Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 61, No. 375, January-June, 1847
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD & SONS, EDINBURGH;
37, PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON.
No. CCCLXXV.JANUARY, 1847.Vol. LXI.
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PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS, EDINBURGH.iv
No. CCCLXXV.JANUARY, 1847.Vol. LXI.
THE COURT OF LOUIS PHILIPPE.1
The schoolboy, agape at the tinselsplendour and seeming miracles of aholiday pantomime, longs for a peepbehind the pasteboard parapets thatlimit his view. When the falling curtainputs a period to Clown’s malicious buffooneryand to the blunders of persecutedand long suffering Pantaloon, hemarvels as to the subsequent proceedingsof the lithe and agile mimes whohave so gloriously diverted him. Heis tempted to believe that Harlequinsleeps in his motley skin, that Columbineperpetually retains her gracefulrose-wreaths and diaphanous muslin.He can hardly realize the relapse ofsuch glittering apparitions into theprosaic humdrum of every-day life,and would gladly penetrate the veil ofbaize that shrouds from his eager eyesthe mirth-provoking crew. Betterthat he should not. Sadly would hisbright illusions fade, sore be his disenchantment,could he recognise thebrilliant Harlequin in yon shabby-genteelgentleman issuing from thestage door, and discern her of thetwinkling feet rewarding herself witha measure of Barclay for the pirouettesand entrechats that latelyravished his youthful vision.
Not unlike the boy’s desire for apeep behind the scenes, is the popularhankering after glimpses of royalprivacy. The concealed is ever thecoveted, the forbidden the most desired.Keep an ape under triple lock,and fancy converts her into a sylph;it was the small key, the last of thebunch, that Bluebeard’s bride mostlonged to use. For the multitude,the Chronicles of Courts have ever astrong and peculiar attraction. Withwhat avidity is swallowed each trivialdetail concerning princes and theircompanions; how anxious are thehumble many to obtain an inkling ofthe every-day life of the great andprivileged few, to dive into the recessesof palaces, and contemplate in therelaxation of the domestic circle, thosewho in public are environed by animposing barrier of ceremony, pomp,and dignity. In the absence of moreprecise and pungent particulars, eventhe bald and fulsome paragraphs of acourt circular find eager readers, wholearn with strange interest the directionand extent of a king’s afternoonride, and the exact hour at whichsome infant principule was borneabroad for an airing. Less meagreand more satisfactory nourishment isafforded to popular inquisitiveness bythe writings of those who have livedin the intimacy of courts. Seldom,however, do such appear during thelifetime both of the writer and of the2personages to whom they chiefly refer,and when they do they are often valueless,further than as a sop to publiccuriosity. Truth is rarely told ofkings by those who enjoy, seek, orhope aught from their favour. Thesesplit upon the reefs of flattery, as adisgraced courtier does upon those ofspite and disappointed ambition. Andagain, history affords us examples ofmen, who, having, through misconductor misfortune, lost the countenanceof their sovereign, resorted, toregain his good graces, to shamelessadulation and servile panegyric.
We do not include in any of thethree categories just named, theauthor of the book before us. Weshould not be justified in attributingto interested motives his praises of hisformer patrons; but believe, on thecontrary, that, although familiar withcourts, he is no mere courtier. Hadhe been more of one, his fortunesmight now be better. From a veryearly age, Monsieur Appert devotedhimself to the prosecution of philanthropicplans and researches, havingfor their chief objects the ameliorationof the condition of the lower classes,the reform of convicts, the educationof the army, and that of childrenwho, by the desertion or vices of theirparents, are left destitute and unprotected.He has frequently been employedby the French government, andhas occupied various important posts.When only one-and-twenty, he wasappointed director of a model-schoolfor the army. With reference to hishumane schemes, he has publishedmany volumes on the education ofsoldiers and orphans, on the prisons,schools, and other correctional andbenevolent institutions of France.With these we have nothing to do.His present book is of a lighter andmore generally interesting character.For ten years he held the office ofalmoner to the Queen of the French,and to her sister-in-law, MadameAdelaide. The charities of theseroyal ladies are, as we shall presentlyshow, on a truly princely scale. Tothis almonership no salary was attached;M. Appert performed itsarduous duties gratuitously, and esteemedhimself well rewarded by theconfidence and good opinion of theillustrious persons he served. Hisincome from other sources was ample;his position honourable, and even distinguished;his friends, true or false,were reckoned by hundreds. But misfortune,swift of foot, overtook him inthe zenith of his prosperity. Heavypecuniary losses, chiefly resulting, ashe implies rather than informs us,from ill-advised loans and generousassistance to unworthy persons, impairedhis means. Concerning hisdisgrace at court, he is more explicit.He attributes it to the envy and intriguesof courtiers, against whom, asa class, he bitterly inveighs. Thathis office was one well calculated tomake him enemies, if he conscientiouslyfulfilled its duties, is madeevident by various passages in hisbook. During ten years that hewas in the daily habit of seeingthem, and of distributing the greaterportion of their charities, the queenand Madame Adelaide, he tells us,never made him the slightest reproach;but, on the contrary, invariablyapproved his proposals andrequests, none of which, he adds,tended to his personal advantage.The king, on various important occasions,showed great confidence in him,and a strong sympathy with his philanthropiclabours. Nevertheless, theoccult, but strong and persevering influenceemployed against M. Appert,at last prevailed, and he was removedfrom the court, laden with costly presentsfrom the royal family, whoassured him that they would never forget,but always acknowledge, his longand devoted services. After his disgrace,he sold a villa he possessed atNeuilly, and left Paris, with the intentionof founding an experimentalcolony of released convicts, and of thechildren of criminals. Whether thisexperiment was carried out, and howfar it succeeded, he does not inform us.He is now travelling in Germany,visiting the schools, prisons, and militaryinstitutions, and writing booksconcerning them. The King of Prussiahas received him favourably, andgiven him every encouragement; thesovereigns of Belgium, Denmark, Bavaria,Saxony, and Wurtemberg,have written him flattering letters,and promised him all facilities andassistance during the stay he proposesmaking in their respective dominions.3
