THE Place de la Concorde by day is vast rather than beautiful, and by night it is a congress of lamps. By both it is dangerous and in bad weather as exposed as the open sea. But it is sacred ground and Paris is unthinkable without it. The interest of the Place is summed up in the Luxor column, which may perhaps be said to mark what is perhaps the most critical site in modern history; for where the obelisk now stands stood not so very long ago the guillotine.
The Place’s name has been Concorde only since 1830.
It began in 1763, when a bronze statue of Louis XV. on horseback was erected there, surrounded by emblematic figures, from the chisel of Pigalle, of Prudence, Justice, Force and Peace. Hence the characteristic French epigram :
“O la belle statue, O le beau pedestal! Les Virtues sont à pied, le Vice est à cheval.”
Before this time the Place had been an open and uncultivated space; it was now enclosed, surrounded with fosses, made trim, and called La Place Louis Quinze. In 1770, however, came tragedy; for on the occasion of the marriage of the Dauphin, afterwards the luckless Louis XVI., with the equally luckless Marie Antoinette, a display of fireworks was given, during which one of the rockets (as one always dreads at every display) declined the sky and rushed horizontally into the crowd, and in the resulting stampede thousands of persons fell into the ditches, twelve hundred being killed outright and two thousand injured.
Twenty-two years later, kings having suddenly be-come cheap, the National Convention ordered the statue of Louis XV. to be melted down and recast into cannon, a clay figure of Liberté to be set up in its stead, and the name to be changed to the Place de la Révolution. This was done, and a little later the guillotine was erected a few yards west of the spot where the Luxor column now stands, primarily for the removal of the head of Louis XVI., in whose honour those unfortunate fireworks had been ignited. The day was January 21st, 1793.
“King Louis,” says Carlyle, “slept sound, till five in the morning, when Cléry, as he had been ordered, awoke him. Cléry dressed his hair: while this went forward, Louis took a ring from his watch, and kept trying it on his finger; it was his wedding-ring, which he is now to return to the Queen as a mute farewell. At half-past six, he took the Sacrament; and continued in devotion, and conference with Abbé Edgeworth. He will not see his Family : it were too hard to bear.
“At eight, the Municipals enter: the King gives them his Will, and messages and effects; which they, at first, brutally refuse’ to take charge of : he gives them a roll of gold pieces, a hundred and twenty-five louis; these are to be returned to Malesherbes, who had lent them. At nine, Santerre says the hour is come. The King begs yet to retire for three minutes. At the end of three minutes, Santerre again says the hour is come. `Stamping on the ground with his right-foot, Louis answers: “Partons, Let us go.”‘ How the rolling of those drums comes in, through the Temple bastions and bulwarks, on the heart of a queenly wife; soon to be a widow ! He is gone, then, and has not seen us? A Queen weeps bitterly; a King’s Sister and Children. Over all these Four does Death also hover : all shall perish miserably save one; she, as Duchesse d’Angoulême, will live, not happily.
“At the Temple Gate were some faint cries, perhaps from voices of pitiful women : `Grâce! Grâce!’ Through the rest of the streets there is silence as of the grave.
No man not armed is allowed to be there: the armed, did any even pity, dare not express it, each man over-awed by all his neighbours. All windows are down, none seen looking through them. All shops are shut. No wheel-carriage rolls, this morning, in these streets but one only. Eighty thousand armed men stand ranked, like armed statues of men ; cannons bristle, cannoneers with match burning, but no word or movement : it is as a city enchanted into silence and stone : one carriage with its escort, slowly rumbling, is the only sound. Louis reads, in his Book of Devotion, the Prayers of the Dying : clatter of this death-march falls sharp on the ear, in the great silence; but the thought would fain struggle heavenward, and forget the Earth.
“As the clocks strike ten, behold the Place de la Révolution, once Place de Louis Quinze : the Guillotine, mounted near the old Pedestal where once stood the Statue of that Louis ! Far round, all bristles with cannons and armed men : spectators crowding in the rear; D’Orléans Egalité there in cabriolet. Swift messengers, hoquetons, speed to the Townhall every three minutes : near by is the Convention sitting, vengeful for Lepelletier. Heedless of all, Louis reads his Prayers of the Dying; not till five minutes yet has he finished; then the Carriage opens. What temper he is in ? Ten different witnesses will give ten different accounts of it. He is in the collision of all tempers; arrived now at the black Maelstrom and descent of Death : in sorrow, in indignation, in resignation struggling to be resigned.
