To the tourist the Grands Boulevards are the most interesting part of Paris, but only to the tourist, though even the sophisticated must realize the attractive dignity of the long stretch of street from the Madeleine to the Place de la Republique. The tourist, be it said, will probably turn round and walk westward again when he reaches the Rue Drouot, and if he is more enterprising, will rarely go beyond the Rue du Faubourg Poissonniere. I know no pleasanter way of spending an hour on a summer’s day than in sitting outside the Cafe de la Paix, opposite the Opera and at the very center of Paris, and just watching the people-people from all sorts of countries and in all sorts of clothes, the foreigners, varying from school-marms from the Middle West to strange Armenians, carrying over their arms the carpets that they never seem to sell-who on earth ever bought a carpet outside a cafe ?-and far outnumbering the native-born Parisians.
To the Parisian the least interesting part of his city must surely be the streets running immediately south from the Opera. The Opera House itself is said to be the largest theatre in the world. It was opened in 1875, taking the place of the theatre in the Rue Le Peletier that was burned down in 1873. On January 14, 1858, Orsini, ” a bearded man from the Romagna,” waited patiently outside this earlier Opera House for the arrival of Napoleon III. and the Empress Eugenie, who were to attend a performance of ” William Tell.” As the imperial carriage drew up three bombs were thrown, and the lights went out, and the streets were filled with broken glass. Neither the Emperor nor the Empress was hurt. They were received with vociferous enthusiasm as they entered their box, and again as they drove back to the Tuileries. The incident has both human and political interest. Orsini was a fervent Italian Nationalist. ” His reasoning was confused,” says Mr. Guedalla, ” but it followed closely the teaching of Mazzini and the normal course of political conversation in back rooms in Soho.” He had convinced himself in some queer way that Italy would never be free until Napoleon was killed. Hence the bombs outside the Opera House. Politically the incident was important, because it caused vehement protest in France against the harbouring of political conspirators in England according to the right of asylum so dear to the hearts of nineteenth-century Liberals, and the protest was the beginning of a coolness between the two countries, which grew more and more dangerous until the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Napoleon, by the way, strangest of men who ever wore a crown, with his entire incapacity for resentment, actually supplied the avocat who defended Orsini with a letter received by him from the would-be assassin, which was read in court, and made the foolish fellow appear something of a patriot.
In front of the idler sipping an aperitif outside the Cafe de la Paix, is the Rue de la Paix with its shop windows full of costly goods which no one really need buy, and the street is only really humanly interesting at the hours when it is filled with the chattering little midinettes who are the true Parisiennes and far more attractive than the millionairesses from North and South America who buy the goods that they make.
The Place Vendome, at the bottom of the Rue de la Paix, was originally laid out as a monument to the glory of the armies of the Grand Monarque. It was first called Place des Conquetes, to be renamed Place Louis le Grand, when a statue of the King was set up in it. Napoleon erected the column in the centre of the square, made out of cannon taken from all the armies of Europe. After the Restoration the statue of the Emperor was pulled down from the top of the column and remoulded into the statue of Henri IV., which is now on the Pont Neuf. Another statue of the Corsican, however, was erected by LouisPhilippe, and a better one by Louis-Napoleon. The column was pulled down by the Communards and set up again in the early days of the Third Republic when Marshal MacMahon was President. Few monuments have had so chequered a history.
The Place Vendome nowadays is famous for its fashionable and most expensive hotels. The Ritz is like all other fashionable and expensive hotels, and its most attractive figure is the hall porter, who speaks every language on earth and has much better manners than most princes. The Bristol, where King Edward generally stopped when he was in Paris, had more history and atmosphere. It was here that the Japanese Delegation was housed during the Paris Peace Conference, and where I have seen strange gentlemen of all colours waiting in the hall to consult with the representatives of the nation generally, and perhaps menacingly, regarded as the chief protagonist in the revolt against the domination of the whites.
It might be suggested by the sardonic that the prices at modern hotels, and the fleecing of the traveller, are in accord with the traditions of the Place Vendome, which was the home, at the height of his splendour, of that amazing financial adventurer, John Law, who during the Regency that followed the death of Louis XIV. became the financial autocrat of France, juggling with paper money and Mississippi shares with such extraordinary deftness that, in 1719, all France was happy and prosperous, and in 1720 all France was unhappy and practically bankrupt.
