Edward Gould Buffum (1820–1867) is best known for Six Months in the Gold Mines (1850). By the end of the 1850s he had settled in Paris, where he spent the last nine years of his life as correspondent for the New York Herald. It can’t have been an exclusive contract, though; he also wrote for other periodicals, including The Galaxy (later absorbed into The Atlantic). We’ve previously met his 1867 article on “Parisian French”.
Sights and Sensations was published after the author’s death, edited and with a preface by his brother, William Arnold Buffum. The preface is a little vague, but seems to imply that the book was already in the planning stages at the time of Edward’s suicide. The editor helpfully points out that two chapters had been previously published, and even identifies the periodicals. Whether intentionally or because William didn’t know, there is no explanation of the occasional shorter passages—notably the section about absinthe—that also appeared in print well before this book.
Edward was the youngest in a family that divides neatly into two groups. Five girls—including writer and abolitionist Elizabeth Buffum Chace (1806–1899)—were followed after some years by the boys, Edward and William.
William A. Buffum spent most of the 1850s as American Consul in Trieste. There he got interested in amber, which led eventually to The Tears of the Heliades, or, Amber as a Gem (London 1896, New York 1900) and to the William Arnold Buffum Collection at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
This etext is based on the 1869 Harper (New York) edition—as far as I know, the only edition there was.
Page numbers in [brackets] represent full-page illustrations that have been moved to the nearest paragraph break. Trivia: There are actually fewer decorative headpieces than you think. In addition to the outright duplicates, at least two headpieces were printed both ways—right-side-up and inverted—yielding two decorations for the price of one. Unfortunately you can’t do this in an ebook.
Typographical errors are marked with and are listed again at the end of each chapter. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space.
Spelling: Throughout the book, accents on French words were printed—or not printed—as shown: Frejus (Fréjus), Isere (Isère). The same goes for umlauts on German words: Alpenstöck, Lowe. I didn’t correct errors unless there was a clear inconsistency. The spelling “Altorf” is correct for the time; “Bardonêche” now goes by its Italian name, Bardonecchia.
Money: Officially the franc was never divided into anything but centimes. The sou was one-twentieth of an earlier currency, the livre. But old habits die hard; in Buffum’s time, decimal currency had been in use for less than 80 years. 1/20 of your primary unit is obviously a sou, whether that works out to 5 centimes or 12 deniers.
SIGHTS AND SENSATIONS
FRANCE, GERMANY, AND SWITZERLAND;
OR, EXPERIENCES OF
AN AMERICAN JOURNALIST IN EUROPE.
THE BUBBLES OF CHAMPAGNE,
HOMBOURG AND BADEN-BADEN,
A TRAMP IN THE BERNESE OBERLAND,
THE FOUNDLING HOSPITAL OF PARIS,
A CHAMBER OF HORRORS,
THE CLOSERIE DE LILAS,
THE QUARTIER LATIN,
ETC., ETC., ETC.
By EDWARD GOULD BUFFUM,
AUTHOR OF “SIX MONTHS IN THE GOLD MINES,” ETC., ETC.
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
It is believed that the name of the author of these pages will require no introduction to a very wide circle of readers both at home and abroad—in New York, where he began his journalistic career; on the Pacific coast, with whose early fortunes he was, as editor, explorer, and legislator, intimately and honorably associated; in the capitals of Western Europe, where he passed the last nine or ten years of his life as chief correspondent of a leading New York newspaper. In all these places Edward Gould Buffum had a multitude of friends who, on the announcement of his demise in Paris some months ago, sincerely mourned the untimely taking-off of one who had endeared himself by every engaging quality of head and heart, and given promise, by many creditable vi performances, of a brilliant and successful literary career. For those, however, who did not personally know him, it will not be amiss to premise a few words by way of biography and characterization—words which the fraternal hand that writes them will endeavor not to color beyond the modesty of nature.
My brother, Edward Gould Buffum, was born at Smithfield, Rhode Island, and came of an ancient Quaker family who, about the middle of the 17th century, fled from the persecutions of the Puritans of Salem, and sought shelter and protection in “Providence Plantations.” His mother, a superior and remarkably handsome woman, belonged to the Gould family of Newport. His father was Arnold Buffum, a man of singular purity and elevation of character, who earned, by good works, the title of “the Quaker philanthropist,” and by a living, glowing enthusiasm, revealed his affiliation with the spiritual line of George Fox.
When Edward was a mere boy, the family removed to the Great West, and he was left to be educated under the care of some relatives vii in Rhode Island at one of the Quaker schools near Providence. If this were the fitting place to enter into an analysis of the influences which went to shape his character, I should be compelled to say that, for a nature of his mould, the circumstances of his nurturing and education were not altogether favorable. Among the sect of Friends, it is too frequently the case that the spiritual fires have long ago gone out, leaving behind only the white ashes and embers of a dead formalism. The sort of Quaker-Puritanism amid which the boy’s lines were cast, frequently makes strong and admirable characters; but very often, also, its morbid culture of what it calls “conscience,” its subjection of all manhood to an abstraction which it names “duty,” result in drying up the very sap and springs of humanity, and leave a class of atrophied men and women, who, under the cloak of this same “conscience” and “duty,” practice a frigid selfishness and a dreary cynicism.
But this is not the place to enter upon any such analysis: and so it may suffice to say that, viii after many struggles, the boy’s bold and spontaneous individuality finally freed itself from these trammels, and, at about the age of nineteen, he came to New York to begin life for himself.
He had early exhibited an aptitude for literary pursuits, and, soon after his arrival in this city, he entered the profession of journalism. It is stated of him in a sketch in a prominent newspaper with which he formed his first connection, that, “as a writer, he at once displayed ability of a high order.” He continued his newspaper employment until the breaking out of the Mexican War, when he joined Colonel Stevenson’s regiment (1st N. Y. Vols.), with which he went to California as a lieutenant. He served with his command on the Pacific coast of Mexico until the close of the war, and was discharged in 1848, shortly after the discovery of gold in California. This event, which has had so important a bearing both on the prosperity of our own country and on the exchanges of the world, lured his adventurous spirit to the new-found El Dorado, ix and he spent the winter of 1848-9 in the mining region, taking an active part in pushing explorations for the precious metal. The fruits of his observations he subsequently embodied in an interesting and valuable work, the first of its kind, entitled “Six Months in the Gold Mines.” Soon after he became the editor-in-chief of the Alta-California newspaper, in which position he continued for several years. He was elected a member of the Legislature from San Francisco, and was a prominent candidate for the Speakership of the House. In the Legislature it is recorded of him that he displayed great ability as a debater, and a thorough knowledge of the wants of the new community. In 1858 he went to Europe, and finally settled himself in Paris as head of a bureau of correspondence, in which arduous employment he continued up to the time of his death, which occurred a few months since, at the age of forty-one.
This brief narrative will suffice to show that the author of these pages was a busy man; and justice demands that the sketches x which compose this little posthumous volume be judged accordingly. The “Sights” and the “Sensations” he here depicts were written currente calamo, in the midst of occupations which taxed all his time, and required his constant care and closest attention. It is possible, therefore, that they may not have all the polish which a man of leisure would bestow on the productions of his pen. It will be found, however, that they possess a special value and charm, which they owe as much to the writer’s individual cast of mind as to his long training and experience as a journalist. The author was a man who had seen a great deal of life—who had seen a great deal and felt a great deal—for he had somewhat of that spirit which Tennyson embodies in his “Ulysses:”
“I can not rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees.”
Yet, withal, he was a man of gentleness, whom experience of the world had never soured; so that he had a healthy love of seeing, and, with his quick and broad sympathies, xi the capacity of observing and of describing what he observed, without excess of sentimentality on the one hand, or of stoicism on the other. His descriptions, in fact, are pure, pellucid, simple, direct, and have the charm which these qualities possess for all persons of unvitiated taste. In addition to this, his long practice as a newspaper writer taught him a style at once concise and forcible, straightforward, yet not unpicturesque; and his pages are always luminous, vivacious, crisp, and entertaining.
It may not be inappropriate for me to add that the papers which compose this book form a small part of a multifarious and extended series of letters, sketches, studies, etc., produced by my brother. It is possible that, in this voluminous mass, there may be other writings worthier of going before the public; but I have not sought for them. This work not having had the advantage of the author’s revision, I have gone so far as to execute such indispensable editorial labor as the book required for publication. It will be proper for xii me to add that two of the sketches have already appeared in magazine form—that on Hombourg (under the title of “Rien Ne Va Plus”), in the Galaxy, and that on the Mont Cenis Tunnel, in the London Fortnightly Review; the last named—a memorial of adventure in Savoy—has been republished recently by several French and Italian journals.
But enough—perhaps more than enough—has been said by way of introduction, and it only remains to commit the book to the indulgence of the reader.
William A. Buffum.
New York, May 19th, 1869.
It is believed
[There is a reason Edward Buffum, writer, is better known than William Buffum, writer.]
But this is not the place
[Reading between the lines, William didn’t get along with his family any better than Edward did.]
his death . . . at the age of forty-one
[Buffum’s year of birth is generally given as 1820, and nobody denies that he died in late 1867. If only this could be attributed to a misreading of handwritten “47”.]
THE BUBBLES OF CHAMPAGNE.
A Week in the Champagne District.—How Champagne Wine is made and prepared for Market.—Cost of a Bottle of Champagne.—Invoice Prices.—Varieties of Wine.—The Champagne Kings.—The Widow Clicquot.—The Wine Cellars.—The Vintage.—Romance and Reality.—The pretty Champenoises.—Practical Information.—The Cathedral of Reims.—Equal and Exact Justice. Page 19
TRENTE ET QUARANTE AT HOMBOURG.
The Baths of Hombourg.—Hombourg and its Surroundings.—The Inducement to Visitors.—The great Gaming-hell of Europe.—The Kursaal.—The Game of “Roulette.”—My early Experiences.—“Systems,” and an Exposure of their Fallacy.—The Scene at the Tables.—The Rouge-et-noir.—Large Winnings.—The Countess Kisselef.—Tricks of Sharpers.—Profits of the Games. 44
A TRAMP IN THE BERNESE OBERLAND.
From Zurich to Altorf.—The Falls of the Rhine.—Zurich and its Surroundings.—Vagabonds.—My Companion.—Horgen.—Outfit and Travelling-dress.—Knapsacks and Gibicieres.—The Hill above Horgen.—An unwarrantable Intrusion.—The “Falken” at Zug.—Gretchen and her Sympathy.—Arth.—Guides and Commissionnaires.—The Ascent of the Rigi.—Dismal Weather.—The Klosterli.—The xiv Rigi Staffel.—“View” from our Windows.—The Summit of the Rigi, and the View from there.—Down to Weggis.—Lucerne.—The Lake of Lucerne.—Fluellen.—Altorf.—From Altorf to Meiringen.—Our pedestrian Excursion fairly commenced.—Unpropitious Circumstances.—Beggars in Switzerland.—The Devil’s Bridge.—Realp.—The Road to the Furca.—View from the mountain Summit.—Necessary Precautions.—The Glacier du Rhone.—A pedestrian Wedding-tour.—The Grimsel.—The Valley of the Aare.—The Falls of Handeck.—From Meiringen to Interlaken.—A Difference of Opinion, and its Results.—Warer and I separate.—A magnificent View.—The Glacier of Rosenlaui.—The Alpenhorn.—Warer and I meet again.—Grindelwald.—Ascent of the Glacier.—An unpleasant Predicament.—The Avalanches.—The Jungfrau.—How to “share” a Mule.—Lauterbrunnen.—Termination of our Trip.—My Companion Warer. 75
IN “MONT CENIS” TUNNEL—THROUGH THE HEART OF THE ALPS.
The great engineering Work of the Century.—A Journey into the “Bowels of the Earth.”—San Michel.—The Village of Fourneaux, and its People.—Its beautiful Surroundings.—History of the Enterprise.—Anticipated Difficulties and Obstacles.—Map of the Tunnel and its Vicinity.—The motive Power.—Air pressed into the Service.—The Operations commenced.—My Visit to the Tunnel.—Preparations for entering.—In the “Bowels of the Earth.”—Darkness visible.—Breathing becomes difficult.—A Halt and Rest.—Among the Workmen.—An unpleasant Predicament.—The Blast.—The “Advanced Gallery.”—The Construction and Action of the perforating Machines.—The Work performed by them.—First Sight of the “Affusto.”—Immense Wear and Tear of Material.—Accidents.—Termination and Success of the Enterprise. 116
THE QUARTIER LATIN.
My Residence and Mode of Life.—Occupations of Women in Paris.—Ladies taking the Degrees of “Bachelor” of Arts and Letters.—A Lady attempting to obtain a medical Diploma.—Quiet Life of my Concierge.—My Neighbor, little Aglaé, the Flower-maker. 144xv
WHAT THE PARISIANS EAT.
Snail-eating.—History and Habits of the Snail.—Cost of living in Paris.—Cheap Restaurants.—Horse-eating.—Bill of Fare of a Horse-dinner.—Tables d’hôte.—First-class Restaurants.—Crêmeries.—“Etablissements de Bouillon.”—How the Parisian Poor furnish their Tables. 152
THE HOSPITALS OF PARIS.
Hospital Lariboisière.—The Physician’s Visit.—The surgical Wards.—The Operating-room.—Medical Students.—Chassaignac’s Operations with the “Ecraseur”. 168
THE CLOSERIE DE LILAS.
Students and Etudiantes.—“Grisettes” of the Past and Present.—The Society at the “Closerie.”—The male and female Dancers.—Remarkable Terpsichorean Gymnastics.—The Cancan.—Order and Propriety. 181
THE FOUNDLING HOSPITAL OF PARIS.
How Foundlings are taken in and done for.—Visit to the Hospital.—The new-born Babies.—The Infirmaries.—How the Foundlings are cared for.—How they become Foundlings.—Their Mothers.—A grave moral and social Question.—Legitimate and illegitimate Births in Paris. 187
A CHAMBER OF HORRORS.
The dissecting-rooms at Clamart.—The “Salle de Reception.”—The “Subjects.”—Food for Meditation. 195xvi
THE “SPECIALITE DE PUMPKIN PIE.”
A Mystery to the uninitiated.—“Thin Magpie” an American Dish. 200
WHAT AND HOW MUCH THE PARISIANS DRINK.
Drunkenness.—Wine-drinking.—“The Octroi” Duty.—Extensive Establishments.—Parisian Cafés.—American Drinks.—Marchands de Vin.—Absinthe-drinking.—“A little Absinthe, just to give an Appetite.”—Composition of Absinthe, and its fearful Effects. 204
A FLYING TRIP IN THE COUNTRY.
Orleans and “the Maid.”—Chambord.—Blois.—Amboise.—Plessis les Tours.—A curious Village.—Houses cut in the solid Rock.—Chinon.—Angers.—The Castle of Bluebeard.—Down the Loire.—Brittany. 216
Annoyances.—The “Claque.”—Its Origin and Object.—The Censorship.—The Acting.—Specialities of different Theatres. 230
Confused Ideas of America.—One of my Countrymen.—No Prejudice against Color. 236
LEARNED INSTITUTIONS AND LECTURES.
Distinguished Lecturers.—Opportunities for the Gratification of all Tastes.—Programme of the Courses. 243xvii
“DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN.”
The Catacombs of Paris.—A Visit to them.—Dismal Places.—Miles of Skulls and Bones.—The Abode of the Dead.—An agreeable Situation.—Accidents. 248
THE CHIFFONNIERS OF PARIS.
Their Mode of Life, and what they find.—The “Hasard de la Fourchette.”—Dilapidated Lorettes.—Objects found in the Streets and public Carriages.—Honesty of the Chiffonniers.—An independent Rag-picker.—The Ravageurs. 261
VISIT TO THE CHAPEL OF THE TUILERIES.
The Imperial Chapel.—The Emperor and Empress at their Devotions.—The Emperor.—The Empress. 272
THE CEMETERY OF PERE LA CHAISE.
A real “City of the Dead.”—The Jewish Inclosure.—Tomb of Rachel.—Defacing Monuments.—Abelard and Héloise.—The Grave of Marshal Ney.—The Artist’s Corner.—Vandael, the Flower-painter.—Singular Inscriptions.—The common Graves.—How the Dead are buried, and what it costs.—The Aristocracy and Democracy of Death.—“Poor little Hunchback.”—Respect for the Dead.—The “Jour des Morts.”—Mortuary Statistics of Paris. 279
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN FRANCE.
The Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish Establishments.—The Parisian Catholic Churches.—The “Eglise des Petits Pères.”—The Statue of St. Peter.—The “Ex Votos.”—The Tableau of 297xviii
ROUEN AND ITS ROMANTIC REMINISCENCES.
First Impressions.—The Rouen of To-day.—The Cathedral of Nôtre Dame.—St. Christopher and his History.—St. Ouen.—A curious Book.—William the Conqueror.—“His Mark.”—The Heart of Richard Cœur de Lion.—The Spot where Joan of Arc was burnt. 303
[XXI] The Tableau of “Indulgences.”
A Week in the Champagne District.—How Champagne Wine is made and prepared for Market.—Cost of a Bottle of Champagne.—Invoice Prices.—Varieties of Wine.—The Champagne Kings.—The Widow Clicquot.—The Wine Cellars.—The Vintage.—Romance and Reality.—The pretty Champenoises.—Practical Information.—The Cathedral of Reims.—Equal and exact Justice.
At the distance of a brief five hours’ ride from Paris lies Reims, the commercial capital of the Champagne wine district, and the centre of the territory which produces the Paradisiacal beverage. Around and near it, on the banks of the sluggish Marne, and upon the neighboring hillsides, embosomed among vines, are the villages of Ay, Verzenay, Bouzy, and others, with names familiar as household words. Some of these names may possibly bring to mind unpleasant recollections—retrospective headaches and dimness of vision; but oftener, it is to be hoped, sweet remembrances of social enjoyment—of sparkling wit, 20 and song, and jollity. One or, indeed, both of these effects may also be produced by a sight of the names which meet the eye in the queer streets of this quaint old town—Eugene Clicquot, De St. Marceaux, Charles Heidseick, Piper, and Veuve Clicquot! Though foreigners and strangers to us and to our land, they are, like the faces of old friends, well known, and their manufactures, at least, are highly esteemed among us.
I spent a week at Reims—pronounced Rance—in the early part of October, and shall not soon forget the delights of the Champagne land, its genial hospitality, and the general facilities afforded me for obtaining information.
People who think the sparkling nectar which they drink with such delight, and pay for so dearly, grows—corks, bottles, brands, and all—exclusively on the sunny hillsides and by the vine-hedged river-banks of Ay, Verzenay, and Bouzy, are greatly mistaken; but not more so, perhaps, than those who believe that Veuve Clicquot, Eugene Clicquot (who, by-the-way, is no relation of the “widow”), or M. de St. Marceaux, or Charles Heidseick, or Moet & Chandon, manufacture their wines from their own grapes grown in any particular locality. It is true, some of these proprietors are owners of large tracts of vine-growing lands, but not nearly of sufficient extent for the production 21 of the enormous quantities of wine which they yearly manufacture.
The Champagne district is divided into a great number of parcels or tracts, on which the grape is grown, some of these tracts not being larger than an ordinary sleeping-room. The vignerons, or vine-growers, a hardy, happy race, are themselves the proprietors of the land, and they and their families devote their time and labor to the culture of the Champagne grape, which requires the most delicate care and attention. These grapes are sold to the various wine merchants, and the same grape is accessible to all.
The manner of receiving the grapes from the vignerons is a very primitive and rather unbusiness-like one. The vignerons bring the grapes in baskets, packed on the backs of mules, to the presses, where they are measured in a tub about the size of a half-barrel—the measure being known as a cague, and holding about one hundred French, or one hundred and ten English pounds; a record is made of the quantity received from each proprietor, but no receipt or voucher of any description is given. The vigneron, at the end of six months, calls upon the manufacturer, and is paid one-half the amount due him, claiming the remainder only at the expiration of the year.
By far the larger portion of the grapes from which 22 Champagne is made are black—a little grape which grows upon a low, stunted vine. Wines are seldom or never made from the black grape alone, nor exclusively from the white; but the black grape, whose juice, more vinous than that of the white, furnishes the “body” of the wine, is mixed with the juice of the white and more aromatic grape, and thus the delicate flavor and bouquet are secured. The black grapes are grown principally—upon a vine never rising above the height of three feet, and which is cut down every year, the grape growing upon the new wood—at Verzenay, Verzy, Mailly, Rilly, Bouzy, Ay, Mareuil, Epernay, and Pierry; and the white, at Cramant, Oger, Avize, and Le Mesnil.
There is no absolute and clearly defined rule governing the proportions in which the wines from different localities shall be mixed, nor for the proportions of the juice of the white and black grape used. Every thing depends upon the taste and skill of the manufacturer, who, to insure success, must have a genius for his business—one might almost say his art—and a delicate and practiced palate, in order to distinguish the peculiar and different qualities of the different wines, and indicate with certainty the proper proportions in which they should be combined. Nothing, indeed, would seem more difficult than to distinguish readily the qualities of the several varieties of grape, 23 to know in precisely what proportions to mix the various wines, and produce a Champagne uniting at the same time vinosity, bouquet, and the marked, homogeneous character which each wine merchant desires for his own brands. A hundred trials and failures are not unfrequently made before success is obtained, and a wine produced upon which a first-class manufacturer is willing to stake his reputation.
One who has not studied the subject, or witnessed the care and labor bestowed in the production of Champagne wines, can form no accurate idea of the attention they require, or of the different changes they undergo before they are placed on the table.
The first point is, of course, the selection and careful examination of the grapes and wines of the different localities—and then the great art and mystery of Champagne-making lies in the composition of the cuvée. The cuvée is the union of the various kinds of wine in greater or less proportions, according to their strength and flavor, and the taste of the producer. The brand of Verzenay, Bouzy, or Ay, upon a bottle of Champagne, to the uninitiated, conveys the idea that the wine was made from grapes grown in the particular locality indicated. Were this so, the wine would be very far from possessing the qualities which make Champagne so popular an article—the different crus requiring the aid of each other. The cuvée is 24 composed about six months after the pressing of the grapes—usually in the early part of April—up to which time the wine has remained in casks; the mixture is then put in bottles, tightly corked, and placed in racks, piled up like logs of wood, in the immense subterranean cellars of the wine merchant. Here, under the influence of a temperature of from 50° to 60° , it undergoes a second fermentation; the saccharine portion of the wine is transformed into carbonic acid gas, and into alcohol, or a new development of vinosity. Champagne is, of all wines, however, the one which contains the smallest proportions of alcohol, a distillation rarely producing more than a little over six per cent. of its volume. After the alcohol, the most important ingredient is sugar.
Champagne wine is marked, as distinguished from other wines, by the presence of a large quantity of carbonic acid gas—the escape of which is prevented by hermetically sealing the bottles before the second fermentation, by which it is developed. The gas is indeed so compressed and confined that it acquires the expansive force of six atmospheres, and each bottle of wine contains six times its volume of carbonic acid.
Under the pressure of such a powerful force, the bottles, while lying in the racks, explode, and are broken in considerable quantity: usually amounting to 25 about ten per cent. of the whole. This breakage, however, has sometimes reached as high as fifty, sixty, seventy, and in rare instances even eighty per cent. The Champagne merchants are rather pleased than otherwise at a loss of ten per cent., as it exhibits the fact that the development of carbonic acid, which gives the wine its sparkling quality, has been a good one.
The bottle fermentation, which takes place without the addition of any foreign ingredient in generating the carbonic acid, also develops a deposit composed principally of tartaric acid and tannin, and which it is necessary to remove. After the wine, which in this fermentation becomes cloudy, begins to deposit this sediment, the bottles are removed from the horizontal position in which they have been resting in the racks, and are placed, with their necks downward, upon shelves with holes cut in them obliquely. Twice a day during two months, and frequently for a longer time, a man whose special business it is to attend to this, seizes each bottle by the bottom, gives it a little shake with the object of detaching the sediment from the side, and causing it to deposit in the neck of the bottle, which after each shaking is placed in a more nearly upright position. Finally the sediment all arrives in the neck of the bottle, the greater portion of it being deposited upon the cork. The process of dégorgement, 26 or the extraction of the deposit, then takes place. This operation is a very important one, and requires a great degree of skill on the part of the operator, who first seizes the bottle by the body, and resting the neck depressed upon his left fore-arm, cuts the wire which confines the cork; this he prevents from flying too suddenly with the index finger of the left hand. The operator then performs a manœuvre requiring great dexterity: raising the bottle, with a pair of pincers he suddenly pulls the cork, which, in flying out, carries with it, and is followed by, all the deposit. Freed from this, the wine is perfectly clear and limpid, the bottle then containing not the slightest particle of sediment.
The wine, however, is not yet in a drinkable condition. The greater portion of its saccharine matter having been transformed into alcohol and carbonic acid, the wine itself is acidulous, and disagreeable to the taste. It is therefore necessary, in order to replace the sugar which it has thus lost, and to restore it in this respect to its primitive condition, to introduce a mixture in greater or less quantity of pure crystallized sugar dissolved in Champagne wine: the quantity of sugar added depending upon the country to which the wine is to be sent, and the taste of purchasers. The cork is then put in, and in a month or six weeks after the dégorgement the wine is ready for market.27
It may not be uninteresting to the drinkers of Champagne to know what is the actual cost to the exporting merchant of the article for which they pay so much.
The Champagne of commerce may be divided into three classes, each representing a different quality. The vin brut, or raw wine of the ordinary quality, costs on an average one franc and twenty-five centimes per bottle; the middling, from one franc and fifty to one franc and seventy-five centimes; and the superior, from one franc and seventy-five to two francs and fifteen centimes the bottle.
The cost of the travail or composition, including bottle, cork, and the necessary admixture, is from forty to sixty centimes per bottle. The corks, all of which are cut by hand, principally by Spaniards, who reside in Reims for that purpose, cost from two to four sous each. Those for Russia, where the Champagne drinkers are the most particular about the corks, cost the highest price. The wine merchants say that they are perfectly satisfied with a profit of fifty centimes a bottle, which added to the price of the raw wine, the cost of preparing it for market, and the small cost of sending it from Reims or Epernay to the port of embarkation, makes up the figure at which the merchants have always invoiced their wine.
The finest and most expensive wines are sent to 28 Russia. For England a much heavier wine is made, as also for the United States, where a very “vinous” wine seems to be preferred, and whither very little first-quality wine is exported. A great many drinkers, rather than connoisseurs, prefer Champagne of a very dry and vinous character. This is a great error, as this dry and vinous characteristic is almost always obtained by the addition to the liqueur, with which the bottles are filled after the dégorgement, of a greater or less quantity of brandy. Thus composed, the wine no longer possesses the delicate quality which should be considered the test of good Champagne—which can be drank with impunity without producing the headache and lassitude which invariably follows the absorption of the alcoholic wines.
The Champagne manufacturers are the aristocracy of the district, and form a society of their own, keeping apart from other merchants and manufacturers, and among them—as, for example, that of De St. Marceaux—are some old and aristocratic names. Most of them are very wealthy, and up to the present time all the great and well-known houses have never been charged with any thing which would affect their integrity. Parties interested in these houses occupy high, honorable, and important positions in political life. They are prefects and mayors and members of the Chamber of Deputies. M. Werle, the head of 29 the house of Vve. Clicquot, and who is supposed to be worth fifteen millions of francs, is the Mayor of Reims, and member from this district of the Corps Legislatif. He is a Prussian by birth, and came to Reims some thirty years ago a poor young man, and has gradually worked his way up to his present position. His principal, the Widow Clicquot (God bless her!), is now in her eighty-eighth year, and has made during the last thirty years a fortune of forty millions of francs by the manufacture and sale of wine. She is a little dried-up old lady, only about five feet high, and lives in a splendid chateau, charmingly situated on a hillside, surrounded with vines, at Boursault, near Epernay. The old lady, though she long since gave up all personal control of her wine manufacturing business, still manages the grape-growing, keeps her own farm and household accounts, drinks a good bottle of Veuve every day for dinner, and is a particularly smart old lady. M. Werle has a son married to the daughter of the Duc de Montebello (also of vinous fame), and a daughter who married a son of M. Magne, the French Minister of Finance.
Singularly enough, although such a peculiarly French wine, about all the trade in it has now fallen into the hands of Germans. M. Werle is a German, as is also the Baron de Saxe, his associate. The Heidseicks, of whom there are three separate houses at 30 Reims—Piper Heidseick, Heidseick & Co., and Charles Heidseick, are all of German origin, as also is M. Piper, who obtained the right of joining the name of Heidseick to his by marrying a daughter of the original Heidseick house. The Mumms are also Germans. The purely French houses, such as Eugene Clicquot and M. de St. Marceaux, nearly all have Germans connected with them. This has been explained to me as resulting from the fact that in the Champagne trade it was necessary to be familiar with several languages; and that as the French as a nation never learn any tongue but their own, the Germans, who are the best linguists in Europe, have worked their way into the trade until now they threaten to monopolize it.
Some excellent red still wines are made in the Champagne districts, bearing the names of Villedomange, Rilly, Marsilly, Verzenay, and Bouzy, the latter being a wine of full body and flavor, very much resembling Chambertin, and selling here at nine hundred francs the “piece” or cask, or at the rate of about four francs a bottle. At my hotel at Reims it is retailed at seven, and this is the price charged also by mine host for all the sparkling Champagne wines, with the exception of the Royal St. Marceaux, one of the purest, richest, and most delicate of the Champagne wines, which he holds at eight.
Most of the wine merchants have their cellars beneath 31 their houses; and these immense subterranean caverns are some of them two or three flights of stairs in height, or rather in depth, the lowest part being at least ninety feet under ground. I rode over to Epernay, which is about an hour by rail from Reims, between hills covered and reaching to the very rails with the Champagne vine, passing by the little village of Ay, nestled in among vine-clad hills extending down to the banks of the sleepy, sluggish Marne. We came over to visit the cellars of Messrs. Moet & Chandon, which are as extensive as any in the district. Going down a flight of stone steps, we reached a little room, where the guide furnished us with candles, and preceding us, led us through these catacombs of Champagne. The vaults are cut in the solid rock, having been made a hundred and fifty years ago, and are between five and six miles in extent, winding around in labyrinthine mazes, and consisting of two sets of tunnels, one hewn under the other. In all these, bottles of Champagne to the number of about 5,000,000 were piled up in racks, the butts toward us, and many of them covered with the mould which we could easily imagine would soon cover every thing left long in that damp, dank atmosphere. Occasionally we came upon men working, bottling and corking and “disgorging” and “dosing” the wine. Eight men, the guide informed us, could bottle 1200 a day. The workmen receive five francs 32 per day for their labor, which, considering that they usually die of diseases necessarily contracted in that horrible atmosphere before they reach the age of forty, certainly can not be considered high.
Song and story have thrown so much romance about vine-growing regions and their inhabitants, that one who gathers his ideas of them from song and story is liable to imbibe very false views. This Champagne district, for example, in which the uninitiated and enthusiastic lover of nature and of romance would hope and expect to find beautiful landscapes, broad and smiling plains, verdant river-banks, and green and sunny hillsides, all covered with a luxuriant growth of the vine, and peopled with a hardy, happy race, whose principal occupation after the labors of the day is to dance and make love, and, in overflowing foaming flagons, sing Anacreontic songs in honor of the vine, will very much disappoint him in the reality. The soil of this whole district is white and chalky, abounding in carbonate of lime, which makes it very disagreeable to the eye.
This calcareous soil seems particularly adapted to the growth of the vine, the culture of which is more easy, as the earth is light, and without compactness. In fact, upon these light calcareous soils, nothing but the vine will flourish. The country is generally flat and little diversified, and when I saw it, after the vintage 33 was past, and the stripped vines were rapidly falling into the “sere and yellow,” it was particularly uninteresting.
The vintage does not usually commence until about the middle of September, but sometimes it is completed by that time in consequence of the dry, warm weather, which hastens the ripening of the grape.
The “vignerons” and their families are very much like the other peasantry in France, living in uncomfortable stone houses, with neither front nor back yards to them, totally destitute of vines, flowers, or shrubbery, or any of that air of comfort about them which so strikes the traveller in the home of the English cottager. In the whole agricultural region of France the traveller sees, as he journeys along the road, no solitary farm-houses. He travels miles and miles over cultivated lands without a mark upon them of habitation, until he reaches a village, made up of a long, straggling street, which is but a continuation of the high-road, and on each side of which are built the little, uncomfortable, unromantic, hot-looking stone houses in which the peasantry of France live. Champagne, in this respect, does not differ from the rest of France; and the fact that there are no fences or even hedges to separate the vine-growing lands from the roadside or from each other, the “metes and bounds” 34 of each little proprietor’s land being marked by piles of stones—gives the country a singularly monotonous appearance. Song and story usually convey the idea that the people in vine-growing regions are not only exceedingly happy, but exceedingly virtuous; in fact, living evidences of the truth of the motto, “Be virtuous, and you will be happy.”
So far as the female portion of the laboring class of the residents of the Champagne district is concerned, I am sorry to be under the necessity of dispelling this illusion. Is it some peculiarity in the climate, or the chalky soil which reflects back the sun’s rays with such burning force; or is it something in the wine, that makes Reims, the great commercial centre of Champagne, one of the most eligible fields of operation for the labors of the Moral Reform Society that I have ever discovered in France or out of it? These tall, well-formed, and pretty Champenoises who “have left their father’s house” and the labor in the vineyards, and come to Reims to work at dress-making, or to tend shop, or labor in the woollen manufactories here, and who, with little bundles in their hands, neatly dressed, with their rich, luxuriant growth of hair unconfined by cap or bonnet, may be seen in great numbers skipping over the trottoirs about eight o’clock in the evening, on their way home from work—these young ladies, although apparently very “happy,” 35 and certainly exceedingly pretty, it is said make no claims to being “virtuous.” The curé who officiates in the splendid cathedral, whose tall, heaven-pointing towers ought to direct the attention of these young women to higher things, is said to be called upon much more frequently to baptize infants who in the worldly wisdom of knowing their own fathers are profoundly lacking, than he is of those begotten and born in accordance with the strict rules of propriety, virtue, law, and the Church. These are melancholy facts, and may furnish interesting subjects of consideration to moral chemists and analyzers. What is the cause of it? Is it the wine, the chalky soil, the burning sun, or the cathedral?
The highest-priced wines made in Champagne are those of L. Roederer & Co., most of which go to Russia. In fact, the Widow Clicquot and Roederer have almost the entire monopoly of the Champagne trade in that country, not so much perhaps from the superiority of their wines as owing to the fact that there the merchant is subjected to a heavy additional tax for each additional house from which he imports. The wines sent to Germany, although less sweet than those which go to Russia, are generally of the same character. The consumption of Champagne wines in France, relative to that in other countries, is extremely small—another evidence of the fact that “a prophet is not without 36 honor excepting in his own country.” In Reims itself it is not drunk to any great extent. At the tables of the “Champagne Kings” dinner is usually commenced with a vin du pays, an ordinary wine of the country, followed up with a Burgundy or Bordeaux; and about the time the roti comes on the table the Champagne is produced, and, as a general rule, is served but two or three times to each guest. It is always served in long and very thin, and never in flat glasses.
In Spain, Italy, and Switzerland, comparatively little Champagne is drunk, while in Belgium it is consumed in large quantities, the most popular brands being those of L. Roederer, Vve. Clicquot, and De St. Marceaux. The “dryest,” most vinous wines, are shipped to England, where, in point of importance (in quantity sent), the brands rank as follows: Moet & Chandon, Perrier, Jouet, Widow Clicquot, L. Roederer, De St. Marceaux & Co., Piper & Co., Jules Mumm, Giesler & Co., Ruinart père et fils, Bollinger & Co. In point of reputation, the wines exported to England rank, however, in the following order: L. Roederer, De St. Marceaux, Widow Clicquot, Perrier, Jouet, Piper & Co., Bollinger & Co. The wines exported to the United States are made expressly for that market, and are usually of a “dry,” vinous description. The house of L. Roederer, whose wine is held in such 37 high repute, exports very little to any American port but Boston.
Champagne wines are usually considered the best about three years after the vintage; after they attain the age of six or seven years they begin to deteriorate. With a little practical information relative to the preservation, and the proper mode and time of preparing Champagne for the table and of drinking it, I close the “vinous” portion of this chapter. The following is in the form of a circular, issued by the house of De St. Marceaux & Co. to their customers:
“To preserve the effervescence and the quality of Champagne, it is indispensable to keep the bottles lying down in a cool cellar;
“Lying down, because in any other position the cork becomes dry, loses its elasticity, and permits the gas to escape;
“In a cool cellar, because from the effect of heat the gas, in expanding, may break the bottle, or, at least, spoil the cork; in which latter case, there is a certain loss, and always a notable change in the quality of the wine.
“In order that Champagne may be drunk in the best condition, it should be frappé, or cooled with ice, or in case there is no ice, it ought not to be brought up from the cellar except at the moment that it is to be drunk. Many persons are in the habit of cooling their Champagne, 38 by emptying it into a decanter of frozen water, or by putting into the glass of wine some pieces of ice. Both of these practices evidently weaken and alter the character of the wine, since they add to it more or less water.
“Ordinarily Champagne is used as a dessert wine; this is a gastronomic error; it should be served with the meats, when the palate, properly stimulated but not yet satiated, is able to appreciate the delicate flavor of the wine in all its fineness.”
My window in the “Lion d’Or” was directly opposite the façade of the noble Cathedral of Reims. This edifice, in point of completeness and unity of design, united with elegance and beauty in execution, is the finest, I think, of the Gothic ecclesiastical edifices of France. Unlike most of these, it was the design of a single mind, and was commenced and finished under the eye of the designer. It is said that a Christian church was erected upon the spot now occupied by the cathedral, in the year 401, upon the ruins of a temple of Venus or Cybele. Clovis, the first of the Christian kings of France, is supposed to have been here baptized by St. Remy. In 1210 the building was destroyed by fire, and the present edifice commenced the following year, in accordance with the designs of, and under the supervision of, the architect, Robert de Coucy, of Reims. It was completed in thirty years, and, with 39 the exception of St. Paul’s Cathedral, commenced and finished in thirty-five years by Christopher Wren, it is the only ecclesiastical structure of any note in Europe which has been completed during the life of the designer. St. Peter’s in Rome required one hundred and forty-five years, and its erection ran through the reigns of nineteen popes, and employed the services of twelve successive architects. In 1481 another fire occurred, which destroyed the roof and melted 33,000 pounds of bell-metal. In 1794 the Convention caused to be placed over the main portal of the cathedral the following inscription: “Temple of Reason—The French People recognize a Supreme Being and the Immortality of the Soul.” This was obliterated six years afterward, and the cathedral restored to its original use.
The exterior is adorned with statues and bas-reliefs; nearly six hundred of the former surrounding the three magnificent portals in the façade. Over the side door is a design which, in spite of the seriousness of the subject, struck me as inexpressibly funny. It is intended to represent the “Last Judgment,” and the Divine Judge is seated in a large arm-chair, while around and below him are rising from their coffins (which resemble stone bathing-tubs) the dwellers upon earth, in different stages of nudity. On the left, a long-tailed and horned devil is pitching head foremost into a caldron below, and around which flames are rising, 40 an unfortunate youth who was found on the left side, but whose chance of boiling seemed rather small, as the caldron was already full to running over with little unbaptized babies. Another devil was drawing toward the caldron, by a long chain which he had thrown around them, a number of monks and priests.
The interior is marvellously rich and beautiful, the light streaming through the rose and stained windows in many-colored hues. The grand rose of the façade is unquestionably the finest in France.
But it was from its historical associations that the interior of this grand and gorgeous temple was interesting to me. It was here that all the kings of France, from Philip Augustus, in 1179, to Charles the Tenth, with the exception of Henry the Fourth and Louis the Eighteenth, were crowned. Could these massive stone pillars be animated with life, what tales could they tell, what graphic descriptions give of the gayly-dressed and gallant courtiers, of the beautiful and noble ladies, of the imposing ceremonies which have passed before them! As I stood in the chancel of this splendid cathedral, a vision rose before me, and a procession of kings and queens and courtiers, and high-born, bejewelled, fair, and noble dames, seemed to pass me by, and among them all shone brightly the sweet, enthusiastic face of the inspired Maid of Orleans, who, with her sacred banner in her hand, came here in fulfillment 41 of her prediction that she would see Charles the Seventh “crowned king at Reims.”
It was principally due to the fact that Reims was one of the cradles of Christianity in France that it was chosen for the consecration of her kings. It was here also that the Saint Ampoule, or holy flask of oil, brought by a dove from heaven and given to St. Remy at the baptism of Clovis, was kept, and this was used at the consecrating ceremonies. This flask was publicly broken by a sans culotte during the Revolution; but by some means it was renewed, and appeared again at the coronation of Charles the Tenth.
The tribunals of Reims have a way of administering justice which strikes me rather favorably, and which I would commend to the attention of the chalk-and-water drinking communities in other parts of the world. On the street corner opposite my hotel I observed some freshly-printed placards posted up; and as any thing new began to be interesting, I immediately rushed over to read them. They proved to be some recent judgments of the Tribunal of Police in Reims, and I would recommend their perusal to police judges and legislators. The first was against Françoise Marguerite Boisse, who, it seems, probably thinking that the milk which came from her cows was too rich for the stomachs of the Reimois, had added to eight litres, or about two gallons of it, a quart of water, 42 and sold the compound as milk. This fact having been established, Françoise was sentenced to pay a fine of a hundred francs, suffer the confiscation of her compound, and to pay the cost of fifty copies of the decree, which should be posted up in the town, and one particularly kept posted upon her door during the period of three months. Two other judgments followed this: one of a coal-dealer, who, for putting in his sacks of coal a quantity of stones to “make weight,” was fined fifty francs and sentenced to twenty days’ imprisonment; and the other of a butcher, in whose possession, and exposed for sale, was found a quantity of meat which was un peu trop haut, and for which he was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment and a heavy fine. This rigid administration of justice seems to apply to large as well as small matters. One of the best-known houses in Reims is that of L. Roederer. In the early part of last year some young and enterprising men who desired to establish themselves in the Champagne trade, and who considered that it would be a great advantage to them to commence business under the prestige of a well-known name, adopted the following expedient: Finding at Strasbourg a young man named Theophile Roederer, they immediately induced him to come to Reims, where they established a house, placing him at the head of it, known as “Roederer & Co.:” and this brand was placed upon their 43 wine. The old established house of Roederer brought an action against them for “concurrence illégale,” or “illegal opposition,” and, after hearing all the facts, the Court decided that, not only must the new firm place upon their labels the first name of its head, but must also give in good-sized readable figures the date at which their house was established, so that there would be no danger of confounding it with the original firm.
I had been at Reims more than a week, and it was time to return to Paris. I took a last glance at the noble cathedral, jumped into the omnibus, and started for the station, not neglecting, however, to take a look from the omnibus window at the pretty, neatly-dressed, and well-formed Champenoises as they tripped along the street, and whose bright eyes and handsome features might have made sad havoc in the breast of a more susceptible man.
The spelling “Heidseick” is used consistently; it’s really Heidsieck.
Ay, Verzenay, Bouzy, and others
[My spell checker really wanted this to be “Boozy”. One can see its point.]
a temperature of from 50° to 60° Farenheit,
[The full word occurs nowhere else, though we do see the abbreviation “Fahr.”]
the Widow Clicquot . . . is now in her eighty-eighth year
[Barbe-Nicole Clicquot (b. 1777) died in 1866, before this book was published—in fact, more than a year before its author died. He must have had a lot on his mind, or he would surely have updated this passage.]
drinks a good bottle of Veuve Clicquot every day for dinner
text has Cliquot
Over the side door is a design which, in spite of the seriousness of the subject, struck me as inexpressibly funny.
[It’s all right, Edward. I’m confident it was intended to be funny.]
a caldron below, and around which flames are rising
but by some means [the holy flask of oil] was renewed
[See Terry Pratchett, Thud, for how it was done with the Scone of Stone.]