`Take care of M. Edgeworth,’ he straitly charges the Lieutenant who is sitting with them : then they two descend.
“The drums are beating : ` Taisez-vous, Silence!’ he cries ‘in a terrible voice, d’une voix terrible.’ He mounts the scaffold, not without delay; he is in puce coat, breeches of grey, white stockings. He strips off the coat; stands disclosed in a sleeve-waistcoat of white flannel. The Executioners approach to bind him : he spurns, resists; Abbé Edgeworth has to remind him how the Saviour, in whom men trust, submitted to be bound. His hands are tied, his head bare, the fatal moment is come. He advances to the edge of the Scaffold, `his face very red,’ and says: `Frenchmen, I die innocent : it is from the Scaffold and near appearing before God that I tell you so. I pardon my enemies : I desire that France ‘ A General on horseback, Santerre or another, prances out, with uplifted hand : ` Tambours!’ The drums drown the voice. ‘Executioners, do your duty!’ The Executioners, desperate lest themselves be murdered (for Santerre and his Armed Ranks will strike, if they do not), seize the hapless Louis : six of them desperate, him singly desperate, struggling there ; and bind him to their plank. Abbé Edgeworth, stooping, bespeaks him : `Son of Saint Louis, ascend to Heaven.’ The Axe clanks down; a King’s life is shorn away. It is Monday the 21st of January, 1793. He was aged Thirty-eight years, four months and twenty-eight days.
“Executioner Samson shows the Head : fierce shout of Vive la République rises, and swells; caps raised on bayonets, hats waving; students of the College of Four Nations take it up, on the far Quais; fling it over Paris. D’Orléans drives off in his cabriolet: the Townhall Councillors rub their hands, saying, ‘It is done, It is done.’ There is dipping of handkerchiefs, of pike-points in the blood. Headsman Samson, though he afterwards denied it, sells locks of the hair: fractions of the puce coat are long after worn in rings. And so, in some half-hour it is done; and the multitude has all departed. Pastry-cooks, coffee-sellers, milkmen sing out their trivial quotidian cries : the world wags on, as if this were a common day. In the coffee-houses that evening, says Prudhomme, Patriot shook hands with Patriot in a more cordial manner than usual. Not till some days after, according to Mercier, did public men see what a grave thing it was.”
The guillotine for more ordinary purposes worked in the Place du Carrousel, not far from Gambetta’s statue to-day; but from May, 1793, until June, 1794, it was back in the Place de la Concorde (then Place de la Révolution) again, accounting during that time for no fewer than 1,235 offenders, including Charlotte Corday, Madame Roland and Marie Antoinette. The blood flowed daily, while the tricoteuses looked on over their knitting and the mob howled.
Another removal, to the Place de la Bastille, and then on 28th July, 1794, the engine of justice or vengeance was back again to end a life and the Reign of Terror in one blow. What life ? But listen : “Robespierre lay in an anteroom of the Convention Hall, while his Prison-escort was getting ready; the mangled jaw bound up rudely with bloody linen: a spectacle to men. He lies stretched on a table, a deal-box his pillow ; the sheath of the pistol is still clenched convulsively in his hand. Men bully him, insult him : his eyes still indicate intelligence ; he speaks no word. ` He had on the sky-blue coat he had got made for the Feast of the Être Suprême’ O Reader, can thy hard heart hold out against that ? His trousers were nankeen ; the stockings had fallen down over the ankles. He spake no word more in this world.
“And so, at six in the morning, a victorious Convention adjourns. Report flies over Paris as on golden wings; penetrates the Prisons; irradiates the faces of those that were ready to perish : turnkeys and moutons, fallen from their high estate, look mute and blue. It is the 28th day of July, called 10th of Thermidor, year 1794.
