Wednesday, May 13, 2009

insurrection as theater: Paris, May 1848

This was begun on May 13, 1848 and finished sometime in June.

May 13.        

The one thing odious to me now is joking. What can the brave and strong genius of C. [Carlyle or Clough?] himself avail? What can his praise, what can his blame avail me, when I know that if I fall or if I rise, there still awaits me the inevitable joke? The day's Englishman must have his joke, as duly as his bread. God grant me the noble companions whom I have left at home who value merriment less, and virtues and powers more. If the English people have owed to their House of Commons this damnable derision, I think they have paid an over-price for their liberties and empire. But when I balance the attractions of good and evil, when I consider what facilities, what talents a little vice would furnish, then rise before me not these laughers, but the dear and comely forms of honour and genius and piety in my distant home, and they touch me with chaste palms moist and cold, and say to me. You are ours.
Remember to be sober and to be disposed to believe, for these are the nerves of wisdom.

And Mahomet's retribution of the jokers.1
One of the principal discoveries, or, say confirmations, obtained in Europe, was that bigger incomes do not help anybody.

The scholar was glad to leave his manuscript and go to the window.

[Editor's note: "The above sentence, unexplained, in one of the journals of these weeks, may be well accounted for in a letter written by Mr. Emerson to his wife, May 17, from which it seems best to introduce here the following extract:"]
On Monday (day before yesterday), as you will read in the papers, there was a revolution defeated, which came within an ace of succeeding. We were all assured for an hour or two that the new government was proclaimed and the old routed, and Paris, in terror, seemed to acquiesce; but the National Guards, who are all but the entire male population of Paris, at last found somebody to rally and lead them, and they swept away the conspirators in a moment. Blanqui and Barbès, the two principal leaders, I knew well,2 as I had attended Blanqui's club on the evenings of Saturday and Sunday, and heard his instructions to his Montagnards, and Barbès' club I had visited last week and I am heartily glad of the shopkeepers' victory.

I saw the sudden and immense display of arms when the rappel was beaten on Monday afternoon; the streets full of bayonets, and the furious driving of the horses dragging cannon towards the National Assembly; the rapid succession of proclamations proceeding from the Government and pasted on the walls at the corners of the streets, eagerly read by crowds of people; and, not waiting for this, the rapid passage of messengers with proclamations in their hands which they read to knots of people and then ran on to another knot, and so on down a street. The moon shone as the sun went down; the river rolled under the crowded bridges along the swarming quays; the tricolor waved on the great mass of the Tuileries, which seemed too noble a palace to doubt of the owner; but before night all was safe, and our new government, who had held the seats for a quarter of an hour, were safe in jail.3

Fete du 11 Mai. "Ballon tricolore; 500 jolies files, les vivandières et les cantinières, et les petits enfants de chaque sexe, vêtus en soldat ou avec des rubans de fête, marchant dans le cortège"; drum-majors, vast men with baton and huge caps of fur; sapeurs and pompiers; children on stilts; merry-go-rounds —

[The following two sentences were evidently written twenty years later, after Clough's death:]

Citizen Blanqui, a lame man with the face and air of a conspirator, and Barbès (head of the Club de la Revolution) were the leaders of the émeute on the 15 of May, I think, which I saw.

For details of May, 1848, in Paris, see Remains of A. H. Clough, pp. 100-130.

The question of history is, what each generation has done with its surplus produce? One bought crusades, one churches, one villas, one horses, and one railroads.
Le règne des épées a passé, le jour où celle de Napoléon a été impuissante pour sa défense et four la nôtre!

La force brutale des sabres, de la conquete, est brisée: brisez celle des fusils populaires. Que les fusils, comme les épées, s'abaissent aujourdbui decant les idées. Faites vous général des idées du siecle. . . . Ce qui reste aujourdhui des canons de Bonaparte, c'est la mitraille d'idées qu'ils contenaient aussi. . . . Ses codes étaient à la suite de ses armées, comme les cotons suivent les armées de l'Angleterre." - ASSEMBLÉES NATIONALE, May 23.
Paris. In Paris, 117 new newspapers have been set on foot since the revolution.

This revolution distinguished from the old by the social problem agitated in every club. Arithmeticians get up and cipher very shrewdly before the masses to show them what is each man's share. The good God, they say, is full of good sense, and the extreme inequality of property had got so far as to drive to revolution, and now it will not finish until God's justice is established, nor until the laborer gets his wages, nor until there is no idler left in the land. The idler is a diseased person and is to be treated by the state as a diseased person.

