Page images

years ago by a terrible band of robbers. At the present day an old Invalide lives in it, who sells crystals and small stalactites, and also serves as a guide in the neighbourhood. We did not require his services, however, for the narrow descending forest-path led us straight to Barbizon, whose houses we soon saw shimmering through the foliage. Barbizon is unpretending and small, but celebrated throughout the whole department, and as far as Paris, on account of a single house, which, in addition, is an ordinary peasant's cottage, and externally in no way distinguished from the other habitations. It is the village inn, and old Père Martin also had a small grocer's shop in connexion with his auberge. He has long been dead, and his widow has grown old in the bargain; but his only daughter is still unmarried, although she is indubitably the best match in the village.

"Up to the present your remarks have been of a very common-place description," said friend Richards, when I had told him this. "I cannot comprehend the extreme importance of Barbizon, and why we were recommended in Paris not to forget a visit to Barbizon during our trip."

I made no reply, beyond requesting the company to enter. But the gentlemen scarce found themselves in the large guest-room, ere on all sides loud cries of amazement and admiration were raised. Richards ran out to me in the kitchen, where I was ordering breakfast of the hostess, and shouted, "Why, there is a regular museum in there-a perfect picture-gallery! I never saw such a thing before in my life. Pray come in!"

"You are telling me nothing new," I answered, with a laugh. "Two years ago I stayed for a week here, in very distinguished company, in No. 7, up-stairs, and my name is among the 'celebrated names' of the house-book. I told you Barbizon was unique in its way."

It is high time, however, to inform the reader of the real state of affairs. The forest of Fontainebleau has been visited from time immemorial by artists, especially landscape-painters. Its peculiar charms afford an easy explanation of this: Paris is the grand head-quarters of all the French, and many foreign, artists, and Fontainebleau, in turn, is the only spot in the neighbourhood of the capital which offers mountain, forest, and rocks; on a small scale, it is true, but in the richest and most delightful variety. To find similar scenery an artist would be obliged to travel in the Vosges and Ardennes, or in Auvergne and the Pyrenees. Furthermore, Barbizon is the centre of the forest, and fifty years ago Père Martin was the only landlord in the village. Naturally, most of the artists put up at his house, remained there for a while, and Barbizon soon gained a certain reputation in the artistic world which it fully deserved.

When the Restoration restored peace to the pining country, and when with peace, one of its most glorious blessings, the cultivation of the arts began to be diffused, the forest of Fontainebleau also received fresh and numerous visitors, and Barbizon was never without guests during the summer. Père Martin, the son of the old man, on looking over the little inn, soon noticed what was wanting; he put a story on his house, with ten or twelve small rooms, which he furnished plainly, but neatly. Thus his hotel was completed, and guests did not remain away long. On the

contrary, they arrived in such numbers that scarce the third part of them could be lodged, and rooms had to be engaged for months beforehand. A couple of years later, the clever host added a wing to his "hotel,”—that is to say, he filled up a portion of his barn behind the house, which gave him a dozen more bedrooms, so that he was enabled to lodge from twenty to four-and-twenty "gentlemen from town." He also found imitators in the village, and lodgings were got ready in several houses, which obtained tenants, but not till every hole and corner at Père Martin's was occupied; and those who did not lodge with him boarded at the hotel, for Père Martin's cookery was held in high estimation. The charming Jeannette, too, the sole daughter of the house, was of use too; and it has been asserted of many an artist that he neglected his landscape studies and turned his attention to portraits. But all in honour; nothing wrong could be said of the family, and they were universally respected. Father, mother, and daughter, were equally popular in the village, which is saying a good deal, for Père Martin had become in the course of years very well to do, even a rich man, för such a village.

