The Imaginative Intensity Of Parisian Life
( Originally Published 1908 )
"The Imagination, which turns every dull fact into pictures and poetry, by making it an emblem of thought. What a power when, combined with the analyzing understanding, it makes Eloquence; the art of compelling belief, the art of making peoples' hearts dance to his pipe ! And not less, method, patience, self-trust, perseverance, love, desire of knowledge, the passion for truth. These are the angels that take us by the hand, these our immortal, invulnerable guardians. By their strength we are strong, and on the signal occasions in our career their inspirations flow to us and make the selfish and protected and tenderly-bred person strong for his duty, wise in counsel, skilful in action, competent to rule, willing to obey.
" I delight in tracing these wonderful powers, the electricity and gravity of the human world." — EMERSON.
" Go, wash your hands in life anew," was the advice of the spectre of Wiowani, an ancient master, to his disciple, Tikipu, who had been passing three years behind the closed doors of art. Paris washes her hands in life anew every morning. The Paris of yesterday is less important than that of today, and the Paris of tomorrow still further takes precedence. The Paris of legend, tradition, history, association or memory gives place to the Paris actual of the moment. There is far more interest manifested in the present than in the past : or rather, it is possible to take the past with all its richness, all its interest, for granted ; to take it as incorporated into and still living in the present, but not requiring reiteration perpetual. Mme. Curie is, for instance, of more interest and importance than Mme. de Sévigné or Mme. Récamier. The Paris of Balzac, or even the Paris of Victor Hugo, is of less import to the life of the hour than the Paris of Richet and Flammarion.
There are few departments of science in which Paris is not taking the lead. The Aero Club is striving to conquer the kingdom of the air. It is making the most constant experiments ; air ships are sent up every week, and studies are carefully made of the nature of air currents and the best methods of overcoming or of taking advantage of them. The Eiffel Tower is to be utilized as a station for wireless telegraphy to communicate with ships at sea which will send news as to the weather, and it will be a lively storm, indeed, now, that can get ahead of its wireless announcement.
Very remarkable things are being done in laboratory experiments, as alluded to somewhat in detail in the preceding chapter. M. Poincaré has made most important discoveries regarding the nature of the atom, and the election and course of these theories and hypotheses, if verified, will make some revolutionary changes in existing theories.
To regard Paris as only a synonym for fashion and amusement, or for vices and questionable pleasures, is to be densely ignorant of some of the most profound and important scientific work being done in the entire world : of art movements which impress the age ; of literary achievements at once brilliant and profound ; of an amazing intellectual energy expressing itself in almost every department of life. Above all, that mental attitude regarding Paris would argue a curious insensibility to the imaginative intensity which is the most obvious as well as the most significant quality in Parisian life. Every idea is caught up with a vividness, a picturesque energy which incites speculative consideration. Every discovery, every event, is played upon in a thousand ways. The French mind is prismatic in its reflection of the idea of the hour. The curious way in which Paris seizes an idea and adopts it is illustrated in the manner in which the shops, for their detective service, have availed themselves of the separation of church and state. They have instantly adopted the garb of the priest for detective service ! Recently, at the Bon Marché, a priest (apparently) was seen to attend a lady very politely to her carriage and to enter it with her. As a matter of fact he had discovered her in shoplifting and arrested her ; but such is the consummate French tact that any bystander not in the secret would have supposed that he was her friend, her confessor, her counsellor, what one will and was attending her with the greatest respect. Another instance of this swift adaptability is in the " radium " color in silks, velvets and ribbons, a color so exquisitely pure and glowing and brilliant that it is not at all to be described as red, or pink, or rose, but just radium. In velvet, especially, it is the most vivid, mirror-like glow imaginable, and has been the immediate popular tribute to Mme. Curie's wonderful discovery.
With more serious intent has radium been seized upon for experimental relief work in the hospitals. The Académie de Médecine has had brought before it, in deliberative councils, a contribution to the professional study of the curative effects of radium, by two eminent physicians, Doctor Degrais, chief of the Laboratory of the Hospital of Saint Louis, and Doctor Wickham, the physician to the prison of Saint Lazare, both of whom have found that certain tumors and other kindred diseases form a group which are peculiarly sensitive to the energy of radium, and that many of these rapidly disappear when exposed to its influence.
A retrospective instance of this peculiarly mercurial quality of French life recurs to the memory of all who visited Paris at the time when Rodin's remarkable cast of Balzac was first exposed to view. It was in the Salon of the Champ-de-Mars, in 1898. Its exposition was an event. Paris focussed her attention upon it. Every emotion, from reverence to ridicule, was brought into play. The figure was placed conspicuously in the sculpture garden, and around it thronged constantly changing groups of people, who discussed it in half a dozen languages at one and the same time. It excited the most enthusiastic admiration, and the most intense derision. Those who liked the statue prostrated themselves before it with a devotion that knew no bounds ; those who did not like it tested their linguistic resources in their phrases of ridicule and scorn.
The figure, as presented in the photograph, is undoubtedly the most unique and fantastic conception in modern art. To the writer, who was present at its first exhibition to the public, it suggested a weird, mysterious spectre a Balzac who had swallowed fern-seed, (thus rendering himself invisible), and could stalk through the crowded streets of Paris, himself unseen by any one, but seeing all ; looking, with those uncanny eyes, fairly into the mind, as if the mental processes of the hurrying throngs of people were revealed through a crystal ball, and seeing, with tragic directness, the entire comédie humaine.
On describing this recognition of its meaning to M. Rodin, he replied that it embodied much of his own conception and purpose in creating it. For a long time before he began to express his conception of Balzac in outer form M. Rodin had made a profound study of his novels, and of the author as revealed in his works. He not only familiarized himself with these, but he also read all available criticism on Balzac and the biographical interpretations. He was especially interested in that of Lamartine, in his " Balzac et ses Oeuvres," who thus describes the French novelist :
" C'était la figure d'un élément, grosse tête, chevaux épars sur son collet et ses joues comme une crinière que le ciseau n'émondait jamais, très obtus, oeil de flamme, corps colossal; il était gros, épais, carré par la base et les épaules: le corps, les cuisses, les membres puissants; beaucoup de l'ampleur de Mirabeau, mais nulle lourdeur; il y avait tant d'âme qu'elle portait cela légèrement, gaîment, comme une enveloppe souple et nullement comme un fardeau; ce poids semblait lui donner de la force et non lui en retirer...Ses bras courtes gesticulaient avec aisance; il causait comme un orateur parlé. ...Les chevaux flottaient sur ce front en grandes boucles. Les joues étaient pleines."