In coming to the city, and seeing in it no men of information, you remain on the out side.

But all this Paris seems to me a continuation of the theatre, when I come out of the theatre, or of a limonade gazeuse, when I come out of the restaurant. This is the famous lotus which the mariners ate and forgot their homes. I pinch myself to remember mine.

I went to hear Michelet lecture on philosophy, but the sublime creed of the Indian Buddhists was not meant for a Frenchman to analyze and crack his joke and make his grimace upon. But I came out hither to see my contemporaries, and I have seen Leverrier to-day working out algebraic formulas on his blackboard to his class, quite heedless of politics and revolutions. I have seen Rachel in Phèdre and heard her chant the Marseillaise. I have seen Barbès rule in his Club de la Révolution, and Blanqui in his Club des droits de l'homme, and to-day they are both in the dungeon of Vincennes.

Old Revolution said, Qu'est ce que le tiers état? Rien. Que doit il être? Tout. The New Revolution reads, le producteur, for le tiers état.

The French have greatly more influence in Europe than the English. What influence the English have is by brute force of wealth; that of the French, by affinity and talent.

An eminent difference between Paris and London is the economy of water. In Paris, the stranger is struck with the beautiful fountains on the Place de la Concorde and gives Paris the preference to London. But this water is not drinkable, and the houses in Paris have no wells or pumps and buy all their water by the bucket from water-carriers who bring it from certain springs. In London every house has some kind of water-privilege; as that in which I lived received its water from Hertfordshire by an aqueduct which entered at the top of the house.

The New Religion. You need only your own verdict. . . . Or what if they tax you with gambling, or drinking, or riot, when you have all your virtue, health, and serenity, safe about you unspent? Let them say it. For the good Laws know whether it be so or not, and they cannot be made false witnesses. Much of the time every man must have himself to his friend.

Nothing seems to me so excellent as a belief in the laws: it communicates dignity and an asylum in temples thenceforward to the character.

The gods themselves could not help us.

Ah! if a man could explain his own facts, the little system of laws and companions and assessors or witnesses with which he walks surrounded, from which he cannot escape, the planet each of a choir of satellites. . . . Had I not reason to say the secret of the present hour is as hard to tell as that of the future hour?

Steep and craggy, said Porphyry, is the path of the gods.

That unhappy man, called of genius, pays dear for his paltry distinction. His head runs up into a spire, arid, instead of being a healthy, merry, round and ruddy man, he is some mad dominie. Nature is regardless of the individual.4 . . .

The writers are bold and democratic. The moment revolution comes, are they Chartists and Montagnards? No, but they talk and sit with the rich, and sympathize with them.

Should they go with the Chartist? Alas, they cannot.5

Mr. Doherty said, the dogmes were malfaisants. It needed not to inquire whether men made them or God made them. In either case they had every right to take them away. In the natural world, they had tigers, snakes, wolves, and other dogmes malfaisants, which they did not hesitate to put away and kill; and so, in the moral world, they had the like, which, like these beasts, had answered their use for a time, but were now out of time, unfit, noxious.

It is doubtful whether London, whether Paris, can answer the questions which now rise in the minds.

Life is cheap in this ant-hill of Paris. One can see that multitudes sell their future for one day. What prodigality to turn a little beautiful French Edie6 into the procession to be consumed in the sun and crowd.

I have been exaggerating the English merits all winter, and disparaging the French. Now I am correcting my judgment of both, and the French have risen very fast.

But I see that both nations promise more than they perform. They do not culminate.

'T is easy to see that France is much nearer to socialism than England. In the gay and admirable illumination of the Champs-Elysées, one could see that it was but a few steps to the Phalanstery.

Do not mind trifles — was the lesson so strenuously inculcated on my childhood. I did not learn it, and now I see England has not.

I went to the Pantheon and learned that the tomb of Napoleon was at the Invalides. Rousseau and Voltaire sleep under the Pantheon.

I have seen Rachel in Phèdre, in Mitbridate, and now last night in Lucréce (of Ponsard), in which play she took two parts, that of Lucréce and that of Tullia. The best part of her performance is the terror and energy she can throw into passages of defiance or denunciation. Her manners and carriage are throughout pleasing by their highly intellectual cast. And her expression of the character is not lost by your losing some word or look, but is continuous and is sure to be conveyed. She is extremely youthful and innocent in her appearance, and when she appeared after the curtain fell to acknowledge the acclamations of the house and the heaps of flowers that were flung to her, her smile had a perfect good nature and a kind of universal intelligence.