The Baths of Hombourg.—Hombourg and its Surroundings.—The Inducement to Visitors.—The great Gaming-hell of Europe.—The Kursaal.—The Game of “Roulette.”—My early Experiences.—“Systems,” and an Exposure of their Fallacy.—The Scene at the Tables.—The Rouge-et-noir.—Large Winnings.—The Countess Kisselef.—Tricks of Sharpers.—Profits of the Games.
The following advertisement—in all the glory of staring capitals—appears daily in the Paris newspapers:
“The saline, muriatic waters of Hombourg are recommended by the most celebrated medical men as an efficacious remedy against maladies of the stomach, the intestines, and the liver.
“The calm and freshness of the surrounding country, the sharp, pure air of the mountains, the magnificence of the forests, which form the belt of Hombourg, the variety of excursions and promenades, all unite in aiding the re-establishment of health.
“The new Kursaal, so remarkable for its grand façade, in the Florentine style, unites in its interior the conversation and reading rooms, the grand ball and concert room, and the restaurant.
“The excellent orchestra performs three times a day: in the morning, at the spring; in the afternoon and evening, in the gardens of the Kursaal.
“During the month of September, Italian opera—extraordinary representations of Mademoiselle Adelina Patti, with the aid of Mesdames Marchisio, Trebelli, Bellini, etc.
“Foreign families will find at Hombourg a great number of 45 villas and hotels, furnished in the most luxurious and comfortable style.”
True—all true to the letter, but, as the sequel will show, not the whole truth. Hombourg is certainly a most charming watering-place, where nature and art seem to have vied with each other to realize the idea of an earthly paradise. It is situated nine miles from what was for centuries, and has continued until recently to be, the “free city of Frankfort,” the great money-mart of the Continent, but which now, thanks to Bismarck and the needle-gun, has degenerated into a third-rate Prussian town. On one side of it rise the blue Taunus Mountains, from whose summits invigorating breezes blow down, and on the other stretches far away toward the Main a broad, extended, fertile plain, dotted with pretty farm-houses, whose roofs rise isolated, like ships, from out a sea of grain. On the mountain-side are thick, dark forests of oak and pine, beneath whose shade long, level, cool, delightful walks and drives lead up to the very mountain summit, and at convenient distances are several little German villages, in which the people still retain their queer, ancient dress and customs, the women wearing the odd-looking German cap, and skirts of even more than fashionable brevity, and the men remarkable swallow-tailed blue coats, with the waists in the immediate vicinity of the shoulders; here are lakes, on whose fair bosoms swans 46 are floating; charming little bosquets in which, without much stretch of the imagination, mischievous, wicked Cupids may be supposed to flit from branch to branch; parks filled with tame deer, which accept with pleasure their daily bread from the hand of the visitor; five mineral springs, whose waters are recommended as sovereign in all diseases of the stomach and liver: one might readily imagine that all these advantages of lavish nature, and of art as lavish, were sufficient to entice searchers after rest, health, or recreation to Hombourg. But it is neither the blue Taunus, nor the pure air, nor the darkling forests of oak, nor the sweet exhalations of the pine, borne on the wings of the summer breeze, nor the queer caps and swallow-tailed coats, nor the gardens and lawns, nor flowers, nor swans, nor Cupids, nor deer, nor even the world-renowned invigorating waters—it is not any or all of these combined—that form the principal inducement to the fifteen or twenty thousand people who spend a portion of the summer at Hombourg. A more powerful, irresistible attraction than any of these—a fascination which, once yielded to, holds, and binds, and charms, until it destroys its victim—draws the large majority of those who visit this, the most extensive and dangerous of the public gaming-hells of Europe. And, in this, the advertisement fails. No one unfamiliar with the great and striking “specialty” of Hombourg need ever imagine, from 47 its perusal, that here so many pockets were annually drained, so many hearts and hopes crushed, so many ambitions destroyed, so many bright dreams changed to sad, hard realities. Fronting upon the main street of the town, in the Florentine style of architecture, is the magnificent Kursaal, the temple of Fortune. Entering a spacious vestibule, treading upon a floor of richly-wrought mosaic, the visitor, after passing through a corridor, suddenly finds himself in a salon of palatial proportions and splendor. The carved and gilded walls and ceiling are massive; while immense mirrors, sofas, and chairs of damask, and heavy curtains of the richest satin, line the sides. A jingling of gold and silver falls upon the ear, mingled with the rattle of a ball; the subdued hum of voices from the devotees, broken upon by the louder tones of the high-priests of this mammon worship, uttering their oft-repeated and well-learned formula, “Faites votre jeu, messieurs! le jeu est-il fait? Rien ne va plus!”* As he crosses the threshold, the visitor is expected respectfully and reverently to remove his hat, for he is in the inner temple, the sanctum sanctorum of the fickle Diva, and in full view, at either end of the salon, are her altars—the tables devoted to rouge-et-noir and roulette.
* Make your game, gentlemen! Is the game made? Nothing more goes!
It is to be hoped that the reader, whether “gentle” 48 or “simple,” will never mistakenly prove himself the latter by indulging in and yielding to the fascinations of either of these games. And if “forewarned is to be forearmed,” it shall not be my fault if he do; for I have had experience in both and in others, and, in my pride of youth, fondly believed that I could circumvent, and coax, and win to my embraces the blind goddess, “who flatters but to destroy.” I shall never forget my initiation into the mysteries of roulette. It was many years ago, upon a Long Island race-course, where an individual in a white hat, half covered with crape, a very flash vest and extravagant guard-chain, was inviting custom by the not very attractive assurance to his prospective victims that “the more they put down, the less they would pick up.” So far as the fact was concerned, he was perfectly correct, and it must have been that there was a vein of honesty running through his nature which would not permit him to lend himself to a deception. The wheel he used was a “twenty-eight roulette,” with “advantages” to the bank of a “single” and “double zero,” and an “eagle”—three in thirty-one, or a little less than ten per cent. But when it is understood that, besides these apparent and legitimate advantages, the wheel was what is known to the initiated as a “snapper,” and that by simply touching a little concealed spring the honest individual in the white hat and 49 flash vest could cause the ball to drop into “red” or “black” at pleasure, it requires no very intimate knowledge of the doctrine of probabilities to perceive that the prospect of winning at that game was “poor indeed.” I know that all the pocket-money I had been saving for months disappeared like dew in a June morning, and that I was obliged to content myself with short commons of candy and cinnamon cigars for a long time afterward.
It is not probable that at Hombourg the game of roulette is played with such a certainty of profit to the bank and loss to the player, but, on the contrary, the legitimate advantages are considerably less than they are at Baden-Baden, where the “percentage” of the bank is derived from a “single” and “double zero,” while at Hombourg the former only militates against the player. The game is played upon a long table, covered with green cloth, around which the players sit or stand. In the centre of the table is a large hole, in which the roulette is fixed. This consists of a movable cylinder, the periphery of which is divided into thirty-seven compartments, severally numbered from 0 to 36, and separated from each other by little wires of brass. The cylinder is put in motion by a push against one of the four branches, forming a cross, which surmounts it. During its movement a little ivory ball is thrown in the opposite direction; and this spinning 50 round for a minute or more upon the immovable part of the apparatus, finally falls into one of the thirty-seven compartments. These, besides containing each a number, alternate in color—one being “red,” the next “black,” and so around the entire circumference of the cylinder. Upon the number into which the ball falls depends the winning or losing of all the stakes upon the table.
At either end of the tapis vert, on each side of the cylinder, the thirty-seven numbers which it contains are painted in three columns, and the other chances which may be staked upon designated. The diagram on the opposite page, exhibiting the roulette and the tapis vert, will show the arrangement of the numbers and the other chances of the game, and a reference to it will render perfectly intelligible the explanations which are to follow.
(a) “Outs” (manque), from one to eighteen, inclusive; (b) “past” (passé), from eighteen to thirty-six, inclusive; (c) even numbers (pair); (d) odd numbers (impair); (e) red (rouge or couleur); (f) black (noir); (g) first twelve numbers; (h) second twelve numbers; (i) third twelve numbers; (j) first column; (k) second column; (l) third column.
Now although, at first view, roulette appears to be an exceedingly complicated game, it is in reality a very simple one. The basis of it—the principle on which it depends—is the evident fact that the ball, having been whirled by the finger of the operator around the cylinder, must finally fall into one of the compartments of the wheel; of these there are thirty-seven, and the object of the player, who wishes to bet upon single numbers, is of course to hit the winning one. In order to simplify the explanation of the chances at roulette, 52 let it be supposed that a florin—the smallest sum permitted to be staked at Hombourg—be placed by thirty-seven different players, one upon each number on the tapis. One of these must evidently be the winning number, while all the rest must lose. Let it be supposed that the ball, after spinning until it loses its momentum, drops into compartment “six,” which is declared the winning number. The croupier then takes the florin from each one of the other numbers, amounting to thirty-six florins, and pays thirty-five of them to the fortunate better upon “six,” the winning number. Were the game a perfectly even one, did the bank have no “advantage” other than the player, it will be readily seen that the latter should in this case receive thirty-six instead of thirty-five florins. But here is exhibited the “percentage,” which exists in all banking games, and which at Hombourg provides the means for gilding and furnishing these splendid salons, and keeping in order these magnificent gardens. This “percentage,” as will be seen, is one in thirty-seven, or two and twenty-six thirty-sevenths per cent. To make still plainer this matter of “percentage” which obtains in all banking games, and which is but little understood by the uninitiated, let it be supposed that a single player at roulette should place an equal amount, say one florin, upon each number from zero to thirty-six, inclusive, it is evident that he will win upon one, 53 and lose on all the others. Now were the game played without any “percentage” or “advantage” to the bank, the banker should take the money from each and all of the losing numbers, and place it upon the winning one. The player would then receive thirty-six florins in addition to the one he placed upon the winning number; and this making up the amount he had staked upon them all, he might thus continue playing without profit or loss to the end of time. But as at present the game is arranged, the player would lose one florin at each turn of the wheel, and in this manner the bank would, sooner or later, eat up the largest capital, without the player having the slightest possible chance of winning. Now although, of course, no player would be silly enough to bet in this manner, where it is palpable that he must lose and can not win, it must be borne in mind that, even though he bet upon but a single number, this same percentage, or advantage, of the bank, which can not in any manner be avoided, still remains, and that it must in time absorb his capital in the bank. Suppose a player to bet upon a single number during a whole day, week, month, or year;—now the probability is, that, as there are thirty-seven numbers, one of which must win at each turn of the wheel, each one will make its appearance once in thirty-seven times. But should this be literally exemplified in the turning of the wheel, our player 54 in each series of thirty-seven, during which he would lose thirty-six times and win once, would still be the loser of one florin; as in the thirty-six times that he lost he would lose thirty-six florins, while the one winning would bring him back but thirty-five. Of course the chances never run so regularly as they are supposed to do in this case, but it none the less illustrates the principle.
Besides betting upon a single number, the player may divide his stakes among several; may bet upon any of the three columns, containing twelve numbers each, or upon the first, second, or third series of twelve numbers, being paid double if he win, or may play upon rouge or noir, pair or impair, which designate the odd or even numbers upon manque and passe, the former comprising the numbers from one to eighteen, inclusive, the latter, from nineteen to thirty-six.
It is a singular scene, one of these gaming-tables. Around it, from eleven in the morning until eleven at night, sit or stand the players, an exceedingly “mixed” assemblage, gazing with covetous eyes upon the piles of gold and silver placed before the bankers, and watching with intensest interest the fluctuating chances of the game. There are males and females, old and young, leaders in the grand monde, and leaders and satellites in the demi-monde; people who play because they have plenty of money, and wish to amuse 55 themselves, and people who play because they have but little money, and want more. There are noblemen and titled ladies in abundance, and there are tradesmen and professional men and gamblers, all sitting or standing, and elbowing, and brought into the closest contact with each other. There are hard-faced people, men and women, sitting at the tables, who live year in and out at Hombourg, and make gambling a profession. These are usually persons who have small, fixed incomes, and who flatter themselves that they have discovered “systems” by which the games can be beaten, and the cruel divinity of chance circumvented, and who frequently sit for hours carefully noting the numbers as they appear at roulette, or pricking with a pin upon cards furnished for the purpose the winning color at rouge-et-noir, waiting for the combination to arrive which is embraced in their “system.”
These “systems” for winning at the bank are numerous, but are all based upon the fallacy that chance is guided by law, which, if there be any such thing as “chance,” is a contradiction in terms. The simplest and most apparent “system” for winning at a banking game—one which appears palpable and positive to the uninitiated player—is that of commencing with a small stake, and doubling it until it wins, when it is evident that the player will be the gainer by the amount of his original stake. But there are three 56 formidable obstacles barring the way to the success of this plan; could these be removed, the plan would be an excellent one, and one which would assuredly ruin all the gaming-tables of the world. The first of these is the lack of sufficient capital to enable an ordinary player to endure the losses. Suppose a player at roulette, for example, in the application of this “system,” should commence by staking a five-franc piece upon one of the “simple chances,” say, to simplify the matter, upon “red,” and suppose that “red” should lose, as red or black not unfrequently does, twenty times in succession;—his last stake would, in this case, amount to 2,621,440 francs, and the entire amount lost in the twenty bets to 5,241,915, or about a million dollars. It is only the old schoolboy illustration of the nails in the horseshoe, on a little larger scale. If the player were able to commence with a very small stake, were there no limit to the amount which he should be allowed to bet, it is evident that with an unlimited capital he could, by this “system,” inevitably and surely win. But the bank is too wise to permit this, and the stakes at all banking games are limited at either extremity with a “minimum,” below which, and a “maximum,” above which no stake will be accepted. At Hombourg the minimum at roulette is fixed at one, and at rouge-et-noir, two florins; and the maximum upon the “simple chances” at roulette is 57 four thousand, and at rouge-et-noir five thousand six hundred florins; so that a player commencing with the minimum at the former, would only need to lose twelve consecutive bets to attain the maximum, where he would be obliged, if he followed out his system, to return to his original stake, after having lost four thousand and eighty-three florins in the attempt to win one, which is all he would have done, had he at any time in the series of twelve gained a single stake. A little practical experience in this matter of winning at a banking game by “doubling” will soon convince any one, to his cost, of the impracticability of the “system.” But, besides the obstacles mentioned, there is another, which no amount of care, circumspection, or boldness can overcome—the “percentage” of the bank—the fact that when “zero” appears at roulette, or the refait at rouge-et-noir, all parties on all sides and colors lose. This is sufficient alone to ruin all calculations, and destroy all probabilities of ever permanently winning by a “system.”
Another exceedingly plausible “system” of winning at a banking game is one based upon the theory of the “equilibrium of chances,” embraced in the aphorism that, “within a given period, two simple chances will appear an equal number of times.” The practical application of this system, the infallibility of which an author, who has recently published a 58 book of advice to players, showing them how they can surely win, says is “as certain as the return of day after night,” is playing upon “color,” or any other simple chance, when it has either not appeared at all in a certain number of times, or when it is far in arrears of its opposite. If, for example, in a hundred turns of the roulette, “black” had appeared but twenty times, and “red” eighty, the player upon this “system” would, with the idea of “restoring the equilibrium,” commence betting and doubling upon the black. But in this “system” there is no more certainty than in any of the others. It is probable, although by no means certain, or capable of demonstration, either theoretically or practically, that the axiom assumed is correct, that were a man to live to the age of Methuselah, and should he in his earliest youth commence tossing a penny in the air, and continue this amusement during sixteen hours a day up to the time of his death—it is probable, although by no means positive, that during this long period of time nearly an equal number of “heads” and “tails” must have made their appearance. But the attempt practically to apply this theory of “equilibrium” to any limited space of time—to hours, days, or even years—is, as any one can easily satisfy himself by trying it, a simple absurdity.
Still more palpable and inviting to a young player 59 is the idea that after a “simple chance” has lost a considerable number of times consecutively, it must soon win. If, for example, at roulette, the “red” has appeared at eight successive turns of the wheel, it seems evident to the superficial calculator that the probabilities are strongly in favor of “black” on the next turn, and the temptation to bet upon it is to the neophyte almost irresistible. But this is a fatal error. Chance is subject to a certain degree of calculation, guided to a certain extent by mathematical law. Before the penny has been tossed, the chances are exactly equal that it will fall with “head” or “tail” uppermost, but the probability is as three to one, that “heads” will not appear twice in succession—as seven to one against three consecutive appearances, as fifteen to one against four, and so on in arithmetical progression. But when these probabilities have been surmounted, when the penny actually has fallen with the “head” up at four successive tosses, the chances again become exactly equal that it will fall “head” or “tail” upon the fifth, there being, after the former has been made, no connection between the fourth and fifth toss. The same rule applies to roulette or rouge-et-noir. Before the turn of the wheel, the chances are as 255 to 1 that red or black will not win eight times in succession; but, having done so, upon the ninth turn the probabilities are relatively just what they 60 were on the first, and the chances of red or black winning or losing exactly equal.
One of the most favorite of the “systems” played at Hombourg and Baden-Baden, both against roulette and rouge-et-noir, and one the plausibility of which is particularly striking, is that known as the “decomposed eight.” The theory of this system is, that no eight coups will come in precisely the same order twice in succession. Thus, for example: if at roulette, during eight consecutive turns of the wheel, “red” has appeared twice, then “black” twice, then “red” once, and “black” three times, the player of the “decomposed eight” is prepared to back his opinion that the next eight turns will not yield precisely the same result in exactly the same order. To profit by this, he bets the minimum of one florin upon the “black.” If it wins, his object is accomplished; his “system” is verified; he has won his florin, and prepares to attack the following eight coups in the same manner. But should it lose, he then, nothing daunted, places two florins upon the “black;” if that lose, four upon the “red;” that losing, eight upon the “red;” then sixteen upon the “black;” and thus doubling each time he loses, and always in opposition to the corresponding turn in the previous series of eight. It will be readily seen that, in accordance with this system, unless the two series of eight do successively 61 appear in precisely the same order, the player must, at some time before he reaches the last number of the second series, win one florin. A diagram will render this perfectly plain. Suppose the first series of eight to have appeared, and be marked as follows:
In such case the player would exactly reverse this order, and make his bets as follows:
This system, upon which a book has been written, showing how, with a capital of two hundred and fifty-six florins, a certain and sure profit of sixty florins a day may be made at roulette, is, however, as fallacious as any of the others. Its plausibility is very much heightened by the assumed irregularity of the coups in the series of eight against which it is proposed to be played. In principle, it would be precisely the same to assume that after “black” had appeared eight times in succession, it could not immediately appear eight times more. The second series of eight is quite as likely to follow the first, in what may be called irregular, as in regular order: it is just as probable that in sixteen turns of the wheel the last series of eight should be the same as the first, as that “red” or “black,” or any other “simple chance,” should appear sixteen times in succession, which it does by no means unfrequently.
There are many other more or less complicated “systems,” professors of which are found ready to teach them to verdant pupils at all the gaming-hells of Europe. It may be safely said, however, that all are based upon fallacies, and that, at least while the bank retains its “percentage,” and limits the players to a “maximum” and “minimum,” no banking game can be beaten by a “system.”
The rouge-et-noir, or trente et quarante, as the game 63 is indiscriminately entitled, is not so well known in the United States as the roulette. It is, however, the principal attraction at Baden-Baden and Hombourg, and is played with six packs of cards, shuffled and mixed together, the players sitting or standing around a table covered with green cloth. In the centre is placed the dealer, and opposite him and at either end the croupiers, whose duty it is to assist the players in placing their stakes, to see that no errors are made, and to push or pull in the lost money with long wooden rakes. Upon one side of the table a diamond-shaped piece of red cloth is inserted; upon the opposite side a black one. The players desiring to “back” the red, place their money upon the former; those having faith in the black, on the latter. The dealer encourages the players with the formula which, like a parrot, he repeats from hour to hour, scarcely ever varying its monotony with another word—“Faites votre jeu, messieurs—faites votre jeu;” and as he sees all the money placed he declares “Le jeu est fait;” and then, commencing to turn off the cards, closes with “Rien ne va plus,” after which all bets made are null and void. In dealing the cards, he places them upon the table, counting aloud the spots as he does so, the court cards being valued at ten each, and all the others at the number of spots which they bear. The dealer must continue turning and counting until he 64 reaches at least thirty-one, and can not go beyond forty. The first series, between thirty-one and forty, counts for the “black,” and this being completed, he turns off another for the “red.” The one which approaches the nearest to thirty-one is the winning series. To make this plainer, suppose, for example, the first series of cards to be turned off in the following order:
These, as will be seen, count in the aggregate thirty-three, and this, exceeding thirty-one, completes the series for the “black,” and the dealer then commences with the second series for the “red.” Suppose this to appear in the following order:
This, the “red” series, counting in the aggregate thirty-four, and this being farther removed from “thirty-one” than the first series, the “black” wins; the dealer declares that “rouge perd” and all the bets made upon the first or “black” series are paid, while 65 those upon the last or “red” series are raked in to swell the capital of the bank. Another mode of betting at rouge-et-noir is upon “color,” or against it. These bets are decided by the color of the last card turned in the winning series. If the “black,” or first series, wins, and the last card turned in that series is a black one, as in the diagram given above, then “color” wins; but if it be a red card, then “color” loses; the winning of “color” depending upon the last card in the winning series being of the same color as the winning series itself. The “advantage” to the bank at rouge-et-noir is known as the refait. Should, for example, each of the series count thirty-two, or any equal number between that and forty, the bets upon either side are a “stand-off,” that is, they neither win nor lose, and the players may resume or change them at pleasure. If, however, each of the series should count thirty-one, then all the bets upon both sides are placed “in prison,” depending upon the next turn for being taken out or lost—this being in reality equivalent to taking one-half of each stake upon the table. At Hombourg, however, the bank relinquishes a portion of its advantages, and contents itself with a demi refait, the stakes being only placed “in prison” when the last card of the last series is a black one. The refait of thirty-one is calculated to occur about once in thirty-eight times, which gives the bank a 66 percentage of about two and two-thirds, which is reduced at Hombourg by the demi refait to just half this amount.
The fact that there is a smaller “percentage” against the player at rouge-et-noir than at roulette, together with that that the bank is larger, renders it the more popular of the two games. As the minimum permitted to be staked is two florins, and the maximum five thousand six hundred, the play is usually much higher than at roulette; and as the game is considered more “respectable,” it attracts usually a better class of players, whose piles of gold and heaps of paper money are scattered about the table. The “bank” amounts to 150,000 francs, and that at roulette to 30,000. These are not unfrequently “broken” by high players when others of the same amount are put up; for in spite of all the obstacles in the way of winning, notwithstanding the decided “advantages” in favor of the bank, capital, boldness, and good fortune not unfrequently overcome them, and result in large profits. During the time I was at Hombourg a Russian arrived there with a capital of two thousand francs. In the course of a week he had broken the bank several times, and was a winner to the amount of 800,000 francs. He was, however, ambitious to swell this to a million, and, in his attempt to accomplish this, lost the whole, so that the administration 67 was obliged to give him a hundred francs with which to get away from Hombourg, which was paid out of a fund kept and nursed by the administration for the benefit of those unfortunate individuals who “come after wool,” and are so thoroughly “shorn.” Such cases as that of the Russian are by no means uncommon, and form the capital of a considerable portion of the daily gossip of the place. There are others, and more melancholy ones, of men and women who have been wealthy, but whose passion for play has been their ruin, and who, having lost their all, still hang about the tables, their eyes and ears pleased with the sparkle and jingle of gold and silver, and their hopes buoyed up with the impression that they may be able to beg or borrow from some fortunate player a small stake, with which they may finally retrieve their losses. Occasionally some poor fellow who has lost all but his brains, concluding that these will not be of much further practical use to him, disturbs for a few minutes the quiet progress of the game by blowing them out with a pistol. But such little incidents as these only increase the stock of interesting gossip, and the ball goes on spinning as briskly as ever.
The oldest and most celebrated habitué of the gaming-tables of Hombourg is the Countess Kisselef, wife of the former Russian minister to Rome. She is 68 an old lady of seventy, and a long time since her passion for play became so great that her husband informed her that she must either give up it or him. She chose the latter alternative, and went to Hombourg, where she has lived for the last ten or twelve years, spending almost her entire day at the roulette table. She is a cripple, and unable to walk, and every morning at eleven, when the game commences, she is wheeled up to the Kursaal in a bath-chair, and hobbling in upon crutches, or leaning on the arms of her servants, takes her place at the table, where she sits till six, when she goes to dinner, returning at eight, and playing till eleven o’clock. And this routine of life continues week-days and Sundays, summer and winter, year in and year out; and the old lady, who is evidently fast fading out, will, in all probability, drop off some day between two spins of the roulette wheel, and as the croupier appropriately announces, “Le jeu est fait—rien ne va plus!” She is said to have lost some ten millions of florins, or about four millions of dollars, and the administration counts upon her as being worth at least five hundred thousand florins a year to the bank. Some years since she built a block of houses and opened a new street in Hombourg, to which her name was given; but houses and lots were long since swallowed up, and have gone to feed the insatiable maw of the demon of gaming.69
Two valuable practical lessons may be learned by a little observation, study, and reflection at such a place as Hombourg. The first is that persons who play against the games slowly and systematically, contenting themselves with losing or winning only a certain amount daily, are sure in the end to be losers by the “percentage” or “advantage” which the game possesses. The other is that, except in rare instances, those who make sudden and large winnings usually play until they have lost them all again. The fascination of play is so overwhelming, the excitement so pleasing and so powerful, that the winner, elated with his good fortune, sees no reason why it should not last forever; and having fixed no limit at which he will cease playing, continues until he has lost all. Keepers of gaming-houses count even more upon the passions of players than upon the legitimate advantages of their games—upon the fact that a winner is desirous of winning more, and a loser of retrieving his losses, and that both have but one fixed and positive stopping-place—the bottom of their purses.
Besides the amateur and professional gamesters at Hombourg, are others who gain a livelihood by keeping the run of the games upon little cards furnished for the purpose, and selling them to those who desire the information; then there are broken-down players, who hang about the tables, awaiting an opportunity 70 to pick up a “straggler” or “sleeper”—a stake which its legitimate owner neglects or forgets. Sharpers, who take other people’s money when occasion offers, and who even play tricks upon the bank itself, are permitted to remain in the rooms until they are fairly detected, when they are banished the premises. The croupiers, of whom there are six at each roulette, and four at each rouge-et-noir table, keep a sharp watch, and are familiar with most of the “dodges” resorted to to swindle the bank; yet occasionally some enterprising sharper succeeds in beating it upon a very certain basis. One day during my summer residence at Hombourg, a very respectable-looking man placed upon the “red” at rouge-et-noir a rouleau, which, being put up in blue paper, resembled in size, form, and general appearance the rouleaux of fifty silver florins each which the bank frequently pays out. The “red” lost; and the croupier was about raking in the rouleau, when the better remarked that he would prefer to keep it, and handed at the same time five bills of ten florins each to the croupier, who, accepting them as an equivalent, pushed back with his rake the rouleau. The better allowed it still to remain upon the “red,” which at the next turn of the cards won, when the croupier, in payment, handed him the five ten-florin bills which the better had just paid him. The better, however, objected to this; and breaking open the 71 rouleau, exposed, instead of fifty silver florins, fifty quintuple gold Napoleons of a hundred francs each, for which he demanded an equal sum in payment. The croupier objected, stating that, in exchange for the rouleau when it was lost, the better had given him but fifty florins, thus leading him to believe that to be the amount which it contained. To this proposition the better replied that that was not his affair; that, in placing the rouleau upon the table, he had made no declaration as to how much or how little he had staked; that the croupier, when it lost, had a perfect right, and that, indeed, it was his duty to have taken it; that if he had blindly consented to accept fifty florins in its stead, that was simply an evidence of his neglect of the interests of the bank; but that now it had won, it must be paid. The matter being referred to the administration, it was decided that the better was right in theory, and the value of the rouleau being paid him, he was politely requested never to grace again the splendid salons of the Kursaal with his presence, while the croupiers were instructed to take all rouleaux which were lost instead of their presumed equivalents.
A few days afterward an exceedingly clever swindle was practiced at the roulette table. A highly respectable looking old gentleman, with a decided military air, and wearing a decoration in his button-hole, 72 took a seat at the table and placed a gold Napoleon upon a single number. It lost, and he placed a second upon another number. This lost also, and he continued betting and losing half a dozen Napoleons, when a young man came rushing up to the table in great haste and placed a silver florin upon “thirty-six” a second after the croupier had announced that as the winning number. As it was evident that the money had been placed after the number was declared, the croupier, informing him that he was “too late,” pushed the florin piece with his rake toward the young man. As he did this, he uncovered a gold Napoleon lying upon the same number beneath the silver florin. This the croupier also pushed off, when the old gentleman with the decoration, in a storm of indignation and wrath, seized it, and placing it back upon the winning number, insisted upon its being paid. “He was not responsible,” he said, “for the young man’s having covered it with his florin;” and as he seemed to be an exceedingly respectable old gentleman, and as he had been betting Napoleons, the croupiers took it for granted that all was as it appeared to be, and paid him thirty-five Napoleons. The old gentleman then, apparently highly indignant at the slight hesitation which had been exhibited about paying him, and asserting that he would play no more with such “voleurs,” took up his money and departed, and within 73 the next fifteen minutes he and his young friend were probably on their way to Frankfort. A day or two after the occurrence it was ascertained that the same scene had been enacted by the same parties at Baden. The young man was, of course, the old one’s accomplice, and had placed the Napoleon upon the winning number at the same time with the florin.
It is impossible to ascertain even approximately the amount of money annually lost at Hombourg, where, unlike most of the gaming establishments of Europe, the tables stand invitingly covered with silver and gold, and the ball spins, and the cards are turned, and the everlasting monotonous formula, “Rien ne va plus!” is heard all the year round. Some idea of it may, however, be gathered from the expenses to which the administration is subjected, and the profits which it derives. The gaming privilege is owned by a chartered association whose nominal capital is 3,200,000 florins, divided into shares of 250 florins each. The company pays annually to the Government a tax of 60,000 florins, lights and keeps clean the streets of Hombourg, supports the hospital there, expends three thousand francs, or about six hundred dollars a day, in keeping in good order and repair, and in constantly adding new embellishments to the grounds and buildings, pays its shareholders a dividend of twenty per cent. per annum, and then puts 74 aside a large amount as a sinking fund for the redemption of the stock, which, if the gaming privilege is continued a few years longer, will have cost the shareholders nothing.
It is generally supposed that, looking upon gaming as contra bonos mores, the Prussian Government, which has recently come into possession of the territory of Hesse Hombourg, will not sanction its continuation; and the administration, hotel, shop, lodging and bath house keepers are in a terrible state of anxiety, all imagining that they and their various interests and occupations will be ruined if the fascination of play ceases to be the attractive inducement to the summer visitors at Hombourg. In such an event, the large majority—the fast men and rapid women, the gamblers and the sharpers—would of course disappear.
But the Taunus would still be as blue, and the breezes blowing from its summits as fresh and exhilarating as ever; its waters as beneficial, its gardens and woods as romantic and lovely; and the really “respectable” visitor need no longer feel that he was encouraging by his presence, if not aiding by his pecuniary contributions, the continuance of an evil which, in all ages and countries, has been deemed one of the most detrimental to moral health.
“Trente et Quarante at Hombourg” was originally published in Galaxy in March 1867 under the title “Rien Ne Va Plus”. Most differences are minor: here a comma, there a change in word order. For some of the more interesting differences, see below.
By any title, this chapter has a certain sentimental resonance with me. My maternal grandmother landed in Bad Homburg—that’s Homburg-with-an-o, namesake of the Homburg hat, not to be confused with Hamburg-with-an-a—after the war, and spent the remaining decades of her life there. I don’t remember her taking us to any casinos, though.
upon a Long Island race-course
[Galaxy has “upon the Hoboken race-course”. Hoboken, New Jersey, is just across from the southern end of Manhattan. Brooklyn, which is technically on Long Island, is across from Manhattan on the other side..]
thirty-seven compartments, severally numbered from 0 to 36
[Look again, Edward. 0 occurs twice—one red, one black—so there are in fact thirty-eight compartments (an even number). If the bank wins on zero, its percentage is therefore not 1/37 but 2/38 or 1/19.]
did the bank have no “advantage” other than the player
[Galaxy has “no more ‘advantage’ than the player”, which made more sense.]
one to eighteen inclusive . . . eighteen to thirty-six inclusive
[I really hope nobody tried to play roulette based on Buffum’s explanation. Both versions—book and periodical—have the same error.]
from nineteen to thirty-six
[Whew. Got it right, finally.]
there are tradesmen and professional men and gamblers
[William must not have approved of the following paragraph, about the gambling habits of English clergymen at Hombourg; at this point there is a massive cut.]
his last stake would, in this case, amount to 2,621,440 francs, and the entire amount lost in the twenty bets to 5,241,915
[I do not understand why the figure is not 5,242,875, i.e. 5(220 - 1).]
At Hombourg the minimum at roulette is fixed at one, and at rouge-et-noir, two florins
[Galaxy helpfully explains that these sums are equivalent to forty and eighty cents, respectively.]
having lost four thousand and eighty-three florins in the attempt to win one
[Again, why isn’t it four thousand and ninety-five (212 - 1)?]
If . . . the “red” has appeared at eight successive turns of the wheel
[Galaxy has “eighty successive turns”, which has got to be a mistake. If the same color turned up eighty times in a row, players would be demanding a recalibration of the wheel.]
Suppose this to appear in the following order:
[Galaxy uses an entirely different picture for the “red” deal, resulting in different text—and a different outcome for the hypothetical game. As a result, the explanation of “color” is also different.]
the Prussian Government . . . will not sanction its continuation
[The “terrible state of anxiety” was justified. In 1872 Bad-Homburg’s casino relocated to Monte Carlo; gambling did not return to Homburg until the mid-20th century.]
From Zurich to Altorf.—The Falls of the Rhine.—Zurich and its Surroundings.—Vagabonds.—My Companion.—Horgen.—Outfit and Travelling-dress.—Knapsacks and Gibicieres.—The Hill above Horgen.—An unwarrantable Intrusion.—The “Falken” at Zug.—Gretchen and her Sympathy.—Arth.—Guides and Commissionnaires.—The Ascent of the Rigi.—Dismal Weather.—The Klosterli.—The Rigi Staffel.—“View” from our Windows.—The Summit of the Rigi, and the View from there.—Down to Weggis.—Lucerne.—The Lake of Lucerne.—Fluellen.—Altorf.—From Altorf to Meiringen.—Our pedestrian Excursion fairly commenced.—Unpropitious Circumstances.—Beggars in Switzerland.—The Devil’s Bridge.—Realp.—The Road to the Furca.—View from the mountain Summit.—Necessary Precautions.—The Glacier du Rhone.—A pedestrian Wedding-tour.—The Grimsel.—The Valley of the Aare.—The Falls of Handeck.—From Meiringen to Interlaken.—A Difference of Opinion, and its Results.—Warer and I separate.—A magnificent View.—The Glacier of Rosenlaui.—The Alpenhorn.—Warer and I meet again.—Grindelwald.—Ascent of the Glacier.—An unpleasant Predicament.—The Avalanches.—The Jungfrau.—How to “share” a Mule.—Lauterbrunnen.—Termination of our Trip.—My Companion Warer.
It was “by the margin of fair Zurich’s waters, at the close of a fine summer’s day,” that my friend Warer and myself took passage upon the little boat which steams the length and breadth of the lovely lake of Zurich. We had come into Switzerland from Munich by way of Lindau, had crossed the lake to Constance, 76 had visited the Rhine-fall at Schaffhausen, where we had admired the charming cascade as it leaps and tumbles in graceful, foaming beauty over and among the limestone rocks which here dam up the Rhine. We had grumbled, and my friend had used language even more emphatic, at the persistent and successful attempts of the dwellers on the height above the fall to shut it out from view and make a peep-show of it; and we had laughed heartily at the turgid enthusiasm of Klopstock, and still more heartily at the note in our Baedeker informing us that “this magnificent cataract, though far inferior in volume and height, is considered by some to surpass the celebrated falls of Niagara in North America.” To one who has seen Niagara (which by the way never fell to the lot of Klopstock or Baedeker), any comparison of the Rhine-fall with it is simply ludicrous. We had spent two days in Zurich, had explored its queer old streets, had ascended the heights above it, from which is obtained a fine panoramic view of the town, with the green and rapid Limmat running through it. We had strolled for hours upon the borders of that calmest and loveliest of Swiss lakes; and my companion, with his artistic glance, and myself, with an eye ever freely open to the beautiful in nature, had gazed in silent admiration, not unmingled with awe, upon the lofty snow-crowned Alpine 77 peaks, which tower like giant sentinels guarding its slumbers.
We had provided ourselves here with the necessary articles for our journey, had paid our bill to mine host of the Sonne, and considered ourselves fully prepared for a month’s foot-tramp among the Swiss mountains, as we stepped, on the afternoon of the last day of August, at four o’clock, on board the boat which was to bear us to a place with the musical name of Horgen, about fifteen miles from Zurich, on the lake, and at which point we purposed commencing our pedestrian tour.
I have now, always had, and hope I always shall have, a liking for “vagabonds:” for that large class of unpractical fellows, made up in great part of artists, students, and literary men, whose lack of worldly wisdom is more than compensated for by their warm, impulsive, generous natures; whose hearts still remain young, and fresh, and warm when the crow’s-feet of time are making lasting marks upon their faces; whose faith in man and woman has not yet been destroyed by their hard experience in life, but who still believe that there is goodness, and purity, and love, and a friendship by selfish interest; whose creed in this matter is so fully expressed in the lines of Frances Kemble:78
“Better trust and be deceived,
And weep this trust, and that deceiving,
Than doubt one heart which if believed,
Had blessed one’s life with true believing:
Oh this mocking world! too fast
The doubting fiend o’ertakes our youth:
Better be cheated to the last
Than lose the blessed hope of truth.”
I like men “unstable as water”—even though they do not excel in what most of the world deems “excellence.”
My friend and companion was one of these unstable, steadfast men. The child of “poor but honest parents,” he had followed the tide of emigration to California, where he had spent several years “digging” in the mines, or farming, or writing funny things for newspapers. Among the grand mountains and green and flowery valleys of California, his artistic nature had been developed, and his fine taste in color in part revealed to him. He determined to abandon trade and pursue art; and having fortunately secured in San Francisco a little piece of land which produced him an annual revenue of three hundred dollars, and throwing himself upon this never-failing, though certainly modest resource, he determined to come to Europe, and reverently sit, pencil in hand, at the feet of the great masters.
I first met him in Paris in the spring of 1861. There are natures which instinctively mingle with 79 each other, and it was perhaps the watery, “unstable” element in mine that went leaping and bounding to join its like in his. At all events, Warer was from that time no longer companionless, and many a genial, pleasant hour we spent together either in my rooms in the Quartier Latin, strolling through its quaint streets, or through the art galleries, and, in pleasant summer afternoons, among the villages and woods in the neighborhood of Paris. I found him living in a little garret in the Cité, just large enough to hold a very narrow bed; and here he made a cup of tea and ate a roll of bread for breakfast, and cooked a mutton-chop over a spirit-lamp for dinner. I suspect, also, that during the first two months he was in Paris, before he made an arrangement for the regular transmission of his funds, he had frequently “dined with Duke Humphrey.” Still, in all his troubles, not the least of which was an occasional hemorrhage, he was steadily pursuing the object of his visit to Paris, going at eight o’clock in the morning to the School of Design, and working there till noon, then to the Louvre, where he copied till four, and in the evening again to his study and practice.
Thus he worked on for nearly a year, but, on the outbreak of the war, he felt it his duty to lend his native land his aid. He returned to the United States, and, not feeling himself physically able to perform the 80 duties of a soldier, at once entered the hospital department, and acted as nurse to the sick and wounded soldiers, until he himself, worn out and ill, was discharged, and returned to Europe to recommence the study of art. Friends mourned over him, and called him “unstable.” Unstable as he may have been in other things, he certainly was fixed and devoted enough to the profession he had chosen, and if health and life are spared him he will some day find his name inscribed high on the list of painters. Such was my companion—genial, moody, devoted, capricious, serious, “unstable” and fixed—in short, as most of us are, a bundle of contradictions.
We had determined, on starting, to travel as economically as was consistent with a reasonable degree of comfort, and to eschew “grand” hotels, and put up at the less pretentious but frequently quite as comfortable auberges; and as we had both had some experience in the swindling ways of landlords, it was arranged that, upon arriving in a town or village, Warer should go on a voyage of exploration, and make a bargain in advance for lodging and provender.
At Horgen we went to the “Lion,” a roughly-built chalet, with those large, wide porticoes which are the distinguishing characteristic of the Swiss houses; here Warer had found a room with two clean beds 81 for a franc each, and we made a very decent supper, with a bottle of wine, for twenty-eight sous. My dress for the excursion consisted of a stout suit of coarse woollen clothing, a flannel travelling-shirt, a soft “wide-awake,” and a pair of heavy double-soled laced boots reaching a little above the ankle, and in which a Zurich cobbler had driven a double row of hobnails. My socks were heavy, but fine wool: cotton should never be worn in walking long distances, as it cuts the feet; while with good woollen socks well soaped on the inside every morning with common brown soap, and with a fair degree of courage and determination, the loftiest mountains can be scaled, and the ruggedest roads marched over with comparative ease.
My friend had wisely provided himself with a light canvas knapsack, which, with a keen eye for a bargain, he bought at a shop in Zurich, the contents of which principally consisted of old knapsacks, boots, hats, alpenstöckers, and other articles used by pedestrians, and which, having served their purpose, had been disposed of here by travellers who had completed their journeys. I had been seduced by the misrepresentations of one of “fair Zurich’s daughters” on the margin of the lake, who had no knapsacks for sale, but did have gibicieres, or wallets, into the purchase of one of the latter. Many pedestrians travel 82 with these, and prefer them to the knapsack. Mine was made of light cotton cloth, bound with a preparation of caoutchouc, and was worn hanging near the hip, suspended by a broad strap passing over the shoulder. There are some advantages in the wallet; it can be easily dropped, or shifted from one shoulder to the other, or it may be carried in the hand. I should, however, recommend the knapsack, which does not fatigue the wearer as much as the wallet does.
In mine I had stowed away the articles which, from some experience in pedestrianizing, I considered indispensable for a fortnight’s tramp; these were a linen blouse, a pair of light trowsers, a flannel travelling-shirt, two pairs of socks, a pair of light low-quartered shoes, half a dozen collars, an opera-glass, a small portfolio containing materials for writing, a piece of soap, a comb, brushes, a paper of pins, a little box containing needles, thread, and buttons, a small ball of twine, and my guide-book; all these, with careful packing, may be pressed into an astonishingly small space. In addition to the gibiciere, I also carried an umbrella, slung with a strap across the back or used as a walking-stick, a small flask in my pocket, and a plaid shawl, fastened either upon the outside of the wallet, hung loosely over the shoulder, or rolled into a sort of rope and tied around the waist. The shawl 83 and blouse I found invaluable. In midsummer, an overcoat, unless it be a thin “mackintosh,” as a protection against rain, is an entirely unnecessary burden. My companion, besides his knapsack, carried in his hand a large portfolio of canvas and drawing-paper, and a box of colors, fastened together by a strap.
It was a dull, damp, drizzly, unpropitious morning, about half past six o’clock, when Warer and I, having completed our toilets and our breakfasts, shouldered our packs and started out of the village up the hill above Horgen. We had laid out no lengthened route, but were decided to mount first the Rigi, and go from there in whatever direction inclination might lead us. Our first morning walk was to be to Zug, situated on the lake of that name eleven miles from Horgen. We mounted the hillside, stopping to pluck a few delicately blue-fringed gentians, which grew here in wild profusion, and when we had reached the summit, four and a half miles from Horgen, sat down to rest. The rain had ceased, and the sun appeared in all his splendor. Below us, far down the hillside, lay the sleeping lake of Zurich, and upon the other slope in the distance, the charming little sheet of Zug. The Rigi and Pilatus, with light clouds floating below their heads, rose up into the blue sky, and farther off the sunshine fell upon the eternally snow-covered mountains 84 of the Bernese Oberland. We sat an hour mingling our souls with this grandeur and sublimity, and felt a glow of enthusiasm such as had not warmed us in many a day. With these everlasting hills, peaceful lakes, and lovely valleys in sight, we forgot man and his littlenesses, his towns and cities, and his many inventions, and we gazed and drank in to the fullest of our capacity the splendor spread and piled around us, talking the while of God, and art, and beauty.
