Boulevard Possoniere

I am now all cap a pie for Paris. Ho! for Boston, is nothing to ah!
Paris. I have been this morning to get my last view of the great
Palace of the World’s Fair. I have since been to Greenwich to eat
white bait, and I am now hurrying on to the station. Whoever wishes
to see a good deal of the country, and a broken down route, had
better take what is called the Brighton Route. If you leave London at
6 o’clock in the evening, you will stop at 8 o’clock at New Haven, a
place with a name on the map, but in fact no place at all, save the
destination of the train of this route. There you will, in all
probability, have to wait about an old building an hour or two for
the arrival of a boat to take you across the channel. Next morning,
if you are lucky, you arrive at 8 o’clock at a little old French town
called Dieppe, just in time to be too late to take the morning train
for Paris. It is said that these little old half dead towns live off
these tricks. I got a pretty breakfast _a la carte_; I say pretty,
because I had boiled eggs, red wine and white, radishes, lettuce, and
three boquets on my breakfast table. Having been disappointed in
taking the morning’s train for Paris, I vented my wrath on both
bottles of wine, thereby getting an equilibrium between
disappointment and contentment. This done I went down to a little old
shed which they called the Custom House, to get my trunks which they
had been searching. I then took a ride in the country to see the
ruins of an ancient castle, captured by the first reigning king of
the present great Bourbon family, Henry Quatre, King of Navarre. This
was the first ruined castle I had ever seen, and it interested me so
much that in spite of the boat last night with no berths, sea
sickness, custom-house troubles, disappointment in getting to Paris
that day instead of 11 o’clock at night, I was in quite a good humor,
and in fact, considered myself well paid for the ride, though in an
old chaise and two poor horses.

At the ruins of this enormous pile of brick and mortar, was an old,
broken down French officer. His companion was a lonely raven. We
could go in and out of no part of this dilapidated mass of downfallen
power, without meeting the raven. He seemed to be a lonely spirit. I
caught at him once when he came within two feet of me; he jumped
about a foot further off and stopped right still, and turned his head
so that one eye was up and the other down, and kept looking up at me
as long as I looked at him, as if he would fain say _laissi moi_
(let me be). The cool treatment of the raven about these old ruins
lowered my spirits. I gave the old soldier a franc for his trouble
and information, and got in my old turn-out, and turned around to say
adieu to the old soldier when I found him too much engaged paying
Jocko with crumbs, his portion of the bonus, for services rendered.

At 4 o’clock I found myself well seated in a French car, for the
first time, direct for Paris. Here we go in a tunnel, and it is dark
as ebony; here we come out; away go the cattle as if Indians were
after them.

It would be impossible to conjecture that French farmers were lazy,
for this is the Sabbath and down in the meadows I see farmers
reaping. I can see towns in such quick succession, it would be
useless to attempt to describe them. It is now 11 o’clock, and I am
at my destination and being searched. Nothing found and I am
pronounced an honest man. But my honesty, if there be any, is like
Falstaff’s, hid. I have two hundred cigars in my over and under coat,
and they are, indeed, contraband and was one of the greatest objects
of search; but, reader, if you pronounce this French stupidity you
deceive yourself. It was French politeness that allowed me to pass
unnoticed by this scrutinizing assemblage of Savans. If a man move
among these lynx-eyed prefectures as a gentleman ought to, he is,
once out of three times, likely to pass the barrier of their polite
inclinations, whilst at the same time it would give them great
satisfaction to believe that it would pay to examine you, were there
a justifiable excuse for such rudeness, overbalancing the politeness
which is characteristic of their whole national dignity. The French
are proud of their national characteristics, and least of all nations
inclined to trample them under foot.

It is now eleven o’clock, as I have before said, and I am in Paris,
trying to get across the Boulevard des Italian. What I mean by trying
is, picking my chance. I am no dancing master, and in this crowded
street might not do the dodging right the first time.

