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notion at all. Tutoiement—the use of thou—is the essence of French affection, and its effect is so immense, its purport so extended, that no sufficient appreciation of its force can anyhow be conveyed to an unpractised ear. Husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and, in certain cases, intimate friends as well, never call each other "you ;" the word is too cold to satisfy the heart; the familiar tender tu, with its undefinable gentleness, is the only appellation they use. And this single word is so complete, so thorough in its sense, so fond and loving in the marked line it draws between those to whom it is addressed, and the cold world of “ vous," that its existence alone imparts to French language of affection a completeness and a separate field of action, which efface the general want of well-chosen special terms of attachment. The pleasure of tutoiement must be felt, it cannot be described ; there is nothing like it in all English, nothing that approaches its particular and exclusive perfection. It alone suffices to efface the short-comings of other loving words.
The differences of proverbial comparisons are marked enough. We call an obese watch a turnip ; in France it is an onion: we say stupid as a goose, the French have stupid as a cabbage; or, better still, stupid as rain: our ugly as sin become laid à faire peur: make hay while the sun shines, turns into beat the iron while it is hot: but in this case the two expressions ought really to be mutually exchanged by an international treaty, for each one fits itself more rightly to the general occupations of the other's country than of its own: the British boy lets off an imaginary gun with an accompanying bang, the gamin of France employs a long resounding boom.
These same distinctions extend to the very animals of the two countries. An English duck, in his moments of loquacity, expresses his sentiments by quack quack, the members of his tribe who reside in France mutter can can. The British cock wakes up his neighbours with a lusty cock-adoodle-doo, his Gallic rival shrieks cocoricou.
The difficulty of fairly appreciating the relative merits of all these phrases (the human ones that is, not those of poultry) is increased by the utter impossibility of translating them. Literal conversions from one language to the other, are ridiculous in both. We laugh at a gasping Frenchman who painfully inquires, hat in hand, “Would you be enough good to indicate me the road of Leicester-squarr," but we forget the inconceivable forms of speech which we employ ourselves when we attempt to express our thoughts in French. The sturdy Englishman who asked a Paris upholsterer for a “poitrine de caleçon" as the equivalent of a chest of drawers, indignantly expected to be understood, and said in his fury, “ Vos faire un fou de moa,” as the natural Gallic form of “ You're making a fool of me.” The other one, who observed to the steward of the Marseilles steamer, “ Je vais m'accoucher donnez moi une naissance,” imagined that he was legitimately expressing his desire to go to bed, and to know the number of his berth, and had no conception that his translation of this very natural sentiment into French produced one of the most remarkable declarations which ever issued from a masculine mouth. The poet, beloved by young ladies, who (as report pretends) said to the waiter at a Geneva hotel, “ Ne laissez pas sortir le fou de ma chambre," considered that he was simply requesting that he would not let the fire go out, and was paralysed with horror when he learnt, on coming in again some hours afterwards, that his pronunciation and his phrase had been taken as they stood, and that the travelling friend who shared his room had been locked up in it as a madman, and had nar. rowly escaped a strait-waistcoat for the furious indignation which he displayed at this privation of liberty.
With examples like these before us of the facility with which we may fall into error by the too ready adoption of our habitual idioms, we ought to be more merciful to foreigners who make similar mistakes in talking English, instead of listening, as we too often do, with satisfied and half contemptuous amusement, to what seem to us, from mere want of habit, to be fantastic forms of speech. Besides, however far we may advance in our knowledge of a language, perfection is unattainable, and we should remember that when we hear others talk. We may acquire a faultless structure of French, we may even suppress our accent, particularly the oi, oi, oi, which is so pleasingly distinctive of the Britisher abroad, but we can never pick up the tone of voice, without which French is not French. We all speak from our throats, while the French talk from their teeth. They form their sounds at the front of the mouth, and we at the back. The moment an Englishman transplants the creation of his words from back to front, he necessarily speaks better, but the process is very nearly impracticable.
The best test of thorough knowledge of a foreign language is to be able to pray, swear, and count in it. These three operations are inseusibly performed in one's mother tongue, and until we can employ another language indifferently for them, we cannot pretend to have entirely acquired it.
