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The Comedy and Tragedy of the Second Empire Paris Society in the Sixties; Including Letters of Napoleon III., M. Pietri, and Comte de la Chapelle, and Portraits of the Peri

The Comedy and Tragedy of the Second Empire
Paris Society in the Sixties; Including Letters of Napoleon
III., M. Pietri, and Comte de la Chapelle, and Portraits
of the Peri
Category:
Author: Legge Edward
Title: The Comedy and Tragedy of the Second Empire Paris Society in the Sixties; Including Letters of Napoleon III., M. Pietri, and Comte de la Chapelle, and Portraits of the Peri
Release Date: 2018-07-20
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Contents.
Index

List of Illustrations
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Some typographical errors have been corrected.

(etext transcriber's note)

[Image ofthe book's cover is unavailable.]

THE COMEDY AND TRAGEDY OF
THE SECOND EMPIRE

{i} 

{ii} 

[Image unavailable.]

NAPOLEON III.
BY ALBERT BRUCE-JOY.

From the cast taken by the Sculptor, by permission of H.I.M. the EmpressEugénie, immediately after the Emperor’s death, January 9, 1873.

Mr. Bruce-Joy’s bust has never been exhibited, and was speciallyphotographed for this book in June, 1911.

 

Copyright in all Countries. Reproduction prohibited.

Frontispiece.

{iii}

THE   COMEDY  &  TRAGEDY
OF   THE   SECOND   EMPIRE

PARIS    SOCIETY    IN    THE   SIXTIES
INCLUDING   LETTERS   OF   NAPOLEON   III.,
M. PIETRI, AND COMTE DE LA CHAPELLE, AND
PORTRAITS OF THE PERIOD
By EDWARD   LEGGE,
  AUTHOR OF “THE EMPRESS
EUGÉNIE: 1870-1910”


LONDON AND NEW YORK
HARPER & BROTHERS
45, ALBEMARLE STREET, W. 1911

{iv} 

{v} 


I DEDICATE THIS VOLUME
ON HIS EIGHTY-SIXTH BIRTHDAY
TO THE
EMINENT STATESMAN AND HISTORIAN OF
L’EMPIRE LIBÉRAL

ÉMILE OLLIVIER
PRIME MINISTER IN 1870
LOYAL FRIEND OF NAPOLEON III.
AND
GRAND OLD MAN OF FRANCE

———
Ab honesto virum bonum nihil deterret.
{vi}

A NOTE.

30 juin, 1911,

Monsieur,

Non-seulement j’accepte avec plaisir la dédicace dont vous voulez bienm’honorer, mais je vous remercie des termes beaucoup trop bienveillantsdont vous vous servez à mon égard. Je vous remercie aussi de l’envoi devotre livre, que je me ferai lire, et dans lequel, je suis sûr, jetrouverai beaucoup d’intérêt.

Agreez, Monsieur, mes sentiments les plus cordialement sympathiques.

Émile Ollivier.

[Translation.]

June 30, 1911.

Sir,

Not only do I accept with pleasure the dedication with which you aregood enough to honour me, but I thank you for the much too kind terms inwhich you refer to me.

I thank you also for sending me your book, which I shall have read tome, and in which I am sure I shall find much that is interesting.

Accept my most cordially-sympathetic sentiments.

Émile Ollivier.

[The book referred to is “The Empress Eugénie: 1870-1910.” London:Harper and Brothers. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1910. Owingto M. Olliver’s somewhat impaired vision, books and documents areread to him.]

