THE MEMOIRS OF VICTOR HUGO
By Victor Hugo
AT RHEIMS, 1825-1838
RECOUNTED BY EYE-WITNESSES:
I. The Execution of Louis XVI.
II. The Arrival of Napoleon I. in Paris in 1815.
VISIONS OF THE REAL:
I. The Hovel.
III. A Dream.
IV. The Panel with the Coat of Arms.
V. The Easter Daisy.
II. Mademoiselle Mars.
III. Frédérick Lemaitre.
IV. The Comiques.
V. Mademoiselle Georges.
VI. Tableaux Vivants.
AT THE ACADEMY
LOVE IN PRISON
AT THE TUILERIES, 1844-1848:
I. The King.
II. The Duchess d'Orleans.
III. The Princes.
IN THE CHAMBER OF PEERS: Gen. Febvier
THE REVOLUTION OF 1848:
I. The Days of February.
II. Expulsions and Evasions.
III. Louis Philippe in Exile.
IV. King Jerome.
V. The Days of June.
VII. Debates on the Days of June.
I. The Jardin d'Hiver.
II. General Bréa's Murderers.
III. The Suicide of Antonin Moyne.
IV. A Visit to the Old Chamber of Peers.
SKETCHES MADE IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY:
I. Odilon Barrot.
II. Monsieur Thiers.
IX. Boulay de la Meurthe.
I. His Debuts.
II. His Elevation to the Presidency.
III. His First Official Dinner.
IV. The First Month.
V. Feeling His Way.
THE SIEGE OF PARIS
THE ASSEMBLY AT BORDEAUX
This volume of memoirs has a double character--historical and intimate.
The life of a period, the XIX Century, is bound up in the life of a man,
VICTOR HUGO. As we follow the events set forth we get the impression
they made upon the mind of the extraordinary man who recounts them; and
of all the personages he brings before us he himself is assuredly not
the least interesting. In portraits from the brushes of Rembrandts there
are always two portraits, that of the model and that of the painter.
This is not a diary of events arranged in chronological order, nor is it
a continuous autobiography. It is less and it is more, or rather, it is
better than these. It is a sort of haphazard _chronique_ in which only
striking incidents and occurrences are brought out, and lengthy and
wearisome details are avoided. VICTOR HUGO'S long and chequered life was
filled with experiences of the most diverse character--literature and
politics, the court and the street, parliament and the theatre, labour,
struggles, disappointments, exile and triumphs. Hence we get a series of
pictures of infinite variety.
Let us pass the gallery rapidly in review.
It opens in 1825, at Rheims, during the coronation of CHARLES X, with
an amusing _causerie_ on the manners and customs of the Restoration.
The splendour of this coronation ceremony was singularly spoiled by the
pitiable taste of those who had charge of it. These worthies took upon
themselves to mutilate the sculpture work on the marvellous façade
and to "embellish" the austere cathedral with Gothic decorations of
cardboard. The century, like the author, was young, and in some things
both were incredibly ignorant; the masterpieces of literature were then
unknown to the most learned _littérateurs_: CHARLES NODIER had never
read the "Romancero", and VICTOR HUGO knew little or nothing about
At the outset the poet dominates in VICTOR HUGO; he belongs wholly to
his creative imagination and to his literary work. It is the theatre;
it is his "Cid", and "Hernani", with its stormy performances; it is the
group of his actors, Mlle. MARS, Mlle. GEORGES, FREDERICK LEMAITRE, the
French KEAN, with more genius; it is the Academy, with its different
kind of coteries.
About this time VICTOR HUGO questions, anxiously and not in vain, a
passer-by who witnessed the execution of LOUIS XVI, and an officer who
escorted Napoleon to Paris on his return from the Island of Elba.
Next, under the title, "Visions of the Real", come some sketches in the
master's best style, of things seen "in the mind's eye," as Hamlet says.
Among them "The Hovel" will attract attention. This sketch resembles
a page from EDGAR POE, although it was written long before POE's works
were introduced into France.
With "Love in Prison" VICTOR HUGO deals with social questions, in which
he was more interested than in political questions. And yet, in entering
the Chamber of Peers he enters public life. His sphere is enlarged, he
becomes one of the familiars of the Tuileries. LOUIS PHILIPPE, verbose
and full of recollections that he is fond of imparting to others, seeks
the company and appreciation of this listener of note, and makes all
sorts of confidences to him. The King with his very haughty bonhomie and
his somewhat infatuated wisdom; the grave and sweet DUCHESS D'ORLEANS,
the boisterous and amiable princes--the whole commonplace and home-like
court--are depicted with kindliness but sincerity.
The horizon, however, grows dark, and from 1846 the new peer of France
notes the gradual tottering of the edifice of royalty. The revolution of
1848 bursts out. Nothing could be more thrilling than the account, hour
by hour, of the events of the three days of February. VICTOR HUGO is not
merely a spectator of this great drama, he is an actor in it. He is in
the streets, he makes speeches to the people, he seeks to restrain them;
he believes, with too good reason, that the Republic is premature, and,
in the Place de la Bastille, before the evolutionary Faubourg Saint
Antoine, he dares to proclaim the Regency.
Four months later distress provokes the formidable insurrection of June,
which is fatal to the Republic.
The year 1848 is the stormy year. The atmosphere is fiery, men are
violent, events are tragical. Battles in the streets are followed by
fierce debates in the Assembly. VICTOR HUGO takes part in the mêlée. We
witness the scenes with him; he points out the chief actors to us. His
"Sketches" made in the National Assembly are "sketched from life" in the
fullest acceptation of the term. Twenty lines suffice. ODILON BARROT and
CHANGARNIER, PRUDHON and BLANQUI, LAMARTINE and "Monsieur THIERS" come,
go, speak--veritable living figures.
The most curious of the figures is LOUIS BONAPARTE when he arrived in
Paris and when he assumed the Presidency of the Republic. He is gauche,
affected, somewhat ridiculous, distrusted by the Republicans, and
scoffed at by the Royalists. Nothing could be more suggestive or more
piquant than the inauguration dinner at the Elysee, at which VICTOR HUGO
was one of the guests, and the first and courteous relations between
the author of "Napoleon the Little" and the future Emperor who was to
inflict twenty years of exile upon him.
But now we come to the year which VICTOR HUGO has designated "The
Terrible Year," the war, and the siege of Paris. This part of the volume
is made up of extracts from note-books, private and personal notes,
dotted down from day to day. Which is to say that they do not constitute
an account of the oft-related episodes of the siege, but tell something
new, the little side of great events, the little incidents of everyday
life, the number of shells fired into the city and what they cost, the
degrees of cold, the price of provisions, what is being said, sung, and
eaten, and at the same time give the psychology of the great city, its
illusions, revolts, wrath, anguish, and also its gaiety; for during
these long months Paris never gave up hope and preserved an heroic
On the other hand a painful note runs through the diary kept during the
meeting of the Assembly at Bordeaux. France is not only vanquished, she
is mutilated. The conqueror demands a ransom of milliards--it is his
right, the right of the strongest; but he tears from her two provinces,
with their inhabitants devoted to France; it is a return towards
barbarism. VICTOR HUGO withdraws indignantly from the Assembly which
has agreed to endorse the Treaty of Frankfort. And three days after his
resignation he sees CHARLES HUGO, his eldest son, die a victim to the
privations of the siege. He is stricken at once in his love of country
and in his paternal love, and one can say that in these painful pages,
more than in any of the others, the book is history that has been lived.
Paris, Sept. 15, 1899.
AT RHEIMS. 1823-1838.
It was at Rheims that I heard the name of Shakespeare for the first
time. It was pronounced by Charles Nodier. That was in 1825, during the
coronation of Charles X.
No one at that time spoke of Shakespeare quite seriously. Voltaire's
ridicule of him was law. Mme. de Staël had adopted Germany, the great
land of Kant, of Schiller, and of Beethoven. Ducis was at the height of
his triumph; he and Delille were seated side by side in academic glory,
which is not unlike theatrical glory. Ducis had succeeded in doing
something with Shakespeare; he had made him possible; he had extracted
some "tragedies" from him; Ducis impressed one as being a man who could
chisel an Apollo out of Moloch. It was the time when Iago was called
Pezare; Horatio, Norceste; and Desdemona, Hedelmone. A charming and very
witty woman, the Duchess de Duras, used to say: "Desdemona, what an ugly
name! Fie!" Talma, Prince of Denmark, in a tunic of lilac satin trimmed
with fur, used to exclaim: "Avaunt! Dread spectre!" The poor spectre, in
fact, was only tolerated behind the scenes. If it had ventured to put
in the slightest appearance M. Evariste Dumoulin would have given it a
severe talking to. Some Génin or other would have hurled at it the first
cobble-stone he could lay his hand on--a line from Boileau: _L'esprit
n'est point ému de ce qu'il ne croit pas_. It was replaced on the stage
by an "urn" that Talma carried under his arm. A spectre is ridiculous;
"ashes," that's the style! Are not the "ashes" of Napoleon still
spoken of? Is not the translation of the coffin from St. Helena to the
Invalides alluded to as "the return of the ashes"? As to the witches
of Macbeth, they were rigorously barred. The hall-porter of the
Théâtre-Français had his orders. They would have been received with
their own brooms.
I am mistaken, however, in saying that I did not know Shakespeare. I
knew him as everybody else did, not having read him, and having treated
him with ridicule. My childhood began, as everybody's childhood begins,
with prejudices. Man finds prejudices beside his cradle, puts them from
him a little in the course of his career, and often, alas! takes to them
again in his old age.
During this journey in 1825 Charles Nodier and I passed our time
recounting to each other the Gothic tales and romances that have taken
root in Rheims. Our memories and sometimes our imaginations, clubbed
together. Each of us furnished his legend. Rheims is one of the most
impossible towns in the geography of story. Pagan lords have lived
there, one of whom gave as a dower to his daughter the strips of land in
Borysthenes called the "race-courses of Achilles." The Duke de Guyenne,
in the fabliaux, passes through Rheims on his way to besiege Babylon;
Babylon, moreover, which is very worthy of Rheims, is the capital of
the Admiral Gaudissius. It is at Rheims that the deputation sent by
the Locri Ozolae to Apollonius of Tyana, "high priest of Bellona,"
"disembarks." While discussing this disembarkation we argued concerning
the Locri Ozolae. These people, according to Nodier, were called the
Fetidae because they were half monkeys; according to myself, because
they inhabited the marshes of Phocis. We reconstructed on the spot the
tradition of St. Remigius and his adventures with the fairy Mazelane.
The Champagne country is rich in tales. Nearly all the old Gaulish
fables had their origin in this province. Rheims is the land of
chimeras. It is perhaps for this reason that kings were crowned there.
Legends are so natural to this place, are in such good soil, that they
immediately began to germinate upon the coronation of Charles X.
itself. The Duke of Northumberland, the representative of England at
the coronation ceremonies, was reputed fabulously wealthy. Wealthy and
English, how could he be otherwise than _a la mode_? The English, at
that period, were very popular in French society, although not among the
people. They were liked in certain salons because of Waterloo, which
was still fairly recent, and to Anglicize the French language was
a recommendation in ultra-fashionable society. Lord Northumberland,
therefore, long before his arrival, was popular and legendary in
Rheims. A coronation was a godsend to Rheims. A flood of opulent people
inundated the city. It was the Nile that was passing. Landlords rubbed
their hands with glee.
There was in Rheims in those days, and there probably is to-day, at the
corner of a street giving on to the square, a rather large house with
a carriage-entrance and a balcony, built of stone in the royal style
of Louis XIV., and facing the cathedral. About this house and Lord
Northumberland the following was related:
In January, 1825, the balcony of the house bore the notice: "House
for Sale." All at once the "Moniteur" announced that the coronation of
Charles X. would take place at Rheims in the spring. There was great
rejoicing in the city. Notices of rooms to let were immediately hung
out everywhere. The meanest room was to bring in at least sixty francs
a day. One morning a man of irreproachable appearance, dressed in black,
with a white cravat, an Englishman who spoke broken French, presented
himself at the house in the square. He saw the proprietor, who eyed him
"You wish to sell your house?" queried the Englishman.
"Ten thousand francs."
"But I don't want to buy it."
"What do you want, then?"
"Only to hire it."
"That's different. For a year?"
"For six months?"
"No. I want to hire it for three days."
"How much will you charge?"
"Thirty thousand francs."
The gentleman was Lord Northumberland's steward, who was looking for a
lodging for his master for the coronation ceremonies. The proprietor
had smelled the Englishman and guessed the steward. The house was
satisfactory, and the proprietor held out for his price; the Englishman,
being only a Norman, gave way to the Champenois; the duke paid the
30,000 francs, and spent three days in the house, at the rate of 400
francs an hour.
Nodier and I were two explorers. When we travelled together, as we
occasionally did, we went on voyages of discovery, he in search of rare
books, I in search of ruins. He would go into ecstasies over a _Cymbalum
Mound_ with margins, and I over a defaced portal. We had given each
other a devil. He said to me: "You are possessed of the demon Ogive."
"And you," I answered, "of the demon Elzevir."
At Soissons, while I was exploring Saint Jean-des-Vignes, he had
discovered, in a suburb, a ragpicker. The ragpicker's basket is the
hyphen between rags and paper, and the ragpicker is the hyphen between
the beggar and the philosopher. Nodier who gave to the poor, and
sometimes to philosophers, had entered the ragpicker's abode. The
ragpicker turned out to be a book dealer. Among the books Nodier noticed
a rather thick volume of six or eight hundred pages, printed in Spanish,
two columns to a page, badly damaged by worms, and the binding missing
from the back. The ragpicker, asked what he wanted for it, replied,
trembling lest the price should be refused: "Five francs," which Nodier
paid, also trembling, but with joy. This book was the _Romancero_
complete. There are only three complete copies of this edition now in
existence. One of these a few years ago sold for 7,500 francs. Moreover,
worms are vying with each other in eating up these three remaining
copies. The peoples, feeders of princes, have something else to do than
spend their money to preserve for new editions the legacies of human
intellect, and the _Romancero_, being merely an Iliad, has not been
During the three days of the coronation there were great crowds in the
streets of Rheims, at the Archbishop's palace, and on the promenades
along the Vesdre, eager to catch a glimpse of Charles X. I said to
Charles Nodier: "Let us go and see his majesty the cathedral."
Rheims is a proverb in Gothic Christian art. One speaks of the "nave
of Amiens, the bell towers of Chartres, the façade of Rheims." A month
before the coronation of Charles X a swarm of masons, perched on ladders
and clinging to knotted ropes, spent a week smashing with hammers every
bit of jutting sculpture on the façade, for fear a stone might become
detached from one of these reliefs and fall on the King's head. The
debris littered the pavement and was swept away. For a long time I had
in my possession a head of Christ that fell in this way. It was stolen
from me in 1851. This head was unfortunate; broken by a king, it was
lost by an exile.
Nodier was an admirable antiquary, and we explored the cathedral from
top to bottom, encumbered though it was with scaffolding, painted
scenery, and stage side lights. The nave being only of stone, they had
hidden it by an edifice of cardboard, doubtless because the latter bore
a greater resemblance to the monarchy of that period. For the coronation
of the King of France they had transformed a church into a theatres and
it has since been related, with perfect accuracy, that on arriving at
the entrance I asked of the bodyguard on duty: "Where is my box?"
This cathedral of Rheims is beautiful above all cathedrals. On the
façade are kings; on the absis, people being put to the torture by
executioners. Coronation of kings with an accompaniment of victims.
The façade is one of the most magnificent symphonies ever sung by that
music, architecture. One dreams for a long time before this oratorio.
Looking up from the square you see at a giddy height, at the base of the
two towers, a row of gigantic statues representing kings of France. In
their hands they hold the sceptre, the sword, the hand of justice, and
the globe, and on their heads are antique open crowns with bulging gems.
It is superb and grim. You push open the bell-ringer's door, climb the
winding staircase, "the screw of St. Giles," to the towers, to the high
regions of prayer; you look down and the statues are below you. The
row of kings is plunging into the abysm. You hear the whispering of the
enormous bells, which vibrate at the kiss of vague zephyrs from the sky.
One day I gazed down from the top of the tower through an embrasure. The
entire façade sheered straight below me. I perceived in the depth, on
top of a long stone support that extended down the wall directly beneath
me to the escarpment, so that its form was lost, a sort of round basin.
Rain-water had collected there and formed a narrow mirror at the bottom;
there were also a tuft of grass with flowers in it, and a swallow's
nest. Thus in a space only two feet in diameter were a lake, a garden
and a habitation--a birds' paradise. As I gazed the swallow was giving
water to her brood. Round the upper edge of the basin were what looked
like crenelles, and between these the swallow had built her nest.
I examined these crenelles. They had the form of fleurs-de-lys. The
support was a statue. This happy little world was the stone crown of an
old king. And if God were asked: "Of what use was this Lothario,
this Philip, this Charles, this Louis, this emperor, this king?"
God peradventure would reply: "He had this statue made and lodged a
The coronation occurred. This is not the place to describe it. Besides
my recollections of the ceremony of May 27, 1825, have been recounted
elsewhere by another, more ably than I could set them forth.
Suffice it to say that it was a radiant day. God seemed to have given
his assent to the fête. The long clear windows--for there are no more
stained-glass windows at Rheims--let in bright daylight; all the light
of May was in the church. The Archbishop was covered with gilding
and the altar with rays. Marshal de Lauriston, Minister of the King's
Household, rejoiced at the sunshine. He came and went, as busy as
could be, and conversed in low tones with Lecointe and Hittorf, the
architects. The fine morning afforded the occasion to say, "the sun of
the coronation," as one used to say "the sun of Austerlitz." And in the
resplendent light a profusion of lamps and tapers found means to beam.
At one moment Charles X., attired in a cherry-coloured simar striped
with gold, lay at full length at the Archbishop's feet. The peers of
France on the right, embroidered with gold, beplumed in the Henri IV.
style, and wearing long mantles of velvet and ermine, and the Deputies
on the left, in dress-coats of blue cloth with silver fleurs-de-lys on
the collars, looked on.
About all the forms of chance were represented there: the Papal
benediction by the cardinals, some of whom had witnessed the coronation
of Napoleon; victory by the marshals; heredity by the Duke d'Angoulême,
dauphin; happiness by M. de Talleyrand, lame but able to get about; the
rising and falling of stocks by M. de Villèle; joy by the birds that
were released and flew away, and the knaves in a pack of playing-cards
by the four heralds.
A vast carpet embroidered with fleurs-de-lys, made expressly for the
occasion, and called the "coronation carpet," covered the old flagstones
from one end of the cathedral to the other and concealed the tombstones
in the pavement. Thick, luminous smoke of incense filled the nave. The
birds that had been set at liberty flew wildly about in this cloud.
The King changed his costume six or seven times. The first prince of the
blood, Louis Philippe, Duke d'Orleans, aided him. The Duke de Bordeaux,
who was five years old, was in a gallery.
The pew in which Nodier and I were seated adjoined those of the
Deputies. In the middle of the ceremony, just before the King
prostrated himself at the feet of the Archbishop, a Deputy for the Doubs
department, named M. Hémonin, turned towards Nodier, who was close to
him, and with his finger on his lips, as a sign that he did not wish to
disturb the Archbishop's orisons by speaking, slipped something into
my friend's hand. This something was a book. Nodier took it and glanced
"What is it?" I whispered.
"Nothing very precious," he replied. "An odd volume of Shakespeare,
One of the tapestries from the treasure of the church hanging exactly
opposite to us represented a not very historical interview between John
Lackland and Philip Augustus. Nodier turned over the leaves of the book
for a few minutes, then pointed to the tapestry.
"You see that tapestry?"
"Do you know what it represents?"
"Well, what of it?"
"John Lackland is also in this book."
The volume, which was in sheep binding and worn at the corners, was
indeed a copy of _King John_.
M. Hémonin turned to Nodier and said: "I paid six sous for it."
In the evening the Duke of Northumberland gave a ball. It was a
magnificent, fairylike spectacle. This Arabian Nights ambassador brought
one of these nights to Rheims. Every woman found a diamond in her
I could not dance. Nodier had not danced since he was sixteen years
of age, when a great aunt went into ecstasies over his terpsichorean
efforts and congratulated him in the following terms: "_Tu est charmant,
tu danses comme rim chou_!" We did not go to Lord Northumberland's ball.
"What shall we do tonight?" said I to Nodier. He held up his odd volume
"Let us read this."
That is to say, Nodier read. He knew English (without being able
to speak it, I believe) enough to make it out. He read aloud, and
translated as he read. At intervals, while he rested, I took the book
bought from the ragpicker of Soissons, and read passages from the
_Romancero_. Like Nodier, I translated as I read. We compared the
English with the Castilian book; we confronted the dramatic with the
epic. Nodier stood up for Shakespeare, whom he could read in English,
and I for the _Romancero_, which I could read in Spanish. We brought
face to face, he the bastard Faulconbridge, I the bastard Mudarra. And
little by little in contradicting we convinced each other, and Nodier
became filled with enthusiasm for the _Romancero_, and I with admiration
Listeners arrived. One passes the evening as best one can in a
provincial town on a coronation day when one doesn't go to the ball. We
formed quite a little club. There was an academician, M. Roger; a man of
letters, M. d'Eckstein; M. de Marcellus, friend and country neighbour
of my father, who poked fun at his royalism and mine; good old Marquis
d'Herbouville, and M. Hémonin, donor of the book that cost six sous.
"It isn't worth the money!" exclaimed M. Roger.
The conversation developed into a debate. Judgment was passed upon _King
John_. M. de Marcellus declared that the assassination of Arthur was an
improbable incident. It was pointed out to him that it was a matter of
history. It was with difficulty that he became reconciled to it. For
kings to kill each other was impossible. To M. de Marcellus's mind the
murdering of kings began on January 21. Regicide was synonymous with
'93. To kill a king was an unheard-of thing that the "populace" alone
were capable of doing. No king except Louis XVI. had ever been violently
put to death. He, however, reluctantly admitted the case of Charles
I. In his death also he saw the hand of the populace. All the rest was
demagogic lying and calumny.
Although as good a royalist as he, I ventured to insinuate that the
sixteenth century had existed, and that it was the period when the
Jesuits had clearly propounded the question of "bleeding the basilic
vein," that is to say of cases in which the king ought to be slain;
a question which, once brought forward, met with such success that it
resulted in two kings, Henry III. and Henry IV., being stabbed, and a
Jesuit, Father Guignard, being hanged.
Then we passed to the details of the drama, situations, scenes, and
personages. Nodier pointed out that Faulconbridge is the same person
spoken of by Mathieu Paris as Falcasius de Trente, bastard of Richard
Coeur de Lion. Baron d'Eckstein, in support of this, reminded his
hearers that, according to Hollinshed, Faulconbridge, or Falcasius,
slew the Viscount de Limoges to avenge his father Richard, who had
been wounded unto death at the siege of Chaluz; and that this castle of
Chaluz, being the property of the Viscount de Limoges, it was only right
that the Viscount, although absent, should be made to answer with his
head for the falling of an arrow or a stone from the castle upon the
King. M. Roger laughed at the cry of "Austria Limoges" in the play and
at Shakespeare's confounding the Viscount de Limoges with the Duke of
Austria. M. Roger scored the success of the evening and his laughter
settled the matter.
The discussion having taken this turn I said nothing further. This
revelation of Shakespeare had moved me. His grandeur impressed me. _King
John_ is not a masterpiece, but certain scenes are lofty and powerful,
and in the motherhood of Constance there are bursts of genius.
The two books, open and reversed, remained lying upon the table. The
company had ceased to read in order to laugh. Nodier at length became
silent like myself. We were beaten. The gathering broke up with a laugh,
and our visitors went away. Nodier and I remained alone and pensive,
thinking of the great works that are unappreciated, and amazed that the
intellectual education of the civilized peoples, and even our own, his
and mine, had advanced no further than this.
At last Nodier broke the silence. I can see his smile now as he said:
"They know nothing about the Romancero!"
"And they deride Shakespeare!"
Thirteen years later chance took me to Rheims again.
It was on August 28, 1838. It will be seen further on why this date
impressed itself on my memory.
I was returning from Vouziers, and seeing the two towers of Rheims in
the distance, was seized with a desire to visit the cathedral again. I
therefore went to Rheims.
On arriving in the cathedral square I saw a gun drawn up near the portal
and beside it gunners with lighted fuses in their hands. As I had seen
artillery there on May 27, 1825, I supposed it was customary to keep a
cannon in the square, and paid little attention to it. I passed on and
entered the church.
A beadle in violet sleeves, a sort of priest, took me in charge and
conducted me all over the church. The stones were dark, the statues
dismal, the altar mysterious. No lamps competed with the sun. The
latter threw upon the sepulchral stones in the pavement the long white
silhouettes of the windows, which through the melancholy obscurity of
the rest of the church looked like phantoms lying upon these tombs. No
one was in the church. Not a whisper, not a footfall could be heard.
This solitude saddened the heart and enraptured the soul. There were in
it abandonment, neglect, oblivion, exile, and sublimity. Gone the whirl
of 1825. The church had resumed its dignity and its calmness. Not
a piece of finery, not a vestment, not anything. It was bare and
beautiful. The lofty vault no longer supported a canopy. Ceremonies of
the palace arc not suited to these severe places; a coronation ceremony
is merely tolerated; these noble ruins are not made to be courtiers.
To rid it of the throne and withdraw the king from the presence of God
increases the majesty of a temple. Louis XIV. hides Jehovah from sight.
Withdraw the priest as well. All that eclipsed it having been taken
away, you will see the light of day direct. Orisons, rites, bibles,
formulas, refract and decompose the sacred light. A dogma is a dark
chamber. Through a religion you see the solar spectre of God, but not
God. Desuetude and crumbling enhance the grandeur of a temple. As
human religion retires from this mysterious and jealous edifice, divine
religion enters it. Let solitude reign in it and you will feel heaven
there. A sanctuary deserted and in ruins, like Jumièges, like St.
Bertin, like Villers, like Holyrood, like Montrose Abbey, like the
temple of Paestum, like the hypogeum of Thebes, becomes almost an
element, and possesses the virginal and religious grandeur of a savannah
or of a forest. There something of the real Presence is to be found.
Such places are truly holy; man has meditated and communed with himself
therein. What they contained of truth has remained and become greater.
The _à-peu-prês_ has no longer any voice. Extinct dogmas have not left
their ashes; the prayer of the past has left its perfume. There is
something of the absolute in prayer, and because of this, that which
was a synagogue, that which was a mosque, that which was a pagoda, is
venerable. A stone on which that great anxiety that is called prayer
has left its impress is never treated with ridicule by the thinker. The
trace left by those who have bowed down before the infinite is always
In strolling about the cathedral I had climbed to the triforium,
then under the arched buttresses, then to the top of the edifice. The
timber-work under the pointed roof is admirable; but less remarkable
than the "forest" of Amiens. It is of chestnut-wood.
These cathedral attics are of grim appearance. One could almost lose
one's self in the labyrinths of rafters, squares, traverse beams,
superposed joists, traves, architraves, girders, madriers, and tangled
lines and curves. One might imagine one's self to be in the skeleton
of Babel. The place is as bare as a garret and as wild as a cavern.
The wind whistles mournfully through it. Rats are at home there. The
spiders, driven from the timber by the odour of chestnut, make their
home in the stone of the basement where the church ends and the roof
begins, and low down in the obscurity spin their webs in which you catch
your face. One respires a mysterious dust, and the centuries seem to
mingle with one's breath. The dust of churches is not like the dust of
houses; it reminds one of the tomb, it is composed of ashes.
The flooring of these colossal garrets has crevices in it through which
one can look down into the abysm, the church, below. In the corners that
one cannot explore are pools of shadow, as it were. Birds of prey enter
through one window and go out through the other. Lightning is also
familiar with these high, mysterious regions. Sometimes it ventures too
near, and then it causes the conflagration of Rouen, of Chartres, or of
St. Paul's, London.
My guide the beadle preceded me. He looked at the dung on the floor, and
tossed his head. He knew the bird by its manure, and growled between his
"This is a rook; this is a hawk; this is an owl."
"You ought to study the human heart," said I.
A frightened bat flew before us.
While walking almost at hazard, following this bat, looking at this
manure of the birds, respiring this dust, in this obscurity among the
cobwebs and scampering rats, we came to a dark corner in which, on a big
wheelbarrow, I could just distinguish a long package tied with string
and that looked like a piece of rolled up cloth.
"What is that?" I asked the beadle.
"That," said he, "is Charles X.'s coronation carpet."
I stood gazing at the thing, and as I did so--I am telling truthfully
what occurred--there was a deafening report that sounded like a
thunder-clap, only it came from below. It shook the timber-work and
echoed and re-echoed through the church. It was succeeded by a second
roar, then a third, at regular intervals. I recognised the thunder of
the cannon, and remembered the gun I had seen in the square.
I turned to my guide:
"What is that noise?"
"The telegraph has been at work and the cannon has been fired."
"What does it mean?" I continued.
"It means," said the beadle, "that a grandson has just been born to
The cannon announced the birth of the Count de Paris.
These are my recollections of Rheims.
RECOUNTED BY EYE-WITNESSES
I. THE EXECUTION OF LOUIS XVI.
II. THE ARRIVAL OF NAPOLEON I IN PARIS IN 1815.
I. THE EXECUTION OF LOUIS XVI.
There were certain characteristic details connected with the execution
of Louis XVI. that are not recorded in history. They were recounted to
me by an eye-witness* and are here published for the first time.
* This eye witness was one Leboucher, who arrived in Paris
from Bourges in December, 1792, and was present at the
execution of Louis XVI. In 1840 he recounted to Victor Hugo
most of these details which, as can easily be imagined, had
impressed themselves deeply upon his mind.
The scaffold was not, as is generally believed, erected in the very
centre of the Place, on the spot where the obelisk now stands, but on a
spot which the decree of the Provisional Executive Council designates in
these precise terms: "between the pied d'estal and the Champs-Elysées."
What was this pedestal? Present generations who have seen so many things
happen, so many statues crumble and so many pedestals overthrown do
not quite know what meaning to give to this very vague designation,
and would be embarrassed to tell for what monument the mysterious stone
which the Executive Council of the Revolution laconically calls the
"pied d'estal" served as a base. This stone had borne the statue of
Let it be noted _en passant_ that this strange Place which had been
called successively the Place Louis XV., Place de la Revolution, Place
de la Concorde, Place Louis XVI., Place du Garde-Meuble and Place des
Champs-Elysées, and which could not retain any name, could not keep any
monument either. It has had the statue of Louis XV., which disappeared;
an expiatory fountain which was to have laved the bloody centre of the
Place was projected, but not even the first stone was laid; a rough
model of a monument to the Charter was made: we have never seen anything
but the socle of this monument. Just when a bronze figure representing
the Charter of 1814 was about to be erected, the Revolution of July
arrived with the Charter of 1830. The pedestal of Louis XVIII. vanished,
as fell the pedestal of Louis XV. Now on this same spot we have placed
the obelisk of Sesostris. It required thirty centuries for the great
Desert to engulf half of it; how many years will the Place de la
Revolution require to swallow it up altogether?
In the Year II of the Republic, what the Executive Council called the
"pied d'estal" was nought but a shapeless and hideous block. It was a
sort of sinister symbol of the royalty itself. Its ornaments of marble
and bronze had been wrenched off, the bare stone was everywhere split
and cracked. On the four sides were large square gaps showing the places
where the destroyed bas reliefs had been. Scarcely could a remnant of
the entablature still be distinguished at the summit of the pedestal,
and beneath the cornice a string of ovolos, defaced and worn, was
surmounted by what architects call a "chaplet of paternosters." On the
table of the pedestal one could perceive a heap of debris of all kinds,
in which tufts of grass were growing here and there. This pile of
nameless things had replaced the royal statue.
The scaffold was raised a few steps distant from this ruin, a little
in rear of it. It was covered with long planks, laid transversely, that
masked the framework. A ladder without banisters or balustrade was
at the back, and what they venture to call the head of this horrible
construction was turned towards the Garde-Meuble. A basket of
cylindrical shape, covered with leather, was placed at the spot where
the head of the King was to fall, to receive it; and at one of the
angles of the entablature, to the right of the ladder, could be
discerned a long wicker basket prepared for the body, and on which one
of the executioners, while waiting for the King, had laid his hat.
Imagine, now, in the middle of the Place, these two lugubrious things, a
few paces from each other: the pedestal of Louis XV. and the scaffold of
Louis XVI.; that is to say, the ruins of royalty dead and the martyrdom
of royalty living; around these two things four formidable lines of
armed men, preserving a great empty square in the midst of an immense
crowd; to the left of the scaffold, the Champs-Elysees, to the right
the Tuileries, which, neglected and left at the mercy of the public had
become an unsightly waste of dirt heaps and trenches; and over these
melancholy edifices, over these black, leafless trees, over this gloomy
multitude, the bleak, sombre sky of a winter morning, and one will have
an idea of the aspect which the Place de la Revolution presented at the
moment when Louis XVI., in the carriage of the Mayor of Paris, dressed
in white, the Book of Psalms clasped in his hands, arrived there to die
at a few minutes after ten o'clock on January 21, 1793.
Strange excess of abasement and misery: the son of so many kings, bound
and sacred like the kings of Egypt, was to be consumed between two
layers of quicklime, and to this French royalty, which at Versailles had
had a throne of gold and at St. Denis sixty sarcophagi of granite, there
remained but a platform of pine and a wicker coffin.
Here are some unknown details. The executioners numbered four; two only
performed the execution; the third stayed at the foot of the ladder, and
the fourth was on the waggon which was to convey the King's body to the
Madeleine Cemetery and which was waiting a few feet from the scaffold.
The executioners wore breeches, coats in the French style as the
Revolution had modified it, and three-cornered hats with enormous
They executed the King with their hats on, and it was without taking his
hat off that Samson, seizing by the hair the severed head of Louis XVI.,
showed it to the people, and for a few moments let the blood from it
trickle upon the scaffold.
At the same time his valet or assistant undid what were called "les
sangles" (straps); and, while the crowd gazed alternately upon the
King's body, dressed entirely in white, as I have said, and still
attached, with the hands bound behind the back, to the swing board,
and upon that head whose kind and gentle profile stood out against the
misty, sombre trees of the Tuileries, two priests, commissaries of
the Commune, instructed to be present, as Municipal officials, at
the execution of the King, sat in the Mayor's carriage, laughing and
conversing in loud tones. One of them, Jacques Roux, derisively drew the
other's attention to Capet's fat calves and abdomen.
The armed men who surrounded the scaffold had only swords and pikes;
there were very few muskets. Most of them wore large round hats or red
caps. A few platoons of mounted dragoons in uniform were mingled with
these troops at intervals. A whole squadron of dragoons was ranged in
battle array beneath the terraces of the Tuileries. What was called the
Battalion of Marseilles formed one of the sides of the square.
The guillotine--it is always with repugnance that one writes this
hideous word--would appear to the craftsmen of to-day to be very badly
constructed. The knife was simply suspended to a pulley fixed in the
centre of the upper beam. This pulley and a rope the thickness of a
man's thumb constituted the whole apparatus. The knife, which was not
very heavily weighted, was of small dimensions and had a curved edge,
which gave it the form of a reversed Phrygian cap. No hood was placed
to shelter the King's head and at the same time to hide and circumscribe
its fall. All that crowd could see the head of Louis XVI. drop, and it
was thanks to chance, thanks perhaps to the smallness of the knife which
diminished the violence of the shock, that it did not bound beyond
the basket to the pavement. Terrible incident, which often occurred
at executions during the Terror. Nowadays assassins and poisoners are
decapitated more decently. Many improvements in the guillotine have been
At the spot where the King's head fell, a long rivulet of blood streamed
down the planks of the scaffold to the pavement. When the execution was
over, Samson threw to the people the King's coat, which was of white
molleton, and in an instant it disappeared, torn by a thousand hands.
At the moment when the head of Louis XVI. fell, the Abbé Edgeworth was
still near the King. The blood spirted upon him. He hastily donned a
brown overcoat, descended from the scaffold and was lost in the crowd.
The first row of spectators opened before him with a sort of wonder
mingled with respect; but after he had gone a few steps, the attention
of everybody was still so concentrated upon the centre of the Place
where the event had just been accomplished, that nobody took any further
notice of Abbé Edgeworth.
The poor priest, enveloped in his thick coat which concealed the blood
with which he was covered, fled in bewilderment, walking as one in a
dream and scarcely knowing where he was going. However, with that sort
of instinct which preserves somnambulists he crossed the river, took the
Rue du Bac, then the Rue du Regard and thus managed to reach the house
of Mme. de Lézardière, near the Barrière du Maine.
Arrived there he divested himself of his soiled clothing and remained
for several hours, in a state of collapse, without being able to collect
a thought or utter a word.
Some Royalists who rejoined him, and who had witnessed the execution,
surrounded the Abbé Edgeworth and reminded him of the adieu he had
addressed to the King: "Son of St. Louis, ascend to heaven!" These
words, however, memorable though they were, had left no trace on the
mind of him who had uttered them. "We heard them," said the witnesses of
the catastrophe, still moved and thrilled. "It is possible," he replied,
"but I do not remember having said such a thing."
Abbé Edgeworth lived a long life without ever being able to remember
whether he really did pronounce these words.
Mme. de Lézardière, who had been seriously ill for more than a month,
was unable to support the shock of the death of Louis XVI. She died on
the very night of January 21.
II. ARRIVAL OF NAPOLEON IN PARIS. March 20, 1815.
History and contemporaneous memoirs have truncated, or badly related, or
even omitted altogether, certain details of the arrival of the Emperor
in Paris on March 20, 1815. But living witnesses are to be met with who
saw them and who rectify or complete them.
During the night of the 19th, the Emperor left Sens. He arrived at three
o'clock in the morning at Fontainebleau. Towards five o'clock, as day
was breaking, he reviewed the few troops he had taken with him and
those who had rallied to him at Fontainebleau itself. They were of every
corps, of every regiment, of all arms, a little of the Grand Army, a
little of the Guard. At six o'clock, the review being over, one hundred
and twenty lancers mounted their horses and went on ahead to wait for
him at Essonnes. These lancers were commanded by Colonel Galbois,
now lieutenant general, and who has recently distinguished himself at
They had been at Essonnes scarcely three-quarters of an hour, resting
their horses, when the carriage of the Emperor arrived. The escort of
lancers were in their saddles in the twinkling of an eye and surrounded
the carriage, which immediately started off again without having changed
horses. The Emperor stopped on the way at the large villages to receive
petitions from the inhabitants and the submission of the authorities,
and sometimes to listen to harangues. He was on the rear seat of the
carriage, with General Bertrand in full uniform seated on his left.
Colonel Galbois galloped beside the door on the Emperor's side; the
door on Bertrand's side was guarded by a quartermaster of lancers named
Ferrès, to-day a wineshop keeper at Puteaux, a former and very brave
hussar whom the Emperor knew personally and addressed by name. No one
on the road approached the Emperor. Everything that was intended for him
passed through General Bertrand's hands.
Three or four leagues beyond Essonnes the imperial cortege found the
road suddenly barred by General Colbert, at the head of two squadrons
and three regiments echelonned towards Paris.
General Colbert had been the colonel of the regiment of lancers from
which the detachment that escorted the Emperor had been drawn. He
recognised his lancers and his lancers recognised him. They cried:
"General, come over to us!" The General answered: "My children, do your
duty, I am doing mine." Then he turned rein and went off to the right
across country with a few mounted men who followed him. He could not
have resisted; the regiments behind him were shouting: "Long live the
This meeting only delayed Napoleon a few minutes. He continued on his
way. The Emperor, surrounded only by his one hundred and twenty lancers,
thus reached Paris. He entered by the Barrière de Fontainebleau, took
the large avenue of trees which is on the left, the Boulevard dim
Mont-Parnasse, the other boulevards to the Invalides, then the Pont do
la Concorde, the quay along the river and the gate of the Louvre.
At a quarter past eight o'clock in the evening he was at the Tuileries.
VISIONS OF THE REAL.
I. THE HOVEL.
III. A DREAM.
IV. THE PANEL WITH THE COAT OF ARMS.
V. THE EASTER DAISY.
I. THE HOVEL.
You want a description of this hovel? I hesitated to inflict it upon
you. But you want it. I' faith, here it is! You will only have yourself
to blame, it is your fault.
"Pshaw!" you say, "I know what it is. A bleared, bandy ruin. Some old
In the first place it is not an old house, it is very much worse, it is
a new house.
Really, now, an old house! You counted upon an old house and turned up
your nose at it in advance. Ah! yes, old houses; don't you wish you may
get them! A dilapidated, tumble-down cottage! Why, don't you know that a
dilapidated, tumble-down cottage is simply charming, a thing of beauty?
The wall is of beautiful, warm and strong colour, with moth holes,
birds' nests, old nails on which the spider hangs his rose-window web,
a thousand amusing things that break its evenness. The window is only a
dormer, but from it protrude long poles on which all sorts of clothing,
of all sorts of colours, hang and dry in the wind-white tatters, red
rags, flags of poverty that give to the hut an air of gaiety and are
resplendent in the sunshine. The door is cracked and black, but approach
and examine it; you will without doubt find upon it a bit of antique
ironwork of the time of Louis XIII., cut out like a piece of guipure.
The roof is full of crevices, but in each crevice there is a convolvulus
that will blossom in the spring, or a daisy that will bloom in the
autumn. The tiles are patched with thatch. Of course they are, I should
say so! It affords the occasion to have on one's roof a colony of pink
dragon flowers and wild marsh-mallow. A fine green grass carpets the
foot of this decrepit wall, the ivy climbs joyously up it and cloaks
its bareness--its wounds and its leprosy mayhap; moss covers with green
velvet the stone seat at the door. All nature takes pity upon this
degraded and charming thing that you call a hovel, and welcomes it.
0 hovel! honest and peaceful old dwelling, sweet and good to see!
rejuvenated every year by April and May! perfumed by the wallflower and
inhabited by the swallow!
No, it is not of this that I write, it is not, I repeat, of an old
house, it is of a new house,--of a new hovel, if you will.
This thing has not been built longer than two years. The wall has that
hideous and glacial whiteness of fresh plaster. The whole is wretched,
mean, high, triangular, and has the shape of a piece of Gruyère
cheese cut for a miser a dessert. There are new doors that do not shut
properly, window frames with white panes that are already spangled here
and there with paper stars. These stars are cut coquettishly and pasted
on with care. There is a frightful bogus sumptuousness about the place
that causes a painful impression--balconies of hollow iron badly fixed
to the wall; trumpery locks, already rotten round the fastenings, upon
which vacillate, on three nails, horrible ornaments of embossed brass
that are becoming covered with verdigris; shutters painted grey that are
getting out of joint, not because they are worm-eaten, but because they
were made of green wood by a thieving cabinet maker.
A chilly feeling comes over you as you look at the house. On entering
it you shiver. A greenish humidity leaks at the foot of the wall. This
building of yesterday is already a ruin; it is more than a ruin, it is
a disaster; one feels that the proprietor is bankrupt and that the
contractor has fled.
In rear of the house, a wall white and new like the rest, encloses a
space in which a drum major could not lie at full length. This is called
the garden. Issuing shiveringly from the earth is a little tree, long,
spare and sickly, which seems always to be in winter, for it has not a
single leaf. This broom is called a poplar. The remainder of the garden
is strewn with old potsherds and bottoms of bottles. Among them one
notices two or three list slippers. In a corner on top of a heap of
oyster shells is an old tin watering can, painted green, dented, rusty
and cracked, inhabited by slugs which silver it with their trails of
Let us enter the hovel. In the other you will find perhaps a ladder
"rickety," as Regnier says, "from the top to the bottom." Here you will
find a staircase.
This staircase, "ornamented" with brass-knobbed banisters, has fifteen
or twenty wooden steps, high, narrow, with sharp angles, which rise
perpendicularly to the first floor and turn upon themselves in a spiral
of about eighteen inches in diameter. Would you not be inclined to ask
for a ladder?
At the top of these stairs, if you get there, is the room.
To give an idea of this room is difficult. It is the "new hovel" in all
its abominable reality. Wretchedness is everywhere; a new wretchedness,
which has no past, no future, and which cannot take root anywhere. One
divines that the lodger moved in yesterday and will move out tomorrow.
That he arrived without saying whence he came, and that he will put the
key under the door when he goes away.
The wall is "ornamented" with dark blue paper with yellow flowers, the
window is "ornamented" with a curtain of red calico in which holes take
the place of flowers. There is in front of the window a rush-bottom
chair with the bottom worn out; near the chair a stove; on the stove a
stewpot; near the stewpot a flowerpot turned upside down with a tallow
candle stuck in the hole; near the flowerpot a basketful of coal which
evokes thoughts of suicide and asphyxiation; above the basket a shelf
encumbered with nameless objects, distinguishable among which are a worn
broom and an old toy representing a green rider on a crimson horse.
The mantelpiece, mean and narrow, is of blackish marble with a thousand
little white blotches. It is covered with broken glasses and unwashed
cups. Into one of these cups a pair of tin rimmed spectacles is
plunging. A nail lies on the floor. In the fireplace a dishcloth is
hanging on one of the fire-iron holders. No fire either in the fireplace
or in the stove. A heap of frightful sweepings replaces the heaps of
cinders. No looking glass on the mantelpiece, but a picture of varnished
canvas representing a nude negro at the knees of a white woman in a
decolletée ball dress in an arbour. Opposite the mantelpiece, a man's
cap and a woman's bonnet hang from nails on either side of a cracked
At the end of the room is a bed. That is to say, a mattress laid on two
planks that rest upon a couple of trestles. Over the bed, other boards,
with openings between them, support an undesirable heap of linen,
clothes and rags. An imitation cashmere, called "French cashmere,"
protrudes between the boards and hangs over the pallet.
Mingled with the hideous litter of all these things are dirtiness, a
disgusting odour, spots of oil and tallow, and dust everywhere. In the
corner near the bed stands an enormous sack of shavings, and on a chair
beside the sack lies an old newspaper. I am moved by curiosity to look
at the title and the date. It is the "Constitutionnel" of April 25,
And now what can I add? I have not told the most horrible thing about
the place. The house is odious, the room is abominable, the pallet is
hideous; but all that is nothing.
When I entered a woman was sleeping on the bed--a woman old, short,
thickset, red, bloated, oily, tumefied, fat, dreadful, enormous. Her
frightful bonnet, which was awry, disclosed the side of her head, which
was grizzled, pink and bald.
She was fully dressed. She wore a yellowish fichu, a brown skirt, a
jacket, all this on her monstrous abdomen; and a vast soiled apron like
the linen trousers of a convict.
At the noise I made in entering she moved, sat up, showed her fat legs,
that were covered with unqualifiable blue stockings, and with a yawn
stretched her brawny arms, which terminated with fists that resembled
those of a butcher.
I perceived that the old woman was robust and formidable.
She turned towards me and opened her eyes. I could not see them.
"Monsieur," she said, in a very gentle voice, "what do you want?"
