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1861.]

Familiarity with Death.

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Friday, August 16.—We talked at breakfast of 1793.

It is difficult,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'to believe that the French of that day were our ancestors.'

• They resembled you,' I said, 'only in two things : in military courage, and in political cowardice.'

They had,' she replied, 'perhaps more passive courage than we have. "My great-great-grandmother, my great-grandmother, and my great-aunt, were guillotined on the same day. My great-great-grandmother was ninety years old. When interrogated, she begged them to speak loud, as she was deaf. Écrivez,' said Fouquier Tinville, “que la citoyenne Noailles a conspiré sourdement contre la République.' They were dragged to the Place de la République in the same tombereau, and sat waiting their turn on the same bench.

“My great-aunt was young and beautiful. The executioner, while fastening her to the plank, had a rose in his mouth. The Abbé de Noailles, who was below the scaffold, disguised, to give them, at the risk of his life, a sign of benediction, was asked how they looked.

"Comme si,' he said, 'elles allaient à la messe.'

· The habit,' said Ampère, ‘of seeing people die produces indifference even to one's own death. You see that among soldiers. You see it in epidemics. But this indifference, or, to use a more proper word, this resignation, helped to prolong the Reign of Terror. If the victims had resisted, if, like Madame du Barry, they

1 This incident is described in a little book published last year, the Memoirs of Madame de Montaign.-ED.

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had struggled with the executioner, it would have excited horror.'

• The cries of even a pig,' said Madame de Beaumont, * make it disagreeable to kill it.'

Sanson,' I said, 'long survived the Revolution; he made a fortune and lived in retirement at Versailles. A lady was run away with between Versailles and Paris. An elderly man, at considerable risk, stopped her horse. She was very grateful, but could not get from him his name. At last she traced him, and found that it was Sanson.'

Sanson,' said Beaumont, 'may have been an honest man. Whenever a place of bourreau is vacant, there are thirty or forty candidates, and they always produce certificates of their extraordinary kindness and humanity. It seems to be the post most coveted by men eminent for their benevolence.'

How many have you?' I asked.

* Eighty-six,' he answered. One for each department.'

* And how many executions ?'
* About one hundred a year in all France.'
* And what is the salary ?'
* Perhaps a couple of thousand francs a year.'

* Really,' said Ampère, “it is one of the best parts of the patronage of the Minister of the Interior. M. le Bourreau gets more than a thousand francs for each operation.'

•We pay by the piece,' I said, “and find one operator enough for all England.'

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1861.]

Public Executioners.

245

*A friend of mine,' said Beaumont, had a remarkably good Swiss servant. His education was far above his station, and we could not find what had been his birth or his canton.

"Suddenly he became agitated and melancholy, and at last told my friend that he must leave him, and why. His father was the hereditary bourreau of a Swiss canton. To the office was attached an estate, to be forfeited if the office were refused. He had resolved to take neither, and, to avoid being solicited, had left his country and changed his name.

changed his name. But his family had traced him, had informed him of his father's death, and had implored him to accept the succession. He was the only son, and his mother and sisters would be ruined, if he allowed it to pass to the next in order of inheritance, a distant cousin. He had not been able to persist in his refusal.'

• The husband of an acquaintance of mine,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'used to disappear for two or three hours every day. He would not tell her for what purpose. At last she found out that he was employed in the chambre noire, the department of the police by which letters passing through the post are opened. The duties were well paid, and she could not persuade him to give them up. They were on uneasy terms, when an accident threw a list of all the names of the employés in the chambre noire, into the hands of an opposition editor, who published them in his newspaper. "She then separated from him.' If the Post-office,' I said, 'were not a Government

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monopoly, if everyone had a right to send his letters in the way that he liked best, there would be some ex

But the State compels you, under severe penalties, to use its couriers, undertaking, not tacitly but expressly, to respect the secrecy of your correspondence, and then systematically violates it.'

I should have said,' answered Ampère, 'not expressly but tacitly.'

'No,' I replied ; 'expressly. Guizot, when Minister for Foreign Affairs, proclaimed from the tribune, that in France the secrecy of correspondence was, under all circumstances, inviolable. This has never been officially contradicted.

*The English Post-office enters into no such engagements. Any letters may be legally opened, under an order from a Secretary of State.'

· Are prisoners in England,' asked Beaumont,' allowed to correspond with their friends ?' 'I believe,' I answered, 'that their letters pass through

I the Governor's hands, and that he opens them, or not, at his discretion.'

· Among the tortures,' said Ampère,' which Continental despots delight to inflict on their state prisoners the privation of correspondence is one.'

'In ordinary life,' I said, “the educated endure inaction worse than the ignorant. "A coachman sits for

" hours on his box without feeling ennui. If his master

. had to sit quiet all that time, inside the carriage, he would tear his hair from impatience.

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1861.)

Prisoners of State.

247

‘But the educated seem to tolerate the inactivity of imprisonment better than their inferiors. We find that our ordinary malefactors cannot endure solitary imprisonment for more than a year-seldom indeed so long. The Italian prisoners whom I have known, Zucchi, Borsieri, Poerio, Gonfalonieri, and Pellico, endured imprisonment lasting from ten to seventeen years without much injury to mind or body.'

'The spirit of Pellico,' said Madame de Beaumont, was broken. When released, he gave himself up to devotion and works of charity. Perhaps the humility, resignation, and submission of his book made it still more mischievous to the Austrian Government. The reader's indignation against those who could so trample on so unresisting a victim becomes fierce.'

If the Austrians,' I said, 'had been wise, they would have shot' instead of imprisoning them. Their deaths would have been forgotten—their imprisonment has contributed much to the general odium which is destroying the Austrian Empire.'

'It would have been wiser,' said Beaumont, but it would have been more merciful, and therefore it was not done. But you talk of all these men as solitarily imprisoned. Some of them had companions.'

Yes,' I said, “but they complained that one permanent companion was worse than solitude. Gonfalonieri said, that one could not be in the same room, with the same man, a year without hating him.

* One of the Neapolitan prisoners was chained for some time to a brigand. Afterwards the brigand was

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