M. Rudolf Dircks, the accomplished art critic, tells the story of the creation of this statue in a little monograph on the art of Rodin, in which he says :
" To those who have read and delighted in the ` Comédie Humaine,' it must seem a surprising fact that there is not extraordinary and voluminous evidence as to the details of the personal appearance of its author. The contrary, however, appears to be the case. A sepia drawing by Louis Boulanger executed about 1828, a portrait in oils by the same artist exhibited at the Salon of 1837, a medallion by David d' Angers (now in the Louvre), a bust by the same sculptor on the tomb at Père-Lachaise, frontispieces by Hédouin and Bertil to editions of his works, a sketch by Meissonier covered by a subsequent work, and a daguerreotype destroyed by the Prussians at Saint Cloud in 1871, would sum up, according to M. Tourneaux , all the evidence of importance in this matter.
" Here, then, was the groundwork on which Rodin had to build his figure. But this was not all. There was the ` Comédie Humaine,' the expression of Balzac's genius in literature. It would, however, provide a hazardous element in the portraiture of human greatness if it might be premised that the qualities of the mind indicated the shape of a nose, the curl of a lip, or the angle of a moustache. But, as we have seen, there was sufficient authentic matter for Rodin to work upon.
" The Statue was commissioned by the Société des Gens de Lettres which, in the first instance (in 1893), had sought the services of Chapu. But Chapu died before his work was finished, and, through the influence of Zola, who was the president of the society, it came eventually into the hands of Rodin. He was engaged upon the work for some five years. He read the ` Comédie Humaine ; he visited Tours, where Balzac was born ; he studied the types of the country. He modelled the head of a man who was said to resemble Balzac. He modelled a head of Balzac as a young man; and he modelled his subject in the nude. Meanwhile the statue was not 'completed, and the society became impatient. When, finally, the statue was before them, they declared they did not recognize Balzac in the ébauche of M. Rodin.
" Public and critical opinions supported the view of the Society. ` Enfin Rodin s'est trompé,' said one. ` C'est Balzac qui est sorti de son lit pour recevoir un créancier,' said another. ` Il n'a. pas d'yeux,' said the public. The hostility and ridicule, the action of the Société des Gens de Lettres in breaking the contract, provoked, on the other hand, plenty of sympathy. A rich man desired to purchase the statue ; committees in Paris and Brussels applied for it, but to no purpose, as Rodin took it back to his studios at his home in Meudon...It is possible that, in the frank disavowal of their legal obligations with regard to a work they neither understood nor liked, the Society's attitude compared favorably with the attitude of those on the other side, who instantly discovered in the Balzac a masterpiece, and who might, one feels, have found the same qualities in inferior work of an unfamiliar kind. There exists a nebulous kind of impressionism always ready to take shape at any erratic manifestation, in art or letters. In the case of the statue Rodin's previous work entitled him, at least, to an effort of patient, respectful, and serious comprehension. It was as absurd to praise lightly as it was to dismiss lightly a work which had engaged the hands and brain of a man of genius for five years. Since its exhibition at the New Salon in 1898, the work has been familiar to those who care for sculpture, and still opinion is pretty much at issue. But the statue is silently fighting its way ; opinion is coming over to its side. Within a short space, we may find that it has been taken over by the Municipal Council of Paris, and placed in a position worthy alike of Balzac and Rodin.
" The view that the statue is merely a representation of the author of the ` Comédie Humaine,' and not precisely of the man, is scarcely borne out by the facts. The elaborate and detailed studies which preceded its creation go to show that it is an attempt at an exact realization of the man as he lived and worked. It corresponds, for instance, with Lamartine's description ; but it is not Balzac as he appears to his friends, not quite even as he appeared to Lamartine. It is Balzac in one of his prolonged intervals of self-absorption, in retirement, as ` the secretary of society,' clothed in the garment which has caused so much amusement, but which is nevertheless documentary. ` On le trouvait toujours chez lui vêtu d'une large robe de chambre de cachemire blanc doublée de soie blanche, tailée comme celle d'une moine.'
" It is interesting to compare the head with the bust of Balzac as a young man. The resemblance between the two faces is precise; but in the older face there is amplification of scale, amplification of feature and expression. It is not, as in the first instance, a young man looking out on the world, but the author of the ` Comédie Humaine ; ' it is an interpretation of an exalted and ironical mind, by an art which comprehends the exaltation and the irony. One cannot look upon the face of a man of great achievements,and dissociate its character from the achievements. Rodin has portrayed his Balzac as he has seen him ; and as probably the rest of the world will in the course of time come to see him."
Whatever the individual verdict may be, 'it cannot be denied that this statue is the most prominent work in contemporary art. Its lovers may regard it as famous; its scorners may regard it as infamous ; but it has forced its attention on the critical world ; and in its creator one sees the artist who is less the individual than he is the expression of his time and country.
In Rodin a type of the spirit of modern France is impersonated. His work is one form of expression of the creative force of the ages. M. Dircks finds Rodin in sculpture akin to Tolstoi in fiction, Ibsen in drama, Wagner in music, and Walt Whitman in poetry, an elemental energy, an original type, revealing life in its more primitive and profound aspects of archetypal existence. " It is art that extends its influence in all directions," says M. Dircks of Rodin ; " and it provoked discussion, as the profound affairs of life provoke discussion. It forced itself to be taken seriously. It was not a type that captivates and charms ; it was not sensuous ; it appealed to the emotions through the intellect; and it was fastidious only in its penetration, in its breadth, and in its insistence on the relation of man to the universal scheme of things."
The complex questioning of the keen, penetrating, brilliant and analytical mind of con-temporary France is curiously reflected in the art of Rodin. No poet or romanticist has so wonderfully caught and depicted its essential quality. Rodin is an idealist, a visionary, who yet sees nature in the most simple and direct way. He is hailed by some critics as " the greatest French sculptor, the greatest sculptor in Europe, the greatest sculptor of the age, the greatest sculptor Michael Angelo alone excepted since the days of Pheidias and Praxiteles." If one recovers his breath after this supreme characterization, he may be assured by another school of criticism that Rodin has done nothing that will survive,and that he is entirely without title to his great fame.
