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right. She greatly preferred her new acquisition, to the more splendid but more constrained and fatiguing residence of Versailles, and has left many proofs of her taste in the changes she introduced.
When Napoleon became Emperor, this chateau was his favorite dwelling, and from his habitual residence there, his government was called the Cabinet of St. Cloud, as the ante-revolutionary government was called the Cabinet of Versailles, and the post-revolutionary one the Cabinet of the Tuilleries. He also took pleasure in improving the chateau and the domain around it; and Louis Philippe, who resides here with his family during the summer and autumn, with his accustomed magnificence, has followed and surpassed the projects of his predecessors, and has rendered this seat a true fairy palace and park; one of the most beautiful residences which can be found in Europe. The grounds are extensive and diversified, shaded by noble trees, and divided by sweeping gravel walks, which stretch in every direction, and continually relieved by some column, statue, little lake, grotto, spouting jet d'eau, or murmuring cascade. To convey an idea of the scale of magnificence upon which these embellishments have been projected and executed, I will state, from the guide-books, that the great cascade has a fall of one hundred and eight feet, and a width of the same extent, and that the giant jet, so called, throws up a prodigious column of water to the height of one hundred and twentyfive feet; while both are set off with all the appliances which art can devise to heighten the effect they are so well calculated to produce. The water is brought in a canal from a considerable distance, and the supply far exceeds the quantity at Versailles.
You can travel many miles in these woods, without returning upon your traces. The chateau is
upon the first plateau, and the little village of Saint Cloud, hanging upon the declivity of the steep hill below it, is between it and the river. The building consists of a main body, with two wings at right angles, forming a large court-yard, and open toward the valley of the Seine and the city of Paris. I have no talent for architectural description, and my observation leads me to avoid the effort; for the impression it produces is always confused and unsatisfactory. I shall therefore leave to the reader the task of figuring to himself the aspect of such a monument and such a place.
I had arrived at St. Cloud an invited guest to dinner. Our party originally consisted of four Americans: the Minister, Gov. Everett of Boston, Mr. Walsh of Philadelphia, and the Secretary of Legation. Unfortunately a sudden indisposition had prevented Mr. Walsh from accompanying us. This we all regretted, for this highly intelligent gentleman conciliates the respect of all with whom he is brought into contact. In connexion with his name, I may mention an incident concerning his invitation, which proves the kind consideration of the Royal Family. Not knowing his residence with certainty, two notes had been addressed to him, one at Paris, and another at Versailles, and each had been sent by a special messenger, so as to exclude the possibility of any mistake.
The rest of our party had agreed to meet in the court of the chateau at the hour indicated, which was six o'clock.
As royalty must not be intruded upon before its own time, so it must not be kept waiting after the time has arrived. Punctuality, therefore, which is always a virtue, becomes here a duty of propriety. As the Minister was at Versailles, and Gov. Everett and the Secretary at Paris, the two latter had made an arrangement to come together, and to meet the former, who was to present them. The carriage which first arrived was to await the other in the outer court of the chateau. But alas ! how often are the wisest plans of life defeated by some trivial but unforeseen circumstance. Î'he King had visited Paris, and had not returned. Being every moment expected, the established. etiquette did not allow a carriage to remain in the court. Our party, which first arrived from Paris, were therefore compelled to alight, and to enter the vestibule of the Palace. Here they wished to remain, until joined by the Minister; but they had been observed by the aid-de-camp on duty, who immediately sought them, and insisted upon introducing them into the hall of reception. From the vestibule they mounted a noble flight of marble stairs, which terminates at a landing, where the upper servants are stationed, and where a register is kept of all the visitors who enter. From here they passed into a large square apartment, decorated with some superb pictures, and then into a billiard hall, which is hung around with rich gobelin tapestry, wrought with various scenes in the life of Henry the Fourth, and copied from the pictures of Rubens. The pictures are almost living and speaking, and it requires the evidence of feeling, to convince a person,
not well acquainted with the products of this wonderful manufacture, that they are the efforts of the loom, and not of the pencil. The colors are admirable, and lights and shades are represented with a clearness of effect which is almost marvellous. Passing through this room as slowly as propriety allowed, but too rapidly to give us more than a glance at its treasures, we entered the Salon of Reception.
Here we found several ladies and officers of the court assembled; and after the usual interchange of compliments, we looked around upon this beautiful apartment.
