THE Porte Monumentale of the Exposition of 1900, with which Paris ushered in the twentieth century, was preeminently typical of the French capital in all its splendor. At night it was a blaze of wonderful illumination that dominated the entire panorama with its resplendent glow. Three thousand electric lamps flashed from its arches and minarets ; from its dome great search-lights swept over vast spaces, throwing into high relief the towers of the Trocadéro; the stately Arc de Triomphe ; the dome of the Palais du .Justice ; the broad boulevards and avenues ; the Place de la Concorde, with its groups of sculpture and its obelisk ; or the new decorative bridge with its colossal bronze figures and lamps,the Pont Alexandre III. The Porte Monumentale was crowned by a dome on which stood a statue of Paris, personified as a young girl in a ballgown, with one hand outstretched to welcome her guests. No conception could be more typical of the French metropolis. Paris enthroned on the globe, as the city that hath all things under her feet, regally welcoming the nations to her gracious and splendid hospitalities, embodied, indeed, the national conception of France. To her legions of guests, she threw open her treasure-houses of art, her laboratories of science, her ingenious inventions, gazing upon the throngs with the radiant serenity of a being just descended from the Morning Star. Even that the statue personifying Paris was arrayed in a ballgown (at which the artists smiled) was indicative of that spirit of gaiety and indefinable charm which characterizes and pervades the most delightful of European capitals. The very genius of the French was epitomized in the symbolism of the Porte Monumentale. The airy wit and grace; the just pride in learning, in culture, in beauty ; the sense of an easy dominance, so secure it need not unduly emphasize its claim ; the intimation, above all, that of course Paris stands with the world under her feet, lofty, resplendent and profoundly significant in her unparalleled destiny. Quoute From Victor Hugo:
“What though the bough beneath thee break? Remember, thou hast wings!”
Interprets the very spirit that animates the Parisians. On the ruins of one achievement they have ever built another, far more glorious. Their supreme achievement is civilization. Through wars, they have acquired the arts of peace. They know how to dress, to dine, to dance. But these accomplishments are not merely attitudinizing ; the Parisian knows how to live. Every form of animated nature may know how to exist ; but the knowledge that enables a city to live is of a far different order. M. Guizot, writing the ” History of Civilization ” in an impressive series of volumes, contrives to reveal to the reader the infinite complexity and comprehensiveness of the art of living,the finest of all the fine arts. Civilization suggests a mysterious development and a perpetual progress. The French manage all complex details with skill and ingenuity. Devastated by war and tumult, and the clamor of destructive mobs, Paris has always arisen and reasserted herself by new achievements and nobler extensions. Under François I (1515-1547) Paris was a city of only three hundred thousand inhabitants. The Palais du Louvre, the Hôtel de Ville and Saint Eustache were partly finished, when (under Charles IX in 1572) came the tragic massacre of Saint Bartholomew; but with the opening of the reign of Henri IV, these structures were completed, and under Louis XIII were built the Luxembourg, the church of Saint Roch, the Palais Royal. The royal printing works were founded, and also the Académie Française. The civil war of the Fronde again wrought destruction, but under Louis XIV new thoroughfares were made, street lighting introduced ; art and literature flourished ; libraries, academies and the Observatoire were erected, and drama and music received a great impetus. The French genius has wings. As the bough breaks, as one foundation crumbles, a higher plane is attained. Louis XV came to his throne in a city numbering nearly six hundred thousand inhabitants, and during his long reign (1715-1774) the Panthéon and Saint Sulpice were built. Already had the Jardin des Tuileries and the Colonnade along the Rue de Rivoli been completed, and the spacious Place de la Concorde was now laid out. Then came the terrors of the Revolution, with its frightful destruction, in the shadow of which the nineteenth century dawned ; but again, under Napoleon I, the embellishments and the extension of the city went forward with renewed ardor. The sumptuous Arc de Triomphe originated in this period, 1804-1814, and the Colonne Vendôme. Several new bridges, numerous public fountains, and the Arc du Carrousel remained as monuments of this time. A large number of new streets were laid out ; and the sunny prosperity of Paris was unbroken throughout the dynasty of Louis-Philippe. Paris entered on her world wide prestige as a centre of artistic and scientific activities. Victor Hugo, Balzac, Thiers and Lamartine were the leaders of literature. Railroads were established. During the Third Empire, under Napoleon III. (1850-1870), the progress of Paris was characterized by an unparalleled magnificence of energy. The very myths of Theocritus were exemplified. Paris presented a transformation scene. Great numbers of narrow streets and many houses were swept away to be magically replaced by broad boulevards and noble architecture. Many new churches were built, and bridges as well ; the Grand Opera House was erected, and a city government perfected.
Another crisis came with the Commune. The Hôtel de Ville and the Tuileries were burned ; the imposing Colonne Vendôme was torn down. A portion of the beautiful city lay in ashes. But true to her innate genius, out of destruction rose construction ; out of loss and disaster were created anew the splendor of a greater prosperity and deeper grasp on life. A new and more sumptuous Hôtel de Ville was built ; the Opera House was completed, and the gem of Paris, the Avenue de l’Opéra, was laid out.