That Auguste Rodin is the sculptor now most prominent before the entire world of art cannot be denied. He is talked about, even if the discussion is adverse. A simple, kindly man, with strong affections for his family and friends;sensitive to a degree that defies transcription, but as heroic and enduring and persistent as he is sensitive ; a man, too, of noble moral balance, an exaltation of temperament that surrounds him with an atmosphere through which only the spirit akin to his own can pass, the great artist seems curiously unconscious of all the intensity of discussion that his work excites. He never makes any effort to explain nor does he, of fixed intention, make any effort, either, to puzzle and perplex the world that perplexes itself in attempts to " place " him. He has never been one to shout that he might hear the echo of his own voice. He has never asked how his attitude reflects itself on the camera of public observation. In London, when invited by King Edward and made the honored guest of royalty, he is as simple and unassuming as in company with the peasants of Barbizon. Refined and courteous by nature, he is singularly untouched and unspoiled by the adulation he receives, nor are his own conceptions of art affected by adverse criticism.
Auguste Rodin was born in Paris in 1840, and he was well into a half century of life before fame came to him. He had a meagre academic training in the École de Dessin ; he was allowed to make drawings at the Louvre, and he became absorbed in the drawings of Michael Angelo and Raphael as preserved in albums in the Bibliothèque Impériale. But he also mixed plaster and made ornaments in the way of getting a living. His one special opportunity came in 1875, when he was enabled to make a journey to Italy to study the classic sculpture, and it was then that the conviction became his that the direct study of the human figure was the source of true inspiration. He declares that to him sculpture is not so much art as science ; that inspiration and genius are empty words ; and masterpieces are the result of long and weary work. " My model has a brain and a heart," says Rodin ; " my bronze or marble, therefore, must think and feel...It is not only the ensemble of the body which is beautiful, but each part has its individual beauty, and, what is more, its significance. What makes my Thinker (` Le Penseur') think, is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nortrils and compressed lips ; but with his clinched fists and gripping toes."
In reply to a question as to whether he could reproduce groups altogether from life, M. Rodin said that he was always watching for them, always studying the pose and the relations between figures in any grouping. " Take my ` Le Baiser ' (The Kiss) now at the Luxembourg. I could not expect two models to sit together in that way. But I study the attitude of lovers everywhere, and I reproduce my design from separate models. The artist must study anatomy, he must draw much, but, most of all, observe."
M. Rodin is a thorough apostle of the faith that genius is a capacity for labor, rather than a gift for instantaneous creation. " Great men ? " he said ; " there are no great men ; there are great thinkers and great workers, and these are learners all their lives. Myself, I worked — worked. I struggled with myself and my material. But it was not that for me sculpture was a mere métier, it was a necessity. I was compelled to model and express what I saw. I devote the same care to every part of the body. One finger often contains more personality than the face, or the lines around the mouth."
M. Rodin takes issue with Canova, Thorwaldsen, William Wetmore Story, Franklin Simmons, and all that school of sculpture whose work is characterized by delicate beauty and great individuality. That " art is a corner of the universe seen through a temperament " is a truth signally demonstrated by the different manner in which the human form appears to the different sculptors. Yet Rodin is by no means without works of great delicacy and loveliness, as well as those of the forcible and heroic. His " Orphée et Eurydice," " Les Benedictions," the portrait busts of several women ; " Le Poète et la Vie Contemplative," " Le Groupe du Crépuscule," and others are singularly poetic and ideal. For many years he has been engaged on the great portals for the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, for which he finds the motif of his figures in the pages of Dante's " Inferno." Among the groups is one of the " Three Phantoms," which suggest and emphasize the fatal power of destiny. A dominating figure is that of the " Thinker," and the background reveals circles which are typically representative of human experiences.
The French government manifests its appreciation of Rodin by granting him, free of all expense, two large and lofty studios in the Rue de l'Université. Here, with a small army of workmen, the eminent artist may often be found, although much of his creative work is done in his home studios. His residence, with a beautifui gallery and a suite of studios in connection, is at Meudon, a little French hamlet a few miles from Paris. His home is a plain brick house, on an elevation of ground which affords a beautiful view over the French capital. The spacious gallery adjoining is connected with the house by a corridor. Around the walls runs a balcony to which a flight of stairs ascends from the floor; and it is in this gallery that Rodin is represented, holding in his hand some bit of modelling which he is attentively examining, so that his portrait, as painted by Mr. Alexander, depicts him in a singularly characteristic attitude. The house is surrounded by grounds, and Mme. Rodin takes great pride in her gardens. It is a hospitable home, and many are the artistic pilgrimages made to it by the admirers of Rodin. Of his early work the great sculptor has said :
" I was never sad. I always had pleasure, always studying. Study embraces it all. Those who saw my things pronounced them bad. I never knew what a word of encouragement was. The little terra cotta heads and figures that I exposed in shop windows never sold. So far as the world went, I was shut out from it, nor did I know that it could be of use to me. I went to the Salon and admired the works of Perraud and other leading sculptors, and thought, as ever, that they were great masters, though in their sketches I saw that they were not strong. In looking at the hands they made I thought them so fine that I should never be able to equal them. I was all this time working from nature, but could not make my hands as good as theirs, and I could not understand why. But when I got my hands all right from life, I then saw that theirs were not well made, nor were they true. I now know that those sculptors worked from plaster casts taken from nature; I thought only of copying my model. I don't believe these sculptors knew what was good modelling and what was not, or could get out of nature all there was in it."
M. Rodin is one of the most interesting of conversationalists. He is a mystic, a dreamer and a radical all in one. But his work in the Salon of 1908 indicates that he has come to the parting of the ways, and must either return to a more realistic presentation of existing life, or lose himself in the merely vague and unmeaning. For that he is too great an artist. He will evolve new types and forms, and gather up all that is best in the traditions of art.
Professor Charles Richet of the University of France is one of the leading savants of the age, and a philosopher whose research has extended into the special relations of spirit and matter ; the relation of man to the divine universe ; the conditions of life after the change we call death. He is perhaps the most eminent and the most learned of any of the psychical re-searchers of the day in France. He has made an extended study of spiritualistic phenomena, in materializations and other physical aspects. Doctor Richet has written much of all this phenomena in a way to attract the attention of the scientific world. His home, in the Rue de l'Université, is one of the centres of social life among the learned men, and his spacious and beautiful library, with its copy of Houdon's bust of Voltaire and other works of art, is often the meeting-place of a group of savants. Doctor Richet believes that the immediate future holds in reserve some astounding revelations. " The history of the sciences," he says, " that is, the history of the human mind, authorizes us in conceiving that the science of the future will be enormously different from our present science.
