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route under the delicious green shade of the trees, until I reached the palace built by Catharine and Mary de Medicis; it contains nothing remarkable, and I passed it by to enter the fort or chateau, so celebrated as a state prison, having been in every respect the twin brother of the Bastile. It would have shared the same fate as that edifice, had not the patriotic La Fayette preserved it by calling out the National Guard. A young officer of gens-d'armerie, with whom I had been long acquainted, accompanied me. He wore the ribbon of the Legion of Honour given him by Napoleon, and therefore it is fair to suppose he merited it by his services. Yet he told me that having served the Emperor faithfully, he had now transferred his allegiance to Louis, and would equally devote his life for him, adding with all a Frenchman's levity and vehemence, upon my smiling at his pliancy of principle, “he would rather serve Louis than his God, for he had seen one but he never saw the other." This is too true a picture of modern political Frenchmen, and of numerous politicians in every country. Even erroneous principle may command respect, if it be inflexibly true to its pretensions, but who can respect those who studiously subject their principles to their interests! We crossed the drawbridges and entered the inner court. All seemed adapted to the purposes of arbitrary power, -moats and walls precluding any chance of escape; a gloom falling from the dark masses of stone the whole height of the keep, that flung over the mind, together with its dark shadows, a sadness weighing down every other sensation. The recollection of the mass of human suffering endured and enduring there, must have inflicted a death of hope in the mind of every newly-arrived victim. A lettre de cachet and a warrant for execution could have produced in him feelings very little dissimilar. No question was allowed to be asked by the prisoner on his introduction; c'est ici, he was told, la maison de silence. As I entered the door of the donjon, the walls of which are sixteen feet in thickness, I thought of the inscription over hell-gate in Dante,
Lasciate ogni speranza, voi, che ’ntrate ! What a picture was before me of the old regime of France! From the palace to the dungeon was here indeed but a step. The groans and misery of the captives must often, from their vicinity to it, have been echoed back in return for the music and revelry of courtiers. Thus the pains of captivity were rendered more cutting, and a torture inflicted on the mind even more bitter than Louis XI. caused on the bodies of the unfortunate Princes of Armagnac, at Vincennes or in the Bastile. They were placed in holes in the masonry shaped like inverted cones, to prevent their feet having an easy resting-place, scourged twice a week, and a tooth was drawn from them every three months ! The donjon is a square building, having round towers at the angles; it is surrounded by an inner ditch. The first door being passed, it was formerly necessary to open three more before entering the first apartment, though these are at present dispensed with. The cells of the prisoners surrounded this room, small and lofty, with very little light, owing to the enormous thickness of the walls. The lowest floor was of old used as a place of torture. The stone elevations still remain on which the prisoners were seated, with the places of the rings over them by which they were confined while they suffered. A staircase in
one of the circular turrets led to the summit of the building; I ascended, and was charmed with the prospect. On one side me lay what remains of the wood of Vincennes, riant, as the French say, in the rich luxuriance of spring; at a little distance was the pleasant village of Saint Mandé, and in another direction the city of Paris, with the domes of the Pantheon and Invalids clear and minutely seen, under the lovely blue heaven ; no black dinginess obscured the buildings; every thing was defined, and stood out in its minutest details. The soft air bore with it a spirit of voluptuousness that seemed to afford fresh excitation to enjoyment on every inhalement. It almost made me forget where I was standing, that beneath my feet was a place of sighs and groans, and woe, or rather had been such, and perhaps might soon be such again; and that, amidst the luxuriance of earth, air, and skies, man had even there erected a habitation for his