The ineffable charm of looking down upon this brilliant thoroughfare from the balconied windows of the Hôtel Bellevue, with the stately architectural pile of the Grand Opera house, with its splendor of statues in gilded bronze and its great dome, at the head of the avenue, while the vast palace of the Musées du Louvre are at its foot, is something that the sojourner can never forget. It is akin to looking down on the Grand Canal in Venice from palace balconies above. At night one may draw his chair outside the window and even read by this wonderful flood of electric light from lamps that hang in air like the full moon. All the infinite vitality and sparkle of Paris is focussed in the splendid Avenue de l’Opéra with its wealth of art and literature,paintings, sculpture, bric-à-brac, gleaming through the plate-glass windows that line the thoroughfare. One may stroll up the avenue on a night when grand opera is presentedas it is three nights each week during the entire summer, and a walk of less than five minutes brings him within the resplendent foyer of the opera house ; or, within ten minutes, one easily strolls down the avenue to the Théâtre Français and to the Louvre ; while the Brentano book house next door to the Bellevue, lends to the book-lover its facilities, with its vast collection of imported books. Thus one finds a lovely niche to grow in, so to speak, in the very heart of all that is most artistic and lovely in the French Capital.
The Exposition of 1878 afforded a comprehensive survey of the status of the arts, inventions, and sciences, as then attained. The Tour Eiffel was erected. Paris fairly entered on her unique place among all large cities as a spectacle of the world,a city
” To sow futurity with seeds of thought And count the passage of the festive hours.”
It is difficult to account for these festive hours as so peculiarly belonging to Paris, but the fact is acknowledged by all. Other great cities and capitals are rich, interesting, significant ; but it is the city on both sides of the Seine that captures the imagination.
Since the Commune of 1870, the last tumultuous disturbance that Paris has experienced, nearly forty years have passed. The entire progress of the world during this eventful period can be read in epitome in the French capital. Within a short radius of the Etoile the degree of enlightenment is reflected as in a magic mirror. Probably no other people of equal learning and culture travel so little as the Parisians. Their city is their universe. They need not journey beyond the grand art palace in the Champs Elysées to see the finest contemporary art. The representative art of the world is in their galleries in the Louvre and in the Luxembourg. The grand proportions of , their architecture impress the passer-by at every turn. The cheerful aspect of the brilliant limestone, of which every house and block is built, with the multitude of trees, is perpetually harmonious and agreeable.
” The city swims in verdure, beautiful As Venice on the waters, the sea-swan. What bosky gardens dropped in close-walled courts ! What miles of streets that run on after trees, Still carrying on the necessary shops, Those open caskets with the jewels seen. And trade is art, and art’s philosophy In Paris.”
In these lines Elizabeth Barrett Browning pictures in her ” Aurora Leigh,” the Paris that she knew and loved. To the poetic vision, indeed, Paris has that glamour of enchantment that never was on sea or land. It defies analysis or definition. It is a feeling, a perception, an exhilaration. Paris is not merely the world’s pleasure-ground. It is the city of untraced inspirations and infinite suggestion ; of trains of dreams that wait to take form in outer life ; it is the air, at once, of reminiscence and of prophecy ; it is, indeed, the city of romance and of destiny ; of thought and of divination, this Paris, the Beautiful.
Some one has said that Paris is an aggregation of decorated people in a city of statues. The mot is not inappropriate. The men who wear the ruban rouge are numerous. The sculpture of the city is almost as much in evidence as is its architecture.
Here the air is thronged With statues poised upon their columns fine As if to stand a moment were a feat! Against that blue ! What squares ! what breathing-room, For a nation that runs fast ! ”
There is a certain exhilaration in the very atmosphere of Paris that doubtless has its effect on the people, and is. revealed in their powers of keen observation, of swift comprehension and glancing wit. This atmosphere fosters the creative gifts. ” The writer, like the priest,” says Emerson, ” must be exempted from secular labor. His work needs a frolic health ; he must be at the top of his condition. In that prosperity he is sometimes caught up into a perception of means and materials, of feats and fine arts, of fairy machineries and funds of power hitherto utterly unknown to him, whereby he can transfer his visions to mortal canvas, or reduce them into iambic or trochaic, into lyric or heroic rhyme.
” The act of imagination is ever attended by pure delight. It infuses a certain volatility and intoxication into all nature. It has a flute which sets the atoms of our frame in a dance. Our indeterminate size is a delicious secret which it reveals to us. The mountains begin to dislimn, and float in the air.”
Something of this volatile and effervescent quality pervades the Parisians. It is not frivolity, but rather a keener and more delicate susceptibility, a responsiveness, showing a nature plastic to impressions. How can a people live in a city of stately and singular beauty, in the midst of art, statues and groups of sculpture on every hand; pictures to be enjoyed freely ; music offered on easy conditions, shops full of dainty confections,a city flooded with golden light nearly all the year, with the Champs Élysées all blossoms in the early spring and gleaming in iridescent opal tints in the autumn how can a people dwell amid all this joy of color and loveliness, and not be lifted above the stolid and the dense and the unthinking ? The Parisians are a product of their exceptional environment.
Then, too, the life of the city is curiously in evidence. There are a world of nameless details which are vividly before the eye. As for the visitor, he cannot, as in Italy, bestow himself in a palace with a tower, and a private chapel, a garden, and a choice of a dozen staircases,all to be had for a few hundred lire a year ; but instead he can procure an apartment in which every inch of space is ingeniously utilized, and he will find that the volatile and vivacious people by whom he is surrounded, and with whom he carries on his daily traffic, are the most practical and shrewd of dealers. Henry James, contrasting the average Englishman with the Parisian, says that the latter is, at once, ” more artificial and more natural ; the former when the Englishman is positive, the latter when the Englishman is negative. He takes off his hat with a flourish to a friend, but the Englishman never bows. ” I sometimes go to breakfast,” continues Mr. James, ” at a café on the boulevard which I formerly used to frequent with considerable regularity. Coming back there the other day, I found exactly the same group of habitués at their little tables, and I mentally exclaimed, as I looked at them over my newspaper, upon their unlikeness to the gentlemen who confront you in the same attitude at a London club.
