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ET. 36.] PARIS-LOUVRE-PANTHEON-VERSAILLES.
PARIS, October 15, 1814.
After the Louvre-I know scarcely anything that is quite transcendant. I have been again to see the Jardin des Plantes, which I think comes next to it. The concentration of all Nature's works-vegetable, mineral and animal-into one museum, is indeed a sight worth travelling to see. The Pantheon is a magnificent place the dome is everything that Greek architecture can do; but still the effect falls far short of the Gothic, on a similar scale. The tombs of Voltaire, Rousseau, and others, are below. Their vaults-the only cleanly things I have seen in Paris-are so neat and tidy, that they present the image of rather a comfortable English pantry, than of anything that can overawe the mind.
The French acting in tragedy I do not like; but until I see Talma again, which will be, I trust, on Wednesday, I shall not decide. Their comic acting is perfection. Fleury, when he plays a French Marquis, is what we so seldom see on our stage --a fop in spirit, but in manners an easy gentleman. He comes in, and rattles to six people, who eagerly wish to speak; they can't get in a word; he speaks, and prattles them all down. He gets drunk--meets an old father, and recounts to him all the follies of his friend-the prodigal son of the old fellowslaps him-laughs at him--but is still the gentleman-even when the words stick in his mouth.
I have been again at Versailles. The intention was to make the basis of the palace a mountain; it is indeed a mountain scaled by magnificent stairs. But the palace itself is not large enough for the basis-and the trees are clipped with horrible formality. The grand and small Trianons consummate all possible ideas of magnificent furniture. The village is shown where poor Marie Antoinette used to retire and act the play of "La Chasse d'Henri IV. ;" and where she played the part of her young beauty-the miller's daughter.
The squares of the Louvre and the Tuileries present an architecture much more perfect than that of Versailles; and to which there is nothing similar in London-nor perhaps in the world. The whole sides of the Seine, indeed, for half a league in length, are magnificent; and at night, when the lights are thrown upon the river, which has but a few scattered boats to add to the picturesque-not to hide it, like the craft on our Thames the moonlight and the reflection of the fires make it the finest city I ever beheld. Notre-Dame rises like our St. Paul's in the centre of Paris. Next to it, and out of the town,
the most noticeable ground-I mean as to mere prospect-is Montmartre, with its windmills-the scene of the last battle. It is not easy to look at the plain where the Russians lost so many thousands--advancing in close columns, to force the heights of Montmartre-without a lively sensation. It is said they might all have been destroyed there, if the French had been properly headed. Thank God, it was otherwise.
When the Louvre was open, it used to be a pleasant place of rendezvous for the English; independent of the charms of the place itself, where there are many thousands of pictures. The French school, including Claude, Poussin and Vernet, make, I assure you, no mean appearance. There is a Deluge, by Poussin, which struck me as the true sublime. But I will not trouble you with my infantine connoisseurship. Any little taste in painting, I know full well I have not got; but the pleasure of the paintings grew upon me-though still far, far inferior to that of the statues. I took leave of the glorious Apollo, not less enchanted than when I met him. I should have knocked down Dr. Schlegel, had not Madame de Staël been present, when he told me it was inferior to the Torso!-vile Fuselesque thing-it is human, the other is divine! But the more I see of the works of Art, and of Dr. Schlegel and his German ideas of the sublime and beautiful-the more I hate the Fuselesque; for Schlegel and Fuseli are both, I see, of the same school. The Pericles, falsely called Phocion, would enchant you. The Flemish school has, to my poor taste, more fine paint, than fine painting. But I can now see what Raphael and Titian must be to those who better understand them. I should not, indeed, forget Paul Potter's cows. Oh, the dear brutes! I thought they were not pictures, but poor dumb animals, waiting till the company should disperse--and I was sorry to think they were kept so long in the gallery.
I had a million of things to tell you, and to ask, that were perhaps not worth either asking or telling; but I am sorry to take leave-yet I must-for I have sat two hours without a fire, and with my feet on a brick floor. With the French it is no joke to get up a fire-even in this cold weather. My chamber-woman, I sometimes think, is making a journey to Prometheus's kitchen for it-she stays so long; and then the poor devil lies squat on the floor, and puffs, with her black eyes starting out of her head, to make the miserable faggot burn-exclaiming a thousand times, "Mon dieu, mon dieu!" at the badness of the wood. T. C.