In a small flat on the Place Vendome a very beautiful adventuress, who in her time created no little stir in the world, spent the last years of her life in solitude, behind closed shutters and drawn curtains, with all the mirrors carefully covered in order that she might not be horrified by the sight of the wreck of her beauty. She was the Countess Virginie de Castiglione, one of the beauties of the Second Empire, who lived for twenty-nine years after that Empire had come to an end. The Countess was an Italian who made her appearance at the Tuileries in 1855. It is said that she had been one of the many mistresses of Victor Emmanuel, and that she had been sent to Paris by Cavour to attract the Emperor and if possible to persuade him into an alliance with Piedmont against the Austrians. But though Louis-Napoleon had many ” indiscretions,” the only woman who had any political influence over him was the Empress, and her influence was disastrous. As a matter of fact, Madame de Castiglione’s intrigue with Napoleon III. apparently only lasted about a year. She has been described as ambitious without grace, and haughty without reason, a woman infatuated with her own beauty which she was always willing very generously to exhibit. When her beauty faded there was nothing left for her. These are the memories of the Place Vendome-the pillar whose story is the story of the changing governments of France throughout a century ; the Scotch financier today the idol of princes and people, tomorrow chased into exile ; the brainless old woman hiding behind curtains, ceaselessly mourning her lost beauty; and furtive coloured men in the foyer of a modern hotel, waiting to whisper their grievances into the ears of suave statesmen from the Far East.
Chopin died in a house on the Place Vendome. Ten years before the masterful George Sand had practically kidnapped the Polish composer and dragged him off to Majorca. No man had any chance with George Sand, who first met Chopin at the end of her episode with Alfred de Musset, of which Swinburne wittily said : ” Alfred was a terrible flirt and George did not behave as a perfect gentleman.” The story of the liaison has been told by them both in two extraordinarily human books, Confessions d’un enfant du siecle and Elle et Lui. The Abbe Liszt said of George Sand and her lovers : ” George Sand catches her butterfly and tames it in her cage by feeding it on flowers and nectar-this is the love period. Then she sticks her pin into it when it strugg!es-that is the conge, and it always comes from her. Afterwards she vivisects it, stuffs it, and adds it to her collection of heroes for novels.”
There was a good deal of the mother in George Sand, and she certainly mothered Chopin whom she first knew when he was a dying man. And it is not without a touch of irony that in his last days he sent to Poland for his sister that he might die in her arms and not in those of the masterful novelist.
I stroll back again to the Opera. The boulevards are streets of cafes and newspaper kiosks. Perhaps the most interesting of the cafes is the Napolitain, on the right-hand side, where English and French journalists used to foregather at a table at which no ordinary French client was ever allowed to sit. Here and there on the Grands Boulevards, between the cafes and the kiosks, are some of the city’s most famous theatres, the best-known of which, perhaps, is the Porte St. Martin, where the great Coquelin was rehearsing when he died.. I met Coquelin two or three times. He was a kindly, gracious gentleman, with none of the affectations of the stage and with a very wide knowledge of life. He had been one of Gambetta’s intimate friends. Coquelin was a Boulonnais, and there is still a French-English journalist living in London who was a schoolfellow of his in Boulogne.
On the right-hand side of the boulevards, down the Rue Vivienne, is the Bourse, as ugly a building as the temple of Mammon should be. The Committee of the London Stock Exchange is very wise in forbidding the public to enter the place where bulls and bears buy and sell. There is a public gallery in the Paris Bourse, and it is a most uncomfortable experience to look down from it and to watch one’s fellow-creatures shouting and howling and gesticulating in the excitement of money-making. There is something suggestive in the fact that the Paris Bourse is built on the site of an ancient convent.
The Porte St. Denis and the Porte St. Martin, marking the old gateways of Paris and commemorating two of the saints of France, are pleasant if somewhat incongruous features of the boulevards with their garish modernity, and near them on the north side, rather beyond the limits of fashion, is the Restaurant Marguery whose founder made a fortune by the invention of sole Marguery. When I knew him he was a very old gentleman with white whiskers and a courtly manner who regularly went from table to table asking his clients if they were being properly served, and treating them as old friends of the family. He sold his restaurant and. retired, but the trade dropped so heavily when his presence was no longer there, that he received a large salary to return and continue his gracious enquiries.