” Who are they ? What are they ? On these points I have no information ; but the stranger’s imagination does not seem to see a majestic social order massing itself behind them, as it usually does in London. He goes so far as to suspect that what is behind them is not adapted for exhibition; where as your Englishmen, whatever may be the defects of their personal character, or the irregularities of their conduct, are pressed upon from the rear by an immense body of private proprieties and comforts of domestic conventions and theological observances.
” But it is agreeable all the same to come back to a café of which you have formerly been an habitué. Adolphe or Edouard, in his long white apron and his large patent leather slippers, has a perfect recollection of les habitudes de Monsieur.’ He remembers the table you preferred, the wine you drank, the news-paper you read. He greets you with the friendliest of smiles, and remarks that it is a long time since he has had the pleasure of seeing Monsieur. There is something in this simple remark very touching to a heart that has suffered from that incorruptible dumbness of the British domestic. But in Paris such a heart finds consolation at every step ; it is reminded of that most classic quality of the French nature its sociability ; a sociability which operates here as it never does in England, from below upward. Your waiter utters a greeting because, after all, something human within him prompts him ; his instinct bids him say something, and his taste recommends that it be agreeable. The obvious reflection is that a waiter must not say too much, even for the sake of being human. But in France the people always like to make the little extra remark, to throw in something above the simply necessary. I stop before a little man who is selling newspapers at a street-corner, and ask him for the Journal des Débats. His answer deserves to be literally given : ‘Je ne l’ai plus, Monsieur; mais je pourrai vous donner quelque chose à peu près dans le même genre la République Française.’ Even a person of his humble condition must have had a lurking sense of the comicality of offering anything as an equivalent for the ` genre ‘ of the venerable, classic, academic Débats. But my friend could not bear to give me a naked, monosyllabic refusal.”
A more typical silhouette of the Parisian life, as seen in public places, could hardly be given. Again we find Mr. James saying :
” If Parisians, both small and great, have more of the intellectual stamp than the people one sees in London, it is striking, on the other hand, that the people of the better sort in Paris look very much less ` respectable.’ I did not know till I came back to Paris how used I had grown to the English cachet; but I immediately found myself missing it. You miss it in the men much more than in the women; for the well-to-do Frenchwoman of the lower orders, as one sees her in public, in the streets and in shops, is always a delightfully comfortable and creditable person. I must confess to the highest admiration for her, an admiration that increases with acquaintance. She, at least, is essentially respectable ; the neatness, compactness, and sobriety of her dress, the decision of her movement and accent suggest the civic and domestic virtues order, thrift, frugality, the moral necessity of making a good appearance. It is, I think, an old story that to the stranger in France the women seem greatly superior to the men. Their superiority, in fact, appears to be conceded; for wherever you turn you meet them in the forefront of action. You meet them, indeed, too often; you pronounce them at times obtrusive. It is annoying when you go to order your boots or your shirts, to have to make known your desires to even the most neat-waisted female attendant; for the limitations to the feminine intellect are, though few in number, distinct, and women are not able to understand certain masculine needs. Mr. Worth makes ladies’ dresses ; but I am sure there will never be a fashionable tailoress. There are, however, points at which, from the commercial point of view, feminine assistance is invaluable. For insisting upon the merits of an article that has failed to satisfy you, talking you over, and making you take it; for defending a disputed bill, for paying the necessary compliments or supplying the necessary impertinence for all these things the neat-waisted sex has peculiar and precious faculties. In the commercial class in Paris the man always appeals to the woman ; the woman always steps forward. The woman always proposes the conditions of a bargain. Go about and look for furnished rooms, you always encounter a concierge and his wife. When you ask the price of the rooms, the woman takes the words out of her husband’s mouth, if, indeed, he have not first turned to her with a questioning look. She takes you in hand ; she proposes conditions ; she thinks of things he would not have thought of.”
Perhaps in no other city is there to be seen so strong an individuality among the general populace as in Paris. This vividness is, however, inextricably interpenetrated with the state itself. One begins to feel it wherever he enters the country, whether from the south through Italy or Switzerland, or landing at any of the Channel ports, Dieppe, Boulogne or Calais.
” O, sunny land of France ! ”
one mentally exclaims, when, leaving behind him the fog and mist and gray skies of England, he descries the brilliant French shores. The idea that there is any difficulty in arriving in Paris, even for a woman, alone, at any hour of the day or night, is an erroneous one. Nothing could be made more easy, more entirely comfortable, not to say even pleasant, than going through the formalities of arrival, which have now become very slight. As a rule, the luggage is not opened. The traveller is asked if he has anything to declare, and if he replies in the negative his word is sufficient, save in exceptional cases. Arriving one night late in the evening, at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, coming up from Rome, a lady was asked by the inspector only one question, which (translated into English) was simply with a twinkle in his eye ” Any whiskey or cigars, Madame ? ” ” Non, Monsieur.” And the officer, far from being an ogre to devour one and one’s impedimenta beside, ordered a porter to call a cab ; the luggage and the lady were swiftly bestowed in it, and no traveller arriving in a country town in America could more quickly and pleasantly set off for his destination.
