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LOUIS NAPOLEON: PRINCE AND EMPEROR.
him for a German. From one subject we passed to another, until he introduced that of the Chartist affair, upon which he talked so well that I became greatly interested. He was unbounded in his praises of the good sense of the English people, particularly of the lower middle classes, meaning the shop-keepers and artisans. He was happy at having had the opportunity of seeing so satisfactory and striking an exhibition of this. "You will never see a violent revolution succeed in England," he went on to say, "although with your institutions you are in a state of continuous revolutionary progress, so to speak. There is a vast difference between the classes to which I have alluded here and on the Continent, especially in France. Every thing moves here in old and well-worn grooves. The London shopkeeper of to-day follows the same business, at the same stand, which his father and his grandfather followed before him. He has the sense to appreciate the difficulty of making a livelihood among so dense a population should he once get off the track. In a word, he knows that, in a general scramble, he has more chance of losing than of gaining. Hence, apart from his feeling of loyalty, which is deep-rooted, should an effort ever be made to overthrow the Government, he would always stand by the authorities. Your agricultural population is only instinctively loyal, not intelligent. I do not mean at all to imply by what I have said that your shop-keepers and artisans are not dissatisfied with many things, and do not claim and will not exercise the right of unlimited grumbling. But at the bottom they know that your Constitution is a self-purifying machine, and that there is a never-ceasing tendency to improvement. On the contrary, every Frenchman is a man of unlimited ambition. He is impulsive and emotional—moved, too, by noble instincts. One of his great mistakes is that he always expects to better himself by a change; consequently he is always ready for a change. He can not be governed as your people can. His God of to-day is his demon of tomorrow."
I do not wish to be understood to quote these as the precise words of my interlocutor. But they represent substantially what he said.
We must have been talking together half an hour when Sir Benjamin opened a door which communicated by a passage-way to his study, and bowing to my companion, called me in—probably because I alone had an appointment. As soon as I was seated he asked me if I knew who it was that we had left behind us in the library. I told him that I did not—that I thought he was a German—that at all events ho was a remarkably intelligent man, although he by no means looked so. "Well," he said, smiling, "that is Louis Napoleon!" This, be it remembered, was a very few weeks before he passed over to France to take his seat as a member of the Legislative Assembly. I asked Sir Benjamin what was the motive of his visit to him. He told me he had some trouble about the heart—whether organic or functional I did not inquire. I never met
Louis Napoleon again until I saw him in Paris, six years later, Emperor of the French.
And here perhaps I ought to close this chapter, as my personal reminiscences of the exiled Prince go no farther. But the subject is a tempting one, and as accident has brought mo into contact with many persons who knew him during his residence in England, the reader will perhaps excuse me if I draw a little upon the recollections of others.
One of the best friends he ever had on the north side of the Chaunel was Miss Burdett Coutts. This estimable lady was unceasing in her kindness to him; and what is still more, she was the first person to appreciate him at anything like his actual value. So high an estimate did she form and express of his ability and genius that her friends were greatly amused at what they considered her good-natured but most unfounded prejudice in his favor. The fast young men of London generally pronounced him in their polite slang "a bloody fool." He was very intimate at the hospitable house of Mr. B , the great London merchant, at East
Sheene. Mrs. B had a horror of smoking;
but the Prince, when a visitor, was allowed to smoke, as a special favor, in his own room. Upon such occasions the other gentlemen present were told that, if they wished to smoke, they might do so in the Prince's room. One evening he was very anxious to return to London about ten o'clock. He had not come in his own
carriage, and he was reluctant to ask Mr. B
to lend him one. In this dilemma he came to a friend of mine who was stopping in the house, and asked him if he minded requesting another gentleman with whom ho was intimate to lend him his cab to go to town, without mentioning for whom he desired it. My friend unhesitatingly complied with the request: but the owner of tho cab insisted upon knowing who wanted it, saying that he suspected it was "that bloody fool, Louis Napoleon;" and if so, that he should not have it. And it was with the utmost difficulty that he was finally induced to yield the point.
