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PARIS IN 1854.
The progress of the Palace of Industry in the Champs Elysées, the improvements in the Bois de Boulogne, and the lengthening of the Rue de Rivoli, have been the chief novelties wherewith to delight the sightseeking Parisians during 1854. If we were to judge by the almanacks for 1855, the progress of the war in the Black Sea and the White Sea, in the Baltic and the Gulf of Finland, have had the least possible retentissement. Excepting in the “ Almanach du Magasin Pittoresque,” in which we have views of Cronstadt, Sebastopol, and Odessa—from, we suspect, English sources,—not a notice of the localities of the war, or of the triumphs of the Turks or their Allies, appears in the whole host of ephemeral records of the past and prophetic anticipations of the future. Is it possible that the censorship extends its unsparing scythe even to the record of passing events, which can be so tortured as to be supposed to have some remote affinity to politics? Alas, poor almanacks! they will soon be reduced to such small alternatives to amuse their patrons as we already see in the illustrations of our old friend the “ Almanach Comique"-a young lady, representative of 1855, kicking out an old lady, the emblem of departing 1854; a Parisian with his feet in hot water, his face-once the pride of the Boulevards—enveloped in bandages, a basin of gruel in his hand, and below the inscription, “ A Parisian will find that the season of carnival is now much less lively than it was in his younger days ;” a milk-woman adding flour to the water with which she dilutes her merchandise; a bridge to get over the macadam of the Boulevards ; a more irascible than sensible Frenchman smashing a barometer, because it will intimate bad weather; and an elephant utilised for watering gardens !
Upon the topic of the Bois de Boulogne, the failure of the water-supply constitutes a fertile theme for the sly sarcasms of the multitude. The height of the factitious mountains compelling the equestrians to push their horses up their steep acclivities from behind; and the romantic solitudes—the heights clad with pines, where bears rove undisturbed and picturesque rocky turnings, favourable for the ambuscade of real lions—are among other felicitous sources of amusing anticipations of new surprises.
The lengthening of the Rue de Rivoli is pleasantly represented by the introduction of a new fashion in garments-a train of sea-serpent-like length.
The “ Exposition: Universelle” has not suggested many good things: the hotel-keepers tearing an unfortunate traveller to pieces in their endeavours to secure him as a guest, is unfortunately neither new nor correct; for accommodation is not always so readily obtained in Paris on the occasion of a crowd.
The dog-days-dogs with padlocks for muzzles ; ladies, in dread of hydrophobia, leading their pets with strings half a mile long; and shopkeepers watering the streets, the passers-by, and one another, seem still to be the horror of the Parisian ; the disease of the grape and the potato are also popular subjects—the latter is cruelly represented as extending
itself to a lady's, nose, which attains enormous potato-like dimensions under the influence of the malady belonging to her favourite esculent. The railroads, and the Parisians at the sea-side, are themes also apparently not quite exhausted.
The Chinese appear to have created an immense sensation with their knife-game. We have them represented under a number of strange aspects : a wife returning home, and practising the game upon her unfortunate husband in bed—a Chinaman, less skilful than usual, transfixing his countryman through the eye-a Chaterton wanted to practise upon—Bilboquet in China, and a China ship stranded in the Bois de Boulogne and founding a colony there. The latter contains a double hit; one at the Chinese furor, the other at Paris as a seaport town: an ideal consummation devoutly wished for by all true Parisians, and, from the frequent playful recurrences to the same idea, evidently by no means as yet dismissed as infeasible or improbable. One, perhaps, of the prettiest notions is a gentleman saluting a water-nymph in the Bois de Boulogne :
“ Dear me, Madame la Seine, how weary you appear to be.”
“ I may well be so; I am obliged now to go a long way out of my way, and am against my will obliged to traverse the wood of Boulogne.”