He soon had the honour of hanging up his portrait and that of his wife in the large guest-room, and painted by a master's hand. The celebrated Delacroix, who lodged for some months at the inn of Barbizon, for the purpose of making studies from nature for his grand pictures at Versailles, surprised the couple one morning with this present, for which a gallery would at the present day offer many thousand francs. The impulse was thus given. Every artist desired to leave a reminiscence, and, spurred on by emulation and self-esteem, produce something good and handsome. In a few years the guest-room was filled with pictures by the first French artists. Ere long, the space afforded by the walls became too limited, and the artists employed the tall oak cupboards, as well as the doors and window-ledges, and, finally, the ceiling, chairs, and tables-in short, every surface large or small that presented itself to them. In this fashion was gradually formed a picture-gallery, probably more interesting and original than any other to be found in the world. The battle on one of the cupboard-doors is by Horace Vernet; the dancing Odalisques, on the opposite wall, by Diaz; the noble oak on the window, by Decamps, the lately lost and so deeply regretted artist; the dog's head on the lower panel of the door, by Rosa Bonheur; the Madonna floating amid clouds and angels on the ceiling, by Ingrès; the harvest-scene on the right-hand side of the buffet, by Robert; the moonlight landscape on the left, by Meissonier-in a word, we might supply catalogue of the pictures, and find the names of all the great artists of France. At times, they are merely sketches, or rapid pencil jokes, dictated by the humour of the moment, sketched after a jolly dinner, or at night by the flame of a still jollier bowl of punch, but all original and worth seeing, especially when a friend of the house, or the hostess herself, describes the different circumstances or accidents under which one picture or the other originated. Finally, when the space was quite occupied, the artists had recourse to the back of the shutters, backs of chairs, and even the panes of glass; the mantelpiece, too, which is fortunately of wood, according to the custom of the country, has not been forgotten, and a clever flower-painter has designed exquisite garlands on the frame

of the looking-glass. Very recently, the smaller room on the left has been attacked, and within a few years will, without a doubt, be equally attractive and valuable.

The reader now comprehends the well-deserved reputation of Barbizon, which would assuredly have long ago become a stock place for excursions among the Parisians, were it not so distant from the capital, and at the same time so sequestered in the large forest. But we have no cause to complain of this. On the contrary, Mère Martin's house would at once lose a great portion of its charm were it situated at St. Cloud or in the Bois de Boulogne. I make this remark because really magnificent offers have been made to the old lady to buy her hotel with its contents. Parisian speculators wanted to pull it down and erect it again either in Paris or the immediate vicinity, of course precisely as it now stands in the forest. The worthy old lady, either through respect for her family, or a preference for her simple still life, has hitherto declined all such offers; but what the daughter may do after her death is different. Nor has the stereotyped Englishman been wanting, who also wished to buy the house, and, the best of the joke, mother and daughter in the bargain, transport the whole lot across the Channel, and re-erect it in his park as a curiosity. It is even seriously asserted that a similar offer emanated from the directors of the Crystal Palace,-which may be possible.

Jeannette, whose portrait may be noticed only too frequently in the guest-room, has not married up to the present, as I mentioned: whether it is true, as is whispered, that an unfortunate attachment caused the poor girl to make this hard resolve, I cannot positively avouch. My friend Richards at once set about composing a small romance: A young artist belonging to a noble family (with the well known Jewish motto, "An artist, but does not live by it"), who came to Barbizon for the purpose of studying nature, but looked too deeply into the dark eyes of the landlord's daughter, and finally made another marriage in accordance with the wishes of his family; and so on.

It is possible that the inn of Barbizon may become ere long a thing of the past, for Mère Martin may not be able to resist the tempting offers which will continue to be made. I therefore advise all those of my readers who intend visiting Paris during the autumn, to take advantage of the opportunity and make the run to Fontainebleau, which, they may believe me, will cause them the most unfeigned delight.



On February 17, 1853, there died at Innsbrück, in his eightieth year, a statesman who had in former times caused offence in the sober capital of Saxony by his ostentation and luxury. Left alone in the world, he had retired to a quiet asylum, to rest after the exciting movements of a very changeable diplomatic career. From 1806 to 1809 Saxon envoy in Paris, and from the latter date up to 1813 minister of foreign affairs at Dresden, he eventually entered the service of Austria, effected the liberation of Switzerland, and afterwards held the post of envoy at the Hague, Turin, and Munich. When reporting his death, the Allgemeine Zeitung added: "He leaves interesting memoirs behind him." Now, at the expiration of eleven years, these memoirs have been published.* They comprise the seven years from 1806 to 1813, and have the great advantage of having been recorded in 1814, or immediately after the conclusion of that period. Count Senfft was living at that time in Constanz, and the quiet of the little town benefited him, when he recalled the men and events of the last ten years. In his Memoirs there is a peculiar freshness; we trace in them the emotions which the author felt as a fellow-actor, and their mode of observation is that of the period between 1806 and 1813.

