pleasant gentleman, an American, in the Nicaraguan building, and had explained the plans of the proposed canal, of which a large model occupies most of the floor. In Mexico, too, we saw a plan for crossing the isthmus very similar to that of the lamented Eads, in which we always took great interest; while near by was a building which one may describe as containing models of the canals of Suez and Panama, which we entered, anxious to know what M. De Lesseps had to show for the latter. Suez was found all right, but not a vestige of the great French scheme for cutting asunder the two American continents. This seemed rather ominous for the speedy completion of the Panama.
Another great objection we make to the Exposition, is the great number of worthless sideshows which are permitted, greatly to the annoyance of the visitor, while very little is done for his comfort. Restaurants abound, it is true, in great numbers, but none good, and at enormous prices. We longed to-day for the nice Vienna roll, which we first tasted in 1876.
The exposition of foreign countries, as a rule, is very poor indeed, and they appear to have taken but slight interest in the show. As an evidence of this, the only thing worth seeing in the Egyptian house is a model of an ancient temple, provided by our countrymen, Thomas Cook & Son.
In the machinery department we note many things worthy of admiration, among them remarkable locomotives from Belgium, surpassing in size and
weight any we ever saw, and of very different construction to those of America. The absence of any cowcatcher gives them a very snub-nosed look, but still they are handsome.
The largest stationary engine, corresponding to the great Corliss, is of French make, and carries a huge fly wheel, forty feet in diameter, and five feet across the face. Near this we noted a soap factory in operation, which surprised us no little, as from the trouble and expense which we have experienced, we did not suppose that this luxury existed in France. Is it not strange, that these people who know so much of the refinements of life, should refuse to provide such an essential to a traveler as soap, and shut him up after dinner in a dark room with one candle? The idea that light is enjoyable does not seem to enter their minds.
In the French department we were much interested in the mechanical toys, and wished earnestly for all of our Buncombe boys and girls to enjoy them with us. And another thing which we are sure they would like, is the aquarium. This was curiously constructed under ground, a large circular passage, on each side of which were reservoirs of water, into which we could look with ease, as the side next to us was of glass. In these reservoirs thousands of fish of all sorts were swimming about, in delight apparently at having so comfortable a home. In one compartment we could see hosts of bright gold fish, and adjoining them beautiful shell fish of every imaginable variety; even slimy eels, and hideous crawfish and lobsters had their place; while the passage in which we walked was cool and refreshing, and softly illuminated by the rays of sunlight, which were only allowed to reach it through the water.
You must know, too, that in these reservoirs were all kinds of water plants, and as we looked up at them we fancied ourselves with Jules Verne "twenty thousand leagues under the sea."
We fear we will not be able to visit the exposition again, which we would like to do in hopes of forming a more favorable opinion. It does not seem to be a financial success, if one can judge from the anxiety manifested by the bondholders to sell their ticket coupons. The streets are filled with hawkers offering them at half price. Pray gentlemen of Congress let us do things better, if at all, in '92.
Dear Citizen:—To-day we will long remember as having been most delightfully passed at the palace of Fontainbleau, to reach which a ride of nearly fifty miles by railway was required. Arriving there at 11 o'clock we were obliged, thanks to the abominable fashion of France, to sacrifice an hour to secure a much needed breakfast. But fortunately this was done in a nice hotel, facing the amphitheatre, with its famous old horseshoe stairs, so that time was not entirely wasted.
Breakfast being dispatched as quickly as possible, we hastened to this beautiful palace, a palace indeed, so rich in history from the time of Louis VII to that of the last unfortunate emperor, Louis Napoleon III.
It may seem a trespass upon your space and the patience of your readers to give even the slight description, which we cannot refrain from attempting, of some of the principal apartments. If you so consider it you need not publish it. We will have the pleasure of writing it, all the same.
We were first conducted by the guide into the chapel of the Holy Trinity, rather small in size, and chiefly worthy of note for its beautifully frescoed ceiling, and tesselated marble floor, and as the place in which the infant Napoleon III was baptized.
We next ascended a stair to enter the apartments of the great Napoleon, and passing through three of moderate size— one, the Salle de Bains, now ornamented with glass painted most curiously by some unknown artist, which used to be in the bath room of Marie Antoinette, and had been for some strange reason removed hither—we enter the most deeply interesting of these, to-wit, "La Salle d' Abdication," in which Bonaparte sat, and the table which supported the document that must have cost him so much pain to sign.
Adjoining this room is the "cabinet de traveller [sic]," where the laborious man performed such marvels of labor, and still containing his desk, secretary, etc., and
from it we enter his bedchamber, in which his bed stands, and near it the crib of his only son, the King of Rome. Here also are the jewel box of Maria Therese and a strange clock given her by Pope Pius VII.