In France the language of prayer is miserably poor and dry when compared with the magnificent grandeur of certain English prayers : the distinction is the same as that which exists between the two translations of the Bible, which becomes an ordinary, heavily-written book in its French form.
As regards swearing, however (extremes meet), French has out and out the best of it. There is certainly a cordial satisfaction, a real comfort, to be found in the use of the general English expletive, but it fades into washy insignificance by the side of the rolling r's of France. The incomparably blasphemous form of some of the oaths employed by the lower classes there gives them a special character, of which even the English mining districts can afford no worthy parallel. But putting aside these exceptional outbursts, and limiting the comparison to damn on one side, and r on the other, English must climb down at once. Nothing can exceed the soothing effects of every kind which may be derived from the dexterous use of a rolling r. All the single swearing words which French possesses contain it, and as it constitutes their main essence, there is no apparent reason why any other words of similar form should not do as well, and why the most violent objurgations should not be expressed by mer-P-P-r-re, poivr-r-r-r-re, or cuiv-r-r-r-r-re; if they passed into the adopted list their inoffensive significations would enable them to be used in public talk, just as sac à papier and sabre de bois already are by mild old ladies out of temper.
Some of the cleverest swearing in France is performed by the army, but its pretensions to elevated language are not limited to its delicate choice of expletives. The sergeants and corporals are always regarded by the pioupious, as the fresh recruits are called, as infallible judges of pure diction, and most edifying stories are told of their decisions on disputed points. The best of them is of a difficulty between two Normans as to whether j'ai été should be pronounced j'ai-s-été or j'ai-t-éte: the drummajor, to whom the question was respectfully deferred, replied with conscious dignity, “ Tous les deux se disent, mais le mieux est de dire j'aih-été, l'h est aspirée comme dans hépinards ou brouhette.” This school, however, as this example shows, would be somewhat dangerous to follow; fortunately it lies out of the reach of most people, and barrack forms of speech do not exercise a perceptible influence on the national
The old proverb that the best French is spoken in higher Touraine is still true; the delicacy of pronunciation of the peasants round Blois is most remarkable. The language of Paris is more maniéré (no English word will express that idea); it is full of innovations and passing affectations. The women particularly have now a trick of trailing their words, which, though adopted as a fashion, has no charm at all, and would be a bad system for a foreigner to copy. The language of the men in Paris is quite as full of slang as London English is, and though it is impossible to follow a better guide to familiar French, no elegance of phrase can be learnt from that example. Of course these observations are only general; in quantities of houses the purest and most correctly spoken terms alone are used. But, after all, the question has but little importance for the mass of English travellers, who never go to French houses at all, and ventilate their foreign talk with café waiters or other promiscuous acquaintance.
Perfection in French is certainly not essentially necessary for Englishmen, and most of them seem to resolutely avoid all opportunities of acquiring it, but the language is such a charming vehicle of conversation, it fits itself so prettily and precisely to all the wants of daily life, it contains so many admirable peculiarities, and possesses so many special qualities, that it is a pity the English do not take more pains, when they have an opportunity under their hands, to obtain a real knowledge of its merits.
A TRAGEDY IN WAXWORK.
THERE was an intense excitement in the imperial city of Vienna. For weeks past heavy trains of Hungarian prisoners, some of high birth, some of low, had been brought through the streets, and kept under arrest in various houses. The conspiracy, known in history by the name of the Zriny-Nadasdy, which had been long smouldering, had been betrayed, and was finally drowned in the blood of the noble men who had staked life for a cause which was lost at the outset. As the prisons would not hold the number of persons compromised, it was found necessary to quarter them in private houses, whose windows were hurriedly grated, and, when filled with guards, they resembled little citadels.
The most uncomfortable rumours were afloat. The emperor, Leopold I., was seriously ill, and it seemed as if Providence would no longer use his hand in signing the multitude of death-warrants. At the same time the formidable foe across the Rhine, Louis XIV., was stirring, for he was engaged more than ever with his plan of securing for the House of Bourbon the succession to the throne of the Spanish Habsburgs. Never had the moment been more favourable for the success of Louis's in. trigues.