“Fouquier had but to identify; his Prisoners being already Out of Law. At four in the afternoon, never before were the streets of Paris seen so crowded. From the Palais de Justice to the Place de la Révolution, for thither again go the Tumbrils this time, it is one dense stirring mass ; all windows crammed ; the very roofs and ridge-tiles budding forth human Curiosity, in strange gladness. The Death-tumbrils, with their motley Batch of Outlaws, some twenty-three or so, from Maximilien to Mayor Fleuriot and Simon the Cordwainer, roll on. All eyes are on Robespierre’s Tumbril, where he, his jaw bound in dirty linen, with his half-dead Brother and half-dead Henriot, lie shattered ; their `seventeen hours’ of agony about to end. The Gendarmes point their swords at him, to show the people which is he. A woman springs on the Tumbril ; clutching the side of it with one hand, waving the other Sibyl-like ; and exclaims : `The death of thee gladdens my very heart, m’enivre de joie’; Robespierre opened his eyes; `Scélérat, go down to Hell, with the curses of all wives and mothers !’ At the foot of the scaffold, they stretched him on the ground till his turn came. Lifted aloft, his eyes again opened ; caught the bloody axe. Samson wrenched the coat off him; wrenched the dirty linen from his jaw: the jaw fell powerless, there burst from him a cry; hideous to hear and see. Sam-son, thou canst not be too quick !
“Samson’s work done, there bursts forth shout on shout of applause. Shout, which prolongs itself not only over Paris, but over France, but over Europe, and down to this generation. Deservedly, and also undeservedly. O unhappiest Advocate of Arras, wert thou worse than other Advocates ? Stricter man, according to his Formula, to his Credo and his Cant, of probities, benevolences, pleasures-of-virtue, and suchlike, lived not in that age. A man fitted, in some luckier settled age, to have become one of those incorruptible barren Pattern-Figures, and have had marble-tablets and funeral-sermons. His poor landlord, the Cabinet-maker in the Rue Saint-Honoré, loved him ; his Brother died for him. May God be merciful to him and to us !
” This is the end of the Reign of Terror.”
In 1799 the Place won its name Concorde. The next untoward sight that it was to see was Prussian and Russian soldiers encamping there in 1814 and 1815, and in 1815 the British. By this time it had been renamed Place Louis Quinze, which in 1826 was changed to Place Louis Seize, and a project was afoot for raising a monument to that monarch’s memory on the spot where he fell. But the Revolution of 1830 intervened, and ” Concorde” resumed its sway, and in 1836 Louis-Philippe, the new king (whose father, Philippe Egalité, had perished on the guillotine here), erected the Luxor column, which had been given to him by Mohammed Ali, and had once stood before the great temple of Thebes commemorating on its sides the achievements of Rameses II. Since then certain symbolic statues of the great French cities (including unhappy Strassburg) have been set up, and the Place is a model of symmetry, and at the time that I write (1909) a great part of it is enclosed within hoardings for I know not what purpose, but I hope a subway for the saving of the lives of pedestrians, for it must be the most perilous crossing in the world. One has but to set foot in the roadway and straightway motor-cars and cabs spring out of the earth and converge upon one from every point of the compass, in the amazing French way. Concorde, indeed !
If the Place de la Concorde may be called at night a congress of lamps, the Champs-Elysées in the afternoon may be said to be a congress of wheels. Wheels in such numbers and revolving at such a pace are never seen in England, not even on. the Epsom road on Derby Day. For there is no speed limit for the French motor-car. Nor have we in England anything like this superb roadway, so wide and open, climbing so confidently to the Arc de Triomphe, with its groves on either side at the foot, and the prosperous white mansions afterwards. It is not our way. We English, with our ambition to conquer and administer the world, have neglected our own home; the French, with no ambition any longer to wander beyond their own borders, have made their home beautiful. The energy which we as a nation put into greater Britain, they have put into buildings, into statues, into roads. The result is that we have the Transvaal, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India, but it is the French, foregoing such possessions and all their anxieties, who have the Champs-Elysées.
The Champs-Elysées were planned and laid out by Marie de Médicis in 1616, and the Cours la Reine, her triple avenue of trees, still exists ; but Napoleon is the father of the scheme which culminates so magnificently in the Arc de Triomphe. The particular children’s paradise of Paris is in the gardens between the main road and the Elysée, where they bowl their hoops and spin their Diabolo spools, and ride on the horses of minute round-abouts turned by hand, and watch the marionettes, with the tired eyes of Alphonse Daudet, who sits for ever, close by, in very white stone, watching them.