There is seldom an exception to this experience. A porter places your impedimenta in a cab, he gives the driver the name of your hotel or destination, and in a few minutes you are being rapidly rushed through the gay streets, missing by the fraction of an inch, perhaps, the great motor omnibus that looms up like the car of Juggernaut, and comes down like the wolf on the fold, or the myriad motor cars, cabs and traffic in general that fill the streets and boulevards. By what magic incantation or invocation to the gods the driver manages to escape all these madly flying vehicles that remind one of a star ” shot madly from its sphere,” it is impossible to imagine ; but at all events one reaches one’s destination, intact, as a rule, instead of in that state of disjecta membra which seemed only too probable. To the writer (who has passed a fair portion of the past dozen years in Paris) the dangers of the city, as they are served up in the daily press, or in novels, seem greatly exaggerated. Yet the Paris correspondent of the London Telegraph, in picturing his ” Paris Day by Day,” fills his column largely with the crimes daily committed. Murders almost as mysterious as those served up by Poe in the gruesome tales of the Rue Morgue ; almost as intricate and strangely puzzling as those in the novels of Gaboriau or Boisgobey do occur frequently. Robberies not less extraordinary than that unfolded by Gaboriau in his fascinating tale entitled ” File No. 13,” baffle the Paris detectives of today. The curious Demoine diamond affair, which at last disclosed the ingenious fraud, and came to an end in the early summer of 1908, was a typical Paris event. The audacity of the scheme is easily a part of the criminality of the French detective novels. But all this is an underworld which the average visitor, who belongs to that part of humanity that ” wears clean collars and uses tolerable grammar,” would seldom if ever see during his Paris sojourn.
That part of the city lying easily between the Hôtel de Ville and the Trocadéro and stretching out through Passy ; that part on the other side of the river that includes the Faubourg Saint Germain and the vicinity of the Luxembourg gardens does not differ essentially, in its life, from the decorous Back Bay of Boston. The streets are all quiet and safe, and bear no hint of murders, stratagem or spoils.
The American in Paris is as much at home as in his own country. So greatly, indeed, is it the happy hunting-ground of the American people in general, that the assurance of its tranquil life is hardly needed. For America has provincial people no longer ; they are all travellers. Some of the most stylish and altogether chic women one may chance to remark on a festive night at the Paris opera may have come from Dakota, Arizona, or New Mexico. As for California and Colorado, they, of course, are very much ” in the swim.” Nor are the South or the great Middle West in any sense relegated to the receding regions of the provincial. In fact, it might prove a despairing task to Diogenes himself, with his lantern, even with the attachment of a modern search-light to his classic, but dim illumination, to discover any corner in the Etats-Unis d’Amerique which has not its affiliations with Paris chiffons. And on July Fourth the boulevards are hung with both French and American flags, for Paris is a great centre of American business life, as well as a Mecca for social enjoyment. On the evening of every Fourth of July the American Chamber of Commerce gives a grand banquet, at which the French Premier and the French Minister of Commerce and the American Ambassador are the distinguished guests. The President of the French Republic and the President of the United States are alike honored by toasts and in the addresses.
America has been extremely fortunate in her ambassadors to her sister republic. To go no further back in diplomatic history than to General Porter, who was so highly esteemed, and to Hon. Whitelaw Reid, who is now repeating, in England, the successes of his embassy to France, to note the great satisfaction of the French people as well as their American visitors, with the present eminent Ambassador, Hon. Henry White, and the distinguished Consul-General, Hon. Frank H. Mason, to go no further back than this record is to realize how fortunate in her representatives to France our country has been and is. Among those who represent our country abroad, he certainly holds a most distinctive and unusual place. Mr. Mason has been in consular service twenty-seven years : stationed in Marseilles, Switzerland, Berlin, Frankfort, and now in Paris. In Mrs. Mason he has the most charming of helpers, for as things go in diplomatic life abroad, the wife of the consul-general or the ambassador is a most important factor in the service and in maintaining the entente cordiale. Mrs. Mason is the daughter of Judge Burchard of Cleveland, an eminent jurist of the Middle West, and she brings to her official position a grace, a dignity, a loveliness that is universally recognized by all who have the happiness of meeting her. To no lovelier hostess than Mrs. Mason could Americans go in a foreign country (if indeed there is a ” foreign ” country any more. Probably Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Greece and the countries of Asia in general, might seem “foreign,” but certainly Paris and London do not). At the home of Consul-General and Mrs. Mason there is a different welcome from that of mere ceremony and fashion : the sweet sincerity, the cordial, unaffected kindness and sympathetic comprehension make glad the guest. The very atmosphere of this lovely home is refined, lofty, and beautiful. Indeed, it is quite worth a journey over the Atlantic to meet our consul-general and Mrs. Mason, had Paris no other attractions to offer. The power for good of noble personalities cannot be estimated, but it is God’s best gift on earth.
Since the American Ambassador and Mrs. ‘White have become domiciled in their stately and splendid mansion in the Rue François Premier, the American colony in Paris, as that in Rome during the happy days of Mr. White’s tenure of the American Embassy in the Eternal City, have a centre of social life as gracious and hospitable as it is refined and charming. Mrs. White in Rome and Paris, the lovely and accomplished Mrs. Hill in Berlin, the wife of the distinguished American Ambassador to Germany, and Mrs. Reid at Dorchester House in London, will all hold their respective places in the social history of la vie diplomatique as Ambassadresses exceptionally fitted, by tempera-mental gifts, refined and exquisite culture, social experience, and personal grace for the high positions which they have each endowed with new charm and significance. Mrs. White’s distinction in receiving was a matter of general recognition in the brilliant and exclusive society of Rome, and it is not less remarked in Paris, even though the absence of a court might seem to lessen the opportunities for ceremonial elegancies. ” Even in a palace, life may be well lived,” observes Marcus Aurelius, and these three prominent American Ambassadresses certainly illustrate this truth, each in her own life. Mrs. Hill, as well becomes the wife of a great savant like Dr. Hill, on whom no office could confer the distinction that he confers on the office, is a scholar, a linguist, a woman of the most exquisite culture as well as one of the most sincere and generous of friends, and a hostess of lavish hospitalities. Mrs. Reid, all grace and loveliness, dispenses her superb and fairly royal entertaining that marks a period in the American Embassy in London, and Mrs. White, although Paris offers no court, as do Berlin and London, needs no blaze of pomp or ceremonial as a scenic setting for her social sway. Meeting her one cannot but recall
” Well shows the gentle lady’s mien That courts and cities she has seen.”
