« AnteriorContinuar »
nad the music poured its exhilarating strains; here had the laugh resounded amid the encounter of bright eyes, and the sparkling coruscations of wit. Gracious God! what a frightful change did a few years present!—That lovely Queen, with her ill-fated husband, and a great portion of the beauty and chivalry of their court, all miserably slaughtered; the rest in exile, penury, and wretchedness; the palace devastated by an infuriate mob; and this glorious temple of their festivity left as we now beheld it-denuded of all its gildings, and trappings, and costly mirrors; the paintings crumbling to decay; the boards creaking beneath the foot; and spiders weaving their webs, amid gloom and silence, a thwart the trelliswork of that box, over which the beautiful arm of Marie Antoinette had so often been suspended !
A superannuated domestic, harmonizing well with this affecting picture of human instability, conducted us over the dilapidated grandeur. There are men in humble station whom one involuntarily respects for the appalling changes they have witnessed, and the consequent feelings of which their bosoms must be the depositories :—and this was such a person. Taken when a boy into the service of royalty, he had been present at the marriage of Louis XVI., when there were ten thousand people lodged in the palace, and every one of its rooms rang with mirth and music: he had seen the Queen address the raving mob of Paris from the balcony of the Old Court, when they came here to seek her: he had trembled with horror and dismay when the same couple, whom he had seen united at the altar amid prayers, blessings, and festivities, were savagely hurried to the guillotine: and, finally, at the sacking of Versailles, he had fled into concealment, but not until he and some faithful fellow-servants had hidden the portraits of the royal family beneath the floor of the Sacristy, at a time when a discovery of such treason to the new order of things would infallibly have cost him his head. After a long interment these pictures had, upon the restoration of the Bourbons, emerged into light, if that can be called light, which in the blaze of a summer noon diffused little more than a darkness visible around the stage part of this tattered theatre, where they stood without frames, as if still afraid of venturing into the haunts of men. Our venerable Cicerone led us from queen to king, and from monarch to mistress, detailing, with profound respect, the marriages and relationships of each, until we came to one which he passed unnoticed; and on inquiring the reason, he replied, with a careless toss of his head, that it was only a church picture. Those persons are assuredly very wrong who connect the ancient order of things with a necessary respect for religion: re. spect for an earthly divinity it may indeed have inculcated, and here, where a loose monarch is every where seen deified in marble in the midst of his mistresses, such devotion was probably as fer. vent as it was prevalent; but this is directly opposed to that pure religion which, bidding us disclaim the lusts of the flesh and all earthly pomps, has morality for its basis, and Heaven for its reward.' Here, as well as upon several other occasions, we observed that, amid various classes in France, Christianity was considered with indifference, and in some instances with contempt.
Passing by the Grand Reservoir, an enormous and losiy mound of stone, constructed for the supply of a single water-work, we advanced into the gardens, laid out in the usual formal style of parterres, green vistas, and alleys; but magnificently decorated with 150 marble statues of rare workmanship, besides numerous figures, vases, and groups, of bronze, all of which we commanded from the elevated terrace where we stood; while, in whatever direction we turned our eyes, columns and various combinations of water were thrown aloft into the air, some immediately surrounding us, some from the successive terraces beneath us: some having the nodding plumage of their summits relieved by the verdant alleys and niches in which they were embowered; while others shooting up against the bright blue sky turned over their foaming capitals, like Corinthian pillars; or, as the wind gently agitated them, scattered their silver spray in the last gleams of the setting sun. It was a scene of enchantment--a dream, an attempt to embody some of the descriptions in the “ Arabian Nights Entertainments," of which we only beheld the perfect realization when we reached the Bosquet de la Colonnade, a circular enclosure of thirty-two marble columns decorated with Naiads, Sylvans, and Genii, holding the attributes of love, surrounding a central basin, and noble group of the Rape of Proserpine, every one of the numerous figures keeping up a perpetual discharge of water, until the whole enclosure was enveloped in a cloud of foam. If these sparkling exhibitions and beautiful baubles had recalled to us the fantastic fables of our infancy, not without some passing impressions of their puerility, or at least of their trivial value in the eye of genuine taste, we had a treat in store for us, infinitely more exquisite in itself