Descending the hillside, we passed a large cotton-mill, standing silent for want of raw material, and farther on entered a gasthaus, where Warer, who spoke a little German, made a pretty girl, who was either landlady or landlady’s daughter, understand that we were thirsty and wanted beer. She served it to us, and it was tolerably good. The lass was rosy and buxom; but, as she handed us the foaming glasses, her pretty red lips were protruding in a most unmistakable pout, and the manner in which she put the beer down evidently signified “There—take that, and go.” The fact was, we had intruded upon what was undoubtedly, to her, a pleasant tête-à-tête; and as we were in the best possible humor with the world, we drank our beer and took our departure as quickly as possible.
We reached Zug at half past eleven, and passing by 85 in scorn the “Hirsch” and the “Bellevue,” and dodging the gang of hotel-runners and commissionnaires and guides who here assailed us, we proceeded to a quiet little inn, the “Falken,” where, in a large common dining-room, we ate a passable dinner, consisting of soup and roast meat, sausage, potatoes and cabbage, with half a bottle of wine; price a franc and a half each. A bad, rough German is the language of the common people in all that portion of Switzerland through which we passed; and few of them understand a word of French. Here, however, we found as waiter, and apparently as general manager of the eating and drinking department, a strapping German girl, who had picked up a sufficiency of French to enable us to converse with her upon ordinary topics. She served us with alacrity, and her sympathetic face wore an evident look of pity for us—two poor strangers, far away from home, travelling on foot with heavy packs, and a long journey before us. Her sympathy indeed took a practical turn, and she gave us, I believe, a double allowance of sausage. Upon leaving the house, which we did after a rest of three hours, she followed us to the door, and when I offered her a small piece of money for service she refused it; and as we reached the end of the street, turning round to take a last look at the “Falken,” we saw Gretchen still standing in the doorway, following our footsteps 86 with her sympathetic eyes. Poor Gretchen! I have always been more than half disposed to believe that her big good heart had been suddenly warmed with a feeling more kindly even than “sympathy” for my friend Warer.
We left Zug for Arth, at the other end of the lake, which is but nine miles long and three wide, at three o’clock, and reached Arth, lying at the foot of the Rigi, in a little more than an hour. Here, upon landing, we were again assailed by a crowd of thirty or forty hotel-runners, commissionnaires, porters, and guides, who offered their services to conduct us up the mountain either on foot or horseback. We shook them off, and, forcing our way through them, marched on to the “Schussel,” where we found a handsome landlady, and a fragrant smell from the kitchen. So we went into the “Schussel,” and were not disappointed. An excellent supper with wine, and a breakfast, the universal one in Switzerland, tea or coffee, bread, butter, and honey, costing us, with lodging, but four francs each.
The rain fell in the morning as Warer and I, nothing daunted, commenced the ascent of the Rigi at seven o’clock. I had, and I presume most travellers going for the first time into Switzerland have, a not very well defined idea that their ascent of mountains will be through snow, while the fact is that in “the 87 season,” and upon the ordinary travelled routes, the tourist never touches snow or ice when crossing a glacier. If he strike from the beaten path and mount into the higher Alps, then indeed he will find enough of it; but the routes which most pedestrians follow in Switzerland are as destitute of snow as are the streets of Zurich.
The guide-books inform us that the summit of the Rigi, which is 5541 feet above the level of the sea, and 4196 above the lake of Lucerne, may be reached in three hours and a half from Arth. Its performance in this time, however, depends upon obedience to one of the guide-book rules, which under ordinary circumstances is a good one for the pedestrian, enjoining him to walk slowly and steadily at the rate of sixty steps per minute. When we commenced the ascent the rain had been falling for some days, and the broad and well-defined path had been trodden by the feet of horses and men into a thick paste, through which we could make our way only with great difficulty. A soft fine rain, wetting all the trees and underbrush, which in turn wetted us as we mounted, was falling, and soon a thick fog enveloped us, shutting out the view of lake and verdant valley. And so we slowly, and rather wearily, wended our way up the mountain-side, with nothing in sight above or below but the dripping trees, the dullness and monotony of 88 the scene varied only by the occasional appearance, looming up in the mist, of a stray cow whose approach was heralded by the tinkling of a bell, which in these mountains are placed upon the necks of flocks and herds. Now and then we met a traveller on foot or on horseback, or a lady carried by porters in a chair, all looking damp and dismal, and as anxious to get down as we were to get up. There was not certainly much romance in this; but Warer, who, like Mark Tapley, considered it no credit to be jolly excepting under unfavorable circumstances, told some of his funniest stories, and made some of his best jokes, and sang the refrain of an amusing song, as over stones, under trees, and through mud, we picked our way upward. With good walking we should have reached the little chapel of St. Maria zum Schnee (our Lady of the Snow), built for the cowherds at a height of four thousand feet up the mountain-side, by ten o’clock. As it was, the Klosterli, as the village consisting of half a dozen houses about the chapel is called, came in sight at noon, and we were glad enough to make our way directly to the “Schwert,” an unpretending but comfortable little inn, with a blazing log-fire in the dining-room, and from whose kitchen issued the savory smell of boiling cabbage. We dried ourselves before the fire, dined well, and rested an hour. At half past two P.M. we reached 89 the Rigi-Staffel, about twenty minutes’ walk from the Rigi-Kulm, or summit of the mountain. Here we determined to remain for the night, and, as we were soaked through, make an entire change of clothing. In the house we found several tourists, who had been waiting three days in vain to see sunrise and sunset from the summit. The prospect was dismal enough; and, as night approached, the fog seemed to grow thicker—the “view” in every direction being confined to a distance of less than six inches from the window of the inn. Not a patch of blue sky, or a single snow-crowned peak, or quiet lake or green valley far down the mountain-side, did we see that day. My companion contented himself with making a brilliant sketch of a “View from the Rigi in a thick fog,” while I wrote some letters from “up in the clouds.”
We made a good supper, and gave orders that we should be called at four o’clock, so that if there were to be any sunrise we could reach the Kulm in time to enjoy it. A little after five we were at the summit, just as the gray of dawn was beginning to streak the eastern sky; the gray grew whiter and clearer, but no sun made it bright and transparent, or came out to throw his golden glory over the snow which covered the mountains for a circumference of three hundred miles around us. But as daylight grew, the scene became 90 sufficiently grand and beautiful. Looking toward the east, the eye rests upon a mountain-chain more than a hundred miles in length, embracing some of the loftiest, grandest, and most celebrated snow-covered peaks of Switzerland. The huge snowy crest of the Glarnisch, the Scheerhorn, the cone-like Bristenstock, the Blackenstock, and the Uri-Rothstock, side by side, and both so near that their shining glaciers are plainly discernible; then the lofty mountains of the Bernese Oberland, their heights covered with perpetual snow, standing up like a mighty barrier against the sky; the Finsteraarhorn, nearly fourteen thousand feet in height; next to it the Schreckhorn, and the three white peaks of the Wetterhorn, looking as pure and clean and delicate as loaves of sugar; the Monch, and the Eiger, and the beautiful Jungfrau. The eye becomes bewildered in gazing upon these mountains, and turns with pleasure to the less formidable attractions of the beautiful scene below.
The commonplace comparison of “a map” is the only one which will convey an accurate idea of the effect of looking down the mountain-side. Eleven lakes are seen peacefully lying in what look like little holes in the mountain, and directly at the foot of the Rigi are those of Lucerne and Zug. All these lakes are in sight. The trees down the mountain-slope and 91 by the margin of the lakes instantly remind one of the little toy trees such as children play with surrounding little toy houses. Two or three rivers wind their ways through the valleys, and the eye can follow their courses for thirty or forty miles. Descending the mountain in much less time than it required to mount, Warer stopping to sketch a singular arch formed of two huge masses of conglomerate which have rolled together, and upon the top of which a third one has tumbled, we reached Waggis, on the lake, where we were to take the boat for Lucerne at ten o’clock.
The sun had come out clear and bright by the time we reached Lucerne, where we secured a comfortable room at the “Linden” for the reasonable sum of a franc and a half each, and then proceeded to see the lions of the town, the principal one of which is that of Thorwaldsen, and, retiring early, rose at seven, arranged our packs, and took the steam-boat at eight o’clock for Fluellen, on the lake, and but two miles from Altorf.
In point of picturesqueness the lake of Lucerne is surpassed by none in Switzerland, or indeed in Europe. It is shut in by forest-clad hills, back of which rise the eternal mountains, their snow-covered tops frequently seen standing clear and bright in the sunshine, while clouds are playing far below them. The 92 slopes of the hills are covered with fruit-trees and gardens, reaching down to the very margin of the lake, the borders of which are rich in historical associations. We pass the green meadow of the Rutli, where the conspirators joined hands and swore to be faithful to each other, and not to rest till they had delivered their soil from the polluting tread of the oppressor. A little beyond it is Tell’s chapel, erected on what is supposed to be the very spot where the Swiss hero leaped from the boat of Gessler.
Fluellen is the point of debarkation for travellers who intend crossing the St. Gothard into Italy, and here we were again set upon by a horde of guides, who pressed their services upon us. As a rule, the pedestrian is much more independent without a guide than with one; and unless he acts as porter and carries the traveller’s pack, he is really of very little use on any of the travelled routes or over the well-known mountain-passes, upon which, with a good guide-book, an ordinary amount of judgment, and a slight knowledge of German, it is almost impossible for a traveller to lose his way.
In ascending the higher Alps, among the snow, crossing the glaciers, or exploring portions of the country comparatively unknown and but little travelled, a guide is indispensable.93
A pleasant walk of ten miles through gardens and orchards brought us to Altorf—a name as familiar to me from earliest childhood as that of the village in which I was born. I had spouted Tell’s speech to the “men of Altorf,” and boldly and valiantly, amidst the wonder and applause of the audience, in my schoolboy days, knocked down and trampled on the cap and “insolence of Gessler,” little dreaming I should ever stand near Tell’s native village, and upon the very spot, perhaps, where he had inspired the “men of Altorf” with his eloquence.
Historians have thrown some doubt about the existence of William Tell; but no man, unless he be very cold and skeptical, can remain ten minutes in the little village of Altorf without yielding implicit faith to the fact that he was a reality, and no myth. A learned savant of Switzerland, a few years since, at the meeting of a historical association in Geneva, read a paper in which he demonstrated, to his own satisfaction at least, that William Tell was a creature of fable. A year afterward he came to Altorf, probably in quest of further information in support of his theory; but upon the inhabitants learning that he was there, they formed themselves into a posse comitatus and waited upon him with an intimation that Altorf was not a healthy locality for him, and that they 94 would seriously recommend him to take the next boat for Lucerne. He instantly comprehended the force of their shrewd remarks, and, shaking the dust of Altorf from his feet, departed and returned no more.
Here, in a little square in the centre of the village, is the colossal plaster statue of Tell, erected upon the very spot where it is supposed its living model stood when he aimed the arrow at the apple on Albert’s head. About forty yards distant is a fountain, and a statue of a burly bailiff of Altorf, named Besler. Besler himself erected this statue at his own expense. The effigy of the bailiff is supposed to stand where the lime-tree grew, at whose base stood the noble child of Tell during those terrible moments when he awaited the arrow from his father’s bow.
We had left our packs at the “William Tell,” a little inn at the entrance of the village, while we explored it, and so, returning to the “Tell,” we ate a bad dinner, and a little after noon, as the rain was beginning to patter upon the flag-stones of Altorf, we passed out of the village on the great St. Gothard highway.
I had purchased an alpenstöck on the Rigi, but my companion looked upon the alpenstöck as a sham, an affectation, and a weakness, in which he would not indulge. This light pole, about the size of 95 an ordinary broomstick, and seven feet in length, with a sharp prong at the end, and which is always used by the mountaineers in Switzerland, I found of great service before our trip was ended, particularly in our subsequent mountain climbing. Upon reaching Fluellen, we considered our pedestrian excursion fairly commenced, and intended accepting the services of neither man, beast, or steam-engine, as aids to locomotion, till it was completed.
The circumstances attending it were certainly unpropitious. We had time to take a run up into the Bannwald, or sacred forest, near the old Capuchin monastery. The trees of the forest are never touched by the axe of the woodman, as they are a protection to Altorf from the rocks which roll and tumble from the summit of the steep hill that overhangs the village. We had time to stray a little from the main road to see the village of Burglen, where Tell was born, and where a chapel, whose walls are covered with painted scenes from his life, stands upon the site of his birth-place.
There was little in our journey of that day that was cheerful or interesting. The country through which we were passing was level, and slightly diversified, and but one mountain of any considerable altitude, the black fir-covered pyramid of the Bristenstock, was in sight. Amstag, which lies at the foot 96 of this, was our destination, and we reached it, wet, tired, and not in the best humor, about six o’clock in the afternoon.
As we approached the Italian canton of Tessin, which borders upon Lombardy, we could not fail to observe a marked change in the physiognomy and speech of the people. Upon reaching the outskirts of Amstag, we were surrounded by a troop of beggar-boys and girls, such as now appear to the stranger at the entrance of every Swiss village. It seemed as though each family in the town had sent a deputation to make an attack on our pockets. Throughout the whole country, the rising generation is growing up a nation of beggars; everywhere, on all the public roads, on the mountain-passes, on their very summits among the snows, nearly every child the traveller meets asks him for money. In the little chalets in which the herdsmen live, they watch for his approach, and run out to meet him, and persistently follow him as long as there is the slightest hope of softening his heart and opening his pocket. It is a disgrace to the Swiss Government that measures are not adopted to put a stop to this serious annoyance. We “descended” at the “Lowe,” in Amstag, a wretched inn, which every traveller having a proper regard for his stomach and his purse will carefully avoid, and which we left as soon as possible.97
It was a beautifully clear and sunny morning as we left Amstag, and, crossing over the bridge, took the road toward the great St. Gothard, up the valley of the Reuss, which leaps, and rushes, and foams, and tumbles in graceful cascades and waterfalls down the steep ravine through which it runs. Before us, in the distant blue, rose the St. Gothard ridge; on our left was the black pyramid of the Bristenstock, and piled all around and above us mountains, on whose sides, far up toward their summits, little patches of snow were lying, and small glaciers sparkling like beds of diamonds in the morning sunshine. All along this valley the hillsides are covered with a delicate reddish lichen, having the odor of the violet, and called the “violet-moss.” We passed through several little villages, and crossed over a succession of bridges, and, continually ascending the torrent of the Reuss, which becomes more and more rapid in its fall, we reached about noon the wonder on this road, the Teufelsbrücke, or Devil’s Bridge.
A scene of wildness and desolation here appears. The river, formed into a beautiful waterfall, plunges into a black depth a hundred feet below, and throws its spray all above and around. Rocks are piled and tumbled in its bed, and, leaping over and coursing around them, dashing up against them, the river, lashed into a thick white creamy foam, pursues 98 its way, and high above the fall the single-arched bridge is spanning it. Above the bridge the river is obstructed with rocks; its banks are barren and desolate; and a gust, which the natives facetiously call the Hutschelm, or “hat rogue,” bears with it the wet and spray into the traveller’s face as he crosses the bridge, or stops to gaze into the abyss beneath him.
Five minutes’ walk brought us to a tunnel cut through the solid rock, and called the Urner Loch. When we had emerged from this, we found ourselves at the entrance of a broad valley, where the Reuss no longer tumbles and leaps, but flows gently and sweetly through its rich, grassy meadows. What a contrast to the scene we had left behind us! there all was turmoil, confusion, and savage wildness; here stillness, order, and peaceful beauty. “’Tis a type of life,” moralized my companion; “and in our stormiest hours we should always remember that hedging our very pathway there may be awaiting us a smiling valley of beauty and of calm.”
The Rasselas valley into which we now entered was the vale of Uri, nine miles long, and about three wide. It is shut in by itself, and out from all the world, by barren and partially snow-covered mountains, above which the sun in midsummer rises late. Eight months of the year here are considered winter, and during the remaining four fires are frequently 99 necessary to comfort. The inhabitants live by flocks and herds, and by guiding travellers and transporting their luggage over the St. Gothard.
About two miles from the “Devil’s Bridge” is Andermatt, a little village, where we made an excellent dinner for three francs at the “Poste,” in whose register we left a warning to travellers against patronizing the Lowe at Amstag. After this we pursued our journey, passing through Hospenthal, where we left the St. Gothard road, and on to the inconsiderable village of Realp, where we were to stop for the night. It was nearly dark when we arrived at the little hospice formerly inhabited by some Capuchin monks, but now converted into an inn. It contains but three rooms, however, and is still presided over by Father Arsenius, a Capuchin, with a long gown, and the bare feet and shaven head of his order.
We supped passably, slept soundly, and breakfasted early at the hospice of Realp, and were charged but four francs each; and at half past six o’clock in the foggy morning, which soon changed to a rainy one, we shouldered our packs, and, bidding good-bye to the Capuchin, took our way up the rugged mountain-side toward the Furca, which we reached between nine and ten o’clock, thoroughly drenched.
The “Furca,” so called from its two peaks, which bear a fanciful resemblance to the prongs of a fork, is 100 a mountain ridge at an elevation of nearly eight thousand feet. Thence, in clear weather, a fine view of the Bernese Alps, and especially of the lofty Finsteraarhorn, is obtained. We saw nothing from it, however, but a pig-pen and a chicken-coop, about six yards distant from the inn window. In the dining-room we found a good fire, at which we dried our shoes, and met some English and American pedestrians, who had come from the other direction. Among the travellers whom the fog had delayed on the Furca, were two gentlemen who had recently ascended Monte Rosa. Both of them bore evidence of having seen hard service—one, with frozen feet, being scarcely able to walk, and the other with his face and lips covered with festering blisters.
The fog and rain had nearly ceased when, leaving the Furca, we descended the steep and rugged slope toward the Glacier du Rhone, which soon appeared in sight. There it lay below us! a sea of ice, about four miles in width, and reaching eighteen miles up into the valleys, in which it lies imbedded between the Gelmerhorn and the Gersthorn on the one side, and the barren Galenstock, which we had been ascending and descending, on the other. This was the first glacier of any importance which we had seen, and for nearly an hour we skirted its base, looking up toward its summit. The first impression was that 101 of a mighty cataract, suddenly frozen as it fell, and tumbled down the valley between the mountains. The ice which forms it is rough and honey-combed upon the surface, but on the sides of the immense yawning fissures which open all over it it is pure and clear as crystal. We did not go on the glacier, but followed the path just by the edge of the mountain, within a few feet of whose base the glacier reaches, and over the moraine, or rocks and stones, which these immense moving masses of ice bear down with them.
Coursing its way beneath a vaulted arch of clear blue-tinted ice, its waters tinged with gray, flows a narrow little stream from the side of the glacier, and here, with the aid of the alpenstöck, I could have leaped across it. This is the source of the Rhone, which, flowing on, and gathering force and size from mountain streams and melting snows, gradually becomes a mighty river, discharging itself into the Mediterranean after a course of five hundred miles.
We had intended crossing the mountain, which rises abruptly just after passing the glacier, and reaching the Grimsel hospice before night, and had commenced the ascent, when a persistent guide, who had evidently been on the lookout for us, drew such a terrible picture of the danger we ran of losing our way, that we concluded to stop at the hotel for the 102 night. We met there an Irish gentleman and his young bride, who were making a pedestrian trip through Switzerland—their wedding-tour. They had already been two months traversing the mountain-passes and valleys, usually walking from eight to ten hours a day—taking an amount of exercise which would probably appall the young brides of America. As they were going our way, and were to leave the next morning, we joined them, starting at six o’clock, in a thick fog, up the Maienwand, blooming now with Alpine flowers. The gentleman was dressed very much as were my companion and myself, while the lady wore a short skirt and a round straw hat, and she, as well as her husband, carried the alpenstöck, and trudged along bravely and firmly as any of us in that long day’s march. Upon reaching the summit, what was our surprise to find our friend of the evening before awaiting us to pilot us down to the Grimsel. Whether he had patiently remained there all night we did not ask him, but coming to the conclusion that so much perseverance ought to be rewarded, we permitted him to lead us down the stony, rugged mountain-side.
At the old convent, or rather hospice, of the , where, in former times, a few good monks lived to furnish food and shelter to weary and benighted travellers, we made an excellent breakfast of bread 103 and milk. Our path for the rest of the day lay through the beautiful valley of the Aare, walled up on either side with mountains of bald-faced rock. The river is repeatedly crossed by old, romantic, grass-grown stone bridges of a single arch; and as my companion stopped two or three times to sketch these, I amused myself in the mean time by rolling boulders over the rocks which line the rapid, tumbling river, or plucking Alpine roses for my book of floral souvenirs. We reached the falls of Handeck about noon, and, after dinner at a little chalet visited the fall, where the river comes pouring headlong down into an abyss two hundred and twenty-five feet deep. Our companions were in ecstasies; but Warer and I, who had seen, not only Niagara, but the Rhine-fall, affected superior knowledge, and treated it as a small affair.
All through this wild and beautiful valley the scene was rendered still more picturesque by numerous mountain torrents falling in fleecy, sheety clearness from the heights above us, and scattering their spray around us as they fell. Warer, who had once made a trip to the Yosemite Valley in California, had during all the former portion of our tramp, whenever I had expressed particular admiration for any grand feature of the scenery, been in the habit of dampening my ardor by giving his nose an upward inflection, and saying 104 that “it was nothing to Yosemite.” In fact, a little childish pettishness had grown up in both of us, and I, in revenge, whenever I saw any thing on the route particularly uninteresting, retorted by asking if he had seen “any thing in Yosemite equal to that?” However, during that day in the Haslithal, this beautiful valley of the Aare, we dropped our badinage in the presence of these grand old mountains and leaping cascades, and after that I heard no more of Yosemite.
We reached Meiringen a little after six o’clock, having made an actual day’s travel of ten hours. We were already becoming old pedestrians, and it is really astonishing how, after the first few days of a foot-tramp, one becomes hardened, and enabled to undergo a double quantity of fatigue. Although certainly a little tired, a good supper at the Krone and our usual change of stockings and shoes soon refreshed us so much that Warer proposed a walk of a mile or two up the valley to digest our dinner and give us an appetite for sleep.
The next morning we started at six o’clock, but when about a quarter of a mile from the inn, Warer stopped to make a sketch. What children we are! I was impatient to proceed, and it seemed altogether too early in the morning for my companion to stand there, considering the long day’s march before us. 105 So, as he seemed to be absorbed in his work, I slowly continued my way up the mountain-path. We had said nothing to each other, but we both understood very well that there was a little difference of opinion as to who should be leader. I walked slowly on, thinking Warer would soon follow me, until the mountain firs and bushes shut him out from my sight. Then I regretted my hastiness, and sat down and waited for his coming; but an hour passed, and he came not, and so I proceeded, determining to wait again when I reached the summit of the mountain. I passed by the celebrated falls of the Reichenbach, scarcely looking at them, for I knew I should not enjoy them alone, and hastened to reach the mountaintop, not even stopping to patronize the young woman who, in a little chalet on the mountain-side, for a few sous, enables Swiss travellers to say with truth that they have seen a chamois.
On the summit of this mountain the eye rests upon a scene of grandeur which I do not believe is surpassed in Switzerland. The lofty Wetterhorn, shaped like a sugarloaf, and covered with pure snow, which seems at the distance to have been laid on evenly and smoothly like plaster, raises its head high above the two bare peaks of the Wellhorn and the Englehorn. The contrast between the snowy softness of the one, and the rugged, craggy gray of the others, is very 106 striking; and the effect is heightened by the view at the mountain bases of a long stretch of fresh pasture-lands covered with chalets and herds of cattle. But I did not half enjoy this scene. My eyes would turn from it backward to the mountain-path I had ascended, and up which I hoped every moment to see coming the tall figure of my companion. But he came not; and again bitterly regretting my hastiness, after waiting an hour with a really sad and heavy heart, I shouldered my pack, and, descending the mountain-side, crossed the pasture to Rosenlaui.
There are some baths here, and the day being fearfully hot, I was half inclined to rest, but I only strayed aside a few minutes to see the celebrated glacier remarkable for the purity of its ice and its blue color. Near its base lives an old man, who, as I approached it, followed me, and proposed that I should enter it. As the idea of entering a glacier was something new, I consented, and, mounting a ladder upon its side, soon found myself really in its interior, in a chamber twenty feet long and seven feet high, whose walls, floors, and ceilings were of clear, solid, blue ice. I found it damp and chilly though, and soon took my way up the mountain-side toward the summit of the great Scheideck.
As I climbed the steep and rugged mountain, in most places free from vegetation, and beneath the 107 burning heat of a meridian sun, my ears were saluted with a sound which, though at first pleasant, from its frequent repetition soon became an intolerable nuisance. All along these mountain-paths are men who keep a sharp lookout for travellers coming up or going down. The moment one appears, the looker-out returns to his post and sounds the Alpenhorn—an instrument of bark or wood, six or eight feet in length, whose notes are clear and silvery as those of a bugle. But it soon becomes to the traveller an instrument of torture, particularly as its blast is always followed by the importunities of the blower, who, hat in hand, persistently pleads for, or rather demands money for his artistic services. The whole of this day’s route was strewn with beggars of every description. Little children with Alpenroses or berries clung to me and implored me to buy; old men and old women, lame, halt, and blind, whiningly asked for aid; and “Swiss maidens,” whose rough, unhandsome faces, dumpy figures, and unpicturesque costumes, put to flight any romantic ideas I might have entertained in regard to them, came in troops to the roadside and held out their hands as I passed. The most impudent attempt at extortion was that of a fellow who, spying me from a distance, rose from the stone on which he was reposing, with a pick in his hand, and demanded pay for mending the road! The road was of almost solid 108 rock, and his pick scarcely could have, and certainly never had penetrated it.
A little after noon I reached the Scheideck, lying at the foot of the Wetterhorn, covered with eternal snow, and nearly twelve thousand feet in height. Here, after dinner, and a couple of hours rest, I started down the mountain-side toward the lovely valley and glacier of Grindelwald.
Where was my friend Warer, whom I had so hastily quitted in the morning, all this time? Had he become disgusted with Swiss travel and turned back, or had he lost his way in the mountains? I began to be alarmed, and thought seriously of returning; but, reflecting that the probability of finding him would be but slight, pursued my journey. When near the base of the mountain, and just as I was entering the charming little valley, what was my delight at spying Warer not far ahead, seated upon a rock, and making a sketch of the Wetterhorn. I overtook him as soon as possible. Between us no verbal apologies were necessary. He had, it seems, taken another path up to the falls of Reichenbach, and had preceded me about an hour. He finished his sketch while I rested, and then, just as the sinking sun was converting the snow of the Wetterhorn into rich, yellow cream, we descended together into the village of Grindelwald.109
This lies directly at the foot of two extensive glaciers, which reach in some places within a few feet of the houses, and look as though they might some day bury the valley in their icy folds.
In the morning Warer and I determined to make as much of an inspection of the lower or larger glacier as we could do with safety without a guide, as we had both egotistically determined to have nothing to do with this valuable and frequently indispensable class of persons during our entire trip.
On this occasion we came very near repenting our folly and seriously suffering for our egotism. Having reached the base of the lower glacier, which is here 3150 feet wide, at about ten o’clock in the morning, we climbed over the mass of moraine—broken rocks and stones—which the moving glacier bears down in its course, and soon reached the ice itself. For some time we found no difficulty in picking our way across the small fissures, and over the little humps of this icy cataract, but soon discovered that we had better go no farther on the ice, as we were approaching broader and deeper fissures, and places more difficult to pass. So we retraced our steps, and, reaching the foot of the glacier, decided that we would go up the mountain-path by the side of it, and obtain our view of it from a point less dangerous than the one we had been approaching.110
For a time the steep path which leads up the side of the glacier was plainly enough marked, but we strayed a little away from it to pluck some Alpine flowers, growing in wild luxuriance and in strange contrast by the side of this sea of ice, and often within a few feet of it. But in gathering our flowers we had lost our path, and for more than an hour looked for it in vain. Frequently we were obliged to cling to bushes and tree-limbs, and leap over fissures in the rock, where, had we missed our foothold, we should inevitably have fallen far down upon the glacier. How we wished then we had either remained quietly at Grindelwald, pursued our journey, or taken a guide! At length Warer, with his sharp eyes, found, or, as he modestly expressed it, “stumbled upon” the path, and, as rapidly as could be, we pursued our way downward, turning neither to the right nor the left.
A little after one o’clock we left Grindelwald, and struck up the bleak path, on our way to the Wengernalp, at the foot of the Jungfrau. For the first time on our trip, we heard and saw avalanches this afternoon, while we were seated in a cool and shady spot, which we had reached after a tramp of more than an hour up the steep, barren, and treeless mountain. Suddenly a noise, somewhat similar to the beating of surf upon the beach, broke upon our ears, and started us both from our seats. Louder and louder it grew, 111 and looking off in the distance, perhaps half a dozen miles away, we saw a cataract tumbling down the mountain-side, and carrying every thing in its path. This is the ice avalanche, caused by portions of a glacier becoming detached by the heat of the sun; and this white cascade often consists of immense blocks of ice capable of sweeping away forests and villages. The latter, however, are seldom built in too close proximity to these ice mountains.
We reached the Wengernalp, directly facing the Jungfrau, a little before sunset. We had seen it in the distance for several hours, but now that we were fully before its face, it assumed a new majesty and beauty. Its cloud-piercing heights covered with their eternal shroud of snow; its two pure and gigantic peaks, the Silverhorn and the Schneehorn; its lower slopes dotted with sparkling glaciers and fields of snow, all bewildered and amazed us. We could not find expression for the full gratification of our senses of beauty and of grandeur, and gazed upon the Jungfrau in silence till the falling shades of evening shut it from our view.
A few moments after our arrival on the Wengernalp two travellers came up, who, it appeared, had hired a mule together, to convey their luggage from Meiringen. One was a German and the other a Frenchman, and neither understood scarcely a word 112 of the other’s language. After supper they undertook to reckon up the expenses of the past week’s trip, during which time they had been travelling together. The Frenchman, who had kept the accounts, presented the German with a bill made out in French, of course, to all of which the German assented, with the exception of one item. His travelling companion told him over and over in his vernacular that this was for his share of the mule, but his Teutonic friend could not or would not understand. A happy idea suddenly struck Warer, who, seizing his pencil, sketched in a moment a large mule, which he exhibited to the German, and then with his knife cut it in two equal parts, giving one to each. It was plain as day, and the Teuton instantly comprehended that the charge was for his half of the animal, which Warer had so graphically pictured and divided.
All that night we were frequently awakened by the thunders of the avalanches pouring down the sides of the Jungfrau. In the morning we took an early start, and descended into the picturesque little valley and village of Lauterbrunnen, so shut in among the mountains that in July the sun does not rise till seven, and in winter not before noon. We visited the Staubach, a fall of no great volume, but an unbroken one of 925 feet, and then taking the broad carriage-road which leads along the banks of the Lutschine, 115 reached the beautifully situated straggling town of Interlaken a little after noon on the tenth day from that on which we climbed the hill above Horgen.
Here our foot-tramp was to end. We had been ten days on the route, and during that time had seen the best part of the Bernese Oberland. Our expenses from Zurich to Interlaken were, seventy-eight francs each, or a little less than eight francs a day, and the pedestrian may easily travel anywhere in Switzerland for this. We remained at Interlaken that afternoon, and the next morning Warer and I parted. I was to go back to Paris and to work, and he to make his way on foot in part, and in diligence in part, over the great St. Gothard into Italy. His last letter to me is from Venice, where he is still sitting modestly and hopefully, pencil in hand, at the feet of the great old masters.
a friendship uncontrolled by selfish interest
text has un-/uncontrolled at line break
acted as nurse to the sick and wounded soldiers
[Reminder: We are talking about a man whose chief trouble was “an occasional hemorrhage”.]
if health and life are spared him [Warer] will some day find his name inscribed high on the list of painters
[Either health and life were not spared him, or Buffum has disguised the name. Or, Option C, the journalist’s opinion of his friend’s talents was not shared by the art-appreciating public. Pity.]
A bad, rough German
[There exist worse descriptions of Switzertütsch.]
reached Arth . . . in a little more than an hour
[Walking at a pace of nine miles an hour.]
the tourist never touches snow or ice except when crossing a glacier
text has expect
walk slowly and steadily at the rate of sixty steps per minute
[I really hope a “step” means a pair of steps (left, right).]
like Mark Tapley
[One of these years I have really got to read Martin Chuzzlewit.]
a circumference of three hundred miles around us
[Most writers would have been content to say “a radius of fifty miles”.]
Historians have thrown some doubt about the existence of William Tell
[Is nothing sacred? First I learn that there was no Sawney Beane, and now this. Incidentally, “Altorf” is properly Altdorf.]
the colossal plaster statue of Tell
[Dating from 1857, so it hadn’t had time to crumble yet, though it did have to be repainted regularly. The current bronze statue took over in 1895.]
I had purchased an alpenstöck
[Edward Gould Buffum was not the first, and will not be the last, travel writer to get his umlauts wrong.]
the “Lowe,” in Amstag
[If the author had not wasted his umlauts on “alpenstock” he would have had one left over for “Löwe”.]
a wretched inn, which every traveller having a proper regard for his stomach and his purse will carefully avoid
[See what happens when you fall behind on your Yelp payments?]
At the old convent, or rather hospice, of the Grimsel,
text has Grinsel
The great engineering Work of the Century.—A Journey into the “Bowels of the Earth.”—San Michel.—The Village of Fourneaux, and its People.—Its beautiful Surroundings.—History of the Enterprise.—Anticipated Difficulties and Obstacles.—Map of the Tunnel and its Vicinity.—The motive Power.—Air pressed into the Service.—The Operations commenced.—My Visit to the Tunnel.—Preparations for entering.—In the “Bowels of the Earth.”—Darkness visible.—Breathing becomes difficult.—A Halt and Rest.—Among the Workmen.—An unpleasant Predicament.—The Blast.—The “Advanced Gallery.”—The Construction and Action of the perforating Machines.—The Work performed by them.—First Sight of the “Affusto.”—Immense Wear and Tear of Material.—Accidents.—Termination and Success of the Enterprise.
Through the fertile vine hills, and over the broad extended plains of Burgundy—by Dijon, Macon, Chamberry, Culoz, and Aix, winding gracefully around, and suddenly darting into and out of tunnels on the borders of the lovely, lonely lake of Bourgy, and then along the banks of the Arc—the railway train, in its progress from Paris toward Turin, finally arrives at the little Savoyard village of San Michel. From this point the Italy-ward traveller now passes through the barren valley to , 117 at the foot of Mont Cenis, crosses this to Susa, and proceeds to Turin. In a year or two, if no unforeseen event occur, this route will be materially changed, and travellers giving San Michel the go-by, and continuing in the railway carriage up the banks of the Arc, instead of scaling the Alps, will go rushing through their stony heart.
I had left Paris provided with a “permit” to visit the great Alpine tunnel and inspect the novel air-compressing machinery, and, having left the railway at San Michel, succeeded, with some difficulty, in procuring a rickety wagon to convey me to Fourneaux, about eight miles distant. It was late in the afternoon, and the lengthening shadows were rapidly crawling up the mountain-side, and departing sunlight was tinging the snowy summits with a rich creamy hue as we drove out of the village to the merry music of the grelots hung about the horses’ necks.
I satisfied myself, immediately on arriving at Fourneaux, that all the stories I had heard about the great work being stopped were the merest canards; and, after partaking of a better dinner than I had supposed it possible to obtain in such an uninviting establishment, wearied with the long and tiresome journey, I retired to rest in the little auberge on the hillside near the tunnel’s mouth; and the mountain torrent of Charmaix, 118 which came tumbling directly beneath my window, soon lulled me to sleep with its rude, monotonous music.
The “Mont Cenis” tunnel, as the great engineering work of the century is usually called, is a misnomer—Mont Cenis being distant at least sixteen miles from the French entrance at Fourneaux, and twenty from the Italian entrance at Bardonêche. The line of the tunnel passes beneath three peaks, respectively called the “Col Frejus,” the “Grand Vallon,” and the “Col de la Roue,” the first being upon the French, and the latter upon the Italian slope, and the Grand Vallon at nearly an equal distance between the two. Mount Cenis being the best known of any of the ranges in this vicinity, will doubtless continue to carry off the honors. In behalf, however, of modest merit, which the poet says “seeks the shade” (and, if this be true, the Col Frejus should possess an immense deal of that valuable quality, as it has certainly sought out about the “shadiest” position in the entire valley), I desire to put upon record its claim against the recognized one of its loftier and more aspiring neighbor.
Fourneaux, I found a miserable little village in a narrow gorge of the valley of the Arc, built partly on the river-bank, but principally upon the hillside. Many of the inhabitants are afflicted with goitre, with 119 sore eyes, or idiocy. Nature here, wild and rugged as it is, is grandly beautiful. The Grand Vallon, the culminating point of the Col Frejus, beneath whose summit the tunnel is to run, raises its lofty snow-bonneted head 11,000 feet above the level of the sea into the sky. By the side of it is Charmaix, its summit now crowned with a recent fall of snow, which had whitened the trunks and branches of the mountain-firs growing up to its very top. Down the mountain reach the firs and the pines, darkly, almost blackly green. Mingled with them are less hardy trees, their leaves ruddy with the hues of autumn, and fruit-covered barberry-bushes, which give a rich variegated color to the hillside. All around are piled up the Alps, rising one above the other; and at either extremity of vision, looking up or down the valley, it seems shut in by these eternal mountains.
Formerly all visitors who presented themselves at Fourneaux or Bardonêche were freely admitted to the tunnel without any formality, but, as the work advanced, the danger attending the entrance of strangers, and the annoyance thereby caused to the workmen, rendered it necessary that some more strict rule should be adopted. At present permissions are granted but for the fifth and twentieth of each month, and then only upon application to the “Direzione Tecnica del traforo delle Alpi” at Turin. I found no 120 difficulty in securing immunity from the strict application of this rule, and every facility was afforded me in the pursuit of my investigations by the local director, the Chevalier Copello.
It was not until several years after it was decided that the tunnel should be excavated that the work was actually commenced. In and out of the Italian Parliament it was ridiculed and opposed by scientific men, professors and laymen—all sorts of objections being made to its practicability, all kinds of horrible possibilities being imagined as obstacles in its way. Rock might be struck of so impenetrable a nature that the keenest-tempered instruments would be battered and turned aside without making upon it the slightest impression; so hard that charges of powder, no matter how heavy, would be blown from it as they would from the mouth of a cannon, without detaching or even shivering the surrounding mass.
Immense subterranean caverns, and yawning chasms and abysses reaching down to Hades itself, might be encountered. Large lakes might be unbosomed, and rivers might come pouring through fissures in the rock, and not only drown all the workmen, but, rushing through the tunnel on either side, overwhelm the valleys of the Dora and the Arc. Fire itself might be encountered, and the workmen suffocated with poisonous gases. These were some of the 121 imagined and imaginary difficulties in the way of the commencement and success of the enterprise. But, as the sequel will show, there were others of a much more practical, and therefore formidable nature, to be overcome. The usual mode of making tunnels is by sinking vertical shafts or wells at convenient distances, and working through from one to the other. Here, however, that would have been utterly impracticable. It was found that at a distance of 722 yards from the mouth, a well must have been 1000 feet in depth; at 3000 yards, 8593 feet; and at 6333 yards, a vertical shaft must have been 5400 feet deep—a well which, by the ordinary processes, would require nearly forty years to dig. In case the shafts were made oblique instead of vertical, they would have been almost as long as the tunnel itself. There was then but one way to open this, and that was by attacking it at the two ends—the mountain at its two opposite bases. But here arose another difficulty. How were laborers to be supplied with air at a distance of more than three miles in the very bowels of the earth? In tunnelling by hand, fifty or sixty years would have passed away before the completion of the work, and some more rapid process must be applied. Steam, the ordinary motive power, requires fire to generate it, and fire feeds upon air. It was evident that this could not be made use of, and that a 122 new motive power must be applied. A happy combination of circumstances led to this result.
An English engineer, named Bartlett, had invented a perforating apparatus, which being set in motion by steam-power, drove a drill like a battering-ram against the face of the rock, in time making a hole deep and large enough to be charged with powder. Three Italian engineers, Messrs. Sommellier, Grandis, and Grattoni, were at about the same time experimenting upon compressed air as a motive power, with the immediate object of applying it to the propulsion of railway trains up a steep incline in the Apennines. It occurred to these gentlemen that could a combination be made of their motive power and Bartlett’s apparatus, the result would be precisely the machine for boring a tunnel through the Alps. The motive power would cost nothing, and, instead of consuming air, would supply it to the workmen. Years of labor and of thought were expended in contriving, combining, and experimenting; and the result has been the perforating machine, moved by common air compressed to one-sixth its natural bulk, and consequently, when set free, exercising an expansive force equal to that of six atmospheres, which are now working their way through the Alps at the rate of three yards a day. The work was commenced by hand at Bardonêche in 1857, and continued till 1861, when the perforators 125 were introduced after about 900 yards had been accomplished. It was not, however, until 1863 that the perforators were introduced upon the French side, the intermediate time having been occupied in erecting dwellings for the workmen, machine-shops, and all the appliances necessary for such an immense undertaking.
The map on the opposite page shows the site selected for the tunnel.
The Arc, rising in the Alps near Mont Cenis, pours down the valley which bears its name, and empties into the Isere near Chamouset. In ascending the narrow valley, it was found that near the hamlet of Fourneaux the river makes a bend in a southerly direction. Upon the other side of the Alps, in the valley watered by the Dora-Riparia, the Dora, very accommodatingly, also makes a bend toward the north near Bardonêche; and thus, at these two points, the Dora and the Arc make the nearest approach to each other in all their course. Here, in these two secluded little nooks, they seem to have had a fancy for making each other’s acquaintance, and each have made advances as far as not merely propriety but nature herself permitted. But the rugged, frowning, unsympathetic Alps stood sentinel and barrier between them, and, roughly rejecting their cooing and wooing, turned them off again in different directions, each to pursue 126 its course toward the mighty sea. This barrier skill, science, enterprise, and determination are rapidly breaking down; and, before many years shall have passed, we may reasonably hope that the Dora and the Arc, though not indeed permitted to mingle their waters together in joy, will be firmly and forever united with bands of iron.
It was owing to this proximity in the two valleys at those points that Fourneaux upon the French, and Bardonêche upon the Italian side, were selected as the entrances and termini of the great Alpine tunnel. Here it was found that a straight line between them and through the Alps would measure only 12,220 mètres, or 13,577 yards—about seven and seven-tenths miles. Fourneaux and Bardonêche were also happily situated for a convenient junction with the railways already constructed, and the geological character of the mountain itself was found to be a favorable one for penetration.