We next enter the Salle de Conseil, a magnificent room containing a circular table nine feet in diameter, of wood in color resembling mahogany, the whole top being of one solid piece. No doubt some of the big trees of California may scorn this, but we do not remember to have seen so large and so perfect a specimen. Next is the Salle de Trone, containing the throne of Napoleon, and with ceiling inlaid with monograms of Louis XIV, but attracting our attention to its elegant chandelier which, we are told, cost 50,000 francs.
We now reach the suite of rooms especially belonging to Marie Antoinette. First, her boudoir, with her chairs and sofas in old gold upholstering, and its floor laid in the form of a star with the Queen's monogram in the center; second, her bedchamber, containing her bed, of which the hangings surpass in richness anything we have yet seen. These, we are told, were made in Lyons especially for her, but her downfall occurred before they were finished, so they remained in the factory until the time of Napoleon 1, who had them placed where they now are; third, the salon of the unfortunate Queen, in the center of which is her lovely inlaid table, of which the mosaics illustrate the four seasons, while on the mantel are two vases made for her by the Sevres factory, and the most perfectly exquisite shade of blue we ever imagined, much less beheld.
Among the most interesting rooms is the library, filled with books and documents of French history, ornamented with paintings, but its chief interest to us is the original draft, in his own handwriting of the Article of Abdication of Le Petit Corporal. Its blurred and scratched condition and many interlineations seemed to indicate the terrible mental struggle it cost the writer. We could not resist the temptation to copy it. Here it is verbatim:
To this is no signature and; it differs in some respects from that which he signed next day, and we think its repetition and inaccuracies indicate the depth of the mental struggle.
Not to be too lengthy, the other most remarkable rooms are the salon of Francis I.; the salon of Louis XIII in which that monarch was born; the salon of Louis IX; "the saint," with an equestrian statue of Henry IV over the mantle ; life size both man and horse which will give an idea of the room's dimensions ; boudoir and bed-room of Mme. Maintenon, in which are chairs curiously upholstered with tapestried landscapes. It was in these rooms that this remarkable woman ruled France through the weak King Louis XIV. And yet we must; note the magnificent gallery of Henry II. This apartment is 100 by 40 feet, the ceiling 30 feet high, wonderfully formed in carved walnut inlaid in gold, and each of its ornamentations are reproduced in the oaken floor, so faithfully as to lead one to imagine he sees, them in a mirror.
Also deeply interesting are the apartments of Pope Pius VII, which were occupied by that pontiff first as the guest, and then as the prisoner of Napoleon We will not bore you further with details of these gorgeous, royal rooms, although many others were of deep interest to us. We hastened to see and enjoy the gardens surrounding on three sides, the palace, and the magnificent avenue which used to be its approach, and thence to the court with which we will close this letter, as here occurred the touching scene on which we like to ponder, sad though it be, yet showing the wonderful love, which can exist between true men. Here it was that the greatest of all chieftains took leave of his faithful soldiers. Our little French guide book gives a description of this scene more pathetic than we have seen elsewhere, and we must attempt to give you even our poor translation of it:
"On the morning of April 20, Napoleon ...
... left Fontainebleau. He wished to bid adieu to his guard, and it had assembled in the court of the White Horse, which has since been called also "The Court of the Adieus." "Soldiers," said he, "my companions in arms, I have always found you on the road to honor; it is necessary now that we part. I might have remained longer with you, but it would have been wicked to prolong a bitter contention, attended perhaps by war both civil and foreign, and I have resolved to remain no longer within the borders of France. May you enjoy the best you have so faithfully earned and be happy. For myself, I make no complaint. I have one mission left, and it is for that I consent to live. That mission is to tell posterity of the great things you and I have together accomplished. Would that I could take you each in my arms, but let me embrace this flag which represents you." Can we wonder that there were few eyes dry, when the general threw himself into his carriage and was driven away from his faithful guard ?
paris, September 1, 1889.
Dear Citizen:—We do not propose to occupy your space with any detailed description of Versailles as we did of Fontainebleau, although we have been in that magnificent palace most of to-day. Nor can this be called much of a Sabbath, for rest, we have had none. On the contrary for hours we have been jostling and tugging, and pushing and squeezing, .and not cursing of course, but being pursed most heartily, as we wrestled with a motley crowd of at least fifty thousand men and women, each of whom were determined to be the very first to get through the miles of rooms and galleries, of which we have an impression on our minds, mixed up of gold cornices and frescoed ceiling, and French battles, and statues and portraits, which are all confused in an inextricable jumble, so we can hardly hope to tell you what we have seen; suffice it to say everything is truly elegant, especially the gallery of glass, which overlooks the gardens and fountains, and in which the victorious Germans announced their terms of peace; hard indeed is this for a poor Frenchman to swallow.