The first page introduces to us the count appointed Saxon envoy in Paris. He was at that time, in February, 1806, two-and-thirty years of age, had travelled in Italy and Denmark, had formerly done diplomatic service at Ratisbonn and Rastadt, and commended himself for the great Parisian post through family connexions, knowledge, practice in the management of business, and a fortune acquired by marriage. He received the same instructions as were given to all Saxon envoys: neutrality in everything which did not affect specifically Saxon interests. The political constellation of the time requires no long explanation. Napoleon had determined on the punishment of Prussia, who had just accepted Hanover at his hands. In order to isolate his victim, he spared Austria and accelerated the formation of the Rhenish Confederation. Lucchesini, the Prussian envoy, did not learn a syllable about this or about the French negotiations with Lord Lauderdale for the restoration of Hanover to George III. General Vincent, the Austrian ambassador, was informed by Napoleon of everything, and was able to warn Count Senfft: Saxony must be on its guard and avoid being dragged down the abyss with Prussia: if the Elector declared his neutrality and forced the adjoining small states to attach themselves to his system, France would recognise ⚫ such political conduct. On the same day as Senfft received this warning, he reported his entire conversation with Count Vincent to Dresden in a cyphered despatch. It did not receive the slightest attention at court. People were as blinded there as in Berlin, and equally believed that negotiations, if supported by a menacing position, would conquer the menacing storm.

In September the Emperor left Paris, where Senfft remained behind. He had heard of vague reports about the war on the Saale, when he

* Memoires du Comte de Senfft, Ancien Ministre de Saxe. Leipzig: Veit and Co.

learnt one evening in the theatre that the Prussian army had been destroyed at Jena, and Napoleon was marching on Berlin. This terrible news had aroused such terror in Dresden, that the sole thought was of flight. The court carriages were already packed, when a short message was received to the effect that the Emperor would regard the Elector as a personal foe so soon as the latter quitted Dresden. The court carriages were unpacked, hope took the place of fear, and this hope became a delightful certainty, for they heard in rapid succession that Napoleon had liberated the Saxon prisoners and intended to treat the Elector as his ally, grant him an extension of territory, and even make him a king. These gifts, however, were not regarded as mere presents. The French troops marched in, made requisitions, and behaved with the recklessness of conquerors. Contributions were demanded, which gradually rose to five-andtwenty million francs, and raised the interest of money from three to six per cent., as the cash was taken out of the country. French intendants made their appearance, divided the administration of the country formally among themselves, seized on a part of the public receipts, took the horses from several cavalry regiments, carried off the guns from the Dresden arsenal, and plundered the furniture of the English envoy, Wynn. The Elector had not yet drunk the cup of humiliation to the dregs. He was frightened by an intercepted letter from Wynn to the Saxon minister, Loss, forced to dismiss this minister disgracefully, disavow his own former policy, and take part in the war against Prussia.

The new king behaved no better than all the rest. He tried to acquire as much territory as he could, flattered the master, and bribed the servants. Talleyrand received from the Dresden court treasury a million, Durant half a million, of francs. In Berlin was a great assembly of German envoys, who outbade one another. Talleyrand negotiated with these gentlemen through subordinate agents; only two were allowed to come to Warsaw, where he was residing at the time, General Vincent and Baron von Dalberg. The above-mentioned one and a half million worked favourably for Saxony: it received the circle of Kotbuss and the duchy of Warsaw, a present of nearly two thousand (German) square miles, with close on two and a half million inhabitants. Napoleon, however, kept back twenty millions' worth of the Polish state territory, and presented it to officers. Senfft concludes his account of these occurrences with a general opinion about Talleyrand:

"He employed his position in order to increase his fortune by indelicate means, but never allowed himself to be induced by the most powerful motives of self-interest to favour plans which he regarded as ruinous to the peace of Europe. It was indubitably he who in principle did the most to enslave Germany, and after, by his cunning policy, preparing the enormous supremacy of France on the Continent, he had deprived himself of the means of curbing the insatiable ambition of the man who wielded this colossal might. For all that, he opposed, even at the risk of displeasing his master, every plan which had the tendency of entangling France in new and interminable wars in the midst of peace. From this motive he steadfastly refused any support to the interests of Polish nationality. A sum of four million florins, which was offered him by the magnates of Warsaw if he would help in the restoration of ancient Poland, was declined by him, after it had remained for some days in the

« PreviousContinue »