" We live," Doctor Richet went on to say, " under the illusion of time ; that idola temporis against which Bacon protested. We are so made that the future seems to us as though it ought to resemble the present, and this is a psychological law governing our mentality. We men of 1904 cannot persuade ourselves that in 2004, and more certainly in 3004, a future which defies the anticipations of our most audacious speculations,the scientific data will be absolutely different from that of the present. We have not the courage to tell ourselves that not a particle will remain standing of those theories which we look upon today as conclusive. Nevertheless, the demolition of all our scientific scaffolding, so laboriously constructed, is not merely a probability, but a certainty."
Doctor Richet's mind is like a magic mirror that reflects the future. He is one of the foremost leaders of progress in France. Looking at the past, he asks, what is left of the scientific theories of 1504. He points out that in chemistry nothing is left. The study of alchemy had not then been inaugurated. " Paracelsus was supreme with Basil Valentine." Neither algebra, analytical geometry, nor the infinitesimal calculus was known. In physics the instruction was meagre, and neither the thermometer, barometer, nor microscope existed. The discoveries of Galileo and Kepler had not yet dawned on astronomy. It was still held that the earth was the centre of the universe. Physiology had then no knowledge of circulation, or respiration, or the functions of the nervous system. Noting that the complete construction of contemporary science has been achieved within the past four centuries, Doctor Richet asks if any one can persuade himself that the coming four centuries will not witness similar revolutions. What, he asks, was known of electricity in 1804 ? Its entire science dates from the nineteenth century. The theory of heat was not then so much as suspected. Neither Lamarck nor Darwin had appeared ; chemistry was only in its most elementary stage. The spectrum analysis was unknown. Regarding medicine, Doctor Richet dates its scientific period from Pasteur. " A great scientist of 1804, however great a genius one may suppose him to have been," says Doctor Richet, " could have known nothing of the telephone, nor of the X-rays, nor of radiant matter, nor of antiseptics, of colored photography, of wireless telegraphy, nor of the theory of ions nor of any subject in which a university man would now take his degree. The history of the past," he added, " makes me very confident concerning the marvels of the future."
Living thus, with his vision open to the future, Doctor Richet is most hospitable, in his mental attitude, to all the advance of knowledge, without falling into the error of credulity, and of lack of discrimination. " We have no right," he declares, " to assign limits to science, since it must be conceded that we only witness phenomena. Vibrations in the ether produce light. But why ? Why should the combination of carbon with oxygen produce an undulatory vibration in the ether, which is luminous ? It is impossible to name any phenomenon whatsoever whose cause is accessible. Very strange, very wonderful, seemingly very improbable phenomena may yet appear, which, whenever established, will not astonish us more than we are now astonished at all that science has taught us during the last century."
Doctor Richet's semi-weekly lectures before the Faculté de Médicin of Paris are one of the prominent features of the medical school and of the scientific progress of the city as well. His work, in many directions, is held in the highest esteem in France and among the leading scientists of the continent. Professor Richet holds an honored place not unlike that accorded in England to Sir William Crookes and Sir Oliver Lodge.
The leaders of thought, in any direction, are always assured of appreciation in Paris. Their books are read ; their pictures or statues are discussed and purchased ; their lectures are attended ; they are usually decorated with the ruban rouge, and they are perpetuated by tablets, by the names of streets, busts, statues, or groups of memorial sculpture in bronze or marble, after their departure from the world of visible activities. What more could poet or thinker ask ?
No nation is so swift in its recognition of talent as is the French. No other nation offers such encouragement, or confers such honors upon her poets and prophets who in other countries are stoned, while France bestirs herself to offer them prizes and places and privileges. There is an institution called the " Maison des Artistes et Littérateurs," which offers a gracious hospitality to the helpless artist ; there is the " Thiers foundation," which assures a basis of living for three years to young aspirants, with the conviction that if their talent is genuine, it will by that time enable them to rely upon it. The Académie Française includes several prizes for poetry among its rewards, and one of the latest of these is that bearing the name of François Coppée. In his letter announcing this gift, M. Coppée wrote : " This fund is as modest as are my resources, but do me the kindness of accepting it, and the pleasure of thinking that my name will still be heard, from time to time, with pleasure by the young poet to whom you shall offer a golden sprig of laurel. The art of poetry is still honored by a company..."
The wits of Paris have made merry over the new Salon of Poetry which, with characteristically national keenness, they have named " the Pegasus Show," but it is not without significance that the poets of France have organized, after the fashion of organizations of industrial ranks, under the name of " La Societé des Poètes Français." An application was made for a Salon of Poetry to be included with the Salons of Painting and Sculpture in the Grand Palais des Beaux Arts in the Champs Élysées. M. Edmond Harancourt was chosen president. The poets claimed that they should be ensured the same opportunities for bringing their wares before the general public as those enjoyed by all the " arts and crafts," by painters, decorators, architects, engravers, sculptors. To M. Paul Némot, the brilliant and charming president of the Société des Artistes Français, M. Harancourt addressed a formal letter petitioning for recognition in the ranks of art, in which he wrote :
" Literary débuts, as you are aware, are the least favored of all. The young artists — painters, sculptors, architects, engravers, musicians, comedians, enjoy a protection which has installed for them schools and conservatories, which decrees for them Prix de Rome and travelling fellowships, which opens to them annual expositions and subsidized stages. The young poets, on the contrary, dreaded by the publishers, struggle in solitude (a condition which is unhealthy), and also without the means to present their works (a condition which greatly depresses them).
" Now I have a proposition to make which presents the double advantage of not burdening in the least the budget of the state and of making the public judge of poetic talent. It is very simple. You have only to open your doors, as you have done generously for the decorative arts, which were not formerly in favor among you. Just what do we want ? A room of your great Salon, open to the public like the others, the walls of which could remain at your disposal. There, once a week, poems could be recited either by the authors themselves, or (if the authors themselves cannot or dare not) by trained reciters. No entrance fee should be charged, for we know that our wares possess no negotiable value, and our ambition is at once more modest and more lofty. We simply ask that those who are capable of appreciating us be given a chance to hear us."