Every shop and restaurant in Paris that has American custom, and every one that sells any especial American commodity, flaunts the American flag on Independence Day. The American Art Association celebrates the date by an American dinner. All the leading hotels, where custom is so largely made up of American guests,also make a festival of that day. The Arc de Triomphe and Bunker Hill are not so very remote from each other, and, naturally, there are obvious reasons why the sympathy of France with American institutions is more en evidence in Paris on July Fourth than in London. In many respects, indeed, the French and the American nations have more in common, even though race and language intervene, than the American and the English. They share in common the capacity for enthusiasm, for ingenious resource, mercurial swiftness in mental processes and a certain gladness in life that is perhaps largely a matter of temperament and environment, fostered by living in sunshiny lands. The English proverbially take their pleasures sadly, and isolate themselves, as they do their houses, in high walls and hedges of reserve.
American women are greatly liked in French society. They are considered to be especially agreeable and adaptable. There is apparently no limit to French cordiality, and it is quite a mot that la femme Americaine makes the best of Parisiennes. She knows how to wear a Parisian costume ; she enters into the spirit of Parisian life; and she feels in coming to Paris, that she quite comes to her own.
But the summer of 1908 accomplished a wonderful work in the deepening of l’entente cordiale between France and England. The Franco-English Exhibition, held in London, attracted constant visits from French organizations. The Channel boats were the theatres of perpetual pilgrimages. Such representative bodies as L’Art pour Tous and L’Association des Instituteurs pour l’Education et le Patronage de la Jeunesse made their visits, and were most hospitably welcomed. They would be entertained at a déjeuner at the House of Commons, and afterwards shown over the Houses of Parliament. They would visit the Franco-British Exhibition, where a luncheon would be given in the machinery section, presided over by Mr. Cathcart Wason. The party would go to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and later to various receptions. They were invited to the Alhambra by the directors. A visit to Marylebone Workhouse, while some of the members of the society visited the Zoological Gardens, would be part of the day’s appointments.
The Association des Instituteurs pour l’Education et le Patronage de la Jeunesse was rep-resented by seventy-five members, and was received at the County Hall by the chairman of the County Council, who was accompanied by Sir Benjamin Cohen, Sir George Goldie, the Rev. F. Hastings, and Mr. Edward White. The party made a number of visits, the main feature being that to the Houses of Parliament, where Mr. J. H. Yoxall, M. P., president of the National Union of Teachers, conducted them around.
Welcoming the visitors, the chairman of the L. C. C. expressed a hope that seeing that instruction in French was given in sixty-nine of the elementary schools of London and in all the secondary schools, French and English children, by thus knowing one another’s languages, would be able to visit one another with all the greater pleasure in after years. Such episodes are more than the mere international courtesy of the occasion. They are signs of the times. The National Fête of the French (July Fourteenth) celebrating the fall of the Bastille, was enthusiastically celebrated in London in this summer of 1908. On that day in London ” English and French visitors alike appeared to join hands, metaphorically speaking, in an effort to give a living aspect to Anglo-French friendship,” said the London Telegraph, and added, ” In furtherance of this object the French and British authorities in London and at the Exhibition itself cordially associated themselves. In place of the annual ceremony at the French Embassy, the French Ambassador, M. Paul Cambon, gave a reception at the Garden Club, and was himself, earlier in the day, entertained at luncheon at Paillard’s Restaurant by the managing committees of the French Chamber of Commerce in London, the French Hospital, and the Société de Bienfaisance. The grounds of the Exhibition were lavishly decorated for the occasion with the entwined flags of France and Great Britain, and among the special features organized for the day for the pleasure of the international visitors generally were a display of daylight fireworks, followed by special illuminations in the evening. They included showers of grotesque figures cats riding on turtles, Chinese dragons, horses and jockeys, spiders, octopus, bombs, and tiny parachutes.
” By these means camaraderie became something of a real thing quite early in the day. It was not, however, until nightfall that something of the Parisian ` abandon ‘ that one remembers in connection with the Fête Day in Paris itself took quite a considerable hold on the international visitors, British as well as French. It is true that our somewhat phlegmatic fellow-countrymen appeared to be rather too selfconscious to give way to dancing. Perhaps they did not readily grasp the meaning of the occasion as exemplified in the conduct of their French confrères. But they did their best to be most unusually gay. In addition to the usual illuminations by means of thousands of small lamps such as give the impression of a city ` built again in fire,’ the principal walks were outlined by large white and poppy-colored lanterns. The entire effect resembled an Eastern feast of lanterns, and within this brilliant environment the cosmopolitan crowds appeared to hugely enjoy themselves and to make the most of `Entente Cordiale ‘ Day.”
