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Dulness of Paris.
Paris, Hôtel Bedford, April 9, 1857.–We reached this place last night.
The Tocquevilles are in our hotel. I went to them in the evening. Tocqueville asked me how long I intended to remain.
Four weeks,' I answered. 'I do not think,' he replied,' that you will be able to
Paris has become so dull that no one will voluntarily spend a month here. The change which five
years have produced is marvellous.
•We have lost our interest not only in public affairs, but in all serious matters.'
• You will return then to the social habits of Louis Quinze,' I said. “You were as despotically governed then as you are now; and yet the salons of Madame Geoffrin were amusing.'
“We may do so in time,' he answered, “but that time is to come. At present we talk of nothing but the Bourse. The conversation of our salons resembles more that of the time of Law, than that of the time of Marmontel.'
I spent the evening at Lamartine's. There were few people there, and the conversation was certainly dull enough to justify Tocqueville's fears.
April 10.—Tocqueville drank tea with us.
We talked of the Empress, and of the possibility of her being Regent of France.
'That supposes,” I said, 'first, that Celui-ci holds his power until his death ; and, secondly, that his son will succeed him.'
'I expect both events,' answered Tocqueville. It is impossible to deny that Louis Napoleon has shown great dexterity and tact. His system of government is detestable if we suppose the welfare of France to be his object; but skilful if its aim be merely the preservation of his own power.
*Such being his purpose, he has committed no great faults. Wonderful, almost incredible, as his elevation is, it has not intoxicated him.'
'It has not intoxicated him,' I answered, “because he was prepared for it-he always expected it.'
“He could scarcely,' replied Tocqueville, ‘have really and soberly expected it until 1848.
Boulogne and Strasbourg were the struggles of a desperate man, who staked merely a life of poverty, obscurity, and exile. Even if either of them had succeeded, the success could not have been permanent. A surprise, if it had thrown him upon the throne, could not have kept him there. Even after 1848, though the Bourbons were discredited, we should not have tolerated a Bonaparte if we had not lost all our self-possession in our terror of the Rouges. That terror created him, that terror supports him; and habit, and the dread of the bloodshed and distress, and the unknown chances of a revolution, will, I think, maintain him during his life.
•The same feelings will give the succession to his
Duc de Nemours' Letter.
heir. Whether the heir will keep it, is a different question.'
Sunday, April 12.—Tocqueville drank tea with us. I asked him if he had seen the Duc de Nemours' letter.
'I have not seen it,' he answered. “In fact, I have not wished to see it. I disapprove of the Fusionists, and the anti-Fusionists, and the Legitimists, and the Orleanists-in short, of all the parties who are forming plans of action in events which may not happen, or may not happen in my time, or may be accompanied by circumstances rendering those plans absurd, or mischievous, or impracticable.
But though you have not read the letter,' I said, 'you know generally what are its contents.'
Of course I do,' he replied. “And I cannot blame the Comte de Chambord for doing what I do myselffor refusing to bind himself in contingencies, and to disgust his friends in the hope of conciliating his enemies.'
'Do you believe,' I asked, “that the mere promise of a Constitution would offend the Legitimists?'
'I do not think,' he answered, that they would object to a Constitution giving them what they would consider their fair share of power and influence.
• Under Louis Philippe they had neither, but it was in a great measure their own fault.
They have neither under this Government, for its principle is to rest on the army and on the people, and to ignore the existence of the educated classes.
"You see that in its management of the press.
• Montalembert, or Guizot, or Falloux, or I may publish what we like. We are not read by the soldier or by the proletaire.' But the newspaper press is subject to a slavery to which it was never reduced before. The system was first elaborated in Austria, and I daresay will be copied by all the Continental autocrats, for no inventions travel so quickly as despotic ones.
• The public avertissements are comparatively unimportant. Before a journal gets one of those its suppression has probably been decided on. Every day there are communications between the literary police and the different editors. Such or such a line of argument is altogether forbidden, another is allowed to be used to a certain extent. Some subjects are tabooed, others are to be treated partially,
*As the mental food of the lower orders is supplied by the newspapers, this paternal Government takes care that it shall not be too exciting.'
Paris, Monday, April 13.—Tocqueville, Jobez, Marcet, St.-Hilaire, Charles Sumner, and Lord Granville breakfasted with us.
The conversation turned on public speaking.
*Very few indeed of our speakers,' said Tocqueville, ‘have ever ventured to improvise. Barrot could do it. We have told him sometimes that a speech must be answered immediately; and when he objected that he had nothing to say, we used to insist, and to assure him
1 The lowest class.-ED.
? Barthélemy de St.-Hilaire is now Thiers' private secretary and right hand.-ED.
that as soon as he was in the tribune, the ideas and the words would come; and so they did. I have known him go on under such circumstances for an hour; of course neither the matter nor the form could be first rate, but they were sufficient.'
In fact,' said Lord Granville, much of what is called improvisation is mere recollection. A man who has to speak night after night, gets on most subjects a set of thoughts, and even of expressions, which naturally pour in on him as soon as his argument touches the train which leads to them.
One of our eminent speakers,' he continued, Lord Grey, is perhaps best when he has not had time to prepare himself. He is so full of knowledge and of inferences, that he has always enough ready to make an excellent speech. When he prepares himself, there is too much; he gives the House more facts and more deductions than it can digest.'
• Do you agree with me, I asked, “in thinking that Lord Melbourne was best when he improvised ?' • I agree
with you,' answered Lord Granville, 'that his set speeches were cold and affected. He was natural
. only when he was quite careless, or when he was much excited, and then he was admirable.'
* Did not Thiers improvise?' I asked.
Never,' answered Tocqueville. “He prepared himself most carefully. So did Guizot. We see from the “Revue rétrospective” that he even prepared his replies. His long experience enabled him to foresee what he should have to answer. Pasquier used to bring