Lady Blessington and Count D'Orsny were like a sister and a brother to him. The gates of Gore House were open to him at all hours, and he freely availed himself of the tendered hospitality. The only reproach of serious ingratitude of which the subject of this chapter has ever been accused refers to his alleged neglect of these persons, when, during his Presidency, they came over to Paris after the breaking up of the London establishment in consequence of pecuniary reverses. So far as D'Orsay is concerned, the President tardily, it is true, conferred upon him an exceedingly honorable and tolerably lucrative place, which, however, he did not live long to enjoy. His neglect of Lady Blessington, although perhaps not excusable, may be partly accounted for by the peculiar position which her ladyship occupied in English society. He may have hesitated to invite her to his balls and receptions, fearing to give too much offense to her countrywomen. At all events he delayed a very long time before doing so.
Lady Blessington was one of the wits of her day. Shortly after the French Revolution of February, 1848, a foreign embassador in London asked her in French what she thought of M. De Lamartine. "He reminds me," she instantly replied, "of an incendiary who has turned fireman." Some time after her arrival in Paris an invitation came from the President to a ball at the Elysee Bourbon. This she accepted, and as soon as the President saw her enter the room he advanced to her, and, taking her by the hand, said he was glad to see her, and asked her if she intended to remain long in Paris. "No," she promptly auswered, "do you?"
No one in London, it is said, had a more open palm for the future Emperor than Mitchel, the manager of the St. James theatre. It may be remarked that no borrower of money ever more scrupulously returned it than Louis Napoleon has done. When he and the Empress paid the Queen a visit in 1854 or 1855—I forget which —he had been but a few hours in London before he sent for Mitchel, with whom he conversed familiarly for a considerable time, showing that with the change in his fortunes he had not forgotten old friends.
It is related—but I can not vouch for the truth of the story—that upon some occasion a wag imposed upon the credulity of the Prince by a forged letter of invitation to dine with the Queen at Windsor. Now in those days her Majesty was on terms of great intimacy with the Orleans family, and ignored poor Louis Napoleon completely, having declined even to receive him at Court. However surprised, therefore, he must have been at so unexpected a mark of royal favor, it would seem that he did not suspect its genuineness. Donning a full uniform, and arraying his groom in a gorgeous livery, he drove to Windsor, where he discovered that he had been hoaxed, and it is said that the Queen was not even gracious enough to see him and relieve somewhat his mortification. If this is not a canard, he has had an ample revenge. He has both visited and received her Majesty since he has become the most powerful monarch in the world.
I recollect meeting a gentleman who had known the Prince well. He told me that he once went out hunting with him and his cousin, Prince Napoleon. As they were driving to cover, Louis Napoleon was dull and moody, whereas his cousin was full of excitement about the anticipated sport. But the moment they backed their horses they changed characters. The one became full of daring and energy; the other was quiet if not timid.
During the Presidency Lord A , formerly
Prime Minister, paid a visit to Paris. After being there a week, constantly in the society of the President, he wrote to a friend in London that he could make nothing out of him but a dismal, dreary creature! How wide of the mark he was time has made manifest.
IL—THE EMPEEOE NAPOLEON IIL I have had very frequent opportunities of seeing the Emperor Napoleon III. in public, and more than once I have met him under circumstances of some interest.
Some time in the winter of 1854-'55 I had the honor of being presented to him and the Empress at the Tuileries. It was one of those wholesale presentations of Americans which take place periodically, and which are always more or less accompanied with ridiculous incidents. The day appointed was, as is usual for such ceremonies, a Sunday, and the summons was only issued Saturday evening, and not received by many of the parties interested until the next morning. Gentlemen were required to present themselves "en unifonne," and ladies "en toilette de viile"— this latter expression meaning in full visiting dress. The embarrassment resulting from the tardiness of the notice may be imagined. The men rushed frantically to Woodman's, on the Boulevard des Italieus, that accomplished snip being the purveyor-general of court-dresses to Yankee Doodledom in Paris, and constantly keeping on hand an assortment ready made, which he hires out as masquerade costumers do. Those who were fortunate enough to present themselves Saturday evening, not only had the first choice, but were in time to have such alterations made as were required to give something of a fit, whereas the unfortunates of Sunday morning had to take what was left as they found it.