The literary year is, as usual, chronicled by Jules Janin, who proclaims M. Villemain's life of M. de Narbonne, as given in his “ Souvenirs Contemporains,”—and which we have introduced to the readers of the New Monthly Magazinemas “the true jewel, the fine pearl
, and the most exquisite ornament of modern literature.” M. Cousin's lives of Madame de Sable and of the Duchess of Longueville are spoken of in the same language of ecstatic praise. The same year has seen that indefatigable genius M. de Lamartine conclude his “Constituants,” and four volumes of a “ History of Turkey," written in a spirit of just gratitude. M. Guizot has also finished the third and fourth volumes of his “ History of the English Commonwealth.” The works of M. Aragn are being compiled since his death, with “ An Autobiography,” which is spoken of in the highest possible terms. Michelet's “ Femmes de la Révolution” is spoken of as a work replete with horrors, only partially redeemed by traits of heroism.
M. Amedee Pichot's “ Histoire de l'Abdication de Charles Quint" is also spoken of, with justice, as a work of great research, which has dissipated many a fantastic and legendary tale connected with the emperor' monastic seclusion. M. Empis's “Six Femmes de Henri VIII.” is said to be written with considerable dramatic effect—possibly with more regard to such an effect than to historical accuracy. The notice of this work has won for us one of Jules Janin's own graphic touches, à propos of Holbein, whose canvas, the critic says, M. Empis would have done well to consult.
Ah! my poor Holbein, you were in the right, to begin by representing the Dance of Death on the bridge of Basle ! No doubt you were trying your hand. You had a presentiment of all those fair heads that were to fall beneath the axe, which you were destined to admire and to grieve for so much. Holbein was the bearer of a letter from Erasmus to the Chancellor Sir Thomas More, one of Henry VIII.'s victims, and he arrived at the fatal moment when the English king, become the grand pontiff of his people, was overthrowing the monasteries, writing works on theology, modelling at his will the Catholic
dogma, and reducing to three the number of sacraments. He must have made a goodly figure in the midst of all these heroes of the Field of Cloth of Gold, this Hans Holbein, one to which the eye would have clung amid so many scandals and griefs. He represented the men and women of a court exposed to so many overwhelming vicissitudes with perfect liberty of mind; he traversed this asylum of suffering and murder himself exempt; he was the only happy man in that royal house where the scaffold was ever waiting its victims ; he saw pass before his dazzled eyes those youthful beauties whom that barbarous king expelled from his bed by the axe, or by divorce. He himself, Holbein, became by his art and his talent the accomplice of that Anne of Cleves, whom the King of England sent for to his court to wed ; and whom he repudiated a short time after (by act of Parliament), because, he said, she could only speak German, because she did not know music, and because she resembled nothing so much as a great Flemish mare, notwithstanding Holbein's portrait.
This great painter, who gains by bis absence from M. Empis's descriptions, painted the portraits of Anne Boleyn, of Catherine of Aragon, and of Jane Seymour, who died the only happy death of all the women loved by Henry VIII.; he also painted Catherine Howard, niece of the Duke of Norfolk, and upon her ivory neck he remarked the black line, by which he foretold that that fine head would be given over to the executioner. He also painted the portrait of Lady Norfolk, who perished likewise on the scaffold ; and he at lengih became impressed with the idea, that to be painted by bim was a certain condemnation to death, and he resolved to paint no more. One day, while he was just finishing the portrait of an old gentleman and of his daughter on the same canvas, he saw them so calm and so confiding that he immediately tore the picture into a thousand pieces.
“Ah!” he exclaimed, “ you also shall not die!"
From seeing all his models perish, he ended by entertaining feelings of the deepest horror for their master and their executioner ; and at length, when the plague assailed him, he deemed himself a happy man! Alas! he had come to London to seek a renown he would have found everywhere, and a fortune to which no one succeeded. He had seen almost every one who had sat to him die a violent death, and he himself died of the plague, as did Titian ; his bones were cast into the corner of a cemetery, and when in the midst of the seventeenth century the Earl of Arundel wished to raise a monument to his memory, no one could find the remains of Hans Holbein!