The Place de la Republique is a noisy, ugly open space. Arrived there, the wanderer will probably proceed southward down the Boulevard du Temple to the Place de la Bastille, the site of the famous prison. The taking of the Bastille was the first act of the drama of the Revolution. To the revolutionists, as Carlyle says, ” it was tyranny’s stronghold.” Its fall in 1789 was the end of Bourbonism, but the legend of the Bastille is mainly legend, and despite Dickens and The Tale of Two Cities the prison was really a very humane institution, where the aristocrat sent into retirement with a lettre de cachet had, as a rule, by no means a bad time.
South of the Place de la Republique is the district of Paris which used to be called the Marais, the home of high birth and fashion, until in the eighteenth century they migrated across the river to the Faubourg St. Germain. The centre of the district is the Temple which, like the Temple in London, has its name from the fact that it was the headquarters of the Knights Templars. Until the Revolution it was a place of refuge, an Alsatia, and here for a fortnight at the end of 1765, Rousseau stayed in an apartment prepared for him by the Prince de Conti. Though he was proscribed and in danger of arrest, Rousseau was visited by a stream of distinguished callers, including David Hume. ” I have visitors of all estates,” he wrote, ” from the moment I get up to the time I go to bed ; I am forced even to dress in public. I have never suffered so much in my life.” On August 13, 1792, Louis XVI. and his wife and family were taken to the Temple Prison amid shouts of Vive la nation. There he spent four quiet months, giving lessons to his son, playing at draughts, walking in the garden. ” He is not of lively feelings,” comments Carlyle, ” and he is of a devout heart.” In January 1793 the king had his last interview in the Temple with Marie Antoinette and his children. He was calm, she was furiously indignant. ” Vous etes tous des scelerats,” she said as she passed through the anteroom.
The fate of the little Dauphin is still a mystery. He was handed over to the tender mercies of one Simon, a gaoler of the Temple Prison, who, Carlyle says, ” taught him to drink and swear and to sing the I Carmagnole.’ ” He was brought up in squalor, ” his shirt not changed for six months,” and it is almost certain that in the Temple he died.
The Temple was entirely pulled down in 1854, and the site is now a market mainly for the sale of gaudy articles de Paris and cheap old and new clothing.
The streets of the old Marais in the neighbourhood of the Temple are full of historical interest, and the foreigner, eager to know something of the romance and history of the city in which he is staying, must certainly not neglect the Musee Carnavalet. Among the many famous persons who have dwelt in the district, two in particular appeal to me. One is a quite unknown breeches-maker who, in 1792, wrote the famous revolutionary song the ” Carmagnole,” that ” saucy, rollicking, explosive, diabolic chanson ” as it was called, hardly less famous than the ” Marseillaise ” and which, in a dozen different versions, is always sung when the Parisian is out for trouble. There was an Anarchist version popular twenty years ago in Paris, one verse of which was as follows :
Il y a les senateurs gateux,
II y a les deputes vereux,
Il y a les generaux,
Assassins et bourreaux,
Bouchers en uniforme,
Vive le son, vive le son,
Bouchers en uniforme,
Vive le son
I do not suggest that English Socialists should adopt the ” Carmagnole,” but it is certainly far gayer than their lugubrious ” Red Flag.”
A greater and far more famous poet, Beranger, lived and died in the street that now bears his name. He also played his part in revolutions, for his song, ” Le Vieux Drapeau,” was being chanted by the mob when Charles X. was chased from Paris in 1830. The Vieux Drapeau was the tricolour of the Revolution and Napoleon, the New Drapeau was the fleur de lis reintroduced into France by the Bourbons, the white flag, ” un drapeau,” says the old Napoleonic serjeant, ” que je ne connais pas.” Beranger began life as a waiter in an inn kept by his aunt at Peronne. Coming to Paris he had the usual poet’s experience of semi-starvation, at one time only possessing ` three bad shirts which a friendly hand wearied itself in endeavouring to mend,” until he found a patron in Lucien Bonaparte. Soon his songs were sung all over France. As Robert Louis Stevenson has said, ” He was the only poet of modern times who could altogether have dispensed with printing.”