Like a true Frenchman and a Parisian, M. Némot received this Arcadian proposition with that faultless courtesy and generous recognition that marks his dealings with the artistic fraternity of which he is the honored leader, and he replied expressing his sympathy with the request, and his ready cooperation in the scheme proposed. The new organization of bards chose thirty of their number to act as a jury and proceeded to arrange their " exhibit." Apparently all the Muses descended upon the gifted throng, and the result was such a flood of poems as must have drained the fountain of Helicon itself. What versifier would fail to ring the changes on his art in the musical language of his land ? What bardling would hesitate when a possible audience rose before his vision? Name and gain projected themselves in near perspective ; a decoration from the Academy, an order from the Théâtre Français for a poetical drama,a tablet on the house in which he had lived, a tomb in Père-Lachaise, all dawned upon the poet's enchanted horizon. The gods of Hellas drew near and attended on these councils.
From the multitude of poems produced by the inspired warblers, one hundred were selected. The " oppressive darkness with which this practical, utilitarian and hurried century en-shrouds the dreamer " was illuminated by the unfailing lamp of genius. The date for the inauguration of the Salon of Poetry was fixed for May 12, 1908. The hour and the poet a throng of poets arrived. The Minister of Public Instruction appeared to add the majesty of his official presence by presiding over the meeting. All Paris crowded the hall. M. Harancourt made the principal address, in the course of which he thus defined the raison d'être of the new movement.
" It is certain," he said, " that the curiosity of the people does not rush furiously toward the fabrication of poems. No impatience watches for the arrival in the world of our sonnets, still less of our elegies. The time is past when the trouvères reaped rich harvests in the great hall of the castle or in the village squares. The speedy automobile and the still speedier telephone have changed all that. Our electrical generations have not a minute to lose, and will not tolerate the saying of the same thing twice, which is precisely the function of rhymes. Perhaps this is the reason that some of us have ceased rhyming our poems. The fact is we are out of fashion like the diligence, like horses, like the anthropophagi, and we should make a great mistake if we should hesitate to admit it. But, curiously enough, the more the world turns away from us, the more numerous we become. Never, in any epoch of universal history, has the number of poets attained more disconcerting figures. As soon as the news of the founding of a Salon of Poetry had spread over the fatherland, fifteen hundred heads were lifted up ready for the laurel of Virgil, and thousands of poems appeared. Reassure yourselves. You will hear only a dozen each session, and in half a century we shall have exhausted the stock of this first competition. But you, who admire in the galleries above us the pictorial fecundity of our country, must admire also its poetical fecundity. Our brother painters operate by the square yard only ; we operate by the cubic yard.
" What does all this prove ? Simply that the poet is incompressible and insuppressible.
Poetry is no longer read ? No matter. We will keep on writing it, writing it without end ! Even when humanity shall declare to us that it has no further need of us we shall still be certain that we answer to a need our own. Yours also, for you have all experienced this need. Who is there among you who has not felt himself a poet, if only for an hour ? Ransack your memories and dare to say that this hour was not the most delicious hour of your lives, from the mere fact that it was enthusiastic ! Nothing, after all, is worth while but untrammelled self-expression. One does not always succeed in it, one does not persist in it often, but it suffices to have attempted 'it, to cherish in the depth of one's being a spring floweret which smells sweet during one's whole life the memory of having been a poet. All you who had that experience some beautiful night of your youth be clement toward those who remain poets always. We are the past, it is true, but we are your past. We remain that which you were and we resemble you still when you no longer resemble yourselves. Come, recognize yourselves in us. Our verses are the mirrors of your dead emotions, and in this Salon of Poetry the pictures we expose are your souls."
Another meeting was held on the last day of the month, the poems read being those of poets who had recently died. A group of poets at the initial meeting, among whom were Gabriel Nigoud, Hélène Vacaresco, Auguste Dorchain, Judith Gautier and Eugène le Morrel, had the felicity of reciting their own inspirations. A poem by M. Harancourt was read by Mme. Roch of the Théâtre Français, and other professional interpreters were Mme. Segond-Weber and M. Truffier.
As publicity is said to be the life of trade, so is it, apparently, the atmosphere that communicates new vitality to the productions of the modern troubadour. The Paris journals have had their fling, but meantime poetry has achieved its rating. The new Salon of Poetry calmly ignores these ignoble comments. With Tennyson, the Parisian poets who, with one bound, have emerged from the obscurity of the traditional garret into the light of the public square, could say :
" Vex thou not the poet's mind
The Parisians are exceedingly facile in the manner in which they turn from one interest to another. In their devotion to lectures they rival the Bostonians. M. Funck-Brentano, having returned (in the late autumn of 1907) from America, gave a lecture in the Collège de Lafayette on " La Femme Americaine," from his observations of that typical individual in America. Apparently she appeared to him as a sort of special creation, to be studied in a manner apart from the human race in general. There was a large audience of French women, a few Americans, and two men bold and brave to listen to the lecturer, who told them that the New World idea of domestic liberty would prove very disastrous in France. He conceded that it might be good for Americans, but it would be quite the reverse for the French. The American woman, la femme Americaine impressed him as très intellectuelle, but as totally lacking in those qualities which make for domestic happiness. In France he found the wife subordinated to the family ; marriage is an alliance between families, and the relations of husband and wife are, he believed, much closer than in America. He found that the American woman retained her individuality, her friends, and her personality, to a degree inordinate, and that the insatiable desire of the American wife is to perfect her own individuality. To him it seemed that the American home thus afforded a sadness, it was triste —" of a solitude insupportable." He regretted that French homes were judged so largely from French novels, which deal with the exceptional, not the normal state of things. Al-together, the lecture was singularly edifying in enabling an American woman to see herself as others see her — not always a gratifying point of view; and while the lecturer had, not unnaturally, in a brief visit, failed to grasp the essential characteristics and qualities of his subject ; while he had hardly an adequate realization of the American woman, his observations were not without a degree of truth, and they offered much food for reflection. Indeed justice compels one to admit the keen insight which discerned the " degree inordinate " in which the American woman cherishes her individuality, and M. Funck-Brentano might well have smiled triumphantly, and asserted that he laughs best who laughs last, could he have heard of a charming young American woman who calmly re-marked : " Yes, I regard my marriage as a success as I have never allowed it to interfere with my individual development."
