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       The Paris Sketch Book of Mr. M. A. Titmarsh, p.1
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The Paris Sketch Book of Mr. M. A. Titmarsh

  The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Paris Sketch Book Of Mr. M. A. Titmarsh, by William Makepeace Thackeray This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Title: The Paris Sketch Book Of Mr. M. A. Titmarsh Author: William Makepeace Thackeray Release Date: December 6, 2008 [EBook #2768] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK PARIS SKETCH BOOK *** Produced by Donald Lainson, and David Widger



  By William Makepeace Thackeray

  Estes And Lauriat, Boston, Publishers

  * * *



























  * * *





  SIR,—It becomes every man in his station to acknowledge and praise virtue wheresoever he may find it, and to point it out for the admiration and example of his fellow-men.

  Some months since, when you presented to the writer of these pages a small account for coats and pantaloons manufactured by you, and when you were met by a statement from your creditor, that an immediate settlement of your bill would be extremely inconvenient to him; your reply was, "Mon Dieu, Sir, let not that annoy you; if you want money, as a gentleman often does in a strange country, I have a thousand-franc note at my house which is quite at your service."

  History or experience, Sir, makes us acquainted with so few actions that can be compared to yours,—an offer like this from a stranger and a tailor seems to me so astonishing,—that you must pardon me for thus making your virtue public, and acquainting the English nation with your merit and your name. Let me add, Sir, that you live on the first floor; that your clothes and fit are excellent, and your charges moderate and just; and, as a humble tribute of my admiration, permit me to lay these volumes at your feet.

  Your obliged, faithful servant,



  About half of the sketches in these volumes have already appeared in print, in various periodical works. A part of the text of one tale, and the plots of two others, have been borrowed from French originals; the other stories, which are, in the main, true, have been written upon facts and characters that came within the Author's observation during a residence in Paris.

  As the remaining papers relate to public events which occurred during the same period, or to Parisian Art and Literature, he has ventured to give his publication the title which it bears.

  LONDON, July 1, 1840.

  * * *


  "Caesar venit in Galliam summâ diligentiâ."

  About twelve o'clock, just as the bell of the packet is tolling a farewell to London Bridge, and warning off the blackguard-boys with the newspapers, who have been shoving Times, Herald, Penny Paul-Pry, Penny Satirist, Flare-up, and other abominations, into your face—just as the bell has tolled, and the Jews, strangers, people-taking-leave-of their families, and blackguard-boys aforesaid, are making a rush for the narrow plank which conducts from the paddle-box of the "Emerald" steamboat unto the quay—you perceive, staggering down Thames Street, those two hackney-coaches, for the arrival of which you have been praying, trembling, hoping, despairing, swearing—sw—, I beg your pardon, I believe the word is not used in polite company—and transpiring, for the last half-hour. Yes, at last, the two coaches draw near, and from thence an awful number of trunks, children, carpet-bags, nursery-maids, hat-boxes, band-boxes, bonnet-boxes, desks, cloaks, and an affectionate wife, are discharged on the quay.

  "Elizabeth, take care of Miss Jane," screams that worthy woman, who has been for a fortnight employed in getting this tremendous body of troops and baggage into marching order. "Hicks! Hicks! for heaven's sake mind the babies!"—"George—Edward, sir, if you go near that porter with the trunk, he will tumble down and kill you, you naughty boy!—My love, DO take the cloaks and umbrellas, and give a hand to Fanny and Lucy; and I wish you would speak to the hackney-coachmen, dear, they want fifteen shillings, and count the packages, love—twenty-seven packages,—and bring little Flo; where's little Flo?—Flo! Flo!"—(Flo comes sneaking in; she has been speaking a few parting words to a one-eyed terrier, that sneaks off similarly, landward.)