Such a battalion as presented itself at the Palace at noon could only be compared to Fnlstaflf's regiment or a New York militia company. Coats too big and coats too small; sleeves too long and sleeves too short; trowsers dragging under the heel of the boot, and trowsers not reaching down to the ankle-joint; a miscellany of cocked hats, and a universality of swords that would trip up the inexperienced wearers. And all this, apart from its uusuitableness to each individual case, worn with the awkwardness peculiar to novices in such attire. The women were more fortunate, being generally provided with all the necessary articles of adornment, nothing unusual to them being required. Charming as most of them appeared, there were a few whose appearance was such as to keep their male companions in countenance. You will find at any time in Paris a certain number of peripatetic American ladies whose whole being is shrouded in mystery—who come no one knows whence, and after a while go no one knows where. They usually rejoice in the convenient title of widows, and are looking after some important interests, the precise nature of which it is difficult to ascertain. I recollect, upon the occasion in question, one little woman whom nobody knew, and whose appearance excited some attention. She wore a rusty black silk dress, very high in the neck, an enormous shell cameo brooch, and a Canton crape shawl, which had been originally white in years gone by, but which was then, to speak plainly, most disgustingly dirty. After we had formed in a line on one side of the room. finding herself inconvenienced by the heat, she removed this shawl and threw it carelessly upon an arm-chair, of which several were standing in a row opposite to us. A few minutes afterward a chambellan or aid lounged into the room, and stood for a moment by the fire-place. Suddenly this suspicious-looking garment caught his glance, and he stuck a glass in his eye to examine it more particularly. Then, stepping on the points of his toes, he deliberately advanced to it, skewered it on the tip of his sword, gravely recrossed the room with it, and threw it down out of sight in a corner. It was not a pleasant thing to see done, but the owner was an " uuprotected female," and her ideas of "toilette de viIle" were evidently not up to the standard of the French Court.
Imagine us, then, ranged as in a drill-room, awaiting the imperial approach. In the same room with us, on the other side, was a delegation of Spaniards, Mexicans, and South Americans. We were probably placed together on account of the affectionate sympathy existing between our different nations. In another apartment, the door of which was open into ours, were congregated the English and Germans, the greater part of the former (the men I mean) in scarlet yeomanry uniforms, with an occasional sprinkling of stunning Highland costumes. The British ladies, in general elegance of mise and beauty and grace of person, bore no comparison to our fair countrywomen. Why are the English women so unaccountably awkward? why have they such painfully large hands and feet? and why is their taste in dress so almost universally bad? Beautiful complexions and full forms can not atone for these deficiencies, nor can altogether cultivated minds and kind hearts.