On the border of the Marais is the Place des Vosges where, at number six, is the Musee Victor Hugo. To an apartment in that handsome house the poet with his wife and four children moved from the Rue de Vaugirard in October 1832, and there he stayed until the Revolution of 1848. The Place des Vosges, originally the Place Royale, and during the Revolution the Place de l’Indivisibilite, was laid out by Henri IV., and in a few years became the rival of the Marais as the most fashionable quarter in Paris. In older days the old Palace des Tournelles, the home of the French kings before the building of the Louvre, stood here, and in its courtyard Henri II., the husband of Catherine de Medicis, was killed in a tournament in 1565. Catherine sincerely loved her husband to whom she had been married when she was a girl of fifteen, although he treated her with cold indifference and she had to endure the constant presence of Diane de Poitiers, whose influence with Henri was supreme. In sorrow for the king’s death, Catherine demolished the Palais des Tournelles, and the site was for some time used as a horse -market. Catherine lived a widow for twenty-five years, to die the best-hated woman in Europe. ” But what could a poor woman have done,” Henri IV. once said to one of her critics, ” with her husband dead and five little children on her hands, while two families were striving to seize the throne, our own and the Guises ? I am astonished that she did not do even worse.”
Victor Hugo was thirty when he moved to the Place des Vosges. Hernani had been produced at the Theatre Francais three years before, and he had just published Notre – Dame de Paris and Feuilles d’automne. He was famous and well-to-do, and he filled the rooms in his new home with costly tapestries and fine furniture, some of which he made with his own hands. In the Place des Vosges he began to collect the circle of flatterers which he contrived to retain to the end of his long life. With prosperity had come a certain grossness. ” The world and his waistcoat are not wide enough to contain the glory of Victor Hugo or his corpulence,” said Theophile Gautier. Mme. Hugo was an odd woman-” a little sallow lady with dark flashing eyes,” Dickens described her, devoted to her children, tolerant of her very trying husband, attracted by but certainly not passionately in love with Sainte-Beuve. ” I am not loved as I would fain be loved,” he confessed; ” I dream of love and I have not attained it.”
Soon after the settlement in the Place des Vosges, Hugo began his liaison with Juliette Drouet, whom he met during the rehearsals of Lucrezia Borgia at the Theatre Porte St. Martin. Their love story is one of the most curious ever written. Juliette was just the ordinary, recklessly extravagant, immoral woman. For ten years at least before she knew the poet she had lived under the protection of one lover after another. Hugo, on the other hand, had hitherto been insensible to the provocative charms of actress and cocotte. He described himself as un homme tranquille et seriettx and, despite his infatuation for Juliette, her extravagance exasperated him. But soon the greatest of the romantics carne to regard Juliette as a sinner who could be saved by love. And he set himself to the task with enthusiasm. His mistress was compelled to live in a small flat with a very small income and without a servant. She was forbidden to go out unless her lover was there to escort her. As the years went on she had to endure the humiliation of knowing that he was constantly unfaithful to her. She was so poor that she sometimes could not afford a fire. She grew fat for want of exercise. And she endured it all, because of her amazing devotion. Right through the period when Hugo lived in the Place des Vosges, Juliette lived this life of a recluse, forbidden to act, poor, lonely, with an occasional treat of a few days in the country with her lover. But the cure was successful, and the courtesan was saved. Rarely even has a poet been loved as Juliette loved Victor Hugo. Her letters are wonderful human documents. In one of them she wrote :
” This is my birthday. You did not even know itor, rather, I dare say you do not care whether I was ever born or not. Is it true that you do not mind one little bit ?
That is all the importance you attach to my love ! And yet one thing is very certain : that I was created and put into the world solely to love you, and God knows with what ardour I fulfil my mission.”
In the following year she wrote :
” Farewell, dear soul ; it is impossible to wish an increase of beauty to the man or more glory to the genius ; so, if you are happy, so am I.”
” You failed me again last night, so I shall never count upon you again. I loved you with all my strength and thought of you even in my sleep. This morning I love you with my whole soul, and heartily long for you, but I know you will not come, so I am cross and sad.”
Sometimes she protested. ” We are not living in the East, and you have not bought me, thank Heaven.” But she soon returned to the note of adoration. I quote from a letter written when the love affair was more than a dozen years old :
” I have just watched you go with inexpressible sadness, my sweet and beautiful beloved. With you have departed the sunshine, the flowers, the pleasant thoughts, the hopes that link past happiness with future bliss.”