The first visit I made in the morning after my arrival at Fourneaux was to the air-compressing establishment, situated half a mile from the mouth of the tunnel, and on the banks of the Arc. Without diagrams, and even with them, the reader would fail fully to comprehend the structure and action of the powerful and delicate machinery here employed. Twenty iron pipes or tubes, giving the ensemble the appearance 127 of a huge organ, stand upright at a height of thirty feet in the air; in these, by an oscillating motion caused by the rise and fall of water, common air is compressed to one-sixth its natural bulk. This rise and fall is caused by a series of pistons working in the tubes. As the piston ascends, it pushes the water before it, and this, in turn, compresses the air and chases it into a reservoir. As it descends, a valve near the top is opened, through which the common air rushes to supply the vacuum, and this, in turn, is compressed and pushed into the reservoir. The pistons are worked by water-wheels; and thus one force which costs nothing is made to manufacture from the surrounding atmosphere a power which is now boring through the hardest rock. From the reservoir an iron pipe eight inches in diameter, in sections eight feet in length, the joints being rendered air-tight by cushions of caoutchouc, and laid upon the tops of stone posts, conveys the compressed air along the roadside till nearly opposite the mouth of the tunnel, where, taking a sharp turn, it follows a steep incline, upon which a double-track railway is laid, up to the entrance. I followed the course of the pipe up this incline, upon which the “kangaroo wagons” (so called on account of their peculiar construction, the two front wheels being made lower than the hind ones, giving the wagon the appearance of a kangaroo) were 128 mounting, heavily laden with stone cut for the mason-work of the tunnel. Four hundred and fifty-eight steep stone steps brought me up on a large artificial plateau formed by the débris brought from out the excavation and shot down the mountain-side.
Nothing seemed so surprising, and nothing could be so likely to astonish the general observer, as the fact that the mouth of the tunnel is at a distance of 105 mètres, or 340 feet above the level of the valley. The reason, however, is evident enough when the facts of the case are known. The two opposite valleys of the Arc and the Dora differ in their heights above the level of the sea—the former being at an elevation of 1202 mètres and a fraction, while the latter has an elevation of 1335. A line, therefore, run straight from the base of the mountain on the Bardonêche, or most elevated side, would emerge upon the Fourneaux side at a distance of 132 mètres above the valley. This difference is to be compensated for, and it is done by commencing the tunnel on this side at an elevation of 105 mètres, and giving a much steeper grade from the north end to the centre than from the other, the grade in the one case being 0·022 to the mètre, and in the other but 0·0005.
Arrived near the entrance of the tunnel, I delivered my letter of introduction to Signore Genesio, the director of the workmen, who invited me into his 129 bureau, where he called my attention to a caoutchouc coat reaching nearly to the heels, and which he recommended me to put on. We then went to the mouth of the tunnel, where, each receiving from the custodian a lighted lamp, attached to a wire about eighteen inches in length, we commenced our journey into “the bowels of the earth.”
The entrance does not materially differ in appearance from that of ordinary railway tunnels. It is here built up and faced with solid masonry, and is 25 feet 3½ inches wide at the base, 26 feet 2¾ inches at the broadest part, and 24 feet 7 inches high. A double railway track emerges from the mouth, and wagons loaded with débris were coming out, and others, filled with cut stones for the mason-work, drills, and other working utensils, going in. As we entered, the only light we could see ahead was a gas jet blazing in the distance. Along either side of the tunnel here is a trottoir of flagstones, upon which we walked, lighting a path for our feet with the lamp which hung near them. The air-conduit is ranged along the side of the gallery, while in the middle of the tunnel, between the two lines of rails, a canal has been dug, through which the gas and water pipes are conveyed to the end of the gallery. This canal is wide, and deep enough to afford a refuge for the workmen, and a means of exit in case the tunnel should be filled by 130 a fall of the crumbling rock above. The masonry on either side was damp, and in many places little streams came trickling through it, and it occurred to me that in time this constant percolation must inevitably wear away the cement which binds the blocks of stone together, and undermine the vault. Overhead the masonry is not visible, nothing being seen but a wooden partition, dividing the tunnel into two equal galleries above and below. The object of this, which is only temporary, is to create a current, the rarified air from the lower gallery rising and rushing out through the upper, while fresh air comes into the lower one to supply its place. As yet, this partition extends only a short distance, and is not of much practical value. We passed the gas jet, and, looking before us, saw nothing but the most impenetrable darkness; and, looking behind, I observed the entrance gradually growing smaller, until after I had continually turned and watched it till it had dwindled down to the apparent size of an apple, it suddenly dropped out of sight, as the sun sinks below the horizon in a calm summer sea. Peering then in either direction, I saw only impenetrable darkness. I use the word “saw” advisedly, for this darkness here in the bowels of the earth seemed to be palpable and ponderable; something more than what the philosophers define as a mere absence of light; something heavier and more 131 solid than a negative—a real positive entity, which it seemed to me I could feel pressing against and around me as, guided by the flaring flame of our lamps, we forced our way through it. Upon inquiring of my guide how far we had reached, he called my attention to a little notch in the wall, where the distance was marked 1000 mètres, or about two-thirds of a mile.
A dull rumbling sound attracted my attention; and in the distance, but seeming miles away, lights were dancing up and down in the murky air as the feu follet, or wildfire, dances and flits in summer evenings over marshes, bogs, and fens. These were the lamps carried by some workmen going out, and a wagon loaded with débris soon came rolling by us. Up to this time I had experienced no particular difficulty in breathing, a sensation only that the air was unnatural and dank, like that in a cellar. As we advanced, however, it began to grow hot and stifling, and we entered a thick yellow fog, redolent of the fumes of gunpowder, which indeed it was, seeking its way toward the mouth of the tunnel. This was very disagreeable, almost suffocating, producing a sensation of heaviness upon the brain, a dull headache, and a fearful feeling of dread. As we walked on we saw lights again, dancing like fireflies in the distance, and soon a party of rough, half-naked, smoke-begrimed men, who 132 loomed up in the fog like enormous giants as they approached, passed us on their way from work.
About two miles from the entrance we came upon a little cabin, or barrack, built upon one side, and here my guide informed me that the completed portion of the tunnel on the French slope ended. Entering the cabin, and following his advice and example, I gladly removed coat and vest, covering myself again with the caoutchouc; and, picking and trimming our lamps, we darted again into the darkness. Up to this time it had been plain sailing, walking along with as little difficulty or obstacle as on a side-walk in a deserted street. Upon quitting this, however, we entered the gallery in corso di scavazione—that portion of the tunnel which, having been opened by the perforating machines, was now being enlarged by the ordinary hand process. Here there was no longer any trottoir, and picking our way over piles of rocks, which looked as though they had been thrown in confusion by giants at play, dodging wagons passing in and out, passing groups of swarthy workmen, through an atmosphere yellow, thick, and stifling, we at length came upon a group of men standing quietly, as if awaiting something, in front of a heavy oaken door, which closed the passage in advance of us. My guide said we must stop here for the present. I imagined the cause, and selecting the softest, smoothest-looking rock, sat down 133 and meditated. Here was I, more than two miles from the mouth of the tunnel, with a mile of Alps piled above my head. The gallery was not more than ten feet wide and seven high, and its roof and sides were of jagged, sharp, protruding rocks, seeming to need but a slight shaking to send them tumbling down about our ears. Suppose they should tumble, and we be all buried alive in this hole in the earth! Suppose some of the predicted rivers, or possible lakes, should find their way through some aperture just opened, and engulf us now! Suppose the air-pipe should burst, or, worse still, the supply of air be stopped, and we all suffocated! Suppose— But the thread of my rapidly-crowding hypotheses was broken by a sudden sound, which might well, under all the circumstances, have appalled a braver and more firmly constituted man, and which for an instant made me believe that one of my suppositions was about to become a reality. Bang!—but not the sharp cracking “bang” of a heated cannon, or the sound of a rock-blast in the open air—a dead, dull, rumbling explosion, which reverberated through the gallery, and seemed to give the whole earth a shake. I started, and involuntarily looked up, as if expecting to see the stony roof give way and tumble. Bang! bang! bang! in rapid succession five or six other blasts were blown; the oaken doors were opened, a huge gust of thick 134 yellow smoke and stifling black gunpowder came rushing toward us, when my guide touched me on the shoulder and said we could now proceed. I uttered an inward “thank God!” that I was really safe, and speedily sprang up and joined him.
Passing beyond the heavy oaken doors, still carefully picking our way over the stones through the gallery, growing lower and narrower at every step, through the smoke we soon discovered a brilliant blaze of gas, and heard a sharp hissing sound. Suddenly we emerged from the heat and smoke, and were breathing an air fresh, sweet, exhilarating, and doubly grateful to the lungs, after the deteriorated material upon which they had been feeding. We were in the “advanced gallery” at the end of the tunnel, and before us was the “affusto,” bearing its nine perforators, persistently striking and boring their way into the solid rock, scattering around them sparks of fire struck off at every blow.
The gallery here is not quite nine feet in width, and but eight and a half in height. The affusto, as the huge structure is called upon which the perforating machines are borne, and which bears precisely the same relation to them that the carriage does to the gun, nearly fills up the entire space. In order to observe the action of the machinery, we were obliged to coast carefully along the side of this heavy wagon, and 135 when arrived at the front, to wedge ourselves between it and the rock, with just space enough to stand in. Here the sights and sounds really became cheerful and pleasant. The gallery is brilliantly lighted; the compressed air, a jet of which is constantly escaping from the conduit-pipe, is fresh, cool, and grateful to the wearied lungs; the constant rapid “thud” of the drill as it strikes the rock, the hissing sound of the escaping air, the cries of the workmen to each other, sounding unnaturally loud in this pure air and confined space, all constituted a scene as exciting as it was strange. A feeling of manly pride at the sight and action of these wonderful machines, in the operation of which the powers of nature are made the slaves of man, seems to invade the soul. We forget that we are so far from daylight, and that four thousand feet of Alps are weighing above our heads. We forget danger, and banish fear; and the workmen, thirty-nine of whom are employed upon each affusto, seem to have no idea of either. They perform their labor in this little hole with a remarkable sense of security. They seem to play with these huge machines—they put their hands upon and direct the steel bar which strikes the rock, and the powerful instrument which pierces the Alps glides between their fingers like a child’s toy. They hop about like toads between the drills, perch themselves upon and under the various 136 parts of the monster machine, and never seem to dream that at any moment some unknown, unlooked-for fissure in the rock may be discovered, and they crushed to atoms by the tumbling mass, or that this powerful agent, which they have made their slave, with its explosive force of six atmospheres, may some time burst its iron fetters and scatter death and destruction around it.
Each perforator, nine of which are at work, is entirely independent of every other, so that when one is placed hors de combat, its inability to act does not affect the rest. It is much easier to describe the operation of the perforator and its effects, than the complicated machinery by which it is set in motion. The motive power is conveyed to it from the conduit by a flexible pipe, which throws the compressed air into a cylinder placed horizontally along the affusto. In this cylinder a piston works back and forth, and to this piston is attached a fleuret, or drill, about three feet long, finely tempered and sharpened at the end. As the piston moves up and down, it of course drives the drill against the rock and interdraws it, and by a very delicate and complicated piece of machinery, a rotatory motion similar to that in hand labor is given to the drill itself. We arrived in the “advanced gallery” at a very favorable moment, just as a new attack was about being commenced by a perforator. A 137 drill was attached by a flexible joint to the piston-rod; a workman standing upon the front end of the machine held and directed this, as a gardener would the hose of a common garden-engine; the compressed air was turned on by another workman at the hind end of the affusto, and the drill commenced its rapid and heavy blows upon its formidable foe. “Thud!” “thud!” “thud!” it goes, at the rate of two hundred times a minute. Two men mind this portion of the apparatus—one to give the general direction of the drill, and the other, standing upon the ground, holds the end where it strikes the rock with a crooked iron, to prevent it from flying off from the desired point of attack. The force of each stroke of the bar is 90 kilogrammes, or 198 English pounds; and as the piston moves back and forth, and consequently causes the bar to strike the rock at the rate of from 180 to 200 times a minute, each drill, therefore, exercises upon the point of attack a force equivalent to 39,600 pounds a minute.
The rock upon which the perforators were at work when we entered was hard white quartz, the most difficult to pierce which has yet been encountered. This layer was struck in the middle of June, and its presence has materially retarded the progress of the tunnel. Formerly, in the mica, hornblende, slate, and limestone through which they quarried, the perforators 138 made an advance of from one and a half to three yards a day. In this quartz they now make but from eighteen to thirty inches. A few figures will exhibit the rapid and decided reduction in the rate of progress. In May the advance was 91 mètres; in June, when the first croppings of the quartz began to appear, it was reduced to 49½; in July, to 16; in August, to 13; and in September, to 19½ mètres. It is supposed that there still remains a year’s work in this quartz.
In commencing a perforation, the first difficulty is making a hole sufficiently large to confine the drill. When this first strikes the rock it hits wide and wild, like a pugilist blinded by the blows of his adversary. When once fairly entered, however, it works back and forth, and rotates with great precision and regularity, a stream of water being conveyed into the hole by a flexible pipe to facilitate the boring. The nine perforators are placed above, below, in the centre, and on the sides of the affusto, so as to attack the rock at different points and angles, upon a surface of seven square . About eighty holes in the ordinary rock, from thirty to forty inches in depth, and varying in diameter from an inch and a half to three inches, are thus bored in preparation for blasting. In the quartz, however, in which the boring is now in progress, the holes are made but from seven inches 139 to a foot in depth. Eight hours is usually employed in the boring, and this being completed, the affusto is drawn back, and a new set of workmen, the miners, take possession of the gallery. The holes are charged with powder and tamped, the miners retire behind the oaken doors, the slow match is ignited, an explosion occurs, which sends its reverberating echoes to the very extremity of the tunnel; the rock blown out is cleared away, the affusto is advanced again, and another set of workmen coming in, the perforators are set in motion. And so this continues year in and out, weekdays and Sundays, night and day. The thousand workmen employed upon either side are divided into three reliefs, each working eight hours and resting sixteen. But two days in the year, Easter Sunday and Christmas, are acknowledged holidays. And for this constant, difficult, and dangerous subterranean labor, accompanied with an oppressive heat and a poisonous atmosphere, with smoke and grime and dirt, the common laborers receive but three francs a day, the more important and experienced ones four and five.
The quartz rock is terribly destructive to the drills and machines, and the former are required to be changed every few minutes, the tempered ends being battered and dulled after a few hundred strokes against the rock. In the comparatively soft material through which they have been passing there has been 140 an average of a hundred and fifty drills and two perforators placed hors de combat for each mètre of advance; and M. Sommellier estimates the number of perforating machines which will succumb in the attack, before the final victory is gained, at no less than two thousand.
My guide and myself had now been wedged in between the affusto and the rock for more than half an hour, and having seen and heard sufficiently, I proposed to leave; and, taking our lamps, we commenced our “progress” backward. On our passage through the gallery of excavation, we were frequently stopped by wagons standing on the rail-track, which were receiving loads of stone, let fall into them through traps cut in the partition previously mentioned, and which divides the tunnel into two galleries. I had a curiosity to mount into this upper gallery; and climbing a steep staircase cut in the rock, we soon entered it. Here was another strange sight: an immense stone chamber, with walls and roof of jagged stone, through which little streams of water were percolating, filled with smoke, through which the flickering light of the miners’ lamps was dulled and deadened, a hot, fetid atmosphere, and a hundred black-looking men boring and drilling on every side, the platform covered with loose stones, the débris of the blast which we had heard on entering, and from the effects of which we 141 were only protected by this oaken wall. “Are not accidents frequent here?” I asked my guide. “Not very,” he replied; and told me that since the beginning of the work but about forty men had been killed by premature explosions, falling of the rock, by being crushed under the wagons, and every other form of accident. The day after I visited the tunnel, upon the very spot where I stood in the “advanced gallery,” a premature explosion occurred, caused by a spark struck from the rock while a miner was tamping a charge, resulting in the death of four men, and the blinding and serious maiming of six others.
Over and among the stones, and down another steep ladder, and a short walk brought us to the little cabin where we had left our coats. These we were glad to put on again, as the air was already growing colder. In the gallery of excavation, the thermometer, summer and winter, ranges from 71° to 84° Fahr., and there is frequently a difference of 40° in the temperature of the interior and exterior of the tunnel. Over the trottoir we rapidly retraced our steps toward the entrance. This soon appeared in sight, and growing larger and larger, we soon reached it, and emerged once more safe and sound into God’s fresh, pure air, and saw before us and around us again the snow-crowned, fir-girdled Alps towering above the valley 142 of the Arc. We had been more than three hours “in the bowels of the earth.”
The geologists and engineers now confidently predict, unless some unforeseen obstacle occurs, that the tunnel will be opened from end to end in 1870.
Yet there are not a few old croakers, who still believe that the “unforeseen obstacles” will yet be encountered, and bar the way of the perforator and affusto; that harder rock may yet be struck; that the subterranean caverns and yawning chasms and abysses may stretch beneath the very summit of the Grand Vallon; that the rivers and lakes may yet burst forth and overwhelm and engulf workmen, tunnel, and the valleys in which its either end debouches. In reply to all this, however, the geologists and engineers calmly assert that thus far their “diagnosis,” if I may use the term, of the character of the mountain-chain beneath which the tunnel runs, has proved correct, and that they have no reason to believe it will not continue so to the end.
Let us hope that they are right, and the croakers all wrong, and that within the time predicted, on some fine morning, the miners upon either side may hear the steady, rapid “thud” of the drill, as it strikes upon the then only thin wall, upon the other; and that the affusto having been withdrawn, and the mine fired, when the smoke of the explosion shall have 143 cleared away, the laborers from Fourneaux and Bardonêche, climbing over the débris, may meet and shake their rough hands together, and mingle their rude voices in a shout of joy that their work is finished, and that there are no more Alps.
“In the Mont Cenis Tunnel” was originally published in Fortnightly Review in March 1866 (below). The first part of the article was extensively rearranged. As a result, most of the material from pages 338-341 of the magazine will be found somewhere in pages 116-126 of the book—and vice versa—but never where you expect it.
Dijon, Macon, Chamberry, Culoz, and Aix
[Fortnightly Review spelled it “Maçon” with spurious cedilla. Maybe some later edition will achieve “Mâcon”—and “Chambéry”. Meanwhile, let’s stipulate that he means Aix-les-Bains as opposed to Aix-en-Diois, Aix-en-Provence, or Aix-le-Chapelle (Aachen), to name but a few.]
In a year or two
[The Fortnightly Review article, published in early 1866, had “In a little more than four years hence”.]
through the barren valley to Lans-le-Bourg,
text has Lansle-/Bourg at page break
[I suspect the typesetter got his hyphens mixed up while adjusting line lengths.]
It was late in the afternoon
[This was originally the middle of a different paragraph on a different page, beginning “It was nearly dark”.]
the merry music of the grelots hung about the horses’ necks. / I satisfied myself, immediately on arriving at Fourneaux, that all the stories I had heard about the great work being stopped were the merest canards
[Both of these lines—the end of one paragraph and the beginning of the next—are missing from Fortnightly Review. I am prepared to believe that the magazine editor was more ruthless than the author’s brother.]
The “Mont Cenis” tunnel, as the great engineering work of the century is usually called, is a misnomer
[The tunnel, spelled Moncenisio in Italian, is also known as the Fréjus Tunnel.]
Fourneaux, I found a miserable little village
[The reference to “goitre, sore eyes or idiocy” is absent from Fortnightly Review.]
I found no difficulty in securing immunity
[Missing from Fortnightly Review.]
Years of labor and of thought were expended
[It can’t have been that many years. Thomas Bartlett patented his drill—the ancestor of today’s jackhammer—in 1855.]
The map on the opposite page
[The map—added for the book—becomes much more intelligible when you realize that west is at the top. In this region, the French-Italian border runs roughly east-west, with France on the north.]
The Arc, rising in the Alps near Mont Cenis
[In Fortnightly Review, this and the following paragraph were the second and third paragraphs of the whole article.]
The first visit I made
[From this point, the book and article generally agree.]
the common air rushes to supply the vacuum
[The Oxford English Dictionary informs me that the two senses of “supply”—to provide something, and to fill the gap created by (the absence of) something—are of equal antiquity. Exactly equal, in fact, since both come with citations from 1375. But by the 1860s, Buffum’s usage was vanishingly rare.]
About two miles from the entrance
[Fortnightly Review has:
At a distance of 1,670 yards, or nearly a mile from the entrance, we came upon a little cabin, or barrack.
Did someone go back with a tape measure?]
upon a surface of seven square mètres.
text has métres
since the beginning of the work but about forty men had been killed
[This account was first published in March 1866, so the author’s visit was probably in 1865. One source puts the final death toll at 177.]
towering above the valley of the Arc. We had been more than three hours “in the bowels of the earth.”
[In Fortnightly Review, “valley of the Arc” ends a paragraph. The following paragraph (pgs. 348-349) reads in full:
We had been nearly two hours “in the bowels of the earth,” and the place where we had stood by the side of the affusto was 2,170 mètres, or 2,372 yards—nearly a mile and a half—from the entrance. Up to the end of September last the advance made upon the Italian side was 2,914 mêtres and 20 centimètres; that upon the French, 2,154 mètres and 80 centimètres. After passing through the quartz in which they are now engaged the engineers expect to strike a layer of gypsum, through which the perforators will make an advance of three mètres a day. On the first of January, 1866, the tunnel on the Bardonêche side had reached a length of 3,110 mètres, on the French, 2,200, making in all 5,310 mètres, leaving 6,910 mètres, or 7,228 yards, yet to be completed. This the geologists and engineers confidently predict, unless some unforeseen obstacle occurs, can be done in four years, and that the tunnel will be opened from end to end by the first of January, 1870.
Earlier I postulated a tape measure. This time, did William come across Edward’s original field notes, and discover that over an hour had gone missing?]
confidently predict . . . that the tunnel will be opened . . . in 1870.
[That’s not bad. The tunnel opened in 1871.]
My Residence and Mode of Life.—Occupations of Women in Paris.—Ladies taking the Degrees of “Bachelor” of Arts and Letters.—A Lady attempting to obtain a medical Diploma.—Quiet Life of my Concierge.—My Neighbor, little Aglaé, the Flower-maker.
When I first came to Paris I took up my residence in the Quartier Latin. Dear, charming old Latin Quarter! Its quaint, narrow, sunless streets, and queer, dilapidated houses, are rapidly disappearing before the pick and shovel of modern improvement. There still remain within its classic precincts, however, those institutions of learning which have attained a world-wide reputation. It is yet the favorite home of art, science, and lore of every description; still the abode of literary and artistic Bohemians and enthusiastic youth; and, of all portions of Paris, the one in which a meditative, pensive, thoughtful man most delights to stroll. It is a free, independent life, that of a single man in Paris, and I can not perhaps convey a better idea of it than to give my readers a little insight into my own. During the five years that I resided in the Latin Quarter I lived, in utter disregard 145 of the opinion of “Mrs. Grundy,” in the third story front. The view from my window was delightful; for I looked into a room on the opposite side of the street, full of good-natured, giggling grisettes, who plied their needles all day as busy as bees. Below them was a carpenter’s shop, from which issued early in the morning, breaking upon my matutinal slumbers, the soft, delicious music of a saw and hammer, assisted by a parrot, who had learned to imitate the sawing and hammering wonderfully. My room contained a large cabinet de toilette, in which I took my bath. The bed stood in an alcove which might be shut off by curtains. The room was furnished with a sofa, four chairs, a secretary, centre-table, side-table, book-case, and clock—one of those wonderful French clocks which never go: there was no carpet, but, in lieu of that, a clean floor of oak, which the garçon danced or skated over once a week, with a pair of waxed brushes attached to his feet. For all this luxury I paid fifty francs a month rent, and five francs service to the garçon who made up my room.
For be it known that, in most of the maisons meublées and small hotels in Paris, the chamberwork is done by men instead of women. On the other hand, a great many more avenues are open here to female enterprise, skill, talent, and industry than in England or the United States. In Paris, women engage in occupations 146 which would be considered decidedly “out of their sphere” in either of the above-named countries. In the retail shops, the larger portion of the attendants are girls, and in most of them a woman is the book-keeper. Women are employed, indeed, as book-keepers in some of the large wholesale establishments, and are said to make excellent accountants. In all the cafés and restaurants women are engaged as general supervisors and to keep the books; in nearly all the butchers’, grocers’, and bakers’ shops the wife of the proprietor keeps the accounts and receives the moneys. In many, if not the majority of the theatres, the ticket-offices are kept by women, as are they also at many of the railway stations. In the country, women work in the fields and drive carts, and sow and hoe and reap. In Paris, cases of ladies following the courses of lectures at the Sorbonne or the Collège de France, and obtaining their degrees as “Bachelors” of Arts and Sciences and Letters, are by no means uncommon. A young lady named Reugger, a native of Algeria, who, having received a diploma as “Bachelor of Letters,” after passing a brilliant examination, applied some time ago to the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Montpellier for permission to pursue the regular medical course. This was refused on account of her sex, and she then appealed to the Minister of Public Instruction, who, without committing himself 147 regarding the general principle, proposed as a compromise that the applicant should agree to confine her practice to Algeria, among the female Arabs, who, it seems, more sensitive than the dames of more cultivated societies, decidedly object to the manipulations of male physicians. The young lady refused to compromise, and threw herself on her “reserved rights.” The case was referred directly to the Emperor for his adjudication, and the friends of the young lady, and of woman’s rights in general, insist that the monarch who made Rosa Bonheur a “chevalier” can not deny Mademoiselle Reugger the privilege of becoming a physician.
But to return to my life in the Latin Quarter. At eight o’clock François brought me a bowl of delicious coffee and a single roll; and this first breakfast I ate as Parisians do, in bed. Then, in dressing-gown and slippers, I read or wrote till nearly noon, when I went to breakfast: a good substantial one, consisting of two or three courses—beefsteak, fish, chops, bread, vegetables, and half a bottle of red wine; then to a reading-room, where for three francs a month one has the privilege of seeing all the Parisian, and most of the provincial journals; then crossing the garden of the Tuileries, I strolled on the Boulevards or Champs Elysées till dinner, which came at six. In the evening, friends, the theatre, concert, or lecture. At eleven 148 I usually went home. My door was fastened, but upon ringing a bell it flew open as if by magic. What a quiet, peaceful life must have been that of my concierge and garçon, François! He slept in a little box at the end of the entrance, at the foot of the staircase, and from ten o’clock at night, when the door was shut, till six in the morning, when it was opened, he was obliged to respond to every ring of the bell by pulling a cord at his bedside, which opened the door and admitted the lodger. As the young men who reside in the Quartier Latin are not generally addicted to early hours, their incomings, strewed along the whole night, must, I should suppose, have, seriously interfered with the dreams of François. It is to be hoped that, having become accustomed to it, he pulled the cord mechanically, without even waking. At all events, he looked rosy and jolly, and saluted me every morning in his Auvergnat patois, which bears about the same relation to French that the dialect of the Cornish miners does to the language of Macaulay or Byron.
In these Parisian lodging-houses one is entirely independent of his neighbor, and one may live for years in a house without knowing the occupant of the next room. On the floor below me lived a young student and the cheerer of his, otherwise, solitary lot, a young person rejoicing in a very flaming bonnet 149 and yellow ribbons, whom I had occasionally seen indulging in what I should conceive a highly unfeminine style of Terpsichorean gymnastics at the Closerie de Lilas. She and the student were evidently married, as they say in Paris, “in the Twenty-first Arrondissement.” And yet my neighbor with the glaring hat and yellow ribbons, and her student-lover, with his seedy coat and unkempt hair, seemed quite as happy as a great many couples I have met in life whose unions were duly blessed by “book and candle.”
In the back room, opposite mine, lived a little flower-maker, Aglaé, and her mother. The pretty patient little creature plied her busy fingers from daylight in the morning often till the night was far spent; for with the two or three francs a day which she earned, she found it difficult to support herself and her poor mother, who was confined to her bed half the time with rheumatism. One day, shortly after I first moved into the house, I heard a tap at my door, and, opening it, found this pretty little girl standing there. She had heard that I was an étranger, and François, who never could get it out of his stupid head that all étrangers came to Paris to study medicine, had told her that I was a doctor, and she wanted me to come in and see her mother, who was laid up with one of her rheumatic attacks. I undeceived her as to my 150 profession, but, finding her mother was really very ill, sent for a medical friend, whose treatment greatly relieved her. After that little Aglaé and I became great friends, and many a long winter evening I sat in their humble, ill-furnished room, reading to and talking with them, while little Aglaé worked away at her roses and lilies. Her “young man,” the grain-seller’s son in the next building, who took her to the gallery of the Porte St. Martin or the parterre of the Bobino on Sunday evenings, told Aglaé that she must not be so agreeable to the étranger; but this did not prevent her, when I was ill for a week, from bringing her work into my room, and chirping away in her cheerful manner as blithely as a bird. Then it was all arranged that when I received the hundred thousand francs, which was the first prize in the Montenegrine lottery, in which there were several millions of tickets, of which I possessed four, costing five sous each, Aglaé was to have a dot of I won’t say how many francs, and was to marry the grain-seller’s son, and I was to be one of the groomsmen, and the old lady was to live with them, and a plate was to be set for me every Sunday, and the grain-seller’s son was to have a shop of his own, and we were all to be as happy as possible.
Dreams—dreams—! We saved her delicate little body from the horrors of the fosse commune; and now 151 when I stray into the cemetery of Mont Parnasse, my feet involuntarily lead me to a little green grave fragrant with springing violets. Upon the headstone three wreaths of immortelles are hanging, and beneath them is chiselled the name of “Aglaé.”
A young lady named Reugger, a native of Algeria
[Buffum—or his brother—lifted this passage from some third source that I haven’t identified. An almost identically worded account appears in The College, the Market, and the Court, Or, Woman’s Relation to Education by Caroline Wells Healey Dall (Boston, 1867). The phrases “like the Cossacks” and “our Russian friend” refer to events described in Caroline Dall’s previous paragraph.
In France, a Mademoiselle Reugger, from Algeria, lately passed a brilliant examination, and received the degree of Bachelor of Letters. She appealed to the Dean of the Faculty at Montpellier for permission to follow the regular course, and was refused on account of her sex. She then turned to the Minister of Public Instruction, who granted it, on condition that she should pledge herself to practise only in Algeria, where the Arabs, like the Cossacks, refuse the attendance of male physicians. Unlike our Russian friend, she refused to give the pledge. She threw herself upon her rights, and appealed in person to the emperor. This was in December last, and I have not been able to find his decision. It was doubtless given in her behalf; for Louis Napoleon will always yield, as a favor, what he would stubbornly refuse as a right.
The emperor must have ruled against Mlle. Reugger; Montpellier did not admit women until 1888. The medical school at Paris, meanwhile, admitted women in 1869. But thanks to a lack of attention to the other half of the equation—improving the quality of girls’ secondary education so they would be prepared for University work—medical students in the early years were mainly foreign, especially British.]
the monarch who made Rosa Bonheur a “chevalier”
[In 1865, animal painter Rosa Bonheur became the first woman to be made a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur.]
he pulled the cord mechanically, without even waking
[This does not strike me as a very strict form of security. They might just as well leave the door unlocked.]
married, as they say in Paris, “in the Twenty-first Arrondissement.”
[Then as now, Paris had twenty arrondissements. What an informative book this is turning out to be.]
Snail-eating.—History and Habits of the Snail.—Cost of living in Paris.—Cheap Restaurants.—Horse-eating.—Bill of Fare of a Horse-dinner.—Tables d’hôte.—First-class Restaurants.—Crêmeries.—“Etablissements de Bouillon.”—How the Parisian Poor furnish their Tables.
The people of Paris, although many of them are obliged to live in an exceedingly frugal manner, in the aggregate eat a great deal. They consume annually about seventy million pounds of meat, two millions of dollars’ worth of sea-fish, five millions of dollars’ worth of poultry and game, ten million eggs, and an incalculable quantity of vegetables and snails. Yes, snails! those slimy molluscs, which thrive in damp gardens and vineyards and love the mould and moss which gathers on stone walls and “around dead men’s graves.” These may be seen in the windows of the cheaper eating-houses in Paris, where they are exposed as a tempting bait, and they may also be procured at some of the first-class restaurants. The man who first dared to eat an oyster was, no doubt, a hero deserving immortality; but what extraordinary 153 courage must he have had who made the first essay upon these slippery , now so much esteemed in the cuisine of the “most refined nation of the world!” Who he was, or where he made the heroic “gulp” which gave a new sensation to his palate, we shall probably never know, for snail-eating dates from a remote period. Pliny, indeed, mentions one Fulvius Hirpinus, who cultivated the snail, as well as a taste for him, and who constructed a grand snailery, in which he fattened his pets with boiled barley, and served them wine to drink spiced with aromatic herbs. In the time of Pliny, snails, imported from abroad, were a popular article of food in Rome; those coming from Sicily, the Balearic Isles, and Capri being, esteemed as highly as in these degenerate days are “Chicaroras,” “Blue Points,” “Princess Bays,” and “East Elvers.”
During many centuries the fattening of snails for the table has been a profitable business on the Continent, the monasteries and convents having almost the entire monopoly of this commerce. Addison has related his visit to the snailery of the Capuchin convents of Ulm and Fribourg, where the delicate creatures were kept in shady court-yards, and furnished with mossy stones to lounge upon, and favorite plants on which to feed, while above the walls and around them a net was stretched to prevent the lively animals 154 from too freely indulging their vagabond propensities and straying away from home.
The snails consumed in France come mostly from the ancient provinces of Burgundy, Champagne, and the Franche Comté, where they are gathered from the grape-vines, of the leaves of which they are particularly fond. The original producers sell them in the Paris market for about twelve sous a hundred, and the marketmen retail them at from one to two francs, according to size. After boiling in the shell, which is then stopped up with a batter made of butter, eggs, herbs, and pepper, the animal is drawn out and eaten, batter and all. I tried a dozen one day. Abstractly speaking, they are not bad, but upon my uncultivated taste a flavor intruded itself which seemed a cross between that of a clam and a cockroach.
The snail of Burgundy, in learned parlance the “Helix pomatia,” or the “Burgundy oyster” of the vernacular, is the largest and finest, being about two inches in length, and very fat and succulent. This snail is common in the north and centre of France, where it is found upon the vines, in the woods, and on the hedges. It does not exist at all in the south of France, although among the Roman ruins of Provence its shell is often met with, from which it is inferred that the luxurious Romans introduced it there for their own use. The Helix pomatia is considered the hardiest, 155 and at the same time the most palatable and profitable of the snail family, though there are several other species, which are more or less prized by gastronomers. In the south of France is found the Helix aspersa, a spotted variety, being the common garden snail; the Helix nemorosa, the wood snail, very common in Languedoc; the Helix lactea, the white snail, and the Helix vermiculata, commonly known in Provence as the mourgette, or “little nun,” a title given it on account of its retiring habits. At Marseilles, the Helix pisana, or Pisa snail, is very much esteemed. It is a pretty little snail, with a bright yellow shell, over which brown bands are drawn. This is the snail for the amateur to commence with; it has a much less formidable appearance than the big pomatia, the oyster of Burgundy.
It must not be supposed that snails are gathered at hazard, and cooked and eaten without undergoing careful inspection. The police authorities of Paris—who protect the stomachs of the citizens from the debilitating effects of watered milk and wine, who are sufficiently familiar with comparative anatomy to be able to distinguish readily between a rabbit and a cat, even though the latter may be enveloped in the skin of the former—the efficient police—who keep a sharp look-out for calves and cattle that never gave up the ghost “in the regular way;” who know at a glance 156 the difference between mushrooms and toadstools—the police authorities do not permit the members of the great snail family to pass the city gates of Paris without a passport certifying to the locality in which they waxed fat. It is well known that the snail has a great predilection for poisonous plants, and botanical gardeners have much trouble in preserving from his voracity the belladonnas, the lobelias, the mandragoras, and the tobaccos, of all of which he is particularly fond. Prudence, then, would suggest, that one inclined to eat should first inquire respecting the early youth, and riper age, and dietetic habits of his intended victim. The snail should never be swallowed until he has been submitted to a few days’ fast, or during the winter, when he is in a torpid condition, and when he does not eat at all.
At the approach of winter the snail seeks the holes and chinks of old walls, and, with the view of still better protecting himself against currents of cold air, he closes the opening of his shell with a window formed of mucus, which, drying and hardening by exposure, affords him a perfect protection; retiring then into his house, which for convenience’ sake he always carries upon his back, the snail lies patiently, dozing and dreaming, in his hole in the wall, till the warm sunshine and melting air tempt him out again, to browse upon the springing leaves.157
One can live in Paris in all sorts of styles, and at all sorts of prices; and one of the great pleasures of life in the French capital is the perfectly independent manner in which one can lodge and eat, without fear of “Mrs. Grundy.” A large portion of the people take their meals at restaurants, breakfasting from nine to twelve, and dining usually from five to eight. Families who have their own apartments avoid the trouble and care of cooking by eating abroad.
There are two principal classes of restaurants:—those which furnish meals at a fixed price, and those where one may breakfast and dine à la carte. All the best and most fashionable places are in the latter category, and the charges at some of them are very exorbitant. But there are cheap places, and plenty of them; and as a fair sample of the cheapest class of eating-houses, which are at all decent, where meals are furnished at a fixed price, I give below a translation of a little bill, thrust into the hands of pedestrians upon all the bridges of Paris, and which is the advertisement of a restaurant, a large number of which exist here, patronized mostly by students, workmen, grisettes, literary Bohemians, and other poor fellows whose purses do not always correspond either with their taste or appetite. La voila!
Breakfast at 14 sous: A soup—a plate of meat—a plate of fish or vegetables—a dessert—a quarter bottle 158 of wine, and bread “at discretion.” For sixteen sous one may have a half-bottle of wine, or a bottle of beer.
Dinner at 16 sous: A soup—a plate of meat with vegetables—a plate of vegetables—a dessert—a quarter-bottle of wine, and bread “at discretion.” For two sous more, one may have two plates of meat.
Dinner at 21 sous: A soup—two plates “at choice”—half a bottle of wine or a bottle of beer—a dessert, and bread at discretion.
Dinner at 25 sous: A soup—three plates “at choice”—half a bottle of wine—a dessert, and bread “at discretion.”
So—with the two sous which the waiter always expects to be left at the side of the plate, and which at all the restaurants is placed by the waiters in a common receptacle and divided at night—one can breakfast, after a fashion, at sixteen sous, and dine for eighteen. A very hungry man might fail to satisfy the cravings of his “inner nature” at one of these meals, as the portions are rather diminutive (sometimes, too, I suspect, like Rogers’s wine, “very little for their age”); and a connoisseur in wines would certainly not visit one of these establishments more than once.
In the course of the punishment to which I submitted my stomach, while experimenting at the various Parisian restaurants, I witnessed at one of these 159 places, while breakfasting one morning, a little specimen of the economical habits of the French people, which, however creditable to them, would certainly, had no other cause for the adoption of such a rule existed, have led me to withdraw my patronage, finally and forever, from that establishment. I had been indulging in an exceedingly nutritious, palatable, and favorite dish of mine, called “tête de veau à l’huile,” and, with my extravagant notions, had made the sad remains of that unfortunate calf’s intelligence literally swim in a lake of oil and vinegar. The meat soon disappeared under the sharpening influence of an excellent appetite, but a large portion of the unctuous compound in which it had been seasoned I left upon the plate, and ordered the second dish to which I was entitled. The waiter looked at the ocean of oil and vinegar in which the calf’s head had been immersed, and then he looked at me with a mixture of wonder, scorn, and an expression which seemed to say, “Not much made off that dish of tête de veau à l’huile.” Then he called another waiter, and they both looked at the dish, and then both looked at me; and then the first waiter said something to the second waiter sotto voce, and handed him the plate, with which—holding it very carefully, so that not a drop of it should be spilled, and giving me a withering look in his transit—he started for the kitchen. I 160 knew, at first thought, the fate of that greasy compound; it was not thrown away; that would not have accorded with the French idea of “economy,” and particularly with the economy of cheap restaurant keeping. It was, of course, mixed into some other mess in the kitchen, and I should not hesitate to affirm my belief, which no amount of persecution would force me to relinquish, that other individuals, beside the calf and myself, had a taste of its quality. I sincerely trust that the guest who was fortunate enough to get it appreciated my masterly method of making sauce piquante for tête de veau à l’huile. There are those who insinuate that, at these cheap restaurants, horse and cat are served up under the name and guise of beef and rabbit, but of this I do not believe a word.
The flesh of horses, however, is eaten in France, and is sold in the shambles, like other meat, in every arrondissement of Paris, where horses, killed on account of incurable wounds, or any other cause which would not disease the flesh, are cut up and sold. The late distinguished savant, Isidore Geoffrey St. Hilaire, was an enthusiastic supporter of the “hippogastric” theory and practice. He contended that it was only an “absurd prejudice” which prevented people from eating horse-flesh, and that it was quite as palatable and nutritious as beef. Some years since M. St. Hilaire 161 gave a dinner to a number of his brother savants, at which horse, in all possible styles of cooking, was served up; last year a grand hippophagic banquet was given at the Grand Hotel in Paris, under the auspices of the society for the protection of animals. An ill-natured anti-hippophage might be inclined to suggest that it was a droll way of “protecting” an animal to eat him; but this is exactly what the society did on this occasion. There was horse soup, boiled horse, filet de horse, roast horse, hashed horse, and, finally, horse liver with truffles, of all of which the company partook, and pronounced it excellent. The tickets for this dinner were sold at fifteen francs, which is just fourteen francs and a half more than an unconscious dinner of horse-meat would cost in one of the cheap restaurants of the Quartier Mouffetard, and yet there were present no less than one hundred and twenty persons, representing the learned professions, and nearly every rank in life.
After the guests had partaken of the beast, the director of the veterinary school at Alfort, under whose direction the banquet was provided, informed them that the animals, of which they had been tasting the quality, were not young, fat, and fresh horses, but old, excessively lean, and worn out with labor. The animals killed for the feast were respectively thirteen, seventeen, and twenty-three years of age.162
The bill of fare of a horse dinner is a novelty. Here is that of the one referred to:
Vermicelli au consommé de cheval.
Hors d’œuvre de table variés.
Saumon, sauce Hollandaise.
Cotlette de cheval , garnie de choux.
Cheval, en à la mode.
Hachis de cheval, à la Menagere.
Poularde, sauce supréme.
Filet de cheval bigarre, sauce Xeres.
Paté de foie de cheval aux truffes.
It is not, of course, the desire of the hippophagists (who number in their ranks some of the most learned men in France) to substitute horse-flesh for that of cattle, but simply to overcome the “absurd prejudice,” so that horses killed in battle, or by accident, or which are killed by their owners when they become useless on account of broken limbs, or from other causes not affecting their general health, can be made of use. In spite, however, of the labors of the savants, it will probably be a long time before the “absurd prejudice” against horse-eating, and which, singularly enough, extends to cats, dogs, rats, and other “small deer,” will be overcome.163
In the Palais Royal, and scattered all over Paris, are restaurants at a fixed price, where a breakfast, consisting of two dishes and a dessert, half a bottle of wine or a cup of coffee, may be had for twenty-five sous, and a dinner composed of a half-bottle of wine, soup, three dishes selected from the bill of fare, and a dessert, for two francs. Besides these are many tolerably cheap restaurants à la carte, where a good dinner may be made at from two to five francs. As a rule, any one living in Paris, and desiring to practice economy, should dine either at a restaurant at a “fixed price,” or at a “table d’hôte.”
All the first-class, and most of the ordinary hotels, furnish a table d’hôte dinner, at which other than guests of the house may dine. From that of the “Grand Hotel,” served in the most gorgeous public dining-room in the world, down to the dinner set before poor students at twenty-one sous in the Latin Quarter, there is, as in restaurants, a wide range, offering a great variety of price as well as fare. At the “Grand Hotel” the price of dinner, including vin ordinaire, is eight francs; at the Hotel du Louvre it is seven; at Meurice’s, six, exclusive of wine; and at the hotels a grade below these, the price is usually five francs, with wine. Then there are many excellent dinners served at four, three, and two francs and a half, at the smaller hotels, and even 164 for two francs, with the usual fee of two sous to the waiter.
Of the first-class restaurants in Paris, at which meals are served à la carte; and where the prices are high, there are some which have acquired a world-wide reputation for the excellence of their cuisine and the superiority of their wines. Among these are the Maison Dorée, the Café Riche, and the Café Anglais, Philippés, and Vefours. At these places, where every thing is served in the most elegant manner, a dinner for a single person, such as a man of taste and appetite would select, costs from ten to thirty francs. In addition to the bill, it is customary to give the waiters a pour boire, at the rate of a sou upon each franc spent. In the Parisian cafés and restaurants the waiters are not paid by the proprietor, and, indeed, in many cases, they purchase from him the privilege of serving in his establishment, depending entirely upon the customer for their reward.
