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The King invited the Minister to accompany him to another wing of the chateau. They passed through the two rooms I have already described on arriving, and then entered a long apartment called the Gallery of Apollo. The ceiling is splendidly painted, and the walls are ornamented with medallions, and hung with upward of ninety pictures; and there are superb vases, and other precious works of art, distributed through the apartment. This is a favorite promenade of the King, who frequently walks here after dinner, seeking exercise, which is necessary to his health, and which his duties and the attacks to which his life is exposed do not permit him to take in the open air; and apparently happy to forget the oppressive cares of a crown, in the reminiscences of former times, and particularly of his adventures in the United States. I have understood that upon this very evening he recounted to the Minister an anecdote, which perhaps the reader will pardon me for inserting here. It was told with great good humor, and with that happy tact which is one of his peculiar characteristics.
The King has much facility in learning languages, and he speaks English, as every Englishman and American who has conversed with him knows, as well as if it were his native tongue. I understand him to be equally conversant with Spanish, Italian, and German; and his knowledge of the latter led to the incident I am about to relate. The King, then Duke of Orleans, was travelling from Harper's Ferry to Winchester; and stopping at one of the villages upon the route, entered a public house, where he found a number of persons, of German descent, engaged in conversing, drinking, and smoking. A friendly intercourse was soon established between the new-comer and his predecessors at the inn, and they talked over the stirring events which were then passing in their father-land, where the French armies had overrun the country, and where 'great events were on the gale.' The stranger was able to gratify their curiosity, recounting with frankness the events which had occurred. They never doubted but that he was born east of the Rhine, and little suspected that the unknown traveller was the second in command in two great battles which had driven the German armies from the frontiers of France. After some time, they asked him in what part of Germany he was born, and he then told them he was a Frenchman, and a native of Paris. Their ancestral indignation was immediately excited, and his new friends were at once converted into foes. They thought their plausible companion was an unworthy renegade, who denied his parentage, and whose pride or principles induced him to claim the name of Frenchman.
Shame upon you!' said the leader, “shame upon you! You are a base German, to abjure your country, and I will give you a mark as a token of your apostacy!' And, 'suiting the action to the word,' he threw at his head a heavy loaf of bread, which he held in his hand, and from which he was about to cut a substantial slice. But that head was destined to wear a crown, and not to be broken by this missile, though launched with hearty good will. The fugitive Prince avoided it, and escaped the consequences of his too free avowal.
In about half an hour, the king returned from his promenade, and soon after the musicians, who are nominally attached to the royal household, and called the Musique du Roi, made their appearance,
The band contains some of the most celebrated composers and performers of France, who have this honorary title, and who serve at the palace upon all state occasions, and whenever called there for the gratification of the royal family. They belong to the French opera of Paris, known officially as the Royal Academy of Music, under which designation it receives a large annual allowance from the treasury, without which appropriation it could not exist. It may be new to the reader, it certainly was to me, to find that many of the Parisian operas, theatres, and spectacles, are kept in operation by largesses, granted to them from the public funds. The practice has often been reprobated, and attempts to correct it have been made in the Chamber of Deputies, as well upon the ground of such a destination being an improper application of the means of the state, as of the manifest injustice to all the other cities of the kingdom, which are compelled to support their own places of public amusement. But these efforts have been vain, and the spectacle-going public of the capital, rich and poor, are enabled by this most unjust and misplaced bounty to enjoy their favorite amusement at a cheap rate. Political motives, however, have obviously their weight in this arrangement, and the government probably thinks that theatres and operas are better than émeutes.
This band consists of about thirty performers, and is directed by Auber, one of the most eminent composers of France. It contains Grasset, the chief of the orchestra, Habeneck, the first violin, Franchomme, the first violincello, Galley, the first French horn, and others enjoying a high professional reputation, and well known to the musical circles of Paris. Adjoining the salon, in which we were assembled, is the library, a beautiful room, finished and fitted up with great taste, and what is better, supplied with a valuable and extensive collection of books. The performers were introduced into this apartment, and the folding-doors being thrown open, they entertained the company with some of their happiest efforts.
But I feel that I am approaching dangerous ground, and must pause before I reach a precipice. I must avow, with equal frankness, humility, and bad taste, that I have no ecstatics for the artifices of music, and that I have a most unfashionable contempt for all operas, whether Italian or Potawatamie; whether represented at the Odeon, or at the council-house of my old friend Topniké. And if I were compelled to select the greatest absurdity which modern fashion exhibits, it would be a troop of performers, singing at each other, as though carrying on the real business of life, and that too in a language which not one in twenty of the enraptured auditory understands. I have been caught once or twice, such is the influence of example upon us all; but if ever I carry my ears again within hearing of Rubini, Tamburini, or any of the singers par excellence, I will consent to leave them open to those shrill vociferations which might excite the envy of an Indian warrior, instead of protecting myself, as I have heretofore done, by closing my auditory nerves. It is
firm belief that a vast majority of the habitués of the Italian Opera go there for a place of resort to exhibit themselves, to gaze upon others, and to attain or maintain a reputation for fashion, without the slightest real regard for the music.