Juliette died in 1883. The last years of her life were a martyrdom of pain. She had followed Hugo into exile. She had become his never-failing slave, and a few days before her death she wrote :
” Dear adored one, I do not know where I may be this time next year, but I am proud and happy to sign my lifecertificate for 1883 with one word : I love you.”
Hugo’s pockets must have been full of Juliette’s letters when he lived in the Place des Vosges. Many of his most charming lyrics were inspired by her love, but her fulsome adulation had the very worst effect on the character of a man notable for colossal conceit.
In the Place des Vosges period Hugo wrote Ruy Blas, and was elected to the French Academy and, in 1845, having lost most of his republican fervour and having made friends with Louis -Philippe, whom he had formerly violently attacked, he was created a peer of France. To these years, too, belongs one of his failures, the play called Les Burgruves, which caused Balzac to write : ” Victor Hugo has never got further than being an enfant sublime, and that is all that he ever will be, always the same childish folly of prisons and coffins and a thousand ridiculous absurdities.”
It was in the Place des Vosges that Hugo wrote his political testament with its grandiloquent phrases, in which he says of himself : ” I am the thinker who is the friend of the toiler ; I am the toiler who is the friend of the thinker.” The last year in the Place des Vosges was saddened by the drowning of his daughter Leopoldine, delightfully described as ” the freshest and the pearliest of all her father’s ballads.”
When the Revolution of 1848 occurred Victor Hugo had lost much of his prestige. No party was sure of him. Lamartine, a rival poet, was the popular hero. Hugo confessed that he was not even a Republican, and his house was too dangerously near the Rue St. Antoine where so many revolutions have begun. So he moved. There is a rather piquant contemporary description of Mme. Hugo as she was in 1848:
” Madame Victor Hugo is a large woman, with great flamboyant eyes, black arched eyebrows, and a nose audaciously aquiline, lips of an eloquent fulness, a spherical bust, and prominent hips, with crimped and curly locks of ebony straying; in every direction, the whole constituting a sort of beauty which, if I were to meet it on a dark night, would make me take to my heels and fly.”
This is rather a contrast to Dickens’s impression which I have already quoted. The house in which the Hugos lived, by the way, had been the home of Marion Delorme, the mistress of Richelieu, who himself lived in the Place before building, the Palais- Cardinal.
The literary associations of the Place des Vosges are not confined to Victor Hugo. At number eleven, Mme. de Sevigne, the greatest of all letter-writers, was born in 1626. All writers of literary letters since Mme. de Sevigne have, says Professor Saintsbury,. ” imitated her more or less directly, more or less consciously.” Her letters supply the intimate history of France in the latter part of the seventeenth century.
Mme. de Sevigne’s grandfather was a convert of St. Francis de Sales, while he was in Paris, and the association with the patron-saint of men of letters is interesting. She lived for a while in a house in the Place Royale, as it was then called, after her husband’s death in 1651, and before she set up her famous establishment in the Hotel Carnavalet. While she was there she was within a stone’s throw of the house of Ninon de l’Enclos in the Rue des Tournelles. Mme. de Sevigne’s husband and son both had affairs with Ninon, her husband wasting a good deal of his wife’s money on that fascinating lady-an amazing woman who retained her charm to the end of her days, and had her last love affair when she was eighty!
Ninon remained in the Rue des Tournelles until a few years before her death, and she entertained there all the wonderful Paris of her time. In her salon, Moliere read his Tartufe to an assemblage that included Racine, la Fontaine, and the musician Lully, great princes like Conde, and ladies of the real world like Mme. de Sevigne and Mme. Scarron, afterwards Mme. de Maintenon and the solemn wife of the Puritan old age of Louis XIV. SainteBeuve says of Ninon de l’Enclos : ” She was a living example of vice carried on with intelligence and wit and softened by virtue.”
In some of the earlier of her letters Mme. de Sevigne’s references to Ninon are naturally caustic, but she never could quite conceal her admiration. In one of them she says : ” In spite of her wit, which I will certainly admit is admirable, the thread of insolence that runs through Ninon’s conversation is wellnigh insufferable.”