, and unalloyed by any of these drawbacks upon our delights. This, too, was a scene calculated to revive the visions of our early reading, but of those more classical fictions of Grecian story, which transport the imagination to the Vale of Tempe, or the hallowed precincts of Mount Parnassus and Delphi. Quitting the planned parterres and radiated walks of the gardens, we passed through a gate into an unfrequented enclosure, left in the wild luxuriance of Nature, when, after winding a little while among shady walks, we came abruptly upon a sloping grass-plot, shelving down to the Baths of Apollo. An enormous rock, o'er-canopied by lofty trees and umbrageous shrubs, is hollowed out into three grottos, representing the entrance into the Palace of Thetis, in the centre one of which is Apollo seated, surrounded by six nymphs attiring him after the bath: in the two side grottos are Tritons watering the horses of the tuneful god; at their feet is the bath from which he is supposed to have just emerged, not circumscribed by marble or cut into squares, but hiding its edges in the grass and rushes; while the whole, shut in by a surrounding grove, has the exact aspect of such a nook in Arcady or Thessaly, as we may imagine the deity to have selected for the purpose. The sculptures, universally admitted to be the chefsd'ouvre of Girardon, are most exquisite; and the scenic accompaniments and embellishments imparted to them such an air of reality, that we contemplated them in an ecstasy of silent reverence, half inclined to shrink behind the trees, lest we should be consi
dered as intruding upon the haunts of the immortals. It appears strange that advantage has not been taken of this species of illusion to enhance the attractions of other celebrated statues, by surrounding them with correspondent associations. Connoisseurs, it may be said, experience too intense a delight in the prodigies of art to require any stimulus to their admiration ; but the most vivid imaginations cannot embody all the picturesque of a subject at one moinent; and if they could, they should recollect that men of more sluggish faculties, or less cultivated taste, cannot indulge in such delicious reveries without the aid of ocular excitement. 'The Baths of Apollo form also an extensive play of waters; but fortunately they were not working at the time we beheld them :- I say fortunately, for I should have been sorry indeed had their noisy spouting banished the impressive, heartfelt silence of the spot; or substituted for those delicious visions which wafted us back through nymphs and fauns, and Thessalian woods, to the banks of the Pe. neus, any reminiscences connected with Louis Quatorze, the Bois de Boulogne, and the banks of the Seine.
Yet such a revulsion were we doomed to experience; for we found that the group before us was in fact a species of apotheosis of Louis the Fourteenth, represented under the figure of Apollo, while the attendant nymphs drying his feet, anointing his hair, and performing other menial offices, were portraits of his six mistresses! One knows not which is most fulsome and revolting—the weak and unmanly vanity of the monarch, or the crawling profligacy of the women who could suffer themselves to be handed down to posterity in such mutually disgraceful characters; yet this shameless and boastful triling is perpetually thrust into the face of the world as if it were a virtue, almost every nymph in the gardens being the bust of a mistress, and almost every god a likeness of the monarch. This is legitimacy with a vengeance; and the advocates of that doctrine who are of opinion that, after impoverishing his people by boundless extravagance, a rectilinear king may corrupt them by publishing his seraglio in marble, and that he may not only be despotic himself, but put lettres de cachet in the power of his numeruus concubines, should certainly make a point of visiting Versailles. Could we trace that hidden relationship which sows in one age the seeds of the events that are to grow up in another, we might probably establish an unbroken connexion between the building of this palace and the destruction of the Bastille. These occurrences are action and re-action ; cause and effect: and when certain writers lament (as they may well do the outrages of the Revolution, it would be but fair to extend their sympathy a little farther back, and bewail those long-existing outrages of despotism by which it was generated.