When about to speak to this being I experienced the sensation one would
feel in presence of a sow to which it behoved one to say: "Madam."
I did not quite know what to reply, and thought for a moment. Just then
my gaze, wandering towards the window, fell upon a sort of picture that
hung outside like a sign. It was a sign, as a matter of fact, a picture
of a young and pretty woman, decolletée, wearing an enormous beplumed
hat and carrying an infant in her arms; the whole in the style of the
chimney boards of the time of Louis XVIII. Above the picture stood out
this inscription in big letters:
BLEEDS AND VACCINATES
"Madam," said I, "I want to see Mme. Bécoeur."
The sow metamorphosed into a woman replied with an amiable smile:
"I am Mme. Bécoeur, Monsieur."
II. PILLAGE. THE REVOLT IN SANTO DOMINGO.
I thought that I must be dreaming. None who did not witness the
sight could form any idea of it. I will, however, endeavour to depict
something of it. I will simply recount what I saw with my own eyes. This
small portion of a great scene minutely reproduced will enable you to
form some notion as to the general aspect of the town during the three
days of pillage. Multiply these details _ad libitum_ and you will get
I had taken refuge by the gate of the town, a puny barrier made of long
laths painted yellow, nailed to cross laths and sharpened at the top.
Near by was a kind of shed in which some hapless colonists, who had been
driven from their homes, had sought shelter. They were silent and seemed
to be petrified in all the attitudes of despair. Just outside of the
shed an old man, weeping, was seated on the trunk of a mahogany tree
which was lying on the ground and looked like the shaft of a column.
Another vainly sought to restrain a white woman who, wild with fright,
was trying to flee, without knowing where she was going, through the
crowd of furious, ragged, howling negroes.
The negroes, however, free, victorious, drunk, mad, paid not the
slightest attention to this miserable, forlorn group of whites. A short
distance from us two of them, with their knives between their teeth,
were slaughtering an ox, upon which they were kneeling with their feet
in its blood. A little further on two hideous negresses, dressed as
marchionesses, covered with ribbons and pompons, their breasts bare, and
their heads encumbered with feathers and laces, were quarrelling over a
magnificent dress of Chinese satin, which one of them had grasped with
her nails while the other hung on to it with her teeth. At their feet
a number of little blacks were ransacking a broken trunk from which the
dress had been taken.
The rest was incredible to see and impossible to describe. It was a
crowd, a mob, a masquerade, a revel, a hell, a terrible buffoonery.
Negroes, negresses and mulattoes, in every posture, in all manner of
disguises, displayed all sorts of costumes, and what was worse, their
Here was a pot-bellied, ugly mulatto, of furious mien, attired like
the planters, in a waistcoat and trousers of white material, but with a
bishop's mitre on his head and a crosier in his hand. Elsewhere three or
four negroes with three-cornered hats stuck on their heads and wearing
red or blue military coats with the shoulder belts crossed upon their
black skin, were harassing an unfortunate militiaman they had captured,
and who, with his hands tied behind his back, was being dragged through
the town. With loud bursts of laughter they slapped his powdered hair
and pulled his long pigtail. Now and then they would stop and force the
prisoner to kneel and by signs give him to understand that they were
going to shoot him there. Then prodding him with the butts of their
rifles they would make him get up again, and go through the same
performance further on.
A number of old mulattresses had formed a ring and were skipping round
in the midst of the mob. They were dressed in the nattiest costumes
of our youngest and prettiest white women, and in dancing raised their
skirts so as to show their lean, shrivelled legs and yellow thighs.
Nothing queerer could be imagined than all these charming fashions and
finery of the frivolous century of Louis XV., these Watteau shepherdess
costumes, furbelows, plumes and laces, upon these black, ugly-faced,
flat-nosed, woolly-headed, frightful people. Thus decked out they were
no longer even negroes and negresses; they were apes and monkeys.
Add to all this a deafening uproar. Every mouth that was not making a
contortion was emitting yells.
I have not finished; you must accept the picture complete to its
Twenty paces from me was an inn, a frightful hovel, whose sign was a
wreath of dried herbs hung upon a pickaxe. Nothing but a roof window
and three-legged tables. A low ale-house, rickety tables. Negroes and
mulattoes were drinking there, intoxicating and besotting themselves,
and fraternising. One has to have seen these things to depict them.
In front of the tables of the drunkards a fairly young negress was
displaying herself. She was dressed in a man's waistcoat, unbuttoned,
and a woman's skirt loosely attached. She wore no chemise and her
abdomen was bare. On her head was a magistrate's wig. On one shoulder
she carried a parasol, and on the other a rifle with bayonet fixed.
A few whites, stark naked, ran about miserably in the midst of this
pandemonium. On a litter was being borne the nude body of a stout man,
in whose breast a dagger was sticking as a cross is stuck in the ground.
On every hand were gnomes bronze-coloured, red, black, kneeling,
sitting, squatting, heaped together, opening trunks, forcing locks,
trying on bracelets, clasping necklaces about their necks, donning coats
or dresses, breaking, ripping, tearing. Two blacks were trying to get
into the same coat; each had got an arm on, and they were belabouring
each other with their disengaged fists. It was the second stage of a
sacked town. Robbery and joy had succeeded rage. In a few corners some
were still engaged in killing, but the great majority were pillaging.
All were carrying off their booty, some in their arms, some in baskets
on their backs, some in wheelbarrows.
The strangest thing about it all was that in the midst of the
incredible, tumultuous mob, an interminable file of pillagers who were
rich and fortunate enough to possess horses and vehicles, marched and
deployed, in order and with the solemn gravity of a procession. This was
quite a different kind of a medley!
Imagine carts of all kinds with loads of every description: a four-horse
carriage full of broken crockery and kitchen utensils, with two or three
dressed-up and beplumed negroes on each horse; a big wagon drawn by oxen
and loaded with bales carefully corded and packed, damask armchairs,
frying pans and pitchforks, and on top of this pyramid a negress wearing
a necklace and with a feather stuck in her hair; an old country coach
drawn by a single mule and with a load of ten trunks and, ten negroes,
three of whom were upon the animal's back. Mingle with all this bath
chairs, litters and sedan chairs piled high with loot of all kinds,
precious articles of furniture with the most sordid objects. It was
the hut and the drawing-room pitched together pell-mell into a cart, an
immense removal by madmen defiling through the town.
What was incomprehensible was the equanimity with which the petty
robbers regarded the wholesale robbers. The pillagers afoot stepped
aside to let the pillagers in carriages pass.
There were, it is true, a few patrols, if a squad of five or six monkeys
disguised as soldiers and each beating at his own sweet will on a drum
can be called a patrol.
Near the gate of the town, through which this immense stream of vehicles
was issuing, pranced a mulatto, a tall, lean, yellow rascal, rigged out
in a judge's gown and white tie, with his sleeves rolled up, a sword in
his hand, and his legs bare. He was digging his heels into a fat-bellied
horse that pawed about in the crowd. He was the magistrate charged with
the duty of preserving order at the gate.
A little further on galloped another group. A negro in a red coat with
a blue sash, a general's epaulettes and an immense hat surcharged with
tri-colour feathers, was forcing his way through the rabble. He was
preceded by a horrible, helmetted negro boy beating upon a drum, and
followed by two mulattoes, one in a colonel's coat, the other dressed as
a Turk with a hideous Mardi Gras turban on his ugly Chinese-like head.
Out on the plain I could see battalions of ragged soldiers drawn
up round a big house, on which was a crowded balcony draped with a
tri-colour flag. It had all the appearance of a balcony from which a
speech was being delivered.
Beyond these battalions, this balcony, this flag and this speech was a
calm, magnificent prospect-trees green and charming, mountains of superb
shape, a cloudless sky, the ocean without a ripple.
Strange and sad it is to see the grimace of man made with such
effrontery in presence of the face of God!
III. A DREAM. September 6, 1847.
Last night I dreamed this--we had been talking all the evening about
riots, a propos of the troubles in the Rue Saint Honoré:
I entered an obscure passage way. Men passed and elbowed me in the
shadow. I issued from the passage. I was in a large square, which was
longer than it was wide, and surrounded by a sort of vast wall, or high
edifice that resembled a wall, which enclosed it on all four sides.
There were neither doors nor windows in this wall; just a few holes here
and there. At certain spots it appeared to have been riddled with shot;
at others it was cracked and hanging over as though it had been shaken
by an earthquake. It had the bare, crumbling and desolate aspect of
places in Oriental cities.
No one was in sight. Day was breaking. The stone was grey, the sky also.
At the extremity of the place I perceived four obscure objects that
looked liked cannon levelled ready for firing.
A great crowd of ragged men and children rushed by me with gestures of
"Save us!" cried one of them. "The grape shot is coming!"
"Where are we?" I asked. "What is this place?"'
"What! do you not belong to Paris?" responded the man. "This is the
I gazed about me and, in effect, recognised in this frightful,
devastated square in ruins a sort of spectre of the Palais-Royal.
The fleeing men had vanished, I knew not whither.
I also would have fled. I could not. In the twilight I saw a light
moving about the cannon.
The square was deserted. I could hear cries of: "Run! they are going to
shoot!" but I could not see those who uttered them.
A woman passed by. She was in tatters and carried a child on her back.
She did not run. She walked slowly. She was young, cold, pale, terrible.
As she passed me she said: "It is hard lines! Bread is at thirty-four
sous, and even at that the cheating bakers do not give full weight."
I saw the light at the end of the square flare up and heard the roar of
the cannon. I awoke.
Somebody had just slammed the front door.
IV. THE PANEL WITH THE COAT OF ARMS.
The panel which was opposite the bed had been so blackened by time and
effaced by dust that at first he could distinguish only confused lines
and undecipherable contours; but the while he was thinking of other
things his eyes continually wandered back to it with that mysterious and
mechanical persistence which the gaze sometimes has. Singular details
began to detach themselves from the confused and obscure whole. His
curiosity was roused. When the attention becomes fixed it is like a
light; and the tapestry growing gradually less cloudy finally appeared
to him in its entirety, and stood out distinctly against the sombre
wall, as though vaguely illumined.
It was only a panel with a coat of arms upon it, the blazon, no doubt,
of former owners of the château; but this blazon was a strange one.
The escutcheon was at the foot of the panel, and it was not this
that first attracted attention. It was of the bizarre shape of German
escutcheons of the fifteenth century. It was perpendicular and rested,
although rounded at the base, upon a worn, moss covered stone. Of the
two upper angles, one bent to the left and curled back upon itself like
the turned down corner of a page of an old book; the other, which curled
upward, bore at its extremity an immense and magnificent morion in
profile, the chinpiece of which protruded further than the visor, making
the helm look like a horrible head of a fish. The crest was formed of
two great spreading wings of an eagle, one black, the other red, and
amid the feathers of these wings were the membranous, twisted and almost
living branches of a huge seaweed which bore more resemblance to a
polypus than to a plume. From the middle of the plume rose a buckled
strap, which reached to the angle of a rough wooden pitchfork, the
handle of which was stuck in the ground, and from there descended to a
hand, which held it.
To the left of the escutcheon was the figure of a woman, standing. It
was an enchanting vision. She was tall and slim, and wore a robe of
brocade which fell in ample folds about her feet, a ruff of many pleats
and a necklace of large gems. On her head was an enormous and superb
turban of blond hair on which rested a crown of filigree that was not
round, and that followed all the undulations of the hair. The face,
although somewhat too round and large, was exquisite. The eyes were
those of an angel, the mouth was that of a virgin; but in those heavenly
eyes there was a terrestrial look and on that virginal mouth was the
smile of a woman. In that place, at that hour, on that tapestry, this
mingling of divine ecstasy and human voluptuousness had something at
once charming and awful about it.
Behind the woman, bending towards her as though whispering in her ear,
appeared a man.
Was he a man? All that could be seen of his body--legs, arms and
chest--was as hairy as the skin of an ape; his hands and feet were
crooked, like the claws of a tiger. As to his visage, nothing more
fantastic and frightful could be imagined. Amid a thick, bristling
beard, a nose like an owl's beak and a mouth whose corners were drawn
by a wild-beast-like rictus were just discernible. The eyes were half
hidden by his thick, bushy, curly hair. Each curl ended in a spiral,
pointed and twisted like a gimlet, and on peering at them closely it
could be seen that each of these gimlets was a little viper.
The man was smiling at the woman. It was disquieting and sinister, the
contact of these two equally chimerical beings, the one almost an angel,
the other almost a monster; a revolting clash of the two extremes of the
ideal. The man held the pitchfork, the woman grasped the strap with her
delicate pink fingers.
As to the escutcheon itself, it was sable, that is to say, black, and
in the middle of it appeared, with the vague whiteness of silver,
a fleshless, deformed thing, which, like the rest, at length became
distinct. It was a death's head. The nose was lacking, the orbits of the
eyes were hollow and deep, the cavity of the ear could be seen on the
right side, all the seams of the cranium could be traced, and there only
remained two teeth in the jaws.
But this black escutcheon, this livid death's head, designed with such
minuteness of detail that it seemed to stand out from the tapestry, was
less lugubrious than the two personages who held up the hideous blazon
and who seemed to be whispering to each other in the shadow.
At the bottom of the panel in a corner was the date: 1503.
V. THE EASTER DAISY. May 29, 1841.
A few days ago I was passing along the Rue de Chartres.* A palisade of
boards, which linked two islands of high six-story houses, attracted
my attention. It threw upon the pavement a shadow which the sunshine,
penetrating between the badly joined boards, striped with beautiful
parallel streaks of gold, such as one sees on the fine black satins of
the Renaissance. I strolled over to it and peered through the cracks.
* The little Rue de Chartres was situated on the site now occupied by
the Pavilion de Rohan. It extended from the open ground of the Carrousel
to the Place du Palais-Royal. The old Vaudeville Theatre was situated in
This palisade encloses the site on which was built the Vaudeville
Theatre, that was destroyed by fire two years ago, in June, 1839.
It was two o'clock in the afternoon, the sun shone hotly, the street was
A sort of house door, painted grey, still ornamented with rococo carving
and which a hundred years ago probably was the entrance to the boudoir
of some little mistress, had been adjusted to the palisade. There was
only a latch to raise, and I entered the enclosure.
Nothing could be sadder or more desolate. A chalky soil. Here and
there blocks of stone that the masons had begun to work upon, but had
abandoned, and which were at once white as the stones of sepulchres and
mouldy as the stones of ruins. No one in the enclosure. On the walls of
the neighbouring houses traces of flame and smoke still visible.
However, since the catastrophe two successive springtides had softened
the ground, and in a corner of the trapezium, behind an enormous stone
that was becoming tinted with the green of moss, and beneath which were
haunts of woodlice, millepeds, and other insects, a little patch of
grass had grown in the shadow.
I sat on the stone and bent over the grass.
Oh! my goodness! there was the prettiest little Easter daisy in the
world, and flitting about it was a charming microscopical gnat.
This flower of the fields was growing peaceably and in accordance with
the sweet law of nature, in the open, in the centre of Paris, between a
couple of streets, two paces from the Palais-Royal, four paces from the
Carrousel, amid passers-by, omnibuses and the King's carriages.
This wild flower, neighbour of the pavement, opened up a wide field of
thought. Who could have foreseen, two years ago, that a daisy would be
growing on this spot! If, as on the ground adjoining, there had never
been anything but houses, that is to say, proprietors, tenants, and hail
porters, careful residents extinguishing candle and fire at night before
going to sleep, never would there have been a wild flower here.
How many things, how many plays that failed or were applauded, how
many ruined families, how many incidents, how many adventures, how many
catastrophes were summed up in this flower! To all those who lived upon
the crowd that was nightly summoned here, what a spectre this flower
would have been had it appeared to them two years ago! What a labyrinth
is destiny and what mysterious combinations there were that led up to
the advent of this enchanting little yellow sun with its white rays.
It required a theatre and a conflagration, which are the gaiety and the
terror of a city, one of the most joyous inventions of man and one of
the most terrible visitations of God, bursts of laughter for thirty
years and whirlwinds of flame for thirty horn's to produce this Easter
daisy, the delight of a gnat.
II. MADEMOISELLE MARS.
III. FREDERICK LEMAITRE.
IV. THE COMIQUES.
V. MADEMOISELLE GEORGES.
VI. TABLEAUX VIVANTS.
JOANNY. March 7, 1830, Midnight.
They have been playing "Hernani" at the Théâtre-Français since February
25. The receipts for each performance have been five thousand francs.
The public every night hisses all the verses. It is a rare uproar. The
parterre hoots, the boxes burst with laughter. The actors are abashed
and hostile; most of them ridicule what they have to say. The press has
been practically unanimous every morning in making fun of the piece and
the author. If I enter a reading room I cannot pick up a paper without
seeing: "Absurd as 'Hernani'; silly, false, bombastic, pretentious,
extravagant and nonsensical as 'Hernani'." If I venture into the
corridors of the theatre while the performance is in progress I see
spectators issue from their boxes and slam the doors indignantly. Mlle.
Mars plays her part honestly and faithfully, but laughs at it, even in
my presence. Michelot plays his resignedly and laughs at it behind my
back. There is not a scene shifter, not a super, not a lamp lighter but
points his finger at me.
To-day I dined with Joanny, who had invited me. Joanny plays Ruy Gomez.
He lives at No. 1 Rue du Jardinet, with a young seminarist, his nephew.
The dinner party was sober and cordial. There were some journalists
there, among others M. Merle, the husband of Mme. Dorval. After dinner,
Joanny, who has the most beautiful white hair in the world, rose, filled
his glass, turned towards me. I was on his right hand. Here literally is
what he said to me; I have just returned home and I write his words:
"Monsieur Victor Hugo, the old man, now unknown, who two hundred years
ago filled the role of Don Diègue in 'Le Cid' was not more penetrated
with respect and admiration in presence of the great Corneille than the
old man who plays Don Buy Gomez is to-day in your presence."
In her last illness Mlle. Mars was often delirious. One evening the
doctor arrived. She was in the throes of a high fever, and her mind was
wandering. She prattled about the theatre, her mother, her daughter,
her niece Georgina, about all that she held dear; she laughed, wept,
screamed, sighed deeply.
The doctor approached her bed and said to her: "Dear lady, calm
yourself, it is I." She did not recognise him and her mind continued to
wander. He went on: "Come, show me your tongue, open your mouth." Mlle.
Mars gazed at him, opened her mouth and said: "Here, look. Oh! all my
teeth are my very own!"
Célimène still lived.
Frédérick Lemaitre is cross, morose and kind. He lives in retirement
with his children and his mistress, who at present is Mlle. Clarisse
Frédérick likes the table. He never invites anybody to dinner except
Porcher, the chief of the claque.* Fredérick and Porcher "thee-thou"
each other. Porcher has common sense, good manners, and plenty of money,
which he lends gallantly to authors whose rent is due. Porcher is the
man of whom Harel said: "He likes, protects and disdains Literary men."
* A band of men and boys who are paid to applaud a piece or a certain
actor or actress at a given signal. The applause contractor, or _chef de
claque_, is an important factor in French theatrical affairs.
Frédérick has never less than fifteen dishes at his table. When the
servant brings them in he looks at them and judges them without tasting
them. Often he says:
"That is bad."
"Have you eaten of it?"
"No, God forbid!"
"But taste it."
"It is detestable."
"I will taste it," says Clarisse.
"It is execrable. I forbid you to do so."
"But let me try it."
"Take that dish away! It is filthy!" And he sends for his cook and rates
He is greatly feared by all his household. His domestics live in a state
of terror. At table, if he does not speak, no one utters a word. Who
would dare to break the silence when he is mute? One would think it was
a dinner of dumb people, or a supper of Trappists, except for the good
cheer. He likes to wind up the repast with fish. If there is turbot he
has it served after the creams. He drinks, when dining, a bottle and
a half of Bordeaux wine. Then, after dinner, he lights his cigar, and
while smoking drinks two other bottles of wine.
For all that he is a comedian of genius and a very good fellow. He is
easily moved to tears, which start to his eyes at a word said to him
angrily or reproachfully.
This dates back to 1840. Mlle. Atala Beaudouin (the actress who under
the name of Louise Beaudouin created the role of the Queen in Ruy
Bias) had left Frédérick Lemaître, the great and marvellous comedian.
Frédérick adored her and was inconsolable.
Mlle. Atala's mother had strongly advised her daughter on this occasion.
Frédérick was occasionally violent, notwithstanding that he was very
amorous; and, besides, a Russian prince had presented himself. In short,
Mlle. Atala persisted in her determination and positively refused to see
Frederick made frightful threats, especially against the mother. One
morning there was a violent ringing at Mlle. Atala's bell. Her mother
opened the door and recoiled in terror. It was Frédérick. He entered,
dropped into the chair that was handiest to him, and said to the old
"Don't be afraid, I haven't come to kick your--, I have come to weep."
THE COMIQUES September, 1846
Potier, having grown old, played at the Porte Saint Martin towards the
close of his life. He was the same in the street as he was on the stage.
Little boys would follow him, saying: "There is Potier!" He had a small
cottage near Paris and used to come to rehearsals mounted on a small
horse, his long thin legs dangling nearly to the ground.
Tiercelin was a Hellenist. Odry is a connoisseur of chinaware. The
elephantine Lepeintre junior runs into debt and lives the life of a
_coquin de neuveu_.
Alcide Tousez, Sainville and Ravel carry on in the green room just as
they do on the stage, inventing cock-and-bull yarns and cracking jokes.
Arnal composes classic verse, admires Samson, waxes wrath because the
cross has not been conferred upon him. And, in the green room, with
rouge on his nose and cheeks and a wig on his head, talks, between two
slaps in the face given or received, about Guizot's last speech, free
trade and Sir Robert Peel; he interrupts himself, makes his entry upon
the stage, plays his part, returns and gravely resumes: "I was saying
that Robert Peel----"
Poor Arnal recently was driven almost insane. He had a mistress whom he
adored. This woman fleeced him. Having become rich enough she said to
him: "Our position is an immoral one and an end must be put to it. An
honest man has offered me his name and I am going to get married." Arnal
was disconsolate. "I give you the preference," said the belle, "marry
me." Arnal is married. The woman left him and has become a bourgeoise.
Arnal nearly lost his reason through grief. This does not prevent him
from playing his pasquinades every night at the Vaudeville. He makes
fun of his ugliness, of his age, of the fact that he is pitted with
small-pox--laughs at all those things that prevented him from pleasing
the woman he loved, and makes the public laugh--and his heart is broken.
Poor red queue! What eternal and incurable sorrows there be in the
gaiety of a buffoon! What a lugubrious business is that of laughter!
MADEMOISELLE GEORGES. October, 23, 1867.
Mlle. George came to see me to-day. She was sad, and elegantly dressed
in a blue dress with white stripes. She said: "I am weary and disgusted.
I asked for Mars' reversion. They granted me a pension of two thousand
francs which they do not pay. Just a mouthful of bread, and even that I
do not get a chance to eat! They wanted to engage me at the Historique
(at the Théâtre Historique). I refused. What could I do there among
those transparencies! A stout woman like me! Besides, where are the
authors? Where are the pieces? Where are the roles? As to the provinces,
I tried touring last year, but it is impossible without Harel.* I don't
know how to manage actors. How do you think I can get on with these evil
doers? I was to have finished the 24th. I paid them on the 20th, and
fled. I returned to Paris to visit poor Harel's tomb. It is frightful,
a tomb! It is horrible to see his name there on the stone! Yet I did not
weep. I was dry-eyed and cold. What a strange thing is life! To think
that this man who was so clever, so witty, should die an idiot! He
passed his days doing like this with his fingers. Not a spark of reason
remained. It is all over. I shall have Rachel at my benefit; I shall
play with her that chestnut "Iphigênie". We shall make money, but I
don't care. Besides, I'm sure she wouldn't play Rodogune! I will also
play, if you will permit me, an act of "Lucrèce Borgia". You see, I am
for Rachel; she is an artful one, if you like. See how she checkmates
those rascally French actors! She renews her engagements, assures for
herself pyrotechnics, vacations, heaps of gold. When the contract is
signed she says: "By the bye, I forgot to tell you that I have been
enceinte for four months; it will be five months before I am able to
play." She does well. If I had done the same thing I shouldn't have to
die like a dog on a litter of straw. Tragedians, you see, are comedians
after all. That poor Dorval, what has become of her, do you know? There
is one to be pitied, if you like! She is playing I know not where, at
Toulouse, at Carpentras, in barns, to earn her living! She is reduced
like me to showing her bald head and dragging her poor old carcass on
badly planed boards behind footlights of four tallow candles, among
strolling actors who have been to the galleys, or who ought to be there!
Ah! Monsieur Hugo, all this is nothing to you who are in good health and
well off, but we are poor miserable creatures!"
* M. Harel was manager of the Porte St. Martin Theatre.
Mlle. Georges lived with him.
In the year 1846 there was a spectacle that caused a furore in Paris. It
was that afforded by women attired only in pink tights and a gauze skirt
executing poses that were called _tableaux vivants_, with a few men to
complete the groups. This show was given at the Porte Saint Martin and
at the Cirque. I had the curiosity one night to go and see the women
behind the scenes. I went to the Porte Saint Martin, where, I may add in
parentheses, they were going to revive "Lucrêce Borgia". Villemot, the
stage manager, who was of poor appearance but intelligent, said: "I will
take you into the gynecium."
A score of men were there--authors, actors, firemen, lamp lighters,
scene shifters--who came, went, worked or looked on, and in the midst of
them seven or eight women, practically nude, walked about with an air of
the most naïve tranquillity. The pink tights that covered them from the
feet to the neck were so thin and transparent that one could see not
only the toes, the navel, and the breasts, but also the veins and the
colour of the least mark on the skin on all parts of their bodies.
Towards the abdomen, however, the tights became thicker and only the
form was distinguishable. The men who assisted them were similarly
arranged. All these people were English.
At intervals of five minutes the curtain parted and they executed a
_tableau_. For this they were posed in immobile attitudes upon a large
wooden disc which revolved upon a pivot. It was worked by a child of
fourteen who reclined on a mattress beneath it. Men and women were
dressed up in chiffons of gauze or merino that were very ugly at a
distance and very ignoble _de prês_. They were pink statues. When the
disc had revolved once and shown the statues on every side to the public
crowded in the darkened theatre, the curtain closed again, another
tableau was arranged, and the performance recommenced a moment later.
Two of these women were very pretty. One resembled Mme. Rey, who played
the Queen in "Ruy Blas" in 1840; it was this one who represented Venus.
She was admirably shaped. Another was more than pretty: she was handsome
and superb. Nothing more magnificent could be seen than her black, sad
eyes, her disdainful mouth, her smile at once bewitching and haughty.
She was called Maria, I believe. In a tableau which represented "A Slave
Market," she displayed the imperial despair and the stoical dejection
of a nude queen offered for sale to the first bidder. Her tights, which
were torn at the hip, disclosed her firm white flesh. They were, however
only poor girls of London. All had dirty finger nails.
When they returned to the green room they laughed as freely with the
scene shifters as with the authors, and talked broken French while they
adjusted all kinds of frightful rags upon their charming visages. Their
smile was the calm smile of perfect innocence or of complete corruption.
AT THE ACADEMY.
Session of November 23, 1843.
CHARLES NODIER.--The Academy, yielding to custom, has suppressed
universally the double consonant in verbs where this consonant
supplanted euphoniously the _d_ of the radical _ad_.
MYSELF.--I avow my profound ignorance. I had no idea that custom had
effected this suppression and that the Academy had sanctioned it. Thus
one should no longer write _atteindre, approuver, appeler, apprehender_,
etc., but _ateindre, aprouver, apeler, apréhender_?
M. VICTOR COUSIN.--I desire to point out to M. Hugo that the alterations
of which he complains come from the movement of the language, which is
nothing else than decadence.
MYSELF.--M. Cousin having addressed a personal observation to me, I
beg to point out to him in turn that his opinion is, in my estimation,
merely an opinion and nothing more. I may add that, as I view it,
"movement of the language" and decadence have nothing in common. Nothing
could be more distinct than these two things. Movement in no way proves
decadence. The language has been moving since the first day of its
formation; can it be said to be deteriorating? Movement is life;
decadence is death.
M. COUSIN.--The decadence of the French language began in 1789.
MYSELF.--At what hour, if you please?
October 8, 1844.
This is what was told to me at to-day's session:
Salvandy recently dined with Villemain. The repast over, they
adjourned to the drawing-room, and conversed. As the clock struck eight
Villemain's three little daughters entered to kiss their father good
night. The youngest is named Lucette; her birth cost her mother her
reason; she is a sweet and charming child of five years.
"Well, Lucette, dear child," said her father, "won't you recite one of
Lafontaine's fables before you go to bed?"
"Here," observed M. de Salvandy, "is a little person who to-day recites
fables and who one of these days will inspire romances."
Lucette did not understand. She merely gazed with her big wondering
eyes at Salvandy who was lolling in his chair with an air of benevolent
"Well, Lucette." he went on, "will you not recite a fable for us?"
The child required no urging, and began in her naïve little voice, her
fine, frank, sweet eyes still fixed upon Salvandy:
One easily believes one's self to be somebody in France.
During the run of M. Ponsard's "Lucrece", I had the following dialogue
with M. Viennet at a meeting of the Academy:
M. VIENNET.--Have you seen the "Lucrece" that is being played at the
M. VIENNET.--It is very good.
MYSELF.--Really, is it good?
M. VIENNET.--It is more than good, it is fine.
MYSELF.--Really, is it fine?
M. VIENNET.--It is more than fine, it is magnificent.
MYSELF.--Really, now, magnificent?
M. VIENNET.--Oh! magnificent!
MYSELF.--Come, now, is it as good as "Zaire"?
M. VIENNET.--Oh! no! Oh! you are going too far, you know. Gracious!
"Zaire"! No, it is not as good as "Zaire".
MYSELF.--Well, you see, "Zaire" is a very poor piece indeed!
AN ELECTION SESSION.
February 11, 1847.
Thirty-one Academicians present. Sixteen votes are necessary.
Emile Deschamps 2 votes.
Victor Leclerc 14 "
Empis 15 "
Lamartine and M. Ballanche arrive at the end of the first ballot. M.
Thiers arrives at the commencement of the second; which makes 34.
The director asks M. Thiers whether he has promised his vote. He
laughingly replies: "No," and adds: "I have offered it." (Laughter.)
M. Cousin, to M. Lebrun, director: "You did not employ the sacramental
expression. One does not ask an Academician whether he has *promised*
his vote, but whether he has *pledged* it."
Emile Deschamps 2 votes.
Empis 18 "
Victor Leclerc 14 "
M. Empis is elected. The election was decided by Lamartine and M.
On my way out I meet Leon Gozlan, who says to me: "Well?"
I reply: "There has been an election. It is Empis."
"How do you look at it?" he asks.
"In both ways."
"And _tant pis_!"
March 16, 1847.
At the Academy to-day, while listening to the poems, bad to the point
of grotesqueness, that have been sent for the competition of 1847, M. de
Barante remarked: "Really, in these times, we no longer know how to make
Great praise of the poetical and literary excellence of these times,
although M. de Barante was not conscious of it.
April 22, 1847.
Election of M. Ampere. This is an improvement upon the last. A slow
improvement. But Academies, like old people, go slowly.
During the session and after the election Lamartine sent to me by an
usher the following lines:
C'est un état peu prospere
D'aller d'Empis en Ampere.
I replied to him by the same usher:
Toutefois ce serait pis
D'aller d'Ampere en Empis.
October 4, 1847.
I have just heard M. Viennet say: "I think in bronze."
December 29, 1848. Friday.
Yesterday, Thursday, I had two duties to attend to at one and the same
time, the Assembly and the Academy; the salt question on the one hand,
on the other the much smaller question of two vacant seats. Yet I gave
the preference to the latter. This is why: At the Palais Bourbon the
Cavaignac party had to be prevented from killing the new Cabinet; at the
Palais Mazarin the Academy had to be prevented from offending the memory
of Chateaubriand. There are cases in which the dead count for more than
the living; I went to the Academy.
The Academy last Thursday had suddenly decided, at the opening of the
session, at a time when nobody had yet put in an appearance, when there
were only four or five round the green table, that on January 11 (that
is to say, in three weeks) it would fill the two seats left vacant by
MM. de Chateaubriand and Vatout. This strange alliance, I do not say of
names, but of words,--"replace MM. de Chateaubriand and Vatout,"--did
not stop it for one minute. The Academy is thus made; its wit and that
wisdom which produces so many follies, are composed of extreme lightness
combined with extreme heaviness. Hence a good deal of foolishness and a
good many foolish acts.
Beneath this lightness, however, there was an intention. This giddiness
was fraught with deep meaning. The brave party that leads the Academy,
for there are parties everywhere, even at the Academy, hoped, public
attention being directed elsewhere, politics absorbing everything, to
juggle the seat of Chateaubriand pell-mell with the seat of M. Vatout;
two peas in the same goblet. In this way the astonished public
would turn round one fine morning and simply see M. de Noailles in
Chateaubriand's seat: a small matter, a great lord in the place of a
Then, after a roar of laughter, everybody would go about his business
again, distractions would speedily come, thanks to the veering of
politics, and, as to the Academy, oh! a duke and peer the more in it,
a little more ridicule upon it, what would that matter? It would go on
just the same!
Besides, M. de Noailles is a considerable personage. Bearing a great
name, being lofty of manner, enjoying an immense fortune, of certain
political weight under Louis Philippe, accepted by the Conservatives
although, or because, a Legitimist, reading speeches that were listened
to, he occupied an important place in the Chamber of Peers; which proves
that the Chamber of Peers occupied an unimportant place in the country.
Chateaubriand, who hated all that could replace him and smiled at
all that could make him regretted, had had the kindness to tell him
sometimes, by Mme. Récamier's fireside, "that he hoped he would be his
successor;" which prompted M. de Noailles to dash off a big book in two
volumes about Mme. de Maintenon, at the commencement of which, on the
first page of the preface, I was stopped by a lordly breach of grammar.
This was the state of things when I concluded to go to the Academy.
The session which was announced to begin at two o'clock, as usual,
opened, as usual, at a quarter past three. And at half past three--
At half past three the candidacy of Monsieur the Duke do Noailles,
*replacing* Chateaubriand, was irresistibly acclaimed.
Decidedly, I ought to have gone to the Assembly.
March 26, 1850. Tuesday.
I had arrived early, at noon.
I was warming myself, for it is very cold, and the ground is covered
with snow, which is not good for the apricot trees. M. Guizot, leaning
against the mantelpiece, was saying to me:
"As a member of the dramatic prize committee, I read yesterday, in a
single day, mind you, no fewer than six plays!"
"That," I responded, "was to punish you for not having seen one acted in
At this moment M. Thiers came up and the two men exchanged greetings.
This is how they did it:
M. THIERS: Good afternoon, Guizot.
M. GUIZOT: Good afternoon, Monsieur.
AN ELECTION SESSION. March 28, 1850.
M. Guizot presided. At the roll call, when M. Pasquier's name was
reached he said: "Monsieur the Chancellor--" When he got to that of M.
Dupin, President of the National Assembly, he called: "Monsieur Dupin."
Alfred de Musset 5 votes.
M. Nisard 23 "
M. Nisard is elected.
To-day, September 12, the Academy worked at the dictionary. A propos
of the word "increase," this example, taken from the works of Mme. de
Staël, was proposed:
"Poverty increases ignorance, and ignorance poverty."
Three objections were immediately raised:
2. Contemporary writer.
3. Dangerous thing to say.
The Academy rejected the example.
LOVE IN PRISON.
BESIDES misdeeds, robberies, the division of spoils after an ambuscade,
and the twilight exploitation of the barriers of Paris, footpads,
burglars, and gaol-birds generally have another industry: they have
This requires explanation.
The trade in negro slaves moves us, and with good reason; we examine
this social sore, and we do well. But let us also learn to lay bare
another ulcer, which is more painful, perhaps: the traffic in white
Here is one of the singular things connected with and characteristic of
this poignant disorder of our civilization:
Every gaol contains a prisoner who is known as the "artist."
All kinds of trades and professions peculiar to prisons develop behind
the bars. There is the vendor of liquorice-water, the vendor of scarfs,
the writer, the advocate, the usurer, the hut-maker, and the barker. The
artist takes rank among these local and peculiar professions between the
writer and the advocate.
To be an artist is it necessary to know how to draw? By no means. A bit
of a bench to sit upon, a wall to lean against, a lead pencil, a bit of
pasteboard, a needle stuck in a handle made out of a piece of wood,
a little Indian ink or sepia, a little Prussian blue, and a little
vermilion in three cracked beechwood spoons,--this is all that is
requisite; a knowledge of drawing is superfluous. Thieves are as fond of
colouring as children are, and as fond of tattooing as are savages. The
artist by means of his three spoons satisfies the first of these needs,
and by means of his needle the second. His remuneration is a "nip" of
The result is this:
Some prisoners, say, lack everything, or are simply desirous of living
more comfortably. They combine, wait upon the artist, offer him their
glasses of wine or their bowls of soup, hand him a sheet of paper and
order of him a bouquet. In the bouquet there must be as many flowers
as there are prisoners in the group. If there be three prisoners, there
must be three flowers. Each flower bears a figure, or, if preferred, a
number, which number is that of the prisoner.
The bouquet when painted is sent, through the mysterious means of
communication between the various prisons that the police are powerless
to prevent, to Saint Lazare. Saint Lazare is the women's prison, and
where there are women there also is pity. The bouquet circulates from
hand to hand among the unfortunate creatures that the police detain
administratively at Saint Lazare; and in a few days the infallible
secret post apprises those who sent the bouquet that Palmyre has chosen
the tuberose, that Fanny prefers the azalea, and that Seraphine has
adopted the geranium. Never is this lugubrious handkerchief thrown into
the seraglio without being picked up.
Thenceforward the three bandits have three servants whose names are
Palmyre, Fanny, and Seraphine. Administrative detentions are relatively
of short duration. These women are released from prison before the men.
And what do they do? They support them. In elegant phraseology they are
providences; in plain language they are milch-cows.
Pity has been transformed into love. The heart of woman is susceptible
of such sombre graftings. These women say:
"I am married." They are married indeed. By whom? By the flower. With
whom? With the abyss. They are fiancées of the unknown. Enraptured and
enthusiastic fiancées. Pale Sulamites of fancy and fog. When the known
is so odious, how can they help loving the unknown?
In these nocturnal regions and with the winds of dispersion that blow,
meetings are almost impossible. The lovers see each other in dreams. In
all probability the woman will never set eyes on the man. Is he young?
Is he old? Is he handsome? Is he ugly? She does not know; she knows
nothing about him. She adores him. And it is because she does not know
him that she loves him. Idolatry is born of mystery.
This woman, drifting aimlessly on life's tide, yearns for something to
cling to, a tie to bind her, a duty to perform. The pit from amid its
scum throws it to her; she accepts it and devotes herself to it. This
mysterious bandit, transformed into heliotrope or iris, becomes a
religion to her. She espouses him in the presence of night. She has a
thousand little wifely attentions for him; poor for herself, she is rich
for him; she whelms this manure with her delicate solicitude. She is
faithful to him with all the fidelity of which she is still capable;
the incorruptible emanates from the corruptible. Never does this woman
betray her love. It is an immaterial, pure, ethereal love, subtile as
the breath of spring, solid as brass.
A flower has done all this. What a well is the human heart, and how
giddy it makes one to peer into it! Lo! the cloaca. Of what is it
thinking? Of perfume. A prostitute loves a thief through a lily. What
plunger into human thought could reach the bottom of this? Who shall
fathom this immense yearning for flowers that springs from mud? In
the secret self of these hapless women is a strange equilibrium that
consoles and reassures them. A rose counterbalances an act of shame.
Hence these amours based on and sustained by illusion. This thief is
idolized by this girl. She has not seen his face, she does not know his
name; she sees him in visions induced by the perfume of jessamine or of
pinks. Henceforward flower-gardens, the May sunshine, the birds in their
nests, exquisite tints, radiant blossoms, boxes of orange trees and
daphne odora, velvet petals upon which golden bees alight, the sacred
odours of spring-tide, balms, incense, purling brooks, and soft green
grass are associated with this bandit. The divine smile of nature
penetrates and illumines him.
This desperate aspiring to paradise lost, this deformed dream of the
beautiful, is not less tenacious on the part of the man. He turns
towards the woman; and this preoccupation, become insensate, persists
even when the dreadful shadow of the two red posts of the guillotine
is thrown upon the window of his cell. The day before his execution
Delaporte, chief of the Trappes band, who was wearing the strait-jacket,
asked of the convict Cogniard, whom, through the grating in the door of
the condemned cell, he saw passing by: "Are there any pretty women in
the visitors' parlor this morning?" Another condemned man, Avril (what
a name!), in this same cell, bequeathed all that he possessed--five
francs--to a female prisoner whom he had seen at a distance in the
women's yard, "in order that she may buy herself a fichu a la mode."
Between the male and female wretch dreams build a Bridge of Sighs, as it
were. The mire of the gutter dallies with the door of a prison cell. The
Aspasia of the street-corner aspires and respires with the heart of the
Alcibiades who waylays the passer-by at the corner of a wood.
You laugh? You should not. It is a terrible thing.
The murderer is a flower for the courtesan. The prostitute is the Clytia
of the assassin sun. The eye of the woman damned languourously seeks
Satan among the myrtles.
What is this phenomenon? It is the need of the ideal. A sublime and
A terrible thing, I say.
Is it a disease? Is it a remedy? Both. This noble yearning is at
the same time and for the same beings a chastisement and a reward; a
voluptuousness full of expiation; a chastisement for faults committed,
a recompense for sorrows borne! None may escape it. It is a hunger of
angels felt by demons. Saint Theresa experiences it, Messalina also.
This need of the immaterial is the most deeply rooted of all needs. One
must have bread; but before bread, one must have the ideal. One is a
thief, one is a street-walker--all the more reason. The more one drinks
of the darkness of night the more is one thirsty for the light of dawn.
Schinderhannes becomes a cornflower, Poulailler a violet. Hence these
sinisterly ideal weddings.
And then, what happens?
What I have just said.
Cloaca, but abyss. Here the human heart opens partly, disclosing
unimaginable depths. Astarte becomes platonic. The miracle of the
transformation of monsters by love is being accomplished. Hell is being
gilded. The vulture is being metamorphosed into a bluebird. Horror
ends in the pastoral. You think you are at Vouglans's and
Parent-Duchâtelet's; you are at Longus's. Another step and you will
stumble into Berquin's. Strange indeed is it to encounter Daphnis and
Chloe in the Forest of Bondy!
The dark Saint Martin Canal, into which the footpad pushes the passer-by
with his elbow as he snatches his victim's watch, traverses the Tender
and empties itself into the Lignon. Poulmann begs a ribbon bow; one is
tempted to present a shepherdess's crook to Papavoine. Through the straw
of the sabot one sees gossamer wings appearing on horrible heels. The
miracle of the roses is performed for Goton. All fatalities combined
have for result a flower. A vague Rambouillet Palace is superposed upon
the forbidding silhouette of the Salpêtrière. The leprous wall of evil,
suddenly covered with blossoms, affords a pendant to the wreath of
Juliet. The sonnets of Petrarch, that flight of the ideal which soars in
the shadow of souls, venture through the twilight towards this abjection
and suffering, attracted by one knows not what obscure affinity, even
as a swarm of bees is sometimes seen humming over a dungheap from which
arises, perceptible to the bees alone and mingling with the miasms, the
perfume of a hidden flower. The gemoniae are Elysian. The chimerical
thread of celestial unions floats 'neath the darkest vault of the human
Erebus and binds despairing hearts to hearts that are monstrous. Manon
through the infinite sends to Cartouche a smile ineffable as that with
which Everallin entranced Fingal. From one pole of misery to the other,
from one gehenna to another, from the galleys to the brothel, tenebrous
mouths wildly exchange the kiss of azure.
It is night. The monstrous ditch of Clamart opens. From it arises a
miasm, a phosphorescent glow. It shines and flickers in two separate
tarts; it takes shape, the head rejoins the body, it is a phantom; the
phantom gazes into the darkness with wild, baleful eyes, rises, grows
bigger and blue, hovers for an instant and then speeds away to the
zenith to open the door of the palace of the sun where butterflies flit
from flower to flower and angels flit from star to star.
In all these strange, concordant phenomena appears the inadmissibility
of the principle that is all of man. The mysterious marriage which we
have just related, marriage of servitude with captivity, exaggerates the
ideal from the very fact that it is weighed down by all the most hideous
burdens of destiny. A frightful combination! It is the From it rises a
miasm, a phosphorescent glow. It shines meeting of these two redoubtable
words in which human existence is summed up: enjoy and suffer.
Alas! And how can we prevent this cry from escaping us? For these
hapless ones, enjoy, laugh, sing, please, and love exist, persist; but
there is a death-rattle in sing, a grating sound in laugh, putrefaction
in enjoy, there are ashes in please, there is night in love. All these
joys are attached to their destiny by coffin-nails.
What does that matter? They thirst for these lugubrious, chimerical
glimpses of light that are full of dreams.
What is tobacco, that is so precious and so dear to the prisoner? It
is a dream. "Put me in the dungeon," said a convict, "but give me some
tobacco." In other words: "Throw me into a pit, but give me a palace."
Press the prostitute and the bandit, mix Tartarus and Avernus, stir the
fatal vat of social mire, pile all the deformities of matter together,
and what issues therefrom? The immaterial.
The ideal is the Greek fire of the gutter. It burns there. Its
brightness in the impure water dazzles the thinker and touches his
heart. Nini Lassive stirs and brightens with Fiesehi's bilets-doux that
sombre lamp of Vesta which is in the heart of every woman, and which
is as inextinguishable in that of the courtesan as in that of the
Carmelite. This is what explains the word "virgin," accorded by the
Bible equally to the foolish virgin and to the wise virgin.
That was so yesterday, it is so to-day. Here again the surface has
changed, the bottom remains the same. The frank harshness of the Middle
Ages has been somewhat softened in our times. Ribald is pronounced
light o' love; Toinon answers to the name of Olympia or Imperia;
Thomasse-la-Maraude is called Mme. de Saint Alphonse. The caterpillar
was real, the butterfly is false; that is the only change. Clout has
Regnier used to say "sows "; we say "fillies."
Other fashions; same manners.
The foolish virgin is lugubriously immutable.
Whosoever witnesses this kind of anguish witnesses the extreme of human
Dark zones are these. Baleful night bursts and spreads o'er them. Evil
accumulated dissolves in misfortune upon them, they are swept with
blasts of despair by the tempest of fatalities, there a downpour of
trials and sorrows streams upon dishevelled heads in the darkness;
squalls, hail, a hurricane of distress, swirl and whirl back and forth
athwart them; it rains, rains without cease: it rains horror, it rains
vice, it rains crime, it rains the blackness of night; yet we must
explore this obscurity, and in the sombre storm the mind essays a
difficult flight, the flight of a wet bird, as it were.