Of the impressions received by Campbell during his visit to Paris, the preceding letters offer a short but animated picture; and of the same impressions, as they dwelt upon his mind after many long years, the following extracts present a still glowing recollection. Drawing from these hoarded stores of memory, he thus writes in 1832; and the scene he has described, retained its freshness to the very close of life :
"I was one of the many English who availed themselves of the first short peace to get a sight of the Continent. The Louvre was at that time in possession of its fullest wealth. In the Statuary-hall of that place I had the honor of giving Mrs. Siddons my arm the first time she walked through it, and the first in both our lives that we saw the Apollo Belvidere. From the farthest end of that spacious room, the god seemed to look down like a president on the chosen assembly of sculptured forms; and his glowing marble, unstained by time, appeared to my imagination as if he had stepped freshly from the sun. had seen casts of the glorious statue with scarcely any admiration; and I must undoubtedly impute that circumstance, in part, to my inexperience in art, and to my taste having till then lain torpid. But still I prize the recollected impressions of that day too dearly to call them fanciful. They seemed to give my mind a new sense of the harmony of Art-a new visual power of enjoying beauty. Nor is it mere fancy that makes the difference between the Apollo himself and his plaster-casts. The dead whiteness of the stucco copies is glaringly monotonous; whilst the diaphanous surface of the original seems to soften the light which it reflects.
"Every particular of that hour is written indelibly on my memory. I remember entering the Louvre with a latent suspicion on my mind, that a good deal of the rapture expressed at the sight of superlative sculptures was exaggerated or affected; but as we passed through the vestibule of the hall, there was a Greek figure, think that of Pericles, with a chlamys and helmet, which John Kemble desired me to notice; and it instantly struck me with wonder at the gentleman-like grace which Art could give to a human form, with so simple a vesture. It was not, however, until we reached the grand saloon, that the first sight of the god overawed my incredulity. Every step of approach to his presence added to my sensations; and all recollections of his name in classic poetry swarmed on my mind as spontaneously as the associations that are conjured up by the sweetest music. .
RECOLLECTIONS OF HIS VISIT.
"Engrossed as I was with the Apollo, I could not forget the honor of being before him in the company of so august a worshipper, and it certainly increased my enjoyment to see the first interview between the paragon of Art and that of Nature. Mrs. Siddons was evidently much struck, and remained a long time before the statue; but, like a true admirer, she was not loquacious. I remember she said- What a great idea it gives us of God to think that he has made a human being capable of fashioning so divine a form!' When we walked round to other sculptures, I observed that almost every eye in the Hall was fixed upon her and followed her; yet I could perceive that she was not known, as I heard the spectators say-Who is she? Is she not an Englishwoman?' At this time, though in her fifty-ninth year, her looks were so noble, that she made you proud of English beauty-even in the presence of Grecian sculpture."
In his retrospective notes, twenty years after this period, he thus reverts to it :-" Mrs. Siddons was a great simple being, who was not shrewd in her knowledge of the world, and was not herself well understood, in some particulars, by the majority of the world. The universal feeling towards her was respectful, but she was thought austere; but with all her apparent haughtiness, there was no person more humble when humility became her. From intense devotion to her profession she derived a peculiarity of manner-the habit of attaching dramatic tones and emphasis to common-place colloquial subjects, but of which she was not in the least conscious, unless reminded of it. I know not what others felt; but I own that I loved her all the better for this unconscious solemnity of manner. She was more than a woman of genius; for the additional benevolence of her heart made her an honor to her sex and to human nature." "In the following passage," he adds, "Joanna Baillie has left a perfect picture of Mrs. Siddons :"
Page. Madam, there is a lady in your hall,
Page. So queenly, so commanding, and so noble,
Lady. Is she young or old?
PICTURE OF MRS. SIDDONS.
Page. Neither, if right I guess; but she is fair;
So stately, and so graceful is her form,
I thought at first her stature was gigantic;
Page. I cannot well describe the fashion of it-
But seems to me, clad in the usual weeds
Of high habitual state.
Lady. Thine eyes deceive thee, boy,
Friberg. It is an apparition he has seen,
JANE DE MONTFORT, Act II, Scene 1.