Their Majesties visited this last-mentioned apartment first. Accident had placed me at the head of our line close to the door, in such a position that I had the full benefit of seeing how things were done before my turn came. At length the Emperor and Empress crossed our threshold, the former followed by a male, and the latter by a female, suite. The Emperor stopped directly in front of me, whereas the Empress continued on until she reached the person at the further extremity of the line. His Majesty merely exchanged with me a few commouplaces in French, and then addressed himself to my next neighbor. I continued to keep my eye on him in his downward progress until he crossed the Empress in her advance in my direction, after which my attention was directed exclusively to her. In due time she reached me, and had commenced saying something in very indifferent English, when she was interrupted by a laugh and the words, "Mais parlez lui done en Fran^ais; il le parte aussi bien que nous!"—"Speak to him in French; he speaks French as well as we do!" Looking up in amazement, whom should I pereeive but the great man himself, who, it seems, having completed his tour, had returned to the startingpoint I
j I have been trying in vain, ever since I commenced this chapter, to recall the name of the Italian shoemaker who fired at Louis Napoleon on the Champs Elyse'es, some time in the spring or early summer of 1855. He was an emissary from London, but died, if I recollect right, without exposing his confederates. He had provided himself with two pistols—the one a revolver, and the other an ordinary double-barreled one. He fired two shots from the side of the road at the Emperor, who was on horseback and quite near him, and fortunately for Europe and the world both missed. I happened to be in a carriage with some friends at a distance in the rear of but a few hundred yards, near enough to see the puffs of smoke, to observe immediately thereafter the gathering of a group of people, and then to notice the legs of a man who was being dragged into a cab. We were on our way to the Bois de Boulogne, and curious to ascertain what had happened, we ordered our coachman to drive on rapidly. When he arrived at the Barriere de l'Etoile, we stopped a moment, and, in reply to our inquiries, learned that the Emperor had been fired at, that he had escaped any injury, and that he had pushed on for the Bois, escorted by his aids Ney and Fleury. We were also told that the Empress and her ladies, in two Court carriages, had preceded him some ten minutes, and as yet knew nothing of the occurrence. In the hope of overtaking him before he reached the Bois, we put our horses to the top of their speed. But he must have ridden very rapidly, for wo saw nothing of him until we came to the lake, when we pereeived the party on horseback, foljlowed by the carriages on the other side, coming toward us on their return. We at once reined up on the side of the road, and standing uncovered awaited theirapproach. Tho Bois was very crowded that afternoon, but evidently the news of what had happened had not yet reached there. As Napoleon passed we cheered him loudly, and in such a significant manner that he could not doubt our knowledge of the attempted assassination. Ho bowed in return, and I shall never forget his look. His teeth were closely set, and his face was literally of the color of old parchment. That this meant fear, I do not believe for a moment. The man does not know what fear is. It only indicated the strong emotion under which he was laboring. When the Empress came by she was smiling and chatting with the lady on her left, evidently in entire ignorance that her husband's life had been threatened. The moment tho cortege passed, we wheeled into line and endeavored to keep up with it. But it was of no use. Our horses were not equal to the task, and when the imperial party reached the Trinmphal Areh we were a long way behind. By this time the news had spread like wild-fire through Paris, and the Avenue of the Champs Elyse'es was one dense mass of human beings. As soon as the Emperor appeared he was cheered most vociferously, and he had not proceeded far before the pressure became so great that he was compelled to dismount from his horse, and walk all the remaining distance, which is a long one, to the palace.
I have already spoken of Prince Napoleon's Saturday evening receptions. Amongthem there was one which was particularly brilliant and distinguished. The leading lion of the occasion was the young King of Portugal, who was visiting Paris accompanied by his brother, the Duke of Oporto. The King was a slight, fair-huired, German looking boy (his father is a Coburg), timid as a girl, blushing whenever he was spoken to. He wore a pair of gloves immensely too large for his hands, which (his hands) he seemed to be in continual distress to know what to do with. He was almost swallowed up in the broad ribbon of a Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, which he put on according to royal etiquette, the French Emperor having assumed that of the Tower and Sword of Portugal. The Duke of Oporto was a rosy, plump, cool little fellow, incased in the oddest little dress coat imaginable, the skirts of which were a mere apology for skirts. The company besides included the Emperor and Empress. I never saw her Majesty look so lovely as she did that evening; Ex-Queen Christina of Spain, her husband, the Duke of Rianzeres, and their dashing-looking daughters, the eldest of whom is the Princess Czartoriska; the heir to the throne of Denmark; the Duke of Brunswick; old Prince Jerome; the Princess Mathilde; and of course the host, Prince Napoleon. A word about the Duke of Brunswick, whose peculiarities, although familiar to people in Europe, are probably less known on this side of the Atlantic. He is a deposed monarch, whose brother was put in his place by the people of the Duchy many years ago. When he left the country he managed to bring the crown jewels with him, and they have never found their way home again. For a long time he lived in London in great splendor, but recently he has taken up his residence in Paris, where he keeps up a sort of Oriental establishment just beyond where Judge Mason used to reside. His name may be recollected in England in connection with a vile paper called the Satirist, which I do not suspect any of my readers of having ever seen. This publication used to attack him week after week in the most scurrilous manner, and he determined to put it down, which he succeeded in doing after a great deal of perseverance. His eccentricities border upon insanity; indeed some people think he is stark mad—his subjects evidently thought so. He knows more about diamonds than any man living, and has one of the most magnificent collections in the world. He adorns his person profusely with them. Every button in his waistcoat is worth five thousand dollars. He wears a most extraordinary wig made of silk. The evening I refer to he had on a black silk coat, cut by himself it was said; certainly no civilized tailor would be guilty of such an atrocity. His face was painted in thick coats, not delicately touched. His manuers are abrupt and supercilious. He is certainly a character. I was most amused by a dialogue which
I overheard between him and the Princess Mathilde while standing at the liuffet, but I do not feel that I have the right to repeat it.