The story of ” Paris, the Beautiful ” cannot be limited to the Ville Lumière itself. Any interpretation that pretends to any degree of adequacy must include the relations of France to other countries ; and the manner in which the bond has been strengthened and deepened by the Franco-British Exhibition, and the social commingling that spectacle has entailed, is a matter of interest in contemporary progress. Russia has entered into the spirit of the entente cordiale, so that France is doubly secure in her Continental relations. The French Chamber of Deputies is now making serious efforts to deal with social problems, the most immediately important of all being the income tax, but as this is also a revolutionary problem, it has been held over. The labor problem confronts the state. The General Confederation of Labor demands increase of wage and decrease of work. The Employees’ League threatens labor with a prolonged boycott. At the moment the prospect is full of menace. Something of the temper of the labor market may be seen in a sudden decision of the employees of the bateaux mouches, or steamboats, on the Seine, to cease work just at the moment when such inactivity was of most inconvenience. The Sunday crowds, preparing for their usual jaunt up-river to suburban plaisances, were cruelly disappointed at the immobility of the river steamers. The General Confederation has branches in all parts of Europe, and is taking the temperature of the country by declaring partial strikes. In this way a strike reigns at Boulogne in certain industries, which, however, has had no effect at this moment except to permanently replace the strikers by other men. But the sinister practices of the agitators, the sudden suspension of work, without notice, and other proceedings of the kind are bad omens for the immediate industrial future of France.
All this social agitation has its root in the political conditions. While capital and labor are, for the hour, apparently seeking agitation and antagonism rather than reconciliation, making a problematic social situation, the political problem is that of the antagonism between socialist and bourgeois. To the present régime this condition contributes elements of both strength and weakness. ” The electorate is well aware,” says a Paris political authority, ” that Clémenceau stands between it and Communism ; hence its representatives are careful by no act of theirs to let in the enemy. Were it not for this great danger, the government had been upset a hundred times. The fear of socialism has proved the beginning of wisdom and resulted in an unheard-of political stability.”
Another benefit of the Franco-British Exhibition in London is that, with the numerous cheap excursions provided to the English capital, the desire for travel is suddenly developed, and multitudes of the French, who have never before left their country, are availing themselves of the opportunities afforded. The scenes at the depots of the Channel journey, the Gare Saint Lazare and the Gare du Nord, have been typical illustrations of the manners and temperament of the untravelled bourgeois. The scene of an evening is thus vividly pictured by a local writer :
” Processions of railway omnibuses, cabs, motor cars, and motor ‘buses carried Parisians and their luggage and their bicycles to the great termini, and left them there to fight with station officials and porters. The scenes at the chief railway depots on Saturday evening almost baffle description. When the rush of people is greater than usual, the French official seems to lose his head, and all notion of order or organization is abandoned. It must be admitted that the French crowd is by no means easy to handle at such times as these. What, for in-stance, is to be done with five hundred people who crowd on to a platform at eleven o’clock, in search of a popular excursion train for Trouville or Dieppe, advertised to leave at one o’clock in the morning ? At the former hour the train has not even been made up, and the platform is required for other traffic. But it is no good telling the crowd that. They have come in good time so that they may make sure of good places, and they refuse to go away. While the officials are trying to make the excursionists listen to reason, several hundred more people arrive with boxes and trunks to be registered. The personnel allotted to these formalities very soon finds itself unable to cope with the work, and the public adds to the confusion by rushing hither and thither looking for their luggage. On Saturday evening, at the Gare du Nord, the officials were in such a helpless muddle that they refused to register the baggage, piling up on every side of them, and on Sunday the platforms were littered with trunks, hampers, and valises whose owners had left them to be sent after them, or were waiting until it was possible to have them extricated from the heterogeneous mass and consigned to their destination.”
The excitability of the Parisian populace is, or may be, any day’s tragedy. The most apparently insignificant cause will incite a display that the inexperienced observer would regard as hardly less than a street riot. The terrific visions that Zuloaga perpetuates on canvas are rivalled by the fierce and sudden tumults in a Parisian crowd, excited by the scramble for places. Even at the regular omnibus stations in the city, where each passenger must procure his ticket before entering, the spectacle is usually a more or less startling one to the novice, although the method adopted is really in the interest of preserving order and safety.
The National Fête (commemorating the fall of the Bastille) was until within the past two or three years, celebrated in Paris with unparalleled taste and artistic beauty. The Boulevard Michel would be festooned by golden globes; the Champs Elysées would be decorated in colors, till, in the evening, when the electric illumination glorified the spacious avenue and the chestnut groves, the scene was a fairyland. Of late the decorations have not their former beauty ; but one curious feature of the day is thus described :
” Not the least impressive ceremony of the French national holiday is the demonstration which takes place every year in the Place de la Concorde, before the statue of Strasbourg. For the last twenty-seven years the Ligue des Patriotes has annually deposited flowers at the foot of the statue, and draped it in black. Veterans who had fought in the war, Alsatians and the sons of Alsatians, stand silently in tears, looking on, and listening to the speeches. M.Paul Déroulède, the president of the league, as usual, headed the demonstration this year, and came to Paris specially for the purpose. A number of friends went to shake hands with him, but not a word was spoken. He headed the procession, followed by the band, a delegation of ladies, and the bearers of the great wreath of immortelles, bound with the colors of Alsace and Lorraine. The cortège went round the Place de la Concorde, and then came to a halt in front of the statue of Strasbourg. When the wreath of flowers had been deposited at its foot, M. Déroulède stood up on a small platform alongside, over which the national colors were flying, and, with dramatic voice and gesture, repeated the watchword of the league, ` Vive l’Alsace-Lorraine Française ! ‘ Thundering applause immediately followed from the crowd in the square, and was taken up by the thousands who stood along the Rue de Rivoli, and in the gardens of the Tuileries. The procession then started on its way to the statue of Jeanne d’Arc, in the Place des Pyramides, singing the ` Marseillaise.’ Flowers were also deposited at the foot of the statue of the national heroine.”