At the Chamber of the National Assembly, by the kindness of Mr. Rush, who lent me his diplomatic ticket. Lamartine made his speech on the question of Poland. He was quite the best and indeed the only good speaker I heard in the house. He has a fine head, and a free and superior style of delivery, manly and cultivated. But he was quite at his ease, no sword or pikes over his head this time, and really little energy in his discourse. He read many extracts from letters sent him from Italy, and when he was tired, the members cried out, Reposez vous! and the President gave an intermission for half an hour.

The whole house of nine hundred members obviously listened with great respect and gladly to Lamartine, for they want information, and it has been rather parsimoniously given by any whom they could trust. His speech is reckoned wise and moderate. To me it looks as if a wise Frenchman should say to his country, Leave Poland and China and Oregon to themselves. You have more than enough to do, at present, in constructing your own government and dealing with disorder, hunger, and faction in France. But Lamartine praised the new republic because it had not a moment of Egoism, but had adopted Poland and Italy.

We7 now dine daily at a table d'hôte at No. 16 Rue de Notre Dame des Victoires, where five hundred French habitués usually dine at one franc sixty centimes. Of course it is an excellent place for French grammar. Nouns, verbs, adverbs, and interjections furnished gratuitously.

I am told that there are twelve thousand students connected with the University, including all the faculties. 'T is a noble hospitality, and well calculated also, as it brings so great a population of foreigners to spend their money in France.

Paris has great merits as a city. Its river is made the greatest pleasure to the eye by the quays and bridges; its fountains are noble and copious; its gardens or parks far more available to the pleasure of the people than those of London. What a convenience to the senses of men is the Palais Royal; the swarming Boulevards, what an animating promenade; the furnished lodgings have a seductive independence; the living is cheap and good; then what a luxury is it to have a cheap wine for the national beverage as uniformly supplied as beer in England. The manners of the people, and probably their inferiority as individuals, make it as easy to live with them as with so many shopkeepers whose feelings and convenience are nowise to be consulted. Meantime they are very civil and good-tempered, polite and joyous, and will talk in knots and multitudes in the streets all day for the entertainment of the passenger. Then they open their treasures of art and science so freely to the mere passport of the traveller and to all the world on Sunday. The University, the Louvre, the Hotel de Cluny, the Institute, the Gallery of the Luxembourg, Versailles. Then the churches are always open: Notre Dame; La Sainte Cbapelle, built by St. Louis and gorgeous within; Saint Sulpice; the Madeleine.

Then there is the Pantheon; and there is the Jardin des Plantes, worthy of admiration. Everything odd and rare and rich can be bought in Paris; and by no means the least attractive of its shows is the immense book-stalls in the streets, — maps, pictures, models, busts, sculptures, and libraries of old books spread abroad on tables or shelves at the side of the road. The manners of the people are full of entertainment, so spirited, chatty, and coquettish, as lively as monkeys. And now the whole nation is bearded and in military uniform. I have no doubt also that extremes of vice are found here, and that there is a liberty and means of animal indulgence hardly known by name, or even by rumor, in other towns. But any extremes are here also exceptional, and are visited here by the fatal Nemesis who climbs all walls, dives into all cellars; but also the social decorum seems to have here the same rigors as in England, with a little variety in the application.

A special advantage which Paris has is in the freedom from aristocratic pride manifest in the tone of society. It is quite easy for any young man of liberal tastes to enter on a good foot ing the best houses. It is not easy in England. Then the customs are cheap and inexpensive; whilst it is a proverb, almost, that, to live in England at all, you must have a great fortune; which sounds to me as certain a prediction of revolution as musket-shots in the streets.

So that on the whole I am thankful for Paris, as I am for the discovery of ether and chloroform; I like to know that, if I should need an amputation, there is this balm; and if hard should come to hard, and I should be driven to seek some refuge of solitude and independency, why, here is Paris.

The cafés are not to be forgotten, filled with newspapers, blazing with light, sauntering places, oubliettes or remember-nothings. One in Paris who would keep himself up with events must read every day about twelve newspapers of the two hundred that are printed there. Then in the street the afficbes on every spot of dead wall attract all eyes and make the text of all talk for the gazing group. The Government reserve to their own the exclusive use of white paper. All others are in colours.

After twenty-five days spent in Paris, I took the railroad for Boulogne, stopped at Amiens half an hour and saw the cathedral, which has nothing equal to it in Paris in the elaboration of the details of its moulding and sculpture on the exterior; saw the weeping angel also. At Boulogne (where six thousand English reside for cheapness) I took the night steamboat for Folkestone.