Mysticism and interest in psychic research have their prominent recognition in Paris, and there are in the air continual narrations of incidents and experiences in psychic phenomena. One of the most impressive is related by the Baroness Faverot de Kerbrech, the widow of a distinguished French general and military expert. When the young Prince Imperial went with the troops to Zululand, General de Kerbrech, who was greatly attached to the Prince, desired to accompany him. The government decided otherwise, and on the day on which the Prince met his tragic death, the Baron, who was riding in Algeria, was conscious of a singular depression of spirits, which could not be traced to any recognizable cause. Suddenly, in the afternoon, he felt that the Prince was near him; he seemed to perceive his presence, although there was no visible or tangible evidence of it, and he had a strong impression that the young Prince was in need ; the appeal for help, rescue, he knew not what, fell upon him. So profound was the impression that he immediately telegraphed to the Baroness, who was in London, to ask her if any news had been received at Chislehurst. Receiving the tidings of his death, the General always believed that this experience on the day of the Prince's death was no mere chance or coincidence ! The importance of the two well-known individualities concerned renders this instance one of peculiar significance.
Doctor Richet was interested in this incident when it was related to him, and he regarded it as one of the most striking of well authenticated proofs of telepathic communion. Without being in any exclusive sense a mystic, he is profoundly interested in spiritual philosophy. " There is nothing unscientific in the admission that at a moment of intellectual evolution of humanity, other forces may be generated," he says ; " why should they not be ? One or the other alternative is true ; either we do already know all the forces of nature, or we do not know them all. There is no way out of this dilemma. The first alternative is so absurd that the mere mention of it is sufficient to show how foolish it is; it is evident that our feeble intelligence, endowed with five senses of limited range, does not penetrate into all the forces of nature (the force of the magnet, for instance). Hence, necessarily and undoubtedly, there are forces which escape us... If there is a condition of mind contrary to the truly scientific spirit," Doctor Richet continues, " it is that of the conservatist who is afraid of new ideas and new theories. History shows that scientists have always been too timid in their hypotheses, for final discoveries have far surpassed the anticipations of the boldest."
Doctor Richet looks forward with truly sublime vision to the future of the human race. " I have only spoken of the science — our near future, — that of 2008, or 3008," he remarked once, in a conversation ; " but what if we thought of epochs still further removed ? of five thousand years hence, or of six thousand years, or of forty thousand, or of a hundred thousand years. It is not likely that the human race will be extinct in a hundred thousand years ; and to what, then, may not human intelligence have attained ? What may not be its resources ? We cannot form an idea, not even the most remote idea, of what that great future will contain. Nevertheless that day will come. There will be men in that day ! There will be science. And all science of today will be as inferior to the science of that day as the knowledge of a chimpanzee is inferior to the knowledge of a doctor of science."
Criticism attains in France a high standard. It is regarded in its true light as a branch of letters. Every idea is subjected to the search-light of investigation and comment. There will be a séance d'hypnotisme in the Salles of the Société des Savantes, to study the mysteries of hypnotism. There are constant meetings of the Bahai' Association. There are conferences on theosophy. There are curious centres of occultism. Almost every day some new idea or discovery is announced in Paris. It sweeps over the city like an electric wave. It is discussed, admired, ridiculed, praised, accepted or rejected, as may be, but at all events it is tested and not ignored.
The Bahai' meetings in Paris have attracted a very eminent following, both of the savants and of many of the titled aristocracy, and including, also, prominent members of the American colony. The most concise and adequate presentation of the essential faith of this cult was given in a paper read before the Religious Congress held in Oxford in September, 1908, when the essayist thus condensed the salient data of Bahaism :
" In 1819 A. D., a child was born at Shiraz, in Persia, who at the age of twenty-four announced that he had been chosen by God as His messenger. This man, who assumed the title of the Bab, or Door, was the John the Baptist of Bahaism. Before his death (he was shot in prison at Tabriz in 1850) he declared that he would be followed in nineteen years by ` He whom God would manifest.' Many of his followers, the Babis, were tortured and put to death, and still more thrown into prison, amongst them a wealthy Persian noble known as Baha-Ullah. Precisely nineteen years after the death of the Bab, Baha-Ullah, having gone through several further terms of imprisonment in Baghdad and Constantinople, announced to his family and followers that he was the Coming Great One to whom the Bab had referred, and five years later, he was exiled to Akka, and confined there in one room for seven years. In the latter part of his life he enjoyed comparative liberty, and finally died only sixteen years ago, having first commanded his disciples to turn their faces towards his eldest son, Abbas Effendi. It was this son, known as the Master, who is the present head of Bahaism, the religion named after his father, which has numerous adherents in Bombay, Mandalay, America, London, Paris, and especially Persia, where a third of the population call themselves followers of Bahaism.!
BehaUllah's own account of his mission was that he was sent to unite all the faiths and peoples of the world into one. Bahaism seemed, on the whole, to be an adaptation of the Christian religion to what its founder conceived to be the needs of the present day. It all made for unity. There was to be one language for all the world, and, of course, one faith — to wit, Bahaism. Women were to be put in all respects on an equal footing with men. Every one was to support himself. There were to be no priests and no dogma. Each body of believers was to elect a council or House of Justice ; and each nation, and finally the whole world, was to be represented by a similar council, this last universal House of Justice forming a kind of permanent board of arbitration for the discussion of . international disagreements."
Paris is rather the centre of this cult which is also increasing in the United States.