It was at Berlin, in the spring of thepresent year, that M. Appert completed,after very brief labour, his threevolumes of Memoirs. He confessesthat they were written in haste, andwhilst his mind was preoccupied withthe objects of his German tour. Thisis to be regretted, for the result provesthat the work was too quickly doneto be well done. The motive of hisprecipitation is unexplained, and weare not told why it was necessary tocomplete, by the 15th of March, abook destined to appear but in lateautumn. Did the snail-wagen pace ofthe German buchdruckerei need half ayear for the printing of a thousandpages? Surely not; and surely M.Appert might have given himself alittle more time,—have indulged uswith more detail,—have produced,instead of a hasty outline, a finishedpicture. His materials were ample,his subject most interesting; he is nonovice in the craft of authorship. Besideshis opportunities of observationat court, he has enjoyed the acquaintance,in many cases the intimacy, ofa vast number of notable persons,military, diplomatic, scientific, literary.Ministers and deputies, peers ofFrance and nobles of the old regime,generals of the empire and distinguishedforeigners, were reckoned uponhis list of friends; many of them wereregular partakers of his periodical dinnersat his Paris hotel and his Neuillyvilla. It was in his power, we areconvinced, to have produced a first-ratebook of its class, instead of thesehasty and unsatisfactory sketches.Each night, he tells us, especially sincethe year 1826, when he was firstattached to the Orleans family, hewrote down, before retiring to rest,the events of the day. And yet such ishis haste to huddle over his work thathe cannot wait to receive his voluminousmemoranda and correspondence,but trusts entirely to his memory. Asfar as it goes, this serves him prettywell. “Whilst correcting the lastpage of these souvenirs, I have receivedthe enormous mass of notes and autographletters which ought to havebeen of great utility in the compositionof the book; and, on referring to thevarious documents, I am surprised tofind that my memory has served mefaithfully upon every subject of interest,and that I have nothing to rectifyin what I have written.” Nothing,perhaps, to rectify, but much, weshould think, to add. Monsieur Appert’snotes, judging from one or twoverbatim specimens, were both copiousand minute, and must include verymany interesting particulars and anecdotesof the remarkable persons withwhom he came in contact during thevaried phases of a busy and bustlinglife. Could he not, without indelicacyor breach of confidence, have given usmore of such particulars? His memoirswould have gained in value hadhe deferred their publication some tenor fifteen years; for then many nowliving would have disappeared from thescene, and he might have spoken freelyof things and persons concerning whomhe now deems it prudent or proper tobe silent. But personal recollectionsof the present French court, evenwhen loosely and imperfectly set down,cannot fail to command attention andexcite interest. And much that isnovel and curious may be culled fromM. Appert’s pages, although we regret,as we peruse them, that they shouldhave suffered from too great hasteand an overstrained discretion.
M. Appert opens his memoirs in theyear 1807, in the prosperous days ofNapoleon, whose ardent admirer he is.The earlier chapters of his book, relatingto the Empire and the Restoration,have less to recommend them than thelater ones, and we shall pass themrapidly over. At the age of fifteen hebecame a pupil of the imperial schoolof drawing. Here he carried off thefirst prizes, was made sub-professor,and hopes were held out to him thathe should take a share in the educationof the King of Rome. But this wasin 1812; the decline of the empire hadbegun, Russia had given the firstblow to Napoleon’s seemingly resistlesspower;—the hopes of the youngprofessor were never realized. Uponthe return of the Bourbons, afterWaterloo, he lost his sub-professorship,on account of his well-knownBonapartism; and because, whilstgiving a lesson in mathematics, heemployed, to mark the curves andangles of a geometrical figure, letterswhich made up the words “vive l’Empereur!”Soon afterwards, however,he again obtained occupation, although4of a far humbler description than thatto which he had once aspired. Hewas employed in the organizationof elementary and military schools,upon the plan of mutual instruction.In this he was most successful, andhis reports to the Minister of warproved that, in three years, one hundredthousand men might be taughtto read, write, and cipher, at the smallexpense of three hundred thousandfrancs, or half-a-crown per man. In1820, although then only twenty-threeyears old, he was intrusted with theinspection of the regimental schoolsof the royal guard and first militarydivision; and his connexion with thearmy brought him acquainted withmany of the Bonapartist plots atthat time rife. Although often confidedin by the conspirators, who were awareof his attachment to the Emperor, hetook share in none of their abortiveschemes for placing Napoleon theSecond on the throne of France; but,nevertheless, he was looked uponwith suspicion by the government ofthe Bourbons. Still, however, he waspermitted to become the director,without a salary, of a school establishedin the prison at Montaigu, appropriatedto military criminals. To thisprison, in the year 1822, were sent twonon-commissioned officers, by nameMathieu and Conderc, implicated inthe conspiracy for which General Bertonlost his head. Yielding to hissympathies and to the prayers of thesetwo young men, who were bent uponescape or suicide, M. Appert promisedto assist their flight. He did so, successfully,and the consequence was hisown imprisonment at La Force, wherehe was placed in the room subsequentlyoccupied by the poet Beranger.Pending his trial, he had for servanta celebrated thief of the name of Doré,of whom Vidocq, the thief-taker,