Besides all these, there is another class of eating-houses, which abound in the Latin Quarter, and which are extensively patronized by students, artists, and literary Bohemians, on account of their cheapness. These are little places called “crêmeries,” where a big bowl of coffee, or chocolate, or boiled milk, or milk boiled with rice, is served for four sous, with rolls at a sou each, and a little pat of fresh butter for 165 another sou. A beefsteak may be had for eight, and a mutton-chop for six sous more, and a couple of eggs for five; so that at a crêmerie a very decent breakfast may be made for fourteen or fifteen sous, and at many of these places a moderate dinner may be had for a franc.
Within a few years a new class of eating establishments, which are patronized by all classes, has sprung up in Paris, These are the établissements de bouillon—literally, “soup-houses”—although all the ordinary dishes which constitute breakfast and dinner are served in them. In these places the cooking is all done in the eating-room—an inclosed space, usually in the centre of it, being appropriated for this purpose; and here the different messes are cooked in coppers, polished and shining like mirrors. The best of these establishments are conducted by a butcher, named Duval, who has no less than ten of them in different parts of Paris, in which he is said to furnish food to at least twenty thousand people daily. The finest and most extensive of Duval’s establishments is in the Rue Montesquieu, just back of the Hotel du Louvre. The room is an immense one, capable of dining a thousand people at a time, with upper galleries extending entirely around it, and a large space in the centre appropriated to the cooking department, presided over by a number of neatly-dressed girls. Here, as in all these places, a perfect system of checks 166 and balances exists to prevent mistakes, and insure honesty on the part of the employés. Upon entering the door, a man sitting at a counter hands the customer a little printed bill of fare with the price of each dish attached, from which he orders his meal. As each dish is ordered, the waiter who brings it checks it off from the bill. When the meal is finished, the customer, in going out, hands the bill to a woman sitting at another counter. She adds up the amount, and, when it is paid, stamps the bill. The customer then takes it, and is required to deliver the bill at the door.
In these places excellent soup is served at four sous a bowl, vegetables at four sous a plate, and roast meats at seven and eight sous. A napkin, if used, is charged one sou, but if not used, is taken away uncharged for. In some of Duval’s establishments girls are employed as waiters, and one of these kitchen-restaurants is well worth a visit to those who are at all curious in the gastronomic art.
In one corner of the Halles Centrales, one of the finest market-houses in the world, covering the space which was formerly the “Cemetery of the Innocents,” is a queer collection of stalls, at which hundreds, and possibly thousands of the poor of Paris purchase their daily provisions. These stalls are supplied with the débris of the restaurants and hotels—pieces which 167 palled upon the appetite of the guest, or were found too tough for mastication, or which, for some good reason, even a French cook was not able to disguise and convert into a palatable dish. These are all assorted in plates, and ranged along the stall in rows for the inspection, choice, and purchase of the hungry poor. Here is a dish of cold boiled beef cut up in conveniently small pieces, and looking dry and blue; next to it a plate of second-hand, dilapidated beefsteaks or veal cutlets, then a dish of fried potatoes, or beans, or cabbage. Back on the shelves are bushels of bread, in pieces, generally very stale and dry; and in some of the stalls the “sweet tooth” of the customers may be gratified by the purchase of old cakes, tarts, little pats of dirty-looking blanc-mange, and other delicacies fallen from their high estate. This Golgotha of departed good things is visited every day by poor people, who, for a few sous, purchase sufficient to keep soul and body together, and who either eat on the spot, or tumbling the purchase into a greasy bag, take it to their homes, to share it with those who are dependent on them.
a flavor intruded itself which seemed a cross between that of a clam and a cockroach
[Inquiring minds want to know . . . Oh, never mind.]
Helix aspersa, a spotted variety, being the common garden snail
[This is the species that was intentionally introduced from France to the US in the mid-19th century. Some malacologists (the term “helicologist” is a little too specialized for general use) have tried to reclassify it as Cornu aspersum, but they’re not fooling anyone. It’s still a snail.]
The bill of fare of a horse dinner
[I initially misread cheval as chèvre, which would have been an additional editorial of its own. All spellings and accents—including “boulli” (for expected bouilli) and “boeuf” (for expected bœuf)—are as printed.]
Maison Dorée, the Café Riche, and the Café Anglais, Philippés, and Vefours
[Punctuated as shown. There are five names: Maison Dorée, Café Riche, Café Anglais, Café Philippés, Café Vefours. The first three are sadly defunct (1907, 1916 and 1913 respectively). To make up for it, the Café Vefours has promoted itself to Le Grand Véfour.]
Hospital Lariboisière.—The Physician’s Visit.—The surgical Wards.—The Operating-room.—Medical Students.—Chassaignac’s Operations with the “Ecraseur.”
No city in the world is so well provided as Paris with public hospitals—those noble institutions in which are received, “without money and without price,” the sick of every nation, age, clime, color, and religion. Every description of disease, every special want, and every period of life, from infancy to old age, have here establishments devoted to them. One is appropriated to poor women about becoming mothers; another, the foundling hospital, to the reception and care of abandoned infants; another exists, in which children only are received from the public institutions, or when brought thither by their parents. Two hospitals are expressly set apart for aged people, and two are devoted to the care and comfort of incurable patients of both sexes. In one establishment, the Hospice des Menages, old married couples may live, and terminate their career together. Others have been arranged for the care of persons who, without being 169 utterly destitute, do not possess sufficient means to enable them to live independently, and who, giving their incomes to the institutions, are provided for during their lives. Numbers of old army officers with small pensions live in this manner, and many members of families once proud and rich, but who in the revolutions that have successively swept over France have been well-nigh ruined, avail themselves now of this charitable provision.
Besides these establishments devoted to special purposes, there are in Paris eight general hospitals, intended for the reception of persons of both sexes attacked with acute diseases, and for those who have been maimed, or who require the performance of surgical operations. The only necessary passport of admission is the fact of being sick, or of requiring surgical treatment. Foreigners, however, must have resided six months in Paris to entitle them to free admission. A gratuitous consultation is held every morning at each hospital, at which patients may present themselves, or they may be sent to any particular establishment upon application to the Bureau Centrale. These hospitals contain, each, from three to eight hundred beds, and the number of patients annually received amounts to nearly ninety thousand, about six thousand being always in occupancy of the beds. Twelve thousand aged people are provided for in them. 170 About five thousand foundlings are annually committed to the fostering care of the good Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, which order was expressly established by its benevolent founder for the shelter of these poor little outcasts; these waifs thrown homeless upon the bleak shore of life’s stormy ocean. The most celebrated surgeons and physicians of Paris, such as Messrs. Nelaton, Velpeau, and Chassaignac, pay daily visits to the patients in the different hospitals and prescribe for them.
The annual cost of caring for the sick in the Parisian hospitals is about twenty-two millions of francs, derived from the following sources: Revenues from property bequeathed to the fund; receipts from theatres and other places of public amusement (ten per cent. of the gross receipts); receipts from paying patients, and a subvention from the city of twelve millions of francs. The average daily cost of maintenance of each patient in the general hospitals is two francs and twenty-five centimes. In the hospice for old people it is but one franc and a half.
The Hospital , which is the newest and finest establishment of the kind in Paris, was a frequent place of resort of mine in company with some one of my medical acquaintances; and as the routine and management of all the general hospitals is the same, a description of this will answer for all. 171 It contains six hundred and twelve beds, divided into twenty different wards. At eight o’clock each morning, the visit of the physician, who usually has two wards, including about eighty patients, under his charge, is made. The first thing which strikes the visitor, upon entering one of the wards, is the air of exceeding cleanliness and neatness which pervades the whole. The floors are of wood, polished with wax; the beds are ranged along on either side, leaving a broad walk between them. Each bed is hung with a canopy of white sheeting, and at the foot of it is a card stating the name and residence, disease and time of admission of the patient. In each ward, hovering around the bedside of the sick like angels of mercy, are several sisters of the orders of St. Vincent, St. Martha, St. Augustine, or some other of the religious orders which the Catholic Church has instituted as a retreat for those who, tired of the follies and frivolities of the world, desire to spend their lives in offices of charity and goodness. These women devote themselves to the care of the sick, performing often the most menial services, cheering the convalescent with the radiance of their heavenly faces, and pointing the poor sufferers, when the visions of this world are fading into eternity, to the cross of the Saviour, and the life beyond the hospital and the grave. One sees these angels of mercy in every street 172 in Paris, bent upon some charitable errand, and bigoted indeed must he be whose religious prejudices would prevent his heart from doing homage to these noble and self-sacrificing women. Theirs is no life of indolent worship; no mere muttering of paters and aves, and counting of beads upon a rosary, constitutes their labor, but their time is spent in an active, ceaseless round of charitable toil. With tender cares, such as a woman only knows how to apply, these “sisters” minister wherever suffering demands their aid. Childless, and ever to be so, they are the mothers of the orphans and foundlings whose parents are dead, or have deserted them, and their unmated hearts embrace within their large folds all who need their aid or sympathy, regardless of clime, creed, or color.
It is a great mistake to suppose that it is only the old, ugly, and soured women who take the vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and whose lives, under the instruction and control of the Church, are spent in deeds of active benevolence. Beautiful faces oftener peep out from the white or black hoods of the “sisters;” and forms which would excite the liveliest admiration in the salons of fashion, are seen bending over the bedsides of the sick and dying, administering comfort and consolation. If there are, indeed, in heaven “many mansions,” these noble and devoted women certainly earn a claim to one of the grandest 173 and most beautiful; or will they there, as here, be “ministering angels,” amply recompensed by being servants of the Lord, and—doing good?
The physician, followed by a crowd of medical students who attend the hospital every morning, goes to the bedside of each patient, asks a few questions, makes a physical examination if necessary, and if in a good humor, utters a word of encouragement and prescribes the treatment for the ensuing , which is noted down by an assistant in a book kept for the purpose. The wards for females are precisely similar in arrangement to those of the males. I recollect, in my first visit, I noticed some very pretty, pale faces peering out from the neat, white caps which the patients wore. Many of them were suffering from typhoid fever, the scourge of Paris, and one poor little girl of some seventeen summers, at whose bedside even the old physician seemed inclined to linger longer than usual, was evidently fast fading away with consumption. The doctor kindly called her ma fille, and told her to be courageous, and her dimming eye lighted up for a moment as though she was determined to try; but, as we left her bedside, she had settled back into the listless, careless state in which we found her. Poor child! I saw by the card at the foot of her bed that she was a lingere, and she had probably for the past three or 174 four years been stitching her life away in some damp and sunless garret till she could work no longer. I hope she had some friends to claim her poor remains after she had passed “through that gate of evergreens which men call death;” for if not, her poor little body would have to be submitted to the dissecting-knife of the student, and her delicate limbs hacked to pieces, and afterward mingled promiscuously with dozens of others, thrown into the huge ditch where the unknown poor, who die in the hospitals of Paris, are tumbled like dead dogs.
From the sick ward we pass into the surgical wards, which are under the care of the celebrated Chassaignac, a little, stout, good-humored looking man, wearing a white apron, and having much of the air and general appearance of a jolly butcher, particularly as his apron, whenever I saw him, was covered with blood, the effect of wiping his fingers on it after feeling of and operating upon wounds. In these wards are all sorts of cases requiring surgical treatment. Each patient is examined, and his case described to the students, who gather around the bedside as soon as the surgeon stops. I observed that he passed one bed one morning without halting, and looking through the curtains, I saw a head resembling more a huge cauliflower than any thing human—the eyes completely closed, and the whole 175 face a scab. “What is the matter with that man?” I asked of a medical friend with whom I had come to the hospital. “Small-pox,” he laconically replied. I felt very much like running; but having determined to go through the entire routine that morning, I simply hurried to the end of the ward nearest the door, where I could get a breath of fresh air from the court-yard.
In Paris, and indeed throughout France, there are no special hospitals for small-pox patients, and the general hospitals are often crowded with them. The physicians say that their chances of recovery are greatly increased by their being scattered among the general wards, instead of confining them together. This is undoubtedly true; but I should suppose that the risks to which the other patients are exposed on this account would quite balance the advantage, as it is not unfrequent that cases occur of patients catching the disease in the hospitals and dying. The French Government encourage vaccination in every possible manner, and in each arrondissement of Paris are bureaus where persons may not only be vaccinated gratuitously, but where parents are actually paid the sum of three francs each for submitting their children to the operation. Besides this, no child can be admitted into the public schools of Paris without the presentation of a certificate of vaccination.176
The cliniques are held every Monday morning in the amphitheatre, the surgeon keeping through the week such cases as do not require immediate treatment, for the purpose of performing the necessary operations in the presence of the crowd of students who flock to the hospitals to witness them. The operating-room is a little, badly-ventilated amphitheatre, capable of holding about two hundred persons, and adjoining one of the surgical wards of the hospital. The seats are raised, and upon them, on the occasion of my last visit, I found, some sitting, and others standing, a considerable number of medical students. These are generally young men, gathered from all parts of the world, who have come to Paris to avail themselves of the facilities such as no other city affords for the study of medical science. Some are rich, and more are poor; some well-dressed, but a greater proportion wearing coats whose texture is plainly distinguishable, and sleepy-looking, napless hats. They are a very free-and-easy looking set, and are standing on the benches, with their hats on, some smoking pipes and cigarettes, which are extinguished upon the entrance of Chassaignac. At the foot of the amphitheatre is a low railing, inside of which is a table covered with a sheet; on the window back of it are several boxes filled with knives, and saws, and hooks, and a quantity of horrible-looking 177 instruments, used only in the surgeon’s art. Two or three basins containing sponges, a basket of lint, several pails of water, and a quantity of bottles and towels complete the paraphernalia, and the surgeon and half a dozen assistants, all wearing white aprons besmeared with blood, are standing around, as if impatiently waiting for a victim. The entire scene, indeed, was not a little calculated to remind one of the stories and pictures of scenes in the history of the Spanish Inquisition.
The victim soon arrived; he was brought in on a stretcher, and wore nothing but his shirt. He was placed by the assistants upon the table, one taking hold of each foot, one standing at either side, while another, pouring some chloroform from a bottle upon a sponge, held it within an inch of his nostrils. Immediately the man began to groan, and pant, and breathe with difficulty, the muscles of his legs contracted violently, and he appeared to be in terrible agony. His teeth grated against each other, and his moans were sorrowful to hear. In order more to concentrate the vapor, a towel was placed over his face, and the sponge containing the chloroform held beneath it; then he began to sob and cry, “No, no, don’t, please; do let me alone!” Soon, however, he grew more quiet, and in five minutes from the time he was brought in was sound asleep. The operation was for cancer of the 178 rectum, and was commenced by the insertion of a curved trocart. Chassaignac, like most great men, has a hobby; he is the inventor of a surgical instrument called the ecraseur, with which he replaces the knife in many operations. In this instrument, a steel chain, composed of small and not particularly sharp links, is used to perform the cutting, or rather tearing of the flesh, the advantage over the knife being that the hemorrhage is much less. The operation is considerably longer, however, as the chain is wound up very slowly. After inserting the trocart, the chain was run through and re-fastened, and the surgeon commenced slowly screwing it up, making an irritating noise like that produced by winding up a clock. The patient lay perfectly still, although occasionally uttering a low and plaintive moan. While winding up the chain, the surgeon explained the operation to the students, who were all eagerly bending forward to watch every movement. The blood was pouring out rather freely, and a non-professional friend who was with me, touching me on the shoulder, suggested that “it was very warm.” I turned, and saw that his face was ashy pale; but before I could speak to him he made a spring for the door, and I saw no more of him till an hour afterward at breakfast, where he was consoling his stomach with a rognon sauté and an omelette aux fines herbes. The surgeon, 179 before he completed the operation, which is considered a bold and dangerous one, informed the class that it afforded the only hope of life to the patient; that it had often succeeded, and oftener still had failed; but that the fact of occasional success, coupled with the certainty of death without it, was a sufficient warrant for its performance; and with this he exhibited an enormous cancerous tumor, which had been separated from the flesh by the ecraseur, and the patient, still sleeping soundly under the blessed influence of chloroform, was taken back to the surgical ward.
A poor woman with a cancer of the foot, and looking neat and clean, with a white cap and chemise, and a brown woollen skirt on, was next brought in. She was laid on her back on the operating-table, and while the assistants were administering chloroform to her, M. Chassaignac amused himself with a minor operation, the removal of an enlarged tonsil from a young man’s throat. He did it very skillfully; but a person inclined to be fastidious might have insisted that he should give his fingers a wipe, as they had just been handling the tumor from the cancerous patient, and were covered with blood. However, as all these operations are performed gratuitously, the young man probably thought it would not be proper to exhibit any undue degree of sensitiveness.180
By this time the woman was sound asleep, and the surgeon commenced what is technically known as Lisfranc’s operation for the amputation of the foot, and which consists in cutting off the entire fore part of the foot, including all the toes, up to near the instep. The knife was inserted, and handled and turned with the same delicacy and skill with which an expert carver would dodge the joints in a turkey, and in less than a minute the operation was completed, the bottom skin of the foot being left as a flap, to cover over the torn and bleeding flesh. The patient had not moved during the operation; but when her foot was bound up, and she was being placed upon the stretcher to be carried away, she awoke and commenced imploring the surgeon not to perform the operation, so utterly unconscious was she that it had already been completed. This was the last of the operations for the day, and the poor and seedy students started for some crêmerie, or cheap restaurant, to get a ten-sous breakfast, while the favored of fortune wended their way to more expensive establishments.
The Hospital Lariboisière, which is the newest and finest
text has Lariboi sière
the ensuing twenty-four-hours
hyphen in the original
“through that gate of evergreens which men call death;”
[Give us a hint, Edward. Is it not as famous a quote as you thought it was—or is it so massively paraphrased as to defeat all efforts to identify it?]
his apron, whenever I saw him, was covered with blood, the effect of wiping his fingers on it after feeling of and operating upon wounds
[Joseph Lister began his work on antisepsis—the practical application of Louis Pasteur’s germ theory—at pretty exactly the time this was written. It would be a few more years before Pasteur, in turn, became aware of Lister.]
Students and Etudiantes.—“Grisettes” of the Past and Present.—The Society at the “Closerie.”—The male and female Dancers.—Remarkable Terpsichorean Gymnastics.—The Cancan.—Order and Propriety.
The Closerie de Lilas, as it is called in the summer, and the Prado, as known in the winter, is a garden situated on the Boulevard St. Michel, at the end of the garden of the Luxembourg. In the summer, as at the more aristocratic balls of the Mabille, the dancing at the Closerie is in the open air, while in winter a portion of the garden is inclosed and made comfortable. Here balls are given four nights in the week through the whole year, and this is the favorite resort of the students of the Latin Quarter, accompanied by their young female friends, to whom the name of étudiantes has been facetiously applied. These girls belong to a class which is rapidly becoming extinct—the grisette—or rather they did belong to it when it existed; for now it can scarcely be said to exist at all as a class, even on the left bank of the Seine and in the Quartier Latin, which twenty years ago was crowded with its representatives. A few 182 types of the grisette remain, considerably fossilized, wearing the saucy cap and gray woollen or cotton dress and white apron, and may occasionally be seen flitting, like shadows of the past, through the crowds which at all hours of the day are crossing the Pont Neuf, or wending their way homeward from their daily labors, along the narrow sidewalks of the Rue de Seine. But the luxurious tendencies of the present age, the “fastness” of modern times, and the increase of wealth, have destroyed the peculiarities of the grisette race; and now, instead of being, as formerly, contented and happy, and certainly much neater looking in their white caps and aprons, and gray gowns, they must flaunt in silks, and muslins, and bonnets decorated with artificial vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Their morals have not improved either, with their change of dress. At the period referred to, these girls usually formed alliances with the students of the Quartier, but continued at their work, and were satisfied with the occasional present of a new cotton robe, and the treat of a dinner outside the Barrière on Sundays. Poverty and constancy were said to go hand in hand in those days; but all is changed. Some of these girls still continue their labors as book-folders and stitchers, dressmakers and tailoresses, but they have ceased to be contented with their lot, their labor, their gray gowns and faithful lovers, as formerly, 183 and, it is said, have become mercenary, discontented, and unfaithful. Even now, however, the young females who visit the Closerie de Lilas enjoy the reputation of possessing a greater amount of virtue—according to their standard of “virtue,” which consists in having but one amant at a time—than the frequenters of any other public ball in Paris.
The Closerie de Lilas on a pleasant summer evening presents a sight well worth witnessing—once at least. It is not exactly the locality to which a young man just commencing life could be conscientiously recommended to go for the benefit either of his physical or moral health, but it is one, I am sorry to say, which most young men who come to Paris find among the first. It is certainly a funny place. There are in the Latin Quarter some three or four thousand students of medicine, law, and art, many of whom do not cross the bridges once a month, and whose evening’s amusement is found at the Closerie. The price of admittance is one franc, and “ladies free;” and as the balls commence at eight, and continue till eleven o’clock, it certainly can not be considered high. A “full dress” is not required to gain admittance to this ball, nor is it necessary, when dancing, to remove the hat from the head or the pipe from the mouth. About ten o’clock the floor is generally thronged, and the orchestra scarcely discernible through the thick cloud 184 of tobacco-smoke. Young men who have been poring all day over the musty tomes of medicine or law, or engaged in the cheerful operation of cutting up dead bodies, crowd into the Closerie at night for recreation.
A quadrille at the Closerie de Lilas no more resembles a quadrille in the “best society,” than does the wild dance of the Polynesian the grave and formal menuet de la cour.
These balls are in fact indescribable, and “must be seen to be appreciated.” Although the figures are the same as in ordinary quadrilles, the great desideratum appears to be to make the dancing as grotesque as possible. The men dance on their heels, and double themselves up into a shape resembling a bull-frog, swing their arms about like sails in a rude wind, kick up their feet in the most surprising manner, and occasionally turn a somersault from one side of the space allotted for the quadrille to the other, alighting in their proper places in perfect time with the music, and, seizing their partners by the waist, continue the galopade as though nothing had happened. What adds greatly to the singularity of the scene is the imperturbable gravity maintained by the prominent actors in it; not a smile escaping them while executing the most ridiculous manœuvres in the wild cancan.
But the movements of the women in this exciting, 185 free-and-easy dance, eclipse any thing of the kind anywhere else in the world. Many of those who visit the Closerie are celebrated for their peculiar style of dancing; and around these crowds of visitors always gather when they are preparing for a quadrille. With the exception of an easy, careless swinging of the body, which contrasts strikingly with the stiff and formal manner in which the quadrille is walked through in fashionable society, and an occasional exhibition of hosiery which would be considered highly improper in the higher circles, nothing particularly objectionable or peculiar is done during the first portion of the dance. As they become warmed by the exercise and excited by the music, what remnants of modesty and reserve still cling to them by reason of their womanhood are thrown off, and the danseuse, particularly if she be a celebrity, and has an admiring crowd about her, prepares herself for an exhibition of her peculiar talents. With her arms she gathers up in front the ample folds of her skirts in such a manner and to such a degree as to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt, to the student in natural history, that woman as well as man is a bifurcated animal. Released then from the thraldom of her skirts, she starts across the space, kicking alternately with one and the other of the lower limbs as high as her head, and in time with the music, occasionally amusing herself by 186 removing with the end of her foot the hat from the head of her vis-à-vis, or knocking in the same manner the pipe from his mouth. When the quadrille is finished she goes into one of the alcoves, and refreshes herself with beer and cigarettes.
The utmost “order and propriety” are maintained at these balls; several policemen being present, who occasionally, when the saltatory movements of the young ladies become too marked, tap them upon the shoulder, and remind them that “the decencies of life must be observed.” Quarrels rarely occur; and these saturnalia usually pass off with the utmost good-humor and gayety.
kicking alternately with one and the other of the lower limbs
[Yes, he really did say “lower limbs”. Or, at least, his editorial brother did.]
How Foundlings are taken in and done for.—Visit to the Hospital.—The new-born Babies.—The Infirmaries.—How the Foundlings are cared for.—How they become —Their Mothers.—A grave moral and social Question.—Legitimate and illegitimate Births in Paris.
Among the benevolent institutions of Paris, one of the most interesting to the stranger is the Foundling Hospital, where children abandoned voluntarily by their mothers are cared for during their infancy—the administration retaining charge of them until they are twenty-one years of age, the males being apprenticed to trades, or placed with farmers, and the girls either married, or situations as domestics procured for them. Formerly a revolving box, called a tour, placed in a niche in the wall on the street, was the medium by which the abandoned child was introduced to its new home, and the tender care of the excellent Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul—the benevolent founder of which order, in the year 1640, established this hospital. At present it is necessary, before a child can be received into the institution, that a certificate, signed by the Commissary of Police 188 of the quartier in which the mother lives, shall be presented, and her name and address taken. Every effort is made to induce the mother to retain the child, in which event assistance is rendered her from the hospital fund. If, however, she persists in its abandonment, it is received and carried into a room called the crèche, where it is placed before the fire on a bench. A ticket bearing its number, made out in the order in which it arrives—No. 1 commencing with the first child brought in at the beginning of each year—is then attached to its clothing. The child is now washed and nursed by a number of stout, healthy-looking women, placed in one of the infirmaries if sick, and if a healthy child, retained in the crèche until it is sent, as all the children are as soon as possible, into the country to nurse.
The last visit I made to the hospital was in the latter part of December, and there were then nine little lumps of humanity lying swaddled up in their clothing upon the bench in front of a good fire, looking like a row of onions on strings. These had all been brought in during the day, and most of them had first opened their eyes to the daylight, and drawn their first breath of God’s fresh air, and had their first wonder as to “what it was all about,” either on that day or the previous one. The last child which had come in was ticketed No. 4897, and the yearly average 189 of infants thus abandoned is a little more than five thousand. The sight was not one calculated to incline a bachelor to matrimony, for they are not handsome, these little one-day-old wayfarers, who already look wearied and worn before they have fairly commenced the journey of life. Poor little fatherless—more than motherless—orphans. May the good God, who cares for the sparrow, bear up their little wings through all their flight to a home where they shall find a loving Father.
There were about a hundred children in the room, most of them but a few days old, sleeping in neat little cribs, covered with clean white curtains. These were only waiting for nurses to come and take them to the country. The administration has organized a perfect system for the care and nursing of the children which are sent away. The whole of France is apportioned for this purpose into districts, in each one of which a director is appointed, whose duty it is to visit, at least once a year, every child placed out to nurse or be cared for in his department, and at the same time to procure nurses for the constantly-arriving children. These women, who are usually the wives of peasants, and what would be considered in France “well-to-do” people, who keep a cow and a pig, and hire and till a few acres of land, and to whom the additional care of a little child is no great burden, 190 come to Paris, remain a few days at the hospital, and then each one, with her charge, returns home again. They receive from eight to thirteen francs a month each from the administration for their services.
Over the door which gives entrance to the crèche is the appropriate sentence, “Mon père et ma mère m’ont abandoné, mais le Seigneur a pris soin de moi”—“My father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord has cared for me.” Passing beneath this, we visited the infirmaries, of which there are four—one for medical, one for surgical, one for ophthalmic cases, and one for measles—and in all these the cradles were well filled with little sufferers, some of whom were rapidly and painfully breathing away their young lives. Thence we visited the school-rooms, where the children are taught by some intelligent and cheerful-looking Sisters of St. Vincent, and the play-rooms, where, also under the charge of the good sisters, they amuse themselves. Everywhere, as in all the public institutions of France, every thing was neat and clean, and all cold speculation as to the propriety and effect upon public morals of such institutions as these must give way, in the mind of the visitor, to a feeling of thankfulness that there is so comfortable a place where these poor little outcasts are so well sheltered.
Most of the children are sent to the country before they are two years of age, and at twelve the boys are 191 usually bound apprentices to trades, while the girls frequently remain in the families of their nurses, by whom they are often adopted, or are furnished places as domestics. When they marry, provided their conduct has been unexceptionable, they receive from the administration each a marriage portion of one hundred and forty-eight francs. As the administration retains the general control of the foundlings until they are of age, they have a large number continually on their hands; and the director informed me at the time of my last visit that there were then no less than forty-five thousand under age, over whom the administration kept its fatherly eye. Only about one in a hundred are ever reclaimed, although the mother, by giving proof of character and ability to support it, can at any time before it becomes of age obtain possession of her child.
As a matter of course, the large majority of children in the foundling hospital are illegitimate, although instances of children born in wedlock and abandoned by their parents on account of poverty occasionally occur. Most of the children are the offspring of sewing-girls, shop-girls, domestics, artificial-flower makers, and workers at the thousand-and-one trades which are plied in Paris. It is almost asking too much of human nature, under such circumstances, to expect these girls to be strictly “virtuous.” 192 The wages of a couturière, a girl who works on ladies’ dresses, seldom exceeds twelve francs a week, for twelve hours’ labor a day, and the general rate of pay for sewing-girls is from ten to fifteen francs a week. On this a young girl can manage, by rigid economy, to keep body and soul together by living in some dreary, little, sunless garret, and eating a two-sou roll and drinking a cup of coffee for breakfast, and making a dinner from a bowl of soup and a dish of boiled meat at a cheap cook-shop. But every thing, eatable, drinkable, and wearable, is very expensive in Paris now, and working-women can not save enough out of their small pay to meet the needful demands for the simplest styles of dress; and the working-classes of Paris dress with simplicity, but in excellent taste, and it is marvellous how nicely they manage the commonest materials.
Possibly many, certainly most, of the mothers of the children in the foundling hospital, arrive in Paris from their country homes in search of work, intending to be virtuous. Could the story of their struggles through want, grim hunger, and cheerless cold be truthfully portrayed, the most rigid moralist might find palliation for their errors. But it is with the result, not the causes, of these lapses from virtue that we have to do at present.
It is evident that moral tracts, with gifts of flannel 193 and other small necessaries, even if supplied in sufficient quantities, will not meet the requirements of any appreciable number of mothers who have no claim, sanctioned alike by law and religion, on the fathers of their offspring; it is simply a question of insufficiency of the bare necessaries of life to support a family that leads to many cases of infanticide. It is not so much any shame or disgrace attaching to the birth of children under such circumstances that hurries mothers into the fearful crime of child-murder, but the grim horror of a lingering death by starvation staring them in the face. But the concealment of the birth by infanticide is undoubtedly a motive to the crime in many instances. In fact it has been found in France that, since the suppression of the tours, or turning-boxes, by means of which the abandonment of the child was rendered much easier than it is at present, the crime of infanticide has greatly increased in the departments where the boxes have been removed, the average annual number of cases having risen from 104 to 196. The question of restoring the tour in the Paris hospital, and in the others where it has been abolished, is seriously discussed, and public opinion throughout France is decidedly in favor of it. The number of foundling hospitals in France is one hundred and fifty-two.
By the law of France, an illegitimate child can be 194 legitimatized by the simple acknowledgment of the father, made, of course, in due legal form. This is indeed frequently done. The statistics of the year 1864 (the latest which have been published) exhibit the following facts:
The population of Paris is 1,696,000; the births amounted to 53,863; of these, 38,997 were legitimate, 14,866 illegitimate; and, of the latter, 3600 were “recognized” by their fathers.
[chapter summary] —How they become Foundlings.—
no less than forty-five thousand under age
[Since we have previously been told that the intake is around 5000 a year, this suggests a death rate in excess of 50%.]
The Dissecting rooms at Clamart.—The “Salle de Reception.”—The “Subjects.”—Food for Meditation.
“Will you make a day of horrors of it?” asked my medical friend as we were sitting vis-à-vis over a filet aux champignons and a steaming cup of rich coffee; “will you make a day of horrors of it, and come with me to the dissecting-rooms, where you will see about a hundred ‘subjects?’” “I’ll see about it,” I answered, “and in the mean time let us drop the ‘subject’ until we have discussed this breakfast.” So we conversed upon more cheerful topics until we had finished, when I concluded that, having commenced, I would make “a day of horrors” of it, and we started for Clamart, the principal dissecting-place of Paris. The building, which was formerly a hospital, is appropriately located upon the site of an ancient burial-ground, and the entrance to it is laid out in the form of a garden. Passing through this, we entered one of the wards, and my eye suddenly fell upon a scene the remembrance of which might well haunt a man in his dying hour!
The ward was about fifty feet in length, by twenty 196 in width, and, upon either side, were twelve zinc dissecting-tables, on each of which lay a dead human body, or such portion of it as the knife of the student had left. They were lying in all positions, and were in different stages of decay. Here was what had been an aged, gray-haired woman, stretched on her back, her arms crossed upon her shrivelled breast, and her sightless eyes wide open and staring! On the adjoining table were a head and trunk, and next to it was a pair of legs, with the muscles laid bare, and the flesh green with rapidly increasing mortification. A poor little boy’s body, with the skull sawed open and the brain bared, lay upon one of the tables; and on another seven or eight cadavres, divided into parts, were piled up, or rather tumbled together promiscuously, like so many dead rats in a gutter. In one body the abdomen was laid open and the abdominal viscera were exposed to view, while in another the flesh upon one side of the face was taken off, and the facial muscles and nerves exhibited. Some were so mutilated that scarcely a vestige of humanity could be recognized in their hacked limbs and ghastly faces. A sickly, charnel-like smell pervaded the room, not improved by the odor of tobacco, which most of the students engaged in dissecting were smoking from very ancient pipes. At the tables, patiently bending over the bodies, or parts of bodies, before them, sat the students—generally 197 young men—with their knives in their hands, tracing up nerves, muscles, and arteries, or carefully examining the location of the different organs. Upon entering the wards, they change their coats for blue blouses and white aprons, and each one keeps constantly by his side a little piece of nitrate of silver, with which to immediately cauterize any cut which he might accidentally give himself; as these are always poisonous, and often very dangerous. Ranged along the middle of the aisle were a number of tubs for the reception of the pieces cut off.
The students usually “work” on a subject five or six days without submitting it to any preparation; but those wishing to make long and patient dissections inject the arteries and veins with a solution of chloride of sodium, which preserves the bodies for a long time without decay. There are four of these rooms, all presenting the same general features; and after passing through them, we entered what the students facetiously call the “Salle de Reception,” where the bodies are received each day, and where all assemble at two o’clock for the purpose of making a choice of “subjects.” Here was, if possible, a more revolting sight than the other. Thirty or forty naked dead bodies, males and females, old and young, were laid indiscriminately side by side like logs of wood, and elbowing each other; and as many students 198 were examining them, and noisily discussing their merits and disputing their choice. One among them was what remained of a beautiful young girl—beautiful still in death—and, in this horrid companionship, clean-limbed and fresh-looking, with a fine brown, full face, and large black eyes, wide open and staring on vacancy. She could not have been more than seventeen or eighteen years of age, and could not have died of any prolonged disease, for she looked as though it needed but a breath to make that finely-developed bosom heave with the impulses of life again. She fell to the lot of my medical friend, and three days afterward he told me he had cut her all to pieces.
Poor, poor Humanity! These stiff, stark, and staring bodies, and those other mutilated forms on the tables, but a few days since were the tenant-houses of human souls, and obeyed the direction of human will, and moved in obedience to hope and aspiration; and now here they are, waiting to be mangled for the benefit of science. What food here for the moralist, as well as the medical student! Poor, poor Humanity! Is this all that remains of it? So I could not help soliloquizing; and then that beautiful verse of Horace Smith, the closing one of his “Address to the Egyptian Mummy,” which I had not thought of since my school-days, involuntarily came to me:199
“Why should this worthless tegument endure,
If its undying guest be lost forever?
Oh, let us keep the soul embalmed and pure
In living virtues, that when both shall sever,
Although corruption shall the frame consume,
The immortal spirit in the skies may bloom!”
The “subjects” in the dissecting-rooms are furnished principally from the hospitals. Patients who die there are kept twenty-four hours, and if not claimed in that time by some friend or relative, are marked for the dissecting-rooms. About four thousand bodies are thus annually appropriated, the remains of which, after the student has completed his investigations, are deposited in a corner specially appropriated to the purpose in the cemetery of Mont Parnasse.
a solution of chloride of sodium
[That would be, uh . . . salt?]
A Mystery to the uninitiated.—“Thin Magpie” an American Dish.
It is said that men who have been held as prisoners among savages have forgotten, in the course of time, their mother-tongue. Human nature is so weak that, under certain trying circumstances and temptations, religion and country have been denied. A mother may forget the babe she nourished; the din and bustle in the noisy highways of life may drown in the memory of the full-grown man the babbling music of the brook which flowed, in his boyhood, by the school-house on the woody hillside. All these may be, and more; but there are two things in this changing world which, once loved, can never be detested while life lasts—a taste of which, once acquired, even though in earliest youth, nothing can destroy or vitiate, but which remains ever strong and fresh to the last. These two symbols of constancy and undying faith are Buckwheat Cakes and Pumpkin Pie.
There is a queer little place in one of the quiet 201 streets in the vicinity of the Madeleine, which has become a shrine to which few Americans coming to Paris fail to make a pilgrimage, and, having once crossed the threshold, there is a charm about the interior and its contents which irresistibly attracts them often back to it during their sojourn. This is the establishment of Madame Busque, and here is her card, a curiosity in its way which would very seriously puzzle a foreigner other than one of English extraction.
SPÉCIALITÉ DE PUMPKIN PIE.
40 RUE GODOT-DE-MAUROI, 40
Près la Madeleine,
——— PARIS ———
Over the door is the American coat-of-arms, the eagle and the arrows; and if the sight of the emblem of his country fails to send the blood coursing quicker through the veins of the American who sees it, the window is filled with articles the first glance at which will certainly have this effect. These are pumpkin and mince and apple pies, and gingerbread and doughnuts, all looking particularly nice and tempting. On the glass-door was originally painted, with an apparent consciousness of its literal truth, those cabalistic words, “English spoken;” but the Madame, who is not very “strong” in her English, 202 and who evidently desires to do nothing under a false pretense, has modified this by having painted beneath it in brackets “a little,” so that the visitor who speaks no French need not be disappointed as to the amount or purity of his native language which he will hear. At present, however, both the Madame and “Charlie” are tolerably well up in the language, and their stock is inexhaustible upon any thing relating to buckwheat cakes or pumpkin pies.
The establishment is a mystery and a wonderment to the uninitiated, who frequently stop and gaze with a certain sort of awe into the window. What these queer-looking things are, they can have no idea, and then the cabalistic English words upon the window add to the bewilderment. There are two of these, however, which they can fully understand: “mince” in French means “thin,” and “pie” is the name of a species of bird; and so their curiosity is in part satisfied at ascertaining the fact that one of the American “specialities” is “thin magpie.”
Most of our countrymen who visit Paris find out now the establishment of Madame Busque. Her register of visitors for the past ten years is a literary curiosity which should not be overlooked. Here are the names of ministers and ex-ministers and consuls, members of Congress, artists, authors, poets, journalists, and commoners.203
Such is the “Spécialité de Pumpkin Pie.” Long may it flourish, and long may good Madame Busque preside over its destinies. It is really a pleasant little oasis in the great desert of Paris, and no American who loves his country and her institutions, visiting the world’s capital, should neglect to renew his devotion to them by going there and eating his fill.
men who have been held as prisoners among savages
[Line-break hyphen in prison/ers missing.]
Drunkenness.—Wine-drinking.—“The Octroi” Duty.—Extensive Establishments.—Parisian Cafés.—American Drinks.—Marchands de Vin.—Absinthe-drinking.—“A little Absinthe, just to give an Appetite.”—Composition of Absinthe, and its fearful Effects.
The people of Paris, numbering 1,700,000, consume annually about forty-four millions of gallons of wine of all descriptions; of alcohol and alcoholic liquors, about one million seven hundred and sixty thousand gallons; of cider, four hundred and forty thousand gallons; and of beer, six millions six hundred and sixty thousand gallons; which is nearly twenty-eight gallons of wine, beer, and spirits combined, annually consumed by each man, woman, and child within the city limits. The consumption of strong liquors has been gradually increasing for some years past, while that of wine has met with a proportionate diminution, and drunkenness, with all its attendant evils, follows in the track. It is a great mistake to suppose that there is no intoxication in the wine-growing countries of Europe; although my observations correspond with those of other travellers who state that, as a rule, the abuse of 205 liquors is confined almost entirely to the cities and larger towns, certain it is that Paris is by no means exempt from this vice, which, however, does not exhibit its evil effects in any thing like the glaring colors that it does in London and the American cities. As a rule, also, drunkenness is confined to the lower classes of the people. A soldier will drink as long as his ability to pay, or the good-nature of the keeper of the cabaret lasts, and one may often see the representatives of the brave army of France reeling through the streets of Paris. The chiffonniers, or rag-pickers, seem to consider it a religious duty to get drunk daily, and workmen who make two half holidays on Sunday and Monday afternoons often go drunk to bed on both these occasions.
Still, with the acknowledgment of the existence of inebriety in Paris to a considerable extent, it is safe to say that one will not see as many drunken men in the streets in a month as he will in a day in London, or a week in New York.
Wine, for all who can afford it, is the universal drink at breakfast and dinner; while the dusty bottles of Chateau Margaux and St. Estephe are opened at the tables of the rich, the mechanic, or the laboring man and his family, add cheer to their homely meal by a litre of the cheap wine of Burgundy, which may be purchased for twelve sous (which is at the 206 rate of about half a crown a gallon) at the wine-merchants’ shops, which are found on nearly every corner. Workmen may often make their noonday meal with two sous’ worth of bread, which they take to the nearest wine-shop, where for five or six sous more a pint of wine can be purchased, and with which the system is strengthened and slightly exhilarated. The cost of wine in Paris is materially augmented by the octroi, or city duty, which is charged upon all eatables and drinkables which enter the gates, and which yields to the city an annual revenue of about seventy-five millions of francs. At each one of the gates of Paris is a little stone building, the Octroi Office, where night and day the collectors of the city revenue are stationed, and where duties are levied at the following rates: wine in wood, per hectolitre of 22 gallons, 18 francs; in bottle, 25 francs; brandy and spirits, liqueurs, brandied fruits, and scented spirits, 23 francs 50 centimes; perry and cider, 7 francs 80 centimes; beer brought to Paris, 3 francs 80 centimes; beer brewed in Paris, 2 francs 82 centimes.
Every cart passing the gate is examined, every omnibus coming from without the city is looked into, as is every private or public carriage, and the lid of every basket carried on the arm is lifted up by the sharp-eyed collector; and if an unfortunate chicken or half a dozen of eggs are found inside, the duty is 207 rigidly exacted. Even the person is not exempt from search; and since the introduction of the present fashion of extended skirts, cases have not unfrequently been brought to light in which females have been caught in the act of attempting to smuggle dutiable articles strung among the folds of their crinolines.
The considerable augmentation of the value of articles of food and drink, caused by the city duty, led to the establishment of immense restaurants and wine-shops just outside the ancient barrier walls, and which were resorted to by working-people, many of whom lived in the city. On Sunday, particularly in summer, these places were thronged, and on this day many of the citizens of Paris went out to the better class of restaurants to dine, and every grisette expected her lover to pay for a dinner there. Two of these establishments, the wine-shop of the Petit Ramponneau, at the Barrière de Clichy, and the Restaurant Richefeu, at the Barrière du Maine, used to furnish on Sundays drink and food to about twenty-five thousand people. This last is an immense building five stories in height, each floor of which is a spacious room filled with tables, where luncheon, with half a bottle of wine, is served up for fifteen sous.
A population of more than three hundred thousand people, principally of the poorer class, grew up between the barrier wall and the fortifications. But 208 on the first of January, 1859, the city limits were extended to the fortifications themselves, which are at such a distance from the heart of Paris that it will be many years ere such gay and lively scenes will be exhibited around them as formed, in bygone years, the great attractions of the ancient barriers.