I am now across and ringing the bell at 179 Rue Richelieu. This is
the Hotel des Prince (Hotel of the Princes). Mr. Privat is the
proprietor. In this Hotel all have gone to bed except a beautiful
little woman at the concierge. She was sewing whilst stillness
reigned around her, like a deep, dark forest, just before a storm.
She received me with a smile. I, not knowing that this was her usual
behavior to all patronage of this or any other house in Paris, took
for granted I had made an extra impression right off. She took me to
an apartment which she said was merely temporary. To-morrow, she
said, I could get another to my taste. I gazed around at all the
different doors and comforts with numerous conveniencies of neatness,
and said to her, “Miss, this, in my opinion, is good enough for the
oldest inhabitant.” She smiled and went away and brought me a bottle
of water with a piece of ice inside just the shape of the bottle.
“How did you put that piece of ice inside without breaking the
bottle?” said I. “It was water, sir, and it froze inside,” said she,
“will you have something to eat?” I said I would like a small bit of
chicken and red wine; she rang the bell and an English and French
waiter was summoned; she went away and left me pretty certain that I
was in Paris.

Next morning I felt pretty sure I was in Paris, or I “wasn’t anywhere
else.” Every five minutes would assure me that I was there. Before
the grey of the morn departed from Paris I had two lady visitors. One
was a beautiful girl, like “Mary of Adelphi.” She was evidently
mistaken in finding a tenant in this one of her rooms, unless that
was her way. She moved up to the washstand, which was near my bed, or
rather couch, and slyly looked in the drawer and drew back. I,
wishing to let her know that if her business or adventure was
connected with me, she need not fear waking me, rose my left arm and
said, “good morning!” She, not understanding what I did say, muttered
out something like “_reste vous tranquilles_,” which, I afterwards
learned, meant, don’t be disturbed. She hurried out the half opened
door pulling her little starched dress, that seemed to pull back,
after her. Five minutes after this, she returned and placed on my
stand close to my bed, a bottle of ice water and a glass. I asked her
name, she said, Elverata, and winded away.

Five minutes after this another female opened my door about a foot
and leaned gracefully in. She asked me some question two or three
times, all that I could understand was Blanche, with some other
points to it like _E sirs_. Consulting my guide of the French
translated into the four following languages, French, Italian, German
and English, I discovered she was talking about washing. I got this
book in London and studied all the way to Paris, but found that I had
made no improvement; all I knew of the book was, that the words
translated were only some useful words that the solicitors would most
likely know themselves when it would be necessary to use such
expressions. She ran to me, for she was acquainted with the book
better than I was, and helped to find what she wished to say. “_Ie
trouver, Ie trouver_,” she said. I gave her the book, at the same
time asking her in English what was _trouver_. She looked up at the
wall, like a Madonna, and seemed to be lost in inward study, at last
she looked me full in the face and said, “fyend.” “Ah!” said I,
“find.” “Yis!” said she, “what you call _cela_?” “Washerwoman,” said
I. “_Ie suis washe-women_.” This woman was certainly very bewitching
whilst speaking this broken English. I gave her to understand that
some other time would be more agreeable. She said she “stand” and
went out; but as she did not stand, but went out, I presume she meant
to say “I understand.”

At eight o’clock I descended to the _salle a manger_ for breakfast.
Persons were coming in to breakfast, two and three a minute, and
others were going out as fast. This continued till eleven o’clock.
Thirty and forty were frequently at the table at the same time.
Mostly all were Europeans; and had everything not gone on so
regularly, an American “greenhorn” would have taken them to be the
confusion of tongues convening for a reconciliation. On the table was
more wine than coffee. The coffee was usually taken in the smoking
room, where all gentlemen assemble to discuss politics. Among this
assemblage that I am so flippantly speaking of, was three noblemen of
England, one Duke of Italy, three barons of the Rhine, and a broken
down princess. From merely gossip authority, I learned that she was
the wife of a great man in one of the Russio Turko principalities.
She was generally dressed in black, and had two servants and a
_lacquey de place_. She was handsome and that had ruined her. She was
getting from her husband 100,000 per annum to stay away from him and
his court, which seemed to meet her approbation. She roomed on the
same floor I did, and I frequently met her smiling in these narrow
and dark passage ways. She seldom dined at the “_table de hote_,”
(dinner table) but either at the _trois frere_, (three brothers) or
the _maison d’or Doree_, corner of the Boulevard and rue Lafitte. She
most always had her Cabinet, good dinners and various wines,
consequently was always full of agreeability. She would walk home
herself, and, like the rest of ladies in Paris, she was always sure
that her dress in front should not drag the ground, by a process she
had in her nature, to show her intention of keeping her dress high
enough to prevent all accidents of the kind. By this habit of hers,
she got many admirers, for what a man would then see instead of her
dress would be no disadvantage to her or her intention. Her
reputation was such that had she been once gazed upon by the Virgin
Mary, the fiery censure of her pure eyes would have been basilisks to
her poor heart; the poor Princess would have dropped dead from the
mere spark of censure which the Virgin could not, though fain would,
hold back.