{vii}

PREFACE

It is due to the readers of “The Empress Eugénie: 1870-1910,” that theyshould know how that volume was received by the British and AmericanPress. Leading critics like Mr. Courtney, “Daily Telegraph”; Mr. RichardWhiteing, “Manchester Guardian”; and Mr. Tighe Hopkins, “DailyChronicle,” devoted much space to their analyses of the volume, as didthe able reviewers of the work in the “Morning Post,” “Daily Mail,”“Evening Standard,” “Scotsman,” “Illustrated London News,” “Observer,”“Athenæum,” “Church Times,” “Catholic Times,” “Onlooker,” and many otherinfluential and widely-circulated journals. Two editions were exhaustedin this country and the United States. A remarkable, andseverely-critical, article appeared in “La Grande Revue” (Paris), fromthe pen of the celebrated author and publicist, M. Gérard Harry, astrong anti-Bonapartist, who deprecated what he considered the excessivepraise bestowed upon the Empress Eugénie. I had a distinctly “goodPress,” and to that fact I attribute the success of the work, a Frenchedition of which will be issued by the eminent Paris firm of PierreLafitte et Cie. The written words of Napoleon III., hurriedly jotteddown at the hazard of the pen on his way from Sedan to Wilhelmshöhe; of{viii}General Fleury by the side of the captive; of the Empress, and thoseabout her, addressed to Mgr. Goddard—all these documents, it was agreedby the Press, threw new light upon the period of the Second Empire.

One of several appreciative American critics did not appear quitesatisfied with the evidence authenticating the Empress’s “Case,” theelaborate statement justifying Her Majesty’s severely-criticizedpolitical and domestic acts. If any doubt existed on that point I willnow remove it. The assertions contained in that document were indeedthose of the Empress herself, and would never have been publishedwithout her express approval and sanction.

Sovereigns who have been traduced do not “rush into print” with signeddenials of accusations published to their discredit. They adopt othermeans of repelling attacks upon their honour, and sometimes upon theirmorality. Thus, the Emperor Napoleon, during his captivity atWilhelmshöhe, wrote with his own hand a detailed explanation of hispolicy as the Ruler of France. It would not have been convenable—not inaccordance with his dignity or with the rigid etiquette which guidesSovereigns even in their most trivial actions—for the Emperor (who hadnot then been formally deposed) to have issued that statement with hissignature appended to it. The Duc de Persigny refused to “father” thedocument, and it was sent forth as “by the Marquis de Gricourt,”although, as General Count von Monts assures us, the Emperor was theactual author of the pamphlet,[1] and{ix} gave the General a copy of it.Some extracts from the Emperor’s “Case” are printed in the presentvolume.

The Emperor’s letters to the late Comtesse de Mercy-Argenteau displaythe workings of his mind during the crisis of his life as only intimatecorrespondence could do. This gifted and charming woman’s letters toNapoleon III. are in the Empress’s possession, and will probably, likeall other correspondence, remain unpublished “until fifty years afterHer Majesty’s death.” The Emperor’s letters came into the possession ofHerr Paul Linderberg, of Berlin, by whose kindness I am privileged toprint them in this volume.

English people who had held the Emperor in holy horror took a differentview of him when they made his personal acquaintance. Lady Westmorland,for instance, “had always felt a great antipathy for Napoleon III.; toher he was a clever ‘scoundrel.’ In 1863 her son was a guest atCompiègne, and there he became seriously ill. She went over to bring himhome, and not only did she acknowledge the Emperor’s kindness, she waswon by his personal charm, and recognized, as Queen Victoria had done,the evidence of his high-bred instinct: ‘He tried to put others at theirease, and he is always himself a perfect gentleman.’[2]

The Emperor, who lavished millions of francs upon others, was himselfvery economical. The bills of his fournisseurs show that he had his hatsdone up for four francs and his coats for fourteen francs. “NapoleonIII.,” says M. André Lefèvre, “entering France with one or two millionfrancs of{x} debts, left it with twenty, thirty, or fifty millions owingto France.... We must not allow even the mummy of Chislehurst to sleepin peace.” A beautiful sentiment, essentially French.

I have essayed, with the help of others, to paint the Pale Emperor as hewas, and the Empress as she was, and is, and Paris Society as it was.Of those who knew both, some will agree, others will disagree, with me;but it is not for this little coterie that I write. I write for theEnglish-speaking peoples all over the world.

As in my first volume, “The Empress Eugénie: 1870-1910,” the objectprimarily aimed at was to narrate the lives of the Imperial Family inEngland, I was precluded from dwelling upon the Reign. In the followingpages I have endeavoured to portray some aspects of the Court and ofParis Society between 1852 and 1870. These are necessarily onlybird’s-eye views; brief, however, as are these parts of the imperialstory, I hope they will convey an idea of the real life of the period.It was very gay—not a doubt about it. Was it an “orgy”? One can hardlythink so. Everything was New. To the severe critics—the “sea-greenincorruptibles”—the Emperor was an “adventurer,” the Empress an“adventuress,” Society “rotten.”

