Paris – The Tuileries

HAD we turned our back only thirty-eight years ago on Frémiet’s statue of Joan of Arc (which was not there then) in the Place de Rivoli, and walked down what is now the Rue de Tuileries towards the Seine, we should have had on our left hand a beautiful and imposing building — the Palace of the Tuileries, which united the two wings of the Louvre that now terminate in the Pavillon de Marsan just by the Place de Rivoli and the Pavillon de Flore on the Quai des Tuileries. The palace stretched right across this interval, thus interrupting the wonderful vista of to-day from the old Louvre right away to the Arc de Triomphe — probably the most extraordinary and beautiful civilised, or artificial, vista in the world. The palace had, however, a sufficiently fine if curtailed share of it from its own windows.

All Parisians upwards of forty-five must remember the Palace perfectly, for it was not destroyed until 1871, during the Commune, and it was some years after that incendiary period before all traces were removed and the gardens spread uninterruptedly from the Carrousel to the Concorde.

The Palace of the Tuileries (so called because it occupied a site previously covered by tile kilns) was begun in 1564 and had therefore lived for three centuries. Catherine de Médicis planned it, but, as we shall read later, she lost interest in it very quickly owing to one of those inconvenient prophecies which were wont in earlier times so to embarrass rulers, but which to-day in civilised countries have entirely gone out. The Tuileries was a happy enough palace, as palaces go, until the Revolution : it then became for a while the very centre of rebellion and carnage; for Louis XVI. and the Royal Family were conveyed thither after the fatal oath had been sworn in the Versailles tennis-court. Then came the critical 10th of August, when the King consented to attend the conference in the Manège (now no more, but a tablet opposite the Rue Castiglione marks the spot) and thus lost everything.

The massacre of the Swiss Guards followed : but here it is impossible, or at least absurd, not to hear Carlyle. Mandai, Commander of the National Guard, I would premise, has been assassinated by the crowd ; the Constitutional Assembly sits in the Manège, and the King, a prisoner in the Tuileries, but still a hesitant and an optimist, is ordered to attend it. At last he consents. “King Louis sits, his hands leant on his knees, body bent forward; gazes for a space fixedly on Syndic Roederer; then answers, looking over his shoulder to the Queen : Marchons ! They march ; King Louis, Queen, Sister Elizabeth, the two royal children and governess : these, with Syndic Roederer, and Officials of the Department; amid a double rank of National Guards. The men with blunderbusses, the steady red Swiss gaze mournfully, reproachfully; but hear only these words from Syndic Reederer : `The King is going to the Assembly; make way.’ It has struck eight, on all clocks, some minutes ago : the King has left the Tuileries — forever.

” O ye stanch Swiss, ye gallant gentlemen in black, for what a cause are ye to spend and be spent ! Look out from the western windows, ye may see King Louis placidly hold on his way; the poor little Prince Royal `sportfully kicking the fallen leaves.’ Fremescent multitude on the Terrace of the Feuillants whirls parallel to him; one man in it, very noisy, with a long pole : will they not obstruct the outer Staircase, and back-entrance of the Salle, when it comes to that? King’s Guards can go no farther than the bottom step there. Lo, Deputation of Legislators come out; he of the long pole is stilled by oratory; Assembly’s Guards join themselves to King’s Guards, and all may mount in this case of necessity; the outer Staircase is free, or passable. See, Royalty ascends; a blue Grenadier lifts the poor little Prince Royal from the press; Royalty has entered in. Royalty has vanished for ever from your eyes. — And ye ? Left standing there, amid the yawning abysses, and earthquake of Insurrection; with-out course; without command: if ye perish, it must be as more than martyrs, as martyrs who are now with-out a cause ! The black Courtiers disappear mostly; through such issues as they can. The poor Swiss know not how to act : one duty only is clear to them, that of standing by their post; and they will perform that.

“But the glittering steel tide has arrived ; it beats now against the Château barriers and eastern Courts ; irresistible, loud-surging far and wide; — breaks in, fills the Court of the Carrousel, blackbrowed Marseillese in the van. King Louis gone, say you; over to the Assembly ! Well and good : but till the Assembly pronounce Forfeiture of him, what boots it ? Our post is in that Château or stronghold of his; there till then must we continue. Think, ye stanch Swiss, whether it were good that grim murder began, and brothers blasted one another in pieces for a stone edifice ? — Poor Swiss ! they know not how to act : from the southern windows, some fling cartridges, in sign of brotherhood ; on the eastern outer staircase, and within through long stairs and corridors, they stand firm-ranked, peaceable and yet refusing to stir. Westermann speaks to them in Alsatian German; Marseillese plead, in hot Provençal speech and pantomime; stunning hubbub pleads and threatens, infinite, around. The Swiss stand fast, peaceable and yet immovable; red granite pier in that waste-flashing sea of steel.