There is always a vague, spectral dread in these low regions where
hell penetrates; they are so little in the human order and so
disproportionate that they create phantoms. It is hardly surprising,
therefore, that a legend should be connected with this sinister bouquet
offered by Bicêtre to La Salpêtrière or by La Force to Saint Lazare; it
is related at night in the cells and wards after the keepers have gone
It was shortly after the murder of the money-changer Joseph. A bouquet
was sent from La Force to a woman's prison, Saint Lazare or the
Madelonnettes. In this bouquet was a sprig of white lilac which one of
the women prisoners selected.
A month or two elapsed; the woman was released from prison. She was
extremely enamoured, through the white lilac, of the unknown master she
had given to herself. She began to perform for him her strange function
of sister, mother, and mystic spouse, ignorant of his name, knowing only
his prison number. All her miserable savings, religiously deposited
with the clerk of the prison, went to this man. In order the better to
affiance herself to him, she took advantage of the advent of spring to
cull a sprig of real lilac in the fields. This sprig of lilac, attached
by a piece of sky-blue ribbon to the head of his bed, formed a pendant
to a sprig of consecrated box, an ornament which these poor desolate
alcoves never lack. The lilac withered thus.
This woman, like all Paris, had heard of the affair of the Palais-Royal
and of the two Italians, Malagutti and Ratta, arrested for the murder of
She thought little about the tragedy, which did not concern her, and
lived only in her white lilac. This lilac was all in all to her; she
thought only of doing her "duty" to it.
One bright, sunny day she was seated in her room, sewing some garment or
other for her sorry evening toilet. Now and then she looked up from
her work at the lilac that hung at the head of the bed. At one of these
moments while her gaze was fixed upon the sprig of faded flower the
clock struck four.
Then she fancied she saw an extraordinary thing.
A sort of crimson pearl oozed from the extremity of the stalk of the
flower, grew larger, and dripped on to the white sheet of the bed.
It was a spot of blood.
That day, at that very hour, Ratta and Malagutti were executed.
It was evident that the white lilac was one of these two. But which one?
The hapless girl became insane and had to be confined in La Salpêtrière.
She died there. From morn to night, and from night to morn, she would
gibber: "I am Mme. Ratta-Malagutti."
Thus are these sombre hearts.
Prostitution is an Isis whose final veil none has raised. There is a
sphinx in this gloomy odalisk of the frightful Sultan Everybody. None
has solved its enigma. It is Nakedness masked. A terrible spectacle!
Alas! in all that we have just recounted man is abominable, woman is
How many hapless ones have been driven to their fall!
The abyss is the friend of dreams. Fallen, as we have said, their
lamentable hearts have no other resource than to dream.
What caused their ruin was another dream, the dreadful dream of riches;
nightmare of glory, of azure, and ecstasy which weighs upon the chest of
the poor; flourish of trumpets heard in the gehenna, with the triumph
of the fortunate appearing resplendent in the immense night; prodigious
overture full of dawn! Carriages roll, gold falls in showers, laces
Why should I not have this, too? Formidable thought!
This gleam from the sinister vent-hole dazzled them; this puff of the
sombre vapour inebriated them, and they were lost, and they were rich.
Wealth is a fatal distant light; woman flies frantically towards it.
This mirror catches this lark.
Wherefore they have been rich. They, too, have had their day of
enchantment, their minute of fête, their sparkle.
They have had that fever which is fatal to modesty. They have drained
the sonorous cup that is full of nothingness. They have drunk of the
madness of forgetfulness. What a flattering hope! What temptation! To
do nothing and have everything; alas! and also to have nothing, not even
one's own self. To be slave-flesh, to be beauty for sale, a woman fallen
to a thing! They have dreamed and they have had--which is the same
thing, complete possession being but a dream--mansions, carriages,
servants in livery, suppers joyous with laughter, the house of gold,
silk, velvet, diamonds, pearls, life giddy with voluptuousness--every
Oh! how much better is the innocence of those poor little barefooted
ones on the shore of the sea, who hear at nightfall the tinkling of the
cracked bells of the goats on the cliffs!
There was a disastrous morrow to these brief, perfidious joys that they
had savoured. The word love signified hatred. The invisible doubles the
visible, and it is lugubrious. Those who shared their raptures, those to
whom they gave all, received all and accepted nothing. They--the fallen
ones--sowed their seed in ashes. They were deserted even as they were
being embraced. Abandonment sniggered behind the mask of the kiss.
And now, what are they to do? They must perforce continue to love.
Oh! if they could, the unhappy creatures, if they could put from them
their hearts, their dreams, harden themselves with a hardness that
could not be softened, be forever cold and passionless, tear out their
entrails, and, since they are filth, become monsters! If they could no
longer think! If they could ignore the flower, efface the star, stop
up the mouth of the pit, close heaven! They would at least no longer
suffer. But no. They have a right to marriage, they have a right to the
heart, they have a right to torture, they have a right to the ideal.
No chilling of their hearts can put out the internal fire. However cold
they may be they burn. This, we have said, is at once their misery and
their crown. This sublimeness combines with their abjection to overwhelm
them and raise them up. Whether they will or not, the inextinguishable
does not become extinguished. Illusion is untamable. Nothing is more
invincible than dreams, and man is almost made up of dreams. Nature will
not agree to be insolvable. One must contemplate, aspire, love. If need
be marble will set the example. The statue becomes a woman rather than
the woman a statue.
The sewer is a sanctuary in spite of itself. It is unhealthy, there is
vitiated air in it, but the irresistible phenomenon is none the less
accomplished; all the holy generosities bloom livid in this cave.
Cynicism and the secret despair of pity are driven back by ecstasy, the
magnificences of kindness shine through infamy; this orphan creature
feels herself to be wife, sister, mother; and this fraternity which has
no family, and this maternity which has no children, and this adoration
which has no altar, she casts into the outer darkness. Some one marries
her. Who? The man in the gloom. She sees on her finger the ring made of
the mysterious gold of dreams. And she sobs. Torrents of tears well from
her eyes. Sombre delights!
And at the same time, let us repeat it, she suffers unheard-of tortures.
She does not belong to him to whom she has given herself. Everybody
takes her away again. The brutal public hand holds the wretched creature
and will not let her go. She fain would flee. Flee whither? From whom?
From you, herself, above all from him whom she loves, the funereal ideal
man. She cannot.
Thus, and these are extreme afflictions, this hapless wight expiates,
and her expiation is brought upon her by her grandeur. Whatever she may
do, she has to love. She is condemned to the light. She has to condole,
she has to succour, she has to devote herself, she has to be kind.
A woman who has lost her modesty, fain would know love no more;
impossible. The refluxes of the heart are as inevitable as those of the
sea; the lights of the heart are as fixed as those of the night.
There is within us that which we can never lose. Abnegation, sacrifice,
tenderness, enthusiasm, all these rays turn against the woman within her
inmost self and attack and burn her. All these virtues remain to avenge
themselves upon her. When she would have been a wife, she is a slave.
Hers is the hopeless, thankless task of lulling a brigand in the blue
nebulousness of her illusions and of decking Mandrin with a starry rag.
She is the sister of charity of crime. She loves, alas! She endures her
inadmissible divinity; she is magnanimous and thrills at so being. She
is happy with a horrible happiness. She enters backwards into indignant
We do not sufficiently reflect upon this that is within us and cannot be
Prostitution, vice, crime, what matters!
Night may become as black as it likes, the spark is still there.
However low you go there is light. Light in the vagabond, light in the
mendicant, light in the thief, light in the street-walker. The deeper
you go the more the miraculous light persists in showing itself.
Every heart has its pearl, which is the same for the heart gutter and
the heart ocean--love.
No mire can dissolve this particle of God.
Wherefore, there, at the extreme of gloom, of despondency, of
chill-heartedness and abandonment; in this obscurity, in this
putrefaction, in these gaols, in these dark paths, in this shipwreck;
beneath the lowest layer of the heap of miseries, under the bog of
public disdain which is ice and night; behind the eddying of those
frightful snowflakes the judges, the gendarmes, the warders and the
executioners for the bandit, the passers-by for the prostitute, which
cross each other, innumerable, in the dull grey mist that for these
wretches replace the sun; beneath these pitiless fatalities; beneath
this bewildering maze of vaults, some of granite, the others of hatred;
at the deepest depths of horror; in the midst of asphyxiation; at the
bottom of the chaos of all possible blacknesses; under the frightful
thickness of a deluge composed of expectorations, there where all is
extinct, where all is dead, something moves and shines. What is it? A
And what flame?
O adorable prodigy!
Love, the ideal, is found even in the Pit.
AT THE TUILERIES. 1844-1848.
I. THE KING.
II. THE DUCHESS D'ORLEANS.
III. THE PRINCES.
I. THE KING. * June, 28, 1844.
* Louis Philippe.
The King told me that Talleyrand said to him one day:
"You will never be able to do anything with Thiers, although he would
make an excellent tool. He is one of those men one cannot make use of
unless one is able to satisfy them. Now, he never will be satisfied. It
is unfortunate for him, as for you, that in our times, he cannot be made
A propos of the fortifications of Paris, the King told me how the
Emperor Napoleon learned the news of the taking of Paris by the allies.
The Emperor was marching upon Paris at the head of his guard. Near
Juvisy, at a place in the Forest of Fontainebleau where there is an
obelisk ("that I never see without feeling heavy at heart," remarked the
King), a courier on his way to meet Napoleon brought him the news of the
capitulation of Paris. Paris had been taken. The enemy had entered it.
The Emperor turned pale. He hid his face in his hands and remained thus,
motionless, for a quarter of an hour. Then, without saying a word, he
turned about and took the road back to Fontainebleau.
General Athalin witnessed this scene and recounted it to the King.
A few days ago the King said to Marshal Soult (in presence of others):
"Marshal, do you remember the siege of Cadiz?"
"Rather, sire, I should think so. I swore enough before that cursed
Cadiz. I invested the place and was forced to go away as I had come."
"Marshal, while you were before it, I was inside it."
"I know, sire."
"The Cortes and the English Cabinet offered me the command of the
"I remember it."
"The offer was a grave one. I hesitated long. Bear arms against France!
For my family, it is possible; but against my country! I was greatly
perplexed. At this juncture you asked me, through a trusty person, for
a secret interview in a little house situated on the Cortadura, between
the city and your camp. Do you remember the fact, Monsieur the Marshal?"
"Perfectly, sire; the day was fixed and the interview arranged."
"And I did not turn up."
"That is so."
"Do you know why?"
"I never knew."
"I will tell you. As I was preparing to go to meet you, the commander
of the English squadron, apprised of the matter, I know not how, dropped
upon me brusquely and warned me that I was about to fall into a trap;
that Cadiz being impregnable, they despaired of seizing me, but that at
the Cortadura I should be arrested by you; that the Emperor wished to
make of the Duke d'Orleans a second volume of the Duke d'Enghien, and
that you would have me shot immediately. There, really," added the King
with a smile, "your hand on your conscience, were you going to shoot
The Marshal remained silent for a moment, then replied, with a smile not
less inexpressible than that of the King:
"No, sire; I wanted to compromise you."
The subject of conversation was changed. A few minutes later the Marshal
took leave of the King, and the King, as he watched him go, said with a
smile to the person who heard this conversation:
"Compromise! compromise! To-day it is called compromise. In reality, he
would have shot me!"
August 4, 1844.
Yesterday the King said to me:
"One of my embarrassments at present, in all this affair of the
University and the clergy, is M. Affre." *
* Archbishop Affre was shot and killed in the Faubourg
Saint Antoine on September 25, 1848, while trying to stop
the fighting between the troops and insurgents.
"Then why, sire," said I, "did you appoint him?"
"I made a mistake, I admit. I had at first appointed to the
archbishopric of Paris the Cardinal of Arras, M. de la Tour d'Auvergne."
"It was a good choice," I observed.
"Yes, good. He is insignificant. An honest old man of no account. An
easy-going fellow. He was much sought after by the Carlists. Greatly
imposed upon. His whole family hated me. He was induced to refuse. Not
knowing what to do, and being in haste, I named M. Affre. I ought to
have been suspicious of him. His countenance is neither open nor frank.
I took his underhand air for a priestly air; I did wrong. And then, you
know, it was in 1840. Thiers proposed him to me, and urged me to appoint
him. Thiers is no judge of archbishops. I did it without sufficient
reflection. I ought to have remembered what Talleyrand said to me one
day: 'The Archbishop of Paris must always be an old man. The see is
quieter and becomes vacant more frequently.' I appointed M. Affre, who
is young; it was a mistake. However, I will re-establish the chapter
of St. Denis and appoint as primate of it the Cardinal de la Tour
d'Auvergne. The Papal Nuncio, to whom I spoke of my project just now,
laughed heartily at it, and said: 'The Abbé Affre will commit some
folly. Should he go to Rome the Pope will receive him very badly. He
has acted pusillanimously and blunderingly on all occasions since he has
been an archbishop. An archbishop of Paris who has any wit ought always
to be on good terms with the King here and the Pope yonder.'"
A month or two ago the King went to Dreux. It was the anniversary of
the death of the Duke d'Orleans. The King had chosen this day to put the
coffins of his relatives in the family vault in order.
Among the number was a coffin that contained all the bones of the
princes of the House of Orleans that the Duchess d'Orleans, mother
of the King, had been able to collect after the Revolution, when the
sepulchre was violated and they were dispersed. The coffin, placed in a
separate vault, had recently been smashed in by the fall of an arch.
The debris of the arch, stones and plaster, had become mingled with the
The King had the coffin brought and opened before him. He was alone
in the vault with the chaplain and two aides-de-camp. Another coffin,
larger and stronger, had been prepared. The King himself, with his own
hands, took, one after the other, the bones of his ancestors from the
broken coffin and arranged them carefully in the new one. He would not
permit any one else to touch them. From time to time he counted the
skulls and said: "This is Monsieur the Duke de Penthièvre. This is
Monsieur the Count de Beaujolais." Then to the best of his ability and
as far as he was able to he completed each group of bones.
This ceremony lasted from nine o'clock in the morning until seven
o'clock in the evening without the King taking either rest or
Yesterday, the 15th, after having dined at M. Villemain's, who lives in
a country house near Neuilly, I called upon the King.
The King was not in the salon, where there were only the Queen, Madame
Adelaide and a few ladies, among them Mme. Firmin-Rogier, who is
charming. There were many visitors, among others the Duke de Brogue and
M. Rossi, who were of the dinner party at which I had been present, M.
de Lesseps, who lately distinguished himself as consul at Barcelona, M.
Firmin-Rogier and the Count d'Agout.
I bowed to the Queen, who spoke to me at length about the Princess de
Joinvile, who was delivered the day before yesterday, and whose baby
arrived on the very day the news of the bombardment of Tangier by its
father was received. It is a little girl. The Princess de Joinvile
passes the whole day kissing her and saying: "How pretty she is!" with
that sweet southern accent which the raillery of her brothers-in-law has
not yet caused her to lose.
While I was talking to the Queen, the Duchess d'Orleans, dressed in
black, came in and sat beside Madame Adelaide, who said to her: "Good
evening, dear Helene."
A moment afterwards, M. Guizot, in black, wearing a chain of
decorations, with a red ribbon in his buttonhole and the badge of the
Legion of Honour on his coat, and looking pale and grave, crossed the
salon. I grasped his hand as he passed and he said:
"I have sought you vainly during the past few days. Come and spend a day
with me in the country. We have a lot to talk about. I am at Auteuil,
No. 4, Place d'Agueneau."
"Will the King come to-night?" I asked.
"I do not think so," he replied. "He is with Admiral de Mackau. There is
serious news. He will be occupied all the evening."
Then M. Guizot went away.
It was nearly ten o'clock, and I also was about to take my departure
when one of Madame Adelaide's ladies of honour, sent by the Princess,
came and told me that the King desired to speak with me and requested
that I would remain. I returned to the salon, which had become almost
A moment later, as ten o'clock was striking, the King came in. He wore
no decorations and had a preoccupied air. As he passed by he said to me:
"Wait until I have gone my round; we shall have a little more time when
everybody has left. There are only four persons here now and I have only
four words to say to them."
In truth, he only tarried a moment with the Prussian Ambassador and
M. de Lesseps, who had to communicate to him a letter from Alexandria
relative to the strange abdication of the Pacha of Egypt.
Everybody took leave, and then the King came to me, thrust his arm in
mine and led me into the large anteroom where he seated himself, and
bade me be seated, upon a red lounge which is between two doors opposite
the fireplace. Then he began to talk rapidly, energetically, as though a
weight were being lifted from his mind:
"Monsieur Hugo, I am pleased to see you. What do you think of it all?
All this is grave, yet it appears graver than it really is. But in
politics, I know, one has sometimes to take as much into account that
which appears grave as that which is grave. We made a mistake in taking
this confounded protectorate. * We thought we were doing something
popular for France, and we have done something embarrassing for the
world. The popular effect was mediocre; the embarrassing effect is
enormous. What did we want to hamper ourselves with Tahiti (the King
pronounced it Taëte) for? What to us was this pinch of tobacco seeds
in the middle of the ocean? What is the use of lodging our honour four
thousand leagues away in the box of a sentry insulted by a savage and a
madman? Upon the whole there is something laughable about it. When all
is said and done it is a small matter and nothing big will come of it.
Sir Robert Peel has spoken thoughtlessly. He has acted with schoolboy
foolishness. He has diminished his consideration in Europe. He is a
serious man, but capable of committing thoughtless acts. Then he does
not know any languages. Unless he be a genius there are perforce gaps in
the ideas of a man who is not a linguist. Now, Sir Robert has no genius.
Would you believe it? He does not know French. Consequently he does
not understand anything about France. French ideas pass before him like
shadows. He is not malevolent, no; he is not open, that is all. He has
spoken without reflection. I judged him to be what he is forty years
ago. It was, too, forty years ago that I saw him for the first time.
He was then a young man and secretary of the Earl of--(I did not quite
catch the name. The King spoke quickly). I often visited that house. I
was then in England. When I saw young Peel I felt sure that he would
go a long way, but that he would stop. Was I mistaken? There are
Englishmen, and of the highest rank, who do not understand Frenchmen a
bit. Like that poor Duke of Clarence, who afterwards was William IV. He
was but a sailor. One must beware of the sailor mind, as I often say to
my son Joinville. He who is only a sailor is nothing on land. Well,
this Duke of Clarence used to say to me: 'Duke d'Orleans, a war between
France and England is necessary every twenty years. History shows it.'
I would reply: 'My dear duke, of what use are people of intelligence if
they allow mankind to do the same foolish things over and over again?'
The Duke of Clarence, like Peel, did not know a word of French.
* The protectorate of Tahiti.
"What a difference between these men and Huskisson! You know, Huskisson
who was killed on a railway. He was a masterly man, if you like. He knew
French and liked France. He had been my comrade at the Jacobins' Club. I
do not say this in bad part. He understood everything. If there were
in England now a man like him, he and I would ensure the peace of the
world.--Monsieur Hugo, we will do it without him. I will do it alone.
Sir Robert Peel will reconsider what he has said. Egad! he said that!
Does he even know why or how?
"Have you seen the English Parliament? You speak from your place,
standing, in the midst of your own party; you are carried away; you
say more often than not what others think instead of what you think
yourself. There is a magnetic communication. You are subjected to it.
You rise (here the King rose and imitated the gesture of an orator
speaking in Parliament). The assembly ferments all round and close
to you; you let yourself go. On this side somebody says: 'England has
suffered a gross insult;' and on that side: 'with gross indignity.' It
is simply applause that is sought on both sides. Nothing more. But this
is bad. It is dangerous. It is baleful. In France our tribune which
isolates the orator has many advantages.
"Of all the English statesmen, I have known only one who was able to
withstand this influence of assemblies. He was M. Pitt. M. Pitt was a
clever man, although he was very tall. He had an air of awkwardness
and spoke hesitatingly. His lower jaw weighed a hundredweight. Hence
a certain slowness which forcibly brought prudence into his speeches.
Besides, what a statesman this Pitt was! They will render justice to
him one of these days, even in France. Pitt and Coburg are still being
harped upon. But it is a childish foolishness that will pass. M. Pitt
knew French. To carry on politics properly we must have Englishmen who
know French and Frenchmen who know English.
"Look here, I am going to England next month. I shall be very well
received: I speak English. And then, Englishmen appreciate the fact that
I have studied them closely enough not to detest them. For one always
begins by detesting the English. This is an effect of the surface. I
esteem them, and pride myself upon the fact. Between ourselves, there
is one thing I apprehend in going to England, and that is, a too warm
welcome. I shall have to elude an ovation. Popularity there would render
me unpopular here. But I must not get myself badly received either.
Badly received there, taunted here. Oh! it is not easy to move when one
is Louis Philippe, is it, Monsieur Hugo?
"However, I will endeavour to manage it better than that big stupid
the Emperor of Russia, who went riding full gallop in search of a fall.
There is an addle-pate for you. What a simpleton! He is nothing but a
Russian corporal, occupied with a boot-heel and a gaiter button. What an
idea to arrive in London on the eve of the Polish ball! Do you think I
would go to England on the eve of the anniversary of Waterloo? What is
the use of running deliberately into trouble? Nations do not derange
their ideas for us princes.
"Monsieur Hugo! Monsieur Hugo! intelligent princes are very rare. Look
at this Pacha of Egypt, who had a bright mind and who abdicates, like
Charles V., who, although he was not without genius, committed the same
foolish action. Look at this idiotic King of Morocco! What a job to
govern amid this mob of bewildered Kings. They won't force me into
committing the great mistake of going to war. I am being pushed, but
they won't push me over. Listen to this and remember it: the secret of
maintaining peace is to look at everything from the good side and at
nothing from the bad point of view. Oh! Sir Robert Peel is a singular
man to speak so wildly. He does not know all our strength. He does not
"The Prince of Prussia made a very true remark to my daughter at
Brussels last winter: 'What we envy France, is Algeria. Not on account
of the territory, but on account of the war. It is a great and rare
good fortune for France to have at her doors a war that does not trouble
Europe and which is making an army for her. We as yet have only review
and parade soldiers. When a collision occurs we shall only have soldiers
who have been made by peace. France, thanks to Algiers, will have
soldiers made by war.' This is what the Prince of Prussia said, and it
"Meanwhile, we are making children, too. Last month it was my daughter
of Nemours, this month it is my daughter of Joinville. She has given me
a princess. I would have preferred a prince. But, pish! in view of the
fact that they are trying to isolate my house among the royal houses of
Europe future alliances must be thought of. Well, my grandchildren will
marry among themselves. This little one who was born yesterday will not
lack cousins, nor, consequently, a husband."
Here the King laughed, and I rose. He had spoken almost without
interruption for an hour and a quarter. I had only said a few words here
and there. During this sort of long monologue Madame Adelaide passed as
she retired to her apartments. The King said to her: "I will join you
directly," and he continued his conversation with me. It was nearly
half-past eleven when I quitted the King.
It was during this conversation that the King said to me:
"Have you ever been to England?"
"Well, when you do go--for you will go--you will see how strange it
is. It resembles France in nothing. Over there are order, arrangement,
symmetry, cleanliness, wellmown lawns, and profound silence in the
streets. The passers-by are as serious and mute as spectres. When, being
French and alive, you speak in the street, these spectres look back at
you and murmur with an inexpressible mixture of gravity and disdain:
'French people!' When I was in London I was walking arm-in-arm with my
wife and sister. We were conversing, not in a too loud tone of voice,
for we are well-bred persons, you know; yet all the passers-by,
bourgeois and men of the people, turned to gaze at us and we could hear
them growling behind us: 'French people! French people!'"
September 5, 1844.
The King rose, paced to and fro for a few moments, as though violently
agitated, then came and sat beside me and said:
"Look here, you made a remark to Villemain that he repeated to me. You
said to him:
"'The trouble between France and England a propos of Tahiti and
Pritchard reminds me of a quarrel in a café between a couple of
sub-lieutenants, one of whom has looked at the other in a way the latter
does not like. A duel to the death is the result. But two great nations
ought not to act like a couple of musketeers. Besides, in a duel to the
death between two nations like England and France, it is civilization
that would be slain.'
"This is really what you said, is it not?"
"I was greatly struck by your observation, and this very evening I
reproduced it in a letter to a crowned head, for I frequently write
all night long. I pass many a night doing over again what others have
undone. I do not say anything about it. So far from being grateful to me
they would only abuse me for it. Oh! yes, mine is hard work indeed.
At my age, with my seventy-one years, I do not get an instant of real
repose either by day or by night. I am always unquiet, and how can it be
otherwise when I feel that I am the pivot upon which Europe revolves?"
September 6, 1844.
The King said to me yesterday:
"What makes the maintenance of peace so difficult is that there are two
things in Europe that Europe detests, France and myself--myself even
more than France. I am talking to you in all frankness. They hate me
because I am Orleans; they hate me because I am myself. As for France,
they dislike her, but would tolerate her in other hands. Napoleon was a
burden to them; they overthrew him by egging him on to war of which he
was so fond. I am a burden to them; they would like to throw me down by
forcing me to break that peace which I love."
Then he covered his eyes with his hands, and leaning his head back upon
the cushions of the sofa, remained thus for a space pensive, and as
September 6, 1844.
"I only met Robespierre in society once," said the King to me. "It was
at a place called Mignot, near Poissy, which still exists. It belonged
to a wealthy cloth manufacturer of Louviers, named M. Decréteau. It
was in ninety-one or two. M. Decréteau one day invited me to dinner
at Mignot. I went. When the time came we took our places at table. The
other guests were Robespierre and Pétion, but I had never before seen
Robespierre. Mirabeau aptly traced his portrait in a word when he said
that his face was suggestive of that of 'a cat drinking vinegar.' He was
very gloomy, and hardly spoke. When he did let drop a word from time to
time, it was uttered sourly and with reluctance. He seemed to be vexed
at having come, and because I was there.
"In the middle of the dinner, Pétion, addressing M. Decréteau,
exclaimed: 'My dear host, you must get this buck married!' He pointed to
"'What do you mean, Pétion?' retorted Robespierre.
"'Mean,' said Pétion, 'why, that you must get married. I insist upon
marrying you. You are full of sourness, hypochondria, gall, bad humour,
biliousness and atrabiliousness I am fearful of all this on our account.
What you want is a woman to sweeten this sourness and transform you into
an easy-going old fogey.'
"Robespierre tossed his head and tried to smile, but only succeeded in
making a grimace. It was the only time," repeated the King, "that I
met Robespierre in society. After that I saw him in the tribune of the
Convention. He was wearisome to a supreme degree, spoke slowly, heavily
and at length, and was more sour, more gloomy, more bitter than ever. It
was easy to see that Pétion had not married him."
September 7, 1844.
Said the King to me last Thursday:
"M. Guizot has great qualities and immense defects. (Queerly enough,
M. Guizot on Tuesday had made precisely the same remark to me about the
King, beginning with the defects.) M. Guizot has in the highest degree,
and I esteem him for it profoundly, the courage of his unpopularity
among his adversaries; among his friends he lacks it. He does not know
how to quarrel momentarily with his partisans, which was Pitt's great
art. In the affair of Tahiti, as in that of the right of search, M.
Guizot is not afraid of the Opposition, nor of the press, nor of the
Radicals, nor of the Carlists, nor of the Legitimists, nor of the
hundred thousand howlers in the hundred thousand public squares of
France; he is afraid of Jacques Lefebvre. What will Jacques Lefebvre
say? And Jacques Lefebvre is afraid of the Twelfth Arrondissement. * What
will the Twelfth Arrondissement say? The Twelfth Arrondissement does not
like the English: we must stand firm against the English; but it does
not like war: we must give way to the English. Stand firm and give way.
Reconcile that. The Twelfth Arrondissement governs Jacques Lefebvre,
Jacques Lefebvre governs Guizot; a little more and the Twelfth
Arrondissement will govern France. I say to Guizot: 'What are you afraid
of? Have a little pluck. Have an opinion.' But there they all stand,
pale and motionless and make no reply. Oh! fear! Monsieur Hugo, it is a
strange thing, this fear of the hubbub that will be raised outside!
It seizes upon this one, then that one, then that one, and it goes the
round of the table. I am not a Minister, but if I were, it seems to
me that I should not be afraid. I should see the right and go straight
towards it. And what greater aim could there be than civilization
* Twelfth District of Paris.
The Duke d'Orleans, a few years ago, recounted to me that during the
period which followed immediately upon the revolution of July, the King
gave him a seat at his council table. The young Prince took part in the
deliberations of the Ministers. One day M. Merilhou, who was Minister of
Justice, fell asleep while the King was speaking.
"Chartres," said the King to his son, "wake up Monsieur the Keeper of
The Duke d'Orleans obeyed. He was seated next to M. Merilhou, and nudged
him gently with his elbow. The Minister was sleeping soundly; the Prince
recommenced, but the Minister slept on. Finally the Prince laid his hand
upon M. Merilhou's knee. The Minister awoke with a start and exclaimed:
"Leave off, Sophie, you are tickling me!"
This is how the word "subject" came to be eliminated from the preamble
of laws and ordinances.
M. Dupont de l'Eure, in 1830, was Minister of Justice. On August 7, the
very day the Duke d'Orleans took the oath as King, M. Dupont de l'Eure
laid before him a law to sign. The preamble read: "Be it known and
decreed to all our subjects," etc. The clerk who was instructed to copy
the law, a hot-headed young fellow, objected to the word "subjects," and
did not copy it.
The Minister of Justice arrived. The young man was employed in his
"Well," said the Minister, "is the copy ready to be taken to the King
"No, Monsieur the Minister," replied the clerk.
Explanations. M. Dupont de l'Eure listened, then pinching the young
man's ear said, half smilingly, half angrily:
"Nonsense, Monsieur the Republican, you just copy it at once."
The clerk hung his head, like a clerk that he was, and copied it.
M. Dupont, however, laughingly told the King about it. The King did not
laugh. Everything appeared to be a serious matter at that time. M. Dupin
senior, Minister without a portfolio, had entered the council chamber.
He avoided the use of the word and got round the obstacle. He proposed
this wording, which was agreed to and has always been used since: "Be it
known and decreed to all."
The State carriage of Louis Philippe was a big blue coach drawn by eight
horses. The interior was of gold coloured damask. On the doors was the
King's monogram surmounted by a crown, and on the panels were royal
crowns. The roof was bordered by eight little silver crowns. There was
a gigantic coachman on the box and three lackeys behind. All wore silk
stockings and the tri-colour livery of the d'Orleans.
The King would enter the carriage first and seat himself in the right
hand corner. Then the Duke de Nemours would take his place beside the
King. The three other princes would follow and seat themselves, M. de
Joinville opposite the King, M. de Montpensier opposite M. de Nemours,
and M. d'Aumale in the middle.
The day the King attended Parliament, the grand deputations from both
Houses, twelve peers and twenty-five deputies chosen by lot, awaited
him on the grand staircase of the Palais Bourbon. As the sessions were
nearly always held in winter, it was very cold on the stairs, a biting
wind made all these old men shiver, and there are old generals of the
Empire who did not die as the result of having been at Austerlitz,
at Friedland, at the cemetery at Eylau, at the storming of the grand
redoubt at Moskowa and under the fire of the Scottish squares at
Waterloo, but of having waited in the cold upon these stairs.
The peers stood to the right and the deputies to the left, leaving
the middle of the stairs clear. The staircase was partitioned off with
hangings of white drill with blue stripes, which was a poor protection
against draughts. Where are the good and magnificent tapestries of Louis
XIV. They were indeed royal; wherefore they were taken down. Drill is
a common material and more pleasing to the deputies. It charms and it
The Queen arrived first with the princesses, but without the Duchess
d'Orleans, who came separately with the Count de Paris. These ladies
walked quickly upstairs, bowing to right and left, without speaking, but
graciously, followed by a swarm of aides-de-camp and grim turbaned
old women whom M. de Joinville called "the Queen's Turks"--Mmes. de
Dolokieu, de Chanaleilles, etc.
At the royal session of 1847, the Queen gave her arm to the Duchess de
Montpensier. The princess was muffled up on account of the cold. I
could see only a big red nose. The three other princesses walked behind,
chatting and laughing. M. Anatole de Montesquiou came next in the much
worn uniform of a major-general.
The King arrived about five minutes after the Queen; he walked upstairs
even more quickly than she had done, followed by the princes running
like schoolboys, and bowed to the peers on the right and the deputies
on the left. He tarried a moment in the throne-room and exchanged a few
greetings with the members of the two deputations. Then he entered the
The speech from the throne was written on parchment, on both sides of
the sheet, and usually filled four pages. The King read it in a firm,
well modulated voice.
Marshal Soult was present, resplendent with decorations, sashes,
and gold lace, and complaining of his rheumatism. M. Pasquier, the
Chancellor, did not put in an appearance. He had excused himself on the
plea of the cold and of his eighty years. He had been present the year
before. It was the last time.
In 1847 I was a member of the grand deputation. While I strolled about
the waiting room, conversing with M. Villemain about Cracow, the Vienna
treaties and the frontier of the Rhine, I could hear the buzzing of the
groups around me, and scraps of conversation reached my ears.
COUNT DE LAGRANGE.--Ah! here comes the Marshal (Soult).
BARON PEDRE LACAZE.--He is getting old.
VISCOUNT CAVAIGNAC.--Sixty-nine years!
MARQUIS DR RAIGECOURT.--Who is the dean of the Chamber of Peers at
DUKE DE TREVISE.--M. de Pontecoulant, is he not?
MARQUIS DE LAPLACE.--NO, President Boyer. He is ninety-two.
PRESIDENT BARTHE.--He is older than that.
BARON D'OBERLIN.--He no longer comes to the Chamber.
M. VIENNET.--They say that M. Rossi is returning from Rome.
DUKE DE FESENZAC.--Well, I pity him for quitting Rome. It is the finest
and most amiable city in the world. I hope to end my days there.
COUNT DE MONTALEMBERT.--And Naples!
BARON THENARD.--I prefer Naples.
M. FULCHIRON.--Yes, Naples, that's the place. By the by, I was there
when poor Nourrit killed himself. I was staying in the house next to
BARON CHARLES DUPIN.--He took his life? It was not an accident?
M. FULCHIRON.--Oh! it was a case of suicide, sure enough. He had been
hissed the previous day. He could not stand that. It was in an opera
composed expressly for him--"Polyceucte." He threw himself from a height
of sixty feet. His voice did not please that particular public. Nourrit
was too much accustomed to sing Glück and Mozart. The Neapolitans said
of him: "Vecchico canto."
BARON DUPIN.--Poor Nourrit! why did he not wait! Duprez has lost his
voice. Eleven years ago Duprez demolished Nourrit; to-day Nourrit would
MARQUIS DE BOISSY.--How cold it is on this staircase.
COUNT PHILIPPE DE SEGUR.--It was even colder at the Academy the other
day. That poor Dupaty is a good man, but he made a bad speech.
BARON FEUTRIER.--I am trying to warm myself. What a frightful draught!
It is enough to drive one away.
BARON CHARLES DUPIN.--M. Français de Nantes had conceived this expedient
to rid himself of those who came to solicit favours and abridge their
solicitations: he was given to receiving people between two doors.
M. Thiers at this time had a veritable court of deputies about him.
After the session he walked out in front of me. A gigantic deputy, whose
back only I could see, stepped aside, saying: "Make way for historical
men!" And the big man let the little man pass.
Historical? May be. In what way?
II. THE DUCHESS D'ORLEANS.
Madame the Duchess d'Orleans is a rare woman, of great wit and common
sense. I do not think that she is fully appreciated at the Tuileries.
The King, though, holds her in high esteem and often engages in long
conversations with her. Frequently he gives her his arm to escort
her from the family drawing-room to her apartments. The royal
daughters-in-law do not always appear to act as kindly towards her.
February 26, 1844.
Yesterday the Duchess d'Orleans said to me:
"My son is not what one would call an amiable child. He is not one of
those pretty little prodigies who are an honour to their mothers, and of
whom people say: 'What a clever child! What wit! What grace!' He has a
kind heart, I know; he has wit, I believe; but nobody knows and believes
this save myself. He is timid, wild, uncommunicative, easily scared.
What will he become? I have no idea. Often at his age a child in his
position understands that he must make himself agreeable, and, little as
he is, sets himself to play his role. Mine hides himself in his mother's
skirt and lowers his eyes. But I love him, just as he is. I even prefer
him this way. I like a savage better than a comedian."
The Count de Paris has signed the birth certificate of the Princess
Françoise de Joinville. It was the first time that the little prince had
signed his name. He did not know what was wanted of him, and when the
King handed him the certificate and said "Paris, sign your name," the
child refused. The Duchess d'Orleans took him on her knee and whispered
something to him. Then the child took the pen, and at the dictation of
his grandfather wrote upon the certificate L. P. d. O. He made the O
much too large and wrote the other letters awkwardly, and was very much
embarrassed and shy.
He is charming, though, and adores his mother, but he hardly knows that
his name is Louis Philippe d'Orleans. He writes to his comrades, to his
tutor, and to his mother, but he signs his little missives "Paris." It
is the only name he knows himself by.
This evening the King sent for M. Regnier, the prince's tutor, and gave
him orders to teach the Count de Paris to sign his name.
The Count de Paris is of a grave and sweet disposition; he learns well.
He is imbued with a natural tenderness, and is kind to those who suffer.
His young cousin of Wurtemberg, who is two months older, is jealous of
him; as his mother, the Princess Marie, was jealous of the mother of
the Count de Paris. During the lifetime of the Duke d'Orleans little
Wurtemberg was long the object of the Queen's preferences, and, in the
little court of the corridors and bedchambers, it was the custom to
flatter the Queen by comparisons between the one and the other that were
always favourable to Wurtemberg. To-day that inequality has ceased.
The Queen, by a touching sentiment, inclined towards little Wurtemberg
because he had lost his mother; now there is no reason why she should
not lean towards the Count de Paris, seeing that he has lost his father.
Little Michel Ney plays with the two princes every Sunday. He is eleven
years old, and the son of the Duke d'Elchingen. The other day he said to
"Wurtemberg is an ambitious fellow. When we play he always wants to be
the leader. Besides, he insists upon being called Monseigneur. I don't
mind calling him Monseigneur, but I won't let him be leader. One day I
invented a game, and I said to him: 'No, Monseigneur, you are not
going to be the leader. I will be leader, for I invented the game, and
Chabannes will be my lieutenant. You and the Count de Paris will be
soldiers.' Paris was willing, but Wurtemberg walked away. He is an
Of these young mothers of the Château, apart from the Duchess d'Orleans,
Mme. de Joinville is the only one who does not spoil her children.
At the Tuileries, everybody, even the King himself, calls her little
daughter "Chiquette." The Prince of Joinville calls his wife "Chicarde"
since the pierrots' ball, hence "Chiquette." At this pierrots' ball
the King exclaimed: "How Chicarde is amusing herself!" The Prince de
Joinville danced all the risquée dances. Mme. de Montpensier and Mme.
Liadères were the only ones who were not decolletees. "It is not in good
taste," said the Queen. "But it is pretty," observed the King.
III. THE PRINCES. 1847.
At the Tuileries the Prince de Joinville passes his time doing all
sorts of wild things. One day he turned on all the taps and flooded the
apartments. Another day he cut all the bell ropes. A sign that he is
bored and does not know what to do with himself.
And what bores these poor princes most is to receive and talk to people
ceremoniously. This is almost a daily obligation. They call it--for
princes have their slang--"performing the function." The Duke de
Montpensier is the only one who performs it gracefully. One day the
Duchess d'Orleans asked him the reason. He replied: "It amuses me."
He is twenty years old, he is beginning.
When the marriage of M. de Montpensier with the Infanta was published,
the King of the Belgians was sulky with the Tuileries. He is an Orleans,
but he is a Coburg. It was as though his left hand had smitten his right
The wedding over, while the young couple were making their way from
Madrid to Paris, King Leopold arrived at Saint Cloud, where King Louis
Philippe was staying. The King of the Belgians wore an air of coldness
and severity. Louis Philippe, after dinner, took him aside into a recess
of the Queen's drawing-room, and they conversed for fully an hour.
Leopold's face preserved its thoughtful and *English* expression.
However at the conclusion of the conversation, Louis Philippe said to
"He is precisely the man I do not want to see."
"See him," urged the King. "We will resume this conversation when you
have done so."
The next day M. Guizot waited upon King Leopold. He had with him an
enormous portfolio filled with papers. The King received him. His manner
was cold in the extreme. Both were reserved. It is probable that M.
Guizot communicated to the King of the Belgians all the documents
relative to the marriage and all the diplomatic papers. No one knows
what passed between them. What is certain is that when M. Guizot left
the King's room Leopold's air was gracious, though sad, and that he
was heard to say to the Minister as he took leave of him: "I came here
greatly dissatisfied with you. I shall go away satisfied. You have,
in fact, in this affair acquired a new title to my esteem and to our
gratitude. I intended to scold you; I thank you."
These were the King's own words.
The Prince de Joinville's deafness increases. Sometimes it saddens him,
sometimes he makes light of it. One day he said to me: "Speak louder, I
am as deaf as a post." On another occasion he bent towards me and said
with a laugh:
"_J'abaisse le pavillion de l'oreille._"
"It is the only one your highness will ever lower," I replied.
M. de Joinville is of somewhat queer disposition. Now he is joyous to
the point of folly, anon gloomy as a hypochondriac. He is silent for
three days at a time, or his bursts of laughter are heard in the very
attics of the Tuileries. When he is on a voyage he rises at four o'clock
in the morning, wakes everybody up and performs his duties as a
sailor conscientiously. It is as though he were to win his epaulettes
He loves France and feels all that touches her. This explains his fits
of moodiness. Since he cannot talk as he wants to, he keeps his thoughts
to himself, and this sours him, He has spoken more than once, however,
and bravely. He was not listened to and he was not heeded. "They needn't
talk about me," he said to me one day, "it is they who are deaf!"
Unlike the late Duke d'Orleans, he has no princely coquettishness, which
is such a victorious grace, and has no desire to appear agreeable. He
rarely seeks to please individuals. He loves the nation, the country,
his profession, the sea. His manner is frank, he has a taste for noisy
pleasures, a fine appearance, a handsome face, with a kind heart, and
a few feats of arms to his credit that have been exaggerated; he is
M. de Nemours is just the contrary. At court they say: "There is
something unlucky about the Duke de Nemours."
M. de Montpensier has the good sense to love, to esteem and to honour
profoundly the Duchess d'Orleans.
The other day there was a masked and costumed ball, but only for the
family and the intimate court circle--the princesses and ladies of
honour. M. de Joinville appeared all in rags, in complete Chicard
costume. He was extravagantly gay and danced a thousand unheard-of
dances. These capers, prohibited elsewhere, rendered the Queen
thoughtful. "Wherever did he learn all this?" she asked, and added:
"What naughty dances! Fie!" Then she murmured: "How graceful he is!"
Mme. de Joinville was dressed as a bargee and affected the manner of a
street gamin. She likes to go to those places that the court detests the
most, *the theatres and concerts of the boulevards*.
The other day she greatly shocked Mme. de Hall, the wife of an admiral,
who is a Protestant and Puritan, by asking her: "Madame, have you seen
the "Closerie des Genêts"?"
The Prince de Joinville had imagined a nuisance that exasperated the
Queen. He procured an old barrel organ somewhere, and would enter her
apartments playing it and singing in a hoarse, grating voice. The Queen
laughed at first. But it lasted a quarter of an hour, half an hour.
"Joinville, stop it!" He continued to grind away. "Joinville, go away!"
The prince, driven out of one door, entered by another with his organ,
his songs and his hoarseness. Finally the Queen fled to the King's
The Duchess d'Aumale did not speak French very fluently; but as soon as
she began to speak Italian, the Italian of Naples, she thrilled like a
fish that falls back into the water, and gesticulated with Neapolitan
verve. "Put your hands in your pockets," the Duke d'Aumale would say to
her. "I shall have to have your hands tied. Why do you gesticulate like
"I didn't notice it," the princess would reply.
"That is true, she doesn't notice it," said the Prince to me one day.
"You wouldn't believe it, but my mother, who is so dignified, so cold,
so reserved when she is speaking French, begins gesticulating like
Punchinello when by chance she speaks Neapolitan."
The Duke de Montpensier salutes passers-by graciously and gaily. The
Duke d'Aumale does not salute more often than he is compelled to; at
Neuilly they say he is afraid of ruffling his hair. The Duke de
Nemours manifests less eagerness than the Duke de Montpensier and
less negligence than the Duke d'Aumale; moreover, women say that when
saluting them he looks at them in a most embarrassing way.
Donizetti's "Elixir of Love" was performed at court on February 5, 1847,
by the Italian singers, the Persiani, Mario, Tagliafico. Ronconi acted
(acted is the word, for he acted very well) the role of Dulcamara,
usually represented by Lablache. It was in the matter of size, but
not of talent, a giant in the place of a dwarf. The decoration of the
theatre at the Tuileries was then still the same as it had been in the
time of the Empire--designs in gold on a grey background, the ensemble
being cold and pale.
There were few pretty women present. Mme. Cuvillier-Floury was the
prettiest; Mme. V. H. the most handsome. The men were in uniform or
full evening dress. Two officers of the Empire were conspicuous in their
uniforms of that period. Count Dutaillis, a one-armed soldier of the
Empire, wore the old uniform of a general of division, embroidered
with oak leaves to the facings. The big straight collar reached to his
occiput; his star of the Legion of Honour was all dented; his embroidery
was rusty and dull. Count de Lagrange, an old beau, wore a white
spangled waistcoat, black silk breeches, white, or rather pink,
stockings; shoes with buckles on them, a sword at his side, a black
dress coat, and a peer's hat with white plumes in it. Count Dutaillis
was a greater success than Count de Lagrange. The one recalled Monaco
and Trenitz; the other recalled Wagram.
M. Thiers, who the previous day had made a somewhat poor speech, carried
opposition to the point of wearing a black cravat.
The Duchess de Montpensier, who had attained her fifteenth birthday
eight days before, wore a large crown of diamonds and looked very
pretty. M. de Joinville was absent. The three other princes were there
in lieutenant-general's uniform with the star and grand cordon of the
Legion of Honour. M. de Montpensier alone wore the order of the Golden
Mme. Ronconi, a handsome person, but of a wild and savage beauty, was in
a small box on the stage, in rear of the proscenium. She attracted much
There was no applause, which chilled the singers and everybody else.