It is not without significance that the twentieth century was inaugurated in Paris by that magnificent spectacle of the Exposition, in which the arts, the sciences, the inventions, the industrial products, all registered the progress of civilization, while the nineteenth century had been ushered in with tragedy and terror. A hundred years had seen the most remarkable development of the nation and of Paris itself. Evolution of the most impressive character had succeeded Revolution. In its onward course a monarchical government had given place to the Republic. Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality was no mere rhetorical phrase, but was informed with life. Letters and art had flourished. The nineteenth century was that of Madame de Staël (who lived until 1817) ; of Maximilian Paul Émile Littré, whose greatest achievement was the French Dictionary ; of Père Lacordâire, Laplace, Madame Récamier, De Tocqueville, Châteaubriand, Montalembert, Béranger, Comte, Dumas, père et fils, Michelet, Cousin, George Sand, Guizot, Thiers, Lamartine, Victor Hugo, the brothers Goncourt, Renan, Prosper Merimée, Balzac, Eugene Sue, De Maupassant, Sainte-Beuve, Alphonse Daudet, Cherbuliez, Zola, Paul Verlaine ; of Arsène Houssaye, Gautier ; of Corot, Millet, Delacroix, Decamps,Meissonier, Doré, Rousseau, Daubigny, Rosa Bonheur ; of Gounod and Chopin, not to speak of Puvis de Chavannes, Falguière, and other artists, whose work extended into the twentieth century, and of those modern artists like Rodin, Carolus-Duran, Raphael Collin, and Besnard, besides the scientists and littérateurs who enrich the twentieth century, and whose best work, perhaps, in some instances, is yet to come. Baron Haussmann fairly reconstructed Paris, creating the splendid chain of boulevards and the broad avenues that endow the city with its spacious beauty. It would require volumes to chronicle, in any adequate sense, the marvellous transformations that Paris has undergone from time to time. The charming city has had as many ” states ” as a painter in his work. Henry James speaks of ” the deadly monotony of the Paris that M. Haussmann called into existence,” and proceeds to declare that, ” its huge, blank, pompous, featureless sameness sometimes comes over the wandering stranger with a force that leads him to devote the author of these miles of architectural commonplace to execration. The new street,” he continues, designating the spacious Avenue de l’Opéra, ” is quite on the imperial system ; it must make the late Napoleon III smile with beatific satisfaction as he looks down upon it from the Bonapartist corner of Paradise. It stretches straight away from the pompous façade of the Opera to the doors of the Théâtre Français, and it must be admitted that there is something fine in the vista that is closed at one end by the great sculptured and gilded mass of the former building. But it smells of the modern asphalt; it is lined with great white houses that are adorned with machine-made arabesques, and each of which is so exact a copy of all the rest that even the little white porcelain number on a blue ground, which looks exactly like all the other numbers, hardly constitutes an identity. Presently there will be a long succession of milliners’ and chocolate-makers’ shops in the basement of this homogeneous row, and the pretty bonnets and bonbonnières in the shining windows will have their ribbons knotted with a chic that you must come to Paris to see. Then there will be little glazed sentry-boxes at regular intervals along the curbstone, in which churlish old women will sit selling half a dozen copies of each of the newspapers…”
Mr. James is the most charming of analysts,and his genius for penetrating into mental subtleties may predestine him to demand tortuous and winding thoroughfares; but for the average citizen or visitor the broad streets and gleaming boulevards, all laid out on the star system, radiating from a common centre a centre that is invariably a small park or circle, with sculpture and with trees cannot but be a signal charm in the beauty of Paris.
M. Victor Cherbuliez, writing of Renan, has observed that to Renan life meant ” a bundle of great things, and of workers who refused to be discouraged by unfulfilled purposes.” This observation might almost be applied to the city as a whole. It is said there is really a new Paris every ten years. To picture it in its splendor would require the magic of Sebastien Mercier. It is a vast aggregation of keen and forcible individualities, any one of whom may largely determine the destiny of the hour in some momentous direction.
For instance, so powerful is M. Francesque Sarcey, as the great dramatic critic of the day, that he is considered to ” hold the future of a play in the hollow of his hand.” Of no one critic of art in any other city could this be said, however great his prestige or unerring his judgment. That this is true in Paris is simply due to the great emphasis laid here on individuality.
” C’est l’imagination qui gouverne le genre humain,” said Napoleon, and in this assertion he touched a truth especially characteristic of the Parisian. Never was a city more swayed by imagination ; more determined by it in its praise or its execration (for there is no middle ground among this ardent people) ; more governed, indeed, in every detail by an impress made on the imagination.
The various Expositions, from the first one in 1798, which lasted thirteen days, to that magnificent one of 1900, which continued from May till October inclusive,these Expositions, mile-stones, as it were, in progress, have especially impressed the French imagination. The Parisian fairly hears with his eyes. He thinks with his eyes. In these displays he reads the synthesis of the century, and sees reflected the genius of France. The marvels of astronomical research, of chemical discoveries, of electric power and inventions were all demonstrated at this vast spectacle. On both sides the Seine, from the Jardin du Tuileries to the Trocadéro, were these palaces erected. Who can ever lose the memory of that glittering Fairy of Electricity on a high dome, typical of a potency unseen, yet capable of holding the stars in their courses ? Of the scene by night, when one might fancy the constellations had fallen from the heavens and were radiating their glory before the eye ? A colossal group of sculpture showed ” Humanity Guided by Progress,” the figures symbolic of water, fire and light. There was the salon where, in a celestial glow, was a replica of the planetary system ; the sun shining ; the stars and planets faring on their celestial way. There was the Salle des Illusion,’ more wonderful than all. The Doge’s palace in Venice, the Kremlin in Russia were in replica ; an artificial volcano imitated its original ; the spectacle of the Mareorama, whereon one sailed in a magic ship to magic lands ; Algiers, the Golden Horn; the submarine panorama, where one seemed to actually descend and see what really takes place at the bottom of the ocean, not to speak of the art of the civilized world shown in the salons of the Grand Palais des Beaux, or the multitude of expositions, and the valuable congresses and conferences, these are all unforgetable. Never was the very spirit that animates a people more absolutely translated into color, form, and life than was that of the French nation in this Exposition.