The Trianons present nothing particularly deserving notice after the splendours of Versailles ; although the greater one, built for Madaine de Maintenon, has the same pretension to pomp, saloons, and picture-galleries, all at a humble distance from the gorgeous prototype. "The celebrity of the little Trianon arises from its delightful gardens, assuming to be laid out in the English style, and, with certain exceptions, not undeserving that proud distinction. Delille, however, the poet of the gardens, could find nothing better to say of them than to compare them, with true French politesse, to Marie Antoinette
Semblable à son auguste et jeune Deité,
Trianon joint la grâce avec la majesté. A Parisian's notions of the pastoral very seldom range beyond the Court and the metropolis. Fatigued with gazing upon stone buildings and glaring statues, I wandered into an unfrequented part of these delicious groves, to recreate my aching eyes with the sight of verdant lawns and the pleasant green light that oozes through boughs and leaves; and never have I felt the bewitching power of Nature with more intense enjoyment than in the few exquisite minutes passed amid the silent shades of the little Trianon. 'Contrast imparted an irresistible charm to the beauties of the scene, which melted the soul like the first meeting with those we love after a long separation. Seated under the shade of a chesnut-tree, I saw across the green sward before me a beautiful cluster of foliage, consisting of aspens, acacias, limes, and white ash trees; and as their light feathery boughs kept undulating in the wind, I could hardly help fancying that they did it on purpose to engage my attention to the rustling of their leaves, whose sound seemed to reproach me gently for my long secession from the worship of Nature, and at last, with more vivacious music, to welcome me back to her sylvan dominions. In the enthusiasm of the moment, I made a mental vow of future fealty and devotion; and in the stern necessity that invariably starts up to dissipate all the day-dreams of romance, and illusions of fancy, I answered the impatient summons of our guide, and got quietly into the carriage that reconducted us along dusty roads to the hermitage of the Chaussée d'Antin at Paris. When again alone, I seriously doubted whether I had done right in withdrawing myself from the welcome of the woods; for never had the iron tongues of Bow bells rung out a more distinct summons to Whittington, than did the silver voices of the leaves pour into my ear as I listened to their song; and I amused myself with conjecturing what rural honours “ Jove in his chair, of the sky Lord Mayor,” would have showered down upon me, had I yielded to the invitation of the French Dryads and Hamadryads. I had not yet settled whether I should have been converted into a silk-stocking Faunus, leading out his Dryope to perform pirouettes and entrechats on a smooth grass-plot-or a royal huntsman, such as I had seen at Versailles, with a monstrous cocked hat, a sword by his side, and red velvet inexpressibles,-when in this pleasing uncertainty I fell fast asleep.
REFLECTIONS ON PLUM-PUDDING, BY A POOR GENTLEMAN.
MR. EDITOR,-For the sake of giving harmonious clearness to this Essay, let me describe the circumstances that have induced me to send it. This is beginning ab ovo, or from the egg; but what then ? is a fresh egg an unimportant ingredient in a plum-pudding? I must also speak of myself. But be so good, Sir, as to respect me ; for though poor, I am a gentleman. I am no admirer of such vulgar plumpuddings as are doled out to the unwashed artificer from the common
cook's shop or the wheelbarrow. No, Sir, I love only such as breathe, like Milton's music, " a steam of rich distilled perfumes.” Such were those which were once revealed to me from beneath the silver cover of my friend;-but he is gone, and with him the days of pleasurable and pudding recollections—perhaps never to return.
I live genteely in an attic lodging up three pair of stairs, and support myself and a grey cat in a state of honourable independence and sleekness (I apply the sleekness to my cat, and not myself.) Necessity, however, drove me lately to make a sly attempt at employment from a bookseller. I called on Messrs. Blank and Blank -(well may I call them blank, for they sent me away very blank, and I could have piously tossed them in a blanket.) I inquired about literature, and how authors contrived to live. « On bullock's liver,” said the bookseller. “ We have two hundred sermons a year from the Reverend Hum Drum, and fifty volumes of history from Dr. Dryrott, warranted to us better than Hume's or Robertson's, at the rate of a halfpenny a paragraph. High feeding, Sir, makes authors abdominous and stupid. What clever selling elegies Boyce would have written, with his hand stuck through a hole in the blanket, had you kept him from porter. But we are liberal, Sir, nobody more so." "I thought to myself, there is no plumpudding to be found here, and went home chop-fallen, to dine on a solitary chop.. But the thoughts of plum-pudding still haunted me. Next morning came the red-cheeked and curly-pated butcher's boy to my door, and hinted his expectation of a Christmas-box by a message desiring to know if I wanted any suet for a Christmaspudding; for that the apothecary over the way had bespoken nine pounds of suet for the aforesaid dish. “Go,” said I, "boy, learn of the apothecary's cook how many guests are to consume this pudding, and be assured of thy Christmas-box.” He returned like lightning-Cook was positive that the dining-room could dine only eighteen persons. Now then began I to reflect. Nine pounds of suet, suppose as many of flour, and twice as many of fruit, besides etceteras. Here is half a pound of suet to each particular stomach, without reckoning other things. Let me call upon you, Mr. Editor, by all that is dear to you in Christmas revels, to reflect on the sublime and beautiful conception of this apothecary's plum-pud. ding. What “double double toil and trouble” to his cook, and what clanging of pestles and future employment for his prentices, thus providently stored up by his hospitality in the bowels of his friends and customers!- meant to have written a long Essay on the subject; but hope that what I have written will bring me a sum sufficient to save me from the horrors of spending Christmas without a pudding. And with respectful compliments from my grey cat, which a punning friend calls a cat of praise-worthy humour, (or laudable pus,) I remain your respectful humble servant,