I have said that I never saw the Empress look so charming. She was seated on a sofa, floating in a sea of gauze, with a lady on each side of her, and I was standing facing her in a group at some distance, lost in admiration of her beauty. Some way off to the left stood the Emperor talking with the Pope's Nuncio. I was neither looking at nor thinking of any one but the Empress when suddenly some one said, "Don soir." I abruptly turned my head, and, to my intense amazement, found it was the Emperor who was addressing me. I was both surprised that he recognized me, and still more so that he should speak to me, who was probably the most insignificant person present. He observed my astonishment, and with a smile went on to say:
"I have been walking through your department in the Exhibition this afternoon, where I saw many things which interested me, and one which I could not understand, and which has intrigued me—qui m'a intrigue—ever since. In one corner of Mr. Goodyear's compartment I observed a lot of cannon-balls of vuleanized India rubber stacked as in an artillery yard. How India rubber can be used for offensive purposes in warfare I can not conceive. That it might be advantageously, in combination with other substances, employed for defensive purposes I can well imagine—in breast-works, for instance. Perhaps you can give me the information."
I should say here that this was just before the opening of the Exhibition to the public. Now I had not even noticed the cannon-balls in question, and had to say as much to his Majesty, feeling at the same time desperately mortified at my ignorance. Of course I then understood why I had been spoken to. Having addressed me, I suppose the Emperor thought it would hardly be civil to leave me abruptly. His next question was if I took much interest in military matters. I told him that of course I took a certain interest in them, but had no professional knowledge upon the subject. He asked me if I had noticed the new cuirasses which he had given the Imperial Guard. I answered that I had, but that I did not understand the difference between them and the old ones. "I will tell you in a word," he said. "Their weight is" (I forget how much) "less, and their power of resistance" (same obliviousness)'' greater." He then went on for some time to speak of arms and uniforms. Finally, he broke in,
"Have you heard the news from the Crimea this afternoon?"
This news referred to a successful demonstration on the part of the French. I answered that I had, and he continued:
"Well, it is encouraging—e'ext enctmrajeant; but we are still far enough off from Sebastopol!— mais nous sommes encore assez loin de Sebasto~ pol!"
This was said with a smile, and in the most natural way possible—precisely as any one might spoken to a friend in the street. Evident
iie meant nothing more than he said. Hade remark been made public, people would have tortured their brains to find some Sphinx-like significance in it.
Hereupon he bowed, and, turning on his heel, left me.
The next morning, bright and early, before breakfast, I went over to the Palace of Industry, and made my way straight to the compartment of Mr. Goodyear. The first things my eye fell upon were the cannon-balls in question, piled up as his Majesty had described. In a few minutes Mr. Goodyear, Jun., came in, and I eagerly asked him for an explanation.
"Why, they are ten-pin balls, to be sure!" was his reply.
I never had the opportunity of setting the Emperor right upon the subject.