Life in Paris has a perpetual fascination. It is invested with learning, dignity, power and significance. It is enriched by noble beauty and by picturesque interludes. One may wander into the Madeleine, that wonderful temple copying Grecian art at the head of the Rue Royale, for the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and watch the throngs who kneel before the cross of flowers laid on the floor, L’adoration de la croix. Here, where Père Didon held his audiences for two hours under the spell of his wonderful eloquence, the visitor may listen to music by the great artists of the Grand Opera, and later go forth to supper and join in the Réveillon. On November first all the bells of the city toll from their towers and at Saint Gervais is given Palestrina’s impressive Messe Solennelle.
The art of conversation is still, as in the days of the classic salons, a fine art in Paris. There still exists the nucleus of the party which hopes against hope for the restoration of the monarchy ; those who are plus royaliste que le roi, awl who feel that the absence of a court is fatal to society ; who refuse to accept the receptions at the Palais d’Elysée as any substitute for the royal occasions, and who intrench themselves behind their own iron gates. The attitude that the remnant of the ancienne noblesse still left assumes toward the Palais d’Elysée is not different from that held by the ” blacks,” the adherents of the Vatican, in Rome, toward the court of the Quirinal. The Faubourg still refuses to recognize the official society of France. But the official society life proceeds, all the same, and sometimes even one of those exclusive mortals is lured to an occasion of brilliant life.
The indispensable is always secured in one way or another, and even sulky people consent to dine,” says a French wit.
The Faubourg cherishes its faith that there is nothing to live for, but society in general dines and dances. ” There is not now, as heretofore,” remarked a Parisian, ” a common centre of attraction, but different systems of worlds, a Legitimist, a Republican and a Bonapartist, though the first and last often meet on the same ground ; and, indeed, all three occasionally come together, under the common impulse of the love of luxury and mundane pleasure. There is so much money in Paris, and some of it must be spent; and if birth, as such, sulked forever, wealth would still cry for its feasts and dances.”
Paris society is largely, however, exotic. The stranger within the gates, if he be presentable and agreeable and remains long enough, or returns often enough to hold remembrance, is by no means an unimportant factor in the social life. The ideal of the salon that whatever was to be said must be cleverly said, still holds true in the modern drawing-room. Everything is discussed, politics, finance, the latest book, the new play, philosophy, occultism. Every hostess has her jour and these five o’clock reunions are almost invariably occasions of brilliancy, and a meeting of wits, who converse on those topics of the hour full of significance and interest not the less profound or real because of the subtle and fascinating manner in which they are discussed. ” Egeria is no longer to be sought in a cave,” says some one ; ” she gives little dinners, and she is accessible at afternoon tea.” The conversation is not that aimless and formless expression of mental vacuity that it is in many gatherings in other cities, but, instead, it is realized that the wit and grace which vas formerly the glory and the pride of Parisian life has by no means departed,Professor Barrett Wendell of Harvard University has said that, ” At least, in America, the French are supposed to be frivolous and unprincipled,” and he continues :
” The France evident to casual travellers and generally set forth in such French literature as comes to foreign notice is very different from the France you come to know for yourself. The external aspect of them is identical, no doubt ; just as the language is. In both, too, as everywhere else on earth, is a regularly organized, orderly society, side by side with various vagary from social order. The true difference lies in the fact that those who know France from report are apt to suppose vagary to be the rule of French life, while those who know France from personal experience will probably agree that the most profound characteristic of the French is their conscientious devotion to their regular duties. The question accordingly becomes that of how such divergent impressions can result from a common cause.
” To begin with, we may well put aside some obvious reasons for the opinion usually held by foreigners. One general authority for it may be found in the gossip of tourists. It is honest, gleeful or indignant as the case may be, and reducible to a simple fact true of travel anywhere. No matter where a stranger may stray, he will see instantly the most irregular, the least respectable, the most broadly commonplace phase of the society which surrounds the hotel where he has taken up his momentary abode. Throughout the nineteenth century Paris has been perhaps the most attractive capital in Europe. It has attracted to itself, at least, more visitors than any other. More than any other, accordingly, it has developed into what seem permanently established forms those various catch-penny devices for the allurement of strangers which make any great city, in certain aspects, more like a mere watering-place than one always quite understands. In fact, however, the Paris of travel the hotels and the theatres, the streets, the museums and the restaurants, together with endless other places of public entertainment is the least Parisian, and the least French Paris imaginable. It is only one more of the great places of amusement open for human good or ill,all over the world.”
With his usual clearness Professor Wendell, whose lectures and whose presence made the most charming and apparently ineffaceable impression on Paris, thus characterizes the social life.
An atmosphere of light and color ; of the keenest and most sympathetic human response in joy or sorrow ; an atmosphere, too, that is peopled with lofty visions and with ideals of loveliness ; that has its significance as well as its sensation; its inspirations of thought and purpose and the duty of high fulfilment,an atmosphere in which the treasure-houses of art are opened to all with lavish hospitality ; where drama and music make the hours enchanting,this is the atmosphere in which one lives and moves and has his being in Paris, the Beautiful.