A very large portion of the male population of Paris spend their time in the cafés, many of which are elegantly furnished, and where, in addition to the delicious black coffee, other attractions are offered in the way of dominos, chess, and cards. Thousands of Parisians go every morning to the café, where the first breakfast, consisting of a large cup of coffee and a single roll, is taken, and the newspapers read. At twelve or one o’clock the true breakfast, the dejeuner à la fourchette, is eaten, and the time then employed till dinner, after which the true Parisian immediately proceeds to his café again, where he reads the evening journals over a cup of strong black coffee, taken with a small glass of brandy, and the remainder of the evening is spent in conversation or games. But little strong liquor is drunk in the cafés, except with coffee, over a cup of which a Parisian will often sit for an entire evening, as he will also over such mild beverages as orgeat and water, or a glass of or raspberry syrup, or even that modest, calming, and certainly unstimulating drink, a glass of sugar and water. 209 Attempts have been made from time to time by hardy innovators to introduce some of the thousand and one “American drinks” into the Parisian cafés; but with the exception of the “sherry cobbler,” which may be obtained at some of them, and a hot decoction of rum, sugar, water, and lemon, which is universally known as “Grog Americain,” none of these mixtures have been able to obtain a foothold among the Parisians, whose stomachs have not yet been rendered sufficiently fireproof to enable them to take such abominations as “brandy cocktails” and “smashes.” For the accommodation of our transatlantic cousins, however, who, even in a foreign land, still cling to the institutions of their country, and who must have their “bitters” before or after breakfast and dinner, and around whom linger fond memories of “mint-juleps,” “milk-punches,” and “egg-nogs,” for these, and for such benighted foreigners as desire to be initiated into the mysteries of these compounds, two or three cafés in Paris now furnish “American drinks.”
At the corner shops of the wine-sellers the lower classes of the Parisian people go to drink. In these there are no opportunities for being seated as in the cafés, but the drink is taken at the bar. Here wine is sold at two and three sous a glass, as well as a fiery sort of brandy distilled from beet-root, and known to 210 the imbibers under the slang name of casse-poitrine (literally, break-breast), is sold at one, two, and three sous the small glass. Many of the wine-sellers furnish meals, principally to laborers, who may be seen at nine o’clock in the morning, when they quit work on the neighboring buildings for an hour, going to these places for breakfast, each with two sous’ worth of bread, purchased at the nearest baker’s, under his arm.
One of the most popular, and in fact almost a universal beverage in Paris, is absinthe. In front of the splendid cafés on the Boulevards, on any fine afternoon between three and five o’clock, thousands of persons may be seen sitting, mixing and sipping this green liquor, which is taken ostensibly as an appetizer before dinner. Workmen drink it in the low corner shops of the marchands de vin. In various parts of the city are establishments which are crowded from morning till night, in which the sale of absinthe is made a spécialité, and where little else is drunk. Ladies even of high families are reported to have yielded to its fascinations. It has been exported, and is used to an enormous extent in all the French colonies, except in Tahiti, where its introduction has been prohibited, and statistics exhibit the fact that immense quantities of it are annually sent to the United States. It may not, therefore, be uninteresting to those who 211 are in the habit of “taking a little absinthe before dinner just to give them an appetite,” to be made acquainted with the composition and effects of this seductive liquor, which, from the almost irresistible power which it wields over its victims, as well as from the similarity of its effects, and the general and increasing popularity it has acquired, may not improperly be called “The Opium of the West.”
Medical science has turned its attention to the effects of this poisonous compound, and in a paper recently submitted to the Academy of Medicine by M. Motet, the whole subject is treated in a manner which shows that he has carefully examined it. He says that the habitual use of absinthe produces a series of pathological manifestations extremely grave, and differing essentially from the effects produced by other alcoholic drinks; and although the effects of large doses, or of the habitual use of this liquor, are now well known, the drinker upon whom the habit of using it has been fastened returns to it in obedience to an almost irresistible fascination while aware that it is destroying him.
Body and mind crumble alike under the influence of this terrible liquor. It destroys all the finer feelings and more delicate sensibilities of human nature; it absorbs all the faculties, burns and corrodes the body, extinguishes the memory, and annihilates the 212 senses. Of the best constituted man, either physically or intellectually, its constant use will, sooner or later, make a skeleton, an animal—a brute.
“Absinthe,” which simply means “wormwood,” is made by the distillation of a number of plants—the tops of wormwood, flag-root, anise-seed, angelica-root, leaves of (origanum ) and sweet marjoram. All these are macerated, and placed in alcohol of very high proof, and permitted to remain eight days, when the mixture is distilled, half an ounce of the essential oil of anise being added to each three gallons. The first care after the distillation is to see whether the liquor is of a good color, and whether it will “whiten” well; and should it be found lacking in these essential points, it is brought up to the proper standard with indigo, tincture of curcuma, hyssop, nettles, and sulphate of copper (the ordinary “blue vitriol”).
Absinthe, however, requires none of these adulterations to constitute it a positive poison. Composed of plants of highly exciting qualities, united with the strongest alcohol, it acts directly upon the nervous system, having a much more speedy and positive effect than other alcoholic liquors. Indeed, one of the principal charms which make the vile compound so popular, is the almost immediate delightfully stimulating effect it has upon the brain. In the process 213 of distillation, the plants furnish several volatile oils, which are among the most virulent poisons. Probably few persons, in “mixing” their absinthe (which among professional drinkers is considered a great art), have ever stopped to consider the cause of the “whitening” or “clouding,” or ever thought that the better the liquor “mixes,” the more powerfully poisonous it is. The white deposit which, in precipitating, renders it turbid, comes from the essential oils, which are held in solution by alcohol, but which are insoluble in water or weak spirits.
The effects of the constant use of this villainous liquor, which a friend once said “is kept in glass bottles simply because it would eat through the staves of any ordinary barrel in fifteen minutes,” are summed up in a sentence by Dr. Motet as a “general poisoning of the system, which terminates in insanity and death.” Among the symptoms which precede the final result are uncertainty and indecision of the muscular system, easily recognized by contractions and trembling of the fore-arm, of the hand, and the inferior members. Strange sensations are observed, such as tingling and pricking of the skin, heaviness of the limbs and numbness, the hand seizing and as suddenly letting go any object within its reach. The patients are weak in the legs, and, in standing, require something to lean against; the knees tremble and bend; a general air 214 of sadness and hebetude settles upon the features; the lips, the tongue, and the muscles of the face are tremulous; the eye is sunken and sorrowful; the skin assumes a yellowish hue; dyspepsia and wasting away follow; the mucous membrane becomes of a violet color; the hair comes out, and the entire framework of the man falls into a premature old age and dilapidation.
Such are the bodily symptoms of absinthe poison; and the mental troubles progress concurrently with the disorders of the muscular system. Owing to the progress of the disease of the brain, the sleep of the patient is disturbed; he has terrible dreams and nightmares, and sudden wakings, as though he had been shot from the mouth of a cannon; he is troubled with hallucinations, illusions, blinding of the eyes, and hypochondria; exhibits a very marked embarrassment and dwelling upon words when speaking, and a constantly decreasing strength of intellect. Such is, in a few words, the sad cortége of symptoms presented by the victims of the terrible absinthe poison; a cortége which only precedes another one following them to the grave.
Nothing, says Dr. Motet, can arrest the progress of the brain disease. Sometimes the symptoms will be more favorable for a longer or shorter period, but the respite must not be considered as a sign of approaching 215 cure; and, a little sooner or a little later, death stalks in, in the midst of epileptic attacks, at a time when there is scarcely any human intelligence remaining—when the animal alone exists, and in a state of degradation of which no description can convey an adequate idea.
This is certainly not a cheerful picture to contemplate, nor is it agreeable to think that this is a fate in store for those thousands of cheerful, healthy-looking men, young and middle-aged, who daily sip their absinthe on the Boulevards. Death and insanity, the result of its habitual use, are very common in Paris; and on the tombstones of not a few of the prominent men in the literary and artistic world whose lights have gone out during the past ten years, might with truth be written, “died of absinthe.”
So deleterious have been the effects of this liquor that the French Government has prohibited its use in the army and navy, even to the officers, and an attempt is now being made to extend the same restriction to the other colonies which has been made in regard to Tahiti. And yet, with all these terrible facts brought to light, it is by no means probable that the use of this murderous beverage is decreasing. Who, after the picture above drawn, would like to take a “little absinthe just to give him an appetite?”
The people of Paris . . . consume annually
[It works out to ten bottles of wine per person per month. Including babies.]
a glass of current or raspberry syrup
One of the most popular, and in fact almost a universal beverage in Paris, is absinthe.
[Absinthe was illegal in the US and much of Europe through most of the 20th century. It is now available again, so long as the manufacturer doesn’t go overboard with the thujone. Like the earlier passage about Mlle. Reugger of Algeria, the description of absinthe must have been published earlier as a free-standing article. It crops up many times in the period 1860-61; see below.]
leaves of littany (origanum dictamnus)
text has dictamuus
[And, by the way, it’s dittany.]
of the fore-arm, of the hand, and the inferior members
[Oh, say it, Edward. They’re l-e-g-s. (This one can’t be blamed on William: the “inferior members” locution was present in the original article.) ]
the sad cortége of symptoms
[The word is spelled the same way—with acute accent for expected grave—every time it appears.]
Orleans and “the Maid.”—Chambord.—Blois.—Amboise.—Plessis les Tours.—A curious Village.—Houses cut in the solid Rock.—Chinon.—Angers.—The Castle of Bluebeard.—Down the Loire.—Brittany.
In the latter part of August a genial companion and myself started from Paris, with a sufficient supply of funds and linen to last us a fortnight or three weeks. Trusting in our guiding-stars and Murray’s Guide-book, we determined to go first to Orleans, and thence wherever inclination led us, and railway trains and diligences would carry us.
We found Orleans a quaint old town on the banks of the Loire, famous in modern history as the spot where Joan of Arc raised the siege which the English were holding upon the place, and from which she drove the invaders away. The story is familiar to all readers of history and romance, but it is pleasant sometimes to re-read old tales; and none is more interesting than that of the brave girl who saved her King and country, and won for herself the crown of martyrdom.
In the year 1429, when the English had invaded, 217 and were in actual possession of, a large portion of France, Charles the Seventh, a weak monarch, was king. Deeming the task a hopeless one, he had relinquished the idea of resisting the English, and had retired from the noise and danger of war to his strongly-fortified castle of Chinon. Here he found more pleasure in the society of his beautiful mistress, Agnes Sorel, than upon the field of battle or on the march. Surrounded by his courtiers, he was not a little surprised one day in February, after the news of the march on Orleans by the English troops, under the Count of Salisbury, had reached him, to learn that a girl of eighteen years, professing to be inspired of God with knowledge, and with power to make the King’s army triumph, had arrived at the Church of St. Catherine de Fierbois, near Chinon; that she was attired in male apparel, and demanded instant audience.
After several days spent in consultation with his ministers, who declared the girl insane, the pucelle, on whose sweet and youthful face rested an expression of the utmost modesty, but whose eye seemed lighted with the fire of inspiration, appeared in the hall among the gay throng; and although she had never before seen the King, singled him out from amidst the crowd, many of whom were much more richly attired than he, and told him that she had been sent by God to aid him and his kingdom, and that the King of Heaven 218 had told her that he must be crowned at Reims, and become the “lieutenant of the King of Heaven”—a title of right belonging to the sovereign of France. Leading him aside to a window, she easily convinced him of her supernatural powers by telling him some of the inmost secrets of his heart, which she declared her “voices” had revealed to her. Brought the next day before a clerical council and severely interrogated, the King finally decreed to give her a command of six thousand men, and to send her to raise the siege of Orleans. A sword, taken from the Church of St. Catherine, was now presented her, and the standard which she herself had designed, and which bore a figure of the Saviour carrying a globe, painted on a white ground strewed with the fleur-de-lis, was placed in her hand. Mounted astride a young and active horse, the Maid started for Orleans.
The English were then occupying a fort on the opposite side of the Loire near a bridge which crossed it, and Joan decided that this post should be first attacked. The most skillful of the French commanders opposed this, but were finally forced to yield, as the soldiers, to whom she had imparted a portion of her enthusiasm, would obey no other leader. The bridge being partly destroyed, they pushed across the Loire in boats and began the attack upon the English fort. At length, seeing her countrymen falter, the Maid, 219 seizing a scaling-ladder, mounted the escalade, when an arrow pierced her corslet, and she fell as if dead into the ditch. Some soldiers carried her away, but she soon returned again to the attack, and, waving aloft her magic banner, led on her countrymen in a desperate but successful assault. The English leader was killed, the fort surrendered, and that same evening the young shepherdess of , whom the English in the morning had tauntingly advised to “go home and mind her cows,” entered Orleans in triumph from the bridge which had been closed for several months, bringing with her a supply of provisions to feed the half-starved citizens.
It was not strange, as she rode through the streets of Orleans upon her charger, dressed in full armor, her countenance brilliant with a light which seemed more of heaven than earth, that the famished people looked upon her as an angel sent for their relief, and that stern, rough, bearded men prostrated themselves before the feet of her horse, and that women held up their children for her blessing.
The following day the English retreated, and France was saved. The subsequent history of this girl is a disgrace alike to France and England. After following the king, standing over him at his coronation, and leading his armies successfully against the English, she was at length taken prisoner at Compeigne 220 through the treachery of her own countrymen, conveyed to Rouen, and burnt alive in the marketplace as a sorceress. Well may her countrymen now raise monuments and revere the memory of the gentle, patriotic girl.
Before breakfast the next morning we visited all the points of interest in Orleans connected with the history of the Maid. There are three statues—one, a fine equestrian one, in the principal square; another upon the bridge, and the third, a copy in bronze of the statue now at Versailles, the work of the talented Princess Marie d’Orleans, the daughter of Louis Philippe. The room in which it is said Joan lodged, when she entered the town from Blois, is shown, but the locality is rather apocryphal; and it is probable that the benevolent-looking old lady who leads strangers into it has an eye more to the franc which she receives for her services than to the verification of history. But the spot where the fort held by the English stood is well marked, some remains of it being still visible. A rude stone cross is erected there, upon which is inscribed “In memory of Jeanne d’Arc, known as ‘The Maid,’ the pious heroine, who, on the 8th of May, 1429, in this place, saved by her valor the city, France, and her King.”
In the afternoon we went to Blois, and the next day visited the Chateau of Chambord, an imposing 221 structure built in 1526 by Francis the First. It is now the private property of the Count de Chambord, the son of the Duchess de Berri, and the only male survivor of the elder branch of the French Bourbons, who, should they be recalled to power during his life, would, under the title of Henry the Fifth, be King of France. Francis the First, Henry the Second, Charles the Ninth, Louis the Fourteenth, and Louis the Fifteenth, all lived here. In the first Revolution the chateau was taken, and very much defaced, the fleur-de-lis which covered the walls being beaten out with hammers. Only one of these emblems of the Bourbon dynasty escaped—a stone lily, six feet in height, which rose above one of the towers. This was knocked down during the Revolution of 1848, but the present Emperor has permitted it to be restored, and the insignia of his race now again surmount the tower of the only building in France belonging to its last representative.
At Blois is the old castle which for ages has been the residence of the kings of France, and the scene of some of the most tragical events in its history. Here it was that Henry the Third, incited by his fiendish mother, Catherine de Medicis, plotted and perpetrated the murder of the Duke de Guise, and his brother, the Cardinal de Lorraine. The room in which the deed was done is shown, as is also the oratory 222 at the side, where Catherine prostrated herself before the altar, and prayed that the murder might be successfully performed. The Castle of Blois occupies a frowning position on the summit of a hill overlooking the town, and is now used as a barrack. From Blois we took the train for Amboise, a ride of a little less than an hour. The high and frowning towers of the Castle of Amboise, which overhang the Loire, with its donjons and oubliettes, and dark cells, has been the scene of some terrible tragedies. The most horrible of these was the hanging upon its walls of twelve hundred Huguenot prisoners, arrested in the time of the religious wars in 1560 for their participation in the plot known as the “Conjuration d’Amboise.” The executioners became wearied with beheading their victims, and so drowned them in the Loire. Standing upon the balcony, it was scarcely possible to realize that all these horrors had been enacted amidst such scenes of grandeur and beauty. The old castle stands on a lofty rocky height, at the foot of which glides the sunny, beautiful Loire, its banks green with vines, on which the purple fruit hung in rich clusters. Above, the river winds among islands, and ripples laughingly by the frowning old castle. The castle, though well cared for, is crumbling to ruins; but the river is broad and sunny, and its banks are verdant as ever, and the sky—the 223 sky of this beautiful —as blue and clear as it was on the day when, beneath it, the river ran red with the blood of a thousand martyrs.
It was in this castle that Charles the Eighth, at the age of twenty-eight years, was killed while running under a stone door-way, hurrying to his tennis-court, by hitting his head against the top-stone, which had been placed inconveniently low. Here it was that Abd-el-Kader, the brave and noble emir of Algiers, was imprisoned by Louis Philippe, and released in 1852 by the Emperor.
From Amboise we went to Tours, a beautiful old town on the Loire, which contains a fine cathedral and the remains of a church built by St. Martin in the third century. About a mile from the town is Plessis les Tours, the favorite residence of Louis the Eleventh. Little remains of it now but a single tower, and some extraordinary cells in which the royal bigot confined his prisoners, whom he subjected to a novel punishment, called “enwalling.” Around the walls of this subterranean dungeon were little spaces, cut about two feet into the wall, and four feet high, and in one of these a prisoner was placed, inclosed with an iron grating, through which he breathed the dank air of the dungeon. In these living tombs one could neither lie down, nor stand upright, nor sit in a comfortable position; but the power of human endurance 224 is shown by the fact that the Cardinal Balue (who is said to have been the inventor of this horrid system of punishment) remained in one of them seven years. Near these dungeons is the oratory where the King passed hours at a time in abject prayer to the Virgin and saints for the cure of his complicated maladies, and here he finally ended his miserable existence. “They had hard hearts in those days,” remarked the girl who showed us the remains of the castle as she pointed us out the cells.
About four miles distant from Tours is the curious village of Rochecorbon, which consists of dwellings cut in the solid rock two hundred feet above its base; the rock itself being bold and bluff, they can only be reached by ladders. In one place an immense boulder has become detached from the cliff, and in this, which from below looks as though it were liable to fall at any moment, two dwellings are excavated. These excavations were made hundreds of years ago by the retainers of the feudal barons who lived here, with a view to economy and to safety. Here are the remains of a feudal castle of the eleventh century, all that is left of it now being a stone tower, a hut fifty feet in height, which stands tottering on the very verge of the cliff three or four hundred feet above the bank of the river.225
Returning to Tours, we next day took the diligence and rode thirty miles across the country, through vineyard and by acacia hedges, to the old town of Chinon, where there are the remains of a castle, now entirely in decay, in which Charles the Seventh received Joan of Arc, and where he first saw his beautiful and talented mistress, Agnes Sorel, who exercised so powerful an influence on his life and the fortunes of France. The scene of these interviews, and of the splendor of the court of the indolent and pleasure-loving King, is now a sad and broken ruin, and crows were cawing dismally from its wall-tops. Near it is a square tower, over a deep ditch, supposed to have been one of the “oubliettes” down which prisoners were cast, and “forgotten” forever. In one of these towers Richard of the Lion Heart was imprisoned by his father, Henry the Second, for conspiring to dethrone him. It is now converted into the ice-house of the town of Chinon, as is the donjon into a powder-magazine. Beneath it is an extensive subterranean prison, reached by descending stone steps, which have been nearly worn away during the long centuries in which they have been trodden by prisoners and visitors. All along the walls of this underground dungeon are the names of prisoners who were buried in that living tomb, cut in the rocks. Some of them dated 1420. It was a relief to ascend from 226 this dank and noisome den, smelling like a tomb, up again into the clear sunlight, and to gaze upon the scene which presents itself in the lovely valley. God, the great Architect and Artist, builds lofty hills, and spreads out fertile river-banks, and drapes them with verdure, and paints them with beautiful flowers, and bathes them all with the bright and glowing sunshine, and man digs dungeons in which to hide his fellows from the view.
From Chinon we went to Angers, a dull old town, containing a strong castle and a fine cathedral, and from here we made a pleasant little excursion to the scene of one of the most celebrated of romances, and where we laid aside for the time our history and dwelt again in the youthful days, when we were alternately charmed and frightened as we read our fairy tales. At Champtocé, distant about fifteen miles from Angers, on a green and beautiful hillside overlooking the Loire, are the imposing ruins of a feudal castle, in which lived in the fifteenth century one Gilles de Retz, known throughout the country as Le Barbe Bleu, and the undoubted original of the horrid monster who, under the name of “Bluebeard,” astonished and alarmed our childhoods. This interesting character, having lost health and fortune by youthful excesses and extravagances, believed that he could restore both by the use of a bath of infants’ 227 blood, and for this purpose he is said to have killed no less than a hundred babes. In those days the born thralls of a feudal seigneur would bear a great deal from their master, but the crimes of the gentle Gilles finally became so bold and frequent that all the country about rebelled, and he was tried and duly burnt at Nantes, after relieving his mind with a full confession.
Two towers of the castle, overgrown with moss and ivy, and rapidly crumbling to ruin, still rise above the underground dungeons, in which the deeds of blood were committed. It was with difficulty that I could persuade my guide to go with me as far as the entrance of one of these subterranean cells, and I believe no inducement would have taken him with me into it. The peasants give the castle a wide berth after dark; children will not play around the ruins; and to this day the mothers of Anjou frighten their nurslings into propriety by threatening to confine them in the ruined castle of Le Barbe Bleu.
At Angers we took a little tea-pot-power steamboat down the Loire to Nantes. The river for the entire distance is beautiful, its banks densely grown with flax and vines, and rising often to lofty heights, whose summits are crowned with crumbling old castle-towers and spired churches. We reached Nantes in about seven hours, and, after visiting the castle in 228 which Henry the Fourth signed the celebrated edict, which gave freedom to the French Protestants, left the following morning for a ride across Brittany in a diligence.
Brittany, of all portions of France is the most outlandish. There is some fine land and scenery in it, but generally it is barren and poverty-stricken. The people retain many of their ancient customs, and have been but little disturbed by modern innovations. The peasants still dress in goat-skins, and the girls and old women and female children all wear the Breton cap, which extends nearly half a yard above and behind the head at an angle of about forty-five degrees. They live in a very homely manner, make and drink but very little wine, using cider instead. They have no barns in which to deposit their hay and grain, but leave it in the open air, the grain being threshed on the ground where it is cut. The land is all cut up into small irregular patches, each one being surrounded by a border of trees, which effectually shut out the sunshine except at noon-day. They retain many of the Druidical superstitions and practices of the ages previous to the introduction of Christianity, and to this day the peasant-women of Brittany who desire to have male children go at midnight to some of the Druidical remains with which the country abounds, and rub their breasts against them. In short, 229 these people live and act in many things just as their ancestors did a thousand years ago, and are an astonishing example of primitive simplicity, in this age of art and innovation.
famous in modern history
[You can tell when someone has been living in Europe a long time, because events earlier than 1776 still count as “modern history”.]
the young shepherdess of Dourrémy
[Did William misread his brother’s handwriting? Everyone else spells it Domrémy.]
whom the English in the morning had tauntingly advised to “go home and mind her cows,”
[I can’t help but feel it would have been more appropriate to tell her to mind her sheep. ]
a copy in bronze of the statue now at Versailles, the work of the talented Princess Marie d’Orleans, the daughter of Louis Philippe
[One source describes the statue as “reproduced to the point of nausea in every imaginable type of matter and size”. Marie (1813–1839) married Alexander of Württemberg in 1837; an earlier marriage arrangement had fallen through, giving her three more years to produce sculpture at home. You will be relieved to hear that she did not die in childbirth but of tuberculosis.]
the sky of this beautiful Tourraine
Some of them dated 1420.
Angers, a black-looking, dull old town
text has ; for second ,
—The “Claque.”—Its Origin and Object.—The Censorship.—The Acting.—Specialities of different Theatres.
Paris is certainly the paradise of theatrical managers—the theatres within its limits, although the most uncomfortable in the world, being always crowded. The visitor who succeeds in sitting through a performance without once having his temper ruffled, is entitled to a first prize for amiability of character.
There is no ventilation, and besides being crowded, one stews. And then there is the claque continually breaking in with vigorous applause; and the moment the curtain drops, the air is rent with the yells of wretches with cast-iron lungs crying apples, oranges, and candies for sale.
The claque is one of the most annoying among the many nuisances which afflict the Paris theatres.
Seated usually in the parquette, immediately behind the orchestra seats and directly under the chandelier, a row of persons, varying from half a dozen to thirty, may be seen every evening, wet or dry, who never get tired of seeing the same piece, and who 231 never forget to applaud in the proper places, provided always they have been properly paid therefor. This is the claque, whose presence saves the Parisian theatre-goer the labor of applauding for himself.
In the midst of the party sits the chef, who gives the cue when to applaud, to whom the rest look for all their instructions, and the movement of whose hands they follow. The chef is paid a certain sum by the management of the theatre, but his principal receipts are from authors who are about producing new pieces, from young actors and actresses, or those who desire to create an unusual sensation. The chef furnishes the remainder of the claque, requiring them sometimes to pay a small sum in addition to their services when the piece draws very crowded houses; admitting them for nothing, under ordinary circumstances, and paying them a little when there is not sufficient attraction to induce them to give their valuable aid, in consideration of witnessing the performance. The claque is an “institution”—the success of a piece or an artist depending, in great measure, upon its efforts. The measure of success is generally arranged in advance. For a consideration, a “grand success” is guaranteed; but if the author or artist is short of funds, or haggles with the king of the claque, a “little success” only is promised. A degree still lower, sometimes stipulated for, is to “save the piece 232 or the artist from being damned;” and if no at all is made, the members of the claque only applaud just enough to save themselves and their places. The whole thing is graduated in this manner, and satisfactory conditions having been arranged, the places where the applause is to come in, and where encores are to be demanded, are all marked and studied by the chef as an actor would study his part.
Nobody, of course, is deceived by this artificial arrangement. Every habitué of a Parisian theatre very well knows that the “thunders of applause” which burst out periodically from beneath the chandelier are paid for at so much a clap; and that the seedy but, on the whole, respectable-looking individual who controls the movements of his band, is not a mere patron and lover of the dramatic art, who finds it a pleasure as well as duty to assist in the development of genius, and to crown it with a meed of applause, but that he is a mere mercenary. And yet the Parisian theatres can not, or at least their managers think they can not, succeed without the aid of the claque.
A few years since, awakened to the absurdity of the system, the nuisance was suppressed in all the theatres. A week afterward it was restored, the artists themselves complaining, and asserting that they could not act without it. Applause was a stimulant as necessary to them as air and light, and the audiences, 233 accustomed to manifest their enthusiasm by proxy, would not applaud, and so the efforts of the artists fell dead upon the house. The restored claque, finding itself master of the situation, became more demanding and impudent than ever, and the old system now flourishes in full vigor. Frequent difficulties arise, however, in some of the better theatres between the audience and the claque, demonstrations decidedly hostile to the latter being made by the former, and cries of “down with the claque” being often uttered with a vim which proves that if Parisian audiences had the will, they certainly have the power to make noise enough to gratify any reasonable demand of the actors.
The origin of the claque dates back to the year 1804, and it first became an “institution” at the Comedie Française. At this time two rival actresses, M’lle Duchenois and M’lle George, were “strutting their little hour upon the stage.” Each had her partisans, who nightly applauded their favorite, and endeavored to out-applaud their opponents. M’lle George being a favorite of the Emperor Napoleon, and the noisiest demonstrations being made in her behalf, the Government did not interfere, and the result was that the claque soon became a permanent affair, and was transplanted to all the other theatres.
The charges for admission into the Parisian theatres are higher than in those of our cities—good seats 234 in the best theatres costing from five to ten francs each, and more, if taken in advance. The expenses of the theatres are very heavy, ten per cent. of the gross receipts being paid over to the hospital fund, besides a large percentage, amounting to about one-tenth more, to the authors of the pieces played.
Three of the theatres, the Opera Français, or Imperial Academy of Music, the Comedie Française, and the Odeon, receive subventions from the Government for the purpose of encouraging and sustaining a pure and classical taste for lyric and dramatic art. The theatres are under the immediate control of the Minister of State; and all pieces, before being produced, must be sanctioned by him, and pass the ordeal of a rigid censorship, which is intended to protect the morals and politics of the Parisians from danger of harm. The censors are particularly cautious that nothing which may possibly tend, either directly or remotely, toward diminishing the faith of the people in the present Government and its form shall pass through their hands, while they are considerably more lenient toward productions of another description.
Until recently, the theatres were subjected to a special control, and restricted to certain styles of plays. For example, a theatre devoted to the “legitimate drama” would not be permitted to play spectacular pieces, introduce dancing upon the stage, or in any 235 manner infringe upon its “speciality.” This has now been changed; and not only can any one who chooses establish a theatre, but the manager can cause to be performed any character of play from high tragedy to pantomime. Two large and comfortable theatres, roomy and well ventilated, the Lyrique and the Theatre du Chatelet, have also been opened. The former is an opera-house, and at the latter “spectacles” are gotten up in the most gorgeous style.
The French comedians and actresses are unquestionably the best in the world, because, as a rule, there is with them no straining for mere effect. The “vein of Ercles” is not popular with them, and they interest their audiences and act well simply because they do not seem to act at all. If the visitor to Paris wishes to see the perfection of classic acting, and listen to the purest pronunciation of French, he should go to the Comedie Française; if fond of show, and tinsel, and glitter, and the sight of bewitching young ladies whose dresses were either “begun too late, or left off too early,” to the Chatelet or the Porte St. Martin; if willing to listen to pieces rather latitudinarian in their character for the sake of the most perfect comic acting in the world, to the Palais Royal or the Varietés; if disposed to the “blood and thunder” drama, considerably softened down from the style in which he sees it on the other side of the Atlantic, to the Ambigu or the Gaieté.
[chapter summary] Annoyances.—The “Claque.”
. after “Annoyances” missing
and if no arrangement at all is made
text has arrangemeet
a large percentage, amounting to about one-tenth more, to the authors of the pieces played
[Playwrights got a percentage of the gross? I’m there!]
Confused Ideas of America.—One of my Countrymen.—No Prejudice against Color.
In Europe, every body from our side of the ocean—be he from the United States, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, or Patagonia—is called an “American;” and unlearned people, as a rule, make little or no distinction in the nationality of the citizens of these various countries. This, perhaps, is no more strange than the lack of knowledge shown by many of our countrymen in regard to the divisions of Europe, and especially of Germany.
I have often had gentlemen from Peru, Mexico, and Cuba introduced to me as my “countrymen” by persons of education even, and I once walked five miles to see a man in Italy, whom I was told was an American who would be glad to see a “fellow-citizen,” upon arriving at whose villa, I found to be a Brazilian, of a color which, I am afraid, would keep him out of “society” in the United States.
Being black does not, however, affect a man’s character 237 or chances of success in Paris, where there is not the slightest prejudice against color, and where a negro is received and treated in the same way as a white man of his rank, education, and wealth would be. At the schools and colleges white and black children sit side by side; and in marching through the streets, on their way to exercise in the gardens, a white and black boy are often seen arm in arm. There are no “negro pews” in the churches; at balls and parties, public and private, persons of color mingle indiscriminately with whites; and at the Imperial balls at the Tuileries it excited not the slightest remark to see a “black Republican” from Hayti whirling through the labyrinth of the waltz with a blue-eyed, fair-haired daughter of France. Indeed, it is no unusual thing in the streets of Paris to see negroes riding in their own carriages, driven and attended by white servants in livery. I was once not a little amused, when present at the formal ceremony of the opening of the Senate, at seeing in the diplomatic box the minister from Hayti, about whose color there could be no question, and who, as the master of ceremonies doubtless supposed, with singular appropriateness, was placed by the side of our Secretary of Legation, then acting as minister. The latter was a gentleman from South Carolina, who could not have been particularly delighted at the proximity of his colleague. As our 238 Government had not then “recognized” that of Hayti, our representative did not appear disposed to recognize his brother diplomat.
Some of the most celebrated men in France, in the ranks of literature and art, some of the most polished and gayest cavaliers have been, and some of the celebrities of the present day are, negroes. Glancing back to the last century, we find among the brilliant throng which surrounded the court of Louis the Sixteenth at Versailles, St. George de Boulogne, a native of Guadaloupe, a writer of elegant verses, in person a model of manly beauty, and in manner one of the most polished of courtiers. The chronicles of the time represented him as one of the favored lovers of Marie Antoinette, and he it was that carved with his skates upon the basin of Neptune at Versailles pretty sonnets, inscribed to the ladies of the chateau. Under the Republic he became a Colonel of Hussars, and was celebrated for his bravery and address.
General Dumas, the father of the popular romancer of the present day, was a native of the then French colony of St. Domingo, a general-in-chief of the armies of the Republic in 1794, and the intimate friend of Hoche, Kleber, and Marceau. The mother of Dumas was a full-blooded negress. His name is inscribed among those of the brave men chiselled in the imperishable marble of the Arc de Triomphe, and 239 he was considered one of the most daring and devoted generals of the Republic. Upon the accession of Napoleon to the Imperial throne of France, General Dumas, who had followed him in Egypt, might, had he chosen to have resigned his principles, have become a duke and a marshal.
Julian Raymond of St. Domingo, a deputy to the National Assembly of 1789, distinguished himself in that body and left a number of works upon political subjects. Lethiers of Guadaloupe, was an eminent painter of the Imperial epoch, and a Member of the Institute of France. Lethiers, under the first Empire, when the mustache was monopolized by military men, persisted in wearing his, although a civilian. For this audacity, because such it was considered in those days, he was led into several duels with military officers, from which, however, he always came off victor. He was sent to Rome as Director of the French Academy of Fine Arts, by Napoleon, who imagined that to be the only mode of putting an end to these continued quarrels. Several paintings of Lethiers are to be seen in the galleries of the Louvre.
Bissette, a native of Martinique, at first marked for the axe of the executioner, was condemned to imprisonment at hard labor in 1825, for having received from France a pamphlet in which the political rights of people of color were demanded. By active energy 240 and influence this sentence was reversed, and Bissette came to Paris, where he was regarded as a martyr, and soon became the intimate friend of General Lafayette and Constant. In the Revolution of 1830 Bissette took an active part, for which he received from Louis Philippe the Cross of July, and was made an officer in the National Guard of Paris. He then founded a journal called the Revue des Colonies, the principal object of which was to bring about the abolition of slavery, and he was still demanding this with extraordinary perseverance, skill, and vigor, when the Revolution of 1848 gave liberty to the slaves of the colonies of France. In the Constituent Assembly he sat as deputy from Martinique, and upon the fall of the Republic was created a chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the present Emperor.
At the head of the men of color, at the present day celebrated in France, is Alexander Dumas. He is himself a native of France, and the son of the celebrated general. Among literary men who are either negroes or mulattoes are, also, Eugene Chapus, a native of Guadaloupe, a pleasing and refined writer, at present the principal editor of the journal Le Sport Français; M. Felicien Mallefille, a romancer and dramatist, author of the Memoires de Don Juan, Les Sept Enfants de Lara, and a comedy entitled Le Cœur et la Dot, which since 1858 has held a position upon the 241 boards of the Comedie Française; M. Auguste Lacaussade, a distinguished poet, chevalier of the Legion of Honor, and principal editor of the Revue Europeenne; M. Victor Sejour, a native of New Orleans, a dramatic author of considerable celebrity, and an officer of the Legion of Honor; M. Melvil Bloncourt, a most agreeable, pleasing writer, whose articles appear in the Courrier du Dimanche, the Siècle, and the Journal des Economistes, in which he has recently published a remarkable article upon Hayti. The founder of the Journal des Ecoles, M. Bloncourt, while still a student, defended the cause of the enfranchised slaves against the colonial reaction. M. Bloncourt has recently written for the Biographie Universelle, the lives of celebrated men of color in all countries.
M. Alexander Dumas (the younger), author of the celebrated Dame aux Camelias, Diane de Lys, etc., bears evident marks of his origin and race. M. Caraby, of New Orleans, is one of the most brilliant advocates of the bar of Paris. M. White, of Cuba, the son of a negress, received the first prize as a violinist from the Conservatoire de Musique in 1856. M. de la Nux, also the possessor of a first prize from the Conservatoire, is a pianist of great skill and celebrity.
In the French army, at this time, are several men of color, among them M. Virgile, an elève of the Ecole Polytechnique, Colonel of Artillery, and chevalier of 242 the Legion of Honor; M. Lazare de Lance, Captain of Cuirassiers; M. Guillot Roux, Captain of Zouaves; M. Bouscaren, Lieutenant in the line; M. Beville, Lieutenant of Hussars, and M. Bores, Captain in the French Navy. The ecclesiastical profession also contains many men of color, some of them of celebrity; and among these M. Alfred Labory, director of the Frères de la Doctrine Chretienne of Ploermel, and M. Lauglume, Missionary to Senegal.
Reminder: The author spent the last nine years of his life—from 1858—in Paris, and was therefore away from the U.S. for the entire duration of the Civil War. But his father and sister were both noted abolitionists.
our Government had not then “recognized” that of Hayti
[Haiti became independent in 1804, but was not recognized by the U.S. until 1862, when the South was otherwise occupied. France, meanwhile, had accepted the fact in 1825.]
some of the principle celebrities of the present day
General Lafayette and Benjamin Constant
“e” in “Benjamin” invisible
Distinguished Lecturers.—Opportunities for the Gratification of all Tastes.—Programme of the Courses.
The Closerie de Lilas is not the only institution to which the youth of the Quartier Latin are attracted. It is in this quarter that the schools of law, medicine, science, and literature are situated, and during about six months in the year lectures are here given in the College of the Sorbonne, the College de France, the Ecole de Médecine, and the Ecole de Droit. About four thousand students, the majority of whom are French, but whose number embraces natives of almost every country on the globe, regularly follow the courses with the purpose of obtaining diplomas and graduating in the branch of study which they have adopted. These lectures are, however, free to all who choose to attend them, and the scientific and literary classes at the Sorbonne and the College de France are in particular much visited by strangers. In the lecture-rooms of the College de France seats are reserved for ladies.244
With the exception of those at the “Conservatoire,” the lectures are all given in the daytime, and commence as early as eight o’clock in the morning. The lecturers are men of first-rate ability, professors celebrated in their “specialities,” and among them are some whose names have obtained a world-wide reputation, such as St. Hilaire, Milne Edwards, Edouard Laboulaye, St. Marc Girardin, Becquerel, and Drs. Velpeau and Nelaton. With a programme of the courses in his hand, the lover of literature, science, law, or medicine can find at any hour of the day the opportunity of listening to a lecture upon almost any subject from the “Immaculate Conception” down to the art of bread-making. The lover of literature and history can gratify his tastes to the “top of his bent” at the College de France. The spectator in the field of dogmatic theology, or in the more practical ones of chemistry, natural philosophy, zoology, anatomy, physiology, or mathematics, will find all these treated upon in the dingy amphitheatres of the Sorbonne.
One of the most interesting courses of lectures has been that recently given at the “Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers,” in the Rue St. Martin. These lectures being intended for workmen, are given on Sundays, and in the evening, and are usually of a very practical description—generally devoted to the application of science to industrial pursuits. These are 245 crowded every evening with laborers, who, having finished their daily task, come here with their note-books, and carefully listen to and take down for future reference such portions of the lectures as they think may be of particular service to them in their trades. The expenses of all these lectures, a programme of which for last winter is given below, are paid by the Government, and they may be attended “without money and without price.”
Higher Algebra; Astronomy; Chemistry; Calculations of Probabilities and Physical Mathematics; Natural Philosophy, Experimental and Mechanical; Zoology, Anatomy, and Comparative Physiology; Higher Geometry; Mineralogy; Differential and Integral Calculus.
Moral Theology; Philosophy; French Eloquence; Ancient History; Foreign Literature; Greek Literature; the Sacred Writings; Latin Poetry; Modern History; History of Philosophy; the Hebrew Language; Sacred Eloquence; Ecclesiastical History; Geography; French Poetry; Ecclesiastical Law; Latin Eloquence; Ecclesiastical History; Dogmatic Theology.
The Code Napoléon; Criminal Law and Penal Legislation; Civil Practice; Roman Law; French Law (studied in its feudal and common origin); the Commercial Code; History of Roman and French Law; Political Economy; International Law.246
Medical Philosophy; General Pathology and Therapeutics; Anatomy; Medical Chemistry; Surgical Pathology; Operations; Histology; Diseases of Children; Mental and Nervous Diseases; Ophthalmology; Diseases of the Urinary Organs.
Physics; Pharmacy; Toxicology; Natural History of Vegetable Medicaments; General Chemistry.
Arab Language and Literature; Mathematics; Comparative Grammar; Sclavonic Language and Literature; Latin Poetry; French Language and Literature in the Middle Ages; Hebrew, Chaldaic, and Syriac Languages; Languages and Literature of Modern Europe; Chinese and Tartar; Mantchou Language and Literature; Epigraphy and Roman Antiquities; Greek and Latin Philosophy; Political Economy; General and Mathematical Natural Philosophy; History of Medicine; Organic Chemistry; Comparative ; the Turkish Language; International Law; Natural History of Inorganic Bodies; General and Experimental Natural Philosophy; Persian Language and Literature; Egyptian Philosophy and Archæology; Sanscrit Language and Literature; Ethics; Chemistry (general study of salts); Greek Language and Literature; Experimental Medicine; Latin Eloquence; Modern French Language and Literature; Celestial Mechanics.
Geology; Mineralogy; Palæontology.
Chemistry applied to Industry; Agricultural Chemistry; Natural Philosophy applied to the Arts; Geometry applied to the Arts; Chemistry applied to the Arts; Industrial Legislation; Spinning and Weaving; Descriptive Geometry; Dyeing 247 and Scouring of Cloths; Agriculture; Industrial Economy; Agricultural Works and Rural Engineering; Industrial and Statistical Administration.
Course of Algerian Arabic; Course of Hindostanee; Course of Sanscrit; Course of Thibetian; Course of Modern Greek; Course of Arabic; Course of Japanese; Course of Modern Chinese; Course of Common Arabic; Course of Persian; Course of Malay and Javanese; Course of Turkish.
Chemistry applied to Dyeing.
Zoology (articulated animals); Zoology (reptiles and Vegetable Physics; Comparative Anatomy; Palæontology.
text unchanged; expected Embryogeny
Zoology (reptiles and fishes);
The Catacombs of Paris.—A Visit to them.—Dismal Places.—Miles of Skulls and Bones.—The Abode of the Dead.—An agreeable Situation.—Accidents.
There are two cities in the latitude and longitude which mark the site of Paris on this terrestrial ball: the one on the surface above ground, with its broad boulevards and princely palaces, noble monuments and elegant mansions, and its gay, bustling life and beauty. The other is a subterranean, silent city of the dead, lying beneath the upper one, with its narrow, dank, and noisome avenues, cut through the solid rock, within which are mouldering to decay three millions of what were once the living, moving, trading, dancing, feasting, and merry-making denizens of the upper city. The population of the subterranean is nearly double that of the superficial Paris.
About one-tenth part of the total superficies of the French capital is undermined with the Catacombs. These excavations pass beneath the principal streets on the left bank of the Seine, in the Faubourgs St. 249 Germain, St. Jacques, and San Marcel, and are in extent about three millions of square yards. The Observatory, the Pantheon, the Luxembourg and its garden, stand above the damp and sunless streets of the city of the dead below. The origin of these immense excavations dates back to a remote period. More than a thousand years ago they were made for the purpose of obtaining stone to build the houses of Paris. In the year 1784, some sinkings of the earth having occurred, a company of engineers was authorized to direct such works as were necessary for the safety of the streets and houses above, and, at the same time, the Council of State having issued a decree for clearing the Cemetery of the Innocents, which stood in the very heart of Paris, on the ground now occupied by the principal market, it was ordered that the remains found in this, as well as the other city cemeteries, should be deposited in these vast subterranean quarries.