M. Sainte Beuve has published the ninth volume of his admirable “Causeries du Lundi.” M. Eugène Pelletan has, in a feuilleton of the Siècle, called “ Le Pasteur du Désert," depicted with infinite feeling the sad events which attended upon the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Eugène Sue is said to have been less successful in his “ Famille Jouffroy”
the picture of a young girl, delicately brought up and well-born, wedding a convict, who beats her, and drags her into his own infamous circle and mal-practices, is, the critic justly remarks, carrying the love of the horrible beyond the bounds of good taste. Less objectionable in such a point of view are the “Portraits à la Plume,” by M. Clement de Ris ; the “ Livre du Promeneur,” by M. Lefevre Deumier, and “Paris Démoli,” by M. Edouard Fournier. Among works of a still lighter description may also be noticed the “ Trois Règnes,” by M. Xavier Saintine ; the “ Histoires de Village," by M. Alexandre Weil ; the "Impressions et Symboles Rustiques," by M. Auguste Desplaces ; the “ Amoureux et Grands Hommes,” by M. Emmanuel de Lerue ; the “Nouvelles," of M. Paul Juillerat; the “Contes sans Prétention," of M. Alberic Second;" the " Journal d'une Jeune Fille," by M. Arnould Frémy ; “Adriani,” by
George Sand; the “Filles du Feu," by Gerard de Nerval; and the “Contes d'Eté,” by M. Champfleury. The last five works are the best of the past year in their particular line; but the apotheosis of George Sand's story is described as being open to criticism. A work of morality by M. Jules Simon, called “Le Devoir,” is very highly spoken of; of a precisely opposite and of a very reprehensible character are three worksone by Madame Lafarge, another, yclept the “ Memoirs of Celeste Mogador," and a third published to show that Voltaire was a forger, a swindler, and a thief!
The public ran during the past year to see many new dramas, pompously announced for the first time, but the success seldom equalled the promises held forth. M. Ernest Serret's “Que dira le Monde?" had a run, but probably because the morality is essentially Parisian. A fiveact tragedy failed because its authors—for, like most French pieces, more than one was concerned in its manufacture-had selected the barbarous and unknown epoch of Chilperic, who poisoned his legitimate wife in order to wed his servant; and of Albouin, King of the Lombards, who was poisoned by his wife Rosamond for having obliged her to drink out of the skull of her parent. The horrors of such times were too great even for the frequenters of the Odéon. A great drama produced at the Théâtre Français, called “Mademoiselle Aïssé,” met with a very
indifferent success, although the theme was as licentious as could have been desired by the most roué habitué of the Palais Royal. The two_most successful pieces of the year were “ La Joie fait Peur," by Madame Emile de Girardin, and “ Le Gendre de M. Poirier,” by Emile Augier and Jules Sandeau, both less reprehensible in point of plot, and tasteful and artistic in dialogue and development. "Deux Cours d'Or” also met with
. * great and deserved success. Among the slighter pieces which succeeded in making a critical audience laugh, may be mentioned “Le Mari qui prend du Ventre;" "La Queue de la Poêle;" “Le Double Veuvage;" « Les Amoureux de ma Femme;" “ Le Meûnier, son Fils et Jeanne;" “ Mon Etoile!" by Scribe ; and “Le Songe d'une Nuit d'Hiver.” An epic poem called “Schamyl" also met with a favourable reception.
Needless to say, that all these minor successes paled before the great victory—the great triumph of the year, "L'Etoile du Nord,” Meyerbeer's last and greatest work.
It is well known that numerous prophecies exist regarding the future of Constantinople--that great city of varied fortunes, where in our times Christianity combats to uphold an effete Muhammadanism. The “Almanach Prophétique” has compiled the following:
The first, which dates from the twelfth century, has been alrealy realised. John Tzetzes, a Greek poet and grammarian, who was born at Constantinople in 1120, and died there in 1183, relates in his “ Chiliades," or collection of divers histories, a very ancient oracle, delivered by a sybil, and thus conceived. “One day the wolves, by the will of Jupiter, will take possession of the country of t!ie Bithynians ; misfortunes will fall upon the men who inhabit the soil of Byzantium." The Turks fulfilled this oracle. This people, originally from a country in Western Tartary, watered by the river Irtish, professed themselves to be descendants of a hero, who, the last of a great nation, wedded a she-wolf. By her lie had ten sons, who all became chiefs of tribes. The one from whom descended the race of Seljukian Turks, called Azena, bore a wolf's head on his
Nov.-VOL. CII, NO. CCCCVII.
standard in memory of his origin. It is evidently, therefore, the Turks whom the sybilline verses designate under the qualitication of wolves.
