Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

woman, and talks both much and well. She belongs to the party reprobated here as aristocratic, for her husband was an officer, and a chevalier of the order of St Louis, a man somewhat advanced in years, and precipitated into his grave by the commotions of the revolution. For five days and nights, she assured me, they never thought their lives secure in their own apartments a single moment. Sometimes her husband was menaced with death, sometimes the populace wanted to place him at the head of a band of mutineers, sometimes they threatened to plunder and burn down the house. Besides, the national assembly, she said, had deprived her of a pension; And not only that,” she added with great eagerness, “ but I must not even retain my arms. If I want to seal a letter, I must press it together with my thumb.”

I imagine that she now maintains lierself principally by writing, though her appearance was smart, and not a syllable of complaint, or hint of a wish for assistance from any other hand, escaped her lips. She assured me that she might earn a great deal of money if she would only enlist among

wild crew who are daily inundating the public with pamphlets against the court, in which the queen is called nothing but l'execrable Antoinette, and la miserable femme du roi. Madame de Rome also confirmed what I have mentioned before, that the mildest appellation ever given her, is la femme du roi, and this is considered as an uncommon exertion of forbearance.

She presented me with a copy of the ‘Anécdotes of Joseph the Second,' which she had translated, and of which scarcely a hundred had been sold. She ascribed the ill success of this speculation to the mortal hatred indiscriminately borne here towards every member of the house of Austria.

By her [ was informed, that a snuff-dealer at Nancy has an idea of publishing a German theatre. Woe to us poor Germans !

But nothing during my interview with this lady pierced my bosom so deeply as when she mentioned the loss of her husband. There, indeed, she touched a string in my heart that vibrated most feelingly in unison with her own; and yet, how much happier was she-how much happier was her husband, than myself! They had lived together in the joys of wedlock for five-and-twenty years, and she became not a widow till advanced in life. I possessed my Frede. rica only six years, and want yet some months of being thirty years old! All the happiness I can ever experience was compressed together within that short space. Ah! why were my days of bliss so few!Why did not fate reserve some drops of transport to soothe me in the vale of declining age! Since we are then once more children, the toys of nature, why is it denied me to do like children with their cakes and sweetmeats, to reserve the most delicious morsel for the last! Or, since I perhaps am to be early called away from a table, where for me there is no enjoyment, it may be that my Frederica is only summoned, first to wait and receive me at the door, where I have long been standing, that I may hear it closed behind me without repining, nor feel too deeply the voices of my poor infants as they strive to call me back.

Oh heaven! how the least circumstance leads me back to this one fatal point!

Let me—let me return to Paris, where every one enjoys, and no one feels !—where every one participates, yet no one sympathizes !

The morning was very fine, and we went out to take a walk. We passed through the busy tumultuous Rue St Honoré to the Place de Louis Quinze, and thence to the Tuileries. The genial mildness of the weather had invited many others, like ourselves, into the air. A number of people were reclining beneath the wall on the left hand of the gardens, particularly women and children, to enjoy the faint wintry rays of the benignant sun. The sight was soothing and interesting. I thought of the well-known liorrors coinmitted by the prince de Lambesc on the very same spot, and could not forbear contrasting them in idea with the tranquil scene before me. It was a contrast by which the latter did not suffer.

I remember once reading, but where I cannot recollect, of a little rural cottage, which, placed amid the

pompous ruins of some magnificent building destroyed by an earthquake, makes an undescribable impression upon the traveller. I figure to myself that I must have felt much the same impression at the scene I beheld in the Tuileries,

We went for a few moments into the inner court of the palace. We found Swiss soldiers and national guards every where keeping sentry indiscriminately; yet methought they cast oblique glances at each other, like good and evil angels waiting together the departure of a soul which both have stretched out their arms to receive.