crimes, deforming, as usual, the face of Nature with monuments of his iniquities. How painful must the feelings of a favoured prisoner have been, who was permitted to walk on the leads for an hour with his turnkey on such a charming day, and then forced to return to his dark cell amid solitude and heart-rending desolation! I descended the narrow stairs, which once had several iron-plated doors on them for additional security, more in love with freedom than ever, and with a greater detestation of the despotic will of "a little brief authority." My guide told me that there were many inscriptions on the walls, the labour of different captives, and wished me to view some dungeons below, but I was glad to hasten out of the horrible den. Such, however, is the happy nature of some temperaments, that calamity cannot depress them, nor danger alarm. Among numberless persons incarcerated at Vincennes by Cardinal Mazarine, was the great Condé, who sung, laughed, danced, and played the violin; being a prisoner of rank, he received indulgences unknown to plebeian offenders. Abandoned by his friends, he never gave way to sadness or anger, except when speaking of Mazarine, " Le rieur renard qui jusqu'à présent a trompé Dieu et le diable, et ne se lassera jamais d'outrager les bons serviteurs de l'état, à moins que le parlement ne congédie ou ne punisse sévèrement cet illustrissime faquin de piscina." He studied much, being allowed books, and wrote epigrams upon his persecutors. The Abbé Fresnoy was many times incarcerated in the Bastile and Vincennes for his writings, at which latter place he terminated his days in 1755, at the age of eighty-two. So gay was he on going to his cell, and so accustomed to be sent there, that when the officer came with the king's order he did not allow him to speak first, but began himself. “Ah, Monsieur ! Bon jour !” and turning to his housekeeper, “ Mon petit paquet, du linge, du tabac,” and set off laughing. Such are happy dispositions. Goldsmith thinks it best to oppose the calamities of life by dissipation rather than reason. Alas! neither is a specific for all, since our constitutions, before the receipt will do, must be remoulded alike. When we consider the limited duration of human existence, nothing man can bestow on his fellow can atone for the loss of liberty to an individual for the comparatively sbort
space of two or three years. By the lettres de cachet many were imprisoned at Vincennes for twenty and thirty years. Latude, whose story has been long published, was incarcerated thirty-five years for only affronting Madame Pompadour. Many a son of literature had lan
guished away his days there in sorrow, and brave spirits, little deserving to be “ kept in such a cage," as Prince Henry said of Raleigh, have worn out life in unmerited forgetfulness within its iron precincts. Madame Guyot, the enthusiastic and good, Crebillon, Diderot, Mirabeau, Morillet, and a long list of great names, were among the captives at Vincennes. Their captivity however took place openly in latter days, when public opinion began to have some sway. One half of the victims of regal vengeance, more to be pitied than these, were never known to the world by name or by their fate. Under Louis XIII. XIV. and XV. people were frequently taken from their dwellings in the night, and seen by their friends no more; for no one was ever permitted to enter the chateau, even the priests and physicians were inmates ; secrecy being an essential point in all these state imprisonments. I felt great pleasure on coming from this monument of suffering to the open air in the court of the donjon, round which I walked. Heavy cannon were mounted on the platforms, which had thundered on the allied armies advancing upon the same side of Paris in 1814, and kept them effectually in check on that point until the capitulation was signed.
I then visited the part of the ditch where the Duke d'Enghien was executed for his conspiracy against the French government. The revived regime erects expiatory altars and chapels at every spot which has been marked by any outrage against itself; and here some superstitious ceremonies had been lately performed over the remains of the prince on their removal to St. Denis. It is astonishing how little wisdom was displayed in thus going back to ceremonies which could never again be regarded with reverence by an enlightened people. A peaceable removal and interment would have answered every purpose.