“Who can help the inevitable issue ; Marseillese and all France on this side; granite Swiss on that? The pantomime grows hotter and hotter; Marseillese sabres flourishing by way of action; the Swiss brow also clouding itself, the Swiss thumb bringing its firelock to the cock. And hark ! high thundering above all the din, three Marseillese cannon from the Carrousel, pointed by a gunner of bad aim, come rattling over the roofs ! Ye Swiss, therefore: Fire! The Swiss fire; by volley, by platoon, in rolling fire : Marseillese men not a few, and `a tall man that was louder than any,’ lie silent, smashed upon the pavement ; — not a few Marseillese, after the long dusty march, have made halt here. The Carrousel is void; the black tide recoiling; `fugitives rushing as far as Saint-Antoine before they stop.’ The Cannoneers without linstock have squatted invisible, and left their cannon ; which the Swiss seize.

“Behold, the fire slackens not; nor does the Swiss rolling-fire slacken from within. Nay they clutched cannon, as we saw ; and now, from the other side, they clutch three pieces more; alas, cannon without linstock; nor will the steel-and-flint answer, though they try it. Had it chanced to answer ! Patriot onlookers have their misgivings; one strangest Patriot onlooker thinks that the Swiss, had they a commander, would beat. He is a man not unqualified to judge; the name of him Napoleon Buonaparte. And onlookers, and women, stand gazing, and the witty Dr. Moore of Glasgow among them, on the other side of the River : cannon rush rumbling past them; pause on the Pont Royal; belch out their iron entrails there, against the Tuileries; and at every new belch, the women and onlookers `shout and clap hands.’ City of all the Devils ! In remote streets, men are drinking breakfast-coffee; following their affairs ; with a start now and then, as some dull echo reverberates a note louder. And here ? Marseillese fall wounded ; but Barbaroux has surgeons ; Barba-roux is close by, managing, though underhand and under cover. Marseillese fall death-struck ; bequeath their firelock, specify in which pocket are the cartridges; and die murmuring, `Revenge me, Revenge thy country!’ Brest Fédéré Officers, galloping in red coats, are shot as Swiss. Lo you, the Carrousel has burst into flame !-Paris Pandemonium ! Nay the poor City, as we said, is in fever-fit and convulsion : such crisis has lasted for the space of some half hour.

“But what is this that, with Legislative Insignia, ventures through the hubbub and death-hail, from the back-entrance of the Manège ? Towards the Tuileries and Swiss: written Order from his Majesty to cease firing ! O ye hapless Swiss, why was there no order not to begin it ? Gladly would the Swiss cease firing : but who will bid mad Insurrection cease firing? To Insurrection you cannot speak ; neither can it, hydra-headed, hear. The dead and dying, by the hundred, lie all around; are borne bleeding through the streets, towards help; the sight of them, like a torch of the Furies, kindling Madness. Patriot Paris roars; as the bear bereaved of her whelps. On, ye Patriots : Vengeance ! Victory or death ! There are men seen, who rush on, armed only with walking-sticks. Terror and Fury rule the hour.

“The Swiss, pressed on from without, paralysed from within, have ceased to shoot; but not to be shot. What shall they do ? Desperate is the moment. Shelter or instant death : yet How, Where? One party flies out by the Rue de l’Echelle; is destroyed utterly, `en entier.’ A second, by the other side, throws itself into the Garden; `hurrying across a keen fusillade'; rushes suppliant into the National Assembly; finds pity and refuge in the back benches there. The third, and largest, darts out in column, three hundred strong, towards the Champs-Elysées : ‘Ah, could we but reach Courbevoye, where other Swiss are!’ Wo ! see, in such fusillade the column `soon breaks itself by diversity of opinion,’ into distracted segments, this way and that; — to escape in holes, to die fighting from street to street. The firing and murdering will not cease; not yet for long. The red Porters of Hôtels are shot at, be they Suisse by nature, or Suisse only in name.

“Surely few things in the history of carnage are pain-fuller. What ineffaceable red streak, flickering so sad in the memory, is that, of this poor column of red Swiss `breaking itself in the confusion of opinions ‘; dispersing, into blackness and death ! Honour to you, brave men; honourable pity, through long times ! Not martyrs were ye; and yet almost more. He was no King of yours, this Louis; and he forsook you like a King of shreds and patches : ye were but sold to him for some poor sixpence a-day; yet would ye work for your wages, keep your plighted word. The work now was to die; and ye did it. Honour to you, O Kinsmen.”