The day has gone by. I stood about, looking! looking! looking! Seeing
what is novel enough to an American in Paris, in the court of the
_Hotel des Princes_. Night came on and I went to my room to prepare
to see a “Night in Paris.” I shall write of a Night in Paris, and
then shall say no more of Paris until I have been to Germany and
return, where I expect to spend three or four months. After this
voyage I calculate to spend the winter here, and write something of
Paris and its manners.

My first day ends by meeting the Princess on the steps, and having
the pleasure of answering some inquiries of hers about sea-sickness,
and pleasant ships of the Cunard Line.

My “first day in Paris” commenced at night. If sauce for the goose is
sauce for the gander, I will commence this chapter in the day by
saying, “where now! valet de place?” “Notre dame,” he replied, and
the coachman drove away towards the Boulevards. In half an hour’s
time, he reined before the door of that “Venerable old monument of
reality and romance.” I approached it like a timid child being baited
with a shining sixpence. As my feet touched the sill, a peal came
from the belfry, one of those sonorous twangs, that have made so many
hearts flinch for hundreds of years in the “Bloody Bastile,” and it
vibrated from my timid heart to all parts of my frame. At this moment
a reverend father offered me his hand, who had all the time been
concealed beneath what one might well take to be a dark black coffin
standing on end. I accepted his hand, and he led me quietly in that
vast “sepulchre of kings.”

In all directions I saw magnificent aisles, and altars with burning
incense. Magnificent pictures representing all reverend worth, from
the “Son of Man,” to saints of France. Golden knobs with inscriptions
thereon, adorned the footsteps of every visitor thereof, denoting the
downwardness of kings who had once ruled nations. Whilst standing
there awestruck with departed worth, I gazed downward with a
submissive heart, when lo! I stood upon the coffin of a king! I
quickly changed my position, but stepped upon a queen. The valet was
relating to me the many different opinions the people had about
stepping on noted personages, and how unnecessary it was to take
notice of such things as they were dead, when I got disgusted at his
ignorance, and stepped from a Queen to a Princess.

To describe this gorgeously furnished sanctum, it is enough to say,
that all the brilliant artists of this scientific people have been
engaged for hundreds of years in its decoration. Not only employed by
the coffers of the Church of France, but by the throne that upheld
numerous kings, as well as the wish of the whole populace of France,
and the spoils of other nations. Hundreds of people from different
parts of the world visit it every day, and all leave a franc or two.
Thousands of Parisians visit it every day, and they make no mark of
decay. It stands a living monument of Church and State.

Drive me to the national assembly, I said to the coachman. In ten
minutes I was going up the gallery. Before I went in, the valet went
to a member’s coachman, and gave him a franc, and he gave in return a
ticket to the gallery. Each member is allowed so many gallery
tickets, and if he fails in giving them out, he makes his servants
presents of them, and they sell them.