Paris has always exhibited a penchant for expositions, and the one held in 1900 was an event of world-wide importance. As in Chicago in 1893, the Congresses were a feature of deep significance and far-reaching influence. The press of the city called attention to the fact that the exposition curiously revealed how dear to France was the memory of Napoleon. His memory is fairly embalmed in all the retrospective displays of art, and in the countless relics displayed in the Military Palace. Napoleon I. is represented in three characters," said the Times. " First as General of the Republic, painted by David ; second, as Premier Consul, by Ingres ; and third, as Emperor, by Le Jeune. These pictures look down upon priceless souvenirs connected with ` La Grande Armée.' Here the visitor can see the baton of Oudinot, the sword of Lefebvre, the lunette of Davout, the Grand Cordon of Friant, the sabre of Morand, the pistols of Eblé, the hat of Péllissier, the sword of Bosquet, the sword-belt of Lannes, which he wore on the day he met his death on the battlefield ; the sword of Lariboisière, the pistols of Ducrot, the spurs of Bessière, the pipe of Lasalle, the epaulets of Kirgener, the cross of Ponteves, the tunic of Meyrou, the sabre of Douai. There, too, is the silver heart containing the real heart of La Tour d'Auvergne, carried as a Palladium in the battles of the Empire by the grenadiers of the First Battalion of the Forty-sixth Line Regiment. La Tour d'Auvergne was named Premier Grenadier de l'Armée de la République by the First Consul himself, who sent him a sword of honor, which to this day is religiously preserved at the Invalides. La Tour d'Auvergne was a unique figure. He could never live in retirement after his campaigns, and at the age of fifty-eight he actually took the place in the army of the only son of a dear friend, thereby satisfying his love of military enterprise and at the same time showing the depth of his love for an old comrade, for it ended his life by a lance stroke in the battle of Oberhausen. Other relics of equal fascination in this French exhibit are the renowned petit chapeau of Napoleon and the flag of the Thirty-second, upon which are worked the words uttered by Bonaparte after the battle of Lonato in 1796, ` J'étais tranquille, le brave 32me était la.' "
The beautiful grounds were as alluring as they were extensive. On either side of the river the facilities for landscape loveliness were most exceptional. There were numerous special exhibitions of some invention, or fancy, and one of the most poetic of these was the Salle des Illusions, a bewildering labyrinth whose magical beauty was a dream. In itself this was only an octagonal salon lined with mirrors ; with decorative designs for electric illumination in the ceiling, and with a few arches and pillars. In an adjoining recess was an electric keyboard on which a skilful operator played, and the effect was something quite past description. The spectator seemed to be standing in the centre of a salon, from which in every direction endless and infinite corridors stretched away in a vista as far as the eye could see. These vast halls had ceilings over-arched, the arches mingling in wonderful semicircles and stately rows of columns, which were, apparently, of alabaster, changing in color before the gaze, flushing to a deep rose red, paling to the faintest sea green, then deepening to the rich green of June foliage, while the infinite and endless clusters of lights were in soft rose ; then the lights, all grouped in sprays and bouquets, seemed to be in mid-air rather than flashing from chandeliers, also changed in color, and the pillars were of gold, or shaded in pearl and blue, or, again, they were of rarest onyx, or red opal, the fire and rose gleaming and flashing through the dreamy haze. And again a troop of dancing girls floated down the endless vistas, or a flight of birds in rich tropical plumage winged their way through these bewildering spaces. It was all an exquisite creation, a bewildering dream of untold splendor, and the simplicity of the mechanism that produced such elaborate and Arabian Nights enchantment effects was a revelation of the magic of electricity and plate mirrors.
One could hardly visit the Salles des Illusions without finding in its wonders a certain commentary on life. A touch and, presto ! an ordinary little octagonal salon becomes a perfect scene of enchantment, a centre of bewildering beauty. The only requirement is to know how to play on the keyboard. With the right touch, the perfect combinations, all these successive effects were produced. So may one, perchance, produce the harmonies of life wherever he may wander, or among whatever group he may find himself.
The " Ville Lumière" is as appropriate in typically describing Paris the Beautiful, as it is in literal application to the river of light which her broad boulevards and avenues become in the evening. To drive down the Champs Elysées after nightfall from the Place de l'Étoile, where the magnificent Arc de Triomphe stands, a colossal monument visible from nearly all the vistas of Paris — to the Place de la Concorde, and thence through the chain of grand boulevards, is like making a pilgrimage through starry spaces. On either side the avenue with its triple divisions are the cafés-chantant defined amid the chestnut trees by arches and lines of colored lights, making the scene a veritable fairyland ; and however problematic may be the quality of musical art within, the scenic effect is delightful. The Place de la Concorde sparkles at night as if untold constellations had fallen from the skies, and the broad boulevards are all brilliantly aglow. Even the advertisements projected in the air by electric appliances become part of the magic of the mise en scène.
In her recognition of art, of poetry, of the drama, of literature, is found the key to this imaginative intensity of Parisian life ; its peculiar vividness, sparkle and glowing vitality. France regards her poets truly as " liberating gods." Emerson declared that he thought nothing of any value in books, save the transcendental and the extraordinary. The life of the Parisian agrees with this. He asks the author, artist, inventor to be a new witness. He must address himself to life. He mirrors the passing hours and focusses the aspirations of the state into expression. He makes himself the voice of the universal demand. He images that which every man longs to realize. Well might the poet, the critic, the inventor, the leader of his day in Paris feel that " this is the reward, that the ideal shall be made real ; " that the vision of the hour shall mould the thought of the people.
The Parisian streets are a living drama. They are as enthralling as the moving pictures shown in a cinematograph.
The general transit in Paris is difficult unless it is expensive and is expensive if not difficult; for though the cabs and motors and taximetres are cheap, compared with the prices of cabs and carriages in American cities, yet no one can take these for his ordinary rounds of social life or sight-seeing in Paris without finding them a serious factor in expense. The franc and a half of the ordinary " course " is multiplied too many times a day for it not to be considered. In all the motor and horse omnibuses a six-cent fare prevails, so even the public transit is three times more expensive than in London, where a penny (two cents) fare corresponds in accommodation to the six-cent (thirty. centimes) fare of Paris. Nor is Paris more than half as well supplied with public transit as London. In London, just missing one "'bus," another is close at hand and it matters not ; but in Paris one waits and waits, and at last when it appears, ten chances to one it is labelled Complet, and the driver or chauffeur rushes on, regardless of any imploring gesture. So when one's time, not to say energy, is of any value, one is simply obliged to employ cabs or motors, and the expense, all in all, is great. But if we do not all fly through the air in an aeroplane, we certainly fly on the surface of the earth. The motor car is usually swift ; but the motor cars of Paris are so instantaneous that, like the messages of wireless telegraphy, one gets to his destination before he starts ! How it is possible that the Parisians escape wholesale slaughter in their streets every day, till there is not one left to tell the tale, passes one's imagination ! The massacre of Saint Bartholomew would seem to be nothing to the daily massacre of the Parisians, if it were not for some miraculous intervention. Yet, curiously, the streets here are not really as dangerous as are those in American cities. The motors are innumerably multiplied, and they make a progress to which "swift " is a totally inadequate term ; they are as instantaneous as lightning ; but the islands in the streets are, one fancies, the saving grace. One only has to take half the width of the street at a time, and thus only watch for traffic in one direction, instead of running the gauntlet of both directions in crossing. The destruction of the roads by the motor is far greater than that by horses; the gigantic eighteen horse power cars rush over the streets, and the rapid destruction of roads not only in Paris, but over all France, has become so serious a problem that the French Minister of Public Works has organized a congress to deliberate on new methods of construction. The roads that formerly lasted from six to eight years are now destroyed in less than two years. This congress is considering a new form of road construction, the pavement to be laid insets, on a solid concrete foundation. The garage keepers, meantime, have increased their price for storing and sheltering motor cars, and the motor cabs extract this extra expense from the public whom they carry. All in all, the flying motors " take it out " of their customers in all possible ways. The fact is that to live, at all, in this first decade of the twentieth century is an expensive luxury. The world presents, increasingly, a grand spectacle, and one must pay the price if he goes the pace. It is expensive to live, but then it is also expensive to die, so, after all, one is apparently reduced to Hobson's choice.