Is that too dreadful an association for this spot ? It is terrible; but to visit Paris without any historical interest is too materialistic a proceeding, and to have the historical interest in Paris and be afraid of a little blood is an untenable position. Paris is steeped in blood.

The Tuileries had not seen all its riot yet; July 29th, 1830, was to come, when, after another taste of monarchy, revived in 1814 after its murder on that appalling 10th of August (which was virtually its death day, al-though the date of the birth of the First Republic stands as September 21st, 1793), the mob attacked the Palace, the last Bourbon king, Charles X., fled from it and from France, and Louis-Philippe of Orléans mounted the throne in his stead. But that was not all. Another seventeen and a half years and revengeful time saw Louis-Philippe, last of the Orléans kings, escaping in his turn from another besieging crowd, and the establishment of the Second Republic.

During the Second Empire some of the old splendour returned, and it was here, at the Tuileries, that Napoleon III. drew up many of his plans for the modern Paris that we now know; and then came the Prussian war and the Third Republic, and then the terrible Communard insurrection in the spring of 1871, in which the Tuileries disappeared for ever. Napoleon III., as I have said, assisted by Baron Haussmann, toiled in the great pacific task of renovating Paris, not with the imaginative genius of his uncle but with an undeniable largeness and sagacity. He it was who added so greatly to the Louvre — all that part in fact opposite the Place du Palais Royal and the Magasins du Louvre as far west as the Rue de Rohan. A large portion of the corresponding wing on the river side was his too. But here is a list, since we are on the subject of modern Paris — which began with the great Napoleon’s reconstruction of the ravages (beneficial for the most part) of the Revolutionaries — of the efforts made by each ruler since that epoch. I borrow the table from the Marquis de Rochegude.

“Napoleon I. — Arc de Triomphe de Carrousel, Vendôme Column, Façade du Corps Législatif, Commencement of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, La Bourse, the Bridges d’Austerlitz, d’Iéna, des Arts, de la Cité, several Markets, Quais d’Orsay, de Billy, du Louvre, Montebello, de la Tournelle ; the Eastern and Northern Cemeteries ; numbering the houses in 1806, begun with-out success in 1728; pavements in the streets and doing away with the streams or flowing gutters in the middle of the streets.” (How like Napoleon to get the houses numbered on a clear system ! Throughout Paris the odd numbers occupy one side of the street and the even the other. All are numbered from the Seine out-wards.)

“The Restoration. — Chapel Expiatoire, N.D. de Bonne-Nouvelle, N.D. de Lorette, St. Vincent de Paul; Bridges of the Invalides, of the Archbishopric, d’Arcole ; Canals of St. Denis and St. Martin ; fifty-five new streets ; lighting by gas.” (It was about 1828 that cabs came in. They were called fiacres from the circumstance that their originator carried on his business at the sign of the Grand St. Fiacre.)

“Louis Philippe, 1830-1848. — Finished the Madeleine, Arc de Triomphe, erected the Obelisk (Place de la Concorde), Column of July; Bridges: Louis-Philippe, Carrousel; Palace of the Quai d’Orsay; enlarged the Palais de Justice ; restored Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle; Fountains: Louvois, Cuvier, St. Sulpice, Gaillon, Molière ; opened the Museums of Cluny and the Thermes. In 1843 — 1,100 streets.

“Napoleon III., 1852-1870. — Embellished Paris — execution of Haussmann’s plans, twenty-two new boulevards; Streets Lafayette, Quatre-Septembre, de Turbigo; Bvd. St. Germain ; Rues des Ecoles, de Rivoli, the Champs-Elysées Quarter, the Avenues Friedland, Hoche, Kléber, the Marceau, de L’Impératrice, many squares; a part of new Louvre; Churches of St. Augustine, The Trinity, St. Ambroise, St. Clotilde (finishing of) ; Theatres, Châtelet, Lyrique, du Vaudeville; Tribunal of Commerce, Hôtel Dieu, Barracks, Central Markets (also the ceinture railway) ; finishing of the Laribosière hospital, the Fountain of St. Michel, the Bridges of Solferino, L’Alma, the Pont au Change. In 1861—1,667,841 in-habitants.

“The Commune. — Burning of the Tuileries, the Ministry of Finance, the Louvre Library, the Hôtel de Ville, the Palace of the Legion of Honour, the Palace of the Quai d’Orsay, the Lyric, the Châtelet and the Porte St. Martin theatres, etc.