On the banks of the muddy Seine we took a coach, and drove to the Pont Neuf to pay our devotions at the statue of Henri Quatre. Thou excellent king !on thy countenance is also legibly impressed the excellent man!-and the one is no less valuable than the other.

Thence we proceeded to the Palais, as it is called, where sentence is pronounced on criminals. We found the court full of horse-guards, and our driver said, in a careless and jocose manner, On donnera a un pauvre' diuble à déjeuner et à diner.

The meaning of this was, that the court of justice was about to condemn a culprit, who was immediately to be executed. I shuddered at this hardened indifference to so awful a scene. Our valet was much in the same story, and spoke with equal composure of an execution, as of dancing on the rope.

We ascended the great staircase. I saw nothing in the Palais but what Jesus Christ drove from the Jew. ish temple, buyers and sellers in almost as great abundance as in the Palais Royal.

At the end of an angular gallery we at length found the hall of judgment, which we entered just at the moment when the poor criminal's sentence was reading. But the place was so full and so hot, and the whole scene gave me such an impression of horror and anguish, that I turned back immediately. The offender I did not see, and of the judge I saw nothing but his Spanish hat.

Our coachman now drove us through the Place de Grève, where the dreadful instrument of destruction, a wheel with a ladder, was already prepared, and thousands of people were crowding about it. Oh, how rejoiced was I to turn my back upon this execrably celebrated place! Were I offered the most sumptuous palace in the world in the Place de Grève, as a present, upon condition of living in it, I should reject it with disgust and horror.

In the evening we went to the Italian theatre. A very fine room, commodious seats, vile decorations, good singers, moderate actors. The entertainments were, 'La Fausse I:lagie,' and 'Sargines.' The first is a silly insufferable thing, with very insipid music by Gretry. The second is also well known in Germany. It is pleasing, and the music good, but the father of Sargines looked like a periwig-maker, and his fair cousin like a lady from the Palais Royal.

As in the part of Sargines some tragic passages occur, we had now a specimen of the French talents in that way. It was such a dreadful sawing of the air, flourishing of the arms, bellowing, and catching of the breath, as was scarcely to be endured for a moment.

Heavens! what an unaccountable thing is taste ! I could not forbear laughing at all these passages, while the company in general wept, and clapped, and cried bravo !--- And how happens this? The French are a discerning people, and by no means wanting in taste; why, then, do they and we differ so widely? The truth seems, that we love nature, and they art. But yet, I cannot understand how it is possible with their irritable feelings not to love nature, or to admire that art which does not imitate nature. I, for my own part, have never considered art as admirable but in proportion as it approaches nature. I am not in the habit of writing essays, therefore I cannot explain this matter : I only know that it is so. I will next attend the Theatre de la Nation, to see a tragedy, and laugh till I be weary..

It is true, that before a French public, no sentence, no fine sentiment, no well-described feeling can be lost. All of these occasion bursts of applause, as a spark dropped among gunpowder makes an instant and tremendous explosion. Yet, when I reflected upon what I had heard in the morning, I could not feel attracted towards a people, who, with perfect levity, could call a sentence of death a breakfast, and an execution a dinner,—who might be shaken with a word of sentiment, while at the same time a deed of horror was regarded with indifference.

In 'Sargines’ are many passages, which, at the present moment, have a powerful effect upon the audience, and might be supposed to call forth a particular manifestation of their sentiments. For instance: Il faut vaincre, ou mourir, pour son roi. From the applause with which this sentiment was received, it might well be presumed that every soul in the house was burning with desire to testify his loyalty, and die for that king whom, in their common language, they call nothing but Le pauvre homme.

Among the actresses was a charming young creature, by name Rose Renaud. She appeared not more than sixteen or seventeen years old, and had such mildness, such gentleness, such innocence, in her countenance, that I could not forbear asking my neighbour whether it were possible that this expression was not deceitful? Whether she could really be as innocent as she appeared ? He assured me she was so, and I inclined to believe him, how improbable

« PoprzedniaDalej »