Five minutes before the piece terminated the King began to pack up. He
folded his programme and put it in his pocket, then he wiped the glasses
of his opera-glass, closed it up carefully, looked round for the case
which he had laid on his chair, placed the glass in it and adjusted
the hooks very scrupulously. There was a good deal of character in his
M. de Rambuteau was there. His latest "rambutisms" (the word was Alexis
de Saint-Priest's) were recounted among the audience. It was said that
on the last day of the year M. de Rambuteau wrote on his card: "M.
de Rambuteau et Venus," or as a variation: "M. de Rambuteau, Venus en
Wednesday, February 24, the Duke de Nemours gave a concert at the
Tuileries. The singers were Mlle. Grisi, Mme. Persiani, a Mme. Corbari,
Mario, Lablache and Ronconi. M. Aubert, who conducted, did not put any
of his own music on the programme: Rossini, Mozart, and Donizetti, that
The guests arrived at half-past eight. The Duke de Nemours lives on
the first floor of the Pavilion de Marsan, over the apartments of the
Duchess d'Orleans. The guests waited in a first salon until the doors of
the grand salon were opened, the women seated, the men standing. As soon
as the prince and princess appeared the doors were thrown wide open and
everybody went in. This grand salon is a very fine room. The ceiling is
evidently of the time of Louis XIV. The wails are hung with green damask
striped with gold. The inner window curtains are of red damask. The
furniture is in green and gold damask. The ensemble is royal.
The King and Queen of the Belgians were at this concert. The Duke de
Nemours entered with the Queen, his sister, upon his arm, the King
giving his arm to the Duchess de Nemours. Mmes. d'Aumale and de
Montpensier followed. The Queen of the Belgians resembles the Queen of
the French, save in the matter of age. She wore a sky-blue toque, Mme.
d'Aumale a wreath of roses, Mme. de Montpensier a diadem of diamonds,
Mme. de Nemours her golden hair. The four princesses sat in high-backed
chairs opposite the piano; all the other women sat behind them; the men
were in the rear, filling the doorway and the first salon. The King of
the Belgians has a rather handsome and grave face, and a delicate and
agreeable smile; he was seated to the left of the princesses.
The Duke de Brogue sat on his left. Next to the Duke were Count Mole and
M. Dupin senior. M. de Salvandy, seeing an empty chair to the right of
the King, seated himself upon it. All five wore the red sash, including
M. Dupin. These four men about the King of the Belgians represented the
old military nobility, the parliamentary aristocracy, the pettifogging
bourgeoisie, and moonshine literature; that is to say, a little of what
France possesses that is illustrious, and a little of what she possesses
that is ridiculous.
MM. d'Aumale and de Montpensier were to the right in the recess of a
window with the Duke of Wurtemberg, whom they called their "brother
Alexander." All the princes wore the grand cordon and star of Leopold
in honour of the King of the Belgians; MM. de Nemours and de Montpensier
also wore the Golden Fleece. The Fleece of M. de Montpensier was of
diamonds, and magnificent.
The Italian singers sang standing by the piano. When seated they
occupied chairs with wooden backs.
The Prince de Joinville was absent, as was also his wife. It was
said that lately he was the hero of a love affair. M. de Joinville is
prodigiously strong. I heard a big lackey behind me say: "I shouldn't
care to receive a slap from him." While he was strolling to his
rendezvous M. de Joinville thought he noticed that he was being
followed. He turned back, went up to the fellow and struck him.
After the first part of the concert MM. d'Aumale and de Montpensier came
into the other salon where I had taken refuge with Théophile Gautier,
and we chatted for fully an hour. The two princes spoke to me at length
about literary matters, about "Les Burgraves," "Ruy Blas," "Lucrèce
Borgia," Mme. Halley, Mlle. Georges, and Frédérick Lemaitre. Also a good
deal about Spain, the royal wedding, bull-fights, hand-kissings,
and etiquette, that M. de Montpensier "detests." "The Spaniards love
royalty," he added, "and especially etiquette. In politics as in
religion they are bigots rather than believers. They were greatly
shocked during the wedding fetes because the Queen one day dared to
venture out afoot!"
MM. d'Aumale and de Montpensier are charming young men, bright, gay,
gracious, witty, sincere, full of that ease that communicates itself to
others. They have a fine air. They are princes; they are perhaps men of
intellect. M. de Nemours is embarrassed and embarrassing. When he comes
towards you with his blond whiskers, his blue eyes, his red sash, his
white waistcoat and his melancholy air he perturbs you. He never looks
you in the face. He always casts about for something to say and never
knows what he does say.
November 5, 1847.
Four years ago the Duke d'Aumale was in barracks at Courbevoie with the
17th, of which he was then colonel. During the summer, in the morning,
after the manoeuvres which took place at Neuilly, he frequently strolled
back along the river bank, alone, his hands behind his back. Nearly
every day he happened upon a pretty girl named Adele Protat, who every
morning went from Courbevoie to Neuilly and returned at the same hour
as M. d'Aumale. The young girl noticed the young officer in undress
uniform, but was not aware that he was a prince. At length they struck
up an acquaintance, and walked and chatted together. Under the influence
of the sun, the flowers, and the fine mornings something very much like
love sprang up between them. Adele Protat thought she had to do with a
captain at the most. He said to her: "Come and see me at Courbevoie."
She refused. Feebly.
One evening she was passing near Neuilly in a boat. Two young men were
bathing. She recognized her officer.
"There is the Duke d'Aumale," said the boatman.
"Really!" said she, and turned pale.
The next day she had ceased to love him. She had seen him naked, and
knew that he was a prince.
IN THE CHAMBER OF PEERS. 1846.
Yesterday, February 22, I went to the Chamber of Peers. The weather was
fine and very cold, in spite of the noonday sun. In the Rue de Tournon I
met a man in the custody of two soldiers. The man was fair, pale, thin,
haggard; about thirty years old; he wore coarse linen trousers; his
bare and lacerated feet were visible in his sabots, and blood-stained
bandages round his ankles took the place of stockings; his short blouse
was soiled with mud in the back, which indicated that he habitually
slept on the ground; his head was bare, his hair dishevelled. Under his
arm was a loaf. The people who surrounded him said that he had stolen
the loaf, and it was for this that he had been arrested.
When they reached the gendarmerie barracks one of the soldiers entered,
and the man stayed at the door guarded by the other soldier.
A carriage was standing at the door of the barracks. It was decorated
with a coat of arms; on the lanterns was a ducal coronet; two grey
horses were harnessed to it; behind it were two lackeys. The windows
were raised, but the interior, upholstered in yellow damask, was
visible. The gaze of the man fixed upon this carriage, attracted mine.
In the carriage was a woman in a pink bonnet and costume of black
velvet, fresh, white, beautiful, dazzling, who was laughing and playing
with a charming child of sixteen months, buried in ribbons, lace and
This woman did not see the terrible man who was gazing at her.
I became pensive.
This man was no longer a man for me; he was the spectre of misery,
the brusque, deformed, lugubrious apparition in full daylight, in full
sunlight, of a revolution that is still plunged in darkness, but which
is approaching. In former times the poor jostled the rich, this spectre
encountered the rich man in all his glory; but they did not look at each
other, they passed on. This condition of things could thus last for some
time. The moment this man perceives that this woman exists, while
this woman does not see that this man is there, the catastrophe is
Fabvier had fought valiantly in the wars of the Empire; he fell out
with the Restoration over the obscure affair of Grenoble. He expatriated
himself about 1816. It was the period of the departure of the eagles.
Lallemand went to America, Allard and Vannova to India, Fabvier to
The revolution of 1820 broke out. He took an heroic part in it. He
raised a corps of four thousand palikars, to whom he was not a chief,
but a god. He gave them civilization and taught them barbarity. He was
rough and brave above all of them, and almost ferocious, but with that
grand, Homeric ferocity. One might have thought that he had come from a
tent of the camp of Achilles rather than from the camp of Napoleon. He
invited the English Ambassador to dinner at his bivouac; the Ambassador
found him seated by a big fire at which a whole sheep was roasting; when
the animal was cooked and unskewered, Fabvier placed the heel of his
bare foot upon the neck of the smoking and bleeding sheep and tore off
a quarter, which he offered to the Ambassador. In bad times nothing
daunted him. He was indifferent alike to cold, heat, fatigue and hunger;
he never spared himself. The palikars used to say: "When the soldier
eats cooked grass Fabvier eats it green."
I knew his history, but I had not seen him when, in 1846, General
Fabvier was made a peer of France. One day he had a speech to make, and
the Chancellor announced: "Baron Fabvier has the tribune." I expected to
hear a lion, I thought an old woman was speaking.
Yet his face was a truly masculine one, heroic and formidable, that one
might have fancied had been moulded by the hand of a giant and which
seemed to have preserved a savage and terrible grimace. What was so
strange was the gentle, slow, grave, contained, caressing voice that was
allied to this magnificent ferocity. A child's voice issued from this
General Fabvier delivered from the tribune speeches learned by heart,
graceful, flowery, full of allusions to the woods and country--veritable
idylls. In the tribune this Ajax became a Némorin.
He spoke in low tones like a diplomat, he smiled like a courtier. He
was not averse to making himself agreeable to princes. This is what the
peerage had done for him. He was only a hero after all.
August 22, 1846.
The Marquis de Boissy has assurance, coolness, self-possession, a voice
that is peculiar to himself, facility of speech, wit occasionally, the
quality of imperturbability, all the accessories of a great orator. The
only thing he lacks is talent. He wearies the Chamber, wherefore the
Ministers do not consider themselves bound to answer him. He talks as
long as everybody keeps quiet. He fences with the Chancellor as with his
Yesterday, after the session which Boissy had entirely occupied with a
very poor speech, M. Guizot said to me:
"It is an affliction. The Chamber of Deputies would not stand him for
ten minutes after the first two times. The Chamber of Peers extends its
high politeness to him, and it does wrong. Boissy will not be suppressed
until the day the whole Chamber rises and walks out when he asks
permission to speak."
"You cannot think of such a thing," said I. "Only he and the Chancellor
would be left. It would be a duel without seconds."
It is the custom of the Chamber of Peers never to repeat in its reply
to the speech from the throne the titles that the King gives to his
children. It is also the custom never to give the princes the title of
Royal Highness when speaking of them to the King. There is no Highness
in presence of his Majesty.
To-day, January 18, the address in reply to the speech from the throne
was debated. Occasionally there are flashes of keen and happy wit in
M. de Boissy's nonsense. He remarked to-day: "I am not of those who are
grateful to the government for the blessings of providence."
As usual he quarrelled with the Chancellor. He was making some more than
usually roving excursion from the straight path. The Chamber murmured
and cried: "Confine yourself to the question." The Chancellor rose:
"Monsieur the Marquis de Boissy," he said, "the Chamber requests that
you will confine yourself to the question under discussion. It has saved
me the trouble of asking you to do so." ("Our colleague might as well
have said 'spared me!'" I whispered to Lebrun.)
"I am delighted on your account, Monsieur the Chancellor," replied M. de
Boissy, and the Chamber laughed.
A few minutes later, however, the Chancellor took his revenge. M. de
Boissy had floundered into some quibble about the rules. It was late.
The Chamber was becoming impatient.
"Had you not raised an unnecessary incident," observed the Chancellor,
"you would have finished your speech a long time ago, to your own
satisfaction and that of everybody else."
Whereat everybody laughed.
"Don't laugh!" exclaimed the Duke de Mortemart. "Laughter diminishes the
prestige of a constituted body."
M. de Pontécoulant said: "M. de Boissy teases Monsieur the Chancellor,
Monsieur the Chancellor torments M. de Boissy. There is a lack of
dignity on both sides!"
During the session the Duke de Mortemart came to my bench and we spoke
about the Emperor. M. de Mortemart went through all the great wars.
He speaks nobly of him. He was one of the Emperor's orderlies in the
Campaign of 1812.
"It was during that campaign that I learned to know the Emperor," he
said. "I was near him night and day. I saw him shave himself in the
morning, sponge his chin, pull on his boots, pinch his valet's ear, chat
with the grenadier mounting guard over his tent, laugh, gossip,
make trivial remarks, and amid all this issue orders, trace plans,
interrogate prisoners, decree, determine, decide, in a sovereign manner,
simply, unerringly, in a few minutes, without missing anything, without
losing a useful detail or a second of necessary time. In this intimate
and familiar life of the bivouac flashes of his intellect were seen
every moment. You can believe me when I say that he belied the proverb:
'No man is great in the eyes of his valet.'"
"Monsieur the Duke," said I, "that proverb is wrong. Every great man is
a great man in the eyes of his valet."
At this session the Duke d'Aumale, having attained his twenty-fifth
birthday, took his seat for the first time. The Duke de Nemours and the
Prince de Joinville were seated near him in their usual places behind
the ministerial bench. They were not among those who laughed the least.
The Duke de Nemours, being the youngest member of his committee,
fulfilled the functions of secretary, as is customary. M. de
Montalembert wanted to spare him the trouble. "No," said the prince, "it
is my duty." He took the urn and, as secretary, went the round of the
table to collect the votes.
At the close of the session of January 21, 1847, at which the Chamber
of Peers discussed Cracow and kept silent concerning the frontier of the
Rhine, I descended the grand staircase of the Chamber in company with M.
de Chastellux. M. Decazes stopped me and asked:
"Well, what have you been doing during the session?"
"I have been writing to Mme. Dorval." (I held the letter in my hand.)
"What a fine disdain! Why did you not speak?"
"On account of the old proverb: 'He whose opinion is not shared by
anybody else should think, and say nothing.'
"Did your opinion, then, differ from that of the others?"
"Yes, from that of the whole Chamber."
"What did you want then?"
"Whew! the devil!"
"I should have protested and spoken without finding any echo to my
words; I preferred to say nothing."
"Ah! the Rhine! To have the Rhine! Yes, that is a fine idea. Poetry!
"Poetry that our fathers made with cannon and that we shall make again
"My dear colleague," went on M. Decazes, "we must wait. I, too, want
the Rhine. Thirty years ago I said to Louis XVIII.: 'Sire, I should be
inconsolable if I thought I should die without seeing France mistress of
the left bank of the Rhine. But before we can talk about that, before we
can think of it even, we must beget children.'"
"Well," I replied, "that was thirty years ago. We have begotten the
April 23, 1847.
The Chamber of Peers is discussing a pretty bad bill on substitutions
for army service. To-day the principal article of the measure was before
M. de Nemours was present. There are eighty lieutenant-generals in the
Chamber. The majority considered the article to be a bad one. Under the
eye of the Duke de Nemours, who seemed to be counting them, all rose to
vote in favour of it.
The magistrates, the members of the Institute and the ambassadors voted
I remarked to President Franck-Carré, who was seated next to me: "It is
a struggle between civil courage and military poltroonery."
The article was adopted.
June 22, 1847.
The Girardin* affair was before the Chamber of Peers to-day. Acquittal.
The vote was taken by means of balls, white ones for condemnation, black
ones for acquittal. There were 199 votes cast, 65 white, 134 black.
In placing my black ball in the urn I remarked: "In blackening him we
* Emile de Girardin had been prosecuted for publishing an
article in a newspaper violently attacking the government.
I said to Mme. D--: "Why do not the Minister and Girardin provoke a
trial in the Assize Court?"
She replied: "Because Girardin does not feel himself strong enough, and
the Minister does not feel himself pure enough."
MM. de Montalivet and Mole and the peers of the Château voted, queerly
enough, for Girardin against the Government. M. Guizot learned the
result in the Chamber of Deputies and looked exceedingly wrath.
June 28, 1847.
On arriving at the Chamber I found Franck-Carre greatly scandalised.
In his hand was a prospectus for champagne signed by the Count de
Mareuil, and stamped with a peer's mantle and a count's coronet with the
de Mareuil arms. He had shown it to the Chancellor, who had replied: "I
can do nothing!"
"I could do something, though, if a mere councillor were to do a thing
like that in my court," said Franck-Carré to me. "I would call the
Chambers together and have him admonished in a disciplinary manner."
Discussion by the committees of the Chamber of Peers of the address in
reply to the speech from the throne.
I was a member of the fourth committee. Among other changes I demanded
this. There was: "Our princes, your well-beloved children, are doing in
Africa the duties of servants of the State." I proposed: "The princes,
your well-beloved children, are doing," etc., "their duty as servants of
the State." This fooling produced the effect of a fierce opposition.
January 14, 1848.
The Chamber of Peers prevented Alton-Shée from pronouncing in the
tribune even the name of the Convention. There was a terrific knocking
upon desks with paper-knives and shouts of "Order! Order!" and he was
compelled almost by force to descend from the tribune.
I was on the point of shouting to them: "You are imitating a session of
the Convention, but only with wooden knives!"
I was restrained by the thought that this _mot_, uttered during their
anger, would never be forgiven. For myself I care little, but it might
affect the calm truths which I may have to tell them and get them to
accept later on.
THE REVOLUTION OF 1848.
I. THE DAYS OF FEBRUARY.
II. EXPULSIONS AND EVASIONS.
III. LOUIS PHILIPPE IN EXILE.
IV. KING JEROME.
V. THE DAYS OF JUNE.
VII. DEBATES ON THE DAYS OF JUNE.
I. THE DAYS OF FEBRUARY.
As I arrived at the Chamber of Peers--it was 3 o'clock
precisely--General Rapatel came out of the cloak-room and said: "The
session is over."
I went to the Chamber of Deputies. As my cab turned into the Rue de
Lille a serried and interminable column of men in shirt-sleeves, in
blouses and wearing caps, and marching arm-in-arm, three by three,
debouched from the Rue Bellechasse and headed for the Chamber. The
other extremity of the street, I could see, was blocked by deep rows of
infantry of the line, with their rifles on their arms. I drove on ahead
of the men in blouses, with whom many women had mingled, and who
were shouting: "Hurrah for reform!" "Hurrah for the line!" "Down
with Guizot!" They stopped when they arrived within rifle-shot of the
infantry. The soldiers opened their ranks to let me through. They were
talking and laughing. A very young man was shrugging his shoulders.
I did not go any further than the lobby. It was filled with busy and
uneasy groups. In one corner were M. Thiers, M. de Rémusat, M. Vivien
and M. Merruau (of the "Constitutionnel"); in another M. Emile de
Girardin, M. d'Alton-Shée and M. de Boissy, M. Franck-Carré, M.
d'Houdetot, M. de Lagrenée. M. Armand Marrast was talking aside with M.
d'Alton. M. de Girardin stopped me; then MM. d'Houdetot and Lagrenée.
MM. Franck-Carré and Vignier joined us. We talked. I said to them:
"The Cabinet is gravely culpable. It forgot that in times like ours
there are precipices right and left and that it does not do to govern
too near to the edge. It says to itself: 'It is only a riot,' and it
almost rejoices at the outbreak. It believes it has been strengthened by
it; yesterday it fell, to-day it is up again! But, in the first
place, who can tell what the end of a riot will be? Riots, it is true,
strengthen the hands of Cabinets, but revolutions overthrow dynasties.
And what an imprudent game in which the dynasty is risked to save the
ministry! The tension of the situation draws the knot tighter, and now
it is impossible to undo it. The hawser may break and then everything
will go adrift. The Left has manoeuvred imprudently and the Cabinet
wildly. Both sides are responsible. But what madness possesses the
Cabinet to mix a police question with a question of liberty and oppose
the spirit of chicanery to the spirit of revolution? It is like sending
process-servers with stamped paper to serve upon a lion. The quibbles of
M. Hébert in presence of a riot! What do they amount to!"
As I was saying this a deputy passed us and said:
"The Ministry of Marine has been taken."
"Let us go and see!" said Franc d'Houdetot to me.
We went out. We passed through a regiment of infantry that was guarding
the head of the Pont de la Concorde. Another regiment barred the other
end of it. On the Place Louis XV. cavalry was charging sombre and
immobile groups, which at the approach of the soldiers fled like swarms
of bees. Nobody was on the bridge except a general in uniform and on
horseback, with the cross of a commander (of the Legion of Honour) hung
round his neck--General Prévot. As he galloped past us he shouted: "They
As we reached the troops at the other end of the bridge a battalion
chief, mounted, in a bernouse with gold stripes on it, a stout man with
a kind and brave face, saluted M. d'Houdetot.
"Has anything happened?" Franc asked.
"It happened that I got here just in time!" replied the major.
It was this battalion chief who cleared the Palace of the Chamber, which
the rioters had invaded at six o'clock in the morning.
We walked on to the Place. Charging cavalry was whirling around us. At
the angle of the bridge a dragoon raised his sword against a man in a
blouse. I do not think he struck him. Besides, the Ministry of Marine
had not been "taken." A crowd had thrown a stone at one of the windows,
smashing it, and hurting a man who was peeping out. Nothing more.
We could see a number of vehicles lined up like a barricade in the broad
avenue of the Champs-Elysées, at the rond-point.
"They are firing, yonder," said d'Houdetot. "Can you see the smoke?"
"Pooh!" I replied. "It is the mist of the fountain. That fire is water."
And we burst into a laugh.
An engagement was going on there, however. The people had constructed
three barricades with chairs. The guard at the main square of the
Champs-Elysées had turned out to pull the barricades down. The people
had driven the soldiers back to the guard-house with volleys of stones.
General Prévot had sent a squad of Municipal Guards to the relief of the
soldiers. The squad had been surrounded and compelled to seek refuge
in the guard-house with the others. The crowd had hemmed in the
guard-house. A man had procured a ladder, mounted to the roof, pulled
down the flag, torn it up and thrown it to the people. A battalion had
to be sent to deliver the guard.
"Whew!" said Franc d'Houdetot to General Prévot, who had recounted this
to us. "A flag taken!"
"Taken, no! Stolen, yes!" answered the general quickly.
M. Pèdre-Lacaze came up arm-in-arm with Napoleon Duchatel. Both were in
high spirits. They lighted their cigars from Franc d'Houdetot's cigar
"Do you know? Genoude is going to bring in an impeachment on his own
account. They would not allow him to sign the Left's impeachment. He
would not be beaten, and now the Ministry is between two fires. On the
left, the entire Left; on the right, M. de Genoude."
Napoleon Duchâtel added: "They say that Duvergier de Hauranne has been
carried about in triumph on the shoulders of the crowd."
We had returned to the bridge. M. Vivien was crossing, and came up to
us. With his big, old, wide-brimmed hat and his coat buttoned up to his
cravat the ex-Minister Of Justice looked like a policeman.
"Where are you going?" he said to me. "What is happening is very
Certainly at this moment one feels that the whole constitutional machine
is rocking. It no longer rests squarely on the ground. It is out of
plumb. One can hear it cracking.
The crisis is complicated by the disturbed condition of the whole of
The King, nevertheless, is very calm, and even cheerful. But this game
must not be played too far. Every rubber won serves but to make up the
total of the rubber lost.
Vivien recounted to us that the King had thrown an electoral reform bill
into his drawer, saying as he did so: "That is for my successor!" "That
was Louis XV.'s _mot_," added Vivien, "supposing reform should prove to
be the deluge."
It appears to be true that the King interrupted M. Salandrouze when he
was laying before him the grievances of the "Progressists," and asked
him brusquely: "Are you selling many carpets?" *
* M. Salandrouze was a manufacturer of carpets.
At this same reception of the Progressists the King noticed M. Blanqui,
and graciously going up to him asked:
"Well, Monsieur Blanqui, what do people talk about? What is going on?"
"Sire," replied M. Blanqui, "I ought to tell the King that in the
departments, and especially at Bordeaux, there is a great deal of
"Ah!" interrupted the King. "More agitation!" and he turned his back
upon M. Blanqui.
While we were talking Vivien exclaimed: "Listen! I fancy I can hear
A young staff officer, addressing General d'Houdetot with a smile,
asked: "Are we going to stay here long?"
"Why?" said Franc d'Houdetot.
"Well, I am invited out to dinner," said the officer.
At this moment a group of women in mourning and children dressed in
black passed rapidly along the other pavement of the bridge. A man held
the eldest child by the hand. I looked at him and recognized the Duke de
"Hello!" exclaimed d'Houdetot, "the Minister of Marine!" and he ran over
and conversed for a moment with M. de Montebello. The Duchess had become
frightened, and the whole family was taking refuge on the left bank of
Vivien and I returned to the Palace of the Chamber. D'Houdetot quitted
us. In an instant we were surrounded. Said Boissy to me:
"You were not at the Luxembourg? I tried to speak upon the situation
in Paris. I was hooted. At the _mot_, 'the capital in danger,' I was
interrupted, and the Chancellor, who had come to preside expressly for
that purpose, called me to order. And do you know what General Gourgaud
said to me? 'Monsieur de Boissy, I have sixty guns with their caissons
filled with grape-shot. I filled them myself.' I replied: 'General, I
am delighted to know what is really thought at the Château about the
At this moment Durvergier de Hauranne, hatless, his hair dishevelled,
and looking pale but pleased, passed by and stopped to shake hands with
I left Duvergier and entered the Chamber. A bill relative to the
privileges of the Bank of Bordeaux was being debated. A man who was
talking through his nose occupied the tribune, and M. Sauzet was reading
the articles of the bill with a sleepy air. M. de Belleyme, who was
coming out, shook hands with me and exclaimed: "Alas!"
Several deputies came up to me, among them M. Marie, M. Roger (of
Loiret), M. de Rémusat, and M. Chambolle. I related to them the incident
of the tearing down of the flag, which was serious in view of the
audacity of the attack.
"What is even more serious," said one of them, "is that there is
something very bad behind all this. During the night the doors of more
than fifteen mansions were marked with a cross, among the marked houses
being those of the Princess de Liéven, in the Rue Saint Florentin, and
of Mme. de Talhouët."
"Are you sure of this?" I asked.
"With my own eyes I saw the cross upon the door of Mme. de Liéven's
house," he replied.
President Franck-Carré met M. Duchâtel this morning and said: "Well, how
"All is well," answered the Minister.
"What are you going to do about the riot?"
"I am going to let the rioters alone at the rendezvous they arranged
for themselves. What can they do in the Place Louis XV. and the
Champs-Elysées? It is raining. They will tramp about there all day.
To-night they will be tired out and will go home to bed."
M. Etienne Arago entered hastily at this juncture and said: "There are
seven wounded and two killed already. Barricades have been erected in
the Rue Beaubourg and in the Rue Saint Avoye."
After a suspension of the session M. Guizot arrived. He ascended the
tribune and announced that the King had summoned M. Mole, to charge him
with the formation of a new Cabinet.
Triumphant shouts from the Opposition, shouts of rage from the majority.
The session ended amid an indescribable uproar.
I went out with the deputies and returned by way of the quays.
In the Place de la Concorde the cavalry continued to charge. An attempt
to erect two barricades had been made in the Rue Saint Honoré. The
paving-stones in the Marché Saint Honoré were being torn up. The
overturned omni-buses, of which the barricades had been made, had
been righted by the troops. In the Rue Saint Honoré the crowd let the
Municipal Guards go by, and then stoned them in the back. A multitude
was swarming along the quays like irritated ants. A very pretty woman in
a green velvet hat and a large cashmere shawl passed by amid a group of
men wearing blouses and with bared arms. She had raised her skirt very
high on account of the mud, with which she was much spattered; for it
was raining every minute. The Tuileries were closed. At the Carrousel
gates the crowd had stopped and was gazing through the arcades at the
cavalry lined up in battle array in front of the palace.
Near the Carrousel Bridge I met M. Jules Sandeau. "What do you think of
all this?" he queried.
"That the riot will be suppressed, but that the revolution will
On the Quai de la Ferraille I happened upon somebody else I knew. Coming
towards me was a man covered with mud to the neck, his cravat hanging
down, and his hat battered. I recognized my excellent friend Antony
Thouret. Thouret is an ardent Republican. He had been walking and
speech-making since early morning, going from quarter to quarter and
from group to group.
"Tell me, now, what you really want?" said I. "Is it the Republic?"
"Oh! no, not this time, not yet," he answered. "What we want is
reform--no half measures, oh! dear no, that won't do at all. We want
complete reform, do you hear? And why not universal suffrage?"
"That's the style!" I said as we shook hands.
Patrols were marching up and down the quay, while the crowd shouted
"Hurrah for the line!" The shops were closed and the windows of the
In the Place du Châtelet I heard a man say to a group:
"It is 1830 over again!"
I passed by the Hotel de Ville and along the Rue Saint Avoye. At the
Hotel de Ville all was quiet. Two National Guards were walking to and
fro in front of the gate, and there were no barricades in the Rue Saint
Avoye. In the Rue Rambuteau a few National Guards, in uniform, and
wearing their side arms, came and went. In the Temple quarter they were
beating to arms.
Up to the present the powers that be have made a show of doing without
the National Guard. This is perhaps prudent. A force of National Guards
was to have taken a hand. This morning the guard on duty at the Chamber
refused to obey orders. It is said that a National Guardsman of the 7th
Legion was killed just now while interposing between the people and the
The Mole Ministry assuredly is not a Reform one, but the Guizot Ministry
had been for so long an obstacle to reform! Its resistance was broken;
this was sufficient to pacify and content the child-like heart of the
generous people. In the evening Paris gave itself up to rejoicing. The
population turned out into the streets; everywhere was heard the popular
refrain _Des lampioms! des larnpioms!_ In the twinkling of an eye the
town was illuminated as though for a fête.
In the Place Royale, in front of the Mairie, a few yards from my house,
a crowd had gathered that every moment was becoming denser and noisier.
The officers and National Guards in the guard-house there, in order
to get them away from the Maine, shouted: "On to the Bastille!" and,
marching arm-in-arm, placed themselves at the head of a column, which
fell in joyously behind them and started off shouting: "On to the
Bastille!" The procession marched hat in hand round the Column of July,
to the shout of "Hurrah for Reform!" saluted the troops massed in the
Place with the cry of "Hurrah for the line!" and went off down the
Faubourg Saint Antoine. An hour later the procession returned with its
ranks greatly swelled, and bearing torches and flags, and made its way
to the grand boulevards with the intention of going home by way of
the quays, so that the whole town might witness the celebration of its
Midnight is striking. The appearance of the streets has changed. The
Marais quarter is lugubrious. I have just returned from a stroll there.
The street lamps are broken and extinguished on the Boulevard Bourdon,
so well named the "dark boulevard." The only shops open to-night were
those in the Rue Saint Antoine. The Beaumarchais Theatre was closed. The
Place Royale is guarded like a place of arms. Troops are in ambush in
the arcades. In the Rue Saint Louis, a battalion is leaning silently
against the walls in the shadow.
Just now, as the clock struck the hour, we went on to the balcony
listening and saying: "It is the tocsin!"
I could not have slept in a bed. I passed the night in my drawing-room,
writing, thinking and listening. Now and then I went out on the balcony
and strained my ears to listen, then I entered the room again and paced
to and fro, or dropped into an arm-chair and dozed. But my slumber was
agitated by feverish dreams. I dreamed that I could hear the murmur of
angry crowds, and the report of distant firing; the tocsin was clanging
from the church towers. I awoke. It was the tocsin.
The reality was more horrible than the dream.
This crowd that I had seen marching and singing so gaily on the
boulevards had at first continued its pacific way without let or
hindrance. The infantry regiments, the artillery and cuirassiers had
everywhere opened their ranks to let the procession pass through. But on
the Boulevard des Capucines a mass of troops, infantry and cavalry,
who were guarding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its unpopular
Minister, M. Guizot, blocked the thoroughfare. In front of this
insurmountable obstacle the head of the column tried to stop and turn;
but the irresistible pressure of the enormous crowd behind pushed the
front ranks on. At this juncture a shot was fired, on which side is
not known. A panic ensued, followed by a volley. Eighty fell dead or
wounded. Then arose a general cry of horror and fury: "Vengeance!" The
bodies of the victims were placed in a tumbril lighted by torches. The
crowd faced about and, amid imprecations, resumed its march, which had
now assumed the character of a funeral procession. In a few hours Paris
was bristling with barricades.
At daybreak, from my balcony, I see advancing a noisy column of people,
among whom are a number of National Guards. The mob stops in front of
the Mairie, which is guarded by about thirty Municipal Guards, and with
loud cries demands the soldiers' arms. Flat refusal by the Municipal
Guards, menacing clamours of the crowd. Two National Guard officers
intervene: "What is the use of further bloodshed? Resistance will be
useless." The Municipal Guards lay down their rifles and ammunition and
withdraw without being molested.
The Mayor of the Eighth Arrondissement, M. Ernest Moreau, requests me
to come to the Mairie. He tells me the appalling news of the massacre
on the Boulevard des Capucines. And at brief intervals further news
of increasing seriousness arrives. The National Guard this time has
definitely turned against the Government, and is shouting: "Hurrah for
Reform!" The army, frightened at what it did yesterday, appears resolved
not to take any further part in the fratricidal struggle. In the Rue
Sainte Croix la Bretonnerie the troops have fallen back before the
National Guard. At the neighbouring Mairie of the Ninth Arrondissement,
we are informed, the soldiers are fraternising and patrolling with the
National Guard. Two other messengers in blouses arrive almost together:
"The Reuilly Barracks has been taken." "The Minimes Barracks has
"And from the Government I have neither instructions nor news!" says M.
Ernest Moreau. "What Government, if any, is there? Is the Mole Ministry
still in existence? What is to be done?"
"Go to the Prefecture of the Seine," advises M. Perret, a member of the
General Council. "It isn't far to the Hotel de Ville."
"Well, then, come with me."
They go. I reconnoitre round the Place Royale. Everywhere reign
agitation, anxiety and feverish expectation. Everywhere work is being
actively pushed upon barricades that are already formidable. This time
it is more than a riot, it is an insurrection. I return home. A soldier
of the line, on sentry duty at the entrance to the Place Royale, is
chatting amicably with the vedette of a barricade constructed twenty
paces from him.
At a quarter past eight M. Ernest Moreau returns from the Hotel de
Ville. He has seen M. de Rambuteau and brings slightly better news.
The King has entrusted the formation of a Cabinet to Thiers and Odilon
Barrot. Thiers is not very popular, but Odilon Barrot means reform.
Unfortunately the concession is coupled with a threat: Marshal Bugeaud
has been invested with the general command of the National Guard and of
the army. Odilon Barrot means reform, but Bugeaud means repression. The
King is holding out his right hand and clenching his left fist.
The Prefect requested M. Moreau to spread and proclaim the news in his
quarter and in the Faubourg Saint Antoine.
"This is what I will do," says the Mayor.
"Very good," I observe, "but believe me, you will do well to announce
the Thiers-Barrot Ministry and say nothing about Marshal Bugeaud."
"You are right."
The Mayor requisitions a squad of National Guards, takes with him his
two deputies and the Municipal Councillors present, and descends into
the Place Royale. The roll of drums attracts the crowd. He announces the
new Cabinet. The people applaud and raise repeated shouts of "Hurrah
for Reform!" The Mayor adds a few words recommending harmony and the
preservation of order, and is universally applauded.
"The situation is saved!" he says, grasping my hand.
"Yes," I answer, "if Bugeaud will give up the idea of being the
M. Ernest Moreau, followed by his escort, goes off to repeat his
proclamation in the Place de la Bastille and the faubourg, and I return
home to reassure my family.
Half an hour later the Mayor and his cortege return greatly agitated and
in disorder to the Mairie. This is what had happened:
The Place de la Bastille was occupied at its two extremities by troops,
leaning on their rifles. The people moved freely and peaceably between
the two lines. The Mayor, arrived at the foot of the July column, made
his proclamation, and once again the crowd applauded vigorously. M.
Moreau started towards the Faubourg Saint Antoine. At this moment a
number of workingmen accosted the soldiers amicably and said: "Your
arms, give up your arms." In obedience to the energetic orders of their
captain the soldiers refused. Suddenly a shot was fired; it was followed
by other shots; the terrible panic of the previous day was perhaps about
to be renewed. M. Moreau and his escort were pushed about, thrown down.
The firing on both sides lasted over a minute, and five or six persons
were killed or wounded.
Fortunately, this time the affray occurred in broad daylight. At the
sight of the blood they had shed there was a revulsion of feeling on
the part of the troops, and after a moment of surprise and horror the
soldiers, prompted by an irresistible impulse, raised the butts of
their rifles in the air and shouted: "Long live the National Guard!"
The general in command, being powerless to control his men, went off
to Vincennes by way of the quays and the people remained masters of the
Bastille and of the faubourg.
"It is a result that might have cost more dear, in my case especially,"
remarks M. Moreau and he shows us his hat which has been pierced by a
bullet. "A brand new hat," he adds with a laugh.
Half past ten o'clock.--Three students from the Ecole Polytechnique have
arrived at the Mairie. They report that the students have broken out of
the school and have come to place themselves at the disposition of the
people. A certain number have therefore distributed themselves among the
mairies of Paris.
The insurrection is making progress every hour. It now demands that
Marshal Bugeaud be replaced and the Chamber dissolved. The pupils of
the Ecole Polytechnique go further and talk about the abdication of the
What is happening at the Tuileries? There is no news, either, from the
Ministry, no order from the General Staff. I decide to go to the Chamber
of Deputies, by way of the Hotel de Ville, and M. Ernest Moreau is kind
enough to accompany me.
We find the Rue Saint Antoine bristling with barricades. We make
ourselves known and the insurgents help us to clamber over the heaps
of paving-stones. As we draw near to the Hotel de Ville, from which the
roar of a great crowd reaches our ears, and as we cross some ground on
which are buildings in course of erection, we see coming towards us with
hurried steps M. de Rambuteau, the Prefect of the Seine.
"Hi! Monsieur the Prefect, what brings you here?" I cry.
"Prefect! Do I know whether I am still Prefect?" he replies with a surly
A crowd, which looks anything but benevolent, has already begun to
gather. M. Moreau notices a house that is to let. We enter it, and M. de
Rambuteau recounts his misadventure.
"I was in my office with two or three Municipal Councillors," he says,
"when we heard a great noise in the corridor. The door was thrown
violently open, and there entered unto me a big strapping captain of the
National Guard at the head of an excited body of troops.
"'Monsieur,' said the man, 'you must get out of here.'
"'Pardon me, Monsieur, here, at the Hotel de Ville I am at home, and
here I propose to stay.'
"'Yesterday you were perhaps at home in the Hotel de Ville; to-day the
people are at home in it.'
"'Go to the window and look out on the square.'
"The square had been invaded by a noisy, swarming crowd in which
workingmen, National Guards and soldiers were mingled pell-mell. And
the rifles of the soldiers wore in the hands of the men of the people. I
turned to the intruders and said:
"'You are right, messieurs, you are the masters here.'
"'Well, then,' said the captain, 'instruct your employés to recognise my
"That was too much. I replied: 'What do you take me for?' I gathered up
a few papers, issued a few orders, and here I am. Since you are going
to the Chamber, if there is still a Chamber, tell the Minister of the
Interior, if the Ministry still exists, that at the Hotel de Ville there
is no longer either Prefect or Prefecture."
It is with great difficulty that we make our way through the human ocean
that with a noise as of a tempest covers the Place de Hotel de Ville.
At the Quai de la Mégisserie is a formidable barricade; thanks to the
Mayor's sash shown by my companion we are allowed to clamber over it.
Beyond this the quays are almost deserted. We reach the Chamber of
Deputies by the left bank of the river.
The Palais Bourbon is encumbered by a buzzing crowd of deputies, peers
and high functionaries. From a rather large group comes the sharp voice
of M. Thiers: "Ah! here is Victor Hugo!" He comes to us and asks for
news about the Faubourg Saint Antoine. We add that about the Hotel de
Ville. He shakes his head gloomily.
"And how are things here?" I question in turn. "But first of all are you
still a Minister?"
"I? Oh! I am nobody! Odilon Barrot is President of the Council and
Minister of the Interior."
"And Marshal Bugeaud?"
"He has also been replaced by Marshal Gerard. But that is nothing. The
Chamber has been dissolved, the King has abdicated and is on his way
to Saint Cloud, and the Duchess d'Orleans is Regent. Ah! the tide is
rising, rising, rising!"
M. Thiers advises us, M. Ernest Moreau and me, to come to an
understanding with M. Odilon Barrot. Action by us in our quarter, which
is such an important one, can be of very great utility. We therefore set
out for the Ministry of the Interior.
The people have invaded the Ministry and crowded it to the very office
of the Minister, where a not over respectful crowd comes and goes. At a
large table in the middle of the vast room secretaries are writing. M.
Odilon Barrot his face red, his lips compressed and his hands behind his
back, is leaning against the mantelpiece.
"You know what is going on, do you not?" he says when he sees us; "the
King has abdicated and the Duchess d'Orleans is Regent."
"If the people so wills," says a man in a blouse who is passing.
The Minister leads us to the recess of a window, looking uneasily about
him as he does so.
"What are you going to do? What are you doing?" I query.
"I am sending telegrams to the departments."
"Is this very urgent?"
"France must be informed of events."
"Yes, but meanwhile Paris is making events. Alas! has it finished making
them? The Regency is all very well, but it has got to be sanctioned."
"Yes, by the Chamber. The Duchess d'Orleans ought to take the Count de
Paris to the Chamber."
"No, since the Chamber has been dissolved. If the Duchess ought to go
anywhere, it is to the Hotel de Ville."
"How can you think of such a thing! What about the danger?"
"There is no danger. A mother, a child! I will answer for the people.
They will respect the woman in the princess.
"Well, then, go to the Tuileries, see the Duchess d'Orleans, advise her,
"Why do you not go yourself?"
"I have just come from there. Nobody knew where the Duchess was; I could
not get near her. But if you see her tell her that I am at her disposal,
that I await her orders. Ah! Monsieur Victor Hugo, I would give my life
for that woman and for that child!"
Odilon Barrot is the most honest and the most devoted man in the
world, but he is the opposite of a man of action; one feels trouble and
indecision in his words, in his look, in his whole person.
"Listen," he goes on, "what must be done, what is urgent, is that
the people should be made acquainted with these grave changes, the
abdication and Regency. Promise me that you will proclaim them at your
mairie, in the faubourg, and wherever you possibly can."
I go off, with M. Moreau, towards the Tuileries.
In the Rue Bellechasse are galloping horses. A squadron of dragoons
flashes by and seems to be fleeing from a man with bare arms who is
running behind them and brandishing a sword.
The Tuileries are still guarded by troops. The Mayor shows his sash
and they let us pass. At the gate the concierge, to whom I make myself
known, apprises us that the Duchess d'Orleans, accompanied by the Duke
de Nemours, has just left the château with the Count de Paris, no doubt
to go to the Chamber of Deputies. We have, therefore, no other course
than to continue on our way.
At the entrance to the Carrousel Bridge bullets whistle by our ears.
Insurgents in the Place du Carrousel are firing upon the court carriages
leaving the stables. One of the coachmen has been killed on his box.
"It would be too stupid of us to stay here looking on and get ourselves
killed," says M. Ernest Moreau. "Let us cross the bridge."
We skirt the Institute and the Quai de la Monnaie. At the Pont Neuf
we pass a band of men armed with pikes, axes and rifles, headed by a
drummer, and led by a man brandishing a sabre and wearing a long coat
of the King's livery. It is the coat of the coachman who has just been
killed in the Rue Saint Thomas du Louvre.
When we arrive, M. Moreau and I, at the Place Royale we find it filled
with an anxious crowd. We are immediately surrounded and questioned, and
it is not without some difficulty that we reach the Mairie. The mass of
people is too compact to admit of our addressing them in the Place. I
ascend, with the Mayor, a few officers of the National Guard and two
students of the Ecole Polytechnique, to the balcony of the Mairie. I
raise my hand, the crowd becomes silent as though by magic, and I say:
"My friends, you are waiting for news. This is what we know: M. Thiers
is no longer Minister and Marshal Bugeaud is no longer in command
(applause). They have been replaced by Marshal Gerard and M. Odilon
Barrot (applause, but less general). The Chamber has been dissolved. The
King has abdicated (general cheering). The Duchess d'Orleans is Regent."
(A few isolated bravos, mingled with low murmurs.)
"The name of Odilon Barrot is a guarantee that the widest and most
open appeal will be made to the nation; and that you will have in all
sincerity a representative government."
My declaration is responded to with applause from several points, but it
appears evident that the great bulk of the crowd is uncertain as to what
view of the situation they ought to take, and are not satisfied.
We re-enter the hall of the Mairie.
"Now," I say to M. Ernest Moreau, "I must go and proclaim the news in
the Place de la Bastille."
But the Mayor is discouraged.
"You can very well see that it is useless," he says sadly. "The Regency
is not accepted. And you have spoken here in a quarter where you are
known and loved. At the Bastille your audience will be the revolutionary
people of the faubourg, who will perhaps harm you."
"I will go," I say, "I promised Odilon Barrot that I would."
"I have changed my hat," the Mayor goes on, "but remember my hat of this
"This morning the army and the people were face to face, and there was
danger of a conflict; now, however, the people are alone, the people are
"Masters--and hostile; have a care!"
"No matter, I have promised, and I will keep my promise."
I tell the Mayor that his place is at the Mairie and that he ought
to stay there. But several National Guard officers present themselves
spontaneously and offer to accompany me, among them the excellent M.
Launaye, my former captain. I accept their friendly offer, and we form
a little procession and proceed by the Rue du Pas de la Mule and the
Boulevard Beaumarchais towards the Place de la Bastille.
Here are a restless, eager crowd in which workingmen predominate, many
of them armed with rifles taken from the barracks or given up to them
by the soldiers; shouts and the song of the Girondins: "Die for the
fatherland!" numerous groups debating and disputing passionately. They
turn round, they look at us, they interrogate us:
"What's the news? What is going on?" And they follow us. I hear my name
mentioned coupled with various sentiments: "Victor Hugo! It's Victor
Hugo!" A few salute me. When we reach the Column of July we are
surrounded by a considerable gathering. In order that I may be heard I
mount upon the base of the column.
I will only repeat the words which it was possible for me to make my
turbulent audience hear. It was much less a speech than a dialogue, but
the dialogue of one voice with ten, twenty, a hundred voices more or
I began by announcing at once the abdication of Louis Philippe, and, as
in the Place Royale, applause that was practically unanimous greeted the
news. There were also, however, cries of "No! no abdication, deposition!
deposition!" Decidedly, I was going to have my hands full.
When I announced the Regency violent protests arose:
"No! no! No Regency! Down with the Bourbons! Neither King nor Queen! No
I repeated: "No masters! I don't want them any more than you do. I have
defended liberty all my life."
"Then why do you proclaim the Regency?"
"Because a Queen-Regent is not a master. Besides, I have no right
whatever to proclaim the Regency; I merely announce it."
"No! no! No Regency!"
A man in a blouse shouted: "Let the peer of France be silent. Down with
the peer of France!" And he levelled his rifle at me. I gazed at him
steadily, and raised my voice so loudly that the crowd became silent:
"Yes, I am a peer of France, and I speak as a peer of France. I swore
fidelity, not to a royal personage, but to the Constitutional Monarchy.
As long as no other government is established it is my duty to be
faithful to this one. And I have always thought that the people approved
of a man who did his duty, whatever that duty might be."
There was a murmur of approbation and here and there a few bravos.
But when I endeavoured to continue: "If the Regency--" the protests
redoubled. I was permitted to take up only one of these protests. A
workman had shouted: "We will not be governed by a woman." I retorted
"Well, neither will I be governed by a woman, nor even by a man. It was
because Louis Philippe wanted to govern that his abdication is to-day
necessary and just. But a woman who reigns in the name of a child! Is
that not a guarantee against all thought of personal government? Look at
Queen Victoria in England--"
"We are French, we are!" shouted several voices. "No Regency!"
"No Regency? Then, what? Nothing is ready, nothing! It means a total
upheaval, ruin, distress, civil war, perhaps; in any case, it is the
One voice, a single voice, cried: "Long live the Republic!"