The furniture was in excellent taste; at the same time rich and comfortable, but not gorgeous in its material, nor overloaded with ornament. Two round-tables, surrounded with chairs, indicated the places where the Queen and the ladies of her family and court, as well as visitors, seat themselves habitually in the evening, and
their time in conversation. This room is called the 'Salon of Mercury,' because the ceiling is painted with the attributes and deeds of the light-fingered god. Various allegories, drawn from the heathen mythology, are represented, and among them the Delivery of the Apple, and the Judgment of Paris. The walls are hung with gobelin tapestry, where are wrought some of the interesting incidents in the life of Mary de Medicis, the wife of Henry the Fourth, the mother of Louis XIII., the grandmother of Louis XIV., and of Monsieur his brother, the founder of the Orleans family. We had a better opportunity to examine these hangings than those in the preceding apartment; but it would be vain to endeavor by description to convey a notion of the effect they produce. The figures seem to stand out from the surface, and there is a delicacy and accuracy in their outline and details, which rival the designs of the great master Rubens, from which they have been wrought. One of them, representing the conclusion of peace in
1620, contains a winged and naked Mercury, the very beau ideal of manly beauty.
In a few minutes, the Queen, with her youngest daughter, the Princess Clémentine, entered the room, and after saluting the company, and conversing with the American guests, took her seat in a kind of alcove, opening into a gallery, which surmounts the court, and commands a full view of the magnificent environs. The Minister soon arrived, and then different members of the Royal Family, who were followed by the King. The manners and address of Louis Philippe are prepossessing, and he has that ease and self-possession which an early knowledge of the world and a participation in society never fail to give. Although sixty-eight years of age, his appearance is firm, and his step elastic; and he has a perfect command of himself, which enables him to control his emotion, and to conceal from the world whatever troubles the cares of royalty, even of French royalty, bring with them. He was dressed in the ordinary style of French gentlemen, wearing a plain blue coat, ornamented on the left breast with the star of the Legion of Honor, and what is peculiar to himself, but which is his usual habit, having the chain of his watch, with several keys and seals, suspended at one of his button-holes. Bowing to the company as he entered, in such a manner as to seem to neglect no one, he advanced to the Minister, and with much kindness of manner asked him several questions. We were then presented, and he became quite particular in his attentions to Gov. Everett. It was obvious that he knew the high consideration which this distinguished gentleman enjoys in our country, and he had too much sagacity not to discover, after a very short intercourse, that this reputation was most justly founded. I more than once during the evening felt proud of this representative of American intelligence, not less than at the favorable impression he produced upon the circle, confirmed by the observation of a lady of high rank, who conversed with him.
Very soon the double doors were thrown open, by a principal servant, and the Aide-de-camp de Service, approaching the Queen, intimated, by a slight inclination, that the dinner was served. The Queen, walking up to the Minister, took his arm, and led the way to the dining hall. The King followed, leading his beautiful daughterin-law, the Duchesse de Nemours, and then the Duc de Nemours, with his sister, the Princess Clémentine. The Duc d'Aumale, the youngest son of the King, gave his arm to one of the ladies of the court, and the two American guests then succeeded, each honored in a similar manner. After us, came the military officers, and the other persons invited to the table. We passed through a kind of vestibule, where a band of military music, belonging to the troops on duty at the chateau, was arranged, but concealed from view, and which played while we proceeded, and took our seats, and during a considerable portion of the repast. Entering the dining-room, we found ourselves in a long apartment, modestly decorated and furnished, and having in its centre a table with thirty covers. The service was beautiful, and I may observe, en passant, that in this branch of domestic arrangements, the French far exceed the English. Their Sèvres porcelain, and their rich bronze, with its deep orange, which contrasts
80 admirably with the color of the silver plate, give a most imposing effect to their table equipage. And then the design is conceived in exquisite taste, and executed with great skill. It may
well be supposed that the dinner service of the King of France, and the richest individual perhaps in the world, is befitting his station and country; and I must leave the reader to draw upon his imagination for a just conception of it, as I eschew all attempts at such descriptions.
The King placed himself in the centre of one side of the table, having a vacant chair on his left, and the Duchesse de Nemours on his right. The Queen was on the opposite side, having the American Minister on her right, and the Duc de Nemours on her left. The Princess Clémentine was on the right of the Minister, and the Duc d'Aumale on the left of the vacant chair. The other guests seated themselves as they entered, without confusion, and apparently without any previous arrangement. Before we had finished the soup, Madame Adelaide, the King's sister, entered very quietly, and without disturbing any one, took the chair by the side of the King, which had been reserved for her. As she remarked, ladies cannot prepare their toilettes as speedily as gentlemen; and having accompanied her brother from Paris, she had not had time to complete her arrangements when the dinner was announced.