They were debating republican principles. Louis Napoleon was then
President of the Republic, and on the door of every building and gate
of France were these words in legible letters, “Liberte Eqalite
Fraternite.” Louis Napoleon was not there that day, and they seemed
to have a good time, like mice when the cat is away. The most
incomprehensible part of their proceeding was, sometimes two would be
speaking at once, regardless of the chair. The speaker hammered away
furiously, but it was hard to tell, unless you knew, whether he was
beating up a revival or a retreat from destruction; as they cooled
off their debative heat, there was always twenty or thirty ready to
throw agitating fuel in the furnace. As they would cool down a whiff,
mushroom-like risings, would be perceptible in four or five different
parts of the spacious hall. I could make nothing out of what was
going on, save willingness to talk instead of listening, and I left.
One handsome and intelligent looking gentleman descended at the same
time, which I learned to be the correspondent of the New York
Tribune. I then took a curve like tour back, across the Seine, by the
Tuillieries, Luxomburg, and back to the same part of the Boulevards,
which was more crowded with fashion, than when I passed along in the
forenoon, and went home. Night came on, and with it, the gayest time
of Paris. The valet said I must go to _Jardin mabeille_, (a ball), I
rode there. This is a nightly ball, but there was no less than fifty
vehicles of different comforts, which showed that a great many
foreigners were there, because Parisians generally prefer promenading
when going to such a feast of pleasure. I paid two francs and went

It was a garden about a square block in size. In all parts of it was
shrubbery of the most fragrant odors. There was an immense number of
little walks, with neat rustic seats for lovers to caress in, from
the disinterested eye; and on my first preambulation, I got lost, and
intruded more than was polite, but I did not know the importance of
this discretion, until I perilously saw the danger. Had I gone on
without stopping, I would have led myself to the orchestra, where and
when I could have taken part in the amusement to the approbation of
all present. When I discovered that I did not know what I was about,
I stopped quickly and looked scrutinizingly around those snug little
bowers. All in a minute out came a “bower lover,” as furious as a
cat. I asked him “where the ball was;” he discovered that I was no
Frenchman, and could not have meant intrusion; he directed me to go
straight ahead, and I left him in his bliss.

Like a round pigeon house on the end of pole, I pronounce the
orchestra. A stair ran up to the pigeon house from the platform
round the great pole, or post that supported it. A small enclosure
was under the orchestra and occasionally the band would descend to
the platform to play. Round this orchestra they danced. The
spectators seemed to be exclusively foreigners; they made a ring
around the gay lotharios as unbroken as the one they made around the
orchestra. The bassy and fluty melodious Band, discoursed the
sweetest waltz that ever tickled my admiration. Off they glided like
a scared serpent, winding their curvy way as natural as if they were
taking their chances. There they come! But there is some still going
in the ranks, and there is still a vacancy. Twice they have made the
circuit, and the hoop is complete. Now to me it is all dizziness, and
it all looked to me as a moving body of muses from times of yore.
Occasionally my eye would cling to a couple for an instant, but this
was occasioned by the contrast between a large, fat, and heavy
gentleman, that had become a troublesome neighbor to all that chose
to get in his way. Whenever any of the lighter footed would discover
their close proximity to his Appollo pedestals, like a shooting star
they would flit away, and leave him monarch of all he surveyed.

I wish to describe a few of the most conspicuous, but I will wait for
a quadrille, where I can get them to take their places in

The name of my valet de place is Oscar.

“Oscar, what nation does that puny looking, red-skinned man belong
to?” “A _Maltese_,” said he, as if he never would stop sounding the
ese, but he added the “I believe.” I afterwards found out that he was
some of the Canary Island’s stock; but the best of the stock. A
beautiful French girl held him by the hind part of his coat with her
left hand, whilst she held with her right his hand, lest he might go
off in his glee, “half shot.” She was also afraid that some
interested lady might take better care of him than herself. He was
fashionably dressed, and in Paris, as a nabob, His actions
represented some rich man’s foolish son.