No other voice echoed it. Poor, great people, irresponsible and blind!
They know what they do not want, but they do not know what they do want.
From this moment the noise, the shouts, the menaces became such that
I gave up the attempt to get myself heard. My brave Launaye said: "You
have done what you wanted to, what you promised to do; the only thing
that remains for us to do is to withdraw."
The crowd opened before us, curious and inoffensive. But twenty paces
from the column the man who had threatened me with his rifle came up
with us and again levelled his weapon at me, shouting: "Down with the
peer of France!" "No, respect the great man!" cried a young workman,
who, with a quick movement, pushed the rifle downward. I thanked this
unknown friend with a wave of the hand and passed on.
At the Mairie, M. Ernest Moreau, who it appears had been very anxious
about us, received us with joy and cordially congratulated me. But I
knew that even when their passions are aroused the people are just; and
not the slightest credit was due to me, for I had not been uneasy in the
While these things were happening in the Place de la Bastille, this is
what was taking place at the Palais Bourbon:
There is at this moment a man whose name is in everybody's mouth and
the thought of whom is in everybody's mind; that man is Lamartine. His
eloquent and vivid _History of the Girondins_ has for the first time
taught the Revolution to France. Hitherto he had only been illustrious;
he has become popular and may be said to hold Paris in his hand.
In the universal confusion his influence could be decisive. This is
what they said to themselves in the offices of the National, where the
possible chances of the Republic had been weighed, and where a scheme
for a provisional government had been sketched, from which Lamartine had
been left out. In 1842, at the time of the debate over the Regency which
resulted in the choice of the Duke de Nemours, Lamartine had pleaded
warmly for the Duchess d'Orleans. Was he imbued with the same ideas
to-day? What did he want? What would he do? It was necessary that this
should be ascertained. M. Armand Marrast, the editor-in-chief of the
National, took with him three notorious Republicans, M. Bastide, M.
Hetzel, the publisher, and M. Bocage, the eminent comedian who created
the role of Didier in "Marion de Lorme." All four went to the Chamber of
Deputies. They found Lamartine there and held a conference with him in
one of the offices.
They all spoke in turn, and expressed their convictions and hopes. They
would be happy to think that Lamartine was with them for the immediate
realization of the Republic. If, however, he judged that the transition
of the Regency was necessary they asked him to at least aid them in
obtaining serious guarantees against any retrogression. They awaited
with emotion his decision in this great matter.
Lamartine listened to their reasons in silence, then requested them
to allow him a few minutes for reflection. He sat apart from them at a
table, leaned his head upon his hands, and thought. His four visitors,
standing and silent, gazed at him respectfully. It was a solemn moment.
"We listened to history passing," said Bocage to me.
Lamartine raised his head and said: "I will oppose the Regency."
A quarter of an hour later the Duchess d'Orleans arrived at the Chamber
holding by the hand her two sons, the Count de Paris and the Duke
de Chartres. M. Odilon. Barrot was not with her. The Duke de Nemours
She was acclaimed by the deputies. But, the Chamber having been
dissolved, were there any deputies?
M. Crémieux ascended the tribune and flatly proposed a provisional
government. M. Odilon Barrot, who had been fetched from the Ministry of
the Interior, made his appearance at last and pleaded for the Regency,
but without éclat and without energy. Suddenly a mob of people and
National Guards with arms and flags invaded the chamber. The Duchess
d'Orleans, persuaded by her friends, withdrew with her children.
The Chamber of Deputies then vanished, submerged by a sort of
revolutionary assembly. Ledru-Rollin harangued this crowd. Next came
Lamartine, who was awaited and acclaimed. He opposed the Regency, as he
That settled it. The names for a provisional government were proposed
to the people. And by shouts of "yes" or "no" the people elected
successively: Lamartine, Dupont de l'Eure, Arago, and Ledru-Rollin
unanimously, Crémieux, Gamier-Pages, and Marie by a majority.
The new ministers at once set out for the Hotel de Ville.
At the Chamber of Deputies not once was the word "Republic" uttered in
any of the speeches of the orators, not even in that of Ledru-Rollin.
But now, outside, in the street, the elect of the people heard this
words this shout, everywhere. It flew from mouth to mouth and filled the
air of Paris.
The seven men who, in these supreme and extreme days, held the destiny
of France in their hands were themselves at once tools and playthings in
the hands of the mob, which is not the people, and of chance, which is
not providence. Under the pressure of the multitude; in the bewilderment
and terror of their triumph, which overwhelmed them, they decreed the
Republic without having time to think that they were doing such a great
When, having been separated and dispersed by the violent pushing of the
crowd, they were able to find each other again and reassemble, or rather
hide, in one of the rooms of the Hotel de Ville, they took half a sheet
of paper, at the head of which were printed the words: "Prefecture of
the Seine. Office of the Prefect." M. de Rambuteau may that very morning
have used the other half of the sheet to write a love-letter to one of
his "little bourgeoises," as he called them.
Under the dictation of terrible shouts outside Lamartine traced this
"The Provisional Government declares that the Provisional Government
of France is the Republican Government, and that the nation shall be
immediately called upon to ratify the resolution of the Provisional
Government and of the people of Paris."
I had this paper, this sheet smeared and blotted with ink, in my hands.
It was still stamped, still palpitating, so to speak, with the fever
of the moment. The words hurriedly scribbled were scarcely formed.
_Appelée_ was written _appellée_.
When these half dozen lines had been written Lamartine handed the sheet
Ledru-Rollin read aloud the phrase: "The Provisional Government
declares that the Provisional Government of France is the Republican
"The word 'provisional' occurs twice," he commented.
"That is so," said the others.
"One of them at least must be effaced," added Ledru-Rollin.
Lamartine understood the significance of this grammatical observation,
which was simply a political revolution.
"But we must await the sanction of France," he said. "I can do without
the sanction of France," cried Ledru-Rollin, "when I have the sanction of
"Of the people of Paris. But who knows at present what is the will of
the people of France?" observed Lamartine.
There was an interval of silence. The noise of the multitude without
sounded like the murmuring of the ocean. Ledru-Rollin went on:
"What the people want is the Republic at once, the Republic without
"The Republic without any delay?" said Lamartine, covering an objection
in this interpretation of Ledru-Rollin's words.
"We are provisional," returned Ledru-Rollin, "but the Republic is not!"
M. Crémieux took the pen from Lamartine's hands, scratched out the
word "provisional" at the end of the third line and wrote beside it:
"The actual government? Very well!" said Ledru-Rollin, with a slight
shrug of the shoulder.
The seal of the City of Paris was on the table. Since 1830 the vessel
sailing beneath a sky starred with fleurs-de-lys and with the device,
_Proelucent clarius astris_, had disappeared from the seal of the City.
The seal was merely a circle with the words "Ville de Paris" in the
centre. Crémieux took the seal and stamped the paper so hastily with it
that the words appeared upside down.
But they did not sign this rough draught. Their whereabouts had been
discovered; an impetuous stream was surging against the door of
the office in which they had taken refuge. The people were calling,
ordering, them to go to the meeting-hall of the Municipal Council.
There they were greeted by this clamour: "The Republic! Long live
the Republic! Proclaim the Republic!" Lamartine, who was at first
interrupted by the cries, succeeded at length with his grand voice in
calming this feverish impatience.
The members of the Provisional Government were thus enabled to return
and resume their session and lively discussion. The more ardent ones
wanted the document to read: "The Provisional Government proclaims the
Republic." The moderates proposed: "The Provisional Government desires
the Republic." A compromise was reached on the proposition of M.
Crémieux, and the sentence was made to read: "The Provisional Government
'is for' the Republic." To this was added: "subject to the ratification
of the people, who will be immediately consulted."
The news was at once announced to the crowds in the meeting-hall and in
the square outside, who would listen to nothing but the word "republic,"
and saluted it with tremendous cheering.
The Republic was established. _Alea jacta_, as Lamartine observed later.
During the morning everything at and in the neighbourhood of the Mairie
of the Eighth Arrondissement was relatively calm, and the steps to
maintain order taken the previous day with the approval of M. Ernest
Moreau appeared to have assured the security of the quarter.* I thought
I might leave the Place Royale and repair towards the centre of the city
with my son Victor. The restlessness and agitation of a people (of the
people of Paris!) on the morrow of a revolution was a spectacle that had
an irresistible attraction for me.
* On the evening of the 24th, there had been reason to apprehend
disturbances in the Eighth Arrondissement, disturbances particularly
serious in that they would not have been of a political character. The
prowlers and evil-doers with hang-dog mien who seem to issue from the
earth in times of trouble were very much in evidence in the streets.
At the Prison of La Force, in the Rue Saint Antoine, the common law
criminals had begun a revolt by locking up their keepers. To what public
force could appeal be made? The Municipal Guard had been disbanded, the
army was confined to barracks; as to the police, no one would have
known where to find them. Victor Hugo, in a speech which this time was
cheered, confided life and property to the protection and devotedness
of the people. A civic guard in blouses was improvised. Empty shops that
were to let were transformed into guard houses, patrols were organized
and sentries posted. The rebellious prisoners at La Force, terrified by
the assertion that cannon (which did not exist) had been brought to
bear upon the prison and that unless they surrendered promptly and
unconditionally they would be blown sky-high, submitted quietly and
returned to work.
The weather was cloudy, but mild, and the rain held off. The streets
were thrilling with a noisy, joyous crowd. The people continued with
incredible ardour to fortify the barricades that had already been
constructed, and even to build new ones. Bands of them with flags flying
and drums beating marched about shouting "Long live the Republic!" and
singing the "Marseillaise and Die for the Fatherland!" The cafés
were crowded to overflowing, but many of the shops were closed, as on
holidays; and, indeed, the city did present a holiday appearance.
I made my way along the quays to the Pont Neuf. There, at the bottom of
a proclamation I read the name of Lamartine, and having seen the people,
I experienced the desire to see my great friend. I therefore turned back
with Victor towards the Hotel de Ville.
As on the previous day, the square in front of the building was filled
with a crowd, and the crowd was so compact that it immobilized itself.
It was impossible to approach the steps of the front entrance. After
several attempts to get somewhere near to them, I was about to force my
way back out of the crowd when I was perceived by M. Froment-Meurice,
the artist-goldsmith, brother of my young friend, Paul Meurice. He was a
major of the National Guard, and on duty with his battalion at the Hotel
de Ville. "Make way!" he shouted authoritatively. "Make way for
Victor Hugo!" And the human wall opened, how I do not know, before his
The entrance once passed, M. Froment-Meurice guided us up all sorts of
stairways, and through corridors and rooms encumbered with people. As we
were passing a man came from a group, and planting himself in front of
me, said: "Citizen Victor Hugo, shout 'Long live the Republic!'"
"I will shout nothing by order," said I. "Do you understand what liberty
is? For my part, I practise it. I will shout to-day 'Long live the
people!' because it pleases me to do so. The day when I shout 'Long live
the Republic!' it will be because I want to."
"Hear! hear! He is right," murmured several voices.
And we passed on.
After many detours M. Froment-Meurice ushered us into a small room where
he left us while he went to inform Lamartine that I wished to see him.
The glass door of the room gave on to a gallery, passing along which
I saw my friend David d'Angers, the great statuary. I called to him.
David, who was an old-time Republican, was beaming. "Ah! my friend,
what a glorious day!" he exclaimed. He told me that the Provisional
Government had appointed him Mayor of the Eleventh Arrondissement. "They
have sent for you for something of the same kind, I suppose?" he said.
"No," I answered, "I have not been sent for. I came of my own accord
just to shake Lamartine's hand."
M. Froment-Meurice returned and announced that Lamartine awaited me. I
left Victor in the room, telling him to wait there till I came back, and
once more followed my obliging guide through more corridors that led to
a vestibule that was crowded with people. "They are all office seekers!"
explained M. Froment-Meurice. The Provisional Government was holding
a session in the adjoining room. The door was guarded by two armed
grenadiers of the National Guard, who were impassible, and deaf alike to
entreaties and menaces. I had to force my way through this crowd. One of
the grenadiers, on the lookout for me, opened the door a little way to
let me in. The crowd immediately made a rush and tried to push past the
sentries, who, however, aided by M. Froment-Meurice, forced them back
and closed the door behind me.
I was in a spacious hall that formed the angle of one of the pavilions
of the Hotel de Ville, and was lighted on two sides by long windows. I
would have preferred to find Lamartine alone, but there were with him,
dispersed about the room and talking to friends or writing, three or
four of his colleagues in the Provisional Government, Arago, Marie, and
Armand Marrast. Lamartine rose as I entered. On his frock-coat, which
was buttoned up as usual, he wore an ample tri-colour sash, slung across
his shoulder. He advanced to meet me, and stretching out his hand,
exclaimed: "Ah! you have come over to us! Victor Hugo is a strong
recruit indeed for the Republic."
"Not so fast, my friend," said I with a laugh. "I have come simply to
see my friend Lamartine. Perhaps you are not aware of the fact that
yesterday while you were opposing the Regency in the Chamber, I was
defending it in the Place de la Bastille."
"Yesterday, that was all right; but to-day? There is now neither
Regency nor Royalty. It is impossible that Victor Hugo is not at heart
"In principle, yes, I am. The Republic is, in my opinion, the only
rational form of government, the only one worthy of the nations. The
universal Republic is inevitable in the natural course of progress. But
has its hour struck in France? It is because I want the Republic that
I want it to be durable and definitive. You are going to consult the
nation, are you not?--the whole nation?"
"The whole nation, assuredly. We of the Provisional Government are all
for universal suffrage."
At this moment Arago came up to us with M. Armand Marrast, who held a
folded paper in his hand.
"My dear friend," said Lamartine, "know that this morning we selected
you for Mayor of your arrondissement."
"And here is the patent signed by us all," said Armand Marrast.
"I thank you," said I, "but I cannot accept it."
"Why?" continued Arago. "These are non-political and purely gratuitous
"We were informed just now about the attempted revolt at La Force,"
added Lamartine. "You did better than suppress it, you forestalled it.
You are loved and respected in your arrondissement."
"My authority is wholly moral," I rejoined; "it could but lose weight in
becoming official. Besides, on no account would I dispossess M. Ernest
Moreau, who has borne himself loyally and valiantly throughout this
Lamartine and Arago insisted: "Do not refuse our brevet."
"Very well," said I, "I will take it--for the sake of the autographs;
but it is understood that I keep it in my pocket."
"Yes, keep it," said Armand Marrast laughingly, "so that you can say
that one day you were _pair_ and the next day _maire_."
Lamartine took me aside into the recess of a window.
"It is not a mairie I would like you to have, but a ministry. Victor
Hugo, the Republic's Minister of Instruction! Come now, since you say
that you are Republican!"
"Republican--in principle. But in fact, I was yesterday peer of France,
I was yesterday for the Regency, and, believing the Republic to be
premature, I should be also for the Regency to-day."
"Nations are above dynasties," went on Lamartine. "I, too, have been a
"Yes, but you were a deputy, elected by the nation; I was a peer,
appointed by the King."
"The King in choosing you, under the terms of the Constitution, in one
of the categories from which the Upper House was recruited, but honoured
the peerage and also honoured himself."
"I thank you," said I, "but you look at things from the outside; I
consider them in my conscience."
We were interrupted by the noise of a prolonged fusillade which broke
out suddenly on the square. A bullet smashed a window-pane above our
"What is the matter now?" exclaimed Lamartine in sorrowful tones.
M. Armand Marrast and M. Marie went out to see what was going on.
"Ah! my friend," continued Lamartine, "how heavy is this revolutionary
power to bear! One has to assume such weighty and such sudden
responsibilities before one's conscience and in presence of history! I
do not know how I have been living during the past ten days. Yesterday I
had a few grey hairs; to-morrow they will be white."
"Yes, but you are doing your duty as a man of genius grandly," I
In a few minutes M. Armand Marrast returned.
"It was not against us," he said. "How the lamentable affray came about
could not be explained to me. There was a collision, the rifles went
off, why? Was it a misunderstanding, was it a quarrel between Socialists
and Republicans? No one knows."
"Are there any wounded?"
"Yes, and dead, too."
A gloomy silence followed. I rose. "You have no doubt some measures to
take?" I said.
"What measures?" answered Lamartine. "This morning we resolved to decree
what you have already been able to do on a small scale in your quarter:
the organization of the citizen's National Guard--every Frenchman a
soldier as well as a voter. But time is required, and meanwhile--"
he pointed to the waves and eddies of heads surging on the square
outside--"look, it is the sea!"
A boy wearing an apron entered and spoke to him in low tones.
"Ah! very good!" said Lamartine, "it is my luncheon. Will you share it
with me, Hugo?"
"Thanks, I have already lunched."
"I haven't and I am dying of hunger. At least come and look on at the
feast; I will let you go, afterwards."
He showed me into a room that gave on to an interior court-yard. A
gentle faced young man who was writing at a table rose and was about to
withdraw. He was the young workman whom Louis Blanc had had attached to
the Provisional Government.
"Stay where you are, Albert," said Lamartine, "I have nothing of a
private nature to say to Victor Hugo."
We saluted each other, M. Albert and I.
The little waiter showed Lamartine a table upon which were some mutton
cutlets in an earthenware dish, some bread, a bottle of wine and a
glass. The whole came from a wine-shop in the neighbourhood.
"Well," exclaimed Lamartine, "what about a knife and fork?"
"I thought you had knives and forks here," returned the boy. "I had
trouble enough to bring the luncheon, and if I have got to go and fetch
knives and forks--"
"Pshaw!" said Lamartine, "one must take things as they come!"
He broke the bread, took a cutlet by the bone and tore the meat with
his teeth. When he had finished he threw the bone into the fireplace. In
this manner he disposed of three cutlets, and drank two glasses of wine.
"You will agree with me that this is a primitive repast!" he said. "But
it is an improvement on our supper last night. We had only bread
and cheese among us, and we all drank water from the same chipped
sugar-bowl. Which didn't, it appears, prevent a newspaper this morning
from denouncing the great orgy of the Provisional Government!"
I did not find Victor in the room where he was to have waited for me.
I supposed that, having become tired of waiting, he had returned home
When I issued on to the Place de Grève the crowd was still excited
and in a state of consternation at the inexplicable collision that had
occurred an hour before. The body of a wounded man who had just expired
was carried past me. They told me that it was the fifth. It was taken,
as the other bodies had been taken, to the Salle Saint Jean, where
the dead of the previous day to the number of over a hundred had been
Before returning to the Place Royale I made a tour for the purpose of
visiting our guard-houses. Outside the Minimes Barracks a boy of about
fifteen years, armed with the rifle of a soldier of the line, was
proudly mounting guard. It seemed to me that I had seen him there in the
morning or the day before.
"What!" I said, "are you doing sentry duty again?"
"No, not again; I haven't yet been relieved."
"You don't say so. Why, how long have you been here?"
"Oh, about seventeen hours!"
"What! haven't you slept? Haven't you eaten?"
"Yes, I have had something to eat."
"You went to get it, of course?"
"No, I didn't, a sentry does not quit his post! This morning I shouted
to the people in the shop across the way that I was hungry, and they
brought me some bread."
I hastened to have the brave child relieved from duty.
On arriving in the Place Royale I inquired for Victor. He had not
returned. I was seized with a shudder of fear. I do not know why the
vision of the dead who had been transported to the Salle Saint Jean
should have come into my mind. What if my Victor had been caught in that
bloody affray? I gave some pretext for going out again. Vacquerie
was there; I told him of my anguish in a whisper, and he offered to
First of all we called upon M. Froment-Meurice, whose establishment was
in the Rue Lobau, next to the Hotel de Ville, and I asked him to have me
admitted to the Salle Saint Jean. At first he sought to dissuade me from
seeing the hideous sight; he had seen it the previous day and was still
under the impression of the horror it inspired. I fancied his reluctance
was a bad sign, that he was trying to keep something from me. This made
me insist the more, and we went.
In the large Salle Saint Jean, transformed into a vast morgue, lay the
long line of corpses upon camp bedsteads. For the most part they were
unrecognisable. And I held the dreadful review, quaking in my shoes
when one of the dead was young and slim with chestnut hair. Yes, the
spectacle of the poor blood-stained dead was horrible indeed! But I
could not describe it; all that I saw of each body was that it was not
that of my child. At length I reached the last one, and breathed freely
As I issued from the lugubrious place I saw Victor, very much alive,
running towards me. When he heard the firing he had left the room where
he was waiting for me, and not being able to find his way back, had been
to see a friend.
II. EXPULSIONS AND ESCAPES.
May 3, 1848.
On February 24 the Duke and Duchess Decazes were literally driven from
the Luxembourg. And by whom? By the very denizens of the palace,
all employés of the Chamber of Peers, all appointed by the grand
referendary. A rumour was circulated in the quarter that during the
night the peers would commit some anti-revolutionary act, publish a
proclamation, etc. The entire Faubourg Saint Jacques prepared to march
against the Luxembourg. Hence, great terror. First the Duke and Duchess
were begged, then pressed, then constrained to leave the palace.
"We will leave to-morrow. We do not know where to go. Let us pass the
night here," they said.
They were driven out.
They slept in a lodging-house. Next day they took up their abode at 9,
M. Decazes was very ill. A week before he had undergone an operation.
Mme. Decazes bore it all with cheerfulness and courage. This is a trait
of character that women often display in trying situations brought about
through the stupidity of men.
The ministers escaped, but not without difficulty. M. Duchâtel, in
particular, had a great fright.
M. Guizot, three days previously, had quitted the Hotel des Capucines
and installed himself at the Ministry of the Interior. He lived there
_en famille_ with M. Duchâtel.
On February 24, MM. Duchâtel and Guizot were about to sit down to
luncheon when an usher rushed in with a frightened air. The head of
the column of rioters was debouching from the Rue de Bourgogne. The two
ministers left the table and managed to escape just in time by way of
the garden. Their families followed them: M. Duchâtel's young wife, M.
Guizot's aged mother, and the children.
A notable thing about this flight was that the luncheon of M. Guizot
became the supper of M. Ledru-Rollin. It was not the first time that the
Republic had eaten what had been served to the Monarchy.
Meanwhile the fugitives had taken the Rue Bellechasse. M. Guizot walked
first, giving his arm to Mme. Duchâtel. His fur-lined overcoat was
buttoned up and his hat as usual was stuck on the back of his head.
He was easily recognisable. In the Rue Hillerin-Bertin, Mme. Duchâtel
noticed that some men in blouses were gazing at M. Guizot in a singular
manner, She led him into a doorway. It chanced that she knew the
doorkeeper. They hid M. Guizot in an empty room on the fifth floor.
Here M. Guizot passed the day, but he could not stay there. One of his
friends remembered a bookseller, a great admirer of M. Guizot, who in
better days had often declared that he would devote himself to and give
his life for him whom he called "a great man," and that he only hoped
the opportunity for doing so might present itself. This friend called
upon him, reminded him of what he had said, and told him that the hour
had come. The brave bookseller did not fail in what was expected of him.
He placed his house at M. Guizot's disposal and hid him there for ten
whole days. At the end of that time the eight places in a compartment of
a carriage on the Northern Railway were hired. M. Guizot made his way
to the station at nightfall. The seven persons who were aiding in
his escape entered the compartment with him. They reached Lille, then
Ostend, whence M. Guizot crossed over to England.
M. Duchâtel's escape was more complicated.
He managed to secure a passport as an agent of the Republic on
a mission. He disguised himself, dyed his eye-brows, put on blue
spectacles, and left Paris in a post-chaise. Twice he was stopped
by National Guards in the towns through which he passed. With great
audacity he declared that he would hold responsible before the Republic
those who delayed him on his mission. The word "Republic" produced
its effect. They allowed the Minister to pass. The Republic saved M.
In this way he reached a seaport (Boulogne, I think), believing that
he was being hotly pursued, and very nervous in consequence. A Channel
steamer was going to England. He went on board at night. He was
installing himself for the voyage when he was informed that the steamer
would not leave that night. He thought that he had been discovered and
that he was a lost man. The steamer had merely been detained by the
English Consul, probably to facilitate, if necessary, the flight of
Louis Philippe. M. Duchâtel landed again and spent the night and next
day in the studio of a woman painter who was devoted to him.
Then he embarked on another steamer. He went below at once and concealed
himself as best he could pending the departure of the vessel. He
scarcely dared to breathe, fearing that at any moment he might be
recognised and seized. At last the steamer got under way. Hardly had the
paddle wheels begun to revolve, however, when shouts of "Stop her! Stop
her!" were raised on the quay and on the boat, which stopped short. This
time the poor devil of a Minister thought it was all up with him. The
hubbub was caused by an officer of the National Guard, who, in taking
leave of friends, had lingered too long on deck, and did not want to
be taken to England against his will. When he found that the vessel had
cast off he had shouted "Stop her!" and his family on the quay had
taken up the shout. The officer was put ashore and the steamer finally
This was how M. Duchâtel left France and reached England.
III. LOUIS PHILIPPE IN EXILE. May 3, 1848.
The Orleans family in England are literally in poverty; they are
twenty-two at table and drink water. There is not the slightest
exaggeration in this. Absolutely all they have to live upon is an income
of about 40,000 francs made up as follows: 24,000 francs a year from
Naples, which came from Queen Marie Amélie, and the interest on a sum
of 340,000 francs which Louis Philippe had forgotten under the following
circumstances: During his last triumphal voyage made in October, 1844,
with the Prince de Joinville, he had a credit of 500,000 francs opened
for him with a London banker. Of this sum he spent only 160,000 francs.
He was greatly amazed and very agreeably surprised on arriving in London
to find that the balance of the 500,000 francs remained at his disposal.
M. Vatout is with the Royal Family. For the whole of them there are but
three servants, of whom one, and one only, accompanied them from the
Tuileries. In this state of destitution they demanded of Paris the
restitution of what belongs to them in France; their property is under
seizure, and has remained so notwithstanding their reclamations. For
different reasons. One of the motives put forward by the Provisional
Government is the debt of the civil list, which amounts to thirty
millions. Queer ideas about Louis Philippe were entertained. He may
have been covetous, but he certainly was not miserly; he was the most
prodigal, the most extravagant and least careful of men: he had
debts, accounts and arrears everywhere. He owed 700,000 francs to
a cabinet-maker; to his market gardener he owed 70,000 francs *for
Consequently none of the seals placed on the property could be broken
and everything is held to secure the creditors--everything, even to
the personal property of the Prince and Princess de Joinville, rentes,
diamonds, etc., even to a sum of 198,000 francs which belongs in her own
right to the Duchess d'Orleans.
All that the Royal Family was able to obtain was their clothing and
personal effects, or rather what could be found of these. Three long
tables were placed in the theatre of the Tuileries, and on these were
laid out all that the revolutionists of February had turned over to
the governor of the Tuileries, M. Durand Saint-Amand. It formed a queer
medley--court costumes stained and torn, grand cordons of the Legion of
Honour that had been trailed through the mud, stars of foreign orders,
swords, diamond crowns, pearl necklaces, a collar of the Golden Fleece,
etc. Each legal representative of the princes, an aide-de-camp or
secretary, took what he recognised. It appears that on the whole little
was recovered. The Duke de Nemours merely asked for some linen and in
particular his heavy-soled shoes.
The Prince de Joinville, meeting the Duke de Montpensier, greeted him
thus: "Ah! here you are, Monsieur; you were not killed, you have not had
Gudin, the marine painter, who went to England, saw Louis Philippe. The
King is greatly depressed. He said to Gudin: "I don't understand it.
What happened in Paris? What did the Parisians get into their heads? I
haven't any idea. One of these days they will recognise that I did not
do one thing wrong." He did not, indeed, do one thing wrong; he did all
He had in fact reached an incredible degree of optimism; he believed
himself to be more of a king than Louis XIV. and more of an emperor
than Napoleon. On Tuesday the 22nd he was exuberantly gay, and was
still occupied solely with his own affairs, and these of the pettiest
character. At 2 o'clock when the first shots were being fired, he was
conferring with his lawyers and business agents, MM. de Gérante, Scribe
and Denormandie, as to what could best be done about Madame Adelaide's
will. On Wednesday, at 1 o'clock, when the National Guard was declaring
against the government, which meant revolution, the King sent for M.
Hersent to order of him a picture of some kind.
Charles X. was a lynx.
Louis Philippe in England, however, bears his misfortune worthily. The
English aristocracy acted nobly; eight or ten of the wealthiest peers
wrote to Louis Philippe to offer him their châteaux and their purses.
The King replied: "I accept and keep only your letters."
The Duchess d'Orleans is also in straitened circumstances. She is on
bad terms with the d'Orleans family and the Mecklenburg family is on
bad terms with her. On the one hand she will accept nothing, and on the
other she can expect nothing.
At this time of writing (May, 1848) the Tuileries have already been
repaired, and M. Empis remarked to me this morning: "They are going to
clean up and nothing of the damage done will be apparent." Neuilly and
the Palais-Royal, however, have been devastated. The picture gallery
of the Palais-Royal, a pretty poor one by the by, has practically been
destroyed. Only a single picture remains perfectly intact, and that is
the Portrait of Philippe Egalité. Was it purposely respected by the riot
or is its preservation an irony of chance? The National Guards amused,
and still amuse, themselves by cutting out of the canvases that were not
entirely destroyed by fire faces to which they take a fancy.
IV. KING JEROME.
There entered my drawing-room in the Place Royale one morning in March,
1848, a man of medium height, about sixty-five or sixty-six years of
age, dressed in black, a red and blue ribbon in his buttonhole, and
wearing patent-leather boots and white gloves. He was Jerome Napoleon,
King of Westphalia.
He had a very gentle voice, a charming though somewhat timid smile,
straight hair turning grey, and something of the profile of the Emperor.
He came to thank me for the permission that had been accorded to him to
return to France, which he attributed to me, and begged me to get him
appointed Governor of the Invalides. He told me that M. Crémieux, one of
the members of the Provisional Government, had said to him the previous
"If Victor Hugo asks Lamartine to do it, it will be done. Formerly
everything depended upon an interview between two emperors; now
everything depends upon an interview between two poets."
"Tell M. Crémieux that it is he who is the poet," I replied to King
Jerome with a smile.
In November, 1848, the King of Westphalia lived on the first floor
above the entresol at No. 3, Rue d'Alger. It was a small apartment with
mahogany furniture and woollen velvet upholstering.
The wall paper of the drawing-room was grey. The room was lighted by two
lamps and ornamented by a heavy clock in the Empire style and two
not very authentic pictures, although the frame of one bore the name:
"Titiens," and the frame of the other the name: "Rembrandt." On the
mantelpiece was a bronze bust of Napoleon, one of those familiar and
inevitable busts that the Empire bequeathed us.
The only vestiges of his royal existence that remained to the prince
were his silverware and dinner service, which were ornamented with royal
crowns richly engraved and gilded.
Jerome at that time was only sixty-four years old, and did not look his
age. His eyes were bright, his smile benevolent and charming, and his
hands small and still shapely. He was habitually attired in black with
a gold chain in his buttonhole from which hung three crosses, the Legion
of Honour, the Iron Crown, and his Order of Westphalia created by him in
imitation of the Iron Crown.
Jerome talked well, with grace always and often with wit. He was full
of reminiscences and spoke of the Emperor with a mingled respect and
affection that was touching. A little vanity was perceptible; I would
have preferred pride.
Moreover he received with bonhomie all the varied qualifications which
were brought upon him by his strange position of a man who was no
longer king, no longer proscribed, and yet was not a citizen. Everybody
addressed him as he pleased. Louis Philippe called him "Highness,"
M. Boulay de la Meurthe "Sire" or "Your Majesty," Alexandre Dumas
"Monseigneur," I addressed him as "Prince," and my wife called him
"Monsieur." On his card he wrote "General Bonaparte." In his place I
would have understood his position. King or nothing.
RELATED BY KING JEROME.
In the evening of the day following that on which Jerome, recalled from
exile, returned to Paris, he had vainly waited for his secretary, and
feeling bored and lonely, went out. It was at the end of summer (1847).
He was staying at the house of his daughter, Princess Demidoff, which
was off the Champs-Elysées.
He crossed the Place de la Concorde, looking about him at the statues,
obelisk and fountains, which were new to the exile who had not seen
Paris for thirty-two years. He continued along the Quai des Tuileries.
I know not what reverie took possession of his soul. Arrived at the
Pavillon de Flore, he entered the gate, turned to the left, and began to
walk up a flight of stairs under the arch. He had gone up two or three
steps when he felt himself seized by the arm. It was the gatekeeper who
had run after him.
"Hi! Monsieur, monsieur, where are you going?"
Jerome gazed at him in astonishment and replied:
"Why, to my apartments, of course!"
Hardly had he uttered the words, however, when he awoke from his dream.
The past had bewitched him for a moment. In recounting the incident to
me he said:
"I went away shamefacedly, and apologizing to the porter."
V. THE DAYS OF JUNE.
The insurrection of June presented peculiar features from the outset.*
It suddenly manifested itself to terrified society in monstrous and
* At the end of June, four months after the proclamation of the
Republic, regular work had come to a standstill and the useless
workshops known as the "national workshops" had been abolished by the
National Assembly. Then the widespread distress prevailing caused
the outbreak of one of the most formidable insurrections recorded
in history. The power at that time was in the hands of an Executive
Committee of five members, Lamartine, Arago, Ledru Rollin, Garnier-Pages
and Marie. General Cavaignac was Minister of War.
The first barricade was erected in the morning of Friday, the 23rd, at
the Porte Saint Denis. It was attacked the same day. The National
Guard marched resolutely against it. The attacking force was made up of
battalions of the First and Second Legions, which arrived by way of the
boulevards. When the assailants got within range a formidable volley was
fired from the barricade, and littered the ground with National Guards.
The National Guard, more irritated than intimidated, charged the
At this juncture a woman appeared upon its crest, a woman young,
handsome, dishevelled, terrible. This woman, who was a prostitute,
pulled up her clothes to her waist and screamed to the guards in that
frightful language of the lupanar that one is always compelled to
"Cowards! fire, if you dare, at the belly of a woman!" Here the affair
became appalling. The National Guard did not hesitate. A volley brought
the wretched creature down, and with a piercing shriek she toppled
off the barricade. A silence of horror fell alike upon besiegers and
Suddenly another woman appeared. This one was even younger and more
beautiful; she was almost a child, being barely seventeen years of age.
Oh! the pity of it! She, too, was a street-walker. Like the other she
lifted her skirt, disclosed her abdomen, and screamed: "Fire, brigands!"
They fired, and riddled with bullets she fell upon the body of her
sister in vice.
It was thus that the war commenced.
Nothing could be more chilling and more sombre. It is a hideous thing
this heroism of abjection in which bursts forth all that weakness has of
strength; this civilization attacked by cynicism and defending itself
by barbarity. On one side the despair of the people, on the other the
despair of society.
On Saturday the 24th, at 4 o'clock in the morning, I, as a
Representative of the people, was at the barricade in the Place Baudoyer
that was defended by the troops.
The barricade was a low one. Another, narrow and high, protected it
in the street. The sun shone upon and brightened the chimney-tops. The
tortuous Rue Saint Antoine wound before us in sinister solitude.
The soldiers were lying upon the barricade, which was little more
than three feet high. Their rifles were stacked between the projecting
paving-stones as though in a rack. Now and then bullets whistled
overhead and struck the walls of the houses around us, bringing down
a shower of stone and plaster. Occasionally a blouse, sometimes a
cap-covered head, appeared at the corner of a street. The soldiers
promptly fired at it. When they hit their mark they applauded "Good!
Well aimed! Capital!"
They laughed and chatted gaily. At intervals there was a rattle and
roar, and a hail of bullets rained upon the barricade from roofs and
windows. A very tall captain with a grey moustache stood erect at the
centre of the barrier, above which half his body towered. The bullets
pattered about him as about a target. He was impassible and serene and
spoke to his men in this wise:
"There, children, they are firing. Lie down. Look out, Laripaud, you are
showing your head. Reload!"
All at once a woman turned the corner of a street. She came leisurely
towards the barricade. The soldiers swore and shouted to her to get out
of the way:
"Ah! the strumpet! Will you get out of that you w--! Shake a leg, damn
you! She's coming to reconnoitre. She's a spy! Bring her down. Down with
The captain restrained them:
"Don't shoot, it's a woman!"
After advancing about twenty paces the woman, who really did seem to be
observing us, entered a low door which closed behind her.
This one was saved.
At 11 o'clock I returned from the barrier in the Place Baudoyer and took
my usual place in the Assembly. A Representative whom I did not know,
but who I have since learned was M. Belley, engineer, residing in the
Rue des Tournelles, came and sat beside me and said:
"Monsieur Victor Hugo, the Place Royale has been burned. They set
fire to your house. The insurgents entered by the little door in the
"And my family?" I inquired.
"They are safe."
"How do you know?"
"I have just come from there. Not being known I was able to get over the
barricades and make my way here. Your family first took refuge in the
Mairie. I was there, too. Seeing that the danger was over I advised
Mme. Victor Hugo to seek some other asylum. She found shelter with her
children in the home of a chimney-sweep named Martignon who lives near
your house, under the arcades."
I knew that worthy Martignon family. This reassured me.
"And how about the riot?" I asked.
"It is a revolution," replied M. Belley. "The insurgents are in control
of Paris at this moment."
I left M. Belley and hurriedly traversed the few rooms that separated
the hall in which we held our sessions and the office occupied by the
It was a small salon belonging to the presidency, and was reached
through two rooms that were smaller still. In these ante-chambers was a
buzzing crowd of distracted officers and National Guards. They made no
attempt to prevent any one from entering.
I opened the door of the Executive Committee's office. Ledru-Rollin,
very red, was half seated on the table. M. Gamier-Pages, very pale, and
half reclining in an armchair, formed an antithesis to him. The contrast
was complete: Garnier-Pagès thin and bushy-haired, Ledru-Rollin stout
and close-cropped. Two or three colonels, among them Representative
Charras, were conversing in a corner. I only recall Arago vaguely. I do
not remember whether M. Marie was there. The sun was shining brightly.
Lamartine, standing in a window recess on the left, was talking to a
general in full uniform, whom I saw for the first and last time, and
who was Négrier. Négrier was killed that same evening in front of a
I hurried to Lamartine, who advanced to meet me. He was wan and
agitated, his beard was long, his clothes were dusty.
He held out his hand: "Ah! good morning, Hugo!"
Here is the dialogue that we engaged in, every word of which is still
fresh in my memory:
"What is the situation, Lamartine?"
"We are done for!"
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean that in a quarter of an hour from now the Assembly will be
(Even at that moment a column of insurgents was coming down the Rue de
Lille. A timely charge of cavalry dispersed it.)
"Nonsense! What about the troops?"
"There are no troops!"
"But you said on Wednesday, and yesterday repeated, that you had sixty
thousand men at your disposal."
"So I thought."
"Well, but you musn't give up like this. It is not only you who are at
stake, but the Assembly, and not only the Assembly, but France, and not
only France, but the whole of civilization. Why did you not issue orders
yesterday to have the garrisons of the towns for forty leagues round
brought to Paris? That would have given you thirty thousand men at
"We gave the orders--"
"The troops have not come!"
Lamartine took my hand and said;
"I am not Minister of War!"
At this moment a few representatives entered noisily. The Assembly had
just voted a state of siege. They told Ledru-Rollin and Garnier-Pages so
in a few words.
Lamartine half turned towards them and said in an undertone:
"A state of siege! A state of siege! Well, declare it if you think it is
necessary. I have nothing to say!"
He dropped into a chair, repeating:
"I have nothing to say, neither yes nor no. Do what you like!"
General Négrier came up to me.
"Monsieur Victor Hugo," he said, "I have come to reassure you; I have
received news from the Place Royale."
"Your family are safe."
"Thanks! Yes, I have just been so informed."
"But your house has been burnt down."
"What does that matter?" said I.
Négrier warmly pressed my arm:
"I understand you. Let us think only of one thing. Let us save the
As I was withdrawing Lamartine quitted a group and came to me.
"Adieu," he said. "But do not forget this: do not judge me too hastily;
I am not the Minister of War."
The day before, as the riot was spreading, Cavaignac, after a few
measures had been taken, said to Lamartine:
"That's enough for to-day."
It was 5 o'clock.
"What!" exclaimed Lamartine. "Why, we have still four hours of daylight
before us! And the riot will profit by them while we are losing them!"
He could get nothing from Cavaignac except:
"That's enough for to-day!"
On the 24th, about 3 o'clock, at the most critical moment, a
Representative of the people, wearing his sail across his shoulder,
arrived at the Mairie of the Second Arrondissement, in the Rue Chauchat,
behind the Opera. He was recognised. He was Lagrange.
The National Guards surrounded him. In a twinkling the group became
"It is Lagrange! the man of the pistol shot!* What are you doing here?
You are a coward! Get behind the barricades. That is your place--your
friends are there--and not with us! They will proclaim you their chief;
go on! They at any rate are brave! They are giving their blood for your
follies; and you, you are afraid! You have a dirty duty to do, but at
least do it! Get out of here! Begone!"
* It was popularly but erroneously believed that Lagrange
fired the shot that led to the massacre in the Boulevard des
Capucines on February 23.
Lagrange endeavoured to speak. His voice was drowned by hooting.
This is how these madmen received the honest man who after fighting for
the people wanted to risk his life for society.
The insurgents were firing throughout the whole length of the Boulevard
Beaumarchais from the tops of the new houses. Several had ambushed
themselves in the big house in course of construction opposite the
Galiote. At the windows they had stuck dummies,--bundles of straw with
blouses and caps on them.
I distinctly saw a man who had entrenched himself behind a barricade of
bricks in a corner of the balcony on the fourth floor of the house which
faces the Rue du Pont-aux-Choux. The man took careful aim and killed a
good many persons.
It was 3 o'clock. The troops and mobiles fringed the roofs of the
Boulevard du Temple and returned the fire of the insurgents. A cannon
had just been drawn up in front of the Gaité to demolish the house of
the Galiote and sweep the whole boulevard.
I thought I ought to make an effort to put a stop to the bloodshed,
if possible, and advanced to the corner of the Rue d'Angoulême. When I
reached the little turret near there I was greeted with a fusillade.
The bullets pattered upon the turret behind me, and ploughed up the
playbills with which it was covered. I detached a strip of paper as a
memento. The bill to which it belonged announced for that very Sunday a
fête at the Château des Flours, "with a thousand lanterns."
* * * * *
For four months we have been living in a furnace. What consoles me is
that the statue of the future will issue from it. It required such a
brazier to melt such a bronze.
July 5, 1848.
Chateaubriand is dead. One of the splendours of this century has passed
He was seventy-nine years old according to his own reckoning; according
to the calculation of his old friend M. Bertin, senior, he was eighty
years of age. But he had a weakness, said M. Bertin, and that was that
he insisted that he was born not in 1768, but in 1769, because that was
the year of Napoleon's birth.
He died yesterday, July 4, at 8 o'clock in the morning. For five or six
months he had been suffering from paralysis which had almost destroyed
his brain, and for five days from inflammation of the lungs, which
abruptly snuffed out his life.
M. Ampere announced the news to the Academy, which thereupon decided to
I quitted the National Assembly, where a questor to succeed General
Négrier, who was killed in June, was being nominated, and went to M. de
Chateaubriand's house, No. 110, Rue du Bac.
I was received by M. de Preuille, son-in-law of his nephew. I entered
He was lying upon his bed, a little iron bedstead with white curtains
round it and surmounted by an iron curtain ring of somewhat doubtful
taste. The face was uncovered; the brow, the nose, the closed eyes, bore
that expression of nobleness which had marked him in life, and which was
enhanced by the grave majesty of death. The mouth and chin were hidden
by a cambric handkerchief. On his head was a white cotton nightcap
which, however, allowed the grey hair on his temples to be seen. A white
cravat rose to his ears. His tawny visage appeared more severe amid all
this whiteness. Beneath the sheet his narrow, hollow chest and his thin
legs could be discerned.
The shutters of the windows giving on to the garden were closed. A
little daylight entered through the half-opened door of the salon. The
chamber and the face were illumined by four tapers which burned at the
corners of a table placed near the bed. On this table were a silver
crucifix, a vase filled with holy water, and an aspergillum. Beside it a
priest was praying.
Behind the priest a large brown-coloured screen hid the fireplace, above
which the mantel-glass and a few engravings of churches and cathedrals
At Chateaubriand's feet, in the angle formed by the bed and the wall of
the room, were two wooden boxes, placed one upon the other. The
largest I was told contained the complete manuscript of his Memoirs, in
forty-eight copybooks. Towards the last there had been such disorder in
the house that one of the copybooks had been found that very morning by
M. de Preuille in a dark and dirty closet where the lamps were cleaned.
A few tables, a wardrobe, and a few blue and green armchairs in disorder
encumbered more than they furnished the room.
The adjoining salon, the furniture of which was hidden under unbleached
covers, contained nothing more remarkable than a marble bust of Henry
V. and a full-length statuette of Chateaubriand, which were on the
mantelpiece, and on each side of a window plaster busts of Mme. de Berri
and her infant child.
Towards the close of his life Chateaubriand was almost in his second
childhood. His mind was only lucid for about two or three hours a day,
at least so M. Pilorge, his former secretary, told me.
When in February he was apprised of the proclamation of the Republic he
merely remarked: "Will you be any the happier for it?"
When his wife died he attended the funeral service and returned laughing
heartily--which, said Pilorge, was a proof that he was of weak mind. "A
proof that he was in his right mind!" affirmed Edouard Bertin.
Mme. de Chateaubriand's benevolence was official, which did not prevent
her from being a shrew at home. She founded a hospice--the Marie Thérèse
Infirmary--visited the poor, succoured the sick, superintended crêches,
gave alms and prayed; at the same time she was harsh towards her
husband, her relatives, her friends, and her servants, and was
sour-tempered, stern, prudish, and a backbiter. God on high will take
these things into account.
She was ugly, pitted with small-pox, had an enormous mouth, little eyes,
was insignificant in appearance, and acted the _grande dame_, although
she was rather the wife of a great man than of a great lord. By
birth she was only the daughter of a ship-owner of Saint Malo. M. de
Chateaubriand feared, detested, and cajoled her.
She took advantage of this to make herself insupportable to mere human
beings. I have never known anybody less approachable or whose reception
of callers was more forbidding. I was a youth when I went to M. de
Chateaubriand's. She received me very badly, or rather she did not
receive me at all. I entered and bowed, but Mme. de Chateaubriand did
not see me. I was scared out of my wits. These terrors made my visits to
M. de Chateaubriand veritable nightmares which oppressed me for fifteen
days and fifteen nights in advance. Mme. de Chateaubriand hated whoever
visited her husband except through the doors that she opened. She had
not presented me to him, therefore she hated me. I was perfectly odious
to her, and she showed it.
Only once in my life and in hers did Mme. de Chateaubriand receive me
graciously. One day I entered, poor little devil, as usual most unhappy,
with affrighted schoolboy air and twisting my hat about in my hands.
