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'An acquaintance of mine,' said Beaumont, 'not a son, but a son-in-law, complained equally of the pertinacious longevity of his father-in-law." Je n'ai pas cru,” he said, “en me mariant, que j'épousais la fille du Père Éternel.” Your primogeniture,' he continued, 'must be a great source of unfilial feelings. The eldest son of one of your great families is in the position of the heir apparent to a throne. His father's death is to give him suddenly rank, power, and wealth; and we know that royal heirs apparent are seldom affectionate sons. With us the fortunes are much smaller, they are equally divided, and the rank that descends to the son is nothing.'
•What regulates,' I asked, 'the descent of titles ?'
It is ill regulated,' said Beaumont. "Titles are now of such little value that scarcely anyone troubles himself to lay down rules about them.
• In general, however, it is said, that all the sons of dukes and of marquises are counts.
The sons of counts in some families all take the title of Count. There are, perhaps, thirty Beaumonts. Some call themselves marquises, some counts, some barons. I am, I believe, the only one of the family who has assumed no title. Alexis de Tocqueville took none, but his elder brother, during his father's life, called himself vicomte and his younger brother baron. Probably Alexis ought then to have called himself chevalier, and, on his father's death, baron. But, I repeat, the matter is too unimportant to be subject to any settled rules. Ancient
Shipwreck off Gatteville.
descent is, with us, of great value, of far more than it is with you,
but titles are worth nothing.' Saturday, August 17.—We drove to the coast and ascended the lighthouse of Gatteville, 85 métres, or about 280 feet high. It stands in the middle of a coast fringed with frightful reefs, just enough under water to create no breakers, and a flat plain a couple of miles wide behind, so that the coast is not seen till you come close to it. In spite of many lighthouses and buoys, wrecks are frequent. A mysterious one occurred last February: the lighthouse watchman showed us the spot—a reef just below the lighthouse about two hundred yards from the shore.
It was at noon—there was a heavy sea, but not a gale. He saw a large ship steer full on the reef. She struck, fell over on one side till her yards were in the water, righted herself, fell over on the other, parted in the middle, and broke up. It did not take five minutes, but during those five minutes there was the appearance of a violent struggle on board, and several shots were fired. From the papers which were washed ashore it appeared that she was from New York, bound for Havre, with a large cargo and eighty-seven passengers, principally returning emigrants. No passenger escaped, and only two of the crew : one was an Italian speaking no French, from whom they could get nothing; the other was an Englishman from Cardiff, speaking French, but almost obstinately uncommunicative. He said that he was below when the ship struck, that the captain had locked the passengers in the cabin, and that he knew nothing of the causes which had led the ship to go out of her course to run on this rock. ·
The captain may have been drunk or mad. Or there may have been a mutiny on board, and those who got possession of the ship may have driven her on the coast, supposing that they could beach her, and ignorant of the interposed reefs, which, as I have said, are not betrayed by breakers.
Our informant accounted for the loss of all, except two persons, by the heavy sea, the sharp reefs, and the blows received by those who tried to swim from the floating cargo. The two who escaped were much bruised.
A man and woman were found tied to one another and tied to a spar. They seemed to have been killed by blows received from the rocks or from the floating wreck.
In the evening Ampère read to us the 'Bourgeois Gentilhomme.' His reading is equal to any acting. It kept us all, for the first two acts, which are the most comic, in one constant roar of laughter.
'The modern nouveau riche,' said Beaumont, 'has little resemblance to M. Jourdain. He talks of his horses and his carriages, builds a great hotel, and buys pictures. I have a neighbour of this kind; he drives four-in-hand over the bad roads of La Sarthe, visits with one carriage one day, and another the next. His jockey stands behind his cabriolet in top-boots, and his coachman wears a grand fur coat in summer.
His own clothes are always new, sometimes in the most accurate
Parvenus in France.
type of a groom, sometimes in that of a dandy. His talk is of steeple-chases.'
• And does he get on?' I asked.
Not in the least,' answered Beaumont. *In England a nouveau riche can get into Parliament, or help somebody else to get in, and political power levels all distinctions. Here, wealth gives no power: nothing, indeed, but office gives power. The only great men in the provinces are the préfet, the sous-préfet, and the maire. The only great man in Paris is a minister or a general. Wealth, therefore, unless accompanied by the social talents, which those who have made their fortunes have seldom had the leisure or the opportunity to acquire, leads to nothing. The women, too, of the parvenus always drag them down. They seem to acquire the tournure of society less easily than the men. Bastide, when Minister, did pretty well, but his wife used to sign her invitations "Femme Bastide."
"Society,' he continued, 'under the Republic was animated. We had great interests to discuss, and strong feelings to express, but perhaps the excitement was too great. People seemed to be almost ashamed to amuse or to be amused when the welfare of France, her glory or her degradation, her freedom or her slavery, were, as the event has proved, at stake.'
'I suppose,' I said to Ampère, 'that nothing has ever been better than the salon of Madame Récamier?'
We must distinguish,' said Ampère. "As great painters have many manners, so Madame Récamier had many salons. When I first knew her, in 1820, her habitual dinner-party consisted of her father, her husband, Ballanche, and myself. Both her father, M. Bernard, and her husband were agreeable men. Bal. lanche was charming.'
You believe,' I said, 'that Bernard was her father?'
•Certainly I do,' he replied. “The suspicion that Recamier might be was founded chiefly on the strangeness of their conjugal relations. To this, I oppose her apparent love for M. Bernard, and I explain Recamier's conduct by his tastes. They were coarse, though he was a man of good manners. He never spent his evenings at home. He went where he could find more license.
Perhaps the most agreeable period was at that time of Chateaubriand's reign when he had ceased to exact a tête-à-tête, and Ballanche and I were admitted at four o'clock. The most illustrious of the partie carrée was Chateaubriand, the most amusing Ballanche. My merit was that I was the youngest. Later in the evening Madame Mohl, Miss Clarke as she then was, was a great resource. She is a charming mixture of French vivacity and English originality, but I think that the French element predominates. Chateaubriand, always subject to ennui, delighted in her. He has adopted in his books some of the words which she coined. Her French is as original as the character of her mind, very good, but more of the last than of the present century.'
Was Chateaubriand himself,' I said, 'agreeable ?'
Delightful,' said Ampère ; 'très-entrain, très-facile à vivre, beaucoup d'imagination et de connaissances.'