Leopold had no male descendants. His younger brother, Charles Joseph, had died in 1664. If the emperor were to die, a war of succession would be inevitable, and who could resist the mighty Louis, who, allied with England through the weakness of Charles II., with Sweden, and the chief powers of the empire, saw no foe of importance opposed to him save the States-General ? Were not his armies led by such generals as Turenne and Condé, and there was as yet no Eugène or Marlborough to oppose to them?
The House of Austria was tottering—there were two hundred and fifty combatants at that time in Vienna. They were combatants ad majorem Dei gratiam! The fathers of the company of Jesus. They had the emperor entirely in their power, called him their “ Leopoldus Magnus,” received a thousand marks of favour from him, and, by their fanatical greed for conversions, paved the way for the insurrection in Hungary, which was supported by Louis XIV. The Magyars must be the scapegoats for all the treachery and faithlessness that were going on in the dark at the court of Vienna. These fathers were supported by the priests of the company, who had been in the service of Louis XIV. since 1668, as the company preferred the growing power of the French to that of the imperilled Habsburgs.
Leopold I. was compelled to pray--pray a very great deal--and he liked to pray. At that period, which certainly urged the oppressed ruler more than any other to ask the aid of Deity, his conscience-keepers, the Jesuits, made religion a political lever. The emperor heard mass thrice a day on his knees, and Pater Müller lent him his ear in the confessional. Religious conversation formed the staple of the day's amusement, and every article the emperor employed must prievously be blessed by the priests. On March 22, 1670, just about twilight, a man, pushing a truck
before him, appeared in front of the storehouses in the imperial castle of Vienna. The kitchen officers at once took charge of his load, which was intended for household purposes. It consisted of two rather large chests. The companions of the porter were strange enough: they were two men dressed in the garb of Jesuits. The steward, who was summoned, made a deep bow. One of the black gentry was the pater-procurator, the other a less exalted instrument of the order. The kitchen-servants had just caught hold of the chests, which had been removed from the truck, when the pater restrained them in a gentle voice.
“ My friends," he said, “are you aware that these chests must be treated tenderly? Carry them carefully into the ante-room, so that their contents may not be injured.”
“ Your reverence will greatly oblige by telling me what the chests contain, so that I may take due care of them until I hand them over to the chamberlain on duty,” the steward said, gazing reverendly at the two chests.
“ Learn, my friend,” the procurator replied, “ that the cases contain a number of consecrated wax-candles, whose flames will henceforth illumine the imperial apartments. His majesty, you know, receives everything he requires from the hands of us, who have blessed it for his service. Inform the servants who have charge of the apartments that his majesty gave his reverend confessor, Father Müller, to understand that he wished, in addition to other consecrated objects, to have such candles burnt in his rooms. They must, therefore, be henceforth taken from this store.”
After the procurator had convinced himself that the cases had been properly delivered, he went away with his companion. On the same evening consecrated candles were lit in the apartment of the Emperor Leopold, and remained from that time in constant use.
A week later the emperor was taken dangerously ill. In spite of the consecrated candles, he began to pine away, and no physician, no prayers, could check it.
“ The Hungarian malcontents have poisoned the emperor,” 'twas said in Vienna. “The Nadasdy has done it, for he tried his hand first in killing Nicholas Zriny."*
A light travelling calèche was following the road from Swechat to Vienna. The driver wore a broad-brimmed hat, and had a brace of pistols in his belt. Imperial dragoons rode on either side of the carriage, with their carbines laid across their saddle-bow. This escort indicated to passers-by that there was a prisoner of importance in the interior of the vehicle.
The two-seated calèche was conveying two gentlemen to Vienna, the younger of whom wore the uniform of the Austrian Life Guards. His face revealed the Southerner at the first glance, and the cheerful expression which was visible on it formed a striking contrast with the melancholy stamped on the features of the elder gentleman sitting by his side. The latter, for whom the escort was intended, was dressed in black velvet. A long cloak, edged with expensive fur, entirely covered his person. On his head he wore a close-fitting cap, under whose brim grey locks peered
* See Michiel's “Secret History of the House of Austria,” on which work, indeed, my anecdote is founded.