Again, too, is Marie Antoinette brought to mind, as we pass through her private apartments and see the stairs by which she attempted to escape from the mad mob, but the one room that repaid all of our frantic struggle and fatigue, is that in the center of which is a marble figure of the dying Napoleon similar but superior to that in the Corcoran gallery; while immediately above it is a large and life-like painting of the great Emperor as he delivered the Eagles to his soldiers. So at one glance, he stands before us, at the highest point of his power, and the zenith of his glory, and as he sat in his despair, the strong features and lips pressed together, indicating the bitter thoughts concealed behind that massive forehead, even at this hour of approaching dissolution.
It did indeed seem an anomaly that these gorgeously regal rooms should be given up to the mob, which today filled them, and to us royalty is the necessary thing for France. We cannot believe that a republic can endure for a people of their strange peculiarities.
Wearied and heart sick at viewing these signs of departed glory, we are glad to get out, into the fresh air of the wonderful gardens and stroll through them to the Trianon, another palace, where we are shown several more of Marie Antoinette's beds, (she must have been a very sleepy body) and then to the State carriages at which the crowd is so dense that Sluder and I climb in at a window and launch our bodies upon the mass of French humanity, which is squirming below us. Much cursed and abused, but minded it little, we thus succeed in viewing these gorgeous relics of former ages.
Six of these carriages, each with a history of its own, surrounded the grandest of all, which was the coronation coach of Charles X. It is a huge affair, covered with gold from end to end, the very wheels a mass of gilding richly wrought, while on top are groups of statuettes of some metal. Neither of us regretted the effort we had made to catch even a hasty glance at these old coaches.
The event of the day to us was yet to occur, and this was our excuse for devoting Sunday to these excursions, as only on this holy day are the fountains allowed to play, or as these people say, "Les eaux ...
... ses marchent," literally "the waters walk themselves," and this is attended with such great expense that it is done for only one hour. Beginning at 5 o'clock they suddenly burst forth in wreaths of spray, surpassing the most delicate lace, which the setting sun embellishes with innumerable arcs of prismatic coloring. A description is far beyond us; in number they are infinite, in variety endless, in beauty each seems more exquisite than the last. Around and around we walk in delight. Let those who wish take pleasure in high art; we prefer these jets of pure water, surrounded with the fragrance of sweet flowers.
The last of these fountains, that of Neptune, was reserved until the others were done, to allow the visitors to collect around it. Indeed, 'twas a wonderful sight. In the form of an irregular crescent is a pond of still water, in which thousands of carp are lazily swimming, this pond is in area about two acres; the distance from point to point of the crescent some 800 feet; around its convex a solid mass of people facing the smaller circle, which is built of heavily grained stone, rising seven feet above the water's edge, while at the center is placed a massive bronze Neptune in his chariot drawn by six sea lions, and supported on right and left by groups of mermaids. Midway on each side from center to apex is a group composed of immense nautical fabulous animals, and at each extreme point a dolphin of some material and of huge dimensions. On top of the wall are twenty-six vases, each ten feet in height, and on its face a corresponding number of human heads.
Suddenly the grand old sea god belches forth from mouth and nostrils his element in foam and mist, which gives the signal to his satellites, and each promptly responds and tries to excel his chief. From our position we counted 100 jets extending from point to point, some perpendicular, others gracefully curving over the lake, and above all a lovely rainbow—a suitable completion to this truly fairy scene.
A glance backward over these notes really shocks us with the thought of our temerity in attempting this description. We really did not intend it, but were so full of our subject that we have written on and on, almost unconsciously. And how faint an idea you will have of the reality!
Although the shades of night are rapidly approaching, and we are many miles from our pension, the temptation to linger overcomes our prudence, and once more we ascend the gentle slope to the grand terrace in front of the palace and take our stand near Latona's Fountain, now still and quiet, where a few minutes ago the goddess was protecting her two children, Apollo and Diana, from being submerged, and here we take one long, lingering look, the last perchance for us, at this noble pile. The whole building stands before us, in length nearly 4,000 feet, but its immensity is the last consideration, and the least; its architectural beauty is divine, but the surroundings are the chief attraction; and still we linger through the twilight, wandering up and down the lovely vistas. Even at this late moment we discover a new charm, which rivets us to the spot until there is no longer light for its contemplation.
This, in a sequestered nook which until now we had not discovered, is a huge mass of rough rock, artificial, some sixty feet high, and indented deeply with grottoes, from which seem to emerge Apollo attended by his nymphs, some of whom are presenting him with food, while others are supplying his steeds with water dipped in shells from the crystal lake at their feet. These groups are all of pure white marble, contrasting beautifully with the dark stone background.
You cannot wonder that we found it hard to tear ourselves away. At night we left and took our train again for Paris, which in due time we reached, convinced that seldom have we passed a more delightful Sunday. While not spent in a manner altogether orthodox, we do hope it has not been utterly unprofitable. We have seen things calculated to exalt our ideas of man's capabilities; we have seen marvels of human intellect and science, and to us the lesson still is, how infinitely greater is He who created the men who produced these works, and yet how wonderful His kindness, that He condescends to allow us, weak creatures that we are, to call Him "Our Father."