  As when the hawk menaces the hen-roost, in like manner, when such a danger as a voyage menaces a mother, she becomes suddenly endowed with a ferocious presence of mind, and bristling up and screaming in the front of her brood, and in the face of circumstances, succeeds, by her courage, in putting her enemy to flight; in like manner you will always, I think, find your wife (if that lady be good for twopence) shrill, eager, and ill-humored, before, and during a great family move of this nature. Well, the swindling hackney-coachmen are paid, the mother leading on her regiment of little ones, and supported by her auxiliary nurse-maids, are safe in the cabin;—you have counted twenty-six of the twenty-seven parcels, and have them on board, and that horrid man on the paddle-box, who, for twenty minutes past, has been roaring out, NOW, SIR!—says, NOW, SIR, no more.

  I never yet knew how a steamer began to move, being always too busy among the trunks and children, for the first half-hour, to mark any of the movements of the vessel. When these private arrangements are made, you find yourself opposite Greenwich (farewell, sweet, sweet whitebait!), and quiet begins to enter your soul. Your wife smiles for the first time these ten days; you pass by plantations of ship-masts, and forests of steam-chimneys; the sailors are singing on board the ships, the bargees salute you with oaths, grins, and phrases facetious and familiar; the man on the paddle-box roars, "Ease her, stop her!" which mysterious words a shrill voice from below repeats, and pipes out, "Ease her, stop her!" in echo; the deck is crowded with groups of figures, and the sun shines over all.

  The sun shines over all, and the steward comes up to say, "Lunch, ladies and gentlemen! Will any lady or gentleman please to take anythink?" About a dozen do: boiled beef and pickles, and great red raw Cheshire cheese, tempt the epicure: little dumpy bottles of stout are produced, and fizz and bang about with a spirit one would never have looked for in individuals of their size and stature.

  The decks have a strange, look; the people on them, that is. Wives, elderly stout husbands, nurse-maids, and children predominate, of course, in English steamboats. Such may be considered as the distinctive marks of the English gentleman at three or four and forty: two or three of such groups have pitched their camps on the deck. Then there are a number of young men, of whom thr
ee or four have allowed their moustaches to BEGIN to grow since last Friday; for they are going "on the Continent," and they look, therefore, as if their upper lips were smeared with snuff.

  A danseuse from the opera is on her way to Paris. Followed by her bonne and her little dog, she paces the deck, stepping out, in the real dancer fashion, and ogling all around. How happy the two young Englishmen are, who can speak French, and make up to her: and how all criticise her points and paces! Yonder is a group of young ladies, who are going to Paris to learn how to be governesses: those two splendidly dressed ladies are milliners from the Rue Richelieu, who have just brought over, and disposed of, their cargo of Summer fashions. Here sits the Rev. Mr. Snodgrass with his pupils, whom he is conducting to his establishment, near Boulogne, where, in addition to a classical and mathematical education (washing included), the young gentlemen have the benefit of learning French among THE FRENCH THEMSELVES. Accordingly, the young gentlemen are locked up in a great rickety house, two miles from Boulogne and never see a soul, except the French usher and the cook.

  Some few French people are there already, preparing to be ill—(I never shall forget a dreadful sight I once had in the little dark, dirty, six-foot cabin of a Dover steamer. Four gaunt Frenchmen, but for their pantaloons, in the costume of Adam in Paradise, solemnly anointing themselves with some charm against sea-sickness!)—a few Frenchmen are there, but these, for the most part, and with a proper philosophy, go to the fore-cabin of the ship, and you see them on the fore-deck (is that the name for that part of the vessel which is in the region of the bowsprit?) lowering in huge cloaks and caps; snuffy, wretched, pale, and wet; and not jabbering now, as their wont is on shore. I never could fancy the Mounseers formidable at sea.

  There are, of course, many Jews on board. Who ever travelled by steamboat, coach, diligence, eilwagen, vetturino, mule-back, or sledge, without meeting some of the wandering race?

  By the time these remarks have been made the steward is on the deck again, and dinner is ready: and about two hours after dinner comes tea; and then there is brandy-and-water, which he eagerly presses as a preventive against what may happen; and about this time you pass the Foreland, the wind blowing pretty fresh; and the groups on deck disappear, and your wife, giving you an alarmed look, descends, with her little ones, to the ladies' cabin, and you see the steward and his boys issuing from their den under the paddle-box, with each a heap of round tin vases, like those which are called, I believe, in America, expectoratoons, only these are larger.