As the evening advanced, the persons who are entitled to what is called the right of entrée, or in other words, who are expected to present themselves occasionally in the evening at the royal residence, began to make their appearance. At the French court, the King and his family assemble together every evening, in a domestic circle, the ladies seated at round tables, engaged in some light needle-work, destined to a charitable object, and the gentlemen walking about the apartment, and engaged in conversation. Here the Diplomatic Corps, and various members of French society, are admitted without special invitation, and enjoy the facilities of communication with the royal family.
Among the first who arrived, were the Spanish Prince, Don Francisco de Paulo, his wife, and two daughters. He is the brother of Don Carlos, and the uncle of the reigning Queen of Spain. His wife is the sister of the Queen Regent Christina, who has just abdicated, of the Duchess de Berri, and of the present King of Naples, and she is the niece of the Queen of France. Don Francisco has nothing prepossessing in his appearance; but as his good and bad qualities are equally unknown to me, I shall say nothing of him. He does not mingle much in the society of Paris, and is almost unknown there. After a short time we quitted the apartment, without any formal leave-taking; and thus pleasantly passed three hours at Saint Cloud.
But this is the sunshine of French life : it has also its deep shadows; and if any American envies the one, let him recollect that the other does not rest upon his cou y. If we have no St. Cloud, neither have we any of that misery to which the inequality of condition in Europe gives birth. Here is a family, elevated by its position, estimable by its virtues, and surrounded by all those external circumstances which the world considers as the elements of true happiness : and what is better, they have also those moral qualities, without which high rank becomes the shame of its possessors, and a pernicious example to all within the sphere of its influence. And yet the head of this family, the Chief of the State, cannot pass the threshold of his door, without being exposed to the bullet of the assassin. What a reproach upon the country, where such crimes are engendered, if not applauded!
Thank God! we have in our country "neither poverty nor riches,' in the European acceptation of these terms. We have none of those overgrown fortunes, which accumulate in particular families enormous wealth, placing under their control large regions of fertile land, with all who inhabit them; and thus rendering the mass miserable, that the few may live in luxury. I content myself with stating the facts as they exist, without comment or reproach ; neither seeking to investigate the cause, nor to suggest the remedy. As one of the phases of human life, an American may well be anxious to observe the condition and manners of high European society, and to describe them for his countrymen. But the description, if faithful, will contain much more for warning than for imitation. When contrasted with the extremity of penury and wretchedness which every where meet the eye, the present tendency of the institutions in Europe, whether continental or insular, presents a subject of painful reflection
to the foreign traveller, and I should think of serious alarm to every lover of good order, and to every well-wisher to human nature. In fact, European society is a volcano, prepared at any moment for an eruption, which may bury beneath its lava the happiness of generations. The evil, in truth, lies far deeper than mere appearances
indicate. Political institutions certainly require regeneration; a better adaptation to the present state of society, and to the prevalent opinions of the world; a system of legislation and administration, not in the interest of the few who govern, but seeking the general welfare of the entire community. But beyond this, there are causes in operation which laws cannot reach, and which governments, if they can affect, cannot control. Property is too unequally divided; population presses to closely upon subsistence; employment is too often wanting, and too insufficiently paid; and penury and misery are the consequences. Life, in advance, offers to the laboring man nothing but a perpetual struggle to procure the means of subsistence, and the prospect of early decrepitude, and of a death in some den of wretchedness, public or private. The extremity of suffering which the old world exhibits, is beyond the reach of an American imagination to conceive. I shall confine myself to a single fact. I passed the last summer at Versailles, where the commanding general put at my disposition a sous-officer to accompany me in my walks, and to point out the various localities worthy of particular observation, at that seat of wonders. He was a very intelligent man, and well educated; and I owe to his conversation much knowledge of the true condition of things in the internal economy of France. He was from the neighborhood of Amiens, and his father was a small proprietor. I asked him, one day, what was the usual breakfast of the laboring people in that part of the country. He said, ' Plenty of water, and a piece of ammunition bread, rubbed with an onion !'
Well may an American exclaim with the royal Psalmist, not proudly, but with all the humility of gratitude to that Providence who has given us such a country and such institutions : « The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage!'
SOME three or four years since, a fragment of a statue rudely chisseled from dark gray stone, was found in the town of Bradford, on the Merrimack. Its origin must be left entirely to conjecture. The fact that the ancient Northmen visited New-England, some centuries before the discoveries of Columbus, is now very generally admitted.
Gift from the cold and silent Past!