Agathangelos, an Armenian historian, has left a prophecy often invoked by the Greeks in their struggles against their Ottoman conquerors : “The end of evils is promised for the year 54 or 65." The commentators adding 300 to this last number, made of it a cabalistic number, of which each day, according to them, should represent a year of Mussulman domination. By adding the sum of 365, thus obtained, to 1457, date of the capture of Constantinople, they came to the prediction that the restoration of the Greek empire-the end of evils—would take place in 1819. Events have shown that their calculation was not a correct one.
Under the emperor who succeeded to Constantine, the great square of Constantinople was adorned with a piece of sculpture which represented Bellerophon combating the Chimera. An uuknown hand engraved on the pedestal: "Constantinople will fall into the hands of a nation with light hair!” The Emperor Leon VI., surnamed the philosopher, who has left seventeen oracles in Greek iambic verses, also prophecies a similar fate to his country : “ Court of Byzantium, house of the pious Constantine, Rome and Babylon, and a new Sion," he says, “ it will be permitted to you to enjoy the empire three times and thrice a hundred years minus twenty. You will gather together like dust the gold of nations ; you will rule upon all neighbouring countries ; but a chrysogenous (golden-haired) nation will burn you up and destroy your empire. You will be as if you had never been.” The prophet then announces that, after this terrible disaster, the dispersed Greeks will be re-united. “Byzantium,” lie adds, “ will rule over nations in a better spirit than heretofore ; she will be called the House of the Glory of God, and neighbouring nations will come and prostrate themselves before her.”
Other oracles of a similar tendency are quoted, and this presentiment that Constantinople is destined to fall before a northern power, took so firm a hold of the Greeks, always prone to philosophical discussions, that it became quite popular, and has perpetuated itself to our own times. The city of Constantinople fell, it is true, in the thirteenth century into the hands of Baldwin, Count of Flanders, to whom the epithet of chrysogenous might be made to apply; put the Greeks do not appear to have ever associated the prophecy of the Emperor Leon to the crusaders ; for many ages they have looked upon the Russians as the destined conquerors. It might be thought that the constant struggle of Russians and Turks suggested this idea, but this does not appear to be the case, for Jacob Spon, in his “ Travels in the Levant" (Lyons, 1678), which preceded the first attacks of the Tsars upon the Sultans, speaks of this interpretation of the prophecy as generally received by the Greeks.
This oracle, if we are to believe also the reports of other travellers, has for a long time past excited the apprehensions of the Turks, who have themselves a strong bias towards superstition. The Russians have accepted it with an enthusiasm easy to conceive, and they have found other prophecies which not only confirm that of the Byzantine emperor, but give to it a definite solution by fixing the epoch in which we live as the period of its accomplishment.
Among these prophecies is one written, in 1604, by an astrologer of Valentia, Francesco Navarro, in a work entitled “ Discurso sobre la Grande Conguncion.” In the absence of the original text, which we have not been able to consult, we offer our readers an extract given by the missionary François Quaresmius, in the narrative of his journey in the East : “ Elucidátio Terræ Sanctæ.” Antwerpia, 1639. 2 vols. in folio.
“ I had got so far, and was thinking how to resolve the difficulties of the question, when a little work came into my hands written in Spanish, by a certain Doctor F. Navarro, of Valentia, with the following title : * Discourse upon the great Conjunction, which took place in December, in the year 1603. In this work the author treats of our subject in a remarkable manuer, and