Here also are the open-air cafés, the Ambassadeurs and the Alcazar, while on the other, the river, side are the Jardin de Paris, a curiously Lutetian haunt, and Ledoyen’s, one of the pleasantest of restaurants in summer.
Just above this point we ought to turn to the left to visit the Petit Palais and cross the Pont d’Alexandre III., but since we are on the way let us now climb to the Etoile, and on to the Bois, first, however, just turning off the Ronde Point for a moment to look at No. 3 Avenue Matignon, where Heine (beside whose grave we are to stand on Montmartre) suffered and died.
The Place de l’Etoile might be called a kind of gilt-edged Seven Dials, since so many roads lead from it. Aristocratic Paris comes to a head here. On the right runs from it the Avenue de Friedland, leading to the Boulevard Haussmann, which meets with so inglorious an end at the Rue Taitbout, but is perhaps to be cut through to join the Boulevard Montmartre. Next on the right is the Avenue Hoche, running directly into the Parc Monceau, a terrestrial paradise to which good mondaines certainly go when they die. A little appartement overlooking the Parc Monceau – there is tangible heaven, if you like !
The Parc itself is small but perfect, elegant and ex-pensive and verdant. The children (one feels) are all titled, the bonnes are visibly miracles of distinction and the babies masses of point lace ; the ladies on the chairs must be Comtesses or Baronnes, and the air is carefully scented. That is the Parc Monceau. It needed but one detail to make it complete, and that was supplied a few years ago : a statue of Guy de Maupassant, consisting of a block of the most radiant marble to be procured, with the novelist as its apex, and at the base a Pari-sienne reading one of his stories. Other statues there are : of Ambroise Thomas the composer, to whom Mignon offers a floral tribute; of Pailleron the dramatist, at-tended by an actress ; of Gounod surrounded by Marguerite, Juliet, Sappho and a little Love, and of Chopin seated at the piano, with the figures of Night and Harmony to inspire him. These are only a few; but they are typical. Every statue in the Parc has a damsel or two, according to his desire. It is the mode. There is also a minute lake, on the edge of which have been set up a number of Corinthian columns ; and before you have been seated a minute, an old woman appears from nowhere and demands twopence for what she poetically calls an armchair, the extra penny being added as a compliment to the two uncomfortable wires at the side which you had been wishing you could break off. Such is the Parc Monceau, the like of which exists not in London: the ideal pleasaunce of the wealthy. Through it, I might add, you may drive ; but only at a walking pace au pas. If the horse were to trot he might shake some petals off.
At the western gate is the Musée Cernuschi, containing a collection of oriental pottery and bronzes. I am no connoisseur of these beautiful things, but I advise all readers of this book to visit both this museum and the Guimet in the Place d’Iéna, which is a treasury of Japanese and Chinese art.
Returning to the Etoile, the next avenue is the Avenue de Wagram, running north to the Porte d’Asnières, while that which continues the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in a straight line west by north is the Avenue de la Grande Armée, running to the Porte Maillot and Neuilly. On the left the first avenue is the Avenue de Marceau, which leads to the Place de l’Alma; the next the Avenue d’Iéna, leading to the Place d’Iéna; the next, the Avenue de Kléber, running straight to the Trocadéro (into which I have never penetrated) and Passy, where the English live; the next, the Avenue Victor Hugo, which never stops ; and finally the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, the most beautiful roadway in new Paris, along which we shall fare when we have examined the Arc de Triomphe.
This trophy of success was begun, as I have said, by Napoleon to celebrate the victories of 1805 and 1806; Louis-Philippe finished it in 1836. Why Louis XVIII. did not destroy it or complete it as a further memorial of the Restoration, I cannot say. Napoleon’s original idea was, however, tampered with by his successors, who allowed a bas-relief representing the Blessings of Peace in 1815 to be included. The sculptures are otherwise wholly devoted to the glorification of war, Napoleon and the French army; but they are not to be studied without serious inconvenience. My advice to the conscientious student would be to buy photographs or picture postcards, and examine them at home: the Are de Triomphe is too great and splendid for such detail. From the top one can see all round Paris, and though one cannot look down on it all as from the Eiffel Tower, or see, beneath one, such an interesting district as from Notre Dame, it is yet a wonderfully interesting view.