The twenty-seven miles of roughest sea between Boulogne and Folkestone made a piteous scene, of course, in the saloon of the boat, but as that wild strip of sea is from age to age the cheap standing army of England and worth a million of troops, no Englishman should grudge his qualms.

[The editor notes: After this short sojourn in France, Mr. Emerson's lecturing engagements in London called him back to England. At the Portman Square Literary and Scientific Institution he gave, between the 5th and 17th of June, six lectures, as follows: I, "Powers and Laws of Thought"; II, "Relation of Intellect to Natural Science"; III, "Tendencies and Duties of Men of Thought " (these were newly written or put together from his notes, for he had found, much to his annoyance, that his lectures given in the manufacturing towns had been so fully reported in London papers that he was unwilling to read them there) ; IV, "Politics and Socialism"; V, "Poetry and Eloquence"; VI, "Natural Aristocracy" (this also was written in England and first delivered in Edinburgh). The price that his friends had arranged for this course was high, and the audience, though including many persons of rank and of literary distinction, was not large, though it grew after the first lecture. Of it Mr. Emerson wrote, "It is truly a dignified company in which several notable men and women are patiently found." (For some account of the company, see the letters in Cabot's Memoir, vol. ii, pp. 546-549.) During the delivery of this course a letter appeared in the London Examiner urging a repetition of it at a price sufficiently low to allow of poor literary men hearing Emerson. The writer, on behalf of "poets, critics, philosophers, historians, scholars, and the other divine paupers of that class," urged this "because Emerson is a phenomenon whose like is not in the world, and to miss him is to lose an important part out of the Nineteenth Century." Mr. Emerson could not refuse this plea of "all my public," as he called them, so postponed his departure and read in Exeter Hall three lectures; I, "Napoleon"; II, "Shakspeare" ; III, "Domestic Life."]

Long ago, in Boston, Mr. George Bancroft invited me to his house and introduced me to Lord Morpeth. In England, Lord Morpeth, now changed to Lord Carlisle, invited me to dine with him, and introduced me to his sister, the Duchess of Sutherland. 1

For a summary or verdict on the Universities, full of good sense, see Johnson's England as it Is, vol. ii, p. 122.

Notes from the editor of the Journals:

1 "On the day of resurrection those who have indulged in ridicule will be called to the door of Paradise and have it shut in their faces when they reach it."

2 Of course, only as having seen and heard them.

3 More of this letter may be found in Mr. Cabot s Memoir (pp. 571-573)-

4 The remainder of the passage is in the first paragraph of "Culture" (Conduct of Life}.

5 The long passage with a similar beginning is printed in "Aristocracy" {Lectures and Biographical Sketches, pp. 63, 64). Mr. Emerson used it in his lecture on Aristocracy given before his select London audience. At such a time this required moral courage.

6 Some little girl figuring in the street parade of the revolutionists, of the age of Mr. Emerson s younger daughter Edith.

7 Mr. Emerson and A. H. Clough.

Montagnards and the shopkeepers' victory: Paris at the barricades

{Blanqui; source:}

{Barbès; source: wikipedia}

{Insurrectionists of May 1848 Paris; source:}

{Horace Vernet, La Barricade de la rue Soufflot, Paris, Février 1848 (I'm using this to illustrate the source of the fear which generated the "rappel" or call-up of May 1848; source:}

{Fete du 11 Mai: Festivals of Fraternity and Concord; source:}

{Baricades in Paris, June 1848; source:}

{Michelet; source:}

{Leverrier; source:}

{Dungeon of Vincennes: source: flickr}

{Rachel as Phedre; source: wikipedia}

{Lamartine; source:}

{First meeting of the National Assembly May 4 1848; source:}

Some sources:

Journals Of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1820-1872, with Annotations, edited by Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes; Vol. VII, 1845-1848 (London, Constable & Co.; Boston And New York Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913)

Journals Of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1820-1872, with Annotations, edited by Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes; Vol. VII, 1845-1848, (New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912)

Ralph Waldo Emerson by Oscar W. Firkins (Houghton Mifflin company, 1915)

The Revolution of 1848

The Revolution of 1848

Paris In 48 Letters From A Resident Describing The Events Of The Revolution by Baroness Bonde (London, John Murray, 1903)

The 1848 Revolution

Letters and remains of Arthur Hugh Clough - Clough, Arthur Hugh, 1819-1861 (London, Bottiswoode & Co., 1865)

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