It would be out of place, in a series of light sketches like this, to attempt a serious appreciation of the genius and character of the singular man who rules the destinies of Europe. He is still something of a myth to his own subjects; a silent man among a proverbially talkative people—a man who never gesticulates in a land where gesture expresses more than words, he is only to be made out by his acts. His manner is eminently simple and natural. Like Captain Bunsby, although he talks but little, he keeps up a d—1 of a thinking; but when he dues talk, he does so without mystery.
Like most other people I have read a great deal about him. Nothing that I have ever seen, either in French or in English, in the way of an estimate of him, at all equals what Mr. Wyekeff has written in his last book. I do not know Mr. Wyekoff. I never, to my knowledge, saw him but once, and then he was pointed out to me at one of Mr. George Peabody's Fourth of July dinners at the Star and Garter, Richmond. But I strongly recommend any one who wishes to know more of Louis Napoleon than he will find elsewhere, toMonsult that book. ,
Among many talents which the Emperor possesses, he is probably unsurpassed as a judge of horses. As a rider, I never saw his equal, unless it was the late King of Holland. Insignificant on foot, he is superb on horseback. From the length of his body he looks like a tall man when mounted, and he and his steed compose a perfect centaur. To see him galloping at a review with the cent gardes at his heels is a magnificent spectacle.
It is not very often yon see him in a carriage. Occasionally he gets himself up in gorgeous attire and accompanies the Empress. And sometimes of a morning you meet him driving himself a pair of spanking bays up the Champs Elysees, accompanied by a single groom, who sits behind him. But he goes mostly on horseback. At the time I have been speaking of he used to wear habitually, when riding for pleasure, an old blue frock-coat, the seams of which were white, and he indulged in a particular pair of old linen or cotton gloves, which it was distressing to behold.
His tact is wonderful. He has an extraordinary knowledge of the superficial peculiarities of the French people as well as of their deeper characteristics. Many aneedotes of him are related which show this.
When the Russian war was over he determined to make General Bosquet a marshal. Accordingly he invited him to a dinner-party at the Tuileries in common with a large party of guests, without communicating a word about his intention to him. After the cloth was removed the Emperor requested all to fill their glasses for a toast. When all were ready he proposed "the health of Marshal Bosquet."
While the works for the completion of the Louvre were going on, the Emperor used often to stroll there, cigar in mouth, to watch their progress. Upon one occasion he had not been there long when he noticed a group of stonecutters talking eagerly together. Presently one of them, cap in hand, advanced toward him in a hesitating and abashed sort of way: "My Emperor," said the man, "I have made a bet of five francs with one of my companions that you will allow me to light my pipe from your cigar." "You have lost," answered his Majesty, laughing; "but here is the money to pay your bet and treat your friends besides,"at the same time handing him two Napoleons of twenty francs each. He thus managed to preserve both his dignity and his popularity. When Queen Victoria was in Paris, the Emperor was particularly attentive to the Prince of Wales. This rather distressed the Queen, who was afraid that some bad influence might be exerted upon her eldest son—that he might be induced to smoke cigars, or do something still more horrid. It is related that one day, when both families had been lunching at the palace of the Elysee Bourbon, the Emperor suddenly disappeared and the Prince with him. It turned out that they had gone by themselves for a two-hours' drive; whereat the maternal anxiety and distress were of the most acute kind.
I do not think that he is fond of these United States. I have some reasons for thinking so which I do not consider myself at liberty to give. But he is very civil to our individual countrymen, and sometimes very patient with them.
I knew a Spanish gentleman of rank who was sent to this country some years ago on a special mission. He had been very intimatein society in Madrid with the Empress long before she aspired to a crown. On his return from America he stopped for a time in Paris. Immediately on arriving he addressed a note to her Majesty requesting the honor of an interview. He received a prompt reply, in which she said that she regretted that her husband being at Boulogne, she could not see any one in his absence; but that he would be back in a fortnight, when she would be most happy to receive my friend. Accordingly, after the delay indicated he received an invitation to take tea at St. Cloud. He went and spent the evening en petit comite with their two Majesties. The Emperor did not talk much.