The descriptions of Fontainebleau and Compiègne are mainly derived froma work by M. Bouchot,[3] whose encyclopædic knowledge is only equalledby his fascinating style. Other details of life at Compiègne are fromthe brilliant pen of the Marquis de Massa, whose unexpected death in1910 robbed{xi} Paris Society of one of its wittiest and most delightfulfigures. (The Marquis furnished the Imperial Theatre at Compiègne withmany humorous saynètes, and was in great favour with the Emperor and theEmpress.) From a lecture delivered in 1910 by the Marquis,[4] and fromhis entertaining and always reliable “Souvenirs,” I have selected someamusing items. The telegrams sent by the Emperor and Empress in August,1870, form a history of the war up to the eve of Sedan. These despatchesare taken from the fifth volume of M. Germain Bapst’s remarkablehistorical work, “Le Maréchal Canrobert,” the eminent publishers ofwhich, MM. Plon-Nourrit et Cie., have very generously authorized me toreproduce them. M. Bapst’s running commentary on the dissensions of theGenerals, Ministers, and politicians is deeply interesting, and I havequoted largely from it, convinced that it will be as fresh to English asit was to French readers. The picture of the Empress, so vividlysketched by M. Bapst, reveals her in a new light. Although critics areagainst me, I hazard the assertion that throughout that month of Augustshe displayed most of the qualities of a competent Regent—qualitiespossessed by no other Empress or Queen of the period, with the singleexception of Queen Victoria. But she strove to accomplish theimpossible. No human power could convert inept Generals into strategistsand tacticians, nor double the strength of the French forces, nor remedythe defects of organization. Every factor that makes{xii} for success waslacking, or we should not have a distinguished French soldier writing in1910:

The authors of most of the works inspired by the war of 1870 havetoo willingly yielded to the temptation of looking for the guilty,and fixing them with the blame for all our reverses. In turn theyhave chosen for scapegoats the Emperor Napoleon III., that dreamer,straying into the field of politics, that idéologue, punished inexcess of his faults by the pitiless decrees of destiny; MarshalLebœuf, so fatally lacking in foresight; the Corps Législatif, sobadly inspired in its contests with Marshal Niel; the Generals whosucceeded each other in the command of our troops, from MacMahon toBourbaki; and, finally, the Government of National Defence,especially its Delegates. How few have recognized the fact that theFrench army and our rulers in 1870-71 were purely and simply, withtheir qualities and their defects, the representation, the faithfulimage, of the nation![5]

It was a Frenchman, again, who wrote: “The German schoolmaster was thereal conqueror of France in 1870, for he it was who had for yearsdeveloped in the hearts of the children the idea of Teutonicgreatness.”[6]

I recall, without in any way endorsing, a quaint reason seriouslyadvanced for the French defeats: “Don’t blame your late Emperor becausethe Germans thrashed you; the cause lies far deeper: it is due to thesneakishness of your male population.”[7]{xiii}

Quite recently I read in the Press that only two or three days beforethe outbreak of war Count Bismarck declared that he had no idea therewould be a conflict. If he really said so (I do not credit it), he spokein a very different strain in January, 1868, to a prominent Germansocialist. “War,” he is alleged to have said, “is inevitable.” And hecontinued:

It will be forced upon us by the French Emperor. I say thatclearly. He is an adventurer, and will be forced into it. We haveto be ready. We are ready. We shall win, and the result will bejust the contrary to what Napoleon aims at—the total unificationof Germany outside Austria, and probably Napoleon’s downfall.[8]

That prediction—assuming it to have been made—was fulfilled to theletter. Germany was ready—France was not. It is to be noted that M.Émile Ollivier’s new volume—the fifteenth!—is devoted to this questionof preparedness or unpreparedness, for the work is entitled “Were weReady?”[9] The veteran Prime Minister (the last) of Napoleon

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