The Avenue du Bois de Boulogne has the finest road in what is, so to speak, the Marais of the present day; that is to say, in the modern quarter of the aristocratic and wealthy. We have seen riches and rank moving from the Marais to the Faubourg St. Germain and from the Faubourg St. Germain to the Faubourg St. Honoré, and now we find them here, and here they seem likely to remain. And indeed to move farther would be foolish, for surely there never was, and could not be, a more beautiful city site than this anywhere in the world with its wide cool lawns on either side, and its gay colouring, and the Bois so near. Here too, on the heads of the comfortable complacent bonnes, are the most radiant caps you ever saw.
The Bois de Boulogne, which takes its name from the little town of Boulogne to the south of it, now a suburb of Paris, began its life as a Paris park in the eighteen-fifties. Before that it was a forest of great trees, which indeed remained until the Franco-Prussian war, when they were cut down in order that they might not give cover to the enemy. That is why the present groves are all of a size. I cannot describe the Bois better than by saying that it is as if Hyde Park, Sandown Park, Kempton Park and Epping Forest were all thrown together between Shepherd’s Bush, Acton and the river. London would then have something like the Bois ; and yet it would not be like the Bois at all, because it would rapidly become a desert of newspapers and empty bottles, whereas, although in the summer populous with picnic parties, the Bois is always clean and fresh.
There are several gates to the Bois, but the principal ones are the Porte Maillot at the end of the Avenue de la Grande Armée, and the Porte Dauphine at the end of the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, and it is through the latter that the thousands of vehicles pass on their way to the races on happy Sundays in the spring and autumn. Most English people visiting the Bois merely drive to the races and back again; it is quite the exception to find anyone who really knows the Bois who has walked round the two lakes, Lac Inférieur, which feeds the cascade under which one may walk (as at Niagara), and Lac Supérieur; who has seen a play in the Théâtre de Verdure, or an exhibition at Bagatelle, the villa of the late Sir Richard Wallace, who gave the Champs-Elysées its drinking fountains and London the Wallace Collection. Bagatelle now belongs to Paris. Every English visitor, however, remembers the stone animals, dogs and deer, in the lawn of the Villa de Longchamp on the right as one approaches the race-course, and the windmill on the left, one of the several inoperative windmills of Paris, which marks the site of the old Abbey of Longchamp, founded by Isabella, the sister of Saint Louis.
The Bois has two restaurants of the highest quality and price Armenonville, close to the Porte Maillot, a favourite dining-place when the Fête de Neuilly is in progress, in the summer, and the Pré Catelan, near Lac Inférieur and close to the point where the Allée de la Reine-Marguerite and the Allée de Longchamp cross. In the summer it is quite the thing for the young bloods who frequent the night cafés on Montmartre to drive into the Bois in the early morning and drink a glass of milk in the Pré Catelan’s dairy, perhaps bringing the milkmaids with them.
The Bois has two race-courses, but it is at Longchamp that the principal races are run the Grand Prix and the Conseil Municipal. Racing men tell me that the defect of the pari-mutuel system is that one cannot arrange one’s book, since the odds are always more or less of a surprise ; but to one who does not bet on horses anywhere but in Paris, and who views an English book-maker with alarm, if not positive terror, the pari-mutuel seems perfect in its easy and silent workings and the dramatic unfolding of its surprises. For first you have the fun of picking out your horse ; then quietly putting your money on him, to win or for a place; and then, after the race is run and your horse is a winner, you have those five to ten delightfully anxious minutes while the actuaries are working out the odds.