M. de Chateaubriand at that time still lived at No. 27, Rue Saint
I was frightened at everything there, even at the servant who opened the
door. Well, I entered. Mme. de Chateaubriand was in the salon leading
to her husband's study. It was a summer morning. There was a ray of
sunshine on the floor, and what dazzled and astonished me much more than
the ray of sunshine was a smile on Mme. de Chateaubriand's face. "Is
that you, Monsieur Victor Hugo?" she said. I thought I was in the midst
of a dream of the _Arabian Nights_. Mme. de Chateaubriand smiling! Mme.
de Chateaubriand knowing my name, addressing me by name! It was the
first time that she had deigned to notice my existence. I bowed so low
that my head nearly touched the floor. She went on: "I am delighted
to see you." I could not believe my ears. "I was expecting you," she
continued. "It is a long time since you called." I thought then that
there certainly must be something the matter either with her or myself.
However, she pointed to a rather large object of some kind on a little
table, and added: "I reserved this for you. I felt sure you would like
to have it. You know what it is?" It was a pile of packets of chocolate
made by some religious institution. She had taken the stuff under her
protection and the proceeds of its sale were to be devoted to charitable
works. I took it and paid for it. At that time I had to live for fifteen
months on 800 francs. The Catholic chocolate and Mme. de Chateaubriand's
smile cost me 15 francs; that is to say, a fortnight's board. Fifteen
francs meant as much to me then as 1,500 francs does now.
It was the most costly smile of a woman that ever was sold to me.
M. de Chateaubriand, at the beginning of 1847, was a paralytic; Mme.
Récamier was blind. Every day at 3 o'clock M. de Chateaubriand was
carried to Mme. Recamier's bedside. It was touching and sad. The woman
who could no longer see stretched forth her hands gropingly towards the
man who could no longer feel; their hands met. God be praised! Life was
dying, but love still lived.
VII. DEBATES IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ON THE DAYS OF JUNE.
SESSION OF NOVEMBER 25, 1848.
What had to be determined before the Assembly and the country was upon
whom devolved the heavy responsibility for the painful days of June. The
Executive Committee was then in power; ought it not to have foreseen and
provided against the insurrection? General Cavaignac, Minister of
War, and, moreover, invested with dictatorial powers by the National
Assembly, had alone issued orders.
Had he issued them in time? Could he not have crushed the riot at the
outset instead of permitting it to gain strength, spread and develop
into an insurrection? And, finally, had not the repression which
followed victory been unnecessarily bloody, if not inhuman?
As the time for rendering an account approached Cavaignac became
thoughtful and his ill-humour was manifest even in the Chamber.
One day Crémieux took his seat on the ministerial bench, whence he
approved with an occasional "Hear! Hear!" the remarks of the orator who
occupied the tribune. The speaker chanced to belong to the Opposition.
"Monsieur Crémieux," said Cavaignac, "you are making a good deal of
"What does that matter to you?" replied Crémieux.
"It matters that you are on the ministerial bench."
"Do you want me to leave it?"
Cremieux rose and quitted his bench, saying as he did so:
"General, you compel me to leave the Cabinet, and it was through me that
you entered it."
Crémieux, in point of fact, had, as a member of the Provisional
Government, had Cavaignac appointed Minister of War.
During the three days that preceded the debate, which had been fixed for
the 25th, the Chamber was very nervous and uneasy. Cavaignac's friends
secretly trembled and sought to make others tremble. They said: "You
will see!" They affected assurance. Jules Favre having alluded in the
tribune to the "great and solemn debate" which was to take place, they
burst into a laugh. M. Coquerel, the Protestant pastor, happening
to meet Cavaignac in the lobby, said to him: "Keep yourself in hand,
General!" "In a quarter of an hour," replied Cavaignac with flashing
eyes, "I shall have swept these wretches away!" These wretches were
Lamartine, Gamier-Pages, and Arago. There was some doubt about Arago,
however. It was said that he was rallying to Cavaignac. Meanwhile
Cavaignac had conferred the cross of the Legion of Honour upon the
Bishop of Quimper, the Abbé Legraverand, who had accepted it.
"A cross for a vote," was the remark made in the Chamber. And these
reversed roles, a general giving a cross to a bishop, caused much
In reality we are in the midst of a quarrel over the presidency. The
candidates are shaking their fists at each other. The Assembly hoots,
growls, murmurs, stamps its feet, crushes one, applauds the other.
This poor Assembly is a veritable _fille a soldats_, in love with a
trooper. For the time being it is Cavaignac.
Who will it be to-morrow?
General Cavaignac proved himself to be clever, and occasionally even
eloquent. His defence partook more of the character of an attack.
Frequently he appeared to me to be sincere because he had for so long
excited my suspicion. The Assembly listened to him for nearly three
hours with rapt attention. Throughout it was evident that he possessed
its confidence. Its sympathy was shown every moment, and sometimes it
manifested a sort of love for him.
Cavaignac, tall and supple, with his short frock-coat, his military
collar, his heavy moustache, his bent brow, his brusque language, broken
up by parentheses, and his rough gestures, was at times at once as
fierce as a soldier and as passionate as a tribune. Towards the
middle of his discourse he became an advocate, which, as far as I
was concerned, spoiled the man; the harangue became a speech for the
defence. But at its conclusion he roused himself again with a sort of
real indignation. He pounded on the desk with his fist and overturned
the glass of water, much to the consternation of the ushers, and in
terminating he said:
"I have been speaking for I know not how long; I will speak again all
the evening, all night, all day to-morrow, if necessary, and it will no
longer be as an advocate, but as a soldier, and you will listen to me!"
The whole Assembly applauded him enthusiastically.
M. Barthélemy Saint Hilaire, who attacked Cavaignac, was an orator cold,
rigid, somewhat dry and by no means equal to the task, his anger being
without fierceness and his hatred without passion. He began by reading
a memoir, which always displeases assemblies. The Assembly, which was
secretly ill-disposed and angry, was eager to crush him. It only wanted
pretexts; he furnished it with motives. The grave defect in his memoir
was that serious accusations were built upon petty acts, a surcharge
that caused the whole system to bend. This little pallid man who
continually raised one leg behind him and leaned forward with his two
hands on the edge of the tribune as though he were gazing down into a
well, made those who did not hiss laugh. Amid the uproar of the Assembly
he affected to write at considerable length in a copybook, to dry the
ink by sprinkling powder upon it, and with great deliberation to pour
the powder back into the powder-box, thus finding means to increase the
tumult with his calmness. When M. Barthélemy Saint Hilaire descended
from the tribune, Cavaignac had only been attacked. He had not then
replied, yet was already absolved.
M. Garnier-Pagès, tried Republican and honest man, but with a substratum
of vanity and an emphatic manner, succeeded M. Barthélemy Saint Hilaire.
The Assembly tried to crush him, too, but he rose again amid murmurs.
He reminded his hearers of his past, invoked recollections of the Salle
Voisin, compared the henchmen of Cavaignac to the henchmen of Guizot,
bared his breast "which had braved the poignards of the Red Republic,"
and ended by resolutely attacking the general, with too few facts and
too many words, but fairly and squarely, taking him, so to speak, as the
Bible urges that the bull be taken, by the horns.
Garnier-Pages propped up the accusation that had almost been laid low.
He brought the personal pronoun much too frequently into the discussion;
he acted ill-advisedly, for everybody's personality ought to have been
effaced in view of the seriousness of the debate and the anxiety of the
country. He turned to all sides with a sort of disconsolate fury;
he summoned Arago to intervene, Ledru-Rollin to speak, Lamartine to
explain. All three remained silent, thus failing in their duty and
The Assembly, however, pursued Garnier-Pages with its hooting, and when
he said to Cavaignac: "You wanted to throw us down," it burst into a
laugh, at the sentiment as well as at the expression. Garnier-Pages
gazed at the laughing house with an air of despair.
From all sides came shouts of: "The closure!"
The Assembly had reached a state in which it would not listen and could
no longer hear.
M. Ledru-Rollin appeared in the tribune.
From every bench the cry arose: "At last!"
Ledru-Rollin's speech had a physical effect as it were; it was coarse,
but powerful. Garnier-Pages had pointed out the General's political
shortcomings; Ledru-Rollin pointed out his military shortcomings. With
the vehemence of the tribune he mingled all the skill of the advocate.
He concluded with an appeal for mercy for the offender. He shook
When he resumed his seat between Pierre Leroux and de Lamennais, a man
with long grey hair, and attired in a white frock-coat, crossed the
Chamber and shook Ledru-Rollin's hand. He was Lagrange.
Cavaignac for the fourth time ascended the tribune. It was half past
10 o'clock at night. The noise of the crowd and the evolutions of the
cavalry on the Place de la Concorde could be heard. The aspect of the
Assembly was becoming sinister.
Cavaignac, who was tired, had decided to assume a haughty attitude. He
addressed the Mountain and defied it, declaring to the mountaineers,
amid the cheers of the majority and of the reactionaries, that he at
all times preferred "their abuse to their praise." This appeared to
be violent and was clever; Cavaignac lost the Rue Taitbout, which
represented the Socialists, and won the Rue de Poitiers, which
represented the Conservatives.
After this apostrophe he remained a few moments motionless, then passed
his hand over his brow.
The Assembly shouted to him:
He turned towards Ledru-Rollin and exclaimed:
"You said that you had done with me. It is I who have done with you. You
said: 'For some time.' I say to you: 'For ever!'"
It was all over. The Assembly wanted to close the debate.
Lagrange ascended the tribune and gesticulated amid hoots and hisses.
Lagrange was at once a popular and chivalrous declaimer, who expressed
true sentiments in a forced voice.
"Representatives," said he, "all this amuses you; well, it doesn't amuse
The Assembly roared with laughter, and the roar of laughter continued
throughout the remainder of his discourse. He called M. Landrin M.
Flandrin, and the gaiety became delirious.
I was among those whom this gaiety made heavy at heart, for I seemed to
hear the sobs of the people above these bursts of hilarity.
During this uproar a list which was being covered with signatures and
which bore an order of the day proposed by M. Dupont de l'Eure, was
passed round the benches.
Dupont de l'Eure, bent and tottering, read from the tribune, with the
authority of his eighty years, his own order of the day, amid a deep
silence that was broken at intervals by cheers.
The order of the day, which was purely and simply a reiteration of
the declaration of June 28: "General Cavaignac has merited well of the
fatherland," was adopted by 503 votes to 34.
Mine was among the thirty-four. While the votes were being counted,
Napoleon Bonaparte, son of Jerome, came up to me and said:
"I suppose you abstained?"
"From speaking, yes; from voting, no," I replied.
"Ah!" he went on. "We ourselves abstained from voting. The Rue de
Poitiers also abstained."
I took his hand and said:
"You are free to do as you like. For my part I am not abstaining. I am
judging Cavaignac, and the country is judging me. I want the fullest
light thrown upon my actions, and my votes are my actions."
I. THE JARDIN D'HIVER.
II. GENERAL BREA'S MURDERERS.
III. THE SUICIDE OF ANTONIN MOYNE.
IV. A VISIT TO THE OLD CHAMBER OF PEERS.
I. THE JARDIN D'HIVER. FEBRUARY, 1849.
In February, 1849, in the midst of the prevailing sorrow and terror,
fetes were given. People danced to help the poor. While the cannon with
which the rioters were threatened on January 29, were, so to speak,
still trained ready for firing, a charity ball attracted all Paris to
the Jardin d'Hiver.
This is what the Jardin d'Hiver was like:
A poet had pictured it in a word: "They have put summer under a glass
case!" It was an immense iron cage with two naves forming a cross, as
large as four or five cathedrals and covered with glass. Entrance to it
was through a gallery of wood decorated with carpets and tapestry.
On entering, the eyes were at first dazzled by a flood of light. In
the light all sorts of magnificent flowers, and strange trees with the
foliage and altitudes of the tropics, could be seen. Banana trees, palm
trees, cedars, great leaves, enormous thorns, and queer branches twisted
and mingled as in a virgin forest. The forest alone was virgin there,
however. The prettiest women and the most beautiful girls of Paris
whirled in this illumination _a giorno_ like a swarm of bees in a ray of
Above this gaily dressed throng was an immense resplendent chandelier of
brass, or rather a great tree of gold and flame turned upside down which
seemed to have its roots in the glass roof, and whose sparkling leaves
hung over the crowd. A vast ring of candelabra, torch-holders and
girandoles shone round the chandelier, like the constellations round
the sun. A resounding orchestra perched high in a gallery made the glass
panes rattle harmoniously.
But what made the Jardin d'Hiver unique was that beyond this vestibule
of light and music and noise, through which one gazed as through a vague
and dazzling veil, a sort of immense and tenebrous arch, a grotto of
shadow and mystery, could be discerned. This grotto in which were big
trees, a copse threaded with paths and clearings, and a fountain that
showered its water-diamonds in sparkling spray, was simply the end of
the garden. Red dots that resembled oranges of fire shone here and there
amid the foliage. It was all like a dream. The lanterns in the copse,
when one approached them, became great luminous tulips mingled with real
camellias and roses.
One seated one's self on a garden seat with one's feet in the grass and
moss, and one felt the warmth arising from a heat-grating beneath this
grass and this moss; one happened upon an immense fireplace in which
half the trunk of a tree was burning, in proximity to a clump of bushes
shivering in the rain of a fountain. There were lamps amid the flowers
and carpets in the alleys. Among the trees were satyrs, nude nymphs,
hydras, all kinds of groups and statues which, like the place itself,
had something impossible and living about them.
What were people doing at this ball? They danced a little, made love a
little, and above all talked politics.
There were about fifty Representatives present that evening. The negro
Representative Louisy Mathieu, in white gloves, was accompanied by the
negrophile Representative Schoelcher in black gloves. People said: "O
fraternity! they have exchanged hands!"
Politicians leaning against the mantels announced the approaching
appearance of a sheet entitled the "Aristo," a reactionary paper. The
Brea affair,* which was being tried at that very moment, was discussed.
What particularly struck these grave men in this sinister affair was
that among the witnesses was an ironmonger named "Lenclume" and a
locksmith named "Laclef."
* General Bréa was assassinated on June 25, 1848, while
parleying with the insurgents at the Barriêre de
Such are the trivial things men bring into the events of God.
II. GENERAL BREA'S MURDERERS. March, 1849.
The men condemned to death in the Bréa affair are confined in the fort
at Vanves. There are five of them: Nourry, a poor child of seventeen
whose father and mother died insane, type of the gamin of Paris that
revolutions make a hero and riots a murderer; Daix, blind of one eye,
lame, and with only one arm, a _bon pauvre_ of the Bicetre Hospital,
who underwent the operation of trepanning three years ago, and who has
a little daughter eight years old whom he adores; Lahr, nicknamed the
Fireman, whose wife was confined the day after his condemnation,
giving life at the moment she received death; Chopart, a bookseller's
assistant, who has been mixed up in some rather discreditable pranks of
youth; and finally Vappreaux junior, who pleaded an alibi and who,
if the four others are to be believed, was not at the Barrière de
Fontainebleau at all during the three days of June.
These hapless wights are confined in a big casemate of the fort. Their
condemnation has crushed them and turned them towards God. In the
casemate are five camp beds and five rush-bottomed chairs; to this
lugubrious furniture of the dungeon an altar has been added. It was
erected at the end of the casemate opposite the door and below the
venthole through which daylight penetrates. On the altar is only a
plaster statue of the Virgin enveloped in lace. There are no tapers,
it being feared that the prisoners might set fire to the door with the
straw of their mattresses. They pray and work. As Nourry has not been
confirmed and wishes to be before he dies, Chopart is teaching him the
Beside the altar is a board laid upon two trestles. This board, which
is full of bullet holes, was the target of the fort. It has been turned
into a dining-table, a cruel, thoughtless act, for it is a continual
reminder to the prisoners of their approaching death.
A few days ago an anonymous letter reached them. This letter advised
them to stamp upon the flagstone in the centre of the casemate, which,
it was affirmed, covered the orifice of a well communicating with old
subterranean passages of the Abbey of Vanves that extended to Châtillon.
All they had to do was to raise the flagstone and they could escape that
They did as the letter directed. The stone, it was found, did emit a
hollow sound as though it covered an opening. But either because the
police had been informed of the letter, or for some other reason, a
stricter watch than ever has been kept upon them from that moment and
they have been unable to profit by the advice.
The gaolers and priests do not leave them for a minute either by day
or by night. Guardians of the body cheek by jowl with guardians of the
soul. Sorry human justice!
The execution of the condemned men in the Bréa affair was a blunder.
It was the reappearance of the scaffold. The people had kicked over the
guillotine. The bourgeoisie raised it again. A fatal mistake.
President Louis Bonaparte was inclined to be merciful. The revision and
cassation could easily have been delayed. The Archbishop of Paris,
M. Sibour, successor of a victim, had begged for their lives. But the
stereotyped phrases prevailed. The country must be reassured. Order must
be reconstructed, legality rebuilt, confidence re-erected! And society
at that time was still reduced to employing lopped heads as building
material. The Council of State, such as it then was, consulted under
the terms of the Constitution, rendered an opinion in favour of the
execution. M. Cresson, counsel for Daix and Lahr, waited upon the
President. He was an emotional and eloquent young man. He pleaded for
these men, for the wives who were not yet widows, for the children who
were not yet orphans, and while speaking he wept.
Louis Bonaparte listened to him in silence, then took his hands, but
merely remarked: "I am most unhappy!"
In the evening of the same day--it was on the Thursday--the Council of
Ministers met. The discussion was long and animated. Only one minister
opposed recourse to the scaffold. He was supported by Louis Napoleon.
The discussion lasted until 10 o'clock. But the majority prevailed, and
before the Cabinet separated Odilon Barrot, the Minister of Justice,
signed the order for the execution of three of the condemned men, Daix,
Lahr and Chopart. The sentences of Nourry and Vappreaux, junior, were
commuted to penal servitude for life.
The execution was fixed for the next morning, Friday.
The Chancellor's office immediately transmitted the order to the Prefect
of Police, who had to act in concert with the military authorities, the
sentence having been imposed by a court-martial.
The prefect sent for the executioner. But the executioner could not be
found. He had vacated his house in the Rue des Marais Saint Martin in
February under the impression that, like the guillotine, he had been
deposed, and no one knew what had become of him.
Considerable time was lost in tracing him to his new residence, and when
they got there he was out. The executioner was at the Opera. He had gone
to see "The Devil's Violin."
It was near midnight, and in the absence of the executioner the
execution had to be postponed for one day.
During the interval Representative Larabit, whom Chopart had befriended
at the barricade of the barriers, was notified and was able to see the
President. The President signed Chopart's pardon.
The day after the execution the Prefect of Police summoned the
executioner and reproved him for his absence.
"Well," said Samson, "I was passing along the street when I saw a big
yellow poster announcing The Devil's Violin. 'Hello!' said I to myself,
'that must be a queer piece,' and I went to see it."
Thus a playbill saved a man's head.
There were some horrible details.
On Friday night, while those who formerly were called _les maitres
des basses oeuvres_* were erecting the scaffold at the Barrière de
Fontainebleau, the _rapporteur_ of the court-martial, accompanied by the
clerk of the court, repaired to the Fort of Vanves.
* The executioner in France is officially styled
_l'executeur des hautes-oeuvres_.
Daix and Lahr, who were to die, were sleeping. They were in casemate No.
13 with Nourry and Chopart. There was a delay. It was found that there
were no ropes with which to bind the condemned men. The latter were
allowed to sleep on. At 5 o'clock in the morning the executioner's
assistants arrived with everything that was necessary.
Then the casemate was entered. The four men awoke. To Nourry and Chopart
the officials said: "Get out of here!" They understood, and, joyful
and terror-stricken, fled into the adjoining casement. Daix and Lahr,
however, did not understand. They sat up and gazed about them with wild,
frightened eyes. The executioner and his assistants fell upon them and
bound them. No one spoke a word. The condemned men began to realise what
it all meant and uttered terrible cries. "If we had not bound them,"
said the executioner, "they would have devoured us!"
Then Lahr collapsed and began to pray while the decree for their
execution was read to them.
Daix continued to struggle, sobbing, and roaring with horror. These men
who had killed so freely were afraid to die.
Daix shouted: "Help! Help!" appealed to the soldiers, adjured them,
cursed them, pleaded to them in the name of General Bréa.
"Shut up!" growled a sergeant. "You are a coward!"
The execution was performed with much ceremony. Let this fact be noted:
the first time the guillotine dared to show itself after February an
army was furnished to guard it. Twenty-five thousand men, infantry and
cavalry, surrounded the scaffold. Two generals were in command. Seven
guns commanded the streets which converged to the circus of the Barrière
Daix was executed first. When his head had fallen and his body was
unstrapped, the trunk, from which a stream of blood was pouring, fell
upon the scaffold between the swing-board and the basket.
The executioners were nervous and excited. A man of the people remarked:
"Everybody is losing his head on that guillotine, including the
In the faubourgs, which the last elections to the National Assembly had
so excited, the names of popular candidates could still be seen chalked
upon the walls. Louis Bonaparte was one of the candidates. His name
appeared on these open-air bulletins, as they may be termed, in company
with the names of Raspail and Barbès. The day after the execution Louis
Napoleon's name wherever it was to be seen had a red smear across it.
A silent protest, a reproach and a menace. The finger of the people
pending the finger of God.
III. THE SUICIDE OF ANTONIN MOYNE. April, 1849.
Antonin Moyne, prior to February, 1848, was a maker of little figures
and statuettes for the trade.
Little figures and statuettes! That is what we had come to. Trade had
supplanted the State. How empty is history, how poor is art; inasmuch as
there are no more big figures there are no more statues.
Antonin Moyne made rather a poor living out of his work. He had,
however, been able to give his son Paul a good education and had got him
into the Ecole Polytechnique. Towards 1847 the art-work business being
already bad, he had added to his little figures portraits in pastel.
With a statuette here, and a portrait there, he managed to get along.
After February the art-work business came to a complete standstill. The
manufacturer who wanted a model for a candlestick or a clock, and
the bourgeois who wanted a portrait, failed him. What was to be done?
Antonin Moyne struggled on as best he could, used his old clothes, lived
upon beans and potatoes, sold his knick-knacks to bric-à-brac dealers,
pawned first his watch, then his silverware.
He lived in a little apartment in the Rue de Boursault, at No. 8, I
think, at the corner of the Rue Labruyère.
The little apartment gradually became bare.
After June, Antonin Moyne solicited an order of the Government. The
matter dragged along for six months. Three or four Cabinets succeeded
each other and Louis Bonaparte had time to be nominated President. At
length M. Leon Faucher gave Antonin Moyne an order for a bust, upon
which the statuary would be able to make 600 francs. But he was informed
that, the State funds being low, the bust would not be paid for until it
Distress came and hope went.
Antonin Moyne said one day to his wife, who was still young, having
been married to him when she was only fifteen years old: "I will kill
The next day his wife found a loaded pistol under a piece of furniture.
She took it and hid it. It appears that Antonin Moyne found it again.
His reason no doubt began to give way. He always carried a bludgeon and
razor about with him. One day he said to his wife: "It is easy to kill
one's self with blows of a hammer."
On one occasion he rose and opened the window with such violence that
his wife rushed forward and threw her arms round him.
"What are you going to do?" she demanded.
"Just get a breath of air! And you, what do you want?"
"I am only embracing you," she answered.
On March 18, 1849, a Sunday, I think it was, his wife said to him:
"I am going to church. Will you come with me?"
He was religious, and his wife, with loving watchfulness, remained with
him as much as possible.
He replied: "Presently!" and went into the next room, which was his
A few minutes elapsed. Suddenly Mme. Antonin Moyne heard a noise similar
to that made by the slamming of a front door. But she knew what it was.
She started and cried: "It is that dreadful pistol!"
She rushed into the room her husband had entered, then recoiled in
horror. She had seen a body stretched upon the floor.
She ran wildly about the house screaming for help. But no one came,
either because everybody was out or because owing to the noise in the
street she was not heard.
Then she returned, re-entered the room and knelt beside her husband.
The shot had blown nearly all his head away. The blood streamed upon the
floor, and the walls and furniture were spattered with brains.
Thus, marked by fatality, like Jean Goujon, his master, died Antonin
Moyne, a name which henceforward will bring to mind two things--a
horrible death and a charming talent.
IV. A VISIT TO THE OLD CHAMBER OF PEERS. June, 1849.
The working men who sat in the Luxembourg during the months of March and
April under the presidency of M. Louis Blanc, showed a sort of respect
for the Chamber of Peers they replaced. The armchairs of the peers were
occupied, but not soiled. There was no insult, no affront, no abuse. Not
a piece of velvet was torn, not a piece of leather was dirtied. There is
a good deal of the child about the people, it is given to chalking its
anger, its joy and its irony on walls; these labouring men were serious
and inoffensive. In the drawers of the desks they found the pens and
knives of the peers, yet made neither a cut nor a spot of ink.
A keeper of the palace remarked to me: "They have behaved themselves
very well." They left their places as they had found them. One only
left his mark, and he had written in the drawer of Louis Blanc on the
Royalty is abolished.
Hurrah for Louis Blanc!
This inscription is still there.
The fauteuils of the peers were covered with green velvet embellished
with gold stripes. Their desks were of mahogany, covered with morocco
leather, and with drawers of oak containing writing material in plenty,
but having no key. At the top of his desk each peer's name was stamped
in gilt letters on a piece of green leather let into the wood. On the
princes' bench, which was on the right, behind the ministerial bench,
there was no name, but a gilt plate bearing the words: "The Princes'
Bench." This plate and the names of the peers had been torn off, not by
the working men, but by order of the Provisional Government.
A few changes were made in the rooms which served as ante-chambers to
the Assembly. Puget's admirable "Milo of Crotona," which ornamented the
vestibule at the top of the grand staircase, was taken to the old museum
and a marble of some kind was substituted for it. The full length statue
of the Duke d'Orleans, which was in the second vestibule, was taken I
know not where and replaced by a statue of Pompey with gilt face, arms
and legs, the statue at the foot of which, according to tradition,
assassinated Caesar fell. The picture of founders of constitutions, in
the third vestibule, a picture in which Napoleon, Louis XVIII. and Louis
Philippe figured, was removed by order of Ledru-Rollin and replaced by a
magnificent Gobelin tapestry borrowed from the Garde-Meuble.
Hard by this third vestibule is the old hall of the Chamber of Peers,
which was built in 1805 for the Senate. This hall, which is small,
narrow and obscure; supported by meagre Corinthian columns with
mahogany-coloured bases and white capitals; furnished with flat desks
and chairs in the Empire style with green velvet seats, the whole in
mahogany; and paved with white marble relieved by lozenges of red Saint
Anne marble,--this hall, so full of memories, had been religiously
preserved, and after the new hall was built in 1840, had been used for
the private conferences of the Court of Peers.
It was in this old hall of the Senate that Marshal Ney was tried. A
bar had been put up to the left of the Chancellor who presided over the
Chamber. The Marshal was behind this bar, with M. Berryer, senior, on
his right, and M. Dupin, the elder, on his left. He stood upon one
of the lozenges in the floor, in which, by a sinister hazard, the
capricious tracing of the marble figured a death's head. This lozenge
has since been taken up and replaced by another.
After February, in view of the riots, soldiers had to be lodged in the
palace. The old Senate-hall was turned into a guard-house. The desks of
the senators of Napoleon and of the peers of the Restoration were
stored in the lumber rooms, and the curule chairs served as beds for the
Early in June, 1849, I visited the hall of the Chamber of Peers and
found it just as I had left it seventeen months before, the last time
that I sat there, on February 23, 1848.
Everything was in its place. Profound calmness reigned; the fauteuils
were empty and in order. One might have thought that the Chamber had
adjourned ten minutes previously.
SKETCHES MADE IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY.
I. ODILON BARROT.
II. MONSIEUR THIERS.
IX. BOULAY DE LA MEURTHE.
Odilon Barrot ascends the tribune step by step and slowly; he is solemn
before being eloquent. Then he places his right hand on the table of the
tribune, throwing his left hand behind his back, and thus shows himself
sideways to the Assembly in the attitude of an athlete. He is always in
black, well brushed and well buttoned up.
His delivery, which is slow at first, gradually becomes animated, as do
his thoughts. But in becoming animated his speech becomes hoarse and
his thoughts cloudy. Hence a certain hesitation among his hearers, some
being unable to catch what he says, the others not understanding. All at
once from the cloud darts a flash of lightning and one is dazzled. The
difference between men of this kind and Mirabeau is that the former have
flashes of lightning, Mirabeau alone has thunder.
M. Thiers wants to treat men, ideas and revolutionary events with
parliamentary routine. He plays his old game of constitutional tricks
in face of abysms and the dreadful upheavals of the chimerical and
unexpected. He does not realise that everything has been transformed; he
finds a resemblance between our own times and the time when he governed,
and starts out from this. This resemblance exists in point of fact, but
there is in it a something that is colossal and monstrous. M. Thiers has
no suspicion of this, and pursues the even tenour of his way. All his
life he has been stroking cats, and coaxing them with all sorts of
cajolling processes and feline ways. To-day he is trying to play the
same game, and does not see that the animals have grown beyond all
measure and that it is wild beasts that he is keeping about him. A
strange sight it is to see this little man trying to stroke the roaring
muzzle of a revolution with his little hand.
When M. Thiers is interrupted he gets excited, folds and unfolds his
arms, then raises his hands to his mouth, his nose, his spectacles,
shrugs his shoulders, and ends by clasping the back of his head
convulsively with both hands.
I have always entertained towards this celebrated statesman, this
eminent orator, this mediocre writer, this narrow-minded man, an
indefinable sentiment of admiration, aversion and disdain.
M. Dufaure is a barrister of Saintes, and was the leading lawyer in
his town about 1833. This led him to aspire to legislative honours. M.
Dufaure arrived in the Chamber with a provincial and cold-in-the-nose
accent that was very queer. But he possessed a mind so clear that
occasionally it was almost luminous, and so accurate that occasionally
it was decisive.
With that his speech was deliberate and cold, but sure, solid, and
calmly pushed difficulties before it.
M. Dufaure succeeded. He was a deputy, then a minister. He is not a
sage. He is a grave and honest man who has held power without greatness
but with probity, and who speaks from the tribune without brilliancy but
His person resembles his talent. In appearance he is dignified,
simple and sober. He comes to the Chamber buttoned up in his dark grey
frock-coat, and wearing a black cravat, and a shirt collar that
reaches to his ears. He has a big nose, thick lips, heavy eyebrows, an
intelligent and severe eye, and grey, ill-combed hair.
Changarnier looks like an old academician, just as Soult looks like an
Changarnier is sixty-four or sixty-five years old, and tall and thin.
He has a gentle voice, a graceful and formal air, a chestnut wig like M.
Pasquier's, and a lady-killing smile like M. Brifaut's.
With that he is a curt, bold, expeditious man, resolute, but cunning and
At the Chamber he occupies the extreme end of the fourth bench of the
last section on the left, exactly above M. Ledru-Rollin.
He usually sits with folded arms. The bench on which Ledru-Rollin and
Lamennais sit is perhaps the most habitually irritated of the Left.
While the Assembly shouts, murmurs, yells, roars, and rages, Changarnier
Lagrange, it is said, fired the pistol in the Boulevard des Capucines,
fatal spark that heated the passions of the people and caused the
conflagration of February. He is styled: Political prisoner and
Representative of the people.
Lagrange has a grey moustache, a grey beard and long grey hair. He is
overflowing with soured generosity, charitable violence and a sort of
chivalrous demagogy; there is a love in his heart with which he stirs
up hatred; he is tall, thin, young looking at a distance, old when seen
nearer, wrinkled, bewildered, hoarse, flurried, wan, has a wild look in
his eyes and gesticulates; he is the Don Quixote of the Mountain. He,
also, tilts at windmills; that is to say, at credit, order, peace,
commerce, industry,--all the machinery that turns out bread. With this,
a lack of ideas; continual jumps from justice to insanity and from
cordiality to threats. He proclaims, acclaims, reclaims and declaims.
He is one of those men who are never taken seriously, but who sometimes
have to be taken tragically.
Prudhon was born in 1803. He has thin fair hair that is ruffled and
ill-combed, with a curl on his fine high brow. He wears spectacles. His
gaze is at once troubled, penetrating and steady. There is something
of the house-dog in his almost flat nose and of the monkey in his
chin-beard. His mouth, the nether lip of which is thick, has an habitual
expression of ill-humour. He has a Franc-Comtois accent, he utters the
syllables in the middle of words rapidly and drawls the final syllables;
he puts a circumflex accent on every "a," and like Charles Nodier,
pronounces: "_honorable, remarquable_." He speaks badly and writes well.
In the tribune his gesture consists of little feverish pats upon his
manuscript with the palm of his hand. Sometimes he becomes irritated,
and froths; but it is cold slaver. The principal characteristic of his
countenance and physiognomy is mingled embarrassment and assurance.
I write this while he is in the tribune.
Anthony Thouret met Prudhon.
"Things are going badly," said Prudhon.
"To what cause do you attribute our embarrassments?" queried Anthony
"The Socialists are at the bottom of the trouble, of course.
"What! the Socialists? But are you not a Socialist yourself?"
"I a Socialist! Well, I never!" ejaculated Prudhon.
"Well, what in the name of goodness, are you, then?"
"I am a financier."
Blanqui got so that he no longer wore a shirt. For twelve years he had
worn the same clothes--his prison clothes--rags, which he displayed
with sombre pride at his club. He renewed only his boots and his gloves,
which were always black.
At Vincennes during his eight months of captivity for the affair of the
15th of May, he lived only upon bread and raw potatoes, refusing all
other food. His mother alone occasionally succeeded in inducing him to
take a little beef-tea.
With this, frequent ablutions, cleanliness mingled with cynicism, small
hands and feet, never a shirt, gloves always.
There was in this man an aristocrat crushed and trampled upon by a
Great ability, no hypocrisy; the same in private as in public. Harsh,
stern, serious, never laughing, receiving respect with irony, admiration
with sarcasm, love with disdain, and inspiring extraordinary devotion.
There was in Blanqui nothing of the people, everything of the populace.
With this, a man of letters, almost erudite. At certain moments he
was no longer a man, but a sort of lugubrious apparition in which all
degrees of hatred born of all degrees of misery seemed to be incarnated.
LAMARTINE. February 23, 1850.
During the session Lamartine came and sat beside me in the place usually
occupied by M. Arbey. While talking, he interjected in an undertone
sarcastic remarks about the orators in the tribune.
Thiers spoke. "Little scamp," murmured Lamartine.
Then Cavaignac made his appearance. "What do you think about him?" said
Lamartine. "For my part, these are my sentiments: He is fortunate, he is
brave, he is loyal, he is voluble--and he is stupid."
Cavaignac was followed by Emmanuel Arago. The Assembly was stormy.
"This man," commented Lamartine, "has arms too small for the affairs he
undertakes. He is given to joining in mêlées and does not know how to
get out of them again. The tempest tempts him, and kills him."
A moment later Jules Favre ascended the tribune. "I do not know how
they can see a serpent in this man," said Lamartine. "He is a provincial
Laughing the while, he took a sheet of paper from my drawer, asked me
for a pen, asked Savatier-Laroche for a pinch of snuff, and wrote a few
lines. This done he mounted the tribune and addressed grave and haughty
words to M. Thiers, who had been attacking the revolution of February.
Then he returned to our bench, shook hands with me while the Left
applauded and the Right waxed indignant, and calmly emptied the snuff in
Savatier-Laroche's snuffbox into his own.
BOULAY DE LA MEURTHE.
M. Boulay de la Meurthe was a stout, kindly man, bald, pot-bellied,
short, enormous, with a short nose and a not very long wit. He was a
friend of Hard, whom he called _mon cher_, and of Jerome Bonaparte, whom
he addressed as "your Majesty."
The Assembly, on January 20, made him Vice-President of the Republic.
It was somewhat sudden, and unexpected by everybody except himself. This
latter fact was evident from the long speech learned by heart that
he delivered after being sworn in. At its conclusion the Assembly
applauded, then a roar of laughter succeeded the applause. Everybody
laughed, including himself; the Assembly out of irony, he in good faith.
Odilon Barrot, who since the previous evening had been keenly regretting
that he did not allow himself to be made Vice-President, contemplated
the scene with a shrug of the shoulders and a bitter smile.
The Assembly followed Boulay de la Meurthe, congratulated and gratified,
with its eyes, and in every look could be read this: "Well, I never! He
takes himself seriously!"
When he was taking the oath, in a voice of thunder which made everybody
smile, Boulay de la Meurthe looked as if he were dazzled by the
Republic, and the Assembly did not look as if it were dazzled by Boulay
de la Meurthe.
Dupin has a style of wit that is peculiar to himself. It is Gaulish,
tinged with the wit of a limb of the law and with jovial grossness. When
the vote upon the bill against universal suffrage was about to be taken
some member of the majority, whose name I have forgotten, went to him
"You are our president, and moreover a great legist. You know more about
it than I do. Enlighten me, I am undecided. Is it true that the bill
violates the Constitution?"
Dupin appeared to think for a moment and then replied:
"No, it doesn't violate it, but it lifts its clothes up as high as
This reminds me of what he said to me the day I spoke upon the Education
Bill. Baudin had permitted me to take his turn to speak, and I went up
to the presidential chair to notify Dupin.
"Ah! you are going to speak! So much the better!" said he; and pointing
to M. Barthélemy Saint Hilaire, who was then occupying the tribune
and delivering a long and minute technical speech against the measure,
"He is rendering you a service. He is doing the preparatory work. He
is turning the bill's trousers down. This done you will be able to at
He completed the phrase with the expressive gesture which consists of
tapping the back of the fingers of the left hand with the fingers of the
I. HIS DEBUTS.
II. HIS ELEVATION TO THE PRESIDENCY.
III. THE FIRST OFFICIAL DINNER.
IV. THE FIRST MONTH.
V. FEELING HIS WAY.
I. HIS DEBUTS.
Upon his arrival in Paris Louis Bonaparte took up his residence in the
Place Vendome. Mlle. Georges went to see him. They conversed at some
length. In the course of the conversation Louis Bonaparte led Mlle.
Georges to a window from which,the column with the statue of Napoleon I.
upon it was visible and said:
"I gaze at that all day long."
"It's pretty high!" observed Mlle. George.
September 24, 1848.
Louis Napoleon appeared at the National Assembly today. He seated
himself on the seventh bench of the third section on the left, between
M. Vieillard and M. Havin.
He looks young, has a black moustache and goatee, and a parting in his
hair, a black cravat, a black coat buttoned up, a turned-down collar,
and white gloves. Perrin and Leon Faucher, seated immediately below him,
did not once turn their heads. In a few minutes the galleries began to
turn their opera-glasses upon the prince, and the prince gazed at the
galleries through his own glass.
Louis Bonaparte ascended the tribune (3.15 P.M.). Black frock-coat, grey
trousers. He read from a crumpled paper in his hand. He was listened to
with deep attention. He pronounced the word "compatriots" with a foreign
accent. When he had finished a few cries of "Long live the Republic!"
He returned leisurely to his place. His cousin Napoleon, son of Jerome,
who so greatly resembles the Emperor, leaned over M. Vieillard to
Louis Bonaparte seated himself without saying a word to his two
neighbours. He is silent, but he seems to be embarrassed rather than
While the question of the presidency was being raised Louis Bonaparte
absented himself from the Assembly. When the Antony Thouret amendment,
excluding members of the royal and imperial families was being debated,
however, he reappeared. He seated himself at the extremity of his bench,
beside his former tutor, M. Vieillard, and listened in silence, leaning
his chin upon his hand, or twisting his moustache.
All at once he rose and, amid extraordinary agitation, walked slowly
towards the tribune. One half of the Assembly shouted: "The vote!" The
other half shouted: "Speak!"
M. Sarrans was in the tribune. The president said:
"M. Sarrans will allow M. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte to speak."
He made a few insignificant remarks and descended from the tribune amid
a general laugh of stupefaction.
On November 19 I dined at Odilon Barrot's at Bougival.
There were present MM. de Rémusat, de Tocqueville, Girardin, Leon
Faucher, a member of the English Parliament and his wife, who is ugly
but witty and has beautiful teeth, Mme. Odilon Barrot and her mother.
Towards the middle of the dinner Louis Bonaparte arrived with his
cousin, the son of Jerome, and M. Abbatucci, Representative.
Louis Bonaparte is distinguished, cold, gentle, intelligent, with
a certain measure of deference and dignity, a German air and black
moustache; he bears no resemblance whatever to the Emperor.
He ate little, spoke little, and laughed little, although the party was
a merry one.
Mme. Odilon Barrot seated him on her left. The Englishman was on her
M. de Rémusat, who was seated between the prince and myself, remarked to
me loud enough for Louis Bonaparte to hear:
"I give my best wishes to Louis Bonaparte and my vote to Cavaignac."
Louis Bonaparte at the time was feeding Mme. Odilon Barrot's greyhound
with fried gudgeons.
II. HIS ELEVATION TO THE PRESIDENCY. December 1848.
The proclamation of Louis Bonaparte as President of the Republic was
made on December 20.
The weather, which up to then had been admirable, and reminded one more
of the approach of spring than of the beginning of winter, suddenly
changed. December 20 was the first cold day of the year. Popular
superstition had it that the sun of Austerlitz was becoming clouded.
This proclamation was made in a somewhat unexpected manner. It had been
announced for Friday. It was made suddenly on Wednesday.
Towards 3 o'clock the approaches to the Assembly were occupied by
troops. A regiment of infantry was massed in rear of the Palais d'Orsay;
a regiment of dragoons was echeloned along the quay. The troopers
shivered and looked moody. The population assembled in great uneasiness,
not knowing what it all meant. For some days a Bonapartist movement had
been vaguely spoken of. The faubourgs, it was said, were to turn out and
march to the Assembly shouting: "Long live the Emperor!" The day before
the Funds had dropped 3 francs. Napoleon Bonaparte, greatly alarmed,
came to see me.
The Assembly resembled a public square. It was a number of groups rather
than a parliament. In the tribune a very useful bill for regulating the
publicity of the sessions and substituting the State Printing Office,
the former Royal Printing Office, for the printing office of the
"Moniteur," was being discussed, but no one listened. M. Bureau de Puzy,
the questor, was speaking.
Suddenly there was a stir in the Assembly, which was being invaded by
a crowd of Deputies who entered by the door on the left. It was the
committee appointed to count the votes and was returning to announce
the result of the election to the Presidency. It was 4 o'clock, the
chandeliers were lighted, there was an immense crowd in the public
galleries, all the ministers were present. Cavaignac, calm, attired in
a black frock-coat, and not wearing any decoration, was in his place. He
kept his right hand thrust in the breast of his buttoned frock-coat, and
made no reply to M. Bastide, who now and then whispered in his ear.
M. Fayet, Bishop of Orleans, occupied a chair in front of the General.
Which prompted the Bishop of Langres, the Abbé Parisis, to remark: "That
is the place of a dog, not a bishop."
Lamartine was absent.
The _rapporteur_ of the committee, M. Waldeck-Rousseau, read a cold
discourse that was coldly listened to. When he reached the enumeration
of the votes cast, and came to Lamartine's total, 17,910 votes, the
Right burst into a laugh. A mean vengeance, sarcasm of the unpopular men
of yesterday for the unpopular man of to-day.
Cavaignac took leave in a few brief and dignified words, which were
applauded by the whole Assembly. He announced that the Ministry had
resigned in a body, and that he, Cavaignac, laid down the power. He
thanked the Assembly with emotion. A few Representatives wept.
Then President Marrast proclaimed "the citizen Louis Bonaparte"
President of the Republic.
A few Representatives about the bench where Louis Bonaparte sat
applauded. The remainder of the Assembly preserved a glacial silence.
They were leaving the lover for the husband.
Armand Marrast called upon the elect of the nation to take the oath of
office. There was a stir.
Louis Bonaparte, buttoned up in a black frock-coat, the decoration of
Representative of the people and the star of the Legion of Honour on his
breast, entered by the door on the right, ascended the tribune, repeated
in a calm voice the words of the oath that President Marrast dictated to
him, called upon God and men to bear witness, then read, with a foreign
accent which was displeasing, a speech that was interrupted at rare
intervals by murmurs of approval. He eulogized Cavaignac, and the eulogy
was noted and applauded.
After a few minutes he descended from the tribune, not like Cavaignac,
amid the acclamations of the Chamber, but amid an immense shout of "Long
live the Republic!" Somebody shouted "Hurrah for the Constitution!"
Before leaving Louis Bonaparte went over to his former tutor, M.
Vieillard, who was seated in the eighth section on the left, and shook
hands with him. Then the President of the Assembly invited the committee
to accompany the President of the Republic to his palace and have
rendered to him the honours due to his rank. The word caused the
Mountain to murmur. I shouted from my bench: "To his functions!"
The President of the Assembly announced that the President of the
Republic had charged M. Odilon Barrot with the formation of a Cabinet,
and that the names of the new Ministers would be announced to the
Assembly in a Message; that, in fact, a supplement to the Moniteur would
be distributed to the Representatives that very evening.
It was remarked, for everything was remarked on that day which began
a decisive phase in the history of the country, that President Marrast
called Louis Bonaparte "citizen" and Odilon Barrot "monsieur."
Meanwhile the ushers, their chief Deponceau at their head, the officers
of the Chamber, the questors, and among them General Lebreton in
full uniform, had grouped themselves below the tribune; several
Representatives had joined them; there was a stir indicating that Louis
Bonaparte was about to leave the enclosure. A few Deputies rose. There
were shouts of "Sit down! Sit down!"
Louis Bonaparte went out. The malcontents, to manifest their
indifference, wanted to continue the debate on the Printing Office Bill.
But the Assembly was too agitated even to remain seated. It rose in
a tumult and the Chamber was soon empty. It was half past 4. The
proceedings had lasted half an hour.
As I left the Assembly, alone, and avoided as a man who had disdained
the opportunity to be a Minister, I passed in the outer hall, at the
foot of the stairs, a group in which I noticed Montalembert, and also
Changarnier in the uniform of a lieutenant-general of the National
Guard. Changarnier had just been escorting Louis Bonaparte to the
Elysee. I heard him say: "All passed off well."
When I found myself in the Place de la Revolution, there were no longer
either troops or crowd; all had disappeared. A few passers-by came from
the Champs-Elysees. The night was dark and cold. A bitter wind blew from
the river, and at the same time a heavy storm-cloud breaking in the west
covered the horizon with silent flashes of lightning. A December wind
with August lightning--such were the omens of that day.
III. THE FIRST OFFICIAL DINNER. December 24, 1848.
Louis Bonaparte gave his first dinner last evening, Saturday the 23rd,
two days after his elevation to the Presidency of the Republic.
The Chamber had adjourned for the Christmas holidays. I was at home in
my new lodging in the Rue de la Tour d'Auvergne, occupied with I know
not what bagatelles, _totus in illis_, when a letter addressed to me and
brought by a dragoon was handed to me. I opened the envelope, and this
is what I read:
The orderly officer on duty has the honour to inform Monsieur the
General Changarnier that he is invited to dinner at the Elysee-National
on Saturday, at 7 o'clock.