“The Republic. — Reconstruction of the buildings burnt by the Commune; Avenue de l’Opéra, the Opera House ; Streets : Etienne Marcel, Réaumur, Avenue de la République, etc. In 189e, 4,090 streets, in 1902 there were 4,261 streets. The Exhibition 1878 left the Trocadero, and that of 1889 the Eiffel Tower, and that of 1900 the two Palaces of the Champs-Elysées and the bridge Alexander III.” (To this one should add the Métro, still uncompleted, which has the advantage over London’s Tubes of being only just below the surface, so that no lift is needed.)

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, at the east end of the gardens, is a mere child compared with the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, which stands there, so serenely and magnificently, at the end of the vista in the west, nearly two amazing miles away; it could be placed easily, with many feet to spare, under that greater monument’s arch (as Victor Hugo’s coffin was) ; but it is more beautiful. Both were the work of Napoleon, both celebrate the victories of 1805-06. The Carrousel is surmounted by a triumphal car and four horses; but here again, as in the case of the statue of Henri IV. on the Pont Neuf, there have been ironical changes. Napoleon, when he ordained the arch, which was in-tended largely to reproduce that of Severus at Rome, ravished for its crowning the quadriga from St. Mark’s at Venice : those glorious gleaming horses over the door. That was as it should be: he was a conqueror and entitled to the spoils of conquest. But after his fall came, as we have seen, a pedantic disgorgement of such treasure; the golden team trotted back to the Adriatic, and a new decoration had to be provided for the Carrousel. Hence the present one, which represents — what ? It is almost inconceivable; but, Louis XVIII. having commissioned it, it represents the triumph no longer of Napoleon but of the Restoration ! Amusing to remember this under the Third Republic, as one looks up at it and then at the bas-reliefs of the battle of Austerlitz, the peace of Tilsit, the capitulation of Ulm, the entry into Munich, the entry into Vienna and the peace of Pressburg. Time’s revenges indeed.

Standing under the Arc du Carrousel one makes the interesting but disappointing discovery that the Are de Triomphe, the column of Luxor in the Place de la Concorde, the fountain, the Arc du Carrousel, the Gambetta monument and the Pavillon Sully of the Louvre do not form a straight line, as by all the laws of French architectural symmetry they should — especially here, where compasses and rulers seem to have been at work on every inch of the ground, and, as I have ascertained, general opinion considers them to do. All is well, from the west, until the Arc du Carrousel ; it is the Gambetta and the Pavillon Sully that throw it out.

The Gambetta ! This monument fascinates me, not by its beauty nor because I have any especial reverence for the statesman; but simply by the vigour of his clothes, the frock coat and the light overcoat of the flamboyant orator, holding forth for evermore (or until his hour strikes), urgent and impetuous and French. To the frock coat in sculpture we in London are no strangers, for have we not Parliament Square ? but our frock coats are quiescent, dead even, things of stone. Gambetta’s, on the contrary, is tempestuous — surely the most heroic frock coat that ever emerged from the quarries of Carrara. It might have been cut by the Great Mel himself.

I have never seen a computation of the stone and bronze population of Paris, but the statues must be thousands strong. A Pied Piper leading them out of the city would be worth seeing, although I for one would regret their loss. Paris, I suppose, was Paris no less than now in the days before Gambetta masqueraded as a Frock Coated Victory almost within hail of the Winged Victory of Samothrace; but Paris certainly would not be Paris any more were some new turn of the wheel to whisk him away and leave the Place du Carrousel forlorn and tepid. The loss even of the smug figure of Jules Simon, just outside Durand’s, would be something like a bereavement. I once, by the way, saw this statue wearing, after a snowstorm, a white fur cap and cape that gave him a character — something almost Siberian — beyond anything dreamed of by the sculptor.

It is not until one has walked through the gardens of the Tuileries that the wealth of statuary in Paris begins to impress the mind. For there must be almost as many statues as flowers. They shine or glimmer everywhere, as in the Athenian groves — allegorical, symbolical, mythological, naked. The Luxembourg Gardens, as we shall see, are hardly less rich, but there one finds the statues of real persons. Here, as becomes a formal garden projected by a king, realism is excluded. Formal it is in the extreme; the trees are sternly pollarded, the beds are mathematically laid out, the paths are straight and not to be deviated from. None the less on a hot summer’s day there are few more delightful spots, with the placid bonnes sitting so solidly, as only French women can sit, over their needlework, and their charges flitting like discreet butterflies all around them; and here are two old philosophers — an-other Bouvard and Pécuchet — discussing some problem of conduct or science, and there a family party lunching heartily, without shame. Pleasant groves, pleasant people !