Yet however extravagant an affair it is to exist,life is extremely well worth the living. In Paris, for instance, it is so interesting, so enthralling, that it is not to be wondered that the French capital has become not only a most important centre of American life, but even of American business and enterprise. The visitors who throng Paris in the spring and find in the Champs Élysées their Elysian fields indeed, are fascinated with the motor cars, the shops, the theatres, the opera and the social gatherings. Curiously, the American visitor to Paris sees much less of French society than he sees of Italian society when in Rome. There is still a French noblesse of the most exclusive, not to say narrow, and bigoted order. It is a social life that is strangely circumscribed, and it is hardly to be entered save through intermarriage or special opportunities of introduction. In the old Faubourg St. Germain are still many of the magnificent hôtels,. hidden away behind the courts and opening on lovely gardens that no one would dream existed when driving through the streets. But the superb residence regions of the Champs Élysées and the Avenue du Boisde-Boulogne show vast numbers of modern palaces, whose luxury and beauty exceed description.
Although there have of late years been intimations that London was becoming a better shopping place than Paris, there can be no doubt that the Paris shops fully sustain their reputation and power. In the general sense they are the finest in the world in the lavish display, the perfection of taste, and courtesy and ease that invest the art of shopping with a glamour of delight. At the great shops of the Magazins du Louvre and the Bon Marché, every article is ticketed with its price ; any and every purchase can be returned and the money instantly refunded without the slightest parley, if the customer so desire. The ease and the accommodation of Parisian shopping are something that add materially to the pleasure and the convenience of living in Paris, and the same courtesy and interest are shown to purchasers of trifles as to those who give large orders.
Across the river, through the gardens of the Tuileries, lies a region of Paris famous in social history. In one house (No. 120, Rue de Bac) lived Mme. Mohl, the famous French woman whose salon was one of the most brilliant features of Paris in the middle years of the nineteenth century, and who died in the winter of 1882. In this house, also, Chateaubriand passed his last years, and it was here that Mme. Récamier came each day to visit him. At the very last Mme. Récamier stayed with Mme. Mohl, whose apartment was on the floor above, and on July 3 (1848) Chateaubriand died, and she was thus enabled to be called in time to be with him. All this aristocratic Faubourg is still regarded as a choice residential region, though modern fashion has established itself in the Champs Élysées. The devotion of Mme. Récamier to Chateaubriand is often alluded to by Sainte-Beuve in his " Causeries du Lundi," and in one of these allusions he says :
" M. de Chateaubriand, during the last twenty years, was the great centre of the life of Mme. Récamier, the man to whom she subordinated every one. He had his antipathies, his aversions, and even his bitternesses, to which the ` Mêmoires d'Outre Tombe ' testify sufficiently. She tempered and corrected all that. Every day she had a thousand graceful inventions for renewing and refreshing praise. She beat up fresh friends and admirers from everywhere. She chained us all to the feet of her statue with a golden chain."
The narrow little thoroughfare of the Rue de Bac is filled with associations that recall Madame Récamier and Madame de Staël.
One of the interesting excursions in Paris is that to Saint Denis, six miles distant, where around the great Cathedral of Saint Denis a town has sprung up. The legend runs that the martyred bishop to whom this church is a memorial walked from this place to Montmartre, carrying his head in his hands. A chapel marking the site of the present church was erected in 275 A. D. and in 630 a Benedictine abbey was built. The present basilica is the oldest church in the entire vicinity of Paris, and in it are the tombs of the earliest French kings. Here are entombed Louis XII and his Queen, Anne of Bretagne, in a tomb that antedates that of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, in the Certosa di Parisi in Italy. The tomb of Dagobert I, of Henry II and his queen, Catherine de Médicis (1589) the sculpture of which is by Film of Germany, of Fredigonde, of François I, and others are in this church. The altar of Saint Denis is a beautiful thing. There are monuments to the Valois family, and in the crypt are numerous chapels with statues of Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI and others. Many of the objects formerly kept in the treasury of the Basilica of Saint Denis are now removed to the galleries of the Louvre, placed in the Galerie d'Apollon. There is an antique Egyptian vase in porphyry, mounted in a silver frame; an antique Roman sardonyx vase ; one in rock crystal ; and there is a figure of the Madonna in silver-gilt, carrying in her hand the fleur-de-lis of France.
Visitors to Paris are not, however, greatly concerned with visits to historic parts. The glow and glitter of the Rue de la Paix is far more attractive, as a rule, than the ancient haunts of sages and martyrs, and the relics of their time. The great shops of the Magazins du Louvre, the Bon Marché, the Samaritaine, the Trois Quartiers, the Printemps, and others, far and away rival in attractions the old crypts and chapels. The great modistes and arbiters of fashion are not in direct evidence. The Paquin house in the Rue de la Paix is prominent, it is true ; but most of these are approached through corridors known only to the initiate. The American woman knows them well and it is to-day with which life in Paris is especially concerned.
One finds everything, every phase of interest, represented in Paris, the scientific, the mystic, the social, the artistic. It is a universe of itself,this brilliant, complex, many-sided life of the French capital.
" And so I am strong to love this noble France,