After she had moved from the Rue des Tournelles to a house on the Quai facing the Tuileries, de l’Enclos, then well over eighty, had her often-told meeting with Voltaire, who was then seven or eight years old. He was a pupil at the Jesuit College of Clermont, and his father had a flat on the floor above that of the great courtesan. One day their servant let the fire go out and the small boy came down to ask for some red-hot cinders. He found Ninon in the kitchen, for cooking was amongst her accomplishments, making a partridge pasty for lunch, and the acquaintance thus begun resulted in the future philosopher receiving a bequest of two thousand francs with which to begin buying his library.
Many stories are told of Ninon’s wit. In her youth the Queen Mother, scandalised by her successes, sent a lettre de cachet ordering her to retire into a religious house. But no particular house was mentioned. Ninon read the letter and said to the officer who brought it : ” Since the Queen is so good as to leave the choice of a house to me, will you tell her that I select the monastery of the Franciscan monks in Paris.” The officer, astounded by her effrontery, had not a word to say, and the Queen thought her answer so funny that she left her alone.
The latter part of the reign of Louis XIV. was an age of great writers, the age of Port Royal and an intense interest in religion-does not Mme. de Sevigne declare that it was tout propre a inspirer le desir de faire son salut ?-an age, too, when monde and demi-monde met on equal, sometimes cordial, terms.
At number thirteen Place des Vosges the great tragedienne Rachel lived at the end of her life, and here after her death in 1858 her clothes and furniture were sold by public auction. Rachel was the daughter of a poor Jewish pedlar, and as a child she and her sister sang in the Paris streets. Seven years after her arrival from the provinces she made her debut at the Theatre Francais. She lives in theatrical history as the creator of Adrienne Lecouvreur, a play specially written for her by Legouve. Rachel had all the instincts of her race for commercial bargaining. Once, so the story goes, she noticed a guitar in the studio of one of her friends. ” Give me that guitar,” she said, ” people will think it is the one with which I earned my living on the Place Royale and on the Place de la Bastille.” And as such she afterwards sold it to a dealer for a thousand louis.
Theophile Gautier and Alphonse Daudet both lived at number eight Place des Vosges. The de Goncourts described Gautier’s apartment as ” a jumble of odds and ends, like the rooms of an elderly retired actress who has only become possessed of pictures on the bankruptcy of her Italian manager.” When Victor Hugo’s Hernani was first produced Gautier was one of the young enthusiastic romanticists who made the occasion a demonstration against the trammels of the classic tradition, derisively dancing round the bust of Racine in the foyer of the Theatre Francais. He must have been an amazing sight in those days, with a great shock of hair and a flaming red waistcoat, worn to epater la bourgeoisie. Unlike Hugo, Gautier was entirely uninterested in politics, as he was, Professor Saintsbury reminds us, in religion, morals, science or material progress. He was just an industrious and versatile man of letters, and incidentally a supreme master of French style.
The Place des Vosges is full of Dumas memories. At number six, d’Artagnan visited that terrifying lady, Miladi, the predecessor of the cinema vamp, and it was in the Place that he and the three musketeers met once again in Twenty Years After. Much of the action of La Comtesse de Charny takes place in the Place.
What a fascinating place of remembrances ! Richelieu coming by stealth to visit Marion Delorme ; Mme. de Sevigne, a little sad at heart, either at her husband’s or her son’s philandering with Ninon round the corner ; St. Vincent de Paul, who was the director of the nuns at the convent at number seventeen ; Hugo, the affectionate husband, with Juliette’s last love letters in his pockets ; Rachel hurrying to the Theatre Francais ; Gautier, Daudet-and d’Artagnan, the greatest immortal of them all.
A short walk westward from the Place des Vosges along the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and the Rue de Rambuteau, brings the wanderer to the Halles Centrales. A city’s markets are always an indication of the character of its people. The Halles Centrales are very much like any other market during the hours when the country carts are delivering their produce and the wholesale buyers are purchasing for their shops. It is in the later hours when madame goes shopping, attended by her neat bonne, with the inevitable string bag, that the Paris markets are full of suggestion for the observant foreigner. In England the shopkeeper sells in the way that pleases him best. In France the shopkeeper sells in the way that suits the buyer best. The English butcher, for example, sells as much bone as possible with his meat. The French housewife would decline to buy bone that she did not require, and so the joints are cut to the advantage of the buyer rather than of the seller. In the same way the salad that is bought can all be eaten. Everything, indeed, is done in Paris to make shopping pleasant, and it is all due to the French passion for thrift. In most English households Saturday morning is devoted to buying food for the week. In France the housewife buys each day for the day, and nothing is left over for the next day. If there are cupboards in French flats, they are always bare in the morning.