The works having been completed, the ceremony of the consecration of the took place on the 7th of April, 1786, and on the same day the removal from the cemeteries was commenced. The work was always performed at night; the bones were brought in funeral cars covered with a pall, followed by priests chanting the service for the dead, and upon reaching the Catacombs, were shot down a shaft into 250 them. When first deposited, they were piled up without any order or regularity, save that those from each cemetery were placed in separate heaps; but in the year 1810 a regular system of arrangement was commenced. Openings were made for the admission of air, channels formed to carry off the water, steps constructed from the lower to the upper excavations, pillars erected to support the dangerous parts of the vaults, and the skulls and bones built up among the walls. Formerly, visitors obtained admission with but little difficulty; but several accidents having occurred, they were for a long time excluded, and at present only a limited number are permitted to go down once a year—about the first of October—when the Inspector-general of the Quarries of the Seine, to whom applications must be made for tickets, makes his annual tour of inspection.
Besides being the place of deposit for the remains from the cemeteries, the Catacombs are the burial-ground of those killed in the different revolutions; and now, every five years, the common graves in the three great cemeteries of Père La Chaise, Montmartre, and Mont Parnasse are dug up, and the remains of the unknown, unnamed poor removed to the Catacombs, to make room for the crowding dead.
My application to M. de Hennezel was followed by an immediate reply, inclosing a ticket for four 251 persons. There are some sixty entrances to the Catacombs, but the principal one is in the garden of the city custom-house, at the old Barrière d’Enfer—certainly a very appropriate locality in which to construct the main descent to these lower regions. We were requested to assemble a little before four o’clock in the afternoon, and each one to be provided with a candle. I had taken the precaution not only to obey the letter of the advice, but also furnished myself with a box of wax matches and a quantity of biscuit; for such things have happened as people losing their light and way, and being left in these subterranean passages for a day or two, and taken out half famished. By four o’clock we were all assembled, about two hundred of us, among whom were at least twenty ladies. The entrance is through a doorway at one end of the garden, and lighting our candles, the inspector having opened the passage, we commenced our descent, two officers standing at the door-way and carefully counting us as we passed them. The descent is by a spiral stone staircase of ninety steps, and measuring seventy feet. Having wound around them until we were giddy, those of us who had the misfortune to enter first being covered with grease from the dripping candles of those above, we found ourselves at the foot of the stairway in a tunnel about three feet wide, and but little more than 252 six feet in height, and in which only two persons could walk abreast. We followed along the narrow path, and soon it took a turn. At the corner was the name of the street cut in the stone, and the whole of this immense subterranean city is so laid out in streets, each turning having not only the name cut in the rock, but two arrows painted upon it—one pointing the way to the place where the bones are deposited, and the other in the direction of the staircase.
We were walking through a narrow passage, hewn in the solid rock. Rock above, rock below, and rock on either side. The walls were damp, and from the roof above, which our heads often touched, drops of water were percolating, and immense yawning fissures permitted it to pass sometimes in streams. The rough, uneven ceiling of this vault was in many places filled with cracks; and huge masses of stone, looking as if they needed but a touch to bring them down upon our heads and bury us all in a common ruin, we saw above us frequently during our passage. I was glad, afterward, that I had not examined the map of the Catacombs before going down and marked the great number of places where the roof has fallen in, or I might have been a little alarmed at this shaky-looking canopy; and I must confess it made me shiver once or twice to see a foolhardy individual just before us continually picking off the little stalactites 253 which the oozing water, strongly impregnated with carbonate of lime, formed in icy pendants.
Occasionally, on either side of the vault, was a dark, dismal-looking hole, into which putting our candles, we could see that it went down, down, down, into Cimmerian blackness; and from the main passage-way, through which we were going, other passages branched off in every direction. We must not venture into them, however; we must follow the crowd, for a minute’s absence from the candle-bearing throng might involve us in a labyrinthine maze, from which we might never extricate ourselves—too dark and too complicated even for wax matches and biscuit to get us out of.
We turned a corner again: we were under the “Route d’Orleans,” a broad boulevard a hundred or two feet above us. A little farther, and the guide-board informed that we were beneath the Sceaux Railway Station, about three hundred yards from where we entered. Now we were below the Rue d’Enfer, and then under a church, or some other public building the name of which was cut in the wall. Sometimes the tunnel widens, and in some places solid mason-work had been placed to prop up the falling, cracking ceiling.
In this way we groped along for fifteen or twenty minutes until we came to the door of the Catacombs 254 proper, the inclosure containing the human remains being but about one three-hundredth part of the entire extent of the quarries. The door is a heavy wooden one, over which is the inscription, “Has ultra metas requiescunt beatam spem spectantes;” and as it creaked solemnly upon its massive hinges, we walked in—in among the dead of centuries! Good God! what a sight! We stepped from the doorway into a vestibule, wider considerably than the shafts through which we had come. On either side was a wall of human bones and skulls reaching nearly to the roof, here some ten feet in height. This wall is built of the femur and tibia (the thigh and shin bones), and three rows of skulls—the first, two feet from the ground, and the others about that distance apart, and this construction on either side of the vaults is maintained throughout the whole. Behind and piled up even with it to the top, the smaller bones, which this wall of skulls and thighs and shins sustains, were thrown indiscriminately. The skulls were placed fronting each other, and, with the holes where the eyes had been, and the upper jaws, partly filled with teeth, all lighted up with the glare of our candles, grinned horribly at us! Here, indeed, was a “chamber of horrors!” and all the attendant circumstances added to the intensity of the singular scene. We were a hundred feet beneath the surface of the earth. 255 A damp and charnel-like smell pervaded the air. The flickering candles threw a pale and ghost-like light upon the wall of human bones, and down in these vaults our voices sounded strangely. It certainly would not be a pleasant place for a nervous, imaginative man to be left alone in without a light.
But we were as yet only in the vestibule of these dark and silent chambers of the dead. Miles of walls of human bones were still to be passed through, ere we should see the fair face of Mother Earth and the clear light of day again. The crowd began to move, and I followed them. A little dark and dismal opening in the side attracted my curiosity. I turned into it for a moment, and, extending my candle, looked over the edge of a yawning abyss which went down into the earth, I know not how far, but the extent of which I came very near testing. The foul atmosphere arising from it, or perhaps a little puff of wind extinguished my candle, and I stood on the verge of a subterranean gulf, among the dead, and in darkness.
* * * * * * *
Here would be an excellent place now to finish a chapter, after the fashion of those writers of sensation stories who, when they have succeeded in suspending their heroes by the latter end of their nether garments to a nail in the top of a fence, very much 256 to the disgust of their readers, suddenly bring up with “to be continued.”
But I will not be so cruel, nor so regardless of my own comfort, as to long leave myself standing “by the light of a blown-out candle” down among the dead men. The situation for a few seconds was not a pleasant one. Psychologists assert that just before death, and particularly in cases of sudden death, the whole past is spread like a picture before the “mind’s eye” of the dying man. Something akin to this, an indescribable sensation, as if in that moment I lived over again years long since gone into that past “where the shadows lie,” I experienced for an instant, as I stood bewildered by the suddenness of the darkness and the strangeness of the situation. The past and present—friends living and dead—father, mother, sisters, and brother, and a pale-faced little girl I knew and loved in boyhood—all presented themselves in that instant before me, but all confusedly mingled together. It did not continue long, however, probably not a tenth part of the time it has required to describe it; for, bethinking me of my prudent supply of wax matches, I lighted one as quickly as possible, and taking two or three steps backward, relighted my candle, and, without stopping to make any more solitary explorations, turned into the main avenue, where I had left the rest of the party, and to my 257 great joy saw them, with their gleaming lights, halted only a few yards in advance. I joined them as quickly as possible, and determined not to leave them again during the rest of the excursion.
Throughout the whole of these subterranean tombs the bones gathered from the different cemeteries are placed together, with a slab in the wall indicating whence they came—they having been taken from fifteen or twenty different places. Besides these, every few feet are inscriptions such as these set into the wall of skulls and bones:
“La mort nous confonde tous sous un même niveau; la distance des ranges se perd dans le tombeau”—“Death sinks us all to the same level, and the differences of rank are lost in the tomb.”
How particularly true we can realize this to be here, where noble and beggar, priest and layman, old and young, are huddled together in a common pile. Here is a solemn appeal:
“Venez, gens du monde, dans ces demeures silencieuses, et votre tranquilité sera frappé de la voix qui s’élève de leur interieur”—“Come, people of the world, into these silent retreats, and your tranquillity will be disturbed by the voice which comes up from them.”
“Heureux celui qui a toujours devant ses yeux, l’heure de sa mort”—
In some places a number of skulls, arranged in the form of a cross, are set into the wall. Frequently we saw skulls through which bullets had passed, and others which had been trepanned, and particularly in the pile containing the bones of those who were killed in the various revolutions, we found many shattered ones. One which occupies a prominent position, being placed by itself on the top of the wall above all the rest, is celebrated for containing a complete and beautiful set of teeth. All are very brown, but apparently in a good state of preservation, and looking as though they might last yet for centuries, perhaps till the great day of resurrection, when they shall be revivified. And so we passed through about three miles of bones piled up on either side, stopping occasionally to read any inscriptions, and examine any that offered striking peculiarities. Several of my companions, who were medical students, although there were notices posted at frequent intervals requesting visitors to touch nothing, could not resist the temptation to gather some specimen, and each one came up provided with a femur or tibia, or at least a tooth. One young gentleman indeed, more enterprising than the rest, “prigged” an entire skull. In the course of our walk we came to a well of pure water, which has now been inclosed with a wall, in which several gold-fish have been placed, and which live 259 there, but do not spawn. The spring, which was discovered by some workmen, was originally named the “Source d’Oubli,” the “Spring of Forgetfulness;” but it is now known as the “Fontaine de la Samaritaine,” an inscription, the words of Christ to the Samaritan woman, having been placed upon it.
After passing the fountain, we traversed half a mile more of these galleries, till we at length came to a circular stairway, which we began to ascend, and by which we emerged again into the clear, bright daylight, as we all supposed, at the same place at which we had descended. In this, however, we were mistaken, for we found ourselves in a different portion of Paris, nearly a mile from where we had gone down, but glad enough to see sunshine, and breathe fresh air, and get into the living, upper world again, after our exploration of more than an hour’s duration among the dead.
Before the Catacombs were appropriated to their present use, they were the haunts of thieves and robbers, who there deposited their booty, and hid themselves, when pursued by justice; and it is said that even now there are secret entrances, unknown to the police or to the engineers, which are made use of by felons for concealment. Several persons have been lost in these labyrinths and never found; and only a year since, two workmen, who descended for the purpose 260 of making some repairs, had a narrow escape from an awful death. It seems they only took with them an open light, which was extinguished by a gust of wind, and, having no means of relighting their candle, they groped about in the darkness for nearly two days and nights—all night to them. When they had been down more than forty hours, they gave up all hope, and lay down exhausted and groaning.
Fortunately they had groped their way, without knowing it, near to one of the ventilators in a street near the garden of the Luxembourg, at least two miles from where they entered. Some person passing by hearing a succession of low, stifled moans, went to the police station close at hand, and gave the information, when a party of men was sent down, who rescued the poor workmen, then in an utter state of exhaustion and hopelessness, from a horrible death. I am inclined to believe there will yet be some terrible accident—a caving in of the streets and buildings above these passages; and with the general good care with which the French Government protects the lives of its subjects, it is a little surprising that visitors are permitted to expose themselves by descending into the Catacombs merely to gratify their curiosity.
the ceremony of the consecration of the Catacombs
text has Catecombs
a pale-faced little girl I knew and loved in boyhood
[An early biographer of the author’s sister, Elizabeth Buffum Chace, decided that this could only mean Harriet Crowninshield. Buffum got engaged to Harriet before he left for California; she died in 1847, while he was away. According to this biography:
The Harriet referred to in the above letter was undoubtedly Harriet Crowninshield, to whom Mrs. Chace’s young brother Edward was engaged. She died while he was in California. A pathetic, unaddressed letter remains in Mrs. Chace’s handwriting telling of a visit she made to Harriet when the end was very near. Mrs. Chace always spoke of her as a very lovely person. Had she lived, it is probable that Edward Gould Buffum’s brilliant life would not have drifted to a tragic close. In a volume which he left and which his brother William published after his death, he described a moment of mortal peril which came to him in his later years, and “then,” he wrote, “I thought of a pale-faced little girl whom I had loved when I was a boy.”
Besides, Edward was never in any mortal peril.]
Death sinks us all
[I can’t help wondering if it was Edward himself, or brother William, who decided that all the French on this page needed a translation, while the Latin a few pages back required none.]
with the general good care with which the French Government protects the lives of its subjects, it is a little surprising that visitors are permitted to expose themselves by descending into the Catacombs merely to gratify their curiosity
[The French Government may take good care of its subjects, but it also knows a money-maker when it sees one. The Catacombs now have their own website, with admission at €13 and up—closed Mondays—and waiting times up to 90 minutes for a 45-minute tour. (Pro tip: Try mid-week, after 3 in the afternoon, on a schoolday.) Then as now, tours are limited to 200 people at a time. But they’ve gotten stricter about visitors helping themselves to bones.]
Their Mode of Life, and what they find.—The “Hasard de la Fourchette.”—Dilapidated Lorettes.—Objects found in the Streets and public Carriages.—Honesty of the Chiffonniers.—An independent Rag-picker.—The Ravageurs.
In most of the cities of the world, rag-picking, and the gathering up of such articles of small value as are thrown in the streets, is dernier resort, and the occupation of beggars. In Paris it is an acknowledged “profession,” recognized, and, to a certain extent, encouraged by the municipal government. Its members, although not usually addicted to patchouli or eau de cologne, nor models of elegance either in dress or manners, still manage to keep tolerably clean, and pride themselves upon their independent mode of life, which is under the control of no master but their appetites. They are a singular race, these nocturnal Bohemians, forming a community of their own, and exhibiting a curious phase of life in this curious city.
In Paris, between dark and daylight, families are permitted to place the rubbish which has accumulated 262 in the day’s household labor in little piles in the street before the door, and these are gathered up in the morning by the rubbish carts after they have been raked by the chiffonniers. About ten o’clock at night these nocturnal philosophers start upon their rounds, the utensils of labor of each being a willow basket, holding from one to two bushels, which is carried strapped to the back, a stick about a yard in length with a sharp hook at the end of it, and a lantern suspended by a piece of wire sufficiently long to permit its holder to carry the light close to the ground. I have often watched with interest the artistic manner in which one of these chevaliers extracts the valuables from a pile of dirt. The lantern is held in the left hand, while, with the hook in the right, the rubbish is scattered. No rag, however diminutive or dirty, no piece of bone, no cork, no bit of glass, not even a scrap of paper, escapes the sharp eye of the rag-picker. All is fish which comes to his net; and every thing in the heap which possesses the slightest value is taken up with the hook and thrown over his back into the basket; then, carrying his lantern close to the ground in order that he may discover any stray valuables which may happen to be lying in the gutter, he starts off for another pile of dirt. After making their rounds at night, about one o’clock the chiffonniers usually enter some of the low wine-shops in the neighborhood 263 of the market-houses, where they drink the wretched stuff to which, in their energetic language, they have given the name of casse poitrine. Here they remain, catching a nap between drinks, until nearly daylight, when those who are not too drunk go their round again, reaching home about nine o’clock, after selling the product of their labor to the chiffonniers en gros.
These wholesale rag-merchants have vast magazines in the quarters inhabited by the rag-pickers, and employ a large force of men and women to assort, divide, and place in separate piles articles of the same nature, and these people labor twelve hours a day for about thirty sous, in an atmosphere poisoned by the exhalations of putrefying flesh, greasy rags, and cast-off clothing, compared to which the smell in a dissecting-room is like a puff of wind from the Spice Islands, or a breeze wafting on its wings the odors of Araby the blest. It is only the old and infirm, or those who for some other cause are disqualified for active duties, who adopt this profession of a trilleur, as a means of livelihood, as all greatly prefer the more free and independent life of the chiffonnier.
Three-fifths of the chiffonniers are between seventeen and thirty-five years of age; and down in the narrow, dirty cellars of the Quartier Mouffetard, and in the vicinity of the old Barrière des Deux Moulins, where the sunshine never comes, and where the very air is 264 fetid with the exhalations of the pickings of the gutter, these people sleep huddled together, without distinction of age or sex, in rooms where they pay three or four sous for lodging. A few elderly couples live together, and have a sort of house-keeping arrangement, but the majority eat in the wretched cook-shops, where for five sous they procure a meal, consisting of a plate of soup, and a stew of suspicious beef, or mutton, which perhaps never wore horns, and never gave up the ghost in “the regular way.” In one of these places where the rag-pickers feed, a curious sort of lottery, called the hasard de la fourchette, is carried on, which at the same time enables these people to gratify their appetite with tempting bits of food, and to woo the fickle goddess Fortune. The proprietor of this “institution” purchases daily, by the bucketful, from the cooks and waiters of restaurants, the pieces which are left upon the plates of customers, and all these, jumbled together, are placed in a large iron pot filled up with water, and boiled into a savory soup. Each fellow desirous of trying his luck pays two sous, and then, seizing a long fork which reaches to the bottom of the kettle, is permitted to make one “stab in the dark”—but only one; whatever he brings up from the abyss is his. It may be a delicate piece of chicken truffé, a slice of beef, a bit of paté de foie gras; it may be only a potato, and 265 possibly nothing at all; in any case, however, the diver is entitled to a dish of the soup, which, made from such a variety of meats and vegetables, ought certainly to be delicious.
Among the articles gathered by the chiffonniers are the following, with the prices at which they are sold: old paper, torn and dirty, four francs the hundred pounds; gros de Paris (sack and packing cloth), four francs the hundred; gros de campagne (cotton and colored rags), nine francs; gros bul (linen coarse and dirty), ten francs; bul (cleaner linen rags), thirteen francs; blanc sale (clean cotton rags), seventeen francs; blanc fin (clean linen rags), twenty-two francs; woollen rags, bones, old leather, broken glass, old iron, etc., are classified apart; corks are usually exchanged for drink; and the taste for smoking, in which both sexes indulge, is gratified from the ample store of cigar-stumps which the chiffonniers pick up in their . It is said, indeed, that gentlemen who still retain sufficient confidence to permit them to purchase ready-made cigarettes, not unfrequently inhale the mild fragrance of second-hand cigars, which, having been thrown away by their original proprietors, afterward form part of the contents of the chiffonnier’s basket.
There are in Paris about four hundred chiffonniers. Two hundred and seventy are males, and one hundred 266 and thirty females; among them may be found persons of all ages, from children of both sexes nine and ten years old, up to old men and women of seventy. The community of chiffonniers is divided into two classes—first, those who have been brought up and educated in the business, who having a distaste for ordinary labor and a liking for an independent, careless life, constitute its aristocracy, and feel a sort of pride in the fact that no member of their family for many generations has ever been obliged to “work for a living,” and, secondly, men and women, sometimes persons of education and refinement, who have seen better days, who, by their own imprudence or misfortunes, have descended in the social scale until they have reached the lowest round of the ladder. Indeed, it is said that there is now in Paris the son of a marquis whose vices and habits have finally led him to abandon name, family, and rank for this wretched life. Many of the women are dilapidated “lorettes;” and an officer once pointed out to me, picking rags and bones from a pile of rubbish with the hook of the chiffonnier, a woman, who, twenty years ago, was one of the leaders of the demi-monde, who no doubt was then “gay in silks and laces,” and had noble suitors wooing at her feet. It was difficult to detect a single trace of former beauty in those prematurely old and bloated features. But that disgusting 267 wretch was nevertheless Adele P——, who once made half Paris mad with her seductive beauty. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Before a chiffonnier is permitted to enter upon the active duties of the “profession,” he is required to obtain a license, for which he pays a small sum, and the fact of having which he renders patent by wearing a brass medal upon his breast. No person who has received a judicial condemnation can obtain a chiffonnier’s license, and it is said that crimes, of a character which would subject its members to the penalty of the law, are almost unknown in this lowest order of industry. They are rarely brought before the judicial tribunals, and, indeed, as a class, have a very decided reputation for probity. In such an immense city as Paris, it may well be imagined that a great number of articles, of almost every description, are lost daily. According to the French law, the finder of any such, if he keep them, renders himself liable to punishment for larceny. A person finding any article of appreciable value is required to deposit it immediately with the Commissary of Police of his quarter, who gives him a receipt for it, and at the same time makes a register of his name and address. It is then taken to the Prefecture, where it is deposited with other articles of its kind, and where it awaits recognition and ownership for the term of a year and 268 a day; at the expiration of which period, the owner not having appeared, it is surrendered to the finder upon presentation of the receipt. Every week a list of the articles found and deposited is published in the Moniteur. The following is a list of one week’s treasure trove deposited at the Prefecture of Police:
A silver soup-spoon, bearing two initials, one of which is L; found at Clichy.
Two bank-bills; found the 13th: one opera-glass, found on the 19th in a theatre.
A gold watch; found at Bercy on the 22d.
A sum of 25 francs; found on the 25th in the vicinity of the Chateau d’Eau.
A porte-monnaie, containing 27 francs and 30 centimes; found on the 26th in the Quartier du Val de Grace.
A thread purse, containing 18 francs and 25 centimes, and a carriage number; found the 27th.
An old porte-monnaie, containing 20 francs 10 centimes, and a key; found the 25th.
A bunch of ten keys in a ring; found the 25th near the Porte St. Martin.
A barrel of brandy and a cask of wine.
A gold watch; found the 25th in the Quartier Place Vendome; a bunch of seven keys, of which one is a watch-key.
A piece of 20 francs; found in a wine-merchant’s.
A gold watch chain; found near the Bourse.
A sleeve-button; found in the Quartier St. Georges.
Two gold breastpins; one enamelled, with pearls.
A set of false teeth!
A packet of dirty linen, marked with two initials, one of which is G.
A milliner-box, containing several bonnets and other objects.
Forty francs, given by mistake at the door of a theatre.
The chiffonniers, whose business takes them out 269 early and late, and whose lanterns are always carried near the ground, on which their gaze is bent, are of course more liable than any other class of men to pick up these lost objects, many of which are found in the heaps of rubbish thrown out in front of houses, and every day these roving philosophers may be seen coming to the offices of the Commissioners of Police, bringing silver spoons, watches, pocket-books, and other articles of value.
A feeling of independence, and a decided objection to being considered mendicants, is joined with this probity. I proved this one evening soon after my arrival in Paris, when, strolling with a friend just after dark in the Rue St. Jacques, then swarming like a beehive with ouvriers and working-girls returning from their labor, I met a ragged Diogenes scattering with his hook a pile of rubbish. We paused to admire the artistic manner in which he picked up every thing possessing the slightest value, and I asked him some questions. He informed me that he had a family, all of whom were engaged in the same occupation, and finished by inviting me to come and see him at his residence in the Cité Doré, near the Barrière des Deux Moulins. This man was evidently one of those who “had seen better days;” and feeling a natural pity for the misfortunes which had brought him to this pass, and willing to reward him for the information 270 he had given me, I offered him a ten-sou piece. I shall never forget the look of pride which shone through his dirty face and unkempt beard, as he drew himself up to his full height, and saying “I am not a beggar, sir!” marched off at a rapid pace.
Besides the articles found upon the streets, many are left in the public carriages, and are returned by the drivers every week. Upon entering a cab in Paris, one receives from the driver a little card, containing his rates of fare and the number of the vehicle. This, being kept, is a great check upon the driver in case he were inclined to be dishonest. The following is the list, appended to the one above, of objects found in the public carriages:
Nineteen francs, change for a piece of 20 francs; received for one franc the 26th.
An Italian medal.
Nine francs fifty centimes; received for 50 centimes.
A porte-monnaie containing nearly 500 francs.
A lady’s brooch.
A black opera-glass.
A lorgnette, with a long chain.
A basket containing 200 eggs.
A lady’s petticoat!
A valise, locked with a key.
A piece of 20 francs; received for 1 franc.
There is still a lower order of chiffonniers, who, however, are not acknowledged as legitimate members 271 of the profession. These are miserable wretches, who never succeed in scraping together a sufficient amount of capital to purchase a hook and basket, but who carry on their backs an old dirty sack, and who pick up whatever the genuine chiffonniers leave—scraps of bread, decaying vegetables, and pieces of meat, from which they make a miserable meal.
Still another independent artist is the ravageur. Formerly, when the streets of Paris had but one gutter running through the middle of them, these men did quite a thriving business in gathering up nails, and old pieces of iron and copper. Now their labors are confined to the river-banks when the water is low. The sewers all pour their dirty streams into the Seine, and bear along with them considerable quantities of old iron and lead, and occasional knives and forks and spoons, which settle on the bottom or are caught upon the banks. When the river falls, the ravageur spends his days in digging and gathering pans full of earth, which he washes for the débris which settles at the bottom. How he lives during high water it is difficult to say, unless it be that he spends the time in praying that the river may fall, and the banks be left dry.
Today I Learned . . . that the basic meaning of the French word chiffon is a rag or scrap.
gros bul (linen rags, coarse and dirty), ten francs
text has linen rags), with superfluous close-parenthesis
which the chiffonniers pick up in their peregrinations
text has “per-/grinations” at line break
A basket containing 200 eggs.
[Something tells me the cabbie will not be holding on to his Found Property receipt in hopes of reclaiming this particular item at the expiration of a year and a day.]
The Imperial Chapel.—The Emperor and Empress at their Devotions.—The Emperor.—The Empress.
Having frequently seen their Majesties at the opera and at the theatre, and riding in the Bois de Boulogne, and once or twice dancing at the Grand Balls at the Tuileries, I had a curiosity to observe them at their devotions. Without much difficulty I procured a ticket for the Imperial Chapel for myself and three friends. The ticket, like every thing of that kind in Paris, was of a size which rendered its being pushed through the aperture of any ordinary pocket an impossibility. It was in the following terms:
“Chapel du Palais des Tuileries,
“Entrée pour le Dimanche de paques—Messe à midi. Monsieur ——. En frac.”
“(Signed) Le Grand Chambellan, Duc de Bassano.”
Some printed instructions accompanied the ticket, stating that “gentlemen would appear in dress-coats, and black pantaloons or knee-breeches.” Having long since arrived at the conclusion that I was not 273 calculated to make an impression “in tights,” I dressed in the ordinary full evening costume, and a little before eleven o’clock drove into the Place Caroussel, to the door of the ante-room of the chapel, which is the next toward the Rue de Rivoli, beyond the principal entrance to the Palace, beneath the Tour de l’Horloge. In the ante-room there were already a number of persons waiting, and I was amused to observe the utter disregard which had been paid to the instructions relative to costume. Of the whole number, there were not more than a dozen gentlemen in “full dress;” some had black cravats, many dark gloves, not a few turn-over collars and scarfs, and one sturdy-looking individual, with a red face and burly person, was gorgeously, if not very appropriately, attired in a frock-coat, brown pantaloons, and sky-blue gloves.
At eleven o’clock, an under-chamberlain, in a green dress-coat, and black velvet knee-breeches and sword, after collecting our tickets, opened the door and ushered us into the chapel. This is small, and plainly constructed, capable of seating about two hundred persons. In the body of the chapel I noticed some twenty or thirty seats, covered with crimson velvet, and in front of these half a dozen velvet cushioned chairs, with before each. A gallery supported by massive pillars occupied three sides, 274 while that part directly facing the altar was trimmed with crimson velvet studded with golden bees, the emblem of the Napoleonic dynasty. This was the state pew, where only the Emperor and Empress sat, and knelt at the performance of their weekly devotions. Over the altar, which was very simple, was a fine life-size painting of the Assumption, on the right an “Annunciation,” and around the walls were several excellent religious pictures. As we entered, a servant of the palace, in livery, was engaged in lighting the candles before the altar. Afterward he lit the candles in a dozen glass candelabras, suspended from the gallery; and as it was a rainy and sombre day, this light produced a very pleasing effect.
Fortunately, the seats in the body of the chapel were filled before we entered, so that we were obliged to take seats under one of the side galleries. These proved to be the best, as from them we could see their Majesties during the entire service, without turning round. At a little before twelve o’clock, an opening of doors and a rustling of silks were heard, and in a moment the ladies of the Court and the officers of the Imperial household entered and took their seats in one of the side galleries, first kneeling and making the sign of the cross. A few minutes more, and there was another banging of doors, and from the state pew above we heard announced, in a loud voice, 275 “L’Empereur.” At the same moment the organ struck up, and the choir commenced the Kyrie Eleison. Every body rose, and all eyes were bent upon the Imperial pew. Their Majesties entered, and coming forward, knelt, crossed themselves, and opened their prayer-books. The Empress looked handsome, but very pale and sad. After she was seated, the high front of the pew almost hid her, and only her face, arms, hands, and bonnet could be seen. She was dressed in white, and wore a white bonnet fringed with swan-down, tied with a big bow of white ribbon, and she wore lead-colored gloves. Just as she entered, she caught the eye of one of the ladies in the gallery on her left, to whom she smilingly nodded; then turned to the Emperor and said something, at which he smiled, and then they both fell to their prayer-books.
The Emperor was dressed in his military uniform of general-of-division, and wore white gloves. He looked exceedingly well, and his long, pointed mustache had evidently been handled that morning with more than ordinary care. He yet bore that grim, half-shy, unreadable expression of countenance for which he is noted.
During the entire service, through most of which he knelt, he did not appear to be in a mood particularly devotional, and most of the time was engaged 276 in turning over the leaves of his prayer-book, either trying to find “the place” or looking at the pictures. Often, as a sweet strain rose from a clear soprano voice singing the solos of the mass, he would look up, and bend his ear toward the singer as if listening with pleasure, and then his eyes were bent upon the Cardinal-archbishop and his two assistants. What could he have been thinking about, this grim Emperor, with the sphinx-like countenance? Might he not have been amused at the idea, that in spite of the implied and real abuse which he was continually receiving from the dignitaries of the Church for having permitted their mother to be despoiled of some of her fairest domain, he had before him a cardinal and two bishops saying mass, and ready to utter the prayers of the Church in his behalf and to call down Heaven’s blessings on his head? Was he indulging in a feeling of pride at the thought that the Head of the Church, to whose beautiful ritual he was listening, would, but for him and his soldiers, be an exile and a wanderer, instead of being seated comfortably in the chair of St. Peter? Might he be thinking how best to cut the Gordian knot, and solve the Roman difficulty? Were his thoughts leading him back to the prison of Ham, and the land in which he had roamed an exile, or only to the days of the coup d’état? Was he thinking of the battle-fields of Solferino, 277 and the interview to which it led when he, the parvenu, dictated terms of peace to the haughty scion of the haughty Hapsburgs? Might he not be straying in the pleasant fields of earlier memories, and calling up again the happy hours of childhood, when, led by his mother’s hand, he went to church, and listened to this same beautiful ritual more attentively than now? Whatever the grim and sphinx-faced man thought, he did not appear to pay particular attention to his prayers.
The Empress, however, read her prayers attentively and devotedly, her lips moving as she did so, and once she uttered the “Amen” audibly. Sometimes, as the solemn music rose and swelled, she would look up, her sweet, sad face lighted with an expression almost angelic; and sometimes she seemed for a moment to forget herself, and would bend over and say something to the Emperor, who responded with one of his grim smiles, and then she would commence again devouring her prayer-book. The mass was executed, the high parts being sung by a female voice, which is an unusual occurrence in the churches of Paris, where boys are employed for the treble and alto. As for the congregation, it was engaged most of the time in watching the countenances of the Emperor and Empress, and probably not a very large amount of religious edification or comfort was the result of 278 the ceremony to any of us. At the termination of the mass, the Cardinal-archbishop read the prayer for the Emperor, then, turning to the congregation, gave the Pax Vobiscum, then bowed to the altar, then turning again, bowed to the Emperor, who, with the Empress, rose and went out, and the religious services of the day, which had occupied a little more than half an hour, were over. An hour afterward their Majesties and the Prince Imperial were driving through the Champs Elysées, on their way to the Bois de Boulogne.
with a prie Dieu before each
word “a” printed in italics
[The term prie dieu will show up again in Chapter XXI, this time with the parenthetic explanation “a small chair to kneel upon”. William Buffum may have changed his mind at the last minute about what order to put the chapters in.]
The mass was magnificently executed
text has magnifi-/ently at line break
A real “City of the Dead.”—The Jewish Inclosure.—Tomb of Rachel.—Defacing Monuments.—Abelard and Héloise.—The Grave of Marshal Ney.—The Artist’s Corner.—Vandael, the Flower-painter.—Singular Inscriptions.—The common Graves.—How the Dead are buried, and what it costs.—The Aristocracy and Democracy of Death.—“Poor little Hunchback.”—Respect for the Dead—The “Jour des Morts.”—Mortuary Statistics of Paris.
The Cemetery of Père la Chaise is the principal of the three great burial-grounds in which those who die in Paris repose—the city of the dead, located on the brow of a hill in fearful proximity to Paris, and overlooking it. “City of the Dead!” No other cemetery ever seemed so well to deserve this title, for its grounds are laid out in paved and curbed streets and grass-plots and gravelled walks, and above most of the family vaults rise little chapels fifteen or twenty feet in height, piled in thickly as the buildings in a crowded city’s street. From the tomb-crowned heights of the cemetery, one of the best views which can be obtained from the surrounding country is afforded of Paris, which, with its towering monuments, arches, and domes, its streets filled with busy life, 280 whence rises a low musical hum—the Seine, looking like a silver thread, running gracefully through it—lies stretched in the valley below. What a point from which to moralize—the city of the living, seen from the city of the dead! A few years since, and those whose bones are now mouldering here were bustling through those busy streets yonder; and a few years hence, how many thousands of those who make up the population of that gay and noisy Paris will be lying here in these silent halls.
On the right of the main entrance to the cemetery is an inclosure set apart for the interment of Jews. At the other extremity is another for Mussulmans, and between them lie those who have had “Christian burial.” Until within a few years past, still another piece of unconsecrated ground existed in which Protestants were interred, and it is only in the cemeteries of Paris even now that French Protestants are permitted to rest in soil hallowed by the rites of the Church. In the Jewish inclosure are the tombs of the Rothschilds and other celebrated families, but the one which attracts most attention is that of Rachel. A little stone chapel, with a grated door, rises above the grave, and over the entrance cut in the stone is the name “Rachel”—the only inscription upon the tomb of the great artist. In front of the chapel is a little flower-garden, and inside, and hanging about it, 281 are several wreaths of immortelles, those pious offerings with which friends deck the graves of their loved ones, and which are annually renewed on the jour des morts. Inside the chapel is a basket filled with visiting-cards, deposited by those who have come to the tomb.
In this cemetery lie Abelard and Héloise. The unfortunate lovers are reunited now in a tomb tastefully built from the ruins of the Paraclete, which Abelard founded, and of which Héloise was the first abbess. And here, at the grave of these models of earthly constancy and heavenly faith, of undying affection and holy self-sacrifice, despairing lovers and romantic maidens come and gaze and weep; and on the jour des morts, whole cart-loads of immortelles are thrown over the ugly red railing, which prevents the too earnest admirers of the stricken pair from chipping off pieces of the tomb as mementoes.
Close by the magnificent marble monument—the finest in the cemetery—erected over the remains of “Elizabeth, Countess de Demidoff née Baroness de Strogonoff,” is a little inclosure, surrounded by a low iron railing, inside of which is a small garden. Ivy creeps over and twines in among the iron rods and green grass, and freshly-sprung flowers cover the ground; but there is no inscription, not even a knoll, to show there is a grave there; no sign by which a 282 stranger straying among these tombs would ever be led to imagine that within the little green space lay the man who received from Napoleon himself the title of “the bravest of the brave.” Yes: this is the grave of Marshal Ney! A full-length statue of him has been erected by the Government upon the spot where he was executed, and it is intended, I believe, ere long to place a monument above his grave.
Near here is the grave of Beranger—the poet of the people—whose songs will live in their memories, and be transmitted to their posterity, as long as the language in which they were written lasts. The monuments of Massena, Marshal Davoust, and General Foy are also in this vicinity, and just back of them the sarcophagi of Molière and La Fontaine, who lie next each other, as do Balzac and Souvestre, on the other side of the cemetery.
Near the chapel, on the brow of a hill overlooking the whole ground, is a choice collection of tombs of some of the world’s greatest artists—painters, authors, musicians, and actors. Among them are those of Bellini, Cherubini, and Boileau, Talma and Bernardin St. Pierre, the author of that sweetest, purest specimen of French literature, “Paul and Virginia.” In searching about one day for these, I stumbled accidentally upon the forlorn, neglected-looking grave of Jean 283 François Vandael, an artist celebrated for his flower-painting, and who died in 1840. Upon the simple, humble headstone o’ergrown with moss, so that it was almost illegible, was this appeal to the passer-by:
“Si tu viens au printemps dans un lieu de douleurs,
Ami des arts, tu dois le tribut d’une rose
A ce tombeau modeste où pour jamais repose
La cendre de Vandael notre peintre des fleurs.”
“Lover of art, coming in the spring-time to this sad spot, thou owest the tribute of a rose to this modest tomb, where repose the ashes of Vandael, our flower-painter.”
Notwithstanding this touching demand, Vandael’s grave seems completely forsaken. It is covered with rankling weeds, and its decoration, the only sign of remembrance about it, is a worn and weather-beaten immortelle, which looks as if it had stood the storms of at least a dozen winters. I had no rose to leave as a tribute, so I plucked a sadly-drooping wild flower, bending its head among the weeds growing on the painter’s grave, and placed it as a memento among my souvenirs.
The youth who, after reading the epitaphs of all the good and pious dead, implored his mother to tell him where the “wicked folks” were buried, would be as much at a loss in the cemetery of Père la Chaise, as he was in the grave-yard of the country church. 284 If the inscriptions upon these tombstones may be believed, nearly all who lie beneath their shadow were either the “best of husbands” or “wives,” or the “most dutiful of children,” the “kindest of parents,” “truest of friends,” or of the “most excellent and benevolent dispositions.” “Science” and “Religion weep,” we are assured, unceasingly, over the memories of many of the dwellers in this city, and the grass upon the graves of others, we are told, is to be kept green by the tears of the survivors. Some of these tear-watered graves look sadly dry and neglected, moistened only by the Hand which causes the weeping clouds to descend “on the just and upon the unjust.”
Upon most of the tombstones is inscribed, “Pray for me;” and in accordance with the Catholic belief in the utility of prayers in behalf of those who have passed, as Protestants think, beyond the state of probation, friends, whenever they visit the tombs, kneel before them and send up to Heaven requests that the souls which once inhabited their inmates may rest in peace. There are some singular inscriptions to be found in the cemetery. One which always struck me as particularly ridiculous, and always brought up a smile, even among the graves, is that upon the tomb of an aeronaut: “Oh, Charles! the aerostatique science, which thou hast created, transported thy body above 285 the clouds, and the wisdom of Socrates raised thy soul above passion. Thou triedst thy flight toward heaven before quitting us forever.” Upon the simple headstone of the grave of Comte, the author of the “System of Positive Philosophy,” is inscribed only “Auguste Comte et ses trois anges”—his three children being buried with him. Upon one bare and barren spot, which looks as though it might well be the last resting-place of one who left not a single friend to plant a flower or hang a wreath, is a headstone, on which is simply cut “Six feet of earth—forever.” In one of the most public avenues is a tall shaft, surmounted by a torch, “Erected to the memory of Frederick Albert Windsor, the originator of public gas-lighting;” and upon the tomb of a merchant near by it is stated that “he was an active man, and this is the first time he ever rested.” It is in Père la Chaise, also, that is to be found the original tribute to her dead husband of the “inconsolable widow who carries on the business at the old stand.”
What extremes meet upon this common ground! Here are marshals and admirals and generals and dukes and counts and statesmen and orators, lying beneath the shadows of lofty monuments, and here, next to them—almost jolting them—are the graves of the humble dead—the fosse commune—where the laboring poor, beggars who die in the streets, and unclaimed 286 unfortunates, who draw their last breath in the hospitals, are interred at the expense of the Government; for as it interferes in all the affairs of life, so the Government controls the rites which follow death itself.
The privilege of interring the dead of Paris is granted to an organized company, called the Entreprise des Pompes Funebres, which pays annually a large sum for the exclusive right. None but a representative of this company may bury a body, and, with the exception of those of the Emperor and the Imperial family, every body residing in Paris belongs of right, after the vital spark has fled, to this melancholy monopoly. An agency is established in the mayor’s office of each district, at which applications are made for the performance of the funeral rites. In answer to this, a blank is furnished, containing the items of expenses of the funeral of the class desired, for, in order to bring the privileges of death and burial within the means of all, the ceremonies are divided into nine different classes. The first of these complete, including all the religious ceremonies, which themselves form an item of a thousand francs, costs 10,869 francs. For this class is provided a magnificent hearse mounted with silver, and nodding plumes of black, the hearse being drawn by six black horses, richly caparisoned in solemn livery of woe, and driven by men dressed in the 287 same sombre trappings. Thirty or forty carriages, all of which are covered with black cloth, are furnished; the church at which the religious ceremonies are performed is gorgeously hung with black, and in its portal is suspended a black cloth, upon which, in silver thread, is wrought the initial letter of the deceased’s name. The funeral service consists of a high mass; the curé of the parish is himself present, with eighteen priests and two vicars (the curé’s presence is charged in the bill at sixteen, each of the vicars at four, and each of the priests at three francs), and every thing is conducted in the most solemnly splendid manner. Descending in the scale, we find less gaudy hearses, and fewer horses and carriages, and a smaller number of priests, and a low mass, until we reach the ninth class, or lowest-priced funeral, which costs but six francs and seventy-five centimes, and is conducted by four seedy-looking individuals, who bear to its last resting-place the body of the dead upon their shoulders.
Throughout the different classes of funerals, the religious ceremonies may be set down as from a tenth to a twentieth of the entire cost. A considerable portion of these, however, may be dispensed with; and, with only the ordinary and necessary ones, the cost of the nine different classes of Parisian funerals is given on the following page:288
|1st class||7000 to||7200||francs.|
The burials in the first four of these classes amount to only about a thousand a year, and produce to the company a revenue of 1,500,000 francs per annum. Those in the other classes, amounting to fourteen thousand, produce only about a million.
For the fifth or medium class funeral, the following are the items for religious expenses; for this horrid bill of fare is always made up in true Parisian style, of an immense number of items, all set down with the greatest degree of particularity:
|Droit curiæ (the fee of the curé of the parish)||Fr. 3.00|
|Presence of one vicar||1.50|
|“ “ three priests a 1.25||3.75|
|Receiver of convoy||1.00|
|Un enfant de chœur (a small chorister)||50|
|One cross-bearer (a boy belonging to the sacristy)||1.00|
|A priest to accompany the body to the grave||8.00|
|Candles upon the altar||2.00|
|Candles around the altar||2.00|
There is no limit to the expense of funerals in Paris, as an additional number of carriages to any extent will be furnished by the company, and, on the other hand, the sum charged for each class complete may be materially reduced by diminishing the number of carriages, pall-bearers, priests, candles at the altar, etc. But it may be safely said that the expense of a decent funeral in Paris can not be less than five hundred francs. But the distinction of class which is carried through the funeral ceremonies does not cease at the grave. Death here is no leveller, but an aristocrat, who parcels out his victims according to the wealth they had, and divides men by impassable barriers even after they have been consigned to the bosom of their common mother.