But the best thing in the Tuileries is M. Pol. Who is M. Pol ? Well, he may not be the most famous man in Paris, but he is certainly the most engaging. M. Pol is the charmer of birds — “Le Charmeur d’oiseaux au Jardin des Tuileries,” to give him his full title. There may be other charmers too at their pretty labours; but M. Pol comes easily first : his personality is so attractive, his terms of intercourse with the birds so intimate. His oiseaux are chiefly sparrows, whom he knows by name — La Princesse, Le Loustic, Garibaldi, La Baronne, l’Anglais, and so forth. They come one by one at his call, and he pets them and praises them; talks pretty ironical talk; uses them (particularly the little brown l’Anglais) for sly satirical purposes, for there are usually a few English spectators; affects to admonish and even chastise them, shuffling minatory feet with all the noise but none of the illusion of seriousness; and never ceases the while to scatter his crumbs or seeds of comfort. It is a very charming little drama, and al-though carried on every day, and for some hours every day, it has no suggestion of routine ; one feels that the springs of it are sweetness and benevolence.

He is a typical elderly Latin, this M. Pol, a little unmindful as to his dress, a little inclined to shamble : humorous, careless, gentle. When I first saw him, years ago, he fed his birds and went his way : but he now makes a little money by it too, now and then offering, very reluctantly, postcards bearing pictures of himself with all his birds about him and a distich or so from his pen. For M. Pol is a poet in words as well as deeds : ” De nos petits oiseaux,” he writes on one card:—

” De nos petits oiseaux, je suis le bienfaiteur, Et je vais tous les jours leur donner la pature, Mais suivant un contrat dicté par nature Quand je donne mon pain, ils me donnent leur coeur.”

I think this true. It is a little more than cupboard love that inspires these tiny creatures, or they would never settle on M. Pol’s hands and shoulders as they do. He has charmed the pigeons also; but here he admits to a lower motive : —

“Ils savent, les malins, que leur couvert est mis, C’est en faisant du bien qu’on se fait des amis.”

It amused me one day at the Louvre to fix one of these photographs in the frame of Giotto’s picture of St. Francis (in Salle VII.), one of the scenes of which shows him preaching to the birds : thus bridging the gulf between the centuries and making for the moment the Assisi of the Saint and the Paris of M. Briand one.

London has its noticeable lovers of animals too — you may see in St. Paul’s churchyard in the dinner hour isolated figures surrounded and covered by pigeons : the British Museum courtyard also knows one or two, and the Guildhall: quite like Venice, both of them, save that no one is excited about it; while in St. James’s Square may be seen at all hours of every day the mysterious cat woman with her pensioners all about her on their little mats. Every city has these humorists — shall I say ? using the word as it was wont to be used long ago. But M. Pol — M. Pol stands alone. It is not merely that he charms the birds but that he is so charming with them. The pigeon feeders of London whom I have watched bring their maize, distribute it and go. M. Pol is more of a St. Francis than that : as I have shown, he converses, jokes and exchanges moods with his friends.

Although he is acquainted with pigeons, his real friends are the gamins of the air, the sparrows, true Parisians, who have the best news. Pigeons, one can conceive, pick up a fact here and there, but it would have a foreign or provincial flavour. Now if there is one thing which bores a true Parisian it is talk of what is happening outside Paris. The Parisian’s horizons do not extend beyond his city. The sun for him rises out of the Bois de Vincennes, and evening comes because it has sunk into the Bois de Boulogne. Hence M. Pol’s wisdom in choosing the sparrow for his companion, his oiseau intime.

So far had I written when I chanced to walk into London by way of Hyde Park, and there, just by the Achilles statue, was a charming gentleman in a tall white hat whistling a low whistle to a little band of sparrows who followed him and surrounded him and fluttered up, one by one, to his hand. We talked a little together, and he told me that the birds never for-get him, though he is absent for eight months each year. His whistle brings them at once. So London is all right after all. And I have been told delightful things about the friends of the grey squirrels in Central Park; so New York perhaps is all right too.

The Round Pond of Paris is at the Tuileries — not so vast as the mare clausum of Kensington Gardens, but capable of accommodating many argosies. Leaving this Pond behind us and making for the Place de la Concorde, we have on the right the remains of a monastery of the Cistercians, one of the many religious houses which stood all about the north of the Gardens at the time of the Revolution and were first discredited and emptied by the votaries of Reason and then swept away by Napoleon when he made the Rue de Rivoli. The building on the left is the Orangery. It is in this part that the temporary pavilions are erected for the banquets to provincial mayors and such pleasant ceremonies, while in the summer some little exhibition is usually in progress.

But what is that sound ? The beating of a drum. We must hasten to the gates, for that means closing-time.