In 1770 Jean-Jacques Rousseau was permitted to return to Paris with Therese le Vasseur, the kitchen wench with whom he had lived for twenty-seven years, and the woman whom Voltaire scornfully described as the vachine. They took up their residence near the Halles in the Rue Plastriere, now the Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Rousseau stayed there until 1778, when he removed to the cottage at Ermenonville, where he died. In the Rue Plastriere he finished the Confessions, which he had begun in England, and wrote the Dialogues.
Jean-Jacques was a bewildering and most unattractive person, an adventurer, content to be the amant de coeur of a rich woman ; a touchy, thin-skinned creature who quarrelled with Diderot, with Grimm, with Voltaire, with David Hume ; an ego-maniac eager to appear a worse sinner than he was, and inventing stories of aban doning babes who had never been born. ” Rousseau,” says Sainte-Beuve, ” whenever his diseased self-love and morbid vanity are concerned, has no scruples about lying.”
With all this Rousseau is one of the few writers who have had an immediate and direct effect on the history of the world. His influence was infinitely greater than that of Voltaire and all the other eighteenth-century philosophers put together. His Contrat Social was the Bible of the French Revolution, and Robespierre was his disciple. And whatever else he was, Rousseau was a great literary artist. Sainte-Beuve says :
” Le jour ou il se decouvrit tout entier a lui-meme, il revcla du meme coup a son siecle l’ecrivain le plus fait pour exprimer avec nouveaute, avec vigueur, avec une logique melee de fiamme, les idees confuses qui s’agitaient et qui voulaient naitre. Depuis Jean-Jacques c’est dans la forme de langage etablie et creee par lui que nos plus grands ecrivains ont jete leurs propres innovations et qu’ils ont tente de rencherir . . . je n’ai pu indiquer qu’en courant dans l’auteur des Confessions les grands cotes par lesquels il demeure un Maitre-que saluer le createur de la reverie, celui qui nous inocule le sentiment de la nature et le sens de la realite, le pere de la litterature intime et de la peinture intime,-quel dommage que 1’orgueil misanthropique s’y mele ; et que des tons cyniques fassent taches au milieu de tant de beautes charmantes et solides ! ”
It is a good and true description-le pere de la litterature intime. And Mr. Saintsbury has said : ” He has achieved absolute perfection in doing what he intended to do. The reader may think that he might have done something else with advantage, but he can hardly think that he could have done this thing better.”
La Fontaine was buried in the church of St. Eustache, near the Halles, and Mirabeau’s body lay in state there before being carried to the Pantheon.
We turn eastward again, first going south from the Boulevard de Sebastopol to the Rue de Rivoli. Near the Hotel de Ville, a modern building finished in 1883, the old town hall with its wealth of historic interest having been destroyed during the troubles of 1871, is the great church of St. Gervais. It is dedicated to the two brothers, Gervasius and Protarius, martyred in Rome by Nero, whose bones were brought to Paris by St. Germain. In 1652 the poet Scarron, a sick man of forty-two, who gained an exiguous living by writing the witty Mazarinades at the expense of the Cardinal, was married to Francoise d’Aubigne, a girl of seventeen. Francoise had had a hard childhood, and for her there was no choice but the poet Scarron or a convent. Her father was a conscienceless adventurer, the son of one of the fiercest of the Huguenot leaders, always in trouble with the authorities. He had been married in a prison and his daughter was born in a prison, her mother never showing her the smallest affection. But Francoise had inherited her grandfather’s character, *his strength and his sternness, and pitiful as were her beginnings, she was to live to be Mme. de Maintenon, wife of the King of France.