An experience of my own will illustrate not only the method of the system but the haphazard principles on which a stranger’s modest gambling can be done. On the morning of the races I had visited the Louvre with Mr. Dexter, the artist of this book. We had not much time, and were therefore proposing to look only at the Leonardos and the Rembrandts, which are separated by a considerable stretch of gallery hung with other pictures. On leaving the Leonardos we walked briskly towards the Dutch end ; Mr. Dexter, however, loitered here and there, and I was some distance ahead when he called me back to see a Holbein. It was worth going back for. In the afternoon at Longchamp, when the time came before the race to pick out the horses who were to have the honour of carrying my money, I noticed that one of them was named Holbein. Having already that day been pleased with a Holbein, I accepted the circumstance as a line of guidance, and placed a five-franc piece on the brave animal. He came in first, and being an outsider his price was 185.50.
The Longchamp course is perfectly managed. There are three places where one may go to the pesage, which costs twenty francs for a cavalier and ten francs for a dame; to the pavillon, which is half that price; or to the pelouse, where the people congregate, which costs a franc. Perfect order reigns everywhere.
For the wanderer who has no carriage awaiting him and no appointments to hurry him there are two entertaining things to do when the races are over on a fine Sunday afternoon. One is to cross the Seine to Suresnes by the adjacent bridge and sitting at the café that faces it, watch the crowd and the traffic, for this is on a main road from Paris to the country; or walking the other way, one may enjoy a similar spectacle at the Café du Sport outside the Porte Maillot and study at one’s ease the happy French in holiday mood the husbands with their wives and their two children, and the Sunday lovers arm in arm.
And now we return to the Champs-Elysées in order to look at some pictures and admire a beautiful bridge. For the Avenue d’Alexandre III., as for the Pont d’ Alexandre III., Paris is indebted to the 1900 Exhibition. These are her permanent gains and very valuable they are. Of the two white palaces on either side of this green and spacious Avenue, that on the right, as we face the golden dome of the Invalides, is the home of the Salon and of various exhibitions. I say Salon, but Paris now has many Salons, two of which, in more or less amicable rivalry, occupy this building at the same time. In one, the Salon proper, the Salon of the old guard, the Royal Academicians of France, there are miles of paint but few experiments; in the other, where the more independent spirits the New Englishers, so to speak hang their works in personal groups, there are fewer miles but more outrages. For outrages, how-ever, pure and simple (or even impure and complex), I recommend the Salon that is now held in the early spring in some of the old Exhibition buildings on the banks of the river, close to the Pont d’Alexandre III I have seen pictures there nudities, in the manner of Aztec decorations, by the youngest French artists of the moment which made one want to scream. It was said once that the French knew how to paint but not what to paint, and the English what to paint but not how to paint it. Since then there has been such a fusing of nationalities, such increased and humble appreciation on the part of the English painters of the best French methods, that one can no longer talk in that kind of cast-iron epigram ; but it is impossible to see some of the crude innovating work now being done without the reflection that France is rapidly and successfully creating a school of artists who not only know what to paint but how to paint too.
The Palais des Beaux-Arts, which was built for the collection of pictures at the Exhibition of 1900, is now a permanent gallery for the preservation of the various works of art acquired from time to time by the municipality of Paris, thus differing from the Luxembourg collections, which are national. The Palais has become a kind of brother of the Carnavalet, the one being the historical museum of Paris and the other the Palais the artistic museum of Paris. The Palais undoubtedly contains much that is not of the highest quality, but no one who is interested in modern French painting and drawing can afford to neglect it, while the recent acquisition of the Collection Dutuit, consisting chiefly of small but choice pictures of the Dutch masters, including a picture of Rembrandt with his dog, from his own hand, has added a rather necessary touch of antiquity.
One of the special rooms is devoted to pictures of the opulent Félix Ziem, painter of Venetian sunsets and the sky at its most golden, wherever it may be found, who is still (1909) living in honourable state on those slopes of the mountain of fame which are reserved for the few rare spirits that become old masters before they die, and who presented his pictures to Paris a few years ago; another room is filled with the works of the late Jean Jacques Renner, whose pallid nudities, emerging from voluptuous gloom, still look yearningly at one from the windows of so many Paris picture dealers. Henner, I must confess, is not a painter whom I greatly esteem; but few modern French artists were more popular in their day. He died in 1905, and this gift of his work was made by his son. Other French artists to have rooms of their own in the Palais are Jean Carriés the sculptor, who died in 1894 at the age of thirty-nine, after an active career in the modelling of quaint and grotesque and realistic figures, one of the best known and most charming of his many works being “La Fil-lette au Pantin” (No. 1338 in the collection); and Jules Dalou (1838-1902), also a sculptor, a man of more vigour although of less charm than his neighbour in the Palais. That strange gift of untiring abundant creativeness which the French have so notably, Dalou also shared, his busy fingers having added thousands of new figures to those that already congest life, while he modelled also many a well-known head. I think that I like best his “Esquisses de Travailleurs.” Nothing here, however, is so fascinating as Dalou’s own head by Rodin in the Luxembourg.