No impartial Frenchman ever denied the participation of the duke in the plots carrying on: it was the violation of a neutral territory by Bonaparte that was chiefly blamed, and the violence with which his object was effected. I thought there was something strange and retributive in the duke's execution on the very spot where his ancestors had immolated so many innocent persons: it was almost the visitation of the sins of the fathers upon the children. One instance of this kind of oppression under Louis the Fourteenth I will give, curiously involving, too, a violation of neutral territory. A young man named Desvalons fought a duel at Paris, and fled to Manheim ; he was received kindly by one Cardel, a Protestant resident there, and soon made love to Cardel's sister, or rather to her fortune, but was unsuccessful, chiefly by the brother's interference. He determined on revenge, and sent a communication to Paris, that a person at Manheim, named Cardel, intended to kill Louis the Fourteenth. The French envoy was desired to aid in getting possession of his person. He was attracted to a village out of the city, carried off by a hundred dragoons of the garrison of Laudau, and finally conducted in chains to the donjon of Vincennes. He suffered most cruel treatment, and died in the Bastile after a confinement of thirty years, and after being claimed by all the European powers in vain. Even the family of this unfortunate man was thrown into a horrible prison, and endured the most terrible sufferings, having been unhappily in France at the time of his unjust caption. I must mention another anecdote relative to Vincennes, as it records the faith
fulness of the most faithful race in creation. About the time of the last persecution of the Protestants, an officer of that persuasion was shut up in the donjon. He wished much to have his dog admitted with him; it was a greyhound, which he had reared. This innocent request being refused, the dog, though turned out of the fortress, watched an opportunity on the following day, and re-entered within the innermost court. His master was confined in one of the lower cells, the window. of which was near the ground, and the animal appeared at it and was recognised. He came to the bars and visited his unhappy master, whose relatives knew nothing of his fate, diurnally for four whole years, in spite of cold or wet. At length the officer was set at liberty, returned home, and died in a few months afterwards. The dog again returned to Vincennes, and repeated its visits, taking up its dwelling with an outer turnkey, and frequently going to the window, where it sat for hours gazing in vain for its master, until death terminated its career. These two anecdotes respecting Vincennes I met with on my return to Paris, and the latter is worthy of being added to our extant collections of animal attachment and sagacity. I now thought of extending my walk, and of seeking Paris by a circuitous route. I quitted the chateau with a feeling of pleasure, and congratulated myself, that though it was but a little time comparatively, not indeed forty years ago, since Vincennes sent forth the sighs of the captive, we had had no secret prison in England since the reign of Henry VIII., when the Tower of London was used as such. At ro period after him for three hundred years, including the bloody proscriptions of Mary, have we such instances of incarceration and mean cowardly oppression acting in darkness and blasting for ever the hope of its victims, as the eighteenth century discloses among our neighbours. There have been instances enough of injustice, but they took place in open day. We never pounced upon our unoffending and upsuspicious prey amid the darkness of the night, and wrapped its fate in eternal oblivion. Our state oppressions were boldly perpetrated upon the most illustrious of our victims; and we could have no motive for acting otherwise with the meaner, about whom much less interest and partisanship would naturally be excited.
The village of Vincennes had nothing novel or worthy a pedestrian stranger's notice. Passing, therefore, some way into the Park by an indirect route, I reached St. dé, a pleasant commune about the distance of a petit pas, as the French style every measure within a league. How often have I asked the distance to a chateau, or village, and been answered un petit pas, when an hour's walking, à grand pas, has barely brought me to my object! The Frenchman, like the Irishman, speaks often without reflection; he is eager to oblige and satisfy an enquirer, but he does not reflect that precision is of consequence at all. I found, however, that in the present instance a few feet and yards were of no moment, as the scene I had just quitted exchanged for the beauty of the vegetation, the smiling Howers, the freedom of the expanded horizon, and the springiness and elasticity they diffused over the frame, would have made me forget leagues of distance. I ran, hopped, and really think I danced along the path ; I thought myself supernaturally gifted with the levity of the nation,-no balloon could be more buoyant. The excitement I felt was a delicious sensa
tion, such as I imagine few dwellers in cities know any thing about. In this way I entered an hotel in St. Mandé, and encountered a pretty but petite girl, who looked the very picture of health and good-humour. Her dark locks were neatly dressed and arranged, and her light step, with that peculiar and captivating air which the sex in France always possess, completely fixed my attention, so that it was not until Melle Pauline, as she afterwards told me she was called, enquired if Monsieur would please to have some refreshment, that I recollected I had entered the house for that very purpose.
Melle Pauline informed me that the grilled leg of a turkey or a mutton cutlet, could be got ready in a few minutes, and preferring the dindon to the mutton, with some potage à la Julienne and a bottle of Burgundy, I made a most excellent repast. Melle Pauline then insisted upon my taking some of her coffce, which she assured me was superbe in taste and flavour; and having swallowed it on credit of her recommendation and found it so, I walked back to my hotel in Paris, and concluded my day at the spectacle of the Opera Comique.
ADDRESS TO THE STARS.
Ye are fair-ye are fair—and your pensive rays
cypress tree, or the ruin'd wall ?