Still going eastward the wanderer is back again on the Place de la Bastille and the Faubourg St. Antoine which, far more than Montmartre, far more than the Quartier Latin, has been the birthplace of revolution and emeutes, probably because it is the home of ugliness and poverty, and consequently of discontent. It was in the Faubourg St. Antoine that the Defarges had their wine-shop in Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities. I quote the English novelist’s description of the Faubourg as it was at the end of the eighteenth century :
” The darkness of it was heavy-cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, and want were the lords in waiting on the saintly presence-nobles of great power all of them ; but, most especially the last. Samples of a people that had undergone a terrible grinding and regrinding in the mill, and certainly not in the fabulous mill which ground old people young, shivered at every corner, passed in and out at every doorway, looked from every window, fluttered in every vestige of a garment that the wind shook. The mill which had worked them down was the mill that grinds young people old ; the children had ancient faces and grave voices ; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed into every furrow of age and coming up afresh was the sign, Hunger.”
Beyond the Place de la Nation and of course outside the city boundary is the Bois de Vincennes, little known to the tourist, but with the charm that belongs to all the woods with which Paris is surrounded. There was a royal Chateau at Vincennes before the Revolution, a chateau sometimes used as a prison. Here the great Henri IV. was imprisoned in 1574 for plotting with his wretched brotherin – law d’Alencon against Charles IX. and the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medicis. His imprisonment was neither long nor onerous, Henri obtaining pardon, partly through an admirable defence drawn up by his wife, Marguerite de Valois, and partly by showing appropriate penitence. In his interview with Catherine de Medicis ” he wept most piteously, shedding hot tears for his innocence.” He was not innocent, but Henri of Navarre was an admirable actor.
Diderot, the philosopher, was imprisoned in Vincennes in 1749 after the publication of his pamphlet, Lettre sur les czveugles, and it was during this imprisonment that he began to plan the great Encyclopaedia. A few years later, in 1777, Mirabeau was imprisoned at Vincennes by a lettre de cachet. His offence was an elopement with another man’s wife. He spent his three and a half years in a characteristic way, writing extraordinarily obscene letters, and compiling a series of valuable political treatises on lettres de cachet. All the great figures of the French Revolution have been coloured for us by the genius of Carlyle, and to Carlyle Mirabeau was ” a tempestuous volcano of a man, the aristocratic forerunner of Danton.” As a matter of fact he was a great political philosopher who might have guided France from autocracy to Parliamentarianism if Marie Antoinette had been less obstinate and. Louis XVI. less stupid. He was also a typical Frenchman of his own sceptical age. During his visit to England he shocked the highly conscientious Whig, Sir Samuel Romilly, by declaring that there were often occasions when la petite morale dtait ennemi de la grande.
The Place de la Nation was the Place du Trone until the Revolution, when it was ironically renamed La Place du Trone Renverse. One thousand three hundred and forty men and women were guillotined on the Place de la Nation during the Terror, the most distinguished of them being the poet Andre Chenier, whose verse was the one important contribution to French literature in the long period between Voltaire and Hugo. Chenier was half a Greek and was born in Constantinople in 1762,-the naturalised Greek, by the way, is an interesting figure in . the history of French literature, the poet Moreas being perhaps the most notable of the later Franco-Greek writers. Chenier was in London in 1787 as secretary to the French Ambassador, and it is sometimes said that as a poet he was influenced by Milton and Thomson. But he hated England -nation toute a vendre a qui peut la payer-and he went back in 1790 to the Paris of the early days of the Revolution. Chenier was as keen a politician as Lamartine in the next century. He was a fervent Constitutionalist, writing an ode to Charlotte Corday, in which he congratulated France that thanks to her un scelerat de moins rampe dans cette fange. Thanks to his brother, who was a member of the Convention, he managed to escape arrest for some time, living in seclusion in Versailles, but he fell into the hands of the Terrorists on March 7, 1794, and was guillotined on July 25, one of the very last of Robespierre’s victims. Chenier has been described by no less authority than Sainte-Beuve as the first of the French Romantics. As a matter of fact, he was the last of the Classicists. To Hugo and his fellows a poet was une force qui va, to Chenier a poet was une abeille industrieuse. Chenier, the poet, was in every way the child of the age of the philosophers. He shared their faith that the world could be saved by knowledge :
Souvent mon vol, arme des ailes du Buffon,
Franchit avec Lucrece, au flambeau de Newton,
La ceinture d’azur sur le globe etendue.