  . . . . . .

  The wind blows, the water looks greener and more beautiful than ever—ridge by ridge of long white rock passes away. "That's Ramsgit," says the man at the helm; and, presently, "That there's Deal—it's dreadful fallen off since the war;" and "That's Dover, round that there pint, only you can't see it." And, in the meantime, the sun has plumped his hot face into the water, and the moon has shown hers as soon as ever his back is turned, and Mrs.—(the wife in general,) has brought up her children and self from the horrid cabin, in which she says it is impossible to breathe; and the poor little wretches are, by the officious stewardess and smart steward (expectoratoonifer), accommodated with a heap of blankets, pillows, and mattresses, in the midst of which they crawl, as best they may, and from the heaving heap of which are, during the rest of the voyage, heard occasional faint cries, and sounds of puking woe!

  Dear, dear Maria! Is this the woman who, anon, braved the jeers and brutal wrath of swindling hackney-coachmen; who repelled the insolence of haggling porters, with a scorn that brought down their demands at least eighteenpence? Is this the woman at whose voice servants tremble; at the sound of whose steps the nursery, ay, and mayhap the parlor, is in order? Look at her now, prostrate, prostrate—no strength has she to speak, scarce power to push to her youngest one—her suffering, struggling Rosa,—to push to her the—the instrumentoon!

  In the midst of all these throes and agonies, at which all the passengers, who have their own woes (you yourself—for how can you help THEM?—you are on your back on a bench, and if you move all is up with you,) are looking on indifferent—one man there is who has been watching you with the utmost care, and bestowing on your helpless family the tenderness that a father denies them. He is a foreigner, and you have been conversing with him, in the course of the morning, in French—which, he says, you speak remarkably well, like a native in fact, and then in English (which, after all, you find is more convenient). What can express your gratitude to this gentleman for all his goodness towards your family and yourself—you talk to him, he has served under the Emperor, and is, for all that, sensible, modest, and well-informed. He speaks, indeed, of his countrymen almost with contempt, and readily admits the superiority of a Briton, on the seas and elsewhere. One loves to meet with such genuine liberality in a foreigner, and respects the man who can sacrifice vanity to truth. This distinguished foreigner has travelled much; he asks whither you are going?—where you stop? if you have a great quantity of luggage on board?—and laughs when he hears of the twenty-seven packages, and hopes you have some friend at the custom-house, who can spare you the monstrous trouble of unpacking that which has taken you weeks to put up. Nine, ten, eleven, the distinguished foreigner is ever at your side; you find him now, perhaps, (with characteristic ingratitude,) something of a bore, but, at least, he has been most tender to the children and their mamma. At last a Boulogne light comes in sight, (you see it over the bows of the vessel, when, having bobbed violently upwards, it sinks swiftly down,) Boulogne harbor is in sight, and the foreigner says,—

  The distinguished foreigner says, says he—"Sare, eef you af no 'otel, I sall recommend you, milor, to ze 'Otel Betfort, in ze Quay, sare, close to the bathing-machines and custom-ha-oose. Good bets and fine garten, sare; table-d'hôte, sare, à cinq heures; breakfast, sare, in French or English style;—I am the commissionaire, sare, and vill see to your loggish."

  ... Curse the fellow, for an impudent, swindling, sneaking French humbug!—Your tone instantly changes, and you tell him to go about his business: but at twelve o'clock at night, when the voyage is over, and the custom-house business done, knowing not whither to go, with a wife and fourteen exhausted children, scarce able to stand, and longing for bed, you find yourself, somehow, in the Hôtel Bedford (and you can't be better), and smiling chambermaids carry off your children to snug beds; while smart waiters produce for your honor—a cold fowl, say, and a salad, and a bottle of Bordeaux and Seltzer-water.

  . . . . . .