I do not intend to betray my ignorance, by any affected knowledge of the sublime mysteries of French gastronomy. As to the mets, and the entremets, and all the other terms which belong to this favorite science, I avow, with all reasonable humility, that one more unlearned in the compositions they designate, can no where be found. And after having had some opportunities, and not unfavorable ones too, to indulge in the good things of Parisian gourmanderie, I do not hesitate to make the shameful confession, that I have cooked a piece of bear's meat upon a stick before the fire, with nothing but the woods around me, and the heavens above me, and have cut off the morsels with a knife, while. I held them with my fingers, and then ate them with greater relish than ever accompanied the choicest dish which I have partaken in France. And I was one day exceedingly diverted with an amusing incident, which recalled to me forcibly the contrast between past and present scenes.
Circumstances rendered it necessary that I should once resort to Chevet, the celebrated restaurateur of the Palais Royal, to prepare a dinner for me. It is a folly I have not committed since, nor do I intend to, for such a display suits my taste as little as it does
finances. And behold, to my amazement, the artiste, as the French call him, but in plain truth, this of
and kettles, drove up to the door in a handsome carriage, and descended the steps, which his postillion let fall, with all the air of the President of the Council. * Thinks I to myself,' verily a contrast ! life and Parisian life have their peculiar characteristics; but give me the freedom and the excitement of our forests, and I will cheerfully relinquish all participation in the efforts of Parisian cooks, even when they repair to their labor in their own carriages.
The dinner at Saint Cloud passed as dinners usually pass, in some conversation, but still more in the laudable operations of eating and drinking. Thank heaven, the days of healths' and toasts' have gone by! The fashion is dead, never to be resuscitated. Even in the palmy
days of its existence, I had an intuitive horror of those vinous salutations, when a man could not touch his glass without popping his head in his neighbor's face, and often at the risk of having his nose broken by some attentive friend, whose thirsty propensities were manifested by the same striking ceremony. I have often thought that the excessive absurdity of this custom might be ludicrously exhibited, by converting the salutation from the glass to the plate, and instead of drinking a health, or a “sentiment,' as it was called, gravely eating our good wishes, whenever we began a new dish.
The order and silence with which the domestic service of the dinner was conducted, were honorable to the interior organization of the royal household. There was no hurry nor confusion on the one hand, nor indifference nor carelessness on the other; but the servants were alert and attentive; and there was at least one domestic for each person at the table. Like the customary arrangements at the French dinners, there were three removes, and the dishes were changed and renewed with promptitude and regularity, being brought in by a long file of servants, each of whom delivered his charge to a superior attendant, by whom it was placed upon the table. The whole ceremony did not exceed one hour, when we returned to the Salon of Reception in the order we had left it.
In French society, the practice which prevails in England, and which we have borrowed from that country, of sitting at table after the ladies have retired, and guzzling wine, (the epithet is a coarse one, but not so coarse as the custom,) is unknown. It is a relic of barbarism, and ought to be banished. It leads too often to orgies, and not to pleasures; substituting for rational enjoyment excessive indulgence. I have never been at a dinner in Continental Europe, where the ladies and gentlemen did not retire from the table together. It is very seldom that the entertainment exceeds eighty or ninety minutes; and often after returning to the salon, I have heard some experienced eater observe, with all the self-complacency inspired by a most satisfactory meal, 'It was an excellent dinner, and we were at table but an hour!'
When we reached the family parlor, as it may be called, we found the Duke and the Duchess of Orleans there. They have a separate establishment at the chateau, and had dined en famille, but had come to join the circle of the court, and to pass the evening with it. The Duke is a tall, elegant young man, with an expressive countenance, and great ease of manners. He has received a careful education, and has mingled much with the world; and these advantages, joined to great native vigor of intellect, have well prepared him for the task he will probably be one day called upon to fill. The Duchess has a sweet countenance, indicative of a most amiable disposition, and at the same time beaming with intelligence; and her character is in conformity with these annunciations.
The Queen took her seat at one of the round tables, with her sister, her two daughters-in-law, and her daughter, and some other ladies ; while the rest placed themselves at a similar table in another part of the room. We were then presented to the Duke and Duchess of Orleans, and the former conversed during a considerable time with Gov. Everett.