Of the picture collection proper I am saying but little, for it is in a fluid state, and even in the catalogue before me, the latest edition, there is no mention of several of its finest treasures : among them Manet’s portrait of Theodore Duret, a sketch of an old peasant woman’s hand by Madame David, a Rip Van Winkle by that modern master of the grotesque and Rabelaisian, Jean Véber, and one of Mr. Sargent’s Venetian sketches the racing gondoliers. For the most part it is like revisiting the past few Salons, except that the pictures are more choice and less numerous ; but one sees many old friends, and all the expected painters are here. It is of course the surprises that one remembers the three Daumiers, for example, particularly ” L’Amateur d’Estampes,” reproduced opposite page 286, and “Les Joueurs d’Echecs,” and the fine collection of the drawings of Puvis de Chavannes and Daniel Vierge. I was also much taken with some topographical drawings by Adrian Karbowski No. 494 in the catalogue. Other pictures and drawings which should be seen are those by Cazin (a sunset), Pointelin, Steinlen (some work-girls), Sisley, Lebourg, and Harpignies, who exhibits water-colours separated in time by fifty-nine years, 1849 to 1908. The drawings on a whole are far better than the paintings.
In the collection Dutuit look at Ruisdael’s “Environs de Haarlem,” Terburg’s “La Fiancée,” Hobbema’s “Les Moulins “and a woodland scene, Pot’s ” Portrait of a Man,” Van de Velde’s landscape sketches, and the Rembrandt. The rooms downstairs are not worth visiting.
Among the statuary, some of which is very good, ‘ particularly a new unsigned and uncatalogued Joan of Arc, is a naked Victor Hugo holding a MS. in his hand; while Frémiet of course confronts the door, this time with a really fine George and the Dragon, George having a spear worthy of the occasion, and not the short and useless broadsword which he brandishes on the English sovereign.
On my last visit to this thinly populated gallery I was for some time one of three visitors, until suddenly the vast spaces were humanised by the gracious and winsome presence of a band of Isadora Duncan’s gay little dancers, with a kindly companion to tell them about the pictures, and what interested them more the statues. These tiny lissome creatures flitting among the cold rigid marbles I shall not soon forget.
And so we come to the Pont d’Alexandre III., the bridge whose width and radiance are an ever fresh surprise and joy, and make our way to the Invalides, at the end of the prospect, across the great Esplanade des Invalides, so quiet to-day, but for a month of every year so noisy and variegated with round-abouts and booths. It is, by the way, well worth while, whenever one is in Paris, to find out what fair is being held. For some-where or other a fair is always being held. You can get the particulars from the invaluable Bottin or Bottin Mondaine, which every restaurant keeps, and which is even exposed to public scrutiny on a table at the Gare du Nord, and for all I know to the contrary, at the other stations too. This is one of the lessons which might be learned from Paris by London, where you ask in vain for a Post Office Directory even in the General Post Office. Bottin, who knows all, will give you the time and place of every fair. The best is the Fête de Neuilly, which is held in the summer, just outside the Porte Maillot, but all the arrondissements have their own. They are crowded scenes of noisy life; but they are amusing too, and their popularity shows you how juvenile is the Frenchman’s heart.
One should enter the Invalides from the great Place and round off the inspection of the Musée de l’Armée by a visit to Napoleon’s tomb ; that, at least, is the symmetrical order. The Hôtel des Invalides proper, which set the fashion in military hospitals, was built by Louis XIV., who may be seen on his horse in bas-relief on the principal façade. The building once sheltered and tended 7,000 wounded soldiers; but there are now only fifty. From its original function as a military hospital for any kind of disablement it has dwindled to a home for a few incurables; while the greater portion of the building is now given up to collections and to civic offices. There could be no greater contrast than that between the imposing architecture of the main structure and the charming domestic façade in the Boulevard dès Invalides, which is one of the pleasantest of the old Paris buildings and has some of the simplicity of an English almshouse.