  The morning comes—I don't know a pleasanter feeling than that of waking with the sun shining on objects quite new, and (although you have made the voyage a dozen times,) quite strange. Mrs. X. and you occupy a very light bed, which has a tall canopy of red "percale;" the windows are smartly draped with cheap gaudy calicoes and muslins; there are little mean strips of carpet about the tiled floor of the room, and yet all seems as gay and as comfortable as may be—the sun shines brighter than you have seen it for a year, the sky is a thousand times bluer, and what a cheery clatter of shrill quick French voices comes up from the court-yard under the windows! Bells are jangling; a family, mayhap, is going to Paris, en poste, and wondrous is the jabber of the courier, the postilion, the inn-waiters, and the lookers-on. The landlord calls out for "Quatre biftecks aux pommes pour le trente-trois,"—(O my countrymen, I love your tastes and your ways!)—the chambermaid is laughing and says, "Finissez donc, Monsieur Pierre!" (what can they be about?)—a fat Englishman has opened his window violently, and says, "Dee dong, garsong, vooly voo me donny lo sho, ou vooly voo pah?" He has been ringing for half an hour—the last energetic appeal succeeds, and shortly he is enabled to descend to the coffee-room, where, with three hot rolls, grilled ham, cold fowl, and four boiled eggs, he makes what he calls his first FRENCH breakfast.

  It is a strange, mongrel, merry place, this town of Boulogne; the little French fishermen's children are beautiful, and the little French soldiers, four feet high, red-breeched, with huge pompons on their caps
, and brown faces, and clear sharp eyes, look, for all their littleness, far more military and more intelligent than the heavy louts one has seen swaggering about the garrison towns in England. Yonder go a crowd of bare-legged fishermen; there is the town idiot, mocking a woman who is screaming "Fleuve du Tage," at an inn-window, to a harp, and there are the little gamins mocking HIM. Lo! these seven young ladies, with red hair and green veils, they are from neighboring Albion, and going to bathe. Here comes three Englishmen, habitués evidently of the place,—dandy specimens of our countrymen: one wears a marine dress, another has a shooting dress, a third has a blouse and a pair of guiltless spurs—all have as much hair on the face as nature or art can supply, and all wear their hats very much on one side. Believe me, there is on the face of this world no scamp like an English one, no blackguard like one of these half-gentlemen, so mean, so low, so vulgar,—so ludicrously ignorant and conceited, so desperately heartless and depraved.

  But why, my dear sir, get into a passion?—Take things coolly. As the poet has observed, "Those only is gentlemen who behave as sich;" with such, then, consort, be they cobblers or dukes. Don't give us, cries the patriotic reader, any abuse of our fellow-countrymen (anybody else can do that), but rather continue in that good-humored, facetious, descriptive style with which your letter has commenced.—Your remark, sir, is perfectly just, and does honor to your head and excellent heart.

  There is little need to give a description of the good town of Boulogne, which, haute and basse, with the new light-house and the new harbor, and the gas-lamps, and the manufactures, and the convents, and the number of English and French residents, and the pillar erected in honor of the grand Armée d'Angleterre, so called because it DIDN'T go to England, have all been excellently described by the facetious Coglan, the learned Dr. Millingen, and by innumerable guide-books besides. A fine thing it is to hear the stout old Frenchmen of Napoleon's time argue how that audacious Corsican WOULD have marched to London, after swallowing Nelson and all his gun-boats, but for cette malheureuse guerre d'Espagne and cette glorieuse campagne d'Autriche, which the gold of Pitt caused to be raised at the Emperor's tail, in order to call him off from the helpless country in his front. Some Frenchmen go farther still, and vow that in Spain they were never beaten at all; indeed, if you read in the Biographie des Hommes du Jour, article "Soult," you will fancy that, with the exception of the disaster at Vittoria, the campaigns in Spain and Portugal were a series of triumphs. Only, by looking at a map, it is observable that Vimeiro is a mortal long way from Toulouse, where, at the end of certain years of victories, we somehow find the honest Marshal. And what then?—he went to Toulouse for the purpose of beating the English there, to be sure;—a known fact, on which comment would be superfluous. However, we shall never get to Paris at this rate; let us break off further palaver, and away at once....

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