I wrote below it: "Delivered by mistake to M. Victor Hugo," and sent
the letter back by the dragoon who had brought it. An hour later came
another letter from M. de Persigny, Prince Louis's former companion
in plots, to-day his private secretary. This letter contained profuse
apologies for the error committed and advised me that I was among
those invited. My letter had been addressed by mistake to M. Conti, the
Representative from Corsica.
At the head of M. de Persigny's letter, written with a pen, were the
words: "Household of the President."
I remarked that the form of these invitations was exactly similar to the
form employed by King Louis Philippe. As I did not wish to do anything
that might resemble intentional coldness, I dressed; it was half past 6,
and I set out immediately for the Elysee.
Half past 7 struck as I arrived there.
As I passed I glanced at the sinister portal of the Praslin mansion
adjoining the Elysee. The large green carriage entrance, enframed
between two Doric pillars of the time of the Empire, was closed, gloomy,
and vaguely outlined by the light of a street lamp. One of the double
doors of the entrance to the Elysee was closed; two soldiers of the line
were on guard. The court-yard was scarcely lighted, and a mason in his
working clothes with a ladder on his shoulder was crossing it; nearly
all the windows of the outhouses on the right had been broken, and were
mended with paper. I entered by the door on the perron. Three servants
in black coats received me; one opened the door, another took my mantle,
the third said: "Monsieur, on the first floor!" I ascended the grand
staircase. There were a carpet and flowers on it, but that chilly and
unsettled air about it peculiar to places into which one is moving.
On the first floor an usher asked:
"Monsieur has come to dinner?"
"Yes," I said. "Are they at table?"
"In that case, I am off."
"But, Monsieur," exclaimed the usher, "nearly everybody arrived after
the dinner had begun; go in. Monsieur is expected."
I remarked this military and imperial punctuality, which used to be
customary with Napoleon. With the Emperor 7 o'clock meant 7 o'clock.
I crossed the ante-chamber, then a salon, and entered the dining-room.
It was a square room wainscotted in the Empire style with white wood.
On the walls were engravings and pictures of very poor selection, among
them "Mary Stuart listening to Rizzio," by the painter Ducis. Around the
room was a sideboard. In the middle was a long table with rounded ends
at which about fifteen guests were seated. One end of the table, that
furthest from the entrance, was raised, and here the President of the
Republic was seated between two women, the Marquise de Hallays-Coëtquen,
née Princess de Chimay (Tallien) being on his right, and Mme. Conti,
mother of the Representative, on his left.
The President rose when I entered. I went up to him. We grasped each
"I have improvised this dinner," he said. "I invited only a few dear
friends, and I hoped that I could comprise you among them. I thank you
for coming. You have come to me, as I went to you, simply. I thank you."
He again grasped my hand. Prince de la Moskowa, who was next to General
Changarnier, made room for me beside him, and I seated myself at the
table. I ate quickly, for the President had interrupted the dinner
to enable me to catch up with the company. The second course had been
Opposite to me was General Rulhières, an ex-peer, the Representative
Conti and Lucien Murat. The other guests were unknown to me. Among them
was a young major of cavalry, decorated with the Legion of Honour. This
major alone was in uniform; the others wore evening dress. The Prince
had a rosette of the Legion of Honour in his buttonhole.
Everybody conversed with his neighbour. Louis Bonaparte appeared to
prefer his neighbour on the right to his neighbour on the left. The
Marquise de Hallays is thirty-six years old, and looks her age. Fine
eyes, not much hair, an ugly mouth, white skin, a shapely neck, charming
arms, the prettiest little hands in the world, admirable shoulders. At
present she is separated from M. de Hallays. She has had eight children,
the first seven by her husband. She was married fifteen years ago.
During the early period of their marriage she used to fetch her husband
from the drawing-room, even in the daytime, and take him off to bed.
Sometimes a servant would enter and say: "Madame the Marquise is asking
for Monsieur the Marquis." The Marquis would obey the summons. This made
the company who happened to be present laugh. To-day the Marquis and
Marquise have fallen out.
"She was the mistress of Napoleon, son of Jerome, you know," said Prince
de la Moskowa to me, sotto voce, "now she is Louis's mistress."
"Well," I answered, "changing a Napoleon for a Louis is an everyday
These bad puns did not prevent me from eating and observing.
The two women seated beside the President had square-topped chairs. The
President's chair was surmounted with a little round top. As I was about
to draw some inference from this I looked at the other chairs and saw
that four or five guests, myself among them, had chairs similar to that
of the President. The chairs were covered with red velvet with gilt
headed nails. A more serious thing I noticed was that everybody
addressed the President of the Republic as "Monseigneur" and "your
Highness." I who had called him "Prince," had the air of a demagogue.
When we rose from table the Prince asked after my wife, and then
apologized profusely for the rusticity of the service.
"I am not yet installed," he said. "The day before yesterday, when I
arrived here, there was hardly a mattress for me to sleep upon."
The dinner was a very ordinary one, and the Prince did well to excuse
himself. The service was of common white china and the silverware
bourgeois, worn, and gross. In the middle of the table was a rather fine
vase of craquelé, ornamented with ormolu in the bad taste of the time of
However, we heard music in an adjoining hall.
"It is a surprise," said the President to us, "they are the musicians
from the Opera."
A minute afterwards programmes written with a pen were handed round.
They indicated that the following five selections were being played:
1. Priere de la "Muette."
2. Fantaisie sur des airs favoris de la "Reine Hortense."
3. Final de "Robert Bruce".
4. "Marche Republicaine."
5. "La Victoire," pas redoublé.
In the rather uneasy state of mind I, like the whole of France, was in
at that moment, I could not help remarking this "Victory" piece coming
after the "Republican March."
I rose from table still hungry.
We went into the grand salon, which was separated from the dining-room
by the smaller salon that I had passed through on entering.
This grand salon was extremely ugly. It was white, with figures
on panels, after the fashion of those of Pompeii, the whole of the
furniture being in the Empire style with the exception of the armchairs,
which were in tapestry and gold and in fairly good taste. There were
three arched windows to which three large mirrors of the same shape at
the other end of the salon formed pendants and one of which, the middle
one, was a door. The window curtains were of fine white satin richly
While the Prince de la Moskowa and I were talking Socialism, the
Mountain, Communism, etc., Louis Bonaparte came up and took me aside.
He asked me what I thought of the situation. I was reserved. I told him
that a good beginning had been made; that the task was a difficult but
a grand one; that what he had to do was to reassure the bourgeoisie
and satisfy the people, to give tranquillity to the former, work to the
latter, and life to all; that after the little governments, those of the
elder Bourbons, Louis Philippe, and the Republic of February, a great
one was required; that the Emperor had made a great government through
war, and that he himself ought to make a great one through peace; that
the French people having been illustrious for three centuries did not
propose to become ignoble; that it was his failure to appreciate this
high-mindedness of the people and the national pride that was the chief
cause of Louis Philippe's downfall; that, in a word, he must decorate
"How?" asked Louis Napoleon.
"By all the greatness of art, literature and science, by the victories
of industry and progress. Popular labour can accomplish miracles. And
then, France is a conquering nation; when she does not make conquests
with the sword, she wants to make them with the mind. Know this and act
accordingly. Ignore it and you will be lost."
He looked thoughtful and went away. Then he returned, thanked me warmly,
and we continued to converse.
We spoke about the press. I advised him to respect it profoundly and
at the same time to establish a State press. "The State without a
newspaper, in the midst of newspapers," I observed, "restricting itself
to governing while publicity and polemics are the rule, reminds one
of the knights of the fifteenth century who obstinately persisted in
fighting against cannon with swords; they were always beaten. I grant
that it was noble; you will grant that it was foolish."
He spoke of the Emperor. "It is here," he said, "that I saw him for the
last time. I could not re-enter this palace without emotion. The Emperor
had me brought to him and laid his hand on my head. I was seven years
old. It was in the grand salon downstairs."
Then Louis Bonaparte talked about La Malmaison. He said:
"They have respected it. I visited the place in detail about six weeks
ago. This is how I came to do so. I had gone to see M. Odilon Barrot at
"'Dine with me,' he said.
"' I will with pleasure.' It was 3 o'clock. 'What shall we do until
"'Let us go and see La Malmaison,' suggested M. Barrot.
"We went. Nobody else was with us. Arrived at La Malmaison we rang the
bell. A porter opened the gate, M. Barrot spoke:
"'We want to see La Malmaison.'
"'Impossible!' replied the porter.
"'What do you mean, impossible?'
"'I have orders.'
"'From her Majesty Queen Christine, to whom the château belongs at
"'But monsieur here is a stranger who has come expressly to visit the
"'Well,' exclaimed M. Odilon Barrot, 'it's funny that this door should
be closed to the Emperor's nephew!'
"The porter started and threw his cap on the ground. He was an old
soldier, to whom the post had been granted as a pension.
"'The Emperor's nephew!' he cried. 'Oh! Sire, enter!'
"He wanted to kiss my clothes.
"We visited the château. Everything is still about in its place. I
recognised nearly everything, the First Consul's study, the chamber of
his mother, my own. The furniture in several rooms has not been changed.
I found a little armchair I had when I was a child."
I said to the Prince: "You see, thrones disappear, arm-chairs remain."
While we were talking a few persons came, among others M. Duclerc, the
ex-Minister of Finance of the Executive Committee, an old woman in black
velvet whom I did not know, and Lord Normanby, the English Ambassador,
whom the President quickly took into an adjoining salon. I saw Lord
Normanby taken aside in the same way by Louis Philippe.
The President in his salon had an air of timidity and did not appear
at home. He came and went from group to group more like an embarrassed
stranger than the master of the house. However, his remarks are _a
propos_ and sometimes witty.
He endeavoured to get my opinion anent his Ministry, but in vain. I
would say nothing either good or bad about it.
Besides, the Ministry is only a mask, or, more properly speaking, a
screen that hides a baboon. Thiers is behind it. This is beginning to
bother Louis Bonaparte. He has to contend against eight Ministers, all
of whom seek to belittle him. Each is pulling his own way. Among these
Ministers some are his avowed enemies. Nominations, promotions, and
lists arrive all made out from the Place Saint Georges. They have to be
accepted, signed and endorsed.
Yesterday Louis Bonaparte complained about it to the Prince de la
Moskowa, remarking wittily: "They want to make of me a Prince Albert of
Odilon Barrot appeared mournful and discouraged. To-day he left the
council with a crushed air. M. de la Moskowa encountered him.
"Hello!" said he, "how goes it?"
"Pray for us!" replied Odilon Barrot.
"Whew!" said Moskowa, "this is tragical!"
"What are we to do?" went on Odilon Barrot. "How are we to rebuild this
old society in which everything is collapsing? Efforts to prop it up
only help to bring it down. If you touch it, it topples over. Ah! pray
And he raised his eyes skywards.
I quitted the Elysee about 10 o'clock. As I was going the President said
to me: "Wait a minute." Then he went into an adjoining room and came
out again a moment later with some papers which he placed in my hand,
saying: "For Madame Victor Hugo."
They were tickets of admission to the gallery of the Garde-Meuble for
the review that is to be held to-day.
And as I went home I thought a good deal. I thought about this abrupt
moving in, this trial of etiquette, this bourgeois-republican-imperial
mixture, this surface of a deep, unfathomed quantity that to-day
is called the President of the Republic, his entourage, the whole
circumstances of his position. This man who can be, and is, addressed at
one and the same time and from all sides at once as: prince, highness,
monsieur, monseigneur and citizen, is not one of the least curious and
characteristic factors of the situation.
Everything that is happening at this moment stamps its mark upon this
personage who sticks at nothing to attain his ends.
IV. THE FIRST MONTH. January. 1849.
The first month of Louis Bonaparte's presidency is drawing to a close.
This is how we stand at present:
Old-time Bonapartists are cropping up. MM. Jules Favre, Billault
and Carteret are paying court--politically Speaking--to the Princess
Mathilde Demidoff. The Duchess d'Orleans is residing with her two
children in a little house at Ems, where she lives modestly yet royally.
All the ideas of February are brought up one after the other; 1849,
disappointed, is turning its back on 1848. The generals want amnesty,
the wise want disarmament. The Constituent Assembly's term is expiring
and the Assembly is in savage mood in consequence. M. Guizot is
publishing his book _On Democracy in France_. Louis Philippe is in
London, Pius IX. is at Gaete, M. Barrot is in power; the bourgeoisie has
lost Paris, Catholicism has lost Rome. The sky is rainy and gloomy, with
a ray of sunshine now and then. Mlle. Ozy shows herself quite naked in
the role of Eve at the Porte Saint Martin; Fréderick Lemaitre is playing
"L'Auberge des Adrets" there. Five per cents are at 74, potatoes cost
8 cents the bushel, at the market a pike can be bought for 20 sous.
M. Ledru-Rollin is trying to force the country into war, M. Prudhon is
trying to force it into bankruptcy. General Cavaignac takes part in
the sessions of the Assembly in a grey waist-coat, and passes his time
gazing at the women in the galleries through big ivory opera-glasses. M.
de Lamartine gets 25,000 francs for his "Toussaint L'Ouverture." Louis
Bonaparte gives grand dinners to M. Thiers, who had him captured, and to
M. Mole, who had him condemned. Vienna, Milan, and Berlin are becoming
calmer. Revolutionary fires are paling and seem to be dying out
everywhere on the surface, but the peoples are still deeply stirred.
The King of Prussia is getting ready to seize his sceptre again and the
Emperor of Russia to draw his sword. There has been an earthquake at
Havre, the cholera is at Fécamp; Arnal is leaving the Gymnase, and the
Academy is nominating the Duke de Noailles as Chateaubriand's successor.
V. FEELING HIS WAY. January, 1849.
At Odilon Barrot's ball on January 28 M. Thiers went up to M. Leon
Faucher and said: "Make So-and-So a prefect." M. Leon Faucher made
a grimace, which is an easy thing for him to do, and said: "Monsieur
Thiers, there are objections." "That's funny!" retorted Thiers, "it is
precisely the answer the President of the Republic gave to me the day I
said: 'Make M. Faucher a Minister!'"
At this ball it was remarked that Louis Bonaparte sought Berryer's
company, attached himself to him and led him into quiet corners. The
Prince looked as though he were following Berryer, and Berryer as though
he were trying to avoid the Prince.
At 11 o'clock the President said to Berryer: "Come with me to the
Berryer excused himself. "Prince," said he, "it would give rise to
gossip. People would believe I am engaged in a love affair!"
"Pish!" replied Louis Bonaparte laughingly, "Representatives are
The Prince went away alone, and the following quatrain was circulated:
_En vain l'empire met du fard,
On baisse ses yeux et sa robe.
Et Berryer-Joseph so derobe
Although he is animated with the best intentions in the world and has
a very visible quantity of intelligence and aptitude, I fear that Louis
Bonaparte will find his task too much for him. To him, France, the
century, the new spirit, the instincts peculiar to the soil and the
period are so many closed books. He looks without understanding them at
minds that are working, Paris, events, men, things and ideas. He belongs
to that class of ignorant persons who are called princes and to that
category of foreigners who are called _êmigrês_. To those who examine
him closely he has the air of a patient rather than of a governing man.
There is nothing of the Bonapartes about him, either in his face or
manner. He probably is not a Bonaparte. The free and easy ways of Queen
Hortense are remembered. "He is a memento of Holland!" said Alexis de
Saint Priest to me yesterday. Louis Bonaparte certainly possesses the
cold manner of the Dutch.
Louis Bonaparte knows so little about Paris that the first time I saw
him he said to me:
"I have been hunting for you. I went to your former residence. What is
this Place des Vosges?"
"It is the Place Royale," I said.
"Ah!" he continued, "is it an old place?"
He wanted to see Beranger. He went to Passy twice without being able to
find him at home. His cousin Napoleon timed his visit more happily and
found Béranger by his fireside. He asked him:
"What do you advise my cousin to do?"
"To observe the Constitution."
"And what ought he to avoid?"
"Violating the Constitution."
Béranger could not be induced to say anything else.
Yesterday, December 5, 1850, I was at the Français. Rachel played
"Adrienne Lecouvreur." Jerome Bonaparte occupied a box next to mine.
During an entr'acte I paid him a visit. We chatted. He said to me:
"Louis is mad. He is suspicious of his friends and delivers himself
into the hands of his enemies. He is suspicious of his family and allows
himself to be bound hand and foot by the old Royalist parties. On
my return to France I was better received by Louis Philippe at the
Tuileries than I am at the Elysee by my nephew. I said to him the other
day before one of his ministers (Fould): 'Just remember a little! When
you were a candidate for the presidency, Monsieur here (I pointed to
Fould) called upon me in the Rue d'Alger, where I lived, and begged me
in the name of MM. Thiers, Mole, Duvergier de Hauranne, Berryer, and
Bugeaud to enter the lists for the presidency. He told me that never
would you get the "Constitutionnel;" that in Mole's opinion you were
an idiot, and that Thiers looked upon you as a blockhead; that I alone
could rally everybody to me and win against Cavaignac. I refused. I told
them that you represented youth and the future, that you had a quarter
of a century before you, whereas I could hardly count upon eight or ten
years; that I was an invalid and wanted to be let alone. That is what
these people were doing and that is what I did. And you forget all this!
And you make these gentlemen the masters! And you show the door to your
cousin, my son, who defended you in the Assembly and devoted himself to
furthering your candidacy! And you are strangling universal suffrage,
which made you what you are! I' faith I shall say like Mole that you are
an idiot, and like Thiers that you are a blockhead!'"
The King of Westphalia paused for a moment, then continued:
"And do you know, Monsieur Victor Hugo, what he replied to me? 'You will
see!' No one knows what is at the bottom of that man!"
THE SIEGE OF PARIS. EXTRACTS FROM NOTE-BOOKS
BRUSSELS, September 1.--Charles* leaves this morning with MM. Claretie,
Proust, and Frédérix for Virton. Fighting is going on near there, at
Carignan. They will see what they can of the battle. They will return
* Victor Hugo's son.
September 2.--Charles and his friends did not return to-day.
September 3.--Yesterday, after the decisive battle had been lost, Louis
Napoleon, who was taken prisoner at Sedan, surrendered his sword to the
King of Prussia. Just a month ago, on August 2, at Sarrebrück, he was
playing at war.
To save France now would be to save Europe.
Shouting newsboys pass, with enormous posters on which are the words:
"Napoleon III. a Prisoner."
5 o'clock.--Charles and our friends have returned.
9 o'clock.--Meeting of exiles at which Charles and I are present.
Query: Tricolour flag or red flag?
September 4.--The deposition of the Emperor is proclaimed in Paris.
At 1 o'clock a meeting of exiles is held at my house.
At 3 o'clock I receive a telegram from Paris couched in the following
terms: "Bring the children with you." Which means "Come."
MM. Claretie and Proust dined with us.
During the dinner a telegram signed "François Hugo" arrived, announcing
that a provisional government had been formed: Jules Favre, Gambetta,
September 5.--At 6 o'clock in the morning a telegram signed "Barbieux,"
and asking the hour of my arrival in Paris, is brought to me. I instruct
Charles to answer that I shall arrive at 9 o'clock at night. We shall
take the children with us. We shall leave by the 2.35 o'clock train.
The Provisional Government (according to the newspapers) is made up of
all the Deputies of Paris, with the exception of Thiers.
At noon, as I was about to leave Brussels for Paris, a young man, a
Frenchman, accosted me in the Place de la Monnaie and said:
Monsieur, they tell me that you are Victor Hugo."
"Be so kind as to enlighten me. I would like to know whether it is
prudent to go to Paris at present."
"Monsieur, it is very imprudent, but you should go," was my reply.
We entered France at 4 o'clock.
At Tergnier, at 6.30, we dined upon a piece of bread, a little cheese,
a pear and a glass of wine. Claretie insisted upon paying, and said:
"I want particularly to give you a dinner on the day of your return to
En route I saw in the woods a camp of French soldiers, men and horses
mingled. I shouted to them: "Long live the army!" and I wept.
At frequent intervals we came across train-loads of soldiers on their
way to Paris. Twenty-five of these passed during the day. As one of them
went by we gave to the soldiers all the provisions we had, some bread,
fruit and wine. The sun shone brightly and was succeeded by a bright
We arrived in Paris at 9.35 o'clock. An immense crowd awaited me. It was
an indescribable welcome. I spoke four times, once from the balcony of a
café and thrice from my carriage.
When I took leave of this ever-growing crowd, which escorted me to Paul
Meurice's, in the Avenue Frochot, I said to the people: "In one hour you
repay me for twenty years of exile."
They sang the "Marseillaise" and the "Chant du Depart."
They shouted: "Long live Victor Hugo!"
The journey from the Northern Railway station to the Rue Laval took two
We arrived at Meurice's, where I am to stay, at mid-night. I dined with
my travelling companions and Victor. I went to bed at 2 o'clock.
At daybreak I was awakened by a terrible storm. Thunder and lightning.
I shall take breakfast with Paul Meurice, and we shall dine together at
the Hotel Navarin, in the Rue Navarin, where my family is staying.
PARIS, September 6.--Innumerable visits, innumerable letters.
Rey came to ask me whether I would consent to join a triumvirate
composed as follows: Victor Hugo, Ledru-Rollin, and Schoelcher. I
refused. I said: "It is almost impossible to amalgamate me."
I recalled several things to his mind. He said: "Do you remember that
it was I who received you when you arrived at the Baudin barricade?" * I
replied: "I remember the fact so well that--. And I recited the lines at
the beginning of the piece (unpublished) upon the Baudin barricade:
_La barricade était livide dans l'aurore,
Et comme j'arrivais elle fumait encore.
Rey me serra la main et dit: Baudin est mort..._
* Representative Baudin was killed on the barricade in the
Faubourg Saint Antoine on December 2, 1852, during Louis
Bonaparte's coup d'Etat.
He burst into tears.
September 7.--Louis Blanc, d'Alton-Shée, Banville and others came to see
The women of the Markets brought me a bouquet.
September 8.--I am warned that it is proposed to assassinate me. I shrug
This morning I wrote my "Letter to the Germans." It will be sent
Visit from General Cluseret.
At 10 o'clock I went to the office of the Rappel to correct the proofs
of my "Letter to the Germans."
September 9.--Received a visit from General Montfort. The generals
are asking me for commands, I am being asked to grant audiences,
office-seekers are asking me for places. I reply: "I am nobody."
I saw Captain Feval, husband of Fanny, the sister of Alice. * He was a
prisoner of war, and was released on parole.
* Wife of Charles Hugo.
All the newspapers publish my "Appeal to the Germans."
September 10.--D'Alton-Shée and Louis Ulbach lunched with us. Afterwards
we went to the Place de la Concorde. At the foot of the flower-crowned
statue of Strasburg is a register. Everybody comes to sign the
resolution of public thanks. I inscribed my name. The crowd at once
surrounded me. The ovation of the other night was about to recommence. I
hurried to my carriage.
Among the persons who called upon me was Cernuschi.
September 11.--Received a visit from Mr. Wickham Hoffman, Secretary of
the United States Legation. Mr. Washburne, the American Minister, had
requested him to ask me whether I did not think that some good might
result were he to intervene *officiously* and see the King of Prussia. I
sent him to Jules Favre.
September 12.--Among other callers was Frédérick Lemaître.
September 13.--To-day there is a review of the army of Paris. I am alone
in my chamber. The battalions march through the streets singing the
"Marseillaise" and the "Chant du Depart." I hear this immense shout:
For France a Frenchman should live,
For France a Frenchman should die.*
* The "Chant du Depart."
I listen and I weep. On, valiant ones! I will go where you go.
Receive a visit from the United States Consul-General and Mr. Wickham
Julie* writes me from Guernsey that the acorn I planted on July 14 has
sprouted. The oak of the United States of Europe issued from the ground
on September 5, the day of my return to Paris.
* Victor Hugo's sister-in-law.
September 14.--I received a visit from the committee of the Société
des Gens de Lettres, which wants me to be its president; from M. Jules
Simon, Minister of Public Instruction; from Colonel Piré, who commands a
corps of volunteers, etc.
September 16.--One year ago to-day I opened the Peace Congress at
Lausanne. This morning I wrote the "Appeal to Frenchmen" for a war to
the bitter end against the invasion.
On going out I perceived hovering over Montmartre the captive balloon
from which a watch is to be kept upon the besiegers.
September 17.--All the forests around Paris are burning. Charles made
a trip to the fortifications and is perfectly satisfied with them.
I deposited at the office of the Rappel 2,088 francs 30 centimes,
subscribed in Guernsey for the wounded and sent by M. H. Tupper, the
At the same time I deposited at the "Rappel" office a bracelet
and earrings of gold, sent anonymously for the wounded by a woman.
Accompanying the trinkets was a little golden neck medal for Jeanne.*
* Victor Hugo's little granddaughter.
September 20.--Charles and his little family left the Hotel Navarin
yesterday and installed themselves at 174, Rue de Rivoli. Charles and
his wife, as well as Victor, will continue to dine with me every day.
The attack upon Paris began yesterday.
Louis Blanc, Gambetta and Jules Ferry came to see me this morning.
I went to the Institute to sign the Declaration that it proposes to
issue encouraging the capital to resist to the last.
I will not accept any limited candidacy. I would accept with devotedness
the candidacy of the city of Paris. I want the voting to be not by
districts, with local candidates, but by the whole city with one list to
I went to the Ministry of Public Instruction to see Mme. Jules Simon,
who is in mourning for her old friend Victor Bois. Georges and Jeanne
were in the garden. I played with them.
Nadar came to see me this evening to ask me for some letters to put in a
balloon which he will send up the day after tomorrow. It will carry with
it my three addresses: "To the Germans," "To Frenchmen," "To Parisians."
October 6.--Nadar's balloon, which has been named the "Barbes," and
which is taking my letters, etc., started this morning, but had to come
down again, as there was not enough wind. It will leave to-morrow. It is
said that Jules Favre and Gambetta will go in it.
Last night General John Meredith Read, United States Consul-General,
called upon me. He had seen the American General Burnside, who is in
the Prussian camp. The Prussians, it appears, have respected Versailles.
They are afraid to attack Paris. This we are aware of, for we can see it
October 7.--This morning, while strolling on the Boulevard de Clichy, I
perceived a balloon at the end of a street leading to Montmartre. I went
up to it. A small crowd bordered a large square space that was walled in
by the perpendicular bluffs of Montmartre. In this space three balloons
were being inflated, a large one, a medium-sized one, and a small
one. The large one was yellow, the medium one white, and the small one
striped yellow and red.
In the crowd it was whispered that Gambetta was going. Sure enough I saw
him in a group near the yellow balloon, wearing a heavy overcoat and a
sealskin cap. He seated himself upon a paving-stone and put on a pair of
high fur-lined boots. A leather bag was slung over his shoulder. He took
it off, entered the balloon, and a young man, the aeronaut, tied the bag
to the cordage above Gambetta's head.
It was half past 10. The weather was fine and sunshiny, with a light
southerly breeze. All at once the yellow balloon rose, with three men in
it, one of whom was Gambetta. Then the white balloon went up with three
men, one of whom waved a tricolour flag. Beneath Gambetta's balloon hung
a long tricolour streamer. "Long live the Republic!" shouted the crowd.
The two balloons went up for some distance, the white one going higher
than the yellow one, then they began to descend. Ballast was thrown
out, but they continued their downward flight. They disappeared behind
Montmartre hill. They must have landed on the Saint Denis plain. They
were too heavily weighted, or else the wind was not strong enough.
* * * * *
The departure took place after all, for the balloons went up again.
We paid a visit to Notre Dame, which has been admirably restored.
We also went to see the Tour Saint Jacques. While our carriage was
standing there one of the delegates of the other day (from the Eleventh
Arrondissement) came up and told me that the Eleventh Arrondissement had
come round to my views, concluded that I was right in insisting upon a
vote of the whole city upon a single list of candidates, begged me to
accept the nomination upon the conditions I had imposed, and wanted to
know what ought to be done should the Government refuse to permit an
election. Ought force be resorted to? I replied that a civil war would
help the foreign war that was being waged against us and deliver Paris
to the Prussians.
On the way home I bought some toys for my little ones--a zouave in a
sentry-box for Georges, and for Jeanne a doll that opens and shuts its
October 8.--I have received a letter from M. L. Colet, of Vienna
(Austria), by way of Normandy. It is the first letter that has reached
me from the outside since Paris has been invested.
There has been no sugar in Paris for six days. The rationing of meat
began to-day. We shall get three quarters of a pound per person and per
Incidents of the postponed Commune. Feverish unrest in Paris. Nothing
to cause uneasiness, however. The deep-toned Prussian cannon thunder
continuously. They recommend unity among us.
The Minister of Finance, M. Ernest Picard, through his secretary, asks
me to "grant him an audience;" these are the terms he uses. I answer
that I will see him on Monday morning, October 10.
October 9.--Five delegates from the Ninth Arrondissement came in the
name of the arrondissement to *forbid me to get myself killed*.
October 10.--M. Ernest Picard came to see me. I asked him to issue
immediately a decree liberating all articles pawned at the Mont de Piété
for less than 15 francs (the present decree making absurd exceptions,
linen, for instance). I told him that the poor could not wait. He
promised to issue the decree to-morrow.
There is no news of Gambetta. We are beginning to get uneasy. The wind
carried him to the north-east, which is occupied by the Prussians.
October 11.--Good news of Gambetta. He descended at Epineuse, near
Last night, after the demonstrations in Paris, while passing a group
that had assembled under a street lamp, I heard these words: "It appears
that Victor Hugo and the others--." I continued on my way, and did not
listen to the rest, as I did not wish to be recognised.
After dinner I read to my friends the verses with which the French
edition of _Les Châtiments_ begins ("When about to return to France,"
Brussels, August 31, 1870).
October 12.--It is beginning to get cold. Barbieux, who commands a
battalion, brought us the helmet of a Prussian soldier who was killed by
his men. This helmet greatly astonished little Jeanne. These angels do
not yet know anything about earth.
The decree I demanded for the indigent was published this morning in the
M. Pallain, the Minister's secretary, whom I met as I came out of the
Carrousel, told me that the decree would cost 800,000 francs.
I replied: "Eight hundred thousand francs, all right. Take from the
rich. Give to the poor."
October 13.--I met to-day Théophile Gautier, whom I I had not seen for
many years. I embraced him. He was rather nervous. I told him to come
and dine with me.
October 14.--The Château of Saint Cloud was burned yesterday!
I went to Claye's to correct last proofs of the French edition of _Les
Chatiments_ which will appear on Tuesday. Dr. Emile Allix brought me
a Prussian cannon-ball which he had picked up behind a barricade, near
Montrouge, where it had just killed two horses. The cannon-ball weighs
25 pounds. Georges, in playing with it, pinched his fingers under it,
which made him cry a good deal.
To-day is the anniversary of Jena!
October 16.--There is no more butter. There is no more cheese. Very
little milk is left, and eggs are nearly all gone.
The report that my name has been given to the Boulevard Haussmann is
confirmed. I have not been to see it for myself.
October 17.--To-morrow a postal balloon named the "Victor Hugo" is to be
sent up in the Place de la Concorde. I am sending a letter to London by
October 18.--I have paid a visit to Les Feuillantines. The house and
garden of my boyhood have disappeared.
A street now passes over the site.
October 19.--Louis Blanc came to dine with me. He brought a declaration
by ex-Representatives for me to sign. I said that I would not sign it
unless it were drawn up in a different manner.
October 20.--Visit from the Gens de Lettres committee. To-day the first
postage stamps of the Republic of 1870 were put in circulation.
_Les Châtiments_ (French edition) appeared in Paris this morning.
The papers announce that the balloon "Victor Hugo" descended in Belgium.
It is the first postal balloon to cross the frontier.
October 21.-They say that Alexandre Dumas died on October 13 at the home
of his son at Havre. He was a large-hearted man of great talent. His
death grieves me greatly.
Louis Blanc and Brives came to speak to me again about the Declaration
of Representatives. My opinion is that it would be better to postpone
Nothing is more charming than the sounding of the reveille in Paris. It
is dawn. One hears first, nearby, a roll of drums, followed by the blast
of a bugle, exquisite melody, winged and warlike. Then all is still.
In twenty seconds the drums roll again, then the bugle rings out, but
further off. Then silence once more. An instant later, further off
still, the same song of bugle and drum falls more faintly but still
distinctly upon the ear. Then after a pause the roll and blast are
repeated, very far away. Then they are heard again, at the extremity of
the horizon, but indistinctly and like an echo. Day breaks and the shout
"To arms!" is heard. The sun rises and Paris awakes.
October 22.--The edition of 5,000 copies of _Les Châtiments_ has been
sold in two days. I have authorised the printing of another 3,000.
Little Jeanne has imagined a way of puffing out her cheeks and raising
her arms in the air that is adorable.
The first 5,000 copies of the Parisian edition of _Les Chatiments_
has brought me in 500 francs, which I am sending to the "Siècle" as a
subscription to the national fund for the cannon that Paris needs.
Mathe and Gambon, the ex-Representatives, called to ask me to take part
in a meeting of which former representatives are to form the nucleus.
The meeting would be impossible without me, they said. But I see more
disadvantages than advantages in such a meeting. I thought I ought to
We are eating horsemeat in every style. I saw the following in the
window of a cook-shop: "Saucisson chevaleresque."
October 23.--The 17th Battalion asked me to be the first subscriber of
"one sou" to a fund for purchasing a cannon. They will collect 300,000
sous. This will make 15,000 francs, which will purchase a 24-centimetre
gun, carrying 8,500 metres--equal to the Krupp guns.
Lieutenant Maréchal brought to collect my sou an Egyptian cup of onyx
dating from the Pharaohs, engraved with the moon and the sun, the Great
Bear and the Southern Cross (?) and having for handles two cynocephalus
demons. The engraving of this cup required the life-work of a man. I
gave my sou. D'Alton-Shée, who was present, gave his, as did also M.
and Mme. Meurice, and the two servants, Mariette and Clémence. The 17th
Battalion wanted to call the gun the "Victor Hugo." I told them to call
it the "Strasburg." In this way the Prussians will still receive shots
We chatted and laughed with the officers of the 17th Battalion. It was
the duty of the two cynocephalus genie of the cup to bear souls to hell.
I remarked: "Very well, I confide William and Bismarck to them."
Visit from M. Edouard Thierry. He came to request me to allow "Stella"
to be read in aid of the wounded at the Théâtre Français. I gave him his
choice of all the "Châtiments." That startled him. And I demanded that
the reading be for a cannon.
Visit from M. Charles Floquet. He has a post at the Hotel de Ville. I
commissioned him to tell the Government to call the Mont Valérien "Mont
October 24.--Visit from General Le Flo. Various deputations received.
October 25.--There is to be a public reading of _Les Châtiments_ for a
cannon to be called "Le Châtiment." We are preparing for it.
Brave Rostan,* whom I treated harshly one day, and who likes me because
I did right, has been arrested for indiscipline in the National Guard.
He has a little motherless boy six years old who has nobody else to take
care of him. What was to be done, the father being in prison? I told
him to send the youngster to me at the Pavilion de Rohan. He sent him
* A workingman, friend of Victor Hugo.
October 26.-At 6.30 o'clock Rostan, released from prison, came to fetch
his little Henri. Great joy of father and son.
October 28.--Edgar Quinet came to see me.
Schoelcher and Commander Farcy, who gave his name to his gunboat, dined
with me. After dinner, at half past 8 I went with Schoelcher to his home
at 16, Rue de la Chaise. We found there Quinet, Ledru-Rollin,
Mathé, Gambon, Lamarque, and Brives. This was my first meeting with
Ledru-Rollin. We engaged in a very courteous argument over the question
of founding a club, he being for and I against it. We shook hands. I
returned home at midnight.
October 29.--Visits from the Gens de Lettres committee, Frédérick
Lemaitre, MM. Berton and Lafontaine and Mlle. Favart for a third cannon
to be called the "Victor Hugo." I oppose the name.
I have authorised the fourth edition of 3,000 copies of _Les
Châtiments_, which will make to date 11,000 copies for Paris alone.
October 30.--I received the letter of the Société des Gens de Lettres
asking me to authorise a public reading of Les Chatiments, the proceeds
of which will give to Paris another cannon to be called the "Victor
Hugo." I gave the authorisation. In my reply written this morning
I demanded that instead of "Victor Hugo" the gun be called the
"Châteaudun." The reading will take place at the Porte Saint Martin.
M. Berton came. I read to him _L'Expiation_, which he is to read. M. and
Mme. Meurice and d'Alton-Shée were present at the reading.
News has arrived that Metz has capitulated and that Bazaine's army has
Bills announcing the reading of _Les Châtiments_ have been posted. M.
Raphael Felix came to tell me the time at which the rehearsal is to
take place tomorrow. I hired a seven-seat box for this reading, which I
placed at the disposal of the ladies.
On returning home this evening I met in front of the Mairie, M. Chaudey,
who was at the Lausanne Peace Conference and who is Mayor of the
Sixth Arrondissement. He was with M. Philibert Audebrand. We talked
sorrowfully about the taking of Metz.
October 31.--Skirmish at the Hotel de Ville. Blanqui, Flourens and
Delescluze want to overthrow the provisional power, Trochu and Jules
Favre. I refuse to associate myself with them.
An immense crowd. My name is on the lists of members for the proposed
Government. I persist in my refusal.
Flourens and Blanqui held some of the members of the Government
prisoners at the Hotel de Ville all day.
At midnight some National Guards came from the Hotel de Ville to fetch
me "to preside," they said, "over the new Government." I replied that
I was most emphatically opposed to this attempt to seize the power and
refused to go to the Hotel de Ville.
At 3 o'clock in the morning Flourens and Blanqui quitted the Hotel de
Ville and Trochu entered it.
The Commune of Paris is to be elected.
November 1.--We have postponed for a few days the reading of _Les
Châtiments_, which was to have been given at the Porte Saint Martin
Louis Blanc came this morning to consult me as to what ought to be the
conduct of the Commune.
The newspapers unanimously praise the attitude I took yesterday in
rejecting the advances made to me.
November 2.--The Government demands a "yes" or a "no."
Louis Blanc and my sons came to talk to me about it.
The report that Alexandre Dumas is dead is denied.
November 4.--I have been requested to be Mayor of the Third, also of the
Eleventh, Arrondissement. I refused.
I went to the rehearsal of _Les Châtiments_ at the Porte Saint Martin.
Frédérick Lemaitre and Mmes. Laurent, Lia Felix and Duguéret were
November 5.--To-day the public reading of _Les Châtiments_, the proceeds
of which are to purchase a cannon for the defence of Paris, was given.
The Third, Eleventh and Fifteenth Arrondissements want me to stand for
Mayor. I refuse.
Mérimée has died at Cannes. Dumas is not dead, but he is paralyzed.
November 7.--The 24th Battalion waited upon me and wanted me to give
them a cannon.
November 8.--Last night, on returning from a visit to General Le Flo, I
for the first time crossed the Pont des Tuileries, which has been built
since my departure from France.
November 9.--The net receipts from the reading of _Les Châtiments_ at
the Porte Saint Martin for the gun which I have named the "Châteaudun"
amounted to 7,000 francs, the balance going to pay the attendants,
firemen, and lighting, the only expenses charged.
At the Cail works mitrailleuses of a new model, called the Gatling
model, are being made.
Little Jeanne is beginning to chatter.
A second reading of _Les Châtiments_ for another cannon will be given at
the "Théâtre Français".
November 11.--Mlle. Periga called today to rehearse _Pauline Roland_,
which she will read at the second reading of _Les Châtiments_, announced
for to-morrow at the Porte Saint Martin. I took a carriage, dropped
Mlle. Périga at her home, and then went to the rehearsal of to-morrow's
reading at the theatre. Frederick Lemaitre, Berton, Maubart, Taillade,
Lacressonnière, Charly, Mmes. Laurent, Lia Felix, Rousseil, M. Raphael
Felix and the committee of the Société des Gens de Lettres were there.
After the rehearsal the wounded of the Porte Saint Martin ambulance
asked me, through Mme. Laurent, to go and see them. I said: "With all my
heart," and I went.
They are lying in several rooms, chief of which is the old green-room
of the theatre with its big round mirrors, where in 1831 I read to the
actors "Marion de Lorme". M. Crosnier was then director. (Mme. Dorval
and Bocage were present at that reading.) On entering I said to the
wounded men: "Behold one who envies you. I desire nothing more on earth
but one of your wounds. I salute you, children of France, favourite sons
of the Republic, elect who suffer for the Fatherland."
They seemed to be greatly moved. I shook hands with each of them. One
held out his mutilated wrist. Another had lost his nose. One had that
very morning undergone two painful operations. A very young man had been
decorated with the military medal a few hours before. A convalescent
said to me: "I am a Franc-Comtois." "Like myself," said I. And I
embraced him. The nurses, in white aprons, who are the actresses of the
theatre, burst into tears.
November 13.--I had M. and Mme. Paul Meurice, Vacquerie and Louis Blanc
to dinner this evening. We dined at 6 o'clock, as the second reading of
_Les Chatiments_ was fixed to begin at the Porte Saint Martin at 7.30. I
offered a box to Mme. Paul Meurice for the reading.
November 14.--The receipts for _Les Chatiments_ last night (without
counting the collection taken up in the theatre) amounted to 8,000
Good news! General d'Aurelle de Paladine has retaken Orleans and beaten
the Prussians. Schoelcher came to inform me of it.
November 15.--Visit from M. Arsène Houssaye and Henri Houssaye, his son.
He is going to have Stella read at his house in aid of the wounded.
M. Valois came to tell me that the two readings of _Les Châtiments_
brought in 14,000 francs. For this sum not two, but three guns can
be purchased. The Société des Gens de Lettres desires that, the
first having been named by me the "Châteaudun" and the second "Les
Châtiments", the third shall be called the "Victor Hugo." I have
Pierre Veron has sent me Daumier's fine drawing representing the Empire
annihilated by _Les Chatiments_.
November 16.--Baroche, they say, has died at Caen.
M. Edouard Thierry refuses to allow the fifth act of "Hernani" to be
played at the Porte Saint Martin for the victims of Châteaudun and for
the cannon of the 24th Battalion. A queer obstacle this M. Thierry!
November 17.--Visit from the Gens de Lettres committee. The committee
came to ask me to authorise a reading of _Les Châtiments_ at the Opera
to raise funds for another cannon.
I mention here once for all that I authorise whoever desires to do so,
to read or perform whatever he likes that I have written, if it be for
cannon, the wounded, ambulances, workshops, orphanages, victims of the
war, or the poor, and that I abandon all my royalties on these readings
I decide that the third reading of _Les Chatiments_ shall be given at
the Opera gratis for the people.
November 19.--Mme. Marie Laurent came to recite to me _Les Pauvres
Gens_, which she will recite at the Porte Saint Martin to-morrow to
raise funds for a cannon.
November 20.--Last evening there was an aurora borealis.
"La Grosse Josephine" is no longer my neighbour. She has just been
transported to Bastion No. 41. It took twenty-six horses to draw her. I
am sorry they have taken her away. At night I could hear her deep voice,
and it seemed to me that she was speaking to me. I divided my love
between "Grosse Joséphine" and Little Jeanne.
Little Jeanne can now say "papa" and "mamma" very well.
To-day there was a review of the National Guard.
November 21.--Mme. Jules Simon and Mme. Sarah Bernhardt came to see me.
After dinner many visitors called, and the drawing-room was crowded. It
appears that Veuillot insulted me.
Little Jeanne begins to crawl on her hands and knees very well indeed.
November 23.--Jules Simon writes me that the Opera will be given to me
for the people (free reading of _Les Châtiments_) any day I fix upon. I
wanted Sunday, but out of consideration for the concert that the actors
and employés of the Opera give Sunday night for their own benefit I have
Frédérick Lemaitre called. He kissed my hands and wept.
It has been raining for two or three days. The rain has soaked the
plains, the cannon-wheels would sink into the ground, and the sortie has
therefore had to be deferred. For two days Paris has been living on salt
meat. A rat costs 8 sous.
November 24.--I authorise the Théâtre Français to play to-morrow,
Friday, the 25th, on behalf of the victims of the war, the fifth act
of "Hernani" by the actors of the Théâtre Français and the last act
of "Lucrece Borgia" by the actors of the Porte Saint Martin, and
in addition the recitation as an intermede of extracts from _Les
Châtiments_, _Les Contemplations_ and _La Légende des Siècles_.
Mlle. Favart came this morning to rehearse with me _Booz Endormie_. Then
we went together to the Français for the rehearsal for the performance
of to-morrow. She acted Doña Sol very well indeed. Mme. Laurent (Lucrèce
Borgia) also played well. During the rehearsal M. de Flavigny dropped
in. I said to him: "Good morning, my dear ex-colleague." He looked
at me, then with some emotion exclaimed: "Hello! is that you?" And he
added: "How well preserved you are!" I replied: "Banishment preserves
I returned the ticket for a box that the Théâtre Français sent to me for
to-morrow's performance, and hired a box, which I placed at the disposal
of Mme. Paul Meurice.
After dinner the new Prefect of Police, M. Cresson, paid me a visit. M.
Cresson was the barrister who twenty years ago defended the murderers of
General Bréa. He spoke to me about the free reading of _Les Châtiments_
to be given on Monday the 28th at the Opera. It is feared that an
immense crowd--all the faubourgs--will be attracted. More than 25,000
men and women. Three thousand will be able to get in. What is to be done
with the rest? The Government is uneasy. Many are called but few
will be chosen, and it fears that a crush, fighting and disorders will
result. The Government will refuse me nothing. It wants to know whether
I will accept the responsibility. It will do whatever I wish done. The
Prefect of Police has been instructed to come to an understanding with
me about it.
I said to M. Cresson: "Let us consult Vacquerie and Meurice and my two
sons." He replied: "Willingly." The six of us held a council. We decided
that three thousand tickets should be distributed on Sunday, the day
before the lecture, at the mairies of the twenty arrondissements to the
first persons who presented themselves after noon. Each arrondissement
will receive a number of tickets in proportion to the number of its
population. The next day the 3,000 holders of tickets (to all places)
will wait their turn at the doors of the Opera without causing any
obstruction or trouble. The "Journal Officiel" and special posters
will apprise the public of the measures taken in the interest of public
November 25.--Mlle. Lia Felix came to rehearse _Sacer Esto_, which she
will recite to the people on Monday.
M. Tony Révillon, who is to make a speech, came to see me with the Gens
de Lettres committee.
A deputation of Americans from the United States came to express their
indignation with the Government of the American Republic and with
President Grant for abandoning France--"To which the American Republic
owes so much!" said I. "Owes everything," declared one of the Americans
A good deal of cannonading has been heard for several days. To-day it
Mme. Meurice wants some fowls and rabbits in order to provide against
the coming famine. She is having a hutch made for them in my little
garden. The carpenter who is constructing it entered my chamber a little
while ago and said: "I would like to touch your hand." I pressed both
his hands in mine.