It is not until we enter the great Court of Honour that we catch sight of Napoleon, whose figure dominates the opposite wall. Thereafter one thinks of little else. Louis XIV. disappears.
Passing some clingy frescoes which the weather has treated vilely, we enter the Musée Historique on the left unless one has an overwhelming passion for artillery armour and the weapons of savages, in which ease one turns to the right. I mention the alternative because there is far too much to see on one visit, and it is well to concentrate on the more interesting. For me guns and armour and the weapons of savages are with-out any magic while there are to be seen such human relics as have been brought together in the Musée Historique on the opposite side of the Court. The whole place, by the way, is a model for the Carnavalet, in that everything is precisely and clearly labelled. This, since it is a favourite resort of simple folk soldiers and their parents and sweethearts is a thoughtful provision.
The Musée Historique has at every turn something profoundly interesting, and incidentally it tells some-thing of the men from whom numbers of Paris streets take their names; but the real and poignant interest is Napoleon. The Longwood room is to me too painful. The project of the admirable administrator has been to illustrate the whole pageant of French arms ; but the Man of Destiny quickly becomes all-powerful, and one finds oneself looking only for signs and tokens of his personality. So it should be, under the shadow of the Dome which covers his ashes. I would personally go farther and collect at the Invalides all the Napoleonic relics that one now must visit so many places to see –the Carnavalet Fontainebleau, the Musée Grévin, our own United Service Museum in Whitehall (as if we had the right to a single article from St. Helena !), Madame Tussaud’s, and Versailles. There is even a room at the Arts Décoratifs devoted nominally to Napoleon, but it has few articles of personal interest and none of any intimacy merely splendid costumes for occasions and ceremonials of State, with a few of Josephine’s lace caps among them. Its purpose is to illustrate the Empire rather than the Emperor, but the Invalides should have what there is.
At the Invalides you may, I suppose, see in three or four rooms more Napoleonic relics of a personal character than anywhere else. In Whitehall is the chair he died in ; but here is his garden-seat from St. Helena, one bar of which was removed to allow him as he sat to pass his arm through and be more at his ease as he looked out to the ocean that was to do nothing for him. At Whitehall is the skeleton of his horse Marengo; here is the saddle. Here are his grey redingote and more than one of his hats. Among the relics in the special Napoleonic rooms those of his triumph and his fall are mixed. Here is the bullet that wounded him at Ratisbon : here are his telescopes and his maps, his travelling desks and his pistols ; here are the toys of the little Duke of Reichstadt; here is the walking stick on which Napoleon leaned at St. Helena, his dressing-gown, his bed, his armchair and his death-mask. Here are the railings of the tomb at St. Helena, and a case of leaves and stones and pieces of wood and other natural surroundings of the same spot. Here also is the pall that covered his coffin on the way to its final burial under the Dome close by.
It is a fitting end to the study of these storied corridors to pass to the tomb of the protagonist of the drama we have been contemplating. The Emperor’s remains were brought to Paris in 1840, nineteen years after his death at St. Helena. Thackeray in his Second Funeral of Napoleon wrote a vivid, although to my mind hateful, description of the ceremonial: a piece of complacent flippancy, marked by the worst kind of French irreverence, which shows him in his least admirable mood, particularly when he is pleased to be amusing over the difference between the features of the Emperor dead and living. None the less it is an absorbing narrative.
One looks down upon the sarcophagus, which lies in a marble well. It is simple, solemn and severe, and to a few persons, not Titmarshes, inexpressibly melancholy. The Emperor’s words from his will, ” Je désire que mes cendres reposent sur les bords de la Seine, au milieu de ce peuple français que j’ai tant aimé,” are placed at the entrance to the crypt. He had not the Invalides in mind when he wrote them; but one feels that the Invalides is as right a spot for him as any in this land of short memories and light mockeries.