In the great cemeteries of Paris are three classes of graves. The first consists of those sold in fee, and held by families forever. These “concessions à perpetuité” cost five hundred francs. The second class consists of those conceded for a term of five years, at a cost of fifty francs; and the third is the fosse commune, into which the untitled poor are thrown like dogs in a ditch. Sixty-four per cent., or more than two-thirds of those who die in Paris, are thus buried in rough pine coffins scarcely half an inch in thickness, and necessarily piled in so closely that they almost touch each other. There, the old man and the 290 infant, the courtesan and the virgin, are mingled; and when the frail, thin boards which inclose the dead separate, as they soon do, under the combined action of the humidity and the mephitic gases generated by the decaying bodies, the sad remnants of mortality are confusedly mingled together. In that common grave, an eternal adieu must be bid by surviving friends to those whom they loved in life. Every five years the bones are dug up, to make way for others, and are removed to the Catacombs, those vast subterranean tombs where the dead of centuries are thrown into a common heap. If there should be a wall between the graves of the Christians and Jews and Mohammedans, why not one also to separate the tombs of the rich and great and noble and honored, from the huge pit into which the poor are thrown? But perhaps it is better as it is—better that by these combining contrasts one should be continually reminded that, notwithstanding the efforts of the Government, the domain of Death is a great democracy.
“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour:
The path of glory leads but to the grave.”
Some of the purest men in France have been interred in the fosse commune, among them the celebrated Abbé de la Mennais, who, for his eloquent outspoken 291 words in defense of the rights of the people, drew upon himself the disfavor of the Government and the Church, and who, dying, manifested his continued sympathy with the poor by being, at his own request, buried with them in their common grave. It was this yawning gulf, too, that swallowed up the mortal remains of a poor little neighbor of mine over in the Quartier Latin.
Pauvre petite bossue! This was the exclamation of my garçon as he came into my chamber one morning, and then he pointed, in explanation, up to the attic window opposite, at which, until within the previous week, I had seen every morning, upon rising, a little hunchbacked girl stitching away as if for dear life, as it seems indeed it was. She had a mild blue eye, and a clear pale complexion, and a patient, but care-worn face, for one so young; and seeing her always stitching—stitching—stitching from the earliest morning hour till daylight had passed, patiently pulling through the seemingly never-ending thread, she had been for months a living example and reproach to me when I was disposed sometimes, as we all are sometimes, to grumble at my lot. But, like that of even the most miserable in the world, the life of the little hunchback was not wholly destitute of joy. She plied her needle twelve hours a day, and received but little for it; but she had a canary-bird, which she would hang out at 292 the window when the midday sun threw a few rays into the high and dismal court-yard which formed the “prospect” from both our windows; and sometimes she would stop her stitching for a moment, and talk with her blithe little companion, who would whistle her his joyful recognition, and thanks for her attention. Besides the bird, she had a pot of mignonnette, which she used to water carefully. These and her never-ending sewing-work seemed to be her only companions; and despite her feeble frame, and her pale face, and her deformity, which effectually debarred her from many of the pleasures of her sex and class in Paris, the little bossue seemed always happy with her canary and her mignonnette. They were “going to bury her,” the garçon said, “and the neighbors were gathering to attend her funeral;” and so I, who had not known her, except insomuch as her sweet-faced, sorrowful patience, and her earnest labor, and her care for her bird and mignonnette had made me love her, went down and joined the poor which was gathering at the doorway, and, following it out to the Cemetery of Mont Parnasse, saw the pauvre petite bossue laid in her humble grave.
Respect for the dead, or at least an outward exhibition of it, is carried to a greater extent in France than in any other Christian country. Whenever a funeral procession, whether it be of the first or the ninth class, 293 is going through the streets of Paris, every man and boy who passes or meets it reverently removes his hat as the hearse goes by him, and every woman utters a pious ejaculation as she crosses herself. The same mark of respect is paid to the bodies while they are lying in the chapelle ardente, which is usually extemporized in the door-way of the houses in which the deceased have lived. In this wide passage-way, the coffin, shrouded in black if containing the remains of a male, or married female, and in white if those of a young girl, and surrounded by tall burning candles, is placed and permitted to remain for several hours on the day of the funeral. As the passers-by observe the insignia of death, they remove their hats, and in traversing the space rendered sacred by the presence of the angel who wears the wreath of amaranth, remain uncovered. Many enter the door-way, and from a small urn containing holy water, resting on the foot of the coffin, sprinkle it with a brush, making in doing so, the sign of the cross.
One of the most noticeable peculiarities which always strikes the eye of a stranger visiting the Parisian cemeteries, are the wreaths of immortelles hung upon most of the graves. These are made of the little flower which we call the “everlasting,” and which grows in great profusion in the vicinity of Marseilles and of Toulon, and both sides of the streets leading to 294 the cemeteries are lined with shops devoted to the sale of these memorials. An idea of the importance of this traffic may be formed from the fact, that about seven millions of francs’ worth of immortelles are annually sold in Paris, and that on the Jour des Morts alone from six hundred thousand to a million of francs’ worth are usually disposed of. The Jour des Morts, is a day set apart in the service of the Catholic Church for the especial remembrance of the dead, and on this day, the friends and relatives of those who are lying in the cemeteries go to their graves, and renew these wreaths of immortelles, and statuettes of the Virgin and Saviour, with which in Catholic countries the survivors love to deck the tombs of the departed, robbing them of that cold, barren, and desolate air which they are suffered to wear among those of a sterner religion. The friend, the father, the mother, brother, sister, or child of the deceased kneels before the tomb of the loved one lost, on that day, and offers a prayer for the rest of the soul of the departed, and deposits the annual offering. Those whose friends have been buried in the common grave, lay their tributes at the foot of a tall stone cross erected near the fosse commune, and around which, on the Jour des Morts, these pious offerings are piled up to the height of several feet. Formerly, before the cold, realistic reasoning of the present age had destroyed so much of the beautiful 295 legendary faith of the past, it was believed that the portion of the night, from midnight to daylight, preceding the Jour des Morts, was a time when the dead were permitted to leave their graves, and revisit the scenes of their earthly life, and the friends and relatives whom they had loved. Parents, who had lost their children, lovers, whose betrothed had been crowned with the bridal wreath of earth, all who had friends lying in the tomb, on this night sat by their firesides, leaving open a door or window at which the loved ones might enter. In some portions of France this faith is still retained.
Besides Père la Chaise, there are two other great cemeteries in Paris, those of Montmartre and Mont Parnasse. Of these, that of Montmartre is the more recherché, and contains the remains of more illustrious men and women of France who have recently died than either, or perhaps both the others. Poets and painters, romance-writers and journalists, musicians and actresses whose names are familiar to every lover of art and literature, lie buried in close companionship on the borders of the wide and shady avenues of Montmartre. Among these are Mme. Emile de Girardin, the eccentric Henri Heine, Henri Murger, who has so charmingly depicted the student and Bohemian life in his “Pays Latin” and “Scènes de la Vie de Bohème,” Tony Johannot, the caricaturist, Charles Fourier, Halevy, 296 and Horace Vernet. The original of the “Dame aux Camelias,” the loving and the sinning Marie Duplessy, lies also in Montmartre, and her tomb, poor girl, is annually covered with wreaths of immortelles.
The annual number of deaths in Paris is about 41,000. Twenty-six thousand two hundred and forty, or sixty-four per cent. of these, are buried by the city at an expense of 157,440 francs. Of this number, the deaths in the hospitals furnish from 2500 to 3000.
that sweetest, purest specimen of French literature, “Paul and Virginia.”
[Was Paul et Virginie more highly regarded in the U.S. than in its country of origin? The book also gets a mention in one of Louisa May Alcott’s books for girls, possibly because the author needed to name a French novel and it was the only one she could think of that didn’t contain anything naughty.]
three priests a 1.25 . . . 3.75
[Fun fact: The earliest attested use of the @ symbol was in 1536, and it has been a part of most typewriter keyboards since the 1880s. But it took another century for it to become widespread outside of business offices.]
“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power”
[Gray’s Elegy. Buffum could confidently assume that his readers—unlike me—would not need to look this up.]
joined the poor cortége
the eccentric Henri Heine
[Otherwise known as the German Heinrich Heine, who spent the last quarter-century of his life in Paris.]
Henri Murger, who has so charmingly depicted the student and Bohemian life in his “Pays Latin” and “Scènes de la Vie de Bohème”
[The opera La Bohème, a prettified version of Scènes, was several decades away.]
The Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish Establishments.—The Parisian Catholic Churches.—The “Eglise des Petits Pères.”—The Statue of St. Peter.—The “Ex Votos.”—The Tableau of “Indulgences.”
The free exercise of religion is guaranteed by the organic law of France, and the French Government supports and sustains alike the Catholic, Protestant, and Israelitish forms of worship. In the Catholic Church are eighty-one bishops, and seventeen archbishops, the Archbishop of Paris receiving a salary of 50,000 francs per annum, while the others have only 20,000. In the parish clergy are 178 vicars-general, receiving from 2500 to 4000 francs each; 3426 curés, who do most of the active duty, and who therefore receive the smallest pay, amounting to but from twelve to francs each. Besides these, there are 30,243 assistants, who, according to age, receive from nine to twelve hundred francs; making a total for the expense of the Catholic worship in France of forty-seven millions of francs per annum.
The native Protestants in France number about 298 two millions. To supply the religious wants of these, eight hundred and fourteen places have been established, each with a pastor, receiving from 1500 to 2000 francs, and two assistants, with 700 to 750 francs each; making a total of 1,493,436 fr. expended by the Government for the support of the Protestant form of worship. In the Jewish Church are ten grand rabbis, who receive from 3500 to 7000 francs per annum, fifty-one rabbis, with from 800 to 1500, and sixty-two ministers, with from 500 to 1000.
In Paris there are several English churches both of the “Establishment” and of Dissenters. Two American churches have also been organized within the past few years, and the congregations of both have erected elegant and comfortable houses of worship.
There are no pews nor permanent seats in the Roman Catholic churches of Paris, but, instead of these, plain rush-bottomed chairs, before each one of which a prie dieu (a small chair to kneel upon) is placed. These, at all the services, whether mass, sermon, or vespers, are free to all who pay the sum of two or three sous, usually collected by women standing at the entrances. Those in the outer aisles are let at one and two sous, and those who can not afford the luxury of a seat, or are too economically inclined to disburse the requisite sum, can find plenty of standing-room gratis. At first view, this direct, immediate 299 purchase of a seat, in a temple dedicated to the worship of God, seems rather incongruous, and affects unpleasantly those who have been in the habit of walking, without let or hinderance, into their own pews. But then this system has its advantages. Any person possessing three sous is sure of a seat at church, if he go early enough, without being required to depend upon “the gentlemanly and obliging sexton;” nor is he liable to be frowned out of somebody’s pew, in which he may have placed himself by mistake, and from which he is requested to retire by a shower of eye-daggers looked at him by the legitimate occupant.
One’s position on the floor of the church depends in no manner upon the quality of one’s coat, the color of one’s face, or the length of one’s purse; and in the grand old Cathedral of Nôtre Dame, and the churches of the Madelaine, St. Eustache, and St. Roch may be seen on any Sunday, at mass or vespers, workmen, in their blue blouses, sitting side by side with men high in position and rank and wealth. The poor little ouvrière, who has been all the week plying her needle and sewing out her eyes in some dingy back garret of the Rue St. Jacques, is seated by the side of a countess with bejewelled fingers, and instead of being banished to the “negro pew,” the woolly-headed African occupies a chair next to the gentleman decorated 300 with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. All differences of rank and position are for the hour forgotten, or at least abandoned, and poor and rich, the beggar and the millionaire, the rag-picker and the merchant, the lady of rank and her servant, the working-girl and the duchess, all stand beneath these vaulted roofs equal before God, and God bathes them all alike with his gorgeous sunshine streaming through the stained rose windows of these splendid old churches.
How far into the sacred aisles of St. Paul’s or Abbey would a market-woman, or a rough sailor, in his woollen shirt, be permitted to penetrate? And yet, in the Italian cities, it is by no means uncommon for the peasantry, on their way to the market-places, to stop a moment in one of the grand old edifices, and, setting down their burden on the broad pavement (for most of the churches in Italy are unencumbered even by chairs), kneel and offer up a hasty prayer. Might not Protestants learn a lesson from Catholics?
Strangers visiting Paris, and desirous of hearing the best church music, should attend high mass at St. Roch, St. Eustache, or the Madelaine. One of the most interesting religious ceremonies is the grand mass at the chapel of the Invalides, performed every Sunday at noon. The music is that of a military band, and, during the mass, the old and disabled soldiers, 301 who are cared for in that noble institution, stand in the aisles with their heads uncovered, each bearing in his hand a lance surmounted with the French tri-color. Strangers will of course visit the Cathedral of Nôtre Dame, the Pantheon, and the light and delicately-ornamented Church of St. Etienne du Mont, which contains the tomb of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. They should also see the Church of Saint Germain des Pres, one of the oldest ecclesiastical edifices in Paris, as well as the old but newly “restored” Church of St. Germain Auxerrois, from whose bell-tower sounded, three hundred years ago, the fatal signal for the massacre of St. Bartholomew. One of the most curious and interesting and peculiar churches in Paris, is that of Nôtre Dame des Victoires, commonly known as the Eglise des Petits Pères, in the Place des Victoires. This church contains a large bronze statue of St. Peter, holding in his hand the keys of heaven, and this statue, or the prayers said before it, are supposed by the faithful to have a more than ordinary effect in appeasing divine wrath and propitiating divine favor. The devout, indeed, have given evidence of their faith here by kissing the bronze toes of the statue until they are worn to a golden color, and kept bright by the continually renewed embraces of the lips of kneeling penitents. The Eglise des Petits Pères, which 302 is dedicated to the Virgin, has indeed a grand reputation, and the fashionable and unfashionable piety of Paris flocks to it at all hours of the day to say its prayers, and invoke the aid of the Virgin and the Prince of Apostles. The interior of the church, in which service is held continually, is lined with little marble slabs, the ex votos, or freewill offerings and remembrances of those who, having asked favors of the Virgin in this temple, consecrated to her worship, have had their prayers, or at least are themselves satisfied that they have had their prayers answered. There are several hundred of these, all bearing inscriptions, the most common of which is the following: “I prayed to Mary, and she answered my prayer.” On some are inscribed “Thanks to Mary;” on others, “Ever grateful to Mary and Joseph;” on one is cut, “Thanks to Mary and Joseph for the care of my daughter;” and upon another, “Gratitude to Mary and Joseph: by their interposition, the Widow Akerman and her two daughters were saved from the flames in the accident at Joigny, 1865,” and the grateful “Widow Akerman and her daughters” have therefore placed this slab in the church. There are also special and extraordinary “indulgences” accorded to the faithful, who visit and say their prayers in this edifice, and these are set forth in a “tableau” which is suspended in the portal.
In the Catholic Church are . . . seventeen archbishops
[This seems a little unjust when you consider that all of Great Britain, with nearly the same population, only ever had two.]
from twelve to fifteen hundred francs
text has fifte enhundred
a small chair to kneel upon
[Well, not really. But some prie-dieu designs do look very much like a chair with a comically low seat and high back.]
the sacred aisles of St. Paul’s or Westminster Abbey
text has Westminister
First Impressions.—The Rouen of To-day.—The Cathedral of Notre Dame.—St. Christopher and his History.—St. Ouen.—A curious Book.—William the —“His Mark.”—The Heart of Richard Cœur de Lion.—The Spot where Joan of Arc was burnt.
Rouen, the capital of ancient Normandy, and the former residence of the Norman dukes, is picturesquely located on the banks of the Seine, about midway between Havre and Paris. Its old, narrow, sidewalkless streets, on which front the gable-ends of the houses, swarm with busy life—for Rouen is a large manufacturing city, supplying France with a great portion of its cotton goods. Here William the Conqueror died, and Richard of the Lion Heart was buried; and here the last sad act in the life-drama of the maiden of Domremy was consummated; for here Joan of Arc was burnt alive in the marketplace. With the exception of a row of new buildings on the quay, which hide from view the queer-looking, slate-fronted, high-roofed houses, the old city of Rouen wears nearly the same aspect now that it did when William and Richard rode proudly through 304 it, and the gentle, lovely maiden was led along its streets to execution.
The cathedral is one of the most wonderful specimens of ecclesiastical architecture in France. The delicate, lace-like tracery of its façade and porches, much worn with time, is still surpassingly beautiful. Two towers, one of the 12th, and the other of the 15th century, rise at the sides, and in the centre is a huge abomination in the form of a modern cast-iron spire four hundred and thirty-six feet high, and to which thirty feet are yet to be added. One of the old towers is called the “Tour de Beurre” (the Butter Tower), it having been built with money paid for indulgences to eat butter during Lent. What an immense quantity of the article must have been consumed in its construction! There are some very curious reliefs over the doors. One of these, a representation of the decapitation of St. John the Baptist, contains a figure of the daughter of Herodias, who is stated to have “danced” before the king. The young lady, however, instead of dancing, is in the ungraceful and highly unfeminine position of a tumbler, standing upon her hands, with her nether limbs thrown over her head, as though she were desirous of astonishing her beholders by the performance of that difficult gymnastic feat which boys call “bending the crab.” All around and above the doors are headless 305 statues of the saints and apostles. These were mutilated by the Huguenots in 1562, who not only broke all the statues they could reach, but made fires within the buildings to burn the pulpit, organ and priestly robes. Much which the Huguenots spared the Republicans destroyed, for they converted the Cathedral into an armorer’s shop, and the effect of these desecrations are still visible upon the blackened walls and pillars.
It is almost impossible to convey any accurate idea of the vast proportions, and gorgeous appearance of the interior. The sunlight comes through Gothic and rose windows, and floods the stone floor with the colors of the rainbow. I saw it on Sunday morning during mass, when the pavement was covered with thousands of kneeling worshipers, their heads all lighted up with the golden and rosy glow which streamed through the windows. The organ was pealing out the Gloria in Excelsis, and, to give additional effect, the huge bells in the tower were just then set to ringing. Mass over, I visited the monuments. In the floor of the choir, just in front of the high altar, four small lozenge-shaped tablets of marble let into the pavement mark the spots where the heart of Richard Cœur de Lion and the body of his brother Henry were interred. Their statues, much injured by the Huguenots in 1663, were removed, and lost until 306 1838, when the effigy of Richard, and his heart, shrunk in size, but still perfect, and enveloped in green taffeta, were dug up from under the altar. The statue now lies in one of the chapels, and although the nose is broken off, as well as one of the hands and a foot, there are still left appearances of that nobleness and courage which earned for him the title of the Lion Heart. There are other statues in the choir, and among them that of the Duke de Brezé, Grand Seneschal of Normandy, and the husband of Diana of Poitiers, the beautiful mistress of two kings, who is represented kneeling beside the body of her husband, weeping as if she “would not be comforted.”
There are some good pictures in the chapels, and one of St. Christopher bearing an infant on his shoulder across a river particularly attracted my attention. How beautiful are some of those old legends of the Church, teaching lessons of endurance, hope, faith, and all religious virtues such as, alas, we seldom meet in the every-day walks of life, and in this faithless age. Christopher was a very strong man—almost a giant, and it was his ambition, to serve the mightiest and strongest king he could find, and so he transferred his services from monarch to monarch, always looking for a mightier one to wait upon. At length he heard of Christ, and that he, though gentle, kind, and loving, tender as a mother to her infant, was more 307 powerful than all the kings of earth. So Christopher said he would quit the service of the earthly monarchs, and enter that of his Heavenly Master. He threw away his carnal weapons, and went into a convent. But Christopher was ignorant and clumsy, and only qualified for labor which required great strength and endurance, and the monks set him to the performance of the hard work about the monastery. Among his other duties was that of carrying on his huge, broad back across a river the wood which the monks required for use, and Christopher set himself cheerfully at work performing this menial labor. But he was anxious always to see and have tangible evidence of the existence of the mighty monarch in whose ranks he was employed, and would question the monks often as to how he could be found; and the good monks told him to wait and be patient and hopeful, and he would yet stand in the very presence of his Divine Master. And so one day, upon the river-bank opposite the monastery, he found a fair-haired, rosy little child playing all alone, and Christopher took him in his arms, to carry him over for the monks to tend and care for—for he seemed lost and homeless—and in performing this charitable act Christopher knew that he was doing good service to his Heavenly King. He placed the infant on his shoulders, and waded into the stream, but, as he neared 308 the opposite bank, his burden began to grow heavier, and when he landed and set down his load, instead of a child, he saw a full-grown man, with a divine face, and a halo of glory all about his head; and in the little child which he had carried across the river Christopher saw his Master, Saviour, God!
From the cathedral we went to the Church of St. Ouen, a magnificent specimen of medieval architecture, which also suffered terribly at the hands of the Huguenots. The interior of this is even more gorgeously beautiful than that of the cathedral. The walls seem to be of richly-stained glass, and the immense rose windows at either end throw a flood of variegated light up and down the nave. There are no monuments here, but there is a simple slab, marking the burial-place of Alexander Berneval, the master-mason, who murdered his apprentice because the youth had surpassed him in the construction of one of the rose windows. Although the mason suffered the penalty of his crime, the monks, out of gratitude for his skill, interred his body in the church which he had contributed so much to ornament.
In the public library adjoining the church is one of the most remarkable specimens of patient, earnest labor in existence. It is an immense book of parchment, about three feet long by two in width, on the leaves of which, a Benedictine monk, Daniel d’Aubonne, 309 wrote the words and music of a mass. Each page is adorned with beautifully illuminated vignettes, of which the last one, on the last page, is particularly striking, as well in boldness of conception as finish of execution. The subject is the “End of All.” The dead in their shrouds are rising from their graves, the candles on the altar are burned to their sockets, an hour-glass is reversed, and Death, with his skeleton fingers, is writing “Finis” upon a tombstone. The whole work, which fills two hundred pages, was executed in the 15th century, and required the labor of the monk for thirty consecutive years.
From here we went to the Museum of Antiquities, containing many curious Roman remains gathered in Normandy, among them a number of signet rings, with letters cut upon them to be used for pressing names in wax. The letters were reversed, as in ordinary type; and it seems strange that although in this the Romans stood upon the very threshold of the discovery, the art of printing should have remained unknown for a thousand years after. In this museum are some charters granted by William the Conqueror and Richard Cœur de Lion, with their signatures attached. That of the former, however, is only a huge, clumsy cross, such as a schoolboy, just emerging from his “pot-hooks and hangers,” would be apt to make; for although William could conquer the 310 Saxons, and give a race of kings and laws to England, he never was able to overcome the obstacles which stood in the way of learning to write his name.
Here, too, in a little glass box, is all that remains of the “lion heart” of Richard—of the heart whose active pulsations inspired the bold Crusader to attempt the rescue of the Holy Land from the pollution of the Infidel. It resembled very much little crumbled pieces of sea-biscuit, and could easily be contained in a table-spoon.
In the centre of the town, in a triangular space now called the “Place de la Pucelle,” is a fountain, surmounted by a wretched statue of Jeanne d’Arc, who was burnt on this spot in the year 1431. Around it are quaint, old, slate-fronted houses; and from the windows of these, and from the roof of an old church standing on the corner (now converted into a livery stable) the vile rabble watched the smoke and flames curling around the form of the noble maiden, whose crime had been to save them and their country from the English. But that was more than four hundred years ago.
[chapter summary] —William the Conqueror.—
a huge abomination in the form of a modern cast-iron spire
[Not everything built in the 19th century was an abomination, but in this case the author is absolutely right. That thing is ugly.]
her nether limbs
[That makes three. One “inferior members”, two “nether” or “lower limbs”.]
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ROOSEVELT’S FIVE ACRES TOO MUCH.
[Yup, he’s one of “the” Roosevelts. Robert B. Roosevelt (1829–1906) was the fourth son of Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt. The fifth son was Theodore Roosevelt—father of the President, grandfather (through his son Elliot) of Eleanor.]
Chapter II, “Trente et Quarante at Hombourg” began life as “Rien Ne Va Plus”, published in Galaxy, vol. III, no. 5, dated 1 March 1867. Some differences:
Book: to Hombourg. But it is neither
[In Galaxy, “But” is not only a new sentence but a new paragraph. In the book, the end of the sentence coincides with the end of a line.]
Book: sad, hard realities. Fronting upon the main street
[Another paragraph break in the article. This time it’s at mid-line in the book, so I have to assume it was an intentional change.]
Book: le jeu est-il fait? (Is the game made?)
Article: Le jeu est fait (the game is made).
Book: will never mistakenly prove himself the latter
Article: will never unmistakably . . .
Book: upon a Long Island race-course
Article: upon the Hoboken race-course
Book: did the bank have no “advantage” other than the player
Article: did the bank have no more “advantage” than the player
Book: Besides betting upon a single number, the player may divide his stakes among several; may bet upon any of the three columns, containing twelve numbers each, or upon the first, second, or third series of twelve numbers, being paid double if he win, or may play upon rouge or noir, pair or impair, which designate the odd or even numbers upon manque and passe, the former comprising the numbers from one to eighteen, inclusive, the latter, from nineteen to thirty-six.
Article: Besides betting upon single numbers, the player may divide his stakes among several—may bet upon any of the three columns, or the divisions of twelve, being in either of these two latter cases paid double if he win; or may stake his money, receiving an equal amount in payment if he win, upon the six “simple chances” of rouge, noir, manque, passe, pair or impair.
[To make up for the two earlier omitted paragraph breaks, the book here adds one—at “Besides”—that was not present in Galaxy.]
Book: leaders in the grand monde, and leaders and satellites in the demi-monde
Article: leaders in the “grand” and satellites in the demi-monde
Book: there are tradesmen and professional men and gamblers, all sitting or standing, and elbowing, and brought into the closest contact with each other.
Article: tradesmen and professional men and gamblers. Sitting and playing, elbowing and brought into the closest contact with this motley assemblage of counts and countesses, courtesans and sharpers, fast men and faster women, are usually seen a number of sedate, solemn English women, who would be exceedingly indignant at being considered otherwise than highly “respectable”. They have an English church and clergyman at Hombourg, and the latter, who must practically be exceedingly “broad” and liberal in his views, may frequently be seen in the conversation rooms, chatting with the English women who have been or are just about going into the gaming rooms to play. These ladies regard their religious duties to such an extent as not to play on Sundays, which is probably considered all that is required of them in such a place of temptation as Hombourg. I must confess, however, to a little surprise and shock, when, one Sunday afternoon, when I should have been somewhere else, in strolling through the play rooms, at seeing laid away in one corner of a sofa a black mantilla with a Church of England prayer-book lying upon it. Its owner doubtless thought it no great harm or sin, after paying her devotions to her Maker, to drop in on her way from church and woo for a while the fickle goddess, and perhaps replenish her purse and compensate herself for the florin which, after service, she had dropped into the contribution box.
Book: There are hard-faced people
[In Galaxy this begins a new paragraph, after the omitted section.]
Book: If . . . the “red” has appeared at eight successive turns of the wheel
Article: eighty successive turns
Book: A diagram will render this perfectly plain.
[Galaxy omits the roulette-wheel diagram with accompanying explanation; the text resumes at “This system”.]
Book: Suppose this to appear in the following order:
[Galaxy has a different illustration, leading to different text:]
Book: counting in the aggregate thirty-four, and this being farther removed from “thirty-one” than the first series, the “black” wins; the dealer declares that “rouge perd” and all the bets made upon the first or “black” series are paid, while those upon the last or “red” series are raked in
Article: counting in the aggregate but thirty-two, and this being nearer thirty-one than the other, the red wins, the dealer declares that “rouge gagne” and all the bets made upon the second or “red” series win, while those upon the first or “black” series are raked in
Book: If . . . a black one, as in the diagram given above, then “color” wins; but if it be a red card, then “color” loses; the winning of “color” depending upon the last card in the winning series being of the same color as the winning series itself.
Article: If . . . a black one, that is, a spade or a club, then “color” wins. But if the first or “black” series win and the last card turned in it is a heart or diamond, then “color” loses. In the diagram above given, the “red” series winning and the last card in it being a diamond, “color” wins, and the dealer declares that “rouge gagne et couleur,” paying all the stakes upon “red” and “color”, and taking all those upon “black” and “contre couleur.”
Book: The “advantage” to the bank at rouge-et-noir
[New paragraph in Galaxy.]
Book: drop off some day between two spins of the roulette wheel
Article: drop off some day, as indeed she has expressed the wish that she may, between two spins of the roulette wheel
Book: will have cost the shareholders nothing. / It is generally supposed
[Instead of a paragraph break, Galaxy interpolates a sentence:]
. . . cost the shareholders nothing. The administration is now standing in fear and trembling, awaiting the decision of the Prussian Government as to whether their privilege, which expires next year, shall or shall not be renewed. It is generally supposed that, looking upon gaming as contra bonos mores, that Government will not . . .
Book: the attractive inducement to the summer visitors at Hombourg.
[The Galaxy article ends here.]
Chapter IV, “In ‘Mont Cenis‘ Tunnel—Through the Heart of the Alps”, was first published under the shorter title “Mont Cenis Tunnel”. It appeared in Fortnightly Review, vol. IV, no. XXI (15 March 1866), pg. 338-349.
The first 3-4 pages of the magazine article correspond to the first 10-11 pages of the book chapter (the book’s pages are much smaller, and the map takes up two numbered pages). Numbers in [brackets] show the editorial scissors at work; text in lighter grey didn’t make it into the book at all. Using these numbers, the book comes out as: 1, 4, added lines, 7, added lines, 8, 6, 5, added lines, 3, map, 2. The final three-quarters of the article—call it segment 9—is largely unchanged, so I didn’t include it here.
 Through the fertile vine hills, and over the broad extended plains of Burgundy—by Dijon, Maçon, Culoz, Chambery, and Aix—winding gracefully around, and suddenly darting into and out of tunnels on the borders of the lovely, lonely lake of Bourgy, and then along the banks of the Arc—the railway train, in its progress from Paris toward Turin, finally arrives at the little Savoyard village of St. Michel. Here the railway terminates; and, consigned to the very untender mercies of the shaky diligence, the traveller, after a drive of twenty-five miles through the barren valley, reaches Lans-le-Bourg, at the foot of Mont Cenis; and crossing this to Susa, there again takes rail, and on to Turin. In a little more than four years hence, if no unforeseen event occur, this route will be materially changed, and voyagers, giving St. Michel with its dingy houses and bad dinners the go-by, and continuing in the railway waggon up the banks of the Arc, will take a turn at Modane, ten miles up the valley, and instead of scaling the Alps, will go rushing through their stony heart.
 The Arc, rising in the Alps near Mont Cenis, pours down the valley which bears its name, and empties into the Isere, near Chamouset. Near the little hamlet of Fourneaux, eight miles from St. Michel, the river makes a bend in a southerly direction. Upon the opposite side of the Alps, in the valley watered by the Dora-Ripeira, the Dora very accommodatingly also makes a bend towards the north; and thus, at these two points, the valleys of the Dora and the Arc make the nearest approach to each other in all their course. Here, in these two secluded little nooks, they seem to have had a fancy for making each other’s acquaintance, and each here made advances as far as not merely propriety, but Nature herself permitted. But the rugged, frowning, unsympathetic Alps stood sentinel and barrier between them, and roughly rejecting their cooing and wooing, turned them off again in different directions, each to pursue its own course toward the mighty sea. This barrier, skill, science, enterprise, and determination are rapidly breaking down, and before many years shall have passed we may reasonably hope that the Dora and the Arc, though not indeed permitted to mingle their waters together in joy, will be firmly and for ever united in the bands of iron.
It was owing to this proximity of the two valleys at those points that Fourneaux upon the French, and Bardonéche upon the Italian side, were selected as the entrances and termini of the great Alpine tunnel. It was found that a straight line between them and through the Alps would measure 12,220 mètres, or 13,577 yards, about seven || and seven-tenths miles. Fourneaux and Bardonêche were also happily situated for a convenient junction with the railways already constructed, and the geological character of the mountain itself was found to be a favourable one for penetration.
 It was not until some years after it was decided that the tunnel should be excavated that the work was actually commenced. In and out of the Italian Parliament, by scientific men, professors and laymen, all sorts of objections were made to its practicability, all kinds of horrible possibilities were imagined, as obstacles in its way. Rock might be struck of so impenetrable a nature that the keenest-tempered instruments would be battered and turned aside without making upon it the slightest impression; so hard, that charges of powder, no matter how heavy, would be blown from it, as they would from the mouth of a cannon, without detaching or even shivering the surrounding mass. [3a] Immense subterranean caverns and yawning chasms, and abysses reaching down to Hades itself, might be encountered. Large lakes might be unbosomed, and rivers might come pouring through fissures in the rock; and not only drown all the workmen, but, rushing through the tunnel on either side, overwhelm the valleys of the Dora and the Arc. Fire itself might be encountered, and the workmen suffocated with poisonous gases. These were some of the imagined and imaginary difficulties in the way of the commencement and completion of the enterprise; but there were others of a much more practical, and therefore formidable nature to be overcome. The usual mode of making tunnels is by sinking vertieal shafts or wells at convenient distances, and working through from one to the other. Here, however, that would have been utterly impracticable. It was found that at a distance of 722 yards from the mouth, a well must have been 1,000 feet in depth; at 3,000 yards, 3,593 feet; and at 6,333 yards, nearly half the length of the tunnel, a vertical shaft must have been 5,400 feet deep—a well which by the ordinary processes would require nearly forty years to dig. In case the shafts were made oblique, instead of vertical, they would have been almost as long as the tunnel itself. There was then but one way to open this, and that was by attacking it at the two ends—the mountain at its two opposite bases. But here arose another difficulty. How were labourers to be supplied with air at a distance of more than three miles in the very bowels of the earth? In tunnelling by hand, fifty or sixty years would have passed away before the completion of this work, and some more rapid process must be applied. Steam, the ordinary motive power, requires fire to generate it, and fire feeds upon air. It was evident that this could not be made use of, and that a new motive power must be applied. A happy combination of circumstances led to this result.
An English engineer, named Bartlett, had invented a perforating || apparatus which, being set in motion by steam-power, drove a drill like a battering-ram against the face of the rock, in time making a hole deep and large enough to be charged with powder. Three Italian engineers, Messrs. Sommellier, Grandis, and Grattoni, were at about the same time experimenting upon compressed air as a motive power, with the immediate object of applying it to the propulsion of railway trains up a steep incline in the Apennines. It occurred to these gentlemen that, could a combination be made of their motive power and Bartlett’s apparatus, the result would be precisely the machine for boring a tunnel through the Alps. The motive power would cost nothing, and instead of consuming air, would supply it to the workmen. Years of labour and of thought were expended in contriving, combining, and experimenting; and the result has been the perforating machine, moved by common air compressed to one-sixth its natural bulk, and consequently when set free exercising an expansive force equal to that of six atmospheres, which are now working their way through the Alps at the rate of three yards a day. The work was commenced by hand at Bardonéche in 1857, and continued till 1861, when the perforators were introduced, after about 900 yards had been accomplished. It was not, however, until 1863 that the perforators entered upon the French side, the intermediate time having been occupied in erecting dwellings for the workmen, machine shops, and all the appliances necessary for such an immense undertaking.
 Provided with a “permit” to visit the tunnel and inspect the air-compressing machinery, I arrived at Fourneaux on the afternoon of the 19th of October, the permission being available for the following day.  Formerly all visitors who presented themselves were freely admitted, but as the tunnel advanced farther and farther in its progress through the mountain, the danger attending the entrance of strangers, and the annoyance thereby caused to the workmen, rendered it necessary that some more strict rule should be adopted. At present permissions are granted but for the fifth and twentieth of each month, and then only upon application to the “Direzione Tecnica del traforo delle Alpi,” at Turin.
 Fourneaux, on the high road from St. Michel to Lans-le-Bourg, and about eight miles from the former, I found a miserable little village in a narrow part of the valley, built partly on the river bank, but principally upon the hill side. Nature here, wild and rugged as it is, is grandly beautiful. The Grand Vallon, beneath whose summit the tunnel is to run, raises its lofty snow-bonneted head 11,000 feet above the level of the sea into the sky. By the side of it is Charmey, its summit now also crowned with a recent fall of snow, which has whitened the branches of the mountain firs growing up to the very top. Down the mountain reach the firs and pines, darkly, almost blackly, green. Mingled with them are less hardy trees, their || leaves ruddy with the hues of autumn; and fruit-covered barberry bushes, which give a rich variegated colour to the hill-side. All around are piled up the Alps, rising one above the other; and at either extremity of vision, looking up or down the valley, it seems shut in by these eternal mountains.  It was nearly dark, and the lengthening shadows were rapidly crawling up the mountain side, and departing sunlight was tinging the summits with that rich creamy hue which dying daylight impresses upon snow. I had but time to take a general view of Fourneaux and its surroundings when darkness, which sets in early in these valleys, came down and shut it out.  A better dinner than I supposed could be obtained in the uninviting little auberge in which I had installed myself, and a bottle of tolerable Savoy wine, prepared me for a night of rest; and the mountain torrent of Charmey which came tumbling directly beneath my window, soon lulled me to sleep with its rude monotonous music.
The “Mont Cenis” tunnel, as this is usually called, is an egregious misnomer, Mont Cenis being distant at least sixteen miles from the French, and twenty from the Italian entrance. The line of the tunnel passes beneath three peaks, respectively called the “Col Frejus,” the “Grand Wallon,” and the “Col de la Roue,” the first being upon the French and the latter upon the Italian slope, and the Grand Vallon at nearly an equal distance between the two. Mont Cenis, being the best known of any of the range in this vicinity, will doubtless continue to carry off the honours. In behalf, however, of modest merit, which, the poet says, “seeks the shade’’ (and if this be true, the Col Frejus should possess an immense deal of that valuable quality, as it has certainly sought out about the “shadiest” position in the entire valley), I desire to put upon record its claim against the recognised one of its loftier and more aspiring neighbour.
The remainder of the article is essentially the same as in the book.
The description of absinthe beginning on page 210 of Chapter XII shows up in any number of American medical journals in 1860 and early 1861. Here’s a version from The Cincinnati Medical and Surgical News, New Series, Volume 2, no. 5 (May 1861), pages 157-159. They, in turn, credit “Medical and Surgical Reporter”, which I wasn’t able to locate. Was the opening paragraph’s “correspondent of a New York paper, writing from Paris” Edward Gould Buffum? I have no idea.
“Dr. Motet” is Auguste Motet (1832–1909), whose doctoral thesis, Considerations Générales sur l’Alcoolisme, et plus particulièrement des Effects Toxiques Produits sur l’Homme par la Liqueur d’Absinthe (On Alcoholism and the Poisonous Effects Produced in Man by the Liqueur Absinthe), was published in late 1859.
Fashion holds despotic sway in every phase of life. The drinking customs of nations yield to it. With us, hard cider has given way to lager beer, and in France, wine has been replaced by absinthe. A correspondent of a New York paper, writing from Paris says:
The frightful effects caused by absinthe drinking in France are just now exciting a good deal of interest in the medical fraternity. Absinthe is drank in immense quantities by all classes of Society in Paris. In front of the magnificent cafes in the boulevards, between three and five o’clock in the afternoon, hundreds of gentlemen may be seen sitting, mixing and sipping this villainous green liquor, which is taken by way of an appetizer before dinner. Workmen drink it in the low, corner establishments of the “marchands de vin.” In different portions of the city are establishments which are crowded from morning till night, in which the sale of absinthe is made a “specialty,” and where nothing else is sold. Ladies of high families are reported to have yielded to its fascination. It has been exported, and is used to an enormous extent in all the French colonies, and statistics of exportation show that immense quantities of it are sent to America; and it may not, therefore, be uninteresting to learn something about the composition and effects of this seductive liquor, which, from the actual irresistible power which it wields over its victims, as well from the similarity of its effects and the general and increasing popularity it has acquired, may not improperly be called the “opium of the west.”
What it is made of.—In a paper recently read before the Academy of Medicine of Paris, M. Motet, a physician, who has evidently devoted a good deal of attention to this subject, says, that the habitual use of absinthe causes a series of pathological manifestations extremely grave, and differing essentially from the effects produced by other alcoholic drinks. For ten years past, enormous quantities of it have been drank in Paris. The murderous beverage has been taken to Algeria, where it has been greatly abused by the colonists and the army, and where the heat of the climate tends greatly to heighten its deleterious effects. The effect of large doses, or of the habitual use of this liquor is now well known, but the drinker returns to it in obedience to an apparently irresistible fascination, knowing that it is destroying him.
“Absinthe,” which is a French word, meaning, in English, “wormwood,” is a liquor made by the distillation of a number of plants with alcohol. These are the tops of the wormwood, flag-root, anniseed, angelica-root, leaves of dittany, (Origanum dictamus,) and sweet . All these are placed in alcohol of very high proof, where they are allowed to remain eight days, when the mixture is distilled, and half an ounce of the essential oil of anise is then added to each three gallons of the liquor. The first caie after the distillation is to see whether the liquor has a good color, and whether it will “whiten” well, and, if it is lacking in these essentials, it is brought up to the proper point with indigo, tincture of curcuma, hyssop, nettles, and sulphate of copper. Absinthe, however, requires no adulteration to make it a positive poison. Composed of plants of highly exciting qualities, mixed with highly-concentrated alcohol, it acts directly upon the nervous system, having a much more positive effect than other alcoholic liquors. In the process of distillation, the plants furnish several volatile oils which are among the most violent poisons, and, beside these, it must be remembered that a large quantity of the essential oil of anise is added. Probably few persons in mixing their absinthe, have ever stopped to consider the cause of the “whitening,” or ever thought that the better the liquor the more powerfully poisonous it is. The white deposit, which, in precipitating, renders the liquor turbid, comes from the essential oils of anise, wormwood, angelica, etc., which are held in solution of alcohol, but which are not soluble in water, or alcohol weakened with it.
Its effects.—So much for the composition of this vile compound. Now for its effects, which, in a sentence, are summed up by Dr. Motet as a general poisoning of the system, which terminates in insanity and death. The following are given as the primary effects of the habitual use of absinthe:—the muscular system is brought into a state of uncertainty and indecision, which is easy to recognize by contractions and trembling of the forearm, of the hand and inferior members. Strange sensations are observed by the unfortunate victim—such as tingling and pricking of the skin, heaviness of the limbs, and numbness—the hand seizing and as suddenly letting go anything within its reach. In standing, the patients require something to lean against, not being solid upon their legs; the knees tremble and bend—a general air of hebetude marks the featured; the lips, the tongue, and the muscles of the face tremble; the eye is sad and sorrowful; the skin becomes yellowish; dyspepsia and wasting away ensue; the mucous membranes assume a violet hue; the hair falls off, and the whole frame-work of the man falls into a premature old age and dilapidation.
Such are the bodily signs of absinthe poison—and the mental troubles progress concurrently with the disorders of the muscular system. By reason of the progress of the disease of the brain, the sleep of the patient is disturbed; he has terrible dreams, and nightmares, and sudden wakings. He has hallucinations, illusions, blinding of the eyes, vertigos, hypochondria, a very marked embarrassment and dwelling upon words in speaking, and a constantly decreasing strength of intellect. Such is the sad cortege of symptoms presented by the unfortunate victims of the terrible absinthe poison.
Nothing, says Dr. Motet, can stop the progress of the disease of the brain. Sometimes the symptoms will be more favorable, for a greater or less time, but the respite must not be taken as a sign of approaching cure, and a little sooner or a little later death steps in the midst of epileptic attacks, at a time when there is scarcely any human intelligence remaining—when the animal alone exists, and in a state of degradation of which no description can give an accurate idea.
Its prohibition in the army and navy.—The French government has prohibited the use of absinthe in the army and navy—even to the officers—and it is said that an attempt is to be made to prevent its importation into the colonies. Deaths and insanity, the result of its habitual use, are, I am informed by a medical friend of mine, very common in Paris; and that on the tombstones of several of the prominent men in the literary world, whose lights have gone out during the past ten years, might with truth be written, “died of absinthe.” And yet, with all terrible facts before them, the use of this villainous mixture is daily increasing, and it is by no means improbable that the government, which interferes in matters of much less importance, will find it necessary before long to adopt a “Maine liquor law,” prohibiting the sale of the poisonous compound.—Medical and Surgical Reporter.
anniseed, angelica-root, leaves of dittany, (Origanum dictamus,) and sweet margoram
the better the liquor “mixes” the more powerfully poisonous it is
close quote missing
And yet, with all these terrible facts before them
text has shese terrible facts
The original of this text has been in the public domain for years
in the U.S. and most other parts of the world.
All I’ve done is put it online.