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1857.)

French Speakers.

167

was painful to hear, hold his place as leader of a French Assembly?'

• Impossible,' said Tocqueville, unless he were a soldier. We tolerate from a man who has almost necessarily been deprived of a careful education much clumsiness and awkwardness of elocution. Soult did not speak much better than the Duke of Wellington, but he was listened to. He had, like the Duke, an air of command which imposed.'

Was there,' I said, 'any personal quarrel between Soult and Thiers?'

Certainly there was,' said Z., 'a little one. I will not say that Soult was in Spain a successful commander, or an agreeable colleague, or an obedient subordinate, but whenever things went wrong there, Soult was the man whom the Emperor sent thither to put them to rights. Great as Thiers may be as a military critic, I venture to put him below Napoleon.'

*I have been reading,' I said, 'Falloux's reception speech, and was disappointed by it.'

* In his speech and Brifault's,' said Circourt, you may compare the present declamatory style and that of thirty years ago. Brifault has, or attempts to have, the légèreté and the prettiness of the Restoration. Falloux is grandiose and emphatic, as we all are now.'

'Falloux,' said Z., 'made an excellent speech the first time that he addressed the Chamber of Deputies. The next time he was not so successful, and after that he ceased to be listened to.

But in the Constituent Assembly, and indeed in the

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Legislative, he acquired an ascendency. In those Assemblies, great moral qualities and a high social position were rarer than they were among the Deputies, and in the dangers of the country they were more wanted. Falloux possesses them all. He is honest and brave, and in his province employs liberally and usefully a large fortune.'

•Were those the merits,' I asked, which opened to him the doors of the Academy?'

*Certainly,' answered Z. “As a man of letters he is nothing, as a statesman not much. We elected him in honour of his courage and his honesty, and perhaps with some regard to his fortune. We are the only independent body left, and we value in a candidate no quality more than independence.'

'I am told,' I said, 'that Falloux is now an ultraLegitimist.'

• That is not true,' said Z. He is a Legitimist, but a liberal one. He would tolerate no Government, whatever were its other claims, that was not constitutional.'

Your Academic ceremonies,' I said 'seem to me not very well imagined. There is something fade, almost ridiculous, in the literary minuet in which the récipiendaire and the receiver are trotted out to show their paces to each other and to the Academy. The new member extolling the predecessor of whom he is the unworthy successor, the old member lauding his new colleague to his face, and assuring him that he, too, is one of the ornaments of the Society.'

1857.)
Academic Receptions.

169 Particularly,' said when, as was the case the other day, it is notorious that neither of them has any real respect for the idol which he is forced to crown. Then the political innuendoes, the under-currents of censure of the present conveyed in praise of the past, become tiresome after we have listened to them for five years. We long to hear people talk frankly and directly, instead of saying one thing for the mere purpose of showing that they are thinking of another thing. The Emperor revenged himself on Falloux by his antithesis : que le désordre les avait uni, et que l'ordre les avait séparé.'

*How did Falloux reply to it?' I asked.

Feebly,' said 'He muttered something about l'ordre having no firmer adherent than himself. In these formal audiences our great man has the advantage. He has his mot ready prepared, and you cannot discuss with him.'

We talked of the French spoken by foreigners. "The best,' said Circourt, “is that of the Swedes and Russians, the worst that of the Germans.'

*Louis Philippe,' said Z., 'used to maintain that the best test of a man's general talents was his power of speaking foreign languages. It was an opinion that flattered his vanity, for he spoke like a native French, Italian, English, and German.'

'It is scarcely possible,' said Tocqueville, 'for a man to be original in any language but his own; in all others he is forced to say what he can, and that is generally something that he recollects.'

'I was much struck by that,' said Z., 'when conversing with Narvaez. He had been talking sensibly but rather dully in French. I begged him to talk Spanish, which I understand though I cannot speak. The whole man was changed. It was as if a curtain had been drawn up from between us. Instead of hammering at commonplaces, he became pointed, and spirited, and eloquent.'

Is he an educated man?' I asked.

'For a Spaniard,' answered Z., 'yes. He has the quickness, the finesse, and the elegance of mind and of manner which belong to the South. The want of book-learning contributes to his originality.'

•The most wonderful speaker in a foreign language,' said Sumner, 'was Kossuth. He must have been between forty and fifty before he heard an English word. Yet he spoke it fluently, eloquently, and even idiomatically. He would have made his fortune among us as a stumporator.'

Tuesday, April 28.-Tocqueville drank tea with us.
We talked rather of people than of things.

*Circourt,' said Tocqueville, 'is my dictionary. When I wish to know what has been done or what has been said on any occasion, I go to Circourt. He draws out one of the drawers in his capacious head, and finds there all that I want arranged and ticketed.

One of the merits of his talk, as it is of his character, is its conscientiousness. He has the truthfulness of a thorough gentleman, and his affections are as strong as

1857.)

French Conversers.

171

his hatreds. I do not believe he would sacrifice a friend even to a good story, and where is there another man of whom that can be said ?'

'What think you of Mrs. T_ ? I inquired.

'I like her too,' he replied, “but less than I do Circourt. She has considerable talent, but she thinks and reads only to converse. She has no originality, no convictions. She says what she thinks that she can say well ; like a person writing a dialogue or an exercise. Whether the opinion which she expresses be right or wrong, or the story that she tells be true or false, is no concern of hers, provided it be bien dit.'

• The fault of her conversation,' I said, 'seems to me to be, that while she is repeating one sentence she is thinking of the next, and that while you are speaking to her, she is considering what is to be her next topic. I have noticed this fault in other very fuent conversers. They are so intent on the future that they neglect the present.'

• It is rather a French than an English fault,' said Tocqueville. “The English have more curiosity and less vanity, than we have; more desire to hear and less anxiety to shine. They are often, therefore, better causeurs than we are. Le grand talent pour le silence, or, in other words, the power of listening which has been imputed to them, is a great conversational virtue. I do not believe that it was said ironically or epigrammatically. The man who bestowed that praise knew how rare a merit silence is.'

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