I swear by my father’s head, I see a live Turk! Turban! sack hanging
between his legs, more empty than Falstaff’s! one of the genuine
breed that followed Saladin to the plains of Palestine and stood
before Richard’s battle-axe with his scimitar! one of the head
choppers of Christians! Perhaps the next will be the amiable
countenance of “Blue Beard.” The old Turk and his beard is trying to
dance, but his bag won’t let him. He is let down, and goes off the
track. He is now mixing some oakum with tobacco. Now he is looking
on, like a poor boy at a frolic–yes! he would if he could. I am sure
his first duty to-morrow will be to hunt a mosque and give up
dancing. He is leaving and trying to get his money back.

I walked round on the opposite side, and saw several other
incomprehensibles. “What tall, fine looking, yellow skinned man is
that, Oscar, with that tall lady standing looking on?” “That, sir,”
said he, “is a very rich quadroon from Louisiana, I believe New
Orleans. He lives at No. 4, _Boulevard Possoniere_, when he is in
town, but he has his country residence nine miles in the country. He
has a very handsome French lady for a wife, and it is said he left
New Orleans on account of their prejudice to color. He is a very
popular man here, and is said to be worth $150,000.” Just then I saw
Mr. Holbrook, of the New Orleans Picayune, and Mr. Fellowes of the
firm of Fellowes & Co., step up to this man and shake him warmly by
the hand, and said, “Mr. Cordevoille, don’t you know me? I patronized
your tailor’s shop five or six years.” Cordevoille had been the
largest tailorizer in the South, and accumulated a large fortune, and
sold out to his partner, Mr. Lacroix, who still is carrying on the
firm under the name and style of Cordevoille & Lacroix. Mr.
Cordevoille was looking the very picture of a gentleman; he seemed to
be a great object of respect to those that spoke to the lady he was
conversing with in the French tongue. He reminded me more of Prince
Albert in his manners than any other person around. Had his face not
been pock marked, he would have conveyed a conception of an inferior
Appollo; his _tout ensemble_ had as many brilliant cuts of a true
gentleman’s conduct, as the single diamond he wore. After some
enquiry about New Orleans, he invited some American gentlemen to his
country seat; it was to be on the following day, and they being high
toned gentlemen of sense, they accepted, not so much for pleasure
and information, as for giving Mr. Cordevoille to understand that
they understood the duty of gentlemen; no doubt they felt that if
they refused, Mr. Cordevoille might feel the weight of such a
refusal. They agreed also to stay all night, which invitation had
been extended by Mr. Cordevoille. Lest it be a censure on these
gentlemen, I refrain from going any further with a subject so

I now walked under the roof of a very extensive hall; in it was all
kinds of refreshments. All one side of the hall was a door, so that
when the crowd in the garden was likely to be overtaken by a shower,
dancing went on in there. Immense crowds were seated about at tables
smoking, and discussing politics, but not one gentleman had his foot
on the table, except an American quietly seated in one corner in a
profound soliloquy. He was chewing tobacco. I did’nt stop to see
where he spit, for fear he might claim nationality. I learned that
several of the quietly seated, were members of the National Assembly.
It was now getting late, and gentlemen that had pretty mates were
going through the gates in compact succession. Why gentlemen with
pretty mates could not stay to the last was a mystery to me. But to
solve that mystery I followed the crowd, and discovered that the
nearer they got home, the more affectionate they got.

The most of these couples would stop at the first _cafe_ and call for
their _tass du coffee_ and _vere d’eau de vie_ (cup of coffee and
glass of brandy). They would set the brandy on fire and burn the
spirits out, and then pour it into the coffee. As soon as they began
to feel the effects of this pleasant nourishment, they would move
again for home.

At 11 o’clock at night carriages were running in all directions from
Balls, Theatres, Operas, Museums, Concerts, Soirees, Dancing Schools,
and more amusements than could be named in one article.

I went to the hotel, seeking my own amusement. I could not conjecture
a more comfortable place than the house I roomed at, after seeing all
this night’s bustle. Even if I could not find my own room, I was in
the house of acquaintances.

I went to the room of an acquaintance, and talked and lingered in
agreeable conversation and amusement until near day. I approached my
own chamber, and found that whilst I was out helping to make a city
of dissipators, Elvereta had been to my room and arranged my wardrobe
_comme foi_. This ends my “first night in Paris.”