November 27.--The Academy has given a sign of life. I have received
official notice that in future it will hold an extraordinary session
Pâtés of rat are being made. They are said to be very good.
An onion costs a sou. A potato costs a sou.
They have given up asking my authorisation to recite my works which are
being recited everywhere without my permission. They are right. What I
write is not my own. I am a public thing.
November 28.--Noel Parfait came to ask my help for Châteaudun.
Certainly; with all my heart!
_Les Châtiments_ was recited gratis at the Opera. An immense crowd. A
gilt wreath was thrown on the stage. I gave it to Georges and Jeanne.
The collection made in Prussian helmets by the actresses produced 1,521
francs 35 centimes in coppers.
Emile Allix brought us a leg of antelope from the Jardin des Plantes. It
To-night the sortie is to be made.
November 29.--All night long I heard the cannon.
The fowls were installed in my garden to-day.
The sortie is being delayed. The bridge thrown across the Marne by
Ducros has been carried away, the Prussians having blown open the locks.
November 30.--All night long the cannon thundered. The battle continues.
At midnight last night as I was returning home through the Rue de
Richelieu from the Pavilion de Rohan, I saw just beyond the National
Library, the street being deserted and dark at the time, a window open
on the sixth floor of a very high house and a very bright light, which
appeared to be that of a petroleum lamp, appear and disappear several
times; then the window closed and the street became dark again. Was it a
The cannon can be heard at three points round Paris, to the east, west
and south. This is because a triple attack is being made on the ring the
Prussians have drawn round us. The attack is being made at Saint Denis
by Laroncière, at Courbevoie by Vinoy, and on the Marne by Ducros.
Laroncière is said to have swept the peninsula of Gennevilliers and
compelled a Saxon regiment to lay down its arms, and Vinoy is said to
have destroyed the Prussian works beyond Bougival. As to Ducros, he
has crossed the Marne, taken and retaken Montédy, and almost holds
Villiers-sur-Marne. What one experiences on hearing the cannon is a
great desire to be there.
This evening Pelletan sent his son, Camille Pelletan, to inform me on
behalf of the Government that to-morrow's operations will be decisive.
December 1.--It appears that Louise Michel has been arrested. I will do
all that is necessary to have her released immediately. Mme. Meurice is
occupying herself about it. She went out this morning for that purpose.
D'Alton-Shée came to see me.
We ate bear for dinner.
I have written to the Prefect of Police to have Louise Michel released.
There was no fighting to-day. The positions taken were fortified.
December 2.--Louise Michel has been released. She came to thank me.
Last evening M. Coquelin called to recite several pieces from _Les
It is freezing. The basin of the Pigalle fountain is frozen over.
The cannonade recommenced at daybreak.
11.30 A.M.--The cannonade increases.
Flourens wrote to me yesterday and Rochefort to-day. They are coming
round to me again.
Dorian, Minister of Public Works, and Pelletan came to dine with me.
Excellent news to-night! The Army of the Loire is at Montargis. The
Army of Paris has driven back the Prussians from the Avron plateau. The
despatches announcing these successes are read aloud at the doors of the
Victory! The Second of December has been wiped out!
December 3.--General Renault, who was wounded in the foot by a splinter
from a shell, is dead.
I told Schoelcher that I want to go out with my sons if the batteries
of the National Guard to which they belong are sent to the front. The
batteries drew lots. Four are to go. One of them is the 10th Battery, of
which Victor is a member. I will go out with that battery. Charles does
not belong to it, which is a good job; he will stay behind, he has two
children. I will order him to stay. Vacquerie and Meurice are members of
the 10th Battery. We shall be together in the combat. I will have a cape
with a hood made for me. What I fear is the cold at night.
I made some shadows on the wall for Georges and Jeanne. Jeanne laughed
delightedly at the shadow and the grimaces of the profile; but when she
saw that the shadow was me she cried and screamed. She seemed to say:
"I don't want you to be a phantom!" Poor, sweet angel! Perhaps she has a
presentiment of the coming battle.
Yesterday we ate some stag; the day before we partook of bear; and the
two days previous we fared on antelope. These were presents from the
Jardin des Plantes.
To-night at 11 o'clock, cannonading. Violent and brief.
December 4.--A notice has been posted on my door indicating the
precautions to be taken "in case of bombardment." That is the title of
There is a pause in the combat. Our army has recrossed the Marne.
Little Jeanne crawls very well on her bands and knees and says "papa"
December 5.--I have just seen a magnificent hearse, draped with black
velvet, embroidered with an "H" surrounded by silver stars, go by to
fetch its burden. A Roman would not disdain to be borne in it.
Gautier came to dine with me. After dinner Banville and Coppée called.
Bad news. Orleans has been captured from us again. No matter. Let us
December 7.--I had Gautier, Banville and François Coppée to dinner.
After dinner Asselineau came. I read _Floréal and L'Egout de Rome_ to
December 8.--The "Patrie en Danger" has ceased to appear. In the absence
of readers, says Blanqui.
M. Maurice Lachâtre, publisher, came to make me an offer for my next
book. He has sent me his _Dictionary and The History of the Revolution_
by Louis Blanc. I shall present to him Napoleon the Little and _Les
December 9.--I woke up in the night and wrote some verses. At the same
time I heard the cannon.
M. Bondes came to see me. The correspondent of the "Times," who is at
Versailles, has written him that the guns for the bombardment of Paris
have arrived. They are Krupp guns. They are awaiting their carriages.
They have been arranged in the Prussian arsenal at Versailles side by
side "like bottles in a cellar," according to this Englishman.
I copy the following from a newspaper:
M. Victor Hugo had manifested the intention to leave Paris unarmed,
with the artillery battery of the National Guard to which his two sons
The 144th Battalion of the National Guard went in a body to the poet's
residence in the Avenue Frochot. Two delegates waited upon him.
These honourable citizens went to forbid Victor Hugo to carry out
his plan, which he had announced some time ago in his "Address to the
"Everybody can fight," the deputation told him. "But everybody cannot
write _Les Chatiments_. Stay at home, therefore, and take care of a life
that is so precious to France."
I do not remember the number of the battalion. It was not the 144th.
Here are the terms of the address which was read to me by the major of
The National Guard of Paris forbids Victor Hugo to go to the front,
inasmuch as everybody can go to the front, whereas Victor Hugo alone can
do what Victor Hugo does.
"Forbids" is touching and charming.
December 11.--Rostan came to see me. He has his arm in a sling. He was
wounded at Créteil. It was at night. A German soldier rushed at him and
pierced his arm with a bayonet. Rostan retaliated with a bayonet thrust
in the German's shoulder. Both fell and rolled into a ditch. Then they
became good friends. Rostan speaks a little broken German.
"Who are you?"
"I am a Wurtembergian. I am twenty-two years old. My father is a
clockmaker of Leipsic."
They remained in the ditch for three hours, bleeding, numb with cold,
helping each other. Rostan, wounded, brought the man who wounded him
back as a prisoner. He goes to see him at the hospital. These two men
adore each other. They wanted to kill each other, and now they would die
for each other.
Eliminate kings from the dispute!
Visit from M. Rey. The Ledru-Rollin group is completely disorganized. No
more parties; the Republic. It is well.
I presented some Dutch cheese to Mme. Paul Meurice. Sleet is falling.
December 12.--I arrived in Brussels nineteen years ago to-day.
December 13.--Since yesterday Paris has been lighted with petroleum.
Heavy cannonade to-night.
December 14.--Thaw. Cannonade.
To-night we glanced over _Goya's Disasters of War_ (brought by Burty,
the art critic). It is fine and hideous.
December 15.--Emmanuel Arago, Minister of Justice, came to see me and
informed me that there would be fresh meat until February 15, but that
in future only brown bread would be made in Paris. There will be enough
of this to last for five months.
Allix brought me a medal struck to commemorate my return to France. It
bears on one side a winged genius and the words: "Liberty, Equality and
Fraternity," and on the other side, round the rim: "Appeal to Universal
Democracy," and in the centre: "To Victor Hugo, From His Grateful
Fatherland.' September, 1870."
This medal is sold in the streets and costs 5 centimes. There is a
little ring in it by which it can be suspended to a chain.
December 16.--Pelleport* came to-night. I requested him to visit
Flourens, in Mazas Prison, on my behalf, and to take him a copy of
_Napoleon the Little_.
* One of the editors of the "Rappel."
December 17.--The "Electeur Libre" calls upon Louis Blanc and me to
enter the Government, and affirms that it is our duty to do so. My duty
is dictated to me by my conscience.
I saw the gunboat "Estoc" pass under the Pont des Arts, going up Seine.
She is a fine vessel and her big gun has a terribly grand appearance.
December 18.--I worked a magic lantern for little Georges and little
My royalty for Mme. Favart's recitation of _Stella_ at a performance
given by the 14th Battalion amounted to 130 francs. My agent took my
royalty in spite of my instructions. I have ordered him to turn the
money over to the sick fund of the battalion.
M. Hetzel writes: "The closing of the printing office is imminent, as I
can get no more coal to keep the presses going."
I authorise another issue of 3,000 copies of _Les Châtiments_, which
will bring the total for Paris up to 22,000.
December 20.--Captain Breton, of the Garde Mobile, who has been
cashiered on the charge of being a coward, brought against him by his
lieutenant-colonel, demands a court-martial, but first of all to be sent
to the firing line. His company leaves to-morrow morning. He begs me to
obtain for him from the Minister of War permission to go and get himself
killed. I have written to General Le Flô about him. It is likely that he
will take part in to-morrow's battle.
December 21.--At 3 o'clock this morning I heard the bugles of the troops
marching to battle. When will my turn come?
December 22.--Yesterday was a good day. The action continues. The
thunder of cannon can be heard to the east and west.
Little Jeanne begins to talk at length and very expressively. But it is
impossible to understand a word she says. She laughs.
Leopold has sent me thirteen fresh eggs, which I will reserve for little
Georges and little Jeanne.
Louis Blanc came to dine with me. He came on behalf of Edmond Adam,
Louis Jourdan, Cernuschi and others to tell me that he and I must go to
Trochu and summon him to save Paris or resign. I refused. I should be
posing as an arbiter of the situation and at the same time hamper a
battle begun and which may be a successful one. Louis Blanc was of my
way of thinking, as were also Meurice, Vacquerie and my sons, who dined
December 23.--Henri Rochefort came to dine with me. I had not seen him
since August of last year, when we were in Brussels. Georges did not
recognise his godfather. I was very cordial. I like him very much. He
has great talent and great courage. The dinner was a very merry one,
although we are all threatened with incarceration in a Prussian fortress
if Paris is captured. After Guernsey, Spandau. So be it.
I bought for 19 francs at the Magasins du Louvre a soldier's cape with
hood, to wear on the ramparts.
My house continues to be crowded with visitors. To-day a painter named
Le Genissel called. He reminded me that I saved him from the galleys in
1848. He was one of the insurgents of June.
Heavy cannonade during the night. A battle is in preparation.
December 24.--It is freezing. Ice floes are floating down the Seine.
Paris only eats brown bread now.
December 25.--Heavy cannonade all night.
An item of news of present-day Paris: A basket of oysters has just
reached the city. It sold for 750 francs.
At a bazar in aid of the poor at which Alice and Mme. Meurice acted as
vendors, a young turkey fetched 250 francs.
The Seine is freezing over.
December 26.--Louis Blanc called, then M. Floquet. They urge me to
summon the Government to do something or resign. Again I refuse.
M. Louis Koch paid 25 francs for a copy of the _Rappel_ at the bazar
in aid of the poor. The copy of _Les Châtiments_ was purchased by M.
Cernuschi for 300 francs.
December 27.--Violent cannonade this morning. The firing of this morning
was an attack by the Prussians. A good sign. Waiting annoys them. Us,
too. They threw nineteen shells, which killed nobody, into the Fort of
Mme. Ugalde dined with us and sang "Patria." I escorted Mme. Ugalde to
her home in the Rue de Chabanais, then returned to bed.
The concierge said to me:
"Monsieur, they say that bombs will fall in this neighbourhood
"That is all right," I replied. "I am expecting one."
December 29.--Heavy firing all night. The Prussians continue their
Théophile Gautier has a horse. This horse was requisitioned. It was
wanted for food. Gautier wrote me begging me save the animal. I asked
the Minister to grant his request.
I saved the horse.
It is unfortunately true that Dumas is dead. This has been ascertained
through the German newspapers. He died on December 5 at the home of his
son at Puys, near Dieppe.
I am being urged more strongly than ever, to enter the Government. The
Minister of Justice, M. Emmanuel Arago, called and stopped to dinner. We
talked. Louis Blanc dropped in after dinner. I persist in my refusal.
Besides Emmanuel Arago and the friends who usually dine with me on
Thursdays, Rochefort and Blum came. I invited them to come every
Thursday if we have many more Thursdays to live. At desert I drank
The cannonade is increasing. The plateau of Avron had to be evacuated.
December 31.--D'Alton-Shée paid a visit to me this morning. It appears
that General Ducros wants to see me.
Within three days the Prussians have sent us 12,000 shells.
Yesterday I ate some rat, and then hiccoughed the following quatrain:
_O mesdames les hétaires
Dans vos greniers, je me nourris:
Moi qui mourais de vos sourires,
Je vais vivre de vos souris_.
After next week there will be no more washing done in Paris, because
there is no more coal.
Lieutenant Farcy, commander of the gunboat, dined with me.
It is bitterly cold. For three days I have worn my cloak and hood
whenever I have had to go out.
A doll for little Jeanne. A basketful of toys for Georges.
Shells have begun to demolish the Fort of Rosny. The first shell has
fallen in the city itself. The Prussians to-day fired 6,000 shells at
In the Fort of Rosny a sailor working at the gabions was carrying a sack
of earth. A shell knocked it off his shoulder. "Much obliged," commented
the sailor, "but I wasn't tired."
Alexandre Dumas died on December 5. On looking over my notebook I see
that it was on December 5 that a large hearse with an "H" on it passed
before me in the Rue Frochot.
We have no longer even horse to eat. *Perhaps* it is dog? *Maybe* it is
rat? I am beginning to suffer from pains in the stomach. We are eating
M. Valois, representing the Société des Gens de Lettres, came to ask me
what was to be done with the 3,000 francs remaining from the proceeds of
the three readings of Les Châtiments, the guns having been delivered and
paid for. I told him that I wanted the whole amount turned over to Mme.
Jules Simon for the fund for the victims of the war.
January 1, 1871.--Louis Blanc has addressed to me through the newspapers
a letter upon the situation.
Stupor and amazement of little Georges and little Jeanne at their
basketful of New Year presents. The toys, when unpacked from the basket,
covered a large table. The children touched all of them and did not know
which to take. Georges was nearly furious with joy. Charles remarked:
"It is the despair of joy!"
I am hungry. I am cold. So much the better. I suffer what the people are
Decidedly horse is not good for me. Yet I ate some. It gives me the
gripes. I avenged myself at dessert with the following distich:
_Mon diner m'inquiete et même me harcêle,
J'ai mange du cheval et je songe a la selle_.
The Prussians are bombarding Saint Denis.
January 2.--Daumier and Louis Blanc lunched with us.
Louis Koch gave to his aunt as a New Year gift a couple of cabbages and
a brace of living partridges!
This morning we lunched on wine soup. The elephant at the Jardin des
Plantes has been slaughtered. He wept. He will be eaten..
The Prussians continue to send us 6,000 bombs a day.
January 3.--The heating of two rooms at the Pavillon de Rohan now costs
10 francs a day.
The Mountaineers' club again demands that Louis Blanc and I be added to
the Government in order to direct it. I continue to refuse.
There are at present twelve members of the French Academy in
Paris, among them Ségur, Mignet, Dufaure, d'Haussonville, Legouvé,
Cuvillier-Fleury, Barbier and Vitet.
Moon. Intense cold. The Prussians bombarded Saint Denis all night.
From Tuesday to Sunday the Prussians hurled 25,000 projectiles at us.
It required 220 railway trucks to transport them. Each shot costs 60
francs; total, 1,500,000 francs. The damage to the forts is estimated at
1,400 francs. About ten men have been killed. Each of our dead cost the
Prussians 150,000 francs.
January 5.--The bombardment is becoming heavier. Issy and Vanves are
There is no coal. Clothes cannot be washed because they cannot be dried.
My washerwoman sent this message to me through Mariette:
"If M. Victor Hugo, who is so powerful, would ask the Government to give
me a little coal-dust, I could wash his shirts."
Besides my usual Thursday guests I had Louis Blanc, Rochefort and Paul
de Saint Victor to dinner. Mme. Jules Simon sent me a Gruyère cheese. An
extraordinary luxury, this. We were thirteen at table.
January 6.--At dessert yesterday I offered some bonbons to the ladies,
saying as I did so:
_Grace a Boissier, chêre colombes,
Heureux, a vos pieds nous tombons.
Car on prend les forts par les bombes
Et les faibles par les bonbons_.
The Parisians out of curiosity visit the bombarded districts. They go
to see the shells fall as they would go to a fireworks display. National
Guards have to keep the people back. The Prussians are firing on the
hospitals. They are bombarding Val-de-Grâce. Their shells set fire to
the wooden booths in the Luxembourg, which were full of sick and wounded
men, who had to be transported, undressed and wrapped up as well as they
could be, to the Charité Hospital. Barbieux saw them arrive there about
1 o'clock in the morning.
Sixteen streets have already been hit by shells.
January 7.--The Rue des Feuillantines, which runs through the place
where the garden of my boyhood used to be, is heavily bombarded. I was
nearly struck by a shell there.
My washerwoman having nothing to make a fire with, and being obliged to
refuse work in consequence, addressed a demand to M. Clémenceau, Mayor
of the Ninth Arrondissement, for some coal, which she said she was
prepared to pay for. I endorsed it thus:
"I am resigned to everything for the defence of Paris, to die of hunger
and cold, and even to forego a change of shirt. However, I commend my
laundress to the Mayor of the Ninth Arrondissement."
And I signed my name. The Mayor gave her the coal.
January 8.--Camille Pelletan brought us good news from the Government.
Rouen and Dijon retaken, Garibaldi victorious at Nuits, and Fraidherbe
at Bapaume. All goes well.
We had brown bread, now we have black bread. Everybody fares alike. It
The news of yesterday was brought by two pigeons.
A shell killed five children in a school in the Rue de Vaugirard.
The performances and readings of _Les Châtiments_ have had to be
stopped, the theatres being without gas or coal, therefore without light
Prim is dead. He was shot and killed at Madrid the day the king after
his own heart, Amedeus, Duke of Genoa, entered Spain.
The bombardment was a furious one to-day. A shell crashed through the
chapel of the Virgin at Saint Sulpice, where my mother's funeral took
place and where I was married.
January 10.--Bombs on the Odéon Theatre.
Chifflard sent me a piece of a shell. This shell, which fell at Auteuil,
is marked with an "H." I will have an inkstand made out of it.
January 12.--The Pavilion de Rohan demands of me from to-day on 8 francs
a head for dinner, which with wine, coffee, fire, etc., brings the cost
of dinner up to 13 francs for each person.
We had elephant steak for luncheon to-day.
Schoelcher, Rochefort, Blum and all the usual Thursday guests dined with
us. After dinner Louis Blanc and Pelletan dropped in.
January 13.--An egg costs 2 francs 75 centimes. Elephant meat costs 40
francs a pound. A sack of onions costs 800 francs.
The Société des Gens de Lettres asked me to attend the presentation of
the cannon to the city at the Hotel de Ville. I begged to be excused. I
will not go.
We spent the day looking for another hotel. Could not find one
suitable. All are closed. Expenses for the week at the Pavilion de Rohan
(including the cost of a broken window-pane), 701 francs 50 centimes.
Remark by a poor woman anent some newly felled wood:
"This hapless green wood is under fire; it didn't expect that it would
have to face it, and weeps all the time!"
January 15.--A furious bombardment is in progress.
I have written a piece of poetry entitled "Dans le Cirque." After dinner
I read it to my Sunday guests. They want me to publish it. I will give
it to the newspapers.
January 17.--The bombardment has been going on for three nights and
three days without cessation.
Little Jeanne was cross with me because I would not let her play with
the works of my watch.
All the newspapers publish my verses "Dans le Cirque." They may be
Louis Blanc called this morning. He urged me to join with Quinet and
himself in bringing pressure to bear upon the Government. I replied: "I
see more danger in overturning the Government than in supporting it."
January 18.--M. Krupp is making cannon for use specially against
There is a cock in my little garden. Yesterday Louis Blanc lunched with
us. The cock crowed. Louis Blanc paused and said:
"What is it?"
"A cock is crowing."
"Well, what of it?"
"Don't you hear what it says?"
"It is calling: 'Victor Hugo!'"
We listened and laughed. Louis Blanc was right It did sound as if the
cock were crowing my name.
I gave some of my bread-crumbs to the fowls. They would not eat them.
This morning a sortie against Montretout was made. Montretout was taken.
This evening the Prussians captured it from us again.
January 20.--The attack on Montretout has interrupted the bombardment.
A child of fourteen years was suffocated in a crowd outside a baker's
January 21.--Louis Blanc came to see me. We held a council. The
situation is becoming extreme and supreme. The Mairie of Paris asks my
Louis Blanc dined with us. After dinner we held a sort of council at
which Colonel Laussedat was present.
January 22.--The Prussians are bombarding Saint Denis.
Tumultuous demonstrations at the Hotel de Ville. Trochu is withdrawing.
Rostan comes to tell me that the Breton mobiles are firing on the
people. I doubt it. I will go myself, if necessary.
I have just returned. There was a simultaneous attack by both sides.
To the combatants who consulted me I said: "I recognise in the hands of
Frenchmen only those rifles which are turned towards the Prussians."
Rostan said to me:
"I have come to place my battalion at your service. We are five hundred
men. Where do you want us to go?"
"Where are you now?" I asked.
"We have been massed towards Saint Denis, which is being bombarded," he
replied. "We are at La Villette."
"Then stay there," said I. "It is there where I should have sent you. Do
not march against the Hotel de Ville, march against Prussia."
January 23.--Last night there was a conference at my quarters. In
addition to my Sunday guests Rochefort and his secretary, Mourot, had
dined with us. Rey and Gambon came in the evening. They brought me,
the former with a request that I would subscribe to it, Ledru-Rollin's
poster-programme (group of 200 members), and the latter, the programme
of the Republican Union (50 members). I declared that I approved of
neither the one nor the other.
Chanzy has been beaten. Bourbaki has succeeded. But he is not marching
on Paris. Enigma, of which I fancy I can half guess the secret.
There appears to be an interruption to the bombardment.
January 24.--Flourens called this morning. He asked for my advice. I
responded: "No violent pressure on the situation."
January 25.--Flourens is reported to have been arrested as he was
leaving the house after his visit to me.
I had a couple of fresh eggs cooked for Georges and Jeanne.
M. Dorian came to the Pavilion de Rohan this morning to see my sons. He
announced that capitulation is imminent. Frightful news from outside.
Chanzy defeated, Faidherbe defeated, Bourbaki driven back.
January 27.--Schoelcher came to tell me that he has resigned as colonel
of the artillery legion.
Again they came to ask me to head a demonstration against the Hotel de
Ville. All sorts of rumours are in circulation. To everybody I counsel
calmness and unity.
January 28.--Bismarck in the course of the pourparlers at Versailles
said to Jules Favre: "What do you think of that goose of an Empress
proposing peace to me!"
It has become cold again.
Ledru-Rollin (through Brives) says he wants to come to an understanding
Little Jeanne is unwell. Sweet little thing!
Leopold told me this evening that I was the subject of a dialogue
between Pope Pius IX. and Jules Hugo, my nephew, brother of Leopold, who
died a camerico of the Pope. The Pope, on seeing Jules, said to him:
"You name is Hugo, is it not?"
"Yes, Holy Father."
"Are you a relative of Victor Hugo?"
"His nephew, Holy Father."
"How old is he?" (It was in 1857.)
"Alas! he is too old to return to the Church!"
Charles tells me that Jules Simon and his two sons passed the night
drawing up lists of possible candidates for the National Assembly.
Cernuschi is having himself naturalized a French citizen!
January 29.--The armistice was signed yesterday. It was published this
morning. The National Assembly will be elected between February 5 and
18. Will meet on the 12th at Bordeaux.
Little Jeanne is a trifle better. She almost smiled at me.
No more balloons. The post. But unsealed letters. It snows. It freezes.
January 30.--Little Jeanne is still poorly and does not play.
Mlle. Périga brought me a fresh egg for Jeanne.
January 31.--Little Jeanne is still ill. She is suffering from a slight
attack of catarrh of the stomach. Doctor Allix says it will last for
another four or five days.
My nephew Leopold came to dine with us. He brought us some pickled
February 1.--Little Jeanne is better. She smiled at me.
February 2.--The Paris elections have been postponed to February 8.
Horsemeat continues to disagree with me. Pains in the stomach. Yesterday
I said to Mme. Ernest Lefèvre, who was dining beside me:
_De ces bons animaux la viande me fait mal.
J'aime tant les chevaux que je hais le cheval_.
February 4.--The weather is becoming milder.
A crowd of visitors this evening. Proclamation by Gambetta.
February 5.--The list of candidates of the Republican journals appeared
this morning. I am at the head of the list.
Bancal is dead.
Little Jeanne this evening has recovered from her cold.
I entertained my usual Sunday guests. We had fish, butter and white
bread for dinner.
February 6.--Bourbaki, defeated, has killed himself. A grand death.
Ledru-Rollin is drawing back from the Assembly. Louis Blanc came and
read this news to me to-night.
February 7.--We had three or four cans of preserves which we ate to-day.
February 8.--To-day, elections for the National Assembly. Paul Meurice
and I went to vote together in the Rue Clauzel.
After the capitulation had been signed, Bismarck, on leaving Jules
Favre, entered the room where his two secretaries were awaiting him and
said: "The beast is dead."
I have put my papers in order in anticipation of my departure.
Little Jeanne is very merry.
February 11.--The counting of the votes progresses very slowly.
Our departure for Bordeaux has been put off to Monday the 13th.
February 12.--Yesterday, for the first time, I saw my boulevard. It is
a rather large section of the old Boulevard Haussmann. "Boulevard Victor
Hugo" is placarded on the Boulevard Haussmann at four or five street
corners giving on to this boulevard.
The National Assembly opens to-day at Bordeaux. The result of the
elections in Paris has not yet been determined and proclaimed.
While I have not yet been appointed, time presses, and I expect to leave
for Bordeaux to-morrow. There will be nine of us, five masters and four
servants, plus the two children. Louis Blanc wants to leave with us. We
shall make the journey together.
In my hand-bag I shall take various important manuscripts and works that
I have begun, among others, _Paris Besieged_ and the poem "Grand Père."
February 13.--Yesterday, before dinner, I read to my guests, M. and Mme.
Paul Meurice, Vacquerie, Lockroy, M. and Mme. Ernest Lefevre, Louis Koch
and Vilain (Rochefort and Victor did not arrive until the dinner hour),
two pieces of poetry which will form part of Paris Besieged ("To Little
Jeanne," and "No, You will not Take Alsace and Lorraine").
Pelleport brought me our nine passes. Not having yet been proclaimed
a Representative, I wrote on mine: "Victor Hugo, proprietor," as the
Prussians require that the quality or profession of the holder of the
pass be stated.
It was with a heavy heart that I quitted this morning the Avenue Frochot
and the sweet hospitality that Paul Meurice had extended to me since my
arrival in Paris on September 5.
THE ASSEMBLY AT BORDEAUX. EXTRACTS FROM NOTE-BOOKS.
February 14.--Left yesterday at 12.10 P.M. Arrived at Etampes at 3.15.
Wait of two hours, and luncheon.
After lunch we returned to our drawing-room car. A crowd surrounded it,
kept back by a squad of Prussian soldiers. The crowd recognised me and
shouted "Long live Victor Hugo!" I waved my hand out of window, and
doffing my cap, shouted: "Long live France!" Whereupon a man with
a white moustache, who somebody said was the Prussian commandant of
Etampes, advanced towards me with a threatening air and said something
to me in German that he no doubt intended to be terrible. Gazing
steadily in turn at this Prussian and the crowd, I repeated in a
louder voice: "Long live France'!" Thereat all the people shouted
enthusiastically: "Long live France!" The fellow looked angry but said
nothing. The Prussian soldiers did not move.
The journey was a rough, long and weary one. The drawing-room car was
badly lighted and not heated. One feels the dilapidation of France in
this wretched railway accommodation. At Vierzon we bought a pheasant, a
chicken, and two bottles of wine for supper. Then we wrapped ourselves
up in our rugs and cloaks and slept on the seats.
We arrived at Bordeaux at 1.30 this afternoon. We went in search of
lodgings. We took a cab and drove from hotel to hotel. No room anywhere.
I went to the Hotel de Ville and asked for information. I was told that
there was an apartment to let at M. A. Porte's, 13, Rue Saint Maur, near
the public garden. We went there. Charles hired the apartment for 600
francs a month and paid half a month's rent in advance. Then we started
out in search of a lodging for us, but could not get one. At 7 o'clock
we returned to the station to fetch our trunks, and not knowing where we
should pass the night. We went back to the Rue Saint Maur, where Charles
is, negotiated with the landlord and his brother, who had a couple of
rooms at 37, Rue de la Course, hard by, and came to an arrangement at
Alice made this remark:
"The number 13 clings to us. We were thirteen at table every Thursday in
January. We left Paris on February 13. There were thirteen of us in the
railway carriage, counting Louis Blanc, M. Béchet and the two children.
We are lodging at 13, Rue Saint Maur!"
February 15.--At 2 o'clock I went to the Assembly. When I came out again
I found an immense crowd awaiting me in the great square. The people,
and the National Guards who lined the approaches to the building,
shouted: "Long live Victor Hugo!" I replied: "Long live the Republic!
Long live France!" They repeated this double cry. Then the enthusiasm
became delirium. It was a repetition of the ovation I met with on my
arrival in Paris. I was moved to tears. I took refuge in a café at the
corner of the square. I explained in a speech why I did not address the
people, then I escaped--that is the word--in a carriage.
While the enthusiastic people shouted "Long live the Republic!" the
members of the Assembly issued and filed past impassible, almost
furious, and with their hats on, in the midst of the bare heads and the
waving caps about me.
Visit from Representatives Le Flo, Rochefort, Locroy, Alfred Naquet,
Emmanuel Arago, Rességuier, Floquot, Eugene Pelletan, and Noel Parfait.
I slept in my new lodging at 37, Rue de la Course.
February 16.--At the Assembly today the result of the Paris elections
was proclaimed. Louis Blanc was first with 216,000 votes; then came
myself with 214,000 votes, then Garibaldi with 200,000.
The ovation extended to me by the people yesterday is regarded by the
Majority as an insult to it. Hence a great display of troops on the
square outside (army, National Guard and cavalry). There was an incident
in this connection before my arrival. The men of the Right demanded that
the Assembly be protected. (Against whom? Against me?) The Left replied
with the shout of: "Long live the Republic!"
When I was leaving I was notified that the crowd was waiting for me in
the square. To escape the ovation I went out by a side door, but the
people caught sight of me, and I was immediately surrounded by an
immense crowd shouting: "Long live Victor Hugo!" I replied: "Long live
the Republic!" Everybody, including the National Guards and soldiers
of the line, took up the shout. I drove away in a carriage, which the
The Assembly to-day elected its committees. Dufaure proposes Thiers as
chief of the executive power.
We dined at home for the first time. I had invited Louis Blanc,
Schoelcher, Rochefort and Lockroy. Rochefort was unable to come. After
dinner we went to Gent's, Quay des Chartrons, to attend a meeting of the
Left. My sons accompanied me. The question of the chief executive was
discussed. I had the following added to the definition: appointed by the
Assembly and revokable by that body.
General Cremer came this morning to enlighten us concerning the
disposition of the army.
February 17.--At the Assembly Gambetta came up to me and said: "Master,
when can I see you? I have a good many things to explain to you."
Thiers has been named chief of the executive power. He is to leave
to-night for Versailles, the headquarters of the Prussians.
February 18.--To-night there was a meeting of the Left, in the Rue
Lafaurie-Monbadon. The meeting chose me as president. The speakers were
Louis Blanc, Schoelcher, Colonel Langlois, Brisson, Lockroy, Millière,
Clémenceau, Martin Bernard, and Joigneaux. I spoke last and summed
up the debate. Weighty questions were brought up--the Bismarck-Thiers
treaty, peace, war, the intolerance of the Assembly, and the case in
which it would be advisable to resign in a body.
February 19.--The president of the National Club of Bordeaux came to
place his salons at my disposal.
My hostess, Mme. Porte, a very pretty woman, has sent me a bouquet.
Thiers has appointed his Ministers. He has assumed the equivocal
and suspicious title of "head president of the executive power." The
Assembly is to adjourn. We are to be notified at our residences when it
is to be convened again.
February 20.--To-day the people again acclaimed me when I came out of
the Assembly. The crowd in an instant became enormous. I was compelled
to take refuge in the lodging of Martin Bernard, who lives in a street
adjacent to the Assembly.
I spoke in the Eleventh Committee. The question of the magistracy (which
has petitioned us not to act against it) came up unexpectedly. I spoke
well. I rather terrified the committee.
Little Jeanne is more than ever adorable. She does not want to leave me
at all now.
February 21.--Mme. Porte, my hostess of the Rue de la Course, sends me a
bouquet every morning by her little daughter.
I take little Georges and little Jeanne out whenever I have a minute to
spare. I might very well be dubbed: "Victor Hugo, Representative of the
People and dry nurse."
To-night I presided at the meeting of the Radical Left.
February 25.--To-night there was a meeting of the two fractions of the
Left, the Radical Left and Political Left, in the hall of the Academy,
in the Rue Jacques Bell. The speakers were Louis Blanc, Emmanuel Arago,
Vacherot, Jean Brunet, Bethmont, Peyrat, Brisson, Gambetta, and myself.
I doubt whether my plan for fusion or even for an _entente cordiale_
will succeed. Schoelcher and Edmond Adam walked home with me.
February 26.--I am 69 years old to-day.
I presided at a meeting of the Left.
February 27.--I have resigned the presidency of the Radical Left in
order to afford full independence to the meeting.
February 28.--Thiers read the treaty (of peace) from the tribune to-day.
It is hideous. I shall speak to-morrow. My name is the seventh on the
list, but Grévy, the president of the Assembly, said to me: "Rise and
ask to be heard when you want to. The Assembly will hear you."
To-night there was a meeting of the Assembly committees. I belong to the
eleventh. I spoke.
March 1.--There was a tragical session to-day. The Empire was executed,
also France, alas! The Shylock-Bismarck treaty was adopted. I spoke.
Louis Blanc spoke after me, and spoke grandly.
I had Louis Blanc and Charles Blanc to dinner.
This evening I went to the meeting in the Rue Lafaurie-Monbadon over
which I have ceased to preside. Schoelcher presided. I spoke. I am
satisfied with myself.
March 2.--Charles has returned. No session to-day. The adoption of peace
has opened the Prussian net. I have received a packet of letters and
newspapers from Paris. Two copies of the _Rappel_.
We dined _en famille_, all five of us. Then I went to the meeting.
Seeing that France has been mutilated, the Assembly ought to withdraw.
It has caused the wound and is powerless to cure it. Let another
Assembly replace it. I would like to resign. Louis Blanc does not want
to. Gambetta and Rochefort are of my way of thinking. Debate.
March 3.--This morning the Mayor of Strasburg, who died of grief, was
Louis Blanc called in company with three Representatives, Brisson,
Floquet and Cournet. They came to consult me as to what ought to be done
about the resignation question. Rochefort and Pyat, with three others,
are resigning. I am in favour of resigning. Louis Blanc resists. The
remainder of the Left do not appear to favour resignation _en masse_.
As I ascended the stairs I heard a fellow belonging to the Right, whose
back only I could see, say to another: "Louis Blanc is execrable, but
Victor Hugo is worse."
We all dined with Charles, who had invited Louis Blanc and MM.
Lavertujon and Alexis Bouvier.
Afterwards we went to the meeting in the Rue Lafaurie-Monbadon. The
President of the Assembly having, on behalf of the Assembly, delivered
a farewell address to the retiring members for Alsace and Lorraine, my
motion to maintain their seats indefinitely, which was approved by the
meeting, is without object, inasmuch as the question is settled. The
meeting, however, appears to hold to it. We will consider the matter.
March 4.--Meeting of the Left. M. Millière proposed, as did also M.
Delescluze, a motion of impeachment against the Government of the
National Defence. He concluded by saying that whoever failed to join him
in pressing the motion was a "dupe or an accomplice."
Schoelcher rose and said:
"Neither dupe nor accomplice. You lie!"
March 5.--Session of the Assembly.
Meeting in the evening. Louis Blanc, instead of a formal impeachment of
the ex-Government of Paris, demands an inquiry. I subscribe to this. We
Meeting of the Left. They say there is great agitation in Paris. The
Government which usually never receives less than fifteen dispatches a
day from Paris has not received a single one up to 10 o'clock to-night.
Six telegrams sent to Jules Favre have not been answered. We decide
that either Louis Blanc or I will interpellate the Government as to the
situation in Paris, if the present anxiety continues and no light is
thrown upon the situation.
A deputation of natives of Alsace and Lorraine came to thank us.
March 6.--At noon we lunched _en famille_ at Charles's. I took the two
ladies to the Assembly. There is talk of transferring the Assembly to
Versailles or Fontainebleau. They are afraid of Paris. I spoke at the
meeting of the Eleventh Committee. I was nearly elected commissioner. I
got 18 votes, but a M. Lucien Brun got 19.
Meeting in the Rue Lafaurie. I proposed that we all refuse to discuss
the situation in Paris, and that a manifesto be drawn up, to be signed
by all of us, declaring our intention to resign if the Assembly goes
anywhere else than to Paris. The meeting did not adopt my plan, and
urged me to speak to-morrow. I refused. Louis Blanc will speak.
March 8.--I have handed in my resignation as a Representative.
There was a discussion about Garibaldi. He had been elected in Algeria.
It was proposed that the election be annulled. I demanded to be heard.
I spoke. Uproar on the Right. They shouted: "Order! Order!" It all reads
very curiously in the "Moniteur." In face of this explosion of wrath I
made a gesture with my hand and said:
"Three weeks ago you refused to hear Garibaldi. Now you refuse to hear
me. That is enough. I will resign."
I went to the meeting of the Left for the last time.
March 9.--This morning three members of the Moderate Left, which meets
in the hall of the Academy, came as delegates from that body, the 220
members of which unanimously requested me to withdraw my resignation. M.
Paul Bethmon acted as spokesman. I thanked them, but declined.
Then delegates from another meeting came with the same object. The
meeting of the Central Left, to which MM. d'Haussonville and de Rémusat
belong, unanimously requested me to withdraw my resignation. M. Target
acted as spokesman. I thanked them, but declined.
Louis Blanc ascended the tribune (in the Assembly) and bade me farewell
with grandeur and nobleness.
March 10.--Louis Blanc spoke yesterday and to-day--yesterday about my
resignation, to-day about the question of Paris. Grandly and nobly on
March 11.--We are preparing for our departure.
March 12.--Many visits. My apartment was crowded. M. Michel Levy came
to ask me for a book. M. Duquesnel, associate director of the Odéon
Theatre, came to ask me for _Ruy Blas_.
We shall probably leave to-morrow.
Charles, Alice and Victor went to Arcachon. They returned to dinner.
Little Georges, who has been unwell, is better.
Louis Blanc dined with me. He is going to Paris.
March 13.--Last night I could not sleep. Like Pythagoras, I was thinking
of numbers. I thought of all these 13's so queerly associated with our
movements and actions since the first of January, and upon the fact
that I was to leave this house on a 13th. Just then there was the same
nocturnal knocking (three taps, as though made by a hammer on a board)
that I had heard twice before in this room.
We lunched at Charles's, with Louis Blanc.
I then went to see Rochefort. He lives at 80, Rue Judaique. He is
convalescent from an attack of erysipelas that at one time assumed a
dangerous character. With him I found MM. Alexis Bouvier and Mourot,
whom I invited to dinner to-day, at the same time asking them to
transmit my invitation to MM. Claretie, Guillemot and Germain Casse,
with whom I want to shake hands before I go.
On leaving Rochefort's I wandered a little about Bordeaux. Fine church,
partly Roman. Pretty Gothic flowered tower. Superb Roman ruin (Rue du
Colysée) which they call the Palais Gallien.
Victor came to embrace me. He left for Paris at 6 o'clock with Louis
At half past 6 I went to Lanta's restaurant. MM. Bouvier, Mourot and
Casse arrived. Then Alice. We waited for Charles.
Charles died at 7 o'clock.
The waiter who waits upon me at Lanta's restaurant entered and told me
that somebody wanted to see me. In the ante-chamber I found M. Porte,
who lets the apartment at 13, Rue Saint Maur, that Charles occupied. M.
Porte whispered to me to get Alice, who had followed me, out of the way.
Alice returned to the salon. M. Porte said to me:
"Monsieur be brave. Monsieur Charles--"
"He is dead!"
Dead! I could not believe it. Charles! I leaned against the wall for
M. Porte told me that Charles had taken a cab to go to Lanta's, but had
told the cabman to drive first to the Café de Bordeaux. Arrived at
the Café de Bordeaux, the driver on opening the door of the cab, found
Charles dead. He had been stricken with apoplexy. A number of blood
vessels had burst. He was covered with blood, which issued from his nose
and mouth. The doctor summoned pronounced him dead.
I would not believe it. I said: "It is a lethargy." I still hoped. I
returned to the salon, told Alice that I was going out, but would soon
be back, and ran to the Rue Saint Maur. I had hardly reached there when
they brought Charles.
Alas! my beloved Charles! He was dead.
I went to fetch Alice. What despair!
The two children were asleep.
March 14.--I have read again what I wrote on the morning of the 13th
about the knocking I heard during the night.
Charles has been laid out in the salon on the ground floor of the house
in the Rue Saint Maur. He lies on a bed covered with a sheet which the
women of the house have strewn with flowers. Two neighbours, workingmen
who love me, asked permission to watch by the body all night. The
coroner's physician, on uncovering the dear dead, wept.
I sent to Meurice a telegram couched in the following terms:
Meurice, 18 Rue Valois--
Appalling misfortune. Charles died this evening, 13th. Sudden stroke of
apoplexy. Tell Victor to come back at once.
The Prefect sent this telegram over the official wire.
We shall take Charles with us. Meanwhile he will be placed in the
MM. Alexis Bouvier and Germain Casse are helping me in these
At 4 o'clock Charles was placed in the coffin. I prevented them from
fetching Alice. I kissed the brow of my beloved, then the sheet of lead
was soldered. Next they put the oaken lid of the coffin on and screwed
it down; thus I shall never see him more. But the soul remains. If I did
not believe in the soul I would not live another hour.
I dined with my grandchildren, little Georges and little Jeanne.
I consoled Alice. I wept with her. I said "thou" to her for the first
March 15.--For two nights I have not slept. I could not sleep last
Edgar Quinet came to see me last evening. On viewing Charles's coffin in
the parlor, he said:
"I bid thee adieu, great mind, great talent, great soul, beautiful of
face, more beautiful of thought, son of Victor Hugo!"
We talked together of this great mind that is no more. We were calm. The
night watcher wept as he listened to us.
The Prefect of the Gironde called. I could not receive him.
This morning at 10 o'clock I went to No. 13, Rue Saint Maur. The hearse
was there. MM. Bouvier and Mourot awaited me. I entered the salon. I
kissed the coffin. Then he was taken away. There was one carriage. These
gentlemen and I entered it. Arrived at the cemetery the coffin was taken
from the hearse. Six men carried it. MM. Alexis Bouvier, Mourot and I
followed, bareheaded. It was raining in torrents. We walked behind the
At the end of a long alley of plane trees we found the depository, a
vault lighted only by the door. You descend five or six steps to it.
Several coffins were waiting there, as Charles's will wait. The bearers
entered with the coffin. As I was about to follow, the keeper of the
depository said to me: "No one is allowed to go in." I understood, and I
respected this solitude of the dead. MM. Alexis Bouvier and Mourot took
me back to No. 13, Rue Saint Maur.
Alice was in a swoon. I gave her some vinegar to smell and beat her
hands. She came to, and said: "Charles, where art thou?"
I am overcome with grief.
March 16.--At noon Victor arrived with Barbieux and Louis Mie. We
embraced in silence and wept. He handed me a letter from Meurice and
We decide that Charles shall be buried in the tomb of my father in Père
Lachaise, in the place that I had reserved for myself. I write a letter
to Meurice and Vacquerie in which I announce that I shall leave with
the coffin tomorrow and that we shall arrive in Paris the following day.
Barbieux will leave to-night and take the letter to them.
March 17.--We expect to leave Bordeaux with my Charles at 6 o'clock this
Victor and I, with Louis Mie, fetched Charles from the Depository, and
took him to the railway station.
March 18.--We left Bordeaux at 6.30 in the evening and arrived in Paris
at 10.30 this morning.
At the railway station we were received in a salon where the newspapers,
which had announced our arrival for noon, were handed to me. We waited.
At noon we set out for Père Lachaise. I followed the hearse bareheaded.
Victor was beside me. All our friends followed, the people too. As the
procession passed there were cries of: "Hats off!"
In the Place de la Bastille a spontaneous guard of honour was formed
about the hearse by National Guards, who passed with arms reversed. All
along the line of route to the cemetery battalions of the National Guard
were drawn up. They presented arms and gave the salute to the flag.
Drums rolled and bugles sounded. The people waited till I had passed,
then shouted: "Long live the Republic!"
There were barricades everywhere, which compelled us to make a long
detour. Crowd at the cemetery. In the crowd I recognised Rostan and
Millière, who was pale and greatly moved, and who saluted me. Between
a couple of tombs a big hand was stretched towards me and a voice
exclaimed: "I am Courbet." At the same time I saw an energetical and
cordial face which was smiling at me with tear-dimmed eyes. I shook the
hand warmly. It was the first time that I had seen Courbet.
The coffin was taken from the hearse. Before it was lowered into the
vault I knelt and kissed it. The vault was yawning. A stone had been
raised. I gazed at the tomb of my father which I had not seen since I
was exiled. The cippus has become blackened. The opening was too narrow,
and the stone had to be filed. This work occupied half an hour. During
that time I gazed at the tomb of my father and the coffin of my son. At
last they were able to lower the coffin. Charles will be there with my
father, my mother, and my brother.
Mme. Meurice brought a bunch of white lilac which she placed on
Charles's coffin. Vacquerie delivered an oration that was beautiful and
grand. Louis Mie also bade Charles an eloquent and touching farewell.
Flowers were thrown on the tomb. The crowd surrounded me. They grasped
my hands. How the people love me, and how I love them! An ardent address
of sympathy from the Belleville Club, signed "Millière, president," and
"Avril, secretary," was handed to me.
We went home in a carriage with Meurice and Vacquerie. I am broken with
grief and weariness. Blessings on thee, my Charles!